New Release/Freebie – A Tidal Series Short: Southampton Sea Breeze

If you’ve read the Tidal and Speakeasy series, you already know Carter Hamilton and Riley Porter-Wright. Their books, Wake and Calm, were published in the summer of 2017, and we put together a short story to mark that anniversary.
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Southampton Sea Breeze is FREE to download from Pride Publishing:
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This short story can be read on its own, but it certainly has ties to the Tidal books, Behind the Stick, and the other Speakeasy books, so if you haven’t already, we suggest you enjoy them all!
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Calm – General Release

“Calm” is available for general release today!

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Here’s a little teaser from the book.

Jesse licked his lips, appearing to consider his words before speaking. “I know you agreed to meet me here tonight—I mean, you messaged me back, which I took as a sign that you were willing to spend some time with me.”

It was Carter’s turn to frown. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”

“Are you sure?” Jesse asked gently. “Because I can’t help feeling I’m making you incredibly uncomfortable.”

Carter’s chest ached at Jesse’s earnest words. God, he was so fucked up.

“It’s not you.” He paused, then laughed with relief when Jesse grinned and broke the awkwardness between them at last. “I’m sorry. It’s a bit early to be spouting relationship clichés, especially when we hardly know each other.”

“Hey, I’m just glad you don’t look like you’re about to bolt,” Jesse told him, head cocked as sat back in his seat.

“I’m not,” Carter assured, “and you’re right. I wouldn’t have messaged you back if I didn’t want to see you again. I’m just out of practice with dating.”

“What makes you think this is a date?” Jesse’s eyes twinkled and he picked up his menu.

“Honestly, nothing. I’m a bit hopeless in social situations lately.”

Jesse dropped one corner of the menu to reach across the table and lay a hand on Carter’s.

“Relax. I asked you to dinner because I enjoyed spending time with you last week. I thought there was something between us worth exploring. But whatever happens depends on you, too. Tonight isn’t about business and I don’t want you to feel as though you’re being forced to be here.”

“I don’t.” Carter struggled to smile through his lingering guilt. “I meant what I said before—I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be.”

Jesse’s megawatt smile lit his face once more. “Then let me buy you dinner.”

Things between them were easier from there. Carter and Jesse fell naturally into conversation, ranging through various topics rather than focusing on any one thing. They shared oysters on the half shell and tuna tartare to start, then moved on to NY strip steaks for the main course, with another bottle of wine.

Carter relaxed as they ate and talked, even while his attraction to Jesse increased. The idea of acting on the impulse appealed, but it worried Carter too. He was out of his depth when it came to fooling around with men. He’d been dating, but hadn’t gone beyond a few kisses with any of the men he’d seen. Jesse, so confident and assertive, was on a whole other plane from any of them, even when Carter included Riley in the mix.

Then again, he didn’t really know Riley anymore, did he? When it came down to it, Riley had more in common with Jesse now than he did with Carter. Maybe that has always been the case, Carter thought, and his stomach dropped with the realization.

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Real Life

I posted the following on my personal Facebook page today.


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The attack in Orlando left me gutted.

I’ve spoken a lot about it with friends and have been trying to figure out what I can do. I’ve signed petitions, I’ve written to various members of the government, and I’m going to donate a short story to a charity anthology that will benefit the injured and families of those who died.

It’s not much, but it’s something.

A comment someone made on Facebook made me think though. She has multiple Facebook accounts (as do I) and she mentioned how silent her “real life” account has been. How no one is talking about what happened. How no one is coming together to grieve or console each other. How different it was from the one she uses for her writing. I checked here to see if that was the case. If my “real life” account was as silent. It wasn’t. And I’m glad. But it made me think even more. It made me think about the fact that I’ve been silent about what I do for a living.

So I guess this is my coming out of sorts.

Most of you know I’m bisexual. Many of you know that I write. A good number of you know that I write LGBTQ romance. And yet, I’ve had the privilege of keeping them separate. I used a pen name. I didn’t announce what I wrote to the world.

At first, it was because I was working at the hospital. After all, in Michigan, I could have been fired for who I am. I could have been fired for being bi. I could have been fired for my writing. If you think that sounds far-fetched, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. I know writers it has happened to.

By the time I quit to write full-time I was so immersed in the LGBTQ writing community that I was almost never on my “real life” account. It seemed pointless to make a big deal about it.  Most of the people I am close to already knew.

But part of a part of my hesitation was because I was scared. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of the consequences. And, to be frank, afraid of the hatred.

If I didn’t tell you before now, I’m sorry.

My silence has never been because I’m ashamed of who I am and what I do. I am proud of what I write. I am proud of my community.

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have a plan for my life until I realized I could write. Writing has anchored me and shaped me in ways I can’t begin to put into words. Every time I say I am a writer I say it with a sense of wonder.

But I know I have been very privileged to be able to pick and choose who I am out to.

I used quotation marks around the phrase “real life” because my writing IS my real life. My sexual identity is my real life. In the past few years, the lines between my birth name and my pen name have blurred. A few months ago I tried to sign in to a yoga class and couldn’t figure out why it couldn’t find that name in the system. I’d used my pen name. I answer to either. I am both.

I have deep respect and understanding for the people who stay hidden. Many times, there is no other choice. As we saw this past weekend, hatred runs deep. There are grave consequences for being out and proud. Until the world changes and everyone is safe, each person deserves to make that decision for themselves. In their own time.

This is my time to stand up and say: my name is Brigham Vaughn. I write LGBTQ romance. I am bisexual.

There may be little I can do about what happened in Orlando. But I have a voice. And I am tired of being silent.

Connection Release

Connection Final Final Cover

“Connection” was a long time coming.  Since the moment I created Evan’s character in “Partners” I knew I was going to have to tell his story as well.  If nothing else, my betas would have come after me with pointy things until I did!

It was during a conversation with Allison that it occurred to me that Jeremy was the perfect partner for Evan. I actually gasped when I thought of the pairing, because it was so unexpected, but perfect.  I hadn’t planned on another May/December romance, but Jeremy’s a stubborn one, and despite the fact that he and Evan seemed all wrong for each other on paper, I knew they’d be just what the other needed.  Evan needs someone who can recognize his loneliness and pull him out of his shell a little.  And Jeremy needs someone like Evan who simply doesn’t see Jeremy’s scars as a problem.

Meredith King made me a beautiful trailer for the story and I am so in love with the way it compliments the story.

Summary:

After a lifetime of being told he’s worthless, shy, sheltered Evan Harris is forced out of the closet and kicked out of his home.  Friends in Atlanta give him a place to stay while he gets on his feet, but despite his eagerness to explore the city, it isn’t exactly what he expected.

Physically and emotionally scarred from a devastating car accident, Jeremy Lewis struggles to reconcile the brash, outgoing man he used to be with the social recluse he’s become.

Loneliness draws them to each other, but a strong mutual attraction isn’t enough to overcome their pasts.  In order to be together, Evan must discover his own worth and Jeremy must trust someone to see past his scars.

Excerpt:

“So how do you know the grooms?” The man he was pretty sure he recognized from the sporting goods store dropped onto the stool to his left, and Evan jerked, spilling some of his drink on the bar.

“Oh, um, I met Russ and Stephen last fall when they were in Stephen’s hometown. I worked at the funeral home there when they buried his father.”

The guy frowned. “So you’re just visiting Atlanta then?”

Evan shook his head. “No. I moved to Atlanta in February. When we met last fall, Russ was nice enough to kind of”—he struggled to find the right words as he mopped up the spill—“take me under his wing, I guess. Once I moved here, Russ and Stephen helped me get settled and find the guts to go off on my own.”

He chuckled and nudged Evan’s elbow with his. “I dunno, seems like you must have had some guts in the first place.”

“Maybe.” Evan blushed. “I’d like to think so.”

“How do you like Atlanta?”

“It’s lonely,” Evan said, surprising himself with his candor. The drink he was working on must’ve loosened his tongue. “I mean, it’s fine, I guess. I just haven’t met anyone yet.” In his head, Atlanta had been a gay man’s paradise where there would be available guys everywhere he looked, but it hadn’t worked out that way. At least, not for him.

“Amen, kid.” The guy raised his glass and clinked it against Evan’s. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Evan Harris.” He glanced at the guy out of the corner of his eye.

“Nice to meet you. Jeremy Lewis.” He narrowed his eyes at Evan. “Wait a minute, you came into Johnson’s sporting goods a while ago, didn’t you? You needed running shoes, I think.”

“I … yeah,” Evan replied, shocked but flattered that the guy—Jeremy—had remembered him. “I did. Russ suggested I go there, actually. Um, thanks for your help, by the way. The new shoes are much better. The fit specialist did a great job.”

Jeremy grinned. “Glad to hear my employees know what they’re doing.”

Evan wasn’t sure what else to say about running shoes that wouldn’t make him sound like an idiot, but he didn’t want Jeremy to stop talking to him, so he changed the subject. “How do you know them?”

“Stephen and Russ? I just met Russ a few months ago, but Stephen’s my ex.”

“Really?” Evan gaped at him for a moment before all the pieces fell into place. Stephen had mentioned his ex’s car accident. That explained the limp and the scar. “Oh.”

“Mmmhmm. Stephen’s always had a thing for younger guys. We met when I was twenty, and he was … oh, must have been about thirty-two, thirty-three, maybe? Hell if I can remember. It’s been fifteen years.”

Which meant Jeremy was in his mid-thirties now. Up close, Evan could see the lines around his eyes when he smiled. Evan liked them.

“You’re not jealous of Russ?” he blurted out, then bit his lip, hoping Jeremy wasn’t offended.

“It’s complicated,” Jeremy said with a sigh as his lips twisted in a bitter smile. “I know Russ is a hell of a lot better for Stephen than I ever was, and I’m glad they’re happy together. It’s … it’s not that I want to be with Stephen, and, hell, I’m not a relationship kinda guy, but something about seeing them together makes me envious, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Evan sighed.

Jeremy nudged him with his elbow again. “Come on, kid, I’m sure you can’t have any trouble picking up guys.”

Evan sputtered, nearly choking on his drink and wondering how the guy knew he was gay. Am I obvious? he wondered. “Umm, I haven’t exactly ever done it before …” he muttered into his glass, embarrassed to confess his lack of dating experience but unable to hold his tongue.

“Don’t tell me you’re a virgin?” Jeremy’s gaze was disbelieving, and the tips of Evan’s ears went red-hot.

“Okay, I won’t then.” Evan tilted his drink back and shook an ice cube into his mouth, crunching down on it. He refused to look at the guy next to him for fear he’d turn tomato red.

Jeremy whistled quietly. “Kid, if you go into a gay club it’ll be like waving a steak at starving tigers. They’ll be all over you.”

“I think you’ve had too much to drink,” Evan protested. “I’m nothing special.”

“Oh, Jesus, you have to be kidding me.” Jeremy stood with a groan. “Okay, unless you’ve got somewhere you need to be, I want you to come have a seat with me at a booth over there. My leg is fucking killing me, and we need to have a long talk about why you don’t realize you’re the kind of pretty little twink who makes gay men cream their jockstraps.”

Evan blushed, but he followed Jeremy toward the cozy booths anyway, embarrassed, terrified, and completely intrigued by the gorgeous guy who had called him pretty.

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Dilemma

When I spoke to my parents a few days ago we discussed a lot of random things, but the SCOTUS ruling was a big one.  They were thrilled by it and understood my excitement both for myself and for the people I care about.  Unfortunately, it also led to an interesting discussion about one of my aunts that left me feeling apprehensive.  According to my dad, one of my aunts was quite upset about the marriage equality ruling.

This aunt is my dad’s older sister.  She’s in her 70’s and not in great health, although I am hopeful she’ll be around for a number of years.  She’s also basically the only aunt I have left.  The ones on my mom’s side of the family no longer speak to us (there was a huge, family-destroying fight after my grandma died) although one still occasionally exchanges cards with me.  My dad’s two other sisters are dead, so this one aunt is more or less all I have left in that generation of family.

Her views on homosexuality never come up in any discussion I’ve had with her, but apparently she’s very against gay marriage.  My dad thinks my aunt’s feelings tie into her Catholic upbringing. Both my parents are practicing Catholics as well, but basically they ignore all of the social teachings about birth control, abortion, women as priests, priests being allowed to marry, gay rights, etc.  I don’t understand it, but I respect that attending church has meaning for them.  My aunt, however, seems to follow the church’s teachings much more strictly.

The situation with her puts me in a weird spot. She doesn’t know I’m bi or that I write m/m romance.  It’s not because I’ve intentionally tried to hide it, but it’s honestly never come up in conversation.  I think she has a vague idea that I write, but we’ve never actually discussed it in any depth and she’s never asked about the subject matter.  Every conversation we have in the future will be tinged by the knowledge that she most likely wouldn’t support me if she knew. I don’t like hiding who I am or what I do.  It feels like a cop out to not tell her, simply because I have the privilege of choosing to keep silent because I happen to be married to a man.

In comparison to many people’s experiences, the potential to lose the support of a single family member is pretty mild, but it doesn’t make it any easier. She’s the aunt who counted my fingers on one hand and somehow always came up with six even though I could never figure out where the extra one came from.  She’s the one who did crafty painting projects with me as a kid. She’s the aunt who introduced me to vintage glassware and made me fall in love with it.  The aunt who made sure I ended up with some of the beautiful costume jewelry that belonged to my grandmother because she knew I’d appreciate it.  She’s the last aunt I have left and she’s not getting any younger.

I know for a fact that if she made homophobic comments in front of me, I’d speak up.  I don’t think there’s any way I could hear it and NOT speak up.  It just isn’t in my nature.  Chances are it would lead to a discussion where I’d be honest about my identity and profession.

But the thought of bringing it up out of the blue leaves me with a very uneasy feeling.  Creating drama (even for a good reason) isn’t something I like. I know my parents will support me either way, which I am intensely grateful for, but I honestly have no idea what will happen if I tell her.

There’s a chance that by getting to know me, she could change her mind.  That’s what makes me lean toward wanting to tell her.  But that’s a pretty big gamble.  The thought of losing her love and support makes me hurt, but deliberately hiding who I am in order to keep it does too and I have no idea which choice is the right one.

Acceptance and Support

When “Pain Management” was accepted by Dreamspinner last fall, I came out to my parents about writing gay romance. And (somewhat spontaneously) came out as bi.

When it was published in February, they told me how proud of me they were and gave me a beautiful card and wooden jewelry box to celebrate.

When they asked to read it I had a mild panic attack and a few weeks ago, I finally gave them a copy.

Tonight they told me what they thought. Apparently my mother had thought it was about two women, not two men, so she was rather surprised. She also (teasingly) told me it scarred her for life. Which is what I tell her every time she gets excessively flirty with my dad (usually after half a glass of wine). She also told me she thought I was a very good writer.

My parents may not completely understand why I love writing m/m romance.  They may not have any desire to read anything else I write.  But that’s okay.  They support me and I feel damn lucky to have their acceptance and support.

And sometimes I wish I could share them with all of the people who don’t have that kind of family.  Because everyone deserves it.

Closets

I ran across this video today and it really resonated with me. I’ve watched Ash Beckham’s videos before, and she’s always funny, always clever, and always makes excellent points in her speeches. This particular one is about being closeted. Not in the strictly gay sense, but in the sense that all human beings are closeted in one way or another when we hide our true selves from the world.

At some point or another, all of us have had a moment where we’ve stepped out of the closet.   We’ve taken that deep breath—heart in our throats—and spoken the truth, not knowing how it was going to be received.

Several weeks ago, I came out to my parents on two different levels. One was as a writer of gay romance.   The other was as a bisexual woman.

When I was sixteen, I kissed one of my best friends while playing truth or dare. I didn’t think twice about it, because ten minutes later, I kissed another friend. One was female, the other was male, and in our group of friends, it never really mattered either way. Over the next few years, I kissed quite a few of my friends, and it never once occurred to me to wonder if it meant anything that I liked kissing girls every bit as much as I liked kissing guys.

Maybe it was because we were in theater, maybe it was because we were a tactile group, but it felt completely natural. We gave each other backrubs, we cuddled backstage, we feel asleep at parties all mushed together, we went skinny-dipping. Much as our parents feared otherwise, it wasn’t about sex, it was friendship and closeness, affection … connecting with another person. Kissing was just another part of that. Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, those words didn’t apply to what we were doing. We were friends.

So when I went off to college , started dating, and realized that not everyone felt that way, I was a little bewildered. Sure, I thought the girl in my math class was really hot, but so what? Did it really matter? Well, it turns out the rest of the world likes putting people into neat little categories like gay and straight. My boyfriend at the time really struggled with the idea of my attraction to women. He’d ask me, “are you bisexual?” and I’d shrug and say, “I don’t know, does it matter?” Well, it turns out did matter to him. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great guy, but he really needed me to define that about myself. And since I couldn’t do that when we were together, after some very excruciating soul-searching, I broke it off with him. Not just because of that—there were other reasons—but at the heart of it all was the fact that all of a sudden I was questioning something that had never been an issue for me at all. Was I bisexual? I was attracted to women, maybe not as much as to men, but definitely attracted to them. What did that mean?

Eventually, I came to a point where I decided that yes, I was bisexual. There was no grand coming out to my friends. All of them either already knew or didn’t care one way or another, so I didn’t worry about it. I considered telling my family—they were good people, I was sure they’d support me no matter what—but what was the point? I wasn’t dating any girls seriously enough to care, so why bother? If it came up at some point, great, otherwise, I didn’t see any compelling reason to create a fuss when it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Toward the end of college, I met a girl. She was mind-bogglingly smart and driven, funny and interesting. She made me dizzy just thinking about her and we spent a whole summer flirting. We watched movies, went out for sushi, and lounged in her hot tub. We went to coffee shops and spent hours talking. I drank chai while she smoked clove cigarettes and we made busboys drop dishes when we kissed. We talked about how ridiculous labels like bisexual were and what did it matter if you called yourself gay or straight? It was all so perfect, but it was confusing, too, because we never talked about if we were dating or not, so when the guy she’d been in love with for years finally got the courage to ask her out, all of a sudden we were over. And I didn’t know if we’d ever really been in a relationship, or if she’d ever returned the way I felt. I had been picturing a future with her and then all of a sudden it was gone. I was heartbroken and lost and struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. It all came together in a dizzying mess while I battled anxiety and the crippling fear of failing in a field I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go into anymore.

A few months after that, I met a boy. He was funny and quirky, and he made me feel safe. I wasn’t in love with him, but I loved his tattoos, and the way he never made me feel like he was going to break my heart. He wrote a strange, brilliant book, and I edited it for him, and didn’t realize that what I really wanted to be doing was writing my own. I doubted myself, and second-guessed myself and although I loved reading and writing, I never thought I could make a career of it. My heart didn’t break when he moved all the way across the country, but it still left me reeling. I’ll never eat a Clementine again without thinking of him, and his words, and the ink on his skin. And although it’s been a few years since I’ve talked to him, I know he’d be proud that I’m writing now.

When I met a guy online a few months later and we hit it off, I never expected anything to come of it. Sure, he looked cute in the pictures he sent me and he made me laugh when we talked on the phone, but I wasn’t looking for a relationship. When we finally met in person for coffee, I never expected that he’d wind up being the love of my life. After talking for a few hours, it felt like I’d known him forever and somewhere in my soul I knew he was going to become an important part of my life. I wasn’t ready for him and my head was still a mess, but I was smart enough to grab on tight and hold on to him. He was patient, he let me sort out the mess in my head and put all of the pieces back together. He didn’t do it for me, but he waited until I could do it myself. And even though the idea of a relationship scared me, I did it anyway. I let him into my heart, I moved in with him, and I then I married him.

Those were the smartest decisions I ever made in my life.

When I ambushed him one day after he got home from work and said, “holy shit, I finally know what I want to do with my life. I want to be a writer,” he said, “okay.” And we sat down and talked it through like we had everything else in our lives up to that point.

Over the last few years, the books I’ve read have shifted more and more to the m/m genre until now that’s almost exclusively what I read. With the rise of eBook popularity, it’s easier to buy anything you want without having to wonder what other people will think of your choice of reading material. So when someone would ask what I was reading, I’d give them a title but be vague about the content. Or at least be vague about the fact that the protagonists were both male. And when I started to write stories in that genre, I kept that quiet, too. I was elusive about what I was writing rather than proudly stating, “I write gay romance.”

It wasn’t that I was ashamed or thought there was something wrong with it, but I wasn’t quite ready to be open to the kind of scrutiny that being brutally honest would create. So I dodged and evaded until I hit the point where I was ready to send in my first short story to a publisher. My husband had known all along, so it was no surprise to him, but I took the first step out of that closet I’d created for myself, and sent the story to my best friend. And then told another friend about it. I realized that it felt a little easier every time.

So when I got the news that my story had been accepted, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I was so incredibly excited and proud that I wanted to blurt it out to everyone. I told everyone I knew online, most of my real life friends, but when it came time to decide if I was going to tell my family, I hesitated. My parents are wonderful, supportive people and it wasn’t that I couldn’t trust them, but there was still that tiny bit of fear there.

My friend Jordan, who I’ve mentioned before, has influenced me more than he’ll probably ever know. He came out to his family as  bisexual recently, and his honesty and willingness to open himself up in order to be true to himself is something I greatly admire. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the kind of life I wanted to lead, too.

A few weeks ago, we had my parents over for dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday and show off the newly remodeled kitchen my husband and I spent months slaving over. After dinner, I summoned up my courage, took a deep breath, and blurted out my news. They were a little surprised, and maybe slightly confused by why I was writing stories about two men, but they rolled with it—like I knew they would—and they were proud of me.

I hadn’t planned to come out to them about being a bisexual woman, too.  I am happily married to a man I plan to spend the rest of my life with, why did they need to know that I was also attracted to women? Recently though, I realized that it was beginning to feel wrong to hide that part of myself. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me that it was a secret.

After I told my parents about my story getting published, my mom made a joke that she felt like I was coming out of the closet, and then continued on to say, “but I think I would have known if you were gay.” My heart caught in my throat and I thought, “Oh, God, this is it. This is my chance to lay it all out there. “ And so I did. I said, “Well, actually … I’m bisexual.”

So after years and years of agonizing over it, wondering if I should tell them the truth or not, I did. It was anticlimactic. I had built it up for years in my head, wondering what kind of questions they’d ask, afraid they’d be hurt that I hadn’t told them already. They were certainly surprised, mostly because I hadn’t told them until now, but of course they were supportive, and I realized how silly it had been for me to hide who I was.

Now, almost sixteen years after I kissed a girl for the first time, I know who I am. I’m a bisexual woman. I’m a writer of gay romance. And damn does it feel good to say that.

Ash Beckham is right; closets are no place for human beings. So even if you just peek open the door of yours—whatever it may be—and poke a toe out, it’s a good start. You’ll know when you’re ready to throw the door open. And trust me, it feels better than you can imagine to step outside.