New novel, Black Cats and Bad Luck

As a writer of contemporary romance, one might not know that I love fantasy stories. Especially magical ones. Hey guess what? I’m working on a new novel called Black Cats and Bad Luck. There’s magic. And familiars. And soulmates. And more!

This is of course a gay romance, and this is the beginning of the book. The first part is about a transformation. The second part is two boyfriends shopping in an occult store. Or trying to shop while also trying to make out.

~

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— 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.

An ordinary day can shift so quickly. After all, to go from idea to creation, it only takes a spark. The being in the 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, not yet, not yet, not yet, a melody he’d long since gotten used 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. Yes, 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. Inside, no sound either.

The melody had stopped.

A sound, perhaps fingers snapping. The scent of jasmine lingered in the air. The shift began.

Mystical forces swirled and coalesced on the being indulging in an afternoon nap and… things changed. Transformation, accompanied by only a slight popping sound. Limbs twisting, body bending, almost naturally, like the back when arched, making a bow of the spine in the stretch he knew so well.

Life expanded beyond instinct, beyond black and white. While he hadn’t moved, the bed no longer held a feline. This was something new. He was something new. Even his thoughts were transformed, into the kind with words.

A jumble of images poured into his head like milk from a saucer. Magic. Grace. Whiskers. All of it him and not him. Paws to hands. Hands and hearts. Holding a heart in one’s hands, feeling it beat, and knowing what it meant to live.

He lived. Alive. A person, a man. One with an opinion, small, yet his own nonetheless. His first viewpoint boiled down to this: yes. His mouth stretched up; the thought felt good.

“Meow,” he said. It didn’t feel right.

“Now,” he tried. That was better.

No more time to rest when he could do instead. He rose from the bed on two human legs. Larger than before, yet almost entirely compressed into this place called flesh. The world no longer laid out neatly to view with ease. Whatever came next, it wasn’t for him to know anymore. Time to experience life in a new way, second by second.

The world held endless possibilities, more than even he could conceive of. Whatever came next, it would be amazing. How could it not be? The world was full of wonder. Seconds ago, he used to be one thing. Now, he was another.

* * *

Mason

When his clever hands and nimble body pressed me against the shelves, the strongest urge rose within me to flip our positions and forget about how we were in a public place with a job to do. Putting a respectable distance between us seemed impossible, even though anybody could turn onto the last aisle in this occult store and see us between the portable cauldrons and apothecary kits.

His green eyes sparkled with mischief. The only explanation for why I crave him so much and the way he’s more intoxicating than any whisky? It had to be a spell.

Then again, I know absolutely nothing about magic. My best friend says a good witch recognized when to call on the supernatural and when to let nature run its course. Yes, it would be simple to invoke attraction by dabbing a little love potion on the neck. However, there’s no substitute for the real stuff. Lust felt so much better when truly earned.

“Relax,” Horatio said, the word more coaxing than soothing. “No one can see us back here.” Tall shelving dark as night hid us from the customers browsing through crystals, candles, and whatever aromatherapy oil I surely needed to calm me down.

“Can’t you keep your hands off me for a second?” I grumbled, though I don’t exactly have complaints about our position.

Horatio drew his hands away, amusement in those bright green eyes as he counted the seconds he kept his hands to himself. One, two, three. Then came the smirk, and he rolled his hips into mine, because no one said they were off limits and—

Dammit. My hands settled around his waist and drew him closer. I tried to protest. “Don’t we have more important things to focus on?”

“Oh, I am.” He pecked my lips quickly with his own. “I assure you.” Another peck. “I’m focusing on—” his mouth began a journey to a spot just below my ear, and he punctuated each word with a kiss. “—the most important part.”

The record would show I tried valiantly to keep us on track. I gave up, getting lost in him instead. Surely our task couldn’t be as important as putting one hand in his black hair and slipping my tongue inside his parted lips. Despite the shoppers in the next aisle, we might as well be the only two people in the world. Our mouths danced together hungrily and—

“Ahem.” Someone cleared their throat.

We froze as if we were guilty teenagers sneaking around, only our heads turning to the noise to see two older women eyeing us with amusement. One stepped forward, the beads on her bracelets jingling, as she reached by my shoulder for what she needed from the shelf.

My beard hid the flush on my face from being caught, though Horatio’s own clean-shaven face showed no embarrassment. Only smug pride, the cat who caught the canary or something.

“Sorry about this,” I apologized to the women without being able to look directly at them. “We were just, uh—”

It had been pretty clear what we were doing. They both smirked, letting the humiliation continue another moment before one took pity on me. “Relax,” she said and then looked to her companion. “We were just as bad before our own Joining, weren’t we?”

“Worse,” the other said with a wicked grin. She looked to us. “Congratulations.” They moved on, chuckling while they went.

With a slight head tilt, Horatio considered me. His pale neck curved only slightly, not showing off the full stretch of skin I loved. I sounded kind of vampiric, lusting after the curve of a neck. With Horatio, there was so much to lust over. I wanted to join our mouths again, but…

“About that ceremony of ours,” I reminded us both. We were here to pick up supplies for it.

Sighing, he pulled away, the reluctance short lived as he remembered something. “Did Miranda put any thought at all into this rite? Maybe I have high standards for a High Priestess, but it’s like she picked the first thing she saw on the internet.”

“Something wrong?”

“If it weren’t for the lavender, our candle would have no masculine scents, and it’s all a little obvious.” He made a distressed noise. “And don’t get me started on the cinnamon and moon water, is this a serious rite or a teenager’s love potion?”

Question seemed rhetorical but he stopped talking, so it was my turn to provide input. “Uh, get whatever you want.”

“You don’t have an opinion?”

“None of this is exactly my area of expertise.” One suggestion did pop into my mind, yet for some reason, the words wouldn’t go past my lips due to a sudden unease that made me hesitate. Pushing away the misgiving, I said, “We’re here now, you might as well grab what you want.”

His eyes fell on my body as he considered the suggestion, then he shook his head. “Alright, though it’s your ceremony too. I’d think you would care.” He began walking away.

Catching him around the middle, I pulled him to me once more, brushing our lips together. I whispered, “There’s nothing I care about more.”

Appeased, he grabbed me by the wrist as he led me around the store, plucking items from shelves and displays and handing them to me to carry, creating his own ritual in his head. Anyone else, I’d worry about unexpected side effects. With Horatio, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had magic running through his veins instead of blood. Uh. Not sure where that thought came from. It felt true, but unease crept over me again.

The whole ceremony was a formality, so there was no reason to have doubts. As far as I was concerned, he was already a part of me. We didn’t need an incantation to bind us together. People didn’t get closer than us.

When he requested my input a moment ago, only one suggestion came to mind. Dandelion. Those little scrubby flowers growing free in fields and unchecked corners of dirt. A weed by some definitions. The same things kids plucked out of the ground and pulled the petals from, playing games of does he love me, does he not, trying to summon their true love, and I…

My true love stood right beside me while we waited in line to pay. He wrapped an arm across my waist, and I didn’t need to look to know he was grinning because no way he would keep it ther-yep, his palm moved lower, cupping my ass. My noise of warning only made him grin. We—

“It’s your turn,” someone said. When it came to Horatio, nobody else better be getting a turn-oh. In line. It was our turn in line, so the person behind us wanted us to move ahead.

Okay, going to the store and paying for this stuff? I could do that much. I really couldn’t contribute anything else. Which herbs and flowers are masculine, and which are feminine? No idea. Nor could I find flowers to represent passion and sincerity or select crystals to aid in a long and healthy bond. I might not even be able to list all the possible steps in this upcoming ritual we were taking part in. I only knew that we would stand up in public and declare our love for each other. I wanted that part.

In fact, the amount I wanted the public declaration seemed almost bizarre. Why did displaying our love out in the open in front of witnesses and the daylight appeal to me so much? We did that all the time. As our actions in this store proved, we weren’t very good at keeping our feelings private and our hands to ourselves.

Screw it. “You go ahead,” I told the person behind us, pulling Horatio to me so the customer could step around.

I laughed and his mouth covered mine before the sound could be heard, so did it even count as a laugh or was it only an idea? Nonsensically I thought, when it comes to him, everything counts. Wrapping my arms around him, I kissed the hell out of him.

And then I woke up.

Groaning, I glanced to the alarm clock. 6:45 in the morning. My girlfriend was already up and out of the room for a morning run. With a sigh, I got up. Even though my guests wouldn’t arrive until after 10. I should make a pot of coffee. I had a feeling it would be a long day.

The trouble with dreaming about a guy who didn’t exist? He was never there when you woke up.


Scenes from a WIP

For some reason ‘scenes’ sounds better even though this is really a scene from a work in a progress. The story this piece is from is currently called ‘Instalove.’ I don’t think much introduction is needed because this is from the beginning of the book. I suppose one helpful tidbit is that magic is real. Avery Ward is a normal guy from a magical family, and he is at lunch trying to focus on his upcoming plans and not on a cute boy.

~

Christian Reyes had a laugh that was music to my ears. Sitting what felt like an entire continent away from him, I could still swear I heard that laugh despite the noise and chatter in the cafeteria. I tried to keep my eyes planted firmly on my own table but would glance at him every few minutes anyway. Chris, because he said no one but his grandmother called him Christian, was hard to look away from.

I forced my focus to the discussion at hand. We were discussing me, after all.

No wonder I had trouble concentrating. That’s what my sister Stella would say. Gods, Avery, it’s like you try to be so boring and plain on purpose. My sister Stella was rude.

“Vote for Avery Ward, he’ll turn mystery meat into gold,” Jonah Harris said, staring at the dark colored sludge on his plate, pushing it around instead of eating it. I only sighed and offered him half of my sandwich. “We can add in a tiny disclaimer,” he added while happily taking the food. “Asterisk, Avery contracts out for magical feats.”

Yeah, because that was the part I had a problem with.

I didn’t have to veto the idea. Heather Redding did instead. “Okay, that doesn’t even make sense, Jonah.”

There were a bunch of us at the long, narrow table, my usual crowd, and someone who wasn’t involved in the discussion made a comment about how Jonah not making sense actually made a lot of sense because it was Jonah. Our foursome sat at the end of the table this time as we discussed my campaign for student council, something the rest of my friends weren’t a part of aside from when they would cast a vote for me.

“Who cares whether it makes sense?” Jonah argued. “The takeaway there is free gold.

I didn’t want to reject his idea, as some half-remembered thought about how all ideas were good ideas in brainstorming sessions rattled around in my mind. Even though this was a terrible idea, but my three closest friends were acting as free campaign staff, so I wanted to encourage them… I also wanted them to have better ideas.

“It still doesn’t solve the problem of what to eat for lunch,” Dae Park interjected quietly. …Was that what we were supposed to be talking about? Did I even have control over what we had for lunch as Student Council President? Probably not, but still, my big platform was, what, school lunch sucks?

…Maybe Stella had a point.

“People can buy lunch with the free gold,” Jonah argued to Dae, then turned to include us all. “Guys, how can you not get this?” He paused for effect before carrying on while making an emphatic gesture with his hand. “Free gold!”

This was not very helpful, but it was at least somewhat relevant to what we were trying to discuss, so I should jump in and get us back on track before Jonah really got carried away. My eyes drifted towards the center of the room instead, where the owner of the melodic laugh sat.

If this square-shaped room had its edges sanded away and was a world onto itself, which it pretty much was even without more circular dimensions, then the table Chris sat at was probably North America. Flashy, the biggest and best, and pretty great all things considered, but not exactly as great as many of the inhabitants thought. All the popular, pretty athletes sat at his table and he certainly fit among them.

Chris Reyes, however, lived up to the hype. He was the best of the best. The Latino Captain America, a shining example of how right genetics and personality can occasionally go. Chris wore a long-sleeved red shirt, one I don’t think I’d seen him in before. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to him, the reason I couldn’t help but stare at the way it hugged his shoulders. Or maybe someone had cast a spell and I was now part bull, drawn to the color against my will.

Maybe Chris Reyes was just super attractive.

I shouldn’t be watching him! My friends are being kind enough to dedicate their lunch break to talking about me and my extracurricular ambitions. If this school was a world, my table would be, I don’t know, somewhere in Europe probably, but not the whole continent. Or if it was a continent, maybe Australia. You knew it existed and was a neat enough place, maybe even somewhere to visit, but it wasn’t the center of attention.

Heather nudged me and drew me out of my impromptu geography class. “Please talk some sense into him before he gets too carried away with this.” She nodded her head at Jonah.

“Wait, wait, are unicorns a thing?” Jonah asked, getting carried away. “We should totally bring in some unicorns.” He saw our expressions. “Okay, right, one thing at a time.” He nodded decisively. “Free gold.”

“Alchemy is a specific kind of magic and isn’t really allowed,” I informed him. I kept my explanation short as I bit into a cherry tomato from my salad. I didn’t always have salad for lunch, except for when my family’s garden in our backyard yielded fresh produce. The tomatoes, cucumber, and spinach leaves in my salad seemed especially delicious. Maybe because of the labor put into making the vegetables grow, or possibly because of the spell cast for a bountiful harvest. I guess Stella had her uses.

No one questioned my statement about alchemy, which was good because I had nothing to follow it up with. They trusted my statement since I was the only one that came from a magical family, and what I said might even be true. People making free gold would be disastrous for the world economy or something. My parents would know more, but I wasn’t going to ask them and find out. I didn’t have powers, so I didn’t have to worry about the rules governing them.

Jonah frowned down at his food. “You could at least tell me when lunch is gonna suck.” If I did possess any latent mystical abilities, my biggest skill was an innate knowledge of what quality the cafeteria food would be on a given day.

“You could just get the printout and see for yourself,” Heather said with all the sass she could muster. It was a lot of sass. Yeah, anyone could also judge the cafeteria menu themselves by getting a menu, so it wasn’t a very useful talent.

Heather and Jonah got off topic snarking at each other in their usual fashion, so I was free to tune out after sharing the standard, commiserating glance of ‘why are we the only sane ones’ or ‘why are friends with them’ with Dae; I couldn’t figure out which one it was as my attention was happily pulled away, back towards Chris Reyes.

Physically, the tall athlete had broad shoulders and caramel skin with a trim midsection and very lickable abs, which I knew from experience. His shoulders hinted that he played football, but that was just a coincidence, since soccer was his game and he happened to serve as a kicker for the football team. All this meant his legs were phenomenal. His long, lithe legs and muscular thighs were all the proof anyone needed that God or Magic or whatever was real.

Plot Device

Have you ever read books before? If so, you know the part in every adventure/fantasy/epic series where the hero faces a mysterious journey. And nobody knows what’s going on, but then someone wise appears and is happy to tell the protagonist more about their destiny. Wow, how great is it they just happened to run into somebody who knows all the relevant information? Except then the wise person opens their mouth, wolves appear, and they totally get eaten by wolves.

To be fair, I guess that doesn’t happen in every adventure book. Only about half. In the other half, the Person Who Knows Everything has to be secretive and can’t tell the hero more because of reasons. Maybe the reasons are good. Maybe they aren’t. What the reader hears is, ‘This is a plot device, so I can’t tell you more information because that would be too easy.’

I was about to discuss something in Witch Eyes, but I can’t. Because of reasons! Actually, the reasons are simple and can be stated clearly, assuming I don’t get attacked by wolves  before completing the next sentence. I wanted to talk about something I appreciated in the novel and then I realized maybe I should be less direct because it’s technically a spoiler.

Witch Eyes uses one of the methods I described, or something similar, to avoid giving too much away. But it comes in spell form, which I really respect, making the plot device something magical. Instead of just writing around the plot device, it’s literally part of the story. Cool!