Hooray for The Boy Next Door

Do I fully understand how Kindle Vella works? No, the internet and most modern technology confuses me even though I am not an incredibly old person who has never used technology before. Anyway, readers in Vella can like and fave stories, in which case a fancy little crown appears above the cover. For example:

Yes, this post is just me bragging that my Vella novel is now top faved. Awesome! Even if I don’t totally get what this means, I’m thrilled people loved (or faved) my book! Thank you so much, and go check out the episodes of The Boy Next Door if you haven’t yet.

Quick Description: A shy artist works up his nerve to confess his feelings for his neighbor, the boy next door. But when his neighbor’s moody, wannabe rock star brother returns home unexpectedly, his love note falls into the wrong hands.

Though the main character Sam shares some of anxious personality traits, Hunter (aka the bad boy next door) is who I have a huge soft spot for. Whether being tough or showing his softer side, he was so much fun to write.

Here’s an excerpt where Sam runs into Hunter on the street after dinner. Hunter gives him some advice.

“Hey, you barhopping too?” He nods, indicating some bars farther down the block.

“Fish tacos,” I answer honestly and stupidly.

“Okay?” He seems to regret saying anything to me. That makes two of us.

Still without his leather jacket, Hunter looks smaller. The night helps hide his surprisingly muscled arms, probably from dragging his drum set around.

“I’m not old enough for bars,” I say when we linger awkwardly.

Leaning in, he confides, “I never let that stop me.”

But I will. Because I’m not as cool and badass as him. He never lets me forget.

“Well, I should probably—” go far away as fast as possible.

“I can sneak you in,” he offers, probably because he knows I’ll refuse. Is he even old enough to drink legally? If so, it’s just barely.

“No thanks.” 

“Sam,” he says, his tone strange.

His teasing demeanor vanishes in an instant. Us prey to the predators know when it’s time to make a quick exit.

“Uh, see you around, Hunter.”

When he moves, I expect him to waltz right by me to the alcohol without saying goodbye. Instead, he steps right into my personal space. As he joins me in the shadows, I can’t see the intensity in his eyes, but I feel it on my skin.

“Be bold,” he says.

Up this close, it’s hard to breathe normally without inhaling the scent of him. And I never could read those eyes even in better light, too dark with unfathomable depths.

I manage to step away. “Fish tacos were bold enough for one night.”

“No, not about your plans for tonight. Just in general.” He’s trying to tell me something. What? I don’t know. “Sounds like advice you need to hear.”

“I do fine.” I cross my arms around myself, suddenly chilly out here.

“You could do better than fine,” he insists. “Be bold. You won’t get what you want otherwise.”

“How do you know what I want?”

Something about his expression makes me wonder if somehow he sees right through me. He isn’t smirking as he always does, yet he seems sure.

A shiver wracks my body, and I hope he doesn’t see. He probably does because he sees everything, it feels like he’s viewing my soul and finding me lacking. Any second, he’s going to reveal what I try to keep hidden—but the moment ends.

“Anything worth wanting doesn’t come easily, so.” He shrugs.

“Yeah, yeah.” I take another step away, but it doesn’t feel far enough. “Bold. Got it.”

“No you don’t.” He seems… sad. Sad I’m so slow. He pities me. Nothing new there.

I smile tightly. “Have a good night.”

~

-Read the Boy Next Door here!

The Boy Next Door

Kindle Vella is a thing now. Authors write episodic stories and post over time instead of delivering a whole novel at once. Which is pretty cool, and a fun challenge for me to write on a schedule and keep producing stuff.

While not totally released, one of the novels I have on Kindle Vella is finished. It’s all uploaded on the site and will be out by the end of October.

Yay! Now that I’m actually finished with my latest novel, I should talk about it here.

In The Boy Next Door, a shy artist struggles to show his passions on and off the canvas. Confessing his feelings to the boy of his dreams is a good start. But when his crush’s older brother gets his love note by mistake, life takes an unexpected turn.

This is a young adult contemporary romance featuring an ill-fated message in a bottle, sexy neighbors, and an enemies-to-lovers M/M couple.

My basic idea for this story was a John Hughes/classic romcom vibe but much gayer. So of course, the main character is crushing hopelessly on his sweet friend, and a crazy misunderstanding means a guy he hates gets his love note by mistake, but when they’re thrown together, sparks fly? Yes, they do.

When I said this is my year and nothing will stop me? I figured I’d get over my own tied tongue and confess my love for Dylan, whether shouting or mumbling how I felt. Any other obstacles were fictitious. I certainly wasn’t imagining Hunter Cruse, the asshole older brother of my crush. Did I mention he hates me?

Yeah, he can stand in my way.

–from The Boy Next Door

Irresistible

Love can make you do crazy things. As the character Avery finds out in the paranormal romance Instalove. The 17-year-old usually prefers blending in at school and not being different. His home life is crazy and full of witches and warlocks who can cast spells and shoot fire from their palms, so he likes keeping things simple at school.

Avery starts the novel in the closet and doesn’t plan on coming out until college. But despite trying to be an ‘average’ high schooler, he can’t resist Chris Reyes. Which is how he ends up with a secret boyfriend and maybe a few secrets of his own.

In this excerpt, Avery is thinking about his relationship since a milestone is approaching.

It’s possible Chris wasn’t thrilled about the ‘secret’ part of our secret relationship. He’d been understanding until he found out my family knew I was gay and I had trouble explaining why I didn’t want anyone else to know.

With our four-month anniversary approaching, spending it fighting sounded terrible. I wanted to spend it… well, I didn’t care how we spent it as long as we were happy and together. The other details weren’t important.

Maybe being a guy with a secret boyfriend and being hopelessly crazy about him wasn’t very average and regular. Oh well. As much as I wanted to be normal and blend in, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get to know Chris.

–check out the rest here.

Who is Avery Ward?

Who is Avery Ward, you might ask as you read the title of this post. Because that’s what the post says.

Well, thanks for asking!

If you wanna get literal about it, he’s the main character of the gay paranormal romance Instalove. He’s also the 17-year-old protagonist who thinks the magic in his family doesn’t affect him, until he finds out that the thing he holds most dear may be the result of a spell.

From an author standpoint, I enjoy writing prose in his special angst-y yet practical perspective. I don’t make characters exactly like me but sometimes I give them something of mine. Avery has my taste in music. And he’s sort of a pessimist who’s trying to be more optimistic, which we also share.

Otherwise, I’ll let Avery tell you about himself in his own words. All you need to know for the following excerpt is that Stella is Avery’s little sister.

~

When given the choice, most people would rather learn about my sister than me. Stella Ward is the Witch, the girl wonder who can move objects with her mind and turn the laws of the natural world inside out.

Avery Ward is the junior who runs track, the guy who gets supporting roles in the school plays with a good audition. Enough about him, let’s hear more about this sister. Yeah, yeah. I get it.

I’m normal. My sister isn’t.

Witchcraft seems so cool and interesting to people who grew up without it. When someone close to you has powers and you don’t, it’s mostly extremely annoying. But siblings can be that way.

–Check it out here. You can buy the book or read it on KU.

A volcano, a horse with a sombrero, and more

First, a shout out to the best holiday of the year, Cinco de Mayo. This is better known as the day I’m contractually obligated to drink a margarita. While I am of Mexican descent, this isn’t why I’m obligated to drink a margarita. The reason is… because I want to.

I searched for sombrero pictures hoping I could find one with an animal, but my favorite thing about this picture is the horse is apparently ‘in disguise.’ Wait, I mean, what horse??? I only see a very festive human!

For the final book in the One More Thing Series, Ryan and Luke are at the end of their senior year in high school. Which means college decisions and figuring out whether they have a future together.

For the last two books about them, I decided to switch it up and for them to be more stable, so the drama wasn’t about their relationship. This book… isn’t like that.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Senior year means prom, and prom means promposals. So I figured I’d share a fun scene where Luke asks Ryan to prom. 

~

Luke

“At least offer to split the therapy bill with me as a gesture of goodwill,” Ryan said while exiting his house, too busy arguing with his father to notice me.

“You think you need therapy?” Mr. Miller spoke while shutting the door behind him. “You left me with parenting PTSD.”

“You called me fat!”

“I only suggested a walk,” Mr. Miller tiredly corrected.

“Who goes on freaking father-son walks?” Ryan complained merrily in fine form.

They began talking over each other.

“We don’t both have to—”

“Which brings us back to you thinking I should lose some weight.”

“If you could be patient for five seconds—”

“Oh, are we making wishes to the never-gonna-happen-fairy because—”

“Really? My wish already came true.”

“So not fair! What did you wish for?”

“For him to put me out of my misery.” Mr. Miller nodded his head, indicating me. To me, he said, “You owe me so badly.”

“Luke!” Ryan exclaimed. “And… a giant anthill.”

My promposal did resemble a giant anthill. The brown mass nearly reached my knees, a volcano surrounded by a small island and ocean landscape. I put in the ingredient to make it blow. The ‘lava’ bubbled and foamed with a small rush of sound as it began pouring from the top and erupting over the island and spilling out into the ocean.

“Is that… root beer?”  Yep. Ryan’s favorite drink. A huge smile burst over his face.

 Lava funneled from the volcano to the carefully cut spaces below to spell out ‘prom.’ More statement than question.

“Prom?” I asked. There, there was the question.

“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“Once is fine.”

He leapt into my arms, giving me just enough time to plant my feet and ensure we stayed upright instead of toppling into the display below. The first brush of his lips landed a few inches left of my mouth, though it worked as he began peppering kisses all over my face, too giddy for finesse or aim.

Yeah, this went well.


One Big Decision
comes out on May 17th. Pre-order your copy now!

Black Cats and Bad Mood Boards

Hello, is this Moodboards Anonymous? My name is F.N. Manning, and I’m addicted to moodboards. Oh, this isn’t Moodboards Anonymous? And that support group doesn’t exist? That’s fair.

As you might have guessed, I enjoy making mood boards, which I put as one word in every instance before this one, but I get the red squigglies so now I’m changing my mind. This is for my new adult fantasy novel, that is also naturally a gay romance, Black Cats and Bad Luck. Here’s a board for the main characters, Mason and Horatio.

After years of waiting for a mysterious man from his dreams who might not exist, Mason is ready to move on with his life. Until Horatio finally appears, and his whereabouts were stranger than anyone imagined. With the help of the smartest paranormal experts, or at least the only ones available, the guys must battle the forces of evil, keep everyone safe, and see if their relationship can become more than a good dream and survive in the real world.

When I spent too much time on the computer, whether searching for Horatio or playing games online, Dad would bring me back to real life. Life’s not happening there in between the ones and zeros, he’d say. It’s happening out here. I’d hate for you to miss it.

After what felt like a lifetime of the alleged perfect man for me being so close yet never close enough to touch, I drew my own conclusions. My only defense, I suppose, was that I lived with the idea of him for so long, I began to think that’s all he was. An idea, a hope, a dream who lived within a dream.

Black Cats and Bad Luck

LGBTQ Fiction Giveaway

Hello, I have been wrestling with WordPress and don’t have anything witty to say. I wanted to mention that the LGBTQ Fiction Giveaway is going on right now until Jan. 15. Here’s some of the titles that caught my eye.

There’s vampires, a prince, and supernatural mysteries in this 7 Chapter Sample of Dark Flame by Kat Silver. I maybe should have put a full story first instead of a sample, but I LOVE this cover. It’s so pretty.

Haunted by the death of his parents, Michael Blakeley wants answers. The twenty-six-year-old martial artist seeks their killer, but he also wants to know why electronics short out at his touch, and why his libido is a raging fire.

So when a group of soldiers calling themselves Guardians rescue him from a back alley ambush and claim to have the answers he needs, he agrees to go with them. Especially when they tell him the attackers were vampires. But nothing in this supernatural underworld is as it seems, and when the silver-eyed commander cages him instead, Michael’s answers slip further away.


Shapeshifters, psychics, and a love story that begins in dreams. This is Romp–A Fox Hollow Novella by Morgan Brice. The book I’m currently working on, Black Cats and Bad Luck, is about falling in love in dreams, so I’m excited to read this one. There is also kind of a shapeshifter.

When otter-shifter Dell Avery moved to Fox Hollow for a new job, he hoped that a change of location might also help him find a boyfriend. Then he discovers his cabin is haunted, and he starts having vivid, realistic dreams where he meets Mack, a man who checks off all his boxes for the perfect boyfriend.


Murders in a small town mean that a secret haven for shapeshifters could be exposed in Wild Retaliation by Ethan Stone.

Chief of Police John Dakota keeps two secrets close to his bulletproof vest. One is the truth about Seaside, Oregon—that it’s a safe haven for shifters. Including himself.

 The second is the nine-year-old mystery of why a series of brutal murders that rocked the sleepy tourist town simply…stopped. No one can know, especially not Trevor English. The local reporter who occasionally shares John’s bed.


In Tainted Life by Mel Gough, a detective going through a divorce doesn’t think he can handle anything other than a one night stand, but a mysterious photographer isn’t so easy to give up.

Desperate to forget his sorrows for a while, Pete seeks refuge in a Soho bar where he is approached by a sexy, funny, and clearly interested stranger. Photographer Liam Jackson is just the ticket for one oblivious night of perfect passion.


In Play On by Avery Cockburn, a hothead soccer player and a college student with a trouble past must battle inner demons before they can be together. Also Scotland.

Duncan Harris is on the edge. Scandal has shredded his LGBT soccer team’s history-making season, and now the once-unflappable striker is lashing out. Only one person can tame Duncan’s rage and make him feel like himself again…

Bullied by schoolmates in his wee village, Brodie Campbell lurked deep in the closet before coming to the city of Glasgow. Here at university he’s out and proud, but the years of abuse have left him emotionally paralyzed. Can flatmate Duncan help Brodie escape his past and heal his wounded heart?


A magical accident could turn the holidays into a very unhappy Christmas for a well meaning witch and his roommate. This is Flour, Eggs, Sugar, Magic by Daniel De Lorne.

Wannabe witch Will Brand’s attempts at making magic cookies for the kids at a local shelter go awry when his ex-boyfriend messages and turns Will’s good energy to anger.


Everything is starting to unravel for a hockey player, when the one who got away in college comes back into his life in Breaking Away by Van Cole.

Dan is a professional hockey player at the top of his game – but when his wife up and leaves him out of nowhere, it feels like game, set and match. How is he supposed to get through his upcoming games with an apartment empty of furniture and his wife off sleeping with some baseball player she’s supposedly been seeing for a while now?


In Forgive Me by Avery Katz, a prince and artist have a shot at a second chance, but overcoming the past won’t be easy.

The blizzard has trapped me with the one man I truly hate…and the only man I’ve ever wanted.

He can claim my body, but not my heart. I will never forgive him.


New book! Hooray!

Happy book release day! This is in no way a national holiday, but my book Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas is out now.

Sometimes bad ideas are the hardest ones to resist…
Zach Ahmad is more used to fooling around than falling in love. In fact, the bi baseball player’s fondness for having a good time earns him many parental lectures from his disapproving father. But Zach isn’t expecting anything to change during his senior year, until he literally falls into the arms of the new boy at school.

When the new guy isn’t impressed by his charms, Zach can’t help but be intrigued by the dog-lover and do-gooder. Even if his meddling friends are trying to turn his life into a romcom. Just when Zach is ready to take a chance on something real, a curveball from his dad puts his whole future in jeopardy. Can Zach face his biggest challenge ever and still fall in love, or will he fall flat?

Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas is an LGBT romance about what happens when a guy who never falls in love finds himself in a romantic comedy filled with meet cutes, matchmaking friends, and supposedly adorable canines. While characters in this story appear in the One More Thing universe, this standalone Zach novel can be read separately from the other books.


That’s the official stuff, but I wanted to say a little more about the book.

Inspiration: Zach is the kind of character who takes over. At least, he is for me. When writing this series, I would look back over a scene he’s in and remind myself the book wasn’t about him. Which meant naturally I needed to make a novel about him.

Our common traits: Sometimes I use a specific trait or event from my life, but I usually do more an inspired by true events thing than an accurate recounting. Zach and I sort of have lots in common in that we’re not-white bi people who avoid serious situations, and we don’t believe in the religions we were born into. However, we’re only share those traits in broad strokes, the more specific one goes, the more different we become. The part where I did draw inspiration from my own life is in how Zach’s parents don’t address him being bi.

Differences: Zach is confident in a way few people, including myself, are. His ego is both his biggest strength and weakness. And when focusing a book on him, it’s a great place to start as we test his confidence and see what’s under his bravado.

Sneak peek at new gay romance

In romcom terms, Zach Ahmad is the playboy who never falls in love. Here he is living his best life at the start of Falling in Love (and Other Bad Ideas).

Zach

Some people thought there were no guarantees in life. Those people hadn’t met Macy Owens. As far as sure things went, her level equaled water being wet or my best friends saying moronic stuff. Simply put, the girl was easy. Did I seem too mean? Game respected game. And me? I was easy, breezy, beautiful—no, that was something else.  

While rejection seemed unlikely, I couldn’t go out looking average. If flirting and having fun were official sports, I would be a major leaguer. My professional pride prompted me to be at my best. Checking my reflection in the glass door of the restaurant I stood in front of, I spotted a handsome bastard. Me, of course. I also thought I saw this guy I used to hook up with working inside, but no, I was the pretty one.

We should take a moment to admire my soft, lovingly moisturized brown skin free of pores. Or my expertly styled dark hair, athletic body, and cunning smirk. And as a high school senior, I swaggered around like I ruled the world. Though to be fair, I did that even before this year. Dressed in tight jeans and a snug old baseball t-shirt, the total Zach package was, in a word, irresistible.

This rural town lacked an abundance of dining options, but this establishment was one of the mid-priced chain restaurants we did have called, I don’t know, Bland White People Restaurant. My company for the evening wanted to eat here before the fun part, so she selected this place. I agreed because she had a belly button ring and her parents weren’t home for the weekend.

I typically won contests of style, but Macy bested me in the fashionably late game we were apparently playing. The guy I used to hook up with, Brendan Carver, tended bar for the evening, so I went to speak to him. Recently 21, he took classes at a local community college, had insane upper body strength, and I probably couldn’t list anymore facts regarding him. Fortunately, I arrived in front of him at the bar.

“Want a drink?” he asked.

I grinned. “Oh forward, I like that in a man.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m the bartender.”

“Another great quality,” I enthused in fine form. I could go from zero to flirty quicker than a snap of the fingers.

Crossing his arms, he wouldn’t play. “Knock it off.”

Pouting slightly, I told him, “I forgot you’re no fun.”

Brendan went back to work, which I expected. We hadn’t hooked up in a while. Several guys I used to fool around with were more careful when near me in public. It made sense as I came out while they were still in the closet. Sitting on a barstool, I could still enjoy the view in front of me. A view which was…. okay, mostly average. In looks and in that watching a guy slice lemons wasn’t exactly the highlight of my life.

The assembly line which produced Midwest farm boy types gave Brendan a no-nonsense set to his jawline along with plain brown hair and eyes. A boring picture suited to this boring town. Except for his muscles, which were glorious. His sturdy frame exuded strength from working on his family farm and wrestling all through high school. Hey, I knew more facts. Guess he got a second job here.

Brendan had never been much of a talker, and no temper went with his strength typically. However, if provoked in the right way, or if I asked very, very nicely, then things could get interesting. This one time—

“Stop it,” he ordered, feeling my stare.

Innocence wasn’t well suited to me, but I tried my best.  “I’m not doing anything.”

“Stop it,” he repeated.

“Is that any way to talk to a paying customer?” I scolded lightly.

“You haven’t ordered anything yet.”

Don’t mind if I do. “I’ll have a margarita on the rocks with a double shot of tequila.”

“Nice try.” Yes, I was 18, not 21, and— “We both know how you get with tequila in you.” Oh, well look who came out to play.

Eyes locking, focus narrowing, the atmosphere between us became positively smoldering. I smirked, body going loose and inviting. He did the opposite, crossing his arms as his face closed off. Yet his eyes radiated heat. If the bar weren’t in the way, one of us would be closing the distance between our bodies. Well, I wouldn’t let a little obstacle like that stop me. I reached out and—

“I told you to knock that off,” he spoke gruffly, side stepping my hand.

“You started it this time.”

“High school boys are so juvenile.”

“That’s not what you said when we—”

“I have another customer.” He left to bring a man at the other end of the bar his check. I watched Brendan’s green work shirt stretch taut over his big shoulders when Macy found me.

“Are we eating at the bar?” she asked as Brendan finished with his customer and came back our way.

“Nope.” I nodded over to him. “Just trying to sweettalk the barkeep here into parting with some of his finest or cheapest liquor, but he refuses.”

“I see. Maybe I could convince him?” She pushed her cleavage out towards him.

“Not a chance,” he answered without taking the bait.

“I’ll go get us a table,” she said to me and left.

“I see why you two get along,” Brendan noted.

I feigned offense. “If you’re implying that me or my lady friend are promiscuous—”

“I wouldn’t say anything of the sort about a nice girl I don’t even know.” He looked around before getting out a shot glass and filling it with tequila. “You though.” He slid the shot to me discreetly. “You’re a slut,” he said with a wink, his voice as dark and rich as the top shelf whiskey behind him.

“It pays off.” I down the drink quickly, feeling the heat of it in my throat, liquor seeming potent when coupled with his gaze. I took a breath, nodding to him and preparing to leave to go find my date.

“Hey, wait. Did you know I got accepted to Brown?”

“Mazel tov,” I responded, ignoring how the words felt somewhat unsettling on my tongue due to a complicated situation that had virtually nothing to do with me.

“Yep, so next week, I’m telling my parents I’m ga—” His eyes scanned our surroundings, afraid of being overheard. “Well, you know what I’m telling them.”

“I understand.” It would suck if someone overheard him here and outed him right before he planned on doing it himself.

“Anyway,” he spoke while bestowing me with the gift of another shot. “If you wanna get together after the big announcement? We could do something. You can help me celebrate if it goes well, or distract me if it doesn’t.”

This shot tasted even better than the first, head swimming pleasantly with liquor and ideas for our future encounter. I nodded my assent. “See you then.”

I went to join my date for the evening. I knew I was good, but setting up plans to hook up with one person while on a date with someone else?  Sometimes I even surprised myself. And these two people were both good times, and they weren’t looking for anything serious from me, exactly what I was looking for from them.

Basically, I was the best. My life was the best. Everything was incredible and not at all boring… okay. Occasionally, a stray thought about where I went from here entered my mind. How did one improve upon perfection?

Whatever. Life was good. And if I had to choose between life being good but boring or terrible but interesting, well. Luke once told me never to answer that question. It might be the only time he said something sensible enough to listen to.

-Order your copy here. The book comes out on Oct. 18