Updates and book recommendations!

Yesterday on Facebook, I admitted that I suck at multiple platforms (is that what we’d call them?). For some reason, I’m great at obsessing over my twitter feed, at posting on Facebook groups (but now my own feed?) and catching up on things on Goodreads (though note to self: DON’T READ REVIEWS. Lol).

Not much has gone on here that’s terrible exciting (related to my writing life). I went on the most beautiful beach vacation up in Caseville, Michigan with my family. Seriously.

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That is, no joke, an unfiltered picture I took from the deck of the cottage we were staying in. That was a lovely vacation– beach, sun (we’ll ignore the slight sun poisoning I got), sleep and BOOKS. I read so much great stuff! Zane Riley’s With or Without You which I reviewed here. It’s a follow up to Go Your Own Way from last year. It’s a series I so highly recommend. I re-read Avon Gale’s Power Play, and because I’m the luckiest girl alive, got to read an early copy of her upcoming book, Empty Net (which is currently available for Pre-order!! And it’s on sale right now). Y’all, this book is SPECIAL. This is by far the best thing I’ve read from Avon, and she’s an incredibly talented writer.

I also went on an L.A. Witt tear, and read two of hers: Ex Equals and For the Living, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And because I am OBSESSED, I re-read Fast Connection by Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson. I love this series, and my love for Dominic Costigan cannot be contained. Finally, I rounded out a week of great reading with Garret Leigh’s What Remains. LORD, I cannot. Please read it. And when you fall in love, go read Becca Burton’s Something Like a Love Song.

Otherwise, on the writing front, I’ve been outlining a new project I am very excited to write. It’ll probably take a while, with grad school coming up, and my first semester teaching at a college level starting. But I’m feeling very inspired, which is good news 😀 If you see me tweeting about #ProjectKeys, that’s it. Who knows what hints might get dropped?

Finally, in exciting news, the release date for Idlewild has been moved to December 1st! You might be wondering wny moving it back is exciting — first because that means I have extra time to really work on making this book as great as it can be. Also, December 1st is my birthday.

Okay, written down those seem like selfish reasons, LOL. Anyway, keep an eye out for stuff related to Idlewild in the coming months!

Finally, I am pondering putting together a book giveaway of some sort… must ponder. But if you’ve been wanting a paper copy of one of my books, stay tuned for more info!

~*~

Both Hush andWhat it Takes are available for purchase now at:  Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

Andrew and Milo Exposed

The things you didn’t know! Today I thought it might be fun to give y’all some little insight tidbits into my main characters from What it Takes that you wouldn’t get in the book. When I did my twitter takeover on Interlude’s twitter account a bit ago, I had a couple of readers ask me what it was like to fit twenty years of story into one book. In a word, hard! It really meant judicious storytelling and knowing a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t have room to write in. There was some fun character stuff — sketches and the like — that I did before the book came out and for my VBT I thought I’d share.

First though, to set the scene, can we look at some pictures of these boys first? I love to use Pintrest to find inspiration, even if I have a pretty clear idea of what the characters look like.

Milo was a little hard to pin down — I have a few pictures that have elements of who he is, but this one is a great one, what I imagine he’d look like at twenty. Make his hair a darker and more auburn red and his eyes a little more slate blue and bam!

face:

As for Andrew…I’d never heard of Alex Pettyfur until I started trolling around for Andrew inspiration but OH YES COME TO MAMA. This man. Perfection for Andrew:

Loove Thi Pic Alex Pettyfer | Photo | corny | Fans Share Images:

So what’s the skinny on the character secrets?

Well for starters,  Milo hates to have people sing Happy Birthday to him. He never got that really at home and it always made him feel too seen elsewhere. He also has really deeply hidden and over the top dream wedding fantasies. Not even Andrew knows about that when they’re kids. Milo also always wanted a Malamute puppy. He wasn’t allowed to have pets as a kid, but when he was ten her read a book about large dogs and fell in love with a picture of one. His list of reasons as an adult for why it would make sense to get one include that they’re good family dogs and laid back, but secretly it’s because they “talk” back when you talk to them. He’s seen videos on YouTube and it’s adorable.

As for Andrew, he secretly writes weird, awful dystopian novels that even he doesn’t like. In the back of his mind it’s because they remind him of Milo. Partly that’s because he doesn’t understand the genre and he thinks that’s something Milo might like based on the kids of books he does like to read. As we see in What it Takes, their reading (and video game) tastes do not really line up. Also, Andrew once harbored a really intense, brief crush on Demi Lovato. He’s still not sure why, considering that he’s pretty much always known he was gay. Maybe it was the blue hair phase, or knowing all of the stuff she’s overcome. She just generally seems kind of badass. Plus, even as a gay man he can admit she’s got a great body.

~*~

Both Hush andWhat it Takes are available for purchase now at:  Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

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.

 

Origins, Part 1

I am belatedly going to announce and squeal over the fact that my first original novel went up for presale this Tuesday. It’s a great deal: if you purchase now, you’ll get the ebook bundle and the print copy for the price of the print copy alone!

Hush is a story about two young men: Wren is one of “the gifted”—a college sophomore with the power to compel others’ feelings and desires. He uses his power as a game of sexual consent until Cameron, a naïve freshman, enters his life. As Cameron begins to understand his sexuality and gain confidence under Wren’s tutelage, Wren grows to recognize new and unexpected things about himself.

Hush is a sexy book. It’s unapologetically sexy: it was a lot of fun for me to explore ideas of consent and sex as a way to demonstrate character development, ideas of submission, consent, growth, trust and love.

This book started as a seedling, a tiny plot bunny that came from the song Dark Horse, by Katy Perry. I was driving my kids somewhere and it came on the radio. Listening to the lyrics I was struck by the way the song balances the idea of magic and the ability to compel, but also that the other person must make a conscious choice to submit to that magic. It’s a sensual song, no doubt. After hearing it a few times, I couldn’t help thinking writing a short story that would expand on the idea.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to really delve into the idea of consent. What would it look like for a person to agree to complete submission that was compelled from them: how to balance that magic with the idea of autonomy?

Because my brain likes to really complicate things, I started to imagine the people who would be involved in the story, and from there, Hush was born. Once I really started to get to know both Wren and Cam, it became clear that there was so much more to them than interactions shaped around their sexual encounters. They both go through remarkable changes and experiences here, and there’s a lot more to their stories past the end of the book.

One of my favourite things to explore between them was the ways in which submission can shape dynamics between to people, and how powerful true submission is: the trust and the knowledge of limits and the gift you are giving back to a person. Submission can be individually motivated for pleasure, but also something shared, something that can speak with more resonance than words. Writing their increased intimacy and the pleasure they could each bring out and give one another was a great character building exercise and experience. Writing an alternate world where people have special abilities was a completely new and challenging experience for me. Stretching out of my comfort zone as a writer has always been a frustrating but ultimately wonderful adventure.

At it’s heart, Hush is a love story, and a story about growth, coming of age, and joy. But happy endings aren’t always smooth and easy journeys, and writing these boys going through them was a great experience.

Behind the scenes were many adventures: the naming of this story has it’s own hilarious back story. Creating this world and the idea of gifted people. The revelations about the characters lives that took me surprise in the actual process of writing it (pantsing squirrel alert). All of these are stories I can’t wait to share with you in the coming months.

Nope, not I, says the squirrel

I have a very big deadline barreling at me — in 12 days to be exact. I predict a lot of stressful freaking out in the next two weeks; it’s been suggested that I could ask for an extension. But that’s a nope, not for me. People function in a lot of ways and I think that process is personal and important to honor. The truth is that deadlines are hard for me. And what I mean is that I have to have inflexible deadlines to function. There’s something about the horror of a close, looming deadline that really gets me working the way I should. I’m a classic procrastinator, and I complain annoyingly as I freak out about whatever I must do, but this is also when I do my best work.

Anyway, yes. Deadline looming, many other projects, including two *more* book ideas, clamoring in my unpredictable brain. This is part of my squirrel nature. Each idea is a new, shiny thing my brain gets so excited about –this is why I call myself a squirrel. My squirrel brain it dashes toward the new shiny, but then there are *more* shiny things and so I tend to leave things half done, or in fragments in my brain. Trust me, my brain is full of shiny things and wonderful ideas, and my execution rate in contrast to those numbers is woefully small.

Hence, deadlines that stay fixed and hard are a great way to keep my squirrely self in line.

Writing Hall of Horror

If you know me at all, you might know that I work from the two crappiest, most unreliable computers in existence. One is really almost dead and is literally falling apart, and the other has never really been the same since it was resuscitated from the virus from hell. I have the constant fear that it will eat my work, but am afraid to use my external hard drive because my friend who performed the Lazarus miracle was unsure if the virus could have infiltrated that. Who has the money to go to Best Buy to fix that? Not I right now.

Anyway, the point is that this weekend I discovered that I somehow did a scary awful horrifying thing. I had been working on my new project in two places. Somehow I had a copy saved in my downloads, and another in my documents, with the same file name. I didn’t even know that was possible!! Only when I sent it to a great friend for advice (and also, after she’d read about 20k words of it) did I realize she was reading an older draft — one she’d already read too, she must have thought I was really incapable of editing.

Thus ensued panic. Like, want to throw up panic. I have a lot of balls I am juggling right now between writing new project with a deadline coming SOON, working on things for Hush (omg the reality of this book almost being in everyone’s hot little hands is SO INTENSE), work, kids having multiple snow days because it was too cold, other writing projects for my other fandom life….figuring out which changes I made where sounded like a hall of horrors I couldn’t even fathom.

Luckily I have an awesome editor who actually knows how to work this newfangled technology (read: Word. I’ve become such a luddite in my old age), and showed me how to compare them. Which is way easier but also time consuming and daunting and takes away from the whole, you know, writing and editing the manuscript in time.

This is not my first foray into the Writing Hall of Horror. There are so many times I’ve been there — I am sure all writers and artists have. Set backs, wrong turns, storylines that just don’t work, having to rearrange book length manuscripts, research that fails — there are so many ways these things can go wrong.

I’ve been asked why I do this, put myself through this, when the rewards seem so little. I assume by this people mean financial rewards, for which there have been none yet in my writing career.

I guess all I can say is that passion, and living dreams, being honest about who you are and that calling in your core — those are the rewards worth more than anything to me. I grew up with an artist, and although I never made art like she, I knew that I had words. I’ve known since I was little. But the rewards people expect you to reap for such hard work (mostly, money, status, prestige) made living that dream in anyway but the fringe seem frivolous.

Once I gave myself permission to do it, to write regardless of what was expected of me, it’s like the whole world opened up. I found that I have great strengths in writing — one of which I explore in Hush, which is the way that intimacy, sex, power dynamics can be used to really examine character growth and development — and that I have things to work on. Luckily, communities of writers and readers exist to help, encourage, give constructive criticism.

Today I’m thinking of the Hall I must venture into in order to sort the shit storm of this dual document hell, the research hell of figuring out where to place my characters, figuring out how much I need to know about one character’s profession, trying to ignore my fears about Hush… but thinking about who I am, how passionate I am about this, how necessary it seems — it’s maybe less scary and a whole lot worth it.