Right Place, Right Time, Right Decision

The older I get the less I believe in correct and incorrect decisions.

I’m not saying I don’t look back at my “regular life” and my “writing life” and go – WHAT THE VERY HELL WAS I THINKING??? But I will say that most often, I remember WHY I made a given decision at a given time. (like the tattoo on my leg that I wish was something different, lol)

Despite many authors’ warnings about CFI, when I got my FIRST ACCEPTANCE FOR PUBLICATION I jumped on it. Of COURSE I did!! lol. Someone said they believed in my story enough to want to put it in print. WOW.

Now that I’m four years after that moment, there are a lot of things I would have done differently, but I learned SO SO SO MUCH. And all the things I learned from that experience, are things that helped me later on.

I can say this same thing about my first agent. I remembered why I chose who I did. And now that I can stand here, three years away from the decision to walk away from that situation, I think – yep, in a strange sort of way, that helped me.

A few friends of mine have had setbacks this week, and it brought this same thought to me again. Yes, but these people did the right thing for them at that time, and who knows what would have been different, or what different challenges would have been faced if they chose differently AT THAT TIME.

There’s an old saying or an old story or proverb or whatever you want to call it that goes something like this:

Villagers in the small town continued to go to their leaders complaining about aspects of their lives. Wrongs that had been laid against them, burdens they carried. So the town decided to get together and put all their problems and offenses and burdens in a pot, and they could trade one with another. As they reached in to trade, each person chose the burden they had put in the pot over the trials of their friends.

There’s a lot to be learned from this, I think. We’re more equipped to handle what’s thrown at us than we realize. Our hardships are our hardships. We learn. We grow. And with luck (and using the people we surround ourselves with) we come out better than we went in.

I know almost no one who has had a smooth road to publication (even when it seems that way from the outside). But still we press on, a little smarter than before, a little more experienced than before, and a little more ready to face what’s coming.

Now I feel like I should end with something cheesy like – FLY LIKE AN EAGLE!!! THE WORLD IS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS!!

But instead, I will just say – If you’re writing in hopes of starting a career, think of the long-game. So many of our challenges (but not all) can be lessened with a little perspective.

Also. I love you guys 😉

~ Jo

P.S. Here’s your awesome Friend/Pitch Perfect moment made possible by the lovely (and wildly sexy) Cassie Mae. And also remember to not only surround yourself with awesome people, but lean on them 😉 (Now that song will be stuck in my head for the rest of the evening… Lean on me…When you’re not strong….And I’ll be your friend…) Also. We did not plan these t-shirts. At all.


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Language vs Story and Some Rambles

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So. I saw this the other day and may have snorted in a very non-cute way because I totally disagree. And what’s funny, is that I used to totally agree. I used to burn through books in an evening. OFTEN. Now, I only want to read books that are good enough that I WANT to slow down and enjoy the words the author wrote.

Of COURSE this is my right, and OF COURSE a lot of people would disagree, but it’s gotten me thinking about a lot of things.

My writing has changed drastically from my first published book. Drastically.

The other day I sat in front of “my” bookshelf (the one with all the good stuff on it) and opened a few of my favorites from years ago. And a few more. And… I realized that if I started reading those books now, I probably wouldn’t have made it past page three. Because without strong language and good writing, only a handful of people are going to continue reading and enjoy the story. Or maybe a LOT of people will still enjoy the story.

I’m just not one of them.

I would rather read a book that 90% character study than BIG IDEA if the writing is good.

And sometimes the BIG story and the GORGEOUS writing come together and make something amazing. I just finished The Archived by Victoria Schwab, and the writing was just amazing. The story was amazing. I’m in the middle of Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and WOW. Writing meets great story. My list of books where fantastic writing meets great story is pretty long. My list of great writing and pretty good story is even longer.

I guess what it comes down to is that I’ve been spending more time on craft than I ever have before. Is it slowing me down while I write? Yep. Is it making writing a bit more difficult? Yep. Is it worth it? HOLY CRAP YES. I want people to read my books and think – Jolene’s books just keep getting better.

BUT, of course that won’t happen for everyone.

This is just been on my mind a lot lately b/c I used to burn through a first draft in 2-6 weeks, and I think the time of me speed-writing is over, and right now, I’m just trying to be okay with that 😉

What’s been on your mind lately?

~ Jolene





ONE – (because it’s being THROWN in my face on Facebook 😉 As excited as I am for all the lovelies at RT in NOLA this weekend, I’m also a little jealous. BEIGNETS WITH WRITERLY PEOPLE! Double Win.


TWO – (Because YAY) Including today, my kids have three days left of school this year. I’m actually REALLY looking forward to their summer vacation. No more rushing kiddos through breakfast, packing lunches, doing homework… 


THREE – (Edits…) Going over a book that I wasn’t quite sure about when I started (well, I knew I WANTED to write it, just wasn’t sure if I could), but that I love more with every pass of edits. THIS is why you take as much time as you need to get excited about edits, before jumping into edits. It’s how I trick myself into loving that tedious process. I think I finished the first draft of this book six months ago or more, but I’ve sat on it until I’m ready and excited to jump in again, and THAT’S when I send it to another reader. NOT before. Publishing takes forever anyway. Might as well take my time getting the book right 😉 Also, I find that my best stuff usually comes after taking some time away.




FOUR – (because I do read) I finally read XVI after having it on my kindle for like two years. About to jump into RUINS by Wells (final in a trilogy), doing a read of an AH-mazing book my Morgan Shamy, and next I’ll probably indulge and read Kiera Cass’s series. I’ve read book one, and plan on reading book two and three while in my bathing suit, in the backyard, working on my tan 😉

FIVE – Our weather is perfect. Low seventies, breezy. I’m once again “stealing” my “husband’s” car just to DRIVE. When you own a convertible in Alaska, the top needs to be down EVERY POSSIBLE SECOND.


What’s up with you?

~ Jolene



What’s Inspiring Me…

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I’m inspired by different things at different times.

My character, Clara, writes poetry, which has driven this book forward much faster than it would have gone otherwise.


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IN PIECES is the title of this one, and it’s currently with my editor at Albert Whitman Teen while I try not to cross my fingers and toes too hard that not only will they like it, but that they’ll take the book on a partial… (I’m pretty sure this is something I should keep off the internet, but there it is)

The process of making this book “good enough” has been a tricky one.

So, more than any book I’ve ever written, I’ve spent a lot of time just thinking and envisioning and finding places and ways to be inspired.  I made it a spring book because it is now spring and just sitting outside puts me next to Clara (my MC). I actually added several new scenes to this book just because of THESE pictures I took a couple of summers ago.

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And then I started another book based on one of my husband’s cases (again) and when I found these pics, I suddenly knew where the crime was going to take place.

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So. There you are.

Need inspiration to get that story done?

Here are a few things I do:

Write a blurb. (sometimes this helps me focus and tighten the story to one central theme)

Find pictures. (because how cool is a scene on run-down fairground rides?)

Write poems. (Um…only works w/ some characters sometimes)

Make graphics or mock covers. (Because the PRETTIES!)

Live and breathe your characters. (because if you want to write them, you need to KNOW them)

Find music. (because when you’re not writing, the right music helps keep you in the story)

Do something or try something your character loves doing (I keep wanting to write a girl who is really into rock climbing, b/c I LOVE it, and it would make my trips to the rock gym tax deductible…).



What’s inspiring you lately??

(and feel free to write your own post because I’d love to read it!)


~ Jo

Conferences, Critiques, Beware the Group Dynamic, and the Art of the NOD AND SMILE…

I LOVE writing conferences.


Sharing space w/ people who get what it’s like to have a writer’s brain?


But, a really interesting topic was posed on the LDS Storymakers Conference page:

How to give and take good critique, whether it’s in a group or one on one. I’ve sat in critique groups where little was accomplished because either it was all praise or the writer felt the need to defend their writing. Just a thought.


A thought I have thoughts on!

How to give a good critique – Honestly, I think this is where you need to put your people skills to good use.

At THIS point in my writing career, I can take it. I’ve heard my agent and my crit partners say – you can do better. Your book won’t sell this way. When I first started, certain kinds of comments would have DEVASTATED me. So, I’d really try to gauge by the quality of the writing AND the personality of the person, what you think they can handle. At the same time. Honesty is key. You won’t do anyone any favors by telling them their book will sell in its current state, when you don’t think it will. BUT when I know a book is a mess, and I know the person can’t take that harsh criticism, I make a few comments on things that really need to be changed, emphasize that I’m one opinion among many, and then find something I loved.

For the people in my publication primer class? I know they’re at that point where they really NEED the kind of feedback that will hopefully get them published. That requires a little more direct honesty 😉

If someone gets defensive? There’s only so much you can do. I’m pretty good at being like – “Well, this is getting awkward, why don’t we move on!” And then smiling really big 😉 And again, you could find something you enjoyed to help appease that person.

How to take a critique – 

FIRST OFF – remember that it’s ONE PERSON’S OPINION. I’ve had many pass letters, and SO many of them completely contradict each other. You need to sift through the information you’re given, and decide what works best for YOU AND YOUR STORY. Do not lose yourself in the crits of others. Also, if you know you won’t use something, but don’t want to be rude, nod and smile. I’ve gotten really good at saying – THANK YOU SO MUCH!! And then doing what I like. However, if several (or more than one) person says the same thing, it might be worth looking at.

Also – beware the group dynamic. Sometimes when one person says something negative, people jump in. Don’t be offended. This is what happens in groups. Also – don’t do this to other people!! lol. On the same token, when someone loves a MS, people tend to jump on that, too. YAY if it’s yours, but I’d really push them to ask some hard questions – maybe about things that happen later in the book? Questions they want answered in your MS based on the first pages. What they think is going to happen next. You can do this for someone else as well. Make sure they’re getting feedback. That’s one way to do it when first pages really are stellar.

If someone’s MS is being beaten up in a group setting, try to boost them. There will ALWAYS be something good to say about a MS, so try and find it.

As for one-on-one?

Most of the same stuff applies. ANYONE can pull me aside at Storymakers and ask my opinion on pages and/or query letters. I LOVE doing that stuff. Yes, I’m aware I might have just made myself SUPAH busy 😉

But again, this is MY opinion, based on MY experience, and nothing more.

I think that’s such an important thing to remember.



Be nice.

And have a fantabulous time 😉

~ Jolene

P.S. For more information on this conference (where I get to teach) go HERE 😀



Disclaimer: I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job. This was just for fun 😉


1. Never getting to meet your characters in real life.


2. Realizing after writing a book and while doing the blurb, that large chunks of the book need to be switched/altered/rewritten.


3. Missing characters after the book is published because you cannot imagine reading your own books after publication (or maybe that’s just me).


4. When the perfect seat in the house doesn’t have a wall plug close enough and you’re running out of battery on your laptop, but don’t want to move for fear it will ruin your mojo 😉




6. When everything in publishing feels like it takes EONS, even though it only takes AGES.


7. Running out of names for your characters. Wondering if you’ll have to start setting books on alien worlds because you really will run out of names.


8. Not being able to use a name you love because you dated an asshole by that name.


9. Running out of your best writer snacks when you have time to write. Getting a million calls when you never get calls when you have time to write. __________ happens when you finally have time to write.

10. Having to do stupid “life” stuff like fold laundry and pay bills and grocery shop. Doesn’t the world understand that you’re trying to BUILD A STORY???



~ Jo




A Million Right Ways to do so Many Things…

I had this interesting conversation with a few friends about how phones and internet and TV is sort of taking over our lives, and it got me to thinking about something I actually think about a lot. Only…more 😉

My friend said that when her and her husband watch a show, they turn everything else off. They don’t answer the phone. They don’t check email. They basically pretend they’re at the movie theater. “That,” she said, “is how we spend quality time together.”

I do the opposite. If we’re already sitting in front of the TV, why wouldn’t I open my laptop? Play on Pinterest? Check email? Write my blog post? (Like now while the Walking Dead is on…) It’s not like we’re going to have some meaningful conversation while watching Brooklyn 99 or Sherlock or Fringe or the Walking Dead.

That works for me and my husband. I’d rather be without distraction when the TV is off. Using TV time as social media time is sorta perfect. We’re so bad that we’ll both sit watching something, each with our iPads, and we’ll pause the show once in a while to share something we found on Pinterest. I think it makes us more together than just sitting and staring at the TV. (also. I get bored easily).

Then when the TV is off, we set down the iPads, iPhones, computers, and are just together.

But that’s what works for us. My friend has something very opposite that works for her.

Yes. This post will be about writing. Eventually 😉

I see people try and conform their writing ways with the way other people write. People they think are better writers than them. People who are “further” along than they are.

It might work. And I’m up for trying all sorts of things, even when what I’m doing is working.


Just because plotting works for one person, doesn’t mean it’ll work for another. Just because music totally helps me get through writing one book, doesn’t mean it’ll get me through writing the next.

Our methods change from person to person and for me, also from book to book.

I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that there are a lot of ways to go about getting a story on paper. Editing that story. And getting it published. There is no right way. There is no wrong way. There is only the way that works for us.

So now. I want you to say ONE thing (or more b/c you can totally cheat and break rules) that helps you write or get a story down. ANY ONE THING 😉

For me right now? It’s falling in love w/ my characters. Finding a way for me to know them – from what they wear on lazy days to what they like for breakfast…

When I love w/ my characters, I HAVE to tell their story.

~ Jo

Waz up Wed??




“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to…








I just finished Pivot Point by Kasie West.


HOLY AMAZINGNESS. Such a great story!!

I’m now reading Blackout by Robison Wells – who is absolutely as talented as his brother, Dan Wells. I will always stalk out what these guys are working on because WOWZA.



And now on to WHAT I’M WRITING:

I FINALLY, FINALLY finished a solid first draft on a book I’ve been trying to get right for close to a year titled DEAL. GO ME!! lol. I’ve written three drafts of this book. The first 3rd has never been changed, it’s all the bits AFTER that. And while the LAST conversation between my two people is written twice (depending on how I want the final end to go) the book is DONE! Well, not DONE, done… If you’re a writer, YOU know 😉 Really, the hard part has just started…


Short answer: MUSIC

Long answer: When I first started writing, I was always doing playlists, but I’ve stepped away from that, and while working this week, I made a playlist for my WIP (the one I just finished). I’ve been bouncing around between hospitals (sick granddad and a new baby in hospitals an hour apart) and having the music playing in my car really, really helped keep my head in the story even though I wasn’t able to work on it as much. (Yes. I may have pulled a few late nights and early mornings to get it done)


I’ve been really trying hard to set the computer down and be around my family when they’re home. This isn’t always easy as my kids are going through another phase where they don’t get along, however, it feels good to get housework done and to hang with my kiddos while NOT thinking about a project – this is one of the major benefits of being a full-time writer and having two kids in school. It’s a luxury I definitely always hope I see as a luxury…



Also. You should totally join in on this. It’s super fun, a nice way to blog, and a nice way to keep up with some supah cool peeps 😀

~ Jo


Amazon Daily Deal, Out of Play and another one of Nyrae’s awesome boys

Out of Play cover

This book is only 0.99, but only for today!!




So. Nyrae and I wanted to find a way to celebrate our sale, and since we both love stories that are character driven, we decided to write a post that showed a few things we loved about the OTHER person’s character.

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Nyrae, in her great tradition of writing awesome guys, wrote rockstar Bishop Riley.

Here are a few things I love about Bishop Riley:

1. Man does he screw up. Badly. He really is a stuck up, spoiled snot at the beginning of this book. She was not afraid to make him what he actually would be given his situation – most people would have shied away from this. Going from his Cali mansion to some backwoods town in Alaska? And he’s not supposed to tell anyone who he is? Uh… yeah. he’d be a snot. But I love that even then, we see little bits of the awesome guy that’s in there…somewhere…

2. I love how he resists Penny at first. I love how he watches her, but when he realizes that other guys watch her, he’s like – I’m not bowing down to her, no matter what she’s used to.

“All eyes are on me like I just screwed up big—like they can’t believe I talked to her that way. News Flash, I’m not going to fall at her feet like everyone else does. I’m Bishop Riley. I play the drums for a Grammy winning band. I’m not kissing her ass.”

3. I love that Bishop dishes it out, but he can take it. Maybe not as much at first, but our two characters in this book both have HUGE egos. HUGE. And that made for some super fun, fantastic scenes.

4. JUST LOOK!!! (a collection of Jo’s favorite Bishop quotes:

“My hand is shaking, but this time not because of anxiety or the need to be medicated, but because I want to touch her. Feel the soft skin that holds in so much strength.”

“Everybody likes doing stuff they’re good at, right?”

“That girl is no joke.”

“Penny is nuts. Badass and gorgeous, but she’s totally nuts.”

5. This one is just for me. I loved the hot tub scenes in this book. I love Gramps. I love Penny’s tower-high room that she doesn’t sleep in. I love that her house is added on and added on and added on like so many homes up here. I love that Penny isn’t afraid to play with the boys, and actually loves it. That she works on cars and drives a big truck and kicks ass on the snowmachines. I love how much Bishop changed in this book. I love that you can read him in the beginning, and read his chapters near the end, and he’s GROWN UP. Penny does too…just not as much 😉

Hopefully you guys have as much fun reading as we did writing, though that’s unlikely, as we did have a BLAST 😀

What’s happening in your writer/reader world right now??

~ Jo

Why I Will Never Have an Office (but I get it when people do)

I am not the SEE ME girl. At all.

I wanted to elope so I wouldn’t be the center of attention on my wedding day. 

I know, I know. What does this have to do with a home office?

I can’t imagine taking up space in my home that’s just mine. I already have a bedroom, closet and bathroom. If I need quiet work time, I can shut the door to my bedroom and work. If that doesn’t work, I can sneak into my bathroom or my closet (yes, I’ve written in both places)

Having a room dedicated to ME feels… I don’t know… Pretentious?

I want my family to be a part of what I do. I don’t want my life partitioned off that way. The books I’ve written are on a shelf underneath a counter upstairs underneath my desktop computer. Mike wants to frame each of them and put them on the wall.

I do not. At all.

Am I proud of what I’ve accomplished?

Of course.

Do I want to do better?

Of course.

But I could say this about every part of my life. 

I want to edit at the kitchen counter while my kids are laughing in the dining room. I want to write on the couch downstairs while my kids run through the house.

I remember reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he talked about how he got this massive desk that took over this space in his house because HE WAS A WRITER. HE NEEDED SERIOUS WORKSPACE.

And then he got a reality check and turned that big desk into a smaller desk and turned the space into an area where his family could hang with him while he worked.

Do I understand the loveliness that a space dedicated ALL TO ME would be? Yep. Do I get that even an office could be “open door” ? Yep. But it still puts a divide in my house that I don’t want there. Something I’d be uncomfortable with.

I know a TON of authors who love that writing space. Who work it so that when the door is closed, they’re to be left alone, and when the door is open, anyone is invited.

But I think I already sometimes cheat my family of time with me because I’m half thinking about a story. Or because I just want to get another 1000 words in… I never want to feel so self-important that I’m shutting out my family. And for ME, that’s what would happen. For a lot of people, I think it probably helps them turn off when they’re no longer in their writing space.

Anyway. I know. This is totally random.

I’m curious, though. Do you long for that private space? Or are you like me and just want to be in the middle of EVERYONE’S space? lol.

~ Jo

P.S. Suzi at The Literary Engineer asked for more high school pics, but I thought I’d start younger, just for fun 😉 I still remember those red tights, BTW. They ROCKED.