Thursday, February 21, 2013


I'm blogging at the Girlfriends Book Club tomorrow at noon EST on how to decide whether going indie is right for you. You could also go rogue or go crazy. Whatever flips your skirt.

I hate to turn stupid comment verification back on, but I've been getting bombarded with spam comments lately, so bear with me. I know most of you aren't robots or cubicle spam slaves in a third world country, but you know how it is.

AND, posting may be light these days, because I'll be drowning in a pit of grants until late April ... but if anything amusing happens, you'll be among the first to hear it.

In the meantime, think spring! Daylight Saving Time is almost here, and the car in my clock will  only be 32 minutes slower again in a matter of days.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shiny Happy People Everywhere....

February is always such a dreary month; but in just over thirty days, the first day of spring arrives. Despite the sagging, crusty piles of snow on every curb, the days are getting longer. You KNOW it won't be long before you can open your windows to air the place out. Dandelion fluff on the breeze and the first bike ride of the season aren't far behind.

There are lots of hopeful, optimistic things happening this month:

One of my dearest single friends goes on a date with "her dream guy" this Wednesday night. They have one of my favorite meet-cute stories ever: she volunteered to give a presentation to his 8th grade social studies class (and she claims she was all nervous and sweaty, which I don't believe for a second)...great conversation ensues...nervous follow-up phone call from him: "Thanks for coming to talk to my students; um, you forgot all the Jolly Ranchers you brought." Which is basically the same as saying, "I enjoyed meeting you and hope to hear from you again." Don't you think??? Two more emails are exchanged, and time is spent deciphering meaning. Fast-forward to Friday night, and a friend and I are practically shouting at her: "CALL HIM BACK AND ASK HIM OUT!!!!!!" So she did, and they have a date! It's like a real-life romantic comedy. She totally deserves a happily-ever-after, and I am dying to hear how the date goes.

Another friend, one of my best college pals, brings home her new adopted daughter this Friday. I am incredibly thrilled for her and her family, and can't wait to meet the little peanut.

J found out his job will NOT be outsourced, and he will actually be given a slight promotion.  I think you could hear my sigh of relief in Algeria.

I have five big grants due in mid-April; while they'll keep me crazy-busy, I enjoy working with these clients and I'm incredibly grateful for the work. (Given the dysfunction in D.C., I wasn't sure the Department of Education would have ANY money with which to award grants this season...)

One of my close friends undergoes drastic surgery this week, but I am so hopeful that this will put her on a solid road to recovery, and that she'll be feeling strong and ass-kicking again soon. (N? I have a feeling there will be kale casseroles and obnoxious humor in your future. You have been warned.)

I got to spend yesterday with the cutest kids in the world. We went out for frozen yogurt, and my five-year-old nephew informed me that "You should be grateful for the ice cream, because of where it comes from." (My sister: "Where does it come from, honey?") Nephew: mimes the milking of udders with his hands, plus the sound he imagines they'd make: "Psst--psst---psst---psst!"

Finally? I'm placing my order for new plants and seeds and rejoining our CSA today, and I meet with five fantastic book clubs later this month.

(I'll stop now before I break out into an Elton John song....)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Social Me-Me-Media

I recently read a post on Writer Unboxed by Keith Cronin, about how the Facebook status update or 140-character tweet your favorite author just posted probably went through four drafts and painstaking edits.  Because it’s all about professional presentation, consistency, message branding, etc. And then I laughed and cringed because yeah, pretty much.

 (Not that I’m anyone’s favorite author; I just try to play one on TV.) But I digress. I even maintain a file called “tweets and FB updates,” and anytime something funny happens I drop it in, tinker around with it, post it somewhere later or not. I’ve only recently been tweeting more, and my attitude toward Twitter has changed from “I’m way too old and cranky for these shenanigans” to “I wonder if anyone will retweet my post about Paul Ryan doing kegels during the #SOTU?”
Deciding what to post is trickier. I have the most fun just being my goofy self. But when I have an author event or book release on deck, I start to really sweat, because I HATE—yes all four capital letters--HATE posting promo stuff. I always imagine people wrinkling their nose or thinking, “Not her again!” or “Yeah, we heard you the first time, Braggy Annoystein.”

It’s fairly safe to assume that if you’ve just seen a post anywhere from me about my books, I’m curled in a ball beneath my desk, sweat beading my upper lip, waiting for my intestines to stop spasming. Two posts down? I nearly DIED after I wrote that.
Because really, it’s great to put the word out that you’ve released something new, or if you’ll be at the Bedford Falls Public Library this Thursday night reading gluten-free haikus or your book is on sale for negative cents this weekend, but then I like to sit back and see what happens organically. Because sometimes on Twitter it feels like I’m running down the midway at the local carnival and everyone’s shouting at me: “Buy my book! Buy my sales tool! Buy now! Buy later! Die penniless and alone in a ditch if you don’t! Aaiiieeeeee!”

So I try to stick to witty shit like, “Sonicare toothbrushes are great, if you always wondered what the noon whistle would sound like going off inside your head.”

Me: “Wow, did you hear my stomach gurgle?”
J: “It’s the sound of your body turning pizza into poop!” #ValentinesDay #SoRomantic! #married 10years

This is the kind of groundbreaking humor you’re missing when don’t follow me on Twitter.
I recently even went so far as to delete any references to the titles of my books on my Twitter home page. I figure if people find me amusing, they know where to find me (usually here, or eating Feta right from the container in front of American Pickers on my new couch). I’ve never bought a book because of a Twitter post, but I have started to follow other authors more closely because they’re funny, they have interesting things to say, they link to informative articles. It always boils down to relationship-building, doesn’t it? And knowing when to hold ‘em, and when to walk away.

Now PINTEREST, on the other hand...that will have to be a new post. With lots of photos of recipes I'll never make.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sick of Chocolate, Flowers, and Jewelry?

Stuffed animals, candlelit dinners, and balloons make you want to puke?

Don't worry, I've got some unconventional Valentine's Day gift ideas for you.

You might consider giving the object of your affection the complete first season of my friend Gail Konop-Baker’s mother-daughter podcast about gender roles and relationships, The G-Spot. Or, buy it for yourself! You know you’re curious. And if you live in the Madison area, it’s basically free if you use the $14 coupon toward a bra and fitting at La Lingerie. 

(This is the second time a friend’s project has made me blush on my own blog. Prude, much?)

OR: you can pre-order Sam Pink’s new e-novel Rontel and get a personal sext from him. Seriously. 

From amazon: The narrator of Rontel admits “if people had access to my thoughts and feelings, I’d be asked to live on a rock in outer space—one with a long tether to a building in Chicago if any of my friends (just kidding) wanted to come visit.” This man, however, is not a psychotic. He goes shopping with his girlfriend, he has a pet cat, he recognizes a loose hot dog on the floor of the supermarket as the “saddest thing ever.” He is just like you.

Already I feel a scary affinity for this guy, because I too have felt pity for lonely inanimate objects from time to time. 

Is this hilarious or gross? I think it's hilarious, even though he looks an awful lot like J's boss. And that mustache HAS GOT TO GO. But he's drinking a soda and posing in a hotel bathtub. He's going to sell a buttload of books with this PR stunt, too. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Closer Than They Appear: So Close it's Already Here!

Okay, so I was going to wait until closer to V-Day (when we celebrate V-necklines and Venereal Disease) to release my next project, because it's my first LOVE STORY, but I couldn't wait any longer because I am a Human Squee these days. So, I present to you: Closer Than They Appear: a novella plus.

Personal chef Harper and aspiring writer Zach have never met, but they see one another at the same stoplight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on their morning commutes. Harper turns left, Zach turns right, and gradually, they each begin to wonder about the person they see every other morning. The person with the smile that could fuel an empty heart for miles.

Reminiscent of Attachments and You've Got Mail, Closer Than They Appear is a charming, sweet hug of a story.
A comedy of missed connections that will fill your heart with the wistful hope and secret joy of a nearly impossible crush.

BONUSES: This novella also includes ten vegetarian recipes inspired by Harper and her clients, as well as the actual templates for Festival Bingo, inspired by Zach's roommate Josh.

This project represents a lot of Firsts for me:

First novella. With a plus, no less.

First story written entirely in the third person, past-tense.

First pure romantic comedy without any heavy themes. (Huzzah! says everyone sick of me trying to get all meaningful up in their grille. I’m not sure if “grill” needed an “e” right there, but it looked lonely and boring without it.)

First to be set in my current city. Though I don’t mention Oshkosh by name, landmarks, landmarks, get yer landmarks: South Park, Menominee Park, the UW-Oshkosh student union, Oblio’s, Peabody’s, Pick ‘n Save, Ardy & Ed’s, Tew’s Two Sporting Goods, the lake road, the Victorians on Washington, the quarry with all the inbred deer, the old *ahem* “Pubes” and Hoses sign, even the Target check-out guy in the wheelchair, who is fantastic. (“Hi, if you’re reading this! You’re so efficient and soft-spoken. And please stop looking at me like you know what I’m thinking.”)

First to include recipes. Seriously. And I wrote them all funny-like, to entertain you while you cook. Hope you like tofu and kale! *Collective retching sounds*

First to include bingo cards. Actually, I’m kind of hoping I’ve written the first book EVER to include bingo cards in the appendices, because wouldn’t that be awesome?? Talk about yer landmark!

It also represents some Seconds:

Second to include images. (See also: Driving Sideways)

Second to be written in alternating point-of-view chapters featuring two people who might be in love but don’t know it yet. (See also: Mandatory Release, coming soon!)

Second to have a fabulous cover designed by the exceedingly talented Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations (See also: All the Lonely People)

Thank you for enduring my shameless plug, for reading my blog, for reading my books, if you have...if you haven't, hello! I'm Jess. Can I tell you a story? Wait. First: do you mind swearing and jokes about pubes? No? We're going to get along just fine ...

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Work from Home! Assemble Products! Say "Hi" to your Dog!

When you work at home half the time, it can get a little lonely. Bad habits, like not showering for 36 hours, can form. Also, you talk to yourself. Here are the Greatest Hits from Things I’ve Said Aloud While Working from Home:

“Hi Daisy!”

“Why is my middle toe hot?”

 “Daisy, did the mailman come?”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“Stop barking. There’s nothing to bark at.”

“Hi Daisy! Cuteface! You’re so cute.”

“Who is that?”

“What should I eat for lunch today, Daisy?”

“You’re not supposed to sit there, but I’ll let you, because I know how much you like it.”

“Aw, bellyrubs!”

“Don’t let me eat any more Doritos.”

“Hi peanut! Cutepea!”

“What in the heck is this?”

“Hi Messhead! Fuzzface Cutie!”

“Quiet! Why are you barking? There’s nothing to bark at.”

“Why is there—oh gross, this is a toenail!”

"Who's a good girl? You're the good girl! Yes, you are!"

“Hi Daisy! You’re so cute.”

Recently, someone on Twitter said, “I say hi to my dog like, 600 times a day,” and I laughed so hard, because here is a person who clearly also works at home, writing or spamming or filling in spreadsheets or whatever. Because this is how it works: Anytime you leave the computer, you say hi to your dog, stop to pet her, check the mail, grab a snack, say hi to the dog again, get back on the computer, and yell at her to stop barking at the wind. 

Basically, we can conclude two things: 1) working at home is not conducive to personal hygiene. Therefore, we should pity Mr. Riley. 2) People who work from home (i.e. shut-ins) need a pet or two to talk to, just to keep their social skills sharp.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Now Presenting: Lee Adams and A Giveaway!

I'm so happy to be hosting the lovely, talented Lee Adams on the blog today; I've known Lee for a few years, and she is one of the most gracious, hard-working, generous people you'll ever meet. For starters, she donated a kidney to a loved one.

I've donated canned goods I didn't want all that much to local food drives.

My point is that Lee is fabulous, and we're here today to talk about her heart-tugging debut novel, Strawberry Wine.  What's it about?

Ten years have passed since Tanya Smith's last summer at Laurel Lake-the summer of Marie. Today Tanya is a confident, successful music promoter-a far cry from the naïve seventeen-year-old who showed up at the lake full of rosy notions of first love, lifelong friendships, and evenings spent sipping strawberry wine on the shore. That September changed everything, and as far as Tanya is concerned, there's no going back. That is, until a mysterious phone call from Marie's lawyer brings Tanya face to face with the past. Suddenly she finds herself returning to Laurel Lake and to everything she left behind there. Will the dark secret that haunts the lake break her heart all over again? Or will Marie's legacy be the key that unlocks the future Tanya gave up on ten long years ago?

Doesn't that sound like a great story? (It totally is!) And now for some questions:

1)  Where did you get the idea for Strawberry Wine?  
One of my all-time favorite songs is "Strawberry Wine," sung by Deana Carter and written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison.  It’s a coming of age song about young summer love.  The book doesn’t follow the song, but it definitely was in the back of my mind.  And as teenagers, Strawberry Wine was what we were always sneaking.  Boones Farm!  So it just reminded me of youth, friends, young love, and everything the beginning of the book is about.

2)  How do you juggle writing with your day job? 
I have Southwest Airlines to thank for a lot of it.  I travel with my job and spend a ton of times on Southwest.  Once I get to 10,000 feet, I can pull out my “approved electronics!”  I found it soothing to write while flying.

3)   Tell us about one of your “most” moments: most humbling, humiliating, gratifying, life-affirming, hilarious … whatever first comes to mind. 
It would have to be when I donated my kidney to my brother-in-law.  It was humbling, humiliating, gratifying, life-affirming and at times, hilarious!  I’m a self-diagnosed hypochondriac so it took everything in me to follow through.  But how life changing to save another’s life.  Very humbling.

4)   If you could have any super-power, what would it be?  

To bring people happiness.  I know it sounds trite, but there are so many unhappy people in the world.  I hope by writing, I can bring them just a small bit of happiness.  If reading something I write makes someone smile, then I’ve done a good job.

5)   Goat cheese: love it or hate it?  
Can I say like?  Depends on what it’s in but I confess to liking it.

6)   What's next for you?  
Writing wise, I’m working on a book called Unlikely Family.  It’s been in the process for two years and I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the characters will do in the end.
Thanks, Lee! I'm also looking forward to reading how your characters end the next novel.

Giveaway! Lee is offering a signed copy to one lucky reader; just leave a comment below with your email address and you're entered to win! You have until Wednesday at midnight to enter.