Love Christmas Romances? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol by Drew Marvin Frayne (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title: Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol

Author: Drew Marvin Frayne

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 18, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 36100

Genre: Historical Holiday, LGBT, Christmas, romance, fairy tale, businessmen, ghost, prostitution, poverty, 19th century England, pirates, tear-jerker, time travel

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Peter Cratchit, a young lad preparing to make his way in the world, is the eldest son of Scrooge’s lowly clerk Bob Cratchit. Peter flourishes under the tutelage of his “Uncle” Scrooge and seeks to make his mark as a man of business, like his uncle before him.

One Christmas Eve, as Scrooge lays dying, Peter embarks on a risky ocean voyage that he believes will secure the future for his family. Onboard, Peter finds love, happiness, and success, only to lose it all by the voyage’s end.

Returning to London, Peter shuns his family and instead finds himself living on the streets, haunted by his failures and his dead lover, selling his body just to survive while he waits for the winter cold to claim him once and for all. But winter snows also mean Christmas is coming, and for the Cratchit family, Christmas is a time of miracles. Can a visit from three familiar spirits change Peter’s life again? Is there one more miracle in store for the lost son of one of Dickens’ most enduring families?

Excerpt

Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol
Drew Marvin Frayne © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Scrooge was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. He died some two years past on this very day, Christmas Eve. I would it were not so; yet I suspect the old man would not agree. He became rather infirm at the end, frail and forgetful, and though he did his best to remain cheerful, I know he hated to show weakness of any kind. It wasn’t a matter of pride, nor vanity; no, it wasn’t for his sake that he cared so. It was that, as he himself often said, he had become a sort of safeguard, a protector, to his family and to his community, and he hated the thought of us carrying on without him there, watching over us all. And we, of course, would clasp his hand and tell him that he would be looking over us in the next life, and that such thoughts brought us great comfort, and they should bring him great comfort too. And he would sigh, and agree with us, and settle in, at least for a while, until another great spasm wracked his breast, and his chest would heave with immense, raggedy gasps for air, and his worries arose all over again.

He died a good death, if it could be said that any death should be regarded as good. Though I have not spent nearly as many years as Scrooge did on this planet, I have knocked about a bit, and circumstance has shown me both great fortune and great tragedy. And as such, I have come to believe there is no good death to be had in this world. I have seen many poor wretches, past all hope of recovery from whatever it was that ailed them—whether it be an infliction of the body or the soul—beg for death, pray for it, and have watched it come in many guises, be it the cold, or the cough, or the cutthroat. I have seen their prayers answered, even if those answers came in some form of pain they had never envisioned. And yet I say, when the end did finally come, each and every one begged to stay, begged for their final breath to be forestalled, begged to live for even one moment more. Yea, though I have been on this world for less than a quarter of a century, I have come to know its horrors and have learned the greatest horror of all is that there is no world, no life, beyond this one.

Scrooge would not have agreed with this; oft he told us the tale of his visitation by his old friend, Jacob Marley, dead seven years in the grave before his return, and the further visitations by the three spirits who haunted him, also on a Christmas Eve. To Scrooge, there was no greater evidence of providence than this, and he lived such feelings in his heart for the rest of his life. I was glad of it; we all were, all of London town, though those of us who were closest to him felt his change of heart and his largesse most keenly. And many was the time, as a young man, on a Christmas Eve like this one, I sat cross-legged on the floor at Scrooge’s feet and listened to his tales of Christmas ghosts and astonishing spirits, of visitations to the past, and of the wondrous things that are yet to come.

Yet even then, I was a skeptic. After his tale was complete, Old Scrooge, as wise at reading faces as he was at managing his business, would frequently tousle my hair and tell me, “Young Master Peter, you must have the conviction of your faith. It is not enough to simply believe; you must know Christmas, and keep it in your heart all the year long.” Such words were enough for Tim and for the others; but I, I would only smile, and say, “Yes, Uncle Scrooge,” in a manner and tone that were always respectful, but that the cunning old man also knew to be mollifying. And Scrooge would then bend quite low—for he was a tall, wizened old fellow, and I have always been inclined to be undersized—and he would say to me, “You must not fear the world so much, Peter Cratchit.” And I would nod, and he would pat my cheek, or sometimes playfully pinch my nose. But what he meant by those words, I cannot say. In my experience, there is much to fear in this world, and much calamity the world will set upon the unwary soul who is not ever vigilant.

A growl in my stomach disturbed my thoughts. Time to dispense with these ruminations on the past; I was hungry. I willed my body out of its bed, a small recess in the side of a crumbling brick building used for the storage of livestock, a cramped pen to house the beasts before they were led to slaughter. The recess provided some shelter from the elements; there had been rain last night, so it was useful to keep dry, though the rain had been only a drizzle, and the weather was unseasonably temperate for so late in December. That was no small mercy.

The recess had once been a side door, now sealed up, when the building had been used for some other purpose, long forgotten to time. The smell of animal excrement that clung to the building—and to those who worked or, like me, dwelt within her—was formidable, but it also meant the alley I called my home remained deserted during the nightly hours. Safety in this life often comes at great cost. Those who have suffered at the world’s hands know this lesson all too well. The men who tended the animals had assembled a small cleaning station, clean water and a strong lye soap, behind the building, and they charitably did not begrudge my use of it from time to time, provided I did not tarry, and they did not see me. I hastened in my morning ablutions and made my way out to the street.

There was a bakery on Saint Martin’s Close; it was there I would seek to break my fast. Every morning, my repast was the same: two hot buttered rolls and a small tankard of ale. The only difference was whether the baker would tally the cost of his labors on my tongue or on my tail.

I made my way down Carol Street to the main Camden Road. I used to live on this very road, as a youth, but far down the other end from those places where I now worked and resided. Camden Town was named for Camden Road; the road was the heart of the ward, bisecting it in the north and making up the entirety of its western edge. It was impossible to be in Camden Town and avoid the Camden Road. And yet, in all of my wanderings through this neighborhood, I always avoided the familiar façade of my former house, with its chipped paint and ill-fitted front door. I was more interested in the thick, oaken door that led to the alley behind the bakery, where the business received deliveries of flour and other such supplies. I knocked. Some days, the baker answered promptly, as if expecting me; other days, like today, I had to wait. He was a busy man, having woke well before the dawn to assemble his breads and rolls and pastries and cakes. His bakery was a small one, but he did a good measure of custom, enough to keep him in flour and dough and sugar and coal for the ovens. Still, he had only one boy to help him prepare the daily wares—in this neighborhood, even relative prosperity resulted in genuine poverty.

Whether the boy was his son, or some urchin off the street, I do not know. The baker and I did not converse on such matters. It was, in part, because the man’s well of English was so deficient that any conversation would prove inconsequential at best. I could not identify his native tongue, and he spoke only the English of a tradesman and knew the terms for barter and exchange, and little more. My own English improved greatly under the tutelage of Ebenezer Scrooge, who gave me books to read and provided college-trained tutors to sharpen my intellect. I was beyond basic schooling by the time our families came together; but my mind was quick and hungered for knowledge, and Uncle Scrooge filled it with book after book on all manner of subjects—history, literature, economics, philosophy, mythology, the principles of business. I eagerly took it all in, save perhaps the poets, who I found too disordered, too insubstantial, to truly relish. Still, for an occasion such as this, the silver portion of my tongue was not really necessary. It was my tongue’s other talents that the baker was interested in. I suppose, in the end, this, like so much in life, was simply a matter of business. I needed what the baker had to offer; he felt the same. Talk would only prolong the necessities of exchange.

The man finally answered and hurried me inside. In nicer weather, he sometimes took his payment in the alley, but he did not like the cold and the damp, so he ushered me into a cramped cookery room stuffed with coal- and wood-burning ovens. I had no objection to being enveloped in warmth; it made for a pleasant change of atmosphere from my usual status at this time of year.

I could see by the sights and sounds of his distresses that my morning patron was more harried than usual. His eyes were darting around the room. His gestures were quick, and rough, and impatient. He was a large, hirsute man, with a rotund belly and a gray, prickly beard, which, at the moment, was dusted in a rather generous supply of flour.

I was no longer fond of beards; I generally preferred smooth-faced youths, like myself, and not the wooly chins of older men, though, in my line of work, older men were my main custom. And this was business, not pleasure, and the baker felt the same as I, especially today. Even as he penned me into his back kitchen, he continued to bellow orders to the boy out front. I often wondered what the boy thought of our exchanges. Perhaps it was of no consequence to him. Perhaps he was grateful he did not have to provide a similar service. Or perhaps he did. Who can say.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Drew Marvin Frayne is the pen name of a long-time author (Lambda Literary Award finalist) who is finally taking the opportunity to indulge his more sentimental and romantic side. When not writing the author lives with his husband of 20+ years and their dog of 10+ years in a brick home in the Northeast. Find out more on Drew’s Website.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Love a Hurt/Comfort Story? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Pulse of My Heart (The Inferno #2) by Jessi Noelle (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title: Pulse of My Heart

Series: The Inferno, Book Two

Author: Jessi Noelle

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 11, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 18900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, PTSD, firefighters, photojournalist, Irishman, gay, coming out, tear-jerker, hurt-comfort

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Vincent Franklin’s last mistake had a body count. Now, he’s back on the fireline with something to prove to his fellow firefighters and most of all to himself. But when a sexy Irishman with talent and a camera captures him in a weak moment, he puts Vince’s heart at risk.

Still, there’s something about Aidan that attracts Vince and stirs up feelings he would have preferred to leave locked up and untouched in a dark corner of his heart. Then, after he, and the world, believe Aidan is killed in a tragic accident, Vince struggles to find the courage to love again. His chief worry: Does a screw-up like him even deserve to love again?

Excerpt

Pulse of My Heart
Jessi Noelle © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Christmas Eve, 2019
Vince was breathing hard. Sweat beaded on his forehead and rolled downward, catching in his eyebrow as he groaned in pleasure and release.

“Holy shit, Mac,” he said as the twitching slowed, and he melted into the body under him. He nuzzled the ear of his partner and tenderly kissed the spot just below, where the neck melded into that beautiful head.

“Mmm,” his partner purred, hips moving languidly around his trapped member and drawing another gasp of pleasure before releasing him. “Merry Christmas, my darling.”

“Are you my night-before-Christmas present?” he asked. “Because I’m afraid that if I stir any creatures—even a mouse—I’ll find this sugarplum is a vision dancing in my head.” After the loss a year ago, and everything he’d been through since, this felt surreal.

Mac gave him a coy look—the one that tugged sexy-feel threads in his chest—then flipped over beneath him and wrapped arms around his neck, lacing fingers through Vince’s short, butterscotch hair. “Sugarplum, huh? Ah, you do know how to flatter the guy below you who is still slightly incoherent from recent…activities.” He pulled Vince down for a kiss, tongue snaking out to lick the sweat off his lips and making Vince groan a little at the image. He cocked his head, raised his eyebrows, and Vince could feel himself stirring again, hardening against the leg resting on him.

Vince looked down at him with wonder. “What did I do to deserve you? You’re so beautiful, and smart, and everything I’m not.”

“Don’t get it twisted, darling,” he drawled as he framed Vince’s face between his hands, “I’m the lucky guy who snagged the hot firefighter who defines straight-up sexy, pardon the hetero pun.” Mac softly placed his lips on Vince’s, starting at his forehead and working his way slowly, so agonizingly slowly, down.

In a flash of searing heat, Vince’s tenderness was replaced with hunger and need. Mac grinned wickedly at Vince’s growl of lust and flipped him over. He hovered above Vince, teasing, letting his breath fall on the sensitive places he’d found and wringing moans of frustration from the beautiful boy beneath him. When his tongue trailed over the bumps of Vince’s abs, the ticklish spot Mac found there caused him to squirm away. And when Mac’s lips engulfed his manhood, Vince lost the ability to form coherent thought.

Everything dissolved into a blur of touch and taste and pressure and pleasure and friction and feeling.

Merry Christmas, indeed.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Jessi Noelle was born in South Mississippi, where she worked as a zookeeper and later as a firefighter. She is transgender with two sons, and currently lives in Nashville, TN.

Through the Inferno is her first novel. She is an alum of the inaugural #DVPit, a twitter event where marginalized authors pitch their books to agents. She is currently working on another book set in the The Inferno universe.

Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Love YA Fiction? Check Out This New Release! My Life as a Myth (Seasons of Chadham High #1) by Huston Piner (character bios, excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  My Life as a Myth

Series: Seasons of Chadham High, Book One

Author: Huston Piner

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: August 28

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 70700

Genre: Historical YA, coming of age, depression, drug/alcohol use, family drama, friends to lovers, grief, historical/late 1960’s, homophobia, humorous, no HEA or HFN, tear-jerker, YA

Add to Goodreads

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Huston Piner today on his My Life as a Myth tour.  The author has brought along some character bios and information for our readers as well as an excerpt and giveaway.  Check it all out below!

~ My Life as a Myth Character Bios and Information ~

Character Bio – Nick Horton

Nick Horton is fourteen years old, stands five foot seven, and weighs a lanky one hundred twenty pounds. He’s naturally shy, quiet, and tends to have low self-esteem. His eyes are a deep brown, and his brown hair is long enough to irritate his father but not long enough to look cool. While neither academically gifted nor exceptionally athletic, he is in the advanced English class, is quite literate, and loves the poetry of Walt Whitman.

Character Bio – Bobby Warren

Bobby Warren is only five foot two, with emerald green eyes and whitish-blonde hair that’s just short of shoulder-length. His mannerisms are delicate, and he is very lean, but he’s also strong and wiry. Bobby is intelligent, perceptive, independent, and a great lover of Jazz music. He has known and accepted he is gay for some time.

What would the fans want to know about Nick beyond the basics?

Nick is prone to bouts of depression. While he recognizes he’s not attracted to girls, he’s initially confused about why he’s aroused by boys. His attraction to Bobby is instantaneous and builds the more he gets to know him.

What would the fans want to know about Bobby beyond the basics?

Bobby falls for Nick the instant he first lays eyes on him. In all of their early encounters, he is struggling to keep his attraction in check, while growing desperate for Nick to show any sign of being attracted to him.

Synopsis

Can a cool reputation really deliver on promises of happiness?

Nick’s got problems. He’s a social outcast who dreams of being popular, he’s an easy target for bullies, and he doesn’t understand why he’s just not attracted to girls. So, after a series of misunderstandings label him a troublemaker on his first day of high school, he’s really stoked to have Jesse Gaston and his gang take him in.

Jesse starts a PR campaign around campus to give Nick a new image, and the shy loser soon finds himself transformed into an antiestablishment hero. While Nick would rather explore his growing attraction to Bobby Warren, he’s forced to fend off would-be girlfriends and struggles with the demands of acting cool. And things at home are spinning out of control as the Vietnam War’s destructive impact threatens to change his life forever.

Nick’s story is both humorous and haunting–a journey of ridiculous misadventures, unexpected psychedelic explorations, and tragic turns of fate. Can a world still reeling from the sexual revolution and the illicit pleasures of marijuana and underage drinking accept two boys in love? Can Nick and Bobby’s relationship survive a hostile time when acid rock rules, status is everything, and being gay is the last taboo?

Excerpt

My Life as a Myth
Huston Piner © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Wednesday, August 27, 1969. 4:45 p.m.

My first day of high school. Boy, do I wish I could start over. I mean, I need to start over. I bet if you were me, you’d feel the exact same way.

What a day. It’s bad enough that I’m already the casebook example of a loser. A social life? I don’t have one. My few acquaintances don’t really count. If I vanished out of their lives, they’d never even notice. My only real friend is Bruce Philemon. He says I just need to try harder. So to help me try harder, I’m starting this journal.

 

Okay, about today: There I was, in front of the elementary school, waiting for the bus for my first day at Chadham High. Three or four girls were standing on the sidewalk talking with four or five guys. The girls had clearly spent a lot of time deciding what to wear, and given the way the guys were looking at them, they were all smiles.

Now, these guys were all bigger than me. And while we might have gone to the same middle school, they were two or three years older and looked kind of dangerous. So I decided to keep a safe distance.

High school—the great unknown. All I knew was we’re expected to be “adolescents,” which apparently means “emerging adults,” and act mature, and be interested in girls. And see, for me that’s a problem. How am I going to get a girlfriend when they gross me out? I mean, guys talk about how girls make them feel, but just looking at the Playboy Bruce swiped from his dad kinda made me feel sick.

So anyway, I’d been standing there a couple of minutes when Andy Framingham showed up. Now I’ve known Andy since first grade and he’s one of the most profoundly stupid people I’ve ever met. He had a can of Coke (his mother doesn’t trust him with bottles), and he foolishly tried to chat up one of the girls (a bad idea). One of the guys was obviously her boyfriend.

I moved a little farther away from what I knew would soon become “the scene of the crime.” A couple of the guys—who were all cracking their knuckles—started talking to Andy. Now, I was too far away from the scene of the crime to hear the exact conversation, but I got the idea one of the big guys challenged Andy to put his soda can somewhere that would probably be real painful.

At that point, Andy actually got down on one knee like he was saying his prayers—which I thought was a pretty good idea. Then he held up the Coke can like he was trying out for the Statue of Liberty and swung it down onto the sidewalk with the speed and force of a jackhammer.

It erupted like Mt. Vesuvius and sprayed the side of Andy’s head. The fizz also hit two of the big guys all over their shirts and chins. And as the can spun around, it ruined the girls’ first-day-back dressed-to-impress fashions.

Just as they all prepared to kill Andy and hide the corpse, Mr. Wiggins, the elementary school principal, came running from the building. He yanked Andy out of harm’s way and announced he was reporting everyone to the high school principal. Then he pulled out his notepad and started taking names.

At first, I thought I’d been far enough away from the scene of the crime to avoid guilt by association, but no. Mr. Wiggins finished writing down the name of the last soda-splattered girl and marched over to me.

“Name,” he said.

“Nick, uh, Nicholas—Nicholas Horton, sir.”

“Horton? I remember you. Still making trouble, eh? Well, this time Mr. Fuddle will see you pay for it.”

“No, sir. I’m Nicholas Horton. Not Raymond.”

The whole six years I went to Chadham Elementary, Mr. Wiggins treated me like a punk because he kept confusing me with my older trouble-making brother. But I’d hoped to put all that behind me at Chadham High. My plan was simple: keep doing what I’d done in middle school and lay low for four years. It should have been easy. After all, Raymond had been long gone by the time Mr. Fuddle took over as principal. But now, identified as an accessory to the crime, I would be squarely on Fuddle’s radar screen. Not good!

Mr. Wiggins warned everyone not to move and went inside to type up our death sentence. Then he came back out, slapping an envelope against his thigh. He stood there glaring at us until the bus came, gave the envelope to the driver, and watched to make sure we all got onboard.

Needless to say, the trip to Chadham High wasn’t very festive.

When we turned into the parking lot, I caught sight of a tall bald man in a cheap suit. His white shirt looked dingy, and the skinny tie could have come straight from a game-show host’s wardrobe. It was none other than Mr. Fuddle himself, arms crossed and scowling. Mr. Allen, the assistant principal, stood next to him. A couple of inches shorter than Mr. Fuddle but beefier, he was dressed just as square. He wasn’t smiling either.

Mr. Fuddle boarded the bus and gave each of us the stink eye before speaking. The driver handed him the envelope, and he read off the names of the condemned. Somehow, my name had gone from last on Mr. Wiggin’s list to first on Mr. Fuddle’s. Andy Framingham’s name concluded the roll call. With that, Mr. Fuddle told us to “stop by” his office during our lunch breaks, and emphasized we’d better see him before eating.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Huston Piner always wanted to be a writer but realized from an early age that learning to read would have to take precedence. A voracious reader, he loves nothing more than a well-told story, a glass of red, and music playing in the background. His writings focus on ordinary gay teenagers and young adults struggling with their orientation in the face of cultural prejudice and the evolving influence of LGBTQA+ rights on society. He and his partner live in a house ruled by three domineering cats in the mid-Atlantic region.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Tour Schedule

8/28    Books,Deams,Life

8/29    MM Good Book Reviews

8/30    A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

8/31    Love Bytes

8/31    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

9/1      Happily Ever Chapter

9/1      Stories That Make You Smile

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Save

Save

Save

Blog Tour and Giveaway for Permanent Jet Lag by A.N. Casey (author interview and excerpt)

Standard

Title:  Permanent Jet Lag

Author: A.N. Casey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 29, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 87000

Genre: Contemporary, literary, Student, family, coming of age, alcohol use, illness/disease, tear-jerker

Add to Goodreads

 

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with A.N. Casey~

 

What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?

I’d say my water bottle because I have that thing with me constantly and get very moody when thirsty. Like Hangry but Thangry maybe? Plus, bonus: it gives me something to do with my hands, and as a fidgety anxious person, having something to hold onto during conversations—especially lulls in conversation—keeps me calm. 

What internet site do you surf to the most?

Tumblr. I have a blog there where I work with other writers to help out on new projects and answers questions (ancwritingresources.tumblr.com) and also have a couple writing blogs that just serve as a good creative outlet (and an excuse to put off writing the stuff I’m supposed to be writing).

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three author guests be and why?

The easy one that is probably over said is J.K. Rowling because I’d like to ask what it feels like to have seen your story not only turned into a movie but a theme park; what’s it like knowing that nearly everyone in the world has heard of your character even if they haven’t read your book. Malinda Lo because I’d want to ask her about Ash, about recreating this story everyone knows—Cinderella—in a brand new way and just congratulate her on what a good book that was. I mean, that’s my dream, moving forward, to begin to tell these stories that “old as time” but with the LGBT representation we deserve. And for the same reason, my third guest would be Madeline Miller. The Song of Achilles was a real game changer for me, so many of my favorite things—LGBT YA novels meets Greek mythology—all put together in such a beautiful way. And she’s not even a novelist by trade! I’d want to ask her what it was like to write that book and just get to learn more about that process.

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

My reaction was disbelief, without a doubt. There comes a point after countless rejections when you just get used to it; without feeling, you read the nice form letter and move on with your day. So when I got a letter back, I assumed it was more of the same. I had to read it over three times to realize it said “yes” and not “no.” I told my best friend first, and then about 48 hours later, I actually got excited when I fully realized it was real.

 

 

Synopsis

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Burke prefers being alone. He likes the silence, and he loves not having to care about anyone else’s problems: the less he’s forced to feel, the better. But after a year of college-induced isolation from everyone he used to know, the wedding of a former classmate sends Lucas back home, and that means reconciling with a group of friends that now might as well be strangers.

His sister hardly knows him, his “genius” best friend is nothing more than an addict, and his ex-boyfriend is still in a coma. All the while, wedding preparations send Lucas head first into a relationship with the groom’s best man—a recently cancer-free ex-Olympian who can’t stop talking.

Lucas knows that if he wants to survive the summer, he’ll have to learn to be a friend again, but it doesn’t come easy, and it might already be too late.

Excerpt

Permanent Jet Lag
A.N. Casey © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

96 Days Before

On the last day of my freshman year of college, my parents—dressed head to toe in the obnoxious green and gold colors of my school—arrived on the threshold of my dorm room with five extra-large boxes for packing, a tin of mom-baked chocolate chip cookies to cure my assumed “home sick blues,” and two snippets of hometown gossip for my ears only. When you leave home for college, there’s a certain assumption that says you will learn to be independent. You do your own laundry, you buy your own meals, and your parents never come knocking on your door to ask if you’ve done your homework or to ground you for coming home past curfew. You’re alone—blissfully independent and free.

My mother had other ideas. Ideas that filled the voicemail on my cell phone until I could no longer receive friends’ missed calls. Ideas that left a pile of cookie tins in the corner of the room and a dozen more care packages under the bed. Even now, as I finished the bulk of my packing, a poorly knit mom-made sweater hung limp over the side of the latest care package, threads unraveling and fraying in every direction with a note pinned to its sleeve with words I could not remember—words I likely never read.

My roommate sat on the other side of the room upon his stripped-down bed, munching away at the first cookie handed to him. He wore a thick pair of headphones that flattened his usually unruly brown hair. Though the cord was not connected to anything, my mother seemed pleased with this sense of security and began her “top secret” gossip. As though my roommate would care at all about the small-town news of Franklin Creek, California.

“Rylie Graham is getting married!” she squealed. Despite her rising age, my mother’s face still lit up with all the excitement and energy of the young woman I could just barely remember from the photographs on the walls at home. Today, my mother was plump and nearly always flushed in her cheeks. The freckles on her nose were faded underneath a splotchy tan that extended only to the bottom of her neck, and her clothes, though neatly pressed, still appeared crumpled by her slouch and the endless movement of her limbs. She went on and on about the wedding, the beautiful invitations, and the color schemes she hoped they’d use, how she could still remember Rylie as a baby, crawling around at the neighborhood block parties.

I was already aware of this news, of course. The invitation had arrived in the mail two days ago, vividly pink with a handful of red hearts and almost a dozen purple and green flowers decorating the edges. Unless the groom was a botanist, there was no inkling of his presence in the design. To top it off, at the very bottom of the paper, beneath the RSVP notification, was a dried crimson lipstick mark. Nine months since I’d seen her, and I could still vividly imagine Rylie prepping her mouth with that darkened color she had so adored in high school and kissing each invitation one by one.

The invitation was now crumpled up in my suitcase with the rest of my belongings, but the image of it had not left my mind for a second.

“Isn’t it great, Lucas?” my mother asked, and I nodded. “She’ll look so beautiful as a bride.” Another nod. “Just wait until you meet the groom. What a charming young man.” At this, I fidgeted with the zipper on my luggage and forced a smile.

My father, lounging lazily upon my still-sheeted bed, gave me a knowing smile over the top of his third cookie. My mother promptly smacked it out of his hand.

“That’s enough, Tim. Didn’t you hear a word the doctors said? I think one heart attack is quite enough for one year, don’t you?”

“I thought two would make a more interesting story at this year’s Christmas party,” my father replied, grinning.

And so began an argument that lasted through the remainder of my packing, the long trek downstairs, and into the oversized van waiting for us in the parking lot. It continued as my father stabbed the key into the ignition, as my mother pulled on her seat belt, and as I peered through the window and watched San Francisco—all its big buildings and bustling bridges—disappear into the night.

By the time we pulled into the driveway of my childhood home, my parents were just progressing toward the makeup phase of their disagreement, or, as I’d dubbed it over the years, the honeymoon period. They sat, arms tangled in the front seat, kissing and whispering loving platitudes into each other’s mouths with such nauseating enthusiasm that sitting through it was quite like staring at the sun: tolerance came in small doses. I left the car and dragged my luggage up the porch steps alone.

I had come home exactly twice since leaving for college, once for spring break and once after my father’s heart attack, and I was greeted the same each time. Homecoming generally went like this: my oldest sister, now sixteen, would nod her head in my direction over the top of her cell phone, give me a hug if I came close enough, and then resume her texting. My brothers, identical in all but their clothing, would rush in for the tackle. And my youngest sister would wave from the couch—a simple twist of her hand—and then return to her TV show. Today it was an old rerun about a teenage spy, and because the theme song was particularly catchy, the wave was even shorter than normal, barely a twitch of her fingertips.

I disappeared into my room.

From the window of my dorm room in the mornings, I could see the wide expanse of the San Francisco landscape for miles, a hundred buildings huddled together against the fading fog, life bustling below. From the window of my hometown bedroom, I could see the neighbor’s pool. A thoroughly unexciting, lifeless pool. As summer had not technically begun, the water that would soon promise endless good times and relief from the heat was still currently abandoned. A heavy pile of leaves covered much of the surface, but through the spaces between, I could make out a glimpse of the water—a murky, untouched green.

Rylie called at half past eleven while I was cleaning the windowsill for the second time. Her voice was shrill and rushed as she screamed into my ear, “Why didn’t you tell me you were home? I had to hear it from my mom, who heard it from your mom, and I feel like I’m in a weird stupid sitcom, because I’m not supposed to be hearing gossip from your mother, Lucas. You’re supposed to tell your friends when you come home. Clay is pissed.”

As she spoke, I tucked the phone between my shoulder and ear. Downstairs, my mom was yelling at the twins, and Dad was swearing about the score of a baseball game. I retreated farther into my room and closed the door.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Sorry?” Rylie let out a long, exasperated sigh, and I thought I could hear her nails tapping against the back of her phone. “Will you meet me somewhere? I haven’t seen you in ages, and everyone misses you. Please?”

“Okay.”

“Is this how this is going to be now? One-worded conversations?”

“Probably.”

Rylie laughed, a deep, chest-rattling sort of sound that in no way matched the high, squeaky pitch of her voice. It was for reasons like this I’d stopped trying to understand her in the third grade.

“You’re an ass, Lucas. Meet me at the flower shop across from the grocery store, okay? Ten minutes, don’t be late. Oh, and Todney is going to be there. I can’t wait for you to meet him. Don’t be late.”

“We have a grocery store?”

“Goodbye, Lucas.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

A.N. Casey is a Californian born and bred writer with very few interests beyond the literary. As a former copywriter and a current freelance writer and editor, Casey was asked what he likes to do outside of writing for work and responded only with: “write more”—much to the disappointment of his colleagues who had hoped he might be more interesting. His few attempts to leave his computer or notebooks behind have led to an interest in camping, traveling, and very bad attempts at cooking. He is currently studying to become a teacher where he hopes his fondness for the red pen will not make him too many enemies. Above all, Casey believes that storytelling has the power to shape lives, and that young people deserve to see themselves represented on the page in every shape and form until no one is left feeling alone in this wide and confusing world. You can find A.N. on Tumblr.

Tour Schedule

5/29    MM Book Escape

5/29    MM Good Book Reviews

5/30    Stories That Make You Smile

5/30    Reviews for Book Lovers

5/31    Divine Magazine

5/31    millsylovesbooks

5/31    Love Bytes Reviews

6/1      Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

6/2      Sharing Links and Wisdom

6/2      Happily Ever Chapter

6/2      Bayou Book Junkie

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Save

Save

Save

Save