Welcome to our Grand Finale celebrations
for the brilliant and talented
And boy, have we got a finale post for you. Not only will you hear directly from Helena Handbasket in a super-exclusive, never-before-seen excerpt, but TJ is also giving away one hell of a finale prize! And be sure to check out the Q&A we did with him.
We'd also like to report that TJ apparently has hidden talents as a hula dancer/twerker (as seen live at GRL2015). He has threatened revenge to all involved, but it was worth it!
First off though, we'll take a look at a hornless, gay unicorn named Gary and his friends...
The Lightning-Struck Heart
Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.
Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam's pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King's Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.
When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.
At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.
Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can't control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan's boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.
Or so he thinks.
Get the book:
Todd says: "I. Loved. This. Magical. Book. (Literally) "
So y'all go get your copy!
We also want to talk about Tell Me It's Real
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Paul Auster doesn't. Paul doesn't believe in much at all. He’s thirty, slightly overweight, and his best features are his acerbic wit and the color commentary he provides as life passes him by. His closest friends are a two-legged dog named Wheels and a quasibipolar drag queen named Helena Handbasket. He works a dead-end job in a soul-sucking cubicle, and if his grandmother's homophobic parrot insults him one more time, Paul is going to wring its stupid neck.
Enter Vince Taylor.
Vince is everything Paul isn’t: sexy, confident, and dumber than the proverbial box of rocks. And for some reason, Vince pursues Paul relentlessly. Vince must be messing with him, because there is no way Vince could want someone like Paul.
But when Paul hits Vince with his car—in a completely unintentional if-he-died-it'd-only-be-manslaughter kind of way—he's forced to see Vince in a whole new light. The only thing stopping Paul from believing in Vince is himself—and that is one obstacle Paul can’t quite seem to overcome. But when tragedy strikes Vince's family, Paul must put aside any notions he has about himself and stand next to the man who thinks he's perfect the way he is.
JUST so you know, I don’t have a gargantuan penis.Shocking, I know, right? Most of the time when you hear stories like the one you’re about to, the narrator is this perfect specimen of man, whether he knows it or not. If he doesn’t know it, it’s because he’s most likely damaged and needs some hot piece of ass to bring him out of his shell and to help him realize his outer beauty dwarfs his inner beauty. Or he knows he’s attractive and uses it as a weapon until the object of his lust-fueled heart breaks down that narcissistic wall with spooge and flowery words. Then they frolic off into the sunset and go live in Everything’s Perfect Land where everyone has a ten-inch cock and big balls that can create semen by the bucketful every hour, on the hour.
But if we’re going to be honest, I’m not small either. I was fourteen when I first noticed other boys in the locker rooms at school (and when I say “first noticed,” I actually mean when I first allowed myself to look to see if they would give me a stiffie—which they did), and I realized penises were like snowflakes—no two were exactly the same. Some were big, some were small. Some had hair around them and others were smooth. Jacob Sides had one that curved wickedly to the left, and every time I saw him in the hall, I couldn’t help but think, There goes Captain Hook, and would blush furiously, sure he would know that I was thinking about his frank and beans.
So the point is, I don’t have a Coke can for a dong, but I don’t have a Mike and Ike either. I’m somewhere in the middle. Average, if you will. Regular. Normal. Ordinary.
But then that describes the rest of me too.
I guess you should know what you’re getting into before we go any further. If you leave before the story is finished, I wouldn’t blame you. Too much. Okay, okay, I’ll probably call you a bitch behind your back. But hey, it’s behind your back, so you won’t even know about it. So feel free to walk away. Bitch.
Anyway, here’s the rest of me. Sorry for the info dump I’m about to take all over you.
I don’t have huge pecs, nor do I have stone-hard abs that you could attempt to grate cheese on. Those two things are so stereotypical amongst gay men that it’s almost offensive. I watched a porno once where this little twinkie dude went to some haunted house in the middle of nowhere (which really looked like a set from an all-white elementary school production of The Wiz—if you get the reference, you’ll know it’s not racist). The little twinkie had little pecs and abs and a huge penis that could have posed as a third arm if he tried hard enough. Anyway, the little twinkie dude then got gang-banged by fourteen ghosts (guys that started out wearing sheets with holes cut out for eyes and ended up wearing nothing but spunk), and I swear to God, every single one of them had pecs and abs that went on and on. For days. So after I finished watching said porno (which, by the way, wasn’t scary at all, especially since it was supposed to be about ghosts. Where was the story?), I decided that I could easily get pecs and abs, so I went to a gym not far from my house, intending to sign up with a personal trainer who would let my outer beauty shine through.
On the way there, I got distracted by the fact that a Dunkin’ Donuts had opened up right down the road from my house and they were giving away free donuts. It was as if God himself saw that my intention was to make my outer self match my inner fabulosity and didn’t think the world could handle such an explosion of amazingness. So instead of letting me get to the gym where I would have transformed myself into a walking sex god, he created a Dunkin’ Donuts out of nothing and then gave them away for free. I didn’t make it to the gym. I had a bear claw instead. And a maple bar. And some donut holes. And then some more donut holes.
So, I don’t have pecs or abs. Not even close. As a matter of fact, I probably have a bit more around the middle than I should. I’m not fat or anything. I’m more… husky. My doctor told me I could stand to lose ten pounds (okay, okay, he said fifteen) and that it would make me a healthier person. I thought he was a cute older thing, maybe forty, forty-five, and I flirted with him until I realized he was calling me morbidly obese.
“That’s not what I said,” Dr. Suddenly Getting Less Attractive said with a knowing smirk. “I said you could lose fifteen pounds and then you’d break all the boys’ hearts.”
I glared at him. “How do you know I don’t break their hearts now?” Kind of like how I want to break your stupid face.
“Do you?” he asked.
“All the time,” I lied. “I’m really a way hot bear. Bears need to have a little extra junk in the trunk and a bump in the front in order to maintain the bear lifestyle.”
Dr. I Don’t Know When To Shut My Mouth almost rolled his eyes. “You? A bear? You have, like, three chest hairs,” he said, reaching out to pull on one. It came off my bare chest almost immediately. “And this one’s a cat hair!” Which was weird because I don’t have a cat.
“It’s a new thing,” I said, insulted. “No-hair bears. We have monthly meetings and talk about how smooth our skin is and how our leathers start to chafe because of it. We’re thinking about switching to denim chaps and vests. Sort of an old-school look. I suggested we also get denim gloves, but it was agreed upon that was too much denim.”
“Paul.” Dr. Not As Gullible As He Looks rolled his eyes and said, “My partner is very active in the bear community. There’s no such thing as no-hair bears. Trust me. I would know.”
“You’re a homosexual?” I screeched at him, trying to put my shirt back on as quickly as I could. “I demand a straight doctor so he won’t judge me!”
“Can you even grow a beard?” he asked me, obviously judging me.
“It takes a few weeks,” I admitted. “I thought puberty would be the end of all my miseries, but it just gave me zits on my butt.”
He looked like he could have done without that information.
Story of my life. I tend to say things without thinking them through. It is my gift. It is my curse.
“Not anymore,” I told him hastily. “I’m almost thirty. I don’t get butt zits anymore. Or zits anywhere else.” That was a lie. I’d gotten a zit the other day in the middle of my forehead that I glared at in the mirror until it went away. You don’t need Proactiv when you have the sheer force of will. Justin Bieber is a liar and a fat mouth.
“Uh-huh. Paul, I just want you to be healthy. It won’t hurt you to get some exercise.”
“Well, it would hurt you if I punched your face off,” I grumbled.
He stared at me. “What?”
“What?” I asked innocently, batting my eyelashes at him.
So, seriously. I’m not fat. I could stand to lose a few pounds. There’s just a bit more of me to love.
Wow. That sounds way lame.
All right. So you know I have an average penis and I’m not a ripped Adonis, nor am I hairy bear man. That’s a good start, I think. What else is there?
Well, I have black hair that I keep short because it starts to curl when it gets longer and looks like a homeless poodle died on my head. Sometimes, when I’m feeling really adventurous, I spike it up with gel, but usually, I don’t do a whole lot with it. I don’t have dandruff, which is good. And my hairline is not receding (yet), which is even better.
I have blue eyes and I could tell you that they’re the color of ice that covers a frozen lake in the Himalayas, but that wouldn’t be exactly true. I bought contacts to give myself ice-blue eyes one time, but they made it look like I had big cataracts in my eyes, so I took them out. Nothing says “Hey, would you sleep with me?” like milky cataracts. But mine are just a plain old blue, like most everyone else in the world.
Um, what else. Oh, I’m five foot ten, though I like to tell people I’m actually six feet tall because it sounds so much bigger. I don’t wear my glasses like I’m supposed to because I think they make my face look too wide, so I tend to squint a lot. I can be shy around people I don’t know, unless I’m drunk and then I can’t seem to shut up at all. I like video games and loud action movies that pretend to have plots but really are about blowing shit up (oh, and just between us, I’ve probably seen every romantic comedy ever made—hello, I’m gay. It’s a requirement that we pretend to like Jennifer Lopez when she’s playing a maid in New York who still happens to look like Jennifer Lopez. J-Lo, no one believes you when you try to play working class, so knock it off). I tend to have a bit of a swish when I walk, and sometimes I wave my hands too much when I talk. I’m a homo, but sometimes I can be a big homo. I’m not effeminate. I’m just… animated. But I can be totally butch if I wanted to. Like, way butch. Like “going outside and taking off my shirt to chop some firewood for winter” butch.As you heard earlier, my name is Paul and I’m almost thirty years old. My last name is Auster. Family legend says that our last name was Austerlitz, but it was changed after World War II because my dad’s parents didn’t want anyone to think they were Nazis when they fled Hamburg to come to America. I suppose I should thank them for that. I don’t need people asking me if I’m related to Hitler.
That would not be a good start to a friendship.
But my grandparents are dead and I never met them, so I can’t thank them unless I was into psychics and mediums. I’m not. Well, not anymore. Not since I dated a guy who told me my house was haunted with the spirit of a woman who had her period over and over again and moaned continuously about menstrual cramps while she wandered between my bedroom and the bathroom.
George lasted six dates before I couldn’t take it anymore (“There’s just so much blood!” he’d moaned to me, huddled in the corner of my couch). I kicked him to the curb and went on the Internet to find out how to get rid of menstruating ghosts. Funny, no one could really tell me. So I just bought a box of heavy flow tampons and made a big deal about putting them under the bathroom sink, telling my ghost Flow that she could use them whenever she wanted. Needless to say, two weeks later all tampons were still accounted for and I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t really have a ghost haunting me, even if she was on the rag all the time.
Am I worried about turning thirty? Nah. Maybe. Sort of. Okay, I’m freaking out. Because when I was sixteen, I’d sit in front of the mirror and sing “Some Day My Prince Will Come” while brushing my poodle curls, sure there was a big strong man out there for me, just waiting to whisk me away to his castle on a beach in Cabo San Lucas. One who would pick me up with his massive arms and cradle me against his chest and tell me, in varying accents (sometimes he was Cuban and other times Chinese—I didn’t use the Chinese one too often because I couldn’t stop giggling at the Chinese voice I’d hear in my head. Don’t ask me to do it. It’s way wrong.) all the things he just couldn’t wait to do to me once we got to my Dream Castle. We’d live there happily ever after and he would love me for the rest of my days while feeding me grapes and tickling my nipples.
Oh, by the way, I have very sensitive nipples.
I certainly did not expect to be almost thirty and working a dead-end job as a claims adjuster for an insurance company. I’m not going to tell you which one; suffice it to say you’ve probably seen our commercials on TV and chuckled once or twice until they played over and over and over again and you wanted to dropkick the stupid little animal spokesperson. You think the commercials are bad? Try working here. Sometimes, they have some idiot dress up in the animal mascot costume for human resource events. The person in the costume is always chipper and waving hysterically as if they’re under the impression that if they stop, their hands will be chopped off. I hate that damn costume. And, I’ll admit, it scares me a bit. I was the kid who never wanted to have birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese because I was sure the animatronic monsters that were Chuck and his friends were actually real and when my parents weren’t looking, they’d jump down off the stage and snatch me, taking me back to their dungeon where they would eat me slowly. I was the life of every party, let me tell you.
Sorry. I got distracted again.
Where were we? Oh, yeah. My job.
My soul is slowly being sucked dry in a cubicle that is smaller than a prison cell. Trust me, I measured it. But of course, management was not impressed when I brought this up. They tend not to like it when I speak at staff meetings. I understand why, though; what starts as a simple observation usually leads to another of one my “tirades.” Their word, not mine. I can’t help it. I get loud about things that matter to me (“We’re donating to the Salvation Army again for Christmas? They hate gay people! Those bell ringers are nothing but homophobic ex-junkie fascists in disguise! Why are we even donating to a religious organization at Christmas! Jesus was born in April!”). So yeah, they prefer if I don’t speak in staff meetings.
I never expected to still be living in Tucson, Arizona, land of the Border Patrol (aka the Fascist Regime), home of 115 degree temperatures (but at least it’s a dry heat, we always say). I’m too pale to live in the desert. I don’t tan. Instead, I get pink, so much so that I look like one of those oddly disturbing hairless cats that nobody wants to own. I went to a spray-tan salon once, but the woman at the front desk was orange and I was convinced that I would get melanoma just by breathing the same air as her, so I left immediately, after accidentally telling her she looked like a perky blonde carrot. She didn’t think that was very funny. Either that or she normally looks like she’s perpetually pissed off.
When I was younger, I thought I was going to get a ten-picture deal from Paramount, where I’d be paired with all the handsomest leading men in Hollywood and travel all over the world in my yacht. After a hard day of filming a gay action adventure along the lines of Romancing the Stone (called Fluffing My Jewels) we’d all retire to my yacht and have an orgy filled with riotous passion.
Instead, I live in a small adobe house right smack-dab in the center of a middle-class neighborhood. The neighbors to my left are a husband and wife, and they’re seventy-year-old nudist racists who like to have swinger parties in the hot tub of their backyard. They’ve invited me over for a couple of the parties, but I’ve seen the type of people that show up. When that much of your body has fallen because of gravity and you’re still wearing clothes, I can only imagine what your balls will look like hanging down by your ankles. I politely decline each invitation. Each time there is a party, though, I sit at my front door with a spray bottle filled with water, ready to spritz any randy old people who want to have a bone sesh in my driveway. So far it hasn’t happened, but I did wake up one morning, went outside to get the mail, and found an empty travel-size lube packet near my mailbox. I went back inside, got gloves and bleach, and scrubbed down the mailbox, trying hard not to gag at the images in my head of two old people wearing chaps boning against it.
Get the book:
The sequel to TMIR, The Queen And the Homo Jock King
Sorta kinda blurb, directly from the author:
"Do you believe in love at first sight?
Sanford Stewart (AKA drag queen extraordinaire Helena Handbasket) sure doesn't. In fact, he pretty much believes in the exact opposite, thanks to the Homo Jock King. It seems Darren Mayne lives for nothing more than to create chaos in Sandy's perfectly ordered life, just for the hell of it. Sandy despises him, and nothing will ever change his mind.
Or so he thinks.
Come January 2016, shit's about to get real."
I was seventeen when I realized I was destined to be a queen.
Because that’s when I met a legend.
Because that’s when I met a legend.
I’d heard of the club down on Fourth Avenue in Tucson. A gay club where apparently men could dance and drink and be happy without fear of any kind of judgment. Such a place sounded like a haven to me, especially coming off the year that I’d had, what with my parents dying, my parents of my best friend taking me in, and coming out with a vengeance.
Naturally, I convinced said best friend, Paul Auster, to come with me. It wasn’t that hard.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” he grumbled at me as we walked down the sidewalk, late one Saturday night. It was early October and the night was still warm.
I smirked at him. “Oh, ye of little faith. Trust me, we’ll be just fine.”
“Yeah, but it’s a bar. And we’re not twenty-one.”
“Hence the disguises,” I reminded him.
I had done my research before deciding to attempt to get into Jack It, about the specific subsections of the gay community. Paul, being the huskier of the two of us, would be more suited as a leather cub. He wore chaps we’d found at a Goodwill, and a leather vest. I’d learned that cubs (who often grew up to be bears), were of a hairy sort. But Paul was as hairless as they came, much to his chagrin (“I’m a late bloomer, goddammit!”). So rather than taking the chance of being found out because of his baby-ass skin, we’d covered him up with a shirt that said GRR, DADDY and found a fake mustache from a costume store. Aviator sunglasses completed the outfit, because it was understood that if you were cool enough to be a leather cub, then you could also pull off wearing sunglasses at night.
For myself (even though I tried to eschew most labels), thought I might fit in more as a twink than anything else. I wore the tightest red jeans I could possible find and a shirt that that said Sassy in bright, glittery letters. If I even remotely attempted to lift my arms in any way, my midriff was bared. I’d put a thin line of eyeliner under my eyes, smearing it gently. Instead of wearing sunglasses to complete my outfit, I was sucking on a ring pop and practicing giggling how I thought a twink might.
“It’ll be fine,” I said again.
Paul sighed. “Sandy, I look like I’m part of a Village People tribute band playing in a Four Seasons ballroom near the Milwaukie Airport. You look like you’re working undercover to catch pedophiles in the act. Nothing about this is fine.”
“It won’t be if you doubt it,” I said. “You have to believe your role, otherwise you’ll never be able to sell it. Paul, this is the performance of your career. This is what you’ve been building up toward your whole life.”
“Being a leather daddy,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been working toward.”
“Leather cub,” I corrected. “You’re not old enough to be a daddy yet.”
“Being gay is so hard,” he muttered. “Not only do you have to admit that, but then you have to find out what kind of gay you are. It’s all very confusing. It was so much easier when we played with Legos instead of dressing like leather cubs and pedo-bait.”
“Lucky for you, you have me,” I said. “And I know what kind of gay you are.”
“A leather cub,” he said, sounding dubious.
“My mustache itches.”
“Don’t play with it, Paul, Jesus. You’re going to knock it loose.”
“I don’t see why I have to wear a mustache,” he said. “I’m not a cartoon villain who’s going to tie you to train tracks as part of my evil plot.”
“Well, maybe if you had grown your own facial hair like I’d asked, you wouldn’t be in this position, now would you?”
“I tried! You know it’s hard for me to grow a beard. And then to have to do it because you told me to? I have performance anxiety!”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said as we turned a corner, the front of the club coming into view. “What’s done is done. We’re here, we’re queer, get used—oh my god, stop touching the mustache!”
He rolled his eyes at me.
I pulled him to a stop. “Remember your part,” I told him. “You’re a strong, confident leather cub. You own this role.”
He nodded. “I’m a leather cub. I’m a leather cub.”
“You have your fake ID I got you.”
“Right. Which says my name is Buster Cleveland.”
“Exactly,” I said. “It’s your porn name, I told you. Your first pet and the first street you lived on. They were cheap, okay? The guy said it had to be this way.”
“And you believed him?”
I scoffed. “Uh, yeah. He was selling fake ID’s. Obviously he’s reputable and knows what he’s doing.”
I scoffed. “Uh, yeah. He was selling fake ID’s. Obviously he’s reputable and knows what he’s doing.”
“Oh, look, it’s getting late. We should go.”
“Sandy,” he said, an evil grin forming on his face.
“No. Don’t you dare.”
“What’s your fake ID porn name?”
“Shut up, Paul.”
“Because if I remember right, your first pet was a gerbil named Lulu.”
“Shut up, Paul.”
“And the first street you lived on was Deerdancer.”
“Oh my god.”
“Sandy? Does your fake ID say your name is Lulu Deerdancer?” He was trying desperately not to laugh, the bastard.
“No,” I said savagely. “It says my name is Rocco Cordova because that is awesome and amazing.” I was lying. My fake ID said Lulu Deerdancer. The guy I’d bought them from had laughed his ass off. I hated him with a passion that burned like a thousand suns.
“Okay, Rocco,” he said, patting my shoulder. Like a jackass. “I believe you.”
“Whatever,” I said. “Now. Just be a leather cub, and I’ll be a twink, and we’ll get into the gay bar and do gay bar things and everything will be amazing.”
“What the hell are gay bar things?” he asked.
“You know. Drinking and blow jobs. Or whatever.”
“You have no idea, do you.”“Not in the slightest. Now let’s go.”
Coming soon to this site:
The cover reveal, and the real blurb reveal
for The Queen and The Homo Jock King
(because TJ is awesome like that)
Our Q&A with TJ
aka Tj Klune list of Stuff and Things - Questions edition:
1. What inspires you? What gets you writing?
So many different things inspire me. I like listening to people talk, the way they emote. Everyone has a story if you just take time to listen to it.
Memories inspire me, either my own or someone else’s.
On the weekends, I tend to take long walks and try and get lost on purpose and just think about what I’m working on, stuff I could be working on, and stories I wish I could be working on, but might not have the time for at the moment.
2. What's your writing process? Seat of your pants, lots of sticky notes, complex
It depends on the story. If there is a large cast of characters and a deep, complex plot, I create a bible for the story, so that I can keep track of all the characters, where they started, where they should end. Settings, plot lines, ideas, all go into these bibles. The one for Into This River I Drown was big. The one for the Elementally Evolved universe is even bigger.
3. Which character from your books is your favorite, and why?
Depends on the day. I have a love-hate relationship with all of my characters. Sometimes I am over the moon about them. Other times, I wouldn’t be sorry if I wrote them driving over a cliff and dying painfully in a massive shrapnel-filled fireball.
That being said, Tyson, AKA the Kid, just because his was the first real, solid voice I heard that I knew could be turned into a novel if I ever wanted to. It was scary, but I went with it and it changed everything for me.
4. Which character is your least favorite, and why?
Julie McKenna, Bear and Ty’s mother. Got, I hate her with a white hot rage. But I also couldn’t help feel sympathetic toward her when she showed up again in The Art of Breathing.
I think she was just tired of life and living, after having been beat down again and again.
What she did to Bear and Ty will never be justified, but I think she was much more complex than even I thought at first.
5. If you could go back into one of your books and change one thing, what would that be? And why?
I would go back to Burn and not have released it when I did. My Burn fanatics are the most patient (mostly) and long-suffering readers I have. I shouldn’t have released it without being confident about the world I’d created. It go too big for me back then, and I wasn’t sure I could write the level of detail needed and make it convincing. But now, I have ten other novels under my belt, and I think I’ve honed my craft a little better than I had back then, so I think I’m ready to go back and finally start the second part.
6. What's next for you? What amazing book(s) are you working on?
Right now, I’m writing BOATK4. (‘nuff said.)
More about TJ:
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn't think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.
He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.
Tj is offering a Kindle HD 8 to one lucky winner!
The contest is open world-wide.
If a non-US winner is randomly selected,
Tj will provide the equivalent of this prize via Amazon Gift Card!
Thank yous to TJ Klune for being our Author of the Month, and thank you to all our readers for joining us each week to celebrate him! We hope you learned some new things about TJ, and found a few new favorite books!
Until next time, happy reading!