Behind the scenes

Welcome to my dilemma, already in progress. I have a free story called When We Were Strangers, which is part of a series that already had around five books when I wrote it. So I think of it as a prequel because I wrote it later and it comes first chronologically. But I feel weird calling it a prequel because its listed first since it’s free and serves as an intro to the series. Being a writer is hard.

For three out of the four stories in this pre-story, I based them on anecdotes from the series. Which I had a lot of fun with. Ryan’s story is called ‘The Most Embarrassing Moment of Ryan’s Life (so far)” and it comes from One Little Problem. The gang is playing Never Have I Ever, and Ryan has to put a finger down.

~

Luke

“Never have I ever gone streaking,” she said instead.

Ryan put a finger down.

“Up is down, black is white,” I deadpanned. “My whole life is a lie, nothing makes sense.” I focused on teasing him so I wouldn’t imagine him naked.

“Not a big deal,” he started.

“Don’t sell yourself short, babe,” I teased.

“As cute as this is,” Zach said, though his voice implied it wasn’t very cute. “Let’s not build this story up as if it’s anything other than a series of increasingly zany situations that ended with Ryan losing his clothes, getting locked out of somewhere, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, until he found clothes or a sheet or a big leaf.”

Ryan pouted at Zach, so it was totally something like that. “This was, like, the one thing I got to put my finger down for! You took all the fun out of it.”

~

Zach’s version of events is pretty close to the real thing. Here’s a scene.

Ryan

When I fell into the water trough, the day was going great. Since most of my thoughts trended sarcastic, I should be clear. That wasn’t sarcasm, it was a true statement. Falling into barn animal water was excellent, because even as I heard the splash and my mouth flooded with gross water, I understood there were much worse things on this farm I could have fallen into.

Then some normal stuff happened. Like taking a shower to get clean. The owners of the farm had really fancy soap in their bathroom. My skin was so soft and smelled like daffodils! Not the manliest scent but a ton better than animal spit.

When putting on clothes after my shower, I ran into an unexpected obstacle… there weren’t any clothes where I was told there would be clothes. Then things got less normal and more terrible. I went to search for clothes, clad in only a towel, part of which was stuck in the bathroom door. I just didn’t know the last thing until I heard voices, the bathroom door wouldn’t open, and I ran to hide in the opposite direction of where the voices came from. During this, I lost the towel.

There was some panic, a lot of panic, and somehow I ended up outside. Who could say who was to blame for this development? I couldn’t say for certain it was my fault because I had no clue how I ended up here. It all happened so fast! The door I exited locked behind me. I planned to try a different door—

OH MY GOD. PEOPLE WERE COMING OUTSIDE. And then I was hiding in a barn.

~

Life is unfair.

Zach and Joey play baseball together, and they are good friends even though they are very different. Joey is a dumb jock , and Zach is his opposite in mind, body, and spirit. Here is Zach describing Joey and his physical appearance. This is a tiny thing that was cut from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas because the scene did not need Zach complaining about another guy’s eyebrows, but I was very sad to cut it all the same.

~

Zach

Everything about Joey Wilson loomed large. He demanded attention, if only out of self-preservation as he barreled through life the way he barreled through this hallway, fast, obnoxious, and uncomprehending of anything not directly in front of him. Others had to accommodate him instead of the reverse, which I would appreciate if he did it on purpose.

Altogether, the bulky, plain guy presented an unappealing visual image. Which made it all the more infuriating he was blessed with insanely impeccable eyebrows. Granted they were meaty and wide like the rest of him, but the dark brown hair was never scraggly, no stray strand ever trying to escape from the even lines. Not the kind of guy who would wax, pluck, or tweeze, so how did his eyebrows always stay perfectly in their lane? A gift he wasn’t even capable of appreciating!

Music!

As the person who makes everything gay, I make everything gay. Or that’s just how I see the world. But sometimes it’s easy. This is a song I love, 2 Heads by Coleman Hell. I always imagine its about two women who fell into forbidden love in a small town. The small town part comes in because there’s twangy sound elements. And the two women part is because of the lyrics.

The lyrics go like this:

There must be something in the water
And there must be something about your daughter
She said our love ain’t nothing but a monster

Which to me could be a little different. It’s really easy for that to become this: “There must be something in the water, and there must be something about your daughter,” she said. “Our love ain’t nothing but a monster.”

When We Were Strangers

For my One More Thing series, I wrote a free prequel called When We Were Strangers as an introduction to the characters. I don’t think I promoted it much on social media, so I’m finally doing that. Even though it technically takes place during the summer and this is the winter. I’m really selling this, aren’t I? I hope you have enjoyed this summary of everything I did wrong, now here is the book!

Okay, this is a scene from Ryan’s story, and I would explain, but it’s pretty self explanatory.

Ryan

Have you ever found yourself standing buck naked in a wheatfield in broad daylight? Only there wasn’t any wheat. Or if there was, it was in seed form, so you were basically out in the open where anyone could see you. Has this ever happened to anyone else? Of course it has. It probably happened all the time and was so relatable.

Man, if only I could say it wasn’t every day I ended up locked out while wearing no clothes, but it occurred way more than I was comfortable with. Once. It happened once times. This time, in fact. And it was once more time than I ever wanted.

Ha-ha. Just kidding. I wasn’t naked. Nope. Not at all. Who was naked? Me?!?! No way. I wasn’t naked, you were naked! Oh my god, don’t panic. RYAN, STAY CALM. DON’T PANIC. PLEASE SAVE ME BATMAN, SUPERMAN, OR RYAN REYNOLDS. HEY, HE STOLE MY NAME. No, he had it first since he was older than me.

Ahem. Okay. As I wasn’t in the best headspace for narration, I would come back later. Hopefully when I was calmer and wearing pants.

–the rest of the story is available here for free.

Liberal Nonsense

In the One More Thing Series, Luke Chambers has an older sister named Rose who appears in One Little Lie. She’s referenced a lot for her intense and often annoying tendencies to be a social justice warrior. But her progressive tendencies probably make her the right person to talk to when Luke starts questioning his sexuality. I tried to write her into two other books, but she got taken out.

I also make fun of her liberal/hippie qualities when she’s mentioned because it’s really easy, as I share many of her qualities and view points. However, I try not to be as annoying as her, but I unfortunately cannot say that I manage it perfectly.

Here is some prose about Rose, yay rhymes, from One Little Lie. Most of this is extra content that isn’t the book.

~

Luke

For reasons that didn’t totally make sense to me, Rose cut off all the hair on her head but had stopped shaving her legs. Her hair had grown back but she kept it short and the usual dark blonde locks looked more dark than blonde at the moment. We barely looked related. Maybe that was just wishful thinking. She had a lip ring now, but she didn’t wear it while she was in town anymore. Her obvious surface acts of rebellion were all the town could see; the perfect grades she got were less easy to broadcast. My parents hated it. They wanted her to be normal, to not cause a scene.

As far as everyone in town knew, Rose had been a blonde, wide-eyed, small-town farm girl that voted how Dad told her to in her first election, listened to country music, and said her prayers every night or whatever. Until she attended a liberal college on the East Coast and she got corrupted by Starbucks and NPR and Al Gore.

Rose was always the dissenting opinion in our family, the one who was a little different. That was why she wanted to go somewhere so unlike here in the first place. She just didn’t start displaying her differences so boldly until recently. My parents had been much happier when she just pretended she was like everyone else.

Yeah, Rose was annoying. But to me, she was annoying either way, so it didn’t really matter how she wore her hair or if she got a nose piercing. The neighbors not knowing she was a freak didn’t make her less of a freak around me.

Explore the World in YA LGBTQ books

Taking readers to new worlds is one of the pleasures of literature, but being transported to different lands from the comfort of one’s couch has become especially important in these times. Here’s a virtual travel guide of YA books that spans the globe. All you need is your imagination and a good book to immerse yourself in a new culture. I used the Buzzfeed list by Dahlia Adler to narrow the list down for those who want their globe trotting exploration to include queer characters.

Who: Adib Khorram

What: Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Where: Iran

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming—especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Key elements: mental health, coming of age, friendship, self confidence, bi POC, immigration, religion


Who: Agay Llanera

What: Another Word for Happy: A story about coming out

Where: Philippines

Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?

Key Elements: college, coming out, Filipino, art, religion


Who: Ciara Smyth

What: The Falling in Love Montage

Where: Ireland

Saoirse doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out. But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Key elements: romantic comedy, WLW, humor, dementia, best friends, angst



Who: Lucas Rocha

What: Where We Go From Here

Where: Brazil

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating.

Key elements: friendship, mental health, gay rights, Latnix, multiple POVs, toxic masculinity


Who: Emily O’ Beirne

What: Points of Departure

Where: Australia

Five girls, five tickets overseas. It’s exactly what they all need after the final slog of high school. But when Kit’s suddenly forced to drop out, Liza’s left with three girls she barely knows.

There’s Mai, committed only to partying. There’s Tam, who already has her doubts about leaving her sick father behind. And there’s Olivia, so miserable about screwing up exams she’s not even sure she wants to get out of bed, let alone on a plane. Meanwhile Kit’s stuck working double shifts to pay off a debt, wondering if she’ll ever get it together.

Key elements: road trip, friendship, multiple main characters, standalone, coming of age, WLW


Who: Adiba Jaigirdar

What: The Henna Wars

Where: Ireland


When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Key elements: rivals, Muslim characters, WLW, cultural appropriation, bi POC, sisterhood, enemies to lovers


Who: Vitor Martins

What: Here the Whole Time

Where: Brazil


What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Key elements: body issues, self esteem, Latnix, coming of age, sweet, pop culture



Who: Tochi Onyebuchi

What: War Girls

Where: Nigeria


Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Key elements: dystopia, war, WLW, fantasy, historical, adventure, family, bi POC


Who: Cecilia Vinesse

What: The Summer of Us

Where: Europe


American expat Aubrey has only two weeks left in Europe before she leaves for college, and she’s nowhere near ready. Good thing she and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last group trip across the continent. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible with their friends Clara, Jonah, and Gabe.

Key elements: road trip, summer, adventure, coming of age, standalone, WLW


Who: Elizabeth Acevedo

What: Clap When You Land

Where: Dominican Republic

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Key elements: poetry, grief, family, bi POC, Latinix, WLW, historical, immigration


Who: Sabina Khan

What: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Where: Bangladesh

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart.

Key elements: WLW, arranged marriage, abuse, standalone, social issues, emotional


Who: Randy Ribay

What: Patron Saints of Nothing

Where: Phillipines


Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Key elements: some LGBT representation, politics, Filipino characters, death, drugs, mystery


Who: Cindy Pon

What: Want

Where: Taiwan


Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

Key elements: queer supporting characters, cyberpunk, dystopia, sci-fi, action

LGBT Romance Fall Freebies Giveaway

There are seriously so many free books available in the LGBT Romance Fall Freebies Giveaway. Like, a ton. Many of them are also novels that aren’t available in the November LGBT Romance Giveaway. So between these two options, there’s going to be something for everyone. However, this doesn’t last the whole month as the giveaway ends on the 15th, so check out these titles now.

Here’s some of the gay romances that caught my eye.

king

A Chance to be King by Sue Brown

A man in need of a vacation encounters secrets and mystery when falling for his neighbor.

From the Blurb: After working nonstop for two years, actor Eric Pawlowski desperately needs a respite from his grueling schedule and the crippling migraines that come with it. Thinking that a few weeks in a secluded cottage is just the thing, his vacation gets off to a rough start when he almost mows down the only other guy who lives on the remote road. Fortunately Thomas is quick to forgive, and soon he, Eric, and Eric’s two dogs are palling around like they’ve known each other for years.

But when Eric witnesses Thomas coldly order a lost stranger off his property, he starts to question how well he knows him.

necro

Romancing the Necromancer by A.H. Lee

Nice cover and I love the title. I’m going to let the tagline speak for itself: Sairis has never ridden a living horse, never left home, never kissed a man. He’d really like to do one of those things.

From the blurb: Sairis is a necromancer with a price on his head. He needs to get to the capital for a conference that may change his life. But he’s never ridden a horse before. At least not a live one.

Fortunately, the local knacker is a gentle soul who has helped Sairis in the past. In addition, Sairis suspects the knacker may know things about the world of romance between men.

sparks

Sparks Will Fly by A.E. Via

Combining enemies and literal fire is surely a great idea in this book where two long-time competitors must team up to restore their reputations. This story belongs to a bigger universe of gay romances about crime solving and law enforcement.

From the blurb: Outcasted from Hollywood, two of the world’s best pyrotechnician engineers are back home where it all started, and the city is not equipped for the heat they can bring. But, when Wesley comes to Law with a plan that can put them back on top again, Law is shocked to find that his nemesis means for the two of them to work… together.

Big. Damn. Mistake.

ten

Tenacious by Blake Allwood

Star crossed lovers must overcome all the obstacles to be together.

From the blurb: After meeting at a dance club when Lane overindulges at his birthday party and Zach is plagued with an ex who won’t leave him alone, one disaster follows another blocking their road toward romance.

Despite their intense attraction, it seems the world is stacked against them especially when Zach’s ex is hellbent on destroying both men’s lives in multiple vindictive attacks.

divers

Diversion by Eden Winters

A rule following and a rule breaking investigator are partners while hunting a drug ring in Diversion by Eden Winters.

From the blurb: Textbook-quoting, by the book Bo Schollenberger is everything Lucky isn’t. Lucky slurps coffee, Bo lives caffeine free. Lucky worships bacon, Bo eats tofu. Lucky trusts no one, Bo calls suspects by first name. Yet when the chips are down on their shared case of breaking up a drug diversion ring, they may have more in common than they believe.

Two men. Close quarters. Friction results in heat. But Lucky scoffs at partnerships, no matter how thrilling the roller-coaster. Bo has two months to break down Lucky’s defenses… and seconds are ticking by.

gate

The Gate by A. L. Lester

Two friends and soldiers explore a paranormal mystery and their feelings for each other in the historical short story. This one is part of a time traveling series.

From the blurb:  It’s 1918, and Matty returns home to the family farm from the trenches only to find his brother Arthur dying of an unknown illness. The local doctor thinks it might be cancer, but Matty becomes convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother has left strewn around the house. Matty confides his suspicions in his friend Rob, who’s also come back to the farm from the Western Front.

Matty and Rob were friends before the war. Now they’re both changed by what they’ve been through. Will the mysterious energy swirling round the farm blow out the ember of attraction between them, or ignite it?

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Take Two by Ann Grech

A natural disaster brings two enemies together and gives them a second chance to change the nature of their relationship.

From the blurb: A politician who’s determined to save the forest. A property developer who wants to cut it down. Two men, a grudge and the bushland standing between them. The unstoppable inferno in the distance draws closer, threatening their piece of paradise. As it razes everything in its path, will these two enemies survive the night? Can they call a take two on their relationship and find something a little bit like love in the midst of disaster?

inc

Incubus Seduction by Emma Jaye

A paranormal novella about the lust between an incubus and human, told from the human’s POV.

From the blurb: Judging by the desire radiating from the red-faced mortal in his sex shop, there was yet another fast, forgettable meal coming his way. When his intended snack turned him down, even after he’d massaged his prey’s inhibitions, the demon’s interest piqued.

No ordinary human could resist the lure of an incubus for long, and yet Finn was fighting as if his life depended on it.

ignite

Ignite by Elouise East

Two friends never thought about being together until a matchmaking service suggested they should try for something more.

From the blurb: To everyone he meets, Leo is calm, confident and sexy, but deep inside he feels unworthy. After too many failed relationships, Leo hands over the reins to a matchmaking company; obviously, he is unable to choose the right guy by himself.

Noah is a respectable chef who always follows the rules, keeping his head down, just like his parents’ taught him. Unfortunately, his working hours make it difficult to find time for pleasure. Unable to see a way out, he chooses one final option: a matchmaking company.

Three festive books, plus two summer reads

For the November LGBT Romance giveaway, there’s three gay romance reads that look promising if you’re in the mood to make the most of the winter season. And two that might be right if you want to live in denial. This giveaway isn’t seasonal, I’m just making it that way because I want to. While the title says November, these offers only last until Nov. 14, so make sure to grab your free copies before then. There’s some other good M/M books too, but I tried to select ones I hadn’t mentioned before. And there’s also lots of W/W titles.

Old friends start a holiday fling that could turn into more in this story about a solider and struggling actor.



A Christmas Chance by Louisa Masters

A romance blossoms in Paris, but the closer it gets to Christmas the closer it gets to the end of their relationship.


Smoking Out by Ashton Cade

Best friends to more in this story of a screw up who must come out of the closet to have a chance with a sexy firefighter in Alaska.


My Fake Billionaire by Ana Ashley

Fake relationship between a billionaire and a librarian on a tropical island. This all sounds good to me, and I’m definitely one of those people who wants summer to last forever.



Summer of Hush by R.L. Merrill

While on a summer tour, two people in the world of metal music begin to fall for each other in this tale of rock stars and romance.

If you want more summer in the winter, Summer Romance is a free book from me that is available in a different giveaway here.

Cemetery Boys and other queer indie books

Here is a super easy trivia question. Do you know the first trans book written by a trans author to make the NYT bestseller list in fiction? Yes, it’s Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. There’s an article about it here, which includes some context and facts and some celebrating.

Since I am Latina and queer, I probably appreciate those aspects of the book the most. An honorable mention however, goes to the description ‘ghost-story-turned-gay-rom-com.’ If every ghost story turned into a gay rom-com, I would be able to watch and read ghost stories without recoiling in terror.

Cemetery Boys isn’t completely alone as there are multiple popular YA books featuring queer POCs. Though it’s probably very unlikely you would make it to my little corner of the world without knowing these titles, I’m going to mention them here anyway.

YA Books about LGBT+ Characters of Color

Meet cute, scene from gay romance

In romcom terms, this is the meet cute between the main characters. This scene is from Falling in Love and (Other Bad Ideas).

Zach

Joey moved ahead of Luke, walking even with me to better annoy me, unless he just wanted to walk down the stairs with me for some reason, which would be weird, so the first one. Or more like, he attempted to walk with me while still narrating his fever dream and gesturing broadly.

Basically, I was doomed. Joey was a catcher, built to stay where he was planted. Me, being the shortstop, had to be the opposite: quick, flexible, and able to cover more ground. So the math was easy. He made a motion with his arm and pushed me, and I wasn’t prepared. I went flying, sailing over the last few steps instead of stepping down them. Down I went.

…There so many situations where I would happily go down, but this wasn’t one of them.

Except instead of hitting the ground, I instead landed right in the pages of some fucking chick flick novel. I fell right into somebody’s arms. It couldn’t have been choreographed better. I stared up at an unfamiliar face, his light brown eyes looking into my darker ones. The guy who caught me, the whole picture he painted boiled down to this: a standard male protagonist.

Should I ask Luke what romcom this meet cute was stolen from the pages of? He would probably know. Or wait, this could have been a terribly contrived introduction to the handsome stranger who saved me, but him being a stranger meant something. While entirely possible there were closeted guys at school I didn’t know about, it seemed unlikely. Either through firsthand knowledge or rumors from the guys I shared the aforementioned firsthand knowledge with, I had a pretty comprehensive understanding of any dudes at this school with queer leanings.

“Hi there,” the guy said to me with a little smile. He righted me and continued, “This is one hell of a meet cute, huh?”

No, I already decided it wasn’t! I dusted myself off, unnecessarily, but it made me feel more in control. “I don’t do cute. Not meet, or as a button, or otherwise.”

“Uh oh, is it about to get gay?” Joey asked, looking between us. “It’s fine, just give me some warning.”

“No, it’s not,” I said while the almost-protagonist said, “Yes, it is.”

“So, they answered differently, is that another clue?” Joey directed the question to Luke. “It’s about to get gay, right?”

“Well, I am gay,” the stranger answered. “So I’d argue whatever is happening is already gay.”

We all stared at him. Because… huh. Technically, I was right. This wasn’t some closeted guy I didn’t know about. Because he wasn’t closeted. Which threw us off. Until right then, everybody out at our high school was already in our friend group. And since we had never seen him before, he clearly did not meet these standards. His casual words weren’t anything we expected.

“Am I offending your family values?” he asked us, not really surprised. Seemed he’d been doing a lot of that lately.

“Don’t worry, he doesn’t have values,” Luke responded helpfully.

“Family or otherwise,” Joey added.

Luke looked between me and the new guy slowly. Uh-oh. “You did fall right into his arms.” Don’t let the jock thing fool you, he was actually a huge girl because I could see the words ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’ running through his head. “And did you hear what he said?” Luke asked me, nudging my side with an elbow. “About being gay?”

“I’m standing here with you, in front of him, so obviously I—”

“Dude, come on,” interrupted Joey. “He’s queerballs, and so are you.”

“Seriously?” I asked him.

“It’s destiny or some shit,” Joey reasoned. “Even I’m not strong enough to stand in the way.”

“Two queer people crossing paths doesn’t mean we need to kiss,” I argued. My life wasn’t a romcom.

“I agree,” the Standard Male Protagonist said. “But it is cool to meet you. You’re gay too?”

“Bi,” I corrected.

“Oh, you’re bi?” SMP asked.

“Not what I meant.” I tried again. “Bye.” Got it that time.

I walked away.

-Get your copy here!