Author name: Jessie

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.

Let’s Try This Again

The benefit of making your own book cover is that it’s relatively cheap in terms of dollars, though not always in terms of time. The downside is that if it doesn’t look how you expected, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I made the original Books & Broadswords cover, and while I liked it, something about it bugged me, especially at small sizes. So I made another one, then another one, and finally this one, which is the one I’m finally happy with. And since I’ve sent it off to my agency to be updated at the various retailers and I don’t want them to reach through the internet tubes and murder me for being indecisive, this is going to be the final form.

It’s brighter and matches the cozy fantasy vibe a little better. Behold!

Books & Broadswords Volume One cover. White text and sword, book, and magical icons on a purple dragon-scale background.

The new cover is still rolling out to retailers, and since I replaced the file here on my blog without updating the name, you may see the old version until it falls out of the browser cache, but the image above is an entirely new file, so you should be seeing a cover with large white text, a rose border, and various icons on a purple dragon scale background.

If not, blame the gremlins. :)

I finished edits this week, and the print preorder will hopefully go up next week. The stories didn’t change too much, but I did add around 1400 words, bringing the total word count up to just under 35k, so you’ll get a little more story with your story.

If you want to secure yourself a copy for the June 11 release, I’ll drop some handy links below. Happy almost Friday!

Preorder Now!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play | Kobo


Yesterday, our house was in the solar eclipse’s path of totality. The forecast was… not great, so I wasn’t expecting much. Some sunlight had broken through in the morning, but by noon, it was gray and overcast.

Behold, half an hour before eclipse time:

An overcast sky where the sun is not visible

Technically, I think the sun is in frame, but I couldn’t tell you for sure because all of those horrible clouds covered it up.

Still, ever the optimist, I grabbed my eclipse glasses, my nice camera, and Mr. M, and we trooped outside to see what we could see.

I didn’t grab a tripod because :waves at cloud photo:

As we got closer to the time, the clouds started breaking up a tiny bit, so the sun would peek through for a second or two. I had a solar filter made for binoculars, so I tried to freehand a photo with it and my nice camera, and that went about as well as you would expect.

This is the best one, and if you zoom in, you can see it’s a rare triple sun thanks to camera shake. Also, light was bleeding in from the side of the filter, so the bottom right looks nice and spooky.

A slightly blurry crescent of sun taken through a solar filter

The crescent of light kept shrinking until finally, darkness fell around us. It wasn’t pitch black (but it never is in the city), but it was dark enough for the street lights to come on and for our security cameras to switch to night mode.

Then, the clouds broke and we could see the sun… or what was left of it, which was just a faint ring of light. Cheers went up in the neighborhood as we all stared in awe. It was obscured by clouds, but totally visible.

A total solar eclipse in a cloudy sky

There’s still a decent amount of camera shake here, but I’m happy with how it turned out. Heck, I’m happy we got to see it at all.

It was unreal. I know people say that being in 99% coverage is completely different than being in totality, but I didn’t believe them until yesterday. As soon as the tiniest little piece of the sun came back, the clouds lit up and the coolest part of the day was over.

The next two total eclipses here in the US are in 2044 and 2045, so you have plenty of time to make plans. :)

Sun Haven

A screenshot of Sun Haven, with my little winged demon character standing in front of a house and above a planted field.
Behold my kingdom! Don’t judge my disaster of a crafting area. :)

During the recent Steam sale, Mr. M bought us a new game: Sun Haven. It’s very Stardew-esque, except it has more of an RPG feel because you level up different specialities (farming, combat, fishing, etc) and you get to choose where to put your points to customize your character.

It’s awesome!

We had to go to Ft. Worth this weekend, so we didn’t get to play too much, but we’re probably ten-ish hours in and having a lot of fun. My only minor complaint—and this might not be a complaint for someone who only occasionally plays co-op—is that the main quest progresses separately for each character.

So while I’ve been moving the story forward, Mr. M has been toiling away in the mines, and he has no idea what I’m talking about. 😭

If you decide to check it out, be sure to set the day length in the options. There’s no stamina meter, so you can do as much mining, farming, and exploring as you can fit in a day. By default, days are twenty IRL minutes long, which feels a little rushed. For a more relaxing experience, you can set it as long as forty minutes, and the game will save in the middle of the day if you need to quit, so you don’t lose progress.

We were most of the way through Spring before we figured out that we could make it easier/more fun by adjusting the day length, so let me save you that pain. :)

I have a barn full of animals I diligently pet every day, and Mr. M has a field of plants, and we just killed a slime monster boss, despite being somewhat ill-equipped for such a difficult battle.

I’m also kind of accidentally romancing one of the villagers. He asked to chat with me privately, and I was like “Sure!” and then it was actually a date. Oops. This is not actually that different from how it worked back when Mr. M and I were dating, lol.

If you like Stardew and RPGs, I highly recommend checking it out!

Slow Monday

I’m off to a slow start today, partially because I stayed up too late, and partially because it’s Monday. We had a very nice weekend, but it was much busier than usual, with social things on both Saturday and Sunday.

For reference, our normal weekends involve a lot of video games and/or all-day pajamas. 😂

It was nice to hang out with friends, though, and I need to be better about keeping in touch because I get busy and then I look up and months have slipped by. If my best friend wasn’t so on top of it, I would very likely become a hermit.

On the video game front, Mr. M and I started playing Last Epoch recently. It had a lot of hype as a “Diablo killer” and… ehhhhhh. I might not be the best judge, because I played hours and hours and hours of both Diablo III and Diablo IV and really enjoyed them, even though they were both kind of panned by critics.

But somehow, Last Epoch just doesn’t have the same hook. It’s… fine.

There are a few things that are super annoying (the fog of war on the map resets every time you teleport back to town, which is infuriating), but overall it’s pretty solid from a playability perspective, it’s just not that fun, and I can’t figure out why, because this game should be my jam.

I have a whole army of skeletons that do actual damage, until D4, and even leading an undead horde, I’m still just like meh. Mr. M is playing a mage, and he’s also sort of ambivalent about the game. Maybe it’ll open up when we get to the endgame—if we get to the endgame.

Or maybe we’ll start a new farm in Stardew Valley when the new patch drops this week. :)

Sticking the Grovel

A blue outlined book with a blue question mark hovering over it.

Let’s talk about writing craft today, mostly because it’s on my mind thanks to a book by a new-to-me author I read this weekend. I’m not going to name the book, but I want to talk about writing romance in general, and romances with grovels in particular.

First a little groundwork. Genre romance often follows a series of story beats: the couple meets, sparks fly, and while they want to be together, generally something is holding them back. They try anyway or are forced into it somehow, and real affection starts to grow.

Then, right when you think everything is going to be okay: BLAMMO, the bleak moment (this is also called the black moment, but I prefer Alyssa Cole’s “bleak moment” nomenclature). Not every romance has one, but a lot of them do. It’s when all of the things that were originally keeping the couple apart come back around and smack them.

Handled well, the bleak moment has the ability to truly wrench the reader’s heart. That is one of the benefits of romance: no matter how dark the bleak moment may seem, you know they’re going to get together in the end, so you can really feel that sadness and anguish.

After the devastation of the bleak moment, the couple gets together again, stronger than before, and gets their happily ever after. If the bleak moment was caused by one of the main characters, then usually that character will have an epiphany where they realize they were in the wrong and apologize profusely while working like hell to win back their love. This is known as the grovel.

Once again, not all romance books have grovels, but in those that do, they need them to rebuild the trust between the main characters. The bigger—or more damaging—the bleak moment, the bigger the grovel needs to be, because we, as readers, want to believe the main characters love each other and are willing to crawl through fire to prove it. We want to see it, to see the changes love can work on someone.

And this is where things can go really sideways.

Because if the grovel doesn’t work, the whole book falls apart.

If I’ve made it through the bleak moment and the grovel and I still think one of the characters should be punted into the sun, then the romance is dead, and I’m mad, because I’ve spent hours rooting for these characters only to be disappointed.

In the book this weekend, the male main character (MMC), who up until that point had been very likable, did something I considered borderline unforgivable that left the female main character (FMC) devastated and sobbing in the street, which meant the grovel was going to need to be huge and heartfelt.

Instead, the FMC forgave him before he even apologized.

Ugh. UGH!

I skimmed the last ten percent of the book to see if it could be redeemed, but no. The MMC did eventually fix the thing he broke, but it had no impact because that was literally the bare minimum from which the rest of the grovel should’ve been built instead of the sum total of his effort.

So, how do you stick the grovel?

First, read a lot of romance. You should be doing that anyway, if you’re writing romance, and it’ll help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. The Fated Mates podcast did a whole episode on groveling, so if you need some recs, start there.

Then look at the stakes. If it’s a small misunderstanding, an apology and promise to do better is good enough, if you then show the character doing better. But if it’s a huge, heartbreaking moment that drags the reader through an emotional upheaval, then your grovel and resolution needs to be just as big and emotional.

And it needs to be believable. Romance readers are already rooting for the couple. We’re primed to believe they should be together, no matter the odds. But we also want to see that “oh, shit” epiphany and feel how far the MMC (usually) is willing to go to prove his love is true. We want to see him learn and change and grow. To be worthy of love and trust.

We don’t want him to be let off the hook, even—or maybe especially—if “he had good reasons.” Of course he had good reasons; it’s a romance! “Good reasons” come with the territory.

The character doing the groveling should rise from the ashes of the bleak moment with the absolute knowledge that they were wrong and they need to make amends lest they lose the one thing they value—the other MC. Then they should make those amends, to whatever degree necessary. And it should hurt. Not so much in a punitive way, but in a “this is new and scary and what if they don’t forgive me” way.

Baring your soul isn’t easy, change isn’t easy, and groveling shouldn’t be, either.

And while I’d like to tell you that it’s actually very easy to write, I’d be lying. It takes a great deal of skill to write a believable grovel that carries the reader from devastation to cautious hope to joy. But when done well, it appears effortless, like that was the only possible outcome, and of course it all worked out.

Because romance writers are a little bit magic. :)