Zach! Should I add more? Zach, again!

You know how I post outtakes from my fiction every other Monday? Great, that’s what this is.

Sometimes I post longer sections… and sometimes I don’t. That’s what this is. A longer or short section. Duh.

This is a little bit about Zach from the One More Thing universe, a character I love and often just start writing about whenever he appears.

Then I remember, oh yeah, this scene isn’t just a bunch of information about Zach Ahmad. Which means, regrettably, I have to take out the big chunk of Zach stuff that’s just there intruding on the rest.

If Zach were a real person, he would probably object to the point of everything not being about him. However, he’s also probably happy to be a scene stealer.

Luke

Zach being serious? That was unnatural, almost scary. He could dress up as himself for Halloween, just wearing the glasses he needs and hates wearing and saying smart or heartfelt things about people and the world, and it would terrify everyone. Or at least me.

He’d never do that though, wear the glasses.

I wasn’t as cocky as Zach. I wasn’t sure anyone could be, and especially not his best friend, the combined forces of egos that big might cause a tornado or something.

~

This has been some deleted content from One New Start.

 

Meeting the parents is always awkward. Even (or especially) if you aren’t really dating.

On Wednesdays, we wear pink. But on Mondays, we post outtakes from novels. Or at least I do. It’s fetch? No, stop trying to make fetch happen. I got started on a Mean Girls thing and now I can’t stop. Or maybe I can.

Alright. This is a deleted scene from One Little Lie. The first one was about fake dating, and this is the second one, which is totally different. And also about fake dating.

Luke and Ryan fake dated in the first book, due to Reasons That Made Sense at the Time, but they’re real dating in this one. As Luke and his friend Lydia aren’t ready to come out yet, they pretend to date each other instead. This is where Luke is about to meet Lydia’s parents.

~~~

bookb

Luke

My parents were like… damn, I should have asked Ryan for a simile. Introducing them to Lydia was super easy, so they were something like that. Lydia’s parents were the opposite of whatever the super easy thing was. I wasn’t very good at this to begin with and then having to smile and make nice with the homophobes…

No, Lydia’s parents. They were homophobes, but they were also Lydia’s parents. This was important to her and I didn’t want to face her wrath. Ugh, there were so many reasons to be nervous I couldn’t pick just one.

“Do I need to take off my shoes when I get in there?” I asked. That had never been a house rule at any home I went to regularly, but maybe people with teenage boys gave up on cleanliness. Lydia shook her head.

We had just pulled up to the house in my car.

“Should I make the sign of the cross in front of them or something?” I asked next. They were religious.

“Relax.” She looked pretty calm, just uncomfortable. “I didn’t think I’d have to remind you we aren’t actually dating.”

“I know, but you’re, uh.” I sighed and rested my head against the headrest. “I know you need this. I don’t want to mess it up.”

“It’ll be fine.” She smiled and placed her hand on top of mine for a moment. “Thank you.”

We got out of the car and looked towards the house together. It was large enough for their big family but relatively small, like they had only as much as they needed, and the plants and decorations outside were sparse. There was a little stone cross decoration in one of the flower beds, and the area was neat and well-kept but modest.

Modest. That was a good word for the whole house. My parents liked having the nicest things, without being too flashy for a farming and agricultural community like this, but Lydia’s parents kept everything at a minimum. It was clean and simple with pale yellow paint on the house, but the light blue shutters looked pretty. Should I tell them that? I’d been a guest in people’s homes before but now I couldn’t remember how to act.

“Should I have brought a housewarming gift?” That was a thing people did on TV shows and in movies.

Lydia sent me a look that translated to stop being weird. “My parents have lived here since before I was born.”

“Oh. Should I have brought a gift for that?” I asked, unable to stop being weird. She grabbed my hand and pulled me along.

More on Mondays (totally a thing! I just started it!)

My typical plan for posting deleted scenes and extras from my novels is this: I post them whenever I remember to do that. I decided to go all organized and just start putting up something one day every week. This is when I ran into a problem.

See, I wanted alliteration. Thirsty Thursday. Man Crush Monday. Taco Tuesday. None of those are related to what I’m doing. Though I guess having crushes on men isn’t totally unrelated.

Okay, I spent a few minutes pondering different words. Deleted, bonus, additional, cut, removed. I was looking for any word that also started with the same letter as a day of the week.

I couldn’t find one that worked, so I’m going with More on Mondays.

bookssss

What’s More on Mondays you did or didn’t ask?  It’s where I’ll post new writing that didn’t make it into a previous book or longer versions of a scene. You know, outtakes, edits, revisions, excerpts and other synonyms.

Did I just tell a long story for basically no reason? Now you know why I have surplus content!

Oh, surplus, that could have worked. Surplus Sundays. Or Supplemental Saturdays. Oh well. I already decided.

For the inaugural More on Mondays post, I went with something from my upcoming release, One New Start. Inaugural? I’m so fancy. Here’s what you need to know: Ryan and Luke are boyfriends, Ryan came up with a list of new things to try, and they are maybe going to dance.

(Whenever I sum things up, I have the urge to add ‘and that’s what you missed on Glee’ at the end. Am I going to be like this for the rest of my life? Damn you, Glee!)

Anyway, here’s a story.

~~~

Ryan

Reckless disregard for limb and law time was over. For now. Normally I would be sad about that, but I had dance lessons on my list.

There was no way dancing could go wrong. Saying that might be inviting the universe to show me all the ways things could blow up, maybe even literally, but not this time. My logic is flawless. Go me, using logic! Another new experience!

I really wanted to learn to dance. If that happened, then I picked up a new skill and did what I set out to do. If not, I still got to press my body to Luke’s body. I also really wanted to do that. Either way, I won.

dancing

Not sure if dancing was girly or not, but I wasn’t going to be dancing with a girl. And seriously, dancing was a socially acceptable way to press my body to my boyfriend’s body in public.

If anyone thought dancing wasn’t worthwhile, they were dumb and didn’t have a pretty boyfriend.

We stood in the dance classroom with its polished wood floor and mirror on one side, so there were two Lukes. A dream come true. I could only touch one though. My boo and I stared at each other while mirror boo stared too.

Luke’s blue t-shirt stretched enticingly over his shoulders and I put my hands there, to encourage him, get the ball rolling. To feel his shoulders, warm and strong as always.

“You’re the one that picked this activity,” I reminded him. I had the idea but he’s the one who said we should do this one next.

His hands went to my waist, so we were maybe getting closer to dancing. “I picked this because most of the ideas you had written down are criminal, impossible, maybe going to get us killed or definitely going to get us killed.”

“That sounds like a personal problem,” I told him sagely.

dance

~~~

Just going to casually add (in a casual way!) that One New Start comes out on Sept. 15.

Musings from a theater kid

Alicia is a character from the One More Thing series. She’s dating Lydia. She likes drama. Wait, I need to be more specific. The kind you do in school. Wait, I need to be more specific. She’s into theater.

Because her POVs in One Little Change didn’t need to be a million years long, I had to cut her thoughts down. Here’s some cut and uncut parts from her story.

The music in Spring Awakening was pretty awesome. The play itself wasn’t my favorite. There were a million gross undertones that were part of the times or something, but no one cared because it was the taboo play about sex. Everyone in drama with me was constantly begging for it to be our next show because it was so edgy. However, if that was the play every high school drama department wanted to put on, that made it normal and not really edgy at all.

Grease was on the tame, acceptable side of high school theater productions and Spring Awakening was on the other end. Wasn’t there something in the middle we could explore instead of doing Grease another freaking time?  I’d been Sandy, I’d been Rizzo, I’d been Frenchy, and I’d even been Kenickie once. At least playing a T-Bird had been different than playing a Pink Lady.

No grade school, middle school, or high school production would let me play Danny Zucko. Being Kenickie when Evan Sanders got sick and I was doing crew was one thing, but actively promoting crossdressing and having two girls play the main love interests? That pushed this innocent musical over to the Spring Awakening side of things but in a way I was actually interested in. The administration, however, was decidedly not interested.

Theater was my happy place. My safe place. Lydia was sort of becoming like that too. I felt like I belonged with her one minute but then things got scary the next but a good kind of scary, that made my heart beat faster, that made me want to burst into love songs. Only then there was this. This was scary but not in a good way.

We were sitting on the dock of the lake, sun shining down brightly, though strategically placed trees were currently giving us shelter from the harshest rays. I wasn’t attending summer camp this year, but I was a counselor at one outside of town instead. Well, Ryan liked to complain there was no lake in Lake Forest. Or forest, but we had both on these grounds. Technically, he was right. We were outside the city limits. Fine, I was a counselor at a camp outside of town.

The whole place wasn’t about theater or the arts or anything, though me and a few other teens with experience were the ones running the drama units. Being outside in the bright sunshine wasn’t usually my thing. However, with my shorts and a light blue shirt, with the smell of fresh air everywhere, it was kinda nice out here.

We just ended a session with one group of kids and another would come in next week. There was a barbecue tonight to celebrate, with counselors and significant others. Or siblings. Lydia and I weren’t siblings obviously, we didn’t even look alike. My boss was firmly convinced we were even though no one had tried to convince him. Some people were like that.

Other people decided that girlfriend meant friend who was a girl. Holding hands, kissing, hell even getting married and having rugrats one day? Wow, what an interesting choice to do that with your friend who is also a girl.

Luke is totally not afraid of horses.

Here’s some fiction about people riding horses. Literally, not in a euphemism way. Should I make that sound more exciting? Here’s some fiction about people riding horses!

Nailed it.

Again, not in a dirty way.

This is a scene I didn’t end up using from One Little Change. I took out anything other than vague references to the plot, so this isn’t spoilery and you also don’t need to know anything about the characters.

Enjoy! (Or don’t, you do you.)

Luke

This was the awkwardest experience ever. Happening right now. Around me. Under me. That sounded weird. I was on a horse. It was awkward.

Maybe it wasn’t that weird… it was just also really weird.

“Slow down,” I suggested to Lydia while tightening my arms around her waist.

“You are such a baby.” Swore she sped up while she said that.

“There’s a branch up ahead!” I warned.

“Stop backseat horse riding!”

We were at the camp where Alicia worked, picking up my little sister Lily. Camp was over for her group, but there were still counselors around and they’d soon be getting ready for the next batch of kids. No one seemed to care or question us when we went to the stables and checked out the horses, all the employees too excited for the downtime between cycles, so I followed Lily and Alicia’s leads.

Lily decided we were going to go riding, which I didn’t really know how to do, but she seemed comfortable getting the horses ready.

While Ryan and I patching things up was good for my heart and mind and soul and everything, maybe it was good for my body too. The Millers didn’t even have horses yet, and Ryan and I were in no way married, but my little sister Lily was acting like their imaginary horses were as good as hers.

Our family didn’t have a barn of our own, and the ranch I worked on had different livestock, so I’d never ridden. Maybe a few times at the fair when I was a kid and then horses seemed girly. Why? Yeah, girls liked horses. Sometimes to a scary degree. But the animals were giant and they had strength and what about them was girly, and even if it was, what about that was girly in a bad way?

I told the girls they could ride and I would just wait for them, maybe go back to my car. And now somehow I was behind Lydia on a horse.

The horse Lily rode had a chestnut coat, was obviously named Chestnut, and was fast, as she charged ahead and lost us pretty much immediately on the path.

Alicia’s tan horse, Blondie, they didn’t dig too hard for names, looked like it had the ability to catch up or at least get close to Lily’s horse even though it moved at a slower pace to accommodate me and my steed.

My horse was named Button and had a white coat with grey spots. No idea if its coat was always like that or that just happened when a horse was, like, 90 years old. If he tried to go as fast as Chestnut, he would probably die.

I liked Button. He was an old guy that was just doing his best.

While I probably wasn’t in any danger, I clung onto Lydia for dear life.

“Just be careful,” I told or reminded her.

“Stop telling me what to do.”

“I will if you be careful.”

“I’ve done this before.”

Yeah and so had Button, 900 times, and I think he’s had enough. It’s a big job carrying two people.

~

This is an excerpt from Summer Romance, one of F.N. Manning’s M/M YA novels

*

“Carter Ford is working here too?” I asked. I had to be sure this wasn’t a hallucination. I guess I could just call him Carter now; being coworkers meant we would be on a first name basis. “Carter Ford?”

He always seemed well-dressed and in control. I didn’t expect him to need a job like this when he could be doing whatever good looking, popular people did in the summer. Maybe the same thing I did – sitting on the couch and watching TV or occasionally going out into the world – but just being good looking and popular while doing it.

“Do you know him?” Lily asked me. Perhaps being older than him or being his boss meant she wasn’t fazed by the presence of one of the most popular guys in my grade. And she was a great pseudo sister for even asking that question and implying I could be in the same social stratosphere as him.

“No,” I told her. “I don’t know Carter Ford at all.” I knew of him, but I’d never been properly introduced. Oh god, was that about to happen now? I sat up straighter in my chair.

“You could just call him Carter,” she recommended and then he came in and sat with us and I tried to be normal, listen to what Libby said, and basically do anything other than obsess over the guy sitting next to me.

-Summer Romance is available here.

Solving World Hunger

Here’s an excerpt from One Little Problem. The series follows Ryan and Luke, high school sweethearts, and their mocking friends.

Ryan POV

“I’ve solved all our problems,” I announced to the table.

There was a pause as everyone stopped their individual conversations and focused on me. “Like, of the people sitting at this table or globally?” Alicia asked.

Lydia watched me with an amused, superior little smile. “I’m particularly interested in your solutions for world hunger, our current president, and people who take up two parking spaces.”

Zach rolled his eyes. “Smaller scale guys, he’s totally talking about him and Luke.”

Oh yeah, I was at a table of people who wouldn’t hesitate to mock me, which could be bad sometimes when there was stuff about me that was mockable but also this was totally where I belonged, so I had to endure it. However, maybe I didn’t need to share this idea with group. “No, I totally got an idea for that world hunger thing.” Um… “More food.” Nailed it.

Luke nodded. “Good idea, babe.” Way to be supportive. He looked at my plate. “You gonna donate that pizza?”

I eyed him knowingly. “Donate it to you?”

Exaggerated realization played across his face, like that thought had just occurred to him as I said it. “I am pretty hungry,” he admitted, putting on his best innocent face. Not sure how well it worked, but I’m pretty sure all higher brain function ground to a halt whenever he showed me the dimples, which he was doing, so I was a goner.

I slid my plate towards him and he took the pizza off it. “You’re lucky your cute,” I told him.

He smiled. “So are you.”

“I’d argue but I can’t.” Our shoulders brushed against each other companionably, occasionally nudging playfully as we smiled at each other. I liked having a group of people to sit with at lunch but sometimes it would have been okay if it was just Luke and me.

“You can have my food now,” Zach offered to Luke. “That put me off eating.” See, there he goes proving my point.

“We have a game today, choke it down,” Luke ordered.

Zach raised an eyebrow. “Are you that romantic with your boyfriend?” Zing. He may be insulting us but that was still a good one.


You can read the whole story here.

One Little Deleted Scene

Perhaps this is a medium length scene at least, but I’m doing a thing. Because of the titles, get it? This is a deleted seen from One Little Lie. If you haven’t read before, Ryan and Luke are dating, and Luke is pretending to date Lydia for the sake of both their parents. Ryan is trying to figure Luke out, and that’s what you missed on Glee... or whatever.

Also, hey, let me so casually slip in that the third book, One Little Problem is available right now! Hooray!

~~~

My life was really almost perfect. I had no problems. Except for boyfriend problems. Life had never gone so smoothly, only one area was wrong, but it wasn’t a little area. It didn’t matter that everything else was fine, having that part off screwed with the entire system. It made it feel like everything was wrong.

“I think something’s off,” I started, mostly talking to myself while I graded freshman quizzes for Mrs. Reynolds and she hopefully was doing something academic and teacherly on her computer instead of taking personality tests while I did TA stuff. That had happened before.

“If you mean with the bio quizzes, I know, they’re dumber than usual.” I glanced up at her, my look telling her that was inappropriate. I mean, she wasn’t wrong but still I’d hate for her to get in trouble; it was too late for me to find another favorite teacher. She continued, “Just grade and don’t despair for the future of America.”

She turned back towards her computer then seemed to think of something and looked back at me. “But If you mean there’s something wrong with your personal life, please continue.” To her credit, she acted super professional and teacherly during classes and in front of most the student body and faculty. But when she was just with her little cadre of science nerds, her filter greatly diminished.

“It’s with Luke,” I confided. “He seems happier and likes being around me, when he isn’t busy with Lydia, but he won’t really tell me what’s going on.” These freshmen quizzes were bad too, but I’ll own up to being a terrible person. I cared more about myself right now than the future of the country.

She made an acknowledging noise and said, “You should probably talk to him.” Was she listening? I tried, but he shuts me down.

But maybe he had nothing to share? I couldn’t tell if it was me or him. “Normally I just wait him out and he gets himself together eventually. But things just feel different. Only then I wonder if I’m just not being supportive.”

“You could find out,” she started.

I kept going. “But it’s hard to be supportive when he’s keeping me at arm’s length.” I didn’t feel like a priority anymore. But see that was about me, so was I just being needy or something when this was about Luke?

“You should let him know your concerns.”

“Once when we were texting he told me he hoped his mom got strawberry jam from the store instead of grape,” I reminisced while slashing a red mark through an answer on the sheet in front of me. “And then I couldn’t text later, so he called me on the phone just to tell me she got the strawberry. And now there’s this whole thing we suddenly can’t talk about? That’s not right.”

“So—”

“I have no idea. I can only do so much of this on my own.” I could keep going back and forth on whether I was crazy or not, but it didn’t really matter. I was only one side of the equation and I couldn’t figure anything out without input on his end. Which meant…

“Which is why you should talk to him,” Mrs. Reynolds said as I said, “I have to talk to him.”

“Yes, finally,” she told me. “Thank you for listening.”

“What?” She couldn’t steal credit! “I came up with that on my own.” Five bucks said she wasn’t even doing anything important on her computer.

She raised an eyebrow and said dryly, “You’re so lucky you’re my second favorite student.”

“What? I’m your favorite.” I would slap Shelly Michaels if she’d edged in front of me.

“This conversation has caused me to evaluate my priorities.”

I held up the papers in front of me to her. “I can let you grade these.”

“Look at that, you’re my favorite again.” Damn right.

“What are you doing anyway?” I leaned over to look at her computer screen and she tilted it away before sighing and letting me look.

“I really need to know which District I would be in if life were the Hunger Games,” she filled me in as I glared at her. “You can take it next!”

Apparently, I would be in District Seven. I didn’t even care.

But why District Seven? That was so unfair that I apparently belonged in a forest since I lived in a flat, Midwestern plain. And who cared about District Seven, anyway? It was such a boring district. …Though, Johanna Mason was a badass and that was just a fact. Okay, I cared a little. But mostly, my mind was on Luke.

Luke had been good about sharing with me, up until recently. But maybe I hadn’t done the same. I had concerns and didn’t tell him. I thought I had a good reason for not voicing them but… I don’t know. I could be wrong. I hate being wrong. Oh well, I’d have to talk to Luke and get things figured out.

Stargazing

I’m working on editing One Little Problem and planning for the fourth book, One Little Change. How’s that going? Uh… I’m the one asking the questions here! Only I’m not asking any questions. Except for the one I just asked.

Yeah, today has been tough. Productivity and I are just not getting along today, which is totally its fault and not mine. Productivity knows what it did. Hope your day is going better!

I did manage to get one thing done today. Here’s a quote and excerpt from One Little Problem, out now! Ryan and Luke look at the stars a lot, it’s their thing, along with hand holding.

wordswag_1559592051888

* * *

Ryan POV

“The one relevant thought I did have,” Luke said, “Aside from why planetariums even exist because we already have outside at night, so isn’t the whole world a giant planetarium already—”

“Oh my god,” I laughed.

“Aside from that,” he said pointedly, moving to take his arm away from me, but I didn’t let him. “I was thinking that even though looking at the stars is romantic, the stars themselves aren’t that romantic.”

“Because they’re giant balls of fire and gas that would instantly immolate us?” So sexy!

“No, just all the myths and stuff associated with them.” We fell silent a moment to hear the recorded voice played over the speakers narrating facts about the stars. The myth about the bear constellations, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, was that Zeus turned his side piece into a bear, so his wife wouldn’t rage quit him or the world or something and then the lady’s son killed the bear not knowing it was his mom. Yeah, that wasn’t very romantic. Both the story and the serial cheating.

“They’re mostly about lost souls and tragedies,” Luke continued. Now the voice-over talked about Andromeda, who was sacrificed to a sea monster. “And some of it was violent, like the scorpion killing Orion.” Oh, Luke knowing things was so sexy. “I started regretting bringing you here because if you were still mad at me, then this place was giving you all kinds of ideas for revenge.” He shuddered. “I did not want to have to deal with scorpions.”

 

You were right

Here is a little snippet from One More Problem, available for pre-order now. It will be released on June 16.

Ryan was under me and I had his hands pinned above his head, trying to wrangle him into submission, but he would not be swayed. He pouted his half insane/half ridic pout. “One more time. Please?” He relaxed into my hold a bit, as if trying to convince me he was docile and innocent. Yeah right.

But I gave in anyway. “Fine,” I sighed, my breath releasing on an exhale against the skin below his ear.  “You were right.”

“Oh my god, you should always be whispering those words in my ear.”

Well, that was nice to hear, so I did it again. “You were right,” I whispered and paused to nip at his ear and then he made a noise that was also really nice to hear, so I did it again and then said, “This worked.”

“Yay.” He looked smug and happy, like a cat lying in the sun. Now that he was getting his way, he did stop fighting me, actually relaxing and letting himself be praised and kissed. I should probably do something about this soon. His smugness would know no bounds, growing and growing until he thought he got to make all our relationship decisions, until it threatened the planet… Eh, I’d worry about it later.