About Jude Sierra

Jude began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. As a sucker for happy endings and well written emotional arcs and characters, Jude is an unapologetic bookaholic. She finds bookstores and libraries unbearably sexy and, to her husband’s dismay, is attempting to create her own in their living room. She is a writer of many things that hope to find their way out of the sanctuary of her hard drive, and many that have found a home in a fanfiction community.

Book Review: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

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Summary:

After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.


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Fortitude Smashed is the first and only book I have ever read for review that I re-read and took notes in the margins of with a pen and a highlighter. That I loved so much I wanted to wallow in on every level I would be allowed to. That’s been sitting on my nightstand for months just so I can keep savoring tiny moments.

I read the book in one go; I fell in love with Aiden and with Shannon, I fell in love with them falling in love.  The beauty of the conceit of fated people learning to be together in Brooke’s hands is this: These men are both ready and not, are willing and unwilling, and prickly but open. Their Rose Road gives them the space to struggle, as we do, but with the safety of understanding that this is meant. In this way, we are privileged to witness Aiden and Shannon as they go through a particular journey of personal growth that only this situation, this Rose Road, this circumstance could bring.

In Fortitude Smashed Brooke built a family of secondary characters that I both adored and was incredibly irritated by at times — in short, she gave these men family and friends that were fleshed out humans, not just foils or plot devices to move particular aspects of the story around. A great cast of secondary characters is hard to pull off and Brooke does it. I love the gender/sexuality/identity representation we see thus far in this series — I’m excited to see what comes in the next few, as I’ve seen the author address questions related to this in blog tour interviews and on her twitter. I’d like to articulate my feelings on this well, but my friend Annie at From Top To Bottom Reviews has done a better job of capturing it here in her review.

I read this book the first time fully knowing there was even more to the story under the layers Brooke created, but unable to stop because I was so caught up in the story. The point of this being: if you don’t feel like you want to do any literary analysis to enjoy the shit out of a beautiful book, you don’t. This book, I promise, will be a lovely experience regardless.

That said…the first time I read Fortitude Smashed, I knew it was special. I knew I loved it a few pages in, but it was on page 26 when Aiden first speaks to the Empty Man that I knew that what Brooke is crafting in this series is literature.

“Aiden thought the heart of the world, like fate, was buried in the sea and, despite his hunger, he would never find it.” (26)

Fortitude Smashed is filled with some really heart stopping prose. I mean, the kind of phrase turning that makes you stop and re-read just to enjoy the sheer poetry of it. None of Brooke’s words or images function as still art alone. Rather, she deploys every image with precision.

“Spread out on the bed with a blush creeping from his chest to his face, Aiden was still a cluster of knives. Shannon’s willingness to bleed defied every shred of control he had left.” (135)

The second time I read this book, I had a pen, a highlighter, and lots of quiet. I savored it. I really let myself look at how Brooke used images, names, words, flowers to tell us more about Aiden (whose name, consequently means “little fire” or “ardent”) and Shannon (whose name means “wise river” or “possessor of wisdom”) (I’ll just let you sit in that lovely tidbit for a moment, take it with you when you read the book and it’ll just add a lovely layer).

Brooke’s use of metaphor and imagery, particularly in reference to the two pieces of art, Fortitude Smashed and Catalyst, as well as the Empty Man Aiden meets on the beach at the beginning and near the end of the novel, are brilliantly situated, used, and executed.  We begin the book with Aiden and Shannon meeting just as Aiden is attempting to steal Fortitude Smashed,  a piece of art made of flowers and flower parts (lilies, dandelion and baby’s breath, all of which represent particular things. For example, lilies represent restored innocence after death). Aiden later tells Shannon he wanted to steal it because it reminded him of himself. When Shannon goes to buy it for him, after they’ve fallen in love, he actually sees it for the first time, and in it:

“…a containment of life in death in one piece…The lily’s stem was snapped from the rest of the petals, which gave the flower a sense of detachment. It was nature’s grenade in the midst of detonating, a slow-motion explosion…” 147

It is in this moment that Shannon really understands — this was who Aiden was in the moment they met. This is how Aiden understood and saw himself.

As fate would have it, Shannon is unable to buy Fortitude Smashed — instead he buys another piece, which we don’t get to see until the end of the book: Catalyst, which is made of ivy and dandelion, calla lily and tulip: flowers that represent youth, rebirth, perfect love, fidelity, affectionate attachment. What I loved so deeply about this is that Brook doesn’t tell us any of this — she doesn’t give the reader the meanings. She’s given the reader gifts inside her prose. Aiden and Shannon’s struggle to understand, walk, and love one another as their Rose Roads is done gorgeously, with care and depth and understanding. And underneath it all Brooke infuses her language and images with depth and symbolism that make the story all that much richer.

Before I finish with my high high praise for an #ownvoices story about mental illness, I want to go back to the Empty Man and how he functions as a catalyst at the beginning of the story when Aiden is really struggling with the idea that his Rose Road is a cop; when he’s struggling with his self worth and his demons; when we’re learning that despite his hard exterior, Aiden is terrified of not finding his heart. How deeply he wants that Rose Road and love.

“‘Someone told me I would eat the heart of the world one day,’ Aiden said….’I’ve always loved the world, but I never thought I’d find the heart of it, the best of it, the center of it. I did though. I found it,” he added quickly. ‘Or it found me, I’m not sure which.’

‘I don’t know either, but you’ve completely consumed it.’

Aiden offered a shy smile, one of his gentle rarities, and he kissed Shannon again.” (315)

To summarize there, thank you Taylor, for this really heart wrenching, human, gorgeous love story.

And now, the part I really, really want people to leave with. This is an #ownvoices story in regards to mental health rep, with both Brooke (author) and Aiden having mental illness.  Personally, as someone who also not only struggles with but survives with mental illness, Aiden’s story and representation meant the world to me. Shannon doesn’t cure Aiden. Fate, love, romance, sex — none of it “fixes” Aiden –– because there’s nothing to be fixed. Aiden is beautifully imperfect, he’s human, he has a mental illness, but he isn’t his mental illness. People living with depression or bipolar, with dysthmia or cyclothemia (me) or any other number of MI — our MI’s don’t define us. Stories where love “cures” or “fixes” characters with MI really bother me because that’s not how life works. My husband loves and supports me, his presence has helped save my life, but at the end of the day, I save my life. I make it through each day. I am the center of my survival and recovery. Brooke writes a love story with healing, with hope, and where the characters are ultimately the primary agents of change and wellness in their own lives, which they then bring to each other and their love. I can see this theme in Daisy’s story; I can see this agency in Chelsea’s story — I look forward to what Brooke will do with them in future books in this series with utter trust in her skill.


About the Author:

After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup professional, Taylor turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she can be found haunting the local bookstore with a cup of tea, planning her next adventure, and fawning over baby animals.

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Book Review: The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic

rules and regsSummary: 

Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.


Purchase Links:

Interlude Press Webstore // Amazon // Barnes and Noble // Apple // Target // Kobo // Smashwords // Book Depository // Indiebound


F.T. Lukens is an author that never disappoints. Her Broken Moon Series (The Star Host and Ghosts & Ashes) remain absolute favorites of mine. Lukens is truly gifted with prose style that not only builds worlds effortlessly, but that create clear pictures for the readers. There’s an ease to her style that creates a cinematic experience for the reader.

The very first page of this book had me laughing out loud. Bridger’s internal monologue builds his character from the start. Bridger is immediately endearing. He’s clever and also very much a teenager. Lukens captures the feeling of adolescence — Bridger’s struggle with his sexuality as he begins to sort it out, his loneliness, his fears and insecurities — balancing them with his humor and to be frank, downright adorable self. It’s impossible not to root for him.

The tensions and development of Briger’s relationships throughout are handled beautifully. I clearly felt his fear of coming out to his mother and how the distance between them contributed to his loneliness. The friendship that blossoms from his work with Pavel brought tears to my eyes. Pavel is strange and changeable, but the affirmation and acceptance he brings to Briger was so necessary. I really appreciated that Lukens gave Briger an adult to help guide him and to show him support in his times of anxiety and the painful struggle of a difficult transitional age. Balancing new relationships, a new job, and Briger’s struggles felt very age appropriate. The way in which he began to build a relationship with Leo foiled with his falling out with his best friend (name) bring to mind how it felt to be seventeen and figuring out navigating love and friendship.

Additionally, there are the myths and magic. I loved that Lukens balanced a coming of age story that was so relateable with this magical world. There was no part of introducing or immersing the reader in this world that felt cumbersome. Here we have world building executed by a very skilled reader: no clunky exposition, no moments that dragged as the reader navigated her world.

The resolution of the plot regarding the increased appearance of mythical and magical creatures felt a little rushed, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this novel at all. There’s a quality to Bridger and the humor infused throughout reminded me of David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, but on it’s own terms.

For readers who want YA fiction that captures the ups and downs, the insecurities and joys of adolescence, this book is a must.  I could not recommend it more.


 About the Author: 

F.T. Lukens is an author of Young Adult fiction who got her start by placing second out of ten thousand entries in a fan-community writing contest. A sci-fi enthusiast, F.T. loves Star Trek and Firefly and is a longtime member of her college’s science-fiction club. She holds degrees in Psychology and English Literature and has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and writing. F.T. lives in North Carolina with her husband, three kids, and three cats. Her first two novels in the Broken Moon series, The Star Host and Ghosts & Ashes, were published by Duet Books.

 

 

Book Review: And it Came to Pass by Laura Stone

LGBT Mormons,November Policy,gay mormons,gay LDSThis book…wow I cannot say enough. I’ve read everything Stone has written, and loved it. Stone is an incredibly talented author — the kind you drop everything for when a new book comes along — but this story is a level above.

It’s clear that this particular topic is very, very close to her heart. Her passion and fight here rings throughout. Adam’s torment, his confusion, his disconnect from faith and the longing he won’t allow himself to feel is so rich, I ached for him. The development of his and Brandon’s love unfolds gorgeously, painfully, so very honestly.

The moment when Brandon shares the questions he has with his faith and how this unlocks Adam’s anxieties but also wonder is powerful as hell. All of the things Adam has locked down, all of his beautiful self that’s been crushed out of him — watching them rise to the surface is like watching someone come awake. It really felt like an honor to be a part of that story.

I must say, there’s such a lovely reverence in Brandon’s practice of faith here. In the idea of living a devotion and faith that involves questioning and wanting to learn and wanting to be open to possibilities. I’m agnostic personally, and I am not familiar with Mormon faith other than surface things, but I really love books and stories that handle faith beautifully, even if it means questioning, changing direction, or struggle.

This book is very sensual and the build of tension between Brandon and Adam felt visceral. I DEVOURED this book in one sitting because I was so captured by their story.

Purchase at: Interlude Press || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || iBooks || Kobo

Contact the author: Website || Twitter || Facebook

Dialect in Dialogue: Guest Post with Open Ink Perspectives

A couple of months ago I had the honor of being asked to write a guest post for Open Ink’s Perspectives blog. It was published a few days ago, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share it with my readers who may not have seen me tweet about it! Meant to engender conversation with both readers and writers, I hope y’all will enjoy and share your thoughts. Many thanks to Open Ink for hosting me!


When I was writing my third novel, Idlewild, I spent a lot of time pondering (agonizing) over speech patterns in dialogue for my characters. This story takes place in downtown Detroit; in it we have Tyler, a young, genderqueer black man coming out of college and into adulthood who grew up in the city. We also have Asher, a sort-of middle aged (I am struggling to reconcile 33 as middle aged, if only so I can avoid being called so myself, ha!) Jewish man from the suburbs who has become stuck in the wake of his partner’s death. Idlewild was a beast to write; in part because good, complex romance involves complex people navigating the world, and writing that is hard. Additionally, this particular book touches on many difficult to navigate threads: race, class, gentrification and grief being the most prominent.

Idlewild also features a third character: Malik. Malik is Tyler’s boyfriend at the start of the story (no worries, no cheating). When Idlewild came out, I was not expecting people to fall for Malik. I was definitely not expecting requests to write him a story! I think many authors can speak to the fear we harbor that readers might hate a character we love. Having readers fall in love with a character who might be divisive was lovely.

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Buy Links:

INTERLUDE, AMAZON , BARNES & NOBLE , SMASHWORDS, KOBO ,BOOK DEPOSITORY, INDIEBOUND 

 

30% off Sale!

Today only (Valentine’s Day!), all three of my books are 30% off on the Interlude Press book store using the code #LOVE

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badge-fiction-100x128Kirkus Best Books of 2016

“Sierra (What It Takes, 2016, etc.) has created a very natural and psychologically astute portrayal of a romantic relationship, by turns funny, delightful, and painful….A lovely, finely wrought romance that reminds us that to truly love another, we must know our own hearts.”– Kirkus

In a last ditch effort to bring the downtown Detroit gastro pub he started with his late husband back to life, Asher Schenck fires everyone and hires a completely new staff. Among them is Tyler Heyward, a 23-year-old recent college graduate in need of funds to pay for med school. As their relationship shifts from business to friendship, Tyler falls for Asher and finds himself caught between the things he thought he wanted and the things he hasn’t allowed himself to dream about. Working together, they get to know each other’s dreams.

Idlewild is a story about love and healing set in the backdrop of Detroit’s revival.

Buy Links:

Idlewild is available for purchas at Interlude Press Webstore

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 ... Sierra (Hush) uses rich characterization and lyrical writing to infuse this slow-building romance with depth, humor, and pathos. Readers will savor every dip and peak of Milo and Andrew’s relationship as they balance the need for safety with the necessary risk of pursuing happiness.” — Publishers Weekly

The connection was instantaneous. Moments after Milo Graham’s family relocates to Cape Cod, he meets Andrew Witherell—launching a lifelong friendship built on a foundation of deep bonds, secret forts, and plans for the future.

When Milo is called home from college to attend his domineering father’s funeral, he and Andrew finally act on their mutual attraction. But doubtful of his worth, Milo decides to sever all ties with his childhood friend.

Circumstances send both men home again years later, and their long held feelings will not be denied. But will they have what it takes to find lasting love?

What it Takes is currently available at Interlude Press Web Store

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“In her debut novel, Sierra explores Cam’s emotional confinement and burgeoning self-discovery with poetic delicacy, as she does with Wren’s guilt and complete fear of relinquishing himself to the vulnerability of a relationship. Through a great deal of character exposition, Sierra skillfully captures the frustration of navigating identity and interpersonal relationships for those to whom it doesn’t come easy. The subtle twist of fantasy enhances the narrative while also complicating the notion of consent…it is a worthy read and a valuable addition to the genre.”~Library Journal

One secret can change everything.

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.
Will Cameron’s growing confidence finally break down Wren’s emotional walls, or will Wren walk away from his best chance for love?

Hush, is currently for sale at Interlude Press Web Store

Book Review: Storm Season by Pene Henson

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Blurb: The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall.

With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

 

*I was provided with a copy by Interlude Press in return for an honest review*

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Purchase at: Interlude Press / Amazon / Smashwords / Barnes and Noble / iTunes / Book Depository / Kobo / IndieBound

5 Stars

I have been so eagerly waiting for this novel for months. Henson’s previous novel, Into the Blue is a deep favorite of mine – both because she made me fall for the characters so easily, but because I am absolutely in love with her craft.

Storm Season is a gorgeous work of art. Here we have a plot that could easily devolve into a series of cliché tropes. Rather, Henson takes these themes and tropes: women who seem to be opposites at first glance; stranded in a cabin during a storm; the transformative power of particular human interactions, and makes them unique and believable and fresh.

Henson’s writing style is deceptively simple. She often employs short sentences, descriptions in what could easily be staccato or disjointed moment. Rather, she uses this skillfully to draw the reader in. It has the effect of stripping a layer of separation between the story and the reader. We are drawn into an intimacy with the story, whether it’s a description of the Australian bush or of two women falling for each other.

When we meet them, Claudie and Lien appear to be complete opposites. Henson takes us through discovering them, and them discovering themselves and each other, skillfully enough that we slide into the realization that these women are similar in so many ways; that circumstance (and Henson’s craft) foiled them in particular ways when we met them, but that at their hearts, they are beautifully compatible.

I don’t want to spoil the turn the story takes in it’s second half, but know that it is executed perfectly. By this point in the story, Henson has taken us beyond simply longing for Claudie and Lien to be together. We’re rooting for them as individuals who are growing just as much.

As with Henson’s previous novel, this book has a lovely diverse cast that is obviously thoughtfully included for the sake of story. These clearly would be Lien and Claudie’s people. This is a representation of a slice of life, and it easily, without fanfare, reflects diversity in life.  Love it.

Also, someone please donate money to my “I must go to Australia right now”, fund. Because a lifelong wish because an intense, burning need while reading this book. I fell in love with the landscape and people in this book. One day, hopefully, I’ll get to do it in real life. For now, I’ll revisit this book over and over, savoring every word.

Beautiful Staples, Building Roots.

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“Asher, tell me what you used to do,” Tyler says one night.Work is done; they’re sitting in the breakroom and eating, finally. Tyler is starving. While it’s encouraging, from a business standpoint, that he had no chance to take a break and eat because they were busy, he does need food. Asher took one look at his face and made him dinner. Claudia wandered out as soon as she’d finished her work, which is not unusual. Tyler usually thinks he’ll go too as soon as work is done, but often he finds himself lingering. Lately, even with his friends, Tyler feels lonely. He’s not able to put his finger on a reason, other than that he feels changed. He’s still the driven boy who worked his way through college, but he’s now driven in a different direction. He gets the impression that his work in a restaurant seems transient and directionless to those who’ve known him all along.

“Um…” Asher puts his fork down and thinks. “We used to go to the cider mill.”

“Seriously?” Tyler struggles not to laugh. Sometimes it’s crazy, the reminders of how different their worlds are. They’ve lived in the same area for their whole lives, and yet Tyler is amazed at how different their experiences are. The culture gap between the city and the suburbs is absurd sometimes.

“Yeah.” Asher lifts a shoulder. He rolls his eyes playfully. “It was fun. We’d pick apples. John loved making apple spice muffins.” Asher looks down.

“What?” Tyler prompts.

Asher shakes his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t eaten those muffins in years. They were my favorite. He’d…” Tyler stays still. “He used to wake me up with them. He’d bring a plate into the room to me.”

Tyler bites his lip. He’s never experienced the loss Asher has. By the time Tyler’s father left them it was a relief. He’d felt heartbroken over the pain he’d put Tyler’s family through, yes, but not the loss. Tyler is by no means unfeeling, but he’d never realized how long the sharp ache of grief might last.

“You don’t have to talk to me about this if you aren’t comfortable,” Tyler says when the silence carries, “but I hope you know I want to be here to hear you.”

“Thank you.” Asher’s eyes are everywhere but on Tyler. He takes a deep breath. “It’s not… I don’t know. Missing John isn’t like it used to be. I don’t want to say I’m used to it, but I do feel as though I’ve moved past it. Or I did think so.”

“Did?”

“I’ve been remembering him more lately.” Asher picks up his fork and pushes his food around, then puts it down. “I guess I was so busy or lost in work I didn’t let myself think about things.”

“I’m sorry. I’m always asking questions.”

“No.” Asher looks at him. “I should… I should want to let myself remember the good things, right?”

“Yeah. I think so,” Tyler says. In Asher’s eyes is an honest sadness; so much was laid open. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Asher is one of the most closed off people Tyler’s ever known; the way he’s slowly unfolding is revelatory. “For trusting me enough to talk to me about this.”

“I wonder if I have that recipe.”

“Why? You gonna make them?” Tyler asks.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” This time Asher does take a bite of his food.

“Maybe I’ll go pick some apples. Get some real cider and bring it back. We can all have some spiced cider.”

“Real cider?” Tyler asks.

“You know, the unpasteurized kind that doesn’t taste like cloudy apple juice.”

“I’ve never had cider,” Tyler admits. Asher looks at him. “Never done any of that shit.”

“Want to?” Asher asks, then looks as if he wishes he hadn’t. Tyler wants to touch his hand but doesn’t.

“Yeah.” Tyler wants to get Asher out of Idlewild. Wants to coax those smiles and enjoy the sense of waking he sees come over Asher from time to time. “I’m down.”


Yesterday, my family got the news that the apple orchard my family has been getting our fall apples and Halloween pumpkins at for years has been sold to a home developer. This orchard holds countless memories for my family — my boys cried when they found out. I love this place: the pictures in this aesthetic are ones I and others have taken while there. It’s not fancy, but it’s fun.

It was also the inspiration for Asher and Tyler’s first trip to pick apples together. Which, of course, led to the apple muffin scene (blog post titled, ahem, Idlewild Food Porn Sneak Peek).  In my mind, I’d envisioned this being a place they would go to every year much as we do. They would take their kids and build memories and this, like so many beautiful staples of Michigan life, would be one of their roots. Luckily, I suppose, these men live in a make believe world where they can exist in perpetuity. Maybe I’ll write them, one day, taking one of their children there for the first time, and I’ll get to hold on to that little bit.

Although, yes, above isn’t the actual scene in the book where they go to the orchard, the importance of those moments and that story building is here. Tyler learning how to understand Asher’s grief. Asher beginning to let himself reconnect to his former life and self — beginning his journey to healing. Tyler and Asher beginning to build something they don’t have a name for just yet.


My novels, Hush, What it Takes and Idlewild are all available for purchase through multiple retailers (links on my book page).

Idlewild Cut Chapter

copy-of-summer-breaksIt’s a New Year already for some, and for others, it’s on the horizon. Want to ring in the New Year with some bonus materials? Here you go! This was originally Chapter 20 of Idlewild. We get to meet Asher’s parents and get some insight into Asher’s relationship with his  faith. Laura Stone (who writes amazing books y’all) described Asher as “a roll-your-sleeves-up kind of you-can’t-tell-me-what-to do person” which is totally true. This chapter gives us a taste of those origins.


“Asher,” Tyler says, swinging through the door, “there’s a couple out in the restaurant asking for you.”

“Regulars?” Asher asks without looking at him.

“I don’t think so. I’ve never seen them before,” Tyler says he picks up and puts down a paperweight that’s on the desktop. He rifles through some papers and shuffles them around before putting them back down. Asher leans back in his chair and watches him. Tyler has seemed a little off ever since he went to his mother’s for dinner last week, and Asher can’t put his finger on what it is. He thinks that normally he’d ask, but with everything new between them and undefined, the ground between them is boggy and unstable. He waits for Tyler to look him in the eyes but he doesn’t.

“And they want me?”  Asher asks

“That’s what they said,” Tyler says.

“Alrighty-then.” Asher stands brushes past him on his way out of the office. Asher would be the first to admit that he doesn’t understand what is going on between them. But he wants to. While that push and pull between them usually exciting, some days it’s confusing. When they’re together Asher feels more alive than he has in years. Tyler is addictive; no matter how many times Asher says he’s going to sit him down to talk and figure this thing out, Tyler touches him and what he’s told himself is right dissipates under those finger; Tyler seems the most right thing in these moments. But he hesitates to push Tyler emotionally, afraid that he might spook him or break some spell. Instead he waits quietly and watches.

Asher doesn’t spare a thought for who the couple may be, which he berates himself for as soon as gets to the front of house. Sitting in a booth tucked into the front corner by the window are his parents. His father is slowly sipping a mug of his usual straight up coffee; black, no sugar and no cream. His mother has her hands folded neatly on the table as she watches the thin crowd of Christmas sightseers stream past the window.

He wonders what it took for his father to convince her to come out here. What she’s thinking right now. If she feels safe, how threatened by her memories of Detroit, as well as the memories she’s been handed by her family throughout her life.

“Hey! What are you doing here?” he asks, infuse his tone with happiness. He must not do a very good job. His father’s mouth turns down a little bit; it’s part rueful and part displeased. Isaac Schenck’s face was always the most expressive Asher had ever seen – until he met Tyler. His father can appear both happy and sad. Confused. Angry…any number of things, and often all at once. He’s terrible about talking about his feelings however. Either he thinks his face does enough talking, or he can’t control it.

Still Asher slides into the booth next to his mother. He smiles when the familiar scent of her favorite perfume, floral and vanilla, wraps around him. They both look well; his father’s hair thins more and more every time he sees him, but his lean frame is healthy and fit. His mother, Julie, is still tiny and lovely with soft curves and rich brown hair it is shorter.

“We’ve come to give you a little belated Hanukah present,” his mother says. She rifles through her oversized purse until she finds two flat packages. They’re wrapped in blue and white paper; the corner of one has torn, a little damaged in transit. Asher’s smile is automatic; he hadn’t expected this. He had toyed with the idea of driving out to West Bloomfield to see his parents for a night or perhaps a meal but hadn’t pick up the phone to make those plans.

He picks up the package. “Thank you,” Asher says. He opens the present gently, lifting the tape with a careful finger and trying not to damage the paper. It’s a habit born of many years of his mother trying to save paper to reuse it. She always hated the idea of all that pretty paper going to waste. The care is useless — the paper is already torn — but still he does it. In his mother’s presence he becomes a little boy again.

Inside he finds a bag of Hanukah gelt and two CD’s. His parents have never caught up to the idea that CDs have mostly phased out, that now everybody stored their music on various kinds of technology. His computer doesn’t have a DVD drive. This is music he’ll never listen to either.

But that’s okay because it is the thought that counts. His parents have made the effort, his mom has come down into a city she’s terrified of. He could count on both hands the number of times his mother has been here as long as he remembers. She grew up in Detroit as a girl, and yet he has no stories of hers from that time.

Although he had not expected his parents and although he knew there was a slight chance – the slightest chance – that he would go to see them, he’s glad now that he decided to get them presents, even if he planned on mailing them.

“If you’ll give me a minute I’ll run upstairs and get your presents,” he says. This makes his father smile. Maybe it’s because Asher is extending a little bit of thoughtfulness and care. Asher has withheld himself and his own love from his parents. As a child – and if he admits as a teenager and young man – he always ached for his father’s unconditional love, but thought it wasn’t granted. He came to understand, especially with John’s guidance, that it wasn’t unconditional love he was searching for. It was a sense of family that he always longed for without understanding why, or what. Perhaps it was influence of television and media of stories told by his friends of what parenting and love and a home should feel like.

Asher was incredibly lucky to find this with John, and perhaps he should have been able to extend the kindness he found there to his parents. His coming out was very difficult for them and it had been a struggle for them to figure out how to put their faith together with who he was. Their own reconciliation between their Jewish faith and their desire to provide a community that would still welcome him took a long time; too long for a scared teenage boy. As an adult he can recognize the complexity of unconditional love because his parents chose to change everything about the way they understood the world in order to support him. But watching that struggle while in the middle of his own very painful fight was isolating for him as a teenager. Asher still practiced and believed then, but he recognizes that this was when he started to feel a rift with his faith.

Asher passes through the kitchen at a fast clip. He waves to Claudia when she starts to talk to him to stave her off. He thunders up the stairs and when he gets to his room he has to rifle through many things in order to find the presents. Apparently he had had them in the plastic set of drawers where he keeps his clothes. In his hurry he causes a few out to tumble out, messing up the rest. But he smiles. Just knowing that the clothes were folded means Tyler’s been through his laundry again, which warms him. He’s not sure if Tyler’s interference is a comment on his own housekeeping skills, but he recognizes Tyler’s innate desire to make people happy as well as to make order out of his world. Tyler told him recently how much he loves Asher’s smell. Imagining Tyler holding his shirt to catch the slightest lingering smell curls, lovely and welcome, in his stomach. It closeness that goes beyond quick fucks and fleeting touches.

The present he bought for his parents aren’t wrapped yet and Asher has no wrapping paper. He searches for some newspaper though he’s perfectly aware his mother won’t appreciate that. He doesn’t have much choice but to carry them down unwrapped.

Asher sits again and hands his father his gift – a Tigers baseball hat – and hands his mother the bottle of Joop! perfume. Whenever he catches that scent in the restaurant or in a store, he thinks of her with fondness. This year has made this nostalgia stronger than resentment.

“I’m sorry they’re not wrapped,” he says.

“That’s fine honey,” his mother says. “This is so thoughtful. I was almost out of it.”

“Thank you son,” his father says. He looks into Asher’s eyes and it’s clear it’s sincere.

There’s a moment of easiness after Asher give them the presents. They make comfortable small talk until Asher decides to ask if they want to stay to eat.

“Sure honey. That would be nice,” his mother says. His father wants to argue but he takes a breath and then nods.

From across the restaurant he can see Claudia and Tyler behind the bar chatting while Tyler wipes down the bottles and sets them back on the shelves. The restaurant isn’t too busy – only about a quarter full. When Tyler catches his eye, Asher nods him over. Tyler grabs two menus then threads through the tables toward them lightly and gracefully. Asher has watched his body for months; it’s a marvel – awkward and off with a rhythm when he dances, but still somehow eye-catching. In moments when he’s not over-thinking and when he’s completely unselfconscious there’s a fluid loveliness to the way he moves his limbs.

“Hello folks!” Tyler says brightly. “How are we all doing today?”

Oh, Asher is so smitten. He hates to use that word: he’s a 32 year old man — almost 10 years older than Tyler — and that’s not at all what this was meant to be. But Tyler’s charisma can’t be denied. He never speaks like this when he’s not on the floor. His body language is so different. Tyler’s changeability intrigues Asher more than he cares to admit. So many times he thinks that Tyler is a puzzle to be taken apart or to be put back together; Asher is never quite sure and that keeps him so interested.

Immediately he sees that his father has a reaction to Tyler. Asher is so comfortable with and used to the way that Tyler carries himself; the light lilting sweetness to his voice, the way he holds his hands and smiles when he talks. He can’t imagine anyone meeting Tyler and not assuming that he’s gay. For a man with so many facets, there are some Tyler rarely changes.

Asher loves that.

But it’s the sort of thing that his father has a terrible time hiding a reaction to. It had taken so much for him to accept Asher – so much more work for him that was for his mother. But Asher was in no way obvious. He never had to hide that about himself.

Before Asher can say anything though, Tyler sees it. Maybe it’s a slight stiffening and his father’s limbs or the face he almost disguises but quite catch. It’s fascinating how Tyler’s posture immediately changes. He hands out the menus and when he speaks again there’s a subtle difference, the light lisp is gone and the way he shapes his speech so that it has a completely different cadence. Perhaps it’s only obvious to Asher because he spends so much time with Tyler. He hopes his parents won’t catch the difference, but he does. It makes him sad and so resentful yet again. He resists the urge to confront his father

Asher holds his tongue and takes a deep breath. Gives his parents a moment to peruse the menu. Tyler asks if they need suggestions and points out his favorite. His mother smiles and orders that. His father does not. When Tyler walks away it’s as if he’s a different man. At the bar Claudia must have been watching them; Asher can tell by her eyebrows and her still hands are holding the damp rag Tyler has been using to wipe the bottles.

Asher tears his gaze away back to find his father examining him. Really looking, as if he can see what Asher’s been thinking. For one wild moment Asher wants to lay everything bare, to embarrass him. There’s knowing on paper that someone is gay and then knowing that a person actually does gay things. That he does them with men like Tyler, who he finds unbearably sexy, who he finds sweet and captivating and who draws him so often, a moth helpless to flame. When they’re together all Asher can think about is how beautiful Tyler is when he submits to his own pleasure.

Claudia brings their food out, for which Asher is glad. Asher hopes Tyler’s choice not to come back out and to put some distance between the perceptions others place on his body, the slightest violence that people’s judgement and dislike do when they land on his skin and worm their way into his heart. Asher remembers fighting that feeling in his own home; months and months of struggle with his identity with a knowledge that eventually he could longer hide who he was. But Asher’s had a whole hell of a lot of privilege in his natural presentation. Men like Tyler often suffer microaggressions from the moment of a first glance.

Asher does his best to wind up their lunch, impatient to leave the table. He does love his parents, but he has a limit. Seeing his father’s reaction to Tyler has not helped. He’s glad that his parents came and that they had a small moment to reconnect, but he wants them out of the bar now. Idlewild is safe space that he and John created. The pride sticker on the door and a staff that won’t compromise should indicate that. Asher is always mild mannered but he has asked patrons who make homophobic comments or behaved in particularly degrading or hurtful ways toward any member of his staff to leave immediately. He can’t be as harsh with his father as that, but he has to resist the strong urge to do so.


This year has been difficult in so many ways. But I’ve been lucky to start the year publishing a book I’m very proud of (What it Takes) and ending the year publishing this book. The support I get from my publisher (Interlude Press) and from readers and friends is priceless. Thank you all for coming on this ride with me!

Many thanks to Naomi Tajedler for double checking this passage.


Hush, What it Takes and Idlewild are all available for purchase through multiple retailers (links on my book page). Order through Interlude Press for an upgrade on shipping.

 

Holiday cheer and a little fuck you to the establishment

If you need a last-minute gift for US domestic delivery, we’ll upgrade your shipping to Priority Mail at no expense through 5pm ET on December 21st. Need it gift wrapped? Just tell us. We’ll wrap it for free! Shipping upgrade is limited to available...It’s the perfect time of year for gift giving. Even if you aren’t a holiday person, as 2016 draws to a close, I think it’s safe to say that giving people the gift of love stories and happy endings wouldn’t come amiss! Interlude Press is now offering shipping upgrades (priority mail, no charge) AND offering gift wrapping.

In all seriousness, for many people things have been tense and frightening in recent news. I know I’ve felt defeated at times. I almost gave up in the middle of writing a new story I love in November.

Thankfully, several very wise women advised me: now is the time more than ever. It is the time to celebrate diversity, to influence change through support, to refuse to be quiet, to give up on love and freedom of expression.

There is a lot of really beautiful fiction out there for us all to read and to savor. And I have to tell you, small presses are excellent places to find diverse stories by diverse authors. They are giving authors opportunities and letting them take risks, and I encourage readers to support each other, authors, and small presses. I mean, that’s a lovely little fuck off to those who want to silence us.

I am proud to say that all of my books are representative of diversity in some way: Cam, my MC in Hush is Venezuelan (like my father, I really wanted a bit of that heritage in here). Milo, from What it Takes suffers from anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD (as I do).

I’m particularly proud of Idlewild, my newest release: when I set out to write this story, I new it would be about class and race, about the complexities of gentrification and Detroit’s history. I knew I was going to write an interracial love story. I had no idea that the timing of this novel would feel so apt and so empowering.

I am a Latinx author. I am bi, I am a woman. I’ve been told no for many, many reasons. I’ve been told that what I do is disgusting, dirty, shameful.

I wrote a LGBT, interracial love story with a black, genderqueer character and a Jewish character, and it was named a Kirkus Best Romance of 2016.  I didn’t write this story because I felt that we needed a representative black character in romance, or to throw in some genderqueer spice (yes, ew, I have heard that said). I wrote a story about people: people I see around me, love stories I see around me, the fucking diverse and subversive, those who want a happy ending, or whose happy ending is a middle finger at the establishment. All of us. 

~*~

Hush, What it Takes and Idlewild are all available for purchase through multiple retailers (links on my book page). Order through Interlude Press for an upgrade on shipping.

 

 

A little sweet, a little sexy, a little excerpt

In honor of my blog tour being over for Idlewild’s release, I asked what y’all wanted and sweet and sexy were requested. Have a little morning after, when things are still really new, fun and a little scary. With the sweetness of uncertainty.

~*~

It’s not that Tyler, asleep in his bed, appears young, precisely. But there’s an innocence in the way Tyler’s legs curl toward his body. His hands are tucked under the pillow, and in stillness, there’s something almost other about him. Tyler’s charisma comes from his body and words, and from his bright and changeable eyes. His face, lost for its animation, displays his natural beauty differently than when he is awake.
Asher lets him sleep for a while longer, though. Wrapped in a blanket, he sits with a mug of tea on the couch and lets the lovely buzz of satisfaction linger. Down in Asher’s bones is the relief of finally connecting with another human body, of giving touch where he’s ached
to for a long time. His body had starved for it, but he’s been so busy. That he’s had the privilege of doing so with Tyler, this bright, beautiful flame of a boy he’s been lucky to have in his life, is an honor.
He has no idea what happens from here. Tyler’s spent weeks caught in a back-and-forth with Malik. He’s worked harder than anyone might expect, given Malik’s obvious fears and inability to commit. He wonders if it is too much to let Tyler sleep here. But it’s late, and he certainly doesn’t want him to leave.
Asher is tired: the good kind of tired, but still tired. He gets into bed carefully, hoping not to startle Tyler awake. He pulls the covers up when Tyler’s eyes open, hazy and hardly cognizant. He smiles and slides over, tucking his head onto Asher’s shoulder and tangling their legs. He’s asleep almost immediately, and then so is Asher.
* * *
Morning comes with the buzz of his phone. It’s too early for sunlight; it’s that part of winter when sunlight becomes a rare commodity. Asher’s always been lucky because he’s never felt low when the days are short and the darkness presses.

 

He grabs the phone and swipes at the screen. He’s got shipments coming this morning, but he has a little time. Usually he’d use this time to tidy the restaurant or to try to keep up with the office system Tyler set up.
But Tyler’s sleeping body is still a warm presence in his bed; they’d shuffled apart in sleep, but under the covers is the delicious warmth of another body. Asher is still unsure of what happens when the day does truly break, and they have to have a conversation about what this means.
Right now though, there is a beautiful boy in his bed whose eyes melt, liquid and stunned, under his attention, who is reticent to let go but breathtaking when he gives in to his body’s desire to take and take.
He turns on the bedside lamp and rolls over and puts one hand on Tyler’s naked hip, then kisses the back of his neck. Tyler wakes with a sigh, then a long, arched stretch. He rolls onto his back and smiles at him.
“Good morning,” Tyler whispers. Asher’s eyes linger on his lips, but when he meets his eyes, he hopes that look communicates what he wants well enough. The loft is hushed in a fragile spell. He wants to lean into that silence with Tyler, to take as much of this night as possible. He mouths the words back. Tyler’s hand strokes down his waist, then carefully, down over the curve of his ass. In his eyes are questions that Asher can answer by rolling on top of him and kissing him.

~*~

I want to thank all of the book bloggers that hosted me on this tour. There were lots of great interviews and even a rare Asher sighting 😀 I’ll be posting a round up soon.

Idlewild is now available for purchase at the following retailers:

INTERLUDE http://store.interludepress.com/collections/idlewild-by-jude-sierra

 AMAZON http://amzn.to/2fiefzf

 APPLE https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/idlewild/id1114833554?mt=11

 BARNES & NOBLE http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/idlewild-jude-sierra/1123818291?ean=9781945053078

 SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/637143

 KOBO https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/idlewild-7

ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-idlewild-2058759-149.html?referrer=55feb862851f8

BOOK DEPOSITORY http://www.bookdepository.com/IDLEWILD-Jude-Sierr/9781945053078?ref=grid-view/?a_aid=InterludePress

 INDIEBOUND http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781945053078&aff=InterludePress