Some books you need when your life falls apart—Sylvan is that one for me (Guest post by Jan Irving)

Sylvan4I always loved a series I did early in my writing set in Sylvan. Writing about this series was like going back to my small town roots. And I always found myself wishing I could go back, visit with those characters over again. I wished I hadn’t written them so fast because just the writing was like stopping by.

When I’d feel down, there are certain go-to books I return to. And it turns out, it’s the same as a writer, so after many years gap, I returned to Sylvan.

I took this western town series and I added new content, more than 2000 words to each novella. They include Sylvan, the title story, about Mal, a washed out Olympic swimmer and Leif, a carpenter. Mal is the king of hook ups and the fast life, but turns out he’s lost himself on the way. When he returns to Sylvan after crashing and burning, he ends up working for Leif, a man who is weighed down with his father’s memory loss and his role as a caregiver. Can the party boy get real? Can he commit to someone with old fashioned values and a fragile heart?

The second story is Luke, my story of a cowboy who wakes up on wrinkled sheets with a hell of a hangover…and a baby on the bed beside him. Turns out she’s the result of one of Luke’s one-nighters. Now what? He’s has no idea how to take care of a kid. Fortunately he meets Sylvan’s town doctor, caring Morgan Gallagher, who offers Luke a home and a refuge to figure out this father-business. And maybe, if Luke is brave enough, a new love.

In Nate a young cowboy nicknamed Happy helps a mute boy and his father pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, helping them find hope and family.

The all new-story I wrote for the anthology is the gut-wrenching novella called Luke’s Baby, which picks up a few years after Luke.

I did all this writing very rapidly over a period of days. In fact, I remember when I resubmitted it, that Elizabeth at DSP commented she was surprised I did it so fast. Luke’s Baby, I wrote in one day. Almost ten thousand words! But it just poured out of me. And I was in tears for most of that writing. It was just so powerful.

So I hope that if you haven’t read the series before you let yourself in for a treat. If you have, these stories are…well, frankly, better. These are very healing stories. Trust me, I was dealing with my mother’s recent diagnosis of dementia and I was as close to down as ever in my life. I wrote the entire series to help myself find a kind of hope. Luke’s Baby I think I wrote as almost a prelude to a major thing that was to happen in my real life, as my mom passed away shortly after writing it. In fact, I had to change one of the afterwords to reflect she’d passed.

You know that sometimes you just have to go home. You need to do that. Whether it’s a real home, whatever that represents for you, or it’s an imaginary one. When Mom passed, I revisited

many books that gave me solace. And I also worked on the edits of this series, getting to live again somewhere where things work out and love is the ultimate truth.

It’s a good place.

Also, they are a great deal. Four novellas for the price of two! And DSP gave me back the cover that I so loved for Luke. I’m very grateful that readers can now buy them in a beautiful collector’s addition.

Here’s an excerpt from Luke’s Baby:

“Dr. Harris left these for you,” the nurse indicated the green scrubs on the trolley table for Luke and Morgan. Morgan realized then that he was still wearing his surgical scrubs with his daughter’s blood on them and Luke had her blood and her horse’s on his clothes. He’d come straight from the sheriff’s office. “Luke, I’ll stay with her. Go shower quick.” “No.” Luke shook his head, not looking away from Jessie. “Luke…” And Morgan couldn’t believe what he said, but it just fell out, “When she wakes up she can’t see us covered with blood. She’s going to be scared. She won’t be able to move—“ Luke jerked to his feet, stumbled, and grabbed the offered clothes. He walked out like a zombie. Morgan reached out and took Jessie’s hand. “You know he’s not coming back from this, Jessie. You have to stay with us.” Morgan could feel her, as he’d felt other patients, not quite in her body, not quite gone. He knew she’d want to go; her body was broken. Pain waited for her here. But so did two men who would never be the same if she left them.

Here’s the blurb:

Sylvan Collection

Return to small-town Sylvan in Jan Irving’s bestselling series—reimagined and re-edited with an all-new bonus novella.

The small Western town of Sylvan is a place for new beginnings for those who won’t settle for anything less than true love. These sweet tales of slow-simmering romance and the old-fashioned values of commitment and pulling together when times get tough prove that sometimes the best matches are also the most unexpected.

With the help of a storm, a washed-up Olympic swimmer and a carpenter cracking under the strain of caring for his Alzheimer’s-affected father learn that opposites sometimes really do attract.

A likable cowboy called Happy Nate is determined to help a mute boy speak again—and to help his father move beyond the repression of the Mennonite community to find the love he deserves.

When a hard-partying cowboy is suddenly saddled with a surprise baby, he’s at his wit’s end. Luckily the local doctor is available to help, and if the two men can find the courage to accept themselves and step into a new life, they might just make a real family. They’ll need to lend each other strength when an unspeakable tragedy strikes—and when it’s time to pick up the pieces. Find Sylvan here:

Jan Irving has written more than 40 books and novellas, all of them about people finding themselves and love along the way. She recently won an award for best multicultural book. You can find Jan at and on facebook under Janice Irving.