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Cold War With Russia — Again?

Since moving to the D.C. area, I’ve become a wonk — yes that is an official term. While it can mean a studious or hardworking person — things I certainly hope I am, it mostly means a person who takes an excessive interest in minor details of political policy. It unofficially means the kind of person — often a female — who likes and remembers all the sticky details of a subject. Said female is often considered boring, overly studious, and generally not sexy in the least little bit.

In other words, a female wonk is the 21st century version of a bluestocking.

So when I was invited last week to Georgetown University to hear Ambassador Linton Brooks talk about the U.S. relationship with Russia, I immediately jumped at the chance.


Being on the Georgetown campus is amazing. I love surrounding myself with all these intent young people who are firmly lodged in the realm of ideas. They are students who want to make a difference. To be in that world makes me feel young and optimistic and as if the world is a  more hopeful place.

Imagine my dismay to hear that our relations with Russia are getting worse daily. I might have my head in the clouds, but when the Wall came down, and the U.S. and Russia decided to decrease nuclear arms, I thought we were once again friends. I thought the biggest fracas before Ukraine was the style war between Raisa Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan.

Ambassador Brooks worked on both the START and START 2 treaties. He made it clear that all opinions were his own and not of any official U.S. agency.  As he went over the current situation, chills ran down my back.


“Ten years ago no one cared about Russia as a threat. Even John McCain said, ‘Russia is a gas station’ … with atom bombs.”  But we are belatedly coming to realize Russia does matter. “Their interest is the same as ours in dealing with the issues of the Middle East. They are an important vote on the UN Security Council,” and they’re the only country that “could destroy Washington before the hour was up.”

Brooks then went on to say, “The Bush Administration said Russia is no longer a threat. Obama has tried to strengthen our relationship. But Clinton, Bush and Obama have all failed.”

Here are some of Brooks’ points in his words:

  • “The Ukraine annexation is the most important event in Russo-U.S. relations since the cold war.”
  • “It’s the first time since WWII that a country has been annexed.”
  • “It’s a violation of the Helsinki Act”
  • “But Ukraine is a symptom — the disease is much deeper.”
  • “Russians do not trust us.”
  • “Russians are misreading American character.”
  • Brooks does not believe that Putin is trying to recreate the Soviet Union.
  • “They believe we’re trying to destabilize them.”
  • “They believe we’re looking for first strike capability.” He goes on to say Putin especially believes this.

I don’t know about all of you, but this has me worried. I grew up in a world where the Cold War was real. It was the basis of a lot of great spy novels with thrilling plots and twists and turns. However, I’d give up every bit of the pleasure of reading those adventures for this not to be a repeated reality.


While I don’t have answers, and neither for that matter does Brooks, it’s important we understand the issues, that we know what is going on beyond our boarders, and that our new President, whomever that might be, will be knowledgeable and able to make inroads toward peace.

Despite his major faults, Nixon, a man not known for his social skills, single-handedly was able to convey the spirit of friendship to Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese people who, to this day, revere him and remember him with incredible respect. Even in the Beijing Dirty Market (now known as the Antiquities Market since the Beijing Olympics) I have often seen statues, pictures and even watches with Nixon’s face on them right next to identical souvenirs featuring Mao, who until this day is greatly loved.

Hopefully one day there will be similar things in the Russian stalls honoring the U.S. President who understood peace can only begin with trust.

The winner of SAVING HOPE is . . .

The Kiss-and-Thrill ladies would like to thank Liese Sherwood-Fabre again for joining us this week! She was a delight, and we wish her the best with her debut novel, SAVING HOPE.

Now . . . drum roll please . . . the commenter who has won a copy of SAVING HOPE is . . . Diane Ginther!  Congratulations!

To redeem your free book – please email your snail mail address to (or go to contact page for details). Remember, we must hear from you within 10 days. And you must provide a US or Canadian address to qualify or another winner will be chosen.

Thank you all so much for commenting! We hope you will bookmark KissAndThrill and visit often or better yet, subscribe!

What’s next you ask?

Tuesday, April 10th, Kiss and Thrill’s Diana Belchase welcomes James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor which became the iconic Robert Redford movie, Three Days of the Condor.  

James Grady and Diana Belchase

James will be giving a copy of his book Mad Dogs to one lucky commenter.

Liese Sherwood-Fabre

Please give a warm Kiss and Thrill welcome to debut author Liese Sherwood-Fabre!

Liese is originally from Texas but is a world traveler. She has lived in or visited Washington, D.C., Honduras, Mexico, and even Russia. She draws on that wealth of experience with other cultures and places to inject a unique, exotic flavor into her stories. After traveling the globe, she eventually settled down in her home state of Texas. You can visit her in cyber-space at her website.

Liese was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions, and she’s also giving away one copy of her debut release – SAVING HOPE – to one lucky commenter. SAVING HOPE is available for pre-order now, and releases on May 4, 2012.

Lena: Liese, thank you so much for joining us today on Kiss and Thrill. First order of business, how do you pronounce your first name? Lee-suh? Or Lease? Or some other variation?

Liese: The first. It’s a German spelling. Think “Liesel”—the oldest Von Trapp family child.

Lena: Your first book, SAVING HOPE, comes out on May 4th. Congratulations! What made you choose that title?

Liese: The story is about a Russian microbiologist whose daughter, Nadezhda—Hope–has a heart condition. It is about her struggle to save her daughter.

Lena: The cover copy for SAVING HOPE says the heroine is a micro-biologist who lives in Russia. What made you choose a heroine with that type of background? And why Russia? Does the entire book take place there or does it move around Europe or North America as well?

Liese: I worked and lived in Russia for five years (from 1994-1999). While working there, I read an article by Richard Preston in the March 9, 1998 New Yorker–“Annals of Warfare: The Bioweaponeers.” In it, he describes Iran’s recruitment of unemployed scientists from the former Soviet Union’s weapons laboratories—both biological and nuclear. My first thought was “why would someone accept such a job offer?” I gave my main character no job, a sick child, and friends with underworld connections—and Saving Hope was born.

It’s a different story in that it takes place in Russia with Russian characters (with the exception of one character).

Lena: (Readers, the gorgeous pictures in this post are pictures of places Liese visited in Russia. Enjoy!) Your story idea has a Robin Cook feel to me. Would you classify your novel as a medical thriller? What comparable authors might you compare it to?

Liese: It’s more along the lines of Martin Cruz Smith (Red Square; Gorky Park) only the law enforcement character (the FSB agent) is the second main character. It is definitely  Alexandra’s (the microbiologist) story.

Lena: What are some of your favorite books?

Liese: It’s easier for me to let you know what I’m currently reading:  First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde and Diane Kelly’s Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure.

Lena: Do you write in more than one genre?

Liese: I consider myself a woman’s fiction writer in the broadest sense. I enjoy writing about strong women who are able to overcome major obstacles. I have published several short stories. One appeared in Woman’s World (a straight romance) and another in an anthology for Girl’s Life (middle grade).

Lena: You have an awesome quote on your website for SAVING HOPE by Steve Berry. OH. MY. GOSH. That is so awesome! I would die for a quote like that. Care to share how you met Steve and garnered that quote? Or is it a state secret?

Liese: I was flabbergasted as well! I had heard him speak at the RWA National conference last year in New York and had read his Romanov Prophecy novel. When I started thinking about who I might ask for a quote, I decided to shoot big and go for someone who would appreciate a novel set in Russia, so I contacted him. His one request was that I  join the International Thriller Writers’ organization, which I did.

Lena: What’s next? (future books, novellas, special appearances you want to mention)

Liese: I am working on a second thriller. This one is set in Mexico and is loosely based on the Lori Berenson case. In mine, a young woman is arrested by the Mexican army and charged with terrorism—only in this case, the woman is the daughter of a U.S. Senator.

Lena: Any special awards or achievements you’d like to mention?

Liese: I’ve been very fortunate to receive several, but I guess I’m most proud of a short story, “Stranger in the Village,” I wrote that won first-place in The Briar Cliff Review. It was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and my novel Heads Up, St. Anthony finaled in the 2008 Golden Heart.

Lena: What do you do for fun (besides write)?

Liese: I work full-time and have a family, so squeezing in writing time doesn’t leave much for other activities. I do enjoy movies, traveling, and reading.

Lena: Favorite romance ever?

Liese: Gosh, that’s hard. I would have to say Gone with the Wind. At its most basic, it’s the story of a woman in love with two men and can’t make up her mind which one she truly loves (Margaret Mitchell’s words, not mine).

Lena: Using only three words, describe the kinds of stories you write.

Liese: Women gaining power

Lena: Would you rather take a cruise or go white-water rafting?

Liese: I’ve been on a cruise and we had to cancel the one white-water rafting trip we arranged because of a family emergency, so I’ll pick the white-water rafting (as long as the water’s not too cold.)

Lena: Describe your perfect fictional hero.

Liese: Smart, funny, sensitive, and a killer bod.

Lena: We know that Kiss and Thrill is your favorite blog (ahem). Are there some go-to blogs you love to read that you want to recommend? 

Liese: I’m a member of a group of writers called “The Plotting Princesses.” The group formed as a way to help work on each others’ plots and other writing issues. You can check them out at

Lena: What would your heroine in SAVING HOPE carry in her purse?

Liese: She’s a mom, so all the “mom things”—tissues, pen, paper, little candies.

Lena: Your hero from SAVING HOPE is sitting in a bar. A robber walks in and points his gun at the bartender, demanding all his cash. What does your hero do?

Liese: He’s in law enforcement, so he’d wait until the robber isn’t looking and pull out his service weapon and take the sucker down.

Lena: You’re  Neo (Keanu Reeves) in THE MATRIX. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) offers you the red pill or the blue pill. Which one do you take?

Liese: I’d go with the red because I wouldn’t like the idea of something else being in control of me. As hard as life is for those “awake,” the experience is real.

Lena: What would you do if Dirty Harry said, “Go ahead, make my day?”

Liese: Drop to the floor and wish to blend in with the carpet.

Thanks so much for being so gracious about answering all these questions, Liese. The Kiss and Thrill ladies wish you much success on your debut.

And now it’s Liese’s turn to ask the readers some questions.

Liese: Kiss and thrill, or Thrill and Kiss? Which is more important to you–the suspense/mystery/thriller aspect -or- the romance?

Comment on Liese’s blog post and you will automatically be entered in a drawing. One lucky US or Canadian commenter will win a free copy of SAVING HOPE. Drawing will take place Thursday morning.

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