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Feb 5

Success from an Unexpected Quarter

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 in Short Stories and Poems, Writing and Writers


As many of you know, in 2011 I self-published a couple of stories, just to see what would happen. I did it strictly eBook, because eBooks cost nothing except time to produce, and reading books on electronic devices is becoming more and more ubiquitous every year. Soon we’ll all have eBooks, and “real” books will be to publishing what vinyl is to recorded music.

Anyway, “what happened” was a I sold a respectable amount of copies - enough to encourage me to do it again, and enough to encourage a small publishing company, Hallowed Waste Press, to throw in with me. About six months later we published another, slightly larger set of stories, and over time that small collection sold about as well as the first.

Sometime last fall, I found out about a document-sharing web site called And yeah, Scribd has been around a couple of years and for someone who’s supposedly as aware of places like Scribd as I am, I was a total idiot for not looking at them earlier. They came to my attention because I was looking for a good place to put teasers up for my upcoming novel, and maybe for my existing stories as well. The guys over at Hallowed Waste said they were going to use the site to tease a story from a new writer they’d just contracted with, and suggested it to me.

I figured why not, and on December 13th put up a free copy of one of my self-published stories, ‘The Littlest Goblin’. I tweeted that I’d done so, put a link up on Facebook, and then went and enjoyed my holidays.

When I came back a few days after Christmas, I discovered that ‘The Littlest Goblin’ had almost 15,000 reads! Curious as to the impact 15,000 free reads on Scribd had on my performance at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I immediately went over to my reports pages there and saw that indeed, my stories had picked up steam again.

I mean, think about it: the typical literary magazine in America has an average circulation of 1000 to 5000 readers. A “no name” writer like me MIGHT get paid anything from contributor’s copies (effectively, nada) to MAYBE $200 for a story, and that story will be seen by 1000 to 5000 people. ‘The Littlest Goblin’ has already made me around $50 by itself, AND has now supposedly been seen by 15,000 people (actually, though new reads have fallen off, as of today I’m up to 17,000).

To follow up that momentum, I posted another story, ‘The Thrall of Fate’, my homage to Edgar Allan Poe. Over the last month, though ‘Thrall’ didn’t hit as hard as ‘Goblin’, it’s still garnered 2700 reads, which is still formidable, considering the comparative exposure short stories get.

And to follow up THAT momentum (and maybe cash in, because it’s possible), I took both collections that I had previously published and whose sales momentum on Amazon and other sites had slacked, added another previously published story called ‘Galahad’s Message’, and posted all six stories as one collection in’s store. Sales of that larger collection have already begun to trickle in, and the number of people sampling it is already pretty impressive.

Ultimately, what I’m trying to say with this post is that I think is an awesome tool for hard-working writers who are willing to take a few risks. The chance of exposure is there if you have something attractive enough to get noticed (which it appears with ‘The Littlest Goblin” I did). I’m not saying it’s the end all and be all, but it looks pretty good from where I’m sitting.

I’m also saying that 17,000 people can’t be wrong: there’s probably something worthwhile on written by a certain writer we’re all familiar with that MIGHT, just MAYBE, be worth looking into.

Jan 8

The Next Big Thing Interview Meme, Kenyon Style

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 in Featured Friends of Will, Writing and Writers

Just before Christmas I was asked by my friend, the illustrious poet and novelist Collin Kelley, to take part in a self-interview meme called The Next Big Thing. The idea is to talk about your current or forthcoming book using a pre-determined set of questions. You also have to tag other bloggers/writers to take part in the meme. Blog memes used to be commonplace back before I was on anybody’s radar, but since blogging has dropped off a bit they don’t come around as often. I was pretty happy to take part in this one - fun stuff to think about, even if some of it’s a bit silly. Anyway, here’s my answers and you’ll see whom I’ve tagged at the end.

What is the title of your book? The Survivor of San Guillermo

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A plot involving a newly invented time machine sends several people back to various points in history, each of them vying to alter the future in some way: some go to a day just before World War II and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, while others go back to the 1860s during the peak of the American Civil War.

What genre does your book fall under? Several actually: science fiction/Weird West/Western/historical fiction.

Where did the idea come from for the book? My wife challenged me to write a murder mystery, and at the time I was watching a lot of Sergio Leone movies. The book started out as a murder mystery with a Western setting. Then it blew up.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 17 months exactly.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Sergio Leone, my wife Aida, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and a book titled Day of Deceit, which presupposes that FDR knew about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor and let it happen for political reasons. I don’t believe that, but the notion of the book is fascinating.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Agency.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre? Stephen King’s Dark Tower comes to mind. So does some lighter historical fiction I’ve read over the years.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? I first finished the book back in 2001, so a lot of the people I envisioned while I was writing have aged too much. Looking at current actors and actresses who fit the bill, I’d say Thom Reynolds could be played by Gerard Butler or Hugh Jackman. Japanese actress Kyoko Fukada (from the original Ringu II movie) looks exactly like Haruko Matani. Olivia Munn is spot on for Lucy Baghdadlian. Idris Elba could play Ray Easley. And for the bad guy, Martin Evenson, I’d say Tom Felton, he of Draco Malfoy fame.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The book is part of a trilogy, and throughout the story, several real people from history make appearances. In this first book, there’s Henry Slocum, who was one of General Sherman’s top men, there’s Larry McCutcheon, whom most agree was the first casualty of the attack on Pearl Harbor, there’s Admiral Husband Kimmel, the man in charge of the fleet at Pearl Harbor, and Ronald Reagan, former President of the U.S.

I’ve tagged Todd Wiley, Elaine Calloway, and Eric Sasson to keep this going.

Dec 21

Why I’m NOT Cool With The End of The World

Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Ramblings

Early last year I wrote a piece titled “Why I’m Cool With the End of the World.” Back then I was ready - things were routine, I was treading water with everything in my life - basically, an apocalypse would have shaken things up and made things interesting again. Why the hell not.

The things I was cool with still hold true - except Obama DID win, and I am a little interested in how his second term rolls out, especially since he’s finally showing a little backbone against Boehnhead and the Republican House.

Truth is, though, in these final hours I’m not so sure about it all. You see, 2013 looks very promising for me, and it’d be a fucking shame if we blinked out of existence just as I was hitting my stride and getting off this Godforsaken plateau I’ve been on.

For your edification (and end of the world enjoyment) here’s a quick pictorial of some of the things I might miss out on if Planet Nibiru is for real:

These three stacks are novels. Over the last 12 years, I’ve written all three of them. The one on the left has moments of brilliance, but needs a major rewrite that I’m not sure I can give it. It was my first - call it an exercise in learning how to write a book. The middle one, The Survivor of San Guillermo, is going to get published in 2013. And the one on the right - The Talented Boys - is better than either of the other two.

Twelve years, I’m finally getting a book published. End of the world. Fuck.

This is an intricate, yet highly enjoyable and immersive board game I designed, which is based on a millions-dollar intellectual property that I can’t disclose until the property rights owner agrees to license it. If it gets licensed I’ll be ecstatic, because the IP is one I love, that my friends love, and that I believe is worthy of as much respect as Star Wars and Lord of The Rings. Even if we don’t get the license, I can adapt the game to a different IP and still have a great and highly publishable game.

Unless the world ends.

This is the back of my house. About five years ago, I added a new sun room to the back, with a little help from my dad. It was a project several years in the making, because I had to work on it in the nooks and crannies between doing all the other things I do. But it’s a great room - and it adds thousands of dollars of value to my home, as well as several hundred square feet. I’m almost finished with it, and then Aida (my wife) and I can start seriously looking into selling our house and upgrading to something even bigger. I’ll probably have it done by spring, weather permitting.

Apocalypse permitting.

Finally, there’s these two little ones. As sure as I am that they’d get a free trip to Heaven should the apocalypse prove real, and thus avoid the horrors of teenage-dom and adulthood, it’d be a travesty of Earth-shattering proportions. I’ve invested most of my heart and a lot of effort in making certain these two are happy and wholesome. Having that job cut off before I finished it MIGHT piss me off more than all the other stuff combined.

So yeah. I take back what I said earlier this year. The end of the world can wait.

Dec 14

The Survivor of San Guillermo, Chapter One

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2012 in Writing and Writers

Here it is, as promised to everyone who’s been paying attention: a teaser. The first chapter of my upcoming novel, The Survivor of San Guillermo.

Without giving too much away, let me tell you a little bit about the plot….

It involves a scheme during the mid-21st century to use a newly invented time machine to go back and alter history. Things get mixed up and people end up going to several points in time: some go to a day just before World War II and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Others go back to the 1860s during the peak of the American Civil War. Then stuff happens. In this chapter, you get to meet one of the book’s major protagonists: a physicist named Ray Easley, who’s found his way to Decatur, GA toward the end of Sherman’s sacking of Atlanta. Just FYI, Henry Slocum was a real person.

 November 15, 1864 

The November wind pushed Henry Slocum’s thick, graying hair away from his sunburned face. He gazed down the hill at the flames that leapt from tree to tree and building to building in the city of Decatur, and held his Federal officer’s cap tight in his hands. Acrid smoke filled his nostrils. It billowed in from the west, behind his back, where Atlanta lay in ruins.

Few trees adorned Atlanta — it was mostly a rolling plain of criss-crossing railroad tracks and dusty, sprawling streets, and the smoke that came from it had a heavy coal content, the scent of scorched earth and hot iron.

By contrast, Decatur had been a haven of trees just a few hills away. Now, although the burning smell of Decatur’s once proud oaks and maples was fresher and cleaner than Atlanta’s heavy industrial smell, both were twins of fiery destruction — exhausted by the War, burned by John Bell Hood as he retreated, and finally leveled by Sherman. And Slocum.

“General?” a nervous voice said from behind him.


“We’re having trouble with a couple of the new recruits, sir.”

“Which new recruits?”

“Couple of the Negroes, sir. Couple of the ex-slaves.”

On the whole, Slocum thought Sherman’s plan to advance toward the sea was brilliant — use the resources left behind: the summer harvest left in silos, the livestock set free on acres of grass and hay, the fresh man power in the form of freed slaves. Minor annoyances like this occurred, however, and often he had men charging through the woods after squealing pigs, had ex-slaves whose new-found freedom caused such a euphoria in them that they became less of a resource and more of a liability. For every three new men they enlisted, one hung from the makeshift gallows erected near the burned depot.

Still, these nuisances should not come to his attention directly. He had subordinates he trusted to handle this sort of thing. With a sour look, Slocum turned to face the officer, a young, nondescript lieutenant.

“Tell Captain Morris. He’s dealt with this before,” Slocum said.

“Captain Morris sent me to fetch you, sir,” the young officer replied. “He said it involves a decision only you are authorized to make.”

The general scowled and mashed his hat back onto his head. It appeared he would have to deal with this nuisance himself. Afterward, he intended to deal with Captain Morris. “Well, then, son. I guess I better go to him, since he’s fetching me.”

The lieutenant winced as the general brushed past him. Slocum walked a little ways, stopped, and turned to find the young man still standing in place.

“Lieutenant?” he said to the man’s skinny back. “You mind leading the way? General Sherman may be a mind-reader, but I am not.”

The lieutenant jumped, whipped around, and stumbled timidly past Slocum. “Y-yes, sir,” he said, heading down the hill.

They walked through a bank of trees, which circled the hill like a crown. Beyond the trees lay a small, orderly encampment of the whitest tents and healthiest men Slocum had remaining. Off to one side, a line of black men stood waiting on a local tailor to measure them for uniforms. Most of the uniforms would come from men recently buried, and many would come with badges of blood stain that couldn’t be washed out with all the water of the Chattahoochee and all the soap in the Union and Confederacy combined.

Several hundred yards from the white-tent encampment stretched a row of dingier tents that almost blended into the brown and gray terrain surrounding them. A casual observer probably wouldn’t notice them, except for the groans emanating from them, and the stomach-churning smell of feces and bile that hung in the air around them like a cloud. Slocum’s regiment had suffered a small outbreak of dysentery, probably from some undercleaned pork, and several men had to be isolated. Most of them would probably never see Savannah.

Slocum himself groaned as the lieutenant led him toward the tents, then sighed in relief as they skirted the encampment and came to the edge of a trim lawn just past it.

The lawn, dotted here and there with tall maples and oaks, stretched up another little hill to where a small, bi-level plantation house stood, alone and forlorn-looking. A group of men gathered at the foot of the hill, all but one of them white Federal officers. Slocum recognized Captain Morris, who stood before the one black man there, his hands on his hips and a hard look on his face. When Morris saw the general his hard look softened, and he smiled and waved.

“Sir!” he shouted. “Thanks for honoring my request.”

Slocum shook his head as he approached. “What is so all-fired important that you had to come get me? I thought you were capable of handling the Negroes, Captain.”

Morris stood up straighter, cleared his throat, and shot a look of quiet indignation at Slocum, which the general only shrugged off.

“Ordinarily sir, I’d simply do my duty — but as you will see, sir, the circumstances here are a bit unusual. I took care of the one Negro that was looting. He’s in the stockade for a spell. This one, though, well, I don’t know what to say or do with him.”

The general took a place at Morris’s shoulder, facing the tall, square-jawed black man, who towered above both of them by a good six inches. Immediately, the man impressed Slocum as remarkable — he had a look of studious intelligence in his eyes, and his skin was clean-shaven and healthy. He had an air of almost perfumed freshness about him, and when he flashed the general a momentary smile, his teeth were white and straight and all there. He wore pressed trousers, an immaculate white cotton shirt, and… shoes — this ex-slave wore shoes. If Henry Slocum hadn’t known better, he would have sworn that this man was one of those wistful-eyed students at Yale or Harvard who protested the War, that this man wasn’t a slave at all.

But Slocum did know better. All he had to do was look at the man’s dark, slightly glistening skin.

“What’s your name, boy?” he asked the ex-slave, who visibly flinched.

“Ray Easley… sir. And you are Major General Henry W. Slocum?”

The general raised his eyebrows. The man’s voice was as remarkable as his appearance — it had a crisp timbre, a warm lilt, that marked this man as being from somewhere other than the deep South. He had absolutely no accent that Slocum could detect.

“I am. What’s all this about?”

Captain Morris answered. “The Negro wants us to burn Dr. Campbell’s house, sir.” The captain waved in the direction of the plantation house on the hill. Without taking his eyes from the black man, Slocum grunted.

“That so, boy?” he asked the man.

“To the ground, sir,” the man answered.

“Are you former… uh… property of Dr. Campbell?”

“No, sir.”

“Then to whom did you belong, Ray Easley?”

“No one. I was a free man.”

Everyone in the cluster around Ray Easley laughed aloud. Slocum himself chuckled, but he felt a cool certainty that the man was telling the truth. Still, he pressed on.

“No Negro in Atlanta was a free man ‘til a couple of months ago. If you were a Negro and free, you didn’t stay ‘round here,” he said.

“You’re right, sir. I wasn’t here a couple of months ago. I only arrived in Atlanta the day before yesterday. I came specifically to find you and to ask you to destroy Dr. Campbell’s house.”

“Where are you from then, Ray Easley?”

“To be honest, sir, Canada.”

“You’re Canadian?”

Ray Easley grinned. His teeth were so clean that they sparkled in the November sun. “No, sir. I’m actually from Los Angeles. But I’ve lived in Vancouver for many, many years.”

Los Angeles, Slocum thought. That was as unusual as everything else, so why not? “Well, then…” he said, “Are you aware that Dr. Campbell is a prized physician who has agreed to treat our wounded and sick in exchange for us keeping his homestead intact?”

“Yes, sir. I know. But did you know that Dr. Campbell has a secret compound hidden in his house, which contains a weapon that the Confederate Army intends to unleash on your men once they’ve had a chance to test its effectiveness? As soon as the smoke clears here, Campbell intends to send a sample of his weapon west, to be tested in the desert.”

Slocum’s jaw dropped.

“You see, sir?” Morris said. “We’re under orders to leave Dr. Campbell’s house alone. Your orders, sir. And this all seems so… so… far-fetched.”

The general shook his head. “Yes. Far-fetched indeed,” he said. He couldn’t believe the next words that came out of his own mouth. “Captain Morris, your orders have changed somewhat. Do not destroy Dr. Campbell’s house. Yet. Instead, search it from top to bottom. Twice. If you find what this man says you will find there, then burn it down and bring both Dr. Campbell and Mr. Easley to me. If you don’t find anything, apologize to Campbell. Then hang this man.”

Thanks for reading! Check out the San Guillermo web site to see some original artwork from the book. Look for The Survivor of San Guillermo in 2013!

Nov 18

The Welfare Boogaboo

Posted on Sunday, November 18, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Geopolitics

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” - Verbal Kint

“One of the NEXT greatest tricks the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that Welfare Queens DID.” - Me

Living where I live, I’ve seen her. I’ve stood in line at the grocery store behind a large black woman who’s piling corn chips and Fanta and a 20-pack of hog jowls on the check-out counter. Several children orbit around her, dressed in hand-me-down clothes, but looking relatively healthly, maybe even a little plump. She proceeds to pay with a food stamp card, gruffly yelling at the kids to behave, and maybe being just a little rude to the girl who’s checking her out. As I check out behind her, she leaves, hobbling across the parking lot with the children trailing behind her like baby ducks, and as I follow her out of the store, she gets into a big boat of a car, driven by an ill-tempered-looking older teen who obviously elected to stay in the car as she took the younger ones shopping.

I’ve seen her. And I’ve heard Ronald Reagan describe in a 1976 campaign speech a version of her that we’re all disgusted by: “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”

The thing is, to see the woman I saw and assume that she’s the living embodiment of the Welfare Queen that Reagan described is a convenient supposition that is inherently racist, and based totally on a false premise. Welfare Queens like the one Reagan described DID exist, but they were few and far between - one in a million. And fraudulent as their welfare claims were, their impact on the economic well being of the United States was still minimal.

In recent years, Welfare Queens have become nonexistent, mostly due to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. The PRWORA has limited the time someone can stay on government assistance, AND provided for the elimination of loopholes that could be exploited, as well as fraud that could be perpetrated.

Still, some people see a woman like the one I described, and they get an automatic sense of revulsion and indignation. Their tax dollars go to keeping that woman afloat, and she’s buying corn chips and Fanta?

Well I’m here to say, “Get over it.”

When presented with the notion of taking care of our poor and underprivileged in the United States, a lot of bleeding heart liberals will try to appeal to your heart strings or your sense of moral justice. They’ll say “We have to take care of our poor because it’s the right thing to do.” Well, I think morality in the United States has become so circumstantial and arbitrary that posing that particular argument, though noble, is increasingly useless.

Instead, let me appeal to your bottom line. Let me tell you in terms that even Adam Smith would approve of, WHY we need to take care of our poor in the United States. Even if some people abuse the system. Even if some people make choices with their pittance of a government handout that you don’t approve of.

First: how much does it cost YOU as a taxpayer to take care of the poor? Well, according to the Congressional Budget Office and White House reports, approximately 1.664% of your tax liability goes to welfare programs, food stamps, and government subsidized housing. That means a family that makes $50,000 annually will pay approximately $63 a year into the “welfare” system. By extension, and playing fast and loose with tax brackets and increased tax liability, a family that makes $100,000 will pay about $125 into the system, and a family making $250,000 will pay somewhere around $250-$300 annually.

That isn’t much, especially compared to how much of your tax liability goes to Social Security, Medicare, and the national defense.

“But why should I pay ANYTHING to help these people!? Why can’t they help themselves?” some might ask.

The short answer is: because it would cost more to NOT help them.

It may surprise you, but Section Eight housing does not provide poor people with palatial estates, and food stamps don’t buy daily stacks of pancakes and three-course steak dinners. The choices poor people make with the trickle of money the government gives them (Fanta and Fritos, or getting new rims instead of visiting the dentist) may be deplorable to you - and they are to me, too. But believe me when I say that your life and livelihood at $50,000 a year are WAY better than the relative squalor most welfare recipients in America live in. And their hold on their lowly lifestyles is tenuous. You cut them loose, and terrible things will happen to them. Terrible things which will cost YOU money.

Pretty much four things happen to people who find themselves without a means to provide food and shelter for themselves and their family. Let’s look at each one in turn, shall we?

1. They become indigent. That is, without a home. Homelessness in America is a real problem, with real economic implications. Here’s some cost statistics for you: To incarcerate a person for vagrancy costs approximately $54 a day. The average cost per hospital visit for an indigent person (and indigent people are exponentially more likely to require hospitalization than the average person) is $2414. The annual cost of ONE BED in a homeless shelter funded by HUD’s Emergency Shelter Grants program costs $8607 more than the annual average cost to house the same person in Section Eight housing. Now, ask yourself: these people are indigent; they don’t HAVE any money to pay for these things. So who’s going to pay for them?

2. They turn to crime. Studies have proven again and again that there is a direct correlation between poverty and crime. And when there’s increased crime in an area, either the government has to spend more money to increase police and crime intervention, or the place becomes unlivable, an untenable sinkhole in the American landscape which contributes NOTHING to the country’s GDP, and which depresses local markets and real estate values. Add to that the exhorbitant cost of incarcerating someone - sometimes up to $20,000 a year - and you understand the economic impact of criminal activity. Also, consider the personal cost of being the victim of a crime. Insurance may cover it, but your premium’s sure to go up. And there are some losses insurance simply can’t cover.

3. They die. Now, if you’re as cold-hearted as some people I’ve encountered, you may think this is the most desirable outcome - after all, if these people die, they’re no longer dependent on the welfare system and we don’t have to pay for them anymore. Well, all moral repercussions aside, you’re wrong. To make sure a dead body is disposed of properly, most likely by incineration if no one claims it, costs a BARE MINIMUM of $500-700 dollars. Even now, there are hundreds of morgues and disposal sites across the country that have a backlog of unclaimed bodies which need either to be incinerated or buried in a “pauper’s grave.” It costs money to make sure they’re not improperly disposed of - and improper disposal leads to disease and unsanitary conditions. There are 4,300,000 people on welfare in the US (and 10 TIMES that many on food stamps). If a quarter of them died as a result of having their government subsidies cut off, we’d have a $5 million dollar dead body crisis on our hands within a couple of years.

4. They get off their “lazy asses” and try to enter the workforce. Well first of all, more of these people ARE working than you think: slightly over half of welfare recipients who have no barriers to work - no mental or physical disability, etc. - DO work. Recent statistics have proven that there is no city in the United States where a person working a minimum wage job can afford a typical apartment at the current market rate. So people who earn minimum wage have to either pile their family into a space that doesn’t fit them, work MORE than one job, or subsidize their income with food stamps and/or welfare.

There’s some debate as to what would happen to the labor market should a sudden influx of former welfare recipients occur, but  most everyone agrees that one of two things will happen in the short term: 1) Because a lot of welfare recipients have less skills and education than non-welfare recipients, they’ll languish in unemployment. Even if you have a work force who wants to work, who NEEDS to work, there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. Or… 2) Because these people are willing to work for less pay, they’ll supplant other workers who currently hold jobs with low skill requirements. In that case, the people who WERE working will languish in unemployment, because again - there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. And since those people probably paid into the system while they WERE working, they’ll expect to get unemployment benefits.

As a side note before I conclude, I’d like to point out that I haven’t even mentioned the children of welfare recipients. As deplorable as you may think the “welfare lifestyle” is, there are children involved - and in the first three scenarios I described above, there’s a distinct possibility that the children will suffer fates similar to their parents and guardians. And even if you don’t care a lick about what happens to these kids, innocent to most of the misdeeds you ascribe to their caretakers, there’s still the price tag THEY carry - which you’ll have to pay one way or another.

And there you go. If you make $50,000 a year, you pay only $63 annually to support welfare in the United States. But think about what that $63 gets you: less death, less homelessness, less crime, less unemployment.

So, when you see that woman and her kids, and you see her buying Fanta and Fritos, just sigh to yourself and remember that you’ve probably made a bad choice or two in your life as well. But remember that because you pay that measly $63 a year, that woman and her kids aren’t dead, or homeless, or breaking into your house, or competing with you for your job - all of which would cost you more, much more, than what you currently pay.

Nov 7

Hallowed Waste Press and I

Posted on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 in Featured Friends of Will, Writing and Writers

About a year and a half ago, I decided to self-publish a couple of short stories. The impetus behind my decision is better explained here, but in a nutshell: I’d keep clawing my way up the ladder in the traditional publishing world, but I’d also throw some stuff out there without it because A) I wanted to see if I could generate a little hype and B) I was tired of writing and writing and NOT sharing what I wrote with people who’d appreciate it.

Now, I didn’t blow up or anything because of those stories. YOU’RE here and you know who I am (and I’m happy as shit to have you), but for every one of you, there’s a thousand people I’d like to reach whom I haven’t. Yet. Still, I consider that little pair of short stories I sent out there a success:

I sold a respectable number of copies, even for an eBook only format.

I expanded my tiny following so that it was less tiny.

I learned a LOT about eBooks and eBook sales.

I got to have those conversations I wanted with people about something I created.

I formed an alliance with a small press who would go on to help me publish ANOTHER set of stories.

And that’s what this post is about. This is the one where I thank Atlanta-based fledgling publishers Hallowed Waste for having the gumption to attach their name to my efforts. Granted, they benefit as much from me as I do from them, since technically my  name is better known, but it’s always encouraging to have someone express a belief in your work, and it’s good to have the additional resources to draw from when you need.

Hallowed Waste only has two authors that I know of in its “stable”, me and a guy named Todd Wiley. But I believe they’re looking for more. They’re also looking for artists and illustrators who work for cheap or free - basically, if you’re good but relatively unknown, if you’re looking to expand your portfolio in a professional manner, and if you like to draw the sort of stuff they need (dark, esoteric, horror, sci fi), then shoot them an e-mail.

As a writer, if you’re looking to make a foray - the way I did - into eBook publishing, if you’re down with small, independent presses, and if you write the kind of things they’re looking for, ALSO hit them up. Start a conversation, find out what they’re up to and if you fit in. They’re looking to grow, and since I am too, it’s worked out for me.

It might work out for you, too.

Their e-mail and Twitter handle , plus their submission guidelines, are on their web site. In case the hyperlinks above didn’t work for you, here it is:

Oct 22

Eric Sasson’s Margins of Tolerance

Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 in Featured Friends of Will, Reviews, Writing and Writers

Sometimes I get jealous of my gay writer friends. I think that compared to me at least, they have such a rich life - filled with things that I can never experience since my sexual orientation is NEVER called into question, never outlawed, and mostly never prosecuted. They have this whole world of things they can draw from to write about which I simply… lack.

Then I think about the things they have to put up with which make their lives so full and rich, and I decide I’m not so jealous after all.

Now, I don’t know if my friend Eric Sasson has been to all the places his characters visit in his short story collection Margins of Tolerance - although I know he’s well traveled. But if he’s been to even HALF of them, then I’m jealous once again, and not of his experience as a gay man, but of his experience as a world traveler. I’ve been a LOT of places, but now that I have two school-aged kids, I don’t get to go to far away places so much anymore.

What Eric has done with Margins of Tolerance is brilliant. He’s taken those two things I’m jealous about - his experience as a gay man and his experience as a traveler - and combined them into a rich and varied commentary on things which transcend ALL experience.

Two common threads run through each of the stories contained in this volume: the first is that every protagonist is a gay male. (I think that’s obvious from the things I’ve implied so far.) But if these stories focused solely on what it’s like to be gay, then I think it would be easy to dismiss Eric as a writer who’s found a comfortable niche - something to fall back on and rely on and repeat. I know some writers who happen to be minority, and who inhabit THAT personae in all of their writing - to the point that, even though I sympthasize with them and support them, I sometimes find their reliance on their status tiresome and uninventive.

Eric doesn’t do that. The SECOND thread which runs through Margins of Tolerance is how very DIFFERENT each story is. The protagonists are all wildly different - the only things they have in common are their gayness and their maleness. Other than that, they’re a different as anybody you can imagine.

The settings are also all different, ranging from a cheap hotel in Peru to a bar in St. Petersburg, Russia to a writers’ conference in Lake Tahoe. Eric has evidently visited many of these places, and if he hasn’t then he’s done his homework - he KNOWS these places in a profound and intimate way, and he uses them to great effect.

Not only are the characters and settings varied - even the style and language change from story to story. This is no small feat, I can tell you from my own experiments in changing style, voice, and cadence between stories. It’s very difficult to be tongue-in-cheek and sassy in one instance, then somber and melancholic in another. Many writers can’t pull off first person, and others revel in it. To see a single writer pull off such a variety of styles in such a small space is somewhat astounding.

Finally, the themes in Margins of Tolerance vary as well. I recently reviewed a book of short stories, that while enjoyable and worth reading, did dwell a lot on a number of contained and related themes. Margins of Tolerance defies that as much as it defies any other border. It’s a great irony and a triumph of sorts that this book, which sets itself up to be about the lines we as humans draw in the proverbial sand, crosses those lines again and again.

The power of Eric’s stories here are that each disparate piece - the characters, their situations, the setting, and the themes - are perfectly put together. Like a talented confectioner building the perfect cupcake from scratch, Eric somehow knows that THIS person experiencing THIS emotion and circumstance in THIS particular place will yield THIS transcendent message for the reader.

Some of these stories will disturb you - especially if you’re homophobic. Some of these stories will offend you. Some of these stories will make you cry, some will make you groan, some will make you shiver, and some will make you stand up and say “FUCK YEAH, that’s how it is!”

All of them will make you think - about your own person, about your own surroundings, and about the margins which you have established regarding your own tolerance.

And if you’re me, they’ll make you jealous.

Oct 17

Jury Duty!

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses

Hey there!

If you read the post below this one, you’ll see all the stuff I was working on until last week. I say last week because that was when I got selected to serve on a jury for a trial that is still… going… on. Now, I’m not complaining - this is really interesting and fun, and it’ll no doubt provide fodder for future posts as well as knowledge for future pieces of fiction. But it’s my explanation, my EXCUSE if you wanna call it that, why those posts STILL haven’t gotten done.

We keep getting recesses, but they’re only 15 minutes at a time - so while I’ve been able to cobble together THIS post, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on longer, more involved things. And in the evenings when I get home, I’m still responsible for helping the kids with their homework, getting dinner together, and making sure baths and bedtimes are made on time.

Also, as many of you know from Twitter and Facebook last night, I spent a couple of hours with the Presidential debate.

Anyway, as cool as this particular jury duty is, I hope it’s over tomorrow or Friday. Shortly after that, I should get one of those posts I listed below finished for you.

Oct 7


Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Featured Friends of Will

I have another post right here. In fact, I have two. In fact, I have THREE.

But right now, they’re waiting on important components:

One piece has a bunch of photographs accompanying it, and those photographs require a whole lotta touch-ups. The piece is basically a diatribe in defense of my need for validation. Yeah, I need validation sometimes - don’t we all - but in the last couple of years it seems like I’m not getting anymore the level I desire. Then I look around me and… well, you’ll see. Once I get the photos all cropped and sized and color-treated as best I can, you’ll see.

For another piece, I need an audio bit from my good friend Barbara. I’ve had the next two sections of A War Between States finished for a couple of months now, but sometimes - like now - getting all the voice actor parts recorded for the podcast takes Herculian effort. I’m down to just Barbara on the latest installment, and I’ll have that done the DAY she doesn’t forget to come by after work and record for me.

Another piece requires me to finish my friend Eric Sasson’s short story collection, titled Margins of Tolerance. I have ONE MORE story to read, and then I’ll give it a review. Eric (and anybody else who’s reading this right now), I assure you that I love your stories. One or two hit so hard I cried. No shit.

But you’ll have to wait for my review of Eric’s book. You’ll have to wait a little while for all these upcoming posts, because components are missing and this week I have jury duty! But they’re coming, along with…

1) a possible piece on why recent episodes of How To Train Your Dragon are allegories for the war against science and alternative energy in the United States.

2) a review of my friend Collin Kelley’s short story collection, Kiss Shot.

3) a teaser about my upcoming novel, The Survivor of San Guillermo.

4) a shout out to the folks over at Hallowed Waste Press, who graciously opted to attach their name to my second set of short stories.

5) a possible diatribe about the 2012 election, depending on who wins and how he does it.

These are pending, but I felt like I had to come up with something for you right now. Right this minute. This teaser, this bookmark if you will, was the best I could come up with for now. It didn’t make sense to use my energy on concocting anything else, given all the stuff I already have planned.

Look for the rest later this week and/or month.

Sep 24

An Eye for the Image: Jay Magidson’s Colors

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2012 in Featured Friends of Will, Reviews, Writing and Writers

Jay Magidson has dwelled in the art world for years, dealing with the artists and the buyers of some of the finest contemporary art in the United States. From his own gallery in downtown Aspen, CO, to his current position at Ann Korologos’s gallery in Basalt, Jay has had a long and successful career using his skilled eyes and vast knowledge of art. He seems to have a strong notion as to what works and what doesn’t in the visual realm.

Jay also happens to be a writer, and in everything I’ve read by him, I get a distinct sense of Jay’s visual sensibilities and acumen. His writing is among the most vivid and visually STUNNING of all of my peers. And in his current collection of short fiction, Colors, he hits SEVERAL monumental pinnacles in portraying scenes and scenery like no one else I know.

Does it always work? Well, no. But does it work enough to make Colors a worthwhile read? Absolutely.

Thematically, Colors varies. One of Jay’s favorite settings is in the dystopian future, but his vision of the days ahead is not singular. Using different versions of the future as a backdrop, Jay posits a variety of questions about man and man’s place in the universe: In one story, life in the future boils down to a day-by-day routine that everyone follows unquestioningly. There is no room for creativity, deviance from what is expected, or even the consciousness that one is an individual. In another story, the world is in ruins, in the dark, and we get a view of the post-apocalytic moral afflictions of one of the men who plunged it there.

There are other themes in other settings - in just a few pages, Jay makes comment on the problem of evil, the existence of free will, the nature of fear, and the consequences of selfishness. There’s nothing new here, but Jay’s approach is made fresh by his eye for effect and his uncanny ability to convey space, color, and detail.

The weakest part of Colors comes with the vignettes Jay uses to try to pull the stories into one cohesive piece. I think he’d have been better off simply leaving each story as a stand-alone, and let us inhabit them as ourselves and in our own way, rather than implying that the vignette character of Paul is there somehow, inhabiting each story’s respective protagonist in turn. Paul’s story, though vividly told - starting off strange, then moving into creepy, then veering off into terrible and surreal - actually lacks an urgency which is desperately needs. It also acts a succinct resolution. I’d be okay with no resolution were Paul’s story simply one of the many presented in Colors, but its position as GLUE makes me expect more from it.

Take Paul’s story away, though, and you have a series of tales that start off rather quiet, then build to a crescendo. And the thing which makes this volume successful, to me, is the visual power of every single scene. Even the Paul scenes are interesting in a visual sense. Jay Magidson convincingly conveys the vast and the claustrophobic, the euphoric and the melancholy, the intricate and the mundane, and he does it so that you can SEE it. Somewhere in his mind, Jay has seen it all - and he can describe it for you perfectly.

Time. Space. Eternity. All in color.