Speculative Literature Foundation’s Good Work

Last year, I won the Speculative Literature Foundation‘s Diverse Worlds grant, and it changed my writing.

I’d gotten to a place where I felt a bit… hopeless. As though my writing wasn’t good enough… strong enough to get beyond where it was. I felt I’d hit a plateau. I was getting rejections, and each one felt like a blow.

When I was attending a lecture in Oxford by one of my favorite writers Jewell Parker Rhodes, I got the email that I’d been chosen for this grant. From what I recall (my mind goes a bit foggy here as I was in such shock) I sat on the bed in my hotel room and stared at the screen for a full minute.

Someone believed in my work! It sent my heart racing. It sent my brain racing too. Stories I wanted to finish. Ideas I’d had that I’d never committed to paper before. Suddenly, all of it seemed possible. Not sure I really slept much that night. But I do remember this:

I promised myself I’d submit more of my work in 2017. 

And I kept that promise. Most of my stories were published this year that I’ve ever had. I got my first professional sale this year. I have stories on the Nebula’s and the Horror Writer’s Association’s recommended reading lists.

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The SLF has just started its big fundraiser for the year, with the goal of getting enough sponsorships to ensure the Diversity Grants continue for five more years, and expand our other activities — reading series, workshops, and more, with monthly funding that we can count on as we plan activities.

About the SLF from Mary Ann Mohanraj, Executive Director: 

The SLF is a non-profit arts foundation, modeled on the National Endowment for the Arts, but focused specifically on serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community.  We aim to encourage promising new writers, assist established writers, facilitate the work of quality magazines and small presses, and develop a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction. 

They need your help.

If you can donate, please do. This fundraiser has 29 more days and I’d love to see them reach their goal as they helped me reach one of mine.

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More Fragrances to Wear This Halloween

You may have seen my post on Fluky Fiction’s site earlier this month titled, Five Fragrances to Wear This Halloween. If not, check it out!

But I realized I had so many scents that didn’t make that list, so I decided to another post. No matter what costume you choose, even if it’s none, adorn yourself with one of these mood-creating fragrances.

The Morrigan by Swan Children Alchemy (women): From their Goddess collection. Dragon’s blood, juniper, black pepper, fir needle. Not to mention an obelisk of onyx in the bottle, for protection against evil magic and negative energy. When I wore this, I felt powerful, capable of conquering my to-do list with ease. The fact a piece of flash fiction came from wearing it is even better.

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Photo by Swan Children Alchemy

Devil’s Nightcap by Lush (unisex): Inspired by the Agglestone, a megalithic rock in England known as the “Devil’s Nightcap.” Invoking Druid rituals with oakmoss, oak wood and clary sage, it’s reminiscent of dead fallen leaves. The scent of weather turning.

 

The Revenge of Lady Blanche by Penhaglion (women): From the Portrait’s collection. Elegant, mesmerizing, heady, and dangerous… Who cares if she poisoned her husband? Perfectly described on the parfumier’s website:  a green floral narcotic.

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Photo by Penhaligon’s

Bulletproof by Tokyo Milk (unisex): smoked tea, coconut milk, cedar, and ebony. A cool, dark place out of the heat of the sun, with a lingering touch of smoke and the barest whiff of heated metal. A perfect scent to wear to disguise your own smoking gun.

 

Tabu by Dana (women): A back-in-the-day classic. Spicy, with a touch of woods and resin. Dark and gorgeous, frightening to some, addictive to others.

 

Gibbon’s Boarding School by Solstice Scents (men): Designed to evoke the atmosphere of a schoolhouse. Rife with magic, mystery and closed doors. Woods, leather, smoke, dirt, leaves, and moss. A hint of apple. Maybe you’ll get to be the teacher’s pet.

Poudre de Riz by Huitieme Art (women): Tiare flower, rice, maple sap, tonka bean, and balsam. Vintage in nature, but not outdated. Powdery, intimate, and innocent, with a lasting cocoon-like feel. Who can I imagine wearing this? An elderly woman, who would smother you in your sleep. (And me, obviously.)

Poudre de Riz

13 Dark: A Fiction & Art Project

Are you ready for a journey into the dark? 

I’ve been asked to be a part of an amazing project.

13Dark (stylized to †3Dark) is a unique project that will showcase both written and visual artwork of some of speculative fiction’s greatest creatives.

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All of the work will explore the sacred and profane, the holy and damned, the beatific and the demonic. Think of the kind of subtle supernaturalism and religiosity of something like True Detective, or Craig Clevenger’s story “Act of Contrition” from The New Black.

 

Who are the writers?  Established names including Richard Thomas, Moira Katson, Veronica Magenta Nero, and Christa Wojciechowski as well as newer voices such as Matthew Blackwell, Andy Cashmore, Samuel Parr, Tomek Dzido, Anthony Self, Ross Jeffery, Jamie Parry-Bruce and Tice Cin. And myself, of course.

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The aim is to release 13 unique short stories monthly, in digital and paperback form, accompanied by custom artwork from Shawn Langley, and with cover artwork by grandfailure. These editions will be beautifully produced, melding the visual and written elements, offering unique insight into our world, and the darkness it holds.

Each story will be edited and have a foreword written by editor Joseph Sale. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something colossal. Joseph has put together a YouTube video for 13 Dark, where he talks about the project and why he quit his job to bring his vision to fruition.

Here’s the Kickstarter link. Check out the amazing rewards, including magazine subscriptions from Gamut and Storgy, custom designed artwork, and professional editing for your novel or novella! Then share, and donate if you can. Talk about the project on your social media channels.

Keep up with new releases, artwork, and how we’re doing on Facebook and Twitter.

Oh, are you wondering what my story is about? (It’s scheduled for release in January 2018.) I have some ideas, but it isn’t written yet, so feel free to leave me a comment if you want to throw out a suggestion.

Day 20: Octavia Butler

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Octavia Estelle Butler was born in Pasadena, California on June 22, 1947. She received an Associate of Arts degree from Pasadena Community College, and attended California State University in Los Angeles and the University of California.

A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the “Genius Grant”.

After writing her now-prophetic novels Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998), Butler had planned to write additional books in the series–Parable of the Trickster, Parable of the Teacher, Parable of Chaos, and Parable of Clay. In interviews, Butler noted that the research and writing of the Parable novels had overwhelmed and depressed her, so she had shifted to something “lightweight” and “fun” instead. Fledgling was born.

Although best known for her award-winning science fiction, Butler’s final novel is a vampire tale, entitled Fledgling. Like most of her work, it has themes of race and otherness.

The novel explores a vampire community living in a host/symbiont relationship  with humans. Fledgling tells of the coming-of-age of a young female hybrid vampire (She’s in her 5os, but looks like an eleven year old). The only survivor of a vicious attack on her family that left her an amnesiac, she must seek justice for her dead, build a new family, and relearn who she is.

 

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Buy Fledgling and find out more about Octavia and study her work with NOLA Wild Seeds, a a feminist-of-color collective that uses speculative fiction and art as a resource for social change.

FIYAH Lit Mag Issue #1: A Review

I was breathless to read the first issue of Fiyah Lit Mag, but I forced myself to wait until I finished reading my current book. That was not easy, I promise you. I’ve felt this was needed for a long time.

Finally, I opened it. I’d kept myself away from reading other reviews of the mag, although I knew it to be astounding because I’ve seen the first seven words of Tweets about its stunning portrayals of POCs in speculative fiction worlds.

I’m with those Tweeters. Believe. But first, that cover:

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“Rebirth” is the theme of the first of what I hope will be many issues of this mag. And each author has wound it seamlessly into the story only they can tell. It reads like they all sat around a table, clutching their caffeinated beverage of choice, and brainstormed how to make readers stare at the page in fascination. Which authors? The ToC is below:

Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber — by Malon Edwards

Police Magic — by Brent Lambert

Revival — by Wendi Dunlap

The Shade Caller — by Davaun Sanders

We Have Ended — by V.H. Galloway

Chesirah — by L.D. Lewis

 

Edward’s “Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber” is set in a futuristic world of robotics and impermanent death.

“Police Magic” shows us boys on a quest to find a way to end a dark magic taking over the world.

“The Shade Caller” and “We Have Ended” have alternate reality versions of Africa, but hold true to the storytelling traditions and lore.

In “Revival” you think you know what’s going to happen, but the story will take you off guard.

“Chesirah” gives us a strong female protagonist and the lengths she will go to for freedom, surprising even herself.

Each author’s voice is distinct, yet they all call out from within the African diaspora. Premises of freedom, expression, love, and sacrifice abound, dancing equally as well with tech implants as they do with magical creatures. Issue #1 sings, it shouts, it resonates with who we are and what we strive to be. It is the voice of Black spec fic.

It doesn’t shy away from where we’ve been, but its head is turned toward the future, feeling the wind coming off the sea of change on its scalp. And y’all know that feels good.

So pick up a copy of Fiyah Lit Mag, Issue #1. Read these stories of where Black Speculative Fiction is and where it’s going. You’ll want to come along for the ride.

Featured Author: Jeff Carroll

It is my pleasure to have on the blog today, Jeff Carroll: author, filmmaker, and hip-hop dating coach.

Yes, you heard that last one correctly. Jeff isn’t on my blog for his dating advice today, but you can find out more about that aspect of his career here.

I had the chance to catchup with Jeff and ask him about his writing, what inspires him, and what he’d like the future of speculative fiction to be.

ER: Thank you so much for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.

JC: I am a Gemini to the fullest so my stories have deep political subject told with a lot of action and fun. I’ve done a lot of things in my life from leading marches with Rev Sharpton to booking comedy shows with Kevin Hart. I’ve always been a movie fan. When I was 12 years old my cousin and I would see movies on 42nd street and recommend them to our local Harlem movie theater. Since movies are my first love my stories read like movies. People tell me all the time that they would love to see my book as movie.

ER: When did you start writing and what drew you specifically to speculative fiction?

JC: I started writing screenplays in 2003 after my mother had a stroke. I made two movies low budget B movie horrors, Holla If I Kill You and Gold Digger Killer. In 2007 after my second film Gold Digger Killer was released I wrote a tie-in comic book. I sold the comic book while screening my film at film festivals. Finally in 2009 I wrote the novelization of Gold Digger Killer. It was so liberating to write without having to be limited by my production budget that I decided to write another book. After writing the novelization of my movie I fell in love with writing. I even started reading more and learning a the different genres and Black Science fiction.

ER: What was the impetus for your story in The City anthology, “Dreamer’s Recall”?

JC: When I read the City bible outlining all of the elements I felt confined and felt that if I were there in the City I would want somebody to help me escape. So, as a story creator I wanted to tell a story where someone could have that possibility. Dreams have always been a form of escapism for me so that was the entry point for me to starting my story.

ER: How did you perform research for your characters and scenes or did you work from existing knowledge?

JC: I am not necessarily your grandmother’s sci-fi writer. I am a hip hopper. I grew up on movies like Krush Groove and Boyz in the Hood as much as I did Star Wars and Independence Day so I blend the energy of hip hop with the speculation of Sci-fi. With the characters of “Dreamer’s ReCall” I simple said what if there was a couple and one of them started having life changing dreams. I didn’t go as far as Love and Hip Hop but I did want to have something for Streetlit readers who’s stories have a lot of relationship drama.

ER: When using real events and people, how do you decide when to fictionalize and when to stay true to history?

JC: In my book It Happened on Negro Mountain I used the Mountain as my inspiration because it’s name was profound. Sci-fi is the genre which explores the “what ifs” and I use that use question to determine what person or event I fictionalize.

ER: For you, what makes a great tale? What do you like to read?

JC: I love adventures with happy endings. I love good triumphing over evil. I also like the escapism that Sci-fi provides. I like urban stories with a paranormal element. The writer which provided me with the most inspiration was LA Banks. I also like Steven Barnes but my favorite Sci-fi book is Zuro a Tale of Alien avengers. However after writing in the City I am fully turned onto CyberFunk and Afrofuturism. I am planning to write my story “Dreamer’s ReCall” into a novel.

Cover art for the collaborative cyberfunk anthology, The City, which features Jeff's story, Dreamer's ReCall.
Cover art for the collaborative cyberfunk anthology, The City, which features Jeff’s story, Dreamer’s ReCall.

ER: What scares you?

JC: A lot of things scare me. I’m not a sacredly cat because I fight through my fears. I am scared of sharks in the ocean. I am not scared of ghosts or demons. I am scared of people. Psychopaths and serial killers. I am also squeamish so my stomach can’t take realistic operations with lots of organs and blood. However, I was there for the delivery of my son.

ER: Of the works you’ve written, what’s your favorite? Of which are you most proud?

JC: I am proud of all of my writings. I’ve written a piece of myself and my family and friends into each of my stories. I do think my third book It Happened on Negro Mountain was my most unbelievable book to sell and it became the first of my stories to get a publishing deal.

ER: How can African American artists (actors, writers, filmmakers) succeed in speculative fiction circles? Do you feel your work has been received differently?

JC: I think we are at an opportune moment where opportunities for black creators are opening up. I think the main thing a black creator could do is hone their craft and put it out in the market for people to see.

ER: What’s your next project?

JC: I am currently writing a story I had for a movie into a novella. It’s about transgender serial killer in a CyperFunk world. I also have three manuscripts circulating for possible publishing deals so any of those could be my next book. I just released my first collection of short stories this past August called Sci-Fi Streetz.

ER: What’s missing in fiction? What shape would you like to see the future of speculative fiction take?

JC: When I first started reading Sci-fi there were a lack of stories I wanted to read but now there are more books than I can read. I still feel we are on the tip of the iceberg with manifesting our unique African America Sci-fi expression. I think when we fully developing our variation it will be as different as manga (the Japanese comic book form) is. I think black people have a unique worldview and cultural past which inspires our ideas and solutions to the problems and discoveries of the future. I even think we will have a common storytelling pace that will appeal to black people like the TV shows Empire and Scandal.

Negro Mountain

ER: Many black authors of speculative fiction tell me they struggle for fans. What’s your advice?

JC: Thinking of the future is directly connected to your knowledge of the past and because many black people don’t know of the glory of African people they see the future as frustrating as the past. I remember watching Brother From Another Planet feeling that “Dagg, we are slaves in the future too”. Dystopian stories are big right now but for Black people the Black Lives Matter movement makes them feel like we are living in a Dystopian present day world. I think also that since white male writers dominated Sci-fi so much that Black Sci-fi is still new most black people. Once we get that hit book like The Coldest Winter Ever then everybody will know about Black Sci-fi.

ER: What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?

JC: Because I work full time finding the time to write and work social media are the hardest aspects of writing for me. The actual writing process presents its own challenges with each story.

ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?

JC: When I’m not writing I’m reading as much as I can. I make it a point to read Black Sci-fi but not exclusively. I try to read the latest Sci-fi books and I mix it up with old Sci-fi.

ER: Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you like to mention?

JC: I just want to say that The City is an amazing project and I would like to thank Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade for creating such a glorious project. Inviting other black writers to share in their universe was a historical move. The City is the first of its kind.

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Thanks for the interview, Jeff!  Find out more about Jeff and his work on his blog, Facebook, and on Twitter.

Graveyard Shift Sister: Chatting with Nuzo Onoh

I was updating my media kit recently and I realized I’ve been writing features for the Graveyard Shift Sisters blog for over a year now. For anyone unfamiliar with Graveyard Shift Sisters, it is a site dedicated to purging the black female horror fan from the margins. Before sites such as GSS, many of us had few like minds to discuss our love of the genre with. In talking with other black female horror writers, we also experienced surprise from others–readers and authors alike–and it was much the same:

*You* write horror? Really? 

Yes. Yes, I do and I’m not alone.

Those responses were the reason I reached out to the owner of GSS, Ashlee Blackwell, and asked if I could write a feature on the black women who write horror. To my delight she responded with a resounding, “Yes!”.

My posts for these features tend to be my reading a book of the author’s choice and reviewing it, along with sending them an emailed list of questions about their work and inspirations, their experience with horror, and what shape they would like to see future of horror take. I’ve been told it’s one of Graveyard Shift Sisters’ most popular features. *Blush* (Actually, I think it’s badass.)

Badass as in Rosalind Cash as Lisa in The Omega Man badass.
Badass like Rosalind Cash as Lisa in The Omega Man badass.

This time, I had a real treat with the feature. Since I’ve moved to the UK, I’ve not been able to find a strong group of writers to talk shop with and I missed that feeling of camaraderie. So when African horror author Nuzo Onoh emailed me to review her latest release, Unhallowed Graves, I asked her if she’d be open to doing the interview on the phone instead of via email. (My first review/interview with her was via email on her short horror collection, The Reluctant Dead. You can read about it here.)

Nuzo agreed and I’m so glad she did. It’s different conducting an interview on the phone, but it was the right call to make. (Ha!) We had an inspiring talk about writing, writing horror as a woman of African descent, the similarities between her culture (Igbo) and mine (Gullah-Geechee), and the differences between England and America. (That last topic is for another post.)

Read my review of Unhallowed Graves and my conversation with Nuzo on the first two topics on the Graveyard Shift Sisters site here.

Do you know of a black female horror author whose work I should feature on a future post? Let me know!