Navigating Through Race- The Plight of Storytellers of Color

Originally published at Fangs for the Fantasy

A gent by the name of Malcolm X once said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

Many people often wonder how I’m able to reconcile being a spec fic author with being a social justice activist. Malcolm X’s quote is that very reason.
Because while the media has the power to control the minds of the masses, it’s also a platform to hold a mirror and expose inconvenient truths such as bigotry to a society who is still plugged into the proverbial Matrix of privilege and institutional oppression.
But in order share the truth, marginalized artists have to make many decisions that can play an impact on our careers, our art and its potential impact on society.

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Paladins: An Interview With Vaughn R. Demont

Recently I had the opportunity to meet and connect with author Vaughn R. Demont. A talented writer and an all-around very cool guy, I was more than stoked when he agreed to sit down for this interview where we cover everything from life as a gay geek, being an  urban fantasy author and of course diversity in speculative media.

Upkins: For the readers at home, tell us a bit about yourself.

Demont: It’s always weird to answer this question. Do I recite the same tired thing in my bio? Go humble, be brash? I’m a gay guy, pretty much, from central New York. I’m a gamer, tabletop and PC, I teach composition, and I write urban fantasy because I love the genre and the kind of heroes it enables writing about. I would mention that I run as well but Haruki Murakami does it too and wrote that book and now it seems every writer is humble-bragging about their distance AND their word count on Twitter.

Upkins: Has storytelling always been your calling?

Demont: I’m a tabletop gamer, cut my teeth on Dungeons and Dragons, but it seemed there was never enough attention to what made the characters tick. I end up coming with backstories for every character I play, and if one’s provided, I fill in the blanks. I do this even when it doesn’t make any sense, like when creating a player in the baseball or football game, my brain starts imagining what motivated him to go pro. Who does that? It makes me a lot more invested, more likely to see a game all the way through, and usually end up disappointed by the ending because it wouldn’t match the story I’d built up in my head.

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Putting Faith To Purpose: An Origin Story

Originally published on The Nerds of Color

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A great visionary by the name of Cindi Mayweather once said, “Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.”

My name is Dennis R. Upkins. I’m a speculative fiction author who writes urban fantasy, YA, and superhero fantasy. Storytelling has always been my calling, but sometimes fate has to put you on the path. The key is to be astute when the signs present themselves.

It was two years ago and I had a homecoming of sorts as I was back in Atlanta for Gaylaxicon/Outlantacon. The con was a smashing success but that was to be expected. What wasn’t expected however was the revelation I would receive repeatedly throughout the weekend.

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Putting Faith To Purpose

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So a few weekends ago, I had a homecoming of sorts as I was back in the Atlanta for Gaylaxicon/Outlantacon. The con was a smashing success but that was to be expected. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with my Outlantacon family and adding new additions to our merry band. This was also to be expected.

Enjoyed the panels I was on and the ones I sat in on. I had an incredible time and I didn’t want to leave, This too was  to be expected.

What wasn’t expected however was the revelation I would receive repeatedly during the weekend and the moment I returned from Atlanta.

In addition to the con, I also had the chance to catch up with my best friend, my brother, William. We caught dinner and caught up with each other’s lives and we both discussed the hardships of  the job-force. Our discussion forced me to ponder on what I’m doing with my life. Am I happy working the day job I worked? Am I content in my writing career? And as I expressed to Will, there’s more to life than the day-to-day rat race that we’re forced to endure.

A similar discussion emerged when I caught up with my other sibling and fellow storyteller, Amaya Radjani when she brought me up to speed on some exciting opportunities that she’s been offered. I found myself asking again, where am I? Where am I going? Am I happy? What am I going to do about it?

When I was younger, I swore that I was never going to become the guy who asked where did he go wrong in life and why is he stuck in a bad predicament. The signs kept pointing that there was something I had to learn this weekend, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Then the damndest thing happened. While I was in the hotel room, the movie Office Space was on. Of all the movies HBO could’ve played, they played the one movie where the protagonist was facing the same dilemma that I was facing at that time, that weekend.

I stopped believing in coincidences years ago. Call it Fate, call it God, call it some sophisticated probability, the message was being given loud and clear, it’s time to step out on faith and fulfill my purpose. I didn’t know how this was going to happen.

And no sooner did I return to work on Monday did some foolishness pop off and I knew right then and there, the time had come for me to move on and to fully embrace my purpose in life.

And what is my purpose?

I’m a bard, a storyteller. It is my art, it is my blessing, and the curse I’m burdened with. I have to write to stay sane. Whether it’s penning a blog entry for Livejournal, formulating an essay speaking out on the issues of minorities, utlilizing visual art to convey a story or share a profound truth, or writing another novel, this is my power. Like a shaman who uses his gifts, words are my tools to build, to aid, and in certain cases my weapons to protect. I share my story and the stories of others. I share our truths in an effort to make the world just a little bit better.

I had no qualms about working the dead end jobs while my writing took off but now I’m realizing that it’s time to kick it up a notch. I believe I’m meant to be doing something greater. And going forward, I’m going to attempt to restructure everything to work towards that purpose.

Regrets, I have none. As far as the past goes, I did what I had to do and I made the best decisions I was able to make with the information and resources that I had at my disposal at the time. Besides, I don’t think it was my time then. But I definitely believe my time is now.

I don’t know what all of this means or where I will end up but I definitely know that this is the path I’m  meant to be on. While I’m being mindful and wise about the choices I make, I’m not afraid and I’m not stressed out. For me, that’s saying something. That’s actually saying a lot.

I’m moving with purpose and stepping out on faith. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I get the feeling it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

The Next Big Thing: West of Sunset

Today, I’m participating in The Next Big Thing blog hop, thanks to good friends Catherine Lundoff, author of Silver Moon and Satyros “Satyr” Phil Brucato, author and designer of Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium.

As others have explained, The Next Big Thing is a branching pyramid-of-prose for authors to discuss their latest release or WIP. Each author answers some preset questions (see below for my answers), and then tags five others to go next week.

Today I will be discussing my upcoming novella that it tentatively due out next year.

 

rupertevans-grant ness

 

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The Value Of A Blogger

 

 

My good buddy, the beautiful and brilliant Sisterspooky has a most excellent post on the value of bloggers and the roles we play in the publishing industry.

As I stated on her blog in a reply comment:

“This is a most interesting topic as I identify as much as being a blogger as I do being an author.

I’ve been writing stories my entire life and I’ve blogged for the better part of 10 years. I’m in a unique position (with a few other fellow authors) because while many authors have turned to blogs and other forms of social media to connect with fans and promote their work, I was a blogger first who had a respectable following before my debut novel, Hollowstone, was released.

Bloggers have a special place in my heart for many reasons. Not only are they my brothers and sisters, but you all do what you do for the love and for the passion and for the excitement. So when you endorse a book, I know you do it because you genuinely love it.

You are more than an important part of the publishing industry. You are crucial. When I did my virtual book tour, I was both honored and humbled that so many bloggers wanted to participate. Hollowstone would not have been the success that it’s been if it wasn’t for bloggers like yourself. And for that you will always have my thanks.”

Monsters and Other Projects

Been busy writing like a madman. Just finished transcribing West of Sunset. Just need to do another round of edits and I’ll be shipping that off to a prospective publisher.

Also completed a short story, Monsters, and submitted that to a magazine.

Got another short story to work on for a quarterly and a few more projects after that.

Right now this pretty much sums up me these past few weeks:

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.

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MidSouthCon: Review

MidSouthCon was an absolute blast. I had an amazing time and I can’t thank the people behind the con enough for inviting me nor can I thank the attendees and fellow guests for making me feel welcomed.

The panels were excellent. We had some great discussions on the broken people panel and the audience really got into it.

The diversity in spec fic panel was both eye-opening and bittersweet. I was reminded that progress is being made and yet….at the same time, we still have our work cut out for us.

The critiquing panel also had some excellent discussion and both the panelists and audience members had some memorable experienes about good and bad critique

What was really both awesome and humbling is that a number of people spoke to me after the panels. They thanked me and were really impressed with what I had to say. Apparently I’m good at that speaking thing.

Also signed some autographs and sold some books so win all around.

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Fallen For Trent

If you’re one of the three people on the planet who’s not familiar with Pauline Trent, then I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life. I really don’t. She’s a talented novelist and is every bit the extraordinary heroine as the ones she writes about in her books.

I recently sat down with Trent and caught up with her on a number of topics: writing, the publishing industry, as well as her latest novel, FALLEN HEART, the third installment of her popular Lambert Fall series.

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