I’m delighted to welcome Brigham Vaughn and her latest novel, Bully & Exit to my blog today. Sit back and enjoy her guest post, information about the book, an excerpt and the opportunity to win one of three e-book copies of her book. If you’re curious about my thoughts on this book you can find my review here.
Now I'll hand you over to Brigham.
Now I'll hand you over to Brigham.
I drew on my own life experience to write “Bully & Exit”.
I became involved in theater in elementary school when I played the queen in “The Princess and the Pea” in a school play. I went on to become involved in community theater, and in high school, took part in the performances the drama club put on. I was in the International Thespian Society (and yes, I heard allll the International Lesbian Society jokes).
Like Caleb in “Bully & Exit”, I ate, slept, and breathed theater. I acted in all of the plays while assistant directing two of them. I took part in set building, costume sewing, and ticket sales. I was the go-to girl for the guys who needed help applying eyeliner and tying ties. I lived in that magical space in the west wing of my high school and spent more time there than I did at home.
The drama freaks were my tribe and we banded together against the popular kids. There was always a weird tension there, and it wasn’t until later in life I realized that in many ways, the popular kids seemed a little in awe/terrified of us. A group of us went to senior prom dressed in dresses that ranged from medieval times to The Civil War (mine was Colonial America c. 1776). Several of the football players and cheerleaders approached us and said, “Wow, you guys look amazing but I’d never have the guts to do that.”
I wasn’t bullied in high school (girls rarely were unless they were actively trying to become popular and I never cared), but I wasn’t out as a bisexual then either. Everyone in drama club knew—hell, cast parties were where I kissed girls—and it was a safe space. In some ways, it’s probably easier for girls overall, but the bisexual guys were welcomed too. And yeah, even then I enjoyed seeing two guys kiss.
I spent endless hours curled up in a pile of people; snuggling, getting backrubs, and enjoying human contact. I miss that. I miss a lot about theater, although the online community of writers I’ve found in the LGBTQ romance genre feels like theater people. There’s a similar sense of open-mindedness and inclusion. Sure, there are exceptions, but the people I choose to surround myself with are. I’ve found my tribe again. Sometimes I miss the snuggles though.
Unlike Caleb, I didn’t pursue a career in theater. I didn’t think I had the talent and I didn’t want to have a crappy day job to support my career in the arts. *sighs* Yeah, that worked out. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I think it’s what I was meant to do, but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d pursued drama. Probably not as an actress, but I think I could have been a very decent director. I suppose though, in some ways, it’s not that different than writing. Rather than working with live people, I set stages with characters from my own head using the words on the page.
There are times I wish I could be involved in community theater again. It’s time consuming though and when I love something I don’t do it halfway. I throw myself in wholeheartedly and immerse myself in it. I can’t do that with writing and theater.
The backstage and prop loft I described in “Bully & Exit”? Yeah, that was taken from my own memories. The dusty green couch Nathan and Caleb got to know each other on? Yeah, I had dreams about doing that with my high school crush. We never got our timing right, but we did spend three years flirting awkwardly and this scene from “Bully & Exit” came straight from life.
“Is it always this hot up here?” Nathan muttered.
“Yeah, pretty much.” Caleb looked away, staring at the racks upon racks of costumes from previous shows.
“Seriously, feel this.” Nathan’s hand closed around Caleb’s wrist, gently tugging. Caleb struggled to maintain his balance, and his left hand landed on Nathan’s hip, the other on his chest, palm pressed against the hot, hard muscle there. It should have been disgusting—Nathan was dripping with sweat—but Caleb’s breath hitched, and his eyes rose to meet Nathan’s. Lips parted, eyes locked on Caleb, Nathan’s fingers slipped between Caleb’s. He slowly dragged their joined hands across his chest until they rested right over his heart.
Unlike Caleb, in high school, I never got the guy (or the girl) but oh, did I have fun. If I close my eyes I can still smell raw lumber, greasepaint, and the dusty smell of velvet curtains. I can feel the heat from the stage lights and the throat-gripping nerves before every performance. Nothing beats the high of a standing ovation, although a great review comes pretty close.
It was a joy reliving some of my high school memories as I wrote and immersing myself in the world of theater again was wonderful. Nathan and Caleb are dear to my heart and I hope you enjoy reading “Bully & Exit” as much as I enjoyed writing it.
About the book:
Theater student Caleb Stockwell is ready to leave college behind. Too bad his past isn’t ready to let him go.
With less than a month to go until graduation, Caleb runs into Nathan Rhodes at a house party. Nathan is a star hockey player for Western Michigan University and finally ready to step out of the closet. He’s also the guy who broke Caleb’s heart in high school.
Nathan’s determined to make amends for what he did four years ago, but Caleb isn’t willing to risk getting his heart stomped on again. With only a few weeks left before they go their separate ways, it’ll take all of Nathan’s creativity and help from some interfering friends to convince Caleb to give him a second chance.
Nathan’s voice was soft when he spoke, gentle as it’d always been. “Caleb Stockwell. I’ve been looking for you.”
Caleb cleared his throat and ignored him, tipping the bottle up for another long drink. He licked the spiciness from his lips as he debated making another run for it. There was a shrub blocking his way in one direction and a hockey player in the other. Even if he hadn’t been drinking, the odds weren’t in his favor. “Nathan Rhodes,” he managed.
“Damn, I can’t believe it’s you!” Nathan leaned in, and Caleb pulled back, uncomfortable with him being so close.
Caleb laughed bitterly. “It’s me. Now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can run along.” He motioned with his hand, encouraging Nathan to leave.
“It’s really good to see you,” Nathan said, ignoring him. He took a seat on the pile of discarded construction materials, his knees brushing Caleb’s as he lowered himself down. Caleb pulled away as if scorched.
“Yeah? Too bad I can’t say the same,” he muttered, his head swimming as the alcohol began to hit him. He eyed Nathan’s long, long legs and the way he was pinned in by them, remembering the way they’d felt tangled with his as they came, panting shallowly against each other’s skin. It brought it all back: the scent of Nathan’s cologne, the taste of his skin, the way Caleb’s heart raced in his chest when Nathan held him close. It brought back the memories, the ones he’d worked so hard to run from. The good and the bad.The sharp, intense happiness of falling for Nathan. The aching, crushing hurt that paralyzed Caleb for months after Nathan was no longer in his life. Everything he’d buried four years ago and vowed never to touch again.
He caught the first glimpse of doubt on Nathan’s face. “Are you okay, Caleb?”
“Oh, I’m motherfucking peachy,” he snarked and took another long drink. “I’ve made it through four fucking years trying to ignore the fact we’re on the same campus, and with barely a month left in my senior year, I thought maybe I’d managed to pull it off. But, no, Lowell had to drag me to this goddamn party, and, of course, you showed up too. Just my luck.”
He raised the bottle again, but Nathan wrapped a hand around the neck and tugged. He was stronger than Caleb, so Caleb let go, afraid he’d end up getting pulled onto Nathan’s lap if he didn’t. Nathan took a drink and passed the bottle back, licking the taste of rum off his lips before he spoke. “You’re so angry at me.”
“Ya think?” Caleb snarled. “Didn’t it ever occur to you I would be? What the hell makes you think you can waltz in here and pretend like all the shit that went down between us didn’t happen?” He tried to stand, but Nathan’s dark denim-clad knees were on either side of his, pinning him in place. The bottle was pried from his suddenly limp fingers and set aside.
“I don’t think that,” Nathan protested. “I was just glad to see you, and I… I wanted a chance to apologize. I didn’t … I wanted …”
Caleb’s lips parted in surprise as cool fingers framed his face, and for the first time in four long years, Nathan’s lips were pressed to his again. Involuntarily, Caleb’s eyes closed, feeling a rush of heat wash over him, taking him right back to the first time. Before Nathan broke his heart.
About the author:
Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her three cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.