Welcome to the wide crazy world of TJ Klune

As you can see, this is a blog (a blog, you say? You're like the only person in the world that has one!). Here are my promises to you: I promise to up date this as much as I can. I promise that at some point, you will most likely be offended. I promise you may suffer from the affliction the Klunatics know as Wookie Cry Face. I also promise to make this some place where you can see how my mind works.



You've been warned.

Friday, December 30, 2011

How I Spent My Xmas Vacation

So I had this big old long blog post ready to go about my favorite shit of 2011.  But through the magic that is technology, it somehow got deleted, and the prospect of doing it all over again is making me nauseous.  I may have even said "Fuck you, computer!" in a very irate manner.  Just know there was shit I liked in 2011, some more than others.  The End.

So here instead, are things I learned and things I did on my Xmas vacation.

--When you have 12 straight days of vacation coming up, the work day stretches to infinity.  You know what I mean.  Those days approaching seem to last forever, and it SUCKS when you look at the clock, sure a few hours have passed only to realize it's been 14 seconds, well... just know that I hate that.

--That dawning sense of freedom you get when the day arrives?  When the clock says "Be free, my child!  Run like the wind and never look back!"  and you can't help but be in a good mood, and even though those around you aren't going on vacation and they are trying to do their best to put you in a bad mood, but it doesn't work because they're all just jealous ass hats?  I love moments like that.

--So I said "Good-bye, dear co-workers!" waving at them (and also secretly flipping them off.)  I ran from my cubicle and out the door to my car and drove home.  Of course, on the way, I stopped at the store and bought hard alcohol.  Keep in mind that I'm a lightweight (two beers makes me drunk) so that bottle will be in my freezer forever.  What can I say, I'm a cheap date. 

--Knowing full well it was Xmas in a couple of days and that I was leaving for Prescott, AZ the next, I immediately proceeded in wrapping the presents.  Now, there is something you should know about me.  It is my secret shame.  I, as a gay man.....cannot wrap presents.  Look away, I'm hideous!  Seriously.  It's awful, the job I do.  Take a normal simple box, and when I'm finished "wrapping" it, it'll look like one of those avant-garde pieces that is supposed to be "art" but that people don't really understand.  To much tape.  The corners folded weird.  Paper torn.  I was told once that my present wrapping abilitity ruins Xmas.  That person doesn't get presents from me anymore.  Bastard.

--I had to drive four hours up to Prescott.  By myself.  I told myself I would use that time to work out some plot kinks for Burn Book II, but instead spent the entire time going through my CD's (Yes, I still use CD's.  Yes, I still buy CD's.  No, I don't have an iPod.  Bite me) picking out ones that I hadn't listened to in forever.  What did I learn about myself musically?  A few things: first, I have some awesome music (Breaking Benjamin, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine.)  Second, I have some of the gayest music ever (Don't even ask how many Britney albums I have.  Okay, fine, eight.  Shut up).  Third, I may be the best singer in the history of ever.  (okay, that last was a lie.  I'm sorry I lied.  I can't sing at all, but I really like to think I can.)

--I was staying in Prescott for a few days following Xmas because my sister was donating a kidney to another dude and she needed someone to drive her to Phoenix and back for the surgery and also to watch my eight year old nephew Noah, the most supreme badass kid to have ever existed.  So I packed a shit load of clothes.  Two bags worth.  Don't look at me like that.  I know I have a disease.  But at least I look good.

--Prescott AZ is in the mountains.  I fully expected there to be snow.  I was not disappointed.


See that little patch of white I'm standing on?  SNOW!!!!

--My favorite part about Xmas?  Oh, I could say the time spent with family, the meaning of the holiday season, the joy of giving to others, but that's bullshit.  Everyone likes presents, no matter their age.  If they say otherwise, they're a liar and a fat mouth.  I got an impossible new smart phone that I'll never be able to use (it's called a Droid Razr.  No, I didn't mis-type that.  Apparently it's way hip to misspell "Razr". Is it so much trouble to add in the extra "o"?  Pretty soon, everything will be abbreviated and nobody will know what anyone is talking about.  Prepare for the future!)  But look what else I got!
A full sized BOATK poster! It makes me feel kind of famous, and then I realize how douchey that sounds.  But then I get over it because I have a BOATK poster.

--Food coma with the little brother.  I still don't think I've fully recovered.

--So after Xmas was over, we drove down to Phoenix so my sister could have her surgery.  And of course, that would mean leaving me in charge of an eight year old.  What did I learn in the two days I had Noah.  HOLY FUCKING CHRIST KIDS ARE FUCKING EXHAUSTING.  JEBUS CRISP!!!!!  And emotionally manipulative.  Case in point:

"Noah, we just ate, how can you be hungry again?"
"Well, there's a Wendy's right there and they have root beer floats which are my favorite."
"Haven't you had enough sugar the past few days?"
"My mom let's me get root beer floats."
"Dammit.  One root beer float, please."

But you know what?  I love the crap out of that little dude.  He is so fucking hysterical.  He's so fucking smart.  He's so fucking awesome and those two days where it was just me and him were some of the best I've had in long while.   How can it not be when, while we were randomly in a Lowe's store, he told me that all the employees working there were really terrorists and we had to avoid them otherwise they'd get us and so we literally played hide and seek with Lowe's employees (even though they didn't know they were playing with us) because had they caught us, we would have been taken back to their base and tortured?  How can it not be when he looked me in the eye and said "I'm really glad you and I get to hang out, because I miss you when you're not here."

Ow. My heart.

--My sister pulled through the surgery with flying colors, and the recipient got a new lease on life as apparently his new kidney started working almost right away.  How rad is that?

--I drove them back up to Prescott and turned around and drove another four hours home.  I was good until the last hour or so and then I was fucking miserable because I had been sitting for so long.  So I started thinking about what would happen if the world really ended in 2012.  What would I have said I'd wished I'd done?  You know my dream to go to Stonehenge.  I also want to say I've been to the Amazon River.  And stood at the Grand Canyon (I know, I know: I live in Arizona, how the hell could I never have been?).  There's so many things I want to do in life, so I hope that the world doesn't end next  December.  (Apparently it's supposed to end Dec 23rd.  Which, if true, means we just celebrated our last Xmas as a human race!  PREPARE FOR FIRE!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA)

--I still have four more days until I have to return to work.  Little bro and I are going shopping today and then to see the new Mission Impossible movie.  Did you know that Tom Cruise is like only 5'8?  How adorable is that?  It goes to show that even short closeted people can make it in Hollywood.

Here's to 2012! (as long as we don't burn in fire when the world explodes.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

My 2011, as it were. And, a look ahead.

Ah, what a difference a year can make.

2011 was odd: wonderfully, strangely odd.  It started with my struggling to finish a story about a guy named Bear, the love of his life (whether he knew it or not) Otter, and a snarky and deeply fragile nine year old.  I knew how it was supposed to end, and I knew the end would leave some questions unanswered (the hows and the whys), but I figured it wouldn’t matter because no one was going to read it anyway.

Right?  Right.

Boy, was I wrong.

I finished the novel sometime in February.  (Okay, who am I kidding—I know the exact date and time I typed the last word.)  Then I sat on it for a few weeks.  Then I reread it.  Not bad.  Not great, but not bad.  I changed a few things around (Mrs. Paquinn got more quirky, the lawyer scene expanded) and I felt better about it.  I decided on Dreamspinner as my first stop (first stop isn’t a joke, either).  I’ve heard so many horror stories about author’s getting rejection letter after rejection letter before they finally get their book published (if at all).  I was under no illusion that I had written the Great American Novel.  Far from it.  I told myself to steel up my nerves, that it’d hurt if/when it was rejected, and that I’d allow myself a moment or two to wallow in self-pity (after all, what did that stupid publisher know, anyway?  I had just written the Great American Novel!  Screw them!  Won’t they be upset when I’m rich and famous!)  I received an email back, saying it had been received and would be 6-8 weeks before I would get a response.

So what to do?  Sit and watch the clock and calendar?  6-8 weeks is a really long time, if you think about it.  Especially if someone is judging what you had just spent months putting your heart and soul into.  It can be agonizing, that wait.  (Okay, you can check the calendar again; it has to have been at least two weeks since you last looked.  Go ahead.  IT’S ONLY BEEN TWENTY MINUTES!?!?!?!)  I had a choice then: watch and wait (while reading over the copy of the manuscript I had sent in, seeing repeated, obvious mistakes that I just knew were going to cause the book to be rejected—Sloppy, the notes would say.  Don’t you know how to edit?  Please don’t ever submit to us again.)  Nah, I couldn’t wait and watch.  I would have given serious consideration to losing my mind.

Might as well start the story I’d always wanted to tell.  It was going to be a huge book, the first part of a trilogy.  I’d always had this image of a guy falling off a really tall building.  Who was he?  Why did he fall?  Did he jump?  Was he pushed?  How could a person survive something like that?  Did he survive something like that?  My thoughts grew from there until it formed this epic story of black vs white, good vs evil.  I even knew the first line: My name is Felix Paracel and when I was nine, I killed my mother with fire that shot from my hands.  Felix, I decided, was the guy who fell off the building.  And so I starting writing.  And writing.  And writing.

During the three months it took me to tell the story of Felix and Seven, April 7th, 2011 happened.  Email received from Dreamspinner, wanting to publish BOATK.  I remember my first thought being bullshit.  And then I danced.  And then I freaked out.  And then I wrote a calm email back saying thank you for the consideration and that I would review the contract and get back to them.

It was a whirlwind from there.  Edits.  (What the fuck do I know about edits?  What do you mean the original ending of BOATK doesn’t make sense?  Of course it makes sense!  I FUCKING WROTE IT.)  Cover.  (Do you want to have half naked to mostly naked men on your cover?  Uh, no.  A nine-year old is a main character and that would just be weird.  And gross.  Some people won’t read it if you put a child on the cover.  Oh.  Who cares?  His name is already in the title.  I’m not gonna have two ripped guys boning on my cover just because some person in Florida hates children in their m/m books.  Okay, we’ll do it!)  The blurb.  (I hate writing about what I wrote.)  My bio. (I hate writing about myself.)

During this time, I finished my second novel.  I thought if it ever saw the light of day, people were gonna freak the shit out (in a good way), especially given the last 100 pages.  I was proud of the way it ended.  Probably a bit too proud.  But I had finished that damn thing in three months so I figured I was okay with liking it a bit more than I had BOATK.  I didn’t know if anyone else would, and I still don’t.  After all, it’s M/M and it’s supernatural, but it’s not a shifter story.  There’s no vampires.  It’s sorta violent.  People die.  It’s the first part of a trilogy, so things aren’t wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end.  Fuck.  What the hell was I thinking?!?!?  But I sent it off for consideration 7/1/11.  And waited.  And Waited.

And didn’t write a damn thing for over a month.

Two days before BOATK’s release, Burn was accepted for publication for February 2012.

Christ.

BOATK came out, but if you’re reading this, most likely you knew that already.  I’ve already talked  about its release way too much in the past, so no need for me to rehash it here.  You know what happened, how it’s been received.  For that, I’m thankful.  But what you may not know is that looking back, there are parts in the book that makes me cringe.  I wish I’d done certain things differently.  I wish that we hadn’t spent so much time in Bear’s head.  I wish I’d been a tad bit clearer on the end (mom’s motives).  Why do I wish that?  Because I really didn’t plan on writing a sequel.  I thought that maybe the boys would ride off into the sunset and that would be that.  But after the release happened and people responded the way they did, I knew I could go back to the boys and continue, if only I could think of another story to tell.  And the right idea hit me one random day and two months later, it was finished.  Now, I’m making plans for the boys and for my other new guys.  Big plans.

So BOATK won a few awards, was named one of Amazon.com’s best books of 2011.   Apparently it’ll be up for a few more in the coming months (more on that down the road!) People from all over the world have emailed me about it, both good AND bad.  I never expected any of that.  I never expected it to sell well, never expected it to affect others the way it did.  To some, it was a good story.  To others, it meant something to them given their own lives.  Still others hated it with a glorified passion (one review went so far as to claim all the good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon were plants by people that I knew and wanted people to rate it badly just to counteract all the good ones—LOVE IT!!!).  All of that?  All of that is way awesome.  I don’t want universal acclaim (seriously!) or universal hatred (duh!).  If I had either, I would think I had done something wrong, or that I would never be able to live up to that first book.  The fact that some people loved it, some people hated it, and a lot of people liked it was the best reaction I could have hoped for.  And it’s one I hope to continue to get.

So 2011 started with a tremulous hope and is ending with me seeing three novels published within an eight month period.  Holy fuck me sideways.  Never thought that would happen.

2012?  You’ll get Burn.  You’ll get BOATK2.  You may also get a surprise or two that shall remain quiet for now.  But if my 2012 is anything like my 2011, then I think it’ll be a pretty damn good year.

So thank you.  Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve read my first book and have given me such an awesome gift.  It means more than you could know.

TJ

Oh, and just because we’re getting closer to the release, a couple of remaining characters that I have not yet revealed for Burn, out 2.6.12 are listed below. I should have the cover soon and also details as to when Burn will be available for preorder.  In addition, a very limited amount of Burn paperbacks signed by me will be available.  That’ll be first come first serve and I’ll have further details as we get closer.

Who you’ve met so far:

Felix Paracel—narrator. An Elemental capable of controlling fire and wind, possibly the only dual Elemental in the world. Called Findo Unum—the Split One.

Seven Fortis—A non-Elemental, or a “Normal,” as they’re referred. Also known as the Luravit Cor to Felix, as revealed in the first excerpt. What does Luravit Cor mean? Sure sounds like Latin, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, a lot of this world is based in Latin. Strange.

The Clock Twins, Tick and Tock: Seventeen year old Asian twins capable of controlling Water and Earth. Also, they are tech geniuses whose hacking capabilities are unparalleled.

Edna Brunelle: Sixty-seven year old Fire Elemental, one of the more powerful in the world. As a Magister—teacher—to the Split One, she will help Felix with the Fire side of his abilities. Has an affinity for younger men.

Otis Moore: An Elemental capable of controlling fire, who also has an affinity for all things weapon-related. He and Seven grew up together and have been best friends since they first met at the age of six. Years before the story starts, an event led to a vicious attack, partly handicapping Otis’s mind. He’s a functional adult, but given the brain damage he sustained, he is not the same person he used to be. Some consider him now to be an idiot savant.

Jason Taylor: Best friend to Felix Paracel (though, he only knows him by Felix’s cover name, Atticus Vanesco, and does not know that Felix is an Elemental). He is a Normal (a non-elemental) and a cop with the Terra City PD. He’s always considered himself to be Felix’s protector, but he can’t shake the feeling that something is coming that he has no control over.

New Character Reveal:

Thaddeus Paracel:  Father to Felix Paracel, husband to Felix's mother, who Felix accidentally killed as a child.  After the night of her death, Thaddeus took Felix into hiding, keeping him away from the world and those bent on finding Felix.  Felix suspects his father knows more than he's saying about the event's of Felix's life, even down to the point of what Thaddeus does for a living.

Kammy Basileus: Earth Elemental, part of Seven's team of Elementals.  Previously was romantically involved with Seven Fortis, she doubts Felix's capabilities which she lets him know on a regular basis.

One last thing:  the opening quote for Burn? 

I will burn, but this is a mere event.
 —Michael Servetus

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Does Size Matter? And other musings

You're a pervert if you thought I was talking about cock. For shame.

So last week saw a couple of big things when it comes to my upcoming releases. I thought I’d give a couple of thoughts and go over some other housekeeping items that I want to address.

And for those concerned, this will be relatively spoiler-free about Burn and Who We Are (BOATK2).

First, Burn. The released date is 2.6.12 and I just realized that that’s only two months away. Seriously, that is a hell of a lot closer than I thought it was. I am almost to the point of nervousness about the release, given the fact that I wonder if people will be expecting something along the lines of BOATK. It’s not. Granted, it’s about what it means to be family (on a much larger scale), and its primary focus is two dudes falling for each other, but that’s where the similarities end. I could have easily gone into writing the BOATK sequel after I finished the first, but I needed to do something different. Bear and the boys may have gotten my foot in the door (which is something I will forever be grateful for) but Burn is the story I’ve always wanted to tell. BOATK allowed me that chance, because Burn is out there, man. Like way radically out there. I wanted to make a rollercoaster ride that’s scary and fast and will leave you breathless by the time you finish it.

I’ve already heard a couple of grumbles about the length. When all is said and done, it should clock in at approx. 190,000 words, or twice the length of your traditional m/m novel. IMO, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the length of the story, as long as it’s good, you know? I guess I don’t understand complaints about longer works. Most mainstream mass market paperbacks that you see on the NYT bestseller lists are 200,000 words or longer. Why should our genre be any different? To those that are concerned about longer works, think about it this way: you finish one 80-90K worded m/m novel, and you start another one of the same length. Isn’t that like reading a single longer work?

But that’s just me; I am a person that actively seeks out longer books, given the fact that right when I seem to start caring about characters, the story is over. I may be the odd man out here on that, but that’s okay. I am perfectly aware that the biggest complaint for Burn will most likely be its length. I’m not too worried about it. The story is pretty kick ass, if I do say so myself. But then I wrote it, so I may be biased.

At the end of this, I’ll reveal another character or two and recap the ones you’ve met so far, again pretty spoiler-free. On 12/30/11, I’ll be taking part in a live author chat (hopefully going better than the last one did) and I’ll be providing the second excerpt for Burn. Also, sometime in January, I’ll be doing a final character reveal, possibly a third excerpt and a song list that fits the book (idea stolen from whatever author started that).

Now to Who We Are, the BOATK sequel and to a decision that’s probably not going to be universally loved: you’re not going to get any excerpts from me on it between now and its release in April 2012. Don’t give me that look; just listen for a moment. I’ve already shown you that WIP post I did a couple of months ago for a scene in Who We Are. You’ve already met the majority of the characters, and you know them almost as well as I do. What would be the point of showing anymore? There’s a difference between launching a new book (Burn) and publishing a sequel (WWA). It’s not as if I’m saying you should know what to expect from the sequel (because seriously, you have no idea what I’ve got in store for the boys; this isn’t going to be some light-hearted rehash of the first book.) With excerpts, I want people to meet characters for the first time like Seven and Felix from Burn. With BOATK2, I want everyone to go in on equal footing, not knowing what’s going to happen, so everyone can be surprised at once (but that’s not to say the Burn excerpts will be particularly spoilery—they won’t be. Trust me, they won’t even begin to scratch the surface). Does that make sense to you? I hope it does, and I hope you can understand why, maybe even appreciate that fact. Don’t you want to be surprised? I know I do. I will be putting out a song list for WWA however, one that I feel fits the book, and that can be scrutinized for any clues as to the story.

And I promise not to tease about Burn or WWA. To much.

So…questions? Comments? Concerns? Sound off below!

Burn Character List

Who you’ve met so far:

Felix Paracel—narrator. An Elemental capable of controlling fire and wind, possibly the only dual Elemental in the world. Called Findo Unum—the Split One.

Seven Fortis—A non-Elemental, or a “Normal,” as they’re referred. Also known as the Luravit Cor to Felix, as revealed in the first excerpt. What does Luravit Cor mean? Sure sounds like Latin, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, a lot of this world is based in Latin. Strange.

The Clock Twins, Tick and Tock: Seventeen year old Asian twins capable of controlling Water and Earth. Also, they are tech geniuses whose hacking capabilities are unparalleled.

Edna Brunelle: Sixty-seven year old Fire Elemental, one of the more powerful in the world. As a Magister—teacher—to the Split One, she will help Felix with the Fire side of his abilities. Has an affinity for younger men.


New Character Reveal for Burn:

Otis Moore: An Elemental capable of controlling fire, who also has an affinity for all things weapon-related. He and Seven grew up together and have been best friends since they first met at the age of six. Years before the story starts, an event led to a vicious attack, partly handicapping Otis’s mind. He’s a functional adult, but given the brain damage he sustained, he is not the same person he used to be. Some consider him now to be an idiot savant.

Jason Taylor: Best friend to Felix Paracel (though, he only knows him by Felix’s cover name, Atticus Vanesco, and does not know that Felix is an Elemental). He is a Normal (a non-elemental) and a cop with the Terra City PD. He’s always considered himself to be Felix’s protector, but he can’t shake the feeling that something is coming that he has no control over.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sequel to BOATK: Who We Are

.........has been accepted for publication by Dreamspinner!!

*happy awesome breakdance*

Even better? While Burn is set to come out Feb 6th, 2012, you'll have the BOATK Sequel in.........APRIL 2012!!! (Hope you like back to back releases from me =D)

What's that you ask? The blurb? Of course:

Bear, Otter, and the Kid survived last summer with their hearts and souls intact. They’ve moved into the Green Monstrosity and Bear is finally able to admit his love for the man who saved him from himself.

But that's not the end of their story. How could it be?

The boys are going to find that life doesn’t stop just because they got their happily ever after. There’s still the custody battle for the Kid. The return of Otter’s parents. A first trip to a gay bar. The Kid goes to therapy and Mrs. Paquinn decides that Bigfoot is real. Anna and Creed do… well, whatever it is Anna and Creed do. There’s newfound jealousies, the return of old enemies, bad poetry and misanthropic seagulls. And through it all, Bear struggles to understand his mother’s abandonment of him and his brother, only to delve deeper into their shared past. What he finds there will alter their lives forever and will help him realize what it'll take to become who they're supposed to be.

Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole, those that make us who we are.


More news to come!!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

THE BOATK Holiday Short: "Twas A Few Days Before Christmas."

Before you get to the short, I also got some other news today I thought I'd share.  BOATK was selected by Amazon.com as one of their top books published in 2011 AND both the Kindle and PH editions were selected in the Top 10 Gay & Lesbian Fiction/Non-Fiction published in 2011.  How insane is that?!?!  I think my dedication below show's exactly how I feel about it.



(C) TJ Klune 2011.--You can share, but hey: don't be a dick about it, yeah? 

Dedication~~To the fans of Bear, Otter, and the Kid: I wrote this with you all in mind.  This is my way of saying thank you for what you made BOATK into, something that I couldn't even have imagined in my wildest dreams.  Because of you, I get to keep on writing.  I can proudly say I've got the best damn readers in the world!
TJ

**********************************************************************

“What is this, an assignment for school or something?” I ask, dreading what’s on the paper the Kid has handed me. 
“Or something,” he agrees.  “You know the poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas?”
“Uh, yeah.”
“It’s doesn’t have the right message,” he says with complete seriousness.  “And it feeds the lies parents tell their children that Santa Claus is real.”  The Kid shakes his head.  “I can’t believe some of the stuff adults get away with.  You’d think this is Communist Russia with how adults brainwash children.  It makes me wonder what else you two may have lied to me about.”
“You’ll never find out,” I grin at him.
“I don’t think kids in Communist Russia ever even got Christmas presents,” Otter points out.  “If they did, it was probably a radish or something else.  Like goat milk.”
I’m horrified.  “People drink milk from goats?”
“Communism does weird things to people,” the Kid says.
“I don’t even know what Communism is,” I assure the both of them.  But then of course, as I seem to do,  I get stuck on a single idea.   It’s my curse.  “How do you think that the first people decided to drink milk from cows and goats, anyways?  Did they just see one in a field one day and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to squeeze that fleshy thing underneath and swallow whatever comes out?’”
The Kid’s smile grows evil.  “Isn’t that what you say to Otter now?”
Otter loses it.  I glare at the both of them.  “I’m not going to read your damn poem if you’re going to be dirty,” I snap at the Kid.
He grabs the paper from my hand.  “Fine.  I’ll read it to you.”
“I don’t think I can ever drink milk again,” I tell Otter as we move to the couch.  “I’m way grossed out now.”
“You don’t have to drink milk,” he says.  “You’ll only get osteoporosis and then die, just like those commercials say.”
“I don’t think that’s a real thing.”
“What?  Commercials?  Commercials are very real, Bear.”
“Dumbass.”
“Hey!”  The Kid says.  “You gonna listen to me, or what?”
Otter drops his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close.  “You realize we have no one to blame but ourselves for the bad poetry, right?” he whispers in my ear, his lips grazing my skin and causing me to shiver.
“There’s a reason the arts in schools are a first thing to go,” I mumble, turning to kiss him lightly.
He kisses me back with a little more force.  “How about tonight I squeeze your fleshy thing and see what happens?”
Gross.  Kind of.
“I wonder if all my classmates have to see their brothers making out with their partners too,” the Kid says quite loudly.  “I’m sure the conservatives would have a field day with our household, probably wondering how long it’ll take before I feel the need to kiss a guy.”
I narrow my eyes as I glance at him.  “You don’t get to kiss anyone until you’re forty,” I admonish the Kid.  “Kissing is a gateway act that leads to fuc—other things.  No way in hell are you going to do that.”
“Whatever,” he says, waving his hand dismissively.  “Are you going to listen to my poem or not?”
“There’s a choice?” I say hopefully.
“No.”
I roll my eyes.  “Read the latest epic, Kid.”
“It’d better rhyme,” Otter warns.  “Real poems rhyme.”
“Oh, it does.  Prepare to be blown away because I think I’ve outdone myself.  Ladies and gentleman, I give you, ‘Twas a Few Days Before Christmas: A Wistful Reflection On My Carnivore Of A Brother .”
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” I mutter.

‘Twas a few days before Christmas
in the Green Monstrosity.
And there lived a brilliant boy!
As graceful and humble as can be!

His intelligence was a gift,
a great burden to carry,
especially since his older brother
made him nothing but weary.

[“Oh, this is going to be one of those poems?”
“No commentary, Bear!”
“Sorry.”]

The smart boy watched
As his brother would fumble
through everything he did,
his words coming out in a garbled mumble!

So it made this brave boy sad
to see his older brother fail as he  tried.
          “I wish I could help him,”
           The brave boy said aloud as he sighed.

            [“I think I like it better when your poems are trying to get me to be a vegetarian,” I tell him. 
            “Oh, I don’t know,” Otter says thoughtfully.  “This is pretty good so far.”
            The Kid grins as he says, “Thank you, Otter.  It’s nice to be appreciated.  For once.  And Bear, don’t worry.  My hidden message is coming soon.  See if you can catch it!”
“I’m sure it’ll be real hard to find.”]

It was the holiday season
that Kid loved the most;
almost as much as
he loved tofu on his toast.

[“Gross!” I say.]

But forget tofu, at least for the moment.
It was Christmas time, don’t you see?
A time for family and friends and love
and materialistic things to make everyone happy!

They needed to go shopping
for presents at the mall.
When they got inside, Bear stuttered to a stop,
saying, “OMG, it’s Santa!” and that was all.

[“Sounds exactly like you,” Otter says.  “You’re always OMG this and OMG that.  It’s like your catchphrase.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” I say, bewildered.]

Now, the Kid was smart
And knew the undeniable truth:
there was no such thing as Santa Claus
much like no fairy comes for your tooth.

It was hard to watch,
as his brother’s eyes lit up with glee
at the first skinny mall Santa
ringing a bell for charity.

“It’s Santa!” Bear said when they went inside,
pointing with unfeigned delight.
“Hey, Santa!” he started to scream,
giving everyone around him a fright.

[“Why are you scaring everyone by shouting at mall Santas?” Otter asks me, arching an eyebrow, that gold-green shining.  “We can’t take you anywhere.”
“You’re not funny,” I tell him.  “Like, at all.”]

Bear began to beg and plead
to sit on Santa’s lap.
But the Kid was oh so smart
and said, with Otter, that would cause a flap.

You see, Bear’s got a partner,
which makes him a gay.
And if he’s sitting on Santa’s lap,
it’s going to ruin Otter’s day.

[“Oh, so now you’re flirting with the mall Santa?” Otter says incredulously.  “No, class, Papa Bear.  None at all.  Please, Kid, continue.  I want to know what else Bear does when I’m not around.”]

But Bear wouldn’t give up,
saying Otter would understand.
“Sometimes,” Bear tells the Kid.
“You just need a real Santa man.”

[“A real man?” Otter growls at me.  “I’ll show you a real man.”
“Are you getting jealous?” I ask, eyes wide.  “Of a poem?”
“Of course not,” he scoffs.  “I am a real man, though.  See how big my biceps are?”  He flexes, which of course makes my mouth go dry.  They’re very big.]

So the Kid devised a plan.
One, that once and for all,
would prove to Bear that
 there was no such thing as Santa at the mall.

“Bear!” he said, ever so sweet,
“To Santa, my brother, we go post-haste!”
Bear’s eyes lit up with childish wonder.
He said, “You mean it? There’s not a moment to waste!”

Bear cut to the front of the line,
waving his arms high above his head,
            shrieking, “Santa, oh, Santa!”
            the others in line wishing he was dead.

            [“That’s really rude of you, cutting in front of all those people,” Otter tells me. “They’d probably been waiting a long time in line and you were just a jerk.  No wonder they wished you dead.” 
            I just glare at him.]
           
            Mall Santa saw Bear coming
            and with a glint in his eye
            said, “Hello, my boy!”
            the words ominously sly.

            The Kid was suspicious then
            of this jolly man in red and white.
            Something’s quite off here, he thought.
            Something’s not so very right.

            You see, the Kid was smart
            and infused with supreme intelligence.
            Everyone knew it was the vegetarian side of him
            that allowed him this careful due diligence.

            [“Here it comes,” I groan.  “I knew it.”]
           
            The Mall Santa looked dangerously hungry
            as he pulled an unsuspecting Bear up
            onto his lap with a shark-toothed grin.
            “What do you want for Christmas, my little pup?”

            Bear started listed things off
            like books and shirts and maybe an adult toy.
            Santa just nodded until Bear was done.
            Then he said, “Have you been a good boy?”

            [“Where did you hear about adult toys?” I growl at him.  “Have you been doing things on the Internet that you shouldn’t be?”
            His eyes widen.  “What are you talking about?  Adult toys, Bear.  Like ride-on lawn mowers, or a George Foreman Grill.”
            “Oh.  Okay, then.”
            “Or a double sided dild—“
            “You should probably continue your poem,” Otter cuts in.]
           
            While Bear still babbled
            as he was prone to do
            the Kid saw something
            that chilled him through and through.

            There was a moment, a brief pause in time,
            where Santa’s eyes flashed red,
            and the Kid knew something was wrong,
            various thoughts going through his super-powered head.

            This was not normal, he thought,
            this isn’t a mall Santa, it cannot be;
            quick, Kid!  Think your hardest!
            What is there?  What do you see?

            He thought, This time of year is supposed to celebrate
            the birth of that lord and savior.
            Could that be the key, the answer?
            Could that explain the Santa’s red-eyed behavior?

            The Kid looked at Santa
            and took in the red, the white, the jolly.
            Then, for a moment, the Santa seemed to change,
            Like a scene in a painting  from Salvador Dali.

            [“Who?” I ask. ]

            His face ran together, his teeth grew long.
            It was a look of evil and malice.
            His eyes again flashed red, his snarl grew wide.
            It was cold and dark, calculating and callous.

            But the image was gone
            before the Kid could be sure it was there.
            Think, Kid!, Think! he told himself.
            You have to protect your Papa Bear!

            And then it came to him
            like a brightly lit flash!
            SANTA was an anagram for SATAN!!!
            The Kid took off at a dash!

            [Otter and I stare at him, completely speechless.]

            “Bear!” he screamed.  “Listen to me!
            That man is not who you think!
            He’s not Santa, he’s the Devil!
            It’s your blood, not eggnog, that he wants to drink!”

            Satan heard the Kid coming and the fa├žade was dropped.
            People ran screaming from the mall
            as Satan revealed his true brimstone self
            and grew at least thirty feet tall!

            “Help me, Kid!” Bear screamed. 
            “I don’t want to be eaten!”
            “Let him go!” Tyson shouted. 
            “Let my brother go, you misbegotten cretin!”

            The Devil laughed at the Kid,
            and his voice came out gruff:
            “You can’t stop me. I’m the Devil!  Besides,
            I heard your brother likes it rough.”
           
            [“Wow.  You need to stop reading this now.”
            The Kid looks up at me.  “Why?  Does it…hurt to hear?”
            “I think you’re hilarious,” Otter manages to say, wiping the tears from his eyes.]
           
Tyson growls, “You’ve messed with the wrong person.
I’ll make your face run like velveeta.
You want to know who you’re fucking with?
I’m a vegetarian and a member of PETA.”

[“Watch your language,” I snap. 
“Don’t censor me,” he retorts.  “What is this, China?”
I don’t get it.  What does China have to do with anything?]

There was a look of doubt in Old Scratch’s eye,
like he finally figured out,
he’d stepped over the line,
crossing someone with considerable clout.


“Vegetarian?” Satan breathed.  “Can it be?”
His voice was all a-tremble.
“I thought your kind were just a myth!”
And that’s when Ty called for the PETA team to assemble!

Hearing his cry, there came monkeys and lions
and hawks and llamas and dolphins.
There was even a duckbilled-platypus
from a zoo just outside of Laughlin!

The Kid’s animal friends surrounded him,
growling up at the Devil called Beelzebub.
The Kid reached behind his back,
And pulled out the legendary Vegetarian Club!

[“What hell’s the Vegetarian Club?” I ask.
“A weapon of unimaginable power that only vegetarians can use,” the Kid says, sounding like it should be obvious.  “It’s sorta like Excalibur, except it’s a club that can beat up Satan.  Duh.”
“Oh,” I mumble, only because I don’t know what else to say.]

The battle that followed
was one for the ages.
I shan’t recap everything here
because it’ll go on for pages.

[“That’s never stopped you before,” I point out.
“Everyone’s a comedian,” the Kid grumbles.]

Sufficed to say the Kid was brave
and he stood with his animal friends true;
he fought back that meat eating Devil
as vegetarians are known to do.

There was a moment, towards the end
when the Kid rode a magnificent eagle.
He grabbed his brother from Satan’s grasp,
looking extraordinarily strong and regal.

Bear sobbed and gasped
as he fell in behind the Kid.
“Oh, Tyson,” he cried, his voice high and shaking.
“You saved me, you really did!”

“Of course I did,” the Kid said.
“But don’t you see what your beliefs have wrought?
You could have died due to eating meat
and believing in Santa!  You were almost caught!”

[“Yeah, you could have died,” Otter echoes sadly.  “That would have been bad.”
“I’m confused,” I say.  “How does me getting trapped be the Devil have anything to do with eating meat?”
The Kid gives a long-suffering sigh.  “I guess my poetry is too subtle for the masses to understand.”
“I don’t think subtlety is the problem here,” I say.]

The eagle flew up high above the Devil’s horns.
Satan reached up to grab them all.
The Kid raised the Vegetarian Club and cried:
“Begone from the food court, Satan.  Leave this mall!”

The club was brought down on the Devil’s head
where it landed with a resounding CRACK!
Satan screamed and shrieked as
the Kid called upon another animal friend: the mighty yak!

[“People drink yak’s milk too,” Otter tells me.  “Like in Siberia.  And stuff.”
“What the hell’s a yak?” I ask, shuddering at the thought.
 “A really hairy cow,” the Kid says.
I’m beginning to think we’re going to be a milk-free household.  Sure the store stores say you’re getting cow milk, but how can you prove that?  For all you know, skim milk is actually from a lactating marsupial.]

The courageous yak began to charge
at the devil’s very feet!
“This is what you get, Satan” the Kid bellowed,
“for teaching the world to eat meat!”

The Devil sneered up at the Kid
and said: “You think you’ve won?
You just wait until next year!
I’ll return on the birthday of God’s Son!”

The Kid shook his head and said no way!
“By this time next year, I know
I’ll have the entire world converted
as vegetarians! Yak, let’s end this show!”

And the yak did just that,
and slammed into the Devil’s hooved feet.
The Devil cried out as he fell back
and the ground opened up, suffused with heat!

The Devil tumbled willy-nilly into Hell,
shrieking all the way down.
The crevice closed up and the dust cleared.
The Kid had saved the Seafare town!

“Kid,” Bear said, “You done real good.
If only I had been more smart.
I should have been able to show more kindness
to animals, starting with the love in my heart.”

[“Shouldn’t that be ‘smarter’ instead of ‘more smart’, Kid?” I ask smartly.
“Artistic license,” the Kid scowls at me.]

“Eating meat is like believing in Santa,” the Kid said.
“It seems like a good idea at the time.
But obviously both can lead to the Devil rising,
and out of the yawning pit of Hell he will climb.”

People started to gather ‘round,
As the Kid raised his voice:
“Listen to me, my fellow people!
It’s time for you all to make a life-changing choice!”

“You can see what has happened here,
so think of that the next time you pick up a burger!
Putting that meat in your mouth like that!
Why, it’s the equivalent of bovine murder!”

“It makes the Devil rise on Christmas,
a day that is supposed to be sweet!
Oh, and feeding your kids lies about Santa
is the same as bathing in meat!”

[“Do people bathe in meat?” I ask Otter, since he seems to know more stuff than I do.
“Oh, sure,” he says.  “They do that in Siberia, too.”
“Otter?”
“Yeah?”
“I don’t think you know anything about Siberia.”
“Probably not,” he agrees.  “But doesn’t it sound like I do?”]

The people around the Kid
began to clap and cheer!
Saying things like “Hurray!” and “Huzzah!”
“Let’s nominate him for Genius of the Year!”

“People, please!” The Kid said.
“Just think about the animals you slaughter!
That’s all that I ask of you!”
And that’s when came the arrival of Otter!

[“About damn time,” Otter says, pouting.  “I was beginning to think I wouldn’t even get a cameo.”
I smirk at him.  “I’m in this poem way more than you.”
Otter rolls his eyes.  “I don’t think that’s a good thing.  You ran screaming to Santa and pretty much brought about the End Of Days.”
“Still in it way more than you, Captain Jealousy.”]

“What happened here?” Otter asked
as his mouth dropped open, as his eyes went wide.
“My God, it looks like a warzone!
“You all could have died!”

“But we didn’t!” Bear said.
“And it’s all thanks to the Kid!
He saved us with his vegetarian awesomeness
            and of the Devil we are now rid!”

            “Please, Bear, please!” The Kid said.
            “Please give credit where it’s due!
            It was thanks to my animal friends and the Power of PETA
            that we were able to run the Devil through!”

            But did Bear and Otter listen?
            Well, what do you think?
            They were too busy making mushy faces at each other.
            And then Bear dropped Otter a big wink!

            And of course they started making out,
            right in the middle of the mall!
            “Oh, I love you!” Bear said, embarrassing the Kid.
            “I love you most of all!”

            “And I love you,” Otter replied, with that goofy grin.
            “You are sooo hot, you’re my manly stag.
            Let us do it right here in front of everyone!”
            And the Kid started to retch and gag.

            [“Manly stag?” I say, incredulous.  “We don’t talk like that!”
            “So I come in after you’ve already fought the Devil just so I can do Bear?” Otter asks, sounding insulted.  “That’s so not fair!”  He blinks and then grins.  “That just rhymed,” he tells me with a smug expression.
            “Maybe you guys shouldn’t be all up in each other’s business all the time,” the Kid retorts.  “Like any writer, I only write what I see.”]
           
           “Maybe we should wait,” Bear said to Otter.
            “Before in me you are buried.
            I want to maintain my virtue,
            until the moment we’re married.”
           
            [“What!” I shout.  “Are you out of your damn mind?!?”
            “People’s opinions are changing, Papa Bear,” the Kid argues.  “Pretty soon, gay people will be able to get married just like everyone else.  It’s only a matter of time.”
            “Yeah, but—it’s—are you—Jesus Christ! Otter, back me up here!”
            Otter says nothing and as I turn to look at him, he’s watching me, that gold-green shining with that regard that always leaves me breathless.  I don’t know what he’s thinking right now.  I don’t think I want to know.
            Are you sure? the voice in my head asks.  Are you absolutely sure you don’t want to know?]
           
            Bear, Otter, and the Kid climbed onto the eagle
            as the people in the mall stood by.
            “Remember, everyone,” the Kid said.
            “How many more animals need to die?”

            “You have a chance to change things
            because obviously eating meat brings the devil.
            And if you should choose to continue.
            He’ll rise up again from the lower level!”

            “So remember, at this time of year
            to ask yourself, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’
            I can assure you he’d agree with me when I say
            that the words I speak are true!

            The eagle lifted them up as everyone cheered.
            It spread its great wings and took off in flight.
            “Merry a few days before Christmas!” the Kid called out.
            “And to all a good night!”

            He looks up at us expectantly.
            Goddammit. 
That was pretty freaking amazing. 
As Otter and I begin to clap as loudly as we can, as the dazzling grin dawns across my little brother’s face, as I realize that this is what this time of year is all about, I send a quick thank you to whoever will hear it.  Thank you, I think.  Thank you for my family.  Thank you for my life.  Thank you for that ridiculous poem I just got to hear.  Thank you.
The Kid launches himself at me and lands in my lap, his hands going to my hair and tugging gently as he babbles in my ear.  Otter wraps his arm around my shoulder and rests his head against mine, listening to the Kid going on and on about this and that.  I can feel them both, so strong, so warm.  So alive.  And mine.  They’re both mine.
Thank you.
           
                                                             ~~THE END~~