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Jenny Hale

Southern Roots

The south is full of stories and people who like to tell them. I’m not saying that in other areas of the United States there aren’t stories. What I’m saying is that the average southerner finds it perfectly normal to hear what people are doing or even to share their own lives in even the most random of circumstances.

 

I was in the post office in downtown Richmond, standing in front of two postal workers I’d never met. One was a woman with a big smile and short, curly hair. The other, a man who was thoughtful enough to look over the head of the person he was helping to greet me and acknowledge that I’d been waiting. When the person before me in line finished, I took my place in front of the man.

 

“I need to return these,” I said, handing the postal worker the keys to my post office box.

 

He looked over at the other employee. “We’re losin’ one,” he said, and shook his head as if me not checking my post box would give him less joy in his day.

 

“I’m moving to Tennessee,” I explained.

 

The man’s smile reached his eyes as his gaze moved in my direction again. He looked at me as if he’d just seen me for the first time. “I’m from Memphis,” he said, the name of his hometown rolling off his lips through his obvious delight.

 

The woman with the short hair leaned over toward us. “I’m from not too far outside Nashville,” she said, and we all shared that little moment together, the three Tennesseans, old and new.

 

A lady standing beside me with a wad of envelopes in her hand piped up—I hadn’t noticed her until then. “Dang!” she said with a loud chuckle. “I was gonna tell you to be sure to give these two a hard time whenever you come in! Oh well. Guess it’ll just be me to do it then.”

 

And we laughed together—all complete strangers.

 

This is the south.

 

It is the place that groomed me to be a writer. It’s the place that, in every manuscript, I cannot leave. Because in my mind, that’s where the stories are. That’s where the people who share them live. And there are so many.

 

I can sit in a café and just listen and hear them, like a storm of information for my author-brain. I sit, typing frantically, the ideas rushing in with every breath that those around me take as I overhear how people react to each other, giving me brand new ideas that may not even be related to what these people are saying. A random word or phrase in one of their conversations can spark a story.

 

Stories: we all have them. And southerners tend to share them often.

 

I’m glad I can share mine with you. My latest, We’ll Always Have Christmas, is available for preorder on Amazon right now. It will land on your Kindles September 29th.

 

Happy reading!

 

 

 

We’re Going to Hollywood!

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I am so very excited to share the news that my novel Coming Home for Christmas will be landing on the small screen as part of the 2017 Christmas lineup on The Hallmark Channel. Hallmark is one of the romantic, feel-good heavyweights in television, and this network is the perfect location for my stories. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

 

It’s such a wild thing to have Coming Home for Christmas be the book that debuts on television because it’s coming full circle. Coming Home for Christmas was my first published novel–it started everything. Now, here I am four years later, and I’m reading the screenplay.

 

The coming days and months will be thrilling and I look forward to sharing all of it with you!

Inspiration

Well, I’m in the midst of writing the pitch and synopsis for next Christmas’s novel as I excitedly await edits on this summer’s. It’s a busy thing, this writing. When I decided to do it full time, I quickly took over a room in my home, moved all my books in there, bought a desk, and decorated it like crazy until I had My Happy Place. It’s calming, organized, quiet. Then, when the kids went to school and my husband shuffled off to work, I sat. In silence. With nothing pulling my attention.

And I struggled! I had everything I needed! Except inspiration. What I found was that I do best when I’m on the go, people-watching, in new places. I notice the exposed brick on the walls in restaurants, the old lady with the dog that guides her around loose stones on the sidewalks, the icy chill in the air. In a couple of hours at a coffee shop, I can get done what takes me all day at home.

So much of the first draft of my upcoming novel was written in coffee shops around southern Virginia. I thought it might be fun to take you on a tour of my favorite places for inspiration. Grab a cup of coffee and have a look!

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Meet Nan from All I Want for Christmas

I’ve really enjoyed all the reviews for All I Want for Christmas–they’re so much fun to read! It was mentioned by a couple of readers that they would’ve liked to have known Nan, since she was almost a character herself, with all the notes she liked to leave. So since we just finished Halloween, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into life when Nan was at Evergreen Hill. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Sadie ran down the drive leading to Evergreen Hill. The front steps of the plantation were lined with pumpkins that had been hollowed out and carved with ornate shapes of leaves and acorns, their centers glowing with the flicker of candles inside each one. It was dark, the autumn sun going down early as the season grew colder. The antique porch lights illuminated the walk.

“Look at you!” Nan said, reaching out to give Sadie a hug.

Sadie wrapped her little arms around Nan’s waist, burying her face in the apron that Nan always wore when she’d been baking.

“Let me see your costume,” Nan said, pulling back, her cheeks rosy, her smile reaching her eyes. Her silver hair was pulled up like she’d always done when she’d spent all day in the kitchen. “Oh, let me guess. You’re a gymnast.”

“Yes!” Sadie said, as Leah caught up to them, carrying their bags.

They’d just gone trick-or-treating in town, and Leah was happy to be able to settle in for the night at the plantation. She took a moment to look at the gorgeous house: the windows all aglow in the golden color of champagne, a wreath of orange leaves on the dark wood door, the double chimneys puffing the smoke from their fires inside. She couldn’t wait to wrap herself in one of Nan’s quilts and relax.

“How are you, sugar?” Nan said, leaning over Sadie to give Leah a kiss on the cheek. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too, Nan. I can’t wait to catch up! I have so much to tell you!”

“Well,” Nan said, opening the door, the smell of her banana nut muffins wafting toward them as they went inside. “Let’s get in our pajamas and look through all that candy you got trick-or-treating, Sadie!”

Sadie’s eyes grew round and she turned to Leah. “May I have some right now, Mama?”

“You might want to go up to the yellow room first. I’ve put something on your bed,” Nan said with excitement on her face. Nan was always one for surprises. She loved to leave them little notes and hidden treasures whenever she got the chance.

“What is it?” Sadie asked, hopping up and down.

“Go have a look. I’ll take your mom into the kitchen and get her a drink. I’m sure she’s thirsty from all that walking you all did in town.”

While Sadie tore up the stairs to find her prize, Leah followed Nan into the kitchen. She sat down at the antique table, a vase in the center exploding with orange and yellow blooms, pinecones and more flickering candles around it. She could smell the fire in the fireplace, the lavender that Nan had always used to give the house its unique scent, and the aroma of her cooking—it all was so much a part of Leah that she couldn’t imagine life without it.

“How about a glass of wine, dear?” Nan said, pulling two glasses from the cabinet. “I’m dying to know what you’ve been up to.”

“I just began my first class,” Leah said, the thrill of it still new. She’d always wanted to run the business with Nan, and now it was time to get started.

Nan clasped her hands together in delight, that adoring smile on her face. “You and I will be quite a team,” she said. Then she poured the wine and handed a glass to Leah, raising hers into the air. “We have to toast! To beautiful beginnings!”

Leah held her glass up. “To beautiful beginnings,” she repeated, feeling the elation return. Things were coming together, and she couldn’t be more excited for the future.

“Mama!” Sadie said as she bounded down the stairs. “Mama! Look what Nan made me!” She came skidding into the kitchen on her sock feet. Leah had made her wear socks over the tights of her costume, the wind having picked up, bringing a cold front with it. Sadie had her plastic pumpkin full of candy dangling from her arm as she held up a small, fabric doll with blonde hair and blue embroidered eyes, its dress made of pink ruffles.

“It’s adorable, Sadie.” Leah turned to Nan, who had sat down after their toast and was sipping her wine. “Did you make it?”

Nan nodded, a smile on her lips. “I made one for you too when you were little. Remember?”

“Yes, I still have it. Her name was Ruby.”

“Mine’s going to be Martha,” Sadie said, setting her pumpkin on the table and climbing up onto a chair between them.

Leah chuckled. “Martha?” She turned to the doll as Sadie settled in. “Well, hello, Martha.”

“Shall we dig into this candy?” Nan said, dipping her hand in. “I’ll be happy to take all the Twix bars off your hands.”

“What about the muffins?” Leah said. “It smells like you made muffins.”

“Ah, we’ll have them for breakfast tomorrow. I’ll make us eggs and bacon to go with them.”

“That sounds wonderful,” she said. But then again, everything with Nan was wonderful. As they sat around the table that night, Leah looked out the large window, the wavy glass original to the house, causing the stars to blur against the velvet sky. She felt the start of something great, something new.

And she was ready.

Who’s your winter book boyfriend?

Back by popular demand: the book boyfriend quiz! Let’s see which of my winter book characters you’d fall for! Number your paper from 1 to 8 and for each, write down the letter of your answer.

Will your hero be Robert Marley – Coming Home for Christmas, Adam Fletcher – A Christmas to Remember, Nick Sinclair – Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, or David Forester – All I Want for Christmas?

  1. While reading on a cold day, how would you warm your feet?

            (a) by a toasty fire

            (b) relaxing with a good drink

            (c) wearing big, fuzzy socks

            (d) traveling somewhere warmer

  1. What type of vacation best describes you?

            (a) a “staycation” with movies and popcorn and a guy who cooks for you

            (b) a tour of breweries or wineries

            (c) visiting a tropical beach

            (d) a trip to New York

  1. What would you most like to do after work?

            (a) have a warm drink and snuggle under a quilt

            (b) go out for cocktails or beers

            (c) listen to music

            (d) ride horses

  1. What would you most like to do in the snow?

            (a) take a horse-drawn sleigh ride

            (b) go sledding yourself down a big hill

            (c) ice skate

            (d) stay inside

  1. What treat would you pick from the list below?

            (a) snow cream

            (b) specialty beer

            (c) cake

            (d) champagne

  1. What’s your favorite thing to wear when it’s cold?

            (a) fuzzy socks

            (b) a sweater

            (c) a new winter coat

            (d) a designer outfit

  1. Which Christmas gift would you like the most?

            (a) an heirloom

            (b) a very nice dinner out

            (c) concert tickets

            (d) a Christmas party

  1. What’s your favorite Christmas drink?

            (a) Eggnog

            (b) a good stout

            (c) a Christmas cocktail

            (d) a shot

Score! Tally up your answers. Which letter has the highest number? Check for your corresponding hero below!

(a) David Forester – All I Want for Christmas

(b) Adam Fletcher – A Christmas to Remember

(c) Nick Sinclair – Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

(d) Robert Marley – Coming Home for Christmas

Countdown to Publication Day

Publication day is quickly approaching! Next Thursday, October 6th, All I Want for Christmas will be available for sale, and I’m so excited to share it with you! So… Here’s the final excerpt from the book that I’ll be posting. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read in the last three blog posts, please, head over to Amazon, iBookstore, Kobo, or Google Play and pick up a copy!

So what happens when your dream of owning your grandmother’s plantation gets a little kink in it? Read on to see!

AllIWantForChristmas

Leah had to close her gaping mouth. She re-read the line over and over, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. She pulled the packet from behind the letter and flipped through it. “Holographic will?” she whispered as she tried to figure out what was going on.

What?” Louise said again. “What is that? Tell me. The suspense is killing me!” she said in a loud whisper.

She read Nan’s words. “‘I’ve written a holographic will, Leah. I wanted to get it down on paper as quickly as possible to override what I had originally planned…’” She looked up. “I only own half of the plantation. Something about a change in her will,” she said, hearing the shock in her own voice. “Nan gave the other half to someone named David Forester…”

The coffee pot beeped in the kitchen, alerting them that it was shutting off. The sound rang in Leah’s ears as she tried to visualize the person from the letter. Like snapshots in her brain, she saw him: sharing her ice cream, gathering leaves to do leaf drawings, playing kickball in the back yard.

“I know who that is,” Leah said.

 

 

The Friends We Keep

To continue our countdown to publication day for All I Want for Christmas, I’m sharing another teaser!

We all have those great friends with whom we love spending time, who keep our secrets, and help us through the hard things that come our way. Leah Evans is no different. She has two really great friends. They all started out in a single mothers’ group together but dwindled to three–Leah, Roz, and Louise–and they call themselves The Girls. So The Girls will give you a teeny tiny glimpse of the characters in All I Want for Christmas. Hope you enjoy it!

“I’m fine, thanks.” Leah smiled. “I was just going through the mail…”

“Well, ignore it!” Roz said, swinging a glass full of red wine her way. The purple color of it nearly matched Roz’s dark hair. It was bottle-black, her latest beauty experiment, and in the light, it had almost a reddish-purple tint to it. “We’re going to have an amazing night of…” As she pressed her bright red lips together in thought, she handed the other glass to Louise. “What are we doing tonight besides drinking wine and having dinner? Did anyone get a movie or anything?”

“I thought we could play cards,” Louise piped up, taking a dainty sip from her glass and looking back and forth between Roz and Leah. “I brought some. They’re Toy Story though.”

Roz snorted as Louise pulled her five-year-old’s cards from her handbag.

A Peek Into All I Want for Christmas!

Thursday, October 6th (otherwise known as Crazy-Exciting-Christmassy-PUBLICATION-DAY!!) is quickly approaching. To celebrate, I thought I’d post a little teaser each week until we get there! Let’s start with a tiny one just to get our feet wet…

All I Want for Christmas is the story of Leah and David, and as we know, Christmas comes once a year, but true love only comes once in a lifetime.

Enjoy the first excerpt, and if you just can’t stand the wait and need to click that Purchase Now button, All I Want for Christmas is available for preorder on Amazon. Happy reading!

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Tipping the package upside down, Leah caught a lone key in the palm of her hand, recognizing it immediately. She pulled out a stack of documents with a note in Nan’s scratchy handwriting clipped to the top. The notepaper was pink and lacy, the edges rounded delicately with little holes punched out. She laid the documents on top of a few Christmas cards that had come in the mail and focused on the letter, aching to hear Nan’s soft, reassuring voice again.

Grab the hot cocoa!

It’s September already! Where has the summer gone? In 22 days, the warm Virginia air will whip around, showing off it’s new chill, and the leaves, now bright green will reveal their personalities–red, orange, purple, vibrant yellow. Football will blare from our televisions and hot cocoa will replace our cocktails. After a scorcher of a summer, I’m ready! As Autumn beckons the cooler temperatures, and we settle in to our favorite pair of fuzzy slippers, I thought I’d let you know what has just gone up for preorder!

AllIWantForChristmas

All I Want for Christmas is a big, cozy story about the importance of family, the strength of childhood friendships, and learning to trust your heart. It’s available for preorder from Amazon directly from my website, (or by visiting Amazon) or on October 6th, you can head over to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, or Kobo to get your copy. I hope you’ll enjoy it with a steamy mug and a warm blanket.

Introducing A Barefoot Summer!

This summer has been a busy one! I’ve been waist deep in edits on this Christmas’s book, which should be out in October, 2016. But before I start getting all hot-chocolate and candy canes, let’s talk about those warm months, shall we? I’m delighted to introduce my latest title and cover (*formerly Love Me for Me)! Those who read Summer at Oyster Bay, might remember Libby, who worked at Water’s Edge Inn. A Barefoot Summer is Libby’s story. Check out the blurb below! Also this summer my website has had a makeover! Now you can buy all my books straight from the website. I’d love to hear from you! If you want to drop me a line about one that you’ve read, you can now leave me a message on the books tab. Happy reading!

ABarefootSummer

A Barefoot Summer is a beautiful, touching story about coming home, the importance of family, and the special place that first loves hold in our hearts. Fans of Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley, Susan Mallery and Susan Wiggs – and anyone looking for a perfect, feel-good summer read will enjoy this.

Sometimes you find perfect where you least expect it …

Libby Potter has just lost the perfect job, the perfect apartment and the perfect boyfriend. Moving back to the home town that she couldn’t wait to escape when she was younger was definitely not on her to-do list. Especially as it means running into the man whose heart she broke when she left.

Pete Bennett can still make Libby’s world stop with just the sound of his voice – even ten years on. Only now, she is the last person in the world that he wants to see.

As everyone else welcomes Libby home with open arms, she realizes she’s missed that special closeness that comes from lifelong friendship. And, as Libby seeks to make amends with Pete, she begins to wonder whether she made the right choice in leaving all those years ago.

When an amazing career opportunity gives her the chance to leave again, Libby will have to decide what her version of perfect is… and where she really belongs.

A Barefoot Summer was previously published as Love Me for Me.

What people are saying about Love Me for Me

A perfect romance read. Full of tension and heart wrenching feelings that have you biting your lower lip in either frustration or sadness. Have a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye or giggling like a schoolgirl… Oh I really did enjoy it, I know this will be a turn to read when I need a relaxed paced read that is genuine, believable and beautiful. One to lift my mood and put a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

Full of charismatic characters, family love and bonds, honesty, small town loveliness and soul mates. Reading perfection!’ 5/5 Pajama Book Girl

‘I loved the synopsis of Love Me for Me, it sounded like a heart-warming, romantic, enjoyable story and it was all of those things…plus a whole lot more

I was really happy with the ending of this novel too, it was completely satisfying, everything was tied up and I found I had a big cheesy grin on my face when I finished. You’ll love Libby’s heartwarming journey as her life changes in ways she’d never have expected…

It’s a novel that will get you thinking and feeling appreciative for what you have in life. You might also end up asking yourself ‘What If…’ about situations of your own. A warm, light, brilliantly romantic story.5/5 GirlsLovetoRead.com

‘What a journey! I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s a book that will keep you guessing right up until the final pages – a book that isn’t all hearts and flowers yet has left me feeling happy and content, perfect!5/5 Crooks on Books

‘This was a delightful read. It isn’t a heavy plot so it is ideal if you are looking for something light to whisk you away to an idyllic setting and a cast of lovely characters.’ Rea Book Review