When you’re here, you’re family.

I don’t know if you all remember this summer where I struggled some – I was pretty much unable to do much of anything – just breathing was exhausting. I’d walk down the stairs, then lie down on the hall floor to catch my breath. 

That’s how I was feeling when I wrote this book. 

I had 8000 words left to write, my arms felt like they were filled with lead and anytime I moved it felt like I was lifting weights in quicksand.

The idea of writing 8000 words felt as impossible as walking to the moon.

I needed to finish this book, though. 

I didn’t feel like I could do anything other than lie down. So I got a little creative.

Julia was a sweetheart and brought the four wheeler over to the edge of the porch, so all I had to do was get myself out the door. I drove to the top of our far cow pasture (and I’ll be honest – I had to stop twice and catch my breath, just from driving). I laid down on the four wheeler seat with my legs over the handlebars, resting on the front rack and dictated the last 8000 words into my phone while staring at the view. 

I’ve shared before how I feel like everything I write is junk. That’s the truth about how I feel. I’m sure you understand that for this book, that feeling was so much worse. I’m not even sure I could have told you what the book was about after I’d finished.

Again, I’ve told you that this verse from Corinthians, And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me, is really all I can claim for this book. Anything that’s good in it is from the Lord, because it most definitely wasn’t me.

Isn’t it ironic that this is my favorite Cowboy Crossing book? lol

Maybe not, since it’s the book that God wrote. 

Anyway, waiting on this audio was so hard.

This audio didn’t come out when it was supposed to and when it did finally come out, because of a bunch of different things, I haven’t been able to say anything about it. 

I do know, however that God has a plan for my life, and for my books and for the audios that Jay and I do together. 

I’ve heard other authors say their books are like their children and they don’t have favorites.

Well, I’m not that mature, I guess.

This really is my favorite book in the Cowboy Crossing series.

It’s also my all-time favorite Jay audio. Everything he does is fantastic, and he’s made some wonderful audios, both before this one and after it, so that’s really saying something.

There are two reasons why I love this audio so much.

First off, in this recording, Jay did something really cool with Zane’s voice.

If you’ve read the book, you know at the beginning Zane hasn’t had too much experience with kids and especially with girls/women, and while he’s just gotten custody of his girls, he doesn’t really know how to relate to them, or to females at all. He’s a little rough and totally manish.

Jay captures this beautifully with Zane’s voice tones at the beginning.

You know, that’s one of the really fun things about working with Jay.

He’ll chat about how he thinks the voices ought to sound, and he’ll ask what I think (which, you know, makes me feel important, lol) and he comes up with some really fun and neat ideas (the way he does the phone calls and the text messages, for just one example) and most of the time when we’re working on an audio, I feel like he’s completely invested in producing the most immersive and enjoyable listener experience possible.

Jay is truly one-of-a-kind.

He definitely has an amazing talent with voices, but he also has the technical skills to make the actual sound clear and perfect. All of you who read his newsletter earlier this year know there’s a lot more that goes into making an audio than a microphone and a record button. : )

Beyond that, and honestly, I think this is really the key as to what makes Jay such an awesome story-teller – he understands story. I have some speculations as to why, but I’m already embarrassing him enough (for today, lol), so I’ll just say, I think it’s more of an intuitive knowledge.

He understands the building blocks and structure of story, the importance of turning points, the dynamics and tension imperative to dialogue and probably best and most important, he understands character – wounds and backstory, motivations and arcs, how that fits in the larger plot and how it all needs to come together to create a satisfying ending.

He’s never articulated this to me, and we’ve never talked about it, it’s just something I’ve been noticing as I listen to him.

That said, I’ll admit, honestly, when Jay said he wanted to develop Zane’s voice as his character developed, I was a little skeptical. But, having worked with him for a while now, he’s blown me away plenty of times before, and I knew I needed to just relax and trust him, because he absolutely had the talent to pull this off too.

Boy, did he ever! That’s one of my favorite things about this audio – how Jay did the evolution of Zane’s voice. I’ve never heard anything like it, and it really makes this audio bring Zane to life in a special and unique way.

Which, leads me to the other thing that makes me love this audio so very much.

I don’t know if it was the voices or just the way Jay built the character development into his acting or what, but in my opinion, this book has the best and most emotionally satisfying romance performance Jay has ever done.

Just a bit ago I mentioned Jay’s intrinsic understanding of story. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that romance wasn’t a genre that Jay spent a lot of time in for most of his life. 

He was good at it to begin with, but his delivery has matured, and, I believe, he’s gained the confidence to take a little more risk.

I was trying to think of words to explain this, and I couldn’t. So I’m going to try to give you an analogy.

I can say:  The skillet was hot.

Or I can say:  A drop of blood dripped from the gash on her finger splattered onto the cast iron where it sizzled for an instant before it turned nasty brown and started to smoke.

The first sentence gives you facts. In the second one, you certainly know the skillet is hot, (I don’t even say there’s a skillet) but it also creates a mood and a scene and elicits emotion as well. 

For me, that’s the change that has happened in Jay’s narration of romance. From a voice that has the right words and tone to voices and delivery that hold loads of tension and nuances of emotion with a finesse in delivery that “shows” the characters and the relationship development and story rather than telling it. 

It came out first in his dialogue (which makes sense, since that’s always been one of his strongest points) and it’s coming out now in the introspection and narration.

Pretty much everyone I talk to agrees that Jay has been getting better with every audio he does, but for some reason – possibly, like I said, the way he did the character arcs – the way he led up to the romantic scenes in this book made the emotions feel so organic to the story that I was too enthralled to remember the words were mine or to to do more than listen, totally spellbound and completely swept away.

For me, Jay has proved over and over again that he is talented at voices and bringing worlds to life and capturing personalities and characters – that he knows and understands story – but in this audio, the way he builds the romance and shows the developing relationship, the emotions he draws out and the feelings that are intrinsic to his voice…he shows that he is an absolute master at building and drawing out the richness and beauty and emotions of romance.

Jay has woven ALL tingly feelings, the deepening emotions and the delicious anticipation into this romance, and it will curl your toes. I promise!

Okay, I’m sorry, I spent a little more time on that than I usually do, but I’m not kidding about how much I love this story and that this audio is my hands-down favorite. I also wanted to explain what I loved about what Jay did. For me, when I read romance, I don’t want to get hit over the head with the love story – I want to feel it. Jay did that so amazingly well in this audio.

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving! I was in PA with my whole family for the first time since March, and it was pretty fantastic. We had Chinese food the night before after the boys got done working, and I had to laugh because they fought over who got to sit beside me. Used to be they fought over who had to sit beside me. lol

Anyway, we had a bunch of extras at our Thanksgiving table, one of whom had never eaten “real” American food before. (I kind of laugh at the idea that my cooking is “real” American food. I kind of make stuff on a wing and a prayer and consider it success if it’s not too burnt to be edible, although my mother said my boys have said they miss my cooking, which I suppose goes to show that children really can be brainwashed.)

So, our guest who had never eaten American food didn’t know much English, either. Throughout the meal we kind of explained a few things to him.

Eventually we were talking about getting some wreaths for the fence on our driveway, and he stopped us, wanting to know what a wreath was.

My mom was a school teacher, and she taught junior high, so maybe that explains this, but she said, “It’s a circle, just like a toilet seat.”

There was one of those long silences after she said that. (So funny to think that my mother shocked my boys into silence.)

I guess you’re never too old for your parents to embarrass you. 

Turns out it wasn’t that embarrassing because he didn’t know what a toilet seat was either.

So my mom explained that to him.

I guess when you’re here you’re family.

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