Life advice I’ve never taken: be slightly less unhinged

For some reason, I uploaded a bunch of image quotes I made for One Little Word all at the same time. I guess I was trying to be helpful and have them all in one place, which mostly means I have no idea which ones I’ve used already. This might not be a problem for those with better memories, but I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say I don’t even remember how I started this sentence.

Every time I post a quote, I resist the overwhelming urge to add that I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted this one yet. But maybe I have, so let’s just gloss over it if I posted this last week too. I figure putting it out there once is enough. In summation, if I post quotes more than once, please be cool about it. Thanks!

Also, yes, I did only say be cool because it’s in the quote below.

This excerpt involves a boy flipping out because he’s about to have lunch with another boy. This second boy is open to the possibility of being attracted to the first boy, which is where the insanity comes from. I could have just used their names instead of calling them boys, but I’m telling myself it’s too late to change that now.

Being attracted to someone is a totally understandable reason to be a lunatic. No, that’s not true at all. It’s not okay to be a lunatic in a dangerous way when you like someone. But it is okay to be a gigantic nervous weirdo in the romance department, lots of people aren’t smooth operators.

By reading this, you might think Ryan is a gigantic nervous weirdo when he has a crush. I want you to know that’s not true at all. Ryan is a gigantic nervous weirdo always, but in this case, he happens to be a weirdo and have a crush at the same time. This is an important distinction (no, it’s not.)

 

wordswag_1583107963978

Ryan

I had butterflies. Stupid, gigantic butterflies, furiously beating their wings inside my stomach. Was I going to burst into song? Was I going to throw up? Maybe!

Hopefully, I wouldn’t do either of those things. I just couldn’t say for sure.

I willed myself to still from where I was vibrating out of my skin. Be cool. No, that was impossible… be slightly less unhinged. I could try that.

Okay, I would walk into the cafeteria and sit down with the baseball guys, something I’d done multiple times before. No big deal.

Only…

There was a particular guy at the table. One who was interested. In me! He may not be Luke, but the problem was that Luke wasn’t interested.

Surely I’d gotten the neuroticism out last night. I went through every piece of clothing I owned trying to find the right thing to wear. I eventually picked out my best fitting pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and a green plaid shirt to layer with. No need to dress up too much. Or drive myself crazy.

Or drive myself crazier? Because I was jumping up and down, just a little, where I stood. I tried to stop… nope, still rocking on my heels. I felt extremely excited.

 

Musings from a theater kid

Alicia is a character from the One More Thing series. She’s dating Lydia. She likes drama. Wait, I need to be more specific. The kind you do in school. Wait, I need to be more specific. She’s into theater.

Because her POVs in One Little Change didn’t need to be a million years long, I had to cut her thoughts down. Here’s some cut and uncut parts from her story.

The music in Spring Awakening was pretty awesome. The play itself wasn’t my favorite. There were a million gross undertones that were part of the times or something, but no one cared because it was the taboo play about sex. Everyone in drama with me was constantly begging for it to be our next show because it was so edgy. However, if that was the play every high school drama department wanted to put on, that made it normal and not really edgy at all.

Grease was on the tame, acceptable side of high school theater productions and Spring Awakening was on the other end. Wasn’t there something in the middle we could explore instead of doing Grease another freaking time?  I’d been Sandy, I’d been Rizzo, I’d been Frenchy, and I’d even been Kenickie once. At least playing a T-Bird had been different than playing a Pink Lady.

No grade school, middle school, or high school production would let me play Danny Zucko. Being Kenickie when Evan Sanders got sick and I was doing crew was one thing, but actively promoting crossdressing and having two girls play the main love interests? That pushed this innocent musical over to the Spring Awakening side of things but in a way I was actually interested in. The administration, however, was decidedly not interested.

Theater was my happy place. My safe place. Lydia was sort of becoming like that too. I felt like I belonged with her one minute but then things got scary the next but a good kind of scary, that made my heart beat faster, that made me want to burst into love songs. Only then there was this. This was scary but not in a good way.

We were sitting on the dock of the lake, sun shining down brightly, though strategically placed trees were currently giving us shelter from the harshest rays. I wasn’t attending summer camp this year, but I was a counselor at one outside of town instead. Well, Ryan liked to complain there was no lake in Lake Forest. Or forest, but we had both on these grounds. Technically, he was right. We were outside the city limits. Fine, I was a counselor at a camp outside of town.

The whole place wasn’t about theater or the arts or anything, though me and a few other teens with experience were the ones running the drama units. Being outside in the bright sunshine wasn’t usually my thing. However, with my shorts and a light blue shirt, with the smell of fresh air everywhere, it was kinda nice out here.

We just ended a session with one group of kids and another would come in next week. There was a barbecue tonight to celebrate, with counselors and significant others. Or siblings. Lydia and I weren’t siblings obviously, we didn’t even look alike. My boss was firmly convinced we were even though no one had tried to convince him. Some people were like that.

Other people decided that girlfriend meant friend who was a girl. Holding hands, kissing, hell even getting married and having rugrats one day? Wow, what an interesting choice to do that with your friend who is also a girl.

This is an excerpt from Summer Romance, one of F.N. Manning’s M/M YA novels

*

“Carter Ford is working here too?” I asked. I had to be sure this wasn’t a hallucination. I guess I could just call him Carter now; being coworkers meant we would be on a first name basis. “Carter Ford?”

He always seemed well-dressed and in control. I didn’t expect him to need a job like this when he could be doing whatever good looking, popular people did in the summer. Maybe the same thing I did – sitting on the couch and watching TV or occasionally going out into the world – but just being good looking and popular while doing it.

“Do you know him?” Lily asked me. Perhaps being older than him or being his boss meant she wasn’t fazed by the presence of one of the most popular guys in my grade. And she was a great pseudo sister for even asking that question and implying I could be in the same social stratosphere as him.

“No,” I told her. “I don’t know Carter Ford at all.” I knew of him, but I’d never been properly introduced. Oh god, was that about to happen now? I sat up straighter in my chair.

“You could just call him Carter,” she recommended and then he came in and sat with us and I tried to be normal, listen to what Libby said, and basically do anything other than obsess over the guy sitting next to me.

-Summer Romance is available here.

Excerpt from One Little Word- YA LGBTQ Fiction

Boyfriends Ryan and Luke prepare for a doubt date at a gay club.

newollieMerged.jpeg

We decided to dress up for maximum gayness. I had a shirt with a unicorn and Alicia had bought me a feather boa as a gag gift, so I was going to wear that too because why not. I wasn’t dressed yet because I was too busy laughing at Luke.

He faced away from me but glared at me through the mirror in front of him. “Ryan, stop laughing and just tell me which one of these shirts makes my eyes pop!”

I turned my head into the bedspread, giggling helplessly. I had started getting ready, then found that watching Luke worry about what to wear was much more important, so I lay on his bed and enjoyed the show. When I composed myself, I peeked up to see Luke was now glaring at the two shirts in his hands while holding them up to his chest one at a time and trying to decide.

I smiled sweetly. “Baby, I think you look good in anything.” Sure, my tone was still at least 20% sarcastic, but that’s my baseline.

And right now he just scoffed, sounding unimpressed with my answer. “Stop being a weirdo,” he said, eyeing the shirts critically.

We were road tripping to a bigger city called Fairview and heading to a gay club having an all ages night. Luke acted like a contestant in a beauty pageant, putting all of his focus into what to wear.

“I’m a weirdo for you,” I cooed.

Teasing was the only option if I didn’t want to combust into a puddle of hormones and fondness. He seemed like a big jock most of the time, and he could be confident and charming, but he was mostly an earnest goofball. Like now when he acted like the most important decision in the world was finding the right thing to wear.

He turned to look at me and said, “You do realize this might be the only time I ask you for fashion advice?”

Well played. I put him out of his misery. “Wear the red one.”

Luke frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, moron, I’m sure.”

I loved him in that color and who cared about what anyone else thought of him? He was my bf, he should look good for me. I tilted my head and idly wondered how I’d get him to agree to the glitter body paint. We’d said we were having a super gay evening, so how did we achieve that without body glitter? We didn’t. He needed to be a team player. Even if he didn’t officially bat for a particular team. Other than his baseball team of course.

Hey, could moron be Luke’s pet name?

He held the chosen shirt up one more time and nodded decisively. “Thank you.” A serious look crossed his face again and he turned to face me. “Your pet name for me is not going to be moron.” Then he turned around again.

Wow, had we become that in sync? Maybe we developed a psychic connection. Probably the first one but just to be sure I concentrated on thoughts of Luke’s ass. “What am I thinking about?”

“My ass,” he said without hesitation.

“You are psychic,” I marveled.

“I can feel and see you staring at my ass,” he said meeting my eyes in the mirror with a laugh. Then he started messing with his hair.

One Little Lie will be released on Oct. 20 and can be pre-ordered here.

Night at the Theater

A pretend date from One Little Word.

Ryan

Luke and I went to see the drama club’s fall presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream together. He got to pretend he was an out and proud athlete, and I had someone to go the show with, so I didn’t complain. I flailed internally at how date-like it seemed, but I covered pretty well, I thought. Good thing he was fun to laugh at.

We were early, so we stood in line and waited to be let in while I watched Luke with a bemused expression.

“It’s set in the woods. You’re sure one of them doesn’t wander off and die?” he asked hopefully. “It’s the perfect horror movie scenario.”

“This isn’t a horror movie, it’s a comedy.”

“They should have done Romeo and Juliet instead,” he muttered. His acting chops weren’t that good, but they were good enough people bought our act, so privately I thought he would make a good Romeo. With passionate green eyes and dimples, I could see how any naïve, young Juliet would follow him to certain death.

I felt nervous and excited just from the awkward hand holding we were doing, but I didn’t say any of that. “You like Romeo and Juliet?” I questioned instead.

“It has swordfights and death. It’s the Shakespearean version of an action flick,” he reasoned.

“Well, this is like the Shakespearean Hangover.”

He narrowed his eyes. “No way.”

I shrugged. “Everyone wakes up confused in a forest and there’s a donkey instead of a tiger.”

He didn’t look convinced but said, “I guess I’ll give it a chance.”

“You’re so uncultured,” I teased.

“Dude, don’t be like that. I’m your boyfriend,” he teased back, but I couldn’t handle hearing him say those words.

“Shut up,” I said, removing my hand from his suddenly.

Luke frowned. “I’m just joking.”

“You suck at it.”

He doubled down, clutching a hand to his heart and imploring, “Oh, I’m so sorry, baby. Can you ever forgive me?”

I did not melt. I fought a smile while saying, “Pretty sure you’re hopeless.”

“But you love me anyway.”

The words caught in my throat.

~~~

OLW Excerpt

In One Little Word, Luke needs to use Ryan to get out of trouble. Ryan wants to get Luke back for an old grudge. And then they fall in love? Maybe, but there’s a bunch of other stops along the way. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Luke

I almost got suspended yesterday. Today wasn’t shaping up to be any better. I grudgingly convinced Ryan to sit with my friends at lunch today, now I hoped my friends would be okay with it. I had to tell two of them the whole story so they could help me with the other guys. Zach and Joey looked at me like I was a pod person when I said Ryan Miller would be hanging around us. Then they laughed their asses off.

“No wait, let me get this straight,” Zach said, eyes dancing with mirth as we walked through the halls to the cafeteria.

“You mean let me get this gay,” Joey corrected.

“You know what? I’ll accept that,” Zach decided, offering his fist for Joey to bump. “Good one, Joey.” Why were these two my closest friends? Assholes.

“Oh, come on,” I begged.

“No, you come on,” Zach responded. “Your plan is to fake date Ryan, but secretly, so no one finds out.”

I nodded. “Right.” What was so weird about that? Alright, a lot, but still. It could work.

“But you want the administration to find out somehow.” Zach looked at me like I was a moron, but he did that a lot, so it didn’t really mean anything.

“This is so gay,” Joey interjected.

“No, it’s secretly gay,” Zach quipped.

I sighed. “Come on, guys.”

“Sounds like you want to spend time with this guy,” Joey muttered.

“No, I barely know him.” And Ryan seemed pretty unpleasant. That was probably being unfair as I was asking a lot of him, but I didn’t think there’d be much chance of us becoming “besties,” or whatever words my little sister would use to describe true friendship.

“You want to get to know him?” Joey questioned.

“I want him to help with this, and you two to help me with the other guys,” I explained.

“What’s in it for us?” Joey asked and Zach nodded. “I’ll do it for 20 bucks.”

“I don’t need money,” Zach said quickly, “But I would take a date with your cousin Ashley.”

I stared them both down. “I guess we’re playing hard ball then.”

It took a little more convincing, but I got them to come around to my side of things. They were especially supportive once I threatened them with a few secrets they wouldn’t want out. They weren’t exactly helping though once we met up with the other guys.

“Why did you invite that loser to sit with us?” Joey asked. He actually knew why, so I stared at him, dumbfounded. Maybe he forgot. Zach smirked at me like what did you expect? Joey wasn’t too bright, but he wasn’t the only one to complain at the news.

Lunch would be the first time Ryan and I were around each other in public. I was nervous about it all day. Almost like butterflies in my stomach before a date. Oh god, this was terrible. I wasn’t some asshole. I didn’t hate gay people, but I didn’t like the idea of being thought of as one.

“He’s not that bad,” I said, trying to glare Joey into submission. His dull eyes just stared unhelpfully back at me.

“What if he tries something with one of us?” That was Zach, the other one who knew. The curly headed brunette smirked as he asked the question. Unlike Joey, Zach was just having fun with this. His smirk turned into a grin when the other guys nodded along with him.

“He won’t,” I said with force, staring Zach down.

“Well, you can handle him if he does,” Zach said smoothly while we entered the cafeteria. Eyes turned to us. We were the best looking, big shots, only outshined by the seniors, so people normally watched us. Plus, I made captain as a junior, that was a big deal. I normally liked the attention, but I didn’t want an audience for any of this.

“Ew, no I’m straight.” Was that something I even needed to say? Shouldn’t that be obvious?

Zach laughed. “I meant you can menace him with your big muscles.” He raised an eyebrow, silently saying interesting where your mind went.

We went to our table, but I grabbed Zach to whisper, “You don’t want your parents to find out that it wasn’t your brother who put a dent in the car, right? Because it sounds like you want me to tell them.”

Zach grinned, that shit-eating, lazy smile that got him girls. “I was just teasing.” To everyone else, he said, “We all know who you really have eyes for and she is smoking hot today.”

Our eyes all went to where Lydia Smith entered the cafeteria. She had black hair, like Megan Fox, and could eat lesser guys for breakfast. She was stacked and glamorous and gorgeous, not like a lot of girls in this town. The rumor was that she was also very skilled with her mouth. Unlike most girls I’ve been with, she was playing hard to get. I hated it and loved it.

I was too caught up in staring at her that I didn’t notice Ryan until he was at our table. What. The. Hell.

“Hey boys.” He flounced over, shaking his hips and doing some queer motion with his hand. He was never that out there usually. He was doing this to mess with me. It was working. Half our table was uncomfortable and looking anywhere but at him while the other half was staring at him in horror, mouths open, unable to look away.

I was surprised the school didn’t make him go home and chance for wearing shorts that short. They were obscene, the material clinging to his thighs. Ryan was a tall guy with surprisingly toned calves, currently showing off miles of long legs, so I looked away. I didn’t need that visual seared into my brain. He had a pink top on with the word “fabulous” in rainbow letters.

If I murdered him, would it be a hate crime? I hated him alright. Not because he was gay, though, because this was humiliating. “What are you doing?” I hissed at him.

“Eating lunch with you cuties,” he grinned. “You invited me silly, remember?” The guys gave him a wide berth while he sat, and we watched him start eating his lunch, unconcerned. The table was silent, except for Zach, who was doing a terrible job of disguising his laughter as a coughing fit.

One Little Word Prologue

Here’s the prologue to One Little Word. Enjoy!

Luke

My mother raised me right. She would say that everything good about me came from her and my less pleasant qualities were inherited from my father. It’s not that they’re divorced or that they don’t get along. She’s teasing him. They’ve been together 20 some years and they do that, tease and joke and then kiss right in front of me. It’s pretty disgusting.

But I am a good guy. And I mean more than just good to look at it. Not that I’m a slouch there. I see the way girls look at me when I walk through the halls. It could be my sandy blonde hair or the muscles and trim body I’ve developed from lifting weights and playing baseball. Maybe it’s my vibrant green eyes or just the confident way I stroll through school, like nothing and nobody can stop me.

It’s precisely that attitude that got me in trouble. It was a few minutes before school started. Me and some of my buddies from the team walked from the gym after doing our morning weight training routine. We’re sweaty and tired, not just from the exercise but at having to get up so freaking early, though a few guys shoved each other and messed around in their typical fashion.

“My grandma can bench press more than you, Ahmad,” said Joey Wilson, a great catcher whose IQ was much lower than his batting average, which was saying something since his batting average wasn’t that great. My best friend Zach Ahmad didn’t look over at Joey. I don’t even think his eyes were open.

“Got nothing to say to that, Ahmad?” smirked Ted Summers, our team’s back up third baseman.

“If you expect a response from me before 9:00 a.m.” he started haughtily, “come up with something worth the effort of replying to.” He leaned into my shoulder and let me guide him down the halls. Lazy asshole.

“You didn’t have to come work out,” Ted pointed out.

Zach swung his arm around my back, clapping me on the shoulder. “The captain here said I should show initiative.” The last words dripped with disdain.

“I will drop you,” I warned.

He opened one eyelid to peer at me. His tired blue-grey eye projected a surprising amount of menace. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“How did you make captain anyway?” Joey asked me, switching targets. “My little sister can bench press more than you.”

I scoffed at the catcher. “One, you don’t have a little sister.”

“Okay, your little sister can bench press more than you,” he corrected.

I carried on like he hadn’t spoken. “Two, that was basically the same insult.”

“Whatever, you queens.” Joey gestured to Zach and me limping down the halls together. “Going to take each other to prom?”

“How would they decide who gets the fancy crown?” Ted snickered.

I considered thanking Ted because if we got a crown that meant we won something, but I directed a question to the leech on my shoulder instead. “You got anything to say to this?”

He lifted a finger in Ted’s general direction. “Blah-blah, you’re a girl.” Then he pointed towards Joey. “You’re gay, blah-blah-blah.” Zach positioned himself more firmly on my shoulder. “You make a surprisingly comfortable pillow,” he told me. “Why don’t I sleep on you in Spanish class?”

“You’re a vain bastard who’d never do this in front of anyone else?” I guessed. The guys watched, thinking that might get a response. Zach opened his mouth, then shrugged and closed it, conceding the point.

“You’re so gay,” Joey said, laughing at us.

“Better than being a retard,” I responded instantly.

Remember, my mom raised me right. I don’t swear in front of my grandparents or act rude to ladies and I take my cap off for the national anthem. But in front of the guys, it’s different. I may be the most popular guy in my grade but part of that is because I fit in. Juvenile, off-color remarks are the only things Joey and a lot of the other guys understand. I guess I could not say anything, but okay, maybe I’m a macho idiot jock who can’t be the bigger person because I just can’t let the comments slide.

“At least I’m not a pussy,” Joey said. Zach snorted on my shoulder because the catcher basically conceded to being a retard. I mean, mentally challenged.

I responded back as I’m expected to, not even thinking about it, trying to remember if we had any homework in algebra that I forgot to do. “Whatever, you fag,” I said. No points for originality, but I flipped him off too for good measure. He huffed and rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to respond, probably with something witty and original along the lines of I know you are, but what am I.

Except then I heard a sharp intake of breath and a stern voice behind me. “Mr. Chambers. Head to the principal’s office.”

Fuck.

Another Riding With Brighton Quote

Brighton. You couldn’t pick a more perfect name for the kid. It’s like his parents knew he was gonna turn out to be the most magnetic and engrossing person that’s every existed in this town…

Bello is Spanish for beautiful and Adler is German for eagle. Which means his (last) name means beautiful fucking eagle. And yeah, you can start picturing a great, majestic, free bird soaring through the sky on a perfect summer day while some anthem of hope plays in the background because that’s exactly what it feels like when the kid walks into a room.

-Riding With Brighton by Haven Francis

 

Beach Bum

pexels-photo-457882

I live by the beach. I go to the beach occasionally, but I picture lounging in the sun and reading a good book and I can’t actually do that at the beach. I have a dog and I love my dog and my dog loves going with humans wherever they go and especially to the beach.

Or more specifically, my dog loves walking, finding food people have left behind on the sand, and jumping on people. She doesn’t understand relaxing on a beach towel. I could try anyway but she would whine the entire time. I had to put her in her kennel a few times when older relatives were around and she’s a dachshund so she’s stubborn as hell and she made noise the whole time.

Basically, I can’t leave her behind. I could but that would be really mean and she would know and give me sad eyes when I came back.

My aim is to write three books for summer, which seems like a pretty achievable goal when I’ve already written two. I haven’t solely been rambling on about the beach because the second of my summer novels is called Beach Bum.

Beach Bum

5122gc0gwllCharlie Powell doesn’t date.

Until he meets Bryce Davenport.

Bryce Davenport writes appointments in a day planner, pays attention in class, and tries his best at anything he does. And his name is Bryce Davenport, which is pretty pretentious.

Charlie should find him repulsive, but Bryce is sweet and bossy and a million things that make Charlie’s heart beat a little faster and his palms sweat.

The problem?

Bryce has goals and ambitions. Charlie spends his days lounging at the beach. Bryce plays sports and loves staying busy. Smoking marijuana probably isn’t a sport, but Charlie would excel at it if it was.

Can the beach bum find his happily ever after with the perfect guy or will it all go up in smoke?

~~~

This is a coming of age story that features romance, humor, and growing up. It’s also super gay.

Get the book here!

freee boooks

Hello, how are you? I’m going to assume you’re doing fine, that’s great. We should catch up more often. What am I up to? Thanks for asking! I’ve been writing a lot and this month is going by fast. I have no idea how it’s already a few weeks into June. But there’s free books to be had, so here’s some of the giveaways for June.

f73bd4f7765d83cc6576117ca7cc372e

The Truly, Madly, Deeply giveaway has 51 books in various genres. There’s some fantasy,  historical, billionaires and fake relationship stories.

5b38dd4e8859a268bebfafba0f352d61

This one has 78 YA reads, with a focus on romance and content suitable for YA readers.

Check it out and see if there’s anything you’re interested in! They’re all free and include previews and full books.