Category Archives: writing
For the last 7+ months I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with writing and depression, and more recently, the mystery illness that landed me in the emergency room and countless doctors’ offices over the last month (and has yet to be identified). Those of you who follow this blog or are friends with me on social media have doubtless seen some of my posts. I decided to be open about the depression in particular for two reasons:
1) The stigma that surrounds depression/mental illness is seriously upsetting, and I feel the only way to change that is through open discussion and for the people who suffer from depression not to feel forced to hide it like it’s some shameful secret.
2) Out of respect for my readers. See, I do 100% believe I’m entitled to my privacy and I don’t blame any author who might be in a similar situation for keeping it quiet. This is a decision every individual has to make for themselves. But, for me personally, because my depression affects everything in my life, including my writing, I wanted to be upfront about it. I didn’t want my readers to think I’m just taking some extended vacation and hanging my unfinished series out to dry without a care that people are waiting for more books. Authors are human—we need breaks sometimes, it’s true—but the reality is I want to be writing, and the fact that my words have seemingly abandoned me is a pain I deal with every day. I’ve written since I was around eleven, since the time when the only people who saw my stories were my friends in junior high, and I didn’t even entertain the hope that I might be able to make what I loved a career someday. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and being unable to write for over half a year now makes me feel like I’m missing some critical part of myself, my soul. Believe me, I didn’t make the conscious choice to stop writing, and I’m fighting to get through this block every day.
The TL;DR version of what happened is that back in October I got hit by the worst bout of depression I’ve ever dealt with. I experienced suicidal ideation, nearly ended up in the hospital, scared my family and close friends, and had to seek the help of a therapist for the first time since childhood.
I am only now, nearly 8 months later, getting to the point where I’m started to feel excited about writing again and hopeful that I’ll be able to break through this block and start putting words on the page. Still, I’m taking things cautiously. When the words do start flowing, I want to allow myself to write without any pressure. I’ve realized lately that I can’t write on a strict schedule. I have to focus on the story that is calling to me most strongly, and yes, that does mean that sometimes it’s a long wait between books in my series. I apologize for that, but I just can’t force myself to work on a project simply because I know I should try to keep series releases consistent, not if in my heart of hearts, I’d rather be working on something else instead. Forcing myself to try to write what I should be writing only stresses me out and makes it feel like a job. And while, yes, this is what I do for a living, I started writing for love and for fun, and I don’t want to lose that feeling—the happiness I experience when I’m working on a project I’m truly excited and passionate about.
So, with all that being said, I’ve had to make a tough decision, and trust me, it’s not one I made lightly. Tears were shed. But being that I’ve received dozens of messages, tweets, and questions about the Portland Pack Chronicles, I know it’s a series that readers are eagerly awaiting more of. My coauthor, Kenzie Cade, is also eager to get back to our boys and continue writing. Unfortunately, due to my current circumstances, I’m the one holding things back—and I don’t think that’s fair, not to her, and not to the readers who’ve enjoyed the series so far, not when she could keep writing and get the stories to you faster than if I stayed involved. Because right now, with the lingering depression and the health issues that have plagued me over the last month or so, the only answer I can give about when I’ll be able to return to the Portland Pack Chronicles is “I don’t know.” So, sad as it makes me, I feel like this is the best decision for the future of the series. I’m sure Kenzie will more than do justice to the Portland Pack boys on her own. She’ll rock it—I’ve told her so—and I wish her much success!
As for my other in-progress series, fear not! The series I’ve started on my own will be completed eventually, even if it takes me much longer than I ever anticipated. I will break through this! I have so many stories I want to write and projects I’m excited about. I’m not giving up. Definitely not. Watch this space, because I’m sure, in time, I’ll have a much happier update to post.
In the meantime, thanks for your patience and understanding!
So I hesitated to post this because of how charged the atmosphere in M/M is right now. Hurt feelings abound on all sides over a book that was recently released (and no, I won’t be naming it here). The topic of racism is not one I take lightly, having dealt with it all my life, but I leave that discussion to people much more eloquent than myself. I do, however, have some thoughts about the subject of diversity in fiction and writing characters of color, specifically in M/M, and I want to share them here.
In the past, I’ve written blog posts calling for more diversity. I think it’s something we all recognize is needed at this point.
I’m Puerto Rican. I’m open about it. I write a lot of Hispanic characters because of it. And when I wrote a Mexican MC, I wrote with the awareness that Mexican culture and Puerto Rican culture are vastly different.
I reached out to Mexican readers and asked if anyone would proofread my story to make sure I was doing that character justice. Because being raised in a Mexican neighborhood doesn’t make me infallible or all-knowing or any kind of authority. I was still brought up in a Puerto Rican family and there are differences aplenty (just as there are differences between Mexicans and Spaniards or Colombians and Dominicans, etc).
I know a lot of authors hesitate to step out of their comfort zone and write a character of color. It can be intimidating, and in my opinion, it requires research and due diligence if you want to give an accurate, sensitive portrayal. If you’re nervous, yes, you’re probably right to be nervous. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we have to do the things that make us uncomfortable, and if you are uncomfortable, I think you’ll be likelier to approach your writing with care and tact.
That being said, lately I’ve been getting the feeling that some authors think they have to start including characters of color in their books because the subject of diversity has been the focus of so many recent panels and discussions.
And my opinion is this: don’t do anything you feel you have to do.
If you’ve noticed the lack of POC (people of color) characters and you truly want to change that, awesome! Two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me! But if you’re not willing to be mindful, and if you don’t feel it’s worth the effort to research to avoid stereotypes or possibly offending or hurting your readership, it’s probably best not to do it.
In the long run, I think you’ll be happier and less stressed. And the POC readers will be happier too. We want representation, yes. We want to see characters that reflect our cultural backgrounds, but not if it only comes from a sense of obligation, not actual desire to change the (mostly white) landscape of M/M—or romance and fiction in general—to reflect the glorious, multi-colored reality we actually reside in. Not if you plan to portray us as caricatures. And definitely not if you can’t handle criticism if you wind up getting something wrong, which you very well might.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing a character of color, keep doing what you do. It’s all good. Sincerely. No judgment from this author/reader. But if you do want to try, there are people out there who are absolutely ready and willing to help you try to get it right, and believe me it is worth the effort!
We’re all human. Being a minority, a person of color myself doesn’t mean I’m above screwing up. Not by a long shot. All we can do is acknowledge mistakes when they happen (and they will happen). We can apologize and try to do better. And most importantly, we can listen when someone tells us they’re hurt or offended.
Don’t invalidate someone’s feelings. It’s not your (or my) right to tell someone if they should/shouldn’t be offended by something or to tone police or tell them to “speak more politely.” That only takes away from them and their experiences and turns the attention back to yourself and your own comfort. Sometimes it’s hard to be calm and polite when you’re angry and hurting. Sometimes people only hear you above the ruckus if you’re screaming—especially if you’re part of a community that has been dehumanized and marginalized for centuries.
If someone is yelling “This hurt me and here is why!”, maybe you should take a minute to listen and try to understand. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that empathy, compassion, and sincerity go a long way.
People of color… we’re just people. We only want to see stories about genuine characters like ourselves falling in love or saving the day or going on that epic adventure. Not stereotypes. Not for tokenism. Our personalities are varied, and we fall all over the spectrums of sexuality and gender. We’re rich and poor and everywhere in between. Educated and not. In other words—we’re just like everyone else. And yet we make up a mere fraction of the characters you find in books or films or on television.
Trust me, if you found it this difficult to find characters you could relate to, if you never saw characters who looked like you, or who reflected your reality, you’d yearn for more representation too. And when you thought you’d found it, you’d latch onto it fast.
Hey! This person. They’re like me! I can do that too! I can be the hero!
Sometimes there’s no better feeling than that.
Over the years I’ve occasionally mentioned that I’ve been depressive since childhood. I don’t tend to talk about it much because there’s a certain stigma attached to any kind of mental illness, including depression, which many people think you should just be able to snap out of and brush off your shoulder.
My depression tends to happen in cycles. For weeks, months, I’ll feel… mostly good. Mostly positive. Then my mood takes a sudden downturn, and for weeks, maybe months, I become mired under this dark, crushing weight. But then, usually, the upswing starts. I come out of it and I go back to my normal (for lack of a better term).
A few weeks ago I scared some people when I vanished from most of my social media accounts for a good week or so. I didn’t mean to cause anyone concern, but it was as if my brain suddenly said, “nope,” and I didn’t want anything to do with… well, anything. Apps got deleted from my phone. Emails fell by the wayside.
I’d had a moment not too long before. An “I am not okay” moment, when I realized this depressive cycle felt more like a rapid decline into nothingness. It seemed—and still does seem—impossible to imagine any kind of upswing. But when my thoughts went from dark to potentially dangerous (for myself), I knew I needed to do something.
I sought out a therapist, and after seeing one who sent up about a dozen red flags, I found a different one through GMLA (the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association), who is familiar with dealing with clients who fall on the GLBTQ spectrum. Let me tell you, when I walked into her office and saw rainbow flags, I nearly lost it. After meeting one therapist who was not only lacking in tact, clearly didn’t have a clue how to deal with a client like me, I was so afraid I might have to start making long drives into Chicago to find someone who fit my needs. So far I’ve seen this new lady twice, and it’s hard to say what kind of results this therapy will bring. But at the very least I feel hopeful that maybe with her help I’ll be able to dig myself out of this.
During our first visit, she said to me, “Sometimes I might say something you don’t agree with. I’m human, and I’m not always right. Feel free to tell me to fuck off. Go ahead and say, ‘M, get fucked.’ I promise it won’t offend me. The only way I can figure out what’s working for you is if you tell me when something isn’t.”
With snot and tears flowing, I nodded, and I thought to myself, We’re going to get along great.
So that’s what’s happening with me. To the people who already knew or who reached out to me when I disappeared, thank you for the support. It means more than I can say.
I can’t lie. This post was hard for me to make. In fact, I’m only discussing the situation because literally everything in my life is being affected, and that includes my writing. Even though I wish this wasn’t the case, all of my projects are currently on hiatus. Because, well… if there’s no me, there certainly won’t be any future books either. So I have to focus on getting myself better before the words will start flowing again. I’m hoping that any readers who might have to wait a little longer for the next book in the Portland Pack Chronicles or my other series will understand the delay.
Happy New Year, everyone! Aside from one last “Authors I’m Thankful For” post next week, this will be my last post of 2015. Here’s hoping I’ll be back with a vengeance in 2016. 😉
Hey, all! It’s been quuuite some time since I did a writing update, so I figured now would be good. 😉
What’s happening in the writing world of Piper Vaughn? Read on to find out. 😀
To save his bookstore from closing, Mark Werner realizes it’s going to take a miracle—like getting reclusive, best-selling author Shepherd Knight to agree to appear for a signing.
After their disastrous last encounter, Mark doesn’t hold up much hope Shepherd will agree. Shepherd’s never made a single public appearance. In fact, Mark wouldn’t even know what he looks like had he not accidentally discovered the sexy stranger he’d been flirting with for months, aka “Tall-Dark-and-Grumpy,” was also his fanboy obsession.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. If Mark can convince Shepherd, it’ll be a major coup in the book world, and might just save Bookmarked from sinking. Too bad Shepherd won’t reply to his e-mails. Yet Mark didn’t earn the reputation of having a “sunshine-and-rainbow-fart” personality for nothing. He’ll do whatever it takes to get his man… and hopefully not make a fool of himself in the process.
Expected release date: October 26, 2015 (potentially subject to change)
PRICKLY BY NATURE (PORTLAND PACK CHRONICLES #2)
In the four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started investigating the disappearance of a young female werewolf from the Portland Pack, he’s discovered his life’s passion. Now he’s apprenticing under established PI Corbin Reid. Avery hopes his training with Reid will help him finally bring Lacey home, but detective work isn’t without its perils, and the potential dangers strain his relationship with his new mate, Dylan.
Dylan Green would be perfectly content with his mating and his motorcycle shop if it wasn’t for his constant worry about Avery’s safety and the fact that Avery’s never home. Proud as he might be of Avery’s determination to prove his worth and fulfill his promise to Lacey’s father, Dylan can’t stand the thought of Avery being hurt. Yet what right does he have to demand Avery give up his job when it’s clear Avery’s found his true purpose? Still, Dylan wishes he could, and the appearance of a new police detective who sets his sights on Avery only adds to the tension.
Something has to give, but stubbornness runs in both their veins, and it might take a catastrophe for them to find a compromise they can live with.
Expected release date: November 16, 2015
Cover reveals for these two are coming soon, so stay tuned!
Works in Progress
Currently I’m working on a contemporary fairytale retelling, which I’m co-writing with my friend, Rowan Speedwell. We intend it to be the first of three, if all goes according to plan. Keep your fingers crossed. 😉
Once I finish my project with Rowan, Kenzie Cade and I will be diving into the third book in the Portland Pack Chronicles series, the first of which is PRICKLY BUSINESS.
I will also be continuing with Gavin’s story, which I started but had to put on hold because of illness and other deadlines (it’s been a crappy couple of years for me health-wise, let me tell you). If you don’t know who Gavin is, he was a secondary character introduced in HOOK, LINE, & SINKER.
I also have plans for another novella in the same world as BOOKMARKED, which I hope to release sometime next summer.
Lots of other ideas and potentialities — an ace character, sport books, more shifters, a rap star — but I’ll share more details about those later. 😉
Happy Fall, y’all!
Birthday flash fic for Malachi and Aaron from “Wood, Screws, & Nails.” 🙂
Birthday Surprise by Piper Vaughn
Happy birthday month, Amber! Thanks for inviting me to contribute to your Birthday Bash. I had a birthday earlier this month too, so it’s extra special for me. 😀 This flash fic features Aaron and Malachi, characters from my co-written book, Wood, Screws, & Nails, which came out from Dreamspinner in April.
Hope you enjoy!
“Happy birthday, Mal.”
Despite being distracted by the sight in front of him, Malachi shivered at the whisper in his ear, the scrape of stubble on his skin, the warm, hard body against his back. He stood in the entryway to Aaron’s apartment—which typically exemplified the definition of “Spartan bachelor pad”—but tonight, it had been transformed into something magical. Candles of various sizes adorned every flat surface, casting a welcoming yellow glow. In the center of the living room lay a red and white tartan-patterned…
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Earlier today I posted on Facebook. This was my status update:
Sometimes I really want to write a story set in feudal Japan. Put all the research I did when I wrote fanfic and my years of Japanese classes to some kind of use. Then I think to myself, “Self, you know maybe only 3 people would read it,” and I deflate. Just randomly thought about it again this morning during a convo with the hubs.
I had some people comment to say they would read it, or to just write it anyway. One comment suggested I write a story set in modern-day Japan instead. And yet another asked whether I write for the joy of writing or for other people.
Honestly? I’ve been writing since I was 10 or 11 years old. For years, no one read my work but me. Then I got brave and started sharing my scribblings with friends from school. Then later, when the internet started getting more and more popular, with my online friends. Eventually I started writing fanfic and posting it on websites like FanFiction.net. Years after that, I discovered that m/m actually existed in a genre outside of what I was reading—and writing—online. Yes, I thought. I’ve found my people. Needless to say, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably aware what eventually came of that. 😉 I’ve been published professionally for almost 3 years now, and I still sometimes write things that will never see the light of day. Stuff that I needed to get out as a catharsis of sorts, and then I stuck it in a folder and moved on.
I’ve seen the “write to the market” versus “write for yourself” debates. I have two stories out presently that were written simply out of love, knowing they likely wouldn’t have a very broad audience. One was solely for myself. Zombie Wonderland, my zombie apocalypse Christmas novella. The other, Love Rising, was written both for me and one of my best friends. I knew when I started both of these they wouldn’t sell very well. I wrote them for the joy of it and because the ideas dug in and refused to let go.
But… since the beginning of time, when people started telling stories orally, there was always a point to the telling—to entertain, teach lessons, pass on traditions, etc, etc. Storytellers crave an audience, and I’m no different. We all—or perhaps I should say most of us—hope that people will read and enjoy our stories. Hopefully many people. But being that there are only so many hours in day, sometimes we have to make the tough call: write the story that you know full well very few people will read or write the story that has the potential to reach a much broader audience. I’ll be frank—I write for the love of writing, but I also do this for a living, to help supplement my husband’s income and put money into my son’s college fund. I’m fortunate in that I’m making a career by doing what I love and have always wanted to do. That being said, sometimes I allow myself to be fanciful, to write a story regardless of whether or not I think there will be an audience for it. And sometimes I make the practical choice. But even in that case, I’m writing what I want to write. I don’t write trying to take advantage of what may or may not be popular. Contemporary is my main genre because it’s what I primarily enjoy reading—and what most of my ideas happen to be when they pop into my head. I have plans for shifters and another merman and whatever else starts to scratch at my brain. I write what calls to me. But if I have a choice between two different ideas and I know that one will find a broader audience than the other, well, sometimes I go with the more marketable idea. Sometimes but not always.
So, do I write for joy or do I write for others? The answer is as simple and complex as this—both.
Hey, all! Yesterday I finished Hook, Line, & Sinker, which is a spin-off of Wood, Screws, & Nails featuring Aaron’s best friend, Blake, and his love interest, Castor. The members of my FB group, Piper’s Peeps, asked for me to share a smutty excerpt today. So here goes! But, first, the (tentative) blurb.
When they were teens, Castor McCormick was the bane of Blake Kowalski’s existence. Their mutual animosity led to summers filled with rivalry. Now, nearly two decades later, Blake learns Cas is moving back into the neighborhood to live in his grandmother’s old house. Blake tells himself he isn’t interested in seeing how snarky little Cas grew up, but when his mother dupes him into visiting Cas, he finds out “pretty” can evolve into “sexy as hell” on the right man.
Cas didn’t think he wanted to see Blake again. No one has ever pushed his buttons like the god of a boy he remembers from their youth. Turns out, the adult version of Blake still gets him hot under the collar—and everywhere else. With Blake on leave from work to nurse his injured leg, and Cas taking time to move and unpack, they form a tentative friendship revolving around fishing and baseball, which quickly turns in to a sexual affair neither man can resist. But when Cas’s job sends him out of state to deal with a difficult client, their new relationship will be tested, and Blake’s broken leg might not be the only thing to come out scarred.
Note: This is unedited, so please forgive any typos. To set the scene, Cas and Blake are on a camping trip, sharing a tent for the first time…
Cas shivered, his body warming at Blake’s tone, low and seductive in the dark. For a while, he simply lay there staring at the tent’s domed ceiling, listening to the rhythm of Blake’s breathing as it slowed and deepened. Usually, Cas jerked off before bed, just something to take the edge off the day and lull himself to sleep. He hesitated to do it now, but with the scent of Blake’s skin all around him, and the visual of that sculpted chest so fresh in his mind, his cock was hard as stone. Cas cursed silently and turned onto his side, facing away from Blake, and reached down to pinch his balls through his sweatpants. He hoped the flash of pain would wilt his erection. Instead, it forced a quiet moan from his throat. Cas shifted onto his back again, then onto his side in Blake’s direction, but that only reminded him of how little space actually separated them and how easily he could close it.
Cas grunted and flopped to his back once more. All he could focus on was the pulse of blood in his cock. Not the discomfort of the rocky ground beneath his sleeping bag, not the lingering heat in the air, not the buzz of insects from the grass and trees around them. Just that persistent, throbbing ache.
He’d never fall asleep this way. No choice but to take care of it. He could manage it quietly enough. Or so he hoped.
Cas lay unmoving for another minute or two, listening. The rhythmic pattern of Blake’s breaths remained deep and undisturbed. Slowly, Cas crept a hand beneath the waistband of his briefs. He traced the length of his cock with one finger, helpless to stop a quavering moan when he encountered sticky wetness at the tip. Cas froze, his ears straining, but if Blake had heard, he didn’t stir at the noise.
Sighing, Cas started up a leisurely stroke, working his cock with a firm grip. His hips began to rock, and the motion of his nylon sleeping bag seemed excessively loud in the small space. Cas couldn’t bring himself to care anymore. He played his fingertips over the slit, rubbing and slicking the head with the moisture he found there. Oh God. It felt so good, and knowing Blake rested only a few feet away, oblivious, only heightened the sensation.
Cas caught another moan midway out of his mouth, ending with a choked sound. His eyes were shut tight, but suddenly the colors behind his eyelids changed as light flashed across them. Cas stilled with his hand fisted around his cock. He swallowed thickly and noted that the soothing pattern of Blake’s breathing had changed, sped. Blake was awake, and if Cas wasn’t mistaken, watching him. With a light on.
For a long moment, Cas couldn’t move. Any typical guy would’ve ignored what he was doing, would’ve pretended not to hear the rustling and simply feigned sleep until it was over. They might’ve given him some shit about it in the morning, or more likely, never mentioned the incident at all. Not Blake. Cas could feel Blake’s eyes on him—and it embarrassed him as much as it turned him on.
A flush rolled up his chest and over his throat, settling in his face. The silence stretched. Finally, when he could stand it no more, Cas forced his eyes open and turned his head.
Blake lay on his side, observing him with a hooded gaze. His phone sat face-down in the space between them. The light Cas had noticed through his eyelids was the beam from the phone’s flashlight, now aimed at the ceiling. Not as intense as the miniature lantern, but it illuminated the area enough for them to see each other clearly.
Cas couldn’t find the words to speak. Couldn’t bring himself to release his cock either. Despite his humiliation, it jerked in his grasp like it had a mind of its own, seeking more touch.
“Show it to me.” Blake’s quiet voice held no inflection. He spoke the words as calmly as he might have said “pass the salt” across the dinner table. But Cas found himself obeying anyway.
He tossed aside the top of the sleeping bag, and with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around his dick, pushed the waistbands of both his sweatpants and briefs down so they rested around his upper thighs.
Blake’s gaze raked from Cas’s face to his fisted cock. “Finish,” he said.
Cas whimpered, a small sound that brought Blake’s eyes back up to his. He started to stroke again, moving more quickly now that he wasn’t trying to hide.
“Get it wet.”
Cas nearly came at the low order. With effort, he managed to fight his orgasm down and released his cock long enough to coat his palm with drenched licks. Then he fisted it again, jerking the shaft with hard, slick tugs.
Blake nodded his approval. “Faster. Let me see you beat that cum out.”
Cas grunted and pistoned his hips, pushing his cockhead through the clutching circle of his fingers. Sweat sheened his body. Pleasure blazed a path from his taint to his balls to his sensitive tip. His asshole clenched and released, craving the girth of a large, thrusting cock. Frantic pants burst from his throat, the rough sound overshadowing the wet squelch of his hand as he followed Blake’s order and yanked at his dick. Lost in a haze of lust and sex, he didn’t stop to consider what was happening or why; he simply gave himself into it.
One word, but said in that commanding tone, in Blake’s voice, it held power. It reached into Cas’s body and ripped the orgasm right out of him.
Cas arched off the sleeping bag, his vision graying at the edges. He gave an agonized moan as streaks of cum burst from his tip, coating his fingers, dripping down onto his sac, each spurt another shockwave of bliss along the length of his dick. And through it all, he sensed the weight of Blake’s gaze on him, the heat of that stare prolonging his ecstasy.
After what felt like ages, Cas finally came back to himself. He turned his head to see that Blake had shoved his own shorts and boxer-briefs down. His thick, veiny cock lay hard against his lower abdomen, the foreskin drawn back far enough to reveal the shiny, plum-colored head. Cas’s mouth watered.
“Come here. Jerk me off with your cum.”
Hi, all! It’s been a couple of months since the last writing update, so here goes. 😀
Nur eine Kleinigkeit – Release date: March 25. The German translation of One Small Thing. Now available for pre-order.
Moonlight Becomes You – Release date: April 7. This is the 2nd edition, approximately 60K/200 pages. (1st edition was 44K/139 pages.) Now available for pre-order in ebook and paperback. Cover by LC Chase.
Wood, Screws, & Nails – with Kade Boehme – Release date: April 23. Cover by Paul Richmond.
Works in Progress
HL&S – A spin-off of Wood, Screws, & Nails. – Outlined. Starting soon.
S&S – In planning. My story for the Love’s Landscapes event in the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads. If you’re a member, you can see the prompt here.
The Working Man’s Guide to Wooing a Blue Blood Prince (Clumsy Cupid Guidebooks #2) – with Xara X Xanakas – Plotted and started. Temporarily on hold. Hoping to have this one released in the late summer/early fall, if possible. We’ll see. Wish us luck!
Simon’s Story – This is the as-yet-untitled contemporary story I started for NaNoWriMo. It’s going to be a pretty angsty ride, and I had to put it on hold temporarily when one of my family members became hospitalized and the content started hitting a little too close to home. But I’ve been wanting to tell Simon’s story forever, so I certainly will be going back to it!
**Update on the One Thing Series**
I know I’d said this series would be continued, but, unfortunately, that plan has now changed. The “One Thing” series will stand completed with One Small Thing and One True Thing. I thought long and hard about this, and it wasn’t an easy decision, but I think I’m ready to move on to something new. I apologize to the fans who were hoping for books for Josh or Archer. But there will be new and hopefully exciting things to come from me, both alone and with co-authors, so be on the lookout for those! 🙂
Hey, all! So since I finally got going on my NaNoWriMo project, I thought I’d share an excerpt with you guys for WIP Wednesday. This is the very beginning of the story when my two MCs meet in a rather unconventional way.
Hope you enjoy it! 🙂
“Hey! Somebody call an ambulance!”
Gabe’s head jerked up at the shout. He looked over to see some type of commotion happening near the bar. A group of guys stood in a half-circle, staring down at something on the floor. Someone yelled for an ambulance again.
“Fuck.” Gabe chugged down the dregs of his beer and pushed back from his table. Didn’t it always fucking figure? His first day off in a week thanks to another paramedic quitting at the end of his shift last Friday, and he hadn’t even been at the bar for fifteen minutes before some schmuck had to go and get injured somehow.
Javier, the firefighter Gabe had come to the bar to watch the hockey game with, returned from the john just as Gabe pulled a pair of latex-free gloves from his inner jacket pocket. Carrying a few pairs was a force of habit after more than a decade working as a first responder. Shit happened when least expected and it always paid to be prepared, especially when the bodily fluids were flowing. Or, more likely in his occupation, gushing.
“What’s up?” Javi asked.
Gabe shook his head and started toward the group, knowing Javi would follow. As a firefighter who’d cross-trained as an EMT, Javier knew enough to lend a hand if it came to that. Gabe pushed through the gawkers without any pardons or excuse-me-pleases. Now was not the time for niceties. He could barely manage them on the best of days, let alone when he was exhausted after seven straight days of twelve-hour shifts.
A guy lay on his side in the middle of the circle, seizing, blood covering his mouth and chin. That in itself wasn’t totally alarming. Gabe had seen enough seizures to know if the tongue got bit, there’d be a mess. He glanced at the guy’s crotch, checking for urine, but saw nothing. It didn’t always happen, but it was second nature to check. The people who were pretending didn’t usually think to piss themselves to make it more convincing.
Another guy knelt next to Seizure Guy, his hands clenched tight at his sides, brow furrowed in worry. Gabe could tell he wanted to reach out to the one who was seizing, but he was either frozen in fear or he knew better than to try to hold someone having a seizure down. Gabe didn’t care which. He just hoped the guy kept his hands off.
“Got a clean towel?” he asked the bartender as he snapped on his gloves. The guy nodded, reached under the bar top, and tossed him a small, grayish towel. It had seen better days, but right then Gabe wasn’t expecting a sterile work environment. He just wanted to staunch the blood flow long enough to see if there were any serious injuries.
Gabe got down on his knees. The guy’s violent jerking had slowed to a few sporadic twitches. The other one whispered soothingly and reached out a shaky hand, smoothing dark hair off Seizure Guy’s forehead. “Come on, baby. Come on. Come back.”
Ah. Boyfriend, then. Gabe assigned him the label without another thought. It was what they all did in lieu of names in situations like these. Might seem cold or unsympathetic, but a trauma scene usually wasn’t the place for introductions and “how-do-you-dos?”. Nicknaming people based on their injuries made the most sense, and it kept things organized in his head.
Seizure Guy’s random twitches stopped. After a moment, his eyes blinked open, hazy and unfocused, one green, one hazel. The disparity was enough to make Gabe freeze for a moment before he snapped back into action. He took Seizure Guy’s shoulder in hand and gently turned him onto his back. Then he spared a quick glance at the boyfriend. “You know him, I’m assuming? This ever happened before?”
The guy nodded. “Yeah. He has epilepsy. Are you a doctor or something?”
“Medic. Anything else I should know?” Gabe briefly inspected the medical alert bracelet on Seizure Guy’s wrist. It was subtle, matte black and stainless steel, and stylish enough to pass for a regular piece of jewelry to the untrained eye, but Gabe had been in medicine long enough to spot the asklepian symbol at ten paces.
“Not that I’m aware of.”
Gabe reached for Seizure Guy’s chin and dabbed at it with the towel. The skin was split, the shine of bone visible underneath. He’d probably cracked it on the edge of the bar when he fell. A gruesome looking wound, and one definitely requiring stitches, but nothing life-threatening.
“Anyone call an ambulance yet?” Gabe asked as he slid his gloved fingers into Seizure Guy’s thick hair, feeling along his scalp for any other possible injuries.
There was a round of muttering and then someone shouted yes from the back of the group.
“Call it off. I’m a paramedic. Ambulance eleven. Last name Favero. Tell them we’ll get him to the hospital.”
The boyfriend looked at him in surprise, but Gabe had been a paramedic long enough to know that most experienced epilepsy patients would only be pissed and embarrassed at having an ambulance called and being carted off on a stretcher when this was something they dealt with on a regular basis. The postictal stage didn’t last very long, and as soon as the guy was fully cognizant again, he’d probably nix the ambulance idea with a vengeance.
Gabe didn’t bother explaining his reasoning. “What’s his name?”
Gabe pressed the towel against the gash on Simon’s chin and held it there, peering down into his eyes, searching for signs of awareness. In his experience with epilepsy patients, he knew Simon should be conscious enough to answer questions by this point, even if he might not remember afterward. “Simon? Can you hear me? Do you know where you are?”
Simon blinked slowly, gaze still clouded by confusion. After a second, he spoke, his voice somewhat garbled. “Y-yeah. Hear you.”
“Can you tell me where you’re hurt?”
Simon’s forehead wrinkled. “Mouth…head…chin.”
“Yeah, you split your chin open. We’re going to need to get you to the hospital. It has to be stitched.”
Simon nodded groggily. “Okay. No ambulance.”
“Nope, no ambulance.” Gabe looked up to see Javi standing nearby. “You okay to drive to Northwestern or should we get a taxi?”
“I’m good. Didn’t even finish my beer. Advocate is closer, though.”
Gabe shook his head. “I don’t know the staff there. The bleeding’s already stopped on this. He’ll be good for the drive.”
“All right. I’ll pull around front.”
Javi took off back toward their table as Simon struggled to sit up. Gabe dropped the blood-stained towel and got a hand behind his shoulder blades to hold him steady. Most of the crowd had begun to disperse now that it was evident the guy wasn’t about to keel over dead or give them any more of a show.
“Hey,” the boyfriend said. “Thanks, but I can take him. We’ll grab a taxi. There’s no need for—”
Gabe arched an eyebrow at him. “You want to sit in the ER all night? I can take you in the back way, have him in a room in less than five minutes.”
After a second, the boyfriend nodded. “Fine.” He leaned closer to Simon and wrapped an arm around his waist. Gabe pulled his own hand away and stood, ready to step in and help if needed, but the guy got Simon up onto his feet without any mishaps.
“I can walk by myself, Marco,” Simon muttered as the boyfriend started ushering him to the door.
“He have a jacket?” Gabe called after them. It was mid-October in Chicago and Simon’s thin T-shirt wouldn’t offer much protection against the drizzly chill outside.
“Oh, shit.” The boyfriend—Marco—glanced over his shoulder and tipped his chin toward one of the bar stools. “Can you grab that? And mine’s right next to it.”
Gabe grunted as he stripped off his gloves. He shoved them into his pocket so he could pick up the jackets Marco had indicated. He knew Javi well enough to trust the guy had grabbed his own stuff from their table before he left. The bill they could settle later; they came to Rowley’s often enough. If Simon and Marco had started a tab, well, that was their problem.
He followed them to the door and waited while Marco took the jackets from him and pulled on his own, then helped Simon into his. There was a moment of tension when they got to Javier’s SUV and Marco tried to insist on being in the back with Simon. Gabe just sighed. “Look, man, we don’t have time for this shit. I’m the medic. I’ll sit with him in case something unexpected happens. We’re not at a club. I’m not trying to steal your boyfriend.”
Marco opened his mouth, but a beep cut him off as the driver waiting behind Javi laid into his horn. Javi gestured to them and Marco grudgingly got into the passenger seat while Simon and Gabe slipped into the back. Simon leaned against the seat and closed his eyes as Javi pulled out into traffic. He was clearly in pain and he still looked a little dazed.
“How’s your head?” Gabe asked.
“Hurts,” Simon answered, his voice slurring. Swollen tongue, probably. “Always does after.”
“How long have you been having the seizures?”
Gabe wanted to ask more, but he knew better than to keep the guy talking when every movement obviously caused him pain. The gash on his chin was like something out of a horror flick with the bone showing through. Hurt like a bitch, no doubt, but it was a classic case of “looks worse than it is.” Maybe half a dozen stitches at worst, and if Gabe got him in to see Munoz, he’d barely have a scar to show for it.
Good thing, too. It would be a pity to scar up that face. Now that Gabe had a chance to take proper stock of the guy, he could acknowledge that much. It wasn’t a perfect face, no. Simon’s nose was a bit too wide at the tip. But high cheekbones, straight brows, and a strong, rounded chin complemented what was probably the prettiest mouth Gabe had ever seen. Full and somehow vulnerable with an intriguing little dip in the center of the upper lip. His hair was an indeterminate color in the dimness of the car’s interior—some shade of brown, Gabe thought—but the dark waves flopped over his forehead in a sexy, careless style, partially shading one eye. The green one if Gabe remembered correctly. And those eyes were as interesting as the rest of his features, fascinating in their lack of symmetry.
That mouth, that face, and the body Gabe had scoped out as Marco led Simon outside, it wasn’t a surprise his boyfriend was protective. Any other time or place and Gabe probably would’ve made a play. Dating didn’t mean exclusive. Gabe had fucked enough boyfriends, separately and together, to hammer that point home. But he’d never tried anything with a patient, and he wasn’t about to start now, despite how unofficial this was. He’d get Simon pushed to the front of the line at Northwestern and call his responsibility done. Maybe he and Javi could even be back at Rowley’s to catch the second half of the game, and Gabe could find someone young, willing, and bendable to help him work out some of the built-up strain after a week of back-to-back shifts. A perk of Rowley’s being the only gay sports bar in town, there was never any shortage of guys looking to get fucked. If he was lucky, his entire evening wouldn’t end up a complete bust.
So, it’s not WIP Wednesday, but since my website and blog just got a fab new redesign, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the story my coauthor, Kade Boehme, and I are currently working on. We’re just about halfway through and this is a snippet from the chapter I just finished. Enjoy. ♥
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Malachi said.
Damn. Not one to mince words, was he? Aaron swallowed hard but didn’t speak.
“I know it’s because of Julian,” Malachi went on. “I’m not sure what’s up with him. I’ve heard him mention this girl Beth a few times. I don’t know if it’s something with her or if…or if he’s sensed this thing between us.” He reached over and laid a hand on Aaron’s thigh. The touch burned like fire even through the thick denim of Aaron’s jeans. He tightened his fingers on the steering wheel to control his shiver. “Aaron. You feel it. I know you do. There’s obviously something between you and me.”
“I do feel it.” How could Aaron deny it? “But, Mal, Julian doesn’t even know about me. Maybe right now he’s suspicious. Maybe he’s just a little insecure, I don’t know. But imagine how he’d react if he found out there really is something going on between us.”
“He wouldn’t have to know.” Malachi’s hand crept a bit farther up Aaron’s thigh. “Look, all I’m saying is we could have something worth exploring. You’ve called Jules out for being careless and lazy, and he’s pissed off about it. But he’s been partying and having his fun. Why shouldn’t we enjoy the time we have together?”
“Mal.” Aaron risked a glance at him. The sky had finally begun to darken, but there was still enough light to make Malachi’s hazel eyes look luminous. Aaron wanted to kiss him. To taste him and touch him and hold him. But… “I don’t know if I can.”
Malachi withdrew his hand and turned away. Aaron peeked at him again and saw Malachi’s jaw flex as he stared steadily out the windshield.
“Don’t. I get it. I really do.” The words trembled for a moment in the space between them. Malachi sucked in a shuddery breath. “And I care about Jules. But, man, I can’t take you ignoring me. If we can’t be more, we can at least be friends. I thought we were headed that way, and then the last few days, you’ve acted like I’m a total stranger. It’s been a few weeks, and I know we don’t know each other all that well, but I think I deserve more than being treated like I’m just some random guy who showed up to install your carpet or something.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I just…fuck, Mal, you’re my son’s age. You guys live together. You’re his closest friend. You think that doesn’t mess with my head?”
“I’m not trying to play mind games with you.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“It trips me out, too, knowing you’re his father and I can’t stop thinking about you. I dream about you and I wake up coming and he’s in the room right next door. And, still, I wish I was coming while on your cock instead of in bed alone. Then I feel guilty as hell. So don’t think you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to deal with all this shit.”
Aaron didn’t reply. Couldn’t reply. The mention of Malachi’s wet dreams had him hard enough to pound nails. The pain in Malachi’s voice made him question his every decision. No, this wasn’t easy. Not for either of them. So what if Malachi was younger? They were consenting adults, and Julian wasn’t a child any longer. He could cope with finding out his father was gay. But finding out his father was gay and he was screwing around with his best friend? Even the most well-adjusted of men might not handle that very well.
Would it be selfish to give in? On the flip side, didn’t Aaron deserve a bit of selfishness after all these years? He’d grown up fast once Carrie got pregnant, and he’d worked his ass off to do right by his son. Why couldn’t he have just this one thing?
The questions came without answers. Aaron stayed silent the rest of the drive home.