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.


Books and carnival food, but not at the same time?

Does anything go better with sunny days and carefree summers than a carnival? Probably, but I thought that line sounded good. And because my mind immediately goes to food, my first thought when thinking ‘carnival’ is cotton candy, funnel cake, and cheese fries, so now I’m hungry.

I’m not sure all carnivals serve cheese fries, but I have probably ordered cheese fries at every carnival where it was thing one could order. Salty fries with unnaturally orange cheese is one of the top things I look for, along with Dippin’ Dots. Do you remember Dippin’ Dots? Obviously, I remember them and I love them. Ice cream of the future, you are delicious as you are hard to find.

Hey so, I’m participating in a few book giveaways this month, one of which is called the Carnival Book Fair, which then prompted me to ramble about carnival food. There’s some titles available here, and more here where there’s also a raffle for a $25 dollar Amazon giftcard.

This giveaway offers titles in a variety of genres from contemporary romance to thrillers, fantasy, and paranormal. Most of the titles are gen or straight, but I hear some people like that kind of thing.

Meeting the parents is always awkward. Even (or especially) if you aren’t really dating.

On Wednesdays, we wear pink. But on Mondays, we post outtakes from novels. Or at least I do. It’s fetch? No, stop trying to make fetch happen. I got started on a Mean Girls thing and now I can’t stop. Or maybe I can.

Alright. This is a deleted scene from One Little Lie. The first one was about fake dating, and this is the second one, which is totally different. And also about fake dating.

Luke and Ryan fake dated in the first book, due to Reasons That Made Sense at the Time, but they’re real dating in this one. As Luke and his friend Lydia aren’t ready to come out yet, they pretend to date each other instead. This is where Luke is about to meet Lydia’s parents.

~~~

bookb

Luke

My parents were like… damn, I should have asked Ryan for a simile. Introducing them to Lydia was super easy, so they were something like that. Lydia’s parents were the opposite of whatever the super easy thing was. I wasn’t very good at this to begin with and then having to smile and make nice with the homophobes…

No, Lydia’s parents. They were homophobes, but they were also Lydia’s parents. This was important to her and I didn’t want to face her wrath. Ugh, there were so many reasons to be nervous I couldn’t pick just one.

“Do I need to take off my shoes when I get in there?” I asked. That had never been a house rule at any home I went to regularly, but maybe people with teenage boys gave up on cleanliness. Lydia shook her head.

We had just pulled up to the house in my car.

“Should I make the sign of the cross in front of them or something?” I asked next. They were religious.

“Relax.” She looked pretty calm, just uncomfortable. “I didn’t think I’d have to remind you we aren’t actually dating.”

“I know, but you’re, uh.” I sighed and rested my head against the headrest. “I know you need this. I don’t want to mess it up.”

“It’ll be fine.” She smiled and placed her hand on top of mine for a moment. “Thank you.”

We got out of the car and looked towards the house together. It was large enough for their big family but relatively small, like they had only as much as they needed, and the plants and decorations outside were sparse. There was a little stone cross decoration in one of the flower beds, and the area was neat and well-kept but modest.

Modest. That was a good word for the whole house. My parents liked having the nicest things, without being too flashy for a farming and agricultural community like this, but Lydia’s parents kept everything at a minimum. It was clean and simple with pale yellow paint on the house, but the light blue shutters looked pretty. Should I tell them that? I’d been a guest in people’s homes before but now I couldn’t remember how to act.

“Should I have brought a housewarming gift?” That was a thing people did on TV shows and in movies.

Lydia sent me a look that translated to stop being weird. “My parents have lived here since before I was born.”

“Oh. Should I have brought a gift for that?” I asked, unable to stop being weird. She grabbed my hand and pulled me along.

One Little Problem

Ryan Miller knows how to handle life when things go wrong, but what about when things go right?

He hasn’t quite figured that out yet.

Ryan has a bright future ahead of him and a great boyfriend in the present. Luke Chambers is the total package, a blonde, green-eyed baseball player who is incredibly fun to tease. Life seems almost perfect. What comes next? A break up.

See, there might be a tiny problem. Their families don’t approve of the happiness this nerd and jock found together. With summer approaching and bringing new changes, a fake break up might provide the opportunity Ryan and Luke need to escape disapproving parental figures and enjoy their relationship.

This all sounds perfectly logical in Ryan’s head.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ryan and Luke are about to find out.

One Little Problem is a silly and sweet young adult novel that features romance, gay characters, snark, and hand holding. This is the third book in a series, but the novel can also be read on its own.

Get the book here.

July in Christmas

You know how Christmas in July is a thing? Yes, it is actually the season for Christmas, so there’s no need to worry about another made up Christmas in like seven months, but this won’t make sense if I didn’t remind you of Christmas in July first (it might not make sense anyway.)

But anyway, instead of Christmas in July, why not have July in Christmas? Do not go outside in your swimsuit if it’s snowing, but you can have the feeling of July during the holiday. Several F.N. Manning books are on sale that feature summer, so you can pretend it’s summer… if you want. You could also just read the books. Up to you.

These titles are on sale Dec. 18-25:

Summer Romance

Beach Bum

Pool Boy

Happy July in Christmas or just Happy Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate!

When Katie Met Cassidy

Libraries have changed a lot since I was a kid. Wow, that sentence immediately made me feel old. I guess most of it is the same actually. I mean, how much can libraries really change? It’s a place where you get books. And it used to be that place where I go could to play the Magic School Bus computer game, but I don’t care about that anymore.

I’ve been taking my nephew to tutoring at the library and there’s two big differences I’ve noticed. One, some libraries have 3D printers now. I’m sure there’s lots of academic, important reasons for a library to have one of those, but the only reason I know about it is because my nephew used it to make a fidget spinner. They’re everywhere now, but I went all over with him looking for one last year until he printed one himself.

But also, the content changes.

41nHt1QO1NL.jpgI’m from the Midwest. The area I was raised is probably less liberal than other big cities but more liberal than every small town in the Midwest. And I myself am super liberal. Would that be a lame superhero or a cool one? Super Liberal would give everyone healthcare and make it safe for trans people to use the bathrooms they want. So, not a terrible superhero all in all.

Anyway, right when you go into the library, there’s a shelf with new books and cool books that the librarians set up that people might be interested in. I was trying to put back the sports book my nephew just grabbed (because we’d been in earlier in the week and he’d gotten as many books and DVDs as he could carry, he didn’t need more) when I saw a pink cover and a pair of lips.

When Katie Met Cassidy, the title said. What are the chances Cassidy is also a girl, I thought to myself. Probably not very likely. They wouldn’t just have a super gay book out where anyone could see it. There’s children here. I checked anyway. It was a super gay book.

It was an awesome moment. That book wouldn’t have been there on the front shelf, probably wouldn’t have even been allowed in the library, when I was a kid. But it was now. Out in front where anyone could pick it up and look it. A book the librarian thought other people would like or needed to read. Progress and stuff. Awesome.

Here’s the summary of the book for those that are curious:

When it comes to Cassidy, Katie can’t think straight.

Katie Daniels, a twenty-eight-year-old Kentucky transplant with a strong set of traditional values, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself seated across a negotiating table from native New Yorker Cassidy Price, a sexy, self-assured woman wearing a man’s suit. At first neither of them knows what to make of the other, but soon their undeniable connection will bring into question everything each of them thought they knew about sex and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy about gender and sexuality, and the importance of figuring out who we are in order to go after what we truly want. It’s also a portrait of a high-drama subculture where barrooms may as well be bedrooms, and loyal friends fill in the spaces absent families leave behind. Katie’s glimpse into this wild yet fiercely tightknit community begins to alter not only how she sees the larger world, but also where exactly she fits in.

 

Riding With Brighton Review


It’s hard to imagine anyone could find fault with Riding with Brighton. It’s a great character piece and a lovely romance too.

Summary: Jay Hall sees his life from a fresh perspective and finds himself wanting. He wants to change everything and knows just the person to help him: Brighton Bello-Adler, who is just about the coolest person in the world. They spend a few days together and go on an adventure of self-discovery and romance.

About Jay: Jay is unhappy with his life because he’s unhappy with himself. He’s good looking, popular, and an athlete, but he’s not impressed by his friends or any of his accomplishments. Because he’s been living with a part of himself he was too scared to acknowledge. But things are changing.

Jay’s been getting to know someone in one of his classes, Brighton. He likes talking to Brighton but feels really inadequate compared to him. Brighton is a shameless flirt with everyone, charming, an artist, and openly gay. He’s seems very confident and sure of who he is. And Jay wants to be like that. So he thinks.

It becomes pretty clear that it’s not hero worship Jay feels but a crush. It’s really sweet watching Jay gushing about Brighton in the safe context of a role model. He thinks he wants to be like Brighton, but he really wants to be worthy of catching Brighton’s attention.

wordswag_1538691634709.png
It was a sharp right turn, backward a good mile and a half, around corners, down hills, through a forest, and across the universe from where I really wanted to go.

About Brighton: In addition to Jay, there’s Brighton. Brighton is kind of a perfect angel who does no wrong but he’s still a strong character with his own voice. Jay’s the star of the show while Brighton is a supporting player, but again remember that this happens over the course of a few days and Jay has enough drama going on that it would have been too much to add more conflicts for Brighton.

What’s really great about Brighton is that he’s just a normal guy. He’s not boring but his life is going pretty well. And while that might not be great from a story perspective, it’s refreshing and a much needed portrayal of a gay teen in today’s culture. There’s no angst or depression. He has loving friends and a supportive family and being gay is just one part of him. He’s a good counterpoint to Jay and a realistic ,sometimes seldom seen, type of gay teenager.

The romance department is the only area lacking in Brighton’s life. He wants to be a normal kids who goes and dates and takes someone to prom. But there’s not a lot of dating options in his town. And he’s very attracted to Jay. He’s torn between the strong pull he feels for him and keeping his distance while Jay figures stuff out. He doesn’t want to get his heart broken but he can’t help the more attracted he becomes the more Jay shows of himself of Brighton.

What makes it unique: This is an interesting story because all the action takes place in the space of a weekend. It’s like a crash course in Jay’s psyche and emotional development as he dives head first into issues he’s never been able to confront before. The book provides a really in-depth character analysis and there’s lots of upheaval and revelations as Jay fits the coming out process into the span of a few days.

The Romance: The action is both the story of Jay finally being honest with himself and those around him and getting to know Brighton better. They can’t really help falling for each other the more time they spend together. They develop a real connection and a very supportive partnership.

There’s a lot of fun and flirty banter and swoon worthy moments. The book has the feel of a whirlwind romance, something intense and all consuming. But it’s not an artificial, insta-love kinda thing because the main characters get to know each other very deeply in a short amount of time and there’s both big romantic moments and more tender elements where the characters discovering each other and falling hard.

Favorite Part: The prose. The prose is just, really, really good.

My thoughts: Haven Francis wrote a beautiful book that should probably be read more than once in order to fully take in and appreciate everything. It’s life affirming and lovely but also doesn’t solve everything.

One Little Word

My next book, One Little Lie, will be released on Oct. 20, As it’s the sequel to One Little Word, I’ll be blogging about that book some to gear up for the next one. I expect to post excerpts, graphics, and… well, mostly excerpts and graphics unless I think of something else.

olwfnNEWWhat happens when the most popular guy in school must depend on a social pariah to save his skin?

Luke Chambers is about to find out. When one stupid word heard by the wrong ears sends the captain of the baseball team’s life into chaos, his plan to get out of trouble involves the one kid who seems to hate him.

Ryan just wants to have some fun at the jock’s expense. He won’t be stupid enough to fall for the gorgeous blonde with green eyes, dimples and impressive arm muscles from pitching. Okay, he might like to look, but it’s difficult being the only gay kid in a small town.

Relationships are never easy, especially when both people want different things. Ryan wants a boyfriend who wants him back. Luke wants things to start making sense again. But what if they both wanted the same thing? What if they want each other?

Could one terrible word lead to something great?

One Little Word is an LGBT teen fiction book for anybody who loves fun romantic comedies, fake boyfriends and silly situations, enemies becoming friends and opposites who attract. This gay romance novel also includes a ridiculous amount of hand holding. This is the first book in a series, though this novel can stand alone.

Entirely Too Gay

I am the worst at figuring out intros for blog posts, so normally I just ramble about something and then get to the topic later. I don’t know if that’s a particularly good strategy, but it is my strategy.

Okay first, the rambling. Currently, I’m reading and loving Riding With Brighton by Haven Francis. I need a new show to watch because I just got done watching Insatiable, which apparently everyone hates. I love me a dark comedy and think it has potential.

Now the topic at hand. I have a free book available on Amazon, but I should probably talk about that  on my blog to so, um, I have a free book available on Amazon. Here’s the link.

Young fitness model is posing in studioWrestling: A school-sanctioned way to roll around on the floor with sweaty guys. Why didn’t more gay kids join the wrestling team? The other wrestlers.

The days of being picked on and beat up were over for Alfonso Flores. Instead of being the scrawny nerd everyone remembered, he returned to high school bigger and buffer. He just wants to be left alone in peace. How does he end up joining the wrestling team?
A guy, of course.

To get closer to Dallas, he’ll go where no gay boy has gone before: the wrestling team. Even if he doesn’t receive a warm welcoming. For big macho men, wrestlers were pretty self-conscious. Maybe it was a gay guy joining the team. Maybe they understood just how insane their sport was. It was pretty gay.

What’s the saying? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Alfonso’s going to do both. He’ll try not to get killed in the testosterone filled, macho world of groping other guys for sport all while getting closer to Dallas and dealing with his overprotective father. If he doesn’t survive, at least he got to feel Dallas Archer’s muscles. Definitely worth it.

This is a humorous, light hearted story about getting out of your comfort zone and getting the guy.