Jessica Entirely

First Chapter: Jessica Naturally

Jessica Naturally by Shelley Gee, Illustrated by Jess Cee

Chapter 1

The day after the hurricane, Jessica woke sure she’d heard something. She listened for a minute, but, except for the wind, she couldn’t hear anything. In fact, everything was silent.

She went to the window, but she couldn’t see out. It looked like it had been plastered with leaves and water during all the rain. Mom had sent her to bed around midnight, saying that the worst was over, but Jessica knew it had been pretty bad. All night, she’d heard wind and sirens and even boat engines. And it all felt like it was taking place right outside her window. But every time she got up to check, she could hear her mother and father talking in low tones downstairs. And that made her feel better.

She snuck downstairs, a little disturbed by the silence. The air conditioner wasn’t running, so everything felt a little stuffier than usual. Of course, there’d be no school today, and the thought made her happy until she remembered all the sirens from last night. Some people had definitely been in trouble.

And then she heard it again. A light scratch, scratch at the front door.

Mom and Dad must still be asleep. And Jeb usually slept half the day. Jessica didn’t want to wake them. But what if someone outside needed help? It should be fine to open the door and find out. Besides, Jessica wanted to find out what the world looked like after a hurricane.

She didn’t expect the front door to push inward as soon as she turned the knob. But it did and she sat down hard at the foot of the stairs. She stared dumbfounded at the branch of the maple tree that pushed its way in. Wet leaves flopped onto the floor and a pool of water spread across the old, warped hardwood floors. Jessica scrambled to her feet to keep from getting wetter.Untitled380

“Is it still raining?” Jeb came downstairs, his eyes only half open. He stopped halfway down, eyes widening at the sight of half a maple tree inside the house. Then he hurried the rest of the way and pulled Jessica away from the tree, looked outside, then shoved the branch back out and closed the door firmly, glaring at his little sister. “You know you’re lucky there were no power lines in that?”

“I didn’t know there was a tree out there!” Jessica stamped her foot irritably. A little water splashed on her pajamas.

Her brother’s eyebrows shot up, then he sort of grinned. “Yeah, I guess that was sort of a surprise, huh?” He glanced at the door, then down at the wet floor. “Go grab a towel and let’s get this mess up. But try to be quiet. Mom and Dad were up pretty much all night.”

Jessica could see he was worried and she wondered just how bad the hurricane had been. She hurried upstairs, grabbing her phone off her nightstand, then going to her bathroom for a towel. When she got back downstairs, she saw Jeb looking at his phone. Jessica threw the towel over the puddle and looked up at him as she dried the floor. “Was it really bad?”

He put his phone away. “Nothing for you to worry about, squirt.” He shrugged. “Not much reception right now, anyway, and I doubt we’ll have power for at least a few days.”

Jessica nodded, biting her lip. She thought of her friend Ashley who lived in one of the historic houses on the water. Her house had a huge front porch where the girls liked to sit on hot summer days because the ceiling fans could be cranked up high enough to blow away the mosquitoes. Ashley’s family had evacuated to Raleigh. They might not even know how bad the damage to their house was. Was it flooded or had the porch been swept away? Katie’s family had stayed, and they only lived a few blocks away from Jessica. Mariah’s family had also stayed. Jessica thought of the huge oak tree next to Mariah’s house. Was it still standing or had it blown over onto their house, cracking through the roof and letting in the rain and wind and—

“Hey!” Jeb put a hand on her shoulder and she looked up at him. He smiled and pulled her into a one-armed hug. “It’s going to be okay, right? The storm’s over and we’re still here.”

“True.” Dad came down the stairs. “But some people might need help. And since we are still here, what do you say we get ready to offer it?” He reached for the doorknob and Jeb stopped him just in time.

“You don’t want to open that.” He squeezed Jessica’s shoulders one more time, then beckoned his dad over to the window.

Dad opened it and leaned out to look. He laughed. “Well, that missed us by a hair, didn’t it?”

Mom came down the stairs and peered over his shoulder. “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe that happened after we decided the worst was probably over.”

Dad grinned and put an arm around her. “Maybe next hurricane we won’t sleep upstairs, huh?”

“Who slept?” She shivered. “But you’re right. We got lucky. Let’s see if we can’t help some others who weren’t as fortunate.”

“But first, breakfast. And then we get the generator going so all our food doesn’t spoil.” Dad clapped his hands briskly. “On the menu today we have cereal and…cereal.”

Jessica smiled in spite of her worries about her friends. They all had friends in town and friends who evacuated and friends who might have lost their homes in the storm. But she had her family right there with her and the idea of helping made her feel much better about things in general. She took a deep breath and followed her family to the kitchen, happier than she ever had been at the prospect of spending an hour or two with them at the table.

Jessica Entirely, Jessica Naturally

Announcing Jessica Naturally!

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Jess Cee actually finished the cover a while back, but I waited until now to announce, because, well, it’s officially official. The Jessica Series is an actual series. I finished the first draft of Jessica Naturally today.

Not to say that the book is finished. No, it’s still got a ways to go, actually. I need to edit and edit again and proofread. But the story is done, and that’s a huge step. I now feel fairly certain I can finish in time for a December 1 release.

But what’s the book about? In a nutshell, so to speak:

Eight-year-old Jessica has just survived her first hurricane. As she and her family work to help friends and neighbors recover from the lasting effects of the storm, Jessica makes a mysterious discovery in the gardens of Tryon Palace. Black tulips begin to bloom. They’re out of season, and many believe they’re a bad omen. Can Jessica solve the mystery of the black tulips in time to save Tryon Palace’s annual Candlelight Tour?

Jess Cee actually helped me a lot with the plot of this one. In the early spring, we went to Tryon Palace to take photos of the beautiful spring flowers there. I knew at the time that I wanted the next book to take place in at Tryon Palace, and I even figured it would be outside because I already had the title, Jessica Naturally—and the Tryon Palace gardens are perfect for such a title.

Jess Cee and I had a great time that day cooking up ideas for the book. And we came up with our basic plot before we even left the gardens. Not to mention several pictures that Jess will be using to model her illustrations on.

So stay tuned! Jessica Naturally is on track and will be released December 1, 2019. In the meantime, if you haven’t picked up your copy of Jessica Entirely, it’s not too late! Find it at your favorite online book retailer in all ebook formats (yay!) and paperback. Or visit The Next Chapter Books & Art or Snapdragon Toys in New Bern, N.C.

Finally, come find me at New Bern’s Mumfest this weekend! I’ll have Jessica Entirely for sale and some Jessica bookmarks available for free! And even Jess Cee is planning to be there for a while. Can’t wait to meet you!

Jessica Entirely

Publication date announced!

I’ve been absent from this blog for a while, but I haven’t forgotten Jessica! Not even a little bit, let alone entirely. 🙂

Publishing a book is always a big job, but publishing a children’s book with illustrations is an even bigger one, I discovered. Long story short, Jess Cee gave me the last of the illustrations, I plugged them into the manuscript, uploaded to Amazon and ordered a proof.

First off, I succumbed to peer pressure (never do that, kids) and ordered my proofs with a matte cover instead of glossy. I didn’t like it. Here’s what it looked like:

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It’s just a bit too…blah. The colors are muted and I missed the smooth feeling of the glossy covers. Here’s the back:

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So I decided before I even opened it that I’d be changing to glossy. And then I opened it up. And that’s when I realized I had some more work to do.

Chapter breaks were out of place, pictures had moved around, there were random white spaces. Here’s an example:

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Okay, I’m not exactly a perfectionist in day-to-day life. My office is disorganized, my house is a mess, the kids and animals rule my household! But when it comes to my books, I want it to be right. That’s a full five lines of white space on page 32! No way. Plus, the margins aren’t right and the print, for a children’s book anyway, looks way too small.

I’ve now spent several days perfecting those mistakes and others. Just this morning, I ordered another proof. We’ll have to see how it comes out, but even if it has problems, I am confident now that I have a better idea what I’m doing. And I’ll be able to have everything resolved by the June 30 release date I have planned!

If you’d like to preorder a copy for your Kindle, you can now do that. Otherwise, join me on June 30 for a grand party to celebrate the release of Jessica Entirely!

Jessica Entirely

Chapter 6 Excerpt with Illustration

Life really does get in the way sometimes! School has been busy for both Jess Cee and me, but we’re entering a slightly slower couple of weeks. Hopefully I can bring you several more excerpts before I get distracted again.

I actually really love this chapter and the illustration that goes with it is breathtaking! It really does the gorgeous Masonic Temple in New Bern justice. Have a look and a read in yet another peek into Jessica’s fantastic adventure:

“Maybe he was a Mason.” Katie said it quietly, as if she didn’t want anyone to hear her. She looked up at the tall Lodge next to the theater. “Do you think they’re ever in there anymore?”

Jessica knew what her friend meant. The lodge—which she’d heard some people refer to as a “temple”—was the source of much speculation and many stories among the theater kids. Ghost stories abounded about the building, including the theater, and the mysterious rites the Masons had once performed in the very theater they now performed their musicals in just fueled the rumors.

Though much of the building was now empty, Jessica knew the lodge room above the theater was still used. It was strictly off limits, of course, but it hadn’t been abandoned.

Before Jessica could answer her friend, however, a little red Volkswagen pulled into the parking lot and Miss Roberson got out. She smiled at them. “Good morning, girls. You’re all here bright and early.”

Jessica Entirely

Celebrate with Chapter 5 excerpt and illustration!

I’m feeling pretty accomplished today as I finished the second round of edits of Jessica Entirely. It is definite cause for celebration, especially since it put to rest some of my doubts about whether or not the story is even any good. It is. In a heart-warming, sort of this-could-really-happen-here way. It is good.

So, I decided to celebrate by releasing Jess Cee’s Chapter 5 illustration with a small excerpt for your reading pleasure.

“Can you believe she offered me the part of the reporter? Me? I mean, what do I have to do to get a decent role?” Katie sighed.

“I’m really sorry, K. I wanted you for Charlotte, but Miss Roberson thought—”

“Yeah, which also kind of bums me out. You’re the co-director, right? Didn’t you tell her I’d be great for this role?”

“Of course, I did!” Jessica took the receiver away from her ear and stared at it as if she couldn’t have heard her friend right. “I totally did. But she has a vision—”

“Vision?” Katie snorted. “Right. I mean, first she tells you you’re too young for Charlotte and makes you a co-director, then she gives me a bit role. I mean, really. I doubt she listens to your opinions at all. In fact, I doubt she listens to anyone’s opinions. She probably just picks her favorites.”

“Um, well, that is sort of her job. To pick the people she thinks will be best for the role. Right?”

Silence from the other end of the line, then Katie, her voice very cold, said, “Whose side are you on, anyway?”

Jessica Entirely

Planning Jessica’s next adventure! (And Chapter 4 excerpt)

Jess Cee and I took an afternoon this weekend and visited the historic New Bern site of our next Jessica adventure to make some plans for our next Jessica mystery, tentatively titled Jessica Naturally. No more about that book yet, but I did take a pic of Jess Cee pondering the illustrations that I’ll share with you:

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Very mysterious, isn’t she? 😉

On to more Jessica Entirely news! Jess Cee recently delivered several illustrations, and I just can’t wait to share them! Fortunately, she’s able to do both color and black and white, so I can share the color illustrations here. Here’s the illustration for Chapter 4, along with an excerpt:

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Jessica spent the next day…and the next!…waiting as patiently as possible to hear about callbacks. She just knew she’d get a callback for something. But it wasn’t until after dinner on Monday while she was doing her homework that her mother’s phone rang.

Mom tapped Jessica on the shoulder and held up the phone to show her the theater’s number. Jessica gasped and jumped up, but Mom held up a hand to stop her from grabbing the phone. She answered, her voice casual. “Hello…well, good evening, Miss Roberson…yes, she’s been waiting to hear from you.” She paused, listening for what seemed like an eternity. Her face, instead of brightening as it always did when Jessica got a callback or a role, remained in listening mode. “I see.”

Jessica’s heart felt like it had turned to stone. How could this happen? How could she not get a part? That had been her best audition ever. Could Mrs. Rachel have turned Miss Roberson against her?

Jessica Entirely

Chapter 3 Illustration and Excerpt

We’re getting closer! I’m hoping to have Jessica Entirely (ahem) entirely ready for publication by June. This is a bit more complex since I’m including illustrations in this children’s book. My illustrator, Jess Cee, is hard at work on these, but she’s got school, too, so I’m competing for her attention.

However, we do have another illustration for you. This one is for Chapter 3, where we meet Miss Roberson, the director of Charlotte’s Web. It’s pre-auditions, so everyone’s a little jittery, even our heroine—although she won’t admit it!

Ashley pounced on her as soon as she came through the door. “I’m so nervous I want to cry,” she hissed at Jessica. “I don’t think I can do this.”

Jessica looked at her with a little irritation. “Hold it together while I get my sheet to fill out, okay?” She crossed the room, greeting several of her theater friends as she did.

Mrs. Rachel was in the box office talking to the director, a new young teacher from a local school. She spotted Jessica and smiled. “Good to see you here, Miss Jessica.” She handed Jessica one of the sheets. “Jessica, I don’t think you know Miss Roberson, do you?”

Jessica held out a hand, remembering to grasp firmly but not to squeeze painfully. “It’s a pleasure, Miss Roberson. I look forward to working with you.”

Miss Roberson, who had perfect golden hair, bright blue eyes and the whitest teeth Jessica had ever seen, flashed her a smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jessica. I have heard a lot about you.”

Jessica felt a hot flush on her cheeks and she looked at Mrs. Rachel.

Jessica Entirely

New Illustration with Excerpt!

Jess Cee just sent me the second illustration and I LOVE it, so I’m going to share it here with a little excerpt. This one shows our Jessica with her best friend Ashley making plans to solve the mystery.

Mrs. Rachel was right about the theater being a family. This theater, anyway. And if there was anything going on that could hurt the theater, Jessica needed to find out what it was.

She made a sudden decision.

“I want you to try out for Charlotte’s Web.”

“Me?” Ashley shook her long, brown hair out of her face. “I don’t act. That’s your thing.”

“Yeah, but I need a friend there. Somebody who can help me figure this all out. I’m going to be busy if I get the part of Charlotte. I’ll have multiple solos, and I may not be able to get back into the box office very easily. I may need someone to…to run interference.”

Jessica used the last phrase with pride. She’d read it once in a detective novel. And that’s the part Jessica was playing right now. She was a detective.

Jessica Entirely

News from the Jessica Entirely team!

I’ve been hard at work on the book, and my illustrator, Jess Cee, has been hard at work on the illustrations, so we haven’t been keeping up on the blog recently. But I just had to share Jess Cee’s first illustrations for Jessica Entirely.

First, she sent me the illustration for the book cover a little while ago, so I whipped up a sort of preview for the cover and here that is:

Parts of this may change, but the illustration itself should stay the same. It’s perfect for the mysterious theater setting of the book, so well done Jess Cee!

Jess Cee also provided me with the first illustration for the book, so I’m going to pair it up with an itty bitty excerpt from the first chapter. Maybe it’ll give you an idea what we’re doing.

For a while, the teenagers milled around in the lobby, but eventually Martina and Jeff herded them into the house—theater speak for auditorium—leaving Jessica alone in the lobby. Just the way she liked it.

Until the front door scraped quietly open.

Jessica looked up from her math book when she felt the little whoosh of cool air from the autumn afternoon. At first she thought it might be a teenager arriving late. But the shoes didn’t look like a teenager’s shoes. Expensive, brown leather, and pretty big. The shoes came into the lobby and paused, then went behind the counter into the box office. Jessica frowned. Nobody was allowed behind the counter except board members. And board members weren’t usually here during the day. Board members came to meetings in the evenings or attended the yearly fundraising events.

Maybe she should check it out.