I tried

As an amateur user of Photoshop and other graphic design software, sometimes I manage to create something that looks nice. Sometimes I fail. I’m not too thrilled with the end result of these quotes from When We Were Strangers. They could have been okay if I used a different font here or tweaked a few things there. Oh well. Here are my valiant efforts.

Holy afterschool special, Batman

Here is a story about a loner who may want to be less alone. So Lydia takes a break from her busy schedule of hating everything and makes a new friend. This comes from When We Were Strangers, which is the free introduction to the characters in the One More Thing Series. This post is the introduction to the introduction. Or something.

This image perfectly sums up Lydia. And you can read this scene or the whole story at anytime because it is free. In case you missed any of the times I said free, I’m going to say free again. Free!

~

Lydia

What a beautiful summer day. With fresh air, flowers blooming, and sunshine shining down… everything was super annoying. I hated days like today. I hated most things, but I especially hated today.

Despite protests, I somehow ended up at a church picnic with my family on the other end of the park. I could only survive a few minutes of everybody praising the lord for this ‘blessed’ day and being offered potato salad from people way too intense about potato salad. Naturally, I fled.

In the back corner of the park, there lied a neglected area where public space met someone’s private, unkempt property. Sitting on top of the backrest of a hard as hell bench, I smoked a cigarette in solitude.

Hard to say what was more isolating: being alone in a crowd or being free and almost wanting to go back because maybe terrible company would be less lonely than no company. If being alone wasn’t good, and being with people wasn’t good, then how did I win?

Suddenly, I wasn’t alone.

“Does being such a cliché ever bother you?” a voice asked. The speaker stepped into view, a girl with burgundy hair, wearing a light blue shirt.

“Excuse me?” I responded coolly, steadying myself by resting my free hand on the concrete slab doubling as my seat, though I gave no other indication she startled me.

“Bad girl in black smoking by herself,” she elaborated, small smile on her lips. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, 10/10 on the aesthetic. I can feel the angst even from a distance, but it’s a little obvious, isn’t it?”

“Who are you?” I kept asking my own questions instead of acknowledging hers.

“Alicia Phillips, we go to the same school.”

“I believe you.” If I wanted to know my peers better, I… nope, I couldn’t even finish the thought.

She forced a laugh, smile turning tense. “You have no idea who I am, do you? It’s fine.” The confidence she possessed to speak to me so boldly evaporated as if it never existed.

I raised a hand, indicating she should stay while I considered her. I… she… huh.

Studying her, her blue shirt displayed a small white logo near the right sleeve, part of a uniform for a counselor at a summer camp near the outskirts of town. She wore khaki pants with her hair tied back in a ponytail. Her skin had more color than my vampiric whiteness, her figure fuller and curvier. It was hard to place her because she might look different during the school year.

Alicia Phillips. She wasn’t afraid to give me attitude, yet she acted embarrassed when I failed to recognize her. A girl both at home and uncomfortable in her own skin. Capable of brief moments of bravery… like when in front of an audience.

“I recognize you,” I realized. “You’re in plays, right? Plays are… cool.” Plays weren’t cool, but I was trying to be polite. Rudeness was more satisfying when it was earned. 

“Wow, you couldn’t sound even the slightest bit convincing, could you?” she asked in that gently teasing manner she kept addressing me with.

I should put her in her place, eviscerate her. It may make me feel better. Because I was confident, scary Lydia Smith, the badass in black clothes. People wanted to know more about me but weren’t stupid enough to come ask. I was unapproachable. Nobody talked to me like she did. I would be annoyed, but curiosity won out.

“Wanna help me be less of a cliché?” I asked.

“Huh? You’re not suggesting a makeover, are you?” Never. Wordlessly, I held up the pack of cigarettes in an offer. “Oh, smoke with you?” She neither accepted or refused, talking to herself as she continued, “Peer pressure. This is, I’m being pressured by a peer. Holy afterschool special, Batman.”

Hopeless theater weirdos were the last thing I needed, people who didn’t know how to talk without a script, so I wasn’t charmed. I laughed anyway. “You’re strange.”

“Yeah, well.” She met my eyes, held her head higher. Impressive. “I’m a proud drama kid, and my best friend is a bad influence on me.”

~

The rest is available here. For free!

When We Were Strangers

For my One More Thing series, I wrote a free prequel called When We Were Strangers as an introduction to the characters. I don’t think I promoted it much on social media, so I’m finally doing that. Even though it technically takes place during the summer and this is the winter. I’m really selling this, aren’t I? I hope you have enjoyed this summary of everything I did wrong, now here is the book!

Okay, this is a scene from Ryan’s story, and I would explain, but it’s pretty self explanatory.

Ryan

Have you ever found yourself standing buck naked in a wheatfield in broad daylight? Only there wasn’t any wheat. Or if there was, it was in seed form, so you were basically out in the open where anyone could see you. Has this ever happened to anyone else? Of course it has. It probably happened all the time and was so relatable.

Man, if only I could say it wasn’t every day I ended up locked out while wearing no clothes, but it occurred way more than I was comfortable with. Once. It happened once times. This time, in fact. And it was once more time than I ever wanted.

Ha-ha. Just kidding. I wasn’t naked. Nope. Not at all. Who was naked? Me?!?! No way. I wasn’t naked, you were naked! Oh my god, don’t panic. RYAN, STAY CALM. DON’T PANIC. PLEASE SAVE ME BATMAN, SUPERMAN, OR RYAN REYNOLDS. HEY, HE STOLE MY NAME. No, he had it first since he was older than me.

Ahem. Okay. As I wasn’t in the best headspace for narration, I would come back later. Hopefully when I was calmer and wearing pants.

–the rest of the story is available here for free.

Friendship

This is a scene where two boyfriends try to support their friend. It’s from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas.

Zach

Ryan and Luke watched me eagerly as I grabbed things from my locker. I shared homeroom with the former, and Ryan treated homeroom, punctuality, and other things he didn’t want to do as optional rather than mandatory, one of the few things I respected him for.

Luke always complained about Ryan’s brown hair falling into his eyes and adding additional walking challenges for a guy who never made peace with gravity, but now his own blonde locks were doing the same thing. Ryan had the same shoes as Luke so their feet could be twins or something. They were both wearing flannel shirts, Ryan’s mostly red with blue, Luke’s mostly blue with red. Which… how? Did they call each other up and plan their outfits? Luke never even wore flannel.

Luke said, “I want to talk about Zach’s love interest.”

I scowled at how he phrased it while saying, “And now for the simple, folksy Luke wisdom.”

He frowned. “Don’t think anyone has ever called me folksy before.”

I smirked. “They have called you simple, that’s what I’m hearing.”

“Hey,” Ryan warned, jumping to his boyfriend’s defense. “I will fight you. With my words.”

“Dude, come on.” Luke said to me, giving me his earnest, dumb Luke smile. “You should go for it.” Groundbreaking. He kept going. “Somewhere along the line you went from not dating much to not dating at all. If you like this guy—”

“I don’t even know him.”

“Then get to know him. And if you like him, go for it.”

“God, you’re hot,” Ryan told him.

“Thanks babe.” Luke’s dimples appeared as he smiled at Ryan. “I’m also right.”

“Duh, that’s what makes you even hotter.”

They left, even though we had been right next to homeroom, and Luke needed to go to homeroom because that was how school worked. He let Ryan lead him off anyway because true love meant more than compulsory attendance or some shit like that.

When Luke and Ryan were morons who made their relationship 50 times more difficult than it needed to be, at least they provided some entertainment. However, it was also a hassle for me because they would both expect me to listen to their woes and provide answers. Nobody even paid me for it. Yet this same page, ride-or-die stuff they’d been doing lately was so… insane.

The couple weren’t just crazy kids hopped up on hormones thinking they were destined to be together forever. They had become shockingly stable somehow. As if they truly expected to go the distance when they’d barely even started the race.

Plancakes, scene from YA novel

Ryan and Luke are the main characters of the One More Thing Series, but in Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas, they are supporting characters. Which means they get up to even more nonsense than usual, something I hadn’t known was possible until writing this book.

Here is a quote and a scene from the story. In it, Ryan and Luke are trying to uncover the secret, painful backstory of their friend Zach. Partly because they are trying to figure out why he never dates and partly because Ryan is nosy. Ryan and Luke both came up with plans for finding the truth, and this is from Luke’s plan.

~

Ryan and Luke are the main characters of the One More Thing Series, but in Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas, they are supporting characters. Which means they get up to even more nonsense than usual, something I hadn’t known was possible until writing this book.

Here is a quote and a scene from the story. In it, Ryan and Luke are trying to uncover the secret, painful backstory of their friend Zach. Partly because they are trying to figure out why he never dates and partly because Ryan is nosy. Ryan and Luke both came up with plans for finding the truth, and this is from Luke’s plan.

~

Ryan

Luke! Plan! Plancake! I think that summed up the relevant information, though the last one was ‘plan’ and ‘pancake’ combined. Okay, ambushing Zach at his locker was probably the best part of this plan. The rest of Luke’s plan was like him. Simple yet beautiful. No, wait, I was only thinking of Luke. Luke was beautiful. His plan was—

Luke said, “There must have been one girl you were crazy about.”

“You should check your facts again,” Zach responded.

Luke’s plan was stupid.

Normally, it would be Ryan who barreled on anyway. But in this case, I pulled a Luke and stayed silent until I knew where this was going. Luke pulled a me instead and… none of this was the right way to phrase… any of this.

“Come on,” Luke insisted. “There were some girls who lasted longer than the others. You must have really liked them.”

Suspicious but not annoyed enough to leave the conversation, Zach only shrugged and said, “Maybe.”

“Any you still carry a torch for?”

“Nope.”

“What about a guy?”

“Still no.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Huh.”

Oh my god. I brewed a truth serum and Luke’s plan was asking Zach basic questions. The terribleness was so terrible that the only option was for me to begin a sarcastic slow clap.

“Oh wait,” Luke said before I could clap. “We were talking about people you dated. What about people who didn’t fall for your charms?”

“Those people are fictiona—”

“I was there,” Luke interrupted. “At least sometimes. What about A Girl’s Name?” Yes, Luke said the actual girls name, so I paraphrased. “Or Other Girl? Could it be this Other Girl’s Name?” He asked things like that, with Zach responding in the negative each time.

Until Luke began, “What about Danielle N—”

 Zach cut in with, “I thought you were forbidden from ever speaking of her again?”

“Jackpot,” I breathed.

-The rest of the book is available here.

Kissing Complications

Luke’s life quickly gets out of hand when his stupid mouth and dumb ideas lead to strange new places in One Little Word. An excerpt and image quote will follow after my nonsense.

The idea that immediately came to my head for a title was, Luke’s experiences aren’t universal. Maybe that needs more explaining. That’s a quote from Kimmy Schmidt. As I’m really lazy right now, and most of the time, I’m going to roll the dice and hope I spelled Schmidt right even though there’s no way. Oh, I spelled it a different way the second time and the red squiggly appeared, so hooray, I got it right once and still don’t need to open a different window to look it up. Small miracles, y’all. I will take it.

I’m not sure whether Luke’s experience with kissing a boy is universal or not. Maybe not exactly but it’s also not uncommon. Many guys kiss other guys. The part that’s less universal is kissing another boy as part of a fake dating scheme. Well, it is universal in romance novels. Like this one.

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Luke

Lunch went… awkwardly.

Duh. I had just sucked face with a guy in front of everyone in the cafeteria.

And I thought the stares were bad before.

No, everything was perfectly normal…

Yeah right, that wouldn’t work.

This wasn’t a video or a rumor. I had kissed a guy in public. Naturally, the atmosphere at the baseball table felt incredibly tense.

I insisted the earlier kiss wasn’t real. I told the team that Ryan and I weren’t together. Then I kissed him in front of everyone, and now we were having lunch with my shell-shocked team.

There had never been this much quiet at the table before. Without anyone speaking, my thoughts were loud. My mind kept repeating that I had kissed Ryan in front of everyone. It wouldn’t let that go.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around it.

I kissed Ryan. Yep, there I went again. I hoped it would stop being true somehow. Wait, oh god. Instead of helping, I made things worse.

Because I couldn’t just say I kissed Ryan. That wasn’t enough. It had happened more than once, so the specific time would need to be specified.

I was a guy who had kissed another guy enough times to need clarification when referencing the touching of our lips.

Mental malfunctions

Do you ever have a moment at three in the afternoon where you’ll like, damn I’m hungry, and then you realize you haven’t had anything to eat? Maybe not if you don’t have hyperfocus and ADHD. Occasionally, that happens to me. My two speeds for concentration are, oh hey, did you see this cute dog on the internet and on the other end, ALL FREAKING IN.

This is all I have to talk about now because  I’m very hungry, but the food I warmed up is still too hot to eat. I do have a quote from One Little Word to share, so I guess I’ll do that.

I was going to provide the relevant information here before the excerpt, but then I realized that it’s literally a guy crushing on another guy. So that’s all the details right there.

_

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Ryan

Luke was one of my new friends. Making nice and getting to know him seemed like a good idea at the time. He apologized and he was my boyfriend as far as the principal was concerned.

However, once I stopped despising a guy that hot, I was doomed. Hell, once I fell into his arms like a damsel in distress, I was doomed. Saving me gave him a clean slate and made him instantly crush worthy.

Hating him had provided some protection from his stupidly attractive face. Now all I noticed was the green of his eyes, the way the light looked in his hair. Anytime the dimples appeared, a small electrical fire started in my brain and I lost all cognitive function while repairs were made.

 

One Little Word in three little words (that’s not confusing at all)

Okay, since I re-released One Little Word I have some artwork to post to celebrate the new edition that I’m sharing in a somewhat timely manner, so that’s cool. I feel like I should throw in some keywords here, so the novel is a young adult gay romance about fake boyfriend shenanigans involving a jock and nerd. Was that too many keywords? I’m going to say no.

I’m reasonably sure this is a quote from the book, and it’s also a great summary of the series as a whole.

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Can jazz hands be sarcastic? I’ve decided the answer is yes.

If you outlaw love, only criminals will have guns. Wait what?

What should I title this post? I asked myself while looking at the image, which was literally all that I had on the page. Hey, my brain pointed out, that’s almost a Ke$ha song. Then, upon invoking her name, glitter rained down on me and unicorns were also there or something.

Bonus Ke$ha thoughts!

Anyway, I have to talk about Ke$ha. Guess what? I like Ke$ha. Does she still do the dollar sign in her name? I wanna say no but that’s a hard habit to break. Also, I have to say the same Kesha fact I say literally every time she’s brought up, which is that she’s really smart! Because you can be the patron saint of partying and hangovers and still have a brain, so that’s inspirational or something.

Once, I went to one of her concerts and what I remember is a giant pear costume and a giant penis costume. Along with a mother of some grade schoolers a few rows ahead of my group, who gave up at the point the giant penis entered the stage and she promptly took her children somewhere more family-friendly.

I don’t remember the context for the giant pear. And the context for the giant penis was that I was at a Ke$ha concert.

This is my favorite song of hers, entirely because it is very fun to do the ‘rrrrr” parts of tigerrr or Budweiserrr.

The Original Point

Sharing an image quote from One Little Word is what I originally set out to do, so I should probably do that now.

True story, the app I have for making these graphics is just for my phone where the screen is obviously much smaller. So everything looked fine there but now I don’t think I centered the text right. The important thing is I tried.

Ryan is an embarrassing nerd who likes Luke, and he would really like all of this to not be true, but he’s in a gay romantic comedy, so he doesn’t get his wish. Here are more of his feelings on the matter:

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