What I’m Reading: The Alchemists of Kush

alchemists of kush minister faust originalAlchemists of Kush cover

 

Critically acclaimed author Minister Faust returns with his fourth novel, The Alchemists of Kush.  Set in both modern-day Edmonton and ancient Sudan, this speculative fiction novel follows the path of two boys who must harness ancient knowledge in order to combat a great evil.

Raphael “Rap” Deng Garang was just your average seventeen year-old war refugee hanging on the streets of Edmonton, Canada. Half-Sudanese and half-Somali, he had one foot in both worlds but truly belonged in neither, especially in the close-knit Somali community in which he lived with his mother. A joy ride in a stolen car with a good friend led Rap down a path of self-knowledge that transformed him into Supreme Raptor, the “conscious rap” sensation.

Hru was a child soldier in ancient Sudan, helping the other children of his village survive when raiders destroyed their village. Forced to rely on rudimentary fighting  skills, Hru and the other child soliders manage to eke out an existence in the forest until they arrived at the ocean, in which the Great Devourer of Souls resided. Hru becomes the sole survivor of an attack by the Devourer, which leads him on a quest to find his mother and claim a birthright he didn’t know he had—as Horus, the son of Osiris.

Faust does a riveting job in alternating between modern-day Canada and ancient Sudan by way of Kush; the book is divided into four parts, and each part has two divisions: The Book of Then (which takes place in ancient times) and the Book of Now (which takes place in modern-day Edmonton.  The title of each of the four parts is key to the occurrences in that particular part, and takes on a greater sense of importance as the story progresses. As readers follow Rap’s path from an errant teenage refugee  to a young community leader, they are treated to a parallel course in history in the guise of the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. Indeed, the final portion of the book is the text of the Book of the Golden Falcon, which is the seminal text from which Rap and his cohorts are taught to elevate and expand themselves. The Alchemists of Kush is heavy on allegory, and readers would do well to take this into account while delving into this novel.  Faust has managed to make history cool, and the Book of the Golden Falcon gives a lesson not commonly found in neither public nor private educational institutions in any country. The underlying message of the novel is one of self-improvement, self-sufficiency, and elevating others to their best selves; while this message is imprinted upon the teenagers in the novel, it can be applied by all ages. Even better, you can read all of the Books of Then or the Books of Now in order, for a different yet equally entertaining reading experience which puts an entirely different spin on the novel.  Fans of Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Charles Saunders would enjoy The Alchemists of Kush.

Aside

Writing and The Conundrum of “Free”

I love “free”.

Food samples? I’m on it. Giveaways on the corner? I’m widdit. Free items via shopper’s card at a grocery store? Yes, indeed.

I’m all about that something-for-nothing life….except when it comes to books.

I suppose this makes me a hypocrite because I check Bookbub and Choosy Bookworm every day to get ebook deals and if it’s good and free, I usually partake. The upside: I sometimes discover good authors and I didn’t come out of pocket. The downside: I have a glut of ebooks across Kindle, Google Play Books, and Nook that I still haven’t read from two-plus years ago, and I keep piling on more.

The “write/don’t write for free” debate has raged across the literary landscape for years. It’s especially more pertinent now, with so many authors choosing to self-publish. Some self-proclaimed experts insist that giving away books is one of the best ways to build your audience. Others ignore that advice in an attempt to preserve the value of their work.

Which is the best path?

I can’t say for sure. I was always taught that people don’t value that which they didn’t have to work to obtain, be it via money, time, or work. This value statement applies to physical objects, relationships, goals…you name it. If you don’t put some skin in the game, some kind of way, it won’t matter to you once you get it. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “In it to win it.”

I have written articles and book reviews for free, especially when I was venturing into a new area outside of my comfort zone. Each time, I parlayed those free writings into paid gigs–which was my end game (I’m an unapologetic capitalist). Writing for free doesn’t mean you have to keep doing so; if your writing is good, it will get noticed by people who are willing to pay for what you have to say–unfortunately, this sometimes means giving a larger sample of free writing so that the lucrative gigs can get a better measure of your writing style and determine if you are worth the cash and will enhance their media brand. I get it: it’s good business sense, particularly for internet-based companies without the resources and reserves of more established brick-and-mortars. And while I implore all writers to value their work, make sure you are actually writing something of value–boring, trite, repetitive, error-filled, cookie-cutter writing may work for those fly-by-night, clickbait-laden sites, or for those whose reviews/follows were purchased, but won’t cut it for the major players. and/or serious readers.

I’ve given away my books for free. Usually, there is “payment” in the form of an email address so that I can increase my mailing list, or an agreement to provide an honest review, or some other sort of mutually profitable arrangement. All to increase my book sales some more (sales are lifeblood to the professional author, whether traditionally or self-published. The love of the art is the catalyst, but in the end it’s about cold, hard cash, continually increasing sales, and ending up in the black.). Likewise, when I’ve won books via a giveaway, I had to pay in the form of providing my email address; answering questions (anyone who has entered a contest via Rafflecopter feels me on this LOL); (re)tweeting my entry into the contest; following the author on Twitter or liking a Facebook page. There was a payment involved, an exchange of energy that made me look forward to getting that book–which I read almost as soon as I received it. In the end, I paid for those books somehow, and I valued them more because of that, even if it was just an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) and not the finished, shelf-ready product.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

I think of those hundreds (and counting) of ebooks clogging up my platform apps. I also look at the books (e- or otherwise)  I tend to read and re-read: the ones I actually purchased, even if it was only for 99 cents. To not read them, after I bought them, would be a waste of money and that is counterintuitive to my personal beliefs. The free ones? I’m not so pressed about, which is why they continue to stockpile. I have no incentive for reading them NOW. I recently went through a bunch of books I had in storage. Most of these I’d gotten free from the Book Expo of America (BEA) over ten years ago. Most of them I still haven’t read and don’t know when I will. I didn’t pay for them: I lived in New York at the time and my entrance fee was paid for by a publication for which I used to write reviews. So they will continue to gather dust and be relegated to the “I’ll get around to it” zone. And before you ask: I’m keeping them because most of them are out of print, or have original cover artwork (and have since been re-released, perhaps as a movie tie-in or as part of a move to a different publisher), so that makes them more valuable to me. And they were…well…FREE. 🙂

This is my personal conundrum: give away books with no type of “payment” from potential readers in an attempt to bolster my audience and sales, or charge money? I’m all about building my audience (and sales), but I also don’t want to end up in anyone’s (e)book glut, either, to be discovered one, five, or ten years down the road…or never.

I can’t dictate what’s best for each writer. You have to do what you feel is best for you and your career, and blessings be to you on whatever you decide.  But as for me and my house, I prefer to get paid.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m being interviewed! Sunday, 5/7, 7pm EDT

Hi all,

I will be interviewed in the Black Girl Nerds podcast on Sunday, May 7, 7 pm EDT. The interview will be hosted by Jamie Broadnax, founder and khaleesi of Black Girl Nerds. WOOT! Tell a friend or three!

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I will be on a panel of three self-published authors (I’m the lone female author), along with Thelonious Legend (Sins of the Father, the first in the Parker Girls YA series) and Kevin Wayne Williams (Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten). We’ll be talking about our respective works, and I will especially bring up The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic, which is the next installment in the Bastille Family Chronicles series (the first was The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille). It drops next week! Double WOOT!

Since the podcast starts at 7 pm EDT, there’s plenty of time to listen before you dive into Game of Thrones, House of Lies, the second round of the NBA playoffs (#GritAndGrind, #GoSpursGo), or your preferred Sunday evening programming. If you’re on Twitter, make sure to hashtag it: #BFCDominic, #BGNPodcast

Also…keep your eyes and inboxes peeled next week, as I do my first-ever book giveaway for all three of my titles, It’s gonna be epic!

Thanks for stopping by.
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Biting the Hand You Hope To Feed You

The month of February is not just Black History Month (which goes above and beyond Martin Luther King, Jr.; George Washington Carver; and Rosa Parks; but I digress): it is also #Black Comics Month, which is a celebration and awareness of comic books created by those of African descent.

To kick things off, Vixen Varsity interviewed David F. Walker , the creator of the Shaft (Dynamite Entertainment); Doc Savage (Dynamite Entertainment); Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics); The Army of Dr. Moreau (IDW/Monkeybrain Comics); and The Supernals Experiment (Canon Comics) comics. Mr. Walker talked about the state of diversity in comics in general, and the particular issues assigned to Black creators. His frustration came through, especially with this statement:

No, the biggest challenge faced by black creators is the lack of support from black fans. Last year, I was at the New York Comic Con. I can’t tell you how many black people I saw, but I’m guessing that is was well into the five figures—and that’s just one show, in one major metropolitan area. That’s to say those were the black folks at NYCC, and not the fans in Atlanta, or Southern California, or Atlanta, or wherever. But I know that is just half the fans at the show in New York had bought Concrete Park, the book would not have been cancelled. If just ten percent of black folks I see at conventions all over the country supporting creators like myself, or Alex Simmons, or Brandon Easton, or whoever I could list here, we’d all be doing better. Likewise, if more black nerds were speaking out about the murder of Darrien Hunt—one of our own—we would be taking a stand for something that really mattered. But the problem is that more of us are concerned with what’s going to happen on the next episode of Arrow, or whether or not it is okay to cast a black actor as Human Torch or Jimmy Olsen, than they are with the murder of one of our community.

Wow. Just…wow.

I must say, I was a wee bit offended on several levels. I’m especially miffed at the nerd comments earlier in the article, but I’ll leave that alone for now.

As an independently published author, I understand the rage and frustration. We have to work five times as hard to get one-tenth of the recognition bestowed by the mainstream–make that ten times if you are a writer of color, and fifteen times if you are a writer of African descent. But I also write books with no pictures, which are more legitimized within the literary canon. I’m not a comic book creator, nor do I play one on TV. I can’t speak to the unique set of challenges faced by Black comics creators. But I can speak to some of the issues addressed above, which boil down to one thing: marketing.

One of the things that bothers Mr. Walker is the Black nerd community’s focus on things that he considers flightier than the recent death of a Black man while cosplaying. While I don’t recall hearing about it, it’s entirely possible that I did and it got lost in the emotional anesthesia rendered by the spate of killings of unarmed Black men over the past year, and especially during the past few months. Mr. Walker also expresses his displeasure with the lack of support of Black comics creators within/from the black community, even going so far as to state that Black supporters could have kept a comic from shutting down due to poor sales circulation.

To all of this, I say: I. Am. Unaware. Of. You.

I don’t play video games (unless you count Bejeweled Blitz), especially of the role-playing variety. I don’t read comic books. I barely watch movie adaptations of comics. I also don’t watch shows based on comics characters, such as the aforementioned Arrow and Agent Carter. I only stumbled across #BlackComicsChat on Twitter by accident, due to a post by a participant in another group chat. In fact, I only discovered the #Blerd (Black Nerd) tribe on Twitter a few months ago, in all of its lovely, multifaceted splendor. Ditto for activities such as cosplay. These things are foreign to me, and I take umbrage that I, as a potential consumer, should be blamed for my lack of awareness, which apparently affects the bottom line of purveyors of certain creative arts.

Black comics are a relatively small subset of literature in general and Black literature in particular. While comics, video games, and the like (including associated practices such as cosplay) are venerated to nerd nirvana, there is a significant population of Blerds such as myself, as well as those of more traditional tastes, who have never picked up a comic book and who rely on the big-screen comics adaptations (e.g., Blade, Black Panther, Green Lantern) to garner awareness.

If sales are low enough that cancellation is more probability than possibility, and support is deemed practically nonexistent, then what are creators doing to improve visibility? How are you trying to reach people like me, who have not a clue about the rich and diverse presence of comics creators? Who is publicizing the outrage regarding victims like Darrin Hunt and stoking that outrage and call for reform across platforms (social media, racial, community, etc), so that it can expand and evolve past the insulated bubble of the Black comics tribe and select associates? How can you best serve as an ambassador of your world, that would make me want to visit?

As an (indie) author, I have long ago accepted that my writing may not be everyone’s cup of oolong, and I have adjusted my expectations accordingly. Likewise, I also understand that without a mainstream PR behemoth, the task falls to me to let people know about my work. If they don’t know about it, or me, then they can’t try it or buy it. Any failures in those areas are on me, and me alone.

Which why events such as #BlackComicsMonth are so important. By providing a focused showcase of Black comics and those who create them, and within the milieu of social media, there is greater exposure of a tribe that has gone relatively overlooked by those not in the know–which can be a lot of people. Perhaps if events such as this proliferate, the frustrations and blame expressed by Mr. Walker will dissipate.

Thanks for stopping by.

BLIZZARD: A SEBASTIAN SCOTT NOVEL IS HERE!

We interrupt the postings about NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo to bring you this important message:

 

Blizzard_Cover_for_Kindle

My new book, Blizzard, drops today! *hits my Nae Nae* Since it’s a different genre, I’ve written it under a pen name, Tee Emdee (I have an author page for that pen name on Amazon and everything!).

I’ve been working on this before and during NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo, and it’s finally out to the masses…just in time for some holiday reading (Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving…it also makes a nice Christmas or Hanukkah gift! 😀 )

For those of you who’ve read The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles), I introduce DEA Special Agent Sebastian Scott as a character who ends up playing  a crucial part in the resolution of the story. However, Blizzard takes place about five years prior to the events in The Camille Chronicles, when he was stationed in San Francisco.

From the blurb on the back:

MEET THE FAMILY.

Fresh on the heels of a major drug bust of the designer drug Blizzard, Special Agent Sebastian Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration takes a long overdue trip home to Brooklyn, New York for a family reunion. What starts out as a pleasant gathering of his large, tightly knit Trinidadian family takes a dark turn as Nigel Pierre, Sebastian’s least favorite cousin, is arrested for possessing some Blizzard of his own. Out of his jurisdiction and with limited time and without his usual resources, a reluctant Sebastian must navigate family dynamics while he finds a creative way to clear his cousin’s name–without his family driving him crazy in the process.

I had a lot of fun revisiting this book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook.

Want to try Sebastian Scott with little commitment? Check out the short story Undercover: A Sebastian Scott story. Only 99 cents!

Tell a friend or three. And thanks for stopping by!

Five Miles to Empty

One of the hazards of starting out in self-publishing (or any entrepreneurial endeavor) is the lack of funding. Most people don’t save up a nest egg from which they can procure any manner of needed services (e.g. editing, marketing, accounting) at whim. And, as I have mentioned countless times before, it takes time to build up a loyal fan base that will automatically buy hundreds and thousands of your books upon release.  So, it’s a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY).

The problem with DIY is exhaustion. If you treat your writing like a full-time job (minus the nice corporate benefits and a spot in the company cubicle farm–and especially due to a lack thereof), then you will be hustling from “sunup to midnight”, in the words of the late, great, Michael Jackson in his song “Workin’ Day and Night”:

Add to this the fact that the rest of your non-work life doesn’t stop, and you set yourself up for fatigue, exhaustion, and don’t-give-a-figness. I’m there right about now. I have a new book looming in a few weeks, and a short story surrounding this book, and I have not done a lick of marketing. None. Zero. It’s not difficult; all it takes is a quick Tweet, a few seconds to post on Facebook and Google Plus, perhaps some sort of Instagram photo. Preliminary PR is right at my fingertips, but I can’t bring myself to exert the energy to put it out there. Meanwhile, I have the energy to write this blog post and binge-watch past seasons of Grey’s Anatomy…go figure.

It could be mental exhaustion (because my non-writing life is commanding a lot of attention these days). It could be a crippling fear of failure (second book curse, and all that). It could be recovery from a punishing and long round of antibiotics (but I’m back to my 3-mile-a-day walks, so that’s good). It could be a lack of marketing inspiration (e.g., what can I say/do differently from the release of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille to get Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott Novel hyped to the masses) Whatever the reason, I need to get it together, and get it together soon. I can’t afford to slack off, because that would mean a lack of sales and as I’ve said before: if it don’t make money, it don’t make sense.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

The Social Media Shuffle

I recently consulted a social media expert (who happens to be a member of my sorority, and who also provides social media services to the sorority at the national level) to figure out how to best maximize my exposure. Since this is my first book, and I am a self-published author, I have to work twice as hard in order to gain half the exposure of a traditionally published author.  She reviewed my latest newsletter and recommended that I really work social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc) to get my name out there.

Well…that sucks. :/

Not because I don’t realize the necessity of this, given the technological strides we’ve made in our society, but because social media management is a full-time job, and it’s hard to do that AND create a product that requires promotion on social media.  Plus, let’s keep it real: I am of a certain age, and have the most basic understanding of social media versus someone who was born with a smartphone in their hand, and with a Tumblr account. I know how to Twit (yes, I said “twit”, as I prefer it to “Tweet”), post on FB, LinkedIn, and Google Plus; I have a Tumblr account that I rarely check. But that’s about it. For all those multi-layered nuances that so many social media experts send newsletters about, well…I’m not on that level, and can’t afford to hire someone on that level right now.

(sidebar: if there are any college students who want to manage my social media for free, holler. Serious inquiries only.).

The good news is, a lot of the products I use are integrated with each other so that I only have to post to one place/site, and it shows up on other sites (Bless you, WordPress!). Still, the social media sorority sister suggested that I actually post unique content to the aforementioned sites, as a way of providing a more intimate feel with my audience.

Prince WTF look lip curl

Lookie here, I pour out my angst, euphoria, on my blog; I have to do it elsewhere too? This is too much for my little life. But alas, if I want to be marketable, it’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make…kicking, screaming,and Twitting all the way.

Oh, and I now have an official Amazon.com Author Page. Check it out!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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