The Chronicles of Piye by Richard Gaskin and Chris Miller

Chronicles of Piye by Gaskin and Miller

Ever since Chris ‘Crazyhouse’ Miller shared with me that he was working on a Sword and Soul graphic novel I’ve been anxiously awaiting its arrival. Now I can finally say it’s here. The Chronicles of Piye: Inheritance is the first issue of a new Sword and Soul graphic novel by Chris Miller and Richard E. Gaskin. It tells the story of  Piye, a young warrior in training who has been plagued by the same dream that depicts the defeat of Shabaka, his older brother, by the evil warrior Toksa. Piye learns from his mother and father that the dream is part of a prophecy that he must fulfill. And that’s all I’m telling.

What I will say is that I love the way Chris depicts Piye’s homeland of Kerma. The story is set in the timeline of ancient Kemet, more specifically in the land known as Nubia or Kush, depending on your sources or preference. The look of the book is lush and vibrant, and I love how Chris uses colors to enhance and emphasize settings and emotions. This is obviously a project that is near and dear to him and it comes through in the powerful and prideful way he illustrates his characters and interprets Richard’s prose.  My only complaint it that it’s too short.  But I understand; drawing a graphic novel is a time consuming process, especially when you’re producing something as vivid and and well crafted as Chronicles of Piye. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next issue.

Chronicles of Piye

Chris was kind enough to share images of his characters as he developed this story, which fueled my anticipation of its release. The detail and dedication was apparent from day one. The result is a great book worth following.

The more time I spend with Sword and Soul the more impressed I am with creators like Chris and Richard who are adapting our history and stories into books like this. I highly recommend you pick up your copy and join this journey from the beginning. I myself am anxious to see where it leads.

You can get you copy of Chronicles of Piye here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/richard-gaskin-and-chris-miller/the-chronicles-of-piye-chapter-1-inheritance/ebook/product-20595773.html

Hasani Claxton, Sword and Soul Artist

Knights of the Savanna by Hasani Claxton

Hasani Claxton was raised on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. He always loved art, but had never met a successful, professional artist when he was growing up. He studied Business at Morehouse College (1999) and Law at Columbia University (2003). While he was serving as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx, he began taking evening classes at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and in 2005 decided to pursue his passion full time, enrolling in Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in 2009 and later that year attended the Illustration Master Class at Amherst College. He currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland.

Broken by Hasani Claxton

It’s rare that I designate an artist a Sword and Soul artist unless I’ve work them him or her, but Hasani’s work in not new to me. A few months ago the painting above, ‘Knights of the Savanna’ on a Black Arts website. I was immediately excited. It was the first time I’d seen a recent painting of the yan lifida, the quilted armored cavalry of the Sokoto Caliphate. I immediately searched for him but unfortunately his first name was misspelled and I came up with nothing. A month ago a Facebook friend posted one of his famous fairy paintings and this time his name was spelled correctly. I  went to his site (http://www.hasaniclaxton.com/) and was immediately captivated. It was like finding a long lost Sword and Soul brother. Here is an artist where the Sword and Soul spirit came naturally, where the frustration of finding Sword and Sorcery images that reflected our heritage spurred him to create them himself.

In his own words:

“As a child I was fascinated by tales of sword and sorcery such as King Arthur and Lord of the Rings. It was not until adulthood that I noticed that within the fantasy genre African people were either left out entirely or portrayed as grotesque stereotypes: the voodoo witchdoctor, or savage warrior with a bone in his nose. My art remedies this, drawing upon the majesty of African history and mythology to tell the forgotten stories of medieval Africa and create new fantasy worlds.”

A Well Earned Rest by Hasani Claxton

I was so impressed by his work that I immediately commissioned him for an illustration in the upcoming Griots Sisters of the Spear anthology. I have also selected him as the cover and interior artist for Changa’s Safari Volume Three. It’s rare to work with an artist that already carries the sensibilities of the Sword and Soul subject matter and it’s great to have another example of Sword and Soul expression. You can also check Hasani out at

www.facebook.com/hasaniclaxtonart

Sword and Soul Forever!

The Cool Factor

A few days ago a Facebook friend posted a link to a blog where the blogger took Disney to task for the lack of people of color in ‘Brave.’ They presented the argument that there were people of color in Scotland during this period and they should have been recognized in the film. The blog made me think back on other posts where the writers listed numerous examples of people of color throughout Europe during the medieval period and other points in European history. All these claims were posted to justify the inclusion of people of color in historical fiction and fantasy, effectively challenging those who believe that such representation is not historically accurate.

But then I leaned back in my chair and asked myself the question, ‘What’s really going on here?’ Why do people like me, people of African descent, fight so hard to show our footprint in Europe and around the world when we have an entire continent where our presence  goes without saying? There is a clear, legitimate argument as to why, but there’s also a shallow, superficial answer to the question as well; because it’s so cool.

Most of us learned history through fiction first. We watched cartoons and movies of Robin Hood, King Arthur, of noble knights and beautiful ladies, of glamorous castles surrounded by green fields and happy peasants. We wanted to ride to battle in shining armor, rescue damsels in distress or be rescued by handsome knights. When fantasy and sword and sorcery came into vogue we were swept away by the myriad of artistic images, especially those by Frank Frazzetta and Boris Vallejo. This was cool!  We wanted to be these folks.

When I look back to African based images that stuck in my mind growing up two images come to mind; Shaka Zulu and Kunta Kinte. The Zulus come the closest in my mind of African coolness. These were the people who defeated the British at Isandlwana. Hundreds of books have been written about them. The Zulus were considered so cool that when Oprah was on Dr. Gates show that traced genetic roots she said she thought she might be descended from the Zulu (sorry Oprah!).

And then there was Kunta Kinte. The story of Roots is a powerful narrative, a story that reflects the struggle of African Americans in this country. It was moving and thought provoking but not cool. I did not want to be Kunta Kinte.

In the early ’70s we were introduced to Japanese cool. We were inundated with anime, overwhelmed with images from the culture and we fell hard. We wanted to be samuri and ninjas because it was cool to cut someone in half with a katana, to uphold the bushido code or to climb vertical walls and disappear at will into a cloud of chalk dust.

So this superficial blog is about close. When I sit down to write Sword and Soul, I write the stories I love to read. I try to write the best story I can. I try to develop interesting characters then put them in challenging and exciting situations.  But I know that if I expect people to embrace Sword and Soul, I have to make it cool.  How will I know I’ve succeeded? When I go to a fantasy convention and see a cosplayer dressed like that man above.

Back to work.

Redeemer by Balogun Ojetade

Ezekial Cross is a cold blooded killer. He works for ‘Sweet’ Danny Sweet, owner of Sweet South Records, the second wealthiest music label in the country. For most of his life Ezekial has been a killer, trained from a young age to enforce the whims of his boss. But Ezekial is tired. He longs for the day that he can hang up his guns and live a normal life with his wife Mali. But the life of a killer is never his own. Ezekial is called to do another hit, but instead of closing the deal he finds himself the target of a different kind of hit. He’s sent back into time and finds himself in a situation that could change his life forever…or end it.

Redeemer is the latest novel by Balogun Ojetade, author of the Steamfunk novel Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, the Sword and Soul novel Once Upon a Time in Afrika, and my Sword and Soul brother. I had the privilege to read Redeemer earlier this year in manuscript form and was immediately blown away. The book is filled with action, drama and humor as only Balogun can write, but with Redeemer he takes his penchant of mashing genres to another level. For months I’ve read different manuscripts attempting to mesh urban fiction and science fiction in an attempt to capture a piece of the urban fiction market. None of those I perused had of a  much chance of success in my opinion. The authors either kept too much urban or too much science fiction or too little of both. After reading the last page of Redeemer I smiled and said to myself, ‘this is it right here.’ A story with a touch of science fiction,  a dose of urban fiction and a wallop of great action and great character development.  If there was any book that would combine the two genres, Redeemer is it.

Now I know a few of you are saying, ‘doesn’t this plot remind me you of Poser? Well, let me clear that up as well. Balogun first shared Redeemer to me as a script almost two years ago. Unfortunately for me I didn’t read it. He passed it along to me again as a novel later and the rest is history. Even if you persist in that thought mode, I urge you to put those thoughts aside and read this book. It takes a different journey, one that is as much heartfelt as it is action packed. And it comes with an ending that will make you smile.

Now that’s all I can reveal without spoiling all the fun. I give Redeemer 5 out of 5 stars. Balogun once again shows his skills as a writer that can take different genres and make them something fresh and new. You can purchase Redeemer here. You won’t be disappointed.

http://www.amazon.com/Redeemer-ebook/dp/B00AFND9HS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354613398&sr=8-1&keywords=redeemer+balogun

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/redeemer-balogun-ojetade/1113869522?ean=2940015793833