Meet Avery Ward

The newest book from me is called Instalove, a magical YA LGBTQ novel. This book is about Avery Ward, a regular 17-year-old who thinks he’s falling in love for the first time. But when your family has magic and your younger sister is a stubborn little witch, nothing is as simple as it seems.

This is from the beginning of the book where Avery talks about his family and his connection to magic.

~

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.

However, there are always reminders that she’s not an ordinary little sister. It’s not fun to pull eye of newt or wing of bat out of the refrigerator when needing ketchup. Instead of listening to me on the phone or snooping in my text messages, she can cast a spell to read my mind.

Aside from the lesson to always know what you’re grabbing before putting it on food, Stella’s magic barely impacted my life. It intersected with me like a cold or a mild fever. There are a few days of congestion and mild discomfort and then the inconvenience goes away without any lasting damage.

At least that’s what I wanted to believe. It worked for a while. Her magic didn’t make a big impression on my life.

Until it did.

Instalove is available now!

Small confession time. This novel is about a guy who is crazy about another guy, but I’ve been using a tool called Bookbrush lately to make graphics like the above. And there’s lots of pre-made options involving ladies, so since Stella and her magic play a big role in making everything happen, I look at this as one of my few chances to actually use the templates with females.

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

Wood…

Black Cats and Bad Luck is a magical fantasy novel with witches and familiars. And magic! Obviously. While one of the main characters, Mason, has strange dreams that might be magical, unless he’s crazy, Mason himself isn’t part of the magical community. He does have one strange power in this deleted scene from the novel.

~

Mason

Different elements resonated with different people. Some possessed the fiery temperament of a raging inferno. Others were steady and calm as a peaceful river. Many Pagans were at home in the forest, the earth welcoming them in while birdsong created a melody, the perfect natural soundtrack.

Mason Lewis wasn’t any of those things.

If I guessed my affinity, I’d go with… wood. Which either sounded boring or suggestive. Though if wood spoke to me, then the message it delivered was extremely specific. Maybe because I worked with wood often or because the jobs I did on the side had a magical component, the first time I rested my hand on a wooden piece, I could get a sense of its creation. Here in the reception area of the hotel, I rested my palm on the tall counter at the front desk and a clear sense of mass production filled my mind.

Heh, this place came across as rustic and woodsy, all the furniture resembling pieces someone could hypothetically craft with their own two hands. There were spacious, oversized wooden coffee tables, desks, and chairs, all polished until gleaming in dark browns. No woodworker in a secluded forest hideaway made any of it. I touched it and heard ‘assembly line’ loud and clear.

These were my idle thoughts as I waited for my guests. At this relatively early hour, the place still smelled strongly of wood polish with something fresh in the air too. An older couple leisurely made their way in, and the man checked in while the woman with him walked right over to me. Her honeysuckle perfume couldn’t be detected until she wrapped her arms around me in a hug.

Instead of saying hello, she greeted me with, “Aren’t you going to shave your beard?” A hand moved to pat my cheek and rub at the scruff there as if it could be scrubbed away with a little elbow grease. “The pictures from this event will be with us forever.”

“Good to see you too, Grandma,” I greeted, unable to keep the smile off my face as we separated.

~

Meet Mason Lewis

Mason Lewis is one of the main characters in Black Cats and Bad Luck. While magic exists in his world, it’s not really part of his life growing up. Except for one thing. He’s been dreaming of his true love for as long as he can remember. The same visitor keeps appearing when he sleeps, a boy with black hair and green eyes. He grows up along with Mason. His name is Horatio.

Mason is eager to meet Horatio, though he tells himself the waiting makes the whole thing sweeter. It will all be worth it one day. Even if the guy is nowhere to be found and Horatio isn’t the most common name. He’s lucky. Not everyone gets this. The surety, the knowledge that their other half is out there somewhere, a comfort telling them to hold on because he’s not here yet but he’s coming. One day. He’ll hold the dreams close to his heart until he can hold the guy in his arms.

When the novel starts, the years have passed and things have changed. Mason is a 23-year-old who stopped waiting for Horatio. The death of his father put things in perspective and made him realize that the life he lives with his eyes open is most important.

The excerpt below comes from a scene where Mason is talking to his best friend Miranda about his strange dreams. They’ve become more frequent, which he doesn’t like.

I leveled with Miranda. “Look at us now. You’re about to be a High Priestess. I’ve got a great job lined up and a serious girlfriend. We’re downright stable and well-adjusted. When we first met, did you ever think we would get here? If past-you could see you now, what would you think?”

“Impossible,” she answered quietly. “I’d call this impossible.”

Miranda and I met in the Dead Parents Club. That was what we called our old support group. I lost my dad while both her parents were gone. If the ‘dead parents’ nickname sounded dark, the reality was even worse. As sullen, maladjusted teens, we sat on folding chairs in a church basement, scowling at everything and sobbing at the unfairness of the world in turns, trying to make sense of grief.

For a long time, I wanted to hurt. Screw moving on and healthy coping and whatever else the counselor talked about. Then I just wanted to breathe easier without every inhale feeling so labored, a near impossibility dragged from my lungs.

Somehow, I did get past the grief. I was doing better than I ever would have imagined. So maybe Horatio and I shared some impossible connection, but what I accomplished in the waking world seemed impossible too. My dad had been gone for close to a decade, which was a long time in some regards. And also not very long. I never thought I’d be able to pick up the pieces by this time.

“I need this, Miranda,” I said. “Because there’s always this thing, if not holding me back then holding me in place. I’m ready to go on. I need to go on.”

There was this moment not too long ago. My apprenticeship was wrapping up and there were two potential jobs waiting for me. The first one was a side project Miranda and I started on a whim a few years ago and could turn into a full-time business. The other was a position with an established home building company. The latter meant moving away, but a fresh start wouldn’t be so bad, and I was getting serious with Rachel. The future never looked better. Maybe I have things under control, I thought. I’m really going to be alright. That was when the dreams started again.

At the heart of every dream, the problem was the same. I desperately desired someone who didn’t exist, someone I never really met. The dreams had too much power over me. It felt like they could destroy everything I worked so hard for.

~

For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.

Former Feline Familiars (is this a tongue twister?)

For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.

One of the main characters is Horatio, a former familiar who is seeking his true love. You know how shapeshifters are a hot trend in fiction now? This is kind of like that, except it only works in one direction and only once. He spent some time in cat form, though he isn’t really a cat. Because when I try to write shapeshifters, apparently my brain cooperates to a point and then does its own thing.

In this scene, Horatio meets up with the young witch he lived and worked with, her older brother Avery, and his friend Jonah.

~

Avery

“Horatio is a cat.” I went over the facts, seeking comfort from them. “He eats from a black dish with little stars decorating the outside. He gets hair all over my pillows, he smacks me in the face with his tail. Because he’s a cat, our—”

“I hope you weren’t going to say pet,” he interrupted sternly.

“He’s right, Avery,” Stella said. Great, they were both glaring at me. “We don’t own him, we never did.”

Rubbing my face with both hands, I groaned. What the hell I did not even believe in? What the hell? All I could say was, “He’s not Horatio.”

“I am Horatio,” the guy argued.

“And you were lonely, so you followed us here?” And also grew human parts.

“No, you’re where I need to be, and I can sense you strongly. You’re my bridge between worlds.”

Not sure what to do with that, I only weakly said, “Horatio is a cat.”

“I was,” he agreed. “But no longer.”

Everyone had gone insane. I did not have enough sanity on my own to bring them all back to reality. So I did the only thing I could. I gave up, falling back on the bed, closing my eyes, and wishing the world a fond farewell. It would have to get along without me.

“Oh my god.” Jonah laughed. “Awesome! Are you serious?”

Distantly, a reasonable part of myself tried to mount a defense. It argued I shouldn’t allow a naked, possibly deranged guy to waltz in here just because he guessed the name of our cat.

 If anyone else showed up out of nowhere buck-naked claiming to be a family pet, or a rough equivalent, they would be full of shit. But this guy? I believed him. While the shape of him changed, he was still Horatio.

— the rest is available here. For free!