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I tend to procrastinate when it comes to tasks that intimidate me.

Write an 80,000 word romance novel? No problem!

Create a newsletter for my followers? *PANIC ATTACK!*

Part of it is because I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of having followers. Remember, my debut novel came out just over a year ago, so this is all new to me. The goal of a writer, of course, is to have people love their books. But it’s also an intimidating concept, and I’ll confess that I’ve ignored some parts of the process out of fear of screwing it up.

Things like asking people to review my books.

Things like asking people to subscribe to a newsletter about…me. What? 

But it’s time for me to put on my big girl pants and learn to handle the marketing end of the business with a more serious approach than just throwing random stuff on social media (although I’m very happy for the hundreds of followers I have there – Hi, Everyone!).

Phase 1 of that serious approach is creating a newsletter. Scroll up to the top of this page and check out the “Subscribe” box on the top right! My plan is for the newsletter to be quarterly, with “special editions” coming up for book releases or really big news (and boy, do I have some really big news coming up…….shhh!). I want to provide a newsletter that’s fun and offers some exclusive content, a peek at my writing process, book news, occasional giveaways, and silly things like pictures of hot guys, cool places, recipes, etc. Be patient with me for the first few issues, as I’m definitely still pretty low on the learning curve!

Cover Life She WantsSince I have a new book – The Life She Wants – coming up in June and, since I have some advance copies…I will randomly select five names from the first twenty people to sign up for my newsletter on Monday and will send those five people a signed ARC for The Life She Wants. I sure hope winners will share reviews of the book once they’ve read it! 

Phase 2 of my plan (in case you were wondering) is coming later this year. I will be creating a private Facebook group for my most devoted followers, where we can talk books and have opportunities to receive ARCs for reviewing and have special giveaways. But one thing at a time, and right now that’s the new NEWSLETTER!

Excerpts, Nora's Guy Next Door

Beginnings: Nora’s Guy Next Door

Nora's Guy Next Door HPG2What could possibly be more romantic than a grocery store, right? Hey–I don’t argue when inspiration hits me, and the opening scene for Nora’s Guy Next Door came to me as I was fighting my way through a crowded grocery store. I went with it, and it may be my favorite story opening.

I’m spending April revisiting the openings of each of my romances. Nora’s Guy Next Door is part of The Lowery Women series, but this book also inspired my upcoming Gallant Lake series with Harlequin Special Edition.

………………………………………………

Nora Lowery Bradford didn’t come close to losing her good Southern manners until the third time someone smacked their grocery cart into hers, nearly toppling a package of fancily frosted cupcakes. She spun on her heel, but the angry words died on her lips. The offender was an elderly lady, even shorter than Nora, pushing a cart loaded to the brim with Thanksgiving fixings.

Bless her heart.

Nora smiled and was about to wish her a happy holiday, but before she could speak, the woman rammed her cart into Nora’s again–on purpose!

“What’re you doin’, sightseeing or something? Move over! Other people got things to do.” With that, the woman pushed on by, scraping her cart along Nora’s to drive home her point.

Nora stood there for a moment with her mouth open, then rolled her eyes and pushed on. With Thanksgiving just two days away, the grocery store in Gallant Lake, New York, was mobbed with people. And the mob was cranky. Maybe she was biased, but people seemed just a bit more genteel back home in Atlanta. Unless, of course, you went grocery shopping on senior discount day–then all bets were off, Southern or not.

…………..

The produce section was even more crowded than the aisles, and Nora slowly worked her way through the veggies, taking in the dramas unfolding around her.

A woman threw a round head of pale lettuce into her cart, glaring at the balding man by her side. “Of course your mother thinks iceberg lettuce is the best. Your mother wouldn’t know a romaine leaf if it bit her in the ass!”

Two men leaned intently over a tomato display nearby. “Derrick, trust me. Vine-ripened tomatoes are better for salad than that monstrosity you picked up.” He gave his partner a wink. “I know you love the word beefsteak, honey, but bigger isn’t always better.”

Just a few minutes later, the drama jumps up a notch when Nora runs into a gorgeous, furious man cursing to himself in the fruit section of the produce area. They don’t exactly hit it off, but they can’t seem to stop running into each other…especially once they find out Nora’s daughter is having a baby…with Asher’s son. 

Excerpts, She's Far From Hollywood

Beginnings: She’s Far From Hollywood

She's Far From HollywoodLast month I shared “first kisses” from my books, and it was so much fun that I wanted to do something similar this month. Since April is a time of renewal and new beginnings, I’m going to share the beginning of each of my stories every Wednesday. If there are any you haven’t read yet, maybe you’ll be intrigued and want to know more (psst – just follow the link!).

I’ll start the beginnings with my beginning – the opening of my debut romance, She’s Far From Hollywood.

……………………………………………………….

Brianna Mathews hated North Carolina.

Seriously.

She hated it.

She’d left the cosmopolitan appeal of Charlotte a couple of hours ago, and now it was just field after field of…what? Corn? Tobacco? Cotton? What did they grow in North Carolina, anyway? Cotton, right?

Some of the fields looked like golden-green grass and were undulating prettily in the wind. Was that wheat?

…amber waves of grain…

Wasn’t wheat a grain?

She cursed softly behind the wheel of her rented red Mercedes. She was completely out of her element driving through farm country, and she laughed at her reflection in the rear-view mirror.

“You’re a long way from Hollywood, girlfriend.”

This seemed like such a good idea last night. But last night she was still in the civilized world. She’d been happily ensconced at her cousin Amanda’s palatial stone castle, Halcyon, in the Catskill Mountains of New York, sipping pink champagne at Amanda’s baby shower. Then she got the news that upended her tidy little world. The concensus was she needed a place to stay that was out of the public eye. Amanda’s best friend, Caroline, offered her mother’s rural farm as the perfect place to avoid both paparazzi and crazed stalkers.

“‘Go to North Carolina,’ Caroline said. ‘You’ll be safe there.'” Bree glared at her reflection as she continued her one-sided conversation. “‘Mom has a cute little cottage you can use.’ Didn’t that all sound delightful last night at Halcyon? And look at me now. Driving down country roads in the middle of nowhere. Me! Miss California!” She shook her head. “I haven’t been here three hours and I’m already talking to myself. How am I supposed to last a month?”

[HINT: The hot, grumpy farmer next door makes Bree’s time in North Carolina a lot more interesting than she ever expected!]

Excerpts, The Life She Wants

A First Kiss: The Life She Wants

Life - Checklist

Time for another First Kiss! This one is from my upcoming Harlequin Superromance, The Life She Wants (June 2018). Shane Brannigan is a brash go-getter – he’s a sports agent who’s driven to be the best of the best. Melanie has already seen the view from the pinnacle of success, and it wasn’t all that great. All she wants now is to settle down and feel safe and healthy again. She doesn’t need a complication like Shane in her life, but there he is, every time she turns around.

They don’t pick the most private spot for a first kiss – they’re walking Mel’s dog in a public park. But one thing leads to another, and they end up stepping off the path and into each other’s arms. Fearless Shane is suddenly hesitant, but not for long….
…………………………………………………..
A furrow appeared between her brows.

“Shane…” His name was a whisper on her lips.

“Say that again.”

Her eyes darkened, and the furrow faded as a smile teased her lips. Her voice was stronger this time.

“Shane. What are we doing?”

“Damned if I know, but I’m not stopping unless you tell me to.”

He waited, and she didn’t say a word. His head dropped until his lips touched hers. He waited again, until she tipped her head up to meet him. Her lips parted for him with a sigh, and still, he hesitated. Was he afraid for her? Or for himself? This moment…this moment felt big. She murmured his name against his lips, her arms wrapping around his neck. And he was a goner.

He held her face in his hands, holding her still while his mouth took control. A soft moan rose from her throat, and his heart started banging in his chest. He had to hold back or they’d be naked on the ground in a heartbeat. She wasn’t making it easy.

One of his hands slid down her neck, his fingers wrapping around the back of her head, his thumb tipping her jaw up. She tilted her face just enough to let his tongue reach places he hadn’t managed to explore yet. His chest vibrated with a low growl and he pulled her closer.

He didn’t know how long it lasted. He didn’t care. He had no intention of stopping.

Until the dog barked.

 

Cover Reveal, The Life She Wants, The Writing Life

Cover Reveal: The Life She Wants

Cover Life She WantsIt’s here! The cover for my June Harlequin Superromance, The Life She Wants has arrived! Meet sports agent Shane Brannigan (with that gorgeous ginger hair!) and former supermodel Melanie (Mel) Lowery. Harlequin did a great job capturing the characters as I pictured them in my mind. And look at the smiles they have for each other!

As authors, we have limited input on covers. Sure, we give the publisher tons of information on the characters and even the scenes we think might make good covers. We send photos of people we think look like our characters. And then we wait. And wait. And when the cover appears, we say a little prayer before we look at it. This one really works for me–especially the chemistry between them.

I will admit, though, I have no idea where that backpack came from! In the book, Shane is a Boston “city-boy” who has a hard time embracing small town life in Gallant Lake. He complains about the lack of proper streetlights on remote mountain roads.

So I’ve decided this is “Future Shane” on the cover. Beyond the happily-ever-after, Shane obviously takes up backpacking in the Catskill Mountains that surround Gallant Lake. I’d follow this guy down a mountain trail anytime, wouldn’t you?

Excerpts, Nora's Guy Next Door

A First Kiss: Nora’s Guy Next Door

Nora Checklist (1)

I am all about first kisses this month! This week, I’m sharing the all-important first kiss from Nora’s Guy Next Door (The Lowery Women Book 2). This is a Seasoned Romance, with both Nora and Asher in their forties, so they’re not new to this kissing game. But this kiss is different. With her daughter pregnant with his son’s baby, things are beyond messy. Falling for each other will complicate the family dynamics even further. And yet here they are, right or wrong, no longer able to deny the incredible chemistry between them.

……………………………………..
Asher’s lips were hard and tender at the same time as Nora pushed up onto her toes and kissed him. She kissed him! Because he was right.

She wanted this as much as he did.

At first they were gentle, tentative. Butterfly kisses, teasing and tempting. Making contact, then pulling back. But when his hands moved to her waist, up and around, slipping under her sweater, the feel of his calloused hands moving across her skin unlocked something inside her she’d never known existed, and suddenly she was on fire. Her fingers twisted in his hair and her lips parted. She felt the vibration in his chest as he growled before moving his tongue across her teeth and into her mouth.

Their heads turned and bumped as their tongues twisted together and pushed against each other. Was that him moaning in pleasure or was it her? She didn’t care. She just wanted more. Their mouths came apart only long enough to gasp for air before crashing together again. Her arms tightened around his neck and she pulled herself higher, fairly climbing the poor guy, and he didn’t object. In fact, his hands dropped to cup her buttocks and he lifted her, pinning her against the door. His mouth moved down her neck, devouring her inch by inch, and she lifted her chin to give him full access. He sucked at the base of her throat, and a loud groan echoed in the hallway. Oh,God, that was her!

“Asher…”

She didn’t have any words other than that. She just needed to say his name out loud. How had she come to be here in his arms, moaning his name like some wild woman? It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the feel of his lips on her skin, of his fingers gripping her, of her own name being whispered over and over as if he was breathing her in and out.

Music Monday, She's Far From Hollywood

Music Monday: “Woman, Amen” (Cole & Bree)

Not only was Dierks Bentley himself an inspiration for Cole Caldwell in She’s Far From Hollywood (hello – have you seen the man?), but his music also filled my playlist while I was writing it. His newest song Woman, Amen instantly found a home on my romance writer’s playlist. I imagine it as the soundtrack for the final scene in the book, when Cole and Bree are in the barn, soaked to the skin from the storm, declaring their…..well, you should really read the book to get the complete picture.

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.

Friday Funday, Music Monday

Music Monday – Millionaire

I have a deadline this week (TOMORROW!!!), so I’m skidding in here to quickly share a bluesy country song I just heard a few days ago and immediately added to my love song playlist. Chris Stapleton’s Millionaire is all about appreciating having the love of a great woman, and what really matters in life. That’s a lot like the June Harlequin Superromance I’m just finishing edits on – The Life She Wants. Two strong people on different life paths, and how the hero (finally…) realizes what he should be working to win.

People look at her and they look at me
And say “That boy is sure living in luxury”

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.