A Stella Release Day Review: Until You (At First Sight #3) by T.J. Klune

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

until-you-by-tj-kluneSequel to The Queen & the Homo Jock King

Together with their families and friends

Paul Auster

and

Vincent Taylor

request the honor of your company at the celebration of their marriage.

Until You by TJ Klune is the HEA all the fans of Vince and Paul deserved. Maybe we fans deserved it more than the MCs for all the shit we had to read in the previous books (Just joking!).

I can always count on TJ and his writing, I can’t explain how much I laughed reading this new release, how many times I rolled my eyes at Paul and Sandy, how much I wanted to be part of that crazy family of blood related and not people.

This new installment was exactly what I was expecting, crazy and funny and stupid, just perfect and always over the top. It’s what I want from the At First Sight series.  I was so happy to have the chance to revisit these favorite persons of mine, not just Paul and Vince, but all the other characters too, I saw a little more of the homo jock king heart and I fell in love again with Corey. I so hope TJ will give me more.

I enjoyed and deeply loved each chapter, each full of not just laughs, but full of what truly conquered me, the positiveness and the emotions, had the book not been so funny, I surely would have cried as a baby, because the love was not only in the air, the love was everywhere and the characters’ hearts were full of it. It warmed my soul and left me with a smile on my face.

I don’t want to spoil the story telling little details, but I want to highly recommend the whole series and if you are missing just Until You, run to buy it right now and read it soon. It’s a winner.

The cover art by Reese Dante is awesome, I like this artist style a lot and this is no exception, especially for the cake topping, too cute.

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BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 162 pages

Published February 27th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ASIN B01NB1N45J

Edition Language English

Series At First Sight #3

An Ali Audiobook Review: Murmuration by T.J. Klune and Kirt Graves (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
murmuration-audioIn the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.

The people here know certain things as fact:

Amorea is the best little town there is.

The only good Commie is a dead Commie.

The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.

And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.

Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.
Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves


But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.
So this book is a trip. It’s impossible to discuss the plot without spoilers so I’m going to skip that. I will say that this book had me hooked from the beginning. At first I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then part way in I thought I had figured it out. I was wrong. Then I had a new theory and I was part way right. And then…….gah. (I could do this all day.) 

Here’s what you need to know. The writing was fantastic. It is some of TJ’s best work imo. I literally couldn’t put this down because I was dying to know what was going on. There are plot points that I really disliked. Plot points I’m not comfortable with. And yet……..I was captivated by this story.

There is a really unique romance. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever read before. It’s this sweet, pure, 1950’s courting type romance and I never would have thought that was my thing but apparently it is. (I still need my smut and won’t be running off to find these kind of romances in general but it really worked with the plot).

The end keeps you guessing. I mean right up to the very end. The very last paragraph or two. I was holding my breathe and while I knew I was intrigued I under estimated how emotionally invested I was because all of a sudden I had tears in my eyes. 

I did most of this on audio and the narrator, Kirt Graves, was excellent. One of the best I’ve listened to. I got about half way through on audio and then switched to reading because I was so impatient to find out what was going to happen. I then switched back to audio for the last few chapters. If you like audios I recommend doing this story that way. It was top notch and really added to the overall storytelling. 
Cover by Reese Dante: I love the cover.  I had seen the guy on the cover on some other books so I didn’t think much about it going into this story.  After reading it though, I have to say the cover is perfect for the story.  
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Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio
Published January 16th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published October 28th 2016)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Wolfsong by TJ Klune and Kirt Graves (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

wolfsong-audiobookOh my! This was the very best shifter story I’ve ever read! A master of intricate plots, TJ Klune applied his very vivid imagination to creating an intriguing, complex drama that also happens to be a sweet story of a love between a man and a wolf—a love fated to last for all time. Add to that, the very talented voice of narrator Kirt Graves, and I could have listened to this eighteen-hour audiobook for another eighteen hours without being the least bit bored. Every time I thought it was coming to an end, a new plot twist was thrown out to intrigue readers and listeners even more.

Ox was a plain-speaking, easygoing, simple man with no expectations for himself beyond being good to his mother. After all, his daddy always told him he’d get nothing but shit in life before his daddy left for good. Ox lived with his mom near the big house at the end of the lane that was vacant for years, until one day he came home to find a boy standing in the road—a boy named Joe, who now lived in the big house. Ox didn’t know it then, but this talkative, high energy boy would someday be the focus of his world.

The author takes us into that world—the world of werewolves and magic—and what an adventure we get! It’s not pretty; it’s not sweet and fluffy romance; it’s gritty, and powerful, and gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and heartwarming drama. But when I finished, I wanted to howl and sing their wolfsong.

It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words, but I don’t think there are enough adjectives to describe how incredible this book is. And the narration? Outstanding and superb are somehow too inadequate to do it justice. Just buy it and listen and wallow in the joy of having found the best book of the year.

The cover by Reese Dante features two paw prints on a black background—striking in its simplicity.

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Audiobook Details:

18 hrs 40 mins
Audible Audio, 19 pages

Published October 5th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 20th 2016)
Original TitleWolfsong
ASINB01LX3DCUR
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Release Day Review: Murmuration by TJ Klune

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RATING 2,75 out of 5 stars

murmurationIn the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.

The people here know certain things as fact:

Amorea is the best little town there is.

The only good Commie is a dead Commie.

The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.

And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.

Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.

But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.

Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves.

My review on Murmuration by TJ Klune will be brief. You want the truth? I don’t have a lot to say. I could have given it 5 stars because in a way it deserves the highest rating but I can’t and I’ll try to explain why without spoiling it. Basically I’m not sure what to make of the plot. I found the relationship between Mike and Sean sweet and cute.  I liked the story.  I found it mysterious, it intrigued me since I read the blurb and it kept my interest through a long part of it. I had no idea what was going to happen, where the author was going to take the MCs,  but I wasn’t worried because I knew I would have an HEA.

I liked the writing, it’s easy and great and brought me to Amorea and its sceneries and habitants. It brought me on a balcony, it brought me on a sterile room. I appreciate the author’s talent, his invention, he loves words and he knows how to use them to create unique and awesome sentences.  I have to give it to TJ. The book is amazingly written and well done, really really well done. Unexpected as everything TJ writes.  I’m blown away but still not in a good way.

That said I can’t give it 3 stars. The problem is I’m so disappointed and angry. This story was hard to take to me and I can’t overcome  the bitter taste if left on my heart. I could have so loved Murmuration but TJ ruined everything. He destroyed what I loved, who I loved, all the people I met in Amorea, in the last part of the book. And to me is unecceptable. And the ending? That was supposed to be a HEA? It wasn’t.

The cover art by  Reese Dante is amazing, one of the best covers I saw this year.

Sales Links

        

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 324 pages

Publication  date October 28th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1634774558 (ISBN13: 9781634774550)

Edition Language English

An Alisa Audiobook Review: The Queen & the Homo Jock King (At First Sight #2) by T.J. Klune and Michael Lesley (Narrator)

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

 

the-queen-the-homo-jock-king-audiobookDo you believe in love at first sight?

 

Sanford Stewart sure doesn’t. In fact, he pretty much believes in the exact opposite, thanks to the Homo Jock King. It seems Darren Mayne lives for nothing more than to create chaos in Sandy’s perfectly ordered life, just for the hell of it. Sandy despises him, and nothing will ever change his mind.

 

Or so he tells himself.

 

It’s not until the owner of Jack It—the club where Sandy performs as drag queen Helena Handbasket—comes to him with a desperate proposition that Sandy realizes he might have to put his feelings about Darren aside. Because Jack It will close unless someone can convince Andrew Taylor, the mayor of Tucson, to keep it open.

 

Someone like Darren, the mayor’s illegitimate son.

 

The foolproof plan is this: seduce Darren and push him to convince his father to renew Jack It’s contract with the city.

 

Simple, right?

 

Wrong.

 

I loved this story just as much as I have every TJ Klune story I’ve read.  Sandy is absolutely hilarious, if not completely stubborn at the same time.  Seeing all the characters from the previous book helps to connect with the story even more.

 

You can’t help but connect with Sandy and feel exactly how he did.  I could see the other characters emotions through Sandy’s eyes even when Sandy didn’t seem to see them himself.  I loved Darren, he couldn’t help but take anything he could get when it comes to being with Sandy since he feels he doesn’t deserve him.  I would love if TJ continues this series and we get to see Cory find someone.

 

Michael Lesley did a wonderful job narrating this story.  I was able to connect with the characters feel their emotions in his reading as he used different voices for the characters.  His voice changes so much you really get to see the differences with the characters.

 

Cover art by Reese Dante is perfect for this story.

 

Sales Links

 

 

 

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 17 hrs 5 min
Published: August 1, 2016 (ebook first published February 29, 2016)
Edition Language: English

Series: At First Sight #2

A BJ Review: Crisped + Sere (Immemorial Year #2) by T.J. Klune

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Rating:    4 stars out of 5

Crisped + SereTwenty-one days.

In a world ravaged by fire and descending into madness, Cavalo has been given an ultimatum by the dark man known as Patrick: return Lucas to him and the cannibalistic Dead Rabbits, or the town of Cottonwood and its inhabitants will be destroyed.

But Lucas has a secret embedded into his skin that promises to forever alter the shape of things to come—a secret that Cavalo must decide if it’s worth dying over, even as he wrestles with his own growing attraction to the muted psychopath.

Twenty-one days.

Cavalo has twenty-one days to prepare for war. Twenty-one days to hold what is left of his shredded sanity together. Twenty-one days to convince the people of Cottonwood to rise up and fight back. Twenty-one days to unravel the meaning behind the marks that cover Lucas.

A meaning that leads to a single word and a place of unimaginable power: Dworshak.

Like the first book, this one is dark and creepy. The excellent world-building continues, and the character development of all the people we met in book one was excellent. Also, this read smoother to me than the first, whether because I had a background now and wasn’t confused as I had been often in the first, I’m not sure. I don’t think there was as much of the hopping around like in the first book, there was some, but it flowed better.

This time we get more of a relationship between all of the characters. It’s not just about Cavalo and Lucas, but about all the people that formed his strange family. As before, Bad Dog was a huge favorite for me during the whole of this story.  I was glad to get more info on Lucas and came to feel the connection between all four of them (including the robot SIRS) as a family that worked. Cavalo thinks of himself as a monster, a bad guy, and yet in this we see him risk everything to help others, including those outside of his little family. While I didn’t feel invested in them as a couple in book one, by the end of this book, I most definitely did. And loved the end. Reminded me a bit of Star Trek, and I am a trekkie since a teen.

The way it was written without us really knowing if Cavalo actually heard Bad Dog and Lucas in his head, or if it was part of his mental issues, worked for me. As a movie, this would definitely be horror… maybe something like The Stand, only even more gory. There are definitely plenty of visual images to fill that screen with action, special effects, and blood. I’d like to see it.

The pace in this one felt right most of the time, but I think it could have been tightened up and the story shortened and still read just as well. There was an event about midway that made me say… UGH, not again. However, later on I came to accept it and even like that it had happened because of what else came after.  It really came to bug me how they kept speaking of killing Lucas, not just once but so many times.

BTW, when reading the first book, I didn’t actually realize where the titles originated. This time I did. It’s from the poem Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe. I feel like I should have gotten that, but I’m not much of a poetry reader.

While not everything was bright or wrapped up, this ended much more hopefully than book one and does not have a cliffie. I’d still like more in this world though to see if they rebuild and how.

The cover is creepy as hell, and the feel of it fits the book.

Sales Links

DSP Publications

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Book Details:

ebook, 340 pages
Expected publication: August 23rd 2016 by DSP Publications
Original TitleCrisped + Sere
ISBN 1634770684 (ISBN13: 9781634770682)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series: Immemorial Year

A Paul B Review: Wolfsong by T.J. Klune

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

WolfsongI always anticipate the next TJ Klune novel.  When I found out that this book would be a shifter book, I was doubly excited.   I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.

Oxnard Matheson was twelve when his father walked out.  His father told Ox that he had to be a man now that he was leaving.  Without his father’s income from the garage that he worked at, Ox’s mother struggled to pay the bills.  Fortunately, the garage owner, Gordo, took Ox under his wing.  Gordo made sure that Ox and his mother held onto their house and gave Ox work in his garage even though he wasn’t of legal age.  This would continue until Ox’s sixteenth birthday, when Gordo and the guys at the garage welcomed him as an official member of their crew. On his way home, he runs into a ten year old boy.

Joe Bennett’s life has not been easy in his short ten years.  Most of his pack was slaughtered by hunters when his father (the alpha) and uncle were out looking for food.  The family moves east afterward.  Then a previous pack member kidnaps and tortures Joe to get back at Joe’s father for not protecting the pack.  Joe is rescued six weeks later but the damage is done.  The kidnapper escapes and Joe goes into a shell.  He does not speak for 18 months until he meets a young man who smells of “candy canes and pinecones and epic and awesome.”  Joe’s family is shocked and grateful that this young man, Ox, has turned Joe around after just meeting.  Much to their surprise, the young future alpha of their pack gives Ox the stone carved wolf statue after just meeting.  This is a wolf shifter’s most prized possession given at birth and usually only given to one’s mate.

The years go by and Joe’s father Thomas teaches his son the lessons needed to become the next alpha of the pack.  Thomas also sees something in Ox and starts teaching him as well, as he will be the next alpha mate.  But troubles from the past come back to haunt this small but powerful pack.  The kidnapper returns and this time sets his sights on Ox.  The pack once again must mourn the loss of some of their own.  However, will the actions of Joe to exact revenge on the kidnapper be the one thing to not only tear the pack apart but his relationship with Ox?

The characters in this book are charming, delightful and strong when need be.  Ox might not be the brightest character around, but his strong character draws people to him.  Thomas gives him the choice to become a werewolf but Ox turns it down each time saying it is not right for him at the moment.  He leads what would turn into his pack of humans at the garage when Gordo leaves with Joe.  The rest of the Bennett pack looks to him for leadership in Joe’s absence.  Joe’s exuberance over meeting his mate after suffering from PTSD from the kidnapping is cute.  You would think he was a four year old at Christmas time.  While Joe going after his kidnapper seems like a good idea to someone who has suffered at his hands, the decision will affect the rest of the pack for the next three years.  Joe’s refusal to talk to the pack is especially hard on Ox.  Once reunited though, you get the feeling that this will be a power couple in the shifter world. 

The cover art by Reese Duncan is stark and perfect for this book.  The cover shows two wolf paw prints on a dark background.  It sets up the tone for the middle and latter parts of the book perfectly

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Published June 20th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771656 (ISBN13: 9781634771658)
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Ali Audiobook Review: How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune and Narrator Derrick McClain

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 Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

How to be A Normal Person AudioGustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed this book.  This author has a distinct writing style and I realize it doesn’t work for everyone but I personally adore it.  I’ve read books of his that have made me laugh out loud and ones that have made me cry.  This book was the best of both worlds.  There’s the trademark humor Klune brings to his stories but there were also a lot of scenes that were serious and filled with emotions.
I thought both Gus and Casey were great characters.  Neither are the traditional type of characters we usually see in romance novels and that is a good thing in my opinion.  Gus is quirky and Casey is asexual.  As the story develops they learn about each other’s unique characteristics and they fall in love.  The romance is a slow burn and the progression of the relationship felt realistic.  There are some great side characters in this and the scenes they are in added some of the funniest parts to the story.  Gus’ memories of his deceased father add some of the more emotional scenes and his dad is just as much a side character as the living characters are.
I did this on audio and I thought the narrator was really good. I’ve done a lot of this author’s books on audio and I think his storytelling style works well in this format.
This book is a definite recommend from me.  It has a bit of everything.  There is some humor and some serious emotions, there are great characters and it is low on the angst and steam levels.
Cover by Reese Dante.  I love this cover.  I think it fits the story perfectly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio, Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Published April 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published October 16th 2015)
Original TitleHow To Be A Normal Person
ASINB01E9E5JOE
Edition LanguageEnglishsettingOregon (United States)

A BJ Review: Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year #1) by T.J. Klune

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Rating:   3 stars out of 5

Withered+Sere3Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.

One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the Northern Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.

It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.

The world has died. This is the story of its remains.

Like some DSP stories, this is not actually a romance and there is also no sex. It’s very dark, I knew that going in, violence, death and cannibalism in a barren, brutal wasteland with no laws. But none of those things bothered me in the least. Yet this story was hard for me in some ways, so should say those bits up front.

The beginning didn’t draw me in immediately. If I hadn’t been reading it for review, I’m not sure if I would have continued on because I was just really confused by it. The POV starts out omniscient but moves to being from Cavalo’s third person POV that starts out feeling distant (calling him the man and seeming outside of him) before slipping in closer and more into his head. There are still times later in the book when it almost seemed to slip back towards omniscient. I was actually about 20% in before I started feeling involved with the story.

Another thing that was hard for me is that there are quite a large number of scenes that are sort of dream or flashback or hallucination sequences that move around in time and place. In addition to bringing in backstory, these work to show how messed up the MC’s mind is—an insanity of a sort like when so much has happened that one cannot hold onto their mind. But there were quite a lot of them, some lengthy and involved, and it tended to pull me from the story.

For me, this book read like a nightmare… one where dark, scary, awful things happen but they just don’t fully make sense and then I wake up and still can’t put it all together and am left unsettled, confused, and shaking my head. That was how I felt at the end of this story. Perhaps some small part of this has to do with the cliffhanger ending but also to be perfectly honest, must admit that sometimes I felt lost.

Those things being said, this book has some fascinating post-apocalyptic world-building going on! While I didn’t feel a strong connection with the main characters, I did find both Bad Dog and the robot SIRS interesting and compelling. In fact, I think my favorite chapter of the book was “the ballad of bad dog.” When I read that title, I was so hesitant to read on as I know ballads are often tragic. But it actually not only tells the story of how Bad Dog came to Cavelo, but contains the most tender scene of the whole story.

It was my first read from this author, so I had no idea what to expect and tend to think after having read some blurbs and reviews from other stories, that it’s not representative of his work in general but rather a branching out into new areas.

The cover by Paul Richmond just absolutely creeps me out (and not in a good way)… luckily I had not seen it prior to requesting the story or might have had second thoughts. I’m not sure how exactly it relates to the story other than giving an impression of its awful, bleak world.

Overall, cover and story alike leave me with the feeling like awaking from a disjointed and unsettling nightmare. A nightmare that I will be compelled to revisit when book two comes out.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon


Book Details:  

ebook, 280 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by DSP Publications
Original TitleWithered + Sere
ISBN 1634765575 (ISBN13: 9781634765572)
Edition LanguageEnglish

T.J. Klune Is Here on Release Day for Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year #1) (guest post and excerpt)

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Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year #1) by T.J. Klune
DS
P Publications
Cover Art by Paul Richmond

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have T.J. Klune here today to share his thoughts on writing, and the release of his latest novel, Withered + Sere.  Welcome, T.J.

✍✍✍✍✍

When I started writing Withered + Sere, I knew that what would make or break the book would be the secondary characters. Given that W+S contains the largest cast of characters I’ve ever written, the book would die a quick and violent death if those characters weren’t memorable and unique.

Aside from the two leads, there is one character that is in almost every scene in W+S and it’s sequel, Crisped + Sere, and that’s Cavalo’s mutt, the aptly named Bad Dog. The relationship between Cavalo and Bad Dog is almost as much of the heart of the novel as is the love story between the two main characters. Bad Dog is more than a constant companion to Cavalo. He’s also a sign that Cavalo’s mind might not be as it once was, as you’ll see from the excerpt below. W+S and it’s follow up deal with the ideas of what is real and what isn’t, how far the depths of insanity can go, and the bonds that ties us all together.

This scene takes place at the beginning of the book, and serves as an introduction to the relationship between a man and his dog.

*****

The doe had made it farther than Cavalo would have thought. The blood trail led them to the edge of the woods. Beyond the stunted forest lay the remains of a massive old road, broken into pieces, chunks of black rock upended. Cavalo knew this was called a “freeway” in the Time Before. People used these roads for travel in motor cars. He’d seen the remains, the burnt-out husks of these motor cars, dead as the area around them. No one could remember how they worked, only that they had been. There had been rumors years ago that someone in the east had a working motorized car, but it had never appeared.

Long distances in such short time. It seemed impossible.

Now this freeway meant something different. It was a line. A division. One that was foolish to cross. To cross was to go west. To go west meant to enter the Deadlands.

Cavalo looked at the blood trail on the ground. Fresh drops at his feet. Away from the forest he knew.

Onto the freeway.

Across the freeway. Into the other side of the woods. West.

“Shit,” he whispered.

Shit, Bad Dog agreed, sitting next to the man.

He couldn’t just let the deer go. She was fat, which was surprising. Good, but surprising. Cavalo didn’t think her pregnant, not with the deformities she had, but she had to have come from somewhere herself, so it was possible. But if she wasn’t, it would be enough meat to last weeks. He could avoid the town. He could avoid the people. Hank and Alma would be worried about him, he knew, but he’d been gone for longer. What had it been now? Three months? It couldn’t be that long, could it? They would understand. They always did.

“What do you think?” he asked.

Bad Dog rose from his haunches and sniffed at the blood again. If we do it, we must be quick. Like the wind.

“Yeah,” Cavalo muttered. “Like the wind.” He looked across the freeway again. It looked no different than the forest behind him. But it was different, he knew. Far different.

The first deer in weeks. Probably just over the road. Right into the tree line. “Probably already dead,” the man said aloud. “Just waiting for us.”

Dead, dead, dead, the dog said, rubbing against him.

“We get in and get out.”

Like we were never there.

“They won’t even know.”

No one will. In and out.

“You ready?”

Bad Dog yipped and watered a dusty bush. I pissed, he said proudly. That bush is mine. Now I’m ready.

The man nodded. “Let’s go.” He hesitated only for a second….

… and stepped onto the freeway.

Bad Dog immediately followed, his toenails clicking against the broken road, nose to the ground against the blood trail. Cavalo looked from side to side, scanning the tree line ahead of him. The shadows were beginning to lengthen. Nothing moved among the trees aside from the birds, calling their songs as loudly as they did on the other side of the freeway. It looked the same. It looked exactly the same.

But it felt so very different.

The man felt it even as he put one foot in front of another. There was a chill here that had nothing to do with the mute sky overhead. It was darker, the trees more dense and stark. The air felt thicker, as if pressing into a barrier that shouldn’t be crossed. He looked down and saw the blood trail, still bright and fresh. He looked back up into the woods, searching for movement.

Only the birds.

He stepped off the freeway and slid down the shallow bank. Bad Dog jumped down behind him, bumping into the back of Cavalo’s legs. They almost fell.

Sorry, Bad Dog said, looking embarrassed.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly, adjusting his back. He tried not to think of the last time he’d crossed the freeway. It was almost impossible to do on this side. He could hear their voices, somewhere far off, calling for him, lost in the haze. The man named Cavalo believed his dog could speak to him and didn’t know it was his fortieth birthday, but he most certainly did not believe in ghosts. Even if he could hear them.

Bad Dog went to the tree line, following the blood trail. He reached the trees and looked back at Cavalo, his tail still, ears perked. Coming? he asked, unaware of the other voices.

Which means they aren’t real, the man thought. Sweat dripped down his forehead. He wiped it away. He thought of the bow. It didn’t seem to be enough. Not with what was on this side of the woods. Not with what they could do.

He unclipped the rifle from his pack. It felt heavy in his hands. He checked the chamber. Loaded. Sight was clear. Safety off.

Bad Dog watched him, eyeing the gun warily. He did not like the noise that came from it. Too loud, he said, flattening his ears. Hate the boomstick. Hate it. Hate it.

Cavalo nodded. “Can’t be helped. Not this time.”

Bad Dog sighed but said nothing. He turned and trotted into the trees.

They aren’t real, the man thought, because he didn’t believe in ghosts.

He followed the dog into the woods.

Withered + Sere Blurb

Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.Withered+Sere3

One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.

It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.

The world has died.

This is the story of its remains.

Sales Links

Dreamspinner Press Publications | Amazon

About the Author

When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a  full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.

Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.

And one of those things isn’t true.

(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)

Facebook: TJ Klune

Blog: tjklunebooks.blogspot.com

E-mail: tjklunebooks@yahoo.com

Withered + Sere Blog Tour:

  • April 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
  • April 13- My Fiction Nook
  • April 18 – Just Love Romance
  • April 19 – Divine Magazine
  • April 19 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • April 19 – The Novel Approach
  • April 20 – Kimi-chan Experience
  • April 21 – It’s About the Book
  • April 21 – Love Bytes
  • April 22 – Prism Book Alliance