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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.

“Yes?”

“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 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: www.hallowedwaste.com.

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.

Aug 27

Another Year, Another Dragon*Con

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 in Ramblings

Yep. It’s that time of the year again, when tens of thousands of people descend on downtown Atlanta and indulge themselves in a celebration of things that most people looked down on when I was growing up: comic books, superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, RPGs, cosplay, and games. This is my element, folks, and I love it. Dragon*Con marks the beginning of my favorite time of year - the months of September through November - and I can’t think of a better way to ring it in.

Admittedly though, after last year I was a little bit ambivalent about Dragon*Con this year.

Until this morning when I sat down to write this little tribute to it….

You see, last year I had a little trouble with Dragon*Con - something that, unless they were blowing smoke up my ass, other people also had a problem with. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was simply the AMOUNT of people who are showing up to my favorite party. The number is nearing 100,000, and last year I could feel it. Every time I went to go find food or drink that was better than the foil-wrapped burgers and hot dogs the Hilton provided, the path was blocked by literally thousands of people. Many of them were the “face of Dragon*Con” - the costumed cavorters who spend the day giving photo ops, and spend the night drinking flavored vodka out of plastic cups.

I’m thankful for those people in a way, because they have contributed significantly to the pop culture legitimacy our particular subculture can now claim. But when I’m trying to go pee, the last thing I want is to have to push my way through a cadre of Starhip Troopers posing with styrofoam Poke-creatures. They need to get the fuck out of my way.

Also, there’s the noise. I am not an introvert by any stretch of the imagination, and I LOVE crowds. But days and days of shouting to be heard gets old. And I get hoarse. And I don’t like having to say HUH so much.

So yeah. Ambivalence.

But this weekend, as the number of hours until Dragon*Con begins (it begins for me the minute my best buddy Jay Elgin’s plane lands at the airport tomorrow night and only escalates from there) slipped into single digits, I started getting really, really, really, really excited. And I realized as I started writing this that the reason I’m excited is not because of all the gaming and partying and people-watching I’m about to engage in. It’s because of all the people I’m going to be seeing and hanging out with. For instance, I haven’t seen Jay in almost a year. And there’s others - I’m not gonna list any other than Jay because the list is looooong and I don’t want to leave out anyone - but they’re coming, and I’ll see them, and it’ll be like we just saw each other yesterday. (And yeah, Jeff and Ken, I know we did just see each other yesterday.)

If you’re coming to Dragon*Con, come see me. I’ll be the one with no costume other than a big, fat grin.

Aug 15

New Web Site for San Guillermo

Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Writing and Writers

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 (wokenyon@gmail.com).

If you’re a reader or fan, just sit tight. It’s coming. One way or another, it’s coming.

Aug 16

Update On The Short Stories/(Sales Pitch?)

Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 in Short Stories and Poems, Writing and Writers

“There are three things you can buy for a dollar: a lottery ticket, a taco, and these stories. Two of the three are a sure bet, but only one of those two won’t leave stains on your pants.”

That’s what one reviewer said about ‘The Giant’ and ‘The Littlest Goblin’, the two short stories I currently have available on Kindle, Nook, iPad, and just about every other e-reader you can imagine. Despite such “ringing” praise, the reviewer only gave me 4 out of 5 stars. You see, he had some quibbles with the stories: with ‘The Littlest Goblin’, he demanded that I write more, to flesh out the tiny fantasy world I created as back story for my (I believe) otherwise straightforward morality tale.

With ‘The Giant’ he claims I blasphemed against God.

And maybe he’s right on both counts. Even before the reviewer and a couple of other friends of mine asked for more stories of little Emys and her Goblin friends, I’d outlined another story set in the same world, with Emys once again challenged, this time by a rival modeled after U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner. (Guess who wins and who’s the dick.) Emys had already interested me as a continuing protagonist, so I’m okay with the reviewer’s quibble with that story. There will be more Emys some day.

I’m also okay with his quibble regarding ’The Giant’, mostly because of the other thing he said in the review: he said that I made him think.

As I read it - as well as the other reviews of the stories - and as I’ve also sat and spoken with my friends who’d bought and read them, I’ve become really, really happy with the amount of thought everyone is giving to the stories’ meanings, their themes, and their messages. Sure, I want to sell a lot of downloads, mostly to make up the expense of having them thoroughly edited. But I want more than that.

I realize now that what I want - what I really, truly want -  is to get into people’s hearts and minds and make them either think, weep, laugh, or… demand my head on a stake. I want to entertain them as well as challenge them, to inspire them as well as give them a few hours of distraction. I see the reviews and I talk about the stories with people who’ve read them and I realize that, in a small, simple, humble-were-it-possible-for-me-to-be-humble way, I’ve done just that.

These stories are by no means masterpieces. They’re short, simple, and unassuming. And yet I’ve affected a small portion of the world with them, ever so slightly. It is both encouraging and awe-inspiring to think that I could do that. It is also frustrating to know that I have not been allowed to do it on this scale ever before.

In the near future, I intend to publish another, larger set of short stories, for .99 cents just like these, and I’m also looking into publishing a novel. I want to broaden the satisfying experience these stories have given me, and I think that’s by far the best way to do it.

If you’re interested in trying these simple stories on for size, check them out at the following places.

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook

Apple iBook/iPad/iPod

Diesel eBooks (for generic readers)

For PDF and Plain Text readers

May 10

About The Two Short Stories


Recently, I published a small e-book: two short stories packaged back-to-back for the low, low price of $0.99. Already I’ve had a small but respectable trickle of sales, which isn’t so bad for a guy just beginning to make forays into the world of online publishing. Not so bad for a guy who’s had to do all or most of his marketing all by himself.

Consider this little write up to be more of that: me, basically asking you to consider the purchase of my stories. And if you’re one of those whose already downloaded the stories (Thank you!), then this is me asking you to give me a review on Amazon.com. Or at least LIKE the stories using the LIKE button there. LIKES and reviews (and sales) usually mean that the stories will show up higher in the online “catalog”, making it more likely that someone untouched by my marketing efforts will see the stories and possibly make a purchase. There’s a snowball effect, basically.

Now I’d be remiss, as well as a poor salesman, if my entire pitch was “please buy my shit.” So let me tell you a little bit about the stories, without giving away too much.

Both stories are what you’d call genre pieces, which sometimes means they’d fall into the realm of pulpy, fun-for-the-moment-but-not -really-memorable one-offs. Eye candy, as it were. Thing is, genre fiction often isn’t so shallow - and neither are these two stories.

“The Giant” is a science fiction story, previously published in a magazine called Lynx Eye back in 2005. It starts with a premise familiar to a lot of science fiction readers - the crew of an orbital shuttle finds something remarkable on the other side of the moon. Thing is, the captain of the ship has baggage that seriously affects his or her reaction to the discovery. And what the crew discovers, well….

You’ll notice that I referred to the captain in both genders. That’s because of the approach I took to the story: the captain could be anybody, because the captain is you. Just get it and read it and you’ll understand.

On the surface, “The Littlest Goblin” reads like a fun, farcical romp through a typical fantasy world, where the goblins live underground and the elves live in a  faraway magical forest. The goblins are gearing up for an assault on the elven kingdom so that they can steal a powerful artifact. Enter Emys, a precocious little girl goblin, who questions her brutish dad’s motives and the goblins’ overall approach toward the elves.

When I was writing it years ago, the War in Iraq was ramping up, and I think a little bit of my feelings toward the U.S. government at that time leaked into the story. Consequently, ”The Littlest Goblin” is somewhat of a political allegory. It’s also a morality tale.

Oh, and it’s also a fun, farcical romp through a fantasy world full of elves and goblins.

The stories will only be available online, as far I know. Right now you can buy them in the Amazon Kindle Store, or at Smashwords.com. At Smashwords, you’ll see a variety of different formats to download. If you have a Nook or iPad, you should download the Epub version. In the coming days, once I get an ISBN in place for the stories, they’ll appear directly on the ebook sites for Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Apple iBooks. The material you get will be the same. The only difference is that you can review and rate the stories, just like you now can on Amazon. I’ll probably post again here when that happens.

So there you go. Some fruits of my labor. I hope you enjoy reading them as much I did creating them and making them available to you. One last thing before I sign off: the cover illustrations (above) for the stories were drawn by my friend Jason Snape. He’d appreciate your purchase as well, and if you need something similar for your book or CD or movie poster, I hope you consider him for the task. He’s up to it.