When We Were Strangers

For my One More Thing series, I wrote a free prequel called When We Were Strangers as an introduction to the characters. I don’t think I promoted it much on social media, so I’m finally doing that. Even though it technically takes place during the summer and this is the winter. I’m really selling this, aren’t I? I hope you have enjoyed this summary of everything I did wrong, now here is the book!

Okay, this is a scene from Ryan’s story, and I would explain, but it’s pretty self explanatory.

Ryan

Have you ever found yourself standing buck naked in a wheatfield in broad daylight? Only there wasn’t any wheat. Or if there was, it was in seed form, so you were basically out in the open where anyone could see you. Has this ever happened to anyone else? Of course it has. It probably happened all the time and was so relatable.

Man, if only I could say it wasn’t every day I ended up locked out while wearing no clothes, but it occurred way more than I was comfortable with. Once. It happened once times. This time, in fact. And it was once more time than I ever wanted.

Ha-ha. Just kidding. I wasn’t naked. Nope. Not at all. Who was naked? Me?!?! No way. I wasn’t naked, you were naked! Oh my god, don’t panic. RYAN, STAY CALM. DON’T PANIC. PLEASE SAVE ME BATMAN, SUPERMAN, OR RYAN REYNOLDS. HEY, HE STOLE MY NAME. No, he had it first since he was older than me.

Ahem. Okay. As I wasn’t in the best headspace for narration, I would come back later. Hopefully when I was calmer and wearing pants.

–the rest of the story is available here for free.

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.

Cemetery Boys and other queer indie books

Here is a super easy trivia question. Do you know the first trans book written by a trans author to make the NYT bestseller list in fiction? Yes, it’s Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. There’s an article about it here, which includes some context and facts and some celebrating.

Since I am Latina and queer, I probably appreciate those aspects of the book the most. An honorable mention however, goes to the description ‘ghost-story-turned-gay-rom-com.’ If every ghost story turned into a gay rom-com, I would be able to watch and read ghost stories without recoiling in terror.

Cemetery Boys isn’t completely alone as there are multiple popular YA books featuring queer POCs. Though it’s probably very unlikely you would make it to my little corner of the world without knowing these titles, I’m going to mention them here anyway.

YA Books about LGBT+ Characters of Color

Sweet and salty, a winning combo

When a night out gets cancelled early due to a drunk friend, two boyfriends discuss what to do next in this scene.

~

Ryan

The drive had been close to an hour both ways. We hadn’t spent that much time in the club, not even close. Only a few songs. Lydia would have to learn to pace herself. I didn’t give that advice in the silence of the ride back home. There was just the radio playing softly and soothing noises from Alicia.

Our first double date wasn’t a huge success. But that was the good thing about having first experiences: it took away the nerves and things could only get better.

Despite very little quality time with my boyfriend and too much time with an annoying drunk girl, I was optimistic. Alicia was fine to drive when we got back to Luke’s house, and we said goodbye and then Luke and I headed inside to change while we discussed ways to salvage our night.

“Ice cream?” he suggested.

That wasn’t a terrible idea and we already ate earlier, but I only asked, “You think I’m a cheap date?”

“That French place we went to before?” he suggested. Oh god.

“Don’t even joke about that,” I warned.

“You started it.”

“Okay, ice cream is fine.” Was this night better or worse than the French food date? They were both bad in different ways.

Luke saw me thinking unpleasant thoughts. “Hey, it’s not that bad,” he told me gently. I sent him a very unimpressed look. “Alright,” he amended. “It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t you and me that ruined anything. It’s totally Lydia’s fault.”

I thought about that. “Yeah, that makes me feel better.”

He shook his head. “Because you’re a terrible person.”

“I am getting all the toppings and three scoops,” I told him seriously.

Luke scoffed. “You won’t even eat that.”

“That’s not the ice cream I’m getting to eat.” I smiled sweetly. “It’s the one I’m getting to spite you.”

“Okay, now you’re the one ruining it,” he said but with a smile.

-This is an outtake from One Little Lie

Stuff that totally won’t go wrong

Do fake relationships ever happen in real life? Maybe! I mean… probably not, right? My guess would be no, but I’m the one who asked you the question, so I don’t have to have the answers.

And I’m talking, like, romcom pretend boyfriends scenarios only, where a successful professional has to go to their exes wedding but can’t get a date for zany reasons and must pretend to be in love with their sworn enemy. Less bearding because the world is terrible and more Hallmark movie plot stuff where everybody falls in love at the end.

The fake boyfriends trope is used in One Little Word. Then there’s a fake girlfriend and a real boyfriend in One Little Lie. So naturally for One Little Problem, it was time to switch it up. Fake break ups! Is that a thing? In real life or in fiction? Whatever.

Okay, so Ryan wants to pretend to break up because the natural answer when your parents don’t approve of your significant other is ‘lie about it.’ I think I started that sentence with sarcastic intent, but actually, that is so the logical answer. Especially if you’re a teenager and in a romcom, which is a yes to both for Ryan.

Ryan’s boyfriend Luke isn’t as sure about this plan. So this is him debating.

~

Luke

On the way home from the game, the last light from the day disappeared while the bus carrying the team headed back to school. Zach and I had a spot in the back while Joey sat across from us, asleep and stretched over his whole seat.

I thought about sleeping too until Zach spoke. “Maybe Ryan isn’t as bulletproof as you are these days.”

Huh, where had that come from? “He’s been handling haters way more than I have.”

“And maybe that’s taken a toll,” he suggested.

“But—”

“Doesn’t have to seem like it has.” He gave me an important look, like he would know. Guess he would, him and Ryan were the same way. Pretending like nothing bothered them, both much better at it than me. I was only good at it when untested. But it didn’t seem like that with Ryan as much because he let his guard down around me a lot more than Zach did.

“Maybe he just wants to enjoy being with you or something lame like that,” Zach said with a frown like just the thought of it was too sappy for him. “This could be a way to do that.”

“You think pretending to break up is a good idea?”

Zach shrugged. “No opinion, really. Might be entertaining.” I rolled my eyes. He continued. “But you might be focusing on the wrong thing. The method is breaking up, but the point is being together with less hassle.”

“So then why didn’t we do that before?”

“Might not have been able to handle it.” He sneered a little like he couldn’t help it as he said, “You guys seem totally disgusting now.”

“Thanks.” I grinned, totally unashamed.

“And pretty stable. Just, I think he means well with this suggestion? Maybe consider it? Yeah, you don’t care what anyone else thinks. Your parents will come around or they won’t. Nothing can hurt you. Maybe because you’re on the baseball team and you have a bunch of friends or you have both your parents alive but just because Ryan talks a good game, maybe it’s not as easy for him.”

Guess that was possible. Maybe I felt confident and like nothing could stop me because this whole coming out thing had sucked so much and I still survived it, but Ryan had come out a while ago. No been outed. By me. He hadn’t been ready for it either. Super annoying that Zach might have a point but just because Ryan had been dealing with haters for a while that didn’t mean it was the same when the haters in question were our parents.

I might understand that pretty well. I’d never not had my parents in my corner. Until now. Maybe it was worse for Ryan, because it was only him and his dad. This could be a really stupid idea, no it probably was, but I guess I didn’t blame him. Not getting along with your parent or parents on something so big was rough and if a little lying could change that…

I sat in my room by myself after I got home, staring at my phone. Here I was, sitting here considering it. Hadn’t done anything else once since I got home. Wasn’t really a breakup, but the idea still made me nervous. We’d talked about this once before and Ryan was so against it then. But that was back when I didn’t know I was bi and we wanted my parents off my back because they didn’t know I was bi either and now we all knew. Knowledge was power. I’d heard that before, so it must be true.

There was a knock on the door. “Do I need to come in there?” Lydia asked.

Zach told her? “You don’t think it’s a terrible idea?”

“I think I’m not having this conversation with a closed door… even though its probably about as smart as you.” Lydia never missed a chance to take a shot at me, which meant that she didn’t think this was the most terrible idea in the world or she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell me so.

“Go away, Lydia.”

I took a long, deep breath and leaned back in my chair. Idly glancing around my room, I realized my mom had been in here. She did that sometimes to get my laundry, but no, it was still there in the corner. She had definitely been in here though or my dad had. Some of the posters I had on my wall were gone. The ones that were just a baseball player like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Come on, Manny Machado wasn’t even attractive! He had a certain charm, I guess, but he was no Bryce Harper.

…I didn’t even realize Harper was hot until right now, but yeah, I wanted that posted back. And also the one I had of Chris Evans as Captain America, which, huh. Maybe I always found him hot and just didn’t know it.

Alright, I had to do my own laundry now and maybe get a lock so my parents couldn’t come in and try to de-gay everything. Maybe getting my parents off my back would make things easier not just for me but Ryan too and he was the one who wanted to do it.

Ryan had, like, 90 million thoughts bouncing around his head at any given time, so while he’s super smart, sometimes he doesn’t verbalize everything into words I understand, but it’s okay, because I’m learning how to read him. I didn’t like thinking about Ryan leaving for the summer. He probably didn’t either. And we couldn’t do anything about that, but there was this other problem and he wanted to fix it. So then, the him leaving thing would still suck but maybe suck less because we would get to spend more time together before the sucking part happened.

…I should not have thought of it like that. I wanted the sucking part to happen but the good sucking part, not the bad sucking part—you know what? I’m just going to call Ryan.

 

Cults and other weirdness

Do you ever get a weird song stuck in your head? If you are a human being, the answer is probably. And if the human being is me, then I have a song stuck in my head right now. I guess it’s just the subject matter that’s weird, because the song is oddly catchy. The subject is cults.

 

Speaking of weirdos, I write a series about a giant loser and his boyfriend. This is a cut part from One Little Lie where Ryan and Luke are hanging out in Ryan’s room being cute. They can’t be as on top of each other as they want to be because Ryan’s dad is home, they are teenagers, and Ryan’s father possibly owns a firearm. Okay, you are caught up.

~

Luke

“As much as I like your dad, you should probably open the door, so he doesn’t come back.”

“I don’t wanna get up.” Ryan groaned and buried his face in my chest. “Carry me.”

“Yeah, like that would work.”

Ryan was taller than me, though it was hard to tell when we were lying on the bed and he was clinging onto me like an octopus. I poked him in the side with a finger and he squirmed, so I did it again. He clung onto me tighter in retaliation, but I didn’t mind him being pressed up close to me in the first place, so I let him.

“Are you calling me fat?” he asked in a mock scandalized tone but didn’t pull away.

“I’m calling you a giant.” I wrapped my arms around him instead of pushing him away like I was supposed to. This wasn’t cuddling or something girly like that. It was just… a lying down hug. Okay, that didn’t sound any better.

He pulled his head back enough to glare. “You’re ruining the mood.”

“Think your dad did that,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s good at that,” Ryan sighed before pulling away and getting up and opening the door.

“Too bad,” I continued. “I’m sure you were looking forward to doing that yourself.” Ryan was a smartass and could be kinda awkward, so he wasn’t the smoothest guy I’d ever dated. Well, no, he was, because he was the only guy I ever dated. Somehow, he made being weird seem attractive.

He came back and sat on the bed, hitting me in the stomach with a hand. “How dare you,” he protested. “I am romantic and sexy and errrrrotic.” He dragged the ‘r’ sound out while waggling his eyebrows at me.

Okay, sometimes he made being weird attractive and sometimes he was just weird. But still, it was cute coming from him. Even if I didn’t tell him that. “See that right there?” I asked smugly. “Ruining the mood.”

Books, yay!

Recently, I joined BookFunnel, which is great because it gives me stuff to talk about. So you know, that’s what I’m going to talk about. This may be the most straight forward introduction to a blog post I’ve ever made, go me.

One group I joined is for YA Coming of Age Books.  Most of these are contemporary and straight romances. One book with queer characters and a cover I like is After the Fall by Brad Graber. It’s about a teenager girl on a quest to find out more about her mother.

Rikki, a teenager being raised in New York City, has a secret. She can’t remember her mother. Whenever she asks her grandmother a question, the older woman falls apart and refuses to discuss the matter. Desperate to learn the truth, Rikki finds a hidden album with family photographs. Can the boy in the picture with her mother be a long lost uncle? Determined to unlock the mystery, she embarks on a journey to meet Harry, a writer who is struggling with his own issues of identity.

This group lasts until the 15th, so yes, I am last minute like usual. Pretend this post is happening a week ago when it was supposed to before my computer charger broke and I had to order a new one.

Some of the other promotions I joined for August are these, Summer Laughs and Happy End of Summer. Summer Laughs offers giveaways and all the books in the other one are on KU. I will tell you more about these later because then I can make another post. I mean, because of another sensible reason.

I don’t know what to say!

I don’t know if I should make posts when I update my novels, but I’m releasing new editions of everything. It’s going slower than I would like, but I recently released a new version of One Little Problem. I also did a new version of One Little Lie. 

I’m saying this because it gives me something to talk about, but now it seems kind of boring. Uh, there’s new covers too? Well, One Little Lie will have an updated cover, as soon as I can make the image in my mind viewable to other people. Fingers crossed.

This is something that got taken out of One Little Problem. Ryan and Luke are boyfriends who banter with each other. That’s all you need to know.

~

Ryan

“You’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” I informed him.

“We don’t live together.”

Maybe one day, my brain said, and I told it to shut up.

“Want to come over after school and pretend we do?” I waggled my eyebrows in a way experts would deem excessive. “We’ll play house.”

“Roleplay already?” he asked but didn’t say no.

Oh. “Do you have a French maid’s outfit?” I could get into that.

“Okay, I’m leaving now.” Luke gave me a quick peck on the lips and we went our separate ways.

Luke recently had an identity crisis of sorts. Hopefully not a midlife one because his lifespan needed to be much longer than that. More of the sexuality crisis kind. It took him a while to figure things out and it might not always have been the most fun, but I was a supportive boyfriend and stuff.

If there was any evidence to the contrary, then I didn’t remember it and didn’t want to be reminded, but Luke was on the other side of that now. He was cool and confident and awesome. Stronger.  Comfortable. Way hot. He was always that one, but in a new way.

Fashionably Late, scene from M/M romance

On every other Monday, I post deleted scenes and outtakes and whatnot from my novels. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I never stopped at all… okay, do you see where I’m going with this? If not, then yes, everything is going according to plan, and I’m awesome.

But it’s possible I stopped posting these for a while. I guess I don’t have to point it out. I could just pick up where I left off and pretend I never got off track… I believe in honesty and transparency or something? Mostly, I’ve already started writing this post, so I’m gonna keep going.

Here is a different version of a scene from One Little Lie. You don’t need any knowledge of this series to read this, but helpful information to know is: Ryan is here, he is queer, and actually, he’s not here. Because he’s late. Ryan is trying to meet his boyfriend before school starts, but he isn’t on time.

~

Ryan

Luke Chambers is the popular golden boy who charms teachers and parents, has an easy smile for everyone, and gets along with people. Basically, he’s completely different from me, but there’s just so much I like about him. You know, in a totally mature and reasonable manner and not like I’m some tween girl with a crush who writes his name in little hearts.

Just… he has a strong throwing arm and sandy blonde hair. And he’s my idiot boyfriend who is so fun to tease. He’s ridiculous, fun, and unexpectedly sweet. Sure, he’s unbearable like 40% of the time, but we can make out now. It’s easier to forgive anything after making out.

Maybe I  have a notebook full of doodles including his name, my name, and various versions of our names smushed together, surrounded by hearts and flowers. It’s kept at home where it’s safe. I’m a scientist. It started as an experiment where I wondered if people actually did stuff like that, and then it was kinda fun to write, “Ryan and Luke 5eva.” Somehow I filled up a bunch of pages or whatever. Shut up.

Let’s talk about something less embarrassing.

My sweet, considerate boyfriend was the reason I arrived at school early. That asshole. Already ten minutes behind schedule, I moved through the halls as quickly as possible without outright running. It would be just my luck to run into a hall monitor for the first time ever while my boyfriend waited for me, tapping his foot and furrowing his brow slightly in a frown that I’d want to kiss away, but he wouldn’t let me because he’d be cranky.

Did we even have hall monitors? Would there be a hall monitor before school started? Probably not. Okay, that was one less thing to worry about.

The plan had been to meet at my locker, but I went to Luke’s anyway, figuring he gave up on me. I could already feel the pissed off vibes emanating from Luke as I turned onto the hallway where his locker was located. He was pretty good at hissy fits for someone who was supposedly macho and straight before me, but I doubted he’d take that as a compliment.

Plot Device

Have you ever read books before? If so, you know the part in every adventure/fantasy/epic series where the hero faces a mysterious journey. And nobody knows what’s going on, but then someone wise appears and is happy to tell the protagonist more about their destiny. Wow, how great is it they just happened to run into somebody who knows all the relevant information? Except then the wise person opens their mouth, wolves appear, and they totally get eaten by wolves.

To be fair, I guess that doesn’t happen in every adventure book. Only about half. In the other half, the Person Who Knows Everything has to be secretive and can’t tell the hero more because of reasons. Maybe the reasons are good. Maybe they aren’t. What the reader hears is, ‘This is a plot device, so I can’t tell you more information because that would be too easy.’

I was about to discuss something in Witch Eyes, but I can’t. Because of reasons! Actually, the reasons are simple and can be stated clearly, assuming I don’t get attacked by wolves  before completing the next sentence. I wanted to talk about something I appreciated in the novel and then I realized maybe I should be less direct because it’s technically a spoiler.

Witch Eyes uses one of the methods I described, or something similar, to avoid giving too much away. But it comes in spell form, which I really respect, making the plot device something magical. Instead of just writing around the plot device, it’s literally part of the story. Cool!