musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Write Spot: Fran McNabb

The Write Spot

Welcome to the second edition of The Write Spot, a bi-weekly author series spotlighting the many and varied places where writers write. 

Author Fran McNabb
Today, I'm pleased to welcome romance author Fran McNabb to The Write Spot. As a retired English and journalism teacher, writing has always played a big part in Fran's life. Her novels have been published by Avalon Books, Montlake Romance, and The Wild Rose Press. Her historical romance, ON THE CREST OF A WAVE, was a finalist in the 2010 National Readers' Choice Awards. 

Fran grew up along the beaches and islands of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. After spending the first years of her marriage in Germany, she and her husband returned to the coast to raise their two sons. Whether it's sparkling waters or snowy mountains, setting plays an important role in her books. 

Fran McNabb's Write Spot

What a beautiful spot, Fran - so peaceful and comfy!
Now that you've shared your photo, tell us what makes it the "Write Spot" for you.

I think my writing space says a lot about me. I live on a quiet bayou harbor on the Gulf Coast, and I do most of my writing from a chaise lounge in a sunroom that overlooks the harbor. From there I can watch the activity on the water as I find inspiration for my writing. We all have our favorite spots where we put our thoughts onto paper (or should I say the computer screen). I do have a really nice office, but from those windows I can’t see the water. I prefer to sit on my chaise where the calm harbor waters take away my life's worries, and I can lose myself in my stories.

Other than your computer or laptop, what's the one thing you couldn't be without in your "Write Spot"?

I wouldn't want to be without the view, but other than that, I "need" the candy dish filled with fun-sized chocolates!

What are you working on now?

I'm starting a new book set in St. Augustine during the 1800's. It's an entirely new project so I'm not even sure it will come to fruition, but it's exciting to start something new. I'm also waiting on edits from The Wild Rose Press for a book that picks up where SAVING THE CHILDREN ended and follows the life of Max, one of the characters who helped rescue the children. I think it will be named KEEPING HOPE ALIVE.

Where can readers find out more about you and your books? 

Readers can visit me at and connect at the following social sites:

Facebook:  Fran L. McNabb
Twitter: @FranMcNabb
LinkedIn: Fran McNabb

Fran's latest book, SAVING THE CHILDREN, is a romantic suspense set in the jungles of South America and published by The Wild Rose Press. Get it now.

After losing her husband and unborn baby in a car accident for which she blames herself, Victoria Lafferty had devoted her life to helping South American children find homes in the United States, but her plans are thrown into chaos by a rebellion in the country. After his mission is compromised and he is shot and captured, Major John Dawson is kept alive so the rebel leader can "take care" of John himself for killing his brother. Together Victoria and John face the hostile jungle and the rebel leader, but will deep-seated guilt and a desire for revenge stand in the way of their life together? 

Thanks for sharing your Write Spot with us, Fran!

About The Write Spot:
I've always been fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes. Whether it's backstage photos from my favourite play, a peek into the kitchen where a chef is working her culinary magic, or simply a glimpse through an uncurtained window into a stranger's private world, there's an undeniable thrill of discovery, a sense of secrets shared. It's no surprise, then, that I'm immensely curious about where other writers do their work. I've blogged about it before in this post about my own 'write spot' and so enjoyed the comments, I was inspired to launch a regular feature here at Stillpoint. Watch for The Write Spot every other Wednesday and join me as I discover the many and varied places where writers write. Check the sidebar for links to previous Write Spot author features.

Stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

vegetable with a plot...

Ah, summer. One of my favourite things this time of year is shopping at the Farmer's Market on Friday mornings. By now, in late July, all the stands are loaded with fresh, colourful fruit and vegetables and the air fairly zings with the pungent scent of basil. It feels good to support local growers while stocking my pantry with feasts for a week.

Fresh vegetables and fragrant basil at
Sherway Farmer's Market in Toronto

There was a time, though (long ago and far away), when I wouldn't dream of eating vegetables I hadn't grown myself. Back in the mid-70s, I was a transplanted city girl, part of the back-to-the-land invasion of the countryside north of Toronto. Hubby and I embraced the country life, growing acres of vegetables and fruit, and tending a Noah's ark of livestock that, from time to time, included rabbits, pigs, chickens, sheep, and ducks.

We crossed the creek every year at first thaw to tap sugar maples, slogging home through the muck with buckets of sap and boiling it until the walls of our little house dripped sweetness. We feasted on puffballs and fiddle-heads, gathered in early spring from the woods beyond our field. And every May 24th weekend – traditional last frost in our part of the world – we'd get to work planting row upon row of vegetable seeds and hundreds of tender seedlings. (Those we'd started months before in makeshift kitchen window greenhouses.)

Planting done, I'd take a break from garden work, leaving weed control and cultivation to my husband and young sons, watching for sprouts to push out of the soil, then impatiently waiting for the first mouth-watering leaves of lettuce, baby carrots, sweet peas, and oh, the tomatoes!

On hot summer days at the farm I often imagined I could hear those tomatoes growing ripe on their vines – Bonnie Best, because my father-in-law said they were the finest he'd ever tasted. By August, there'd be a full chorus of impatient vegetable voices, "pick me, pick me!" I harvested and canned several bushels of tomatoes every year. Beans, too. Three long, straight rows of green and yellow beauties, plump to bursting and perfect for the freezer. And zucchini! Rampant in its corner of the field, the zucchini always seemed to be eyeing the corn patch, plotting invasion. And why not? It had already conquered my kitchen.

Zucchini, four weeks after planting day.
Think it looks innocent? Don't turn your back!

What we didn't grow, we could usually get in barter with local farmers. Rabbit for goat's milk, cabbage for pumpkin, zucchini for ... well, nobody ever wanted to trade for zucchini. We ate it in soup and in stew, in muffins and bread, baked, barbecued, broiled and fried. Even on pizza. And we gave it away by the armful. That probably explains why zucchini is the one thing that rarely makes it into my Farmer's Market shopping basket these days. 

In case you find your kitchen invaded by hordes of marauding zucchini this summer, here’s my Mom’s easy recipe for cinnamon zucchini bread. Enjoy!*

Phyllis Cooke’s Cinnamon Zucchini Bread 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Generously grease and flour 2 loaf pans 

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 (heaping) tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups grated zucchini (optional)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts 

Directions: Mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together, then add to egg mixture and beat well. Stir in grated zucchini (and walnuts, if desired). Divide mixture between two loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool on rack before turning out of pans.

*Note: It has been my experience that a single plant will produce enough zucchini to bake 153,233 loaves. (Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. But only a bit!)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Write Spot: Sheila Seabrook

I've always been fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes. Whether it's backstage photos from my favourite play, a peek into the kitchen where a chef is working her culinary magic, or simply a glimpse through an uncurtained window into a stranger's private world, there's an undeniable thrill of discovery, a sense of secrets shared. It's no surprise, then, that I'm immensely curious about where other writers do their work. I've blogged about it before in this post about my own 'write spot' and so enjoyed the comments, I was inspired to launch a regular feature here at Stillpoint. Watch for The Write Spot every other Wednesday and join me as I discover the many and varied places where writers write.

The Write Spot

I'm delighted to welcome my first guest of the series, Sheila Seabrook. Sheila writes contemporary romance and humorous romantic women’s fiction from her home on the Canadian prairies. Her emotional stories are filled with smart, sassy heroines, hot heroes who make them laugh, and a wild assortment of family members guaranteed to try to steal the show. Needless to say, Sheila has decreed that every hero and heroine’s journey must end on a happily-ever-after note. 

Sheila Seabrook's 'Write Spot'

Sheila Seabrook's Write Spot

Welcome to The Write Spot, Sheila. I envy your spacious desk and comfy chair - you do things BIG out west! Now that you've shared your photo, tell us what makes it The Write Spot for you.

No one who ever worked at the day job with me would ever believe this desk was mine, but I actually didn't even have to tidy up to take this picture! In my "Write Spot", the morning sunlight shines through the window which, during the spring and summer months, is wide open. Outside, the birds sing, the fountain in the pond splashes gently, and with only a farmer's crop on the field behind the house, I write in total peace and quiet.

Sounds perfect! Other than your computer or laptop, what’s the one thing you couldn't be without in your Write Spot?

Sticky notes! All over the place! I use them for reminders, to plan out scenes, to catch random ideas…so many colors, so much joy!

What are you working on now?

I just released book two in the Caught Between romance series, and now I'm working on book three. This book starts out on Serendipity Island, takes a detour (make that a shipwreck!), then returns to Serendipity Island for the final scenes.

Where can readers find out more about you and your books? 

You can find me at Links to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads are all there for easy access.

Happy reading!

Caught Between a Lie and True Love  is a fun, romantic read featuring a family-phobic heroine, a hunky hero whose luck—and love life—are about to change, lies, humor, romance, chocolate chip cookies, nighttime shenanigans, a con-artist who swears he’s gone straight, and a battle-of-the-sexes secondary romance. 

This is book one in the Caught Between series and it's on sale for a short time only for $0.99. Get it now.

Cheryl here. Thanks so much for sharing your Write Spot with us, Sheila, and for helping to kick off this new series of author spotlights. Best of luck with your Caught Between books!


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Monday, July 13, 2015

for my fellow authors...

I recently re-discovered a list I'd prepared of Very Important Writerly Things To Do. As with many of my to-do lists, this one was lost in a jumble of notes about plots, characters, and blog posts. Now I'm kicking myself, because item #1 on the list was "sign up for AUTHORSdb". I should have done it months ago but life got messy and so did my desk and... well. 

Upon finding the long-lost list, I clicked on over to and signed up right away. In no time at all, they'd produced a beautiful feature page for me and my books (including social media links and a live feed from my Facebook fan page). But there's more. AUTHORSdb actively promotes authors on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, too. And all this is absolutely free. Readers can visit the site and search for their favourite author - it's like an IMDb for books. 

Take a look at my lovely new AUTHORSdb page and then add "sign up for AUTHORSdb" to your to-do list. (Better still, do it now before that list of yours gets lost!)


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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

just call me Nancy Drew

I started my first full-time job back in the 'olden days', before computers and internet, even before fax machines (yes, I am that old!). As receptionist in the Academic Department at the Toronto Board of Education, my job was fielding phone calls and greeting visitors. I answered questions about schools, enrolment, summer programs, teaching positions, and anything else the public wanted to know. Every once in a while, I'd be asked to descend into the catacombs – a dusty, poorly lit basement file room – where the academic records of long ago students were stored in rank upon rank of tall, green file cabinets. Some of my co-workers hated 'the tombs' but not me. I relished those assignments. Give me a name, address, and approximate date and I was off to solve a mystery. 

My quest usually began with a phone call from a worried citizen, let's call him Mr. B. He'd tell a story of arriving in Toronto by boat as a young boy, "I think it was nineteen-aught-five or aught-six." He might remember the name of the school or his first teacher, but not much else. "We lived on Scollard Street, I think, and I went as far as third grade." 

More than sixty years later, Mr. B was calling to ask for my help getting his government old age security pension. He had no birth certificate – many people didn't in those days – and no way to prove he was sixty-five unless those precious school records could be found. While Mr. B shared everything he could remember about life as an immigrant schoolboy, I would sit with the phone tucked between ear and shoulder, locating his street on a map and cross-referencing with a master list of schools in turn of the century Toronto. Gently interrupting his reminiscences, I'd ask if Jesse Ketchum Public School on Davenport Road sounded familiar. 

"Yes, that’s it! Oh, bless you, my dear, bless you." (Mr. B and other callers like him were always immensely grateful for every scrap of information we could find. I was well and often blessed in that job.)

Jesse Ketchum Public School, Toronto, photo circa 1900
from Toronto Public Library archives (public domain)

Armed with Mr. B's name and his best guess at the years he attended Jesse Ketchum School, I'd be off to the catacombs. It sometimes took minutes, sometimes hours of searching through tightly packed files, but I'm happy to say I never gave up and never failed to locate a former student's records.

Not all my accomplishments at the Board were worthy of such satisfaction, however. One debacle in particular haunts me to this day.

In addition to being the Board's information brokers, the Academic Department provided clerical support to area Superintendents and Inspectors. Each one had his or her own secretary, but I was the back-up person, taking dictation and typing letters when the secretary was away. One afternoon, Superintendent M called me into his office to prepare a letter for distribution to all elementary schools in his district. It was brief and to the point. Too many mistakes were being made by staff in the school offices. This reflected badly on the school, the principal, and (most importantly), on Mr. M. He signed off with a stern directive for immediate improvements and stressed the importance of accuracy in all correspondence with the public.

I returned to my desk with nerves a-jangle, feeling sure I'd forgotten all my Pitman shorthand and certain my transcription would be clumsy. But I typed the letter, careful to avoid errors and erasures (no auto-correct in those days, kiddies), and it looked good! After reading through twice to be sure it was absolutely perfect, I presented it to Mr. M for signature. Inter-office mail delivered copies to the principals of fifteen schools the next morning.

And then the phone calls started.

I don't think I'd ever heard the usually soft-spoken Superintendent M bellow until that day, but bellow he did. And it was my name he was bellowing.

“MISS COOKE! In my office. NOW!”

I went.

He handed me a copy of the letter. “Read.”

I read, and was puzzled.

He pointed to the last line of text on the page.

Where Mr. M had intended to stress the importance of accuracy, I had typed, "the importance of accruacy".

Catastrophe. Floor, open up and swallow me now!

Fortunately, most of the fifteen principals thought Mr. M had devised a diabolically witty test of their powers of observation. They had been calling, not to criticize, but to congratulate him for sending a message that would not soon be forgotten. I was sent back to my desk with a wink and a nod (where I resisted the temptation to remind him that he had read and signed the thing, after all.)

I have never again mistyped the word accuracy.

What's your most memorable at-work mistake or laughable typo?

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