Posted in The Writing Life

Nature’s Glory (and a distraction from writing…)

HydrangeasA few weeks ago, I loosely connected the editing process to the emergence of the beautiful oak tree discovered hiding in the ugly shrubs in our backyard. Maybe the analogy was a stretch, but it worked for me.

I could tie a dozen other analogies to nature, I’m sure (anything to keep me from dealing with actually writing my books!). But sometimes nature needs to be appreciated simply for what it is, without making it into a story.

So, while I give my energies to my writing this week (have I mentioned that I’m writing TWO books at once?), let me just share some of the beauty from my garden with you. Next week you’ll get a sneak peek at what I’m working on, I promise.

I planted these hydrangeas two years ago, and last year didn’t have a single blossom. Not one! It was disappointing, but hardly a surprise, since I am “She-Who-Kills-Plants“. I figured the spot I selected to plant them was too shady or too dry or too something, and I had no idea what to expect this year.

Well, let me tell you – the hydrangeas have outdone themselves! The pastel shades are incredible, and watching them blossom has been so much fun for me. I want a whole house and wardrobe of just these colors. Wouldn’t you?

(click to start a slideshow)

Posted in The Writing Life

Getting Started on Cover Art!

Happy couple face to face

Things are getting real, folks! We’re taking the first steps toward creating a cover for my first book. My debut contemporary romance novel has now been firmly scheduled for publication by Harlequin Superromance in February 2017. Just in time for Valentine’s Day – yay!!

And what is the first step? Well….Harlequin sends a form to authors to complete that is loaded with detailed questions about the characters, setting, story, themes, etc. And when I say “detailed,” I mean DETAILED! Hair color alone has about thirty options. Along with eye color, hair style, clothing, and on and on. It’s really putting my brain cells to work!

My answers are important, because those answers are what the artists will use to create the cover art. Isn’t it frustrating when the people on the cover of a book don’t look anything at all like how they’re described inside the book? That’s why I really want to get this right. The couple in the photo above? I like them, and paid to use the image for quotes, etc. until we have an official cover, but they’re not quite right. Especially the guy – he’s way too neat and polished for Cole (who wouldn’t wear a white business shirt ever).

Fortunately, I already have an overflowing Pinterest folder for Hide-Away , so I can share those photos with Harlequin (and with you). Some of the images are just for fun, some might be just for clothing or mood shots, but they’re all part of the process of creating a setting and characters that feel real.

Some writers “cast” their books with real-world performers. They picture Chris Evans as their hero, and that’s that. I tend to have “types” rather than specific real-life people. In my mind, my characters are unique individuals, not clones of someone else. That makes my descriptions even more important, as I want the reader to visualize the same person I’m seeing – or at least as close to it as possible.

So when I say Cole is a “Scott Eastwood type” I’m not picturing Scott exactly. I’m picturing Cole, who looks similar to Scott, but also a lot like this guy . Does that make any sense? Yeah, I know – writers are weird.

And Bree? She looks a lot like Sarah Rafferty. Not exactly, but pretty darned close. And the setting? Well, the setting is a small town North Carolina farm. And one of my favorite scenes happens on a tractor. But there’s also a hot (in every way you can imagine!) scene that takes place in the hayloft.

Hmmmm – I wonder which scene they’ll use? Stay tuned – we should find out in the next few months……..

IMPORTANT NEWS! Welcome, welcome, welcome to all my new followers from the wonderful Facebook party last week: Romance Writers Gone Wild! I’m so glad you’re all here, and I hope you’ll hang around as I get ready to have my first contemporary romance published. And CONGRATULATIONS to the winner of the random drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card: Tracy Fowler! Thanks so much for the follows, everyone.

Posted in The Writing Life, The Writing Process

Editing: Finding the Hidden Oak Tree…

When we bought our house almost six years ago, there was an odd little holly bush/tree thing planted right smack in the middle of the backyard. It was a weird location, but it wasn’t hurting anything, so we pretty much ignored it. Despite Himself’s attempts to keep it trimmed, it kind of got away from us, and gradually became unruly and not very attractive.

Tree Before

I made a passing comment to Himself a month or so ago that it was getting downright ugly, but that in the middle of that clump of trunks and spiky greenery, there was actually an oak tree growing tall right through it. It was as if the ugly shrub had protected that oak, and now it was flourishing.

You can imagine my surprise on Mother’s Day when Himself dragged me away from my desk (I was on a deadline!!!) and showed me his gift to me. He had cut away all the ugly stuff and left the beautiful oak tree standing alone. It was as if he gifted me a brand new twelve-foot oak tree, and I loved it (and him)!

Tree After

Every time I look into our yard now, I think of how that beautiful tree was buried in the chaotic mess of holly and vines. It’s a lesson for several things in life, including editing. As writers, we tend to go big and messy on our first drafts. In fact, we’re supposed to! We throw everything in there, including the kitchen sink. We may fall in love with scenes and sentences, but those treasures are often being choked and hidden by all the other “stuff” we’ve filled our pages with in that first draft.

When we head back in for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or whatever drafts, that’s when we start hacking away at all the messy chaos in an attempt to find the hidden treasure of a story that works. And if we’re determined enough, and willing to chop away a few of our darlings in the process (favorite scenes that just don’t work for that particular story), sometimes we end up discovering a strong, nurtured, beautiful oak tree growing right there in front of us that we never saw before.

So, fellow writers, don’t be afraid to take the hedge clippers (or maybe even an ax!) to your first draft – just be careful not to chop down the buried treasure in the process.

And for everyone else – – – what part of your life might need a little pruning to let the treasure shine through?

Posted in My Life

She-Who-Kills-Plants Tries Again

Every spring, I get the fever. The fever to plant and bring forth green and flowered life from the earth. There’s only one problem.

I can’t grow stuff.

Seriously – I am the world’s worst at plant care. I finally gave up on houseplants completely. If I get a plant as a gift, I immediately re-gift it to someone less likely to kill it.  Which would be anyone, really.

Compounding my inability is the fact that the few plants I do like and don’t kill are considered “deer crack” here in our neighborhood where the deer population is pretty much equal to the human one. Seriously – my first spring in North Carolina I planted three flats of pansies (one of my favorite flowers) in the small garden around the flag pole. Three flats, all carefully arranged by color for the prettiest arrangement. The very next morning, every single blossom was gone. Just leaves and stems sticking up. They quickly died. If there was any doubt who the culprits were, the deep hoof imprint in the soil solved it.

So Himself and I have come to an agreement. The lawn is his, and I can play with the containers and the flag garden. That’s it. Although, when he wasn’t looking, I added a small perennial bed behind the house last year. He allowed it to stay, with the admonition that it was mine to care for (don’t worry, despite his bluster he often waters it for me – probably out of pity for the plants).

Forever optimistic, I have planted flowers again this spring. In the flag garden, I’m changing things up and planting perennials that are supposedly not deer candy. Coreopsis and lantana (with a few geraniums as filler). They’ve survived two nights so far, but we’ll see….

The planters are supposed to be a mass of pinks – geraniums and petunias. Even I should be able to keep those alive. Right?

Hmmmm. Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Posted in My Life

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St Pats Collage
A few of our St. Paddy’s parties through the years!

You may have guessed from the name McNally that I have a touch o’ the Irish in me. To be honest, most of my Irishness comes from Himself, the Boston Irishman I married and love so dearly. On our very first blind date 20+ years ago, he played me a song called “The Town I Loved So Well”, and I got teary-eyed at the beauty and sadness of it. I eagerly embraced the Irish heritage, and Himself laughs now that I’m “more Irish than him” when it comes to history and music.

 

To say our St. Paddy’s party is a big event is putting it mildly – our house fills with friends and family, and the music and beer are flowing! After dinner, I serenade with a collection of our favorite melodies, including my favorite love song, “Grace,” which is based on a true story during the Irish struggle for freedom (and I’ve stood in the prison chapel where they wed). Of course, being an Irish song, ’tis tragic, for Ireland is a nation with a tragic past.

As G.K. Chesterton wrote: “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

But there is much joy and beauty in the Ireland of today. And the Irish people are beyond compare – warm and friendly and full of laughter. So I’ll share some photos from our last trip to the Emerald Isle (click on any photo to start a slide show), and wish you all the very merriest of St. Patrick’s Days!  And yes, in case you’re wondering, there will be some Irish characters in future books, and perhaps a story set in Ireland itself.

Posted in The Writing Process

Falling in Love With Your Words

Halcyon Faded Stupid Story        For a writer, there really is nothing quite like the feeling of falling in love….with the book you’re writing. That moment when it moves from being a good concept to a good book is pure magic. All of a sudden the characters are behaving themselves and are doing and saying the things they should be. And not doing the things they shouldn’t be.
        In this case, I’m falling back in love with a book (Halcyon) that needed a heavy revision, including a brand new beginning. The new beginning was a challenge for me, but when editor and agent BOTH say a change is necessary, a smart writer gets busy rewriting the beginning. Knitting that new beginning into the existing story was hard, hard work. I flailed and floundered until I finally (just last week!) found the authentic voices for Blake and Amanda again.
        Let’s be realistic – Blake would never answer the door in Chapter 4 and smile at Amanda. That’s ridiculous. He’s guarding his heart and fighting his attraction to this woman, and he wants to discuss a business proposition with her. Smiling, or any other warm/fuzzy reaction, would be all wrong.
        Revised scene: he’s in the midst of an angry phone conversation with his father (yeah, they’re not close…at all) when he opens the door to Amanda after summoning her to Halcyon. She gets to hear him all snarly on the phone, with barely a hint of warmth, even after he ends the call and tells her they need to talk. Yup. That’s just the tension level they need.
        And Amanda wouldn’t be all chummy and jokey with the construction workers, even if it is in a toss-away scene. She’s a traumatized woman, for crying out loud! She needs to maintain a distance from them. Otherwise, it’s just confusing.
        Multiply those two minor changes by a few hundred, and the entire tone of the book changes. It’s genuine. The characters become compelling, and the reader actually cares about what happens to them. The story moves forward with the proper amount of tension, because the characters are doing things that are believable for them.
        Once I have characters properly formed, I can see their motivations and habits and defense mechanisms. I see their hearts. Not only do I know how they’d react in any situation; I also know why they’d react that way. And the reader can see it, even when the characters can’t.
        So ‘all I have to do now’ (that was sarcasm, by the way) is finish going through the manuscript paragraph by paragraph, and ask myself over and over and over: is this really what should/would happen? It’s a piece of cake (more sarcasm).
        Now that I have a full understanding of the characters with this new beginning, it’s a lot more fun. Take the first example mentioned above, a scene that has been written and edited for several weeks. All of a sudden I can see it playing out as if it was on film. When I’m immersed in the book that deep, it’s easy to say “Whoa – why the hell is he smiling?” Once that quick correction was made, the rest of the scene was easy to revise, and it ended up being SOOOO much better. Yeah, it’s still work. But instead of beating my head on my desk and spinning my wheels, I’m making forward progress.
         And I’m falling back in love with my favorite book and characters. YAY!
        Why should you care? Well, when an author loves the story, it’s a lot more likely the reader will love it, too. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to do just that later this year.
        Stay tuned!
Posted in The Writing Life

The Care and Feeding of a Romance Writer: Friends

Contract Party Deco DRWBeing the friend of a romance writer is not for the faint of heart. Romance writers, like most artists, can be…umm…just a little bit…neurotic. Yes, yes – I know it’s hard to believe. But trust me, we can tie ourselves into knots no one can untangle.

They like me!

No, wait, they don’t.

This book is going to be amazing!

This book sucks and I’m a talentless hack.

The hero is the sexiest thing since Christian Grey.

The hero is more stalkerish than Christian Grey.

This heroine is so funny!

This heroine is so obnoxious! And she’s not at all funny.

And those are just the thoughts that can run through my head in the span of a single day/hour at the keyboard. It’s hard on my brain, and it’s hard on the people who hang around me and my brain. I can be cranky. I can be giddy. I can be needy. I can be self-absorbed to be point of being a hermit. And, when deadlines are looming, I’m stressed to the max. And sometimes I’m tired. Really, really tired.

What kind of friend does a romance writer need? We need cheerleaders. We need honest straight-talkers. We need reality-checkers. We need understanders. We need fellow romance readers. And we need folks who hate romance novels, but like us anyway. We need solid shoulders to cry on. We need party people to celebrate with. Did I mention we need cheerleaders?

I hit the gold standard when it comes to friends, because I have all of the above, and then some. We stay in touch via email, text and phone, and we talk about a lot more than just books (I’ve learned in the most painful way possible that a friendship that becomes solely about writing simply doesn’t work). Friendship needs balance.

It may not be easy for me to read an email from a friend telling me my hero is coming off as an asshole, but I need to hear that. I need a friend who loves me enough to say it. Probably the funniest (and most spot on) feedback I ever got was from a beta reader bestie who told me my heroine was a weeble-wobble – she was always bobbling and wobbling and stumbling and dropping. I laughed, but I also cringed. She was right, damn it, and I had to go back to the drawing board on the heroine’s character traits. She could be nervous without being helpless.

I need the friends who get it when they invite me to an event and I have to say “Sorry – I’m on deadline.” I need the friend’s husband who “borrowed” my manuscript of Halcyon from his wife (he’s not exactly my target audience), then quietly told me he couldn’t put it down and that it would definitely be published because it was just that good. Those words came on one of those “talentless hack” days when I desperately needed to hear them. And that’s the key – friends know when to say exactly what I want to hear. Well, it may not always be what I want to hear, but it’s what I need to hear, for better or worse.

I’m blessed with a group of local girlfriends who are happily invested in my decision to give writing a try. And when I say “local,” I mean we walk to each other’s homes on the best street in the world to leave on. We’re a crazy group even when it has nothing to do with writing, as evidenced when we plan a Valentine’s Party. It doesn’t take much to make us silly and get us laughing. We have crazy nicknames for each other (I’m “Frisky”). And good lord, I need those crazy laughs. I need these women who make sure I get out of the house and away from my computer once in a while.

Valentines DRW

And if there’s wine involved, well, all bets are off. Especially when a wine tasting takes place at Halloween and I volunteer to create masks for each of us. We have a damned good time whenever we’re together. But it goes far deeper than fun and laughs with our gang. Our friendships are the real deal, through ups and downs.

Halloween DRW

Their friendship has flat-out humbled me. Our four couples take turns getting the Group of 8 together for dinner throughout the year, so I thought nothing of it when Ferocious invited us over one Saturday night in November. When I walked in, I immediately noticed the décor – there were stacks of books everywhere. The whole house was decorated with stacks of books. The table centerpiece was a stack of books. And the cake? Well, the cake was a (slightly exaggerated) Harlequin contract for The Hide-Away. It was a Contract Party! For me! We played author games, and just generally had too much fun. That’s friendship.

And last night, they did it again, but just the girls this time. They whisked me out for wine and dessert as a surprise to celebrate my second submission to Harlequin, Halcyon, which was sent in before deadline last week. Now that doesn’t mean it’s sold yet. Hell, it doesn’t even mean it’s done, because it’s not. Three chapters are done. A synopsis is done. But there’s a whole lot of revising left to do to the rest of it.

But I beat my deadline, and that was enough for Ferocious, Fantastic and Fabulous to throw me a party. Or maybe it was just an excuse for drinks. I prefer to think it’s the former. You gotta have friends, and I have the best!

Posted in Excerpts

Excerpt: She’s Far From Hollywood

Getty Images/istockphoto

For a few heartbeats, neither of them spoke or moved. The only sound was the chug-chug of the hay elevator. She raised her head and met his eyes, which were just above her own. Instead of the usual cold slate blue, his were dark and intense. Without moving his head, he slowly lowered her legs until she was standing, but still trapped tightly in the circle of his arms. The suffocating heat of the loft now felt cool against her skin compared to the fire burning between them. Every nerve ending was on high alert.

His mouth was right there. Right. There. She could feel his breath moving across her cheeks, and she closed her eyes at the delicious sensation of it. She opened them again when she heard a low moan from deep in his throat. Whatever was happening, Cole was feeling it, too. He took a deep breath and blinked, his eyes flicking away from hers briefly. His hold loosened ever so slightly, and she felt a sharp pang of disappointment.

She could stop him. She could reach up and kiss him and stop him from letting her go. His lips were still just inches away. He shook his head slowly, as if he’d read her mind. His voice was raspy and labored when he broke the feverish silence.

“You and me are a bad idea, Hollywood.”

She nodded, and whispered the words back at him.

“Bad idea.”

He released her and stepped back, putting more space between them. His voice was stronger this time.

“A very bad idea.”

She suspected he was trying as hard as she was to convince himself of the truth of those words. His hand lifted toward her face but he stopped before he touched her. It didn’t matter. She felt the zip of energy between his fingertips and her skin. Her lips parted as she closed her eyes and sighed. This bad idea was starting to feel really good.

Excerpt from “The Hide-Away” (working title only) to be published by Harlequin SuperRomance in 2016. Stay tuned here for a release date! Winner in the 2015 Four Seasons Windy City Romance Writers Contest.

Posted in The Writing Life

The Care and Feeding of a Romance Writer: Family

PillowA writer’s family puts up with a lot. They’re in the trenches with us through every up and down. They’re the ultimate cheerleaders, and you know they want nothing more than your success. And that’s exactly what a writer needs from family. I need my mom calling me in tears of joy after she hears about my book contract. I need a sister-in-law that has no problem sitting on the balcony of our shared beachfront vacation rental reading a book while I tap away on my laptop, writing one. That same sister-in-love (who really hates romance novels, but devours mysteries by the dozen) confessed to shedding tears when she got to the ending of Halcyon, and I knew she wasn’t just puffing me up. She meant it. And that meant a lot to me. Her husband, my brother, is pretty cool about the whole adventure, which is perfect. It’s as if he’s not even surprised that I achieved my goal. That kind of faith is precious. And then, of course, there’s my dearest husband, Himself (it’s an Irish thing).

Just yesterday morning, Himself looked at me over the breakfast table and asked a loaded question.

“Do you want to go to the golf club tomorrow and watch football? They’re serving beer and wings. Or would you rather stay home and write?”

My heart tightened just a little bit. Mind you, Himself and I are huge New England Patriots fans, and the reigning Super Bowl champions are once again playing for the AFC championship. But I’m a writer on a deadline. And I also love Himself very much. So I fell back on the typical married-for-twenty-years cop-out.

“What do you want to do?”

His steely-eyed stare told me he wasn’t falling for that trap. Which forced me to be honest. I wanted to write. While watching the game. At home. With him. And bless his heart, he shrugged and said it was fine.

That’s the kind of spouse a writer needs. One who may not always understand the writing process (and indeed, is often baffled by it), but who is able to put up with my idiosyncrasies with large doses of love and patience. Himself lets me write like a madwoman when the mojo is with me, and even brings sandwiches and the occasional glass of wine to my desk to keep me alive.

He hardly batted an eye when I had an epiphany about the ending of Halcyon months ago while on the treadmill at Golds Gym and interrupted his own workout to insist he drive me home immediately so I could get it down on paper before I “lost it.” That’s love.

And he doesn’t hesitate to let me know when I become too obsessed with the writing, to the point of ignoring piles of laundry and dog hair covering every surface. A writer needs someone to remind them of real life once in a while, because balance is critical. It’s really good if your husband is one of those balancing people.

I know it can’t be easy being married to a writer. We can be just a little…umm…moody. Some days we think we’re Charlotte Bronte, and we’re on top of the world, full of smiles and confidence. The next day we’re snippy and snarly because we’re obviously nothing more than a talentless hack.

And we never, ever stop writing. Ever. Even if it looks like we’re doing something else, we’re writing. We’re the ultimate multi-taskers. Himself is snorting reading this, I’m sure, but it’s true.

Even if we seem like we’re totally present, a writer can be somewhere far, far away mentally. In fact, we usually are. Walking the dog? No, I’m really thinking about whether Amanda should confront Blake’s family or not. Washing dishes? Shhh – I’m deciding whether or not to keep the tractor scene in Hide-Away. Staring at the television? I’m actually deciding if it’s more authentic for Bree to burst into tears or slap Cole right across the face during their Black Moment. Driving on the highway? I’m mentally spinning through options for the stalker scene and how best to resolve it. When a writer is in The Zone, it’s like being in a bubble. The Cone of Silence descends on our brain. That’s why we tend to say “Huh? What?” a LOT after someone speaks to us. It can be tough on the ego of a spouse, but Himself handles it really well.

He cheered with me the first time an agent requested more pages from a query. He dealt with my tears after yet another rejection letter. He hated it, but he handled it and encouraged me to get up and move forward. When I said I “needed” to spend thousands to attend an RWA convention in New York City, he sent me off with his blessing. He has been my champion every step of the way, and no one was happier than he was the day I got the call from Harlequin.

I can’t spend my entire life at the computer, and he’s my balance-master – he pulls me away when I need it, or when he needs it. And he gently nudges me back to it when I’m procrastinating (“shouldn’t you be in your office writing instead of sitting there on your ass?”).

I’m sure my being a writer bruises him once in a while. Like the Friday he told me he was not golfing the next day, and I looked at him and said “But, why?” He answered “Because I want to spend time with you.” And I said again “But, why?” You see, Saturday morning when he’s golfing and the house is quiet is my best writing time. And he knows that. He also knows we need to get away and have together-time once in a while. And I love him all the more for making sure that happens.

And for all those who wonder about a romance writer’s inspiration…. Yes, Himself is the laughing, mercurial, blue-eyed alpha-man hero in my own happily ever after.

Profile 2015

 

Posted in The Writing Process

How I Became a Romance Writer – A Timeline

By tree croppedSo the website is getting fired up again, less as a log of my struggles to get a contract (mission accomplished) and more as a conversation about the writing and publishing process. Hopefully readers will enjoy not only hearing about the books I’m working on (and reading excerpts from them), but will also enjoy my observations about the writing process, which is definitely not for the faint of heart, and about the publishing business and all its twists and turns.

If you’re an aspiring writer, you might learn something from my journey (Lesson One: NEVER GIVE UP!). If you’re a published author, you might be able to teach me and my followers a thing or two – feel free to share! And if you’re a reader of romance or any other genre, I hope you’ll find this “peek behind the curtains” interesting.

Let’s start with the timeline of my journey so far:

HOW I BECAME A ROMANCE AUTHOR

1968 (approx.): My best friend and I started writing our “Great American Novels”. We were ten. Mine was a romance. I no longer have it, but I remember it took place on a farm, there were horses and a tornado, and the heroine’s name was Destiny.

1970s – 1980s: I grew up, got a job, and dreamed of writing “someday”. In the meantime, I devoured books by Victoria Holt, Danielle Steele, Jude Deveraux (my all-time favorite romance: A Knight in Shining Armor), Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss (my all-time close-second-favorite romance: A Rose In Winter), and many, many others.

1990s: I call these years “The Oprah Effect”. Suddenly the only cool thing to read was “lit-er-a-ture” (spoken with a fancy accent). If it wasn’t tragic, it wasn’t considered serious writing. I finally had the time to write, but I allowed myself to be intimidated by the book snobs who were convinced that romance was tacky and somehow undesirable. I tried to make myself write “lit-er-a-ture”, but damn it, I like happy endings!

2000s: Buried myself in a corporate career.

2013: Heard a lot of buzz about a sexy romance called Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, that book. And the next one. And the next. By the time I got to the end of it all (and I’ll admit I enjoyed a lot of it), I realized it was basically a regular romance novel with some naughtiness added and enough mind-numbing detail to stretch the story over three books. It made E.L. James a boatload of money, and it showed me that romance novels were far from dead. Where had I been, and why the hell wasn’t I writing? That summer I sat at my laptop and started my first romance novel. It was basically a learning experience only, but I did get some positive feedback from agents/editors. And the hook was set. I was going to be a writer, come hell or high water.

2014: Wrote Halcyon, the first of four stand-alone romance novels about four cousins finding love. Submitted it, got some nice rejections with some encouragement. Entered it in the 2015 Golden Heart Award competition at the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City. While it didn’t make it into the finalist division, it was in the top 25% of entries.

July 2015: Completed The Hide-Away (second in the series) just in time to pitch it at the RWA Conference in NYC (my first conference). That’s where I met Victoria Curran from Harlequin’s SuperRomance collection, and she loved the concept and requested a full manuscript.

August 2015: I started working on my next book, The Wishlist (all titles here are working titles only), and completed a couple chapters of the first draft.

September 2015: Victoria, like all editors and agents in the industry, is swamped with work. She sent very encouraging updates on Hide-Away, but no commitment yet. In a bit of a panic, I decide to start submitting Hide-Away to a few agents…just in case. I pick five agencies that are at the top of the food chain in the industry (in my opinion). Why not dream big?

October 2015: I get The Call from Victoria on October 16th. Harlequin SuperRomance wants to offer me a contract for Hide-Away. Angels sing, bells ring, rainbows arch through the sky and unicorns dance in the front yard. Yeah, I’m that happy. My dream was to get a contract, and now I had one! All I had to do was rewrite a couple of major scenes and cut 8000 words. By Thanksgiving. Piece of cake. Oh, and I created a Twitter account (@JoMcNallyAuthor).

November, 2015: Once I have the signed contract for Hide-Away in my hand, I reach out to the literary agencies I’d queried to let them know the book was now under contract. It’s a professional courtesy to keep them from wasting time reading the book if it’s already taken. I received a couple brief thank yous and congratulations. One agent seemed sincere in her regret that she missed it. And another was not only sorry to have missed it, but asked me some interesting questions about representation on other projects. We emailed back and forth. The emails became phone calls, and Veronica Park of the Corvisiero Literary Agency became my agent, representing Halcyon. Unicorns danced again! Of course, first I had to complete the rewrite of Hide-Away. That was accomplished just in time, and it was submitted on Thanksgiving morning.

December, 2015: One deadline down, and another is already looming. I have to rewrite the beginning of Halcyon, and have three chapters and a synopsis (outline) ready to submit to Harlequin by the end of January. And oh, yeah. It’s Christmas. My church choir tackled a simple little ditty for the holidays called Handels Messiah. Parties were planned and attended. Family time. Did I mention I work a Monday-Friday, 9-5 office job? And have a marriage to pay attention to? Writing got squeezed into every spare moment, but it was stressful!

January, 2016: With the tireless assistance of my now beloved agent, Veronica, I work like a madwoman and complete three brand-new chapters for Halcyon. And I like them! We will be meeting our deadline (again). And I start messing with this website again. And I made my Pinterest research pages for the books public (JoMcNallyAuthor). Came in First Place for Contemporary Romance in the Windy City Romance Writers Four Seasons writing completion (Hide-Away). My first win!

Windy City Contest Winner

Wow. No wonder I’m tired. And very, very happy. Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride, and stay tuned for more adventures!