New Release – The Cupcake Conundrum

They say good things come to those who wait and I have a very sweet treat for those of you who have been patiently waiting for my *ahem* Valentine’s Day book.

The Cupcake Conundrum Cover Final

After Hank Edwards and I finished our respective winter holiday stories set in the Williamsville Inn universe, he mentioned he had an idea for Carter, the best friend of the main character in his book Snowflakes and Song Lyrics. He wanted to write a Valentine’s Day book. I considered the idea of writing one but didn’t immediately have any ideas and I really didn’t have time to add it to my schedule. But then one day, it hit me.

I immediately sent a message to Hank: “Aww crap. I have an idea for a Valentine’s Day story.”
He responded with: “Yay! I mean, ahem, oh no!”
I said, “When Seth and Erik from Snowstorms and Second Chances move in together, Seth’s brother Adrian helps him move from NYC to Philly and he meets Seth’s roommate …”

Off I went with the story. Unfortunately, in January, we both stalled. Hank had things in his life he was dealing with, I had a weird case of writer’s block. While I love Seth’s roommate, Ajay Sunagar, he was a complicated character to write. His parents are from India and he had a complicated relationship with them and with his heritage. As Jay told Adrian in the story, “I straddled this weird line of being too brown and Indian for white people and too white and American for the Desi community.”

I wasn’t sure how to write that. I wanted to do justice to how complicated and multi-layered his relationship with his family and his culture was but I was afraid of messing it up. I think somewhere along the line, I psyched myself out of writing completely, afraid I’d screw it up completely. But connecting with a lovely reader from one of the M/M Facebook groups who pointed me in the direction of where to research and answer questions about what it’s like being Indian-American, I made some progress. I sent it off to Hank for some early feedback, which broke through the rest of the block.

I can’t promise I got every aspect of what it’s like to be a second-generation Indian-American gay man perfectly right, and every individual’s experience varies so widely, but I worked very hard to do my best by Jay. And I love him for all of his snarky, sexy sweetness. Adrian is a lovely character too, a single dad who messed up his first shot at a relationship with Jay and who has to make amends for what he did.

While I’m about three months past the Valentine’s Day released I’d hoped to have, I am very happy with the way The Cupcake Conundrum turned out. Getting Adrian and Jay where they needed to be was tough but in the end, I love how it all came together and I hope you’ll enjoy reading the book as much as I love it now!

TCC Quote 3

Buy The Cupcake Conundrum at Amazon or read free through Kindle Unlimited!

The Cupcake Conundrum blurb:

What could be worse than having to spend a week with the man you ghosted?

When Adrian Cobb arrives in New York to help his brother move, he comes face to face with the biggest mistake of his past—a baking conference hookup he rudely ditched a year ago. Now, he’s sharing a guest room with Ajay Sunagar, who looks as tasty as the pastries he bakes, and Adrian desperately wants to prove he can handle the heat this time.

But Jay makes it clear he isn’t ready to forgive and forget Adrian’s bad behavior. None of Adrian’s repeated apologies seem to make a dent in the walls Jay’s put up and Adrian can’t tell if Jay would rather make him grovel or cover Adrian in frosting and lick him all over. Adrian’s afraid that this time, Jay will be the one to walk away—unless Adrian can find a way to make him believe in second chances.

The Cupcake Conundrum” is a sweet-treat story about a single dad, instant attraction, and falling in love all over again that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world. It features characters from Brigham Vaughn’s Snowstorms and Second Chances, along with Snowflakes and Song Lyrics and The Cupid Crawl by Hank Edwards.

 


Excerpt from The Cupcake Conundrum:

“Jay?” Adrian said hoarsely.

“Adrian.” The blood had drained from Jay’s face, making his normally rich brown skin tone look almost chalky. But he looked every bit as handsome as he had when Adrian had first seen him a little over a year ago.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Seth’s voice snapped Adrian out of the daze he’d been immersed in.

“Yeah, you could say that,” Jay said. His jaw was clenched and he’d gone completely stone-faced. The warm brown eyes Adrian had loved looking into as Jay fucked him sent an icy shiver down his back now. Double shit.

“What? How?” Seth asked.

“The baking expo!” Adrian blurted out. Seth blinked at his loud tone, and Adrian winced, then cleared his throat. “You remember that international baking expo I went to last year?”

“Here in New York? Yeah. I was mad because you said you were going to visit me while you were here but you punked out on me.”

Adrian had punked out on him because he’d been in bed with Jay. He just hadn’t mentioned that part to his brother. He’d never mentioned Jay at all until today.

“Yeah, you’ll apparently never let me forget it either.”

“Nope. But so … what does that have to do with Jay?” Seth’s puzzled expression smoothed out. “Oh, you met there, huh? Well, that makes sense. Cool. What a small world!”

“Yeah, sure is,” Jay said with a scowl as he brushed past.

Grab your copy of The Cupcake Conundrum now!

And please, once you finish reading, take a few moments to review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or BookBub! Every review is deeply appreciated.

New Release – Snowstorms and Second Chances

This summer, Hank Edwards and I discussed writing stories in a shared universe. He released his book Snowflakes and Song Lyrics on December 6th and my book Snowstorms and Second Chances just went live today!

Both Stories (2).jpg

These sweet and sexy holiday romances are available for purchase on Amazon or free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

Snowstorms and Second Chances Cover  - Medium.jpg

Title: Snowstorms and Second Chances

Author Name: Brigham Vaughn

Universe: The Williamsville Inn

While both stories in this series are set in the same universe, each book features a different couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Erik Josef is a forty-three-year-old, recently divorced businessman with one goal: wrap up his last project of the year so he can spend the holidays in Tahiti. All he wants is drinks on a beach, served to him by a woman in a bikini.

While waiting at an airport bar for his business partner to fly into Buffalo, New York, he encounters Seth Cobb, a chatty travel writer waiting for a flight to Pittsburgh to visit his family.

After a huge snowstorm grounds all flights, a mix-up at the Williamsville Inn leads to Erik and Seth sharing a room. Seth’s love of Christmas gets on Erik’s last nerve, but a mugful of Seth’s hot chocolate slowly melts Erik’s icy exterior.

When Erik realizes he’s attracted to Seth, he must choose between the life he’s always known, or a new adventure with a man a decade younger and a second chance at happiness.

Excerpt:

“All joking aside, I guess we’ll have to hope that Christmas romance pans out for you after all,” Seth said a few minutes later.

“Guess so,” Erik said absently as he stared at the TV screen. He glanced at Seth. “For you too.”

“Thanks. Maybe that should have been my birthday wish last week.”

“You had a birthday last week?”

Seth nodded. “On the nineteenth. I spent it in Dresden. I was there to write a piece about the Striezelmarkt—the Christmas market—that’s been going on for over 600 years.”

“I’ve heard of those,” Erik said. “They’re all over Germany, right?”

“Yes. This is supposed to be one of the best though. There’s a carousel and the world’s biggest nutcracker. Plus, hundreds of booths filled with handmade crafts, pottery, candles, toys, wooden ornaments, and food. It’s incredible. Twinkling lights everywhere and the whole atmosphere feels festive.” By the end, Seth’s serious expression had melted away and was replaced by his now-familiar happy smile. He glowed when he talked about travel.

“It does sound incredible,” Erik agreed. “I can think of worse places to spend my birthday.”

“Oh, me too,” Seth agreed. “And I met a nice strapping German man by the name of Hans to celebrate it with. My German isn’t great, and his English was a bit broken, but we managed.” Seth gave him a little wink.

“I can’t say spending my birthday with Hans would be my choice,” Erik said drily. “But good for you.”

Seth shivered. “Is it just me or is it getting colder in here again?”

“It does seem like it.” Erik stood, then walked over to fiddle with the heater controls. “I’ll try cranking it up a little more.”

“I wonder if there are any extra blankets in the room?” Seth said as he walked past. He opened the closet doors. “Hmm. Nothing in here. Maybe in the dresser?”

“I didn’t notice anything when I put my clothes in there but check the bottom two drawers—I didn’t look in them. If you don’t find any blankets, I’ll have a talk with someone at the desk in the morning,” Erik said. He doubted a maintenance person was on hand twenty-four hours, especially in this weather.

“Or we could share body heat,” Seth said with a grin as he returned to his spot on the bed.

“Are you sure you didn’t get me liquored up so you could take advantage of me?” Erik asked, but he kept his voice light and teasing.

Seth shot him a dirty look. “No. Of course not. But the offer stands if you need it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Erik grabbed his toiletry kit and a pair of pajamas out of the dresser. “I’m going to shower. Alone. And get ready for bed unless you need the bathroom before I head in there.”

“Nah, I’m good.”

Erik fled to the bathroom as if Seth’s offer to help him out was hot on his heels.

Snowstorms and Second Chances IG Out Now (1)

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 43,309 words

Formats/Price: eBook – $3.29 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

 

Buy on Amazon or Read on Kindle Unlimited

amazon-logo-preview

 

 

New Release – The Ghosts Between Us

Somehow in the excitement of “The Ghosts Between Us” being released, I forgot to blog about it. Whoops?

But if you did miss the news, the book is now live on Amazon and available on KU/Kindle.

Ghosts Between Us Cover (1).jpg

Title: The Ghosts Between Us

Author Name: Brigham Vaughn

Tagline: From Loss, A New Beginning

Series: The West Hills (Book 1)

While the stories in this series are connected, each book features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Dr. Christopher Allen knows how to deal with death. He’s a psychiatrist who works with hospice patients and their families, helping them cope with grief and letting go. But Chris’s job doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his devil-may-care brother Cal.

At Cal’s funeral, Chris is completely thrown when he meets Elliot Rawlings, an artist Cal has been dating. Chris is hurt to discover that the brother he knew as straight was actually bisexual. Elliot is angry and resentful of having been kept hidden from Cal’s family.

After the funeral, a night of drinking at the bar with Cal’s friends leads to Chris and Elliot falling into bed together.  The next morning, they’re overwhelmed by guilt and grief and agree to never speak of it again.

But Cal’s apartment needs to be packed up and Elliot reluctantly agrees to help Chris, as well as answer some questions about Cal’s life and their relationship. Despite their guilt and initial dislike for one another, they sort through the pieces of Cal’s life and begin to fall for each other.

Despite his best efforts to fix things, Chris’s family seems to be crumbling around him and he begins to question who he is and what his role with them is.  As his feelings for Elliot grow, Chris must decide if they’re worth further damaging his fragile relationships with his friends and family.

Elliot’s rough upbringing has left him distrustful of getting close to anyone, much less another man who isn’t willing to acknowledge him in public. The odds seem stacked against Chris and Elliot, but if they can overcome them, they may be able to lay Cal’s ghost to rest, along with their own demons.

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 130k + words

Formats/Price: eBook – $5.99 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

 

BGU IG Promo 4.jpg

Readers are loving “The Ghosts Between Us” and you will too!

Add on Goodreads: 

goodreads-logo-square

Add on BookBub:

BookBub-logo

Buy on Amazon

amazon-logo-preview

 

Coming Soon – The Ghosts Between Us

If it feels like I’ve been teasing you with promises of this book for years, it’s because, well, I have. Somewhere about five years ago, the idea for it popped into my head. I jotted a few things down and then went on to work on other projects. Slowly, over that time, I’ve worked on the story. I did it in fits and starts as I struggled with it. First titled, “In Mourning” it slowly morphed into a massively long novel that explores grief, family, relationships, and love.

To be honest, it’s felt like a story I had to grow into. Both as an author and as a human. There were life experiences I needed to have along with writing skills I needed to develop. This story refused to be ready because I wasn’t ready.

But in a sudden burst of both inspiration and motivation, it came together. My beta readers returned it with some helpful suggestions for how to tweak and polish it, and a blog tour is being arranged.

I am truly excited to share this book with you–maybe more so than with any other book I’ve previously written–because I am so proud of it. I love the characters and I love the story and it was a real stretch for me as an author. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it next month when it’s available because I know you’re going to love it as much as I do.

Ghosts Between Us Cover (1).jpg

Title: The Ghosts Between Us

Author Name: Brigham Vaughn

Tagline: From Loss, A New Beginning

Series: The West Hills (Book 1)

While the stories in this series are connected, each book features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Dr. Christopher Allen knows how to deal with death. He’s a psychiatrist who works with hospice patients and their families, helping them cope with grief and letting go. But Chris’s job doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his devil-may-care brother Cal.

At Cal’s funeral, Chris is completely thrown when he meets Elliot Rawlings, an artist Cal has been dating. Chris is hurt to discover that the brother he knew as straight was actually bisexual. Elliot is angry and resentful of having been kept hidden from Cal’s family.

After the funeral, a night of drinking at the bar with Cal’s friends leads to Chris and Elliot falling into bed together.  The next morning, they’re overwhelmed by guilt and grief and agree to never speak of it again.

But Cal’s apartment needs to be packed up and Elliot reluctantly agrees to help Chris, as well as answer some questions about Cal’s life and their relationship. Despite their guilt and initial dislike for one another, they sort through the pieces of Cal’s life and begin to fall for each other.

Despite his best efforts to fix things, Chris’s family seems to be crumbling around him and he begins to question who he is and what his role with them is.  As his feelings for Elliot grow, Chris must decide if they’re worth further damaging his fragile relationships with his friends and family.

Elliot’s rough upbringing has left him distrustful of getting close to anyone, much less another man who isn’t willing to acknowledge him in public. The odds seem stacked against Chris and Elliot, but if they can overcome them, they may be able to lay Cal’s ghost to rest, along with their own demons.

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 130k + words

Formats/Price: eBook – $5.99 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43690574-the-ghosts-between-us

 


The pre-order for this book won’t be available until February 22, but if you want to be notified about The Ghosts Between Us when it goes live there are two options!

Follow on Amazon

amazon-logo-preview

Sign up for the Coles & Vaughn Newsletter

Logo 2-5

 

New Release – Seeking Warmth

Seeking Warmth Cover - Medium.jpg

“Seeking Warmth” is live everywhere!

Four years ago, I did a holiday blog hop.  The rules were to write a flash fiction with a winter holiday theme and a bad boy character. There was a black and white photo of two young men embracing in what looked like a gift shop.

I wrote about two thousand words and posted it on my blog, but I knew that someday I’d want to expand it. At some point in the past few years, I did start to expand it, so when I got the itch to write a holiday story, I knew I had something solid to start with. In the end, it came in around twenty thousand words, which makes for a perfect short story length.

I really loved telling Benny’s story and I hope you enjoy it too.

Title: Seeking Warmth

Summary:

Benny Fuller is on his way to rock bottom. He’s seventeen, fresh out of juvie, homeless, and desperate to find a job.  His dad’s in jail and his drug-addicted mom is in no shape to take care of his sick sister, Angel. A run-in with his ex-boyfriend, Scott Sullivan, makes Benny feel even worse. He’s a thief with no future. Scott is smart, with plans for college and a great future ahead of him. Benny knows Scott can do so much better than him. Because no matter how hard Benny tries, he can’t seem to find a job or a way to take care of Angel.

The further Benny falls, the more he needs Scott’s help. Benny will have to let go of his pride and trust Scott and the Sullivan family in order to get the Christmas miracle Benny and Angel so desperately need.

Reader Advisory: This is an older (15+) YA story with themes of homelessness, drug use and prostitution (off-page), neglect of minors, and foster care.

Excerpt:

People hurried past Benny Fuller without seeing him. They were bundled up warmly against the snow, clutching their holiday shopping bags and packages. They were too intent on their destination to see the kid they pushed past. Now that the sun was going down, the crowds were beginning to thin. The wind picked up and the fat, fluffy snowflakes grew smaller and sharper. They stung his cheeks and made his hands ache. It had been early spring when he went into juvie. He’d had a hat stuffed in his old, beat up Army-style jacket but no gloves.

When the caseworker picked him up at the juvenile detention center and drove him to a foster home, she frowned at his bare hands. She said something about making sure he had a pair of gloves—and a warmer coat and boots—but she got a phone call a few minutes later and apparently forgot. He hadn’t said anything to the foster care lady about it either. So now the slushy snow soaked into his shoes as he walked and he still had no gloves or winter coat. He’d have to make do. But that was nothing new for him, was it? Benny had been doing that for a while now.

He kicked at a piece of torn, soggy cardboard on the sidewalk as he passed it. It did nothing to relieve the gnawing hunger in his stomach or the cold air that crept down the collar of his jacket and numbed his fingers.

It was satisfying though. Something to do to let out all of the frustration and fear boiling inside of him. His job search had amounted to nothing. Everything amounted to nothing. There were no opportunities for kids like him.

He’d been wandering the city for a week. Ever since he left the foster home they placed him in. It hadn’t seemed bad at first. It was clean and there were only two other kids there, both younger. But one of them was a nightmare. Benny had never seen anything like it. The boy screamed and tried to hit the little girl all the time. The foster mother did nothing to stop it. The little girl had bruises on her arms and legs from the boy and it made Benny sick to watch it happen. Within the first day Benny was there, the boy bit Benny hard enough to draw blood, but Benny was the one who got yelled at by the foster mother for provoking him. Benny hadn’t done anything but sit down next to the kid.

Benny had tried to help out, thinking maybe the woman was just overwhelmed, but she yelled at him for interfering. The day after he got there, the little girl had to go to the doctor for pinkeye. Benny was left home with the boy. It was a nightmare. After the boy screamed and hit him and acted like a little monster all day, Benny couldn’t handle it anymore. As soon as the woman got home with the girl, Benny crawled out the bedroom window and left.

He went straight to his childhood home, even though there was no one there waiting for him. He collected his car and a few belongings, but he knew he couldn’t stay or Child Protective Services would just drag him out of there and back to a foster home.

But once he left his old house, he had nowhere else to go. He had a car though, thankfully. It had sat, unused, while he was in juvie. It was still registered, thankfully, although the insurance on it had lapsed. He’d have to hope he didn’t get pulled over, or he’d be in big trouble.

With no home and no job, what else could he do now but wander? Sit in his car and feel sorry for himself? Even if he wanted to, he didn’t have any money for gas so he couldn’t do it for long. He tried to run the engine as little as possible. Just enough to keep himself from freezing to death. At least when he was up and walking, his blood was flowing.

He wasn’t warm, but at least he wasn’t dead. That was something, right?

Up ahead, a brightly-lit storefront spilled yellow light onto the snowy sidewalk. Its warmth beckoned Benny to come closer, but as he approached, he recognized the building and scowled. Sullivan’s Fine Gifts, the sign on the window read. Damn it. His wandering had taken him to the last place he should be.

Stupid. Why did I come here? He wondered. It wasn’t like he could go in and see Scott Sullivan. God, he wanted to though. Scott was the only person Benny had ever trusted. The only one who really knew him. Scott was the best thing that had ever happened to Benny. Too bad Benny was the worst thing that had ever happened to Scott.

Benny stood in front of the gift shop long enough for the snowflakes to settle on his too-thin jacket. His breath fogged the window and cold and hunger faded away as he stared into the store owned by his ex-boyfriend’s parents, mesmerized by the cheerful lights and decorations. It advertised home and family.

Warmth. Security. Love.

All the things Benny didn’t have.

Buy Links:

Available for FREE with Kindle Unlimited and for $2.99 on Amazon.

Click the Books2Read button below for the universal link.

Books2Read Button.jpg

 

Add on Goodreads:

goodreads-logo-square.jpg

 

May Day

Family traditions are big in my family. I’m still mourning all of the traditions we lost when my grandma died, but there are a few we’ve managed to keep intact with some modifications.

Every year when I was growing up, my grandma, mom, and I would go to a local greenhouse that opens on May 1st and closes whenever they run out of plants. I missed the trip on the years when May 1st fell on a weekday. But once I was done with school I took the day off work to go. Now that grandma is gone, mom and I go. Sometimes we invite my dad.

This year was one of the cooler days for the greenhouse trip. As someone who hates hot weather, I was very happy. When it’s already 75 degrees out, it becomes unbearable inside the greenhouse.

We actually visited three different greenhouses and a couple of markets. It was a long but really enjoyable day and a great way to celebrate May Day!

This year I decided to take some photos of the plants that caught my eye. I didn’t bring my big digitals SLR and lenses, but I am quite pleased with the photos I took with my Nexus 5 and I think it did quite well for a phone camera.

You can click on each photo to make it larger and see more detail.

My parents got some flowers to give as gifts, other to keep, and some vegetables for the garden. I helped pick out some herbs. I already used some of the herbs to make lamb patties with a cucumber salad and mint sauce (SO GOOD). And I am looking forward to making mojitos this summer.

IMG_20160501_112740

I also picked up a succulent for myself. They’re trendy right now, but I’m not complaining. I’ve always found them interesting and it’s nice to see a bigger selection available. This one is a bit of a mystery. It was in with the jade plants and looks very similar to them. Unlike a jade, it is fuzzy. I checked with the people at the greenhouse and they didn’t have an exact variety name for me. It’s in the Crassula family (Jades are too) but there are over 1400 varieties of Crassula so I’ll probably never figure out exactly what type it is. I’m going to treat it like a jade and hope for the best!

IMG_20160501_114427

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.

Christmas Ambivalence

I have mixed feelings about Christmas this year.  I’ve been so busy with the novella that my Christmas preparation didn’t really get underway until a few weeks ago.  Other than taking advantage of the Cyber Monday sales to buy my husband gifts and putting up my Christmas tree, it wasn’t until the last few weeks (and especially the last few days) that I’ve really put much effort into it.  I’ve made up for lost time though: the house is decorated, treats are baked, shopping is done, I’ve donated to charity, and I went to see a performance of A Christmas Carol with my parents like I have for the past 30 years.  But I haven’t been feeling Christmas this year.  I’m going through the motions more than I’d like to.  Part of it’s a lack of snow–it’s raining and forty degrees right now–although I am grateful we haven’t had an ice storm like we did last year.  No power before Christmas is stressful as hell.  I actually like rain and gloom most of the year, but around Christmas, I really want snow.

I felt a glimmer of the Christmas spirit in the last few days as I baked and listened to Christmas carols.  I tried very hard to feel jolly as I wrapped gifts.  But my brain wasn’t fully on board.  I look at the picture below and think “that looks cheerful”.  But I don’t feel cheerful.

Christmas cookies

It doesn’t help that we’re horribly short-staffed at work right now. I usually take a few days off before Christmas and I couldn’t this year.  I’m scheduled to work Christmas Eve until 4pm and for weeks, had no idea if I’d even be able to go to my husband’s family’s celebration.  They live two hours away so he’d miss most of it he waited until I got out of work to go.  I didn’t want him to miss a chance to see his family, some of whom he only sees once or twice a year.  But the prospect of working all day and then spending the evening alone was depressing and it hung over everything.

It’s not official per se, but my boss has given me the go ahead that I’ll be able to get out early and go.  I’m crossing my fingers that everything will go according to plan and I can celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband and his family.  So that’s good news.

Unfortunately, last night I got the news that my family’s Christmas has been rescheduled.  My mom has a cold and my dad has what sounds like the flu.  He’s almost never sick, so him saying that he didn’t feel up to doing Christmas was a surprise.  He must really feel awful. I certainly don’t blame him, but it looks like the soonest we’ll be able to get together to celebrate will be January 3rd.  Not going to lie, I cried when I found out.

Since my grandma died and my extended family splintered apart, I’ve struggled with the holidays.  I still see two of my cousins and their kids–although usually not until late January/February–so it isn’t as though I won’t celebrate with them.  But it isn’t the same.  And when it’s tied in with some very unresolved family issues … well, Christmas hasn’t been quite as happy as it used to be.  I felt like I was doing well in the last few years though.  Getting used to the idea that it was a small celebration with my parents, aunt, and  husband.  Eating my dad’s homemade scones, opening gifts, having dinner in front of the fireplace. I was trying to embrace those new traditions and to have that yanked out from under me took me by surprise.  Now I feel weepy and deflated, what Christmas cheer I had utterly gone.

I’m trying to be grateful that I have family.  That they are–colds and flu aside–healthy.  This year I have a warm house (with power!) and I’m all ready for Christmas.  I let myself wallow and mope a bit last night and this morning.  But writing this has been catharctic and I’m trying to keep things in perspective.

I realized earlier today that my husband and I don’t even own stockings.  Well, we do, but they’re at my parents’ house.  Nevermind that we don’t have a mantel either.  Surprising in a house from the 1920’s, but there is no fireplace.  I plan to go out after work and see if I can find two stockings.   We can always hang them off the aquarium.

It’s the first Christmas Day my husband and I have ever spent with just the two of us and I’m at a loss for how to celebrate it.  Number one, we need to figure out dinner for that day. Nothing we have on the menu seems particularly festive.  Ginger beef stir fry with kale and mushrooms sounds delicious, but not for Christmas dinner.

Christmas fir tree branch with holly berry

I’m wishing hard for a white Christmas, but that’s out of my control and aside from hanging stockings, I’m wracking my brain about what else we can do to make the day special.  What are your traditions? Do you have any thoughts on what I can do to kick this funk in the pants and replace it with some holiday spirit?

 

New Release – “Family: A Holiday Novella”

 

 

 Summary:

After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws.

Excerpt:

Peter clapped him on the back. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Stephen. I saw you with Jeremy and after his accident. I saw you when you believed you’d never fall in love again. This relationship with Russ—it’s made you a new man. You may not see it, but it’s changed you.”

“I know it has,” Stephen acknowledged. Peter left, and Stephen sought Russ again. He was in line at the bar now, and he held up his empty glass, mouthing “be there in a moment”. Eager to go to him, Stephen set down his own empty glass on a deserted table as he crossed the distance between them. Russ, distracted by something the person in front of him said, didn’t notice Stephen’s approach.

Stephen leaned in, whispering in Russ’ ear as he rested his hands lightly on Russ’ hips. “Dance with me?”

Russ turned to look at him, surprised. “Are you sure?”

“Sure I want to put my arms around the man I love? Yes.” The earlier doubt he’d felt was gone. Peter had some valid points, and what Stephen wouldn’t give to feel Russ in his arms right now. Over the years, he’d conditioned himself to expect less than others, simply because he was gay. Straight couples didn’t think twice about dancing with each other during the holiday party. Why should he?

Stephen and Russ Final

 

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this story was to write. What should have been a relatively easy, fun holiday novella wound up becoming a writing challenge.  I struggled with this story from September to November, trying to get it right.  When I finally felt like I had it ready, I sent it to my betas.  The majority of them told me it  had potential but needed work.  I got nearly idential comments from several people telling me it didn’t flow well and felt repetitive.  Clearly I needed to re-work it.

So I tore it apart, completely decimating the timeline and re-working it. I cut a few scenes, tweaked the remaining ones, and by the time it was done it was much tighter.  I felt better about it and the feedback on it was good.  And I learned a lot from the experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a stressful, rushed, and disorganized release though.  I was aiming to have this out by the first week in December but the extra time was needed and I’d rather put out a good story late than half-ass it and get it out on time.  If only it wasn’t so stressful.  I’m ready to pull the blankets over my head and sleep until the new year.

That being said, I really do love the story and am glad I was able to tell it.  Russ and Stephen are very dear to my heart and I had fun exploring what the holidays would be like for them.

I hope you enjoy the story.  And more than anything I hope you’re able to spend the holidays with the people you care about.  Because, like Stephen, I’ve learned that people you meet can often become as important–if not more–important than the family you were born into.

If there’s one thing I wish for this holiday season, it’s that everyone has at least one person in their life they can call family.  A person who feels like home.

 

All Romance

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Kobo

Smashwords

 

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.