Hi guys! We have John R. Petrie popping in today with his upcoming release The Quarterback’s Crush we have a brilliant guest post and a great excerpt! ❤ ~Pixie~
The Quarterback’s Crush
John R. Petrie
Do nice guys always have to finish last?
For Dylan Porter, it’s starting to look that way. His plan is to finish high school, get a football scholarship, and come out to his family and friends when he has the cushion of being away at college. But none of that is going to happen if his failing grades get him kicked off the team.
His saving grace comes in the form of Tommy Peterson, the smartest kid in school, who also happens to be the Triple S that Dylan crushes on: smart, short, sexy. Dylan falls hard and when his feelings seem unrequited, he accidentally outs himself to his entire team, expecting them to oust him. But it’s anybody’s game as Dylan learns how to be honest about who he is and keeps his eye on the prize—the heart of Tommy Peterson.
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John R. Petrie!
Love is a funny thing.
It’s wild and unruly and perfect and flawed and epic and small and hysterical. Love inspires us to carve statues, compose music, and write poetry. It also makes us foolish and ridiculous. We “fall” in love, tripping over our own feet in a desperate move towards romance and starry eyes, and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, where am I going with this? Well, I have a YA romance book coming out September 4. 2018. The Quarterback’s Crush from Harmony Ink is about a football player and a science nerd. I am neither of those things. I used to fake knee pains to get out of gym class and I hated science. I could, however, before the end of my senior year of high school sing from memory almost all of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. So how, thirty years later, did I end up writing a YA novel about a football player, a science nerd, and a will they/won’t they push and pull?
Well, I kind of love love stories. Actually not ‘kind of.’ I do love them. I read Pride & Prejudice once a year. Sometimes, eighteen months, depending on my schedule, so let’s just say once a year. My favorite movies are the screwball comedies of the 30’s and I can’t help but feel as if love is meant to be funny. So, here I am with a YA romantic comedy about to be published.
Don’t get me wrong. I love angst. I spent most of my 20’s hoping to find Mr. Darcy and get him to fall in love with me, but what I love most about Pride & Prejudice isn’t the angst or heartbreak or scandal. I love the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy, the rapid fire, genteel, but biting parry and thrust of their verbal sparring. Somehow I got from Jane Austen to the great screwball comedies of the 1930’s and 40’s. In this world where dialogue took the place of sex scenes, where ‘madcap’ girls drove their boys crazy and boys realized (almost too late) that they couldn’t live without those girls it all seemed possible.
The only thing wrong was that they were all boy meets girl. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that I didn’t exactly feel welcome. So I went searching for a story about boy meets boy. (Sidenote: there’s an excellent 1975 Off-Broadway musical called Boy Meets Boy that takes place in 1936, where gay marriage wasn’t a fight, just a fact.)
And here I am, many years later, with as close as I can come to a screwball comedy where boy (Dylan) meets boy (Tommy). The football player (Dylan) and the brain (Tommy) are opposites in almost every way, except for the fact that neither seems quite able to get out of their own way long enough to act on what they’re feeling for each other.
Here’s an excerpt from one of their tutoring sessions:
Tommy called me comparing Scarlet Letter and Tarzan “unorthodox” which I had to look up once I got home.
It actually brought a smile to my face that he liked it. And then we moved on to the grammar portion of the essay. It got a little rocky during that.
“No,” Tommy said, for the third time in a row, while he circled another word on my printout. I could tell he was getting annoyed with me, and I really wasn’t trying to piss him off. “Do you even know the difference between plural and possessive?”
“Yes?” Damn. That sounded like a question. “Plural is more than one and possessive is belonging to someone.” Like I belong to you and those beautiful sand-colored eyes of yours.
“So, which one do you use the apostrophe for?” I thought for a second. It was barely a second. Maybe only a microsecond. Not any longer, but he jumped right in. “Do you actually not know?”
“Apostrophe is for possessive!” I shouted it out like I was on a game show. “They both have three syllables.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “Apostrophe has four syllables.”
I counted them out on my fingers. “Oh, yeah. But I was right about the apostrophe.” Just like I’m right that I’m crazy about you.
I hope that made you laugh. Or chuckle. Or smile. At least a little. The book is narrated by Dylan, the jock, who was a happy, joyous mess to write. I like people who have it all together, but I’m not one of them, so I enjoy reading characters who aren’t quite as calm and collected as they seem to be. And writing them turned out to be fun. I tend to fall in love with all the characters I write and I want them to be wonderful and healing and powerful and charming, but they can’t be. They have to be as real as I can make them. They have to be as crazy as we all are when we’re young and in love and out of control.
Which brings us back to the fact that love is funny. Hysterical, laugh-out-loud funny. We all have those things about our first great crush that make us cringe in embarrassment. (If you really want me to, I’ll tell you all about the time I quoted a song by the band Chicago to my summer camp crush with tears streaming down my face.) But at some point in my life, I managed to turn the embarrassment into a point of pride. Which is why my favorite love stories are the ones about messy people who make me laugh.
I hope my book makes you laugh.
HOW I MET MY TUTOR
“PORTER!” COACH McCarty barked at me while we were changing after practice. “My office. Now!”
“Oh man,” Riley said. “Someone’s in trouble with McCarty.” He laughed and snapped his towel on my back. “What’d you do now?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
DeShawn smiled at me. He was the biggest guy on our team, and his smile was big too, but take it from me, you never wanted to see him mad. “You must’ve done something.” DeShawn had this habit of flexing his chest around me, because I was the only other guy on the team who could match him in the gym. I rolled my eyes at him. “Seriously, dude,” he said, “you get someone pregnant or something?” DeShawn wiped water from his bald head. He was African-American and the best dresser not only on the team but in the whole school. Even his workout clothes made him look like he’d stepped off some Instagram model’s page.
“DeShawn!” Jonny yelled from across the room. “Don’t be gross.” Jonny was the smartest guy on the team. He was tall and lanky and one of the fastest runners I’d ever seen. He ran track during the spring season, and I had no idea how the hell he managed to get good grades, work a job, letter in two sports, and date almost every cheerleader. I have no time-management skills and think I’m lucky if I can get through all my homework if there’s a Walking Dead marathon on the TV.
Riley barked a laugh and slapped Jonny’s ass. “It’s only gross because you’re a homo. You overcompensate with all the girls because you’re afraid the rest of us will figure it out. Well, too late, dude. We already did!”
“Porter! I’m waiting!” Coach yelled from his office.
My shoulders dropped toward the floor, and I shuffled across the locker room. I stood in Coach’s doorway, and he sat behind his desk, arms across his chest. He stared at me. At least I think he stared at me. I was too busy looking at the floor to check. “We’ve had three games this season, Porter. We have a great team that works together. We have a group of kids that, frankly, make me proud. I was smiling this morning, Porter. I actually smiled.” He paused. Jeez, this was going to get worse, and I wasn’t even sure what I’d done. Okay, there was one thing. But Coach didn’t know about that. No one did. And no one would. Not for a long, long time. At least another two years. Maybe three, if I could time it right. “And then, guess what happened, Porter? Mr. Simons came to me and showed me something. And after I saw it, do you know what I did, Porter? I stopped smiling. And have I smiled since then? Do I look like I’m still smiling, Porter? Does this look like a happy face?”
I was pretty sure this was a trap. If I said something, he’d be pissed. But, maybe if I didn’t say anything, he’d be pissed at me for not talking. He kept lecturing, though, and saved me from having to figure it out.
“Do you know what I’m not happy about, Porter? Can you guess what Mr. Simons showed me?”
Crap. Another question.
“I’m not happy because you got a D on your trig exam. Do you know what that means, Porter? That means that because you got a C on your last test and a D on this one, if you don’t get an A on the next one, you won’t be allowed to play football for the rest of the season. Do you know what will happen if I tell you to study harder and do it on your own?” He took a deep breath and by this point, I was almost totally positive I wasn’t supposed to say anything. “We’ll never know, Porter, because there’s no way in hell I’m letting you do this on your own.” He stood up and came around the desk, handing me a piece of paper. “I already spoke with your dad. You’re getting tutored by Tommy Peterson. He’ll be working with you on both your trig classes and your English classes. You’ll be working with him every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. He’ll meet you in the school library at five, starting today. That’s twenty minutes from now.” He turned around and sat back down. “Don’t screw this up, Porter.”
Damn. I really, really wanted to watch TV this weekend. I ran through the shower because I was sweaty and hot and smelled gross. Even though it was late September and technically fall, the summer heat was still hanging on, and everyone was still in T-shirts and shorts most of the time.
The first time I saw him, I was sitting in the library reading a magazine. I think it was Sports Illustrated, but I can’t remember. The only thing I remember is that this guy, who was maybe, like, four inches shorter and sixty pounds lighter than me, dropped his books on the table and looked at me through the dark hair that’d fallen in front of his eyes. He half smiled, like he was a little afraid of me.
“Dylan?” He hesitated when I didn’t answer right away. “You’re Dylan Porter, right? I’m Tommy Peterson?” Everything he said sounded like a question. “Coach McCarty said your dad and he had set it up with you that I’d be tutoring you in trigonometry for the rest of the season? That’s football season, I guess?” He pushed his hair back, almost over his forehead so we could look at each other.
I didn’t answer because all I could see was the first thing I noticed about him. There were two things, actually, but I noticed them both at the same time. Tommy Peterson’s half smile and his eyes. His eyes were the most amazing brown I’ve ever seen. They were light. Almost like the color of sand down at the beach. His hair was long and half flopped down over his forehead, kind of hiding his eyes from me. I had to actually stop myself from reaching across the table and pushing it out of his face because I wanted to stare at his eyes. But then he smiled, and his smile was all shy and he had this really, really small dimple on his right cheek.
The next thing I noticed was his clothes. His jeans were baggy, and his shirt was too big for him, and that made him look even skinnier than he really was. I’m not really sure what I was thinking he’d look like, but he was really cute. Really, really cute.
“Sorry, dude. Yeah, I’m Dylan.” I held out my hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Tommy looked at my hand for a second before he decided I wasn’t going to crush it. His hand was dry and didn’t have any of the calluses my friends and I had from the weight room.
“So, why don’t you show me where you guys are in class, and we’ll see where you are and go from there.”
He looked at me and his eyebrows kind of lifted. “Oh, right,” I said. “Sorry. Got a little distracted.” I pulled my trig book and notebook out of my backpack and passed them to Tommy.
“I only need your textbook.” He took it from me and put it down on the table in front of him. He flipped through the book staring at each page for a second and then put it down. “So, this should be easy enough to catch up on.”
“Good. They told you I have a test in a couple of weeks, right?” Okay, so I didn’t want his first impression of me to be that I was an idiot. Too late.
He paused for a second and looked at me, like he was waiting for me to say something. “Yes. Let’s get started. I’m pretty certain we can get you an A on the test.”
“Yeah?” I smiled at him. “Are you going to take the test for me?”
“What?” His head snapped up from looking at the table and his hair flew out of eyes for a second and then came back down. “I can’t do that! You can get your friends to beat me up if you want but—”
I held up my hands as Tommy started to grab his books. “Dude, I’m kidding! I swear, I’m just kidding! I don’t want you to take my test. I wouldn’t be able to get into college!” I realized that we were in the library, and even though there wasn’t anyone else there, I lowered my voice. “Tommy, I promise, I wouldn’t even think about asking you to do that. Okay? I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. It was just a joke.”
Tommy looked at me, trying to figure out if I really was joking, or if I was really trying to make a joke out of something I was serious about. I guess he must have seen something in my face because he sat back down. “You shouldn’t joke about things like that.”
“Seriously. Sorry. Seriously sorry.” I figured there was no real way I could hit my head on the table without him knowing. I had to remember to do that once I got home. “I won’t do it again.”
“Guys like you have tried to do that to me before. It’s not funny.” He looked really angry. “It’s not funny.”
“I’m sorry, Tommy. You’re right. It’s not funny.” I felt awful. And, honestly, I felt really angry. How could anyone do that to a nice guy like Tommy? I realized that I’d have to look out for him myself. If anyone picked on him, they’d have to deal with me.
He sighed and pulled a pack of gum out of his right front pocket. He unwrapped a piece of gum and finally pushed his hair out of his face. Popping the gum in his mouth, he leaned over and, totally without looking at me, by the way, started explaining sine and cosine, and where my last trig test had gone wrong. Which, according to the corrections on my test, was just about everywhere.
You’ve probably figured it out, but in case you didn’t, I’m gay. I’m pretty okay with it. I mean, it’s not something I’ve told anyone about. If I was going to tell anyone, it’d be Riley. He’s my best friend; he’s been my best friend since third grade. Now, here’s the thing, Riley’s a jock. He’s loud and sometimes obnoxious, but he’s not a bully. Seriously. I swear to God. I’ve never seen him pick on anybody or anything like that. But he loves using the fag word, hence—awesome word I read in The Scarlet Letter; my teacher explained what it meant—why I haven’t come out to Riley. I’ve never seen him hate on gay guys, and he used to watch Will & Grace and laugh, so I think it’d be okay. Mostly.
To be totally honest, I didn’t think I’d need to come out anytime soon. I figured I’d have until, at least, my sophomore year in college to come out. By that time, Riley would be in college and everyone says you grow up a lot when you go away to school, and I wouldn’t have to worry because odds would be that he’d have met someone gay by then, right? I wouldn’t need to gamble on Riley being cool with his best friend being gay. And my dad, he’d miss me by then, so he probably wouldn’t be mad at me. Maybe he’d finally ask me some real questions about my life. Maybe he’d actually talk to me. I don’t want you to think our house is silent or anything, but we’re not super close. And that’s why I figured I could make it through high school without having to deal with any of this crap.
I’ve seen a lot of videos online about people my age having to deal with so much crap when they came out. I knew there were a lot of people who had it way worse than I’d ever have it, but that doesn’t make it a whole lot easier. I knew that was selfish of me, and I felt guilty that all I could think of was what might happen to me. I figured it’d just be easier when I was older. People always seem to not ask as many questions when you’re older. They just figure by that time you know who you are. I guess, at least when it came to this, I figured myself out really early.
I wish I could remember what the hell we talked about, Tommy and me, but I have no idea. Because for an hour, all I could think about was the color of his eyes, but I couldn’t deal with that. Sure, his dimple was cute, but I had a plan. A plan I wasn’t going to deviate from, not even for a dimple and hair that kept flopping over a pair of pretty eyes.
John R. Petrie grew up in Boston and now lives in the Bronx, NY. Almost his entire working career has been spent around books, from his first job in the town library to more than twenty years bookselling in one of the biggest bookstores in the US. He’s also worked for the Housing Works thrift stores in NYC, which provides services for the homeless and HIV communities, as well as a comic book publisher.
He’s had stories published in True Romance magazine, had a play he wrote produced at his college, acted, danced, and was nominated for an acting award playing Belize in Angels in America.
He stays up too late, eats too much junk food, and has been reading Wonder Woman comics for over forty years.
He is very, very happy to have his debut novel published by Harmony Ink Press. He hopes to continue writing stories which make people smile.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org | My twitter handle is @johnpetriewrites
(I don’t do Facebook because I’m too afraid I’ll have to contact people from High School again.)