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!

Best Friend’s Brother

Sorry in advance, but when talking about this book, My Best Friend’s Brother by KC Wells, I am legally obligated (by myself) to post this video too.

Unpopular opinion: much as I adore that song, I didn’t love My Best Friend’s Brother, the book.

The plot is straightforward, a slow build ‘forbidden’ relationship between a younger brother and his older brother’s best friend. The two friends are young guys who like hooking up and haven’t been in many serious relationships, and the friend is worried his brother would get hurt.

Since it’s developing romance and there isn’t really another plot, there’s not much to do in the beginning. The growing sexual tension is good, though there’s just a lot of conversations about food, what their plans for the day are, or sightseeing. The sightseeing stuff was kinda interesting since the characters live in California, but I was underwhelmed with the rest.

Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the simple plot or storytelling, Just wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t even mind the pace since it was a slow build, it’s just not much else was happening during the ‘build’ part, and when the relationship does take off, then it flies by, and boom, it’s over. I could have used a little more payoff.

However, apparently everybody disagrees with me because the reviews for this book all seem excellent. So what do I know? If you want a low angst love story with some steam, check it out.

New Novel Characters

Ready to meet the main characters of my new M/M contemporary romance? Hopefully, because that’s what this post is about. The novel is called The Boy Next Door, featuring a shy artist who works up the nerve to confess his feelings for the boy next door, only to have his love note fall into the wrong hands.

This is a Kindle Vella novel, and the first three chapter are free, or available without spending any tokens. And if you haven’t checked out Vella yet, you should, because you can claim some free tokens to get started. (Right now Vella is just for US audiences.)

Sam Bell is the main character. He’s made a lot of progress since he was a young boy suffering from crippling anxiety. He’s now a high school senior who isn’t sure if he wants to pursue art or something else in college. Despite the eccentricities of his teacher, he’s excited to be in an honors art class and thinks now might finally be the right time to confess his love for his sweet neighbor Dylan.

Dylan Cruse is popular, good-looking, and almost certainly the love of Sam’s life. Even if the other guy doesn’t know it yet. While nice and easy to talk to, Sam and Dylan don’t have a ton in common. But they are both in photography club and grew up together as next door neighbors.

Quote: The school doors open, light from outside hitting him just right and making his blue eyes sparkle. And his hair color, a rich chestnut brown, is new and makes my knees weak.

Hunter Cruse is Dylan’s older brother. He’s nearly 21 and left home years ago in order to move to the West Coast and become a huge rock star. Now the drummer is back and just as mysterious and superior as ever. Sam’s afraid Hunter is going to stand in his way when it comes to Dylan. And he’s right. Because when Sam confesses his feelings in a note, Hunter intercepts the message and thinks it’s for him.

Quote: Hunter dyed his hair black as night practically as soon as he reached preteen years. The blonde fringe falling in his eyes now reminds me of the cherubic golden curls that framed his face when we met. His angelic appearance duped me into trusting him and he pushed me into the pond when I couldn’t even swim.

One New Cover

One New Start has a new cover! Look at those cute boyfriends, it makes me happy. This new version is pretty simple, but I love the way it turned out. I’m also happy a stock photo site had a few pictures of a dark haired guy and light haired guy being a couple.

Here’s the book blurb and an excerpt:

They’re off to a promising start. Or at least an interesting one.
Ryan Miller’s last year of high school is going to be just as fabulous as him. The senior creates a bucket list of new adventures like pulling pranks and party crashing. He even has the perfect partner in crime, his boyfriend Luke. What could go wrong?

Just as life starts going Ryan’s way, everything begins going downhill for his father and Luke. Can Ryan help the people he loves most, or will their struggles drag him down too?

This section from the novel is Luke envisioning what he wants for his senior year of high school. Will reality live up to his dreams? (Hint: no, not at all.)

Luke

Ryan didn’t have a lot of friends or fun in high school before junior year. Senior year meant a new start, a different chapter in his life. I wanted to be around for his adventures when I could to support him and spend time with him… and to make sure no one suffered serious bodily harm, but my goals were different.

I wanted senior year to be, I don’t know, shoes or a purse or something.

God, note to self, never say that out loud to anyone.

Though really, yeah. This year should be shoes or a purse or a belt. A complement to the rest. All the good parts of my high school experience.

Okay, there was one new goal. To win the championships. What could be better than captaining a championship team my senior year, having a boyfriend to cheer me on from the stands, and then spending time with him? Answer, of course, was nothing.

 I was living my best life. Last year was full of ups and downs. Falling in love with Ryan Miller? Super, super awesome. Coming out and stuff? Good, though also awful. And it was over now. It was smooth sailing from here on out. A victory lap after a mostly awesome high school experience.

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

Glitter and be gay

Glitter and be gay! This is the title for one of the September book giveaway groups I’m in. How can you argue with that? I can’t and don’t want to. The Glitter and Be Gay Giveaway lasts the whole month and features free books with LGBTQIA+ characters. Check it out!

Here’s a few of the novels that caught my attention.

He’s alive again. He doesn’t know why or even who he is. But a mysterious arcane organization has plans for him.
A witchy legacy seeks to prove herself at a new school.
Death is queer and his magic is evolving.

Review: Realigned by Becca Seymour

While the title of this blog is Hella Gay YA, I’ve never been good at staying on topic. And as an author of gay romances, I figure the important part is ‘gay’ anyway. So I’m going to share my thoughts on the novella Realigned by Becca Seymour.

The cover needs a special shout-out. GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS COVER. Yes, I needed to say it three times because it can’t be said enough. BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS COVER. Especially in the gay romance genre, this is one of my favorite covers ever.

Quick Summary: When Shaun returns home to the Australian outback, he must decide what to do when his vacation ends, either go back to his life in the United States or stay and start a relationship with police officer Mitch.

Tropes and Book Details: best friends, friends to lovers, small town romance, second chance, short story, contemporary, sweet, steamy

My thoughts: Realigned is fun, fast novella if you want a cute read with a little steam. This is one of the books I picked up in a giveaway and I’m glad I got the opportunity as I hadn’t ready any Becca Seymour before, but it won’t be the last book I read from her.

Plot: Some old author guy once said ‘you can’t go home again,’ but eight years is a pretty long time to stay away. So Shaun returns to the small-town he left behind, his loving family, and the best friend he’s always wanted more from. And if their relationship evolves, can he be convinced to turn his vacation into a permanent change of address?

This is the question the plot revolves around, but it’s more there in the background while the focus is on the relationship between the guys. And their relationship is the best part, so this works out just fine. There is some drama about how Shaun left and revelations from the past, but most of the angst is in the past.

Characters: When people say it’s not rocket science, they aren’t talking to Shaun because he is a rocket scientist. Yet it’s the heart he has trouble with. Isn’t that the way it goes? And also, I am not a rocket scientist, so I’m not totally sure about his job. He works for NASA and does something with the earth, but I’m rounding to ‘rocket scientist’ anyway.

Shaun’s childhood best friend Mitch is a sexy sweetheart who put Shaun’s own happiness first in the past, but now thinks they can be happy together. What else could you want from a fictional boyfriend?

Quote about Mitch

Both grew up in a small Australian community that feels authentic to me and will to you too, unless you are actually from a small Australian community, and then I can’t say whether the experience will ring true for you, but it’s probably close enough for a short story.

Final thoughts: For me, this story is super interesting, very cute, and even a bit steamy. It’s an entertaining read from start to finish. If you enjoy reading standalone novellas about sexy dudes with Australian accents, best friends becoming more, or gay romance in general, you’re good to go and will love every second.

I’m the person who finds something good and wants more of it, so I wish the book was longer, but I also think that’s the mark of a quality story when you’re left wanting more. And as someone who takes forever to read, I do see the value of shorter fiction, though this one felt more like a snippet than totally complete to me. So the perfect time to read this is when you’re in the mood for a quick, feel-good read.

Quote from the book

These free stories and more are available in June for the Sweet and Steamy MM Romance giveaway. As the title says, these are all free M/M novels that are sweet, steamy, or both.

A feel-good gay romance. Also dogs!
Shifters, hurt/comfort, and steam.
Fluffy, sexy short story.
Friends to lovers hockey romance.
Magical thieves, hook ups, and betrayals.

Guarded bar owner falls for a supposedly straight lead singer.

The Romance Book Party is up and running right now through June. While it’s open to straight romances as well, there are a fair number of queer books available in Kindle Unlimited, so check it out!

Here’s some of the gay romance that grabbed my attention:

Gay Paranormal Romance
Friends to lovers fake relationship
M/M Paranormal Romance

first lines

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

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

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

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

The melody had stopped.

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

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