Archive for March, 2012

Missing Mama Bears

“Maurice, when I first met you, I thought you were an arrogant bastard.  And you are.  I never thought we would love each other or become the friends we have.  I’m not fooled because now I know your arrogance covers up your insecurities.  Thank you for letting me see that.”

Sara shared that with me during one of our hospital chats when I was finding her hand.  We were doing what we always do:  we laughed, we cried, we got all into each other’s business, and we let each other know how much we loved each other.  I’m sure no one else who has ever called Sara Larson a friend had that sort of relationship with her.  Just like I’m sure none of her friends knew her as a Mama Bear quick to fight for her cubs … since we’re all her cubs.

Even when death is expected, even anticipated, there’s no preparing for the conflicting emotions that hit you.  The sense of relief that your friend is no longer suffering mixed with the grieving of the moments you won’t be able to share, the life lived without them.  And how difficult, how unreal, it is to accept.  Here’s the sad truth about death:  sometimes it takes the threat, the grim reality that it has us in its sights, for us to live the way we’re supposed to live.  Sara had the reality of her mortality put up in neon lights on billboards for months.  While she was confined to her hospital bed, she was able to receive the fruits of a life well-lived.  She got to see how many lives she touched.  Day after day, her room was filled with friends and family there to visit her, be with her, and love her.

Sara once confessed that she had always dreamed of a life surrounded by interesting people.  People who wrote books.  People who made music.  People who painted.  People who said witty things.  She was honored to have been blessed with the family and friends she had.  She wanted all of her friends to know that.  And if we’ve lived and loved as we should, she knew how we felt about her.  She lived life loud, full of bright color, full of song, and shared that noise, color, and music with the world.

When I think about the Sara I knew, the memory which sticks out most to me was after Mo*Con II.  I had been running around the whole weekend, worrying and working myself into exhaustion.  On the last day she came up to me, held her arms open, and said “It’s okay to show that you can’t do it all on your own.  I got you.”  It was like strings had been cut and I collapsed into her arms.  And she just held me and did her Sara thing.  To me, that’s Sara in one picture:  there to catch us when we’re ready to fall and hold us up until we’re ready to walk on our own again.

Part of her Sara thing is that she regrets that she won’t be able to still be in relationship with us.  You see, she still plays the Mama Bear, worrying about who will take care of her cubs, or worse, upset that she will cause us pain when she leaves.  All I can think of is that I worship a God of relationships.  Through His Son, all relationships are eternal.  So you know what?  I’m thankful for the pain of our loss because it meant that He brought us together in the first place.  Just like I know everyone gathered in her hospital room would gladly take on the pain of her loss because it meant that we knew her.  It meant we loved her.  It meant she touched us.  And she doesn’t get to just leave us.  I know she’s watching us, continuing to cheer us on.  And I live in the hope that one day we’ll be reunited.

“We’re stupid. Why did we have to wait so long to become such good friends? Did I mention we’re stupid?” –Sara Larson

I can only hint of the complicated relationship we shared.  Even as I write, the only way I know to process what I’m feeling, I know there’s a distance.  A level of grief I don’t want to face because I think it will be too much and I’m not going to want to even get out of bed, much less do anything else.  But I can almost hear Sara yelling at me to not be afraid to feel and live … and to get my ass out of bed.

You see, we argued (loudly).  We got mad (loudly).  We cried (loudly).  We laughed (loudly).  We lived (loudly).  We loved (loudly).  She was my sister and I was her brother.  One thing we say often is that friends are the family you choose.  And because I chose Sara as family, I have a Sara-sized hole in my life … and I thank her for it.  Sara, I thank you for loving us artists and encouraging the color we bring to the world.  I thank you for loving us music makers and joining us in the noise we make.  I thank you for loving us writers, as you pushed us in our various journeys.  And I thank you for loving us arrogant bastards.

Awarded to Sara in the picture above:  Words cannot express the depth of which this lady means to us.  She is dedicated, resourceful, and opinionated…and she is a fighter, through and through.  She inspires us, tasks us, and often times mothers us.  She showers us with love and devotion and our appreciation of this woman knows no bounds.  To Sara J. Larson, the heart and soul of the Indiana Horror Writers. (Bob Freeman)

TLA, Heroic Times, and Chris F. Holm

(aka Tidbits and Updates)

As an update to my convention schedule this year, I’m coming in as a part of the Texas Library Association conference (Houston, TX).  April 18 (10:15 – 11:50 AM) I’ll be on the panel African American Pioneers of Horror and Science Fiction: Creating good horror and science fiction is a true art. Join a panel of African Americans authors as they discuss the unique and appealing elements of these genres and share selections.  Maurice Broaddus and Nalo Hopkinson. (Black Caucus Round Table).

I give a preview for it here (plus do a short reading from my novel, King’s War).

I was interviewed over on the Heroic Times blog as one of their “Monarchs of Mayhem”.  Check it out to hear which stories of mine are completely unpublishable as well as lists of some of my favorite stuff.

Not too long ago I mentioned Chris F. Holm’s book, Dead Harvest.  He’s over on my buddy’s site, The Sci-Fi Guys Book Review doing a guest blog discussing what folks mean by noir:

But regardless of whose definition you go with, you’ll notice something’s lacking: namely, any mention of genre. That’s because for as much as noir’s assumed to be a subset of crime fiction, it’s more vibe than subgenre. And, as many an enterprising modern writer seems intent on proving, that vibe is one that plays just as well with fantasy and science fiction as it does with crime. Witness William Gibson’s brilliant NEUROMANCER (which, okay, came out a while back, but then Gibson’s always been ahead of the curve), Jeff VanderMeer’s unsettling FINCH, or any number of works put out by my (utterly fantastic) publisher, Angry Robot, by folks like Adam Christopher, Tim Waggoner, and Lauren Beukes.

Check out the rest of it here.

The Gift of Story

Today I’m guest blogging over on Kody Boye’s site.  He blogged for me earlier this year and turnabout is fair play.

(aka Modern Day Griots)

My mother gave me the gift of story.

Born and raised in Jamaica, she constantly regaled us with stories of duppies, obeah, rolling calves, br’er ‘nansi, and Big Boy.  And as much as we teased her about them while growing up, she instilled a seed in us.  It was her legacy that she wanted to pass on.  They didn’t have television or the internet to entertain them.  They had stories, stories passed down from one generation to the next, that shaped and defined them.  Storytellers were of the tradition of griots, the keepers or lore and history.  That lesson stayed with me.

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Blog continued over on Kody Boye’s blog site

Putting the Urban in Urban Fantasy

Everyone has a different idea about what urban fantasy is.  For me, I go with the simple definition of it being a story where the city is as much a character as anyone else running around such that if you were to remove the city, the story doesn’t work as well.  Keep in mind, when I was told my novel was “urban fantasy”, I had an entirely different definition in mind.

I hear “urban” and I’m used to it being in the context of “urban radio” or “urban fiction” (aka street lit) and any of a number of other code phrases for “we mean black people but we need to tip toe around saying, you know, stuff black people are into”.  So I thought maybe I had stumbled into the perfect genre to write my brand of “magic ghetto realism”.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that’s about as opposite a landscape as possible.

About a year ago, Jim Butcher’s Twitter feed erupted into a bit of a kerfuffle about the whitewashing of urban fantasy.  Apparently folks were bent out of shape by his depiction of Chicago, essentially whitewashing it as his Chicago comes up a bit short on the amount of black folks (or other people of color) living there.  Frankly, I wasn’t too bent out of shape over this as somehow every week people used to tune into Friends who lived in a New York remarkably bereft of black folks.  It’s to the point where I go into an urban fantasy expecting not to encounter minority characters other than in a “magical Negro”-type capacity.

To be straight, I have a very urbanized tale.  It is set among homeless teens, gang members, and drug dealers and thus has what I will generously call a highly select lexicon.  Some readers, expecting a different sort of urban fantasy, have reacted poorly to it (one reviewer called it “too ghetto”, but I’m going to generously assume that they refer to science fiction stories set on Mars as “too Martian”).  Since the book is billed as The Wire meets Excalibur, so it’s not like the warning’s not right there on the cover.  (You may also note that my publisher, Angry Robot, does not believe in whitewashing covers).

Jim Butcher’s Chicago may have been a “fictional Chicago” (as he put it), but my Indianapolis apparently is less so.  I write from what I have experienced (which I suspect is what Mr. Butcher does also and should’ve just copped to the fact that he has the option of living in a “different” Chicago).  My old neighborhood was a lower middle class one, not one that folks might think of as hard core hood (though there were elements of that too).  We had a neighbor who liked to lean out of her window and shoot at her father-in-law when he pulled up.  We had a “Big Momma” which every neighborhood should have.  I wrote about the characters of the neighborhood.  My neighborhood.  My story.

The Knights of Breton Court series works in Indianapolis.  It’s about my Indianapolis story’s as much about it as the playing out of the Arthurian legend.  There are more stories to tell in urban fiction than Boyz N the Hood or Menace II Society or baby mama dramas.  Just as there are more characters to write about in urban fantasy whose stories aren’t as often told or voices always expressed.  With the legends of the Green Knight, Red Knight, and Black Knight (in each of the books, respectively), Tristan and Isolde, trolls, zombies, a dragon, elven assassins, Red Caps, griffins, gangstas, and thug life tossed in, I guess I’m putting the “urban” in urban fantasy.  This isn’t your father’s King Arthur tale, but it is mine.

Things in the Pipeline

As an update, here’s a list of short stories of mine that are due out sometime this year.  This doesn’t include anthology projects like Dark Faith 2 or The Miseducation of the Writer.  And this doesn’t include a project I’m really excited to talk about, but because no contracts are signed, I can’t.  What I can do is show you this piece of advance art for artist extraordinaire, Emma Overman (this piece is called “Lyta and Yvonne”.  For those Indianapolis natives who participate in First Friday, Emma is having her next studio night down at the Harrison Center on March 2, from 5-10 p.m.).

STORIES COMING SOON:

  • The story “Warrior of the Sunrise” will be in the upcoming Icons anthology
  • The story “Under a Concrete Hill” will be in the next issue of Bull Spec
  • The story “The Cracker Trap” will be in an upcoming issue of Shroud Magazine
  • The story “Communication Breakdown” will be in the upcoming anthology, Cadence in Decay (MHB Press)
  • The story “Whispers at the End of Creation” will be in the Relics & Remains anthology (MHB Press)
  • The story “A Soldier’s Story” will be in the Vampires Don’t Sparkle! anthology
  • The story “Trails End” will be in the Dead West anthology
  • The novella “I Can Transform You” (Apex Books)

And I found this footage from the Anthologies panel from Fandomfest 2011

My Favorite Writing Spots

Writing is a solitary enough activity (which is why we tend to gather at writer conventions if only to be around other folks who “get it”).  Still, because conventions can be pricey and and you can only stare at your same four walls for so long before having memorized every contour and crack in the wall left from when your two sons decided to wrestle with one another,  sometimes it’s nice to get out and be around people even if you’re not specifically engaging with them.  You get the vicarious thrill of having a life—hearing people speak and interact—and still get to be productive.

Kelly Barnhill recently wrote a blog about her favorite coffeeshop and it got me to thinking about some of mine.  There’s something comforting about going someplace where your “tribe” has gathered and as a group you pursue your solitary endeavors.  It took me a while to find the right place to nest, as it were.  I spent a lot of time hanging out in a variety of coffee shops (it’s like church shopping for a place to write).  There’s also something … cliché about hanging out in a coffeeshop working on your story or Great American Novel, but I can chalk that part of it up to the romantic notions about being a writer.

I’m a big supporter of local shops, thus very little frequenting of a Starbucks.  And as it’s a creative endeavor, I usually spend my time in one of the Indianapolis arts districts, typically Broad Ripple, Irvington (which has my second favorite coffee shop, Lazy Daze), and Fountain Square, where my favorite shop is, Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company.

Calvin Fletcher’s is like “Cheers” for me, where everybody knows your name.  Seriously, Doug and Jeff Litsey (the father and son duo who run the shop) make a point of getting to know all of their customers names.  The shop is run as a non-profit and they regularly donate their tips to local charities.  What tipped the scales in favor of CF over Lazy Daze was that CF was a natural nexus of my worlds.  Artists of all stripes, writers, folks from my church, as well as folks in other ministries and non-profits regularly frequent there, so I can network over coffee and during writing blocks.

And the cast of characters that come through on a regular basis practically demand to be put into stories.  For us regulars, it’s like going to the office and working around the water cooler.  All sorts of collaborations and brainstorming gets done, partly because we’re all nosey and want to know what each other is doing.  But because we all come from different backgrounds, it’s like attending an Interstitial Arts meeting during the rest of the month.

I am on record as writing in the oddest places.  My clipboard is my portable desk and as the father of two boys, I’ve learned to tune out a lot.  So I can write anywhere … and have to as I can’t stop the voices (I just try not to let them intrude on date nights).  I still write on my bed (oddly enough it’s the best place for me to write dialogue) and the bulk of my writing at home is done on my couch.  But when I need to get out, I head down to Calvin Fletchers.  It’s my magic coffee shop.