Tag Archives: Saints & Spies

Come learn to talk like the Irish!

Pinterest

irish accent gum front1024x577Are you ready for St. Patrick’s Day? In honor of my Irish heroine from Saints & Spies, Molly Malone, I’m visiting three libraries in Utah for a fun night (or afternoon) of Irish language, culture, food and possibly even dance!

Kissin’ the Blarney Stone: Talk like the Irish!

Join me for a fun time and celebrate your Irish heritage (or lack thereof!) by learning about Irish English, slang and culture today. The craic will be rapid! There may be treats and even dancing!

March 16, 2016
1 PM
March 16, 2016
7 PM
March 17, 2016
7 PM
Millcreek Center Library
2266 E Evergreen Ave
East Millcreek, Utah
Pleasant Grove City Library
30 East Center
Pleasant Grove, Utah
American Fork Public Library
64 S 100 E
American Fork, Utah
Children’s library

Come join me!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Announcing Saints & Spies!

Pinterest

It’s here! After SEVEN! LONG! YEARS!, I’m finally ready to share this story, and on its actual seventh birthday, no less:

SAINTS & SPIES

SaintsSpies_CVR_MEDWhen she finds her priest murdered, Molly Malone, secretary of their Catholic parish, vows to never let it happen again. She’ll use the full force of her Irish will, and her previous stint on the Irish police force, to protect the new priest from the congregation’s rumors of criminal activity.

Falling in love wasn’t part of her plan. However, young, handsome and — dare she even think it? — flirtatious, Father Tim O’Rourke is nothing she expected. But Father Tim is also nothing like he seems to Molly: he’s Special Agent Zach Saint, an LDS FBI agent undercover to root out the mob that’s hiding in the parish.

And Molly isn’t helping: every time Zach gets close to the mob, Molly manages to get in the way. Falling for her is the last thing he needs. Now Zach must find the murderer and catch the mobsters before his feelings for Molly blow his cover and add another murder or two to the mobsters’ docket.

Buy now | About the book | Excerpt

And if you buy Saints & Spies this week, your ebook will include over 80 pages of bonus features, from recipes to character profiles to deleted scenes & alternate versions!

But you MUST purchase the book by Saturday to get this exclusive content. Some of these features will NEVER be shared again!


To celebrate the release of Saints & Spies (can I say that again?!), I’m giving away a reader prize pack!

readerpack

In the pack, one lucky winner will get to curl up with hot cocoa (don’t worry, I’ll ship it as powder), a reading-themed mug (I like “Reading is my super power”), ALL SIX BOOKS OF THE SPY ANOTHER DAY SERIES (Kindle or ePub format), and cozy handknit socks (women’s mediumish, ankle height, reversible, knit by yours truly!).

Okay, I’m crazy excited about these socks. The name of the yarn color is “Molly.” AND the sock pattern’s designer was actually my Irish consultant on the novel. She’s awesome! And I decided to make them ankle high, and then I remembered this scene:

Molly.

Even if he could cover his gun before she found him, Zach would look really suspect—and really stupid—hiding under her desk. He tried to force himself further into the shadows. Good thing she had a deep desk, and she hadn’t bothered to switch on the lights, either.

But wouldn’t any normal person with a legitimate reason to be in their own office after hours switch on the lights first thing? Was she here for something illegal? . . .

In the silence, Molly shifted her weight from one attractive ankle to the other—he’d never realized ankles could be pretty. . . .

He waited until he was sure Molly would be gone before he returned to the parish house. As he walked through the parking lot, he took note of the maroon sedan parked across the street. But he was more worried about the owner of a pair of pretty ankles.

Okay, I love these things. And cocoa. And reading mugs. And my books. And I’m giving them to you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Physical prizes shipped to US addresses only. Entries must be received by October 24, 2015. No purchase necessary.

Hot cocoa photo by meg

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

SECRET

Pinterest

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up! With an Irish heroine in my newest book, I have to celebrate the most Irish holiday—and what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway?! Scroll down to learn more about the Irish prize pack!

SAINTS & SPIES

SaintsSpies_CVR_MEDWhen she finds her priest murdered, Molly Malone, secretary of their Catholic parish, vows to never let it happen again. She’ll use the full force of her Irish will, and her previous stint on the Irish police force, to protect the new priest from the congregation’s rumors of criminal activity.

Falling in love wasn’t part of her plan. However, young, handsome and — dare she even think it? — flirtatious, Father Tim O’Rourke is nothing she expected. But Father Tim is also nothing like he seems to Molly: he’s Special Agent Zach Saint, an LDS FBI agent undercover to root out the mob that’s hiding in the parish.

And Molly isn’t helping: every time Zach gets close to the mob, Molly manages to get in the way. Falling for her is the last thing he needs. Now Zach must find the murderer and catch the mobsters before his feelings for Molly blow his cover and add another murder or two to the mobsters’ docket.

Buy now | About the book | Excerpt


a Rafflecopter giveaway

To celebrate Saints & Spies and St. Patrick’s Day, I’m giving away an Irish prize pack!

irish accent gum front1024x577irish accent gum back576x1024

In the pack, one lucky winner will get to enjoy Paddy O’Connell’s Instant Irish Accent Gum, homemade barmbrack (okay, it’s more Halloween appropriate, but not many foods ship well, folks), and, my favorite, two handknit prizes: a shamrock pin and a very special set of mittens.

wp-1456979466553.jpg

wp-1456979290800.jpg

These aren’t just any mittens, my friends. They’re hand crafted with a Celtic knot cable design on the wrists. There are actually three mittens in the set: two individual mittens, and, perfect for any romantic, one mitten designed so you can hold hands! The real wool mittens use two colors: one called “Molly” and the other called “Father Tim”! (Okay, so it was really called “Father Time,” but close enough!) Even I’m surprised at how beautifully the colors meld together in the hand holding mitten. They’re cozy and sure to keep you and your beloved warm through long, wintry walks or professions of love on snowy back porches, if either of those are in your future.

Okay, I love these things. And all this semi-kitschy, super fun Irish stuff. And I’m giving them to you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Physical prizes shipped to US addresses only. Entries must be received before March 19, 2016. No purchase necessary.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Saints series

Pinterest

Saints & Spies

SaintsSpies_CVR_MEDBook one

October 2015

An FBI agent must go undercover as a Catholic priest to root out the mob in the parish—if he doesn’t fall for the parish secretary first.

Read more!

Book Two

Coming soon!

Book Three

After that!

Sign up for my readers’ group mailing list to be the first to know about future books—and get a chance for a free review copy!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Pinterest

St. Patrick’s Day is probably my favorite pointless holiday of the year! There are two basic reasons for this—and neither of them is my rich Irish heritage. (Incidentally, I do have Irish heritage, but considering those people died in the US a century before I was born, I don’t really have a strong attachment to the culture from them.)

No, my real reasons are at least half ridiculous:

1.) When I was in college, I spent Thanksgivings with my aunt. Randomly one year when we got up silly early for Black Friday, we began speaking in an Irish accent. These things only make sense before 5 AM.

2.) I wrote a trilogy featuring characters from Ireland. Over the years, I’ve spent approximately 1,000,000 hours studying Irish language, slang and culture 😉 .

But the real reason I’m extra excited this year on St. Patrick’s Day is because it’s official. After a long journey, that series is now free to be published! So <drumroll>

Saints & Spies is coming this fall!

After the Spy Another Day series concludes, I’ve got another fun adventure on deck. It starts with Saints & Spies, which follows an FBI agent going undercover as a Catholic priest to root out the mob in the parish.

To celebrate, I’m going to share a little “true” Irishness with you.

Eight Myths about Irish Culture and St. Patrick’s Day Dispelled—complete with tips on brushing up your Irish accent and how best to celebrate this weekend!

Irish Potato Candy—real!

Complete with recipe!

Irish Flag Apron—kinda kitschy, but real!

Complete with instructions—and it only cost me $5!

Photos all by me! Okay, and my husband.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

What you should never, ever, ever do

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series All my novels
Pinterest

(Unless you want to)

After I finished my third novel, my next idea was to continue the adventures of the undercover agent/priest (now no longer undercover, of course) and the parish secretary (who quit).

Yep. I wrote a sequel to a book I hadn’t sold. Hadn’t even revised. I knew enough about the publishing industry by now to know that this was stupid. But I also knew enough about the publishing industry to know that I was in a very special phase of my career: one without contracted deadlines, publisher pressures, and reader expectations. I could really do what I wanted.

Pretty awesome time!

Writing

My co-author finished her parallel novel to Saints & Spies, and wrote a short story sequel, but from there she had no desire to write another parallel, so I was on my own again. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stretch my own words and ideas to novel length, but (woot!) I made it!

The book stats

Title: Finally settled on Saints & Agents
Genre: Romantic suspense
Inspiration: an entertaining idea for a scene that would be uncomfortable for my characters. The scene never made it in the book.
Writing dates: January – April 2009. Editing in January – March 2011.
Length: About 75,000?
Elevator pitch: Happily ever after didn’t last nearly long enough. Now both working for the FBI, the exes may need one another to track down a pair of Irish terrorists. But getting in with the criminals—and working side by side with the one that got away—is even harder than breaking up the first time.

What I learned from writing this book

The joy of a sequel! Yeah, okay, that’s said with some sarcasm—sequels aren’t always easy. There’s a lot of pressure to do it the same, but, uh, different: hit the same emotional notes, have the same or similar characters, develop similar-ish conflicts—all while writing something that’s new and different enough to satisfy readers.

This book is the first time I used an “alpha” reader. My co-author and I wrote scenes together and showed each other our progress along the way. (Yes, the book that was to be my first published novel was actually drafted in Google Docs in 2008. Crazy times, eh?) She became my alpha reader for this novel, but it was a different relationship. Rather than creating our world together, she became a sounding board and semi-audience (although I relied on her for input with her characters’ actions).

I re-learned the importance of subplots and secondary characters. I had to work hard to tie in all the characters I loved from the first novel (well, all the ones who weren’t in jail). But I also had a new cast of secondaries—and, of course, new antagonists. This book was the first time I used the villain’s POV—and it made a world of difference! In a book where the protagonists spend much of the time not knowing what the villains are up to, it’s very hard to keep the tension going (don’t get me started). If you can add the villain’s POV—as I did in revising this novel, since it was already in 3rd person multiple POV—you can help to inject all the scenes with more tension and every 10th grade English teacher’s favorite thing, dramatic irony.

Good IdeaPossibly the most important lesson I (re)learned with this novel is that I will always be able to find another idea. I was most of the way through Saints & Spies believing it was a stand-alone when this idea came to me. I dismissed it at first (no sequels before sales!), but I fell in love with the story, and I had to do it. Not only did I have an idea for a novel, but I also had enough ideas to finish a full-length one by myself. Hooray!

What do you think? Have you ever done something you should never, ever, ever do in your career?

Photo credits: notebook—Tony Hall; idea quotation—Celestine Chua

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Third time’s the charm

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series All my novels
Pinterest

I kept on writing in spite of my too-short and too-broken first novels. And as it turned out, the third time was the charm. This new project completely changed my writing career.

QUICK REMINDER: to receive your bonus reads for the book blast, you must email me your receipt! jordan at jordanmccollum.com

El Padre y la ViudaAnyway. My best friend and I were chatting one day about a friend of hers who became a priest after college, and what it would be like to choose a celibate life at a young age. The conversation wandered off into paths of foreign soaps with Catholic priests pursued by young women (namely Ballykissangel and Abrázame muy fuerte). Sometimes these fictional priests would fall in love and leave the ministry, and my friend and I speculated what would happen if a priest fell in love.

That night, my mind returned to that theme. What if, I wondered, he wasn’t really a priest? For the first time, my mind went to what would later become my favorite fictional question: what if he were a spy?

I emailed my friend and within a day or two, we’d sketched out our stories and begun parallel novels: mine following the adventures of Father Undercover and the parish secretary, and my friend’s following the story of a teacher at the parish school (who happened to be Father Undercover’s sister) and a seminary candidate.

The book stats

Title: Finally settled on Saints & Spies
Genre: Romantic suspense (my first contemporary-set novel!)
Inspiration: a conversation with my best friend
Writing dates: 22 October 2008 – early December 2008. And then editing until February 2010. Seriously.
Length: Maxed out at 101,000, but submitted at around 90,000
Elevator pitch: An LDS FBI agent must go undercover as a Catholic priest to root out the mob in the parish—if he doesn’t fall for the parish secretary first.

What I learned from writing this book

Man. What didn’t I learn from this book?

From the initial writing, I was reminded what it was like to fall in love with a story. It had been nearly a year since I’d started a new project, and my enthusiasm for my previous books was as mired down as their plots. I realized I could write a book in a contemporary setting, and I learned how much fun it was to co-author. The best part was always writing the scenes with all four of our main characters interacting. My friend and I still squabble like our sibling characters when talking about a scene where they have opposite agendas 😉 .

But probably the farthest-reaching lesson I learned was how useful plotting really is. With four MCs, two main plots, intersecting subplots, shared scenes, etc., planning out our stories in advance was a must. The actual plotting took me less than a day and I was still very excited about the story. The actual book was very different from the original plot—we cut the rival mob that was the main plot entirely—but having a guideline in place was an amazing revelation. It didn’t stifle my creativity; the outline enabled it.

This book became my first submission, and thus my first rejection. That, right there, says a lot.

I would not give up. Editing the book again taught me more than I’d ever learned about writing. I went through each scene to perform a tension check, ensuring there was some source of tension in the scene, striving to weave in more interactions with antagonists, bringing out the suspense. I took my heroine from a crying waif to a proactive former policewoman. I learned how to better write character emotions from the inimitable Margie Lawson.

sandsnotes

I learned how much real work it would take to get that book from first draft to publishable (my secret sauce of writing). It took more than a year of work after the rejection to get it that way.

After I finally learned what editing was, this book became my first contest win. Then it became my first acceptance from a publisher. And one day, it will definitely be available. Once upon a time, that day was going to be last month, but it isn’t now. Which is okay, too—because if you saw the dates above, I started this book five years ago and often I’m not sure I want to look back at where my writing was back then!

But, hey, if you do, you can read that prizewinning chapter right here on my website.

What do you think? How did you learn about the importance of planning, or editing? How many novels did you write before you had one ready to submit?

Photo credit: el Padre y la Viuda (the Father and the Widow)—Carlos MuLec

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Parallels, plotting and publishing

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series My writing journey
Pinterest

Trying to “fix” a Winchester Mystery Story to make a habitable home novel wasn’t the only reason I turned to plotting. My next project came about from off-the-wall speculation with Sarah, one of my writing friends from high school. (Off-the-wall speculation is our specialty.)

trust your crazy ideasOne day, our crazy speculation turned to international soaps we watched as teenagers—Abrázame muy fuerte (Mexican telenovela) and Ballykissangel (Irish soap opera). Although the soaps were really different from one another, they were both set in Roman Catholic cultures, and featured priests characters prominently. We felt really compelled to explore this fascination in fiction, and we wanted to write something together.

The day after this conversation, I sent her an email:

Okay, this idea is just crazy and a product of watching too many fabulous spy shows, BUT–what if he was joining the priesthood as a spy cover/to escape a horrible secret?

And she did me one better:

I LIKE IT! So now I have an even crazier idea.

I was thinking, maybe we could turn this story into that LDS themed book. Maybe we can have two couples? One LDS guy turns into a Catholic priest as a cover-up that he’s a spy. His friends and family won’t know and they’ll be totally shocked by it. What if he started flirting with this Catholic girl who really likes him but is disturbed by it (plagued with guilt) because she thinks he’s a real priest? So maybe guy A’s sister ends up moving to X-town where her brother lives and meets a real initiate (haha what do you call future priests?) and falls in love. [. . .]

Too crazy?
There are several seminaries in Chicago. Maybe “priest” A is posing as a Priest to get in with the mafia somehow?

You know, when you put it like that, it sounds absolutely insane . . .

My favorite kind of book!

So we set about our parallel novels, mine about the spy/priest and secretary/parishioner, and hers about the sister and the seminarian. To keep the projects straight, of course, we couldn’t both just pants our way through these novels. So I didn’t just dip my toes in the plotting pool. I jumped in the deep end:
I've never successfully plotted like this, but whoa.

  • I wrote out full plot treatment, about one page long, hitting the milestones of the Hero’s Journey.
  • I wrote a journal entry from the villain’s POV to understand his motivation behind the murder.
  • I made a day-by-day timeline in a spreadsheet, her events in one column, mine in another.

That might sound like a lot of work. The first two were done the day after our emails, and we traded first chapters in the first two days after that. Most of all, however, we had fun. We didn’t shy away from the absurd, we put our characters into horrible straights, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

The best parts were the scenes with all our characters in them. We would schedule times to “get together” online and write the dialogue/blocking in a spreadsheet (often with our own running commentary in another column…). Once we had them roughed in, we’d convert those scenes to prose with our characters’ thoughts.

The whole time, I feared the project was too “controversial” for an actual publisher to be interested. My previous projects were not going to get into publishable shape any time soon (or, likely, ever). Could I afford a third “flop” if I really wanted to be a published author?

In the end, though, I loved the story too much to let my perception of the market stop us. So we wrote and enjoyed our story. Within three months, we had two finished first drafts.

But, as any one knows who’s written “The End” enough times, that’s only the beginning. And in this case, the journey was a lot longer than it probably should’ve been. I had a lot to learn.

What do you think? Have you ever tried parallel novels or another form of co-authoring? How would you handle it?

Photo credits: trust your crazy ideas—Leandro Agrò; planning—Jez Nicholson

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS