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Karen Raymond


Karen Raymond is originally from South Carolina and currently resides in Savannah, Georgia. She has been writing poetry and short stories for most of her life but fell in love with creative writing in college. Learning to Love is her first novel in a three-part series. She is an educator with a degree in English and a master’s in education. She also has credentials in screenwriting. While she is trained in and teaches writing, she mostly enjoys developing strong characters and building real life, relatable worlds around them. In her spare time, she loves to read, create graphic designs, and spend time with her Siamese cat, Mickie.

Sara Oliver finds herself in many situations she is not prepared for as a sheltered, naïve twenty something from South Carolina in the 1990s. She was brought up to be perfect under her  mother’s watchful and cruel eye. Unfortunately, growing up that way has consequences. When  the one person who loved her dies, she is left to figure out how to manage life without them. The  men in her life teach her how exciting and painful life can be for a woman who is inexperienced  in both love and relationships. Even ‘the one’ exposes that she has a lot to learn. Mistakes are  made, lines are crossed, and decisions come at a cost. While dealing with an abusive mother,  divorce, death, dating, relationships, and sexual desire, Sara becomes more aware of what she  doesn’t know and what she needs to learn. As she enters her 30s, she realizes she needs to stop  trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations. To do this, she has to first learn to love herself.

Excerpt from Learning to Love

Over the past year, there had been one guy outside of our friend group who’d worked up the courage to ask me to slow dance when Ed wasn’t around. He had a military haircut, stood about  6’ 1”, and seemed to be a bit tortured. His name was Nathaniel “Natty” Barnes. We had flirted,  especially when Ed and I were on the outs, but, to me, it was harmless.  

During the insanity I dubbed ‘the cheating fiasco,’ he began spending more and more time around me at Buckles. Back in late October, he’d asked me to be his date for a Christmas party on post. Since I was dealing with the trauma and drama of Ed at the time, I said sure. I was genuinely happy to accept. He was nice to me, he looked at me like he saw perfection in me, and he made me laugh.  

I wish I had taken mom’s advice and never spoken to Ed again. Sadly, I did the exact opposite.  

When it was all said and done, between my lunacy and his cheating, that was enough for the girlfriend to go back to her ex and for Ed to come crawling back to me. Since I still hadn’t learned my lesson, I took him back. 

When Christmastime came, Ed was none too happy that I was going to a party with Natty. He knew Natty liked me.  

In the few weeks we’d been back together, Ed had been very attentive. He always had his arm around me, announced to people that I was his woman, like I was some carnival attraction, and would not let me couple’s dance with any guy who wasn’t his buddy. He was overcompensating and being possessive.  

However, I’d made a promise to Natty. Despite my recent behavior, which I was not proud of,  everyone knew my word was better than any written contract. I apologized profusely to Ed, for some unknown reason, and told him I’d come straight to Buckles after it was over. I was scared of losing him again and frightened of making him angry. It was so unhealthy, but my limited experience in adult relationships, my sheltered and naïve view of the world, and my desperation to never know what it feels like to be cheated on again made me the perfect doormat. 

I asked Natty if I could meet him there. I wanted the extra time to get ready. I’d bought a cute blue dress with rhinestone snowflakes around the bottom of the knee-length velvet skirt. A silk ribbon separated the top from the bottom and tied in the back. The top was lace that formed a  sweetheart neckline and was long-sleeved. Underneath the lace was a corset-style bodice with ribbing from one side to the other. The back of the dress was open. The bodice piece stopped at the sides and dipped into a low band that sat right above the small of my back. The lace followed the outline. I’d found some adorable open-toed, shimmery blue kitten heels that matched perfectly. With my hair full of bouncing curls, I settled in for the hour-long drive to the party.  He had told me ahead of time what to do to get on post, where to go, and that he’d be waiting for me under the front canopy of the Officer’s Club. I had never seen him wearing anything other than a t-shirt or western shirt, jeans, boots, and a cowboy hat. So, when I approached the front of the building, I did not recognize the handsome man in his Marine dress blues as Natty. For the first time, I saw him. I couldn’t help but see him. He exuded confidence, strength, and hotness in that uniform. I smiled as his eyes met mine.  

He seemed to be quite taken with how I appeared as well. Like me, he’d only seen my  Western attire. Tonight, I looked like I stepped off a fashion runway, or at least in my head,  that’s how I felt. His blue eyes shined in the light as he stared at me intently. He was looking me up and down, I could feel his perspicuous analysis of my dress, my body, and the way I moved.  

If I didn’t know it before, I knew it now; he wanted me. How is it that I had not really given this guy the time of day? I treated him like every other guy in the club. Had the blinders been on that tight? Had my madness over Ed caused me to miss other, more worthy opportunities?  

I couldn’t think like that. I had fought hard to get Ed back and he was waiting for me back at the club. It’s just the uniform, every guy looks good in a uniform. Our eyes were still locked. I  shuffled my thoughts and just as I reached the edge of the walkway; he held out his hand to help me step up.  

“Well, good evening, beautiful.” Oh, his voice. Deep, sincere, and low. I could feel the strength in his hand as he made sure I didn’t trip in my heels. “You look absolutely amazing. Not  that you don’t always look amazing, but tonight…wow.”  

My hand was still in his and with a gentle flip of his wrist, he guided me in a full, slow spin so he could take in the view, the complete view. “I’m going to be the envy of every guy here. You  are exceptional.” 

I was blushing, smiling, and falling.  

Q&A With Karen Raymond

I have always loved to write. As a child, I wrote song lyrics, poems, and short stories. Working on my bachelor’s degree in English, we had many writing assignments. One was to create a short story about an event in life that had a major impact. I wrote about my divorce. Many years later, I was having a random conversation with a fellow teacher and mentioned this short story. She asked to read it, I obliged, and she told me that I really needed to expand it. That planted the seed for me to start working on my first novel. It took me years to complete, but now that the first one is out there for the world to enjoy, I can’t believe it took me so long to see that writing is my passion. I have so many stories in my head just waiting to be told.

Since I am a full-time high school English teacher, my writing process is to write whenever I can find the time. I write from start to finish without editing for the first draft. I need to get the story

out of my brain, in whatever form it comes. After that, I edit until I can’t see straight. I have tried to plot out my writing, but the characters always take me on the journey, so I have resigned myself to that fact. I try to write about 5,000 words when I can, but I can’t stop writing in the middle of a chapter, so at the very least I get about 2700-3000 words done in a sitting.

Read! I read nine books in January but haven’t had any extra time in February.

I haven’t created a celebration tradition yet, but I hope to celebrate with my friend when book two is finished. Maybe a night out on the town.

I haven’t created a celebration tradition yet, but I hope to celebrate with my friend when book two is finished. Maybe a night out on the town.

I decided to make this a series because I put so much into the main character, Sara, that I knew her story wasn’t over in book one.

Sara, Mom, Dad, and Ford are very, very loosely based on my family (only in book one). The male characters are each an amalgamation of guys I knew in my 20s. Books two and three are completely made up with no connection or basis in any shape or form to anything real.

Finding time to write. There is never enough time. Oh, and editing, I’d still be editing book one if I hadn’t finally told myself that I needed to stop obsessing and set it free.

Finding out that I can write and I’m pretty good at it. It was exciting when I’d think of something clever or my words perfectly described an emotion or setting. That also gave me a boost to keep going.

Mary Higgins Clark would be my first influence. I mention her in book one. S. E. Hinton – the first book I fell in love with was “The Outsiders” when I was in fourth grade.

The last paragraph of the book would have to be my favorite passage. It shows the main characters journey and strength.

I feel like I know each one of my characters, but I would have to say, Natty. I would ask him if he would change anything.