January Recap

I can’t believe January’s almost over. I must not have been paying much attention; it seems like I missed the month. Still, I got a few things done. I finished the second edition of Meji Book One and I’m now patiently awaiting the revised manuscript from my copy editor. Once I receive it I’ll upload it to Lightning Source and make both books available on line through LSI’s distribution program. That means both books on Amazon, B&N online and Ingram. I will also have access to Baker and Taylor, although I was disappointed to find out B&T is not a full partner, meaning they can refuse to carry my book.  I’m really hoping they’ll accept it. I have quite a few libraries and school systems interested in the Twins.

Changa’s Safari is moving slowly but surely. Winston Blakely will begin the cover artwork  in February and I’m almost done with editing. I plan to work with a local editor, one who will not only do the grammatical stuff but also a critique. Editing is the achilles heel of self publishing and I’m trying to do my best to eliminate that weakness. I plan on sprinkling a few Changa sequel stories about, stories that give background on Changa and his co-horts. One story, Mwanamke Tembo (The Elephant Woman), will post on my blog, so stay tuned. As far as Changa’s world is concerned, here’s a peek:

Once Changa’s complete I have a number of projects waiting. The Sword and Soul Anthology is one that I’m really excited about.  It’s a chance to display new visions of Sword and Soul by new and established writers. The other project is The Face In The Temple, my first Sword and Soul novel with a female main character, Sadatina. Sadatina is a warrior/priestess endowed with the ability to find and kill kindoki (demons). I figured Dossouye needed some company. Here’s a sketch by Chase Conley (http://saintchase.deviantart.com/):

Outstanding, isn’t it? I’m getting good feedback on the excerpts I posted for this one. I’m also working with a young artist by the name of Jason Zampol for the cover art. He’s an outstanding artist.  Don’t take my word, check out his site; http://www.zampolart.com/.

But the pressure is on for Amber. She’s my first young adult sword and soul novel and my wife’s favorite.  Every time I do a book signing a parent asks me if I have something for young adults. My response is Amber. It’s fun story to write and I think it’s going to get great response.  The artist, Paul Davey (http://mattahan.deviantart.com/), is a very talented young brother and has done an excellent job bringing my girl to life. Of course if y’all go out and buy my books like doughnuts maybe I can do them both!

I have more plans, but not enough time (or money) to pursue them all. Besides if I get too involved this stops being fun. I’m doing a couple of book signings in February. Go to my site and check the dates. Until then, if you keep reading I’ll keep writing.

Gassire’s Lute – A West African Epic

Four times Wagadu rose. A great city, gleaming in the light of day. Four times Wagadu fell. And disappeared from human sight. Once through vanity. Once through dishonesty. Once through greed. Once through discord.”

Thus begins Gassire’s Lute, a West African epic poem of the Soninke, the rulers of the ancient kingdom of Ghana. Gassire’s Lute tells the story of Gassire, a vain warrior obsessed with immortality. He gives up everything to gain immortality through the Dausi, a song that would allow his exploits to live on forever.

The epic was originally documented in 1905 by Leo Frobenius, a German anthropologist. This most recent adaptation is done by anthropologist Alta Jablow, Professor Emeritus of Brooklyn College . It also includes an essay by Jablow that gives special insight to the epic and the history it represents.  I found it amusing that Mr. Frobenius used Lute to describe the musical instrument of Gassire. Today this instrument is widely known as a kora. This book is an interesting read, one of a few that gives a view of the nobility, dignity and history of the Soninke.  Professor Jablow does and excellent job bringing this epic tale to life and explaining its worth. A must have for anyone building a Sword and Soul reference library.

King Day

I was eight years old when Dr. King was assassinated. At the time my reaction was probably the same as most eight year olds, somewhat interested because of the commotion going on among adults and somewhat angry because my favorite shows had been preempted for the newscasts. I lived a sheltered life in Columbus, Georgia, an all black life in an all black neighborhood attending an all black school and playing with my black friends. My only direct encounter with white people was when I went to the doctor for my regular asthma treatments. My parents did their best to protect us from the worst of growing up in the South and they did until 1972, when the city of Columbus decided to integrate the school system, setting up each school at a 70% white, 30% black student ratio to reflect the racial mix of the city. So instead of attending 6th grade with most of my friends, I was sent to St. Mary’s Elementary to fulfill the city mandate.

It was a time of fear and bravado for us all. We spent that summer preparing ourselves, talking about how we were going be ready if someone confronted us. When that time came, it was everything we anticipated and everything we didn’t. I remember the first time I was called the N-word in anger and the name of the white boy who said it. I fought that boy every day for a week. By the end of the school year we were friends. Some of the people I expected to be my eternal enemies also became my friends. Others never moved beyond their prejudices and remained what they were taught to be.

As I grew older and had the chance to reflect on Dr. King and the struggle, I realized what a great man he was. When the first King Day parade was held in Atlanta I was front and center wearing my sweatshirt proudly and singing “We Shall Overcome” in my loudest voice.

Today I hear young black youths actually denouncing King,  spouting rhetoric about FBI conspiracies and such. As a person that lived through the civil rights movement and was an early recipient of the results I’m appalled at their disrespect for those people that made it so they could express such opinions. But this is the result of people not knowing and respecting their history. This is the result of people looking at a situation out of context of the environment in which it occurred. For those people I offer advice; don’t read about it, talk about it. Talk to an elder that lived through this time. Get a true picture of how life was for us then. If you have no access to elders, watch the documentary “Eyes On the Prize” and hear about the movement in the words of the people who participated.  You’ll hear about and see the dangers those marchers put themselves through not for their own betterment but for ours.  You’ll see the people who died for you and what you have today.

Happy birthday, Dr. King. Thank you for everything that I am today.

Musing on Meji

It’s been almost two years since I published Meji Book One. On that day in May 2008 I reached the end of a long process and the beginning on another, selling and promoting my baby. It’s been an interesting journey full of surprises, opportunities and joy. As I prepare to release Changa’s Safari, I thought I’d write about a few things I’ve learned and enjoyed during this experience.

The Inspiration – Meji was initially to be a Zulu story, but as I did more research on African history I was spurred to write a story that would display the diversity of African history, people and culture. Meji is my celebration of pre-colonial Africa, the home of our ancestors. I also hoped that by writing a fictional story based on this knowledge it would ignite readers curiosity on the source. So far it has.

The Names – I probably have more discussions about the names in Meji than anything else.  Despite a glossary that spells each name phonetically, people still have difficulty pronouncing them. Well, I did, too, at first. Practice makes perfect. One more note: each name has a meaning that relates to the characters personality, position or purpose. In most of precolonial Africa naming a child was a serious affair, so I tried to take naming my characters just as seriously.

That’s it for now. More musing later. We’ll talk about book signings and book clubs.

The Washing Of The Spears by Donald R. Morris

I decided to share my library  beginning with the first African history book I  purchased. The Washing of the Spears is considered a comprehensive source about the rise of the Zulu nation and its subsequent defeat by the British.  I purchased this book because in its original form Meji was to be a Zulu based story. At the time the Zulu were the only nation in Africa I could find any substantial research on. As I developed the story it began to resemble Shaka Zulu too much for my taste so I set it aside. I’m glad I did  because later I  discovered more sources of African history that expanded my knowledge and enhanced the story.

Washing is a detailed account of the Zulu nation, but it is also filled with misconceptions of African origins and tainted with veiled prejudice. The ‘Hammite’ theory is used to explain the difference between the Bantu and other East Africans. If you haven’t heard of the ‘Hammite’ theory look it up. It’s been been discredited but for time it was used by many historians to explain the ‘uncharacteristic’ behavior of East African people. There’s also terms that raise an eyebrow, such as the Zulu chief, or inkosi, ‘mating’ with his concubines.

One of the main strengths of Washing is its detailed account of Zulu military organization. I relied heavily on it for this information and on Zulu battle tactics. It’s a good place to start and provides good overall information. I won’t say it’s a must read unless you’re gathering information on Zulu history, especially pertaining to their encounters with the British and the Boers.

Imaro IV is here!

The wait is over. After over twenty years Imaro IV is finally in print. This is a happy moment for long time Imaro fans as well as short timers such as myself.  Charles and I are friends and sword and soul brothers, but unfortunately I can’t claim the wonderful Imaro series as my inspiration. In fact, I didn’t become aware of the series until a few years ago while searching for African based sword and sorcery. I had done these searches before and come up with nothing. Suddenly there was tons of information on Imaro, the result of the re-publication of the series  by Nightshade. My joy was short-lived; Nightshade ceased publishing the series after two books.

It was then that another fortunate incident occurred. I had recently joined Black Super Hero, a website dedicated to black comic book readers and creators (http://www.blacksuperhero.com/). A young brother going by the moniker Uraeus started a thread about Imaro and announced that he was working with Charles R. Saunders to continue the series. I immediately contacted him, asking him to pass my e-mail onto Charles. And here we are today.

Check out this series  if you haven’t. Charles is one of the best sword and sorcery authors out there today. Imaro is a stand out character with a unique story. I hate that I didn’t read the first novels when they were originally published. I would have been inspired long ago. Or maybe I would have been humbled beyond measure and decided to do something else. Like become a chemist.

You can purchase Imaro IV here: (http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/imaro-the-naama-war/6196467)

Happy New Year!

Well, here we are, a new year and a new post. Last year ended with a bang, at least from an exposure standpoint. Charles R. Saunders was kind enough to update his review of Meji and post in on Black Gate (http://www.blackgate.com/index.php?s=my+sword+and+soul+brother). This resulted in an additional blog by Deuce Richardson on The Cimmerian (http://www.thecimmerian.com/?p=7718#more-7718) which resulted in some kind responses and our first international sale. My friend Scott Seydel hosted a book party for me, a wonderful affair attended by family, friends and fans. To top it all, Meji recieved a 5 star review on The Urban Book Source (http://www.theurbanbooksource.com/reviews/meji.php). Yep, 2009 ended on a high note.

So what’s in store for 2010? As you can see I’ve changed the blog format. Let me know what you think. I also plan to have both Meji books available on Amazon and B&N online by spring.  And stay tuned for our third release, Changa’s Safari. I’ll blog on this  later. Last but not least I promise to blog more.  Sword and Soul is getting active this year. Keep an eye out.