Best Laid Plans

The road to where is paved with good intentions? Probably somewhere awesome. This is relevant to the quote I have to share with you today. As high school seniors, Ryan and Luke have been putting off discussing the future until they’re ready. This is supposed to save them from freaking out and causing a huge mess. Does it work? Maybe. But probably not.

In this excerpt from One Big Decision, Ryan is discussing what senior year means for him and his relationship.

In our relationship, panicking and freaking out has historically caused anything from a mild inconvenience to a cataclysmic event that ended the dinosaurs. When discussing the future, we decided not to start the chaos early. Not worrying about it until the time came was great, but it couldn’t last forever unfortunately.

Soon high school ended. College beckoned with its new opportunities and limitless potential. Living in this rural, fairly small community all my life, I’d probably been looking forward to college since grade school. The only opposite silver-lining was all the things that might happen to a high school relationship once high school ends…

Love & Spite, the best of both worlds

Ryan is a brainy overachiever with ivy league dreams. Luke is a bi athlete whose whole future is up in the air since he decided he’s not going to give up the first part for the second. Their love story is perfect for them, queer, overly competitive, snarky, and sweet.

But all good things must come to an end, right? Maybe.

It’s the end of senior year, and the odds are good they’ll be in different places for college. Ryan’s friends don’t want him to do anything rash that he’ll regret while he contemplates a long-distance relationship. So his friends are checking if they need to talk some sense into him in the scene down below from One Big Decision.



Ryan

“This is… a pep talk?” I asked.

“Um.” They faltered, glancing to each other unsurely. Pep? Not exactly their strength.

“Okay, not pep.” I tried again. “A crushing reality talk?”

They conferred silently, nodding. “Yeah, we’ve got this.”

They were both wearing dark clothes, looking vaguely like enforcers in some old-timey gangster movie thanks to Zach’s slicked back hair and Lydia’s general face and attitude.

“There’s no need,” I said, attempting to put myself out of my misery. “I understand. I can’t change my mind now just because Luke isn’t sure he can go to the same city. I need to think of my future and what’s best for me, not what’s best for my relationship. Right?”

That’s what they wanted to impart, albeit with more ‘dumbass,’ ‘moron,’ and ‘pathetic loser.’

“Uh. Yes.” They conferred silently again, suspicious and unsure. “This was easy,” Lydia admitted.

“I mean, I’m still convinced we’re living happily ever after and you especially,” I told Zach. “Can suck it because we’re so gonna be together, we so are. Not only do I want to be happy with Luke in general for love reasons, I also want the same for spite reasons, so double reasons.” I narrowed my eyes at him, challenging. “You just watch us, you—”

“Fine, you and Luke will be together forever and ever,” Lydia humored me, realizing I’d gotten carried away and forgot what we were talking about. “You’ll ride unicorns down the aisle to a wedding officiated by Tim Gunn and Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

“Weird combo,” I provided my opinion obligatorily. “I dig it.”

“Even in your happily ever after love story, you and Luke still go to college in different cities,” she finished the hypothetical. “Are you okay with that?”

“Yes,” I asserted immediately. “Maybe,” I amended when met with their disbelief and slightly evil faces. “Where I go to school is about me, not him. I know that.” I whispered, “Part of me wants to not know that.”

I wished I didn’t know. I wished for a lot of things.

A quick quote

Horatio waltzed into my life fashionably late, expecting everything else to grind to a halt while he made room for himself. Then again, why shouldn’t he feel that way? For years I had the same attitude. I waited patiently, trying to make decisions for myself but always knowing any moment could be the moment when it stopped being my life and became our life.

-Mason Lewis, Black Cats and Bad Luck

Facts

In Black Cats and Bad Luck, Horatio broke or bent several rules when he changes forms from cat to man without a pause in between. As he adjusts to his new way of being, there’s a few things he knows for sure.

Underneath a tree with a teeming canopy of leaves stood a person. No, not just a person. Him.

How funny this human life could be. An ocean of words and data, yet it all fled his mind when they touched. There was a wild thing beating at the cage of his ribs like winged prey waiting to be caught.

There were unknown depths in the man’s eyes. The moment stretched at the seams, ready to rip, but strong arms steadied him and kept him right where he wanted to be. Horatio pressed their lips together.

A kiss seemed like the only way to express what he wanted to say. Hello, you most lovely thing. Isn’t the world so beautiful and wonderful? It is beautiful, but not as beautiful as you.

Heart. The thing in his chest was called a heart.

He had so many new words, but none could describe this. The closest he could come… Lungs breathe air. Hunters chase prey. Water flows, fire burns, and they should be kissing. Of all his new facts, he was most sure of the last.

Black Cats and Bad Luck

Quote from Black Cats and Bad Luck

Life in feline form meant a swishing tail, hunter’s instincts, ears that point, and a voice that mewls. Along with the parts that were More. He knew things. He sensed when Stella needed his assistance to power a spell, when the moon would be full, when the day required a protection charm and when it only needed an umbrella.

-Horatio, Black Cats and Bad Luck

Boys crushing on boys

Isn’t this the point of life, boys crushing on boys? For my purposes, yes. Here’s my final round of quotes before the review of That Feeling When by S.M. James. Basically, here’s some sweetness where the main characters are into each other. First is a quote from Landon, then Archie.

P.S. note the, uh, little clapper thingy that’s used when filming movies. Okay, just looked it up, it’s called a clapperboard, so I wasn’t too far off. It’s used in the book as a graphic for the chapter numbers and POV, which is a cute extra touch.


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.

~

Black Cats and Bad Mood Boards

Hello, is this Moodboards Anonymous? My name is F.N. Manning, and I’m addicted to moodboards. Oh, this isn’t Moodboards Anonymous? And that support group doesn’t exist? That’s fair.

As you might have guessed, I enjoy making mood boards, which I put as one word in every instance before this one, but I get the red squigglies so now I’m changing my mind. This is for my new adult fantasy novel, that is also naturally a gay romance, Black Cats and Bad Luck. Here’s a board for the main characters, Mason and Horatio.

After years of waiting for a mysterious man from his dreams who might not exist, Mason is ready to move on with his life. Until Horatio finally appears, and his whereabouts were stranger than anyone imagined. With the help of the smartest paranormal experts, or at least the only ones available, the guys must battle the forces of evil, keep everyone safe, and see if their relationship can become more than a good dream and survive in the real world.

When I spent too much time on the computer, whether searching for Horatio or playing games online, Dad would bring me back to real life. Life’s not happening there in between the ones and zeros, he’d say. It’s happening out here. I’d hate for you to miss it.

After what felt like a lifetime of the alleged perfect man for me being so close yet never close enough to touch, I drew my own conclusions. My only defense, I suppose, was that I lived with the idea of him for so long, I began to think that’s all he was. An idea, a hope, a dream who lived within a dream.

Black Cats and Bad Luck