For the love of a good man

Ryan is a brainy overachiever. He imagines becoming a brilliant scientist who makes grand discoveries and is only a little mad. Being a mad scientist isn’t required for some chemists, doctors, and whatnot, but a little insanity is non-negotiable for Ryan. Here’s an excerpt where he talks about his plans and what he wants for his relationship with Luke. This possibly relates to how love, and a little insanity, can turn anyone into a fool.

The post is to celebrate the release of a new contemporary gay romance from me. One Big Decision is the hilarious and heartwarming final novel in the One More Thing series which follows a small-town couple as they navigate high school.

Ryan

I wanna do great things. I wanna discover answers to nature’s mysteries. Help people, save lives, be great. And I wanna be happy too. In the grand scheme? One man’s happiness is the least important concern. When you’re living it, it matters so much. The impossible dream is to have everything and love too, especially love.

So if you tell a few lies, burn a few bridges to get everything, you can still probably sleep at night. Even if it’s not right, you behaved poorly for the same reason geniuses turn into fools, kings lose their kingdoms, people with everything gratefully give it all away and accept nothing. For the love of a good man.

God, if I can just have this, if I can have him, I’ll never want anything else again. Yeah, it’s a lie. One more potent than a trick of the light because the kicker is, it’s real in the moment. It’s the only truth you know. For a little while.

What else could I do? I followed my heart.

Cover for Black Cats and Bad Luck

For this cover reveal I feel like I should have built up the moment more or done something fancy because I LOVE this cover. Instead, I’m going to wing it in my usual fashion. This book is new for me because it’s my first contemporary fantasy and new adult novel. It’s still a gay romance about magic, familiars, and a love story that began in dreams.

This complete, full-length novel of around 100,000 words should soon be available in many places, but is now only offered in giveaways like this one. It is abundantly obvious to me that I didn’t make this, though you might not be aware if you don’t know me. This cover was made for me and is probably my favorite cover for any of my books.

Here’s a scene from the book. During this section, Avery Ward and his family are arriving at a resort in the Colorado wilderness for a vacation and family reunion. Avery thinks he knows how much magic will occur on this trip (not much.) Avery is wrong.

~

Avery

Around the resort, everything looked picture perfect with fresh cut grass, flowers, and shrubs neatly lining walking paths. The well-maintained areas eventually gave way to the woods. A seemingly endless forest surrounded the property. Outdoorsy types, Pagans, nature lovers, and so on would really appreciate the place. The air was so full of an earthy scent, reminiscent of pine with other notes I couldn’t wait to uncover.

It was difficult to feel anything other than cheerful and optimistic when in a place so beautiful. This would be—

“Awful,” proclaimed Jonah Harris, the friend I’d been allowed to invite along. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard! We’re stuck here all week and there’s no magic? Not even a little bit? None? None at all?”

Stella and I exchanged a glance. You tell him, she wordlessly expressed. He’s your friend.

“Yeah,” I confirmed wearily. “None means none.”

“But…” He made a pathetic noise. “What the hell?”

Hefting his blue travel bag over his shoulder, Jonah sagged under its weight. He was mixed race with dark hair and brown skin. He stood much taller than me, yet he reminded me of a kid closer to Stella’s age, one who just discovered the fat present bringing man, uh, who… oh. Jonah resembled a kid who just found out Santa wasn’t real, desperately seeking confirmation from his parents, wanting to believe any alternative to the truth if given the chance.

“Did I forget to mention the ‘no magic’ thing?” I asked even though the answer was clear. Why should I have mentioned it? It wasn’t going to be any different from our regular life. Well, mine and Jonah’s.

Jonah kicked at the dirt of the parking lot. “Man, this sucks.”

“I know how you feel,” Stella consoled. “I couldn’t even bring my familiar.” She sent me a worried look. “I hope he’ll be okay on his own.”

“There will be magic after the ceremony,” I promised Jonah.

“That’s at the very end! The whole reason I came on this trip—” He cut off abruptly.

“No, keep going,” I prompted. “The whole reason you came on a trip with me, your very best friend—”

“Best male friend,” he clarified, suddenly able to carry his bag with ease and walking ahead.

We were both males so, “That’s the most important kind,” I told his back.

“How sexist,” he accused, wheeling around in outrage. “Really, is this the example you wanna set for your little sister?”

“I’m repeating what you said when you complained forever because I—”

“You invited Heather first over me! Thanks for reminding me. I’m still deeply hurt, by the way. We probably shouldn’t mention any of this ever again unless we want to ruin the trip.” Too bad Heather couldn’t come. She was busy. Jonah waited a few seconds before asking, “Did I successfully turn things around?”

“It is a free trip,” Stella noted. “Whether there’s magic or not, it’s a pretty good deal.”

“Thank you, Stella,” I said, smiling at Jonah. But I couldn’t help the feeling that it would be a long week.

–the full story is available here.

Explore the World in YA LGBTQ books

Taking readers to new worlds is one of the pleasures of literature, but being transported to different lands from the comfort of one’s couch has become especially important in these times. Here’s a virtual travel guide of YA books that spans the globe. All you need is your imagination and a good book to immerse yourself in a new culture. I used the Buzzfeed list by Dahlia Adler to narrow the list down for those who want their globe trotting exploration to include queer characters.

Who: Adib Khorram

What: Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Where: Iran

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming—especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Key elements: mental health, coming of age, friendship, self confidence, bi POC, immigration, religion


Who: Agay Llanera

What: Another Word for Happy: A story about coming out

Where: Philippines

Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?

Key Elements: college, coming out, Filipino, art, religion


Who: Ciara Smyth

What: The Falling in Love Montage

Where: Ireland

Saoirse doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out. But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Key elements: romantic comedy, WLW, humor, dementia, best friends, angst



Who: Lucas Rocha

What: Where We Go From Here

Where: Brazil

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating.

Key elements: friendship, mental health, gay rights, Latnix, multiple POVs, toxic masculinity


Who: Emily O’ Beirne

What: Points of Departure

Where: Australia

Five girls, five tickets overseas. It’s exactly what they all need after the final slog of high school. But when Kit’s suddenly forced to drop out, Liza’s left with three girls she barely knows.

There’s Mai, committed only to partying. There’s Tam, who already has her doubts about leaving her sick father behind. And there’s Olivia, so miserable about screwing up exams she’s not even sure she wants to get out of bed, let alone on a plane. Meanwhile Kit’s stuck working double shifts to pay off a debt, wondering if she’ll ever get it together.

Key elements: road trip, friendship, multiple main characters, standalone, coming of age, WLW


Who: Adiba Jaigirdar

What: The Henna Wars

Where: Ireland


When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Key elements: rivals, Muslim characters, WLW, cultural appropriation, bi POC, sisterhood, enemies to lovers


Who: Vitor Martins

What: Here the Whole Time

Where: Brazil


What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Key elements: body issues, self esteem, Latnix, coming of age, sweet, pop culture



Who: Tochi Onyebuchi

What: War Girls

Where: Nigeria


Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Key elements: dystopia, war, WLW, fantasy, historical, adventure, family, bi POC


Who: Cecilia Vinesse

What: The Summer of Us

Where: Europe


American expat Aubrey has only two weeks left in Europe before she leaves for college, and she’s nowhere near ready. Good thing she and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last group trip across the continent. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible with their friends Clara, Jonah, and Gabe.

Key elements: road trip, summer, adventure, coming of age, standalone, WLW


Who: Elizabeth Acevedo

What: Clap When You Land

Where: Dominican Republic

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Key elements: poetry, grief, family, bi POC, Latinix, WLW, historical, immigration


Who: Sabina Khan

What: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Where: Bangladesh

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart.

Key elements: WLW, arranged marriage, abuse, standalone, social issues, emotional


Who: Randy Ribay

What: Patron Saints of Nothing

Where: Phillipines


Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Key elements: some LGBT representation, politics, Filipino characters, death, drugs, mystery


Who: Cindy Pon

What: Want

Where: Taiwan


Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

Key elements: queer supporting characters, cyberpunk, dystopia, sci-fi, action

Striking Out

Presented without commercial interruption, here is a scene from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas where one boy wants to impress another after their first meeting did not go well.

Zach

Right inside the doors of the main school hallway, there was a big brown bin off to the side for a can food drive. Tyler was heading there, if the can of green beans that rolled over to me was any indication. We were outside in front of the school, almost the same spot where I made out with a different guy as part of this insane scheme to—wait.

Instinctively, I moved to pick up the can that landed near my blue Pumas. However, my arms were holding a box filled with more cans for the same drive, so I squatted and then paused while considering logistics, and then I realized I looked stupid and needed to desist immediately. Which meant Tyler walked over and picked up his fleeing item instead.

“Altruism?” he asked, indicating the box in my arms with a note of approval in his voice. Before I could answer, he realized, “Oh, your family owns a grocery store, right? They gave you stuff to donate.”

Carrying the stuff in instead of making my scrawny little brother do it counted as a good deed for me. I recognized voicing the thought wouldn’t help, so I instead flashed him a charming smile and said, “I think we got off on the wrong foot.”

He made a noise of agreement. “You mean where I was polite, and you were sort of a dick?”

“Yeah, like I said. Wrong foot.”

“Was your behavior in anyway different from how you normally treat people?”

“Okay, we got off on the regular foot.” I redoubled down on a charming smile. “I now see that was a mistake.”

“I thought we were on the same page about this. I think being queer is all we have in common.” The words were apologetic yet firm.

“We could find out,” I suggested, halfhearted. How did I proceed? He continued to be immune to me.

Perhaps he began to thaw. “Alright, maybe we could get to know each other better.”

“Yeah?” Some internal organ leaped at the words, and I ordered it to knock that shit off. Hold on. Was that too easy? Was the chase over already? We probably didn’t have anything in common, so what was the point of—

“We can get to know each other.” A sly smile appeared on his face. “If you tell me one thing you aren’t good at.”

~

Cults and other weirdness

Do you ever get a weird song stuck in your head? If you are a human being, the answer is probably. And if the human being is me, then I have a song stuck in my head right now. I guess it’s just the subject matter that’s weird, because the song is oddly catchy. The subject is cults.

 

Speaking of weirdos, I write a series about a giant loser and his boyfriend. This is a cut part from One Little Lie where Ryan and Luke are hanging out in Ryan’s room being cute. They can’t be as on top of each other as they want to be because Ryan’s dad is home, they are teenagers, and Ryan’s father possibly owns a firearm. Okay, you are caught up.

~

Luke

“As much as I like your dad, you should probably open the door, so he doesn’t come back.”

“I don’t wanna get up.” Ryan groaned and buried his face in my chest. “Carry me.”

“Yeah, like that would work.”

Ryan was taller than me, though it was hard to tell when we were lying on the bed and he was clinging onto me like an octopus. I poked him in the side with a finger and he squirmed, so I did it again. He clung onto me tighter in retaliation, but I didn’t mind him being pressed up close to me in the first place, so I let him.

“Are you calling me fat?” he asked in a mock scandalized tone but didn’t pull away.

“I’m calling you a giant.” I wrapped my arms around him instead of pushing him away like I was supposed to. This wasn’t cuddling or something girly like that. It was just… a lying down hug. Okay, that didn’t sound any better.

He pulled his head back enough to glare. “You’re ruining the mood.”

“Think your dad did that,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s good at that,” Ryan sighed before pulling away and getting up and opening the door.

“Too bad,” I continued. “I’m sure you were looking forward to doing that yourself.” Ryan was a smartass and could be kinda awkward, so he wasn’t the smoothest guy I’d ever dated. Well, no, he was, because he was the only guy I ever dated. Somehow, he made being weird seem attractive.

He came back and sat on the bed, hitting me in the stomach with a hand. “How dare you,” he protested. “I am romantic and sexy and errrrrotic.” He dragged the ‘r’ sound out while waggling his eyebrows at me.

Okay, sometimes he made being weird attractive and sometimes he was just weird. But still, it was cute coming from him. Even if I didn’t tell him that. “See that right there?” I asked smugly. “Ruining the mood.”

Promising Start to Gay Supernatural Series: Review of ‘Witch Eyes’ by Scott Tracey

Okay, so you know those epic book and movies series that are all intense and exciting? To set the scene, there’s a world vastly different than ours, yet still relatable. Then add in young heroes, unimaginable danger, and impossible love stories. This is almost Witch Eyes.

Imagine something like Harry Potter or Hunger Games or Divergent. Take the awesome fantasy series of your choice and insert it here. Then go to that moment where you’re like, man, this is awesome, but hey, here’s a wild idea. What if there were also gay people?

That’s Witch Eyes.

Who knew I could explain a whole story without actually giving away one plot detail? Should I go into more specifics? I guess. ‘Magical YA series’ with gays is all I need to hear, but reviews typically include… reviewing. Okay, here’s some more information about
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey.

Spoilers!

I will try to be more general about the twistiest parts, but there’s probably going to be some:

spoilers

 

I’m not sure how popular of an opinion this is, I also don’t care, but I adore River Song. So unpopular or popular opinion, River is my favorite doctor. Followed by Martha Jones, because I’m physically incapable of not being difficult. And they are both doctors even though they aren’t “The Doctor.” Anyway, there’s spoilers, sweetie.

The book has suspense and dark secrets, like any good fantasy series, so there are some big mysteries, but there’s also a lot of little ones. The plot kind of unfolds piece by piece, so you don’t really know anything until you do. Does that make sense? Basically, every single part is a mystery, until you read it, and then it’s just part of the plot.

The slowly unraveling mystery of everything is done really well. Like damn. Very nice pacing, and just when things even out or my interest started to wane, bam! There’s a twist I didn’t see coming, and it all changes.

Plot!

Braden is this kid with crazy strong magic that makes his eyes painful and powerful.  In the real word, his eyes are sensitive and he can’t see very well. In the supernatural realm, he Sees more than he should. When danger looms, he flees to get answers by going to the place where he was born. He slowly learns about his hometown and the mysteries surrounding it and his life. The story has familiar elements but feels fresh and original, and overall is incredibly intriguing.

From the book:

There was more to the world than what most people saw…. Everything that had ever happened in a place, to a person, or because of something left an imprint…

Witch eyes, my uncle called them. A “gift.” I was “special.”

Sometimes being special wasn’t a good thing.

It was every horror movie nightmare come to life… Every time I unleashed the power of my visions, it was only a matter of time before I was overwhelmed. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of memories in a place, and all of them funneled into me all at once. For as long as they ravaged through me, I was at their mercy.

Supernatural! (I started with the exclamation points, so I’m going to keep going)

There’s a magical world hiding in a regular town, so many people are unaware of the very messed up place they live. The mystical elements and battles of good and evil are interspersed through daily life. If you get bored easily, I think there’s enough action to hold your interest.

I am going to be vague and boring with a list to avoid giving away too much. The supernatural elements that star heavily allegedly involve: psychic powers, curses, werewolves, witches, demons, and wards.

Braden’s powers are especially fun because it’s a cool opportunity to change the writing up and see things in a different perspective. His eyes give him insight into the location he’s physically at and can show him the hidden depths of people. I freaking love his powers.

Bright light smacked me in the face, drawing out colors and images that weren’t there a moment ago.

Rings of purple bruising from the tears I never should have trusted him angry red stains copper on the carpet must get that fixed fire bowing down in his wake all angry oranges and gas blues money green in my purse the best job I’ve ever had. Why doesn’t he respect me as much as the resting gold dulled into unremarkable grays I am nothing he was right I should disappear.

Not Supernatural!

Right along with the magical elements are the messy human complications that pollute the town. There’s a giant feud between two families, the Lansings and Thorpes. The conflict has supernatural origins but spills over into regular life so everyone knows the town is divided between two sides.

If you have ever read a book or watched a movie, you will not be surprised that Braden’s father is the head of one side. His love interest’s mother is the head of the other side. Cue the inherent drama! And if you’re thinking this sounds like Romeo and Juliet but with magic and gay, that’s exactly what the author was going for, and it’s fantastic.

Between the magical and regular elements, and how everything blends together, there’s a lot going on. If you don’t have the memory of a goldfish, unlike me, you might be able to set the book down and come back to it. But I recommend not leaving this world too long before finishing the story or you might forget the details.

Love Story!

To sum up the romance, I think this quote works well:

You barely know him, I reminded myself. He was nice to look at, but he was kind of a dick. I definitely didn’t trust him.

Isn’t that the way it always starts? Braden and Trey don’t trust each other at first. But they are drawn to each other anyway. They have the setup for a really, really, really good love story. Like one from a movie where it’s all epic and star-crossed.

Okay, here’s part of a conversation between the two where they discuss names and nicknames.

“Cyke? Like Cyclops? From the X-Men? What’s wrong with Braden? It’s been working for me all my life.”

“Everyone gets to call you Braden,” he said, flashing me a wicked smile that was like a punch in the gut. “I’m the only one calling you Cyke, right?”

“You realize you’re annoying, right?”

Trey‘s smile was brightly comfortable. “I’ve heard that once or twice.

My note for this part was ‘dfldadgjlgfenvd.’ So I like their flirty, charged banter.

The only slight downside is that their relationship, and the whole novel, isn’t exactly incomplete, but it’s more like a set up for future events. So if you want a standalone read, this probably isn’t it. There’s a lot of promise overall, but it’s clear there’s more story to tell.

More!

There’s a lot of subtle humor in the narration by Braden that I really appreciate. And I like how the intense gravity of the supernatural crises and challenges are balanced with some comedy. So I’ll end with a few lines I enjoyed.

I forced myself to finish my homework before considering plans to raise the dead.

Something howled in the distance. It sounded like a wolf, but that was impossible. There weren’t wolves for hundreds of miles. Just some dog with delusions of grandeur.

“I’m an open book,” I said flatly. “Really.”

“Maybe in Latin. Or Arabic.”

Book News, plus dinosaurs! One of these things isn’t true.

Have you ever played the game ‘two truths and a lie?’ Do you want to play now? Whatever you answered, I can’t hear you, so I’m just going to keep going. Okay, the way the game works is I say three things, then you guess which one is the lie. Ready? Again, I can’t hear you. Go!

1. F.N. Manning, me, has a new story available.

2. I actually have four new stories available.

3. The new thing I’m talking about is on sale right now!

Um, maybe I should build the suspense instead of just telling you the answer. I’m going to tell you anyway. Number three is the lie. Because the story is free, so there is no sale, because you never have to pay for it. Free!

When We Were Strangers is a prequel to the first book in the One More Thing Series, One Little Word. No knowledge of the series is required to read this short story. Well, there are actually four stories altogether, which are all included in the prequel.

Here is the beginning of one story. You literally need to know no information to read this, but I’m going to tell you some stuff anyway. Zach (and friends) crash a wedding, where he flirts with an older guy and goes on a quest.

~

Zach

Under no circumstances would I ever base my life choices around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Yes, they were rich and famous, but at what cost? They were still Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Which meant that my decision to crash a wedding reception occurred for one reason and only one reason: free alcohol.

The party took place in our hotel, and we had a break from our baseball tournament. Me, Luke Chambers, and Joey Wilson made a marginal effort to blend in by splitting the dressier clothing I packed. A formality, as getting caught hadn’t even occurred to me, because who really cared?

Apparently, Samuel cared. The uptight groomsman who seemed unfamiliar with fun and party etiquette, though watching Luke fail to bond with him was amusing.

“We’re no different than everyone else here,” Luke tried with a charming smile. “We just wanna have a good time.”

“Except everyone else was invited,” said the fun police.

Never great at thinking on his feet, Luke smiled harder, counting on his all-American good looks, green eyes earnest and dimples peeking out. “Come on, Sam—”

“It’s Samuel,” he corrected instantly with a glare. “Hardly on nickname basis as we’re strangers.”

“I’m Luke. Nice to meet you, Sam.” Luke held out his hand.

“It’s still Samuel.” Still Samuel stared at the outstretched hand dubiously until it was removed.

Luke sent me a desperate look. I mouthed ‘you got this,’ gave him a thumbs up, and left him to investigate the alcohol situation. Yes, we were best friends, but this way was more fun, and I still wanted to drink.

Sorry not sorry about stealing thunder from the bride I’d never met, but everyone could see Zach Ahmad looked damn fine. With flawless brown skin, expertly styled hair, and a roguish smirk, I… oh wait. There was a reason my amazing good looks were important. I would get to that momentarily.

As Luke took my dinner jacket, I only wore the under layers, a grey vest and a long-sleeved white dress shirt. My impeccably fit body was highlighted in the tailored clothing, and my ass looked incredible in the dark pants. Joey stole my red tie for himself as he was too big for my clothes, and he always wore whatever he wanted regardless of dress code anyway. I half respected that. I would respect it fully if he had better taste.

Anyway, back to Zach.

After discovering only those with wristbands got free, no-questions-asked alcohol, I glanced back towards Luke and caught Samuel’s eyes moving away from me. So… that could work. I interrupted Samuel boring Luke to death and took care of the situation, at least 70% sure Samuel wanted me.

Sometime after being awesome and gaining us admittance and free alcohol, I lost track of my friends. I stood at the edge of the dancefloor with Samuel. A peppy song about everything being great played loudly while people danced and had fun. A good time had by all, except for or including us? Unclear.

“Look Zach,” Samuel began, then faltered. “Do you go by Zach or Zachary? Is Zachariah an option?”

“Never,” I shot down, then sent him a small smile. “It’s Zach. Can I call you Sam?”

“Um, yeah,” he answered, nervous but no hesitation. “Sure, if you want.” He definitely wanted me.

“What’s on your mind, Sam?” I asked.

“Okay, one thing.” He seemed to psych himself up mentally before managing to speak. “Crashing a party for free booze when you’re obviously underage, uh.” Samuel shook his head. “I may not condone this, but I won’t stop you.”

“You did give us the wristbands.” I held up my wrist with the neon green band attached.

“Alright, I condone it a little.” He frowned, thinking. “Enabling, that might be the better term. I wanted to make clear, I’m not judging, but I am, well.” He shrugged helplessly. “I see through what you’re doing.”

“Okay?” I arched one eyebrow, the gesture and single word slightly dismissive out of habit. Some people had ‘resting bitch face.’ ‘Resting bitch everything’ was my default setting.

“Apparently I’m alright with corrupting a minor, but I’m not an idiot,” he explained, potentially flushing. Hard to tell with his beard. “I saw through the plan, that’s all. I want to be clear.” He crossed his arms. No jacket, sleeves rolled up, lots of hair there. “I sound silly, don’t I?”

“A little, yeah.” I smiled. “Though I do understand where you’re coming from. Going along with it is different than being duped. I’d be bothered at the impression of being outsmarted by a bunch of high school jocks too.”

His blue eyes widened with panic. “You’re in high school?”

Shit. “You didn’t know? You said—”

“21 is the legal drinking age! Which by the way, I am also younger than. Not that I’ve imbibed.”

“Gonna start?” Rhetorical, because my invitations weren’t turned down. The only thing I did better than resting bitch everything was becoming inviting.

His head bobbed up and down in a nervous nod. “Lead the way, I guess.”

I led the way.

-Read the rest here.

Fashionably Late, scene from M/M romance

On every other Monday, I post deleted scenes and outtakes and whatnot from my novels. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I never stopped at all… okay, do you see where I’m going with this? If not, then yes, everything is going according to plan, and I’m awesome.

But it’s possible I stopped posting these for a while. I guess I don’t have to point it out. I could just pick up where I left off and pretend I never got off track… I believe in honesty and transparency or something? Mostly, I’ve already started writing this post, so I’m gonna keep going.

Here is a different version of a scene from One Little Lie. You don’t need any knowledge of this series to read this, but helpful information to know is: Ryan is here, he is queer, and actually, he’s not here. Because he’s late. Ryan is trying to meet his boyfriend before school starts, but he isn’t on time.

~

Ryan

Luke Chambers is the popular golden boy who charms teachers and parents, has an easy smile for everyone, and gets along with people. Basically, he’s completely different from me, but there’s just so much I like about him. You know, in a totally mature and reasonable manner and not like I’m some tween girl with a crush who writes his name in little hearts.

Just… he has a strong throwing arm and sandy blonde hair. And he’s my idiot boyfriend who is so fun to tease. He’s ridiculous, fun, and unexpectedly sweet. Sure, he’s unbearable like 40% of the time, but we can make out now. It’s easier to forgive anything after making out.

Maybe I  have a notebook full of doodles including his name, my name, and various versions of our names smushed together, surrounded by hearts and flowers. It’s kept at home where it’s safe. I’m a scientist. It started as an experiment where I wondered if people actually did stuff like that, and then it was kinda fun to write, “Ryan and Luke 5eva.” Somehow I filled up a bunch of pages or whatever. Shut up.

Let’s talk about something less embarrassing.

My sweet, considerate boyfriend was the reason I arrived at school early. That asshole. Already ten minutes behind schedule, I moved through the halls as quickly as possible without outright running. It would be just my luck to run into a hall monitor for the first time ever while my boyfriend waited for me, tapping his foot and furrowing his brow slightly in a frown that I’d want to kiss away, but he wouldn’t let me because he’d be cranky.

Did we even have hall monitors? Would there be a hall monitor before school started? Probably not. Okay, that was one less thing to worry about.

The plan had been to meet at my locker, but I went to Luke’s anyway, figuring he gave up on me. I could already feel the pissed off vibes emanating from Luke as I turned onto the hallway where his locker was located. He was pretty good at hissy fits for someone who was supposedly macho and straight before me, but I doubted he’d take that as a compliment.

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!

 

 

Go dancing, a M/M short story

Here is a short story, loosely inspired by the song “Stay Young, Go Dancing” by Death Cab for Cutie.

 

If all the world were a stage, I preferred a behind the scenes role. Yet all eyes were fixed on me as I puzzled my way through slow dancing. I was hyper aware of his warm hand in my own and the heavy weight of my partner’s other hand on my lower back. My dance partner! A bigger commitment couldn’t be assigned. We never even had a conversation before. He only stretched one arm out towards me, and now we were in the middle of the dance floor, two guys with a crowd of eyes watching.

With his dark hair, dark eyes, and an even darker tux, I had trouble looking away. The white dress shirt was unbuttoned at the top, the tie undone but the light purple scrap of fabric hanging loosely around his neck.

“Can’t say I expected this,” I spoke. I tried to follow his lead, the motions not practiced but fluid. “This is crazy.”

“You’re not the only one who thinks so,” he muttered, hand tightening against mine briefly while he glanced toward the spectators.

“It’s just, I’m nobody. And you’re–”

“We both got invited to the same wedding,” you protested.

“And I was under the impression you were, uh that dancing with me wasn’t something you would be interested in.” I should have just said ‘straight,’ but he reminded me of a skittish animal, like he might spook and bolt. I kept talking, perhaps to soothe him, though it mortified me. “This isn’t where I expected the night to go. Me touching your arms. You have nice arms.”

“Uh, thanks.” We spun, slowly. Enough to see two girls from the wedding party gawking. “God, do they have to stare so much?”

“Think so.”

“Don’t have to take their side.” The petulant quality to his voice seemed cute, less menacing without the usual stubble and leather jacket.

“You don’t have to tell people stuff if you aren’t ready, obviously, but. What did you think would happen?”

“I had no clue I would do this until I did. Also, I wasn’t sure you were gonna say yes.”

“You have very nice arms.”

He laughed. “You mentioned.”

We managed to dance without comment for a little while.

Close together with a stranger, someone I’d only seen from afar, it felt weird. Nice too. He smelled woodsy and like the lavender from the centerpieces. The bride’s little brother, he had stood on her side of the altar with women in identical champagne-colored dresses. The groom’s older sister stood on the groom’s side. Cobbling the honorifics together, he became the ‘man of honor,’ her the ‘best maid.’

“Why did you ask me to dance?” I wondered.

He nodded, indicating the happy bride. She picked her dress up as she spun around, showing her neon pink shoes covered with sparkles. The footwear didn’t match well with her color scheme, but I heard her thought process when getting punch. She was the bride, she could do what she wanted, and those shoes were worth clashing.

Even from here, we could hear her laugh. A bright sound as she spun again, her and the groom dancing with a group of kids. The song was slower, romantic, but that didn’t stop the kids or the happy couple.

“She’s really happy,” he noted. “Ecstatic. Annoyingly so.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yeah.” He smiled, watching as her and the ring-bearer grabbed hands and jumped up and down while the groom danced with a flower girl on his shoes. “She said why are you frowning, you should feel just as good as me.”

“Can’t say no to the bride?

“Wouldn’t be smart. She told me to dance with whoever I wanted and not to waste time on anyone else. I don’t think she imagined her advice would play out like this.”

The song changed, upbeat now, and fear crossed his face briefly. The song changed abruptly, back to another slower one, the bride lowering her hand after indicating to the DJ he should change it. We had a little more time.

“Regrets?” I wondered.

“Only that any kind of preparation for whatever comes next would have been smart. But holding you and swaying? I can do that.”

“Then I guess just focus on this part?”

“I can do that too.”

We kept dancing.