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…

For the love of a good man

Ryan is a brainy overachiever. He imagines becoming a brilliant scientist who makes grand discoveries and is only a little mad. Being a mad scientist isn’t required for some chemists, doctors, and whatnot, but a little insanity is non-negotiable for Ryan. Here’s an excerpt where he talks about his plans and what he wants for his relationship with Luke. This possibly relates to how love, and a little insanity, can turn anyone into a fool.

The post is to celebrate the release of a new contemporary gay romance from me. One Big Decision is the hilarious and heartwarming final novel in the One More Thing series which follows a small-town couple as they navigate high school.

Ryan

I wanna do great things. I wanna discover answers to nature’s mysteries. Help people, save lives, be great. And I wanna be happy too. In the grand scheme? One man’s happiness is the least important concern. When you’re living it, it matters so much. The impossible dream is to have everything and love too, especially love.

So if you tell a few lies, burn a few bridges to get everything, you can still probably sleep at night. Even if it’s not right, you behaved poorly for the same reason geniuses turn into fools, kings lose their kingdoms, people with everything gratefully give it all away and accept nothing. For the love of a good man.

God, if I can just have this, if I can have him, I’ll never want anything else again. Yeah, it’s a lie. One more potent than a trick of the light because the kicker is, it’s real in the moment. It’s the only truth you know. For a little while.

What else could I do? I followed my heart.

first lines

First lines are always important because they are, you know, what the reader reads first. And if they don’t like it, they might stop the novel and you don’t get another chance to make a first impression. So it’s good to spend more time than I spent writing this when working on the first line. So while almost no though whatsoever went into this paragraph, I did devote more time to the beginning of Black Cats and Bad Luck.

I’m sharing the opener of this M/M paranormal romance with you today. As a feline familiar, Horatio is connected to magic. That link is strained when he gives up his magical side to become human for a shot at love.

The Ward house rarely held such quiet. Sound always existed, from the voices of humans to the low hum of magic. Even the pixies in the garden were silent. Perhaps this warranted investigation.

Laying in a column of sunlight in the master bedroom, the cat raised its head to investigate— creatures such as him always stretched, just a little, past their limits. Seeing not only what there was, but what could be. Seeing with more than the eyes, reaching out to touch the swirling cosmos and twinkling stars, to—then again, it would be such a shame to waste this lazy afternoon on anything other than a nap. The cat rested its head back on the hardwood floor.

Awareness hovered somewhere, an insubstantial thing, easily batted away like a stray strand of yarn. He stretched, black tail swishing once in the air, before getting comfortable again.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

An ordinary day can shift so quickly. After all, to go from idea to creation it only takes a spark. The being in the otherwise empty house who currently wore black fur and moved on four legs knew all about that. It was his purpose. Mostly. Except for the tiny piece of other. The call had been there for so long, a whisper echoing in his mind. He had never been able to answer. A force kept him in place, always with the same song he understood instinctively: not yet, not yet, not yet. A melody he’d long since grown accustomed to.

After a nap in the sun, the perfect next step was up and to the right. A nap atop the comfy pillow on the big bed. He moved, curling up on the softer surface. Perfectly content, he could stay there for-oh. Something was different.

Lifting his head, ears perking, no sound reached him from the still house beyond. Internally, no sound either.

The melody had stopped.

A noise… perhaps fingers snapping. A distant strike of lightning. The scent of jasmine lingered in the air. He felt a flicker of heat. The shift began.

-the rest of Black Cats and Bad Luck. is available for only 99 cents. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited.

The world of magic

The course of true love may never be smooth, buts it’s especially bumpy when witches, familiars, and shadow monsters are at work. Here’s some info about the world of my magical fantasy novel, Black Cats and Bad Luck. This post is about how magic works.

How does magic work? Nobody knows! Magical is powerful. That much is sure. And like all powerful forces, it has the potential to be dangerous. Witches and warlocks can use magic, but things like the exact how, why, and what are something of a mystery.

Here’s two opinions about magic from main characters in this series, Horatio and Avery. As a human, Avery’s answer is more practical. As a magical being, Horatio’s answer is more abstract.

Avery explains the fundamentals of how magic is used:

The most common ways to bring about magickal manifestations included spells, potions, enchantments. Illusions and glamour as well, making a person perceive the world differently. Most of this? Limited time occurrences. Enchantments were the exception, many items would stay enchanted but need a charge after a while.

Glamours and illusions could create the appearance of anything for a short time. Spells and potions could make things happen that normally wouldn’t. Every spell and potion had its own rules and wore off after achieving the desired result.

Achieving any kind of permanency unintentionally would be extremely difficult. And while there weren’t official governing bodies, Pagan communities often policed themselves. With high priestesses like Miranda on the lookout and strongly advising against more extreme forms of the craft.

Horatio on magic:

Magic. The word did not do it justice. Humans labeled it impossible and unknowable and mystical because they could only grasp a tiny piece.

Magick created light but preferred to dwell in the shadows. Try for more, try to understand it and know it as a whole, well, it never led to success. Which was why seeing it in a pure form wasn’t easy. In early days, people thought the mystery might be hiding something nefarious. These days, most agreed it was the opposite. That knowing and understanding the root of magic, what it was or where it came from, was just too much power for any person to have. The temptation of using that knowledge for selfish reasons, for trying to control or change magic would be too great.

One might develop an affinity, a deeper sense after years of practicing. But familiars were tried and true. Familiars could sense and see magick in a way humans couldn’t. Though they didn’t wield it.

There were whispers in the circles I used to frequent, cautionary tales. The most whimsical, elusive force without a name, we call it magic. A being could know this power or use the power. Not both. Either option was a gift. All gifts came with a price.

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

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.

Meet Stella

Stella Ward is a pre-teen witch who shows promise when it comes to magic. Her other skills? They’re a work in progress. She’s a character from the Ward Magic Series who is first introduced in Black Cats and Bad Luck.

One area where she lacks is interpersonal skills and experience with those outside of the magical community. For example, when explosions occur at a family gathering for no known ordinary or supernatural reasons, Stella assumes their guest Jonah is panicking. Her older brother, Avery, who invited Jonah, knows his friend better than that.

~

Avery

“Should we freak out?” Jonah asked. “Everyone seems kinda freaked out.”

“It’s alright,” Stella reassured instantly. “While we don’t know what happened, there is an explanation. Things don’t spontaneously explode, even in the magical community. There’s no reason to be afraid.”

“Oh, is that why you’re all shocked? Because I would have thought you’ve all seen stuff like that before.” Jonah deflated a little. “Nothing ever blows up? I always pictured real magic being more…” he trailed off, realizing there wasn’t an un-offensive way to finish his sentence.

“I didn’t say magick couldn’t produce explosions,” she defended, annoyed he was doubting. Then she remembered what she was doing. “I just don’t want you to be afraid things are going to blow up whenever you’re around Witches.” Stella’s voice did an impression of our mother’s voice. “Getting used to the magical world can be a big adjustment.”

“Don’t think that’s what’s happening here, Stell,” I said before she could try to ‘comfort’ him anymore.

“I know how to do this, Avery,” she insisted. “We have to take a class about explaining our gifts to nonbelievers.” True, though the odds of her passing Introducing Laymen to Magick with anything higher than a C seemed low.

“Um, I’m not alarmed,” Jonah said. Called it.

I shot a smug smile her way, told you so. She made a face back, and Jonah waved a hand to get our attention because he was quickly getting used to our dynamic and could tell we were about to start squabbling.

“My first reaction to witnessing real life magic would be clapping and begging for an encore,” he drawled, glancing around the room. “Going by other people’s reactions, it wouldn’t be appropriate, so I’m putting in all the effort to refrain.”

“Appreciated,” I said.

~

The full LGBTQ fantasy novel is available here for only 99 cents. Check it out!

The magical mystery of magic

My original idea for the Ward Magic series included magical realism, and I took out some of the ‘realism’ to add more sorcery and adventure to Black Cats and Bad Luck. So magic in this universe is sort of like that old song by Meatloaf: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. Except the ‘that’ is always changing because it seems like magic can’t permanently distort the laws of the universe or alter reality simply by waving a wand, but no one’s really sure how far magic can go. Then something mystical upends everyone’s perspectives and they say, ‘oh okay, magic can go this far and no farther.’ And then magic can only go that far… until it goes farther.

Horatio is a mystical being who has more insight into the universe and magic than most, Except becoming a human has dulled his senses somewhat. Here’s a few of his thoughts on the mystery of magic.

Magick could create light but preferred to dwell in the shadows, which it could also create. At least among humans, magick preferred mystery. Those who wielded the power could understand it on a personal level, but efforts to unlock the mysteries on a grander scale almost always failed. Some used to fear something nefarious hiding behind the mystery. These days, most agreed it was the opposite. That knowing and understanding the root of magic, what it was or where it came from, was just too much power for any person to have. The temptation of using that knowledge for selfish reasons, for trying to control or change magic, would be too great.

Black Cats and Bad Luck

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.

~

Characters

Here’s a brief introduction to the main characters in Black Cats and Bad Luck.

Mason Lewis is a 23-year-old carpenter from Colorado. He has a tendency to keep people at arm’s length, partly because he had a difficult time with his Dad’s death as a teen. It’s also hard to get close to anyone due to his strange dreams of a potential soulmate.

Fun fact, his last name is Lewis for Lewis Carrol, who is mentioned and quoted a few times in the book.

I used a picture of Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Mason here. Other actors I imagine are age-fitting versions of Tom Hardy, Jason Momoa, and Ryan Hurst (Opie from Sons of Anarchy, except with less crazy hair and tattoos.)

Horatio is a magical being who used to live in feline form as a witch’s familiar. He’s a lot of fun because he’s the ‘fish out of water’ kind of character who is exploring the modern world for the first time. He’s sure of his connection to Mason, but less sure of things like movies, baseball, and ice cream.

For  him, I picture younger versions of Ian Somerhalder, Cillian Murphy, or Reid Scott. I also keep changing my mind on whether Ben Feldman (from Superstore) would work.