Title: JUST BETWEEN US
Author: J.H. Trumble
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Pages: 320 pages
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Contemporary
Seventeen-year-old Luke Chesser is trying to forget his spectacular failure of a love life. He practices marching band moves for hours in the hot Texas sun, deals with his disapproving father, and slyly checks out the new band field tech, Curtis Cameron. Before long, Luke is falling harder than he knew he could. And, this time, he intends to play it right.
Since testing positive for HIV, Curtis has careened between numbness and fear. Too ashamed to tell anyone, Curtis can’t possibly act on his feelings. And Luke—impulsive, funny, and more tempting than he realizes—won’t take a hint. Even when Curtis distances himself it backfires, leaving him with no idea how to protect Luke from the truth.
Confronting a sensitive topic with candor and aplomb, acclaimed author J. H. Trumble renders a modern love story as sweet, sharp, and messy as the real thing, where easy answers are elusive, and sometimes the only impossible thing is to walk away.
5 of 5 Just Between Us Luke and Curtis
Just Between Us is another amazing story by J.H. When I found out she was going to be writing Luke's story I dam near died. I have fallen in love with Nate and Adam and Robert and Andrew so when Luke was a part of both stories I wondered if J.H. was going to have a story for Luke and let me tell you she done did my baby Luke some serious justice with this story.
Luke has always known he was a little different. He knew he wasn't attracted to girls but he was afraid to come out and test the waters. So when he met Nate he was excited to because he would be able to get a different perspective on being gay from someone who was. The only thing was Luke never thought he would fall head over heels for Nate because Nate was emotionally unavailable because he loved Adam and wanted him back. Plus Luke's father was not going to have a "fag" for a son. What a arrogant asshole!
Luke's father was determined to control his family so he moved them away and Luke never got to see Nate again. But then Luke met Robert and they sort of dated but where more friends then anything because they did band together. Then Luke was in summer band camp and he met Curtis. Curtis is helping out in the camp and he is so sexy Luke can't help but sneak peaks at him. As they build up a friendship Luke falls head over head for Curtis but Curtis tries to keep his distance.
Curtis is older for one and in college but Curtis gets some bad news that keeps him from telling Luke. The harder Curtis pushes Luke away the harder Luke fights to keep him. Luke is determined to have Curtis and will stop at nothing to have him. Luke will go through a lot with Curtis but in the end Curtis is the one who will have to decide whether or not Luke is worth the risk.
J.H. once again you have stolen my heart with Luke and Curtis. I love the open and honest writing you have given me and others. Please keep writing because I know your stories have helped others who are gay or lesbian come out and be who they are and not be ashamed. God has placed you in their lives for a reason because you are a blessing for them. You are the sun in the cloudy skies!
*JUST BETWEEN US – The Playlist*
Finally, Luke Chesser gets his own novel. It seems only fitting that he get his own playlist as well.
While music does not play a prominent role in this novel, music most definitely played a prominent role in the writing of this novel.
I hope you will listen to the songs below and consider how they reflect on the novel, or just enjoy them.
“Grenade,” Bruno Mars
Reflecting on earlier relationships
“I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz
New loves; new possibilities.
“Whataya Want From Me,” Adam Lambert
“Animal I Have Become,” Three Days Grace
“Somebody that I Used to Know,” Gotye
“This War is Ours (The Guillotine II),” Escape the Fate
Secrets and repercussions
“Lost in You,” Three Days Grace
“I Do (Wanna to Love You),” Hedley
Coming together Part II
“Wrapped,” George Strait
Two - stepping
“Jumper,” Third Eye Blind
Friends are all they can be
Spiraling and holding on
“I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz
Standing by his man
“One-X,” Three Days Grace
“Dying to Live Again,” Hedley
The song title says it all.
*Five Reasons You Should be Reading LGBT Novels*
By: J.H. Trumble
It’s so 21st Century
Gay characters in novels is nothing new, but I’m seeing them in an increasing number of leading roles. That’s exciting. Check out Brigid Kemmerer’s Secret (the fourth novel in her Elementals series) and Benjamin Alire Saenz’s award-winning Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, just two of my recent favorites. I think LGBT characters in leading roles will be the next big thing!
You get to live inside someone else’s skin
One of the great takeaways from reading books is that we get to walk a mile or a hundred in someone else’s shoes. And often what we find is that characters who seem to have nothing in common with us, are really, in many ways just like us. They bleed when you cut them, they bristle when they’re marginalized, they fight back when they’re wronged. It’s hard to hate or even mock someone you identify with, someone you’ve cried with, laughed with, and maybe even fallen in love with.
They reflect the diversity that exists
If you think queer folk aren’t among us, you’ve been living under a rock. And this is from someone who lives in a very conservative pocket of Texas. And yet books with LGBT characters in leading roles struggle more to find a place on school library shelves than do their straight counterparts. If your school or public library has a strong LGBT collection, go hug your librarian! Diversity is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated!
They explore stereotypes
My good friend author James Howe once told me that stereotypes exist for a reason—there’s a lot of truth in them. I would have to agree with him on that. But stereotypes are not the total truth. If your understanding of the LGBT community is limited to stereotypes, then you’re missing out on the incredible diversity within that community. Books are a great way to explore what it means to be human first and gay second.
There are some damn good stories out there
If you shy away from LGBT novels because you’re not gay, then you’re really missing out on some great stories. Here is a list of some of my favorites in no particular order:
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by David Levithan
Secret, by Brigid Kemmerer
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Last Exit to Normal, by Michael Harmon
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
Gone, Gone, Gone and Marco Impossible, by Hannah Moskowitz
The Vast Fields of Ordinary, by Nick Burd
And of course, my novels—Don’t Let Me Go, Where You Are, and my September 26 release, Just Between Us! Read LGBT novels! Talk about them, review them, share them with your friends, ask your librarian to purchase them.
Be part of the NEXT BIG THING!
*Five Ways to Show Some Love to Your Favorite Author*
By; J.H. Trumble
Isolation—it is the deal we authors signed on for. Weeks, months, years in front of our computers lost in our make-believe worlds, writing stories that we ultimately hope will touch our readers the way they touch us.
I suppose if no one ever read our books, we would still write them.
However, we really, really want you to read them. Really.
We love our readers. We want to make you laugh, weep, scream. We want to rip your heart into little pieces and then put it back together again better than ever. We want to crush your soul and then resurrect it again with a word, a line.
However, it can get somewhat lonely out here.
Therefore, I came up with some ways you can love your favorite authors back.
Reach out through social media
Many of us have Twitter, Facebook, even Tumblr accounts. Reach out to us. We love to hear your reactions to our books! In addition, many of us are eager to engage with you.
Send a fan letter
Trust me—you are not bothering us. If we give you a way to contact us, feel free to do it! Some emails I get are short and sweet and others are looooong diatribes. I love each and every one of them. And I always respond.
Write a review
Reviews are so important to us because they help readers who don’t know our work make a decision to read it. I know some authors say they don’t read reviews, but, honestly, I don’t know any of them. Reviews do not need to be long and detailed. Quick and dirty is great.
Tell your friends
Word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to find new books and authors to love. If you love our work, tell someone. Tell everyone!
Request books at your local library
Libraries want to purchase books that their patrons want to read. But they need help sometimes too. So if you want to read one of our books and your local library doesn’t have it, ask them to purchase it. You would be surprised how often then answer is Yes!
I hope I get to hear from each of you one day!
*A Funny Story! (Not really), by J.H. Trumble*
A really big literary agent recently read my first two books—Don’t Let Me Go and Where You Are.
She made a comment that I found both odd and shocking, and maybe even a little disheartening. I’ll paraphrase here:
“It seems like everyone’s gay. There needs to be more balance.”
After I got over my indignation, I did a quick muster of the gay characters in my books, in the order in which they appear.
Don’t Let Me Go
· Adam’s three roommates in New York
· A couple of commenters on Nate’s blog
Where You Are
· Three members of Robert’s “Fan Club”
· Andrew’s Facebook friend, mentioned briefly
· Andrew’s former boyfriend, discussed but not an active character
Considering the fairly long list of characters in each novel, that’s hardly everyone. Even in Texas we have gay people, and they have gay friends, and gay boyfriends, and gay admirers, and . . . well, you get the point. In my opinion, the cast of characters very much reflects the reality that I know, yes, even in Texas.
But it was the comment about my books lacking balance that really bothered me. My takeaway—gay characters (main characters) are palatable only when they share the stage equally with straight characters? Still? Today? In the twenty-first century?
You can like my books or not like them, but to say they lack balance in the identity department feels very wrong to me.
And while I’m add it, I might as well do a head count on my newest novel:
Just Between Us
· Curtis’s former boyfriend (brief appearance)
· A guy who hits on Curtis (brief appearance)
· Nate (brief appearance)
· The members of Curtis’s support group (several brief appearances)
So what’s the point? The point is . . . we still have a long, long way to go. Agents are still reluctant to represent novels with gay characters in the lead, and publishers are still reluctant to publish them (unless, of course, they have that “balance”). I do see hope with some of the newer releases out there, but we’re still a long way from a level playing field, and it’s readers who are really losing out here.
What do you think? Do you think it’s time for more LGBT characters in leading roles?
Curtis takes an HIV test
By Wednesday morning, there’s no denying I’m run down. I’m achy, tired. The fever is in its fourth day, and I promised Dad. I make an appointment at the health center for late morning. Maybe I can get a vitamin shot or at least some assurance that this fever has just about run its course.
The health center is located on the far side of campus from my dorm room, but it’s a short walk from my ten o’clock class.
A heavy-set woman with graying hair pinned in an old-fashioned bun calls me back and directs me to a treatment room. She smiles as she closes the door behind us and asks me to step on the scale. “We’re seeing a lot of flu right now. Happens every fall.” She notes my weight—162. I step off the scale and take a seat on the treatment table as she pulls a cuff from the wall. My hands tremble. Doctors’ offices always do that to me. Maybe that’s natural, or maybe it’s a throwback from my head injury when I was a kid.
“Just relax,” the nurse says as she wraps the blood pressure cuff around my arm. She places a stethoscope on the inside of my elbow and pumps up the cuff. “You’re warm. How long have you been running a fever?”
“About four days.”
“One twenty-two over eighty-four,” she says, releasing the air from the cuff. “A little high, but understandable.” She wraps up the cuff and places it back in the plastic holder on the wall, then takes my temperature. “Are you taking anything for the fever?”
“When did you last take it?”
“A couple of hours ago.”
She notes everything on the computer, then pats my leg and tells me the doctor will be in shortly.
I check the time on my phone: 11:32. Luke is probably having lunch right now. I wonder who he’s sitting with. Jackson? Spencer? Phoebe? I make a mental note to ask him. And then I think about our second first date. I wonder if he dances. I imagine holding him close in some dance hall, whispering in his ear, nuzzling his ear, kissing his ear. Breathing in the great peppermint smell that always wafts from his skin. Soon, Luke.
I scan the pamphlets tucked in an acrylic display case hanging on the wall—Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Depression and Suicide, Eating Disorders, Stress, Prescription Medication, STDs . . . . I look at my phone again and think about texting Dad to let him know I’m okay.
A firm, quick knock on the door. “Curtis,” the doctor says, stepping in. He reaches for my hand. “I'm Dr. Nguyen. So, I understand you’ve been running a fever,” he says, checking the nurse’s notes. “Let’s have a look.” He feels the glands around my neck, then checks my throat, my eyes, my ears. “Cameron. Hmm. I went to UT with a Cameron. Derrick. We called him DC. Any relation?”
“That’s my dad.”
“No kidding? Small world, huh? How’s he doing? I haven’t seen him in years. Is he designing skyscrapers?”
“Mostly bridges and roads.”
“Yeah? And what about your mom? How’s she doing?”
“She died when I was a baby.”
He studies my face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” He presses a stethoscope to my back and chest. “Chills? Body aches?” I nod. “Well, I’d say you’ve got the flu. Your chest sounds a little rattley, so I’m going to go ahead and start you on some antibiotics just in case you’re working on a secondary infection here—we’ve been seeing some cases of pneumonia already—but I suspect this flu’s about run its course. You should be feeling much better in a few days in any case.”
“No blood test?” I ask.
He scoots his stool over to the computer. “Any reason why you think you need one?” He taps out some notes on the keyboard.
I take a deep breath to steady myself. “I thought maybe you could test for HIV while I’m here. It’s just, I’ve never had one, and I thought it would be a good idea.”
“Sure. No problem. We generally do that with a mouth swab though. We can have results in about twenty minutes.”
“I wish all our students would get tested. It should be part of everyone’s routine health screening.” He stands and reaches for my hand again. “Let me get the nurse back in here. Be sure and tell your dad hello for me.”
He’s not planning to come back in again. I take that as a good sign. Routine test. Routine results.
I hadn’t actually considered asking for an HIV test until I did. But I’m relieved to get this out of the way. Twenty minutes. I expected to have to wait weeks. I breathe a little easier knowing that in twenty minutes, I can take off that emergency brake and move on with my life. Because I’ve got some making up to do to a cute, blond, high school kid next weekend.
“All right,” the nurse says, coming through the door with a small package from which she removes a plastic stick with a pad on one end. “This will only take a second.”
I open my mouth so she can swab my outer gums on top and on bottom. “That’s it.” She drops the swab in a vial with some liquid and gives me a reassuring smile. “Can I bring you some magazines to read while you wait?”
“No, I’m fine. Thanks.”
I check the time again: 11:50. If I text now, I might catch him before he heads back to class. Still running a fever, but antibiotics ordered. I intend to collect on that rain check soon. I miss you.
I stare at that last sentence for a moment. It’s funny . . . telling him I miss him seems like more of a declaration than a kiss or a rain check. But I know he’ll like that. And it’s true. I’m smiling to myself when I press Send.
In a moment, he texts back. Spencer just asked what I’m smiling about. J I miss you too. After game Friday?
Can’t. Have my own game. Drum major coaching on Saturday?
Drum major coaching—riiight. Ha ha. I appear to have some deficits. Be prepared for some intense one-on-one instruction.
One-on one-instruction, huh? The flirt. I’m still sitting on the treatment table, smiling down at the screen, when there’s a knock, and Dr. Nguyen steps back into the room. Despite the fever, my skin goes cold. He takes the stool and swivels to face me, then clasps his hands in his lap and studies them for a moment.
My eyes blur. Please. No. Tell me I’ve got pneumonia. Tell me I’ve got herpes. Anything. Just—just not this.
He lifts his eyes to mine. “The HIV test came back positive, Curtis.”
Excerpt from Just Between Us
Curtis picks out a new guy for Luke
On Friday, Curtis pulls into our driveway right behind me, reaches over, and opens the passenger door. Mom is tying balloons to the gas light in the front yard. She waves to him.
“You’re home early,” I lean against the door, ready for some light banter, but the look on his face stops me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Hop in.”
“Sure.” I close the door behind me, then push the button to roll down the window, but it doesn’t go down. “What’s wrong with this window?”
“A short. None of them are working.”
I open the door again and tell Mom I’ll be back. She waves me off.
“So, where are we going?”
He presses on the accelerator and we whip around the cul-de-sac. “Shopping.”
“For . . .”
He looks irritated. “Matt’s birthday. What else. Today, right?”
“I don’t recall mentioning that. How did you know?”
“He texted me.” He glances over as he pulls to a stop at the corner. “Apparently subtlety is not in the Chesser genes.” I smirk; he smiles back, just a little. “It’s okay. Twelve is a big one.”
Something’s happened. I can feel it in the silence as we make the short drive. He’s spiraling again. Slow right now, but I fear it’s going to pick up speed, and there will be nothing I can do to stop it.
We stroll through the mall, stopping at the pet store so Curtis can half-heartedly tease me about the kittens in the window, then at Spencer Gifts so he can half-heartedly tease me about all the sex toys I’ve never heard of.
But we’re not shopping; we’re wandering. Aimlessly. There’s something going on his head, something dark.
We stop at Pretzel Time. I stand back and watch him order. I notice the slump of his shoulders, the way his hand shakes when he holds out a ten dollar bill. He looks tired, defeated. He hands me a pretzel and an Icee. “Come on.”
We sit quietly on a bench in the center of the main aisle. I watch him watch shoppers move past us until I can’t stand it anymore. “Do you want to talk?” I ask.
He kind of laughs—a laugh with no humor behind it—and points with his pretzel at the passing crowd. “Pick one.”
“Pick one what?”
“A guy. I want you to show me what kind of guy you like.”
So that’s it. We’re not here just to pick out a gift for Matt; we’re here to pick out a guy for me. I cringe at the thought. “You already know what kind of guy I like.”
“Come on,” he says, dully. “What about that one?” He’s pointing at some biker-looking dude with his pants so low he has to walk with one finger hooked in a belt loop to keep them from dropping to his ankles. His hair is black and greasy. A studded collar circles his neck.
“You obviously have a low opinion of me.”
He doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t smile. “What about that one?”
This time he points out a super skinny guy with his baseball hat cocked at an odd angle. He looks like a super nerd trying desperately to be cool and failing miserably. I stare back at Curtis. He can’t be serious. But if he wants to play this game, then I’ll play. And he’ll see how silly this is.
Coming up behind nerd guy is a real contender, if there is such a thing. He wears his hair short, his shirt snug, and his jeans just low enough to be sexy without being grungy. “How about that one,” I say pointing him out.
Curtis smirks. “Shallow, pretty boy. All swagger, no substance. Probably doesn’t even know the difference between a pianissimo and a fortissimo.”
The guy pauses in front of Abercrombie & Fitch and then goes in.
“Figures,” Curtis says.
“Here.” I hand him my pretzel and Icee. “I’m gonna check him out.”
Serve you right for starting this, I think as I make my way into the store. I poke around for a bit, making no effort at all to single out Shallow Pretty Boy, until the loud music and missing Curtis drives me out again.
I find my half-eaten pretzel and Icee on the bench, but Curtis is gone. I pick them up, wipe the condensation from the bench with my cuff, and toss them in the trash.
I find him at a kiosk not too far away. He doesn’t look at me when I lean on the glass counter next to him.
He holds up a chain from which dangles a stainless steel dog tag encased in a black rubber edging. The metal is smooth, not yet embossed with its owner’s name and vital information. “Do you think Matt will like it?”
“He’ll love it.”
He fills out the information and hands it to the attendant, who goes to work punching out the letters and numbers. We watch, and when I dare, I look at Curtis. His eyes are fixed on the embosser. “Did you get his number?” he asks.
“Nope, but I think I got yours.”
He takes my hand below the counter and crushes my knuckles until I yell, “Ow.”
Find J.H. Trumble:
J.H. Trumble is a Texas native and graduate of Sam Houston State University. You can visit the author online at http://www.jhtrumble.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
My Favorite LGBT Books, by J.H. Trumble
Before I wrote Don’t Let Me Go, I stumbled across my first LGBT book in a middle school library. I was completely enchanted and soon found myself on a quest to read everything LGBT I could find. Here’s a list of my favorite books from that quest in the order in which I discovered them. I’ve read many great LGBT books since, but I thought you might like to see my initial inspirations.
Totally Joe, by James Howe
Joe Bunch’s charming alphabiography will completely steal your heart. A great read for middle school kids, and there aren’t many LGBT books out there for them.
The Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez
My first LGBT love story. Nelson loves Kyle, but Kyle loves Jason. And Jason’s in the closet. This book is a primer for LGBT teens!
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
You’ll never be able to forget James’s response to a personal ad! I just saw that this was made into a movie—2011. Huh.
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by David Levithan
David Levithan is known for playing with form and names. This book is quite a treat! Best way to get in a club ever!
The Last Exit to Normal, by Michael Harmon
The main character is a straight teenager, but he moves in with his father and his father’s partner. I’ve never read anything like this book. Loved it.
David on the Inside, by Lee Bantle
If you’re Catholic and as a kid you ever had the urge to check out what’s under Jesus’s loincloth, well . . . you’ll understand David.
What was your first LGBT book?
*My Favorite Obsession, by J.H. Trumble*
Yes, I have obsessions! And they often find their way into my novels.
When I wrote Don’t Let Me Go, for instance, I was completely obsessed with this blog Gossip Candy. It’s been shut down now, but did anybody follow it back in the day? She was a huge fan of American Idol during the Adam Lambert and Kris Allen season. The blog was a hoot! I laughed until I cried. I think that humor found its way into my writing that summer.
I was kind of obsessed with rap music when I wrote Where You Are. Could you tell?
I was obsessed with marching band when I wrote the first draft of Just Between Us.
But this, this is my newest obsession.
His real name is Jon Cozart. He’s a 21-year-old University of Texas student. I stumbled across this video on The Huffington Post. It’s gone crazy viral (about 18 million views as I write this post) and I think he may have made an appearance with Hank Green (John Green’s brother and fellow nerdfighter) somewhere. Australia? Anyway, this video is so clever! After you watch it, check out his Extreme Cup Song and his Glee audition. Stalk him on Facebook! His song is tearing up the charts on iTunes too. Download it. Yes, I’m obsessed. You can thank me later! BTW, he’d make a great character in one of my novels!
Speaking of my novels, JUST BETWEEN US is out September 26! Grab a copy. Fall in love all over again.
*Stereotypes? Or True Depictions? by J.H. Trumble*
I despise the phrase “gay lifestyle.” The term is used to group a large number of diverse people into a negative stereotype and thus scare the hell out of straight people.
There’s no more a gay lifestyle than there is a straight lifestyle. Perhaps there’s a promiscuous lifestyle, a gigolo lifestyle, a flamboyant lifestyle, but gays have no more of a monopoly on those lifestyles than straights do. Trust me—in Texas we know a few things about over-the-top lifestyles amongst our rank and file.
So I’m not talking about lifestyles here. But I am talking about gay stereotypes.
My good friend author James Howe once told me that stereotypes exist for a reason—there’s a lot of truth behind them. Okay, so maybe a lot of gay men are effeminate, but certainly not all of them. Maybe a lot of them like show tunes, but again, not all of them. Maybe they like earrings and tattoos, but NOT ALL OF THEM. The fact is, gay men are as wonderfully diverse as straight men.
Consider the flip side. Wearing earrings and sporting tattoos is not inherently gay. Being passionate about music and dancing is not inherently gay. Being a little all-that isn’t inherently gay either.
But authors of gay characters, including yours truly, are accused of writing stereotypes if their characters embody any of these traits.
The fact is, if we avoid attributing to our characters any trait that might come across as “gay,” how honest would that be? My goal has always been to write characters as honestly as I can. I don’t think in terms of gay stereotypes; I think in terms of real, flawed human beings.
And while I’m at it, I despise homophobia, but where I live and set my books it is still quite prevalent. And to ignore that fact would again be dishonest. But my focus is not on homophobia; my focus is on characters who triumph over whatever adversity comes their way. Sometimes that’s homophobia, but more often it’s just every day crap.
Have you read my books? If not, I hope you’ll try them!
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