Hooray for The Boy Next Door

Do I fully understand how Kindle Vella works? No, the internet and most modern technology confuses me even though I am not an incredibly old person who has never used technology before. Anyway, readers in Vella can like and fave stories, in which case a fancy little crown appears above the cover. For example:

Yes, this post is just me bragging that my Vella novel is now top faved. Awesome! Even if I don’t totally get what this means, I’m thrilled people loved (or faved) my book! Thank you so much, and go check out the episodes of The Boy Next Door if you haven’t yet.

Quick Description: A shy artist works up his nerve to confess his feelings for his neighbor, the boy next door. But when his neighbor’s moody, wannabe rock star brother returns home unexpectedly, his love note falls into the wrong hands.

Though the main character Sam shares some of anxious personality traits, Hunter (aka the bad boy next door) is who I have a huge soft spot for. Whether being tough or showing his softer side, he was so much fun to write.

Here’s an excerpt where Sam runs into Hunter on the street after dinner. Hunter gives him some advice.

“Hey, you barhopping too?” He nods, indicating some bars farther down the block.

“Fish tacos,” I answer honestly and stupidly.

“Okay?” He seems to regret saying anything to me. That makes two of us.

Still without his leather jacket, Hunter looks smaller. The night helps hide his surprisingly muscled arms, probably from dragging his drum set around.

“I’m not old enough for bars,” I say when we linger awkwardly.

Leaning in, he confides, “I never let that stop me.”

But I will. Because I’m not as cool and badass as him. He never lets me forget.

“Well, I should probably—” go far away as fast as possible.

“I can sneak you in,” he offers, probably because he knows I’ll refuse. Is he even old enough to drink legally? If so, it’s just barely.

“No thanks.” 

“Sam,” he says, his tone strange.

His teasing demeanor vanishes in an instant. Us prey to the predators know when it’s time to make a quick exit.

“Uh, see you around, Hunter.”

When he moves, I expect him to waltz right by me to the alcohol without saying goodbye. Instead, he steps right into my personal space. As he joins me in the shadows, I can’t see the intensity in his eyes, but I feel it on my skin.

“Be bold,” he says.

Up this close, it’s hard to breathe normally without inhaling the scent of him. And I never could read those eyes even in better light, too dark with unfathomable depths.

I manage to step away. “Fish tacos were bold enough for one night.”

“No, not about your plans for tonight. Just in general.” He’s trying to tell me something. What? I don’t know. “Sounds like advice you need to hear.”

“I do fine.” I cross my arms around myself, suddenly chilly out here.

“You could do better than fine,” he insists. “Be bold. You won’t get what you want otherwise.”

“How do you know what I want?”

Something about his expression makes me wonder if somehow he sees right through me. He isn’t smirking as he always does, yet he seems sure.

A shiver wracks my body, and I hope he doesn’t see. He probably does because he sees everything, it feels like he’s viewing my soul and finding me lacking. Any second, he’s going to reveal what I try to keep hidden—but the moment ends.

“Anything worth wanting doesn’t come easily, so.” He shrugs.

“Yeah, yeah.” I take another step away, but it doesn’t feel far enough. “Bold. Got it.”

“No you don’t.” He seems… sad. Sad I’m so slow. He pities me. Nothing new there.

I smile tightly. “Have a good night.”

~

-Read the Boy Next Door here!

One New Cover

One New Start has a new cover! Look at those cute boyfriends, it makes me happy. This new version is pretty simple, but I love the way it turned out. I’m also happy a stock photo site had a few pictures of a dark haired guy and light haired guy being a couple.

Here’s the book blurb and an excerpt:

They’re off to a promising start. Or at least an interesting one.
Ryan Miller’s last year of high school is going to be just as fabulous as him. The senior creates a bucket list of new adventures like pulling pranks and party crashing. He even has the perfect partner in crime, his boyfriend Luke. What could go wrong?

Just as life starts going Ryan’s way, everything begins going downhill for his father and Luke. Can Ryan help the people he loves most, or will their struggles drag him down too?

This section from the novel is Luke envisioning what he wants for his senior year of high school. Will reality live up to his dreams? (Hint: no, not at all.)

Luke

Ryan didn’t have a lot of friends or fun in high school before junior year. Senior year meant a new start, a different chapter in his life. I wanted to be around for his adventures when I could to support him and spend time with him… and to make sure no one suffered serious bodily harm, but my goals were different.

I wanted senior year to be, I don’t know, shoes or a purse or something.

God, note to self, never say that out loud to anyone.

Though really, yeah. This year should be shoes or a purse or a belt. A complement to the rest. All the good parts of my high school experience.

Okay, there was one new goal. To win the championships. What could be better than captaining a championship team my senior year, having a boyfriend to cheer me on from the stands, and then spending time with him? Answer, of course, was nothing.

 I was living my best life. Last year was full of ups and downs. Falling in love with Ryan Miller? Super, super awesome. Coming out and stuff? Good, though also awful. And it was over now. It was smooth sailing from here on out. A victory lap after a mostly awesome high school experience.

In the beginning

You know the beginning of a novel when the protagonist is doing great? Everything is pretty close to perfect before an unexpected event happens and then it all starts going wrong. Well, in this scene from the LGBTQ young adult novel Instalove, Avery is doing great. He’s thinking back to the time he met his boyfriend, and everything totally isn’t going to go wrong. (Yes, it is.)

P.S. this is a modern fantasy novel with magic and spellcasting, but there’s no magic in this scene. Or is there? Hmmm…

The football players practiced on the field while groups from the track team ran laps on the track around them. We tended to run in groups even though this exercise was such a solitary endeavor. It made no sense, but I didn’t care enough to be the only one running by myself.

There was a sudden jolt from the force of a hit, but I was fine, so I picked up the ball and tossed it a short distance to the athlete heading towards me with a sheepish expression.

It took me a moment to think of his name: Chris Reyes. A light sheen of sweat dusted his arms, visible in his cut-off tee, making his bronze skin glow faintly.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I think I’ll live.”

“Danny the QB thought my job looked easy,” explained the affable, good looking athlete. He twirled the ball around casually in the air while he talked. “I bet him 20 bucks he couldn’t kick a field goal.” He smiled. “I won 20 bucks.”

“Do I get a cut of the profit?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that,” he said, grin turning less charming and more teasing.

“I was just out here minding my own business,” I explained innocently. “When I was attacked with a football.”

“Hmmm.” He fought a grin. “Sounds terrible.”

I regarded him seriously. “There may be permanent damage.”

“That bad, huh?” Chris played along. “How can I make it up to you?”

I made a show of thinking about it while a voice in the back of my head helpfully pointed out that he came out last year and was openly gay.

“My injuries are pretty grim, but I suppose they’re nothing 10 bucks can’t fix.”

“Oh, you want half my winnings? Is that fair?” He considered me, tilting his head and trying to place me. Wow, the full force of his attention? It’s worth being hit by a football.

“Unfair would be leaving me out here alone, injured, and poor.” I used my drama skills to don a pitiful expression.

“Okay, okay.” He held his hands up in surrender, sending me a grin that made my stomach do somersaults. “I’ll make sure you’re properly compensated.”

We were having fun, joking around, but that sounded downright suggestive.

“Are you flirting with me?” I asked.

He smiled slowly, taking in that I was someone who was alright with another guy flirting with him. “I wasn’t necessarily.” His eyes trailed up and down my body quickly. His smile widened. “But I am now.”

I suddenly found myself very okay with that.

A romcom might call this a meet cute. My father called it ordinary magic. I called it a Tuesday afternoon. There was nothing special about it yet, even if our actions closely resembled flirting.

He didn’t give me any of his winnings, but he did pay for dinner.

That was how it started.

Instalove is a coming of age novel where Avery Ward thinks the magic his family has doesn’t involve him. Until a spell calls everything in his life into question, even the desires of his heart. Grab your copy of the novel here!

Flowers and love spells

They say time heals all wounds. Do not ask me who ‘they’ are, but this is probably true. The trouble, however, is what happens when the wound is fresh. Waiting for the cut to heal isn’t easy. Especially if the injury is a broken heart and you’re a 17-year-old and these feelings are new, wonderful, and terrible.

We’ve all been there, right? To add insult to injury, the memories from the love spell haven’t faded yet. Okay, maybe that’s the part where things get less normal.

But this is what happens in my latest paranormal romance Instalove.

In Avery Ward’s case, he’s a regular guy who happens to come from a long line of witches and warlocks who bring real magic into the world. He’s just learned magic might be the reason he’s totally crazy about soccer player and smartie Chris Reyes.

But knowing a spell is happening and being free from its effects are two different things. And he hasn’t really begun the healing process yet. This scene is Avery sitting in his family garden, trying to process the new revelations in his life while his mother checks on him.

~

Mom found me outside and sat with me on the bench next to the aster.

“The gardenias are coming in nicely,” she noted.

As a licensed therapist, she’s usually all about healthy communication and sharing feelings. I had zero desire to share, so I watched her for the trick but found none.

“Really, that’s all?” I asked.

“You don’t want to talk. You don’t want me to talk at you.” She shrugged. “What else is there to say?”

Huh. I relaxed as we enjoyed the relative quiet together.

This was my happy place. Okay, time to feel happy. Anytime now. Go. I looked around. The garden was a lovely place, but it depended on one’s current prerogative.

The nearby larkspur meant lightness, yet it also meant fickleness or haughtiness. And talk about fickle, there were carnations in the next row over, and they had about 93 meanings attached to them depending on the color.

The daffodils over Mom’s shoulder needed company. Several meant happiness and joy while a solitary flower meant misfortune. That was probably a metaphor.

“Sure you don’t want to talk?” she asked quietly.

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

As she rose to leave, Mom placed a hand on my shoulder. “The spell will be undone, and you’ll laugh about this someday.”

“But not today.” There was a fountain just to the right of center in the garden. When we were quiet, I thought I could hear it.

“Not today,” she agreed quietly.

The iris grew next to me on my right. I was afraid to look at it. Irises symbolize hope.

— the rest is available here.

New Cover for One Little Lie

For self-published authors like me, hiring a cover designer is crucial. Unless I want to make everything myself with my questionable design skills. I do not want this in the slightest, but I’ve paid various prices for results of varying quality and sometimes it’s very hit and miss.

So some of my covers are unfortunately made by me. But I’ve found a designer I like and am slowly updating my catalogue. This is the new cover for One Little Lie, and there’s also an excerpt from the book that is probably more appealing than my brief discussion of cover woes.

And here’s a small hint that you may want to buy this book now. You may want to buy this book now. Hint, hint. Because with this spiffy cover and an upcoming box set, I’ll eventually change the price back to $2.99. Once the box set for the first four books in this series is out, this one is going back to regular price. Though I guess you could also wait and get the boxset. Because then you get more books for less. You have options, I guess that’s the point.

Here’s the new cover:

In this scene, boyfriends Ryan and Luke are getting ready for a double date.

Ryan

Luke acted like a contestant in a beauty pageant, obsessing over his outfit.

He faced away from me but glared through the mirror in front of him. “Ryan, stop laughing and tell me which one of these shirts makes my eyes pop!”

I giggled helplessly while Luke directed his gaze to the two shirts in question. He held them up to his chest one at a time while deciding.

“Baby, you look good in anything.” Sure, my tone still sounded at least 20% sarcastic but that was my baseline.

He scoffed, unimpressed with my answer. “Stop being a weirdo.”

“I’m a weirdo for you,” I cooed. Teasing was the only option to avoid combusting into a puddle of hormones and fondness.

“You do realize this might be the only time I ask you for fashion advice?”

Well played. “Wear the red one.”

Luke frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, moron, I’m sure.”

Hey, could moron be Luke’s pet name?

He held the chosen shirt up in front of the mirror and nodded decisively. “Thank you.” A serious look crossed his face and he turned to me. “Your pet name for me is not going to be moron.” He turned towards the mirror again to fuss with his hair.

Wow, had we become so in sync we thought alike? Maybe we developed a psychic connection. Probably the first one. Just to be sure, I should double check.

I concentrated on thoughts of Luke’s ass. “What am I thinking about?”

“My ass,” he answered without hesitation.

“You are psychic,” I marveled.

“I can feel and see you staring at my ass.” He met my eyes in the mirror with a laugh.

Irresistible

Love can make you do crazy things. As the character Avery finds out in the paranormal romance Instalove. The 17-year-old usually prefers blending in at school and not being different. His home life is crazy and full of witches and warlocks who can cast spells and shoot fire from their palms, so he likes keeping things simple at school.

Avery starts the novel in the closet and doesn’t plan on coming out until college. But despite trying to be an ‘average’ high schooler, he can’t resist Chris Reyes. Which is how he ends up with a secret boyfriend and maybe a few secrets of his own.

In this excerpt, Avery is thinking about his relationship since a milestone is approaching.

It’s possible Chris wasn’t thrilled about the ‘secret’ part of our secret relationship. He’d been understanding until he found out my family knew I was gay and I had trouble explaining why I didn’t want anyone else to know.

With our four-month anniversary approaching, spending it fighting sounded terrible. I wanted to spend it… well, I didn’t care how we spent it as long as we were happy and together. The other details weren’t important.

Maybe being a guy with a secret boyfriend and being hopelessly crazy about him wasn’t very average and regular. Oh well. As much as I wanted to be normal and blend in, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get to know Chris.

–check out the rest here.

Boy likes boy

One of the main characters in my new paranormal romance Instalove is Chris Reyes. He’s a smart athlete who gets pulled into the magical world without warning when a spell goes wrong. And I’ve decided I don’t need to tell you anything else about him because Avery, the other main character, likes thinking about Chris and can introduce him instead.

So I don’t think you need to know anything else to understand this excerpt from the modern fantasy novel because it is literally just Avery swooning over Chris.

~

Physically, the tall athlete had caramel skin and extremely lickable abs, which I knew from experience. He served as a kicker for the football team, but soccer was his game. His legs were phenomenal. His lithe legs and muscular thighs were all the proof anyone needed that God or Magic or whatever was real.

He was certainly fun to look at, but my favorite thing about him was how he made any room he was in brighter. It’s like he was made of light and lit from the inside with a warmth and glow that drew people in and made them feel comfortable.

— Check out the book here.

Meet Avery Ward

The newest book from me is called Instalove, a magical YA LGBTQ novel. This book is about Avery Ward, a regular 17-year-old who thinks he’s falling in love for the first time. But when your family has magic and your younger sister is a stubborn little witch, nothing is as simple as it seems.

This is from the beginning of the book where Avery talks about his family and his connection to magic.

~

When given the choice, most people would rather learn about my sister than me. Stella Ward is the Witch, the girl wonder who can move objects with her mind and turn the laws of the natural world inside out.

Avery Ward is the junior who runs track, the guy who gets supporting roles in the school plays with a good audition. Enough about him, let’s hear more about this sister. Yeah, yeah. I get it.

I’m normal. My sister isn’t.

Witchcraft seems so cool and interesting to people who grew up without it. When someone close to you has powers and you don’t, it’s mostly extremely annoying. But siblings can be that way.

However, there are always reminders that she’s not an ordinary little sister. It’s not fun to pull eye of newt or wing of bat out of the refrigerator when needing ketchup. Instead of listening to me on the phone or snooping in my text messages, she can cast a spell to read my mind.

Aside from the lesson to always know what you’re grabbing before putting it on food, Stella’s magic barely impacted my life. It intersected with me like a cold or a mild fever. There are a few days of congestion and mild discomfort and then the inconvenience goes away without any lasting damage.

At least that’s what I wanted to believe. It worked for a while. Her magic didn’t make a big impression on my life.

Until it did.

Instalove is available now!

Small confession time. This novel is about a guy who is crazy about another guy, but I’ve been using a tool called Bookbrush lately to make graphics like the above. And there’s lots of pre-made options involving ladies, so since Stella and her magic play a big role in making everything happen, I look at this as one of my few chances to actually use the templates with females.

Nightmare children

Avery and his little sister don’t get along in Instalove. This might be part of a normal sibling dynamic, though love spells and the hellhound she gave him as a gift are less normal.

During breakfast, the family discuss the rules for Stella’s birthday dinner. This is a different version of this scene than the one in the novel.

~

“It’s a good time to go over the rules for dinner tonight,” Dad interjected. Ah, how to behave in front of polite company. It used to be a long series of items, written on parchment paper and permanently affixed to the fridge.  That didn’t quite yield results though, so now there were two easily digestible points.

“Don’t be nightmare children unless our cousins are doing it first,” Stella said. Those were their words, ‘nightmare children.’ And they called us dramatic when we got going. So unfair. To me at least. Stella was definitely the nightmare.

My family all looked to me.

“It’s Stella’s birthday,” I said the next rule. They kept looking at me. “Don’t be awful to Stella,” I finished reluctantly.

“Don’t be awful to Stella,” Dad repeated.

“I said that.” Why even have me say it if he was going to say the same thing?

“It bears repeating,” he said firmly.

 Why did it even matter what I did? The remaining pastries we hadn’t eaten had abandoned their spot on the obnoxious floating platter and were doing a little dance for my sister’s amusement. Everything literally catered to her; I didn’t have to do the same. Our cutlery didn’t normally levitate, but Stella liked these little extra touches on her special day.

 ‘Extra touches’ were how my parents referred to them. I called them pointless and unnecessary. We get it, Stella had magic. Stella liked magic. There was nothing wrong with magic, but there was a whole world out there and magic was just a small part of it. Magic wasn’t everything.

That was a lesson I’d learned firsthand.

Anyway, these rules were useless. “Stella didn’t abide by the rules on my birthday,” I muttered. My parents exchanged ‘here we go’ looks.

“It was a gift!” Stella hollered.

“That tried to eat me,” I pointed out.

Stella rolled her eyes, like she was annoyed I brought that up again, but a birthday present from her had tried to devour me. I had the right to bring that up for, like, the rest of time. “How was I supposed to know it would be so mean?” she asked rhetorically.

I answered anyway. “It was called a hellhound.” She was the supposed magical savant; she should have known. The kid had no common sense.

She rolled her eyes. “I just thought it would be red.” Also, she often put too much stock in her abilities. Sometimes she didn’t read the instructions fully; she thought she was a little magic expert that knew everything. It would be hilarious when things went wrong if I wasn’t usually dragged into the side effects with her.

And my Dad found Stella’s magical appetite so charming. He encouraged her to explore the magical world. Yet he wouldn’t buy me alcohol when I wanted to explore the regular world… Okay, I didn’t fault him for that one, but I had to try.

Stella and Mom left for school while Dad floated the serving tray down to the table. He grabbed my attention before I could make my escape to school. “Hey, really, go easy on Stella tonight.” He put a hand on my shoulder as he sat down in the chair next to me and looked me in the eye, his I mean it look.

“We already went through thy hallowed, revered rules,” I told him with only a little sarcasm. It was too early for more.

His sass game was strong, undeterred by the early hour. “If they’re so hallowed and revered, how come they never get followed?”

“Maybe tonight will be the first time?” I offered. Magic existed, so miracles could happen too.

 “You’re the older brother,” Dad reminded me, turning serious again. Like I didn’t know that. Though maybe sticking my tongue out at her wasn’t the height of maturity. “Treat her with respect and she’ll do the same to you.”

“You have no proof of that.”

“I’m an eternal optimist,” he quipped.

–the book is available here.

Who is Avery Ward?

Who is Avery Ward, you might ask as you read the title of this post. Because that’s what the post says.

Well, thanks for asking!

If you wanna get literal about it, he’s the main character of the gay paranormal romance Instalove. He’s also the 17-year-old protagonist who thinks the magic in his family doesn’t affect him, until he finds out that the thing he holds most dear may be the result of a spell.

From an author standpoint, I enjoy writing prose in his special angst-y yet practical perspective. I don’t make characters exactly like me but sometimes I give them something of mine. Avery has my taste in music. And he’s sort of a pessimist who’s trying to be more optimistic, which we also share.

Otherwise, I’ll let Avery tell you about himself in his own words. All you need to know for the following excerpt is that Stella is Avery’s little sister.

~

When given the choice, most people would rather learn about my sister than me. Stella Ward is the Witch, the girl wonder who can move objects with her mind and turn the laws of the natural world inside out.

Avery Ward is the junior who runs track, the guy who gets supporting roles in the school plays with a good audition. Enough about him, let’s hear more about this sister. Yeah, yeah. I get it.

I’m normal. My sister isn’t.

Witchcraft seems so cool and interesting to people who grew up without it. When someone close to you has powers and you don’t, it’s mostly extremely annoying. But siblings can be that way.

–Check it out here. You can buy the book or read it on KU.