A Wish Upon The Stars: Afterthoughts and What Comes Next

It's done.

The Destiny FUCK YEAH! arc is done.

And I am so happy it is. Jesus Christ, that was a shit ton of work. I'm not adverse to working hard, but writing three 150+K word books back to back to back, and then editing said books, then promoting said books, then releasing said books, and I just...

I'm happy it's over.

I'm proud of the stories I told here. I took some chances. I like to think they paid off, in the end. You might disagree with something I did, but hey, that's what's fun about it, right?

FULL SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. SERIOUSLY. DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE ENTIRE SERIES.

So, here's a few hows/whys/what the fucks for you about the books and the series in total:

THE FINAL BATTLE

I've said before that I planned these books down to the smallest details before writing them. You remember? Certain things that happened (Pete, sorry)(Lady Tina, not sorry at all) were always going to happen.

And when I got to the big showdown at the end, Sam was going to use his magic to bring Ryan Foxheart back to life, not by shocking his heart, but by using the same magic he used to bring back the bird that the life out of a small section of forest.

And guess what?

I wrote it that way.

In the initial climactic scene of A Wish Upon The Stars, Sam turned Ryan's lungs to stone (a sort of homage to their first meeting in the alleyway in the slums of Verania). Ryan died. Sam crawled toward him. Myrin taunted him. 

And then Sam called on the same magic that brought the bird back to life, and destroyed every single Dark wizard that stood around him.

(Aside from Myrin, of course. He survived, and then the whole chased scene that followed remained the same.)

Yes, Sam essentially destroyed an entire group of people.

I was okay with it. Because they were evil, right? They had taken over Verania!

And then my editors got a hold of it.

And said that was genocide.

I said, "What."

Editor: "It's genocide. He just destroyed all the Dark wizards."

Me: "It's not genocide. They were the bad guys!"

Editor: "Right...but he still just killed all of them. Sam of Dragons just murdered hundreds of people. Genocide."

Me: "But! That's...they took over Verania! They forced people into camps! They did bad things!"

Editor: "But who did they actually kill?"

Me: "Godsdammit."

Because, of course, my editor was right. The Darks were bad. They had done bad things. But they hadn't actually killed  people. And was it really in character for Sam of all people to turn around and kill all of them? Especially since large parts of these last three books was the idea of having a power versus actually using it, right versus wrong, that just because you could do something, does it mean you should?

So I rewrote it, bringing in Zero to save (blargh) all the Darks aside from Caleb and Ruv (because fuck those guys).

(I was annoyed. But I usually only get annoyed when my editors are right. And they were right, here.)

So, the Dark wizards got a reprieve, and I think the book is better off for it. Looking back, I can see just how jarring that turn of events would be. And then it allowed me to punch up the ending between Sam and the Star Dragon to make it better, to show the power of choice.

MYRIN AND RANDALL

There is a small, small scene between Myrin and Randall, seeing each other face to face after they've rescued the King. It's the only time in the entire series that they are together in the present time. That scene, small though it may be, I think is one of the most powerful.

MORGAN

Always going to come back. Always. I would never have actually killed him off for good. I couldn't have that. I love him too much.

That doesn't mean I didn't cackle at the ending of The Consumption of Magic, because I did. I cackled hard.

I also needed to show that Sam could stand on his own, without Morgan, which is why he didn't come back until the end. Was it a gift from the gods? Maybe. But I'm actually pretty pissed at the gods for letting this all happen in the first place, so fuck them too.

LADY TINA

I like her. You don't have to. She was never going to die. I don't feel bad about that at all.

IMMORTALITY VS MORTALITY

This, honestly, was the thing I thought about the most, if Sam would become mortal or stay as he was. Ever since it was first brought up in Lightning, I've wrestled with the idea of Sam staying young while those he loved around him grew older (with some exceptions, of course.)

Look. whether not you agree with Sam's decision, or even if you think he did it for the right reason or not (and if you think it was just for Ryan, you might have missed the point), this felt right for me. For Sam, and the story I was trying to tell. Love it, hate it, that's okay. He went into the woods and came back...unexpected. Circles back, I think.

THE DRAGONS OF VERANIA

Kevin, GW, Zero, Pat, Leslie. I just...love them. All of them. GW and Randall arguing with each other when they're reunited. Pat and Leslie mothering Kevin. Zero acting like he doesn't give a shit, when I think he cares more than all of them.

OTHER THINGS

--Terry is a unicorn accountant. lololol.

--I grossed myself out in the scene when Sam was giving Gary back his horn. That's hard to do, but I did it.

--Gary's dramatic performance in explaining how he lost his horn made me smile for days when I was writing it. He and Sam and Tiggy are ridiculous.

--I could seriously write about Justin, Ryan, and Sam in disguises in the sewers on missions for at least sixteen more books. I'll refrain from doing so, however.

PRINCE JUSTIN'S BOOK

...is going to be a long way off. I'm serious. I need a break from Verania. A long break. But...

Yes. Justin will have his own book. I see it now only as a one-off. I want to go back to the irreverent tone of the first book without all the world-ending/super bad guy stuff.

But...

I already know how the story is going to go. Yes, this is going to be about an arraigned marriage with a prince from a faraway land.  Yes, it's going to be from Justin's perspective. Yes, everyone else will be in it. And yes, it is going to explain the world outside of Verania, and why no one came to Verania's aid during the whole Myrin debacle.

You see, as it turns out, Verania is sort of a...redheaded stepchild (no offense to redheaded stepchildren). The rest of the world doesn't know what to make of it. And the group that comes from this other country is going to be...well. They're going to be the opposites of our Justin and Sam and Ryan and Tiggy and Gary. This new prince will be...a dork. His wizard will be a hardass. His knight will be just terrible. And this new prince might just have a unicorn and a giant of his own...

One day.

But for now, thank you. Thank you for letting me tell this ridiculous story that started out as a immature fairy tale and turned into something far, far bigger (though still immature). I hope you've had as much fun as I've did in Verania.

tj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

use the memory of my fangs in your skin

100 days from today

the wolves return

packpackpack

 

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I wanted to kill him.

I wanted to fuck him.

I wanted him to tear me apart.

“Gordo,” he said, ever the wolf.

“No,” I said, the perfect prey.

“You don’t even know what I’m going to say.”

I tried to step back. I didn’t move. “I’ve got a damn good idea.”

Mark turned his arm over. He gripped my wrist, thumb brushing against my pulse point. “I wasn’t your first.”

Goddamn him for knowing what I was thinking. “You weren't.”

“And you weren’t mine.”

I wanted a name. Tell me who the fuck it was. I’d find them. I’d kill them. I said, “I don’t care.”

His eyes flickered orange. “But I swear I’m going to be your last. Fight me. Hit me. Light me up. Hate me all you want—”

I bristled at that. “Get the hell out of my head,” because I could hear him whispering gordo gordo gordo along that thread that stretched between us. It bounced around my skull until all I could do was hear him saying my name again and again and again. He was consuming me, and I wanted him to. I couldn’t stand the thought.

“—but it’s going to happen. You hear me? I will hunt you down if that’s what it takes. You can run from me, Gordo. But I will always find you. I let you go once. I’m not going to make that mistake again.”

“Fuck you. I want nothing to do with you.”

He grinned, and it was all teeth. “I felt that. In your pulse. It stuttered. It shook. You lied.”

 

The Extraordinaries

From the Publisher's Weekly announcement:

LAMBDA award-winning author TJ Klune's LGBT #ownvoices teen series, THE EXTRAORDINARIES, pitched as a smartly funny, romantic tale of teen superheroes and the everyday geek boy who follows them, to Ali Fisher at Tor Teen, in a six figure deal, at auction, for publication winter 2020, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency, and to Sam Bradbury at Hodder & Stoughton, in a very good deal, for simultaneous UK publication (NA/UK)

So. Yeah. This is a thing.

A big thing.

A fucking huge thing.

And now that I've had time to settle with it, let's discuss, shall we?

Last year, I had just come off finishing writing Ravensong, a book that turned out to be one of the hardest to write (not because of content, but because it fucking took forever--more on that in the coming months). I wanted to go back to writing something funny. I had this idea that'd been percolating for a while, a story about a boy named Nick who idolizes (a bit obsessively) the superheroes (called Extraordinaries) that protect his city, to the point he writes self-insert fan fiction about them, and more specifically, the Extraordinary known as Shadow Star.

And it was going to be Young Adult (YA), something I told myself I was never going to write.

Why?

Because I had a dumb chip on my shoulder. (Remember the whole I'll never write werewolves thing? Yeah.) I like writing romance, and I thought YA romance was unrealistic. People can meet the loves of their lives as a teenager, but how often does that really happen?

But I was spending some time with my teenage nephew, who is a voracious reader. He was showing me all the books he's read, and I thought back to when I was his age, and what I would have given to have happy queer characters in books. The late 90s/early 2000s were a different time. Queers existed in fiction (and still do, honestly) as tragic figures or background characters that didn't revel in their queerness.

I decided I wanted to write a book I wished I could read at that age.

And I was wrong, of course, to think that YA (specifically romance) is unrealistic, to have that chip on my shoulder. Teenagers these days (sometimes not even by their own choice) are more self-aware than I ever was, or even might be now. They are the future, and they are taking up arms in a fight I wish they never had to face. And maybe they do meet the loves of their lives. And even if they don't, who gives a fuck? I have a character here that can fly. Queer boys loving each other at sixteen is the easiest thing in the world.

I knew, going into The Extraordinaries, that it was going to be unapologetically queer. This isn't a coming out book. These characters are out and proud and don't take shit from anyone. Their parents/guardians are supportive.

What I didn't anticipate was how much fun I would have while writing it. Nick is...well. A bit ridiculous. And very protective of his father, though their relationship is strained. And he might or might not be in love with this best friend Seth, though their friends Jazz and Gibby (two girls in a relationship of their own) think they're being stupid about it.

It's not until Nick has an...awkward encounter with an Extraordinary that he makes a decision: he is going to become an Extraordinary himself, which is the crux of the book.

(And, to my eternal glee, I incorporated parts of Nick's fanfiction throughout the book, and I purpled all over that prose, just like a sixteen year old TJ would have.)

I finished, and thought, huh.

What next?

I was at a crossroads. I wanted to do something different. Something more.

I contacted Deidre Knight, an agent. She approached me shortly after Wolfsong was released, wanting to see about representing me. At the time, I was wary, given that I'd built this career I have on my own. And, it didn't help that at the time, I was about to start writing the three Verania book sequels and the last BOATK book, so I didn't need someone representing me for sequels.

But this? This was something new.

I wrote to her, asking her if we could talk. We did. I told her my vision. I signed with the Knight Agency. I sent her the book. She read it, sent it back with notes. I made the changes and sent it back.

And then she fucking made it rain.

Oh, I got rejected. Disney said they liked it, but "we already have Marvel properties." (I absolutely could not argue with that, lol.) Another publisher said it needed to be rewritten as a "coming out" story. (No thank you.)

But then three publishers wanted it, and they went back and forth, and it happened so goddamn fast, I could barely keep up. This whole process went much quicker than it normally would have, all thanks to my agent.

The Extraordinaries went to Tor in a three hardcover deal that I hadn't even imagined in my wildest dreams.

Tor, man. Tor, Tor, Tor.

(And then, just a few days later, a deal for the UK rights with Hodder & Stoughton. WTF?!?!)

Jesus Christ.

I didn't expect this. I am humbled by it, and over the moon about it. And what really sold me on them, what I really loved to hear (aside from, you know, $$$) was their commitment to queer characters. We were on the phone with Tor (and later, with Hodder) for an hour, and I made it clear how important it was for me to not de-queer these characters, to let them be flamboyant and happy and strong and make stupid mistakes that lead to them becoming better people, all without homophobia playing  a part.

And they got it.

The Extraordinaries is still a ways off, the first book being published in the first few months of 2020, but for a good reason. The publishers want to make this a priority, to make it as successful as possible, because they understand queer stories are important.

This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me, and after publishing 20+ novels, I've got a great following that has helped me get to this moment. Thanks for that.

Caveat: this doesn't mean I'll be only writing YA from this point on. I'll still be doing my more adult books too. In fact, my agent and I are gearing up to do this whole process all over again with a book called Don't You Wish You Were Here? which is another queer romance that is unlike anything else I've written before. And I've got the wolves and Kori/Corey and a bunch of other non-YA things to look forward to.

But still. Can you imagine? A three-book, six-figure deal, man.

Holy shit.

And I'm only just getting started.

More soon!

tj

The Power of Sam of Wilds (The End)

Spoilers for the first three books in the Verania series. If you haven’t read them, and will be doing so, I suggest clicking away until after you’re done. I won’t be spoiling the final book. This is the final blog post before the release tomorrow, March 27.

 

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Once, there was a bird.

It was dead.

And Sam of Wilds brought it back to life.

For a long time, he didn’t tell anyone about it. Not just because he was scared, but because of the cost it had to the world around him. Using that level of magic to do what he did charred every living thing around him, from the grass below to the trees above.

He tried to keep it a secret as long as he could. And for a time, it looked as if it would remain a secret forever.

But then things changed, and he had no choice but to reveal it to Randall, of all people, in The Consumption of Magic. I like to think that Morgan and Randall both knew beforehand (Randall intimates as much), because the idea that they would let someone so young and more than a little…exuberant keep secrets from them, like they were doing to him. Unfair? Maybe. But I think the argument could be soundly made that Morgan and Randall had, for the most part, Sam’s best interests at heart.

One big thing I wrestled with in the upcoming final installment to Sam’s story, A Wish Upon the Stars, was whether Sam would actually use this power or not. I liked the idea that strength can reside in the things we don’t do as much as the things we actually do. But is that a cop out of sorts? I didn’t know, and while much of the final book was planned down the smallest of details, I still wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate Sam’s gift.

As a small, wise green puppet once said: Do or do not; there is no try.

I think, in a way, this conundrum makes what Sam is capable of all the more heartbreaking. Because he’s been told there was a prophecy, and in this prophecy, he sees Ryan Foxheart dead on a slab of stone, sword clutched to his chest. As Sam notes, the future is set in stone, but stone crumbles.

What if this came to pass? What would Sam do? Would he be willing to potentially take the lives of others to give back to his cornerstone? What kind of person would that make him?

There was a moment toward the end of The Consumption of Magic was faced with this very real possibility. Except it wasn’t Ryan on a slab of stone.

It was Morgan of Shadows.

And they were in the Throne Room, surrounded by the King and Justin. Kevin, Gary and Tiggy. Sam’s parents. A large crowd of the people of Verania, all mourning the loss of the King’s Wizard. Ryan lay in the healing wing, unconscious from the wound he sustained from Ruv.

And for a brief moment, didn’t Sam consider it? Didn’t he think how easy it would be to bring Morgan back to life?

He did.

And in the end, he chose not to.

But how much more can he be pushed before his hand is forced?

This is what Sam is facing when we return to Verania on March 27 in A Wish Upon the Stars. Nearly a year has passed since he disappeared into the Dark Woods, and he returns to a world changed. While his personality hasn’t necessarily changed, Sam is…different. He’s not the same person he was when he made the decision to follow the Great White. He can’t be, not with all he went through during this missing year.

But even though he’s stronger than he ever was, the question still remains.

Just because you have the power, does it mean you should actually use it?

In the end, the answer might surprise you.

Because this is the end. A Wish Upon the Stars (a title that has so many meanings) is the culmination of a story began in The Lightning-Struck Heart. I put everything I had into this book, wanting to bring the saga to an awesome conclusion. You may think you have an idea where the story is going to go, but trust me when I say that’s the beauty of illusory magic: it’s a diversion, and when the real magic hits, you won’t believe your eyes.

Sam of Wilds is about to make the biggest wish of all.

Join us, won't you?

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This is What You're Told

You're a kid.

Your family is poor. They're struggling. Your dad goes hungry just so you can eat. He's a Northern Man, so he doesn't cry, except for all the times he does. You hear them, sometimes, late at night, through the walls. How things need to get better. How they can't continue on like this.

Your mom tells your dad she doesn't regret any choices she made. "I would turn my back on them again and again if it meant I could be with you and Sam," she says. "I choose you. I will always choose you."

You believe her. You think your father does too, if only by the way he cries.

You wish upon the stars, but the gods don't seem to hear you. They don't seem to care.

You don't know that they do. Oh, they've heard you. They know who you are. And they have a plan for you.

You're doing what you can to survive. You're good. Maybe a little stupid, but still good. You see some older boys acting like jerks, stealing a bag of cloth. You take it from them. You run. You think it's the right thing to do.

They trap you in an alley. Nox says he's going to kick your ass. You believe him.

A dream is a wish your heart makes, and right then, even though you don't realize you're doing it, you make the biggest wish of all.

The boys turn to stone.

This is what you're told:

You're magic.

You're strong.

You're powerful.

You're possibly the greatest wizard in an age.

You are loved. You are unexpected. You find a unicorn. You find a half-giant, and you make them your home. There is a knight, though he belongs to another. You wish for him. It doesn't come true. You don't know that he wishes for you too.

The prince is taken by a dragon.

Your merry band follows you. You love them. They love you and would go with you to the ends of the universe to see you happy. To see you safe.

In the end, you gain a...Kevin. You gain a Prince. You gain a love and a cornerstone, Nox though he once was. You're happy. You've got your happy ending.

You don't know what's coming. You don't see the chess pieces shifting across the board in a game played by gods.

Until you do.

This is what you're told, and it begins once upon a time:

There are secrets.

There is a destiny.

There is a prophecy, and you are already caught in its web.

There was a wizard. His name was Myrin. And he was loved, and loved in return. You are told that he was a cornerstone. You are told that he was a brother.

You are told he turned to darkness, and it consumed him.

You are told this, but it's already too late. You don't have a choice.

You're angry. At almost everyone, even if they don't deserve it. But Morgan and Randall do. They deserve all of it. This is what you believe. This is your truth.

You follow your grandmother to the desert, along with the man she claims is your true cornerstone. You don't believe her. You don't believe any of them.

You make a wish in the shifting sands. You don't want your magic to extend your life. You don't think the gods hear you.

You meet a snake dragon monster thing. He attacks you. He tries to hurt you. But that's not who he is. He's scary. And beautiful. And shy. And you can see just how big his heart is, hidden behind bone and fang.

Darkness comes across the water. You show just how lightning-struck your heart truly is to a man who would take everything from you. It leaves you scarred. You don't care. You have to finish this.

You go to the city of debauchery and sin. You face Morgan and Randall. You love them. You hate them. You can't understand why they did what they did. How they could have let it come to this.

You go north. You see the castle of ice. Randall whispers to you the secrets of his past. You tell him you don't care. You do, though. You can lie to him but you can't lie to yourself.

This is what you're told:

That he loved Myrin. He hadn't expected to, but he did. And it nearly killed him. There were days after--days that stretched for weeks and months and years--that he wished it had. Because there is no pain like the pain of a broken heart.

You go into the mountains. You find the snow dragons. They're...lesbians. You didn't expect that. It's awesome.

You're reunited with your loves. You break their hearts by telling them the secrets you've kept, secrets that make you no better than Randall or Morgan. They're angry.

But they're still with you. Always. Until the end.

You go to the woods to find the oldest creature in existence.

He makes you an offer, one that could change the course of history.

And you tell him no.

You're cocky. You've been told, after all, that you're the greatest wizard in an age. That you're strong. That you're powerful.

But even you can't stop the inevitable.

You're betrayed.

You watch when your beloved is pinned by a sword through his chest against the wall. You scream for him. You beg for him to open his eyes. You tell him you love him, and gods, how you wish upon those fucking stars, upon those gods with their deaf ears to make this right, to stop it from hurting.

You think they don't hear you.

They do. They ignore you.

And then your lightning-struck heart is shattered when Morgan is taken from you. Right before your eyes.

He is consumed.

You understand darkness then. You didn't before, but you do now.

You understand it very well.

This is what you're told:

You're magic.

You're strong.

You're powerful.

You're possibly the greatest wizard in an age.

And in order to save the world, you must leave it all behind.

So you go and venture deep into the woods, and just when you believe you can't take another step, this is what you see:

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And here, in these Dark Woods, you do the only thing you can.

You accept your destiny.

Sometime, and sometime soon, you'll return.

But you must remember: the prophecy will be fulfilled, no matter what the cost.

Here, now, is your ending. You must stand, and be true.

For all the world is counting on you.

This, in the end, is what you're told.

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( © TJ Klune 2018. Dragon art by Timber. Book graphic by Abi Roux)

A Wish Upon The Stars, the final story in the Destiny FUCK YEAH! arc, will be available March 27th.

Pre-Orders:

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Burn and Wolfsong and Sam of Wilds

Couple of things before we begin:

This is part II in my series of blogs before the release of A Wish Upon the Stars on March 27. Part I, in which I discuss the loneliness of Randall, is here: http://www.tjklunebooks.com/new-blog/2018/3/5/wish-randall-sam-and-the-unfairness-of-destiny

Also, if you haven't pre-ordered the book, it's now available everywhere! Here are the pre-order links:

Dreamspinner: https://goo.gl/Tia7Mo

Amazon: https://goo.gl/rwi7AL

Barnes&Noble: https://goo.gl/zqR18V

Kobo: https://goo.gl/SF9cNE

Now, onto the post. Spoilers obviously, so if you haven't read the first three Lightning books and plan to do so, come back later. I won't be spoiling Wish.

At the end of The Consumption of Magic, Sam has a decision to make. Either he can continue on as he has been, or he can make the impossible choice of following the Great White dragon into the Dark Woods to apprentice with him for up to a year. Doing this, of course, would mean leaving his friends and family behind.

And while this would be a difficult choice for anyone on a good day, Sam certainly isn't having a good day. His mentor--one of the people he loves most, Morgan--is gone, having sacrificed himself in order to save Sam from Myrin. Randall too is gone, having whisked Myrin away, and no one knows where they are. Ryan--Sam's cornerstone and great love--is critically injured and unconscious. The merry band of adventurers--their little cabal--is fractured.

Sound familiar?

To readers of my novel Burn, it probably will. In that book, the ending is similar. Seven is injured. Their group is suffering betrayal and loss. Felix, hearing the voice of the Tree in his head, makes a choice at a crucial moment in order to save the ones he loves, and goes to the Field. And we all know what happens next, right?

Nothing. Nothing happens next. Because I never wrote what happened next. And that sucked. People were (and rightfully still are) pissed about that. I was too. Heartbroken, even. That story--while often too long--meant a lot to me. It was filled with Big Ideas that weren't as clear as I'd have liked them to be, given my inexperience as a writer. And that ending, man. I don't know. 

I've been asked often what would have happened next. What would have happened to Felix and Seven, Tick and Tock and all the rest? I have some idea. Hell, I have my notes and 40K words written that will never see the light of day. I always fought against answering in case some miracle occurred, but it never really did. That story was effectively dead.

But some of the ideas I had were good.

And so I stole them. From myself. To give to...myself.

A Wish Upon the Stars is the sequel Burn never got. Oh, the types of books they are couldn't be more different if they tried. The Verania series will always be comedic; Burn, while having bits of humor, was not. But they are built from the same bones. I'm not the same exact storyteller I once was (that's a good thing). My handle on the Big Ideas has gotten better. I am older now, and a little wiser (just a little).

So I cannibalized parts of what would have come next in Burn and used them for Wish. Oh, there's not going to be an evil twin (well...sort of. Gary's twin Terry is a bit of a dick), and no return of some parent long thought dead bent on taking over the world. But Felix and Sam will return to a world they left behind, a world changed. And Sam, much like Felix would have been, is changed too. What he's been through with the Dragons of Verania in the Dark Woods will play a big part of the man he is now. He's still recognizably Sam, he's just...more. Big big. What I had in store for Felix will play in in bits and pieces for Sam, specifically a part toward the end where Sam...well. You'll just have to wait and see.

Which then brings me to the Long and Evil separation. In Wolfsong, there is that now infamous section of the book that you either love or hate: THREE YEARS, ONE MONTH, TWENTY-SIX DAYS. It is hard and angsty and the resolution--when Joe and the others return to face Ox and the pack they left behind--hurts. I couldn't let these characters sweep that decision to leave under the rug. There was no easy forgiveness. They fought it out, and it was bitter and angry before it got better.

I didn't want to retread old ground in Wish. These characters aren't the wolves. And when Sam does come back, it's going to be into the most desperate of times. The resistance that has formed after Myrin took control of Verania is fighting for their lives. So while Sam will get shit for his vanishing act from the people he loves, it's not going to be drawn out over pages and pages through multiple chapters. He'll still get what's coming to him, though, and rightfully so.

Which brings me to the final thing I want to discuss: time. Each of the first three books in the series covers months. Pining here, prince stolen there, adventures that have to be adventured.

A Wish Upon The Stars covers the shortest amount of time in any of the books. In fact, if I recall correctly, a majority of the novel spans a period of a couple of weeks at most. This was intentional. I knew that by the time Sam returned, things would have to move fast. However, I did give myself time to breathe during the first third of the novel, wanting to reestablish the setting and people and their places in the world. But after that, it moves much quicker. Don't be surprised when you move to the next chapter only to realize it's the same day as the previous chapter. This was purposeful. This is the endgame, after all.

I'm so excited for all of you to read this book. It's the culmination of a lot of work, and I think you're going to be pleased with how things turn out. I've got a few more magic tricks up my sleeve, and I guarantee you won't see them coming.

Next week, in blog III of IV, I will discuss an important topic: the memory of Morgan of Shadows, and what that means for Sam.

talk soon,

tj

The Tragic Loneliness of Randall of Dragons

As always, if you haven't read the The Tales from Verania series (Lightning, Destiny, and Consumption) and you don't want spoilers, click away. I will be discussing the story so far in detail.

In A Destiny of Dragons, we learn of a history that had been only vaguely hinted about in The Lightning-Struck Heart. Randall was an old curmudgeon who lived in a frozen castle. He was a good foil for Sam who spent much of TLSH coming into his own and finding out just what he was capable of.

I knew going into these sequels that I needed to delve into why Randall was the way he was, and what had happened to him and Morgan. I had a faint idea in my head of where I wanted it to go, but it wasn't until I sat down and started planning the sequels that I realized just how tragic their backstory--particularly Randall's--truly was.

I have been asked on more than one occasion if I would ever consider going back and writing prequels to these books, to go to the days when Randall was young and idealistic and under the tutelage of the Great White. I'll admit the idea is tempting; Randall, no matter his age, would be a force to be reckoned with.

The problem with that is knowing how it ends, and how much that hurts my heart. Because no matter what way I spin it, Randall will always be betrayed by the one he loves most--his cornerstone, Myrin--and will be forced to take action against him. Any prequel will end in tragedy because Randall's story is tragic. He was adverse to the idea of cornerstones to begin with (GW played a role there, but didn't force him to think that way), but he was transformed by the power of love, a love that would end up becoming something dark and twisted and would ultimately lead to Randall going Dark in Castle Freesias after banishing Myrin to the realm of shadows. The idea that Randall still resides in Castle Freesias is (at least to me) awful but I think he sees it as a penance of sorts.

Something I did not expect to find when writing these three sequels is that Randall is lonely. He acted like a dick in TLSH, but we could see that he really did care. But we didn't know just how much until he allowed himself to show it. He, much like Morgan, knows the weight of the choices he made now firmly rests on the shoulders of Sam of Wilds, and that's unfair. I'm not someone who believes in fate or destiny. I believe we make our own choices, and the repercussions from those choices reverberates around us. In A Wish Upon the Stars (and the previous books), I tried to instill that the choices of the past are now affecting the actions of the present (and that it's all falling on Sam), while also skirting the line of potential cosmic influences.

I don't ever think Randall wanted that for Sam. Ever. Not on anyone, but especially not on Sam (and yes, even though Sam turned his nose into a dick). If he could, I believe he would take Sam's place in all this just to save him from all the heartache and pain. But even if I don't believe in destiny, some paths are set in stone, even if stone can crumble. Randall and Morgan made their choice, one born out of love and fear and anguish. Whether or not the Gods made it so is another story entirely. Regardless of what happens next, I think we can all agree the Gods are assholes.

I think about Randall's loneliness a lot. What life must have been like for him after Myrin, staying in that frozen castle. What he must have thought after Morgan found Sam in that alleyway in the slums. Randall may talk a lot of shit, and he may think Sam and Tiggy and Gary and Kevin and Ryan are ridiculous (which, to be fair, they are), but I know he loves them. I know he loves Sam, perhaps more than anyone else still left.

We get more of the history for Randall and Morgan and Myrin in A Wish Upon the Stars. A lot more. And while I was saddened to see what they all went through, it was made better by knowing that Sam loves Randall just as much. They may annoy each other, and Sam may get on Randall's last nerve, but I believe there is nothing they wouldn't do for each other.

Especially after Morgan.

Whether or not it's fair that Sam has to save Verania from Myrin is something I wrestled with. But I think if it has to fall on someone, I'm glad it's him. And Randall knows that. Which isn't to say Randall won't meet Myrin face-to-face in this last book. He will. It's brief, this moment (intentionally so), but it makes sense because of who he is protecting at the time.

Next Monday, I'll post a blog discussing how the separation of Sam and Ryan in between The Consumption of Magic and A Wish Upon the Stars compares to that of  Joe and Ox from Wolfsong (and why I made sure not to retread the same ground again), and how  I cannibalized what I had planned for the defunct sequel to Burn and incorporated it into Consumption and Wish.

Pre-order for A Wish Upon the Stars (out March 27): https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/a-wish-upon-the-stars-by-tj-klune-9476-b

"This isn't the end, Sam."

"This isn't the end, Sam."

"Then why does it feel like it is?"

On November 20th, I dropped a bomb on Verania in the form of The Consumption of Magic which was also the last blog post I wrote here on my website. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. I wanted to give the story time to breathe, for people to make up their own minds about what happened, and what is still yet to come. I knew far, far in advance that this book was going to be risky but ultimately, I write in the service of the story I want to tell, which might not always be what the readers expect. Many times these expectations coincide, so that's a good thing. Sometimes they don't, but I don't feel regret about it at all.

Spoilers follow, obviously. Legit, if you don't want the Lightning books ruined plot wise, click away now.

The Consumption of Magic was, for the most part, always going to end the way it did. I say for the most part, because in my initial planning, I had the bold (and seriously terrible) idea of Sam of Wilds sacrificing himself at the end of Consumption, only to have the fourth book be told from the point of view of Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart (with Sam returning at some point, of course). I thought about it for a week or so, but decided against it. With regards to the narrative, it would have been interesting to see the story of the fall of Verania from a different perspective, but I thought something would have been lost in translation. I knew what Sam was going to go through between books III and IV, and I didn't think I could properly convey that if told from Ryan's perspective. So I shelved that idea, and went back with my original plan, and then I started writing the books.

Yes, Ruv was always going to be a villain. This wasn't some last minute change I did just for shock value. I knew from the very moment I started writing A Destiny of Dragons that he was going to be a bad dude. I can't begin to tell you the absolute glee I felt when I seemed to get away with it, hearing from so many people (much more than I expected) that Ruv would need a story too. Tj, he just HAS to have a happy ending! HE HAS TO!!!! Maybe with Justin???

And I always responded yeah, sure, maybe, we'll see! while cackling evilly. Ruv was never going to get his own story because Ruv is a dick and did an awful, awful thing.

Which brings me, of course, to Morgan of Shadows.

It hurt. I'll admit it. I love Morgan quite a bit. But given that I'm playing around with fantasy tropes, I did want to explore the idea of the Hero needing to learn sacrifice. This was hinted (rather blatantly) in Destiny: the Star Dragon told Sam very clearly that he would learn what true sacrifice was. I was honestly surprised more people didn't figure out he was going to be the one to die; there's a big history with wizened wizards meeting their end: Gandalf (though he did return) and Dumbledore, just to name a couple. I did worry for a bit, if it was going to come off as too tropey and rather cliche, but I needed to strike at the heart of Sam of Wilds. And while Ryan or Tiggy or Gary or Kevin would have hurt, I think Morgan was the most precious of all. Because Sam did have it relatively easy, for the most part. He has coasted, I think, maybe a little too easily.

But in giving a shocker of an ending, I also knew I ran the risk of having that be all people focused on. Everyone talks about the twists, and not necessarily what came before. Film, TV, books, it happens all the time. And I get that. But I don't want the book to be remembered just because of the ending, love it or hate it. Big things happened.

Leslie and Pat were such a joy to write. I knew going in that I needed each of the dragons to have a distinct personality, that they wouldn't be lumped in as all being the same. The fact that they were lesbians and mated? That came because a reader asked me when I announced I was working on sequels to The Lightning Struck Heart why I didn't include queer women in Verania. While it might not have been exactly what this reader was looking for, it did open my eyes. I come from a queer male perspective, and that's mostly what I write. But I do believe I need to be as inclusive as possible, so Pat and Leslie were born. Not because of a reader demand, but because the reader was right. Of course there are queer women in Verania. It just so happened I chose to make two of them dragons this time around.

(In addition, I have a queer female character in the upcoming Normal Person sequel, in my upcoming YA The Extraordinaries (two, in fact, in a relationship), and potentially in Ravensong. I hear ya, okay?)

And then there was my favorite scene out of everything I've written in these books. I alluded to it last year, but I can talk about it now: Sam jumping off Kevin's back to land on the Great White. I had that scene fully visualized near the beginning of writing Destiny, which meant I had a shit ton to do to get to it. I don't write scenes out of order, so it was a bit of a reward for me to get to that point. And it's short, but I adore it. I found it thrilling. I hope you did too.

As I've written in many different forms before, this book was about friendship and family, of love and sacrifice, both the physical and the mental. The stakes are big, far bigger than they started out to be when a band of merry misfits had to save the prince who'd been kidnapped by a dragon. This cast of characters (the good guys, at least) will do anything for each other, not because of duty or a sworn oath, but because they love each other.

That being said, this book will, I think (and mostly accept) be remembered for the ending. And not just for the Ruv/Morgan/Lady TIna/Caleb (truth corn leaders son!! AHAHA) debacle. Sam had to make a choice. Whether or not it was right one remains to be seen (or even if he made it for the right reasons). He chose to leave with the dragons as the Great White said was necessary. He will return to a world much different than the one he left. Dreamspinner wanted to put an excerpt for the last book, A Wish Upon the Stars. I said no, and told them to just use the blurb instead. I preferred it that way, as I'm an asshole. (And hell, that blurb is almost as shocking as the ending, no?)

There are a lot of threads that have been left dangling. I tie up most of them (thank god for editors who point out when I didn't) as this is the last book for Sam of Wilds (if that's even still his wizarding name. hmmm....). Gary will get his horn from an unlikely source. Randall and Myrin will come face to face. Tiggy will smash things. Kevin meets Gary's twin, Terry (make of that what you will).  And Sam will have to deal with the consequences of the decisions he made, and all those he left behind.

(Hint: Ryan and Justin are pissed.)

You aren't going to like every story choice I made with A Wish Upon the Stars. Knowing it was the last book, I took some chances I might not have otherwise. Yes, there is a happy ending (it's a fairy tale, after all), but it's the road to that ending which is a little...skewed. As I said before, I write in service to the story,  and in this story, I went in some directions people might not expect. But I think it works well, and the payoff?

Man, it's going to be nuts.

A Destiny of Dragons was my spin on The Lord of the Rings.

A Consumption of Magic was my spin on Star Wars.

A Wish Upon the Stars?

Can't quite reveal that yet. But Sam will return from the Dark Woods, and villains will hopefully be defeated.

(There might even be the return of a certain bard to sing another song, a spiritual successor to Cheesy Dicks and Candlesticks.)

I will say this, though: the title, A Wish Upon the Stars, has multiple meanings. Over the course of the series, Sam has wished for many things. In this, the final book, he'll wish for the most important thing of all. Because, of course, a certain prophecy still needs to be fulfilled.

A Wish Upon the Stars will be released in March. The specific date, cover, and pre-order will come soon.

I can't wait!

tj

2017 In Review: What Happened, and What Comes Next

So, before we begin, a little caveat: make sure you read what I'm actually writing in this blog post, and don't try to read between the lines. I'm going to be discussing some changes for my future, and I don't want any assumptions to be made. I'll try to make things explicitly clear, but I know sometimes, people try and figure out all the things I'm not saying.

Cool?

In 2016, I published five full length novels: The Queen & the Homo Jock King, Withered + Sere, Wolfsong, Crisped + Sere, and Murmuration.

In 2017, I published two novellas and three novels: Until You, Olive Juice, A Destiny of Dragons, The Long and Winding Road, and The Consumption of Magic.

Good lord am I tired.

I work hard. I write and edit and promote and post on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Goodreads and here on my website. Like with any job, it's exhausting. I love being a full-time writer. Holy hell, do I love it. Here I am, almost to the end of my second full year writing full-time, and it's only getting better. Gone, I think, is the sort of manic energy I had in 2016, where I was at once excited and terrified that I'd made the biggest mistake of my life. I've sold more books this year than any other before it. Thank you for that. You are helping me do this, and I won't ever forget it.

But Christ, is it a lot sometimes.

Which is why I'm okay with cutting back slightly.

For most of 2016 and large parts of 2017, I was writing 7500-10,000 words a day, four-five days a week. Then I would spend the other days editing what I'd written. I was go go go, sure that I needed more and more in order to stay relevant. After all, with the glut of new authors every day now, if I didn't have something out every few months, how soon would it before it was Tj Klune? Who dat?

It's irrational, but anxiety usually is. I can't do anything about that. It's just how my brain is wired. And while I can't stop it, I can learn how to control it better. I can allow myself to breathe.

Which means I am letting myself take my time. I don't do the 7500 words a day now. My goal is 5000, and if I hit it (which I usually do), great! If I don't (which happens), then it's not the end of the world. Daily word count is a double edged sword for an author. Frankly, it's maddening how much we care about it. It's maddening how much I still care about it.

But I am going through some changes myself. (Not puberty. I already did that.) I began 2017 with the idea of doing something different. Of working toward something more. Not because I wasn't happy with what I already had, but because I wanted to try new things. Those who read my work know that I don't write in a specific sub-genre. I bounce around all over the place. A lot of this is to stave off boredom and getting stuck in a rut, but it's also because I want to challenge myself to write different things or in different styles.

I'm always looking for ways to expand upon my craft. (Another thing an author loves to talk about--technique. Don't worry; this isn't that.) I want to find new ways to tell a story, or to try new genres.

Which is why I'm going to be publishing less with Dreamspinner.

(Remember what I said at the beginning? No assumptions, please.)

Oh, I'm still going to be writing MM romance. That's not going to change. We need queer characters falling in love now more than ever, and I love adding my own spin to this genre filled with great authors. But I'm experiencing some growing pains, and I need to find a place where I fit a bit better. DSP is amazing. The people are awesome. They have given me much. That is not up for debate.

But I want to try something different.

I have three books out next year. Two of those books--A Wish Upon the Stars and Ravensong will be published with DSP. The third book, The Bones Beneath My Skin, will not be. I have a graphic novel under construction that will be published elsewhere too, possibly in 2018, maybe 2019.

As some of you know, the biggest change for me in 2017 was that I recently signed with a literary agency after completing my first Young Adult MM book. This will be published elsewhere too. I am not giving up writing books for adults. This is just me trying something different. I'm excited about the possibilities that it could open up for me.

Things are changing, yes, but I think (hope) they're good changes. I'm tired, but it's a good tired. I have a notebook absolutely filled with ideas of what I want to work on (a western, a space opera, a spin on Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics in a retelling of Pinocchio, Corey/Kori, and many, many more). I'm not worried about running out of ideas. I'm just thinking of my future, and what I want it to be.

And I'm inviting you all along for the ride.

2017 has been my biggest year yet.

I can't wait to show you what I have in store for 2018 and beyond.

It's gonna be awesome.

Talk soon,

tj

 

 

 

Consumption: The Last Discussion

First things first, The Consumption of Magic is out Monday the 20th, so it's almost time. Here is where you can buy it on pre-order:

Dreamspinner: https://goo.gl/MfRGML

Amazon: https://goo.gl/odGjNW

B&N: https://goo.gl/pWZdd3

Kobo: https://goo.gl/3FTm81

Also, I know the audiobooks aren't up yet, but I don't have control over how long it takes to upload to Audible. As soon as I know, you'll know.

Okie doke.

The rest of this post is going to be some bits and pieces to help wrap up the Consumption arc of blogs, and it's going to be the last time I talk about the book for now. Starting on October 5th, I've written five fairly lengthy posts on what to expect, what went into the book, and what's to come. Typically, I do a post-release discussion of a book, but I'm not going to do that here. I'm just going to let it...be, for a little while. I'll come back in February into the lead up to the last book, A Wish Upon the Stars, which is scheduled for March, but nothing else until then. I want to give you all a chance to speculate on your own, to come up with your own ideas about what's will happen next. I think, sometimes, knowing the hows and the whys, at least right away, can take away from a bit of the magic.

You've probably noticed how I haven't released any excerpts. Dreamspinner has one up on their website, and it's up to you if you want to read it. I would suggest not, but I won't stop you. I haven't released excerpts because you know these characters by this point. You know how the think and talk and act. I don't need to introduce you to them. At this point, I think any excerpt could just lead to spoilers, so I decided to just avoid it all together.

This is going to be a big book, and not just in terms of length. Many things happen in this story. You will laugh and cry and jump for joy and probably want to throw the book across the room a time or two. Everything that happens in Consumption happens for a reason, and is part of a bigger plan. I don't know that I've ever had such a detailed outline on a book and/or series before. It was a little overwhelming, when I first started these three books, and I don't now why I ever thought I could have written it in just two. But I needed to make sure that I got it right. As you know, these are different books than Lightning was. The last book, out next year, is also different than Consumption and Destiny. You'll find out why soon enough.

And it bears repeating: this book ends on a cliffhanger. A Wish Upon the Stars is already written, and only has one more round of edits before it's complete for March, so you won't have long to wait. The blurb for that last book is at the end of Consumption. Don't flip to it first. It is spoilery. You will feel like punching yourself in the face if you ruin Consumption for yourself. This ending wasn't because I ran out of story and decided to just end it where I did. No, it's far more nefarious than that. It ends where it does because I'm a dick, and the blurb is at the end because it's strategic. It tells you what to expect, and you're going to go nuts.

(And no, I won't be laughing at you. Why, that would just be mean. What kind of person do you think I am?)

(heh.)

I've used the villains of this series sparingly so far. I'm always of the mind that the less you see of the bad guys, the more effective they become. If you look back at A Destiny of Dragons, Myrin barely has any lines in the book, most of which come at the end. He's in Consumption even less. But every scene he's in is important. It means something when he shows up. He's dastardly, he's evil, but I also hope you see him as a tragic figure. I truly believe, deep down, he's not completely bad. But I think he's too far gone to ever come back. You'll learn things in Consumption about him, and about his relationship with Morgan and Randall. I honestly felt sad about their backstory. Randall has always been this enigmatic, gruff figure, Morgan the serene, gentle mentor. But they have had a hard life, losing the one person that meant the most to both of them. But they are strong, far stronger than even Sam knows. He'll find out soon enough.

I'm excited for this book. It has some of the biggest action scenes of the series, some of the funniest moments. We'll get to go to places that in the past have only been discussed (Castle Freeze Your Ass Off comes to mind) and see the return of some characters we were introduced to in Lightning, but sat out Destiny.

The Consumption of Magic also has some of my biggest ideas: on the power of friends and family and the choices we make to keep them safe. It all comes down to just how far Sam will go in order to do what he must.

Because the prophecy, no matter how much he fights it, must be fulfilled.

On Monday, November 20, I will invite you back to Verania to see what tricks I've got up my sleeves.

And I promise you this: you are in for a wild ride.

I hope you're as excited as I am!

talk soon,

tj

 

 

The Bird and Sam of Wilds

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First things first:

In case you missed my announcement earlier this week, the audiobook for A Destiny of Dragons narrated by Michael Lesley and the audiobook for The Long and Winding Road narrated by Sean Crisden are both finished and being uploaded to Audible. They should be available shortly.

Second, The Consumption of Magic is now available for pre-order everywhere.

Pre-Order Links:

Dreamspinner: https://goo.gl/MfRGML

Amazon: https://goo.gl/odGjNW

B&N: https://goo.gl/pWZdd3

Kobo: https://goo.gl/3FTm81

 

Cool? Cool.

Spoilers for The Lightning Struck Heart and A Destiny of Dragons. If you haven't read either, I would move on until you have. I will not be spoiling anything for The Consumption of Magic.

In The Lightning-Struck Heart, Sam makes an oblique reference to having once brought a bird back to life. In A Destiny of Dragons, the story opens with that exact scene. We see Sam as a morose teenager, convinced that Ryan Foxheart (the dreamiest dream who has ever been dreamed) is in love with the evil Prince Justin. He comes across a dead bird in the Dark Woods, and somehow, is able to bring it back to life.

There is a cost, however. The life is burned out from the earth around him.

And he never told anyone about it.

With The Consumption of Magic, I wanted to delve deeper into that moment, and what it means for Sam of Wilds. He's been told time and time again that he's the most powerful wizard in an age. What does it mean to have that kind of power? And even if one were capable of doing something so remarkable, what gives one the right to even use it?

I know this sounds dire. Much ado has been made so far about what happens in this book, either by my own hand leaving cryptic clues, or by the people who've already read it. There are some big events that occur in Consumption, yes; I'm not going lie about that. However, I don't want people to read this just to get to those events. This book--roughly the same length as Destiny--is still about Sam and his somewhat purposefully cliched Hero's Journey. There are moments that you won't see coming, but these characters are still going to be the ones you read about in Lightning and Destiny.

And while Destiny had the idea of a prophecy hanging over Sam and Company, in Consumption, Sam is more settled in his role in the scheme of things.

Well. Mostly settled. He wouldn't Sam of Wilds if he didn't bitch about something.

But since he's starting to accept his role in his destiny, he is becoming more take-charge. Oh, yes, the secrets he's kept will come to light, and he will have to answer for his hypocrisy. But the point of this is that I needed him to learn from his mistakes. I think Consumption is where clear growth is seen in Sam, and the man/wizard he'll eventually become.

But there is still the question of that bird, and what role Sam's magic will play--if any at all--in the visions Vadoma showed him. I consciously made the decision for Consumption to put the idea of the prophecy almost at the periphery. Yes, we know what Vadoma showed Sam, and yes we know the warning the Star Dragon gave of what is to come. Yes, we know why Sam is collecting all the dragons, and yes there is the Big Bad lurking out there somewhere, but at it's core, Consumption is about Sam and Ryan and TIggy and Gary and Justin. It's about Morgan and Randall. I liked the idea of these two groups of people being generations apart from each other, but seeing all the little connections they have despite the years between them.

Again, as I reiterated with Destiny, Consumption is still first and foremost a comedy. I will even go out on a limb and say that Consumption, for the most part, feels lighter than Destiny did. And while we may not have Ruv and Vadoma and Zero Ravyn Moonfire as we did in Destiny, there will be a few new characters I think will stack up just as well.

The two Northern Dragons were such a joy to write. I can't say why obviously, but I think you'll be able to tell that I had a blast with them.

And we will come face to face with the oldest creature in all the world in the flesh for the first time. The Great White. And he's probably not going to be as you expect.

(Also, Mama returns, as does Dimitri, so.)

But make no mistake: Sam did bring that bird back to life. He has that power within him. And I will use a phrase you probably have never heard before in your entire lives: with great power comes great responsibility. The big question behind Consumption that I wanted to answer (aside from what exactly the title means), is what Sam of Wilds would do if there ever came a moment when he had to make a choice whether or not to use the magic he carries inside.

I think the answer is going to surprise you.

In eleven days, I'll invite you back to Verania, and you'll learn that answer for yourself.

On Monday, November 13th, I will post an interview I did with Gay Book Reviews where I face a barrage of questions from people who have already read the Consumption. I was very careful with what questions I approved and answered as to avoid spoilers.

And I will post one more blog next week ahead of the release discussing heroes and villains.

The Consumption of Magic will be released Monday, November 20th.

talk soon,

tj

 

 

 

Sex in Verania: The Ins and Outs (Ha!)

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So, before we begin, a warning: I am going to be frank here in my opinions. Apparently some people don't like that. If you are one of those people who don't like authors having opinions, please click the back button, and I'll see you for next week's blog post. No hard feelings.

For those still reading, welcome. I appreciate it. However, it's not necessary to do the whole they don't know what they're talking about! comment thing. You'll know what I mean in a moment.

Cool?

Cool.

I've sat on this topic for a long time, unsure if I was actually going to write about it or not. I didn't it to come across that I was bitching about something, because I'm really not. This is meant to be some insight in the behind-the-scenes aspect as to why certain things happen. But now we are a few weeks out from Consumption, and I decided to just lay it all out.

Here we go.

I love receiving messages from readers. Those that take the time out of their day to write to me thoughts on books or whatevs means a  lot to me.

However.

For some reason, I've somehow managed to give off the vibe that some people can write to me to complain about my books. I don't know why that is, but I usually say  fuck it and don't respond. What's the point? It usually only happens once every couple of weeks, and it's easy to ignore it. There are those first world problems again that I seem to have.

But something recently stuck out to me.

On the same day last year, shortly after the release of Wolfsong, I received two separate messages, one through email, the other through FB messenger.

The email asked me why I had to put "porn" in a fantasy book like The Lightning-Struck Heart. "Porn isn't necessary in books," they wrote.

A couple of hours later, I received a FB message asking me why I didn't write more sex scenes in books, that the reader was "okay" with my stories, but wished they had more "steam."

Normally, I'm able to do what I mentioned previously: say fuck it, delete the messages, and move on with my day.

But for some reason, this bothered me. I've been around long enough to have thick skin, but I was having an off day, and it rubbed me the wrong way. Here were two different people with completely contradictory points about my writing.

I didn't respond to either, because I don't know that I could have remained cordial. I even felt bad that I was annoyed, but it didn't make my irritation stop.

I was in the middle of writing The Consumption of Magic. And I was still deciding if a sex scene was even necessary and if so, where I would put it. A lot of stuff happens in Consumption. Big, big stuff. Would any sex scene need to be more towards the beginning? Or maybe closer to the end? Would it even add anything to the story? I hadn't decided.

But after getting those two messages almost back to back, I made a decision.

I was going to write a vindictive sex scene for Sam and Ryan.

I was going to make it fully involved, intricate, and the most explicit thing I'd ever done.

And then I was never going to do anything like it again.

Spiteful? Yeah. Immature? Probably. But those messages just hit me on the wrong day at the wrong time. I've never been known for my sex scenes. To me, sex is almost the least important part of my books. And no, it has nothing to do with me being asexual.

There are some very good sex-scene writers out there, done in books that are not considered erotica. There are some tremendous erotica writers out there who can do marvelous things with dicks in butts. It's just never been my thing.

I was reading an article by a film critic earlier this year who said that he thought sex scenes in films were, for the most part, unnecessary. In summation, he asked what was the point of a sex scene in a movie that actions and dialogue couldn't show you? Why did people need to see simulated sex in a film?

I have nothing against sex. I have nothing against erotica. I have nothing against pornography. I'm good with people who like sex in their books/films/lives/whatever. I'm just peachy with people who don't.

But it has never been my thing. I've talked about this before, but sex scenes in my books aren't ever going to be the focus. At most, there will probably be a single sex scene in a story of mine, if even that. I wish I'd never written a sex scene in Into This River I Drown, but I thought I had to in order for it to be published or considered a romance (and no, the publisher never said anything like that to me--just my own baseless assumption) or for people to even read it. It's probably the one thing I'd want to change out of any of my books.

Back to Consumption.

I figured out where the sex scene would go. And I went to town. Just because I don't write multiple and/or explicit sex scenes in my books doesn't mean I don't know how. I do. I know how sex works. I've had it before.

I wrote the longest, filthiest sex scene I'd ever written in my life. By the time I was done, I felt better. I was, of course, going to immediately delete it and write something much tamer, but still. It felt good.

And then I thought those two words I think sometimes that usually ends up with me getting into trouble or writing a book about werewolves, even though I told myself I never would.

Two words:

What if?

What if I kept it in? What if I left it exactly as it was? What if, what if, what if.

In the end, I kept it.

Look, folks. I love you. Thank you for buying my books. Thank you for helping me to continue to do this thing I love so much. I am literally doing my dream job, which is something many people don't get to say. I am humbled by the position I'm in, and I am grateful for it.

That being said, I do not write to order. I don't write what people tell me to. I never have, and I'm not going to start now. The only reason this sex scene exists was because of I was having a bad day. (Apparently, when I'm annoyed and need to write an explicit sex scene, my mind goes to double penetration, and so that's what I did--I don't even know.)

You wish my books had more sex?

That's okay!

You wish my books had no sex?

Hey, dude, you do you, and that's good too.

I just wish the focus wasn't always about how much sex a book has (or doesn't have) in it. I know I write in the romance genre, but why does sex have to equal romance? Why does any sex at all automatically have to equal "porn"? I am aware I won't ever please everybody (that would be a weird day), or that I won't ever win with certain people. Even now, I am sure some are reading this and wondering where I get off (ha!) sounding so high and mighty, though that isn't anywhere near my intention. I am just trying to explain why this specific scene exists at all.

The sex scene is almost (I think) seven thousands words long for those who want it.

For those that don't, it's in Chapter 7 which is titled Don't Read This at Work or Church (Because of Butt Sex).  Yes, I love writing chapter titles for this series almost as much as the stories themselves.

For those that don't give a shit one way or another, hey. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. (ha!)

Next week, I'll talk about Sam and that little bird in the forest that he brought back to life. Just because you can do something, does it mean you should? Sometimes, true power is not doing the thing you want most. See you then.

Pre-Order (only at DSP for now):

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/the-consumption-of-magic-by-tj-klune-9026-b

Thanks,

tj

PS: No, I still don't have a release date for the audio of A Destiny of Dragons. When I know, you'll know. It'll be worth the wait!

 

 

 

The Prince Justin Conundrum and Other Stories

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November 20th is going to be a pretty big day for me. Not only is it the second (third?) book of the Destiny Fuck Yeah! trilogy (quadrilogy?), but it's the last book I'm releasing this year.

Since I became a full time author in February 2016, I have released 9 books. The Consumption of Magic will be my tenth. For some context, I have published 20 books total, with Consumption being my 21st. Which means I have published half of my total catalogue in less than two years. It's crazy, right?

But it's also a lot of work. God bless those that are more prolific than I. I have no idea how they do it, and I'm impressed by them.

Which is why I've made a decision. I'm not burnt out on writing (good god, I tell myself I deserve a break after finishing a book, yet almost always start the next one right away), but I am a little tired of edits and promotion and all that it entails. (First world problems, right? Yeah, I am aware of how it sounds. I'm just trying to make sure you know I'm tired, but it's a good kind of tired.)

I've made the decision to cut back slightly (don't panic!) in that I'll only publish three novels next year. March will bring A Wish Upon the Stars, the last book in the Destiny Fuck YEAH!...whatever it is. It will also be the last book from Sam's perspective. I think I want to tell one more Verania story, that of Prince Justin (more on him in a bit). I think it'll be a nice bookend to the series, as I plan on going back to the irreverence of the first book for Justin.

After that in July will be Ravensong. packpackpack

And then next fall, I will be self-publishing The Bones Beneath My Skin. I took some very interesting meetings at Gay Rom Lit last week, one of which with a narrator I haven't used before that I will be hiring for Bones. (Hint, his name rhymes with Meg Bremblay). We are going to try something...different, with this release. But since we're still a ways off from it, I'll just leave it at that.

So. Three books.

Scratch that. Three huge books. A finale of lightning, a continuation of wolves, and something new.

(also, potentially, an original graphic novel on a new story I wrote.)

(and there' also still my superqueero young adult book, currently with my agent. Heh. I just like saying that. My agent. But that book probably won't be until 2019).

(and there's Normal Person 2, which I am currently writing.)

I'm not going to say I've saved the best for last this year with Consumption. I think that might be a little cliched (especially since I usually say something similar with each year-ending release, so).

But I will say that The Consumption of Magic, which picks up early on right where A Destiny of Dragons left off, is going to bring big, big changes to Verania. It was always planned this way. I knew this ending from the moment I sat down to write Destiny. You won't see it coming.

But enough with the dickish teasing.

Let's talk the Grand Prince of Verania.

In The Lightning-Struck Heart, Justin was a douchebag. He was the jerk standing in the way between Sam and Ryan's happily ever after. And I think it was very easy to hate him, or to write him as a one note-villain. But even back then, even when Sam and Ryan were clueless idiots all the way up to the wedding of the Prince and the knight, I liked Justin. He was an asshole, sure, but who isn't? And even though there was no romantic love between him and Ryan, I still felt bad for how things ended up for him.

So when I started writing the Destiny Fuck Yeah! cycle (god, I really should have picked just one term, for fuck's sake), I knew I needed to make Justin more sympathetic than he'd been in Lightning. I wasn't necessarily thinking of writing his own book, but more so that I loved the idea of Sam and Justin being friends. Prickly characters who pretend to hate everything even though we all know it's bullshit is my jam. It wasn't that he needed to be redeemed per se, but that I wanted to see a bit more of the man behind the princely crown.

And then I immediately sidelined him for most of Destiny.

I couldn't justify him going on the adventure to find Zero, the desert dragon, no matter how much I wanted to. Add in the fact that multiple major characters were introduced, so there was a chance that Justin would have gotten lost in the shuffle. Instead, I laid the groundwork for Justin, knowing it wouldn't be until Consumption that it would begin to pay off.

Justin will be in most of Consumption. The same goes for the last book. I think he's the perfect foil for Sam. And no matter how much he acts like he doesn't, I truly believe he cares about Sam and Company.

I just needed to figure out how to show it.

He'll be back with the group in a major way in the opening chapters of Consumption. He helps set up an important arc for Sam and Ryan that starts here and goes through A Wish Upon the Stars. That isn't to say he's only a crutch for them; he's not. I did my best to make him a fully realized character who has the weight of his future on his shoulders. Though the good King will be around for years and years, Justin will still one day take his father's place as the ruler of Verania. That would be a lot for anyone to handle.

What I didn't want was for him to be incompetent. He's not. He is intelligent and somewhat ruthless, though I think he's learning that watch out for those he might step on. He's knows exactly what's expected of him. And for the most part, he's okay with it. But he's still young and relatively sheltered. The world of Verania is a wide and weirdly wonderful place, and there's so much he hasn't seen.

I love Justin dearly. I think the arc he has here shows that. Justin will have his own book, though his love interest isn't introduced in either of the remaining novels. I wanted the focus to be where it should: the destiny of Sam of Wilds, and his band of merry misfits who bumble along, trying to save Verania. But it will be....clear, by the last page of A Wish Upon the Stars what direction I'll be going with him. It's only a few short sentences in the last paragraph, but you'll know it when you read it. It may take some time for me to get back to Verania to write that story, but I'll get there eventually.

I'm proud of the story told in Consumption. While I won't say I've saved the best for last (your mileage may vary on that statement), I will say that Consumption has some gnarly moments that I had been waiting months to write. It's funny and action-packed and sad and ridiculous and things will happen that you won't see coming, things that will change Verania forever.

Some stuff to expect:

More of Morgan and Randall's shared history with the villain Myrin will be revealed. It goes far deeper than Sam knows.

Sam will be held accountable for the secrets he's kept. One thing that irritates me to no end is when a character does something stupid, and isn't held accountable for his actions. Glossing over something so serious doesn't bode well for the story. While Sam had his reasons, it doesn't absolve him of what he did. He's a hypocrite, especially in the face of his anger toward Morgan and Randall for their secrets. This will be acknowledged and worked through.

Two new characters will be introduced, the mated Northern Dragons. As with Zero, they will have their own distinct personalities. They are...different.

As I mentioned in a previous post, since this book is the middle of what is essentially one, long story, I was aware of there being a lag. This isn't the beginning. This isn't the end. This is right in the middle, and I made the conscious decision to attempt to avoid the trappings of being in the bridge. Consumption has some of the biggest action scenes, the longest sex scene I've ever written, and some twists that you won't see coming.

By the time a reader finishes Consumption, I want them to have run through an entire gamut of emotions.

I want you to laugh. And gasp. And suffer from the affliction known as Wookiee Cry Face. Consumption, though the middle child, tells it's own story.

And goddamn, I can't wait for you to read it.

In the next blog post, I'll discuss sex and Verania, and the situation I find myself in with different types of readers.

The Consumption of Magic (an explanation as to the meaning of that title will be explained almost immediately in the book, and man, is it gonna suck) is coming on November 20th. Pre-order is already up at Dreamspinner, and I've linked it below. It'll be up on other sites probably next week.

(Yes, Michael will be doing the audiobook. No, I don't know when it'll come out. Yes, his narration for A Destiny of Dragons will be here soon. No, I don't know the exact date.)

tj

Dreamspinner Pre-order: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/the-consumption-of-magic-by-tj-klune-9026-b

 

 

 

GayRomLit

Hey, all!

I wanted to drop a quick line about the GayRomLit convention, and what to expect if you're a newbie, and what my schedule will be like.

First and foremost, you are there to interact with the authors! It's probably the biggest reason why you're going. But I can't tell you how many times I've heard from people after conventions that they were too nervous to come talk to me, and that's a shame. I promise I don't bite, and will be just as excited to meet you. If you see me, feel free to stop me and say hey. I'm also okay with fist-bumps, high-fives, and hugs.

If we've met before, chances are (unless we've had continued interaction) I probably won't remember your name. Don't be offended! I'm terrible with names. Faces, sure, but names always escape me.

(And as a sidenote, make sure your nametag is facing the right direction so I can check it when signing books. I don't went to misspell, and it's easier for me to see it right in front of me.)

Another big thing: if you attend panels or q&a's, and there is a question you want to ask, DO NOT ASSUME SOMEONE ELSE WILL ASK THE SAME QUESTION. Seriously. Speak up, especially at Q&A's. I'm there to answer your questions about my books and what I'm writing. Another thing I hear often is that someone wanted to ask a question, but didn't do it in the end because they thought someone else would ask. Never assume, and remember, the Q&A's are only 15 minutes long, and will go by really fast.

Ihope you all have a blast! It usually turns out to be pretty great. This will be my fifth GRL, and my return after taking a break from it last year. For the most part, people there are pretty cool, and are there because they love reading the same things you do.

Where you can find me:

Wednesday, Oct 18th: I will be moderating the Audiobook Narrator Panel from 9pm-11pm in the Evergreen Ballroom. I'm really excited about the panelists we have, and it'll be great to have them all in the same room at the same time. The panel will consist of each narrator giving a reading from one of their books before moving into a Q&A for the remainder of the panel. Make sure to ask the questions so I don't have to! (because I have a list, and I will read from it.)

I will not be attending the opening night festivities on Thursday. This is my decision, as I'm not comfortable with the fact that instead of the sole focus being on queer literature (hence the title of the convention), the organizers of GayRomLit have decided to bring in a gay porn company to do a Q&A and to promote a new film. This wasn't revealed until a week or two ago. Had I known when signups for authors occurred last spring, I would not have attended this year. I have nothing against pornography, but I do believe there is a time and place for it. A queer literary book event, in my opinion, is not it. I have spoken with quite a few people on the matter, some seeing no problem with it (kudos!), and others uncomfortable as I am. Aside from the obvious issue, the fact that there is no other event scheduled at the same time for those who don't wish to go to this is rather disconcerting. In my experience of meeting readers at GRL, many are stepping out of their comfort zones by even coming to the convention, and some are even attending by themselves. The fact that this is the only option for people who paid to attend seems to be an oversight on the part of the organizers.

This is, of course, my own personal choice/opinion, and should in no way stop you from attending any and all events that you wish! It is your hard earned money you're spending to be in Denver. I merely felt it needed to be said that this seems to no longer be just about books.

(Yes, I am aware some authors have some of the actors as cover models. No, that doesn't change my opinion. Yes, I am aware that there were strippers are previous GRL events. No, that doesn't change my opinion. Yes, I am most likely aware of whatever argument you might want to try and levy against my thought process. No, that doesn't change my opinion.)

Friday, Oct 20th: My Q&A is bright and early. I will be on at 9AM in Evergreen Ballroom C. This is your chance to ask the questions you've always wanted to ask me. Don't let the chance go to waste! There may even be a surprise announcement or two...

Later that morning, from 11-1145am, I will be at the author lounge in the Evergreen Ballroom Foyer. Come chat!

Saturday, Oct 21st: From 10am-1230pm, I will be signing books at the big book signing event.

I will also be manning the Dreamspinner book table at random times on Thursday and Friday, so we may see each other.

I hope to see you all there, and for those that are not in attendance, we will most likely be livestreaming the Audiobook panel and my Q&A, so please check my Facebook page during the times I've listed above. All times are US Mountain time zones.

 

thanks!

 

tj

The Consumption of Magic Cover Reveal

So, here we are, a few days early. My initial plan was to reveal the cover for the next book in the Tales from Verania series next week, but apparently it's already being uploaded for pre-order at certain places, and so I'm going to do this now.

The Consumption of Magic is....big. Not just in terms of length, but in terms of the story. As I've said previously, these books will always be first and foremost comedies, but they turned into something more than that, at least to me. What happens here in this next book will change the course of Verania for a long time to come.

Since this is the middle book of a trilogy (or the third book of a quadrilogy--I don't even know anymore), there's always worry of a lag. It's not the exciting beginning. It's not the the thrilling conclusion. It's the middle part where things happen that build off of what has come before and lead toward the inevitable ending, but doesn't quite get there.

I worried about that, vaguely. But then I realized that if I wrote it as best I could, it would be able to stand on its own. And so I set out to write the best middle I could. It's not the beginning. It's not an ending, though for some characters, it might feel like one. I said once that A Destiny of Dragons was a setting up of a chessboard for a game. The Consumption of Magic is me realizing I don't want to play that game and knocking the chessboard and its pieces off the table. I wrote this book with the intention in mind of literally making people gasp by the time they reached the end. I think I've succeeded in that.

I. Am. So. Damn. Excited.

So, let's do this, shall we?

Pre-orders should be up soon. I'll post them when they are.

Also! If you had joined the Klunatics Facebook group, you would have gotten to see this cover first a few weeks ago! Make sure to join the group to get insider info, and first looks at blurbs/covers/and release dates! Klunatics: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1965358187044020/

On November 20, I'll invite you back to Verania to witness the next step in the destiny of Sam of Wilds.

I hope you're ready.

Blurb:

Sam of Wilds faced the Dark wizard Myrin and lived to tell the tale. Granted, the battle left him scarred, but things could be a hell of a lot worse.

It's not until he reunites with Morgan of Shadows and Randall that he realizes just how much worse things could be.

Because the scars have meaning and hint at Myrin's true plans for Sam and the Kingdom of Verania.

With time running out, Sam and his band of merry misfits--the unicorn Gary, the half-giant Tiggy, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart, and the dragon known as Kevin--must travel to the snowy mountains in the North and the heart of the Dark Woods to convince the remaining dragons to stand against Myrin. Along the way, Sam learns secrets of the past that will forever change the course of the future.

A reckoning is coming for Sam of Wilds, and there is nothing he can do to stop it.

 

Cover by Paul Richmond:

 

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Saying Goodbye Part 3: The End

Spoilers for the entire BOATK series, so read at your own risk.

First thing: if you follow me on Facebook, you'll probably notice I've been posting less and less. Part of it has to do with the fact that I've been busy as of late, trying to finish one book so I can get to another, and editing two full novels.

But it's also because I've been mostly posting in a new reader group called Klunatics that some awesome people created. In a short time, it's grown to over 500 members, and is a positive place for me to post, and for people to talk about my books, or other books/authors in MM. We have contests, group reading, and a bunch of stuff for people to interact with. Right now, there is a contest going on where I'm giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. I will be posting there more from this point on, so if you want the latest news, I recommend joining. No one should be automatically added to the group (I hate it when that happens from others), so I'll post periodic reminders the group exists in case you'd like to join. Link is below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1965358187044020/?ref=bookmarks

Now, on to the rest.

I could write more about Bear, Otter and the Kid. I really could. If I sat down and pushed myself, I could probably come up with a handful of plots for what would happen next. Hell, the ending of The Long and Winding Road is the perfect setup, right? Lily and Noah as teenagers, Noah coming out and has a crush on a friend of his who probably likes him back.

I'm not going to, though.

I know that's not what people want to hear. Even with me definitively saying that this is the end, I've been asked if I meant it, and how easy it would be for me to write another book. Especially since I've now caved and decided to write a sequel to another book I said I'd never do: How to Be a Normal Person.

But this really is the end. And this is going to be the last full post I do on these books.

(Unless, of course, in the year 2061, I decide to write a retrospective on the 50th anniversary of Bear Otter and the Kid. Weirder things have happened, right?)

I love these characters more than you could ever know. They have been with me for a long time. With them, as in my own life, I have lived and loved and lost. Six years ago, the first book was published. It was longer than that that I started actually writing them. And since it all began, I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. No matter what happens in the future, my journey in this weird, wonderful world of publishing started with them.

But it also needed to end.

Look. The Long and Winding Road is mostly self-indulgent. Let's be frank about that and get it out of the way up front. I wrote it because I wanted to, because I could. If life hadn't gotten so terribly skewed, it probably would have come out a year or two ago. But life is different now than it was when The Art of Breathing was released 2014. It took me a long time to find my footing with any story again, much less this one.

But make no mistake, this book exists because I could write it. I was in a position to know it would most likely sell well, and that people were clamoring for it. I am very fortunate in that regard, and don't take that notion lightly.

That doesn't mean I took the story any less seriously. Regardless of what else I write, people will most likely associate these books with me first for the rest of my career. And just because I could be self-indulgent about it didn't mean I wasn't still going to write the best story I knew how. Having a lackluster finale could potentially spoil an entire series.

Still, you can't please everyone. Some people hate the first book, and like the others. Some people only like book 3. Still others liked the original covers and tweeted me how they didn't like that I'd had them updated.

(Side note for aspiring authors: you can't win with everyone ever. Seriously. Get that thought out of your head right now.)

I wrote The Long and Winding Road for me. I told the story I wanted to tell. Sometimes, I think we often forget ourselves as authors and try to write what we think people want to read.  I know I've done that before. Pandering can make for lazy writing.

And since I was writing for me, I thought about the level of angst I was going for in the book. As I've said previously, it was going to be hardcore, man. Creed and Anna divorcing! Pregnancy complications! Bear and Otter relationship issues as Otter was going to be the stay at home dad and Bear would later resent him for it!

And I started writing with this intent. Part I (Past) has a good amount of angst, and it was only going to escalate from there.

But by the time I finished Part I, I was exhausted, and I asked myself why. Why do their lives always have to be hard? Why do I keep flinging shit at them? Why do they need to hurt for me to think it's good writing?

The truth is they don't.

So I didn't. I revamped plans, and took away some of what I thought was just overkill. Creed and Anna didn't need to divorce to be relevant. Bear and Otter don't need to argue about who gets to be the person that stays home to make a good story.

And there doesn't need to be pregnancy complications. Shortly before I made that decision, a friend of mine had a miscarriage. She was forthright and frank about how it affected her and her family. While thinking to myself how unfair it is that these things happen to such wonderful people, I wondered why I was going to try and put something similar in my own book. There is already so much hurt in the world right now. Why did I need to add that specific thing to it?

I'm a different person now than I was when I first starting writing these books. Sure, I still know how to do over the top like the back of my hand (see: role playing dates in a hotel bar), but I think that I've grown as a writer. A decision to heap angst I might have made years ago now gives me pause. What does it add to the story? Is it absolutely necessary?

I wanted them to be happy. This journey they were on should be a happy one. Bear and Otter were finally focusing on themselves, and I needed them to have a happy ending, even if sometimes real life doesn't give us our own.

A few other things:

--Paul and Bear meeting: yes, I always planned to include it here. Yes, I always planned to write it the exact way it happened. Yes, I am a dick, and I regret nothing. (Seriously, though, I guarantee not one of you expected it to go that way when you figured out what was about to happen. The climax was about how anti-climactic it was, and I laughed for days.)

--A certain website that Bear visits when trying to find ideas on his relationship should be familiar to those readers of another book of mine. Yes, it's the same site. Yes, I know who wrote the entire website. No, I'm not going to tell you. At least not yet. It will come later.

--This story wasn't about Lilly or Noah or the surprise third addition at the end. It was about the road to get to that point. Could I have written about the immediate aftermath of the birth? Sure. But then it would have taken away from the journey, I think. And then also made the book six million words long. There was never any plan for the kids other than what I wrote.

--Noah will fall in love. Maybe it will be with the friend mentioned at the end. Maybe it won't. Maybe someone else will come along. But he will be happy. (Secret: you want to know how I know I won't write a book about him? I purposefully picked the name Noah, as that is my nephew's name. Writing that character into his own romance would weird me out too much.)

--We may or may not see this family again, at least in part, in a one specific story. I still have Corey/Kori's book to write, and I can't imagine Tyson not being a part of it, at least a little bit. That being said, Corey/Kori's book will take place shortly after Until You, which will be in the summer before Lily and Noah are born in September. That book too will be the end of a series.

There is a lot of happiness here. I have put my blood, sweat and tears into these books. The road, though rocky as it got sometimes, was long and winding. But I've finally reached the end of it, at least where this specific family is concerned. They will be happy. There will be joy. And yeah, maybe there will be some hardships, but I know with all of my heart they'll make it through. They always do.

I said once in a blog shortly after Who We Are that I know they aren't real people, but that they're real to me. That hasn't changed, even after all this time. I walked with them on the beach to the spot not very many people know about. I hurt with them when the world was unfair. I felt such indescribable joy when their family was finally made whole.

They aren't real.

But they're real to me.

And I'll remember them always.

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey.

You've made it worth it.

tj

 

Saying Goodbye Part 2: Impact

This is part 2 of a three part series before the publication of the last Bear, Otter and the Kid book, The Long and Winding Road. If you missed part 1, check the previous blogpost.

 

As of today, it's been five years since there has been a book from Bear's perspective. Five years. Who We Are, the second book in the series, came out in 2012. We got a little taste of Bear in the epilogue of The Art of Breathing in 2014, but other than that, it's been a long time.

When I decided it was finally time to start writing the final book, I knew that I'd have to get back into Bear's frame of mind. There was the briefest of moments when I considered writing the book from Otter's perspective, but scrapped that almost just as quick. It started with Bear, and I thought it needed to end with him, too.

And while Bear always will be Bear, he's not that same twenty-something he was in the other books. He's older and wiser (ish), and he's settled in his skin (mostly).

But he still had to be Bear, and he's not exactly easy to write. So I went back and reread parts of the entire series, something I don't ever do. I never reread my own work after it's out, and I'm happy to keep it that way. By the time you get the book into your hands, I've read through that story so many times, I practically have it memorized. The last thing I want to do is reread my own words.

I had to get it right, though, so I went back and hit the highlights.

And it got me thinking. A lot. About the impact these books have had on me, especially since the Tj who existed in 2011 is not who I am today.

I wrote Bear, Otter, and the Kid in a tiny apartment in Tucson, Arizona. I sat at a cheap table in a small kitchenette on a laptop that was already by that point six or seven years old. I didn't have the internet. I didn't have cable (remember when you didn't need cable to still see certain channels?). I was a couple years into a job I had a sinking feeling I would be at forever. I wasn't college educated. I had good friends. I had my brother and sisters. My mother was an alcoholic and an addict, though she tried to tell us she wasn't.

And so I would go to work. I would come home. I would open up the laptop and pray that it actually turned on this time, and then would go to a place called Seafare for the next five or six hours. (Seafare, the thinly veiled stand in for Seaside, Oregon where I would spend summers as a kid.)

It was one of the first things I'd ever done that was just for myself. Without input from anyone else, without answering to someone, without being told that I was failing even though I was trying my best. I got that a lot. I put all my anger and sadness and wishes for future into that book. It was cathartic. I've learned since that writing usually is. Then and now, it's an outlet, allowing me to put the chaos in my head in a certain order, something that'd only been done before with medication.

It impacted me because I was creating, and no one could tell me not to.

And for better or worse, it impacted the MM community too.

Look, I'm not going to tell you that I think so highly of myself to think that I'm the best there ever was. I'm not. Hell, I'm not even the best in this genre, not even close. And that's okay. I would hate to have that title, because the expectations would drive me up the frigging walls.

Plenty of people like my books, which hey, that's rad. Plenty of people hate my books, too, which hey, that's cool. No two people are going to read a book the same way. But I don't think anyone, myself, the publisher, the editors, the readers, anyone expected that first book to do what it did. With a weird title and a cover that was extraordinarily divisive (I like it; I have it framed on my wall) from a first time author? Yeah, it should have ended in disaster.

But it didn't.

And even if you hate the sight of my very name, you still can't take that away from me.

That's the impact this book has had on me.

It's opened doors I never even knew existed. I've met people I never would have met otherwise. Some became my best friends. I asked one to marry me. I lost people that, had I never written this book, I wouldn't have known were even alive. BOATK gave me things, and it also allowed some of those things to be taken away.

Six years ago, at this very moment, I was less than a week away from my first book coming out. I was scared shitless, excited, and hopeful.

Now, I am less than a week away from my twentieth (!!!) book from being released. And I am scared shitless, excited, and so very hopeful.

I am not the same person that I was. These characters aren't either. They have loved and lost and fought tooth and nail to hold on to the family they've made for themselves.

And now, it's almost time to to say goodbye. But I've done my best to make sure it's a goodbye that's been worth waiting for.

Next Wednesday, August 9th, will be the third and final part of this blog series.

tj