Not Another Newsletter!

Well, It’s Been a Minute

Jenny in the Woods

Dear Friends, Fellow Writers, & Fans,

I know it’s been a while since we were in touch. I’ve missed writing to you; hearing back when I do, or simply knowing you’re out there, keeping up with my life and life in the fictional Adirondack town in which my stories are set. I’ve appreciated the notes some of you have sent—emails and actual snail mail letters!—asking where I am and what’s been going on.

A lot. A lot has gone on.

I’ve always been real with you in these missives, and as I thought about a return to newslettering, I knew I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) change that approach. Part of why it’s taken so long for me to send this letter was because I wasn’t sure how to describe a situation that was at first ouchy in nature (understatement). I knew it would be hard to be full and up front about it.

Then I decided difficult is okay. Sometimes that’s what we get, and what we have to work with. You all have been there for the good, the bad, the everything.

So, last time we were in touch, I was working on my big departure novel, right? A book different from anything I'd ever written before--a human monster story in the woods. And I had also just signed with a dream agent. She and I both felt there was something unique, not ever seen before, in the novel I'd written.

Once a book is "ready" (and in this case ready meant twenty-two complete drafts, and a touch of blood and guts--the characters' as well as my own), then, if you're seeking publication with a big house, the agent takes it out on submission.

Curve Ball and a Cold, Hard Truth

Cold Hard Truth

We quickly came up against a stone-hard reality of the publishing world—or maybe the entire captalist system. [Anyone hear about the upcoming new translation of Das Kapital?] Which is that we were not going to see what this book needed and deserved until my career had broken out to a new level.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my career. I am grateful for all five books I've gotten to have published so far. There have been awards—and dazzling reviews—as well as multi-month tours and the chance to meet many of you.

With Mary Higgins Clark

Dreams come true, then a few more. I've stood on stage besides the iconic Mary Higgins Clark to accept a sparkling block of crystal, I've spoken to 300 Mississipians in Faulkner country on Thacker Mountain Radio. I could go on--and often did, mentally, during the dark nights of the soul that this curve ball threw at me.

Because I hadn’t yet had the kind of book to provide a foundation for a breakout, I was facing something of a Catch 22 in the biz. How to break out before you've broken out? Now, you all know that I had rubbed my fingers—and soul—raw getting this book right. Realizing the proper outcome wasn’t going to be there for it (at this time) was like plummeting to earth without a parachute.

Just When I Needed You Most

Just When I Needed You Most

Anyone else here remember the 70's song? It began going through my head, as if someone knew I was about to get what I most needed. The great Hank Phillippi Ryan celebrates what she calls "you never know day"--the day before the meeting, or the anniversary, before the great thing happens. When you're walking around, throwing groceries into a cart or scrubbing the bathroom, no idea your whole life is going to change for the better.

Two things were about to happen.

The first was small, but managed to shift me into a whole different headspace.

The second was HUGE.

Let's take them in order.

While the plane I had jumped from went wheeling off into the sky without me, a writer named Dennis Webster reached out. Among other accomplishments, Dennis has edited three volumes of short stories called Adirondack Mysteries; I’ve been a part of two of them. The anthologies have done well enough that Dennis had just been offered a deal for a fourth. Did I have a story I’d want to contribute?

Adirondack Mysteries 4

Well, I didn’t have a story. I hadn’t written anything besides this departure book for literal years. Still, I hauled myself upright. Dragged myself over to the closet I had been using as an office in a rental while our own house was renovated. (#storyforanotherday)

And words spilled out of me as if I’d been unleashed. I wrote about a series of murders taking place in STRs (short-term rentals) occupied by vacationers coming to a beautiful setting from which the year-round residents are increasingly banished. This story is dark and also humorous and as serious as the forces tearing a rift in our country right now.

Thank you, Dennis, for granting my fingers license to roam. The forthcoming anthology is full of stories by great regional writers. It will be available sometime in May, and if you live in or near upstate New York, several of the contributors, including myself, will be doing some fun in-person events. Please come out!

Now onto the huge

The Richmeister

As my agent and I were talking and strategizing, a legendary publisher reached out to her.

I wasn’t there for the convo, but I’m a writer and I convert everything to scenes, so this is what I imagine happening based on the call my agent made to me shortly afterward. Any mistakes are mine, of course—this being pretty much a fabrication! But here’s how I picture it.

Legendary Publisher: Jenny.  Ah, Jenny. Jenny Milchman. The Milch Woman. We love her over here. [I may be channeling The Richmeister versus the LP here]

Legendary Agent: Immm. [good agents keep things close to the vest]

LP: Do you think she would meet with me? Have a conversation about her work?

LA: I can ask her.

Um, well, yes, I would. Yes, I would meet with a titan of the publishing world who likes my work. Would anyone say no to this? So I went to the city, and we had breakfast at a gorgeous hotel, and I nibbled pastry, which I usually adore, but the aforementioned nibbling was due to the fact that I was too excited and amped up to eat (also, my right hand shakes, it's a family tremor, and what if I flung croissant crumbs all over the lush linen tablecloth?), even though this titan of the industry kept plying me with lovely, gracious urges to order more.

She also planted a seed.

Legendary Publisher: Have you ever considered writing a series?

Jenny Milchman: In a way, I think of my books as a series already. Only it’s the town that’s the recurring character.

LP: Wedeskyull. That’s so interesting. [along with some other nice stuff about the setting I'd created, which I can’t remember enough to write as dialogue, but am certain is all COMPLETELY TRUE]

JM: I’m thinking you mean a more traditional sort of series, though.

The LP then shared some insights about readers’ engagement with series, especially with the main character. I’m a huge Reacher fan, so this really got me thinking.

Who would my version of Reacher be? What would she be like, how would she live?

LP had one more bolt of sun to shine over the seed she had sown, and then our time was up; she went off to Pittsburgh to appear with one of her authors, and I left to calm down.

“Your background in psychology,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of fiction in that realm, and it’s fascinating to readers.”

Suddenly, a character I was born to write but had never met before appeared in full blush in my mind. No, in my heart. Along with battles she could face, fights she could try to win--a whole world that needed changing, and she'd have the unique means to do it. This wouldn't be guns or fists or cool cyber-age tech weaponry, as two of my favorite series heroes possess. No, my character was going to have something else, something unique, but in her hands it'd be just as mighty.

I walked outside and called my agent. “They’re giving you pretty much free rein,” she said. “Write up a few ideas, draft some pages, and we’ll go from there.”

Less than a week later, my agent procured a glorious two book deal.

Really it was two years and less than a week, though. That's what it took to get me here.

And then this character came to life on my laptop screen and through a portal to the other reality to which we novelists go when we write. She’s a psychologist willing to break the rules, an avenging angel for children. With a depth of perspective that comes from the life she has lived and the times that we live in--especially in the wild, wondrous world of Wedeskyull.

Arles Shepherd has taken me on the deepest creative dive and highest literary soar I’ve gotten to experience yet.

Yes, even including the book my agent and I decided to temporarily set aside.

Just When I Needed You Most

This is the departure I was aiming for.

Sometimes you don’t get what you pictured, but it's exactly what you need. A lesson that life manages to keep teaching me again and again.

Whew, I think that brings us about up to date.

The novel is currently in production, slated for publication in September, and my new editor has wound up being a true creative kindred spirit. I feel like I understand why they call publishers “homes” now.

In newsletters to come, I'll share experiences I've gotten to have with this book, including the story behind the title, the author shoot that took place outdoors in a wind-pummeled meadow with the most amazing photographer, an in-depth culture read, which was for me a real mind blown, and how the fifteen years I spent as a psychotherapist influenced the creation of Arles (except she's way more bad-ass than I).

But for now I'm going to link to the just-went-up page in case you wish to pre-order the first book in the first series I've ever written. Oh, and also...

Wanna See the Cover?

The Usual Silence

Look at the title—how it sits in a sort of abstract suggestion of a Polaroid photo? This is the first conceptual cover one of my books has ever been given. That photo plays a literal role and is also a symbol in the book. Of how our pasts live on, where memories go, but never die. I am so in love with this cover that just seeing it boosts my mood. Oh, it also makes me think of Taylor.

K, I Think That's It For Now

Thank you, every single one of you, for meeting back up with me on this road. I’m sorry for the long delay…but I hope the news has been worth waiting for.

It was for me.


Share this page:

Please click the highlighted icon to share this page on !

If you got here via social media or the web, you can sign up to receive these by email directly:

Also, see here to view all back issues of the newsletter.