6 month countdown!

This past week I received the galley of Eleanora in Pieces from the publisher. It was the first time I had seen my book in actual book format! It’s a beautiful thing–a truly beautiful thing! I just finished working on galley edits which the publisher will incorporate, and then I’ve got one more look at the entire manuscript before it goes to print. Six months until this beauty is out in the world—available September 5th!

Top Books of 2023

Of the 60+ books I read this year, there were so many fantastic ones. It was hard to narrow down the list, but this year I’m going with a top 6. Here they are!

The Change by Kirsten Miller

Fantastic, female empowerment

Topping the list is The Change by Kirsten Miller. This book is like hitting a punching bag and letting out all the pent up rage you’ve been holding inside…. Imagine if menopause gave you superpowers. Need I say more? A band of middle-aged women decide enough is enough and put their actual, and even their supernatural, abilities and talents to work to stop the misogynistic and power-hungry men who are raping and murdering women in their small, sea-side town. Empowering and triumphant. Fierce and freeing. Wonderfully ridiculous in the most delicious and satisfying way. Couldn’t love this book more.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Gut-wrenching young adult story

I don’t read many young adult books, but this one absolutely gutted me. Carver’s three best friends, Eli, Blake and Mars, were killed in a car accident. Worse, Carver may be at fault since he was texting the driver when the accident happened. Now, along with blaming himself, Carver is hated by everyone at school, hounded by reporters, facing possible criminal charges, and suffering from embarrassing panic attacks. On top of that, Blake’s grandmother wants Carver to join her for a “goodbye day” to celebrate all the things Blake loved, and give him a proper goodbye. It’s such a nice thought, the other families want one too. But they don’t see how these days are tearing Carver apart. If you are ready for a good cry, give this book a read. Soul-affirming and heart-crushing at the same time. 

All the Broken Places by John Boyne

Moving and powerful sequel

While not necessarily a sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, All the Broken Places picks up the story of Gretel, the daughter of the Nazi commander in charge of the fated concentration camp all those years ago. Gretel, now in her 90’s and living a quiet life in London, never refers to her violent and shameful past. When she meets a young boy who needs her help, she considers revealing all of her secrets in order to protect him–something she has fought against her entire life. A fascinating and suspenseful story that will keep you sprinting to the end, with more twists and surprises than you’d ever think possible. 

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

Deep, hopeful apocalyptic fiction

On a seemingly ordinary day, every person on Earth receives a box with a piece of string inside. The string corresponds to the length of your life. Nothing, it seems, can change what the string foretells. Everyone must decide what to do with this knowledge, if they choose to look in the box at all. Plan for a long future? Make the most of your final days? Or only choose to associate with those who will live as long as you will… A creative and thoughtful look at both the debilitation and freedom of predestination, and a story about deciding what matters, living for the moment, and about whether knowledge actually is power. 

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd 

Mysterious and haunting historical fiction

Set in dual timelines–in 1629 aboard a Dutch East India ship, and in a fishing village in 1989 on an island off the coast of Western Australia–the lives of two children overlap across history. Mayken, a young passenger aboard the doomed ship, Batavia, is shipwrecked on the same island where Gil, orphaned and mourning the loss of his mother, will end up living with his reclusive grandfather hundreds of years later. Exploring the island and its small community, Gil learns of the shipwreck and the ghosts that supposedly walk the shores. Mysterious, haunting and based on true events, this was a magical story that stayed with me long after I finished reading. 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Touching and heart-felt fantastical fiction

Tova Sullivan, the dedicated night custodian at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, is lonely and a little lost after losing both her husband and her 18-year-old son. In the long hours of the night, Tova finds herself talking to the sea creatures–in particular, Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus who seems to not only be listening, but responding. What follows is a sweet, sad and ultimately hopeful story, partly told in Marcellus’s dry and strongly opinionated voice. Never would I think a story told from the point of view of an uppity octopus would rank high on my list of favorites but this one somehow manages to be believable, endearing and inspiring. 

I review books all year on Instagram @jessicamaffetoreauthor if you are looking for more great books to check out!

2023: What a strange year it’s been

I’m a planner. I like lists, schedules, itineraries. An organized calendar. Structure. The ability to make a plan and know what is coming. When I don’t have those things I feel disoriented. I even get a little, shall we say, moody (Just ask my husband 😱). So when some things went sideways this year, I felt a little adrift. I wasn’t sure where my boat was headed and it took me awhile to adjust course, take advantage of the opportunities I was being given, and see the path ahead, even if it wasn’t as clear as I wanted it to be.

Old Publisher, New Publisher

As I’ve mentioned before, it was necessary for me to part ways with my first publisher earlier this year. It was a frustrating situation and, though a difficult decision, ultimately the right one for me. But for a short time, I was unsure of the future of my debut novel. Fortunately, I found a new home with Black Rose Writing and couldn’t be happier. The entire process with Black Rose has been fantastic and I’m eagerly looking forward to my book’s release on September 5, 2024.

Careers, Jobs, and Work

This spring, the tech start-up where I worked full-time as a marketing director went through a round of layoffs. Myself and a number of my wonderfully talented team members were unfortunately affected. It was a shock, to say the least, and an unsettling time to be back on the job market. Unfortunately, many tech companies have struggled over the past year and competition for jobs in the industry has been intense. Hiring processes are long, interview questions and job qualifications are incredibly specific, and the entire experience has been very humbling. It is a matter of time, I’m certain, until I find my next role. What I will say is that, in the meantime, I am fortunate to have support, encouragement and references from a core group of wonderful former co-workers and mentors who have proven themselves to be true friends and heroes.

Free time

Without a full time job (aside from the full time hours spent looking for a new full time job!) I suddenly found myself with a lot more free time. It was something I used to always yearn for, and here I was with boatloads of it. I wish I could tell you that I used it to write my next book. And while I did make a (very) small amount of progress on it, I just wasn’t in the right head space. I did, however, join a local writers group and connected with some great folks. It has given me the chance to work on some skills, share some writing, and get out of my comfort zone.

Otherwise, I felt frustrated with hours of reading job postings and submitting applications and sitting through interviews, and needed action. So I painted. Spent more time with my kids. Worked in my garden. Hacked at the giant Virginia creeper vines that threaten to take over our yard every year–and let out a lot of rage in the process. (I highly recommend this method of stress release). Organized cabinets and closets. Adopted a rescue cat. Took my son on a trip to New York City. Trained for a marathon (more on that in a minute). Took long walks with my dogs. And got more cleaning done than I have in years.

It’s been a strange break after so many years of full-time work. But, overall, a nice one. I’ve had the chance to reset. I’ve had time to myself and time with my family. Time to be creative and time to be productive. Time to clear my head, think through my priorities and consider what I want. I look forward to getting back to work, but I can honestly say that this break has been a healthy and therapeutic change.

Running around

Back in March, my husband and I traveled to Tokyo to run the 2023 Tokyo Marathon. Tokyo is the 5th out of 6 World Major Marathons that we’ve now completed. Having previously run New York, Chicago, London and Berlin Marathons, I have to say that Tokyo was a wildly different experience. From the 14+ hour plane trip, to the search for vegan food in Japan, to stressing about the very strict and specific race rules, to the longest port-o-potty lines I’ve ever seen at any race ever–it was wild. But we had an amazing time and I’ll never forget running through the streets of Tokyo.

A few months later, I ran a very different race. The organizers of the New York City Marathon offer a handful of people the chance to run a guaranteed-entry virtual marathon. In other words, you pay an entry fee and run a marathon distance anywhere in the world during the same week as the in-person NYC Marathon. In the process, you earn yourself a guaranteed entry to the following year’s in-person marathon. So, on a chilly day in October, I set out alone on the local rail-trail–an entire world away from the crowded streets of Tokyo. The rain started 14 miles in. The trail, normally busy with runners, bike riders and walkers, was so empty that day, I almost collided with a deer wandering across the path. I let my mind wander as the miles went by, tried to forget the cold and the rain, and concentrated on making it to 26.2 miles….where hubby and all three of our kids were waiting. Very proud to say it was my second best time ever, even if my lips were blue by the end! And I earned myself a place in the 2024 New York City Marathon 🙂

One more note on the World Major Marathons. Seven years ago, my husband and I set out on a mission to run all six World Majors and have one to go–the one in our home city, the Boston Marathon. Of all the World Majors, Boston is the hardest in which to earn a spot. We are not fast runners and do not qualify based on time. Despite numerous applications, we were not accepted by any charities for spots in the 2024 Boston Marathon. We are more than willing to raise the large amounts of money ($10k each) for a charity, given the opportunity! But, understandably, spots are highly sought after and not easy to nab. We are actively looking for guidance, help, referrals, connections, etc, from anyone willing to give them in order to find a charity who will take us so that we can reach our goal! Many thanks 🙂

Looking ahead

So, what does 2024 hold? Many things, of course. But I’m trying my best not to be so rigid about what those things should or shouldn’t be.

The old me would say I hope next year holds the next big step in my career. But what I really want is a good job where I can do great work. I want to work with people who are as excited as I am to be doing the job and take pride in what they do. I hope very much to find that.

2024 means the launch of my first book, something I’ve been waiting for, in some ways, my whole life. I can’t even begin to express how exciting that is.

The next year means another year of my three teenagers becoming even more independent and brilliant and sassy. More capable and hilarious and too-smart-for-their-own-good. Heaven knows they drive me insane, but goodness, do I love them like crazy.

And I know, without a doubt, that the next year will be filled with more wonderful things. Like great books. Snuggles on the couch with our dogs. Flowers in our garden. Road trips. Starbucks coffee. Netflix binges. Long runs. And thanking the heavens for the man who has happily put up with his moody, unemployed, temperamental, sweatpant-wearing wife this year and always had a smile ready for her. I thank all that is good in the world for my saint of a husband.

The year will hold plenty of other things, I’m sure, both good and bad. Will I see it all coming? Not a chance. But I’m getting better with this whole rolling with the punches thing. I hear some people call it… relaxing? Never heard of it. 😉

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