Food Talk Friday: Beach Club

We used to go occasionally to a burger place in Friant, about 20 minutes from us. It was called Sandals and it had great burgers with a casual, beachy atmosphere. Then it closed.

Then it opened as Beaches or Beach Club. But we weren’t able to visit before they closed for the pandemic, then they were open, then they closed for winter.

Well, they’re open again and we finally made it! Beach Club

They have a fun menu, heavy on burgers and sandwiches, but with a Hawaiian twist. They have a sand volleyball pit, and live music on some dates. It’s outdoor/patio dining only. The patio is covered and there are misters for the really scorching days.

Dave ordered the Loco Moco burger. If you’re familiar with the Hawaiian breakfast favorite, the Loco Moco, you know where this is headed. Add a bun, and you’ve got it. The Loco Moco is a scoop of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, topped with brown gravy, topped with an egg. The Loco Moco burger was huge and filling. Dave only ate half and brought half home.

Forgive my photography! It was much tastier than it looks.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures of the food on our plates, so the photos are our leftovers.

We shared onion rings and they were just right. The onion snapped when I bit into it, and didn’t pull out, leaving me with an empty shell of dough. They were hot and the onion was sweet.

I had the Kahlua pork tacos, with rice and beans. I ate all the rice and beans and one taco. The pork was tender, and well-flavored. The cabbage was crisp and added a nice crunch.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit and plan to be back!

Writing Wednesday: Where Do You Get Your Characters?

Writers are often asked where they get ideas for characters. Are they based on real people?

I have a writer friend who once told me her characters always start out based on people she knows before becoming true fictional characters.

I’ve done that, but I’ve also started with totally fictionalized characters sparked by a random comment or idea.

Photo from DepositPhotos

Another friend told me about her cousin who was married to a professional athlete and the demands put on the wives of the team members. We lived in Southern California at the time and attended church with a Los Angeles Dodger team member’s family. I ran into the wife at our shared pediatrician’s office one day and she was dressed gorgeously with perfect hair and make up. I got to thinking about the stress of having to look flawless every time you left the house, even if your child was ill and you were taking him or her to the doctor.

That led to the heroine of my first completed (but still unpublished) novel, Curveball. Cami is intensely private, but ends up in a relationship with a professional baseball player, under constant scrutiny. For added stress, she is stalked. Because I’m mean that way.

The protagonist in my work in progress (WIP) is a young widow. I haven’t been widowed, but I’ve had widowed friends and family members.

I read several books in the last few years with young widowed protagonists that really stayed with me, and they definitely influenced my choice to make my protagonist a young widow.

THE FIVE STAGES OF FALLING IN LOVE by Rachel Higginson. Liz’s husband died six months before the book starts, from an aggressive cancer. She’s barely hanging on, getting her kids to school, keeping the house standing. The beginning of this book is laugh-out-loud funny and had me hooked.

THE LIFE INTENDED by Kristin Harmel. Harmel is making a career for herself now writing World War II fiction set in France. This is not one of those. It’s an earlier book of hers (published in 2014), a contemporary story set in New York City. Kate’s been a widow for over ten years, when her husband was killed in an accident. She was overwhelmed by grief for years, but she’s finally moving on, engaged to a nice man. She should be excited, but she’s not. Then her dead husband starts appearing in her dreams. Very vivid dreams. And Kate sees the life they would have had if he hadn’t died. This leads her to wonder if Patrick is sending her a message and if she’s really ready to move on after all. She learns about sign language and the NY foster care system and her life takes another unexpected turn.

THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS by Abbi Waxman. Lillian has been widowed for three years, and raising her two daughters alone. The youngest is too little to have any real memories of her father, killed in an accident in front of their house. Lillian is an illustrator, and assigned to draw vegetables for a series of guides. Her boss sends her to a gardening class, so she brings her kids and her sister along. The group of beginning gardeners form friendships, and Lillian and the instructor hit it off too.

All of these books showed women working out and through their grief in different ways.

Another friend recently told me a story about a young widow she’d met. The woman was very attractive and someone commented that she must have lots of men pursuing her since she was single, intelligent, and beautiful. The woman said, no, just the opposite, actually. That men felt threatened by her dead husband. In a divorce, there’s no competition. But with death, if the husband was still alive, the new guy wouldn’t be in the picture. That’s definitely a plot element in THE LIFE INTENDED. I’m still working out how much of that to include in my own story.

Stay tuned to see what happens. That book will release February 2022. There will be a cover and title reveal in the coming months!

Book Talk Tuesday: SOUTH BEACH LOVE

This fun book is best read along with a Cuban cookbook. As I was almost done, I told my husband it was making me hungry for a Cubano sandwich. He promptly volunteered to make one for me. So our Memorial Day meal was Cuban sandwiches, with chips and potato salad. Maybe not your typical Memorial Day celebration, but it was delicious!

Tony grew up in Little Havana in Miami, but it’s been several years since he’s been home. He’s a big time chef in New York City now, with a hit restaurant. Yes, he’s burnt out from the paperwork and business of running a restaurant, and he doesn’t get to cook like he used to, but that’s the price he’s willing to pay for the acclaim and success. When his sister calls and asks him to come home to help with the menu planning for his niece’s quinceanera (15th birthday celebration), he’s not sure he can leave the restaurant for that long. But he agrees. He could use the break and he hasn’t been home for too long.

Sara Kelly is Tony’s best friend’s younger sister and she has a restaurant in Miami. She had a crush on Tony when she was a teenager, but she’s over that now. Her restaurant specializes in upscale twists on comfort food and is crowded every night. Her niece is also turning 15, and Sara’s sister-in-law asks Sara to help plan the menu.

Tony visits Sara’s restaurant and is impressed with both the food, and his friend’s all-grown-up sister.

Everything would be headed to a happily-ever-after, except for a reporter. She’s assigned to write a story about the resurgence of quinceaneras among the Cuban population of Miami. When she hears that two acclaimed chefs are handling the two menus, she sees her angle. She deliberately baits Sara and Tony, putting them in competition with each other. She will only feature one chef in her article. Both of them need the exposure and publicity the article will garner. Tony wants to open a new restaurant in Miami, so he can return more often, maybe even move back, closer to family and Sara. Sara wants to open a second restaurant. She trains women who need job skills to work in her kitchen. With another restaurant, she can help more women and ease the crowding at the first restaurant.

Since this is a Hallmark Publishing book, of course, Tony and Sara are able to work out the competition and their relationship. This book was a bit of a departure for Hallmark, in that Cuban and Latin culture, language and food were all featured predominantly. It wasn’t just white people in a white town baking white cake (no offense to people who like white cake–I love it!) But it was refreshing to read about a different culture. And remind me how delicious picadillo and porchetta are. Not to mention that Cubano sandwich.

This was a fun book and I highly recommend it.


I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Media Monday: BritBox and AcornTV

We disconnected the satellite TV a few months ago and are now streaming only. We still get live channels via YouTubeTV. Which we pay about the same amount for as what the satellite company offered to keep us. But we’d made up our minds so we declined their offer. With the streaming subscriptions, we’re saving about $100/month over what we were paying for a bunch of satellite channels we never watched.

Photo from DepositPhotos

We’re watching a lot of British and Canadian shows via BritBox and AcornTV, thanks to Amazon Prime. Which we had watched many of these already, but we’re back at it, and finding some new ones.

I’ve previously written about Murdoch Mysteries, a product of Canada. There were two new seasons we had to catch up on. And talk about a cliffhanger at the end of Season 14! I immediately had to check and be sure they were filming Season 15. Whew! They are.

Murdoch Mysteries

It took us a year to watch all of Midsomer Murders, and last week we watched Season 22.

PBS recently aired a new version of All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by British vet James Herriot. We watched Season 1, then went back and watched the older series from the late 1970s and early ’80s. We’d read all the books, of course. Both the older and newer series followed the same book fairly closely.

After we finished the older series, we went back to Midsomer Mysteries, Season 21, Episode 1, The Point of Balance, when Christopher Timothy, the actor who played James Heriot, guest starred in Midsomer as Ned Barnaby, DCI John Barnaby’s father.

That was very fun to watch! Seeing an older “Herriot” and how he’d aged.

We tried Doc Martin. I had tried it a few years ago, at several friends’ recommendation, but just couldn’t get into it. Stud Muffin and I tackled it together and after a few episodes, decided we enjoyed it enough to continue. But as often happens, (and I’ve told him this), he gets me to watching something that I’m not really wanting to watch (American Idol, Survivor, Longmire, to name a few) and then I get hooked and he decides he doesn’t want to watch anymore. Well sure enough, around Season 6, SM got tired of Doc’s perennial jerkness and said he was done. I do see glimmers of him trying to be better, so I’ll continue with Doc on my own. One of these days.

We’re currently trying Father Brown. After the first 2 episodes, SM said he didn’t care for how the “writers” (he blames all story deficiencies on the writers, never the producers, directors, or editors) portrayed the police officers/detectives/investigators as “bumbling idiots.” I disagreed with him. We did take a break and caught up on Midsomer, and we’re back to Father Brown. He hasn’t complained again. I don’t think he’s changed his mind, but at least he’s not arguing with the television set.

Book Talk Tuesday: THE STEPSISTERS

Susan Mallery is one of my writing examples. She puts out excellent books regularly. She keeps in contact with her readers. She writes stories that touch the heart. And her newest, THE STEPSISTERS, is another wonderful example of her women’s fiction.

Daisy and Sage were stepsisters, once upon a time, when Daisy’s father was married to Sage’s mother. Daisy and Sage share a half-sister, Cassidy. Now they’re all grown up and haven’t seen each other in years and are perfectly fine with that.

But when Cassidy needs help, Daisy and Sage agree to put the past behind them and focus on their sister. They’re all three surprised to learn that things they thought they knew about the past, and each other, may not be the whole truth. When a thoughtless and selfish act threatens their newfound friendship, they must decide if their family is worth fighting for.

While I don’t have stepsisters (or brothers), I do have half-siblings, though we were always treated as full members of the same family. Family dynamics can be tricky to navigate and Mallery shows that so well in THE STEPSISTERS.

I enjoyed this one a lot and highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but was not induced to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday: CRAZY FOR YOU

May is an odd numbered month, so we’re back in Deep Haven! Yay!

CRAZY FOR YOU is the third offering from Sunrise Publishing and I snagged an advance reader copy. It will release Tuesday, May 25. It can be pre-ordered right now for $4.99, and the price will go up once it’s released, so grab it now!

Deep Haven Fire Chief Pete Dahlquist is related to half of Deep Haven. Which makes dating difficult. And all sides of the family want something different from him.

Former military paramedic Ronnie Morales is new to town and needs to keep her job with the newly formed Crisis Response Team. She moved to Deep Haven to get her little brother out of the big city and away from the friends and trouble he was drawn toward.

Sparks (both the good and the bad kind) fly when Pete and Ronnie meet. When tragedy strikes, sides are taken and lines are drawn. Both Pete and Ronnie have to learn hard lessons about forgiveness and humility.

Michelle Sass Aleckson has captured Susan May Warren’s characters, setting, and voice in a wonderful addition to the Deep Haven canon. I loved everything in this story. From Pete’s dilemma of choosing his family or his town to Ronnie having to dial back her intensity to show the people of Deep Haven that she can fit in.

I highly recommend CRAZY FOR YOU!


I received a free advance copy of this book, but it did not induce me to review it favorably or not. I just happened to love it!

Woe! It’s Wednesday … Catching Up on What a Year!

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything other than a book review. But I recently looked back at some of my posts from when we were traveling with the drug education trailer and I really enjoyed reading about our adventures and the people we met and the food we ate and the sights we saw and the sites we visited.

At Chihuly in Seattle

The Chihuly Gallery remains a favorite. I’d love to return there someday.

Anyway, I thought I should give an update about what we’ve been up to since we’ve been sidelined.

David took care of some long planned house projects. We put in new flooring, painted our wood-burning stove and hearth, as well as the living room, dining room, kitchen and hallway. We also bought some new furniture pieces and painted some others. The house feels bigger and cleaner!

Before
During
During
Almost, but not quite done!

I kept busy with my day job working in agriculture media and pesticide safety. And I received a long-awaited and very exciting offer to sign a publishing contract with Sunrise Publishing! I’m co-writing a romance novel with Rachel Hauck, a New York Times best-selling author. It will be set in her beloved fictional town of Hearts Bend, Tennessee. We’re hard at work on it now and having a blast. I love being a part of the Sunrise family. Everyone there is a joy to work with. The book will debut in February. I’ll be releasing the name and cover on social media in the next few months.

Signing my first publishing contract!

We were able to take some trips to Yosemite and one to Hawaii. It’s been a blessing to be able to keep in contact with friends and family via Zoom, FaceTime, and WhatsApp. We mostly attended church online, but are starting to go in person again. Social media is both a blessing and a curse and I have a love/hate relationship with it.

We’re not sure when we’ll be back on the road with the drug education trailer. But I’ll keep the blog updated when we know something.

Thank you for reading this far! Talk to you soon!

Book Talk Tuesday: UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY

I bought this one on a whim. I’d heard good things about it and people I respect said it was great. The blurb intrigued me, so I pre-ordered it a few weeks before it released, something I don’t typically do. Good thing Amazon tells me when I’ve already bought something, because I went to order it again a few days before it released, at yet another person’s recommendation.

I started it as soon as I opened the package and devoured it within a couple of days. It’s wonderful.

Amelia is an investigative reporter and she discovers the embryos her childhood friend Parker and his late wife had frozen are now considered abandoned. This sets off a chain of events that bring Amelia and Parker back home and also provides the key to unlocking secrets, some of them decades old.

Harvey writes about the south with authenticity as thick as Carolina humidity on a July afternoon. I could practically shake sand from the pages of my book. I loved it and am so glad I read it. It’s one that will stay with me a long time.

Book Talk Tuesday: A WATERFRONT WEDDING

A Waterfront Wedding has everything I’ve come to expect from Hallmark Publishing. A sweet romance, lots of small town fun, and a satisfying ending.

We return to Hearts Landing in A Waterfront Wedding by Leigh Duncan.

Evelyn Heart is restless. She’s the bookkeeper for the Captain’s Cottage, the most sought after wedding venue in the premier destination wedding town in America—according to Weddings Today magazine. But lately she’s wanting more than shuffling papers and crunching numbers and submitting supply orders. But what exactly, she’s not quite sure.
Ryan Court has spent the last year renovating the old Boat Works in Hearts Landing, turning it into another wedding venue. He and Evelyn had been childhood friends who’d drifted apart.
Evelyn and Ryan are thrown together to work on the town’s annual Wedding in a Week extravaganza. Working so closely together reawakens feelings each had thought they’d firmly dealt with in the past.
This is a charming story, and it was fun to return to Hearts Landing and to catch up with some of the previous characters we’ve met there.
I highly recommend A WATERFRONT WEDDING.

I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher but this did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Tuesday TwoFer: MURDER BY PAGE ONE

I’m a sucker for a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. Add in books and literary references and it’s even better!

Marvella Harris, or Marvey, has recently moved to Peach Coast, Georgia from New York City, to take a job at the local library, working to increase community outreach and services. She’s made some friends and enjoys her job. She’s at her friend Jolene’s bookstore for an author signing when she and Jo and another friend discover one of the author’s has been murdered. The local sheriff deputies seem convinced of Jo’s guilt, so Marvey jumps in to prove there are other equally viable suspects.

This has plenty of colorful Southern characters and small town vibes. I liked the way Marvey dropped in mentions of other books, and her jewelry making hobby. She also has a cat, who doesn’t seem to enjoy their new home.

The murderer is nicely revealed with enough clues and red herrings so the reader doesn’t feel cheated.

Overall, I enjoyed this and recommend it. I’d gladly read the next in the series.

——

I received an advance copy of MURDER BY PAGE ONE from Hallmark Publishing, but it did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.