Let the Festivities Commence!
This Used to Be Easier is now doing its thing out in the world, and I've been absolutely overjoyed to see so many readers connecting with Meg and Connie's story. The book hit the top ten in Amazon's lesbian romance chart! It means the world to me to know my books can bring a little more romance to so many people's days.
Release week has only just begun, and as usual, I've got lots of festivities planned to keep the celebration going. I even made a handy dandy little schedule so everyone (myself included) can keep track of the special features coming to my blog this week.
Here ya go:
Up on today's agenda is a special sneak peek. I have the whole first chapter of This Used to Be Easier included in this post, so if you're looking to get a first taste of the story, keep on reading.
You can grab your copy here.
“Megan Marion Doyle, are you seriously hiding under my bed?”
I stare at the wooden slats above my face and shift so the edge of the carpet isn’t digging into my back.
“Shhh,” I whisper. “And don’t call me Megan.”
Justice’s socked feet appear at the edge of the bed. He crouches down to squint at me in the gap between the floor and the mattress.
“Hun, you know you can’t stay under here forever.”
I avoid his eyes, still focusing on the slats of IKEA-grade pine above me. “I know. I’ll just stay here long enough to miss my bus. Possibly long enough to miss the next bus too, just to be safe.”
He sighs and straightens back up. The bed creaks as he sits down on the mattress.
“Yeah, babe, I don’t think that’s gonna fly with the guy I have coming over tonight. Like, ‘Hello, Derek. Welcome to my place. Don’t mind the homeless lesbian hiding under the bed in existential terror. Would you like a drink?’”
I snort in spite of said terror—the one that told me to crawl under this bed in the first place and is now sitting on my chest like a fear-fueled demon keeping me pinned to the ground. “His name is Derek? You’re banging a dude named Derek tonight?”
“He’s a spin coach, okay? He can be named whatever he wants with a body like that. Also I don’t need to justify my choices to you, Meg.” He drums his heels on the floor in emphasis. “Do I need to yet again point out that you’re hiding under a bed? It’s not even your bed.”
Now it’s my turn to sigh. Justice has been known to dole out the roastings harder and faster than Gordon Ramsay, but I deserve every minute of this one. Not only am I twenty-two years old and hiding under my friend’s bed to avoid getting on a bus, but I’m also, as he put it, currently homeless.
Hence my living on Justice’s futon for the past two weeks and my impending return to my home town to get my mess of a life sorted out.
I take a deep breath and shrug off enough of the dread to start shuffling my way out from under the bed, inching along like a wiggling turtle stuck upside down on its shell.
“God, this is actual nightmare fuel,” Justice jokes, faking a shudder as my head emerges into the harsh light of morning.
“Oh fuck off.” I smack his ankles to get them out of my way, and he folds them up into a cross-legged seat on his green and white striped comforter.
I finish extracting myself from under the bed and flop down beside him, replacing my view of the slats with a view of the outdated popcorn ceiling. If I keep looking up, I won’t have to look at my two suitcases and duffel bag sitting by the door.
My peaceful meditation gets interrupted by Justice leaning over to hover his face above mine, his dark, highlight-streaked hair falling into his brown eyes.
“Meg, seriously, you do have to catch that bus.”
I blink. “You’re so handsome, Justice.”
He rolls his eyes and lets out a sound somewhere between a growl and a falsetto scream.
He really is beautiful. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t catch at least seven guys checking him out. We were buying toilet paper the other day, and this dude came over and hit him with a ‘Come here often?’
Justice Chan—call him Justin, and he will orchestrate your social annihilation—has been one of my best friends since we met at Montreal’s biggest gay bar during the first month of my freshman year at McGill. He’s a year older than me and currently rocking his way through real estate agent training.
I sit up after he pulls away from looming over me and clap a hand on his shoulder, bouncing a little on the mattress with the excitement of the idea that’s just hit me.
“Yo, Justice, why don’t you come with me? Just for a few days. It will be like a fun field trip. You can escape the hectic heat of city life in the beautiful rural refuge that is Chapel Creek.”
I spread one of my hands in a ‘picture this’ gesture, but all he does is give me a deadpan stare.
“Meg, I’m a gay Asian man. I’m not going to some small, backwoods town that’s literally called Chapel Creek. It sounds like somewhere they’d try to exorcise me with holy water.”
“No, no, no.” I give his shoulder another squeeze. “It will be great. The chapel is a United Church. That’s the one that approves of us. There was even a gay wedding there once like ten years ago.”
His deadpan somehow gets even deader. “Wow. Sounds like the place to be.”
“Justice.” I let go of his shoulder and clasp my hands in my lap, staring down at my knuckles as I squeeze so tight they go white. My voice drops, losing all the feigned excitement and turning quiet and cracked as a lump rises in my throat. “I really don’t want to go.”
He slings his arm around me a second later, his voice quiet too. “I know, babe. I know.”
We stay like that for a moment as I fight to keep the burning in my eyes at bay. I look around at the minimalist chic decor of Justice’s barely-a-one-bedroom apartment—whose minimalism has been very thrown off by me living here—and I know he’s right: I do have to catch that bus.
I’ve already sold all my furniture. Most of my other belongings are sitting in boxes I shipped to my parents’ house. The savings I managed to scrape together while completing my architecture degree are negligible, and most of them are tied up in non-refundable plane tickets and pending reimbursements from what was going to be the best year of my life.
Two days from now, I was supposed to get on a flight to Paris. I was supposed to spend a whole year interning as an entry-level set designer at the opera. I was going to live in a ridiculously aesthetic garret apartment like a true gay artiste, spending my days crafting new worlds for famous opera stars to inhabit and my nights banging gorgeous French babes.
Then the program funding got cut and someone somehow missed a memo about letting the Canadian participants know. I only found out I no longer had a life plan two weeks ago.
I need to regroup and get my shit together, and as much as I’d love to do that on Justice’s futon, he needs space to live his life, and I need time to pause and figure out mine. I need a new plan and a few weeks for the meagre reimbursements I secured to make their way through international bank transfers, so to Chapel Creek I go.
“I better get this show on the road.” I push myself to my feet and then cringe. “God, I’m already starting to sound like my mom, and I’m not even there yet.”
Justice laughs. “Come on. I’ll help you get this show to the bus station.”
I pause and blink at him, a rare moment of warm fuzziness overcoming our usual habit of taking constant shots at each other. “Really?”
He sighs. “Yes, but you owe me. I’m going to get all sweaty and have to shower again before I meet Derek tonight.”
I shift my duffel bag over my shoulder, and we both head for the door with a suitcase in tow. Justice adjusts the tank top he’s wearing over skinny jeans cropped just above his ankles, and I fish a baseball cap out of my duffel bag to put on backwards and keep my shaggy, bleached blonde hair out of my eyes.
“Why bother?” I tease. “Aren’t you planning on getting sweaty with Derek anyway?”
I can’t help smirking at the name Derek, and Justice glares before turning to lock the door once we’re out in the hallway.
“I happen to value hygiene, Meg. I manifested a hot boy summer, not a sweaty boy summer.”
I burst out laughing. “You manifested a hot boy summer?”
“Yes.” He rolls his eyes and starts leading us down the speckled linoleum floor of the hallway. I can smell someone enjoying a joint in one of the units, and there’s blaring classical piano music coming from behind the same door.
Just another day in Montreal.
“I spoke affirmations into the universe while putting these blond highlights in my hair,” Justice continues. “I am going to both be the hot boy and do the hot boys.”
“Ommmm,” I chant, holding the stairwell door open for him before we start making our way down the two flights to the lobby. “Ommmm.”
The lobby is as outdated as the rest of the place: all linoleum and brass accents with the place’s name, L’étoile d’or, etched in flaking gold letters on the glass wall of the entryway.
There’s a certain charm to the way most of the decrepit apartment buildings in Montreal have held onto their grandiose names from the fifties and sixties. I don’t know if L’étoile d’or was ever truly the ‘golden star’ of yore, but it’s fun to imagine what it must have been like to design a little place like this with all the quirks of the era.
We start heading down to the station. Justice stops to check his phone at a red light when we’re only a couple blocks away, so I pull mine out too. There are five unread texts from my mom, all new since the last time I replied to her twenty minutes ago.
“Dear lord,” I grumble as I scan her latest updates.
“Did you just say dear lord? You really are regressing into a small town hick.”
I ignore the jab as I send a thumbs up emoji and pocket my phone. “My mom is giving me even more constant updates than usual now that I’m coming home. At this point she might as well just send me a live link to the security camera footage from the store.”
“Right, the store.” Justice nods. “I forgot you come from a long line of...what kind of store is it again?”
I brace for him to hit me with another roasting as we head down a steep slope in the sidewalk, the bus station waiting for us at the bottom.
“A general store and bait shop.”
“Right, right. You explained this to me.” I can hear the strain in his voice as he holds back his laughter. “You sell worms and stuff. You really do come from a whole different world. It’s fascinating.”
I snort even though it’s me he’s making fun of. “I’m going to tell my dad to put that in the window: we sell worms and stuff.”
We cross the final intersection that leaves us standing at the edge of the station. It’s not even nine in the morning, but the street outside is already crowded with cars and taxis, the sidewalk a flurry of people carting suitcases around and hugging goodbye.
I’m already cutting it so close I should be running into the station to find my bus, but my feet won’t move. I stay rooted to the pavement just beyond the crowds and lean into Justice’s touch when he rests his hand on my shoulder.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he says. “You’ll get a nice few weeks with your family while you sort things out, and then you’ll be back here with me.”
“Right.” I nod, and it feels like I’m moving in slow motion. Justice’s voice sounds like it’s coming from far away. “Yeah.”
He presses my shoulder more firmly. “I know going home sucks. It’s suffocating. I grew up in a major city full of queers, but my family...”
His voice cracks, and the sound breaks me out of my trance enough to throw my arms around him.
The people of Chapel Creek might not have a lot of experience interacting with those of the homosexual persuasion, but to my family, I’ve always been the same old me. I wish my mom was a little less gay-friendly, considering how much Googling of lesbian sex terms she does to be ‘in the know,’ but I’d still take that over needing to hide who I am every time I go home.
“Hey, you’ve got me.” I hold him tight before stepping back and patting him on both his cheeks. “And you’ve got the rest of the Hot Thots. We’re your family too.”
‘Hot Thots’ is the name of our infamous group chat, made up of the band of ride-or-die queer friends we’ve formed during our years in Montreal.
“Thanks, Meg.” He pats my cheeks too. “Now go get on that fucking bus.”
I take the suitcase handle he offers me. “Shit, yeah, I have to go. Love you!”
“Love you too, you hick!” he calls out as I start jogging up the sidewalk.
I look back over my shoulder and stick my tongue out at him before shouting, “Don’t fall in love with Derek and replace me while I’m gone!”
“Don’t fall in love with some Chapel Creek hoe and never come back!” he answers.
I roll my eyes and turn back around, catching the door to the station just as someone rushes outside.
There is absolutely no chance I’m going to fall in love in Chapel Creek.
Ready for more? Grab your copy here!