SWAG TIME!! Giveaway time!!

Today marks exactly ONE MONTH until the release of my upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater. I wanted to do a giveaway for those who are pre-ordering and giving this book love. So here are some details (pictures below!)

I have the following giveaway packages. If you sent me a copy of your pre-order receipt (details below), you will be entered to win one of the following prize packs:

Prize pack #1: This beautiful I Have Journeyed Farther journal (much love to Jordandene), two I’m Sill Here laptop stickers (or wherever you wanna stick them!), three Brazilian wish bracelets (info on that below), and a cute little Interlude Press pin. As well, you’ll get a copy of John’s apple muffin recipe (from Idlewild) and a signed, personalized copy of a book of your choice (Idlewild, What it Takes or Hush).

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Prize Pack #2:  This lovely Find Joy in the Ordinary journal, a fun little unicorn pin (because we’re all amazing beautiful unicorns), two I’m Still Here stickers, a copy of John’s apple muffin recipe, three Brazilian wish bracelets and a signed, personalized copy of a book of your choice (Idlewild, What it Takes or Hush).

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Prize Pack #3: A copy of John’s apple muffin recipe, three Brazilian wish bracelets, two I’m Still Here stickers, and a signed, personalized copy of a book of your choice (Idlewild, What it Takes or Hush).

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Prize Pack #4: A copy of John’s apple muffin recipe, three Brazilian wish bracelets, two I’m Still Here stickers, and signed copies of book cards.

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So the Brazilian wish bracelets are also known as Bahia Bands. I really wanted to have a little taste of a Brazilian tradition in honor of Joaquim, but also something my friends and I loved to do when we were kids when I lived in Brazil. Bahia Bands are a good luck charm. You wrap the wish bracelet around your wrist and make three knots, with one wish for each knot. You leave it on until it falls off, at which time your wishes should come true 😉

Additional side note: if you pre-order the paperback copy from Interlude Press you get the e-book for free right now, so that’s exciting.

I’m so excited to share this book, which Foreword Reviews gave a 5 Star Review to, and which Kirkus Reviews said was “A realistic look at living and loving in the context of mental illness by an author that doesn’t lose sight of the romance.”

So if you have or want to pre-order, email me your receipt at judemsierra@gmail.com with the subject line “PRE ORDER TINY”

For buy links, head over here

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Insights

As we get closer and closer to release day for A Tiny Piece of Something Greater, my fourth novel (coming to you May 17th!!!), you’ll see I’m posting little bits — lines, aesthetics, IG posts related to the book. Follow me on the things to see the things and I promise to do my best to provide you with pretty stuff!

Also, for those of you who are my favorites and are pre-ordering, hold on to your receipts for *reasons* you’ll discover later!!

A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is available for pre-order in the following locations:

Interlude Press: store.interludepress.com

Detroit Inspiration

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As Idlewild’s release date nears (December 1st!), I want to begin introducing you to the characters and themes of the book. It might sound silly to some of you, but from the start, the city of Detroit has been a main character in the concept. detroit-image

Idlewild is the most slippery book I’ve ever written, in the sense that it resisted being what I imagined it would be. I generally think of myself as a vessel through which stories pass. What I mean is, that while I create characters and atmosphere, I am always ready and open to let the story and characters tell me who they are and what they want to do. Often, they disagree with what I’d planned.

My initial concept for this book was drawn from two inspirations: the city of Detroit and a Sam Smith song. While Detroit stayed throughout, my understanding of the city and what I’d wanted to write about it changed dramatically. As for Sam Smith, that got left in the dust (initially Tyler’s boyfriend was a serial cheater; this didn’t work at all for the character who ended up being Tyler’s boyfriend).

The first time I described what I wanted to write to a friend of mine, her response pointed out a huge flaw in my thinking. I’d wanted to write about Detroit’s downtown revival, and I’d never considered the complexities of gentrification. Later, I did a research project for my Masters that focused on land based rhetorics in Detroit. This is when I realized I needed to do a lot more research and examine the rhetorics of the city from various points of view.

I wanted to write a love letter to Detroit, and in the end, did. But love is complicated, and Detroit’s story is incredibly complex. Her history is often painful and misunderstood. One cannot ignore the economic and racial tensions of the city now, nor her reputation. detroit-image-2

Every time I hear Detroit called the Murder Capital of the country, my heart breaks. First, because the statistics that led to that headline were contextualized in a particular way and are from years ago. Second because this isn’t the Detroit so many of us know and believe in. These rhetorics influence people to give up. The divide between the Metro Detroit suburbs and the city are rooted far back in history. Many people mark the change in this city’s history to the Riots of 1967. The history of racism, of violence, of redlining housing policies and so many other things date back farther. One must go into the Detroit’s role in FDR’s Arsenal of Democracy during World War II. We must go back to Jim Crow, and the many families who came north thinking that they would find jobs and homes and better lives, only to find that promises would go unfulfilled. We must go back to the founding of Detroit all the way in 1701 and trace a long, layered history.

The history of this city isn’t something I could sum in this blog without it going very long. Although so much of this history doesn’t make it explicitly in this book, it informs so much of what happens and how the characters feel and interact. One of the challenges of writing deeply complex characters (as I do consider Detroit to be a character in this book) in a romance novel was balancing writing a character driven love story with the deep history of a city around it. This sort of book didn’t lend to heavy handed history lessons, because that wasn’t the focus. But it was there. It is there. detroit-image-3

I am so happy that my concept of Detroit as a character in this book changed so dramatically. I hope that I managed to balance story with history; I hope that I manage to capture her spirit kindly and honestly. I hope that those interested in learning more about Detroit take advantage of the list of books I’ve provided. There are many ways one could write about this city, because she wears many histories and faces. This book is my love letter to Detroit.

There are a lot of aspects of this story that needed addressing, careful balance, an open mind and a willingness to hear when I was getting it wrong. I was so lucky to work with the sensitivity readers I did, and to have so many friends share their experiences with me in the writing of Idlewild. There is room to tell many stories about this city and her people. I hope you enjoy this particular one.

 

Kirkus Review

This week I received just a lovely review from Kirkus (ahhh!!).

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

For the full review, head on over here.

This book was hella hard to write, so this is just lovely validation, and I hope enticing for you all 😀

Idlewild is now available to pre-order from the IP Web Store and other online book retailers. Pre-order the print edition direct from IP and get the multi-format eBook free using the discount code IDLEWILD. Both print and eBook must be in your shopping cart for the code to be valid.

Furthermore, I am running a contest: email me proof of purchase (judemsierra@gmail.com) and you’ll get a personalized postcard from me, and will be entered to win a signed copy of Idlewild when it comes out (December 1st).

Now Available for Pre-Order: Idlewild

IDLEWILD COVER

When Idlewild was a nascent but tangible dream, finally Asher understood what he could do with that fire: create change in a city so many people had given up on.

Summary

Asher Schenck and his husband John opened their downtown gastropub at the start of Detroit’s revival. Now, five years after John’s sudden death, Asher is determined to pull off a revival of his own. In a last ditch attempt to bring Idlewild back to life, he fires everyone and hires a new staff. Among them is Tyler Heyward, a recent college graduate in need of funds to pay for med school. Tyler is a cheery balm for Asher’s soul, and their relationship quickly shifts from business to friendship. When they fall for each other, it is not the differences of race or class that challenge their love, but the ghosts and expectations of their respective pasts. Will they remain stuck or move toward a life neither of them has allowed himself to dream about?

Price: $16.99 print / $6.99 multi-format ebook
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Details: Trade paperback, 6″x9″
Pages/Words: 250 // 72,500
ISBN: 978-1-945053-07-8 print // 978-1-945053-08-5 ebook
US/Canada:  If you place both the print and ebook versions in your cart and order before December 1, 2016, you will receive the multi-format eBook for free with the discount code IDLEWILD.
International: Order the print edition by February 1, 2016 from your favorite book retailer and receive free multi-format eBook by submitting a copy of your receipt to contact@interludepress.com.

Giveaway! If you show me proof of purchase, you’ll receive a personalized postcard from me and be entered to win a signed copy of Idlewild!

Capturing the Romance and Atmosphere

I was sitting around today being inordinately excited about the fact that What it Takes comes out on Thursday when I realized….I have no idea if people have gotten a chance to see the back of the book! That might sound like a weird concern, but the back of my book is really beautiful and I want my artist, Nelli I. to get all of the credit for her stunning work.

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What I love about this is how the art captures the idea that there is more than one tone to this book. The front really captures a moment: Milo and Andrew’s sacred space, their hideout, in the beautiful woods that Andrew teaches Milo to love and know. This is their escape and the art felt like it really caught that.

But this book is about more than their childhood and that space they carve out as teens: it’s romantic. And in my opinion the setting could not be more visually romantic in real life. The Cape is stunning. There are so many different landscapes and spots that really provided me with an opportunity to give this story a lush, romantic and healing (I find the ocean to be healing) backdrop.

The art on the back of this book captures that romance perfectly. I love the way it fits seamlessly next to the forest next to it, even though it’s a completely different location. And I especially love that it’s clear we’re looking at this beach coming out of the woods (ahhaaaa I sense a metaphor).  The colors are perfect and for each cover, capture tone and atmosphere for the story within beautifully.

One of my favorite things about working with Interlude Press is how talented our artists are and how spot on our art director is as we develop concepts for the books. We get to work with our team and as authors we get to be a part of the process, which is awesome. C.B. Messner, our art director, just hits it out of the ballpark. Check out IP’s upcoming titles and you’ll see just how fantastic she is.

What it Takes is currently available for pre-order and will be out Jan. 14th.

Enter to win a copy of What it Takes in the Goodreads giveaway!

 

Reader Review

“How should one unpack blame? They both martyred themselves in youthful idiocy.  They both ruined something.  But when he thinks of the life Andrew shared with him – travel and jobs, and learning to connect with an audience through words – could he have achieved any of that? While holding Milo’s hand through anxiety and fear for years?  Each visit to a therapist, each time he talked himself through fear, learned to find that handle to hold onto inside himself, and the strength to be a better man: Milo knows he might never have done that with Andrew as his citadel of protection.” -What it Takes

I’d like to start by thanking Scout, who had an opportunity to read an advanced copy of What it Takes and who  said some absolutely lovely things about it. It is so nice to hear from readers and know that the things I worked so hard on were successful.

I loved that Scout pulled this quote from the book and also spoke to the fact that however painful Milo and Andrew’s separation was it was in no way an easy plot contrivance on my part: it was genuinely what these men needed in order to grow and become healthy.

I am so excited to hear from you guys — so excited to have this book in your hands. And above all, very thrilled that soon I’ll get to share this experience with you all. There are so many bits of myself — my experiences and heartbreaks and personal triumphs — in these men and their stories. It feels like an honor to get to share that with readers as well.

-J

What it Takes is currently available for pre-order and will be out Jan. 14th.

Enter to win a copy of What it Takes in the Goodreads giveaway!

Secret Forts

As we near the release of What it Takes, I’ve been sharing tiny snippets on Twitter — I’m tagging #WhatitTakes, and posting one a day. Head on over, I’m @judesierra.

As well, I’ve been sharing some excerpts here! I wanted to share a pivotal moment in Milo and Andrew’s childhood: when they build their fort in the woods. This is a spot that becomes very important to them as they grow up. So much happens there; I always like to imagine that the walls of this tiny haven they build for themselves hold secrets even I’m not privy to.

~*~

They’re in the woods one day in July when they come into a small clearing. Milo has been keeping complaints about the humidity and bugs to himself. He wants to hang out with Andrew and if this is the best he can get, he’ll take it. Andrew comes alive when they’re out here, which is awesome. God knows Milo could use some happiness too.

“You good?” Andrew asks. He looks around the clearing, then sits carefully on what’s left of a fallen tree. Milo kicks at a tuft of grass.

“I’m fine.”

“Milo,” Andrew says in that voice he gets, the one that’s knowing and superior.

“I’m fine. Looking forward to school. Less time at home, you know? It’s close but not close enough, and it’s making me crazy.”

Andrew looks at him for a long moment, then away. His eyes explore the fringe of woods, and the scraggly wildflowers in the sunlight. “We should build something out here.”

“Huh?” Milo gives up and stands next to him. A line of sweat slides down his temple, and he wipes it away.

“Like a fort?” Andrew shoots him a shy and hopeful look. Milo resists the urge to point out that they aren’t kids anymore and that they’re too old for that kind of play, because he doesn’t want to hurt Andrew’s feelings. “I know it’s lame. But come on, it’ll be fun!”

“How will we do that? We need wood and supplies and, like, to know how to build stuff.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Andrew’s face brightens; Milo is terrible at resisting this sort of persuasion. “And then we’ll have a place no one knows about. It’ll be our thing.” Andrew looks away then and shrugs. “That sounded wrong. I didn’t mean—”

“No! No, that’s cool.” The thought of a secret place is appealing. If they do this, it’ll be somewhere Milo can go when everyone is busy and he can’t go to their houses. Plus, the thought of planning something to build is exciting. “So we’ll need a plan.”

“Blah,” Andrew complains. He starts circling the clearing.

“How do you plan to accomplish this without— ”

“A plan? I’m kidding. Come on, let’s find a spot. We can go home and make the best plan and it’ll be like a little wet dream for you.”

Milo blushes and laughs and only looks away for a second before looking for an ideal spot.

#

The fort takes longer to build than Andrew anticipated. The wood was expensive, and they had to figure out how to pay for it, and also, come on, they aren’t master builders yet. Despite all of Milo’s drawn plans—the first drafts roughly scratched into dirt, then, as they sat on the beach, into shifting sands that proved to be a terrible sketch pad, and finally on paper—the process was a whole lot of trial and error.

“It’s not all that big,” Milo says when they’re finally, for the first time, seated inside their little creation.

“It’s fine.” Andrew is unpacking a cooler of snacks and pop he brought for the occasion.

Milo inspect their handiwork. “There’s a huge gap over here.”

“Oh my god, Mr. Perfection, enjoy the moment.” Andrew kicks him in the ankle.

“No wait, there’s an exposed nail; let me find the hammer—”

“Milo,” Andrew says in his most stern voice, which isn’t that stern at all when it cracks. He clears his throat. “Shut up, sit down and drink your Coke. We can fix that later.”

Milo sighs and sits down. Andrew can tell he’s working very hard not to examine the fort for more flaws.

“We’ll be here again, you know,” Andrew says.  “We have time to fix things up if we want. For now, it’s mostly done; it’s awesome. We’re awesome.”

“Yeah. True.” Milo smiles; his hair is a shaggy mess and his face is spotted with pimples that have come and gone as they’ve started to hit puberty. His shirt is dirty, they’re both sweating and it’s sweltering in the fort—even though it’s in the shade, the heat of their bodies in the confined space is driving the temperature up to uncomfortable. Milo is right—it is small, and being so close to Milo makes a completely different heat suffuse his body. It’s confusing and new and unwelcome, and, if he doesn’t distract himself immediately, will be very obvious.

Andrew distracts himself by looking over their creation. The wooden floor is rough enough to need more sanding. The walls are made of mismatched wooden boards—some bought and some scavenged—that don’t fit together perfectly, especially around the small window and door. One day, when it’s not about a billion degrees, Andrew wants to paint the walls inside. Milo looks up to examine the roof while they finish lunch, and Andrew contemplates whether making some sort of sign outside the fort would be too childish.

It’s far from perfect, but still, for that moment, Andrew can’t imagine that he’s ever been happier.

~*~

What it Takes is currently available for pre-order and will be out Jan. 14th.

Enter to win a copy of What it Takes in the Goodreads giveaway!

Perhaps a New Start

Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers! I hope this year brings you many things — good health, good friends, love and great books! To start the year off, I thought I’d offer you an excerpt and a little insight into one of my main characters: Milo.

In 14 days, What it Takes will be hitting the shelves (so to speak), and I wanted to share a little bit about the book with you guys. A theme in What it Takes seems very apropos for this day: new beginnings, fresh starts, and goodbyes.

Personally, I don’t make New Years resolutions. I stopped years ago after I had a particularly bad period in my life and realized that making a promise on one day that I was bound to forget or let go of wasn’t as effective in changing my life and going in the direction I *needed* to go for healing and peace. So I made myself a promise that *every day* could be a new one. I forget this all the time, but when I remember, this is a time when I can take a breath and remind myself that this moment is a new start. I generally focus this energy on a desire to be a kinder person and to do my best at achieving my goals.

Milo and I share many things. We come from similar family pasts, and many of his struggles are things I went through. As well, a lot of the way he shaped his healing as an adult was inspired by my own journey in letting go of particular demons and healing. Perhaps my journey took longer and had a lot more painful steps, but I tried hard to give Milo genuine healing and coping skills.

One of the hardest things we have to do in life to heal or to grow past a painful past is to allow ourselves to let go and to move forward. Sometimes this means saying goodbye: to a person, to a place, to a dream, to a resentment. Doesn’t have to be all, but the message is the same.

Milo’s father’s death is a big turning point for him. It’s a place in his life where he can chose to go in many directions. Where the biggest source of his trauma is no longer physically present. In the following scene, we see the beginning of that conversation between Milo and Andrew, in which they talk about the opportunity this moment presents Milo and what that could mean for his future. Which goodbyes might be good for him, and what things might not be able to let go of.

~*~

Light filters between the ill-fitted boards cobbling their fort together; it filters through the trees from afar, registering as a small twinkle until he comes close enough to see clearly. There’s a blanket over the open square that was the lookout window. Milo can’t help but think that nothing has changed, yet nothing is the same because he’s not the same boy who built this sanctuary and walked through the framed door into a world of make-believe Andrew could always craft so easily and vividly.

Milo clears his throat before stepping in. Andrew is sitting with his legs curled in the far corner, huddled into a fleece blanket. A lantern casts light and shadows around the small room. It’s small enough that there’s not enough room to sit without bumping knees or feet.

Andrew’s sleepy-eyed and mussed; he looks small under the blanket that envelops him.

“How long have you been here?” Milo asks, keeping his voice low.

“I don’t know,” Andrew whispers back. His lips tremble in the cold. Milo moves to get closer, but Andrew gestures him back. Milo settles back with a sigh.

“It’s not that I don’t—” Andrew tips up a shoulder, and his face is rueful. “I thought we should talk.”

Milo wraps himself in his own blanket, covers the lantern and knocks it over. Once he’s untangled and righted it, he’s temporarily blinded by the direct glare. He blinks; when he looks around he notices how much darker the walls are than he remembers.

“Hey,” he says softly, nudging Andrew’s knee. “You painted.”

Andrew looks up, and Milo can see him swallowing. “Yeah, I did.”

“When?”

“When I came home for the long weekend in October.” Andrew’s fingers trail down the wall. In the night, the walls look black except where the lantern reveals a deep blue. Above his head are scatters of light pricks and moons and planets.

“Finding your way?” Milo jokes lightly. Andrew has always found his way by the stars, not using standard constellation maps, but his own visions.

“Searching for Cygnus,” Andrew says. Milo’s not sure which one that is, only that the irony in his tone means something.

They don’t say anything, letting the night settle over their tiny retreat like its own blanket. Milo lets this place, a place that was always theirs—one that they’ve outgrown—settle him. He dropped out of sleep heavily; that something’s missing feeling startled him until he realized it was Andrew. That disoriented him even more.

He takes time, now, to look him over. That uneasy sense that they’ve both changed irrevocably in the months since September has dissipated. Andrew doesn’t look any different—he’s the boy Milo has always known. Well, man. They’re supposed to be men now, forging into adult lives away from school and their parents.

“I can’t tell what I’m feeling,” Andrew says.

“Yeah, I’m sort of there myself.”

“It’s cold. This is dumb,” Andrew opens his blanket and arranges himself, inviting Milo to share his body heat. They shuffle and tangle until they’re perfectly fitted in a space a shade too small. This is the shape of my childhood, too tight around me. But Andrew makes it okay.

“Are you okay?” Milo asks.

“Of course I am.” There’s a tiny thread suggesting otherwise in the words, though.

“How is this going to work?”

Andrew’s fingers slide between Milo’s, tracing the beds of his fingernails and the palm of his hand. “I think you have to say goodbye.”

“I didn’t mean home. I meant us.”

~*~

What it Takes is currently available for pre-order and will be out Jan. 14th.

Enter to win a copy of What it Takes in the Goodreads giveaway!

Gifts: pictures and an excerpt!

If you happen to follow my tumblr account, you might have gotten a little spoilerish peek at two lovely men who served as inspiration for Milo and Andrew. They aren’t perfect matches, but they each have lots of features that do match my boys at two different ages: Milo as a teen (although his eyes are a beautiful dark blue in the book) and Andrew as an adult.  If you want to sneak a peek at them, head over to my tumblr page. I also post pretty pictures relevant to What it Takes (AKA lovely shots of the Cape) and assorted flotsam. Every now and then you’ll find little gifts (like the pictures of the boys for example) that won’t be up here for a while.

As we get closer to the release of What it Takes (21 days…but who’s counting?), I though that, in the spirit of Christmas, I’d give everyone an excerpt from just a lovely scene where they boys both try to navigate their very complicated relationship.

~*~

Andrew gladly lets Milo drive his car; he hates driving, especially when he can play radio DJ and watch the scenery go by. He looks at Milo: the way the fading light before dusk changes the tone of his skin; the way the muscles of his arms stand out and his lips curl as he sings along, awfully, to the radio. Milo smiles at him and Andrew flashes a brief one back, wonders how obvious he’s being, and looks back out the window at the slipping sand that spills onto the road and the ramshackle businesses along the road.

“So what got this bee in your bonnet?” he asks suddenly.

Milo shrugs. “You sound like my grandma.”

“Awesome; I like her. Let’s focus.”

“So… okay.” Milo clears his throat and his fingers tighten on the wheel. “I um, think I have something to tell you. But I’m—”

“Is everything okay?” Andrew interrupts, scanning his memory for any signs of additional distress Milo might have displayed in the last few months.

“Yeah. Well. I mean, um… whatever. But I—”

“What? You’re worrying me.”

Milo sighs and pulls into the parking lot of a restaurant with a giant crab on the roof. “I can’t do this and drive.”

“Okay,” Andrew says slowly, then unbuckles his belt and turns to face him. Milo’s face is a little drawn.

“So, I think I might be gay,” Milo blurts. “I mean, I know. I know I am.”

There’s a full minute of silence in the car while Andrew tries to work the words out. Static screeches in his ears, fleetingly numbing his reaction. Focus. He has a few seconds to control his face, to tamp down that sprout of irrational hope seeding despite the chaos, and be ultimately supportive.

“Um.” Andrew licks his lips and tries to pull himself together. That seedling wants to grow into something bigger, and he can’t let it. He looks at Milo’s face, which has morphed into something more vulnerable and worried. Hope is a hollow bell in his chest, ringing loud and dissonant; he wants to vibrate out of his skin with the inappropriateness of his own reactions. This is about Milo, not him. “You aren’t worried that I’m mad or something, are you?” he manages to say.

“I don’t know. Um, your face is doing… a thing,” Milo replies.

Reflexively Andrew puts his hands to his cheeks. His fingers are cold. Okay, so he definitely doesn’t have his face under control. “No, I… wasn’t expecting it, that’s all.” Andrew’s brain, sometimes faster than his mouth, is careening backward. “Maybe I should have had a clue.”

“Oh?”

“Well, for starters, you kissed me back.”

~*~

What it Takes is currently available for pre-order and will be out Jan. 14th.

Enter to win a copy of What it Takes in the Goodreads giveaway!