Series: Just Life # 4
Can be read as a standalone, but there are elements in the other stories that will add depth to this one
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Pages or Words: 70,000 words
Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
JONATHAN SHIVERED in the early morning air but not from the chill. He wrapped his arms around himself and groaned as his wound tugged against the movement. He relaxed slowly as the pain eased. From where he stood, he could see between the two apartment blocks to where the sun glinted off the Brisbane River. Five years ago he used to watch the ferries puddle their way up and down the river, dropping passengers here at Hamilton and across the way at Bulimba. He’d missed that view for a long time. He wondered if he’d miss the house now that he was leaving it.
The house was gray—morning gray, Anthony had called it, but it had always looked like unwashed, neglected underwear to him. The lines of the house were precise and symmetrical, unlike the yard. The front lawn bore scars, just like his chest. They were from his Cruiser skidding to a stop the night Anthony had sent him to kill Mark. His eyes burned as he thought how close he’d come to doing what his boyfriend told him to.
At the time, he didn’t think he had any other choice. It was kill or be killed. Literally. By the end of that night, Mark had been the only one left uninjured. Liam’s leg had thankfully healed quickly where Anthony had stabbed him. Anthony was still in hospital with a self-inflicted knife wound to the stomach, and Jonathan… Jonathan was done with that life. Anthony’s knife in his chest—so close to his heart it was clearly intended to be fatal—had cured him of whatever delusions he’d held onto that let him believe he was in love with the man. Even Anthony’s assertions that Jonathan was responsible for him being in a wheelchair since the car accident two years before wouldn’t get him to stay.
He was out of it now, or at least he would be as soon as the removalists came and took his stuff away. Then he could begin to heal. The first step had been to learn to breathe again after his lung collapsed when Anthony stabbed him. The next step… he didn’t know what the next step after this was. He wasn’t going to admit it to anyone, but he was just as terrified now, starting a life of his own—on his own—as he was when he thought he was going to die.
The trembling began again. Dizzy. Couldn’t catch his breath. He leaned beside the front door and forced himself to bring his mind back to the here and now and looked around again. There was a new section of fence now, and the Cruiser had been repaired and sat at the curb, waiting for him. His cousin must have had the damage repaired while Jonathan was in the hospital—learning how to make his lung work again after his boyfriend had tried to kill him. He shook the thoughts from his head. He had to stop thinking like this or he’d go mad.
Sleep last night had been impossible. The house had been cleaned, but nothing was going to completely remove the blood splattered on the white carpet. His blood.
A low rumble burbled through the air, and a truck turned onto the street. Jonathan’s heart raced. “You can do this,” he whispered, although he wasn’t quite sure which part of “this” he was talking about. It could be dealing with strangers on his own, or it could be leaving Anthony—finally. He pressed the heel of his hand over the dressing on his chest. Staying with Anthony was no longer an option.
The truck stopped and turned to reverse into the driveway. The high-pitched beeping made Jonathan jump and, to calm himself, he focused on the two men sitting in the cab. The driver looked young and blond, the passenger older and shriveled, his hair sticking out in unkempt tangles.
“Two people. Not Anthony. You’re outside, everything’s marked. You don’t need to go inside with them at all if you don’t want to. You can do this.” He counted his breaths in and out. The beeping stopped, the engine cut out, and the driver’s door opened.
Long, well-formed legs slipped from the cab, by-passing the step completely as a muscled body slid to the ground. Khaki cargo shorts bunched enticingly around a spectacular package before settling loosely around slim hips as the man’s boot-clad feet landed on the ground and he stood away from the truck. Jonathan moved his gaze up the body. The worn T-shirt did nothing to hide the trim stomach and prominent pecs and the sleeves framed the rounded deltoids perfectly. Jonathan sighed as he lifted his focus higher to see the man’s wide smile.
About the author:
E E Montgomery wants the world to be a better place, with equality and acceptance for all. Her philosophy is: We can’t change the world but we can change our small part of it and, in that way, influence the whole. Writing stories that show people finding their own ‘better place’ is part of E E Montgomery’s own small contribution.
Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of inspiration for stories that show people growing in their acceptance and love of themselves and others. A dedicated people-watcher, E E finds stories everywhere. In a cafe, a cemetery, a book on space exploration or on the news, there’ll be a story of personal growth, love, and unconditional acceptance there somewhere. FB Twitter Website Blog
1. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your first book?
My first published story was Between Love and Honor. It still makes me cry. I can’t think of anything that I would change in that story. Everything happened because it had to, even though it left David devastated.
2. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting past the two-thirds mark. That’s when I realize I either have no idea what I’m doing, it isn’t working, or I know how it ends and I lose interest. I have to push past the insecurities and dissect the story so I can see what needs to happen, then I have to remind myself that sometimes characters stir things up just before the end and I could be wrong. There might be a different ending in there that I haven’t found yet. That usually works.
3. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have a lot of favourite authors for a lot of different reasons. The one author I go back to all the time, and have since I was four, is Isaac Asimov. His writing is very clean and simple. He doesn’t use emotive language and all his facts are correct. It’s my comfort read; like a hot chocolate on a rainy afternoon.
4. Who designs your covers?
The publisher designs the covers. With some publishers there’s no choice at all, with others I’m offered many opportunities for input. The cover for Just the Way You Are was designed by Catt Ford. She did an amazing job from the design brief I completed. I had in my head, not a design, but a feel I wanted for the cover, and Catt exceeded that. She gave me something I didn’t even realize I needed. I like the way the flower is used to symbolize Jonathan’s journey from dark to light.
5. What’s the hardest part of writing your books?
Editing. That’s where I have to check that the overall structure works, that everything everyone does makes sense for their character, that the plot elements interweave properly and are interesting, that I’m showing and not telling, that I’m writing actively and not passively… the list goes on. Anything that doesn’t work has to be changed. Sometimes the changes are minor, sometimes major. There are so many things whirling around in my head, I can’t keep track of it all, and even though I write it all down, I still miss bits. Some days it does my head in and I have to walk away from it. Other days, I get into a groove and resent every interruption.
While I prefer to just make stuff up and write it down—that’s the fun bit—I know editing makes my work stronger, so I persevere.
6. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Two things: never stop learning, never give up. Even when what you’ve written seems like it’s the best it can be, there’ll always be something to improve, either with this one or the next. So keep learning your craft, re-learn things you’ve done before. You never know it all. Sometimes, something you write will be perfect; sometimes it will be absolute dreck. Shit happens; don’t assume it means you can’t write. Rewrite it, write something else, work out why it didn’t work and fix it. If writing is your passion, don’t ever give up.
7. Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I’m one of those people who has a little bit of talent in a lot of things, but I’m not really good at many of them at all.
Writing is my greatest passion. I have to do something to do with writing every day or I become a bad-tempered dragon with a lack of control over his fire.
Other things I do to keep busy:
1. I bake. Usually I bake basic things, nothing complicated. I love trying recipes from the first half of the 20th Century or before. My scones are always soft and fluffy and my Victoria sponge melts in your mouth. Conversely, my Anzac biscuits are either rock-hard or soggy.
2. I sew. I used to make all my own clothes, but life seems to be busier now. I also don’t have anywhere to set my machines up and leave everything out while I’m working. That means my sewing is done in a couple of intense work-outs during the year. What I make has also changed. I’ve moved into costumery. I love dressing up in weird and wonderful outfits, and I like to challenge my skills. That means I have things made of brocade and silk, as well as the easier to sew fabrics such as cotton and linen. I have a ‘sort-of’ authentically made early 14th Century dress. I say sort-of because, while the fabric is something that would have existed then and the style is correct, I did NOT hand-stitch the entire 7m hem. I’m also the only person I know who has more than one hand-made Star Trek NG costume.
3. I knit—not very well. I know exactly how to do everything and if I could keep the numbers in my head for more than two seconds I probably wouldn't forget where I was up to with the pattern. Because I forget to count, none of my projects are error-free. I also get distracted easily so have learned to knit small things I can finish in less than a week. I have a box full of larger projects that got put down half-way through and never picked up again.
4. I have at various times done things such as embroidery, tapestry, needlepoint, decoupage, made felt finger puppets, fabric painting, screen printing, landscape and portrait painting (acrylics and water colour), house painting (interior), batik, glass cutting, picture framing.
5. I’m a qualified massage therapist, although I haven’t done any massage for anyone except immediate family for so long I’d need to requalify if I wanted to go back into that business.
6. I garden. I grow all my vegetables organically and I grow roses (not organically). The vegetables are in the back yard, the roses in the front, so the chemicals from the roses don’t contaminate my vegetables.
7. I play piano. The counting thing is a problem here too. My head is so full of other things, I can’t keep track of the numbers. This means my piano playing is mediocre at best. Often I’m the only one who can recognize what I’m playing!
8. I read. I used to read everything I could lay my hands on and still have an extensive collection of books. Since I’ve been writing to be published, my reading material has narrowed. Now I read mostly in the genre I write in with the occasional biography and non-fiction title thrown in for variety. Currently on my ‘browsing’ table – the books that are always out in case I have the urge to read something – is David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing, 1929: The Year of the Great Crash and The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts.
8. Favorite foods/Colors/Music?
Food: I’m pretty easy to please with foods. I used to be vegetarian and love most vegetarian dishes. I’ll eat most things Asian but I’m not a fan of seafood. I tend to avoid the crustaceans. Anything fresh and well-prepared but not smothered in sauces.
Colours: Orange. If orange isn’t available, I’ll choose red or purple. I like neutrals to balance (white, off-white, creams, beige, browns, black).
Music: I’m not a big music listener. I prefer silence. When I do listen to music I choose something that suits my mood or a mood I want to be in. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Erik Satie, Thelonious Monk, Katy Perry, Arctic Monkeys, and Bell X1.
9. What bores you in a book?
Things that bore me in books are exactly the same types of things I do without realizing it then have to go back and fix. A lot of literary works bore me because nothing happens, no one is challenged, no one grows through the story. They use lots of pretty words and glorious phrases to say absolutely nothing. Often these books have much deeper meanings but I don’t have the time or inclination to search them out and ponder them.
Other things in books annoy me more than bore me. Books that repeat the same things over and over annoy me. The repetitions can be phrases or themes or conflicts that are never resolved. Books that don’t have a defined ending annoy me. Books with weak or irritating characters annoy me. Heroes who choose the wrong love interest annoy me. (The movie As Good As It Gets: she chose the wrong guy.) Interestingly enough, all of these things are things I have to fight against every time I write a book. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m doing it.
10. Can you share something about your works in progress?
I’m working on a lot of things right now. I’m still trying to write the story I began at the beginning of the year. I’m about two-thirds through, and have been for a while. I keep changing things to make them sit better. It’s gradually pulling together. Once I’m happy with the first two-thirds, the last part will (hopefully) fall into place and I’ll get it finished quickly.
I’m doing a major structural edit on a story I finished a while ago. I love the story but it doesn’t work with its present structure. I decided last week it’s the kind of book that has to be written in ’books’. There’ll be a Book 1, that is set on two different planets. Then Book 2 will be five years later and also set on two different planets. I haven’t decided what to do with the large number of characters I have. I’ve combined as many as I can but I still have six major point of view characters for readers to get to know and empathise with. I’ll separate it out into books first and cut any extraneous characters before I do anything else. Hopefully that will be enough to either fix the rest of the problems or show me how to make it better.
I’m also editing the next book after The Planet Whisperer (publication Dreamspinner Press, Dec-Jan). I thought I only needed to do a light edit, but when I read it again, I realised I had gaps in the plot. Out came the index cards and I did a complete scene map and worked out what needed to be added or changed and how. I’m nearly finished and I’m much happier with the story. It’ll be ready to submit soon.
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