Welcome to our third week of celebrating the amazing
Today, we'll take a look at Blowing It and Balls Up, plus a personal story Kate has chosen to share, and of course another chance to win.
Book 1, Blowing It
Owen Barnes never expected writing to make him rich, much less with a YA novel written for a bet. Being nominated for the Carnegie Medal, the most prestigious award a children’s author can win, is a dream come true. But Owen’s newfound fame comes at a price, and not just changing his surname to Black.
Gruff, gentle building surveyor Magnus Cassidy is the first man to catch Owen’s interest in almost two years. Owen’s agent, Max, might be trying to control his image, but Magnus sees the real Owen: the eyeliner, drainpipe jeans, and sexy underwear, not the Young Conservative in a tweed jacket Max is turning him into.
When a photo of Owen and Magnus appears online, just weeks before the Carnegie ceremony, Max starts damage limitation. Out and proud since he was fourteen, Owen isn’t going back into the closet without a fight, and he refuses to let his agent erase Magnus from his life. Encouraged by his friends, Owen lashes out, not realising his behaviour could hurt the man he’s doing it all for. Can Owen find a way to reconcile his public and private lives, or has he already blown it?
Contents: passive tops and slutty bottoms, bitchy best friends, bad jokes, sexy underwear, an excess of beards, and a smattering of angst. May contain nuts.
Magnus closed the laptop and stretched cat-like beside me, fingers and socked toes splayed. “Sorry that took so long,” he said, curling an arm around me and pulling me into his shoulder.
I instructed my avatar to jump off a cliff and closed the game. “Next time, maybe I should bring my laptop,” I suggested. “We could work together.”
Magnus smiled. “I’d like that.”
I snuggled against him, resting my hand on his stomach. A smile curved my lips at the delay before he remembered to suck in, and I curled my fingers, knowing it would tickle and the reflex would force him to relax. He didn’t need washboard abs to turn me on.
“How’s the writing going?” he asked.
“Slowly. I was hoping to have the edits finished by now, and the manuscript returned for the next round, but with all these interviews I’m doing, I’ve barely had a chance to look at it.”
“I saw one on Sunday.”
“Mmhm. In the Mail. It looked good.”
“Don’t tell me you read the Mail?” I used his hip for leverage as I sat up and glared at him.
Magnus laughed throatily. “Not usually. But you mentioned last week you’d be in that one, so I bought a copy.”
He looked surprised. “Of course I did. A newspaper did an article on you, Owen. I was proud of you.”
“Have you still got it?” I asked curiously. Max had offered me copies of the interviews once they appeared in print, but I hadn’t accepted any. It felt too egotistical, collecting articles about myself.
Magnus looked abashed as he set the laptop down and rose. He took a hardbound book from the drawer of the table on my side of the couch, opened it, and produced a newspaper clipping from inside the cover. Another paper fell and drifted to the floor as he held it out to me, and I snatched that one up first.
“This isn’t the Mail,” I said, holding the page. It had the flimsy quality of a newspaper, not a Sunday supplement. A quick glance showed it was from The Times. “You read more than one?”
Silently, Magnus handed the book over. Inside were half a dozen different pages from various publications, each one an interview I’d given over the previous fortnight. He had them all.
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Second in this series so far, Balls Up
Owen Barnes’s life is finally going the way he wants. He’s making a living as an author, and his relationship with building surveyor Magnus Cassidy is going from strength to strength.
When Owen finds a lump, he buries his head in the sand. He’s too busy for doctor appointments and besides, it’s probably nothing. He pushes concern away and is soon swept up in a whirlwind of distractions. His best friend’s husband is falling apart and Owen needs to be strong for them, not burdening them with his fears.
He says he’ll deal with it when the new book is released, when Ryan and Sameer are more stable, when he’s done writing. Owen has a hundred excuses to hide one simple fact: he’s scared.
Eventually Magnus drags him to the doctor, and the news isn’t good. Can Owen cope with the unexpected turn events have taken, or is his perfect life about to go balls up?
CONTENT WARNING: Cancer, hospitals, chemotherapy, backless gowns, hideous scrotal supports, and the complete loss of human dignity from being shaved by a nurse named Alan.
It was only mid-afternoon, but I was bone tired. Weeks of sleepless nights and worry had finally caught up with me, and all I wanted to do was lie in Magnus’s arms and exist.
We moved slowly, shuffling through the flat to the bedroom, maintaining as much contact as we could as we stripped off and climbed under the covers. I’d kept my underwear on, and so had Magnus. I wasn’t in the mood for sex, and I didn’t want to think about my balls, about the tumour growing alongside them. I curled up with my back to Magnus, and he spooned me, the weight of his arm a reassuring anchor, covering and protecting me.
His hot breaths stirred the hair at my nape and the curls of his chest hair flattened against my back. As he nuzzled closer, his beard scraped gently over my shoulders. I was aware of him in so many different ways, so many little touches, from the pressure of my heels against his shin to the rough rub of his thumb pad across my stomach.
Before getting in bed, Magnus had closed the curtains, shutting out the greying light of day. In the semi-darkness I lay still, listening to him breathe. I wanted the relief of crying, but my eyes were dry, my pulse steady. Magnus was with me, and he wasn’t going anywhere. I curled my hand around his and squeezed gently, his stoic support giving me the first flutter of hope.
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Kate's personal story:
I was fourteen when the first series of Queer as Folk aired in the UK. I was living in a small town about half an hour from Manchester and that show lit a fire under me and my friends. Manchester became a beacon for us, and there was never any doubt where my best friend and I would apply to university.
Roll on a few years and at eighteen we were moving into a little terraced house in Fallowfield, the student part of Manchester. It was September 2003—we’d just missed Pride, although we didn’t realise it at the time—and we knew exactly where we were going first. We took a bus down Oxford Road, walked up Whitworth Street, then Princess Street, and onto Canal Street. I remember rainbow flags strung between the trees in front of the canal, litter floating in the scummy water, dirt in the cobbles. It was the middle of a sunny afternoon but the Village was quiet, as it always is just after Pride.
We walked the length of Canal Street, peering nervously at the different bars, wondering which we should enter first. We decided, for no particular reason other than it was glass-fronted and seemed quiet, to enter Prague V (now View). We got a couple of drinks and sat on an old sofa near the back, hunched over and risking glances around the room, trying to hide how lost we really felt.
Then someone approached us. An Asian guy I’ll call Sameer, although that wasn’t his name. He sat with us without invitation, asked us about ourselves, called some of his friends over and bought us drinks. He danced on the table and made us laugh. He made us feel welcome. He showed us we belonged.
We were rarely out of the Village after that day, although we didn’t often go back to Prague V. We only saw Sameer once more. It was a rainy, wintery night several months later. It was late, dark, and bitterly cold. He approached us outside Hollywood Showbar (now AXM, nothing in the Village lasts forever) and begged us for money. His parents had arranged for him to get married and his dad said he’d kill him if he didn’t go through with it. He’d fled the house with nothing—he wasn’t even wearing a coat—and said he had a boyfriend in Birmingham who could hide him, if only he could get there. He held out his arms and showed us the criss-cross of old scars, scars barely healed, and two newer, dark red, running from his wrists almost to the crook of his elbows.
He came to the Village to throw himself on the mercy of strangers because it was the only place he felt safe. For so many of us, places like Canal Street are more than somewhere to go to get drunk, to get off, to meet a stranger with whom to pass an hour, or night, or lifetime. We go there for support, for shoulders to cry on, for help. It doesn’t matter we don’t know each other, because we’re all friends. There is a darkness to those places filled with glitter and laughter and flashing lights. We all have scars.
I often think of Sameer. I don’t know what happened to him, but I hope he got away. I hope he’s happy. I hope he no longer has a reason to harm himself. I write my stories for people like him, to remind my community there is a way out; there are happy endings. We all deserve our happily ever after.
More about Kate:
Kate Aaron lives in Cheshire, England with two dogs, a parrot, and a bearded dragon named Elvis.
She has the best of friends, the worst of enemies, and a mischievous muse with a passion for storytelling that doesn't know the difference between fact and fiction.
She holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, and an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and is an outspoken advocate for equal rights. When not hitting the campaign trail or doting slavishly on Elvis, she does what she does best – writes about men in love.
Keep up with Kate by joining her mailing list.
Thanks for joining our celebrations today. Come back next week for our Grand Finale, with more about Kate's books, our author interview, and one more chance to win. Until then, happy reading!