I’m chuffed to bits to have author J.C. Lillis with us today to help celebrate the release of How to Repair a Mechanical Heart in print.
I first read this book back in November of 2012 and fell instantly in love with Brandon, Abel, and all the wacky and wonderful characters who populate this delightful story about coming out, accepting yourself, and then falling in love with your best friend. All set alongside the Castaway Planet shipping fandom.
J.C. has brought you an excerpt from the book and is also giving the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of it – In PRINT to a US resident OR in E-BOOK to an International winner. You can enter the contest by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.
Blurb: The summer after high school graduation, two cute and snarky boys hit the road in an RV. Their mission: follow the traveling fan convention for Castaway Planet, the cult sci-fi show they’re both obsessed with. BRANDON irons his t-shirts, loves the dapper and reserved Castaway android Sim, and hides his pesky Catholic guilt from his out-and-proud roadtrip partner, Abel. ABEL collects funny belt buckles, loves Castaway‘s brave and dashing Captain Cadmus, has a hot boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and has nothing to hide—except his epic crush on Brandon. During their six-week cross-country adventure, Brandon and Abel post new entries on their Castaway Planet fan vlog, spar with an online community of slash fiction writers, meet their TV idols, play with their action figures, uncover big secrets, and maybe possibly fall in love. Can two fanboys face down their obstacles and write themselves a real-life romance—or is fiction the only thing bringing them together?
Excerpt: Here’s a peek at Brandon & Abel’s first vlog post of the trip; they’re recording in Abel’s kitchen just before they take off. I picked this scene because a.) it sets up the whole road trip, b.) it’s a nice intro to their dynamic, and c.) it is SUPER geeky, so if you tolerate/appreciate this level of geek, it’s a pretty sure sign you’ll enjoy the rest of the book. (WARNING: It might make you hungry for Cookie Crisp.)
“You ready, partner?” he says.
“We’re unveiling now?”
“We have to. The girls’ve been trolling us all morning. Wait’ll you see.”
Abel and I hunch in front of his laptop at the glass kitchen table, next to a stack of cruddy glasses and plates I very much want to scrub. He’s crunching Cookie Crisp from a china bowl that probably cost more than my car. His limited-edition Plastic Cadmus grips the pocket of Abel’s robe with his super-ripped hero arms and I side-eye him; even three inches tall, Cadmus is a smug bastard. No one’s home besides us, as usual. Abel’s dad’s at Mercy fitting someone with a new heart, his mom and little sister are in Boston on their book tour, and his brother Jacob’s at some school in New York for musical geniuses with bad attitudes.
“Don’t worry. You look lovely.” Abel slides on his shades with the red steel frames, an exact replica of Cadmus’s. “You’ve got that cute all-American khakis-and-flip-flops thing going on. You’re like Volleyball Ken.”
I sip my water. “Now with Eye-Rolling Action.”
“Do I have sex hair?”
“Brandon, seriously. Wait’ll you meet Kade. Best five days of my life!”
“Please spare every detail.”
“Cynicism gives you blackheads. Studies show.”
I tip my chin at the laptop. “Let’s go.”
He grins and hits record.
“Bonjour, fellow Casties.” He musses his hair and turns on his best news-anchor purr. “It’s your two favorite recappers, coming at you live from my kitchen on May the twenty-ninth, a day that will forever live in infamy. Say hello to my distinguished fellow commentator, Brandon—”
“—currently obscuring his cute little abs with the baggiest Castaway Planet t-shirt in recorded history.”
“What are you hiding under there?”
“Secrets. Many secrets.”
Abel rips off his shades and cocks an eyebrow. I let out a snort. I picture a handful of strangers watching this at home, thinking my secret is cool and mysterious like a jagged scar across my chest, and not dull and heavy like I gave up church but not the angst.
“Anyway, guys.” Abel pops one last Cookie Crisp. “Today we unveil that Super-Secret Summer Spectacular we’ve been teasing y’all about, ‘cause we know how our fifteen fans like, follow our every move and have shrines and shit.”
“My shrines are bigger.” I grin.
“Whatever. Here’s the deal. You real fans who come here and watch our episode recaps every week are A-plus, right, ‘cause you love Castaway Planet as much as we do and you’ve got more than ten brain cells to your name. But as we all know, there’s one faction of the fandom…”
“One very vocal faction.”
“…that is, and we say this with love, STONE COLD CRACKERS WITH A SIDE ORDER OF CRAZY FRIES. I am referring, of course, to—”
He plunks Plastic Cadmus in front of the camera. I do the same with Plastic Sim.
I perform a cartoony shudder.
“Guys, I don’t know if you’re following our ginormous flamewar with Miss Maxima and her minions at the Cadsim fanjournal.” Abel sighs. “The slash fiction was bad enough, but these rejects have been calling it canon since the crystal-spider-cave episode, and that we cannot abide. Look, maybe it’s semi-tempting to think they had secret sexytimes when they’re stuck in the cave and there’s that ‘meaningful look’ and the fadeout, but people? Captain James P. Cadmus is a blazing hot male specimen who can kill a sixty-pound alien spider with his bare hands, and Sim is a freakin’-damn ANDROID—”
“Who’s way too good for Cadmus.”
“That statement is too ludicrous to acknowledge,” Abel huffs, petting Plastic Cadmus’s plastic head. “Anyway, our feud with the crazypants Cadsim girls? Officially ends this summer. We at the Screw Your Sensors vlog have made a wager. Hold up the CastieCon tickets, Bran.”
I fan them out. Abel explains the bet, which basically goes like this: we hit the six tour stops the Castaway Planet convention makes this summer, go to the Q&As with all five main cast members plus the showrunner, and ask them what they think Cadmus and Sim did in the cave scene after the fadeout. If a majority of them agree that no hookup happened, the Cadsim girls have to run an all-caps disclaimer on every one of their fanfics, forever.
“Brandon, tell them what it says.” Abel slides me a printout.
“PLEASE NOTE: A legitimate Cadsim hookup has been definitively disproven by the cast and creator of Castaway Planet, as well as professional Internet gods Brandon Page and Abel McNaughton. I freely admit I am a dingbat with zero respect for canon or for Cadmus or Sim as characters; I just want to see hot boys get it on. Read at your own risk.”
“That’s right. However, on the extreme off chance we lose? Miss Maxima, the Queen Bitch mod of the Cadsim community, will select a scene from one of their rotten little fanfics and we’ll act it out on camera—”
“—Within. Reason.” Why did I say yes to this?
“Right. Strictly first base, pervs. We’re gay but not for each other.” He scrolls through the Cadsim fic archive on his phone. “For instance, we won’t do the one where Dr. Lagarde plants a ‘sex chip’ in Sim’s brain and he and Cadmus do it in a hammock.”
“For crap’s sake.” I facepalm.
“Nor will we perform the futurefic where they’re back on Earth and get stuck in an elevator during a blackout.”
“Or any other elevator fic.”
“Or hurt/comfort fic.”
“Or alternate-universe steampunk fic.”
“So we better make damn sure we come out on top.”
“Sim likes the top.”
It just shoots out. I feel my ears redden; when I slip and say something flirty, it sounds like an elephant trying to bark.
Abel cracks up and stops the recording right there. He hits upload before I can object.
“On that note, Tin Man,” he says. “I have a little…surprise.”
He reaches in his robe and rummages. My left leg starts jittering. Last time Abel surprised me it was my birthday, and he slipped a special card under my windshield wiper: Sim’s head taped to a cutout of a gym rat in a leopard thong.
This time it’s just a small silver envelope.
“Open it,” he sings.
About the Author: So about me. I am a veteran of eight tempestuous Internet fandoms, three Catholic schools, and countless crushes on fictional characters. I live in Baltimore with my awesome and patient family and a ragtag band of tropical fish, some of which will probably be dead by the time you read this. I obsess over thrift store art, homemade dollhouses, second-tier 80s sitcoms, koi ponds, retrofuturism, Game of Thrones, Edward Gorey, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
My mom still has my first batch of homemade books. I wrote them when I was six or seven, on stapled pieces of construction paper. They were about a family of talking silverware, a gray shoe who lost her mate, and my father’s grim adventures at his office and in “Giantland” (vastly different locales, though in both places he was shouted at by the disembodied head of his boss). I’ve been trying to top the Giantland story ever since. Maybe this will be my year.
Contact me at jclillisbooks AT gmail DOT com with questions/comments/haiku.