Deleted scene #3: Taking Stock

Laurie is stuck in the hospital and desperately wants to go home.

No time like the present, Laurie thought to himself. There wasn’t anyone here to stop him.

He hauled himself up using the right-hand bed-rail and swung his legs over the left-hand side of the bed. There. He was sitting upright. On his own.

He drew in a deep breath and let it out. His feet were flat on the tiled floor, reassuringly solid and cold beneath them. He wiggled his toes and watched all ten of them respond with detached interest. Well they seemed to be working all right. That was a relief. It was all coming back gradually, like they said it would.

It had been three weeks now. He was sick of being hovered over. He was done with it. He was going to prove to them that he could manage on his own and then he was going to get Sally to take him home.

He reached for the stick that the nurse had left beside the bed. A walking frame was no good, because his hand wasn’t working well enough yet. Carefully, he put his weight on his legs and leaning on the stick in his right hand, he pushed himself to his feet.

Jesus, that was an effort.

He balanced himself on his good leg and the stick, tentatively lifting his left leg. It went up all right, but it was a struggle. He concentrated really hard, dragging the foot forward. One step. One step at a time, that’s all he needed to think about.

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Interview: A. M. Johnson

Today, let’s welcome A. M. Johnson to the blog!

Hi!! My name is Amanda or A.M. Johnson. I am excited to talk about my new book, a contemporary, MM, second chance romance, titled Love Always, Wild.

The book starts with the characters Jax and Wilder aka Wild, while they are still in college. Wild is openly out, while Jax is still deep in the closet. Wild and Jax originally meet when Jax needs a tutor, but it isn’t until their junior year that Jax finally gives in to his feelings for Wild. Jax travels home in hopes of coming out to his very conservative parents over Christmas break, but when tragedy strikes, he drops out of school, and basically ghosts Wild. Jax’s radio silence stems from a promise he makes based on what happened when he came home for break. Without giving too many spoilers, the book jumps to nine years later, Wild is an up and coming author, and Jax is still living at home, working construction, and helping his family recover from what had happened that Christmas break. One night, Jax happens upon Wild’s new book and realizes it’s about the relationship they shared in college, but with different names and a different ending. Jax is still in the closet and has been faking his way through life for almost a decade. He’d never fallen out of love with Wild, never forgiven himself for abandoning him the way he did, and after reading the book, Jax makes a choice that will inevitably change the course of both of their lives.

I’m excited for everyone to meet them. This story bloomed from a short I’d written for a group called The Korner. The short sat on my desktop forever. With 2020 being such a dumpster fire, I had a hard time writing to be honest. It wasn’t until June, almost a year since I’d published my last book that I reread the short and fell in love with them all over again. A few long nights chatting and plotting with a few friends, lit the fire inside me, and before I knew it, I had 40,000 words and couldn’t wait to write every night. Finishing off at 91,000 words on August 21, the book became the fastest I’d ever written in my life. I have a few beta readers and they gave me the confidence I needed, and in the end, Love Always, Wild was brought to life.

Whenever I write a new book, I want to say said book is my favorite. And right now, Jax and Wild are my favorite. It’s funny, when I’m ready to start a new project, I almost have to break up with my previous characters. I’ve been writing since I was a teen, publishing since 2015, and each time I start a new book it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to the last. Writing has always been a passion of mine, but I think I wanted to start writing after I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Her writing is profound and alive, and I thought to myself, I want to do this. I want to create a heart that beats from the page.

For me, writing is sort of ritual. I usually have to shower, get settled in and once my three kids are in bed, I hide away in my office and am up until at least 3 am. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I write during the day. I love writing outside if I can. I’m easily distracted and have to be in a quiet place to focus. I usually listen to instrumental or classical when I write.

Reading is an entirely different experience for me. I love reading all kinds of books. From smut to literary fiction. I’m a huge fan of LGBTQ YA. Becky Albertalli is such an inspiration to me. I’m a mom of three, a full time Labor and Delivery nurse, and I know how hard it is to manage all the hats. She seems to excel at hat wearing and write amazing books. Every now and then I’ll read a good book, go through a day of imposter syndrome, then remember every voice is different. Sometimes it’s hard to read as an author, but it’s important, I feel, for craft to always read and read and read.

I will say, though writing is a solo adventure, I have found great joy in the independent community. My reader group on Facebook, AJ’s Crew is almost like my home away from home. Everyone there feels like family and it’s great to be able to share my stories with people. Publishing can be competitive, but I think it’s important to remember there is enough pie for everyone and staying in your own lane is the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I’ve made some amazing author friendships, and in such a fast-paced world, it’s great to have that.

What three books would I take to a deserted island? Hmm… That’s a tough one. Definitely, The Bell Jar, The Fellowship of The Ring, and probably Call Me By Your name or Him by Sarina Bowen. Oh or Want me by Neve Wild. I’ll probably trade up Call Me By Your Name only because it’s sad as hell and Want Me is magic.

When I’m not writing, I’m a hockey Mom. I love to hike, and watch movies, and recently I’m hooked on the Haunting of Bly Manor. I’m an avid LGBTQ ally and am working towards a degree in social work for now. I’ve recently found the academia side of Human Rights and am thinking of changing my major. My goal is to work with homeless gay teens and help to write legislation that will help keep LGBTQ youth/adults protected. It’s important for us to feel safe in our own skin. Out or not.

I’m passionate about a lot of things, and I hope that shows in most of my writing. Most of my books have a social aspect that lends itself to reality. But, as an author, my goal is to offer a happily ever after to those characters who might not always have had the chance, in real life, to find one of their own.

Love Always, Wild

Love Always, Wild is a full-length emotional standalone, HEA, contemporary MM romance featuring second chances, southern accents, a cat named Gandalf, and a sassy best friend who moonlights as a therapist.

Wilder,

When I left that night, I had every intention of coming back to you. To us. But no matter how hard I wish for what I want, there are some things in life that aren’t meant to be. I don’t expect you to understand. You’ve already moved on, living your life. But mine ended that night, nine years ago, and I still can’t let you go. Not sure I ever will. I regret so many things, but hurting you, I’ll never forgive myself. I’m sorry for… everything.

~ Jax

Jax,

If only you could’ve seen it like I did, the way you were when you thought the world wasn’t watching. How you’d change when I looked at you, when it was just us.
But most of all… I wish you could’ve seen how much it hurt me when you disappeared. Regrets are for cowards. It has always been my belief you should chase after the things you want with actions, not words. There is no such thing as never meant to be.
So this apology… not accepted…


~ Love always, Wild

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Nell Iris: Regaining Trust

My early-morning writing buddy, Nell Iris is here today to talk to us about her new book, Regaining Trust, a story about coming back together after infidelity. You can also read her interview with me from last year, when she was the very first person to subject herself to my nosy questions!

What would you do if your partner cheated on you? Would you pack your bags and leave them behind, or would you choose to stay and fight for your relationship?

Would you feel differently for your partner after an infidelity? I mean, your trust would be shaken, betrayed, maybe destroyed, which is a huge blow and difficult to overcome. But would you stop loving them? Would it matter to you if you still loved them or would you leave anyway?

I realize that’s a bunch of hard, maybe even unanswerable, questions, but these are the things I was thinking about when I wrote my new story, Regaining Trust. I was thinking about what I would do if I were in Law’s shoes. Law says to Frankie; “I don’t just stop loving you, no matter what,”and I agree with that sentiment. But would the trust in my husband be irreparably broken or would the love I have for him be enough to heal what was broken?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. But they stayed in the back of my mind the entire time I wrote, fueling my pen, making me write so fast I feared my fountain pen nib would melt.

In Law and Frankie’s case, Law decides to give Frankie another chance, despite his trust being smashed to pieces which is devastating to Law whose background has formed him into someone who doesn’t trust easily. But for Frankie, the only one he’s ever trusted, the love of his life, he’s willing to at least try. Because no matter how hurt he is by Frankie’s actions, his love doesn’t come to a screeching halt. Even if it would have been easier.

Regaining Trust is the story of how Law and Frankie work hard to find their way back together.

Read on for the blurb, more about Nell, and an excerpt or Buy Regaining Trust.

Blurb:

When workaholic Lawrence Weller walks in on the aftermath of his fiancé Frankie cheating on him, his world shatters. Frankie’s the love of his life, the only person he’s ever trusted, and the betrayal leaves him devastated.

Franklin Ennis makes a huge mistake that he regrets deeply before it’s even over. He pleads for a second chance, willing to do whatever it takes to save their relationship.

A love that deep doesn’t just stop, so Lawrence agrees to try. But mistakes don’t happen in a vacuum. Are they both willing to own up to their part? Will their love be enough to repair what was crushed? Can trust once broken be rebuilt?

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Who’s Nell, then?

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.

:: Webpage/blog : Twitter : Instagram : Facebook page : Facebook profile :
Goodreads : Bookbub : Pinterest ::

Excerpt:

“You never told me you were lonely,” I say.

“I did!” His protest is loud and takes some of the defeat from his body. “I’ve told you a thousand times. How I miss you when you’re always working late and wish we could do more stuff together.”

I knit my eyebrows together, trying to think back and remember. He’s right. He always hugs me tightly and tells me how much he’ll miss me when he knows I’ll work late. Or how he wishes we could do something together, even if it’s only watching a show while cuddling on the couch.

”I thought that was your way of showing me how you feel about me. You being sweet and caring. Not once did I think it meant ‘I’m so fucking lonely I’ll suck someone else’s dick.’ Was it even your first time?” The question is a pained scream, hurting my throat, my head, my soul. I don’t like yelling, so I take a deep breath and start counting to ten in my head to calm down, but I’m interrupted before even reaching three.

“Of course, it was the first time,” he roars. “I’m not a cheater.”

His words are a thundercrack in an otherwise dead silent apartment, and I rear back, scramble off the couch, and turn to leave.

“No. Please.” He’s pleading now, voice cracked and bleeding out on the floor. “Please don’t leave me, Lawrence. I’ll do anything. I love you so much, don’t leave me.”

I’m frozen on the spot. Undecided. The hurt, overly-dramatic part of me wants to storm off in a huff, throw some stuff in a bag, and retreat somewhere to lick my wounds, and rage and scream and curse the treachery, while wailing out my broken heart. But the other, more rational part of me won’t let me move, the part that still remembers how much I love him, still remembers his loving kisses, his devotion. His passion.

So I sink back down on the couch. Rub my palms over my face and swallow. “I don’t know what to do here, Frankie. I’m hurt and betrayed, but at the same time I just can’t turn off my feelings for you. But how can I be with you if I can’t trust you?”

“You can trust me. You can.” He’s so sincere, so heartfelt, leaning forward—hands twitching so he shoves them between his knees—begging, willing me to believe him. And I want to. I really do.

“How?”

“I’ve never done anything like this before, never kissed anyone, hardly ever looked at anyone like that. It was a huge mistake and I regret it. So, so much. I know I can’t prove it, but I was going to tell you. That’s what I was worried about when you walked in. How I would tell you. How you’d react. If you’d hate me.”

I must look skeptical because he hurries to continue. “I know. It’s easy to say when there’s no way of proving intent. But I’m not a liar. You know I’m not.”

“Do I?” I push out the question around the lump in my throat.

He slides to his knees on the floor in front of me, sits back on his heels, and tries to catch my gaze. I give in to his silent pleas and meet his eyes.

“You know me, Lawrence. You know you do. You know what kind of person I am. I’m only human and make mistakes like everyone. This one was huge and more stupid than most, I know that. I’m not perfect, but I’m not a liar. I’m not disloyal. And I own my mistakes.” His face is open. He blinks away tears, but his gaze never falters. His hands rest on his knees, palms open and turned up, and everything about him invites me to see the honesty in his heart.

And maybe I can see it. The slight tremble of his hand and the pulse fluttering visibly in his neck betrays his anxiousness, but he doesn’t move. Doesn’t squirm or fidget, doesn’t look away from me. Nothing indicates that he’s lying.

There’s no way he’s that skilled a liar. He’s always been open and honest and prone to blurting his emotions as soon as he experiences them. That thought deflates me and I fall back against the couch.

“Yeah, I know. I believe you.” And I do. At least my head knows. I’m not sure about my heart. Or my gut, rather.

His eyes well up and a tremble racks his body, but it’s the sight of his wobbly chin that finally cracks me. I hold out my hand, unable to not touch him anymore. “Come here.”

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Deleted Scene: Taking Stock

I’ve got a little deleted scene for you from Taking Stock, today. Laurie is in hospital and he wants to come home. Scroll down to read.

I’m so pleased with some of the lovely things people have said about the story:

  • “A quiet, beautiful story about decency, love and finding your family.”
  • “Laurie and Phil have a chemistry that is quite beautiful.”
  • “a thoughtful, delicate story…very refreshing.”

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Deleted Scene

“What do you mean, I can’t go home?” Laurie was almost crying with frustration. “I can go home if I like!”

Sally glared at him. “And how are you going to get up and down the stairs? Or even down the hall to the bathroom?” she said. “And wash when you get there? And turn over properly in bed? And what happens if you actually fall out of bed in the night and can’t get up? And come to that, who’s going to take you home, you idiot? You can’t drive!”

He glared back. “I thought that you might!”

“No! Not me!” her glaring was so much better than his.

He pushed against the pillows, but because he was unable to brace properly with his weak leg, he couldn’t make himself sit up any further. She stood up and hauled him forward with competent strength, shoving more pillows behind him to support his bad arm and shoulder. Damn her.

When she sat back down, he lowered his gaze to his lap. His hand lay across his legs, curled and useless. He imagined moving his fingers and he felt it happening in his head. But in his lap, they lay dead and still, obvious betrayers of his helplessness.

“Laurie…,” her voice was kind. “You need to stay in here for a bit and let them help you. They say at least some of the use of the your arm and your leg should come back quite quickly, specially if you work at it. And then we can get you back home.”

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Come and chat to me!

As I may have mentioned in passing (SNORT), Taking Stock is out tomorrow. I am dropping in to chat to a few places over the next day or two, so please do come along and say hello!

8.20 to 8.40pm BST (15.20 EST): Bryce Winters’s Wildflowers. Bryce also has a release, today! So I’m popping in there for a bit to chat.

9 to 10pm BST (4pm EST) I’m at the Talking RoMMance with a British Accent group! I’m considering doing a reading. Maybe. If the kids have gone to bed. Perhaps.

Tomorrow the 19th, I’m at QueerRomanceInk from 9pm BST (4pm EST) for an hour for a chat. Sarcasm and prizes!

Plus, I have five copies of Inheritance of Shadows to give away to celebrate! Join up here!