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Teaser Thursday- Shoulder Pads and Flannel

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“Your mother’s brother Tomas,” he said, then stopped.

Even on edge about what Papi might say, I couldn’t help smiling a little. I loved Uncle Tomas. He was a lot younger than my mother. He’d only been about ten when I was born. When Mami had brought me to visit her parents, Uncle Tomas had always let me play in his room, even though I usually broke things.

When I was eleven, he’d moved to Las Vegas, and I’d only seen him twice since. He didn’t come back east even for holidays, and we couldn’t afford to go see him. The day he’d moved, we’d helped him load his car. He’d handed me a shoe box and told me not to open it until I got home.

I still had the seventy-dollar set of watercolor pencils he’d put in that box. They were in the corner of my room with the sketchbooks I’d bought over the past few years.

“Tomas likes men,” Papi said. “That’s why he left. His mother didn’t mind. He was her baby, so anything he did was okay with her. His father, different story.”

I nodded, staying quiet because I had no idea what to say. I’d sort of recognized Tomas was different from the rest of the men in my parents’ families, but I hadn’t caught on that he was gay. By the time he’d left, I had realized I liked boys, and now I wished I’d kept in touch with Tomas. Having someone who understood would have been awesome.

“Your grandpa didn’t want a gay son,” Papi said.

“So he made Tomas leave?” I clenched the fist Papi couldn’t see because it was under my leg. Grandpa—my mother’s parents insisted their children and grandchildren use only English around them—didn’t take much crap, but he loved his family. I couldn’t imagine him throwing someone away.

Now I had more reason than ever to make sure no one found out I was gay. Even if by some miracle Papi accepted it, Grandpa wouldn’t. And I had no idea about the rest of my family.

“He didn’t make Tomas leave exactly.” Papi sighed. He looked tired. “He made it impossible for Tomas to stay. Called him horrible names. Tomas waited until he was an adult to tell the truth because he knew how his father would react. He had work ready for him in Las Vegas, and when his father did exactly what Tomas had expected, Tomas left.”

“That sucks.” I glanced at him. He was studying the art supplies on my bookcase.

I held my breath. Liking to draw didn’t mean someone was gay. Being friends with a guy who dressed like a girl sometimes didn’t make someone gay either. But the way the conversation was going, I was afraid Papi would put pieces together and come to the right conclusion.

“Family is family, always.” It was one of Papi’s favorite sayings. “Your uncle doesn’t see his father at all. He hardly sees his mother and the rest of the family. It isn’t right. He should want his family, and they should welcome him with open arms.”

“It was partly their choice,” I said. “Grandma could have defended Tomas.”

“She did. He was her baby.”

She hadn’t done a very good job of defending him, or he wouldn’t have moved across the country. I kept that to myself. We didn’t say anything against our family, not ever. Especially not our grandparents.

“Your friend Evan’s parents don’t mind him?” Now he looked at me with a pleading expression.

Begging me not to say I wasn’t like Tomas and Evan. At least that was how I took it.

Preparing for a Move

I’m going to be moving to a new apartment in the very near future. I’m not sure at this point where. We found out at the beginning of June that our rent would increase, so decided to try to find another place. We hadn’t found one, but when we spoke to our landlord about staying here, they told us they’d already found another tenant. So we have no choice but to leave here… and no decision yet on a place to move into.

But I’m trusting that will work out for the best. Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for the move. We had been accumulating boxes, which I’m now filling with books, papers, knickknacks, and so on. I’ve cleaned out my closet and bureau, donated a LOT of clothes I wasn’t wearing or wore only rarely, and sold some clothes as well. I’ve been cleaning out other closets and cupboards, too, and finding things I forgot existed. Which means we probably don’t need them.

When I was married to my kids’ dad, we moved a lot. Seventeen times in fourteen years. My current husband and I have been in our current place for five and a half years. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult. I’m kind of sad about having to leave, because even though I like variety and change, having a steady home would have been nice. But maybe the next one will last longer. Meanwhile, I’m looking at this as an adventure.

When the actual move happens, I probably won’t be online as much for a few days, but I’ll be checking in. As long as the move doesn’t coincide with the release of Dolphins in the Mud on August 8, it’s all good.

Teaser Thursday- Nail Polish and Feathers

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Holly gathered her stuff together and left without spilling any more info to Mom. I walked her outside. As soon as we were out of Mom’s sight, Holly whirled around and snapped, “Why didn’t you tell her?”

“Tell her what?” I backed up a step. “Seriously, what’s your issue?”

“You didn’t tell her anything!” She put her hands on her hips and glared up at me. I was almost a foot taller than she was, even if I was shorter than a lot of the guys at school. “You didn’t tell her about Moe.” She ticked that off on one finger. “You didn’t tell her about them chasing you before lunch. You didn’t even tell them about the fight with Ray; I told her that.”

“She’s my mother,” I said with exaggerated patience. “I don’t have to tell her everything. And in case you don’t get it, you don’t have to tell your parents everything about me, either.” Holly got along great with her parents, especially her mother, and she really did tell them everything. She couldn’t—or refused to—understand why I didn’t blurt out everything in my life to my mother.

It was really pretty simple. Mom didn’t need to hear it all. She had her own crap to deal with, including my father when he started trouble because of me. I could have added to the stress by telling her how bad the bullying really was and that I might have a boyfriend. I could even have told her about the makeup and how I wanted to be a drag queen. But doing that would just make things harder for her. She tried to hide it from me, but I knew things were already hard enough.

“I’m not going to tell them about Moe or the makeup,” Holly said. “Someone has to do something about Frankel and those guys. They’re getting worse, Evan. They don’t usually attack you in the hall. They say shit, but they’re usually too worried about getting kicked off the team to actually do anything. Doesn’t it worry you that they did something this time?”

“It worries me more that you don’t understand that I can’t just tattle on them every time they do something.” I kicked a piece of loose concrete at the edge of the walkway. “What do you think will happen if I tell on them, Holly? You think the school’s going to say, ‘Oh, poor Evan shouldn’t have to deal with that, so leave our school, you big bad bullies’?”

My voice grew louder, but I didn’t care. Holly drove me nuts when she refused to understand why I had to keep my mouth shut. “I’ll tell you what they’re going to say. It’ll be, ‘Evan, we’re sorry you can’t get along with your classmates. We’ve spoken to Mr. Frankel and Mr. Ferreira, and they said you must have heard them wrong. It’s your word against theirs, and since they’re the star athletes and you’re just the weird gay kid who likes to wear flamboyant clothes, and they outnumber you, we believe them.’”

By now I was shouting, and Holly just stood there staring at me. So did Mrs. Hamel from her second-floor porch across the street. Probably my mother was at our window staring at me too; I didn’t bother checking.

“I’m sorry, Evan,” Holly said in a quiet little voice. “Calm down, okay? You’re right, and that’s what really sucks. School’s supposed to be safe, and for you it isn’t. And it shouldn’t matter if you wear guys’ clothes or women’s or some of each. You’re supposed to be safe.”

“Yeah, well, how’s that fantasyland working for you?” I turned away, because now that I’d let all that out, my eyes were getting wet. Holly wouldn’t think any less of me if I cried, but I would.

Rejection

Recently, I got a rejection on another novel. This would have been the re-release of one of my past novels, one that I rather like and would love to see get a new life with a different publisher.

Rejection happens when you’re an author. It’s a normal thing. When I first started writing, I got a bit spoiled because I pretty much never received a rejection on anything. That wasn’t so much because I was an amazing writer whose stuff blew people out of the water, though I suppose that might have been the case with some things. Mostly, however, my stuff didn’t get rejected because some of the publishers I worked with didn’t always expect great quality. If the idea was good, they accepted it.

That isn’t anything against those publishers. If it weren’t for them, I might not have started getting published in YA at all. But it is a facet of working with small, digital-first presses.

This novel was my second to be rejected by the same publisher this year. When the first one was rejected, after I’d taken time to revise it according to feedback they’d given me the first time I submitted it, it hit hard. I thought I’d done a good job, but they pinpointed some of the same problems as the first time. I almost didn’t send them anything else.

But this time, the rejection didn’t matter so much. It was partly about the story, though one of the biggest things they didn’t like was something the original publisher and some reviewers praised me for when it was published several years ago. Mostly, though, it was about the genre. This one, like the one that was rejected earlier this year, is paranormal, and the publisher wants more contemporary fiction at this point.

It’s hard to take that personally. It just means I need to work on something different for a while, and that isn’t a bad thing. I enjoy writing paranormal and urban fantasy, but I can deal with writing contemporary. Meanwhile, now I have one book I might self-publish, and another I can submit elsewhere or to an agent, once I polish it a bit more.

Teaser Thursday- Midnight Chat

A message popped up at the bottom of the screen. Quickly, I got up to read over Rob’s shoulder.

You’re in for it Monday, freak. I hope you’re ready.

Rob made a strangled sound and looked up at me, ghost-white. “See? You see, Mira? I’m never going to be safe anywhere!”

“Easy.” I touched his shoulder and hoped he wouldn’t notice my hand was shaking. “Someone’s just being a dickhead, that’s all. It’s okay. They’re just trying to scare you.”

“No. You’re wrong.” He stared at the screen again. He was trembling and breathing the way he had in the office when he found out the police were arresting Craig and Seth. “This isn’t the first one. That’s why I wanted to check.”

“What do you mean? The first what?” I read the message again. I didn’t recognize the name on it. “Who is that?”

He shrugged. “The profile is blank. I get notifications on my phone when someone messages me on here. No one ever does, but this morning, someone did. The same person as this. I deleted that one. It said something about I’d better hire a bodyguard.”

He shoved the wheeled chair away from the desk and spun to face me. “They’re out to get me. All of them. If I go to school Monday…. Hell, I probably won’t even make it to school. They’ll ambush me on the way or something. You’d better not meet me, because they’ll attack you too.”

“I’m not going to let you deal with them alone. If someone really is planning something, I’ll be with you.” My heart pounded. Despite Ms. Cramer’s warnings, I hadn’t actually believed there would be any fallout from the arrests. But it sounded as if someone planned to seriously hurt Rob. “We have to tell someone about this, Rob.”

“Who?” He narrowed his eyes. “No one’s going to care. We don’t even know who sent the message. If we tell anyone about it, they’ll say it’s someone playing a joke or something.”

“Dad wouldn’t.” I didn’t know what Dad would be able to do, but he could at least help us figure out how to handle it.

“Don’t tell your father.” He sighed. “Don’t tell anyone. There’s no point. It’s just another case of me whining, right?”

“No!” I knelt in front of him so I could look him in the eyes. “This is real. You aren’t whining. You have every reason to be worried, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“You’re the only one.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to die on Monday. That’s it.”

“Stop saying that!” I sat back on my heels and looked at my laptop again. There had to be some way to help Rob. Something I could do to make people leave him alone, or something I could say to convince the school and his parents to protect him. He didn’t deserve to be this afraid all the time. I hated the people who knew about it and didn’t do a damn thing to help him.

“It is what it is.” Without looking, he reached behind him and closed the laptop. “I don’t want to think about it anymore. It doesn’t matter. None of this is going to matter.”

“It does matter. You should be able to feel safe.” His deadened tone and blank expression scared me again. Not to mention his talk about dying. He might not mean someone else would kill him. Maybe he was planning to take care of it himself.

I had to talk to Dad, even if Rob didn’t want me to. If Rob was serious about wanting to die, I needed someone to help me help him. And I couldn’t protect him by myself either.

“Don’t worry about it.” He stood. “And don’t tell your dad or anyone else. Promise. Otherwise I won’t be able to trust you, and then I won’t have anyone. I need to trust you, Mira.”

“I….” I couldn’t say much to that. He was right. I was his best friend. If I went behind his back, even if I only talked to Dad, I wouldn’t be any better than Talia. “Okay. I promise not to say anything if you promise you won’t hurt yourself.”

“I promise I won’t if I can avoid it.”

That wasn’t good enough. He might decide he couldn’t avoid it. But before I could argue with him, he opened the door. “I think I’m ready to go home now. Thanks for letting me come over.”

“I thought your stepmother was picking you up.” I couldn’t let him leave yet. I had to calm him down first.

He shrugged again. “I’ll call her on the way home. Talk to you soon.”

And then he walked away.

Choose Who’s In Your Life

Most of us have family members or friends. Sometimes close, sometimes not so much.

The hard part is when someone who’s been close to us suddenly isn’t. Either they’ve backed off or we have, or maybe they’ve done something we just can’t accept. Maybe it’s an issue of physical distance, maybe one of emotional. Maybe we feel worse when we’re with them than when we aren’t.

When we let someone into our lives to that extent, and especially if they’re a family member, cutting them out can be difficult. It might even seem impossible. But if you feel negative when you’re around them, or if they’ve changed the way they act toward you to something hurtful, sometimes you have to make that choice.

We all have the right to decide who’s in our lives. Even being related doesn’t guarantee someone a place. People might say “I can’t stop talking to them, they’re my parent” or something along those lines, but that’s still a choice.

Choose yourself first. Be the most important person in your life, and surround yourself with people who make you happy, or at least comfortable. You deserve it.

Teaser Thursday- Dolphins in the Mud

We started toward the point. I kept my eyes on the ground, watching out for anything I might trip over and for anything Cece might like. Even if taking her on walks and stuff wasn’t my job, I decided I should do it once in a while anyway. She loved going outside, and it would give both of us a break from the routine.

Except that she needed the routine so she didn’t flip out, so maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.

“What did you fight about?” Noah asked again.

“You don’t give up, do you?” I snapped. “It was about my sister, if you must know.”

“You’re good with her.” He didn’t seem to mind my being angry, if he’d even noticed.

“Yeah, well, my dad doesn’t seem to think so.” I shut up. Noah didn’t need to hear the whole story, and I didn’t want to tell him anyway.

“Did he say that?”

“Get a clue, would you?” I said. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about anything to do with my family. I came out here to get away from my dad and Cece, and now you’re walking with me asking all these stupid questions. Why can’t you just stop talking for a while?”

“Sorry,” he said quietly. “Sometimes talking helps, that’s all. I’ll leave you alone.”

I didn’t know whether he meant he’d drop the subject or whether he intended to leave me alone. Even though he’d gotten on my nerves, I didn’t want him to go away. Having someone with me, someone I liked, calmed me down a little.

“Stick around,” I said. “I didn’t mean to yell at you. It’s just been a crappy morning.”

“I understand.”

We kept walking, and neither of us said anything. His hand brushed against mine. It happened a couple more times before I realized he was trying to hold hands. I’d never held hands with the guys I’d gone out with, because we were always worried about someone else seeing us. Here, on a beach near a point where half the homes were seasonal and the people who lived there year-round were probably getting ready for work or school, it didn’t seem likely that anyone would notice Noah and me.

I took his hand.

He grinned. “I like this. It’s nice being with you.”

“Yeah, same here.” I just hoped he wouldn’t get all sappy about it.

“How many boyfriends have you had before?”

Just when I thought the guy was going to act normal, he had to start a new line of interrogation. It made me not want to talk to him at all. “Don’t ask me things like that,” I said. “Does it matter?”

“I guess not. I was just curious.” He paused. “You get ticked when I ask you things.”

“Yeah, and when I ask you things, half the time you don’t answer,” I countered. “If you want to find out more about me, you should try talking more about yourself. I know we only met a week ago, but by now I should know more about you than I do.”

“What do you want to know? Ask anything.”

Of course, as soon as he said that I couldn’t think of a single question. We walked for a few more minutes before I came up with something. “Why do you and your parents move around so much?”

“I told you, it’s for my dad’s work. He has meetings and stuff in all these places.” It sounded like an answer he’d rehearsed, and it wasn’t what he’d told me before. At least, I didn’t remember that explanation. He’d just told me that they owned a lot of houses.

“What does he do for work?”

“Computers. I told you that too.” He stopped and let go of my hand. “Did you think I’d lied to you or something?”

“No, I just didn’t remember that you’d told me those things,” I replied. I still didn’t remember him telling me.

“Why should I tell you anything now if you’re going to forget?” He grinned. “Yeah, I know, my life isn’t interesting enough to remember. Ask me something else if you want to.”

This time, I decided to go with a question he probably wouldn’t answer. I wanted to see if he’d say anything at all or just brush me off. “Why does your dad seem so against the idea of you having a friend here?”

He sat down on the sand. “That’s going to take a while to answer. Have a seat.”

If the sand was anywhere near as cold as it had felt through my socks, I didn’t want to sit on it. But the possibility of getting some actual information out of Noah motivated me to plop down beside him. The sand was just as cold as I’d figured it would be.

“Thanks,” he said. “I was kind of tired of walking anyway.”

“So tell me what your dad’s problem is,” I said. “Is it just me, or does he act this way any time you have a friend?”

“I haven’t ever had friends,” he replied. “Not because of Dad. Mostly just because of the moving. I mean, we’re going to the same places every time; we’re just not usually there long enough to meet people. Mom and Dad have some friends, but they don’t have kids my age.”

That didn’t really answer my question, which didn’t surprise me. Noah had avoided my other questions about his father too. Which made me wonder even more what was going on there.

Coming Soon!

Dolphins in the Mud releases from Harmony Ink Press on August 8! And it’s already up for pre-order on their website!

I’m really looking forward to the re-release of this book. It was originally published several years ago, and has been out of print for about two years. To me, some of the content is very important. In the story, main character Chris has family stress to deal with, and believes he’s isolated from his peers, since none of them seem to want to spend time with him. He has a younger sister who’s autistic, and sometimes Chris seems to be the only one she’ll relate to. And he makes a new friend–and potentially more–who turns out to have an untreated mental illness.

I wrote the story so long ago I can’t even remember where the idea originally came from. But I’m pleased that Harmony Ink has decided to give it a second life, and I hope readers will enjoy it as well.

I would love to share the cover art, but as I type this, my website is not letting me upload any images. I’ll work on it!

 

Teaser Thursday- Where No One Knows

“You okay?”

I hadn’t even heard the waitress walk over to me. Or sensed her. If I was going to take care of myself, I had to pay more attention. I forced a smile and turned away from the window. “Yeah. Just really hungry. And thinking too much.”

“It happens.” She set down a huge glass of cola and a wrapped straw. “I figured you’d probably want this while you’re waiting for your food. So you’re stopping off the bus. Where are you heading to?”

“East.” The word popped out without me even thinking about it, and right away I knew it was the right answer. I’d already come east from home to this place. West would either take me home or to California. I couldn’t go to the first and had no interest in the second.

“You have family back east?” she asked.

“Hey, Sadie, more coffee,” one of the guys at the counter called.

I bristled a little. He could have at least been polite to her.

Sadie didn’t seem to mind. “Be right there, Jimmy. Hold your grapefruit.”

The guy laughed, and so did most of the other people at the counter. Sadie shrugged at me. “Sorry. Have to go to work. God forbid these guys don’t get their caffeine. I’ll be back in a few with your food.”

“No problem.” I was glad she’d been distracted. It saved me from figuring out how to avoid answering her question.

My stomach growled so loudly everyone else must have heard it. The little packets of jam on the table looked pretty darn good, and I picked one up. It would have been better than no food at all.

Before I could open it, Sadie set a plate in front of me and smiled, then walked away. The burger smelled way better than jam, and I had to force myself not to wolf the whole thing down.

I took my time eating, partly because I didn’t want to make myself sick by chowing down too fast and partly because the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d have to go back to the motel. My stuff was there. I’d barely been able to get it out of my mother’s house, and I wasn’t about to lose it now because of some creep with grabby hands. Before I went back, though, I had to make sure I was calm enough not to burn the place to the ground.

Sadie started toward my table a couple of times. Each time, someone at the counter or one of the other booths called to her to bring them something before she had a chance to say anything to me. The constant interruptions would have been funny if I hadn’t wondered whether I made them happen somehow. I’d done it before. Wanted someone to do something, or not to do something, so bad I could almost taste it, and then it occurred. I hoped I hadn’t really made them do anything. I didn’t want to have power over anyone. Too many people with power abused it.

I finally finished eating. When I stood up, Sadie came over. “I’ll take care of the plates and stuff, hon. You should get out of here. Your food’s covered.”

“I have money.”

“You need to go.”

I looked into her eyes to argue again, and an invisible force shoved me into her head. Suddenly I saw what she saw. Someone was hunting for me. More than one person. They weren’t close yet, but the longer I stayed in town, the more likely they’d find me. And the longer I stayed in the diner, the more likely someone would remember me and be able to tell my pursuers where I was.

My heart pounded. The people’s faces weren’t visible in the image I picked up from Sadie. I had a pretty good idea, though. Gene and his buddies must have decided on the eye-for-an-eye option after all.

They wouldn’t give up until they found me. Which meant I wouldn’t be safe anywhere. The farther I went from home, the less chance they’d succeed, but I would never be completely safe.

Judgment

NOTE: This post was originally published on this blog in June 2015.

Judgment. Or judgement, depending on how you were taught to spell it. (I believe either way is correct, though I don’t know everything…)

Anyway, one thing I’m noticing a lot online is people judging others. Whether it’s about their clothes, their weight, their hair style (or lack of), whatever. People judging total strangers about things that don’t impact anyone other than that individual.

Why?

That’s a serious question. I know everyone judges in some ways. I’m not immune from doing it myself sometimes, though I try hard not to judge harshly and to keep my opinions to myself if I’m not asked for them. But why do some people think it’s not only okay to think “Wow, that fat person shouldn’t wear that dress”, but to post it publicly on social media and blogs?

Why is it okay to say harsh, hurtful things to people you don’t even know, when you’re sitting at a keyboard possibly thousands of miles away from that person?

I’ve seen people say, “It’s just my opinion, just words on the screen, get over it.”

Do you know what that person’s been through in their lives? Maybe you calling them fat is going to contribute to putting them back into the mindset of the eating disorder they’re recovering from. You insulting their clothes might remind them that they escaped an abusive relationship and can’t find a job, so they don’t have enough money to buy better clothes. And they may have been conditioned to believe they don’t deserve better things and would never look good anyway. Something you’ve just reinforced.

“Words on the screen” can be as hurtful as words thrown in your face. Sometimes even more so, because “words on a screen” are often coming from a stranger, leaving the target to wonder why they’re so messed up that even strangers can tell and think it’s okay to tell the world about it.

Think before you type. Is it really any of your business if a 300-pound woman wants to wear a crop top? Does it affect you in the least if a man has a tattooed face and a shaved head?

If it doesn’t directly affect YOU, why are you wasting time and energy ranting about it online? Is your life that empty and miserable that you have to bring down other people to entertain yourself and feel better?

That last sentence is kind of harsh, but that’s the only reason I can think of behind the current trend of verbally thrashing other people online. Because I know personally, I’m way too busy to even notice someone else’s hairstyle (unless it’s a really awesome one that I want) or their weight or what they’re wearing. And I’m definitely too busy to talk about it online, unless, again, it’s something really awesome. Personally, I’d rather spread the good than the bad.

I think the world would be a lot better if we built each other up… or at least kept our mouths shut. Just my opinion. Just words on a screen.