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.

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Posted in Randoms

Cover Reveal!

I’m so lucky to be able to work with the super-talented C. Vonzale Lewis. Guys, seriously, she’s amazing. Her debut novel is slated for release later this year, but today we get to share that cover art!

I won’t drag this out. Listen to this…

Smart-mouthed Nicole Fontane has a way of getting herself into trouble. She’s been fired from every job she’s had but still refuses to work in her father’s apothecary shop because of his practice of Earth Magick. On Tulare Island where Nicole grew up, Magick has always been a way of life—one she’s determined to avoid at all costs.

With less than two hundred dollars in the bank and rent due, Nicole is forced to take a job at Tribec Insurance as a last resort. Little does she realize, the moment she sets foot inside the building, she becomes a pawn. A sinister force has set its sights on her and will stop at nothing to use her in a sadistic game.

Tribec’s proprietors, the Stewart family, are curiously preoccupied with the Naqada, the mysterious pre-dynastic Egyptian society. Nicole finds it creepy, but on the bright side, the job reconnects her with her estranged friend, Marta. Yet the eerie atmosphere, disappearing Magick wards, and the smell of blood inside Tribec bring Nicole to a startling conclusion—the Stewarts are practicing Blood Magick, the deadliest of the Five Principles. By the time Nicole uncovers the truth, Marta and her four children have gone missing, and all signs implicate the Stewarts and an archaic blood ritual to an Old One, a Naqada god imprisoned on Tulare Island.

Battling the evil of Blood Magick will demand Nicole to confront a hidden past and unlock the Magick buried within. But can she set aside her deep-rooted fears to work with a team of vigilante Mages? Or will the clock run out on Marta and her children—and on Nicole?

*Drumroll*

Lineage is book 1 in The Blood and Sacrifice Chronicles. Look for it this July!

I am here for it.

Posted in Randoms

Guessing About a Ghost

Monterey, CA has a vibe that speaks to me. I can’t totally put my finger on all the ways it touches a certain part of who I am, but it’s there. Undeniably. The coast. The wildlife. The water. Steinbeck. And a scientist named, Ed Ricketts.

As you walk along Cannery Row today, past the trinket stores and restaurants but not beyond the aquarium, there’s a historical shed of a building with a simple sign that reads Pacific Biological Laboratories. Being from the Midwest, I’d never heard of this place. Why would I? Monterey, CA seemed as distant as a moon when you grow up in a town known for pig farms and nuclear power.

Pacific Biological Laboratories has the untouched look of something that holds significance. It doesn’t fit anymore, existing as a place where one gets that whiff of past lives. A place where if you look close enough you can see ghosts still moving behind the windows.

There’s a little space between the lab and the building next to it. It’s an alley, and if you weren’t the curious-type, you’d bypass it completely. Back there, you come to Ed Ricketts’s backyard, a courtyard filled with a cement grid that held his collections from the tide pools just beyond.

Backyard View of Pacific Biological Laboratories

Overlooking the ocean, a couple of historical markers line the walk toward the back deck. They say the tide pools recall “Ricketts belief in the interconnectedness of all species.” And as the ocean courses all around, bringing the smells and sounds that oceans do, you think, of course. Sea gulls caw. Waves splash and crash along the rocks. Salty mists hang in the air. The sense of greater mysteries, a life beyond what we can see, lingers nearby. Your close to some real magic.

 There’s a line, from Steinbeck, about his friend; it describes Ricketts as a man whose “mind had no horizons, he has an interest in everything.” A quick internet search brings up more–Ricketts was a philosopher and an early ecologist, who wrote a really important scientific text. He was an observer. He didn’t finish his college degree and spent some months on walkabout, writing for a travel magazine. People, famous and not, gathered around him and his lab. He becomes the stuff of legend, his life having a profound influence in the arts and science. So much so, that seventy years after his car was struck by a train, I’m left on a deck overlooking the bay wondering what kind of life a person leads to be remembered for so long in such a way.

It had to be his world-view. The interconnectedness he saw in the tide pools, melded into his daily life. When people were around him, they must have felt it–that way in which we’re all attached.

But then, as I stand at one end of the country in Ricketts’s backyard, I realize I’m just kinda making that up. I’m only guessing about a ghost.

Posted in Randoms, Writer-ish

Um, not a Review

Not gonna lie, I can get a little precious about the books I read and the moments in which they come along. But when you think about it, books reach in and touch our hearts, change our perspectives, and make us laugh and cry when we need to. They help us see new versions of ourselves. No doubt, that shit is amazing.

And so it has come to pass that, I read Big Magic at the exact moment I needed to. To quote my second favorite Golden Girl, “Picture it.”

Your boss recommends a book to you. Its not your usual genre, but you read the blurb and think it looks promising enough. You put a hold on it at the library, and they email you on a Friday to let you know it’s ready. You live in a rural area, where libraries don’t have weekend hours, and make time to pick it up on said Friday. Except when you get there the library is already closed for a tech update, and you can’t get it until next week.

But you forget. The book sits until you randomly remember the seven day hold is nearly up. If you don’t get it soon you’ll have to put another hold on it and be at the bottom of the list. You check it out on a Tuesday.

Now, the book you’re currently reading isn’t really doing anything for you. It’s coming after Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down, so it never really had much of a chance anyway. You set it aside and start this one, Big Magic. You fly through the first few chapters, getting to a place where the author starts talking about inspiration and the nature of ideas. It’s a little more woo than you usually subscribe to, but you stick with it.

THE NEXT DAY one of you online friends posts something, and this wild joke of a prank pops into your head. The absurdity of it makes you LOL. You type it up, expecting the ha-ha emojis and likes, which come shortly. Except reading it on the screen, you realize this is literally the best idea you’ve ever had, so you type that too. About that time you start to feel that familiar heat in your shoulders; the one that shoots up your spine and settles right behind your ears. It’s both relaxing and exciting enough, that you could cry if you let yourself. Your friend types it; the suggestion that you should put it in your next book. And WHAM! That book hits you full force, the entire thing. You can see and feel all of it at once. You scramble to find a pen and some paper to start scribbling notes. You take a quick screenshot of the conversation.

But you set it aside because you’re already working on a project. You’ve never worked on two projects at the same time. That would be audacious af.

Except your reading Big Magic, and in it she describes a book idea that she lost. An idea that she had to set aside, for life reasons. When she came back to it, the thing was gone. She ascribes to the idea that this is the nature of ideas and inspiration. They show themselves in hopes of being brought into being. If they aren’t, they leave.

So, you decide that can’t happen. You have a notebook filled with ideas that no longer sparkle; they are flat on the page. When you originally had them, they ignited the same feelings you had the other day. Those ideas are probably already lost to you.

This one can’t be. You’ve never had a whole book hit you in one sitting. So you decide this time, you’ll be a planner. You’ll finish the book that’s in edits and start taking notes on this new idea. You can be a plotter. Plan it out this time, with a character dossier and everything.

You answer ten questions about your main character and the first chapter materializes. You write it.

You write it. You write it. You write it.

Posted in Writer-ish

Writing ’90s YA: Not a How-To

Technically, I knew I wasn’t supposed to. There were definitely naysayers. Those who advised that to write young adult books for kids of today meant the setting should be present day, or futuristic, or another world entirely. That the intended audience had no interest in a book that took place twenty years ago. Readers should be able to slip into a book’s setting without confusing pop culture references of the past, clogging up their experience. In other words, readers could only see themselves in the gleaming black screens of the MC’s smart phone or be unable to follow any pop culture pre-Kardashian.

I ignored that. I included references to Kurt Cobain and old comics. I left out most technology. There are no cell phones. It’s the 90s, dude. But why? Why did I disregard the conventional wisdom of what sells and write about a kid questioning himself twenty years ago? It’s not because I’m not paying attention. I am. I know an egg is getting the most likes on Instagram today.

To be honest, writing YA in the nineties is a comfortable place for me. Recalling surroundings of that time, dredges up all my lingering emo of days past. With a couple seconds of a guitar riff from Blink 182, I’m back in my Sportwagon driving friends down the highway as we all scream-sing the lyrics to Carousel. Wind whips through the windows and there’s this joy that spreads and links me to these people forever. Thinking of Pearl Jam takes me back to the time I tried to impress someone but mispronounced the album name. (V-eye-tology, not Vit-ology. That one made it into the book) At a thrift store, the cord of a landline wraps around my forefinger the way it used to when I nervously talked to a crush, the heat of internal combustion still burping up my esophagus. Even today I might argue My-So-Called-Life was one of the most influential shows of all time, although I haven’t seen an episode since I was fifteen and am not really sure it holds up. The 90s are part of my core. They make exploring all that emo a little more bearable.

To say that a kid can’t relate to a YA book set in the 90s doesn’t really hold. The generations coming up are savvy af, and it’s condescending to assume otherwise. Sure, Jeremy Warsh couldn’t have known what it would be like to compartmentalize a steady stream of media. But no matter the time period, feelings are feelings. Coming-of-age vibes are timeless, whether set among the backdrop of ever-advancing technology or not. Hopefully, at the core of writing remains and exploration of empathy and ways to connect. If a book can span it’s pages and reach into someone’s heart, then surely it’s more than it’s own time period. I mean, that’s why books exist. Right?

With many hearts,

Jess

Posted in Randoms

Wrap it up, 2018.

We’re all taking stock because it’s the end of the year. As I look back by the light of the dumpster fire that is the current administration, I grasp at moments that shined in 2018. I had a few. You may have too. Some of us plateaued all year long. While others are just white-knuckling it through the last few hours of 2018. I’ll spend time thinking about all of that today.

But here are a few times 2018 made me feel good, in no specific order.

Drake’s “I’m Upset” video was basically a Degrassi reunion, and I nearly cried with joy. I spent many a hangover day watching Degrassi: Next Gen marathons. If something can be formative through the haze of one’s twenties, than that show was it for me. So much so, I once spent over a month hand-making a Degrassi calendar. I created my own memes and added some of the most important plot points in as holidays. It weighed nearly five pounds because I mod-podged everything into it (I’m a doer, not a planner). It was a gift for the only other person I know would love it as much as me. And she’s the one that messaged me the morning that vid dropped, “You need to see this.” And when Spinner entered the scene, my fist pumped the air as tears filled my eyes, like that one gif. You know the one.

I read some really great books this year. For me, standouts were The Hate You GiveEducated, and The Wild Robot.  I’m finally getting to Children of Blood and Bone right now and I already know it will be on this list as well. There There and Becoming are on deck. These books are wildly different in genre, but in theme they’re all hopepunk. And that’s my reading style. I like to read across genre, so that I’m good at recommending things. Plus, I think it’s important for my job. Which is a nice little segue into my next paragraph…

2018 was the year I became an editor for a small press, Filles Vertes Publishing, and my debut novel was released. It’s been a positive learning experience on both fronts. I’m feeling challenged and uncomfortable in new ways almost every day. You can find info about my book by clicking around on this website, but if you’re interested in what I like to see in my submissions box, here’s a quick blurb:

Jess adores young adult, middle grade, and rom-com women’s fiction. She loves any book she can describe as, “delightfully weird,” and is always on the hunt for those books that stick with her long term. Get Jess to care about your character at chapter one, and she’ll probably advocate for them the rest of the way through. If your work is own voices, witchy, or just full of a quirky loveable cast, send it her way.

To submit send your query + first chapter pasted into an email addressed to submissions@fillesvertespublishing.com. Please, put ATTN: JESS: TITLE in the subject line of your email. 

But also, SEND ME YOUR HOPEPUNK.

Mrs. Maisel returned for season two. And she’s fine, but IMO Susie is the real fucking star.

Into the SpiderVerse was seriously as excellent as I expected it to be. Miles Morales will be the Spider-man my kids grow up knowing. YES.

My family is healthy and happy rn.

A mug that keeps coffee hot for long periods of time exists, and I was gifted one.

This next one didn’t necessarily make me feel good but I did laugh about it later. And it got me thinking about life and being more present. I stepped in dog shit twice this month. The second time, it was such a big pile that it splattered up onto my pant leg. But both times, I was out walking for some exercise and fresh air. I wasn’t really paying attention, probably checking my phone. My brain tends to be the real wanderer. When splat!

This article, from Politico Mag, about Connie Shultz got me fired up.  https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/12/21/connie-schultz-sherrod-brown-donald-trump-democratic-primary-2020-223416

And lastly, I used to teach elementary school. Reading and writing were my specialties. So, I was volunteering in a kindergarten classroom this month when they handed me a picture book and asked me to read to multiple groups of five-year-old kids throughout the morning. If you haven’t done this, find a way. Because literally, their reactions were divine. They gasped. They giggled. They threw down predictions. That entire day was nothing but laughter and hope because I got to see the sparks that story creates in even the smallest among us. It was amazing. Highly recommend. 10/10.

I know there were more things that I’m not thinking of atm. It’s early. The sun hasn’t quite come over the trees yet. My kids are waking up, and I need to get offline. So, have a safe eve.

My notifications for WordPress are kinda awful, but I’ll turn on the comments because I’d love to hear about your 2018 feel-good moments too.

Happy New Year to all!

~Jess

 

 

 

Posted in My books, The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh

A Book Birthday

 

THERE’S MY BOOK!

Welp, it’s official. I went and had my first book birthday.  The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh is in the world. Now, I’m left with feelings.

Birthdays are fun! They’re full of cake, ice cream, and friends.  But I also remember being a kid and every year someone would ask, “How does it feel to be ____?”

Well, I don’t know, Karen. 

Even back then, I didn’t know what to say because mostly it felt exactly the same as it did the day before. I had a hard time verbalizing how very little had changed, while something monumental (like orbiting around the sun) had come to pass.

Latin can handle it though: Sic vita fluit, dum stare videtur.

That’s how I felt yesterday too. Don’t get me wrong, now. I am totally overjoyed that the way I arranged 86,000 words will be something that another person might hold in their heart. Yet,  most of my day-to-day remained static, which wasn’t very exciting. 

Here’s the reality of it, I think. Just like any birthday, book or otherwise, one day can’t encompass all that change. I spent countless hours chipping away at making Jeremy’s story what it became. The whole process was a gradual, slow build. And really it’s all the more reason to celebrate milestones throughout the journey. Big ones and little ones. 

So, how do I feel now that Jeremy’s story is done?

Well, I didn’t cry about it until my dad told me he was proud of me. 

 

From: Dad