“A story about two young men coming of age.”

This past weekend I received a wonderful review from one of my advanced readers, and there were some lovely parts that just hit the nail on the head, articulating the things I was aiming for and worked hard for while crafting this story.

At its core, Hush is a story about two young men coming of age and finding themselves….The chemistry is electric. The sex is hot. But growing up and figuring out how to be vulnerable is at the core of the story. And that’s what had me hooked.”

Vulnerability and discovery were definitely core themes in this book, so I am thrilled that I was successful in conveying that.

Additionally, completely selfishly, I got such a kick out of her love for my cast of side characters:

But this book is more than a romance – and part of the reason you get to know these two men so well is a really compelling group of supporting friends. Maggie  – likeable, outgoing, wise, confident, Nate – Cam’s easy, supportive, relationship-reluctant roomie, and Nora – gifted, emotional, easily connected and Wren’s best friend. This gang of friends helps open up both the main characters, and creates a college world of fun and quirky chaos.”

Each of these characters was great fun to write, and I’ve fallen head over heels for them. Leaving them behind when I finished this book was bittersweet.

Watch my blog in the next few weeks for sneak peeks at each of these characters!

Thank you so much to Gleekto for the fabulous review. To read it in it’s entirety, head on over here!

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Down the bunny trail, yet again

One of the worst things about being a squirrel is that when something shiny rolls off in the periphery and distracts the ever living crap out of you, something gets dropped. Generally it takes me a while to come down from the ohhh shiny high; sometimes the distraction is sexy enough to hold my attention for a while (by sexy I generally mean intellectually sexy, because I’m about 99% in my head at all times). I am very much like this about writing projects.

Fun ideas come to me often — sometimes in the form of a word or a song. Often those little plot bunnies are interesting enough to warrant a trip down the bunny trail (that sounded really sexy but also maybe the wrong kind of sexy even though it’s not meant to be at all). And rarely, but notably, these little forays reach full on, obsessive levels of shiny object insanity.

One of these plot bunnies took over my life last November during NaNo, and I was lucky-ish that this coincided with edits for Hush — not because that wasn’t it’s own hell, juggling to incredibly different stories at once — but because there were other commitments I could drop. Things like getting ready for the release of a debut novel…

(hint…right now. 24 days and counting WTF how is this my awesome life?)

I managed to close out one phase of writing that story in March, which was great because yay! time to breath. But alas, there are always bright objects in the universe…so yes, right now, I am currently lost in the woods chasing a very wily rabbit, which is incredibly inconvenient timing.

That said, there really isn’t anything shinier (that…doesn’t look like a real word to me…but there’s no wavy red line under it, I’ll tentatively trust you spell checker thing, don’t make me regret it) than what is going on right now…getting ready for a virtual blog tour, finalizing things on Hush, starting to get feedback on Hush that went out to advanced readers. Seeing your book through other peoples eyes is terrifying but also amazing; I will always know each intention behind my story, the arcs, the characters and what motivates them. Other readers will not which can be an anxiety producing concept. However, one of the best things we bring to a table as readers are our own filters. That’s what makes a book you pick up off a shelf and fall in love with yours.

As far as my book goes, I won’t pretend that I don’t hope it finds its way onto that yours shelf of yours.

(that sounded better in my head) (just run with it) (or as I like to do, run away with it)

– J

Hush is currently available for pre-order at Interlude Press and will be released May 19th. For a chance to win a free copy, head over here!

Library Journal Review of Hush

I could not be more over the moon about the lovely review Library Journal gave Hush:

“In her debut novel, Sierra explores Cam’s emotional confinement and burgeoning self-discovery with poetic delicacy, as she does with Wren’s guilt and complete fear of relinquishing himself to the vulnerability of a relationship. Through a great deal of character exposition, Sierra skillfully captures the frustration of navigating identity and interpersonal relationships for those to whom it doesn’t come easy. The subtle twist of fantasy enhances the narrative while also complicating the notion of consent…it is a worthy read and a valuable addition to the genre.”

Hush is currently available for pre-order at Interlude Press and will be released May 19th. For a chance to win a free copy, head over here!

Book Review: Love Starved by Kate Fierro

Last week, I had the wonderful fortune to get an advanced copy of Fierro’s fantastic debut novel, Love Starved.

What I loved most about this book: it took me by surprise over and over. Is there anything more entertaining than a book that transports you, that takes turns you weren’t expecting and keeps you turning the pages because you just have to know? 

Love Starved is a story about Micah Geller, 27, a man who works in information security and lives an independent, successful, and slightly lonely life in Minneapolis. While he tells himself he isn’t lonely, and that he doesn’t need love, Fierro does an excellent job showing us that he is and does with restraint that makes us feel it. Early in the book, his friend Daphne challenges his assertions that he doesn’t need love or physical connection and gives him the name of a personal escort who specializes in creating custom fantasy scenarios for his clients.

The initial premise of the book — that Micah ends up asking Angel for one night to show him what it feels like to be loved — compelled me. This is the place where the book begins to step away from a common trope we’d be expecting in a romance about a lonely man calling an escort. How on earth was Angel going to pull this off?

I don’t want to give away the plot of the book, but I will say that this was the first of several turns the book took that elevated it from any expectations I had. I literally couldn’t put the book down — whenever I thought I could (mainly because my kids wanted to play or I had to make dinner) — I got sucked back in by a twist I didn’t see coming. It takes a great writer to pull this off effectively, while maintaining a believable chemistry and unfolding a relationship (or potential relationship).

There are many things I could praise Fierro for, but one in particular I wanted to single out: the way she handled Micah’s romantic history. It is incredibly hard to write about someone who has been burned by love without making it too cliched, too saccharine, or too expected. From the start I thought Micah’s heartbreak was going to be a story of a lost lover and longing for him. But it very much wasn’t. And what’s better, Fierro doesn’t just tell us what happened: she shows us slowly and organically. She doesn’t explicitly tell us that it Micah was emotionally manipulated or that he spent two years learning to believe that what he got — not much — was what love was, and what’s more painful, that that was the most love he could expect or deserved. Through this story, we get the privilege of watching Micah unpack this past in a natural progression that very much honors the real life work that is healing from an emotionally manipulative and painful relationship. Watching Micah learn just how much he’s worth and what love between two people can be — not just something he deserves, but something he has to give — felt like an honor.

This book is the perfect romantic read: well written, a plot that keeps you hooked, with a love story you can’t help but root for.

Also, high praise for her cover artist, who captured beautifully one of the highlights and themes of the book with her depiction of starlight behind the characters.

Love Starved is available for pre-order at the Interlude Press store, and will be released on April 21st. Order now and you’ll get the eBook bundle free with the purchase of the print book. For a chance to win a free copy of the book, enter giveaways here.

You can find Kate Fierro at Katefierro.com as well as @kate_fierro on twitter (which I recommend following, if only for her awesome daily plot bunny tweets!)

Hush Giveaway!

Free books are awesome right? I am so pleased to share a free book giveaway for my debut novel, Hush.

Hush is an erotic m/m romance that chronicles the relationship between Wren, a man with the gift to compel other people’s feelings and desires, and Cam, a naive college freshman. Under Wren’s tutelage, Cam begins to understand his sexuality and gain confidence in himself. Over time, what started as a game between them intensifies and becomes more complex than Wren expected, forcing him to examine his own fears and choices.

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If you’re in the US and want to get your hands on one of five print copies of Hushenter the Goodreads giveaway. The winners will be announced on May 26.

For a giveaway of three multi-format ebooks of Hush, available both in the US and internationally, click on my Rafflecopter giveaway instead. There are over 40 days left in that one!

Hush will be released by Interlude Press on May 19th. It is available for pre-order with an excellent deal right now — for the price of the print book, you get the ebook free!

Who is This Squirrel Though?

By now you might be asking yourself, who is this lady claiming she’s a flighty woodland creature? I could do the usual Q & A here, but I thought it might be more fun, and informative to do a sort of different one. So, here ya go. Five things about me you never knew you were dying to know!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an epidemiologist and I wanted to study viral hemorrhagic fevers, specifically filoviruses like Ebola. When I was about 13 I was OBSESSED with reading books on outbreaks — I think I’ve read William Close’s Ebola at least 20 times. I kind of want to read it again now that I’m talking about it. I felt like I went through an *experience* reading about those poor Flemish nuns.

We can thank patriarchy for this not coming true — at some point I did some research, read that it was very hard for women to get jobs in this field, convinced myself I was not smart enough and that I’d never make it anyway because I’m a woman. (Once I hit my late twenties, I realized this is patently untrue and had a small moment of mourning for all the time in my late teens and early twenties spent buying into this crap).

What would we find under your bed? 

Two battered storage totes containing file folders with old paperwork such as paychecks, over a years worth of printouts detailing finances from my early marital years, letters sent and received in my teen years, a few knick knacks from my room when I was a kid, random cords to electronics we probably no longer own, lots and lots and lots of dust bunnies and socks. The only monster under there is regret that I lost the computer files with the templates for those spreadsheets because they were fucking complicated and awesomely detailed.

Have you ever eaten a crayon?

To the best of my knowledge no. But thanks to the friends episode where Monica, Chandler, Joey and Pheobe get stuck in Monica’s room while Ross and Rachel break up, I feel like I’ve been assured that if they could eat the leg wax, I might be able to eat a crayon if I absolutely needed to. I’m not sure I should use a 90’s sitcom as a reference point, but eh. I’m gonna.

What was the scariest moment of your life? 

Hold on to your hats for this story m’kay?

When I was eight (my sister was ten), we went to visit our grandma who lived in Pennsylvania. We flew alone (you know, with all the paper work for minors flying in this folder around my sister’s neck). For the second half of the flight, we were in one of those tiny puddle jumper type planes (IDK that’s what we call them).

So we’re getting close to the airport, only there’s a really bad storm and the pilot has to circle for a while waiting for it to pass. Okay, now I’m not a pilot and I was 8, so what I remember was that at some point he decided to go for it, I have no idea why. So we’re descending when the airplane hits an air pocket and begins to fall out of the sky. People hit their heads on the roof of the plane and were bleeding, luggage went flying, I saw my tiny life flash before my eyes. Luckily the pilot manages to like, shoot us upward and not kill us and then has to fly at an airport in Maryland because of potential damage to the plane.

Okay, so that’s only HALF of the story. Above is the part that was terrifying to my 8 yo self. Below is the part that as an adult with kids, I cannot believe actually happened and ended well.

We’re sitting around in this random airport when they decide we cannot get back on the tiny plane due to actual damage, and there aren’t any other flights. It’s just my sister and I, and as some point the airport people began to kind of lose interest in figuring out what to do with us. We’re sitting next to a nice woman who has been keeping us company. I’m guessing at this point that all the adult passengers have been solving their own transport problems — many of them decided to take taxis or something to get to the other airport. Nice lady decides to offer to carpool with us, and then a random priest asks if he can come too and of course, the more strangers the merrier right? So yeah, they stick us in a car with them. THEY DO NOT INFORM MY GRANDMOTHER, WHO IS TEARING AROUND HER AIRPORT TERRIFYING PEOPLE WITH HER WRATH.

Like, they had no idea we had been put in a car with total strangers and driven off.

Thank goodness this lady and priest turned out to be actual honorable humans to did deliver their payload (us) into my grandmothers arms.

Oh man, if I was any adult in charge in that situation, I would fear for my life in the face of my grandmother’s ire.

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? This questing feels a little like a let down after that last story, but I thought I should include an actual authorly question in here!

Yes. I don’t really think about genre when I have a story to tell. What the story wants, it gets. Hush is unusual for me only because it’s the first paranormal book I’ve written — I do tend toward real world romance. But I’ve written YA, dystopian future (that was fun, that had a poly romance and I loved writing that so much).

Are you feeling a burning desire to know more? Ask away 😀

My first novel, Hush is currently available for pre-sale at Interlude Press.