Birdwatchers — now on my website

Birdwatchers, an erotic short story, is currently available as a free read on my website. Here’s a little teaser:

Hands fly to cover her naked breasts, but the tempest rages on. She is helpless against it, and I watch. She rolls onto her belly, body still billowing. Her legs curl beneath her, knees to chest, and she buries her face in the blanket.

The gale becomes a breeze and fades into the distance.

She looks at me and sits up. Her body is exposed now, breasts heaving as her breath comes back to her. She keeps her eyes on me while she re-does her hair and rests the sunglasses on her head. She smiles.

“Why didn’t you take a picture?” she asks. “That’s what you came here for, wasn’t it?”

“N… no,” I say. I hold up the camera, fighting the weight of the lens. “I came to watch the birds.”

She sits back and crosses her legs in front of her. She points her toes towards me, then at the sky, then back to me. She licks her lips.

“So…” Her smile deepens. “Watch the birds then.”

Excerpt from Birdwatchers (2017)

You’ll find the link in the Free Reads section of my website.

Semi-socialite

In an attempt to fix those annoying tech issues, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone only to have the subsequent experience (and rest of the internet) tell me it’s not enough—a factory reset would be imminent *DUN DUN DUNNNN*

So I was happy to drag my feet a bit, and found one pleasant side-effect of being app-less. It was only for a few days while work and other commitments pushed the phone reset lower down the priority list. But I found I could focus better on writing and reading.

That “hooked” feeling I’d get from feed scrolling transferred to books and I am so very pleased. I’m getting to stuff that’s been on my TBR for ages, approaching my work with a clearer head, and the weird thing is I’m not even going cold turkey on social media. I just don’t have the apps on my phone right now.

Actually, wait, those are only half-truths. I’m on a “feed restricted diet” right now too 😛 I get five minutes each of Twitter and Facebook a day (unless there’s something undeniably work-related I need to take care of). And now that I’ve reset my phone, I’ve put Goodreads back on there—but you could argue that Goodreads isn’t really a social platform, it’s more like a beefed-up logbook of stuff you read.

I wonder if it’s the combination of convenient internet-enabled devices and engagement-centered design that creates that dangerous combination. When you sit at a computer to do something, you have to sit at the computer to do the thing. But with a smartphone, you can not only spend your precious micro-minutes, but the extra tax of context-switching too.

Or am I the problem? Do I have poor executive function and self-control in the face of digital temptation? 🤔

At any rate, my phone is running smoothly and I’m okay with being a bit less twittery and instagrammy at the moment. My manuscript is running on schedule for now. And I’ve finally been able to pick up Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan and B.K. Bass’s final book in the Night Trilogy 😄

Photo by arvin keynes on Unsplash

Life after Project 365?

My Project 365 is nearly over (and not a moment too soon)! I’ve been thinking about what life looks like once this social media odyssey comes to an end. There’ll be no more catching up for missed days; no more wrangling a buggy app and an ageing space-poor phone; and most importantly, no more cursing the day I decided to start posting a picture a day 😛

I’m only half-joking, of course. Project 365 started out as an aesthetic form of mindfully checking in on something for mental health reasons. A year is a long time, though, and somewhere along the way, this project began to morph into other things too.

1. Creativity motivation

Sometimes I go for days, doing the same things over and over. Write, edit, eat, sleep—lather, rinse, repeat. All the interesting stuff happens in my head, which doesn’t usually make for interesting photos.

Dealing with the pressure to post every day (cos if you miss a post, you have to catch up), and being forced to look at my own grid to keep track of posts, really motivated me to explore more ways to express my ideas visually.

From stock photo choices to post topics, I’m feeling a lot more fluent and confident about sharing what life looks like in the worlds I’m building. I suppose this is one way authors can get personal on social media without having to surrender private data to the Reavers.

Night time in a quiet part of the city. An alley between two buildings, lined with red lanterns.
Photo by Daniils Petrovs on Unsplash

2. Forced learning

In order to get more creative and expressive, I needed to learn more about the tools on hand. If one app can’t achieve the effect I want, how might another app do it for me—or how might one combine both to create something artistic that conveys the right mood?

I’ve also had to learn about IG, what it demands from its users, and what it takes away. I was lucky enough to sit in on a social media workshop hosted by a power user I know, and I gotta say the way this platform works makes me think about vampire covens and the thralls who willingly offer their wrist in exchange for a chance at eternal life.

In case it’s not clear, that’s us. We are the thralls. And only a small subset of us will receive the Dark Gift 🧛 Based on my engagement stats, I’m pretty sure I’m not included in that group.

But, you know, it’s always good to learn. It keeps your brain young and fresh. If I can’t have immortality, I’ll take this instead.

Sources: Tatiana Pavlova / Isaac Quesada on Unsplash

3. A pressing reason to question the role social media plays in my life

The days I’ve spent away from Instagram are so peaceful. Even with a small audience and low engagement, I find myself spending a spoon just to open up the app. Two spoons if the app misfires or crashes, or if well-behaved content gets disappeared for pretending to violate an unspecified rule, or if yet another privacy/data security/corporate abuse of power scandal makes headlines.

But then, the days I’m playing with pictures and text are kind of soothing too; it’s a creative outlet for ideas that churn my coconut. I love having a laugh with friends over silly memes. And it’s nice to share something arty with people. If someone smiles or gets a sweet (or spicy) feeling from something I’ve posted, then I’ve done my job as a storyteller and reminded a person how it feels to be alive. In a world that numbs us with its chaos, I feel this helps us believe in our future.

But is feeding the Gram-pire the right way to go about it? All this rapid-fire content consumption seems to steer us towards a quantity-over-quality mindset. Can a no-name author somehow be part of the social media conversation and still embrace life in the slow lane?

These sounds: even in the haze.

“Seed in God’s Garden” t-shirt by Andre McKee.

So, what now?

Well, once it’s over, my first order of business will be to take a long break from IG. I’m not gonna make some grand speech about leaving the platform for good, because the truth is, I will be back. There’s stuff I like to look at. I just don’t want to drink it through a firehose 🧯

Enjoy the next few Insta posts, my possums. Then we’ll chill out for a bit and check back in later. You can still find me here and on twitter 💖

Remember

Remember when we sat here, sharing kisses and square photos? Tiny specks of rain, freed from overhanging branches, sparkled in your hair. You gave me your heart, I gave you mine. Those were the days we used to shine, before the sky rebranded and the weight of the world shook the ground beneath our feet.

Now you’re up there on the platform, dancing with the stars to a careless stranger’s puppetmaster song, played on mass-produced guitars. We pour concrete over diamonds, laugh about the bad old days when everyone can hear.

But between the sheets we whisper about a hidden place, frozen in time, waiting for us to come home.

It Starts with a Kiss — re-release coming soon

My sci-fi office romance novella, It Starts with a Kiss, will be re-releasing later this year.

Yep, it has taken me this long to get my act together—about seven months from when the book’s original publisher announced they’d be shutting shop. But who’s counting? 😅

No firm dates yet, but it’ll likely be around October/November time. In the meantime, add yourself to my mailing list to stay updated on this book.

The 3 hardest things about writing sci-fi romance

I’ve lost count of how many times I curse my choice of story genre. It tends to happen when I hit particular writing challenges, and end up walking away from my computer in a huff. After a little sulking on the couch, I reflect on the fact that I do love writing sci-fi romance (or romantic sci-fi). I love exploring how people and societies cope in a futuristic setting.

But there are things I definitely find difficult. I consider myself at between the “advanced beginner” and “competent” skill level when it comes to writing, with these three major bugbears that frustrate the hell out of me:

Economies and power structures

In my early days of writing fiction, I read something along the lines of how every exciting space battle is ultimately driven by economy. While love, culture, religion and politics may spark conflict, it takes economic incentive to fuel an all-out war. After all, you need something to make it worth the huge risks, the sacrifices and expense. Learning this secret blew my mind and I’ve never been able to un-see it.

It changed the way I approach my writing. For example, I couldn’t just have characters playing Cops & Bounty Hunters in Chasing Sisyphus. I need to consider the societal structures and economic forces that shaped the circumstances in which the characters find themselves.

Adria isn’t just a bounty hunter, she’s a tiny cog in a dynastic capitalist machine (ie. Basilica City) that’s beholden to an external authority (ie. the Alliance). There are wheels in motion within the city that empower and hinder the police, making it easy for bad cops to abuse their power and hard for good cops to keep the streets safe. That’s what drives Rhys’s frustration and, in many ways, gets him so caught between what he thinks he should do and what the situation calls for him to do.

Beyond my neon-washed room is a Pollock’s shitshow that may never make it into the story, but it’s all necessary for creating a richer world and a more interesting romance.

The technological landscape

Some writers and readers are offended by anachronism. Not me. I find it charming and remarkably relatable as a quirk of futuristic fiction. Looking around my home, my neighbourhood, colleagues and social circles, I see a diverse spread of technology in use. Not everyone can afford the latest hardware, and some devices are capable of surviving many generations of technological advancement.

There’s a lot of scifi out there that only shows a single era of tech as the norm. Or maybe the latest tech + whatever bleeding edge innovation (or ancient artifact) that eventually serves as the inciting incident/MacGuffin of the story. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but I wanted to base my future tech on the diversity of today’s tech.

The world I see today is full of cassette players in petrol-guzzling cars that refuse to die, Android fragmentation across millions of handsets, previous-gen iPhones struggling to keep up with iOS 14.6, tablet cases that mimic typewriters, printed publications that thrive because they’re charming, mechanical keyboards, mechanical watches, and other such affectations.

Technology influences and is influenced by policy and society. Sometimes we keep loving old toys because we are human. This what makes my world.

Culture & society

This is the part that causes me the most stress. It’s actually the least complicated aspect of world building, but one that stands to cause the most upset for contemporary readers. For me, a world that’s enjoyable to write about is colourful and multicultural. But what does culture look like hundreds of years from now when you’ve sent humans into space?

I see a lot of cultural blending where say, two cultures spawn a new intermingled culture in a space colony. My favourite example from big-name scifi is the blending you see on Mars and in the Belt in The Expanse universe, with accents and writing and language from different Earth roots all fused together.

Confession: I’m not that smart or skilled or detailed. My cultural blending for the Alliance Worlds is rudimentary at best. So I’m forever wondering whether my readers will pick up on it, or if they’ll view it like the racist cultural conflations you come to see in monoculture societies today. If a Chinese-named character demonstrates Japanese customs, how can you convey the backstory of a futuristic Sino-Japanese society? And you’d have to, somehow, wouldn’t you—so XYZ reader doesn’t mistake you for some QED rando chump who thinks that all Asians look the same.

Growing up in Southeast Asia and Australia, I’ve gotten to see cultural blending in action, and it occurs to me that this isn’t a typical experience for everyone. If you had never lived in a multicultural society, what would it take for you to recognise one when you see it? And how would you work that seamlessly into a story?

No answers, just work

If you were hoping for answers at this point, I am sorry. I have none.

These challenges plague me throughout the entire creative process, and the only way I can think of to address them is to keep learning and keep writing.

Improving one’s writing skill means increasing how fluently one can express ideas and intentions without jarring the reader out of the story. I imagine this is a worthwhile approach for any writer at every level.

SUNSET sits at 70k words

Mate. Maaaaaaaate. I hit my 70k-word target on Sunset on a Distant World (SUNSET) yesterday and feel absolutely and utterly delighted.

This WIP has been a load on me since 2018. That’s not to say it’s been a burden, as I do feel a lot of love for it—but then, isn’t love simply the burden we accept that brings meaning to our lives? Anyway, I am the donkey, and this manuscript is my very full saddlebag, and my poor asinine spine could do with some rest.

Me, a donkey, chilling in a hammock after writing 70,000 words.

The next steps from here are:

  • A final proofread
  • The nerve-wracking beta
  • Researching agents
  • Querying like a bitch

It’s funny, I’ve been looking forward to this for months, eager to get stuck into the not-drafting part of the process. But now that it’s here, I’m kind of bricking it. What if my work is not good enough? What if it’s too weird? What if readers hate it? What if it’s indulgent and dreck and destroys my chances of a sustainable creative career? What’s the most dignified way I can pass it off as a joke, life as performance art, that kind of thing?

But then I remember it doesn’t matter. One day, I will die. The sun will expand and devour the earth. In the grand scheme of things, one hack story doesn’t stop the unfolding of time and the universe. My worries are nothing compared to the stuff that makes a difference. And in this brief period of my existence, I might as well have a go.

About Henry — out now

A white man kisses the cheek of an Asian woman on the cover of About Henry by JL Peridot

About Henry: A Novella (also known as About Henry) is now available on Amazon. Here’s the lowdown:

Let me tell you about Henry. I could get fired for this, but what the hell.

Julie was perfectly fine, admiring the rich American Henry Aston from a distance. That is, until he asked her out to dinner. But there’s just one problem: CapriLuxe Perth has a strict policy against employees fraternising with the guests.

Sorry, two problems: Henry Aston’s married.

ABOUT HENRY: A NOVELLA presents JL Peridot’s erotic short story, originally published in the notorious CapriLuxe Chronicles anthology, and featured on The Good Bits website and podcast.

It also includes the follow-up story, ABOUT HER, where we discover what happened when the Astons got back from their road trip; what happened after a chance meeting in a cocktail bar on the other side of town; and what happened when Henry finally introduced Julie to his wife.

For anyone saving pennies this month, you can still find the ARC on StoryOrigin until the end of July 🤗

Henry: I have a surprise for you, Julie. / Julie: I want it. / Henry: Are you sure? Yo udon't even know what it is. / Julie: Mm, well, if you're offering, I'll take it.

RSS is not dead, it’s just the LI in a shapeshifter paranormal romance

Remember when RSS/Atom feeds were all the rage and you didn’t have to visit noisy social networks to get updates on your favourite blogs? Instead, you went to your noisy feed reader (eg. Google Reader, Feedburner, Feedly, etc.) and scrolled through hundreds of titles and text previews. Ah, good times.

Well, I don’t want to say those days are gone. They’re not. But they have had to adapt to the rise of social media superpower platforms. I do have an RSS feed on this blog. You can find it at /feed. But I have blog feed on Twitter now too: @jlperidotblog 😄

Not all of my blog posts make it to my main account, so chuck us a follow if you’d like to see the full set of updates* in your timeline.

(* I am not perfect and may sometimes forget to schedule stuff properly)

Admittedly, this isn’t very newsworthy. It’s just a way to test out the automated posting system behind the scenes. Thank you for reading 👋

The importance of stories

Hello from a very swift and sudden 4-day lockdown in Perth, following the discovery of a community-transmitted case of the COVID-19 delta variant in our city. Our State Gov doesn’t muck about. They picked up on the case last night, made the call, and let us all know via a press conference last night.

It’s been interesting observing the news and people’s reactions to things like this. There’s so much distrust and worry, not just around this situation, but built up from situations in the past, and compounded with fears around other things that are wrong—things that may continue to go wrong because it looks like no one’s doing anything about it. There’s a Here & Now side of me looking to find manageable, sustainable actions that I can contribute towards making a difference. There’s also a Helpless Observer side of me who deals with these things by taking notes and writing stories about situations turning out okay.

Stories are so important, I’m realising, and writing scifi and romance fiction at a time like this no longer feels like a frivolous pursuit—I mean, it could be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Map of the Whadjuk Boodja south-western Aboriginal country in Western Australia. Taken at WA Museum Boola Bardip, 2021.
Map of the Whadjuk Boodja south-western Aboriginal country in Western Australia. Taken at WA Museum Boola Bardip, 2021.

One thing that followed me home after visiting Boola Bardip was an idea of the important role stories play in capturing history on the ground. Facts and figures are useful, but they’re not infallible. They can be diluted, reinterpreted, misrepresented, and misapplied, particularly if they’re cold, hard and dry. They are not the immutable trustable truths we’d like to believe they are. Perhaps if we were machines, they might be. But we’re human. And we can’t help but wield cold data the way humans will—for our own purposes. In a way, facts are stories too, but of a different kind.

Stories, and the emotional messages they carry, help us relate to actual experiences of those facts. Writing fiction, therefore, seems like a radical act of preserving history, encoding elements of the zeitgeist between threads of fantasy and fancy in world-building, plot events, character development.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself on Day 1 of this lockdown, as I pace between my study and fridge, shop for more flat-nose-friendly face masks, and procrastinating on my novel WIP.


About Henry: A Novella drops on Friday. Preorder it now to have it delivered to your Kindle. Or grab a review copy while they’re still available. (Whoever I one day hire to review my sales & marketing will probably yell at me for this exact thing I’m doing here 😅)