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!

One Little Word… free!

In an effort to introduce people to the One More Thing Series and get more reviews, I occasionally make the book One Little Word free. I don’t know if this is a good segue or just a really obvious way of saying that One Little Word is free right now. The sale lasts through Thursday.

I’m super proud of myself for the title because the ‘one little word’ is ‘free’ but it’s also the title of the book, so it works on multiple levels. Because author. I’m good at wording.

Even though there is no possible way I could regret this, I am going to chose a scene at random. Hey, I don’t regret it! So in this excerpt, Luke needed to pretend to date Ryan For Reasons and now he no longer needs a fake boyfriend, so all his problems are solved and everything is right with the world. Right? Not exactly…

~

Luke

I was 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 cared? 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 wasn’t a bad guy. For a snarky jerk, he was nice. I liked him. Platonically! Not romantically because I was straight. Some other guy will go crazy for him and those weirdly nice legs of his. Just not a straight guy like me.

-the rest is here. For free!

One Little Lie Cover

The joy of self publishing, or so I’ve heard, is that authors can try a lot of different options. Whereas traditional publishing means there’s less control and multiple people make any decisions. Which is cool for indie authors but also exhausting when you have multiple books. And while I have an opinion about everything, I suddenly become paralyzed with indecision, wavering between 25 or 26 point font as if this decision will make or break the whole book.

All I can tell you is I like this cover for One Little Lie. I don’t think I’ve shared it here yet.

Does liking one guy make you gay?
Everybody in Luke’s small town might say yes, but he isn’t so sure. The baseball player feels like the same high school junior who can handle pop flys but not pop quizzes. Except these days, he’s drawn to Ryan Miller’s lanky frame and masculine hands. Which means… Luke has no clue. About anything. Except that he’s not ready to come out to his parents. So to buy time, the athlete lies.

The ruse earns Luke a fake girlfriend, a secret boyfriend, and a whole new mess. The jock needs answers to his sexuality questions if he wants to keep Ryan, but he’s afraid of what the truth might cost him. Can Luke find himself without losing anyone he cares about?

One Little Lie explores coming out along with bisexuality, the bonds of friendship, and falling for someone you never saw coming. If you enjoy LGBT books like Never Do a Wrong Thing and authors like Adam Silvera, you will adore this M/M romantic comedy.

Buy your copy today to enjoy this quirky coming-of-age story!

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.

YA authors are recommending other YA books in this BuzzFeed list of The Best YA Books To Gift This Holiday Season, According To YA Authors. Some of the queer books mentioned are The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta, and You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.

Holy afterschool special, Batman

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

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

~

Lydia

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, I wasn’t alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

The rest is available here. For free!

(not) New Cover

When a new cover got made for One Little Word, I showed it off on my mailing list. I did not remember to post it on my blog, which I only discovered when I couldn’t find the cover in my images. Oops. Better late than never?

Quick summary: A jock screws up and must depend on the one guy who hates him while they try to sell the ruse of their secret fake relationship, which is getting less secret and fake with each passing day. This involves lots of hand holding, which brings us to the cover:

This isn’t the first time I’ve had an illustrated cover made, but it’s the first time I knew I was getting an illustrated cover. Technically, their heights should be reversed as the guy in pink is taller, which I keep telling myself doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Also, maybe he’s slouching or they’re standing on uneven ground.

Anyway, I also wanted to share an excerpt from the book. I did not know which part to share, so I decided to use one of my favorite scenes. In it, Ryan and Luke are at a grade school fair, and they are turning every game they play into a competition.

As this bit has two lines I love, that’s probably part of why I enjoy it so much. Especially since these lines, in my opinion, don’t make for great quotes and are hard to appreciate out of context, so I unfortunately haven’t made image quotes with them. If you want to guess the lines I love, go ahead. I’ll tell you after the scene.

~

Ryan

LUKE STARED DOWN MY GRINNING FORM, his arms crossed against his chest, a reverse of our earlier position. Except his arms were more impressive with muscles bulging and straining against the material of his shirt.

I teased him to avoid the distraction. “Now you’re the sore loser.”

He wasn’t impressed with my victory. “Cakewalks are entirely luck based.”

“There was no rule there had to be skill involved.”

The possibility of him winning sweet treats kept him from complaining when I selected the cakewalk. Maybe I had good karma stored up because I always won cakewalks. I held a cake wrapped in plastic in my hands, funfetti with white frosting and sprinkles. Luke wanted me to pick brownies instead; he was so weird. Funfetti was the best.

“You’re at least sharing that cake with me,” he argued.

“Keep dreaming.”

Luke had given me a root beer when he won the ring toss, an unexpectedly sweet gesture. He wanted to bribe me into the dunk tank, so the present wasn’t sweet. The nice part was how he remembered my beverage of choice. I may share my dessert, but he didn’t need to know that yet.

We did basically every event, jostling and trash talking each other at the slightest opportunity. Things that weren’t even really a competition we turned into one, like the duck pond. Except we got into an argument about what constituted winning, getting a duck with a higher number attached or drawing a duck that earned two candies instead of one.

We had time for one more game before heading back to our booth. The objective for our last game was to knock down cans with beanbags. This was another activity where Luke had an advantage, but Alicia was manning the booth for community service credit, so maybe she would help me out.

She stared at us incredulously when we stepped up to her table. “Isn’t this game a little too easy for you?”

Luke nodded. “For me, but I have to give Ryan a fighting chance.”

“Tell that to the duck pond, jackass,” I fired at him hotly.

I won the duck pond,” he argued immediately. “Not you.”

Before we could get into it further, Alicia held up her hand. “Yeah, this and the duck pond are for kindergarteners. You know that, right?”

We looked around. The cans were regular empty pop cans, and the beanbags were at least half their size, so it did seem pretty simple. Unless you were five and could barely aim. And the kids in this line were especially young and all of them had parents holding their hands. The adults behind us watched us with exasperation.

The little competitive bubble Luke and I were in burst. It had been so easy to get absorbed in trying to beat him, everything else faded into the background.

“Oh, I guess we shouldn’t do this one then,” Luke said, sounding as silly as I felt.

“No, don’t let that stop you,” Alicia told us. “By all means, play the angriest game of Can Knock-Down the world has ever seen.” Her sarcasm skills were almost as good as mine.

We retreated from her booth as she laughed at us for being giant children. Damn, I wished I hadn’t drunk the root beer Luke gave me. I could have chucked it at her.

While our competition was intense, it had almost been fun. I hadn’t minded being in Luke’s presence then. I’d stopped keeping score at one point, only wanting to beat him so he wouldn’t be as smug.

Plus, maybe he had this ridiculous pout whenever he lost that I wanted to kiss away. Ugh. Being attracted to someone I hated was difficult. I’d feel the urge to punch him one moment and want to shut him up with my tongue in his mouth the next.

“I’m not getting in the dunk tank again,” Luke declared when we got back to our booth. His artificially orange skin looked like a bad spray tan. Yet even orange, he was still hot.

I couldn’t pull off that look so well. “What if I promise not to accidentally dunk you?” I offered.

“That doesn’t stop everyone else who tries to hit the bullseye.”

I smiled. “I may be able to help with that too.”

“I knew it!” He rounded on me in anger. “You’re such a cheater!”

“Do you want to cry about it, or do you want me to rig the game?”

He stopped and paused. Then he decided, “Definitely, definitely rig it.”

–The rest of the story is available here. My favorite lines are ‘Tell that to the duck pond, jackass,’ and ‘By all means, play the angriest game of Can Knock-Down the world has ever seen.’

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.