Book Club

This is an excerpt from the novel Like You a Latte, which features a gay young adult romance. This section shows our heroes getting to know each other while discussing literature.

“I have to read The Great Gatsby for a class,” Owen explained while gesturing to the slim paperback currently obscuring my notes. “What are your thoughts?”

Are you actually reading the book or cheating and looking up a summary on the internet? That was my first thought. He was clearly different than me and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it was the second one then this budding friendship could end right now with no regret on my part. There were some things that just couldn’t be tolerated.

Yet it felt rude to outright ask. Instead, I questioned, “You want to have an academic discussion with me?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t know if you’d really want to just hang out without being ‘productive’ or whatever.” I fought the urge to look at the notes the book covered again. “So I figured this would be the best of both worlds.” He grinned and leaned towards me. “You surprised me.”

Hmm, had I been too eager by just agreeing to chat with him? It wasn’t like me. I felt defensive and too obvious, like a silly, infatuated boy who fell for the first guy with a nice smile, but then again, he put thought into a conversational topic. He wanted to think of something that would make me keep chatting with him, so maybe we were even.

I couldn’t hold back the moment of truth any longer. “Are you actually completing the readings or are you just finding the relevant information online?”

He scoffed. “Seriously? I’m trying not to be offended here.” That was fair, just because he went to public school and seemed laidback didn’t mean he couldn’t also be serious about his studies. Maybe I judged him too much based on shallow observations.

“I’m sorry,” I started automatically. I would hate someone doubting my intellect.

“Did I look online, really?” He looked smug. “I watched the Leo DiCaprio movie.”

Oh dear. There were no words to adequately convey my horror. I felt frozen for a moment. Whatever expression was on my face made him crack up.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he clapped his hands, still chuckling at me. “That was totally worth it.” People glanced over at our table and he paid them no mind.

I didn’t care if we were causing a commotion either. I had to clarify that, “You’re actually doing the reading?” My relief beat out embarrassment or annoyance. That was the second joke he played at my expense, but it didn’t feel unfriendly. He apparently liked teasing me and I didn’t mind as much as I should.

“Not only am I doing the readings,” he said while leaning back in his chair, “I finished the book early.”

Pretty good, especially for a public-school kid. No that was unfair; not everyone could control where they went to school. Still, I felt giddy with relief. God, imagine trying to be friends or having a crush on someone who used Sparknotes. I couldn’t even picture it; it was too absurd.

I tried not to look too overjoyed, going for a simple, “Good for you.”

His arm nudged into mine good-naturedly. “I may not be the Hermione Granger type, but I’m not a complete slacker. I do my homework.”

Would Hermione Granger have a better GPA than me? No, I couldn’t start down that road, it was madness. “I can’t decide if it’s a compliment or not to be compared to Hermione,” I told him. She was the uptight book nerd stereotype on magical steroids.

“She’s the cleverest witch her age,” he responded immediately. “It’s totally a compliment.”

“Perhaps,” I said with a smile. “But I would look terrible with long, bushy hair.” And no way would I want the job of wrangling Harry and Ron.

He laughed. “You’re more fun than I thought you’d be.”

I wasn’t sure many people would agree with him, but the words ridiculously pleased me. I tried not to show it. “Why did you want to get to know me if you didn’t think I’d be any fun?”

He looked away for a second and coughed awkwardly. Oh, were we getting into dangerous territory? “I just meant,” he started after a moment, not quite meeting my eyes, “That I didn’t think you’d be so willing to talk to me. I thought it’d be a challenge to get you to just chill.”

I’d never been accused of being easy in any capacity. Yet I found myself lacking and I didn’t like it. “Well, I hate to disappoint—”

“No, you aren’t,” he assured me. “I’m glad you can relax and have some fun.”

Well, no one had ever accused of me of being able to relax and have fun either. It just showed my defenses were weakened by a busy schedule and a pretty face. It was my turn to cough awkwardly and try to get us back on track. “Okay, what did you think of the book?”

Just being with him was a distraction I needed to avoid, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Once I started looking at him, I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t even remember what the book was. I looked down at the table. Right, The Great Gatsby.

He considered the question a moment, then gave me a droll look. “Is it a totally cliché and uninteresting opinion to think the two dudes totally wanted each other?” The part of my brain that couldn’t help itself added that question to the growing list of reasons he batted for my team, next to the rainbow wristband and the way his eyes seemed to lock on mine.

I took a sip of my drink but couldn’t hide an amused look. “Are you pandering to your audience?”

“No, I think, I mean,” he stuttered adorably for a moment. Was there a blush on his face? It was hard to tell with the lighting in here. “I really think Nick wanted Jay Gatsby like Gatsby wanted Daisy, even if his feelings weren’t returned.”

I wasn’t completely sold that anyone from The Great Gatsby got down in the forbidden garden of homosexual delights, though Quinn agreed with him. She called it The Great Gaysby once. I told her to quit joking around. Literature was serious. Everything was serious when it came to me. Owen really thought I was fun? I stopped thinking about this.

“Do you want to tell a class full of students that?” I asked. I was out and from the conversation it sounded like he was too but that didn’t mean I’d want the trouble of trying to defend the inherent gayness of a literary classic to all my skeptical, straight peers.

“Oh,” he said as he considered my words. His face scrunched up adorably and his shoulders sagged. “I might be in trouble then.”

“Stick to the symbolism of the eyes on the billboard and the light at the end of the dock,” I advised. “You’ll be fine,” I advised. “And focus on the main themes of class divides and wealth if you need more to say.”

He nodded seriously. “And when do I talk about the Jay-Z songs they used in the movie?”

I felt my eye twitch. “You’re trying to torture me, aren’t you?”

He grinned unrepentantly. “I couldn’t help it.”

We sat there looking at each other and the moment started to feel intimate. He was cute, funny, clever, and I needed to stop listing his positive attributes. I cleared my throat. “I should get back to studying.”

“Come on” he argued. “We didn’t get to discuss Hogwarts houses.”

“I have work to do and so do you,” I reminded him. I had my fun for the night. Besides, I was clearly a Ravenclaw and he was such a Gryffindor. Back to studying. He eyed me and I met his gaze without flinching. I wasn’t going to budge. “Back to work,” I said firmly.

“So, you are a challenge after all,” he concluded evenly.

That totally wasn’t what I was trying to do. I wasn’t playing coy or hard to get. I’d had my break time and now it was time to get back to work. But instead of calmly explaining all this, I asked, “That a problem?”

His lips quirked up. “Nope.”

We both got back to our respective work. That was all, show’s over, nothing to see here.

Now would be the worst time to start something new. I didn’t have any spare moments. And yet, I wanted to anyway. I didn’t even have the free time required to start obsessing about whether this was the best time to get into a new relationship or not. I would have gladly spent more time worrying about this but.

I wanted to get to know him. Something told me he would be worth it.

You can get the rest now on Amazon or KU.

One Little Lie

onelittlelieCOVI’m trying out a new cover for One Little Lie. That is literally all I have to say about that, but then this isn’t a very exciting post is it? In honor of the new cover, or me not having anything to say, or you being pretty, in honor of something, here’s an excerpt from One Little Lie.

Sometimes instead of going and getting the book description and copying and pasting it, I challenge myself to come up with a new blurb instead. So, if you want the professional, polished summary go here. My improvised summary is this: two giant spazzes date each other and everyone mocks everyone else. Yay? Although really, one character is a giant spaz and the other character likes to think he’s cool, but he’s maybe an even bigger spaz.


Ryan

It was after lunch and Luke and I were discussing very serious matters.

“I think you’re just going to have to accept the reality of the situation,” Luke told me.

I frowned and leaned against his locker. “That really doesn’t sound like something I would do.”

Luke stood opposite me in a red shirt that hugged his shoulders perfectly. “Aren’t you all science-y?” he asked me. “That’s about facts and…” he trailed off.

“Go on,” I challenged. “Name one other thing.”

“Science,” he said decisively, like he wasn’t a big idiot.

I wasn’t fooled. “Science is about science? I’m dating a genius.”

His face brightened. “Oh, I am alright with that being my new nickname.”

Genius? “Like hell!”

He tutted at me. “You’re not being very accommodating and aren’t relationships about compromise?” Whatever, he wasn’t the relationship expert; I already called it.

“Lemon drop is mine,” I insisted.

He inched just a bit closer and in a low voice said, “Yeah, he is.”

I smiled and looked away to deal with the sudden rush of affection I felt for him. I tried to glare sternly. He had to get his own pet name. His chest puffed up, like he was proud of himself while he grinned at me and I tried to decide my next move but then suddenly we weren’t alone.

The rest is available here!

Barns and Boys

This is an excerpt from One Little Lie, a YA story featuring a gay couple.It’s on sale right now!

We stood in the hardware store in the paint section. Well, one of the hardware stores. In a town like this, hardware stores were the equivalent of Starbucks. There were lots, but they were bigger than the crowded coffee shops. Ryan and I were in the paint aisle.

There were paint cans in varying sizes on both ends of the aisle while the middle gave way to an array of swatches in all colors of the rainbow on one side and a counter on the other. We had various swatches laid out on the counter.

“This one?” Ryan asked holding up one swatch and pointing to a particular colored rectangular.

I viewed the color he pointed to, a shade of red labeled crimson, nestled between one shade lighter and one shade darker. I could see the hues change on the swatch, but the last few colors Ryan pointed out seemed practically identical.

I told him that. “It looks exactly the same as the other one you showed me.”

Ryan glanced at another swatch on the table and told me, “That one was ruby. Now I’m asking about crimson.”

Okay, paint color and my ability to tell the difference had nothing to do with whether I was attracted to guys, but I had to ask, “Can you actually tell the difference?”

He held up the one in his hand. “This one costs 75 cents more.” Which was a no. Damn. I mean, I knew it had nothing to do with my sexuality, but still. Would have been nice to weigh that as some innate talent of queer guys I didn’t possess and draw conclusions from there.

I glanced around. “Do they have bright pink with sparkles?”

“My dad would kill me.” Ryan’s eyes lit up even as he shook his head. “No, he would kill you.”

“No, just like, as a palate cleanser,” I gestured to the samples in front of us. “These are all so boring.” We looked at reds, then browns, then a bunch of greys and tans and were back to red.

He tilted his head in acknowledgement but countered with, “It’s a barn.”

“It can be a cool barn,” I muttered lamely.

Ryan nudged his side into mine and looked at me with a small smile on his face. “You’re cute.”

Get the rest here.

 

 

July in Christmas

You know how Christmas in July is a thing? Yes, it is actually the season for Christmas, so there’s no need to worry about another made up Christmas in like seven months, but this won’t make sense if I didn’t remind you of Christmas in July first (it might not make sense anyway.)

But anyway, instead of Christmas in July, why not have July in Christmas? Do not go outside in your swimsuit if it’s snowing, but you can have the feeling of July during the holiday. Several F.N. Manning books are on sale that feature summer, so you can pretend it’s summer… if you want. You could also just read the books. Up to you.

These titles are on sale Dec. 18-25:

Summer Romance

Beach Bum

Pool Boy

Happy July in Christmas or just Happy Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate!

Treat Yo’ Self

December is the time when most people start shopping for others as various holidays encourage gift giving and thinking of your fellow man and peace on earth and whatever. That’s great and all but don’t forget about yourself.

I’m just a concerned citizen with no conflict of interest or agenda of my own, telling you to think of you. How might you do this, you ask? I’m happy to tell you!

tys
This has nothing to do with anything really, I just love Parks and Rec.

In case you want to treat yo self (shout to Tom and Donna), here’s a couple suggestions that are on sale this week:

What Love Means – A prep school brat and a biker have a complicated past and an uncertain future. Plus, spelling bees!

Then There’s You – Kissing in costumes always makes things difficult.

Both these stories are on sale from Dec. 10- 17th. Get them for 99 cents while you can!

Not only do you get great books to read while it’s snowing and you’re stuck indoors, but they’re on sale so you can still get presents for others and yourself.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I posted a while ago about the book When Katie Met Cassidy and how it was front and center at a local library in the recommendations section. I was amazed to see how far Kansas had come, displaying queer content so publicly, that definitely wouldn’t have happened when I was a kid.

I don’t live in a rural part of Kansas, but I’m still from Kansas, so a lot of the people are more conservative than not. Sure, we have a democrat or two in various smaller offices, but we’re still Kansas. We’re never a swing state, people always know how Kansas will vote. We’re consistently a red state.

If anyone’s been feeling down lately about politics and our nation’s leaders, this is a quick message to not loose hope. I was proud of Kansas for displaying a gay book. Little did I know what the election would bring. I’d say I never expected to see the day a woman who is both Native American and a lesbian would be elected in Kansas, but I hadn’t even considered someone like her could be an option here. Most of our leaders are white and male. But Kansas elected Sharice Davids to congress and another woman to serve as governor. And they’re both democrats.

That might not seem like a lot depending on where you live, but just, it’s crazy. Two women politicians who are democrats in Kansas. Not only ran but won. Kansas!

Just goes to show that anything is possible.

Nicknames are serious business

This is an excerpt from One Little Lie, which will be released on Oct. 20.

It was after lunch and Luke and I were discussing very serious matters.

“I think you’re just going to have to accept the reality of the situation,” Luke told me.

I frowned and leaned against his locker. “That really doesn’t sound like something I would do.”

Luke stood opposite me in a red shirt that hugged his shoulders perfectly. “Aren’t you all science-y?” he asked me. “That’s about facts and…” he trailed off.

“Go on,” I challenged. “Name one other thing.”

“Science,” he said decisively, like he wasn’t a big idiot.

I wasn’t fooled. “Science is about science? I’m dating a genius.”

His face brightened. “Oh, I am alright with that being my new nickname.”

Genius? “Like hell!”

He tutted at me. “You’re not being very accommodating and aren’t relationships about compromise?” Whatever, he wasn’t the relationship expert; I already called it.

“Lemon drop is mine,” I insisted.

He inched just a bit closer and in a low voice said, “Yeah, he is.”

~

Riding With Brighton Review


It’s hard to imagine anyone could find fault with Riding with Brighton. It’s a great character piece and a lovely romance too.

Summary: Jay Hall sees his life from a fresh perspective and finds himself wanting. He wants to change everything and knows just the person to help him: Brighton Bello-Adler, who is just about the coolest person in the world. They spend a few days together and go on an adventure of self-discovery and romance.

About Jay: Jay is unhappy with his life because he’s unhappy with himself. He’s good looking, popular, and an athlete, but he’s not impressed by his friends or any of his accomplishments. Because he’s been living with a part of himself he was too scared to acknowledge. But things are changing.

Jay’s been getting to know someone in one of his classes, Brighton. He likes talking to Brighton but feels really inadequate compared to him. Brighton is a shameless flirt with everyone, charming, an artist, and openly gay. He’s seems very confident and sure of who he is. And Jay wants to be like that. So he thinks.

It becomes pretty clear that it’s not hero worship Jay feels but a crush. It’s really sweet watching Jay gushing about Brighton in the safe context of a role model. He thinks he wants to be like Brighton, but he really wants to be worthy of catching Brighton’s attention.

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It was a sharp right turn, backward a good mile and a half, around corners, down hills, through a forest, and across the universe from where I really wanted to go.

About Brighton: In addition to Jay, there’s Brighton. Brighton is kind of a perfect angel who does no wrong but he’s still a strong character with his own voice. Jay’s the star of the show while Brighton is a supporting player, but again remember that this happens over the course of a few days and Jay has enough drama going on that it would have been too much to add more conflicts for Brighton.

What’s really great about Brighton is that he’s just a normal guy. He’s not boring but his life is going pretty well. And while that might not be great from a story perspective, it’s refreshing and a much needed portrayal of a gay teen in today’s culture. There’s no angst or depression. He has loving friends and a supportive family and being gay is just one part of him. He’s a good counterpoint to Jay and a realistic ,sometimes seldom seen, type of gay teenager.

The romance department is the only area lacking in Brighton’s life. He wants to be a normal kids who goes and dates and takes someone to prom. But there’s not a lot of dating options in his town. And he’s very attracted to Jay. He’s torn between the strong pull he feels for him and keeping his distance while Jay figures stuff out. He doesn’t want to get his heart broken but he can’t help the more attracted he becomes the more Jay shows of himself of Brighton.

What makes it unique: This is an interesting story because all the action takes place in the space of a weekend. It’s like a crash course in Jay’s psyche and emotional development as he dives head first into issues he’s never been able to confront before. The book provides a really in-depth character analysis and there’s lots of upheaval and revelations as Jay fits the coming out process into the span of a few days.

The Romance: The action is both the story of Jay finally being honest with himself and those around him and getting to know Brighton better. They can’t really help falling for each other the more time they spend together. They develop a real connection and a very supportive partnership.

There’s a lot of fun and flirty banter and swoon worthy moments. The book has the feel of a whirlwind romance, something intense and all consuming. But it’s not an artificial, insta-love kinda thing because the main characters get to know each other very deeply in a short amount of time and there’s both big romantic moments and more tender elements where the characters discovering each other and falling hard.

Favorite Part: The prose. The prose is just, really, really good.

My thoughts: Haven Francis wrote a beautiful book that should probably be read more than once in order to fully take in and appreciate everything. It’s life affirming and lovely but also doesn’t solve everything.

Excerpt from One Little Word- YA LGBTQ Fiction

Boyfriends Ryan and Luke prepare for a doubt date at a gay club.

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We decided to dress up for maximum gayness. I had a shirt with a unicorn and Alicia had bought me a feather boa as a gag gift, so I was going to wear that too because why not. I wasn’t dressed yet because I was too busy laughing at Luke.

He faced away from me but glared at me through the mirror in front of him. “Ryan, stop laughing and just tell me which one of these shirts makes my eyes pop!”

I turned my head into the bedspread, giggling helplessly. I had started getting ready, then found that watching Luke worry about what to wear was much more important, so I lay on his bed and enjoyed the show. When I composed myself, I peeked up to see Luke was now glaring at the two shirts in his hands while holding them up to his chest one at a time and trying to decide.

I smiled sweetly. “Baby, I think you look good in anything.” Sure, my tone was still at least 20% sarcastic, but that’s my baseline.

And right now he just scoffed, sounding unimpressed with my answer. “Stop being a weirdo,” he said, eyeing the shirts critically.

We were road tripping to a bigger city called Fairview and heading to a gay club having an all ages night. Luke acted like a contestant in a beauty pageant, putting all of his focus into what to wear.

“I’m a weirdo for you,” I cooed.

Teasing was the only option if I didn’t want to combust into a puddle of hormones and fondness. He seemed like a big jock most of the time, and he could be confident and charming, but he was mostly an earnest goofball. Like now when he acted like the most important decision in the world was finding the right thing to wear.

He turned to look at me and said, “You do realize this might be the only time I ask you for fashion advice?”

Well played. I put him out of his misery. “Wear the red one.”

Luke frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, moron, I’m sure.”

I loved him in that color and who cared about what anyone else thought of him? He was my bf, he should look good for me. I tilted my head and idly wondered how I’d get him to agree to the glitter body paint. We’d said we were having a super gay evening, so how did we achieve that without body glitter? We didn’t. He needed to be a team player. Even if he didn’t officially bat for a particular team. Other than his baseball team of course.

Hey, could moron be Luke’s pet name?

He held the chosen shirt up one more time and nodded decisively. “Thank you.” A serious look crossed his face again and he turned to face me. “Your pet name for me is not going to be moron.” Then he turned around again.

Wow, had we become that in sync? Maybe we developed a psychic connection. Probably the first one but just to be sure I concentrated on thoughts of Luke’s ass. “What am I thinking about?”

“My ass,” he said without hesitation.

“You are psychic,” I marveled.

“I can feel and see you staring at my ass,” he said meeting my eyes in the mirror with a laugh. Then he started messing with his hair.

One Little Lie will be released on Oct. 20 and can be pre-ordered here.

Perils of Fake Dating

In One Little Word, Luke needs to use Ryan to get out of trouble. Ryan wants to get Luke back for an old grudge. And then they fall in love? Maybe, but there’s a bunch of other stops along the way.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ryan

My fake relationship seemed to be working out great for my boy toy, but it was pretty inconvenient for me. Time to balance things out. Besides, I could argue it was practical to show up and embarrass him in front of his coaches. I mean interact with him in front of his coaches since he wanted some type of sports scholarship. They should know all about their star athlete and his boyfriend.

I went more subtle than showing up in a cheerleading uniform this time. I wore a pink sweater as it was cold and pink earmuffs for a little flair. Most of the guys had left the field, but Luke was talking to his two coaches at the pitcher’s mound. One of them was older and also the Economics teacher, and the other was younger, probably playing baseball in college.

I jogged up to Luke, giving him a noisy kiss on the cheek and throwing my arms around him. “Hi honey bunny, are you done with practice?”

The two coaches looked at us, blinking and seemingly trying to process. I kept my arms around the rigid jock and smiled enthusiastically at the men.

“Uh, just talking to the coaches… babe,” he said with false cheer. “Give me a second.” He stared into my eyes, telling me get the hell out of here. He didn’t understand me last night, so I ignored him now.

“You’re the cheerleader,” said the older coach.

I had showed up in a cheerleading uniform to his game one time. I guess that made an impression. “My friends call me Ryan, but Lukie calls me his little lemon drop,” I gushed. Technically, it would make more sense for Luke to be the lemon drop: he had blonde hair while I was a brunette, but it was the first pet name I thought of.

Lukie, I didn’t know you had a boyfriend,” responded the younger coach. He grinned and Luke flushed while I soaked in the embarrassment.

“Then you’re the only one,” the other coach grunted. God, even teachers had seen the video?

“What?” the younger one asked.

“Nothing,” Luke said quickly. “It’s nothing you need to see.”

His eyebrows raised.

“We’re an internet sensation,” I said proudly. “Don’t be so modest.”

“We’re hardly a sensation,” Luke argued. He’d pried my arms off him and was holding my hand, gripping it tight. I didn’t back down.

I patted him on the chest. “Let’s not fight in front of your coaches.” I turned to the men with an indulgent smile. “You know how he can be.”

“He’s a great player, keeps the guys focused,” said the older coach slowly, not really sure what was happening.

“Oh, so you just fight with me? I guess I’m special then.”

“So special,” Luke agreed.

I narrowed my eyes. “I didn’t like your tone just then.”

“What?”

“I know you said not to do this in front of them, but I can’t help it. That hurt, Lukie.”

“Oh my god,” he huffed, face red again.

“Well, apologize to your… fellow, Luke,” the older coach said. I fought not to grin as he took my side, looking at Luke expectantly.

“He’s just joking,” Luke assured him, sounding nervous.

Perfect. “Oh, so my feelings are a joke to you?” I raised my voice.

“Luke, come on,” the younger one pleaded. They probably hated dramatic scenes when girls were involved; being around a dramatic gay scene was even worse.

“Son, you’re just going to make it worse,” the older one said.

“Your coaches are smart, you could learn something from them,” I told him, not hiding the grin on my lips.

“Ryan,” he started but I opened my mouth. “Lemon Drop,” he said through gritted teeth, and I let him continue. “I’m sorry.”

I sniffed, turned away. “I don’t think you mean that.”

“I mean it, come on, please,” he begged. I should have captured this moment on camera.

“I can’t stay mad at you,” I exclaimed, throwing my arms around him again. The coaches used it as an excuse to leave.

“I’m going to kill you,” he whispered while awkwardly embracing me back.

“Don’t be like that, honey bear,” I quipped and skipped away.

 

~~~