Coming Soon – The Ghosts Between Us

If it feels like I’ve been teasing you with promises of this book for years, it’s because, well, I have. Somewhere about five years ago, the idea for it popped into my head. I jotted a few things down and then went on to work on other projects. Slowly, over that time, I’ve worked on the story. I did it in fits and starts as I struggled with it. First titled, “In Mourning” it slowly morphed into a massively long novel that explores grief, family, relationships, and love.

To be honest, it’s felt like a story I had to grow into. Both as an author and as a human. There were life experiences I needed to have along with writing skills I needed to develop. This story refused to be ready because I wasn’t ready.

But in a sudden burst of both inspiration and motivation, it came together. My beta readers returned it with some helpful suggestions for how to tweak and polish it, and a blog tour is being arranged.

I am truly excited to share this book with you–maybe more so than with any other book I’ve previously written–because I am so proud of it. I love the characters and I love the story and it was a real stretch for me as an author. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it next month when it’s available because I know you’re going to love it as much as I do.

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Title: The Ghosts Between Us

Author Name: Brigham Vaughn

Tagline: From Loss, A New Beginning

Series: The West Hills (Book 1)

While the stories in this series are connected, each book features a new couple and can be read as a stand-alone.

Summary:

Dr. Christopher Allen knows how to deal with death. He’s a psychiatrist who works with hospice patients and their families, helping them cope with grief and letting go. But Chris’s job doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his devil-may-care brother Cal.

At Cal’s funeral, Chris is completely thrown when he meets Elliot Rawlings, an artist Cal has been dating. Chris is hurt to discover that the brother he knew as straight was actually bisexual. Elliot is angry and resentful of having been kept hidden from Cal’s family.

After the funeral, a night of drinking at the bar with Cal’s friends leads to Chris and Elliot falling into bed together.  The next morning, they’re overwhelmed by guilt and grief and agree to never speak of it again.

But Cal’s apartment needs to be packed up and Elliot reluctantly agrees to help Chris, as well as answer some questions about Cal’s life and their relationship. Despite their guilt and initial dislike for one another, they sort through the pieces of Cal’s life and begin to fall for each other.

Despite his best efforts to fix things, Chris’s family seems to be crumbling around him and he begins to question who he is and what his role with them is.  As his feelings for Elliot grow, Chris must decide if they’re worth further damaging his fragile relationships with his friends and family.

Elliot’s rough upbringing has left him distrustful of getting close to anyone, much less another man who isn’t willing to acknowledge him in public. The odds seem stacked against Chris and Elliot, but if they can overcome them, they may be able to lay Cal’s ghost to rest, along with their own demons.

Publisher: Two Peninsulas Press (Indie/Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Word Count /or Page Number: 130k + words

Formats/Price: eBook – $5.99 Available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43690574-the-ghosts-between-us

 


The pre-order for this book won’t be available until February 22, but if you want to be notified about The Ghosts Between Us when it goes live there are two options!

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New Release – Seeking Warmth

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“Seeking Warmth” is live everywhere!

Four years ago, I did a holiday blog hop.  The rules were to write a flash fiction with a winter holiday theme and a bad boy character. There was a black and white photo of two young men embracing in what looked like a gift shop.

I wrote about two thousand words and posted it on my blog, but I knew that someday I’d want to expand it. At some point in the past few years, I did start to expand it, so when I got the itch to write a holiday story, I knew I had something solid to start with. In the end, it came in around twenty thousand words, which makes for a perfect short story length.

I really loved telling Benny’s story and I hope you enjoy it too.

Title: Seeking Warmth

Summary:

Benny Fuller is on his way to rock bottom. He’s seventeen, fresh out of juvie, homeless, and desperate to find a job.  His dad’s in jail and his drug-addicted mom is in no shape to take care of his sick sister, Angel. A run-in with his ex-boyfriend, Scott Sullivan, makes Benny feel even worse. He’s a thief with no future. Scott is smart, with plans for college and a great future ahead of him. Benny knows Scott can do so much better than him. Because no matter how hard Benny tries, he can’t seem to find a job or a way to take care of Angel.

The further Benny falls, the more he needs Scott’s help. Benny will have to let go of his pride and trust Scott and the Sullivan family in order to get the Christmas miracle Benny and Angel so desperately need.

Reader Advisory: This is an older (15+) YA story with themes of homelessness, drug use and prostitution (off-page), neglect of minors, and foster care.

Excerpt:

People hurried past Benny Fuller without seeing him. They were bundled up warmly against the snow, clutching their holiday shopping bags and packages. They were too intent on their destination to see the kid they pushed past. Now that the sun was going down, the crowds were beginning to thin. The wind picked up and the fat, fluffy snowflakes grew smaller and sharper. They stung his cheeks and made his hands ache. It had been early spring when he went into juvie. He’d had a hat stuffed in his old, beat up Army-style jacket but no gloves.

When the caseworker picked him up at the juvenile detention center and drove him to a foster home, she frowned at his bare hands. She said something about making sure he had a pair of gloves—and a warmer coat and boots—but she got a phone call a few minutes later and apparently forgot. He hadn’t said anything to the foster care lady about it either. So now the slushy snow soaked into his shoes as he walked and he still had no gloves or winter coat. He’d have to make do. But that was nothing new for him, was it? Benny had been doing that for a while now.

He kicked at a piece of torn, soggy cardboard on the sidewalk as he passed it. It did nothing to relieve the gnawing hunger in his stomach or the cold air that crept down the collar of his jacket and numbed his fingers.

It was satisfying though. Something to do to let out all of the frustration and fear boiling inside of him. His job search had amounted to nothing. Everything amounted to nothing. There were no opportunities for kids like him.

He’d been wandering the city for a week. Ever since he left the foster home they placed him in. It hadn’t seemed bad at first. It was clean and there were only two other kids there, both younger. But one of them was a nightmare. Benny had never seen anything like it. The boy screamed and tried to hit the little girl all the time. The foster mother did nothing to stop it. The little girl had bruises on her arms and legs from the boy and it made Benny sick to watch it happen. Within the first day Benny was there, the boy bit Benny hard enough to draw blood, but Benny was the one who got yelled at by the foster mother for provoking him. Benny hadn’t done anything but sit down next to the kid.

Benny had tried to help out, thinking maybe the woman was just overwhelmed, but she yelled at him for interfering. The day after he got there, the little girl had to go to the doctor for pinkeye. Benny was left home with the boy. It was a nightmare. After the boy screamed and hit him and acted like a little monster all day, Benny couldn’t handle it anymore. As soon as the woman got home with the girl, Benny crawled out the bedroom window and left.

He went straight to his childhood home, even though there was no one there waiting for him. He collected his car and a few belongings, but he knew he couldn’t stay or Child Protective Services would just drag him out of there and back to a foster home.

But once he left his old house, he had nowhere else to go. He had a car though, thankfully. It had sat, unused, while he was in juvie. It was still registered, thankfully, although the insurance on it had lapsed. He’d have to hope he didn’t get pulled over, or he’d be in big trouble.

With no home and no job, what else could he do now but wander? Sit in his car and feel sorry for himself? Even if he wanted to, he didn’t have any money for gas so he couldn’t do it for long. He tried to run the engine as little as possible. Just enough to keep himself from freezing to death. At least when he was up and walking, his blood was flowing.

He wasn’t warm, but at least he wasn’t dead. That was something, right?

Up ahead, a brightly-lit storefront spilled yellow light onto the snowy sidewalk. Its warmth beckoned Benny to come closer, but as he approached, he recognized the building and scowled. Sullivan’s Fine Gifts, the sign on the window read. Damn it. His wandering had taken him to the last place he should be.

Stupid. Why did I come here? He wondered. It wasn’t like he could go in and see Scott Sullivan. God, he wanted to though. Scott was the only person Benny had ever trusted. The only one who really knew him. Scott was the best thing that had ever happened to Benny. Too bad Benny was the worst thing that had ever happened to Scott.

Benny stood in front of the gift shop long enough for the snowflakes to settle on his too-thin jacket. His breath fogged the window and cold and hunger faded away as he stared into the store owned by his ex-boyfriend’s parents, mesmerized by the cheerful lights and decorations. It advertised home and family.

Warmth. Security. Love.

All the things Benny didn’t have.

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May Day

Family traditions are big in my family. I’m still mourning all of the traditions we lost when my grandma died, but there are a few we’ve managed to keep intact with some modifications.

Every year when I was growing up, my grandma, mom, and I would go to a local greenhouse that opens on May 1st and closes whenever they run out of plants. I missed the trip on the years when May 1st fell on a weekday. But once I was done with school I took the day off work to go. Now that grandma is gone, mom and I go. Sometimes we invite my dad.

This year was one of the cooler days for the greenhouse trip. As someone who hates hot weather, I was very happy. When it’s already 75 degrees out, it becomes unbearable inside the greenhouse.

We actually visited three different greenhouses and a couple of markets. It was a long but really enjoyable day and a great way to celebrate May Day!

This year I decided to take some photos of the plants that caught my eye. I didn’t bring my big digitals SLR and lenses, but I am quite pleased with the photos I took with my Nexus 5 and I think it did quite well for a phone camera.

You can click on each photo to make it larger and see more detail.

My parents got some flowers to give as gifts, other to keep, and some vegetables for the garden. I helped pick out some herbs. I already used some of the herbs to make lamb patties with a cucumber salad and mint sauce (SO GOOD). And I am looking forward to making mojitos this summer.

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I also picked up a succulent for myself. They’re trendy right now, but I’m not complaining. I’ve always found them interesting and it’s nice to see a bigger selection available. This one is a bit of a mystery. It was in with the jade plants and looks very similar to them. Unlike a jade, it is fuzzy. I checked with the people at the greenhouse and they didn’t have an exact variety name for me. It’s in the Crassula family (Jades are too) but there are over 1400 varieties of Crassula so I’ll probably never figure out exactly what type it is. I’m going to treat it like a jade and hope for the best!

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Dilemma

When I spoke to my parents a few days ago we discussed a lot of random things, but the SCOTUS ruling was a big one.  They were thrilled by it and understood my excitement both for myself and for the people I care about.  Unfortunately, it also led to an interesting discussion about one of my aunts that left me feeling apprehensive.  According to my dad, one of my aunts was quite upset about the marriage equality ruling.

This aunt is my dad’s older sister.  She’s in her 70’s and not in great health, although I am hopeful she’ll be around for a number of years.  She’s also basically the only aunt I have left.  The ones on my mom’s side of the family no longer speak to us (there was a huge, family-destroying fight after my grandma died) although one still occasionally exchanges cards with me.  My dad’s two other sisters are dead, so this one aunt is more or less all I have left in that generation of family.

Her views on homosexuality never come up in any discussion I’ve had with her, but apparently she’s very against gay marriage.  My dad thinks my aunt’s feelings tie into her Catholic upbringing. Both my parents are practicing Catholics as well, but basically they ignore all of the social teachings about birth control, abortion, women as priests, priests being allowed to marry, gay rights, etc.  I don’t understand it, but I respect that attending church has meaning for them.  My aunt, however, seems to follow the church’s teachings much more strictly.

The situation with her puts me in a weird spot. She doesn’t know I’m bi or that I write m/m romance.  It’s not because I’ve intentionally tried to hide it, but it’s honestly never come up in conversation.  I think she has a vague idea that I write, but we’ve never actually discussed it in any depth and she’s never asked about the subject matter.  Every conversation we have in the future will be tinged by the knowledge that she most likely wouldn’t support me if she knew. I don’t like hiding who I am or what I do.  It feels like a cop out to not tell her, simply because I have the privilege of choosing to keep silent because I happen to be married to a man.

In comparison to many people’s experiences, the potential to lose the support of a single family member is pretty mild, but it doesn’t make it any easier. She’s the aunt who counted my fingers on one hand and somehow always came up with six even though I could never figure out where the extra one came from.  She’s the one who did crafty painting projects with me as a kid. She’s the aunt who introduced me to vintage glassware and made me fall in love with it.  The aunt who made sure I ended up with some of the beautiful costume jewelry that belonged to my grandmother because she knew I’d appreciate it.  She’s the last aunt I have left and she’s not getting any younger.

I know for a fact that if she made homophobic comments in front of me, I’d speak up.  I don’t think there’s any way I could hear it and NOT speak up.  It just isn’t in my nature.  Chances are it would lead to a discussion where I’d be honest about my identity and profession.

But the thought of bringing it up out of the blue leaves me with a very uneasy feeling.  Creating drama (even for a good reason) isn’t something I like. I know my parents will support me either way, which I am intensely grateful for, but I honestly have no idea what will happen if I tell her.

There’s a chance that by getting to know me, she could change her mind.  That’s what makes me lean toward wanting to tell her.  But that’s a pretty big gamble.  The thought of losing her love and support makes me hurt, but deliberately hiding who I am in order to keep it does too and I have no idea which choice is the right one.

Christmas Ambivalence

I have mixed feelings about Christmas this year.  I’ve been so busy with the novella that my Christmas preparation didn’t really get underway until a few weeks ago.  Other than taking advantage of the Cyber Monday sales to buy my husband gifts and putting up my Christmas tree, it wasn’t until the last few weeks (and especially the last few days) that I’ve really put much effort into it.  I’ve made up for lost time though: the house is decorated, treats are baked, shopping is done, I’ve donated to charity, and I went to see a performance of A Christmas Carol with my parents like I have for the past 30 years.  But I haven’t been feeling Christmas this year.  I’m going through the motions more than I’d like to.  Part of it’s a lack of snow–it’s raining and forty degrees right now–although I am grateful we haven’t had an ice storm like we did last year.  No power before Christmas is stressful as hell.  I actually like rain and gloom most of the year, but around Christmas, I really want snow.

I felt a glimmer of the Christmas spirit in the last few days as I baked and listened to Christmas carols.  I tried very hard to feel jolly as I wrapped gifts.  But my brain wasn’t fully on board.  I look at the picture below and think “that looks cheerful”.  But I don’t feel cheerful.

Christmas cookies

It doesn’t help that we’re horribly short-staffed at work right now. I usually take a few days off before Christmas and I couldn’t this year.  I’m scheduled to work Christmas Eve until 4pm and for weeks, had no idea if I’d even be able to go to my husband’s family’s celebration.  They live two hours away so he’d miss most of it he waited until I got out of work to go.  I didn’t want him to miss a chance to see his family, some of whom he only sees once or twice a year.  But the prospect of working all day and then spending the evening alone was depressing and it hung over everything.

It’s not official per se, but my boss has given me the go ahead that I’ll be able to get out early and go.  I’m crossing my fingers that everything will go according to plan and I can celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband and his family.  So that’s good news.

Unfortunately, last night I got the news that my family’s Christmas has been rescheduled.  My mom has a cold and my dad has what sounds like the flu.  He’s almost never sick, so him saying that he didn’t feel up to doing Christmas was a surprise.  He must really feel awful. I certainly don’t blame him, but it looks like the soonest we’ll be able to get together to celebrate will be January 3rd.  Not going to lie, I cried when I found out.

Since my grandma died and my extended family splintered apart, I’ve struggled with the holidays.  I still see two of my cousins and their kids–although usually not until late January/February–so it isn’t as though I won’t celebrate with them.  But it isn’t the same.  And when it’s tied in with some very unresolved family issues … well, Christmas hasn’t been quite as happy as it used to be.  I felt like I was doing well in the last few years though.  Getting used to the idea that it was a small celebration with my parents, aunt, and  husband.  Eating my dad’s homemade scones, opening gifts, having dinner in front of the fireplace. I was trying to embrace those new traditions and to have that yanked out from under me took me by surprise.  Now I feel weepy and deflated, what Christmas cheer I had utterly gone.

I’m trying to be grateful that I have family.  That they are–colds and flu aside–healthy.  This year I have a warm house (with power!) and I’m all ready for Christmas.  I let myself wallow and mope a bit last night and this morning.  But writing this has been catharctic and I’m trying to keep things in perspective.

I realized earlier today that my husband and I don’t even own stockings.  Well, we do, but they’re at my parents’ house.  Nevermind that we don’t have a mantel either.  Surprising in a house from the 1920’s, but there is no fireplace.  I plan to go out after work and see if I can find two stockings.   We can always hang them off the aquarium.

It’s the first Christmas Day my husband and I have ever spent with just the two of us and I’m at a loss for how to celebrate it.  Number one, we need to figure out dinner for that day. Nothing we have on the menu seems particularly festive.  Ginger beef stir fry with kale and mushrooms sounds delicious, but not for Christmas dinner.

Christmas fir tree branch with holly berry

I’m wishing hard for a white Christmas, but that’s out of my control and aside from hanging stockings, I’m wracking my brain about what else we can do to make the day special.  What are your traditions? Do you have any thoughts on what I can do to kick this funk in the pants and replace it with some holiday spirit?

 

New Release – “Family: A Holiday Novella”

 

 

 Summary:

After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws.

Excerpt:

Peter clapped him on the back. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Stephen. I saw you with Jeremy and after his accident. I saw you when you believed you’d never fall in love again. This relationship with Russ—it’s made you a new man. You may not see it, but it’s changed you.”

“I know it has,” Stephen acknowledged. Peter left, and Stephen sought Russ again. He was in line at the bar now, and he held up his empty glass, mouthing “be there in a moment”. Eager to go to him, Stephen set down his own empty glass on a deserted table as he crossed the distance between them. Russ, distracted by something the person in front of him said, didn’t notice Stephen’s approach.

Stephen leaned in, whispering in Russ’ ear as he rested his hands lightly on Russ’ hips. “Dance with me?”

Russ turned to look at him, surprised. “Are you sure?”

“Sure I want to put my arms around the man I love? Yes.” The earlier doubt he’d felt was gone. Peter had some valid points, and what Stephen wouldn’t give to feel Russ in his arms right now. Over the years, he’d conditioned himself to expect less than others, simply because he was gay. Straight couples didn’t think twice about dancing with each other during the holiday party. Why should he?

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I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this story was to write. What should have been a relatively easy, fun holiday novella wound up becoming a writing challenge.  I struggled with this story from September to November, trying to get it right.  When I finally felt like I had it ready, I sent it to my betas.  The majority of them told me it  had potential but needed work.  I got nearly idential comments from several people telling me it didn’t flow well and felt repetitive.  Clearly I needed to re-work it.

So I tore it apart, completely decimating the timeline and re-working it. I cut a few scenes, tweaked the remaining ones, and by the time it was done it was much tighter.  I felt better about it and the feedback on it was good.  And I learned a lot from the experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a stressful, rushed, and disorganized release though.  I was aiming to have this out by the first week in December but the extra time was needed and I’d rather put out a good story late than half-ass it and get it out on time.  If only it wasn’t so stressful.  I’m ready to pull the blankets over my head and sleep until the new year.

That being said, I really do love the story and am glad I was able to tell it.  Russ and Stephen are very dear to my heart and I had fun exploring what the holidays would be like for them.

I hope you enjoy the story.  And more than anything I hope you’re able to spend the holidays with the people you care about.  Because, like Stephen, I’ve learned that people you meet can often become as important–if not more–important than the family you were born into.

If there’s one thing I wish for this holiday season, it’s that everyone has at least one person in their life they can call family.  A person who feels like home.

 

All Romance

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Acceptance and Support

When “Pain Management” was accepted by Dreamspinner last fall, I came out to my parents about writing gay romance. And (somewhat spontaneously) came out as bi.

When it was published in February, they told me how proud of me they were and gave me a beautiful card and wooden jewelry box to celebrate.

When they asked to read it I had a mild panic attack and a few weeks ago, I finally gave them a copy.

Tonight they told me what they thought. Apparently my mother had thought it was about two women, not two men, so she was rather surprised. She also (teasingly) told me it scarred her for life. Which is what I tell her every time she gets excessively flirty with my dad (usually after half a glass of wine). She also told me she thought I was a very good writer.

My parents may not completely understand why I love writing m/m romance.  They may not have any desire to read anything else I write.  But that’s okay.  They support me and I feel damn lucky to have their acceptance and support.

And sometimes I wish I could share them with all of the people who don’t have that kind of family.  Because everyone deserves it.

Closets

I ran across this video today and it really resonated with me. I’ve watched Ash Beckham’s videos before, and she’s always funny, always clever, and always makes excellent points in her speeches. This particular one is about being closeted. Not in the strictly gay sense, but in the sense that all human beings are closeted in one way or another when we hide our true selves from the world.

At some point or another, all of us have had a moment where we’ve stepped out of the closet.   We’ve taken that deep breath—heart in our throats—and spoken the truth, not knowing how it was going to be received.

Several weeks ago, I came out to my parents on two different levels. One was as a writer of gay romance.   The other was as a bisexual woman.

When I was sixteen, I kissed one of my best friends while playing truth or dare. I didn’t think twice about it, because ten minutes later, I kissed another friend. One was female, the other was male, and in our group of friends, it never really mattered either way. Over the next few years, I kissed quite a few of my friends, and it never once occurred to me to wonder if it meant anything that I liked kissing girls every bit as much as I liked kissing guys.

Maybe it was because we were in theater, maybe it was because we were a tactile group, but it felt completely natural. We gave each other backrubs, we cuddled backstage, we feel asleep at parties all mushed together, we went skinny-dipping. Much as our parents feared otherwise, it wasn’t about sex, it was friendship and closeness, affection … connecting with another person. Kissing was just another part of that. Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, those words didn’t apply to what we were doing. We were friends.

So when I went off to college , started dating, and realized that not everyone felt that way, I was a little bewildered. Sure, I thought the girl in my math class was really hot, but so what? Did it really matter? Well, it turns out the rest of the world likes putting people into neat little categories like gay and straight. My boyfriend at the time really struggled with the idea of my attraction to women. He’d ask me, “are you bisexual?” and I’d shrug and say, “I don’t know, does it matter?” Well, it turns out did matter to him. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great guy, but he really needed me to define that about myself. And since I couldn’t do that when we were together, after some very excruciating soul-searching, I broke it off with him. Not just because of that—there were other reasons—but at the heart of it all was the fact that all of a sudden I was questioning something that had never been an issue for me at all. Was I bisexual? I was attracted to women, maybe not as much as to men, but definitely attracted to them. What did that mean?

Eventually, I came to a point where I decided that yes, I was bisexual. There was no grand coming out to my friends. All of them either already knew or didn’t care one way or another, so I didn’t worry about it. I considered telling my family—they were good people, I was sure they’d support me no matter what—but what was the point? I wasn’t dating any girls seriously enough to care, so why bother? If it came up at some point, great, otherwise, I didn’t see any compelling reason to create a fuss when it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Toward the end of college, I met a girl. She was mind-bogglingly smart and driven, funny and interesting. She made me dizzy just thinking about her and we spent a whole summer flirting. We watched movies, went out for sushi, and lounged in her hot tub. We went to coffee shops and spent hours talking. I drank chai while she smoked clove cigarettes and we made busboys drop dishes when we kissed. We talked about how ridiculous labels like bisexual were and what did it matter if you called yourself gay or straight? It was all so perfect, but it was confusing, too, because we never talked about if we were dating or not, so when the guy she’d been in love with for years finally got the courage to ask her out, all of a sudden we were over. And I didn’t know if we’d ever really been in a relationship, or if she’d ever returned the way I felt. I had been picturing a future with her and then all of a sudden it was gone. I was heartbroken and lost and struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. It all came together in a dizzying mess while I battled anxiety and the crippling fear of failing in a field I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go into anymore.

A few months after that, I met a boy. He was funny and quirky, and he made me feel safe. I wasn’t in love with him, but I loved his tattoos, and the way he never made me feel like he was going to break my heart. He wrote a strange, brilliant book, and I edited it for him, and didn’t realize that what I really wanted to be doing was writing my own. I doubted myself, and second-guessed myself and although I loved reading and writing, I never thought I could make a career of it. My heart didn’t break when he moved all the way across the country, but it still left me reeling. I’ll never eat a Clementine again without thinking of him, and his words, and the ink on his skin. And although it’s been a few years since I’ve talked to him, I know he’d be proud that I’m writing now.

When I met a guy online a few months later and we hit it off, I never expected anything to come of it. Sure, he looked cute in the pictures he sent me and he made me laugh when we talked on the phone, but I wasn’t looking for a relationship. When we finally met in person for coffee, I never expected that he’d wind up being the love of my life. After talking for a few hours, it felt like I’d known him forever and somewhere in my soul I knew he was going to become an important part of my life. I wasn’t ready for him and my head was still a mess, but I was smart enough to grab on tight and hold on to him. He was patient, he let me sort out the mess in my head and put all of the pieces back together. He didn’t do it for me, but he waited until I could do it myself. And even though the idea of a relationship scared me, I did it anyway. I let him into my heart, I moved in with him, and I then I married him.

Those were the smartest decisions I ever made in my life.

When I ambushed him one day after he got home from work and said, “holy shit, I finally know what I want to do with my life. I want to be a writer,” he said, “okay.” And we sat down and talked it through like we had everything else in our lives up to that point.

Over the last few years, the books I’ve read have shifted more and more to the m/m genre until now that’s almost exclusively what I read. With the rise of eBook popularity, it’s easier to buy anything you want without having to wonder what other people will think of your choice of reading material. So when someone would ask what I was reading, I’d give them a title but be vague about the content. Or at least be vague about the fact that the protagonists were both male. And when I started to write stories in that genre, I kept that quiet, too. I was elusive about what I was writing rather than proudly stating, “I write gay romance.”

It wasn’t that I was ashamed or thought there was something wrong with it, but I wasn’t quite ready to be open to the kind of scrutiny that being brutally honest would create. So I dodged and evaded until I hit the point where I was ready to send in my first short story to a publisher. My husband had known all along, so it was no surprise to him, but I took the first step out of that closet I’d created for myself, and sent the story to my best friend. And then told another friend about it. I realized that it felt a little easier every time.

So when I got the news that my story had been accepted, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I was so incredibly excited and proud that I wanted to blurt it out to everyone. I told everyone I knew online, most of my real life friends, but when it came time to decide if I was going to tell my family, I hesitated. My parents are wonderful, supportive people and it wasn’t that I couldn’t trust them, but there was still that tiny bit of fear there.

My friend Jordan, who I’ve mentioned before, has influenced me more than he’ll probably ever know. He came out to his family as  bisexual recently, and his honesty and willingness to open himself up in order to be true to himself is something I greatly admire. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the kind of life I wanted to lead, too.

A few weeks ago, we had my parents over for dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday and show off the newly remodeled kitchen my husband and I spent months slaving over. After dinner, I summoned up my courage, took a deep breath, and blurted out my news. They were a little surprised, and maybe slightly confused by why I was writing stories about two men, but they rolled with it—like I knew they would—and they were proud of me.

I hadn’t planned to come out to them about being a bisexual woman, too.  I am happily married to a man I plan to spend the rest of my life with, why did they need to know that I was also attracted to women? Recently though, I realized that it was beginning to feel wrong to hide that part of myself. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me that it was a secret.

After I told my parents about my story getting published, my mom made a joke that she felt like I was coming out of the closet, and then continued on to say, “but I think I would have known if you were gay.” My heart caught in my throat and I thought, “Oh, God, this is it. This is my chance to lay it all out there. “ And so I did. I said, “Well, actually … I’m bisexual.”

So after years and years of agonizing over it, wondering if I should tell them the truth or not, I did. It was anticlimactic. I had built it up for years in my head, wondering what kind of questions they’d ask, afraid they’d be hurt that I hadn’t told them already. They were certainly surprised, mostly because I hadn’t told them until now, but of course they were supportive, and I realized how silly it had been for me to hide who I was.

Now, almost sixteen years after I kissed a girl for the first time, I know who I am. I’m a bisexual woman. I’m a writer of gay romance. And damn does it feel good to say that.

Ash Beckham is right; closets are no place for human beings. So even if you just peek open the door of yours—whatever it may be—and poke a toe out, it’s a good start. You’ll know when you’re ready to throw the door open. And trust me, it feels better than you can imagine to step outside.