Tag: A Rendezvous to Remember

The Joy of Romance for Read a Romance Month

Today’s post is for Read a Romance Month, founded by Bobbi Dumas who is a tireless advocate of romance fiction. With articles for Kirkus Reviews and NPR, Bobbi also has interviews of some of today’s most beloved romance authors. Lorelei’s Lit Lair graciously asked me to join in the celebration, and Lorelei has a post explaining how she got involved as a romance advocate here.

What does the Joy of Romance mean to me?

The Joy of Romance, and more specifically, in romance novels, has had her warm, loving hands on me since I was in elementary school.

My very first romance!

The summer I turned ten I ran out of Nancy Drew and Sue Barton, Student Nurse books. My mother carefully picked a Candlelight Romance from her nightstand for me. It was Night Duty Nurse by Katherine McComb and was everything that was romance back then. The big sexy part was the kiss at the end of the book. A peck. Nothing else. I was ten; I wasn’t ready for anything more. But the story swept me away to long hours in a hospital where a dedicated nurse fell in love with her burn patient, an attractive and virile man. She discovered he wore a wooden prosthesis for his leg, and I can remember that scene so clearly, her reaction, how much more of a hero he became in that moment. Maybe that’s why in my very first published novel the hero had lost his leg in a war? And why I still have to put suspense in every story I write?

When I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy there wasn’t a whole lot of time for leisure reading but I managed to devour romances over Christmas and spring breaks. The pure joy of being a girl in a bubble bath with a romance novel, after strenuous training and wearing a uniform 24/7 (yes, even our pajamas were Navy-issued!) was better than any spa day I’ve had since. As a Naval Intelligence Officer deployed to Sicily and Bermuda (and all points in between) I subscribed to the Harlequin Reader Service and escaped from the demands of the Cold War, if only for twenty minutes once a week.

When I was a Navy spouse raising two tiny tots and my husband was deployed to war, I let the joy of romance comfort me via novels and movies, and kept the faith that he’d return to us. He did, thank God.

Once I figured out that I, too, was a romance writer, I devoured romance novels across the spectrum of heat levels, publishers and of course my favorite authors. I was in search of the perfect publisher fit for my stories, and I wanted to know how the most successful authors had achieved their status. So now you know why I chose to sell to category romance to start off my career.

I write more angst-filled, romantic suspense that deals with life-or-death situations. And yet my characters show me that no matter what, true love can bring joy to the most desperate situation. It can heal the deepest wounds and restore faith that has been chewed up and spit out by the machinations of what can be a very challenging journey on this planet. Or any other planet, or dimension, or time setting. Nothing is beyond the touch of romance and her ability to shower her characters and readers with undulated joy. And how cool is it that my novella in the Christmas anthology Coming Home for Christmas is Navy Joy?

Author Questions from RARM

1. Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy.

Most recently? When I saw my dear friend and Academy-sister Caro Carson win the Romance Writers of America’s “oscar,” the Rita for her wonderful book A Texas Rescue Christmas.  I cried tears of joy!

2. Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

The beach and ocean, where we took our kids each year to enjoy time with their grandparents. Stone Harbor, New Jersey is an instant serenity place for me.

3. Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

Birds. I love birds, and spend hours writing on my patio through three seasons so that I can hear cardinals, robins, mockingbirds, blue birds, hawks (their mating cries are primal), and many others.

4. What recent book have you read that brought you joy. Why?

Teardrop Lane by Emily March. I’ve so loved her Eternity Springs series and this one was particularly heart wrenching and worth the read to the pure joy when Cicero and Rose get together.

5.  And for fun, the joy of choice ;o) ~ Pick Your Chris!

It will always be Christopher Plummer in the Sound of Music. Hands down. Who are your favorite romance authors?

My absolute favorite romance authors include Sherry Thomas, Barbara O’Neal, and Heidi Hormel. Sherry’s prose is like poetry and her sexy love scenes are a crescendo to her hero and heroine’s arias through conflict and sexual tension. Barbara O’Neal’s voice is the most unique in our genre with simple phrases opening the heart to a journey of unconditional and intensely romantic love. Heidi Hormel is a debut author this year and her fun, light-hearted voice doesn’t skimp on the realities of a good romantic conflict.

Since you’ve stopped by, I’d be delighted if you please take the time to sign up for my newsletter. I only send one when I have a new book or amazing news, so I won’t flood your email, promise. You can sign up here. As a thank you to my readers (that’s you!) I run a give-away contest over on Fresh Fiction each month. Please enter here and good luck!


WWII Wednesday: More on the Home Front

When I hear “Home Front” and “World War II” together I think of the U.S. and how American women rallied to fill in for the men who were sent overseas to the Pacific and Europe to fight. The home front existed in every nation at war.

My Grandmother at Westinghouse Decades After WWII
My Grandmother at Westinghouse Decades After WWII

Esmee, my heroine in A Rendezvous to Remember worked with Belgian Resistance, but most home front jobs weren’t so glamorous. My hometown of Buffalo, New York, strengthened the war effort with many factories to include Curtiss Wright as I mentioned in last week’s blog. Regular, everyday Americans fought the good fight.

The photo was taken decades later, in the Westinghouse Factory in Buffalo. My grandmother was fashionable while being a great worker! I’m so proud of her, my family, and my hometown. We’ve all made a difference.

Gratitude Check: A Rendezvous to Remember is Back in Print!

Dearest Reader,

It’s hard to believe it’s November 1st. This was my grandfathers’s birthday, and is always a special day for me. All Saint’s Day is always November 1st, the day after Halloween.

Misha Makes me Grateful Everyday!
Misha Makes me Grateful Everyday!

When our family was stationed in Italy with the Navy we were able to see every single church and legal holiday celebrated as if it were the only holiday ever. I love November 1st because it heralds the beginning of the holiday season, and another chance for me to step back and plan so that I actually enjoy the holidays and not rush through them. My wish for you is that you, too, get a chance to catch your breathe and remember to slow down when you can throughout the next couple of months!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your overwhelming response to my first-ever published novel, A RENDEZVOUS TO REMEMBER. It’s back in print for a limited run and this new print edition is available only at my publishers website. It’s still available digitally at all the usual places, too, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Harlequin’s Art Department Rocks!

I am so grateful to the Harlequin Art Department for the beautiful new cover!

As a special treat I’m opening up the availability of my signed bookplates (sticker) to you if you live in North America (sorry internationals)! Write to me via my website, Facebook or Twitter (direct message) by November 15th  and I’ll send you the address where you can send a stamped, self-addressed envelope in which I’ll send out a signed bookplate for you to put in your new “vintage cover” copy of A RENDEZVOUS TO REMEMBER. I know I love to have the complete collection of my favorite stories, and for all of you who’ve asked how you can get a copy of my previous novels, this is your chance for this first book! Please don’t delay–the print run is limited and once the books are sold out, there’s nothing I can do to get you more copies.

Since November is the month of Gratitude here in the U.S. with our Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for great writing friends like Linda Cardillo and Ann DeFee. Both are wonderful writers and I’m blessed to call them my friends. We’ve been with each other from the start of our paths to publication and I wouldn’t pick anyone else to take the roller coaster ride with. Yes, it’s a ride, indeed–often the kind with upside-down loops. At times, I’ve felt as though I’m not wearing a seatbelt! But Ann and Linda keep me buckled in and remind me of what’s important in our writing journey.

Ripley is Grateful for His Toys!
Ripley is Grateful for His Toys!

Speaking of gratitude, there is no greater sacrifice than to give one’s life in service to our nation. For this reason I’ve donated the name of one of my characters in NAVY CHRISTMAS (November 2014, Harlequin Superromance) to the winner of the POW-MIA Families Raffle. For only $1 you can purchase a chance to be a literary character! More details are at the POW-MIA Families website. Much thanks to POW-MIA families for the privilege of serving with them in this great cause.

You’ll see more and more World War II history tidbits on my site, especially on my WWII Wednesday blog. I’m in the midst of writing a WWII subplot for NAVY CHRISTMAS and with the re-release of RENDEZVOUS it’s always on my mind. We owe much to this great generation.

It wouldn’t be November without a Thanksgiving recipe–here’s my quickie Roasted Brussels Sprouts that my family always asks for (really!).

Geri’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts, olive oil, kosher or sea salt, fresh ground pepper. Toss all ingredients together after you’ve halved the sprouts. Use as much oil as needed to make the sprouts glisten with Thanksgiving gratitude. A sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper. Sometimes I mix in Turkey bacon that I’ve cooked up ahead of time. Spread it on a jelly roll pan or even better, a stone pan or enameled bakeware. Roast it all at at 375 or 400–depends on how long until the gravy is done for the turkey (real or tofu, your choice). When the sprouts start to brown, pull the tray out!

Please note: I’m a decent baker, not quite as good a cook. Can you tell?

Much Gratitude and Love to you and yours as we step into the holidays for 2013. Please take a moment to remember those who can’t be with their families for whatever reasons, and spread your joy wherever you go.




World War II Wednesday: How Jack reached Esmee: Westland Lysander

Westland Lysander (photo from www.wwiivehicles.com)

When I was writing A RENDEZVOUS TO REMEMBER, we lived in Belgium . I didn’t even have to close my eyes to see Jack and Esmee, my hero and heroine, meet on a cold winter night when he landed in her farm field. Jack was an RAF operative who sought shelter with Esmee, a Resistance fighter. The aircraft he crossed over the English Channel in: The Westland Lysander. Photo is from a website you’ll love if you enjoy browsing WWII aircraft.

World War II Wednesday!

Welcome to a new part of my work–my World War II fiction. I’m honored to be able to write about this pivotal area in all of our histories, and grateful to those who sacrificed so much.

With the re-release of my first novel, A RENDEZVOUS TO REMEMBER,  November 2013, and the upcoming NAVY CHRISTMAS (Whidbey Island Series #4, November 2014), I’ve discovered that so many of you are as interested in WWII history  as I am. As I’ve researched my novels I’ve found few sites and/or books that answer at least half of my questions on any one area. Inspired by the lovely author Candice Hern who has created a Regency area on her website, I’ve decided we need a similar place to go to when we’re interested in anything WWII. It will take many blog posts and lots of additional content. Disclaimer: I live with a WWII military history expert, so I have content support here, for sure!

On this first WWII Wednesday, I’d like to take a minute to share with you why I picked Belgium as the historical setting for Rendezvous. Rendezvous has two parallel plots, one historical and one contemporary. I’d always wanted to write a WWII story, and when the opportunity to write one appeared, we were living…in Belgium! I composed Rendezvous from a tiny office in our home overlooking a quiet park in the village where we lived. As the re-release gets closer I’ll share my thoughts on this experience, to include a special anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge my family and I were privileged to attend.

I’d love to hear back from you on your interest in WWII history, as well.

President Obama Talked to Me About My Book!

Dreams do come true–it’s one of my mantras. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to meet the President of the United States. It took several decades, but it finally happened. I met the President of the United States, Barack Obama. And even more special–I met his lovely wife, our First Lady, Michelle Obama. I’d planned to have my first blog from our new posting to be about where we’ve transferred (Moscow, Russia) , the culture here (incredibly different, challenging, and exhilarating),  my take on it (I’m awed). But one of my childhood dreams has come true, so this is my blog about meeting President and Michelle Obama. We are stationed in Moscow as my husband works at the American Embassy. The President’s visit was announced well before we left the States in June, and I’d hoped I’d get a chance to see him, maybe shake hands. Most of all I really wanted my children to see him. The first great surprise was that Michelle Obama was coming to see us, too. I’ve been following her interest in military families and thought “great! what a chance to thank her for her support.” Should I write a note? Bring flowers? No, I’m a writer–so I brought my book. I would have brought my February 2009 release, What Family Means, but it was in my household goods shipment which hadn’t arrived yet. I did fortuitously have one copy left of my first book, A Rendezvous to Remember with me, thanks to several friends back in the States who requested copies before I left for Russia. I said a prayer and signed the book to Michelle Obama. If I couldn’t get it past security, at least I’d known I’d tried. I’m a HUGE believer in positive thinking, by the way. I wrote an inscription with a sincere heart, and then let go of the outcome–if I could give her my book and say “thank you,” wonderful.

Official White House Photo. All other snapshots on this page: Kristi Stephens. Bottom photo inset created by Waxcreative Design, Inc.

The families who wanted to meet with the President and First Lady had to go through security and wait for nearly 3 hours under a large white tent on the embassy grounds. Presidential schedules are always in flux. At one point I wondered if the event would be canceled–I knew the President had more events to attend in Moscow that evening. Fortunately for all of us who waited, the President and First Lady did arrive and were announced to us by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia. After a brief informal speech, the President and Mrs. Obama stepped off the stage and came around to shake hands. It was soooo exciting to realize that yes, we might all have a chance to shake their hands. But then their staff started looking a little antsy (wouldn’t you if you had to keep the President on schedule and it was already 3+ hours behind?). I looked at a fellow spouse and said “what should I do, do you think I should wait and see if Michelle gets to us?” She didn’t hesitate and replied “I think you should take the first opportunity that comes your way.” The President shook my daughter’s hand, then my son’s, then our friend’s daughter (you can see her with the braids). And then–I put out my hand with my book and handed it to President Obama. I had a moment of  “uh-oh” as his eyes narrowed and I thought for sure he would say “thanks, but no thanks,” or just hand it off to his assistant, the “body man” Reggie. But then the President smiled, a big, wide smile, and held up my book. “This looks sexy!” He raised his eyebrows as he challenged me. “No, it’s not that sexy–it’s a World War II romance. I signed it for Michelle.” At this point I was flabbergasted that the President was talking–to me. And I didn’t want to embarrass my kids–since they’ve become teenagers, it’s easily done. The President read the back flap, looked at the cover again, then started thumbing through the book.  Thank goodness several other people took photos, the ones posted here. We chatted some more which really involved the President laughing and teasing in the nicest manner, and then I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. He’d handed my book to his body guy, Reggie, who started paging through it and looking at my business card. He had an expression of “who is this chick?” on his face. I elbowed my friend and showed her what was happening. Without hesitation, she shouted out, “Hey Reggie, do you want your own copy?” Reggie looked up and gave us a broad smile. I waved and said “I wrote it–I’m an Academy grad.” His eyes grew big “You are?” I laughed and nodded “yes.” Within moments, Michelle Obama came by, and I let her know that I had a gift for her, my book, but the President had it. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll get it back from him.” I got my chance to thank her for supporting military families, and she looked so humbled. “You know we love you guys.” Her voice was sincere and her statement simple. She thanked my kids for being part of a military family, which they thought was cool as ever. She spent time with all of the children there, big and small, and made a very positive impression. This was exactly one week ago. It took me three days to come off of the emotional “high” I was on. My kids were so excited. My dear, supportive husband? He was there, but when the President and Michelle started to meet and greet, he got called away by his cell phone ringing. He was one of the worker bees for the visit, and it was only luck that he was able to come out for the event at all. By the way, you can see the top of my head in the second photo (which is an official White House photo–the others are snapshots), just behind the lady with her face in her hand. Do you think I’m inspired to keep working on my story set in Russia?