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!

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Tyler Heyward, beautiful boy

“Tyler was capable of a lot more than his family, or most people who knew him, thought. People took him at face value. He had soft features and a lithe, thin body that should have been a dancer’s, delicate hands and unusual eyes. It was easier to let them think what they would than to always fight it.

At home he was lighthearted and silly and lovable. He didn’t demand attention. With his friends at Affirmations, the LGBT community center, he was femme and funny, the laugh of the party and everyone’s pet. At school he was quiet: the achiever; tones spoken a little lower, clothes a little baggier and the line of his shoulders held differently.

Tyler was gifted. And it wasn’t just his intelligence, or his unusual prettiness or his sweet nature. Tyler was an actor at almost every moment, a patchwork of personas, a chameleon and a bone-deep people-pleaser.”

For those of you curious about the men of Idlewild, I’ve been posting little pictures over on my twitter and facebook accounts — I’ll be putting ones up every now and then as we run up to Idlewild’s release (12 days!!! Eeee).

Until then, I also wanted to share tiny snapshots of who these men are.

~*~

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!

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!

Secret Forts

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

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

~*~

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

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

“I’m fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do you plan to accomplish this without— ”

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

Hush Giveaway!

Free books are awesome right? I am so pleased to share a free book giveaway for my debut novel, Hush.

Hush is an erotic m/m romance that chronicles the relationship between Wren, a man with the gift to compel other people’s feelings and desires, and Cam, a naive college freshman. Under Wren’s tutelage, Cam begins to understand his sexuality and gain confidence in himself. Over time, what started as a game between them intensifies and becomes more complex than Wren expected, forcing him to examine his own fears and choices.

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If you’re in the US and want to get your hands on one of five print copies of Hushenter the Goodreads giveaway. The winners will be announced on May 26.

For a giveaway of three multi-format ebooks of Hush, available both in the US and internationally, click on my Rafflecopter giveaway instead. There are over 40 days left in that one!

Hush will be released by Interlude Press on May 19th. It is available for pre-order with an excellent deal right now — for the price of the print book, you get the ebook free!