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

I wrote a book and then….

Crickets chirped into the internet ether on this blog.

Pretty sure I’ve done this twice now, but I’d have to go back to the days after Hush was released to be sure.

The thing about it isn’t that I don’t love blogging (I do), but that I am just incredibly BAD at figuring out how to time things. I wrote Hush and somehow managed to align stars so that I was in serious edit phases at the same time as I was writing What it Takes. The day Hush when up for presale? Was the day I had to turn in What it Takes as a manuscript. I was very tired and emotional that day. The next day I pitched a couple of ideas to my publisher because apparently I can’t help myself? Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of time to write this third book I am working on. Not thankfully, I didn’t really think through what it would be like to try to write a book while IN grad school.

Not easy. At least not for me. I juggled grad school and writing the third book for NaNo (or well, the biggest chunk), but have been struggling to get it all together since. And in the time between those, What it Takes came out. A book coming out is a huge emotional investment and event, and the days after are so weird. Like…is anyone reading? Did they like it? What’s happening in the great old world?? The only thing one can do is check Amazon rankings to see if they change at all and obsessively check Goodreads for reviews (people don’t review as much on Amazon? Not sure why, but I’ll tell you guys, it’s pretty helpful to the author, because once you hit a certain number — 50 maybe? — your book starts to pop up as a suggested book which = more exposure).

I was very lucky after What it Takes came out to get such lovely reviews, it has made me so happy to know that you guys loved it! Keep on reviewing, it makes our days and helps our books 😀

That said, I am so close to a finish line with book #3 I can taste it. But I’ve been trying to do well in school (or well, keep up on readings, I do well in school as a rule), juggle new job responsibilities, and right now, deal with some really heavy life news.

Hence, a tiny bit of silence.

That said, Hush and What it Takes just had some great pre-Valentines sales a bit ago, so if you read and want to chat or ask question or anything, I LOVE that. I love interracting with people!

If I’ve read YOUR book recently, and haven’t reviewed (or perhaps not even recently, I owe Melissa Graves a review for her AMAZING book, Tainted Heart, that came out in OCTOBER how awful am I?) it’ll come! I’m just very behind and overwhelmed. You’ll fine out the most about what’s going on in my insane life at the moment if you follow me on twitter. Apparently I can only handle a commitment to 140 characters at a time 😉 I’m @JudeSierra.

In the meantime, if you have NO CLUE what I’m talking about, both Hush and What it Takes are available for purchase now at:  Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

 

 

Book Review: Bitter Springs by Laura Stone

Okay. M’kay. Let me just…take a breath.

There are so many things to love about this book. The prose is just beautiful. Stone has a gift for creating a rich backdrop for her stories so that the whole experience feels well loved and well rounded. I always learn from her stories. The level of detail and obvious commitment to research make this story shine and are a testament to how very much Stone cares for her craft.

Now let’s talk about what she crafted. Renaldo’s family is EVERYTHING. They made me miss my family so much. The love and care they have for each other was so palpable. Even when both Renaldo and Hank were terrified of what would happen, as a reader, I trusted that Renaldo’s family would love him unconditionally.

Renaldo…oh lord. What a sensual and romantic man. I wish I had a man in my life who spoke to me like he does to Hank.

And HANK. Oh man do I have a sweet spot for complicated, lovely men. His reserve, initially, spoke so well to his vulnerabilities without Stone every having to state them. She showed us. And as the story unfolds, watching Hank unfold, demonstrating how sweet he is, how much he needs and wants love…UGH. MY HEART. His commitment to being an honest and upstanding man was really moving as well.

Bitter Springs is currently available for sale at the Interlude Press webstore, Amazon, All Romance and many other retailers.

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.

(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.

Confessional: Should Sucks

I talk a lot about juggling balls in my life, and trying to find a balance between work, my young kids, and my art. And I am definitely a work in progress, because transitioning from being a full time mom to a student, then to working an hour away (only two days a week, but that’s still 2 days that I’m gone most of the day), and being able to give writing the attention it needs is very hard for me. I do tend to let things slip, and I also give myself a lot of permission to not be productive AT ALL after the kids go to bed. When it’s just me on days my husband works, the complete silence is a gift. My poor brain gets so over saturated by noise and sensory input during the day that if I don’t get some quiet alone time, I start to unravel.

This post isn’t really about writing, but it is a lot about learning to balance parts of my life, and about honoring my needs and limitations, and celebrating successes. I, like many people, have structured my life around should. “I should be doing this”, “I should be able to manage”, “I should be more patient with my kids”, etc.

Should is poison in our lives. It’s toxic and damaging when we let it overcome the celebrations and positive strides we take. On days where my brain feels like it’s shutting down (I really get over saturated by sensory input sometimes), I should only leads to guilt and low self esteem, which spreads into other sections of my life until my failings and shortcomings speak a lot more loudly than anything else.

I often feel as though I am failing at balancing part of my life, and that enjoying writing as an outlet with rewards that are intangible to my family but necessary to me, are bad.

I have long admired women like Joy Harjo, Marge Piercy, and countless others whose stories speak to tremendous will and hard work. Challenges they faced, triumphs they managed to pull out in difficult circumstances, balancing so many things in their lives, are things I often feel like I should be able to do, because I have the intelligence and capability to do so.

I often feel incredibly lazy because there is a lot of time in my life that I could be using differently.

But that really means that I’m not listening to my body and mind. That I am discounting my need to take care of the things that I need for mental health, for good interactions with friends and family, and for flourishing creativity. I discount the many things in my life I balance. All I see are the balls I’ve dropped. Last November and December, I was trying to balance classes, work, trying to get into grad school, my mother being in the hospital for two weeks, NaNo, and edits for Hush; I had a friend ask me if I kept elves in my pockets in order to do these things. But what I saw were the things I didn’t get done, or the ways I should have been able to do them better.

I don’t know if there is a clearer way to convey the message, to you and to myself, that should has the power to destroy positivity, self love and appreciation, and good outcomes in our lives.

In those moths, and January, I helped my mother through a two week, two surgery, emotional roller coaster of an ordeal. I got into grad school, got a perfect grade in my course. I finished edits for Hush, even though I was an emotional wreck that perhaps made it harder than it could have been (oops). I spent two weeks literally on the floor after a debilitating back injury, and I wrote the rough manuscript for my upcoming book.

Should is a word I want to burn away (in the fireplace might be nice, because this winter has been cold as fuck), so that I can let myself say “I am fucking awesome”, It’s incredibly sad to me that tearing ourselves down is a natural state, but that owning how incredible we can be is often, especially for women, seen as bragging, ego driven, self centered hubris.

This week’s confession: I want to learn that I am fucking awesome. I’m not there yet, but there’s not room in my life for not appreciating myself, especially when it takes up or hinders precious time I could be enjoying the gifts in my life.

Well and working on this manuscript, because it’s due soon, but also because it’s a story I love, want to tell, and desire to give my very best to.

Anyone reading this: I would love to see us all working on these positive statements and telling should to fuck off. If you want, I would love to see these messages in the comments or reblogs so that we can all support each other, and cheer for our successes.

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.

Redefining Win

At least, for me. 

As you may have read before, NaNo is something I look forward to all year. It’s something I have “won” seven years (my only not “win” was when I had had a baby 2 months before, and that was more of me realizing on day 2 that it wasn’t for me). Anyway. 

This year in the month of November, I had honestly so much to do, other people started asking me if I had elves in my pockets and how I managed to get any sleep. And because I have a very strict sleep schedule (sleep disorder management), and because almost 33 is too old for all-nighters, the truth is, I’ve dropped a lot of balls. 

The first to go, about 8 days ago, was NaNo. At first I was too busy to really be upset, mostly because my attention was focused on getting the second edit of my novel done, which was just a *thing* because I was really, really stuck on fixing some pacing and structure issues. And this was thing #1 of about 10.

A couple of days ago I posted on another blog that I just didn’t know if I could finish NaNo. Yesterday I was actually actively upset. I was 10k words behind and I know I am just so busy the rest of this month picking up the other balls I dropped that I could not do it. 

The other really hard factor here is that I am suffering from a lot of hand, wrist and elbow pain. It’s actually debilitating: it hurts to do everything, my fingers go numb, I can’t even hold a remote or a phone or drive a car by the end of most days. 

So yes, extra typing just felt like an insurmountable obstacle. Yesterday I decided in my heart I was just going to give up, put NaNo away and be done with it. 

And then I remembered how much I love the story I’m telling. And then I spoke to two of my very best friends and then read this post by my amazing editor and friend Annie, and they all really got me thinking. 

I can throw in the towel because I don’t believe I can get to the 50k, or I can keep plugging away and know it did my best and that I fucking rule for trying my hardest despite the number at the end. And yeah, I want to get to the 50k, if only for the sake of a winning streak and a competitive spirit I have re: myself. If I get it? Happy birthday to me. If not? Happy birthday to me. (Literally. My birthday is Dec. 1st).

Yesterday and today I managed, through crazy pain (IDK what’s wrong with me), to make it to my new daily goal to catch up (2300 words each day). I have about 90% certainty I won’t be able to write Thursday – Saturday, so I might have to define a new normal. Or write 50 words and be proud of myself. 

It’s okay. All of us who are in this crazy mix, especially those of us who are behind or swamped or just struggling — we’re fine. There was a story inside wanting to be told, and we started telling it. 

Ugh, the name game

Naming characters is *so hard* for me. Sometimes I want names from a certain origin or that can be traced back. For example, when I named Wren (I had spoiler alerted y’all to that name in a picture a bit ago) for my upcoming book, I deliberately searched for names with mythical/lore/magical undertones. Any one of those would have sufficed. I found one and then took (borrowed?) another name derived from that. That was quite fun and totally satisfied what I wanted.

Sometimes, nothing fits the way I want though. Right now, I am knee deep in NaNo and still have not settled on a name for one of my main characters. I thought I had a name — which I borrowed from the list of names my husband and I had considered for our second son. I love the name. It has a cute nickname for a younger kid and it has a grown up full name.

Problem: I woke up yesterday, wrote 3000 words and the WHOLE TIME I had to keep going back because I was automatically naming him something *completely* different. I mean, it is from another name galaxy. It’s not even a name I like. It wasn’t on my radar. 

But it feels right. 

See, and here is an example of what I mean when I say that I am just the vessel. Sometimes I feel like the stories I write just come through me, that despite my intentions, they turn left when I planned for them to go right. My characters quite often they laugh at me and tell me to fuck off and insist that I do what they’re telling me is right. I guess this is why I am a pantser and not a planner.

RIght now, I’m in the *place*. Use a name I don’t like but that *seems* right, or go with the name I wanted?