Go dancing, a M/M short story

Here is a short story, loosely inspired by the song “Stay Young, Go Dancing” by Death Cab for Cutie.

 

If all the world were a stage, I preferred a behind the scenes role. Yet all eyes were fixed on me as I puzzled my way through slow dancing. I was hyper aware of his warm hand in my own and the heavy weight of my partner’s other hand on my lower back. My dance partner! A bigger commitment couldn’t be assigned. We never even had a conversation before. He only stretched one arm out towards me, and now we were in the middle of the dance floor, two guys with a crowd of eyes watching.

With his dark hair, dark eyes, and an even darker tux, I had trouble looking away. The white dress shirt was unbuttoned at the top, the tie undone but the light purple scrap of fabric hanging loosely around his neck.

“Can’t say I expected this,” I spoke. I tried to follow his lead, the motions not practiced but fluid. “This is crazy.”

“You’re not the only one who thinks so,” he muttered, hand tightening against mine briefly while he glanced toward the spectators.

“It’s just, I’m nobody. And you’re–”

“We both got invited to the same wedding,” you protested.

“And I was under the impression you were, uh that dancing with me wasn’t something you would be interested in.” I should have just said ‘straight,’ but he reminded me of a skittish animal, like he might spook and bolt. I kept talking, perhaps to soothe him, though it mortified me. “This isn’t where I expected the night to go. Me touching your arms. You have nice arms.”

“Uh, thanks.” We spun, slowly. Enough to see two girls from the wedding party gawking. “God, do they have to stare so much?”

“Think so.”

“Don’t have to take their side.” The petulant quality to his voice seemed cute, less menacing without the usual stubble and leather jacket.

“You don’t have to tell people stuff if you aren’t ready, obviously, but. What did you think would happen?”

“I had no clue I would do this until I did. Also, I wasn’t sure you were gonna say yes.”

“You have very nice arms.”

He laughed. “You mentioned.”

We managed to dance without comment for a little while.

Close together with a stranger, someone I’d only seen from afar, it felt weird. Nice too. He smelled woodsy and like the lavender from the centerpieces. The bride’s little brother, he had stood on her side of the altar with women in identical champagne-colored dresses. The groom’s older sister stood on the groom’s side. Cobbling the honorifics together, he became the ‘man of honor,’ her the ‘best maid.’

“Why did you ask me to dance?” I wondered.

He nodded, indicating the happy bride. She picked her dress up as she spun around, showing her neon pink shoes covered with sparkles. The footwear didn’t match well with her color scheme, but I heard her thought process when getting punch. She was the bride, she could do what she wanted, and those shoes were worth clashing.

Even from here, we could hear her laugh. A bright sound as she spun again, her and the groom dancing with a group of kids. The song was slower, romantic, but that didn’t stop the kids or the happy couple.

“She’s really happy,” he noted. “Ecstatic. Annoyingly so.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yeah.” He smiled, watching as her and the ring-bearer grabbed hands and jumped up and down while the groom danced with a flower girl on his shoes. “She said why are you frowning, you should feel just as good as me.”

“Can’t say no to the bride?

“Wouldn’t be smart. She told me to dance with whoever I wanted and not to waste time on anyone else. I don’t think she imagined her advice would play out like this.”

The song changed, upbeat now, and fear crossed his face briefly. The song changed abruptly, back to another slower one, the bride lowering her hand after indicating to the DJ he should change it. We had a little more time.

“Regrets?” I wondered.

“Only that any kind of preparation for whatever comes next would have been smart. But holding you and swaying? I can do that.”

“Then I guess just focus on this part?”

“I can do that too.”

We kept dancing.

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.)

 

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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.

 

Kissing Complications

Luke’s life quickly gets out of hand when his stupid mouth and dumb ideas lead to strange new places in One Little Word. An excerpt and image quote will follow after my nonsense.

The idea that immediately came to my head for a title was, Luke’s experiences aren’t universal. Maybe that needs more explaining. That’s a quote from Kimmy Schmidt. As I’m really lazy right now, and most of the time, I’m going to roll the dice and hope I spelled Schmidt right even though there’s no way. Oh, I spelled it a different way the second time and the red squiggly appeared, so hooray, I got it right once and still don’t need to open a different window to look it up. Small miracles, y’all. I will take it.

I’m not sure whether Luke’s experience with kissing a boy is universal or not. Maybe not exactly but it’s also not uncommon. Many guys kiss other guys. The part that’s less universal is kissing another boy as part of a fake dating scheme. Well, it is universal in romance novels. Like this one.

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Luke

Lunch went… awkwardly.

Duh. I had just sucked face with a guy in front of everyone in the cafeteria.

And I thought the stares were bad before.

No, everything was perfectly normal…

Yeah right, that wouldn’t work.

This wasn’t a video or a rumor. I had kissed a guy in public. Naturally, the atmosphere at the baseball table felt incredibly tense.

I insisted the earlier kiss wasn’t real. I told the team that Ryan and I weren’t together. Then I kissed him in front of everyone, and now we were having lunch with my shell-shocked team.

There had never been this much quiet at the table before. Without anyone speaking, my thoughts were loud. My mind kept repeating that I had kissed Ryan in front of everyone. It wouldn’t let that go.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around it.

I kissed Ryan. Yep, there I went again. I hoped it would stop being true somehow. Wait, oh god. Instead of helping, I made things worse.

Because I couldn’t just say I kissed Ryan. That wasn’t enough. It had happened more than once, so the specific time would need to be specified.

I was a guy who had kissed another guy enough times to need clarification when referencing the touching of our lips.

Mental malfunctions

Do you ever have a moment at three in the afternoon where you’ll like, damn I’m hungry, and then you realize you haven’t had anything to eat? Maybe not if you don’t have hyperfocus and ADHD. Occasionally, that happens to me. My two speeds for concentration are, oh hey, did you see this cute dog on the internet and on the other end, ALL FREAKING IN.

This is all I have to talk about now because  I’m very hungry, but the food I warmed up is still too hot to eat. I do have a quote from One Little Word to share, so I guess I’ll do that.

I was going to provide the relevant information here before the excerpt, but then I realized that it’s literally a guy crushing on another guy. So that’s all the details right there.

_

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Ryan

Luke was one of my new friends. Making nice and getting to know him seemed like a good idea at the time. He apologized and he was my boyfriend as far as the principal was concerned.

However, once I stopped despising a guy that hot, I was doomed. Hell, once I fell into his arms like a damsel in distress, I was doomed. Saving me gave him a clean slate and made him instantly crush worthy.

Hating him had provided some protection from his stupidly attractive face. Now all I noticed was the green of his eyes, the way the light looked in his hair. Anytime the dimples appeared, a small electrical fire started in my brain and I lost all cognitive function while repairs were made.

 

Presenting a revolutionary new character, the Moody Teenage Girl

This mood board could speak for itself and I think I’m mostly going to let it. Except to say, hi, this is a mood board for the character Lydia from One Little Word. If you have questions, please refer to the image below. It’s literally all there.

I have nothing in common with Lydia, except that we both happen to be attracted to women, except she’s only attracted to women and I’m not, so maybe that doesn’t count. She’s one of the easiest characters to write even though we aren’t alike at all. Maybe it helps that she hates everything.

 

Lydia Smith could be a girl on a poster, beautiful and unattainable in a sweater that hugged her cleavage. Her black hair would get caught in the wind for a few seconds and whip around her face, making her look like a model. She smoked on top of the backrest of a bench, her legs hanging down on the seat. She had a free period and never spent it inside in a classroom when she could be a rebel instead.

We get it, you’re cool. That doesn’t mean you need to wreck your health with cigarettes or sit outside even though the weather’s getting cold

Favorite Characters: There is a correct answer

I write YA gay romance novels, in case you had no idea. My One More Thing Series starts with fake boyfriends and then becomes what I would describe as, “cute idiots, sarcasm, and more cute idiots.” My guess, and from the few people who have told me, most people’s favorite character is Ryan.

As Ryan is one of two main characters and the whole series is about him and his love life, that makes sense. He’s funny and zany and very likeable character-wise. My fave is Zach. I like Ryan, and Luke, the other main character who I think of as a bi-disaster who tries to not be a terrible human being, but Zach would agree with me here when I say he’s the best.

Ryan is a lot, and I am a lot, so having two a lots in my head is A LOT a lot. So Zach. I love him. It’s not relevant to anything, really, but I’m proud of myself for not letting his moodboard get out of hand.

Zach!

When I saw Zach, I had no complaints. Unless I was drooling, then I took issue with myself for being such an obvious loser. He wore a dark leather or faux leather jacket, tight jeans, and his hair was flawless. Like honestly, I stared while looking for a flaw, because it was giving me a complex, but there were none.

Who still drank root beer after age ten?

The only thing I can think of to say doesn’t relate to the image quote I’m going to post from One Little Word. I wanted to put some incredibly charming, witty words here and then connect them to the next part, but I got nothing. So I’ll just say what I thought of anyway because, well, it’s the only thing I can think of to say.

A million years ago, in a post I am too lazy to link, I talked about  how One Day at a Time was a cool, cancelled show about Latnix people and queer characters and representation. Every now and then, I tell myself, hey that got picked up by a different network so I should comment on that and be happy.

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From IMDB

 

So hey, One Day at a Time got picked up by Pop and I’m happy about it. That sounds sarcastic, but really, I’m thrilled. That still sounds sarcastic, but I have waited a long time for there to be a funny show about Hispanic people and I’m glad it’s not over yet.

Also in case you’re wondering, no I could not resist using the photo I chose. Hi lady from Brooklyn 99!

Scenes from a book

Okay, now for a quote and excerpt from a book. Here’s what you need to know. There are two guys who don’t like each other. They’re at a fall festival and decide to turn everything into a competition. Possibly they fall in love.

Luke

We played the most competitive version of ring toss ever.

A one at a time game, but we stood right next to each other on the taped line in the parking lot, trying to keep the other person from making it as much as we tried to get a bottle ourselves.

Ryan’s brows were scrunched, an intense look of concentration on his face. I had to look away to focus. He was just so intense and weird, which wasn’t exactly a bad thing, except for how he hated me.

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This experience felt nothing like being on the mound at a game, but a surge of triumph still went through me when I got a bottle, smile growing while Ryan tried to elbow me. We kept throwing until there were no more rings left. I felt mildly ridiculous to get so into the game, but I still pumped my fist in the air when I won.

Only to be met with Ryan’s bitchy face. “This wasn’t fair,” he complained, crossing his arms and sulking.

I grinned. “You’re such a sore loser.”

I wasn’t planning on taking any of the bottles I won, we wouldn’t have enough hands to carry them, but I grabbed one. Root beer.

I’d seen Ryan drink it at lunch and pushed the bottle into his chest, making him take it and uncross his arms. That was another reason he was weird. Who still drank root beer after age ten?

Flirting in cars with boys

And now for a scene from a first date. This is from One Little Word.

Helpful information: Our plucky protagonist Ryan is determined to have a good time with cool, cocky Zach despite Ryan being a giant loser who happens to have a black eye. He also has a fake boyfriend, so it’s hard to say which of those things will be a bigger hindrance. (It’s totally the fake boyfriend.)

~

Ryan

owlflatThe vehicle was old but not worn down, more vintage. A red sports car that wasn’t too flashy for a town like this as it was retro but still fit Zach’s personality.

“None of this was what I expected when I tried to imagine dating in this town,” I admitted while buckling my seat belt.

“Having a fake boyfriend and a real date?”

“Yeah, I imagined more sneaking around.” Not that I was complaining. This was preferable, black eye and all.

“Well, Luke helped us.”

I wasn’t sure about that.

“He’s taking a lot of the heat. I figured there wouldn’t be a better time than now to come out,” he explained while driving.

“Letting Luke take the fall? That’s kinda cold,” I joked.

He wasn’t sorry. “I’m kinda a jackass.”

“You get by on your charm.”

Zach grinned. “It does help.”

“Well, I don’t know if it’s working on me,” I said coyly. It totally worked on me.

“Oh really? Guess I’ll have to try harder.”

 

Luke is always the last to know

If it seems like I’m posting a lot about the first book in my gay romance series, One Little Word, the reason is because… I am. If you like these posts, awesome and I love you. If you don’t, then sorry and it won’t last forever.

At least in this instance, there’s a method to the madness. The method is celebrating the release of the new edition. Or maybe that’s the madness? It’s either the method or the madness.

Here’s a summary and a quote from the book.

One Little Word

Luke faces trouble of monumental proportions. The straight baseball player has one chance for salvation… a plan that includes “dating” another boy. Yikes. Luke is (reluctantly) ready for every possibility involving a fake boyfriend except what happens if he falls for the guy.

Ryan the awkward science nerd is the only openly gay kid in their small town. He’s smart enough to know that crushing on a straight jock is a terrible idea… even if Luke is painfully attractive.

From innocent kisses that turn scorching to holding hands and never wanting to let go, what started as a fake relationship feels shockingly honest and genuine. But Ryan fears what they have can’t be real. Luke’s afraid it’s already too real.

Will this unexpected couple step up to the plate and go to bat for each other, even if it might mean striking out?

 

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I’m single and ready to mingle. Wow, that sounded incredibly lame. I would never say that out loud.

I couldn’t keep a grin off my face as I walked down the halls. Maybe a few people shot me weird looks, but who cares? I had a lot to smile about. Namely, I no longer had a boyfriend.

What a weird sentence. At least for me, a straight guy.

Dealing with Ryan these days had gotten… Wait, he’s not a bad guy. He’s really nice, for a snarky jerk. I like him. Platonically! Not romantically because I’m straight. Some other guy will go crazy for him and those weirdly nice legs of his. Just not a straight guy like me.

 

And now the story of this story

Because I am incapable of on topicing, first I have to say that the title I made up sounds like something Perd Hapley would say. He’s the painfully literal over-explainer and reporter from Parks and Rec for those who aren’t as Perd obsessed. Actually, maybe the title is an actual quote from him? Well, either way, totally intention on my part.

(The only way to improve on the perfection of Perd, in my opinion, is to know his actor is also a reporter in real life and he only plays reporters.)

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pic from reddit

The Story’s Origin Story

Fun fact, or at least one of those things, when I wrote One Little Word, I had no idea what I was doing. It was my first ever YA gay romance and the plot contained such depth and complexity. Just kidding, the original idea was this: so there’s this nerd. And then there’s a jock. And they aren’t friends but then they have to date for reasons.

How did I come up with something so original? Easy, I didn’t try to be unique! I wanted to use popular tropes. Plus, I was also counting on my complete inability to ever keep things simple to ensure the end result would be both familiar and unique.

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Needed a picture, so here’s one with a quote from the book.

Writing this, it sounds like I had a plan with this novel. When I wrote it, again, I had no idea what I was doing. Whether I’ve learned anything since then, who knows, but now I more confidently fumble my way along.

These observations brought to you by my attempts to make a print version of the ebook.

Extreme Makeover Book Edition

Someday I would love for all my books to have print and audio versions. Though, it’s hard to say when that mythical day will arrive. My current print efforts are being done with all the speed of an old, doomed gazelle at a watering hole.

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Another quote

The cool part is that the ebook is getting an update. New cover, expanded scenes, theoretically more editing. Which means, when One Little Word goes on sale, that’s a perfect opportunity to get the new edition, become acquainted with the series, or even leave a review. I’m saying all this as if it’s totally just occurring to me and not something planned at all.

The One Little Word sale is from, oh my god, I literally just looked it up, how do I not remember again? Okay, the sale is from Feb 16-23. The book will be 99 cents the whole time. Yay!

Also, if you have Kindle Unlimited, anytime before April is a good to check out the book. Or any of the books I’ve written. Since they are leaving the KU library. I have as much idea as you whether this will be a permanent change or not, which means I have no idea. Unless you have an idea, then you know more than me, so let me know? That would be kind.

The End

And now, I’m going to start as I began, with gratuitous Perd Hapley.