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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Write Spot: Joanne Guidoccio

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

This week, it's my pleasure to welcome Canadian author Joanne Guidoccio. In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but it would be over three decades before she entertained the idea of writing as a career. She listened to her practical Italian side and earned degrees in mathematics and education. She experienced many fulfilling moments as she watched her students develop an appreciation (and sometimes, love) of mathematics. Later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma as a career development practitioner and put that skill set to use in the co-operative education classroom. She welcomed this opportunity to help her students experience personal growth and acquire career direction through their placements.

In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Joanne Guidoccio's Write Spot

Love the butterflies, Joanne! Now that you've shared your photo, tell us what makes it the "Write Spot" for you.

When I first retired, I assumed I would be writing in my den. Everything was in place: desk, new computer, book shelves crammed with novels and craft guides, and inspiring Monet prints on the wall. But after several frustrating attempts, I realized the den was too small. While the room could easily be a second bedroom, it was not spacious enough for my creativity to flourish. So, I relocated to a corner of the living/dining area of my condo. With over 900 square feet of space and easy access to my kitchen and balcony, I no longer feel constrained.

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

My swivel chair. For the most part, I am very focused on my writing, but I do need an occasional distraction. When I turn in my swivel chair, I am greeted by a beautiful view of majestic trees.

What are you working on now?

I’m alternating between Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series and Book 3 of the Mediterranean Trilogy. I’m also getting ready to promote The Coming of Arabella (Book 2 of the trilogy).

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

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

Joanne's new book, The Coming of Arabella, is available for pre-order now and will be released on September 2nd. To celebrate, she's giving away 5 eBook copies of The Coming of Arabella

On the day of her engagement party, an ex-mermaid’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of another mermaid—a sister she has never known. Under normal circumstances, Barbara Davies would be overjoyed, but her special day is already wrought with tension. While Barbara is not the first mermaid from the Mediterranean kingdom to settle in small town Ontario, she has yet to reveal her origins to her fiancé. So when Arabella, the gorgeous sister whose disturbing black eyes banished her to the island of Crete, saunters into her life, clutching the arm of Barbara’s discarded lover, a powder keg of emotion is released.

Relationships falter and careers stall as envy stirs in the hearts of the sisters. On the verge of meltdown after her fiancé leaves Canada for a teaching job in Vermont, Barbara flees to Arizona hoping for a reprieve. There, she finds solace at a retreat for ex-mermaids and a second chance at love with a charismatic preacher. As she contemplates a new life in the desert paradise of Sedona, shocking secrets emerge and tragedy strikes. A stronger and wiser Barbara rises up to face these new challenges and embrace the best parts of her mermaid heritage.

Purchase links:

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.

Stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

wishes and horses...

Oliver, Dad, and me. 1953
Meet Oliver, the tall, dark, and duskily handsome horse of my three-year-old dreams. For me, it was love at first ride. Don't let my grumpy expression fool you. That frown was all about Dad's refusal to hand over the reins and let me gallop. Even worse, after our plod around the farmer's meadow was over, I was expected to give Oliver back! Copious tears were shed. As my parents always told it, I spent the rest of our brief vacation begging for another ride, and the next eighteen years begging for a horse of my own. Dad's reply was always the same: "When we live on a farm, you can have a horse." (Years later, after I'd married and actually did live on a farm, I reminded Dad of his promise. "We still don't live on a farm," he said. "Guess the horse is up to you." Well played, Dad. Well played.)

Fast forward a few years from Oliver's sunny meadow in cottage country to Williamson Road School in Toronto. It was there I met Kate, a girl who shared my passion for horses. For a time, Kate lived across the street from the old Woodbine\Greenwood Race Track. 

Old Woodbine/Greenwood Racetrack, Toronto (Public Domain image)*
We could see the home stretch from her second floor sunroom window and spent many happy hours squinting through binoculars, imagining ourselves in silks, winning races on the backs of sleek thoroughbreds with names like Victoria Park and Blue Light. In the real world, we delighted in occasional trail rides on a sedate pair of bays named Smokey and Chip. Life was good… until a severe allergic reaction barred me from saddle and stable forever. [Insert teen angst here.] Oh, the cruel injustice of it all!

Kate and I amassed impressive china horse collections, naming and creating a colourful back story for each one. Mine were displayed on the mantel above the fireplace in our living room – a generous concession on my mother's part (although, at the time, I couldn't imagine a more perfect accent for her tasteful decor). Mom packed up the horses for me when I married but I didn't take them – no room for a childhood collection in my new, grownup life, I guess. Eventually, she donated the herd to a church rummage sale. I like to imagine they found a home with another young girl who loved them.

Kate wasn't so willing to give up her treasures. When I phoned a few weeks ago to ask if she still had any of her horses, she knew exactly where to find them: in a box, under the bed. Now, why didn't I think of that? We pulled them all out to take these pictures and play with them one more time. Proving what I should have known all those years ago – there's no such thing as too old!

Kate's china horses

I'm a grandmother now and it seems my beautiful granddaughter has inherited my love for horses. (Happily, she didn't inherit my allergies!)  She loved every minute of riding camp this summer and is now taking weekly lessons at a local stable. What a joy it is to see her bond with the horses and watch her confidence grow. For me, it's a dream come true in the best possible way.

M walking with her horse, Jenna
My grandaughter walking with Jenna

 Afterword: Retirement has inspired me to start a new collection of horses. This time, thanks to Pinterest, no shelf space required! Yes, I'm still Horse Crazy after all these years.   

* Racetrack Image Credit: by James Victor Salmon 1911-1958 - Toronto Public Library. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Write Spot: Heidi Ashworth

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

This week, I'm delighted to welcome best-selling and award-winning Regency romance author, Heidi Ashworth to The Write Spot.

Heidi lives in the San Francisco bay area, but says she lost her heart across the pond when she was very young. She read her first Regency romance when she was four years old (just a few words, but it was enough) and wrote her first at age ten. Since then she has sharpened her skills and garnered a few accolades. Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind hit the number one spot on several of Amazon's Regency romance lists in both the U.S. and England, while its sequel earned a finalist position in the Whitney Awards. Both books are now available from Montlake Romance. When she's not writing or busy with her young family, Heidi dabbles in the antiques and collectibles market and works in her flower garden.

Heidi Ashworth's Write Spot

What a pretty desk, Heidi! Now that you've shared your photo, tell us what makes it the "Write Spot" for you.

This is my "write spot".  My computer sits on the desk I bought for myself when I was 19 in anticipation of penning the great American novel.  All of my books, novellas, short stories, journal entries, love letters to my husband and musings on dream interpretations have happened at this desk.  It is currently three feet away from the family T.V. (a whopping 40 incher) and I often write surrounded by the mayhem of a husband, three kids and two dogs, but I console myself with the fact that Jane Austen wrote in similar circumstances (minus the T.V.) (and the husband) (and the dogs) (probably).

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

One thing that I cannot be without when I am writing here is chocolate. I have tried to be creative without it but, alas, it is my muse.

Mmm. What are you and your chocolate muse working on now?

Currently I am working on a novella that comes out in an all-Regency anthology, A Midwinter Ball, via Mirror Press in December, along with a supersize British-made Cadbury chocolate bar that I went all the way to England to purchase.  It was kind of pricey but I have no regrets.

Never regret the chocolate! That's my motto, too. ;-) 
Where can readers find out more about you and your books? 

You can read more (as well as view copious photos) about me and my books, as well as my adventures in decorating my romantic home, my travels overseas with my incredible daughter, my musings on life with my disabled son, my roses (I'm obsessed) and lots of other things which I cannot seem to stop talking about on my blog, Dunhaven Place and my website You can also find me on social media at the following sites:

Twitter: @AshworthHeidi

Heidi's current release, Miss Armistead Makes Her Choice, is a RONE Award Finalist for Historical: Post Medieval and the recipient of InD'tale Magazine's 4.5 star review and coveted Crowned Heart for excellence! Get it now.

Miss Elizabeth Armistead, India born and raised, is happily betrothed to British soldier, Duncan Cruikshank. When she arrives in London a month prior to the wedding she meets Mr. Lloyd-Jones and soon finds that he has invaded even her dreams. Besides Duncan, Mr. Lloyd-Jones is the only man who makes her feel as if he sees past her exceptional beauty to the person within. Her mother would prefer Elizabeth marry the rich and well-connected Mr. Lloyd-Jones while his sister is ecstatic that he is now free to woo Miss Armistead since he has broken off his engagement to the disgraceful Cecily Ponsonby. However, Elizabeth's commitment to the man she promised to marry is at odds with the likes of Mr. Lloyd-Jones who has cried off from one engagement already. How can she betray the man she believes to love her for her virtues so as to indulge her love for a man she fears she cannot trust? 

Thank you for visiting with us at The Write Spot, Heidi!

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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Saturday, August 08, 2015

all that and more...

I recently had the pleasure of doing an in-depth interview about my life and travels, how my writing journey began, and, of course, books, books, books. 

Please join me over at Clean Romance Reviews for everything you (n)ever wanted to know about Cheryl Cooke Harrington. 

And, once you've discovered all my secrets, I hope you'll stay to browse the Clean Romance Reviews site. If you enjoy reading "romances that curl your toes but won't make you blush", it's a great place to discover your next favourite book.



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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

eulogy for a feathered friend...

Jazz the lineolated parakeet came into my life nearly fifteen years ago – a tiny handful of green feathers with a big personality. From day one, I was his person. No other humans need apply. He would tolerate women visitors, especially those who came bearing food, but the men in my life were invariably treated to a ruthless demonstration of The Mighty Beak.

With me, though, Jazz was all cuddles and kisses. He would tuck himself under my chin while I read, perch on my shoulder to 'groom' my earrings as I typed, or chase my pen across the page as I wrote. We shared many a shower over the years, too. He loved hanging upside down, wings spread to catch every lovely drop of spray, and then snuggling in a warm towel to dry off.

During our first months together, Jazz insisted on sleeping in my room at night. He'd scramble happily into his little travel cage for the short trip down the hall and would be sound asleep with his head tucked under his wing before lights-out. Not a peep would he make until morning when, as birds do, he'd wake with the dawn. Jazz was generous about letting me sleep, but only as long as I stayed perfectly still. One yawn or stretch or even an eyebrow twitch and he’d launch into his best imitation of an alarm clock – "beep-beep-beep!"

Our sleep routine changed abruptly a few days after Sam the Cat joined our little family. I don't think any of us got much rest those first nights as Sam prowled the apartment, learning his new territory. The night he decided to join us in the bedroom, I fell asleep happy, with a warm cat curled at my feet and a sleepy bird in his usual spot atop the bedside dresser. Later, in the darkest hour, I woke to loud purring, interrupted by the sound of an irritated and extremely scoldy bird. I groped for the bedside lamp and struggled to focus…

There was Sam, lounging in comfort on top of the little cage. And there was Jazz, scolding and flapping and pecking at the catly undercarriage. I tried correcting and redirecting but that tiny birdcage was like a magnet to Sam. None of us slept. After three restless nights, Jazz decided he'd had enough and chose to stay in his big cage in the living room. It was all good. He had a comfy tent to cozy up in and no cat to disturb his slumber.

In time, Jazz and Sam became best of friends – an odd couple, true, but good company for each other when I was away at the day job. I'd arrive home to find Jazz snoozing in his cage and Sam asleep on the easy chair beside him. Once in a while I'd catch them at play, Sam dangling his paw between the bars and Jazz head-bobbing and muttering, "hello, sweetie" in his quiet, linnie-bird accent while nibbling on the proffered paw.

Some lineolated parakeets (linnies) are excellent mimics but Jazz was more of a mumbler. His human vocabulary was limited to four phrases: hello sweetie, pretty boy, up-up, and what'cha doin'? He was certainly no competition for Disco the Parakeet in that department (although he did love watching Disco's videos).

Jazz, always fascinated by Disco the Parakeet.

Jazz had his own unique claim to fame, thanks to mystery author Barbara Colley, whose fictional sleuth had a parakeet named Sweety Boy. I worked with Barb at the time and had been sharing tales of Jazz's antics since the day he came home. Some of those antics were adapted for Sweety Boy and, as a result, Jazz was mentioned on the acknowledgements page of Death Tidies Up.* He was thrilled! (Okay, I was thrilled by the mention. Jazz loved the extra head rubs it earned him.)

Jazz, ready to help me write.

Most sources I've found say a typical linnie lifespan is from ten to fifteen years, so my sweet Jazz was definitely an elder gentleman. In recent years he was troubled by arthritis in his feet, but still managed to climb around his cage like a youngster thanks to that mighty beak of his. Then, one Friday night in July, Jazz fell from his perch. Falls had been happening more frequently since the onset of his arthritis, so I always kept the cage bottom heaped full of shredded paper to ensure a nice soft landing. He’d shake himself off and scramble back up, wearing a distinctly, "meant-to-do-that" expression. But that Friday, Jazz didn't scramble. He shuffled once, then again, and then waited for me to help him. We had a good long snuggle and he seemed to rally a bit, enjoying a few of his favourite green pea treats and a long drink of water before taking himself to bed.

Next morning, he woke with me as usual and slowly made his way to his water dish. He drank, then stepped into his shredded paper, turned around to make a nest, and went to sleep for the last time.

We are still bereft, Samcat and I. Home seems much too quiet without our wee friend's happy chirps and mumbles.

R.I.P. little Jazz, my writing buddy, cat's companion, and wake-up beeper for close to fifteen years. Sure will miss your welcome home chirps when my key turns in the lock.

Jazz, a bird
December 15, 2000 – July 18, 2015
Good-bye, sweetie. Pretty boy.
One of my favourite photos of Jazz,in one of his favourite spots.

* Barbara Colley's cozy mysteries are set in New Orleans. They feature Charlotte LaRue, maid for hire and amateur sleuth, along with the loveable Sweety Boy, Jazz's literary alter ego. Find them here.

Read more about lineolated parakeets here.


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