Release Week- Midnight Chat

My newest novel, Midnight Chat, releases tomorrow from Harmony Ink Press!

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The story was inspired by a song…my own song, “Midnight Chat.” (Available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify… links at the end of the post.) I wrote the song nearly two years ago now, after a too-long drive through rush-hour traffic to the home of a then-friend who was working with me on some music things. During that drive, I was listening to my Spotify playlist, and one of the songs, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” caught my attention.

I started musing about the subject of that song, someone who committed a school shooting apparently out of sheer boredom. And then thought about an incident about a year and a half earlier in which a girl turned a friend of hers in to police after he threatened to destroy a school from which he’d been expelled.

The words started rolling around in my brain, and by the time I reached my friend’s house, I had composed nearly the entire song. And not long after, I had the seeds of the novel firmly in my brain, with Mira MacDonald practically shouting at me to tell her story. So I did.

Recognizing when a friend of yours needs more help than you can give is difficult for anyone. When the friend takes a course that could lead to tragedy, it’s even more difficult. Mira faces some tough decisions in trying to help her best friend Rob cope with bullies, neglectful parents, and an undiagnosed mental illness, and the ultimate choice she has to make is something no one should have to decide. But she makes it nonetheless.

I hope you’ll check out the book, the trailer (which will be up later this week, and includes the song), and the single, on Amazon.com, iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify.

Teaser Thursday- Deep Secrets and Hope

Today’s the official release day of the Deep Secrets and Hope bundle from Harmony Ink Press! To celebrate, instead of posting a teaser from a single book, I’m sharing very short snippets from each of the six in the series.

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I was halfway in love with Taffy Sweet. As a man, he was gorgeous. Blond hair so close to white that I suspected it was bleached, usually in a spiky style that made my fingers itch to touch it. I was pretty sure his eyes were blue, though the lighting used in the confessionals made it hard to tell. I couldn’t deny my attraction to him.

And as a queen, she was just plain beautiful, though sometimes in unconventional ways. Some of her costumes took goth up to eleven, going above and beyond the types of things even the hardcore goths at my school wore, while others were so frilly and poofy they practically gave me high blood sugar. That was the main reason I was rooting for her to win. The other queens were pretty much one-note. Taffy proved every week that she could change herself to match her mood or the moods of the judges.

I wanted to meet her when I grew up. Scratch that. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

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I put the phone back in my pocket and groaned. I couldn’t win. If I’d stuck to my plans with Evan, Mami would have been upset. And then Papi would have gotten on my case for upsetting her.

Now I would only have about half an hour with Evan, which would make him unhappy. He knew how important my family was to me, so he wouldn’t be too upset. But I’d promised him I would go to his place after practice and stay for supper because his mom had to work late, and now I had to break my promise.

Sometimes I wondered why he bothered going out with me. He had to hide it from everyone else, and half the time I ended up saying something stupid or breaking plans with him so people wouldn’t find out.

I wanted to be worth the effort for him, and I doubted I was. But he was beyond worth it for me.

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I’d sworn again. I hadn’t meant to, but I couldn’t help it. Everything was pissing me off, and Kendra wasn’t even close to helping. I wanted to smack her to get it through her head that she was being an idiot, but I didn’t think that would be a good idea.

The fact that I kept talking and thinking about smacking people worried me. No matter how angry I got, I wasn’t violent. Except sometimes with my brothers, but that was usually because they started it.

“You have a lot to be angry about.” Kendra still looked and sounded completely calm.

I didn’t get how she could be that way. I was furious. She should have felt something.

“Yeah, well, I was fine until November,” I said. That was when Guillermo had realized Jim had done something to me. He’d stuck his nose right in it, first persuading me to tell him what had happened, then convincing me to report it so Jim wouldn’t do it to anyone else.

I should have refused. It wasn’t up to me to save every freaking girl in Massachusetts from the guy. Sometimes I hated Guillermo for making me speak up, but he’d had my back ever since.

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My train of thought went right off the tracks. I bit my lip again and turned to look at her.

She nodded. “Yeah, you’re my girlfriend. You’ve been twitchy about changing in front of me since the first time I invited you over to try things on, though.”

“Right.” I held up my hand. “This kind of doesn’t make any sense in my brain, and I’m trying to translate it to say it. I’m failing.”

“You don’t have to explain.” She held out her hand. “Come here.”

I sat beside her and took her hand. My hand was sweaty, of course, because why would it have been as cool and dry as hers? She was Chastaine Rollo. Always calm, cool, and collected, even when people called her names and talked behind her back. I was just Holly McCormack, the wallflower drama geek.

“Is it because you’re afraid I’ll see you naked and be overcome with lust?” Chastaine said.

I cracked up laughing, partly at the way she said it and partly at the idea she would lust after someone who looked like me.

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A while after Delia returned from lunch, a bunch of people my age invaded the shop. I was running the register while Delia did some paperwork in the back.

Even though Delia had told me the art club would be coming in, I hadn’t expected a dozen kids. They spread out around the place as much as they could, picking up supplies and flipping through sketchbooks.

Gut aching, I tried to breathe. I didn’t know that any of them had heard about me. Maybe they hadn’t. And Delia was right. They wouldn’t see a monster when they looked at me. Just a guy like them.

I was afraid to deal with them, though. What if they’d seen my name or picture online? I wasn’t supposed to leave the register unattended, but I quickly stumbled through the curtain into the back room.

“Get back out there,” Delia said without looking up from the papers on her desk.

“I can’t.” I gasped and choked on thin air. Coughing hurt my throat, but I could handle pain. It gave me something solid to hold onto.

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Mom walked over to the chair at my desk but didn’t sit. “This is becoming a problem, Man-Shik. When your father and I approved the friendship with Jim, we assumed the situation would settle down once people learned the whole story. And we feel badly for him. Despite what he did, if he’s paid the price and wants to start over, he should have the chance. He’s only your age.”

I braced myself. “But?”

“But issues keep cropping up. I’m not sure it’s good for you to be involved.”

That was pretty much what I’d expected her to say. No matter what she thought about Jim, I was her son. I was the one she had to protect. And the one who had to make sure our family didn’t get a bad reputation around town, though neither of my parents would ever have said so.

I tore a piece of paper out of my notebook and stuck it in my book to keep my place, then set the closed book beside me. This discussion was going to take a while.

The Story Behind Deep Secrets and Hope

This Thursday is the official release of the Deep Secrets and Hope bundle from Harmony Ink Press. This is a six-book series following the lives of several LGBTA+ teens as they navigate bullying and other difficulties in their lives.

I never really planned on this being a series. It just kind of happened. Originally, I don’t think I actually planned on there being even one novel. I wrote a short story for a friend’s blog, Tales of Rue and Woe, on which they posted about writing, LGBTA+ topics, and an ongoing short story about two teenage boys named Rue and Woe. (Note that my short story isn’t on the blog linked above at this point, and the blog itself has been inactive since 2012.) A bit later, I expanded the short story into what I intended to become a free read e-book, though it didn’t quite work out that way.

The character Evan Granger was inspired by one of my older offspring’s best friends, and has some of that friend’s mannerisms. He was also, to a lesser extent, inspired by the reality TV series RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which drag queens compete with one another in an elimination-based format.

In fall 2012, I went to the GayRomLit readers and authors convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That was where I first heard of Harmony Ink Press, then a quite-new imprint of an adult male/male romance publisher that had published one of my alter ego’s novellas. After talking with the people at Harmony Ink’s booth, I decided to give them a try once I had a book that would work for them

And then I realized that Evan Granger deserved a full-length novel. So I gave him one.

I greatly expanded Nail Polish and Feathers from the free read short story. I added more characters, including Evan’s cousin Holly. I included the “drag queen competition show,” and Evan’s correspondence with Taffy Sweet, one of the queens on the fictional version of the show, became a part of the story.

Harmony Ink accepted the novel, which was released in August 2013. One of my favorite authors, who writes for both Harmony Ink and the adult imprint of the publisher, read it–fan girl moment! She actually read *my* book! And liked it so much she told me there should be more about the characters! With that kind of motivation, obviously I had to write another book.

So Shoulder Pads and Flannel came into being. Followed by the other four Deep Secrets and Hope books over the next few years. The final one, Ball Caps and Khakis, was released in February of this year.

If you haven’t read the books yet, I hope you’ll take advantage of Harmony Ink’s bundle. And if you have read them, I’d love to know what you think!

Dark Incarnation

As promised last week, I’m sharing a bit more about my new-ish series Dark Incarnation. New-ish because the original version of the series was actually part of my very long series The Dark Lines, but I’ve taken plots and characters, rearranged things, and combined them with characters and settings from my novel Where No One Knows. Because I like to make things confusing like that.

(Confusing for myself as the author. It won’t be confusing for readers.)

The basic plot of Dark Incarnation will follow the basic plot of the original version, which was books 21-30 of The Dark Lines. But I will also be revamping the plots of a few of the Dark Portals books (books 1-10 of The Dark Lines), and will be importing some characters from Where No One Knows. I’ll also be combining some characters into one.

So… I will be submitting Turnaround, book 1 of Dark Incarnation, a week from today if all goes as planned, and I wanted to share a bit about the plot arc.

Matthew James is the oldest son of a very strict religious family from whom he has tried very hard to hide his psychic abilities. At the public high school he attends, he has gotten to know some other people with abilities, and one of them, Caleb, he considers a genuine friend.

In Turnaround, Matthew is having visions of a dark entity that wants to harm him and his youngest sibling, six-year-old Naomi. With no other way to gain information and protect his sister, Matthew turns to Caleb for help. Caleb tells him about two other boys, Blake Walker and Topher James, who have a website detailing their fight against a similar entity–or perhaps the same one. They email Blake, who tells them not to try to fight the entity.

But then Naomi is taken by the entity–and Matthew’s mother blames him to the point of threatening his life. To protect Matthew, his father sends him to live with a cousin Matthew has never heard of: Sahra Walker. Blake’s adoptive mother. They live with Sahra’s husband Garrett and Sahra and Garrett’s toddler-aged daughter Claire in Winthrop, a town about half an hour from Matthew’s home. The family, along with Blake’s best friend Eben Sanchez and Blake and Eben’s girlfriend Lauren, help Matthew come to terms with losing his sister. But Matthew wants revenge against the darkness, and he will do anything to get it.

The forces of light have long chosen to occasionally incarnate to help humans in the fight. Those who fight for the light are attempting to maintain the universal balance between light and darkness; for the universe to exist, both components must exist. The darkness wants to tip the balance, preferably in their favor, but even if the light outweighs the darkness that imbalance will serve the darkness’s purpose. Blake and his friends are aware of the incarnate forces of light, or FOLIHFs (forces of light in human form), and in book 2 of Dark Incarnation, they learn that there is now an incarnate force of darkness–whose job it is to destroy Blake before he can fulfill a destiny he knows nothing about.

Over the course of the series, we learn that both Blake and Matthew are more than they seem. The characters battle the forces of darkness, and sometimes must battle each other as the forces of darkness try to take control of them. Ultimately, they and their friends must work together, with help from some of the forces of light, to end the darkness’s attempt to use our world and its inhabitants to win the war.

I have not completely planned the entire series yet, but am anticipating 5-6 books. I’ll keep you all posted on whether Turnaround is accepted, and how the rest of the series shapes up!

Work In Progress

I’m in the final stages of writing a new YA urban fantasy novel.

Well, sort of new. It was actually originally part of my series The Dark Lines, either book 21 or book 1 of section 3, depending on how I decided to count. (Yes, it was confusing.) It was not one of the Dark Lines books that got published, since the series only was published up to book 4.

As originally written, The Dark Lines was a series of 30 books, broken into three 10-book parts. The first part, Dark Portals, is the one that contains the four previously-published books, and introduces readers to Topher James and Blake Walker, who, along with their friends, are drawn into the universal war between light and darkness. The second part, Dark Path, bounces back in time to before Blake’s birth, beginning just before Topher is born, and follows three of the Dark Portals adults as teens who were also drawn into that war.

The third part, Dark Incarnation, begins about two years after the final Dark Portals books. It introduces some new characters, including an incarnate force of darkness who is trying to destroy Blake–and will succeed if the characters don’t find out who it is.

I wrote the original series before I’d had any fiction published, and for almost four years I was completely immersed in that universe, so much so that my other urban fantasy series, Reality Shift, ended up sharing the world and several characters with The Dark Lines, although it took place about five years after the end of Dark Incarnation.

I’ve never really stopped wanting to explore that universe more. Even though I had completed first drafts of all 30 Dark Lines books and all 10 Reality Shift, since they weren’t all published and are now out of print, there are many ways I can twist and turn things to bring back those characters and enjoy reworking their stories.

Turnaround is book 1 of Dark Incarnation… but as I sorted through it and the rest of the Dark Incarnation and unpublished Dark Portals books, I realized it shares some common themes and plot devices with my recent novel Where No One Knows. Since Dark Incarnation is destined for Harmony Ink Press, home of WNOK, and because a couple of reviews I’ve seen of WNOK have asked for more about those characters, I’ve decided to combine the two universes.

That took some work. I had to eliminate some of the DI characters and replace them with characters from WNOK. I had to combine some characters into one because of similarities between them and the roles they play in the overall DI plot. And I had to completely relocate DI, which has some action taking place in Boston but is primarily based in Maine, while WNOK ends in Winthrop, a town just outside Boston. (Winthrop, although not named in any of the books, is also the setting for the first four Deep Secrets and Hope novels.)

I think I’ve gotten things pretty well put together, and although I’ve had to give up some of my favorite bits of The Dark Lines, I’m excited about what has become partly a new series. Next week, I’ll share a little more about it.

The Story Behind Where No One Knows

My newest YA novel Where No One Knows released on Thursday from Harmony Ink Press. I say “newest,” but actually, this novel was published before, in 2013 by Musa Publishing. In 2015, Musa sadly had to close its doors, and the rights to the novel were returned to me. I thought the story seemed like a good fit for Harmony Ink, and fortunately for me, they agreed and were willing to re-release it.

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I wrote the novel originally because of a challenge I received in fall 2012. I was at the GayRomLit convention, which that year was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My Featherweight Press editor was also there, and was talking with someone from Musa about possibly taking on an editor role there. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned my books.

The woman to whom he was speaking had just started a new imprint at Musa, aimed at publishing LGBTA+ young adult fiction. My editor introduced us, and the woman asked whether I would be able to write a novel with a transgender main character. I said of course I could, not actually knowing whether or not I would be able to. This is the danger of issuing writing challenges to me…

A few months prior to that, I was on a bus from Philadelphia back home to Boston when the phrase “In the United States, you can go almost anywhere by bus if you have enough money” floated through my brain, along with the mental image of someone running away from home–or maybe running away *to* home. I’d stored that snippet in my memory, knowing it belonged to a story somewhere. When I was asked to write a novel with a transgender main character, I knew I’d found the story in which that snippet belonged.

And so I created Kellan McKee, a transgender boy whose family had accepted that he was transgender, but couldn’t accept his psychic powers. Forced out of his home, underage and with no ID, Kellan had to travel by bus to find a new, hopefully safe, place to live. It took a bit longer to figure out exactly what Kellan had done to cause his parents to kick him out, but the answer came soon enough.

Although Where No One Knows didn’t find as much of an audience through Musa as I’d hoped, those who read it liked it. I’m hoping more readers will find–and enjoy–the novel now that it’s available from Harmony Ink.

Release Week- Where No One Knows

This Thursday is the official release of my YA paranormal novel Where No One Knows!

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This is actually a re-release. Where No One Knows was written in 2013 in response to a conversation I had with the head editor of a then-new imprint of a newish publishing company. The imprint was intended to publish LGBT young adult fiction, and the editor had received a slew of manuscripts about gay boys, but not much other representation of the LGBT rainbow. She asked if I thought I could write a novel about a transgender teen.

I did. A transgender teen who is kicked out of his home–for having the psychic power of pyrokinesis, or fire setting. Something he does unintentionally when frightened or angry. The editor accepted the book, and it was published in October 2013.

And then in February 2015, the publisher went out of business and returned rights on all books to their authors. So Where No One Knows was back in my hands, and I was pretty sure I had a publisher who would be interested in it. It seemed like a natural fit for Harmony Ink Press, and so I submitted it.

On Thursday, readers will be able–or able again–to read about Kellan McKee’s escape from his uber-religious stepfather, who is out to make Kellan pay for accidentally setting a man on fire to protect himself from an attack. Kellan’s pyrokinesis is not entirely within his control, but as he runs, he finds other people with psychic powers who can help him learn to manage his own. Assuming his stepfather doesn’t find him first.

Midnight Chat

Last week, I submitted my novel Midnight Chat. The novel, which I think I blogged about a few months ago, is based on a song by the same title, which I cowrote and recorded as half of the band Dichotomous. The band is, of course, now defunct, but the two songs we released live on.

When I wrote the song, almost a year ago now, I thought it had the makings of a potential YA novel. After a while, I decided to give the novel a try. The novel, like the song, is about a girl who receives a text from her male best friend saying he’s going to shoot people at school the following day, and if she tells anyone, he’ll come after her first. The girl then has to decide whether to assume he’s just venting, as he’s often done in the past, or believe him but keep her mouth shut to protect herself, or believe and report him.

In the novel, Mira MacDonald has been friends with Rob Stevens for years. She knows how severely he’s been bullied, and she knows that he undoubtedly has some mental health issues, but his parents refuse to consider that there are any problems and instead just tell Rob to stop whining and toughen up. Mira sees Rob’s mental state deteriorating but keeps hoping he’ll be okay–right up until he sends her that text.

Since the novel has just been submitted, it will be a while before I know whether it’s been accepted. But as soon as I know, I’ll fill you in!

About Ball Caps and Khakis

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This week marks the release of what is currently planned to be the final book in my Deep Secrets and Hope series from Harmony Ink Press. I say “currently planned” because about two and a half years ago, when the first book of the series came out, there was no series planned. People read that first book, Nail Polish and Feathers, and asked for more. And so it expanded from there.

The series definitely has its dark points, and one of the darkest is the plot arc concerning Jim Frankel. Introduced in the first book as a bully, Jim was revealed at the end of the second book to have done even worse. Book five, Work Boots and Tees, is Jim’s story from his own point of view.

That novel has elicited its share of controversy and comments. Some people hate the character; some are sympathetic to him. Not to mention what some readers have said about me, not realizing, perhaps, that the beliefs and opinions of my characters don’t necessarily reflect my own. If I only wrote about people I agree with, who believe only the things I do, my books would be pretty boring.

Ball Caps and Khakis takes place following the events of Work Boots and Tees, and is told from the point of view of Man-Shik Park, or Manny, the boy who tries to become Jim’s friend after Jim is “exiled” to live with his cousin in Michigan. Knowing what Jim did back home in Massachusetts, Manny is cautious about him, but he also believes Jim, like almost anyone else, deserves a chance at redemption. And he defends Jim, even when he isn’t sure he should.

Manny is also asexual and homoromantic, meaning that although he doesn’t experience sexual attraction to anyone, he does experience romantic feelings toward other guys. While much of Ball Caps and Khakis is devoted to Manny’s perspective on Jim’s struggles, some is also about Manny accepting his own orientations and trying to explain them to his parents.

The official release day for Ball Caps and Khakis is this Thursday, February 25, but some advance ratings and reviews have already popped up on Goodreads. And it looks like readers are going to have some pretty strong reactions to this one just as they did to Work Boots and Tees. We’ll see.

Coming Attractions

Just a quick post this week with a bit about what I have coming up as far as books.

Ball Caps and Khakis, the last (I think) book in the Deep Secrets and Hope series, will be out in February from Harmony Ink Press. I have cover art!

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I’ve submitted Where No One Knows, and will be hearing back within the next couple of months. You might remember that Where No One Knows was originally published in fall 2013. Unfortunately, that publisher went out of business earlier this year, so the book was homeless for a while. I’ll keep everyone informed of what happens with it.

And as I’ve mentioned, the novel Midnight Chat is mostly finished, but because of scheduling reasons, I won’t be submitting it until April. I will be posting snippets from it once in a while, though.

Other than that, I have several short stories on my Free Reads page now, which are set up as PDF downloads, and I’ll be adding another one, a Christmas story set in the same superhero universe as “Not-So-Super”, on December 23.

And that’s about it…