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May 16, 2024

Rewrite Your Life

When my husband took his life in 2001, the last thing I wanted to do was write a memoir. His life and then his death were shot with a dark secret. Making that story public would hurt those still living, from the innocent (the child I was carrying) to the guilty.

But if I’m honest, protecting those left behind wasn’t all that kept me from writing the truth. Because I was raised in a Midwestern household full of abuse and dysfunction, the “snitches get stitches” code was second nature to me. The first time I remember my dad coaching me to not tell anyone about the drinking and parties, I was eight. So, when it came to Jay’s suicide, “keep the secrets” was my instinctive response.

But…I had to write.

Jay’s death had left too many holes. I was pregnant, the mother of a 3-year-old, full-time professor, and now a widow. I had to schedule healing around my children’s schedule and work and grief so thick it felt like grave dirt. Writing was the only cure flexible enough, effective enough, private enough.

But not memoir.

That’s when I decided to turn the experience of Jay’s death into a novel. I couldn’t bear sharing the facts as they happened, but I could squeeze the juice out of them, rework them into a character or a scene, and release them that way. I began tentatively, changing the death from suicide to murder but inserting all my real-life shame and terror. The more I wrote, the less my brain spiraled, and the more I began to feel emotions again, even if they were the joys and sorrows of fictional characters. The result was May Day, my first published novel.

Fiction gave me a healing place where I could release my insecurities and traumas and dark secrets behind a protective shield. It occurs to me that healing through fiction is a particularly powerful option for marginalized communities, those whose voices have been neglected or actively silenced, those who fear writing the facts because of the repercussions but who have important stories to tell: women, people of color, those in the LBGTQ community, those who’ve experienced deep trauma.

Fiction provides a safe space for us to tell our story, and telling our story heals us. Hundreds of studies have proven that writing decreases anxiety and depression, reduces pain and complex premenstrual symptoms, improves the body’s immune functions, boosts antibody production, enhances working memory, physical performance, and social relationships, reduces illness-related doctor’s visits, improves the physical and mental states of cancer patients and people with HIV, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and eating disorders, and positively addresses a host of PTSD symptoms.

That’s just a start. Writing makes everything better. It allows us to distance ourselves, to become spectators to life’s roughest seas. It gives form to our wandering thoughts, lends empathy to our perspective, allows us to cultivate compassion and wisdom by considering the motivations of others, and provides us practice in controlling attention, emotion, and story. We heal when we transmute the chaos of life into the structure of a novel, when we learn to walk through the world as observers and students rather than wounded, when we make choices about what parts of a story are important and what it is time to let go of. When we write, we also share our voice, and by sharing it, we claim and strengthen it.

But it wasn’t self-awareness that drove my decision to write fiction. It was survival. Through novel-writing, I transformed pain, fear, and shame into creativity and healing. This transformation is available to you, too. You have a story worth telling. If you’ve been afraid to tell it true, come into the fiction fold. There’s room here for all of us.

p.s. My Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction walks readers through the healing process of transforming facts into fiction. It should be available from your local library or wherever books are sold.


April 10, 2024

Battle Lake Book Club!

If you've ever wanted a fully immersive reading experience that includes a monthly book club, prizes, and a supportive community, let me introduce you to the Mira James Book Club! It's the brainchild of Kristin Lyman, owner of Battle Lake's very own Lionseed Bookstore.

If you're not familiar with Battle Lake, it's a charming town in north central Minnesota as well as the setting for my 12-book Murder by Month romcom mysteries. Word on the street is that the town has mixed feelings about my books being set there, 😂 but it's where I was living when I wrote them, and I fell in love with the place.

Kristin wanted to celebrate the town of Battle Lake as well as the Murder by Month mysteries being re-released with new covers, new content, and deep edits, so she pulled together this genius book club. It looks like it'll be loads of fun. There's even the option for a book box subscription! You can find out all the details here.

I particularly love that ordering (and pre-ordering) the series from Lionseed not only supports a fabulous independent bookstore (which in turn supports the community), but also gets you free admission to the paid level of the book club (plus a $15 bonus gift bag mailed to you, if you're one of the first 100 to sign up).

The inaugural meeting is on May 5 at 2:00 pm. It's online, free, and open to the public, and I'll be the host! We'll be celebrating the re-launch of MAY DAY and talking all things books and Battle Lake, plus I'll share the backstory on how I came to write about Battle Lake. You can find out more here.

Mark your calendar, baby, because you've just been invited. :)


March 25, 2024

Make Gloup

A blizzard is hurtling toward Minnesota as I write. Pre-storm means only one thing in the Lourey house: homemade gloup.

  1. Grab all those veggies you prepped and bagged last week because you really really were for sure this time going to start eating healthy, but now they're going soft. Dice three or four cups worth (any veggies will do, including cauliflower, broccoli, and beets; such is the magic of gloup.)
  2. Sauté the veg in olive oil. As they're just going soft, generously sprinkle with a couple teaspoons of dried herbs or tablespoons of fresh, dealer's choice, and sauté another minute or two for luck.
  3. Stick veggies and herbs in a crock pot along with a carton of broth (or the Ziploc block of homemade stock in your freezer if you're a weirdo, Depression-era-style cook like me who doesn't let bones to go to waste).
  4. Salt, pepper, and toss in leftover rice or a packet of noodles (it's wild rice for me today).
  5. Next, add a packet of dried mushrooms (I keep some around for just this reason) or diced up, left over meat, including bacon (but cut it microscopically small; big chunks of meat in gloup is considered gauche).
  6. Let it simmer on low for seven hours or high for three. (I recommend high for seven to really blend those velvety flavors plus draw out the righteous smell of homemade food bubbling away).
  7. A half an hour or so before you're ready to eat, melt a stick of butter on medium low, whisk in an equivalent amount of white flour until you have a paste, and then slowly add in enough cream or 1/2 & 1/2—still whisking—until you make a thick roux that is barely pourable. (This roux is key; it's the pantyhose of the soup world, covering a multitude of sins.)
  8. Fold the roux into (that one's for you, Schitt's Creek fans) the crock pot, add more salt because we're not heathens, let it get up to a low simmer until the roux has thickened it all into a nice chowder consistency, and you have gloup, a magical amalgamation of bits and bobs that cleans out your fridge and feels like a hug from the inside. It goes great with a crusty sourdough and a crisp beer or Topo Chico.

Cheers, friends. I hope you're warm and safe today and every day. ❤️


Jess Lourey is the Amazon Charts bestselling author of over 20 novels, articles, and short stories.

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By-the-book forensic scientist Harry Steinbeck and rogue BCA agent Van Reed must catch a cold-case killer who’s returned to abduct a small town’s children one by one in this heart-stopping novel in the Edgar Award–nominated series.

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