Meet Cam Vargas

The boy who stole my heart but confused the fuck out of me while doing it.

Cam is the first character we meet in Hush — he was the first character I wrote, and boy did I fall hard for him. But I didn’t understand him and it took me a long time to figure out why. In the end it seems simple: because he didn’t understand himself. Writing Cam’s journey was an honor and a terrifying responsibility for many reasons. The boy he is at the start of the book is not who he transforms into.

There are two things about Cam that I really wanted to share with you guys today. First, that there were qualities I knew he had from the start that reminded me of my late father. As the book progressed, I really got to help unfold a character who had a very special capability for love and resilience that my father had. People with these qualities – intangible faith in love and caring in all forms — are very special and rare. Because I saw this in Cam, I wanted to give him some of my roots as well, or at least bits of my life and my father’s life. Thinking of my father, and the importance of my heritage, I chose to make Cam’s parents Venezuelan. Cam is born in Nebraska, but his parents were both born in Venezuela. We don’t see a lot of his parents in this book, but I did have an opportunity to share a tiny bit of my own culture in this book that makes me ridiculously happy: when Cam goes home and his mother makes him arepas.

Despite the tensions in his own family, the idea of a family meal steeped in cultural roots was important to me. There was a period of time when I was in high school through post college grad when my Abuela, my uncles, my twin cousins, my sister, my father and I lived together. Sometimes one or two of us were off somewhere, but there was always this sort of core. Some of the best, happiest memories of my life happened over a family meal at my father’s large round dinning room tables. Arepa Sundays were epic — and I suspect a deciding factor for my  husband in wanting to marry in!

In a very short period of time I lost my father, uncle and Abuela. With that, our little family scattered a bit, but whenever we have a chance to see our cousins again, the first thing we plan is an Arepa Sunday (even if it happens to happen on a Thursday). This family tradition was one part of Venezuela that my family held on to, and that we have all carried on with.

It’s a small moment in Hush, but it was put in there with a lot of love!

Aside from delicious food, I do hope you all enjoy meeting Cam. He’s special, he’s a work in progress. He can be dense but is intensely loyal. He’s a wonderful dichotomy of quiet, still waters with a deeply sensual and kind of naughty streak no one, least of all him, suspects.

Until Wren Allister comes into his life.

P.S.: I was going to give you more detailed character stuff, but the squirrel in my got distracted by the talk of food and by all of my feeeeels. Oh well. You can find out all about him in Hush!

~*~

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.

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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!

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.

Grannie Panties and All

A few weeks ago I talked about my naturally squirrely nature. It’s no secret that I fly by the seat of my pants. So it really shouldn’t be a shock when life sneaks up and pantses me.

Of course when you’re not expecting to be pantsed, you don’t have time to put your sexy undies on. When Interlude Press contacted me last year with an offer to publish a book, I’m pretty sure I was wearing those pale pink grannie panties no one but my husband sees (and even then he averts his eyes and everyone pretends it didn’t happen).

This weird metaphor is going someplace. I think.

The point is, I had NO IDEA this was coming. It was so far off the radar. For years my radar had pretty much been stuck between “keep dreaming” and “don’t try because you’ll fail”. Maybe every 108 days that ominous beeping (that’s a reference for my fellow Losties!) obligated me to punch in a string of consonants and vowels, try to pretty them up, then sit back thinking, “never gonna get it”.

Let’s take a moment to jam out to some En Vogue. I’ll give you a second.

Anyway. I’m making myself out to sound rather pathetic, which is not my intent. The truth is that I always wanted to be published, but I lacked in self esteem and suffered from a fear of failure.

Publishing was very much a What If that depended on Some Day.  I don’t know if the universe was speaking to me, but just before Interlude came to me, two good friends of mine got publishing contracts. I was green with envy, but also, began to feel a little warmth near my bum that may have been the start of a fire being lit under it.

I might have been newly motivated to reshelf my publication dreams to another dream category (I can do this, right?), but I certainly was NOT prepared to be approached for publication. Hence, the grannie panty metaphor. In the stuff of fantasies, when someone approaches you about writing gay erotic romance, you should have a leather thong on right? You live in that thong. You breathe sex.

Uh. Suuuuuure.

Those grannie panties were a safety net. They were comfortable. They didn’t propel me into any sort of motion. As much as I wanted to do it, I had fears. I spent a few weeks thinking “there’s got to be a sneaky catch” when they approached me. I have kids and had just gone back to school. I was juggling those with a house and a husband and hardly any time to breathe. Was committing to writing a book something I could believe in myself enough to do?

But, you know, chasing a dream even when it isn’t expected or planned for is kind of a me thing to do.  Writing a novel for publication? Despite lingering apprehension, writing a novel was not only a dream, but a totally shiny thing in what was already a life in upheaval. It was time for me to gird my loins, grannie panties and all, sign a contract, and try to be brave. Make myself uncomfortable. Go on another adventure. Consider that leather thong more seriously.

Honestly, what is more important than my underthings is the fact that I finally took a chance and decided to put myself out there. Hush isn’t just sexy: I put my whole self into it. It’s layered and emotional and all mine. It’s been a crazy ride, which yes, involved lots of pantsing and a few forays into the land of “ohhh shiny object”; it’s been an adventure with a few missteps, but fucking fun as hell too. I hope you’ll take a chance on this book and let me take you on an adventure too.

I won’t promise that I took off the grannie panties while writing Hush, but we can all certainly pretend I wrote it in a negligee.

I wouldn’t want to ruin the fantasy.

Hush is currently available for pre-sale at Interlude Press.

 

(Mis)Adventures of a Pantsing Squirrel

My life is chaos. Like, I won’t sugar coat and pretend that it’s remotely contained chaos. People inventory my life: a 3 year old and a 6 year old, a husband who works long night hours, and two cats with strange emotional issues. Alright, they say, of course this is chaotic.

 Then we have to factor in my decision a year ago to move from being a stay at home mother to a student. My plan: try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life after 6 years at home.

I won’t lie, there was no plan beyond hey I wanna try things out. In my spare time, when I’m not complaining about housework that’s never done, I’ve spent the last four years writing *copious* amounts of fanfiction for fun. My 6 year old went off to school, so of course I decided this meant I could totally go back to school (with an hour commute each way), keep writing, keep up on the house, maintain personal relationships, and somehow become an even more together, self actualized human. This makes so much sense.

I had very little plan, lots of interests, and as always, was a dervish of chaos. Going back to school was great fun — I was auditing courses in different studies. I mean, I could not have tailored a squirreling plan better. I took a class, discovered a shinny thing there, took another class in a different department, and wow that other thing was so shinny, so I darted that way and somehow wound up being pursued by a graduate program I’d never heard of that I would never have seen myself doing.

Somewhere in there, Interlude Press reached out to me and said, “Hey Jude, we hear you have a story to tell.” Oh sure! Of course! I can do that! I have time! Yay shiny things!!  (Okay the real story is a bit different, we can discuss that at a later date).

Side story time! (Bear with me, this happens) When I was in the 6th grade, my friends decided they had had the absolute most they could take of my rambling stories that went nowhere (TO THEM. I always knew what the point was) and started rolling their eyes and saying “What’s the point Jude?” before I could even get halfway through my monologue.

So! Here you guys get to say, “What’s the point Jude?”

Well, thanks for asking! The point is that when you boil me down, there’s two things you should know about me (okay, let’s not be reductive, there’s lots to know about me).

  1. I’m a squirrel. Check my author description and you’ll see in my little bio “My sister says I’m a squirrel, show me something shiny and I’ll dash in that direction.” Touché dear sister. Touché.
  2. I’m a Pantser. My editor, Annie, once lovingly (I hope?) called me a pantser in the middle of a conversation. At first I thought she was somehow referring to the fact that in my stories men take off their pants. My brain does weird things when put on the spot. Turns out she was referring to my endearing (I hope?) tendency to fly by the seat of my pants in all things.

I’ve been tooling around on this blog trying to figure out what I’m doing (story of my life). In so many parts of my life I am unpredictable and unscripted – often my pantsing, squirrely nature gets me into trouble, sometimes it has funny results. Sometimes it makes me a hilarious human being. Often, this just means shit goes wrong.

I know there have *got* to be some of you out there who are squirrels. Who pants life and who often stand around asking, “WTF just happened?” while laughing hysterically. Or crying. Maybe both. If so, hey, you’ve found one of your people! If not, I’ve discovered that my escapades can elicit exasperation and amusement at equal turns. Stick around and maybe I can make you laugh.

Either way, maybe you’ll find some amusement in the adventures I have to share from time to time. As an official Pantsing Squirrel, I can’t make any promises (there are always shiny things), but I’d love to spend some time in the coming months talking not just about my stories, but my crazy, unplanned, chaotic, lovely life, and hearing about yours.

So commence the (mis)Adventures of a Pantsing Squirrel.