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!)

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!

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… 😀

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!

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!