Okay, maybe extravaganza is overstating this a little bit. But please join us in wishing author TJ Klune a happy birthday today ::confetti and streamers::, and get ready for a sneak peek at his upcoming release, Wolfsong, coming June 20th from Dreamspinner Press.
TJ and I are both May babies (he’s 11 days older than I am… #Lies), so we thought it might be fun to do a joint celebration and then give you all the chance to win the prezzies! ::more confetti and streamers::
After you get a little peek at Wolfsong, scroll on down to the Rafflecopter widget below, where you can enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the book and a $25 Dreamspinner Press gift card.
And now, here’s Wolfsong.
About the Book
Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.
Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. The little boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the little boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the little boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.
Ox was seventeen when he found out the little boy’s secret and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.
Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.
It’s been four years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.
Add Wolfsong to Goodreads
motes of dust/cold and metal
I was twelve when my daddy put a suitcase by the door.
“What’s that for?” I asked from the kitchen.
He sighed, low and rough. Took him a moment to turn around. “When did you get home?”
“A while ago.” My skin itched. Didn’t feel right.
He glanced at an old clock on the wall. The plastic covering its face was cracked. “Later than I thought. Look, Ox….” He shook his head. He seemed flustered. Confused. My dad was many things. A drunk. Quick to anger with words and fists. A sweet devil with a laugh that rumbled like that old Harley-Davidson WLA we’d rebuilt the summer before. But he was never flustered. He was never confused. Not like he was now.
I itched something awful.
“I know you’re not the smartest boy,” he said. He glanced back at his suitcase.
And it was true. I was not cursed with an overabundance of brains. My mom said I was just fine. My daddy thought I was slow. My mom said it wasn’t a race. He was deep in his whiskey at that point and started yelling and breaking things. He didn’t hit her. Not that night, anyway. Mom cried a lot, but he didn’t hit her. I made sure of it. When he finally started snoring in his old chair, I snuck back to my room and hid under my covers.
“Yes, sir,” I said to him.
He looked back at me, and I’ll swear until the day I die that I saw some kind of love in his eyes. “Dumb as an ox,” he said. It didn’t sound mean coming from him. It just was.
I shrugged. Wasn’t the first time he’d said that to me, even though Mom asked him to stop. It was okay. He was my dad. He knew better than anyone.
“You’re gonna get shit,” he said. “For most of your life.”
“I’m bigger than most,” I said like it meant something. And I was. People were scared of me, though I didn’t want them to be. I was big. Like my daddy. He was a big man with a sloping gut, thanks to the booze.
“People won’t understand you,” he said.
“They won’t get you.”
“I don’t need them to.” I wanted them to very much, but I could see why they wouldn’t.
“I have to go.”
“Does Mom know?”
He laughed, but it didn’t sound like he found anything funny. “Sure. Maybe. She knew what was going to happen. Probably has for a while.”
I stepped toward him. “When are you coming back?”
“Ox. People are going to be mean. You just ignore them. Keep your head down.”
“People aren’t mean. Not always.” I didn’t know that many people. Didn’t really have any friends. But the people I did know weren’t mean. Not always. They just didn’t know what to do with me. Most of them. But that was okay. I didn’t know what to do with me either.
And then he said, “You’re not going to see me for a while. Maybe a long while.”
“What about the shop?” I asked him. He worked down at Gordo’s. He smelled like grease and oil and metal when he came home. Fingers blackened. He had shirts with his name embroidered on it. Curtis stitched in reds and whites and blues. I always thought that was the most amazing thing. A mark of a great man, to have your name etched onto your shirt. He let me go with him sometimes. He showed me how to change the oil when I was three. How to change a tire when I was four. How to rebuild an engine for a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Coupe when I was nine. Those days I would come home smelling of grease and oil and metal and I would dream late at night of having a shirt with my name embroidered on it. Oxnard, it would say. Or maybe just Ox.
“Gordo doesn’t care” is what my dad said.
Which felt like a lie. Gordo cared a lot. He was gruff, but he told me once that when I was old enough, I could come talk to him about a job. “Guys like us have to stick together,” he said. I didn’t know what he meant by that, but the fact that he thought of me as anything was good enough for me.
“Oh” is all I could say to my dad.
“I don’t regret you,” he said. “But I regret everything else.”
I didn’t understand. “Is this about…?” I didn’t know what this was about.
“I regret being here,” he said. “I can’t take it.”
“Well that’s okay,” I said. “We can fix that.” We could just go somewhere else.
“There’s no fixing, Ox.”
“Did you charge your phone?” I asked him because he never remembered. “Don’t forget to charge your phone so I can call you. I got new math that I don’t understand. Mr. Howse said I could ask you for help.” Even though I knew my dad wouldn’t get the math problems any more than I would. Pre-algebra it was called. That scared me, because it was already hard when it was a pre. What would happen when it was just algebra without the pre involved?
I knew that face he made then. It was his angry face. He was pissed off. “Don’t you fucking get it?” he snapped.
I tried not to flinch. “No,” I said. Because I didn’t.
“Ox,” my daddy said. “There’s going to be no math. No phone calls. Don’t make me regret you too.”
“Oh,” I said.
“You have to be a man now. That’s why I’m trying to teach you this stuff. Shit’s gonna get slung on you. You brush it off and keep going.” His fists were clenched at his sides. I didn’t know why.
“I can be a man,” I assured him, because maybe that would make him feel better.
“I know,” he said.
I smiled at him, but he looked away.
“I have to go,” he eventually said.
“When are you coming back?” I asked him.
He staggered a step toward the door. Took a breath that rattled around his chest. Picked up his suitcase. Walked out. I heard his old truck start up outside. It stuttered a bit when it picked up. Sounded like he needed a new timing belt. I’d have to remind him later.
Mom got home late that night, after working a double in the diner. She found me in the kitchen, standing in the same spot I’d been in when my daddy had walked out the door. Things were different now.
“Ox?” she asked. “What’s going on?” She looked very tired.
“Hey, Mom,” I said.
“Why are you crying?”
“I’m not.” And I wasn’t, because I was a man now.
She touched my face. Her hands smelled like salt and french fries and coffee. Her thumbs brushed against my wet cheeks. “What happened?”
I looked down at her, because she’d always been small and at some point in the last year or so, I’d grown right past her. I wished I could remember the day it happened. It seemed monumental. “I’ll take care of you,” I promised her. “You don’t ever need to worry.”
Her eyes softened. I could see the lines around her eyes. The tired set of her jaw. “You always do. But that’s—” She stopped. Took a breath. “He left?” she asked, and she sounded so small.
“I think so.” I twirled her hair against my finger. Dark, like my own. Like my daddy’s. We were all so dark.
“What did he say?” she asked.
“I’m a man now,” I told her. That’s all she needed to hear.
She laughed until she cracked right down the middle.
He didn’t take the money when he left. Not all of it. Not that there was much there to begin with.
He didn’t take any pictures either. Just some clothes. His razor. His truck. Some of his tools.
If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought he never was at all.
I called his phone four days later. It was the middle of the night.
It rang a couple of times before a message picked up saying the phone was no longer in service.
I had to apologize to Mom the next morning. I’d held the handset so hard that it had cracked. She said it was okay, and we didn’t talk about it ever again.
I was six when my daddy bought me my own set of tools. Not kid’s stuff. No bright colors and plastic. All cold and metal and real.
He said, “Keep them clean. And god help you if I find them laying outside. They’ll rust and I’ll tan your hide. That ain’t what this shit is for. You got that?”
I touched them reverently because they were a gift. “Okay,” I said, unable to find the words to say just how full my heart felt.
I stood in their (her) room one morning a couple of weeks after he left. Mom was at the diner again, picking up another shift. Her ankles would be hurting by the time she got home.
Sunlight fell through a window on the far wall. Little bits of dust caught the light.
It smelled like him in the room. Like her. Like both of them. A thing together. It would be a long time before it stopped. But it would. Eventually.
I slid open the closet door. One side was mostly empty. Things were left, though. Little pieces of a life no longer lived.
Like his work shirt. Four of them, hanging in the back. Gordo’s in cursive.
Curtis, they all said. Curtis, Curtis, Curtis.
I touched each one of with the tips of my fingers.
I took the last one down from the hanger. Slid it over my shoulders. It was heavy and smelled like man and sweat and work. I said, “Okay, Ox. You can do this.”
So I started to button up the work shirt. My fingers stumbled over them, too big and blunt. Clumsy and foolish, I was. All hands and arms and legs, graceless and dull. I was too big for myself.
The last button finally went through and I closed my eyes. I took a breath. I remembered how Mom had looked this morning. The purple lines under her eyes. The slump of her shoulders. She’d said, “Be good today, Ox. Try to stay out of trouble,” as if trouble was the only thing I knew. As if I was in it constantly.
I opened my eyes. Looked in the mirror that hung on the closet door.
The shirt was too large. Or I was too small. I don’t know which. I looked like a kid playing dress-up. Like I was pretending.
I scowled at my reflection. Lowered my voice and said, “I’m a man.”
I didn’t believe me.
“I’m a man.”
“I’m a man.”
Eventually, I took off my father’s work shirt and hung it back up in the closet. I shut the doors behind me, the dust motes still floating in the fading sun.
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.)