Thursday, September 11, 2014

Get Lost in a Unique and Inspiring Military Romance

Today, I'm delighted to welcome award-winning author Heather Ashby to Get Lost In A Story. There seemed no better day to highlight her latest military romance, Never Forget, than on the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. (I must admit, when I first read this blurb it gave me goose bumps.)

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Never Forget

    With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow, what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York than the sailors and Marines stationed there? And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time? 
    When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard the USS New York, she’s the only person who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns the spirits must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side. 
    The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and her lover. Passions rise to fever pitch when the New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. 
    Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?

Meet Heather
Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for her Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to benefit wounded warriors and their families. Her debut novel, FORGIVE & FORGET was named a “Best of 2013” book by Suspense Magazine. FORGET ME NOT was a 2012 Golden Heart® Finalist and is a 2014 Military Writers Society of America finalist. NEVER FORGET was released by amberhousebooks.com, under the direction of  editor, Teresa Medeiros. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.

E.E.: Wow, Heather, what an amazing concept for a book. How did you come up with it?

Heather: Since my stories take place at Naval Station Mayport (FL), I researched the amphibious assault ships we would be receiving in 2014. I broke out in goose bumps when I read about the USS New York being built from salvaged steel from the World Trade Center. I shunned the idea of adding the spirits at first, feeling it would be disrespectful to write about ghosts aboard this sacred ship. But then it came to me: If I don’t write this book, somebody else will. And how can I guarantee they will do it as respectfully as I can. As a Marine Corps daughter, Navy veteran, Navy wife, and mother of an Army infantryman who fought in the War on Terror, I decided I was qualified to write it. I figured if I could empower the spirits with some control over the ship, the crisis, and their destiny, it would allow them to move from victim to victor. By the way, I’ve worked on this book for two years and I still get goose bumps. 

My husband and I entertained some Royal Navy officers several years ago. One Sub-Lieutenant said the following: (You have to read the following with a British accent) “I know. For your next novel, you’re going to write about an officer exchange program between the U.S. and Royal Navies. The British officer will go to the American ship and fall in love. And the American will go to the British ship and fall in love. See? Two love stories.” So Never Forget tells the love stories of two officers who exchange jobs. The British officer, Gwyn Pritchard, is in for a bigger surprise than just falling in love however, when she reports aboard the USS New York and sees 9/11 spirits.

E.E.: What drew you to write military romance?

Heather: For starters, I’m a Navy vet who loves to read romance. So setting my romance novels in the military comes naturally. I fell in love with Suzanne Brockmann and Merline Lovelace’s military romances in the early part of this century when my Army son was deployed.

E.E.: Can you tell us about a real-life hero that you’ve met?

Heather: That would be my son. He had some troubles in his younger years, culminating in being “asked to leave college.” So, he joined the Army, but since this was pre-9/11, he had no idea he would be searching caves for Taliban on his 21st birthday—or helping to take Baghdad on his 22nd. Praise God, he survived 18 months of combat and came home a heroic and mature man. He went on to graduate with honors not only from college, but also from graduate school. Today he continues to serve his country as a civil servant in Washington D.C. In thanksgiving for his safe return, I donate half my royalties to Fisher House Foundation in support of wounded warriors and their families. My (handsome) son showed his support for that by posing for the “Love in the Fleet” book covers

E.E.: What is easier for you, writing or storytelling?

Heather: Storytelling. I’m a former elementary school teacher. One of the things I miss most is storytelling. I’m a drama queen, so I love to climb inside the characters and use their voices and mannerisms. I have to work hard to convey that emotion and voice into words on the page.

E.E.: If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?

You mean, besides full-time Grandma? J I would be an artist. I taught myself to draw in one day at the age of 48. (I went from stick figures to this painting by reading Betty Edward’s Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain.) Then I ventured into painting: watercolors, acrylics, pastels, and oils. Since I’m ADHD, I gave away all my paints until my books are done, so I wouldn’t be distracted by dabbling. Once I finish writing books, the next chapter of my life will be to fill my house with my own paintings (when not playing Grandma.) My goal is to paint thick, vivid, color-filled paintings similar to Matisse and the other Fauves. 

E.E.: Boy I love that painting. You're a natural artist. What would you say is your most interesting quirk?

Heather: My dad was a musician and dancer, so I grew up marinated in music. All kinds of music. You name it, we played it. And we danced to it. Today, music is my number one addiction. When I take a break from writing, I slip into the world of music. 5:00 every evening has me plugging in my IPod and running on the beach. (Hubby refers to it as “Heather pounding sand.”) I don’t care who sees me lip-syncing to the songs, dancing my way down the beach, or even playing a bit of air guitar now and then. Since my current book is about the Royal Navy, I am accompanied most afternoons by Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and all the boys as we galumph our way down the shore. When I have the right music playing in my ears, the endorphins kick in and my soul goes into the zone. And, as my British characters would say, it’s a brilliant and bl**dy marvelous break from writing all day long.

E.E.: What dreams have you realized as a result of your writing?

Heather: Um…for starters, did you see the author quote on the cover of Never Forget? Suzanne Brockmann was one of the authors who inspired me to write military romance. To receive her endorsement on this book is beyond my wildest dreams.

But truly, my original dream was realized when I received the following email from a female service member: “I am a Navy surgeon stationed in Afghanistan. I wanted to thank you for writing Forgive and Forget. Reading romance novels keep me sane.” It was accompanied by a photograph of her reading my book, while sitting in a field of brown rocks—with nothing but more rocks and a high compound wall covered in concertina wire in the background. This woman’s job is to put our Marines back together! She was exactly who I had in mind when I started writing my books: to offer a brief escape to our women down range and at sea. And to portray our women in uniform as heroines—which they most definitely are. I love hearing from my military readers that I have “taken them away from it all—if only for a while.” And a surprise was hearing from civilian readers that they felt as if they’d vicariously joined the Navy! 
E.E.: From what do you draw inspiration?

Heather: My day starts with prayer, because a day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel. I close this way: “Send me where you need me. Show me what you need me to do.” And then I go where I’m sent and I do what I’m asked to do. I was a pretty darn creative and successful elementary school teacher for 18 years and then suddenly I found myself retiring early and writing the book of my heart (Forgive and Forget.) I had no idea the path I would take from there—that I’d be raising money for Fisher House in thanksgiving for my son. Or that I’d be writing about healing—first a Navy pilot with survivor guilt (Forget Me Not), then a Marine with combat PTSD—along with offering a healing story about 9/11 (Never Forget.) What inspires me the most though, is when I meet people who tell me how they’ve healed their hurts; how they’ve turned negative forces into positive results. (Kind of like USS New York rising from the ashes like the Phoenix on the ship’s crest.) And if I can play any part in that…if I can reach one person who reads my books and seeks healing, or guides someone close to them to seek healing, then I know I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I was asked to do.

You can find Heather here:
Twitter: @HAshbyAuthor
Facebook: Heather Ashby Author
Never Forget http://amzn.to/1lFC9Ua
Amazon Author: http://amzn.to/WuQy9Y

Heather, thank you so much for joining us on such a fitting date. You have truly inspired me and I can't wait to read your book. 

Heather and her publisher, Amber House, are giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of Never Forget for one lucky commenter. The question she would like to leave for our readers:

What inspires YOU daily? Or, feel free to share a healing story – either here or privately at heatherashbyauthor@gmail.com. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

45 comments:

  1. Welcome Heather! So glad you joined us today! I agree that prayer is a wonderful way to start the day. As for my inspiration, it comes from many places: books, art, television, movies, music. Historical events inspire me. Today, you've inspired me!

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    1. Thanks so much for inviting me today, E.E. I always enjoy this blog. Today things are a bit more serious than usual and I thank you for allowing me to share this book about love and healing - for both our troops and 9/11. AND it sounds like everything inspires you. Must be why you are such an interesting person and your books are so good!

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  2. A wonderful post thank you. I have NEVER FORGET on my wish list.

    My mother inspires me. She turns 90 next birthday & lives a very active independent life. For example: she knits lap rugs for the "old folk" at the nursing home. Mind you, most are decades younger than her.

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    1. LOVE IT, Mary!!! You mother sounds awesome!! Love the idea of nurturing "the old folks" - when they're younger than her. Give her a hug for me next time you see her. She truly is an inspiration.

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  3. Great interview, Heather. It's great to learn more about one of my favourite authors :-)

    My inspiration usually comes to me when I'm doing mundane things like washing dishes or taking a shower. Sometimes, a song would really capture my feeling at that time :-)

    Catherine

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    1. I know that YOU, like ME get inundated with inspiration at the oddest moments. I think it's because we don't' "do boring," so washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms allows our minds to wander. If I'm correct, you came up with one of the very best lines for FORGIVE AND FORGET while washing dishes, my dear Critique Partner! :-) Write ON!!!

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  4. Wonderful interview. I'm inspired every day by my mother. She battled cancer and beat it and still remains the strongest person I know.

    thebigbluewall77 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. What a beautiful story, Anita! God bless your mom! If you click on the photo of me with the ship's crest above, you can see there is a Phoenix rising from the ashes, just like the New York did. Your mom is a Firebird too. Not only coming back stronger than ever, but inspiring others to do the same. Blessings to both of you.

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  5. What a great interview. My 2 daughters inspire me everyday. They make me laugh and remind me there is a lot of love around.

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  6. And I'm sure you are a light in their lives as well! What a beautiful sentiment, May. My grandson does the same for me. No matter what is going on in the world, he brings cheer and happiness.

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  7. Heather, YOU inspire me. Your outlook on life, you commitment to your family and God. You have been such a great friend. I am so glad we finalled in the Golden Heart in the same year. You are one of my sisters of the heart. Thank you for just being you! Oh, and I LOVE your books, too. :)

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  8. WOW, Terri, I could pretty much print that out and take it to the bank!!! And YOU inspire me too. You have survived and God has HUGE plans for you! And I know it has something to do with animals and books…and your very strong faith. Sending you a BIG, Firebird hug!!!

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  9. Heather, you have shown me inspiration comes from the divine. It is quite impressive that your novels take us beyond storytelling and romance. While ever-so entertaining, they speak to a deep sense of patriotism. Your personal depth of character is reflected in your subject matter. You are the inspiration I will "Never Forget!"

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  10. Susan, you have just left me momentarily speechless - not an easy feat. I have learned that inspiration IS divine, and if we listen very carefully and trust wholeheartedly, we will be led in the right direction. Thank you for these kind words. I have a motto that wherever my writing career takes me, it will not be based on numbers or sales, but by connection with "One Reader At A Time." I'm so glad we could connect today. Blessings to you and yours.

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  11. Welcome to GLIAS! I love how you begin each day with a prayer so it won't unravel. Congratulations on your book!

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  12. Thanks, Vicki. It's alway great to visit Get Lost In A Story! Write ON!

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  13. "My day starts with prayer, because a day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel."

    What a wonderful thought! Welcome to GLIAS.
    ~Angi

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  14. Thanks for the welcome, Angi. I may have stolen that line from a calendar some 20 years ago, but I DO know it works! Write on, Angi!!!

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  15. I am so very proud to be publishing this book through Amber House Books! It gave the best sort of chill bumps and a genuine sense of healing that my still-bruised heart desperately needed on this anniversary of 9/11.

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    1. It doesn't get much better than this! Your words mean so much to me, Teresa, and I am honored to be publishing with you! I think we will always have bruised hearts re 9/11, but if we can offer a ray of hope and perhaps a bit of healing for our troops, we will have accomplished our mission. Thank you for believing in this story and in me. Blessings.

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  16. Fabulous interview! You are my inspiration, my friend, and a favorite author. You lead by example, and offer so much to your family, friends and readers. Can't wait to read Never Forget...and add it to Forgive & Forget...and Forget Me Not. Best wishes... Suzanne

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne. You've been such an awesome cheerleader through this writing journey! I appreciate all of your support and can't wait to read your books! Better dust off those wings and get back to work :-) Write on, girlfriend!!!

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  17. Family

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. I'm glad your family inspires you too, bn100. Thanks for stopping by.

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  18. Hello, Heather, my Amber House Books sister! Just dropping by to say I love you and appreciate SO MUCH your military service! Romance and Protecting our great US . . . Pretty much the best things I can think of today! XXOO - Beckie

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    1. Thanks, Beckie, my dear Amber House sister! It IS so nice to find positive things to associate with today. Did that make sense? LOL. Thanks so much for your support! Big hugs!!!

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  19. Such a fantastic interview, Heather, and so nice to see what everyone else is inspired by! For me, I'm inspired by a good friend of mine I met during my days at university. She's shown me what true heart and perseverance and strength of character really is. Unfortunately, she was born with a defect that has taken away the ability to use her legs so she's bound to a wheelchair - however, that doesn't stop her from living the fullest life I've seen! She's done marathons, goes on many trips and is way more active than a lot of able-body people I know :) She's the real inspiration to get off my butt!!

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    1. She sounds fantastic, Ada! Doesn't it just make you stop your complaining when you see someone like that embracing life and living life to the fullest! I have a dear friend like that who has been blind since 3rd grade. NOTHING stops her! We were stationed with her and her husband in Japan. She learned the language, then traveled all over the country with just her guide dog! Nothing gets this woman down. Everyone should have people like her and your friend in their lives to inspire them. Cyber hugs to your and your friend, Ada!

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  20. Hmmm. Got to try "pounding sand" if it leads to this level of awesomeness!

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    1. You crack me up, Beth Irwin!!! SOOON! You are SOOO CLOSE!!! Hugs.

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  21. My family inspires everyday and made into the person I am today.

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    1. How lovely, Tempestt! What a beautiful tribute to your family! Thanks for stopping by.

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  22. Wonderful interview. Congratulations Heather on the new release.

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    1. That seems to be a top answer, Andrea. So glad you have such a special family. Blessings.

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  24. Thanks, Sandy. And thanks for stopping by!

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  25. My two sons inspire me, without a doubt! I have so very much enjoyed 'finding' Heather! The amazing Suzanne Brockmann 'pimped' her and I latched on with both arms! I currently reading Never Forget and I know I'll be waiting IMPATIENTLY for book 4! LOVE your books, Heather!

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    1. Yay for your sons, Tammy! Yes, Suzanne Brockmann is AMAZING! I LOVE her books and her writer's voice! She is the author that inspired me to try my hand at military romance. I'm so glad you're enjoying NEVER FORGET. You might want to read Books 1 and 2 and get to know Philip and Sky, while my Marine and I finish Book 4. Please pass the word because we do split out royalties with Fisher House Foundation. So glad to have you on board, Tammy!

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  26. Inspiring interview. Love the concept.

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    1. Thanks. It came over me with a case of the chills and I sat on it for awhile. But in the end I knew I had to write it. I believe it brings peace to the spirit characters and I've even heard from a few 9/11 family members that they received healing from reading the story.

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  27. What inspires me daily is the fact that I have a job I love and a home of my own when many don't. I have family that I love and they love me. I've managed to live to the age of 62, when so many haven't made it. I count my blessings every day.

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  28. Good of for you for appreciating what you have, Barbara. I think so many people take these things for granted and complain about what they don't have. So many of us are so blessed with these wonderful things: A job we love, a home, a family we love. And yes to making it to 62 and going strong. I'll drink to that since I am the same age :-) I'm glad you count your blessings every day. I do too.

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  29. Thank you for writing an inspiring story.. My parents inspire me even though they are both gone.

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  30. I'm glad to hear that, Girlygirl. Our parents instilled a lot of things in us that we will not only carry with us for the rest of our lives, but our children often carry them too. My parents still inspire me today, too. As a matter of fact, I loosely based my hero in NEVER FORGET on my late father, also a Marine…and a gentleman.

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  31. What a wonderful and beautiful interview which resonates with me. My 4 grandchildren who were born so close together in the past 2 years inspire me daily with their adorable comments, wise and amazing outlook and their adorable and sweetness. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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