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Kamikaze Boys wins a Lambda Literary Award!

Lambda Literary Award Gay RomanceI was twelve years old when my family moved from small town Warrensburg, Missouri to The Woodlands, Texas. Much like Jace in Something Like Autumn, I was keen to escape to somewhere more exciting and much less sleepy. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that I was just as uncool as the town I came from. Things were okay until that first day of school. That’s when it became clear that I didn’t fit in. Maybe it was my dopey clothes, or my lack of athletic ability. Or perhaps, on some subconscious level, the other boys could sense there was something different about me. I was out at recess one day when a group of about ten guys came up to me and started shoving me around. They pushed me down, picked me back up again by the ankles, and held me upside-down like they wanted to shake me down for change. When they were done with me, they dropped me to the ground and wandered off. Then a guy from my class sauntered over and explained he had paid them each fifty cents to do this to me. This experience pretty much set the stage for the next few years of my life.

Lambda Literary Award Gay Romance List of Winners Jay BellI went to school every day with a crippling sense of dread in my stomach. I pleaded with my parents not to take me there. They did the best they could, taking to teachers and such, but every kid knows how ineffective this is. My response was to lose myself in books. I’d always been crazy about reading, but now I escaped into fantasy realms with a vengeance. The lady who ran the local used bookstore felt like my only friend. Or my dealer. Things got a little better as the years went by. I fought back a few times, which helped a little, but I remained a frequent target. By the time I reached high school, I freaked out. I indulged in destructive behavior, vandalizing and other terrible things because I felt like I would go insane otherwise. If you’ve read Kamikaze Boys, this is probably starting to sound familiar. You also have a good idea of how it all played out. Like David in that story, I eventually found my way to a better place, both mentally and physically. The journey wasn’t easy, but I survived.

Jay Bell loves Andreas Bell

Andreas and I at last year’s award ceremony.

Today I woke up to the news that Kamikaze Boys won a prestigious Lambda Literary Award. Unfortunately, Andreas and I couldn’t make the trip to the awards ceremony in New York this year. Had we gone, I can only imagine what my acceptance speech would have been like. It would have been made up on the spot, because I never expected to win. As I tried to imagine myself on stage giving an impromptu speech, I considered who I would thank. Andreas, of course, and all of you readers, but then I thought of all those bullies. Weren’t they the most responsible for this book being written? The idea of thanking the people who made my life hell is laughable. My heart isn’t that generous. But winning this award does go a long way toward healing old wounds.

I’ve often fantasized about travelling back in time, showing up on that playground and protecting my younger self from that gang of bullies. But now, maybe I’d show up after the fact. My younger self would consider this a betrayal, but I’d explain to him that this is the way it has to be. Those bullies shaped who I was, put me through a number of trials that—as painful as they were—make it possible for me to write about such experiences today. Hopefully, others going through similar situations can take refuge in the pages of my books, just as I once hid in the pages of so many novels. Of course my younger self would probably hate this explanation and kick me in the shin. Then I’d have to wipe his memory to prevent a paradox. Come to think of it, I could probably beat those bullies up and then wipe their memories too!

Looks like I need to power up my time machine. Before I do, I’d like to say thank you to the Lambda Literary Foundation for working so hard to support and celebrate gay literature. As for anyone out there that might be going through a rough time as I once did, all I can tell you is to keep on fighting. Don’t let the bullies win. Survive long enough to build yourself a wonderful life full of laughter and love. That is the best revenge.

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Autumn Update, Summer Sounds, and another Lambda Award Finalist

Autumn RosesThe first draft of Something Like Autumn is complete! The story took me much longer to write than I expected. The reason was obvious when I checked the statistics. Weighing in at 150,000 words, Autumn is the longest book I’ve ever written. By way of comparison, Something Like Summer is about 95,000, and Something Like Winter nearly 130,000 words. Of course the editing process will trim Something Like Autumn down some, but I expect it to remain the biggest of the three books so far. While it’s still too early to guess at release dates, the most time consuming part is now over. We’re getting closer!

Speaking of Something Like Autumn, in a new interview I briefly discuss the general concept of the novel. Spoiler free, so don’t worry. I also touch on other subjects, such as what I’ll be doing ten years from now, or why I’m doing any of this in the first place. I’ve also updated the “About the Author” section of this site to include links to many of the interviews I’ve given online.

In other news, I’ve decided to commission an audio book version of Something Like Summer. The most common question I get asked, is if multiple actors will be performing different roles. There’s only one narrator assigned to the project, but believe me, he’s exceptionally talented at making his voice sound unique to each character. The audio book should be out in the next month or two. I’ll update here when it gets released and send out an email via my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so on the left. I only email when there is a new release, so I’m barely annoying at all!

25th Annual Lambda Literary AwardsLast but certainly not least, the Lambda Literary Awards have announced this year’s finalists… and Kamikaze Boys is one of them! Something Like Summer was a finalist last year, and it’s a great honor to be nominated again so soon. I wish David and Connor were real so I could kiss their beautiful faces! I guess the cover art will have to do. Excuse me please while I go make out with my paperback copy. Also, is it too early to pack my bags? I gotta get to New York!

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New Interview and Freshly Won Awards! Yeee-haw!

True Colorz Review SiteCurious about Something Like Autumn and Spring? I drop a few hints in a recent interview over at True Colorz, a new site that’s chock-full of gay goodness. Book reviews, author interviews, reading lists, freebies—the resources over at True Colorz are amazing and growing every day. Please check them out! Quite a few gay book sites bit the dust last year, so it’s great to see a big ol’ rainbow phoenix rising from the ashes. Aside from the next two books in the Seasons series, I also talk a little about my troubled past and the inspiration for Kamikaze Boys. Read the article about me all the way to the end for details on how to win a free paperback or eBook copy of Something Like Winter!

In other news, the results of the 2012 Member Choice Awards are in, and you guys were very very good to me. I won five awards in total, or more accurately, you won five awards for us. This particular award is very special to me, since it’s based on what readers like. That’s the only criteria. Read it, love it, and vote. And man oh man, thank you guys for all the love! Something Like Winter won an award for Best Cover, which made Andreas very happy. Ben and Tim won an award for Best Couple. Don’t tell Jace! Kamikaze Boys won an award in the Best Coming Out Story category. At first I thought that was a little odd, since the book begins with both characters already out, but then again, living with the consequences of being openly gay is also part of coming out. David and Connor also scored in the Best Story Featuring Young Adult Characters category. Last but not least, Something Like Winter nabbed a prize for Best Contemporary Story. I literally couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thank you so so SO much. The only way I can think to repay you is by writing more. Rest assured, Something Like Autumn is progressing nicely!

Goodreads M/M Romance 2012 Member Choice Awards

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End of year sale! Awards! New book news!

Goodreads M/M Romance Group Members Choice Awards 2012I need your vote! But before we get to that, I’m having big ol’ sale. From now until January 2nd of next year, all my books will be priced at a meager $2.99. Why? I know this time of year can be expensive, so I hope to help folks out that way. I’m also aware that many of you will be getting eBook readers for the holidays, and as a big believer in digital media, I want to make your introduction to this brave new world as cheap as possible. Or maybe the lower prices will help you pimp me to your friends and family. Or make it more tempting to try out some of my weirder stuff, like Hell’s Pawn. So there are lots and lots of reasons, but the bottom line is two weeks of cheap.

In other news, Something Like Winter and Kamikaze Boys have been nominated for various awards. Want them to win? The power is yours! The M/M Romance Group is having their Members Choice Awards, and you can weigh in on all sorts of books by voting right here (voting is now closed). It’s a long list, but you don’t have to choose an answer for every category, which is good if you don’t read BDSM or books about cowboys. Or books about BDSM cowboys. The categories my books have been nominated in are:

Best cover:
Something Like Winter (I wanna win this one for Andreas!)

Best Couple:
Ben and Tim – Something Like Winter

Funniest/Best Quote:
Something Like Winter

Best Contemporary Novel:
Something Like Winter

Best Book of the Year:
Kamikaze Boys

Best Coming Out Story:
Kamikaze Boys

Best Book Featuring Young Adult Characters:
Kamikaze Boys

Finally, if you’re wondering about the aforementioned new book news, I’ll be making a full announcement on January 2nd, so check back here for details. You guys are going to be so pumped! But I can’t leave you hanging right? So here’s a completely random image that isn’t a hint at all. 😉

Something Like... what?

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Join my street team and get free stuff!

Lego mailman delivering postcards. ...  Kawaaaaiiii!I’m participating in the Hop Against Homophobia in honor of the international day against homophobia. You can see my post over at Reviews by JesseWave. Once you’ve checked that out, head on back here and watch the informative video below. You’ll learn how to get some free swag while helping me become more famous than J.K. Rowling and Stephen King’s love child.

For those that are hearing impaired or don’t want to watch the video, I’m giving away cool post card stickers. (Update! We are now out of postcards. Sorry!) I’ll send a pair to anyone that wants them. If you happen to know of a good place to leave a stack of these postcards (gay book stores and reading groups, gay bars, gay all-you-can-eat buffets) and you want to help me out, I can send you extra. Please only request a stack if you’re truly motivated to distribute them. If you’re not, I’m still totally happy to send you a couple postcards for you to keep. If you want them autographed, be sure to let me know. All requests should be sent to me via the email address over there on the left (and down a bit). Supplies are limited, so please don’t grab your Jay Bell voodoo doll if I run out!

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Inspiration – Kamikaze Boys

Simon Nessman makes a perfect David HenryA long time ago, in a galaxy exactly like this one, I was a big fish in a very small pond. That pond was called Warrensburg, Missouri, and for a twelve-year-old, I thought I was hot shit. Then a job transfer brought my family to The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb just outside of Houston, and the game changed completely. I was still rocking my California Raisins T-shirts (yeah…) while the other kids in my class were sporting designer fashion labels. Painful story short, I went from big shot to big target. In retrospect, I’m glad. I needed a healthy dose of humility and probably would have ended up a royal asshole otherwise. Unfortunately, this lesson came at a price. I was pummeled on the playground regularly by a bully that makes Chuck Bryl look brave. My bully paid other kids to rough me up. I took as much as I could from him and others. Then I started going crazy in the most destructive way possible. These experiences were the inspiration for Kamikaze Boys.

David Henry from Kamikaze Boys by Jay BellThe true story is more complex, drawn out over many years, but the gist of it can be found between the printed sheets. While not truly autobiographical, Kamikaze Boys tells that story of wanting to lash out at the world and finding a partner that is just as willing to join those destructive impulses. An author drawing inspiration from his past is hardly surprising, so let’s check out some of the images and sounds that helped get my creative juices bubbling. When prepping for this book, I sought out photos of models that resembled the characters in my imagination. David was the most successful in this regard. The photo I stared at most can be found above. The model is Simon Nessman, who with his delightfully curly hair, sensitive eyes, and luscious lips, is the perfect combination of nerdy and hot. (Now we’ve clearly stepped away from autobiographical elements!) Simon looks a lot cooler in most of his model shots, but as a bonus, I found a few images of him that look like a more confident David, perhaps after basking in the Florida sun.

Speaking of Florida, I name-drop a song in the book as Connor and David are on their way down. If you haven’t heard Empire of the Sun’s debut album, it’s a wild trip. There’s a lot of weird stuff going down musically in Australia lately. I’m loving that movement and hope it takes the world by storm. Chances are you’ve heard the song I played on a loop while writing this book. If not, check out “We Are the People” and see if it clicks with you at all. I can totally imagine David dancing to this, or him and Connor cruising off into the sunset with this in the background.

It's Connor Williams! Sort of...Creating Connor was a bit different than the process I used for David. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that part of him comes straight from reality television. A well-meaning series called Jamie’s Dream School had troubled teens getting another shot at an education with very mixed results. One of the participants, Henry, caught my eye. His persona had little in common with Connor’s, but I sure liked his appearance. The weird thing is, the more I wrote Connor, the less I imagined him looking like Henry. I’m including a few images anyway, so you can see where I started, but the Connor in my mind is rougher around the edges. And of course he has that awesome scar.

Hey, he's got the angry thing down!Connor’s theme comes straight from the eighties and is sung by Billy Idol of all people. In an odd example of synchronicity, shortly after Connor started calling David “Sweet Sixteen,” I began hearing Billy Idol’s song by that same name on the radio. A lot. To be honest, I don’t know if I’d ever heard it before, even in the eighties. But it’s a pretty cool tune, and at the time, the lyrics matched where I intended the plot to go. Plans and people change, but I still love the vibe of this song. Check out Billy strumming his guitar below.

So those were the biggest influences on my writing this time around. Feel free to apply mind bleach if any of this conflicts with what you imagined while reading. In fact, if there’s anything you associate with Kamikaze Boys, no matter the media, I’d love to hear about it!

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