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!

Meet cute, scene from gay romance

In romcom terms, this is the meet cute between the main characters. This scene is from Falling in Love and (Other Bad Ideas).

Zach

Joey moved ahead of Luke, walking even with me to better annoy me, unless he just wanted to walk down the stairs with me for some reason, which would be weird, so the first one. Or more like, he attempted to walk with me while still narrating his fever dream and gesturing broadly.

Basically, I was doomed. Joey was a catcher, built to stay where he was planted. Me, being the shortstop, had to be the opposite: quick, flexible, and able to cover more ground. So the math was easy. He made a motion with his arm and pushed me, and I wasn’t prepared. I went flying, sailing over the last few steps instead of stepping down them. Down I went.

…There so many situations where I would happily go down, but this wasn’t one of them.

Except instead of hitting the ground, I instead landed right in the pages of some fucking chick flick novel. I fell right into somebody’s arms. It couldn’t have been choreographed better. I stared up at an unfamiliar face, his light brown eyes looking into my darker ones. The guy who caught me, the whole picture he painted boiled down to this: a standard male protagonist.

Should I ask Luke what romcom this meet cute was stolen from the pages of? He would probably know. Or wait, this could have been a terribly contrived introduction to the handsome stranger who saved me, but him being a stranger meant something. While entirely possible there were closeted guys at school I didn’t know about, it seemed unlikely. Either through firsthand knowledge or rumors from the guys I shared the aforementioned firsthand knowledge with, I had a pretty comprehensive understanding of any dudes at this school with queer leanings.

“Hi there,” the guy said to me with a little smile. He righted me and continued, “This is one hell of a meet cute, huh?”

No, I already decided it wasn’t! I dusted myself off, unnecessarily, but it made me feel more in control. “I don’t do cute. Not meet, or as a button, or otherwise.”

“Uh oh, is it about to get gay?” Joey asked, looking between us. “It’s fine, just give me some warning.”

“No, it’s not,” I said while the almost-protagonist said, “Yes, it is.”

“So, they answered differently, is that another clue?” Joey directed the question to Luke. “It’s about to get gay, right?”

“Well, I am gay,” the stranger answered. “So I’d argue whatever is happening is already gay.”

We all stared at him. Because… huh. Technically, I was right. This wasn’t some closeted guy I didn’t know about. Because he wasn’t closeted. Which threw us off. Until right then, everybody out at our high school was already in our friend group. And since we had never seen him before, he clearly did not meet these standards. His casual words weren’t anything we expected.

“Am I offending your family values?” he asked us, not really surprised. Seemed he’d been doing a lot of that lately.

“Don’t worry, he doesn’t have values,” Luke responded helpfully.

“Family or otherwise,” Joey added.

Luke looked between me and the new guy slowly. Uh-oh. “You did fall right into his arms.” Don’t let the jock thing fool you, he was actually a huge girl because I could see the words ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’ running through his head. “And did you hear what he said?” Luke asked me, nudging my side with an elbow. “About being gay?”

“I’m standing here with you, in front of him, so obviously I—”

“Dude, come on,” interrupted Joey. “He’s queerballs, and so are you.”

“Seriously?” I asked him.

“It’s destiny or some shit,” Joey reasoned. “Even I’m not strong enough to stand in the way.”

“Two queer people crossing paths doesn’t mean we need to kiss,” I argued. My life wasn’t a romcom.

“I agree,” the Standard Male Protagonist said. “But it is cool to meet you. You’re gay too?”

“Bi,” I corrected.

“Oh, you’re bi?” SMP asked.

“Not what I meant.” I tried again. “Bye.” Got it that time.

I walked away.

-Get your copy here!

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.

Books, bowling, boys, and possibly even more B words!

One New Start is available now!

I’m so proud of myself! Not for writing a book, I mean, I guess for that too. Mostly because I’m actually posting on the day it’s released. I’m a serious author, don’t I always do that? Cue the nervous bisexual laughter.

Anyway, let’s focus on the positives. Like One New Start! Available now.

Here’s an excerpt. Ryan and Luke are on a double date at a bowling alley. Ryan has never bowled before but that’s not going to stop him from dominating. (it probably will stop him but shhh, he believes)

bowling-596766_960_720

Ryan

I looked to the… playing area where I would soon have to throw the thing into the other things. How many balls did I get to throw? The other people were only sending one ball at a time. That didn’t seem right. I had two hands. And also two feet.

I watched for a few moments, but yeah, everyone only sent one ball down the hallway at a time. Maybe they were all doing it wrong? I glanced at the people I came here with. Lydia smirked at me as I realized this might prove challenging.

I turned back to Luke. “If I don’t knock them all down, I’ll throw my shoes at the pins,” I decided sensibly. “That’s what the shoes are for.”

“That’s… well.” Luke thought about it, then nodded. “Okay, as long as you’ve got a plan.”

There was that whole thing where he wanted to keep me from hurting myself and others, so normally he wouldn’t agree to me wildly throwing things. However, if there was a competition, all bets were off. Unless the contest was betting and then bets were totally on.

I looked to the… playing area where I would soon have to throw the thing into the other things. How many balls did I get to throw? The other people were only sending one ball at a time. That didn’t seem right. I had two hands. And also two feet.

I watched for a few moments, but yeah, everyone only sent one ball down the hallway at a time. Maybe they were all doing it wrong? I glanced at the people I came here with. Lydia smirked at me as I realized this might prove challenging.

I turned back to Luke. “If I don’t knock them all down, I’ll throw my shoes at the pins,” I decided sensibly. “That’s what the shoes are for.”

“That’s… well.” Luke thought about it, then nodded. “Okay, as long as you’ve got a plan.”

There was that whole thing where he wanted to keep me from hurting myself and others, so normally he wouldn’t agree to me wildly throwing things. However, if there was a competition, all bets were off. Unless the contest was betting and then bets were totally on.

Excerpt from Pool Boy

plbymerfednewThe beach here could adorn a postcard, it was exactly what one would want a beach to look like with white sandy beaches and lovely blue waters. The good-looking people laying on towels or strolling down the beach didn’t hurt the picture either.

I found a good spot and lounged on a towel for a few minutes, closing my eyes and enjoying the way the sun felt on my body. Then I popped in my earbuds and got ready to watch some episodes I downloaded of my latest favorite guilty pleasure TV show. I had two weaknesses. Gummy bears and trashy TV. Though I was currently on Grey’s Anatomy and it was pretty damn good. Wildly medically inaccurate but quality TV.

I was a 17-year-old guy who was a self-described nerd. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, but I still didn’t need other people to know my current favorite show was Grey’s Anatomy. Watching this in public, I felt a little thrill. See, this counted as being adventurous, right? Well, it counted for me.

I sat up and watched an episode with the tablet on my lap while occasionally glancing at the waves or stretching out my toes to wiggle them in the sand. This was definitely the perfect way to soak up some vitamin-D. Yeah, maybe this chilling at the beach thing wasn’t so bad.

One minute I was watching tiny Dr. Bailey taking names and giving orders and then there was a shadow over me. I paused then instinctively put a hand over the tablet so that whoever was above me wouldn’t see what I was watching, even though it was probably just some stressed out traveler who had forgotten their sunscreen.

Except when I raised my other arm and squinted upwards to glance at the person without being blinded by the sun, it wasn’t an anxious tourist… it was a really hot guy.

The really hot guy had an easy smile on his face and seemed relaxed, more so when he sat down next to me after a moment so that we were on the same level. He placed his arms over the valley of his knees while he continued to look at me with interest.

“Please don’t tell me you came to the beach to watch TV?” came a friendly if a little incredulous voice. His voice was… inviting, that was the best way to describe it. I resisted the invitation.

“I’m relaxing at the beach,” I said while forcing myself to look away from him. “This is how I want to relax.”

“You could go for a swim.” The voice was definitely amused now.

I looked back at him… and had some trouble looking away.

He was wearing a thin white t-shirt with a V-neck and a hint of dark chest hair poked free of the material. He looked the same age as me and was tall and masculine, the way I expected a guy who was my age and had more chest hair than me to be, but there was also something softer about him.

Maybe it was the deep brown hair that trailed down and stopped just past his chin. Most of it was pulled back in a short pony tail but a few tendrils curled slightly and framed his face. He had a strong jaw but a delicate nose and intelligent green eyes stared back at me. He looked almost familiar but maybe he had one of those faces. It wasn’t like I knew anyone here.

It was only when I began to categorize his lips that I realized how long I’d been staring. He didn’t seem to mind though. Wasn’t this always how it went? I didn’t many suitors before but now that I had a boyfriend, I’d gotten someone else’s attention without even trying.

Um, what had we been talking about? Oh, going for a swim. “I don’t know how to swim,” I offered up before I could think about whether I wanted to say that or not. The attractiveness of the guy I was talking to short circuited my brain.

“I could teach you,” he offered. His long limbs were well-formed, with corded muscle in every inch of them. I definitely believed he knew how to swim, that could be where he got his toned body and thin torso.

Part of me wanted to say yes but that would be foolish without knowing his credentials. “Are you an instructor?” I asked.

“No.” His lips quirked upwards. “But I know how to swim.”

Why was he even talking to me? Most people here took one look and ignored me. I was too nerdy, too poor, or too something else I didn’t want to think about lest I get a complex.

“Have you taught anyone else before?”

“You’d be my first.” His smirk widened as his tongue peeked out quickly to wet his lips. “In that regard.” He had full lips, how did they look like that? Did he use Chapstick with this heat?

Man, it was hot out here. I felt parched all of a sudden. I did my best to carry on the conversation. “Are you CPR certified?”

He started to laugh, then paused when realizing I was serious. “Come on.”

“That’s a valid question.” I forced myself to hold his gaze without backing down in embarrassment.

But really, what was I supposed to do? Take one look at him, imagine his body shirtless and wet, and then happily hop in the water with him? Probably. That didn’t sound like a bad idea actually… but that was how sharks got you.

His eyes narrowed as his lips pursed in thought. “You don’t know how to relax, do you?”

At first glance, he might know a lot about how to relax. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him spending his days here stretched out on the sand as his skin glistened with sweat and moisture from the nearby ocean.

When I caught myself looking him over again, I forced my gaze to his face and said with as much dignity as possible, “I’m here to lay in the sun and unwind with my favorite guilty pleasure show. That sounds pretty relaxing to me.” Wasn’t that the point? To chill how I wanted to?

On the other hand, he didn’t look overly or artificially bronzed. His lightly tanned skin looked naturally sun kissed. I admired him idly while he thought. The people here were all attractive. It’s like you weren’t allowed to live here if you didn’t meet certain aesthetic standards.

He came to a decision. “Okay, you got me.”

His hand moved toward me, palm up, while he looked at me expectantly. He had a rugged but artistic vibe. Big hands with long, almost delicate fingers: an artist’s fingers.

“What are you doing?” I asked the stranger who kept sitting next to me like we were friends. I didn’t necessarily mind, I’d just never made friends this easily before.

“I’ll watch it with you,” he suggested. “See if you’re onto something with the way you relax.” Before I could do anything, he said “Is that, are you watching Grey’s Anatomy?”

It wasn’t a sunburn but a blush staining my face as I managed to respond with a weak, “I said it was a guilty pleasure.”

“No judgement,” he responded immediately and I peered at him skeptically. “Okay, there is some judgement,” he admitted. “But not much.” He laughed but not at me, like he was sharing a joke with me. “I’m judging both of us because I can apparently recognize it with just a glance. So, ready to watch?”

He made a grabbing motion with his hand as he kept waiting for an earbud while he scooted closer. We’d have to be pressed together along one side to make this work.

“But this isn’t how you relax,” I deflected.

“No,” he agreed. He let his hand down but didn’t move away. He lowered his voice to say, “But there’s too many people here for I how relax.”

My eyebrows rose. I didn’t let myself think about the words too closely, just asked, “You have a dirty mind, don’t you?”

His smile looked genuinely pleased at what I said. “I haven’t gotten any complaints about it so far.”

We sat there, too close and staring at each other while my stomach acted up, feeling all tingly and weird. Maybe I’d had too many gummy bears.

“Are you going to share?” he asked after a moment, gesturing for the earphone again.

“I don’t even know you.”

Like that was what he’d been waiting for, he said, “Reese.”

“Colin,” I replied. I wasn’t sure which one of us put our hand out first but then we were shaking hands, which was kinda weird because I don’t think I’d ever really done that with anyone who was my own age. This was… flirty. An excuse to touch each other. My heart started beating a little faster, and I felt a twinge of guilt, but I forced myself to get it together. Relax. It was just a freaking handshake.

“Great, now we know each other,” he said easily while his hand caressed mine and I almost wanted to chase it when he pulled his away. “You show me your way to relax and then later maybe I’ll show you mine.”

“M-Maybe we better not,” I sputtered out. Flirting. There was so much flirting. Why had I not shut it down immediately? Maybe it was still somewhat surprising to be flirted with. It hadn’t happened much aside from Wyatt.

“Did I say something wrong?” he raised his hands in a placating gesture, showing he meant no offense.

“You’re being very flirty and I have a boyfriend,” I explained, looking away.

He nodded and made a ‘hmm’ considering noise. “Would it be really crass to say that what happens in Sterling, stays in Sterling?”

I smiled despite an effort not to as I told him, “That’s Vegas and he’s here too.”

“You sure about that?” He looked around. “I don’t see anyone who’s mad I’m hitting on their boyfriend.”

The weird, somewhat fun novelty of this exchange wore off at that. Wyatt was here in town, not here at the beach with me. Thanks so much for reminding me.

“You’re right,” I said getting up and dusting sand off my shorts. “This isn’t the right way to relax at all.” I started gathering my stuff.

“Hey, sorry, hold on.” He touched my arm briefly and his face looked sincere. I paused in my hasty retreat and he gestured towards a nearby shop. “Let me get you a lemonade or something.”

“I told you—” I started, ready to repeat I had a boyfriend in case he didn’t believe me the first time.

“No, just to be nice,” he clarified. “Sorry if I came on too strong.”

I studied him for a moment and took his statement to be genuine. “Okay,” I said and we walked side by side to the nearest shop with drinks. To be safe, I had to emphasize, “I wasn’t kidding about the boyfriend.”

“Alright, I get that now.” He held the door open for me as we walked into the little shop. “Do you work here?”

“No, why?” By here, I took that he meant in town and not the store we walked into.

“I do,” he offered. “I thought you did too and figured I’d take a chance.”

He was trying to be nice, so I forced a smile while ordering a small lemonade. Then I asked, “I don’t look good enough for this place?” I already knew it, but it wasn’t great to know how obvious it was.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he insisted immediately. “You’re the only person our age I’ve seen, besides me, who isn’t wearing TOMS.”

He got a small iced water for himself and we took our drinks and went outside. He flustered me a little when we first met, between his looks and blatant interest in me, but the mood felt companionable between us now and I liked him.

Ordering the ice water was what did it. Everyone else here was busy enjoying their lazy day in the sun, but it was clear to me that all this stuff was normally out of my price range. I didn’t really belong. I liked having someone else who felt that way here. Who didn’t or couldn’t splurge on sodas. But he got me a drink anyway.

Eventually, I said, “I feel a little out of place here sometimes too.”

He looked at me with a peculiar expression. “I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to.” I gave him a little smile.

“Okay, well, we can be misfits together,” he decided.

“Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the drink.”

He nodded. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

I was dating, not dead or whatever so that didn’t mean I couldn’t look. I watched him walk away. The shorts he was wearing were a little baggy, but he still had a nice ass.

***

More about Pool Boy by Finn Manning