Another failed love story?

Luke has some important choices to make when it comes to the fate of his relationship in One Big Decision. This is the hilarious and heartwarming final novel in the One More Thing series which follows a small-town couple as they navigate fake relationships, first loves, high school, and making everything more difficult than it needs to be.

If you aren’t aware, Luke is a high school senior who is dating a loudmouth he loves, but they aren’t sure where their relationship is heading. Especially when… well, this is a romance novel, so there’s conflict and secrets. In this part, he’s trying to decide whether to walk away or not.

What’s Luke going to decide? I can’t tell you that, obviously, but here’s what he’s thinking about.

Luke

Ryan could become a footnote, a point of reference, the first guy I ever dated or was even attracted to. I might not even remember what went wrong, only that we went our separate ways for college. Our saga would end at the point where all failed loved stories did, the part where we loved each other and it wasn’t enough.

Maybe the question wasn’t what should I do, what would be best for both of us, or should we give this another chance. Did I want it to end here? That’s the question. Did I want him to become my past?

To be or not to be

Here’s a quote from One Big Decision that sums up the main question in the novel.

Ryan and Luke must figure out their plans for the future separately and together while enjoying the remaining days of senior year and having an amazing prom. How likely is this to go smoothly? Well with friends breaking up, graduation getting closer every day, and even a few secrets… Not very likely.

In this quote Ryan explains the difficulties he and Luke face. They love each other a lot, but it’s hard to expect a high school relationship to last. Though Ryan phrases it a little more creatively.

“Here me out here,” he said as though anything else were possible. “This is big and scary, and lots of high school couples think they’re in it together forever, and it never works out.” He scowled and I predicted he was about to get carried aw—”We don’t want to be like those dumb idiots, those stupid dumb idiots who probably dress bad and—”

silver lining

In One Big Decision, Ryan and Luke must figure out their plans for the future separately and together while enjoying the remaining days of senior year and having an amazing prom. How likely is this to go smoothly? Well with friends breaking up, graduation getting closer every day, and even a few secrets… Not very likely.

This is an excerpt where talks about the problem with storm clouds and silver linings. He isn’t a weatherman, or even concerned about an impending storm, this is naturally a metaphor for his life.

Ryan

The phrase ‘every storm cloud has a silver lining’ doesn’t make sense. While meteorology isn’t my area of expertise, a storm cloud is a storm cloud. Who cares about the lining? Even if a small sliver isn’t dark and stormy, the rest can still rain on your parade. And a storm cloud can still produce lightning. Or tornadoes.

A better positive phrase? Not every storm cloud has a tornado. My life was fortunately free of cyclical funnels of death from the sky.

Unfortunately, my life was so full of happiness, there were only regular clouds, no storms at all. Which meant an anti-silver lining had so many places to attach itself.

Pageant Moms Fighting Other Pageant Moms

For the final book in the One More Thing Series, the lovable losers of Lake Forest are headed to greener, gayer pastures as they graduate high school and move on to college. So One Big Decision deals with college decisions and discussions, which threatened to cause problems for me.

Technically, I think it’s okay to mention colleges in books? As I’m a small-time indie author, probably nobody would care if I used actual colleges. The rules for using real things in fiction is tricky, and sometimes TV shows are careful about that, but they also reach a much larger audience. By my understanding, you can use real brands and titles and whatnot as long as you’re using them fictitiously, which seems obvious in fiction but whatever.

So while I debated whether to use real schools or make some up, the answer occurred to me. Neither one! I could use code-names instead. That’s something I love about first person stories, the character tells the story, so the unreliable narrator can be even more inaccurate as they might want to tell the story incorrectly.

The following is how and why Ryan came up with nicknames for different institutions of higher education.


Ryan

Okay. Researching colleges and fantasizing about being at them? Actually a stress reliever during some of my less pleasant high school years. I loved higher education, I could talk higher education all day. I wasn’t going to be one of those people who said, ‘oh, I went to Harvard or Princeton’ only because I recognized that was obnoxious. I was saving all my obnoxious passes for other parts of my personality. But when bringing Luke into the mix, my brain freaked out and wanted to make the situation less scary.

So while we were contemplating life-changing, possibly relationship-breaking areas of the future, let’s spin it positively. Make it something awesome or at least weird so I wouldn’t mind thinking about it. Thus code-names like Pageant Moms Fighting Other Pageant Moms, Dancing Pineapples University, and T-Rexes with Longer Arms were born.

Other College Code-names

(Some appear in the book, others do not)

  • T-Rexes with Longer Arms
  • Honey-badgers
  • Space Unicorns
  • The University of Perfectly breaded chicken fingers with the right amount of dipping sauce
  • Sculpted Male Torso with Goldilocks Amount of Chest Hair
  • Tap-dancing Walruses University

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.

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.

One Little Word… free!

In an effort to introduce people to the One More Thing Series and get more reviews, I occasionally make the book One Little Word free. I don’t know if this is a good segue or just a really obvious way of saying that One Little Word is free right now. The sale lasts through Thursday.

I’m super proud of myself for the title because the ‘one little word’ is ‘free’ but it’s also the title of the book, so it works on multiple levels. Because author. I’m good at wording.

Even though there is no possible way I could regret this, I am going to chose a scene at random. Hey, I don’t regret it! So in this excerpt, Luke needed to pretend to date Ryan For Reasons and now he no longer needs a fake boyfriend, so all his problems are solved and everything is right with the world. Right? Not exactly…

~

Luke

I was single and ready to mingle. Wow, that sounded incredibly lame. I would never say that out loud.

I couldn’t keep a grin off my face as I walked down the halls. Maybe a few people shot me weird looks, but who cared? I had a lot to smile about. Namely, I no longer had a boyfriend! What a weird sentence. At least for me, a straight guy.

Dealing with Ryan these days had gotten… wait, he wasn’t a bad guy. For a snarky jerk, he was nice. I liked him. Platonically! Not romantically because I was straight. Some other guy will go crazy for him and those weirdly nice legs of his. Just not a straight guy like me.

-the rest is here. For free!

Shenanigans

Shenanigans are afoot in One Little Lie, and Ryan tries to figure out what he thinks about these antics and what he should tell his father. This is a different version than what appears in the book, with some extra content.

Ryan

Should I cut the old man some slack? At least he knew I had a boyfriend, unlike Luke’s family. Which was totally fine and I wasn’t bothered at all. I should probably be storming off or sitting down in a huff so we could sulkily watch TV together, but I got distracted thinking about Dad and Luke’s new scheme.

“Anything else?” Dad asked when I just stood there.

“It’s just—” I’d been tempted to run this whole thing by Dad, but I couldn’t when he was being like this. It’s not like he was being very accepting anyway and I didn’t want that to get worse. “Never mind.”

He eyed me keenly. “What is it?”

“I’m wondering if we should switch our home insurance provider.” I am so bad at lying on the fly. Isn’t that a skill all teenagers possess in their genes, like instinct?

Dad called me on the obvious and terrible diversion I tried to use. “You’re hiding something.”

“Should I get a tattoo?” I asked. That was better for distraction and if he said yes, I could get a tattoo. Too bad needles kinda scared me.

“No,” he responded instantly, then thought about my shifty behavior. “Is it about you and Luke?”

I grabbed the remote and hastily turned up the volume while telling my father to, “Leave the questioning to Stabler and Benson.” Then, like it just occurred to me, I said, “Hey, isn’t it time for them, anyway?”

“Stabler isn’t even on the show anymore,” he said while holding his hand out to me. I gave him the remote and he flipped channels.

Stabler was hot for an old guy and I heard he used to play a character who had forbidden gay relationships in prison. We should look into getting HBO. Before I could tell Dad that, he told me, “I don’t know what’s going on with you and Luke, but if you have to lie to me about it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”

I left then instead of watching TV. It wasn’t like I could say, ‘hey, Dad, you know how Luke’s dating me and you’re already so super cool with that? He’s gonna pretend to date Lydia while he goes out with me.’ Yeah, I didn’t see that going well. Did that mean something or did Dad just not understand? He never had to come out.

No, everything was totally fine. I was totally fine.

I wasn’t fine. Acting like the chillest, awesomest boyfriend ever meant I was only on duty when Luke was around. So maybe I did freak out a tiny bit. Stupid Dad and his stupid words. The less said about that unpleasantness the better. And it wasn’t my finest moment, so I only want to focus on the parts where I’m super great instead.

Okay, fine, maybe the freak out went like this:

Luke pretending to date Lydia? How could that go wrong? Oh, only in a million ways. He could realize how hot she was and dump me. He could realize how easy dating a girl was in this town and dump me. He could see how easy dating anyone other than me was and dump me. Or worse, maybe he’d decide he was both bi and a stereotype and not dump me but instead date Lydia and me behind the other’s back.

Anything could happen. However unlikely it seemed, their fake dating could go so well that they decided to make it a reality. It didn’t sound so crazy since that’s what happened with Luke and me. Wait, no, our fake dating had gone terribly. Yet we still ended up together anyway. Aww.

I could handle this, right? And even if I couldn’t, did I have any right to complain? Luke went from zero to gay, or gayish, really fast. He had no adjustment period. I couldn’t ask him to speed things up on my behalf. Especially when we were already cruising at warp speed. Dammit, I should have talked to Mrs. Sharp about this. No, that would be insane. And this plan was what, perfectly logical and normal?

Okay, maybe I was still in the middle of my freak out when my cell phone vibrated on my desk.

Luke OLW

Here is some writing and art about Luke Chambers from One Little Word. This is part of my series of posts celebrating the new edition of the book. Yay!

lukeowl

Luke

On the pitcher’s mound with all eyes on me, I can handle heavy hitters, fastballs, anything. Real life is different. And dumb jocks like me aren’t known for being good with words. When some careless remarks heard by the wrong ears land me in big trouble, I panicked as my easy life turned anything but.

Being Luke Chambers means guys want to be me and girls want to date me. I never considered guys could want to date me too. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because, as crazy as it sounds, there’s only one way to prevent disaster: I need a boyfriend.

Out of the fire and into… a gay relationship. My pretend romance with Ryan Miller may look like puppy love, but his real feelings for me seem closer to pure hatred. The guy showed up to one of my games in a cheerleading outfit for girls just to humiliate me. It worked. He challenges me on everything, even something as unimportant as a game of ring toss.

I didn’t think life could get crazier than having a fake boyfriend. Then I started liking him.

Ryan is more challenging than Algebra II, yet a million times more interesting. Making him laugh is like hitting an out of the park home run. His hand in mine… there’s no comparison, I’ve never felt anything like this before.

Being out and proud isn’t the easiest thing in a small town like this, but it doesn’t stop Ryan from wanting something real. I don’t blame him. Pretending with him has started to feel more real than anything else in my life. That doesn’t make admitting my feelings easy. I’m not sure I can give Ryan what he needs… but someone else is willing to try.

If I don’t figure this out soon, I might lose Ryan Miller before he was ever really mine.