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!

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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!

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.

Something Like A Love Song Book Review

Something Like a Love Song (print edition)

This story is love as a verb. I don’t even know if that will make sense to anyone, but that’s what it is.

It’s an emotionally difficult book to read, but I applaud Burton for tackling such a difficult story and just executing it brilliantly. There was nothing prettied up for this book about Landon’s injury or recovery; it was slow and difficult and there were successes and setbacks.

I really appreciated that Burton paid such good attention to Dylan’s emotional journey, beyond caring for and loving Landon so much. With Landon’s physical trauma, it could have been easy to create a more formulaic book that focused just on him and gave him a perfect partner. But Dylan isn’t perfect, he is just as damaged by the events of that night as Landon. And together and individually these men have to learn how to heal and to move on.

Underpinning this book is a constant and very beautiful sense of love and community. Their families are beautifully flawed, but also come together and love and support both Dylan and Landon in individually helpful and at times frustrating ways — but ultimately, without that community, none of them would have gotten through the experience as well as they did.

I have to admit I’ve never had a family member suffer a brain trauma, but I have cared for a parent in end of life transition who had multiple brain tumors that changed him completely (both his personality but also his abilities) and his decline was very painful to watch. I felt so much understanding and honesty and care from Burton for her characters, as well as honest portrayal of what people who love someone but are watching this happen to a family member/loved one are going through.

The icing on the cake is Burton’s writing which is clear, consistent, and lovely throughout.

Highly recommended, along with a box of Kleenex.

You can find Becca Burton here, and her books are available to order at

The Interlude Press bookstore (where you can currently get the paperback + e-book package for the price of the paperback, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Smashwords, All Romance, the iBookstore, and an Indie Bookseller near you!

 

 

Throwback Thursday Sock Saturday Contest Winner

And OMG this announcement actually comes…wait for it…on Thursday! My asshole random hashtag worked out. Or something?

ANYWAY, the point is that I am FINALLY announcing the winner of the Sock-Off contest! I got lots of great pictures of socks — you all have some fucking awesome socks — but the grand prize goes to Carol, who sent me a little collage of socks that included socks I have a burning need in my life for…the fuck you socks.

I should be clear that I am actually the nicest person and not generally angry, but man. Don’t you think that sometimes your feet need to tell people to fuck off? I mean, also, the perfection of these socks when you’re telling your roommate to stay clear so you can do it?? Especially with Cam and Nate’s friendship; this is exactly the kind of joke they’d share in the right spirit and laughter.

So congrats Carol!! Carol is the winner of a signed copy of Hush, or when it comes out if she wants, of What it Takes.

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

Cave Dweller Emerges

Hello all!

As anyone who has been following me knows, I’ve been completely MIA for months now. Which I apologize for — life just hit me and my family so hard, and often the pressure of writing a blog post in the middle of that seems insurmountable. A blog post? you say.

Yep.

I always want to give good content in some form. Relevant or witty or well put together. And since about June, I haven’t often had any of those faculties, or those that I did have were sorely tested by things like edits, family emergency, personal health crisis, surgeries, and now, going back to school.

That’s right. After 10 years and 6 as a stay at home mother, I am going back to school to get my MA in Writing and Rhetoric. I’m terrified and elated. I love my coursework and my cohort and my program, but am struggling with the load. I am lucky enough to have an assistantship (which means I work 20 hours a week at my writing center and they pay for my schooling and a small stipend), but the addition of the work load (which so far has been adding up to a lot more than 30 hours a week) has added to the challenge.

But the biggest challenge has been the loss of time I have with my children. I commute 1 hour a day each way to go to school, 4 days a week. Some days, I leave at 7 and come home at 7 and see my children for an hour. Other days, I come home at 4:30-5:30 ish. I get a few hours with them and then spend the rest of the few hours I have (2-3 a night) studying, cleaning, trying to make food ahead of time for the babysitter, and working. The driving is *killing* my hands and wrists and elbows, which contributes a lot to my silence.

As you can see, there is not a lot of time in there for blogging or writing. I am so hoping to get a handle on this load soon, because writing is incredibly important for my well being and creative self, and I miss it.

That said, I am so hopeful I can offer you better and more exciting content soon! With the release of my second book coming soon, I have so much I want to share with you and talk about and just squeeeee over.

Oh yeah, and did I mention a new book? 😉

Yes I did.

cover official

With pride and so much love I am sharing my next story, What It Takes, which will be available for pre-order in November and for sale January 14th, 2016.

Stay tuned for more info and details!!

Hugs and Kisses,

Cave Dweller Jude

Welcome to Carlina University

Hush is set in a fictional university, Carlina University, in a suburb of Chicago. One of my favorite parts of creating this location was getting to research and create an inspiration board for what Carlina might look like. I love the look of older buildings and dorms on college campuses (In fact, the one with the snowflake lights is the dorm I lived in when I was in college).

There is something whimsical and lovely about this style of architecture and the beautiful landscapes I found. The midwest in seasonal changes is utterly beautiful. The stunning changing of leaves as fall bustles in with wind and the cold edged winds; the hush created by a snowfall that blankets everything; the heat of waxing summer, shaded by greening of late spring leaves – all of these were things I kept in mind as I put these characters into this world I created.

I love getting to see examples of images authors had in mind when writing, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing what *I* had in mind as I wrote Hush.

carlinainspiration1 carlinainspiration2 carlinainspiration3 carlinainspiration4 carlinainspiration5

Hitting the Highlights!

As my virtual blog tour closes out, I wanted to take an opportunity to thank each blog that hosted me, but also to round up my favorite moments — I had some fun interviews and lovely reviews! Stay tuned at the end of this post for a sneak peek at a new contest I’ll be hosting soon!

Amanda C. Stone’s interview was great! Who would I be as a superhero? (Dame Decisive. I talk about her a little more). Who would be a stripper at my birthday party? If I didn’t die of embarassment, of course the answer would be a tossup between Matt Bomer and Natalie Dormer. There are other great questions, read on for fun answers!

Thanks to MM Good Book Reviews for the following:

“If you like unique characters, a touch of supernatural powers, college kids, coming of age and some very hot man-sex…this is for you.”

Because Two Men Are Better Than One challenged me to think of an invention I’d want at the snap of my fingers and asked me what kind of candy bar I’d be (hint: Sweet, creamy and smooth).

Wicked Faeries and I did a fun interview as well. What do I obsessively snack on when I write? Who is my favorite all time character ever? (Ok, that’s impossible. But I do gush about my love for Lord John Grey here. I even named one of the birds in my tattoo after him!). Also, because I’m weird, I talk about why the heck I love reading a book about Ebola over and over.

Velvet Panic and I discussed my favorite childhood books, how I got into this wonderful world of M/M fic and why I do this!

Check out my interview with Gale Stanley from Wake Up Your Wild Side to read the seriously hilarious story behind finding the title for Hush.

Speaking of titling Hush, The Novel Approach and I talked in depth about the importance of the right title and why it works so well with this story and these characters.

Bayou Book Junkie not only gave me a wonderful review (thank you!) but hosted a Q&A in which I got to talk about the biggest challenges I faced writing a book (balancing my poetic tendencies with prose without pulling back too much is just one aspect) and my all time favorite book (I cheated, there are two!).

Prism Book Alliance challenged the crap out of me by having me list my 10 favorite literary couples! I had to think for days, and then though of more once I turned it in (of course). I did have to think outside the box and redefine couple (lifelong friendship, the moment that changed a life and could have been, etc). Watch out for my obsession with YA. I really do love these couples and highly recommend reading all of these books.

Cate Ashwood hosted me for a Q&A about my writing process, which was really nice to talk about. Revealing that I’m a pantser rather than a plotter wasn’t exactly a plot twist, but I got to give examples of what happens when you pants (the appearance of Peyton, Cam’s twin, which came to me when I was already a third of the way through the book. She was a huge surprise but she’s incredibly important to his story). Also, Pintrest. I love Pintrest. Here’s mine if you want to see board inspirations for the story and also my boys!

BFD Book Blog hosted me for a great Q&A that included my tea recommendations, talk about my crochet fail, and five book recommendations for my readers, which I’m sharing because y’all, these are great books!

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. A book with an intersex protagonist, which I never see, and also a wonderful interweaving of the history of Detroit, which is close to my heart. Beautifully, stunningly written.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. I love Young and New Adult books. This book is hilarious and irreverent and spot on. You root for Paul and Noah, you head palm over Paul’s fails, you fall in love with the secondary characters (especially Tony). My favorite of Levithan’s books, although they are all treasures.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. There is no universe in any dimension of existence in which I won’t insist you read this series (yes I cheated a little. Outlander is the first book. It’s a part of a series). I can’t even sum it up – it’s epic. History, a touch of sci-fi,  romance, war, hot sex, men in kilts…

The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Again with the YA! This book has long been one of my favorites. It’s a coming age of story that’s poignant and painful; both in historical context (during and just after World War II) but also in what Danny and Revuen go through as they grow into men. The bedrock of the story – the friendship they develop and their relationship and friendship throughout – is so masterfully done, I still cry when I read it.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. I could go on for years about all the ways in which this book is so much more than people think: the complex themes of creation, religion, responsibility and philosophy. But I won’t. I’ll just kindly urge everyone to read it, ponder it, and read it again. And again.

I enjoyed talking about my inspiration for this book, my amazing cover art, and what’s coming with my next book with Love Bytes Reviews. The highlight for me was talking about my favorite celebration meal: Arepaswhich is a cornmeal-based flatbread. You eat them hot and open them up to make pockets and stuff them with deli meat and cheese (we love to use queso blanco). We only ever have them when my cousins – who are what’s left of my father’s side of the family and the only connection we have with his Venezuelan roots – are in town. My one cousin is a chef and last time we had them he made some amazing sauce with steak and mushrooms and seventy other things that I’d never think to put on them but they were orgasmically good. I loved giving Cam some of my Venezuelan roots, and getting to feed him arepas as well.  That was totally born of my longing for good family food.

Molly Lolly not only gave me a wonderful review (and I appreciate that she got a kick out of  Nate and Cam soxiling each other) but also got a playlist of 10 songs for Hush (if you like them and want to hear the whole playlist, it’s public on my Spotify!). Here are my ten picks:

Dark Horse by Katy Perry
Wild Ones– Sia, Flo Rida
Statues of Ourselves, Semi Precious Weapons
ET – Katy Perry and Kanye West
Map of the Problematique – Muse
Titanium – Sia, David Guetta
Hysteria – Muse
The Perfect Drug– Nine Inch Nails
Sweater Weather – The Neighborhood
Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding.

Speaking of soxiling! If you aren’t familiar, I encourage you to read Hush to find out what exactly it is! I had SO MUCH FUN with it, and with finding pictures of the socks for the boys to send each other. In the next month or so I’d love to host a contest: Sock Saturdays. The winner will get a free copy of my book sent right too them. Stay tuned for more on that!

Big thanks to every blog that hosted me, all the blogs that interviewed and reviewed!

~*~

Hush is currently available for order at Interlude Press, Amazon and other awesome retailers 😀

Reader questions!

I am so excited that my book is out in your hands now, and that you all have questions! I have a new shiny Ask Me Things! button up on the link bar at the top of the page, so if you have any questions, ask away!!

For now, I have a question from a reader (that’s a thrilling phrase!)

Hi Jude – I read and loved your book! I couldn’t put it down. I did have a couple of questions though. I sort of felt like there could be a sequel – do you have any plans for more with Wren and Cam? And also, I sort of felt like Peyton and Cam might have been ‘gifted’ themselves, and maybe Peyton knew but Cam had no idea, which is why she travels so much. Am I reading too much into it? Again, the book is amazing! -Slayerkitty

First of all, thank you so much, I am so glad you liked it!

This book definitely comes to a close at a natural ending point in one arc of Wren and Cam’s lives and relationships. It’s a coming of age story, but the funny thing about coming of age is that, in my experience, it is a thing that slowly happens in waves. And it’s happening to all of the characters in this book. There’s so much of their stories left to tell! I would love to revisit that in the future, and should the time and opportunity present themselves, I’ll definitely be addressing Cam and Peyton’s stories further. For now, I’ll leave you with a hint: the author Q&A at the end of Hush has one, and an invitation to let your imagination take you anywhere you’d like….