Bones: Setting, Angst and Toxic Masculinity


Sales Pitch: Part II

(part I was published last week and can be found here:

Why are these blog posts about The Bones Beneath My Skin sales pitches?

Simple, really: I’m self-publishing this book. I am a seller of goods, and you are, as my audience, my customers. I am selling you on this story given that I’m pretty much doing this on my own without the backing of a publisher, by my own choice.

(Not that that’s a major difference than what I’m used to, but that’s a story for another day.)

Ahem. Excuse me. The tea I’m drinking is scalding.


I’m selling you on this idea—this story of three lonely people who gravitate toward each other—because a) it’s my livelihood and b) I’m fucking proud of this novel and the work I’ve put into it.

So here we go.

The first part of the book is set in Roseland, Oregon. Chances are if you’ve read most of my work, the mention of that town sends chills down your spine or, at the very least, causes you to want to throw empty boxes of Kleenex at my head.

The town has been mentioned a few times in other books (see Murmuration), but it was the primary setting for my novel Into This River I Drown. That book was…well. A lot. And by a lot I mean a lot of fucking angst. (If you haven’t read it, that’s okay; aside from the setting, Bones and River don’t intersect at any point and have nothing to do with each other. Though if you want your soul crushed and kind-of put back together by the end—albeit in a different shape—consider picking it up!)

(Look! I’ll even help you out with a link: )

River was a love story, between two men (well, one of them was a man): Benji and Cal. But it was also a love story between Benji and his father, Big Eddie. Big Eddie died before River began under suspicious circumstances, and Benji was drowning his grief. I wrote it as a way to process my own grief in the death of my father. I think it’s a good piece of writing, if a little overwrought. Hell, it won me the Lambda Literary Award in 2014, so I’m not complaining.

So imagine my surprise when I started writing The Bones Beneath My Skin with no particular destination in mind, only to have my lead character find himself returning to the summer cabin his parents left for him in their wills…outside of Roseland, Oregon. It’s set a couple of decades before River, and then all of a sudden, there Big Eddie was, pumping gas at his convenience store. It wasn’t planned, but I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to write Big Eddie again. So I went with it, knowing Roseland wasn’t going to be the entire book.

(And for those concerned: Bones is nowhere near the level of angst of River. Angst was never going to be the focus of Bones, though it does have some. Yes, you’ll probably cry, but it’s going to be where you least expect it. Trust me on that.)

So, I had my setting, at least for the first part. The reader (much like the characters) won’t stay in Roseland for reasons I won’t reveal here, but it was interesting to return to this little town I had no plans on revisiting again. I thought I’d put them through enough in River.

Which brings me to something else I’d like to talk about, if you’ve got another moment. In River, the relationship between Benji and his father Big Eddie is a focal point for the story. These two men love each other completely, fully, and without reservation. They’re also not afraid to show affection with each other, or show their emotions. I wanted to carry that over to Bones, like I’ve carried it over to much of my other work.

We live in (at the time of this writing) the year of our Lord 2018, and there is still a stigma about men (straight, queer or somewhere in between) showing emotion or affection with each other. It’s so goddamn odd to me to think that as young boys, we’re told to be strong and brave and that men never cry or even come close to it. Toxic masculinity is like a disease: it spreads from generation to generation, and it’s literally one of the dumbest things in the entire fucking world.

It’s something I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid in my works. Guys are allowed to be affectionate with one another and others without it needing to be romantic in nature. Here, in The Bones Beneath My Skin, Alex comes across as gruff and hard, willing to shoot first and then….shoot again. And then he might ask a question or two, but it’s unlikely. It’s armor, though, and flimsy armor at that. The moment Nate Cartwright meets (read: stumbles upon a situation involving a gun and a break-in) Alex and Artemis Darth Vader, it’s evident just how protective Alex is of the little girl who follows him around like a shadow.

Dudes are also allowed to cry when they’re angry or sad or whatever. Seriously. I know it might seem like this wild and crazy idea, but guys do cry sometimes. Fuck you if you think we can’t show emotion. I will 100% prove you wrong and cry all over your stupid face.

And now that I’ve threatened you, please buy my book? I promise it’ll be worth it.

Thus ends my second sales pitch.

Next blog post coming Saturday and will be about Artemis Darth Vader, and why her voice is the one I heard first. It’ll also include the second excerpt, and will be up at



Pre-Order Bones, out October 26th:

(paperbacks will go on sale Monday, October 22nd exclusively at Amazon)