My novels are about pain—pain as an obstacle to love. But here is the paradox: While it is true that pain is an obstacle to love, love is the only true remedy for pain.

My stories include many kinds of pain: physical as well as emotional; grief from loss of loved ones as well as self-hatred for causing grief by killing the loved ones of others; depression from PTSD as well as despair from alcoholism; and more. All of these pains are obstacles to love—obstacles to finding love, to falling in love, to staying in love and to giving love. But in each case, the only true remedy to the obstacle is love, which is paradoxical.

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For the novels in my series, Once Upon a Time in the Texas Panhandle, I invented a town named “Mackenzie,” after Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie. In retrospect, I think a better name would have been “Leetown,” after Gen. Robert E. Lee. Underlying my stories is the idea that in the decades after the American Civil War, bands of ex-Confederate soldiers and their families established new towns across the Texas Panhandle that would continue the values and ideals of the “Old South” and the “Southern Way of Life.”

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In my novels, I explore the ways in which the symbols and memories of the Old South have influenced me—to this day. How do I see people as a result of growing up when and where I did? How do I interpret American history? How to I see people who are not white like I am? Where do I stand on the issue of removing Confederate flags and Confederate statues from public places?

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My stories always have a happy ending. Why is that? Actually, they not only have a happy ending, but they always end, “and they lived happily ever after.” That is, there is no doubt that nothing will happen that will keep the two people in the romance from staying together the rest of their lives … and in love—no matter what!

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            My novels come from my experience growing up in the Texas Panhandle in the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s. This was during and after World War II, during and after the Korean War, before the Civil Rights Movement, and before Vietnam.

            When I was growing up, there were two underlying cultural influences in Texas: the Alamo and Appomattox—the memory of the War with Mexico, and the memory of the War Between the States (the American Civil War).

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People often ask me why I write romance novels, rather than some other genre. Well, I didn’t plan it that way. But it seems that no matter what I set out to write about, it ends up a romance of one kind or another. By “romance,” I mean a love relationship between two persons—of whatever ages … or even of the same sex.

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  I’ve always liked “Runaway Bride” stories. It’s a genre unto itself. As my wife and I meandered down the winding, narrow canyon drive, I began to imagine a runaway bride, who was lost and running out of gas in one of the many rustic campsites along Oak Creek.

            In this genre—actually a sub-genre within romantic fiction—brides run away for all sorts of reasons. I imagined that the bride in my story was running away from an arranged marriage. I pictured her in a car she had stolen from the gentleman whom she was being forced by her family to marry. She was coming from Texas and going west to California. I saw her ending up in a campsite of a man who was coming from California and going east to Texas.

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In most of my novels, I bring in interracial relationships. Why? First of all, my marriage is such a relationship. I am a white man who is married to a Latina. For young people today, that’s no big deal. But for the older generations, who are the majority and who politically are in control, it still is a big deal—whether they will admit it or not.

            It is hard for a young person today to grasp the idea of going to jail for marrying a person of another race. But until 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, over half of the states—and at one time two-thirds of the states—made what was called “miscegenation” a crime, punishable by imprisonment. (See: Loving v. Virginia.) That is, if a white person married a person who was legally non-white, the two parties were subject to criminal punishment and their marriage was not recognized—similar to the situation today for same-sex relationships in some states.

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“Sir, you don’t understand! They’re going to find me and drag me back to Albuquerque.”

“Miss Dalton, I’m a combat veteran—from the war in Korea. ... And I assure you: No one will drag you away ... not while you’re under my protection, which you are—as of now. So come and eat breakfast.”

“Can we at least hide the car first and cover it so it can’t be seen from the road?”

“Get behind the wheel. I’ll push. We’ll park it on the other side of my army truck and I’ll cover it with a tarp. ... Then come and eat. I’m starving for my trout. And if you want, I’ll scramble you some eggs and make some toast. If you like potatoes, I’ll fry some. And I have orange juice. I myself will just have trout—nothing else to spoil the taste of the trout.”

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It was 7:00 a.m. on May 30, 1955, Decoration Day— or Memorial Day as the federal holiday was becoming known—in honor of soldiers who had died while serving in the nation’s armed forces. Recently mustered-out Korean War veteran Captain Silas A. McGuiness was smartly crossing through the parking area of his campsite alongside Oak Creek in the Coconino National Forest of central Arizona. His large officer command tent, which was set up at the back of the site and under the shade of tall oak trees, was proudly decorated with a U.S. flag hanging from the left flap of the tent’s entrance. His olive-drab U.S. Army M35 two-and-a-half-ton 6x6 cargo truck—with a big white star on either of the cab doors—was parked to the right of the tent.

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The first thing that happens when I begin to write is that one of the characters wakes up in the morning with something in mind to do. I know what that character plans to do, but life is not like that. We all make plans, but we never know what is going to happen—whether we will get to carry out our plans. And my characters—they set out to go somewhere, do something, see somebody. But they don’t really know what is going to happen. They hope it happens the way they have planned, but that’s not life.

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Suffering from “shell shock,” as they called PTSD in World War I, Billy had gone to New Mexico and married into a Navajo Indian tribe. In 1947, when he died in an automobile accident, he left two Indian granddaughters, Alice and Harriet Landergin. What if Julia went to Gallup next to the Navajo Reservation and brought the two little girls home, to raise as her own?

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I’ve reached the age—my seventies—at which I hope I have something worth telling. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, been a lot of places and met a lot of people. Hopefully, I have learned from all my experiences, and so I have something worth telling people. And my way of telling people is through my novels.

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The novel is not a war story. It’s a love story and an adult romance. Nadya is a human being who doesn’t even know that she is also an angel. By falling in love with a suicidal veteran, she slowly brings him back home and restores his will to live. She keeps “Joe” from dying. So that now when I remember him, I remember going to his funeral, after “Joe” died an old man, surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

That’s why I wrote this Flying Tiger story.

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Now, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jack admiring her. She knew that all he could see was her profile, but apparently that was enough. Finally—it was already almost ten and he had been there since six—Jack got up, bent down, and gave Tayla a gentle kiss on her forehead, whispering, “Good night.” This was the only thing he had said in the last four hours! He then went strolling to his car, got in, started the motor and disappeared into the night.

Tayla couldn’t move for another hour, thinking about Jack.

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Her name was Tayla—Tayla Neel. In September of 1959, she lived in the Golden Spread Trailer Park, a refugee camp of next-to-homeless people at the far northeastern corner of Mackenzie, Texas. The snobby crowd at her high school laughingly called her “Trayla Trash.”

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