This week I am happy to feature Jessica Wren, author of Ice. Many of you know Jessica from Author Promo Co-op where she is co-founder. Jessica spends a lot of her time promoting Indie and Small Press authors like me, helping to get the word out on out books. It's nice to be able to return the favor.
The residents of Minterville, Georgia (the "Mints") have always relied on The Minter for unity and security. When The Minter, a form of telepathy by which the Mints intercommunicate, goes silent, the Mints are frightened, as silence on The Minter is a signal that there is evil present in the town.
Their suspicious focus on two sinister families who'd moved into town six months prior. On Friday morning, the Mints learn that their fears were justified: twenty women go missing, and it doesn't take long to discover that the families were sent by Manuela Escribano (aka the Ice Queen) to settle a decades-old score with a town resident. Now, the Mints need to put aside their feelings of hurt and betrayal to locate and rescue the missing women before time runs out.
missing. Certainly, Joey would report his mother and fiancée missing. Mr. Tom had not yet
called about Mrs. Carolyn.
I dreaded telling Uncle Andy that Stephanie had not shown up for class, especially after
seeing her with Cierra.
When I asked Robbie if I could borrow his cell phone to make the call, he snapped. Like an
overinflated balloon that finally pops if you blow in too much air, Robbie’s tension level
reached a breaking point. He got out of his seat and bolted out of the room. Everyone in the
classroom, including Mr. Chan, stopped and watched in shock. Tommy and I followed him
out. Robbie made it no further than ten feet outside the classroom when he collapsed.
“Stephanie! Mom! Stephanie!” Robbie sputtered in hysterical agitation.
“And where the hell is Carolyn?” Tommy wondered.
“And Jackie,” I added.
Robbie briefly recovered enough sanity to hand me his cell phone. I do not own a cell phone;
they are so useless in Minterville that I see no point in paying the monthly bill. I spotted Logan
Canfield and Tate Shields, two ninth-graders, down the hall. I noticed that Logan was also
talking on his cell phone, and Tate was looking at him worriedly, as if expecting news. I
motioned for them to join us.
“Do either of you have any idea what’s happening?” I asked. “The whole town’s gone to
“I know,” Tate said. “My aunt’s gone.”
“Your aunt Carrie?” I asked.
“Yeah, and also Logan’s grandma and Sarita.”
Carrie Shields was the mail carrier in Minterville. Linda Canfield suffered from late-stage
Alzheimer’s disease, and Sarita Velasquez, a silent, almost unfriendly nurse’s aide in her late
twenties, was Mrs. Linda’s caregiver.
“Okay!” Tommy tried to take control of the situation. He looked so much like his father that it
was not hard to picture him as the future mayor. If Tommy did ever decide to run, he would
have a fierce opponent in Shay Holmes-Carter, the elder daughter of Walter and Francine
Holmes. Shay made no secret that she had her eye on Mr. Tom’s chair. “Does anyone have
“Not a thing,” I stated as we looked at each other apprehensively. “But to start with, where is
everyone supposed to be?”
“Well, let’s see,” Tommy began. “Jackie would be at home. Mrs. Barbara would be in Eden
II. Mrs. Carolyn would be at the jewelry shop.”
“Aunt Carrie would be at the post office,” Tate added.
“Sarita was supposed to take Grandma to an early morning appointment at the clinic today,”
Logan said. There was no clear connection between any of them.
Stephanie should be here. Clearly, that’s what everyone was thinking, but for Robbie’s sake,
no one stated the obvious. Playing junior detective was going to be a waste of time, so I
started to call Uncle Andy at the police station. Before I could finish dialing the numbers,
Robbie cracked under the tension again.
“Stephanie!” Robbie yelled as he bolted for the exit. For the next ten seconds, the rest of us
were too stunned to move.
Finally, Tate said, “Wow, he’s really in love with her.”
We ran off after Robbie, and caught up with him in the parking lot of Seymour’s Grocery
Store, about a block away from the school. He was not in the best shape, and sprinting at full
speed from the school to the grocery store gave him shortness of breath and a stitch in his
side that forced him to stop and rest. Several customers in the parking lot, who were
undoubtedly wondering why the five of us were out of school at that hour, gave us quizzical
looks. Leonard Seymour, the proprietor, came outside, wondering why there was a
commotion in his parking lot.
“Mr. Leonard,” Robbie said in a panic-stricken voice, “something bad is happening. My
mom is not in the garden. Jackie’s missing. Mrs. Carolyn’s not at the shop, and Mrs. Linda-,”
his vocal cords, paralyzed by terror, stopped functioning midsentence.
“Ginger Wells,” Mr. Leonard said, suddenly wide-eyed with alarm. “She didn’t show up this
morning, and she’s always so dependable. She didn’t even call in. What’s going on?”
“We don’t know, but there are some people missing. All women,” I told him, struggling to
keep my composure. It occurred to me a few seconds earlier that everyone who was missing
was a woman. That could not possibly be a coincidence. Remembering that I still had
Robbie’s cell phone, I finally made that call to Uncle Andy at the station.
“Uncle Andy, something’s going on,” I began.
“I know that, son. We have an emergency. I can’t talk now. Why aren’t you in school?”
Uncle Andy said irritably.
“Uncle Andy, there are women missing.”
“I’m aware of that, Elliot. Get back to--Wait! Elliot, who all is missing that you know about?”
It was clear that a major catastrophe was unfolding.
“Barbara Jenkins, Carolyn Holcomb, Jackie Stein, Linda Canfield, Sarita Velasquez, Carrie
Shields, and possibly Ginger Wells,” I told him.
“Kira Holmes, Tuyen Lam, and Mary O’Brien are also missing. And now Cynthia Harrison
just walked in, so either Dawn, Courtney, or both,” he told me. I could hear the feeling of
helplessness in my uncle’s voice. The sense of dread in me was growing exponentially.
“Uncle Andy, I think I should come to the station,” I said hesitantly.
“Why? Is there something else?” Uncle Andy was frantic.
“Did you talk to Mom and Aunt Jill?” I asked evasively.
“Yes, they’re still at the house,” Uncle Andy probed further. “Elliot, is there something else I
need to know?”
It was time to deliver the bad news. I would not have been able to avoid doing so for too
“Yes,” I said quietly. “Stephanie is also missing.”
Buy your copy of Ice here:
Jessica Wren is a mystery/thriller writer. Her debut novel Ice was published September 30 2014. Ice is a psychological thriller with a touch of supernatural. She is from Georgia, where she lives with her husband, Patrick, and her daughter, Rachel. She is the co-founder of Author Promo Co-op, a group dedicated to cross-promotion and networking for indie authors (https://www.facebook.com/
1. I know you do a lot of work supporting authors with the Author Promo Co-op and I see your promos of other authors all the time. We really appreciate your support. My question is, where do you find the time to do all that? Are you still writing as well?
The short answer is insomnia LOL. In all seriousness, I truly enjoy the networking and cross-promotion that Goes on in APC (and in #IndieBooksBeSeen). It pleases me that so many authors are dedicated to helping each other. I've noticed the trend of posting author features is IBBS and APC is starting to catch on, which is awesome and makes sharing (not to mention finding a great read) a lot easier. One can always find time to do something he/she loves. When I go back to work in August (I'm a teacher), I won't have as much time, but I will continue to do all I can. As of this email, I am about ten chapters away from completing the rough draft of my second novel, a crime thriller called Earth, which is about the Mob in a small Florida town. I've actually left APC in the hands of the co-mods so I can get the roughy draft done by the time school starts. And your support (via blog-featuring) is appreciated as well.
2. You have a lot of positive reviews of ICE. The page length is an unusual one and seems to have drawn a lot of comments. It's way too long to be a short story and a little short for a full length novel but at that length a very good by at just 99 cents. Would you describe it as a long novella?
The response to ICE has been mixed. It has mostly positive reviews but a lot of contrasting feedback. I am grateful for everyone who has taken the time to read and provide feedback (even if it's critical). The only way to become a better writer is to pay attention to readers and see if there is anything you can learn from each review. A few issues have come up many times (one of which is that many readers are finding it hard to keep up with the characters. This is a fair critique, seeing as how I pretty much make everyone in town a main character). This lets me know what I need to do better. Based on the feedback I got on ICE (which thankfully, as you mentioned, most readers liked), I am choosing a different narration technique for Earth and spending more time on character development. I think Earth is going to be twice the length of ICE, which actually started off as a short story that I had planned to enter into a Halloween-themed contest. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline, but the plot just grew in my head until it turned into a novella. So, yes, I think long novella accurately describes it; it doesn't quite meet the word requirement to be officially called a novel.
3. What books influenced you growing up? What led you to writing and choosing paranormal mystery as the genre of your first book?
Stephen King is my literary hero. I've read pretty much everything he has written, except for his newer releases. Since publishing, I have read mostly indie books. By the way, I have to disagree with anyone who says indie books aren't up to par with traditionally published books. That's not what I'm seeing. I have reviewed around 50-60 indie books since last September, and while quality varies, most of what I'm seeing is just as good, if not better, than trad books. Indies are taking their work seriously and behaving like professional writers. Plus, I actually prefer indie now because the books tend to be multi-genre and (something extremely important) in the writer's own voice. I know I got off topic, but I am a major advocate for giving indie books a try. If something isn't up to quality, try a few more. As I said, the vast majority of indies take their work seriously and strive to produce the best quality they can. But back to your question: Stephen King has been my biggest influence, and while in college, I also became interested in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (ICE is loosely based on One Hundred Years Of Solitude), Isabel Allende, and Laura Esquival, which is why I decided to experiment with magical realism. I was reading The Hunger Games series while writing the rough draft to ICE, so I can also thank Suzanne Collins for her inspiration. As for my choice of genre, it's more magical realism than paranormal; the supernatural elements (which have received mixed reviews) are mainly symbolic and not intended to be major plot devices. Earth will be a crime thriller/romance combination with no paranormal elements. I don't intend to give up magical realism-a sequel to ICE is in the works-but I like experimenting with genre combinations.
4. What have you learned since publishing your first book that you wish you knew beforehand?
I have learned that, like any profession, networking with colleagues is a must. One of the first thing I heard was 'market to readers.' Ok, but readers don't come in neat little groups to market to. I consider everyone, including fellow writers, to be potential readers. I used to self-promote a lot at first (a stern lecture from someone who I shall decline to name here broke me of that) but I have since learned that cross-promotion is much more effective and less time-consuming. Another important lesson I learned is it is essential to avoid, at all costs, negative people. Hanging around with folks who seem to delight in bringing others down kills your motivation to write. I've learned to be a lot more selective about who I choose to associate with. A writer's group doesn't have to be sunshine, rainbows, and cupcakes to be a helpful, productive group. If the environment in a group is so hostile and toxic that productive discussion is impossible, it's time to leave. Additionally, I wished I'd read up more carefully on formatting; I honestly had no idea that it has to be formatted a certain way to show up properly on Kindle. There are many things I've learned along the way, but these top the list. Experience really is the best teacher..
5. You have already convinced me to buy your book. What can you say to other folks that are reading this that might convince them to do the same?
Why, thank you, and I hope you enjoy it :). As Rose has mentioned, ICE has been generally well-received, and I have been compared to Stephen King several times in reviews. If you are King fan, you'll likely enjoy ICE. It has also been described by several reviewers as 'different' so it's no cookie-cutter crime thriller. Most reviewers said, in one way or another, that the themes of community, hope, and redemption were their favorite parts of the book. I would urge anyone reading to be willing to take a chance on an indie novel. You may be in for an unexpected treat. Ice does contain scenes of graphic violence and some profanity (I feel it's only fair to warn potential readers), but it's not overdone. If you do choose to give ICE a try, I sincerely thank you. If crime novels aren't your thing, try other indie authors who write in your preferred genre. They are well worth it.
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