here comes football!

And because I love the game so much, here’s an excerpt from This Wasted Land, my work-in-progress modern-fantasy/horror novel, about football.  Alyx, the 17-year old girl who narrates the book, asks her uncle about his former pro career.

“Uncle Tony, did you ever play for the Ravens?”

He sat back down. Puzzled look. “The Ravens? Like the Baltimore Ravens?”

“Yeah.”

“No, they came after my time. I played in the Eighties; the Ravens started in Ninety-Six. Though the funny thing is—well, it’s not THAT funny—is that the Ravens used to be the Browns.”

“Your team?”

“Yeah. Until that bastard Modell moved them to Baltimore.”

“Who?”

“Art Modell, the owner of the team.”

“Oh. Were you guys any good?”

“No, we were terrible, though we had some great players. Brian Sipe, Lyle Alzado, Ozzie Newsome. After he retired, Ozzie became the General Manager for the Ravens.”

“How about you? You must have been pretty good.”

“I was okay. I mean, sure, I was better than most of the other guys at Michigan—I was a fifth-round pick—but not compared to the guys in the NFL. I was a backup right guard, spent most of my time on the bench, unless someone got hurt. I started…I don’t know…maybe a dozen games. I lasted four seasons, then I got cut.” He chuckled. “And right after that, the Browns went to the playoffs five straight times. Go figure. Couldn’t win the big one, though.”

“That’s…that’s kinda sad. I mean, it’s a shame that all that time you played, it was for a bad team.”

“Ah, I’m okay with it now. I got to make a living playing a great game, I never got hurt too bad, I saved my money, and I was able to go into business for myself. Lots of other guys I played with weren’t so lucky.”

I nodded. “Dad used to talk about you all the time. Said you were rich and famous.”

“I was neither, but it worked out for me. And your father was just a little kid—the baby of the family—when I was playing. Your grandma doted on him. Spoiled him. That’s why Don turned out the way he did.”

I smiled. “I don’t even remember her. I think we went to visit them once, at Christmas.”

“I was there. You were four. All of us used to get together every year for the holidays, because that was the rule at our house: no matter where you lived, no matter how old you were, everyone came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s what your grandpa insisted on. He said that’s what being a family’s about.”

“But not my dad?”

“Not, not Don. Most of the time, it was because he was deployed. Other times, he just couldn’t be bothered. And your grandpa and grandma let him get away with that.” He shook his head. “By then, those weren’t the parents that raised me: those were old people trying to get into Heaven.”

“That’s funny.”

“It’s true.” He sighed. “I shouldn’t be talking about your dad like that.”

“It’s okay. I don’t like him much, either.”

“Well, nothing we can do about it. He is who he is.” My uncle stood up. “Don’t let me keep you from your homework.”

“I’m done, anyway.”

“Okay.” He cocked his head. “When did you start liking football?”

“I don’t, but this guy Sam asked me to go to the Homecoming game. And the dance.”

He nodded. “I see.”

“So, I was wondering, if you have some time before your trip, if you could tell me about football. You know, like explain it.”

“Wouldn’t you rather just look it up online?”

“No, it sounds more interesting when you talk about it.”

“Well, I have time now,” he said, and sat down again. “This boy who asked you out—is he a Ravens fan?”

“Yeah.”

“Ugh. Do me a favor: after the dance, dump him.” I smiled. He did, too.

browns

 

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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“the song remains the same”…

but the name changes.  As you might know, I’m working on a new young adult modern-fantasy/horror novel.  Alexandra “Alyx” Williams is a rebellious Korean-American high school senior who loves motorcycles, sketching, retro hard rock, and her boyfriend Sam.  When Sam is abducted by a shapeshifting hag and dragged off to a nightmare realm, Alyx pursues, bent on rescuing him no matter what terrors she has to face.

TWL Concept 6

Told from Alyx’s point of view, this novel has monsters you won’t find anywhere else, complex and vivid characters, “classic rock” references—and a new name!  The working title had been In Lonely Lands (a nod to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Eagle”), but now is This Wasted Land.  If that made you think of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” you’re on the right track, but it also quotes an epic Led Zeppelin song.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.  I’ve finished 10 out of 21 planned chapters of This Wasted Land.  Originally, I had hoped to publish it in December, but the Dreaded Real Life ™ has delayed me (For example, re-doing the floors in my home has eaten a lot of my spare time).

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A lot of people are eagerly looking forward to TWL, but I don’t want to rush it and release something I’m not proud of.  After revising the schedule, I believe I can get it out no later than May 1 of next year.  So look for This Wasted Land in Spring, 2017.  You can follow my progress here and my Facebook page.

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Nervous About Public Speaking?  I used to be, too.  If you’d like some tips on overcoming anxiety about speaking to groups, come to my presentation on Saturday, September 17, from 10:00 am to noon at the Kent Island Branch of the Queen Anne’s County Public Library.  I’ll be speaking to the Eastern Shore Writers Association about what’s worked for me in selling books, but a big part of that involves overcoming one’s fears about meeting and talking to lots of people.

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And if you’ve ever considered writing and publishing, I’ll be glad to share with you what I’ve learned.  Plus, you’ll get the chance to meet some Eastern Shore authors and scope out their great books.  I hope to see you there!

Gearing Up For the Holidays.  Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts.  If you live on the Eastern Shore, I’ll be at the Artisans Bazaar at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church on November 12 from 10 am to 3 pm.  I’ll also be at the 20th annual Heck with the Malls! on December 3 from 9 am to 2 pm.  In addition to selling the books I’ve already published, I’ll tell you about This Wasted Land.

If you don’t live on the Eastern Shore but you’d like some signed copies, e-mail me (kentonkilgoreATkentonkilgoreDOTcom) and we’ll work something out.

Reviews: More Important Than You Might Think.  I need your help!  Research has shown that reviews on Amazon are a major factor in the success of authors and their books.  So if you’ve enjoyed Lost Dogs, my first novel Dragontamer’s Daughters, or my children’s book Our Wild Place, please click on the link and leave an honest review.

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“this wasted land,” chapter 1

I plan to publish This Wasted Land (formerly titled In Lonely Lands) in Spring, 2017.  To give you a taste of it, here’s the first chapter (subject to revisions).  

 

TWL Concept 6

 

Track 1.  You Could Be Mine

“Hold on, babe,” I tell Sam, just like every time. I feel him tense up, arms wrapping tighter around me, just like every time.

“Alyx, just for once, please don’t go so fa—” he starts, but I thumb the switch, and the bike—Ninja 250R; it’s red, of course—fires up. My left hand pops the clutch, and we take off down the long gravel driveway, first gear, second gear, third, pebbles and dust flying up behind us.

Fourth gear past the gate and the big wooden sign that reads, FAIRMORE FARM. I’m hearing Sam in my head, yelling to slow down, but it’s just my imagination. He’s not psychic or anything. But I’m not slowing down. At all.

Hang a right onto asphalt—Still Pond Road—no cars coming. It’s too loud to tell him, “Lean with me,” but he does anyway as we take the next curve. When we come out of it, I clutch it and tap the shift, and we’re in fifth gear, 62 miles an hour.

Down the road, past big houses on acres of green. Dumb richies way out in Whitey McWhite-White Kent County. Some of them have horses of their own, like the ones at Fairmore that Sam rides for his CP.

A long, steep dip, across the low bridge that goes over the little stream at the bottom, then up the other side. Seventy-four now, and the bike’s bitchin’ at me for sixth. I don’t give it. Not yet.

Deer standing by the road, came out to eat cuz it’s sunset. Frozen, watching us—and then they flash white and they’re gone, running, and we’re gone, too. Sam’s arms loosen, like every time, and he leans back a little on the rear pad. He loves riding, but it always scares him at first. He’s not used to it yet. He’ll get there.

Blue pickup truck coming toward us in the other lane. Guy in a baseball cap, big black Lab next to him, them looking at us looking at them. I shift  to fourth, letting out the clutch so the gears slow us down and I don’t need to brake so much. Look left—no one coming on Route 213. Look right—a black Mazda with a Domino’s rob-me sign on top, headed north to HellifIknow. Maybe some other big richie-rich house, cuz everyone likes pizza.

Shift to third, feathering the clutch so we slow, slow, roll through the stop sign. Hang a right onto 213 and throttle back up to fourth and BOOM we’re doing 56, BOOM we’re in fifth doing 78, and BOOM we’re in sixth doing 89. Sam takes one arm off from around me, puts it all the way up, as straight as he can (which ain’t much), and his thighs squeeze tighter around my hips to hang on. I feel more than I hear him scream, “Wooooooooooo!” long and loud.

There he is. He’s not scared anymore. He’s free. He’s with me. He loves the bike. He loves me.

I think maybe I love him, too.

* * *

We have to slow down when we hit Chestertown. Lots of red lights, speed limit’s 35. Chestertown’s built around Washington College. Sam’s going to go there in the fall, taking English Lit. Says they have a big cash prize every year for the best student story or essay or poems. Sounds cool. He has scholarships—he’s smart—and his folks have money.

They’re not together anymore. Happened a few years ago, he says, when his older sister went off to college. Cynthia. I’ve met her. Weird-ass bitch. She’s a pediatric nurse or something. At least Sam’s mom is cool. She does real estate, and she likes me. Haven’t met his dad. He lives in DC. Lawyer or lobbyist or both. Don’t remember.

We putter through town, Sam wiggling around on the back pad, trying to get comfortable. A Ninja 250’s not really made for doubling up, but neither of us are big. Him because of the cerebral palsy. Me cuz I’m a girl and Korean. Half Korean, anyway.

Route 213’s the way out of town, so we stay on it. Past a strip mall, the college, some bars and coffee places, lots of houses. Then across the bridge over the Chester River. Sam’s told me that back in colonial times, they had a tea party here, like the one in Boston. He would know that. Dork.

The sun’s halfway into the water as we ride. He’s sitting back again, all chill, hands on my sides as he looks around. Leaving Kent County, entering Queen Anne’s, where Sam’s lived his whole life. I haven’t been here a year yet.

More houses, then fields again, and I jack the bike back up to sixth. He holds on a little tighter, leans against me a little closer, but he’s still good. We don’t say anything—can’t say anything: the bike and the wind and the cars going the other way are too loud.

About 15 miles, the road flat and straight for the most part, curves and dips every so often. The sun’s almost all the way down when we get to Centreville. It’s smaller than Chestertown, with lots of old houses. Victorians, Sam’s told me. Cop cars at three different spots, looking for speeders. They’ve gotten us before.

At the other edge of town, I rev us back up, headed for the ramp off 213, onto 301, toward home. Sam’s home, anyway. Kent Island.

We don’t get to the ramp or the highway. A semi lying on its side across both lanes. Blue and red lights: cops, fire trucks, EMT ambulance. Cars backed up in front of us. I go down through the gears, slow us, brake, stop. Flip up my helmet’s visor.

“Crap!” Sam shouts over the engine. “My mom’s gonna be pissed.”

I turn my head so he can hear me. “Can’t help it!” I kill the bike, peel off my gloves, leave them on the gas tank. Put my hand over my shoulder. “Get me my water bottle, willya?”

He takes it from the mesh sleeve on the side of my backpack, hands it to me. “Thanks.” I pop it, take some swigs. So good. I put in one of those Orange Crush flavor packets before I left the house this afternoon.

Headlights from the cars stopped behind us. He’s tapping his phone. “I’ll text her we’ll be late.”

I give him back the bottle, then take out my phone from the jacket pocket where I keep it and a little LED flashlight. I ask Siri like three times for another way to Sam’s house, but she keeps wanting me to take 50. Never mind. I hit Google Maps.

“What’s up?” he asks.

C’mon. C’mon. Find us already. So slow, out here in Nowhere, Maryland. “Hold on.” I type in his address.

He stands up on the foot pegs, steadies himself, his hands on my shoulder. “Damn, we are so close to 50. Can’t we go around?”

“Cops won’t let us.” There. Got it. A road off 213, not even a quarter-mile back from where we are. It’ll run us west and north, and then we can catch another road south and west, back to 301. A little out of the way, but it beats sitting here.

“Let’s go,” I tell him, stashing my phone. “Google says there’s another way.” I pull on my gloves, fire up the bike, slap down my visor.

We do a u-ie, head back up 213. Just past the shopping center with the Mickey D’s, Sam taps my thigh, points left. Vincent Drive. I nod and slow down, turn that way. The woman stopped in the gray Honda beside us, in the other lane, backs up enough for me to ootch the bike through. Sam waves to her. Thanks, lady.

Full-on dark now. I hit the high beam and jack up to sixth gear. Chilly—I feel it through my jeans, on my knees and the tops of my thighs. Two-lane road: no cars around. “Don’t get us lost,” I can almost hear Sam saying in my head. We’re good. I know where we’re going.

The road runs straight for a while, then bends right, straight, right again. Straight. A low bridge over a creek. Straight. Left. Lefting again, a tight bend this time. I pull in the clutch, ease up on the throttle as me and Sam lean into it.

His arms squeeze tight. Yank the hand brake, stamp the foot brake, back end fishtails let off the brake still too fast tap tap tap with my foot, front’s locking up let it go long enough to downshift downshift feather the clutch, bikes whines sounds like it’s screaming. Jam to a stop a few yards before we can hit.

Train in front of us, going slow. klgg klgg klgg klgg klgg

 “Are you kidding me?” Sam snaps. It’s not me he’s mad at.

The train keeps rolling—no end to it. We passed some other roads off this one—any of them go back to 50? Not that I remember from the map. I pop my visor, shut off the bike. Take off gloves, get out my phone.

“She is going to be totally mad,” Sam says.

“I thought you texted her.”

“I did.”

“What’d she say?”

He gets out his phone, checks it. Google Maps is even slower this time—I’ve got one bar.

“She hasn’t texted back.”

“Maybe she hasn’t noticed.”

“Well, she’s going to notice. I’m supposed to be back home in ten minutes.”

“Well, there’s not a damn thing we can do about that. She’s just going to have to get over it.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Don’t get all pissy.” Honest to God, sometimes he makes me crazy.

klgg klgg klgg klgg klgg

“We’re just sitting here.”

“What’d ya want me to do?”

“Find another way.”

Maps has finished loading. I show him. “There’s no other way. Unless we go back.”

“That’s not right.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“You pulled up the wrong road.”

“Did not.” I zoom out, show him my phone again so he can see the names of the road. “That’s 213,” I tell him, pointing. “That’s Vincent.” I take the phone back, zoom in, hold it out to him again. “Here we are.”

He takes the phone. Looks at it. Looks around. “No, it’s not.”

“Yeah, it is. Don’t be dense.”

“There aren’t any railroad tracks on the map.”

“So the map is wrong.”

“No, we’re on the wrong road,” he says, giving me back my phone. “So who’s dense now?”

“Damn it, Sam, the ma—”

Bike spills falls to the road, my leg under it ow ow ow! my head bounces off the asphalt thank God I still have my helmet on. Sam sprawled next to me. The hell just happened, car hit us? No, no headlights, no car here ow ow ow my ribs my side I scraped my hands DAMN IT that hurts. Sam—is he okay?

Oh good God, what’s that smell it’s like—

EEEEEEEEEEEE shrieking right here right on top of me it’s an old woman gray tattered dress long scraggly white hair wrinkled face like a rotten apple when they get mushy and horrible, it’s HER, she’s what smells so bad, like a garbage dumpster on a hot day. Jesus what’s going on? She leans over me her eyes are all messed up, her eyes are silver where they should be brown or blue or whatever.

“Alyx,” Sam gasps, trying to get up. The old woman grabs my helmet—both hands long skinny fingers yellow ragged nails—starts to pull me off the ground by it no no no don’t do that don’t do that it hurts it HURTS my neck, my back.

“No,” I try to say, but I hardly hear it. Grab her arms; she’s yanking me up from under the bike. My boot catches on the handlebar for a second—OW OW OW—then it’s loose and I kick her. Nothing. She jerks me close to her. God she smells so damn bad.

EEEEEEEEEEEE she screams, right in my face, her mouth is dribbling blood and her teeth are actual pieces of broken glass. She bites through my plastic face visor and I freak and I kick her in the guts and the crotch and the chest where it should hurt her but she’s got no tits. I punch her on the side of her head and in her face and she’s snapping, bites my hand, it hurts it hurts but don’t care don’t care I punch and kick and

She slams me to the ground—legs, hips, shoulders, neck, back, everything hurts. My hand’s bleeding where she bit me. Sam, Sam, are you okay the hell is this

“Alyx…” he gasps, like he got the wind knocked out of him. That crazy old smelly bitch is dragging him by his foot away from the bike, toward the train.

klgg klgg klgg klgg klgg

I get to my feet, everything spinning around me something burns my side, my right side, did she break my ribs? Never mind deal with it ignore it. Lean over, almost fall, pull my knife from my boot. Straighten up. Toward them. Sam Sam he’s hurt he’s bad. Blood on him. His? Mine?

She notices, turns around, lets go of him. Lurches over like there’s something wrong with her, like she can’t walk too good, like Sam.

She grabs my wrist, bends it back toward me, gonna stab me with my own knife. Trying to fight. Can’t. She’s too strong. I drop the knife before she can cut me and I tromp on her foot again and again and again. I can’t tell if she feels it.

She tosses me a few yards. I hit and it hurts everywhere. When I can look up again, she’s got the back tire and she’s picking up the whole bike, right off the ground, over her head. Three hundred pounds.

She’s going to kill me. For real, kill me.

She grabs the frame with her other hand, swings the bike, and I roll mostly out of the way as she smashes it down, pieces of it breaking, flying off. Part of the engine hits my foot; the boot takes most of it, but it still hurts so bad I scream, though I don’t want to. Want to get away get Sam get out of here. I start to scramble to my feet.

“Alyx!” Behind her. Sam, hobbling toward where my knife fell. “Alyx! Hold on!”

She drops what’s left of the bike on me. I’m down again.

Sam calling my name over and over. Everything going dark.

Hurt. Only hurt. I can’t. I’m done.

She grabs him by the hair before he can take the knife, pulls him—kicking, thrashing—toward the train.

Black train. Black.

Black.

 

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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vote now for the dragon awards!

This year’s Hugo Awards (supposedly the preeminent in science fiction and fantasy) have come and gone, but as I discussed earlier, they are—and always have been— irrelevant for fans of Young Adult speculative literature.  Why’s that?  Because the Hugos have mostly ignored books like Harry Potter, Narnia, The Hunger Games, etc., making them sit at the “kids’ table.”

Fortunately, there’s a new award, run by folks who aren’t clueless, and who recognize the YA SF/F phenomenon that’s been crushing the bestseller lists since the first HP book arrived in the late 1990’s.  And that award, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is The Dragon.

 

Dragon-Awards

 

2016 is the first year for the Dragons, and it’s given out by the fine people who run Dragon Con, one of the most popular SF/F conventions in America (70,000 people attended in 2015).  Anyone may vote for the Dragons: you don’t have to attend, and there’s no entry fee.

dragoncosplayBut if you do go, you’re sure to see lots of excellent costumes

Dragon Con 2016 will be held September 2-5 in Atlanta, GA, and the first-ever Dragon Awards will be given in a multitude of categories, including one just for Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel.  Respect at last!  The nominees for this year are:

If you’re a fan of any of these books, sign up and cast your vote—but do it quick, because registration ends at on August 28 at 11:59 pm.  While you’re at it, you can vote for your favorites in other categories (Best Fantasy Novel, Best Horror Novel, Best Graphic Novel, Best SF/F Movie, etc.), a full list of which you can find here.

Don’t miss out!

 

dragoncon

 

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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“suicide squad” is this year’s “guardians”…

…In that, when I first heard of Suicide Squad, I had no interest in seeing a film about a rag-tag group of D-list comic book characters–just as I had with Guardians of the Galaxy.  But once I saw the trailers, I took a chance, went to see it, and–just like with GotG–loved every minute of it.

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Forget what the critics say: Suicide Squad is flashy, sexy, and–above all–fun.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Some folks won’t appreciate the booty shorts Margot Robbie wears as Harley Quinn, nor her use of a slur that references female genitalia.

Hard-core fanboys will take issues with the liberties taken with the characters, notably, Captain Boomerang’s outfit, and that Deadshot (Will Smith) is African-American in the film (I preferred Marvel Comics over DC, so I came into the movie with no preconceptions).

As for the rest of us, you might find the story a bit predictable, some of the characterization is lacking (Slipknot is a mere object lesson),  and the actions scenes can be confusing (why are the villains’ mutated minions largely immune to gunfire, but can be killed fairly easily with a baseball bat?).  Fortunately, Squad doesn’t take itself too seriously, and its hits far outnumber its misses.

The premise is that in the aftermath of Batman v Superman, the government assembles a task force of exceptional–and expendable–villains to carry out high-risk missions.  Its first pits it against supernatural forces that, of course (this is a comic-book movie after all), threaten the world.

In the midst of the chaos, the Joker (Jared Leto) attempts to free his lover Harley Quinn, who–like the others in the Squad–received microbombs in their necks that the government can use to instantly execute them if they disobey or try to escape.

So having said all that, here’s what I liked about Suicide Squad:

It has great performances by most of the lead actors.  While Will Smith does not disappear into his role like he did in Concussion, nevertheless, he eventually reveals that Deadshot is a hit-man with a soft heart for the few people he cares about.  Viola Davis is chilling as the amoral Amanda Waller, the government puppet-master who assembles and directs the Squad.  Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is solid as the soldier riding herd on these misfits, and Jay Hernandez’s Diablo is a refreshing take on a supervillain.

True, not everyone shines.  Jai Courtney and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (the excellent Mr. Eko in Lost) are not given much to do or room to grow as Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc, respectively.  Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress is more effective when she stands around looking creepy, than when she actually says or does anything.  Karen Fukuhara’s Katana does her best with the little she’s asked for.  But two performances simply rock Suicide Squad.

The Joker is off the chain.  Realizing that no one will ever equal the late Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight, Jared Leto has gone in a different–and superb–direction.  You knew that there was a human being under Ledger’s makeup, but Leto’s Joker is more like a reptilian alien.

When he comes on the screen, you have no idea what he’ll do next, and you get the sense that no one else knew, either.  Whatever it is, you can be sure it will be sinister.  His only constant is his seeming devotion to Harley–or it is merely that he wants back a toy that’s been taken from him?

Harley Quinn steals the show.  Meanwhile, Margot Robbie’s Harley is the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend From Hell.  Impossibly beautiful, impossibly nuts, Harley is at once dangerous and vulnerable, villain and victim, and Robbie effortlessly runs through her Harley’s emotions. She’s the best character in the movie.

It looks great.  But you don’t come to a superhero flick for Oscar-worthy acting: you want some SACK! BAM! POW! and stuff blowing up.  Suicide Squad does not disappoint.  The visuals and set pieces are terrific and believable: not for an instant did I think to myself that I was looking at CGI, as I have with other films (I’m talking about you, Hunger Games–Mockingjay Part 1).  The costumes are also way-cool.

It sounds great.  The soundtrack drops snippets of classical music, old-school rock, and the latest beats, and it’s sweet ear candy.  “Heathens”–played over the end credits–is my new favorite song.

It’s funny.  Batman v Superman was a downer, but Suicide Squad wisely keeps things light.  There are plenty of great lines, and as you might expect, most of them come from Harley Quinn (“Stupid Bats!” she exclaims, as the Caped Crusader tries to apprehend her and the Joker, “you’re ruining date night!”).

Alas, the bit where Harley served drinks was cut from the theater version

It has moments of poignancy.  They may be bad guys, but the Squad are people, too. Smith’s scenes with Deadshot’s daughter are affecting, as is the reason for Diablo’s refusal to use his fiery powers.  Indeed, the bar scene, where the villains bare their souls for each other, adds some gravitas.

It has cameos by DC superheroes.  You might have seen from the previews that the Batman is in Suicide Squad, but there’s more of him than you might think. Another fan favorite appears in the beginning, and stick around for the mid-credits scene for glimpses of others.

I give Suicide Squad 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  As Harley says, “What a ride!”

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Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

 

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the “lost dog” we brought home

Like most other novels, there’s a disclaimer—albeit with a twist—at the beginning of Lost Dogs, my story about two dogs who witness the end of the human world.  It goes like this:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.  Any resemblance to real persons or dogs, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This is a lie.

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The truth is alluded to at the end of the book, in the Acknowledgements, where I thank, “Susan Beall and the Animal Resource Foundation for providing us with Cecilia, formerly known as Sally.”

Sally

Sally the Beagle/Basset Hound mix in Lost Dogs is Cecilia, our Beagle/Basset Hound mix, which we adopted from ARF, where she was fostered as “Sally.” The character in the book is note-for-note our Cecilia.

We got her in late 2004.  At the time, our only other pets were Cookie (a black Lab-mix), and Clawdia, a calico cat.  My wife went to an ARF event, saw “Sally” (as she was known then), and fell in love.  “Sally” had been found roaming about, as Beagles are wont to do (one pet book we owns says that they are, “naughty little dogs, fond of slinking off’).  ARF thought she was about three or four years old.

We brought her home and changed her name, as “Sally” sounds too much like “Ally,” our younger daughter’s name, and we didn’t want to confuse the dog.  So my wife pulled out one of her favorite baby names (which I had vetoed for our actual babies), and “Cecilia” settled in.

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But she didn’t stay settled.  A few months after she came to us, she climbed the fence one afternoon and ran off.  Because she had been microchipped, we got a call a few hours later from the animal hospital, saying that she had been hit by a car and was in bad shape.

For three days, she stayed at the hospital and wasn’t able to move her back legs.  We feared that her spinal cord has been broken.  And then, just like that, she stood up, wagged her tail, and started walking around, as if nothing had ever happened.

Life With Ceci

Cecilia (or “Ceci,” as we called her), quickly took to her “stepsister” Cookie, wisely avoided Clawdia (who thinks little of dogs), and made friends with all the other pets we brought home over the years.  In particular, she liked our mouthy (and somewhat neurotic) cat Gandalf: whenever he came in, meowing loudly, she would greet him, sniffing and nuzzling him, and he seemed to enjoy it.

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She was calm and quiet, a gentle and affectionate soul, fond of napping on the couch or at the foot of our bed.  A finicky eater, she got even picker as she got older, but her favorite was wet cat food (and—to our dismay—visiting the litter box when she thought we disapproving humans were not looking).

She enjoyed evening walks, intently sniffing, tail going back and forth like a spring, as she leisurely ambled along.  She would often lie on the couch on her back, paws up, huge ears spread, and wiggle back and forth, happily giving herself a massage.  I’d come sit next to her, cuddle her, and tell her that she was a silly, silly girl—very sweet, but very silly.

Whenever she spotted a rabbit or squirrel, she had an instant personality change, going from laid-back house pet to wildly enthusiastic hunting dog, bolting after them, ears flapping, baying with head tipped back.  Her greatest pleasure and frustration was to tree a squirrel and wait, trembling with excitement, at the base of the trunk, hoping that it would come down.

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“The Eternal Dog”

In the almost 12 years that Cecilia lived with us, she acquired many nicknames: Princessa (which I carried over to Lost Dogs); Cat-Dog (due to her many feline mannerisms); Princess Frecklebutt; the Phantom Widdler (for her habit of surreptitiously peeing in the house).  But eventually, we started calling her “The Eternal Dog.”

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with a heart murmur, and a follow-up to a vet cardiologist (yes, they have such things), confirmed that her mitral valve was not closing all the way, allowing blood to backflow from one chamber to the other, forcing the heart to work harder, enlarging it.  This is not unusual for Beagles.

As the heart had grown larger, fluid had developed around it, and it had begun to press on her windpipe.  She was (then) 12 years old, so we opted out of surgery, but instead, began giving her medication to mitigate the effects.  And all went well for quite a while.  We jokingly came up with “The Heart Test” to determine how she was doing: if, on a walk, she saw a squirrel or bunny and wanted to chase it, then she passed the test and all was well.  If she ever didn’t want to give chase, then that was the sign that it was time to put her down.

She always passed “The Heart Test.”  Every time.

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However, in May of 2015, she grew listless, short of breath, and would not eat.  An examination showed that she had a tumor on her spleen, which was pressing on her other organs.  The vet said that Ceci probably only had a few weeks left, but in the meantime, she could give us a stimulant to perk up Ceci’s appetite, so at least she would eat and be more comfortable.  Eventually, we were told, the stimulant would not be able to counteract the effects of the tumor, and when Ceci stopped eating again, that would be the sign that it was time to take her back one last time.

The doctor gave us a two-week supply, and we started giving Ceci those (along with her usual heart meds) and the chicken that my wife Joni cooked for her.  And Ceci ate, and went back to her old self: going for walks, chasing squirrels, and cuddling up with Cookie, Gandalf, and Joni.

Two weeks went by, and Ceci still seemed fine, so we asked the vet for more.  She gave us another two weeks’ worth, and two weeks later, we needed more, as Ceci—“The Eternal Dog,” as we had started calling her—showed no signs of dropping dead from either her bad heart or her tumor.

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Ceci and Gandalf

Our vet kept on prescribing the pills, and Ceci—who had been given only a few weeks to live—blithely kept on keeping on.  A follow-up visit showed that the tumor had stopped growing (sometimes they do that), and that her heart was not much larger than the last time.  Ceci was chugging along at 16 years.  True, the meds made her drink a lot, which resulted in us leaving “puppy pads” by the back door (and having to clean up several accidents), but it was small price to pay.

On June 27, 2016, we took her for her evening walk, and when she got home, she settled onto the cool tile floor under the stairs to sleep.  At quarter to four the next morning, I came to give Ceci her morning pills and to let her outside, but she didn’t want either.  Her breathing was labored, and she couldn’t get up.

We took her to our vet as soon as it opened, and the doctor confirmed the worst.  Ceci’s belly was filling up with fluid, and her heart murmur was gone—not a good thing, as it meant the valve had failed.  There was nothing left to do but to put her to sleep.

And Now We Are Five

We still have Cookie, Clawdia, and Gandalf, as well as our dog Daegan and my daughter’s cat, Pimienta.  But Ceci’s passing has left a hole in our home.  Coming so soon after unexpectedly losing her buddy Tiki, my wife is devastated.

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Tiki, Joni, and Ceci

I miss Cecilia, too.  She was a good and sweet girl, and when I was writing Lost Dogs, it only seemed natural to include her, with all her mannerisms and her temperament, into the story as “Sally,” to complement and act as a counterweight to the protagonist, Buddy.

There wasn’t a dog quite like Ceci, and we won’t be bringing home another any time soon—if ever again.  But then, I have thought that before.  For now, we will hold close the ones we have, and hold close her memory.

 

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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summer reading: old-school sci-fi masters

Summer’s here, and now’s a perfect time to do some reading, whether you’re a student on break from school, a parent trying to find stuff for said students to do, or you’re just looking for something to take to the beach.  Hence, this new series with my literary recommendations.

Perhaps you’re a young adult (or an adult who’s still young) and you’re a casual fan of science fiction.  You like Star Wars, Star Trek, and/or Doctor Who,  but you haven’t read a lot of sci-fi books.  In which case, I have two titans of the genre who should be at the top of your reading list.

Ray Bradbury

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Who He Is: Mostly known for his sci-fi short stories, Ray Bradbury also dabbled in fantasy and horror, writing hundreds of works over 70+ years.

Why He’s Awesome:  Nobody writes likes Bradbury: his prose has a poetry to it that I can’t describe–you just have to read some of his stuff to experience it.  And you can do that by checking out one of my favorites of his, The Halloween Tree.

Recommended For:  People who are scared away from sci-fi by thinking it’s all nuts-and-bolts, super-techie stuff that you have to have advanced degrees in engineering or astronomy to understand.  Bradbury is all about the big ideas and the honest moments, not the details fiddly .

Notable Works: There are too many to mention them all, but some of my favorites are:

  • The Martian Chronicles
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • “A Sound of Thunder”
  • “The Fog Horn”
  • “The Small Assassin”
  • “The Veldt”
  • “There Will Come Soft Rains”

H.P. Lovecraft

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Who He Is: I’m not gonna lie–H.P. Lovecraft was a strange dude whose writings (mostly short stories) were little-appreciated during his life.  However, his influence on horror and sci-fi has been tremendous.

Why He’s Awesome: Just as Bradbury has an unmistakable writing “voice,” so too with Lovecraft, though some folks might find it a bit too much.  What Lovecraft did best, though, was 1) creating (with some help from his friends) the “Cthulhu Mythos,” a set of stories based around evil, godlike beings from beyond time and space; and 2) the creeping, inexorable sense of dread and doom that pervades his works.

Recommended For: People who want to be scared on a big-time scale, with full-body shivers.  Tired of vampires and zombies and killer clowns?  How about a nice story about horrible fish-men who mate with humans and worship a vile ocean deity?

Notable Works: Again, there are too many to mention them all, but some of my favorites are:

  • “The Call of Cthulhu”
  • “The Dunwich Horror”
  • “Pickman’s Model”
  • “At the Mountains of Madness”
  • “The Whisperer in the Darkness”

Come back next week for more summer sf/f reading recommendations!

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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summer reading: forgotten sf/f classics

Summer’s here, and now’s a perfect time to do some reading, whether you’re a student on break from school, a parent trying to find stuff for said students to do, or you’re just looking for something to take to the beach.  Hence, this new series with my literary recommendations.

Even if you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy (and if not, why are you reading this blog?), you may not have heard of the great books I’m about to tell you about.  For whatever reason, they’ve fallen out of the spotlight, which is a shame, because they were ground-breaking, they’re tremendously influential, and (most importantly) they’re fantastic reads.

The Elric Series

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What It Is: The albino Elric is the physically weak but mentally brilliant sorcerer-emperor of a decadent, dying civilization.  Aided by the sentient (and evil) sword Stormbringer–which devours souls and gives Elric strength–and accompanied by the happy-go-lucky warrior/thief Moonglum, Elric travels the Young Kingdoms of men, finding adventure while being irresistibly drawn into a world-shattering confrontation between the forces of Law and Chaos.

Why It’s Awesome: The Elric series defies the tropes that dominated fantasy literature in the wake of Conan and Lord of the Rings.  Elric is a conflicted anti-hero who rebels against being a pawn of supernatural forces.  You can read more about Elric (and the influence the series had on my writing) here.

Recommended For: Fans of A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones, or anyone who likes complex, fallible heroes.  Elric is often as cruel and vicious as the villains and monsters he clashes with, but throughout the books, he retains his nobility and likability. The struggle between Law and Chaos, which underpins the series, is nuanced, more than a simple contest between good and evil.

Books In the Series:  Originally written as short stories that were later collected into a narrative, you should read the six “core” books in order:

  • Elric of Melnibone
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
  • The Weird of the White Wolf
  • The Vanishing Tower
  • The Bane of the Black Sword
  • Stormbringer 

You can find them on Amazon, either separate or in compilations.  There are also ancillary Elric novels and stories (such as The Fortress of the Pearl) that were published after the six main books.

Author: Michael Moorcock

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

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What It Is: A brawny but good-hearted barbarian warrior (Fafhrd) teams up with an amoral thief/fledgling wizard (the Gray Mouser) to become the greatest swordsmen in the rough-and-tumble city of Lankhmar, if not the entire world of Nehwon.  Their adventures pit them against the Thieves Guild, assassins, wizards, and monsters as they search for fortune and female companionship.

Why It’s Awesome: The tone of the stories is one of swashbuckling fun, considerably lighter than Elric, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings.  Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser aren’t out to save the world (though they sometimes wind up doing so), they’re looking to make some quick cash.  They often find themselves in way over their heads, but pull through with cunning, hard fighting, and a dash of good luck.

Recommended For: If you’ve heard of the term “swords-and-sorcery,” but never read any, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are the perfect introduction.  Also for those who would prefer reading fantasy that is less dark and pretentious.

Books In the Series:  Like Elric, most of the F&GM books began life as short stories that were later compiled, though The Swords of Lankhmar is a full-length novel.

  • Swords And Deviltry
  • Swords Against Death
  • Swords In the Mist
  • Swords Against Wizardry
  • The Swords of Lankhmar
  • Swords and Ice Magic
  • The Knight and Knave of Swords

Also like the Elric tales, you can find them on Amazon, either separate or in collections. compilations.

Author: Fritz Leiber

A Voyage to Arcturus

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What It Is: A seance is the just the beginning of a mindbending journey for two men, Maskull and Nightspore, who accept the invitation of the mysterious fellow Krag to travel to Tormance, a planet orbiting the star Arcturus.  Weirdness ensues.

Why It’s Awesome: I’m not going to lie: A Voyage to Arcturus is not an easy read.  It is, however, unlike anything you’ve ever delved into before.  Maskull travels across bizarre landscapes and meets a plethora of strange characters who embody various philosophies, all culminating in…well, I really can’t describe it.

Recommended For: Readers who want something COMPLETELY different.  May remind Baby Boomers of particularly vivid acid trips.

Author: David Lindsay

Come back next time for more summer reading recommendations.  And this week, the Kindle version of my novel Lost Dogs is on sale at Amazon for $0.99!

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Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in late 2016.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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awesome con is exactly that

I work in Washington, DC and live about an hour away, but this year was the first that I went to Awesome Con this past weekend.  I was only there for one day (Saturday, June 4), but I was blown away.  Awesome Con is the best convention I have ever been to (sorry, Balticon).

My friend, neighbor, fellow-geek, and Awesome Con veteran Andy was kind enough to offer to drive, so we loaded up his sons, my wife, and my younger daughter Ally, and hit the Convention Center shortly after the doors opened.  Straight away, we headed for the Q&A with Matthew Lewis, aka Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter movies.

IMG_0341Matthew (at left) with the moderator for the Q&A

Far from being a stuck-up, disinterested movie star, Matthew was humble and engaging, answering questions candidly and with enthusiasm.  He spoke glowingly of working on the HP films, especially with the late, great Alan Rickman.

He also took questions from the audience, including one from Ally:

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I’m not much of a HP fan, but my wife and Ally are, and they loved every minute of listening to Matthew Lewis.  He also talked about being in his latest movie, Me Before You, and we’re going to see it soon.

IMG_0350Brett Dalton (at left), Elizabeth Henstridge (center), and the moderator

After that, we had to hustle to the next Q&A, for Brett Dalton and Elizabeth Henstridge of the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one of our favorites.  If you’ve seen the show, it’s not difficult to guess (correctly) that Elizabeth is as delightful in real life as is her character Jemma Simmons.  

But the biggest revelation?  Brett–who played the recently killed-off traitor/HYDRA villain/all-around douchebag Grant Ward–is laugh-out-loud slap-yourself hilarious.  He was riffing on the comments and questions and kept cracking up everyone.


From there, we went to Elizabeth’s autograph signing session, because she’s one of Ally’s favorite actors.  I’ve heard horror stories about celebs being prickly face-to-face with fans, but she was nothing but charm and class.

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With several thousand of our closest friends, we walked around the exhibit hall, checking out all the vendors and cosplayers…

IMG_0362If you don’t know who this character is, you will in the fall

…and then we went to our last panel, on disabilities in comic books/movies, of particular interest to Ally, as she has arthrogryposis.

 

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A thought-provoking discussion ensued, that raised more questions than it answered, and it gave me much to ponder as I write my latest novel, which features a character who has cerebral palsy.

And that was the day–and what a long and fun one it was!  My family and I enjoyed ourselves so much, I’m certain we’ll be back next year, maybe for all three days (June 16-18, 2017).

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Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in late 2016.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

 

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storytelling on a 3rd thursday

I’m blessed to live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which has a thriving community of authors, musicians, and artists.  Recently, I was invited to headline an evening of readings and music that’s held on the third Thursday of the month at a local restaurant, the Commerce Street Creamery & Coffee Shop/Bistro in Centreville, MD.  In a sad twist, it was the same day that Prince was found dead.

Queen Anne’s County public TV was kind enough to video it.  My portion starts at the 26:00 minute mark (where this clip starts), but if you have the time, you should watch the whole thing (it’s just over an hour), because it features children’s author Peggy Jaegly and kickass singer-songwriter Guthrie Matthews.

The theme of the evening was “storytelling,” so I pass along two tales my late father-in-law Fred used to tell about his time in the Air Force.  And I also tell a story from the boyhood of my “Onkel” Bill, probably the greatest man I’ve every met.

After those readings, there’s a Q&A and a lot of laughs with the MC.  It was a blast doing this, and everyone involved had a great time.  Check it out!  I like forward to doing another one of these when my next book comes out.

Oh, and like I say in the video, stay off railroad tracks.

 

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in late 2016.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote 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. 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. 

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