Guest Author: Scudder James

“The characters do things,” a reader once commented about Cranberry Boys. When I asked what she meant, she said not just the love triangle of Zeph, Connor and Bronson, but many characters are actively involved with their lives. They’re committed to getting CranberryBoysFS_v2things done.

She’s on to something.

  • Bronson persuades Zeph and Connor to start the Bog Blog that ends up getting them big attention.
  • Stephanie produces her show, Shakespeare’s Women.
  • Connor’s brothers start the Varsity Sports Club to have an official way to party.
  • Zeph’s new friend Marcus leads The Truth Project at Bronson’s old school.

I think this may be left over from my own prep school experience. Bronson tells Zeph and Connor that the boarding school he’d been kicked out of had been pretty intense. Surrounded by fancy stuff, students were told again and again how they could achieve anything if they tried. A nice message, but too much pressure.

Students at schools like Bronson’s may be given unfair amounts of opportunities, resources and connections, but everyone, everywhere has the chance to make dreams come true. In Cranberry Boys the difference is that at Bronson’s school students are constantly surrounded by possibility. Some students hate the pressure. Some resent that everyday life is not enough. Others are excited and run with it.

Bronson wants to bring the confidence of his boarding school to Watermarsh. As he tells his friends, “Rockingham Academy doesn’t have a monopoly on thinking big.” At first, Zeph doesn’t get it. No one has encouraged him to think about anything other than fixing roads with his father. All he knows about himself is that he wants a future with Connor, but he has no image for it. Connor doesn’t help. He only believes in secrets. That’s where Bronson comes in.

In Cranberry Boys, Zeph, Connor and Bronson wake up to different of ways of thinking about themselves and the future. But they don’t have difficulty learning how to dream in their own ways. That’s what makes the difference.

Is that why we read? To help us dream? Watermarsh and Rockingham Academy may have been different worlds, but dreaming is always free. Even if no one is there to encourage us. Even if we have to look harder for it. Even if we only look in ourselves… we can still dream. We can still find our way. Zeph, Connor and Bronson are proof it.

Link: Dreamspinner Press

 Cranberry Boys – Blurb

Cross-country runner Zeph is ready for happily-ever-after. So what if he and junior class president Connor are only sixteen years old and live in a dying town of old cranberry bogs? So what if their relationship is a secret and Connor has a girlfriend for cover? That’s how they win the race. Until Bronson, an old friend of Zeph’s, returns after being kicked out of boarding school.

Bronson doesn’t explain his mysterious past. Instead, he shares his prep-school savvy with Zeph and Connor to encourage them to start a blog to get the attention of colleges that usually ignore students from small towns like theirs. All is good. But the past starts to unravel, and Bronson comes between Zeph and Connor. No one can run away from everything.

Caught in his first love triangle, Zeph will do whatever it takes to have a happy ending, even if it means going undercover at Bronson’s old boarding school.

Cranberry Boys – Excerpt:

By the time Connor made it to the locker room, everyone else had hit the showers, but I was going slowly, still pissed and still at my locker with only a towel around my waist. Connor and I were alone. He stepped closer than he had in a month. I felt his heat, smelled his sweaty race. A pang shot through me—I’d missed Connor’s muskiness.

“I saw you,” muttered Connor.

I shut my locker and tried to get around him.

He blocked me. “Why do you have to ruin everything?”

“You think I’m the one ruining everything?”

“We’re apart now so we can be together later. Don’t you get it?”

“No, Connor. You don’t get it. This is no way to live.”

Connor pressed his shoulder against my chest, pinning me to the locker. His sweaty skin against my sweaty skin was like an electric charge through my body. His voice rumbled against my cheek. “You shouldn’t be seen alone with Bronson.”

I tried to step away, but Connor blocked me.

“I saw you leaving Stephanie’s show. Why was his arm around you? Why was he touching you?”

“Connor, this is stupid.”

“I am not stupid. I saw you two.”

“Why do you care? Are we even still together?”

“Why would you say that?”

“We’re acting like we’re finished.”

“It’s just acting.”

Connor’s sweat dripped to the floor. His face was a combination of scared kid and pissed-off sixteen-year-old.

“Connor, wouldn’t you like it if we were finished? Done. Then, you’d be safe, no secret. No worries. That’d be good news. Like we never even happened.”

Connor punched the locker beside my head. Metal bent and echoed. The nearby showers hissed. He loomed beside me, his body taut.

I had no idea how to fight. I’d never punched anyone. Never been punched. But I wasn’t nervous. It was only Connor.

“Are you serious?” was all I said.

He punched the locker to the left of my head, then the right, then left, then right, slamming, slamming, and he kept going, kept slamming, and I didn’t move my head, and he never touched me, but the slamming metal by my ears was the loudest thing I’d ever heard. The wind from his fists cooled my face. He kept punching and punching, metal crunching. The louder it got, the further inside myself I went.

“Dude!” Westy ran from the showers. The rest of the team followed. Westy yanked Connor away.

Scudder James Jr, Cranberry Boys, author bio:

Scudder James Jr believes happily ever after begins today. Junior high was terrible, boarding school better, and college the place he met the boyfriend he married (despite a pit stop in a fraternity). He started in finance because he thought he had to, but instead became a counselor for refugees, a fundraiser, and a teacher of sex and spirituality classes. After Chicago, Seattle, London, and Japan, he’s back in Boston where it all started. His favorite place to write has a harbor view of two colonial ships.

Scudder loves telling stories in print and on film. He’s thrilled that his short LGBTQ films have shown around the world in places as unexpected as Alabama and East Africa. Twenty years ago, he was diagnosed with a neurological disease that doctors are bewildered has disappeared. Scudder is an avid meditator and passionate about appreciating every moment.

One of his favorite mornings has been waking up on a boat in Patagonia with his perfectly imperfect partner and hiking an island of 130,000 penguins.

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