Self-Care Month II: 30 Gifts To Give Yourself To Try And Stay Sane

Last May, I launched Self-Care Month, four weekly posts to help writers and creators feel better about themselves! And right now, I think we seriously need it.

One of my life philosophies – and one I try my very best to stick to – is that every day you should give yourself a gift. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant, it doesn’t even have to cost money! But doing something small for yourself every day can go a long way.

Here are 30 ideas to get you through this month’s insanity:

  1. Treat yourself to half an hour with a mug of hot something (chocolate, tea, coffee, take your pick).
  2. Watch a nostalgic movie you haven’t seen in a while. I’m a huge advocate for early/mid 00s Disney Channel Movies.
  3. Eat a pastry! If it’s home-baked, you get the advantage of it being warm and fresh, if it’s store-bought well, hey. You got someone else to make it for you.
  4. Bake! See above.
  5. Listen to your favorite album of music all the way through from start to finish. Put on headphones or crank it over the speakers, close your eyes, and just listen.
  6. Listen to a guided meditation. Try not to fall asleep.
  7. Watch some trashy TV and with zero shame.
  8. Toast! It may seem silly, but science has proven that toasting your bread creates a chemical reaction that makes you happier. So toast your sandwich and enjoy the warm n’ crispy feelings.
  9. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has been proven to improve moods too.
  10. Hot cheese, too.
    (My man Babish made a recipe with all three!)
  11. Find a video game with low chances of dying and something pretty to look at. My favorites are Journey (where players anonymously help each other through puzzles – the soundtrack is sublime!), Everything (which is weird and existential but very chill), and any open-world game you like to explore.
  12. Try the Kind Words game/app on Steam! Send anonymous letters to other people around the world giving advice and encouragement when people need it the most.
    Note: this is not sponsored content, I just really like this game… thing
  13. Check out the Mom For a Minute subreddit, write a letter to a team of internet moms whenever you need a helping hand.
  14. Create a Pinterest board or ‘like’ a bunch of things on your online store (my Poshmark likes are just… a lot). You get the thrill of shopping without spending anything.
  15. Turn off your phone for just a little bit. Everything can wait.
    After work hours, of course.
  16. Treat yourself to a new (e)Book or read something on your shelf you’ve been meaning to.
  17. Try a tutorial from YouTube (or somewhere else online). There are some excellent art tutorials, baking tutorials, bookbinding tutorials… everything you could want really!
    NOTE: Please PLEASE be careful of your sourcing, many “tutorial” and “lifehack” videos are completely fabricated for views and may be harmful if tried at home. Although the videos of these fails are also excellent entertainment as well.
  18. Give yourself time to reflect and reminisce. Flip through old photos or read some of your old writing.
  19. Eat something you’re not supposed to. Just once! You know, as long as it won’t kill you or something.
  20. Watch a bad movie, something you can seriously laugh to.
  21. Clean up your space a little. It may seem like a chore more than a gift, but having a neater area is honestly one of the better things you can give to yourself.
  22. Order food out. Have someone else make your dinner. Just stay safe!
  23. Treat yourself to a mini spa night with whatever you have. Pull out those old lotions and such (as long as they haven’t expired of course!) and pamper yourself.
  24. Play a mindless, classic video game to let your brain unwind. Tetris is never the wrong choice.
  25. Take an extra-long shower or bath. Use some of those special-occasion soaps and shampoos, too!
  26. Light your favorite scented candle or incense for wile you work. Even something as little as a nice scent can really improve your mood.
  27. Reach out to an old friend you haven’t heard from in a while.
  28. Consequently, allow yourself to ignore the people you don’t want to talk to for a while. That’s okay too.
  29. Try a yoga video and stretch your quarantined booty – many studios are streaming now!
  30. Most of all let yourself be unabashedly, unashemedly, unconsciously, and totally happy. And apologize to no one!

Stay tuned for more self-care ideas this month, including the return of Schedenfruedoptimism!

Book Marketing 101 – How to Find Your Audience When You Think Your Book Appeals to Everyone

If there’s one thing I hear a lot from writers it’s that some folks think their books are meant for eeeeverryyooone.

And that’s just not true!

Some people just don’t like long books, or short books, or books with romance plots that can be described in a Euclidean form.

Triangles are SO last decade!

So you need to find your audience. Find your readers, find your fans.

And here’s how:

Find Your Comps (And Not Just Books)

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Discovering your comps, or “comparable titles”, is a major step forward when it comes to defining your audience. Not only is it required for most query letters (yeah, that’s what those book titles at the bottom of those things are for) but it also helps you find your people and figure out how to appeal best to them.For queries, you generally want your comps to be books, but for marketing exercises and brainstorms they can be anything you want!

If you’re writing something fun, inoffensive, kid-friendly, and friendship-themed, you could put down Avatar: The Last Airbender, Steven Universe, or Gravity Falls. Fairy Tale-inspired works can be compared to books like Gail Carson Levine’s and Three Dark Crowns, but you can also think about Once Upon a Time or Shrek films, or The Stinky Cheese Man.


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Many big brands like Lululemon have created “personas” for their ideal customer and detail their whole lifestyles from their average income to their relationships and hobbies. While it may seem a little silly – and no, you don’t have to give them goofy names like “Ocean” and “Duke” – it can be helpful to get into the mindset of your future readers to find out how to catch their eye. 

Mine are named Aurora and Apollo (Because Space) and they are twentysomethings who like media that makes them think and like to dream about the future.

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Because Space

Yours may be older or younger depending on who you’re looking to appeal to and while their salary might not matter a whole lot, they’re exactly the kind of people who’s days your looking to brighten with your wonderful stories.

Look to Your Current Fans

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Everyone remembers who their first real “fan” was. Maybe it was a parent or a sibling, maybe it’s a friend from college, maybe it’s someone you met on Twitter who was just REALLY into it. Even though you’re just starting out, you’re bound to have a few who are already watching your career with great interest and can’t wait to hear more from you.

So look closer. Who are they, what ages and genders? What things do they like and what do they watch and read? What made them so interested in your work in the first place (and being related to you carries less weight than you think – ask any author you know if their relatives read their stuff)?Finding the answers to these questions can help build your roadmap to audience success!

How are you going to reach out to your audience?
Mention it below in the comments!

If you’ve made it this far, you’re already a welcome member of my audience! Come join me!

inter_linked The Series is the fun, sarcastic story of a girl and her android.

Follow the adventures of Anny and WISR as they try to help every robot they can, while the hardest part of the journey is putting up with each other.

Absolutely free to read:

Book Marketing 101 – Notebook And You!: Your New Best Friend

Ahh, the humble notebook. This is a strategy I’ve employed for both of my recent projects and it has yet to fail me. The idea is taking down notes, ideas, and strategies for your writing project but keeping them separate from the creative flow of your writing. Or outlines, if you’re that kind of person.

In this handy journal you can keep:

  • Notes from books and articles you’ve read about marketing
  • Random promotional ideas that pop into your brilliant brain
  • Contacts and information about book bloggers and ‘tubers you’d like to work with
  • Strategies for making the most of social media

While mine is literally a composition notebook with glitter on it, yours can be a binder or even an exceptionally long word document. Whatever you choose – make sure it’s A. Something you really like using and makes you happy and B. Something you have easy access to all the time – a document saved on your home computer isn’t much help when you suddenly have the best. Idea! EVER! when you’re out and about

Here are some tips for the care and keeping of your new bestest friend:

Looks Don’t Matter

Some people REALLY like the very beautiful layouts and templates and spend a lot of time making them and organizing them. Some people write theirs with the careless scrawl of Winona Ryder on a murderous rampage.

My writing angst #&#^@it has a body count. I’m killing off more characters than George R. R. Martin here.

Me, personally, I like to go somewhere between. I like doing the lettering because it helps me calm down and get my thoughts all in line before I write them down. But I don’t go crazy with ~ fancy borders ~ or even stickers, for that matter. So whether you like a more utilitarian approach or something pretty and designed, it’s all up to you. This is your book so do what makes you happy.

Have the Tape and Scissors (or Ctrl+X and Ctrl+V) Handy

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The one downside of analog notekeeping – aside from having to lug it around everywhere, leaving it behind in coffeeshops, and the sheer and utter panic that comes from writing at that park when sudden rainshowers and/or pigeon swarms descend upon you – is that editing is all by hand. Actual copy-and-pasting. Mine are all kinds of cut up, taped up, and scribbled up. Be ready to edit, be ready to go back and change and change your mind. And have good scotch tape around.

Look At It As Often As You Can

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It’s a simple fact that if you don’t use something, it can’t be useful to you. Easy, right? So make sure you’re taking a look at your notebook at least a few times a week if not every day. Treat it like a to-do list of marketing savvy, a TBR of book bloggers you so want to be friends with. You might not have anything new to add or change, but taking a look over your plans and making sure you have the ideas fresh in your brain, just all the time.


Is it a “”stupid idea”” based on a PSA you saw on PBS once and no one else?Put it down. 
Is it from a book you’re pretty sure outdates the internet to begin with and you’re pretty sure modern audiences “”won’t care about””?
Put it down.
Is it definitely derivative of an ad you saw for a split second whooshing by a local subway station when you were going express and in hindsight looked mighty vandalized so you weren’t sure what it was actually supposed to be?Put it down.
Is it an idea for a book trailer that will definitely require a multi-million dollar Hollywood studio and the prettiest, most British actors money can buy?
Keep dreaming.
And also put it down.

What To Do If You Have Nothing to Add

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  • Read a book about social media marketing, book publishing, book marketing, or community building. Take notes.
  • Look up articles or videos about a platform you’d like to work with (Twitter, Wattpad, Patreon, etc.)
  • Google “[genre] book blogger” and take down all of the info of that person – even if they say they’re closed to submissions, you never know if they’ll be open again when you’re closer to launch time or if you can convince them to take a look anyway.
  • You want at least 50 entries to start your marketing impact.
  • Find book trailers and websites of your favorite books, famous books, or books in your genre. Take notes on what they did and whether or not you think it was successful.

Keep fighting the good fight, writers, and I’m sure you’ll see it through!

Have a cool marketing idea or strategy you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments to help your fellow writers out!

I’m putting my shameless marketing savvy to work right now – read my book!

inter_linked The Series is the fun, sarcastic story of a girl and her android.

Follow the adventures of Anny and WISR as they try to help every robot they can, while the hardest part of the journey is putting up with each other.

Absolutely free to read:

[Self-Care Month] Sipping the Tea

For the final week of Self-Care Month, I’ve reached out to some of your fellow writers in the community to talk about what tea – and other drinks – we enjoy when writing!



Passion fruit iced tea on hot days, or a decaf English breakfast latte in cold ones.

Serdar Yegulalp

@genjipress /


Elizabeth Mays


My go to is green tea, but I also have a tea from Teavana called passion tango that I like.


@MorganBallantin/The Chaos Beast

Orange pekoe. I’ll fall back on English breakfast if necessary.

Rylann Watts

@RylannWatts1 /

Almond cinnamon dolce latte.


Peppermint or Earl Grey

Luna Ann Koenig


Bam! My fave.

Luci Jewett


Chai with whipped cream!

C. Comrack


Jasmine tea. All day. I drink one cup of coffee with my treat when I sit to write.

Mindy A. Early

@mindyaearly /

Tazo Ginger Green tea!

Natasha Watts

@NatashaWattsUp /

I’m boring. Straight up green tea!

Hiiro Langley


Whatever kind of generic tea this is:

Aedyn Brooks


Harney & Sons – London Fog is my new favorite.

Nicole Scarano


I drink a lot of different stuff when I’m writing, but as far as tea I love David’s Tea. Their loose leaf tea is so good and they have crazy flavors (like tea with real fruit, popcorn, Chocolate, yogurt, or candies in them as well as the standard versions of tea)

Marissa Staib


My favorite drink to have when writing is water, because I can sip it regularly without having to think about how much I’ve been drinking.

Jennie Ritz

@jennieritz /

I’m lame over here. Just black coffee for me.

As for me…

Image result for whiskey bottle
(or maybe some nice Earl Grey iced with soymilk, don’t @ me, MOM)

I got over 100 responses so read some more here:

What do you like to drink when you write? Do you have a favorite kind of tea?

You can join the Writing Community in reading the coolest, awesomest, most tea-fueled science-fiction novel!

inter_linked The Series is the fun, sarcastic story of a girl and her android.

Follow the adventures of Anny and WISR as they try to help every robot they can, while the hardest part of the journey is putting up with each other.

Absolutely free to read:

[Self-Care Month] Yay Rejections!

This month on the November O’Malley blog, we’re discussing Self-Care for writers, taking time to be kind to yourself and keeping yourself in writin’, fightin’ shape. Last week we talked about keeping yourself sane when your writing is being read by strangers, this week, it’s what happens when strangers don’t like the thing.

Rejection letters suck. They’re disheartening, dehumanizing, and they make you feel like poopy. Right?

Photo by Pixabay on


Rejection letters are awesome. They’re super cool, they’re awesome, they’re the best thing that can happen to a writer.

And I know. You’re wondering which deep end I’ve jumped off of this week. But hear me out:

1. They Prevent You From Ending Up With the Wrong Publisher

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“A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published. You can’t name a major publisher who didn’t reject it.

Madeline L’Engle

Think of it like a bad date. Yeah, it’s sad that things didn’t work out, but it’s good that you figured that part out early, right?

Ending up with the wrong publisher can mean your manuscript is edited badly, handled badly, and marketed badly. Wouldn’t you rather be published by a house that knows how to make your work truly shine?

It’s honestly so much better this way.

2. More Fish In the Sea

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“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”

Sylvia Plath

According to Wikipedia, there are precisely a lot of publishers out there (and that’s only the data I can get on English-language ones!) The Manuscript Wish List lists hundreds, if not thousands of Agents and Editors all across the world. And did you ever see those Writer’s Market books? They’re massive chunks of tree crawling with teeny-tiny print with every publisher, editor, contest, and agent known to man (or at least those who could afford to get in.)

There are so many different people making books these days, and one of them is going to be perfect for you.

3. It Gives You A Second Chance

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“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

Ray Bradbury

Maybe it is you. Maybe there’s something not quite right about your manuscript or your voice or maybe it’s just not marketable. It happens, and that’s okay.

But imagine if you did get picked up by some small press that didn’t know what they were doing. It’s edited on a shoestring budget (read: run through a spell checker and then they call it a day), printed off-center in an ugly font, shared maybe ONCE on their social media pages, and only distributed to the last Borders Books in the universe.

How awful would THAT be for you and your book?

So take this chance you’ve been given to edit, revise, change. Because sometimes getting published is actually the worst thing that can happen.

4. Win or Lose, YOU DID THE THING

“Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.”

Isaac Asimov

You’ve taken your first steps towards being a real, actual professional writer. You’ve done it. You’ve taken the big leap that countless others have been afraid to.

How many rejections have you gotten? Post your high score below to encourage your fellow writers to get back up again!

And don’t reject this brand-new, all-amazing, warm-and-fuzzy science fiction novel full of sarcasm and robots!

inter_linked The Series is the fun, sarcastic story of a girl and her android.

Follow the adventures of Anny and WISR as they try to help every robot they can, while the hardest part of the journey is putting up with each other.

Absolutely free to read:

[Self-Care Month] 20 Things To Do When Your Work Is Out on Submission

This month on the November O’Malley blog is being devoted to Self-Care for writers. Stay tuned in the following for more tips, tricks, and activities to improve your writing life and check

You’ve done it! You finished your project, it’s done, it’s edited, and now it’s time for a bunch of strangers to tear it letter from letter, word from word. It’s scary, it’s heart-pounding, it’s literally the worst thing ever. And the worst part is that you can’t go off and write some more like you do whenever you want to avoid the real world. If you thought editing was bad, you haven’t seen and/or felt anything yet.

But it’s okay.

Please breathe.

Because there’s plenty you can do to keep yourself sane. Or as sane as us writers can be:

  1. Make a playlist.
  2. Make an ambiance track.
  3. Make an aesthetic board or a Pinterest board
  4. Have a mini dance party for yourself!
  5. Go for a walk
  6. Go feed some ducks (PLEASE NOTE: Do not feed ducks bread! They like oats and halved grapes, bread makes them sick and fat.)
  7. Watch your favorite movie
  8. Watch a really bad movie
  9. Watch a movie you like but no one else seems to.
  10. Watch a movie you haven’t seen since you were a kid. undefined
  11. Read a book in your genre
  12. Read a book outside your genre or age group
  13. Find out what author in your genre and age group is next to yours alphabetically and read something of theirs. Be friendly with your future neighbors!
  14. Read the first thing that comes up when you look up “free ebook”, or a randomly numbered one.
  15. Randomly generate a word. Read the first free ebook when you look up that word.
  16. Bake something
  17. Try an origami project
  18. Make a new recipe for dinner
  19. Read some really, really terrible fanfiction
  20. Make yourself a cup of tea. Really focus on it, let yourself do nothing but just enjoy it.
Photo by Stokpic on

What do you like to do when you need a calm-down?
How do you keep yourself sane in the querying process?

Please share in the comments!

[Self-Care Month] Unique Positive Affirmations For Your Writing Life

The month of May is devoted to Self-Care for Writers! Last week, we talked about the joy of bad books, but this week we have something less usual.

In this day and age, we’ve all seen positive affirmations of some kind. They’re plastered all over Pinterest and Instagram, we see them posted daily on Timelines and Feeds, and I’m willing to bet at least one of you reading has one taped on your wall.

But there are only so many times you can hear “she thought she could so she did” over and over again before it kind of loses its meaning.

So friends, I present to you Unusual Positive Affirmations For Your Writing Life, some odd compliments and unique go-get-’ems to fuel your writing fire that you have undoubtedly never heard before!

Share them, link them, print them, make a tacky wallpaper out of them – do whatever makes you happy and whatever gets you back in the game!

[Self-Care Month] Schadenfreudoptimism

This month is Self-Care Month where I share some tips for writers on being good to yourself – but without lavender-scented BS.

This is a concept that may seem a little mean, but I advocate so strongly for that I invented a word for it: Schadenfreudoptimism.

Basically, it just means having a guilty pleasure but using it to feel better about your career:

Step 1: Go to Your Local Library and Find Something Deliciously Trashy

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Its cover has a swirly font and a purple cover or conversely it has a terrible embossed foil illustration of a dragon, spaceship, or concept car. Either way, it looks like it came out of the 80s but the copyright date says last year. Yes. This is going to be a good time.

Not only that, but look at you getting out of the house! The air is incredibly airy today and they make the trees in ‘green’ now!

Step 2: Check Out Proudly

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Don’t use those self checkout thingies. You slap that mass-market chunk of tree down on the desk and politely ask to check out that book. Revel in any awkward looks and be sure to say thank you. Librarians work very hard and MLS’s are nothing to sneeze at.

This also counts as your human interaction of the day. Achievement Unlocked!

Step 3: Cuddle Up With Something Good

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A glass of wine. A fudge chip cookie. A steaming mug of tea.

Whatever it is, as long as it’s tasty and makes you feel good inside, put it in your face!

Step 4: Enjoy

So here’s the thing about what I call the “junk food books”:


Photo by Pixabay on

You went to the place where books are. You went to the shelf. And you found something wonderfully bad and had a good time reading it and some publisher somewhere believed in this book enough to bring it to life and now you are holding it in your very hands.


Stay tuned next week for some positive affirmations to improve your writing life!

I promise THIS book isn’t an embarrassingly awesome chunk of tree.

inter_linked The Series is the fun, sarcastic story of a girl and her android.

Follow the adventures of Anny and WISR as they try to help every robot they can, while the hardest part of the journey is putting up with each other.

Absolutely free to read:

!FREE WORKSHEET! The Ultimate Query Checklist

Querying is daunting, draining, exhausting, and a bunch of other scary words.

Don’t run, they can smell fear.

It’s probably the scariest part of a writer’s life.

One wrong move, one misplaced comma, forgotten semicolon, or breaking of a “brown M&M rule” and you’re done. Boom. Kaput. Into the slush puddle with ye.

So after reading a multitude of how-to books, swimming in shark infested waters, and a brief stint as a query letter reader and pretending I was a sassy judge , I made a list.

No, not a list. THE list.

The Ultimate Query Checklist!

Before you send off your perfectly polished letter, go down the list and make sure everything is checked off. Then send it to a friend, beta reader, or relevant Subreddit. Rewrite. Go through the list again.

Because checking things off a Fancy Checklist is oh-so-satisfying.

Click the image below to go to my Drive, where you’ll find this and many other fantastic worksheets for FREE download!

Guest Post: J.M. Sullivan With “My Writing Process”

Hello, everyone! My guest this month needs no introduction, you’ve already seen her amazing writing insight on Writers On The Storm! Here is J.M. Sullivan talking about her writing process:

My Writing Process

So there’s a question I get a lot as an author, and it’s one I have a hard time answering, because honestly, it changes all the time.

Chances are if you are a writer, or know a writer, you’ve either heard or asked this question yourself. It’s something many people are interested in, and that’s, what’s your writing process like?

And, maybe I’m just different from most other authors, but aside from the general stages of panic and self doubt (which trust me, are ALWAYS there), I think the process of telling each story has been different each time.

That being said, there are a few constants which frame my overall process, and from there, I connect the dots. This is how it (usually) happens.

1. Planning

Before I begin, I have to figure out the basics of my story. To clarify, I am by no means what one would consider a ‘planner.’ My plans are more of a basic outline for what the overall story arc is going to look like and the main points my characters will hit along the way. After I create the skeleton outline, I know I’ve got the bones ready to hold the rest of my story up.

2. Drafting

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Once I have finished drafting, I begin writing. This is the part where my process gets tricky. Some writers have daily rituals and routines, word count goals, etc. I just write when I can and what I can. Some of my books I have written very quickly, and others (Cough Lost Boy cough) take an eternity. It’s complicated. Kind of like my brain.

3. Revising

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After I finish drafting (whenever that may be), I give myself a small break and then jump back in to revisions. This is where I fill plot holes and gaps that I left in the draft and clean up the messes I made—because what they say is true, first drafts ARE NOT pretty.

4. Re-Revising

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Then (usually somewhere in the middle of revising) I begin re-revising. This happens when a character decides they don’t ACTUALLY want to die, or that the whole middle of the book that I wrote for them isn’t good enough (I’m looking at YOU, Alice) and I end up rewriting a large portion of my original draft. Generally there is a lot of swearing, head banging, and self-loathing involved. Fun. Times.

5. Submit

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When I FINALLY finish the revisions and I have a story that actually is closer to a book than a raging dumpster fire. It’s time to submit. This in itself is a whole other process, but unfortunately, that’s another blog post for another day.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of mixed feelings once the story finally leaves my hands, but the culminating emotion is one I doubt I’ll ever get tired of.

Teacher by day, award-winning author by night, J.M. Sullivan is a fairy tale fanatic who loves taking classic stories and turning them on their head. When she’s not buried in her laptop, you can find her watching scary movies with her husband, playing with her kids, or lost inside a good book. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee. If you would like to connect with J.M., you can find her on social media at @jmsullivanbooks— she’d love to hear from you.

Her newest book Second Star is available now!