Many years ago there was a series of books for young people called ‘you are the hero’ books. In these books the reader had the option of deciding what the hero would do. The decision would determine the outcome of the book. After a series of choices the reader could eventually come to the best ending by making the right choices.
I never read books like this growing up, but I know quite of few friends who did. Last year Balogun Ojetade changed that for me. The Keys is a unique and exciting ‘You Are the Hero’ novel by Balogun and it’s well worth the read.
The premise behind The Keys is vintage Ojetade, a mash up of history and culture that sets the stage. Hundreds of years ago the world was connected by teleporters in the form of pyramids. Ancient folks used these portals to travel and share commerce and culture. Unfortunately the pyramids had to be shut down to prevent the domination of nefarious people led by Henry the Navigator. Yes, you read that right: Henry the Navigator. The only way the pyramids can be reactivated is by descendants of the Oyo and Aztec empire, people possessing the special qualities to be the ‘Keys.’
This is where you, the reader, enter the picture. You choose between two main characters, one young woman, one young man, each with special talents and abilities. After you choose your character you read along, making choices along the way that determine the outcome of the story. Now I kinda cheated a little. Because Balogun and I are friends I basically knew how the story would evolve. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying this wonderful book. I made the wrong choices deliberately to see what the outcome would be. And even though I knew how the story should flow I still manage to end up in some unexpected situations.
The Keys is written for a Young Adult audience (13 years and older) but its a great read for adults as well. The added bonus is the cover and interior illustration by Chris Miller which add flavor to a satisfying read. It makes a great present for the young reader in your life.
You can purchase The Keys at Balogun’s personal website, Roaring Lions productions (https://www.roaringlionsproductions.com/) as well as Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Keys-YOU-Are-Hero-Book/dp/0991407318/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417882335&sr=8-1&keywords=the+keys+balogun+ojetade)
By now you know the purpose and focus of my writing is to develop stories based on African and African American culture, history and traditions. So imagine my excitement when I came across Kiro’o Games, a company based in Cameroon with the same focus. A few weeks ago I reached out the Kiro Games and asked if they would be interested in an interview about their company. They said yes, so here it is.
First off, thank you all for allowing us to interview you. Tell us briefly about Kiro’o Games.
Thank you. We are the ones to thank you for the attention you grant us.
Kiro’o Games is the very first professional video game studio of Central Africa. It is based in Cameroon (Yaounde). It is operational since December 2013 and is currently in the middle of the development of the first African game to target the international market; the game Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.
What is your mission statement?
Our ambition is to create an internal awakening among gamers around the world through the spiritual vision we vehicle in this game, hence our slogan “Gamer-Spirit-Design”. This vision is deeply based on our cultural legacy that is still highly under exploited in the video game industry.
In addition to this, we intend to propose a new entertaining genre: the Kiro’o Tales. Literally translated as “The Stories of Kiro’o”, Kiro’o Tales is a new way of creating video games by tapping from our culture’s artistic, sound and visual potential. Therefore, based on Kiro’o Tales, we intend to:
- Create fantastic worlds by drawing inspiration from myths, traditions, practices, customs, tales, legends etc. from Africa;
- Make African games international by introducing a strong existential and universal value to our themes;
- Favor more than ever, the unity of the world by drawing inspiration from the cohesion values that are present in the best of our traditions (respecting the other, high family values, natural resources, etc.).
Why did you decide to develop games?
The first reason is that it was to achieve a childhood dream; MADIBA Olivier’s childhood dream since the age of 14 when he just finished playing the 7th part of Final Fantasy for the 6th time. In actual fact, after completing this game, he started imagining the follow up and thinking of what the gameplay would look like if a few elements of the African culture were introduced. That’s where he got the idea. But it remained a mere idea because at the time, Olivier envisaged to pursue a carrier in video games abroad. It is therefore after obtaining his BA in Computer Science and after his various studies in the sector that he discovered that being a developer in Cameroon also had many advantages (especially the value of the FCFA, the availability of work force, etc.). Now that the environment was favorable, we decided to embark into it in 2013. Another motivation was to make the most of our raw material, the African culture to create games destined for an international audience. And we are gradually achieving that goal.
What games/game builders are your inspirations?
We have been inspired by many games. But those that enabled us to get to this level (without advertising them) are the Final Fantasy Saga. As mentioned above, it is the game that birthed the idea of becoming a creator in MADIBA Olivier. We also have Tales of Destiny that served as base for our Gameplay. At our level, we intend to bring much more creativity, dynamism and innovation.
Concerning developers, we were greatly impressed by Mr. SHIGERU, creator of Mario Bros. We actually have one of his sayings to accompany use every day: “A good game is first of all … a good Gameplay”. We vividly expect that our game Aurion will live up to this citation.
As you know, I write what I describe as Sword and Soul. Do you have a particular name for what you do?
Wow!!! This is a good one (smiles)! As said earlier, we are placing the milestones of a new entertaining genre: the Kiro’o Tales. Our desire is that Aurion might succeed; this will enable Kiro’o Tales to grow in notoriety and stand out as a reference.
What history/culture are your games based on?
The game Aurion draws its essence from the African culture in general. Africa is a continent of great wealth at the level of its peoples and tribes as well as its landscape (fauna, flora, etc.). Our goal is not to represent all the African cultures in the game but to tap from most of them. Therefore some of our cultural references we can cite include the Adrinkas (Ghana); we based ourselves on some aspects of their culture to design tribal logos in the game. As concerns characters, there are many: the Peuhls, Massai (Enzo’s tunic that some compare to a Japanese dress is indeed a dress that the Massai people put on, we just made some adjustments on it), the Sawa, the Choa-Arabs (in Tchad, Niger, Soudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, etc.). As for habitations, we were inspired by constructions from the Yoruba (Nigeria), Sao (Cameroon, Tchad, Nigeria), Bambara (Mali), Massai (Kenya, Tanzania), Fang (Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea…).
We hope that as the development of the saga progresses, we will also continue to draw from more cultures.
What is your market focus?
We target all the Core Gamers in the world with an inclination for those who love role and action games designed for PCs and consoles. However, we would have loved this version of the game to be available on XBOX 360, but it might probably before the coming versions of the game. We seize this opportunity to apologise to our fans for this quite unpleasant news.
Our desire is that each person who plays Aurion will feel immersed and come out of it edified on the African world and its assets, values and symbols.
Do you plan to make your games available worldwide?
From the inception of the project, we studied axes to market the game on the international scene since that was our target market. We opted to release the game in a de-materialised form that we intend to sell on Steam.
Based on our research, besides Desura, Gog and the others, Steam is already the most important and most opened platform to the whole world. Also, it gives much room to independent developers (like us) to make their games known. We also intend to very soon register on the Greelight program and count on the community of gamers across the world to give Aurion their favourable opinions to enable it to be available on Steam.
As concerns to the local target which is not yet familiar with e-commerce but rather rooted in its old consumer habits, we thought of producing physical media (but in very small quantity). Alongside producers, we are still studying possibilities of producing DVDs and commercialising them.
Tell us about Aurion.
Aurion is a 2D Action-RPG whose ambition is to bring a revolution in the world of 2D games, particularly with much innovation and dynamism at the level of the Gameplay. It is based on the principle of defining ones future by leaning on forces of the past. Considering that in Africa we are very much attached to ancestral worship, we decided to create an energy whose source would be this cultural specificity. This energy is called Aurion.
Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is the story of Enzo Kori-Odan who suffers a coup d’état orchestrated by Ngarba, his brother in-law, on the day of his coronation. He goes round the world with his wife Erine by his side in order to assemble their Aurionic Legacy and confront the existential stakes of their people. You can read the complete presentation of the game here (http://kiroogames.com/en/aurion.html )
What are your plans for the future?
The “immediate” objective of Kiro’o Games is to effectively and concretely create the first video game studio of Central Africa of international standard. But because all this would be pointless if it had to stop at this level, the vision of Kiro’o Games goes way beyond that.
In the long term, the Studio is expected to last for 30 years. We intend to:
– Become editors in order to organise the distribution of games on the continent and improve production.
– Initiate vocational training for gaming particularly in Cameroon and Africa at large;
– Create games for mobile and tablet;
– Create other entertaining and educative media (comics, cartoons and others);
– Revitalize the exploitation of the African culture by entertainment media (games, cartoons, etc.);
– Open new outlets for IT and African artists;
– Transform Central Africa through Cameroon into a precursor in the field of video game;
In conclusion, the Kiro’o Games Studio aims at promoting and developing the video game industry in Africa. We believe that video games can be an important lever for economic development on the continent, enabling us in particular to promote entrepreneurship among young people.
What obstacles have you run into in developing your game?
We have encountered a good number of difficulties in realising this project. To begin with, it was difficult for us to earn the credibility that would enable us to get financing. Most of the Cameroonian companies where we submitted our file thought that it was for the creation of an arcade hall. But thanks to the support from our first shareholders (foreigners in majority), we were able to gain this credibility and today, we can count some Cameroonians in our list of shareholders.
We also suffered some technical problems (electricity outages, poor internet network) often slow us down every now and then in the development of the game. However, we keep on advancing and trying to work as best as we can. The trailer we recently published (http://youtu.be/gb7Z7NVmiZ8 ) can justify progress made that remains visible despite difficulties.
How do I purchase a copy of Aurion?
You will be able to download the game Aurion on Steam if everything goes on as planned. But for Aurion to be available on Team, we must work hand in hand you and us: you bringing all the necessary support for it to be green lighted; and us working hard to supply you with good content that meets your expectation.
Do you think your games will appeal to African Diaspora people throughout the world?
Yes, considering the excitement and return we receive, we believe that the African Diaspora in its entirety is very proud of our work. Some are shareholders of the Studio; this tells of their hearty support for us and their desire to see the game succeed since behind Aurion, the stakes are high for the expansion of the continent. On our part, we will do what is ours not to disappoint them and not to disappoint all the fans who follow us and encourage us daily.
And there you have it. I hope you’re as excited about Kiro Games as I am. I’m following this groundbreaking enterprise so I can be one of the first to get my game. I hope you do the same.
This week has been a proud moment for me. I have the privilege and the honor to release the first book of a new epic fantasy series by Sword and Soul creator and Sword and Sorcery Grandmaster Charles R. Saunders, Abengoni, First Calling. The path to this moment is a story of extraordinary circumstances and a rewarding journey to say the least. I wrote a song about. Like to hear it? Here it go! (not really)
Most of you know how I ‘became’ a writer and publisher. After decades of toying around with the idea and a couple of stabs at it, I finally decided to jump into it as a self publishers nine years ago. I published my first book Meji Book one two years later. While I was putting the finishing touches on the Meji manuscript I came across a book that almost ended my plans of releasing Afrocentric sword and sorcery: Imaro. I was stunned; not only had I found the book I hoped someone would write but this masterpiece was written almost thirty years prior. The author’s name was familiar to me. I’d read Charles’ story ‘Gimmile’s Song in the wonderful Dark Matter anthology but my search for books by him came up short. I found his book at that time because they’d been re-released by Nightshade Books. I devoured both books then eagerly anticipated a third. Unfortunately that was not to be.
This is where the first bit of extraordinary surfaced. While lurking on Blacksuperhero.com a young man and internet friend of mine going by the name Uraeus delivered bad new and good new simultaneously. He announced that Nightshade would no longer publish the Imaro series. Then he announced that he communicated with Charles and that he would continue to publish the books. I immediately reached out to Uraeus then asked if he could get me in contact with Charles. He did. I was nervous when I first contacted him; writers can be fickle, and I knew plenty of people had probably done the same thing. I also intended to ask him to take a look at the Meji manuscript, which I was sure many people had done as well. Things turned out much better than I expected. Charles is a gracious and friendly man. We hit it off immediately. Both of us were inspired by the same sources and motivated to write sword and soul for the same reasons. After chatting for a while I built up the courage to ask Charles to take a look at the Meji manuscript. He agreed, and better yet, he liked it!
Since then Charles and I have collaborated on a number of projects, most noticeably the Griots anthology series. But a few years after we met Charles shared with me another gem. Back in the early ’90s he wrote a new epic, Abengoni. The manuscripts were never published. I immediately asked to read them and wasn’t disappointed. After reading them I asked Charles if I could have the honor of publishing them. He said yes!
It was after I got about the business of publishing Abegoni that the next extraordinary event occurred. I surf Deviantart.com on a regular basis looking for artists to work with. It was during one of those searches that I came across the artwork of Julie Dillon. I was blown away by her style and her depiction of diverse people, most she had done for her own personal portfolio. I was finally convinced that I would seek her out when I saw her amazing cover for the Long Hidden Anthology. I contacted Julie; like Charles she’s a friendly and gracious person. A few months after our initial contact I was ready to publish Abengoni. My timing couldn’t have been better. Julie had just completed her successful Kickstarter for her Imagined Realms book series. And as icing on the cake, two weeks after I commissioned her for Abengoni she received the Hugo Award for Best Fantasy Artist! As you can see, she did an amazing job. Both Charles and I are very pleased.
And that’s my song. Abengoni is the multi-cultural epic fantasy everyone has been asking for. It’s a grand epic that includes diverse cultures from the very beginning, not as an afterthought. It’s a story centered on an African based source, not the typical and overdone European scenario. It’s a book that wouldn’t have been possible without print on demand, e-books and social media. Most of all it’s a great read. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. This is a book that deserves to be in your fantasy collection. It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s finally here. Enjoy.
As always you can purchase Abengoni and my other titles at http://www.mvmediaatl.com/. It’s also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
A few years ago I found myself in a debate with a fellow writer who looked down upon independent/self publishing. Being a self publisher myself I took offense. During the exchange the writer contacted me through my personal e-mail, stating that he didn’t have a problem with my writing specifically, but independent publishing in general. He didn’t understand why I was taking this all personally, and then advised me to distance myself from other independent writers.
At the time I was angered by the writer’s comments and suggestions. At this point in writing career I’m amused. Seven years ago when I began self publishing it was still considered abad thing. Nowadays most authors embrace it and even many publishers have backed off a bit in condemning the practice. The truth is independent publishing is here to stay.
Independent publishing has freed writers from the constraints of mainstream publishers and allowed us to truly express ourselves. It has given writers more options to share their work than ever before and allowed established mainstream published writers to share their older out of print works with new and old fans. But the reason I still support independent publishing is because that’s where my reading interest lies. Before I began writing, I had given up on reading speculative fiction. The homogenization of the scifi/fantasy market Asimov warned us of when big publishers began to acquire the smaller publishers came to pass. Most of what I saw on the shelves seemed like variations on a theme. Most of all, I wanted to see stories that included black men and women as heroes and they were few and far between. So I reverted to my first love, reading history.
However, after I began self publishing I discovered a slew of writers with the same mindset. I read their books, and they were good. Many of them were very good. It’s like listening to a musician on a prominent record label then going to a local club and hearing a musician just as good. It doesn’t matter where the music, or in this case the writing, comes from as long as it’s good. And many readers are discovering this, too.
Another thing that I discovered was that independent writers had already answered the challenges mainstream publishers were still dealing with. At Dragoncon 2o14 I learned that many mainstream publishers are now seeking stories with multi-cultural characters. According to those in the know these books should begin to hit the market in approximately three years from now. The fact of the matter is that those novels already exists in independent publishing. I write them, as do most of my friends. Freed of the restrictions of appealing to a certain demographic, multi-cultural prose appeared naturally, and in some cases deliberately among independent writers. There are a host of novels and anthologies that cover all spectrum of multi-cultural fiction. I personally believe that independent publishing has had the biggest effect on black speculative fiction. Black writers are drawing in black readers, which is benefiting everyone
I still read books published by mainstream publishers, but I have to admit I have to make the effort to do so. I’ve always been the type of person that seeks creativity off the beaten path, and independent writers provide that for me. So just as I continue to write independently I’ll continue to read independently. I’m looking forward to what my fellow writers have in store for me and you. Whatever it is, I know it’s going to be good.
Here are a few of my black speculative fiction recommendations:
1). Charles R. Saunders: http://www.charlessaunderswriter.com/
2). Balogun Ojetade: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/
3). Valjeanne Jeffers: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com/
4). Alicia McCalla: http://www.aliciamccalla.com/
5). Alan Jones: http://wrestlewithdarkness.ning.com/
6). L. M. Davis: http://lmdaviswrites.wordpress.com/
7). Keith Gaston: http://www.dkgaston.blogspot.com/
8). Rasheedah Phillips: http://www.recurrenceplot.com/
9). Cerece Renee Murphy: http://www.cerecerenniemurphy.com/
This is just a start. To find out more, visit the State of Black Science Fiction 2012. You’ll thank me later.
This week I’ll participate on two panels at DragonCon that involve developing alternate histories and stories based on non-European cultures. Inevitably I’m asked to provide a list of books I used for my research. So to make it easy, I’m posting the title and list of every book in my Sword and Soul reference library. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I’ve gathered information from books in various libraries as well as internet articles and conversations with friends and aquaintances from various African countries. I’m sure some will see books on my list they despise and books that they feel should be included. Please feel free to send me recommendations; my library is constantly growing. So without further ado, here’s my list.
|A History of West Africa||J.D. Fage|
|A Treasury of African Folklore||Harold Courlander|
|Africa Adorned||Angela Fisher|
|Africa in History||Basil Davidson|
|African Arms and Armor||Christopher Spring|
|African Art||Frank Willet|
|African Cites and Towns before the European Conquest||Richad W. Hull|
|African Kings||Daniel Laine|
|African Religions and Philosophy||John S. Mbiti|
|Amazons of Black Sparta||Stanley B. Alpern|
|An African Classical Age||Christopher Ehret|
|Ancient African Civilizations – Kush and Axum||Stanley Burstein|
|Ancient Nubia||David O’Conner|
|Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Timbuktu||Larry Brooks/Ray Webb|
|Gassire’s Lute||Alta Jablow|
|Kingdoms of Kush||Derek A. Welsby|
|Kingdoms of the Yoruba||Robert S. Smith|
|Medieval West Africa||Nehemia Levtzion/Jay Spaulding|
|Oya – In Praise of an African Goddess||Judith Gleason|
|Peoples and Empires of West Africa||G.T. Stride/C.Ifeka|
|Precolonial Black Africa||Cheikh Anta Diop|
|Sundiata – An Epic of Old Mali||D.T. Niane|
|Sunjata||Bamba Suso/Banna Kanute|
|Tarikh al fattash||Al Hajj Mahmud Kati|
|Tarikh al Sudan||Abd Al Sadi|
|The African Genius||Basil Davidson|
|The African Knights||Conrad Cairns|
|The Anatomy of the Zulu Army||Ian Knight|
|The Aquarian Guide to African Mythology||Jan Knappert|
|The A-Z of African Proverbs||Jan Knappert|
|The Bamana Empire by the Niger||Sundiata A. Djata|
|The Book of African Names||Molefi Kete Asante|
|The Daily Life of the Nubians||Robert Steven Bianchi|
|The Diwan Revisited||Augustin F.C. Holl|
|The Encyclopedia of African History and Culture Volume II||Wille F. Page|
|The Epic of Askia Mohommed||Nouhou Malio/Thomas Hale|
|The Heart of the Ngoni||Harold Courlander|
|The History of African Cities South of the Sahara||Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch|
|The Kanuri of Bornu||Ronald Cohen|
|The Lost Cities of Africa||Basil Davidson|
|The Sacred Ifa Oracle||Afolabi A. Epega|
|The Washing of the Spears||Donald R. Morris|
|The World of the Swahili||John Middleton|
|Warfare and Diplomacy in Pre-Colonial West Africa||Robert S. Smith|
|Warfare in Atlantic Africa 1500 – 1800||John K. Thornton|
|Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate||Joseph P. Smaldone|
|Warrior Chiefs of Southern Africa||Ian Knight|
|Wonderul Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire||Drusilla Dunjee Houston|
So this year will be my third year attending DragonCon, second as an attending pro. I have five panels this year, but one will not be the Current State of Black Science Fiction. The powers that be chose not to do it this year despite our standing room only turnout. I’ll leave it at that. Anyway, here’s my schedule. If you happen to attend drop by and say hi. Most of all, have fun!
Fiction & the Silk Road
Description: Open discussion about scifi & fantasy literature written about and inspired by the Silk Road.
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Piedmont – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Pulp has made an extraordinary comeback in recent years. We discuss what and why.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Race & Gender Issues in Alternate History
Description: Do we pick the best parts of the past and ignore the rest? How do we handle gender and race roles? This discussion panel explores this and more.
Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Race within SF and Fantasy Media
Description: Is it easier to be an alien than it is to be minority in genre? Be open to ideas and concepts. Let’s keep it friendly though!
Time: Sat 08:30 pm Location: M301-M302 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Crossculture in History
Description: Non-English and non-American cultures in history focusing on Africa and India. Warning: may blow the mind.
Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Eight years ago when I completed Meji, I had no intentions for a sequel. It was my first novel, a homage to African culture, spirituality and tradition. To me, the book was less about the characters as it was a book about fate. As some of you know, Meji was meant to be one book, but on the advice of friends more experienced with self publishing I divided it into two books, which explains the abrupt ending of Book One (sorry!).
As I neared the completion of publishing Book One in 2008 the thought of a book three crossed my mind again. And again I said no. By that time I was familiar with my characters but I still couldn’t imagine a story beyond Books One and Two. I did however develop a story that takes place on the same continent of Uhuru but 200 years after Obadoro has joined the pantheon of great ancestors. Titled ‘Soul of Obana,’ it’s a story that deals with the descendants of Obadoro and a crisis instigated by their long time enemies, the Kossi. In 2009 I released Meji Book Two still with no intentions of created a third book. And so I left it.
Then in 2012 I began writing Woman of the Woods. It was my first book with a female main character, so I spend a lot of time making sure I got it right. As the story progressed I decided to place it in Uhuru, the land of Meji. I also decided to start the story with a brief mention of Obadoro. In order to do so I had to imagine Obadoro’s status in the world, which began the wheels turning about the reign of the Two that became One. The effort gained steam as other stories based in Uhuru came to me, each involving Obadoro in some form or another, either as active participant or a fond memory.
One more situation sealed the deal. Over the past few years I’ve read books about Sundiata Keita, Askia Muhammad, and Sonni Ali. These were all great leaders, but as with all men they had their flaws. It was after I completed the book on Askia Muhammad that I realized why I was avoiding a third Meji book. Yes, that’s right, avoiding. A third book would have to be about Obadoro. I felt I had created a character that would be considered perfect in the eyes of his subjects, and perfect doesn’t make a good story. But after reading these books I realized that Obadoro didn’t have to be perfect, that he could be chosen by the ancestors, flaws and all. And years after he transitioned, the stories told about him would gradually shed his less desirable qualities, at least those told by his admirers. The histories of his enemies would see him in quite a different light.
So there will be a Meji Book III, and it will be about Obadoro. As I contemplate more on his circumstances after the merging of the twins I can see all types of issues that he would have to overcome, as a leader of a diverse empire and as a man trying to merge two lives into one. I think it will make for good writing. I hope it will make for good reading. Stay tuned.
For those who know me, I am a writer.
For those who don’t know me, I am a writer.
Recently, I have expanded my writing into the Fight Fiction – aka Action / Adventure, aka Pulp – genre, which was pretty much inevitable because my novels contain lots of exciting action and fight scenes.
What, exactly, is Fight Fiction. You ask?
Fight Fiction is comprised of tales in which the fighting – whether it happens in a temple in Thailand, a boxing ring in Las Vegas, a cage in Atlanta, or in a bar in New York City – is not merely in the story to make it more exciting; or to add a different spin to it. The fighting must be an integral part of both the story and its resolution. Take the fighting out and you no longer have a story. Think Fight Club; Rocky; Blood and Bone; Kung-Fu Hustle; Million Dollar Baby; and Tai Chi Zero.
Writing fight scenes has always been something I enjoy and that I believe I do fairly well. This is probably due to the fact that I have been a student of indigenous African martial arts for over forty years and I have been an instructor of those same martial arts for nearly thirty years. I am also a lifelong fan of martial arts, boxing and Luchador films.
Recently, I joined a team of stellar authors, who all write under the pen name Jack Tunney (for e-book versions only; paperback versions are in the authors’ names), as part of the Fight Card Project.
The books in the Fight Card series are monthly 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings, and are inspired by the fight pulps of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Fight Stories Magazine and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.
In 2013, the Fight Card series published twenty-four incredible tales of pugilistic pandemonium from some of the best New Pulp authors in the business. I am writing under the Fight Card MMA brand with my book, Fist of Africa.
Nigeria 2004 … Nicholas ‘New Breed’ Steed, a tough teen from the mean streets of Chicago, is sent to his mother’s homeland – a tiny village in Nigeria – to avoid trouble with the law. Unknown to Nick, the tiny village is actually a compound where some of the best fighters in the world are trained. Nick is teased, bullied and subjected to torturous training in a culture so very different from the world where he grew up.
Atlanta 2014 … After a decade of training in Nigeria, a tragedy brings Nick back to America. Believing the disaffected youth in his home town sorely need the same self-discipline and strength of character training in the African martial arts gave him, Nick opens an Academy. While the kids are disinterested in the fighting style of the cultural heritage Nick offers, they are enamored with mixed martial arts. Nick decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts to make the world aware of the effectiveness and efficiency of the martial arts of Africa.
Pursuing a professional career in MMA, Nick moves to Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs into his old nemesis – Rico Stokes, the organized crime boss who once employed Nick’s father, wants Nick to replace his father in the Stokes’ protection racket. Will New Breed Steed claim the Light Heavyweight title … Or will the streets of Atlanta claim him?
I really enjoyed writing this book because I have always wanted to share with the world the fierceness, efficiency and effectiveness of the indigenous African martial arts for self-defense, as well as their transformative powers in the building of men and women with self-discipline, courage and good character. Fist of Africa is a perfect outlet for my unique brand of Fight Fiction, which I am sure you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.
In Fist of Africa, readers will experience jaw-dropping action on the mean streets of Chicago, in the sand pits of Nigeria and in cages in the “Dirty South” (Atlanta), as well as a bit of romance.
Vee-Vee’s was packed. The line of men and women spilled out of the Nigerian restaurant and onto the hot sidewalk as the lunch crowd eagerly awaited the mouth-watering, sweet fried plantains, egusi soup with pounded yam and coconut rice.
Standing in the line, Nick and Baba Yemi still had two customers ahead of them before they were in the door. Nick rubbed his hands in excitement.
Baba Yemi raised an eyebrow. “Is the food really that good, Nicholas? You look … eager.”
“You just don’t know, grandfather,” Nick replied. “I haven’t had Vee-Vee’s in over ten years.
“You’ve had Nigerian food in Nigeria,” Baba Yemi said. “What’s so special about Vee-Vee’s?”
“It’s Vee-Vee’s,” Nick responded with a shrug.
Baba Yemi shook his head.
“Excuse me, you just jumped ahead of me,” a woman’s voice said.
Nick peered over his shoulder. A rotund woman addressed three young men who stood in front of her in the line.
“Look, lady, we just want to get some plantains up out of here,” one of the young men – a lanky teen with jeans hanging halfway off his butt – said. “You look like you’re about to order the whole damned menu.”
The young men laughed heartily and exchanged high fives.
“Teens today have no respect,” the woman said. “If you are the future, we’re in big trouble.”
“Shut up, pendeja!” Another young man spat. “That’s moron, in case you don’t know … pendeja!”
More laughter from the young men.
“Hold my place in the queue,” Baba Yemi whispered.
“Grandfather, don’t …” Nick muttered.
Baba Yemi approached the young men, stopping a few inches behind them. “You are being very rude. This young woman deserves an apology.”
The teens turned to face Baba Yemi. The largest of the trio, a tall, athletically built young man, who had not yet spoken, looked Baba Yemi up and down.
“Push on, old man, before you get yourself hurt,” he said.
Baba Yemi smiled and tapped the young man on his muscular chest. “Hurt? How?”
The lanky young man with the sagging pants placed a firm hand on Baba Yemi’s shoulder. “Get gone, old dude, before we kick your …”
The young man hit the pavement with a dull thump.
“My hand!” He screamed, clutching at his wrist and writhing in agony.
The Spanish-speaking young man launched an awkward-looking kick toward Baba Yemi’s belly.
The old wrestler side-stepped to his left, bringing his right arm up to scoop the young man’s leg. Baba Yemi shifted toward the trapped leg, grabbing it with both arms in a tight grip. He ducked under the leg, lifting his arms over his head at the same time.
The young man’s knee twisted at a sickening angle. He landed next to his friend with the dislocated wrist, who joined him in a chorus of cries, whimpers and yelps.
Baba Yemi exploded toward the remaining member of the trio.
The young man stumbled backward, then whirled on his heels and sprinted off.
The teen with the sagging pants and damaged wrist helped the young man with the dislocated knee to his feet. “Sorry, ma’am,” they said in unison.
Baba Yemi laid a hand on the shoulder of the young man with the sagging pants. The young man jerked in fear.
“Relax,” Baba Yemi said. “Let me fix it.”
The young man cautiously gave Baba Yemi his damaged hand. The old man grabbed the teen’s fingers and yanked hard. The teen winced at the pain of his wrist sliding back into its correct position.
“Thank you,” the young man said. “And I … I’m sorry.”
“What about my knee, sir?” The Spanish-speaking young man inquired, still gasping in pain.
“That is going to require more treatment than I can do here,” Baba Yemi answered. “Do either of you have a car?”
“Yes, sir, I do,” the Spanish-speaking youth said.
“What’s your name, boy?” Baba Yemi asked.
“Hector, sir,” the young man said.
“And yours?” Baba Yemi asked the young man with the sagging trousers.
“Miles,” he answered.
“Miles, take Hector to the hospital,” Baba Yemi said. “They’ll put the joint back in proper position, then you bring him to me and I’ll really heal him. Talk to my grandson over there. He’ll give you the address.”
“Yes, sir,” Miles said, approaching Nick.
“Thank you, sir,” Hector said.
Vee-Vee’s waitress, who had come outside to see what the commotion was all about, handed Nick an ink pen and an order slip. Nick wrote the address to his parent’s house on the slip.
The two young men shambled off, Hector’s arm wrapped around Miles’ shoulder for support.
“Thank you!” The pudgy woman shouted. She wrapped her arms around Baba Yemi’s torso and held him in a warm hug.
The people in line applauded as Baba Yemi returned to his place in line.
“We’re running a compound for young thugs out of my parents’ house now?” Nick said, shaking his head.
“You weren’t so different when you first came to me, Nicholas,” Baba Yemi said.
“True,” Nick said.
“So, I ask again,” Baba Yemi said. “What now?”
Our next Butler/Banks black speculative fiction author is Crystal Conners! Instead of my boring prose, Crystal is taking over my blog to describe her latest project in her own words. Take it away, Crystal!
An entire year ago, I swore an oath of secrecy when I agreed to co-write a book with paranormal-romance author Lori Titus under the penname of Connor Titus. The reason, in the beginning, for the vow of silence was simply for the sake of peace.
Now this is in no way meant to be a complaint, but my fans take their jobs seriously. It takes about a year for me to write a book, but just a month or two after announcing a new WIP that’s all my fans talk to me about, and writing is all they want me to do.
I know some of you remember me posting in ‘Walgreens incident.’ Two weeks after the release of Book II: Artificial Light I was standing in line in Walgreen and asked the woman in front of me where she got her drop dead gorgeous shoes. When she turned to tell me, I was recognized, and she demanded to know why I wasn’t at home writing. Sadly she didn’t tell me where she got her shoes.
If my fans had found out that I had teamed up with Lori their excitement would have been too much especially because at the time we where both working on our own books which of course held more priority than a joint project, so we didn’t even know when this book would be finished.
About a 3rd of the way into the project, the fact that mum was the word literally became a life saver, because we started to realize that we were going to be writing two books. And at that moment it stopped being about peace and immediately became a trade secret.
“One catastrophe. One Town. One story told two different ways.”
We co-wrote, two, stand alone books about the same thing.
We’d never heard of anyone doing that before and because it’s such an insanely original idea or had been done which such infrequency that the concept isn’t widely known we didn’t want anyone finding out what we were doing and beat us to the punch.
Once the decision was made that this story was going to be told from two different points of views, we also made the decision to not only stop working together, but to also not to talk to each other about what was written from that moment forth. I mean we went into complete radio silence, we didn’t even see each other’s cover until they were revealed earlier this month as part of our blog tour. We did this because we didn’t want to influence each and judging by the reviews that turned out to be a really good move.
After our books were shipped off to the editor Lori and I decided to interview each other for our own blogs. Those interviews turned out to be a blast and that’s what I am going to share with you today.
The Wordsmith: Ok, 1st off I need to get something off my chest. I heard through the grapevine that you prefer Pepsi over Coca~Cola. Is that true?
Lori: Yes, I’m a Pepsi drinker,
The Wordsmith: Oh hell no, this is a crime against the Crown. This interview is over, we’re not friends anymore. Lol I’m just kidding.
Lori: LOL! But I drink Coke if I’m at a place and that’s what they’re selling. I still get the specific craving for Coca Cola now and again.
The Wordsmith: Oh, okay …good save cuz I was about to send you straight to the gallows. I write straight up horror with a service of science fiction and dark fantasy on the side. As a rising star in paranormal romance what was it that made you want to be a part of the Mt. Empyreal project?
Lori: I think of dark fiction as being one genre, whether it includes romance or science fiction. I love anything that challenges the characters with something greater than themselves, and that was definitely the obstacle our characters faced in the Keep. Since I’m a huge romantic, something of that always comes through. I couldn’t write you a cookbook without some reference to romance in there.
The Wordsmith: OMG that’s so true! I knew from the beginning that the story would have elements of romance but you do it really well so I wasn’t worried. That’s one of the things that interested me in co-authoring with you is seeing how we would build off each other’s strength. You also co-authored the novel Harmony’s Prophecy, with Angel Brown Kemph, which is now out of print, was it the same kind of writing process or was it totally different and if so why/how?
Lori: The book with Angel was very different. She was the primary author. I worked on editing with her, and we had some sessions where we tossed around story building ideas, but it is her book. I was really pleased and surprised that she felt my efforts earned a co-author credit.
The Wordsmith: Dude, how in the hell did we end up co-writing two books? Who does that?
Lori: I think only we do, ha! It was a great idea that you came up with. We both got to have complete creative free reign. Whenever I read about authors who co-wrote together, I always hear about the constrictions placed upon the authors, and how one person ends up being the leader with the other being the follower. We were able to build our foundation for the stories together, and then throw the proverbial paint against the wall to see what would stick.
The Wordsmith: I like that concept, that we both had creative free reign. The constrictions was something I knew I wanted to overcome before either of us wrote word one. It didn’t take long to see that we had two very different ideas of how this story should be told but I didn’t want to sacrifice one idea for the other and that’s what made me start thinking about doing something completely different.
The funny thing is, I didn’t start researching ‘how to co-write a book’ until we we’re nearly done. Otherwise I don’t think I would have done it. LOL, speaking of horror stories about co-writing, what was the hardest part about working with me? (Tell the truth).
Lori: The hardest part was figuring out where we needed to split! I was enjoying watching the story unfold, and I was so curious as to where you were going to take it. Once we did split, it took a week for me to get back into the story properly, because I missed being able to see what you had written and talk about our ideas together.
The Wordsmith: OMG I was the exact same way. I was starting to think that splitting up wasn’t going to be a good idea. Thank God we didn’t chicken out of that decision lol. Was there anything that worried you about Mt. Empyreal?
Lori: Yes! I was really concerned about which characters were going to make it, and who wasn’t. With a story like this one, there is a balance between making things so hard that it’s impossible for your characters to triumph, and making it too easy. You don’t want to make it so easy that the readers roll their eyes at how neatly things work out. That’s often a concern I have when I’m writing. Real life is messy, and I tend to like stories that reflect complexities in character and outcome.
The Wordsmith: I know one of the things I was worried about and brought up often was I felt like I had unfairly taken charge and all the ideas were mine. I didn’t mean for it to be that way, I was just having so much fun that my excitement got the best of me. This was my 1st co authored book, so I guess my question would be, is this just the way things work when co-writing a book or was it really not an issue for you?
Lori: It’s part of the beast – someone has to start, (The Wordsmith nods head) and you wrote a beginning that was so unique and chilling that I wanted to let you run with it. Once our start was firmly in place, I was able to see what I wanted to elaborate on and where I wanted things to go. That said, I don’t think that our writing partnership is like anyone else’s. While you were in the driver’s seat I was already planning.
The Wordsmith: LOL, that’s the Virgo in you, I was thinking ahead when you were the one with the pen too. Which of the characters that we created together do you think will totally blow my mind?
Lori: I always say Emerson; I love that character in ways that I could never have expected. We have talked about Khrystle before, and that she surprised you with some of the things she did in our shared copy of the book(s). Jerrod is also going to be a big surprise to you. Just you wait until you read it!
The Wordsmith: I can’t wait to read it either, you have no idea how hard it’s been not to open the ARC copy you sent me to send to my reviewers.
Wait…I don’t think I mentioned this, ok so the reason Lori said she can’t wait until I read her book is because once we stopped working together we promised each other that we would not read each other’s books until our editor signed off on both books. And we didn’t even see each other’s covers until the 18th of April. Dudes, its been brutal.
So far our reviews have been really good but every time a review for yours comes in it just amplifies my excitement. That’s it, I’m changing the subject! You have another book coming out soon, can you tell us a little more about that?
Lori: lol. Bell House is a ghost story about a modern southern family with many skeletons in their past. At the forefront of the story are two half-sisters, Jenna and Diana, who share a contentious relationship. They were raised by different mothers, and most of what they believe about each other comes from things that they have been told by others, some of which may not be entirely true. After a tragedy in the family, Diana moves into a house willed to her by her father, and all sorts of trouble ensues.
The Wordsmith: Just for fun. If you got the funding to take a year off to write where in the world would you live for that year and why?
Lori: It could be Hawaii or Bora Bora, but I want to live somewhere on the ocean. I think it would be great to wake up every day with the ocean right outside, and take my laptop out onto the patio and write while I enjoyed my coffee. And of course I’d want a great big house where I could invite my friends to come out and stay for as long as they want. That would be great.
The Wordsmith: Dude for as long as they want, by the beach, in Bora Bora? And you expect to actually get any work done? Yeah ok.
(With laughter in the background fade to black)
We were lucky enough to have our forward written for us by Jaime A. Geraldi from, wait for it…..RT Book Review Magazine! (screams, swoons, and faints) But 1st let’s set the mood with the book trailer!
“One catastrophe. One Town. One story told two different ways by two different authors…What started in the foothills of Mt. Empyreal could be the end of all of us.”
The dynamic duo known as Connor Titus have merged together to create a story that will chill you to the bone. Each adds a dark and distinctive quality to this compelling read and it’s almost impossible to favor one over the other as the ink bleeds upon the page for everyone to witness.
Connor’s interpretation is fierce and grabs readers by the throat as they gasp for breath once Old Man Winter strolls in and they’re left powerless. She allows you to visualize the characters movements and endure their emotions without flaw. The highly descriptive settings throughout will make one feel as if they’re part of the story which makes her rendition realistic and absolutely terrifying.
Titus’ version captivates one by taking hold of their mind first before they even know what hit them. Then the emotional setback follows. Her gifted storytelling ability will have you thinking you’re reading just a novel, but your brain may tell you something different as you actually may experience bouts of terror or feel perspiration at your brow.
Each author singularly has the ability to lure you into the book quickly, but as a pair it may feel as if they’ll never let you leave.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Mt. Empyreal.
-Jaime A. Geraldi, RT Book Review Magazine
Thank you so much for letting me take over your blog for today , if you would like to see the interview of Lori interviewing me here is the think.
And to follow us on our blog tour as we promote both books please click here. If you follow us be sure to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of both books, a promo T from each of us plus a signed copy of The Darkness along with a signed copy of Ryder