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The neurlogy of love

A few scientists recently decided to test the hypothesis that love endures beyond the irresistible, passion-fueled, drugged-like falling head over heels state that generally, at best, is completely over in a few short years (or even months, sometimes weeks, occasionally days). We found the premise of the study immediately depressing. Why is it such an accepted fact that love can’t last and that those who profess eternal attraction must be lying or deluded?

The scientists apparently found 17 people who “claimed” to still be madly in love with their spouses after an average of 21 years of marriage. Each one gazed at a photo of their partner while an fMRI scanned their brain and lo and behold, their neurons fired in the same mad, giddy, ridiculous patterns as those who had just fallen in love!

When we read about this study, we wondered what the outcome would be if our brains had been part of it. We’ve been married for going on 12 years and still madly in love, more or less, depending on the day of the week and the phase of the moon. But we’ve also been writing together that entire time. We think the reason we’re still in love is because of the writing partnership.

We started writing together in 1998, co-authoring The Cowboy and Vampire, A Darkly Romantic Mystery, released in a sexy second edition October, 2010, after its first publication in 1999.

We decided to write the book early in our relationship during those still heady days of falling in love. During a coffee, pie and cigarette (a habit, gladly, now resigned to the dustbin) stop at Grandma Hoffy’s in Madras, Oregon, that conversation went something like this:

> Maybe we should write a book together.
> A trial run for marriage?
> If we can write a book together without killing each other, seems like we may have a chance.
> A romantic novel.
> About what?
> I don’t know. Write what you know.
> The west.
> How to be a cowboy.
> I can take that part easy. What do you know?
> Washington, D.C.
> The Cowboy and the Politician?
> Boring.
> The Cowboy and Eleanor Roosevelt?
> Where did that come from?
> The Cowboy and the Redskins?
> Let’s step back, if it’s going to be about love…
> Our love.
> Okay, our love, sure, well, how does a cowboy feel about love?
> Scared.
> Why?
> Being with you means giving up a way of life.
> You think the city will suck you dry and toss you back lifeless.
> Something like that.
> Like a Vampire.
> Yea, like a Vampire.

That night, Clark started writing. He mailed the first pages — laboriously hand-written, a habit he still stubbornly insists upon — to Kathleen. She edited them (savagely, depending on who you ask), added a few more and then mailed them back to him. The first two chapters were written that way. By the third chapter — interestingly, after a sex scene — we decided to move in together. After that, it took another six months of back and forth writing before we had the first draft of a book — and the foundation for a still-passionate romance.

Eventually, the book became a rare instance in which the conjoined voice is more compelling than the individual voice. For The Cowboy and the Vampire, Clark brought “duct-tape” comedy, a deep knowledge of the western mindset, and a great feel for realistic snappy dialogue; Kathleen brought the spiritual dimension, an east coast mentality and — depending on who you ask – brutal or thorough editing.

Not only do we write fiction together, we also edit, argue, laugh about and talk through mostly everything else we write of consequence: speeches, media releases, articles, earnings reports and the like. We also protect each others’ creativity in the face of the relentless need to make money writing.

Writing with your partner gives you a built-in critique and we take turns reading each others’ work. During a recent review of a chapter from Blood and Whiskey, the sequel we are now writing went something like this:

> I hate flashbacks and won’t write them.
> You are being ridiculous, many writers use flashbacks. The book I’m currently reading uses flashback.
> You’re like literary tofu, you pick up the flavors of the authors you’re reading.
> You’re like literary jerky, hard and inflexible.
> How is it possible we both wrote an identical scene in which “a rivulet of blood dripped from her mouth, down her chin, disappearing in her milky white cleavage?”

Another benefit of writing with a partner is getting that nudge to get to work. In our case, it can be synonymous with competition, which can sometimes spur creativity.

> I bet I can write more than you in 15 minutes.
> Yea, maybe, but it will suck.
> No it won’t, you know it won’t.
> Okay, 1-2-3, go!

In these mini contests, we always trade what we write immediately and critique it. When one or both of us write something on the steamy side, well, then fiction and reality happily merge.

That gets brings us to another part of the research mentioned earlier in this blog post. The scientists also concluded that the most successful couples are those in which partners help each other expand their ideas of themselves. Writing together definitely does that.

If our brains were scanned after ten years writing together, we think they’d look like jigsaw pieces, each of us providing the perfect fit for the other’s neuroses and creativity.

The publishing magic for us clearly seems to be tied to writing together. Together, we must make one awesome storyteller.

To conclude, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day which is just around the corner, here are the top ten reasons why a Vampire falls in love with a Cowboy. (Click here for the Top 10 reasons what a Cowboy should not fall in love with a Vampire. Check out our website (www.cowboyandvampire.com) and our Facebook page for lots more fun stuff.)

Top Ten Reasons Why a Vampire Falls in Love with a Cowboy:

1. They like remote places … far from prying eyes.
2. Good with guns — handy for battling werewolves and zombies.
3. Knows how to stay in the saddle longer, which is helpful for late night “rodeos.”
4. Looks sexy in jeans and boots.
5. No garlic in cowboy cooking.
6. Cattle make good snacks.
7. The smell of sagebrush on his clothes.
8. Pick-up trucks are perfect for hauling coffins.
9. When a cowboy falls in love, he falls forever
10. Loves slow dancing to the radio in the moonlight.

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