Dialect in Dialogue: Guest Post with Open Ink Perspectives

A couple of months ago I had the honor of being asked to write a guest post for Open Ink’s Perspectives blog. It was published a few days ago, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share it with my readers who may not have seen me tweet about it! Meant to engender conversation with both readers and writers, I hope y’all will enjoy and share your thoughts. Many thanks to Open Ink for hosting me!


When I was writing my third novel, Idlewild, I spent a lot of time pondering (agonizing) over speech patterns in dialogue for my characters. This story takes place in downtown Detroit; in it we have Tyler, a young, genderqueer black man coming out of college and into adulthood who grew up in the city. We also have Asher, a sort-of middle aged (I am struggling to reconcile 33 as middle aged, if only so I can avoid being called so myself, ha!) Jewish man from the suburbs who has become stuck in the wake of his partner’s death. Idlewild was a beast to write; in part because good, complex romance involves complex people navigating the world, and writing that is hard. Additionally, this particular book touches on many difficult to navigate threads: race, class, gentrification and grief being the most prominent.

Idlewild also features a third character: Malik. Malik is Tyler’s boyfriend at the start of the story (no worries, no cheating). When Idlewild came out, I was not expecting people to fall for Malik. I was definitely not expecting requests to write him a story! I think many authors can speak to the fear we harbor that readers might hate a character we love. Having readers fall in love with a character who might be divisive was lovely.

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Buy Links:

INTERLUDE, AMAZON , BARNES & NOBLE , SMASHWORDS, KOBO ,BOOK DEPOSITORY, INDIEBOUND 

 

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Idlewild Cut Chapter

copy-of-summer-breaksIt’s a New Year already for some, and for others, it’s on the horizon. Want to ring in the New Year with some bonus materials? Here you go! This was originally Chapter 20 of Idlewild. We get to meet Asher’s parents and get some insight into Asher’s relationship with his  faith. Laura Stone (who writes amazing books y’all) described Asher as “a roll-your-sleeves-up kind of you-can’t-tell-me-what-to do person” which is totally true. This chapter gives us a taste of those origins.


“Asher,” Tyler says, swinging through the door, “there’s a couple out in the restaurant asking for you.”

“Regulars?” Asher asks without looking at him.

“I don’t think so. I’ve never seen them before,” Tyler says he picks up and puts down a paperweight that’s on the desktop. He rifles through some papers and shuffles them around before putting them back down. Asher leans back in his chair and watches him. Tyler has seemed a little off ever since he went to his mother’s for dinner last week, and Asher can’t put his finger on what it is. He thinks that normally he’d ask, but with everything new between them and undefined, the ground between them is boggy and unstable. He waits for Tyler to look him in the eyes but he doesn’t.

“And they want me?”  Asher asks

“That’s what they said,” Tyler says.

“Alrighty-then.” Asher stands brushes past him on his way out of the office. Asher would be the first to admit that he doesn’t understand what is going on between them. But he wants to. While that push and pull between them usually exciting, some days it’s confusing. When they’re together Asher feels more alive than he has in years. Tyler is addictive; no matter how many times Asher says he’s going to sit him down to talk and figure this thing out, Tyler touches him and what he’s told himself is right dissipates under those finger; Tyler seems the most right thing in these moments. But he hesitates to push Tyler emotionally, afraid that he might spook him or break some spell. Instead he waits quietly and watches.

Asher doesn’t spare a thought for who the couple may be, which he berates himself for as soon as gets to the front of house. Sitting in a booth tucked into the front corner by the window are his parents. His father is slowly sipping a mug of his usual straight up coffee; black, no sugar and no cream. His mother has her hands folded neatly on the table as she watches the thin crowd of Christmas sightseers stream past the window.

He wonders what it took for his father to convince her to come out here. What she’s thinking right now. If she feels safe, how threatened by her memories of Detroit, as well as the memories she’s been handed by her family throughout her life.

“Hey! What are you doing here?” he asks, infuse his tone with happiness. He must not do a very good job. His father’s mouth turns down a little bit; it’s part rueful and part displeased. Isaac Schenck’s face was always the most expressive Asher had ever seen – until he met Tyler. His father can appear both happy and sad. Confused. Angry…any number of things, and often all at once. He’s terrible about talking about his feelings however. Either he thinks his face does enough talking, or he can’t control it.

Still Asher slides into the booth next to his mother. He smiles when the familiar scent of her favorite perfume, floral and vanilla, wraps around him. They both look well; his father’s hair thins more and more every time he sees him, but his lean frame is healthy and fit. His mother, Julie, is still tiny and lovely with soft curves and rich brown hair it is shorter.

“We’ve come to give you a little belated Hanukah present,” his mother says. She rifles through her oversized purse until she finds two flat packages. They’re wrapped in blue and white paper; the corner of one has torn, a little damaged in transit. Asher’s smile is automatic; he hadn’t expected this. He had toyed with the idea of driving out to West Bloomfield to see his parents for a night or perhaps a meal but hadn’t pick up the phone to make those plans.

He picks up the package. “Thank you,” Asher says. He opens the present gently, lifting the tape with a careful finger and trying not to damage the paper. It’s a habit born of many years of his mother trying to save paper to reuse it. She always hated the idea of all that pretty paper going to waste. The care is useless — the paper is already torn — but still he does it. In his mother’s presence he becomes a little boy again.

Inside he finds a bag of Hanukah gelt and two CD’s. His parents have never caught up to the idea that CDs have mostly phased out, that now everybody stored their music on various kinds of technology. His computer doesn’t have a DVD drive. This is music he’ll never listen to either.

But that’s okay because it is the thought that counts. His parents have made the effort, his mom has come down into a city she’s terrified of. He could count on both hands the number of times his mother has been here as long as he remembers. She grew up in Detroit as a girl, and yet he has no stories of hers from that time.

Although he had not expected his parents and although he knew there was a slight chance – the slightest chance – that he would go to see them, he’s glad now that he decided to get them presents, even if he planned on mailing them.

“If you’ll give me a minute I’ll run upstairs and get your presents,” he says. This makes his father smile. Maybe it’s because Asher is extending a little bit of thoughtfulness and care. Asher has withheld himself and his own love from his parents. As a child – and if he admits as a teenager and young man – he always ached for his father’s unconditional love, but thought it wasn’t granted. He came to understand, especially with John’s guidance, that it wasn’t unconditional love he was searching for. It was a sense of family that he always longed for without understanding why, or what. Perhaps it was influence of television and media of stories told by his friends of what parenting and love and a home should feel like.

Asher was incredibly lucky to find this with John, and perhaps he should have been able to extend the kindness he found there to his parents. His coming out was very difficult for them and it had been a struggle for them to figure out how to put their faith together with who he was. Their own reconciliation between their Jewish faith and their desire to provide a community that would still welcome him took a long time; too long for a scared teenage boy. As an adult he can recognize the complexity of unconditional love because his parents chose to change everything about the way they understood the world in order to support him. But watching that struggle while in the middle of his own very painful fight was isolating for him as a teenager. Asher still practiced and believed then, but he recognizes that this was when he started to feel a rift with his faith.

Asher passes through the kitchen at a fast clip. He waves to Claudia when she starts to talk to him to stave her off. He thunders up the stairs and when he gets to his room he has to rifle through many things in order to find the presents. Apparently he had had them in the plastic set of drawers where he keeps his clothes. In his hurry he causes a few out to tumble out, messing up the rest. But he smiles. Just knowing that the clothes were folded means Tyler’s been through his laundry again, which warms him. He’s not sure if Tyler’s interference is a comment on his own housekeeping skills, but he recognizes Tyler’s innate desire to make people happy as well as to make order out of his world. Tyler told him recently how much he loves Asher’s smell. Imagining Tyler holding his shirt to catch the slightest lingering smell curls, lovely and welcome, in his stomach. It closeness that goes beyond quick fucks and fleeting touches.

The present he bought for his parents aren’t wrapped yet and Asher has no wrapping paper. He searches for some newspaper though he’s perfectly aware his mother won’t appreciate that. He doesn’t have much choice but to carry them down unwrapped.

Asher sits again and hands his father his gift – a Tigers baseball hat – and hands his mother the bottle of Joop! perfume. Whenever he catches that scent in the restaurant or in a store, he thinks of her with fondness. This year has made this nostalgia stronger than resentment.

“I’m sorry they’re not wrapped,” he says.

“That’s fine honey,” his mother says. “This is so thoughtful. I was almost out of it.”

“Thank you son,” his father says. He looks into Asher’s eyes and it’s clear it’s sincere.

There’s a moment of easiness after Asher give them the presents. They make comfortable small talk until Asher decides to ask if they want to stay to eat.

“Sure honey. That would be nice,” his mother says. His father wants to argue but he takes a breath and then nods.

From across the restaurant he can see Claudia and Tyler behind the bar chatting while Tyler wipes down the bottles and sets them back on the shelves. The restaurant isn’t too busy – only about a quarter full. When Tyler catches his eye, Asher nods him over. Tyler grabs two menus then threads through the tables toward them lightly and gracefully. Asher has watched his body for months; it’s a marvel – awkward and off with a rhythm when he dances, but still somehow eye-catching. In moments when he’s not over-thinking and when he’s completely unselfconscious there’s a fluid loveliness to the way he moves his limbs.

“Hello folks!” Tyler says brightly. “How are we all doing today?”

Oh, Asher is so smitten. He hates to use that word: he’s a 32 year old man — almost 10 years older than Tyler — and that’s not at all what this was meant to be. But Tyler’s charisma can’t be denied. He never speaks like this when he’s not on the floor. His body language is so different. Tyler’s changeability intrigues Asher more than he cares to admit. So many times he thinks that Tyler is a puzzle to be taken apart or to be put back together; Asher is never quite sure and that keeps him so interested.

Immediately he sees that his father has a reaction to Tyler. Asher is so comfortable with and used to the way that Tyler carries himself; the light lilting sweetness to his voice, the way he holds his hands and smiles when he talks. He can’t imagine anyone meeting Tyler and not assuming that he’s gay. For a man with so many facets, there are some Tyler rarely changes.

Asher loves that.

But it’s the sort of thing that his father has a terrible time hiding a reaction to. It had taken so much for him to accept Asher – so much more work for him that was for his mother. But Asher was in no way obvious. He never had to hide that about himself.

Before Asher can say anything though, Tyler sees it. Maybe it’s a slight stiffening and his father’s limbs or the face he almost disguises but quite catch. It’s fascinating how Tyler’s posture immediately changes. He hands out the menus and when he speaks again there’s a subtle difference, the light lisp is gone and the way he shapes his speech so that it has a completely different cadence. Perhaps it’s only obvious to Asher because he spends so much time with Tyler. He hopes his parents won’t catch the difference, but he does. It makes him sad and so resentful yet again. He resists the urge to confront his father

Asher holds his tongue and takes a deep breath. Gives his parents a moment to peruse the menu. Tyler asks if they need suggestions and points out his favorite. His mother smiles and orders that. His father does not. When Tyler walks away it’s as if he’s a different man. At the bar Claudia must have been watching them; Asher can tell by her eyebrows and her still hands are holding the damp rag Tyler has been using to wipe the bottles.

Asher tears his gaze away back to find his father examining him. Really looking, as if he can see what Asher’s been thinking. For one wild moment Asher wants to lay everything bare, to embarrass him. There’s knowing on paper that someone is gay and then knowing that a person actually does gay things. That he does them with men like Tyler, who he finds unbearably sexy, who he finds sweet and captivating and who draws him so often, a moth helpless to flame. When they’re together all Asher can think about is how beautiful Tyler is when he submits to his own pleasure.

Claudia brings their food out, for which Asher is glad. Asher hopes Tyler’s choice not to come back out and to put some distance between the perceptions others place on his body, the slightest violence that people’s judgement and dislike do when they land on his skin and worm their way into his heart. Asher remembers fighting that feeling in his own home; months and months of struggle with his identity with a knowledge that eventually he could longer hide who he was. But Asher’s had a whole hell of a lot of privilege in his natural presentation. Men like Tyler often suffer microaggressions from the moment of a first glance.

Asher does his best to wind up their lunch, impatient to leave the table. He does love his parents, but he has a limit. Seeing his father’s reaction to Tyler has not helped. He’s glad that his parents came and that they had a small moment to reconnect, but he wants them out of the bar now. Idlewild is safe space that he and John created. The pride sticker on the door and a staff that won’t compromise should indicate that. Asher is always mild mannered but he has asked patrons who make homophobic comments or behaved in particularly degrading or hurtful ways toward any member of his staff to leave immediately. He can’t be as harsh with his father as that, but he has to resist the strong urge to do so.


This year has been difficult in so many ways. But I’ve been lucky to start the year publishing a book I’m very proud of (What it Takes) and ending the year publishing this book. The support I get from my publisher (Interlude Press) and from readers and friends is priceless. Thank you all for coming on this ride with me!

Many thanks to Naomi Tajedler for double checking this passage.


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.

 

Holiday cheer and a little fuck you to the establishment

If you need a last-minute gift for US domestic delivery, we’ll upgrade your shipping to Priority Mail at no expense through 5pm ET on December 21st. Need it gift wrapped? Just tell us. We’ll wrap it for free! Shipping upgrade is limited to available...It’s the perfect time of year for gift giving. Even if you aren’t a holiday person, as 2016 draws to a close, I think it’s safe to say that giving people the gift of love stories and happy endings wouldn’t come amiss! Interlude Press is now offering shipping upgrades (priority mail, no charge) AND offering gift wrapping.

In all seriousness, for many people things have been tense and frightening in recent news. I know I’ve felt defeated at times. I almost gave up in the middle of writing a new story I love in November.

Thankfully, several very wise women advised me: now is the time more than ever. It is the time to celebrate diversity, to influence change through support, to refuse to be quiet, to give up on love and freedom of expression.

There is a lot of really beautiful fiction out there for us all to read and to savor. And I have to tell you, small presses are excellent places to find diverse stories by diverse authors. They are giving authors opportunities and letting them take risks, and I encourage readers to support each other, authors, and small presses. I mean, that’s a lovely little fuck off to those who want to silence us.

I am proud to say that all of my books are representative of diversity in some way: Cam, my MC in Hush is Venezuelan (like my father, I really wanted a bit of that heritage in here). Milo, from What it Takes suffers from anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD (as I do).

I’m particularly proud of Idlewild, my newest release: when I set out to write this story, I new it would be about class and race, about the complexities of gentrification and Detroit’s history. I knew I was going to write an interracial love story. I had no idea that the timing of this novel would feel so apt and so empowering.

I am a Latinx author. I am bi, I am a woman. I’ve been told no for many, many reasons. I’ve been told that what I do is disgusting, dirty, shameful.

I wrote a LGBT, interracial love story with a black, genderqueer character and a Jewish character, and it was named a Kirkus Best Romance of 2016.  I didn’t write this story because I felt that we needed a representative black character in romance, or to throw in some genderqueer spice (yes, ew, I have heard that said). I wrote a story about people: people I see around me, love stories I see around me, the fucking diverse and subversive, those who want a happy ending, or whose happy ending is a middle finger at the establishment. All of us. 

~*~

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.

 

 

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.

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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!

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!

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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.