Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured in a German Paper

Hey, I am a couple days behind because I am so freaking busy it isn't funny, but on MONDAY I was featured on two online magazines. (I guess they both are magazines, idk.) Most people have heard of the HUFFINGTON POST. Well, I was in the The "DE" is for Germany!

You can visit HERE to read the article by Domenico Sciurti.

I had it translated by a friend and it basically says:

Gay romances written by a woman - a great deal of annoyance for church and fans

A friend's father betrayed her.  Shortly after she had received a warning call, the door bell rang at Wade Kelly's home.
Obviously displeased the preacher declared that no member of his congregation was allowed to publish gay romances.
Wade Kelly had to be stopped. Her husband should control her. Tears are running down from the US-American author when she talks about her first coming out. "I just want to be who I am," she told the news agency dpa.

Pseudonyms as a way of protection from fans and critics

A woman who writes gay romance has many foes. That is the reason why many authors lead a double life and write under a penname. Wade Kelly is one of them.

Disgruntled fans:  "Never write me again"

But there are also fans of the genre who aren't too happy, because they think a woman can't know what a gay man thinks/ feels etc.
"Never write me again" that is how a former fan ended an 1 1/2 year long e-mail exchange when he learned the truth: The author is a woman. That was the second coming out.

A growing market - also in Germany

Gay romances are popular.  At this year's Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, the largest book fair for gay-lesbian literature in the US, more than 100 authors, publishers and booksellers presented their works.
Round about 1500 visitors attended the event. Online the numbers are even more impressive.  "", the self-named world largest online community of readers and book recommendations list 15,000 members in a group for MM romance. The list of the best works covers more than 2000 books.
The fan base in Germany is also big. Publishers like Männerschwarm,  Querverlag und Incubus distribute numerous publications. offers more than 900 ebooks to download.

Church fights against "gay books"

Resistance comes from the church. This year the Catholic publisher "Weltbild" ended its cooperation with the Canadian publisher Icon Empire Press, because they offered "gay books".
The fact that readers don't accept female authors is something which the gay author Kage Allan can't understand. "Fiction is imagination. Men have been writing about women from the beginning of time. Me included. Why ever shouldn't a female author write about gay men?"

Male name as a kind of protection and not for the greed of gain

Wade Kelly went against the wishes of her preacher.  She left the congregation and came to terms with her painful experiences in her book "When love is not enough".
She regrets that she has disappointed her fans. "I lied because I was secretive, but I never wanted to be like the others."
She means the hundreds of female authors, who write under male or androgen pseudonyms, because they think they would be more successful that way.

Fear of social repression

Wade Kelly is also a pseudonym.  Although the third coming-out is not too far away. "I try to overcome my fears."
The faithful Christian offers a lot of personal stuff on her blog. She hasn't published her real name so far, first and for all to protect her three kids. "I live in a little conservative town in Maryland. The people here aren't always open for everything."

Domenico and I talked for about 2 hours on Skype and much more was said, but because of space and word-count restrictions, this is all he could squeeze in. If you want to know more, ask me.

It is a positive article and summarizes many of the things he and I talked about. Both the Huffington Post and STERN magazine have the same article. In STERN, There is a LINK to JOCK in German. Will it boost sales? I have no idea. But the publicity is good and I appreciate Domenico's efforts and his article.

Jock is still selling in the German market and IF you are GERMAN, here is the LINK to to purchase it :) It has 5 ratings so far over in Germany and 4 of them are 5 stars. YAY, for Cole and Ellis! 


In other news, I set up a BLOG TOUR that starts next Monday! I will be on Joyfully Jay. This blog tour is to talk about NAMES CAN NEVER HURT ME>>>my new release coming your way August 11, 2014. Remember, you can PRE-ORDER this book at DREAMSPINNER. During my blog tour, I will reveal different excerpts from the book and talk about why I wrote them and the significance these thoughts have to me. If you want to get to know me more, and see ingot my mind and thought process, then follow the blogs and read what I have to say. Next week I will NOT be reposting them here because then it defeats the point of a TOUR. I will however post links so you can find them. (Sorry for those reading my posts on GOODREADS.) I will also be giving some things away ;)

I will appear on:

August 4 - Joyfully Jay
August 11 - The Blogger Girls
August 12 - Rainbow Book Reviews (Review only)
August 13 - Smoocher's Voice
August 14 - The Novel Approach
August 16 - Jeff Adams' Blog
August 17 - FACEBOOK takeover of Dreamspinner's FB page. I will chat in the afternoon with whoever shows up!
August 20 - GGR Reviews
August 22 - Multitasking Momma
August 26 - Tammmy Middleton's blog
August 27 - back at Joyfully Jay

And September 29th I will appear on Elisa Rolle's page as a part of the GRL tour.


We also have FRIEND FRIDAY coming up this week! On friend Fridays I have been asking for other authors etc to drop by and talk about their books. It gives variety to MY blog and gives more exposure to THEM.

So far, I've hosted Sue Brown, and Jeff Adams. THIS Friday, stop by and see what GREGORY PAYNE has to say! :)

This list for several weeks is:
August 1 - Gregory Payne
August - 8 Christ Shirley
August 15 - Tammy Middleton
August 22 - DS Kenn
August 29 - Stephen Del Mar
September 5 - Whitley Gray
September 12 - Felicia Stevens
September 19 - Hans Hirschi
September 26 - Sarah Madison
October 3 - Michael Kudo
October 10 - Will Freshwater
October 17 - Ally Editorial Services
October 24 - BJ Sheppard
November 7 - Lynley Wayne

November 14 - Bronwyn Heeley

LOTS of things going on around here! So you know you need to stop back often! :)

For NOW, I'm OUT! 
Got so much to do it isn't funny! Plus, I need to WRITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friend Friday - Jeff Adams

Hello all, I hope you've had a great week. We are back for our second installment of FRIEND FRIDAYS. Is this exciting? Are yo unlocking forward to featured guests? I hope so.

Today's guess is JEFF ADAMS. I met Jeff and his husband Will at GRL last year. They were in line behind me and I couldn't remember right away why the name "Jeff Adams" rang a bell. I will tell you, meeting people in person when you've only interacted online, can be disorienting. It was hard to connect the two points in my brain. JEFF AND I HAD INTERACTED ONLINE, but my mind wasn't getting it. Then it clicked, but I don't even think I talked to Jeff and Will much until after I left Atlanta. Sadly. But we then reconnected in New York and went for drinks with our friend Lynn. GOOD TIMES. And in Tampa there was much more time to get to know each other.

This is a picture from Rainbow Con :) I love the two of them to death and I can't wait to see them in October!

Jeff is here today to talk about his new book: HAT TRICK 2: PLAYING THE REBOUND

Like before with Sue Brown… I asked Jeff some interview questions to get our audience familiar with a talented writer and my wonderful friend. Here is what JEFF ADAMS had to say…..

JEFF: I’m thrilled to be here as part of Wade’s new series of “Friend Fridays.” She asked me a lot of great questions, and hopefully my answers are good. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. I’ll stop back and answer those too. And, for the commenters, Wade will randomly pick one commenter to receive an e-book of either Hat Trick or Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound (winner’s choice).

(* Did you notice that, fans? JEFF is giving away an eBook. Don't miss out. COMMENT TO WIN!)

ME: What inspires your writing?

JEFF: This isn’t an easy question to answer because inspiration for my stories come from any number of places. The initial idea for the Hat Trick series came because of three teens I met at hockey practice. Another idea cropped up because of a charity bike ride I do each year from Boston to New York. Still another came because I’m a major fan of So You Think You Can Dance

I make a lot of notes in my phone or a notebook, whichever is more accessible, any time as I get inspirational ideas.

ME: When did you start writing m/m romance?

JEFF: I started in mid-2009. I wrote a short for Dreamspinner based on a call for their holiday anthology. I didn’t get into the anthology, but they did take the story as a standalone short (Rivals has since gone out of print, but may resurface one day). As time’s gone on I’ve shifted more to writing young adult/new adult because stories about young people finding themselves and their first loves/early loves are ones I quite enjoy.

ME: WOW, I DIDN'T REALIZE WE BASICALLY STARTED OUR CAREERS (WRITING) AT THE SAME TIME! LOL. I was IN that anthology and mine is out of print now, but we were both contracted at the same time. HAHAH. Learn something new every day! :)

Another question… ME: Are you a full time author?

JEFF: No. It’s certainly the end goal to write full time. I work a full-time job as an internet project manager, and I typically write in the early mornings, during lunch or any other time I can squeeze it in. Someday, if I’m lucky, it will all be about writing.

ME: Who is your favorite author?

JEFF: This is such a tough question. I’m going to have to give you more than one. Geoffrey Knight tells a great story and I’m a huge fan of his Fathom's Five series, which are sexy Indiana Jones/James Bond style stories. Z.A. Maxfield can melt my heart, especially with the St. Nacho’s books. My host, Wade Kelly, bowled me over with her forthcoming  Names Can Never Hurt Me. Clare London is always divine. Stephani Hecht and the duo of T.A. Chase & Devon Rhodes are near and dear to me because they work hockey players into some of their stories. 

I have a special place in my heart for the young adult/new adult genre these days and I have to shout out some of my favorites there too: Jeff Erno, Bill Konigsberg, David Levithan. Great stories all around.

And I know there’re authors that I’m not calling out that I should, so hopefully that won’t get me in trouble.

ME: I'm flattered to even be in the same sentence with ZA! Not to mention Geoff, Clare, Stephani, T.A. & Devon, Jeff Erno, Bill Konigsberg, David Levithan. :)

ME again: How many books have you written so far?

JEFF: I’ve got two novels and a short story in the Hat Trick series from JMS Books. 
I’ve also got two short stories The Adventures of Jake #1 from JMS books 
and The Dancer and Sexy Big Man from Dreamspinner as well as my novella Bicycle Built for Two. from Dreamspinner.

ME: Tell us a little about your new novel, Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound.

JEFF: Hat Trick 2 picks up about 18 months after the original novel. Simon and Alex are now sophomores at the University of Michigan (in the first book, they were seniors in high school). In addition to celebrating their two year anniversary, the couple have to deal with Simon’s father and brother. These two caused a lot of trouble in Hat Trick (without giving away spoilers for those who haven’t read) and now Simon’s father is ill and wants to talk.

We’ll also see Simon working in his new major, social work, as he interns at the Ann Arbor LGBT Center. I’m particularly pleased with this part of the book because it really points the way for the kind of man Simon will grow up to be. There’s also someone attacking gay and bi students on campus and that’s will have an impact on Simon and Alex.

ME: How long did it take you to complete it?

JEFF: Hat Trick 2 took about a year. The original idea for the book came to me during the original book’s six year writing time. At one point, I’d put Hat Trick’s manuscript aside, but I had the idea for a short story that would bring some additional closure to Simon’s (he’s the lead character) family that wasn’t going to be handled in the novel. I banged out a draft for a short and then went back to the novel. As the novel was getting ready to come out in summer 2013, I came up with the idea to take the short and expand it into a novel-sized sequel. Luckily, many readers said they wanted a sequel so I’m happy I already had a story in mind.

Me: I'm glad there are other authors that take a year to write a novel :) It makes me feel more normal.

ME: Who is your favorite character in the novel and why?

JEFF: I’ve got to go with two favorites. 

I love writing Simon, the lead character and narrator. He’s been a voice in my head for many years now and as he’s grown from being a senior in high school to a sophomore in college (and on to being a college senior in the work-in-progress of Hat Trick 3), I’m still finding new facets to him. 

Jakob, who is a new character in Hat Trick 2, became a favorite. Simon meets the fourteen year old at the LGBT Center. Simon is an intern there and Jakob is in the youth group. I enjoyed creating a younger character, someone who knows exactly who he is, but is figuring out how to safely come out. I wish I could’ve been as confident as Jakob is when I was his age.

ME: How much of yourself did you manifest into your favorite character?

JEFF: Not as much in this book.

With Simon, there are some aspects of me lurking in there and in this book there are some parts of him that match who I wish I was. His move to a major of social work in Hat Trick 2 is a path I wish I’d gone down in college. As I get older, I’ve realized the importance of being of service with professions like social work. I dabble in this area with some of my volunteer work, but I truly admire people who undertake these jobs full time and I’m honored to call some of them friends. They are underappreciated, similar to teachers, but they are crucial to so many in our society. I’m glad, at least in a fictional world, Simon is building future in that profession.

ME: When someone reads Hat Trick 2, what do you hope they gain from reading it?

JEFF: There are a few things I hope come through. With the entire series I want readers to see how good things can be when you show your true self to the world and the strength that can be found in good friends and teammates. Specifically in this book there are messages about finding closure and stepping up to help people that I hope resonate with the readers.

ME: Ironically, I am also writing about "closure" in my WIP. Great minds think alike :)

ME: Can you share four things you’ve learned about the business? 

JEFF: 1) Find out how authors you admire do what they do. I love conversations with authors about their process. I always learn something great. 2) Find good beta readers. They can’t be yes-men. They have to give you honest, constructive feedback and you have to not take it personally. It’s ultimately up to you what you do with the feedback, but the information is valuable. 3) Write more! The more you write, the more you’ll be able to publish, and the more chances people have to discover your work. 4) It should go without saying, but always be courteous, whether it’s with a publisher, fellow author, blogger, reader or whoever. It makes everything easier when everyone uses their manners.

ME: These are ALL extremely good points of advice. TAKE HEED aspiring authors, Jeff knows what he's talking about!! *I need to do more of #3! :p

ME: How do you keep your creative "spark" alive?

JEFF: By trying to use it every day. My preference is to write every day, whether it’s a little or a lot because it helps keep me going. I also carry something to write in no matter where I go, whether it’s my phone, tablet or a notebook, I’ve got something to write ideas in when they come up, or even to work on manuscripts (mobile technology is awesome for that).

ME: What is your suggestion or piece of advice to new and upcoming writers?

JEFF: It connects to what I said above. Keep writing! If it’s what you want to do, you’ll find the time to do it. And no matter what, keep going. Find the publishers that publish what you write, or go the self publishing route. Keep writing, keep learning so you improve your writing, and get your words out there!

ME: Where we can find you on the Internet?

Hat Trick website:

ME: Could you please share your favorite excerpt from Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound with us?

JEFF: Sure. This snippet has a couple of my favorite moments in it. Simon and Alex, along with their friends Hillary and Mimi, are having dinner and the talk turns to Simon’s work at Ann Arbor’s LGBT Center.

“How’s things at the community center?” Hillary asked. “Still loving it?”
“Completely” I said with too much food in my mouth. I paused to swallow before I went on. “There’s so much interesting stuff going on there. This week I sat in on support sessions for adults with HIV and prevention sessions for youth. It’s the first time I’ve observed those groups and it’s been quite an education. Youth group is still what I love most though. When I was in my early teens, I wasn’t out to myself. But here’s a group of kids, almost a dozen of them, who are out. For some it’s only within the safety of the group, but they all seem to know exactly who they are.” 
I was starting to worry that I might monopolize the conversation, but everyone seemed interested so I took a swig of my drink and continued.
“And with National Coming Out Day this month, there’s a lot of discussion about what it means to be out. Even with the group being so young, they’re sharply divided. Some, especially the older ones, feel like everyone should just be out. But others say it’s not that easy and that coming out has to be on their own terms, and only when the circumstances are right. There’s one guy that’s out to his family, but they are worried about what might happen if he comes out to his friends or the rest of his school. It makes for some heated debates.”
“What? You lost me,” Hillary said. “This kid is out to his parents and goes to this group, but they don’t want him to be out to anyone else?”
“Exactly. His mom, in particular, is worried he’ll get beat up or worse, even though he very much wants to be out and done with it.” I paused to drink more soda. “You guys are making me talk way too much.”
“Sorry, but it’s interesting,” Hillary said. “Once I was out, that was it. I never considered making it a selective thing. It’d be too hard to keep track of who knows and who doesn’t.”
“I can say from experience that hiding sucks,” I said.
“I’ve done the selectivity thing a couple times, and he’s right, it sucks,” Alex said. “I’m glad that’s behind me…us…now.”
“I tried to keep my coming out just to some close friends,” Mimi said. “But, someone overheard, told their parents and they told my mom. Talk about a mess. She wasn’t mad I was a lesbian, she was mad because she’d heard it from someone else.”
“These young people have to make hard choices and ask us for guidance all the time, and the best answer we can give them is to do what feels right and safe. Sometimes, unfortunately, with the society we live in, silence is the right answer.”
I caught Alex staring and smiling. I raised an eyebrow at him.
“I love how you talk about this,” he said “You’re so passionate about what you’re doing, and learning. You never talked about poly sci like this.” He leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Every day he’s there, he comes home and talks about what he did and there’s so much excitement and energy. It’s awesome. I hope I’m like this when I start working in my field.”
He’d never used “home” in that context before. Usually our room was referred to as just that—“the room” or “our room.”
“Home” usually meant parent’s house. But just now “home” meant our place. Maybe I was making too much out of it. But this moment felt very important. Almost like the first time he said “I love you.”
“Working at the rec center is good and all, but…” He stopped and studied me. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
He looked concerned. Apparently my expression didn’t convey what I was thinking. I smiled as I searched for the right words.
“Home.” I paused, quickly sorting my thoughts. “I don’t think you’ve ever called our room that. Home sounds more…More than just a dorm.”
We stared at each other and he gave me his soft, sweet smile.
“Home is wherever you are. Wherever we are. Right now it’s a dorm room. Someday it’ll be an apartment or a house. Whatever it is, it’ll be home.”
“I love you so much.”
It was awkward sitting in the booth, but I managed to wrap him in a hug and kiss him. It was more kiss than we usually do in public, but it was necessary.
“Seriously guys? Public place,” Hillary said, sarcastically. 
We pulled back in time to see Mimi punch her in the shoulder.
“Way to wreck a moment, Hill.” She punched her again for emphasis.
“Ow!” Hillary rubbed her shoulder.
It was funny watching the smaller Mimi punch the bigger Hillary. I kept the laugh to myself though since I didn’t want Mimi coming after me next.
“That was so sweet,” Mimi said, causing Alex to have a rare blushing moment.
“It’s true though,” he said, focusing his attention on me. “I realized it coming back from summer break. Home is where we are, together. My parent’s house is their home, it’s not really mine anymore.”
“What’s the right way for me to say I agree with that?” I asked. “It’s not like ‘I love you,’ which has a clear response.”
“You’ve responded perfectly,” Alex said, followed by a quick kiss.
“We need to celebrate this revelation,” Mimi said 
“And your call back,” I said. “Coffee and cupcakes all around before we hit the books?”
We all nodded in agreement. The best place near campus for that was Big Blue Bean so we finished up the pizza and headed out for a sugar and caffeine fix.


This has been the second installment of FRIEND FRIDAYS. I hope you will continue to stop by and see what other authors have to say! Next up is another dear friend, Gregory Payne!

EXTRA: Here's a fun fact about Jeff... He and Will appear in Elisa Rolle's upcoming NON-Fiction book: Days of Love. I would have bought her novel just because she wrote it (and she is a lovely person inside and out), but added fun of my friends being included in the pages makes the book even more exciting! 

Together for 20 years! :)


Don't forget, comment below to have a chance at winning a copy of Hat Trick, or Hat Trick 2. And come back next week to see what Greg has to say.

NAMES CAN NEVER HURT ME comes out in 18 days. It is over at DREAMSPINNER PRESS for Pre-Order! Get your copy now. Dreamspinner gives a free ebook with the purchase of paperback and I signed vellum sheet inserts for the first 20 paperbacks sold. I begin my blog tour on August 4th over at Joyfully Jay. If you want excerpts, I will be listing excerpts of NAMES and talking about WHY I wrote certain things. Next week, probs Monday, I'll list my blog stops and let you know what might be happening there. If you have any questions, leave a comment or ask me directly. :)

Ciao for Now.


FYI, the comment contest to win the eBook closes at 11:59pm ET Monday… :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Technically, It's still Thursday. Misplaced Affection: Chapter 2

I know I'm way late tonight posting an excerpt, but I did promise to do it so I didn't want to skip out just because it is 9:48 pm.

I've been post in excerpts from my Work In Progress (WIP) Misplaced Affection for the last couple days. If you missed previous posts, the Prologue can be found HERE, and Chapter 1 HERE. I didn't get a chance to work on the blurb, so that will have to wait until next week. Tomorrow is FRIEND FRIDAY and I will host author Jeff Adams so be sure to come back tomorrow!

Without further rambling…. here is CHAPTER 2.


Chapter 2

November 28, 2010 –Memories

My dad and I went over the Mitchell house for Thanksgiving dinner like we had every year, but after we left I got the distinct impression that it had been for the last time. Conversations were too strained, Zach did everything not to look at his father the entire time, and I was running out of small talk to share with Zach’s sister Amy. There was nothing left, so next year we’d have to decline or come up with an excuse not to go.
And then dreaded Sunday rolled around. “Sunday, bloody Sunday” as the song by the band U2 says, only my Sunday wasn’t about war, it was about the loss of my mother and brother on the one and only day my father had agreed to go to church. Come to think of it, maybe Alanis Morissette said it better than U2 when she sang, “Isn’t it ironic… don’t a think?” We’d been on our way to church when a drunk driver struck our car at 9:32 in the morning and our lives had changed forever.
Fuck! I hate this day.
I waited for Zach, but he didn’t show when he said he would. It happened from time to time so I wasn’t pissed. I knew he’d have an explanation, but without Zach I had to make a decision about visiting my mom’s grave alone or staying home and feeling sick about avoiding it for another year. I had almost gone last year on the anniversary of their death, but halfway to the cemetery I had chickened out. I knew if Zach was by my side I could handle it. Alone, I wasn’t convinced.
I paced my room several thousand times and then headed downstairs before I wore the carpet down to the padding. I texted Zach again—no reply.
My dad was in the kitchen, standing at the window, staring into the back yard. He did that a lot, especially lately. He didn’t talk; he stared. Some times he sipped coffee as he stared, like he did now. Sipping and staring. Staring and sipping. I watched him from the doorway and wondered if he was thinking about my mom. The remnants of her garden were out there.
She had asked him to plant roses years ago. I remembered thinking they were really pretty until I went to pick one and punctured my finger. Rosebush thorns are huge! After that, I looked at the stems of each type of flower before I broke it off and made a bouquet for my mom. Dad fussed at me for “ruining” the garden he maintained for her, but my mom had always taken my gifts with grace, smiling and thanking me for my thoughtfulness.
“They’re just flowers, Vic. They’ll grow back,” my mom would say.
And then the family decided to get a pool when I was nine and my dad had to replant the roses and a couple other bushes once the work was completed. Getting a bobcat in to dig a huge hole had made a mess of the yard. Once it was complete, my mom had told him it made the yard more private, but he still fussed at the extra work. The pool ended up taking over the entire back yard and the hedge of Golden Euonymous and my mom’s roses were about the only plants left, which made watering them easy. Plus, the only grass to mow was in the front and side yards, a bonus for me.
Our property sat between Zach’s and a section of land the County had purchased for a War Memorial; so our tall, thick hedge and roses blocked prying eyes from random people visiting to read the couple monuments in that garden. With a small lane running behind the back of our plot, the War Memorial on the left side, and Zach’s family’s property on the right, the Brewer backyard turned into a swimmer’s sanctuary. And after a couple years, the hedges had grown so dense, you couldn’t even hear traffic. Total paradise.
“And hey, if we ever decided to move,” my dad would joke. “We could fill in the pool and cover it with grass. No one would ever know we broke county ordinances and didn’t get a permit.”
I never understood his joke as a kid. Did he really break the law? Were we supposed to get a permit? I didn’t know, nor did I ever ask. But I had heard about a kid whose father did cover up their pool with dirt and grass in order to sell their house, so it could be done. But why?
As I watched my dad standing by the sink in his boxers and white undershirt, I felt sad for him. Mom wanted the pool, but barely got time to use it before she died. He had to be thinking about her. I missed my mom, but it had to feel a hundred times worse for my dad. I’d never understood the connection two people could share because I’d been too young when she’d died. But now, I started processing emotions in a different way, love in a different way. Maybe it was because this was the year I’d met Keith and my emotions felt different. I didn’t know. It was the only thing I could think of as to why, all of a sudden, I got it: my dad was still mourning for her.
“Hey Dad,” I said softly, stepping carefully into his moment of meditation.
He turned his somber expression my way. “Moring, Flynn,” he greeted me with little enthusiasm, yet I was used to it.
When my dad was home, he remained solemn, taciturn, and yet direct. Conversations were succinct, but not in a way that suggested I bothered him. He simply had little to contribute. We didn’t hug. We didn’t laugh. We didn’t cry. I guess we existed in a vacuum for lack of a better description. It was like living in a world without emotion. More than likely, my school counselor would deem it an unhealthy environment. Maybe. But for six years since the passing of my mom and brother, this was how our life had played out.
I walked over to the coffee pot, took out a mug and filled it. I sipped my black coffee and took a spot next to my dad by the sink. After a few minutes I commented, “I’m going to see her today. Zach said he’d go with me to the cemetery.”
My dad grunted.
“Maybe you could go with us,” I suggested. “Safety in numbers. Zach said that talking to dead family members could be therapeutic.”
My dad set his cup in the sink and walked off, leaving me alone looking out at the pool.
“I guess he’s not ready,” I mumbled.
I checked my phone, but Zach hadn’t gotten back to me about where he was. I knew I had to go alone. If I waited any longer, I feared that I’d lose my nerve and back out entirely. I drank my last bit of coffee and headed out the door.

The cemetery was only a short walk from my house. We lived smack-dab in the middle of downtown Westminster; most places were an easy walk. I could even walk to school if I had to. Middle school had only taken me five minutes because East Middle was one street over; but if I had to walk to the high school it would probably take me a half an hour. Plus, I’d have to cross six lanes of traffic, which would be a pain during rush hour so I was thankful for the bus.
I walked down Willis, continued through a side road next to the Circuit Court, and followed the green wire fencing all the way around to the cemetery entrance on North Church Street. I went through the open iron gates and chose the paved lane to my left. Somehow, I knew which way. As if propelled by an internal homing device, I circled past Mathias, Lovell, and Buffington and kept walking even though I hadn’t been here for years. True, I’d walked around the outside of this cemetery for years, but I hadn’t walked among the tombstones since my dad and I had watched Mom’s and Nate’s caskets lowered into the ground. Perhaps I’d been afraid when I was younger, or perhaps I feared learning there was nothing after death but ashes? I couldn’t answer that. The whole concept of God and heaven and hell was still only that—a concept. My faith was minimal and based on what I saw in my mother, nothing else.
I walked past many old, worn, marble headstones and read familiar Carroll Country names such as Zepp, Koonz, Witte, Sauble, and Wisner I contemplated how cemeteries traditionally gave people the creeps; other people, not me. It could have been due to shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Walking Dead, and The Vampire Diaries desensitizing my generation to evil, or it could have simply been from coming close to death myself. After overcoming broken ribs, broken legs, broken fingers, a collapsed lung, and kidney failure, I pretty much laughed in the face of the Grim Reaper and all his minions. I figured if he wanted me that bad, he wouldn’t have muffed it up the first time. I walked confidently through life, never fearing death, but not arrogantly so. I knew I’d been given a second chance for a reason just like Zach had always told me.
I normally joked about having a black cloud over my head that wouldn’t go away, but in truth that cloud hadn’t shot lightning at me for years. I’d settled nicely into a routine of school, chores, and solitude, or the occasional night of bowling with my friends, and before I knew it years had drifted by. Now I was sixteen, almost driving, two years away from college, and my black cloud felt more like a force field of never ending dreariness, holding me in a virtual loop of repetitive tedium. This was the year for change though; I could feel it. My life had to change.
The grass had been neatly trimmed around each base of every upright stone and I marveled how none were flat. I mean zero. I guessed it was due to it being an older cemetery. Newer ones contained mostly flat grave markers because the grass was easier to mow. Every single gravestone I saw in this cemetery was upright. Some markers resembling marble cinderblocks—rectangular, thick, and heavy—while others looked like small houses. Were those what people referred to as mausoleums? I wasn’t sure.
Some graves had flowers on them, some didn’t, and it made me wonder if I should have brought roses. Would my mom know she was worthy even if I’d forgotten?
My stomach trembled from worry over seeing her name on the headstone for the first time in six years as soon as I spotted the one grave marker that gave me a sudden flashback like the ones in movies. I saw it and I stopped cold. The family name Thomas was etched into the base of a marble structure from 1924, which resembled the Washington Monument. That’s why it had stood out so significantly to me back in 2004 when I’d been listening to the pastor’s last words and watching all the people cry. My eyes had wondered and stopped on a tall, white, needlelike erection maybe twenty feet away.
I turned my head and looked up the small hill. My mother was only two rows up the slope. Her resting place wasn’t hard to find even after so long. The newer graves were all made of granite and the color stood out if nothing else. All the old ones were white marble. But up the slope, to the right of another, smaller, needlelike monument for a Wenzel buried in 1910, sat two shiny granite headstones side by side.
Oddly, the same “tan brown” granite my dad had requested for our new countertops in the kitchen. The eerie thought made me wonder if I’d ever view our kitchen counters the same?
I approached slowly, climbing the gradual incline and circling around to face the fronts of them. I stopped abruptly once I saw the name Brewer. Victoria Brewer. My mom. And next to hers sat my brother, Nathan Brewer’s stone. My breath came in pants and tears immediately carved tracks on my cheeks as I fell to my knees and wept against the cold stone, imagining it was the side of her bed or the edge of our couch. Everything creative cell of my being wanted me to open my eyes and glimpse her sleeping form, or maybe take her hand, but the logical side, the cruel realistic side, reminded me repeatedly she wasn’t really there.
So my tears were bitter, and my sobs fruitless.

Some time later, a shadow fell across my mom’s headstone and I knew it was Zach’s. “You found me.” I said quietly.
“When you weren’t at the house I knew you’d be here, loser.” His sarcasm didn’t bother me. It never bothered me. “You could have waited. I told you I’d be here for you.”
I remained seated where I was, cross-legged, in the grass, and I didn’t look up. I felt empty inside and I couldn’t be bothered to humor Zach. Besides, there was no need. Zach would understand. He was only trying to lighten the mood, but I knew he knew it wouldn’t work. I picked a couple blades of grass and rubbed them between my fingers as Zach sat on the ground next to me.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “There was road construction and then my phone died and I couldn’t find my charger. I should have been here.” He spoke to me as if we were in a library. I guess a cemetery was sort of the same. Quiet, hushed tones respecting the deceased.
I accepted his apology without adding to the distraction of excuses. Feeling his presence next to me was enough. I needed the security of our friendship to relax and open up. Normally it was on his bed as we studied the crack paint on his ceiling, but for the first time I was okay with semi-public vulnerability. I’m not saying I’d be fine sitting here if a funeral had been going on ten feet away, but the exposure to possible onlookers didn’t scare me. We were here, and this was about my mom and brother, and I felt different.
My eyes remained on the headstone in front of us, but I spoke to Zach as the memories of my mother came flooding in like water on a leaky ship. “I remember this one time, when I was eight years old, two years before she died, we were at my grandmother’s house and I was supposed to be taking a nap. I had gotten up and walked through the living room, but no one noticed. Nate was watching cartoons or something and my grandmother was knitting in the rocking chair. I walked out the back door and saw my mom lying in the grass.” As I spoke, I knew Zach would understand even if my thoughts seemed random. I knew he’d remain silent and listen.
I continued, my voice hushed, as I lifted my hand allowing the blades of grass to blow away. “I didn’t know why she was lying on the ground so I walked down the back steps of my grandmother’s house. Silent. Tiptoeing. Down the wooden stairs, across cement stepping stones, between pink peonies, over a sleeping cat, I approached my mom. Knees shaking, gut clenching, fists tightening, I stepped closer, scared something had happened because I wouldn’t know how to tell my dad. I rounded the side of a forsythia bush and that’s when I heard the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. Like angel voices, sweet and harmonious, my mom’s voice caressed me on the inside the way hot chocolate warms your belly in the winter. Deep down, somewhere that doesn’t have a definition, her singing touched my soul. I closed my eyes. No music. No audience. No expectations. No pressure. No holding back. My mom, an angel sent from heaven, sang a song to God.”
“But your family never goes to church.” Zach jolted me out of the memory.
Other people might have gotten offended by his blunt observation but not me, I was slightly irked, but I knew what he meant. Plus, this was classic, no-tact Zach. Growing up living next door to him prepared me to accept his directness. He wasn’t a malicious person, simply clueless. “You’re right,” I said. “We don’t. But I think my mom always had this sense of who God was. Something in her song reminded me of a time I heard her talking to your mom about the Holy Spirit and seeing God shine from peoples’ eyes.”
“Mrs. B talked to my mom about God? When?” he asked.
I turned to face him, his eyes locked with mine, attentive and engaging. “That one time in the kitchen when we made whipped cream cookies and got powdered sugar all over the floor and the counter and our clothes.”
Zach chuckled. “Oh yeah, I remember that. My mom made me mop the whole kitchen floor, twice” His brow furrowed. “But I don’t remember her talking about God.”
“She was on the phone. I tend to pay attention when people talk about God. I know I ribbed you about eavesdropping on that girl at school, but your mom was on the phone in the kitchen so it was hard not to listen. My family might never go to church, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. I’m pretty sure He’s real.”
“I never said you didn’t.”
“I know.” I picked a few more blades of grass and tossed them. Looking across the graveyard, picturing my grandmother’s back yard, inhaling deeply I picked up my memory where Zach had interrupted. “Anyway, it reminded me of my mom and the day I found her lying in the grass. It was as if God filled the air as it swirled around her. Sunlight streaming, butterflies flitting, birds chirping as she sang,  ‘Just from Jesus simply taking, life and rest and joy and peace.’ I think it was the closest I have ever felt to God. My mom’s voice saturated the space around me, yet inside I felt something warm and strong and comforting hold me like a hug. I was safe. I knew I was safe.”
“I don’t think God’s ever felt like that to me,” Zach replied.
I lifted the corner of my mouth slightly. “Maybe that’s why your mom never agreed with mine. My mom always felt peace with God. Your mom always spoke about obligations to God. But I don’t want to debate religion today.”
I glanced at the headstone in front of us and reached out to trace the V carved in the cold and hard granite. “She was so beautiful,” I whispered, my voice cracking. “I miss her so much.”
I snatched my hand back and hastily wiped away my tears before Zach noticed. Except, he had noticed and preceded to side-hug me across the back of my shoulders. The idiot’s compassion caused me to cry harder and I rarely cried before today. “I’m sorry.”
Zach squeezed my shoulder and said, “Why?”
“For crying like a girl.”
“You’re not, so shut up. I miss your mom too.”
I leaned my head against him and allowed my emotions to run their course. Zach remained silent and supportive as he had so many times throughout the years. He was as he always had been—my refuge.

When I got home it was dark outside. I walked in the front door and turned on the front lights. I didn’t know where my dad was, but everything in my house was quiet and dark as if he wasn’t home. But as soon as I started up the steps to my room, I heard his voice coming from the other room. I backed down the two steps I had gone up, turned the corner of the banister, and headed out to the dining room. I turned the light on and found my dad.
“Why are you sitting in the dark?” I asked, because the reason eluded me.
He was sitting at the table, leaning forward on his elbows, his head bowed. When he looked up to meet my eyes, the look on his face stopped me cold. “Dad?” I asked urgently. “What happened?” His eyes were bloodshot.
“Did you talk to her?” he asked, his voice like sandpaper.
“What?” It took me a few seconds to realize that that was the same phrase I heard him say when I was headed up the steps. My dad was asking if I…. “Yeah, I did. I talked to Mom. And Nate.”
He slowly nodded his head. He looked down, but as I approached I saw the tears streaming down his cheeks. “Dad.” I moved to his side and fell across his shoulder and upper back. I hugged him as he sobbed. I hadn’t seen him like this since we’d buried them. For years, he’d been quiet and distant, non-emotional.
It took probably ten minutes for him to move and pull me into a hug. He cried and I cried. It drained every ounce of energy I had, and here I’d thought I left everything at the cemetery.
“I feel so guilty,” he finally confessed. “It should have been me.”
“Dad, don’t say that. I wouldn’t want to chose Mom over you.”
“No, at the cemetery with you. I should have gone and talk to her. I should have been with you so I could ask her to forgive me for avoiding her for so many years. I’ve been a terrible father, a terrible husband.”
“No, Dad.” I pulled back from his arms and realized I had snot running down my chin. I grabbed a tissue from the box on the table and blew my nose. I offered him one and he did the same. Then I noticed the many, balled tissues littering the floor and table. Oh wow, he’d used a ton. “Dad, you are not a terrible father,” I asserted. He needed to be told directly. “And I think Mom knows how painful it’s been without her. I haven’t gone to see her in all these years either. She gets it. She understands.”
His expression opened up and his shoulders relaxed. “You think so?”
“Yeah, I do. Zach told me talking to her would help and it did. It really did. And I don’t think I have to go to her grave to feel it. I think I realized today that she never really left. She’s here, in my heart. In your heart. Mom’s here and she wants us to live.”
His shoulders bobbed as the tears burst forth again. “I don’t know how.”
My dad cried for over an hour. Somewhere in the middle I had found the strength to stop. I had cried enough. I had cried a river of tears that had been held at bay for years, and for the first time in forever I felt at peace with her death. I could only hope that one day my dad would experience the same.