Book Review: Luchador by Erin Finnegan

To state it plainly, I’ll put this out there: Luchador is an absolute must read.

I have been a big fan of Finnegan’s since Sotto Voce, which I’ve re-read many times. Luchador too will go into my re-read several times in the future pile. Finnegan is a gifted storyteller, whose attention to detail finely crafts both plot and setting. She sets the scene for readers very carefully and beautifully – I always feel like I am seeing the setting of each scene with the characters. This is no small feat, because I’m not very good at visualizing things.

I think that without this skill, there would be no way to successfully pull of the description of the actual Lucha matches. Finnegan choreographs them so well, I felt like a spectator. There were some where I was on the metaphorical seat of my pants, cheering and, on one occasion, crying.

For readers concerned that the Lucha aspect of the book won’t appeal to them, I have to say: even if it doesn’t, this book is rich with so many, many things that make it special. One, the cast of characters. We are invited into Gabriel’s new world, into the intrigue, drama, love and heartbreak that bring a group of athletes who perform only for love of their sport, who depend on one another for safety and support. For readers who love found families in novels, this will not disappoint.

I loved Gabriel’s coming of age. It was a treat to get to watch him grow, to come into his own; it was refreshing to have a character go through these transitions but with conviction that bore him through sticking to what he wanted and how he wanted to do it all along.

The build up to the romantic plot was really well done as well – because we see the learning and growing and mistakes one must make before they can really know what they want and who they are – and those things are vital to healthy and good relationships.

This book is not your traditional romance; it’s a book to linger over and one to savor. It’s a book you slip into love with and want to stay with long after it’s over.

Luchador is available at the Interlude Press webstore, but I also just saw that it’s discounted for $11 at Amazon! So if you’ve been waiting on ordering it… 😀

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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!

Detroit Inspiration

detroit-image-4

As Idlewild’s release date nears (December 1st!), I want to begin introducing you to the characters and themes of the book. It might sound silly to some of you, but from the start, the city of Detroit has been a main character in the concept. detroit-image

Idlewild is the most slippery book I’ve ever written, in the sense that it resisted being what I imagined it would be. I generally think of myself as a vessel through which stories pass. What I mean is, that while I create characters and atmosphere, I am always ready and open to let the story and characters tell me who they are and what they want to do. Often, they disagree with what I’d planned.

My initial concept for this book was drawn from two inspirations: the city of Detroit and a Sam Smith song. While Detroit stayed throughout, my understanding of the city and what I’d wanted to write about it changed dramatically. As for Sam Smith, that got left in the dust (initially Tyler’s boyfriend was a serial cheater; this didn’t work at all for the character who ended up being Tyler’s boyfriend).

The first time I described what I wanted to write to a friend of mine, her response pointed out a huge flaw in my thinking. I’d wanted to write about Detroit’s downtown revival, and I’d never considered the complexities of gentrification. Later, I did a research project for my Masters that focused on land based rhetorics in Detroit. This is when I realized I needed to do a lot more research and examine the rhetorics of the city from various points of view.

I wanted to write a love letter to Detroit, and in the end, did. But love is complicated, and Detroit’s story is incredibly complex. Her history is often painful and misunderstood. One cannot ignore the economic and racial tensions of the city now, nor her reputation. detroit-image-2

Every time I hear Detroit called the Murder Capital of the country, my heart breaks. First, because the statistics that led to that headline were contextualized in a particular way and are from years ago. Second because this isn’t the Detroit so many of us know and believe in. These rhetorics influence people to give up. The divide between the Metro Detroit suburbs and the city are rooted far back in history. Many people mark the change in this city’s history to the Riots of 1967. The history of racism, of violence, of redlining housing policies and so many other things date back farther. One must go into the Detroit’s role in FDR’s Arsenal of Democracy during World War II. We must go back to Jim Crow, and the many families who came north thinking that they would find jobs and homes and better lives, only to find that promises would go unfulfilled. We must go back to the founding of Detroit all the way in 1701 and trace a long, layered history.

The history of this city isn’t something I could sum in this blog without it going very long. Although so much of this history doesn’t make it explicitly in this book, it informs so much of what happens and how the characters feel and interact. One of the challenges of writing deeply complex characters (as I do consider Detroit to be a character in this book) in a romance novel was balancing writing a character driven love story with the deep history of a city around it. This sort of book didn’t lend to heavy handed history lessons, because that wasn’t the focus. But it was there. It is there. detroit-image-3

I am so happy that my concept of Detroit as a character in this book changed so dramatically. I hope that I managed to balance story with history; I hope that I manage to capture her spirit kindly and honestly. I hope that those interested in learning more about Detroit take advantage of the list of books I’ve provided. There are many ways one could write about this city, because she wears many histories and faces. This book is my love letter to Detroit.

There are a lot of aspects of this story that needed addressing, careful balance, an open mind and a willingness to hear when I was getting it wrong. I was so lucky to work with the sensitivity readers I did, and to have so many friends share their experiences with me in the writing of Idlewild. There is room to tell many stories about this city and her people. I hope you enjoy this particular one.

 

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!

Updates and book recommendations!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

Five Stars: Into the Blue by Pene Henson

Into the Blue (eBook package)

A while I promised a review of Pene Henson’s Into the Blue, which has received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly as well as excellent reviews from Romantic Times and USA Today — so well deserved!

Into the Blue is the moving story of long time best friends Tai and Ollie, who grew up surfing the North Shore of Oahu together. This book is Henson’s debut novel; it’s beautifully written and aches with the complexities of the protagonists’ stories. Their history and friendship is handled with great skill. There is never a moment when the forward progress of the story is bogged down by exposition that fills us in on the past. Instead we are treated into an inside view of their found family (their roommates Hannah and Sunny, and Ollie’s little brother Jamie) through the story, within it. It is immediately clear that Ollie and Tai have a very special friendship. Our perception of how special becomes more clear as we get to know Ollie, who is by turns prickly and unsure, who has a hard time with other people but who is quietly magnetic and lovable, even when it’s hidden from everyone but those who know him best. He’s foiled beautifully against Tai, who is magnetic as well but also magnanimous and outgoing. Together they make sense; when their relationship takes a turn from friendship to lovers, there is something between them that intrinsically works, even when we can clearly see them testing and blundering through situations of their own making.

I mentioned the beautiful writing; the landscape that Henson places her characters in is so vibrant. There’s such attention to detail. I felt transported – this book is a wonderful getaway. The sense of pause, that in between, that moment in their relationship where they can be something other than the friends they always have feels like a treasure and privilege to witness.

While Tai was a joy to read, Ollie was, for me, a revelation. I love his complexity and reticence. I love how he’s portrayed, like the world doesn’t always fit him, or like he’s not sure how his edges fit into the world. This is the second book this year I’ve read with a demisexual character and Henson handles his truth and story very carefully and thoughtfully. She also handles Tai’s progression through their relationship deftly – we get a good sense of how Tai packed the potential for feelings away when he and Ollie were younger after Ollie’s mother passed away, how and why he chooses to go along with the change in their relationship, but also how his fear of falling for Ollie and harming their found family complicates everything once they are brought back to their regular lives. None of these are over explained or overwrought. Instead they feel natural, and like the mistakes young men make when they’re figuring out what they want in life and how to get it.  Henson’s trust in the reader and in her characters makes falling in love with them as they fall for each other feel utterly natural and earned.

Five stars—if I could, twenty stars – for this stunning debut. Five as well for the beautiful cover, which makes me want to run away to the nearest beach to re-read this book yet again.

For a chance to win a 25$ gift card from Interlude Press, check this postthis post out on the author’s blog about her virtual book tour!

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.

 

Where *is* Waldo though?

On twitter, duh.

And thus opens my first blog post this the dawn of time. Brilliant, aren’t I?

Seriously though, I am a tweetaholic. It’s just so easy to tweet about the meaningless drivel of my life, particularly since I’ve hardly been on my actual computer since the semester ended. Plus, for Mother’s Day I got a kindle of my own, which is a lovely treat but I am fail at typing on a regular keyboard without typos, you cannot even imagine how often I embarrass myself with the typos I miss when typing on that thing.

I am getting back into the swing of things in a tentative sort of way. I’m doing a lot of caring for my mother, who is going through cancer treatment, which means I’m away a bit.

But on the happier end of things, Idlewild is going to be in everyone’s hot little hands in October. I am excited to share it with you, and Detroit, and Tyler and Asher, who are lovely and complicated men. Of course I’m full of the nerves that come with people reading my stuff, but thankfully I have months and months to worry and fret until it happens.

Welp, That was helpful 😉

I’m also excited to report that I’ve officially made a playlist for the story idea that’s been kicking around and hollering to be written. With life as it is (we’re moving soon, my mother, getting ready to release a book and all the edits that go into that), who knows how it’ll take shape or at what rate. But generally when something gets a playlist, that means shit’s gotten real. This probably excites me more than you all, but I’m used to writing at a faster pace and more consistently, and I had been bone dry in the inspiration department for a good month and a half (yes, when I see that written it seems slightly ridiculous to worry about, but like I said, I am always working on something). I really want to write this one, even if it’s slow, so feel free to poke me from time to time. I’ll have to give this project a secret name so that y’all have poke me efficiently. I’ll get back to you on that.

For now, I’ll just say that my playlist has gotten to Sia’s song, Alive. Punch in the gut, that song. Particularly when you know Sia’s story, and particularly since I connect with it on a personal level in my experiences. And (ahem) perhaps because I have a character with a sort of similar story to tell. BUT DON’T FRET. There’s happy stuff in there!! Lots of happy songs and feelings!!

Alright, I am off to consult with a student and to continue reading this AMAZING story written by my super talented friend, Pene Henson, who consequently just received a STARRED REVIEW in Publishers Weekly for her upcoming novel, Into the Blue. Surfers! Friends to lovers! Seriously, I cannot recommend this book more (consequently, the story I am reading is her next work, which is lovely).

 

Coming in October of 2016, Idlewild

IDLEWILD COVER

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.

I am so excited to share this amazing cover C.B. Messner designed, and my story with you guys. I am so constantly floored by the quality of the book covers Interlude Press gives my books, and once again, standing ovation. This one captures the book so beautifully.