In Memoriam: DJ Manly—author and friend

By A.J. Llewellyn

Close-up photo of author D.J. Manly
D.J. Manly. RIP.

This is a post I hoped never to have to write. On Monday, March 14, 2022, I lost my dear friend and frequent writing partner, D.J. Manly to the ravages of cancer.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months and I have not stopped crying. It hits me in waves, since grief is on a continuum.I will never get over losing her and I am still stunned that after her breast cancer metastasized to her bones and she fought a hard battle to walk again, she was given 5 to 10 years to live.

Instead, she got just a few months because that horrible disease had spread to her liver and it was too late to save her. I cannot believe I will never hear her laugh again or share her scorn over world politics. It was shocking to all of us who knew and loved her. Her loss is still…unfathomable.

We first began communicating in 2007 when I was just starting out as a romance writer in the world of MM fiction. We were both published by Extasy Books and the publishing industry was going through a huge change.

D.J. was a superstar and one of the first writers in the genre. I read her book, Borderline, and emailed her. She wrote back and we would banter about stuff going on in the romance writing world. We were both ecstatic to be part of this massive change in how people wrote and read books.

People kept warning us to pick a new profession because the publishing industry was dying. I am so grateful they were wrong. Reading devices had just started coming out. Sony eReaders, massive unwieldy things came out but neither of us could afford one. Fictionwise, which was a huge, profitable third-party seller for us, released their own e-reader called the Palm Reader. 

When D.J. asked me in 2007 if I wanted to write with her, of course I said yes. I was honored and thrilled to work with her. Our Black Point series, about a young gay Hollywood couple, Matt and Thomas, who buy a home in Black Point, Hawaii, was a huge hit for us. The first of many.

We addressed topics most gay romances never touched. What happens when a gay couple works with a surrogate to have a child, but have no idea what to do when their baby becomes deathly ill and they have no medical history for the mother. These issues are real. Not just for gay couples, but also for many blended families.

We tackled sensitive subjects I hope with humor and compassion. When D.J. died, we had 80 published books together, and we were working on several more. One of them was the seventh book in the Black Point series. Another was a werewolf book titled Gone By Dawn. In her honor, and with great encouragement from her family, I will finish them.

Cover of Gone by Dawn, showing shirtless man looking over his shoulder, a wolf by his side, in a moonlit ruin. Novel by A.J. Llewellyn and D.J. Manly, design by Lex Valentine.
Design by Lex Valentine

To that end, I have purchased a beautiful cover for Gone By Dawn by Lex Valentine, and her family approves. I am sharing it here for the first time. Lex also made our Orgasmic Texas Dawn covers.

When D.J. passed, I was getting ready to re-release one of our favorite series, Orgasmic Texas Dawn. D.J. came to me several years ago with the idea of gay US Marshals working gritty crime cases as they meet their life partners. I love those books, whose covers were also designed by Lex Valentine.

D.J. didn’t get to see the series re-released, but book 1 came out April 12. I will release all 13 books in the series over the next 12 months. The plan had been that all proceeds would go to D.J. Now they will go to her husband.

But the starting point for D.J. and me was the Black Point series. For 16 years, we called each other by our character names. We worked hard on our joint as well as solo titles. We supported each other, proud of one another’s accomplishments. D.J. was there for me when my dog and two cats died…and I was there for her when her two cats died. We both had surgeries and talked to each other often about our recovery and our fears. My outcome was better than hers but I will tell you this:

D.J. stood in the storm and when the wind didn’t blow her way, she adjusted her sails. She was so brave and resolute and determined to beat cancer. D.J. fought with such courage and such passion I am still in awe of her strength. She is my Thomas. She is my friend and my forever writing partner.I will miss her until the day we meet again.

On the other side of the rainbow.

Image of woman on a pier looking at a rainbow out at sea.

BestSelling Reads invites anyone who knew or read D.J. Manly’s work, and anyone else, to leave a message below. We will collect them and present them to her family in her memory.

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