Thanks for inviting me today, Kristan. I’d like to share what I consider the secret to successful relationships. When I was eighteen I read The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm and I believe the wisdom I learned has been the secret to my happy marriage of 37 years.
It boils down to a very simple lesson: understanding the difference between being in love and loving someone. We’ve all experienced that reality check when the newness, freshness, and euphoria of something we bought, received, or dated began to wear off and all we saw were imperfections.
Instead of lecturing on Fromm’s philosophy today, I’d rather share how an elderly mentor imparts the secret to the hero in Forget Me Not, Book Two in my “Love in the Fleet” series. Sky Crawford is a Navy pilot and renowned playboy. Through volunteer work with the heroine, Sky meets George, a retired Navy pilot who is blind. Please join me as the two men—both former Naval Academy football players—enjoy a beer together while Navy plays Notre Dame on Sky’s big screen TV. When George asks why a blind man should care about a big screen TV, Sky grins and replies, “Because I’ve got surround sound.”
“I’m scared spitless of something, George. I’m so crazy about Daisy. I mean, I never felt this way about a woman before. They were always just fun, you know?”
“No, I don’t. But go ahead,” the elderly man replied.
“Let’s say I decided to settle down with one woman. Let’s say it was Daisy. How can it last?” Sky’s laughter had a nervous edge to it. “How do I know it won’t wear off? You know, this euphoria. See, it’s always worn off before.”
George’s thumb worried the lip of the bottle. “You can count on it, son. It will wear off.”
Sky’s head snapped up. “What?”
“Those feelings you’re talking about. They’ll wear off.”
“Then what makes marriages work? I’ve seen some happy couples out there. My best friend, my parents. They haven’t lost that…that thing.”
George felt around the table and rested his bottle on a napkin. “Because they made a decision to love each other. Being in love is one of the best feelings on this planet. I can still resurrect that feeling when I think of my wife, especially in the early days. But feelings come and go. They don’t last forever. We feel happy, we feel angry, we feel enthusiastic, we feel disappointed. But we don’t feel those things all the time. They’re transient. Just like being in love. Heck, if everyone stayed in love all the time, nothing would get done in this world. We’d all be lost in dream land, walking into walls and things.”
George shut his eyes as if reminiscing. He smiled, then opened them and continued. “Love is something entirely different. Love is a decision. We decide to love someone, regardless of whether we have those giddy feelings or not.” George raised his hand, gesturing for Sky to stop and listen, sensing—knowing—he still didn’t get it.
“Think of it this way, Sky. When you were commissioned in the Navy, you took a vow to protect and defend the United States. Does that mean you’re in love with your job every single day? You know the high you felt when you threw your cap in the air at graduation from the Naval Academy? And the rush you get when your helicopter lifts off the ground and when she lands safely on the deck of a ship? You don’t feel that way every second of your Naval career.”
Whoa. Marriage was like joining the Navy? The old man was getting through to Sky now.
“You get bored on the job sometimes, you get tired of the routine, and you get angry at your shipmates once in awhile. So why do you keep doing it? Why do you keep flying? Why do you stay in the Navy? Because you made a decision. You raised your hand and you took a vow. You made a commitment. You. Pledged. Your. Honor. Same thing in a marriage. It’s a partnership too. Just like the Navy. There are times in marriage when it’s boring, when you get angry or tired of routines, when you even drive each other crazy. But you stay together because you made a decision to love one another.”
Sky set his bottle down on the table. This was way more interesting than beer.
“My advice? Let yourself fall madly in love with Daisy. Enjoy every minute of it. And should you decide she’s the one, keep in mind that these in love feelings will eventually fade away. I think too many couples expect that high to last forever, so they break up when the rush wears off. They don’t know they have to make a decision about loving one another. Don’t get me wrong. Always work at rekindling those in love feelings, but know you will never again feel the way you feel right now.”
Sky chuckled, “Oh, I like that part about rekindling I love to rekindle.”
“Be sure to hold on to those original feelings, so you can bring them out, like a photo album, and savor the memories. Even when you’re a grizzled old man like myself.”
Sky sipped his beer, the game forgotten. It was as if the old guy had given him the secret to the universe. There must be some magic to what George was saying, because here he was: Sky Crawford, king of the skies and the bedroom, actually contemplating marriage.
George broke the silence. “I’m guessing you’re pretty lost in thought there, son.”
“Yeah?” Sky looked up at him to see George grinning.
“Navy just scored a touchdown and the extra point and you didn’t even notice.”
Sky jerked his head toward the TV. “They did?”
“Yup. Now get down and give me seven push-ups, sailor.”
I’d love to hear I’d love to hear what tips your readers have for successful relationships. I will be giving away a copy of Forget Me Not to one lucky reader who comments by midnight, November 25.
Thanks for having me, JQs!
Please welcome Jane Porter!!!
Researching Marietta, Montana
By Jane Porter
I’m passionate about sharing what I know as a writer, and how to improve a book, taking a good story from good to great. I believe that every book can be made better. I’m constantly pushing myself to write a better book. Every new book is an opportunity to grow, and to further delight my readers. I write for myself because I’m driven to write, but after forty-five books, the outcome isn’t for me, or about me, it’s about my readers. Satisfying those readers. Wanting to entertain and engage those readers so that they truly escape, becoming immersed in my world and the story I’m telling. To do that, a story has to be compelling, believable, and fresh.
I’ve taken all my opinions and my hard work and started a publishing company named Tule Publishing. A lot changed for me in the past year. I had health stuff that meant I couldn’t pound out book after book. There were continuing changes in the publishing industry, which influenced my choices, as did the continuing disappearance of brick and mortar bookstores. I have never wanted to be a publisher or editor, and yet, suddenly I am both. But it works. It suits me. I am, if nothing else, hardworking and opinionated and Tule’s goal is to publish fantastic stories, by the best writers, to delight the reader, while satisfying the writer’s desire for creativity, freedom, and commercial success.
Tule Publishing was launched with the Montana Born imprint because Montana is mythic. Montana is about possibility and dreams and big sky… but also it’s filled with hard-working, rugged, independent people—which make it perfect for our first imprint. Tule’s founding authors, Lilian Darcy, CJ Carmichael, Megan Crane and I, embarked on a road trip to explore Montana and do research for our stories.
We piled into a car and spent a glorious week researching and doing a lot of brainstorming while checking out gorgeous places like Flathead Lake, Livingston, Gallatin Valley, Three Forks, Willow Creek, Yellowstone, and more. We threw around a lot of ideas, came up with the name of Marietta for our fictional town, (loosely based on Livingston, Montana) and then got down to the business of building and populating our new town.
CJ decided to write stories about the Carrigans, a traditional ranching family, and Megan came up with a mini-series about the Grey sisters who were raised by a saloon owner and Vietnam vet father. Lilian plotted a major women’s fiction trilogy with characters affected by the events of prom night in 1996, while I decided to write stories about the Sheenans who are a ranching family with property adjacent to CJ’s Carrigans.
We’d already discussed by email and phone calls the types of stories we wanted to write, so on the road trip we discussed logistics for our fictional town. Population, location, town history, business, ambiance, and more. We visited old houses that could be possible Bed & Breakfasts, checked out the Livingston Museum, strolled down different streets for ideas for our Bramble Lane, and generally did a lot of sightseeing to come up with descriptions for our stories:
“There’d been nothing but the crisp blue dawn, the hint of the coming winter already there in the chill of the late September morning while Copper Mountain stood high above the town, a sleepy blue and purple giant slouching in the distance.” - Tempt Me, Cowboy by Megan Crane
“He took a moment to soak in the ambiance of Marietta, Montana. It was cool in the shade, but if you stepped into the sun you could almost believe you’d been transported back to summer. He liked the look of the park in front of the Court House. And the way Copper Mountain shone above the town, sunlight glinting off the granite facets. It was a real town, solid and also beautiful.” - Promise Me, Cowboy by CJ Carmichael
“Marietta would have been a pretty town in any setting, with its classic western store-fronts, but the mountains you could see in every direction made it truly beautiful. Above the square and solid fronts of Nineteenth Century western-style buildings, you would suddenly see a row of rugged peaks, with streaks of snow still visible in the highest and most sheltered places.” - Marry Me, Cowboy by Lilian Darcy
“As usual, her route took her along Bramble Lane, the nicest street in town with stately brick and stone homes on one side and the Marietta River on the other. Many of the original mining magnates, who had built this town on the profits of copper, had chosen this road for home.
Her own mother, Beverly Bramble, had descended from one of those families, and not only this street, but also the family home, still bore their name. Sage was passing it now, a red brick mansion on a stone foundation with white trim and a gracious porch. There was a turret above the porch and a widow’s walk to the left of that.
When her mother was still alive, she used to take Sage and her three sisters to have tea with great-aunt Mabel once a month. That tradition had died, along with her mother, over fifteen years ago. But great-aunt Mabel still lived on—now supported by a grand-niece who had turned most of the bedrooms in the old mansion into guest rooms…
Several blocks further on Bramble Road, past the mansions, were some more modest homes.” - Promise Me, Cowboy by CJ Carmichael
It was one of the best research trips ever and one I’d love to do again for more story ideas!
We launched with the Copper Mountain Rodeo Series, featuring the first stories by Megan Crane, CJ Carmichael, Lilian Darcy and me, and then pulled in additional awesome authors like Melissa McClone and Katherine Garbera to populate Marietta. We’ve started the holidays early with the release of our Copper Mountain Christmas novellas, A Cowboy For Christmas by Katherine Garbera and Home For Christmas by Melissa McClone, to be followed in a few weeks by my Christmas novella, Christmas at Copper Mountain. It’s the time of year when everyone’s thinking of the holidays and making lists for shopping and our deliciously warm and cozy Christmas stories are just perfect for the season!
Montana Born isn’t our only imprint. Next year, Tule launches its second imprint, Holiday, and we also have a third imprint, Carolina Born, already scheduling stories. Editors are in place with every imprint, along with copy editors, cover art designers, and full marketing and publicity teams, too. But, for now, we’re kicking up our heels and enjoying the start of a new season with our wonderful Christmas stories!
As a reader and writer of historical romance, I had never planned on writing romantic suspense. That was my agent’s idea.
We were talking one evening about my progress on my second historical when I mentioned that I’d gotten a phone call from a state official who was afraid for my safety. I was in the middle of investigating a cement plant on allegations that it was violating clean air laws, and the state official, one of my sources, had overheard men at the plant talking about the “lady journalist” and how they were afraid they were going to lose their jobs if I didn’t back off.
“They’re not going to write you a letter to the editor,” the state official said. “They’re going to beat the sh*t out of you with baseball bats.”
This wasn’t the first time my work had put me in potential danger. Over my 20 years as an investigative reporter, I had a gun held on me twice, received numerous death threats, and had two stalkers, one of whom drew the attention of the FBI, and was attacked by two men with switchblades in my own home.
Who knew that investigative journalism was a contact sport?
My agent listened to me talk about my day, and then got very quiet. “You ought to write romantic suspense because you live it.”
To which I replied, “Yeah—except for the romantic part.”
I’m glad I took her advice because the I-Team series has gained a level of popularity that I hadn’t imagined when I wrote that first book.
Striking Distance, the sixth book in my I-Team series, was just released this month, earning rave reviews from fiction publications. It tells the love story of Laura Nilsson, a broadcast journalist, and Javier “Cobra” Cobray, the active-duty Navy SEAL who rescues her from an Al-Qaeda compound.
The prologue, in which Javier rescues Laura, with whom he’d once had a weekend fling, fell into my head in a single chunk. The rest of the story took me 15 long months to write. Some of the background elements of the story—Laura’s reportage on the abuse and mistreatment of women in some parts of the Middle East, her PTSD, her struggles as a survivor of sexual assault—was drawn from my own work as reporter and my own personal past. But the rest of the story involved a lot of research.
I was fortunate in that I was able to connect with an active-duty Navy SEAL, who provided his expertise between deployments, helping me to make the military aspect of the story and Javier’s character authentic. I would send him a section of the story to read or perhaps ask questions. Sometimes he would get back to me right away. Other times, weeks would go by, sometimes even months, and I would know that duty had called him away. But he always got back to me, answering my questions with a humbleness that I found deeply touching.
I dedicated the book to him.
Striking Distance is a very special book to me, in part because of the unique interaction I was able to have with a special operator. I hope you enjoy the results!
Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
Her past is a secret—even to her.
Discovering it will be the most dangerous move of her life.
TV reporter Laura Nilsson, known as the “Baghdad Babe,” spent eighteen months in an Al-Qaeda compound after being kidnapped live on the air. Two years later, she’s still wondering why.
No mission in Javier Corbray’s fourteen years as a Navy SEAL affected him the way Laura’s rescue did. No woman had stirred his protective instincts the way she did. And he wants her more than he’s ever wanted anyone.
As Laura and Javier’s passion ignites, so does Laura’s need to discover the mystery of her past. Especially when she learns that her abduction was not random—and that she’s still a target for a killer with an impenetrable motive. Now Javier will have to rely on his skills to keep the woman he loves from being struck down before she dares uncover the truth.
Here are what some reviewers had to say about the story:
“This sixth I-Team installment sees Clare at her very best, combining scorching desire with a gripping, often painful, exploration of healing and redemption. The plot’s mystery and suspense elements are exceptionally well researched and expertly plotted, but the real achievement lies in her beautifully crafted main couple. Her heroine’s ordeal is unspeakably painful, but her strength never wavers. The chemistry with her steadfast hero never lacks for sizzle, but the emotional bond they share allows them to go beyond the physical to a profound, unforgettable love.”
—RT Book Reviews, 4.5-stars Top Pick
“Easily one of the best romantic suspense stories of the year!”
Striking Distance was also chosen as a Recommended Read for the month of November by Dear Author.
You can read the prologue on my website.
Also, be sure to check out First Strike, the erotic prequel to Striking Distance. It tells the story of the crazy no-strings-attached weekend Laura and Javier share in Dubai, where they first meet.
I hope you enjoy the stories!
Have you ever found yourself taking an unexpected turn in life, or doing something scary that you felt you just had to do? One person who comments will win a signed copy of Striking Distance, and everyone who comments will win a digital copy of First Strike.
The heroine of my latest Hope’s Crossing book, CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON, out next week, is a real witch, with a capital B.
I know! What a horrible thing for a writer to call her own creation – especially a character with a starring role in a 300-something page book.
Here’s the thing, though. Throughout the entire Hope’s Crossing series, Genevieve Beaumont was one of those fun-to-write characters who was, well, not very nice. She was snobbish and self-absorbed and wanted everything in her world to gleam with polished perfection. She’s the kind of person who would probably take an iron to her holiday ribbons to make sure they lie flat (or, most likely, pay someone else to do it for her!).
She ran roughshod over every merchant in Hope’s Crossing while planning her grand society wedding to a man who made her parents swoon with joy.
I never intended to write her book. When I first introduced Genevieve in my first Hope’s Crossing book, BLACKBERRY SUMMER, I shamelessly used her as a sort of foil to illustrate how kind and compassionate my heroine of that book was in contrast.
I thought that would be the end of it but Gen began to take on a life of her own through the other books of the series (as characters are stubbornly prone to do!). Some pretty tough things happened to her in the previous books, including the implosion of her wedding in a humiliating way.
I started to feel a little sorry for what I had put her through, but I still didn’t like her much.
To my great shock, after I introduced Dylan Caine – the emotionally and physically damaged war hero whose sister is the heroine of my book WILLOWLEAF LANE – I couldn’t shake the impression that Gen just might be the perfect woman for him.
How could I write an entire book about a woman I didn’t like and, most worrisome, neither did any of my readers?
I’ll be honest, I started the manuscript with a gut full of anxiety. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. Gen had her own story to tell. She was a writer’s dream, complex and layered and fun. She was intensely vulnerable about some things, obnoxiously arrogant about others.
At heart, she was a woman struggling to figure herself out after years of trying to be what everyone else expected.
From the first page, she and Dylan just clicked.
Yes, she has her b*tchy moments in this book. But she also has moments of great kindness and earnestness.
Part of Genevieve’s emotional journey in CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON is learning to look past her own idea of her perfect man and her perfect future to what she finally realizes will truly make her happy (of course, then she has to convince Dylan, which is an entirely different battle!).
Writing her book has been a great reminder to me that in real life too, sometimes we need to look beyond surface impressions to the heart.
Unfortunately, I’ve had more than one experience where I’ve jumped to an immediate judgment about a person, only to be proved embarrassingly wrong.
Once my husband and I were traveling home from a medical visit with our son two hours from our home when our vehicle engine suddenly stopped dead on the Interstate. My husband managed to coast to an upcoming offramp and pull to the shoulder. We were trying to call for help when a man pulled up behind us in a beat-up car.
He was absolutely the last person I would have expected to lend a helping hand. Rough-edged, dirty, tattoos on every available skin surface. But he jumped right in and helped my husband push our vehicle to an even safer spot on the road and waited to be sure we had help coming before he headed on his way.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Or have you ever thought at first a person wasn’t very nice and they proved you wrong? Or maybe you thought you would hate a place, a movie or a recipe and ended up loving it instead. I would love to hear! I’ll give a copy of CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON as well as a hand-beaded bookmark to one person who responds.
RaeAnne Thayne is a USA Today bestselling author and four-time RITA finalist who has written more than 40 books for HQN, Silhouette Special Edition, Silhouette Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense and Bantam Loveswept. She finds inspiration from the beautiful mountains of northern Utah, where she lives with her family.
Thanks to Robyn for having me on the blog today!
I feel sorry for my husband. He cannot take me for a drive where I don’t come back with some form of inspiration, which has me whipping out my notebook (ever-present) and scribbling notes. Last fall, we went to the coast for a long weekend (perfect, lovely, romantic!) and I came home with an idea for a series yet to be written. This past week, we went on a pilgrimage to the brewery of our favorite beer in Shiner, Texas. I’d been toying with a small Texas town story idea and it gelled during this trip.
Usually my ideas happen that way–setting first, then book. When Trish Milburn and I were trying to think of a Christmas book we could write together, we came up with the idea of a “destination” Christmas. Since she loves the beach, and I love the beach, well, that was our natural first choice. At the time, I was thinking she’d write from Nashville, I’d write from Texas, and Tanya would write from Georgia. I expected a lot of emails and such, since I’d never written a connected book like this.
Then Trish thought it would be a good idea for us to all go to the beach. At first I resisted, but it turned out to be brilliant. I flew into Nashville, Trish picked me up and we drove down the length of Alabama to Orange Beach, where Tanya met us. We had a condo on the beach with a great view. We spent time driving around the place, looking for businesses we could use in our stories. I found a great open-air bar that I based The Pit on, Tanya saw a beach wedding. W decided what we didn’t want to include in our fictional town (like the endless row of condos). Honestly, I don’t know if we could have had such cohesiveness in our stories if we hadn’t all been together and seen the same things.
The fun part? We came up with ideas for 3 more books in the series, using the same town.
Here’s the blurb for Swept Away for Christmas, available in print and e-book at all retailers:
Christmas isn’t always snow-covered with a frosty chill in the air. Sometimes it’s sandy beaches with balmy breezes. And sometimes we find love in the most unexpected places, a place like Starfish Shores.
Here Comes McBride by Tanya Michaels - Shelby James has only truly loved one man — but Finn McBride broke her heart when emotional baggage from his past came between them. Now, Shelby is serving as maid of honor at a beach wedding where Finn is the best man. Will reuniting with Finn be a Christmas miracle, or the worst mistake she’s ever made?
Two Hearts a Leaping by MJ Fredrick - After a break-up with her high school sweetheart, Harley Blume retreats to her brother’s home in Starfish Shores to lick her wounds and figure out what she’s doing next. But her brother is in the Coast Guard reserves and heading out of town, leaving her in the care of Liam Channing, his best friend since they played college football together. She’s never been able to keep her tongue in her mouth when good-looking, easy-going Liam is around. How is she going to find her way if she can’t keep her balance?
Cruisin’ for a Kiss by Trish Milburn - When Avery Phillips loses her magazine job right before Christmas, she heads back home to Starfish Shores to spend the holidays with the grandparents who raised her. The plan is to hit the job search hard so that she has a new position when the New Year arrives. What isn’t part of the plan is heading up a remodeling effort at her family’s beach motel or falling for the man helping to save the business into which her grandparents put a lifetime of work. As Christmas draws closer, will Avery stick to the original plan to leave town again or take a chance with Luke Taylor and a new life she never expected?