My Norwescon 36 Itinerary

 

I’m currently at the airport heading out to Seattle for Norwescon 36. Just like the theme states, I’ll be there to Save The World and/or possibly take it over. Oh don’t act shocked, you know how I am. Anyway, if you’re in the area, I’d love to see you. Feel free to say hi.

 

Below is my schedule for this weekend:

 

Gay Superheroes of the Future   Friday 1:00pm-2:00pm

With marriage equality becoming a reality, what will happen to gay issues in comics? Can comics modernize the issues and welcome LGBT characters, or will the traditional mindset hold out for a while? Our panelists will cover these issues after a brief discussion of the history of LGBT issues and characters in comics.
Chris Nilsson, Dennis R. Upkins, Lola Colleen, Charles “Zan” Christensen
Crossing Boundaries: Writing the Other   Friday 2:00pm-3:00pm

Can you write a great character of another gender? From a different culture? A different sexual orientation? How do you know what’s good characterization and what’s stereotyping?
Caren Gussoff, Dennis R. Upkins, J.M. Sidorova, Keffy R.M. Kehrli, Sheye Anne Blaze
Minorities in Comics   Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm

How do American comics differ from Manga or European comics? When will there be less sexism in mainstream comics? Are token minorities better than none at all? What strengths and weaknesses are there in the comics medium for representing a unique look at these issues?
Dennis R. Upkins, G. Willow Wilson, Charles “Zan” Christensen

Your Anti-Procrastination First Aid Kit   Friday 5:00pm-6:00pm
Do you love to write but don’t get as much writing done as you’d like to? Conquer your fears… and your rough draft.
Cat Rambo, Dennis R. Upkins, Ellen Forney, Marta Murvosh

Autograph Session 1   Saturday 2:00pm-3:00pm

Our Attending Professionals are available to sign autographs. PLEASE NOTE: So that as many fans as possible can participate, we will be enforcing a three-items-at-a-time (or single-sketch) autograph limit.

Autumn Grieve, Camille Alexa, Kevin J. Anderson, Carol Berg, S. A. Bolich, Clinton J. Boomer, Kurt Cagle, Chelsea M. Campbell, Charles “Zan” Christensen, Brenda Cooper, Erik Scott de Bie, Cymbric Early-Smith, Ellen Forney, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Jean Johnson, Karen Kincy, Nancy Kress, Edward Martin III, Susan R. Matthews, Angel Leigh McCoy, Dan Murphy, Mark Nelson, G. David Nordley, Brian D. Oberquell, David J. Peterson, Cat Rambo, Jon Rogers, Lorelei Shannon, Jack Skillingstead, Jeff Sturgeon, Jonny Nero Action Hero, Dennis R. Upkins, G. Willow Wilson

Next Gen Publishing   Saturday 4:00pm-5:00pm

Not quite New York, not quite indie. What are the new, hybrid publishing models all about and what can they do for you as an author?

Tod McCoy, Dennis R. Upkins, Patrick Swenson, Shahid Mahmud

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Up In Memphis, The Music’s Like A Heatwave

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Yeah this pretty much sums up this past weekend in Memphis. The moral of the story, using the Force to mudbomb a Storm Trooper isn’t always fun and games and as a friend said, never leave home without a light saber.

MidSouthCon was a blast and I had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people, too many to list. I was truly honored to be invited back.

Congrats again to my girl Cherie Priest who rocked it as Guest of Honor.

Special thanks to Kara, James Tuck, John Hartness, John Pacacio and his lovely assistant Tara, Walter, Chris, my fans old and new, and my Con Ride or Dies Reagan and Cherie.

 

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MidSouthCon 31 Itinerary

 

I’m currently in Memphis and I’m living it up like a rock star for MidSouthCon 31. Below is my itinerary for MidSouthCon 31 this weekend. If you’re in attendance, stop by and say howdy.

 

SATURDAY

10:00AM – 11:00AM W Diversity vs. Tokenism
Guests of Honor: Ross Lockhart, Kimberly Richardson
Panelists: Hilaire Playa, Laura Underwood, Denny Upkins, Stephen Zimmer

Writing beyond your race, sex, or orientation without tokenizing your characters

 

3:00PM – 4:00PM W Spread Too Thin 
Panelists: Robert Krog, Tracy S. Morris, Van Plexico, Kirk Stevens, Denny Upkins

How to prioritize and manage your time

 

8:00PM – 9:00PM  Ultimate Villain Showdown
Guests of Honor: Ross Lockhart
Panelists: Alexander Brown, Jenny Oldenburg, James Tuck, Denny Upkins, Michelle Weston

There can only be one! In a fight to the death, which literary villain would come out on top?

 

11:00PM – 12:00AM LGBT Characters In Speculative Fiction
Panelists: Hilaire Playa, Selina Rosen, Angelia Sparrow, Denny Upkins

LGBT books and characters in Speculative Fiction

 

SUNDAY

1:00PM – 2:00PM Monster Hunter: Are You Safe? 
Panelists: Walt Boyes, John Hartness, James Tuck, Denny Upkins

How to Identify and Protect Yourself From Monsters

Fashion Tip From The Bartender: An Interview with Ankhesen Mie

Ankhesen portrait

It’s no secret that I’ve got nothing but love for exquisite ladies behind Middle Child Press, case in point. As much as I’m promoting their projects each time we do these roundtables and interviews, the truth is I get just as much out of these one on ones because if for nothing else, I get to pick the brains of some of my favorite people. Ankhesen Mie is no exception.

Mie is a woman on the move and you’re welcome to join her, if you can keep up. After the success of the re-release of the critically acclaimed Folklore & Other Stories, Mie is flexing her muscles with some new fanfic series and an ongoing serial: Selo & Inya.

And lucky for me, I get to be front row for all the awesome. And lucky for you, you get to join me. See what happens when you hang with the cool kids?

DRU: Ankhesen, thank you so much for sitting down to do this interview. We got a lot to cover but I promise this’ll be fun. Okay, first question I gotta ask. In addition to your new series Selo & Inya, you’re also writing the fanfic series Gaya’s Astronomy, Orias, Soldiers of the Empire, Hotel, your blogs: At the Bar, Middle Child Press, Dark & Twisty, Blasian Narrative, The Black Girls Club. First question: WOMAN, WHEN DO YOU SLEEP?

AM: I don’t.  *wink*  Next question.

DRU: Okay, fine, next question, when do you find the time?

AM: I make the time.  I check emails, comments, and blog stats first thing in the morning.  Literally.  I roll over in bed, silence the alarm on my phone and start skimming.  I check on my lunch and breaks at work, and then when I come home, I start scribbling with a vengeance.  It drives some of my relatives crazy.

DRU: Now when we last chatted, you were looking at some titles set in the Hirosawa universe before shifting focus. Tell us what space you were in and what made you change directions which obviously was the right call for you.

AM: Sometimes a writer tries to do one thing when what they really want (and need) to do is something totally different.  The problem is, we don’t always realize right away where it is we need to go.

When I die, those who’ve read me are most likely going to remember the Hirosawa/d’Auvigne volumes the most.  They are the overarching monster projects which are going to take the most time and planning.  They are my most serious creations, and they require extensive consultations.  While I’ve harassed you about my intended story for Nathaniel Hirosawa, I’ve harassed my uncle about my intended story for Trent Hirosawa.  And all these Hirosawa-laden roads will lead to the d’Auvignes, whom I hope readers will thoroughly enjoy.

In the meantime, I’m not worthy of scribbling these characters just yet.  I still need to hone my skills, get more practice, and more feedback before I can properly delve into that world and do it justice.

DRU: Before we get to your new material, I have to talk about one of the best books I read last year. Folklore, and Other Stories. What prompted the re-release?

AM: The first issue was thoroughly flawed and published on a budget while I was still in graduate school.  Yet it received actual critical acclaim, I sold autographed copies like hot cakes, and that was just the abridged version.  So I figured I should edit and expand it, and then re-release the real version in digital form.

DRU: What has been the response to Folklore?

AM: I’m amazed.  When I was first drafting the story, I knew it was a bit different and experimental, but I didn’t realize just how different and experimental until I got the response.  Everyone seems to really love it, and to my surprise, it did exactly what I intended it to do.  It triggered people’s imaginations and let them roam; they were enchanted and spellbound and it was all because I started writing an anthology on a whim while listening to “Desert Rose” by Sting.

DRU: Congrats once again on Folklore. Okay so switching gears, you decided to embark on penning a fanfiction series set in the Star Trek universe which has taken on a life of its own in terms of scope. Tell us how Gaya’s Astronomy came to be.

AM: *chuckles* Okay, so “Gaya’s Astronomy” is a play on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”  While talking about Grey’s Anatonomy on my blog, I remember a commenter being disappointed with how all the fun, flirty adventures were reserved for the white girls on the show, namely Meredith Grey.  So I thought I’d do a fanfic which focused on women of color, but I didn’t want to do a medical series.  In fact, I racked my brain for ages on where to set it and what to call it.

I don’t know I decided upon “Gaya’s Astronomy”, but once I did, Star Trek just stepped in and took over.

DRU:  Did you ever expect Gaya’s Astronomy to become the epic saga that it is today?

AM: I don’t know about “epic”, but no.  I didn’t expect to do all those trailers and teasers; I didn’t think anyone would that of a much a nerd to get into it.  Like Folkore, I’m surprised by the following it’s garnered.

DRU: Has the story progressed anywhere near what you expected or intended?

AM: No.  I expected it to be a semi-parody of the show.  I matched the characters up with Grey’s Anatomy’s characters the best I could, even matching their initials and original personalities (at first).  But my lead character is a Bajoran, her best friend is a Trill, her other best friend is a Human raised on Risa, etc and the complexities of Star Trek led it in a total differently direction.

DRU: When you launched the series, where did you initially see the characters headed?

AM: I was going to let the follow similar storylines to the original show, but it wasn’t happening.  Star Trek is a very dominant fandom with decades on Grey’s Anatomy.  The alien cultures and familiar Trek themes immediately took over.  The next thing I knew, I was redoing the lineup and adding all these new characters to accommodate the Trek mythos.  I also realized that I couldn’t keep Gaya Mylanti modeled after Meredith Grey for too long; I don’t like Meredith Grey and would’ve gotten fed up halfway through the first volume had I stayed faithful to her characterization.

DRU: How has the prose surprised you?

AM: Gaya’s Astronomy gets surprisingly emotional in some spots.  Sure, when I’m tired or in a hurry, it lags in some places, but when I have ideas and energy, I almost forget it’s a fanfic and try to push myself as far as possible.

The epilogue of the first volume is still emotional for me.  When Gaya lies in sickbay recovering from a near death experience, she emotionlessly confesses her mother was a Bajoran comfort woman who married a Cardassian Gul.  In a leaden tone, she calls her mother a whore and talks about how she ran away and hadn’t spoken to her mother in years.  But after almost dying, Gaya realizes the worst thing she could ever do to her mother was to go die somewhere without her mother ever knowing what happened.

It kills me every time.

DRU: What about the journey of the characters?

AM: I’m proud of the girls.  They’ve really grown up into a diverse group of mature people.  Love them or hate them, they’re grown, and whenever I get around to writing Volume 5, I hope to show more of that growth and maturity.

Gaya in particular has been very fleshed out; she’s gone from being a bitter, immature Ensign with mother issues to a natural born operative whose mind is totally on the job.  She has to fight, to spy, even abduct a Vorta sometimes, not to mention outthink operatives far more experienced than she.

DRU: Now you’re a woman with a plan and there are a number of themes that resonate in Gaya’s Astronomy. Let’s first begin with the casting. The cast is predominantly POC which, even in fanfiction isn’t particularly common. Why the decision to have a POC cast and why is this still an important issue?

AM: I haven’t owned a television in years, and I rarely go to a movie theater.  When I first noticed this, I thought it was a bit odd, but then I realized it was because I was tired of not seeing enough people of color.  Not angry, not bitter, just tired.  It gets exhausting—literally exhausting—to have to look for a character of color, hope they get lines and adequate character development, and then be disappointed Every Single Time.  I’m always yawning or my mind is wandering, drafting my own damn stories in my head.

When my mother moved in with me last year, she brought her giant flat-screen TV and her cable.  I use that TV for two things: watching DVDs and Scandal.  The rest of the time, I’m online watching and re-watching webshows written and starring POC—Between Women, The Peculuar Kind, Awkward Black Girl, David So Comedy, RoomieLoverFriends, The Unwritten Rules, The Number—and I could go on and on.  Not to mention Julie, my partner in crime, and I are obsessively watching palace dramas, fantasy epics, steampunk, and action adventures from Asia.

It invigorates us, brings us laughter, makes us whole.  We’re reminded more than ever that we’re people, not token best friends or canon fodder.  Mainstream media tells us this and reality bends to its will.  Case in point: when I was in West Virginia, all these white girls wanted me to be their “best friend”.  They wanted me to listen to their woes and be their designated drivers.  They wanted my world to entirely revolve around them.  But if I needed something or had a problem, I was on my own.  I remember crying about something once, and a shocked white “friend” described it as hell having frozen over.

I wasn’t meant to be emotional, or attractive, or interesting.  I was supposed to be as flat and one-dimensional as every token best friend of color on TV.

Even worse, when I worked with kids, I came into contact with some seriously disturbed families.  One of my coworkers was a willowy blonde beauty.  And while she was a wonderful person, everyone rushed to protect her but never me.  When we had to deal with a particularly toxic client, the school principal had the gall to go on and on about how unsafe it was for her, how dangerous the father was, how he had a thing for young women, and how she was afraid my blonde coworker might come to harm.

“Send her instead,” she added hastily, pointing at me.

DRU:  Holy………wow. Now, as always, the Blasian theme is running strong. Tell us why this theme is important to you and why this phenomenon is explored in your work?

AM: The Afro-Asiatic experience is my life, and for those who don’t read the Blasian Narrative, understand that when I say “Blasian”, I’m referring to Indigenous Americans, Polynesians, etc in addition to Asians and Africans.  There’s so much shared history and culture between the two continents which most American POC don’t realize and don’t understand because we live under the boot heel of a Eurocentric narrative.  We don’t realize the significance or implications it will have on our future because we’re told to focus on the black/white dynamic.

But the reality is, Afro-Asiatic relations are part of that “wholeness” we need to fortify our identities.  I mean, everyone comes from Africa, this is true, but while that tells us everything, it also tells us nothing.  We have to explore the human connection much more deeply if we truly want to learn about who we are.

From a writing standpoint, the Blasian aspect adds new dimensions to characters and familiar plots, and caters to a thoroughly ignored market.  It also presents a unique exciting challenge.

DRU: Now with Blasian Themes, it’s often Asian male and black female. Is there a possibility that we may see a black male/Asian female, Asian male/black male, Asian woman/black woman, etc?

AM: Oh, hon…yes.  With me, that’s a given.

DRU: You wrote a piece last year that hit me to the core. It was about how you were done with the Heterosexist Narrative. Tell us what inspired that post and how has this affected your writing in your opinion?

AM: The epic fail of Zoe Saldana portraying Nina Simone in a fauxmance with a man who was gay in real life was the last straw for me.

The Heterosexist Narrative tries to tell us the couples we see in film and on television are normal, healthy, happy people in love and we should all try to be like them.  Bullshit.  Do you fall in love with every stranger who buys you ONE beer or goes out for coffee with you?  How many of your one-night stands have ended in romantic waterworks and a wedding?  And where are all these charming, good-looking, gold-hearted strangers with money anyway?  I get stalked by weirdoes and losers.  Last I checked, it was called being female and living during a recession.

Hollywood has become one long-winded, airbrushed commercial for heterosexuality, and like every other commercial in existence, it’s a big fat lie.

So to answer your question, being done with that Narrative has prompted me to start drafting more and more gay characters, plain and simple.  I consider it being the change I want to see in the world.

DRU: I personally want to thank you as a queer reader for practicing what you preach. You’ve proven that in Gaya’s Astronomy with characters Isi, Cillia, and Rindy. You developed these characters and show them with respect. Something most writers seem incapable of doing. Tell us what is your secret?

AM: Thank you.  I was once asked a similar question about the Asian men in my stories.  I explained that I wrote them as men first, and Asian second.  Sexuality is no different.  Isi, Cillia, and Rindy are strong, proud, capable women first.  Being attracted to women is not who they are.  It’s a part of who they are.

DRU: Interestingly enough, Isi and Rindy are two of your most popular characters. Thoughts?

AM: Rindy was added on a whim.  She was only meant to appear two or three times but I felt there was something going on between those two that they weren’t telling us.  So I kept writing and sure enough, they turned out to be a very emotionally charged, complicated, passionate couple.

I want to thank everyone who’s supported “Risi”.  When I get around to penning Volume 5, the fireworks will continue.

DRU: Another thing I noted is that this story is refreshingly female-centric and woman positive. There’s a cast of diverse women. Gaya’s Astronomy almost reads like a love letter to women. Was this a conscious choice or something that naturally manifested?

AM: Definitely conscious.  We need more female-centric projects; my goal is to attempt to write as many as possible.  In Gaya’s Astronomy, the characters keep bringing up the Ovarian Rule of not compromising yourself for another person.  I want to bring the Ovarian Rule from the 24th Century into the 21st Century —no more compromising.

DRU: Dreamcasting. Tell the readers what it is, why it helps you as a writer and why it’s one of our favorite hobbies as we’ve discussed in the past.

AM: Dreamcasting—which you got me into—involves compiling your dream cast of real life actors for either an established project or a hypothetical one.  I’ve been known to redo the entire cast of Trek shows, for example, with predominantly POC actors.

But once I do, original ideas start surfacing and what starts out as a laugh on a blog turns into a project of its own.

Gaya’s Astronomy involves dreamcasting; every main character and almost every guest character is “played” by a real-life actor.  For example, Gaya Mylanti is Megalyn Echikunwoke.  Isi Soyinka is Rutina Wesley, and Rindy Ruçi is Eliza Dushku.  By giving characters faces and voices, they become a lot easier to write.

DRU: You’re an accomplished author, publisher, prolific blogger and fan-fiction writer. Some people would think being a published writer, the last thing you would do is pen fanfics. What are your thoughts on fan-fiction and the common opinions associated with it. Why do you write it? 

AM: Fanfiction is essential.  When studied, it tells you a lot about the society you live in.  Anyone who’s paid attention to the rampant fail in the Spock/Uhura fandom or Swangate knows what I’m talking about.

Aspiring writers who look down on fanfiction need to get off their high horses.  That’s how you learn.  Fanfiction is great way to hone your talent and get regular feedback.  When you dreamcast and organize your work into volume, you can watch yourself grow and learn from your mistakes.  It helps with writer’s block and is a great way to reward fans who are nice enough to buy your books.

I will know that I’ve truly arrived when people are writing fanfiction based on my original characters.

DRU: The site has gotten a massive surge since the launch of Gaya’s Astronomy. No doubt you’re excited about the series’ success.

AM: I am!  I’m still a little surprised that it developed a following, though.  I wasn’t sure anybody would go for it.

DRU: Any other fandoms you’re looking at penning fanfics for?

AM: I’ve actually opened up a poll and a thread on my fanfiction blog for people to vote and make suggestions.  So far, I’m considering a fanfiction focusing on Kendra the Vampire Slayer.  And since I regard J.K. Rowling a master storyteller whom I could learn a lot from in terms of prose and whimsy, I’m thinking of penning a Harry Potter fanfiction set in the future with an all new cast.

I’m also considering penning a fanfiction starring the Fox Demon from the Painted Skin films, and having Gabrielle Union reprise her role as Perri Reed from Night Stalker.

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DRU: You’ve launched a new series: Selo & Inya. First and foremost, congratulations. I loved Book 1.  For those who haven’t read it yet, what is the series about?

AM: Selo & Inya are about two women who meet and decide to travel a fictional, ancient world together.  Selo is a tall, dark-skinned warrior from the all-female Queendom of Tiy.  She doesn’t have much experience traveling in a mixed society.  She’s young, and though she’s tough, she’s a bit naïve and driven mostly by curiosity.

Inya is a short nomad and a skilled herbalist from the Kingdom of Oon Sati.  She’s grown up in a mixed society and often acts as Selo’s guide as they travel, but the truth is, Inya needs some serious guidance herself.  Inya has a colorful past, and doesn’t show the best judgment.

DRU: What inspired the series?

AM: The usual. Watching shows like Xena and waiting for a brown girl—any brown girl—to show up.

DRU: With this being and ongoing serial, can you give us a glimpse of what you have planned for our two heroines?

AM: Comedy, mostly; the two are going to learn about each other’s society and each other.  Book 2’s about to be released for publication; in Hunter, they agree to assist an old friend of Selo’s who is a bounty hunter.  Unfortunately, the fugitive in question has more than just a bounty on his head.

DRU: Between Selo & Inya and Tainted from your partner in crime, Amaya Radjani, it appears as if 2013 is going to be the year of Middle Child Press. Was this coincidence that all of these titles are coming out this year or is this merely an elaborate plot for world domination?

AM: Coincidence. Amaya and I just try to keep writing and get to know our readers…but I wouldn’t count out world domination just yet.  Amaya has a Warrior Princess Complex.

DRU: Indeed she does. LOL! Because you know I have to ask, do you know if we’ll be seeing the Hirosawas again?

AM: Definitely.

DRU:  So what else lies ahead for Ankhesen Mie?

AM: Finding time to write all this stuff down.  *crosses fingers*  Wish me luck.

DRU: Any parting shots?

AM: I just want to give a shout out to our other partner in crime, JNguyen.  The beautiful and talented Julie does artwork for Amaya and me and I don’t know where we’d be without her.  She’s responsible for all the covers of Selo & Inya and I owe her so much.

Indeed. JNguyen is awesome indeed. See for yourself.

For more excellent reading, you can find Ankhesen’s other titles here.

Interview: Amaya Radjani

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To say that fellow Amaya Radjani is one of my favorite people would be a vast understatement. In fact we constantly joke that we’re each other’s sibling from another maternal figure. When her latest novel, Tainted, was released, I knew I wanted to sit down with her and have a long chat on her new book, her creative process and all that other geeky writer stuff. I knew the Middle Child Press co-founder would have plenty to say and everything said would be nothing short of brilliant.

DRU:  First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Second of all, congrats on the new book Tainted. I’ve started reading and my God is it intense. Before we get to Tainted, let’s go back for a moment. Corruption, your debut novel. How did it feel having a title under your belt?

AR: It feels amazing; like I’ve sucker-punched a mountain or kicked a planet out of orbit.

DRU: Looking back on your journey from then to now, what stands out for you?

AR: Sometimes I can’t believe I wrote the book.  I re-read certain passages (usually near the end) and I tell myself that I sat down and I wrote it and I know I sat down and I wrote it, but it feels like someone else did.  In a way, that’s true, because when I’m under the control of the muse, I am not myself.  Or maybe I am who I truly am when I’m being directed and the person you’re talking to right now is the interloper.

What stands out for me is knowing that the book took a direction I didn’t plan and the muse abandoned me until I came to grips with certain things.  Once I did that, she returned and I finished the novel.  It was very cathartic and I knew that I laid certain demons to rest with Corruption.

DRU: Cathartic writing and laying demons to rest, I know exactly what you mean on that score. From Corruption to Tainted, how would you say your writing has evolved?

AR: My vision and scope have broadened.  I’ve become experimental with the arrangement and structure of my books.  I play with margins and fonts and spacings to emphasize mood, tone, flavor and atmosphere.   Books look the same once you get past the cover.  It’s the standard in publishing and that’s fine.  But I realized that I don’t have to follow those rules.  Owning my own publishing house frees me to do whatever the hell I want and with each passing day, I realize more and more how important that is to me.  I don’t have to conform to anyone’s standard; I just need to satisfy my muse.  And trust me; it ain’t easy satisfying that bitch.

DRU: Were there any lessons or experiences you learned from Corruption that you applied towards producing and promoting Tainted?

AR: I learned that I’m more likely to write my books in the early part of a calendar year and publish them in the latter half of the same year, and from there I developed a cycle as a way to keep track of my progress.  For Tainted, I learned how to make a book trailer, and it was a fun experience.  It helped me to visualize the book in a different light and focus on what I thought were the most significant aspects of the stories within.

DRU: So for your sophomore project, were there specific objectives you wanted to accomplish?

AR: Not particularly.  I just knew it would be different, but I didn’t know how much until things started coming together in the ways that they always seem to do.  But when I knew the book was done, I was satisfied that I did everything I needed to do.

DRU: Do you feel you accomplished said objectives?

AR: Yes.  I work and work until I hear the muse say “Stop.”  And I stop.  I have to be satisfied with everything at that point because touching the manuscript after I have been directed to stop will ruin it. I’ve made that mistake before and one time was all it took.

DRU: So shifting over to Tainted, tell us about this incredible book, who the players are and what’s at stake.

AR: It’s a definite deviation from Corruption, that’s for sure.  There are three poems, two stories, and one central set of characters.  There are pictures and bios of six stunning sistahs who represent the female protagonists, a rock band named Pink Cage.  The poems are songs written by members of the band, and the stories feature the women in different perspectives.

The first story, which is actually a trilogy, is about Sereyn, who is Pink Cage’s manager.  Sereyn is a woman who is having a majorly epic identity and midlife crisis.  Someone from her past, present and future comes to help her sort everything out.

The second story, “Mezzanine,” is the central story in Tainted; the reason why the book had to be written.  I say “had” because I did not have a choice.  When the muse dropped that sweet little psychotic bombshell on my head, it was with one directive: WRITE NOW!!! RIGHT NOW!!!

“Mezzanine” focuses on Pink Cage as a rock band and as a family; the sistahs of Pink Cage are actually sisters.  Kemme Thornton, aka “Charm Pink,” has embarked on a whirlwind rebound romance with Keith Marshall, a goofy-looking geek inventor and rollercoaster designer.  As far as Kemme is concerned, Keith is the perfect man and an even more perfect husband…until she stumbles upon his little secret, which forces her to face who she truly is.

DRU: What inspired this story?

AR: I mentioned in my The Next Big Thing blog hop interview that “Mezzanine” is the result of several things clashing at once: the badassery of Alexis Brown, frontwoman of the metal band Straight Line Stitch; the awesomeness that is Massive Attack, specifically, their album and track of the same name, Mezzanine, which I listened to about 200 times; and a renewed crush on a musician I loved as a little girl.  Everything marinated subconsciously and then one day, the muse shat the book on my head.  There is simply no other way to describe how it happened.

DRU: Now Tainted is a far different beast than Corruption. The most obvious is that its spec fic. But it’s also darker and more sexual. Was this a conscious choice or an edict from your Muse?

AR: I should point out that I personally don’t think that Tainted is speculative fiction, which is a term I hate, by the way.  Tainted’s got a sci-fi/supernatural component, but the majority of the book is contemporary.  But to answer your question, it was an edict from the muse.  She said go hard and that’s just what I did.

I am interested in readers’ reactions, especially to “Mezzanine.”  With that story, I went H.A.M.  I’m wondering if people will react the way I think they should.  Probably not, but I haven’t gotten any reviews as of yet, so…

DRU: In your opinion, what is Tainted bringing to the dance that is lacking in fiction?

AR: Ooooh…well…it’s kind of hard for me to be absolute about this, as I haven’t done much outside reading lately.  I can tell you this: everything in Tainted is connected; the poems, the pictures, the stories, the imagery…it all links and loops and forms one cohesive whole.  It has an all-Black cast, most of which are women.   These women are musicians, and they’re not your standard Black girl singing group.  I deliberately made them dark-skinned rockers who wear funky pink hair and bad-ass costumes because that’s not something I personally have seen.  There’s also the personnel component; I introduce you to the sisters of Pink Cage—Zora, Grace, Leseda, Kemme, Torii & Raz—via “chapter” breaks.  There is a chance that I will be visiting them again in the future, and readers may as well know who they are now.  Pink Cage is awesome.

With this book, I tried to explore the abnormal side of love, or love as it is perceived and received by minds less…*ahem,* fixed …by convention and normality.  I also wanted to examine the nature of identity—who we are versus how we are perceived and where and how that line blurs.  I can’t say with certainty that all of this is lacking in fiction, but I can definitely say I’ve never written anything like this before in my life…and I’ve written a lot of stuff.

DRU: So Middle Child Press seems to to be amping it up. You just released Tainted and your partner in crime Ankhesen Mie just released the Selo and Inya series. Was this random happenstance or part of a master plan to take over the world?

AR: Well, of course we plan to take over the world…but as far as the production of these projects, they were completely random.  Tainted wasn’t planned, and neither was Selo & Inya.  But Ankh and I feed off each other’s creativity; we inspire each other and we support each other.  That, my friend, is a blessing, one every true writer needs. I know you feel me on this.  So don’t be surprised if you see an increase in Ankh’s & my production this year.  We’re both writing serials now.

DRU: What’s next for you?

AR: Right now, I’m working on two separate serial projects: Nightingales & the Velimir novels.  I just finished the Nightingales pilot, CRASH!!!, and I’m currently drafting the first episode, cool airCRASH!!! will probably be published this summer, but I’m not 100% sure of this.  I can say with 100% certainty that it will be published this year, and if the muse is kind and God is able (which she can sometimes be and He is), cool air will be as well.

I’m also rewriting the first half of Blade Dancer, the first of the Velimir books.  It became necessary to wrest Sheila and K’avir completely away from anything remotely resembling their fanfiction origins, so they are going to get a completely new and different genesis.  This means restructuring the entire book and introducing new ideas and subplots.  I hope that their fans appreciate my efforts, but I’d like to assure them all that Sheila & K’avir themselves have not changed.

DRU: Any parting shots?

AR: To all of my new fans, followers and readers, and to those who have been with me since LJ and ff.net, thank you so much for your support.  I am honored and humbled for all the love I’ve received.  I hope that you continue to support and enjoy my future efforts, and feel free to visit me in the Dark anytime.

And to you, Denny, my friend and creative sibling…thank you for this wonderful opportunity.  Your support means EVERYTHING to me and I’m proud to know you.

DRU: Back atcha sis!  😉 

You can learn more about Amaya and her writing at the following websites:

http://www.amaya-radjani.com

http://amayashorties.blogspot.com

http://pinkelegance.blogspot.com

http://middlechildpress.blogspot.com

And Amaya’s books are available here and here

Nubian Heroines: A Tribute

tumblr_lfjscxHS7l1qabus4o1_1280 Now I KNOW you all didn’t think I was done celebrating all things black geekery just because February is over. In this special post, I want to show some love and celebrate a very special group that is close to my heart: black women. It’s no secret that characters of color, well people of color in general (artists, authors, actors, etc.) are regularly on the receiving end of the worst kind of racist and misogynistic denigration. Anyone who has participated in fandom knows the type of disgusting hatred that the characters and the actresses who portray Tara from True Blood, Guinevere from Merlin and Dr. Martha Jones from Doctor Who regularly receives. And there’s a reason for that. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent, extraordinary, these goddesses are feared and despised because of the power they wield. Society constantly attacks black women because of the phenomenal light that they shine. So this post is not only a celebration of the nubian heroines who made me proud to call them my sisters but black women, period. This post is a tribute featuring a few of my favorite black female characters and actresses who brought the awesome back to fandom. This is also my way of saying thank you to all of the phenomenal nubian goddesses who have blessed and enriched my life over the years. To all of my black women, this one’s for you: