“what does the eastern shore mean to you?”

That’s the question I answered this past Saturday, February 16, when I spoke during “A Place We Call Home,” the first session of the Queen Anne’s Council’s Eastern Shore Heritage & History series. 

Historian and novelist Brent Lewis; poet and founder/director of Salisbury Poetry Week Tara Elliott; and I had been invited to give our perspectives. 

feb 16 speak1Here’s some of what I told the audience about how and why I write about the Eastern Shore….

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on beyond “this wasted land”

First off, let me say THANK YOU! to everyone who’s purchased and read This Wasted Land, my young adult dark fantasy novel, that was officially released just after Thanksgiving.  Because of you and readers like you, it’s been a success. 

If you’ve enjoyed TWL, please leave a review on Amazon.  Reviews are more than just pats on the back for the author: they help other people find out about great books. 

3d

Throughout the holiday season, I had several book signings in Chester, Centreville, and Queenstown, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  TWL and my other books–the novels Dragontamer’s Daughters and Lost Dogs, as well as the children’s picture book Our Wild Place–sold well.

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how it took me 30 years to get “wasted”

On November 26, 2018, I launched my third published novel, and my fourth published book.  This Wasted Land is not your typical teenage-love story.  No, it’s more like:

Boy meets Girl

Evil Witch takes Boy

Girl goes to get Boy back

 

3d

Though TWL just came out this year, its genesis was in 1988, when I was a senior in college, majoring in English Lit.  My initial concept for the story was that a young college student (Alex) had recently been in a motorcycle accident that had crippled him and killed his fiancée Rose, another student. 

Months after her death, Alex sees someone he believes is Rose walking through the snowy woods near their school, and follows her onto a train that takes him to a gray, desolate netherworld.  He soon learns that the person he saw was not actually Rose, but a silver-eyed, shapeshifting witch.  Her master, the ruler of the wasteland, is Ōth, a being of great sorcerous power, exiled from his people, and….

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“this wasted land”: chapter 1

Please to enjoy the first chapter of This Wasted Land, my new young adult dark fantasy novel.  What’s TWL about?  At its core, it’s the tale of a misfit high school girl and her misfit high school boyfriend, but it’s not your typical teenage love story.   No, it’s more like:

Boy meets Girl

Evil Witch takes Boy

Girl goes to get Boy back

TWL’s available on Amazon, and for a limited time, the Kindle version is $0.99.  Without further delay, then, here’s the opening chapter, wherein our Feisty Teenage Heroine Alyx and her boy Sam go for a ride to…. 

 cover

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sorry, tswift: joan jett had the original “bad reputation”

No disrespect directed at Taylor Swift (of whom my daughter Ally is a huge fan) or her latest album, but if we’re talking about “reputations,” I have to bring it back to She Who Didn’t Give A Damn About Her Bad Reputation, Joan Jett, who has a documentary coming out this fall:

I saw Joan Jett perform as the opening act for Robert Plant several years ago, and when she did “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” it was volcanically hot.

Would it surprise you, then, to know that Alyx, the Feisty Teenage Heroine of my upcoming dark fantasy novel This Wasted Land, is not only a fan of Joan Jett (and 80s metal)?  As evidenced by this scene where she and her date Sam are dressed accordingly as they head out to an 80s-themed school dance:

“Mom, this is Alyx!”

“I didn’t know I was going to be meeting your mom,” I muttered, but then she swept in from the kitchen, a big woman, but not too fat, dark hair cut short, arms out for a hug.

“So nice to meet you!” she said, squeezing me. I’m not a huggy person at all. “I’m Brenda.” She pulled back. “Look at you! You look just like Joan Jett!”

“That was the idea, yeah.” And easy to come up with. My motorcycle boots, ripped up old jeans, a red t-shirt, black vinyl jacket. The front of my hair dyed red to match—it took a few tries to get the shade close enough. Lots of mascara and eyeliner.

“I was such a big fan! I saw her about five or six times in concert.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty cool.”

Matter of fact, the chapter that scene appears in is titled, “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” my favorite Joan Jett song:

This Wasted Land will be released October 15, and it’s gonna rock.  Don’t miss it.

cover

 

Kenton Kilgore writes YA SF/F that will make you think and feel.  He is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.  You can also catch him on Instagram.

Don’t miss the latest! Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll know about blog posts, sneak peeks, upcoming releases, sales, special offers, and more as soon as they appear. I will honor your privacy and never spam you or sell your information. And you can, of course, unsubscribe any time. 

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bad things happen on august 2

“Bad things come in threes,” the saying goes, and they also come on August 2.  Don’t believe me?  Consider this, from my upcoming young adult dark fantasy novel, This Wasted Land:

FernandezGhastly, eh?  But there’s worse.  Here’s a snippet from my young adult fantasy novel, Dragontamer’s Daughters (like Little House on the Prairie, with dragons) where the old native woman To-Ho-Ne tells the young heroines, Isabella and Alijandra, of the Conflagration of Cuidad de Agustin, capital of the Ysparrian Empire:

dtdquoteAnd if that weren’t enough, the world–one world very much like our own, anyway–comes to an end on August 2, as witnessed by a German Shepherd named Buddy in my novel Lost Dogs:

ldquoteCoincidence?  Of course not.  Rather, it’s an example of how all three of my novels–DTD, Lost Dogs, and This Wasted Land (coming October 15)–intersect, even though the stories are vastly different from each other, and are set in different universes.  As you’ll see in TWL, characters and references from other novels–even some I have yet to publish–cross over, though not always in expected ways.

It ties in to what Ōth (pronounced like the word for a vow or promise), a major villain in TWL, calls, “the nine realities.”  I hope you’ll come along and explore them with me when TWL arrives this fall.

cover

 

Kenton Kilgore writes YA SF/F that will make you think and feel.  He is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.  You can also catch him on Instagram.

Don’t miss the latest! Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll know about blog posts, sneak peeks, upcoming releases, sales, special offers, and more as soon as they appear. I will honor your privacy and never spam you or sell your information. And you can, of course, unsubscribe any time. 

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headed toward “this wasted land”

This Wasted Land is in sight:

cover

This Wasted Land will be my third published novel (after Dragontamer’s Daughters and Lost Dogs), a young adult dark fantasy work that I currently plan to release through Amazon on October 15 of this year.  What’s it about?

Well, I could tell you that it’s a modern day, gender-swapped version of the ancient Hindu epic poem Ramayana, partially inspired by T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece The Waste Land, (which, of course, means that it is infused with and informed by the Fisher King legend), all permeated by a metaphorical  “soundtrack” of 1980’s hair metal (yeah, really).

But it’s more fun, and much closer to the truth–not to mean easier to get a handle on–to tell you that instead, it’s your typical teenage love story:

Boy meets Girl

Evil Witch takes Boy

Girl goes to get Boy back

More specifically:

Alexandra “Alyx” Williams is a misfit: a 17-year Korean-American high school senior, new to Kent Island, MD, who doesn’t like school (except Art class), doesn’t like her family (except for the uncle she’s staying with), and doesn’t like being told what to do (Anger issues? You could say so).

But Alyx does like motorcycles, vintage hard rock, Vanilla Coke, and her boyfriend Sam, who’s a misfit in his own way.  So when a silver-eyed, shape-shifting witch attacks them and snatches Sam onto a ghostly train, Alyx follows, only to find herself in a nightmare world: an endless gray desert of lost things, places, and people, prowled by monsters never imagined by her—or you.

Struggling to survive, find Sam, and return home, Alyx endures horrors and heartbreak as she learns that the witch is but the slave of the ancient, inhuman being who rules this wasted land—and who craves to take Alyx and Sam for himself.

I first started drafting TWL 30 years ago, when I was in college.  I struggled with it for several years, then dropped it for a long time, picking it up again a couple years ago when I felt like I could finally tell the story properly (along the way, it’s gone through many changes).

You can learn more about TWL here, and I hope you’ll check it out when it’s published this October.  I’m wrapping up work on it, and soon enough, I’ll be back with more about it.  Stay tuned!

 

Kenton Kilgore writes YA SF/F you’ll feel.  He is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, (like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons) based on Navajo culture and belief. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.

Don’t miss the latest! Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll know about blog posts, sneak peeks, upcoming releases, sales, special offers, and more as soon as they appear. I will honor your privacy and never spam you or sell your information. And you can, of course, unsubscribe any time. 

 

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“infinity war” is hell

*mild spoilers ahead*

If you’re looking for a light-hearted superhero romp, I suggest you hold out for Deadpool 2, debuting in May, or–for more family-friendly fun–Ant-Man and the Wasp, coming later this summer.

Avengers: Infinity War is not “light-hearted.”  It is not “fun.”  It’s The Empire Strikes Back of superhero films, but even then, it’s more like, The Empire Curb-Stomps the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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the best thing ‘bout BTO…

…had nothing to do with the two seminars I conducted.

But let me back up a smidge.  Bay to Ocean is a one-day writers conference held by the Eastern Shore Writers Association every March.  BTO has been going strong for 21 years, and somewhere north of 150 people show up for it each time.

bto2018cPhoto by Bill Cecil.  Used with permission.

After attending several times and getting to know some of the usual presenters and volunteers, I was invited to give not one, but two hour-long seminars.

“Tenets of Technical Writing”

Despite having last taught tech writing 20 years ago, when I thought I wanted to be a college professor, I was confident about putting together a presentation in it.  After all, it was my first job when I started with the federal government, and though my position titles have changed, tech writing’s still a big part of my duties.

Not to mention, I was sure that I had kept all my lesson plans and materials from the mid ‘90’s.  All I had to do, I thought, was update them here and there as I transcribed them into PowerPoint, and I’d be rockin’ in the USA.

Yeah…except that somewhere along the line, I apparently thought that I would never again need said lesson plans and materials, and they had Gone The Way Of All Things.  Did I mention that I discovered this about a week before the conference?

Nothing to do but grit my teeth and create a seminar from scratch.  In addition to condensing a semester-long course into an hour, I had to look up current labor rates, employment trends, etc. for tech writers.  Thank the gods we have this Information Superhighway thing to help, not like when I first started teaching back during the Clinton administration….

After spending many, many hours putting together my presentation, I recorded myself rehearsing it, and it was wretched.  Fumbling for words, way too many “umm’s” and “uhh’s,” repeating myself, lame attempts at humor, not nailing the crucial points—listening to that was worse than eating a mop bucket of slugs.  I wrote a script for it, all 40+ slides of it, and rehearsed it again.  Much better.

Putting On a Show, Take 1

The tech writing seminar was the first one I presented that day.  I told what tech writing is, what it isn’t, why someone would want to get into it (TL/DR answer: $), and how much it pays (anywhere from $45K to $100K+ in the Washington, DC area).Tenets of Tech WritingThe heart of the presentation was the eight core tenets that I believe are the key to success in tech writing:

  1. Put your readers first
  2. Show readers where you’re taking them
  3. Make it easy to read and understand
  4. Put the important information first
  5. Tell the truth—don’t mislead
  6. Use active voice, not passive
  7. Use graphics
  8. Manage time [deadlines/other assignments], space [for print publications], and people [editors/approvers]

I ended the seminar with a tech writing exercise.  I gave the attendees five minutes to draft the instructions for making a peanut butter sandwich.  Then I asked one brave soul to read aloud their instructions step by step while I attempted to follow them.  Fortunately, the lady who volunteered to share hers had been paying attention and had put some effort into it, so I was able to make the sandwich without making a mess or anyone getting hurt.

bto2018aPhoto by Bill Cecil.  Used with permission.

I was a little nervous at the beginning of the presentation, but once I warmed up, it went along well.  The only bummer was that a mere seven people show up, but I was told there were some very popular seminars going on at the same time, so my presentation was like one of those TV shows other stations run during the Super Bowl.

Putting On a Show, Take 2

I had thought that my tech writing seminar would be the more attended of the two I was doing, but the inverse was true.  Twenty people came to my presentation on hand-selling books, almost filling the room.Latest Hand-Selling Books

This seminar expounds on what I’ve discussed here and here, and I’ve presented it live before, so I was very familiar with it and comfortable giving it. 

The highlights of the presentation were: 1) the section for introverts/the shy; and 2) my “one-spoonful-at-a-time” soft-sell approach.

For the former, I energize and empower writers who feel like they can’t interact for hours with the public.  One of the tidbits I give them is to think of their writing as a gift to others, which award-winning author John C. Wright asserts so beautifully:

wright

For the latter, about my technique for selling books, I suggest to my students that rather than give a scripted hard sell, which sounds artificial and turns off many people (myself included), that they engage potential buyers in a directed conversation. 

“Directed,” in that, yes, you steer them, if you can, into buying books, but that’s not where the emphasis is.  The emphasis is on establishing a relationship and selling one’s self as an author, so as to build, person by person, a loyal and fervent fan base, which will produce lasting interest and sales.

bto2018bPhoto by Bill Cecil.  Used with permission.


But the Best Thing ‘Bout BTO…

…was what I learned from master writer Robert Bidinotto in his seminar on “Targeting Your Readers to Maximize Sales.” In the presentation (which you can find here), Robert discusses “positioning” and “branding.” 

robertPhoto by Bill Cecil.  Used with permission.

Positioning is about getting your books into the appropriate categories of genres and sub-genres, so that fans of those can find your books.  Branding is about attracting and keeping readers by being authentic to one’s self, and thus being different from other authors.  Or, as Robert puts it:

True fans don’t love your books because they fit some demographic profile of age, race, sex, location, education, etc.  True fans buy and read your books because they identify with you, your “voice,” what you believe.

Robert asked each of us at the seminar:

What is your purpose, belief, cause—the reason why you are motivated to write what you write? That is your “why.”  Your goal is not to target everyone.  Your goal is to target those readers who already believe what you believe. 

Your target readers are those who connect emotionally with your worldview and values, like what you like, believe what you believe.  To reach them, you must communicate your “why.”

When Robert said this, something went off in my head.  Since I started publishing, I had prided myself on writing fiction that was different from the typical young adult sci-fi/ fantasy you find in the chain bookstores.  Something other than Harry Potter and Hunger Games and Twilight, and all their many, many copycats. 

And while it has been and is still true that my books aren’t like anyone else’s, I’ve realized that it’s not novelty of characters and plot that inspires me.  Despite what I may have been telling myself for a long time, I don’t stay up late tapping on a keyboard because I’m trying to come up with something no one else has (an impossible task, anyway).

smallFinalcover

No, come to find out, what motivates me is expressing emotions through my fiction—and it’s that emotion that, for most of my reviewers and fans, has been the element that’s hooked them.  I haven’t had many people tell me they enjoyed Lost Dogs because of its premise (dogs struggling to survive after humans have vanished from Earth).  But they have told me they enjoyed Lost Dogs because of how it made them feel: 

I loved all the characters

I felt that this must be what it’s like to be a dog

This book made me laugh

This book made me cry    

After hearing Robert’s presentation and coming to my epiphany, I know I need to change a few things about how I present my books to readers.  I don’t know exactly what shape those efforts will take, but I hope you’ll stick around to see. 

I’ll publish my next novel, This Wasted Land, this year (hopefully sooner rather than later), and if you’re looking for a YA fantasy story that will make you feel, TWL is definitely it.     

 

Kenton Kilgore is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, (like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons) based on Navajo culture and belief. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.

Don’t miss the latest! Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll know about blog posts, sneak peeks, upcoming releases, sales, special offers, and more as soon as they appear. I will honor your privacy and never spam you or sell your information. And you can, of course, unsubscribe any time. 

 

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yes, i do give a @#&%

I didn’t mean for her to say it.  It’s not my style.  Nevertheless, toward the end of This Wasted Land, the young adult dark fantasy novel I’m writing, Our Feisty Teenage Heroine Alyx drops the “f-bomb” for the first time.  Then she immediately doubles down on it. 

swear2

To be sure, it’s not as though previously in the story, her language had been demure and ladylike.  The abandoned child of a former military man, Alyx has grown up poor and lived under, shall we say, not the best of circumstances.  She feels like a misfit, she doesn’t make friends easily, and she has anger issues.     

So, while it’s in character for Alyx to use a lot of profanity, I purposefully stayed away from the “f-word.”  Unlike a lot of authors–even a surprising number of authors of young adult fiction–I’m very careful with what and how many “bad words” appear in my books. 

swear4

My caution is not because I’m a prude or because I don’t use profanity in my own speech, or because my audience is little old church ladies.  Nor is it because I have an unrealistic idea of how kids these days talk (I’ve raised two teenagers and spent plenty of time around their friends and classmates).

Rather, I try to avoid such language–or at least tone it down–precisely because it’s used so often, especially the “f-word.”  Profanity is like anything else: if you’re exposed to it often enough, you get numb to it.  It’s meant to shock, but if it’s ubiquitous, it loses that ability. 

swear3

By not using “f**k” at all until that point in the book–20 chapters, 240+ pages, and 99,000 words in–I’m hoping (perhaps naively) that it will jolt readers, and convey just how much hurt and pain and distress Alyx is suffering at that moment.  Before that part of the story, she’d been in some scary/sticky/rough spots, but none quite like what prompts her to go off the way she does.  

swear0One of Alyx’s favorite old-school bands has a potty mouth….

It may sound quaint, but I didn’t detonate the “f-bomb” in either of my two previously-published novels, Lost Dogs, or Dragontamer’s Daughtersand I’m for-real concerned how it’s going to go over with people who have been following my writing. 

Actually, it’s just one of several concerns I have with this novel: when I say it’s dark fantasy, I mean it.  In addition to having lots of profanity, it’s scary, it’s violent, parts of it are disturbingly “icky,” and the theme it explores is the many aspects of S-E-X.

I’m guessing that several folks who enjoyed my dog book or Little House on the Prairie, With Dragonsare not going to like this one, but we’ll see.  I was surprised a few weeks ago when my wife, who definitely is not into horror stories, or books that are “oogy” or have lots of cursing, told me that she would read this one.

How about you?  How much of a tolerance for profanity do you have?  Let me know in the comments.  I’ll have more about This Wasted Land as I get closer to publishing it.

A fake key for the function of swearing.

 

Kenton Kilgore writes YA SF/F you’ll feel.  His latest work-in-progress, This Wasted Land, a dark fantasy novel, will be published in 2018.

Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, (like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons) based on Navajo culture and belief. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.

Don’t miss the latest! Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll know about blog posts, sneak peeks, upcoming releases, sales, special offers, and more as soon as they appear. I will honor your privacy and never spam you or sell your information. And you can, of course, unsubscribe any time. 

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