Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year ends, but not the writing...

Things to do in Fable Avenue. And all is getting done. Will have an in-depth writeup by Monday.  Let's end the year with a chat. This link to my interview on the Artist First Radio Network was posted on the Twin Griffin Books Facebook fan page, and I'm throwing it up here as the year ends.

There is great news for the next book in the Fable Avenue project, but as said above, that will be given a proper writeup come Monday. See you then. In the meantime, listen...

b write black

Monday, November 25, 2013

Follow the Script

I expressed a while back that I wanted to end Act II of this next book sometime in December. Well, December is almost upon us, and although there are only three chapters left in the second act, they are plotted as being dense.

I’m now on chapter twenty-two. Started it over the weekend. Chapter twenty-one was short, very fun; and just as much a palate cleanser—time off rather—for all that’s going on in the larger arc of the Fable Avenue Saga. It could be considered a short story, following a minor character into a task. It took time to write, even though it was short. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t too cliché or silly. I ran through many scenarios on how the chapter would take place, settled on one, and then went about presenting it in as much of a non-cliché way as I could. The ending is what makes it, and it was something I re-wrote after taking a look at the whole chapter. I added a few more lines, and then it came together.

Now, chapter twenty-two. Our main characters are back on stage, front and center. There’s a lot of action in this chapter, and it builds on the relationship between the main male and female character, and the magic they share and use. There’s also a good deal of the epic poem that runs parallel to the story. I have a page count budgeted for this chapter, but I’d like to run under that count. The great thing now is that all introductions have been made. All characters, heroes and villains, have been strategically placed on the board to make the proper moves toward conflict. Some characters have just been mentioned and not seen, but the setup for their entrance is there. This all plays out within the last chapters of act II, culminating in a rough and gritty showdown.

Finishing act II sometime in December might be wishful thinking at the moment. Early January, definitely. But this all depends on how much I can buckle down and do the writing. One reason I’d like to knock out act II over the coming weeks, is because I can then send them to the editors and start on that (which will happen in January, regardless).

But there is good news. In fact, I’d like to think there’s great news. The rest of the book has been outlined. I now have something to follow besides handwritten notes scattered through different notebooks, and my memory. I’m very excited about that. It almost feels like the project has been completed…but I’m not getting delusional. There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of writing. The outline now has to be fleshed out into proper, narrative prose.
The remaining acts, including act II, are not as heavy in their outline. The beginning squares away a lot of business. Now, it’s time to get down and gritty into the magic.

b write black

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Heavy Weights

Just finished chapter 20. It's no small chapter, but it's read is smooth. It takes place over four days, and documents each day with an appropriate length. Although it's long, chapter 20 is written in a way where the reader won't feel bogged down. I made a decision that a moment written for chapter 20 would best serve another part of the story, happening three chapters from now. So, I cut and pasted the text into a separate Word doc, and it's now tucked away for later use. The scene is only three pages long, and was supposed to run into another before I decided to have both scenes take place later in the book.

There was also a bit of a lesson in humility with chapter 20 of Book II of Fable Avenue. When it came to the final pages of chapter 20, I decided to borrow from a sequence I had written for an unfinished manuscript that's 15 years old. The manuscript only has about 60 pages (and some change) written for it. But the scene wasn't going to be a simple copy and paste, and to be honest, I used the direction of the scene, not the entire scene itself.

Anyway, I started reading this old work and I realized how far I'd come in writing. Yeah, it's arrogant, but I gotta give a small pat on my back. Good God, did what I read really suck. It was okay, but it suffered from the amateur, juvenile mistakes that plague aspiring writers (and some established ones, I gotta say. And I ain't talkin' about YA writers.). There was a good amount of narrative, but there was a lot of expository narrative. The dialogue was often cringe-worthy, but there was little expository writing. Too many characters trying to be 'cool' with quirky one-liners. It was heavier than an after school or Saturday morning cartoon, but the juvenile writing was present none-the-less.

In my defense, it was at a time when I was writing to write. I had ideas, and it was about putting them down. Quick. I did know the writing wasn't tight, but, fifteen years later, I'm surprised at how far I've come (and still learning). Even in my final work, there's stuff I go back and read and say, "Okay, we can avoid that for the next project."

But I'm grateful for the guerilla writing I did all those years ago. Now I can pull from them, as well as writings I did far before that.

So, what do we got now? We got the next chapters of this current project. Chapter 21 is short and fun, a nice break from a storm of thick, heavy weight chapters to come before Act II of this piece concludes. I've already begun outlining what needs to happen in Act III, and it looks like it won't be as long as I've feared. I'm sitting at 334 pgs so far, and hoping, at best, that 220 is all that's left. Again, at the most.

Other activities going on at the moment are a design for the book cover, and there's some scripting for videos for the book. TwinGriffinBooks.com will also get a makeover, and the ball on this is already rolling.

Most likely, the end of December will see the beginning of the third act. I hope to finish the book around late May or early June, which gives a good amount of time for editing. A first round of edits will begin in January and run parallel with wrapping up the book's writing. As things come along, there will be some teaser videos for the new book, a title reveal (when it can be more than just Fable Avenue Book II), and book cover reveal.

Writing this series continues to be an amazing experience. 2014 will be big.

b write black

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fable Avenue. Book Two. Act Two. Chapter Twenty.

Ah, the month of October. The month where the second installment of The Fable Avenue Sagatakes place. And, as it is, I am hammering, hammering, hammering out the second act for the second installment of The Fable Avenue Saga. I've reached the 280 pgs mark, and budgeting for another 250 pgs (to be on the safe side). I'm not looking for the second installment of The Fable Avenue Sagato go too long. So, where am I exactly in my progress? It's been a while since an update has happened, but I've been hard at the most important work in an author's literary life. Writing.

I've hit chapter twenty, well within the second act of this new project. The female lead has been introduced and her character is fleshing out more than I've hoped. She's drawing upon an inner strength that I hadn't intended until I started writing her. I was so caught up in her backstory and the trauma she undergoes as a six-year-old child. But like many female characters composed before her within The Fable Avenue Saga, she moves forward with a believable footing.

The character also brings with her two mysteries. Both mysteries are personal. One focuses on her mother and father. The other focuses on her intentions as she and her grandmother become reintroduced to the Fable Avenue community. It's nothing wicked, but it makes the character human, rounded and real. With her entrance, we also find another story from 12 Stories High as canon and connected to the Fable Avenue universe. Earlier in the book, another story was referenced as the lead male character has an experience that parallels a character from a story in 12 Stories High. This first reference, though subtle, will be expounded on later in the series. So that makes 3 stories so far that have their connection. The only one I can mention is Ah, Moor, having been referenced in Fable Avenue's first book (also known as the "Prologue book") The Ghost of Gabriel's Horn.

The villains have also been introduced early in this second act. They are a great parallel to the main male/female heroes of the story. And much like the main male lead character, who they are, and how they connect to the main characters, allows me to give a nod to my favorite comic book hero, Spider-Man and his villains. This part of Fable Avenue was supposed to be a graphic novel, as I've said before, originally titled The Nu Ancients, and then, Street Fables.

Four more chapters are lined up before the close of the second act, and they are heavy. The beginning of the second act was quick, as the setup of the first act took care of presenting the characters (obviously). Even with new characters poppoing up, the story moves forward at a quicker pace. My notes aren't as thick as with the first act, but I have outlined a good deal of events and placed them in the proper order of their presentation. I have been writing out the second act rather quickly. I'm far ahead of schedule, and I do hope that I'll be creeping into the third act by December, if not a good ways in. I'm already thinking ahead in terms of outlining the third act's pacing. The fourth epic poem is also expanded as the main female character adds her touch to the poetic narrative. I'm currently chopping away at this event. As well, festivities and celebration are in the air, but villains are around the corner in coming chapters.

We all know how second acts within narratives can go. Protagonists + antogonist/villains + perils/collision = dark and hopeless, emo-moody gloom and doom. But there is still a party, and nothing can be too gloomy with jazz playing. Just ask famous jazz pla-...no...he was a heroin addict. Okay, just ask famous jazz sing-...no...they were strung out too...and so was she... Okay, when you hear jazz, it's like seeing oranges in The Godfather.

The sky under Fable Avenue is falling, and everything including the kitchen sink, will hit the fan. But don't worry, we ain't got heroes for nothing. It'll seem like that, but they'll eventually get the job done.

b write black.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

4 is Thirteen in the 2nd Stanza

Before a hero’s journey takes a dramatic turn, I have to take a pause from writing the main narrative. The male lead of the story has been given the first piece of the poetic story woven into this narrative’s fabric, and now I have to return to composing my fourth and final epic poem as he’s presented with the second and third parts to the tale.

The scene is much the same, as again the narrative’s reality drops away and moves seamlessly into a poetic story. The main character witnesses time pass, and a degeneration of a once great people take place, including their enslavement. Then, a city built to enslave and encage props up around them after fighting for ‘freedom.’ The main character (for the main narrative) also sees his mirror image, the main character of the epic poem. But the reflection is not what he’s expecting. The character of this new epic poem is less accepting of, and more determined to change, his environment than most of the characters I’ve dealt with in past epic poems. But he’s very weak. So the quest begins to find strength, and the hero to the overall narrative is confused, especially after going through his culture’s rites and believes he’s gained a great deal of strength. How can his reflection look so weak? His reaction to this, I gotta say, is…kinda cool, even if it’s arrogant as hell. If you’re going to prove you’re a badass, and nothing like what something is painting you as, this would be the way to do it.

The third part to the story, of which I’m composing now, is then given to him. I’m still working out how each part comes to him. The first three have been easy. As I’ve said before, unlike Horatio Peters in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, this epic poem isn’t a past life. So, it’s not based on some spiritually encoded, metaphysical memory. It’s still composed of ancient hieroglyphs, but not mystical music notations played through a magical trumpet. But, as I’m writing, I’m hammering out the outline for the second act as well as picking up old notes for the fourth epic poem and giving a proper outline for that story. For the main narrative’s second act, I have a page and a half of points that must be hit, but not a thorough outline as I’ve had with act one. And that thing made this writing process really smooth. I would love to knockout an outline just as fleshed out that I’m on the third act by December, possibly earlier.

One easy point to the epic poem is that it’s co-composed by the main female character of the story. She’s been introduced in the first chapter but only as a little girl. It’s now thirteen years later, and I’m finally having the main male character and her meet. They already know (of) each other. They attend the same college in Brooklyn, but her family is estranged from the Fable Avenue community, though she’s still entrenched in her culture. She hasn’t grown up in any of the boroughs of New York City. She’s lived the past thirteen years in Mount Vernon, New York. But the main male character, and the matriarchs and patriarch of Fable Avenue, is in desperate need of her grandmother’s help (where most of the ill resonates). So, past wounds have to be healed. All must be forgiven, at least for a little while. And an epic story, told through poetry, must be composed.

Unlike the hero, she, our heroine, has more control over the poetic story. It allows her to be honest and exercise her of much despair and past demons. At first I had considered that the main male character was going to compose the entire poem, and she would be angry at how he ‘viewed’ and composed a character representing her. But as she’s brought back into the fold of the Fable Avenue community, and goes through rites she should’ve received when she was nine and thirteen, I felt that she should have a say. That say should reflect her willingness to confront her past, and how she feels about herself. She can be honest now with a community backing her up. But we’ll see her power blossom.

And, after all this, there’s still some proper villains out there looking to wreck shop.

b write black.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Water Bug Hollow Celebrates This Day!

“The defeated slave owner, Elias Jakobi, a man of English and French descent, was buried on the property. An altar was made at his burial site, and every year, on the 12th of August, a bonfire was lit ritualistically and the Negroes of the area danced merrily around it.” – a passage from The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn

Water Bug Hollow is a fictional bayou village featured in The Fable Avenue Saga™. The village is located in Louisiana, thirty minutes west of New Orleans. It first appears in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn in the chapter Water Bug Hollow, Louisiana 1917. Water Bug Hollow’s early history is violent and bloody, spanning from its days as a brutal slave-run plantation to its even bloodier uprising that took the life of many black slaves, plantation owner Elias Jakobi, his family, and all the overseers and white employers.

Rumors of Freedom amidst War and Rumors of War
The quiet rumblings of the Emancipation Proclamation filtered down South, all the way to Elias Jakobi’s plantation, stirring the interest of his slaves. Elias, not addressing his slaves directly, calmed the hysteria by saying the Emancipation Proclamation was a decree for the Irish workers in the North to receive equal pay. But one of his slaves, a young man named Curtis Jacobson, was inspired to action. Leaving the plantation one night, Curtis’ plan was to find a Union unit and lead the soldiers to the plantation to help free the enslaved blacks.

Dodging the presence of Confederate militia, Curtis got as far as Alabama before being captured by an overseer of a plantation. He was locked away in a large slave shack for the night as the plantation’s owner put out word to see if there was a reward for Curtis. But as luck would have it, this plantation’s owner, Lachlan Mackenzie, was putting together a deal that would swindle a self-proclaimed savvy businessman named Oscar MacRitchie who was newly arrived in America from Scotland. Upset at the shady deal was about to enter into, Oscar decided to get back at Lachlan (who he thought was of good nature because he was a fellow Scotsman) by freeing Curtis and all thirteen of Lachlan’s slaves. In a quick conversation, Curtis, who gained a knack for business by watching closely the dealings and goings-on of the plantation where he was enslaved, was able to work a deal with Oscar MacRitchie to do business with one another once he was truly free.

Curtis devised a plan to that would alleviate Oscar of blame for having freed him and Lachlan’s slaves. Oscar also told Curtis of a cache of Union weapons recovered by Lachlan and two of his overseers and stored in a nearby shed. Lachlan had been planning to sell the weapons to the Confederates. Rallying the thirteen slaves to fight, Curtis stowed away into the night with them as a small militia after securing the Union weapons. Curtis returned to Louisiana to free his wife, children, and her family. The battle lasted forty days, with Curtis’ militia growing in numbers as they freed more and more slaves. The battle ended on August 11th, with the death of Elias Jakobi, his family, and his overseers. Curtis (now known as The Water Bug, or ‘that tricky nigger’), had his army block the roads leading to the plantation while the battle ensued.

After his defeat, Elias and his family were buried on the property. Curtis reunited with Oscar MacRitchie in New York City and forged a trade deal that would bring goods to Water Bug Hollow. Runaway slaves eventually journeyed back to the area and became residents as the landscape changed and the might plantation houses were converted to apartments, and other buildings were erected for schools and local stores and dentistry and infirmary.

Every year, since 1864, the all-black residents of the former plantation celebrate their independence with a wondrous day that begins with games, stories, and reenactments of their bloody emancipation from the slave owner Elias Jakobi by the brave Curtis ‘The Water Bug’ Hollow.

Is it true?
Throughout The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, Water Bug Hollow’s history comes under question, and Curtis’ brave exploits are considered over time as ‘the stuff of legends and mythology’. Later, the character Lionel Ladon brings to Water Bug Hollow, what he considers to be, the truth of Curtis’ exploits and Water Bug Hollow’s beginnings. Sarinda Fallows, while pretending to be a visiting relative of the MacRitchies, disrupts the culture of Water Bug Hollow, first coming into the community with a false warning that white outsiders look at Water Bug Hollow as a place of ‘devil worship’ because they practice Christianity through the beliefs of hoodoo. The annual bonfire, she tells, makes the outside whites believe that devil worship happens in Water Bug Hollow. However, the citizens are quite aware of how the whites view Curtis ‘The Water Bug’ Hollow as a ‘tricky nigger’ and a ‘bloody murderer’.

While feigning a smile, and with great patience, Sarinda Fallows helps undermine the great, independent black population as she inches closer to an ancient relic harbored by one of Water Bug Hollow’s citizens, the jazz singer Theresa Amat. The remaining pages of the book reveal the truth of Water Bug Hollow’s history and showcases Theresa’s daughter and granddaughter and Sarinda Fallows’ unending pursuit to destroy the Amat talented and spiritual bloodline.

Fun BTS facts
Water Bug Hollow was initially set to appear in a project outside of The Fable Avenue Saga™. Because of intense “research fatigue” (as I call it) from 3 years of fact-finding for A Company of Moors, I decided to incorporate Water Bug Hollow and its history into The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, and ultimately, the Fable Avenue Saga™. The setting for these plot points and events was initially New Orleans. I had done some research on black life in New Orleans in the early 1900s, but this fictional area better serves the plot and allowed for leeway.

Curtis ‘The Water Bug’ Hollow is named after baseball player Curtis Granderson, Jr. He was referred to in notes only as ‘The Rebel’ up until writing began. I was watching the Yankees one day and Curtis led the team to a come-from-behind victory, and had been doing that for several games. He was kicking ass and leading the charge. I then had a name for ‘the rebel.’

Water Bug Hollow’s initial development described it as a ‘Mos Eisley-type sanctuary for former slaves’.

The celebratory day of August 12 comes from my parents' anniversary.

Water Bug Hollow’s citizens were at first more conscious of the ‘magic’ surrounding the place. This idea was focused into the veil’s power that turns Theresa Amat into Mamma Indigo.

Although not mentioned in detail, Water Bug Hollow’s economy was mapped out thoroughly, and research on small black towns was done to give the feel of an authentic place.

Water Bug Hollow’s varying histories were written to be believable when spoken by characters so that the reader would not be able to tell which was which until the proper history is revealed.

Water Bug Hollow’s ‘rebellion history’ is the second black slave rebellion featured in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. The first being the central plot to the song/epic poem of The Sun Dial Tone.

Joseph Pepper IV hearing the history of Water Bug Hollow, as recounted by its residents when he enters the area on the annual night of celebration (August 12), was first written as narrative back story. That initially took away from Joseph walking into the area, so, in order to stay with Joseph Pepper ('tracking' alongside him as he makes his way to the jook joint and apartment complex named Eve's Hallow) I had him hearing different residents recounting the history, and turned the narrative into dialogue.

Water Bug Hollow is set to factor in more prominently in the remaining books of The Fable Avenue Saga™.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Character study: Joseph Pepper IV

"He calls his cane the Wand of Blue Light." - Ethan Cassidy

Joseph Pepper IV is a character featured in The Fable Avenue Saga™, specifically the books The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn and the yet-to-be-title-revealed follow-up novel. He appears in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn’s fifth chapter titled Water Bug Hollow, Louisiana 1917. Joseph’s visit to Water Bug Hollow is on August 12, the night designated for the annual celebration marking the area’s independence from slave owner Elias Jakobi. Joseph is there specifically to see his sweetheart, jazz songstress Theresa Amat. He has a gift for her, an ancient veil he claims is magically enchanted and to have been worn by a long line of African Queens, including the legendary Queen Califia, supposedly for whom after the state of California is named. Joseph also brags that he was given the veil after pursuing a bracket of finely cut precious stones named the Pillar Jewels, also referred to as The Sunrise Gems. More alluring, Joseph tells Theresa that he employed the services of the legendary African-American outlaw Thunder John and his crew The Brother Dogs to aid him on the failed excursion. Ever skeptical, but twice as intrigued by Joseph’s astounding tales, Theresa accepts the mysterious garment. Joseph Pepper also proposes marriage, which an excited Theresa also accepts. Joseph leaves Water Bug Hollow weeks later, heading to London. For the remainder of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, Joseph Pepper IV is not seen but spoken about by various characters, with hints on his adventurous exploits in London. Theresa Amat anxiously awaits his return, dedicating several songs to him in her performances, and overjoyed when she finds out she’s pregnant with his child. In London, Joseph is pursued by a former American soldier named Ethan Cassidy, an associate of the villainous Sarinda Fallows.

Concept: Joseph Pepper IV is a dashing, erudite adventurer. He is an amalgam of famed spiritualist Paschal Beverly Randolph, literary and cinematic characters Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones, and real-life professor, author and all-around expert scholar on the Moors, Professor Jose V. Pimienta-Bey. Inspired by four people, Joseph Pepper (the English translation of Professor Jose Pimienta’s name) was labeled as “the fourth.” Joseph Pepper’s character was greatly inspired by the tales of black spiritualist Paschal Beverly Randolph and his travels around the world deciphering ancient languages, unlocking occult teachings. His physical description comes from P.B. Randolph, with a few modifications. His intellect and dress mirror that of Sherlock Holmes, his jaunts to procure ancient items for the greater good borrows from cinematic hero Indiana Jones, and his knowledge of various African cultures (and his name) is credited to Professor Jose V. Pimienta-Bey.

Joseph Pepper was added to The Fable Avenue Saga™ as a means to incorporate an adventurer who could point the story in the proper direction for ancient, mystical items. In earlier drafts from around 2002, 2004, he served as the main character’s great-grandfather. This was when Fable Avenue was called The Nu Ancients, and was meant to be a graphic novel or comic book series. Later on, and through study, he developed into the character he’s presented as. This was around 2010, near the end of editing and toward the release of A Company of Moors. Joseph Pepper’s erudite mannerisms come from British actor Jeremy Brett’s classic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

Joseph Pepper often wears the most fanciful clothes of his time, and presents himself as an aristocrat. Joseph likes being a ‘fancy nigger’ as he believes many whites probably refer to him, and he indulges in scholarly conversations that trip up many a prejudice person. He cares deeply for the well-being of black people scattered throughout the diaspora, and believes with all his heart that it is his duty to present correctly all of the pieces of African and black history, solo or in a team. Joseph always carries with him a peculiar cane said to be blessed with an alchemical anointment. It’s also encrusted with seven sapphires. Joseph Pepper refers to his cane as “Wanda,” which many believe to be either his grandmother or mother’s name. However, “Wanda” is a feminine play on the word “wand.” Joseph Pepper truly refers to his cane as the Wand of Blue Light, a self-made, mystical weapon that carries within it, according to Joseph Pepper, the power of Shango and Indra.

Both Joseph Pepper’s adventures in London and his adventures with the outlaw Thunder John and the Brother Dogs will appear in the next installment of The Fable Avenue Saga™.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The first Act, a wrap!

The first act of this new installment to The Fable Avenue Saga™ is complete. It clocks in at nine chapters and about 130 pages. Not too bad. A little over budget, but what had to be written was essential. I do wish it could’ve hit at around 100-110 pgs. But that was ideal. Realistically, I knew it would come in at around 120-125. So, 130 isn’t too bad (if I ignore my ideal). There were a lot of changes made. I stuck to the outline, but many happenings and goings-on and tiny details had their presentation reworked. One of the last scenes in the act was supposed to be a big blowup between characters, but I started seeing the confrontation as being too much. So I pulled back and toned it down. It comes off a lot better for both characters.
I’ve also introduced the first scene of my fourth and final epic poem which will be intertwined with the plot. The scene attacks the novel’s main character like a train crash and leaves him tight with emotions. I’ve plotted the course for the remainder of the fourth epic poem, now I have to hit the proper beats within the story’s narrative to put them on display.
I won’t be going directly into the second act. I’m now composing two short stories, in a sense, that will arc the narrative back to London, 1917 and Tanzania, 1883. Two major events, hinted at in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn will be the center of attention for the next (hopefully) 50 pages. One of those events deals with the question: What happened to Joseph Pepper IV while over in London? And what mythological bauble was he seeking? We will also get to know a young Madison Goodspeed who was constantly talked up in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, and finally presented here.
The second act will have a focus on the story’s female protagonist. She was introduced as a six-year-old girl in the first chapter, but now she’s nineteen and a college student. Much of the fourth epic poem will inhabit the second act, a device used to bring the female protagonist and the male protagonist together. We will see her confront the trauma she witnessed as a young girl, and blossom into a young, bright leader on Fable Avenue. A few villains will step into the story’s narrative within the second act. Unlike Sarinda Fallows, these villains are not cunning, destroying lives indirectly through clandestine means. The first villain to appear, on orders of the two Big Bads is a brutal man. And his followers are worse than him.
There will be no rest for this writer. I’ve already plotted and outlined Joseph Pepper’s London adventure, and the story dealing with the ‘Tanzanian incident’. On the move. Getting things done.

b write black

Monday, June 24, 2013

An Expansive Universe...

“…You've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.” – Nick Fury
Some of the stories in my book 12 Stories High are part of The Fable Avenue Saga™. There has already been a reference to the story Ah Moor: The Woman That Wore a Veil But Had Nothing to Hide. The character Sarinda Fallows, in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, makes a references to Nazirah and her medicinal discoveries. Sarinda reveals that she has a copy of Nazirah’s medical notebook. Nazirah is the main female protagonist of the story Ah, Moor. A closer look at the first past life of Pete Peters and Virginia Tara-Peters will reveal that the story Ah, Moor also serves as their past lives in Moorish Spain. Pete Peters was Aswad, and Virginia Tara-Peters was Nazirah. In this next book for Fable Avenue, two more stories from 12 Stories High will be shown as having a place in Fable Avenue's mythology.
This wasn’t entirely intentional when I first composed the stories, although Ah Moor was partially intentional. It was late 2004, early 2005 when I was writing Ah Moor. It was a story inspired by a friend that was feeling down. At the same time I was composing the opening for The Son Dial Tone. I really enjoyed the epic poem’s opening scene, writing it, having the voice of Mojuba Kimoyo (at the time was only written as Kimoyo) speaking about being entertained by ‘hieroglyphs’ etched inside his mother’s womb to feed him information. Through the hieroglyphs of DNA he saw his parents meet one another in an earlier lifetime. All this as he gestated in the womb in his contemporary time. He’d know the love of his parents beyond this lifetime, and understood it crossed the boundaries of time and covered multiple existences. But the meeting in a thirteenth century, Moorish town square in Spain was a sight. Ah Moor’s opening came next. The notes to open The Son Dial Tone were finalized and scripted. “If Adam existed literally – in the flesh physically – instead of meta-euphoric, allegoric, scientifically…” I wanted a reference to the Moors in Spain with Father Voice and Mother Harmony existing in that time period. I made Father Voice a poet serenading a crowd but only having eyes for one among the gathered people. Again, a lot of ideas for Fable Avenue were written simultaneously but unconnected between 2002 and 2005, and that’s not including ideas I’m going way, way, way, way, way back for.
Somewhere around the time I was writing A Company of Moors I started wondering if the stories in 12 Stories High could exist together. I started splitting them up and saying, “These stories seem like they would take place in the same universe.” So I started categorizing stories. When I got closer to working on The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, and it was time to dive into The Son Dial Tone, I was forced to look at Ah, Moor again because in 2006 I’d lost the notebook containing the first two completed scenes from The Son Dial Tone. Luckily I had notes in another notebook for a lot of the lines, and some very complicated poetry was preserved. But the details of the meeting in the Moorish square were lost. I blatantly copied the short story's text. Reading the opening to Ah, Moor and reading that section of The Son Dial Tone will expose the fact that a lot of text was lifted from the short story but scripted more poetic. It wasn’t really official until Sarinda made reference to the Moorish woman’s medical notebook in the late chapter, and reciting the ‘legend’ of the notebook and its medical and alchemical equations.
By the time the ‘legend’ of Ah, Moor was written into The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, I already planned for other stories in 12 Stories High to come into the Fable Avenue fold. I won’t say which stories until they are properly referenced and the work is complete and on the shelves. I did think long and hard over which stories to make a part of Fable Avenue, the ones that made the most sense. And not every story that has a mystical element is included. And some that have none actually have been. In total, it’s only 5 of the 12 stories. Of course, that’s close to half. And one of them I keep going back and forth on whether or not to include. In this ever-expanding universe it’s fun to know that there are other stories in existence, and here they are referenced.
I do have this to say, concerning the story of The Curse of Cain’an. Although it features the ‘skeptic stone,’ the very stone Sarinda Fallows and her ‘culture’ worship and use for its diabolical properties, The Curse of Cain’an has no connection to this series. It’s just the story where I first used the item.
b write black 

Monday, June 17, 2013

As I lay me down to sleep

On the grind...

Finished writing for the day. Just crept into Chapter 6, creeping in over 69 pages, 8.5 x 11 paper size. Page 70 paginated as a 5.5 x 8.5 book.

It's really amazing to bring a character you've been waiting over 10 years to write into a situation you've been waiting just as long to write them in. And the adventure is only beginning.

One of many things I enjoy about this new project, this new chapter in The Fable Avenue Saga™, is that it's filled with so many of these moments. Notes that are over ten years old are finally being expanded into the narrative they were meant to be.

Chapter 5 was running a little long, so it's been split into 2 (much like chapter 2). Chapter 6 will be short, but it has enough of it's own arc to warrant a separate chapter.

b write black

More information about the current project on the way.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


12 Stories High has a new cover! Same stories! Some stories have a tie-in with The Fable Avenue Saga™ (more on that later).


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Magic ReKINDLED!!!!!!!

I'm happy to announce that both Code-47: Memoirs of a Hip Hop Heist and The Ghost of Gabriel's Horn: Prologue to the Fable Avenue Saga are now AVAILABLE ON AMAZON KINDLE!!!!!!



Monday, May 13, 2013

Freedom and Culture

The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn was a prologue to a grand, magical folktale, an African-American mythology that will continue for three more books. The book was actually copyrighted under the title The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn: A Prologue to The Fable Avenue Saga.

I’m presenting a respectful amalgam of African and African-American folklore wrapped in a unique culture. I take some liberties so as not to be bogged down by definition, but great respect is paid to the concepts I’ve used as inspiration. This culture isn’t hidden, either. It’s right out in the open. There, on a fictional street in Brooklyn, New York. Fable Avenue. The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn was written for the readers of the Fable Avenue Saga™ to gain an understanding of what went into securing this wonderful, black culture.

We will learn how the culture on this street operates. We will learn their system of rites and rituals. Who are their matriarchs and patriarchs—elders? What is their belief system? What opposes them? From The Ronin Poetz to A Company of Moors, I like presenting culture, expressed in one way or another. In The Ghostof Gabriel’s Horn, I set one up. It looks disjointed at first, until the audience discovers how everything is tied together. And there was a lot within The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn that served as clues for what’s to come.
So now, we have this mystical black culture. Within the pages of the prologue for the Fable Avenue Saga™ I’ve presented the physical origins of this black culture as a street in Brooklyn, and from there, the Diaspora of black folklore around the world. To make this culture authentic, I’m looking at the stages and rites within different African mystery systems found anciently throughout black kingdoms in and outside of Africa, and I’m putting together a culture that represents these aspects symbolically. This is all to get the feel of the culture. It’s not the focal point of the series. The culture validates the people and characters we get to know, and whose journey we follow, throughout the remaining chapters of this saga, and, as well, the people validate the culture, their culture.

When creating this culture, I didn’t want to look at a concept like the Legba family and say, “I’m using that!” Instead, I studied the makeup of the folklore, the mythology, and asked, “How does this operate?” and take from that. Once that answer came to me through research (research, research, research, and research) I then understood how certain aspects of this culture would function without simply copying and pasting.
Taking respectful, creative liberties gives me the freedom to present this authentic, black, magical culture. Inside this universe there are wonderful characters, contemporary and historical, and they validate the atmosphere of this grand story.

One thing I like is that the main character is born into the culture. He doesn’t have to be introduced to it. The main female protagonist is a part of the culture too, but her family has had a falling out with the Fable Avenue community. With her, there are bridges to be re-built. Her grandmother respects the community greatly, but also believes it’s failed her family. I like this in contrast to other stories and heroes such as Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker. They are from wizarding and Jedi lineage, but they’re not born into it. In fact, it’s hidden from them until the proper age. As I’m outlining the story, I’m realizing that I like dealing with characters that have already been a part of a culture. It cuts down on a lot of exposition. There’s still stuff to explain, and familiar tropes to travel, but we start fresh by stating, “Look, these characters know most of what’s going on.” Even still, a mystery prevails, that no one of the culture is aware of; questions that need answering, and as can happen, many of the Elders have their secrets. A lot can happen in fifty-seven years from the end of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. The rest of the chapters in this saga will take place in contemporary times.
The Fable Avenue culture is fifty-seven years strong. Unified under African, ancestral concepts. But there are diabolical forces that want to tear it apart like Set did Osiris.

b write black

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Aaaaaaaand Scene

Chapter one is complete. Let’s say, it’s in the books (sorry, couldn’t resist). At 11:50 pm, May 7 the first chapter of this new project came to a close, and a quick few sentences of the next chapter were written. This chapter was heavy, and it took a while to compose and get all the parts moving fluidly from scene to scene. There were moments where the transition from point A to point B could’ve gone wrong. Writing this chapter had to be done carefully. I had the same challenge I encountered with the first chapter of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn (i.e., in terms of making the chapter have a fluid, forward motion while properly tying together a group of concepts that aren’t always group together when it comes to storytelling).

Imagine a lot of pacing and staring at the screen.

I had to make certain that I was drawing out the proper emotion, especially when composing the second scene of the first chapter. I took it slow. The goal was to make each segment of the chapter blend seamlessly with the next. Writing-wise, it was most difficult at the beginning of the chapter. I’d written the first two or so pages in early April when inspiration just hit and I couldn’t wait until the end of the month. I had some down time. I liked what I’d written as a rough, rough, rough, rough draft to piggyback off when the proper writing began later in the month. After my birthday (Thank you, thank you. You’re too kind) I copied and pasted the scripted pages in the proper document for the project, and at first, I kept going back to the early pages and editing them. On one hand of editing, I just wanted to make sure that certain words weren’t being used over and over…and over (and over).

Also, I needed the transition between the beginning, an interior (point A) to an exterior (point B) and ultimately the second scene, another interior (point C) to feel as if the reader was walking between points A and C, considering there are no characters to take us there. It plays like the opening shot of The Player or Scorsese’s Copa shot in Goodfellas, both of which inspired Joseph Pepper’s entrance into Water Bug Hollow’s Independence Day celebration in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. But here, there are no characters and people aren’t recalling a history. It’s silent. I have to take the reader through a Brooklyn neighborhood from train station to a brownstone, and make it all interesting.

Well, don’t know about the interesting part, but the ‘track shot’ was accomplished. And then we have to move through a brownstone window’s glass pane and peek in on two characters sitting at a table and having a conversation…or rather one character is talking while the other is listening nervously. We know immediately that the person talking is intoxicated. The person is drunk and high, right in the middle of indulging. As more and more information is given about the scene (especially the second person in attendance), I want the reader to be just as nervous as the second person in the scene. But the trick is also to put information (again, seamlessly) into the scene that also draws out sympathy for the intoxicated character, without being cliché. I established the sympathy first, but when we’re made aware of the second person, it’s substituted with worry.

I scrutinized and scrutinized the intoxicated person’s dialogue carefully, over and over and over again. These are words I’ve thought about for several years, even during the editing of A Company of Moors. Now I’m here, in the moment of writing this project. I get to see if this person’s words look good and read well. I had notes on the dialogue, points that I needed to hit, as well as how things should be phrased. A lot of that got reworked, some of it just no longer fitting. If you begin asking questions to what the character exposes with what’s being said, all that has to be explained as the story goes on. And those questions have to be answered properly, or you’re creating plot holes.
But the writing difficulty increased when a third character comes into the scene. The tricky part was the character’s introduction. It could’ve easily deflated the intensity of what was happening, but (hopefully) I handled the introduction correctly. The way this third character comes into the scene is presented as a struggle, and it fits nicely with what’s happening between character one and character two. It’s not even comical, which it could’ve been. It could’ve fallen into that trap. It’s not even comical, which it could’ve been. It could’ve fallen into that trap.

Following the third character through the rest of the chapter again could easily take away from what’s been established. But the proper emotions are brought in, as are more and more characters, ultimately ending with a character that will dominate the rest of the book, though not the main protagonist. All the emotions of the chapter come to rest on this character’s shoulders, and we know that immediately. And we definitely understand this by chapter’s end. It’s not so much the events of chapter one that has the character’s spirits slumped, but the fact that it marks a change. The character’s feelings are based after a quote from the movie Fallen, starring Denzel Washington as Detective John Hobbes. The quote (spoken by Denzel as Hobbes) goes like this:
“There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this, and after this. Sometimes you can feel such a moment coming. That's the test, or so I tell myself. I tell myself that at times like that, strong people keep moving forward anyway, no matter what they're going to find.”

The antagonist is also introduced. He makes a simple appearance over the phone asking how things are going. Of course he knows things are shot to hell. It’s creepy. He’s struck an entire community, breaking one of the families living within it. He tells the patriarch of this community that they will always be in his heart. And then he issues a warning and ends the phone call.

As any writer will attest to, the first chapter is the chapter that gauges how you approach the rest of the writing process. It has to be the strongest. Not just to pull the reader in. It’s about the story. You got to be like the X-men’s Gambit. All the potential energy has to be drawn out. It’s got to glow like Bruce Leroy. It doesn’t have to be action packed, but it has to be tight and strong. Again, it’s not just about instantly grabbing the reader. That’ll come if heart is poured into it. It’s about giving a proper introduction to the story.

So, what do we have with this first chapter? We got the potential energy as kinetic, heart poured in. We got the glow to grow. Activate Interlock - Dynotherms Connected - Megathrusters are GO! Flux capacitor is…fluxing… It’s a storm. The rest of this book will be a wave. Get your boards. Surf’s up!

b write black.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The canvas

“Chapter I”

A writer paints with words.

Ah! Progress! Getting started today! A little has already been written earlier this month. Two pages, to set the scene. Was written on some downtime. Simple copy'n'paste into this new document to continue on. Has already had some edits to it, make it a lot smoother.

So let's get ready. New project starts getting chopped away chapter-by-chapter.

b write black

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Including the Fourth

Aside from these new characters developing and getting set to act out this new drama, there is the fact that, much like the plot for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, an epic poem will be woven within the narrative fabric of this new project. The themes of this new project and the fourth epic poem weren’t as obvious to me as the parallels between The Son Dial Tone and The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, but the similarities are there. The story for the fourth epic poem doesn’t serve as a past life for the characters that are a part of the main narrative. It’s a guide for them, a mirror. At times they can control the narrative of this story, and at other times it’s there to reflect who they are—for better or worse.

This time around, it’ll be a little easier putting the pieces together. Much of The Son Dial Tone was outlined before it was part of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, as well as much of the verses having already been composed. I had to play around with the poem’s structure to fit what was there into The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn’s narrative. A couple subplots were dropped. Some of the subplots didn’t fit, and some I didn’t have the time for. A lot of cynicism was cut. But much of that cynicism pops up in the fourth epic poem, and is more appropriate to its story. Fitting The Son Dial Tone’s story to The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn helped me to focus the areas where The Son Dial Tone was becoming too big. I don’t believe the final product for The Son Dial Tone would be as long as 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z., but it would’ve been in the vicinity of The Ronin Poetz’s page count if it had been a standalone story, possibly more. On its own, The Son Dial Tone stands around 75 pages.

The fourth epic was etched out in the same brainstorm sessions that, after putting aside What the Ego Said and How the Id Replied, saw the better parts of 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z. and The Son Dial Tone put together. Ah! 1999 and the year 2000. Anyway…the fourth epic was only notes. Lines of ideas jotted down, one after the other, streams of thought. I had the armies of enemies, some points about the villains, and a few lines dedicated to the hero and the hero’s tasks.

So far, the three epic poems I’ve composed have had a set of lessons for their heroes to learn. Maa Kheru had the four lessons of the cup, the wand, the sword, and the word. Kham Noiz in 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z. has a lesson on seven ancient words of power. And Mojuba Kimoyo had the proper 26 keys of music. Our forth hero will definitely have some learning to do, but his main focus are a set of tasks that must be completed, like Hercules and his labors. There’s also a group of parents in each epic poem. There’s been Father Aquarius and Mother Pisces, Mother Harmony and Father Voice from The Ronin Poetz and The Son Dial Tone, respectively. The fourth epic poem is no different from the other three (2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z.’s parents will be revealed soon enough). This is one of the areas where the fourth epic poem adopts the abandoned cynical tone and some plot points that were created for The Son Dial Tone.

Because the fourth epic poem only has notes and an outline, overlaying its story onto this new project will be easier, considering nothing has been set in stone for it. The first scene of the epic poem will make its debut in the book’s first act, as has been outlined. This scene has been written. The first scene for the fourth epic poem has been finished, with some fine tuning going on here and there. It’s intense. A disappointed ‘goddess’ or ‘queen’ resigns her ‘firstborn children’ to a terrible fate, written first in stone as a warning, and then within the cosmos as something to be fulfilled. Three armies, consisting of the goddess’ first born children, walking away from a war that is only on an uneasy pause, must face the verbal punishment of this goddess who is named ‘motherland.’ The scene was taken from a manuscript I’d written in the tenth grade, and rewritten in college. In its first form, written in high school, it was a clunky, awkward two pages. When I went to re-write it, it became this grand seven page battle between armies. But it was the beginning of the scene, as it was re-written, that made me go back and look at it. The marching armies are referred to as ‘the last of a failed generation’. The visuals of the marching armies, I liked that. I also liked that after this grand description of three armies, as great as they were, led by demi-gods, with frames extending tall to the sky, they were called ‘The Last of a Failed Generation’. It was like Yoda’s line from The Empire Strikes Back, “Wars don’t make one great” was made visual. As great as these armies were, in number and accomplishment, they were the result of failure. Politics in the world had gone terribly wrong.

I wanted to use this scene somewhere, since the manuscript would never be published, and I always look back at my unpublished works to steal from and sort of cheat my way through a project if I need a scene, character, or dialogue.

The main character to the poem is, for now, outlined to be introduced in the next part. Here, the poem will take on a very fairytale-like quality. As I outline this new project, I’m also looking for the right beats as to where the fourth epic poem comes in. This will be easier once I work out the details of the protagonist’s ability to ‘dive’ into this epic poem and see the story. Horatio had his horn, the musical notes, and his father’s compositions. The first scene, already composed, is given to this new protagonist. But I’m asking myself how does he continue it? I’m still ironing it all out, playing around with ideas. One thing that’s for certain is this time, the protagonist isn’t alone in composing.

The female protagonist plays a key role in the writing of this epic poem, and how it plays out. She too has a character composed within the fourth epic poem that reflects her. I like that. Horatio was alone in completing The Son Dial Tone. Delia waited for his cue to sing the compositions to life, or listen to the story’s music. She was far from playing second fiddle, especially when it comes to her role within their past lives, but I like how this new female protagonist gets in on the composition. It’s hinted that Virginia Tara-Peters helped her husband, Pete Peters, compose his parts of The Son Dial Tone, but we don’t ever get to see that. I like that we’ll witness the love between the male and female protagonist bloom with their equal share in composing this story.

b write black

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reviewing 18+

Going through the eighteen-plus pages of notes I have for the first act of this next project. Everything for the first act is within these notes except the first chapter. I only have a simple line dedicated in my notes for the first chapter. Everything else is in my head. Much like The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, this first chapter is going to be a little intimidating to go through. I won’t be rewriting the opening to a screenplay this time, as I did with the first chapter for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. The first chapter for this next project will be about guiding the reader through a neighborhood, its contrast to what surrounds it, and a grim peek inside the to know that despite the magic of the block, all is not well.

Like I’ve said before, it’s a punch in the gut for the reader, and you can’t really plan for that.
The rest of the eighteen-plus pages outlines what I have budgeted as the first 150 pages of the book. I’m setting a budget of 450 for the entire project. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve just started to make a heavy outline for the second act, enough to get a forward motion on that. The longest of the acts will most likely be the second. But it all begins with the first chapter, getting the right words to set the scene. I’ve known how this project was supposed to begin since before The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, and started to get more and more excited about this project when The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn was in full swing with writing. There is still some bigger news to come. Most likely the bigger news will be moved to Monday. I have to make a video for that.

Until then, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, I shall write.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Literary Schizophrenia

When I was younger, I used to write short stories concerning particular characters in my works. I would write these stories to get a feel for the character. I would write a character into a situation and see how he or she performed in that given situation. The setting of the story didn’t have to be specific to the setting of the greater work the character would debut in, or even tie into the work. Sometimes it would be a scenario that happened before the greater work. Sometimes it was just me dropping the character into a situation that had no relation. I would have gunslingers of the Old West end up in detective tales, or a magician being robbed at a bar in the late 60s in a short story grounded in our reality. The point was to see how the character reacted to their environment and situation, especially as a character before his or her story arc. How would their current personality perform? And deaths, even among main protagonists, were not out of the question. Sometimes I would rewrite the story after the character(s) had gone through his or her story arc. Would things be different? The same? A good number of times I wouldn’t actually rewrite the story. I would simple reread the story and imagine how things could be different. Would he or she [the character] do that now?

Well, writing a group of stories for characters that will later be for use in a greater story is now time consuming. So, I’ve turned to simply either writing dialogue among the characters, or imagining the dialogue when I have the time. Instead of testing a character’s actions, I get to learn his or her personality, and how they will interact with the other characters in the narrative. I started doing this with A Company of Moors, but kicked this practice into high gear when I started writing The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. This current project is no different. This exercise helps me focus on dialogue, and it’s helped me figure out whether a character should express something in words or personality. Some dialogue for GoGH and ACoM was retained, but only very little, especially for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. I started realizing: “This doesn’t need to be said by [him or her]. This is just their personality coming through. They’re stating their goals or desires for me. I have to find a way to put that into action and movement rather than some kind of expository dialogue.”

Now, don’t get angry at expository dialogue. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. The best advice is to make expository dialogue as conversational as possible. Write it. Stare at it. Reread it. Ultimately, reword it so it doesn’t look too obvious in terms of being expository.

Well, characters have been talking to one another. It’s either in my head (literary schizophrenia) or within a word doc, or on a piece of paper. Most of the conversations have been between one of the many protagonists and one of the two villains. This, mainly, has been for the sake of defining the two villains and the main male protagonist. The villains are a man and a woman, and the characters are old. Not elderly, but, they’ve been on the back burner, waiting for a long time to be used in a story. I created this devious husband and wife team when I was in tenth grade, and constantly refining them as I dropped them into one story after another, trying to find the perfect narrative to fit their deviltry in. They have been featured in many outlines and unpublished works, lifted and transported to another. Each time, their personalities have been tweaked, often times their goals have changed. But they have remained deceptive, dishonest, fraudulent, shifty, and dangerous.

Now I’ve found the proper story, and I’ve had to make their personalities fit just as proper. I didn’t want the cliché baddies. I wanted some depth to these two people. I’m also carefully outlining the narrative so that the parallels between this villainous couple and the heroic couple aren’t too obvious, or they don’t contrast in a blatant way. Yes, one is good and one is bad. One is an older couple. One is a younger couple. One is married. The other couple is just dating. And blah, blah, blah, blah. Of course, there are the parallels with what are the males of each couple doing, or the females of each couple. And so on and so forth. But although the plot and the destinies of these characters are deliberate on my end as the writer, they have to be presented as organic to the audience. Otherwise, the story is predictable, the character’s actions and arc becomes predictable. I mean, there are some things you can expect between characters that oppose one another and how they will interact with, and react to, one another. But it’s always good to have surprises. And one way to have a surprise is by giving villain(s) or hero(es) solid personalities. Make them come to life.

The conversations that I’ve noted have often taken place between the male protagonist and the male antagonist. I’m still wondering if a sit-down between the two can happen, and how it would be without breaking into a fist fight. But as I continue to think about the possibilities, and of course, what could be said between them, the scene turns into these characters defining themselves. Are they talking to each other or the audience? I’ve created some good dialogue that may or may not happen between the male antagonist and an elder. It doesn’t literally state how far the male antagonist has fallen, but it is a great example of his character. That. Might. Stay. That would end up later in the book. In the first chapter, the villain makes a phone call to this same elder, and I’ve rewritten the dialogue over and over until the villain becomes human and less 2-dimensional. I’ve decided to approach the villain’s dialogue as if he’s a recovering drug addict that’s fallen off the wagon after years and years of being straight. He feels good, and he’ll be damned if anyone should let him feel guilty, though there is a hint of remorse in him. But the remorse is more or less the feeling of this atrocious act that he’s ‘assisted’ in committing (that will make sense when you read the book) is done and can’t be undone. There’s a few lines that I know will be in there, and I’ll see where the conversation goes from there.

These ‘screen test’ sessions are where I started to know the villain, and how he could be shaped into a unique character. It makes sense to me, now, why he does the things he does and what his goal is. It was always there, but the goal has been muddled under some clichés of being the stereotypical, mustache-twirling snake of a man. One character that I’m studying to get to know this villain is actually one of the most well-known heroes of all time. Superman. And I’m not looking at Superman in a way where I say, “What if Superman was a bad guy.” That would be too easy. No, there are other elements of his character that many dismiss, and resign Kal-El to cardboard cutout status. One dimensional. I’m looking at other traits to Superman, and I’m asking how these traits would fit properly into a man who is anything but a hero.

In contrast, we have the male protagonist. There are traits about him that come from unused traits concerning Horatio Peters. But of course, it wasn’t just copy and paste, drag and drop. Early in the story, these traits manifest through this particular character’s arc. When I first conceived of this idea years ago, this was a strong element within the story. Now, I get to play with it. And instead of some traits ending up in a character that it didn’t make sense to belong a part of, they rest comfortable with this protagonist.

This character was conceived in 2002-3, along with the female protagonist. Their story was called The Nu Ancients, and it was drafted as a comic book script. This was the same idea that was outlined to have the three generation of women storyline that was written into the final product of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. The cartoony elements of the story have been removed, and what’s left is a palpable reality. I’m not “making Batman realistic,” however. I believe there can be a healthy life for a whimsical fantasy molded into a grounded reality without becoming silly on the whimsical and fantastical side, or self-indulgent on the grounded reality side.

And so, characters are talking, to me, to one another. They are telling me where they fit into this story. They are interacting with one another. They are reacting to one another. And they are getting their lines together to be a part of this next, intense project.

b write black.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Act the First

This isn't just a pile of papers. This is where a journey begins in the physical, born from the mental. Thought turned to action. Literary alchemy. Iron, strong thoughts into gold. This is the grand equation. Mathematics in prose and narrative.

This 'pile of papers' will be translated into Act One of the new project. One section, of that will come toward the end of the first act, has not been completely mapped out. But there are notes written down.

And then of course, there's the first section of the fourth and final epic poem that has to be stuffed into the prose narrative.

A great many details about this new project will come through in the coming weeks. I'll begin actual writing come the end of April.

 b write black

Monday, March 18, 2013

Class of Character: Creating music through prose

So, casting has already begun for this new project. Truthfully, it started back in 2002-3 when this idea first ‘rough drafted’. You know my process. Let’s get the characters together, the actors for this grand drama. The easiest cast and crew I’ve ever had to assemble is a tie between A Company of Moors and Code-47. There’s a lot of characters based off of people I know. But they’re not carbon copies, and I don’t always cheat like that. You do want to draw from what you know. People you know. But you also want your characters to be round by being themselves. Let them stand out as players in your production.

The characters in The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn have been the most fun to put together (so far) of my published works. The first challenge came with the names. In the original screenplay, all the characters’ names were different. Only 35 pages were written. These rough pages, scripted around 2002-3, and revised in 2004-5, would become the first chapter. The story also took place in a modern setting. Between 2003 and 2004 I hammered out ideas for the main character’s emotional arc, his name, as well as the name of other characters. A lot of what I wrote as notes for later scenes for the screenplay was tamed drastically. It was a little over-the-top, but the idea of the main character’s sanity being challenged was kept as a possibility up until I started looking closer at my notes before outlining the GoGH for actual literary ‘production’. This was about December 2010. By this time, the main character’s name was finalized. Horatio Peters. The sanity arc melted into a drive for discovery. He became focused and willing to process and accepts the answers given to him. This shapes Horatio to become a leader, which reflects in his Son Dial Tone past life as a slave that leads a rebellion against his masters and the plantation. His leadership folds into his current life to put a stop to the villain of the story, his father’s murderer and the destroyer of lives.

Jonathan Gregory Concheroot, Horatio’s wingman and best friend, had many changes. First his name (which I can’t recall) changed, and also his occupation. He first started off as a hired detective, helping the ‘Horatio of the screenplay’ seek the answers he was looking for. They were strangers at first, Horatio having sought him out because he was affordable. Then they were friends, and both from New Orleans. Horatio, knowing that he was delving into something ‘strange,’ sought the detective because his family had a background in that sort of thing. Then, it was the detective’s ailing wife that motivated the detective to take the case (all background information, and nothing shown within the screenplay). So, this ‘Johnny’ had a wife who was very ill, and his motive for helping Horatio was payment to get his wife proper treatment and service. When it’s learned that ‘Horatio of the screenplay’s’ father’s horn is magical, Johnny believes it can heal his wife.

‘Johnny of the screenplay’ was always some type of musician, originally a guitarist. It was the love of music that bonded these two together, but to the ‘Johnny of the screenplay,’ his musicianship was simply a hobby. That changed, and he also switched instruments and became a piano man, like his father. At one point in the process of creating the character, Johnny Concheroot, became Horatio’s cousin. Then the relationship between Horatio and Johnny went back-and-forth between childhood friends to being family. Johnny’s sick wife became his sick mother, and then the sick mother became Horatio’s sick mother, which demoted Horatio’s mother a bit and promoted Johnny’s. In the screenplay, Horatio’s mother is the one tasking him, like a queen commanding a knight-prince. Horatio has reached the proper age to claim the things that are rightfully his. But, as it stands now, she’s dead by book’s beginning. We get to know her character through flashbacks. Johnny’s mother, on the other hand, is alive and well. She’s the connection that both Johnny and Horatio have to the days of their fathers’ lives. And now, Johnny is a single man who loves the life of music, gambling women.

Then I separated the Horatio and Johnny by distance and association with one another. Johnny was regulated to Brooklyn, and Horatio was regulated to New Orleans. As I created more notes for Johnny Concheroot, getting closer to actual writing, I made Johnny Concheroot’s father ‘responsible’ for Horatio’s father’s murder. This created a motive for Johnny to meet Horatio when Horatio’s mother passes. Johnny wants to settle the hurt inside him that he carries; the guilt of his father’s actions against Horatio’s father. Johnny’s mother is also hurt, living in Brooklyn thinking of when times were better. And Johnny’s father is in jail, slated for release within the next couple of months. This leads to an ultimate confrontation between father and son, and Johnny having to work his emotions out before speaking to his father.

There was never a thought toward the possibly hinting to the reading audience that the relationship between Johnny and Horatio could go the same way as their fathers. This was a different friendship, a different course. A new day and age. Tell that arc. Not everything should mirror or even hint at a parallel. It’s a little too cliché. To an amateur writer, that could be tempting. Heck, even to an experienced writer. And, could it be done and written well? Yeah, sure it could. Anakin and Luke Skywalker. But now, because of that cool story, it’s just too obvious from its foundation. Oh no! Could these two friends end up like their fathers???????? Oh, wait…Johnny learned his lessons by seeing his father’s mistakes. Bless him. Or, he made the choice to betray Horatio. Oh, no!!!!!! Just like his father…

“Take your father’s place at my side.”

Look at Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone. Two different types of leaders, bosses, but they’re father and son. And although Michael seeks his father’s advice in The Godfather, and even in The Godfather 2, Michael wonders if he’s making the proper decisions in line with what his father would do, he makes decisions he believes are right in his situation and it draws him away from being the man his father was. Michael’s style of leadership comes from his days as a soldier in the army. In The Godfather novel, Vito stops big wars by making a point through graphic, strategic hits, or a simple hit. The kill makes a point, people back away. Michael wipes out all his enemies. He doesn’t even care if that includes his brother.

So, I considered that Johnny is his own man, made up of two different people. One of those people, of course, is his mother. And he just might’ve picked up some things after having been raised by her. And so, he’s different simply because of that. There’s a possibility that he might not be shackled completely to the personality of just one of his parents. Thank God for that.

But Johnny is more than Horatio’s wingman, or rather, there’s greater significance with his name. He is the Conqueror Root. The African Prince, High John the Conqueror. He is that magical herb named after the mythology of the African Prince, High John.

“High John the Conqueror is associated with a certain root, the John the Conqueror root, or John the Conqueroo, to which magical powers are ascribed in American folklore, especially among the hoodoo tradition of folk magic… John the Conqueror was an African prince who was sold as a slave in the Americas. Despite his enslavement, his spirit was never broken and he survived in folklore as a sort of a trickster figure, because of the tricks he played to evade his masters. Joel Chandler Harris's 'Br'er Rabbit' of the Uncle Remus stories is said to be patterned after High John the Conqueror. Zora Neale Hurston wrote of his adventures ("High John de Conquer") in her collection of folklore, The Sanctified Church. She also makes reference to the root in Their Eyes Were Watching God…The root known as High John the Conqueror or John the Conqueror root is…related to the morning glory and the sweet potato. It has a pleasant, earthy odour, but it is a strong laxative if taken internally. It is not used for this purpose in folk magic; it is instead used as one of the parts of a mojo bag. It is typically used in sexual spells of various sorts and it is also considered lucky for gambling. It is likely that the root acquired its sexual magical reputation because, when dried, it resembles the testicles of a dark-skinned man. Because of this, when it is employed as an amulet, it is important that the root used be whole and unblemished. Dried pieces and chips of the root are used in formulating oils and washes that are used in other sorts of spells.”

It’s also mentioned in many blues songs, “I think I go down, to old Kansas Stew – I'm gon’ bring back my second cousin – that little Johnny Cocheroo.” It was this line from Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” that was the inspiration for the pairing way back when the story was forming into a screenplay. The horn’s power was going to be the ‘magical root’ that the ‘Horatio of the screenplay’ was going to give to the ‘Johnny of the screenplay,’ – the magic to heal his wife (and then later, when the character was changed, Johnny’s mother). This was also the reason why I went back and forth on having Horatio and Johnny as cousins. But, a while after settling on using the name Johnny ‘Concheroot’ (which went through various spellings) I thought instead of bringing his cousin (or friend) a magical root, his cousin (or friend) would symbolically be the magical root.

In The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, true magic doesn’t manifest, and Horatio doesn’t have a means to travel his spiritual path until Johnny Concheroot (the conqueror root) appears. It’s also the real reason why in his past life he’s referred to as Li’l Chew, and his catch phrase throughout the book, “Morning glory and sweet potatoes.” And it explains why he’s a lady’s man, his mother telling him that he goes for anything with a skirt. There was also supposed to be more written for Johnny as a gambler, but there wasn’t time. We can see, in Johnny’s past life, much like the African Prince, High John the Conqueror, once enslaved, he’s a trickster, and the one to bestow Mojubo Kimoyo with the significant legends and mythologies that helps them flee once they stage their rebellion on the plantation. His character is the symbolic kick in the ass Horatio needs in either lifetime to get his adventure and rites of passage moving in the proper direction…or moving at all. And, of course, when Horatio and Johnny team up as musicians and go on their travels playing small juke joint after small juke joint, Horatio indulges in the company of one woman after the next. Sex magic. Johnny’s charisma and ‘Brooklyn swagger’ even charms Sarinda Fallows, though nothing but innocent flirtation comes from it. There’s a slight irony to the characters of Johnny and Sarinda in regards to his past life, though it’s not focused on much.

Moving along, we have the three generations of women from Water Bug Hollow. Interestingly enough, this idea was originally in a comic book universe I’d created. In The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn screenplay, the female protagonist was named Noire. This was only a placeholder name. She would eventually become Delia-LaRue Amat, the last of the three women. In the screenplay, she was a painter as well as a singer. I dropped the painter part and gave that talent to her father. I then took the storyline from a comic book universe I’d created, and like her mother and grandmother before her, she was a profound singer. The trials and tribulations for her mother and grandmother (Theresa Amat, the grandmother, getting the most attention, and headlining the second act of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn) were also worked to be presented as believable. This is where we have the emotional weight, the punch in the gut to the audience.

One thing I did for each woman was scale back some things. Theresa fights her drug addiction and becomes a prominent figure and voice in town politics. This led to the sort of ‘side quest’ and completely adhoc written plot points where Theresa deals with the reactions to her decisions on town politics. This didn’t happen originally. But I figured it needed to happen, and it gives a ‘Luke Skywalker lifting the X-Wing from the swamp’ impression. Water Bug Hollow’s future looks bright with Theresa as acting Matriarch of the community, under her moniker ‘Mamma Indigo’. But Sarinda Fallows makes sure otherwise. I also had Theresa fight her drug addiction because she was pregnant. And the child inside her couldn’t be unharmed simply by the effects of the veil, and Theresa’s continued ritual involving the garment. I had to show the character give a conscious effort to fight her addictions, using all the rituals and family hoodoo she could conjure.

Theresa’s daughter, Philomena, was supposed to be far more bitter for the things that happened to her as a teenager. I even had dialogue written for her. But I scaled that back, though she says her ability to cope is day-by-day. That’s something I wanted to approach from a coping point-of-view, and it sets up the fact that she could break. When Philomena was outlined as a ‘bitter’ and ‘angry’ character, it sort of felt that she was already broken. I revised that to someone coping through a silent struggle. It’s there, but Philomena has learned to keep her torment and fight under control. This forced me to focus on Philomena’s love interest and Delia’s father, Paul Benson. He became one of my favorite characters in the book. The changes allow Sarinda’s plans to have a greater emotional impact when these characters are affected by her, along with Delia’s drive to right the wrongs done to her mother and grandmother when she pairs with Horatio.

The three women originally hailed from New Orleans. In the original story (as a comic book), the timeline of events was modern, stretching back to 1945 with the grandmother (Theresa) at a young age. In the screenplay, it’s never specified where Noire was from. But ‘The City’ is where everyone wanted to come to make it big. When the main story’s time period changed to take place in 1957, and stretched back to 1917, I realized I’d need to do a good deal of research to get the feel of New Orleans right for that time. A Company of Moors had worn me out when it came to research, and I was fast approaching the date to start writing. I made a few peeks into black life in New Orleans around that time, and I took some notes. But I became a little anxious. I looked at these three women again, and in the original comic book story, they were aware of their power. But I considered that if the grandmother (Theresa Amat, who at the time was named Delia – with Delia being named LaRue) was conscious of her power, there’s no way Sarinda Fallows would ever be able to pull off her devious con. Originally, the fight between the woman that cons the three generation of women was based off of the legend of Dr. Buzzard and the sheriff. But that didn’t fit right within this context, though it felt right at home when it came to the Fable Brothers against Sheriff Curly Burneside. I kept the story of ‘the veil’, but I made Theresa a bit of a skeptic about it, excepting the story because her sweetheart (scholar and traveler, Joseph Pepper IV) presented it to her in a romantic fashion. But I turned their mystical power into a thriving black culture, and that’s when I figured I needed a place where this culture resided. Water Bug Hollow was slated for another project, but I decided to place it within The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, backstory and all. I made a few changes, one of which turned Water Bug Hollow from a Mos Eisley type environment. But I kept its backstory. In editing, I changed Curtis ‘The Water Bug” Hollow’s story slightly, and doing so made the character gain a great deal of intelligence, and he carries on the ‘trickster’ theme presented in the book (a theme that I like to play with for all my writings). The introduction of Water Bug Hollow also gave Sarinda Fallows’ character motive to come in and disrupt the culture, and put in doubt Water Bug Hollow’s history of how it gained its independence. This also gave me two slave rebellions to put into one story. Two for the price of one!!!! YEAH!!!!

I did, for all of a split second, play with the idea that Water Bug Hollow’s slave rebellion, and the slave rebellion of The Son Dial Tone, would be one and the same. But for many reasons, that wouldn’t have made sense. For starters, the rebellions are in two different time periods. And how the rebellions start is a function of the era they’re in, the politics of the time. The Son Dial Tone’s rebellion is in Colonial America, around the 1720s. Water Bug Hollow’s rebellion occurs between July and August of 1863. And I liked how two eras of slavery showcased the difference of the slave, the slave mentality, and the slave masters and the plantation politics.

I changed Theresa’s first name from Delia to line up properly with the mythos and her character within The Son Dial Tone. So, after using the name Delia for two chapters…grrrrrr…I felt compelled to change it. But I liked the name Delia so much I gave it to Theresa’s granddaughter, hyphenating the name she already had. Delia-LaRue. The second of the three women, Philomena Amat – there was never any doubting her name once it was chosen. It means ‘love’. And considering what she goes through, there’s a lot there in its symbolism.

Their surname was originally Laveau, after the Creole priestess Marie Laveau. But I thought that was a little too obvious. I sifted through Creole and French names and found Amat, which looked like an anagram of the Goddess Maat. I liked that, but, with this name too, I thought it was too obvious, too close to Maat. But after some time I settled on it, and it fit.

Pete Peters, Horatio’s father, didn’t much change (except in name). Things around him changed. A city with no name became New York City – Harlem, specifically. The villain that orchestrated his murder went from male to female. The wife of a band member became his wife, and Horatio’s mother. But what remained that was key were his band and his murder. And it was his murder that reshaped the timeline of events and took The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn from modern times to 1957, with Pete Peter’s murder having occurred in 1933.

Pete Peters’ murder, in the book The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, is based on the mythology of Hiram Abiff and the building of Solomon’s temple. There’s a plot to gain Pete Peters’ secrets, musical secrets within the book. Pete’s fifteen fellowcrafts that plot against him are not builders but musicians, his band members. All but three recant. Three ruffians, these men are, and it is they who then carry out the impious deed. Pete Peters’ age is 33. He dies in ’33, a significant number within the mythology and the building of Solomon’s temple. Where the bullets strike Pete Peters is significant to the mythology. His murderers, the three ruffians, find him at the hour of midnight. His band is called The MidKnights. In the original screenplay, his band members Leon and Virginia were a married couple. This hinted at the zodiacal aspects of the mythology. Leon is Leo. Virginia is Virgo. Both signs are significant within Egyptian mythology concerning Her-Em-Akhet (the sphinx) and the witnessing of an event. Leon witnesses Pete Peters’ murder. Virginia, changed to be Pete Peters’ wife and Horatio’s mother in the book, discovers the scene. We see [the character] Joseph Concheroot, in dreams, represented as a scorpion, making him Scorpio. I plotted all of Pete Peters’ band members as signs of the zodiac, down to their specific instruments, but I didn’t have time to showcase each band member when it was a grand twelve-member jazz band. Pete Peters is the thirteenth, being a representation of the sun. He’s also the Opener, the Lead, The High Father. There’s more, much more to say on the deeper mythology encrypted in the book.

This really rocked the characterization of Jackson Henrik Fable. Again, like all the other characters I’ve spoken about, his name was changed from the original screenplay. His name is based off of two black scholars. John Henrik Clarke (and there was a time when he was John Fable) and John G. Jackson. His original character was an extremely militant black man with long dreadlocks. He did not like ‘whitey’ at all. But he was a brilliant musician, and he understood the magical harmonics of the missing keys of music. When the story was placed in 1957, I didn’t think a personality like that could exist believably in that time period. I mean, he could’ve been some kind of shaman with the dreadlocks, and have some profound higher knowledge, but that seemed a little cartoonish. I wanted the story grounded in a respectful reality. As it was, I was going to be engaging topics that African-Americans don’t feel comfortable with, and on top of that, I was bringing in the mystical and spiritual elements of African-American culture that extend back to Africa. However, when it came to this character, well…let’s just say there are also some other politics concerning him that I’ll speak on at a later date (sorry). So, I completely rewired him. And I thought about my grandfather and some other older black figures, and Jackson Henrik Fable came to life.

In The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn screenplay, there was going to be a young teenager that was striving to be a poet. I held onto him until late December 2010. Searching for a name for this character, I came upon the name ‘Gaston’, and for some reason I paired it with the surname Fable. I don’t remember if I was planning to have Gaston be Jackson’s son or not (something tells me that I was), but I put together the name Gaston Fable. And somewhere along the line I came up with The Fable Brothers. That just sounded badass. I then looked to one of my great uncles—brother to the grandfather that helped shape Jackson Fable—and I had another personality to shape. Gaston and Jackson. The Fable Brothers. These two characters gave the story a rich sense of reality. I then asked, “Where could these guys live?” And that’s when I came up with, “At the crossroads.” Knowing the grand mythology of the crossroads and how it factored into many African-American mythos and hoodoo, I thought it was perfect. I also decided to make fun of those people that actually believe in the whole “Selling your soul to the devil” at the crossroads. There’s a playful running gag between Jackson and Gaston when they make fun of the encoded, African-American mythologies and what’s believed from them instead of breaking down the mythology to what they’re actually saying. The jibes might jump out, maybe even bordering on being preachy, but they flow with the dialogue. Horatio, late in the book, even blatantly says, “Ain’t no devil at the crossroads.”

And, of course, every grand story needs grand villains. Sarinda Fallows is indeed that grand villain. She’s a Southern belle, and wrapped up in her charm is a deathly insidious deviancy. She has a desire to resurrect her husband and father’s ideals for commerce, business, and the control over people’s lives. But she also has her mother’s blood in her, and therefore she desires to control objects, trinkets, and baubles attached to grand tales, legends, and lore. Sarinda’s character was nowhere to be found in the screenplay of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. Her character was part of The Son Dial Tone exclusively as ‘Sarah Pantomime’. Even here she was second fiddle to the male slave master antagonist and not the main villain. When the two stories were combined, and after dealing so much with male antagonists, Sarinda came to the forefront. The main villain for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn screenplay served as Sarinda Fallow’s husband in the days of the plantation, a suave businessman. The more brutal and violent aspects of the original male antagonist went to Sarinda’s father. Each of these characters is a commentary on the evolution of racism and the system of American slavery.

When I first started putting Sarinda Fallows together as a character, the one thing I knew about her was that she wasn’t going to be an outright villain in personality. I like sly villains. I like the personality of the trickster as a villain just as much as I like the personality for the heroes. This sets up intrigue. It worked well with A Company of Moors. Al-Rinak’s three components of inspiration are made up of only one bruiser, but even this ‘bruiser’ character is a plotter, even with his muscle. That personality is the 1986 animated character Megatron. If you re-read al-Rinak’s description, it should make sense now why he has a ‘gray metallic’ hint to his dark hue, or his voice sounding like five voices converging as one while speaking through an ice tunnel, or the way he wears his turban. Yep. That’s the Decepticon leader in the human flesh. Ameer Las El-Behar is his Optimus Prime, though Behar’s inspiration came from other sources. Al-Rinak’s inspiration was also pulled from two other animated sources, though originally these two characters were literary first. General Woundwort of Watership Down is the second pull of inspiration that formed Statesman al-Rinak Ozan. The last is Jenner, more so of the animated Secret of NIMH than the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH of which the movie is adapted from. In the book, Jenner is only mentioned in passing and believed to be dead. But what I most enjoy about the villains in A Company of Moors is that they are all politics. I like the idea, as in Mafia history and films/television, where guys at each other’s throats can often converse as friends, thinking behind their eyes about how they’re going to kill the very person they’re partying with or shaking hands with. The deceit builds tension. Nasir in the room with the heads of The Four Winds and he knowing that they’ve killed his father and plan to kill him; and the heads of The Four Winds (named after demons) believing that Nasir is ignorant of the deed they’ve carried out and their plans for him. Or Al-Jeheuty having friendly conversations with al-Rinak, the two of them sharing laughter and a drink while they plot in their heads on how they’ll kill the other. It’s good ol’ fashion fun. But, al-Rinak, and all the colorful villains of A Company of Moors did have one thing in common. They were all males, and they all flaunted their masculine egos with chests out and snarls, guns, swords, and balls drawn. Okay, maybe not that last one…but you get my point. There was an idea in A Company of Moors to have a female villain, but she was cut and her time was given to al-Rinak’s mistress Melusina. This unscripted character’s villainy also, again, played second fiddle. But beside her nasty attitude, she was someone that made a choice that pitted her against our protagonists. She wanted to gain, at all cost.

Enter Sarinda Fallows. A woman. The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn was special in a way because the middle act (the longest of the acts) focuses on female characters. Each is distinct, though Theresa and Sarinda have traits in common. I knew Sarinda’s motives, and I knew her approach on acquiring what she desired. But my biggest concern was her approach by way of her personality. What was going to be her charm? I imagined her like a schoolgirl with a crush, when it came to the object she desired, an ornamented veil. An heirloom said to have been worn by a black woman residing in the United States long, long ago. To Sarinda, it’s the perfect present that her devilish tricks could acquire for her. She was going to be like a giddy teenage girl in her pursuit of it, secret as her intentions are. That’s what’s underneath the surface. She’s too sophisticated to be obvious, because Sarinda is also a socialite. She’s a star without the fame. When she’s not out destroying lives, she’s celebrating in the midst of her own. But there are moments of the evil inside her. What she’s capable of. In the scheme of keeping Sarinda charming, I wanted her charm to get more of the ‘screen time.’ I wanted the reader jarred in two ways when Sarinda committed or ordered an atrocious act. One, I wanted the act to be heinous. Two, I wanted to remind the reader who Sarinda really was. The second part was a bit of a challenge. Sarinda couldn’t be so charming that the reader forgets what her plans are, or that when she makes a devious move it looks out of character. Those moments had to be like a mask dropping and revealing the true face. This is Sarinda all along. And the reader had to react (after taking a gasp) by going, “Oh, yes. She got me too. Again, no less. Damn.”

For this Southern belle, I was studying every Southern character from Scarlett O’Hara to Blanche Devereaux, as well as real-life Southern women I’d come across.  What anointed Sarinda with soul was actually the character of a black woman. Claire Huxtable, as played by Phylicia Rashād, on The Cosby Show. My fiancée and I were watching reruns one night and I noticed Claire always got her way, whether through charm or intelligence. She got what she wanted. Phylicia Rashād also had the greatest gestures that could melt any man’s heart. Worked on me. I mean, “I saw you cryin’, but I was just about to bust wide open.” But I borrowed her facial gestures for both Sarinda and Theresa Amat. Overall, for Sarinda Fallows, I figured if Claire’s charm, sophistication, and intelligence were made for complete evil purposes, then we have the soul of our character. And I did. Her physical look comes from old 50s pinup models, heavy sprinkles of Marylyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Throw in Christina Hendricks too, cuz hey, Like Sarinda Fallows, that’s a voluptuous red head. Sarinda’s walk, step, and manner all came together from the moment she’s introduced into the story. She’s first spoken about in the early chapters, and there’s an air of mystery surrounding her. Kind of Kaiser Soze. She’s a beautiful myth whispered about on the tip of men’s lips and internal desires. And she could be dangerous, with tricks at her command. But we don’t get to see her until the second act, which takes place in 1917. And her charm is on full display, pulling off her con by feigning sympathy and character and coming with a warning to the residents of Water Bug Hollow. She feigns naïveté while behind it she’s plotting moves and manipulating the people around her. We pass to 1933 and finally leave Sarinda in 1937. With the flip of the page we’re back to 1957. We wonder what she’s been doing for the last twenty years. Whose lives has she destroyed since we’ve last seen her? Was her quest successful? What are her desires now? What is her insurance for the future should someone defeat her? And what will Horatio Peters do when he finally comes face to face with this temptress in this lifetime? Will he fall under her spell, or rid the world of her for good?

One of Sarinda’s tricks is that she has henchmen. Good villains often do. Moriarty. Red John. Curly Burneside is Sarinda’s henchman. He is her right hand. I didn’t want him to just be a typical lackey. He’s caught up in Sarinda’s plans. He has his own, knowing what part of Sarinda’s grand ritual consists of, and he can’t wait. He’s a sonava bitch, a rough man that has been on every aspect of the law. He’s been a lawyer, and he’s been a sheriff. He’s been a brutal overseer in the days of the plantation. He has his own charm. And though his story finishes late in chapter two, because we arc back to 1917 and up, we get to see his character evolve from gentleman and consultant to a brutal sheriff of a town, which revert him back to his plantation days. Sarinda and Curly don’t have past lives. Until someone puts them down, they have long lives.

And now, I find myself back in the stage of fleshing out characters before production begins on this latest project. And it has been just as fun. Most often you don’t get to really start understanding what works and what does not until you start the writing process. But you shape as much as you can before you dive in, and then you move forward. As you write, you see what’s working, what traits should be dropped or at least be subtle. You see how the story affects your character to indulge more or less in a personality quirk. With time, you get there. And then you have a character. Characters with character.

b write black