Updates and book recommendations!

Yesterday on Facebook, I admitted that I suck at multiple platforms (is that what we’d call them?). For some reason, I’m great at obsessing over my twitter feed, at posting on Facebook groups (but now my own feed?) and catching up on things on Goodreads (though note to self: DON’T READ REVIEWS. Lol).

Not much has gone on here that’s terrible exciting (related to my writing life). I went on the most beautiful beach vacation up in Caseville, Michigan with my family. Seriously.

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That is, no joke, an unfiltered picture I took from the deck of the cottage we were staying in. That was a lovely vacation– beach, sun (we’ll ignore the slight sun poisoning I got), sleep and BOOKS. I read so much great stuff! Zane Riley’s With or Without You which I reviewed here. It’s a follow up to Go Your Own Way from last year. It’s a series I so highly recommend. I re-read Avon Gale’s Power Play, and because I’m the luckiest girl alive, got to read an early copy of her upcoming book, Empty Net (which is currently available for Pre-order!! And it’s on sale right now). Y’all, this book is SPECIAL. This is by far the best thing I’ve read from Avon, and she’s an incredibly talented writer.

I also went on an L.A. Witt tear, and read two of hers: Ex Equals and For the Living, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And because I am OBSESSED, I re-read Fast Connection by Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson. I love this series, and my love for Dominic Costigan cannot be contained. Finally, I rounded out a week of great reading with Garret Leigh’s What Remains. LORD, I cannot. Please read it. And when you fall in love, go read Becca Burton’s Something Like a Love Song.

Otherwise, on the writing front, I’ve been outlining a new project I am very excited to write. It’ll probably take a while, with grad school coming up, and my first semester teaching at a college level starting. But I’m feeling very inspired, which is good news 😀 If you see me tweeting about #ProjectKeys, that’s it. Who knows what hints might get dropped?

Finally, in exciting news, the release date for Idlewild has been moved to December 1st! You might be wondering wny moving it back is exciting — first because that means I have extra time to really work on making this book as great as it can be. Also, December 1st is my birthday.

Okay, written down those seem like selfish reasons, LOL. Anyway, keep an eye out for stuff related to Idlewild in the coming months!

Finally, I am pondering putting together a book giveaway of some sort… must ponder. But if you’ve been wanting a paper copy of one of my books, stay tuned for more info!

~*~

Both Hush andWhat it Takes are available for purchase now at:  Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

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Bang!

I’m gonna start July off with a bang! Or some other fireworks holiday kind of metaphor that’s terrible…

Rounding up some info: my books are 25% at Smashwords! So if you’ve been waiting for a great time to grab a copy of Hush or What it Takes, go for it!

If you want LOTS of great books, Interlude Press has some *amazing* books coming up that are on sale — all of their pre-order books — which includes Pene Henson’s upcoming novel, Into the Blue.

I have to write this book a proper review, but for now, just LOOK at the gorgeous cover.

This book is lush and beautiful and will just grab your heart. It got a starred review in Publishers Weekly and has gotten some great reviews ahead of it’s release — so I promise you, this book is really something very special.

You can preorder Into the Blue in print and e-book format, and I cannot recommend it more!

As for the rest, who knows? We are hard at work on Idlewild (yay!) and I am messing with an idea for a fourth book I am SO EXCITED FOR, which will be my Camp NaNo project. Wish me luck and motivation!

Finally, I am going to encourage everyone to get involved in the 1000 Book Challenge. Interlude Press and The Trevor Project have partnered to raise money for The Trevor Project and to get LGBT YA into libraries, head over here to find ways you can support this awesome project.

 

Banner Time

Let’s talk visual inspiration for What it Takes; in pictures and an excerpt.

(Say it like you’d say Hammer Time and then sing that song to yourself for a moment. Go on, it’ll feel great!)

~*~

        “The wind is up, but the beach is deserted. This has always been a quieter one, thanks to a longer walk through the dunes. There are sandbars far into the water at high tide and the sand is mostly exposed at low tide. A line of pebbles sweeps in an arc above the waterline, and below it is a second arc of seaweed. The tide is mostly out. The dunes wear their usual blend of pretty purple and white flowers and sharp grasses. 

       Milo sits a few feet above the rock line and pulls on his sweater. The sun is blinding off the water, but he wants to be blinded, wants to be forced out of his headspace. It’s so quiet, save for the agitated water. 

       Legs crossed, Milo pulls himself up straight. He closes his eyes and ignores the swirling colors behind his eyelids. He counts a slow breath in, three beats, then exhales for three. Takes a three-beat pause before breathing in. He imagines his breath as a triangle and projects that shape from his body. He lets his senses take in the beach, the quiet, the water, the grit of the sand whipped up by the waves. Tension seeps out of him when he exhales. He lets it go. Nothing is taken from him, nothing is forced. He can count these breaths as he wants. He suspends himself in the pauses: pictures a white canvas, bleeding jumbled.images of worry and anxiety, reds and blacks and angry oranges slowly dripping off, as if washed away by rain. 

       When he opens his eyes again, he’s calmer. That buzzing, anxious feeling is gone. The seaweed has been swallowed by the sea. Tide’s coming in. Milo watches it. The water begins to run in a slow progressing rivulet in a channel between the rocks. As the water creeps ever closer, it rises over uneven sandbars until it meets in the middle of that small channel, eventually overflowing and overrunning the strip of sand in the middle. Before it’s gone, Milo walks into the cold water. The rocks are rough under the soles of his feet. They’re thin-skinned against the sand; when he was a kid they’d been callused and used to beach and forest.
        He searches out bigger, colorful rocks and tosses them up the beach. He finds a perfect half shell with pinks blending into white in the center. In the middle is a bright blue fleck of sand. He picks that up too.
        By the path into the dunes and back toward his car is a wrecked piece of driftwood, hollow and pale from sun-bleaching. He arranges the rocks on top, makes a pattern of colors with the
shell on the end, a frangible beautiful thing, and then takes a picture. His mom will like that. The memory of making art of beach flotsam with Andrew haunts him.” p 145, What it Takes

~*~

Last night I had awesome fun taking over the Interlude Press twitter and website, answering great questions about Hush, What it Takes and my secret third book.

I’ll be rounding some of that up for y’all later, but I wanted to share this banner I made for social media (other than this website, which was made by actual professionals, so it looks more professional).

An anonymous reader asked: I want to visit the setting of your book – it sounds so serene and beautiful. Is it a place you’ve always just imagined or is there an actual place that inspired it?

My quick twitter answer was that the scenery and natural settings were inspired my visit to Wellfleet for a poetry retreat a few years ago. I’ve wanted to use the inspiration I got from that visit for a while. Wellfleet didn’t work, logistically, for this novel, but I wanted to use what I saw and experienced — so I invented the town of Santuit.

While this is an invented town, the pictures in this banner are my own, taken from my trip. I have to admit that the log with stones was something I stumbled upon, I didn’t actually make that art the way that Milo did. That shell with the beautiful blue piece of sand is something I found as well. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the forest they play in, but I assure you I did treck in there and see a lovely isolated pond; I did get to feel the hush of the trees and birds and the stillness of places people weren’t in.

So for those of you who were curious about visuals, inspiration and place, here is some of the magic I experienced and built Milo’s healing around.

 

 

I wrote a book and then….

Crickets chirped into the internet ether on this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

Hence, a tiny bit of silence.

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

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

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

 

 

Roundup? Wind down? Shake it?

Who knows what’s happening with me right now? I don’t. I’m in that weird vortex of being behind all of the important things, gearing up for a short family vacay AND my back injury is flaring up ::FABULOUS::

Right now though, the point is that I wanted to thank EACH AND EVERY wonderful blog that hosted my What it Takes Virtual Blog Tour.

I gotta tell you guys: book bloggers are amazing. In the romance genre it can be so easy to become overwhelmed by picking out books to read. There are so many! The thing about book blogs, particularly when you find ones whose reading tastes seem to align with yours, is that you get book recommendations and the chance to discover new writers. I highly encourage y’all to stop in and explore book blogs when we do VBTs because these people do an awesome job keeping up to date on what’s out there and helping authors get more visibility.

Second order of business: THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU to every reviewer who left a review for my book or promoted it. I can’t thank y’all enough. As of right now, What it Takes is hanging out on two lists on Goodreads: Gay Romance featuring Second Chances and 2016 LGBT/queer New Adult. If you guys feel like boosting me, please head over and vote for my book. These kinds of things get authors more visibility which is great for us. Also, if you’ve read it, I love reviews! We all do. Feedback is super helpful and lovely on multiple fronts. Again, visibility. Second, when a writer is feeling in the dumps about their writing because they’re roadblocked on a project (Ahem), it helps to know you’re doing something right. Very motivating!

To check out the great blogs that hosted me and to find out all kinds of gems about me in interviews you might not have known, head over to the following:

14-Jan: Book Lovers 4Ever, Lee Brazil, Inked Rainbow Reads

15-Jan: Havan Fellows, Love Bytes, Hearts on Fire

18-Jan: Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, A.M. Leibowitz

19-Jan: Velvet Panic, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

20-Jan: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, The Novel Approach, Kirsty Loves Books

21-Jan: Molly Lolly, MM Good Book Reviews

22-Jan: BFD Book Blog, Happily Ever Chapter

25-Jan: Nautical Star Books, My Fiction Nook

26-Jan: Emotion In Motion, Bayou Book Junkie

27-Jan: Full Moon Dreaming, Alpha Book Club, QUEERcentric Books

What it Takes is currently available at:

 

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.

For_Jude

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!

Countdown time!

Y’all, in less than ONE month, What it Takes will officially be out in the world. At this time last year, that book was one crazy hot mess of NaNoWriMo scribbles, completely out of order, 50k of who knows what. Next thing I know, I’m getting a starred review in Publishers Weekly and they’re saying it’s a “tender and beautifully written love story”.

And now….now it’s almost in your hands!

So, a couple of things. First, wanna enter to win a free copy? Head over to Goodreads right here. Free copies of books are awesomesauce, trust me.

Other thing: starting 10 days before release I’ll be tweeting snippets from the book. Keep your eyes out for that. I try to # that but you know, 140 characters is freaking short! I’m not known for my brevity. I’m short but can’t keep it short. Ya know what I mean?

Third thing: I’m on grad school break! I have 3 weeks of FREEDOM. Well, if you call getting book #3 in shape to turn in… This also apparently means I am drowning myself in romance novels. Feel free to recommend one to me if you want, I love new books.

Thing the fourth: I also was thinking about posting excerpts from the book about once a week if y’all are interested? Lemme know. Popular vote wins 😀

As a tiny tease, I’ll give you a small snippet so you guys can get a taste.

~*~

He wakes up and lives his life, but there are days when he doesn’t think he’ll ever get through without Andrew helping him breathe with light touches and easy smiles. If he ever let himself, if he ever gave in to the sweet, silver thread of longing he has for Andrew, he knows he would somehow end up breaking everything.

~*~

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

Hush is currently for sale at Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

Book Review: Bitter Springs by Laura Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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