My guest today is Kristen Slater, who’s just published her first story, a novella titled Working It Out. Take it away, Kristen!
Hello everybody—and thank you to Shae for letting me wave at you from her blog. My name’s Kristen Slater and just over a week ago my first ever published story was released by Dreamspinner Press. I’m now starting a round of visits to kind people who are letting me tell their readers about my book, and introduce a giveaway that will run for the duration of my blog tour—details of where else you can find me are on the list on my blog. More about that later.
Working It Out is the story of Cas and Joe—and how Cas works out he’s in love. As the story opens, Joe’s already been saying “I love you” for a while, but Cas isn’t sure how he feels. Now, I’ve never been in love and don’t really form close relationships with people, so you may wonder how I can write about it.
It’s because I’ve read about relationships—everything you read shows people in relationships of one kind and another. Some are more successful than others, and they’re not necessarily the focus of a story the way they are in a romance, but the ins and outs of how people interact are described. And then I’ve also listened to people talking about the people in their lives and watched them interact with each other.
So I’ve a reasonable idea of the theory, at least. And I’m in love with the idea of romantic love. That people meet a special someone (or someones if they’re polyamorous) with whom they want to spend the rest of their life. The idea of having someone at your side, someone to share in your good times and support you in your bad times, someone with whom you can completely let go of all the pretences and barriers and masks. That’s an amazing idea. The person you can trust that much must be pretty special, huh? One of the good guys.
In Working It Out, Cas describes his boyfriend, Joe, as one of the good guys. Originally, the paragraph below finished with those two words. Then the editor asked me a question. How is he one of the good guys? How do we know this?
Well, she had a good point there. It inspired me to think about what makes Joe special, why Cas would want him to stick around. The result was an outline of some of the things that I think make a good partner. One who’s right for you and who values you. Someone it’s worth making an effort for.
Joe just texted to say he’s on his way. He doesn’t like calling from the bus; it’s too public. Time to do something nice for my guy. Vanilla scented candles in the bedroom, a big towel on top of the quilt and aromatherapy massage oil. He’s going to be all twisted and knotted up, and I give a good massage, if I do say so myself. There’s other things I do well, but this is the one he’s going to need tonight. I’ve turned the heating on to make sure the room’s warm enough. Afterwards we’ll just cuddle and go to sleep. This isn’t about sex—we can do that anytime—but making him feel good. He deserves it; he’s one of the good guys. He’s never once let me down, never walked off in the middle of a conversation, never spent the whole evening talking to other people and left me on my own in the corner. I realize that makes it sound like I’ve got crappy taste in men, but I haven’t, honestly. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t complain about the same things in their boyfriends. Joe’s really different, and that’s why I don’t want to mess this up.
Basically, Joe’s attention and focus is on Cas. He doesn’t take Cas for granted. I think that makes him a good guy.
Below is a taster and a peek at the cover. If you’d like to read more, you can buy the story from the Dreamspinner Press website.
But first, that giveaway I mentioned. I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $10 gift certificate for the Dreamspinner Press store. You can enter by commenting on any of the posts on the tour and then visiting Rafflecopter to tell me about it. While there you can click to follow me on twitter and follow my blog for more opportunities to win. If you can’t think of anything to say, I have a question for you. What do you think makes someone a good guy, a person you can depend on?
What is love, anyway? I mean, you tell me how you know you’re in love.
Joe’s been saying I love you for months. I get the feeling he’s expecting me to say it back. But. I dunno. It just doesn’t feel right, you know? Aren’t you supposed to just know? And I don’t. Maybe I love him. I know I like having him around. Those days when he’s late home and there’s no one in the house when I get back, it feels kind of… empty. But that’s habit, isn’t it? Because most times he’s already there when I walk through the door. So it’s bound to feel odd when he isn’t. Isn’t it?
I remember the day he asked me to move in with him. We’d been seeing each other casually for over a year, meeting up and going to his place or mine for some mutual fun. I’m still not sure how it developed into spending most of our spare time together, but we became really good friends at some point. Then there was the day we went back to his flat in the middle of the afternoon, unable to wait to get our hands on each other’s bare flesh. Afterwards, the late afternoon sun bathing us with warmth, he propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at me with an uncharacteristically serious expression.
“Cas? I like being with you. I like it a lot.” Joe’s hand idly stroked my belly in circles and swirls. “I don’t just mean the sex, although that’s incredible. I like the way we never seem to run out of things to say to each other, the way we like doing the same things, going to the same places.” The hand stopped and rested over my diaphragm, warm and relaxed. “What I’m trying to say is I’d like to spend more time together. All our time. I want to wake up next to you every morning and know I’ll see you again that evening. I’d like to try living together.”
The longer I stayed quiet, the more tense his hand became. His beautiful gray eyes were fixed on my face, as if he was trying to read my thoughts. He’d have had a problem. I didn’t really have any coherent thoughts initially. Then, when I did, I wondered why he was asking. What we had was good. Why change that? Living together was like some sort of heavy-duty commitment. I’d seen enough people who had a good thing going break up after moving in together. And we’re only in our midtwenties, what’s the rush?
I suppose I should have seen it coming. The “I love you” thing. I’d said yes to living together because I couldn’t see a way of continuing to see Joe if I didn’t. And I wanted to keep seeing him. Like he said, the sex was—and still is—incredible. Also, I’ve never been one of those people who have hundreds of friends. I always say it’s because I’m picky and have a different definition of what the word friend means. And Joe was—is—a friend. He isn’t the only one who likes us spending time together. The way I define friend, I’ve only ever had about four or five, and Joe’s the best one I ever had. It’s not that I’m antisocial or anything, but most people are acquaintances. Some closer than others, but still—acquaintances.
Tonight, I’m on my own on the sofa, some program or other on the muted TV providing a bit of light and movement in the corner. And getting all introspective. Tonight’s one of those late nights for Joe. His job at the Council is on flextime, which looks like an excuse to mess people around, if you ask me. Unlike him, I don’t have unexpected delays at work, because the library at the University has set closing times. It’s a specialized library and I help people find the information and references they need, and assess the quality of their sources, as well as the usual library things. You know, making sure everything’s back where it belongs at the end of each day, keeping our journal subscriptions up to date, chasing down students and staff who don’t bring stuff back when it’s due. But mostly I help people with their research.
I came home to a text on the mobile I accidentally left on the kitchen worktop when leaving for work this morning. I could tell he was pissed off about working late. He doesn’t normally swear in texts. Or any other time really. When he gets in, he’ll need to let off steam about his boss, Penny. I keep telling him he needs to get another job. The trouble is, he likes what he does. It’s just her.
I was disappointed. I’d been looking forward to telling him about my day, finding out about his. There’s always some small thing that’s happened in the day and I need to share it with someone—with Joe specifically. He understands what I’m saying, he gets why it was funny, or sad, or annoying. I like to hear what he’s been up to as well. We sit there after dinner swapping anecdotes, snuggled up on the sofa or one on the sofa and the other in a chair, depending on our mood. I feel like I’ve known him all my life, and even when we’re quiet, it’s comfortable sitting together. I don’t have to make this huge effort to be constantly entertaining, and if a thought crosses my mind I know I can say it out loud and he’ll understand.
So. Where was I? Oh yeah. What is love, and how do you know if what you feel is love? Why should I be worrying about this tonight of all nights, you ask? Well, we’re going away this weekend. Joe’s planned this incredibly romantic weekend in Brussels. I know why. Sunday’s six months to the day when we moved his things in to join mine. If we’re going to start celebrating anniversaries and stuff like that, I need to think about what sort of relationship this is. Is this just good fun, or are we in it for the long haul?