Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Happy Release Day to MORE THAN MUSIC!

So, my critique partner Liz Briggs is really, really amazing. I'm not joking when I say that I wouldn't have ever written anything of quality without her. She's a plot wizard, and she always knows exactly what to do with my books/writing when I am completely clueless.

I remember when she told me she had a contemporary romance idea - I was surprised because she's always been into sci-fi and fantasy. But her idea sounded SO up my alley and I really wanted to read it, so I cheered her on as she wrote her steamy NA romance set against the background of a reality music competition.

When she sent it to me to read I was FLOORED. It was SO GOOD. I was critiquing it for a few chapters, but then I was so into it that I just gave up and read it for fun. Then the next day I went back and read it again to give actual comments. So, I read it twice in one weekend and I thought about it when I wasn't reading and I told everyone I could "OMG you HAVE to read this when it comes out! I love it so much!"

And now it's out! And it's awesome! (And you can get your own copy here!)

Music major Maddie Taylor seems to have her life all figured out. She's just finished her junior year of college, has a summer internship lined up with the LA Philharmonic, and plans to go to grad school to write movie scores. Only her roommates know she practices guitar every night and secretly dreams of a louder life. But geeky girls like her don't get to be rock stars.

Tattooed singer Jared Cross has a new girl every week, but when he catches Maddie playing one of his songs, she attracts his attention in an unexpected way. His band needs a fourth member for The Sound, a reality TV show competition--and he wants her. Though Maddie refuses to be another notch on Jared's bedpost, she agrees to risk everything for the chance to be a rock star.

Once on the show, Maddie discovers there's more to Jared behind his flirty smile, and with each performance their attraction becomes impossible to ignore. When the show pressures Jared to flaunt his player image, they're forced to keep their relationship secret, but Maddie can't help but want something real.

As the competition heats up, Jared will do whatever it takes for his band to win, and Maddie must decide if following her dream is worth losing her heart.

And check out this awesome blurb:

"Sexy, fun, and heartfelt, More Than Music will bring out the rockstar in anyone. A truly passionate love story--both in music and romance. Jared and Maddie's story is a great example of how important it is to be true to yourself and step out onto your own stage." 
- Julie Cross, author of the Tempest series and Third Degree

You will like this book if:

* You like music reality shows
* You like music in general
* You like NA romance
* You like NA romance, but you're a little tired of the characters with a DARK, BROKEN PAST
* You think any of this sounds intriguing:

* This appeals to you in any way:

Happy release day, Liz! I can't wait for everyone to read MORE THAN MUSIC and fall in love with it just like I did!

Monday, June 16, 2014

On Laura and Kindness

I've been thinking a lot about my friend Laura.

I mentioned in my release day recap that I got the news on PUSH GIRL's book birthday that one of my friends passed away. Laura was healthy until she wasn't, and she was okay until she wasn't, and then she was hospitalized and she needed a double lung and heart transplant immediately. She didn't get it and then she got it and then she defied all the odds and then she didn't make it.

Laura leaves behind an amazing husband who loved her (loves her) like crazy and two sweet, beautiful daughters. (Her husband, Johnny, has been very honest and transparent about their entire journey on facebook. You can read more about them here if you are interested.)

Laura also leaves behind a legacy, and that's what I have spent so much time over the past days thinking about.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking through my DMs on Twitter for something else and I came across an exchange I had with Laura over a year ago. I was having a tough time and she reached out to me, offering advice, sympathy, and a shoulder. This was unsolicited...but not in an "unsolicited advice" sort of way. More in an "I can tell you don't want to come out and say it, but I know you're having a rough time and I'm here if you want to talk" kind of way. An "I've been through something similar; you aren't alone" sort of way. It meant so much to me at the time, that she noticed my struggle, and that she took the time to reach out to me.

As my group of friends started to share memories of Laura after she passed, it came out that we all had a story like this about her. About a time she reached out, usually privately, when one of us was struggling and offered sympathy, advice, a shoulder to cry on. A time she shared her own struggles in an effort to let us know we weren't alone, and an offer to always be there if we needed to talk. A time she sent a perfectly-timed email to say how can I help or congratulations or just hi.

It tuns out that this was just Laura's way.

In the MG novel Wonder, the school's principal Mr. Tushman uses a quote from J.M. Barrie to urge his students to always be a little kinder than is necessary. This is how Laura was, always. Kind when it wasn't expected. Kinder than was necessary. She went out of her way to offer kindness to everyone.

I like to think of myself as a nice person, but I am very, very selfish. I know being selfish is just a part of being human, but I feel like I might be more selfish than the average bear. And I'm just not naturally thoughtful. I don't think of picking up gifts for people. I don't consider calling you to see if you want anything while I'm out. I forget to ask questions about you when you ask how I'm doing.
I don't do any of this on purpose...I don't know if it's just my brain being overloaded or my fierce introversion or a complete lack of focus or what, but I always find myself leaving a situation and wishing I had been more thoughtful or kind, but it didn't occur to me until it was too late.

As much as I wish it did, that sort of kindness, that extra kindness, just doesn't come naturally to me.

My friend Tameka talked about making an effort to be more thoughtful toward others in honor of Laura's memory, and I love this idea so much. I really want to try to focus on being kinder than is necessary. I want to be a person who leaves behind a legacy of kindness. I want to be the kind of person my friend Laura would be proud of.

So I'm going to try. To be kinder. To be more thoughtful. To be more like Laura.

I wish it wasn't going to be so much of an effort for me to do this, but part of adulthood, for me, anyway, is brutal honesty with myself about the kind of person I am. I'm nice, and I'm not unkind, but I'm just not naturally thoughtful. I'm not kinder than is necessary. I'm not like Laura in this way. But I want to be. I'm going to try to be, every day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

PUSH GIRL Giveaway Winners!

Thank you all so much for celebrating PUSH GIRL's release with me! This past week has been awesome. And now it's time to say thank you by announcing the winners of my book giveaway!

The winner of a signed hardcover of PUSH GIRL is

The winner of a signed ARC of PUSH GIRL is

The winner of the book of her choice from Jennifer Brown, Deb Caletti, Tamara Ireland Stone, or Laura Wiess is

Winners, you have all been emailed, and your books will be on their way to you shortly.

Thank you all so much for entering the giveaway and sharing in my release day excitement! You are all the best!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


WHEW. I made it. I survived Debut Novel Release Day.

PUSH GIRL's birthday was an amazing but exhausting day for me, so to recap you on how it went, I thought I would share SEVEN TRUTHS ABOUT MY BOOK RELEASE DAY.

Truth 1: I was more nervous the night before the book came out than I can remember ever being for anything
I'd been having upsetting anxiety dreams in the days leading up to launch, which is normal for me. (OMG, the back to school dreams I get are terrifying) But nothing prepared me for the nerves that hit on the night before. Acting on stage, public speaking, running a marathon, public dancing, karaoke...NOTHING has made me this nervous before. NOTHING. I seriously felt like I was one second from crying and/or throwing up at any given moment, and it stayed that way all night. It was as if I would wake up in the morning and NOTHING IN MY LIFE WOULD BE THE SAME. But that was ridiculous, because everything was exactly the same.
I painted my nails to match the book cover
Truth 2: There was more social media than I could handle
There were a lot of tweets, you guys. A LOT. And I've been on facebook more in the past three days than I was in the past three years combined. And all those guest blog posts I've been writing over the past month pretty much went live at the same time. It was awesome, but it was way overwhelming. Like standing in the middle of a room and having an entire crowd of people shouting at you at the same time. It was really, really cool, but it was really, really overwhelming and I think I spent too much time replying to people online and not enough time present in the moment and enjoying myself.

Truth 3: I don't think I would have been happy either way when it came to my day job
A lot of advice from other debut authors said to take off from the day job no matter what. But it's not that easy for a teacher, especially during the last full week of school. And it's not like something was going to HAPPEN (see above) aside from me tweeting at people all day (see above again), so I went to work. But I had a rough day with the students, I could only get online on my breaks, and it all stressed me out...and no one wants to be stressed on launch day! But taking off would have been a lot of trouble (sub plans, kids going wild), and I think I would have thought halfway through the day, "I should have just gone in."

I think I just needed the day job to not exist on that day. Note to self: don't release next book so close to the end of the school year.

Truth 4: People surprised me
I was truly amazed at the people who reached out to congratulate and support me! People I haven't spoken to in a long time shared the news about my book, and seemed genuinely excited for me, and that means a lot. It was one of those Sally Field moments.

Then, flowers arrived for me in my classroom from my dear friend Smash! Smash (her name is Ashley, but we call her Smash) and I have never met in person, but we chat online and text and I consider her a wonderful friend. These flowers were so sweet and thoughtful and they absolutely made my day!
Beautiful flowers from my beautiful Smash!
I had so many wonderful surprises from people I know and love. It made me feel so special.

Truth 5: It was an awesome day, but shit still happened
In the midst of my release day fun, I got the terrible news that a friend of mine passed away. While I was having one of the best days of my life, her amazing husband lost his wife and her two daughters lost their mom; this will always be remembered as their worst day.

On a day that's all about everyone telling you how great you are and shouting your name and signing your praises, it's easy to forget that life is going on for other people. And it's not always as good for them as it is for you. It's a special day, but it's still just a day.

Truth 6: Not everything went as planned
The one big thing I wanted to do was go into a bookstore and see my book there on the shelf! Well, my only local bookstore is Barnes & Noble, and, apparently, their shipment of my book has been delayed. Everywhere. So, I didn't get to have that release day moment I had been dreaming of. (And neither did my mom.) I didn't get to have it on the day after release day, either. Let's hope that moment will happen for me today...otherwise I'm going to get pretty sad.

It's your day! Do what you want! I got a yummy vanilla coffee on the way to work, and, after popping some bubbly, had a delicious meal at Umami Burger. Because not everything went as planned (see above), the bakery I was planning to get dessert at was closed, so I improvised with donuts and ice cream from 7-11. I think the official word is that calories don't count on your book birthday. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

Thank you all for celebrating my book birthday with me! And for getting the book and being so excited about it! You guys are all the best. <333

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

PUSH GIRL Is Out Today!

It's here, you guys! It's PUSH GIRL's book birthday! I'm so excited!


It's crazy. Exciting and fun, but super, super crazy.

Real talk: I was worried about a lot of things with this book. A LOT. I don't want to go into all of them here, because the inside of my mind is a scary place and I don't want you guys to know how paranoid I am about everything. But trust me, I freaked out about every little thing along the way with this book. Every. Little. Thing. (You can read about some of them on my DiversityinYA post.) And every time one of those fires was put out, another fire started in its place. I've always had a pretty raging case of Imposter Syndrome, so it's not until the book started to get positive feedback on Goodreads from people I didn't know that I started to let out a breath and think that maybe this whole thing would be ok. Maybe?

And then we got a good Kirkus review, too! Did I show you that? What? I didn't? Jeez, Jess. You're slacking.

“A light, ultimately upbeat look at life after spinal cord injury.” Kirkus Reviews 
It's such a thrill that people are responding positively to our book. The story is based on Chelsie's life, but there it a lot of me in there, too. (My IRL, non-writing friends say that reading it sounds like I'm sitting next to them telling them a story. I love that.)

Thank you all so much for your support over the past year. For cheering me on and telling the people about the book and entering giveaways and pre-ordering and still being my friend even though I've had no time to blog. You guys are all so awesome, and I don't know if I could have made it through this crazy publishing journey without you. <333

I hope you guys read PUSH GIRL, and I really, really hope you like it.