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Have a question about writing? Romance novels? The web site? The meaning of life? Karen knows all, sees all! Okay, okay, I know some, see some. Below are some general articles that I have written in the past, in the days before blogs. However, f you want to ask questions of general benefit to all, go to my blogs below, where you can see articles that might answer your questions.

Playing with Words, my blog for all things writing and publishing.

The Pollyanna Files, my blog of unrelenting sweetness and light.

12/31/04 - Making Good Waves

I've posted a few URLs on the home page of this web site (now here: Red Cross, UMCOR's hands on help and top ten bulk items), that will link to relief organizations to which you can donate to help out those people affected by the horrible earthquake and tsunami disaster in South Asia. There are, of course many other disasters going on in the world at this time, people living in poverty, people suffering from other natural--and human-made--disasters.

It can be very overwhelming, and even painful, taking in all the hurt and the tragic images out there. I know people often wonder which one of the so many causes can they sponsor, and even when you do choose one or two or a dozen, it never seems to end. You can pour your heart and resources into all sorts of charitable causes, and it will seem like a drop in a very large lake, or even ocean. It often seems so hopeless, so never-ending. Jesus of Nazareth said, "the poor will always be with you." This was true back then, it's true now, and I figure it's going to continue for a good long while. Some people look at that and think it's not worth giving at all, that their money and time wlll go to waste, because the pain and suffering go on and on, and nothing is "fixed" permanently.

You just don't hear the good news, because good news rarely make it to the newspapers. Good news doesn't sell. Bad news does. That's a truism of the news industry.

However, people's lives do get better. Healing happens. There is much more hope than you think.

The thing I've come to realize is that good work can spread exponentially. It's not just a one-on-one effect. It's sort of like tile theory--the idea that a butterfly's flutter can influence the course of a hurricane on the other side of the world. There's real mathematics behind that idea. It's not some kind of metaphysical woo-woo.

The truth is, you affect one person, and the effect passes from that person to whoever he or she interacts with. When you do good, you've affected not just one person, but all the people that person will contact after that point, and all the people THOSE people have interacted with. And those people will affect even more. Even if you give another person who is not having a good day a smile and encouragement, it's worthwhile. That smile and uplift lifts the spirits of that person, and they will pass them on at some time, or at least for the time being they won't lash out at others, or not as badly. If a smile and a few words gets passed on, then surely good works do as well. Every little good counts.

It's a drop that plunks into water and spreads out in a wave. That little drop in the large lake causes a wave to go out in all directions, 360 degrees. All other drops are moved in that wave. The 9.0 earthquake in South Asia was a huge drop in a very large ocean that caused devastating waves. I'm seeing the relief work and people contributing to it as another huge drop in that ocean that will cause loving and healing waves surging through the land and people there.

Drops fall, waves happen. It's how the world works. We get to choose whether our own drops are good...or not.

So maybe you don't know what cause to champion, what charity to give to, what volunteer work is "the best." Truth is, there is no "best." Doing good is doing good. Think about what calls to you, what opportunities are opening up for you.

Do good in the moment, where you are, as you choose and feel moved to do so. Take joy in life and what you can do--then let it go. Don't worry if it's "good enough" or as much as you "should." There are no "shoulds" about doing good, just as long as you do it. Doing good will spread outward more than you see or know. The world is round. One of these days, the good wave will travel all the way back to you. You won't know in what way, you won't know when. It'll be a surprise. Watch out for it! Take full joy in it when it comes.

And that is my wish for you all in the New Year. Do good, take joy, and let it all go out into the world...and may the joy and good come back to you tenfold. --KEH

11/7/03 - Reviews

Whew! I've received reviews on Night Fires, and--thank you God!!!--they're positive so far. Click here to see what reviewers have had to say.

More news: I've just signed another contract to write two more historical paranormal/fantasy romances for Bantam! This means my son's college fund is at last getting some money in it, plus it may mean our family can go on vacation at last. And then there's the water damaged kitchen floor to repair, the basement to finish, the old appliances to replace....

There go the royalties.... Scratch the vacation. At least the son's braces are paid for.

6/11/03 - More changes

Well, the pre-quel to Night Fires is now called Dark Enchantment, and will be published in January 2004. I'm looking forward to it--the cover is great!

1/12/03 - Happy New Year! An update.

Good news: Looks like I'm going to write a pre-quel book to Night Fires, called (for now) Lady Blade. The heroine (Catherine de la Fer) is an ancestress of sorts to Simone de la Fer, the heroine of Night Fires. Catherine, of course, is just as kick-ass as her descendant. In fact, I might just write more books about the de la Fer women through history.

And then...well, I guess I've been writing quite a bit about my mother on various lists and on this web site, I decided to model a character after her in what is probably the very first Asian American romance anthology ever--Playing With Matches--out of NAL, available in April 2003.

6/10/02 - Early Influences

It'd been a while since I went home to visit my mother; she lives just close enough that it takes an hour or more--depending on traffic--to get there via car, but not far away enough for a faster mode of travel. It was Mother's Day, though, and I thought I should go and give her a Mother's Day present, and pretend I wasn't relapsing back into my pneumonia. She'd worry, see, and I hate it when she worries. Okay, truth to tell, I should have stayed home. But that would have made her suspect Something was Up, and then she'd want to fix me up. It wasn't bad pneumonia, just the walking kind, really closer to bronchitis, after all. I made sure I had a bottle of water with me, and had taken some Robitussin cough medicine before I left home. No way was she going to fuss and worry over me. I'm creeping toward my mid 40's! I wasn't a child any more.

All right, the real truth. I probably went there because no matter how old you are, you really do want a bit of Mom in your life when you're feeling not so hot, and there's nothing like miso soup (Japanese version of chicken soup--a.k.a. comfort food) when you've got a respiratory ailment. Or any other kind of ailment, for that matter. Or even if you're just feeling blue.

So she was there, and okay, I didn't get any miso soup, but she did make sushi, which is the next closest comfort food I know of, as well as mochi--sweet rice cakes. And then, what always happens when I go home to Mom is, I get sent back in time. You know how it is. You turn into a kid again, no matter how old you are. Your mom or dad says something and you're back into your old familial role, even if you've outgrown it. Or they bring out a picture of you and start reminiscing. Something happens that sends you back into your childhood. For me this time, it was a box of papers and books.

After many years of messiness, my mom's decided to clean out her house. This means having me deal with all the stuff she saved from my childhood. I had the opportunity to leaf through some of it and take whatever I wanted home. Well. There were my middle school and high school yearbooks. And there were my papers I had written during high school, and a journal I had sporadically kept.

I hadn't looked at them in literally decades. More than twenty five years. I'd left them behind when I went to college. Once those yearbooks were signed; I think I put them away and forgot about them. I thought I didn't remember much about my high school years other than a constant barrage of painful, socially inept incidents born of extreme shyness. But I opened my high school yearbook, and suddenly remembered all my teachers, and all my friends. I don't know how that can be. If you had asked me to name any of them, even to recall faces (and I'm very good at remembering faces) before I had opened that book, I could not have done it. Memories poured back, alive and wriggling. I remembered I had had friends, and the things in which I had been interested.

And I remembered the things I thought I would become, and started to laugh. Oh, how misguided I was! It was all there, in the yearbook! All the comments of my fellow students who had signed it, the papers I had written. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, maybe go into the Navy, as my dad had done. But what papers had I kept?

Those having to do with the Regency period. Dear heaven. I was fifteen years old and obsessed with all things Regency. One assignment was to pick a period in history and create a newspaper with current events, etc. It was printed up in purple mimeograph print, for those who remember the days before copiers and printers. I chose December 17, 1804. The editorial urged good Americans to forget past animosities with England and beware of Napoleon. A small article reports: "War Pigeons. England. Arthur Wellesly, son of the first Earl of Mornington, has taken up the hobby of training pigeons. He claims they may play a part in war, but did not say as to how, other than for eating."

Then there were the want ads. "Governess Wanted. Must be competent and dependable. Must know water colour painting, pianoforte, History, Arithmetic, Writing, Reading, and Horseback Riding." "Perfumed Air Dispenser, sound condition. Two ball gowns, paste necklace. Mouse guillotine, bought by mistake."

Finally, the Advice to the Lovelorn column, a.k.a. "Dear Aggie":

Hide that Ankle!

Dear Miss Aggie:
Please help me! I am not sure what to do. My Mother sent me to call upon an Old Friend who was very ill. Since it was within walking distance, my Best Friend decided to walk with me there. Half way to our Destination, I had the misfortune to lodge a Pebble in my Shoe. I called to my Friend to Wait, and seeing no one else in the area, proceeded to remove my shoe and the pebble. Just as I finished doing so, a Gentleman with whom I am Acquainted happened by in his chaise and, I am afraid, saw my Ankle. Blushing, my Friend and I refused his offers to assist us to our Destination, and Took our Leave. Later, my Friend told me not to worry so, for I did have a "tendre" for him (he is Not Married), and it was not as if he was a Complete Stranger. I am still Worried, however. Is there anything I should do? I have not told my Mother for fear of a Scold. I am only Seventeen, and do not know much about these things, as I am not yet Out in Society.
Most Sincerely,
Anxious.
Dear Anxious:
Do not Fear. The only thing you should do is tell your Mother of the Incident. I am sure she will not Scold, as you could not have remedied the situation. Your Gentleman should not have any False Notions as to your propriety, surely, for you were Accompanied, and a Brazen Woman would not have blushed and Taken Leave.
Yr. Svt.,
Miss Aggie

I should have had a clue at the time that I was very much into the Regency period, and perhaps I was meant to write something along those lines.

Not at all. Not even the following in my daily journal (a "Fashion Composition" book, with pink daisies printed all over it, 110 sheets, 89 cents, full of half-written scenes, outpourings of teen angst, and vague, philosophical musings, among other things. I had drawn a Regency girl, hiding behind the pink daisies, on the cover) gave me the least inkling of what I was to do in the future:

Georgina glanced out of her bedroom window of the town-house and caught sight of new neighbors moving in. She had nothing else, really, to do and she was curious, so she watched.

They had come in a post chaise and were just coming out of the carriage. She watched as a tall young man fairly leaped out of the door, and then helped a remarkably tiny young woman step down. Both were very fashionably dressed, in good taste.... His coat as well as the lady's spencer was of a very fine cut; the lady's bonnet matched the rest of her clothes to perfection, and while decorated with feathers and frills, was not too showy or vulgar...

Georgina sighed. The most probably came for the Season, the balls, and the parties at Almack's, she thought. I wonder if they are married? Immediately she chided herself--shame! Of course they are married! Or...they might be brother and sister, oh, I hope they are brother and sister, for if they are, then the gentleman would be the first single man she had seen....

I think you can tell from this that I had read a lot of Georgette Heyer novels. But no, no, I was not going to be a writer. I was going to be a doctor. Didn't I take all sorts of science and math classes during high school?

It's remarkable how blind a young person can be. Or, perhaps we simply can't see the signs of the path we're to travel until we've traveled it. But something must have made other people assume that I would be a writer or in the arts--my fellow students, for instance:

Blind? Sheesh. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the idea that I could, somehow, write for a living. It wasn't until my junior year in college that I gave in and majored in English--expository writing, since it was more "practical" than fiction writing. Besides, the fiction writing professor didn't like my sword and sorcery submission--too "genre" was his comment. I didn't understand what was wrong with "genre" (I didn't know what "genre" was until then--I had assumed books were divided into two categories: fiction and nonfiction). I went on to various secretarial jobs after college, and went kicking and screaming into the technical writing job my then husband-to-be thought I had the ability to do. I loved the job--I loved writing. And what did I do during my lunch hours? I wrote a Regency romance.

No idea that I could publish it, of course. The idea really did not enter my mind. Everyone knew the only way to make a living--a good living--was if you had majored in the sciences, or in business. English? Well, you could become a teacher, which was great, but my brief flirtation with that idea was quickly dashed when I saw the kind of work that was demanded of elementary school teachers. All the ones I knew worked from seven in the morning to seven at night. Not my cup of tea. This tech writing gig was the only 8 to 5 job I knew of that made a decent living.

It wasn't until a friend directed me to a talk at a local library, given by NYT bestselling romance author Debbie Macomber, about publishing a romance novel, that it occurred to me:

Whoa. I could SELL my manuscript. I could--gulp!--make money with my writing! I could become a--holy moly--an AUTHOR!

I was 29 years old when I went to see Debbie Macomber at her seminar. I gave birth to my son that year, and still didn't do anything with that manuscript I had finished. I put it away for a good six years. But that was the day I began to think of myself as a writer. Maybe.

(Sigh). I published my first novel when I was 35. Twenty years, from the first time I put pen to paper and wrote about Georgina and her Regency neighbors. In all that time, it really did not get through my thick skull that I was meant to be a writer. And yet, when I look through my teen journal, my school papers, and my high school year book, You Are A Writer screams from every page.

Well, I haven't made millions, not even close. A teeny fraction of that, soon frittered away on such things as braces, the mortgage, car repairs, and so on.

But, I Am A Writer, and a published author at that. And I was meant to be, all along. It took this long to understand this.

I am sooooo dense.

I should visit my mother more often. It's remarkable the things I find out about myself when I do. --KEH