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!

Posted in 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!).

Posted in The Writing Process

A Writer’s Soundtrack

 

Last night, I did something I haven’t done in years. I went to a live country concert to hear Dustin Lynch at the North Carolina Seafood Festival. Dustin is one of the newer country artists, and he sings lots of songs about drinking and partying and about how his girl “cranks his tractor.” It was loud and fun and I had very little voice left this morning in church. But those pounding songs weren’t why I wanted to see Dustin Lynch perform. He co-wrote and recorded one of my all-time favorite love songs, and indeed, a song that very much inspired my most recent book, The Hide-Away.

The song is “Cowboys and Angels,” and he wrote the song in honor of his grandparents. It’s a nearly perfect love song, at least for this romance writer. And it was worth the drive and the noise and the crowd to hear him sing it live last night. And come on – look at that smile!

I love listening to music. I love to sing music. I love to dance to music. In fact, I have a hard time sitting still and not breaking into song if there’s something great playing. I’ve been known to boogie my way through the house while cleaning, much to the amusement of the dog. I love music of all kinds, although I confess I can only take small doses of heavy metal, rap or opera. My music of choice tends to be country with a healthy dose of pop. The common denominator is, of course, love. Finding love, losing love, fighting to win love back – it’s the stuff romance novels are made of.

And yes, I usually write to music. Many writers do so, some even going so far as to create a playlist for each of their books. Often those playlists are ones only known to the writer, but more and more frequently with contemporary romances, the author’s playlist will be printed at the end of a romance novel so the reader can listen to the same music.

If I’m doing heavy-duty writing, as in starting a new book, tackling a major scene, or breaking through writer’s block, I write best in silence – preferably in an empty house (thank God my husband golfs). But if I’m editing or working through an easier stretch, I like a soundtrack, and I have an ever-evolving playlist. In fact, it’s playing as I type this.

At the moment, I’m listening to Justin Timberlake’s “That Girl.” So sexy. I have several favorites from Justin’s first 20/20 album, including “Mirrors” and “Pusher Love Girl.” Speaking of sexy, there’s always the frankly-titled “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz-II-Men or “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.

Some songs are perfect for the passion-filled moment that comes along in every good romance novel (no, not that moment – I’m talking about the first realization of love). Songs like “That’s When I Knew” by Alicia Keys, “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones, “Come a Little Closer Baby” by Dierks Bentley (hell, any love song by Dierks Bentley!), Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love,” and a personal favorite of mine – “Wreck You” sung by Kristen Chenoweth. That song is the true ballad of the romance novel heroine.

One of the reasons I’m drawn to country music is that it tells a story that is so easy to visualize. Brad Paisley is a master of the story song, including one of Hubby’s favorites, “We Danced.” It’s an entire love story told in a song. Another great example is the lesser-known song playing right now – “Fall” by Clay Walker. It’s what every single woman wants to hear from her man (take note, guys!).

While The Hide-Away doesn’t have a specific playlist, it was heavily influenced by the aforementioned “Cowboys and Angels”, as well as “Walking Away” by Jason Aldean, and “Who I Am When I’m With You” by Chris Young. Those last two reflect a lot about Cole’s character.

My first book, Halcyon, actually does have a short playlist, because music factors so heavily in the story. The romantic ghost of Halcyon likes music, and has fun messing with playlists at times. The playlist is listed below, and all of the songs appear in the novel. So tell me, what are the songs from your soundtrack?

Playlist for Halcyon:

“Let the Groove Get In” Justin Timberlake

“A Thousand Years” Christina Perri

“Say Something (I’m Giving Up on You)” A Great Big World (with Christina Aguilera)

“I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz

“Tonight I Wanna Cry” Keith Urban

“All of Me” John Legend

“The Mess I Made” Parachute

“Make You Feel My Love” Adele

“Hymne” The O’Neill Brothers

Posted in Excerpts

Excerpt: Halcyon

Coffee DeskAn excerpt from Halcyon. This is my first book, to be published in 2016. This excerpt is subject to minor changes before publication. As always, this is make-believe – any resemblance to actual people/places/etc. is unintentional and coincidental. It’s fiction, folks!

 

 

     Amanda was having the weirdest medieval dream. She was in a massive, heavily-carved mahogany bed, covered with a satin comforter. Heavy tapestries draped the canopy of the bed and hung behind the huge headboard. The room was large and round. The only light came from a fire in the marble fireplace. The flames flared and danced merrily when she looked that way, then settled back to a gentle glow. Tall windows were set deep into the walls, framed with heavy damask curtains.
     A wing-backed chair was pulled up close to the bed, and a man was sleeping there with his feet propped up on the mattress next to her. But this was no knight of the round table. He was dressed in blue jeans and a plaid shirt. Black hair curled down over his forehead.
     Blake Randall.
     This was no dream.
     Peeking under the sheets, she saw she was wearing a large t-shirt she didn’t recognize, and nothing else. She sat up, and the quick movement was enough to wake him. His eyes opened, but he didn’t move. He just watched her cautiously as if he thought she might bolt. And she was seriously considering it.
     “Where am I?”
     He sat up and slowly dropped his feet to the floor. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands in front of him. His voice was soft and deep.
     “You’re in my suite at Halcyon.”
     “What time is it?”
     “A little after eleven.”
     “What happened?”
     Before he could respond, she remembered. Greg and Katt. The storm. Her panic attack. She groaned at the memory.
     Blake muttered something under his breath, but he didn’t move. She frowned at him.
     “Did you undress me?”
     “No. Your cousins and my manager Julie took care of that. I just donated the shirt.”
     “The girls know I’m here?”
     He nodded. “Of course. I didn’t kidnap you, Amanda. I just wanted to keep you as far away from Greg as possible. Nora’s asleep in the suite next door. Your other cousins went back to the resort a while ago. All of your things are here.”
     “And Greg?”
     She was shocked at the rage she saw flash across Blake’s face. He took a deep breath before he answered in a low growl. “He’s gone. That’s all you need to know.”
     She felt a little light-headed as she propped herself against the headboard. She had the strangest thought, and spoke it out loud. “Did you kill him?”
     Blake’s eyebrows raised, and his mouth quirked into a smile. “I’m impressed you think me capable, Miss Lowery. But no.”

Posted in The Writing Process

One Way or the Other…

PillowLast week, I talked about the “joys” of trying to break into traditional publishing. It’s pure luck to have your submission looked at for more than a few seconds by over-worked editors and agents. And then you have to hope it’s what they’re looking for and they actually like it. It’s been a long, painful slog of rejections for me. Even the personally-written encouraging ones (as opposed to form letters) hurt.

But traditional publishing is no longer the only route to writing success. You’re reading this post on a computer, or perhaps a tablet, or even a phone. And I’m willing to bet many of you read at least some of your books on an electronic device like a Kindle, Nook, or iPad. And that technology has brought some earth-shattering changes to the publishing world. Some publishers haven’t survived it. But eBooks are here to stay. I do 95% of my reading on my Kindle, which has hundreds of books on it.

The alternative to traditional publishing is self-publishing. I know, I know – “self-publishing” used to mean “vanity press” – people would pay a not-so-small fortune to have boxes and boxes of books printed that they would either hand out to friends and family (“look, I wrote a book!”) or attempt to sell to bookstores, at flea markets, etc. For fiction writers, it was almost always a losing proposition unless all you wanted to see was your name on a printed book. Finding a paying audience was tough, although a handful of people made it (it’s easier for non-fiction writers). But I can’t afford to quit my day job and drive around the country selling romance novels out of the trunk of my car.

Technology has changed all of that. It costs virtually nothing to publish an eBook, if you want to do the formatting yourself. I’d rather have four root canals that fight with formatting, so I’ll pay a nominal fee and let someone else handle that hassle and then the book just gets uploaded to Kindle, Barnes & Noble, etc. Easy-peasy, right? Why haven’t I done that already? Why shouldn’t I control my own destiny?

Well…because it’s scary as hell. Publishers provide a corporate team for writers, as well as help with publicity. I have worked most of my life as a corporate gal, and I’m used to that environment. Going it alone is frightening. I’ll be responsible for trying to find an audience for my writing – an audience that will hopefully write nice reviews and recommend the books and build sales until the book starts getting noticed and moves up the rankings at Amazon et al. It’s like jumping off a cliff and praying for wings on the way down.

And there are some god-awful self-published books out there – mis-spellings, no paragraphs, and truly terrible writing. Because there is no “gate-keeper“, anything can (and sometimes is) thrown out there on Amazon. And smart readers might shy away from indie books after being burned a time or two, so a good writer has to win them over.

But on the plus side of becoming an “Indie” writer – – – you make more pure profit on each book sold; there are multiple outlets for Print-On-Demand books for fans (and writers!) who like holding paper books in their hands; and there are many, many, many NYT and USA Today best-sellers these days that are self-published. It’s no longer a niche. It’s an accepted path, and even large publishing houses now offer e-publishing only collections.

So when I say things here like “to be published in 2016”, I mean it. One way or the other – traditional or indie, I will be published in 2016. If I can’t crack into the traditional market, then I will push myself out of my comfort zone and head into the brave new world of self-publishing.

And I’ll be expecting you all to buy a copy! 🙂

Posted in Excerpts

Excerpt: She’s Far From Hollywood

Coffee DeskAn excerpt from She’s Far From Hollywood. This is my second book, to be published in February 2017. This excerpt is subject to minor changes before publication. As always, this is make-believe – any resemblance to actual people/places/etc. is unintentional and coincidental. It’s fiction, folks!

 

     “Would you like another glass of wine?”
      Bree stared at her empty glass, still burning over Cole’s judgment of her.
     “Gee, Ty, I wouldn’t want to offend your brother’s sensibilities by ordering more wine. Maybe I should try what he’s having.”
      Cole let out a sharp, humorless laugh. “You’d hurt yourself, honey.”
      Oh, no he didn’t. “Let’s make one thing clear. I am not your honey.” She impulsively reached for Cole’s glass. His hand shot out so quickly she didn’t see it move until he grabbed her wrist tightly. His fingers were as hard as his eyes, and she gasped at the feel of his calloused skin on hers.
      Ty’s voice dropped to a growl. “Cole, I’ll throw your ass out the door myself if you don’t let her go and knock it off. What the hell is wrong with you today?”
      Cole pierced her with his eyes, and he didn’t let go. His voice was low and rough.
      “Don’t start something you can’t finish… honey.”
      They glared at each other, then he released her hand and pushed it away, causing some of the golden liquor to slosh over the rim of the glass onto her fingers. She kept her eyes locked on his as she lifted the glass to her lips and emptied it. His eyebrows raised just enough that she knew he was surprised, even if his expression remained carved in stone. Both men probably expected her to have a coughing fit or some other girlish reaction, but they were going to be disappointed. Thanks to her father, she was no stranger to hard liquor, including whiskey. She welcomed the burn as the strong drink warmed its way to her stomach. After setting the glass on the counter, she slowly licked the spilled whiskey from the tips of her fingers. Cole’s nostrils flared just a bit at that move.
      “Not bad.” She shrugged, settling back down onto the barstool. Ty’s eyes were bright with laughter, and he was staring at her in awe. He nodded toward Cole.
      “Brother of mine, I do believe you’ve finally met your match.”