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.

The Publishing Process

They Like Me! They Really, Really Like Me!

PillowI’M GETTING PUBLISHED!!!!!!!! That’s right, folks – I’ve been offered a contract for “The Hide-Away” (officially just a working title now – it will not publish as that). It will be published by Harlequin SuperRomance! I am absolutely on cloud 9, and still feeling a little whiplashed by the ride I’ve taken over the past eight days.

So picture this – on Friday, Oct. 16th [semi-interesting side note: 16 has always been our lucky date. My birthday is on a 16th, Hubby’s birthday is on a different 16th, our anniversary is on another 16th, and now, I found out I was being published on October 16th!] , anyway – I’m at my 9-5 job and it is The Friday-From-Hell. Of the five people in our little office, three are on vacation together, and the fourth is at an appointment. Every call is another deal getting ready to burst into flames. So I’m manning the front desk alone and playing virtual whack-a-mole. I’m on one phone line, and the other line is ringing and I’m just watching it ring because I can’t get off line 1. Then my cell phone lights up with a call, which hardly ever happens. And the caller ID reads “Ontario Canada”. There is only one caller who would be calling me from Ontario, Canada, and that’s Harlequin Books.

AND I CAN’T TAKE THE CALL.

More than one friend has suggested I should have hung up on the office call, but that’s not how I do business. I let the Harlequin call go to voicemail while I started to shake all over. I finally connected with the most wonderful senior editor at Harlequin later that afternoon, and she confirmed that Harlequin SuperRomance wanted to offer me a contract for The Hide-Away. Like…a real contract, with an advance and everything, like a real writer would get. The word “joy” doesn’t quite capture how I felt. How can you possibly describe a moment when a lifelong dream comes true?

Harlequin SR 10.25

Since then, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster of ecstasy and panic and everything in between. On that first call with the editor, I casually mentioned that Hide-Away was actually the second book in my series of four stand-alone titles. Harlequin rejected the first book, Halcyon, a while ago, and I acknowledged that the beginning needs major changes (like I need to throw out the first two chapters and start over kind of changes). SuperEditor agreed to take another look at Halcyon if I could make the changes. So now we’re talking the possibility of TWO books! Unreal. Midweek, it looked like they wouldn’t take Halcyon after all (which was oddly a bit of a relief in my panicked state), and then we went back to thinking maybe they would take another look at it. Holy crap!!

My dear SuperEditor and I came up with a plan later in the week, after my adrenalin rush began to settle. For the next four weeks, I am doing revisions on Hide-Away. While she felt the book is mostly good as written, there were a few suggestions made that I agreed with right away, and now I have to implement them. Most involve making minor changes to the ending so that things aren’t quite so tidy all of a sudden. Oh, and we also have to cut 8000 words from the book to fit the current parameters for the SuperRomance line. That’s 10% of the book. But it’s okay. It’s going to be fine. Totally cool. I can do this.

After Hide-Away is resolved, I will immediately begin the MAJOR revisions required for Halcyon. If I can have those completed by the start of the new year, I will resubmit them to SuperEditor and we’ll see what happens. If she likes it, I could have another book deal, and Halcyon would be published first, then Hide-Away. Which is just amazing. I’m still pinching myself.

And then this happened on Twitter (where you can follow me at @jomcnallyauthor):

Twitter 10.25

I am officially part of the Harlequin SuperRomance family, and I could not possibly be happier. At the very least, Hide-Away will definitely be published. Right now the SuperRomance line is primarily digital, but I’m hoping that will change so that folks can order paperback versions of my work. It will not be sold in stores, which is a tiny disappointment, but in the big scheme of things, I’m not losing sleep over it. It’s an online world, and I, for one, read nearly all my romances on my Kindle.

I’m walking on air. It occurred to me the other day that the only time I remember feeling like this was when I was first falling in love with my now-husband. I’m in the same exact state of mind: distracted, giddy, nervous, emotional, occasionally teary-eyed, at other times ready to leap up and dance just for the hell of it. Pretty appropriate that learning my romance novel is going to be published has given me the same sense of joy that falling in love gave me – can’t get much more romantic than that!

So this blog will now swerve away from “how will I ever get published?” to “what’s it like to get a book deal?” Follow along on the ups and downs that are surely ahead of me as I negotiate this new world of success. I’m not quitting my day job (yet), but I’m definitely looking forward to an exciting year in 2016 (look – another lucky 16!).