Art

Art.

Such a tiny word for a huge subject. At its core, art is a form of expression. A way to show a piece of your heart or soul when words fail.

As the shy kid hiding behind his mother’s Anne Taylor pant leg, skipping words altogether appealed to me. Putting pretty colors on a blank page and creating a picture, creating a statement without the awkwardness and anxiety, it was everything.

I love painting. I love everything from color theory to the first brush stroke. I love art.

Art is beautiful, transformative, passionate… and limited.

The Boy Next Door

What seemed closer to a vast ocean as a child is actually a tiny oasis of blue and green serenity where water plants thrive. The greenish dark water and picturesque lily pads on top spark a rush of nostalgia. I remember the satisfying splash of chucking a bottle in there.

As kids, we were creative since we lacked glass bottles. Instead, we used old prescription bottles from our parents to deliver our notes. The little orange capsules stuck out, orange buoys signaling a secret message from friends.

The Boy Next Door

Artistic Sam

Even getting into this class means I’m among the best artists at my high school, chosen by the notoriously eccentric Alessandria French herself. She only accepts a dozen seniors or less every year, those whose potential ‘speaks to her senses.’

My parents were so impressed they stopped telling me about the starting salaries for accountants. For a few weeks.

The Boy Next Door

Zach

Zach Ahmad is a fun character from the One More Thing Series. I would explain more, but I think this quote showcases my point without needing more context. This is from One Little Lie, which is now available as a box set.

Zach nodded his head at her words, then changed tracks. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a bitch and we can definitely be friends. But is this seriously the only reason you guys are here? To talk about our big gay feelings?” He grimaced. “I’m already getting enough of this from Luke.”

In the garden

Despite a lack of fence or other divider line, it’s still obvious where our property ends and the Cruse yard begins. Our yard is sparse while the side closest to us on the Cruse property has a pond and archway that leads back into a vibrant garden. Flowers bursting with color perfume the air with an intoxicating aroma as I walk into the backyard.

Mrs. French might call their garden an artist’s dream, a place to stimulate the senses and inspire creativity. Even in the fall, their garden flourishes, and some flowers are always blooming until the first frost.

Plus, their pond kicks ass.

-from young adult romance novel The Boy Next Door

A quick quote

Horatio waltzed into my life fashionably late, expecting everything else to grind to a halt while he made room for himself. Then again, why shouldn’t he feel that way? For years I had the same attitude. I waited patiently, trying to make decisions for myself but always knowing any moment could be the moment when it stopped being my life and became our life.

-Mason Lewis, Black Cats and Bad Luck

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

Holy afterschool special, Batman

Here is a story about a loner who may want to be less alone. So Lydia takes a break from her busy schedule of hating everything and makes a new friend. This comes from When We Were Strangers, which is the free introduction to the characters in the One More Thing Series. This post is the introduction to the introduction. Or something.

This image perfectly sums up Lydia. And you can read this scene or the whole story at anytime because it is free. In case you missed any of the times I said free, I’m going to say free again. Free!

~

Lydia

What a beautiful summer day. With fresh air, flowers blooming, and sunshine shining down… everything was super annoying. I hated days like today. I hated most things, but I especially hated today.

Despite protests, I somehow ended up at a church picnic with my family on the other end of the park. I could only survive a few minutes of everybody praising the lord for this ‘blessed’ day and being offered potato salad from people way too intense about potato salad. Naturally, I fled.

In the back corner of the park, there lied a neglected area where public space met someone’s private, unkempt property. Sitting on top of the backrest of a hard as hell bench, I smoked a cigarette in solitude.

Hard to say what was more isolating: being alone in a crowd or being free and almost wanting to go back because maybe terrible company would be less lonely than no company. If being alone wasn’t good, and being with people wasn’t good, then how did I win?

Suddenly, I wasn’t alone.

“Does being such a cliché ever bother you?” a voice asked. The speaker stepped into view, a girl with burgundy hair, wearing a light blue shirt.

“Excuse me?” I responded coolly, steadying myself by resting my free hand on the concrete slab doubling as my seat, though I gave no other indication she startled me.

“Bad girl in black smoking by herself,” she elaborated, small smile on her lips. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, 10/10 on the aesthetic. I can feel the angst even from a distance, but it’s a little obvious, isn’t it?”

“Who are you?” I kept asking my own questions instead of acknowledging hers.

“Alicia Phillips, we go to the same school.”

“I believe you.” If I wanted to know my peers better, I… nope, I couldn’t even finish the thought.

She forced a laugh, smile turning tense. “You have no idea who I am, do you? It’s fine.” The confidence she possessed to speak to me so boldly evaporated as if it never existed.

I raised a hand, indicating she should stay while I considered her. I… she… huh.

Studying her, her blue shirt displayed a small white logo near the right sleeve, part of a uniform for a counselor at a summer camp near the outskirts of town. She wore khaki pants with her hair tied back in a ponytail. Her skin had more color than my vampiric whiteness, her figure fuller and curvier. It was hard to place her because she might look different during the school year.

Alicia Phillips. She wasn’t afraid to give me attitude, yet she acted embarrassed when I failed to recognize her. A girl both at home and uncomfortable in her own skin. Capable of brief moments of bravery… like when in front of an audience.

“I recognize you,” I realized. “You’re in plays, right? Plays are… cool.” Plays weren’t cool, but I was trying to be polite. Rudeness was more satisfying when it was earned. 

“Wow, you couldn’t sound even the slightest bit convincing, could you?” she asked in that gently teasing manner she kept addressing me with.

I should put her in her place, eviscerate her. It may make me feel better. Because I was confident, scary Lydia Smith, the badass in black clothes. People wanted to know more about me but weren’t stupid enough to come ask. I was unapproachable. Nobody talked to me like she did. I would be annoyed, but curiosity won out.

“Wanna help me be less of a cliché?” I asked.

“Huh? You’re not suggesting a makeover, are you?” Never. Wordlessly, I held up the pack of cigarettes in an offer. “Oh, smoke with you?” She neither accepted or refused, talking to herself as she continued, “Peer pressure. This is, I’m being pressured by a peer. Holy afterschool special, Batman.”

Hopeless theater weirdos were the last thing I needed, people who didn’t know how to talk without a script, so I wasn’t charmed. I laughed anyway. “You’re strange.”

“Yeah, well.” She met my eyes, held her head higher. Impressive. “I’m a proud drama kid, and my best friend is a bad influence on me.”

~

The rest is available here. For free!

Friendship

This is a scene where two boyfriends try to support their friend. It’s from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas.

Zach

Ryan and Luke watched me eagerly as I grabbed things from my locker. I shared homeroom with the former, and Ryan treated homeroom, punctuality, and other things he didn’t want to do as optional rather than mandatory, one of the few things I respected him for.

Luke always complained about Ryan’s brown hair falling into his eyes and adding additional walking challenges for a guy who never made peace with gravity, but now his own blonde locks were doing the same thing. Ryan had the same shoes as Luke so their feet could be twins or something. They were both wearing flannel shirts, Ryan’s mostly red with blue, Luke’s mostly blue with red. Which… how? Did they call each other up and plan their outfits? Luke never even wore flannel.

Luke said, “I want to talk about Zach’s love interest.”

I scowled at how he phrased it while saying, “And now for the simple, folksy Luke wisdom.”

He frowned. “Don’t think anyone has ever called me folksy before.”

I smirked. “They have called you simple, that’s what I’m hearing.”

“Hey,” Ryan warned, jumping to his boyfriend’s defense. “I will fight you. With my words.”

“Dude, come on.” Luke said to me, giving me his earnest, dumb Luke smile. “You should go for it.” Groundbreaking. He kept going. “Somewhere along the line you went from not dating much to not dating at all. If you like this guy—”

“I don’t even know him.”

“Then get to know him. And if you like him, go for it.”

“God, you’re hot,” Ryan told him.

“Thanks babe.” Luke’s dimples appeared as he smiled at Ryan. “I’m also right.”

“Duh, that’s what makes you even hotter.”

They left, even though we had been right next to homeroom, and Luke needed to go to homeroom because that was how school worked. He let Ryan lead him off anyway because true love meant more than compulsory attendance or some shit like that.

When Luke and Ryan were morons who made their relationship 50 times more difficult than it needed to be, at least they provided some entertainment. However, it was also a hassle for me because they would both expect me to listen to their woes and provide answers. Nobody even paid me for it. Yet this same page, ride-or-die stuff they’d been doing lately was so… insane.

The couple weren’t just crazy kids hopped up on hormones thinking they were destined to be together forever. They had become shockingly stable somehow. As if they truly expected to go the distance when they’d barely even started the race.