How fast can you read?

Here’s a cool online test to show you.

Apparently I read just under 300 words per minute, which is 19% faster than the average adult…but slower than the average 11th grader? I’m not sure how that works. It would take me around 33 hours to read War and Peace.

Take the test and let us know your score.

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

What happens when science meets love?

Romance writers spend a lot of time trying to come up with new and interesting ways to describe what a person feels when they experience love.

It turns out that scientists are also finding intriguing ways of showing what happens when we love someone.

This wonderful video shows a light-hearted competition between six people who are put into an MRI machine and told to think about love. Whoever’s brain lights up the strongest and longest wins.

It’s a simple premise, but what comes out of it is more than a visual depiction of our brains’ reactions to various chemicals or memories. Do yourself a favor – take 15 minutes out of your day to listen to the “contestants” talk about their experiences of love and what it means.

From a 75-year-old man who spends the time reflecting on his wife of 50-something years, to a young man whose heart has been broken, to a 10-year-old boy who thinks about his new baby cousin, it’s a beautiful and life-affirming statement on how varied love can be.

Did you watch it? Did the winners surprise you? If you were taking part in the experiment, who would you think about?

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Show me the Mangatar – and win!

Last week I told you about an addictive site I found,, and I asked you to send me your own Manga-style avatar so we could get to know each other better (and so you could have a chance to win a $10 book gift certificate :))

The Mangatar website seems to break frequently, so I’m really pleased to say we got three entries. Look at how gorgeous you all are!

I love them all and need help choosing a winner. So, everyone, leave a comment below telling me which is your favorite. The winner will get a $10 gift certificate, and I’ll randomly draw one commenter to win one too.

In ABC order by first name, here’s…

June Manning (love that hair!)

June Manning

Moriah Densley (ROWR! Bedroom eyes!)

Moriah Densley

Stephanie Burgis (Amen to the sign!)

Stephanie Burgis

Time to vote!

Okay, readers, who should win? Leave your comment below and I’ll choose one of you to also win a $10 gift certificate to an online book store.

I’ll announce the winners on Tuesday May 8th, so be quick!

Friday fun: Make yourself Manga and win!

Feel like you have far too much time on your hands and you need to fritter it away somehow?

Well have I got the solution for you!

I just discovered this site called Mangatar where you can create your own Manga-style avatar.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering¬†what Manga is, they’re Japanese comics and cartoons.

Here’s the first Mangatar I created for myself:

Manga Kat

After I made that one, I discovered a tiny, almost invisible scroll bar that gave me the option to hold a sign – yes, my Mangatar can stand for something! (And cover my bustiness – a flat chest doesn’t seem to be a Manga option. Being rather busty in real life, I do feel more comfortable holding something big in front of my chest anyway.)

Manga Kat with romance sign

Even better, if you join the Mangatar community, you’ll see the language the site uses is very much in the “translated from Japanese” style. For example, when I logged in for the first time, I got the message: “No yet updates, envolve your friends!”

Friends, I “envolve” you now.

If you decide to create your own Mangatar, download it and email it to me: romancingkatrina(@)

I’ll display our Mangatars together on this blog next Saturday, May 5th. We can comment on the best one, and someone will win a $10 gift certificate to the online book store of their choice. ¬†¬†

Can’t wait to see what you all look like!

Other posts you might like:

Tools for culling repetitious words from your writing

Before I started working in charity communications, I spent four years teaching English as a foreign language in Prague and London.

One of my first classes was full of Czech bankers who gave up their Saturdays to learn English. They were an intermediate-level group, so they could make themselves understood but were far from fluent. They were also one of my favorite classes to teach because every single one of them was enthusiastic and fearless, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into every activity I planned. We spent our Saturdays laughing together.

Half-way through the year, their boss (who was paying for their classes) visited to find out what they thought of their teacher. She interrupted my class with no warning and spoke with them in Czech, so I only understood the gist of what was going on. The boss asked them a question; my students smiled at me.

“Awesome!” one of them shouted, giving me a big thumbs-up.

“Yes, she’s totally awesome!” another agreed, also with a thumbs-up.

Thumbs up

It was the moment I realized I always praised them in the same way. “Awesome answer, Jiri!” “Your pronunciation was totally awesome, Pavel!” Big thumbs-up from Katrina.

Yes, I’d just moved to the Czech Republic from Los Angeles. And no, I didn’t claim to be teaching them proper English.

We all have words that slip into our speech more than others. When they infiltrate our writing, it becomes a problem. There are certain words my readers nail me for over and over. When Kaki Warner read an early draft of my second manuscript, she noted how many times I referred to my characters’ stomachs and bellies. That’s where they carried all of their emotions. (Her stomach clenched. His belly knotted.)

These repetitions are usually invisible to me – of course they are, otherwise I wouldn’t let them survive the first edit. But once someone points them out, I see how obvious they are.

I’ve found a couple of fun ways to visualize my writing and help me cull repetitious words.

Continue reading “Tools for culling repetitious words from your writing”