Hi peeps, we have A.M. Leibowitz stopping by with the tour for their newest release Minuet, we have a guest post from A.M., they has also brought along a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
When it comes to love, Mack Whitman prefers to limit it to writing songs and poetry. Aromantic, he’s content to have quality friendships and people who sometimes also share his bed. He’s never considered himself the jealous type. But when he sees everyone in his life, from his best friends to his occasional partners, moving toward more settled lives, it leaves him frustrated, disappointed, and worried he’ll be left behind.
Amelia Roberts doesn’t care about the genders of her partners as long as she follows her one rule: Don’t ever fall in love. It’s worked out well for her, since that’s a line she knows she’ll never cross with Mack. He’s as happy as she is to keep things as they are. The only trouble with her philosophy is that she didn’t count on meeting the one person who might change her mind.
Jomari O’Brien’s supportive family made it smooth for him to transition several years ago. Since then, he’s been in and out of love, and other people’s beds, plenty of times, and he has no regrets. Each one is a small part of a larger symphony. Becoming involved with two people at once is a more complicated harmony, but it’s one he’s willing to learn as long as they are.
Their individual melodies become discordant as they struggle to make them fit together. But if all three can learn to play with each other instead of against, they may yet hit all the right notes.
Warnings: There is no graphic description of anything, but there are themes of addiction/recovery/relapse, gender dysphoria, family violence, adultery, and body image.
Writing and chronic illness
When I first began writing seriously, my aim wasn’t to get paid. I was a blogger with a history of being somewhat random in what I posted about. Funnily enough, I’m now an author with a reputation for not quite fitting into prefabricated boxes. Anyway, at that time, I was homeschooling and living an active lifestyle, constantly dragging my kids on one adventure after another. I had friends, homeschooling and not, who wondered how I kept up with it all.
And then I got sick. Really sick.
I’ve written about that on my own blog, and it’s too long and convoluted a story for here. It’s taken 6 years, and I still don’t technically have a diagnosis. I’m in medical limbo while I wait for a specialist. The closest I can get is that it’s related to lupus, which is what I compare it to for people who at least have heard of that (or could Google, if they felt so inclined).
Writing while being chronically ill and regularly in massive pain is no joke. For me, it’s actually not the pain that does it, with the exception of it being so bad I can’t function or being in my wrists and hands. It’s more the constant fatigue and mental fog that keep me from working.
Some people can do it. They can still turn out several works per year and keep up with other parts of their lives. That’s admirable. Maybe there are other factors that are different in their lives; I wouldn’t know. For me, it’s been almost impossible.
This novel presented a lot of unique challenges. Not only was it structurally difficult, it was the last part of a series and needed to wrap things up. But the year I spent writing it was also a year when managing my illness was a full-time job. Those two things were constantly at war with each other.
At one point in the process, as we were testing various medications, I ended up on a temporary combination that relieved a lot of my symptoms. I joked with my doctor that I was amazed at how “normal” I felt for that couple weeks. I said, “Wow, I got shit done!” Among my many finally-completed tasks were rearranging my dining room and finishing Minuet.
I’ve managed to wrangle my life into something less chaotic now, but writing is still the first thing to go when everything else is pressing in. Even so, it isn’t something I can simply quit. I can let a story idle quietly in the background, but I will always return to it. Maybe I can’t churn out three novels, a novella, and a handful of short stories all in the same year anymore. Maybe what I’m working on will take time. But it will get done in its own time.
And that’s really the only advice I can give. We live in a world that values only the product, not the process that created it. As “employees,” whether of ourselves or someone else, we may feel obligated to produce. But as artists, we need to give ourselves permission to have bad days, to fight with our stories and characters, to take care of our bodies, and to rest when we need to.
Right now, I’m learning how to listen to my body and how to balance my own needs with my family’s. It’s hard some days, but overall, I think I have more progress than setbacks. My hope is that we can all be a little more honest about this work and the toll it can take.
My fallback is usually sarcasm and joking about the random things my body does on a regular basis. The truth is, though, that this is tough, and I sometimes think we need to be made of iron to withstand it.
If you are struggling with writing and managing a chronic illness, you are not alone. You can reach out to me (I run a Top Secret group on social media for people like us). Talking to a stranger can be overwhelming, so I hope if not me, than you can go to someone else who will share the load with you.
As for me, I’m now revisiting two older projects that need to be completed. One is a half-finished road trip novel (because we all need to try that out at some point, right?). The other is an entirely revised edition of two novellas that are now out of print. I have at least three projects on hold. See? I said it was impossible to give up writing. Maybe I’ll see you all again when I emerge on the other side of these.
They paid for the groceries and headed for Mack’s van. Once they’d loaded it up, Mack went to start the van, but Trevor put a hand on his arm.
“I’m not letting you go home without talking about what the hell that was back there. You were really pissed off when you came to see me. You’re calm now, but if you go back home, you’re gonna get right back into that mess all over again.”
He was right, and Mack knew it. He turned over the engine. “Look, it’s freezing out here. I’ll drive you back, and I’ll explain on the way.”
Mack waited until they were out on the road to say, “It’s fucking weird, having both of them together. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, but not like this. I don’t know. It felt like they were doing this bonding thing, and I wasn’t part of that.”
“I get it,” Trevor said.
“Do you? Because your family looks different.”
“What is it you wanted? To have Amelia to yourself? You’ve said she’s not your girlfriend. So why does it matter?”
“I don’t know!” But he did know. He had a very clear idea why it bothered him so much. Mack slammed his palm against the steering wheel. “She and I…we’re both fucking Jomari. We all know, but we’ve never hung out just the three of us.”
Trevor seemed to contemplate that. “Yeah, I’d say that’s different from my family. It really bothers you, huh?”
“Not that. It’s…” Mack didn’t know how to explain the way he’d seen the tender gestures between Amelia and Jomari. Sure, she would do the same for him, but it didn’t look or feel identical for some reason Mack couldn’t pinpoint. “I guess they’ve been getting to be closer since she started playing with Cian’s band.”
“Makes sense. Spending more time together. But you think there’s more going on?”
“I don’t know,” Mack admitted. “Up until now, I wouldn’t have thought so. She always said she was mostly into women. She doesn’t date men, and she made that clear to me. I didn’t care. But now here she is, and I can’t really tell what’s going on. She’s already cancelled plans with me so they could go out.”
“Ah.” Trevor was quiet a moment. “People change, you know. Until Andre, I thought I only loved Marlie and the couple times I fooled around with guys were, like, just sex. Then after Andre, I thought maybe Marlie was my exception and I mostly wanted guys. Now I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter because this works for us. Jamie’s only into men, but I know he’s fucked women on camera and enjoyed it. He said Cian can’t separate love and sex, he’s got a high drive for both, and he doesn’t care about gender at all. Maybe Amelia’s needs have changed.”
It wasn’t only about whether or not her relationship with Jomari was changing. It was why. Why now, after years of things being the same? What made him different from everyone else? Mack hated the feeling she’d finally had enough and was choosing someone who might be able to give her what he couldn’t. But why would she have told him their kind of relationship was enough if it wasn’t? She knew who he was and that he made no apology for it. Was it like Trevor said, and she was changing, or had she been dishonest?
“Listen,” Trevor said as they pulled into his driveway. “Why don’t you invite Jomari for Thanksgiving?”
“It might be easier if it’s not the three of you having to figure this out alone, that’s all.” Trevor unbuckled, but he didn’t move. “Talk to them. The only way I made it work with Andre and Marlie is by telling them both the truth. And the only way I didn’t fuck it up with Jamie was by telling them I needed him in my life too.” He curled his fingers into a fist. “If only we could work that out.”
Mack didn’t reply. Jamie was still a sore spot for both of them. He helped Trevor unload the groceries and put things away. They had some time for him to think about inviting Jomari, but he wasn’t sure he was going to.
“Thanks for your help,” Trevor said. “Hey, you feeling better?”
“Maybe.” Mack accepted the Night Crawlers from Trevor. “I should get these to the others.”
Back in the van, Mack looked at the package on the passenger seat. For once, Trevor was right, but tonight he didn’t have the right words. Instead, he would bring the sour gummies as a peace offering and sit with them this time, even if it meant he had to watch confusing science fiction shows. He pulled out onto the road and headed for home.
A.M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. Their published fiction includes several novels as well as a number of short works, and their stories have been included in multiple anthologies. They are an occasional host for Bi+Plus, a podcast for the bi+ community, as well as doing bi+ advocacy work and curating the best-of bi list on the QueerBooksForTeens website. They are a social media contributor for Supposed Crimes, LLC, and they post about news, reviews, and updates. In between, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, books, chronic illness, and their family.
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