A Special Tribute To Toni Morrison

So last week Literary Phenom, Nobel Prize Winner, and Black Excellence Personified Toni Morrison celebrated her 85th birthday.

This woman has been a guiding light for me both as a speculative fiction author and as a human being.

Morrison is one of the catalysts in both Hollowstone and West of Sunset becoming a reality.

Case in point:

Continue reading

#ICapeForBlackWomen: West of Sunset, My Love Letter To Black Women

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

(Originally published on Black Girl Nerds)

When my debut novel, Hollowstone, was released a few years back, I had no idea how far the rabbit hole would go. What began as me publishing a YA novel that I completed during my inaugural NaNoWriMo challenge has resulted in endless opportunities (such as writing for Black Girl Nerds). It’s also sparked some most excellent discussions on diversity: race, LGBTQ, and gender.

I couldn’t be more humbled and honored.

hollowstone-preview

Looking back, there was one thing I found to be a bit unsettling. Whenever white feminists commented on the female players of Hollowstone, they discussed (and praised) Neely at length. Understandable, given that she was a universal fan-favorite. While Abigail, and Brianna were examined, I noticed Cassidy and Ruby were ignored. This bothered me. Brianna was only in the first half of the novel as opposed to Cass and Ruby who were main players that appear throughout the entire novel.

The difference is that both Cassidy and Ruby are Black women.

On the flipside when women of color reviewed the novel, they had thoughtful insights to share on all of the ladies and the rest of the cast.

While unsettled, I wasn’t surprised. You see too often when the discussion of feminism arises, white is unconsciously (and often consciously) considered the default ethnicity. Just as white is considered the default on the LGBTQ front.

This is why many women of color identify as womanists and why many Black queers identify as same gender loving and we’ve established our own initiatives.  It’s for the same reason why #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen are still very relevant hashtags.

Enter my sophomore novel, West of Sunset:

west-of-sunset-cover

For Brecken Everett, there’s never a dull moment. When he’s not dealing with a demanding course load and honing his magic as top student at Lightmage University, hes working as a private investigator and using his skills to protect the innocent from the darkest forces. In two action-packed adventures, Breck demonstrates that outnumbered and outgunned is when hes at his best. In Keepers, Brecken is enlisted to aid twins Jacob and Joshua Phoenix; the last Pyrians, the last of an ancient race. The Brothers Phoenix are on a quest to uncover clues to their past. When they find a lost relic, a pair of demons arrive to claim it. With Breckens aid, the twins are determined to not only stop the threat, but have some fun in the process. 

The second half, eponymously titled West of Sunset takes place a year after Keepers. Brecken  simply wants to get out of Atlanta. Heading to Los Angeles with his best friend Owen, they plan a vacation of surf, sun, partying and relaxation. That is until the boys stumble upon a museum heist connected to a biker gang of vampires with plans to raise a most dark power. Matters get even more complicated with the involvement of a mysterious and powerful witch. Witches, museum heists, arising malevolent force, and a vampire biker gangeven Breckens vacations are another day at the office.

For my second book, I had a few objectives I wanted to achieve. Among them, the novel would revolve around a gay action hero in Everett and the female leads would be Black women.

Too often in speculative fiction and media in general I’ve witnessed extraordinary characters of color be sidelined, shortchanged, and diminished for mediocre white protagonists. Tara Thornton, Monica Dawson, Storm, Bonnie Bennett and Dr. Martha Jones, have all been victims of this.

Not only did I want West of Sunset to be an opportunity to avenge those slighted heroines, but to also celebrate Black excellence through Everett, the angelic soldier Nemesis, and the witches/demon huntresses, Shayna and Violet. In my universe, characters are welcome as illustrated here.

These amazing heroines are not only a tribute to incredible Black women who have been a part of my journey shaping me into the man I am today but it’s also a tribute to Storm, Kendra, Cyndi Mayweather, and a few of the diamonds showcased here.

Here’s hoping I did these legends justice. Here’s hoping I added a few legends to the list as well.

West of Sunset Profile Pic

West of Sunset: My Love Letter To Black Women and Other Women of Color

West of Sunset Profile Pic

Recently I had the honor of penning a guest post for the exquisite ladies at Black Girl Nerds.

_________________________________

When my debut novel, Hollowstone, was released a few years back, I had no idea how far the rabbit hole would go. What began as me publishing a YA novel that I completed during my inaugural NaNoWriMo challenge has resulted in endless opportunities (such as writing for Black Girl Nerds). It’s also sparked some most excellent discussions on diversity: race, LGBTQ, and gender.

I couldn’t be more humbled and honored.

Looking back, there was one thing I found to be a bit unsettling. Whenever white feminists commented on the female players of Hollowstone, they discussed (and praised) Neely at length. Understandable, given that she was a universal fan-favorite. While Abigail, and Brianna were examined, I noticed Cassidy and Ruby were ignored. This bothered me. Brianna was only in the first half of the novel as opposed to Cass and Ruby who were main players that appear throughout the entire novel.

The difference is that both Cassidy and Ruby are Black women.

Click here to continue reading………

Rape Culture: From Grimdark Fantasy To Reality

got21-2

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault and Rape Survivors

When I worked as a reporter for a local paper in East Tenn some years back, a story arose about a young woman who had been sexually assaulted at her high school.

When the issue was brought to the school board’s attention, they moved heaven and earth to shame the young woman and to vilify her and her family.

No one denied the attack happened but nothing was done about it because the attacker was a star athlete and the school’s administration was beyond corrupt.

When I tried to follow up and get the family’s side of events, the story was buried due to local politics and my publisher’s wish to stay in good with the Powers That Be in the county.

The young woman’s mother contacted me later and informed me that she and their family moved to another county, they were doing much better and thanked me for doing what I could. I apologized I couldn’t do more.

As I would come to learn in the years to follow, this is why rape culture is so prevalent.

I’m often asked why I tackled rape culture in Hollowstone and it’s for that very reason, to bring awareness to how pervasive and serious this issue is.

Needless to say I have serious problem with writers who use it as a trope or filler or a plot point for female characters.

Needless to say this is one of the main reasons I quit watching Game of Thrones years ago.

Why Black Speculative Fiction Month Matters

So in addition to blogging, penning my next story, promoting the release of West of Sunset, and following up on some potential opportunities, I’ve been making the rounds online discussing Black Speculative Fiction Month.

During one upcoming interview, I was asked why a month celebrating Black Speculative Fiction is important.

I thought my answer warranted its own post and I wanted to share.

Why does BSFM matter? BSFM matters because now more than ever our stories must be told and our voices must be heard. BSFM matters because too often at cons and writing events, I’m the only queer nonwhite guest in attendance.

BSFM matters because black lives matter, as #Ferguson has reminded us. BSFM matters because Racefail happened and there are white industry “pros” who have gone on record in claiming that black geeks are the result of the internet. Because apparently Octavia Butler didn’t happen.

BSFM matters because the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and similar initiatives are desperately needed and long overdue. BSFM matters because too many people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that my characters Noah Scott, Cassidy Reeves, Brecken Everett, Nemesis, Violet Peters, Iyana and Virgil Rhames epitomize #BlackExcellence and are not wishful thinking or flights of fancy.

BSFM matters because it illustrates how blacks are loving ourselves, embracing our power and creating our own spaces and efforts to thrive in a racist world that would sooner we didn’t.

That’s how #BlackExcellence gets down.

20141015-063134.jpg

Complexion for the Protection

This post was recently inspired by a discussion by my beautiful and brilliant internet wife RVC Bard.

When marginalized viewers critique arts & entertainment, we often look at how themes of race, gender, orientation, etc. are handled with the marginalized characters and the narrative. Obviously that’s understandable given how little representation we receive, and we understand the power of perception and how it affects minorities in real life.

However rarely do we ever consider how whiteness, white culture and white privilege play out in stories and how characters are afforded advantages and how certain dynamics play out simply by being white. More than that, but the audience perception and reaction to said dynamics differ greatly because of white privilege. Not surprisingly the astute will note many double standards at play. Because whiteness is considered the default, the norm, universal, it’s rarely examined or critiqued.

That is until today.

The following are white characters who could only operate as white characters because to do otherwise would result in a different story with a different interpretation from the audience.

Oh yes. I go there.

21 Lessons Learned As A Debut Novelist

 

So a little over a year ago, something very special happened. My novel Hollowstone was released. To say it changed my life forever would be a vast understatement. From traveling across the country to promote the book, to connecting with extraordinary people all over the globe, I’ve had so many wonderful experiences thanks to one little book.

That being said, I’ve learned a lot in the last year. Some has been self discovery, some was advice from experts. And then there was “advice” from “experts.”

Being a published novelist has been a wild ride and at times a very crazy one, as you’ll see from this list. So below are 21 Lessons I’ve learned since publishing my debut novel.

Continue reading

Reading Will Save The World

Talented musician and very good buddy Gordon Roque had some very awesome things to say about my novel Hollowstone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do the Dance of Joy:
_________________________________________________

A couple of months ago, I bought and downloaded a book called Hollowstone into my Kindle. In the interest of full disclosure, its author, Dennis R. Upkins, lives here in Nashville and is a friend of mine. Prior to reading this book, the only exposure I had to anything he has written was on his very engaging blog. I had only a vague idea of what the book was about prior to reading it.

I can honestly say, in spite of the fact that I know him, that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It tells the story of a talented young violinist named Noah Scott who is more or less plucked from obscurity in the urban Atlanta jungle and given a chance to attend an exclusive and prestigious boarding school called Hollowstone Academy.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as a typicpal coming of age story, but to do so, would be to undercut its true value.

Click here to read more….