Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trials of a Ronin Poet: It is the year 2005…

Let’s finish this story. Where was I?

My concentration became more focused on lectures throughout 2004 and at the beginning of 2005. But, the circuit crumbled because of egos, and remains in shambles to this day. The summer of 2005 made me re-think my direction. DCP moved to Atlanta. I followed, not knowing that Atlanta is a hard place to find an editing job. In the meantime, DCP and I reworked The Ronin Poetz. I added the prologue and split the poem into five acts (each Act is cleverly named after segments found in the second epic poem.) DCP made a deal with worldwide distributors and another printer to cut costs. Despite what sounded like good news, there was continual drama in DCP. I walked away as a contributing author, but stayed as an editor, eventually becoming freelance. I returned to New York. I was able to continue business through my own company, Ancient-Art-of-Facts, which was established in late 2002.

After failed attempts to secure an Artist-in-Residence post at a Historically Black College or University, I decided to toss aside my lecture series (and books reflecting the material) and catch up on creative writing. 12 Stories High was the focus. It was outlined in the summer of ‘05 and work began in October 2005. The book was released in spring, 2006. I was terrified about the cover, trying to get the pagination correct to fit the book for the printer. It came out wonderfully, on point. The operation to put 12 Stories High together was a success. I learned a lot from watching DCP grow and was able to smooth the business process out by knowing what not to do. Simple Internet advertisement pushed the book, and I was very surprised at the reception. Radio interviews and Internet podcast interviews pushed the book. Even with no book signings, 12 Stories High was still pushed well. Thank goodness. I needed the few dollars the book earned.

12 Stories High still suffers from some editing issues, and the cover needs the re-vamp. But it was just me. Now, with a small team, a re-work is underway.

It only took 2 years.

B write black. So stay write, black.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trials of a Ronin Poet: First Run (2002–2003)

Finances are always the (first) problem of a startup company, then advertising. But DCP had a hold on advertising. I wasn’t the only client. DCP had to pull off an amazing opening. DCP was able to cut publishing cost by dealing with an Afro-Cuban printing press. 2000 copies of The Ronin Poetz were created. Post 9/11 fear gave booksellers the opportunity to keep The Ronin Poetz off shelves. Scheduled book signings and tour dates were canceled. But Black bookstores and venue spots kept the door opens. A national commercial was created for the epic poem (the first African American, narrative epic poem) and a NYCity local commercial ran in Spanish. The first run of The Ronin Poetz sold successfully and garnered positive reviews. Some critics had problems with the ‘4’, ‘2’, and ‘u’, Prince-inspired scripting. (At least there wasn’t a graphic of an eye for the word ‘I’.) But that was a minor hiccup. People were accepting The Ronin Poetz.

The Ronin Poetz's first run was also bare of the prologue, and had two errors that have since been corrected. My tour took me down the East coast, into the south, and parts of Cali. It was badass. I do regret that I wasn’t able to hit-up Chicago and Detroit. A major college tour was planned, me hooking up with two other poets, one of which inspired me to turn The Ronin Poetz into a stage play. The play was written. The college tour fell apart. The poets disappeared, mainly because we weren’t getting paid thousands. They didn’t want to split the couple thousand we were getting as a whole. Egos decided that we should get a couple thousand each. And as much as I’m sure we were worth that, we were barely known. So, I stuck to my small tour. The Q & A sessions led to lectures. I started lecturing in the summer of 2003 with a grassroots company. Queens and Brooklyn became my spots, for performances and lectures (respectively).

The copies of The Ronin Poetz were sold out by 2004. DCP broke a little more than even, and towards the winter of 2004, started to secure a deal with distribution and printing that was extremely easy on the wallet.

It's About Time

Amazon and Barnes & Noble are now featuring the cover art for Code-47. It's about time. I was just about to curse out the distributor. Now y'all can judge the book by it's cover.

Dig it like this. I've been waiting weeks. About 8, to be exact.

It's late. Gotta get some sleep. Kinda excited.

B write black 2morrow, er, later today.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trials of a Ronin Poet: (prt. 2)

Starting Company: Working with a startup company was a curse and a blessing. First off, DCP (DaChosen Publishing) loved the work and was willing to take the risk with such ‘militant’ themed literature (snicker). DCP was eager to find works; I was eager to supply mine. But startup companies can also be a haven for sharks. DCP was no different. God bless Tracey Wingfield for staying strong when so many tried to con her out of her company. However, staying strong did result in power struggles with people that were looking to take advantage of DCP’s growth, taking up time. The company made several moves, shifts in physical location and business dealing. I stayed because I didn’t want to go back on the search for another company, and I believed in what Tracey was trying to do for Black authors, which caused a stir with banks (for loans) and grants. She was making sure everyone got paid, including her, but most importantly, the artists.

The Cover: Two words: Unnecessary drama. It started cool, Star Wars posters as inspiration (look carefully, you’ll see the resemblance between The Ronin Poetz cover art and a Star Wars poster). Next came the setting: an apartment in San Francisco, California, a scheduled meeting with artist Raymond Cosico. Ray was unable to commit to a finished product. He was working for a videogame company and didn’t have the time. But he did agree to draw a sketch that another artist could work from.

Ray’s sketch was so badass that people at DCP wanted to go with it. It was really cool. But Ray considered it unfinished, artistically, and his artistic insight was respected. Unfortunately, he could not commit to finishing the project.

On travels to Louisiana to continue filming for Still Remains I met an art student at Southern University. This is where the drama begins. His artwork was okay. To be fair, he was following up the great Raymond Cosico, God of the Pencil. Ray’s work was just a sketch, but it was amazing. To the young guy’s credit, he made more than one sketch that was for use in a series of Ronin Poetz commercials. Tracey made the young man a generous offer for the artwork. When I returned home to New York, I made the commercials. They were great, backed up with music from my brother, Bryan Thomas. But people at DCP were infatuated with Ray’s sketch, high on his art. What I did like about this new artist’s rendition was that in the commercial sketches there was a visual of Tag and his diabolical weapon, made even more special by this artist’s imagination.

As luck would have it (good or bad), this new artist/client was emotionally unstable. Without giving up too many details, the artist was dropped. He has his story. And then there’s the truth. The incident almost had me dropped from DCP. It was chaotic. I still thanked him in the acknowledgement section, even after our climactic lightsaber battle on that volcanic planet. Years later I found out how grateful he was for the acknowledgement and the opportunity that was passed up. He cursed me out in an e-mail.

Anyway … I tried to put together a cover consisting of pictures of the idols of the 4 lessons: the word, the cup, the wand, and the sword. It was sloppy.

Ray Cosico stepped back into the picture to lend us the artistic abilities of a friend of his. This kid’s finished product of the cover was badass too. But it was too dark in theme. I loved it, though. Then there was a weird kaleidoscopic version of Ray’s cover presented to DCP. It was awful, and left everyone with a look of “WTF?” Ray started to feel obligated to finish what he started. In less than 2 days DCP had the cover that is now presented to the world. Ray, with some free time, buckled down and whipped up an amazing finished product. He also proved that when an artist says something is unfinished, they mean it. People at DCP (and even I) understood the difference between a sketch and finished product. Ray delivered well.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trials of a Ronin Poet (prt. 1)

Putting The Ronin Poetz together for hardcover publication got me to remember all the madness that happened eight years ago when it was first completed. I still have the rejection letters from publishing companies about The Ronin Poetz. The letters were interesting. From Black companies, they wished me well in finding a publisher and my career. But they all stated that the concept was too heavy for them to publish. I appreciated the honesty. One publishing company really loved the story and wished they could take it on. But they admitted they were too afraid of the piece’s commentary. When I skim through The Ronin Poetz, it’s actually tame. There are a lot of tongue-and-cheek moments, cutesy and a little corny, sing-songy rhyme—all in fun, amidst the backdrop of heavy commentary. There also are a lot of pop culture references and citations. I use ‘lightsaber’ with no apology. But that’s just the zeitgeist. After all, some of the inspiration was Wu Tang Clan (as they have a guest ‘appearance’ at the end as the 36 Staten Fiends)

Oh, well. It’s out now.

Thank you DCP (DaChosen Publishing) for taking the risk.

Oh, well. It’s out now.

Thank you DCP (DaChosen Publishing) for taking the risk.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Edition

The hardcover to The Ronin Poetz is gonna be something else. There's been more poetic content added. Readers will get a glimpse of a master and student battle, once a character is redeemed. The final product has been sent to DaChosen Publishing, so it's all on their end now.

It was an endevour. I didn't realize how much we bootlegged putting The Ronin Poetz together, to finalize for print. Now that we all know what we're doing (and with better publishing programs), this job only took one full day, and that was because the bootleg job had to be undone.

Re-paginating, section splitting, shifting the page order, and aligning the pages upright ... some of these tasks I didn't know needed to be done until the work was finalized in the document. Pages were shifted the wrong way; the alignments were off. I started last night, wanted to finish up this morning. But once the parts were put together in their finalized form, more work needed to be done. I thought I would have to start all over again. But, I found a simple way around it ... and it all worked out.

But not before I got frustrated.

I took a deep breath and just worked around the hiccup.

Still having trouble with the cover, though. I hope that doesn't need any work.

I'll know soon. Left an e-mail with Tracey Wingfield, head of DCP.

Best news is, I got a new video game. Gonna relax.

Friday, December 19, 2008

That’s not repairing. That’s rebuilding.

This weekend I will be working on putting the contents together for The Ronin Poetz hardcover. DaChosen Publishing wants to release a hardcover Ronin Poetz, and they want me to help. The move to a hardcover copy has been in the works for a while now.

Putting together the book was bootleg-esque. But now, with different software applications, and a matured company (instead of flying virgin-blind like we were doing) it will be mad easy, though still a handful.

Let’s dive back in.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Hit List (staying realistic)

2 books. 1 year. Even though one is already finished, and needs just some editing, there is still a time crunch. There’s a list of things that need to be laid out. I’m not just the average author that has the time to release two books. I publish through my own company, Ancient-Art-of-Facts. So, I handle the business side of things too. (Which I have to admit, is kinda fun.) This is what needs to be done:

1) Organize notes for A Company of Moors [in process now]

2) Edit the second epic poem [in process now]

3) Find artist Ray Cosico for cover of second epic poem. This will be a near impossible task. Ray has to work on his teleporting skills. He’s got the disappearing part down.

4) From organized notes of A Company of Moors, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write. (2nd longest process. Nothing beats trying to find Ray Cosico.)

5) Blog

6) Edit finished product. [This will probably be done as the book is being written, given to the few editors I have, and can trust, to look over. Chapter-by-Chapter.]

7) Miscellaneous things. They’re gonna occur. Between February to April there will be a lot of these. 12 Stories High will be getting a new cover. The Ronin Poetz will be having a hardcover release. And more. I’ll blog when the time comes.

Then there’s simple leisure time and work. My fiancĂ© will always be there to relax me and get me to slow down if I’m overworking myself. Thank you, Nekia.

But … things should go smooth.


…bought these titles as well…

When Code-47 was posted for sale on Barnes and Noble they had a list of coinciding titles that other people bought as well.

One title was Animal Farm. This was kinda odd because the book references Animal Farm several times. There was Hamlet (cool,) a Jane Austen novel (can’t remember the title). And then … Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches an Egg.


List is now a li'l different. I did like being linked to Dr. Seuss, though.

Strange as it be...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cheat Codes

Most of these stories are congruent. The Ronin Poetz stands on its own as a five-year piece of drama. But once plans for 12 Stories High were underway, and while in the middle of composing or re-writing the short stories, both Code-47 and A Company of Moors were outlined. A tremendous amount of historical research was done for A Company of Moors. And I’m not giving myself too much time to breathe between projects.

I consider Code-47 and A Company of Moors as catalysts to other ideas I’m trying to get straight and outline. I feel that once A Company of Moors is finished, I can move on to some heavier stuff, and even rest a bit.

Somewhat. Maybe.

But I’ve been fiending to start A Company of Moors (ACoM). I debated between starting Code-47 and starting ACoM after 12 STORIES. Code-47 won out because I not only thought it was the easier title to scribe, but I want my career to reflect the pacing of 12 Stories High. Also, Code-47 was me stretching before the challenge. I always challenge myself.

I challenged myself at age twelve to write a book. Finished writing what is still an unpublished manuscript titled Identical Thefts at the end of the seventh grade, 168 pgs long. The summer before starting high school, I challenged myself to write a book based off of a Prince album. I did so with his signature (no-pun-intended) “O-|->” album (Did I spell that right?), completed in the tenth grade. Sorry, couldn’t find a story in Diamonds and Pearls. Senior year in college, challenged myself to create a story entirely through poetry. I have The Ronin Poetz and three more epic poems on the way. So, I can check that off the list.

So what’s the challenge with A Company of Moors? Believe it or not, it’s not the huge undertaking with characters, plot(s), the twists, relationships, and historical accuracy … even in the midst of fiction that must all be executed near flawless. That’s not a problem.

My goal—which was also a goal this year—is to release two books in one year. Code-47 and ACoM were slated for release in 2008. ACoM was supposed to have been released around Thanksgiving. That’s what I originally planned. But, running a company, writing Code-47, and having a day job as a writer-editor slowed me down a bit.

Oh, yeah. Sometimes my fiancé likes to be taken out to dinner and spend quality time together.

But that’s my New Year’s resolution, 15 days early. 2 books. 1 year.

Can it be done? Don’t know, but thank God for cheat codes. What’s mine? Well, I will be revising the second epic poem. It’s been finished since August 2001. There just needs to be a small re-write to certain ‘chapters’ of the poem. I’ll be speaking about that soon.

And then there’s the whole ‘have a cover made for the book’ thing.

I’m talking’ to you Mr. Ray Cosico!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Major Catch up and Col. Mustard (part 3)

Code-47 was an open plot waiting for the right subject matter. It did not start out being a commentary on Hip Hop. It sprouted from a story I had written called The Writer’s Block, which I’m sure, is a title every writer has used. I personally suffer from the type of writer’s block when there are too many ideas and possibilities. I have a very psycho-Hamlet approach to writing.

Anyway, the story was inspired by a poem I wrote by the same name. It centered on the lives of four different types of Black writers who were trying to start a publishing company. There were also plans to write a short screenplay to film. The story never really went anywhere; it was dialogue and character driven. But the plot moved at a seasonal hour-long drama pace.

Didn’t really work on it much.

The story transformed into something that looked like a Black version of a Kevin Smith movie. I’ll stay mum on that plot. I really liked that story. I just made notes for it. At the time, I was also outlining Freezing Reign in Summer for 12 Stories High. And of course, I thought of making a short story from the second idea. But the second idea had two ways to tell the story. One was titled Codebreakers. The other story was titled Our World. I decided to combine the two and hope for the best to create a screenplay that would finally be made into a movie. But completing and publishing 12 Stories High was the main focus. The stories and screenplay dwindled away.

One night, speaking to my friend Panic (inspiration for the character Law), I was given the rundown on how the music industry worked. It was cold. It was real late. Our conversation must’ve been for three hours, between 12am and 3am. Panic was always rolling his eyes at people who continuously complained about the state of hip hop. Panic has war stories. Real ones. He wasn’t a fan; he was part of the hip hop industry on both the creative and business side. It’s the difference between studying Vietnam and actually haven been there. Anyway, Code-47 has a shortened version of this conversation between the characters Keith Joseph and Law Forsythe in an early chapter.

But even after our initial talk, and creating a backdrop for a ‘hip hop heist’, I went back to the Writer’s Block/Codebreakers/Our World stories and created many possibilities for a heist. The story that is ‘hip hop heist’ was originally a backstory for Keith Joseph. It was just a story that got Keith recognized to help someone else with another heist.

Then came the melting pot phase where all the ideas are shoved into one. Next came the picking off, figuring out what works, what doesn’t. Keith, towards the end of the book, exclaims other stalled, Black creative outlets. He names other music genres, literature, movies … all of which were explored as possibilities for the actual heist.

But hip hop stood out. Too many people have been complaining. And I wanted to write a book about people taking action. Instead of another non-fiction book by someone documenting the timeline of hip hop’s degeneration and how it was done.

I felt like, “Okay, hip hop conspiracy theorists. So we know. Now what?”

It’s now time to get to work. Code-47 in effect.

I dedicated the book to Negro Spirituals because of how their influence shaped the book. And my boy Panic … for being realistic.

Code-47 is my first novel (published), 3rd book released. Oddly, I look at Code-47 as the beginning of my writing career.

When the plot was outlined and put together, there wasn’t too much to stray from. It was straightforward. Finishing the book, editing it, and publishing it did not come on time. I wanted it released 2007.

Missed that year.

Then I wanted the book released on my birthday, April 21, 2008.


It was finally released fall 2008. October 30th.

Oh, well. It’s here.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Cover Page

I liked the concept for the 12 Stories High cover—a skyline of books stacked like buildings in a city—but not the final product. I give props to my friend Joe Yang for putting the cover together last minute. However, there will be a re-work of the cover coming next year.

Carl Brandon Society: Parallax Award

12 Stories High has been nominated for the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award. The Carl Brandon Parallax Award is given to works of speculative fiction created by a person of color. The winner will be announced early next year.

My Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

This is the list of stories and a brief ‘synopsis’ of 12 Stories High. This is not what the stories are about, but what inspired them. I know I said I wouldn’t go through story-by-story but … re-read the title.

1) And Once Just Walked Us – This was inspired by an event in my life when I was eight or nine. I attached the event to the main character of Code-47, Keith Joseph. What he describes is how the event actually played out. The museum setting was inspired by a scene in a movie (I forget which one. Maybe it was South Central, not sure) where a father takes a son to an ‘African-American’ exhibit. The scene is silent as the child looks in wonder and awe and what his father points out. I could only think, Indoctrination at an early age! You will be a slave! That’s all you’ve been!

I make no apologies for being an uppity, thinking nigger.

2) Still Remains – I’ve said enough about this. Can’t say too much more without giving away the twist.

3) Vicariously Alive – Continues the commentary made in Still Remains on the essence of the Black woman. This just has a detective-noir flow. The sequels to this story were cut from the final book. The second is written; the third is still in ‘notes’ phase.

4) Tales of the Djedhi – Was inspired by events concerning a friend of mine who stole an amazing book on African history from the library. It’s combined with actually history about the fleeing of Egypt once the land was taken over by foreigners, and the dispersion of knowledge. The title is a play on the Star Wars comic title Tales of the Jedi. The Djedhi Kephri were the guardians of sacred knowledge in Egypt and Nubia. They were a warrior-priest/priestesshood. The story also makes a hint at the origin of Tarot cards.

5) Headless – Based off of a 1996(-97) screenplay of the same name. The challenge was turning a 128 page screenplay into a ‘short’ story. This story was added late. I wanted to explore the horror genre. Headless is a commentary on race, class, and religion vs. spirituality. The relationship between the slave girl and her master (seen in flashbacks and dreams) was inspired by the true story of Sally Hennings’ relationship with Thomas Jefferson. Trust me people. It wasn’t that romantic shit you see in the movies. I beg you to do a li’l research.

6) Ah, Moor – This was a story for a friend who didn’t believe in her own beauty.

7) I Wish Servitude – Inspired by a story I revamped over and over since high school. The story saw different time periods, even worlds. I settled on 1518, North Africa. There’s a 1001 Arabian Nights feel about a young man who is granted the power of a djinn (genie). But the social arrangement of the North African Moors, the turmoil in their community, and the invasion of white Turks and the French is a reflection of modern times. I also wanted a story where the woman saves the man.

8) 3 Cigs United – Everyone’s guilty pleasure of a short story. This took the place of a short story titled Office Politics. This was originally supposed to be a short film (5-10 mins). It was conceived while listening to the Patsy Kline song 3 Cigarettes in an Ashtray. I was walking the French Quarters in New Orleans; the song was on my iPod. I wanted a Tarantino feel to the scene. The twist at the end … I found funny. And so did a lot of people. Guilty pleasure indeed.

9) The Monk and the Moor – Symbolic of the ‘old guard’ and the old school hoods. Two war-chiseled veterans, a Chinese monk, and an aged Moorish soldier battle with a secret Vatican army of knights while protecting a beautiful African songbird.

10) Freezing Reign in Summer – Another late addition to the book, and an exclusive. No re-write of an older story or screenplay. A Black Western where I wanted the violence to outshine the plot. Plot? Simple. Revenge. Overview? Some things do need to be stopped in order to continue a strong, Black community. The main character, named Logan Stanford was originally named Keith Joseph. I applied the latter moniker to the main character of Code-47.

11) Waiting for What? – This was an anecdote about Jesus that I would constantly use in my lectures. I made it a short story.

12) The Curse of Cain-An – Inspired by a videogame series titled The Legacy of Kain, I set out to give ‘militant’ or ‘conscious’ brothas a superhero. Cain is more of an anti-hero. What he does with his powers is sinister, but every Black person would love to have them. Cain is relentless, and when he is called a villain he simply replies, “That will be debated for years to come.” And surely it will.

Those are the 12 that made the cut. I hope they’re sharp enough to scalp ignorance, and hard enough to break shackles.


12 Stories High: The Imaginative Trip Thru a Black Mind

Major Catch up and Col. Mustard (part 2)

Back at the house. Got some clothes. Look cool. Tired.

I promised an entry. I’ll actually make this brief … (as possible). I can best promise not to go into each individual story for 12 Stories High. But I will go into the need and backstory of 12 Stories High.

I say need, because, I believe Black literature is due for a change. Not necessarily a change in topic, but structure and variety. A lot of Black people complain about this. However, I like to take action. I’ll save the preachy commentary for later. For now, let’s talk about 12 Stories High.

This young brotha that I know wanted to make a creative push into the Movie Industry. The brotha had the same vision for Black movies as I had for Black literature. We wanted a change. We felt a need to change the current status. That was May 2000.

It’s eight years later and the conclusion is that we failed miserably.

But the minor success is the publication of 12 Stories High.

My friend and I were not completely delusional to believe that we were going to introduce the new flavor of soda and disrupt Coca-Cola (That’s a metaphor. Keep up). But we would like to have seen some of the stories we came up with on screen.

As it were, I took my stories and created 12 Stories High. I was inspired by the brotha’s enthusiasm. He told me he wanted me to write something deep, metaphysical, spiritual, and something that touched on the sensuality between the Black Man and Black Woman. We decided we would stay simple for the first project. My boy was already in the process of scripting a short film called Who Scent You? He wanted me to add to it. The story would center on a Black bookstore. It would be sculpted like Pulp Fiction—a series of interconnected stories, at least two.

I immediately thought of a story. I called it Locked. But it would take too much to film; it wasn’t simple enough. I realized Locked was a backstory, not a main story. The next day I asked if I could use the female character of his story, adding her to my story, and make her the focal point of the two stories. He was cool with it. But I still had a problem. I still had a female character that my male character was attached to. How could I keep her? Thus the twist to the story was invented. And with the twist came the title Still Remains.

Along with writing and scripting Still Remains, several other ideas were hammered out within the week. These ideas were: In 14 Pieces, Vicariously Alive, the original And Once, Just Walked Us, and The Monk & The Moor. Some were scripted; some were just outlined.

Eventually, when the project fell apart, I took my friend’s character and shaped her into the character that is in the short story, making her mine. (All mine ... muahahaha). Anyway, I turned Still Remains and Vicariously Alive, and Once Just Walked Us into short stories. I then called it a day—that would last for four years.

In those four years, The Ronin Poetz was published, a second epic poem was written (two more planned), and I started doing lectures. The lectures sidetracked me, much like the poetry in college. I wrote a book that was a compilation of my lectures. I was caught up in the outrage of how ancestral ideas, mythology, science, and spirituality were being exploited, abused, misused, and misinterpreted—even by our own people. White folks in Hollywood are making money of off ignorance. All me and a small cadre of cats do is go to the movies and say, “Oh, they took that from (insert ancient Black/or African mythology or concept).”

I had a plan that after I finished my ‘lecture’ book, I would publish a book of short stories called Unfinished Business. The five stories I had scripted and outlined would be included—and the basis of for the book. I felt the stories were unfinished; they were supposed to be short films, not short stories.

Well, to make a long story short—

… Too late …

The lecture circuit fell apart. Grievances escalated to mudslinging, backstabbing, and the eventual collapse of the company I worked for. An ex-friend took advantage of the spotlight he was now in and finally finished and published a book complaining about Hip Hop. It was a terrible mix of pop culture, movie references, and social commentary. On top of that, it was plain to see that he was complaining about the Hip Hop industry simply because it rejected him as an artist. This jarred my senses.

I didn’t want to be seen as a sore loser when I published my ‘lecture’ book(s). I decided the lecture book(s) would be released after or near the end of my creative writing career. Unfinished Business became my main focus.

In April 2005 I started outlining the contents of the book. I started fleshing out the format in the summer of 2005. I was also coming up with more stories, and revitalizing old ones. I felt comfortable with opening the book with the 5-page, newly titled story And Once Just Walked Us. It seemed appropriate that a story about a curious Black child would be story one. I wanted the child to represent the reader and all he/or she thinks they know about Black books. The story also complimented main character’s search for knowledge in Still Remains, which would now be story two. Now the twist in Still Remains hit at an appropriate time for the reader(s). It now grabbed the audience harder and said, “You’re in for something different!” Vicariously Alive would be the third story in the book. Its mysterious tone and twist would now be easily accepted by the reader.

The book features a variety of genres and time periods in Black History. From the Moors, African slaves in America, Black gunmen of the Old West, detectives, Black telepaths, modern Black Revolutionaries with mysterious powers, little Black boys looking for their history, and a showcase of Black love the book amazingly displays a variety of genres from horror, fantasy, science fiction, romance, streams of thought, and action-adventure.

There were twenty stories chosen for the book. Twelve made the cut. I changed the name from Unfinished Business to 12 Stories High. I also figured releasing a book of short stories (well crafted, creative, and a little different than most African-American literature out there) would be like a shotgun blast. There are many genres and themes wrapped in one package. The first story you might suspect. The second has a twist. From there, the book doesn’t look back or apologize. I modeled the book after a Prince album, where every song is different. I also wanted 12 Stories High to reflect my writing career, versatile. My audience won’t be confused when I go from a tale about Hip Hop to an historical novel.

The book caught some attention, to my surprise. People appreciated the breath of fresh air the book offered to Black literature.

All from one mind, just getting warmed up.

Okay, that was a little arrogant.

But, then again, this was suppose to be 'brief'.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Intermission of parts

Fiancee wants me to stick to my promise of going to buy some new clothes.

Be back.

Major Catch up and Col. Mustard (part 1)

Let’s play catch up.

I can at least speak about the inspiration for my first three books briefly. Simply put, for The Ronin Poetz, I was sidetracked a little in college and got into poetry. Towards the end of my senior year, I decided to combine my storytelling skills with my newfound powers of poetry.

The Ronin Poetzwas first a single poem. It was a long poem, but just one. It was seven pages or so. It was a poem about this warrior who spoke of his exploits/adventures thru poetry. Characters like that fascinate me, warriors who are destroyers but creators through art. Like in Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi Trilogy. You got a guitar player turned vengeful killer.

When I finished the first poem, I wasn’t thinking that it would, or could, be a larger story. I did have an understanding that the character in the story had potential for continuing adventures. At the moment, the character was nameless. Just called The Ronin Poet. I rested on the idea for a month. I wanted the Ronin Poet’s life to be an allegory for my own (at first). Whatever I went through, I’d put into poetry and make it a legendary, mythological event. But as the nineties started to wind down—and with so much learning of Black contemporary and ancient studies, I began to expand the allegory to encompass the struggles of Black people as a whole. I created a plot, more characters, allies, villains, mentors, families, and lovers to surround this central character. I planned for The Ronin Poetz to be a short chapbook, 14 poems long ... 155 pages and 54 poems later, I ended the story.

The Ronin Poetz took two months to write and five years to officially publish, or get on the market. It had an amazing underground run for its first print. Over two thousand were pushed. At the time, 9/11 was happening. Stores were a little reluctant to put a ‘militant’ piece of work on the shelf, even if it was the first African-American, narrative epic poem. Nonetheless, I toured through Black book stores and community centers. And while people loved the performance of some of the scenes, it was the questions and answers session where I started to create a lecture series.

The first thing I had to explain was the term ‘ronin’. It’s from Japanese terminology. A ronin is a samurai without a master to serve; forced to be a mercenary. It’s actually very disgraceful and dishonorable to be a ronin. But I flipped the concept. We as Black people, after the brutality of physical slavery, and living in the shadow of a mental slavery, and white supremacy, we search to be a ronin: to serve no master and be masters of our own fate.

The rest is literary history. The Ronin Poetz would get a worldwide release in March 2005.

Did I say this would be brief?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

over 35 pages of notes

Okay peoples, I’m excited about this new project. Not just the book, but also the energy and effort put into this blog that will (from this point on) document the piecing together of all the parts, strings, research, and inspiration to a puzzle that will display (hopefully, and without sounding arrogant) an historical epic masterpiece for Black literature.

Okay … so that sounds completely arrogant. But, hey, do you.

Anyway, I’ve only once documented the stages of my writing, though not in real time. The effort was an afterthought. I put together 18 pages recounting the ideas, inspirations, and the ins and outs of a series of unpublished books I wrote in high school (continuing in college) titled The Infinity Cycles. People that I shared some of the ‘books’ with always wanted to know what was the thought process that went into the creation of the series. I recited the story so many times—going all the way back to when I was five years old and influenced by an Atari 2600 comic book/videogame entitled Sword Quest: Earth World—I thought I should write about the entire story that led up to the first book entitled All Seven. A Prince album and writings I had done in the sixth grade would be inspiration to create an epic adventure eight books long. Unpublished.

What made the people I did share the ‘books’ with question the inspiration was the fact that the first book All Seven, became the sixth book in the series when all was said and done. How did that happen? Well, that’s a story for another time.

Besides friends always asking me about my inspiration, I’ve always loved behind-the-scenes footage and interviews of movies, and knowing what was put into creating the final product. Also, the book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays was a heavy hitting piece of inspiration. It documented every aspect of the Original Trilogy. Any Star Wars fan or aspiring filmmaker should snatch books like those. Awesome!

So, that’s the back story to the back story to the back story. I do wish I could’ve done this earlier, especially for the epic poem The Ronin Poetz. My entire lecturing career started with the book tour for The Ronin Poetz. Audiences wanted to know the inspirations and steps to creating the first African-American, Narrative Epic Poem (A Novel-in-Rhyme). And all the stories for my second book, 12 Stories High: The Imaginative Trip Thru a Black Mind, have a story to them. And the creation of the book, how it started, what stories made the cut, what didn’t, original titles, concepts, and story symbolism, of course, has a story to them. The third book, Code-47: Memoirs of a Hip Hop Heist … actually … I don’t mind that I did not document. It was a pretty straight forward write, only minor plot points and scenes changed.Code-47 speaks for itself.

But there were a lot of notes.

There’s a lot of catching up to do even with this next book. Code-47 is still fresh and new. The promotion continues, and probably will through early next year. But putting out one project, and promoting it, doesn’t slow an artist down from moving onto the next one.

So, here I am. This is my second novel and fourth book, A Company of Moors. This is the book I have been waiting to write since being in the middle of scribing the stories from 12 Stories High.

There will be no spoilers posted here. This will just be a collection of thought processes, the trials and tribulations of writing, meeting self-imposed deadlines, switching around notes, characters, seeing what works. But very little of the plot will be revealed.

There are over 35 pages of notes for the story. The notes for the historical research are 130 pages long. All of that must be combined. This will also be about if I’m writing, the troubles encountered, and the fun I’m having.

This will be an imaginative trip thru a black mind.