Posted in Love on Main: Romance Anthology, My books

Conventions of a Romance

The most romantic book I own.

I went to go take a picture of the most romantic book I own today for Instagram, but guess what? I don’t actually have anything that would be categorized as strictly romance. (Well, until Tuesday when my writer copies for LOVE ON MAIN showed up.) That’s because, while I didn’t always know this, genre romance has rules–a lot of them.

I’d heard this about romance quite a while ago actually. I’d seen Diane Gabaldon’s Outlander series referred to as romance and watched as she neatly explained how it is not. So before setting out to write a short love story I knew I needed to make myself familiar with reader expectations. It turns out many a blogger has tackled the subject, so I’m not going to be blowing anyone’s mind here. There are endless opinions about when people should meet, the role of secondary characters, vibes regarding insta-love, how hot is too hot, and a fair amount of heteronormativity in the language being used to describe these must-haves, but the main idea usually came back to the happily ever after.

So I thought okay, no problem. I can do HEA. I actually love happy endings. I’m a proponent of hope. I love love.

But all of this actually turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. You see, I legit hate being boxed in… by anything. Recently, I was talking with friends about those personality tests and there was this line in the supposed description of me, “…rebels against any system that tries to define or explain them.” I mean, this is so true that I even get a little bristled reading that. And that rebellion kept showing up every morning I sat down to write this 10K word sweet love story. I kept veering away from building chemistry or would get distracted by the main character’s fun best friend or get really into the setting. My MC was reluctant to do her own thing, but whyyyy? I needed to know. So I wrote and I wittled. Again and again. Until I had something that kind of fit within the constraints of what a romance story is supposed to be.

I hope readers like complicated, introverted Freddie and her second-chance at love with crush, Austen. I did my best! And honestly, looking back now, challenging myself to write something short and out of my norm was refreshing as hell. 10/10, will recommend!

LOVE ON MAIN is available now through most major retailers. Happy reading, no matter the genre or the rules!

~Jess

Posted in Love on Main: Romance Anthology, My books

Love on Main Blog Hop

Welcome to this leg of the Filles Vertes Publishing LOVE ON MAIN blog hop!

If you’ve landed on this page and haven’t heard about the blog hop, click here.

Jane & Austen’s, a short story I’ve written for the LOVE ON MAIN romance anthology, takes place in a fictional California town named Goldbug Creek and follows Freddie who’s just inherited her old high school crush’s curio shop on Main Street. No one’s all that happy about it. Except Freddie.

If you haven’t already, add LOVE ON MAIN to your Goodreads TBR here: http://bit.ly/LoveOnMain

Pre-orders are available at FVPub.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or your fave bookseller.

Enjoy this character interview and get a glimpse of the intriguing stories awaiting you in LOVE ON MAIN. Remember to look for the keyword/phrase and take a note of it!

Happy Hopping!

Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

So without further ado, meet Freddie…

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they’ve known you for a while?

Um, wow. Okay, I’m not really sure. I’d guess that I come off kind of awkward at first, maybe even standoffish to some. But once I get to know people, I’m super loyal and always try to be a really good friend. 

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

I’d start my day quietly, with coffee and whatever book I’m reading. Then I’d head up the hill to hike around one of the mountain lakes this county has hidden away. Afterward, I’d probably meet my best friend for coffee and spend the evening watching the newest season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Fleabag. If I feel like going out, I hit up the bar on Main Street. But since this is a small town and everyone knows everyone, sometimes that can feel super intrusive.

What are you most ashamed of in your life? 

Jeez… Well, for a long time, I didn’t tell anyone about the anxiety. I do now, but it still can be a source of personal shame in my life especially when it stops me from doing things I’d really like to do, or if it prevents me from connecting with other people in a way that I might want. A lot of possible outcomes start swirling around in my head. Like, I’m talking right now and my chest feels like I just ran a few miles, like it is literally tight with worry.

What are you so worried about?

Um, name it. At this moment, I’m worried that I’m showing too much of myself, that I’m being too much, that people won’t understand what I’m trying to communicate. Things tend to start spiraling from there.

Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected?

*Laughs* Yeah, probably. They always called me a “worry wart.” I don’t know if they ever saw me doing what I’m doing now, but I think they always had a good sense about who I am. 

Since this is a romance anthology you’re appearing in, describe your first {KISS}.

There was literally nothing romantic about it.

Aw, that’s okay. Give us the deets.

It was grade school. This kid, Chad Darrow, was dared to kiss me. He did it, then made fun of my weight. So I kneed him in the balls. The End.

Oh.

Yeah. Told ya.

Posted in Love on Main: Romance Anthology, My books

Cover Reveal: Love on Main

Good morning! I’m up bright and early (Seriously, I ran out of time this weekend to get any of this scheduled.) to share the cover art for an anthology I’m super excited to be a part of.

Love on Main is an anthology of short stories exploring the many ways love can be lost and found. Characters range from high school teens to adults, some finding first loves, others recovering from past loves, all coming to one conclusion: romance lives on Main Street.

So without further ado…

Art by Jena R Collins

My story, Jane and Austen’s, follows an introverted store clerk as she’s bequeathed an ownership stake in the curio shop where she works. But going against the original owner’s uber-rich family won’t be easy, especially when one of them is her high school crush who’s come back to town to stake his claim.

But that’s just one blurb from Love on Main. You’ll find nine other stories written by this talented list of authors:

Paperback pre-orders are available today! *Click*

And you can add it to your Goodreads shelves here.

Happy reading to everyone!

~Jess

Posted in My books, Writer-ish

Anthologies: What’s the Use?

In publishing, an anthology can be defined simply as a collection of written work. It usually consists of smaller pieces–poems or short stories–that tend to come from several different authors. So now that you know what they are, why should you give a fig about reading one? Welp, I’m gonna try to unpack that a bit.

Short Stuff

Don’t get me wrong, I love novels. Everything about a story clicking together in about 80, 000 words is magic to me. But there is something to be said for shorter works as well. It’s exponentially more difficult to write a short story; because while every word in a novel-length work is necessary, every word in a short story is dire. The whole beginning, middle, and end must be seamlessly forced into something an eighth of the size of a novel. That means every element of the short story carries a heavier share of the weight, but it also means, there’s the potential to pack a mightier punch.

Take it or Leave it

I actually remember buying whole albums via cassette tape or CD. There’d always be a lot of songs I loved and maybe one or two that just weren’t for me. Did I throw the whole CD away or abandon it completely? No, I pressed fast-forward. And because an anthology is a compilation of sorts, readers have the option to skip entire portions too. Come across a writer whose style you’re not all that into? Skip it. Is one story a little trigger-y for you? Pass. With a collection of short stories or poems or whatever, readers can still get their money’s worth even if one story isn’t their favorite thing.

More Voices

I will read anything by Rainbow Rowell. If she scribbled a grocery list on the back of a CVS receipt, I’d read it. It’s fun to be a fan, but it’s also really, really fun to explore new things to be excited about. The other day I randomly picked up Shaun David Hutchinson’s memoir, Brave Face, and will now commence reading every other thing he’s ever written. It’s called branching out and anthologies serve up the perfect opportunity to do just that. Purchasing an anthology offers readers the chance to sample different writing styles. Maybe readers will find that new author who writes in a way that connects with their fluttery insides, who knows?

Okay, Sold.

Perfect. Yay! There are lots of options out there for you to choose from. Many small presses publish anthologies throughout the year. Indie authors do too, and so does the “Big 5.” Goodreads maintains a list for “Popular Anthology Books” if you’re on the hunt.

But here’s where I will take a sec to shamelessly plug a new anthology from Filles Vertes Publishing, where I work as an editor. Only this time, I left my editing hat on the rack and ventured into writing a short romance alongside this extremely talented group of writers that I’m happy to be sharing space with. I was super excited to have the chance to develop a new cast of characters falling in and out of love along the shops and cobblestones of historic (and fictional) Goldbug, California. It’s release is slated as just in time for Valentine’s Day. You can check it out and add it to your TBR over on Goodreads today: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48760852-love-on-main

Check out that author list, yo! This is gonna be good.
Posted in Randoms

Did you know the Great Valley Bookfest is a thing?

The Great Valley Bookfest is a small non-profit that organizes an annual FREE festival for the love of reading. It’s a day long celebration of books with loads of activities including costume parades, cooking demos, and street performers, oh my!

I’m so honored to be moderating the YA author panel this year, where we’ll be discussing among other things, Trends and Challenges in YA Today. And the rest of the day, I’ll be slinging The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh over in author alley.

^True. We can’t really argue with Steinbeck, now can we?

Click here for more information about workshops and other fun stuff planned for this year’s Great Valley Bookfest.

Posted in Randoms, The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh

Comp Magic

We were the kids that didn’t quite belong; a crew of drama geeks, Star Wars mega-fans, nerds, artists, and punks. Some of us wrote stories, basically our own zine/newsletter/fantasies, in which we were the stars. We had our own drunken parties, never even trying to invite the cool kids, and spent hours laughing and playing Euchre and talking til the birds started chirping. There were times things went too far; some of us blacked out, saying or doing mean things. Mostly, we apologized over greasy brunches. Sometimes, that wasn’t enough. But through it all there was a soundtrack. The music that matched. Songs that were gritty and underground, that felt like us.

Then came comp magic. Before anyone could slide into your DMS, there were comps. A system of communication that falls squarely under a version of Midwestern Nice, if only for it’s ability to mean something and nothing at the same time. The process could be exacting. Selecting just the right songs took hours of listening, an exhaustive knowledge, and a certain level of tenacity. Then, because this was prior to the ability to burn CD’s, one had to cue and record and click off double cassette players at just the right moment to get that first copy. Sometimes there was a theme, especially if a certain crush was in mind. Other times, it was just songs that were beloved and would make a good road trip mix. If you were on the receiving end of one, as you listened, you got to puzzle it together. Did it have meaning? Or was it trivial? Was this about feelings or fun? Who knew?

In The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh the idea of someone making a comp comes up twice. Two characters put music together in this way, Stu and his co-worker Shannon-from-the-record-store. The reader doesn’t get to experience Shannon all that much, so I thought it might be cool to provide the comp she made for Stu. It might provide more insight into their relationship, or not.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4goMCE90fmiTPKVQrdwQuZ

 

Posted in Randoms

I’m Bad at Titles

This project brought out some of the worst parts of my personality.

Someone gifted me this book a while ago. I opened it over the weekend and started assembling this portrait. As I painstakingly placed the tiniest of stickers into their assigned slots while desperately ignoring all my mistakes, I thought about the artist.

Kurt Cobain’s death marked my own first loss of an icon. I loved him because I knew I was supposed to love him. Deep down, I wondered if his lyrics were a joke he was playing on all of us. (Don’t @ me, I was a kid.) Nevertheless, he wrote stuff that made us feel like somebody understood something.

As a sophomore in high school, I’d been kinda hands on with death after losing my mom and half my grandparents in a short span of time. I had my own shit happening, having already glimpsed some big hurts. I knew losses were coming; that they would never stop coming. For my friends that didn’t know that yet, Cobain’s death felt devastating and hugely personal.

It’s been my experience that death either brings people together or tears them apart. So, in The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh it felt instinctual to write the beginning of Jeremy and Kasey after great loss. In retrospect, having them mourn together gave them a shared history and created the slack that they needed to give each other to grow up and remain friends.

Ignore the man-bun

Originally, the scene of them in middle school pouring one out for Cobain in her basement was a pages long flashback. In the finished version, it got chopped up and sprinkled around. Readers know of it but don’t participate in it. That was just for me.

I can see my mistakes but what-the-fuck-ever.

I won’t sit her and pretend to understand anything real about Kurt Cobain or glorify him toward sainthood. He was just another person. Like all of us, he had the capability to affect those around us in profound ways. He brought people together; he tore them apart. It’s what we all do every day.