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Announcement: Withered + Sere, by TJ Klune

Withered + SereDSP Publications author TJ Klune has a new post-apocalyptic book out:

Once 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 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.


A MAN moved through the stunted trees. His footsteps were soft, each step deliberately chosen. He stopped for a moment, cocking his head. Listening. Waiting. A heavy breeze blew through the bare branches of the trees. They rattled together like bones. It didn’t bother him as it once had.

The man heard nothing more and took another step. He adjusted the strap to the oak bow over his shoulder. He thought about the sun hiding behind the leaden gray clouds above. It had been a while since he’d seen it. It had been a while since he’d seen the sky behind the clouds.

The man known only as Cavalo moved through the trees, unaware that it was his fortieth birthday. Even if he’d known, he wouldn’t have given it a passing thought. He thought little of such things now. They were frivolous things. Things meant for the towns. Not for him.

Maybe part of him knew, but it was suppressed. Buried. Like the sky. Like the sun. He was aware of things, sure. The weight of the pack on his back, a quiver of arrows sewn at the side. Dark feathers attached to the ends of the shafts. The scrape of the heavy tunic against his thin chest. The dark stubble on his face, flecked with gray and itchy. A lock of hair against his ear, loose from the deer hide strap that held it back. The sharp, metallic scent in the air. His companion moving unseen thirty yards to his left. The weight of the old rifle hanging around his neck. It was rarely used. Bullets were precious things. Unusual things. He had many of them, collected over years. He tried not to use them if he could help it.

That didn’t mean he hadn’t before. He fired the rifle every now and then to make sure it still worked. Into a tree. He always dug out the bullets, the flat discs still hot in his hands. He’d done this twice a year since he’d been given the gun by his father at the age of sixteen. It’s a Remington, his father had said, though when asked how he knew, his father had shrugged. That’s what I was told when it was given to me. See those markings at the top? A scope would have gone there. It helped you see things far away up close. Like those binocs that old Harold has. It’s gone now. Have never been able to find one that fits when the trade caravans come through.

His father had died just a few weeks later. Found in a ditch. Neck broken. Thrown from his horse as he rode home. The smell of rye whiskey still hung around him even as the flies began to land on his open eyes.

Accident, the constable had told Cavalo when he came to deliver the news. Just an accident. These things happen, you know.

Cavalo had nodded and asked after the horse. It’d been found two miles away, grazing in a field. He later sold it for coin. Didn’t get for it what he’d asked, but a horse that throws a rider was a hard sell, even if the rider had been drunk.

He’d left the town shortly after, the rifle on his shoulder.

Cavalo now had forty-seven discs.

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Author Bio

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, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.

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.)

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