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#FiveOnFriday Traveling with MJ Schiller

Who doesn’t want to travel more? Whether it’s a place you’ve always dreamed of going, or someplace you want to return to, maybe one of MJ’s trips will give you a little piece of that spot today!


As I’m currently on a little trip, I thought I’d talk about some of the fun places I’ve had the opportunity to travel to, and maybe it will give you an idea about where you might want to take your next vacation.

Sonoma—since we are visiting this location right now, I had to include it. It is beautiful here, despite all the destruction of the recent forest fires. But even fire couldn’t bring the residents down. Amidst the remnants of burned out car frames, and houses with only chimneys standing, are signs saying, “Sonoma pride~ the love is thicker than the smoke.” And everywhere posters thank the first responders who saved the towns threatened by the inferno. We heard a story today about how Benziger Winery’s owner went out at two o’clock in the morning to dig trenches that ended up protecting the property from damage. Some vintners were not as lucky. We heard of one couple who fled and lost everything they owned, besides the clothes they brought with them. But most of the wineries are still open, and there are hundreds of them. And with the great wine is some absolutely breathtaking scenery. Today we hiked in Jack London Park, passing by the ruins of London’s farm buildings and the grape vines that he planted, still harvested today and pressed into special edition Jack London wines (we tried some at Kenwood Winery). Beyond the vineyard are mountainside trails, covered in humongous maple leaves and needles from the bunches of redwoods, which are amazing! Dizzyingly tall, and beautiful, huddled together like groups of students on the playground.

Bar Harbor— we hit this location in August and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We took a sunset cruise on a four-mast schooner, and followed it by watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, the first place the light touches in the United States. Great hiking here, too. We took the path around Jordan Pond, listening to the sounds of all of the woodland creatures and relishing our stolen time with Mother Nature. The Prohibition Tour offered was interesting and informative. So there’s lots to see and do in Bar Harbor.

Boston— we loved both of our trips to “The Cradle of Liberty.” It’s cool how the old buildings, like the Old North Church, are nestled right alongside the towering modern skyscrapers. The streets, full of bustling commuters, echo the sounds of minutemen marching off to fight to establish our country. Our most recent trip to Boston found us at Fenway Park catching a Red Sox game. Even though we weren’t fans of either team, it was a surprisingly fun time. If you ever get a chance to watch a game there, take it!

Savannah— what can I say about the beauty and charm of this southern city? Huge oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, ornamental ironwork on balconies and railings, and residents offering the kind of hospitality that the South is known for. We were entertained on a ghost tour of one of America’s most haunted cities. Fort Pulaski is located on nearby Tybee Island and offered a lot of insight into what it would have been like to be a Confederate soldier imprisoned in a Union fort.


Ireland— this was an unparalleled trip, the highlight being our stay in Ballynahinch, a castle near Galway. The view from our window was so picturesque, it seemed fake. We took a jaunty cart ride through Killarney National Park, floated down the River Shannon while being entertained by an Irish musician, and heard Yeat’s poetry read by an expert while overlooking the landscape that inspired it. We visited the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, and the Giant’s Causeway, but found the Black Taxi Tour of Belfast to be the most informative.

What are some of your favorite vacation destinations? What are some places you’d like to visit but haven’t had a chance to?

Since we were talking about The Green Isle, I’ll share a bit of my Irish contemporary romance, DAMAGE DONE.


When an unhappy youth leaves him damaged, will Teddy Mckee be able to find love?

“Teddy Passmore McKee was born in Cork, Ireland, with a limp and a chip on his shoulder that threw his balance off all the more.” When he falls in love with the dark haired beauty born of an Irish father and a Spanish mother, will Gabrielle Quinn be able to restore his balance? And what about the charming Sean Hennessey? When Gabby catches his eye, too, will Teddy’s playboy best friend cause his own damage?

Fourteen years later, will Teddy and Gabrielle’s son be able to overcome the damage done to him in his childhood?

“Even through bloodshot eyes he could see she was different.”  But can Michael leave behind the bottle, and his womanizing ways, to win over the lovely Tess Flanagan? Tess has sustained some damage of her own. Can she and Michael overcome the terrors of the past and learn how to love each other?

And if they do, will they be able to elude those after them who want to create their own damage?

On the run after an altercation leaves their boss in a pool of blood, will Michael and Tess be able to stay one step ahead of their pursuers? Or is it simply too late to correct the damage that has been done?

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“Tessie…” He offered again. “We have to get out of here.”

She remained frozen in her spot, staring blindly over the cliff. He moved a step closer and gently grasped her elbow. “Tess—”

She whirled around and his heart caught in his chest as he stared into her wild green eyes. Tears shone on her damp cheeks, glimmering in the moonlight like trails of scattered diamonds. “Nay, Michael,” she said, her words coming out choked. “I have to tell them the truth. It’s my fault. …I k-killed him.” She sobbed.

He looked at her sadly, begging her, “Let me help you.”

The back door creaked open and light spilled out from the bar across the grass, startling them. He saw Jimmy Flynn’s outline in the doorway. “They’re out here!” he yelled.

Without waiting for a response, Michael took Tess’s arm and steered her along the cliff’s edge. He stepped over the railing and helped her to the other side as well. They stood on a narrow ledge. To the left a trail dropped off toward the sea. He led her skittering down the path, loose rock pebbling the beach far below. He had taken the pathway many a night when he was drunk and feeling particularly reckless. Tonight he hurried over it with only self-preservation and Tess’s safety in mind.

They heard voices above them, coming from every direction as searchers fanned out along the top of the cliff. Their eyes met. They hardly dared to breathe. A flashlight beam ventured over the railing and along the cliff face. She clutched his hand, squeezing it until he lost feeling in his fingers. He tried to flatten himself even more tightly against the rock face, wishing it would somehow melt and absorb them. Several seconds passed and the beam of light was joined by another, and another, each swinging away, and then toward them again.

He grabbed a quick look at the churning sea below then closed his eyes for a second, and his stomach dropped. He took a deep breath before turning his head to look at Tess. Her eyes were closed and her lips were moving fervently, but she emitted no sound. He swallowed, wondering again why the sight of her affected him so. After several minutes a voice called out, “You won’t get away with this, Mikey.” Had someone seen them? He heard Jimmy Flynn mutter, “Wherever they are, we won’t find them tonight.” One by one the lights disappeared until only a solitary beam shone.

Author Bio

MJ is a lunch lady in the heart of Central Illinois. My gosh! Can you get more folksy than that? She met her husband at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now she has a twenty-three-year-old (how did that happen?) and twenty-one year old triplets! She loves to read, karaoke (where she can pretend she is a rock star) and spends WAY too much time on Facebook. She grew up in St. Louis and still has family there.

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#FiveOnFriday for Christmas with MJ Schiller

I absolutely love Christmas, and MJ Schiller is definitely helping get me ready! Please welcome her back!

For this Five For Friday I want to get you in the mood for the holidays, so I’m sharing Five Fun and Useful Christmas Tips.

  1. For Christmas Drinks- 

Freeze whipped cream on a cookie sheet, then use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for hot chocolate.

This one works for any time of year. To keep drinks from becoming watered down, make ice cubes from ingredients. For instance, freeze tea in ice trays for serving iced tea. At Christmas, though, you can make things special by suspending items in ice. As an example, for my pineapple mimosas I’ll freeze strawberries in pineapple juice. Last year I used small plastic containers and put cranberries and sprigs of rosemary in them to make festive cubes for my punch bowl. To get that suspended look I filled the containers halfway with water and froze them, then added berries and greenery, covered with water, and refroze.

  1. For Wrapping Paper-

To keep your wrapping paper in line, here are two tips. Save toilet paper rolls, cut a slit on one side, and they make perfect cuffs to hold the ends of your wrapping paper down. Love this one!

In addition, use a clear hanging bag/dry cleaning bag, (the kind that zip and have a bottom), to corral wrapping paper. Place rolls side by side in bag and hang in a closet. You save space, and it’s easy to bring out a number of rolls at the same time when it’s time to wrap.

  1. Place Card Holders-

To make easy, festive place card holders, glue two miniature candy canes together to form an easel (long sides together, curved sides down in J position so that you can slide a card through them.) You can decorate them further by tying a ribbon around the top section. These are great at parties for holding cards with the names of the dishes on them, so you don’t have to answer a zillion times, “What kind of dip is this?”

  1. For Small Ornaments-

Use egg cartons to store smaller ornaments.

  1. For Frequent Fragrances-

Put a dot of Essential oils on the inside of your toilet paper roll. Every time it spins, the scent will be rejuvenated.

Hope this gives you some new ideas and that you have a wonderful holiday season!

And since we’re talking about the season, I’ll share my holiday romantic suspense, UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR.


Dylan Fisher is an EMT and part-time Santa Claus at a mall in Denver, Colorado.

He has logged plenty of time with children sitting on his lap asking for anything from the latest electronic gadget to a week’s worth of homework passes, but he never heard anyone ask for what little Delaney Kelly asked for on one snowy night in December. A dad! When Dylan’s eyes search the crowd for Delaney’s mother and land on Keira Kelly, the paramedic almost finds himself in need of a little CPR. She is stunning!

Keira Kelly is still grieving over the loss of her husband…

… but a reckless driver has her thinking about nothing but survival as she’s headed home from the mall. When Keira wakes in the hospital to find a hunky EMT at her bedside, she begins having a few thoughts that would put her on Santa’s Naughty List for sure!

Neither is ready for what is coming UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR!

When she finds out the EMT is only hanging around because the police believe someone is out to get her, she’s not sure what to think about his kindness. Is he helping her because he wants to, or because he feels he needs to? And what about the man who rammed her car, could he have had something to do with her husband’s death?


Max didn’t expect the explosion. He heard the tremendous, almost rhythmic sound of metal crunching as the car cartwheeled down the side of the cliff like a preschooler at recess. The thunderous BOOM of the sedan going up in flames caught him by surprise. He was rushing to peer over the edge, but was stopped dead in his tracks by the blast. By the time he got to the side of the ridge, the fire had already engulfed the vehicle. The flames licked hungrily at the night sky like so many devils’ tongues and consumed the car with such vehemence that, within seconds only a black outline of the frame remained.

Looking back on it, standing on the side of the road was an incredibly stupid thing for him to do. Anyone could have seen him as they whizzed up the side of the mountain, and perhaps even noted the dents in his car and copied down the license plate number. But he wanted to see the results of his handiwork. Besides, he wasn’t thinking at all clearly that night.

It gave him a raw thrill to chase the sedan over the edge of the cliff. He followed Kevin home from work, desperate, not knowing what he would do to solve his problem. At first he only picked up speed to keep pace with Kevin, but then recklessness began to pump in his veins. He pulled out into the lane meant for on-coming traffic, not even realizing what he was doing. His eyes darted everywhere, his pulse raced, frightened witless as the scenery flew by. Luckily, for some reason, the usually well-travelled road lay deserted. Thinking he wanted to pass him, Kevin slowed down, no doubt cursing the crazy driver beside him. But he only matched the sedan’s speed. Kevin glanced over, and in the flash of a streetlight, seemed to recognize him.

He must have thought ol’ Max didn’t have it in him. But I did.

He remembered the changing expressions on Kevin’s face as he began to understand his adversary’s intentions. At first his brow had been furrowed in confusion. Then his jaw went rigid and he tightened his grip on the wheel, glaring at Max, who feinted with his car. Kevin had to swerve onto the shoulder before correcting the path of the sedan. That was when Max’s prey stared back, his eyes hollowed by fear. A wild laugh burst through the air and Max wondered at first where it came from, before realizing it belonged to him.

The vehicles jostled, and tires screeched. When Kevin’s car finally did careen over the edge of the cliff, Max could have sworn he felt the heat of the gigantic explosion, although he knew that was impossible. For him it was like an orgasm, a wave of pleasure and relief. Kevin Kelly was no more.

If only that had been the end of it.

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Author Bio

MJ is a retired lunch lady in the heart of Central Illinois. My gosh! Can you get more folksy than that? She met her husband at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now she has a twenty-three-year-old (how did that happen?) and three twenty-one-year-olds. That’s right, triplets! She loves to read, karaoke (where she can pretend she is a rock star) and spends WAY too much time on Facebook. She grew up in St. Louis and still has family there.

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#FiveOnFriday Black Friday with MJ Schiller

Please welcome MJ Schiller back for Black Friday with us! I love this interview! So, so, so much fun!

What is the number one thing on your bucket list? Why?

This is a really hard question to answer for me. I guess I’m more of an in-the-moment gal. And then there’s the question of limitations. If I am unlimited I’d like to sing in a rock band and have one of my books made into a movie. Any one, I’m not picky. 😉

But if we need to be limited to things that are readily attainable I guess I’d say I’d like to see Hawaii and Italy. I like both the beauty and history of these areas. 

What is one of your favorite quotes? What about it speaks to you?

Imma gonna cheat and give you two. One serious, one not so serious.

“You are unrepeatable. There is a magic about you that is all your own.” ~ D.M. Dellinger

Because a lot of us forget our worth.

“The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done”. -George Carlin

Because I’m a very visual person and I can see a cartoon of this with someone like, “Ho-hum. Maybe I should set that guy over there on fire.” Then they pan to a guy whose blackened and has steam coming off of him.

What song could you listen to on repeat and not get sick of?

“Always,” by Panic! At The Disco. Actually, this song inspired the third book in the Devilish Divas Series, currently in production, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.

What is your favorite cocktail or drink?

All-time favorite? Hot chocolate and Irish cream.

But I also like flavored vodkas and a diet white soda, or an Amaretto Stone Sour, or mimosas, or…!

For first time readers, what book (of yours) should we start with and why?

The first book in my DEVILISH DIVAS SERIES, TO HELL IN A COACH BAG.  This series has more of a chick lit feel to it than others I’ve written, and I’ve been told this is where I really excel.

To Hell in a Coach BagBlurb

The first in the DEVILISH DIVAS SERIES ~ “Funny, sexy, emotionally deep, imaginative, well-written, addictive. Enjoyed it very much!” -Amazon reviewer

Four Midwest lunch ladies on a cross-country road trip…

DANIELLE ~ When a twist of fate reunites the widowed Dani with the hot roadie she met at a concert, will she have the guts to open up to Tucker and perhaps start a new relationship?

SAMANTHA ~ Wild divorcee Sam discovers Kyle, the Canadian referee she met at the same concert, is in town for a Colorado Avalanche game. Although Kyle’s logged some serious ice time, Sam’s cold shoulder may put his heart in perma-freeze.

ALEXIS ~ What can save Alex’s marriage when her unemployed hubby’s driving her crazy?

MAXINE ~ When mid-life hormones make Max a sex-starved loon, can she ever feel close to her man again when he doesn’t put out?

Two women whose marriages are on the rocks~Will time apart from their spouses help them weather their matrimonial storms?

Two single women who equate love with pain~Will they open themselves up to new possibilities?

Four friends ~ Could their destination be Love? Or are they simply headed to Hell in a Coach bag?

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When I slipped into the box, Sam already had her purse in her hand, a coat slung over one arm. She hurried toward the door, and then froze when she saw me, her mouth hanging open.

She was running out on me.

“Going somewhere?” I crossed my arms and glared, angry she would leave without even waiting to see me. I’d been thinking of her all night, except when I was on the ice, when hockey automatically took over. But during period breaks, I scanned the box I called in favors for, hoping for a glimpse of her.

“Kyle.” I sensed the forced enthusiasm in her voice. She ran up the stairs and hugged me, but my arms remained crossed. She let go and stepped back. I marched past her, trying to cool down, walking and walking until I ran out of space at the back of the box. I turned to face her, spreading my arms along the outer rail and leaned against the half-wall with my feet crossed in front of me.

She seemed to debate strategies, and then began to saunter toward me, dropping her coat and purse on the back of one of the seats. She looked fabulous, damn it. She wore jeans and a cream-colored sweater that zipped both down from the top, and up from the bottom, with rhinestones in-between. I took a deep breath. As she moved, I could see her tan stomach and navel at the bottom of the sweater, and a tease of her bra at the top. My hands sweated, but I told myself I wasn’t going to let her off the hook so easily. She had this way of walking, almost a strut, but not obnoxiously so. Just a slow, sensual, self-confident ramble that made my pulse go through the roof. But she was about to leave me. After I’d gotten the booth for her and everything. And she’d promised to wait. It ticked me off.

She came so close I could smell her perfume. There was something about a self-confident woman that was a total turn on for me. But I wasn’t into being used either.

“Kyle.” Her eyes were mesmerizing as she tried to sweet talk me, a fire in their depths that had me licking my lips. “I know it seemed like I was getting ready to leave when you walked in. But I was going to use the bathroom. I wouldn’t have left without seeing you.”

“Yeah. You should have gone with that when I first walked in. It would have been more believable then,” I said dryly, but I could feel my lips turn up.

“Kyle…” She reached for me, and I pushed her hands away.

“No, Sam. This isn’t going to work.” I stormed past her, but she grabbed my arm.

“Kyle! Please!” Her face seemed genuinely pained. I decided to give it one last chance.

“Why did you come here tonight?”

“Why did I…?” Her eyes danced around the box, and she licked her lips. “I-I like hockey, and you were nice enough to offer the seats…” She fiddled with the zipper on her sweater, tugging it up and down and wreaking havoc on my heart rate.

“So it wasn’t because you wanted to see me?”

Her soulful brown eyes flashed to mine, appearing startled at first, and then angry.

“Well… that was a plus, sure.”

“But you came mostly for the game.”

“Yes. I’m a big hockey fan. I go to the Blackhawks games all the time.”

“Do you?” I asked, incredulous.


“What was the score tonight, Sam?”


“The score,” I barked. “The score of the hockey game you were so into.”

“Five to two.”

“And the winner?”


“Good. The Colorado Avalanche was the winning team.” She looked so pleased with herself, I almost hated to burst her bubble. Almost. “But the score was three to one.”

“Well, I’m not good with numbers. I just enjoy good hockey.”

“Oh, I see. Describe one play you saw tonight.”

“Well… oh. There was the time those guys took their gloves off for some reason and circled around each other like they were going to dance.” She smiled, batting her eyelashes. She was playing me now. She wasn’t that stupid. And damn it if I didn’t take the bait and smile back at her. She just looked so cute.

“That would be called a fight. The fight that earned me a sore jaw.” I rubbed it unconsciously.

“Oh,” she cooed, moving closer and stroking me gently along my jaw. I didn’t bat her hand away this time. “You poor baby.” I wasn’t angling for her sympathy, but I wasn’t too unhappy about receiving it either. “Were you crying to your momma?” she teased.

“No. But I referred to a mother a lot,” I muttered.

“Let me kiss it and make it better.”

I grabbed her wrists and gave her a little shake. “You don’t get off that easy,” I growled, though still smiling. I moved her hands down and set them free, grabbing her hips and hauling her into me. Her eyes sparked, and the ends of her lips curled up. “Obviously, you didn’t come here to watch the game. Could it be, maybe, just maybe, you came to see me?”

Author Bio

M.J. Schiller is a lunch lady/romance-romantic suspense writer. She enjoys writing novels whose characters include rock stars, desert princes, teachers, futuristic Knights, construction workers, cops, and a wide variety of others. In her mind everybody has a romance. She is the mother of a twenty-two-year-old and three twenty-year-olds. That’s right, triplets! So having recently taught four children to drive, she likes to escape from life on occasion by pretending to be a rock star at karaoke. However…you won’t be seeing her name on any record labels soon.

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Thank you so much for having me, Mary! Happy Black Friday, all!

#FiveOnFriday with Helen Lynch

Please welcome Helen Lynch here today! You’re going to love her debut book! But first, let’s find out about her inspiration!

When did you first think about writing a book? Did you write it then, or put it off for a few years?

I like to joke that I wrote my first book when I was nine years old. It was a mystery and came in at a hefty three pages, giving new meaning to the term short contemporary. I’ve written for years, but didn’t start to write seriously until about five years ago.

Why did you decide to become an author?

Stephen King once said he writes because he can’t not write. I can relate to that. I’m happiest and most upbeat when I’m working on a story.

What inspired you to write this book?

I am a firm believer in the healing power of love, and in second chances. I’ve seen people face overwhelming loss and pain, and still be brave enough to live life to the fullest, and to risk their heart. Loving Matt is such a story.

Where do your ideas for stories come from?

Oh, everywhere! For a while, I tried to write romantic suspense and all I needed to do was read the headlines for inspiration. Now that I’ve settled on small town contemporary romance, inspiration is all around me. I focus on the things that are most important to me, love, family, friendship, all tied up in a happy ending.

What’s usually the first thing that sparks a story idea? (For example, you come up with a title, a character, an idea, a setting, etc. and the story grows from there.)

I always start with the characters: who they are, what they do, what they want, what their goals are, and then, what’s keeping them apart. Loving Matt, the first book in my Sunset Bay series, was sparked by a boxed ad I saw in a local Pennysaver. “Single dad with a six year old son looking for house to rent. Must have big back yard.” That just sent the wheels turning!


Widower Matt Copeland packs up his life and moves with his six-year-old son to a small New England town in an attempt to build a new life away from the sadness that haunts them. Refusing to risk his heart, or his son’s, ever again, the former police officer holds everyone at arms length.
Until he meets realtor Chelsea Abbott. Chelsea has suffered loss as well, but refuses to let it define her. She rents Matt a very special house, and helps him settle into life in Sunset Bay. Little by little, he begins to let his guard down and cautiously explores the possibility of letting Chelsea into his life.
Then Chelsea is hurt, and the nightmare of losing his wife resurfaces. He realizes he has put his heart, and more importantly his son’s, at risk again, and breaks off the budding relationship. Can Chelsea convince him that love is more powerful than fear and that some things are worth the risk?

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Excerpt from Loving Matt, A Sunset Bay Romance


“Okay, I know you’re in here somewhere.” Matt tried to hide the exasperation in his voice as he quickly scanned the living room. How could a kid just disappear? One minute, Zak was standing next to him as he packed up the last of the books from the bookcase, the next he was gone.

“Come on Zak. This isn’t cool.” He couldn’t really blame him. He’d already been through so much upheaval, and now they were leaving the only home Zak had ever known. This, on top of losing his mom. Matt’s jaw clenched. There’s no way he was going there. Not if he wanted to survive.

Matt was no stranger to hardship. He’d been through a lot in his thirty plus years. First, his deployment to Iraq, and the horrors he’d witnessed there, followed by his years on a big city police force. Tough times, yes, but nothing had ever hit him as hard as the death of his wife. Hit him? It just about flattened him. If he hadn’t built the walls he did almost immediately after her diagnosis, he wouldn’t have made it past the first week.

“Come on, buddy. Help me finish packing this box and we’ll grab some pizza. I’ll even let you do the tape.” He smiled, remembering Zak all tangled up in duct tape the last time he’d ‘helped.’

Matt spotted the scuffed toe of Zak’s sneaker peeking out from under the drapes at the same moment his phone rang. Irritated, he reached across the couch and snatched it up, never taking his eyes off the lump behind the curtain. “Hello.”

Silence. His curt tone evidently had taken the caller aback. He repeated the greeting, struggling to keep his tone light even as he walked toward his son. “Hello?”

The caller hesitated for a moment. “I’m looking for Mr. Copeland?”

Her voice was firm, businesslike. Pleasant though. Probably a telemarketer. “You’ve got him.” He kept his eyes locked on the wiggling form, now just inches away from him.

“I’m calling about your ad…”

“Ha! Got you!” Matt dropped the phone and grabbed his son as he dashed from his hiding spot. He placed the blond haired six-year-old in a playful headlock and scrambled to pick up the phone. “Sorry. Hello?”

“Yes. I’m still here.” The tone had an element of frost in it by now. Or wariness. Either way, the slight warmth that he’d felt curling through the phone line was gone.

“Sorry. I was on a recon mission.”

“Pardon me?”

Matt held back a laugh. “It’s sort of like hide and seek. What can I do for you?”

The caller recovered quickly. “I’m calling about the ad you placed in the Sunset Bay Courier.” At his continued silence, she went on. “For a house. To rent.” Now she sounded just a little flustered.

“I’m listening.” He could feel Zak wriggling against him in yet another attempt to escape. “Can you hold on a minute? I think a glass of lemonade and a cookie just might free me up enough to answer your questions.”

He placed the phone on the end table, carefully avoiding the silver framed photo sitting there. That was another place he wasn’t willing to go.

He tousled his son’s hair, then gently pushed him ahead as they entered the kitchen. “Okay. Here’s the deal. You get the cookie and the lemonade and I get five minutes without you trying to disappear on me. What do you say?”

Zak looked up at him. Blue-green eyes, so like his mother’s, clouded with a sadness that never really went away. “Okay, daddy.”

His heart hitched at the small voice and the emptiness it held. Crouching down in front of Zak, Matt looked him straight in the eye. “It’ll be okay, buddy. I promise.”

Even as he said the words, he knew what a lie they were. Things were never going to be okay again. Not for him. Not for Zak. Even a six-year-old knew that much. With one lingering glance, he returned to the living room.

Matt sighed and picked up the phone. The woman was probably long gone by now. “Hello?”

The silence that greeted him confirmed his prediction. He was just about to click the phone off when she responded.

“How was your cookie?”

“My…?” Matt couldn’t help but smile, even if it was fleeting. So, the woman with the smooth-as-syrup voice had a sense of humor. Or, she was totally clueless. “It was delicious.”

“I’m happy for you. But, if you have a moment, I’d like to discuss the ad you placed. For the rental house in Sunset Bay.”

Matt stared at the ceiling and wondered for the millionth time if he was doing the right thing. He glanced around the living room, almost completely bare now of anything but basic furniture. No pictures on the wall, and just a few books and toys strewn around. They’d all been packed up in anticipation of this move. In spite of what his parents and friends thought, it was not all part of some plan to eliminate Emily from his life. Fate, or God, or whatever, had already taken care of that. No matter what they said, he managed to steel himself from the doubts that crept up when he wasn’t looking.  Most of the time. “I’m listening.”

“Great. I have just the house for you and I’d love to show it.”

Pushy. But not too. And nice, if her voice was any indication. But that could all be for show, for business purposes. The whole honey-catching-fly’s kind of thing. “And you are?”

She laughed, a light happy sound. “Sorry. My name is Chelsea Abbott. I’m an agent with Sunset Bay Realty. Would you be interested in a showing? I actually have a couple of houses that I think would work for you, and would be happy to set that up. What would be good for you?”

Matt sighed. What would be good would be for his life to go back to what it was before fate blew it apart. Before he lost the love of his life and his little boy lost his mom. He already had a house, make that a home, one that used to be filled with laughter, noise and happy confusion. It was quiet now. All the time. Like the sadness in his son’s eyes. He felt the all too familiar anger begin to build.

“Mr. Copeland?” she prodded.

“I’m here. Just going over my schedule.”

Schedule. Right. The one with all the empty days, stretching as far as he could see. He’d resigned from the police department right after the funeral, even though everyone tried to talk him out of it. Take a leave, he’d been urged. Take time to heal. Your job will be waiting for you. But how could he ever think of going off to work every day, knowing that as a cop, there was always the possibility he wouldn’t be coming home? Ever. He couldn’t do that to his son. The job was too dangerous, and Zak had already lost too much. No, he’d turned in his badge and his gun, and walked away. “Saturday would be a good day.”

“Great. Any particular time?”

“How about one?” That would give him time to drive to Sunset Bay, check out the houses, and be back home in time for dinner. He’d made an effort since Emily died, to keep some sort of routine for Zak. Not that it did any good. The child was still as listless and hollow-eyed as he had been when he’d first come home to a life without his mom. Matt straightened up. This was the right decision, the only decision. A new town, new friends. Maybe there, the memories wouldn’t haunt them at every turn. Maybe there he would get a real laugh out of his son again.

“I’ve got you down for one pm Saturday. Any questions?”

None the cheerful realtor could answer. A philosopher couldn’t answer the questions that had been burning inside him since it all fell apart. Why Emily? Why them? “No. Sounds pretty straightforward.”

“How about directions? I can e-mail you some.”

“Thank you, but I’m good.”

“Are you sure? It’s no trouble.”

“I appreciate your help, but no thanks. I’ve traveled all over the world. I think I can find my way to Sunset Bay.”


The sarcasm had evidently not been lost on the woman, judging by the sudden chill in her voice. He sighed. It was like he couldn’t help himself. He really didn’t mean to be a jerk. He was just so damn tired. “Sorry. See you there.”

This was it. No turning back now. In spite of his earlier resistance, he found himself looking down at their wedding photo on the end table, staring at the two smiling people pictured there as if they were total strangers. He picked it up gingerly, running his fingers over the cold, flat surface. It was all ahead of them then, the joy, the heartache. The loss. Hardening his resolve, he walked over and dropped the picture in an open box. It was time to move on.

Author Bio

After working as a reporter at her hometown newspaper for almost twenty years, Helen followed her heart and began a career as a romance writer. A life-long reader and lover of books, especially ones that promise happily-ever-after, she now spends her days writing sweet contemporary romance in a small town in Western New York.

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#FiveOnFriday with MJ Schiller

Please welcome MJ Schiller back! We’re trading posts today, and I’m so happy to have her here with us!

Good morning, all!

For my Five For Friday I chose to answer five of Mary’s questions so you can learn a little bit more about me. So, let’s go!

When did you first think about writing a book? Did you write it then, or put it off for a few years?

I believe I’ve written all my life, but I didn’t start to pursue it seriously until I turned forty. That big milestone had me thinking. You know that book people always say I should write? Maybe it’s time to do that!

Why did you decide to become an author?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I was just one of those really imaginative kids at school. A dreamer. Someone who looked at the world a little differently. And I loved what words could do—make you laugh, inspire you, touch you, make you think—the possibilities are really endless!

What inspired you to write this book?

This book is semi-autobiographical. It cracks me up when readers say they believe something isn’t realistic when it is something that came directly from my life. For instance, I’ve had complaints that someone on a lunch lady’s salary couldn’t afford a Coach bag. I was a lunch lady, and while I didn’t have a Coach bag, my girlfriend/coworker probably had at least a half dozen of them, along with other designers’ work. One of our lunch ladies was a doctor’s wife. People don’t always work for money. And if you aren’t working for money, a lunch lady is the perfect job for you. You work the same days your kids are in school, and you can see them during the day. Best of all, you can go home and take a nap before they get finished. (I hear a stampede of ladies heading out to fill out job applications at their nearest school ;)!

Where do your ideas for stories come from?

Mostly from music. When I listen to the song, I let the music move me, but I also imagine the story behind the song. Did the rock star really have a girlfriend that awful? Was their father mean like that? My thoughts start there, and characters begin to come alive!

What’s usually the first thing that sparks a story idea? (For example, you come up with a title, a character, an idea, a setting, etc. and the story grows from there.)

Besides music, there are a few other things that get my imagination going. Sometimes a title will come to mind. Several in the DEVILISH DIVAS SERIES were ones that we discovered at work. Someone would say something, then someone else would say, “that would make a great title. M.J., you need to write a book with that title.” I’m happy to oblige. The imagery of being TRAPPED UNDER ICE, frozen by your past, inspired a novel. In that book, the heroine is a romance novelist/lunch lady (hmm…) and one of her titles was ABANDON ALL HOPE, which ended up being the second book in that ROCKING ROMANCE SERIES. DAMAGE DONE started with a line running through my head. “Even through bloodshot eyes he could tell she was different.” I thought that would make a great first line. Funny thing is, after I wrote the story, that line ended up in the middle, but I had another fun first line, so that was okay. ☺ So, you can see, just about anything and everything inspires me!

Thanks for letting me babble on about myself. How about you tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you look for most in a book? What draws you in? The title? The cover? A great first line? The premise?

The e-copy of TO HELL IN A COACH BAG is on sale right now for 99¢, and I think it will be when this posts. (Although, the publisher is in charge of that, so I’m not 100% sure.) Even at its normal price, it’s a fun read. Check it out….

To Hell in a Coach BagBlurb

Four Midwest lunch ladies on a cross-country road trip…

But the road to love can be rocky. What can save Alex’s marriage when her hubby’s driving her crazy? How can Max ever feel close to her man again when he never puts out? And just when Dani and Tucker are getting close, dreams of Darren’s death begin to haunt her. Can she move past them? And what about Sam? Although Kyle’s logged some serious ice time, her cold shoulder may put his heart in perma-freeze.

Is happiness around the next corner? Or are these four women simply headed TO HELL IN A COACH BAG?

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Barnes and Noble, paperback:

Nook book:



Excerpt (from Maxine’s point of view)

Standing in JC Penney’s lingerie section, I held up the skimpy red puff of lace and satin. The black fur veeing to the crotch really added a touch of class.


I hung it back on the rack, glancing around again to see if anyone I knew was in the vicinity. An older lady glanced my way, and I quickly bent, pretending to tie my shoe. Then, realizing they were slip-ons, I had to act like I was scratching my calf, which seemed lame. I moved to a table with sensible panties and kept my eye on Grandma.

Come on. Come on. Don’t you have something else to do? Like knit something?

She finally moved across the aisle to a display of blouses with huge, tacky multi-colored flowers sprawled all over them.

That’s right, I silently encouraged. That’s more your style.

I slid back over to the naughty girl rack, picking up a jade green number. I stared at it, then twisted it around. Was this the back? Or the front? I lifted a few straps with snaps on them.

What the hell are these for? I put it back, shaking my head. Too complicated. I lifted off a sheer pink teddy.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted her. Mrs. McCumpfry, my son, John’s, English teacher. I ducked behind the rack, clasping the teddy to my chest, my heart beating wildly. I can’t let Mrs. McCumpfry see me with naughtywear. My Spidey senses began to tingle and I slid my gaze across the aisle in the opposite direction. Grandma was staring at me, her mouth hanging open. She closed it, put a fist on a cocked hip and frowned at me.

Quit judging. You’d be doing everything you could to get a little action, too. If you’d ever had any.

I immediately felt guilty about thinking so poorly of her. A little guilty. Luckily she turned away. I crouched, hopping a little to relieve my cramped feet. How long was I going to have to stay here? After several minutes, I took a chance and rose. Mrs. McCumpfry was directly across from me, manhandling the lapel of a display suit. I gasped and slammed the pink outfit back onto the rack. I ducked around a partition, leaning against the wall and breathing deeply.

Author Bio

M.J. Schiller is a recently retired lunch lady/romance-romantic suspense writer. She enjoys writing novels whose characters include rock stars, desert princes, teachers, futuristic Knights, construction workers, cops, and a wide variety of others. In her mind everybody has a romance. She is the mother of a twenty-three-year-old and three twenty-one-year-olds. That’s right, triplets! So having recently taught four children to drive, she likes to escape from life on occasion by pretending to be a rock star at karaoke. However…you won’t be seeing her name on any record labels soon.

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