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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books of 2015

As the clock ticks onward to the start of a fresh new year, it's time to look back and remember all the wonderful books I've enjoyed in the last twelve months. Welcome to my fifth annual New Year's Book List.

Retirement has been very good for me, in no small part because there's more time for reading! My 2015 total is 84 books read  a new personal best. I'm happy to report I stuck to my resolution to expand my reading horizons, discovering some wonderful new (to me) authors in the process. 

How did I read? I listened to 37 audiobooks, read 32 ebooks, and 14 print books. I expect the breakdown will be very different in 2016. Nearly half of the audiobooks I enjoyed this past year kept me company on my long commutes to and from work between January and the end of April. Since retiring in May, I've spent less time listening and more with a book in my hands, savouring words on page or screen. However I read, it's all about the story, and I've read some corkers this year!

Here, then, is my year in books, most recent reads at the top. (click for larger view):

Please don't ask me to choose a favourite  it would be impossible to pick just one from so many wonderful stories – but do come find me at Goodreads where we can compare book lists.

Currently reading:
Audio: The Last Word (Books by the Bay #3 ) by Ellery Adams
Ebook: The Anteater of Death (Gunn Zoo #1) by Betty Webb

First up in 2016:
Audio: (updated) The Chemistry of Death by Rebecca Cantrell (because I awoke on December 30th to discover this long-anticipated third book in the Joe Tesla series newly released in audio!) ... and then Moonlight Over Paris: A Novel by Jennifer Robson
Paper: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (Advance Reading Copy  thanks, Pat!)
Ebook: Transferral by Kate Blair (With thanks to the Toronto Public Library who notified me just an hour before this post went live that my name has finally reached the top of their holds list.)

Just the tip of my TBR iceberg!

What are you looking forward to reading in 2016? Recommendations are always welcome because there's no such thing as too many books!

Happy New Year and happy reading!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Sam Before Christmas

Once upon a long-ago Christmas, my beloved Sam the Cat wore a Santa hat and allowed me to take his photograph. Once.

And so, with a grateful nod and sincerest apologies to Clement Clark Moore, here is a festive version of that most memorable, once-in-a-lifetime, Samcat Christmas moment.

A Visit from Saint Sam-the-Cat 
The Sam Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house...
(We'll just leave out the next bit, but mention the mouse.)

                                  . . .

Down the hallway Sir Sam-the-Cat came with a bound:
He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
His face and tail tarnish'd like ashes and soot;
He carried some catnip bundled up in a pack,
And he meowed as he gave it an almighty whack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! His ear tufts: how merry,
His muzzlepuffs bristled with whiskers so hairy.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the hair on his chin was as white as the snow.

Santa Sam
In a deftly-quick move (while avoiding his teeth),
I stuck Santa's hat on Sam's head like a wreath.

His cute little nose, and his little round belly,
Did shake when he yowl'd, like a bowl full of jelly:

He looked chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;

But a blink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon wiped off my smile and filled me with dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And claw'd off the cap; then turn'd with a jerk,
And laying his paw alongside of my nose
And giving a pat (just a warning, I s'pose),
He sprang to his feet, made a hiss like a whistle,
And flew from the room, like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he dove out of sight —
Never try that again, if you know what is right.

...And I never did. ;-)

Thanks for reading, my friends. However you celebrate the season, may your days be merry and bright!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Write Spot Recap

Have you ever walked down a street just after dark, in that twilight time when indoor lights are coming on but curtains aren't yet drawn? 

I asked that question back in September of 2013 and it started me on the road to a project launched this spring called The Write Spot, a bi-weekly author series spotlighting the many and varied places where writers write.

Since June of this year, I've been truly fortunate to host eleven talented women writers who've shared their interests, their work, and their write spots with us. As the year comes to an end, I thought it would be fun to gather them all together for another visit. Click on any text link below to jump to the author's Write Spot. And if you're still looking for that perfect stocking stuffer, why not give a book? You'll find something for every taste from these wonderful ladies. (I've included a link to my original Write Spot post, too, so you can see where I work and/or get up to mischief with Sam the Cat... mostly the latter!)

Sheila Seabrook        Fran McNabb        Heidi Ashworth 

Joanne Guidoccio   Karen McCullough    Sydell Voeller   

   Kathye Quick     Sandra Carey Cody      Jillian Dagg    

         Susan McNicoll        Rebecca Kertz        Cheryl Cooke        

Thanks again to all my guests for taking the time to share their writing worlds with us, and to everyone who stopped by to read and comment - you're the best!

Speaking of stocking stuffers, if you're in the Toronto area and looking for ideas, check out the charming gift shop at The Victorian Garden Tea Room in Etobicoke. You'll find autographed hard cover copies of my books Sparks Fly, Rock Solid, and Fast Focus - clean romances for the book lovers on your list - along with a huge assortment of teas, teapots, cups, British treats, and gift items. And do stay for one of shop owner Michelle's traditional high teas. Delicious! The tea room is located at 313 Burnhamthorpe Road (at Martin Grove) in Etobicoke.


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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

sneaky peekers

Temptation. That's the trouble with this time of year. Too many temptations. And it's not just the chocolate and shortbread and all the other delectable holiday goodies on offer. No. I'm talking about surprises. All those hidden gifts, lurking in closets or squirrelled away in somebody's sock drawer. If you think about it, presents are not very good at keeping themselves secret. You can almost hear them whispering as they wait for the Big Day. "Look at me! Look at me!"

Of course, now that I'm a proper grown-up, I use my proper grown-up willpower to avoid closets, sock drawers, and other hidey-holes in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Even so, I'm always relieved when the last gift is bound up in shiny paper, tied with bright ribbon, and nestled safely under the tree. It's so much easier, then, to resist the temptation to peek. Okay, I might try to catch a glimpse of a hand-written tag, or maybe move a few packages around. You know, just to make room for more, not to shake or sniff or weigh a box with my name on it or anything. Ah-hem. Certainly not! It's all about the surprise, right? But…

Once upon a very long time ago, "willpower" was just a word grown-ups used when what they really meant was, "stop having all that fun!"

It was December, 1959, two weeks before Christmas. I was nine and a half years old. Mom was out for the afternoon, Dad was busy in his basement workshop, and I was hearing gift-whispers all over the house. With Cookie the dog as my trusty lookout, I tiptoed from room to room. Like a young Nancy Drew with her Togo, we were hot on the trail of a Christmas mystery. First, we checked the hall closet, rummaging through a box of scarves and mittens, behind the winter coats and under the boot rack – nothing. Upstairs, we rooted through the linen closet, opened Mom's lingerie drawer, and peered under beds – still nothing. My gift had to be somewhere in the house, I could definitely hear it whispering. In fact, by then, I was pretty sure I could hear it singing and giggling, too. "Tee-hee-hee and ho-ho-ho, you won't find me, no matter where you go." Cookie's tail seemed to keep time with a jolly thump-thump-thump on the floor. Whose side was she on, anyway?

Back in the kitchen, I pondered the situation while staring out the window at our snow-covered backyard. Birds fluttered and squabbled at the feeder. A cold wind rattled bare branches against the frosted windowpane. Downstairs, Dad whistled as he swept his workshop floor. Beside me, Cookie yawned and huffed, turning lazy circles before settling onto her mat for a nap. And the whispering gift had grown so quiet I could barely hear it any more. Ah-ha! What do you do when you're hiding and the seeker comes close? Hold your breath. Stay quiet. Don't whisper. I turned to study the kitchen. Where would I hide? Not in the cupboards or cutlery drawers – too much traffic – but what about the junk drawer?

Dry wood squealed a warning as I pulled it open. I froze. Cookie snored. Dad whistled. I held my breath and eased the drawer wide. There, tucked into a corner and poorly camouflaged by a jumble of elastic bands, playing cards, envelopes and postage stamps, was a neatly folded piece of crisp, white paper. The whispering stopped. I reached for the paper, carefully unfolded it, and read. This was it! Not the gift itself, but a receipt dated three days before, for "one transistor radio, pink."

Dad's footsteps sounded on the basement stairs. Cookie scrambled to her feet and ran to meet him at the kitchen door. I must have re-folded the paper and closed the drawer but I don't remember doing so. I managed to forget about the whispers and my afternoon of sleuthing, too. Until, gathered around our tree on Christmas morning, my parents put that perfect little gift in my hands. I looked up at their happy faces, so eager to see my surprise and delight, and all I could think of was "one transistor radio, pink."

Smile, I told myself. Act surprised. Don't let them know. I pulled on the ribbon, peeled back the paper, opened the box… and burst into tears.

I'd like to think that Mom and Dad never suspected I'd peeked, that they believed my tears were tears of happiness, that I hadn't disappointed them. But I have a feeling they both knew exactly why I was crying. I loved that pink transistor radio and made sure they knew it. But my sneaky peeking had, in some small way, spoiled the celebration – not only for me, but for the people who loved me best.

So, take it from me. No matter how many gift whispers you might think you hear this holiday season, don't become a sneaky peeker. Get yourself some proper grown-up willpower and savour the surprise.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Write Spot: Rebecca Kertz

Welcome once again to The Write Spot, a bi-weekly author series spotlighting the many and varied places where writers write. For this eleventh edition – and the last Write Spot of 2015 – I'm delighted to welcome Rebecca Kertz, author of the Lancaster County Wedding series of Amish romances for Harlequin LOVE INSPIRED®.

Rebecca has lived in rural Delaware since she was a young newlywed. First introduced into the Amish world when her husband took a job with an Amish construction crew, she took joy in watching the Amish job foreman's children at play and in swapping recipes with his wife. Rebecca resides happily with her husband and dog. She has a strong faith in God and feels blessed to have family nearby. She enjoys visiting Lancaster County, the setting for her Amish stories. When not writing or vacationing with her extended family, she enjoys reading and doing crafts.

Rebecca's Write Spot

Now that looks like a comfortable place to work. What makes it the Write Spot for you?

When it's warm outside, I love to work on my back-screened porch. We have woods behind our property so it's quiet, private and conducive to writing.  A warm breeze blows through the screen against my face. My dog Jameson lies close by. Working outside makes my writing time peaceful and calm with little distractions or thoughts of impending deadlines. I have a desk in my office, where I ultimately work on the manuscript, but my best and most enjoyable creative time is found outside on my back porch. It's the one thing I miss the most when the cooler temperatures roll in.

Jameson is a handsome fellow. You're lucky to have him keeping you company. :-) Other than your computer or laptop, what's the one thing you couldn't be without in your Write Spot?

My Alphasmart is one thing I'd be lost without.  It's light and easy to use.  You may wonder what an Alphasmart is—it's a small lightweight word processor made for children.  I learned about it years ago from other authors who were using them. I had one before I had a laptop. You can't buy them new anymore.  I love mine so much that I went on E-bay and bought a couple more.  I gave one to my granddaughter who likes to write and kept the second one for myself.  I enjoy using it that much.  I write on my Alphasmart not only in my favorite "Write Spot" but anywhere on the go, such as while riding as a passenger in the car during trips. Once I've written several pages or a chapter, I plug the Alphasmart into my iMac or my laptop then send what I've written into Microsoft Word.

I used to write on an Alphasmart, too. They're great for avoiding all the distractions of a web-connected computer. (Hmm. Maybe I should get mine down off the shelf and fire it up again.)

What are you working on now?

I'm working on book 5 of my Lancaster County Wedding series for Harlequin LOVE INSPIRED®.  This book is an Amish romance about Isaac, Samuel and Katie Lapp's fifth out of seven sons.  I've tentatively titled the novel Saving Isaac.  His love interest?  Ellen Mast, cousin to Sarah Mast from book 2, Jedidiah's Bride. Book 4 isn't released yet. Elijah and the Widow will be released in April 2016.

Where can readers find out more?

You can learn more about me and my books by visiting my website,, my Facebook page at or on Twitter at @RebeccaKertz.

Rebecca's latest release, The Amish Mother, is book 2 in a multi-author series, Lancaster Courtships: Life and Love in Amish country. 

Unexpected Love... 
Amish Widow Lizzie Fisher loves her seven stepchildren as though they were her own. But her brother-in-law's unexpected arrival on the farm has her worried. After all, Zachariah Fisher is the true heir of the property. And he could decide to send her away from her family and her home of two years. Lizzie is determined to show the handsome farmer that her physical challenges don't prevent her from being a hard worker or a loving mother. For she finds herself losing her heart to Zack and hopes he'll see they're meant to be a family forever.

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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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