Posted in Rendezvous Falls, The Writing Life

Welcome to Rendezvous Falls!

Rendezvous Falls Twitter

I’m so excited! (cue the Pointer Sisters!). I just inked a contract to create a brand new contemporary romance series for HQN! Not only will I be continuing to write Gallant Lake romances for Harlequin Special Edition, I will also be writing the stories of Rendezvous Falls, NY. This fictional town is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine country. Rendezvous Falls is famous for its wildly-colored, fanciful Victorian homes, and its citizens are just as unique and colorful as the town is. When the senior book club gets bored and decides to try their hand at matchmaking, the results are… interesting… because love is stranger than fiction. Their matches don’t always (never…) work out they way they plan, yet somehow love finds a way to bring the right people together.

Each book will have three points of view–heroine, hero and one member of the book club. A few book club members (a diverse and touching group of friends) will find their own “seasoned romance” Happily Ever Afters along the way.

Book 1: Corporate auditor Whitney Foster returns to her onetime childhood haven, Rendezvous Falls, to regroup after finding herself suddenly unemployed. She discovers  her widowed Aunt Helen’s winery is falling into disrepair and flirting with financial ruin. Whitney blames the most likely culprit: Falls Legend Winery’s manager. But her suspicions can’t erase the fact that Luke Rutledge’s disheveled yet determined vibe intrigues her, even if he is whispered about in town as “one of those Rutledge Boys.” When Aunt Helen’s book club decides to set Whitney up on a few blind dates to distract her from going crazy while she attempts to unravel the books, Luke realizes that he cares about the nosy “bean counter” far more than he thought.

So I’ll be hiding away in my writing cave for the next few (many!) months, creating the stories that you’ll be able to buy everywhere starting in the summer of 2019. I’ll also be working on updating the website to reflect the three existing series – Lowery Women, Gallant Lake and now – Rendezvous Falls! 

Posted in Gallant Lake, Music Monday, The Writing Life

Music Monday – Writer on a Deadline!

I generally use Music Mondays to share love songs from my romance playlist. But I’m shaking things up this week because it’s that dreaded time in an author’s life: DEADLINE WEEK. Well, technically the deadline for my first book in the new Gallant Lake series for Harlequin Special Edition is in ten days, but close enough. I have to get this book done, because it’s…it’s not done. TEN DAYS, PEOPLE!

So I’m sharing a song I’ve been playing on repeat all weekend because it calms me (a little). I thought maybe you might have stuff going on that makes you need the same message – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. Meanwhile I’ll be over here blubbering into my wine glass and typing 24/7.

Posted in Lowery Women, Music Monday, The Life She Wants

Music Monday – A Wedding Song for Shane & Mel

Life - Checklist

With all the royal wedding excitement this week, I thought I’d share the little-known song Himself and I danced to at our wedding – the Irish Wedding Song. It’s sung here by Andy Cooney, whom we’ve seen in concert several times.

I say it’s little-known, but anyone from an Irish family (like the one I married into) has probably heard this song before, like…at every Irish wedding they’ve ever been to. Listening to it just now sure brought back memories for both of us.

So it only makes sense that Shane Brannigan, the Boston-Irish hero of my upcoming June release, The Life She Wants, would expect to dance to this when he marries Melanie Lowery. I can see the two of them swaying together on the veranda of the Gallant Lake Resort, surrounded by friends and family, as someone (maybe Andy Cooney?) croons this song to them. Perfect, don’t you think?

Posted in Excerpts, She's Far From Hollywood

A First Kiss – She’s Far From Hollywood

Hollywood Checklist

Over the next few weeks, I’m visiting the First Kiss in each of my novels/novellas.

Sigh….that first kiss. One of my very favorite scenes to read in any romance, and one of my favorites to write, too. The whole story has led to this pivotal moment. The characters’ personalities definitely impact the scene.

In the case of Cole and Bree in She’s Far From Hollywood, they’ve basically hated each other at first sight. Or at least that’s what they tell themselves, but all that heat has nothing to do with hate.

When they finally kiss, it’s explosive!

………………………….
Cole lowered his head until their noses were brushing against each
other. She still hadn’t blinked. “But I’m not feeling very smart right
now…”

Those last words were spoken against her lips. His hands cupped her
face softly and she sighed, her breath blowing across his skin. This
was still a bad idea. But when her hands twisted into his T-shirt, he
was lost.

He wanted to take this slow, to be careful. Really, he did. But that plan
detonated on contact. Her lips were soft and pliant when their mouths
met, and she parted them with a soft moan that went straight to his
core.

Men had been plunging their tongues into women’s mouths for
centuries. Staking their claim. Grabbing the first taste of a woman.
And yes, hinting at that other penetration they had in mind. Kissing like
this, tongue against tongue, was natural. Primal even.

But Cole knew that never in the long history of kissing had there ever
been a kiss like this. Things quickly spun out of control, their heads
turning and their mouths moving against each other aggressively. She
tasted like cognac and toothpaste, and hell if it didn’t hit his nervous
system like crack cocaine.

His hands started to slide up and down her body, fingers grabbing at
every curve. She was trembling in his arms like a tuning fork, like she
was ready to come just from this. Just from kissing like this.

It wouldn’t be Bree’s style to just passively let him kiss her. She gave
as good as she got, tugging, pushing, sucking, biting. She was staking
her own claim, holding his head in place while she devoured him.
Twice their teeth clashed together, and neither of them flinched.

This was Bree, and he damned-well knew her.

Posted in Music Monday, Nora's Guy Next Door, The Writing Life

Music Monday – There Is Love (Nora & Asher’s Wedding Song)

I’m adding a bit of a twist to my Music Mondays – I’m imagining which of my books a love song might fit into, and where. When it comes to “There is Love” by Peter, Paul & Mary (yes, I’m going back a few years!), I can imagine this being the song Nora and Asher dance to at their wedding. Maybe not in front of their guests, but later, when they’re alone together and amazed at the love they’ve found with each other. Nora and Asher are from “Nora’s Guy Next Door.” This is a seasoned romance, where both hero and heroine are forty and dealing with impending grandparenthood. They (especially Asher) both struggle with the risk of allowing love back into their lives. But once they do, they know it’s what they were needing all along. There is love. There is love. There is love.

Posted in Excerpts, Nora's Guy Next Door, Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday – Nora’s Guy Next Door

Nora - Enough - DarkIn Nora’s Guy Next Door, Nora’s daughter is having a baby. With Asher’s son. Neither Asher nor Nora are happy about it. And now they’re neighbors. And that’s when things get really complicated. In this scene, she’s just brought lunch to his furniture shop after they shared an evening together. Just an innocent lunch, so they can talk things over. And they’ve decided to take things slow and keep the relationship quiet, because people might talk. Luckily, it’s Asher’s pal, Sheriff Dan, who walks in, and Dan already has a pretty good idea what’s going on….

“Slow works for me. And quiet, too.” Asher’s thumb brushed across her cheek. “When you blush like that, your cheeks turn into little roses, all pink and sweet. It makes me lose my concentration, and all I want to do is this.” He slid off the stool and stepped up to her. She parted her legs to let him come closer, and he pressed his body against hers. Then he kissed her—long and deep, slow and possessive—and she would have slid off her stool into a puddle on the floor if he hadn’t been gripping her shoulders and holding her upright. Good god, this man could kiss!

The jingling of the bell over the shop door pulled them apart abruptly. She felt like a schoolgirl who’d been caught kissing the quarterback behind the bleachers.

Dan Adams stood in the doorway, in uniform, with a wide grin on his face.

“Let me guess—Nora passed out and you decided she needed a little mouth-to-mouth?” Dan snapped his fingers. “No, I know what happened! She has a sore throat and you were checking her tonsils, right?”

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 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!