San Guillermo is the short name for what I’ve called my science fiction/Weird West/time travel novel, which is currently getting shopped around. The loooooong name for it is The Survivor of San Guillermo.
I procured a URL for it a little over a year ago that’s separate from the one you’re visiting now. That was when I decided that no matter what, San Guillermo was going to get published, whether with an established science fiction publisher, a small time publisher, or simply by little old me. Those short stories I published last year? Well, I wanted to sell some of my stuff and put my words out into the world via self-publishing. To test the market, so to speak.
Ultimately though, I was just practicing, and learning how to format, produce, and market material for public consumption.
I practiced. And oh, did I learn.
Recently, I got a teaser up for my upcoming novel.
You can find it at www.thesurvivorofsanguillermo.com. It’s not much yet, but hopefully it’s just enough for you, dear reader, to be intrigued. That means that if you’re just a fan of fiction (in particular that of a sci fi/time travel nature), you’d be somebody who would want to try my work in long fiction form. Although San Guillermo itself isn’t a long novel, it’s the first of three parts - so it’ll keep you going for a few years.
If you’re an editor or agent, hopefully this will demonstrate that I’m serious about this work’s publication. I’ll publish it eventually, even without you, but if I DO publish it WITH you (and I want to), I’ll do my damnedest to make sure it doesn’t disappoint. Hell, I already have a promotional web site and a rough marketing plan in place, and I’ve only finished my final edit for the first two thirds of the book itself.
I also have four artists who have rendered, or are rendering for me, illustrations based on their interpretations of certain scenes from the first third of the book. Later, after the initial run of hits to the web site peters out - like I’m sure it will - I’ll put those illustrations up, with quotes from the book. I may even put up a sample chapter or two.
So, if you’re an editor or agent, you dig this somewhat unconventional ploy at selling my book, and you’re interested in the book described at the other web site, then give me a shout. You can find me on Twitter (@williamkenyon), Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, and you can contact me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you’re a reader or fan, just sit tight. It’s coming. One way or another, it’s coming.
Almost three years ago I posted a review of local poet and LGBT champion Collin Kelley’s first novel, Conquering Venus. Ordinarily, I’d link back to that review, but I’m not going to this time. Why? Because it’s not relevant anymore. That was three years ago, and the way I feel about that book has changed enough that the review doesn’t matter. If you want to go digging for it, feel free, but you’d be better off just reading this - I’ll clarify my repositioning on Conquering Venus in this review, in light of having read the sequel, Remain In Light.
Conquering Venus came out to mostly glowing reviews, and my reviews and attention to the book were mostly positive as well. Retrospectively, I think some of that praise might have been premature - for reasons I suppose I now have to explain. First, though, let me assure you that the impending praise I’m about to give Remain In Light is highly deserved - with this follow-up, Collin has given us a book that deserves as much if not more attention than current books of similar pacing, style, and genre.
Despite my ex post facto misgivings, two things make Conquering Venus a unique and worthwhile book. One is Collin’s acumen as a poet. The other is his position in the local gay community as an adamant and prolific messenger, diplomat, and champion.
Unfortunately, those two things also contribute to the problems Conquering Venus has as well. First, Collin had some difficulty, I think, in transforming the powerfully metaphoric and sonorous language that makes him such a talented poet into the precise and practical language often required in prose. Sometimes his artful phrasing added beautiful layers to his scenes, as with the Prologue, (you can listen to him read it here). Other times - many times - scenes got muddied, became unclear.
Second, and this is just circumstance - it reflects less on the author than it does the world in which we live - the subject matter simply proved unwieldy for people who are not in or deeply sympathetic to the LGBT community. That, BTW, does not include me - I am and for many years have been a staunch ally of my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender peers.
Still, and I am loathe to admit this, but the incontrovertible fact is: if you are not a member of the LGBT community or an ally thereof, you might not find much in Conquering Venus to identify with. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true: although the feelings and angst that protagonist Martin Paige and his lover David experience are indeed universal, and ought to transcend boundaries, we live in a society that finds it difficult to transcend with them.
Conquering Venus was a sort of coming-of-age story, the tale of two boys who need to grow past certain things and become men. It’s filled with all the pathos and emotional upheaval you’d expect from any such tale. Honestly, it’s not the kind of story I gravitate toward, and for many others who do gravitate toward that kind of tale, it’s appeal is potentially lessened by their inability to find commonality with a gay couple in Paris.
Still, Conquering Venus was and is an impressive debut novel. The characters, particularly the chief protagonist of Martin and the two female leads of Irene and Diane, are thoughtful and multi-layered portraits of complex and fascinating people. And the setting of 1990s Paris is a character unto itself - you can sense in every overly poetically-phrased description Collin’s love for the City of Light and the people who inhabit it.
The strengths of Conquering Venus are present in Remain as Light as well. Martin, Irene, and Diane are back and as splendidly portrayed as ever. The weaknesses, however, are gone.
Whereas Conquering Venus was a coming-of-age tale full of emotional circumstance, Remain In Light is a murder mystery and a thriller. The stakes aren’t astronomical here - we’re not talking government conspiracy or secret society adventures that will determine the fate of the world. But that doesn’t matter. What’s at stake is the fate of these characters, and Collin gets us so invested in what could and will become of them that we turn every page with as much interest and involvement as we would any story in a similar vein. And honestly, I care more about Martin Paige and Irene Laureux than I ever have Jack Ryan, Jason Bourne, or Robert Langdon.
Finally, with this second excursion into long prose, Collin has adapted an efficient style which gives you pacing and plot in abundance, but a distinct and cohesive sense of place and time. The little ornamental trappings of poesy are still present here and there, but they add to the story now rather than distract and detract. There is also an air of mystery that drives the plot - something amorphous and enigmatic that hangs around each scene like a ghost, giving you the sensation that someone important was there before you, and that you just missed something that could change you and your perspective fundamentally.
Stronger in voice, more sublime in style, and ultimately more intriguing than its predecessor and many of its contemporaries, Remain In Light stands as a great second entry in what Collin is calling his Venus Trilogy. It’s available now from Vanilla Heart Publishing. Get a copy here from Amazon.com.
My friends Rob and Elizabeth and I were chatting last Friday, and our conversation turned to a bit of merchandise that another friend of ours sells in his shop. Elizabeth and I had bought a couple of his items, and we were reading the “back matter” on the… well, the back. It was amusing, as it was supposed to be - and then I got to the glaring grammar/spelling error toward the bottom of the copy. My gut reaction - as it always is when I see stuff like this - was, “Sumbitch didn’t edit this enough. Sumbitch.” Then I thought, “Oh no,” because this is a product that our friend is likely to sell A LOT of, and to have a glaring error in the copy on the back is kind of embarrassing. Or at least it is in my mind.
Yeah, I know. I’m a Grammar Nazi - I get called that all the time. And yeah, I know - ninety percent of the people who see this thing won’t notice the error, and ninety percent who do notice the error won’t care. I know.
Still, I believe that if you are going to put forth a public face, or create a publicly consumed product like this, that you ought to put forth the best face or product you possibly can. Our friend can be somewhat excused because proper grammar isn’t really necessary to sell his product. But I see this sort of thing happening all over the place nowadays - I even see bad grammar in books by authors who are vastly more published than I am. And I’m not talking about just bad writing. I’m talking bad grammar. The absolute inability to put forth something comprehensible. There are LOTS of so-called writers who simply aren’t able to put together a decent story, but I still consider them writers because they can, at least, put together a reasonable sentence. And then there are those who call themselves writers who… can’t.
Now, don’t get me wrong - our friend’s error wasn’t that bad. It was the simple misuse of a homonym which is fairly commonly misused. Still, I think he could have and should have avoided the error.
Which brings me to the real point of this post. How could he have avoided the error?
It’s actually quite easy. He could have asked me to take a look at the copy before it went to press. I’m here. He knows what I do for a living. We’re friends. He could have asked, and I would have said yes, and his error would not now exist. Also, I might have tweaked a couple of the sentences in the copy and made the whole thing just a tad better. It was pretty good, and pretty funny, so I couldn’t have helped it that much. But better? Yes. Indeed.
Also, I probably wouldn’t have charged him, per se. You see, I have clients that I charge - people I don’t really know who give me the cold hard cash to edit or write their copy. I believe, however, that among friends a sort of barter system can work out - kind of a limited form of communism, wherein I do something for you and you do something in return for me. I have friends who are lawyers, computer geeks, designers, clothing and jewelry makers, artists, musicians, electricians, carpenters, lawn care maintenance guys, bartenders, chefs, chemists, and more. I have friends who sell things I love - beer, games, travel, books.
Already, I’ve tapped into a few of my friends’ skills and talents, and I’ve been very happy with the things they’ve done for me. Now I want to offer to return the favor - or to initiate a reciprocal relationship with a friend who needs me.
And don’t just assume you can do what I do. This may sound like a bit of hubris, but I’ve seen the results of people thinking they too can write well enough to get by, and I’m embarrassed for them. I don’t claim to be able rebuild a car engine or create a topnotch investment portfolio, so neither should you claim to be able to create a good marketing brochure or advertorial.
Basically, I think that if we paid better attention to what each of us did, and communicated more, we could probably work out any number of trades. Consider this, my friends, my offer to give you my writing and editing services in exchange for whatever we can work out. And of course, if all you can offer me is the cold hard cash, I’ll take that.
You don’t ever have to have something less than (nearly) perfect go out your door, at least wordly wise. Because I’m right here.
I hear people deride Twitter all the time, and I can see their point: What kind of communication can you get done in 140-character sound bites, going out and coming in at you sometimes 10 or 20 per minute? And what do such minute bits of communication mean for our overall ability as humans to convey ideas of complexity and intricacy?
Well, I’ll leave those questions right here, unanswered, because I don’t know the answers. What I do know is that Twitter can be infuriating, tiresome, and inane, but it can also - if you open yourself up to the community it creates - introduce you to things of beauty and substance that you might otherwise miss.
I’ve never met Ben Rubin, who goes by the Twitter moniker of @ghostofthemoon, but as I grew my Twitter community of fellow poets and writers and artists, I came across him, and took special note of the iconography on his Twitter page. Something about it intrigued me.
Now, I have to admit that there’s a lot of noise on Twitter - noise which may be its eventual downfall - and sometimes it’s hard to rise above that noise. Over the weeks after I followed Ben, however, his posts came to the fore for me, and I began to take special notice of him and what he had to say. This drove me to his site, sort of like I hope that my posts on Twitter might have driven YOU here.
And once I was at his site, I was so struck by the book he was offering that I had to have it. And once I had it, I was happy - happy that such a strange thing of beauty could exist in our world of instant information and gratification, happy that I’d taken the initiate to find such a work, and happy that I had found it through such a supposedly unlikely path.
When Comes What Darkly Thieves is a picture book fairy tale, and Ben Rubin is foremost an artist who excels in collage and photography. What makes this entry into literature and art so masterful is that he has established a pervasive mood, which he never deviates from and which never leaves you as the reader (and inadvertant protagonist of the story, since it’s in second person) dissatisfied.
When you see the images (and many of them are readily available on Rubin’s site at http://buttondownbird.com/), you’ll see what I mean. They are a strange mix of chaotic and ordered, exotic and mundane, nightmarish and beautiful, alien and comforting. And while I wouldn’t have made some of the grammar or punctuation choices Ben made in the adjoining tale - which is a surreal mini-adventure involving blind Gypsies, magical moonbeams, swingsets, and lumps in the carpet - it blends fantastically well with the images, which ARE the chief draw here, the main thing that I believe you should be paying attention to.
As an avid reader of WORDS, I don’t have a lot of picture-centric books on my shelves. But I assure that right now, When Comes What Darkly Thieves is there alongside all the other books in my collections, and I will display it proudly, for I think it’s quite a find. And I think the way I found it speaks volumes about how we conduct ourselves in the 21st century - how we go about finding things both beautiful and ugly, assuring and disturbing, humorous and not.
I also think that in Ben Rubin, I found a fellow artist that I’ll be happy to follow (on Twitter and otherwise) for a long time.
You can find When Comes What Darkly Thieves via the Button-down Bird web site in an e-book format, and perhaps hardcover. If you can find a hardcover copy, I recommend it, even in this age of electronics.
I’ve been so busy this week preparing for this weekend that I haven’t found the time to post. But now I’m just sitting around waiting for my mom and my aunt to show up (they’re taking the kids this weekend for me), and I have a few minutes. So what the heck, I’ll make a quick post and tell you what I’m up to.
I’m going to Jordan*Con.
It’s a local con dedicated to the memory of fantasy writer Robert Jordan, whose Wheel of Time series is one of the most beloved franchises in recent fantasy history. Had he not bogged down his novels with repetition and unwieldy narrative around book 4 or so, and had he not… died… well, he’d likely be right up there with George R.R. Martin. We might be watching The Wheel of Time on HBO, along with Game of Thrones.
At Jordan*Con, I’ve been invited to do three writer panels - one on independent publishing, one on the advent of e-books, and one on self-marketing. If you know me, then you know I have a lot to say on all three subjects.
Aha! That’s the doorbell. They’re here.
They say that writing is a lonely profession, and “they” have a point. Although I wouldn’t say that I’m lonely per se when I’m writing - just that I’m alone. Even when I’m at my desk and I have children milling under my feet with their Matchbox cars and Legos. Even when I’m at a bar, esconced in a bar stool with pen and paper in hand. Wherever I am and whoever’s around, I’m typically alone in my head (and if I’m not then I can’t write, because of the distractions). But lonely? No.
Right now, alone, I have a number of projects working. I’ve started not one, not two, but three novels in the past months - and yes, two of them are coming along quite nicely. I also have a short story that I’ve been struggling with since October that’s almost done, and three longish poems that have seen a lot of false starts. I’m also editing a bunch of old stuff, I have my client work (although it’s becoming more and more scarce), and there’s this web site. A lot to keep me busy all by my lonesome.
I don’t think writing should exist in a vacuum, however. At least not my writing. To that end, I’m in the process of sending a bunch of my existing material off to various contests and publishers, all in the hopes that something I wrote will drift ashore someplace nice and be able to set up camp. It’s tough out there - there’s a lot of noise that you have to rise above, and there’s a certain level of resistance to outsiders, i.e. people who exist outside of academia and the “traditional” publishing industry. Sometimes I regret my decision to leave academia and New York. But I can’t go back, not really, not now.
To further get out of the vacuum of my own thoughts, I have you - my audience - and I have social media, which has transformed the world, for better or worse.
In recent months, I’ve also become a big fan of collaboration. Although I love writing - I need to write, kind of like I need to breathe - it’s something I have to do alone, and I don’t always want to be, or act, alone. So I’ve been working with others. As we speak, I have several collaborative irons in the fire.
1) I’ve handed over a bunch of my poetry to a musician friend of mine who’s going to use some of my work as lyrics for her songs.
2) I’ve begun working with a friend, Michael Collins, on a graphic novel - the idea for which I’ve had since 1992. Off and on, I’ve floundered around for an artist who could realize my story, and I think I’ve finally found my guy.
3) Michael’s also working on the graphics for a game I’ve designed. The game design itself is almost there, and to that end, it’s been a real pleasure playtesting it with a whole bunch of my friends: Jay, Jim, Mike, Kristoff, Pierre, Erekh, Brad, Rob, Jeff, Caleb, Eddie, Scott, Tony, Garand, Richard, Lyman, and especially Roberto Arguedas, who gave me a new direction to take the game when the old one was hitting a snag.
The trouble with this game is that it’s based on a popular property, so to make it the way I’d like to make it would require the acquisition of a specific license. I’m hoping to make the best game I can, and then to shop it to various gaming companies who might have the wherewithal to get that license. If that doesn’t happen, or if the game mechanic appeals to a smaller company who can’t afford the license, I suppose I’ll have to repurpose the game to an original story framework. I can do that. I have stories in my head.
4) I’m hitting the Con circuit - baby steps - doing panels with other writers on a variety of subjects. My first outing will be JordanCon here in Atlanta next month. Hopefully, I’ll score more such panels as the months go by.
5) I’m working with a friend who’s quietly trying to break into becoming a publisher. With the advent of ebooks and online marketing and distribution, his overhead is minimal, so he’s willing to take a chance on me. Already, he’s backing my collection of horror short stories, and he’s looking to add other “acts” to his repetoire.
6) With his help, and the help of my incredible editor, Beth, I’ll soon have a novel published in ebook format. I’m launching a web site in the next week or so to market the book, and I’m working with my wife, Aida, on the design and execution of that site.
7) I’ve engaged four artists to work with me on a portion of the novel’s site. What they’re going to do for me is a surprise. First, I’ll announce that the site is live, then I’ll tell you what they’re doing.
8) I’m still working with a whole cast of voice “talent” on my podcast novel, A War Between States, which you can experience/read by clicking on the navigation to it over there on the right.
9) Finally, and if I haven’t said it enough, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jason Snape, the artist and graphic designer who illustrated both of my short story collections. Jason, man, I have a brand, and it’s all thanks to you.
So you see, writing is an occupation that you have to do by yourself. Sometimes. But it’s never lonely.
Yeah, I know I said I had an epiphany regarding this novel - that I’d finally figured out how it was all going to go down. Well, apparently that hasn’t made it any easier to write. I’ve had some time issues the last couple of months, and as I’ve said before, this novel - though important to me - isn’t THE priority. Still, here’s yet another installment for your enjoyment.
On another note, I’ve noticed that the sound quality using my laptop isn’t as good as when I use my desktop. So I think I’m gonna switch back to be less mobile. That may inconvenience me, but it’ll be worth it to eliminate that background buzz. You? You ignore the background buzz, okay?
A War Between States Part 34:
Chapter 18: Campaign: Tamara, Part One
One day a week or so before, while her contract workers did the actual framing of her half-completed building, Tamara had borrowed a hammer, borrowed a box of six penny nails, and searched for some 2×4 castoffs in the wood scrap pile which had formed in one corner of her lot. She’d used them to build a makeshift ladder that she could climb to get to the lowest branches of The King. She’d built the ladder, climbed it once, then come back down and forgotten about it.
Until today. Now, just a few minutes after Sheriff Boyd had left, his idle yet powerful threat still hanging in the warm, humid early September air of Marionville, Tamara had walked dazedly over to the tree and climbed up into it. For a while, she contented herself with simply leaning back into the crook of the tree, her back against its massive trunk and her feet stretched leisurely out onto a thick lower branch. She closed her eyes. She was amazingly comfortable, and if her mind hadn’t been in such turmoil, she might have been able to doze off. Dangerous at such a height, but she could have.
Had her mind not been in such turmoil.
The sun beamed down on her and warmed her - she found she was enormously happy that the brutal Marionville summer had passed, making way for fall weather, weather which felt like a sweet, fresh blanket of the softest fabric, something you could wrap yourself in and sleep in. If your mind was at ease. Which… well….
“Oh, fuck you, Sheriff Boyd, for stealing this moment of bliss from me,” she said. Then she paused to listen to the tak-tak-tak of hammers, the murmur of Mexican voices, the buzz of a skill saw below her.
A slight breeze ruffled through The King’s remaining leaves, drowning out the chorus of sounds. Tamara opened her eyes.
She noticed with some interest that with so many of The King’s leaves gone, a clear path of branches would take her higher into the tree. She smiled. How long had it been since she’d climbed a tree? Had Phil Dobson been there? It seemed like he had.
She closed her eyes again, trying to settle into the calm she thought she might be able to find here, cradled in the arms of The King, suspended several feet above the ground. Behind her eyelids, though, all she could see was the top of the tree. It called to her.
She opened her eyes again and smiled again. She’d have to climb up a few branches higher, wouldn’t she? Then, sighing with a sort of delighted resignation, she clambered into a crouch and searched for the most readily available higher branch.
And she climbed.
She went slowly at first, fully aware of the fact that she probably weighed twice as much as she did when she last did this, fully aware of her mortality - after all, hadn’t she almost died once by being so reckless? And hadn’t she killed somebody else in a roundabout sort of way? No sense in getting over all that - almost - then coming this far and screwing it up by falling out of an oak tree she probably should have cut down and that she definitely shouldn’t be climbing.
Still, she climbed. But carefully.
When she was little, she would have climbed up to the top, to where the thin branches bent under her tiny, sneakered feet, to where the wind pushed everything back and forth so that she felt like she was truly part of some enormous cosmic machine, powerless to stop the inexorable motion, but powerful enough to keep going up, up, and up.
Now she stopped after a few feet.
She felt out of breath, although the climbing really hadn’t tired her. She could feel her heart beating, thought she could feel the eyes of her workers below, turning up to look at her as she clung to The King’s limbs and steadied herself. The tak-tak of hammers had stopped.
From this height she could see a long way. She scanned the woods and fields around her, looked up and down Cauley Highway, looked down at the top of her little trailer and the rough form of her future brewpub.
She gazed for a moment at the first row of shingles that Danny Jenkins had been tacking onto her roof before he’d turned to look at her with a wary smile, then she looked back at the highway. What she saw there now startled her - she almost lost her footing and her grip. She gave a little cry.
A man in a police uniform was stumbling down the middle of the road, clutching at his neck.
- Tamara Granger - Stephe Thornton
- Narrator - Will Kenyon
I read Paul Thigpen’s My Visit To Hell for a couple of reasons. One is a secret - and yeah, I’m gonna keep it a secret for a while; I can do that. The other reason is that I’ve been fascinated with Dante’s Inferno since my early Dungeons & Dragons days - and Thigpen’s novel promised to be a somewhat faithful retelling and/or update of the epic classic. Which it, thankfully, was.
I bought the trade paperback without knowing much about Thigpen. I didn’t know that he was a converted Catholic with an evangelical background (and I think he was still a Protestant evangelical when he first wrote My Visit To Hell). I also didn’t know that Hell was actually touted as a “Christian” novel.
I won’t say that I WOULDN’T have read the book had I known. I consider myself a Christian - a dismally bad one, but one nonetheless. Plus, I’m the kind of reader who believes that to become a better reader, thinker, and ultimately, writer, one needs to read expansively and inclusively. I mean, I TRIED to read Ulysses. On the other end of the scale, I TRIED to read R.A. Salvatore’s shitty-ass Drizzt Do’Urden fantasy novels.
I’ve certainly read “Christian” literature before - and not just C.S. Lewis’s brilliant work. Hell, I read Paul McHenry’s terrible, terrible, terrible Code Name: Antidote. You can ask some of my closest friends about that time in my life - you’ll love some of the answers.
Paul Thigpen’s novel is much more readable, interesting, and imaginative than CN:A, but it still got on my nerves to read a book like that. And by “like that”, I mean a book filled with less than savory characters who are in tense, less than pleasant situations, who still never, ever, never, ever say ONE swear word. Not one.
Not one “shit”. Not one “fuck”. Not one “asshole”. Not even a “bitch” or “cocksucker” or a “damn”. Unless you count “damned” as referring to the cursed individuals in Hell. And, of course, there’s the word Hell itself.
Other than that though, in Thigpen’s world, not even the nasty rapists and murderers who inhabit Hell are willing to say anything remotely blue. While I understand Thigpen’s audience and publisher, and their need to keep it “clean,” I found it ridiculous and incessantly annoying that - while people were running around naked, getting graphically blasted by fire and radiation, getting hacked to pieces by horrific demons and torturers, NOT ONE OF THEM EVER SAID A SWEAR WORD.
I think the nastiest thing anyone was called was “bucko.” Even the demons kept it clean.
Were that the worst thing I could say about the novel, though, I think I could give it a glowing recommendation. After all, no swearing is a pretty minor nitpick, no matter how annoying it was.
And I WILL give it this limited praise: Even though the not-swearing thing was annoying, even though it distressed me to no end that Thigpen reveled in saying CUSS instead of CURSE or SWEAR (he’s a Southern writer, too, folks), and even though some passages were sophomoric and trite, the book entertained me. Occasionally, the scenery was inspired. For instance, the level of Hell for suicides was creepy and sad in perfect proportions.
This brings us, though, to the title of this post and my greatest criticism of Thigpen’s novel: in a book that could have been sooo interesting, and for Christian readers so inspirational, and for non-Christians so informational, Thigpen decided to dwell overly long on certain evangelical “hot topics” that would likely have stopped many people - those who don’t already believe as he does - from reading further.
Can you name two topics which evangelical or “devout” Christians tend to dwell on that turn people off - so much so that people who might otherwise be receptive to the POSSIBILITY of a divine “God” and an encompassing plan for the universe say, “Fuck that - you guys are a bunch of hateful-ass judgmental bitches,” and either dismiss or reject altogether the entire premise of Christianity or religion in general?
If you said ABORTION or HOMOSEXUALITY, then take the pie - it’s yours.
What the fuck is it with “Christians” who set aside the most crucial of all God’s commands - that YOU LOVE GOD, AND THEN TREAT OTHER PEOPLE AS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED - in favor of bile and vitriol, and the condemnation of circumstances and lifestyles that they do not understand, or even care to try to understand? No wonder so many people reject religion - it’s hard to believe in a God who cares more about what you do with your own body than He does what you do to other people.
I finished Thigpen’s novel for three reasons: 1) because I’m a believer, I’m straight, and I’ve never been involved in making an abortion decision, so I was able to swallow my disgust at how much he dwelled on those topics 2) because I was curious, and 3) because I’m a completionist. Had I lacked any of those characteristics, I probably would have set My Visit To Hell aside and started on the stack of Hulk comics I have on my bedside table.
Lemme give you a bit of context. In Dante’s Inferno, and in Thigpen’s interpretation of it, Hell consists of ever-deepening circular levels, and the deeper you go, the more heinous the sin, until you reach the bottom where Satan himself is half-buried in ice, his upper half still able to reach and grab and chew. This lowest Hell, the Ninth Circle, is called Cocytus, and therein dwell the worst sinners imaginable - the traitors. In Inferno, we see Satan gnawing perpetually on the three worst traitors in Dante’s world: Brutus, Cassius, and of course, Judas Iscariot.
So, here you go: Circle Seven is the place for the violent - those who were violent to others (murderers and tyrants), those who were violent to themselves (suicides), and those who were violent against nature and God. Now, both Dante and Thigpen relegate gay people to this Circle - in fact, they’re placed in a deeper ring than both the murders and the suicides.
Let me ask you something. When you think of violence, do you think about gay people? Does Neil Patrick Harris make you shudder with terror at how he’s going to gut you with his codpiece? Do you think that the average gay guy deserves a place in Hell that’s DEEPER than Saddam Hussein’s? Than Ted Bundy’s?
Dante put what he called sodomites in that level of Hell because he lived in a medieval age and had a medieval mindset. Thigpen… well….
What Dante NEVER mentioned was abortion. But guess where Thigpen placed the parents of aborted fetuses? In Cocytus, just a little ways away from Satan himself. Even saying that abortion was murder, and putting the parents of aborted fetuses on the Seventh Circle wasn’t enough for Thigpen. Nope. Ninth Circle: traitors to family.
And it wasn’t that Thigpen offhandedly mentioned, “Yeah, that’s where the abortion parents are. Yeah, that’s where the gays are.” He DWELLED on it. Not exhaustively, but enough that you knew he was trying to make a point.
And by making that point, he distracted me from the other points he might have been trying to make. In doing so, he lost an opportunity. He could have given me a story that scared me so badly I had bad dreams - I mean, what’s more potentially frightening than a place of eternal torment and freaky shit? He COULD have given me - and think this was his intent - a story of redemption and salvation, one that pulled at my heart strings and made me exult at the main character’s rebirth and reawakening. But alas, Thigpen’s writing simply wasn’t powerful enough to overcome the things he threw in there that distracted me from his point, and he would have lost me had I not been determined to finish.
In the end, though I can’t say My Visit to Hell was in fact, a visit to Hell, it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk either.
I haven’t heard the latest statistics regarding this holiday season’s Kindle, iPad, and Nook sales, but I’d be willing to bet that the number of people who own such a device increased last week, perhaps exponentially. I know for a fact that my family is one iPad to the plus: Eli’s digging Angry Birds on the “big screen.”
OK. So, did YOU get a Kindle or an iPad or a Nook? Or even one of the more generic or esoteric e-readers available? Cool. That’s a nice one.
Now that you have that awesome device, may I suggest that you purchase and download some short stories by an up-and-coming writer who’s busting his chops and trying to make inroads via electronic-only publishing? Looking at my site this week, I realized that I had been being demure about selling my new stories (and my old ones, too). I hadn’t yet posted a single post with ALL of the point of sale links for the stories, nor had I said “HEY!!! BUY THEM!!!”
You should, though. I’ve been told they’re pretty good.
Last time, when I self-published some stories, you only got 8000 words. Sure, they were only .99 cents, but still. This time, a small press has picked me up, and as an added bonus for you, this time around you get 20,000 words for the same low price.
Did I mention that you might enjoy them? In fact, if you do buy them and enjoy them, I’d LOVE for you to go to the site where you bought them and write a review of them. And if you’re a press or a zine or somebody in publishing, and you like what you see, well, hey - you know where to find me.
Now, here’s where you can find my latest works of fiction:
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
iTunes/Apple (iPad, iPod)
Smashwords (RTF, Plain Text, HTML)
Over the Thanksgiving Break, I was in what Gawker calls the “Wikipedia Hole”, and I got to reading about the mental condition called hypergraphia. This is the unrelenting urge to write, and though it doesn’t necessarily impare a person, it MIGHT, and the condition is often related to certain manias and epilepsy - which CAN impare a person. Supposedly, Lewis Carroll, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the prophet Ezekiel had hypergraphia.
Which explains why they, at least, had to write.
Considering how unprolific I’ve been since the beginning of November, I’m pretty sure I don’t have/suffer from hypergraphia.
Reading about the condition made me think, though, about why I DID write. I’m a pretty smart and capable guy, and I probably could have fallen into just about any career you can name. (With some exceptions, sure. I DID said “just about”. Smartass.) But somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and a novelist and a poet. So that’s what I did.
When I was young, I had visions of best-selling novels like Stephen King’s and Dean Koontz’s. That’s what I aspired to, and that is - sad to say - why I wrote. That and to impress girls. As I got older, money and fame mattered less, and instead I aspired to writing something profound and world-changing, something canonical, like The Lord of the Rings or The Lord of the Flies.
To a certain extent, I still have those dreams - I’d be a liar to say I didn’t - but I’ve learned to be satisfied for a while with simply managing to make a living.
Also, and in much smaller doses than what one would call “world-changing”, I’ve found myself having small effects on people. And THAT is - at the moment - why I write. As long as I can make a decent living, and occasionally hear things like this…
“It’s 5:45 a.m. and I just finished reading your stories. I had to sit here in deep thought for a moment or two. I hate to use overused adjectives to describe my feelings about them but that’s all my meager vocabulary can come up with. I truly enjoyed them. I’m very impressed with your talent.”
“I believe that in our mutual past, when it comes to writing criticism, I have always attempted to be brutally honest. Good or bad, I believe I strive to deliver an accurate assessment. I don’t offer empty praise out of some misguided sense of kindness. That being said, I want you to read carefully and accept what I am about to write. This was easily the greatest work of yours that I have read. This was a new level of Kenyon. I am seriously impressed. The tone, the language, the style…you nailed it.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever said this, but in spite of the lack of success in my writing career, I owe a lot to you. When I turned up at the writing group, you made me feel like I was a real writer.”
“While my examinations, at the time, were limited to passively reading and listening, Mr. Kenyon was, and had been for some time, busily engaged in creating his own output to add to the debate. From time to time he would share, an idea or even a finished product. There’s a little poem, based on Daniel’s dream of the statue, that still forces me to introspection whenever I read it.”
… I’ll be able to put pen to paper and churn out more stories and poems. And not because things like those above quotes serve to stroke my ego. (Although once again I’d be a liar to say that, as a writer, I didn’t have a BIG ego that needs periodic stroking. And yes, I noticed the sexual overtones of that statement. They’re unintentional and you need to stick to the point.)
No. I don’t keep those quotes around to boost my ego. Instead, I revel in situations like the ones those quotes imply because it means that my life has a purpose. When I die, I might not go down in literature books as someone who had a huge impact on the 21st century world, but I know that - to a handful of individuals at least - I left an indelible impression. Of the positive sort.
Now all I need to do is get to writing again, so that I have more stuff to put out there, so that maybe I can touch a couple more lives.