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.

 

 

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Book Review: Storm Season by Pene Henson

storm-season

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.

summer-breaks-2

“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.

 

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!

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.

 

Andrew and Milo Exposed

The things you didn’t know! Today I thought it might be fun to give y’all some little insight tidbits into my main characters from What it Takes that you wouldn’t get in the book. When I did my twitter takeover on Interlude’s twitter account a bit ago, I had a couple of readers ask me what it was like to fit twenty years of story into one book. In a word, hard! It really meant judicious storytelling and knowing a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t have room to write in. There was some fun character stuff — sketches and the like — that I did before the book came out and for my VBT I thought I’d share.

First though, to set the scene, can we look at some pictures of these boys first? I love to use Pintrest to find inspiration, even if I have a pretty clear idea of what the characters look like.

Milo was a little hard to pin down — I have a few pictures that have elements of who he is, but this one is a great one, what I imagine he’d look like at twenty. Make his hair a darker and more auburn red and his eyes a little more slate blue and bam!

face:

As for Andrew…I’d never heard of Alex Pettyfur until I started trolling around for Andrew inspiration but OH YES COME TO MAMA. This man. Perfection for Andrew:

Loove Thi Pic Alex Pettyfer | Photo | corny | Fans Share Images:

So what’s the skinny on the character secrets?

Well for starters,  Milo hates to have people sing Happy Birthday to him. He never got that really at home and it always made him feel too seen elsewhere. He also has really deeply hidden and over the top dream wedding fantasies. Not even Andrew knows about that when they’re kids. Milo also always wanted a Malamute puppy. He wasn’t allowed to have pets as a kid, but when he was ten her read a book about large dogs and fell in love with a picture of one. His list of reasons as an adult for why it would make sense to get one include that they’re good family dogs and laid back, but secretly it’s because they “talk” back when you talk to them. He’s seen videos on YouTube and it’s adorable.

As for Andrew, he secretly writes weird, awful dystopian novels that even he doesn’t like. In the back of his mind it’s because they remind him of Milo. Partly that’s because he doesn’t understand the genre and he thinks that’s something Milo might like based on the kids of books he does like to read. As we see in What it Takes, their reading (and video game) tastes do not really line up. Also, Andrew once harbored a really intense, brief crush on Demi Lovato. He’s still not sure why, considering that he’s pretty much always known he was gay. Maybe it was the blue hair phase, or knowing all of the stuff she’s overcome. She just generally seems kind of badass. Plus, even as a gay man he can admit she’s got a great body.

~*~

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

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.

 

 

4.5 Stars for Hush

I was lucky enough to get a fabulous review from Prism Book Alliance this week. I wanted to share before our Twitter Takeover Tuesday (hint, today at 6PM EST, I’m @judesierra), if y’all had any questions about this novel either!

“Cameron Vargas meets Wren early on in his first year of college and is immediately attracted. What ensues is a game of compulsion, obsession, and sexual discovery that eventually and inevitably begins to lose its rules and boundaries. As Cam and Wren’s interactions become increasingly intense, the question of whether or not they can each provide what the other needs in a true relationship becomes paramount.

Jude Sierra is a gifted wordsmith, her early love for writing poetry clearly evident in the lush, vivid imagery and detail she weaves within her prose. The opening paragraphs ofHush mark her as a new favorite of mine, setting the stage for the finely-crafted story that is to follow:

Cameron Vargas’s introduction to college, from its first days into weeks, turns out to be a blur. Later he’ll think back to that time and wonder how he managed to create the canvas of such a pivotal time in his life into a sort of watercolor, pastels that blurred into one another with few distinct shapes or forms.

There was a canvas: complete, yes and from a distance a scene portrayed. But the finer points were lost, a fact he wouldn’t realize until later. Until after. 

Cam would like, in part, to say the difference is simple, that there was a distinct before and after. That his life before was simply before Wren. In chaos, in the months of searching to find the ground, he’d say this: that Wren had come into his life like a freak storm, unexpected and swamping, leaving him capsized and floundering.

I was immediately entranced.

Cam and Wren have an undeniable chemistry, their intimate scenes erotic and fiery with a powerful emotional element that simmers and burns just under the surface. Ms. Sierra allows the reader into her characters’ heads and hearts, and the results are visceral. Cam is completely enveloped in his profound desire for Wren, while Cam’s need for control, connected to a past that is revealed in agonizingly slow bits and pieces, is fierce and clearly defined. Cam is sweet and captivating; Wren is alluring and mysterious. Together they are magic.

Peripheral characters are also well developed and bring added dimension not only to the story, but also to the main characters’ personalities. Interesting roommate and sibling relationships are given ample page time and shed valuable light on the various aspects of Cam and Wren’s natures. Fully fleshed and authentic, these characters help round out the book and work together to create a strong sense of community, their concern for Cam and Wren’s well-being evident and heartfelt.

As tender as it is intense, this new adult m/m romance blends the intoxication of sexual discovery, a captivating touch of the paranormal, and the acute pain and euphoria of newly blossoming relationships into a unique, fascinating gem of a story. It is one that I will definitely be re-visiting and highly recommend…”

So many thanks to PBA for this. I am so happy to hear that people enjoyed Cam, Wren & Co. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll get to go back to their little world…

~*~

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