Perhaps a New Start

Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers! I hope this year brings you many things — good health, good friends, love and great books! To start the year off, I thought I’d offer you an excerpt and a little insight into one of my main characters: Milo.

In 14 days, What it Takes will be hitting the shelves (so to speak), and I wanted to share a little bit about the book with you guys. A theme in What it Takes seems very apropos for this day: new beginnings, fresh starts, and goodbyes.

Personally, I don’t make New Years resolutions. I stopped years ago after I had a particularly bad period in my life and realized that making a promise on one day that I was bound to forget or let go of wasn’t as effective in changing my life and going in the direction I *needed* to go for healing and peace. So I made myself a promise that *every day* could be a new one. I forget this all the time, but when I remember, this is a time when I can take a breath and remind myself that this moment is a new start. I generally focus this energy on a desire to be a kinder person and to do my best at achieving my goals.

Milo and I share many things. We come from similar family pasts, and many of his struggles are things I went through. As well, a lot of the way he shaped his healing as an adult was inspired by my own journey in letting go of particular demons and healing. Perhaps my journey took longer and had a lot more painful steps, but I tried hard to give Milo genuine healing and coping skills.

One of the hardest things we have to do in life to heal or to grow past a painful past is to allow ourselves to let go and to move forward. Sometimes this means saying goodbye: to a person, to a place, to a dream, to a resentment. Doesn’t have to be all, but the message is the same.

Milo’s father’s death is a big turning point for him. It’s a place in his life where he can chose to go in many directions. Where the biggest source of his trauma is no longer physically present. In the following scene, we see the beginning of that conversation between Milo and Andrew, in which they talk about the opportunity this moment presents Milo and what that could mean for his future. Which goodbyes might be good for him, and what things might not be able to let go of.

~*~

Light filters between the ill-fitted boards cobbling their fort together; it filters through the trees from afar, registering as a small twinkle until he comes close enough to see clearly. There’s a blanket over the open square that was the lookout window. Milo can’t help but think that nothing has changed, yet nothing is the same because he’s not the same boy who built this sanctuary and walked through the framed door into a world of make-believe Andrew could always craft so easily and vividly.

Milo clears his throat before stepping in. Andrew is sitting with his legs curled in the far corner, huddled into a fleece blanket. A lantern casts light and shadows around the small room. It’s small enough that there’s not enough room to sit without bumping knees or feet.

Andrew’s sleepy-eyed and mussed; he looks small under the blanket that envelops him.

“How long have you been here?” Milo asks, keeping his voice low.

“I don’t know,” Andrew whispers back. His lips tremble in the cold. Milo moves to get closer, but Andrew gestures him back. Milo settles back with a sigh.

“It’s not that I don’t—” Andrew tips up a shoulder, and his face is rueful. “I thought we should talk.”

Milo wraps himself in his own blanket, covers the lantern and knocks it over. Once he’s untangled and righted it, he’s temporarily blinded by the direct glare. He blinks; when he looks around he notices how much darker the walls are than he remembers.

“Hey,” he says softly, nudging Andrew’s knee. “You painted.”

Andrew looks up, and Milo can see him swallowing. “Yeah, I did.”

“When?”

“When I came home for the long weekend in October.” Andrew’s fingers trail down the wall. In the night, the walls look black except where the lantern reveals a deep blue. Above his head are scatters of light pricks and moons and planets.

“Finding your way?” Milo jokes lightly. Andrew has always found his way by the stars, not using standard constellation maps, but his own visions.

“Searching for Cygnus,” Andrew says. Milo’s not sure which one that is, only that the irony in his tone means something.

They don’t say anything, letting the night settle over their tiny retreat like its own blanket. Milo lets this place, a place that was always theirs—one that they’ve outgrown—settle him. He dropped out of sleep heavily; that something’s missing feeling startled him until he realized it was Andrew. That disoriented him even more.

He takes time, now, to look him over. That uneasy sense that they’ve both changed irrevocably in the months since September has dissipated. Andrew doesn’t look any different—he’s the boy Milo has always known. Well, man. They’re supposed to be men now, forging into adult lives away from school and their parents.

“I can’t tell what I’m feeling,” Andrew says.

“Yeah, I’m sort of there myself.”

“It’s cold. This is dumb,” Andrew opens his blanket and arranges himself, inviting Milo to share his body heat. They shuffle and tangle until they’re perfectly fitted in a space a shade too small. This is the shape of my childhood, too tight around me. But Andrew makes it okay.

“Are you okay?” Milo asks.

“Of course I am.” There’s a tiny thread suggesting otherwise in the words, though.

“How is this going to work?”

Andrew’s fingers slide between Milo’s, tracing the beds of his fingernails and the palm of his hand. “I think you have to say goodbye.”

“I didn’t mean home. I meant us.”

~*~

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

Book Review: Bitter Springs by Laura Stone

Okay. M’kay. Let me just…take a breath.

There are so many things to love about this book. The prose is just beautiful. Stone has a gift for creating a rich backdrop for her stories so that the whole experience feels well loved and well rounded. I always learn from her stories. The level of detail and obvious commitment to research make this story shine and are a testament to how very much Stone cares for her craft.

Now let’s talk about what she crafted. Renaldo’s family is EVERYTHING. They made me miss my family so much. The love and care they have for each other was so palpable. Even when both Renaldo and Hank were terrified of what would happen, as a reader, I trusted that Renaldo’s family would love him unconditionally.

Renaldo…oh lord. What a sensual and romantic man. I wish I had a man in my life who spoke to me like he does to Hank.

And HANK. Oh man do I have a sweet spot for complicated, lovely men. His reserve, initially, spoke so well to his vulnerabilities without Stone every having to state them. She showed us. And as the story unfolds, watching Hank unfold, demonstrating how sweet he is, how much he needs and wants love…UGH. MY HEART. His commitment to being an honest and upstanding man was really moving as well.

Bitter Springs is currently available for sale at the Interlude Press webstore, Amazon, All Romance and many other retailers.

30% off sale

Today is the last day you can save 30 percent on all digital and print novels through Monday at the IP Web Store by using the discount code 30STORIES.

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YAS. THIS IS A THING.

I’ll do some math for you:

With this sale, you can pre-order What it Takes and get the e-book and print book bundle for $12. TWELVE. If you only wanted the e-book you can pre-order for $4.89

Additional math Jude does for you: 

Hush e-book: $5.59

Hush print book: $11

Hush bundle: $14

SAVINGS ARE AWESOME.

Something Like A Love Song Book Review

Something Like a Love Song (print edition)

This story is love as a verb. I don’t even know if that will make sense to anyone, but that’s what it is.

It’s an emotionally difficult book to read, but I applaud Burton for tackling such a difficult story and just executing it brilliantly. There was nothing prettied up for this book about Landon’s injury or recovery; it was slow and difficult and there were successes and setbacks.

I really appreciated that Burton paid such good attention to Dylan’s emotional journey, beyond caring for and loving Landon so much. With Landon’s physical trauma, it could have been easy to create a more formulaic book that focused just on him and gave him a perfect partner. But Dylan isn’t perfect, he is just as damaged by the events of that night as Landon. And together and individually these men have to learn how to heal and to move on.

Underpinning this book is a constant and very beautiful sense of love and community. Their families are beautifully flawed, but also come together and love and support both Dylan and Landon in individually helpful and at times frustrating ways — but ultimately, without that community, none of them would have gotten through the experience as well as they did.

I have to admit I’ve never had a family member suffer a brain trauma, but I have cared for a parent in end of life transition who had multiple brain tumors that changed him completely (both his personality but also his abilities) and his decline was very painful to watch. I felt so much understanding and honesty and care from Burton for her characters, as well as honest portrayal of what people who love someone but are watching this happen to a family member/loved one are going through.

The icing on the cake is Burton’s writing which is clear, consistent, and lovely throughout.

Highly recommended, along with a box of Kleenex.

You can find Becca Burton here, and her books are available to order at

The Interlude Press bookstore (where you can currently get the paperback + e-book package for the price of the paperback, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Smashwords, All Romance, the iBookstore, and an Indie Bookseller near you!

 

 

So much AMAZEBALLS shit has happened

And I dropped the ball over here. I apologize; I can give a lengthy description of *why* I did, but that’s so besides the point right now. Because holy fuck was this a crazy good week for a writer. The stuff of dreams.

FIRST: Last weekend, I’m sitting around, wallowing in self pity because I have so much studying to do when I am contacted by my publisher with the crazy-pants news that I not only received a great review in Publishers Weekly, but that I received a STARRED review that is in it’s own little, eye-catching box. If you’d like to see how pretty it is, here ya go! I’d copy it here as an image, but the text is super blurry. As far as *what* they said, here you go:

 … 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

I am so freaking honored by this, I can’t even.

SECOND: So I’m still freaking out about this when it hits me Tuesday evening (while I’m in class…yes I was on Tumblr during class. This never happens but I guess I was bored), and the girl who sits next to me (a lovely friend), points out that I scrolled past the announcement of my book pre-sale going live. WTF?? Like, I know I’ve been mentioning it, but for some reason the reality of it being so close hadn’t hit me yet. Weird. You’d think that since I went through this rodeo with Hush I’d be used to this. Maybe this is the kind of stuff you never get used to? Maybe one day I’ll get to ask a crazy established author.

So pre-sale is awesome because you get a great deal– if you by the paper copy of the book (which you guys, the cover art is done so much more justice in the paper book. It’s gorgeous no matter what but it’s stunning in person), you get the e-book for free. The e-book is DRM-free and multi-format, which is awesome.

The book will be released on January 14th 2016, so put it on your calendars!

THIRD and finally: Sock Saturday Throwback Thursday contest is closed! I have to sort through the entries to pick a winner, but if you don’t win this one, rest assured there will be more contests in the future.

Book Review: Small Wonders, by Courtney Lux

From the moment I read the excerpt of this novel, I knew this was a special book. There are so many things to praise, I’m not even sure how to organize my thoughts. The prose is beautiful; it just lit up the poet inside me. I love when I read a author whose voice is so clear and strong it stays with me for days.

The story pacing is excellent. The characters are each completely fleshed out and unique and integral to the story. It is hard to create a cast of multiple characters where each compels you in some way.

Trip Morgan himself is the most compelling part of this book. You fall hard for him even when he’s unlikable. Your heart breaks even when he’s being unlovable. Lux handles the trauma of his childhood skillfully and with great care. It’s not over dramatized, it’s not heavy handed or melodramatic; again, I think it takes a skilled writer to pull that off.

The structure, with alternating point of view chapters, worked so well — this is a hard sell for many people, but I think it was vital to this story. Trip is so closed off to the world that having his point of view so offered in the interim chapters gave us glimpses into his childhood and world we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. His voice is so clear, and his story is heartbreaking, and as the story unfolds, we learn just how beautiful and sweet and lovely he is despite everything he’s been through.

Watching him and Nate slowly unfold and fall for each other felt like an intimate privilege. In particular, the scene where they go out with Scarlett served to show us their growth very well. All through the story, we witness who these two men are when they are alone together. Putting them in the world with others as witness — particularly ones who know them so well — gave us such a sweet, kicky feet, romantic scene that felt completely right.

All in all, this book is a stunning debut from an author I cannot wait to read more from.

Coming January 2016…

Yup, the time has come for me to announce (here…we’re late to the game here as it’s been announced elsewhere) that my second book, What It Takes, will be published by Interlude Press on January 14th! I’m guessing that means presale will be happening in November-ish, so start saving your pennies now!!

cover official

Moments after 8-year-old Milo Graham moves to Cape Cod, he meets Andrew Witherell—launching a lifelong friendship built around a secret fort, 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. However, both know that it’s not just the past that makes the way ahead complicated. Each wanting what’s best for the other, they sever all ties.

Years later circumstances bring both men home again, and a rekindled friendship brings forward long held feelings that will not be denied. But will they have what it takes to find lasting love?

~*~

I am so very excited to share this book with you all! It’s *very* different from Hush, but still very me. I am incredibly proud of this book. And wow, that art! We need to give Nellie I. a huge hug and bravo for the gorgeous cover. Just wait until you see the back, it’s so romantic and beautiful.

If you are somehow already curious and want to know more, I believe I gave out some info in some of my blog tour posts for Hush. Easter egg hunt!!

~*~

My first novel, Hush, is currently for sale at Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores