Jessie Mihalik has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves.

A Weekend of Zombies and Peopling

Yesterday, my bff invited me to an outdoor dance class to learn part of the iconic zombie dance from Michael Jackson’s Thriller for spooky season. In case you need a reminder, here it is (jump to about 8:28 if it doesn’t start there automatically):

Now, I am not a dancer. I’m not remotely a dancer. I have decent rhythm thanks to a lot of high school band, but I’ve got zero moves. That being said, I still like to occasionally throw myself into silliness, and I’m old enough to own that I’m terrible and I just don’t care.

So I ripped up an old t-shirt for that real zombie look and headed out to muddle my way through a dance routine.

It. Was. A. BLAST!

I remain absolutely terrible, but I got most of the moves in the right order, if not with the right amount of finesse. But I figure a zombie would lumber rather than shimmy, so I was just going for that truly authentic zombie experience. 😂

There’s a video, which will never, ever see the light of day because it’s hilarious, but here’s a photo of me in my five-minute zombie finery:

A photo of me in a ripped up t-shirt, pretending to be a zombie on a rooftop parking garage downtown with a tall blue glass building behind me.

After I finished being a zombie, Mr M and I had an outdoor cul-de-sac potluck where I had to remember how to make small talk. It was nice to meet all of the neighbors we haven’t had a chance to yet (mostly because I am a hermit at the best of times and the pandemic wasn’t exactly that), but I am now done with people for a while, lol. I forgot how draining socializing can be, even when it’s fun.

How about you? Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Say Hello to Eclipse the Moon!

Voyager placeholder cover for ECLIPSE THE MOON. Official cover to come.

Book two has a title, Eclipse the Moon, and it’s up for preorder! But, Jessie, I hear you saying, book one isn’t even out yet! And you would be correct. However, Eclipse the Moon is coming out next summer, so after you read Hunt the Stars, you’ll only have a few months to wait for book two. Yay!

If you mosey over to the book page, you can see the preliminary catalog copy, the placeholder cover, and preorder links. I put the catalog copy behind a spoiler tag just in case you don’t want to know anything about book two until you read HTS.

All of the info is subject to change, because I didn’t even know the release date until I happened upon the preorder page this morning, so I don’t know if it’s completely final or not. If it is, then it’ll come out during my birthday week! 🎉

I’m probably not going to be pushing this one too hard until HTS comes out, but now when I refer to ETM, you’ll know what I’m talking about. :)

Oh, and I saw an early copy of the cover today and it’s gorgeous, so I will definitely share that when it’s ready!

Stock Photo Gems

Before I forget: Polaris Rising is on sale for $1.99 (ebook) in the US/Canada this month. If you’ve been waiting to pick up a copy, your time is now!

When I start writing a new book, I like to peruse stock photo sites to find images of my main characters. I have an idea of what they look like, but having a photo gives me something to reference, and it’s something I can send to my publisher when they ask for descriptions. But because I have a picture in my head, it means I have to spend quite a bit of time finding just the right image. (Yay, procrastination!)

And sometimes, while doing a deep dive of a stock photo site, I find an image that’s pure gold. I am now the proud owner of a license to use “Young attractive couple and british [sic] cat in a dark room.” Click through for the unblurred picture, but be warned it’s NSFW because it shows a woman in lingerie. Don’t click through on your work computer!

A man in a suit staring at the camera with a cat photo behind him. The bottom of the photo is blurred out.
Click to reveal, NSFW (lingerie)

Every single element of this photo is *chef’s kiss*. The framed cat in the background (apparently British). The man staring intensely at the camera and ironing the woman’s stocking while she’s wearing it. Her balancing atop what must be the world’s sturdiest ironing board. The longer you look at it, the more you see.

There’s another photo in the series that I didn’t buy, but it’s worth a look, too (also NSFW). This artist has some really beautiful, unique shots, but a lot of them are deeply weird. I love it!

Now I have to get back to work on book three in the Starlight’s Shadow trilogy. I hope you have a good weekend!

Office Organization

Yesterday, we built IKEA shelves for our office closet, which before was kind of a black hole of disorganization. I can ignore messy clutter for a long, LONG, L-O-N-G time, but there comes a point when my brain’s like NOPE and it has to be fixed.

That was this weekend.

Unfortunately, starting any project like this means taking everything out of the closet, spreading the clutter all over the rest of the room (and bathroom, in this case, since it’s the closest other room with space to stack boxes).

And every project leads to seventeen more. Because our office is really just a bedroom, it had a clothes rod and shelf that had to come out. Then we found there wasn’t any wall paint behind the shelf because it’d been there since the house was built, so I had to go find the painting stuff and hastily patch it up.

Then we realized we were going to have to build the shelf frames in the closet because they wouldn’t clear the door.

But, we were victorious… mostly. 😂 We still need some pretty boxes to organize things, so most of the stuff hasn’t been put away yet, but the main pieces are in. Behold!

A picture of the new shelves and drawers in our office closet, still mostly empty.
Still mostly empty, but getting there!

Some of the shelves were out of stock, so we have to wait for a restock. The project is really only half done, but we made a lot of progress in a single day. So much so, in fact, that I’m sore today from all the lifting and carrying and bending and twisting.

Oh, and before I fell into an organizational hole, I absolutely devoured T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine. A forger, an assassin, a fallen paladin, and a scholar go on a not entirely voluntary quest to save their city from destruction by clockwork warriors. It’s a delight! I’m now reading Swordheart, which is set in the same world, and I’m enjoying it just as much. If you missed these when they came out, check out a sample!

And let me know if you’ve read anything fantastic lately. Or tackled any organizational projects of your own. We can celebrate/commiserate together. :)

Carving Out a Place For Joy

A black-and-white photo of a woman in an evening gown looking sad while writing a letter at a desk with a single candle.
Her creative well is empty. Also, I totally look this nice while writing. 😉

It’s been about a month since I turned in book two of Starlight’s Shadow, and I’m finally starting to decompress and think about book three. My life would probably be a lot easier if I worked at a steady rate all the time instead of in bursts fueled by deadline panic, but I’ve made peace with my process. :)

The downtime immediately after a deadline is when I do a lot of the administrative tasks that get pushed off when in I’m in crunch time—things like creating promo graphics, updating the website, and cleaning the house. It’s also the time when I give myself permission to work on whatever catches my interest.

Which is how I started writing a little magical fantasy romance story (very) loosely inspired by beauty and the beast.

It’s supposed to be a short story, but we’ll see. It’s already 5k, so it’ll probably turn into a novelette, assuming I finish it at all. One of the joys of writing for pure fun is the complete lack of expectations. I’ll write until it’s not fun anymore (or until I need to start on book three) and no one will be disappointed by the lack of ending except for me.

One of the things I’ve really had to grapple with is that once I turned writing into a job, it became work. It’s work I love, granted, but it’s still work. It seems obvious, but it’s not, exactly. It’s insidious, until creating for pure joy suddenly becomes “I really should be working on X, instead” because there is always some X that needs doing.

No matter how fast I write, there will always be an X lurking in the back of my mind as the “better” use of my time. And purely from an economic standpoint, that’s not entirely wrong.

But from a creative standpoint, all of those expectations and demands can kill creativity, especially straight off deadline.

Creating for pure fun is an important part of refilling the well, the inner space where ideas are born. An empty creative well sucks all the joy from writing—assuming one can write at all. I can power through for a while, but it’s agony.

So guard those moments of joyful creation, and carve out space for them, even if it’s just five minutes.

Then, hopefully, if everything aligns, the project you have to do becomes a source of joy, too, because your well is full. And there is no better feeling than writing a story that is flowing perfectly.

I can tell I’m nearly there because I’m starting to think about the characters for book three rather than avoiding it like the plague, lol. And even if the short story goes nowhere, those words weren’t wasted. They were exactly the escape my brain needed. :)