Maahes by Emma Jaye- Review

A few weeks ago, I randomly picked up this Maahes by Emma Jaye after searching Amazon for “mm dark gay romance with crime”. I was immediately drawn to the book by the summary. Not many of you know this, but I have always had a fascination with Ancient Egypt. I wanted to be an archaeologist for the longest time because Ancient Egypt had drawn me in from a young age. When I saw that a lot of this book revolved around the religion of the Ancient Egypt, I couldn’t stop myself from downloading the sample on my Kindle.

As always, this review will contain small spoilers.

Book Trigger Warnings: violence, mentions of rape/non-con , dub-con (between the to MCs), mentions of incest, animal cruelty, BDSM (primal kink specifically), dark romance, angst, and main character death (sort of).

Summary

Corrupt to survive or seduce to kill?

Lev lives for death.

Tainted from birth and despised for sacrificing fellow Servants of Maahes, Lev pursues a life of devotion and abstinence as the Left Hand. His reward will come in the Afterlife.

Živan Bratko, bastard heir to a Bulgarian crime family, lives in the moment, rescuing big cats and slaking his lust with even wilder men. He can’t resist the challenge of corrupting one of the legendary Hands of Maahes.

A sociopath hedonist versus a devout assassin. Who will be hunter or prey when lives and souls are the ultimate stakes?

A dark contemporary mm story featuring a collision of cultures, manipulative main characters, assassins, kidnap, and hungry lions.

Welcome to the dark world of Malicious Gods: Egypt. A collection of standalone modern tales, both magical and non-magical, featuring deities from Ancient Egypt. You’ll find reincarnated Gods, assassins, gangs, madness, and different realities. Expect high heat and morally ambiguous themes. Seductive and often twisted, they are not for the fainthearted.

Review

For the first time in my life, I’m not even sure where to start. I am almost positive I love it, and I wonder how fucked up that makes me (I mean this in the best way possible). The beginning was super slow with lots of world building and setting the scene. Our two lovely main character didn’t even meet until the reader is about a third of the way into the book. That usually annoys me a bit, but I found I didn’t mind. The world building was intriguing enough to get me hooked.

Lev annoyed me in the best possible way. He is very ‘holier-than-thou’ in the beginning. I’m not a religious person (as you may know) so reading a character that is so devoted to his faith was a bit strange for me. I didn’t relate to him because I didn’t know where he was going to end up with this story in term of faith. The further into the story I got, the more I grew attached to him, much like his male counter part.

Živan is an irritably charismatic character. I may or may not be in love with him at this point. He’s incredibly intelligent and witty. He pretends not to care, when deep inside his heart, he cares a lot. He is just very selective about it. He is very cocky in the beginning. I hated the clicker almost as much as Lev, however, I do love how Jaye always brought it full circle, even with the clicker. I also found his kinks fascinating. I have read a lot of BDSM, but I’ve never really heard of a primal kink in this way.

I didn’t find this book particularly triggering, but then again, very little actually triggers me. There was a part that was sort of dub-con that was between the main characters, but it was a very gray area. I’m still unsure of how I feel about it, but I know for a fact that I do not hate this book. Not at all. It’s dark, sexy, and intriguing. Everything I ask for in a book.

The reader in me sort of hated the ending of this book, but the writer in me is incredibly impressed with the balls Jaye has. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I was in complete shock. I do feel like I was left with a lot of unanswered questions that I’m not sure will be answered in the sequel. I wouldn’t call it a happily ever after, but definitely a happily for now.

Download Maahes by Emma Jaye

Please read this book at your own risk. Take the trigger warning very seriously. If you have an questions or want more spoilers, feel free to DM me on any social media platform listed below.

Sweetness In Innocence- Book Two of the Take me to Church Series

I’m so excited to reveal the cover for the second book! The eBook is already available for preorder on Amazon!

Special thank you to Bibi and Daria for making this cover come to life. They will also be working on the third and fourth, which I am so excited for.

Summary

Luka Thomas is leading a double life. Publicly, he is a God-fearing Christian with a loving girlfriend. What happens in the shadows of his reality tells a different story. Because of one boy, he has begun to question everything.

Harlan Sharp promised himself he wouldn’t fall for Luka, but he doesn’t know how to stop it. Each kiss, each touch, each gentle caress they share only leads him further toward revealing the secrets of his past and bearing his scars.

The nature of their relationship must be hidden from everyone. If they are caught, Luka will be kicked out of his family’s house and disowned. He will lose everything. It’s a sin that Luka isn’t ready to confess. He can try to keep his secret from everyone, but God is all-knowing. This limbo can’t last forever.

The Take me to Church Series is a real depiction of falling in love in high school as a gay teen amidst the rampant homophobia of the south and the mental health issues many people face. It’s explicit in the ways that life is. It’s raw, beautiful and real. Readers will scream in anger and cry in pain but also laugh in joy and healing as they grow with these characters.

Cover Photo by Bibi. Follow her Instagram: @moon_sun_thyme
Cover Design by Daria. Follow her Twitter: @ghostiemedicine

Sweetness In Innocence will be released August 10, 2021! Follow me on my social medias below for more content such as sneak peeks, giveaways, and more!

How to Write Dialogue- Seven Tips

Oftentimes, dialogue is the most difficult thing to write. It’s hard to make it sound realistic and relatable. As writers, we are told not to write like we speak however, that is difficult when writing dialogue. I get asked a lot how to write it and if I have any tips for people who are trying to write good dialogue. Below are my seven tips to writing dialogue. Yes, seven. I’ve never really liked even numbers.

Write First; Fill in Later

If I have a dialogue based scene or if the dialogue is super fucking important in a particular scene, I always write the dialogue first then fill in the details later. I also call this “bare boning” because it’s essentially the skeleton of the scene, then I add the meat later. I feel this helps me keep their conversation more organic and flow more naturally because I’m not having to constantly pause my thought or the conversation in my head to write what they are doing, physically.

Read it Out Loud

Reading it out loud helps me make sure it sounds organic. I know, personally, I have a habit of never using contractions when I write, but they are absolutely necessary in dialogue. Reading it out loud or to someone else will show any awkward phrases.

Don’t Write like you Speak

I know this may be controversial. My argument is that you aren’t your characters (not really). They probably speak a bit differently than you. They have different experiences. They grew up with different influences than you. They may not even be your age, which means they will probably use different types of slang terminology. Write like your character speaks, not how you speak.

Dialect (AKA Accents)

 I have written characters with a southern US accent, and although you can hear it in all of their words (if they were to really speak which they do in my head), I only select a few words to show their accent in the way they talk. Like, instead of dropping all ‘g’s’ on words ending in ‘ing’, I’ll choose one or two to drop in the sentence. I also try to get creative with it. I show their accent or where they are from in the words/phrases they use. Someone from the Sothern US may use phrases like ‘lick of sense’ or ‘down yonder’ while someone from the UK may say ‘lads’ or ‘mates’ instead of friends.

Don’t Write Small Talk

Your reader doesn’t give a single fuck how the weather unless it is pivotal to the plot. If there is a scene with dialogue, every single bit of it should be pivotal to the plot in some way whether it is a reveal or moving it along. If there isn’t a reason for the dialogue, then do not write it. It gets boring.

If it can be Said in Dialogue, Wait Until Dialogue to Say It

Do not reveal anything in the inner monologue. Anything. This keeps your readers guessing about certain character traits. Does your character have a secret? Don’t reveal it until he says it outload. Is the mother of your heroine dead? Let her reveal that information to someone in dialogue. This helps limit the inner monologue your characters have and keeps the readers more in the moment. It also helps you bridge various conversations to one another so you don’t have random spurts to dialogue.

Avoid Long Text of Dialogue

I know this is sometimes difficult if one character is doing most of the talking. I like to break it up with questions. Let me use my two main characters in the Take me to Church Series as my example. If Harlan is telling Luka his story (he does eventually) it would make sense for Harlan to be speaking a lot in that scene. I break it up by having Luka ask him questions and contribute to the conversation.

I hope this was helpful to you in someway! Please let me know if you have any request on other author tips. Come chat with me on my social medias below. I just posted a video on my Instagram where I read the blurb of my book, Cool for the Summer, in a very dramatic way. I plan to continue this series, so come say hello!

Born in Sickness- Trailer

The lovely, CJ Lopez, made a Trailer for Born in Sickness, Book One of the Take me to Church Series! I love it so much. I wanted to show it to you all then take a moment to talk about the inspiration behind and and the symbolism.

The Music

I wanted the music to be a bit slower to reflect the tone of the series rather than the book. I felt that upbeat music fit this book a bit, but not the series as a whole, so I wanted to go with a slower, more melancholy sound. I wanted it to show the seriousness of the series and set the foundation for what’s ahead. We went though several different sounds. CJ is a saint for putting up with me until we eventually decided on this one. I love the strums of the guitar then the singer coming in with the ‘oooos’. It kind of reminds me of choir music, which is exactly the sound I wanted to go for.

The Opening Scene

I wanted the first scene to reflect Luka’s character and to also show that the story is set in high school. I thought the players running out of a locker room would do just that. Luka plays football through a lot of this story, a football game even coming into play during the end. I thought this particular scene gave a lot of information about his character especially with the lines “they told him he was born sick” laid over the video. That’s the tag line for this book, and it really applies to both male character leads.

The Second Scene

Of course this trailer needed to show an old church. I mean… it’s pretty much a requirement at this point. I think that was one of the things I listed to CJ when she asked what I was looking for. Church is a huge part of this stories as well as the culture that is present in the south that surrounds these Christian communities. I love that it says “being gay is a sin according to his church” here because the church is in the background, and to me it really drives that point home. It’s huge theme of the whole series, believing in a god that you are told will damn you for who you love. The guilt that comes along with it.

The Third Scene

The storm represents the inner turbulence that both characters go through in the book. Luka struggles with his faith and what that means in relation to his attraction to Harlan. In turn, Harlan really struggles with trusting others, especially someone like Luka who reminds him of the very person that betrayed him. I do not shy way from mental health in this series, including in this book, and I think this scene really showcases the turbulence of both the book and the series. The tree in the scene represents growth, and how you need rain, including a storm, in order to grow, which both characters do throughout this book. All of this ties into the line “faith and sexuality will be tested”.

The Fourth Scene

This scene is powerful. A flower is growing among barbed wire with a cross in the background. It shows that even in the worst possible circumstances, with things around them that wants to destroy them, beauty can grow. Despite all of the difficulties of life, with the church watching them, they can still find a way to each other. The reality is that the barbed wire is sharp, and could very easily tear their fragile relationship a part, like a petal being ripped to shreds.

Buy the Book

If this trailer has intrigued you, please take a moment to purchase the book! It is available on many platforms, including Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Excerpt from Born in Sickness

Blurb

Luka Thomas is a God-fearing Christian. When his family moves to the Bible Belt right before his senior year of high school, he knows he’ll blend right in. Sort of. Being gay is a sin, so he’s not gay. He’s just…experimenting. 

Then he meets Harlan Sharp and begins to question everything he knew to be true. 

Harlan stopped believing in fairytales when the darkest days of his past left him scarred, angry, and questioning God’s motives. He doesn’t trust anyone, let alone Luka, who reminds Harlan of the very same person who hurt him. 

When blatantly ignoring all of Luka’s attempts at conversation doesn’t deter him, Harlan begins criticizing the one thing that Luka seems to believe wholeheartedly: his faith in God. 

With Luka’s incredibly strict step-father pressuring him to date a girl, he desperately makes a deal, but at what cost to his budding relationship with Harlan?  

The Take me to Church series is a real depiction of falling in love as a gay teen amidst the rampant homophobia of the south and the mental health issues many people face. It’s explicit in the way that life is. It’s raw, beautiful, and real. Readers will scream in anger and cry in pain, but also laugh in joy and healing as they grow with these characters.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

“Luka! It’s almost time for breakfast!” his mom yells from down stairs, and Luka ignores her. Instead he sighs as he looks in the mirror, debating about whether or not he should change his outfit for a third time. The first day of school is always nerve-wracking, but adding the extra stress of it being his first day at a new school and his senior year, it’s downright nauseating. Being an Army brat, he should be used to this by now, but he isn’t. It never gets easier. He has been to five different high schools alone, not to mention all of the various middle schools he has attended.

He remembers when his mom married Matt. He was happy for her. She seemed happy, and it meant he was getting a new dad. He had no idea at the time that he would be ripped away from all of his friends and everything he held dear. All of the schools and faces over the years have just kind of blended together, no one really standing out. He quickly learned not to allow himself to even get attached to anyone. He is so excited to go to college next fall so that maybe, just maybe, he can finally lay down some roots. Have actual friends that he won’t have to leave after a couple of months. He can dream.

He takes a deep breath, checking out his appearance again. He glances at the clock, knowing his mother will call him down to breakfast any minute now. He tugs at his shirt, not knowing what exactly the kids at his new school would be wearing. He then runs small fingers through his brown hair, going for a somewhat messy look.

“Luka! I told you it’s time for breakfast!” she shouts, again. He has to be down to breakfast at exactly the same time every single day. He hates it. His mom and stepdad are somewhat controlling. Well, his stepdad really, his mom just tries to keep the peace. He stares at his reflection again, hoping that he won’t stand out at this new school. He just wants to blend in until he is forced to move to the next location by Matt’s job. Who knows, maybe this time he will get to stay an entire school year.

“Luka William Thomas, don’t make your mother ask you again!” Matt’s booming voice travels up the stairs and into his room, making Luka wince.

“Yeah, sorry! I’m coming,” he calls back, turning and leaving his room then going down the stairs. He walks into the kitchen, where they always eat breakfast, to find his four sisters, mother, and Matt already sitting around the table.

“‘Bout time, Lu. You know we aren’t allowed to eat until everyone is down here and we say grace. I’m starving,” Lizzie moans. If Luka wasn’t in front of their parents, he would flip her off, but instead he just rolls his eyes and plops down in the open chair, avoiding Matt’s glare.

Everyone holds hands as Matt begins, “Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to wake up this morning, and thank you for this meal. We thank you for our health and happiness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

It’s the same every morning, so Luka mumbles his ‘Amen’ and starts eating right away, trying to avoid the small talk with his family if at all possible. No such luck, though.

“I signed you up for football,” his mom starts, glancing in his direction. He barely stops himself from rolling his eyes, knowing Matt would chastise him for it.

“Why?” Luka asks, through gritted teeth. He kind of likes the sport itself, being an active person, but he hates having to leave his team once Matt gets relocated. He would rather just avoid it all together.

“Because it is a good way to make friends, and it is a safe after-school activity for you to take part in,” his mom answers easily, her tone leaving no room for argument.

“Fine,” Luka grumbles, looking down at his plate of half-eaten food, suddenly not feeling hungry.

“First practice is today, after school. Your father talked to the coach yesterday since you already missed two-a-days, but he is willing to let you play, given you prove your skills. Don’t forget about it. We expect you home right after,” she says, and Luka knows. Of course he knows, he has had the same rule since he was a child. How dare he try to do anything fun after school that isn’t school-sponsored? He has never even been to a school dance because his parents fear that he may get drunk or lose his virginity. Their stupid rules didn’t do them any good, though, because he has already lost his virginity and been drunk.

“I know, Mom,” Luka tells her, suppressing yet another eye roll. Jesus, he will be lucky to make it through breakfast without getting grounded.

“Oh, and join your school’s Bible Club,” Matt adds, pointing one chubby finger at Luka.

“Sure,” Luka answers robotically because he is just done with this already, and he hasn’t even made it to school yet. He manages to evade the rest of the conversation, his parent’s attention turning to that of his little sisters. After he forces down enough food to appease his mother, he practically runs out the door and to his car, silently praying that no one from his family stops him. He lets out a sigh of relief when he is safely in his car, the door slamming behind him.

He pulls out his school schedule, glancing over it to see what he has first period. Choir. Fuck. Must be one of those stupid general courses every high school student has to take. Why couldn’t it be art or something? The rest of the classes seem fine. It looks like he is in Honors courses at this high school. His eyes rove down the list of courses: Physics, Chemistry, Pre-Calculus, Spanish, English, Creative Writing, and a free period.

He takes a deep breath before he puts the car into gear, making his way toward the location of the high school. It is a very small town, so the high school is equally as small. Hick-town, USA, it seems. When his mom enrolled him, she had said he would only have about 100 people in his entire class. That almost makes this worse. In bigger schools, it’s easy to blend in. Smaller schools are a whole different universe. Everyone knows everyone, so when a new kid comes along, that person is easily identifiable. This thought makes Luka feel sick all over again.

He parks his car in the student parking section of the lot and takes a few more calming breaths, trying to slow his racing heart before he steps out onto the pavement. As he typically does with all new schools, once he leaves the safety of his vehicle, he keeps his eyes down and starts walking, not wanting to be met with the staring and pointing that inevitably happens when people notice ‘the new kid’. He only glances up long enough to follow the signs for the main office, which is where he was told to go.

“Hi. I’m a new student here,” Luka tells the older lady at the front desk. She is wearing red, thick-rimmed glasses with lipstick to match. She smiles, and Luka notices a few lipstick stains on her teeth. Her hair is also red and teased up. The higher the hair, the closer to heaven, he supposes. She looks like she just strolled out of the 80s.

“Lukas Thomas?” she asks, her thick southern accent prominent as she types something into a computer that looks about as old as her. Well, maybe not that old, but still not as high tech as it could be.

“It’s actually Luka,” he corrects, rolling his eyes. He is so used to people getting his name wrong, but it will always annoy him just a bit. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, darlin’,” she apologizes, smiling again, her yellow teeth looking even more stained against the red dots of lipstick. 

“It’s okay, ma’am,” he answers politely, beginning to tap his fingers on the surface of her desk, needing a release for his nervous energy.

“Okay,” she says as she stands up from her desk, and for the first time, Luka notices she is also wearing something that looks like it is from the 80s. Jesus, he loves the decade, but this is a bit much. She walks around her desk and uses one long bony finger to motion for someone to come in. Luka turns to see a student with longish dark brown hair and deep brown eyes make his way through the glass door of the office, smiling at him. He returns the smile because at least this boy isn’t looking at him curiously like everyone else. 

“Luka. This is Ezra Carter. He is going to show you around a bit, then take you to your first class,” the woman says, gesturing towards the other boy.

“Hiya. Nice to meetcha,” Ezra greets, eyes crinkling with his smile. He grabs Luka’s outstretched hand for a shake, and Luka instantly likes him. Something about him seems warm and caring. Maybe they will be friends. Well, that is if Luka allows it. He hates the thought of leaving yet another person behind.

“Hi. Nice to meet you, too,” Luka returns, smiling as well.

“Come on. I’ll give you a quick tour. Shouldn’t take very long since the school ain’t very big. We have pretty much the same schedule, and I play football, too. I think that’s why they asked me to show ya around,” Ezra says, gesturing for Luka to follow him.

“Makes sense.”

“Yeah. So this is a super small school. Shouldn’t take you long to learn your way around. Let’s start with your locker,” Ezra starts, walking down a hallway to the right, lined with trophy cases. “You’ll find that you will be in class with generally the same people all day, every day. It’s based on test scores. They want to make sure kids are taking classes with other kids who are on their level, academically. The only classes that’ll differ are general courses, like foreign languages and fine arts.” 

Luka nods along, listening to Ezra ramble about the school and pointing out various things, mostly understanding him, even with his heavy accent. They get to Luka’s locker, where he successfully opens the combination lock, then they go on a quick tour. Luka is thankful that it seems class has already started, so he doesn’t have to deal with the staring.

“Alright, time to go to our first class, I suppose,” Ezra says with a chuckle, although Luka didn’t find the statement all that funny. They walk into the choir classroom and a hush falls instantly, all of the students’ eyes trained on them.

Chapter 2

Harlan hits the snooze button on his alarm for the fifth time that morning, not wanting to go to school at all. He groans, looking at the clock. He doesn’t have time to shower or anything before he has to catch the bus. Fuck. Why does school have to start so godsdamned early? He rubs his entire face in a weak attempt at waking himself up. He really should have gone to bed last night at a halfway decent time, but he was reading and didn’t want to stop. Not like there is anyone to make him go to bed anyways.

He rolls out of bed and finds the nearest pair of black skinny jeans laying on the floor. He stumbles to his dresser, pulling out one of his many black band t-shirts. He doesn’t even pay attention to which one it is as he pulls it over his mop of curls. He grabs all of his bracelets, putting them on one at a time, making sure they take up most of his forearms, covering his scars. Next, he puts on his necklaces, pulling them over his head so that they lay flat against his t-shirt. He slips each ring on, one by one, enjoying the feel of the cool metal against his skin.

He goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth, squinting at the harsh overhead light. He looks bad. Despite the fact that it’s summer, his skin is pale, and there are dark rings around his eyes. He shrugs at his reflection. He isn’t trying to impress anyone. No one will even notice him, like normal. He is just the weird kid. Most people at his school simply try to ignore his existence, or they are scared of him. They think he is a Satanist or something, going to cast a spell on them. He doesn’t care. It gets them to leave him the fuck alone.

He finishes his minimal bathroom routine and goes down to the kitchen to grab an apple, not having time for actual breakfast. His mom has left him a note on the fridge, saying she is working both jobs today, so she won’t be home until late. He sighs, mentally preparing himself for another lonely evening. Maybe he will find something to get into, but probably not. 

He doesn’t know if his mom actually loves him or just does the minimum to keep him alive because she has to. She is never around, but to be fair, she is a single mom. Just to put food on the table for him and his sister, she has had to work two jobs since his dad left when he was younger. Things have been easier on her since Emma moved out, but she still works a lot.

He eats his apple as he makes his way to the bus stop, his friend Cadeon greeting him with a huge smile. Harlan just rolls his eyes, but allows his lips to curl into a soft smile. Cadeon is like an overexcited puppy, but he is Harlan’s best friend. His only friend, really. Cadeon is one of those rare people who is liked by everyone and can fit in with any crowd. He is friends with everyone at school and fits into all the cliques easily. He sticks with Harlan the most though, and it’s only because Harlan has told Cadeon all of his secrets. He is too nice to let Harlan always be alone.

“Hey, I didn’t think you’d make it,” Cadeon greets him, hugging his friend like he didn’t just see him yesterday. Cadeon knows that Harlan hates hugs, but that doesn’t stop him for a second.

“Yeah. I was up late last night,” Harlan responds, shrugging his hunched up shoulders.

“With a boy?” Cadeon asks with an exaggerated wink.

“Fuck off, and keep that shit down. I am trying to not die on my first day of school,” Harlan whispers, but Cadeon just rolls his eyes.

“Come on, you know I’d protect’cha.”

“If you could keep your big fucking mouth shut, then I wouldn’t need protection,” Harlan hisses, but there is no bite in his tone. He loves Cadeon too much to actually be mad. Not that he actually gives a flying fuck what people think of him. His sexuality would be just one more thing to add to the list of ‘weird’ if they were to know. He just doesn’t want to deal with that kind of crisis in his senior year. He would rather just move far away for college and become his own person; however, that’s probably not even in the cards for him. He can’t afford it. People like him don’t get to go to college. It’s as simple as that. 

“So what classes are you in?” Cadeon asks, talking over the screeching of the bus’ brakes as it pulls to a stop in front of them. They both get on, Cadeon heading straight to the back with Harlan hot on his heels. Cadeon greets everyone while Harlan tries not to make eye contact.

“Here,” Harlan says, thrusting his schedule at Cadeon.

“Fuck yeah, we have all the same classes except for Art!” Cadeon exclaims, clearly happy about this turn of events.

“Awesome. Maybe I won’t be terribly miserable,” Harlan says, closing his eyes and resting his head on the seat in front of him. He just wants to go back to bed. Cadeon chats on and on about how he hopes the first day of school is going to go. Harlan doesn’t even think Cadeon would realize it if he put his earbuds in to block out the noise, but he doesn’t want to do that to his friend. He may be an ass, but he isn’t that rude.

They get off the bus and walk to choir class together, stopping at Cadeon’s new locker on the way. Harlan doesn’t bother going to his. He didn’t bring anything except his ancient cell phone, a pen, a notebook, and the brown, leather-bound journal he takes everywhere with him. Harlan is actually looking forward to this class and creative writing, but he doesn’t voice this. He has had choir since the beginning of his high school career, even though he was only required to take it once. He enjoys music and singing. The ease of the class also provides a needed break from some of his harder ones, like Physics and Chemistry.

The room is set up with three rows of brown chairs all facing the front of the room. Harlan and Cadeon immediately go to the section where the baritones will be seated, familiar with the layout since they have both been in the class before. Mr. Tennant will probably make them test their vocal range again, since it can change with age, but both boys are pretty confident this is where they will end up. Cadeon keeps talking because he literally never shuts up. As more people begin to filter into the room, Cadeon greets each of them, starting a conversation. Seriously, how does he have the energy this early in the morning?

Harlan, for his part, just ignores everyone with his eyes trained firmly to the front of the room waiting for class to start, thinking about how boring this year is going to be. He contemplates, for the fourteenth time that morning, putting his ear buds in and drowning out everything with some rather loud music; however, class will start soon and Mr. Tennant would just make him turn it off. Sure enough, a few moments later the last bell rings, signaling the beginning of class. Mr. Tennant takes roll, then starts bringing each student up one by one to test their vocal range, assigning them the appropriate section afterward.

When it’s Harlan’s turn, he walks to the front of the room, hating the feeling of all eyes on him. Thankfully, the other students are allowed to talk amongst themselves while their peers are being tested. It still doesn’t ease his apprehension, though. Cadeon gives him a thumbs up, which kind of helps. 

He pushes down the anxiety making its way up his throat and walks over to the piano. Mr. Tennant does an excellent job of making it painless because he understands that not everyone is a good singer, nor do they like being in front of people. Mr. Tennant, however, has told Harlan on multiple occasions that he is a great singer, and he would give him a solo if he just asked. Harlan ignores his comments, being perfectly happy to just be the weird kid in the corner.

“Baritone,” Mr. Tennant starts with a smile, “but you can go as low as some bass notes. Well done.”

“Thanks,” Harlan mumbles, making his way back to his seat, feeling as though his cheeks are on fire at the compliment. Cadeon is called next, his results being a steady baritone. Before he knows it, everyone in the room is seated in their appropriate sections. Like normal, most of the girls are sopranos and a few are contraltos. Most of the boys are baritones, like him and Cadeon, with a few basses and tenors in the mix.

Mr. Tennant is in the front of the room beginning their lecture when the door opens. All eyes are immediately drawn to the pair entering the room. One guy Harlan recognizes as Ezra Carter. He is a jock and in his senior year as well. He has never explicitly made fun of Harlan, but he has also never really talked to him outside of the classroom. He has a good voice, though. His falsetto is killer. 

The other guy, however, Harlan doesn’t recognize, which is odd for a small town. He is quite attractive, even though he is preppy and clearly a jock. He is short with shapely legs, brown hair, lightly tanned skin, and freckles. His eyes, though. His eyes are a clear shade of blue, framed with ridiculously long eyelashes. Okay. He is cute. Very, very cute, but completely off limits. A guy like that would never even talk to Harlan, let alone actually date him. He is probably straight anyway, like everyone else in this godsforsaken town.

“Mr. Tennant,” Ezra addresses his teacher, “Sorry I’m late, sir. I was showin’ our new student around the school. This is Luka Thomas.” Ezra then goes to take a seat beside Cadeon, knowing that Mr. Tennant probably wouldn’t make him test his range.

“Hi, Luka. Nice to meet you. I’m glad you could join us this morning,” Mr. Tennant smiles reassuringly. “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, then we can test your vocal range.”

Harlan watches a blush creep up Luka’s freckled cheeks, turning them the prettiest shade of dark pink, to match his lips. Luka doesn’t seem to want to do this, but he finally turns towards the class as a whole and gives them a tentative smile. 

“Hi,” he starts with a small wave. “As already established, my name’s Luka. I hate doing these things. I’m an Army brat, so I’ve moved around a lot. My family just moved here last weekend. I guess I will be playing football.” His voice is high and raspy, his accent very different from any Harlan has ever heard before, except on the television. He doesn’t really have an accent, that’s the thing. Everyone in this town sounds like a donkey eating an apple, but Luka is different. 

 “Very good. Come over here, and we can test your range to see where you will be seated,” Mr. Tennant instructs. Luka does as he is asked and makes his way to the piano at the front of the room. When he starts to sing, Harlan is mesmerized by it. His voice is the most beautiful kind of oxymoron. It is light and raspy, but somehow bright with great projection. He sounds how silk feels, and it gives Harlan shivers.

“Don’t see new kids very often ‘round here,” Cadeon’s voice breaks into his subconscious, effectively taking his attention away from Luka and his voice.

“What? Oh, no. We don’t. Seems like another jock, though, so he should fit right in,” Harlan replies, bitterness seeping into his tone.

“Ya never know, he may be different,” Cadeon observes, right as Mr. Tennant compliments Luka on his voice and seats him with the tenors of the class, on the other side of the room from the baritones.

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Meet Harlan Sharp

Harlan Sharp has lived in a small, religious community his entire life, but that doesn’t mean he’s anything like them. He’s always known he was different, but quickly learned from a very young age that different is bad. Different is how people get hurt, that and trusting others. 

He wears dark clothes, paints his nails black, outlines his eyes in liner, and does everything he can to keep the other kids away. His only friend is Cadeon, and he plans to keep that way. He keeps his heart behind a wall and his secrets close to his chest. 

The other kids at school seem to think he’s a Satan Worshipper, but that’s far from the truth. Harlan stopped believing in God when a traumatic experience from his childhood left him scared and angry at the world. 

He is just trying to survive senior year so he can move out of his shitty town and finally get away from the memories that haunt him. It’s not like anyone would notice his absence. His own mother ignores his very existence and his father fucked off long ago. He goes to bed hungry and alone more often than not. 

More about Harlan: 

  • Brown, curly hair 
  • Green eyes 
  • Dimples 
  • Tall and lanky 
  • Slightly punk rock
  • Activities: Writing and Music 
  • Best friends with Cadeon

Learn more about Harlan, and how he begins to slowly let down his guard around others by pre-ordering your copy of Born in Sickness: Book one of the Take me to Church Series. 

Review of Musical Notes by Beth Bolden

I love to read almost as much as I love to write. The other day, I downloaded a lovely little book titled Musical Notes by Beth Bolden. I thought I would review it on my blog. This is my first ever book review, but I am excited to embark on this facet of becoming a career author. I will try to avoid spoilers in this review, but there may be a few that sneak in accidentally. I apologize.

Summary:

Musical Notes is a short book about two teachers who spend half of the year dancing around each other. Carter Bennett is shy and a self proclaimed nerd. He never thought the new, ridiculously attractive gym teacher, Nolan, would give him the time of day. Because of this, Carter avoids the other teacher at all cost. 

Everything changes one day when the principal of the school calls them both into his office. Nolan thinks he is in trouble, but it turns out the principal is in dire need of help. The school is on the brink of finally getting a theatre program, but the previous teacher that was conducting the school play suddenly ran off with her lover. He asks Carter and Nolan to take over in her wake. 

It seems as though they’ve inherited a mess and the production is on the brink of collapse. It forces the two men to spend all of their free time together, inadvertently getting to know each other in the process, flaws and all. Nolan’s adorable flirtation and Carter’s astounding innocence will have you hooked from the start.

Category:

Musical Notes by Beth Bolden is a work of fiction and is a mlm (male loving male) romance novel.

Review:

I really enjoyed Musical Notes. It was a fun little read that was light hearted in all the right places. It had very little angst or sadness, which is great when your life is shit and you need a pick-me-up. There was such a sweet innocence about this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Carter’s character is very relatable for me because I am a bit of a self proclaimed nerd as well, but I also found bits of myself in Nolan. He was funny and sure of himself, but a complete stuttering mess around Carter. It was so cute. I am pretty sure I had heart eyes the entire time I was reading. 

I also found Musical Notes funny with a lot of witty banter. The way Carter and Nolan interacted from the very beginning just left me wanting more. I also loved how caring Nolan was. It was a breath of fresh air since his character was supposed to align more with the typical ‘jock’ stereotype. I found myself grinning dopely at my Kindle, thoroughly invested in their budding relationship. 

I will say that this book doesn’t have a lot of steamy scenes. There are a few, very short bits of smut, but nothing much further than a blowjob. I will admit, that part left me a tiny bit dissatisfied. It’s like it had me on the edge, but never actually got me there. I personally enjoy a bit of sexy parts in my books, but I know they aren’t for everyone and that’s okay. I would still highly recommend this book just the same. It was a lovely read, and I will definitely return to it on days when I’m sad or need a bit of fluff.

If you would like to read this book yourself, you can find it linked below!

Follow me for more reviews, tips on writing, and book updates! If you would like me to read your book and review it, please contact me on any of my social medias below!

Born in Sickness- Book One of the Take me to Church Series

I am so incredibly excited to announce the release of this book and reveal the cover here on my blog! I plan to write another blog soon with how this series came about. Thank you so much for your continuous support.

Summary:

Luka Thomas has been raised in a God fearing family who never misses a church service. When they move to the Bible Belt right before his senior year of high school, he knows he’ll blend right in. Sort of. He’s just always been the “play now, beg God for forgiveness later” sort of Christian. He’s young, entitled to make mistakes. Being gay is a sin, so he’s not gay. He’s just a guy with an itch to scratch. After college, he plans to marry a woman, settle down, have children and beg God for forgiveness for the sins of his youth. It’s a solid plan. God is a merciful deity. Right? 

Then he meets Harlan Sharp and begins to question everything he knew to be true. 

Harlan stopped believing in a higher power when an event in his past left him questioning everything and angry at the world. He’s just trying to get through his final year of high school the same way he’s gotten through all of the previous years: by laying low and not making a scene. His well laid plans change when the new kid at school seems to have developed a fascination with him. 

Telling Luka he’s an atheist doesn’t seem to deter him nor does blatantly ignoring all of Luka’s attempts at conversation. Luck isn’t on Harlan’s side in this at all since they have almost every class together and always seem to bump into each other, even outside of school. Luka has even managed to somehow weasel his way into Harlan’s very exclusive friend group. It’s as if the God Harlan doesn’t believe in is laughing at him. 

The Take me to Church Series is a real depiction of falling in love in high school as a gay teen amidst the rampant homophobia of the south and the mental health issues many people face. It’s explicit in the ways that life is. It’s raw, beautiful and real. Readers will scream in anger and cry in pain but also laugh in joy and healing as they grow with these characters.

Cover Photo created by Bibi. Follow her Instagram: @moon_sun_thyme
Cover Design- Daria. Follow her Twitter: @ghostiemedicine

The book has a tentative release date of March 23, 2021. Follow me on my social medias below, so you don’t miss any updates on pre-ordering your very own copy. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on the homepage of this website!

Choreographing Smut: 10 Tips for Writing Sex Scenes

First I would like to start with a disclaimer. This blog post is going to be 18+. It will contain adult content and somewhat explicit words/imagery. If this makes you uncomfortable in any way, please do not proceed. You can check out my other blogs, they are a bit more tame, yet informative. 

Also note that I primarily write mlm romance, but a lot of these suggestions work for all romance genres. I’ve written a variety of different types of pairings including mlm, flf, heterosexual, and threesomes. I have also written many different sexual situations and scenes including BDSM. That is a topic for a different day, though. If you would like to see a blog post about BDSM smut specifically, leave a like or come visit me on any of my social media platforms!  

I think it goes without saying that the amount of detail you put into your smut scenes is up to you and your target audience. If it’s erotica, I think a lot of detail is called for. I personally like a lot of detail anyway, but some people prefer to just focus on the emotional aspect rather than the physical. If you are one of those people, then that is perfectly fine and acceptable. 

Choreography

Keep in mind that writing smut is like choreographing a dance. I am not a dancer, but to me it is a similar concept. Smut is all about movement, knowing where the bodies are, how the limbs are moving, and the feeling you get from it. It’s about movements and shapes. The beat of their hearts serves at the rhythm for their bodies. It’s a dance between two people but they aren’t always doing the same steps or even listening to the same song.

Map The Scene

I know I say something like this in every single blog post, but it’s important to have a plan. I’m not saying you should know every detail, but I find it really helps me if I have a general idea of what is going to happen and sometimes why it needs to happen. This could be something as simple as knowing which positions I want them in while writing the scene. 

Why?

This isn’t always necessary, depending on the type of the smut that you’re writing. If you are just going for erotica, then it may not actually matter why, but if you’re writing a romance novel with a plot and character development, then the why will matter. Are they hate fucking? Is it make up sex? Is it the couple’s first time? Is one of them a virgin? Does one of them need to be comforted? If so, how does that change their dynamic in the scene?

The Five Senses

This is important when writing anything really, but it is especially important while writing smut. Don’t forget to use every sense. Do their lips taste sweet like vanilla or minty like toothpaste? Does their heartbeat sound erratic? Does their skin feel sweaty? Does their hair look messy or disheveled? Does the bed smell like them or does the room just smell like sex?

Clothes

This one sounds kind of ridiculous, but you have no idea how many times I’ve been reading a smut scene and suddenly they are both naked, but I have no idea how it happened. Don’t forget that they are probably wearing clothes in the beginning of the scene, even if it’s just underwear. If they are both fully dressed, don’t forget about the little things like socks and shoes. Those things don’t just disappear. It could be just something as easy as adding a line about how they both got fully undressed.

Surroundings

Very similar to clothes, as a writer, you cannot forget about their surroundings. Are they in a bedroom? Are the lights off? Did they need to turn them on? Are they in the bathroom of a nightclub? Describe these things. If they are in the bathroom of a night club, then things may be rushed, and you’ll have to describe things like the dull thud of the music. If they are in a bedroom, they can take their time. Does one of them have a condom? Are they using a condom? If not, has it already been established why? If you’re writing mlm, where is the lube? Do they have it in the drawer or in a packet in their pocket? If the writer forgets these things, it can be jarring for the reader. A condom doesn’t just suddenly appear on a cock. All it takes is a sentence to eliminate confusion.

Feelings

This could be both physical and emotional. If one of the people in the scene is a virgin, it may be painful for them at first. This experience is new for them, so you have to try to describe it from the point of view of someone who hasn’t ever had these experiences before. As far as emotional feelings go, that depends on where you are in the story and what was happening before the scene takes place. Just keep in mind where your characters are mentally as well as physically.

Dirty Talk

I love dirty talk, but write it only if you’re comfortable doing so. I think dirty talk makes the scene so much hotter, but I also try to keep it in character. If one of your characters is a virgin, then they may not dirty talk as much because they aren’t comfortable. Writing their reaction as the other person dirty talks is always fun though.

Don’t Rush It

Ultimately, it’s your choice on how detailed, long, and graphic you want the smut scene to be, but I prefer mine not to be rushed. I don’t think you should spend 15,000 words droning on and on about how his cock is throbbing, but don’t be afraid to write good, detailed smut scenes, especially if it is meant to be an emotional one. It’s not just about the physical act, but the emotional one as well. Yes, sometimes smut is just smut, but sometimes it needs to be more. Rushing it can take away from what sex is supposed to be: a connection with another person. 

Well that’s all I have for today. I could probably come up with more, but this is the foundation. If you would like, in future blogs, I can write tips for smut in different categories like public sex, quick and dirty, BDSM, long and loving, etc. I want to write what you think is helpful as a writer yourself. If you have any suggestions, you can email me or contact me on any of my social media platforms listed below!

Excerpt from All Wrapped Up: A Holiday Novella

All Wrapped Up was created based on a prompt from a very good friend. I told her I would write it if she helped me with the gift ideas because I am absolutely horrible at picking gifts. Thankfully, she agreed, and this novella was born.

It was very challenging for me. In all honesty, it almost got scrapped halfway through because I thought the reader would find it boring due to the limited in-person interaction between the main characters. I kept writing, though, and was very pleased with the final result. It’s fluffy and fifthly, and seriously, that’s the best way to spend the holiday.

Below you will find an excerpt from All Wrapped Up. I chose these particular scenes because I thought it would give you all an idea of how very different these characters are. To give it some context, the main characters completed a survey for their university’s annual Secret Santa Gift Exchange. This excerpt takes you through their responses, then the first gift that is given. Click here to purchase All Wrapped Up. It’s only .99c!

“Did ya get your assignment?” Seamus asks, waking Nate again from yet another nap. He is going to have to change the fucking lock. They are a week away from Thanksgiving break, and Nate’s brain has already checked out, which is a fucking shame since finals are right around the corner. 

“Don’t know. Haven’t checked,” Nate mumbles, snuggling back down into his bed and closing his eyes again, hoping his annoying excuse of a roommate will get the picture. 

“Well, check. I wanna know!” Seamus exclaims, and Nate can feel it when his laptop is balanced precariously on his hip. Maybe breaking in a new roommate wouldn’t be so bad after all. Kill Seamus now, get a new roommate by next semester. Simple as that. No-fuss, no muss. Maybe his new roommate will let him fucking sleep and not make him fill out a stupid Secret Santa gift exchange. Who does Nate have to blow around here to get a decent fucking nap? Not Seamus that’s for fucking sure because that is just gross. 

“If I check, will you fuck off and let me go back to sleep?” Nate asks, not even opening his eyes. 

“Nate, it’s five in the afternoon. If you nap now, you’ll never sleep tonight.”

“What are you, my mother? We’re in college. There is no such thing as a sleep schedule,” Nate responds, finally opening his eyes just to glare at Seamus, but his roommate is unperturbed. Fucking asshole. Yes, a new roommate that hasn’t known him since they were five and is still very intimidated by Nate. That is all Nate wants for Christmas, a new fucking roommate. Maybe he should have put that on his fucking survey. Too bad Santa doesn’t exist.

“Come on. Just see who you got.” Seamus smiles, looking pointedly at Nate’s computer, still balancing on his hip. After a few minutes of a staring contest, Nate finally rolls his eyes and sighs, grabbing his laptop and sitting upon his bed. He makes quick work of logging into his school email, finding the survey results as the first item in his inbox. 

“Okay. I’m doing it,” Nate grumbles, skimming over this person’s answers. 

  1. Number Assigned: 28
  2. Sex: I thought we were past these types of questions. I am a male, and I identify as one. However, I tend to like things that are more on the ‘feminine’ side. 
  3. Major: Pre-Law
  4. Why did you choose that major: I want to help people who can’t help themselves. Many people can’t afford a lawyer, so oftentimes, social injustices exist in our system. If you are poor, you are more likely to go to prison because you couldn’t afford a lawyer. This can lead to false imprisonment simply because you are from a lower socioeconomic status. It’s not fair, and I would like to change that. I have also considered changing my major, but I’m not sure.    
  5. Favorite Food: Avocados. There is just so much you can do with them, and they are so healthy. You can put them in a smoothie, have them on toast, or even eat them in sushi. 
  6. Favorite Drink: Water. It’s good for you and allows your skin to stay hydrated. If I had to pick something other than water, I think I would go with Matcha tea. It has healing and energizing properties and is better for you than coffee. It is also rich in antioxidants, fiber, chlorophyll, and vitamins. 
  7. Hobby: Playing guitar and writing music. I learned to play the guitar when I was thirteen and started writing music when I was sixteen. I am also learning to play the piano, but I’m not that good yet. I usually participate in open mic nights at bars around campus. I also love karaoke. 
  8. Favorite Movie: The Notebook. That one is easy. It is such a beautifully heartbreaking love story. I hope someday to find a love like that. One that will last throughout the ages. 
  9. Favorite Book: Harry Potter Series. It has been my favorite since my sister read me the first one when I was 8 years old. Some of my favorite memories are of her reading them to me, then finally getting old enough to read them myself. I own all of them in three different versions. I am a Ravenclaw, in case you were wondering.  
  10. Favorite Store: Gucci, but that obviously won’t work for this since they don’t have anything below around 200 dollars (yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds). I just have expensive taste, I guess. But I would be happy with literally anything from Walmart, the Dollar Store, or Target. It’s the thought that counts. 
  11. Favorite TV show to binge-watch on Netflix: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know it’s considered a ‘chick show, but I love it so much. I just think it is so well done and thought out. It is a feminist masterpiece that takes a traditionally male character and puts a blonde female cheerleader in his place. It completely flips the gender roles and does it in a believable way. She feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders, but she keeps fighting. That is the best part of the whole thing. That she keeps fighting and winning even though she feels guilty for all of her misdeeds. It teaches young girls that they can be a badass and still have emotions. They don’t need to be like a man because they are perfect being themselves.    
  12. Favorite genre of music/band: Rock and Indy, but I will listen to anything as long as it makes me feel something. My favorite band is probably Fleetwood Mac if I had to pick only one. 
  13. Favorite Holiday Memory: One time, my mom fell and hurt her leg right before we were supposed to host our family’s holiday get together. She always cooks for everything. She couldn’t really cook when her leg was hurt. We couldn’t expect her to stand in pain for hours. That would be cruel. My brother, sister, and I stepped in to help her. She sat at the table and drank wine the entire time. She got increasingly more drunk as the day wore on, and she walked my siblings and me through the steps of each dish. It was pretty disastrous by the last dish since she was so drunk, she couldn’t remember her name, let alone a recipe. At one point, she even told us to use a cup of salt instead of flour; thankfully, we figured that one out. By the end of it, we were giggling, and we had made a mess. It was the best holiday ever because we spent all of it altogether in the kitchen, just chatting. It was lovely, even though my mom was hurt. When the family came over, it was great because the kitchen was a mess, we had food all over us, and mom was drunk. They didn’t know what to think, but we all just laughed at their reactions and eventually ate the food. 
  14. Favorite Sports Team/ Sport: Quidditch I know that doesn’t count. Maybe yoga? Does that count? I just started doing yoga for my body, but it also helps my mind. I hope you will try it out sometime. I am just, truthfully, not that into sports, but I do love running and yoga. It keeps me limber and healthy. 
  15. Shirt size: Medium or small. I have a long torso, so it’s sometimes hard to tell. 
  16. Favorite Color: Pink because it’s pretty, and everyone should feel pretty. 
  17. What is one thing about you that most people don’t know: Sometimes I get really anxious when I have to speak or perform publicly. Most people think I am charismatic and charming or whatever, but I still get stage fright sometimes. Not many others know that about me, though. 
  18. Favorite Scent: Sunshine? I know this isn’t technically a scent, but I love the smell of a warm day. It just makes me feel so happy and warm, just the smell alone. 
  19. Favorite chocolate/sweet: Ferrero Rocher probably. I love hazelnut, and because it is mixed with chocolate, it makes it that much better.  
  20. Favorite holiday song: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. I just love how upbeat and peppy it is. Like you want to get up and dance to it. It isn’t boring like other Christmas songs. My family and I always played it growing up on Christmas Eve as we wrapped some presents and sang and danced along. 
  21. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I will actually be going to Europe during my break, just to visit for the first time. My mom doesn’t want me to go alone, but I think I am going to. It seems fun, and I love learning about cultures and exploring different cities. I can’t think past that for the moment. I am really looking forward to it. 

“Oh great, I got a rich, gay, hipster dude who wants to change the world. Fucking winning,” Nate says sarcastically after he skims over the answers, not even bothering to read the long-winded ones because he doesn’t have time to read a fucking book. 

“You’re gay. Plus, how do you even know he’s gay? I think you’re jumping to conclusions just to be an asshole, Nate,” Seamus responds, pointing at him threateningly. Nate knows he could take him, though. He is quick and scrappy, whereas Seamus is far too nice to do any actual harm. 

“His favorite movie is The Notebook. His favorite color is pink, and when asked about his sex, he went into this whole spiel about gender conformity, for fuck’s sake. The dude is gay,” Nate defends, voice getting higher with each answer he lists off. Nate knows gay when he sees it, or in this case, reads it. He has been gay his entire life, after all, so he is no stranger to it. His gaydar is impressive, even if he does say so himself.

“Give him a chance. He could be fun. You’re just grumpy because you didn’t nap,” Seamus argues, and Nate can’t exactly tell him he’s wrong. He may be right, but Nate also would never admit that. He just bets this person talks slow, based on the rambling nature of his answers. Suddenly, he has a brilliant plan as to what he wants the first present to be. It should be easy enough, but it just may make him an asshole. 

____________

“They’re here, Z! Oh my God! I’m so nervous. Why am I nervous?” Roman exclaims, jumping when he sees a new email in his school inbox labeled ‘Secret Santa Survey Exchange.’ He hovers his mouse over it but doesn’t click. His fingers are shaking with anticipation, hoping that whoever he is paired with has a good sense of humor.

Zac just laughs at Roman’s antics, shaking his head and pulling out his phone so that he can look at the survey without actually getting on his laptop. Roman wants his computer, though, feeling like he can understand it better on a bigger screen. He knows that it is stupid, but he can’t help it. He just wants to make sure he gets every detail down. 

He takes a deep breath and opens the email, reading each answer carefully.  

  1. Number Assigned: 28
  2. Sex: Yes. The answer is always yes, and I am a male.  
  3. Major: Theatre 
  4. Why did you choose that Major: Because I like to make people laugh
  5. Favorite Food: Anything greasy and can cure a hangover
  6. Favorite Drink: Coffee or Yorkshire Tea. I need caffeine.
  7. Hobby: I play piano, occasionally. I also love soccer and video games. Video games count as a hobby, right? If you don’t think so, you’re wrong.
  8. Favorite Movie: Grease 
  9. Favorite Book: Don’t read. It’s against my religion.
  10. Favorite Store: Dick’s Sporting Goods. Adidas is my favorite athletic brand. What can I say… I love dicks. 
  11. Favorite genre of music/band: I like a little bit of everything. Mostly punk rock, but I want it to sound interesting. 
  12. Favorite TV show to binge-watch on Netflix: Friends
  13. Favorite Holiday Memory: Staying up late with my mom to help her wrap my sister’s presents the night before because, of course, she put it off. She usually let me have wine or beer with her, then we would get to wrapping, getting them all done at like 3 am only for them to be ripping it all off again 2 hours later. We had the best conversations those nights. 
  14. Favorite Sports Team/ Sport: I love soccer even though it’s not big in the US. My grandmother still lives in the UK, so I grew up with it. My favorite team is the Doncaster Rovers.
  15. Shirt Size: Small, but I sometimes like to wear my clothes baggy
  16. Favorite Color: Blue 
  17. What is one thing about you that most people don’t know: I spent my summers in England with my grandparents growing up, so when I am drunk or tired, I will sometimes slip into an English accent. Random AF, I know.
  18. Favorite Scent: Tobacco… if you think that’s weird, you can fuck right off 
  19. Favorite chocolate/sweet: Maltesers, they are hard to find in the US, but my grandparents always gave them to me as a special treat. 
  20. Favorite Holiday song: Santa Baby hahaha
  21. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I think I would go back to Doncaster to visit my grandma. She is getting old, and we don’t know how much longer she will be with us. It would be nice to see her again. 

“Well?” Zac asks, snapping Roman out of his read over of the person’s answers for the fifth time. 

“I think I’m in love,” Roman responds, laughing at the mystery man’s answer for favorite scent. He is sassy, and Roman likes him already. 

“Isn’t that a bit soon. You don’t even know if he’s gay,” Zac reasons, giving Roman a very confused look. 

“His favorite movie is Grease,” Roman points out, and when Zac still doesn’t look convinced, he then adds, “His favorite store is Dick’s Sporting Goods because and I quote ‘what can I say… I love dicks’.” Zac’s mouth drops open at the statement, and Roman allows a wide grin to take over his face. 

“Okay, maybe you got me there,” Zac concedes, nodding his head at Roman once he finally closes his mouth. “But I still think it is a bit too early for love.” He chuckles with the statement, but Roman isn’t so sure. When he looks back down at the guy’s answers. His chest flutters and his stomach does a weird jumping thing. 

“What’s the first gift category?” Roman asks, mind already whirring with possibilities. He has the sudden urge to spoil this person, but he knows there is a limit to how much he is allowed to spend. Maybe he can exceed that just a tiny little bit, though. 

“Umm…” Zac looks at his phone for a few minutes before looking back up. “The first category is food.” Roman bites his lip, mind whirling with ideas. He could go for something simple and easy, but he doesn’t want that. He wants his gift to be unique, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of time. The gifts are due in two weeks, so he needs to find them quickly. 

“Where are you going?” Zac asks, staring at Roman as if he has lost his mind. He may have, but that’s not the point. The point is, he has a gift to find, and it may be nearly impossible to find it. He needs to start now. 

“Going to get the first gift, and maybe the others if inspiration strikes,” Roman responds, slipping on his jacket and grabbing his keys, wallet, and cell phone from his desk. 

“You have two weeks, though,” Zac argues, the line between his brows deepening, becoming more pronounced as he draws them in confusion.

“May take me awhile. Don’t wait up,” Roman responds, then waves and is out the door. 

___________

Two Weeks Later… 

“Hi, I am here to deliver the Secret Santa Gift Exchange’s first round of presents. Is this the room of Nate and Seamus,” a cheerful girl asks when Nate opens the door after hearing a knock. She looks far too peppy, with a too-wide smile and black thick-rimmed glasses. She is wearing bright red lipstick and a Santa hat. She is even wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, and Nate kind of wants to smother her with it. 

“Yeah. I’m Nate,” he answers.

“Okay. I just need you to sign here, and I will give you and your roommate your gifts,” she replies, still fucking smiling. Don’t her cheeks hurt? Jesus. She shoves a clipboard at him, and he signs his name by his and Seamus’ room number. She then hands him two small packages. 

“Thanks.” He takes them from her, and places them in one arm then rubs his eyes tiredly. He needs to take his contacts out; his eyes are getting itchy from overwear. She waves then wheels her cart full of packages over to the next door. He kicks his own door shut with one barefoot before he even hears her knock on their neighbor’s door. 

“Ooohhh, it’s the presents!” Seamus exclaims, pushing his homework to the side and rubbing his hands together excitedly. Nate chuckles, remembering what he had bought for his Secret Santa. The gift labeled for him is in a smallish sized box, maybe big enough for a large mug. It is wrapped carefully in brown paper with pink designs. 

Nate can actually feel them under his fingers since they are embossed into the paper. Around it is a pink ribbon interlaced with a brown one, both tied into a bow. Nate shakes it, his curiosity starting to peak, but it doesn’t make a sound. He throws Seamus’ gift to him, without even looking up, too interested in his own present to pay attention. 

“Aren’t you gonna open it?” Seamus asks, and Nate can hear the confusion in his voice. 

“It’s almost too pretty to open,” Nate responds, barely above a whisper. He just can’t believe someone would waste so much time and energy on something so trivial. He has no idea what it could be, and a warmness is already spreading throughout his chest. However, his guilt over his own chosen present is threatening to strangle him. He looks at the tag, rubbing his finger gently over the messy all caps letters of his Secret Santa. 

To: Number 28

All the Love: Your Secret Santa 

“For fuck’s sake, just open it,” Seamus yells, pulling Nate out of his thoughts. He throws a pillow at Seamus because that’s what he deserves and rips into the pretty wrapping paper. Inside is a plain white box with obvious hand-drawn trees, snowflakes, snowmen, and all things Christmas-y on every side, and Nate is even more confused. On top, in the same messy scrawl, it reads, ‘Hope these bring good memories. Enjoy XX’ in big, bold letters, written in what is clearly green sharpie. 

He pulls the lid off the box carefully, his breath hitching when he registers what’s inside. He blinks back tears as he pulls the plastic-wrapped item out, memories from summers long ago flooding back to him. The smell of his grandparent’s house on warm summer days and the rainy ones, too. Playing football with his younger sisters in the back garden. The taste of his nan’s cooking, but she would always sneak him some of these before dinner even though his mom said it would ruin his appetite. All of them come flooding back like a tidal wave, and Nate wants to cry from it all. 

“Oh, my God. How did he find these? I haven’t even been able to find them anywhere. I didn’t even think they were sold in the US!” Nate exclaims, carefully pulling out the bag of Maltesers from the box, eyes lighting up like a kid on Christmas. Nate supposes it is almost Christmas, but he never expected to get such a special gift, especially from a stranger. 

Suddenly a wave of guilt hits him over the ‘presents’ he bought for his Secret Santa, making him feel sick to his stomach. Fuck. He feels like a total asshole, which is saying a lot because Nate rarely feels guilty. It’s too late to do anything about today’s present, but he may be able to exchange the one for Wednesday and Friday if he plays his cards right, but first, he needs to get new ones. 

“Wow. That’s awesome, Nate,” Seamus responds, holding a bag of coffee in his hand, but Nate barely registers it. His mind is racing with gift ideas, scenarios, and a plan. One that he is going to have to pull off in twenty-four hours. He is also going to have to sweet talk the exchange people. He has to at least try after such a thoughtful gift from the mystery man. Nate grabs his keys, coat, wallet, and cell phone off the desk, shoving some of the items into the pocket of his sweatpants. “Where the fuck are you going?” Seamus asks, breaking into his thoughts. 

Nate is startled at first. He had almost forgotten Seamus was even in the room, too wrapped up in his memories and guilt. Nate glances at the bag of Maltesers he left lying on his bed, then looks back at Seamus. “I have some presents I need to buy. You touch those, and I will kill you,” Nate warns, then he is out the door, off to go and pull every string he can.

Thank you all for reading the excerpt from All Wrapped Up. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to chat, feel free to follow me on my social media platforms below. I would love to hear from you.