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New Release Blitz: The Loyal Whispers by Kathryn Sommerlot

The Loyal Whispers | Kathryn Sommerlot

The Life Siphon #3

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 25, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 78,900

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Blurb

Ravee: a pious Rad-em merchant’s daughter sailing with her family’s goods

Mairi: the Runonian king’s advisor seeing the outside world for the first time

Alesh: an alchemist’s apprentice in Joesar with a past rapidly catching up to her

Three women find themselves caught in the threads of change as the world threatens to fall apart around them. From across the Oldal Sea, the southern kingdom of Dusset has declared war, and if anyone is going to survive it, the alliance between Runon, Chayd, Rad-em, and Joesar must be solidified.

But there are forces at work that could undermine all the progress King Yudai and Tatsu have made. Peace treaty negotiations between the four realms could crumble at any time beneath the building tension.

As the women’s paths converge, they must navigate the true meaning of loyalty to themselves, their countries, and their families, while at the center of it all, a shattered king, hellbent on revenge, threatens the world balance.

Excerpt

The Loyal Whispers
Kathryn Sommerlot © 2020
All Rights Reserved

One: Ravee
Choked with debris, the waves lapped at the fire-blackened hull boards left behind, and worse yet, bodies bobbed in the spaces between splintered wood. They quivered up, bobbing with each crest, clothing billowing around motionless limbs, and Ravee had to turn away with one hand pressed to her mouth to keep her meager breakfast down. The air smelled of burning softwood and singed flesh interwoven into an overpowering and inescapable tang which did nothing to help her constantly queasy belly.

“Gods above,” Captain Wret hissed under his breath. When Ravee peeked over her shoulder, she couldn’t miss how his knuckles had blanched white, his fingers clamped around the deck rail. “What happened here?”

The answer seemed very obvious: the worst. The lingering fear of anyone who took to the seas was a shipwreck, whether it be by pirate attack or by the unforgiving elements, and the evidence of just such a tragedy lay strewn around their vessel in the whitecaps. But no storms had darkened the sky in the past week, only a clear blue horizon with favorable winds. Pirates tended to strip the ships of both treasure and hostages before destroying them. Broken shards of porcelain dishes floated among the wood, and anyone searching for profit wouldn’t leave something of value like that behind. The knowledge should have helped to ease Ravee’s nerves, for they were far less safe with their trade cargo if pirates roamed the Oldal Sea. Still, the uneasiness was slow to dissipate.

As her stomach settled and stopped roiling at the grisly aftermath, Ravee turned back to peer over the ship’s side. If it hadn’t been pirates and couldn’t have been the weather, few other possibilities made sense. Ships didn’t simply spontaneously break apart, and the sea serpents had already entered their dormant months. A horrible stillness settled over the remains, as though not even the sun’s bright rays could touch the bloody mess.

“Look!” one of the deckhands yelled. “Rad-em colors!”

The man’s outburst prompted a scrambling of boots across slick boards as the sailors searched for something to reach the silk with. Eventually, the cloth floated near enough for a man to fish it out with one of the long deck mops, and while Ravee’s heart skipped at the sight of her countrymen’s flag, the shock paled in comparison to what came up after it. More silks, strung together on the single rope line, tangled together in a mess of clumped, torn fabric. Ravee had never heard of the countries sailing under a united banner, not even in the oldest orated history lessons. She whispered a prayer under her breath as the crewman struggled with the cord, grateful her hands weren’t visibly shaking.

Captain Wret pushed the sailor aside to grab at the bulk, and his hands were steadier than the deckhand’s had been. He pulled the Rad-em colors free, and then the rest one at a time, peeling the sopping layers apart until four flags lay spread across the deck. Four silk banners, fraying and burned on the right side as though they’d caught fire as the ship went down and only the briny seawater had stopped them from being completely devoured.

Four silk banners representing the kingdoms of the southern coastline.

Ravee’s stomach twisted again with a painful throb.

“Rad-em,” Wret said, pointing, “Chayd, Runon, and Joesar.”

“Impossible,” one of the men argued. “They’d never sail together like this, and under united colors?”

All the flags had been displayed on a single vessel, and to have such a bold showing could mean only one thing.

“They were on official business,” Ravee whispered, speaking before she could stop herself. Wret’s head snapped in her direction, his eyes sharp, but he didn’t stop her from continuing, which was something. “In an official capacity.”

“Yes,” Wret said. “They were traveling as ambassadors. Peaceful ones, likely, given the treaty negotiations.”

“Who would attack a ship containing peaceful representatives from all four of the coastal kingdoms?” the sailor nearest to Ravee asked.

Wret’s gaze shifted to the broken, charred pieces of the ship still floating out on the sea. “The easiest way to answer that is to figure out where they were going.”

Then his expression morphed, cycling through surprise and shock before hardening in resolve. He crossed to the rail with long steps and hesitated only for a moment, scanning the water before shouting, “Get a lifeboat dropped! Someone’s alive down there.”

In the resulting chaos, Ravee was pushed back, shoulders bumping into her arms with such force her skin would bruise. She couldn’t see around the sailors to confirm for herself, and she knew better than to try to fight it; Captain Wret was displeased enough already to have her aboard his ship accompanying her family’s goods and hadn’t bothered to keep his feelings quiet. Making her presence known could result in banishment to the belowdecks sleeping quarters afforded to her.

A lifeboat splashed down into the sea and a few of the sailors started up nervous muttering, but it wasn’t until several moved to the rigging that Ravee felt confident enough to slip through the small crowd to the railing again.

The sailors in the lifeboat were pulling a body out of the water, and despite Wret’s earlier outcry, the man looked very dead to Ravee. He didn’t so much as twitch as the sailors rowed toward the ship’s side and prepared the dinghy to be lifted back up. When one of the crew hauled the man over the rail and deposited him onto the deck, his head lolled lifelessly to one side. Bits of his shirt had been eaten away by the flames and a nasty-looking cut sliced across his forehead, the red of the still flowing blood mingling with the sea water clinging to his skin. The sailors spent a long moment staring at him in silence.

In the stillness, the air above the ship’s deck shimmered as shivers ran the length of Ravee’s spine in a familiar tremble. Bithlad, God of healing, appeared behind her with all four of his hands ghosting over her biceps as he whispered, He’s alive. Help him.

Ravee darted in between the sailors, nostrils burning with the lingering smell of the less fortunate passengers and her feet propelled by the murmured command. She pressed her head to the injured man’s chest, shoulders sagging at the muffled breath sounds. He was alive, but only barely so.

“How did you know?” she asked Captain Wret, who had advanced to hover uncomfortably over her shoulder.

“He was clinging to one of the bigger pieces of the ship’s hull, and his position was too unnatural to have been the result of post-death rigor.”

Ravee studied the man’s body. “I doubt he would’ve lasted much longer out there in this state.”

“He may not be the only one. The lifeboat’s already prepared—we should search the area for more survivors,” Wret said, and he walked away to bark the orders at his crew.

Ravee stayed where she was kneeling with one hand on the man’s shoulder, wishing she could will him to wake up. His eyes stayed closed, though it was comforting to see his chest rise and fall, even if the breaths were shallow. The lack of movement gave her a better opportunity to check him for injuries. Though bleeding steadily, the cut on his head wasn’t deep, but as she peeled back the soaking layer of clothing from his torso, she exposed a fresh wave of crimson. Along his side darted a dark gash, and it seemed his shirt had been the only thing holding what remained of the skin together. Ravee clasped her hand against the wound in shock.

“Please!” she called, and one of the crewmen thrust a rudimentary first aid kit into her open hand.

At least she had a needle and thread, even without time to sterilize the metal. Ravee sent up a quick prayer to Urutte, God of fate. Her family sold leather goods, and while she’d never had to sew flesh before, her needlework skill ranked high. Her hands trembled so badly she pricked her own finger trying to stitch the wound, and all she could think of was how thankful she was the man remained unconscious. It would’ve been agony if he’d been awake to feel the needle threading through his already flayed skin.

She wanted to vomit, and somehow managed to keep all the bile in until she’d finished. Running to the railing took two heart-pounding moments, and she only barely made it in time to avoid her breakfast splashing across the deck. Her cheeks warmed, but there wasn’t time to be embarrassed; the lifeboat was hauling another body from the sea, and Ravee wiped her forehead with her shirt sleeve before moving to the newest one. Bithlad’s presence behind her faded, but she murmured a prayer the God might watch over the rest of the poor souls fished out from the brine.

By the time the entire area had been scoured, the sailors had found two more survivors, and Captain Wret called the search off as the sun set bright behind the wreckage. Fewer pieces of the unfortunate ship remained than had floated earlier along the whitecaps, and even many of the dead had been pulled beneath by the undertow. Wret’s men found four survivors total, including the first man: two more men and one woman. The crew carried the limp bodies to the bulkhead closest to the rudder and did what they could with the extra bedding supplies. But it wasn’t much, and as Ravee stood looking over the remnants of the ship’s unfortunate passengers, she could hardly breathe.

The man whose side she’d stitched closed seemed to have stabilized, and the woman had surface burns seemingly unrelated to her head trauma, but the last one, an older male whose arm had been severed at the wrist, was unlikely to make it through the night even with the tourniquet and linen wrapping they’d employed. Knowing the background of their survivors was impossible. They could have been crew on the ship, servants accompanying the envoys, or the dignitaries themselves, but until one of them woke with a clear enough head, Wret’s Sheersilk was sailing blind.

An entire ship destroyed, with nothing stolen and the passengers left to bloat.

“Where was their course?” Ravee asked as Captain Wret’s heavy footsteps sounded down the wooden stairs behind her.

“This far south? Dusset, probably, the same as us.”

Ravee swallowed hard. “You said earlier we’d know who did this by studying their heading. What does this mean?”

Wret’s face, almost unrecognizable without its usual sneer, was grim. “It’s possible someone has declared war on us all.”

The man missing his hand let out a low moan, and Ravee wrapped her arms around her chest to try to fight the sudden chill sweeping through the bulkhead.

About the Author

Kathryn Sommerlot is a coffee addict and craft beer enthusiast with a detailed zombie apocalypse plan. Originally from the cornfields of the American Midwest, she got her master’s degree and moved across the ocean to become a high school teacher in Japan.

When she isn’t wrangling teenage brains into critical thinking, she spends her time writing, crocheting, and hiking with her husband.

She enjoys LGBTQ fiction, but she is particularly interested in genre fiction that just happens to have LGBTQ protagonists.

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New Release Blitz: Big Love by Rick R. Reed

Big Love | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 18, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 64,100

Buy Links:

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Blurb

Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.

A new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth is also starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup, and the last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.

As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of.

As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.

Excerpt

Big Love
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Truman Reid was white as a stick of chalk—skin so pale it was nearly translucent. His blue eyes were fashioned from icy spring water. His hair—platinum blond—lay in curls across his forehead and spilled down his neck. He was the kind of boy for whom adjectives like “lovely” and “pretty” would most definitely apply. More than once in his life, he was mistaken for a girl.

When he was a very little boy, well-meaning strangers (and some not so well-meaning) would ask if he was a boy or a girl. Truman was never offended by the question, because he could see no shame in being mistaken for a girl. It wasn’t until later that he realized there were some who would think the question offensive.

But this boy, who, on the first day of school, boldly and some might say unwisely wore a T-shirt that proclaimed “It Gets Better” beneath an image of a rainbow flag, didn’t seem to possess the pride the T-shirt proclaimed. At Summitville High School, even though it was 2015, one did not shout out one’s sexual orientation, not in word, not in fashion, and certainly not in deed.

Who knew what caused Truman to break with convention that morning when he made up his mind to wear that T-shirt on the first day of school? It wasn’t like he needed to proclaim anything—after all, the slight, effeminate boy had been the object of bullies and torturers since, oh, about second grade. Truman could never “pass.”

He was a big sissy. It was a fact and one Truman had no choice but to accept.

His shoulders, perpetually hunched, hunched farther during his grade school and junior high years, when such epithets as “sissy,” “fag,” “pansy,” and “queer” were hurled at him in school corridors and playgrounds on a daily basis. Truman knew the old schoolyard chant wasn’t true at all—words could and did hurt. And so, occasionally, did fists and hands.

And yet, despite the teasing—or maybe it’s more apt to say because of it—Truman was not ashamed of who and what he was. His single mom, Patsy, his most vocal supporter and defender, often told him the same thing. “God made you just the way you are, honey. Beautiful. And if you’re one of his creations, there’s nothing wrong in who you are. You just hold your head up and be proud.” The sad truth was, Patsy would often tell her boy stuff like this as she brushed tears away from his face.

It wasn’t only tears she brushed away, though. Her unconditional love also brushed away any doubt Truman might have had that he was anything other than a normal boy, even though he was not like most of the boys his age in Summitville, Ohio, that backward little burg situated on the Ohio River and in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In spite of the teasing and the bullying—and the pain they caused—Truman wasn’t ashamed of who he was, which was what led him to wearing the fated T-shirt that got him in so much trouble his first day as a freshman at Summitville High School.

The incident occurred near the end of the day, when everyone was filing into the school gymnasium for an orientation assembly and a speech from the school’s principal, Doug Calhoun, on what the returning students and incoming freshmen could expect that year.

Truman was in the crush of kids making their way toward the bleachers. High school was no different than grade school or junior high in that Truman was alone. And even though this was the first day of school, Truman already had a large three-ring binder tucked under his arm, along with English Composition, Biology, and Algebra I textbooks. Tucked into the notebook and books were papers—class schedules of assignments and the copious notes the studious Truman had already taken.

Kirk Samson, a senior and starting quarterback on the football team, knew the laughs he could get if he tripped this little fag in his pride-parade T-shirt, so he held back a little in the crowd, waiting for just the right moment to thrust out a leg in front of the unsuspecting Truman, whose eyes were cast down to the polished gymnasium floor.

Truman didn’t see the quarterback’s leg until it was too late, and he stumbled, going down hard on one knee. That sight was not the funniest thing the crowd had seen, although the pratfall garnered a roar of appreciative laughter at Truman’s expense. But what was funnier was when Truman’s notebook, books, and papers all flew out from under his arm, landing in a mess on the floor.

Kirk, watching from nearby with a smirk on his face, whispered two words to the kids passing by: “Kick ’em. Kick ’em.”

And the kids complied, sending Truman’s notes, schedules, and texts across the gym floor, as Truman, on his knees, struggled to gather everything up, even as more and more students got in on the fun of sending them farther and farther out of his reach.

Now, that was the funniest thing the crowd had seen.

Who knows how long the hilarity would have gone on if an authority figure had not intervened?

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About the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction.

He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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New Release Blitz: Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza? by Andy V. Roamer

Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza? |Andy V. Roamer

The Pizza Chronicles #1

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 55,100

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Blurb

RV is a good kid, starting his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School. Though his genes didn’t give him a lot of good things, they did give him a decent brain. So he’s doing his best to keep up in high school, despite all the additional pressures he’s facing: His immigrant parents, who don’t want him to forget his roots and insist on other rules.

Some tough kids at school who bully teachers as well as students. His puny muscles. His mean gym teacher. The Guy Upstairs who doesn’t answer his prayers. And the most confusing fact of all—that he might be gay.

Luckily, RV develops a friendship with Mr. Aniso, his Latin teacher, who is gay and always there to talk to. RV thinks his problems are solved when he starts going out with Carole.

But things only get more complicated when RV develops a crush on Bobby, the football player in his class. And to RV’s surprise, Bobby admits he may have gay feelings, too.

Excerpt

Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza?
Andy V. Roamer © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One—Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza?
Why can’t life be like pizza?

I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately. I love pizza. Pizza makes me feel good. Especially since I discovered Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza is quiet and out of the way and allows me to think. And Joe’s combinations are the best. Pepperoni and onions. Garlic and mushroom. Cheese and chicken. And if you really want that little kick in the old butt: the super jalapeno. Mmmm, good. Gets you going again. And lets you forget all your troubles.

What troubles can a fourteen-year-old guy have? Ha! First of all, I’m not a regular guy, as anyone can guess from my taste in pizza. My parents are immigrants who are trying to make a better life for themselves here in the United States. Besides the usual things American parents worry about, like making money and having their kids do well in school, my parents spend more time worrying about the big things: politics, communism, fascism, global warming, and the fact they and their parents survived violence and jail so I-better-be-grateful-I’m-not-miserable-like-kids-in-other-parts-of-the-world.

Grateful? Ha! As far as I’m concerned, life is pretty miserable already. Instead of thinking about the World Series or Disneyland, I worry about terrorists down the street or the dirty bombs the strange family around the corner might be building.

I don’t know why I worry about everything, but I do. It’s probably in my genes. Other guys have genes that gave them big muscles or hairy chests. I got nerves.

And then there’s my name. RV. Yeah, RV. No, I’m not a camper or anything. RV is short for Arvydas. That’s right. “Are-vee-duh-s.” Mom and Dad say it’s a common name in Lithuania, which is the country in Eastern Europe where my parents were born. A name like that might be fine for Lithuania, but what about the United States? Couldn’t Mom and Dad have named me Joe, or Mike, or even Darryl? My brother, Ray, has a normal name. Why couldn’t they have given me one?

I even look a little weird, I think. Tall and skinny with an uncoordinated walk because of my big feet that get in the way and make me feel like a clod. Oh, yeah. I’ve been getting some zits lately, and I wear glasses since I’m pretty nearsighted. Not a pretty sight, is it? At least the glasses are not too thick. Mom and Dad don’t have a lot of money to spend, but they did fork up the money to get me thin lenses, so I don’t look like a complete zomboid.

What can I do? I try my best, despite it all. I’m lucky because I’ve done well in school, so at least my genes gave me a half-decent brain. Hey, I’m not bragging. It’s just nice to feel good about something when most days I feel pretty much a loser at so many things. When I was in grammar school, there were enough days when I came home from school and cried because some big oaf threatened me, or I got hit in the stomach during my pathetic attempts to play ball during recess.

Mom always tried to comfort me. “Nesirūpink,” she would say. “Esi gabus. Kai užaugsi, visiems nušluostysi nuosis.” We talk Lithuanian at home. Translated, that sentence means, “Don’t worry. You’re smart. When you grow up, you’ll show them.” Actually, not “you’ll show them,” but “you’ll wipe all their noses.” Lithuanians have a funny way of expressing themselves. Not sure I aspire to wiping anyone’s nose when I get older, but that’s what they say.

Whatever. I’m determined to put all that behind me. I’m starting a new life. My new life. Today was the first day of high school. I’m going to Boston Latin School. You have to take an exam to go there, so it’s full of smart kids. Besides smart kids, it has heavy-duty history too. It was founded in 1635, a year before Harvard. They already gave us a speech about that.

And about pressure. The pressure to succeed with all this history breathing down our necks. Pressure, ha! Doesn’t scare me. I know all about pressure. I’ve gotten pressure from cretinous bullies at school. I get it from cretinous Lith a-holes, who Mom and Dad keep pushing me to hang around with because they say it’s important to be part of the immigrant community. And I even get pressure from cretinous jerks in the neighborhood.

Cretinous. A good word. That’s something else about me. I like words. Real words and made-up ones. There’s something cool about them. Yeah, yeah, I know what people would say. You think words are cool? Kid, you’ve got more problems than you thought.

Well, I’m sorry. I do think words are cool. There’s something fun about making them up or learning a new one. Kind of unlocks something in the world. And I like the world despite all my worrying. It can be an okay place sometimes.

Okay, okay, I’m getting off track. I want to write about my first day of school. Mom and Dad gave me this new—well, refurbished, but new to me anyway—computer for getting into Latin school, and they keep after me to make good use of it. So, I’ve decided I’m going to write about my new life. My life away from cretins—Lith, American, or any other kind.

The first person I met at school today was Carole. Carole Higginbottom. She’s in my homeroom. She was sitting in the first row, first seat, and I was sitting right behind her. We started talking. She’s from West Roxbury, too, which is where we live.

West Roxbury is part of Boston. You have to live somewhere in Boston in order to go to Latin school. West Roxbury is a nice neighborhood, for the most part, with houses, trees, grass, and people going to work and coming home. Kind of an all-American place, I guess. We used to live in a different, tougher part of Boston, but Mom and Dad moved away from there because they said the neighborhood was getting too rough. They promised I wouldn’t get beat up so much in West Roxbury. I don’t know. West Roxbury is better, but I still have gotten a few black-and-blue marks with “made in West Roxbury” on them, so as far as I’m concerned it isn’t any perfect place either.

Carole lives in another part of West Roxbury, near Centre Street, which is the main street in the area. People like to hang out there. Mom says that part of West Roxbury is a little dicey. (Mom thinks a lot of neighborhoods are too dicey. Maybe that’s where I get my worrying from.) Anyway, Carole sure doesn’t seem dicey. As a matter of fact, she’s a little goofy. Tall and skinny with red hair, red cheeks, and a million freckles. And she has a really sharp nose that curves up like those special ski slopes you see in the Olympics. But I get the feeling she’s smart. She says she likes science. That’s good because I might need help with science. I’m better with other subjects like history and English.

Our homeroom teacher is Mr. Bologna, Carmine Bologna. He’s a little scary with slicked-back dark hair and even darker eyes that stare at you forever. He looks like he’s part of the organization we’re not supposed to talk about—you know, the scary one from Italy that’s into murder, racketeering, and drugs. Two guys were horsing around in the back of the class and Mr. Bologna came right up to them, said a few words under his breath, and just stared at them. Boy, did they settle down fast. I’m no troublemaker, but I’ll really have to watch myself. Don’t want to deal with the Bologna stare if I can help it.

Today was mostly about walking around, learning about our subjects, and meeting teachers. Besides all the regular subjects, I have to take Latin. I don’t have anything against it per se, but is it really necessary to learn a dead language? And then there’s the teacher, Mr. Aniso. He’s kind of light in his loafers. That’s another new phrase I learned recently. It refers to gay guys, and Mr. Aniso is so gay it hurts. I just hope he can’t tell anything about me. I don’t wave my wrist around the way he does, do I?

Yeah, that’s something else I have to come to terms with. I might be heading in that direction. Yeah, me. I can hardly believe it. Me! Why? It can’t be true, can it? I’ve been praying to God, asking Him not to make me gay, but I don’t think He’s listening. If He exists, that is. Maybe He’s not answering because He doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. People on TV and in books say being gay is okay. Movie stars and rock stars are gay. There are gay mayors and other gay political types. That’s fine for them, but they don’t live with my family. Mom’s a heavy-duty Catholic. Dad’s a macho, “what-me-cry?” kind of guy. And my younger brother, Ray, well, Ray probably doesn’t care one way or another, but he doesn’t count anyway since he hates everybody. And then there are all those Lith immigrants, the community that’s so important to Mom and Dad. Most of them are so Old World and conservative. I don’t think being gay would go down well with them.

Not that I am gay for certain. I’m just saying it’s crossed my mind because…well, because I think about guys sometimes. And I notice them. Notice how they look when they’re coming down the street. Notice their eyes or their hair or the way they move. Just notice them.

Oh, I notice girls, too, but something about guys is different. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think about them as much or maybe more than girls. And I want to be with them. Is that normal? What’s normal anyway? To be honest, I’m so inexperienced. Never dated. Never even kissed anyone. Not like that anyway. No, I’ve spent my time worrying about communism, terrorism, and global warming. Like I said, I’ve always felt a little out of step with the rest of humanity.

Dealing with all this is just too much. To be nervous about things the way I am. To be speaking a language most people haven’t heard of. To have a strange name. To wear glasses and look nerdy. And now I might be gay? It’s all too confusing. I might as well start on antidepressants, or something stronger, right now.

But no. I try to look on the bright side of things. Take Carole for instance. She seems nice and fun, and maybe we’ll be friends. And if she likes me, I can’t be too weird, can I? I guess I’ll find out. I better not think about it. There’s enough to worry about as it is. I just have to take a breath and focus on my homework. Yeah, we got homework already. At least that’s one thing I’m good at. And when I go to Joe’s, well, life’s not so bad, at least while I’m eating my chicken and cheese or super jalapeno slice.

About the Author

Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats.

This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships.

He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.

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