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Celebrating New Releases

Mistletoe Memories: Six New Inspirational Holiday Romances

boxed-setThis past week the Mistletoe Memories bundle released and I couldn’t be more excited to share this group of stories with you. Myself and five other multi-published authors joined together to bring you six never before published novellas about love at Christmastime. The best part: right now you can snag this bundle for only 99 cents. I’m serious. You can’t beat that deal.

And I’m even more excited to share this with you because my story in the collection – It Was You – launches my new King’s Cove series. Expect to see two more King’s Cove novellas releasing before the end of the year!

The Ranger’s Texas Proposalrangers-texas-proposal

Last year my editor at Love Inspired called me, offering the chance to write a series with five other authors and I jumped at the opportunity. The Ranger’s Texas Proposal is the second book in the Lone Star Cowboy League: Boy’s Ranch series (but can be read as a stand alone). It’s the story of a hunky Texas Ranger and a tough, pregnant widow. I loved writing these characters and really fell in love with them. This one’s a tear-jerker with a warm ending. I can’t wait for it to hit the store shelves!

Small-Town Girl 

Small-Town Girl FrontSmall-Town Girl released in August and it’s really special because it was my fifth book published by Love Inspired. It is the fourth book in the Goose Harbor series and follows newcomer, Kendall Mayes, as she tries to chart out a new future and avoid relationships along the way. That is, until she meets the handsome loner Brice Daniels. This book has already received a lot of great reviews and so many of you have contacted me privately letting me know how much this story meant to you. Small-Town Girl was also recommended on the USA Today Happy Ever After blog by the wonderful Serena Chase: “Highly recommended for fans of inspirational and sweet romance, this is a story that offers many sigh-worthy moments …”

Thanks for reading! -jess

Upcoming Books, News, and Pizza

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Small-Town Girl

A little over a week ago I was given the final cover art for my next Love InspirSmall-Town Girl Fronted release! Isn’t is gorgeous? I love that Lake Michigan got a place of honor on the cover. Small-Town Girl releases in August (although Amazon says it’ll send it your way in by mid-July!).

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Goose Harbor, Michigan, is the perfect place for Kendall Mayes to start over and open her date-planning business. When she encounters handsome loner Brice Daniels, who is struggling to keep the shipping business he runs going, she sees an opportunity. A weekly sunset cruise catering to couples and tourists will keep their dealings strictly business. Kendall has had enough of failed romances, and Brice is too burned by love to give it another chance. But despite their reservations, they soon let down their walls. Yet when Kendall’s silent business partner is revealed to be Brice’s longtime enemy, staying together might be next to impossible.

The Ranger’s Texas Proposal

Last year I got a call from my editor asking if I had any interest in writing a book in a series of six books with five other authors. I said yes immediately before I realized that five of the six authors writing for this series all had “best-seller” attached to their name. Guess who was the odd man out? Yup. Talk about intimidating! But the other authors were a dream to work with and I learned so much from them.

These books will release in back-to-back months for six months and mine is the second book (coming out in November). The difference in writing The Ranger’s Texas Proposal (as opposed to my Goose Harbor books) is that my publishing house came up with the general plot and character sketches and then I wrote and fleshed it out. I *loved* the process and I adore the story that came out of all of this. Texas Ranger Heath Grayson really worked his way into my heart and his struggles hit me hard (not ashamed to admit there was a lot of at-my-desk-crying happening while writing this one). I’ve been told by my publishing house that the story got three editors crying at their desks over the book/characters – so that’s fun! I’ve never done that before.

I don’t have a cover yet, but I will share it the second I do. However, the preorder is up on Amazon and here’s the blurb:

When Texas Ranger Heath Grayson agrees to investigate thefts at the boys ranch, he’s also hoping to solve a decades-old murder case: his father’s. Getting involved with pretty, pregnant widow and boys ranch volunteer Josie Markham is not on Heath’s agenda. But the more time he spends with Josie, the harder it is to ignore their growing attraction. The somber ranger is convinced a wife and child are not in his future. But with a little help from the boys at the ranch, he may just realize a family is what he needs most of all.

More Goose Harbor

The fifth book in the Goose Harbor series has a name and release date: Apple Orchard Bride is Jenna and Toby’s story (we’ve meet Jenna in many of the other books) and it’ll hit stores January 2017.

I’m currently writing the sixth book in the series RIGHT NOW! And there are solid plans for more Goose Harbor books after that.

More News

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and PMs asking when to expect the final TimeShifters book. I’m always so appreciative when people reach out to me – especially about Gabby and Michael. Those two and the TimeShifters series are all very close to my heart and I think about them often. I would love to continue their story, but at present I’m contracted to write several other books for my publisher and can’t devote enough time to my independent projects. Book three (Reaching Tomorrow) is completely plotted – I just need to find a gap of time to write it in. Like my Amazon Author Page or follow this blog or subscribe to my newsletter for updates on when Reaching Tomorrow will become available.

Last but not least I’m sitting on some very exciting news about a few projects that I’m working on with a team of other authors that amounts to at least two more releases before the end of 2016. I can’t share the details yet … but stay tuned!

I’m sorry there was no pizza in this post. I just felt like the title needed a little something else and pizza did it.

Just Keep Writing

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Supposedly it’s spring in Chicago right now but you wouldn’t know that by the snow flurries happening outside my window. But that’s part of the charm of living here – the weather keeps us on our toes. Days go by without the sun and then one day it’ll be green out and the flowers will be there, waiting for us.

My writing career has a lot in common with Chicago weather – bright spots speckled between a lot of clouds. A lot of waiting. A lot of hoping and praying. A lot of telling myself to keep my head down, ignore the snow storms and just keep writing.

just keep writing

And spring arrives, as it always does. For me that means I have book news to share with you. The fruits of months and months of head down, just keep writing.

Small-Town Girl will be the fourth book in the Goose Harbor series, it releases August 2016 and is available for pre-order right now. I can’t share the cover for Small-Town Girl yet (but I’ve seen it and let me tell you … it’s GORGEOUS!). Here’s the blurb:

_________________________________________________________

Her Small-Town Guy 

Goose Harbor, Michigan, is the perfect place for Kendall Mayes to start over and open her date-planning business. When she encounters handsome loner Brice Daniels, who is struggling to keep the shipping business he runs going, she sees an opportunity. A weekly sunset cruise catering to couples and tourists will keep their dealings strictly business. Kendall has had enough of failed romances, and Brice is too burned by love to give it another chance. But despite their reservations, they soon let down their walls. Yet when Kendall’s silent business partner is revealed to be Brice’s longtime enemy, staying together might be next to impossible.

__________________________________________________________

At the end of last year I was invited to join a group of five other authors to work on a continuity series together. Love Inspired, my publisher, planned the series and the six books will release in back-to-back months from October 2016 through March 2017. It’s called the Lone Star Cowboy League: Boys Ranch series and builds off of Love Inspired’s original Lone Star Cowboy League series. My book is the second in the series, set to release November 2016 and I couldn’t be more excited to put this one into your hands! The book is called The Ranger’s Texas Proposal. It’s about a Texas Ranger named Heath who pulled at my heartstrings from the moment I got him onto the page.

And today I found out the title for my fifth Goose Harbor book – Apple Orchard Bride. It will release January 2017. I have a feeling the cover for this one is going to be so pretty. I mean – an apple orchard and a wedding!

For those keeping track, that’s three books releasing in a six month period which is craziness in the publishing industry. I’m beyond blessed and excited. These books are my flowers after a long, dark winter and the breakneck release schedule is a reminder that “no matter what, just keep writing” is the best writing career advice I was ever given.

So, You Want to be a Writer?

I get a lot of emails and messages asking the same sort of questions:
How do I write a book?
I’ve written a book…what do I do next?
How do I get published?
Can you help me get published?


Before I chime in, let’s ask the experts:

There are TONS of blogs and help online-you just have to be willing to dig and search for them.


 UntitledMy Advice (for what it’s worth)
The best way to become a better writer is to writer more. I know that sounds too simplistic, but writing isn’t magical. It’s like anything else worth achieving. If you want to be published it’s going to take dedication of time/energy, sacrifice, and a lot of hard work. Many people believe writing novels is an easy task (just sit down and dream at the keyboard, right?) but even during the best times, its draining and lonely and takes countless hours at a computer.

10 Things I would say to anyone dreaming of publishing a book

  1. Read. A lot. Both fiction and non-fiction. And read as many books on the craft of writing as you can.
  2. Find people who will give you honest feedback, emphasis on honest. You’re not looking for people who will tell you everything you write is amazing because that won’t help you improve. Find people who A) are well-read in the genre you’re writing in and/or, B) are writers who are a step or two ahead of you on the publishing journey who can give you feedback. Join critique groups (that are easily found online on sites like meetup.com or through writer’s organizations).
  3. Join a professional writer’s organization and attend classes or conferences if you can. Nothing compares to being completely surrounded by other writers and brainstorming together. Google writer’s organizations and find one that fits the type of author you want to be (I’d list links, but there are so many. Google what you’re interested in: Christian fiction writers, Science Fiction authors, groups for indie writers, ext.).
  4. If you start submitting to Publishing Houses or Literary Agents, check them first through a site like Preditors & Editors. Signing a contract with the wrong place/person can be a million times more heartbreaking than never being published at all.
  5. Be professional. I can’t stress that enough. If you want to be a published author then your social interactions are now part of your career resume. So don’t rant or pick on people. Don’t post photos or links that might give someone a bad impression of you. And don’t use your social media statuses to go on-and-on about your political opinions or anything that might make future readers/publishers/agents cringe. You are now always on a job interview. Always. Remember that. Also, when drafting correspondence to editors, published authors, and agents write as a professional. Don’t shoot off an email like you’re sending it to your BFF. Study how each type of letter should be worded, for example, here’s how a proper query letter should read.
  6. Be brave. Enter writing contests. Send your shorter works to magazines or local newspapers. Volunteer for your school newspaper or offer to write articles for your church newsletter. Use every chance to build your writing resume. I had 100+ magazine and newspaper articles and contest wins under my belt before I ever pitched a manuscript to an editor. When I did, they took me seriously because I had already done the hard work of establishing myself as a trusted freelance writer.
  7. Cultivate creativity. What inspires you? If it’s nature, then carve out time every week to spend walking local nature trails so you can pour that into your writing. Watch movies that make you think. Listen to different types of music. Make time for creative play to spark your imagination. Creativity is your most important muscle from here on out. Don’t neglect it.
  8. Don’t rush things. It’s far better to take a few more months polishing your first manuscript and getting feedback on it before putting your baby into the hands of publishers/agents/readers for consideration, then handing it over before it’s ready. You often have only one shot – make it your best.
  9. Rejection hurts. But if this is the industry you want to be a part of, then it’s something you must learn to be comfortable with. Even after the book is published you’ll still face rejection (from critics, that one star review on Amazon, or that reader who keeps sending you hate-tweets). In the beginning, allow yourself to go through all of the emotions and eat ice-cream for a day – but only a day. The next day brush yourself off and move on. Rejection can be something that ruins you or challenges you to do better. If you always choose the second then you’ll do well in the publishing industry.
  10. Get a comfortable chair (or invest in a treadmill desk). Seriously. Your butt needs to spend A LOT of time there. Many say the hardest thing you’ll encounter as a writer is your chair and they’re right. It takes a lot of dedication to put in the hours and often means missing out on time with family and friends or other favorite activities.
  11. Yes. I cheated and added one more (I never claimed to be good at math), but this is the most important part of the equation: Dream Big. Seriously. You can do this.
TWEETABLES

Celebrating the release of Saving Yesterday

Is everyone wearing their party hats and dancing shoes? We have some celebrating to do!

One – Does everyone know I launched a website at the beginning of the year? If not, please go check it out and let me know what you think.

Two – My Young Adult book Saving Yesterday, Book One in the TimeShifters series released TODAY.

SavingYesterday_CVR_MED

*tosses confetti in the air*

Back Cover Copy:

Her blood holds secrets she never knew existed.

Despite the fact that she acts as a parent to her alcoholic father, Gabby Creed feels pretty normal. But her life is turned upside-down on her seventeenth birthday when a bracelet appears on her wrist and sucks her back through time.

Turns out she’s not even a little bit normal. She’s a Shifter—a protector of humans and of history itself. And she’s not alone. The other Shifters believe Gabby is special, even more special than the mysterious Michael Pace. Oh, and the Shades—seriously creepy creatures who feed off of human despair—are determined to capture her.

It’s all a lot to absorb. So Gabby’s grateful to have Michael as her Trainer—or she would be if she could get her rebellious heart under control. Then again, if the rumors about her blood are true, saving yesterday will be the least of her worries.

Click to Purchase the Kindle edition

Click to Purchase the Print edition

Why I Write Young Adult Fiction

“Since it is so likely that (children/teens) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” –C.S. Lewis

Beware: Spoilers for Allegiant, The Fault in Our Stars, and possibly Lord of the Flies and the Harry Potter series (but if you haven’t read or at least know the ending to those last two…please come out from under that rock pronto).

Like many others, I was excited to get my hands on Allegiant, the final book in the wildly popular Divergent series. I loved book one, tentatively liked book two, and looked forward to the last installment.

allegiant

All to my utter and complete disappointment.

Allegiant and subsequently its author, Veronica Roth (who, for the rest of this will be known as VRoth) failed readers on so many levels, but more than anything it/she failed a generation of teen readers who are looking for a new brand of hope.

See, when an author writes a book they can’t just willy-nilly send it out into the world. They must keep in mind that their words have the power to shape and affect people. An author, especially someone with a huge readership, has a responsibility to their readers. They must offer hope within the pages of their book or it’s a pointless waste of time for the author and more so, the reader.

Author William Faulkner said in his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize, “The writer’s duty is to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.”

Does there have to be an “and they lived happily ever after” ending? Absolutely not. Suzanne Collins’s (author of The Hunger Games series) editor put it best when she said that young adult books don’t need a happy ending, but in the end, there must be “a window left open”—a way where we can see that the characters we’ve grown to love can move on from tragedy.

There must be hope.

Teens today are growing up in a far different world than the one I grew up in (and I’m not that old). I’m of the Harry Potter generation. The books of my youth were stories of teens that could rise up and save the world. My generation was the one told that if we go to college and work hard then we’ll get good jobs and we can accomplish anything. I’m the generation just in front of today’s teens—and the teens of today have watched as the bottom dropped out of my generation’s lives. Where going to college hasn’t landed many of my friends a job, instead it has left them drowning in debt. Where many parents are divorced and a significant amount of people I know have watched their family home seized by forecloser.

Teens today have grown up watching this all unravel. For all of the aware part of their lives, our country has been at war. Think about that. They don’t know of an America not at war. Polls show that their vision of success is very different than my teen generation (which is only ten years ago). Today’s teen sees success not as owning a home, graduating college, having a family, or starting a business, instead the number one measure of success in recent polls showed them wanting to be debt free “at some point in life.” That’s it.

Contemporary teens aren’t looking for books about teens saving the world. They only ask for the small hope of saving their small corner of it. So popular books for this generation are ones that in the end show that in the midst of a messed up world, you can find your own peace/hope, even if it’s just between you and one other person.

Fiction has always been meant to combat the reality of life. VRoth failed us here. She didn’t show us what could be possible. Instead she smacked us in the face with what is. And we don’t need that. Because we’ve all dealt with more than enough loss and hardship and heartbreak. We don’t need books that repeat what we live every single day, we need books that show us that in the midst of a heartbreak world, we can find our own little pod of happiness/joy. That just because the world we live in is going to pot, doesn’t mean we have to lose hope.

Whatever her purpose, VRoth showed teens with Allegiant one horrible thing: their life, their struggles, their fight for right…none of it matters in the end. Which leaves teens asking: what’s the point? If nothing I’m working for matters…why try? I know that’s not the message she meant to send, but when an author is careless with their responsibility to readers, this is the kind of thing that can happen.

I’ll admit I spent a good amount of time reading Amazon reviews for Allegiant in order to see if I was the only one left disillusioned. I wasn’t. Sadly, I’m in the majority with the one star reviews.

Most of the five star reviews I read were people who applauded VRoth on her bravery in “giving a realistic ending.” To this I say: there is a whole genre dedicated to realism. If you want stories that make you feel like someone has stabbed your heart on the last page with no chance for recovery, then feel free to read that genre. But for the ninety-five percent of people that read for enjoyment and escapism, sorry, we want some glimmer of a happy ending. If the Divergent series was meant to belong in the realism genre then it was marketed terribly because right now, all we have are broken promises to readers.

Also, even within realism, hope is usually the end game.fault

Take the book The Fault in Our Stars which falls in the realism genre, the teens in the story who fall in love both have terminal cancer. In the end of the book (I said there were spoilers…) Augustus dies. Why weren’t readers rioting over that? Because a promise wasn’t broken—when they picked up the book they knew they were going to read a story about dying teens so a teen dying at the end of the book was something they were braced for, if not expecting.

Even still, The Fault in Our Stars ends with hope. Hazel realizes that although Augustus has died, her love for him doesn’t have to. Death doesn’t have to change the definition of relationships. My grandfather, who is deceased, is still my grandfather because I’m living and can claim him as such. The last line of the book is in present tense whereas the rest of the book was in past tense. Meaning life goes on. This is a hopeful message.

VRoth killed her main character which is just hard to do well, especially in young adult fiction. Unless the author brings the character back after death (like Harry Potter), a theme/point is better demonstrated through killing a beloved secondary character like Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars or Piggy in Lord of the Flies (how’s that for old school). Otherwise, just save it for realism or adult fiction. Period.

All of this spurs me on to write the young adult stories that keep running around in my head—the ones full of turmoil and struggles and hurt, but all of which are covered in and end with “an open window” one that blatantly leads my readers to hope.

Jess

Echo

Image

*TAP* *TAP* *TAP*

Is anyone still here? Yes, that’s a jab at myself for being woefully absent from this blog in 2013.

But there’s another aspect of an echo that can be a good thing. When an echo occurs, your voice is carried somewhere that you can’t reach. It’s repeated again and again when the speaker only said something once. You all have been that sort of an echo for me, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

You see, less than two years ago I was a girl with a big dream of publishing a novel. I started this blog and you all believed in me and cheered me on. This little blog now has 90 subscribers! I’ve heard stories from so many of you telling me that you’ve passed my book on, or told others to buy it. You guys are amazing. Seriously. Thank you, again and again. I’ll never be able to say that enough.

I have some great news to share with you—some of which explains my recent lack of updating:

  1. I think you all know, but my first child was born in January. Know what? Babies are a lot of work. She’s amazing. Growing and learning every single day. And now she’s crawling, trying to pull herself up on things, and getting into everything in the house.
  2. I signed a three book contract with Love Inspired over the summer! It was a huge boost to me as an author because it confirms that I can do this—write and hopefully make a career out of doing what I love. The best part of it all was that this contract was offered without the books being written (that’s called a blind contract) which is exciting and scary at the same time. They believe in me, now I have to deliver good books into their hands by my deadlines.
  3. I’m gearing up to launch an indie writing career as well! That means that I have some books I’m really passionate about that I’m going to be able to get into your hands much quicker than I first thought I would be able to. I’m beyond excited about this step in my writing journey. I’ll be releasing a Christmas novella before the end of the year and in the beginning of next year I’ll be launching both my TimeShifters series (young adult fiction) and my Spies of Chicago series (a story that follows both a historical and contemporary romance that weave together). Launching any indie book is a lot of work, launching three—with two of them being series—is insane. But I’ve never been normal, so I’ve diving in head first. I’m going to do a post soon about being both a traditional and indie author, so I’ll explain more then.

All this, and I also promise to be here more often. No, I probably won’t ever go back to five days a week like the starting days of the blog. But I have plans to update you more faithfully. I’m looking forward to spending some time together again.

Jess