#AMMConnect Bio : Mercy Killers

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These are a few of my favorite things:
Books: Anything by Tahereh Mafi, Six of Crows, And I Darken, Rosewood,  The Winner’s Curse, Rook, Red Rising, Horde, anything by Veronica Rossi and Holly Black.
TV shows and Movies: Stranger Things, Dark, A Handmaid’s tale, Arrow, Crazy Ex-girlfriend, Harlots, Full Metal Alchemist, The Good Doctor, Black Mirror, Death Note, every horror/gothic/steampunk movie ever.

Hi! I’m Jessica Grace Kelley.

This is my #AmmConnect bio. If you’re unfamiliar with Author mentor Match, check it out by clicking on the link.

I started writing novels after spending a year reviewing books on my book blog, anchoredgypsy.com. I work with teens as a fiction teacher at The Muse Writer’s Center and present a YA workshop with HRW’s Traveling Pen series. Blogging is still a passion, and I’m happy to be a contributor at allthewayya.com.









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There are worse things that dying from the Plague.    You could survive it, and be forced to serve as a     Mercy Killer.

Quick Summary :

At age 19, the Guardian has taken hundreds of lives, euthanizing sufferers so they don’t have to endure the Plague’s cruel end. When he arrives in Attica, the only city with a perfect quarantine system, people treat him like a God.

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But Greylin, a 17-year-old vagabond who grew up outside the safety of Attica, can’t see past the blood on the Guardian’s hands. She understands the Plague’s danger because she lost a childhood friend to the sickness. Greylin is the only one asking the question: why is a Mercy Killer visiting the only city that’s never fallen to the Plague?  The Guardian doesn’t travel for fun, he travels for work, and his occupation is death.

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Mercy Killers has

*Twisted themes * Glittery atmosphere * Enemies to lovers *Complicated female friendships *Flawed antiheroes *Morally gray characters *Murder *Magic *Spiderwebs  *Roma Culture *Tragic backstory *Redemption for the wicked




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The hook is killer, pun intended. The characters are vivid. But at this point it’s a slow burn, and that needs to be fixed. I want to build a story that does this hook and these characters justice. I will slay and bleed and slaughter words like it is my job, because that’s what’s being a writer is. For me, this mentorship isn’t just about THIS project, it’s about learning craft and buckling up the the long run.


Why Pick Me?.

  • Revisions don’t scare me. They excite me. I always want the work to be better.
  • I’m fast. I can spit out 5k+ words in a day without blinking.
  • Re-writing is my jam.
  • Little darlings? Let’s murder them all! It’ll be fun.
  • Craft matters to me.  Every plot point, character, and arc.
  • I am so aware of how much I don’t know. That’s why I’m here.

Writing is my life. I teach fiction, I freelance, and I’m part of a fiction studio.  My projects have won the YA Authors.me contest, the YA Molly Award, the Emma Merritt Award, the Fools for love Contest, and placed top three in over a dozen others. Despite these small successes, I know that I’m not where I need to be– but I’m close. I want to learn how to navigate a pitch, how to polish a query until it stuns, and how to build a story with forward movement, sharp dialogue,  and out of this world imagery.

What I’m looking for in a Mentor

I want you to love my story, and I want you to see the flaws.

Tell me to cut. Tell me to kill. Ask me to burn a chapter, replace a POV,  or rewrite fifteen scenes, I welcome it. It’s going to happen– I’m pretty sure I have soggy beginning syndrome. Teach me to pull out the dark and gritty threads that make a story great. Show me how to build a submission package. Give me pointers on choosing an agent. Let’s brainstorm together, laugh, cry over failures and celebrate the highs. I want to get to know you.

I really, really hope I get the chance to be a mentee.  And when I learn enough to reach my goals, I promise to help someone else do the same.


Thanks to all the Mentors who give their time toward this incredible event. I hope you all find a book you love! Special shout out to Heather Kaczynski and Alexa Donne for creating and managing this incredible opportunity.

Good luck Mentees!



Agentless Again, But Happy!

Hey guys! 312185_2077885938c24faca78ead0529a48c82-mv2 (1)

I have a big announcement to make. I am back to querying once again! I really enjoyed working with my agent, I learned so much from him, but sometimes life takes you in different directions. Check out my guest blog post, Agentless Again, but Happy to read more about my experience.

Thanks for sticking with me guys! Big things are to come.

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How to Show Emotion on the Page: The Cheat Sheets

Feelings are hard, in both reality and writing. This isn’t a ground-breaking concept, but stay with me.

Characterization is heavily rooted in emotion. Physical traits and personal history can help mold a vivid depiction for a reader, but what really tells an audience about a story’s protagonist and counterparts is how individuals react to situations. Those reactions are portrayed through emotion.

See? I have a point.

Characterization is only one aspect of what makes emotional reaction so key to the creation of a good story. If you ask someone, “what makes a good book?” how the book made them feel is probably going to be embedded in the response you receive.  In order to achieve this connection, the feelings of a novel’s cast need to transfer from paper to the reader. When your protagonist cries, readers need to feel pain. When your antagonist triumphs, readers should have an overwhelming desire to punch the jerk in the face (or make out with said person, depending on your writing style. I lean toward the latter).

All this mumbo-jumbo above is great to know, but how do you achieve it? That’s a question with a mile long answer. There are books written on the subject (check out a few here.) I’ve read one or two, but  when it comes time to write I’m not going to dig out my copy of Emotion, Tension & Conflict and look up the best way to convey “She felt sad”.

Warning: “She felt sad” is the worst route to take. Avoid at all costs. Please.

This leads me to the purpose of this post.  I have a confession. I’m a cheater.

I don’t take the time to dive into another book while writing my own. I use cheat sheets. These sites below help pinpoint frequent mishaps writers make, and help spark ideas.

Cheat Sheet For Writing Emotion

This is a fantastic list of emotional actions. One of the best lists I’ve found.

37 Ways To Write About Anger

Spoiler alert! This one focuses on the infuriating side of things!  Still, a great resource for when your character’s are feeling furious.

The Wheel of Emotions

(I’ll just stick it here to make things simple.)wheel-of-emotions


100 Words For Facial Expressions

Because you can only use “She grinned mischievously” so many times. Or not at all. In fact, don’t use it, use this list instead.

Tips On Effectively Conveying Character Emotion

This article does an incredible job of demonstrating how to put all of the above charts and tips to use. Show versus tell in reality! Woohoo!

I hope these links help you as much as they’ve helped me. Feel free to other links in the comments below. In fact, I encourage it. Thanks for sticking with me through this surprisingly long post (it’s like I’m a writer or something).

Until next time,

Premise and Momentum


I want to share an exercise with you all that recently helped me better understand drama, momentum and stakes. I’m part of a workshop and we did this exercise in my last class. It really opened up my current work in progress. I hope it helps you guys as much as it helped me!


This is an exercise by Bill Johnson, it is NOT MINE! I simply want to share his wisdom. I’ve reworded a few things, but I take no credit. Here is a link to the full essay, which I highly encourage you all to read. Everything below is just a brief overview.

Each character needs to have their own stakes and they all need to be somehow connected in order to drive the story forward. How do you do that?

To create drama, the writer needs to make the reader care about what is going on. That is easier said than done. The best way to do that is to convey
1- What is at stake in the world of the story
2- What is at stake for the individual in the story
3- What is at stake in each individual scene
4- How the outcome of individual scenes and character goals move the story forward.

What’s at stake in the world of the story (the premise) needs to be connected to each character’s personal stakes. If there is drama that the character isn’t emotionally attached to, then the characters can come off as mechanical, acting only to advance the story. If a character doesn’t have forward momentum then they aren’t necessary, not matter how funny/sweet/ wonderful they are. They only interrupt forward movement.

How do you test this? EASY!

1- What is the premise of your story/ book?
2-What is at stake for each of your characters (even the minor ones!)
3- What is the main thing in the way of each character?
4- Locate one scene or character that does not advance the plot and cut them! Your story will open up!

48042-Book-NerdI cannot describe how great this exercise was. Surprisingly, the hardest part for each of us in the class was figuring out what our premise really was. How can you write a book if you don’t know exactly what  you are writing about? Writers tend to do that more often than you’d think, especially in the beginning. It is easy to think your premise is something it’s not. For example, I though my premise was ” Revenge on the bay guy” but after some digging I realized my premise is “Revenge takes more than it gives you”. That is a premise I can craft a meaningful novel around and build characters with.

Good luck guys, and keep writing!jessica grace kelleyt signature


#Pitchwars isn’t a contest, it’s an opportunity

I’m not an exceptionally experienced writer. I have one manuscript under my belt and two halvsies. But I’m fairly experienced when it comes to contests. I’ve entered a few.

In fact,  I’ve entered 12 writing contests in the past year. They’re usually run by the RWA but I’ve entered three that were on a worldwide level ( Myslexia, A Woman’s Write, and Ya.Authors.me). They have a few differences, but they all have one thing in common. There is a distinct winner.

“That’s how a contest works,” you say, and ready yourself to move on.


You don’t need to waste your time reading things you already understand.

BUT WAIT! I have a point, I swear!!!!

Guys, #Pitchwars isn’t that type of contest. Pitchwars is an opportunity. If you play your cards right, you will walk away with something beneficial, even if you don’t get picked by a mentor. That is always a win.

So, let’s list a few of the benefits of this contest, besides the ever- envied Mentor.

  1. A Beta Reader.
  2. A Critique Partner
  3. Query Edits
  5. The experience of rejection
  6. The experience of acceptance
  7. A measurement of how far you’re willing to go

Guys, this industry is rejection. It will only make you stronger.


Okay, that’s a little bit of stretch, but you get the idea.

As an author, you’re setting yourself up for failure. That’s part of the deal. I learned that lesson very quickly when I lost my first contest. I didn’t even make it to through the first round, and I got a nasty critique letter that didn’t sugar coat the truth. It was painful, but you know what? It was the best thing that ever happened to my writing. I will forever thank the judge who took the time to be brutally honest, and for adding that the reason she was so harsh was because she saw unstructured talent.

I took the advice and rewrote, and things started changing for me. My first final was elating, but the truth is my biggest win was that first loss. Without that failure, I would never have learned the value of a negative critique. It taught me to look at my writing with a critical eye; there is always room for improvement. It taught me to straighten up and deal with the tough stuff because no one is going to hand me a map that leads to greatness. If  I want this, I’m going to earn some scars, which is okay because they make my skin thicker.

When I entered #Pitchwars, I didn’t see it as a contest. Pitchwars was a giant vat of opportunity I could submerge my writing into if I was willing to get the pages of my manuscript wet. The ink might run, and some lines might be lost, but the pretty skeleton of the story would remain.

So I threw myself in. It’s a little deeper than  I anticipated and the water is rough, but there are plenty of fellow writers around me and we are swimming together.

I’ve found a critique partner or two, possibly three! I’ve had my query ripped up in the best way. New sets of eyes showed me flaws I could never see, and now I have the ability to patch up the issues. All in all, I’ve gotten better.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that is a win.

I hope you all find your win, too.

Keep writing,