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

October
10
2012

Push through, pull through and who’s actually your reader

Okay, let me preface this by explaining that before I entered the self publishing business I had no experience in publishing other than adding to the slush piles of various publishers.  I did however have a pretty good business foundation, from employee to manager to small business owner. So as I studied the market and the business I naturally applied what I knew and noticed that basic business practices transcend business types and categories. One of those concepts is that of pull through/push through sale and marketing. So what is this concept and how does it apply to us as writers/publishers? I’m glad you asked!

Pull through/push through is a concept that mostly applies to a ‘mature’ marketplace, that is a market that’s been around for some time, like publishing. It involves the method of getting the product (book) to the end user (reader) in the most efficient and profitable way. In most cases this is accomplished through a middleman or a series of middlemen. The manufacturer (publisher) produces the product then sells that product (book) to the distributor or wholesaler (book distributor or book store) who in turn sells the product (book) to the end user (reader). So how does pull through/push through apply to this process? Again, I’m glad you asked!

In push through marketing the manufacturer focuses its attention on the distributor. He/she tailors its products for the needs of the distributor. It is assumed by the manufacturer that the distributor’s decisions are based on the needs and wants of the end user (reader). But the distributor has other concerns as well, such as inventory volumes, purchase order statements and other stuff. So the final decision may not always be made based on what the customer (reader) wants and need. Also,scant consideration is made as to if there is something the customer (reader) wants and need that is not currently available. So the manufacturer’s customer is the distributor. This is the person he/she must satisfy.

Pull through marketing/sales is different. In this case the manufacturer sell directly to the end user (reader) and creates the demand. The distributor will fall in line because the customer (reader) is demanding said product and in the end, the customer (reader) knows best. This type of marketing requires more effort on the manufacturer’s part but also gives the manufacturer more control over the end user (reader) market. It also allows the manufacturer (publisher) to introduce and create demand for new products (books).

Okay, I hope you’re still with me. So what does this have to do with you as a mainstream writer/independent writer?  Well, if you are a mainstream writer you are in the position of push through marketing. You are trying to convince the agent/editor/publisher to sell your story to the reader. So as much as you would like to think you are writing for the end user reader, you are writing for the agent/editor reader. You have to convince these folks that your story/novel is worth their time and effort to present to the end user reader. It is very important in this case that you spend more time meeting what the agent/editor requires in order to get your chance to be published. That’s why agents give you these long lists of things to do.

Now if you are an independent writer you’re in pull through mode. You’re dealing directly with the reader, writing your stories and presenting them any way you can. As we have seen many times, most recently with 50 Shades of Gray, if you win the end user reader everyone else falls in line. You’ve created the demand and everyone else wants a piece of it. Since you went directly to the source you don’t have to consider the other items that would concern the distributor, such as inventories or whether or not the reader will actually want this new type of writing or story. Pull through can be more effective for a writer but is challenging because it involves self marketing. Luckily social media had made that a bit easier.

And now I’m done. Whichever path you choose to publishing, take the time to study and understand the market and methods so your time won’t be wasted. It will help increase your chances of ’success,’ whatever that means to you. Class dismissed; there will be a quiz on Friday.

October
2
2012

Warriors of The Bright Country

This is a reprint of a blog I wrote for Blackgate last year. Enjoy…

In the West African bulge is a land known in pre-colonial history as the Sudan. This Sudan is not to be confused with the modern nation that bears the same name. It is a moniker which translates from Arabic to mean ‘The Land of the Blacks.’ This pre-colonial Sudan covered an area that stretched from the West African coasts to the borders of the Nile, running north along a border of grasslands known as the Sahel ‘the shore,’ and south along the beginning of the African forests region. Between these natural borders a wide variety of kingdoms and empires rose and fell, each one fueled by the Trans-Saharan trade with channeled forest gold to the north and desert salt to the south. This land was known to many of its inhabitants as ‘The Bright Country,’ and the blueprint of these mighty kingdoms was drawn by a people known as the Soninke.

So what do these folks have to do with heroic deeds? The Soninke warrior society possessed many similarities of warrior societies that developed in other areas throughout the world, from the chivalry of Northern Europe to the Bushido codes of feudal Japan. It was the Soninke who established the first of a line of great Sudanese kingdoms that began Ghana and continued to Kanem and Bornu.

It is here where we find the root the Sudanese warrior culture. A strict hierarchy ruled the Soninke, one that drew distinct lines between members of society. The horro, or nobles, were the highest of this society. A horro protected the virtue of his women and was generous to the poor and weak. His entire life was dedicated to upholding the reputation of his family and proving himself by accomplishing brave and honorable deeds. A young horro was trained in the arts of war and tradition from a young age. Once his training was complete he was given a horse, weapons and, most importantly, his own diaru. The diaru was in many ways equivalent to the bards of Europe, but he was also much more. The diaru was always at the horro’s side as his counselor, friend and praise singer. Soninke society did not allow the ‘knight’ to boast or speak of his own accomplishments. That duty fell upon the diaru.  A perfect story which explains the Soninke warrior culture is ‘Gassire’s Lute.’ Alta Jablow gives a good explanation of the role of the diaru in Soninke society while the epic itself describes the valor of the horro.

Soninke culture extended beyond the confines its own kingdom. Ghana had a significant influence on the kingdoms that followed it. Like Rome, those who stepped into its place emulated its customs. Much of what we know of Soninke chivalry survives in the tales passed on through storytellers.  Sundiata, the story of the first king of the Mali Empire, also reflects the Soninke tradition of honorable battle. Mali was a vassal of Ghana until its fall. The void left by the empire’s collapse was filled by Mali.

The tales that gives many clear descriptions of this brand of honorable conflict come from the Bambara and their kingdom of Segu. Many of their stories ring with the same voice of the Soninke. In their culture the ever present Diaru is called djeli. Many of the rituals of combat are described in detail in these stories. For instance, magic preparation was just as important as marital preparation. A warrior magic was considered stronger than his armor. If a warrior could demonstrate a stronger magic than is opponent a duel would not take place. It was common for a warrior to allow his opponent to take the first ‘shot,’ either with an arrow or a gun. Surviving the shot proved strong magic. Only if two warriors demonstrated equal magic would they resort to weapons. It was also dishonorable to fight an opponent who has admitted publically that he was afraid; there was no honor in fighting a man who has expressed his inferiority.

The culture of the warrior seems not to be confined to one particular culture or continent. Wherever the social conditions provide the means of development, this society seem to be the natural result. Just as the knights of old sang of the glories of Camelot, the horros of Ghana sang of the glory of Wagadu.

‘The fifth Wagadu will arise from discord to endure as the rains of the South,

As the rocks of the Sahara,

Every man will bear Wagadu in his heart.

Every woman will have Wagadu in her sons.

Hoooh! Dierra, Agada, Gana, Silla!

Hoooh! Fasa!’

September
18
2012

Letting Go

We’ve all done this before. If you didn’t, you should have. As a child we ran to the swing set, hoping to be one of the first to jump on a swing. There was always a little pit under each swing, excavated by dragging and pushing feet. We would kick off then work our arms in perfect synch with our legs, swinging higher and higher with each pass. Then, when we reached the highest point we dared, we jumped. We didn’t wear helmets, knee pads or any other type of body protection. We assumed when we landed we would be okay. And most of the time we were. We would let go, freeing ourselves to fate, totally immersed in the moment.

Most of the time when I talk to independent writers I realize that they are doing  just the opposite. They spend most of their times worrying about issues that no longer apply to them. Of course there are the requirements that none of use can escape; good storytelling, good grammar, and good spelling. But there are other things independent writers concern themselves with that have nothing to do with what we do. These are the concerns of the mainstream writer, the writer that must meet the demands of the agent and the editor, their true customers. For if you are a mainstream writer, these are the people that you must please. I’ve had this discussion as well; writers will argue that they are writing for the reader. You are, but in your case the reader is the agent or editor. I’ll save this discussion for another blog.

I was part of a discussion where a writer was working on a fantasy novel and was seeking a source for the rules of magic. I read in amusement as other writers gave various sources, then I type, ‘Dude, this is fantasy. We’re making this up. There are no rules.’ I was immediately assailed with all types of reason why what I typed was false. But all the reasons led back to examples of what mainstream publishers would accept as fantasy.

You are an independent writer. There is no one between you and the reader. There is no one to dictate to you how you should write your story. The possibilities are endless. Sure there may be certain types of stories readers prefer. We’re all conditioned to respond to what we’ve been exposed to. But here’s the funny thing about readers; they’re far more open that agents and editors. Why? Because their decision does not determine the profit or loss of a corporation nor does it affect future commissions. The only decision the reader has to make is whether or not they think your book will be entertaining.

You have to learn how to write without looking over your shoulder. Write from the heart, then find people who like what you write. Most of us are naturally risk adverse, at least in adulthood we are.  But to me independent writing means letting go of the constraints, expectations, stereotypes and validations of the mainstream market. It’s a different path. So here’s my advice to all my independent writing friends; swing hard, swing high, then let go.

September
3
2012

Steamfunk! Anthology Stories and Authors

Here they are, the stories and authors of the upcoming Steamfunk! Anthology. Thanks to everyone who submitted and congratulations to the authors selected. Plans are to debut Steamfunk! at Anachrocon 2013. Let’s get funky!

Author                                    Story Title

Ronald T. Jones                             Benjamin’s Freedom Magic

Malon Edwards                             Mud Holes and Mississippi Mules

Hannibal Tabu                               The Sharp Knife of a Short Life

P. Djeli Clark                                   Men in Black

Geoffrey Thorne                           The Tunnel at the End of Light

Ray Deen                                          A Will of Steel

Kochava Greene                             The Refuge

Carole McDonnell                         Oh, Western Wind

Rebeccan McFarland Kyle        Once a Spider

Josh Reynolds                                The Lion Hunters

Melvin Carter                                 Tough Night in Tommyville

Valjeanne Jeffers                           The Switch

Milton Davis                                    The Delivery

Balogun Ojetade                             Rite of Passage: Blood and Iron