Tag Archives: true-to-life romance

The best best-man video ever

Ireland vs Georgia, Rugby World Cup 2007. Stad...

Image via Wikipedia

Smarty Pants is a big rugby fan, and because he’s part Irish he supports the Ireland national team.

I’m a fan of big burly men, and because the Ireland national team has lots of big burly men I’m a fan of them, too.

So on our wedding day, our best man (Smarty Pants’ brother) managed to get us a card signed by several of Ireland’s players, including the legendary Brian O’Driscoll.

We have many photos of me jumping up and down in my wedding dress.

It looks like a Kiwi best man has beaten my brother-in-law. (Hat tip to Bronwen Evans and Elyssa Papa for tweeting it yesterday.)

He somehow got four All Blacks (the New Zealand national team) to pretend they were the bride’s ex-boyfriends and to wish the couple luck on video.

This is priceless – especially Sonny Bill Williams (on the exercise bike), who’s got “romance hero” written all over him.

Too bad the hero of my rugby romance novel is English, not Kiwi. That’s a freaking adorable accent.

What’s the best best-man gift or trick you’ve ever seen?

4 Comments

Filed under About Katrina

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??

6 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness

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

18 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness

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.

9 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness

Video: British sailors’ Christmas wish comes true

The HMS Ocean was supposed to be at sea for seven weeks.

Seven months later, they’ve finally returned to their port in Plymouth. When they found out they’d be home in time for Christmas, they shot a music video set to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas.

Mariah tweeted them to say they’d made her day.

I hope it makes yours, too!

Many came home today to meet their babies for the first time. One man I saw on the news coverage tonight managed to fly home for the birth of his twin girls, but had to get back to the ship afterward. What an incredible day this must be for them and their families. And an incredible night. 😉

You can see the BBC’s coverage of their homecoming on the BBC News website.

I love a great reunion story, and Christmas makes it all the better. Have you heard or read any great reunion stories lately?

2 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness

Five things romance writers should know about vaginas

If there’s one thing you’d think romance writers – who tend to be women writing for women – know about, it’s the workings of their own bodies.

After all, some of us write fairly explicit sex scenes, right?

Read My LipsThis week, though, I was surprised to discover how ignorant I was as I read the delightfully informative Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva by Debby Herbenick, PhD, and Vanessa Schick, PhD.

This book, which will be released on November 14, should be required reading for everyone – women and men. It expels myths, builds confidence, and contains vital health information that would surprise many women.

And there are craft projects! I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so let’s just say I know what I’ll be dressing as next Halloween.

Luckily, Debby and Vanessa are giving away a copy of Read My Lips right here! (Details at the end of the post.)

For those of you who don’t write romance, please don’t feel you need to click away. Vulva knowledge is good for everyone – whether you carry one around all day or love someone who does.

First, a brief word on terminology. Vulva is used here to describe the genital region that can be seen from the outside (clitoris, lips, vaginal opening, etc). Vagina means the passage between the outside world and the uterus. But I won’t be anal about people using “vagina” to refer to the whole shebang.

Ready to learn about the mighty vulva?

1. All vulvas are different.

This might sound obvious, and maybe it is to people who have seen lots of naked women.

Then again, depending on where you encountered those women you might be forgiven for thinking most vulvas look the same. Apparently, most of the women pictured naked in magazines and online have a certain look: hairless or nearly hairless, with small inner labia that are fairly uniform in color.

But women are much more diverse. The authors say:

Painted lady statueThe inner labia (labia minora) are perhaps the most diverse part of women’s genitals. The color of women’s inner labia may vary greatly from one woman to the next. They may be a shade of pink, red, brown, gray, black, or slightly purple (particularly as women become sexually aroused and blood flow increases to the genitals, as the inner labia are filled with blood vessels; inner labia also sometimes darken in color while a woman is pregnant). The outer ridges of the inner labia are often darker than the rest of the labia. Similarly, in one study, forty-one of fifty women (92 percent) had genitals that were darker than the skin around their genitals.

Now, a lot of romance novelists skim over this kind of detail when describing sex scenes, but some don’t. And if you write explicit scenes, then you might like to add a little more genital diversity. Not only will it make your heroine more interesting, it’ll make her more real.

Most importantly, though, it could encourage your readers that their bits are normal, healthy and sexually desirable.

Wikipedia has a set of drawings showing vulvar diversity.

2. The hymen is at the vagina’s entrance.

Continue reading

67 Comments

Filed under Writer's toolbox

At first scent: exposing the secrets of chemical attraction

Couple nearly kissing

© Geber86/istockphoto

Romance readers are familiar with chemical attraction – that unmistakable yet intangible sensation when your body recognizes your soul mate.

For horror and suspense writers, the most important chemical reaction is different: the scent of fear and hint of danger the hero detects that lets him react just in time to save his own life.

These may sound like cliches, but they’re based on real-life reactions our bodies have to pheromones.

Earlier this week I went to a lecture by Karl Grammar of the University of Vienna, one of the few scientists in the world studying human pheromones. He gave us an insight into how humans react to the scent of pheromones, and I thought some of it might be useful, or at least interesting, to my fellow writers.

Let me preface this by saying that I didn’t take notes on the scientific nitty-gritty, so some of what follows here may be educational while other parts will just sound strange. Take what you will and store it away – surely it’ll come in handy for a pub quiz one day.

What are pheromones?

Dr Grammar began by saying that in almost all animal species life is controlled by highly volatile substances made by the glands. These are pheromones. We breathe them in, and our olfactory system takes these scents (which we don’t even know we’re smelling) straight to the brain.

In other words, people give off these super subtle messages which our nose takes to our brain for interpretation.

What do pheromones help us do?

Pheromones help us do things like recognize our relatives, select our mates, and be aware when someone scary or aggressive is nearby.

We have hundreds – possibly thousands – of different pheromones. They’re transmitted through our skin; since we each have a unique genetic epidermal composition, our pheromones “smell” different. This makes it easier for us to identify our kin, but it also means romance novels are right: we can identify that one person who’s special to us, even if we can’t see them.

Weird pheromone facts

Boar

© osmar01/sxc.hu

Humans have some of the same pheromones as other animals. For example, one of the pheromones men have is the same as a boar’s. Dr Grammar explained that when a female boar smells a male boar’s pheromones, she assumes the copulation position. “It doesn’t work like this for humans,” he said.

Women share a pheromone in common with wasps. Yep, women smell sorta like wasps, men smell like pigs, and no one knows why.

Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Writer's toolbox

More hot men are concerned about your breasts

I don’t usually drool and post pictures/videos of ripped men…unless I can find a way to relate it to writing.

Remember last week I shared that video by Rethink Breast Cancer? The one featuring hot guys showing you how to check yourself for lumps and also served as a great lesson on providing a unique twist on the same old content?

Mmmm…

Sorry – I mentally wandered for a second there. Well, yesterday stars from the British TV show Loose Women (basically The View) had the incredible opportunity to visit London rugby team Harlequins…and wander around the locker room where the players were nekkid.

For copyright reasons, I’ll be a good girl and won’t post the pictures here. But you can see them here. Don’t worry – the men have strategically placed balls.

Rugby balls, that is.

Good thing rugby balls are long.

I couldn’t figure out whether the photo shoot was related to Harlequins’ support for the charity Breast Cancer Care. They’ll be supporting the charity on 29 October at their Ladies’ Day match. My husband’s a season-ticket holder for their cross-town rival, and that’s our last day in London, so I won’t be going. I hope everyone who does will donate, though.

Whether the photo shoot is for a good cause or is purely gratuitous, it’s still great for me – I’m in the process of rewriting my contemporary romance featuring a London rugby player. These pics have inspired all sorts of ideas…which you’ll get to read if this novel is published.

How many ways are there to describe abs like this?

1 Comment

Filed under About Katrina, Thoughtfulness

Places that make your imagination take flight

Lake Arrowhead village

Lake Arrowhead village

This weekend my husband, parents and I went to a village in California’s San Bernardino mountains that brought back a lot of memories for me.

Nearly twenty years ago, my parents took me and my rambunctious little brother to Lake Arrowhead for the first time. I was thirteen and totally embarrassed by my family – although, if I’m honest, they’re all a lot cooler than I am.

I spent that weekend engrossed in Harlequin romance novels, which I’d just discovered, in an effort to avoid thinking about the fact that I was a chubby pubescent girl with braces and a feathered mullet. That weekend, I was a confident career woman in my twenties who brought tycoons to their knees (figuratively and literally :)).

While we were there all those years ago, I also saw a stunning bride smiling for her wedding photos, and that cemented in my young mind the fact that Lake Arrowhead was among the most romantic places in the world.

Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead

My flirty twenties are now behind me, and I’ve been a stunning bride (if I do say so myself), but Lake Arrowhead still pulls at my imagination. Walking around with my husband and parents made me realize how important reading has been in my life – both to keep me grounded and to give me wings, to develop my empathy and soothe my sometimes aching heart.

Two things are the same, all these years later. First, I spent this past weekend reading Harlequin novels. Except this time, I read them as a reviewer instead of to escape.

Second, being in Lake Arrowhead filled my imagination with stories. Only now, they’re stories I’ll have the confidence to write down and share instead of keeping them private.

Is there a place that you strongly associate with reading? Is there a place you’ve visited that sparks your imagination, or a place you’d love to visit because you’ve imagined it so many times you feel like you’ve already been there?

4 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness

Pride and joy in New York City

For those of us who spend our lives writing about and celebrating love, commitment and equality, this has been a beautiful weekend in New York.

The Marriage Equality Act passed two days ago. Today New York City celebrated during the Pride parade. The mood was jubilant, and the joy on people’s faces was almost overwhelming. I teared up several times.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of the day. Congratulations, New York. A piece of American just became a little more free.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness