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!


Harnessing a Tornado

Last Saturday, I joyfully went to my local Kinkos (which wasn’t actually that local) and had them print out my first draft, all the while hoping they wouldn’t stop to read it and find some serious smut. Still, a few minutes after they got my file, I was holding 170 pages of fresh printed, warm papered story. 

Of course, I didn’t think ahead to things like a binder or a three hole punch. This means I am very carefully splitting the story into two as I go through it, and praying that my three year old will not get into them (which is a high hope, because my three year old is an adorable tornado of destruction).

I’ve improvised a crazy system involving sticky notes, colored index cards, regular index cards, and multiple kinds of pens. I’m reasonably sure there is probably a more streamlined way of doing this, but it probably wouldn’t be *me*. 

I’m a little tornado myself. In many ways, a lovely, chaotic, story telling tornado. With a destroyed house I am ignoring in favor of writing this book. Oh well. Sacrifices must be made, right? 

I referred in an earlier post to my character and plot development system and said I’d be talking about it in the future, and so I thought I’d begin here. 

I wrote my first novel participating in NaNo in 2007. I had no story idea. It was November 5th I believe, so I was already behind. I was working a soul sucking, mind numbing job with truly mean people. Except for one girl, who like me, dreaded each day of work. Unlike myself, she *had* a story idea that she’d always wanted to write, but never thought she could because she wasn’t a huge reader. 

I sent her a link to the NaNo website and encouraged her to be my writing buddy. As a nice side effect, it distracted us for a bit from the horror of our jobs. 

I went into NaNo with no plan, with no idea how to write a book, how to structure it, how to develop characters. So I just made things up. I started with a moment and thought to myself, “What happens after this?” I allowed the story and characters to fall into place like dominoes. After a while, my characters started doing things I didn’t expect, and some that I’d created for background moments started to step forward to carry parts of the plot. I told myself that this is what happens when you write at a breakneck speed. Next time I write a book, I told myself, I’ll plan it out, I’ll know the characters completely, I’ll work to flesh out a completely developed plot. 

Oh god, if only I could. 

The truth is that I am a chaotic writer. I write like a flash flood, fast and hard and messy as hell. I write *through* a story, and in doing, am slowly learning to accept that I have to let the characters talk to me. That I have to allow myself to let go of plans and to trust my intuition, because, as it turns out, I am a highly intuitive writer.  Although It is often hard to trust that I’m going to get *there*, that amorphous ending point (which, after writing that first mess of a novel, I started to do — that is have an idea of how it ends, at least), it’s just how I write. And I must be doing something right: I hope that that little Interlude Press logo confirms that, if only to myself. 

For the moment’ I’ll have to leave you with that. Stay tuned for more conversation regarding character development, small hints of what is happening and who they are and how I am attempting to harness the tornado of this whole experience. I must be off though, because my kids have decided to open my storage totes to make caves for themselves. I should create a superhero persona for myself: Mommy Writer, with the power to write romance and smut, but also corral active little boys who are stuck indoors due to rain. 

I am off to find a cape then. While I do so, I’ll encourage you all to attend Interlude’s 24 Launch Party. I’ll be speaking about writing original fiction with other 2015 authors. There will be sweet giveaways. And if you want, you can register here for chances to win a free copy of my ebook when it is published! 



On July 22nd, Interlude Press will be hosting a 24 hour launch party. Interlude Press will be hosting live chats and Q&A’s throughout the day with authors, as well as title reveals. Join us on google+ the day of to listen in, as well as to enter to win various awesome swag. I’ll be talking at 6pm with some of the other 2015 authors who are writing original fiction. 

As a part of this awesome world wide launch celebration, if you enter here (and by here I mean the lovely green box you see above) you can win a copy of my debut novel, which is slated to be published in 2015 (eeeeee!).  I am so excited to share this story with you guys, I cannot wait. 

If you are interested in checking out raffles for other IP authors, including the Grand Prize (free books for a year), you can check out more information at the Interlude website. Here is a list of who is speaking when and about what! 

Hope to see you all there with party hats and PJ’s on! 

**apparently the links to the Facebook and Goodreads weren’t working. They’ve been fixed now :D**

Win a Free Copy of my Book!