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 you may suffer from the affliction the Klunatics know as Wookie Cry Face. I also promise to make this some place where you can see how my mind works.

You've been warned.

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.


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.

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.