Posted in Writer-ish

Attempting an Aesthetic

The first time I saw a book aesthetic was in Brenda Drake’s Twitter pitch contest, Pitch Wars. I entered my currently-trunked-and-may-never-see-the-light-of-day YA fantasy.  Afterward, I logged on to the hashtag for some scrolling. While there, I noticed all these cool visuals other contestants put together for their work. They were so captivating! The images communicated tone so effectively.  I made some great connections that year within the online writing community, but I never got around to putting together my own aesthetic.

Fast forward to a brand new manuscript and last week, when I find out my release date has been moved up. *cue squees and nerves* So in honor of the bump, I worked up an aesthetic for the novel, and here it is. I hope you dig it.



Jeremy Aesthetic

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

FA Catpic
Cat of my Heart with Book

I used Fan Art as a comparable text in the query letter for my book. So, it made sense for it to be my first book blog review.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay follows a young man, Jamie, through the last few months of his high school career. Through prom fall out, an insane senior prank, and publishing the school’s literary magazine, all the way up to graduation, Jamie flounders with feelings for his best friend, Mason.


The story is told through Jamie’s first-person point of view, a flawed human with a lot of internalized anxiety regarding acceptance and rejection. At times, this perspective feels limiting to the story, but ultimately it serves to highlight the super satisfying will-they/won’t-they formula. This reader rooted for Jamie and Mason up until the very end. In fact, the will-they/won’t-they aspect builds tension so effectively that the ending twist remains hidden in a way that really packs an emotional punch.


FA Fave
Secondary character, Eden, delivered my favorite line.


Readers will find the truest assessments of Jamie’s character coming from his friends and actions, rather than the way he thinks of himself. Which for this reader, served to create a more complex, three-dimensional lead. When do any of us really see who we are?

Very few things would have made this story more complete, except more illustration. Don’t get me wrong, enough details were provided for the reader to paint clear visual images. I just can’t get out of my head how satisfying it would be to flip the page and have a reader copy of the lit mag cover, or the poetry pages visually-represented the way they were in the zine, or *gasp* the wrinkled fan art.

Overall, this is a fun read. It’s a light and easy contemporary YA romance framing the big idea, everyone deserves to be seen.

FA rating




Posted in Book Review

Book Review Rating System

Looking to get your small press or indie book reviewed? Well, I’m accepting review requests for YA falling under the following categories- contemporary, throwback contemporary, and/or historical-realistic. I reserve the right to decline books that may not fit my schedule, audience, or for any reason, really. I prefer MOBI ebooks. Feel free to contact me via direct message through either my Twitter (@it_was_jess) or FB (@itwasjess) accounts.

Sometimes Pizza

Rating System

I find something special about making pizza. Kneading, tossing, prepping to order, the whole deal is uber sentimental. I make it nearly every week, and it always turns out a little different each time. Even though yeast can be temperamental, and my hands get super gooey, I fell connected in a way that isn’t necessarily logical. See, there’s my future family remembering Mom taking the time to work through sticky dough simple because it was Friday. I see pizzas of the past, and present blurring together in a sense of romantic, mostly-imagined, nostalgia. So, as I contemplated adding a book review component to ye olde website, I realized, wow, I am almost slightly more passionate about books. And, that’s how the pizza slice rating system was born.

A book earns:

🍕 pizza slice if I can’t finish it. Books/pizza might fall into this category if they deal with stuff that triggers me, like white sauce. (Firm nope) Or, I didn’t connect with the style in which it was made. It doesn’t mean everyone will find it unsuitable for consumption, it’s just not for me.

🍕🍕 pizza slices if I finished, but it was a bit of a slog getting there. In the end, I found myself confused by things like theme, character motivation, and/or topping choices.  

🍕🍕🍕 pizza slices if I find myself saying, “Yay to this person for accomplishing a book!” It was reliable and satisfying.  

🍕🍕🍕🍕 pizza slices if I felt the book was enjoyable, identifiable, and most obvious, skillfully made. I liked it and would recommend to friends that enjoy this style/genre. 

🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕 pizza slices if I gorged myself, meaning I could not put this down. And when I had to walk away, I still found myself thinking about the art that went into plotting a masterpiece of this caliber. I recommend this book to all of us, because I think it’s mind-blowing or important in a way that readers need to experience.

Now, let’s nosh!


Posted in Randoms, Writer-ish

Liebster Award 2018

Last week, Dorian Graves, whose book I’m anticipating, Bones and Bourbon, nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thanks, Dorian! The Liebsters were created to discover new bloggers. Here are the official rules and such.


Dorian asked three questions I’m to answer. Then, I pass on new questions to other noteworthy blogs.

Without further ado, away we go!

The Deep Thought: What story has made you think the most? Doesn’t have to be your favorite or least favorite, but a story that stuck with you and dwelled in your thoughts long after it was over.

Easily, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one I still catch myself thinking about often. For those who don’t know, it follows the story of a girl living through WW II as told by Death. It’s a powerful read.

The Empty Space: What is something from your youth that you don’t encounter nowadays? Do you miss it?

In all their quirk, I miss home phones. Specifically, the beige wall-mounted kind in my grandma’s kitchen. The sound of the rotary dial, waiting patiently after each number selection, and twirling the rubbery cord around my fingers all seem like such charming mannerisms now. Phones changed a lot in my lifetime. So much so, the whole process of using the old ones feels romantically nostalgic.

The Starman: What’s a hobby you once had that you’ve since left behind, and would you ever consider picking it up again?

From about 4th grade all the way through my last year of high school, I loved being on stage. I attempted a college play, but everything about it felt different, more competitive. After that experience was over, I never looked back. Between writing books, an editorial internship, tutoring, and mom-ing, I don’t see adding theater back to the mix anytime soon.

As for the questions I’m passing on, they are:

Describe the most important book for teenage-you.

What smell brings back great memories?

What’s the most binge-worthy show on television?

My nominees, should they accept, include a short-short list of the online spaces I frequent:

Lenn Woolston

Niki Morris

Lidy Wilks

Sarah Armstrong-Garner

Autumn Lindsey

These ladies have a lot of cool things happening across the board. I truly enjoy catching glimpses of their journeys they offer up on their websites.

Thanks again, Dorian. Bones and Bourbon hits my TBR next month! Off to read, it’s been real!






Posted in Writer-ish

Name the Thing

There was a time ago when I wasn’t brave enough to call myself a writer. I spent hours filling plot holes, figuring out how best to show an emotion, or just thinking about what a character would/would not do. But still, not a writer.

Between waking up at five a.m., savoring first sips of coffee while the computer booted up, were these pregnant moments filled with excitement over where I’d go with my work that morning. But still, not a writer.

There were conferences, critique meetings, contest submissions, and at least five to six rejections per month. But still, not a writer.

I was doing everything I could to write something good. Yet, I was terrified of claiming this pie-in-the-sky writer title. What was I so scared of? All the usual things probably. Friends cracking jokes behind my back. Hmm, those weren’t friends. Being called out for a lack of formal training. Want some? Yes, please. Let me just rearrange my whole existence and that of everyone I love. Failure. It’s inevitable, get over it already.

I created a secret board called Dreams (lol, it’s true) where I’d pin quotes for when I doubted both my perseverance and skill. It included graphics like this…

Screenshot 2018-03-19 at 10.09.03 AM
From iUniverse Collection of Famous #Author #Quotes @

Sure thing.

And this…

Thanks for putting that little graphic together!

Fair enough.

Oh, and this little gem…

Screenshot 2018-03-19 at 10.14.58 AM
The name on this pin cites a Jonathon Gunson @

A hunt and peck at a time, apparently.

I’m not normally a quote-collecting kind of person. I don’t believe in those decoration wall stickers. But, honestly, these little images kept me moving toward my goal. When impostor syndrome took hold and shook me by the shoulders, I logged on and read through these.

If I could go back, I would knock this behavior off. I’d take that secret board and make it public. (Metaphorically, because no one needs to digest all that cheese.) I was a writer way back then. Keeping it all buried and secret, affected no one except myself. It kept me from taking pride in my work. It was a roadblock for who knows how many opportunities, and just an overall unauthentic representation of everything I wanted to be.

It would have been okay to name the thing.




Posted in Writer-ish

Writers in Contrast

From the way they take their caffeinated beverage of choice to the hours in which they are most creative, every writer does things differently. Today’s guest blogger and writer in contrast is Lenn Woolston.

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 8.26.52 AM

Thanks for the opportunity to share about my imaginary worlds! Hi there, my name is Lenn Woolston. I write sci-fi and fantasy stories, most often with dark elements. I turned to the dark side because I hear they have cookies.

Where are you in the process right now?

I’m currently querying my novel entitled VANITY which is a steampunk ghost story. While in the trenches, I’ve been working on my second novel which is a sci-fi story called PROJECT GEN 2.24 about a young coder who must stop a sinister cyborg from replacing mankind with a cyborg nation.

What’s your routine like?

I must have outlines. I don’t write a sentence of the story without completing a first draft outline. I have respect for writers who can spontaneously jump in the writing driver’s seat and produce a story. I still need my navigation device shouting directions at me. Once I have a clear path, it’s kettle on, earbuds in, and away I go through my creative portal. To help keep me accountable, I have a critique partner I meet with on Thursday nights via Hangouts.

What about writing by hand works best for you?

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 8.27.01 AM
Notebooks! Notebooks! Notebooks!

Who wouldn’t want an excuse to buy more notebooks?! Notebook hoarding aside, writing by hand allows me to focus on the story instead of the technicalities. It’s far too easy for me to get entangled in the webs of the Internet when “researching” when, really, I should be writing. I also find it easier to pull out a notebook and jot down ideas on-the-go. I’m not limited by network connectivity, cords, or batteries. Another aspect pen and paper provides is paying homage to the classics. I think of Edgar Allan Poe and Hemingway jotting down draft after draft, the ink spilling on paper, and “making it bleed.” It’s this process I believe makes the story tangible. Plus, my day job creates enough of an electronic cemetery. RIP broken little keyboards.

What’s a book you always recommend to friends? Why?

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 8.27.05 AM

The Paper Magician by Charlie N Holmberg because it’s book one in a phenomenal series. You’ll get hooked! Holmberg crafts characters you will love all within the realm of some impressive magic. I hope to be as cool as her one day.

To follow more of my adventures, be sure to check out my blog at and find me on Twitter @LennWoolston


Posted in Writer-ish

Thought Hoarding 101

Photo by on Unsplash

My book club recently read Margaret Atwood’s historical fiction novel, Alias Grace. I was intrigued by, well, the plot, but also the scrapbooks some of the women kept. To me, scrap booking is a modern idea. Turns out what is now a huge industry, is not all that new. Victorian women and children totally collected snippets from newspapers, quotes, and/or pretty cards as a past time. Sound familiar? We still spend hecka time pinning together online collections of hairstyles, tattoos, rainy day activities, and feel-good quotes. Name it, there’s a board for it.

All these ideas regarding collections for bits of memory got me thinking about my writer notebooks. When I taught, one of the first things I had young writers set up was their notebook. A place to collect ideas? Yes, obviously, but also quotes from books they loved, author studies, and research. The bulk of the notebook was definitely dedicated for any time a fiery inkling sparked. If writers wait on an idea, something about the initial burn is lost forever. At least, that’s been my experience. Jot that gist down.

My ideas are never fully formed though. Sometimes they look like questions, a phrase about an overall theme, or just one character that all of a sudden shows up. That’s how my debut novel came about. I was out walking one morning, and this graphic novel character popped into my head. I kept her in the forefront of my brain for two miles. So, I could write down everything I thought knew about her. I built a story around her and poof! I mean, a lot went on behind that poof! But for now, I’m just gonna leave it at that.


This is not my notebook. Enter a captPhoto by Estée Janssens on Unsplashion

Have you seen these bullet journals? I can’t even handle how beautiful they are. Anyway, my little writer’s notebook does not look like this. It’s so plain, just a composition book with IDEAS scribbled on the cover. There are lots of sloppy arrows, lists, circles, and sometimes doodles, which primarily consist of nothing that makes sense to anyone else. There are a dozen sections. Tabs would help immensely, but for now each section is marked with a pen shoved in between pages or a scrappy slip of paper used as a bookmark. Every time I open it, organization is a goal. I start a new section set aside for contacts, questions, book ideas. Eventually, it all just meshes until the binding can’t keep it together. I can never find anything quickly. When I look for a snippet of something important, I have to flip through the whole book. It’s okay though, I might find another trail that needs sussing out that day.

So bazic

My writer’s notebook, vision board, bullet journal, whatever you want to call it, is the not-cute, totally unorganized way I like to work. With love, it’s a total thought hoard.