Friday, December 28, 2012

Mind Glow Interview

Open your hearts, open your minds.

Had a blast answering questions fielded by a guy who's a phenomenal writer. Mister Adika Butler is "the Editor-In-Chief and a founding member of WhereItzAt an online magazine and entertainment paper bursting with profiles and interviews with Black business owners, artists, politicians, activists, authors and entertainers" and he took the time to ask me a few questions about my new work and writing career. Here is the full online interview, which will also be followed by a print version some time next year.

It's a return to the writing field. A return to the pen and page.

A Return of the Djedhi. Have fun reading. More interviews and radio spots on the way.

(Interview link)

b write black.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Human Exotic

Sounds like a Prince song, right? Ah, he'd probably go with Human Erotic. Oh, well, it'd be a badass song.

But what is the Human Exotic? It's something that I didn't discover when composing my book A Company of Moors (and even my latest piece, The Ghost of Gabriel's Horn), but it's something that I was able to define.

The Human Exotic is what I call the Western-Hollywood treatment of foreign cultures, or black/people of color. It's where every last person from a culture of black or brown people (from peasant to king) are completely absorbed into their culture. Like that's all there is to their personality. Now regardless of fact or fiction, in writing, again, it can come off as cliche or stoic.

What I realized when I started writing A Company of Moors, was that there was a way to present a variety of African cultures that are often billed as exotic, especially in the time period they're set in (for A Company of Moors, North Africa, 1640), as human. Each character, though are cliched at their foundation, they grow organically into their respective, strong and round personalities. (Yes, sometimes cliche isn't bad, it's just about how you expound on the cliche, or rather, trope). Was it the culture of the Moors? Was it an interior African kingdom? Was it an nomadic, African tribe? Yes. I dealt will all three. There were tropes and cliches, but to make sure the characters (or the entire cultures presented) weren't stale or flat, I didn't allow their culture to define their personality.

It's what separates The Godfather, Goodfellas, and the Sopranos as masterpieces than a lot of so-called Urban "Gangsta" novels that...truthfully...and with no offense...aren't...that well. Written.


Ever notice in real gangster stories or even Westerns, the characters that allow the cliches to define them end up dead? They walk around strutting their stuff as gangsters and outlaws, and they either end up arrested or dead. Michael Corleone and Tony Soprano don't walk around strutting their stuff as gangsters. And so, they're able to direct their operations intelligently and use the art of subtlety to maneuver through their clandestine world. Yes, Tony Soprano had an Alpha Male personality, but he was smart enough not to flash his criminal activity around.

I allowed the same rule to happen in A Company of Moors. A character flaunts the fact that he is a descendant of royalty, walking around arrogantly and demanding to be treated as such. Luckily he's one of the heroes of the story. He does understand that his lineage means nothing, truly. And he just uses it as a shield to hide deeper insecurities. But he allows it to consume him to dire consequences. But he learns his lesson.

In The Ghost of Gabriel's Horn, I delve into the African-American "Hoodoo"/"Voudon" culture--to some degree. What I mean by that is, even after doing an intense amount of research, I made my own rules for the story I was telling. And so, I didn't want to use (or even define) everything by what I had come across in my research. I used it as inspiration. I even used older aspects of the culture, and older names of Gods and Goddesses, to express the story. It made the work its own without being offensive to its greater African-American/African influences and the people that practice them. I made them human.

Not to sound arrogant, but the best writers do.

The Human Exotic is too often used in storytelling, in writing. It's an easy way out, and a quick path to flat and cliched characters. Strip the Human Exotic of its exotic, use the characters' cultures and their environment as decorative ornaments, and you have yourself the building blocks for round, interesting characters that interact with their environment in a believable manner.

b write black 

Just the 'B'

I cannot stress more the importance of an editor to fellow black authors. I've been reading sample chapters from works that have reached the market, and the narratives are embarrassingly bad. Tense changes. Wrong use of words. 'Telling' over 'showing', most often in the form of a judgmental narrator. Grammatical errors sprinkled over narrative. And these are final, in print published works, not drafts. More so, these are actual mistakes, not clever authors inserting a form of experimental commentary or writing.

Professional manuscripts are edited over a period of months, possibly a year--3 to 4 times. With 3 to 4 editors overlooking the final process. Though often times there are errors missed (trust me, I speak from frustrated experience as an author and editor), an effort made is an error saved. Most errors are caught, few remain. But in the end, the author should always be presented as someone that has a grasp on the English language. Being an author, and just 'writing' are two different things. I'm pretty sure that most 'authors' out there within the contemporary setting, are people who write as a 'hobby', looking for an 'outlet' for their feelings. This, coupled with a lot of Print-On-Demand, and the Internet, make for shoddy writing and products. And the reading level of the audience has to be just as juvenile and oblivious to grammar as the so-called authors.

My work, by some contemporary black authors has been called 'fancy' or 'bougiee', and I take these as full blown compliments. I'm sure that these statements are a reaction to the challenge my writing presents, and how it points out that most of the black authorship (with the so-called Urban Fiction, Scarface knock-offs, or sexually frustrated author erotica) is on a very low-scale level of output, creativity, and YOU ARE HERE

Look, I don't profess to be perfect, but I strive to put out as close to a perfect product as possible. I try and do my best to make even my rough drafts show a command of my writing skills, so that the editors in my company understand what I'm trying to say even when I flub it.


Challenge yourself to research and discover something new. There has been so much repetition in the Black literary community. Let's try something new. Explore, and go beyond and write more than what you know. Put a stop to the monotony and the mundane.

b write black

Saturday, December 22, 2012

That same story...

When are black writers gonna stop writing that same book? You know what I mean. The same two stories over and over and over and over and over again. Where's the diversity and creativity of expression? The true freedom of writing, without bounds. Imaginative. We're the people who created every myth, broke down all the sciences in ancient times that scientists today keep scratching their heads about. We created and lived every myth and religion.

Would a little imagination and creativity kill us?

Oh, wait. It did.

It did when we used Bible passages to speak in code, and some people sold us out as to what we were doing. It did when we disguised martial arts as dances. It got us killed when we sang road maps and messages disguised as spirituals. It got us killed in chains when it was found out that our ancient sciences and practices weren't really devil worship, but the original gateways to something higher, closer to our original selves.

Were we really ever mis-educated if the word educate is from a Latin word meaning 'To shape and mold'? Break the mold. Break the chains. Write our expanded stories.

Like everyday people. And I am everyday people, and I wanna take you higher...

Ain't that sly?