Countdown to True Heroes – Day 3

I lied.  I promised that today would be about the tattoo.  Alas, I took a day off and went to see 13 Hours in the theater.  Wow, that was True Heroes on display. 

So, tomorrow I'll brief you on the tattoo.

Today, I though it would be fun to just sit back and see what these guys are all about.  BTW, the entire NatGeo series is available on YouTube if you want to get inside the lives of the PJs.

Here's a tribute.


I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 2.  The Tattoo!




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Countdown to True Heroes – Day 4


Welcome back for Day 4 of the Countdown to the True Heroes Military Romance series.

Today, we’re going to talk about THE PIPELINE. 


Excerpt from True Honor

At seven minutes after midnight, Chris gave up the battle and dialed the phone.

“You can't sleep, either?” Claire said when she picked up the phone.

“Not for weeks, it seems.”

“Where are you?”

He smiled—it came hard. “Is that like what are you wearing?

She laughed. “No, I just wondered if you were in bed.”

“That doesn't sound much better, Captain.”

“I'm thinking that attorney-client relationship doesn't include phone sex, Champ.”

He laughed. “That's all right. I have a headache.”


“For weeks, it seems.”

“You want to come swim in my pool?” she said.

“It's not closed for the night?”

“It's not locked. What are they going to do, throw us in jail for swimming after midnight? I know a good lawyer or two. We'll be out in five on good behavior.”

“I'll meet you there in fifteen minutes. And Claire, be quiet about it.”

In the end, they didn't swim much after the first burst of frustration had them racing. She was good. He was better.

Then, they sat on the steps in the pool—the water was warmer than the air—and talked.

He told her about the pipeline. She'd been unfamiliar with the nickname.

“It's a succession of schools for pararescue—Superman School. Let's see. Indoc. Airborne. Combat Diver. Underwater Egress.” He enumerated on his fingers. “Basic Survival. Freefall. Combat Medic. Recovery Specialist. We had to swim two thousand meters in open water in BDUs, drown proof. You name it, we did it. Few of us got through without drowning at least once.”

“I've heard you guys are actually better trained than SEALs.”

“Don't let a SEAL hear you say that.”


U.S. Air Force Capt. William Chase, a pararescueman with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, looks out as red smoke from a smoke grenade engulfs his position during a joint mass casualty exercise near Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, on May 20, 2009.  A Guardian Angel team from the unit worked alongside U.S. Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to recover simulated isolated personnel in an austere environment.  DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph L. Swafford Jr., U.S. Air Force.  (Released)A recent article from GruntStyle named the Air Force PJ school the hardest of all special forces schools.

Here's the list from the

The process of becoming a PJ is informally known as ‘The Pipeline’. Almost two years long, it’s one of the longest special operations training courses in the world. It also has one of the highest attrition rates in the entire U.S. special operations community at approximately 80%.

Air Force Basic Military Training – 9 weeks

Air Force Pararesuce/Combat Rescue Office Development Course – 2 weeksdc27bd6fa6c65753457529c5eeb5c10c

Air Force Pararescue / Combat Rescue Officer Indoctrination Course – 9 weeksAir Force Combat Diver Course – 6 weeks

Air Force Underwater Egress Training – 1 day

Air Force Basic Survival School – 3 weeks

Army Airborne School – 3 weeks

Army Military Freefall Parachutist School – 5 weeks

Air Force Pararescue EMT-Paramedic Course – 22 weeks

Air Force Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course – 24 weeks


You see why Claire was impressed.  Better trained than SEALS?  Well, don't tell a SEAL that.

Join us for day 3 of the countdown tomorrow when I'll tell you about the tattoo.





PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!





Countdown to True Heroes – Day 5

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham

True Hero

Jason was 26 years old, an Air Force PJ.

The battle is called Roberts Ridge, named for Neil Roberts, a SEAL who had earlier been thrown from a helicopter that was downed by enemy fire.  Roberts was stranded on Takur Ghar, a 10K foot mountain in Afghanistan.

Two rescue helicopters were sent in to rescue Neil, but they were too late.  Neil was dead.  The two helicopters were quickly disabled by the guerrillas and a 17-hour battle began.

Our hero, Jason Cunninghan and Army medic Cory Lamereaux gave medical care to the wounded.  Jason moved his wounded team mates three times, each time coming under enemy fire while doing so. 

As the enemy moved in, both men fought off the attackers.  Both men were shot.  Lamereaux was hit in the belly but survived. 

Jason was shot in the small of his back, through his pelvis.  The bullet shattered his liver.  He was really ticked about the whole thing and said he couldn’t believe they shot him. 

Lamereaux and anotheJason Cunningham funeralr medic knew Jason needed surgery immediately.  They worked to save him as the commander called for help. 

There would be no help for hours, until after dark when it was safer.

Nothing the medics did could keep Jason from slipping away.

The former sailor, who had become an Air Force pararescueman because he wanted to help others, died at 6 p.m.

The medivac arrived 90 minutes later.10531494_114833270022

Jason Dean Cunningham is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Jason was a True Hero that day.  But not just that day.  He fought to save lives every day of his PJ career.  One battle he won changed field medicine forever.  Jason spearheaded the battle with the DoD to get blood products into the prehospital setting – first in the military and now in civilian emergency systems.  There is no way to know how many lives Jason Cunningham saved because of his determination to push that through. 

Certainly more than the ten he saved on Roberts Ridge.


Countdown to True Heroes – Day 6

Welcome back for Day 6 of the Countdown to the True Heroes Military Romance series.

Today, we’re going to talk about crashing helicopters.

Yesterday, I pointed you to the blog post about my technical advisor and friend Bill Leroy.  If you read that post, you know that Bill was instrumental (get it – instrumental) in helping me write the scene in which our Colonel crashes his Black Hawk.  I could have researched for a year and not gotten the scene right.  Leave it to the guy who actually flew the PJs in and out of danger.  What a hero our Cowboy Bill is.  (Could be why the call sign of that helo is Leroy08 – just sayin’)

Over Coffee


Over coffee we wrote and then tweaked that scene until it was just right.



But before our Colonel crashes his helo, let’s see how he feels about watching another commander crash his.  The prologue of True Courage has our heroes watching as this event unfold on their television. 



The first commandment of aviation: Thou shalt maintain thy airspeed, lest the ground rise up and smite thee.

Lieutenant Colonel Rick McIntyre’s PJs often attributed a sinister motivation to the mountain. Sometimes they even kept score—Yosemite, 3, Humans, 0.

But he’d never really bought into it. Now, as he watched the Black Hawk tumble down Mount Hood, he was beginning to reconsider.

Retirement—fishing to be exact—was looking pretty good right about now.

He didn’t know who the pilot was, but he felt for him.

Rick had been in midsentence, leaning over the map-strewn table that took up over half of David Quillen’s office. He still wore his coat, not having gotten warm yet from the walk inside. If he wanted to be this cold, he’d live in Colorado or go home to Minnesota.

It was the tone of the voice, rather than the words, that reached in from the outer room and silenced him. Made him listen.

“Sirs, get out here,” someone hollered again.

On cue, both David and Rick moved. Fast.

Not ten minutes earlier, Rick had passed the dayroom, saying hello to members of Bravo Element who lounged around the room, eating a late lunch and watching Fox News. Their lack of movement when he passed by made him smile. Yet, he fervently hoped—not for the first time—that had a general walked in, the boys would have shown a bit more respect.

It had taken him years to instill their casual disregard for his rank, and when it came right down to it, they never balked when he gave an order.

Now, as he entered the dayroom, there was no lounging. Nic D’Onofrio and Eric Cruz sat forward on the couch. Chris Gabriel stood behind them. Joey Amonte and Will Pitkin flanked the television in raggedy, mismatched recliners, fully engaged with the drama playing out on the nineteen-inch screen.

“The chopper was hovering when it just seemed to dip its nose into the mountain and then it just dropped and rolled,” said the stunned commentator. “This Air Force rescue helicopter is part of the 304th Rescue Squadron based in Portland…”

“Holy shit,” Quillen whispered in a most un-Quillen-like way.

Rick’s stomach clenched as the ten-ton Jolly Green nosed into the snow and pitched obscenely—almost in slow motion—down the side of Mt. Hood. Its rotors splintered as it tumbled, and about the third time they showed it, he could make out one of the crew members being ejected before the chopper rolled over him.

Every commander’s nightmare—endangering the lives of your guys. Every pilot’s nightmare—getting your crew, your patient or yourself killed. At least, the crew had the foresight to release the hoist cable to the Stokes litter that held the patient, dropping him to safety before the tumble.

Never mind the high-dollar frown on the faces of the pencil pushers.

And, in this case, never mind the complete humiliation of crashing your bird as the cameras rolled.

For the next few weeks, every time he flew, that image played in his head. God only knew how the crew, several of which having been rolled over by the helo on its slow descent, lived. The others, initially enmeshed in the wreckage, miraculously made it as well.

Wild ride.

Lucky bastards. It wasn’t their day to die.


I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 5.  We’ll talk about a true-life hero. 




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Countdown to True Heroes – Day 7

Hello and WELCOME to the countdown to the True Heroes series.   For the next seven days, I’ll tell you a bit more about my PJs, about True Heroes, and about. . . well . . . me.

Today is Day 7 (since we’re counting down).  Kinda wonder if it should be Day 1 – but then how would you know if you'd ever get there?  Never mind.

I’ve already introduced both PJs in general here, and my PJs here.  I’ve told you about my extraordinary technical advisor here.  So I won’t repeat those now. 

When I first was looking for a hook for a romance series, I knew I wanted to do military romance.  It seemed like there were many romance writers featuring Navy Seals.  And I considered that for a while.  But I’m just a bit too rebellious, I guess.  I wanted something different.

I’d worked for yccsarears on a high mountain Search and Rescue unit and considered using SAR as my hook.

I’d been pondering for a while when I turned out the light one night and I had an AHA moment.  PJs.  We worked with the PJs when we had helicopter rescues.  I knew a little about them but decided at that moment that I’d found my hook. 

After a lot of research and my infamous search for a technical advisor, I jumped in.

Great_Plains_Eastern_New_Mexico_2004The first book True Valor, was born one day when I was driving from the city up to my mountain paradise.  It was a long stretch of flat road – you know the sort – that road when you wonder if there’s anyone left on earth.  Well, as I drove, I was listening to something on the radio and sorta zoned out for a couple seconds.  When I zoned back in, for an instant I didn’t know where I was. 

Thus Nic and Julie’s story was born.

What if you found yourself in your car, dressed in your pajamas, and you could only remember your first name?  What if you were a PJ who had just buried his best friend and comes upon this damsel in distress?

So that’s the origin of the first book.  From there, I planned out the rest of a five-book series. 

And since I truly believe that our military men are True Heroes, that’s what I titled the series. 

Just for fun recently, I asked my facebook friends to tell me the qualities of a hero.  Here’s their list.


A List from my Facebook Friends

Heroic Qualities

Self sacrifice
X-Ray Vision smile emoticon
Wise judgement
Fearless (runs into the danger)
Willingness to sacrifice all they have for all they believe in

Pretty good, huh?  I thought so too.

Then, I had to come up with five titles.  And thinking of the heroes and the stories in each book, that part was pretty easy.


FullSizeRender_3 Sized

I hope you’ll return tomorrow for Countdown day 6.  We’ll talk about crashing helicopters. 




PS – Be sure to join my email list for updates, contests and giveaways, and more!

Military Romance Cover Reveal: True Valor

True Valor

Romance can be a surprise, even if you're ready for everything…

Parajumper Nic D'Onofrio just buried his best friend. The motto of his rescue squad is Simpliciter Paratus: Absolutely Ready, but the only thing Nic feels ready for is vacation. After finding a damsel in distress on the side of the road, he can't help but spring into action.

Julie is stranded, out of gas, and beautiful. She's also wearing her pajamas and can only remember her first name. When she won't let Nic take her to the hospital, they'll do the only logical thing: go back to his condo together.

When Nic learns that Julie's family has been murdered and someone shows up looking for her, he knows this is a situation he can't handle alone. He needs the teamwork and the camaraderie of the entire Air Force 506th Rescue Squad to save the day.

True Valor is the first installment in a five-book military romance series. If you like heartwarming chemistry, page-turning suspense, and wholesome romance, then you'll love this series starter.

Buy True Valor to fall in love with a new series today!

Who’s this Bill Leroy guy?

Bill Leroy Wanted: Technical Advisor Extraordinaire!

This is the true story of how I found my AMAZING, FABULOUS and EVER GREAT Technical Advisor:  The Great and Powerful Bill Leroy.

When I first started writing the True Heroes military romance series, I wanted to make sure I got things right.  My heroes were PJs – the Air Force elite special forces.  Pararescuemen.

So, I started online, finding every home page from every pararescue unit I could.  I emailed each one, asking if there was someone that would be willing to be my technical advisor for these books.  I promised that I wouldn't pester them much, just wanted to make sure my facts were straight and that I had the right flavor, so to speak.


No one even emailed me back to say no.

So I went to work, reading everything I could find.  Books, websites, you name it.  

Enter Cowboy Bill. 

I'd just finished True Valor, the first book in the True Heroes series.  I'd just started True Courage – book two.

Living in the high mountains of Colorado, in a town of 800 people, I sometimes went to the local coffee place to write.  There I sat on this cool Autumn day when the door opened and in walked a handsome fellow wearing an Air Force flight jacket.  He sat at the table next to me and sipped his coffee.  I struck up a conversation.

"So, Air Force?"

"Yes," he said.  He was really very friendly.  "Retired pilot.

"Really," I said, trying not to over-react.  "What did you fly?"


Now I fought the urge to get up and Snoopy dance. 

He continued,  "I flew Search and Rescue."


I gushed about what I was writing and he verified that he had, indeed, flown the PJs.  Turns out he lived two doors down from me in the condos I lived in at the time. 

We became fast friends.  And, over coffee, we spent hours crashing a helicopter for the True Courage book. 

Thanks, Bill. 

Oh, and he agreed to write the intro to the Meet the 506th page.  Go check it out.  You'll see why I love Bill Leroy!


Who are the PJs?

The True Heroes Military Romance Series

Who are the PJs?

Who Clip ArtFrom Live Like an Athelete Podcast

"Haven’t heard of them? PJs may fly under the radar (pardon the pun), but their roles are among the most crucial, and their training among the most difficult, of the U.S. military’s special forces. They are tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in both combat and humanitarian environments, and also support NASA missions.

PJs function as part of a Human-Based Weapon System and are experts in advanced weapons, combat diving, and parajumping. Brains are as important as brawn: They are also highly skilled battlefield paramedics, able to perform surgery as needed. Their motto, These Things We Do That Others May Live, says it all.

With a training dropout rate of 90%, comparable to that of the Navy SEAL BUD/S program, PJs undergo some of the most rigorous training in the U.S. military."

They’re called Seals-with-Stethescopes for a reason!




Mountain Rescue: It’s Not all Fun and Games

The Phone Rings

A fifty-year-old man is reported missing in the mountains.  His family called the sheriff's department at 11:00 pm – worried – he should have been home by now.

Dispatch calls the Captain of Search and Rescue, waking him up.

He calls his Operations Director, waking her up.

She calls out the team.  Waking everyone up.

Amazing Rescue Photos


When we see the amazing helo rescue photos with heroes hanging from cables, hooked to litters awash with the snow storm blown up by the rotor wash, we smile and appreciate all the hard work.

 Appropriately so.  #TrueHeroes indeed.

But, the reality of SAR. . .

But, lest we forget, those heroes are operating on little sleep, have been humping through unforgiving terrain in the dark, since shortly after being awakened from sleep.  And most of these heroes don't do this for a living.  They have a day job.  One they did yesterday and will do tomorrow.  Sleep or no sleep.  

Killin Header 5And there are the Ops people.  They may or may not be warm and safe.  They're the ones who plan the mission, keep track of every mission movement, and make sure there is warm food for the teams at every opportunity.  These people haven't slept either.


There are fun and games.  Sometimes you do get to ride on the helo.  Sometimes you do get to drop over the cliff's edge to rappel down to a waiting victim.   Sometimes – like in certain #MilitaryRomance novels – the waiting victim is gorgeous and single and there's a happily-ever-after waiting for them.   

Sometimes you get to watch the joyful reunion of the lost with their waiting family.

Sometimes you don't.

It's all in a day's mission. #ThatOthersMayLive

Thanks to #TrueHeroes.