Welcome to the wide crazy world of TJ Klune

As you can see, this is a blog (a blog, you say? You're like the only person in the world that has one!). Here are my promises to you: I promise to up date this as much as I can. I promise that at some point, you will most likely be offended. I promise that I may show naked dudes (but honestly? I've been told that my taste can be a little... strange). I also promise to make this some place where you can see how my mind works.

You've been warned.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

First Look At The-Lightning-Struck Heart

So!

Hi.

How are you?

Good, I hope.

It's been a long time since we've been in this position, huh? The one where I'm about to release a book and get to relentlessly tease you about it for the next thirty days.

God, how I have missed that feeling.

Don't lie. I know you have too.

What can I tell you about The Lightning-Struck Heart?

It's the first thing I wrote after the shit storm that was life last year.

It's the fastest I've ever written anything of this length ( 170K words in 2 1/2 months).

It's a romantic comedy.

It's pure crack.

And, surprisingly angsty, at least in parts. I say surprisingly because I didn't mean for it to be. Honestly. I wanted something light and sweet and uncomplicated.

Then I accidentally world-builded, created rules for magic, made a gay unicorn, and wanted to play around with the oblivious trope to the point where people would probably punch me in the face for how dumb these boys are going to be.

And then came the angst.

Not soul-crushing, mind you. This isn't BOATK or Into This River I Drown.

But still.

You will have Wookie Cry Face.

And I regret nothing.

Thanks for waiting for me to find my bearings again. I know it's taken awhile, but I have so many thing in the pipeline, that you'll probably get sick of how many books I have coming out.

Anyway.

I'll have more to say as we get closer to the release on July 20th, 2015. But for now, I thought I'd give you a little taste of what to expect.

So here: have the entire first chapter.

Love, TJ

Click For Pre-Order!!!!

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Chapter 1. The Villain Monologues

“AND NOW, I will tell you of my plans to take over the Kingdom,” the evil wizard and total douchebag Lartin the Dark Leaf said with a cackle.

“Please don’t,” I said. “You really don’t have to.”

Of course he didn’t listen. Villains never do. That’s why they suck. A lot. It didn’t help that my arms and legs were bound with vermilion root. That shit is hardcore. No lie.

“You see, back when I was a child, I always knew that I was different. That I was meant for greater things than what my father had planned for me.” Lartin looked out toward the cave entrance almost wistfully, as if thinking of his childhood days. What a dick. “He always looked down on me with scorn because I never wanted to be an ironsmith. He always said that—”

“Do you think he realizes we don’t care?” Gary asked me. He sounded really bitchy when he said it, but if you were a hornless gay unicorn, you’d be bitchy too. “Like, seriously. Don’t care. At all.”

I shrugged as Lartin looked at us in disbelief. “He has daddy issues.”

“I don’t have daddy issues,” Lartin said, sounding annoyed.

“So that gives him the right to monologue?” Gary snorted. When he did, little pink and purple sparkles shot out his nose. Being a unicorn is awesome like that.

“He’s a villain,” I said. “It’s what they do. They have to broadcast their entire plan when they think they’ve won because no one else will ever listen to them.”

“Lame,” Gary said, glancing at Lartin. “Girl, I really don’t care. Unbind my legs before I scratch your eyes out.”

“You don’t have fingers,” I reminded him. “You can’t scratch anything.”

“He’s lucky I don’t have my horn back yet,” Gary muttered. “There’d be so much goring, it’d be unreal. It’d be like Gore City up in here. These roots are chafing. He should undo them.”

“Are you going to undo them?” I asked Lartin.

“Uh, no?” he said. “You know I captured you and you’re my prisoners, right?

“Did he?” I asked Gary.

“Well, we are tied up,” Gary said. “And not in the fun way.”

“I don’t want to know when you’ve been tied up in the fun way,” I told him.

He rolled his eyes. “Sam, you are such a prude.”

“Guys?” Lartin said. “I have a plan? That I need to tell you about? You need to listen.”

“I am not a prude,” I said to Gary. “Just because I don’t talk about… you know. Sex stuff. That doesn’t make me a prude.”

“Your face just turned red when you stuttered on the word sex,” Gary said. “I almost believed you.”

“I didn’t stutter.”

“You kind of stuttered,” Lartin said. Because he was an asshole who I was totally going to kick in the balls before the day was up. “Can I get back to my story? I really think you’ll appreciate the many facets of my character once you hear it. I’m dynamic and—”

“When were you tied up?” I demanded. “Unicorns aren’t allowed to be whorish. You’re supposed to be all virtuous and pristine!”

“Oh please,” Gary said. “How do you think I was created?”

Huh. “Honestly? I always thought unicorns were made from sunshine and rainbows and good feelings. Like you just appeared one day in a field filled with flowers and a big fat sunbeam falling all around you. And there’d be butterflies or something.” That sounded way pretty. And realistic for unicorn creation.

Gary squinted at me, nostrils flaring. “Seriously? No, you idiot. My parents had hardcore unicorn sex. Like boned for days. They’re very adventurous that way. Up in trees, down by rivers, near graveyards at midnight. There really isn’t anywhere they haven’t spread the love.”

“Oh my goodness,” Lartin whispered. “Is this really happening?”

“Gross,” I said. “That’s just gross.”

“Hey! Unicorn sex is a beautiful thing!”

“Yeah, but that’s your parents you’re talking about. That’s wrong on so many levels. And why haven’t I met them? Or heard about them?”

“They’re touring the Outer Reaches with their swingers group.”

“Swingers?”

“Yeah. Like partner swapping. Maybe orgies. I don’t know.”

I was horrified, and I’m sure it showed on my face. “Dude! What!”

“Prude,” Gary said.

“I’m not a prude! I just don’t see why we have to talk about sex all the time. Or your parents being in orgies!”

“Well, I guess you can’t understand what you’ve never had,” Gary said, a mean little curl to his stupid unicorn lips.

“You’re a virgin?” Lartin said.

“You bitch,” I said to Gary. “And no, I’m not a virgin.”

“You so are,” Gary said, because apparently this morning he’d eaten sass for breakfast. “A twenty-year-old virgin.”

“No! There was that one guy! At that thing! With the people!” My argument was sound.

“That didn’t count. He kissed you, and you came in your pants, and then you proceeded to tell him how his hair reminded you of your father.”

“It did. It’s not my fault he had dad hair!”

I’m not even a virgin,” Lartin said, sounding smug. “The ladies all want up on Little Lartin. There is so much sex to be had when I’m around.”

Gary glared at him. “You call your dick Little Lartin? Dude. Wrong.”

“I don’t have time for all the relations and courting and wooing bullshit,” I said. “I’m a wizard. I have quests.”

“Uh, you’re an apprentice,” Gary said. “And you’re sent on errands.”

“You know how you wanted to dye a strip of your mane purple?” I said.

“Yes. Because I’d be beautiful.”

“Well, too fucking bad,” I said savagely. “I’m not going to do it. You’re just going to have keep it white. Forever.”

“You promised!”

“That was before you were a jerk!”

“Oh my gods,” Gary said. “Lartin. Get over here and untie me. I want to kick Sam in the fucking face.”

“No! He’s going to untie me so I can hex the shit out of you. Lartin. Get your ass over here and untie me.”

“Um,” Lartin said. “I don’t know if you guys understand the point of being captured. Like… I captured you? Right? And so—”

“No,” Gary said. “Not right. You caught us off guard because we were looking for wormwood in the Dark Woods, and we just happened to stumble into your camp, and you took advantage of a situation. That doesn’t count as capturing. That counts as being an asshole.”

“When were you tied up?” I asked again.

“You’re still on that?” Gary asked. “Ugh.”

“You brought it up.”

“Fine! It was that centaur we met last year. In the elf realm.”

“You said you were just friends!”

“We were. We were just the kind of friends that tied each other up and pushed our penises together.”

“What was his name again?”

“Octavio,” Gary said with a dreamy sigh. “The hands that half man had.”

“I have hands,” Lartin said. “I’ve tied you up.”

“Is he hitting on me?” Gary whispered loudly.

“Are you hitting on him?” I asked Lartin.

“No! I was just pointing out similarities of the situations.”

“I think he was hitting on you,” I told Gary.

Gary looked back at Lartin and sized him up. Then he did that thing that I swear only unicorns can do. His blue eyes got impossibly big. His eyelashes lengthened as he fluttered them at Lartin. His mane was luminous in the darkened cave, and he purred, “Well aren’t you precious.”

“Ew,” I said. “Seriously.”

Lartin blushed. “Oh, stop it.”

“Does Little Lartin want to come out to play?” Gary asked, batting his eyes.

“I wish I were anywhere else but where I am,” I said to no one in particular

“Maybe,” Lartin said, trying for coy but somehow landing on straight-out creepy.

Gary giggled. He giggled. “Well, maybe I should tell you that my tongue is fifteen inches of the best thing you’ll ever have.”

“Yuck,” I said. “That just sounds excessive.”

“I’ve never done it with a horse,” Lartin said. “Sounds… illuminating.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t have said that,” I told him.

Horse?” Gary snarled. The pretty unicorn act dropped immediately. Red sparks shot from his nose. “Did you just call me a horse? Listen here, you two-legged bag of shit. I’m not a motherfucking horse. I am a unicorn, and I am magic and a beautiful creature made of fucking sunshine and rainbows and good feelings.”

“I knew it,” I whispered.

“Get your ass over here so I can stomp on your face,” Gary said to Lartin. “Untie me, lie down on the ground, and let me stomp your face.”

“You don’t have a horn,” Lartin pointed out.

“That’s just rude,” I said. “I didn’t point out that your nose is really big. Why would you say something like that?”

“Sam,” Gary said tearfully. “He called me a horse.”

“Hey,” I said. “Hey. Look at me.”

He did. His eyes were wet, and I wanted to punch Lartin in the spleen.

“Who is the most beautiful unicorn in all of Verania?”

“Me,” Gary sniffed.

“And who has the prettiest mane?”

“Me.”

“And who is a badass motherfucker who’ll gut a bitch?”

“Me!”

“Damn right.”

“Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“We’ll find my horn, right?”

“I promise,” I said. Because we would. It was important to him so it was important to me. It’d been stolen long ago, years before I’d met him. He couldn’t even look himself in the mirror without cringing. That was unacceptable.

“And we can dye my mane purple when we get out of here?”

“First thing,” I said. “I already bought the dye before we left the city.”

“You love me,” Gary sighed.

“I do.”

“Okay, I feel better now.”

“Good.”

“So, are we going to finish, or what?” Lartin said.

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Do your villain thing.”

“This is so stupid,” Gary muttered.

Lartin’s eyes lit up. He posed in front of us again. “So it was my father that—”

“Daddy issues,” Gary coughed.

Lartin glared at him.

“Sorry,” Gary said. He wasn’t sorry. “I had something in my throat.”

“My father said that I would never—”

“We didn’t lose that bag of wormwood, did we?” I asked Gary.

“Nah,” Gary said. “It’s still in the satchel on my back.”

“Good. Morgan would be pissed if we forgot that.”

“He’s going to be pissed already. We were supposed to be back yesterday.”

“We would have,” I said. “If some people hadn’t decided to tie us up in a cave.”

Gary and I stared at Lartin.

“You guys are the worst prisoners ever,” he muttered. Then his eyes went wide. “Did you say Morgan?”

“You shouldn’t eavesdrop,” Gary said. “That’s rude. We weren’t listening to you, so you shouldn’t be listening to us.”

“You’re apprenticed to Morgan?” Lartin squeaked. “Morgan of Shadows?”

I grinned at him. “The one and the same.”

“Oh no,” Lartin moaned. “You’re Sam of Wilds.”

“Such a sexy name,” Gary sighed. “Have I ever told you that?”

“Thank you,” I said, pleased. “It sounds very rugged, doesn’t it?” I’d worked very hard on earning that name. It’d change again when I was a full-on wizard, but it was good enough for now.

Gary laughed. “Yeah, but then people meet you and you’re all skinny and adorable, and they’re all like whaaaa?”

“I think you meant to say muscular and dangerous,” I said. “You got your words confused again.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I got them right. As I always do. To be muscular you have to have muscles.”

“I have muscles!” I tried to flex, but my hands were bound behind me, and it didn’t work out so well. “Okay. Shut up. But I am dangerous.”

“Yeah, okay,” Gary said.

“I am!”

“Honey, you’re pouting. That’s not dangerous. It’s adorable.”

“I’m not pouting,” I said as I pouted.

“Aww,” Gary said.

“Aww,” Lartin said.

“Shut up, Lartin!”

“Okay, so can we leave?” Gary asked.

We both looked at Lartin.

“You’re Sam of Wilds,” he said.

“No shit,” I said.

“Do you know how much you’re worth?”

“Oh, not again,” I groaned.

“I could totally ransom you!” Lartin said excitedly. “It would fund my world domination plans for the next six years!”

“Morgan’s going to be so mad at you,” Gary said to me.

“It’s not my fault!”

“Well, you do get captured a lot.”

“I suppose.”

“And everyone knows your name.”

“Right? How weird is that?”

“Totally weird.”

“So much gold,” Lartin said as he paced back and forth. “Pounds and pounds of gold.

“Hey, Sam?”

“Yes, Gary.”

“Has Morgan ever paid a ransom for you?”

“Nope. Not once.”

“And why is that?”

“He said that if I was dumb enough to get caught, then I’d have to figure my own way out.”

“Ah,” Gary said.

Lartin stopped. “Never paid?”

“Not once,” I told him. “Can you let us go now?”

“No!” he snapped. “I am sick of this! You are going to sit there, I am going to tell you my plan, and then I’m going to get so much gold that I won’t be able to carry it all.”

“Then how are you going to move it?” Gary asked.

“Move what?” Lartin looked perplexed.

“You just said you were going to get so much gold that you weren’t going to be able to carry it,” I said. “So how are you going to move it if you can’t carry it?”

“Oh,” Lartin said. “Well, shit.”

“Wow,” Gary said. “If that’s how well you think things through, I can’t wait to hear your plans for world domination. I’m sure they’ll be positively riveting. And well thought-out.”

“Burn,” I said. “You just got so burned. You’ll have scars from all the burn.”

“I’ll buy a cart!” Lartin exclaimed. “And a horse.” Then he went back to being a complete douche. “Or I’ll just keep the unicorn here and he can pull it for me.”

“Oh, bitch, say that to my face, bitch,” Gary snarled. “Come on. I dare you.”

“I wouldn’t say that to his face,” I said. “Even if he dared you.”

But Lartin the Dark Leaf was an idiot. The wizarding clan of the Darks usually were. So it was no surprise when Lartin stepped forward and said, “You’ll pull my cart. Horse.”

That’s when the nine foot half-giant named Tiggy roared and burst into the cave.

“Sam,” he rumbled. “Gary.”

“You’re so dead,” Gary said to Lartin. “You don’t even know. Tiggy! Smash him!”

And since Tiggy loved Gary so, he moved forward to do just that.

“Wait, Tiggy,” I said.

And since Tiggy loved me so, he waited.

Gary looked murderous. “Sam,” he growled. And if you’ve never heard a unicorn growl, let me tell you: it’s delightfully frightening.

“Your angry face is awesome,” I said to him.

He preened. “I’ve been practicing. Watch.” He glared at me, eyes narrowing, teeth bared. “See?”

“I got chills,” I assured him.

“I smash now?” Tiggy asked.

Of course, Lartin tried to mutter off some defensive spell. Little green lights arced around Tiggy before they dissipated.

“You’re not a very good wizard, are you?” I said. “Giant, dude. Their blood is like the antimagic. Come on. You learn that on your first day of wizard training!”

“I smash now.” Tiggy looked very pissed off. He usually was when his two favorite people in the entire world were captured. Come to think of it, maybe it did happen a lot.

“Just hold on, Tiggy,” I said.

“No, don’t hold on,” Gary said. “I want to see his insides on the outside.”

“So bloodthirsty,” I said in awe.

“I would prefer there to not be any smashing,” Lartin said. “If I’m being totally honest.”

But Tiggy was done with the situation, so he smashed Lartin the Dark Leaf. Multiple times. Into a variety of objects. Like rocks. And cave walls. It wasn’t a very pretty sight. What with the blood and stuff. And the brains.

When the smashing was complete, Tiggy came over and snapped the vermilion roots that bound me and my magic. As soon as the roots fell, I felt a surge of green and gold and yellow flow through me. “So much better,” I muttered.

“Always get caught,” Tiggy grumbled as he tended to the roots at Gary’s feet.

“Now that’s not specifically true. I’ll be honest, though. I’ve grown as a person this time around and will pledge to avoid capture in the future.” That was not the complete truth. I would most likely get captured again. It was sort of my thing.

“Who’s my big strong man,” Gary cooed at Tiggy.

Tiggy blushed. “Me.”

“Yes, you are. I knew you’d come and rescue me. I was like a princess waiting for her hero!”

“So pretty,” Tiggy said, running his big hand gently through Gary’s mane. “My pretty princess.”

“Can we leave the cave now?” I asked. “You guys can flirt later.”

“It’s okay, Tiggy,” Gary said. “Sam’s just dealing with some issues. He recently came to the realization that he’s a twenty-year-old virgin prude.”

“I am not!”

“I told him about Octavio,” Gary said. “Sam couldn’t even say the word sex without stuttering.”

“Sam never gonna find a boyfriend,” Tiggy said. “No one gonna take his flower.”

“Don’t talk about my flower!” I snapped at them as I checked the satchel on Gary’s back. The wormwood was still wrapped safely where I’d left it. So at least this wasn’t a complete loss. “And I don’t need a boyfriend. I am an independent man with priorities. I’m going to be the youngest wizard to pass his apprenticeship, and then I’m going to do great things. Big things!”

“Oh?” Gary said. And he grinned evilly. Evil unicorn smiles are the sign of wicked things about to be said. I hated them. “So I suppose a certain knight doesn’t factor into those priorities whatsoever? Like maybe you want to be the youngest full wizard just to impress him?”

“You shut your whore mouth,” I growled, trying to not sigh dreamily at the thought of bright green eyes and a beautiful smile. And wavy blond hair. Like, the waviest. I wanted to touch it with my face. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh-huh,” Gary said.

“You want mouth full of knight,” Tiggy said. “Knight take your flower and eat it.”

“Tiggy!” I shouted, scandalized.

“Such a prude,” Gary muttered.

“I hate you both. So much.”

And to prove my point, I stormed out of the cave.

But they obviously didn’t believe me, because they followed me.

Like I knew they would. I’m lucky that way, I guess.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Beauty In The Breakdown: A Redux

Things are different now.

I last wrote on this blog ten months ago, right at the time when I was at my bleakest.  It was a culmination of events that began in December of 2013 and led to me not recognizing myself anymore, or even in a position capable of doing so. I felt lost, unsure of what I was doing or where I was going. 

I tend to not take care of myself during highly stressful times. Usually, I'm so focused on making sure everyone and everything else is okay that I don't stop to think about myself. It's how I'm conditioned. To this day, I still feel some guilt over the my perceived selfishness at shutting down and walking away for as long as I did.

It was necessary.

I know that.

But that still doesn't mean that I was okay with it.

My body, however, had had enough and I just collapsed within myself.

I wasn't a very good friend to people during that time. I was even worse (and really, still am) at responding to the hundreds of messages I'd received.

I knew, though, that I couldn't keep going as I was.

So I stopped. Stepped away.

Took some time to breathe.

Things are different now.

I went to therapy.

It helped. Sort of.

I was diagnosed with PTSD, which, honestly, sounds as ridiculous now as it did in August of last year. I was not in a war. I have never been a victim of a violent act.

I told the therapist this.

She laughed slightly and said, "It's not about what you have or haven't done,. It's about what's happened to you. You're smart. Don't act dumb about this. It's trauma plain and simple."

God, I hated that.

It made sense. I still hated it.

Full transparency: Eric won't be coming to live in Virginia with me. Logistically,  it's just not possible. In Indiana, he has his family that is able to provide the care he needs. If he came here, it would just be me. I can't give him what he needs, and it wouldn't be fair to either of us. Medicare doesn't pay for as much as you might think it does, meaning a round the clock nurse, which he would have to have if he came here as I work 50 hours a week and write another 20 hours a week on top of that.

It sucks. We were dealt a very shitty hand. I have raged at the unfairness of it all to the point where I didn't even know what to think anymore.

But things are different now, okay? I've taken the steps needed to find even footing again. I've put myself first, even if it felt wrong the entire time I was doing it. My last therapy appointment was in February and I've been doing okay.  That doesn't mean I'm 100% fine, of course. I am still coming to terms with the repercussions of everything that happened. Some days, I think I have a grasp on it. Some days, I am the happiest I've been in months.  Some days, I have to force myself out of bed.

"What do you like to do?" the therapist asked me.

"About what?" I said.

"Anything. What's something you love?"

"Reading.  Writing. Watching movies."

"Writing? What do you write?"

"Books."

She was surprised at that. "You've written books?"

I shrugged, because I always get weirdly shy when people find out that I'm an author."

"When was the last time you wrote?"

"November 2013."

So she told me that I should start again.

And so I did.

I wrote.

And wrote.

And motherfucking wrote.

In September, I started writing The Lightning-Struck Heart.

I finished it in November.  You get it in July.

I finished Withered & Sere and Crisped & Sere. You get them in 2016.

In February, I started How To Be A Normal Person.

I finished it in April.  You get that one in October.

Five weeks ago, I started the sequel to Tell Me It's Real, tentatively titled The Queen and the Homo Jock King. I will be finished with it by June.  You will see that one this winter.

Then it's BOATK4.  Then it's Burn II. Then it's the sequel to Lightning. The third and fourth book after Withered and Crisped. Then TMIR3.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Writing, man. It's saved me.  It's done more for me than anything else could have.

Things are different now. 

And they always will be.

But I am a goddamn motherfucking writer, and I am going to tell my story, and other stories, and I am going to do it for as long as my fingers can press the keys.

Life isn't what I thought it would be.

But, at least right now, I can tell myself that it'll be okay.

Because there is beauty in the breakdown.  And that beauty comes from the pieces that are left. They may not fit together like they did before, and the shape might not be the same. But it's still recognizable and that's what matters now.

I know who I am. I know what I'm going to do.

I have plans. 

And I can't wait to show them to you.

Love,

Tj




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beauty In The Breakdown



 It's all right 
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown
--Frou Frou 


It started with a pressure behind my eyes a couple of months ago.  I should have recognized it for what it was.  Maybe part of me did and I just chose to ignore it. Fake it until you make it, I think the saying goes.
It was probably inevitable, really. I am just surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
When I was nine, I was diagnosed with a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  When I was eleven, I was diagnosed with a form of Panic Disorder.  I am…disordered.  Obviously.  The meds helped, once we figured out the right dosage and combinations.  I was one of the lucky ones, though, in that as I got older, the symptoms got less and less.  It also helped that I learned how to breathe, those little techniques that make up the art of breathing. I don’t take pills anymore. I haven’t in years. Every now and then, I could feel the pressure build slightly behind my eyes and my little quirks would come out when particularly stressed (counting syllables in the words I spoke by tapping a finger against my leg and trying to make sure the sentence I said ended on either my pinkie or my thumb—it doesn’t make sense, I know, but then tics like these never do), but I was able to hold it back and breathe and breathe and breathe until it went away.
But sometimes it’s not enough. And sometimes, it can come out of nowhere and it’s like getting hit by a train.  That rarely happens.
So, when I was hanging a painting in our new house a few weeks ago, I think I knew the pressure was there, but with everything else that has been going on, I didn’t have time for it.  And that was a mistake because I got hit by the train.
One moment I was hanging the painting (thinking about where it’d hung in our previous house), and the next I was on the floor, unable to breathe, the painting broken on the ground.    Unless you’ve had a panic attack before, it’s difficult to understand what they’re like.  Breathing is an involuntary action.  Your body does it for you.  But when you’re in the middle of an attack, your body is used against you. Your mind is just as constricted as your lungs and throat, and it’s damn near impossible to get but the smallest amounts of air in.  It’s not rational.  It’s never rational. But it’s like drowning and until the water recedes, there’s not much that you can do but ride it out and hope for the best.
When the water did recede, I was sweating and crying and my body hurt, but I was finally able to admit something that I should have figure out quite a while ago: I am not okay.
That’s hard to find that out.  It’s damning to say out loud.  It’s difficult to believe. I am supposed to be the strong one.  I am supposed to be in charge. I am supposed to know what to do, to take care of me and mine. I am supposed to be okay. I am not supposed to break.  But that’s the problem, now.  I am breaking.
I am not okay.  I am not okay.  I am not okay.  I don’t think I have been for a while. I don’t sleep much anymore. I don’t eat. I look like shit. I’ve had purple lines under my eyes since that first night Eric went into the hospital and I didn’t sleep.  I don’t have energy for much of anything anymore. I’m listless and apathetic.  I snap at people at the drop of a hat. I go to work. I come home from work. I pretend to unpack. I go to bed at eight. I fall asleep around one or two. I get up. I go to work. I come home from work and on and on it goes. That pressure building. The pieces cracking.
I am not okay.  And it pisses me off.  Everything pisses me off.  I had plans.  We had plan.  We were supposed to live happily ever after.  We were supposed to ride off into the sunset and be happy in our little corner of the world and nothing would ever bother us ever again.  How fair is it that we only got six weeks in our new house in a new state before Eric was admitted to the hospital for three months? How is it fair that he is now paralyzed from the neck down and most likely will be for the rest of his life? How fair is that we should be planning our wedding right now instead of worrying about what future we could possibly ever hope to have?  How is any of this fair?
It’s not, and I am not okay.
I just got back from Indiana yesterday.  It was the hardest trip I’ve ever had to make, because of the hardest things I had to say.  I had to tell Eric I am not okay. That I am cracking. That we couldn’t get married in November because I’m not in the right place mentally because I am not okay.  He understood, of course. He always does.  It still crushed us both.  I knew it would and I was dreading every moment of it.
Eric needs a positive environment to promote healing and well-being. I cannot be the positivity he needs right now. I’m in a very toxic place.  I can’t and won’t allow that to spread to him.  Plans have to be on hold because I have to be selfish right now, no matter how much I hate it and no matter how much it kills me. But you can’t ever hope to take care of others if you can’t take of yourself.
And it’s because I grieved for him when all of this occurred. I grieved for him like he had died, and I don’t know that I’ve ever reconciled the fact that he didn’t.  I am haunted by it and the pieces that broke off of me that won’t go back to the shape they once were. I can’t get them to stick at all. 
I have been faking it, but I haven’t made it.  I will, but that won’t be today. Or tomorrow. Or even the next day.  I am not okay, and that is the first sign that something needs to change. That I need to do something different before it gets any worse.  The panic attacks come quicker now. My quirks and tics are more pronounced.  I have to fix this before I can’t anymore and I need to do it now.
            So.  You won’t be hearing from me for a while.  Maybe a long while.  I thought about shutting down all my social media pages, but that’s not fair to my fans and readers who interact with each other on my FB or on GR or my blog.  You Klunatics can continue on for me while I go off to find what it will take to make me better.  I will be back.  Of that, I have no doubt. But I have to be selfish right now and make things about me, even though I hate it. I have hundreds of FB messages I haven’t responded to. Hundreds of emails. I’m sorry about that. I hope to read them all someday soon, so I hope you’ll forgive me.
            And I’m sorry this is so heavy.  If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve been with us on this journey for a while now. I wanted to make sure you knew that I appreciate you very much. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be here today.  There is hope.  I just have to find it again.
            I am not okay.
            But I will be, because I am greater than the little parts of me that break.
            I'll see you on the other side, and remember to love each other no matter what.

            Love,
            Tj

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pre-Release Thoughts on BOATK3: Or, What To Expect When You're Expecting






 It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Since I’ve been able to say we’re only a few days ahead of the release of a new BOATK book. Far longer than I actually planned it to be, but life gets in the way.  You probably know that now, how life got in our way, so there’s no sense in rehashing it. We’re looking forward, Eric and I. 
            Still, it’s been a while.  When Who We Are ended, I knew I was going to set the boys aside for a while so I could focus on other things. It may surprise you that I knew the story for the third book, even when I was finishing the second.  Okay, maybe not the whole story, but I knew the bones of it. I knew how it would start. I knew where it would go. And I knew how it ended. It was all the filling in that I wasn’t sure of. But, like with the other two books, there’s never a lot of meticulous planning when it comes to the BOATK books.  With them, I write and see what happens.  Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t write any other books like that.  The book I’m working on now I have pages upon pages upon pages of notes for, given that it’s the biggest project I’ve taken on to date.  It’s dark and fast and twisted and crazy and I fucking love it.  But we’ll talk about that book(s) another day. 
            It might also surprise you to know that you’ve actually already read part of BOATK3. At least, a small part.  The shorts I released, Just Breathe and Word of the Day, are part of the third book in the Bear, Otter, and the Kid series.  I wrote them as a way to say thanks to my readers. But I also wrote them to continue to tether myself to the BOATK world. And when the time finally came to start writing the book, I knew that those shorts were a part of the much longer story.
            And so I put my fingers to the keys and wrote.
            And wrote.
            And wrote.
            And wrote what turned out to be the longest, funniest, saddest, angstiest book in the series.  Of course, that is just my opinion.  You’ll have to form your own.
The Art Of Breathing is divided into three parts. The first of which shows Tyson from a young age, growing up until he graduates High School at the age of sixteen and has to make a decision about his future.  Part two is him coming home for the first time four years later. Many of you have repeated that part of the blurb back to me with something akin to horror (…he returns to the coast with four years of failure, addiction, and a diagnosis of panic disorder trailing behind him… ADDICTION? FAILURE? PANIC DISORDER?!?!? TJ KLUNE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??????????? Does that sound about right?).  Trust me when I say it makes sense for Ty, even though it’s hard to see him go through it.  And panic disorder is almost a forgone conclusion, given his propensity for the bathtub.  It’s just the earthquakes, given a proper name. The third part is…well.  The third part is where Tyson learns the art of breathing.
Some warnings.  This is a slow burn romance, probably the slowest that I’ve written.  But I think it’s also the most well-earned. The reason for this is two-fold: first, Ty and Dominic can’t be Ty and Dominic until Ty figures out who he is.  It’s just not possible. For all that he’s been through, and for the reasons he’s stayed away from Seafare, I didn’t think it made sense for any kind of immediate relationship.  That’s not how these characters work.
Secondly (and probably the one I cackle the most gleeful over), is that I wanted the tension to build. And build. And build until you’d be screaming if (when) something finally does happen between them.  More and more with my own reading, I find myself relishing the build-up, the dance, the anticipation. There’s always a bit of a let-down when that part is over, because there’s something magical about two people skirting around each other’s edges.
The sex in this book is minimal, probably about the amount of BOATK.  I don’t write erotica. It’s not my cup of tea. Honestly, if I thought I could have gotten away with it, I would have written out all of the sex scenes in Into This River I Drown.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with erotica, or explicit sex scenes. Many writers out there are wonderful at it, who juggle sex and plot very well.  Sex scenes bore me, however, for the most part.  You know how sex works.  You’ve read it before.  But unless you have an emotional connection to what you’re reading about, then what’s the point? It’s that build up. That dance. That anticipation.  I love that.  I hope you do too. But still, there’s a bone-sesh. Or two.  You know. For reasons.
Ty will make you want to pull your hair out. I guarantee that.  In the first two books, he was precocious, manipulative, endearing, fierce, and way beyond his years.  But underneath all that, he was still a child, and that fragility showed through.  Now, he’s almost twenty years old.  He’s precocious. And manipulative. And endearing and fierce and way beyond his years. But he’s also a teenager, so that means he’s fragile. He flip flops. He meanders. He’s hesitant and unsure, brash and sarcastic. He grew up, but he’s still the Kid.
The Art of Breathing was always meant to be a sort of reverse Bear, Otter and the Kid. Instead of having someone come home to you, it was going to be coming home to that someone.  There are obvious parallels between Bear and Tyson’s stories, and I loved playing off those.  People who know the first two books well will find little easter eggs sprinkled throughout.
            This is not going to be an easy book to read, however. It was not an easy book to write. There is humor here, and lighter moments, but this book is about the heartache of growing up.  The heartbreak of growing apart. The need to find your way home again, and be able to stand there on your own two feet.  I needed to make sure Tyson could stand before I let him go again. Because that’s how it feels every time I finish a story about this funny little family: like letting go. It hurts. I hate it. They’re on my mind constantly. It’s not going to be easy when we eventually have to say good bye.  But like all things, it’s inevitable.  Their word of the day.
            So.  By the time you read this, the book will be nine days away.  I hope you’re excited. I hope you’re ready to see them all again. Creed and Anna. Their son JJ. Their parents. Mrs. Paquinn, in her own way. Dominic. Some new faces. Some old friends.
            And Bear, Otter, and the Kid, of course.  For those that have come with me this far, I hope it feels like coming home for you as much as it always does for me.
            There is love here.  And life. And laughter. (And even a road trip!)  But there is going to also be pain and sadness. Anger and fear.  And death, because that’s also inevitable.  Because that’s how life works. That’s how we know we’re alive.  How we know who we are.
            But there will be happiness. I promise you that.  In the end, there will be happiness. It’s something I have always believed.  And now, more than ever, it’s something that I will always hold on to.
            So. I know there’s a lot of anticipation for this book. I’ve been very fortunate about that sort of thing in my short writing career.  It’s not lost on me, and I am grateful for it every day.  There’s pressure to deliver, but I thrive under pressure, and I think I’ve done that here. This story may have taken two years. But it came when it and I were ready, and I think you’ll see it was worth the time it took.
  In nine more days, I’ll let Tyson take over, because he’s got a story to tell you about how he learned the art of breathing.
            And I can’t wait for you to hear it.
Tj

PS: Also, the title of this blog post is interesting, don't you think? Sure, it could be just talking about my expectations and yours and nothing else.  Certainly not hinting at anything all.  Right?

The Art Of Breathing Pre-Order:
  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The First Look At BOATK3, The Art Of Breathing

Wow.  It sure has been a long time since I've written on my own blog.  Too long in fact. I may have to make this a more regular thing.  Time has gotten away from me, as I'm sure you understand.

As a way of saying thank you for the release of the anthology Grand Adventures, I wanted to give you the first look at BOATK3, The Art Of Breathing.  This excerpt is not spoilery (and damn if it didn't take me a while to find one that wasn't spoilery), so don't worry about the story being ruined for you.

Here, the Kid has come back to the Green Monstrosity for the first time in four years.  Why he's stayed away from Seafare that long and what happened to him while he was away is something you'll have to wait to find out.  But you will soon, I promise.  I think we have the release date nailed down in June.  Can't say what date just yet, but it's soon.

In this excerpt, you'll also be introduced to a new character, Corey. Corey is...well.  Corey is one of my favorite parts of this new book because of what he represents to Tyson.  Yes, that is frustratingly vague I know, but trust me when I say he's going to rock all kinds of hardcore.

You also may notice this scene harkens back to a similar one from Who We Are that was directly before a certain awkward dinner scene.  This is intentional as I've written a pseudo-sequel to the Most Awkward Dinner Ever.  At first, Ty's story parallels his brother's before it branches off into something else entirely.  This book will be funny, but it's also going to be heartbreaking. Let me put it this way: my editor is one tough nut to crack, but she told me she cried more in this book than she did in BOATK and Who We Are combined.  So...you know.  Heh. Heh. Heh.

Anyway.  Enough chitchat.  To all of you that have helped Eric and I on our Grand Adventure, I say thank you.  This little look into the future of Bear, Otter and the Kid is for you.








        “My God,” Corey breathes as we pull up to the Green Monstrosity. “Photos do not do this house justice. This… this is beyond epic.”
It is. It always has been. The Green Monstrosity is way past epic. A two-story piece of offensive architecture that rises out of the suburbs like a big fuck you to the rest of the neighborhood. It’s weird, really, the feeling that hits me when I see it again for the first time in close to four years It is epic yes, the green so grotesque it should be illegal, but it’s still just a house like any other. It has walls and a roof and a yard.
So why then, when we pull up next to it, the driveway already packed full of cars I don’t recognize, does a lump form in my throat? Why is it that I can feel heat prick my eyes? It’s just a house. That’s all it is.
But that’s a lie. It’s more than that. The Green Monstrosity was the first time since I could remember that I knew that maybe, just maybe, things would be okay for Bear and me. We said good-bye to the hole-in-wall apartments with the gross carpet and the peeling walls. We said good-bye to a life where we existed merely by floating along. We said good-bye to the life where I wasn’t sure we’d make it, though I tried to put on a brave face, at least as much as an nine-year-old ecoterrorist in training could do. I was just a little guy, but I would have torn the world apart with my bare hands for my brother if called upon to do it.
It’s just a house, yes, but it’s also more than that. It’s a sign that things could get better.
“Please tell me you’re never going to paint over that,” Corey says. “Seriously. It’s like the Jolly Green Giant masturbated all over your house.”
“And there’s an image that will never leave my head,” Bear says.
“Would his semen be green?” Otter wonders out loud. “That seems like it could be true. And very gross.”
“It’d probably taste like peas and carrots too,” Corey says.
“At least it’d be good for you,” I say. “Maybe that’s what the mashed peas baby food is.”
“That is foul and offensive,” Corey says. “Most likely correct as well.”
“Thank God this is already starting,” Bear says. “We’ve been home for a minute and we’re already discussing the Jolly Green Giant jacking off for baby food. For once in our lives, could we please have a normal conversation before we enter a social gathering?”
“Bear’s just upset because now that’s all he’s going to think about,” Otter explains to Corey. “It’ll probably make him feel a little hot under the collar.”
“Gross!” I groan. “I do not want to think about Bear getting turned on because of the Jolly Green Giant. Or for anything. You guys keep your weird role playing to yourselves.”
“We don’t role-play Jolly Green Giant!” Bear says, sounding insulted. “Canned-food mascot sex is not one of my kinks.”
“You have kinks?” Corey asked, ears perking up. “Dish. Now.”
“Never in your dreams,” Bear assures him.
“You can tell me,” Corey says. “I’d listen.”
“That’s my brother,” I say as I smack him. “And my Otter, who is my sort of dad-brother. That is not okay.”
“We could get, like, a green body suit,” Otter tells Bear. “And tape green leaves and asparagus to you or something. That’d be kinda hot.”
“This is why I have to go to therapy,” I say to Corey. “Because of stuff like this. It happens all the time.”
“You want to tape asparagus to me?” Bear asks. “I could probably get into that.”
“It’s good to know that even old people can get funky,” Corey tells me. “Gives me hope when I’m their age in like forty years.”
“That was probably not the best thing you could have said,” I say as Bear starts to sputter indignantly.
Old? I will punch your kidney right out of your body, you little—”
“He won’t really,” I say. “He just likes to sound tough. He couldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Isn’t it normally wouldn’t hurt a fly?”
“Normally. But this is Bear. He couldn’t even do that.”
“Once again,” Otter says, “I don’t quite know how we got to this point.”
“That seems to be a common occurrence with you guys,” Corey says. “I can’t wait until we go to dinner. I’ve heard Bear gets loaded on wine and cries, and then the whole thing dissolves into a big case of what-the-fuckery where everyone talks at once, and it usually ends in overshared feelings and hugging.”
“That was one time!”
“What about the Kid’s high school graduation dinner?” Otter asks.
“And when you got that teaching contract?” I ask.
“And when the New Yorker bought that photo of that homeless encampment I took?” Otter says.
“And when I made the dean’s list my first year?” I say. My first and only time.
“I might have a drinking problem,” Bear mutters.
“And an emotional-style vomiting problem,” Otter says.
“And a verbal diarrhea problem,” I say.
“It was the Green Monstrosity,” Corey says, trying to reign us all in. “That’s how we got here.”
Bear shrugs. “We talked about repainting it, especially when the paint started to peel on the siding. Couldn’t bring myself to do it. Didn’t feel right.”
“It took the Home Depot  paint guy at least three weeks to match it,” Otter says. “I’m pretty sure he had to go through the Russian black market to find the components to get the color right.”
Bear rolls his eyes. “It wasn’t that hard. He just wanted you to keep coming in so he could flirt with you.”
“You were just projecting your insecurities on him, dear. He wasn’t flirting with me.”
“Oh really? Was I? So I suppose it totally matters to paint color when he asked you how much you worked out and that he thought you were just so vascular. He laughed like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman  at every single thing you said!”
“I’m funny,” Otter says. “And vascular.”
“You’re not that funny. And when your veins stick out, it’s gross.”
“That’s not what you said last night.”
Bear grins and rolls his eyes.
“Last night?” I say in horror. “In the hotel? We were sharing the same room!”
Bear shrugs. “That’s why the bathrooms have locks.”
“Home Depot guy definitely wanted your penis,” Corey says.
“Here we are,” I mutter. “Back to the penises. I’m never going to get out of therapy. I’ll be in my nineties and still haunted by the memories of Bear and Otter as sexual beings.”
“Way sexual,” Bear says.
“Super sexual,” Otter agrees. “Asparagus and all.”
“I hate you all.”
“Teenage angst is hysterical,” Bear says.
“Such a little drama queen,” Otter says.
“They’re funny,” Corey tells me. “You’re very lucky.”
“Go fuck yourself, sunshine,” I reply.

“Hey!” a voice shouts from outside the car.
We all look.
Creed Thompson stands at the door. What can only be described as a miniature version of him stands next to him, imitating the crossed-arm pose of his father. One looks intimidating as all hell. The other is Creed.
“You guys just going to sit there all day?” he yells at us.
“Yeah, all day, you guys?” JJ shouts in echo.
Others begin to pile up behind them: Anna. Stephanie and Ian Grant, her mom and dad. Alice and Jerry Thompson, Otter and Creed’s parents.
I begin to wonder why it took me so long to come back.
The rain stops as I open the car door.
I am home at last.