Tell Me It's Real Comic!

Yesterday, I announced that the comic adaptation of Tell Me It’s Real was coming soon.

Apparently, by soon I meant right now.


The cover:

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Couple of things, first, to hopefully answer your questions.

First, this is an adaptation of my book. I did not write the script. I reviewed the finished work in its entirety, and made some editorial suggestions, but I want to make it clear that not everything in the book could be included in this medium. However, there aren’t any real changes to the narrative, and everything plays out as it did in the novel. That being said, it is wonderful. The art (by a wonderful talented artist who goes by Jakky) is just incredible. They captured the spirit of the novel while still putting their own spin on it (visually, that is). Wait until you see Paul falling down the stairs thanks to Wheels on his way to his first date with Vince. It is a delight.

Secondly, this release is for the physical copy only. The comic (also referred to as a manhwa) will come out for digital download further down the road through Comixology, which is an Amazon company. It will allow you to download it to your ereaders of choice the same with any other book. You do not have to pay for the Comixology service in addition to buying the book, so if you’d like to wait for that to come out (anywhere from 1-2 mos) you can. But there’s just something awesome about holding the artwork in your hands, being able to flip through the pages. For those who want to wait for the digital version, you can take a look at Comixology here, and create an account if you’d like: Comixology. I will, of course, announce when it comes out for digital release.

The physical copy is available now through Amazon and Dreamspinner at the links below:

Amazon

Dreamspinner

This has been a long time in coming, I know. I think I first announced this at the end of 2017/beginning of 2018, but I promise you it’s worth the wait. It brings new life to a happy story, something I think we could all use these days. I hope you love it as much as I do!

tj

Brothersong Reveal

My father was there.

            Sometimes, he was a wolf. White with black on his chest and back.

            Other times, he was a man, a breakable man who watched me with knowing eyes.

            He tried to speak to me. He said, “Carter, I know—”

            “Shut up, shut up, shut up,” I chanted, my hands over my ears. “You’re not real, you’re not real, you’re dead, you died, you let him take you, you let him hurt you, why why why, did you do it? Why did you—”

            When I opened my eyes again, he was further away from me, standing on the other side of the clearing.

            I ran toward him.

            I only made it half-way before I smashed into an unseen barrier. My breath was knocked from my chest as my nose broke and blood poured down onto my lips. I swallowed it down, relishing in the taste as my father watched.

            “Tethers,” he said. “It all comes back to tethers.”

            I screamed for him. I begged him to save me, to love me, to choose me.

            And he looked away.

            I smashed my hands against the barrier, knowing my eyes were Omega violet. I didn’t care. All that mattered was he’d known this could happen, he’d known what his former witch was capable of, and even though he was nothing but a ghost made of swirling motes of dust, I wanted to wrap my hands around his throat and choke the life out of him.

            He said, “You are more than this.”

            I said, “It was always Joe, wasn’t it? He was your favorite. We were your firstborn, but when Joe came, nothing else mattered.”

            He said, “You can beat this. Remember who you are.”

            I said, “I wanted you to love me as much as you loved him. I wanted you to believe in me as much as you did him. Why wasn’t I enough?”

            He said, “This isn’t you. This isn’t you, Carter. There is something inside you, something rotten, and if you don’t fight this, if you don’t rise above it, you will be lost.”

I said, “Pack pack pack. You put the pack above everything else. Pack and Joe. Pack and Joe. Mom didn’t want it. Gordo didn’t want you to leave him behind. Mark didn’t want to be taken from his mate. And then there was Ox. He was a child. He didn’t know what you were asking of him, what you made him into. How could you do that to him? How could you let it happen? His mother died because of you. Because of your war. How could you look him in the eyes? How could you even breathe knowing what you’d done? You’re a monster. A beast. You’re no better than Richard Collins. Or Elijah. Or Robert Livingstone. When Joe was taken, you moved heaven and earth to get to him. But where are you now? Why aren’t you here to save me?


On December 17, 2019, the saga of the Bennett pack comes to an end as the sins of the fathers fall to the shoulders of their sons.


Cover Design by Reese Dante


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Why We Fight is Here!!

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Finally, finally, finally, Corey/Kori is here! This book is a love letter to my queer readers. Remember: the reason we fight is because we deserve a place in this world. We are here, we are queer, get fucking used to it.

And now, I proudly present the final At First Sight book: Why We Fight. Join me on one last trip to Tucson, Arizona with Corey/Kori and Jeremy, Paul and Vince, Sandy and Darren, Daddy Charlie and Robert, Nanna, Matty, Larry, Wheels, Santiago and the ridiculous parrot named Johnny Depp.

I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did writing it!

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Why We Fight: Endings and New Beginnings.

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Next week, on Tuesday, May 14, Why We Fight comes out. It is the culmination of a series that started in 2013 with Tell Me It’s Real and of a character first seen in 2014 in The Art of Breathing. It will be the last book in the series. And like always, it’s bittersweet.

I’ve ended series before. Bear, Otter and the Kid are done. Sam of Wilds is done (at least from his perspective, that is.) Abby, Oregon, with Gus and Casey and Josy and Q-Bert, is done. Though you haven’t read the final two books yet, the Bennett Pack is done.

This year—perhaps more than any other—is a year of goodbyes. Since 2011, I’ve built a career out of telling stories the way I want to tell them, and though I’m going to continue doing that, things are going to be a bit different starting January 1, 2020. I’m not so much as closing a door as I am just opening another one. With the big changes ahead, I wanted to make sure I finished telling the stories I needed to before moving on.

(And no, this doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop writing queer dudes falling in lurve. That will always be the case, no matter where I publish.)

I’ll have more to say about Green Creek in August and why I’m ending that series too, but it’ll echo what I say here. I’m not an author that wants to write series that go on and on and on. As it stands right now, a series with four books seem to be my sweet spot. I’m able to tell the story I want to tell without overstaying my welcome and becoming stagnant. While I get many people would be quite happy reading more books in series I’ve written, I think it would start to show through later books just how board I would get of my own writing. And that’s not something I ever want to happen.

Corey/Kori is special. They deserve to have a story told that sees me excited to tell it. This series deserves it as well. Tell Me It’s Real was the first time I allowed myself to let my freak-flag fly, embracing absolutely absurd, over the top humor that I love. It’s not for everyone. But because of that first book, it gave me the courage to write a spiritual successor of sorts, in The Lightning-Struck Heart. Honestly, without TMIR, Lightning would not exist, or at least the version you’ve read. Because of Paul and Vince, I was able to say fuck it, and write what was funny to me.

And it’s the same thing I wanted to do with Corey/Kori, knowing there is a different between playing it safe and being respectful.

On top of that, Why We Fight is my last contemporary book for the foreseeable future, so I wanted to go out with a bang.

After Heartsong and Brothersong later this year, I’ll be taking up with a new publisher. Tor, a division of Macmillan, is all about fantasy and sci-fi and the like. I’ll be publishing The House in the Cerulean Sea, a queer romantic fantasy. After that comes my YA debut, The Extraordinaries, next summer. 2021 is The Tremendous Death of Wallace Price, another queer fantasy, which will be followed by The Extraordinaries 2. And in 2022 will be my third adult queer fantasy with Tor, followed by the final Extraordinaries book.

So, an ending, if you will.

That doesn't mean I won’t be publishing other books. My sweet spot, it seems, is three books a year. Early in the year, one in the middle, and one toward the end.

I will be releasing a third book next year, but one I can’t talk about yet. It’s not a contemporary.

I will be releasing a third book in 2021, but it will not be a contemporary.

This will probably be a bummer for some readers, and that’s okay. Corey/Kori and Why We Fight is, at least for now, a bit of farewell gift. I will write contemporary again, I just don’t know when. These days, the stories I want to tell all somehow deal with the fantastic, and I want to follow that thread to see where it goes. I’m excited about it. Big, big things are on the horizon, and they begin next Tuesday, when I invite you back to Tucson one last time.

(Hell, for all I know I’ll crash and burn in the next couple of years and writing more books in series I’ve closed will seem desperately appealing. Let’s hope not, shall we?)

Thank you for following my crazy brain this far. With Why We Fight, I wanted the send off to be just as memorable as the other trips with the Tucson Crew, and I think I’ve succeeded. I hope you’ll join me in watching our old friends get in over their head, snarking at each other sarcastically, and getting that lovely, wonderful thing known as a Happily Ever After.

Eight more days!

love,

tj

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Why We Fight: Let's Talk About Sexxx

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Once upon a time, I wrote a book about a special little girl named Artemis Darth Vader and the men who would do anything to protect her. The book is a romance, though the romance wasn’t all that was on my mind in that story. It’s part of the book. There is a sex scene, though it’s not exactly full on sex. These days, most people consider sex scenes in books as needing full penetration for it to be actual sex. This, in my opinion, is ludicrous. But different strokes for different folks.

I submitted this initially to my usual publisher. They loved it! Hurray!

Except…

They wanted to publish it under a different arm of their publishing umbrella, saying (quotations taken directly from the correspondence) that it’s not a romance because “there’s only one sex scene.”

I was aghast. And infuriated. And a whole bunch of other angry emotions that don’t need to be described here. Later, it was walked back saying it was a “misstatement”, but not before I responded with a line by line description of each of my books, inviting the person on the other end of the email to show me where one of my books had more than one sex scene. In fact, I said, full of self-righteous fury (and probably a little full of myself too), I’ve written asexual books where there is no sex, and were still romances. Just because people don’t have sex, or don’t have full penetration does not mean they cannot (or their stories) be considered romantic. My irritation was clear. An apology was given, which was really great, but the damage had been done.

I pulled the book about aliens and cults and explosions and published it on my own.

Flash forward to Why We Fight.

First (and foremost) sex is not needed for romance.

Let me say that again: sex is not needed for romance.

People like smut. That’s totally cool!

People skip smut. That’s fine too!

I don’t like telling other people how to read. You read what makes you happy, and if you skip a book because there is no sex or skip a book because there is too much, that’s just fine.

However, I think it’s important to remember that sex is not always needed for romance. I don’t say this just as an asexual dude, but as a writer who knows my way around words. I’ve said before that if you don’t believe in a connection between the characters, then a sex scene is pointless. You need to actually feel and see that these two (or three or four) people feel something toward each other. Sex can help, but it’s not the be all and end all.

The At First SIght series is sexual, at least in part. If the Tucson Crew isn’t having sex, they are, at the very least, talking about it probably more than is healthy. Paul and Vince have a very active sex life. Sandy and Darren do too. Going into Corey/Kori’s book, I knew I wanted them to be on the same level.

But looking back at all the sex scenes from my books—and not just from this series—one sticks out above all others as being (at least to me) the most erotic. And it doesn’t actually involve any sex at all.

In The Queen & the Homo Jock King, Darren and Sandy are at each other’s throats for a large portion of the book. Sandy thinks (rightly so) that Darren is an asshole. Darren thinks (and rightly so) that Sandy is a drama queen.

Yet, there comes a scene even before they’ve done the do that I think is more important than the actual sex they end up having. This scene takes place at Jack It, in the Queen’s Layer. Helena Handbasket has finished with her performance, and is coming down from the high of it. Darren appears, and proceeds to undress Helena to help her become Sandy again. There is no kissing. There are no handjobs. There are no blowjobs, no fucking of any kind. It’s not sex.

And yet it’s sexual. It is highly charged and crackles with electricity. It’s pretty damn awesome if I say so myself. I am fucking proud of that scene, knowing what it meant for the characters.

I wanted to do something similar in Why We Fight for Corey/Kori and Jeremy. There is sex, yes, but I wanted something beyond that, something that carried a similar thrill as the undressing scene in Homo Jock.

Once again, there is no kissing (well…that’s not entirely true, but you’ll see what I mean when you get to it). There are no handjobs. There are no blowjobs, no fucking of any kind. It’s not sex.

What it is are two people sitting on either side of a door, with the door between them. It’s two people who care about each other and are trying to fight it (very, very unsuccessfully, as it were). It’s a different kind of coming together (heh, that’s a pun, get it) that I’ve never written before, and ultimately, I’m damn proud of it too. It allows Corey/Kori to have control over the situation, which was important to me. They needed it, given that in the book, the power dynamic is a bit off as Jeremy Olsen is, at least for the summer, their boss.

Yes, they have a bone sesh later on, but I think this is the scene that should be regarded as the sexiest. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I like the idea of Corey/Kori being in control.

Look: I’ve my position on sex in romance clear before, both here and in previous posts. You don’t have to agree with me, obviously. By now you know I usually consider sex to be the least important part of a book. But here, with this story, I wanted to challenge myself (and possibly the reader) with thinking about how sex in its many forms affects us, and what actually constitutes as sex. There are sexual situations in Why We Fight aside from the actual boning. But there is only one actual sex scene. And yet, somehow, it is still a romance.

(Wait until I show you my biggest trick this fall when I set out to convince you that Heartsong is a romance with no sex scene at all in the entire book. Yay for asexual werewolves and the soft boys who love them!)

In fifteen days, Why We Fight releases.

And I can’t wait for you to see what happens when Corey/Kori finds the man he deserves.

Next week, my last blog post before release in which I’ll discuss why I’m ending this series now, and what it means for me writing contemporary stories in the future.

See you then!

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Why We Fight: Cis-Blinders and My White Ass


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Let’s not mince around here.

I am a cis white dude.

Corey/Kori, the star of Why We Fight, is biracial and bigender.

What the hell was I thinking? Why did I think I had the right to tell a story like this with a character like them? I am queer, yes, but that in no way equates my experience and journey to that of a person of color (PoC) or someone who is trans/bigender.

To top it all off, this series is written in a first person POV which means the character is narrating, and uses “I” statements. I did this. I went here. I feel this way.

Fuck me, right?

I knew going in to this book I had to be careful. I needed to make sure this story came across as me writing about a bigender PoC, instead me sounding like I was writing as said character. In addition, this book was the culmination of a series (At First Sight) while also incorporating two other series (BOATK and The How to Be books—you might just find out some little tidbits if you pay attention to that last). At the same time, I wanted this story to belong to Corey/Kori without having the weight of nine (!!) other books upon it.

Yep. Fuck me.

Except I have never been one to back down from a big situation. I might procrastinate a bit, but when I do decide to tackle what’s ahead, I do it with everything I have. Aside from wanting to tell a good story, I have an obligation to get things right for communities that I’m not part of. I discussed in a previous blog post (which you can read here) the lengths my white ass went to in order to get things right. And I still got things wrong, which I was grateful to have people who did live these lives point out to me, and make this a better story while still retaining the ridiculousness of the narrative. And even though this is yet another door being closed, much like I’ve done with the BOATK series and the How to Be series, I think this is a worthy ending to all that has come before. Saying goodbye is never easy, but I can’t imagine a better character to have the honor of doing so.

Corey/Kori is an absolute delight. A lovely, snarky, irritated delight. This isn’t a book about coming to terms with being bigender. They are comfortable in their own skin. Nor is this a book about whether or not they think their love interest can be attracted to all that they are. I wanted to avoid both of those things as well as I could. Why? Because this series started as me wanting to explore people who you didn’t normally see getting their own books.

Paul in Tell Me It’s Real is fat. He doesn’t want to change. He doesn’t need to change. When he meets Vince, he’s bewildered by how much Vince pursues him, but he doesn’t try and slim down for him, nor does Vince ever ask him to.

Sandy (AKA Helena Handbasket) is a drag queen. Sandy/Helena have been together a long time. Darren doesn’t give two shits about that. All he wants is Sandy. Sandy doesn’t want to change. Darren never asks him to.

The same is true with this last book. Corey/Kori is who they are. Jeremy Olsen, the sweet dorky professor who might have another side of his own, appreciates Corey as they are. Corey doesn’t want to change, nor do they have any reason to do so. Jeremy never asks him to.

This is important to me. We come in all shapes, sizes, color, sexuality, gender and anything and everything in between. We all deserve to have stories told about people like us. And those who are telling those stories have a duty to be authentic, especially when, for example, a white dude is telling a story about a kickass PoC.

Two things for full transparency:

—There is a slur used against Corey/Kori in the book that is transphobic. It’s said by a side character first introduced here, and is shut down almost immediately by everyone around them. I worried about this. I know how slurs hurt, having been called a faggot by many, many people, including people I’m related to. I had the book beta read by a trans reader. They didn’t mention the use of the slur. I went back and asked them what they thought about it. Contextually, they replied, it works, given that the character who utters it is an asshole and we the reader know he’s an asshole. Then they said something that has stuck with me: “These insults happen all the time. It’s good to know you didn’t have your cis-blinders on when writing the scene.” Cis-blinders is a phrase I given a lot of thought about. I don’t think for a moment that I’ve done anything revolutionary here in this story, but it made me think for a long time what I’ve said/didn’t say because I have blinders on.

—Secondly, Michael Lesley, who has narrated this series, has withdrawn from the narration of the book, citing that he wasn’t comfortable as a cis white man narrating a character like Corey/Kori, believing that the job should go to a PoC. While disappointed, I agreed he could decline the project. Unfortunately, auditions for narrators are handled by the publisher and Tantor, and there is no option to ask for PoC narrators only. I asked. I was told that they can’t do that. I don’t know what that means for the narration of the book, but the publisher is moving forward with the audiobook, and it will be produced. I am supposed to get a list of people who audition, so I have a new job to do. I wish Michael well on all his future projects.

On May 14, I hope you’ll join me back in Tucson to see what some old friends are up to before we say goodbye. The journey will be happy and bittersweet, as endings usually are, but I promise you that by the end, you’ll see there is a reason the book is called Why We Fight, and why it couldn’t be anything else.

From Paul, Vince, Sandy, Darren, Corey/Kori, Jeremy, Nana, Mattie, Larry, Daddy Charlie, Robert, Wheels, and Johnny Depp, know this: goodbyes are hard. Let’s go out with a bang, shall we?

Next week, sex, sex, sex and why I challenged myself to make this story as sexy as possible (which doesn’t always mean fucking, fyi).

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Why We Fight: I'm a Pissed Off Faggot


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I was angry when I started writing the last At First Sight book.

And I’m angry still.

In my contemporary stories (think the At First Sight Series, the BOATK series), I have the tendency to avoid bigger, real world problems. I try and keep the focus to a single group of people, and the problems they face on a personal level. It’s not that I’m unaware of what goes on on a macrolevel, I just like to focus on the immediacy of a group of characters. But still, even when I’m writing comedy, there’s a bit of an edge to it, an underlying rage to it that while may not be explicit, is still there all the same.

It’s a little different with Why We Fight, and it’s because of Corey/Kori Ellis.

First things first: this book is a comedy. Absurd, ridiculous, over the top. That’s not up for debate. Just because I’m a little full of myself and think I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY doesn’t mean I lost sight of what these books are supposed to be. This is the only post on this book where I’m going to rant a little, but for the book itself, you will laugh until you cry. I promise.

However.

This book is set (more by happenstance than specific planning) in the summer of 2016. Most Americans will know this was a time of great upheaval, where we went from saying that Donald Trump would never get the Republican nomination for presidency to watching him actually win.

For months after, I let my fury get the best of me. How dare people think he was acceptable? How dare people care so little about those of us put in harm’s way because of a man like him. Then, to make matters worse, I saw that I had readers who supported him, something I thought would be so antithetical to people who loved to read about men falling for each other. I was wrong. It turns out that people can still want to read about men falling for each other while supporting someone who named one of the biggest bigots in the United States as his Vice President.

I lashed out. I was a pissed-off faggot. I know for a fact I lost readers over, and I didn’t (and still don’t) care about that. The hypocrisy was astounding to me, especially when people responded with “Just give them a chance! It’s not going to be as bad as you think it is!” Or, my favorite: “You’re overreacting!”

In the end, I just…stopped talking about it at all. It exhausted me. I was yelling into an echo chamber. I wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind, and they weren’t going to change mine. I focused on my books, still watching in horror as a story came out that would have ended any other presidency, but for this one, could just be called Tuesday.

And then this last Friday, Trump’s ban on trans service members in the military went into effect.

So, you know. Here comes that anger again. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, all of you who support this man. You may not agree with everything he does, but you own all of him.

I gave very brief thought to ignoring all of this when it came to Why We Fight. To ignoring the real world and just letting zany shit be zany.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do that as an author writing this book, and Corey/Kori wouldn’t let me do that to them. They’re not real. I know that. But they are real to me, and they were angry like I was.

The current president of the United States is mentioned only a few times in the book. I didn’t want to browbeat my readers with it. So, for those who look to books for escape from the world, have no fear.

That being said, Corey/Kori (which I will refer to using the pronouns “they/them” so don’t get confused) doesn’t take shit from anyone. They, in turn, are also a hypocrite, as I am. In the book, they begin to work for a LGBTQI youth center in Tucson during the summer before their final year of college. The kids in the youth center are of the mind that if you’re not with us, you’re against us, and most heterosexuals are against us. Corey/Kori tries to dissuade them of this, telling the kids that that line of thinking could be somewhat dangerous, as it could burn bridges that can’t be rebuilt.

Later on in the story, Corey/Kori and Jeremy have dinner with some of Jeremy’s…friends (acquaintances?) who all turn out to be white gay Republicans. Corey/Kori demonstrates his hypocrisy here by chalking them all off as a lost cause because since they’re not with us, they’re against us.

Life is hypocrisy. We say one thing, and we do another. It can be very confusing. But in this specific case, Corey/Kori is not confused, even if they are hypocritical. They see a difference between the kids at the youth center and what Jeremy’s frenemies are all about. I don't hold back. Because of this, Corey/Kori doesn’t either. This book is an indictment of all of our hypocrisies. Am I wrong to want to close ranks? I don’t know. It sometimes can feel wrong, but then I see people still feverishly supporting a man who is, at best, an unintelligent bigot and at worst, a wannabe dictator who wants to destroy everything he can touch.

Even now, I know some of you are reading this and rolling your eyes. He’s not that bad, you’re thinking.

This book isn’t for you.

This book can be read by anyone, yes. But this book is written for queer people with queer anger in mind. This book is for those of us who watch as our rights are getting chipped away, piece by piece. This is for those of us who see a rise in hate crimes against queer people (trans included), against people of color, against anyone who can be viewed as “different.”

Trump is not forever. He will be gone sooner rather than later. But we will remember those who were not with us. And a pissed off faggot is not someone who forgives easily. Trust me on that.

Man, do I feel better. For now. This is all I’m going to say on the matter regarding this book. The rest of the posts in the leadup to the release will be happy stuff and behind-the-scenes stuff.

Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life, of a group of queer people who love each other more than anything. Corey/Kori finally gets to tell their story, and in the end, they turn out to be one of the best characters I’ve written. I cannot wait for you to see what they’ve become.

On May 14, I ask you to return with me to Tucson one last time, to visit old friends and meet some new ones. This final book in the At First Sight Series (began six (!!) years ago in Tell Me It’s Real) has been a long time in coming, but I promise the wait will be worth it.

Next week, I’ll be talking more about my due diligence in writing a story about a trans person of color while still keeping in spirit with the series as what basically amount to dumb sex comedies. God, I love my job.

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Announcement on Leaving Dreamspinner Press

I will be parting ways with Dreamspinner Press. This will not have any bearing on my next three releases: Why We Fight, Heartsong, or Brothersong. I don't know what it means for a series like the Tales from Verania, but the past couple of years have brought issue after issue with DSP, with promises made for fixes that have never materialized. I have done my best to keep this quiet given that readers shouldn’t be subjected to the drama of publishing a book, but it’s now spilled out and is affecting my readers who are not receiving product they have paid for despite repeated requests. This isn’t the only issue, nor is it even the biggest, but it’s the most recent, and for my own wellbeing, I need to walk away. The last couple of years has been more stressful than I care to admit.

Please do not ask for anymore specific details. I know this will most likely cause rampant speculation that I’d rather avoid, but there’s not much I can do about that. All you need to know is this: DSP is a business. I make said business a lot of money. I deserve to be treated better. Transparency is a must in the publishing world, and current practices are not anywhere transparent enough for me to continue comfortably. I am devastated it has to come to this, but I can no longer work in good faith with a company that won’t meet me halfway. Good business practice is being proactive rather than reactive.

It should be noted I’m not using this as any kind of leverage. I don’t want to have to be doing this. My hope is that the publisher will course correct and find ways to make things right so these situations could be avoided in the future. But I am done. I have reached my limit, and I will be moving on.

I wish them well and look forward to my remaining books with them. In no way should this post be read as me giving permission for anyone to attack the publisher by social media or emails or in any other way. Don’t do this. It’s counterproductive and will only make things harder. I am absolutely not calling for any kind of boycott. By all means, continue to support the authors you love to read. Trust me when I say it means more than you could possibly know.

I will continue to tell my stories. Big things are on the horizon! I can’t wait to share them with you.

Thanks,

tj

Heartsong Reveal

they tell you

to be brave

to be strong

they tell you

that you have a home

they say

here little wolf

this is where you belong

they say

here little wolf

this is your pack

and you remember her

the voice in your ear

the way she loved you

she said

little wolf

little wolf

what do you see?

you’re the heart of the forest

the guardian of the trees

then she was gone

and you were alone

but you found your place

you found your home

it was green green green

it was pack and pack and pack

but hold on

little wolf

hold on

with all your might

because your heart is fragile

and in the end

it will shatter like glass

Cover by Reese Dante

Cover by Reese Dante

On September 24, 2019, everything will change:

All Robbie Fontaine ever wanted was a place to belong. After the death of his mother, he bounces around from pack to pack, forming temporary bonds to keep from turning feral. It’s enough—until he receives a summons from the wolf stronghold in Caswell, Maine.

Life as the trusted second to Michelle Hughes—the Alpha of all—and the cherished friend of a gentle old witch teaches Robbie what it means to be pack, to have a home.

But when a mission from Michelle sends Robbie into the field, he finds himself questioning where he belongs and everything he’s been told. Whispers of traitorous wolves and wild magic abound—but who are the traitors and who the betrayed?

More than anything, Robbie hungers for answers, because one of those alleged traitors is Kelly Bennett—the wolf who may be his mate.

The truth has a way of coming out. And when it does, everything will shatter.

Pre-orders coming this summer!

Announcing: TJ Klune Merchandise

I’m so pleased to finally get to make this announcement.

(If you were in the Klunatic FB group, you would have seen this a couple of weeks ago, just FYI.)

For the first time ever, we are launching official merchandise based upon some books of mine! We have some awesome merch from the Green Creek series, the Tales from Verania series with more on the way, so continue to check back.

Even better? A portion of every sale goes to the Trevor Project, a charity near and dear to my heart.

Per their website, “The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.”

You can learn more about The Trevor Project and their mission here: The Trevor Project

And now to the merch!

First, I’ll direct you to the lovely people at Lovely Bird—Max and Lea—who have worked very hard to bring you everything from Wolfsong phone cases to trucker hats with the new symbol for Gordo’s Body Shop.

The Green Creek Store

Second, and also at Lovely Bird, merchandise for Tales From Verania!

Tales From Verania Store

Last (and certainly not least), have you ever wanted framed artwork of the Green Creek series by an incredible artist? Lio’s got you covered! Prints from their works on Wolfsong and Ravensong are now for sale. As of today, there are currently ten (!!) different works available. Please check out this amazing artist and support their work!

Green Creek Art Print Series

If you have any questions, or concerns, or want to see merch/art from a different book or series of mine, feel free to contact the owners of each store on their websites. I can’t make any promises, but I know they’ve already got ideas for some of my other books.

I hope you love it as much as I do!

tj

Why We Fight Reveal

I am a cis white man.

Corey/Kori Ellison, the star of Why We Fight, is biracial and bigender.

I will never know what it means to be transgender. I will never know the struggles people of color face. I can have empathy and appreciation, but to say I have a complete understanding would not only be false, but also ignorant.

Which is why it’s taken so long for Corey/Kori’s book to see the light of day.

I’ve written characters of color before: Sam of Wilds, across four books. Olive Juice is built around a black woman and the idea of “missing white woman” syndrome. In the upcoming Heartsong, a new character of color is introduced who will make a mark on the pack through Brothersong. In my big Tor debut, The House in the Cerulean Sea, there are quite a few side characters of color. In my most recently finished book, The Tremendous Death of Wallace Price, the love interest, Hugo, is a black man, and his best friend is a Chinese-American woman who is in most of the book.

I write this not to list off my bona fides, but to show that these books, while important, don’t cover my entire back catalogue. And out of all the books I’ve written, these add up to less than a quarter of that total. Most of my characters have been white or white-passing. I’m striving to do better with inclusivity because I think it’s important while still wanting to make sure I avoid any sort of white-savior trope.

And even though I have written characters of color before, Corey/Kori is someone different. The At First Sight series is not known for it’s political correctness or subtlety. When I introduced the character by way of the BOATK series in The Art of Breathing, I didn’t do so because I wanted to tick some boxes. I was genuinely interested in who Corey could become. I will admit, however, that I didn’t give much thought (at least at first) into the idea of writing a book for them. It wasn’t until The Queen & the Homo Jock King that I realized just how much I wanted to write their book. I think it was one of the big reasons I had the character cross over from the BOATK series to the Tucson Crew: Seafare is angst and drama and blah, blah, blah. Tucson isn’t, and I thought if I could tell their story, I’d want them to be in a happier series where angst isn’t the main focus.

But Queen was three years ago (!!!). I kept pushing it off because I wondered if I would do the book justice. I worried I’d end up fucking it up somehow which could not only leave a sour taste in the mouths of my readers, but potentially cast a shadow on the entire series. I think the Paul/Vince wedding novella, Until You, came about because I was frustrated with myself for not diving in like I should have.

When I finally decided to buckle down and start writing, I knew I would have to do as much (if not more) research than on any other book I’ve written. I had an obligation to get this right. No beta reader or sensitivity reader could take the blame if I got something wrong. My name is on the cover. These are my words. I am completely and 100% responsible.

And I did get things wrong in the initial drafts. I had a trans reader go over it, showing me where I’d fucked up. I had a person of color read through it and school me on black/Hispanic hair. I had a sensitivity reader (who also happens to be one of my editors) ask why, given the climate between people of color and police, would Corey/Kori make a joke about calling the cops at something Nana had said?

The best intentions can still lead to mistakes, and those mistakes could be impactful if I don’t correct them.

This abundance of caution may sound like overkill (trust me, it’s not), but Corey/Kori deserves to have their story done right. Trans authors are the best at telling trans stories. I am not trans, and yet here I am telling a story about a trans character. The onus is on me to get it right. Beginning next month in the lead up to the May 14 release, I’ll talk more about my due-diligence of wanting to get things correct while still maintaining the ridiculousness that is Paul and Sandy, Darren and Vince, Daddy Charlie, Nana, Mattie, Larry, Wheels, and the homophobic parrot Johnny Depp.

And, of course, Corey/Kori and Professor Jeremy Olsen.

Now for the real reason you’re here.

First, Why We Fight comes out May 14th, and it’s up for pre-order.

Add on Goodreads: Goodreads

Pre-Order Links:

Dreamspinner

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo


And now, the cover, created by Reese Dante:

WhyWeFightFS_v1.jpg


Blurb:

Do you believe in love at first sight?

 Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.

 Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.

Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.

But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.

Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.

How to Be a Movie Star is here!

In October of 2015, I released a story about a Grumpy Gus and the asexual stoner hipster who just wanted to love his face as hard as he could.

Now, today, I return to this little world I created. I hope you have as much fun as I did while writing this story. Josy is sunshine, Quincy is in over his head, Gus is…Gus, and Casey is still taking photographs of every single meal to post on Instagram, oh my god, what the hell.

How to Be a Movie Star, the sequel to How to Be a Normal Person, is here!

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How to Be a Movie Star: The Return of Gustavo Tiberius

I have made no secret of my love for Gustavo Tiberius. He is, in my opinion, one of the best characters I’ve ever written.

It was such a joy to be able to write about him again, and to see the friendship Josy thrusts upon him, much to his chagrin.

And so here, for my last blog post before the release of How to Be a Movie Star, a little excerpt where Gus is…well.

Gus.

For those worried about spoilers, fear not: this doesn’t give the plot of the book away.

February 12 is almost here!

Pre-Order Links:

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HowToBeAMovieStar_FBbanner_DSP.jpg



Gustavo scowled. “It had actually better be life and death. If it’s not, I will have my revenge.”

“It is,” Josy moaned, flopping down on the counter, laying his head on his arms.

“Is something wrong with the movie?”

“No. Worse.”

“Is someone sick?”

“My allergies gave me trouble yesterday, but I took a Zyrtec. But that’s not it. It’s worse.”

“Did someone die?”

“They might as well have! You’re getting warmer!”

“Is someone about to die?”

“Yes!” Josy cried, lifting his head. “And it’s me!”

Gustavo stared at him before nodding slowly. He leaned to the left, looking over Josy’s shoulder toward the front of the video emporium. Josy followed his gaze. The sidewalk was empty.

“I always knew this would happen,” Gustavo said. “I’m glad you’ve come to me.”

“You knew?” Josy asked. “Goddammit. Did everyone know?”

“I don’t know about anyone else. But I figured it out right away. I mean, it makes sense, if you really think about it.”

Josy frowned. “It does?”

Gustavo nodded. “I mean, it was bound to happen sooner or later. You’re in too deep.”

“How do you know that?” Josy demanded. “I didn’t even figure it out before today!”

“Because I know many things,” Gustavo said. “It’s what happens when you read encyclopedias.”

“Whoa,” Josy breathed. “I didn’t know that. Encyclopedias sound amazing. I’ve never used one before because I live in the twenty-first century, but still.”

Gustavo leaned forward on the counter. Josy felt better already. “First thing you need to do is to make sure you’re not being followed.”

This was good advice. “I wasn’t. No one even stopped me for a picture, which was really disappointing. I think I let those two girls who wanted my autograph go to my head. I’m a fame whore now.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. But it doesn’t matter. The second thing you need to do is destroy all your credit cards. They can trace you that way.”

Josy’s eyes widened. “They can?”

“Yes. Everything is traceable. Which brings me to the big one. You’re going to have to ditch the phone. That means no more social media.”

Josy gasped. “I can’t do that. What happens if someone posts a picture of their colorful sushi and I don’t see it?”

“It’s a price you’ll have to pay,” Gustavo said gravely. “If you’re going to go off the grid, you need to cut all ties with who you used to be.”

“Gustavo, no.”

“Josy, yes. They will find you unless you do exactly what I say.”

Josy was getting paranoid. “But—but what if I only looked at Instagram, like, three times a day?” He shook his head. “No, that’s crazy. Maybe twelve times a day.”

Gustavo scoffed. “You obviously don’t care if you die, then.”

“I do! I do care if I die!”

Gustavo slammed his hands down on the counter. “Then you need to start acting like it! Maybe a few years down the road when you’ve established a new life under a different name, you can think about making a new account, but only if you remember one thing, and one thing only. Are you ready to remember that one thing?”

Josy nodded furiously. “So ready.”

Gustavo leaned forward. “Here it is: selfies will get you killed.”

Josy took a step back. “No. That’s not… that can’t be true.”

“It is. If you’re going to go into hiding, then you need to remember that Josiah Erickson is dead. Whatever new name you pick for yourself, that is who you’re supposed to be. You’ll need to shave off your beard—”

“Anything but that! Why are you doing this? Why are you tearing me apart?”

“I’m trying to save your life!” Gustavo shouted. “The Hollywood Mafia is after you, and now that you’ve finally come to me to get free, I am doing everything I can. But you’re not listening.”

“I am listening! I swear. But you’re—wait. What.”

Gustavo squinted at him. “What what?”

“Who is after me?”

“The Hollywood Mafia.”

“They are? Why?”

Gustavo threw up his hands. “I don’t know! Probably because you’re in too deep! You’ve sold your soul for fame and money, and now you’re about to pay the price!”

Josy didn’t know he’d done any of that. It was a good thing he’d come here. “But… it’s just a movie!”

“That’s how it starts. First it’s a commercial. Then it’s a part in a TV show where you play a corpse.”

“Oh no,” Josy whispered. “I did those things.”

“And then you get the starring role in a movie about having sexual relations with animals—”

“Hold up. Time out. That’s not what the movie is about.”

“You made out with a man dressed like a lion.”

“Yeah, but it’s whimsical. Grady is an imaginary friend that became real who reminds my character of his one true love. It’s kind of like Calvin and Hobbes.”

Gustavo snorted. “Calvin never wanted to fuck the tiger.”

Josy gaped at him. “That’s—I don’t know that I’ve ever heard you say fuck before, man. It’s tripping me out. Also, that sentence really messed with my childhood memories.”

“And now you’re coming to me for help because you know the Hollywood Mafia is after you because you’ve stumbled upon their terrible secrets.”

Josy blinked. “That’s not why I’m here.”

 



How to Be a Movie Star: Making Friends as Adults Sucks Balls

There is a type of person so diabolical, so evil that the very mention of them causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end, and my toes to curl.

No, I’m not talking about sociopaths.

Or psychopaths.

Or even cannibals.

Worse.

I’m talking, of course, about extroverts.

gasps

(I kid, I kid.)

(Mostly.)

Imagine, if you will, the scariest situation in the world for someone like me who is absolutely not an extrovert: going to get a haircut. The very idea of small talk causes me to borderline panic, but then to have to engage in small talk with a stranger who has scissors in their hands while I’m pretty much blind (given that I have to remove my glasses), and it’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

(first world problems, I know, boo hoo.)

But small talk is a necessary evil. When we’re kids, even the shyest of us can make best friends forever over a simple question like do you want to play video games?

But when we’re adults, it’s so much harder. We’ve lost the sense of wonder and ease we might have had as kids, and given in to cynicism and distrust. When someone appears to actively trying to be my friend who I don’t know, I tend to be convinced they want something from me. (What, exactly, I have no fucking clue, because sure, I have some expensive furniture, but I also have Fallout bobbleheads that I love just as much, and also a really big TV? For my video games, of course, and no, you can’t have any of that. It’s mine. WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?!?)

This is a particular conundrum Josy, the star of How to Be a Movie Star, finds himself in, though from the complete opposite perspective as me. Sure, like me, he has his small group of friends in Casey and Serge and Xander, and that’s just fine with him. But unlike me, Josy is an extrovert, and not everyone understands him. They have the cynicism that comes with adulthood. Josy doesn’t always see the forest for the trees, but I think that brings out the goodness in him. He’s the type of person you’d expect to break out in song and dance because he’s so happy. That still doesn’t help in the act of adulting, however.

When he meets Quincy for the first time, he’s unsure of how to ask for them to be friends, even though he really, really wants them to be. As he goes on to say, he has a friend-crush on Quincy and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Thankfully, Josy has a secret weapon.

And that secret weapon is called Gustavo Tiberius.

When I decided to write Movie Star, I went back through How to Be a Normal Person and zeroed in on the sections where Josy and Gus interacted. In Movie Star, a year has passed since the events of Normal Person, and I wondered what Gus and Josy would have taken away from their time together, and if something more would have come from it.

Much to my delight, I discovered it did.

(Much to Gustavo’s dismay, of course.)

In fact, next to the primary relationship between Josy and Quincy, the relationship between Gus and Josy is the most important aspect of the book. Josy wormed his way into Gus’s life and never really left, though Gus repeatedly threatened him. Their dynamic is one I did not expect, but was delighted to see grow as big as it did. They couldn’t be more different. However, I think that’s what brings them together. Gus is there to help Josy work through his confusion over what Quincy is to him exactly in a positively Gus-like manner.

Which brings me to another aspect of Josiah Erickson:

He’s demisexual.

A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless a strong emotional connection is formed. It could be argued he’s also demiromantic, which is romantic attraction instead of sexual attraction.

I’ve written ace characters before: Morgan of Shadows, Casey, Gus (perhaps), Kelly Bennett in the upcoming Heartsong. Just because a person identifies as ace doesn’t mean they don’t have sex. Not everyone is sex-repulsed.

Casey is, which is why there was no sex in How to Be a Normal Person.

There isn’t sex in How to Be a Movie Star, either. Oh, there are frank discussions about sex and sexuality, but at no point does the relationship turn sexual on page. This was done by choice, but it doesn’t mean Josy is like Casey at all. He just has other things he focuses on that he considers more important in terms of a relationship.

Sex scenes aren’t always pointless, and under a skilled hand, they can add to the narrative. But if you don’t feel the connection between the two characters unless they consummate their relationship explicitly on page, then I’ve failed as an author. Sex isn’t the be-all and end-all. Smut has a place, just not in this specific story.

(But boy oh boy, wait until you see what happens in Why We Fight, Corey/Kori’s book. Let’s just say I surprised even myself. Yeesh, I’m gross.)

But don’t allow yourself to think it’s because ace people don’t fuck around. We can and do. We can enjoy it just like everyone else. The term asexual doesn’t mean one specific, regimented set of rules. You may not understand that, but that’s okay. In 11 days, you’ll get to hear Josy’s point of view on it all, and I think he’ll explain it better than I ever could.

(So long as he doesn’t get distracted by pretty much everything given that he’s probably stoned.)

Next week, I’ll post an excerpt. And then the following week, the book I swore I’d never write comes out.

I can’t wait for you to see what happens when we return to Abby, Oregon.

It’s almost February 12!

tj

Add on Goodreads: https://goo.gl/vzNZES

Pre-Order Links:

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How to Be a Movie Star: Mental Health & Me (& You)

I’ve been up front in my struggles with my mental health. It wasn’t always that way. For a long time, I thought myself weak. When I was younger, I wrestled with depression and crippling anxiety. I thought it was something to be ashamed of. I didn’t know why I felt the way I did, and therefore, didn’t know how to ask for help. I had the naïve hope that it would go away on its own, and that I might grow out of it. Some do.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. Oh, it didn’t worsen as I got older, but then it was already pretty bad to begin with. I tried therapy in my 20s, and was burnt by it when the therapist I went to turned out to be extremely unqualified. It wasn’t until I started this crazy writing journey that I found a way to channel these dark thoughts into something more productive.

(To be clear, this isn’t me stating I was cured by any stretch of the imagination; it doesn’t work like that. I’ve since learned from medical professionals how to better manage my depression and anxiety. The beginning of my writing career was merely a stop-gap for it as it gave me focus.

I’ve written about characters with mental health issues before. Probably the best example is Tyson Thompson (formerly Tyson McKenna). In Bear, Otter and the Kid and Who We Are, I wrote about his growth, about him trying to find his way. But it wasn’t until his own book, The Art of Breathing, that I realized just how destructive his behavior could be. It wasn’t his fault. Of course it wasn’t. Yes, he could be manipulative, and yes, he sunk lower before pulling himself back up, but the circumstances of his life and his own mind and body working against him led him to make some of the choices he did, both good and bad.

You know Josy, the narrator of How to Be a Movie Star. You’ve met him before in Normal Person, and I’ve talked about him in the last couple of blogs.

Today, I’d like you to meet Quincy AKA Q-Bert, the author of monster porn, and the man who’s getting ready to make his first film.

I think at almost every point in an author’s career, we write a character who’s also an author. I’ve tried to avoid it thus far because I didn’t want to come off as self-serving or self-congratulating. Ask an author about their craft, and we’ll never shut the fuck up about writing. It’s a gift. It’s a curse.

I don’t write monster porn.

I haven’t directed a movie.

(Yet.)

I’m not Quincy. If anything, I’m more like Gus than any of the other characters I’ve written.

But Quincy is…well. There are shades of me in him. He’s jittery and nervous, and does have mental health issues. And, like me, for a long time he was ashamed of it. But in a move I wished I’d done when I was younger, instead of being cowed by it, he decided to weaponize it, to drag it kicking and screaming into the spotlight, to show it in all its ugliness. He has a large social media following, and in the narrative of Movie Star, it’s shown how public he is about his struggles. He has good days. He has bad days. He has very bad days. It was important for me to have him do this given the stigma behind mental illness. The more people talk about their own issues, the more it’ll give others with the same problems a chance to have a voice, to open a dialogue. What works for him (and in turn, me) won’t work for everyone. Maybe not even most people. But I wouldn’t allow myself to gloss over it, given how important I think it is.

That being said, I wrote this novel as a comedy. Life is funny and strange and, at times, downright awful. While I would never make light of mental health, I knew I needed to walk the careful line between actually having something to say about versus sounding like I was making light of what Quincy went through when he was younger.

It helps to have someone like Josy. I think we all need a Josy in our lives. Their romance is slow and sweet and absurd and everything I could ever hope for in these two. They don’t heal each other. That would be extraordinarily disingenuous, and it would lessen what Quincy did with his life before he met Josy. But they do help each other. They, and their friends around them, prop each other up and remind themselves that it’s okay to have good days. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay to have really bad days so long as we remember we’re all in this together. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

And speaking of togetherness, one last thing:

I know straight readers (both women and men) make up a large portion of my audience. I’m thankful for that. For the most part, I think my hetero-readers would never think of fetishizing queer people. They are supportive and kind and while they might not understand completely the struggles of being queer, they can appreciate our voices.

That being said, I wrote How to Be a Movie Star (and Why We Fight, coming in May) with my queer audience in mind. Which is why How to Be a Movie Star has this dedication at the beginning:

This book is dedicated to all my queer readers.

You deserve every happiness.

Never stop fighting for what you believe in.

Next week, I’ll be discussing the absolute horror of trying to make friends as adults, and why I wanted to write another asexual character, and how sex (or the lack thereof) plays a part in asexual stories. See you then!

Pre-Order How to Be a Movie Star today! It releases February 12th!

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Pre-Order Links:

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How to Be a Movie Star: Humor, Smoking the Doobies, and Trigger Warnings

By the time How to Be a Movie Star comes out, it’ll have been almost a year since I released a comedy. My first book of 2018 was A Wish Upon the Stars, which, while still comedic, was the big, climactic finale of a much larger story about friends, family, and kicking ass and taking names.

But in terms of pure comedy, the last one would probably be Until You, the wedding of Paul and Vince Auster at the beginning of 2017 (more on them in the coming months, but be forewarned: they’re a gross married couple now and it’s amazing). Yes, there was the entire three book Destiny Fuck Yeah! Verania arc, but they came with a sharper edge than their predecessor, The Lightning Struck Heart.

(And now that I think about it, it could probably be said that if you don’t like a specific sub-genre I write in, all you have to do is wait until the next book I publish because it’ll probably something else entirely. Manic, manic, manic.)

It’s a good comparison, though: the Verania series, the At First Sight Series, and the How To Be books. In essence, all are comedies in one way shape or form.

But to me, there are some major differences. The Verania series is very…bombastic. It’s in your face, and absolutely not for everyone. The comedy in the At First Sight could be said to be along the same vein, though possibly dialed down a notch or two.

How to Be a Normal Person, and in turn, How to Be a Movie Star, are comedies of a different kind. While they still have their moments, the humor tends to be a bit more subdued. On a scale from one to ten, if Verania is a ten, I’d put At First Sight at around a seven, and the How to Be books at a five. And this is entirely intentional.

There’s a beat to comedy, a rhythm. If you’ve ever seen a comic live at a show, you could almost set a metronome by it. It hums along hitting specific beats. Writing comedy is similar. There’s a strange little dance one does with words while writing a scene filled with humor that I love. And there are times when I have to pull myself back when writing Normal Person or Movie Star, knowing that if I start banging on the drums too loudly, it’ll lose a bit of the magic that fits with these books. There’s a cadence to writing the How to Be books, and it’s a different beat than I normally dance to, but I dig it immensely.

If you’ve read Normal Person, you’ll know that Gus isn’t exactly the typical comedic hero. He’s grumpy, he’s very strict with his regimented daily life, and doesn’t like it when things go off the rails and out of his comfort zone. I had to be very careful when writing him, because I didn’t want it to seem like I was making fun of him.

The same goes with Josy. Josy is…well. At first glance, he’s a typical stoner dude bro. That was the draw of him, the attraction. We’ve all seen movies or TV shows with the stoner side character. When I made the decision to write this book, I wondered if I could sustain a side character like him throughout an entire novel without it seeming like I was being slightly…cruel? He’s not smart. He’ll be the first to tell you that. He’s like Vince Auster, at least a little bit. But there’s so much more beneath the surface of him (much like with Vince) and it’s important to me that it not read as if I was mocking him. It’s one thing to have the reader be in on the joke with the character. To lose that insight is something else entirely. He’s not real, I know, but man, do I hear his breaths and his beating heart. I can’t wait for you to meet him for real this time.

And speaking of stoner dude bros.

Look. These books are pro-marijuana. It’s not in your face about it, but these characters aren’t shamed for the choices they make about what they put into their bodies. The story is set a year after the events of Normal Person, which puts it in 2015 when marijuana for recreational use was just approved in Oregon and made for sale starting October 1, 2015. Everyone in the book who uses marijuana does so as an adult in a state where it’s legal to do so. (Granted, given when the story is set, California hadn’t quite caught up with the times, so the “legality” might stretch a little there toward the beginning of the book.)

Don’t smoke weed?

Great! That’s absolutely your choice.

Smoke weed?

Great! That’s absolutely your choice.

I understand that it’s not for everyone. I understand some people don’t like even reading about it. That’s okay. If that puts you off, then this book is not for you. But please, please don’t do what happened after Normal Person came out and send me messages/emails/tweets about how you wished the characters didn’t smoke/consume any marijuana-related product (“Drugs are bad and they shouldn’t do drugs and I don’t like it when they do and it ruins the book!”). I won’t be shamed by including this aspect of the story, and you’ll be just wasting your time. Cool?

Cool.

One final weed-related caveat: Josy is white. Casey is white. They both smoke out. I, as the author of their story, 100% understand this comes from a place of privilege (within the confines of fiction), as it does for me as well (in reality). People of color have been prosecuted for decades for the very same things the characters in this book take for granted at the advent of the legal weed culture. I mention that in the book, at least peripherally. I wanted to address it more, but it started bordering on tokenism and frankly, sounding unintentionally sanctimonious on my part. Just because these characters exist in a bubble of sorts by no means meant to detract from the racial disparity of the so-called “war on drugs.”

Lastly, something I never do: a trigger warning. While I understand why some stories need them, I am always hesitant to include them because I think it can detract from the story. Some people weren’t happy I didn’t include a trigger warning with Olive Juice, and while I can respect their opinion, I will also respectfully disagree. I think the magic of a story is in the discovery of the journey.

It doesn’t help that the cutesy trigger warnings that some romance novels have now that drive me up the fucking wall. Be warned, this story contains rough-and-tumble Alphas with hearts of gold, and a vomiting cat that hangs from ceiling, har, har, har.

Stop. Doing. This.

Seriously.

Stop it.

(Yes, I am aware I just told you not to shame me for weed positivity and now I’m shaming people for something equally ridiculous—I contain terrible multitudes.)

That being said, I told myself a long time ago if I ever wrote a story containing/discussing/referencing two different types of events, I would warn for them. One of those events is in this book, at least in part.. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want anything spoiled for you.

In Movie Star, there is a brief discussion of past suicidal ideation regarding Q-Bert/Quincy. It lasts a couple of paragraphs in a discussion with Josy, and the Q-Man talks about how he overcame the ideation with professional, medical and familial help. He didn’t harm himself, but he thought about it when he was in his teens.

And that’s it for this week! We are getting so close to our return to Abby, Oregon, where the residents are going to have stars in their eyes when a major Hollywood production*** comes to town to film. I can’t wait to show you what Gus and Casey and Lottie and the We Three Queens are up to now, and to show you how a demisexual stoner finds the love of his life with a neurotic writer of monster porn.

(***this is not a major production. it’s actually quite small and will probably fall apart quite easily.)

Next week, I’ll be discussing the mental health aspects of Movie Star, and why it was important for me to include this aspect, given my own history with anxiety and depression.

If you haven’t pre-ordered How to Be a Movie Star, what the hell are you waiting for? I’ll helpfully provide the links to do just that below.

Pre-Order How to Be a Movie Star today! It releases February 12th!

Add on Goodreads: https://goo.gl/vzNZES

Pre-Order Links:

Dreamspinner: https://goo.gl/3VwoLq

Amazon: https://goo.gl/onzcHD

Kobo: https://goo.gl/FX7Rw2

B&N: https://goo.gl/7efPoz

How to Be a Movie Star: I Can't Believe This Is Real

Tj, will you write a sequel to How to Be a Normal Person?

Nope!

You should write more about Gus and Casey and the We Three Queens!

Nah.

Tj, are you going to write anything more about Abby, Oregon?

*singing*: Noooooo!

For over two years, I said I would never, ever, ever write a sequel to Normal Person. I love that book. When I finished it back in early 2015, I felt so damn happy. Gustavo Tiberius is my favorite character I’ve ever written. I don’t even know if I can even explain why, exactly. I just…Gus is life, to me. I love most of what I’ve written, but there’s only a few books that I’ve finished the first draft and thought: goddamn, this is something special. (Contrary to the belief of some, I am my own harshest critic and don’t think everything I write is perfect, or even good, at times.) Since Normal Person, I’ve written only two more books where I finished the first draft and didn’t want to change a damn thing about it. One is a book you’ll read in 2020, my big Tor debut The House in the Cerulean Sea.

The other?

How to Be a Movie Star.

Why does this story exist at all?

It’s because of my own ridiculous brain. I had an idea at the back of my mind for a long time, where I would write about this agoraphobic dude who never left his apartment, and made money by writing monster porn. HIs love interest would be a guy who delivered his groceries. Grocery dude was going to be demisexual. I was getting ready to consider plotting out that story when I had the most terribly wonderful thought.

Have I ever written a character who identifies as demisexual before?

My brain supplied the answer rather helpfully: Why, yes! Yes, you have! Josiah, one of the Three Ironic Amigos is demisexual? I wonder what he’s up to?

No. No, no, no, nononono—

God-fucking-dammit.

So, yes. I am a liar, because in 32 days, you’ll get your sequel to How to Be a Normal Person, something I swore I’d never write.

And man, I tell you what: it was harder than I expected it to be for one simple reason: I, as a human being, am a sarcastic, acerbic asshole. And Josiah Erickson—Josy to his friends—is 100% pure sunshine, someone who is unfailingly optimistic, and doesn’t let anything get him down. Due to my own hang ups, people like that rub me the wrong way in real life. The world is doom and gloom! Everything is going to shit! We’re all going to die! I am not Josy in any way shape or form.

So imagine, if you will, me, as I am, writing a character such as Josy for an entire novel. Anytime I wanted to slip into my usual sarcasm with a pithy retort, I had to stop myself, questioning if this is something Josy would really do, or really say. He’s not Paul Auster. He’s not Sandy/Helena. He’s not Sam of Wilds. He’s not even Gus, but that’s kind of the point. He’s his own real person, and any attempt to sabotage that with something that I might have written for any of those other characters was like slamming into a brick wall.

And god, did I need that.

We curate what we want people to see of ourselves online, a glossy image that doesn’t always reveal the full truth. I announced rather publicly (and in a bit of a snit) in 2017 that I was getting uncomfortable with how certain…exuberant… readers were crossing lines and speaking on things I did and my appearance as if they had any right to, as if they knew me personally. It made me uncomfortable, and I made the decision to step back from posting anything personal on Facebook and the like, deciding to keep things, for the most part, only related to my books.

But I was having a rough go of it for a little while, something I didn’t talk about publicly. While the first half of 2018 brought the biggest news of my career in the form of two big book deals, I was wrestling with anxiety and depression, something I’ve done all my life, but reared its ugly heads with vengeance. When I made the decision to write How to Be a Movie Star, I needed it to be happy because I needed to be happy.

Therefore, in this book, there is no angst. There is no manufactured drama. There is a moment of miscommunication, but it’s resolved within pages. This story (and the one that will follow this summer, Corey/Kori in Why We Fight) is a celebration of life and happiness, of dreaming big and loving as hard as you possibly can. It was cathartic for me. I’m still going to be a sarcastic asshole, but Josy taught me that it’s okay to just…let it go. He made me smile. And I hope he’ll do the same for you. I’ve centered myself again, using tools (and medication) that medical professionals have given me. Self-care is important, and it’s a philosophy Josy lives by.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be posting weekly blogs covering a few different things: mental health (and it’s relevance to this story), marijuana use (it’s absolutely not for everyone, but I won’t be shamed for including it), how the comedic beats in this series differs from Verania and the Tucson Crew, and if you’ll finally, finally get the answer to that question many of you had for a long, long time: are they sisters or are they in a polyamorous lesbian relationship?

Pre-Order How to Be a Movie Star today! It releases February 12th!

Add on Goodreads: https://goo.gl/vzNZES

Pre-Order Links:

Dreamspinner: https://goo.gl/3VwoLq

Amazon: https://goo.gl/onzcHD

Kobo: https://goo.gl/FX7Rw2

B&N: https://goo.gl/7efPoz

A Look Back, and a Glimpse of the Future

2018 has been a roller coaster.

In January, I found myself preparing for the final Sam of Wilds Book, dealing with the emotional fallout of The Consumption of Magic (“TJ HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO US???!!”), and wondering just how out of my depth I was with trying to break into the YA market with a book about queer superheroes and the boy named Nick who writes fanfiction about them. I didn’t know what would come of it, if anything, and figured all I could do was hope for the best.

I’m glad I took the chance. The biggest thing that’s ever happened to my career took place in the first half of 2018. Chances are if you’re reading this, you know what I’m talking about so no need to brag about it more than I already have. I’m thrilled, terrified, and can’t wait for what the coming years will bring.

But that’ll come soon enough.

Here’s a quick recap of my 2018 releases (along with something you might not have known about each book):

A Wish Upon the Stars

ebook: https://goo.gl/fvBieU

audio: https://goo.gl/gnGsg5

I love this ending because it is an ending. I never imagined when writing The Lightning-Struck Heart that it’d grow into a four book series about family, friendships, and the depths this dude named Sam would go to in order to protect king and country. I’m pleased with his story and I was happy I was able to finish it without too much muss and fuss. It was a monstrous undertaking, but I learned a lot from it. I get a ton of questions about when I might go back to Verania for Justin’s book, but as I’ve said before, I need a good long break from this world before I consider going back. Keep in mind Wish was just released this year; it’ll be a couple more years before I do anything with Justin. I won’t forget him, though. Promise.

(In this book, a long with the addition of Gary’s twin brother Terry, we were also going to meet their parents. But as I got through their introduction, I realized that there were too many characters, so I made the decision to cut them and save them for later. We’ll meet them in Justin’s book.)


Ravensong

ebook: https://goo.gl/u2dxHL

audio: https://goo.gl/JXPJz6

Ah, the wolves. Sort of the same story here. When I wrote Wolfsong, I had no idea it would grow into what it did, except by this I mean in terms of sales or the rabid fanbase around it. Who knew people liked angsty werewolves? Y’all are a bunch of masochists. I’ve talked previously how hard this book was to write given that I tried too much to make it sound like Wolfsong, and while frustrating, it taught me more about my style of writing than any other book I’ve written, especially when I was forced to start over to make it Gordo, not Gordo via Ox. It was a tough lesson, but I’m glad I figured it out when I did.

(Elijah was originally going to be saved for book 3. In part of the initial outline, I was going to make the Omega aspect of the book the complete main focus with only Mark having been changed and having Mark and Gordo go off on their own as Mark sunk further and further into madness. It would have been a much darker story, and I scrapped it because it would have meant the pack as a whole was barely in the book at all. And then Elijah’s history became twisted with Gordo’s own, and it wouldn’t have made sense to save it for later.)


The Bones Beneath My Skin

ebook: https://goo.gl/YFXXV8

audio: https://goo.gl/7jbTgX

Please buy the audio. Please buy the audio. Please buy the audio.

ahem

Now that that’s out of the way, my first foray into self-publishing was a success, so thank you for that. Sci-fi is always a harder sell in MM romance, so I appreciate people coming along with me on this journey. I had a blast with this book, and Art and Nate and Alex are characters that I’ll look back on fondly. It was a long road for Bones, from when I first started writing it to when it was actually published, but I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s a different kind of love story, and I am so happy with how it came out. In addition, Greg Tremblay is a fucking master, and the audiobook is just fantastic (please buy it).

(There was a long moment when I started getting ready to write Bones that I considered making Artemis a boy. Since I already knew how it was going to end—”And I come in peace”—I worried that people were going to expect that he should get his own book too. He could be queer and fall in love with an earth dude! I didn’t want that. And it helped that the dynamic between Artemis as she was and Alex made the story feel more…authentic? So girl Artemis it was.)

And just this week, I released Blasphemy! which has no literary value and which I love to pieces. I will be writing more about Satan and God and Jimmy and teenage Jesus at some point. I think making it a free series that I visit every now and then seems doable. It was fun to write, and allowed me to clear my head.

2019 is right around the corner. Big, big things are coming, and I’ll tease a little below. If you want to go into everything blind, then feel free to skip this section.


February 12: How to Be a Move Star—This is literally the happiest book I’ve ever written. Me, a cynical pessimist, made the terrible decision to write the happiest, most optimistic character I’ve ever created. And goddamn if I didn’t love it. Josy is a fuckin delight, especially when he’s lamenting how hard it is to make friends as an adult.

June: Why We Fight—The last At First Sight book, and finally we’re getting Corey/Kori’s story. You will never look at eggs again without being scarred for life, and also there is a sex scene involving absolutely no touching, a door, and dirty, filthy talk from one Professor Jeremy Olsen.

September/December: Heartsong/Brothersong—Nothing will ever be the same. You won’t see the hits coming, and when they do, you won’t believe your eyes. The Green Creek series started out about a lonely boy named Ox. I thought it would stay that way, and it does, at least in part. However, the last two books are really about three Bennett brothers, and their love and faith in each other. I aim to answer a deceptively simple question: what happens when that faith is stretched to its limits?

And that’s it, for now. I need a break. I’ll be stepping back from most social media until the first or second week of January. I’ve worked my ass off this year, and need to take a breather. Nothing to worry about, it’s something I do almost every year. I think of it as my yearly retreat from being TJ Klune.

When I come back, it’ll be to kick off this crazy ride all over again. Thank you for making 2018 my biggest year yet. The trust you’ve put into me as an author is humbling, and something I won’t forget. I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

Hendrix Rustic Christmas 2018.png