First Look: The Bones Beneath My Skin


So here it is: a sales pitch from me to you. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve read at least one of my books. Whether only one or all of them, I want to tell you about my last book of the year, and why it’s important to me. Cool?

Cool.

(And how nuts is it to think that this is my first non-sequel book since Olive Juice in April of 2017?)

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Back in late 2015/early 2016, I had this idea.

I wanted to write an 80s movie, but in book form, a sort of homage to ET, The Goonies, to the Stephens/Stevens: both King and Spielberg. It was going to be about a group of teenagers, facing something paranormally unexpected, and there would be action and the nostalgia would be insane and—

Then Stranger Things came out, and I said “Motherfucker.”

(In case you haven’t seen it, Stranger things is all the things I just described turned up to an eleven—ha, ha, ha, I’ll be here all evening, folks.)

It happens, sometimes. I had a story idea about the afterlife, but then the television show The Good Place came out, and did everything I was thinking of much, much better. I had an idea for a western about a town of outcasts coming together, but then Godless came out on Netflix and did it much, much better (the town in that show was all badass women).

Is there anything new under the sun?

Apparently not.

So I shelved my 80s idea, much to my dismay.

But something about it stuck with me for a long time, specifically the girl who was going to be the center of my original story. Oh, it was still going to be a queer romance, but the girl was going to be the third main character.

And for some reason, she just wouldn’t leave me alone.

It wasn’t until I was deep into one of my Wikipedia spirals (I could spend hours on that website, and sometimes do), that I came across something that I hadn’t heard of before, sparking a new idea.

L’appel du vide.

It’s French. It means the call of the void.

It’s not quite suicidal ideation. The idea of l’appel du vide is that we have something hardwired into our lizard brains, something a little… dark. Have you ever been driving down the road and seen a semi coming in the opposite direction and think what if I turned my car into it and hit it head on? Or you’re standing at the edge of a cliff or on the ledge of a building and think what if I took another step? For the most part, it’s just a thought, a flicker, there and gone. We don’t act on it because we want to live.

I was entranced by this notion, because it’s not about wanting to die so much as it is the what if?

And it was that thought, the what if that I couldn’t get out of my head.

When I went back to the story idea, I thought what if?

What if I aged up the two main characters, but left the little girl young, and instead of friendship, the dynamic between the three leads was more father-daughter?

What if I moved the time from the 80s to the 90s?

What if instead of an homage to a period of time that we all remember more fondly than it actually was, I instead turned to that weird ass fucking time a decade later?

What if, what if, what if.

If you think about it, the nineties were fucked up. I came of age in the 90s, discovered I was queer in the nineties. Presidents stuck cigars inside women in the 90s and then talked about it all over TV as they were impeached. We thought computers were all going to shut off or blow up or something at midnight of December 31st, 1999. Death came to Waco and David Koresh in 1993. In March of 1997, a group of people believing there was a UFO in the tail of a comet called Hale-Bopp committed suicide under the direction of Marshall Applewhite. There was no UFO, at least not one that the rest of the world knew of. Satanic panic—started in the late 80s—grew worldwide by the 90s.

Like I said: fucked up.

And I had found a home for the book. Instead of 80s nostalgia, I would write a 90s action movie. Shit would blow up! There would be car chases and gun battles and dastardly villains who want nothing more than to have the little girl returned to them, the little girl capable of a great many things that defy logic. Enemies would become friends and friends would start to love each other, all set against the backdrop of what is essentially one large chase scene stretched over 385 pages.

So that’s what I did.

(and I also made it very, very queer.)

What I didn’t expect was to write a story imbued with so much hope. Even though it’s set in the 90s (1995, to be exact), I live in today’s world. And it’s a world filled with anger and cynicism, vitriol and hate. It’s exhausting. I turn on the news, and I immediately turn it back off. I open Twitter, and immediately click away. Someone is always shouting. Someone is always screaming. People are always dying or being marginalized or being taken away from their families when all they want to do is find a place to be safe. And how privileged am I that I can turn away from it, at least for a little bit? Very, obviously. I know that. I do.

I’m a cynical person by nature. It’s just who I am. I’m not going to make excuses for it. Sometimes, that bleeds into what I write. Which is why I made it a concentrated effort to avoid that with Bones. This little girl, this Artemis Darth Vader, is special to me. She’s not…normal. I won’t tell you exactly why, but she has a perspective that most don’t. She sees the goodness in people, even in the face of evil.

Nate, the main character of the three, is lost. His parents are dead, his father having murdered his mother and then killing himself. His brother wants nothing to do with him, partly blaming Nate for what happened to their parents. Nate’s fired from his job as a journalist because he royally fucked up, crossing an ethical boundary that should not have been crossed. He comes back to Roseland, Oregon (wherein we meet a younger version of an old friend of mine, say hey, Big Eddie) to try and put himself back together.

Only the cabin isn’t empty as it should be. And this sets off a series of events that starts small, but then grows and grows and grows until it potentially affects the entire world. Alex, Artemis Darth Vader’s protector, can’t trust anyone but Artemis. He too has seen the evils of men, and he’s lost much. He’s angry and scared, though he tries to hide it. He’s also desperately lonely, and on a mission that will only end in heartbreak for him. Or so he thinks.

Hope, though. It’s all about hope. Identity and hope. Who we are, what we’re doing, where we’re going. I wonder, sometimes, if we’re getting to a breaking point, where we won’t be able to turn back. If we’re already damned because of what goes on in the world, and all that we’ve done or allowed to happen. Bones is me trying to reconcile with these feelings. I want to believe we can be better than we are now. And it’s this thought I ran with when I wrote this book.

Bones is funny. And sad. And sexy. And weird. And while the bones of a typical (if it can be called that) TJ Klune book are there, it’s unlike anything you’ve read from me before. Go big or go home, I told myself. So I went big. Like, really big (which you’ll soon find out).

I’ll talk more about the book in the coming weeks, but for now, I’ll post a little taste below, from the first chapter of The Bones Beneath My Skin. Long time readers of mine? This one is for you. (and for those asking, this is a standalone with no sequel/prequel/sidequel in sight; one and done.)

tj

Pre-Order Bones, out October 26th:

Amazon**: https://goo.gl/a5DsfC

B&N: https://goo.gl/k5XmLH

Kobo: https://goo.gl/WpmcUn

Smashwords: https://goo.gl/bYb716

iBooks: https://goo.gl/FZc2Dk

**Note: Paperbacks will be available *exclusively* from Amazon, and will go up closer to the release date.

Excerpt:

“Well, look who the cat dragged in,” Big Eddie Green said. “Nate Cartwright, as I live and breathe.”

Nate forced a smile onto his face. “Big Eddie. Good to see you’re still running this dump.”

“You watch your mouth,” Big Eddie said, but he was still smiling, his teeth a little crooked but endearingly so. He held out a large hand streaked with a bit of oil. Nate didn’t mind. He held out his own. Big Eddie’s grip was firm, but he wasn’t trying to be an asshole about it. He wasn’t like that, at least not that Nate knew. He hadn’t seen Big Eddie since he’d turned twenty-one, the last time he’d been up to the cabin. And it wasn’t like they were friends, though Big Eddie could make friends with just about anybody he set his mind to. There was something about the way he smiled that put Nate at ease. It was familiar, this. Heartbreakingly so.

“Heading up the mountain?” Big Eddie was already moving to the pump. “Unleaded okay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Nate said, leaning against the truck. He glanced inside the gas station window. There was a kid inside bent over the counter, scribbling furiously on something, his tongue stuck out between his teeth like he was concentrating really hard. “Jesus, is that Benji?”



Ravensong: A Look Back & What's Next

Note: Spoilers for Wolfsong, Ravensong, and Lovesong. If you haven't ready any or all of these, click away as this post will reveal major spoilers.

In the original outline of Ravensong, Chris and Tanner were executed by Elijah in the streets of Green Creek upon the arrival of the hunters. Unable to take the loss of their friends after Elijah was defeated, Jessie and Rico left the pack, breaking ties, wanting to escape the wolf world. The plan after that, vague though it was, was to have Jessie and Rico show up again in Heartsong, as hunters of sorts.

For some reason, I thought this was a good idea.

And now, looking back, I have no fucking idea why.

Because that's stupid.

And I realized that just as soon as I started writing. Seeing the younger versions of Rico, Tanner, Chris and Gordo all together and how they stuck by his side when he was abandoned by the wolves made me realize that not only would killing off half of Team Human be unnecessary, but it would be a weirdly cruel thing to do, given all Gordo had been through. While these books are very angsty, there needs to be a line. It's one thing to slog through angst; it's something else entirely to drown in it.

So I didn't kill them.

I just hurt them.

A lot.

(also in the original outline :Joe was infected along with Mark and Carter and turned Omega, but it was too much and took the focus away from Mark and Gordo.)

Hi, and welcome to my TED talk, where I'll be discussing a few key points in the story, what part made me unintentionally laugh my ass off (and got edited out), why I had to go and "ruin" Thomas and Elizabeth (what one angry tweeter wrote to me, yay!), the twist at the end, and what happens next.

First things first: Gordo was always going to lose a hand. That was not up for debate. That scene was one of the first I thought up. Oh, it changed a few times as to who was actually going to be the one doing it, but it was always going to happen.

Shortly after, there was a scene that made me just fucking die that ended up being cut, given how my editors thought it really went too far and undercut the seriousness of what happened to Gordo, and the gravity of his moment with Thomas. (And ultimately, they were correct in making me cut it.)

He wakes up, right? He asks where his hand is. Joe has to point out to him with no small amount of trepidation that Carter might have...gnawed on it a little while Gordo was passed out. And eaten parts of it.

I just...I don't know, man. I still laugh at it now. Fucking stupid, right? But it just seemed so Carter for reasons I can't quite explain. Alas, cutting it was for the better.

Second: Elijah. I have a...well. Let's just say I have a complicated history with religion. I tend to think most organized religion is no better than a cult (but you do you). I went in one direction with the idea of religion in Into This River I Drown, though it was vague enough that it wasn't meant to represent any one faith. But I have this fascination with those who use the supposed words of God as a weapon. It's a queer dichotomy, given how two people can so vastly differ on how they interpret scripture. In the end, Elijah, so indignant and righteous in her faith and fury, failed. And with the death of her and her clan, I think the backbone of the hunter movement was broken, though there might be some stragglers out there still causing up trouble. Which, honestly sucks because while she was obviously bad, she was such a cool character. She wore the skin of a werewolf, for fuck's sake.

Third (and this is a big one): Thomas and Elizabeth Bennett. Look. I get that people adored them in Wolfsong for the most part. I did too when I was writing them. But as I get older, I'm less and less impressed by perfection, and more interested in imperfection and flaws. Take away the fairy-tale shine, and what lies underneath? That's what I want to know about.

Thomas, especially, made bad decisions. Did he make them for the right reasons? Only time will tell. I think he did, but I still think he went about it the wrong way. With Gordo and Ox, Thomas messed up a bunch. He listened to the wrong people. Even worse, he trusted the wrong people. And Elizabeth, put in a desperate situation (as seen in Lovesong), had to make a choice. Follow him or let him go? She chose. Again, was it the right decision? Or was it made for the right reasons?

People are complex. What you see isn't always what you get. Ox saw the Bennetts one way. Gordo saw them another. Does it make one of them right over the other? I don't know that it does. But it was important to me that Gordo called them out for their manipulation of Ox. Looking back, Ox wasn't given a choice in the matter when Joe gave him his stone wolf at such a young age. Had he known, he most likely would have made the same decision, but I needed Gordo to be the voice of reason for this. It was important to me.

And coming back to Elizabeth, the reason the short story Lovesong exists is because of the scenes between Gordo and Thomas. Gordo was given a chance at forgiving Thomas, but what about Elizabeth? I didn't think it was fair, especially given how Thomas was her mate. I didn't want to take away from the momentum of the story, or Gordo's perspective, so I decided to give Elizabeth her moment in the spotlight. I like how it turned out. 

(And to that angry tweeter who accused me of ruining Thomas and Elizabeth: eh.)

Fourth and finally: the ending. That scene between Michelle Hughes and Robert Livingstone? I love it so, so much. It's short, only a few pages, but it has so much to it, especially revealing the identity of the timber wolf as being Gordo's half-brother. And though I've done twists before, there's just something so satisfying about this one, given that you, the audience, are now in possession of knowledge that the characters aren't. It'll create a different kind of tension, and every interaction will be heightened. Who is this wolf? What happened to him? Where did he come from? What does he know? When will the pack find out, and how will Gordo and Carter react? WHAT THE FUCK IS HIS NAME???? (lolololol)

(Also, for those upset that Carter also has a dude as a mate, die mad about it. Everyone is queer.  This pack is a goddamn Pride Parade, and I don't care if you hate it. Write your own werewolf story with hetero sex if it upsets you that much.)

But stepping back from this knowledge is the first glimpse of Robert Livingstone in the present day. What does he want? Are we to take him at his word that he only wants his son and nothing more? I guess we'll have to find out, won't we?

Speaking of.

Heartsong.

I'm going to be very close-lipped about it, much more than I was with the lead up to Ravensong. It's...different. With sequels, there is a always a strange desire to go bigger and darker, upping the action and the violence. I...didn't do that. Heartsong is a quieter book, more focused on Robbie and Kelly than anything else. Oh, shit goes down, sure, but there was something... innocent(??) about the two of them that I wanted to explore in more depth. It also gives Chris, Tanner, Rico and Jessie more of a chance to shine.

And it will bring the relationship between Carter and Kelly to the forefront. They'll need each other for what's coming. Because Heartsong is built around a deceptively simple question: What happens if you can't trust the people around you?

And that's it.

That's all I'm going to say about the wolves until next summer as we approach the release of Heartsong in September of 2019. Thank you, though. Thank you for being part of this journey. Thank you for letting me tell these stories. I'm proud of them. And I can't wait until we head back to Green Creek again, and hear our pack singing us home.

tj

 

 

The Bones Beneath My Skin Pre-Order

On October 26th, a message will be delivered.

And everything will change.

Announcing my last book of the year: The Bones Beneath My Skin, an enemies-to-lovers queer romance where things blow up, bad guys are really *really* bad, and a little girl who calls herself Artemis Darth Vader might be the key to saving us all.
This will be my first self-published work, and I can't wait for you all to see what I've saved for last.

Pre-orders are now available:

Amazon**: https://goo.gl/a5DsfC

B&N: https://goo.gl/k5XmLH

Kobo: https://goo.gl/WpmcUn

Smashwords: https://goo.gl/bYb716

iBooks: https://goo.gl/FZc2Dk

**Note: Paperbacks will be available *exclusively* from Amazon, and will go up closer to the release date.

Lovesong: A Green Creek Story

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Lovesong

A Green Creek Story

By TJ Klune

Author's Note: This is part of a series meant to be read in order, starting with Wolfsong followed by Ravensong. If you haven't read both books, this will spoil major events. You've been warned.

 

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i.

When she dreams these days, it’s always in shades of blue.

She’s in an endless forest. The trees stretch toward the starry sky. She feels the cool grass beneath her bare feet. The moon is bright. It’s full, of course.

She’s not alone.

She can’t see him, but she knows he’s there. She hears him breathe.

She turns her head to look for him, but there’s nothing but a flash of white disappearing into the woods.

When she wakes, her face is wet.

ii.

The first time he makes her laugh is when he tells her he thinks she’s pretty.

She laughs at him. It isn’t cruel. She’s shocked. It’s startled out of her, and she can’t stop it, even if she tries.

He’s not hurt by it.

He laughs too, blushing as he looks away.

iii.

When she’s pregnant with their first, he turns into a possessive asshole. He growls low in his throat at anyone who touches her belly.

When she’s had enough, she smacks him upside the head and tells him to knock it off.

He blinks in surprise, the orange light fading in his eyes.

“Sorry,” he says, sounding sheepish. “I don’t know why I do that.”

She takes his hand and presses it against her stomach. For a moment, nothing happens.

She winces when she feels him kick (Carter, she’s already thinking, Carter, Carter, Carter), but any discomfort falls away at the look on his face.

He’s awestruck.

iv.

When death comes for them, it’s swift and brutal. She’s in the Bennett pack, yes, and she’s the mate to a future Alpha, but she is a mother first, and her instincts are to protect her unborn child.

She kills that day. She takes the lives of at least six people who have come to their territory with anger in the hearts and bullets of silver. The first is a large man standing above a dead wolf, one of the little cousins. He doesn’t see her coming. Her jaws close around his neck and she twists, the bones cracking under her fangs.

The last person she kills is a woman. She raises her gun toward the once and future king.

She doesn’t get a chance to pull the trigger.

There isn’t much left of her by the time Elizabeth Bennett finishes.

When all that’s left is smoke and memory, she feels it.

All that they’ve lost.

It’s Richard Collins who notices first.

She doesn’t understand him. She never has. There’s always been something… off, but Thomas laughed and told her she was seeing things.

When her mate howls, there’s a change in the cadence. And that’s when it hits her.

Thomas Bennett looks at her with bloodred eyes.

v.

Carter comes, and there’s pain, bright and glassy. It’s real, and she feels it with a primal satisfaction as it tears through her. This is her pain, this belongs to her, and no one can take it away. She relishes in it as sweat drips from her brow.

They’re few, now.

Their pack.

But she hears them whispering in her head, and it’s love and strength and yes yes yes.

And with a cry of relief that sounds like a song, the boy comes into the world.

The first.

But not the last.

vi.

They’re making a mistake.

She knows they are.

She tells Thomas as much.

“How can we do this to him?” she asks. “How can this be all right?”

Thomas rubs a hand over his face. He’s tired. He’s got bags under his eyes and a few days’ worth of stubble on his cheeks. He was always going to be the Alpha, but it happened much sooner than anyone would have expected. She thinks he would give it all up just to have their pack again.

He’s a good man, but right now, she doesn’t understand him.

“We have to keep him safe,” he says with that familiar stubborn set to his jaw that she loves and despises in equal measure. “It’ll be better for him if he stays here. The wolves… they don’t trust the humans. Especially this human. They think…they think Robert did something to him. To his tattoos. A fail safe. Just in case.”

“You can fight for him,” she says. “He’s not like his father.  If you do this, you will put him on the path that you’ll regret in time.”

She’s never been demure. She’s seen other mates to Alphas, subservient and quiet. That was never her. If Thomas asked that of her, demanded her silence, she would tear him limb from limb.

But she’s going to lose this one.

And what’s worse is that she’s going to follow him.

She doesn’t know what that makes them.

Doesn’t know what that makes her.

“I know that,” Thomas says, sounding tired. “But they don’t. And I have a duty, Lizzie. An obligation. My father….” He shakes his head. “I am the Alpha of all. I don’t have a choice.”

She wants to tell him he does. He could give it up, let someone else worry about the fate of the wolves. She wants to tell him they can’t do this. They can’t break apart their pack. Not after everything.

But she doesn’t.

And she will regret it for the rest of her life.

“This is going to destroy Mark,” she says quietly. “He’ll never agree.”

Thomas’s eyes flare red. “He will. I am his Alpha. He’ll do what I tell him to.”

“And then he’ll never forgive you.”

The redness disappears, and all she feels is blue. It’s an ocean of sorrow, and she knows how much this is hurting him. It’s still no excuse. “I know,” he says. “But I have no other choice.”

She loves him, but she thinks he’s a liar.

vii.

Kelly is… different. He’s quieter. He comes early, and it’s over quicker than she expects. There’s pain, but it’s not like it was with Carter.

He doesn’t cry.

She thinks something is wrong.

But he’s breathing and blinking up at her as he’s placed in her arms.

“Hello,” she says. “Hello, my little child.”

viii.

With Joe, things change.

She can’t quite tell how she knows, but even in the womb, it’s not like it was with Carter and Kelly. There’s a sense of something more. She feels guilty about thinking that way, and it’s not until she speaks with Thomas that she understands.

“Alpha,” he says simply. “I think this one is meant to be the Alpha. Richard thinks so too.”

And oh god, that terrifies her.

ix.

When Joe is returned to them, he doesn’t speak. His eyes are vacant, and he doesn’t respond.

She doesn’t know what to do.

She hates Richard for what he’s done.

She hates Thomas for allowing it to happen.

She hates the wolves in this place. It’s not home. Maine was never going to be home, and now one of her sons is hollowed out and dark. She thinks about taking them and running far, far away.

She doesn’t.

She kisses his cheeks.

The tip of his nose.

His chin.

Carter and Kelly curl around him.

But it’s like he’s gone.

She doesn’t know how to get him back.

x.

It’s all candy canes and pinecones.

Epic and awesome.

It’s boom and rawr.

It’s a strange boy named Ox.

She doesn’t know what to make of him.

She loves him, though. Almost right away.

And for that reason alone, she wants to keep him away.

Death, she thinks as she listens to her son speak for the first time since he was returned to them, always comes for the wolves.

And when Joe comes to her, when he says he wants to give Ox his stone wolf, she agrees, knowing how manipulative it will be. Ox doesn’t know the truth. He doesn’t know what it means. But her son is speaking, and his eyes have life in them, so much life that she can’t deny him anything.

She doesn’t sleep much that night.

xi.

She starts painting again.

It’s angry at first. Savage. Harsh lines and slashes of color.

It doesn’t feel like enough.

xii.

She doesn’t tell them where she’s going. They’re distracted. All the kids are in school. Mark and Thomas are on conference calls in the office.

She walks into town. The forest smells like it always has. The dirt road crunches under her feet.

She thinks of what she’ll say.

Of what she’ll do.

She doesn’t know how he’ll react.

GORDO’S, the sign says.

She smiles to herself.

There’s no one at the front desk.

She rings the bell and waits.

It’s discordant, the first time she sees him. He’s not like he was. He’s harder. She thinks he hates her, and she deserves it.

His tattoos flash.

“Gordo,” she says, and is surprised when her voice cracks.

His eyes darken. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

She says, “I’m sorry. For all that we did to you.”

“Fuck you. Get the fuck outta here.”

She nods. “Joe, he….”

“Thomas already told me. I said no.”

She says, “Thomas never took another witch. They asked. They begged. He told them no. He told them he already had a witch.”

It’s unfair of her. To do this. To say this. It’s calculating, and she can see the moment it lands. His expression stutters before he looks at her coldly. “I don’t care.”

“It was wrong,” she says, and she wants to touch him. To take his face in her hands and smooth out the angry lines. “What we did to you. We were young. And scared.”

“You’re only saying this because you need me to help out with Joe,” he snaps at her. “Where were you before this? Years, Elizabeth. It’s been years.”

“So many times,” she says. “So many times I picked up the phone, wanting to hear your voice. But I—”

He laughs, and it’s the bitterest sound she’s ever heard. “But you didn’t. Out of sight, out of mind.”

Yes. That’s exactly what it was. And the truth hurts. “We… made mistakes.”

“Fuck you. And fuck your mistakes.”

She doesn’t know this man. This furious man. She doesn’t know him, and it’s all her fault. “Mark—”

“Don’t,” he snarls at her. “Don’t you say his name.”

She blinks as she takes a step back. “I’m sorry. I just….” She shakes her head. “I love you. I don’t expect you to believe me. And I understand why you wouldn’t. But I love you, Gordo. I do.”

He laughs, and oh the hatred she hears in his voice. It’s like poison. “Yeah, you sure showed me just how much you loved me. All of you did.”

She turns to leave, not wanting him to see her cry.

She stops when he says, “Ox.”

She swallows thickly, looking out the front of the shop to the street.

He says, “Leave him out of this.”

“I think it’s already too late,” she whispers.

“Already got your claws in him,” Gordo says in a dead voice. “Of course you did. Wolves ruin everything they touch. I won’t let you do that to him.”

She doesn’t look back.

xiii.

In the end, though, he comes.

She wonders why.

She doesn’t know if she’d do the same if she were in his position.

Joe is trapped in his shift. Not quite boy, not quite wolf.

And Gordo comes.

She’s a wolf, and her instincts have kicked into overdrive.

She snarls at him.

He rolls his eyes.

Thomas says, “Ox. He needs Ox.”

Gordo’s shoulders sag in defeat.

xiv.

Later she’ll find out he told the boy that it’s real.

That monsters are real.

That it’s all real.

He’s right, of course.

Elizabeth knows monsters.

xv.

Maggie Callaway is a wonderful woman.

She’s fierce.

And smart.

And stronger than she gives herself credit for.

When they meet for the first time, Elizabeth understands then just how someone like Ox can exist. It’s because of his mother.

And they grow to be friends, Maggie and Elizabeth. She hasn’t had a woman as a friend in a long time. It’s… nice having someone like her. Someone who doesn’t quite realize Elizabeth is essentially a queen. It’s easier that way.

When she finds out they’re wolves, Maggie is shocked.

But it only lasts for a day or two.

She comes to the house one day not long after.

They sit at the kitchen table, sunlight coming in through the window. It’s just the two of them. Elizabeth relishes this contact. Is hungry for it.

Maggie says, “He’s part of this, isn’t he?”

Elizabeth nods slowly. “I think so.”

Maggie curls her hands around her mug of tea. “He’s special.”

“I know.”

“A mother always thinks that about her child. But….”

“It’s more than that with Ox.”

She looks away. “His father never thought so.”

“His father was wrong.”

Maggie nods. “Why? Do you know? Does Thomas?”

No. They don’t. But it’s there all the same. She reaches out and touches Maggie’s wrist. She’s not quite pack—not yet, at least, not like Ox is—but Elizabeth can’t ignore instinct. She’s pleased with her scent being on this wonderful woman. “He’s going to do great things, your Ox.”

Maggie smiles. It trembles to the point of breaking. “He doesn’t hear that enough. I try to make him understand.” She hesitates. Then, “Ox tells me you’re a painter.”

Elizabeth blinks. “I am.”

Maggie seems shy when she says, “That’s so nice. Do you think… do you think I could see? I don’t know anything about art, but I know pretty things when I see them.”

They spend the rest of the day together.

When Maggie is murdered in their territory, Elizabeth is close to tearing the world apart.

xvi.

It’s quick when it happens.

One moment she’s snarling, her tail twitching, her teeth stained with Omega blood.

And the next, it breaks within her like glass, the shards embedded in her skin.

Her breath leaves her body like she’s been kicked in the stomach.

She takes a stumbling step forward, her wolf mind thinking no and mate and Thomas Thomas Thomas.

She runs faster than she’s ever run before.

But she’s too late.

Joe is on his knees, his head tilted back.

His eyes are filled with fire.

He is the Alpha.

Which means—

xvii.

They come from far away.

Michelle Hughes doesn’t.

Elizabeth is thankful for that. She doesn’t know what she’d do if Michelle showed her face in Green Creek. She’s jumbled up with Osmond and Richard Collins in Elizabeth’s mind, and even if that’s not fair, that’s how it is.

She is the wolf mother. Those who come to pay their respects are in awe of her. She accepts their condolences. They touch her hand and her shoulders. She’s barely able to keep from recoiling.

They leave her be… before.

Alone. With him.

Thomas has been bathed, the blood washed away.

His skin is pale.

She says, “How could you leave me like this?”

She says, “I hate you.”

She says, “Oh, oh, oh.”

She says, “We were young once. And you were smiling. I remember that. Your eyes were wide, and you said you had something to offer me. I knew what it was, and even though I was scared, I knew it was right. That I would say yes. Because there was no one else for me. There never has been. And you… you left me here. Why?”

He doesn’t answer.

He can’t.

He’s gone, gone, gone.

She closes her eyes, trying to find him. Trying to search along the bonds that stretch between them all. If he’s there, even the smallest part of him, she would know. Especially in this place. It’s different here. Stronger. More powerful. Her mother told her when she was a child that all those who leave are never truly gone.

But she can’t find him.

There’s a ragged, gaping hole where he should be.

xviii.

He burns in the forest at night.

The wolves sing their songs for the fallen king.

Hers is an aria of blue.

xix.

After, always after:

They break apart.

Three years.

One month.

Twenty-six days.

And for the first part of it, she knows only the wolf. It’s not fair of her, to be so lost in her grief. She has a pack. She has her sons. But when they leave, she doesn’t know how to handle it.

Before they leave, she tells Gordo she’ll kill him if anything happens to them under his watch.

She’s lying.

She’s tired of death.

She wants to tell him she loves him. That Thomas loved him.

But she can’t make the words come out.

That’s on her.

She is wrong in this.

But Gordo is gone.

Not long after, she shifts and doesn’t turn back for months.

xx.

Alpha, she tells Oxnard Matheson, and she’s never meant it more.

xxi.

When her sons return to her, she doesn’t recognize them.

Oh, she knows their scent. She can feel them along the bonds, but it’s different.

They’re men now. Harder than they’ve ever been before.

But it’s not until she has Carter and Kelly in her arms that she knows they’re still her children. “Mom,” they whisper against her neck. “Mom. Mom. Mom.”

“My boys,” she whispers back. “I love you so.”

xxii.

She stares down at the headless body of Richard Collins.

She should be filled with rage.

She’s not.

It’s only sadness.

She says, “You took much from me. From us. But you were just lost, I think. You were never going to win.”

It’s not forgiveness.

But it’s something.

xxiii.

Grief is a funny thing. There are days when it feels like it’s fading, like it’s nothing more than a low buzz at the back of her mind.

But then one little thing can set it off all over again.

She’s in the office, dusting the bookshelves. It’s mundane. It’s easy. It allows her mind to wander. Richard has been dead for six months, and she’s learning how to just be again. She smiles more these days. She laughs sometimes. Her pack is strong, and the wolf mother is proud. Green Creek is settling once again, and though she knows it might not last, it’s enough for now.

She’s startled out of her thoughts when she feels him.

It’s as if he’s standing right there.

She can smell him, and it’s woodsmoke and pine and pitch.

She whirls around.

There’s no one there.

Except….

There’s a book on the floor.

She says, “Is that you, dear? Please.”

There’s no response.

She lowers herself to the floor next to the book. It’s old. The cover is blank. It takes her a moment to recognize it for what it is.

When he was courting her, he would read poetry to her. He thought it was romantic. She thought it was ridiculous, but she loved him for it.

His favorite poet was Pablo Neruda. Because of course it was. The patron saint of pretty words.

She picks up the book from the floor.

There’s a piece of paper inside.

She opens the book.

She sees the poem printed on the page.

 

…something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom,
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open…

 

It was one of the first he’d read to her.

She laughed at him, feeling her face warm. But he was so earnest about it, so—

And oh, here it is again, this grief. Here it is, biting and clawing and tearing, saying I was always here, I’ve never left, and I am going to consume you.

She can barely breathe.

The book falls back to the floor.

The piece of paper inside falls out.

The smell of him is stronger than ever.

It’s choking her.

“What’s this?” she asks, and if she listens hard enough, she thinks she hears him say, My love, my wife, it’s all that remains.

She picks it up, hands shaking.

It’s a single page, and when she opens it, she sees it’s dated.

A week before he died.

She doesn’t want to read it.

She does anyway.

And in that familiar scrawl, it says:

To my beloved:

I am not a perfect man. I have made mistakes. Many, many mistakes. I regret most of them. I did what I thought was right, and hindsight is proving me wrong.

But none of these regrets are you.

You have made this life worth living.

You have given me a family.

You have given me a home.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what will happen. But I know that our pack is strong, and we will face whatever comes.

I don’t know what I’d do without you.

You keep me honest.

You keep me whole.

You don’t let me get away with anything (even when I want you to!)

Everything good in me is because of you.

And here, on our anniversary, I want you to know that I

And that’s all there is.

It’s unfinished.

She reads it again and again and again, and when she finally looks back up, the smell of woodsmoke and pine and pitch has faded.

xxiv.

There is a door.

A door to everything.

xxv.

It begins to build again.

She thinks the territory is cursed.

That all they will ever do is fight.

For a brief moment, she wonders if it’s worth it.

But it’s fleeting.

Because she is a wolf mother.

And she will do everything she can to protect what’s hers.

xxvi.

When she loses Carter to the Omega within him, when Mark shifts, eyes violet and bright, she understands real hatred.

She hates those who want to take from her.

xxvii.

There is a door.

It’s in Ox’s mind.

And it needs to be shattered.

So they do just that.

She sees him, briefly, sitting in front of the door. His fur is white and his eyes are red, and she hears Gordo say oh, but this moment isn’t just for her.

It’s for all of them.

And it tears at her.

In her head, there is a flash—PackLoveWifeBrotherSon—but it’s gone before she can grasp it.

The door breaks apart.

xxviii.

There is an ending.

But it only leads to a new beginning.

They are now at war.

Robert Livingstone will rise.

Michelle Hughes has made her choice.

And the Bennett pack will answer in kind.

She watches from the porch of the house at the end of the lane as the Omegas gather nervously, looking frightened and unsure.

Carter grumbles when the timber wolf follows him wherever he goes, growling at anyone who tries to come close. She wonders how long it’ll take for him to figure it out. She laughs when Carter snaps at the wolf, telling it to fuck off. The wolf ignores her son as it presses up against him. Carter doesn't push it away.

Kelly and Robbie are sitting side by side on the porch steps. Kelly glances at Robbie before looking away quickly. Robbie does the same a moment later. Their gazes never meet. She’s reminded of her and Thomas. Robbie is a good man. Kelly is very lucky.

Rico, Chris, and Tanner are working on Ox’s truck. They jostle each other as they curse at the engine. Chris and Tanner are healing. They’re so fragile. She wonders if they’ll ever take the bite. It’s their choice, but she needs to convince them. She doesn’t know if it’s her place.

Mark and Gordo are walking back from the blue house. Mark reaches out and takes Gordo’s remaining hand in his. She thinks Gordo will pull away. He doesn’t. The raven on Mark’s throat seems to flutter its wings.

Ox and Joe stand before the Omegas. They’re speaking quietly, their voices soft but exuding undeniable power. The Omegas stare up at them reverently.

“It’s the calm before the storm, isn’t it?” Jessie asks from beside her.

Elizabeth glances at her. “Yes.”

Jessie nods, looking out at their pack. “Is it always going to be this way?”

Yes. “I don’t know.”

Jessie reaches over and takes her hand. Elizabeth squeezes it gratefully. Jessie says, “It doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t?”

Jessie shakes her head. “We’re going to be here. No matter what. Always. We’re pack.”

Elizabeth believes her.

xxix.

That night, they sleep together in the living room, the couches pushed back and blankets and pillows spread out on the floor. The Omegas are in the basement, resting calmly knowing their Alpha just above them.

“I’m not going to get naked,” Rico tells them seriously. “Last time I did that, Carter grabbed my junk in his sleep, and I don’t want Bambi to kick his ass for touching what belongs to her.”

“Oh please,” Carter snaps. “You wish I would touch your junk.”

“He’s like twice your age,” Chris tells him. “You could call him Daddy if you really wanted.”

Papi,” Rico says with a sniff. “You would call me papi.”

“So gross,” Kelly whispers as he lies against his brother. The timber wolf growls, but Carter slaps him across the head, and it subsides. It lays down next to Carter, even as he sighs.

“Does Bambi call you papi?” Tanner asks. Then he grimaces. “You know what? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.”

“Oh, she calls me a lot more than that. Screams it, even—”

“I could call her and ask her,” Jessie says, settling down next to Elizabeth. “Find out what she thinks.”

“No,” Rico says quickly. “Absolutely no need to do that. In fact, let’s never talk to her about anything I say when she’s not here, because of… reasons.”

“We have our own house,” Gordo grumbles to Mark. “I don’t know why we just don’t go there.”

“You like having sleepovers,” Robbie tells him. “Even though you complain and make that face and—”

“I will light you on fire,” Gordo threatens. “And break your fucking glasses.”

“All bark and no bite,” Mark says, kissing the side of his head.

Gordo rolls his eyes but doesn’t argue further.

Ox and Joe are in the middle. Their hearts are beating in sync, and it flows through all of them. Elizabeth is beginning to drift off when—

“Everyone in town thinks we have orgies,” Rico says, apropos of nothing. “And I don’t tell them otherwise. Just so you all know.”

There are shouts of horror that lead to a pillow fight.

Elizabeth closes her eyes and smiles.

xxx.

When she dreams these days, it’s always in shades of blue.

She’s in an endless forest. The trees stretch toward the starry sky. She feels the cool grass beneath her bare feet. The moon is bright. It’s full, of course.

She’s not alone.

She can’t see him, but she knows he’s there. She hears him breathe.

She turns her head to look for him, but there’s nothing but a flash of white disappearing into the woods.

Except this time, when she wakes, her face isn’t wet.

She looks to her pack.

They’re sleeping deeply, all tangled together.

She—

Woodsmoke.

Pine.

Pitch.

She sits up.

There is a lovesong howling in her head.

She stands slowly.

She hears the clicking of nails on the porch outside, the wood creaking.

As if a heavy animal is pacing in front of the door.

She steps over the others carefully. She takes the shawl hanging from a hook next to the door and wraps it around her shoulders.

She takes a deep breath.

And opens the door.

The porch is empty.

The air is cold as she steps out of the house, closing the door behind her.

She listens.

And in the distance, there is a whisper.

It says, Something started in my soul, fever or forgotten wings, and I made my own way, deciphering that fire.

She steps off the porch.

The grass is cool under her bare feet.

The stars above are bright. The moon is almost full. It pulls at her.

But she doesn’t shift.

The trees sway as she walks through the forest.

She thinks that she will decipher that fire.

Here. At last.

Because grief is fire. It burns until all that remains are charred bones of a life that used to be.

She’s not alone as she walks. She can’t see them, but she can feel them.

She comes to the clearing.

Here, once, a boy told her he loved her.

Here, once, she kissed him.

Here, once, he kissed her.

And here, once, he burned as the songs howled him home.

After he was nothing but ash, when his embers had cooled, she’d returned alone, an old stone wolf in her hands.

She’d dug through ash and dirt.

She’d buried the stone wolf there, deep in the earth.

And there it remained.

Except—

She sits in the middle of the clearing and waits.

The lovesong is roaring through her.

She doesn’t wait long.

She sees orange eyes in the trees around her. Dozens of them.

Hundreds.

They pace through the trees, never coming closer.

They are protecting her here.

She knows many of them.

The ones she doesn’t know came before her, but they are hers all the same.

She sees a flash of red, but it’s not the one she’s waiting for.

“Abel,” she whispers, and the wolf howls.

She closes her eyes.

There’s a puff of hot air against her face.

She smiles.

“Hello, dear,” she says, and her voice breaks.

She opens her eyes.

Before her stands a great white wolf.

In his jaws, he holds a stone wolf.

He lays it down gently at her feet. He nudges it toward her.

Here he is, once again, giving it to her.

“I buried it,” she tells him. “Because I thought it was a piece of me for you to take wherever you’d gone.”

He snorts and shakes his head, eyes bright. He sits on his hindquarters, towering over her. She tilts her head back to look up at him. He presses his snout against her forehead, and she says, “Oh.”

There are bright flashes of light.

She hears his voice.

He says, “I’m sorry. For everything. That I had to leave you. That I had to leave our family. I never wanted to. All I ever wanted was to be with you. You are the moon. You pull at me. You make me howl. You make me sing.”

And suddenly I saw the heavens unfastened and open.

He says, “I have loved you since I’ve known you. And I will love you forever.”

The lights grow brighter. It’s blue like sadness, but there is the sweet green of relief shot through it, and she knows that no matter what happens next, she will have had this moment.

The lights fade.

And there before her sits Thomas Bennett. He’s nude, and his skin is unmarked. Death has healed him.

The cry of joy she gives echoes around them. The wolves in the trees sing out in response.

She tackles him.

He laughs.

His skin is warm.

His arms wrap around her.

He kisses her cheeks.

The tip of her nose.

The top of her head.

He’s strong.

And vital.

And—

“This is a dream,” she whispers against the hollow of his throat.

“It’s close to one,” he says into her hair. “You’re asleep with our pack. You are safe and sound. But this… this is a gift. It’s a gift from our territory, for all that we’ve been through. One last chance until we meet again.”

She allows herself to break.

He holds her as she sobs.

His voice is rough when he says, “Hey. Oh, Lizzie. Hey. Shush. None of that.”

Her chest hitches as she lifts her head.

His smile shakes. His eyes are wet.

She has so much to say.

So much to tell him.

She decides on “You fucking asshole.”

He blinks in surprise as she smacks his chest. “Hey! That hurts!”

“I don’t care,” she growls at him, feeling her teeth lengthen. “You—you bastard.”

She gives in to her rage.

He takes it, for a little while at least. After a time, he grabs her hands and holds them tightly. “Would you stop it?”

“Why?” she demands. “Why did you do what you did? Why did you have to leave us? Leave me?”

He sighs as he lets his head rest against the grass. He’s still holding her wrists, and she marvels at how real it feels. He says, “An Alpha is a leader, but even more so, a protector. In the end, he or she puts their pack above all others. An Alpha will do anything to keep their people safe.”

Oh, she’s heard that time and time again, hasn’t she? Of course she has. Being the mate of an Alpha saw to that.

She slides off, lying on the grass next to him. He lets her go. She turns her head to press her forehead against his shoulder. She breathes him in. “I wish you never….”

“Became the Alpha?”

“Yes.”

“I know.

“It’s not fair.”

“I know that too. But look at what you’ve made for yourself.” He laughs quietly. “This… pack of ours. The wolves. The humans. They’re strong.” His laughter fades. “And they’ll have to be. All of you will. Because of what’s coming.”

She closes her eyes. “Can you tell me what it is?”

“I don’t know.” He sounds frustrated. “It’s… a feeling. A storm. It’s on the horizon. Everything will change. For you. For all the wolves. Ox….” She feels him shake his head. “It’s lost in the storm. He’s important. All of you are important.” And then he whispers, “Robbie will…” but nothing follows.

She asks him what he means.

He doesn’t know.

“It’s not fair,” she says again, unable to keep the bitterness from her voice. “Why does it have to be us?”

“Because of who you are,” he says quietly. “You are the Bennett pack. And your song will always be heard.”

The wolves around them begin to whisper through the bonds.

They say pack and pack and pack.

She listens.

He sits up, head cocked.

And then he says, “Chase me. I love you, chase me.”

He shifts, the grind of muscle and bone loud in the clearing.

She doesn’t think twice.

She shifts too.

They run together in the woods. She nips at his heels. At the tip of his tail. He snaps playfully back at her, weaving in and out of the trees. She runs, he runs, they run together, and it’s like it used to be, before. When they were young and had nothing to be afraid of. She hears him laughing in her head, and it’s so happy and bright that it makes her heart thrum.

The other wolves run around them, always just out of sight. She feels them, recognizes them, bright sparks in the darkness that she hasn’t felt since the hunters came and took them all away.

They run.

They all run.

He says, LoveWifeMate

He says, you are here you are here you are here

He says, i am too and no matter where you go

He says, no matter what you do

He says, i will always be with you because i love you i love you i love you

She sings her lovesong into the trees and sky, and it’s blue and green and the territory around her quakes with the power of her voice.

Green Creek shudders and shakes with her call.

Toward the end, the wolves around them begin to fade.

They’re not gone, just… returned to the earth.

To the moon.

She knows she doesn’t have much time.

She shifts, panting as she falls to her hands and knees.

She looks up as the white wolf turns to her.

She whispers, “I forgive you.”

And she means it.

He tilts his head back and howls.

It echoes through the woods.

In it, she hears keep them safe keep them safe and tell them tell them tell them their father loves them and and and we will be together again one day one day we will be together and we will run as packpackpack.

And then he steps forward and presses his snout against her forehead and she says, “Oh.”

The world explodes around her.

xxxi.

She opens her eyes.

She’s in the house.

Her pack breathes deeply around her.

It was a dream.

It was all a dream.

It stings more than—

“Mom?”

She sits up.

Joe and Carter and Kelly are awake. They’re watching her in the dark. Joe’s eyes are red. Kelly’s are orange.

Carter’s are violet, but he’s in control.

“Hey,” she says, trying to crawl out of the memory of the dream. “Are you all right? What’s the matter?”

“He was here,” Carter whispers.

Kelly nods, eyes wet. “We felt him.”

And Joe says, “We can smell him. It’s—” His eyes widen. “What’s that?”

She looks down to where he’s pointing.

In her hand is a wolf of stone.

The one she’d buried years before.

“Mom?” Joe asked. “Did he…?”

“I think he did.” She wipes her eyes as she sets the wolf on the floor next to them. She opens her arms. Her children come to her, pressing their faces against her. They’re big, her sons, but somehow they make it work. She sees Ox open his eyes, but he doesn’t speak as he watches them. She says, “I had the most wonderful dream. Would you like to hear it?”

They all nod.

And so she tells them.

xxxii.

The sun rises on a new day.

Everyone is asleep again.

Surrounded by her pack, she watches the light begin to filter in through the window. It feels like healing. Or at least the start of it.

This pack is different than the ones that have come before.

She thinks it’s for the better.

And no matter what comes next, the world will hear their songs.

There will be peace. This she promises to herself.

Eventually, she picks up the stone wolf, tracing it with her finger.

“One day,” she whispers to it. “One day, my love. I will look upon your face, and all will be well.”

And though she thinks it’s just a trick of the early morning light, she swears the eyes of the stone wolf flash red.

end

(The wolves will return in Heartsong, coming September 2019.)

 

 

Lovesong: The Soundtrack

First and foremost: thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the love you've shown Ravensong. It's been out for just over two weeks, and I've been blown away by the reception it has received. I love this pack of wolves and humans very much, and to see them embraced like they've been means the world to me.

But their story is not over. Not by a longshot.

On September 1, the wolf mother will speak.

 

Lovesong-banner-blue-1.jpg

To be clear: Lovesong is a short story that I'll be releasing for free here on my website. While I know that people will want it to be much, much longer than it is, this story was a two-fold exercise for me: one, to keep it a certain length (5K words, which I failed miserably at) and two, to reconcile with what I think are the sins of the wolves while giving Elizabeth her moment.

I'll discuss this in more detail when I do a wrap-up blog on the how's and why's of Ravensong after Lovesong comes out, but in short, I think Thomas and Elizabeth allowing Joe to give Ox his stone wolf was done for selfish reasons. The debate can go on and on whether or not Ox had any choice, and I often fall on both sides of the argument. Ravensong was meant to take away the shine of Wolfsong, to show the dirt and grime just underneath the surface. Lovesong adds to that, from the perspective of someone who contributed. Were Thomas and Elizabeth wrong? Maybe. Did they do it for the right reasons? I don't know. To Ox, they were infallible. To Gordo, they were monsters. How thin that line is, in the end.

But that'll come later.

First, is Lovesong.

Here is the mini-soundtrack list I made while writing this story. You'll see a couple of familiar artists from the Ravensong soundtrack, one that goes back to Wolfsong, and a new one that I think fits Elizabeth and Thomas perfectly. I'm sure some enterprising reader will make a Spotify playlist for this so I don't have to try and figure it out. (At least I know what Spotify is now, so shut up.)

Thanks again for loving my wolves almost as much as I do.

packpackpack

 

Sleeping At Last

Bad Blood

we study our story arcs, inherently good

or were we broken right from the start?

 

Dinah Shore

I'll Walk Alone

i don't mind being lonely

when my heart tells me you are lonely too

 

Red

Hymn for the Missing

sometimes i hear you calling from some lost and distant shore

i hear you crying softly for the way it was before

 

Jasmine Thompson

Like I'm Gonna Lose You

so i'm gonna love you like i'm gonna lose you

i'm gonna hold you like i'm saying goodbye

 

Ravensong Release Date Issues

RE: Ravensong release date

As some of you might be aware, Amazon in all their infinite glory has changed the release date for no apparent reason to August 7th. In fact, I am hearing that some people have had their pre-orders cancelled because of this.

THE RELEASE DATE HAS NOT CHANGED. My publisher is attempting to get this fixed with Amazon, but so far, they aren't doing anything. The book will be released everywhere else (i.e. through Dreamspinner, B&N, Kobo, the usual places) this Tuesday, 7/31. If you pre-ordered through Amazon, check to see if your pre-order was canceled. If so, you can either re-order through Amazon and hope for the best, or choose a different place to buy.

I'm sorry, I know this sucks, but it is out of my control at this point. I'm just as frustrated as you are, and hope Amazon gets their fucking asses in gear.

 

tj

Ravensong: All Pre-Orders

FINALLY!

Sorry for the delay. I've been on my publisher for a week now trying to get everything up. Delays happen, but we're mostly good to go now. It's a little frustrating, I know, but I'm also on vacation right now, and trying to do all of this and relax is not exactly working out so well so far. But we're good to go now.

Links are below. If you can't find Ravensong on a place where you normally find my books, let me know so I can follow up. And, as an FYI, if you are the type to buy physical copies, if you buy direct from the publisher, you get the ebook for free! As a reminder, too, if you buy from the publisher, I get a bigger cut of the royalties.

(note: B&N is still getting the ebook up, and Amazon is still getting the paperback up, so if you want EITHER of those and don't want to order from the publisher, you'll have to check back.)

Eight days remain.

Are you ready?

tj

Dreamspinner: https://goo.gl/u2dxHL

Amazon: https://goo.gl/JSgRvE

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

Kobo: https://goo.gl/Z6ALJY 

iBooks: https://goo.gl/HgquAL

Ravensong: Or How I Am Gud Righter

Ravensong_FBbanner_DSP.jpg

So close, aren't we? If you're reading this the day I posted it, we are now only 13 days before the release of Ravensong. I've had a blast being able to write these posts leading up to the release, though I know many of you (like myself) just want the FUCKING BOOK TO COME OUT ALREADY!!!

It'll be here before you know it. Promise.

Pre-order: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/ravensong-by-tj-klune-9779-b

In thinking about what I wanted to do for this second-to-last pre-release blog post, I thought back to what the response is that I've had on previous posts for this book and others. One thing that stuck out to me is how many people enjoy the "behind-the-scenes" look into what goes into the writing process. It's a lot more work than readers sometimes tend to realize. You have the actual writing of the book itself, then the beta reading, and then the months and months and months of editing and then rereading proof-reader version, and then the galley (how the book will usually look in its final form). There are ups and downs to all these steps, and it usually begins with the first round of editing, which is always a high for me, down to the very last read through which, by then, I'm so fucking sick of the goddamn story I never want to see it ever again.

Today, though, I wanted to focus on the actual writing of the story with a little anecdote followed by some examples that show you just how nuts my brain can be.

I have this notepad function on my phone. It allows me to dictate notes to myself, which are then turned into words and saved so I can come back to them. I'm struck by story ideas/plot points at the weirdest of times, and can be in the middle of a grocery store when I think of something I desperately need to put in a book, and will pull out my phone and speak into it, creating the note so I can come back to it later. Imagine coming across me in the store, muttering into my phone, "Do werewolves have sex with each other when they're shifted, and if so, is that beastiality?"

Yeah. It goes about as well as you think. I've learned to ignore the looks I get. I've got the eccentric writer thing down.

So, I went back through the folder for my saved notes for Ravensong (314 of them!) and pulled some so you can see how much I live these books, and how stupid I can be about them. The only edits I've made to them is to remove spoilers.

Note 16: You made Carter too much of an asshole. Why would you do that? Fix it. It doesn't work like it is. He would never say ****.

Note 3:  Go back and change the part about Joe and what he says to Ox. It sounds super fake and Joe isn't that much of a bitch. Or is he?

Note 27: People are going to be pissed about it, but you need to *****.  Fuck 'em, right? They only support your entire livelihood.

Note 98: Add in that Gordo wants to **** with ****. It'll make more sense if you do it now rather than try and shoehorn it in later. Trust me. I am you.

Note 54: There is no way I can get away with ***** and **** unless I make it believable. If I don't I'm fucked. Do it right.

Note 107: What do werewolf penises look like? Does that even matter? Is there such a thing as a hot werewolf when it's an actual wolf? I don't like this.

Note 79: Stop making people monologue. Fix this. This isn't Verania (speech to text made this look like VARANYAS). It looks stupid. Fix it.

Note 115: No werewolf threesomes ever. Hi I'm a werewolf. I'm in a throuple with Chad and Brad. That's dumb.

Note 206: Carter should not be flirting with everything that moves. He's not a werewolf whore. Go back and change ****.

Note 227: Make **** and **** angstier. It's lame the way it is right now.

Note 165: They need to be howling here. Everyone needs to be howling even the humans. Which is ridiculous.

Note 236: Go back and look for what Gordo's mom's name is. I forgot. Remember to change it.

Note 238: I still need to look for Gordo's mom's name. Don't forget.

Note 247: Gordo's mom is named *****

Note 300: The moment where **** and **** go to **** doesn't work. Rewrite it. I know rewriting sucks but do it anyway.

And there you have it. This is what part of being a writer is like. It's second-guessing yourself, berating yourself, being lazy about fixing something, and thinking about werewolf penises.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

13 days!

tj

 

 

 

 

Ravensong: The First Chapter

Three more weeks until Ravensong. It's been a long wait, I know, but it's almost here. I am proud to present to you the first chapter in it's entirety. DSP has an excerpt up, but it's incomplete. There are two more crucial scenes that round out the first chapter.

There is no hand-holding here: we jump right back into the story, beginning with a difficult scene from Wolfsong told from Gordo's perspective. If you don't remember events from Wolfsong, you might want to consider a re-read before jumping into the next book, as any recap would have been awkward in the narrative.

Pre-Order: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/ravensong-by-tj-klune-9779-b

You ready?

tj

 

Ravensong_FBbanner_DSP.jpg

 

promises

 

THE ALPHA said, “We’re leaving.”

Ox stood near the doorway, smaller than I’d ever seen him. The skin under his eyes looked bruised.

This wasn’t going to go well. Ambushes never did.

“What?” Ox asked, eyes narrowing slightly. “When?”

“Tomorrow.”

He said, “You know I can’t leave yet,” and I touched the raven on my forearm, feeling the flutter of wings, the pulse of magic. It burned. “I have to meet with Mom’s lawyer in two weeks to go over her will. There’s the house and—”

“Not you, Ox,” Joe Bennett said, sitting behind his father’s desk. Thomas Bennett was nothing but ash.

I saw the moment the words sunk in. It was savage and brutal, the betrayal of a heart already broken.

“And not Mom. Or Mark.”

Carter and Kelly Bennett shifted uncomfortably, standing side by side near Joe. I wasn’t pack and hadn’t been for a long, long time, but even I could feel the low thrum of anger coursing through them. But not at Joe. Or Ox. Or anyone in this room. They had revenge in their blood, the need to rend with claw and fang. They were already lost to the idea of it.

But so was I. Ox just didn’t know it yet.

“So it’s you,” Ox said. “And Carter. Kelly.”

“And Gordo.”

And now he did. Ox didn’t look at me. It might as well have been just the two of them in the room. “And Gordo. Where are you going?”

“To do what’s right.”

“Nothing about this is right,” Ox retorted. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“I’m telling you now,” he said, and oh, Joe. He had to know this wasn’t—

“Because that’s the right—where are you going?”

“After Richard.”

Once, when Ox was a boy, his piece-of-shit father had left for parts unknown without so much as a glance over his shoulder. It took weeks for Ox to pick up the phone and call me, but he did. He’d spoken slowly, but I’d heard the hurt in every word as he told me we’re not doing okay, that he was seeing letters from the bank talking about taking away the house he and his mom lived in down that old familiar dirt road.

Could I have a job? It’s just we need the money and I can’t let her lose the house. It’s all we have left. I’d do good, Gordo. I would do good work and I’d work for you forever. It was going to happen anyway and can we just do it now? Can we just do it now? I’m sorry. I just need to do it now because I have to be the man now.

That was the sound of a boy lost.

And here in front of me, the lost boy had returned. Oh sure, he was bigger now, but his mother was in the ground, his Alpha nothing but smoke in the stars, his mate, of all fucking things, digging his claws into his chest and twisting, twisting, twisting.

I did nothing to stop it. It was already too late. For all of us.

“Why?” Ox asked, voice cracking right down the middle.

Why, why, why.

Because Thomas was dead.

Because they’d taken from us.

Because they’d come to Green Creek, Richard Collins and his Omegas, their eyes violet in the dark, snarling as they came to face the fallen king.

I had done what I could.

It wasn’t enough.

There was a boy, this little boy not even eighteen years of age, bearing the weight of his father’s legacy, the monster from his childhood made flesh. His eyes burned red, and he knew only vengeance. It pulsed through his brothers in a circle that never ended, feeding each other’s anger. He was the boy prince turned furious king, and he’d needed my help.

Elizabeth Bennett was quiet, letting it happen in front of her. Ever the muted queen, an afghan around her shoulders, watching this goddamn tragedy play out. I couldn’t even be sure she was all there.

And Mark, he—

No. Not him. Not now.

The past was past was past.

They argued, baring their teeth and growling at each other. Back and forth, each cutting until the other bled out before us. I understood Ox. The fear of losing those you loved. Of a responsibility you never asked for. Of being told something you never wanted to hear.

I understood Joe. I didn’t want to, but I did.

We think it was your father, Gordo, Osmond whispered. We think Robert Livingstone found a path back to magic and broke the wards that held Richard Collins.

Yes. I thought I understood Joe most of all.

“You can’t divide the pack,” Ox said, and oh Jesus, he was begging. “Not now. Joe, you are the goddamn Alpha. They need you here. All of them. Together. Do you really think they’d agree to—”

“I already told them days ago,” Joe said. And then he flinched. “Shit.”

I closed my eyes.

 

THERE WAS this:

“That’s shit, Gordo.”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re going along with it.”

“Someone has to make sure he doesn’t kill himself.”

“And that someone is you. Because you’re pack.”

“Looks like.”

“By choice?”

“I think so.”

But of course it wasn’t that it easy. It never was.

And:

“You mean to kill. You’re okay with that?”

“Nothing about this is okay, Ox. But Joe’s right. We can’t let this happen to anyone else. Richard wanted Thomas, but how long before he goes after another pack just to become an Alpha? How long before he amasses another following, bigger than the one before? The trail is already growing cold. We have to finish this while we still can. This is revenge, pure and simple, but it’s coming from the right place.”

I wondered if I believed my own lies.

In the end:

“You should talk to him. Before you go.”

“Joe?”

“Mark.”

“Ox—”

“What if you don’t come back? Do you really want him to think you don’t care? Because that’s fucked-up, man. You know me. But sometimes, I think you forget that I know you just as well. Maybe even more.”

Goddamn him.

 

SHE STOOD in the kitchen of the Bennett house, staring out the window. Her hands were curled against the counter. Her shoulders were tense, and she wore her grief like a shroud. Even though I hadn’t wanted anything to do with wolves for years, I still knew the respect she commanded. She was royalty, whether she wanted to be or not.

“Gordo,” Elizabeth said without turning around. I wondered if she was listening for wolves singing songs I hadn’t been able to hear for a long time. “How is he?”

“Angry.”

“That’s to be expected.”

“Is it?”

“I suppose,” she said quietly. “But you and I are older. Maybe not wiser, but older. Everything we’ve been through, all that we’ve seen, this is just… another thing. Ox is a boy. We’ve sheltered him as much as we could. We—”

“You brought this upon him,” I said before I could stop myself. The words were flung like a grenade, and they exploded as they landed at her feet. “If you’d stayed away, if you hadn’t brought him into this, he could still—”

“I’m sorry for what we did to you,” she said, and I choked. “What your father did. He was—it wasn’t fair. Or right. No child should ever go through what you did.”

“And yet you did nothing to stop it,” I said bitterly. “You and Thomas and Abel. My mother. None of you. You only cared about what I could be to you, not what it would mean for me. What my father did to me meant nothing to you. And then you went and left—”

“You broke the bonds with the pack.”

“Easiest decision I ever made.”

“I can hear when you lie, Gordo. Your magic can’t cover your heartbeat. Not always. Not when it matters most.”

“Fucking werewolves.” Then, “I was twelve when I was made the witch to the Bennett pack. My mother was dead. My father was gone. But still, Abel held out his hand to me, and the only reason I said yes was because I didn’t know any better. Because I didn’t want to be left alone. I was scared, and—”

“You didn’t do it for Abel.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “What the hell are you talking about?”

She finally turned and looked at me. She still had the afghan around her shoulders. At some point she’d pulled her blonde hair back into a ponytail, locks of which were loose and hung about her face. Her eyes were blue, then orange, then blue again, flickering dully. Most anyone who looked at her would have thought Elizabeth Bennett weak and frail in that moment, but I knew better. She was backed into a corner, the most dangerous place for a predator to be. “It wasn’t for Abel.”

Ah. So that was the game she wanted to play. “It was my duty.”

“Your father—”

“My father lost control when his tether was taken from him. My father has aligned himself with—”

“We all had a part to play,” Elizabeth said. “Every single one of us. We made mistakes. We were young and foolish and filled with a great and terrible rage at everything that had been taken from us. Abel did what he thought was right back then. So did Thomas. I’m doing what I think is right now.”

“And yet you did nothing to fight your sons. To not let them make the same mistakes we did. You rolled over like a dog in that room.”

She didn’t rise to the bait. Instead she said, “And you didn’t?”

Fuck. “Why?”

“Why what, Gordo? You have to be more specific.”

“Why are you letting them go?”

“Because we were young and foolish once, filled with a great and terrible rage. And that has now passed to them.” She sighed. “You’ve been there before. You’ve been through this. It happened once. And it’s happening again. I’m trusting you to help them avoid the mistakes we made.”

“I’m not pack.”

“No,” she said, and that shouldn’t have stung like it did. “But that’s a choice you made. Much like we are here now because of the choices we made. Maybe you’re right. Maybe if we hadn’t come here, Ox would be….”

“Human?”

Her eyes flashed again. “Thomas—”

I snorted. “He didn’t tell me shit. But it’s not hard to see. What is it about him?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I don’t know that Thomas knew either. Not exactly. But Ox is… special. Different. He doesn’t see it yet. And it may be a long time before he does. I don’t know if it’s magic or something more. He’s not like us. He’s not like you. But he’s not human. Not completely. He’s more, I think. Than all of us.”

“You need to keep him safe. I’ve strengthened the wards as best I can, but you need—”

“He’s pack, Gordo. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for pack. Surely you remember that.”

“I did it for Abel. And then for Thomas.”

“Lie,” she said, cocking her head. “But you almost believe it.”

I took a step back. “I need to—”

“Why can’t you say it?”

“There’s nothing to say.”

“He loved you,” she said, and I’d never hated her more. “With everything he had. Such is the way of wolves. We sing and sing and sing until someone hears our song. And you did. You heard. You didn’t do it for Abel or Thomas, Gordo. Even then. You were twelve years old, but you knew. You were pack.”

“Goddamn you,” I said hoarsely.

“I know,” she said, not unkindly. “Sometimes the things we need to hear the most are the things we want to hear the least. I loved my husband, Gordo. I will love him forever. And he knew that. Even in the end, even when Richard—” Her breath caught in her throat. She shook her head. “Even then. He knew. And I will miss him every day until I can stand at his side again, until I can look upon his face, his beautiful face, and tell him how angry I am. How stupid he is. How lovely it is to see him again, and would he please just say my name.” There were tears in her eyes, but they didn’t fall. “I hurt, Gordo. I don’t know if this ache will ever leave me. But he knew.”

“It’s not the same.”

“Only because you won’t let it be. He loved you. He gave you his wolf. And then you gave it back.”

“He made his choice. And I made mine. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want anything to do with you. With him.”

“You. Lie.

“What do you want from me?” I asked, anger filling my voice. “What the hell could you possibly want?”

“Thomas knew,” she said again. “Even at the brink of death. Because I told him. Because I showed him time and time again. I regret many things in my life. But I will never regret Thomas Bennett.”

She moved toward me, her steps slow but sure. I stood my ground, even when she placed a hand on my shoulder, squeezing tightly. “You leave in the morning. Don’t regret this, Gordo. Because if words are left unsaid, they will haunt you for the rest of your days.”

She brushed past me. But before she left the kitchen, she said, “Please take care of my sons. I’m trusting you with them, Gordo. If I find out you have betrayed that trust, or if you stood idly by as they faced that monster, there will be nowhere you could hide that I wouldn’t find you. I will tear you to pieces, and the regret I feel will be minimal.”

Then she was gone.

 

HE STOOD out on the porch, staring off into nothing, hands clasped behind his back. Once he’d been a boy with pretty blue eyes like ice, the brother to a future king. Now he was a man, hardened by the rough edges of the world. His brother was gone. His Alpha was leaving. There was blood in the air, death on the wind.

Mark Bennett said, “Is she all right?”

Because of course he knew I was there. Wolves always did. Especially when it came to their—“No.”

“Are you?”

“No.”

He didn’t turn. The porch light gleamed dully off his shaved head. He took in a deep breath, broad shoulders rising and falling. The skin of my palms itched. “It’s strange, don’t you think?”

Always the enigmatic asshole. “What is?”

“You left once. And here you are, leaving again.”

I bristled at that. “You left me first.”

“And I came back as often as I could.”

“It wasn’t enough.” But that wasn’t quite right, was it? Not even close. Even though my mother was long gone, her poison had still dripped into my ears: the wolves did this, the wolves took everything, they always will because it is in their nature to do so. They lied, she told me. They always lied.

He let it slide. “I know.”

“This isn’t—I’m not trying to start anything here.”

I could hear the smile in his voice. “You never are.”

“Mark.”

“Gordo.”

“Fuck you.”

He finally turned, still as handsome as he was the day I’d met him, though I’d been a child and hadn’t known what it meant. He was big and strong, and his eyes were that icy blue they’d always been, clever and all-knowing. I had no doubt he could feel the anger and despair that swirled within me, no matter how hard I tried to block them. The bonds between us were broken and had been for a long time, but there was still something there, no matter how much I’d tried to bury it.

He scrubbed a hand over his face, his fingers disappearing into that full beard. I remembered when he’d first started growing it at seventeen, a patchy thing I’d given him endless shit over. I felt a pang in my chest, but I was used to it by now. It didn’t mean anything. Not anymore.

I was almost convinced.

He dropped his hand and said, “Take care of yourself, okay?” He smiled a brittle smile and then moved toward the door to the Bennett house.

And I was going to let him go. I was going to let him pass right on by. That would be it. I wouldn’t see him again until… until. He would stay here, and I would leave, a reversal of the way it’d once been.

I was going to let him go because it would be easier that way. For all the days ahead.

But I’d always been stupid when it came to Mark Bennett.

I reached out and grabbed his arm before he could leave me.

He stopped.

We stood shoulder to shoulder. I faced the road ahead. He faced all that we would leave behind.

He waited.

We breathed.

“This isn’t—I can’t….”

“No,” he whispered. “I don’t suppose you can.”

“Mark,” I choked out, struggling for something, anything that I could say. “I’m coming—we’re coming back. Okay? We’re—”

“Is that a promise?”

Yes.”

“I don’t believe your promises anymore,” he said. “I haven’t for a very long time. Watch yourself, Gordo. Take care of my nephews.”

And then he was in the house, the door closing behind him.

I stepped off the porch and didn’t look back.

 

I sat in the garage that bore my name, a piece of paper on the desk before me.

They wouldn’t understand. I loved them, but they could be idiots. I had to say something.

I picked up an old Bic pen and began to write.

 

 

I have to be gone for a while. Tanner, you’re in charge of the shop. Make sure you send the earnings to the accountant. He’ll handle the taxes. Ox has access to all the bank stuff, personal and shop-related. Anything you need, you go through him. If you need to hire someone to pick up the slack, do it, but don’t hire some fuckup . We’ve worked too hard to get where we are. Chris and Rico, handle the day-to-day ops. I don’t how long this is going to take, but just in case, you need to watch each other’s back. Ox is going to need you.

 

 

It wasn’t enough.

It would never be enough.

I hoped they could forgive me. One day.

My fingers were stained with ink, leaving smudges on the paper.

 

 

I turned off the lights in the garage.

I stood in the dark for a long time.

I breathed in the smell of sweat and metal and oil.

 

 

 

It wasn’t quite dawn when we met on the dirt road that led to the houses at the end of the lane. Carter and Kelly sat in the SUV, watching me through the windshield as I walked up, a pack slung over my shoulder.

Joe stood in the middle of the road. His head was tilted back, eyes closed as his nostrils flared. Thomas had told me once that being an Alpha meant he was in tune with everything in his territory. The people. The trees. The deer in the forest, the plants that swayed in the wind. It was everything to an Alpha, a deep-seated sense of home that one could find nowhere else.

I wasn’t an Alpha. I wasn’t even a wolf. I never wanted to be.

But I understood what he’d meant. My magic was as ingrained in this place as he was. It was different, but not so much that it mattered. He felt everything. I felt the heartbeat, the pulse of the territory that stretched around us.

Green Creek had been tied to his senses.

And it was etched into my skin.

It hurt to leave, and not just because of those we were leaving behind. There was a physical pull an Alpha and a witch felt. It called to us, saying here here here you are here here here you stay because this is home this is home this is

“Was it always like this?” Joe asked. “For my dad?”

I glanced at the SUV. Carter and Kelly were watching us intently. I knew they were listening. I looked back at Joe, at his upturned face. “I think so.”

“We were gone, though. For so long.”

“He was the Alpha. Not just for you. Not just for your pack. But for all. And then Richard….”

“Took me.”

“Yes.”

Joe opened his eyes. They were not alight. “I am not my father.”

“I know. But you’re not supposed to be.”

“Are you with me?”

I hesitated. I knew what he was asking. It wasn’t formal, not by a long shot, but he was an Alpha, and I was a witch without a pack.

Take care of my nephews.

I said the only thing I could.

“Yes.”

His shift came over him quickly, his face elongating, skin covered in white hair, claws stretching out from the tips from his fingers. And as his eyes burst into flames, he tilted his head back and sang the song of the wolf.

Ravensong: The Soundtrack

First things first! Ravensong is finally up for pre-order with Dreamspinner. All other 3rd party sites to follow in the next week or two.

Pre-order: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/ravensong-by-tj-klune-9779-b

Now on to this week's post:

Ravensong_FBbanner_DSP.jpg

THE SOUNDTRACK

 

Music has always been a big part of my writing. I tend to make playlists for each new book I start writing, adding music to it as I go until I finish. I'm usually left with playlists that are dozens of songs long by the end.

Ravensong is a big book.

And that means it comes with big songs.

I've chosen eighteen songs off my Ravensong playlist (out of 126!) that I think perfectly fit the story I'm telling. I present these songs in order as they go with the narration of the story.

Ravensong is a book divided into three parts, though technically it can be argued to be four parts total: the opening chapter, the section titled Three Years One Month Twenty Six Days, followed by the section known as One Year Later and the final section, which I won't name here. For purposes of the soundtrack, I'm going to divide it into four parts.

The last section, much like the first, only has one song for a reason: they are both only a single chapter. The last section in particular is only a few pages long. And the song I picked for it is one that I've thought about for a long time. It's...well.

You'll find out soon enough when you listen to it. Take from it what you will.

Here, below, is the soundtrack, complete with a lyric or two that I think goes well with the story of Ravensong. I mostly let the songs speak for themselves; however, I did put one note on a particular song that I feel is the best of the bunch, and is, in essence, Gordo and Mark.

 

 

I. The Beginning

 

Please Don't Go Barcelona

If you want me to break down and give you the keys

I can do that but I can't let you leave

 

II. Three Years One Month Twenty-Six Days

 

Black Eyes Radical Face

While I slept you crept in and pulled the rug right out from under me

Then the rain stole away and took the parts that kept me functioning

 

Muddy Waters LP

I will ask you for mercy, I will come to you blind

What you’ll see is the worst me, not the last of my kind

 

Remains Bastille vs. Rag N Bone Man vs. Skunk Anansie

From dusk to dawn, my unheard screams grow silent in defeat

I know you’re just a memory, but you used to taste so sweet

 

Human Rag N Bone Man

I'm only human after all

Don't put your blame on me

 

Johnny Guitar Peggy Lee

What if you go, what if you stay, I love you

But if you're cruel, you can be kind, I know

 

Three Cheers for Five Years (Acoustic) Mayday Parade

Inside I hope you know I'm dying with my heart beside me

In shattered pieces that may never be replaced

 

Come Back for Me Jaymes Young

Oh, whatever you do, don't come back for me

After all I've bled for you, I can hardly breathe

 

Comin' Home City and Colour

I thought you could never leave, I figured I was the one

But I understand sadness so I guess I should just hold my tongue

 

III. One Year Later

 

Howl Florence + the Machine

If you could only see the beast you've made of me

I held it in but now it seems you've set it running free

 

Krwling Linking Park featuring Aaron Lewis

There's something inside me that pulls beneath the surface

Consuming, confusing

 

Start Again Red

What if I let you in? What if I make it right?

What if I give it up? What if I want to try?

 

It Has Begun Starset

We will face the odds against us

And run into the fear we run from

 

Light Sleeping At Last

May these words be the first to find your ears

The world is brighter than the sun now that you're here

(My favorite out of all the songs on this playlist. Oh man, does Light punch my right in my Gordo + Mark feels. It is my unofficial theme song for the entire book. I listened to it on repeat for some big, big scenes.)

Warriors Imagine Dragons

Here we are, don't turn away now

We are the warriors that built this town

 

Run Boy Run Woodkid

Tomorrow is another day and you won't have to hide away

You'll be a man, boy! But for now, it's time to run

 

Oblivion Bastille

When you fall asleep with your head upon my shoulder

When you're in my arms but you've gone somewhere deeper

 

IV. ???

 

Your World Will Fail Les Friction

Your world will fail, my love, it's far beyond repair

Your world will fail, my love, it's already there.

 

Next week: The complete first chapter of Ravensong. DSP has an excerpt up now with the pre-order, but it's incomplete. There are two more scenes after where it's cut off on DSP's site, one of which takes place between Joe and Gordo that sets the future of their relationship.

See you next week!
 

tj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bones Beneath My Skin Reveal

On October 26, a message will be delivered.

And everything will change.

You won’t understand. At least not right away. And that’s okay. You may even think I’m a liar, and that’s okay too. All I ask is that you listen until the very end before passing judgment. I have a story to tell you. Of a place under a Mountain. Of the minds of men. Of what it means to be human, to make a home out of a place where one should not exist. And of what the future holds. For you. For me. For all of us.

The Bones Beneath My Skin is a new queer romance from bestselling author TJ Klune.

Cover designed by Reese Dante.

Pre-orders to come soon!

Blurb:

In the spring of 1995, Nate Cartwright has lost everything: his parents are dead, his older brother wants nothing to do with him, and he's been fired from his job as a journalist in Washington DC. With nothing left to lose, he returns to his family's summer cabin outside the small mountain town of Roseland, Oregon to try and find some sense of direction.

The cabin should be empty.

It's not.

Inside is a man named Alex. And with him is an extraordinary little girl who calls herself Artemis Darth Vader.

Artemis, who isn't exactly as she appears.

Soon it becomes clear that Nate must make a choice: let himself drown in the memories of his past, or fight for a future he never thought possible.

Because the girl is special. And forces are descending upon them who want nothing more than to control her.

 

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Full wrap for the paperback:

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Ravensong: Thomas Bennett, and Making Things Queer as Balls

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I don't remember what it was: a tweet, an email, or a message of some kind, but once upon a time, a reader wrote to me about Wolfsong and said that it was "unrealistic" that everyone would be gay.

In a book about werewolves.

Unrealistic.

IN A BOOK ABOUT WEREWOLVES.

Hi, welcome to week 4 in my blog post lead up to the release of Ravensong, in which I will discuss why I don't give a flying fuck if everyone in this fictional world is queer or not (among other things). If you haven't read the previous three blogs, go back and start there.

Let's begin, shall we?

Look. I'm not going to sugarcoat this. I don't have time for this type of heterosexual nonsense in the real world (my fave? "I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH GAY PEOPLE, BUT I JUST DON'T LIKE IT WHEN THEY SHOW UP IN MY FAVORITE SHOW/BOOK OR WHEN THEY BREATHE OR ARE ALIVE. STOP SHOVING YOUR LIFESTYLE DOWN MY THROAT. #MAGA") And I certainly don't have time if someone thinks there are too many queer characters in my books.

(Though, to be fair,  when I read or watch TV or movies or listen to music or go out into the world. I often think there are far too many straight characters. So.)

So let's get this out of the way: unless I am explicit about a character's heterosexuality, readers of Ravensong (or any book of mine) should assume said character is queer. Easy, right? Unless you see a dude like balls deep inside a vagina , or a woman talking about how she wants to get all up in some dude and ride him like a wooden rollercoaster, they gay. (Or, even better, they could still be doing BOTH those things because bisexuality is a thing that exists.)

(Oh man, did that all feel good to write. Also, people: don't be this person who writes to authors to complain about "too much gay". It makes you look ridiculous, and I will not hesitate to put you on blast.)

Moving on.

Thomas Bennett is not god. Thomas Bennett is not Werewolf Jesus. (That might be Ox.) Thomas Bennett is a flawed person with many, many secrets and hidden facets to his character.

I (and, as you'll soon see, Gordo) have a complicated relationship with Thomas. When I was writing Wolfsong, I made him this towering figure, and though he's barely in half the book, his shadow stretches long. He is the Alpha. The patriarch of this pack. A grand leader and, eventually, a sort of saving grace to Ox.

However.

There is a history that extends far beyond Wolfsong, one that encompasses Gordo. We see in the first book that Gordo despises the wolves, and seems especially vitriolic toward Thomas and Mark. And while I am happy people gravitated toward Thomas and his relationship with Ox (by design), I knew there was something much deeper at play.

Thomas Bennett is extraordinarily flawed. For a dead man (sorry about that--mostly), he certainly has a big part still left to play. (And no, there isn't anything like resurrection on the horizon, so nix that now.) I wanted to delve further into his relationship with Gordo, and the pack that once was. It's hinted in Wolfsong that the original pack came to a devastating end. How? Why? Who? And what happened that caused Gordo to shun the wolves for a big part of his life?

This, like the relationship between Mark and Gordo, is a central focus to Ravensong. It's not just a love story between two broken men, but also a love story between fathers and sons, and how much the weight of their mistakes can pull a person down. It's about finding a light through the anger and grief, and eventually, hopefully, forgiveness.

And that's it.

That's the last post I'm going to do about the story contents of Ravensong.

But Tj, you're thinking. You said you were going to do posts until the release!

Oh, I am. Next week, we're going to take a little detour in the form of the cover/blurb reveal for my next book that comes out in October. Gotta pimp, you know. Bills don't pay themselves. And I'm pretty damn proud of The Bones Beneath My Skin. It's a like a queer action movie with guns and explosions and dudes touching dicks.

After that, in July, I'll be doing things a little different. We'll get an official soundtrack for Ravensong, pre-orders, and possibly another excerpt.

Looking back at the previous posts (including this one), you'll notice one thing I really didn't focus on: the relationship between Mark and Gordo. Make no mistake: they are what the book is about. The reason I haven't said much about them specifically is because I want this to be a surprise. You might have thought a time or two over the last four weeks reading these posts that I'm giving a lot away. Trust me when I say I've barely scratched the surface to Ravensong. There are big things coming, monumental things that are going to change the Bennett pack forever. By the time you finish, I want you to be fucking dazed with the story you just read.

So...deep breath. July 31 will be here before you know it. I just hope you're ready for it.

See you next week!

tj

And, of course, the tiniest of teases:

Do not fuck with Jessie and a crowbar. It'll be the last thing you do.

 

Ravensong: The Women of the Green Creek Series

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Week 3 of the behind-the-scenes for Ravensong. If you missed the previous posts, check the last two entries on the blog.

Spoilers for the story in Wolfsong, so proceed with caution if you haven't read that first book.

There are seven different women in Ravensong.

Each one is important, no matter how small their part may be.

When I first started writing Wolfsong, I was conscious of the choices I was going to make regarding the women of the series. Too often in MM Romance, a female character is either relegated to  the bubbly best friend, or the vengeful girlfriend/wife keeping the main characters apart.

I fell into that trope myself, arguably, with Bear, Otter and the Kid. Bear and Ty's mother was...well. If you've read that book, you know what she was. And then there was Anna, Bear's girlfriend. Part of me wishes I'd handled that differently, but I liked the character she became in  subsequent books in the series. I even found myself feeling a bit sorry for the mom by the time we got to The Art of Breathing. She was not a good person, that much is true; but I'd like to think I understood her a little better by the end.

However, in Wolfsong, I wanted to have women who stood just as strong as the male characters.

Maggie Calloway, in the end, was not a victim. Yes, she was murdered by Richard Collins, but she went out fighting, just as Thomas Bennett did. Her love was a fierce and wonderful thing, and it hurt when she did pass. Without her, I don't believe Ox would be the man he is. He had the Bennetts, sure, but he learned to stand because of his mother.

Jessie was...well. She was the girlfriend who briefly stood between the two main characters, though when she and Ox were together, Joe was far too young for it to actually mean they were being kept apart. But everyone grows up sometime, and Jessie became an important part of the pack. She became independent of Ox, even though it was through him (and Chris) that they were all tied together in pack.

And Elizabeth. My queen. I adore her. And I hurt her. I'll be honest, when I was writing Wolfsong, I had to stop after the death of Thomas Bennett because I'd been writing how Ox felt about it all, and not necessarily showing Elizabeth and grief. That was a mistake, and one I knew needed to be corrected immediately. It wasn't fair to let her fall by the wayside.

Which brings me to Ravensong.

Elizabeth Bennett (and no, that name was not intentional--it wasn't until the book was published that someone said, oh, hey, that name is familiar--*sigh*; she was actually the last to be named out of all the Bennetts, even after the last name had already been chosen) is the matriarch of the pack. When we return to Green Creek in the present, we will see her in control. I was concerned with her sort of fading into the background, only appearing to dispense wisdom before disappearing again.

So in the outline, I wrote a complete arc for her, what she was doing when certain events were happening, what she might have been feeling. The hard thing about a singular perspective is the idea of telling versus showing. I'm not too hung up on that as some people seem to be (to each their own), but I was conscious of her at all points.

And it helped that Gordo's history was so intertwined with her own (and, of course, with Thomas Bennett--but I'll get to him next week). Even if he won't admit it, I think Elizabeth knows Gordo better than most people. The shared history is one filled with anguish and hardship, but they understand each other in ways I didn't expect. For sure Gordo doesn't expect it, either, and it was an eyeopener to see them find their way back to each other, even after all that had happened (of which you'll learn all about).

(And remember, Elizabeth will get her own story called Lovesong, released right here on this blog on September 1.)

It's the same for Jessie. Yes, she's Ox's ex. Yes, she's Chris's sister. But I needed her to stand on her own, especially since she is human. She doesn't have magic. She's not a wolf. But she can hold her own. In fact, she has turned into a pretty big badass, as you'll soon discover. Remember Ox's crowbar with silver in it? He can't use it anymore, obviously. So it goes to Jessie, and holy shit, is she going to fuck some assholes up, even while calling out the men in the pack on their bullshit (of which there is alot. Men are dumb). She is often the voice of reason, and is part of what Gordo (much to his dismay) refers to as Team Human.

The third woman is someone we saw briefly throughout Wolfsong.

The (temporary) Alpha of all.

Michelle Hughes.

She remains, for the most part, an enigma, though her role in Ravensong is much larger than it was in Wolfsong. Some will think her a villain, and while that's fair, I don't know if it's right, exactly. And no, she's not the Big Bad in Ravensong.

She is still far, far away, but her actions in Ravensong will reverberate throughout the rest of the series. That doesn't mean she's evil, but that she's doing what she thinks is right. And whether she is right or not will be the big question.  Power is intoxicating, and she's had a taste of it given her position. What will she do to keep that power, if she thinks she has to?

Seven women.

I've told you about three.

The remaining four?

One has no speaking part, but she is arguably the catalyst for a great many things that will span into the remaining two books.

The second is Gordo's mother. What you read about her briefly in Wolfsong is a lie told by an angry man bent on keeping Ox away from the wolves.

The third is...interesting. Let's just say Rico will have his hands full.

And the fourth?

The fourth might just be up there with my favorite of all characters in this series.

Because she is the true villain of Ravensong. Her history with the Bennett pack goes back far longer than anyone expects. And she will bring the wolves to their knees.

(i'm such an asshole, lolol.)

Next week, Gordo and Thomas Bennett: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

tj

And the little tease:

The relationship between Carter and Kelly plays a major role, and Gordo will make a new enemy because of it and his actions.

 

 

Ravensong: Perception, Magic and the ANNNNGST

Week 2! If you want to read Week 1, check out the previous blog post Ravensong: A Return to Green Creek.

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In Wolfsong, Ox describes Gordo's tattoos as having lines and waves and flowers.

In Wolfsong, Ox describes Gordo and Mark as being "around the same age."

This is a lie.

Sort of.

Stick with me here.

Wolfsong is all from Ox's unique perspective, how he sees the world around him as he grows into the Alpha he never thought he'd become. And since he is the narrator, we take everything he says as fact.

As you should.

Except...

Well, there was the tiniest bit of retconning, at least when it came to those two things. I had enough wiggle room with it (as my editors pointed out: just enough) to make things...not different, but more.

Gordo does have flowers in his tattoos. Roses, in fact. And when they're not...in motion, they're nestled below the raven tattoo. This is important.

In fact, all of the tattoos are important, because of where they came from, and how, and when, and why. All of these questions will be answered, and it's rough, man. Even I, the bastard that I am, felt sorry for Gordo.

But it's important for his magic, and the symbols carved into his skin helped to make the man he is today, both good and bad.

Magic in Green Creek is different than magic in my Lightning series. In those books, magic is more wish fulfillment, and even though the big big magic can wear on the user (as Sam showed numerous times), it was still...well, not easy, but not exactly hard.

It's different for the witches. Magic here in this universe is taxing and rough. It drains on the person, and can lead to **REDACTED FOR SPOILERS** and then Gordo has to **REDACTED FOR SPOILERS** and then he'll be all like boom and **REDACTED FOR SPOILERS**.

(lolol.)

It goes with the ideas of these books: they aren't meant to be comedic like the Lightning series, though there are moments of levity. Things can't be dour and dire all the time, because that becomes a slog to get through. There is a moment in particular that I adore, and it happens with Joe and Kelly and Carter just...getting to be dumb kids for a little while. Gordo watches on with a barely constrained eye-roll, but I think this moment is important. You'll know it when you get to it. Carter should not continue eating gas station burritos.

Levity aside, Ravensong in particular, is, as I described Gordo previously, dirt and grime and hardcore. These things a witch can do hurt, especially the bigger levels of magic. And Gordo is going to be tested in ways I hadn't even begun to discuss in Wolfsong. But then, it's all about perception. What Ox saw isn't necessarily what Gordo sees.

Which brings me to the second thing:

Gordo and Mark are not the same age.

Mark is three years older than Gordo.

(Yes, I know all of their birthdays, birth years, and the like. No, I am not going to tell you yet.)

By the time the book gets going, and we're thrust back into the present, Gordo is 40 years old. Mark is 43.

And the angst, man.

I've gone on record previously in stating that Ravensong hurts worse than Wolfsong did, though your mileage may vary. And while I'm not going to spoil exactly why, I'll say that I relate to Gordo and Mark easier than I do to Ox and Joe. I'm writing this on June 6, 2018. My 36th birthday was a few weeks ago. I understand the issues of getting older, something I would have scoffed at a decade ago. The little things I can brush off easier than I used to. But what I was struck by when writing Ravensong was how closer I was in age to Mark and Gordo than Ox and Joe, and the story shows that. No, this isn't some masturbatory self-insert by me, the author, but I understood Gordo's rage, more than I thought I would. But I could also see it from the other side too. It's a conundrum, and one I wanted to explore. There are two sides to every story.

The little things can be forgotten.

But the big things? Those long-term hurts that never seem to scab over and scar? Betrayal in all its forms?

That's what I wanted to focus on here in Ravensong. There is a reason Gordo is the man he is, and it's valid. And fuck, is he angry. He's not going to stay that way, mostly, but it cannot be up to just Mark to change that. There are dynamics in play here, dynamics between Gordo and every member of the pack. This is a love story about Gordo and Mark. But it's also a story about pack, and the strength of the bonds between all of them, even when all seems lost. Everyone in the Bennett pack will have a part to play. And I do mean everyone.

Next week: the women of Green Creek. There are seven important women in Ravensong, though some parts are smaller than others. I'll discuss three: Elizabeth, Jessie, and Michelle Hughes, the Alpha of all.

See you next week!

tj

A little tease... (look away if you want to go in knowing nothing):

The major villain?

Not who you think.

Ravensong: The Return to Green Creek

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If you go into Ravensong expecting it to be just like Wolfsong, you are going to be disappointed.

If you go into Ravensong expecting it to be written just like Wolfsong, you are going to be disappointed.

I made both of those mistakes when I first started writing Gordo and Mark's story. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Except I've never been that kind of storyteller. I don't like to have one book be exactly like another, even in a series. But given that this book is part of a series, there has to be some kind of bridge between the voices, especially when the narrators change like they do here, from Ox to Gordo.

Gordo is not Ox.

Ox is not Gordo.

Ravensong is not a coming of age story.

This is an I-already-came-of-age-a-long-time-ago-and-I'm-now-an-asshole-adult story.

I tried too hard, in the beginning, to make Gordo sound like Ox, to try and tell the story the same way, and it was terrible. It took me longer than I cared to admit to figure out what I was doing wrong, but when I did, I realized I was being inauthentic to Gordo Livingstone as a character.

So I went back and scrapped much of what I had written already, keeping the basic structure, but rewriting most of what was already there.

And it went so much easier.

There was a poetic cadence to Ox, and the way he saw the world.

Gordo is grime and dirt, blunt and hot-headed. And his voice caused me to write him that way. It's still a little different than what you're used to reading, but there's a distinct difference between Ox and Gordo. Remember that.

And you should know Gordo has very good reasons to be the way he is.

I knew, even while writing Wolfsong, that there was a history here between the Livingstones and the Bennetts. I touched upon it briefly, but there was so much more teeming underneath that I knew was going to be a big part of Ravensong. I also knew it meant going back to Gordo's younger days, to see how and why he became a witch at such a young age, and what happened to cause him to hate the Bennetts as much as he does in Wolfsong.

And with that, there was that now infamous time period that I also wondered about: three years, one month, twenty six days.

Wolfsong covers a long period of time over the entire novel.

Ravensong covers even longer, but in a shorter amount of time. The first quarter of the book alternates between Gordo as a kid, and Gordo with Carter, Kelly and Joe as they chase after Richard Collins. It's disorienting, going between the kid that was and the man he's become, but it's meant to be. There are echoes of Wolfsong in Ravensong, as Gordo and Ox are two sides of the same coin; however, before too long, you'll come to the hard right turn that sets them on different paths, allowing them to become the men they did. Ox is almost messianic. Gordo was broken by people he trusted most, and the pieces that remain don't fit like they used to.

Ox's story was one of hope in the face of adversity.

Gordo's is one of tragedy, and overcoming the darkness within.

But this only the first part of the book. The remaining three fourths?

That covers a period of two weeks.

Wolfsong was filled with thunderous highs, and the quietest of lows.

Ravensong is a crescendo. It starts soft, but increases through the entire story until it's screaming by the end. It is going to be a wild fucking ride. You won't see the end coming.

(and for the purists: Wolfsong (to me) was a happy for now (HFN) ending versus happily ever after (HEA), given that so much was still up in the air. Ravensong is the same way. Many things are resolved and Gordo and Mark will be...Gordo and Mark, but there are major threads that will feed into Kelly and Carter's books. You'll soon see why.)

This is the first of eight posts, to be released weekly in advance of Ravensong on July 31, a little over two weeks away. I'll be extremely light on the spoilers, though I might drop a small tease for each post.

Some of the other topics to be covered:

--Gordo's (and my) complicated relationship with Thomas Bennett

--The women of Green Creek

--The official soundtrack for Ravensong

--The importance of packpackpack,

--enemies to lovers vs. grumpy assholes to lovers (guess which Gordo and Mark actually are),  and why the angst in Ravensong is harder for me than it was in Wolfsong

--Why everyone in Green Creek could be gay, and I don't care who hates that

Pre-orders should go up in a few weeks.

See you next week!

tj

A little tease... (look away if you want to go in knowing nothing):

The best non-romantic pairing I had fun with in Ravensong?

Gordo and Robbie.

 

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