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  • Hard to believe it’s already December!

    How I spent my November

    Yup, I’ve decided I am a winner on my own terms.
    (Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

    I usually spend November working on a new book for NaNoWriMo. I spend thirty days trying to make sure that I write at least 1667 words per day to make sure I have hit a writing goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. This year, because I knew I would be swamped at work, I did something different. I was already working on a project, so I used NaNoWriMo to finish it. I also took notes for a new project. I didn’t bother to count words. I focused solely on getting a clean edit ready to send to my editor and giving her the time she needed to edit it.

    It was actually a relief to not have the usual word count stress on me. One thing I have learned after the last few years is that my tolerance for stress is not what it used to be. I think a lot of it has to do with the work-related stress I dealt with some years ago. I find that I just need to do things at my own pace. And that’s okay.

    So am I a NaNoWriMo winner? Not officially, but in my own eyes I am. And that’s all that matters.

    The season for giving

    This season (and every season) we should give when we can to help others in need. (Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash)

    If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that this is the time of year when I always donate the proceeds from the sales of my books to charity. It’s the same this year. In fact, all year, whenever I could, I have been donating part of the sales of my books to charity.

    If you would like to support a charity but aren’t sure which to support, here are a few that

    • World Central Kitchen – WCK is first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises around the world.
    • Feeding America – the largest hunger relief organization in the US, Feeding America’s mission to advance change in the US by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all in partnership with food banks, policymakers, supporters, and the communities they serve.
    • Invictus Games – Prince Harry’s global initiative to support servicemen and women around the globe with life-changing injuries through sports.
    • Reading Is Fundamental – a non-profit organisation focused on helping children in the US with attaining essential literacy skills
    • Mighty Writers – a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that teaches children to write as well as distributing food and other essentials to families in need.
    • Covenant House – an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people who are dealing with homelessness.
    • UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – the UN’s official arm for helping refugees around the world
    • Alliance for Hope – an international non-profit organisation focused on helping survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children.

    There are so many global and local organizations to support. These are just a few. Wherever you live, wherever you are, find local organizations to support to help those in need. There are so many people struggling this year and who will still need help next year. Leave your privilege at the door and focus on how you can help them.

    Getting in the spirit of the season

    Listening to this was the beginning of the Christmas season in the Golden household. This was my dad’s favorite Christmas album.

    When I was a kid, the holiday season always started with two things – the light show at John Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s) in Philadelphia and my dad playing Nat King Cole’s Christmas album. To help you all get in the mood, here’s a link to the album.

    Whatever you celebrate, I wish you a happy holiday season. I’ll be spending Christmas in Sweden (and NOT Sicily as planned due to not finding good flights, etc) but I’m sure the Swede and I will have a wonderful holiday season together.

    Happy holidays to all of you,

  • What Kim’s been watching: “From Scratch”

    If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I moved to Europe for love back in 1995. If you’re new to following me, I met my Swede back in 1992-1993, we fell head over heels, had a long distance relationship, and then – after dealing with mega phone bills, etc – in 1995, I finished my master’s degree and moved to Sweden since it was easier for me to move there than for him to move to the US.

    So when I first heard about Tembi Locke‘s memoir, From Scratch, it spoke to me. A Black woman in a multicultural relationship, dealing with the ups and downs of it – the culture clash, the families who don’t get one another…. yeah, I was ready for it. And I loved it. I mirrored my experience – minus the parenthood and cancer.

    Then I found out that it was going to become a series on Netflix. Of course I was ready for it. As an Italophile, it spoke to me. Yes, I love going to Italy. I go there at least 2-3 times/year. I grew up in a city in the US where the majority of the immigrant population was from Sicily and southern Italy. Much of From Scratch takes place in Sicily and this is the Italian culture that I grew up knowing in Philadelphia. Many of my friends from school had parents and grandparents who’d grown up in the hill towns of Sicily. When they invited me over, the food I ate was from these regions and I got used to hearing the Sicilian dialects without really understanding them. I even had Sicilian grandmothers telling me that one day I’d marry a Sicilian boy.

    Well, that never happened.

    I married a Swedish boy. But that’s another story.

    If you haven’t watched Netflix’s From Scratch, starring Zoe Saldana as Amy and Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino, then you need to do so ASAP. Yes, you will find yourself in tears. Yes, you will love it even as you find your heart being wrenched.

    It’s worth it. Just watch it.

  • What Kim’s reading: My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson

    It’s been a looooong time since I shared with you what I’m reading, so I’ve decided to bring back “What Kim’s reading” – so once a month, I will tell you about one of the books I’m reading and if I am way loving it…or not.

    My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson

    I’ve been a fan of Dorothy Koomson‘s books for a very long time. I started reading her books when she was still writing romantic women’s fiction (which she always called “heart fiction” – and it totally fit what she was writing). A few years ago, she switched over to writing thrillers and they never disappoint.

    Anyway, back in August, My Other Husband was released. Of course, I pre-ordered it but I had several other books in my TBR list that I’d promised myself I had to read before I let myself dive into it.

    I am so glad that I waited.

    Since I was in Matera, Italy for a weeklong brainstorming/writer’s retreat, I had plenty of time to enjoy immersing myself into My Other Husband and Cleo’s dilemma.

    You see, Cleo’s divorcing her husband, Wallace…but she seems like she doesn’t really want to and we don’t know why. As the book unfolds, we find out that Cleo has not one but two husbands. And one of them has a penchant for violence.

    Now Cleo’s a suspect in a string of murders that she knows she hasn’t committed. But coming clean means revealing secrets she thought she could keep hidden in the past.

    Yes, it’s thrilling. Yes, I think you should definitely read it – especially now that it’s autumn and the days are getting shorter and we all love being a little scared.

    Which is perfect this time of year.

  • Where there is loss, there is love

    Two days prior to Queen Elizabeth II and former CNN lead anchor Bernard Shaw shuffling off their mortal coils (as Shakespeare would say), my cousin Gregory passed away. My mother called me from Philadelphia to let me know – she didn’t want me to find out via social media (which has happened in the past). I’m glad she did this. Finding out via social media that someone you care about has died is never optimal.

    Bernard Shaw, former CNN lead anchor who passed away
    on September 8, 2022.

    Their passings made me think about how there are a lot of absent relatives in my stories. In Snowbound, Mia’s deceased grandparents figure quite heavily in the story thanks to her memories of spending time with them in their home in Vermont (which she has inherited and retreated to after a failed affair with a married man).

    In Maybe Baby and Maybe Tonight, both Laney and Mads have been scarred by the death of a beloved mother during their teenage years. For Laney, it’s losing her mother to breast cancer and still dealing with the anger she feels towards her father, who left her and her mother when they needed needed him most. In Mads’ case, it’s losing his mother in a tragic bike accident when his mother is mowed down by a drunk driver. Like Laney, his father lets him down when he needs him.

    In an unpublished novel that I have been tweaking over the years, the heroine’s police officer father is killed in the line of duty. His death is partly why the hero and heroine split up and have a fractured friendship over the years.

    And even now, in one of the stories I am planning (and will be brainstorming next week with some friends while in Italy), a main character – the husband of my heroine – is missing, presumed dead.

    So what is it with absent relatives? Why do they keep coming up in my stories? I often wonder if it’s because both of my paternal grandparents died before I was born. They’ve been constant ghosts in my life. My dad never had any pictures of them. I didn’t see any photographs of them until I was nearly an adult.

    My great aunts, Francis and Julia. Both are now
    together in the great hereafter.

    Absent fathers come up a lot too. I think it probably stems back to my own childhood and teen years of dealing with a father who, though I loved him very much, was physically present but emotionally absent. At times, he was physically and emotionally absent. By the time I was an adult, he’d had several strokes and was suffering from premature dementia. He didn’t remember any of the things I still remembered about growing up with a father who could frequently ghost me because he’d decided I was ungrateful or, once he and my mom were separated, he prioritised his girlfriend over me. Once the dementia took hold, he thought he was a child and I was his older sister. He didn’t remember that I was his daughter.

    My dad, George, who passed away in February 2012.

    When I was going through grief counselling following the deaths of my father and brother, my therapist said that I was working through my anger towards my father through my writing. It’s been ten years since my dad died, I am still working through some of the issues from our fractured relationship.

    But the last few years, losing people has been a constant in my life, just as it has been for so many of us. COVID, cancer, diabetes, old age – and for some, the gun violence epidemic in the US or war have robbed us of loved ones.

    My brother, Sean, who passed away in January 2019.

    Some people say loss has no place in romantic fiction. That we read it to escape. I read to live another person’s life. I don’t need a perfect version of the world. I want it with all its flaws. And I still want people to fall in love in those flawed worlds. Because, no matter where we are or what we’re going through, people are falling in love. Even when we’re in the midst of the worst things we think we can go through, we often find love. And it’s what gives us hope. It makes us feel we can go on, despite the chaos and despair around us.

    My brother-in-law Fred (left), who passed away in November 2021,
    and my husband Tord (right).

    So I will keep writing about people falling in love. I’ll try to write a story or two where there are no absent relatives…but that might be difficult. I rather like ghosts. Sometimes, we learn from them.

    Which makes me think of when my maternal grandmother died. My husband and I were in Amsterdam. We’d got married in May of 1999 but couldn’t go on our honeymoon immediately. He was still working on his PhD and I’d just got a proper full-time job here in Sweden. We had to wait until July to take some time off. I remember dreaming that I woke up i in our room at a small bed and breakfast in Amsterdam, and the entire room smelled like roses. There was an armchair near the bay windows and my grandmother was sitting there. She told me that everything was okay, that I would be okay and that she loved me very much. I remember asking her how she made it to Amsterdam and she said she’d be gone soon. She just wanted to tell me she loved me and that everything would be okay.

    My grandmother Gertrude (on the far left) with her brothers, sisters and my great-grandmother. All of them are together in the great hereafter.

    That dream felt so real that I still feel like she visited me somehow in her final hours. The next day, my husband and I took a flight to the US. We were on our way to visit my grandparents. We spent a night in Washington, DC and then took the train to Richmond. My ex-roommate met us at the train station. She told me as we were driving to her place that my grandmother had died.

    She’d died the same night I’d dreamt of her.

    She still visits me from time to time in my dreams. So do my brother (who died in 2019 the day before my birthday), my grandfather, my brother-in-law (whom we lost last year), my dad and so many other friends and relatives I’ve lost over the years.

    And there’s a little piece of them in everything I write.

  • Catching up with Kim

    What’s been going on?

    Yes, I know it’s been quiet here and there’s a reason for it: back in July the Swede and I came down with COVID, which meant we had to change our plans for our Coffee Roasters Tour of Skåne (which we will pick up on some other time). It knocked us out for a while. Luckily, I am double vaccinated and boosted, so my symptoms were mild…but the fever rushes… they were enough to leave me NOT wanting to move. It wasn’t fun.

    I am glad it’s over.

    I’m also glad I am double-vaccinated and boosted so that my symptoms weren’t worse!

    I was back in Stockholm

    I was on the faculty at Stockholm Writers Festival 2022

    Once I was COVID-free, the Swede and I went to Earlier this month, I was in Stockholm for Stockholm Writers Festival and it was fantastic! What a great group of writers and publishing professionals. I was part of a panel discussion, Buttonhole the Experts session, breakout session on writing romance and a masterclass in succeeding in self-publishing. It was fantastic meeting the participants and getting to know the rest of the faculty. After three intense days, I returned to southern Sweden full of energy and a little hoarse from talking so much, but I loved it.

    Soon in Matera again

    La bella Matera (Photo by Giulia Gasperini on Unsplash)

    The next couple of weeks are calm. I’ll be back at my day job but then at the end of September I’ll be heading to Matera, Italy to brainstorm new book ideas with Lisa Marie Rice, Shannon McKenna, Nancy Warren and a few other authors.

    I can’t wait! I love going to Matera. It’s my home away from home, and I love getting together with everyone there to toss around and fine-tune new ideas.

    Walking/running to take a stand against racism

    I’m walking/running to fundraise

    I’m fundraising for Black Girls Run! eRace Racism 2022. I committed to walking/running 50 miles and raising $300 by the end of August. I have around 15 miles to go but the fundraising part is lagging. I am committed to getting there, so please – if you can – donate to my fundraising goal.

    Working on three new books

    Yes, I am working on three new books. Hoping to have one of them done soon so I can share it with you. I promise to share details with you soon!

    So, tell me… what are you up to?

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