Great news, folks: My new novel, Following Grandpa Jess, is now available for purchase on the Bold Strokes Books web site!
Buying a copy is quick and easy, and they have every variety of eBook you could possibly want. And it’s only $4.99! Go forth and buy it, my friends~!
Following Grandpa Jess, by T.J. Baer
Jess Madison has problems. His aging parents seem hell-bent on belittling him in new and increasingly infuriating ways, he’s fallen for his best—and, unfortunately, heterosexual—friend David, and his grandmother has recently taken to climbing out on her roof in hopes of contacting the spirit of her late husband, the much-beloved Grandpa Jess.
All Jess wants to do is live his life and feed his goldfish in peace, but instead he finds himself at the heart of a familial clash that seems ready to tear his family apart. With the help of his two younger brothers, uber-manly AJ and lovably weird Thomas, Jess sets out to reconcile his family, keep Grandma off the roof, and sort out the mess his life has become—with just a little help from Grandpa Jess.
Author: TJ Baer
Pub Date: July 2013
ISBN 13: 9781626390263E
To read a sample of the book, venture below:
Following Grandpa Jess, by T.J. Baer: Excerpt
Second grade, 1997. You know the scene: Tidy little room with ugly brown carpeting, miniature desks full of miniature people waving their arms in the air, pretty lady at the front of the room holding a piece of chalk and looking for someone to call on. Finally, she smiles and points to an undersized kid in the second row.
Even at age seven and a half, it’s pretty easy to tell he’s headed for social ostracism and general mockery. His hair’s dirty blond and kind of stringy, hanging down to his shoulders, and even through all that hair, his ears stick out like round little hills from the sides of his head. His front teeth are oversized and crooked, and although he’s not a bad looking little kid, there’s a delicate quality to his features that puts him more in the realm of “pretty” than “handsome.” Not that anybody can really be called handsome at age seven, but you get the idea. The deck is kind of stacked against the poor kid already, and when the teacher calls on him and he gets eagerly to his feet, it only gets worse.
“When I grow up,” he says in a proud rush, reading the words off a piece of notebook paper he’s got clutched in both hands, “I want to be a mailman because I really like getting mail so I think it’d be fun to give mail to other people and be a mailman so that’s what I want to be.”
Silence fills the room. Then, finally, there’s a giggle from one of the girls in the back, echoed by a few others, then a few more. The teacher gets things moving along before the full-out mockery can begin, thanking him for his answer and asking for another volunteer, but the damage is done, and the kid sits down looking hurt and kind of puzzled. As the rest of his class members come out with their occupational dreams, though—doctor, teacher, lawyer, scientist—he starts to get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, the other kids were laughing because they thought his answer was dumb. It could just possibly be that they don’t think being a mailman is cool at all, and in fact, maybe they think it’s kind of a stupid thing to want to be.
When he gets home that night he asks his grandmother, because she’s the only adult he knows who always tells him the truth, even when it makes him cry.
“Grandma,” he says, tugging on her sleeve while she’s guessing at Jeopardy answers and thus not really in a mood to be bothered, “is it bad to be a mailman?”
“Who is Mark Twain!” she barks at the TV. “Who is Mark Twain!”
“Who is Theodore Roosevelt?” a tinny voice from the TV answers.
He tries again. “Grandma.”
She says a few words he’s not supposed to know, then finally turns to him when a shampoo commercial comes on. Her eyes focus on him with a bit of surprise, like she wasn’t sure up until now just who it was tugging on her lacy sleeve and calling her “Grandma.” She gives him an indulgent—but rather dry—smile. “Oh, it’s you. What is it?”
“Is it bad to be a mailman?”
He rolls his eyes and explains quickly. “Today at school Miss Daniels made us write about what we want to be when we grow up and I said I want to be a mailman and everybody laughed, and so I wondered if it’s bad to be a mailman. Is it?”
She blinks at him for a second, then throws back her head and laughs. “Oh, darling, why would you want to be a mailman?”
“Because I like getting letters and stuff, and so I thought—”
“Precious, you wouldn’t be getting letters if you were a mailman. You would be giving them to other people.”
“I know that,” he says impatiently, “but then I’d be making them happy like it makes me happy when I get mail.”
“Oh, it’s different when you’re older.” She sighs, leaning back against the couch cushions with one veiny hand over her eyes. “Mail is all about bills and sales papers, and it brings joy to no one. Trust me, darling, pick a different career. One with a better uniform, preferably.”
He goes away with his lower lip trembling and stomps upstairs, wanting to slam his bedroom door but knowing he’ll get in trouble if he does, as it’ll probably wake the baby. So he closes it quietly, then stomps around some more and finally throws himself onto his bed, where he proceeds to pummel his fists into the cheerful faces of all the stuffed animals lined up on his pillow. He ends up kicking them all onto the floor, then has to brush them off and kiss them and apologize a few minutes later when he starts feeling guilty for taking his mailman-related anger out on them.
Finally, lying on his back with his arms folded behind his head, he stares up at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling and swears to himself that he will be a mailman, no matter what anybody else says. It’s his dream, and he knows he’ll be happy doing it, because what’s better than getting mail? Nothing, except maybe being the guy who actually brings it. Just thinking about riding around on his bike with a bag full of letters and packages makes him want to start bouncing up and down in excitement, and he knows that nothing else in the world could be better than that.
He falls asleep with his arms crushed around as many of the stuffed animals as he can reach, still smiling at the bright visions of the future. It’s kind of like being Santa Claus, being a mailman, except you don’t have to be fat or live somewhere cold. Bringing people happiness… It’s perfect, and even though he knows now that it’ll have to be his own secret dream that he shares with no one, it’s still going to be his dream. He’s going to hold on to it forever and never, ever change his mind, and by the time he’s out of school, he’ll be a mailman. He’s sure of it.
Copyright 2013, T.J. Baer
Now available at boldstrokesbooks.com!