Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson, MO Grand Jury Nov 24 2014

We can have video from a hovering news chopper of a gang of police beating a man to the ground. We can have video of a gang of police choking a man to death. We can have video of police killing people for holding toy guns in a store that sells toy guns. We can have video of police officers abusing their authority every day of the week.

We can have candlelight vigils. We can have spiritual marches and protests. We can scream in the face of injustice…but all injustice does is get bored and goes to play somewhere else.

We will take away injustice’s playgrounds. We will take away its toys. There will be no more state-condoned executions of unarmed black boys.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Time Has Come Today

My query is this: what time do you go to bed, and why? Is it to save energies you might have used today for work tomorrow? Did you stop writing because tomorrow there's a meeting? Pencils down because tomorrow's inbox is sure to be a bear? Are you soaping your hands, and especially getting the clay from beneath your nails, because you'll likely be shaking hands with some guy tomorrow who will forget you the moment you're not immediately useful? I'm wondering because I'm sensing there's a lot of energy loss out there. I'm sensing worry. Worry that time is finite and perhaps giving in and giving up, as a whole, isn't entirely defeatist. I'm sensing that on your part. My part. Ours. I'm sensing that the thunderbolts you could have thrown are powering tedious bits of dross, but lord knows I hope I'm wrong.

There's no such thing as the non-creative mind.

Sleep well, Glorious Revolutionaries, on your own private terms.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Ferguson, Missouri, 2014

I’m not going to pretend to understand racism. It’s a disease. An affliction of the mind. Self-curable. Nor will I accept that anyone with any appreciable training in peace keeping—and let’s call it that instead of “law enforcement,” a terminology which includes the very brutish word “force”—needs to shoot someone whose arms are in the surrender position six times in order to subdue them. 

I will not accept that a stranglehold is necessary for one officer as several other officers pile on top of a man, choking him to death. New York, New York, 2014.

The George Zimmerman Training Academy of Enforcement and Anger Management seems to be gaining favor among our cities’ local police. We can’t go a day without video, whether it’s old or new, of police violence slapping us in the face. The “heat of the moment” is too often the background noise of these acts. I disagree. The heat of the moment is cursing at the driver that recklessly cut you off; the heat of the moment is throwing “You don’t love me!” in a lover’s face; heat dissipates very quickly. The heat of the moment for a police officer being  a thousand degrees hotter than mundane interactions, they should be given the proper training to deal with that. They shouldn’t be the assholes that flip you the bird while running a red light; shouldn’t be the guy that slaps his kid to stop the child’s crying.

But they too often are. Because they’re us.

An officer of the law shouldn’t be the one telling a reporter, “We’re dealing with 4,000 animals.” That tells us what the heat’s done to him. His mind is everywhere but on what’s in front of him, and the most dangerous thing for a police officer is blind spots.

A state trooper, along the side of a busy freeway, while atop a woman, punched the hell out of her.  Los Angeles, CA, 2014.

Blind spots. Rage. Blind rage.

A worldwide epidemic of rage.

That officer didn't shoot and kill the young man in Ferguson, Missouri simply because the young man was black. He did it because he was (potentially) a small officer in a small town with a failed marriage and friends who were only friends when drinking was involved, in a country that can’t get its shit together to save its life and so forces him to be a small officer in a small town, a white man against the black man no matter how many black friends he can point at, and giving him nowhere to escape but out the barrel of a gun. Death by projection.

Gaza, Palestine, 2014.

Ukraine, 2014.

Honduras, 2014.

Australia, 2014.

England, 2014.

Canada, 2014.

Racism is a social construct predicated on economic disparity. The color of skin means squat. We’re all from Africa. There are no bogus genetics to justify brutish thoughts. There is not one person on this planet that made it here without being human. There is no white race. Ask most Irish if they were “white” when they made it to America’s shores in the early 19th century, then ask them now. The difference is capital. Money.

We are enraged the world over because no one thinks they have enough.

Money. Whatever form capital takes. Financial capital, emotional capital, religious capital. In order for one group to have enough of one thing, another group has to have too little of everything. Money kicks in our anger receptors like few other things can.

Schools underfunded while billionaire fights for control of shipping lanes. Takes an angry man to accumulate so much. Thousands without water, summertime. Gangs forming at an increasing rate. Detroit, MI, 2014. Takes a ton of rage to wall that out and keep it in.

Rage blinds us to what’s right in front of our faces time and again. Rage. We rage against everything.

Except the palsied monkey grinding the organ for the machine for which we dance.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Gaze

I’ve never understood the need so many have for violence. Not that I don’t have violent impulses. I do. Frequently.  Like everyone else I unleash wrath in my mind upon the day’s disturbances. I haven’t, nor will I, act on that, as imagining harm and inflicting it are highly different things. Even the thought of clenching my hand into a fist, launching it at speed at someone’s head, and feeling the dreadful impact of my flesh and bone to theirs—the true memory of pain as I know and feel it—knowing how many pain receptors are suddenly exploding to life inside the other person, disgusts me. The first fight I had as a child occurred as older relatives watched while, simultaneously, I wondered why they didn’t put a stop to it. Even at eight I knew fighting was primitive and I wanted no part of it. It was ludicrous. There I was, playing with my cousins, when the neighborhood jackass decided he wanted attention. I called the adults out and told them he was bothering us. They came on the porch and told me I had to deal with him. I was the kid who needed libraries and books and time to think; I needed sunlight to lie in under tables; I needed the world to make sense, and in order to make sense adults were to keep harm from others, especially children. That seemed so foundational as to be unshakeable.

So when I told the bully to go away and he didn’t, I was at a loss. I looked to the adults, and it took two seconds for the ugliest realization I’ve had to become clear: they wanted me to fight. “Deal with him” had nothing to do with appealing to his sense of reason or compassion. I was not to allow him the dignity of human consideration. I had to hit him. Hit him hard. While the family watched.

He threw the first punch. Didn’t connect. Eight year-olds push and punch with their eyes closed, even the bullies. After a few seconds of this I thought we were done. I certainly was. I dropped my defenses, turned away…and he punched me in the back, very hard, then ran away. I wanted very much to kill him for imposing his idiocy on my world.

I don’t remember the names of any of my friends from eight years old, but I remember his: Vincent. Violence solidifies things no one wants or needs.

State-level violence? That creates fossils. Bones, hearts and minds of stone that believe killing people going against their day is justified because of certain policy words: retaliation; defense; sovereignty. Policy is as foolish as a group of adults encouraging a child toward a pointless fight. I’m sure they thought they were toughening me up, just as those who send others to kill create excuses for behaving as though damnation is always for others.

I don’t know what I can possibly write that will change a single mind in the Israeli government. Benjamin Netanyahu has dug into the role of embattled righteousness, a hole which governing bodies tend to peer out of only at night, and only at what they want to see. We won’t pretend Israel hasn’t planned to hem Palestine into the tightest, most volatile circumstance they possibly can, because they have. Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Hamas – there are no accidents here, only short-sighted, entrenched hatreds. You cannot be an occupying force demanding and expecting quiescence even as further encroachments are made. You cannot create unyielding barriers and expect the ghetto to garden. Israel has created an untenable situation. We also won’t pretend that, being a superpower compared to Palestine, Israel has not and does not have the capability to end what might as well be known as the world’s Forever War. Israel has the resources to capitulate. Unfortunately for those in Gaza, its refusals to do so are specious. Because the world has become so cartoonish there are never enough self-reflexive moments after any act of terrorism. Even the word “terrorist” is a cartoon, all dread removed from the word, drowned out, instead, by patriotic fervor on the part of the wounded. When I was growing up we heard all about the PLO. This generation gets “Hamas.” Groups that see violence as a means. What would they do if, at some point, someone on both sides of Gaza decided to be the adults who saw no value in fighting, someone on both sides who stepped out of the industry of war—and make no mistake, no large country that has been at war for generations is doing so without a large profit component—and realized there is actually no reason their children need to found buried under tables, under rubble, during the bright light of day when television cameras are at their most active and anguish, pure and vibrant in high definition suffering, races across social media to fuel our days’ ire; right now Israel’s anger is pounding Palestine bloody. The blows are hard, fast, brutal. Netanyahu bathes in what he sees as righteous blood. Violence is never given life without it demanding life in return. The death of the body for one, the death of the spirit for the other.

We don’t need violence. We don’t need to kill to be heard. We don’t need to kill to live. It is my hope that a thousand voices will speak better than I have. It is my hope that nations will tell Israel “Enough!” and that Hamas will realize that death as its only option is an option for utter fools. When I was younger I wrote a poem for my neighborhood. From the title alone you can tell what type of neighborhood it was.

Genocide: A Primer

Picture drug houses
Youth no soul
Filthy violent blight

I would pack up my people
And leave them
To prey on themselves
Until only one left standing

I see him
Alone, in the middle of the street
No wind, no sound, but
Still birds waiting in the trees

Only one left standing
I would return to the old frame
And shoot him.

This is what hatred does, whether hatred with good reason or not. It kills from the inside out. A genocide of one. Pain isn’t drowned in the wine of violence. It’s exacerbated. My hope is that aid to Israel will cease, because they don’t need it. But, again, there’s profit in conflict, and the United States has a ton of bullets to sell. My hope, no matter what kind of temporary cease-fire is issued and promptly broken by Hamas, is that the Netanyahu government be properly condemned for atrocities committed out of frustration and anger. Small chance of that, I know. My own country still has its share of ex-presidents (and a current one) with more than enough blood on their hands and nary a sight of justice. My hope is that people who say, “But what about Hamas? What of their killings?” dig a little deeper beneath their emotions to help Israel create a solution rather than martyrs.  A country governed in theory by laws and integrity is different from a cadre of idiotic, angry, desperately illogical men playing the game of hate with a losing hand. Let’s be clear: There is no possible way Hamas can militarily defeat Israel. Hamas’ only endgame will be inciting Israel to obliterate Palestine’s bakers, accountants, students, teething children, construction workers, firefighters, laymen, and anyone else unfortunate enough to walk their days under skies of retribution. Neither side can have fought this long without having become addicted to the wine of violence.

These days people speak blithely of radical this and that. Is it impossible for us to imagine radical peace? Are we going to be so forever addicted to violence that mortar shells serve as our speech? An untenable situation. Very confusing to all of us who think lying under a table in the sun is a beautiful thing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Writing Process: Not A More-Lie Relaxer

Poet Wendy Babiak is a kind person. You'll see that after perusing her blog for a bit (conveniently linked for your clicky finger).  So why she thought to ask the torturous question of  What Is Your Writing Process? of me I don't know. And this while I've got jury duty! Cruel, pernicious world that makes a man try to think after listening to attorneys drone! But I'll tell you what I've learned about myself, and that's this:

I need emotion. Not simply an emotional hook, but emotion

What have I written? Three books. I'll link them here. What links them? Easy. I tend to start off, as so many things do, with a feeling. Art is emotion distilled, a communication of internal movements hoping to align with the ephemeral essential. The feeling jumping me might be visceral, something like How would it feel living under a Church that you believed could read your mind, or that giddy feeling of talking to a dear friend after weeks of being away on a sea voyage that ended with dragons.

Feeling is key. As a writer it places me immediately in the story, in the character.

Process.  Is what I do even considered “process?” I am not the most regimented of writers. I do all the usual things, farting about with Facebook, pretending I’ll get inspiration from tending to laundry or a bag of chips, calling one more viewing of Creature from the Black Lagoon "research." But once the distractions are done and it’s just me and the blank page? That’s when I get to do the Pacino line from Scarface.

“Say hello to my little pen.”

That's when process jumps in. See that mock-up there? My red markers are getting a workout on my latest manuscript. Editing is writing. Don’t let anybody divide the two; just makes things unnecessarily difficult. Editing is writing. Writing, when you’re doing it to sell a few copies, is editing. This sucker, The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, being an unconventional conventional adventure, upends just enough of the tropes and clichés of manly sci fi drama to require something that, as a writer, is comfortably close to the discipline of the insane. The book is satirical minus a laugh track, caustic minus acid burns, and subversive like hackers with a free weekend. (I believe writers should get the same benefit of inhabiting a delightful variety of roles as actors; this keeps the work fresh and evolving from book to book; hell, sometimes even within the same book. I hate taking readers where they’ve been before. An author shouldn’t be a bloomin' bored tour guide.) The book’s undergoing a ton of edits from me. I’ve come to love the little slash marks produced in the quiet of my room.  That’s part of the process right there. Has to be quiet. By quiet I mean if there’s going to be music it’s music I want to hear; if there’s to be conversation it’s me talking to myself; if there are any interruptions the only damnation falls upon my head as cause alone. Writing is very often a selfish enterprise. Don’t believe anyone telling you otherwise. It’s me, me, me but it’s to get to you, you, you.

You’re a huge part of the process.

In the song Five Years David Bowie sang, “I don’t think you knew you were in this song.” This jumps us up a square. If we’re not writing in a vacuum, what’s the impetus? You. I write because it’s such a brittle, artificial world that gets packed in our lunch boxes when the actual world comes in such flavors and textures that it’d be a shame to deny they’re real. I write because I want to understand things, and if I can convey a little of that understanding to you in an intriguing way, well, that’s a bit of time-served for good behavior, innit? The only reason we’re on this planet is to create beauty, right?  I submit to you that there’s nothing more beautiful than the feeling of communication, because what’s the root of that? Commune. To become one.

Write on, right on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Default in Our Stars

Just gonna drop this and walk away singing Chocolate in our peanut butter, floaties in our milk, cheese on our sammiches, strawberry in our Quik...

He’d done quite a bit of writing before he went to bed. The brain ran around like a poodle after a treat. Barclay dreamed he was on the conservative arts show Words and Images. The interviewer, Diana Billiard, held an upcoming book as though afraid to get too much of it on her.
“Why’d yours,” she was trying to get to, because the crux of the matter was this, “as a black man, have to be a black book? Isn’t that restrictively limiting?” she asked, making sure the blank, earnest face was in place.
You’re kind of stupid, he thought. “Is his book,” said Barclay, nodding at G.P. Patterson, “a white book?”
Diana morphed the Botox into mildly charitable dismissal. “Well, no. It’s just…fiction.”
“Isn’t he white?”
“I’m pretty white,” said Patterson, best-selling author of Primitive and the soon to be a major motion picture, Guitar.
“Main characters white, G.?”
“Very much so, B.,” said Patterson. He, too, thought the interviewer was kind of stupid.
“What makes his book fiction and mine ethnic, Ms. Billiard?”
“I wouldn’t mind being ethnic,” said Patterson.
“Sales aren’t as good, man,” said Barclay.
“Oh. What if I wrote the same book you wrote?”
“You’d get your ass kicked.” When Barclay looked back at Billiard she was naked from the waist up. ‘Obviously I’m not getting enough sex,’ Barclay thought. Being a lucid dreamer meant tagging this thought for future reference.
Billiard hedged. “Well, your book is clearly informed by ethnic sensibilities.”
“As is mine,” said Patterson. Diana Billiard was an uptight harpy both disingenuous and of questionable intellect but graced with a knockout body that guaranteed a sizable thirty-four to forty year old college-educated male audience. Wardrobe courtesy Dionysian. Career courtesy the foresight to have married a prominent cable news anchor.
Her nipples were slightly too tiny to be effective point guards for the reinforced troops behind them.
Dinged a point.
“So the basic question, then, is why am I secondhand smoke and G. here a fine cigar?” said Barclay.
"Cubano," said Patterson.
"G.P. Patterson is a respected author—"
"—of books featuring white folks who need the FBI to keep them from getting cut up in little pieces. Y'all some vicious G's, G."
Patterson flashed the three fingered W. It was the first time Words and Images had seen a gang sign.
"O.I.B.," said Patterson, the tufts of grey hair behind his ears matching his closely cropped grey beard. "Old Incongruous Bastard."
"My nig."
Billiard's neck went spastic.
"Is it because my characters are black? Or related to author? I'm not going to apologize for either."
"I wrote a book with a black character once. He got killed."
"Classic Hollywood syndrome. Incurable. Don't worry about it."
"What about being accessible?" asked Diana.
"Same question." She had a blazer on now. Didn't faze him. "How many books you sold, Patterson?"
"Rollin', B."
"Milk and cream…with floaties."
"You, sir, restrict to a base most foul."
"A right bastard I am," Patterson agreed, crossing his legs and leaning into the deep slouch, white socks against a pasty ankle shining under studio lights.
"Black man writes a book with black characters, it's the second coming of Zulu. I denounce you on the grounds your nipples are too small, your logic shoddy, and your facial reconstruction fucked up."
"They expect you to write a book with white characters, man; show your gratitude," said Patterson.
"Y'all did teach me English didn't you?"
"Hell yeah. Show some love."
"Can I feature white characters?"
"No. Top billing," said Patterson, but at least he was apologetic.
Billiard positively preened. Why did he even bother with Words and Images? Sometimes the show featured interesting authors, but was that worth the anal itch that was Diana Billiard?
Clearly the wench thought there was safety in numbers despite G.P. Patterson thinking she was a shallow sow.
"If my premise is of universal appeal," she said and winked for the camera, "don't you think it's limiting to write in such a…focused point of view?" she said.
"Your basic premise is racist and childish." Barclay turned to Patterson. "Can I wax polemical for a minute?"
"Wax on, wax off."
"If a reader can't see beyond their own daily confines to embrace what is essentially a remedial primer on the comedic truths inherent to the disadvantaged—"
"Turtle Wax, bitchas," piped Patterson.
"—that reader condemns herself—"
"Watch out now."
"—to the limited sphere of second hand knowledge cursing the world today," said Barclay.
"Wax off?" inquired G.P.
Barclay sniffed. "Wax off."

G.P. gave up the fist bump.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

And If

What does Afrofuturism mean? It means stories have always come from Africa...and always will. What does being a writer mean? It means Anansi has never slept, not a wink, because he might miss something fun. What does Balogun Ojetade mean when he says something is "Blacktastic?" If I may try an answer for the brother, it means history is not silent, not ephemeral, and the present is "Post-" nothing. It means welcome to new worlds.

Welcome all.

Even though, for the Butler/Banks Book Blog Tour of Afrofuturism, this is goodbye. Balogun, our point man, wraps this month-long round of literary speed-dating. You've seen works from:

 Alan D. Jones        Balogun Ojetade        Carole McDonnell         Crystal Conner        DaVaun Sanders    Colby Rice     
Jeff Carroll         K. Ceres Wright        Kai Leakes     

...and me.

A mix of genres, styles, ages, abilities, latent powers and more. All presented with deference and respect to two women whom we can only assume sit at the right and left sides of Anansi, pens in hand and somehow still feeding us inspiration. If you haven't familiarized yourself even today with Octavia Butler's work, let me help. Click a simple link. One word. GENIUS. If you're wondering where are the kick-ass, female vampire hunters, click a simple link. One word. IMAGINATION.

And if you just want to smile and quietly say goodbye, go ahead and read the final entry below in the Butler/Banks tour. "Goodbye" only for a little while though; we are not going anywhere.

Hotep.  -- ZZC


For those who know me, I am a writer.

For those who don’t know me, I am a writer.

I write speculative fiction – mainly Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Rococoa and Sword & Soul.

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.

Here’s a brief synopsis: 
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.

Please, enjoy this excerpt, then hop on over to my website, or to Amazon and purchase the book. You’ll thank me later.


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?”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Glamorous Harbinger of Blood and Death: Crystal Connor on the darker side of science fiction & fantasy

Right about here is where I'd sing the line from Prince's "International Lover" that gets folks verklempt: "Please remain awake until the aircraft comes to a complete stop." The Octavia Butler/L.A. Banks-inspired Book Blog Tour ends tomorrow. You've seen steamfunk, sword and soul, high adventure, cyber dystopia, short story collections that would do Harlan Ellison proud, things that go bump in the night, and authors representing the multi-faceted diaspora in all its creativity.

But stay awake. Stay very awake.

Horror bought a ticket and it's still on the plane.

Say hello to Crystal Connor's world:

Click HERE to enter the Darkness

Friday, April 25, 2014

Honoring Those Who Carry The Light: Milton Davis, Charles Saunders and the Sisters of the Spear

Griots: Sisters of the Spear 

Griots: Sisters of the Spear picks up where the ground breaking Griots Anthology leaves off. Charles R. Saunders and Milton J. Davis present seventeen original and exciting Sword and Soul tales focusing on black women. Just as the Griots Anthology broke ground as the first Sword and Soul Anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear pays homage to the spirit, bravery and compassion of women of color. 

Seventeen authors and eight artists combine their skills to tell stories of bravery, love, danger and hope. The griots have returned to sing new songs, and what wonderful songs they are!


By Charles R. Saunders

The woman in Andrea Rushing’s evocative painting that graces the cover of Griots: Sisters of the Spear symbolizes the essence of the anthology. Although the painting is not a direct depiction of any of the characters in the stories, the spirit of this woman imbues all of them. She is a teller of truth, and a slayer of stereotypes.

As is the case with black men, black women have been subjected to invidious stereotyping for centuries in real life and fiction alike. For the most part, these characterizations have ranged from the condescending to the downright hostile – from the faithful “Mammy” of Gone with the Wind to the scornful “Sapphire” of Amos ‘n’ Andy to the degraded “Ho” made infamous in all-too-many rap-music lyrics. The fantasy-fiction genre is no exception. Until recently, black women have been either non-existent, or portrayed in ways that made absence the preferable alternative.

Real life defies the stereotypes. Throughout history, there has been no dearth of strong and courageous black women who have stood alongside – and sometimes in front of – their men and children during the course of a 500-year-long struggle against oppression in Africa, and the places in the rest of the world to which Africans were taken against their will to fuel economies with their forced labor.

A few examples: The Candace, or queen, of Kush defied the legions of ancient Rome. Queen Nzinga of Ndongo in central Africa fought to protect her people from the depredations of European slavers. Harriet Tubman risked her life to lead slaves to freedom in the years before the U.S. Civil War. Fannie Lou Hamer endured vicious physical abuse from the authorities in her non-violent quest to win basic civil rights for black Americans. Women such as these – and many more like them – stand as living contradictions to the misrepresentations that persist to this day.

So do the women in Sisters of the Spear. When Milton Davis came up with the idea of a woman-themed sequel to our first anthology, Griots, I co-signed immediately. Like Griots, Sisters of the Spear presents an opportunity to bring more black representation to a genre that’s still in need of more color. Thanks to Griots, we knew there were more than a few writers and artists of all racial persuasions who would embrace our theme of powerful black womanhood and create stories and illustrations that would be excellent by any standard.

Our expectations have been more than fulfilled. Our modern-day griots came through with – not to belabor the point – flying colors. The fictional warrior-women and sorceresses you will meet in the following pages can hold their own and then some against the barbarians and power-mad monarchs and magic-users of both genders who swing swords and cast spells in the mostly European-derived settings of modern fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. The reach of sword-and soul has expanded greatly with Sisters of the Spear.

It’s time now to allow the woman on the cover serve as your guide through the anthology. The light she carries will illuminate the truth that is always inherent in the best of fiction. And her spear will slay the stereotypes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Out of the Machinery and Into the Mind: K. Ceres Wright


Ms. Wright has been watching science fiction (SF) since she was three years old. As she grew, she became less and less satisfied with the limited role minorities played in many SF books, shows, and movies, and decided to write SF that better reflected the diversity of the real world. Her first novel, Cog, was published by Raw Dog Screaming Press in July 2013. Her other work has appeared in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction; Hazard Yet Forward; Many Genres, One Craft; The 2008 Rhysling Anthology; Far Worlds Anthology; and the upcoming Diner Stories Anthology.

Excerpt from Cog


Perim Nestor stood watch over Arlington from a curved window office in the American Hologram building. A scrim of clouds obscured most of the evening sky as commuters headed home, yet a roseate sunset tinged the underside of the grey, offering hope of a sunny tomorrow. Reflections from the streets below, clotted with the red of brake lights, danced merrily on nearby buildings.

Perim abandoned his watch and took up residence against a credenza along the opposite wall, arms folded, jaw clenched, waiting for the coming storm. He did not have to wait long.

“You’re joking, right?”

William Ryder stretched the skin between his eyebrows with his thumb and index finger, then formed a fist and slammed it on the table in front of him. He stood up, hunching over the edge of his father’s cherry wood desk. The owner sat on the opposite side, glaring. Light from a squat, burnished pewter lamp threw up blurry shadows on the metal paneling.


“Wills, sit down!” The stentorian voice of Geren Ryder echoed in the large office. The bones of his face set like ice, holdovers of the Last Glacial Maximum. Salt-and-pepper hair framed a mahogany canvas.

His son was a mirror image, only more muscular, with a coloring of polished sepia.

Perim Nestor remained silent. However spartan the office, it reflected more than the green and brown décor. It reflected the multi-trillion-dollar company that Geren Ryder had built from scratch. And he was used to being listened to.

Wills sat down, but the tenseness remained. He hovered on the edge of the chair, ready to spring. Geren continued, his voice now measured and calm.

“I didn’t know Perim was my son until last week. After I confirmed it, I’ve been...coming to grips with the implications.”

“Confirmed?” Wills said. “So it’s been confirmed that you whored around on my mother. As if I hadn’t already known. And what do you expect me to do? Jump up and say, ‘I’ve always wanted a brother’? Shed heartfelt tears and give him a slap on the back?”

Silence. The ether froze, like hanging mist on a December morning. Perim drew up his lips and met the flinty stare Wills leveled at him. He couldn’t blame the man. Heir apparent to a wireless hologram empire and presto change-o…a long-lost older brother appears.

“Does Nicholle know?” Wills said, eyes still riveted on Perim.

“No. She’s busy recreating the Prado in Anacostia. I didn’t want to distract her. It’s her first full-scale exhibit,” Geren said.

Wills relaxed somewhat, straightening and placing his arm on the desk. Mrs. Arthur Knowles and her Two Sons looked on the proceedings from the wall behind Geren. In the painting, Mrs. Knowles was sitting on a couch, one son clinging to her as his hand rested on a book. The other son lay wrong-way on the couch, barefoot, his hand on his chin, as if contemplating some mischief.

“I don’t want anything material…no money, no stock. I just want acknowledgment,” Perim said.

“Acknowledgment!” Wills sprang from his seat. “And why do I have a hard time believing that? On the eve of my father announcing his retirement from American Hologram, you just happen to show up.”

Wills approached Perim, jabbing a finger in the air between them.

“I’ve dealt with drug dealers, pimps, and CEOs, and I know bullshit when I hear it. It’s all the same. You want something. Something like American Hologram.”

Perim straightened. “I head my own accounting firm. What would I need with your company?”

“Why settle for a little power, when you can have a lot?”

“Is that your life’s motto?” Perim stole a glance at Geren. “In that case, you’d better watch your back, Father.”

Too late Perim noticed the oncoming blur of flesh, the carpet rising to meet the side of his face. His next view was of a sideways Potomac River through the curve of the picture window. The reflection of neon pinks and blues undulated in the invisible waves and careened like a slow-motion merry-go-round. Wills’ feet left his field of vision. Wind chimes whispered as he exited through the magfield.

“I should have told you he boxed in college,” Geren said, matter-of-factly.

“No shit,” Perim said, only it came out sounding like, “Oh ih.” His head spun, mental function a whirlpool. He edged up on one elbow, then leaned against the credenza and slid upright. The room slowed.
You’ll come to work for me. I’ll make you a vice president, but you’ll have to prove your mettle,” Geren said. “Especially to Wills. He can be a hothead, but he respects skill.”

“I have my own—”

“Company, yes. That has a quick ratio of point seven eight. How long do you expect to stay in business running those numbers?” Geren arose and began packing a briefcase that lay open on the desk.

Perim pulled himself to standing, gripping the credenza. “We just scored a large contract with the defense department.” He rubbed his jaw, hoping there would be no bruise.

Geren guffawed. “If you call forty million a large contract. Look, it’s settled. I just sent in the approval. Let your second run the company and you report here first thing in the morning. But…we will wait on the acknowledgement until after I announce my retirement.” He closed the case and hefted it off the desk. “Come prepared to learn. See you tomorrow.”

Wind chimes echoed again as Geren disappeared through the doorway. Perim smiled to himself. This is going better than expected.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Hum of Waking Things

Sometimes I write things that make sense. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m trying to write the melody to a song I can’t quite hear but if I hum it enough it’ll connect through. This is one of those connection times. Things are moving, shifting, and swirling in the world. The lights in the sky don’t stay as still; the presences vibrating just out of eyesight are active and focused.

Even the dragons are taking notice, and they’ve suffered from apathy for untold thousands of years.

Some might say the world is becoming magical again. Those saying so often forget magic was the same as mundane. No grand awakenings.

Not unless it’s to the one song we all somewhat know…but not quite.

Woman of the Woods: Milton Davis

It the cover doesn't get you there might be a problem with your pulse.

If this tease doesn't get you there might be a need to pump you with a few CC's of adventure:

“Fire!” She commanded. Her sisters responded seconds later, blazing bolts streaking overhead like falling stars and peppering both sides of the bank. Another bellow shook the night and their adversary emerged from the woods. It was huge, much larger that the biggest washaka, a grotesque amalgamation of beasts built by malicious hands. Its massive body suggested the mountain primates but its stance was more human than beast. A jackal-like snout protruded from its face, its head crowned by a pair of thick, curved horns. Hazeeta had no idea about the meaning behind the beast’s demeanor, but its size alone signaled caution. A volley of poison arrows followed by a gris lance charge would have been her command, but she had no time to call out the orders. Sadatina and her shumbas leaped through the flames no sooner than the arrows illuminated their way. The larger shumba leaped onto the beast’s shoulder, digging in with teeth and claws. As the beast cried out and reached for her, the other shumba lunged at its left leg, biting into its hamstring. Sadatina ran at the beast and leaped into the air, her sword raised over her head...

Get to know Sadatina, the Woman of the Woods, courtesy Milton Davis.