Stuff to share: Feb 2022

It Starts with a Kiss is on sale for 99c across a bunch of ebook retailers until the end of this month.

Vibes & Feels by Sarah Skye launches on the 22nd of this month.

The first five chapters of Sarah Smith’s The Close-Up is available on NetGalley.

There’s a fantasy, sci-fi romance and paranormal romance book fair going on at StoryOrigin.

Robecca Austin’s latest billionaire romance is currently available in Kindle Unlimited.

This red hot romance ebook sale is running until 1 March. All books going for $2.99 or less.

Book 5 in A.R. Vagnetti’s very hot paranormal romance series recently dropped. Fatal Storm is is available now.

This book sale on StoryOrigin features steamy romances with fantastic heroines.

Finally, here is Burning Love, an all-genre book fair for steamy, consensual romances.

500 words is fine today

After giving up on writing over the weekend, I fired up the old word processor today and cracked out a healthy 500-word session. Granted, it took about an hour and a half, but I reckon I’ll use every one of those 500 words and then some.

500 is looking to be about my average for a reasonable writing session. That’s not bad considering about 3 years ago, I was aiming for 350 words. Last year’s NaNoWriMo saw me hit up to 2000 words per day, but numbers like that make it easy to hide the amount of planning, preparation and perspiration that goes along with it.

It’s hard to let go of the high-pressure unsolicited advice the well-intentioned “experts” will throw at you—that you should smash out a mega word count everyday otherwise how can you call yourself a professional writer? Maybe that’s the go for journalists and content mill bloggers, but maybe—just maybe—there’s also another way to exist? This is a big, diverse world with many ways to hustle. Surely “publish or perish” and toxic productivity narratives are on their way to becoming a thing of the past?

This year, I’m (practicing) giving myself permission to be okay with a lower word count (until the next NaNo challenge). Six years is enough time to observe that perhaps I do have a process that works for me when I lean into it. 350 words worked back when it was the season for it. Last year’s NaNo worked during NaNo month. And 500 words works just fine today.

Fresh Find: They Visited Cruelties Upon Their Savior by Vince Salamone

Vince Salamone writes incredible words. Beautiful words. Foreboding words. His dark fantasy has an imaginative and emotional charm that packs a satisfying punch. I do have a Salamone favourite, but it’s not currently accessible online.

This piece, however—a vivid and elegant dark fantasy short—can be found on Reedsy and is well worth a look:

Hinting for good luck

Work has begun in earnest on a “new old” writing project. For some reason, it seems like bad luck to try and tell people about it, yet dropping hints doesn’t feel quite so scary? I think somewhere along the way, I’ve come to attach superstition to my writing process and now can’t seem to shake it.

That said, I do often hear that if you want to finish a project, you should beaver away at it in the background and not tell anyone until it’s done. Because talking about what you’re doing can put you in precarious positions such as:

Tricking your brain into thinking it’s done, because you get the desired excitement, respect and/or admiration from the people you’ve told. I guess that’s the psychology behind why sometimes people make promises when caught up in the moment, but then neglect to keep those promises. The incentive is gone because they’ve already been paid off with excitement.

Coming across like you’re open to feedback, which can be remarkably destructive when the feedback comes from people who a) aren’t knowledgeable about what you’re working on, b) aren’t familiar enough with you and your methods to tailor their advice, or c) are salty sour-pusses who speak from a place of jealousy or self-loathing. That said, feedback can be super constructive when it’s from the right peers.

Getting fed up with the project because that time you spent talking was a poor use of effort as it didn’t get you closer to completion. Nor did you get to take a break from it to recharge. The fatigue is real. It’s perhaps the reason why we’re often told to get some space from our work in order to produce higher quality output.

I’m sure there are more precarious positions in the mix, but these seem insidious enough, and I know I’ve run into at least two of them many times over the years.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with talking about our work, but I think in this case, after getting stuck on this project—code named “SATINE2″—for so many years, I’ll stick to hinting cryptically about it.

Just for good luck.

Fresh Find: Hot Girl Summer by Sonia Palermo — cover reveal

My dear friend, author Sonia Palermo, is releasing her debut novel next month! Courtesy of Xpresso Tours, this is our first glimpse at the gorgeous cover for a steamy contemporary romance about forgiveness and fresh starts.

A woman in a short black dress takes a photo of a man in a white shirt and a dog wearing a kerchief. They stand on a pier looking out at the London Eye on the cover of Hot Girl Summer by Sonia Palermo.

Hot Girl Summer
Sonia Palermo
Publication: March 14th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Sophia DeLuca is over casual hook-ups. Between her sister’s eating disorder, her track record of falling for fuckboys, and a lifetime of being written off as a shallow flake, “failure to launch” may as well be her middle name.

Under false pretences and a fake name, she meets Danny Pearce, an obnoxious musician on the opposite end of the millennial spectrum. Danny is cocky, rude, and a contender for fuckboy of the year.

After a series of serendipitous encounters and a secret gig, Sophia unexpectedly falls for Danny. But when he is faced with his own demons, Sophia must reclaim her power and forgive the past, or risk losing the only thing that’s real.

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

About the author

A brown-haired woman with striking eyes subtly smiles.

Sonia Palermo writes fun, sexy, steamy contemporary romance with sex-positive, sassy-but-soft heroines and cinnamon roll heroes.

Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram

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Text in image: Xpresso book tours

Reflections on The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Lately, I’ve been thinking about our climate future and it stresses the hell out of me. I blame it partly on starting Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl just before a big heatwave, which was followed by a small heatwave, and now here we are looking forward to a peak of 40°C (104°F) on Wednesday. And did you know that recently one of the towns up north hit 50°C (122°F)? Hnnnnngggggh

Getting into cli-fi at this point in recent history was maybe not the smartest choice. Or is it a necessary choice? Only time will tell.

The Windup Girl is a dystopian science fiction novel set in a futuristic Thai Kingdom that is weathering the storm of climate change, genetic modification, commercial greed, corrupt politics, “colonial” expansion and more. The Kingdom holds fast where other nations have collapsed or capitulated. Its citizens are tenacious.

The world-building was incredible, although maybe I’m biased at how Southeast Asian it was. I saw pieces of my culture in it, which is naturally enticing, though it was kind of weird seeing words I grew up with get italicised as if they should be treated as something other than ordinary. Not grumbling; I understand why it must be so.

I did catch one snippet of Mandarin that struck me as oddly Western influenced, which either speaks to my poor grasp of Mandarin or an intentionally clever hint from the author about the history of the world in his book. The idea of the latter tickles me, as one of the book’s themes is the relationship between East and West.

I couldn’t disagree with some of the less flattering reviews on Goodreads, but strangely the shortcomings they described ended up being things I enjoyed about The Windup Girl. The detached writing style left a lot to the imagination, especially when it came to the characters’ motivations and emotional states. And ironic as it sounds, this just made me get more invested in the characters and the story.

I was going to say something here about how writing romance has taught me that more exposition around thoughts and feelings is needed to guide readers through an emotional journey… but that’s not true, is it? For example, one of the things I love most about Stefanie Simpson’s romance books is that her style has elements of this too. I sense “gaps” when reading her work, and I instinctively want to fill them with my own interpretations and empathy.

The Windup Girl was an uncomfortable and at times stressful read, but it’s also artfully written (if you have a sense for those “gaps”) and features fascinating characters with well-considered flaws. Personally, I also loved the underlying messages and ideas that surfaced at the end. Even with a slightly ugly dystopian finish, they offered a glimmer of hope.

An elephant-like creature and robed people walk the market streets in futuristic Thailand on the cover of The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Starting the new year with a whisper

My 2022 has begun with deactivating a bunch of social media accounts. As of today, you won’t find me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, save for my blog feed.

Please know this isn’t some cry for help or a rage-induced impulse. My relationship to social media has been something I’ve questioned for a while. For easily over a year, or maybe longer now.

This week, I read Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by technologist Jaron Lanier, and it’s driven home a heap of my concerns. There’s nothing inherently wrong with technology that allows us to reach out to others and develop meaningful connections. I’ve made amazing friends through social media, who I’m very grateful to have in my life today.

It’s just that I don’t feel comfortable in those spaces at the moment. It’s partly me and partly those platforms’ engagement-driven business models. I don’t like what my chopped up feeds are doing to my brain and attention span. Every time I load up those giants, I feel overwhelmed and burnt out before I even get to scrolling. It’s a price I seem to be paying for a product I’m not sure I like.

This isn’t by any means a dig at you if you’ve chosen to stay on there. Social media platforms do make a lot of things possible, and you’re most likely better at managing the discomfort than I am.

I still read and follow people’s posts on those platforms where I can. I’m just not Follow-ing them now, if that makes sense. This is an experiment for me. Whether it suits or not remains to be seen. But for the time being, it does feel right.

To anyone feeling even a little pinch of fatigue, anxiety, foreboding or concern when it comes to social media, I highly recommend Jaron Lanier’s book. You don’t have to “delete your social media accounts right now”, but you certainly do have a right to know what it is you’re participating in.

If you’d like to hear about me, I have a Goodreads profile and a Bookbub profile.

If you’d like to hear from me, I send emails via a low-noise newsletter, to which you can always reply for a chat. Or you can just get in touch.

My 2021 in lists

Work I released this year

  1. O, swear not by the moon (a novelette in Star Crossed)
  2. About Henry — A Novella (re-release)
  3. Microfiction via Dot Club
  4. It Starts with a Kiss (re-release)
  5. Iteration Eleven (published by HyphenPunk magazine)

New things I learned about

  1. Autism (specifically, mine)
  2. Hyper-mobility (also mine lulz)
  3. World War II history
  4. Some of my family history
  5. Art, drawing & digital painting

What I wish I did less of

  1. Fear procrastination
  2. Getting injured
  3. Eating junk food

What I wish I did more of

  1. Reading books
  2. Research & writing for The Basilica Conspiracy
  3. Speaking up for myself

Books/Stories that grabbed me

  1. After my Before by Stefanie Simpson
  2. Summerland by Hannu Ranjaniemi
  3. A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo
  4. Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan
  5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Movies that grabbed me

  1. Casablanca (1942)
  2. Stowaway (2021)
  3. Hot Rod (2007)
  4. Tenet (2020)
  5. Dune (2021)

What I’m grateful for

  1. Family
  2. Broadband internet
  3. The health I do have
  4. My pastry friends 🥐
  5. My physiotherapist (it’s amazing what you can do when your health practitioners have a positive attitude)

My hopes for next year

  1. Tidy up my life (literally, it’s a mess) so I can work and live better
  2. Keep my health markers at healthy levels
  3. Consume more SFF and educational books
  4. Get SUNSET to a publishable state
  5. Finish outlining The Basilica Conspiracy

Iteration Eleven — a short story

My latest story, Iteration Eleven, has just been published by HyphenPunk, a magazine that examines the human condition through a postmodern lens.

The stories they publish really sit with me, and I’m absolutely stoked to have my work included in their collection.

Iteration Eleven is a quiet cyberpunk horror flashfic. I’ll estimate it’s about a 5-minute read.

Read Iteration Eleven in HyphenPunk magazine

Fresh Find: Etched in this Moment by Calla Zae

Calla Zae is an otherworldly and contemporary romance author, and a busy one to boot! Fresh off the back of a September release, she has a brand new book out for your reading pleasure.

A false identity romantic suspense, Etched in this Moment sees Sofia battling her desires for the determined detective who just might be her undoing.

An interview with Calla Zae

JL PERIDOT: What’s the deal with Sofia? Why is she in hiding?

CALLA ZAE: Sofia is a woman who’s at a crossroad in her life. She moves across the country in search of her purpose in life, and she dates a cop. Like many of us who feel lost, we often gravitate toward people who we think are “good” for us. Sofia is no exception.

When he reveals the monster in him, she ran.

JL: Theo embodies the archetype of a protector in this book. What do you love most about the protector trope in fiction?

CALLA: We all want to be safe and secure. Love gives you that. A safe environment allows a child to grow and an adult to mature. When we feel safe and loved, there’s this liberation that allows us to be ourselves. We can show the world who we are. With that mindset, we can reveal our talents. When someone loves you in a way that allows you to feel safe and secure, you grow wings. You are free. You can explore any destination you want.

At least for me, that’s how I see it and that’s what I love about the “protective” trope. 

There are so many good books with this kind of hero. The most recent one I read was the Mount Trilogy by Meghan March. I loved the way Lachlan Mount protected Keira.

JL: So, from your creative beginnings, how did you come to write otherworldly and contemporary romance?

CALLA: I have a fashion design degree and worked in the fashion industry for a while. But during that time, I also wrote stories on the side because stories feed my soul. So when the pandemic hit, I had to stay home with my young kids due to virtual school (an experience that confirmed I’m not a very patient person! Lol!), I took a leap of faith and published my stories. Initially, I had wanted to query an agent. But like I said, I’m not a very patient person. Besides, I believed in my stories. I believed in myself. And when you have that kind of conviction and ambition, you create your own magic. The Universe will follow suit with your desires.

Art plays an important role in everything I do. It affects how I think and see things. Creativity is the breath of life for me. When I write, I use a large portion of my brain—the intellect, the discipline, the linear way of thinking that chapter two goes after chapter one like placing one foot in front of the other in a logical manner.  But when I create art, I tap into my heart, my intuition. I go sideways, upside, inside out; it doesn’t matter if it makes “sense.” Art is all about how you feel when you look at it. As long as the art makes you feel something, then you’ve made something worthwhile. 

I believe emotion is where the magic is.  I like to think that my brain and heart are creative muscles that I use every day, so I try to flex them as much as possible. When I’m stressed, I turn to art. Art shuts down my brain, and I enter a quiet space that resets my mind. Art therapy is healing. Writing can be healing too, depending on what you write. Writing in a journal is different from writing a difficult plot. Art and writing are different forms of creativity, and I believe both are important in a soul’s journey.

JL: And when it came to this romantic suspense…?

CALLA: Etched in this Moment is set in Coolidge Corner, an active shopping area in Brookline, Massachusetts. It’s adjacent to Boston. I went to college in Boston and enjoyed the energy of the city. I wanted to write a contemporary story set in an area I was familiar with. I wanted a romance with a sense of danger, mystery, sophistication, and steam. It’s the kind I love to read. The Etched series will have seven books.

Also, writing contemporary romance gives me a break from my otherworldly stories!

JL: Seven books is a huge undertaking! But if anyone can do it, you can. What can we expect from the rest of the series?

CALLA: Etched in this Moment is Book One in my Etched series. There are seven books planned. You can expect similar romance, suspense, and steam. The characters are interconnected, and each story can be read as a standalone. There are no cliffhangers.

All of my books allow the woman to gain a sense of self-worth. I want them to know that they are worthy and they have something to offer the world. I want them to understand the inner chambers of their hearts. There’s nothing that is too small. Everything that is given and made with love is “worthy.”

When you acknowledge who you are, you claim a spot in this world. From that spot, you can shine. I want to show them that it’s possible to overcome your shadows, your past and gain back your self-worth. All of us are born with it, and society has pushed that worthiness into a corner. Over time, people have forgotten that it was always there. I want to show women that they can take it back. Self-worth was always theirs to begin with.

Etched in this Moment by Calla Zae

The law has failed her; men have failed her, but I won’t.

“Every moment with you is precious time ticking life into my heart.”

Sofia (Tia): The holidays are here, and I’m feeling hopeful until an anonymous text message arrives, reminding me of why I’m in hiding. I go by “Tia,” but that’s not my real name. I stay away from men, especially cops. But Theo—an attractive and determined detective—fascinates me. I’m afraid my desire for him might be the end of me.

Theo: The last thing I need is a distraction that takes me away from my recovery from a deadly wound. But as the mystery unravels around Sofia, so does danger, and so does my heart. The need to protect her pulses in me, becoming a priority. She’s mine, and I always protect what’s mine.

Available now from ebook retailers.

About Calla Zae

I love writing otherworldly and contemporary romance novels. I’m an artist, and I love to create visuals to convey my stories.

I live in Massachusetts with my husband who keeps me grounded to Earth and two creative children who think I have my own secret planet. They’re onto something…