Flash Fic Friday

**Oh this one was a challenge at first, but once I got the right combination, the words flowed freely.  The Admiral’s challenge this week was a new place, a forgotten friend, and an old folk’s home.  I hope you enjoy!**

I stood there in the barren living room, boxes at my feet and only one curtain on the window, trying my best not to let melancholy and ennui consume me.  It was a nice house.  Beautiful in fact.  A little smaller than the one we had left, but not by much.  It had an adorable breakfast nook and copper pipes, and real hardwood floors.  There was a fireplace in the living room and another one in the master bedroom.  It was a great house, and I knew I’d come to love it in time.

Problem was, I’d really, really loved our old house and I was still having trouble letting go.

Henry walked in, his steel toed work boots thumping on the floor, and he gave me a sad sort of smile as he came closer.  I let him pull me into his arms.  I love the way I fit underneath his chin, the way his big arms enveloped me and held me tight.  I sighed and snuggled in.  He kissed the top of my head.

“I know how hard this is for you,” he said softy, right in my ear.  “Thank you for doing this.”

I squeezed him tightly. “You don’t have to thank me.  I miss our house, but I’ll get used to the new place before you know it. This was the right thing to do.  It’s a hell of a lot closer.”

Henry pulled back enough so that he could look me in the eye.  “And that’s why I’m thanking you.” I saw the sincerity in his face.  “I love you, Jack.”

I grinned.  “As I love you.  Now get out of the way of the movers, all right?”

Henry nodded and laughed, moving and taking me with him so we were clear of the two men carrying in our couch.

Yes it was a tough transition because I didn’t like change.  But it was necessary, and I didn’t regret it in the least.

***

Early the next day, we both tumbled out of bed and showered, dressed and ate breakfast in relative silence.  I knew where Henry’s head was and I didn’t want to break into his thoughts.  This was the reason we had moved back to the city where he’d grown up instead of continuing to live more than two hours away.  I was fortunate; I could do my job anywhere and I worked from home as an editor.  Henry was less lucky, as he’d had to find a new job.  But it was worth it, it was the right thing, and we both knew it.  We were both willing to make concessions.

I was just shutting and locking the front door when a jovial shout caught my attention.  I turned to find my boyfriend hugging a man wearing nothing but basketball shorts, sneakers, and sweat.  They laughed, and Henry’s smile was huge as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and started typing things in.  I walked slowly off the porch, trying to rein in my jealousy, but by the time I made it down the front walk, Sweaty Runner was running away and Henry was shaking his head and staring at his phone in disbelief.

He looked up when I approached.

“Who was that?” I asked as innocently as I was able.

Henry just laughed, not fooled by my tone in the least.  “A friend.  Tom.  From high school actually.”  He looked me in the eye.  “He and his partners live around the corner.  I haven’t seen him since we graduated.  Christ, I’d forgotten he even existed until now.”

I relaxed and tried for a smile.  “Partners?”

Henry nodded, took my head, and led me to the car.  “Yep.  Apparently the three of them are very happy together.  Tom said they’d invite us over for a cookout once we got settled in.  Maybe next weekend or something.”

“That’s nice,” I said, trying to mean it.  Henry gave me a knowing grin and a light poke before he started the car and began driving.

What used to take us two and half hours, including a stop to pee, now took us fifteen minutes with red lights.  When we pulled into the parking lot of the nursing home, I could tell how happy Henry was that we were now so close.

It was an amazing place, as far as nursing homes went, but I knew how much the decision had weighed on Henry to put his father here six months ago.  And even though we made the journey once a week, that in and of itself was taxing.  My man was a solid rock of awesome, but this was a terribly emotionally wearing thing.  Henry loved his dad, and to watch the elderly gentleman wither had been hard.  But Alzheimer’s was stealing his father, despite that the man was barely seventy, and Hal could no longer take care of himself.

We checked in without fuss.  The staff knew us well by now from our Sunday pilgrimages, and it was a simple process of signing in and getting our visitor badges as they already had copies of our licenses on file.  Joelle was working the front desk and she gave us a smile and a wave as we moved around the corner and down the hall to Hal’s room.

The man was sitting in his rocking chair by the window which had a great view of the courtyard.  It was too chilly to take Hal outside today, but next week would probably be better.  Hal looked up when we entered. He blinked his rheumy blue eyes, and then swiped a hand over his frizzy gray hair.

“You’re early today,” he said with a voice like shoes on gravel.  But both Henry and I grinned widely.  Apparently today was a good day, and Hal knew what was going on.  There were times when we visited that he didn’t; when he couldn’t remember his son was gay let alone had been in a loving relationship with me for ten years.  All three of us liked it much better when Hal had his wits about him.

“Yeah,” Henry said, smiling even wider and leaning down to kiss his father’s cheek.  “We moved back to town, so I can come see you more often.  And so we don’t have to drive as far every week.”

Hal’s brow creased.  “Did I know that?”

Henry worked to keep his smile in place.  “Yeah.  But that’s okay, I forget shit all the time.”

His father scowled, because he hated it when Henry tried to blow things off like no big deal.  I steeled myself for an explosion.  Hal had always had a bit of a temper, and there were moments now when it was so much worse.  But instead of getting angry, Hal turned his attention to me.

“Well then.  Jack, show me the pictures I know you have on that gadget.”

I breathed out a sigh, pulled my phone out of my pocket, and perched on the arm of his chair so I could show him all the pictures of the new house.  Henry took up position on Hal’s other side so that he could give a running commentary.  Hal, for his part, was interested and asked questions.  He even expressed an interest in seeing it.  Since he was having such a good day, Henry went to sign Hal out for the day as I crossed to the closet to get Hal a sweater.

“You’re a good man, Jack,” Hal’s voice was soft and creaky and stopped me in my tracks.  “You love my boy and you do what’s good for him.”

I turned around, sweater clutched in my hand, and tried not to cry.  “Well, Henry makes it easy to love him.  He had a good role model, growing up.”

Hal opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap. He averted his gaze “Gimme my sweater.”

I smiled as I helped him into it. This was absolutely the right decision to make, and it was turning into a wonderful day.

A Recap

So the year is just about half gone, and it’s turned out to be quite a year for me.

Last year, I didn’t do so well on the writing front.  A lot more got shelved and forgotten than actually written.  In the end, I actually managed to write two thing, both of which were slated for release this year.  One was Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds, released back in February.  The other is Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love, available on Monday as an individual title.  Of course, if you’ve already gotten the entire Daily Dose, it’ll show up sometime during the month.

Incidentally, I get a serious kick out of Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love.  There’s a lot inside that…well, let’s say it’s a bit self indulgent, and I love it, and I hope y’all enjoy the heck out of it too.  The Admiral has already geared the challenges for June toward Ben and Zack, so if you enjoy them, check back here on Fridays, and see more of their story.

While I was waiting on, and working on edits for, DWLYL, I wrote Something Like Hope.  In a whirlwind twist of fate, that one was submitted, accepted, and slated for publication super fast.  That’ll be out at the end of June, and I’m really looking forward to that one as well.  I started writing that one with a vague notion and a submission call in my head, some pushing from the Admiral, and a desire to see those guys find their HEA.  In the end, they did, and I fell in love with them along the way.

I’m hard at work on the sequel, Something Like Trust (which has morphed into something different than I originally intended, but better in this incarnation, I believe).  Right now it’s only a fifth written, really, but I know where it’s going and what’s going to happen, I have my vague outline (which just got revamped last night), and an self/Admiral imposed deadline to get it done.  It’ll be fine.

Couple other things that happened this year so far?

Well, I learned that I actually write better when I have my plot all written out, as long as I keep it vague enough for some wiggle room and I don’t beat myself up if I veer off course.  Having it all written out means that I can see plot holes better, and I can see where things need to change.  This has been working phenomenally well so far.

I’d gotten some requested for stories, and that in turn sparked ideas, and I actually took the time to write out a “schedule” of sorts.  Really, it’s a list of what I want to write and where each thing is in the queue.  Now, so far I’m sticking to it but I’m only on the second item.  But at any rate, this thing is really working for me to, as it acts as incentive.

I quit smoking.

I rearranged my space, and it is now more conducive to writing.  I’m enjoying the hell out it.  The new space, the super awesome comfortable chair, and the table with the tea in the corner.  I have all I need, and it’s making a difference, I think.

So, all in all, this year has been a good one for me.  And I’m working hard to keep that momentum going.

Flash Fic Friday

**I really do have a thing for alliteration.  It’s why I wanted to do Flash Fic Fridays in the first place.  The Admiral indulges me once again with fries, Fate, and fortune.  Enjoy!**

“Fries?  Really?  You got fries?  There’s, like, seven thousand things to choose from at the buffet and you come back to the table with a plateful of fries?”

I huffed out a breath as I sat down, and tried not to be grossed out at the food piled high on my best friend’s plate.  Not only was everything touching—just the thought of that made me shudder—but there wasn’t a single item there that I would eat. Kyle had shoved just about anything he could on his plate, and I nearly gagged at the sight.  I averted my gaze, and reached for a fry.

“Well,” I said quietly, trying for diplomatic.  “You know I’m not a big fan of Chinese food.”

Kyle paused, a piece of chicken dripping sweet and sour sauce halfway to his mouth.  “Shit,” he cursed, sounding truly remorseful.  “I forgot you hate Chinese food.”

“Not hate,” I corrected softly.  “Just don’t like very much.”

“Yeah, well.” Kyle shook his head, then put his bite in his mouth and chewed, swallowed, and shrugged a shoulder.  “Man, I’m sorry.  You could have told me no.”

I had, in fact, tried to say no.  But Kyle hadn’t been hearing me, and when I realized that he had his heart set on it, I couldn’t say no.  Besides, it was a buffet and while I really wasn’t overly fond of Chinese food, I knew there’d be at least a few things I could and would eat.  Like the fries.

“Its fine,” I assured him, smiling wide and eating another fry.  “I’m perfectly content to partake of the fries.  And probably pudding.  Maybe ice cream after.  Oh!  And I do like fortune cookies.”  I reached for the two cookies on the table, and I closed my fingers around one.

Lightning fast, Kyle caught my wrist and squeezed.  “Have this one,” he said gruffly, directing my hand to the other cookie on the table.  I shot him a glance, but I couldn’t discern his thoughts from his passive visage.  I shook my head, and picked up the cookie he indicated.

It only took moment to peel away the plastic and snap the cookie in half.  I removed the slip of paper and tossed half of the cookie in my mouth, chewing while I read my fortune.  My eyes nearly bugged out of my head, and I if I hadn’t chewed so thoroughly, I would have choked.

“What does it say?” Kyle asked, his voice low.

I shook my head, ready to crumple the bit of paper and shove it in my pocket.  “It doesn’t matter. It’s not even a real fortune.  Eat your lo mein.”

“Finn, come on.  What does your fortune say?”

It was then that I noticed he’d abandoned his food, his regard fixed only on me.  He had the other cookie clutched in his hand.  He’d opened the wrapper, but he hadn’t yet broken into the cookie to read his own fortune.

I nodded toward his hand.  “You tell me yours first.”

He blinked, surprised, and it seemed to take him a moment to get himself together.  Then he shook his head, and his voice dropped an entire register.  “Please Finn.  What does yours say?”

He was so earnest, so intent, I knew something else was going on here.  With his undivided attention, I was certain something else was at work.  I didn’t need to look at the paper in my hand to accurately quote it, and even though I had to swallow hard to say the words out loud, I couldn’t deny him anything.  He was asking, and so I answered.

“Your best friend is in love with you.”

Kyle’s breath caught, and he kept his gaze fixed on mine as he cracked open his cookie.  He barely even glanced down at the paper, before returning his regard to me.  “It’s fate.  That’s what this is.  Because my fortune says ‘you are in love with your best friend.’”

“I don’t think you understand the definition of fate, Kyle.  Fate is—” I stopped short when I realized exactly what was going on here.   My heart started to pound. “Kyle?”

“Okay, so.  I love you, Finn.  And I didn’t know how to tell you.”

Suddenly it all made sense.  His insistence on this restaurant.  Him directing me to a particular cookie.  Hell, even the fact that he wasn’t wearing his ever present ball cap and dingy t-shirt should have clued me in.  We spent all our time together, and I knew him better than I knew myself.  I should have seen this coming.

But I’d been so caught up in my own feelings, and being certain they were unrequited, that I hadn’t seen the bigger picture.  I took a deep breath, and then another.  Then I reached across the table and took ahold of Kyle’s hand.

“The fortunes could have just as easily gotten mixed up,” I said softly.  “And then would have been equally true.”

It took him a moment to work out what I was saying, but when he did, his smile was bright enough to light the entire room.  I grinned back, knowing we were at the start of a new level in our relationship. And that this story was going to be a fantastic one to share when we were ninety and sharing a room in the nursing home.

Doubt is a Ninja

So let me start by saying that my novella, Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love, releases in two weeks!  Gasp and yay!  The entire collection is up for sale at Dreamspinner, and you can buy the whole bundle at a ridiculously good price, and then a new story will be delivered to your email every morning in the month of June.  It’s fun, because you won’t know what story is going to be there until that day.  But if you’re a little choosier, or if only some of the titles strike your fancy, then you can buy any of them as individual titles starting June 1st.

And in six or so weeks, Something Like Hope will be released as well.  That one is the longest I’ve written and had published so far, and Aaron and Lucas have a place in my heart that I didn’t expect.

So check out Ben and Zack on June 1st, and Aaron and Lucas a few weeks after that.

In the meantime, I’ll be nervous and worried and excited and thrilled.  I’ll be working on the sequel to Something Like Hope.  And I’ll be trying to squash my doubt like a bug.

It’s sneaky, that doubt.  Like a ninja.  I can be going on along, not a care in sight, working hard and being excited and then…that doubt starts to whisper.  It starts to tell me things and tear down my confidence.

I think that doubt is a part of who I am, and the truth is, I don’t want to kill it completely. Doubt keeps me working hard to tell the best story I can.  It keeps me from getting complacent.  Some days it’s stronger than others, and it impedes me.  But I mash it down, do my best to quell it and keep going.

It’s not easy, because it’s impossible to beat a ninja, but I’m working on it.

Flash Fic Friday

**The admiral indulges my love of alliteration this week–lighthouse, logic, and Lords and Ladies.  Enjoy!**

maskThe historical lighthouse was open for tours during the day, but on the first Saturday night after the first Friday of every month, it was a gathering place.  The men and women in tuxedos and ball gowns wore masks to obscure their identity.  The masks were elaborate creations, adorned with feathers, beads, and gold and silver.  Trying to guess who was behind which mask was one of my favorite parts of the evening.  It wasn’t an easy task.

The Society of Lords and Ladies was all about secrets.

I’d been a member for five years, and attended meetings regularly.  In the real world I was Joe Johnson, mild mannered accountant and sci fi nerd.  But when I donned the tux and mask, and set foot on the small island that held the massive lighthouse, I was the suave and debonair Lord Covington.

The evenings were filled with intellectual conversation and lots of champagne.  I always limited myself to one glass, but there were those members who liked to overindulge.  Lady Smythwick, whose purple gowns were always a bit garish and whose mask ended up on the floor by the end of the night, often had six or seven glasses herself.  But for the most part it was a gathering of fifty or so people who liked to have fun, good conversation, and a little good humored role playing.

Tonight, the main floor of the lighthouse was packed, and the buzz from the multiple conversations was loud.  I’d had my glass of champagne, and several hor d’oeuvres. Though the lighthouse was a good fifty feet in circumference at the base, I was feeling the crush.  Having not drawn the attention of anyone in several long minutes, I took a chance and slipped to the base of the spiral staircase.  I was in fairly good shape, and it took me no time at all to climb the thirty feet to the lantern room.  This particular lighthouse had been decommissioned a good twenty years ago, and the light no longer worked.  But my goal was the peace and quiet, and on this balmy summer night, I slipped through the door onto the widow’s walk.

I was alone only for five or six minutes, before the door creaked open.  I turned to see a large, broad shouldered man in an ivory and black harlequin half mask step through.  He looked strong and capable, his skin a sunkissed bronze that made me think of him lying in the sun.  He smiled when he saw me, showing off his white, even teeth in the moonlight.  I couldn’t help but grin back.

“Lord Covington,” he greeted, his voice a deep rumble.

I inclined my head and stepped to the side so he would have more room.  “Lord Temple.”

Lord Temple stood close enough that I could feel his body heat.  I wanted to lean into him.  Over the past six months, I’d found myself in conversation with him more often than not.  He was fascinating, and the way his mind worked never failed to engage me.  Several months ago, we’d gotten into a heated argument over the legislature’s proposed amendment, and it had taken me an embarrassingly long amount of time to realize he was simply playing the devil’s advocate.  He was sharp, intelligent, and kind.  I wished I knew who he was outside of the Society.

“Would you care to engage in a wager, Lord Covington?”

The man’s question caught me off guard, and for a moment I was shocked.  I recovered quickly, and considered his offer.  “What are the stakes?”

“If I win, you agree to an evening out with me,” Temple said.

I squinted suspiciously, tilting my head a little to see him better through the eyeholes of my mask.  “And if I win?”

Temple’s grin was smug.  “You won’t.  But if you do, you can claim whatever prize you wish.”

I was thoroughly intrigued now.  I took a fraction of a step closer.  “Terms?”

Lord Temple lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug.  “I will tell you about yourself and you will answer honestly if I get it right.”

“All right,” I said after a second’s hesitation.  There was no way he could know who I was.  One of the tenants of the Society was that everyone’s true identity remained a secret.  While there were no clandestine dealings going on, it was part of the fun.

“Your name is Joe, and you are an accountant.  You’ve been working for the same firm for at least ten years, and while you like it, you don’t love it.”

I took a huge step back, putting space between us.  “How in the fuck did you know that?” I hissed.mask2

“Logic,” Lord Temple said with a smug superiority that really should have pissed me off.

“Bullshit,” I accused.  “Someone had to have told you.”

He shook his head, and some of his arrogant demeanor vanished.  “No really.  You look around anytime anyone says Joe.  You have a body honed from the gym, which leads me to believe that your physique is not from a physical job and therefore you most likely work in an office.  Three months ago, we got into a discussion about fiscal responsibility and your head for numbers and figures lead me to believe you work with numbers on a daily basis.  Accountant is the most logical profession, though there could be others.”

I was impressed and did my best not to show it.  “And knowing I’ve worked ten years at the same place that I don’t love?”

He smiled then, and leaned closer like he was sharing a secret.  “Last month, you complained that ten years on the job was enough to drive anyone crazy.  Later in the same conversation, you said you liked your job, but that you wouldn’t be opposed to a change.  I…inferred.”

I loved his brain.  That he’d not only heard what I said, but pieced the information together to begin to form a picture of me.  That he’d taken that kind of interest made my pulse pick up. I thought it had been one sided on my part.  Now I knew it wasn’t.

I closed the distance between us, and reached up for his mask.  He caught my wrists, but didn’t pull my hands away.

“If I’m going on a date with you,” I said softly.  “And you know so much about me, don’t you think I should at least see your face?”

Lord Temple grinned.  Then he let go of my wrists, and I pulled away the mask.

My smile was bright enough to outshine the moon.

Bravery Failing

Sister and I went out to dinner the other night.  Our waiter was fantastic.  Friendly, personable, funny,  and jovial.  He was there at the right times, apologizing for things he didn’t even really need to, and utterly adorable.

He was also unabashedly and unashamedly gay.

I don’t know if he sensed that he was serving a girl on the spectrum and a straight but incredibly supportive ally or if he’s always like that.  But I would have loved to find out.  I would have loved to have a conversation with him about it, and get to know him a little better, because I’d have loved to put him in a book.  Or at least, you know, a character based on him.  I loved his confidence, and his attitude.  I loved his playfulness.  I wished I would have been brave enough to say “Hey, can I pick your brain a bit and use your personality and confidence and answers as the inspiration for a character?”  I must have thought of a dozen different ways to say it, and there were at least three opportunities in which I could have made an opening to conversation.

But my bravery failed me and I remained silent.

I’m too much of an introvert to strike up my own conversations.  I’ll respond to someone talking to me, and even then, most of the time it’s only if I have to.  And even though this guy was friendly and fun, and we did play around a bit, I still couldn’t make myself jump in with the questions I wanted.

It was an opportunity lost.  But it’s my own fault.

I’ll just have to let my imagination run wild instead.

It’s the Little Things

I’ve got a new chair.

I’ve needed one for a while now.  A long while.  A really long while.  When I get in the writing zone, it’s not uncommon for me to spend hours upon hours with my ass planted in the chair, bad posture and all, writing away.  The only time I get up is when I have to pee.  And the chair I had?  Well, it wasn’t the best of chairs.  My ass would go numb.  My back would start to hurt horrendously.  I have a bad tendency to pull my feet up underneath me, and they would fall completely asleep…and then I’d need to get up because of the numb ass and the back pain and the full bladder, but I couldn’t actually go anywhere because I couldn’t feel my feet.

It was, to say the least, not the most ideal of situations.

But quality costs money, and a lot of stuff is horrendously overpriced anyway, and I kept putting it off in favor of other more necessary things.  Like car repairs and bills and yes, even a weekend away with my sister.  But it was just getting worse, not better, and it was starting to be really difficult for me to keep my bum in the chair and write.  Plus, I now have the new arrangement, the writing nook of awesome, and I wanted to be incredibly productive.  It was time to buck up, get the chair, and suffer with a lack of funds if I had to.

Oh, but there was a sale!  There was a really good sale, and a chair that when I sat in it, felt like heaven.  It cradled my poor body and I just wanted to sit and sit and sit.  I could pull my feet up comfortably.  It supported my back at exactly the right spots.  It was even better than the one I actually went to buy, and just a wee bit cheaper too.  It took me minutes to make my decision.

I bought the chair.

I put it together in about thirty minute and rolled it over and sat and I am so happy.  I can sit for hours with nothing going numb and nothing hurting.  I’m sort of pissed at myself that I waited so long.  I just keep telling myself the time wasn’t right, and it was supposed to be now.  So I could get this chair that feels like it was made for me at a price I could afford.

It seems silly that a little thing like a chair makes all the difference but it does.