Do you want to learn more about writing, including receiving marketing tips and tricks, deals on valuable workshops and retreats, and time management hacks? Join the VIP Writer’s Club! You’ll receive free VIP access to an online novel-writing course just for signing up and can unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.Become a VIP Reader!
Interested in free books, exclusive bonus content, and VIP early access to Jess’ upcoming projects? Then sign up here to become a VIP Reader.
October 2, 2021
As a Midwestern gal, I'm allergic to bragging. It's so bad that I even get contact hives if I hear someone else talking positively about themselves (I'm working on this). That's why it pains me to tell you that today, I woke up content. I looked around in terror, trying to figure out what was wrong, and realized I was feeling good about myself because I love my safe, funky new home AND I get to be a full-time writer.
I tried to talk myself down by listing all the areas in life where I fall short (they train us young in Minnesota), but it was no good. I live in a house that I love (that's an image of my treehouse office above), one that I was able to buy because of my writing. Going to work for me now means daydreaming, creating worlds, talking to people who are passionate about books. There's downsides, sure, but my first real job was working at the Spicer DQ in 1985; I know when I've got it good.
That got me to thinking about that voice—it starts out external, but we learn to carry it inside—that tells us what we can't do in this life. We can't be full-time writers/actors/ballerinas/wood carvers/musicians/photographers/travel bloggers/fill-in-the-blank-with-your-dream-jobbers. Only a handful of people get those special careers, and they're not you, we're told.
Well, I'm here to tell you that voice is full of shit. I'm a small-town girl who didn't know anyone lucky enough to write books for a living, and now I'm her. She. Her? (I'm weak without an editor.) My parents gave me a great gift by repeatedly telling me I could be anything in this world (first time I heard this, I told my dad that in that case, I'd like to be a cat). I'm sure it helps to have that fragile, powerful truth repeated to you, so here you go:
You can be anything in this world. (Except a cat. I researched it.)
Some of us have more barriers than others—sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, and lack of access to resources are real—but my wish for you is that, of all the people telling you what you can't do, that you're not one of them.
So what is it that you ache to do?
August 30, 2021
Thank you to the wonderful mystery community and to readers for awarding Unspeakable Things with the Anthony for Best Paperback Original! I was overwhelmed when I heard my name called and am gonna have to buy heavier shoes because I keep floating when I think about it.
If you haven't yet had a chance to read the epilogue, it lives on my website here.
And if the mix of true crime, a young protagonist, and the '80s interests you, I'll be revisiting the Unspeakable Things' themes in Litani, out October 19. You can preorder your copy now.
Thanks for reading.
July 29, 2021
Just sent the finished manuscript of my next book, tentatively titled The Pretender, to my publisher. Woot! Teaser below, popcorn and champagne for EVERYONE!
The Pretender Teaser
That summer, the summer of ’77, everything had edges.
Our laughter, the sideways glances we gave and got. Even the air was blade-sharp. I figured it was because we were growing up. The law might not recognize it, but fifteen’s a girl and sixteen a woman and you get no map from one land to the next. They airdrop you in, booting a bag of Kissing Potions lip gloss and off-the-shoulder blouses after you. As you’re plummeting, trying to release your parachute and grab for that bag at the same time, they holler out you’re pretty, like they’re giving you some sort of gift, some vital key, but really, it’s meant to distract you from yanking your cord.
Girls who land broken are easy prey.
If you’re lucky enough to come down on your feet, your instincts scream to bolt straight for the trees. You drop your ‘chute, pluck that bag from the ground (surely it contains something you need), and you run like hell, breath tight and blood pounding because boys-who-are-men are being airdropped here, too. Lord only knows what got loaded into their bags, but it does not matter because they do terrible things in packs, boys-who-are-men, things they’d never have the hate to do alone.
I didn’t question any of it, not at the time. It was simply part of growing up a girl in the Midwest, and like I said, I thought at first that’s why everything felt so keen and dangerous: we were racing to survive the open-field sprint from girl to woman.
But it turns out the perpetual sharpness wasn’t because we were growing up.
Or, it wasn’t only that.
I know because three of us didn’t get to grow up.
The year before, 1976, had felt like a living thing. America standing tall in a Superman pose, her cape a glorious red, white, and blue flag flapping behind her, fireworks exploding overhead and filling the world with the smell of burning punk and sulfur. Not only was anything possible, we were told, but our country had already done it. The grown-ups did a lot of congratulating themselves during the bicentennial, it looked like. For what, we didn’t know. They were still living their same lives, going to their boring jobs, holding barbecues, grimacing over sweating cans of Hamm’s and hazy blue cigarette smoke. Did it make them a little crazy, taking credit for something they hadn’t earned?
Looking back, I believe so.
And I think that, for all its horror, 1977 was the more honest year.
Three Pantown kids dead.
Their killers right there in plain sight.
It all started in the tunnels.
It'll be another year until The Pretender hits shelves, but you can preorder Litani now! It releases in October.