June
4
2013

Convention Distribution: A Cooperative Concept

Books for sale!

Every now and then (well actually a lot more than that) I occupy my mind with thoughts on how to sell my books. Over the years I’ve seen a steady growth in sales, but anyone in business will tell you that a business must grow or die, and growth has to be planned. Recently after a very successful convention I began thinking about how to duplicate my success. I always do well at conventions, never selling less than 20 books. I often think about attending conventions in other cities, but the cost of travel, hotels and other costs would quickly take any profit I would realize.  Conventions also provide another opportunity. They put you right in the middle of your target audience, in some cases thousands of people looking for exactly what you’re selling.  If that doesn’t increase your chances to make money nothing will.

And that’s how I came up with the convention distribution concept. What if I offered my books to other writers to sell from their tables in other cities? My personal experience tells me my books would sell well. If I could offer the books at a low enough price, the writer could purchase the books from me then sell them at a profit. For the writer its an opportunity to benefit from the popularity of another author’s books and increase his/her revenue stream. For me its an opportunity to sell my books in a market where travelling  personally would be profit prohibitive. If done correctly, I could develop a national distribution network targeted specifically at my desired market. Eureka!

So the next step was to flesh out the details of this concept. The process would have to be straightforward and simple. It would have to be such that both parties would share minimal risk. Most of all it would have to be profitable. So this is what I came up with:

1). Offer the books at a low mark up, a certain percentage off list price similar to a brick and mortar bookstore deal.

2). Offer low minimums, made possible through print on demand (POD).

3). Books would be purchased upfront, no returns. This would be favorable to the buyer because of low minimums and favorable to the seller who wouldn’t have to be concerned about returns.

4). The seller could also provide promotional material to help promote books, lessening the effect of the writer not being present to hawk his/her books.

When I first developed this concept I was mainly concerned about selling my books to others. Then I realized that this was a deal I would be interested in, especially if it gave me the opportunity to sell books by writers I admired. I could supplement my novel sales with comic books related to Sword and Soul and Steamfunk. This would draw more attention to my table and increase my opportunity to make a sale.

Now I’m sure that at this point I don’t have all the kinks worked out. For this to be worthwhile you have to be a person that is a confident salesperson and a person that does a number of cons a year. You also have to have the money to invest in buying books, but another alternative would be to make a swap with another writer.  But all in all I think this would be a great way to expand exposure of a writer’s books and answer the distribution issue we independent writers struggle with. But what makes this program golden is that your books are being sold directly to your target audience.  That in itself makes it worth a shot.

So I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Don’t be surprised if you receive an e-mail from me asking to purchase a few copies of your novel or comic books. Over the next year I plan on proving to myself if Convention distribution is a sound concept. I hope I prove it worthwhile to you as well.

May
19
2013

Rite of Passage: More than just a movie

Dorothy and Harriet square off

For me, the path that led to the Rite of Passage movie project began about the same time I decided to self publish.  When I thought about what type of books I wanted to write, alternate history was near the top of the list. It irked me that every imagined scenario by current writers had Africans as slaves, with the notable exception of Steve Barnes Lion’s Blood and Zulu Heart (yay Steve!).  I also wondered why there were no books based on African American heroes, or books that made a link between Africa and America fantastic fiction. Let me rephrase that to book that I knew of, because if the last five years have taught me anything, it’s that whatever I’m thinking of someone has either done it or is in the process of doing it.

Now while I jumped into Sword and Soul with both feet, I hesitated with historical fiction. I had some concerns about how my stories would be interpreted so I set it on the back burner. But the ideas kept pestering me as ideas do until I decided to write a short story to test the waters.

And that’s how the story Rite of Passage came to be. The original version had a male main character, but the story was essentially the same. The ball for the film began rolling when Balogun Ojedate read the story. Up to that point Balogun and I had only discussed Sword and Soul, but when he read Rite of Passage I learned Balogun’s true muse. He is an admirer or Harriet Tubman and was working on the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. He made the brilliant suggestion to make the main character a woman and he expanded on the premise to include not only Dorothy but other gifted folks with different mentors, all with the same purpose; to protect those from the Motherland.

Balogun then revealed another aspect of his talented persona, his love of film and his directorial and fight choreography skills.  He suggested, no insisted we develop Rite of Passage into a film project. I was skeptical; I always wanted to see my works developed into film but I saw this as something happening well down the road. But I came around. We decided to do a short film; Rite of Passage: Initiation as a way to raise money for the film. Balogun gathered his talented friends and with the addition of my son on one of the cameras and my daughter snapping stills we made our short film. Our first attempt at raising funds didn’t go well, but we continued to press on. We were determined to make Rite of Passage a movie.

Rite of Passage Poster by Norma Easter

Then fortune smiled on us. Toward the end of last year we contacted Lisa Yasek, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology (whew!) about doing a State of Black Science Fiction presentation for February 2013. We did a State of Black Science Fiction presentation at Georgia Tech in February 2012 that was well received, so Lisa was more that happy to oblige. We decided we would do a Black Science Fiction Film Festival and include Rite of Passage with other excellent black speculative fiction shorts. The event was a success; all the creators of the film appeared resulting in a lively discussion with the over 100 attendees. Flush from that success, Balogun asked Lisa if she knew any students interested in working with us on the film. She did us one better; she told us that Georgia Tech would help us create this film.

I think you can see why I feel Rite of Passage is more than just a movie. It’s a dream destined to come true. It’s an opportunity to create something unique to our history and imagination. It’s a chance for us to make something the way we feel it should be done. This is not a multi-million dollar project. We have the support of Georgia Tech, but we still need to raise funds for costumes, on site shoots and other costs.  There are some that would rather wait until Hollywood finally gets around to making a movie like this, that way it will be done ‘right.’ To that I say, Hollywood had to start somewhere. And I’m damn tired of waiting.

So I hope you join us on this journey. With your help this will be the first of a series of Rite of Passages films. There are many more stories to tell, but they depend on the completion and execution of the first. I’m ready to do this. I hope you are too.

Here’s the link to the Rite of Passage website: http://www.riteofpassagethemovie.com/.  You’ll find a link to our Indiegogo fundraiser there as well.

April
28
2013

Sword and Soul Graphic Novels: An Update

Last year (I think) I blogged about Sword and Soul graphic novels. At the time I knew of one that was available and two potential projects. Well, this year I’m happy announce that serious progress has been made! At the writing of this blog there are three Sword and Soul graphic novel projects available to you and at least one that will hopefully be available soon. So let’s talk about it!

The Blood Seekers by Milton Davis and Kristopher Mosby

The first graphic novel is the complete version of The Blood Seekers by yours truly and Kristopher Mosby. The Blood Seekers is the result of a spontaneous collaboration between Kris and I born from a mutual love and respect of each other’s talents. Kris began sending me illustrations based on my stories and I in turned sent him stories based on his illustrations. In 2011 Kris completed the first half of The Blood Seekers, debuting it at Onyx Con 3. This year Kris completed the second part of the story then combined both into one graphic novel. The result is a visual treat. The Blood Seekers tells the story of Shange, a fallen spirit, and Mijoga, her early lover now a lion companion.  Part one of The Blood Seekers is still available on Indy Planet (http://indyplanet.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5956)

Part Two will be available soon not only on Indy Planet but at MVmedia as well.

Chronicles of Piye by Chris Miller and Richard Gaskin

The next book, or series of books, on the list in The Chronicles of Piye by Chris Miller and Richard Gaskin. This book was actually on my radar since my first post. Chris and I are internet friends and he informed me then that he was working on this project. I glad to say that he completed it with flying colors. The Chronicles of Piye is a four book set that takes place in ancient Kerma/Nubia. Richard and Chris tell an exciting story with the colors and action to match. I could easily see this animated, probably because Chris is also an animator and it shows in his still art. All four issues of the Chronicles of Piye are available at Chris’s site,http://www.chroniclesofpiye.com/, as well as Amazon and other online book stores.

Dusu by Christopher Garner and Sebastian A. Jones

The third and most recent of the Sword and Soul graphic novels is Dusu by Christopher Garner and Sebastian A. Jones. Dusu is a human abandoned at birth then adopted by a group of elves, creatures of the woodlands like you’ve never seen them. Dusu’s discovery coincides with destiny, a destiny that Christopher and Sebastian plan to reveal in future issues.  The story is a good one, but what makes Dusu stand out in my eyes is the fantastic artwork. Every page is like an oil painting. Like I said in my Amazon review, it’s a if Frazetta decided to make a graphic novel. I’m no ’stranger’ to Stranger Comics, but this title got me paying closer attention to their work. And to top it off, the first issue is free! So go by Stranger Comics (http://www.strangercomics.com/dusu-1/) and get this one. It’s worth the effort. Dusu is also available on iTunes and Amazon.

So these are my recommendations. There’s one more graphic novel that’s in the works. It’s not available as a book, but you can check out the story at Wagadu.  Entitled Kamau: Quest for the Son, Keville Bowen has created a Carribean/Maori fantasy adventure that will have you waiting for the next page  )http://wagadu.ning.com/photo/album/show?id=5480338%3AAlbum%3A41393&xg_source=activity). I don’t know about you, but to me the future of Sword and Soul graphic novels is looking very bright. Somebody hand me my shades.

March
31
2013

Sword and Soul Calibur

Back in the day, I played lots of video games. That was before you had to press all the buttons to play a video game. Of all the games I played the one I enjoyed the most was Soul Calibur. I didn’t discover the game until Soul Calibur 3, but it was such a treat. I think one of the reasons I liked it so much was because I played with my son during his formative years, from single to double digits. The day he was finally able to beat me at it was kind of like a video game rite of passage, the father handing the controller to the son.

Anyway, ever since I began writing Sword and Soul I imagined my characters in Soul Calibur. This was before Zasalamel, the Sword and Soul token. He’s a great character, but it’s like the game creators said, ‘okay, we got our black guy, now let’s move on.’ And don’t even think about sisters being represented. That is a situation that rarely ever occurs. So in honor of Sword and Soul, I present to you Sword and Soul Calibur!

My first choice for Sword and Soul Calibur is Imaro. He would be the man to beat, the Sword and Soul version of Mitsurugi. Being the first Sword and Soul hero, he and his creator, Charles R. Saunders, deserve top billing.  I have no idea what his array of weapons would be, but I’m sure he’d be the top dog.

My next selection would Doussoye. Another Charles Saunders creation, Dossouye deserves first billing because like Imaro, she is the first Sword and Soul woman. Charles has a way with firsts, and he does it well. I’d have to find a way to work Gbo, her war bull into the game. That would be extra cool!

Ndoro by Mshindo Kumba I

My next choices are selfish, because  they’re mine. :-) My first character would be Ndoro. He’s the consummate Sesu warrior and empire builder, prefect for a sword and soul game. Of course his main weapon would be the shield and spear which he would wield with deadly efficiency. I wouldn’t include his twin brother Obaseki. Even though the master of Moyo is a skilled fighter in his own right, Ndoro is the man to beat.

Changa Diop

My next selection? None other than Changa Diop. Now here’s a brother that would present a perfect balance of strength and skill. Add to that his skill with the throwing knife and you have a man hard to beat. His available weapons would be diverse because of his worldly travels, so it would be a surprise what you might face with Changa. In addition there’s Kintu’s Gift, the mysterious celestial power boost that kicks my man to the next level.

Now we can’t let Dossouye represent the ladies all by herself, can we? So here comes Sadatina, the young Shosa warrior with her companions, Nokofa and Pausa. You dont’ know of her? Well, you will in the upcoming novel, Woman of the Woods. Sadatina is skilled with sword, bow, lance and the muder, a big piece of curved iron with an edge. It’s kind of a throwing knife that’s big enough to wield with both hands. And then there’s Judgment, the demon slayer. With all that and two lions, she’s not the person you’d want to meet.

You see where I’m going with this. Over the past five years there have been enough Sword and Soul characters introduced to easily fill a pantheon of competitors. And what would the storyline be? Something actually based on Ki-Khanga, if not the actual plot line of Ki-Khanga itself.

So my dream of Sword and Soul Calibur is ready to be realized. What character would you choose to round out the list. Be careful! Your wish might just come true.

March
8
2013

Steamfunk, Alternate History and a country called Freedonia

Rough Draft Freedonia Map

I’m a history nut from way back. As a matter of fact, until I was in high school all my extra-curriculum reading was history. From dinosaurs, to World War II to eventually African history I was and I still am fascinated about things that were. I’m not dazzled by dates and names, but by the personalities, customs and cultures of the past.

Despite my love of history, I haven’t been much of a fan of alternate history. I’ve read a few novels and been slightly interested, but my question has always been, ‘where we at?’ It seems that all the authors that write alternate history, at least the ones I’ve read, either completely ignore people of color or as far as they are concerned people of African descent always end up being slaves. The only difference is the duration of internment.

So imagine my shock when I discovered Lion’s Blood by Steve Barnes(http://www.amazon.com/Lions-Blood-Steven-Barnes/dp/0446612219/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362745817&sr=8-1&keywords=lion%27s+blood+steve++barnes) . Here was an intelligent and fascinating alternate history where Africans settled North America and those who became slaves were of Irish descent. It was not a wish fulfillment book, but a thoughtful analysis is the condition of slavery and the affects on both master and slave.

From Here to Timbuktu. Art by Stanley Weaver

When I first laid the groundwork for MVmedia one of my ideas was an alternate history based on the question, ‘What if the Haitian Revolution spread to the southeastern United States? What if, with the help from Haitian soldiers, it succeeded? And what if the new country of Haiti claimed French territory as its own? The result of such musing is the map displayed here and the country of Freedonia,  a country that serves as the background of my Steamfunk! story ‘The Delivery,’ my serial adventure ‘From Here to Timbuktu’ and the upcoming novel ‘Unrequited.’ Freedonia is a country where in the 1870’s Fredrick Douglass is president, Harriet Tubman is Vice President, George Washington Carver is the scientific genius behind Freedonia’s prosperity and W.E.B. DuBois is an industrialist rivaling Getty and Rockefeller.

So this is where I’ll be hanging out for a while. I hope you like where my steamfunk is coming from. Pull up a rocking chair, have some sweet tea, and let me tell you a story.

Here’s a list of some of my fellow steamfunkateers. We’re celebrating Steamfunk! so check out their blogs, too.

Ray Dean – Growing up in Hawaii, Ray Dean had the opportunity to enjoy nearly every culture under the sun. The Steamfunk Anthology was an inspiration she couldn’t pass up. Ray can be reached at http://www.raydean.net/.
Malon Edwards – Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Malon Edwards now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Much of his speculative fiction features people of color and is set in his hometown. Malon can be reached ateastofmars.blogspot.com.
Valjeanne Jeffers – Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, The Switch II: Clockwork and Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds Visit her at http://www.facebook.com/l/GAQHync5dAQELhG-ZYioznHu4XdpmGVjPHLVMOi5sqNSNbg/valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://www.facebook.com/l/oAQGmdGxgAQEg4FxO57Ot1Tb-0vW-XEdGEjPA4IMSKsJxmQ/www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Rebecca M. Kyle – With a birthday on Friday 13, it’s only natural that the author is fascinated with myths, legends, and oddities of all kinds. Ms. Kyle lives with her husband, four cats, and more rocks and books than she cares to count between the Smokies and Cumberland mountains. Visit her at http://bexboox13.blogspot.com/.
Carole McDonnell – is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson; Jigsaw Nation; and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear in print and at various online sites. Her novels are the Christian speculative fiction, Wind Follower, and The Constant Tower. Her Bible study is called: Seeds of Bible Study.   Her website is http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/.
Balogun Ojetade – Author of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steamfunk); “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” (Sword and Soul); “Redeemer” (Urban Fantasy) and the film, “A Single Link” and “Rite of Passage”. Finally, he is Co-Author of “Ki-Khanga: The Anthology” and Co-Editor of “Steamfunk!” Visit him:http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.
Hannibal Tabu – is a writer, a storyteller, and by god, a fan. He has written the novels, “The Crown: Ascenscion” and “Faraway” and the upcoming scifi political thriller “Rogue Nation”. He is currently the co-owner and editor-in-chief of Black geek website Komplicated at the Good Men Project, and uses his Operative Network website (www.operative.net) to publish his poetry, market what he’s doing, rant at the world and emit strangled cries for help.
Geoffrey Thorne – Geoffrey Thorne has written a lot of stuff in a lot of venues and will be writing more in more. It’s his distinct pleasure to take part in another of these groundbreaking anthologies. Thanks for letting me roll with you folks. For more (and God knows why you’d want more) check out http://www.geoffreythorne.com/.

March
2
2013

Why I’m a Steamfunkateer

Steamfunk! by Marcellus Jackson

I wasn’t always a Steamfunkateer. About a year ago I was just a Sword and Soul brother writing and publishing my stories for the world to read. For years I’d plotted to do just that and in 2008 I jumped into the fray. It was my plan to start with stories in the Motherland then expand to the Diaspora to include stories in other parts of the world. Yes, I was familiar with Steampunk. I admired it from a distance, more interested in the costumes than the philosophy and culture supporting it. I perused a collection of Steampunk stories my daughter owned and I read and enjoyed Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. But still my interest was casual.

It was Balogun Ojetade who pushed me over the edge into the Steamfunk. Balogun and I met when I was doing research on African martial arts to include in my Sword and Soul stories. Little did I know that he was also a talented writer, director and blogger. After quickly becoming a part of the Sword and Soul movement, Balogun revealed his true passion to me; Steampunk. In a discussion about a alternate history idea I was working on he showed me how steampunk could be incorporated into the concept. Not long afterwards we found ourselves in a discussion with other writers about steampunk and the lack of black representation in the literary aspect of the genre.  Since I’m the kind of person that stresses solutions I said let’s do it. Let’s make an anthology of stories that do just that. Maurice Broaddus, another talented writer who’d previously published a steampunk story titled. ‘Pimp my Airship,’ said he call what he wrote Steamfunk. At that point I was hooked.  Balogun ‘aggressively’ volunteered to be co-editor and we were on our way.

Steamfunk! cover. Artwork by Marcellus Jackson

So here we are a year later. The Steamfunk! anthology is a reality, the first anthology dedicated to steampunk from our perspective. Don’t be fooled by the title. For those of you expecting pimps in steam-powered Cadillacs and drug pushers cruising the hood in tricked out airships you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This isn’t Blaxploitation in top hats and corsets. This is a collection of exciting and thought provoking stories that incorporate people of African and African American descent and our history into a genre where our voice was almost silent. The stories cover the range of what steampunk is and will be. I’m proud to be the publisher of this anthology, proud of the stories it contains, but most of all I’m proud of the writers that shared their excellent and unique visions.  I’m a Steamfunkateer. Once you finish reading Steamfunk!, you will be, too.

Here’s a list of some of my fellow steamfunkateers. We’re celebrating Steamfunk! so check out their blogs, too.

Bootsy Collins - The original steamfunkateer

Ray Dean – Growing up in Hawaii, Ray Dean had the opportunity to enjoy nearly every culture under the sun. The Steamfunk Anthology was an inspiration she couldn’t pass up. Ray can be reached at http://www.raydean.net/.
Malon Edwards – Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Malon Edwards now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Much of his speculative fiction features people of color and is set in his hometown. Malon can be reached ateastofmars.blogspot.com.
Valjeanne Jeffers – Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, The Switch II: Clockwork and Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds Visit her at http://www.facebook.com/l/GAQHync5dAQELhG-ZYioznHu4XdpmGVjPHLVMOi5sqNSNbg/valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://www.facebook.com/l/oAQGmdGxgAQEg4FxO57Ot1Tb-0vW-XEdGEjPA4IMSKsJxmQ/www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Rebecca M. Kyle – With a birthday on Friday 13, it’s only natural that the author is fascinated with myths, legends, and oddities of all kinds. Ms. Kyle lives with her husband, four cats, and more rocks and books than she cares to count between the Smokies and Cumberland mountains. Visit her at http://bexboox13.blogspot.com/.
Carole McDonnell – is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson; Jigsaw Nation; and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear in print and at various online sites. Her novels are the Christian speculative fiction, Wind Follower, and The Constant Tower. Her Bible study is called: Seeds of Bible Study.   Her website is http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/.
Balogun Ojetade – Author of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steamfunk); “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” (Sword and Soul); “Redeemer” (Urban Fantasy) and the film, “A Single Link” and “Rite of Passage”. Finally, he is Co-Author of “Ki-Khanga: The Anthology” and Co-Editor of “Steamfunk!” Visit him:http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.
Hannibal Tabu – is a writer, a storyteller, and by god, a fan. He has written the novels, “The Crown: Ascenscion” and “Faraway” and the upcoming scifi political thriller “Rogue Nation”. He is currently the co-owner and editor-in-chief of Black geek website Komplicated at the Good Men Project, and uses his Operative Network website (www.operative.net) to publish his poetry, market what he’s doing, rant at the world and emit strangled cries for help.
Geoffrey Thorne – Geoffrey Thorne has written a lot of stuff in a lot of venues and will be writing more in more. It’s his distinct pleasure to take part in another of these groundbreaking anthologies. Thanks for letting me roll with you folks. For more (and God knows why you’d want more) check out http://www.geoffreythorne.com/.

December
31
2012

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

December
14
2012

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!

December
11
2012

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.

December
3
2012

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