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News: Upcoming Talk At Arts Center Of The Capital Region

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Mark Wednesday, April 3, 2013, in your calendars. At 7:30 that evening, I’ll be speaking as part of the new Hear The Author series (started by my friend, motivational speaker Bob Clancy). Here’s the official info:


Jackie Morse Kessler is the author of a critically acclaimed quartet of issue-oriented paranormal novels focused on teen protagonists, the Riders of the Apocalypse series, and will give a talk titled “Never Give Up: A Writer’s Guide to Overcoming Challenges And Achieving Goals”.

The Riders series comprises Hunger, a starred SLJ novel about an anorexic teenage girl who becomes Famine; Rage, a novel about a teen cutter who becomes War; Loss, in which a bullied teenage boy is tricked into becoming Pestilence of the Riders of the Apocalypse; and Breath, which will have depression and suicide as subjects and will be available in April 2013.

100% of the proceeds will go to a Shen & Shaker Sports Scholarship.

PLEASE REMEMBER: This event will take place at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, at 265 River Street, 2 blocks north of the Music Hall.
* * * * *
A package including tickets to all three Hear the Author events is available for $24. Packages must be bought at the box office at (518) 273-0038.


I’m very excited about this upcoming event. The past year was a big one for me in terms of soul-searching and, by the end of the year, personal growth. I’ve stressed so much about writing and publishing over the years, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to regain balance. I’ll be talking about how I got there — it will be about writing, and publishing, and overcoming challenges. There will be a Q&A session following my talk — writers and readers are welcome to ask about the Riders books, my upcoming novel To Bear An Iron Key (Month9Books, spring 2014), how to stay sane while pursuing a writing career, who my favorite Winchester is in Supernatural, why chocolate should be its own food group…you name it! And I believe there will also be a bookseller on site, with copies of the Riders books (not including Breath, which will come out mid-April). I’ll have small posters for all attendees. (Note to self: Order posters!)

If you’re wondering about the sports scholarship, Bob set that up for local high schools Shaker and Shenendehowa. It’s in memory of the two seniors who died, as well as to honor the two other seniors who were injured, in a car accident in December.

Here the the links for the other two speakers in the Hear the Author series: local authors Bob Clancy and John Blowers.

I hope to see you on Wednesday, April 3!

Giveaway: VELVETEEN by Daniel Marks

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Velveteen by Daniel Marks

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. I mean a lot. I’ve been reading about magicians and artists, about teens caught up in murder and revenge, about regular people struggling to live their lives and about extraordinary people fighting for what they want. Tons of books. I adore books.

Right now, I’m reading VELVETEEN by the talented Daniel Marks. It’s his debut YA novel — and if you like your paranormal YA dark and with attitude, this is absolutely the novel for you! Velvet is angry, with reason (she’s dead, and that’s no picnic — that’s also not a spoiler; the book opens with her already dead). But that anger may be the very thing that destroys everything around her. Really double-plus ungood, when you’re in Purgatory and everything is already half-crumbling. Will her hunger for revenge upon the serial killer who took her life bring about the annihilation of her afterlife?

I’m seriously enjoying this book. (And I want the dress the female cover model is wearing.)

I happen to have an extra copy of VELVETEEN right here. It’s a beautiful hardcover. And it could be yours! All you have to do is comment below and tell me what book you’ve been reading lately (or looking forward to). Comments are open until midnight, October 30, 2012. And the giveaway is open worldwide. (Yeah, I know, I rock. You can tell me so. My ego needs the boost.)

Also open: yesterday’s giveaway of my books, RAGE and LOSS, and two books by the amazing A.S. King: PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ and EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS. A.S. King, along with being a good friend, is also one of the few authors on my auto-buy list. I’ve been fascinated by her work ever since I read THE DUST OF 100 DOGS, and she gets more talented with every book. I have her latest, ASK THE PASSENGERS, which I’m going to dive into as soon as I’m done with VELVETEEN. Yesterday’s Authors Against Bullying giveaway is also open worldwide, until midnight, October 30, 2012.

Happy reading!

Authors Against Bullying

Friday, October 19th, 2012

The following is from my author’s note in LOSS. To help promote bullying awareness, I’m going to give away a copy of LOSS and RAGE, both of which have bullied protagonists. I’m also going to give away other books. But first, my note:


In eighth grade, I got mean.

I was lucky growing up. I wasn’t bullied, not more so than anyone else. Sure, there were lunchbox wars in second grade, and the girls tended to play mercy a lot, but I didn’t mind those things; I usually got my metal lunchbox up in time to block a swing, and I actually rocked at mercy. I was active in school: I was the fourth grade class president and the sixth grade co-president, and I participated in the annual storytelling contest. I had friends. I invited kids to my birthday parties, and they always came. It didn’t matter to me that I was always one of the last kids picked for any sport; I wasn’t good at sports. That was all right. Elementary school, overall, was all right.

But then came junior high.

I was an art geek. My school had talents, or majors, and mine was studio art. So I hung out with some of the art kids and some of the kids in my homeroom. Seventh grade was okay. Mostly, I watched things happen from a distance.

But by eighth grade, the insults started coming my way. One guy—Vinny? Victor? Something like that—started calling me “Jerky Horse.” Someone else called me “Thunder Thighs.” And from there came the rank outs, everything from “Your momma” to cursing. So I learned how to curse. I remember walking down the school hall with my friend Carol, and some guy named Dennis shouted something at me. I don’t remember the words, but I remember that it was an insult. I shouted back, “Shut up, Dennis, you prick!” I didn’t even know what a prick was—but he shut up. And Carol cracked up.

That’s when I learned how to be mean.

I wasn’t a total jerk; I didn’t walk around insulting people just because I could. But there were two distinct times when I did something horrible. The first was to this girl who was on my bus. I changed the lyrics to a commercial jingle and made it about the girl’s weight. I sang it to some of the other kids on the bus. It was funny, you see. Hee-lar-i-ous. Boy, was I a riot. I have no idea if she knew about it. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure she did.

That was shitty of me. I’m sorry, Kelly.

The other time was to a girl I’d known for years, because her grandparents and mine were friends. Eighth grade can be an awkward period; for me, my face had exploded with acne (a condition that wouldn’t get under control until I was in my twenties), and I was short and chubby with no fashion sense (conditions that have yet to get under control). For this girl, Lisa (no—not from Hunger; that’s just one of those strange coincidences), it was her teeth. She had buckteeth. And one day, this guy called her “Beaver” to her face. And I laughed. Because, you know, it was hee-ster-i-cal.

Sorry, Lisa. That was shitty of me too.

By the time I was in high school, a lot of that shitty attitude was gone. I wasn’t mean anymore. Maybe that’s because I was mostly invisible. I had my core group of friends—we were the rocker crowd—and I didn’t venture out of my social circle. I didn’t dare. Sharks swam in those waters. I didn’t have the right clothes, or the right accessories. I didn’t listen to the right music. I didn’t get the right grades. I didn’t get involved in high school politics or popularity contests. High school, for me, was a series of I Didn’ts. It was my version of Keeping My Head Down. I did do some things, like play varsity soccer (man, was I bad) and be art director for Sing (think High School Musical, but with a much smaller budget). But for the most part, people had no idea who I was in high school. I wasn’t bullied. And I didn’t bully. I was inconsequential.

Soon I had an eating disorder, but that’s another story.

#          #          #

Soapbox time. You’ve been warned.

Here’s the thing: bullies tell you all about themselves when they bully you.

That nasty song I wrote about poor Kelly? That was a weight issue. And God knows, I had—and have—major weight issues. Laughing at someone’s appearance? That’s a self-esteem issue. I’m still working on that one.

When Victor (or Vinny) called me “Jerky Horse,” well, I guess he was worried that he was a jerk. Either that, or he just had a penchant for rhyming. And I know for a certainty that the guy who called me “Thunder Thighs” was—and is—extremely image-focused. If you looked up the word “superficial,” you’d probably see his face there in the dictionary.

So if someone calls you a name, keep in mind that it’s less about you, and more about the person who’s calling you the name. That doesn’t make it right, but it might make it easier to get through.

And you will get through it. You will. You know why? Eighth grade isn’t forever. And while high school may feel like an eternity, it’s not.

You must have heard of the It Gets Better Project. It’s there for a reason. It does get better. It does. Here’s the main link.  And here’s a terrific video from a group of authors and illustrators.

If you’re getting bullied, talk to someone. A parent. A teacher. The school counselor. A friend. If the first person you talk to can’t help, try someone else. And someone else. Keep on talking. You’ll find someone who listens. I promise you, you’re not alone.

Maybe you’re not the one being bullied. Maybe you’re the one who laughs when someone says something mean. Maybe you even get inspired to say, or do, something mean yourself. If you are…just think about what you’re doing, okay? Think about how your words matter. Think about how they can hurt.

Think about how easy it would be instead to make your words help.

Be stronger than the bullies.

Speak out.


Giveaway time!

I am giving away four books:

RAGE (by me) – I’ll sign it and personalize it for the winner.

LOSS (by me) – Ditto the signing and personalizing.

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King – A signed copy of a book by one of my favorite authors.


And hey, A.S. King has a new book hitting the shelves next week – ASK THE PASSENGERS. **throws confetti**

For a chance to win, all you have to do is comment below. Comments are open until midnight, October 30, 2012. In the comments, you can talk about bullying, or not. You don’t have to say anything at all, but it would be nice if you did. You have to include a valid email address, or the comment won’t count. (I promise not to spam you.) On Halloween, I’ll pick the four winners at random. I’ll announce the winners here on my blog, and I’ll email them for mailing info. (Thus the need for a valid email address.) Good luck!

Finally, please be sure to take part in the Authors Against Bullying Blog Hop! Here’s the full list of participants. Extra kudos to Yasmine and Mandy for everything they’ve done to make this blog hop a success!

Mandy M. Roth
Yasmine Galenorn
Lauren Dane
Michelle M. Pillow
Kate Douglas
Shawntelle Madison
Leah Braemel
Aaron Crocco
NJ Walters
Jax Garren
Shelli Stevens
Melissa Schroeder
Jaycee Clark
Shawna Thomas
Ella Drake
E.J. Stevens
Ashley Shaw
Jeaniene Frost
Rachel Caine
Kate Rothwell
Jackie Morse Kessler
Jaye Wells
Kate Angell
Melissa Cutler
PT Michelle
Patrice Michelle
Julie Leto
Kaz Mahoney
Cynthia D’Alba
Jesse L. Cairns
TJ Michaels
Jess Haines
Phoebe Conn
Jessa Slade
Kate Davies
Lynne Silver
Taryn Blackthorne
Margaret Daley
Alyssa Day
Aaron Dries
Lisa Whitefern
Rhyannon Byrd
Carly Phillips
Leslie Kelly
Janelle Denison
Graylin Fox
Lee McKenzie
Barbara Winkes
Harmony Evans
Mary Eason
Ann Aguirre
Lucy Monroe
Nikki Duncan
Kerry Schafer
Ruth Frances Long

Making the Darkness Visible

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

I was at a friend’s surprise party last night when I myself received a huge surprise: a friend emailed me with the news that my book Rage was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, in an article called “Darkness Too Visible.” At first, I was ecstatic — I mean, hello, the WSJ mentioned my book! I was giddy with validation.

When I read the article, I got my second surprise: the article blasts darker-themed contemporary fiction for teens. Rage was used as an example to illustrate how “tame” issue-oriented books from the 1970s were in comparison — including Go Ask Alice, Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, and I Am the Cheese. Worse, after mentioning that the protagonist in Rage struggles with self-injury and quoting two lines from the book, the article goes on to say that books like Rage are likely to help “normalize” issues such as self-injury — and “may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue.”

That sound you hear is my blood pressure rising.

To suggest that Rage effectively glamorizes self-injury is both insulting and stupid. The entire purpose of the book — indeed, of all of the Riders of the Apocalypse books — is to raise awareness of issues such as self-injury and eating disorders and bullying.

Not everyone wants to raise awareness of such things, though. The article argues: “If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader – -or one who seeks out depravity — will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.”

Heads up: Life isn’t always beautiful and joyous. That’s not the real world; it never was. We just know more today about the issues that have been around for a long time — and we’ve come to a point where we’re not afraid to talk about these issues.

But then, not everyone wants to talk about them. The article laments, “Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books” and goes on to suggest that “the book industry’s ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers spring from a desperate desire to keep books relevant for the young.”

You want relevant? Let’s look at the numbers.

According to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults, “12% to 24% of young people have self-injured” and “about 6%-8% of adolescents and young adults report current, chronic self-injury.” According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, “about 1 in 10 young people will self-harm at one point.”

One in 10. So in a classroom of 30 teens, 3 of them either are or will self-injure.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million females and 1 million males suffer from anorexia or bulimia, and another 15 million suffer from binge eating disorder.

I was one of those 10 million females.

CyberMentors indicates that “as many as 70% of all young people have experienced some form of bullying” and “1 million kids are bullied every week.”

Let me repeat that: One million kids, every week, are bullied. This is not okay.

These numbers show that issue novels such as Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars and Lauren Myracle’s Shine — two books also mentioned in the article — are not simply “relevant for the young.” They’re urgent for the young, and for their parents. Ignoring issues such as self-injury or eating disorders or bullying doesn’t make them go away. Covering our ears and shutting our eyes and going “LA LA LA” as loud as we can doesn’t make these problems magically disappear. The only things that go away if you ignore them are your teeth.

Maybe the notion of discussing these issues makes some people uncomfortable. That’s understandable; these are not comfortable topics. But that’s not a good reason to remain quiet. To those who insist that they’re protecting children and teens by not talking about these issues — or by banning books that discuss these issues — don’t you realize that the best way to protect children is to educate them about these issues?

The article concludes with the following: “The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn’t be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.”

That’s right: parents are there to raise their children. And that means teaching our kids about the world, the real world, not just some idealized fantasy where everything is joyous and beautiful. With numbers like “1 in 10” and “10 million females/1 million males” and “1 million kids,” it’s crucial that kids and teens — and adults — understand that when they’re suffering with conditions or disorders that might otherwise lead them down a path of no return, they’re not alone.

At the very top of the article, there’s a blurb that sums up the article’s tone: “Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?”

Why? Easy. Ignoring ugly truths doesn’t make those truths go away. Silence is never the answer. Granted, there may be those who will always advocate censorship rather than frank discussion. But the more that people insist on limiting the books we read, the more those books need to be read.

Learn about the world. Read a book.

To everyone on Twitter who responded to the article with #YAsaves: Thank you. You all rock out loud.

May updates

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Yes, RAGE had a huge blog tour in April. No, I didn’t blog a lot about it (although I was pretty good about tweeting every day). Sorry, sorry, sorry. I suck. I was on deadline with LOSS.

Here’s a list of all the terrific sites I visited on the official RAGE Blog Tour, with their reviews of RAGE or their interviews with me, or my guest posts (whew!) :

Literary Escapism

Bitten By Books

The Compulsive Reader

The Book Smugglers

Presenting Lenore

Mundie Moms

The Story Siren

Book Faery

Bookworming in the 21st Century

Green Bean Teen Queen

The Neverending Shelf

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf <--- An A+ review!!! Yow!!! In Bed With Books

Wicked Awesome Books

Confessions of a Bookaholic

Tales of the Ravenous Reader

Rebecca’s Book Blog

SciFi Guy

A Backwards Story

The Hate-Mongering Tart

Thank you again, everyone!

The good news: I handed in the draft of LOSS to my editor, on time! The manuscript (66,600 words) is much longer than either HUNGER (44,000 words) or RAGE (55,000 words). It looks like LOSS will be a spring 2012 publication. Rah! Details to follow when they are available.

The great news: RAGE had a terrific launch, with lots of amazing reviews, including this one from Mrs. Giggles, who says: “The vicarious beat down that leaves me feeling wonderfully bruised all over is the sign of a story that succeeds in reeling me in, emotionally and intellectually, and damn if it doesn’t feel great.”


To everyone who has been reading and reviewing RAGE: Thank you, hugely. I hope you’ll enjoy LOSS even more! (Yeah, okay, you have to wait a year. Sorry about that!)

And hey: a new Post Mortem interview! The amazing Jeri Smith-Ready’s latest book, SHIFT, is now available ((DROOL!!!!!!!! CAN’T WAIT TO READ IT!!!!!!!!)), and her character Logan is interviewed by Death. Complete with playlist! Rah!

I’ll be at the Rochester Teen Book Festival next week, and I hope to see you there. 🙂

RAGE Blog Tour: Book Smugglers and Presenting Lenore and RT

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Hey there! Sorry I didn’t post yesterday; traveling from New York to California sort of messed me up, time-wise. I’m at the RT Booklovers Convention this week — today I will be moderating the 1 pm panel about worldbuilding in urban fantasy.

Yesterday, I guest posted at The Book Smugglers, and Ana shared her thoughts about RAGE.

Today, I should be guest blogging at Presenting Lenore (who, by the way, recently scored a phenomenal deal, so please congratulate her!).

Remember to comment so that you can be entered in the ginormous giveaway for a chance to receive HUNGER, RAGE, and some other goodies!

And now, it’s off to the hotel gym. Rah!

RAGE launch day and blog tour: Bitten By Books

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Happy RAGE launch day to me!!!

Today I’m answering questions at Bitten By Books. And, bonus, Death interviews me! 🙂

I’ll also be at Flights of Fantasy tonight at 7 pm, in Colonie, NY — and tomorrow, it’s off to LA for the RT Booklovers Convention!

Guest blogging at Dark Faerie Tales

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Today, I’m guest blogging at Dark Faerie Tales, where I give a handy, dandy color-coded guide to the Riders of the Apocalypse. And, if you’re going to RT this year, I also posted my convention schedule. 🙂

All throughout April, I’ll be doing a blogosphere world tour. Lots of guest posts; lots of interviews. Lots of RAGE reviews, eek!

In other news: I finally got my taxes off to my accountant (rah!!!) and I’m full-speed ahead on LOSS (double rah!!!).

And a reminder: If you’re in the Albany, NY area, I’ll be at the Empire State Book Festival this Saturday for a 2:45 pm panel called “She Blinded Me with Science Fiction,” followed by a Meet & Greet (aka, signing copies of RAGE) at 4:45pm. I’ll also be doing a reading at Flights of Fantasy on Monday, April 4, starting at 7 pm. Hope to see you there!

RAGE author copies

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

So I got home from tae kwon do to find a carton waiting for me. Yes, that’s right: RAGE author copies are here!!!

One of...gosh, a lot!

Ooh, FOIL!!! It’s so SHINY!!! I love it! I love it even more than I love the HUNGER cover, and I seriously love the HUNGER cover! Hooray, author copies!!!

Gosh. What am I going to do with all of these copies? Hmm…

Wild And Crazy Fall – with contest

Monday, December 6th, 2010

A wild and crazy fall? No doubt. Man, I haven’t blogged in forever. I think doing all those wonderful blog tours in October (every day!) temporarily short-circuited my blogging urge. But I’m back! Rah! And now, it’s time to play catch up.

Back in October, I showed a picture of Brian and Jen reading HUNGER on the bus to the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear. Here are more pictures of people with copies of HUNGER:

Here’s Julie, showing off her copy. So glad you enjoyed it, Julie!

And here is Neil Gaiman — my god of writing — holding up the copy that I sent him. A huge thanks to his phenomenal mystery aide, Cat Mihos, for the amazing picture!

If you send me a picture of you holding a copy of HUNGER, I’ll put it up on my blog. 🙂

Now that HUNGER has officially launched, and I’ve gotten past the initial wave of OMG OMG OMG AAAAAAAAAAH, I’m focusing on writing LOSS (think bullying, Pestilence, Alzheimer’s…and Robin Hood. I swear, I’ll make it work!), and getting ready for RAGE to hit the shelves in four short months. (Gulp.)

Speaking of RAGE, I’m thrilled that it’s a Junior Library Guild selection for spring 2011! I’ll have an updated cover posted soon — it’s the same as what I currently have on my website, but shiner, and with a fantabulous cover quote from the ever-amazing Heather Brewer. Her quote says:

“RAGE is raw and real, a truly dark, honest look at self-harm and teenage psyche. Kessler left me breathless.”

Last month, That Cover Girl interviewed me and cover artist Sammy Yuen about HUNGER and RAGE. Sammy’s interview in particular is a terrific read. Thanks again, That Cover Girl!

New stuff: there’s a new Post Mortem interview posted: Death talks to Laurel from Amy Brecount White’s lovely FORGET-HER-NOTS.

Amberkatze interviewed me on her blog — thanks, Amber!

Over November, more terrific reviews of HUNGER came in, including:

Icey Books

Wondrous Reads

The Diary of a Bookworm

Marie Loves Books

A Simple Love of Reading

Silent T’s Book Blog

Renee’s Book Addiction

CK2s Kwips and Kritiques

My Favourite Books

I once again want to thank all of the folks who have been reading and reviewing HUNGER. You all rock out loud!

GIVEAWAY: Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf has a terrific review of HUNGER…plus an ARC giveaway of the book! Thanks, Lauren!!!

On Wednesday, I’ll be over at The Book Smugglers for my Smugglivus post…which happens to also be my birthday, so there may be a RAGE ARC giveaway. Maybe. 🙂

Whew. Note to self: When I don’t blog for a month, there’s a lot of catch up to do!