My Favorite Part of Wyoming Living

I have lived in the wonderful state of Wyoming for the last six years. Aside from the 75 mph blinding winter wind and the summer thunderstorms that can produce quarter to baseball size hail and possible tornadoes, it’s a refreshing place to live. We lived in Cheyenne, which isn’t the prettiest part of Wyoming. In fact, some people would call it the “armpit” of Wyoming. But she has her beauty too in her historic landmarks and small-town atmosphere. Not to mention the yearly ten-day shindig of a rodeo aptly named Cheyenne Frontier Days. 🙂

We’re an 8-ish hour drive from Yellowstone National Park and approximately a 5-hour drive from Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Deadwood, and the Badlands. But to the south is Denver, Colorado our closest major city at only an hour and a half drive. There’s not a whole lot for 50 miles in each direction. But that’s okay because I like the slower pace and the open western blue skies. You’ve never seen skies this blue in all your life.

But you know what my favorite part of living here has been? Seeing these gorgeous creatures outside my window every, single day.

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A photo I took of a Buck Pronghorn ©KirstenSBlacketer 

The pronghorn, also called antelope, are a strange breed of creatures. They’re the fastest land animal in North America. Their hair is hollow (which isn’t great because it holds in the animal’s natural stinky odor), but it provides a great defense against predators because it comes out in clumps if you touch it. Mind you, it’s illegal to touch wildlife, but when they run into fences, you can see big puffs of hair fly on impact.

They have horns, not antlers, but unlike most horned animals, they shed their horns every year around Thanksgiving time. This makes for a funny spectacle because their skulls have two protrusions on top that hold the horns, so they look like they have little devil spikes. The horn is hollow so it slides right off come the end of November.

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Found on http://animaldiversity.org/collections/mammal_anatomy/horns_and_antlers/

The coolest part about their horns is…they’re made of hair. Yup. The horn’s texture is rough and you can see the fine hairs that make up the composition of the horn around the base of it. I’ve found the horn sheds on base. It’s the craziest thing.

Also, a side note, the females can grow horns too, although they don’t often get as big or impressive as the buck’s horns. The way you tell the males and females apart is by the dark patch on the jaw. Only bucks have the dark patch highlighting their jaw.

Out on the plains, the pronghorns will run as soon as you get within 500 yards of them. They’re skittish and jumpy and fast as hell. They have amazing eyesight, and if you even attempt to slow down to get a good look at them, they take off.

There’s only one place where you can get a good, up close and personal look at the pronghorns. F. E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is the only place in the country to have a nearly domesticated pronghorn herd. I live on the base and see these crazy critters every single day.

In fact, one of my favorite hobbies in the late spring and summer time is to drive around the base and take pictures of the herds. The best time is the end of May, beginning of June when they start having their babies.

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They are the cutest little ball of fluffs you’ve ever seen. Pronghorn aren’t very big. Probably the size of a donkey. So these little lopiedopes, as my daughter likes to call them, are smaller than your average dog.

They should be having their babies any day now, and I’m so excited to photograph them one last time.

The bucks are so much fun to watch. Every one of them has unique horns. So it’s one of my games to see how many different bucks I can photograph. We compare their horns then. I like when they’re wide and tall, but there are many that have narrow horns. The curl is also a fun little quirk to notice between them all.

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Big Boy 1 ©KirstenSBlacketer
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Big Boy 1 ©KirstenSBlacketer
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Big Boy 2

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I love showing off the fantastic images I’ve captured of these beautiful animals. When we finally leave Wyoming, I will miss them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little wildlife lesson and the photographs. I know it has nothing to do with writing. But it does tell you a lot about my love for photography, wildlife, and my appreciation for the wild Wyoming home I had the privilege to call home for the last six years.

Please feel free to leave a comment or a question if you have one. I look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

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How Film Inspires My Craft

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Hello, darlings.

I’m taking a slight detour this week. After posting my affinity for contemporary romance last week, I wanted to share another creative aspect that influences my writing.

TV and Film.

As a kid, I watched a lot of movies. It was a weekly ritual to go with my Dad to the video store and rent movies on Friday and Saturday nights. He introduced me to films I never would have chosen for myself. Die Hard, The Saint (with Val Kilmer), Gone with the Wind, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…the list goes on and on. We also watched Home Improvement and Star Trek: The Next Generation religiously. I loved the action and adventure, the romance and the drama. It thrilled me to experience a new adventure every week. Not to mention, it became a way of bonding with my father.

I carried the passion for film into adulthood. But it wasn’t until I took a film class in college that I was able to dissect and analyze the structure of the shows and movies I loved. At first, I thought it ruined my film viewing experience because I was pulling it apart thread by thread to see how the story was woven together. Then I realized how it could help me in my own storytelling experience.

No matter how much I longed to be in a film, either acting, directing, costuming, whatever the case may be, I knew it would always be a pipe dream. My gifting lays solely in the written word. I could visualize the story in my head, but words were the only way I could bring these adventures to life.

My husband and I enjoy watching movies and TV shows, even though we have very different tastes sometimes. He enjoys cheesy B-rated movies or corny 70s films. My tastes are a bit more varied. I watch Korean dramas and foreign films, but I also live for a good destruction movie complete with natural disasters or gigantic mutated creatures encroaching on major cities.

I will be the first to admit that reviews and recommendations are subjective. I’ve had people recommend movies and shows that I did not enjoy or abandoned with disinterest. There are ones I enjoyed, but they didn’t have what I desired most…

To be blindsided.

I’m not talking cliffhanger. No. I mean I want a twist so ingrained in the story that it caught me completely by surprise, but when I think back on the story, the answers were staring me in the face the whole time.

Now that I’ve discovered the patterns in storytelling, it’s hard not to see what’s coming. So when I find a show or a movie that does this, I’m addicted.

It seems HBO has this on lockdown for me right now. They started with Game of Thrones, but it’s Westworld that has me riveted right now.

During my husband’s deployment last year, I watched Westworld while waiting for Game of Thrones episodes to air.

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Holy crap, did they hook me good. I binged the show. The first few episodes left me confused. Were we in the wild west, the present…oh, wait, we’re in the present in a theme park filled with robots. Okay. Then they started throwing character after character at me. Halfway through the show, I finally got a grip on the basics. Who the players were, where they were, and what was going down.

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But I never expected it to play out the way it did. Not in a million years. I will not give spoilers, just in case you haven’t seen it but want to enjoy it with fresh eyes. I wish I could. It’s one of those stories I wish I could wipe from my memory and watch it again.

These are the twists I live for. The ones that make me go, “What the ever loving hell?!” or have me jumping off the couch shouting at the television.

I wanted more Westworld. I still had questions that needed answers. I wanted more William and Lazlo and Hector and Ford and the Man in Black…*grabby hands* But I had to wait.

Fortunately, the wait is nearly over. Westworld Season 2 begins on April 22nd, and I for one am ridiculously excited to see how the story continues. So if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you give it a try. There is excessive language, violence, and nudity. This show is absolutely NSFW and not family friendly. Adult content ahead. You can’t say I didn’t warn you. But everything in the show works to push the story forward.

I’m hoping that season two will give my muse a jump start.

It always amazes me how small elements, characters, settings, or even lines of dialog from a TV show or movie can provide a spark of inspiration. I love when those moments happen.

So, how about you? Do you find yourself inspired after you watch a good movie or an engaging TV show? Let me know in the comments. I’ll keep you posted on my Westworld addiction. *grins*

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Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

My Strange Reading Habits

I love to read. More specifically, I love to read romance. If you’re here, then you understand why I love it with such desperation and devotion. Because you do too.

In a world of chaos and uncertainty, I can always count on a romance novel to give me one thing reality can never guarantee. A happy or at least emotionally satisfying ending. It also allows me to take the romance journey over and over. The meet-cute, the first kiss, the overcoming of conflict and obstacles in order to secure the relationship between the hero and heroine. These are the stories I long to lose myself in.

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I have had many people scorn, ridicule, and outright shame me for my passion for romance. And honestly, I couldn’t care less about their opinions. I make it a rule never to shame or scorn someone for the books they read and enjoy. If that is how they choose to spend their time and energy, then more power to them. They know what they like.

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To that same end, I know what I like. When I do get time to read, my genre of choice is always romance. People often assume that because I write historical romance, that it’s the only subgenre I enjoy. Well, they’re partially accurate.

I read quite a bit of historical romance. Most of the time, it’s because the premise of the story caught my attention. However, as I have been writing more historical, I find myself comparing my work to other authors. This can be both a blessing and a curse. So I limit my intake of historical romance if only to keep me honest and refrain from being discouraged. Because that happens too. Authors can often be their own worst critics.

Honestly, I find myself gravitating toward solid contemporary stories with unique premises or specific tropes. I have a soft spot for mistaken identity or hidden identity, forbidden romance, masked, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, close proximity romances, and retold fairy tales. In contemporary romance, some of these are a bit harder to come by. So I indulge by changing it up. My latest discovery is the technology mixup trope. It has become one of my new favorites.

You know what I mean. The stories where the hero and heroine meet because one sent a text to the wrong number and mistakenly initiated a conversation with a complete stranger, who ended up being the one. Or the stories like You’ve Got Mail, where they dislike each other in person but have a connection online.

Here are two I picked up last month. I’m still reading Wait with Me, but it’s really good so far. Accidental Tryst was fun and heartwarming.

I also love a good taboo romance or the popular boss/employee trope. Sometimes a dark romance is just what I need to get my brain moving again when I hit the brick wall of writer’s block.

Earlier this year, I picked up Midnight Hunter on a whim. I devoured it in hours. I wasn’t sure how the author would redeem the hero, but she did. And I loved this book.

Heartless is the third book of Winter Renshaw’s that I read. I loved all three of them. The other two were Absinthe (a forbidden romance) and Country Nights.

Mr. Rochester is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre by Marian Tee. I love her work. She writes engaging characters and stories with depth. Drawn was the first book I read by her, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I love strong heroines and heroes with a strong drive and a bit of a chip on their shoulders. I love heroes and heroines who are in their thirties and forties.

Often times, historical heroines are in their late teens or early twenties, per the norm for a woman of marriageable age prior to the twentieth century. I find it more difficult to relate to these heroines because of my age. Although I do enjoy writing them, after a while, I crave more connection with the heroine.

Historical adventures and romance can be fun, but the restrictions sometimes prove frustrating for the reader. Not to mention being an author of that era. I know I personally get overwhelmed by the amount of proper etiquette required for a specific era. Sometimes I need a change of pace in order to be able to connect with my own characters in a historical.

Strangely enough, I don’t gravitate toward romantic comedies when it comes to film. I still love a good romantic subplot, but I’m an action/adventure junkie through and through. Bonus points if there are natural or manmade disasters and giant creatures wreaking havoc on some major cities. I’m weird, I know.

But I also enjoy Korean TV Dramas and period films like Timothy Dalton’s Jane Eyre and all the Pride and Prejudice variations. Then, just to shake it up, I watch Star Trek: TNG, HBO’s Westworld, and Game of Thrones. So I have an eclectic taste, as you can tell.

I don’t fit a mold when it comes to my tastes in entertainment. Strong characters, solid stories, passion and adventure, and always a bit of romance. These are what draw me into a fictional world.

So I never rule out other types of fiction when it comes to reading, but I prefer romance. It’s that happily ever after/happily for now that seals the deal for me there. I love diving into a story knowing that at the end of it all, the hero and heroine will be together and ready to start a new life together.

Contemporary romance gives me a reprieve from the historical worlds I write in.

Contemporary romance suggestions

Feel free to post your contemporary romance suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. I think I’m going to go read a bit now. Thanks for stopping by. *blows kiss*

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

Confession of an Aspiring Romance Author

Time for a little confession. Okay, a big confession. I’m not always motivated to write. In fact, some days I’m downright discouraged. Being a self-published author is wonderful because I get complete creative control. The downside is…well, I feel like I’m standing in a crowd of thousands and my voice is being drowned out. I have a strong voice, solid stories, beautiful cover art, talented editors, and a supportive collection of family and friends. What more could a budding romance author want?

Readers. Faithful, engaging, loving, wonderful readers.

I have seen these types of readers. I’ve dined with them. I have laughed and conversed with them. They’re amazing people. I know, because I’m one of them.

The last two years I’ve had the fortune and opportunity to attend the Historical Romance Retreat. I attended strictly as a reader, but my little author heart couldn’t help but crave more. Seeing so many talented historical romance authors in one place. My poor fangirl self nearly imploded from the sheer pleasure of being in the presence of such talent.

Not only did I meet like-minded readers, I met authors I could have only DREAMED of meeting in person. Seriously, I could have died from pure bliss surrounded by people I admired and aspired to become. HRR has become the event of the season for me, and I will cherish every moment I spent traveling back in time and celebrating with my tribe of historical romance lovers.

Here are a few pictures from my adventure to HRR 2016:

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And HRR 2017:

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The costumes, the events, the interaction, the atmosphere. If you ever have the opportunity to attend, DO IT. It will be worth the expense and the time. (Here’s the link to the website: https://www.historicalromanceretreat.com ) The friends I made through this event have only fostered my desire to persist as a romance author.

Why do I bring up this conference? Because it energizes me. The thought of being at HRR gives me life. It gives my motivation life. I want to be these women. These passionate authors and voracious readers inspire me. They give me direction and purpose. I want to be them. I want to bottle their energy and drive and fuel my own goals. I came home feeling reinvigorated and ready to write my next book.

But coming back to reality is often jarring. And time away from such a positive and uplifting atmosphere seems to wear me down.

To be honest, I feel like I’m drowning right now. I’m drowning in hours of promotion and preparation. I feel like I’m sinking in the quicksand of social media trying to market myself and my brand. I can feel my motivation slipping farther away from my grasp.

My desire to write never dies, but it wavers, it falters. I find myself staring at the screen wondering if anyone can hear me. I wonder if anyone wants to read my work. The monsters of self-doubt and rejection and fear linger in the dark recesses of my mind waiting for the opportunity to prey on my insecurities.

I want to write. I want to publish my work. I want to bring joy to readers around the world who crave escape and romance and adventure if only for a few hours.

But how can I reach you, gentle readers? How can I prove myself to you?

Over the last five years, I have learned a great deal about writing and publishing. I’ve learned a lot about myself as well. I have grown, matured, and persevered. I’m damn proud of myself and my journey as an author. I will continue to grow and mature. I will continue to write. My passion for the written word and romance has never dimmed. I shall always be a reader first and an author second. Because that was where I began my journey.

My desire is to have a relationship with my readers. I love knowing that you enjoyed my work. I love hearing your feedback and constructive criticism. It helps me make my work better. I value your reviews and your recommendations. I absolutely adore hearing that you recommended one of my books to your friends. It makes my heart soar.

Your joy brings me joy.

I will soldier onward. My words will continue to flow. The stories will be told, come hell or high water. But I need you, darling readers, to do what you do best.

Read. Review. Recommend.

These three simple steps can mean the world to an author. Especially to this author.

My aspiration to join the ranks of Elizabeth Hoyt and Eloisa James and all the fabulous authors I’ve met at HRR has been my dream since I began this journey. And when I finally earn my place among them, I can truly say that it was you, my lovely readers, who helped me reach my goal. For that, I will be eternally in your debt.

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Art of Victorian Flirtation

Hello, darlings.

We all remember that tingle in the pit of our stomachs when the butterflies take flight at the thought of someone special. Especially when they enter the room. You’ve had your eye on them for weeks. They have been on your mind constantly and you cannot wait to see them again. They give you a feeling of elation unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. But they don’t know how you feel.

What do you do?

Flirt, baby. Flirt like it’s the end of the world and this is your last chance to confess all those emotions you’ve kept bottled inside.

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The art of flirtation is a delicate tightrope to walk just as much now as it was in the Victorian era. However, the methods have changed significantly.

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While the prospect of leather-bound books and the scent of rich mahogany is appealing, the art of flirting wasn’t always so straightforward. The strict social etiquette of the Victorian era often limited the interaction between an unmarried woman and a prospective suitor. In fact, sometimes I think the possibility of being discovered was half the excitement of engaging in a flirtation.

Here are a few guides I found that provide ways of conveying your sentiments and flirting without ever using words. I thought you might find them interesting. I certainly did.

Honestly, I would be terrified that I would inadvertently send the wrong message. *gasp* How could you possibly undo that damage?

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I would love to see these moves in action. Wouldn’t you?

But what about gentleman?

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Or perhaps you require another method to show your affections. Well, here are some signaling possibilities to take into consideration. Again, I would be extremely concerned about accidentally sending the wrong message. Or worse, sending one when I had not intended a message at all!

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Oh, sweet mercy, I’m exhausted. How could anyone keep up with all of this? Not only the etiquette but the flirtations!

And don’t even get me started on the American Escort Cards. Here’s a humorous look at their role in American Victorian history. CLICK HERE for article.

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Of course, one cannot forget to send flowers. But be aware, each flower holds a special meaning. It would be wise to choose flowers with care. Even the colors could represent a different emotion. Roses often came in a variety of colors and meanings.

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*collapses in a heap* I’m overwhelmed. I thought flirting today was difficult.

There is something to be said for the allure and romantic nature of such a flirtation. I’m not sure I appreciate the modern technique of flirting. It seems too impersonal and focused solely on instant gratification. I love the slow burn of a simmering attraction.

I think we should bring some of these techniques back. Not all of them, mind you, but I think it could be fun, even if I’m only flirting with my husband.

What do you think of Victorian flirtation? Do you prefer modern methods better? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Also, do you think I should make a video attempting to demonstrate some of these flirting techniques? If so, leave me a comment with your choice of flirtation to demonstrate. This should be fun.

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

Character Interview: James Bates

Welcome to my interview with James Bates, leading man in Winter’s Gentleman. We first met Bates in Jewel of Winter and followed him throughout the Thieves of Winter Series. I had quite a few requests for his story. I’m excited to say, his story is coming this summer!

I hope you enjoy this interview showing a deeper picture of the butler we all fell in love with in the Thieves of Winter.  If you’re curious as to who I would cast for Bates, the closest I can come up with is a cross between Gordon and Alfred from the TV show Gotham. Definitely more Gordon though. *wink* I’ve provided pictures of the actors from the show. Obviously not mine, just inspiration.

Me: Welcome, James, thank you for joining me today.

Bates: The pleasure is mine, my lady. How may I be of service?

Me: *blushes* Always the proper gentleman’s gentleman, aren’t you?

Bates: *smiles politely* It is my duty to be polite in address and serve as I can.

Me: You are a loyal servant of Lord Edmund Reddington, correct?

Bates: I am the head of the household staff, as well as Lord Edmund’s butler and personal valet on occasion.

Me: How long have you worked for Lord Edmund?

Bates: I have been in the employ of the Reddington house for fifteen years come September.

Me: That is quite a long time. Do you enjoy being a butler?

Bates: I have a generous employer and a stable position, I would be a fool to jeopardize it. To answer your question, I do, to an extent.

Me: Sounds like you’re being reserved in your response. This is a safe place, I promise I won’t tell Lord Edmund anything you reveal today.

Bates: While I appreciate the gesture, there are some secrets one cannot reveal. That would be—what do you call it, ah yes, spoilers.

Me: *laughs* Well, we appreciate your restraint. I’m sure readers would prefer going into your story spoiler-free. Would you be willing to answer some personal questions about yourself?

Bates: Within reason, of course.

Me: Of course. I’ll start off simple. What is your favorite food?

Bates: Roasted Duck with root vegetables. Although the occasional indulgence in chocolate never goes amiss.

Me: Do you know how to cook?

Bates: *pointed stare*

Me: I had to ask. *laughs* How about I ask about some firsts?

Bates: Very well.

Me: Tell me about your first crush. The first person you thought you loved.

Bates: That would be my governess. *heavy sigh* She was a lovely, young French woman, Mariette. I would have done anything she asked. She returned to France when I left for school at the age of eleven.

Me: Sounds like she made quite an impression on you.

Bates: She did.

Me: Do you have any siblings, James?

Bates: *shifts uncomfortably* I do. An older sister, Lilah.

Me: How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?

Bates: Thirty-five.

Me: I’m surprised you aren’t married. Do you have anyone special in your life?

Bates: Being a bachelor provides fewer complications. My employment is demanding of my time. It would be unfair to shackle some poor woman to such a life.

Me: You didn’t answer my question.

Bates: I believe you know the answer.

Me: Anna is quite young. Do you not find your attraction to her inappropriate?

Bates: In my era, it was not unheard of for a husband to be ten or twenty years his wife’s senior. Anna is nineteen. I have known her since she was a child. I admit only that she deserves better than me.

Me: Sounds like you have some heartbreak in your past. Did a first love break your heart?

Bates: A first love, no. But I made some poor decisions in my youth. Ones I will pay for until the day I die.

Me: So there’s no lost love you pine for?

Bates: No.

Me: Dare I ask about your first time making love?

Bates: That is quite a personal question, but if you insist on knowing, my first time was with a widow who lived in the village outside the school. She often brought treats for the boys. I shall leave the rest to your imagination.

Me: You are quite the tease, you know.

Bates: *takes a bow* So I’ve been told.

Me: *fans self with the interview papers* Let’s change the subject, shall we? *clears throat* Have you ever been in a fight?

Bates: Yes, several.

Me: Have you ever taken part in a duel?

Bates: *drops his gaze* Once, I would rather not discuss it.

Me: As you wish. Do you read?

Bates: When I find the time, I do enjoy a good read.

Me: Do you have a favorite author?

Bates: I am quite partial to Arthur Conan Doyle. His detective is quite an interesting fellow.

Me: You strike me as a highly educated man. Why are you working as a servant?

Bates: Penance. I am right where I need to be. *smiles half-heartedly*

Me: What can we expect in Winter’s Gentleman?

Bates: Answers, and a bit more insight into my past. I promise it will be more revealing than this interview.

Me: Well, thank you for joining me today. I shall leave the comments open for questions. If the readers have any questions for you, they can post them here. You can answer at your leisure.

Bates: My pleasure. I look forward to responding to their inquiries.

Thank you all for stopping by to check out my interview with James Bates, butler extraordinaire. If you’d like more interviews like this, please let me know. I had fun with this one.

Winter’s Gentleman is coming soon!

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

How to Write a Love Letter

This week, I’ve recorded a little video for you. Enjoy!

So, what are your thoughts? Are you going to write a love letter this year? Have you ever written one before? Share your experiences, suggestions, and thoughts in the comments below.

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten