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.

Prom

One of the big milestones at the end of high school is prom. It’s no different for the seniors in One Big Decision. Though Ryan and Luke have two promposals because they’re difficult like that. I’ll let Luke share his thoughts regarding his promposal.

Luke

Making decisions wasn’t always easy for me outside of the pitcher’s mound, and the length of time it took me to reach conclusions might be… slightly… longer than the time it took everyone else. My mom says some people are late bloomers in terms of physically maturing and others are late bloomers mentally. Hey, she was kinda insulting me, wasn’t she? Okay, I guess she had a point. But I wasn’t dumb really, I just took my time.

So, when asking my boyfriend to prom, Zach suggested I hire a focus group. Which sounded pricey and also he made the suggestion because he’s a dick, but it normally wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Except this time, I knew exactly what I wanted.

For my prom date: Ryan.

For my ask: some of his favorite things.

I also wanted him to look completely different. Okay, not completely. From the top of his unruly brown hair to his amber eyes bursting with life and down to his ridiculously freaking sexy long legs, which always seemed on display in months with nice weather, he looked good.

Except his shirt, which featured a giant picture of… a tacocat? Cat-taco? Yeah, half taco, half cat. Taco-cat. And today might be the warmest day yet this year, so he’d gotten into popsicles or something which stained his lips an artificial blue color.

Hindsight

So I’m sort of patting myself on the back here, but one thing has become clear when sharing this deleted scene from Black Cats and Bad Luck: I made the right call. When I decided not to use this scene and write another instead, I felt bummed out about it and tried to convince myself to use it anyway. Looking back, I can tell it was the better decision. All the main characters hiding in a bed together is adorable, but it really didn’t fit with the rest of the novel.

I took out some of the more spoiler-y elements, so all you need to know is that after an attack all the main characters are huddled together and trying to figure out what to do next. And the ‘wendigo incident’ is an event from the past that the Ward cousins swore a blood oath not to mention and I had a lot of fun with it.

~

Avery

Could only girls have slumber parties? Maybe. I mean, I had spent the night at friend’s houses before. I typically never invited people over. I worried they’d get the wrong idea, see the magic my family could do and start to expect those things from me.

There wasn’t a ton of experience for me to draw from, but I hadn’t attended a slumber party ever. Even though I’d spent the night at friend’s houses, even a group of us. Some component had been lacking to call it a true slumber party. Not pillow fights or something cheesy and stereotypical like that. S’mores? Sleeping bags? No, camping came to mind for those items. Prank calls? Huh. Maybe.

Actually, good thing I never attended a slumber party before. If fond memories of them existed, they would pale in comparison now. Not that this was exactly fun, but it was certainly an experience, one that would have blown any others out of the water.

Why did this qualify as a slumber party? Maybe because we were all on one bed. It was actually sort of weird. We probably wouldn’t all sleep here. We ended up here, Mason freaked out in a nightmare, and Horatio freaked out in turn, not sure if Mason was hurt because ‘nightmare’ definitely applied but that didn’t mean it wasn’t real. Mason was certainly the go to guy for reality-bending dreams.

He was okay, but we were all spooked, so instead of meeting anywhere else, we went to Horatio and Mason’s room. Mason and Horatio’s room? Probably Mason’s room, where Horatio stayed. Horatio only moved away from him to open the door when letting us in. Mason hadn’t gotten out of bed, so… we were all on the bed.

Mason at the head, leaned on the pillows propping him up and Horatio. Miranda on the other side. The rest of us inserted somewhat awkwardly near the foot wherever we could find space. Weird though also comfortable, only the bedside lights on, a little island of light in the dark. Perfect for huddling together and talking in quiet voices.

“Are we sure about this?” Miranda asked after we formulated a plan. “Between Horatio and his shape shifting to the mystical bond you two share, there’s too much that could go wrong.”

“We don’t want a wendigo,” Horatio said.

Stella made an urgent noise, shaking her head and indicating Miranda should stop talking. Miranda put a hand over her mouth. I made an important gesture, then asked Jonah if I did it right.

“What were you going for?” he asked.

“Sign of the cross.”

“Then no,” he answered. Damn.

~

BTW, the who paranormal romance novel is here and free.

If you come in peace

Are you familiar with familiars? These are the animal creatures that partner with witches and provide magical assistance. The most obvious potential example is probably a black cat. They exist in this world, though they work a little differently in my NA paranormal romance novel. (P.S. Yes, I laughed at my own cleverness for saying ‘familiar with familiars.’ Sometimes I’m easily amused.)

In Black Cats and Bad Luck, these supernatural entities partner with Witches who can use magic. This made things tricky for Avery Ward, magical later bloomer. At least everyone assumed this. Because nearly all the Wards, and everyone on his Mom’s side of the family too, have magical powers, even if only a little. And there’s already one family member with no gifts whatsoever, so what are the odds there will be two? Extremely slim, if its ever even happened before. So of course he’ll have powers. Probably.

The family figures Avery’s gifts haven’t been discovered yet when he’s around 8-years-old. His younger sister Stella’s gifts are active and growing and it won’t be long until she could use the help of a familiar, but he’s the oldest. It’s his job to ask the universe for a magical companion. Even though he has no powers. Yet. They’ll manifest eventually.

Except they don’t.

During the novel, Avery is 15 and the familiar who ended up choosing to live with his family, Horatio, has changed from a feline animal companion to a man. Neither truly animal nor man, Horatio is more a magical being, one of many who takes the shape of an animal. Except he’s unique when it comes to changing shapes in the middle of his familiar duties. This isn’t something familiars usually do, so the Ward family are trying to figure out how this happened while Avery thinks back on the ritual he performed to call a familiar to him. There’s a little bit of this in the novel, though this is a larger version.

~

Avery

“Even if we couldn’t mark your arrival down on the calendar,” Dad said, “we were expecting you a few years earlier.”

“I couldn’t come then,” said Horatio. As everyone stared at him, he opened his mouth to say more before faltering. “Um… the only part I know is I couldn’t come then.”

Great, the focus shifted, and I could feel everyone’s eyes on me.

“Why would he need to?” Stella wondered. “For Avery? He—”

“Yeah,” I interrupted. “I don’t have much use for a familiar.”

Horatio stared at me and I managed not to fidget. “That wasn’t it. I, I… I just.”

“Couldn’t come earlier?” I filled in.

“Precisely,” he agreed. He mouthed the word ‘precisely’ again.

Despite having little use for a familiar, I performed the ritual anyway at age seven or eight. Did he even hear me? I suppose I could ask him. Anyone could perform spells, the results were what differed. With prayers, well. Mom said prayers weren’t spells or magick, they were special requests. All you needed was a thought, belief, and the courage to ask. So despite not manifesting any abilities, then or ever, I performed the Request.

I faintly remembered saffron in the air, opening the big bay windows in the living room, looking up to the sky dotted with stars, and lighting the yellow candle that made me sneeze. Mom stood behind me the whole time, helping me perform the activity. There were formal words I could recite, something about seeking an ally to join me as I journeyed deeper into the craft. Or the more folksy, ‘if you come in peace for partnership, please come in.’ Though if there were something else in my heart, I should speak that instead. I remember searching for the brightest star and starting there, then finding one so distant I could barely see it, thinking maybe I would find an answer somewhere between those two points.

Please, I began, voicing the desire in my heart. I found there was nothing else to say. Please, please, please, I asked every star near and far.

That was back when we thought my powers would come one day. They didn’t. Neither did Horatio. Not until a few years later when Stella performed the request and there he was on our doorstep the very next day.

~

Wood…

Black Cats and Bad Luck is a magical fantasy novel with witches and familiars. And magic! Obviously. While one of the main characters, Mason, has strange dreams that might be magical, unless he’s crazy, Mason himself isn’t part of the magical community. He does have one strange power in this deleted scene from the novel.

~

Mason

Different elements resonated with different people. Some possessed the fiery temperament of a raging inferno. Others were steady and calm as a peaceful river. Many Pagans were at home in the forest, the earth welcoming them in while birdsong created a melody, the perfect natural soundtrack.

Mason Lewis wasn’t any of those things.

If I guessed my affinity, I’d go with… wood. Which either sounded boring or suggestive. Though if wood spoke to me, then the message it delivered was extremely specific. Maybe because I worked with wood often or because the jobs I did on the side had a magical component, the first time I rested my hand on a wooden piece, I could get a sense of its creation. Here in the reception area of the hotel, I rested my palm on the tall counter at the front desk and a clear sense of mass production filled my mind.

Heh, this place came across as rustic and woodsy, all the furniture resembling pieces someone could hypothetically craft with their own two hands. There were spacious, oversized wooden coffee tables, desks, and chairs, all polished until gleaming in dark browns. No woodworker in a secluded forest hideaway made any of it. I touched it and heard ‘assembly line’ loud and clear.

These were my idle thoughts as I waited for my guests. At this relatively early hour, the place still smelled strongly of wood polish with something fresh in the air too. An older couple leisurely made their way in, and the man checked in while the woman with him walked right over to me. Her honeysuckle perfume couldn’t be detected until she wrapped her arms around me in a hug.

Instead of saying hello, she greeted me with, “Aren’t you going to shave your beard?” A hand moved to pat my cheek and rub at the scruff there as if it could be scrubbed away with a little elbow grease. “The pictures from this event will be with us forever.”

“Good to see you too, Grandma,” I greeted, unable to keep the smile off my face as we separated.

~

The weight of things

Can someone go boy crazy if they are already crazy in general? I don’t know, but here is a deleted scene from One Little Problem. It is about a boy who may or may not be crazy thinking about his life and his relationship. There is some discussion of the shenanigans that occur in the book, but I don’t think you need to know about it to understand this scene. All you need to know is a boy wants to keep dating another boy, and he’s afraid he won’t be able to.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

~

Ryan

Scales were one of the worst inventions ever, right? Yeah, they provided helpful information: the weight of something. That probably had numerous real-world applications. There was nothing inherently evil about knowing how much something weighed, but there was just so much bad that came along with it. Because once you knew how much you weighed, you could feel terrible about that, you could make false promises to exercise, say the weight was going to come off tomorrow and then just perpetually hate yourself when it never did.

Or you could weigh a perfectly healthy amount but still want to weigh a few pounds less, and then criticize yourself for not being better. It felt like my life was a set of scales, and someone somewhere decided the weight on the good side and bad side had to even out for some dumb reason or that having a disproportionate amount on the bad side and a tiny amount on the good side was okay but not the other way around.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe I actually wanted to fake break up but maybe that would finally tip the scales, let me have more good than bad. Not this weird cosmic balancing act where things with Luke were good so things with our parents had to be bad. Things with Luke were good, so things with my dad had to be weird. Things with Luke were good, so it had to have an expiration date. I had to go away for the summer, and what if everything changed?

Oh, who am I kidding, things with Luke were good and that’s what I cared about, about having that for as long as possible. So, it was pretty easy to break up. We did it without fanfare, no public spectacle that usually went with the more important moments in our relationship. We were less obvious at school but most people either had gotten used to the gays being weird gay or tried to pay us as little attention as possible or just didn’t believe we would stay broken up.

Flirting in cars with boys

And now for a deleted scene from a first date. This is from One Little Word.

Helpful information: Our plucky protagonist Ryan is determined to have a good time with cool, cocky Zach despite Ryan being a giant loser who happens to have a black eye. He also has a fake boyfriend, so it’s hard to say which of those things will be a bigger hindrance. (It’s totally the fake boyfriend.)

~

Ryan

The vehicle was old but not worn down, more vintage. A red sports car that wasn’t too flashy for a town like this as it was retro but still fit Zach’s personality.

“None of this was what I expected when I tried to imagine dating in this town,” I admitted while buckling my seat belt.

“Having a fake boyfriend and a real date?”

“Yeah, I imagined more sneaking around.” Not that I was complaining. This was preferable, black eye and all.

“Well, Luke helped us.”

I wasn’t sure about that.

“He’s taking a lot of the heat. I figured there wouldn’t be a better time than now to come out,” he explained while driving.

“Letting Luke take the fall? That’s kinda cold,” I joked.

He wasn’t sorry. “I’m kinda a jackass.”

“You get by on your charm.”

Zach grinned. “It does help.”

“Well, I don’t know if it’s working on me,” I said coyly. It totally worked on me.

“Oh really? Guess I’ll have to try harder.”