Dialect in Dialogue: Guest Post with Open Ink Perspectives

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


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

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

Read More

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Buy Links:

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

 

30% off Sale!

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

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badge-fiction-100x128Kirkus Best Books of 2016

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

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

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

Buy Links:

Idlewild is available for purchas at Interlude Press Webstore

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

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

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

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

What it Takes is currently available at Interlude Press Web Store

hush cover

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

One secret can change everything.

Wren is one of “the gifted”—a college sophomore with the power to compel others’ feelings and desires. He uses his power as a game of sexual consent until Cameron, a naïve freshman, enters his life. As Cameron begins to understand his sexuality and gain confidence under Wren’s tutelage, Wren grows to recognize new and unexpected things about himself.
Will Cameron’s growing confidence finally break down Wren’s emotional walls, or will Wren walk away from his best chance for love?

Hush, is currently for sale at Interlude Press Web Store

Holiday cheer and a little fuck you to the establishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

 

 

A little sweet, a little sexy, a little excerpt

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

~*~

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

 

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

~*~

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

Idlewild is now available for purchase at the following retailers:

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

 AMAZON http://amzn.to/2fiefzf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idlewild Release today!

So follow my book tour and you’ll get little slices of life and insights into Idlewild, and where you’ll have access to a rafflecopter giveaway! Below (in this post you’ll also find ALL the links to buy Idlewild!)

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Idlewild buy links:

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

 AMAZON http://amzn.to/2fiefzf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Idlewild food porn sneak peek?

I asked y’all what you wanted if I finished NaNoWriMo today and people wanted sexy, foody, sexy food type things. I can’t promise you food porn, BUT I can offer you Asher, Tyler, some sexual tension and apple muffins!

~*~

“Making sure no one burned the place to the ground?” Tyler asks. Leaving the restaurant in Claudia’s hands had made Asher antsy all day.

Asher is crouched behind the line, counting the pans George set up before leaving. “I think someone would have told me by now if it burned down,” he says absently. Tyler rolls his eyes. He drags Asher out by his arm.

“Enough. George and Santos are more than competent enough todo their jobs. Everything is fine.”

Asher sighs and runs his hand through his hair. It had been adorably mussed by the winds in the apple orchard; it’s positively wild right now. Tyler resists the urge to smooth it.

“So…” Tyler clears his throat. Ever since his talk with Asher about John he’s wondered how Asher’s managed all these years without processing his grief. He doesn’t want to push him, but he’d love to help Asher recall good memories and learn to carry them from his past into his life. He steps closer. “I was thinking… maybe you could teach me.”

“Teach you?” Asher repeats. A momentary quiet hangs heavy and loaded between them. Tyler blinks and takes a step back. That too much-feeling curls in his stomach. It feels dangerous and unintentional and heady, and a shade wrong when Malik is waiting at home for him— or could be. He never knows anymore.

“How to make the muffins,” Tyler says carefully.

“Oh. I think that would be nice.” Asher’s smile is sad.

“Are you sure? I’m sorry; I didn’t mean—”

“No,” Asher interrupts, “I think I’d enjoy that.”

#

“It’s not a hard recipe,” Asher says when he comes down. He went upstairs to search for it. Tyler waited for what seemed like ages.

“Oh?” Tyler says. This is a very strange moment. John’s ghost resurrected has been by his questions; he doesn’t want to fuck up.

“How many are we making anyway?” Asher asks.

“I don’t know. We’re having an employee appreciation night tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Want to make the muffins to go with the cider?”

Asher props the recipe card against the container of flour he’s retrieved. “That sounds great.”

“Awesome,” Tyler says. Asher smiles, and it’s not sad this time, or hopeful or anything to make this whole exercise hard. It’s normal, it’s level. Tyler loves that smile and the natural camaraderie.

“All right, boss, tell me what needs doing.”

But for the directions Asher gives him, it’s quiet in the kitchen. Tyler washes and peels and chops the apples while Asher collects and lines up ingredients. Despite the hours he logs here, Tyler’s not very competent in the kitchen.

“You’re going to chop a finger off,” Asher says. “Here.” He takes Tyler’s hands carefully. “Curl the tips of your fingers under.” Asher’s fingers are gentle, warm and bigger than his. A tingle shivers down Tyler’s spine. His breath comes out harder than it should, giving him away. Asher pauses—it’s barely perceptible—and takes a breath of his own. But he doesn’t move away. Tyler can smell him and feel the height difference. Asher’s not overly tall, but he is bigger than Tyler. Most men are.

“How’s that?” Tyler manages. He mimics the movement Asher’s shown him, and places his fingers more carefully on the apple.

“Perfect,” Asher says, and then moves away. Tyler goes back to chopping.

Once they’re finished, Asher tilts the recipe card so that Tyler can see it. He mixes the dry ingredients while Asher does the wet. The air is so charged Tyler almost can’t take it. He looks at Asher often, averting his eyes when Asher glances back. He wants to speak, but there’s nothing to say. This is John’s recipe. Tyler intended this moment to be cathartic for Asher. This isn’t catharsis.

But when Asher glances over at him while he mixes and catches Tyler’s eye, Tyler is sure his feelings are not one-sided. Once the batter is in the tins and then into the oven, Tyler takes his apron off, grabs some water and follows Asher into the breakroom.

He hands Asher the glass and perches on a stool. Instinct—or maybe cowardice—tells him he needs to wait for Asher to break the silence.

“Thank you, Tyler,” Asher finally says. He twists the glass round and round in his hands with his gaze focused on it. “I… I’ve needed this.”

“Anytime,” Tyler says softly, and means it.

~*~

Remember, Idlewild is coming out TOMORROW! I’ll be taking over Interlude Press’s twitter tonight with Erin Finnegan (author of Luchador) to take reader questions, so please come over around 6:30 and send your questions to them! Also, if you like apple muffins, or men making apple muffins, or stories about love, feel free to share that love 😀

Author’s Note: Special *Deluxe* Edition

Before readers even get to Idlewild: The Book, I give them a tiny taste of Detroit: Jude’s Story in the form of an Author’s Note. But as is the way with Author’s Notes, we don’t actually get to tell you our life stories, or the complexities of our ties to particular ones. I won’t do that to you here either. But before we – you as a reader and I as the writer – go on this trip together, I thought I’d offer you a slightly expanded version of my author’s notes. Basically, lemme tell you some stories.

When my father was seventeen years old he came to Detroit from Venezuela to attend what was then called the University of Detroit. At the age of twenty-one he met my mother, who was raised in Redford, a bordering suburb of the city. After five weeks of courtship they married and, a few years later, left the United States. My sister and I were born in Brazil and although we visited the States often, we visited Florida, not Michigan, where my mother’s mother and brother still lived. My sister and I were raised on the stories they and our grandparents would tell of their lives and times in Detroit. Some were heartbreaking: My father and grandmother’s recollections of the 1967 riots, for example, were vivid. Some were not: My grandmother never ran out of funny stories about my grandfather’s time as a Detroit police officer and her days as a rebellious teenager growing up in the city. For some reason I don’t have my mother’s stories. I’d say “for some unknowable reason”, but since my mother is literally the only living person in this cast of characters, if you will, I could actually ask her. I’m not sure if it’s instinct, or her general unreliability as a narrator, but I never have.

That’s not really the point.

When I was twelve years old our family moved back to the Metro Detroit area. From the moment we first flew over the city I was fascinated. Not because I’d never seen a city, since I grew up in São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world (digression: I cannot tell you the number of people who have actually asked me questions like “did you have electricity in Brazil?” and “Did you live a cardboard hut?” GROWN ASS ADULTS, NO JOKE), but because this was the location of so many stories transforming from ephemeral to real, physical truths.

Every few weeks for years, my sister and I would accompany our father and his uncle to University of Detroit-Mercy basketball games. We went many places downtown such as the Fox Theater for shows, to explore the Detroit Institute of Arts, to the Joe Louis Arena for hockey games, or once, memorably, my mother and I went across the Ambassador Bridge to Canada to pick up a dog (to name a few). Detroit wears its history beautifully and heartbreakingly, and I never tired of seeking out tiny details of that history carved into her landscape.

In the 22 years I’ve lived here, I’ve heard so many horror stories, heard people tell how they would never set foot in the city again, heard the stories the rest of the country relied on to paint a picture of this place — I referenced this in another blog post, the wonderfully (read: sarcasm) dichotomous nature of Detroit’s story elsewhere. Either we’re the sensationalized story of corruption and school “sick-outs” or “the place to be” for good craft beer and high end tapas. These dichotomies don’t leave room for the middle though, for that space in between polar, sensationalized opposites where everyone else reside. However, in these spaces in between are countless people who have stories of hope and resilience, who carry a refusal to give up, and who love this city.

Growing up, I’ve watched the changing face of this city. In this moment, Detroit exists in the nexus of complex issues; so much of Detroit’s story could be told, and I have a love for this city which informed my desire to tell a story that takes place here. That doesn’t mean that the writing of it was easy. Because when you set something in that nexus of complex issues, you have to do your very best to examine or understand them. I cannot claim to be an expert on Detroit – past or present. But it would have run counter my personal ethic to even attempt to do this story without due diligence.

Keeping all of this in mind, it was important for me, and I hope for the reader, to remember that at its heart Idlewild is the story of two men falling in love. Set behind them is a city they both believe in, though their unique understandings of her story are very different. Detroit’s recent history runs much deeper than this story could do justice to, although it informs so much of this book. Writing this was a huge labor of love, and in the process of doing so, I read many excellent books about the city (well and also spent wildly inappropriate amounts of time on the internet getting lost in millions of articles and resources etc). If you are interested in checking any of the books out, there’s reading list under Idlewild Resources (handily on that top menu of my blog). As far as the internet goes, I trust y’all know how to get lost there. But I can always give you some tips 😉

With Idlewild MOMENTS (or two days, but it feels like moments) from release, I hand you this story with the hope that you’ll love these men and this city by the time you’re done.

Romance Novelists, always wanting you to fall in love, eh? What can ya do?

~*~

 

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.

 

idlewild_postcard_frontIf you order Idlewild, remember to email me (judemsierra@gmail.com) proof of purchase to be entered a signed copy of any of my books (and to get a personalized post card!)

All of the Sales! All!

Not only are all of my print books STILL on sale, but Interlude Press is now offering 30% off ALL eBooks with the code CYBER at checkout. Also buy any print or eBook from Interlude Press and you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card!

Pre-Order a print copy of Idlewild for $13.59

Grab a copy of Hush for $12.79 and What it Takes for $11.04!

idlewild_postcard_frontIf you pre-order Idlewild, remember to email me (judemsierra@gmail.com) proof of purchase to be entered a signed copy of any of my books (and to get a personalized post card!)

Black Friday Book Sale!!

Interlude Press is having a great Black Friday sale! Each of my print books is on sale right now!  Also buy any print or eBook from Interlude Press and you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card!

Pre-Order a print copy of Idlewild for $13.59

Grab a copy of Hush for $12.79 and What it Takes for $11.04!

idlewild_postcard_frontIf you pre-order Idlewild, remember to email me (judemsierra@gmail.com) proof of purchase to be entered a signed copy of any of my books (and to get a personalized post card!)

 

 

Ahhh, tension, the spice of life

Sexual tension? Romantic tension? Who’s the odd man out here tension? Are you a solo-city saver tension? Why is Tyler a control freak tension?

A little of this, a little of that, stay tuned for more….

~*~

“Honey, this is Asher. Asher, this is our friend Brandon, and this is Malik,” Tyler says brightly.

“Hey,” Malik says. His smile seems genuine and his handshake natural. He doesn’t do that extra-strong handshake guys sometimes do. Asher hates it when guys do that. Posturing annoys him.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Asher says and means it. He shakes Brandon’s hand and remembers that this is Tyler’s other roommate. He doesn’t talk about him much, other than to complain about the mess he leaves behind in the apartment. Sometimes Asher has a degree of sympathy for Malik and Brandon. He doesn’t think of himself as a terribly messy person, but he doesn’t have Tyler’s constant need to put things in order.

“So what brings you out tonight?” Asher asks. Apparently everything he says tonight is going to be clumsy.

“Just wanted to see what the fuss is about,” Malik says. He tugs on Tyler’s hand to get him to sit. Tyler darts his eyes over at Asher to be sure it’s okay.

“I’d give you a tour, but this is pretty much it,” Asher offers. Luckily they seem to get that he’s joking. Sometimes people don’t.

“You picked a great time,” Tyler says. “The rush is over, finally.”

“Why don’t you take your break now,” Asher offers. Technically Tyler should be off, but he knows Tyler won’t leave without helping with the closing work the other servers have to do.

“Take one with us,” Tyler says. Asher can’t read what’s in his eyes, but he can read the awkwardness that springs up between everyone when he does.

“Yeah, take a load off,” Malik says. Asher glances back at Claudia, who is cleaning the bar rail. She catches his eye and nods, signaling that he should hang out there. He drags a couple of chairs from a nearby table and offers one to Tyler first. Tyler pulls it closer to Malik.

“Do you guys want another drink?” Asher asks before he sits.

“Tyler?”

“I’m on the clock, boss,” Tyler says. Asher smiles, then gestures Claudia over.

“I’ve officially clocked you out for a bit,” he says.

“Do I get to un-clock you so you can drink?” Tyler says, then makes a face. “That sounded dirtier than I meant it to.” Asher laughs but then straightens out to address the table so it doesn’t seem as if he and Tyler are in their own world.

“No, someone has to steer this ship,” he says.

“And of course it can only be you,” Tyler teases.

“You’re one to talk. Tyler has control issues.” Asher points out.

“Oh man, tell us about it,” Brandon says while Malik nudges Tyler playfully with his shoulder. Tyler makes an indignant huffy noise that’s downright adorable. Asher bites the inside of his cheek to keep his smile disguised.

When Claudia comes, they all order drinks—except Asher who won’t be swayed so long as the restaurant is open—and begin picking their way through awkward conversation. Asher worries that he knows too much: about Tyler, about Malik, about their relationship through guesswork and his tendency to observe Tyler and puzzle him out. He’s hyper-aware that Malik has been told more about him than Asher is comfortable with. Asher is intensely protective of his own life, of the precarious balancing act between knowing too much and trying not to be too familiar with Tyler, that he’s trying to execute. Malik and Brandon are into their third beers, and Tyler his second drink, before things thaw enough for smoother conversation. Brandon’s drawn Tyler into a side conversation and Malik has turned his full attention to Asher.

“I’ve been wondering, man,” Malik says. He runs one finger over the menu, tracing the scripted font at the top. “Why Idlewild?”

“Why… the bar?” Asher asks.

“Well, that too, but no, the name.”

“Nothing special, honestly,” Asher says. “Before we knew this was really going to happen, we used to sit around dreaming things up.”

“You and your husband?”

“John, yeah.” Asher drags his finger through the puddled condensation on the tabletop, feathers it out into little designs. “You know, pipe dream-type things. What it would look like, colors. A lot of times it was just goofing off, making up the ugliest color schemes and worst menu items we could. Idlewild was a name that came up one night. Later, when this actually happened,” he says as he gestures around them, “I remembered it.”

What Asher doesn’t tell him is the part that’s closer to his heart. They’d been in bed, late at night. The windows were open with a box fan propped in one of them, which couldn’t dispel the August humidity. Every time they stopped laughing, John would throw out something else, setting off another round of giggles. Asher’s not sure why, of all the names John had tossed out over the years, Idlewild had stayed with him. But he remembers laughing until he cried that night, and kissing John’s neck where it was damp with sweat, but refusing to cuddle because it was so damn hot.

“It’s a good name for a bar,” Malik says. Asher wants to thank him, only Malik’s voice isn’t quite genuine. Or maybe it is, but there’s also an edge. Still Asher errs on the side of manners.

“Thanks.”

“Did you always want to run a restaurant?” Malik’s gaze is unwavering.

Asher’s a little surprised by the question; he and Tyler have talked about this a lot.

“No, not at all. John kind of talked me into it. The idea of doing it one day. So when the opportunity arose, it was my dream, too, by then.”

“And you chose Detroit.” There’s definitely an edge to Malik’s tone now, even if his body language and words and face seem perfectly fine. It’s not aggression. Asher can’t put a finger on what it is. He wants to ask Malik what answers he’s really searching for.

“Feel free to ignore him,” Tyler butts in. Asher wasn’t aware that he’d been listening. “He’s fishing to find out if you think you’re singlehandedly going to save the city with one bar.” Tyler smiles, bright and wide, in Malik’s direction, though Asher can clearly see that he has a hand on Malik’s knee, probably trying to squeeze it so he’ll stop talking.

“Well, I wouldn’t have put it like that,” Malik says. Brandon chuckles and Tyler rolls his eyes.

How would you? Asher wants to ask; his hackles are up. He can’t tell if it’s because he wants to defend their choices or because there’s something about Malik that seems so at odds with the Tyler he knows. Putting them together creates an unsettling dissonance.

“No solo city-saving here,” Asher says, forcing himself to speak lightly.

“I’m sorry, man,” Malik says, and this time his smile is more sincere. “Tyler knows me. I can be an ass about some things. I have a hard time sometimes, with all these folks coming from all over the place, acting as if this here’s empty land waiting for someone to rescue. Like some of us haven’t been here all along doing our best.”

Asher remembers Tyler telling him about Malik growing up in Delray; that, like Tyler, he’s worked hard to get himself through school.

“We never thought we were saving anything,” Asher explains. He doesn’t want to admit it, but Malik’s words give him pause. He doesn’t think that’s what he and John intended or felt, but it’s hard to articulate the difference between intention and action. “A lot of people believe in this city. Have believed. I wanted to be a part of that. Maybe that sounds the same, but it’s not.” He wishes he could find the right words to explain; he never could lay them out plainly for John in a way that made sense. He’s not sure he can for a boy who sees Asher as an interloper.

~*~

Don’t want to miss the scatter of breadcrumbs? I’m doing my traditional #lineaday (One line from the book every day leading up to release) on twitter, and also character excerpts on my tumblr. If breadcrumbs can be counted as appatizers, prepare for a feast….

Or…more terrible puns.

Idlewild will be available for purchase December 1st, 2016. It is currently available for pre order: if you put both the print and ebook version in your cart and order before Dec. 1st, you’ll get the eBook free using discount code IDLEWILD.

Also, if you preorder and send me proof of purchase, you will receive a personalized postcard from me and be entered to win a signed copy of the book!