Monday, July 29, 2013

Today's Special - - Heather Ashby


It's our pleasure to welcome debut author, Heather Ashby to the Romance Dish today!  Heather is a Navy veteran whose mother was one of the original WAVES in World War II. After leaving the service, Heather taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for her son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation – Helping Military Families. She lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired Naval Engineer husband. Contact Heather at Heatherashby.com.


Please give Heather a warm welcome!


Today was the day I knew I had succeeded as an author.
                                               
It had nothing to do with awards or sales or rankings or number of reviews. It came in an email from a reader. It came in a photograph of a woman in desert camouflage reading my book in the middle of the barren landscape of Afghanistan.

It came in the following words: “Thank you for writing Forgive & Forget.

                     


This woman is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, a general surgeon in the Medical Corps, deployed with our Marines in Afghanistan. She writes, “We are on call all the time, but thankfully have not been that busy.” Reading between those lines gives me shivers thinking of the horrors this woman might face on a daily basis. She mentions in her email: “Reading romance novels keeps me sane.”

I understand her sentiment. My son joined the Army pre-9/11, so he did not expect to spend his twentieth birthday searching caves for Taliban or his twenty-first taking Baghdad. A military veteran myself, I read military romance novels during his deployments, because I knew no matter what happened, there would be a happy ending. I devoured Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series, along with books by Catherine Mann, Lindsay McKenna, and Merline Lovelace. I swore I would thank those authors someday for helping me through those scary years. I have since thanked all of them.

My son not only returned safe and whole from both tours of combat, but he came home a mature respectful, and responsible man. I looked for ways to show my gratitude for these blessings and was led to write military romance novels. Being a Navy veteran, I chose to pen stories to entertain our women in the fleet. Hence my “Love in the Fleet” series was born. Forgive & Forget launched last week and Forget Me Not releases in December, with two more to follow in 2014.

My original vision was to write books that I thought young women would want to read on board a ship when they climbed into their “racks”—their thirty cubic foot sleeping spaces. Something that would “take them away” for a few hours. And here is a Naval officer—a surgeon whose job it is to put our Marines back together—taking a respite from the drudgery, hazards, challenges, and sadness of war, sitting on rocks, enclosed by a barbed-wired perimeter, reading my book. And telling me, “Thank you?”

She’s thanking me?

I had planned to write this blog explaining how my stories differ from most military romances. I write love stories about ordinary people. The Navy just happens to be the setting. My civilian readers say, “I was delightfully surprised. I expected a shoot-em-up with Navy SEALs, weapons, and violence.” But these readers weren’t looking for that. They were looking for a solid love story with just enough conflict and suspense to keep the hero and heroine apart. And they found it on my fictional aircraft carrier, the USS Blanchard. They said, “I felt like I’d vicariously joined the Navy and I learned so much!”

PJ was expecting 400-600 words on that topic today.


But instead, after receiving an email from a Navy doctor who impacted my writing career and my life so much today, I wrote about it instead. Thank you, readers for letting me share this defining moment—that regardless of my ratings or sales figures or number of reviews—I know I have succeeded as a writer.

~Heather Ashby

PJ jumping in to say, "Who cares about 400-600 words on why your books are different?"  You've told us why they're important!  Many thanks to you, Heather and to your reader for sharing today's story with us. And thank you to you, your son, your reader, all members of the military and their families for all you give to our country.  Your service is appreciated more than I can say.

Readers, tell us about a circumstance when romance novels kept you sane.  

Do you have friends or family serving in the military?  

Do you enjoy reading books set within the military world?  

Heather has graciously offered a copy of her book, Forgive & Forget to one randomly chosen person leaving a comment today.  (U.S., APO and FPO addresses only please)  Heather will also send another free copy to a service member designated by the winner.  Don't know a service member?  No problem. Heather can recommend several!   


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When Navy journalist Hallie McCabe meets Philip Johnston at a picnic, she is drawn to his integrity. He is a gentleman—and an officer. From her ship. Aware of the code against fraternization between officers and enlisted, Hallie conceals her Navy status, hopeful she and her secret will stay hidden on their aircraft carrier until she can figure out a way for them to sail off into the sunset together.
Caught in an emotional firestorm, Hallie faces a future without the man she loves, a career-shattering secret from the past, and the burden of being the one person who can prevent a terrorist attack on the ship she has sworn to protect with her life. Prepare to set sail for the Persian Gulf with a crew of 4,999 sailors and officers—and one terrorist in search of his own kind of Paradise.






58 comments:

  1. Oh, yes, I can distinctly recall two times in my life when reading romance kept my sanity. The first was when I was confined to bed my entire pregnancy which was 36 years ago and the second was three years ago when my husband got sick and then passed away. Great blog, Heather, you had me in tears at the second paragraph. Congratulations on a wonderful book. Looking forward to the next in the series!

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    1. Condolences on the loss of your beloved husband, Kathleen. Isn't it wonderful to have books with guaranteed happy endings to get us through those tough times? And I can't imagine being confined to bed for your entire pregnancy! I'm so glad you enjoyed Forgive & Forget - and the message in this blog. Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. I'm so sorry for your loss, Kathleen. My husband also died and romance novels kept me going through that difficult time. Thanks for stopping by today and sharing your story.

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  2. What fantastic feedback to receive, Heather. Congrats! I agree that, from my civilian point of view, your book reads with both authenticity and cultural empathy. I loved the way you got into so many different characters' heads and made us feel what they felt. I can't wait till the sequel comes out! :-)

    Catherine, Australia

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed FORGIVE & FORGET, Catherine. I do love writing in Deep Third Point of View, sharing the characters thoughts and reactions - and I often forget they're not real. (They aren't, are they? :-) I hope you'll enjoy FORGET ME NOT when it releases in December.

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    2. Hi Catherine! Thanks for dropping by today.

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  3. Thanks to all the members of your family for their service. Military life is different and unless you have been there, it is a bit hard to really understand. My husband is retired from the Air Force and we miss it. We had our separations, but I think the Navy schedule is more difficult for the families to deal with. It sounds like your stories will give people who are not familiar with military life a good inside view of what it is like.
    I am happy your son is back safely. I think it is much harder to be the one at home waiting than to be the one on assignment.

    Reading helped when my husband was deployed during Vietnam and during his TDY's when he was back. It helped when you get orders and know you will be packing up and leaving friends again. It helped when my husband was ill and I spent time in the hospital with him. I do enjoy reading military set books. It is nice to visit different parts of that world and sometimes revisit situations we have dealt with. It is always nice to read a story by someone who "gets it." Our grandson is in the Marines and a close friend of my daughter's family is in the Navy reserves. Our nephew is just finished with the Navy and his sister, our niece, is in the Coast Guard, as was her husband. We have friends whose children are in the military.

    Best of luck with the release of FORGIVE & FORGET. I hope you have a successful writing career.

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    1. And thanks to the members of YOUR family who have served too! And, yes, I do hope my stories help civilians see what life can be like for our military men, women, and families. The Navy was instrumental in helping with my research for the second book in the series because they were thrilled that someone was taking the time to write about "what our men and women do to make the world a safer place." God bless your grandson in the Marines and your other family members who are serving. And for you and your husband, enjoy the memories of your Air Force days!

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    2. Hi Pat! I'll add my thanks to Heather's. Sounds like your family has a rich tradition of serving our country.

      My late husband was career Air Force but we didn't meet until after he retired so I didn't experience the "life."

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    3. PJ, Sorry to hear about your husband. It is too bad that you didn't get to experience Air Force life. Military life isn't for everyone, but you probably would have liked it. We had too many friends whose marriages didn't survive because the spouse couldn't handle or hated it. We were lucky. We were almost always assigned to great, supportive units. We have a reunion in September of our FB111 group, and we both are looking forward to it.

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  4. Dear Heather: What a wonderful blog post to end my day. I get to bed very late as I love to read at night and early morning before sleeping, and by chance, I checked my e-mail "one more time" and was so happy that I did. How inspirational your writing is and how much joy it will bring to everyone, especially servicewomen, and some men too, I am willing to bet. I am in the middle of your book now, and can hardly wait until December for the second in the series. I am new to the romance genre but you incorporated more than that into this book so far, and I can tell that is why I am enjoying it so much. I like a little suspense and mystery in novels too, and you have done just that. Thank you for serving your country and for deciding to become an author; you made wise choices with both of your decisions.

    Thank you for giving us readers a new concept in a novel; it is wonderful.

    Sincerely,
    Cynthia

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying FORGIVE & FORGET! Yes, I had male readers in mind as well as females when I wrote it - when I wrote all in the series. I'd love for GUYS to be reading this book at sea too. Thanks for thinking of it as a "new concept in a novel." Wow! I, so, appreciate you dropping by and commenting. You're so kind.

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    2. Thank you for stopping by, Cynthia and welcome to the wonderful world of reading romance!

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  5. That was a lovely and special post Heather. I know that romances helped me through my daughter's teenage years when she was a bit rebellious. It was actually good to take a break from situations, read a little and then I could logically think about what to do next.

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    1. It's true. Romance novels are a delightful escape! Wish I'd thought of that when I had teen-agers! As a teacher, I remember the last month of school - between my own kids' activities and end-of-year stuff in my classroom, I devoured romance novels every year. I didn't want to think by the end of each day and these books "took me away." Plus, I knew that all conflicts would be resolved and the books would end on a happy note.

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    2. Maureen, I'm sure there are many moms of teens out there who turn to romance novels for a respite! Glad they've helped you make it through those years.

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  6. Aloha, Heather! Romance novels (and blogs) are keeping me sane during my move from Hawaii to Baltimore with two kids, two cats, and a hubby in Korea! Actually, it's all coming together this week.

    Mahalo, Heather, for your family's service! I have become very akamai (smart) about the Navy after living on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam for four years!

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    1. Hi Kim! *waving*

      Been thinking about you. Hope the move preparations are going smoothly...or as smoothly as they can considering you're moving the whole family from Hawaii to the mainland by yourself.

      Hope Flossie doesn't bring too much chaos to Oahu today. Stay safe!

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  7. Aloha, again! I've sent boxes of romance books (collected at RT and RWA) to several military doctors in Afghanistan, including two Navy surgeons. A girl's gotta read!

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    1. Hi, Kim! Thank you SO MUCh for your hard work with getting those donated books to our troops in Afghanistan AND to our military families here in the U.S! You've inspired me and I've started collecting them at conferences to give to our local USO. Wishing you the best with your move and hope you can get settled in Baltimore before school starts. Hope your family had a super trip to Korea to visit Dad!

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  8. What a lovely testament the message from your reader is to the power of a well-written romance. I've been reading romance fiction for more decades that I like to admit, and through all the storms of my life--from scattered thunderstorms to devastating hurricanes--romance novels have helped keep me not only sane but also, for the most part, optimistic about the possibilities of happily-ever-afters.

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    1. This is BEAUTIFUL!

      through all the storms of my life--from scattered thunderstorms to devastating hurricanes--romance novels have helped keep me not only sane but also, for the most part, optimistic about the possibilities of happily-ever-afters.

      In trying to maintain a positive, cheerful attitude these days, I've practically stopped watching the news. So I certainly don't want to READ about more conflicts that will keep me awake nights. I'm glad romance novels have provided a balm for you too.

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    2. Janga, once again you have put our unspoken emotions into beautiful words. Thank you!

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  10. Good Morning, Heather! We're so pleased to welcome you to The Romance Dish today!

    Romance novels have given me pleasure for more than 45 years and have been my saving grace through the rough times of my life. When my mom died unexpectedly in her early fifties, when my late husband (who served 20 years in the USAF) lay in a coma in CCU for five weeks then later died, when my dad (a Navy man)was given a terminal cancer diagnosis a few years later...through all of those times, romance novels gave me the escape I so desperately needed and provided the sunny skies that temporarily chased away the dark clouds of the moment. I owe romance novel authors an extraordinary debt of gratitude.

    My step-mom was one of the original WAVES in WWII too! She's gone now, but for many years, she was the preferred "show and tell" for her many grandchildren. We were all fascinated by her stories and so very proud of her ground-breaking service!

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    1. Hi, PJ. Sorry, I lost the ability to respond directly there for awhile, so my response is below. Thanks so much for inviting me today. Your poignant post above brings to mind the awesome keynote address given by Kristan Higgins at Nationals last week. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. And she, like you, said, "Through it all, I read." Bless you for all these sad times you've dealt with, and I'm so glad you had Happily Ever Afters to get you through.

      As to your step-mom, how cool that she was a WAVE too! Sounds like she was an awesome grandmother and I just bet she had some good stories!

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  11. Congratulations, Heather! My husband is a Navy veteran and served mainly out of Corpus Christi on the Ike and on the Teddy Roosevelt, aircraft carriers. He was the ship's secretary and had a fairly important job, I would say. My FIL was in the Air Force, my dad was in the Army during the Korean War, my nephew was in the Air Force, and my stepson just finished 6 years in the Marines....He also was in Afghanistan for 5 months. Two weeks after leaving, his base had a rocket attack and 2 Marines were killed.

    I loved reading Debbie Macomber's Navy romances. I read romances to escape a little while from the hustle and bustle of my every day life. It's nice to place yourself in another world for awhile, even if it is fictional.

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    1. Hi Deb! I'm a huge fan of Debbie Macomber's Navy romances too. If fact, there are very few military set romances that I haven't enjoyed.

      Another family with a rich tradition of serving our country! Many thanks to your husband and your families.

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  12. Bless your family for their service, Deb. I, too, enjoyed Debbie Macomber's Navy romances. I hope you'll like this one - and maybe even your husband might enjoy it since it's about life - and love - aboard an aircraft carrier.

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  13. I found out 5 yrs ago this September, that the illness that had been plaguing me was Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.. Now for a person that had always been so active and who's life seemed to come to a complete halt, my reading and fav authors kept me sane. And I love it when I find a new author, which was Robyn Carr. Finding her Virgin River novel at the library kept me from going crazy and keeping me sane. Thank god for all the wonderful authors who have come into my life before and after this time period...

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    1. Kathleen, I was touched by your comments. Please read down a few comments to see my reply. (I'll figure this techno stuff out eventually :-)

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  14. Thanks for inviting me, PJ. I loved this comment!

    "through all of those times, romance novels gave me the escape I so desperately needed and provided the sunny skies that temporarily chased away the dark clouds of the moment."

    Sorry you've had so much sadness, but I'm glad you know about that special balm of comfort we get from reading about Happily Ever After. And bless you and your military family!

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  15. Dear Heather,
    What an emotional, beautiful and inspiring post today. I am in awe of your service and that of your family. Your novel sounds captivating and very special and I enjoy reading stories of that era since it was when I was born. Last year I was trying to recover from breast cancer and reading was the only way to escape from the onslaught. thanks for your thoughtfulness.

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    1. Petite, thanks for your comments. I guess my editor is right that we may need to change the cover. We were going for a soft, watercolor-y vintage recruiting poster look, although the story is contemporary. I, too, love the WWII era stories that my parents told. But my series takes place today. In 2013. Interesting that uniforms have essentially not changed in the past 70 years. (Even thought they're black now instead of navy blue, which is just plain WRONG :-)

      I wish you the best with your breast cancer recovery and am glad to know you have the secret about romance novels being an escape and a balm for our souls.

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  16. What a meaningful and memorable message that was uplifting. Reading has always been my method of facing questions in life and dealing with illness and struggles that we are often confronted with. It has been a balm for my soul. Thanks for your writing and Forgive and Forget would be a treasure. My favorite and most unforgettable period of time for books that are profound and have depth is the 1940's and it has never changed.

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    1. Traveler, thanks for your kind words. This is BEAUTIFUL!: "Reading has always been my method of facing questions in life and dealing with illness and struggles that we are often confronted with. It has been a balm for my soul."

      Please see my comment to "Petite" above. I, too, love WWII-era stories, but my series is contemporary. The uniforms just haven't changed all that much. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  17. It must be frustrating for an active person such as yourself, to have to deal with Fibromyalgia and CS, but sometimes just finally knowing what you're dealing with helps. I'm glad that romance novels help too.

    I loved this, Kathleen: "Robyn Carr. Finding her Virgin River novel at the library kept me from going crazy and keeping me sane. Thank god for all the wonderful authors who have come into my life before and after this time period..." I hope you've written to Robyn Carr and shared this with her.

    I was hooked on Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters series in March of '03 when my mother lay in ICU at death's door, while my son lay in wait to take Baghdad (when we did not know if Saddam had WMD or not.) When I wasn't on my knees in that hospital chapel, I was reading about the Troubleshooters. I swore I would find that author someday and thank her personally for giving me an escape - or rather, a Weapon of Mass Distraction. I eventually did thank Suzanne, and I thank her every time I see her at conferences. ( And yes, I thanked God too for both of my family members emerging unscathed.)

    I hope things go well with your health, Kathleen, and I'm glad you've got romance novels to help you along. Read one with a glass of water twice a day :-)

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  18. Reading has kept me sane my entire life - starting as a young child. It is the only thing that can take my mind away from everything! My father and both my in-laws and 3 uncles all served in WWII. My husband is a VietNam veteran. My father-in-law made it his career so my husband has traveled the world! Currently we are involved in our local American Legion where he has served as an officer for quite a few years and I volunteer when I can. And I'm sure I would enjoy your books! I thank all those who serve!

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    1. God bless you and your family, Catslady, and I thank them all for their service. And thank you and your husband for serving at the local American Legion. I'm glad to know that reading has helped keep you sane your entire life. And romance novels seem to do it even better with their guaranteed happy endings. Thanks for stopping by.

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  19. I was honored when Heather (my Firebird sister from the Golden Heart class of 2012) asked me to read her book and give a quote. I mean, I'm really a nobody, but she made me feel special. And I'm glad I got an early look at this one. Since I live in a military town, dominated by the Navy, I didn't expect to read anything new. But she put me right in the service. She showed these sailors to be real people giving back to their country. The book is just like Heather, genuine, sweet, and full of sass. :)

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    1. Aw,Terri, now I'm gonna cry. You probably didn't know I was in the midst of a Marketing Meltdown and was just about to throw in the proverbial towel before I clicked on your comment. So, thanks, I really needed the boost. And folks, this is not a nobody. Besides being an awesome friend and colleague, Terri is the author of MEANT TO BE, which is breaking all kinds of records on Amazon - not only occupying low numbers in the top 100, but even occasionally dipping into number one spots. (and I would have put "number one" in all caps, but i knew it would embarrass you, because you are so delightfully humble.) It is an honor to call Terri Osburn my friend - AND to have her quote grace FORGIVE & FORGET.

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    2. We need a mutual Like button over here. LOL! MWAH!

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    3. Maybe a Back Atcha' button? MWAH back atcha'

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  20. Heather, this is one of the most heart-touching blogs I've read in a long time. I'm a Navy vet, my DH a 30 year Coastie retiree, so photos and stories like this really get to my heart. We've lost promising young men from our church (and had a couple of our lady troops threatened) in recent years, and of course, living in a huge military community like Hampton Roads, VA, we hear a lot of stories. I find it so frustrating that so many civilians don't care - or appallingly worse - don't seem to ~know~ we have our own people involved in these far away conflicts, so I think it's great to share a little bit about their daily lives and what they face.

    Thanks so much for sharing the 'complete' blog. My heart and my prayers go out to all those like the doctor who serve their country so well.

    Oh, and ps -- I've got two nephews in the Navy and some good friends in the Air Force (he's spent four tours 'over there', now).

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    1. Mairi, thanks for sharing your military family with me. God bless your nephews and "Air Force friends with four tours over there." And bless your husband for his 30 years in the Coast Guard. And, of course, thank you too, shipmate, for your service. So sorry to hear about the young men from your church who have lost their lives. I think of them and their families every morning when I count my blessings for my son's safe return. That's why I felt called to find a way to show my gratitude, because I know my life would never be the same had we lost him. Thanks for stopping by and letting this blog touch your heart.

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    2. Thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing your story with us. It hurts my heart that so many people today don't appear to appreciate the sacrifices made for us by our military and their families. For a lot of people, I don't think it's intentional but, rather, just not on the radar of their daily lives. My prayers go with all who serve and the families left behind.

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  21. Hi, Heather! Congrats on the release of FORGIVE & FORGET! I must say, your blog really touched my heart. Reading romance (SEVEN SECRETS OF SEDUCTION by Anne Mallory, in particular) helped me through my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer and the subsequent surgery. I truly believe in the healing powers of reading romance.

    My grandfather served in WWII--he flew the Hump. My father served in the Air Force during Vietnam and my brother served in the Army in the late 90s/early 2000s. We love our country's military! Thank you for your service, Heather. And thank you to your son and the reader that wrote you. :)

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    1. And thank YOU, Andrea, for stopping by and sharing your family with us. Isn't it interesting that we can remember the EXACT romance novel we were reading during a particular crisis. They can be, as some commented earlier, like balm for our souls. Bless your family for their military service. And thanks for your good wishes on the release of my book. P.S. Hope your mom is doing well.

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  22. Hello Heather! So nice to "meet" you today on this blog. And hurray for your debut book release! :-) No, I don't know or have any military in my family or amongst my friends...but I like a good military story...if it is a romance (of course). And yours sounds really terrific...not just about the toughness of seals or special war units (usually all about men). I've enjoyed some historical war military romances in the past...but no contemporary ones. So yours would be refreshing. Thanks for sharing today. jdh2690@gmail.com

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    1. I didn't answer your question(s) completely. Romance novels have ALWAYS kept me sane! They are my staycation when I can't get away on a vacation, they help me leave my day on a positive note as I fall asleep, they are soothing breaks when I need one from work or stress or any kind. Romances really keep me going. :-)

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    2. Hi, Janice, thanks for stopping by. Sounds like we're on the same page when it comes to military romance. The bottom line is I want a good love story, but I happen to like the addition of uniforms and some military lingo. Roger that? LOL. I write my books with both military and civilian readers in mind and I love being able to share some of what our Navy does to make the world a safer place at the same time. Please check out my website: Heatherashby.com or my Facebook page: Heather Ashby Author for more details on my series. I sure hope I can welcome you aboard into my books. Full speed ahead!

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    3. Janice, I love the idea of a good romance novel helping us leave our day on a positive note as we fall asleep. Soothing breaks, says it all. The world, and so many books and movies, have SO much conflict and their stories do not all end on a high note. I like a guaranteed Happy Ending. It's that bit of balm that helps me deal with the conflict in daily life.

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  23. Heather, thank you so much for visiting with us today. We wish you all the best with Forgive & Forget and the other books yet to come!

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    1. Thanks so much for inviting me, PJ. I had a wonderful time chatting with your readers. I loved hearing about the military members of their families and also about how romance novels serve as a delightful escape, or balm for their souls. Or as the deployed Navy surgeon in the photograph above says, "Reading romance novels keeps me sane."

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  24. Reading has always been huge in our family. My dad served in the Navy during WWII and I know that he took, among other books, the Oxford Book of Poetry from his college days. Thanks to all who serve... PS is there some place to donate & mail paperback books for service people?

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    1. Hi, Girly Girl, Thanks for stopping by. Love that your Dad took poetry to war with him. If you'll contact me at hashbyauthor@aol.com, I'll give you a military contact address in Afghanistan. Thank you!

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  25. Heather,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. As a former military spouse (still married but he's not active duty anymore),I have a special place in my heart for military members and their families.

    I love that your story reveals the challenges of military life and gives the reader the happy ending for the characters who've come to life from the pages.

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  26. Thanks for stopping by, Mary, and thanks to your family for their service. (Yes, this includes the spouses and children. We "served" too.) I also like that this story shares some of the challenges of military life - both the legal issue of fraternization, but also what life if like living on board a warship. Many of my civilian readers have commented on this, such as, "Wow, I had no idea the living conditions were so difficult - and crowded. For anyone who would like a sample of that, check out my blog post on Dru's Book Musing for 7/25/13 where I describe Hallie's typical day on board her ship. Thanks again for visiting, Mary. Full Speed Ahead!

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