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  • 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    In an unpublished novel that I have been tweaking over the years, the heroine’s police officer father is killed in the line of duty.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?

  • Join me at Stockholm Writers Festival
    Stockholm's Gamla Stan at dusk
    Stockholm – home of Stockholm Writers Festival
    (Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash)

    Looking for a good reason to visit Stockholm, Sweden in August? I’ve got the best one for you – especially if you’ve got a book inside you that’s just itching to see the light of day – come join me at Stockholm Writers Festival 12-14 August.

    I’ll be on the faculty with some pretty amazing people like award-winning author and keynote speaker Aliette de Bodard, Lola Akinmade Åkerström (bestselling author of In Every Mirror She’s Black) and Olivia Dade (bestselling author of Spoiler Alert), the Book Doctors, Ricardo Fayet, Jessica Renheim and Elinor Cooper from Reedsy, agents John Berlyne, Thérèse Coen and Kerry Glencorse and more.

    Go on…get your writing groove on at SWF

    This year is the festival’s fifth birthday and it’s sure to be even more awesome than usual. The Book Doctors are making their first Nordic visit and will share their wisdom on making your book a success as well as emcee Pitchapalooza – so get your synopses and elevator pitches ready!

    Ready to join us? Order your ticket today and don’t forget to book your hotel room at one of SWF’s partner hotels.

  • What’s going on…
    Photo by Ferenc Horvath on Unsplash

    You probably noticed that my site looks a little different. That’s because I decided to switch web hosts. I’d been using BlueHost for several years but the cost to maintain my site there was getting astronomical. I just didn’t feel it was worth the amount they charged. So I moved back to WordPress…which hasn’t been without its issues. I am still trying to sort things out. Not very happy with my current theme. I also feel like a dinosaur trying to sort everything out since WordPress has changed so much.

    We’ll see how long I stay here.

    In the meantime, this is my online home. There are some pages missing, I know. I am working on fixing them.

    Bear with me. Hopefully, this will look a little more like normal soon.

  • Looking forward to next year and continuing My Season of Giving
    .Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

    What I want most of all for Christmas is a kinder, calmer, and all-together better 2021 for all of us. I hope the year that we’re stepping into will at least be less turbulent than the one we’re soon leaving behind. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

    So here we are — just a few days away from Christmas. Soon 2020 will come to an end and we’ll be striding into the new year. I am still bewildered by the fact that I’ve been working from home since March, that I was onboarded to my new job at IKEA remotely, and haven’t stepped foot in the office (other than to pick up my ID card) since I was still freelancing. My husband and I moved to a new city…and, yeah, COVID.

    My wishes for the new year

    So what do I want for 2021? I’ve got a lot of them. Some are big, some are mundane. I’ve become accustomed to not being able to do everything that I want but that doesn’t mean that I’m not longing for the day when we can move more freely, without borders being closed due to a virus. I’m not one of these people who is going around complaining about not being able to travel. I would, in fact, rather that we all followed the guidelines from our local health authorities so that we can curb COVID. And when they say we can finally get vaccinated here in Sweden, I will do so. I would rather be safe than sorry.

    But what I want most as I head into the new year is this:

    • to finally publish a new book
    • to be able to travel again
    • to not worry every time someone coughs or sneezes without being conscientious enough to cover their mouth
    • to hug my friends and family again
    • to hit a bestseller’s list again
    • to sit in a movie theater again

    I know, these aren’t lofty goals but that’s all I want right now. I just want all of us to have a life that feels more ordinary again.

    Still focusing on My Season of Giving

    Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash.

    My Season of Giving is still ongoing. I’ve donated money over the last few weeks to Philabundance, Mayhew, Covenant House, and World Central Kitchen. For me, this time of year is about trying to help people as much as possible. I hope that my small efforts can help make a difference in the lives of as many people (and animals) as possible. I’ve still got a few more organizations to support. If you can, please join me. I think we could all use a helping hand this year. It’s been such a chaotic and stressful time for everyone, so whatever we can do to help…well, I think it really does make a difference.

    We all need a little help

    I’ve got a few days off from work for the holidays and I will spend this time, reading, writing, and putting together my new LEGO Creator set. This is when I also watch a lot of Christmas movies and try to give myself time to relax. If you’ve been working a lot or struggling this year, please take the time to take care of yourself. We all need a little self-care, especially considering what we’ve all been dealing with. If you’ve been dealing with exhaustion, insomnia, or any other signs of stress, please… try to find time every day that you can devote to taking care of yourself. If you feel like you’ve been struggling this year, check out this article from HuffPost. It has tips on how to talk about what you’ve been going through and express the anxiety or frustration you’ve been dealing with. If you’re feeling depressed, this article, also from HuffPost, could help.

    All I want for Christmas…

    There isn’t much that I want for Christmas this year. I simply want all of us to have a kinder, calmer, and all-together better 2021. Let’s all do what we can to make this a reality. Merry Christmas, everyone. Sending you lots of love and hugs from here in Sweden.

    See you all in 2021.

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