Category Archives: Thoughtfulness

Probing questions and random stories about writing and romance

Apologies

I’ve been really insanely busy these last few weeks, trying to:

  • finish rewriting one of my manuscripts
  • build myself a website
  • get on top of things at my new job
  • plan a work-related trip to Ethiopia.

Fortunately, I’m nearly done with the first two items, and I hope to relaunch this blog on my new site very soon. I’ll keep you posted!

But this means that I don’t have a giveaway for you this week (so sorry!), and the blog will be quiet for most of the rest of the week as I migrate it.

You can still enter to win a $10 gift certificate for yourself and a contemporary romance author by telling me about your contemporaries to covet in February. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

And, since I feel bad for not having a giveaway for you, I thought I’d treat you to some pics of my town in the Netherlands right now, where the high this weekend never got above 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius).

Hope you’re wrapped up warm wherever you are!

Frozen bike

Frozen bike

Frozen pond

Frozen pond

Frozen canal

Frozen canal

Frozen canal

Another frozen canal

Cold woman

Frozen me

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Winners of the Shana Galen giveaway!

Rogue Pirates BrideThanks so much to Shana for the fascinating post on pirates, and for giving away two copies of her upcoming novel The Rogue Pirate’s Bride.

The very lucky winners are…Filia Oktarina and Linda McFarland!

Filia and Linda, I’ve emailed you asking for your address. Congratulations! I think you’ll love the book.

Everyone, if you’re a fan of contemporary romance, check out my contemporaries to covet in February post – you could win a gift certificate for yourself and a contemporary romance author!

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Video: Why men and women can’t be friends

Answer’s pretty clear (at least, it is if you’re a guy at Utah State University’s library): Because we’re men, and we have those feelings.

This clears up why all my very-close straight guy friends from college dropped off the face of the earth once they got married.

Do you think men and women can be friends? Does a bit of attraction get in the way of friendship, or does it enhance it?

P.S. Why didn’t I go to Utah State??

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When everything changed: My mom the reluctant feminist

When Everything ChangedThis Christmas I gave my mom the best re-gift ever. A couple of years ago, Smarty Pants had bought me When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins.

The book details the struggle for women’s rights and how courageously individual women fought against laws they knew were wrong. It’s incredibly inspiring, especially for someone of my generation (I was born in 1979) because the changes my mother’s and grandmothers’ generations carved out meant that I could take so many freedoms and aspirations for granted.

I gave the book to my mom because she’d seen Smarty Pants give it to me and she’d briefly stolen it from me to read the first chapter. I stole it back and said she could have it when I was done.

Barbara Billingsley

Image via Wikipedia

Mom was born in 1954. She grew up on I Love Lucy and Leave It to Beaver. June Cleaver was her childhood heroine, and Mom dreamed of a future wearing beautiful clothes and putting on her pearls to vacuum the house while her husband and two children were at school.

She got the two children. And some of the vacuuming (though Dad does at least half of the housework himself, something that must’ve seemed bizarre to Mom when they first got married).

Mom once told me her parents didn’t encourage her to think about having a career. My grandmother believed (and still believes) wholeheartedly in thick foundation and heavy skin creams. When I was a teenager, Nonny admonished me: “Honey, you have to wear eye makeup. Boys won’t like you if you don’t wear eye makeup. And quit wearing those boy-cut jeans. They make you look like you have a ding-dong.”

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What can you do with an English degree?

A couple of months ago, I read a post on literary agent Kristin Nelson’s blog which said that the median salary for a writer in the U.S. is higher than the national average.

It got me thinking about my own English degree, and how clueless I was about career opportunities when I decided to study for it.

Kat and Andie

Two UCLA seniors, clueless about what to do with their degrees

This week I got to see my best friend/college roommate for the first time in three and a half years. Andie’s an ER nurse in Northern California, though when we were at UCLA together she studied Communications and World Arts & Cultures.

Never in a million years could I have seen her going on to nursing school. Like me, she was drawn to classes where answers were subjective and anyone could be right, as long as they argued their point well enough.

For logistical reasons too boring to go into, Andie and I met up in Palo Alto, home of Stanford University, on Wednesday. As Smarty Pants and I waited for her to arrive, we walked around Stanford’s campus. Being book nerds, our two main stops were the library and bookstore.

When we got to the bookstore, I immediately headed downstairs, where the coursebooks are. One of my favorite pastimes as an undergrad at UCLA was browsing all the books set aside for courses I wasn’t taking. I loved seeing what novels different English professors put together in their special topics courses.

As I browsed Stanford’s bookstore, it hit me that Andie and I were seniors exactly ten years ago. This time a decade ago, with only six months left to graduation, I realized I had no idea what I could do with an English degree.

Yes, I’d chosen my major because I wanted to learn about storytelling, but was clueless how to support myself with a storytelling degree.

I panicked a little, but then I explored all my options. I discovered I had a lot more options than the “What’re-you-studying-such-a-useless-subject-for?” science majors led me to believe.

For those of you studying English now, I hope this is helpful.

Option 1: Go to law school

Benjamin Bratt, American actor talks with repo...

Ahh, Benjamin. I nearly chose law school for you. (Image via Wikipedia)

Probably the option my parents would’ve loved, as long as they didn’t have to pay for it.

I started studying for the LSAT (the law school entrance exam), but if I’m honest the only thing drawing me to law school was my addiction to the TV show Law & Order, and the fact I wanted to work with cops as hot as Benjamin Bratt.

I didn’t do very well on the LSAT, so I panicked again.

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The sexiest trait a man can have

When Smarty Pants and I were living in Prague, we got caught in sudden summer thunderstorm during a picnic. We had only a few seconds’ warning before the clouds rolled in and torrential, frigid rain pounded down on us.

We threw our food back in the basket and ran for the closest cover: a copse of trees. Soaked through, we hugged each other and shivered, waiting until the rain passed. I felt Smarty Pants trying to tug the back of my pants down, something I thought was odd since we were outside, it was broad daylight, and he’s a pretty reserved Brit when it comes to public displays of affection.

Then I realized I also felt Smarty Pants’ hands on my upper back. Two hands.

He wasn’t the one pulling my pants down.

I jerked out of his arms in time to see a tiny animal, like a rat, drop from where it had clung to my wasitband. “Frickin’ hell! A rat! A giant, nasty rat!” Continue reading

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Winner of the Roni Loren giveaway!

I’m sorry this is a day late. I’ve spent the past two days in the hospital with my grandparents. Grandpa’s scheduled to have surgery this morning, so hopefully he’ll start getting better soon.

Crash Into YouAnyway, I wanted to thank everyone who stopped by to comment on Roni Loren’s fantastic post: Why do all the romance heroes have six-packs?

The winner of Crash Into You, Roni’s debut novel is…angela quarles!

Angela, I’ve emailed you asking for your mailing address.

This week you guys can win one of my favorite books, Hot Zone by Catherine Mann!

If I don’t get a chance to publish another post over the next few days, then let me wish you all a very happy new year now. Here’s wishing us all love, laughter, and lots of great books in 2012!

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Grandpa’s Christmas atlas: Why bookshops and print books still matter

Last night (December 23rd) around 8pm, my grandma called me with a special Christmas request.

“Will you do me a favor, sissy? Will you buy Grandpa a new atlas and wrap it up and put it under the tree, from Grandma?”

Grandpa

Grandpa, mid-story, on 4th of July (hence the beads)

It seemed like a pretty random request. She’s never asked me to buy anything on her behalf, but I know that this is the first year she’s struggled to get out of the house. Pain from a few injuries and arthritis has kept her home more and more. Grandpa, too, has had a tough year. When I flew home a week ago, he looked much more frail than he had in July, when we celebrated his 90th birthday. Like the indestructible man he’s always seemed to be, he hasn’t let that stop him from working construction with my dad.

Feeling honored to have such a task – especially one where I could spend time flipping through map books – I quickly agreed and asked what kind of atlas she wanted to give him.

“It don’t matter. I just want it to be a new one. Every time you kids travel somewhere, he looks it up in his old atlas that he inherited from Grandpa Latham in the 70s. Now you’ve moved to Holland, he can’t find the town where your livin’ or the one where you’re workin’, and he’s flustrated.”

She told me, “You’re the only one I know who goes to bookshops. I don’t know nothin’ about them, so I wanted to ask you to do this for me.”

So last night my husband and I drove to the nearest bookstore and spent time looking at their atlases until we found one that had our new hometown in it as well as large-enough print that Grandpa could read it.

I started writing this post this morning, and I was going to make it about why brick-and-mortar bookshops and print books still matter: because with only one day until Christmas, I would’ve struggled to get an atlas delivered in time. And the one I would’ve chosen from the brief browse I had online before going shopping ended up not having the town where I work in it.

But this morning, as I paused in my writing to wrap gifts, we got a message. Grandma left it on dad’s cell phone early this morning, but he only noticed he had a message four hours later. Grandpa is sick, and Grandma had to rush him to the doctor at 6.45am.

We can’t get hold of her. We don’t know what “sick” means, and we’re clinging to hope because she said “doctor”, not “hospital”. My cousin Will lives with them, and he said everyone was fine when he left for work at 6, so whatever it was must have come on suddenly.

When we got the message, I was in the middle of wrapping the gift I’d bought Grandpa: a tin train full of candies, since he has a sweet tooth. The last present I had to wrap was the atlas.

Wrapping it up, and writing “To Grandpa, With love from Grandma” on the tag made my eyes swell up and my throat scratchy. My grandpa is one of Earth’s finest men, and I don’t need an atlas to tell me that.

So we wait to hear. In the meantime, Grandpa’s atlas is wrapped, sitting under the tree, with love from Grandma.

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Winner of my Mistletoe Madness blog hop giveaway!

Mistletoe Madness blog hopI was thrilled to see so many new faces around here this week, thanks to the Mistletoe Madness blog hop. I’m glad we’ve all discovered lots of exciting authors this year.

The winner of a $10 book gift certificate and some chocolates is…Andrea!

Andrea, I’ve emailed you asking for your address.

Cruise on over to PJ Schnyder’s site to see who won the grand prize: a Nook color.

Everyone, you can still comment on Roni Loren’s guest post about heroes with six-packs for a chance to win her debut novel.

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Eleven romance authors I “discovered” in 2011 – & giveaway!

Mistletoe Madness 2011This post is part of the Mistletoe Madness blog hop. If you’re here for the first time, welcome! I blog about contemporary and historical romance, and I have weekly giveaways. (This one is an added bonus.) I hope you’ll consider subscribing and visiting again sometime.

I’ve heard some lovely stories about parents who mark their children’s growth by writing them a letter every birthday and recounting all the things they’ve learned to do.

I’m a bit too old for my mom to do that, so I measure my own growth in my own ways. One of my favorites is by reflecting on much-loved authors whose books I hadn’t read a year ago. These are authors who gave me the thrill of discovery and inspiration – what more could you ask for?

Here are 11 romance authors I “discovered” this year. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of them, and I’m making it my resolution to interview the others in 2012.

1. Shannon Stacey: Heartfelt, funny contemporary romance

2. Jane Graves: Contemporary romance that tugs the heartstrings

3. Catherine Mann: High-octane military romance (Catherine will be here the week of December 26 giving away Hot Zone!)

4. Brenda Novak: Romantic suspense that’ll keep you up all night!

5. Katie Lane: Quirky, hot small-town Texas romance

6. Laura Lee Guhrke: Stunningly beautiful historical romance

7. Shana Galen: Absolutely fantastic historical adventures

8. Suzanne Brockman: Her contemporary romance Infamous made me cry.

9. Vicky Dreiling: Wickedly witty historical romance

10. Sarah MacLean: Laugh-out-loud-funny Regency romance

11. Joanne Kennedy: Fun and poignant contemporary cowboy romance

Giveaway!

Since this is part of the Mistletoe Madness blog hop, there are a few ways you can win cool stuff.

1

Win a $10 book gift certificate and some chocolate on my blog. (Open internationally)

Chocolate stars ornamentLeave a comment below telling me an author you became a fan of this year. On December 23, I’ll randomly choose one commenter to win a $10 (or equivalent in your currency) gift certificate to an online book retailer. I’ll also send you this ornament filled with chocolate stars (fake tree not included), which will hopefully arrive in time for you to share them at a New Year’s party!

2

Enter to win a Nook! (U.S. only)

If you live in the U.S., you can also sign up for the Nook giveaway on PJ Schnyder’s blog, as part of the Mistletoe Madness blog hop. The Nook is loaded with books, so you can discover lots of new authors in 2012.

3

Visit other bloggers giving stuff away.

On PJ Schnyder’s blog, you can find links to all the other bloggers giving away cool stuff during the Mistletoe Madness blog hop. Go give ’em some love, and you could win cool stuff from them!

Who are your favorite new authors that you’ve discovered in 2011?

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