What’s the plural of vampire? …Besides vampires.

What kind of book am I working on right now?

Well, let me answer that question with… a statement, but not the answer. Because I like making things complicated.

I just looked up what is a group of vampires called.

Yes, I’m working on a historical drama. Just kidding, it’s a paranormal romance. And also gay, in case the blog title didn’t clue you in that everything here is hella gay.

Fortunately, when I looked up vampire group names, the internet didn’t treat me like I was a weirdo and instead provided lots of helpful information. Apparently there isn’t one correct answer. Vampire families can be called a clutch, clan, brood, coven, or pack.

Werewolves already claimed pack, so good thing there’s other options. I kind of like brood because you’ve got some (almost) rhyming and alliteration going on with vampires drinking blood in their brood.

However my initial instinct, and what I’ve already used at least once in the novel I’m writing, is clan. I guess I can’t officially decide all groups of vampires are forever hereby referred to as a clan (because I unfortunately don’t rule the universe) but I’m going to use clan from now on.

If you disagree with vampire clans, well, keep it to yourself maybe? Those guys are dangerous.

Though to be fair, this guy is pretty broody.

Putting on a show, in different ways

While their significant others pretend to date each other, two friends try to hang out and not think about the bearding shenanigans happening elsewhere. This is an extended scene from One Little Lie.

~

Ryan

Another weekend without the boo meant I was spending time with my bestie instead. We were at my house on Saturday night, sitting at the kitchen table. We had our books open, but we hadn’t gotten around to doing much studying yet. We could have done something more fun like watch a movie or something but that left too many opportunities for either of us to stop paying attention and worry about… other things.

In a silent, unspoken agreement, we weren’t mentioning our significant others and what they were currently doing while we sat at the kitchen table and pretended everything was fine.

“Haven’t decided who I want to be in Alice in Wonderland,” Alicia told me and I made an effort to tune back into the conversation. The good thing about our silent agreement: we didn’t have to talk about it. That meant she didn’t have to know how badly I was failing at not thinking about what we weren’t supposed to be thinking about.

Just, how was their latest sham date going? What was Luke wearing, were her parents totally scary, when would it be over? No, I had to get a grip…  What was so great about a stupid fair anyway? If I put on a wig, could I pass as a girl and then could Luke and I date without worry?

Anyway, Alicia! Theater. Was there a better, more exciting topic? Of course not. We had started making props for Alice before rehearsals started because we needed to do something in set design class and there were a lot of props to make. Mushrooms, trees, flowers, signs, and more. For a play everyone thought of as ‘the one that’s a great big acid trip,’ it was surprisingly involved.

Luke probably hadn’t seen the new movies. We should watch them. He would hate them. No, Alicia was talking about her part in Alice. Wait, I didn’t know a ton about theater, but I got how auditions worked. “Doesn’t the director pick out your part for you?”

She held her chin up in the air. “I can make sure they’re inspired to go in the right direction.”

“Aren’t you obviously the Red Queen?” She had the hair already. And who wouldn’t want to be the person who sentenced others to death? Off with their head! Who wanted to be a superhero when royalty had better powers?

Alicia shrugged. “I was a queen before in Midsummer.”

“So what? The fairy queen and a fairytale queen are…” Okay, they sounded pretty similar. “Totes different,” I finished lamely.

She shrugged. “I don’t think I have the correct vibe anyway.”

“You know someone who does.” If Lydia started shouting ‘off with their head,’ the world would be in grave danger. She had a lot of gravitas; people might be compelled to listen to her.

“Yeah,” Alicia sighed happily. “Lydia’s so great.”

Technically, Alicia brought up one of the people we weren’t mentioning first. I only alluded to her. That meant it was only fair that I got to talk about Luke a little. Before I could, Alicia continued. “I thought about being Alice but I don’t know. I’m not a tiny blonde ingenue.”

She was a curvy, gorgeous badass and maybe I should channel some inner stereotypical gay best friend persona and tell her she was fierce and could slay and throw in some yasses for good measure. I went with, “You’re an actress. You can be anything. Isn’t that the point?”

Alicia considered that for a moment before shaking it off. “There’s other people trying out that fit better. Cara Lewis is into drama now.” We both frowned. “She was an extra in one play and she thinks she knows everything. Plus, she looks at the rest of us like we’re totally beneath her the whole time.”

I meant to keep reassuring her that she was awesome and could do anything she set her mind to and whatever else Barney and Elmo and our childhood puppet mentors taught us, but instead I said, “Cara Lewis hit on Luke the other day.”

Alicia looked down at the book in front of her. “You know what? We should probably study.”

“Did you hear the piece of gossip I just gave you free of charge?” I was tempted to feel her forehead and see if she had a fever. Did I already tell her about it?

She smiled wryly. “The charge is you freaking out for the rest of the night about what it means.”

“No, Luke doesn’t like her like that,” I said sensibly. Nope, I couldn’t drop it that easily. “But she did it right in front of me.”

Alicia rolled her eyes.

With supreme will, I said, “We can talk about other things.”

She looked at me kindly. “I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”

“Yeah, totally, of course.” I knew that! I just still wanted to slap Cara a little bit.

“You’re agreeing too much,” Alicia informed me.

I grinned. “You’re absolutely right.”

“Smartass.” She laughed, then realized something. “Hey, didn’t have we have an unspoken agreement to not mention Lydia or Luke?”

I literally covered my mouth with a hand while I said, Technically, you brought them up first, so you’re the party at fault here, because I knew that was the wrong to say and I couldn’t stop myself, but I could stop her from hearing it. She just watched me evenly while I acted weird; that’s why we were besties.

Luke and Lydia were pretending to be a happy couple right now and that’s why we weren’t mentioning them. But the conversation I had with my father came back to me. Totally casually, I shared a random, no big deal thought with Alicia. “Hey, my dad said that I talk about Luke too much. That’s crazy, right?”

She didn’t immediately agree and start discussing whether my father needed to be committed into a mental institution or not. She didn’t look at me directly or say anything.

“What the hell, Alicia? Seriously?” She was a traitor and we weren’t besties anymore.

At least she looked apologetic while saying, “He does sort of have a point.”

“Don’t tell me that.” I buried my head in my hands and made a pathetic noise.

“Okay, I won’t tell you.” She paused, then murmured, “But he does.”

Nope, I wasn’t that person. I couldn’t be that person who was relationship crazy. I was too interesting! Had my focus really shifted so completely from myself to Luke? I didn’t even want to think about it… which probably meant it was true.

“I get it,” Alicia consoled. “Honestly, Lydia is pretty much always on my mind too. Are we pathetic?”

Yes, completely. I had so many great qualities… humility not being one of them. How could Luke have taken over my life? Aside from him being soooo cute and sweet and sexy and— Dammit, I was doing it again.

I tried to put on a brave face. “It’s our first relationships,” I reasoned with Alicia. “We’re allowed to get a little carried away.”

“You really think so?”

“Let’s tell ourselves that,” I said firmly.

“Did you ever think you’d actually get to date in high school?” Alicia asked me.

“Hell no.” I didn’t even have to consider the question.

“Maybe that’s why. I mean, you got this opportunity, it makes sense to make the most of it.”

My life had never been flat out miserable but perhaps it was a little lonely. I had one parent, few friends, and no love interests at all. I did the best I could, I laughed at everything, was quick with he jokes and got impeccable grades so I’d be able to leave this town behind. I’d been content. But not exactly happy.

Until Luke came along and didn’t just make me happy but freaking ecstatic.

Of course I took the opportunity to be ecstatic. I deserved to feel like that for once in my life. I just got a little carried away. That was one of the few faults I had.

Alicia drew me from my thoughts.  “Maybe we should go do something,” she suggested. Yeah, I wasn’t really in the mood to study anymore. “Wanna go hang out as besties?”

We could go to the diner and eat our feelings away. “French fries?” I suggested. “Oh, or pie? Ohhh, French fries and pie?”

She nodded. “And no discussing our love lives.”

“Didn’t we already try that?” It didn’t matter who I was talking to, Dad or Alicia or someone else, my thoughts always drifted back to Luke.

“That was an unspoken agreement,” She reasoned. “This is spoken.” Would that be enough? She thought about it and added, “There could be penalties.”

“If we mention our significant others, we can kick each other.” I couldn’t kick myself, there was no way I had that coordination, but kicking Alicia would have to do.

“Food and violence,” she mused, then nodded. “What a great combo.”

We went to the diner and ordered a bunch of junk food.

I didn’t really do things by halves. I threw myself into things, of course it would be like that with a relationship. Luke was going to be a big part of my life. But he wasn’t my whole life. And I needed nights like this every so often to remember that.

My supportive best friend powers kicked in once we had snacks. I told Alicia. “If you want to be Alice, you should go for Alice.”

“I might not get the part,” she answered back. I’m afraid I won’t get it, I translated.

“Like I said, that’s not up to you. But you can try. And if you don’t get it, you’ll be an amazing Queen but at least you gave it a shot. There’s nothing more you can do.” See, I was such a wise, excellent at giving advice person. I deserved lots of attention from myself and anyone would be lucky to have me. I would be lucky to have me.

Alicia made a thoughtful noise. “Hey, at the risk of being kicked, you should take your own advice.” I sent her a puzzled look and she elaborated. “Isn’t that part of the reason you’re talking to everyone else about Luke so much? You aren’t talking to him.”

Huh. So, if I took my own advice, I just needed to tell him my concerns. That was all I could do and maybe we would get somewhere.

“You’re right,” I told her. “Or no, I’m right. Obviously.” I couldn’t solve things on my own. At least I could give it a shot and tell him what was wrong. I needed to do that but was a little worried about it. I confided in Alicia. “I just want to go back to that happy little bubble we were in not that long ago.”

She acknowledged that with a nod but said, “Maybe there’s something even better waiting for you after this rough patch.”

Hmmm. There was only one way to find out.

Sexuality is not a school subject

Luke wonders about his sexuality. Ryan wonder about Luke. Here’s a small deleted bit from One Little Lie.

Ryan

Luke’s favorite subjects in school were lunch and baseball, which weren’t even real subjects. Maybe Spanish was his most liked actual class… but that was because he could fall asleep during lessons. My favorite was science. It was a shame neither of us liked math; I wasn’t familiar with a formula to figure him out. He could be surprisingly thoughtful and empathetic sometimes and had no problem discussing something if I got upset.

Then there were other times when he closed off. He thought about labels a lot. I could tell, but I didn’t know what to do about it. He talked to me about lots of things, but I worried some barrier had gone up that I couldn’t see regarding this and I didn’t know how to break it down. There was an equation going on in his head and he was trying to figure it out on his own and that was stupid because he wasn’t good at math. Okay, math wasn’t my favorite subject either, but maybe I could help if he just told me about the problem.

quicksand, a black hole,magnets, and other stuff that pulls you in

Luke has a boyfriend and a fake girlfriend in One Little Lie. Which is sort of crazy, but what’s really crazy is thinking Luke is bisexual. That’s really insane and laughable. Except no one is laughing. Anyway, in this extended scene, Luke and Lydia are coming back from a fake date where they went to the fair with her family.

~

We were basically babysitters for Lydia’s younger siblings at the fair while her parents checked out all the religious singers that performed there, but the fair was the best place to be a babysitter because we got to ride all the rides we wanted and play the games and no one could judge us cause it was for the kids. Plus, her siblings were way better behaved than Lily and her friends.

The deep-fried Twinkie was glorious and kinda gross and after having the deep-fried Oreos too, l was okay with never eating anything else unnaturally fried for at least another year. All in all, it was a good day. I had some of the prizes the kids won in my car, so Lydia rode with me and I dropped her and the winnings off at their house. We stood near the edge of the driveway and she gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek while her parents looked on. They went in the house, but she lingered outside with me.

I thought I didn’t have to think about this stuff anymore now that I had a girl on my arm. Okay, maybe I didn’t want to think about it. It was like quicksand, a black hole, or magnets: something that pulls you in. I start thinking about it and then it’s hard to stop and I only end up with a headache and no answers. What was the point of putting myself through all that if I never seemed to get anywhere?

I leaned against my car next to her. Was I bi? “That would mean I liked guys and girls.”

She nodded. “You do.”

“I like Ryan and girls,” I pointed out.

“You want your boyfriend and also to be straight?” She raised one eyebrow.

“Is that not possible?” I asked without much hope.

“I guess it is,” she conceded. Hey, alright, that was—but then she kept talking. “But have you considered the possibility that’s not what this is?”

I sighed, gesturing for her to move over and she and I sat on my car.

All the homes on this block were small and quaint and some of the properties had their porchlights on, but it was after dark and the street was pretty dead. There was never anything to do in town after ten or so, but there was a breeze in the air and just sitting outside was kinda nice.

“You should talk to Zach,” I told her. I mostly got where she was coming from, but my parents weren’t religious like hers. My parents went to church, but faith was only one part of who they were.

“Um. I mean. I guess.” She frowned.

I’d had some bad ideas in my time, but this wasn’t one of them. “It’s just a suggestion. He might know more about the religious aspect than me,” I defended myself.

“It’s not a bad idea.” She gestured vaguely. “I just can’t actually picture how that would go.”

Yeah. They had stuff in common, and would probably have a lot to say, but I couldn’t imagine either of them biting the bullet and having an awkward talk about feelings. They’d both just stare at each other having a too-cool-to-care contest.

“Our parents aren’t the same religion anyway,” she said after moment.

“Does it matter? You’re as Muslim as he is and he’s as Christian as you are.”

She didn’t respond to that as she thought about something and I let her work out whatever it was.

Zach was third generation and his parents were devout privately. They believed in balancing their life here with their ethnicity and religion, that it was all parts of a whole instead of one over the other. They didn’t forget their faith but wanted to fit in here. They were doing a good job in that regard; their son was very acclimated.

“I’ve seen his parents before,” she said eventually. “At their store.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you shopped there. I could maybe get you a discount.” Oh, I wasn’t really supposed to tell anyone my family got a discount. As my parents liked to say, they were crowdfunding raising three boys between them, Zach’s parents, and Joey’s. When we were both 10, Zach started coming with us on summer trips to a lake house in the Ozarks. My grandparents owned it and our extended family shared it. After that, his parents said we might as well get the family discount.

“I used to go into their store when I was like 13,” Lydia told me. “It was my way of rebelling back then.”

“Your parents don’t want you shopping there?” Maybe they were Kroger people.

“Um. Muslims, you know?”

I shrugged. I didn’t really. Some people had a thing about it. Hey, why couldn’t sexuality be like that? The Ahmads occasionally dealt with assholes but didn’t like receiving sympathy for it and wanted to be treated normally. And I knew how to do that; I’d known Zach as long as I could remember. They were normal to me. It wasn’t like we pretended everything was fine, they just wanted to focus on other things. Why couldn’t people just treat me normally?

“They seem nice though,” Lydia said of Zach’s parents.

I laughed. It always shocked me when his parents welcomed me into the store before they realized it was me. Don’t get me wrong, they were totally nice. But I was like a member of the family, so I’d never pick my Monopoly piece first at their house. And Lydia’s parents were like a whole other level beyond his parents or mine. Like under their politeness and hospitality, there was just more politeness and hospitality.

Writing About Writing, or what’s next for me?

I’m starting one project and finishing another. The finale book in the One More Thing Series is on pre-order and will be out in May. And I’ve just completed Black Cats and Bad Luck, which is the start of a new series. It’s currently available for those on my mailing list, hint hint, but will soon be out for everyone. For free too!

So as one series is drawing to a close soon, I figured I should tell you what I’m working on and what’s next. I’ve been dipping more into the fantasy/magical realm lately. If you don’t enjoy fantasy, I’m still going to be writing contemporary gay romances. I have some ideas for future books, but I’m just waiting until One Big Decision (the final book in the One More Thing series) is released before taking on another project.

This might be the longest I’ve ever written on one topic continuously. No, it definitely is, so this is still crazy to my ADHD brain. I’m adding some genre variety, but I’ll still be writing gay romance.

My main project right now is the Ward Magic series. I’m almost done with a novella for my mailing list about the main characters from that story, Mason and Horatio. They’ll be featured again in the third book, though the second book is about another character from the series, Avery. It’s called Instalove.

I’m also working on an email series, which is a fun and slightly terrifying new concept for me. The story I’m writing for this is called Sleeping Without Beauty. So it may or may not be about fairy tales. (It’s totally about fairy tales.) Some will be more fantasy-like, others will be magical realism or mostly normal. Sleeping Without Beauty takes place largely in someone’s brain, so it’s definitely the first option. That makes it sound like a delusion or something. What happens is a group of people take a field trip to someone’s mind. As you might have noticed, I have not yet written any promotional materials for this story.

I hope you have enjoyed me listing titles at you. That feels like what I’ve been doing. Which is a thing, right? I’ve seen authors do release date and title reveals before. It feels weird to not include an excerpt or quote or something, but I do that a lot, so I won’t this time. Variety!

The weight of things

Can someone go boy crazy if they are already crazy in general? I don’t know, but here is a deleted scene from One Little Problem. It is about a boy who may or may not be crazy thinking about his life and his relationship. There is some discussion of the shenanigans that occur in the book, but I don’t think you need to know about it to understand this scene. All you need to know is a boy wants to keep dating another boy, and he’s afraid he won’t be able to.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

~

Ryan

Scales were one of the worst inventions ever, right? Yeah, they provided helpful information: the weight of something. That probably had numerous real-world applications. There was nothing inherently evil about knowing how much something weighed, but there was just so much bad that came along with it. Because once you knew how much you weighed, you could feel terrible about that, you could make false promises to exercise, say the weight was going to come off tomorrow and then just perpetually hate yourself when it never did.

Or you could weigh a perfectly healthy amount but still want to weigh a few pounds less, and then criticize yourself for not being better. It felt like my life was a set of scales, and someone somewhere decided the weight on the good side and bad side had to even out for some dumb reason or that having a disproportionate amount on the bad side and a tiny amount on the good side was okay but not the other way around.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe I actually wanted to fake break up but maybe that would finally tip the scales, let me have more good than bad. Not this weird cosmic balancing act where things with Luke were good so things with our parents had to be bad. Things with Luke were good, so things with my dad had to be weird. Things with Luke were good, so it had to have an expiration date. I had to go away for the summer, and what if everything changed?

Oh, who am I kidding, things with Luke were good and that’s what I cared about, about having that for as long as possible. So, it was pretty easy to break up. We did it without fanfare, no public spectacle that usually went with the more important moments in our relationship. We were less obvious at school but most people either had gotten used to the gays being weird gay or tried to pay us as little attention as possible or just didn’t believe we would stay broken up.

The Three Amigos (and Ryan)

Baseball bros for life, Joey, Zach, and Luke have a conversation about solidarity, sex, and how stupid the current conversation they’re having is. Luke’s boyfriend Ryan observes the scene. This was almost a scene from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas.

For context, here is a two word description of each of these characters.

Joey: Dumb Jock
Zach: Cool Prick
Luke: Clueless Boy
Ryan: Very Awesome

This was like 75% of an idea, which I meant to find a place for but never did. Which means that when posting on the blog, this was a fun exercise where I needed to fill in certain spots even though I did not remember what my original intent or plan was.

~

Ryan

The kid hassling Zach or Joey, or Zach and Joey, must be a colossal idiot. Because if antagonizing Joey, it kinda looked like a fly buzzing around a cow’s ass, where eventually the big, dumb animal got tired of the buzzing sound and swatted the insect with its tail. Not sure if that was what happened, probably not because nobody had a tail. It seemed like someone tried to give Zach a hard time. A foolhardy task because vain divas who thought they were better than everyone generally did not give a single flip about the opinions of lesser beings. Still, random heckler did his best.

Seriously, I heard a few comments which boiled down to ‘eww, a gay!’ My guess about the reasons for these comments? Zach likely never received his quota of prejudice from small-minded high schoolers for being bi. He escaped some homophobia when he came out after Luke and wasn’t actively dating another guy, and the homophobes could not let a gay go un-insulted for being gay or god would cry. So heckler heckled, and Joey decided to respond.

“Grrr!” Joey said. Okay, I walked over after this part, so the words remained a mystery, but the general message and tone definitely meant ‘grrrrr.’ The person still didn’t want to quit, so Joey made a threat, then followed it up with, “Seriously. I will hurt you and then,” he gestured to Zach. “He’ll make fun of you, and it will be a really good time for us, but you’ll hate it.” I would buy tickets to that movie. “And Zach will take all credit, and then you’ll have gotten your ass kicked by a f—” a teacher walked close by. “Friend of mine.”

A little shaky at the end, but all in all, pretty supportive. Especially as he glared at the person who walked away and draped a friendly, protective arm around Zach’s shoulder. Which actually, considering what they were just talking about, looked a little gay, but no one said anything. And Zach looked too close to actually almost having feelings to warn him.

This aside wasn’t as random as it appeared, but Luke loved when I acted like a huge weirdo for some reason. I guess I understood because I loved when he covered his eyes during scary movies or acted like a huge dramatic baby. Like now! He turned on Joey, all indignant. “How come you’ve never defended me like that?

“Oh dude, come on.” Joey crossed his arms and rolled his eyes, which would not protect him from the dramatic baby.

“No, I’m your best friend too,” my boo insisted.

“Has anyone considered,” Zach offered quietly, “That having a discussion about who exactly is whom’s best friend forever and what any special BFF privileges would entail will, in fact, be the dumbest and gayest thing ever.”

Luke and Joey thought about that for a minute.. I gave Zach a dirty look for using ‘gay’ in a pejorative light, but he gestured to the two dummies lost in thought, which I translated to something like ‘I know my audience.’

The time for quiet contemplation had ended.

“I’m your best friend too!” Luke quietly hollered at Joey, which served to only make it more dramatic.

“I think we have to risk it, dude,” Joey told Zach, squeezing his arm one more time and then removing himself from the other’s close proximity. “I can’t say I would ever go after dick—”

“Good,” I interrupted. “Or else I’d owe Lydia $20 bucks.”

“But if someone doesn’t have similar compunctions,” Joey talked loudly over me.

“Compunctions?” Zach judged his word choice. “Dude, are you studying for the SATS or something?”

“How dare you. I’m just saying.” He raise a hand. “Here’s all the girls Zach could be with,” He raised the other hand. “Here’s all the guys. Put it together, it’s more potential action.” He brought his hands together with a clap, which hopefully did not mean anything because the clap was not a fun, sexy thing.

“I get action!” Luke defended.

“And if you want that action to continue,” I filled in smoothly.

“It is a private and special matter between Ryan and I,” he wisely finished with.

“Being with one person is stupid, playing the field is smart,” Zach said. “Have you never seen a 90’s movie, listened to a rap song, or talked to other human males before?”

“So it would be better if I was having lots of gay sex with different people?” Luke wondered.

“See, that you can’t even understand shows how bad it is,” Joey said seriously.

“This is the dumbest conversation we’ve ever had,” Zach told them both.

“Okay, I get that you wear glasses and want to seem smart in front of your nerdy gay friend,” Hey that meant me. I allowed the description because I enjoyed the idea of Zach trying to impress me. “But that is so not true,” Joey said. He apparently did not understand that glasses did not translate to IQ points.

“Yeah,” Luke agreed. “You’ve actually taken part in way dumber conversations than this.” And then they proceeded to list them with glee while Zach tried to walk away and they wouldn’t let him.

-the end, I guess, because the words stopped at this point.

Boys. Baseball. Bisexuality?

Luke is not gay, but his boyfriend is. Also, Luke does have a boyfriend. To make sense of his life, he seeks advice from his best friend. Zach is bi, but interests include having fun, baseball, himself, his hair, and avoiding serious discussions. So Luke corners him when the baseball team is on a bus for an away game. This is a deleted scene from One Little Lie.

Luke

My sister said she thought I was a boring straight guy once. I was certainly interesting now; my dilemma was multifaceted. I had no idea what I was. I didn’t think and maybe didn’t want to be gay, but what if I was? Things had never felt this good, this intense before. That’s what I thought about after leaving Ryan’s house.

Then there was the other part, which was maybe worse. Maybe things didn’t feel so intense and crazy and wonderful because Ryan was a guy. Maybe it felt that way because my feelings for Ryan were more than I’d ever had for anyone else, maybe it was lo-

Nope. No. Too scary.

I’m the good guy, I’d always been the good boyfriend. I held doors open, paid for dinner, tried to listen, bought flowers, all of it. I executed all the right moves on the outside, but it never felt like this on the inside. I’d said I love you before and I had thought I meant it at the time, but it didn’t feel like this. Real, intense. Consuming. Was I gay? Did it matter that I still liked girls?

I wasn’t the type to do awkward or self-doubting and now there was a lot of that in my life. Ryan and I were each other’s first boyfriends. Though he’d been on a few dates with Zach and had definitely been attracted to other guys. Maybe Ryan was special to me, but I wasn’t special to him. Huh.

What a not fun thought.

That was only one of the reasons I couldn’t share with Ryan when he offered last night. Mainly, I wanted to go into his house and do anything that involved being undressed and not talking. Also because I didn’t want all of my fond, serious thoughts to spill out. And also because… it just didn’t feel right unloading all this stuff on him.

Lydia had her own soul searching to go through, so I turned to Zach. The easiest way to get Zach to cooperate was to tell him exactly what you wanted and make it clear that you would leave him alone after you got it. This wasn’t baseball. No warm up. No beating around the bush. Direct.

When it was time for our next away game, I clapped him on the shoulder and sat down next to him on the bus. “Prepare yourself for a serious conversation,” I informed him.

“Thanks for the warning.” He moved to get up. “But you didn’t inform me in writing at least three days in advance so—”

“Okay, but I want to talk about BEING GAY AND QUEER SHIT,” I raised my voice. “Whoever sits next to me will have that to look forward to.” Suddenly there were no free seats for Zach. “Come on, we can do this quickly.”

He sat back down but complained, “I don’t want to hold your hand through this. Can’t you talk to your actual boyfriend about this?”

“I’ll tell him once I figure it out.” He did it on his own. Okay, this was what I was talking about earlier. The big reason I couldn’t let him help me. Not only did he figure it out on his own, my addition only made things more complicated. I opened my stupid big mouth and told people he was gay.

I didn’t really know him at the time. I didn’t know about being in the closet or outing people. It was an accident. I just… After that, I didn’t want to put this on him. I could do this myself.

Mostly. I told Zach, “I’m talking to you whether you like it or not.”

He idly glanced out the window, but I doubted he’d make a break for it. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

Deep, deep down he was really a good person. You just had to get through all the bullshit first. Zach liked to present himself a certain way and his family weren’t really the type to have serious, intense conversations. My parents freaking loved talking. I just didn’t think they’d want to listen to anything I had to say at the moment.

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So,” Zach said after a tense silence, “Are you gonna start talking then, or what?”

“Right, right.” Okay. I wanted this. “I bought some time. With the Lydia thing. But I still don’t know.” There.

He didn’t say anything. I just expressed my doubts in such an eloquent and articulate manner and he had nothing to say? “Okay, so this is supposed to be a conversation,” I explained.

“I’m aware,” Zach said cooly. That was all he said.

“It’s your turn to talk,” I prompted. Maybe I should jump out the window instead.

He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want me to say to that.”

Oh dear god. “Help me,” I ordered. Or maybe begged. “How do I even decide? It’s like a big decision. Straight or gay.”

“You’re acting like there’s no other options.” He rolled his eyes. “Like being bi, for instance.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I shrugged.

Zach said he liked guys and girls. That was an option, hypothetically. I couldn’t imagine it any more than I could being gay; maybe I liked it even less for some reason. It wasn’t that simple, was it? To just say, oh, I like both and there, problem solved. That was awfully convenient. How long could that last for? Wasn’t it just putting off the inevitable? I couldn’t decide if that’s what I wanted to do or not.

“Please don’t let this inflate your ego any more,” I told Zach, “But you make it look really easy.”

“I’ve known I was gay for a while now,” he said simply. He used gay and bi interchangeably sometimes, but how was I supposed to know if that was what he was doing this time? Then seeing that I was clearly about to ask if he was gay now, he added, “I’m still bi, but I don’t have a problem with either term.”

Gay had become something of a catch all term, but it didn’t feel like it to me. If I called myself gay out loud, that meant I liked men and men only. Zach didn’t agree. Not that there was anything wrong with it, obviously. It just wasn’t me.

Zach sighed and his tone wasn’t exactly gentler, but for him it was almost warm and fuzzy as he continued, “You suddenly found yourself in a… situation.” Instead of boyfriend, I would have to refer to Ryan as my situation later; he’d get a kick out of that. “It might take time to figure everything out.”

I thought about that. How much time did I get? Did I have to become gay after my transitional period was over? When should I expect my membership card in the mail and how did I go about returning it? Still, it wasn’t bad advice. This was new to me. I got a little time at least. All I could come up with to say in response was, “Wow, you sound so wise and rational.”

“I know,” Zach shuddered. “I don’t like it.”

Well, that didn’t really help. But I guess it was reassuring. I felt really dumb, but I hadn’t been dealing with this for that long, that was true. But Zach had known he was gay for a while now? “I don’t think I’ve seen you go after a guy besides Ryan,” I noted.

“Oh god, we are not talking about that,” he said firmly.

I sighed. This was probably as good as our conversation would get, so I deemed Zach’s best friend duties over with and reached into my backpack. “Hey, I brought snacks.”

Zach smiled. Now some of the guys looked jealous, which made his smile grow. Zach liked envy even more than dessert. Ryan made cookies for the road. We ate them all ourselves but shared with Joey too. Apparently, I owed him for always telling him things he didn’t want to know.

Behind the scenes

Welcome to my dilemma, already in progress. I have a free story called When We Were Strangers, which is part of a series that already had around five books when I wrote it. So I think of it as a prequel because I wrote it later and it comes first chronologically. But I feel weird calling it a prequel because its listed first since it’s free and serves as an intro to the series. Being a writer is hard.

For three out of the four stories in this pre-story, I based them on anecdotes from the series. Which I had a lot of fun with. Ryan’s story is called ‘The Most Embarrassing Moment of Ryan’s Life (so far)” and it comes from One Little Problem. The gang is playing Never Have I Ever, and Ryan has to put a finger down.

~

Luke

“Never have I ever gone streaking,” she said instead.

Ryan put a finger down.

“Up is down, black is white,” I deadpanned. “My whole life is a lie, nothing makes sense.” I focused on teasing him so I wouldn’t imagine him naked.

“Not a big deal,” he started.

“Don’t sell yourself short, babe,” I teased.

“As cute as this is,” Zach said, though his voice implied it wasn’t very cute. “Let’s not build this story up as if it’s anything other than a series of increasingly zany situations that ended with Ryan losing his clothes, getting locked out of somewhere, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, until he found clothes or a sheet or a big leaf.”

Ryan pouted at Zach, so it was totally something like that. “This was, like, the one thing I got to put my finger down for! You took all the fun out of it.”

~

Zach’s version of events is pretty close to the real thing. Here’s a scene.

Ryan

When I fell into the water trough, the day was going great. Since most of my thoughts trended sarcastic, I should be clear. That wasn’t sarcasm, it was a true statement. Falling into barn animal water was excellent, because even as I heard the splash and my mouth flooded with gross water, I understood there were much worse things on this farm I could have fallen into.

Then some normal stuff happened. Like taking a shower to get clean. The owners of the farm had really fancy soap in their bathroom. My skin was so soft and smelled like daffodils! Not the manliest scent but a ton better than animal spit.

When putting on clothes after my shower, I ran into an unexpected obstacle… there weren’t any clothes where I was told there would be clothes. Then things got less normal and more terrible. I went to search for clothes, clad in only a towel, part of which was stuck in the bathroom door. I just didn’t know the last thing until I heard voices, the bathroom door wouldn’t open, and I ran to hide in the opposite direction of where the voices came from. During this, I lost the towel.

There was some panic, a lot of panic, and somehow I ended up outside. Who could say who was to blame for this development? I couldn’t say for certain it was my fault because I had no clue how I ended up here. It all happened so fast! The door I exited locked behind me. I planned to try a different door—

OH MY GOD. PEOPLE WERE COMING OUTSIDE. And then I was hiding in a barn.

~

Liberal Nonsense

In the One More Thing Series, Luke Chambers has an older sister named Rose who appears in One Little Lie. She’s referenced a lot for her intense and often annoying tendencies to be a social justice warrior. But her progressive tendencies probably make her the right person to talk to when Luke starts questioning his sexuality. I tried to write her into two other books, but she got taken out.

I also make fun of her liberal/hippie qualities when she’s mentioned because it’s really easy, as I share many of her qualities and view points. However, I try not to be as annoying as her, but I unfortunately cannot say that I manage it perfectly.

Here is some prose about Rose, yay rhymes, from One Little Lie. Most of this is extra content that isn’t the book.

~

Luke

For reasons that didn’t totally make sense to me, Rose cut off all the hair on her head but had stopped shaving her legs. Her hair had grown back but she kept it short and the usual dark blonde locks looked more dark than blonde at the moment. We barely looked related. Maybe that was just wishful thinking. She had a lip ring now, but she didn’t wear it while she was in town anymore. Her obvious surface acts of rebellion were all the town could see; the perfect grades she got were less easy to broadcast. My parents hated it. They wanted her to be normal, to not cause a scene.

As far as everyone in town knew, Rose had been a blonde, wide-eyed, small-town farm girl that voted how Dad told her to in her first election, listened to country music, and said her prayers every night or whatever. Until she attended a liberal college on the East Coast and she got corrupted by Starbucks and NPR and Al Gore.

Rose was always the dissenting opinion in our family, the one who was a little different. That was why she wanted to go somewhere so unlike here in the first place. She just didn’t start displaying her differences so boldly until recently. My parents had been much happier when she just pretended she was like everyone else.

Yeah, Rose was annoying. But to me, she was annoying either way, so it didn’t really matter how she wore her hair or if she got a nose piercing. The neighbors not knowing she was a freak didn’t make her less of a freak around me.