Book News, plus dinosaurs! One of these things isn’t true.

Have you ever played the game ‘two truths and a lie?’ Do you want to play now? Whatever you answered, I can’t hear you, so I’m just going to keep going. Okay, the way the game works is I say three things, then you guess which one is the lie. Ready? Again, I can’t hear you. Go!

1. F.N. Manning, me, has a new story available.

2. I actually have four new stories available.

3. The new thing I’m talking about is on sale right now!

Um, maybe I should build the suspense instead of just telling you the answer. I’m going to tell you anyway. Number three is the lie. Because the story is free, so there is no sale, because you never have to pay for it. Free!

When We Were Strangers is a prequel to the first book in the One More Thing Series, One Little Word. No knowledge of the series is required to read this short story. Well, there are actually four stories altogether, which are all included in the prequel.

Here is the beginning of one story. You literally need to know no information to read this, but I’m going to tell you some stuff anyway. Zach (and friends) crash a wedding, where he flirts with an older guy and goes on a quest.

~

Zach

Under no circumstances would I ever base my life choices around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Yes, they were rich and famous, but at what cost? They were still Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Which meant that my decision to crash a wedding reception occurred for one reason and only one reason: free alcohol.

The party took place in our hotel, and we had a break from our baseball tournament. Me, Luke Chambers, and Joey Wilson made a marginal effort to blend in by splitting the dressier clothing I packed. A formality, as getting caught hadn’t even occurred to me, because who really cared?

Apparently, Samuel cared. The uptight groomsman who seemed unfamiliar with fun and party etiquette, though watching Luke fail to bond with him was amusing.

“We’re no different than everyone else here,” Luke tried with a charming smile. “We just wanna have a good time.”

“Except everyone else was invited,” said the fun police.

Never great at thinking on his feet, Luke smiled harder, counting on his all-American good looks, green eyes earnest and dimples peeking out. “Come on, Sam—”

“It’s Samuel,” he corrected instantly with a glare. “Hardly on nickname basis as we’re strangers.”

“I’m Luke. Nice to meet you, Sam.” Luke held out his hand.

“It’s still Samuel.” Still Samuel stared at the outstretched hand dubiously until it was removed.

Luke sent me a desperate look. I mouthed ‘you got this,’ gave him a thumbs up, and left him to investigate the alcohol situation. Yes, we were best friends, but this way was more fun, and I still wanted to drink.

Sorry not sorry about stealing thunder from the bride I’d never met, but everyone could see Zach Ahmad looked damn fine. With flawless brown skin, expertly styled hair, and a roguish smirk, I… oh wait. There was a reason my amazing good looks were important. I would get to that momentarily.

As Luke took my dinner jacket, I only wore the under layers, a grey vest and a long-sleeved white dress shirt. My impeccably fit body was highlighted in the tailored clothing, and my ass looked incredible in the dark pants. Joey stole my red tie for himself as he was too big for my clothes, and he always wore whatever he wanted regardless of dress code anyway. I half respected that. I would respect it fully if he had better taste.

Anyway, back to Zach.

After discovering only those with wristbands got free, no-questions-asked alcohol, I glanced back towards Luke and caught Samuel’s eyes moving away from me. So… that could work. I interrupted Samuel boring Luke to death and took care of the situation, at least 70% sure Samuel wanted me.

Sometime after being awesome and gaining us admittance and free alcohol, I lost track of my friends. I stood at the edge of the dancefloor with Samuel. A peppy song about everything being great played loudly while people danced and had fun. A good time had by all, except for or including us? Unclear.

“Look Zach,” Samuel began, then faltered. “Do you go by Zach or Zachary? Is Zachariah an option?”

“Never,” I shot down, then sent him a small smile. “It’s Zach. Can I call you Sam?”

“Um, yeah,” he answered, nervous but no hesitation. “Sure, if you want.” He definitely wanted me.

“What’s on your mind, Sam?” I asked.

“Okay, one thing.” He seemed to psych himself up mentally before managing to speak. “Crashing a party for free booze when you’re obviously underage, uh.” Samuel shook his head. “I may not condone this, but I won’t stop you.”

“You did give us the wristbands.” I held up my wrist with the neon green band attached.

“Alright, I condone it a little.” He frowned, thinking. “Enabling, that might be the better term. I wanted to make clear, I’m not judging, but I am, well.” He shrugged helplessly. “I see through what you’re doing.”

“Okay?” I arched one eyebrow, the gesture and single word slightly dismissive out of habit. Some people had ‘resting bitch face.’ ‘Resting bitch everything’ was my default setting.

“Apparently I’m alright with corrupting a minor, but I’m not an idiot,” he explained, potentially flushing. Hard to tell with his beard. “I saw through the plan, that’s all. I want to be clear.” He crossed his arms. No jacket, sleeves rolled up, lots of hair there. “I sound silly, don’t I?”

“A little, yeah.” I smiled. “Though I do understand where you’re coming from. Going along with it is different than being duped. I’d be bothered at the impression of being outsmarted by a bunch of high school jocks too.”

His blue eyes widened with panic. “You’re in high school?”

Shit. “You didn’t know? You said—”

“21 is the legal drinking age! Which by the way, I am also younger than. Not that I’ve imbibed.”

“Gonna start?” Rhetorical, because my invitations weren’t turned down. The only thing I did better than resting bitch everything was becoming inviting.

His head bobbed up and down in a nervous nod. “Lead the way, I guess.”

I led the way.

-Read the rest here.

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.

~

Bisexual Blues

This is a scene from One Little Lie, a humorous romance featuring a bunch of queer high schoolers. The book is currently on sale!

Luke

Zach was at our lockers, thankfully by himself and not making out with anyone this time. I viewed him from the other end of the hall. Wait, I’m glad he’s alone because he’s been all over girls and he makes it hard to get my books. Not that I’m heading over there at the moment. But that’s why I said thankfully. Because of him and the girls.

Not for any other reasons but that he was annoying and got even more cocky after fooling around. Yep, him going after everyone was totally a hassle and I wasn’t thinking of any one specific instance where it wasn’t a girl he was kissing.

“You can’t avoid him forever.” Ryan stood beside me and looked amused.

I would have tried to act all casual and like I had no idea what he was talking about, but then I looked down at myself and realized I had scrunched myself against the wall as much as possible in the space before the lockers began and was half obscured by the tall structures, with just one eye and one side of my face peering intently at Zach.

Avoiding Zach forever? “I could test that hypothesis,” I said loftily.

“Okay, you speaking science to me is so hot,” he leaned close to me with a smile on his face and then playfully pushed me in Zach’s direction. “But really, go talk to him.”

I nodded. I probably should. I really don’t want to. I gave him a pitiful look. “Please don’t make me?”

“I won’t.” My boyfriend is a sucker for my puppy dog face. I didn’t even have to break out the dimples. Except then his face turned calculating. “I’ll go tell Lydia.”

She would definitely not fall for my puppy dog face, my dimples, or any of my faces.  “I really hate you sometimes,” I told Ryan seriously.

He only smiled at me and quipped, “Don’t be like that, Undecided Nickname.”

“Oh my god. Fine. I’m going.”

This wasn’t a  big deal or anything, but Ryan had totally gotten here early. There was nothing special about today at all, he was just here before homeroom because he knew I’d be freaking out about Zach and wanted to provide moral support or something less sappy sounding.

And that was pretty cool of him and I wasn’t at all getting sentimental over the little gesture and behaving like a giant girl whose boyfriend did something nice and so I got all dreamy and swoony and melty. Yeah, Ryan was great. No big deal, nothing to see here, move along.