Archive for May, 2014

Launch Party: KING MAKER by Maurice Broaddus

King Maker is now available as an audio book on Audible.com.  On one level, it throws me off when I hear people reading my work and repeating those words out loud.  I wrote those words that someone is reading and performing.  *I* did that.  THEY are *reading* them!  And as excited as I was when I stumbled across Mark reading the prologue from King Maker:

(by the way, here’s Mark Reads King Maker Prologue Part 2), I’m doubly excited to announce that King Maker is now available on Audible.com.

king makerI wanted to retell the legend of King Arthur in a completely new context.  Told through the eyes of homeless teens, drug dealers, and gang members, I also wanted to explore the idea that we, even cities, have shadows.  So on one level, it’s what makes it easy to “believe” that there is this magical underbelly to our everyday reality.  One that’s always there yet we never both to look for it or acknowledge it, filled with plant elementals, senile mages, trolls, fairies, and all manner of beasties.    At the same time, this magical shadow city serves as a kind of metaphor for another kind of shadow.  A very real world one:  homelessness.

With King Maker we are introduced to a world of outsiders, people who are typically “voiceless” in our society:  the homeless, drug addicts, gang members, prisoners, and the poor.  The powerless, the invisible, the “least of these” … and we peek into their world, see their faces, and hear their stories.  Sometimes through poor choices, sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control, they struggle to maintain their dignity, humanity, lives.  As they face fear, loss, spiritual hardships, and their very survival, King rises up.

So here’s King Maker.  Coming soon are King’s Justice and King’s War.  I’ll invite you to those parties, too.

Midnight Diner 5.2: A Hole of Social Media

My column for the second issue of The Midnight Diner (issue 5.2) is available.  Here’s the opener:

A Hole of Social Media

I.  Digging a hole

midnight diner 5.2People screw up.

Social media can be a tricky landmine field.  For example, take a tale of two friends.  One friend writes a well-intended blog, it gets taken wrong, and the conversation goes in all sorts of unintended places.  Another opines in the heat of passion in a blog post, Facebook status, magazine column as if they are just talking to their buddies and not living in the age of the Internet.  In either case, social media becomes the wild west, where anyone can see and jump into a conversation, and before long drama is up and running.  In either case, it’s easy for words to come tripping out of people’s mouths or off their fingertips in keyboard fury, ahead of their brains.  Social media captures a snapshot of people, sometimes leaving them exposed as … in a hole.

(continued in The Midnight Diner 5.2 available here)

X-Men: Days of Future Past – A Review

Endless Days of Future Paradoxes

posterA true sense of reverence to the X-Men history buoys this entry into the franchise.  It helps that this comes on the heels of the terrific X-Men:  First Class as well as the surprisingly good, The Wolverine.  The Days of Future Past screenplay, by writer-producer Simon Kinberg, from a story by Jane Goldman, Kinberg and Vaughn, takes its name for a two part story *way* back in Uncanny X-Men 141-142, where we get to see a possible future timeline where the sentinels have run amuck.  [This would eventually lead to a convoluted history to the franchise (with the way time travel stories working, that timeline was both averted and still exists because … yeah).]  Hardcore comics followers also get to see Wolverine before he gets his adamantium skeleton, touching on yet another major comic’s storyline.

All of this may point to the fact that Bryan Singer seems to not only “get” the X-Men but truly loves them.  His absence was felt during the third X-Men movie, whose director obviously DID NOT get or love the characters while at the same time, Singer didn’t seem to have as strong a connection to the Superman canon.

“What if this is who she is?” –Hank/Beast

Opening with a sequence reminiscent of Magneto’s experience with the Holocaust, a group of renegade mutants, including Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry), hide from robot hunter/exterminators, Sentinels.  A future Kitty Pryde uses her (just cause) consciousness transference powers to send a future Wolverine back along his own timeline in order to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), creator of the Sentinels.  However, it’s her capture and subsequently extrapolated DNA which creates the next gen power adapting Sentinels which go on to wipe out mutants and humans alike in the future.

In the unfamiliar role of voice of reason and mentor, Wolverine is tasked with putting the band back together, getting a past disillusioned and strung out Professor X and a past tormented and angry Magneto to work as a team, bolstered by the Beast (Nicholas Hoult).  The script manages to wring out more than its share of laughs along the way.  A big part of this includes a spectacular scene where Peter Maximoff, aka Quicksilver (a character who gets to be in both the X-Men and Avengers franchises, though without cross-referencing) helps break Magneto out of his cell under the Pentagon.  Too bad he isn’t in the film more.

“Just because someone stumbles and loses their way doesn’t mean they are lost forever.” –Professor X

magnetoX-Men: Days of Future Past demonstrates an emotional depth rarely seen since the temptation of super hero stories is to go for maximum action.  The movie revolves around relationships and redemption.  The relationship between Magneto and Professor X; Professor X and Mystique; Mystique and Magneto.  At its core is characters working through how to define themselves:  Professor X, the only character who gets to confront his younger self; Mystique (if she is to be the woman Professor X imagined her to be or the one Magneto hopes to mold her into) and Magneto (who has to struggle against the demons of his past which fuel his sense of mission).  And the stakes are huge:  their choices essentially determining the fate of human and mutantkind.

“We give you a second chance to define who you are.” –Professor X

A human being is defined by who loves them. They can be defined by the pain of their past or be defined by the loved of God.  They can find their identity in lies and self-deception or find their self-worth in truth. Magneto and Mystique each come to their own moment of crisis, a crossroads point, and have a decision to make as far as who they are going to be and how they are going to live.

Brokenness can be redeemed. Finding redemption means washing their own wounds and past, giving up those histories of hurts, and letting go of them. It means finding forgiveness, for themselves as well as others. In so doing, their wounds might become occasions for new visions.  Real love risks and offers redemption and when loved well, we’re taught about God.

“You can show them a better path.” –Professor X

The thing about time travel/alternate future stories is sort of like watching alternate universe scenarios play out (or reading Marvel Comics’ What If …? Series):  we’re allowed to experience the shock and pain of our heroes suffering/dying without the actual consequences to their canon (I know, I know, we’re still talking about comics’ canon where no one truly dies for long).

The other thing about time travel stories is that most times they breakdown if you think about them too hard.  We have to pretty much accept the “just cause” rule of time travel as to why any action occurs in the future once Wolverine gets sent into the past to change said future (but “just cause” we want to see more Bishop and Blink in action works).

By the time the movie is done, it essentially gets to reset continuity (so only Wolverine has to remember the third X-Men movie).  For everyone else, next up is X-Men:  Apocalypse.

A Wedding Toast

Two dear friends of mine (and Mo*Con mainstays!) were recently married and I was asked to give a toast at their reception.  Unfortunately, I was way-laid by a stomach bug/food poisoning (it was quite the toss up, literally and figuratively, considering what I was eating before I got sick), and wasn’t able to make their reception.  Since I wasn’t able to make it, and because I told her I would, I thought I’d post here what I would have said:

 

A Toast

rhonda and craigFor those who don’t know me, my name is Maurice Broaddus.  I’m a horror and fantasy writer.  I even started an annual writers’ convention and named it after myself, Mo*Con, because, well, I like me a lot.  Now one of the things I’ve always said about Mo*Con is that it’s about relationships.  As much as I’m here to toast the happy couple, I want to talk to you about how this relationship has affected me.

Like I said, I’m a horror writer, I write books, so you can imagine how Rhonda and I first met.  Now Rhonda loves several things:  she loves horror, she loves books, and she loves being in relationship.  Now Rhonda and I’s relationship has grown and changed over the years.  She’s gone from fangirl to friend.

I don’t think you quite get the totality of the transformation of this relationship.  I went from esteemed author, the guy she was nervous to even engage in a conversation, the guy worthy of fan adoration to … her girlfriend.

I no longer got to hear about how great my stories were, I got to hear about diets and outfits and, worst of all, boy troubles.  Oh Lord, she was a walking train wreck of dating calamity.  Non-stop complaints about her dating troubles.

All of which stopped when she met Craig.

I hadn’t met Craig, but I knew all about Craig long before I met him.  My one big take away about Craig:  Rhonda didn’t have to worry about “boy troubles” anymore.  Rhonda had to get used to the idea of having a man in her life who cared about her, wanted to be with her, appreciated her just the way she was.

I learned something else about Craig the first time I got to meet at a Mo*Con.  All of you who don’t know him that well should try this too:  he loves it when a total stranger gives him a hug.  A long unflinching hug where all you’re doing is saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

As we’re invited into people’s lives, we’ve had the privilege to watch relationships start and blossom.  I’ve had that privilege with Rhonda and Craig.  I’m sure you agree, these are two special people who have found each other.  And we’re honored to share this time, this moment, with them.

To Rhonda and Craig.

Launch Party: HADES’ DISCIPLES by Michael West

Michael West is two books into his Legacy of the Gods series through Seventh Star Press.  He’s still feeling the effects of Mo*Con, but he invites us to the launch of his latest, Hade’s Disciples.  

Lessons Learned at Mo*Con: Hades’ Disciples by Michael West

Last week, I had the great pleasure of attending Mo*Con 9Hades Disciples_Small.   In fact, I’ve attended every Mo*Con, and while each one has been a festival of sorts, bringing together friends and peers from the wide world of publishing and art for a weekend-long party, the topics addressed and the issues discussed are weighty ones indeed: race, sex, discrimination, sexual orientation, God, religion, mental health, marriage, relationships, feeling like an outsider to normal society, how our views on it all color the way we see the world and interact with one another, and of course, how all of this affects what we read and what we write.

The long days—and very late nights—of Mo*Con, like most conventions I attend throughout the year, leaves me feeling drained afterward, but also quite energized.  Being around so many artistic people, you can’t help but get your creative batteries charged.  And those charged batteries often power new and amazing projects.

For me, one of those projects has been my dark Urban Fantasy series; The Legacy of the Gods, which began in 2012 with the publication of Poseidon’s Children, and continues now with the release of my new novel, Hades’ Disciples.

In Hades’, terrifying creatures exist all around us, hiding in plain sight. Ancient. Deadly. They gather in secret, conspiring, dreaming of nothing less than humanity’s destruction, and their numbers are growing.  Earl Preston knows the danger all too well. After tangling with a horde of mythological sea monsters in Colonial Bay, he has been tasked with finding these beasts and exposing their plans whatever they may be. But Earl is not the only one with a mystery on their hands. At the very top of the world, Carol Miyagi has stumbled onto an artifact from Earth’s past, something magnificent held captive in a prison of ice and snow. Now, Carol and Earl must work quickly to decipher the will of the gods–a plot that defies imagination–and to stop their followers from carrying it out.

Earl is African-American, struggling to do what’s right and to make his father proud.  Carol is Asian-American, raised in both the United States and Japan, and yet not feeling a real connection to either culture.   There are other major characters too, none of whom fit comfortably into any typical mold.  They are people who are outsiders to mainstream society, people who are uncomfortable in their own skins, and people who struggle with their own faith and sanity.  Basically, they’re the sort of people who would fit right in on your average Mo*Con panel.

The panels at Mo*Con are all about finding common ground, about breaking down the walls of ignorance and uncertainty that divide us.   The characters in my Legacy novels must learn to work together, despite their various differences, in order to save the world.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all do the same?

Signed, Limited Edition Hardcovers of The Legacy of the Gods Book Two: Hades Disciples are now available for pre-order through Seventh Star Press.  There are also a few copies still available for Book One: Poseidon’s Children, which you can add to your order for no additional shipping and handling.

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Website: http://www.bymichaelwest.com

Amazon store: http://www.amazon.com/Michael-West/e/B007QD125G/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bymichaelwestpage

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bymichaelwest

 

 

 

Midnight Diner 5.1: Writing the Other? Check Your Privilege

Oh, did I mention that I have been writing a column for the newly re-launched Midnight Diner?  Editor-in-Chief, Michelle Pendergrass, approached me to do the articles, which in turn has sort of sparked me doing more on my blog.  SOOOOO, you have her to blame.  Here’s the opening of the first column:

 midnight diner 5.1Writing the Other?  Check Your Privilege

Welcome to my inaugural column here at the Midnight Diner.  I suppose some measure of introduction is in order to give you a head’s up on what you’re in for.  On my blog and in my stories, I like to regularly explore non-controversial topics, such as race, religion, politics, and class. I have a story in the latest issue of Asimov’s SF.  “Steppin’ Razor,” a steamfunk tale with a re-imagined Jamaica as a superpower, England ruling the world (including the American colonies), robots, Rastafarians, assassins, and the clone of Haille Selassie, and the fact that, as one reviewer noted, “there are no white characters in the story.”

I’ve perused a handful of other reviews and you might be surprised to find out that there are no notes concerning the lack of black or non-white characters in other stories.

Should I await the lecture on writing the other?

(continued in the Midnight Diner 5.1 available on Amazon now)

MoCon ReCap – Outsiders: Being, Living, and Writing the Other

mocon9The topic of writing the other has been on my heart a lot lately.  Obviously a topic near and dear to me going back to the days of RaceFail ’09.  As writers, we constantly face the challenge of writing the other.  And we have a certain amount of trepidation because we don’t want to get it wrong.  Maybe it’s just me.  Whenever I’m writing outside of me—which basically means this blog—I’m writing the other.

I was born in London, England and moved to (Franklin and then) Indianapolis, Indiana.  My accent alone put me on the outside, much less the fact that a desegregation program of my school had me on a track where I was the only black student in most of my classes.  So despite my father being U.S. born African American, my mother being Jamaican, I always felt cultural lost, and on the outside.  Probably the reason why the quest for identity plays such a prominent theme in many of my stories.  When I approach the blank page, however, I consider myself an invited outsider.

Every time I have to do the work of a writer:

-avoid clichés

-create well-rounded characters with fully formed histories

-take into account their worldview

-realize how they are perceived, be mindful of the power imbalance between cultures

-get the dialogue right

 

All of this comes with the acknowledgement that I will probably screw things up.  In my urban fantasy series, The Knights of Breton Court, I worried about being a poverty pimp.  I re-tell the legend of King Arthur though the eyes of homeless teens, drug dealers, and gang members.  I could be criticized for such a portrayal of black people, as if that’s the only story black people have to offer.  While that was the story I wanted to tell, I don’t want to add to the cultural depiction of my people.  It’s probably one of the reasons my next stories involved high level Jamaican political intrigue (“Steppin’ Razor”) and middle class citizens struggling against a corrupt system (“Pimp My Airship”).*  My goal:  fail better the next time.

Of course, I wonder if we will allow each other the grace to make mistakes and forgiveness during the course of the conversations that WILL come.  Otherwise writers may be paralyzed by the possibility of making a mistake and the Internet falling on their heads.  Wanting to write beyond “what they know,” who they are as well as their “tribe”; but stretching for inclusivity while not wanting to appropriate, not wanting to marginalize, not wanting to cause more harm in their wake.

Conversations swirl about the desire for greater diversity continue to occur.  We want to encourage it among our editors (although, reaching out to writers you want to work with to create diverse anthologies isn’t exactly rocket science) and how to do it well (Nisi Shawl/Cynthia Ward and Mary Anne Mohanraj have some good thoughts).

On the flip side, I also say “be fearless.”  Writing is risk, defying conventions, speaking truth to power, challenging thought, is part of the role of the artist.  Take chances, do your job as writers, and when we screw up, next time fail better.

 

*Plus I got tired of editors asking me to write stories for their anthologies doing “that urban thing you do”

Mo*Con IX Recap

mocon9I’m never sure how to re-cap Mo*Con.  It’s hard enough to believe there have been nine of them (especially when for the first 4-5 I kept swearing that year would be my last one).  Part of why it’s hard to re-cap is the same reason the “con” itself confuses some folks:  it’s more about being with awesome folks and having the space and time to really get to know them.  It’s about food and conversations.  So here’s the re-cap:  we ate, we talked, it was awesome!

Here are some highlights:

Thursday

Yes, I know that Mo*Con doesn’t officially start until Friday, but as Kelli Owen and her penchant for midnight steaks can attest to, we start cooking the moment people arrive.  In this case, John Joseph Adams, Christie Yant, Monica Valentinelli, and John Hornor Jacobs came into town a day early to test this theory.  I had planned a simple spaghetti and meat sauce dinner, but I was thrown out of my own kitchen by Monica so that she could whip up an Italian feast.

Friday

We were due to partner with Second Story to have some of our guests from Mo*Con go into schools to talk about creative writing.  When we originally scheduled this, the schools were cool, but then the I-Step schedule threw everyone into testing panic.  We still had one school who wanted to host a writer.  So Wes Chu was chosen to step to the mic.  I may or may not have told Wes that he’d be speaking to a 5th grade class.  Which, I maintain, was technically true.  It as a fifth grade class … the entire fifth grade class.  And sixth.  And seventh.  And eighth.  Regardless, Wes was a pro and KILLED it.

Speaking of Second Story, they wanted to host our Friday night event.  The Friday evening of Mo*Con, we have a meal together (the “Alethea Kontis welcoming dinner”) and then some sort of entertainment event. In previous years we’ve had a Celtic rock band, poetry readings, a puppet show, and slam poets.  This year, it was Write Club.  We had four of our guests (John Hornor Jacobs, Geoffrey Girard, Lucy Snyder, and Scott Lynch) write a story on the spot which had to incorporate five items:  a broken morocco, a hammer, a plastic car, a ceramic banana, and a Hannah Montana bucket.  We then voted a story off then did another round with new items.  All the while, we bought drinks to raise money for Second Story.  Yeah, we used our powers to write and drink for a good cause.  And were treated to a battle royale which came down to Scott and Lucy with Mr. Lynch barely edging out a win.

Saturday

Mo*Con functions on the “ish” schedule.  The Friday night festivities ended up with an after party at my house which ran until about 4 am. There was a direct correlation between how late people stayed at my house on Friday and when they arrived on Saturday morning.  Thus the ish.  Plenty of ish.  We did a spotlight conversation with Melissa Gay, our artist guest of honor, followed by a buffet of Indian food.  The big conversation was our “Outsiders:  Being, living, and writing the other” panel (with me, Chesya Burke, Scott Lynch, Geoffrey Girard, Elizabeth Bear, and Lucy Snyder discussing our pasts and how we approach writing).*  Followed by break out a session which included Jason Sizemore’s book launch.  Then a panel on the business of writing with Dave Mattingly, John Joseph Adams, Elizabeth Bear, Sara Hans, and THREE TIME HUGO NOMINEE, henceforth referred to as “Lord Hugo” Jason Sizemore.  All of which was followed by a buffet of Cajun food.

Sunday

After an after party which I’m pretty sure ended only so that people could check out of the hotel, we simply hosted people at Casa de Broaddus until people left.  By host, I mean had a brunch plus Jamaican cuisine followed up by introducing folks to Jordan’s chicken wings (which are now the OFFICIAL snack food of Mo*Con).  There may or may not have been a Magic: the Gathering tournament in there somewhere, too.

Soooooooooo, to sum up:  plenty of great conversations with great people, all done against a backdrop of constantly eating and drinking.  Yeah, that’s Mo*Con.  Next year will be our TENTH one.  I can’t let that anniversary go without a lot of surprises…

 

 

*I’m going to do a separate follow-up blog on that topic because I have a lot of thoughts about that.

*****

Jason Sizemore gives his own recap

Launch Party: IRREDEEMABLE by Jason Sizemore

Ain’t no party like a Mo*Con party cause a Mo*Con party don’t quit…I’d say more about the author, his book and what brings him here, but Mr. Sizemore does a pretty good job of this himself.  Plus, who knew he was writer …

MoCon – A Place of Open Ideas, a Place of Business

I Irredeemable_Cover800X6001often think Maurice did a disservice by calling his early soiree ‘MoCon’. The ‘Mo’ part I’m cool with. We all know Maurice enjoys a bit of personal aggrandizing, and you know what, that is okay. It’s the ‘Con’ part that hangs me up.

MoCon is not a convention. It is a gathering of writers, artists, editors, publishers, readers, and friends in the spirit of intellectual discourse and fun. The majority of the ‘convention’ is usually held in the basement of a Christian church. But people of all faiths are welcomed and encouraged to attend. People of any sexual disposition are encouraged.  Being in a church doesn’t affect the conversation. Panels in the past have discussed sex in fiction, racially charged subjects, and homosexuality and the church.

MoCon is about finding ways of dropping those arbitrary boundaries that create confusion, mistrust, and misunderstanding among people. The ‘convention’ aspect of the name MoCon misrepresents the weekend that Maurice and his team puts together.

I propose a name change. Let’s change it to ‘The Maurice Broaddus Weekend of Fellowship, Trust, and Love’.

While there are panels and there are parties (this is Maurice Broaddus we’re talking about, after all), MoCon is a great place for personal business. My company, Apex Pubilcations, has seen the birth of several major projects stem from conversations at MoCon: Both Dark Faith anthologies, Plow the Bones by Douglas Warrick, To Each Their Darkness by Gary Braunbeck, commissions for Apex Magazine, and more.

I’ve any had an opportunity to advance my writing career, what there is of it. Last year, Stephen Zimmer (of Seventh Star Press), was one of the guests of honor. Between panels, Stephen and I were talking, and he asked me about a couple of my stories. Turns out he is a fan of my short fiction and encouraged me to submit a collection proposal to him. I’ve long considered myself just a publisher and editor. The writer side of me was my ‘hobby’. Because I’ve been writing for 10+ years, I had quite a library of pro and semi-pro stories available to pick from for a book.

One of the best writers I know, Geoffrey Girard, said he would write an introduction. I decided to go for it.

Thus Irredeemable was born! Eighteen stories of dark science fiction and/or horror.

The title I owe to my graphic artist friend Justin Stewart. Justin once remarked that my stories are filled with irredeemable bastards. He’s quite right—most of the 18 stories in the collection fit into the ‘irredeemable’ thread. These characters are intolerant, short-sighted, and mistrustful.

Exactly the sort of people that could use a weekend of MoCon to have their views broadened and hearts reset.

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I’ll have copies of Irredeemable at MoCon.

Buy links to Irredeemable can be found here: http://jason-sizemore.com/2014/04/24/irredeemable-almost-all-the-buy-links/