I’m part of a Facebook Group called Black Writers of Science Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. If that interests you, I welcome you to check it out. We have great admins and cool conversations.[Read more…] about Black Writers of Science Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy
Birth of a Dark Nation is the story of how African vampires came to America during the transatlantic slave trade.
That’s my elevator pitch for my first piece of speculative fiction. It is the first in a series and I’m working on the follow-up here in Conway, North Carolina.
Those of you who have read Birth of a Dark Nation know that it’s about a whole lot more than just how vampires hitched a ride to North America on a slave ship. My purpose was to ask a question:
How would the collective trauma of the middle passage, human bondage, reconstruction, and Jim Crow laws impact black people who lived through it all? We know the collective toll these atrocities take on contemporary black folks, but what if it was possible to witness it all?
I hope that Birth of a Dark Nation at least begins to address those answers. It’s speculative, of course, and not in any way definitive, but it’s interesting to think about how this collection of youthful black men would see America over time, only to continually be the target of state sanctioned violence against their bodies.
My follow-up, as yet untitled, also deals with trauma, but not so much the inter-generational kind.
One of my favorite novels is Push by Sapphire. I also happened to immensely enjoy its follow-up, The Kid, even though it was a challenge to read due to its subject matter. Having read both of those novels and then become a teacher of opportunity youth, I am here to tell you that the violence inflicted upon Precious in her life, and Abdul in his, is not an exaggeration.
Trauma is very real in our neediest students. Dead and absent parents, disease, incarceration, mental illness–all these are things students have experienced, either first-hand or second-hand, and work in tandem to prevent their success at diploma attainment and/or job attainment.
What happens, then, when we speak of the supernatural, to students with all this trauma who then experience magic or vampires or ghosts?
What would have happened to Justin Kena in Birth of a Dark Nation had he been poor or homeless instead of a middle class college graduate?
Rather than focusing solely on a particular supernatural plot, I want to investigate, through this new book, what happens when an unconventional person or group of people experiences horror and the supernatural.
It has been really fun to write so far, but I’m also writing myself into some secondary (or even tertiary) trauma.
For example, what if I decide to create a character named Mary Jane who is a survivor of familial sexual abuse. It’s already a “deep” topic to write about, but then I think of students who this has happened to, and I am impacted even further. I pressure myself to get the story right, and to ensure that it is told with authenticity as well as sophistication and respect.
Writing about people who may have been sexually assaulted also reminds me of the time a man tried to assault me. I think of how I dealt with it, how I didn’t deal with it, and how my character should deal with it. I struggle with making them the “perfect” survivor, as a way to inform readers how they can deal with the same trauma, or making them an imperfect survivor, because it makes for a more interesting story.
I always err on the side of the best possible story, but I also make sure to tell that story responsibly. And I take care of myself while writing–stopping for mental health breaks if I need it.
As of this moment, I have written over 71,000 words, which translates to over 275 pages, if the current formatting holds. I’d like to be done with a first draft in October and then begin edits and rewrites.
I’m learning to be proud of my writing and to trust in the story itself. And I’m grateful that I have reached a level of experience and maturity where I can tell another story of trauma without patronizing my readers.
I think this is going to be a good one, folks. A really good one. Keep me in your prayers!
Me and a close friend always joke about her ability to attract perps. A perp is a man or woman who is actively pretending to be an initiate of a fraternity or sorority (or any membership organization). Perp is short for “perpetrating a fraud.” She and I both have interacted with perps on message boards, social media, and online dating apps. We laugh at the absurdity. Neither of us can understand why someone would be so desperate to be seen as one of us that they would actually lie to belong.[Read more…] about How to Perp: Ten Steps to Living Your Best Lie
When I began writing Birth of a Dark Nation, I imagined it to be the first in a series of novels, much like LJ Smith’s The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle series, about vampires and witches, respectively. Those books came out when I was in middle school. I was immediately taken by the story and fell in love with the characters. To this day, nearly 30 years after their publication, I still grasp a piece of amethyst and say “Earth and water, sand and sea/As I will, so let it be.”
The people love a franchise, don’t they? It seems to me that after Smith’s success, the world of children and young adult literature grew up, took the supernatural franchise model, and ran with it. That’s how we get glittery vampires, folks.[Read more…] about On writing a series
Thank God for therapy.
I wish I could say that my move to Conway, North Carolina was uneventful, but it was quite eventful. From the movers not being done until 3:00am to a house with no sinks, there was one surprise after the other which would have left a pre-therapy version of me absolutely undone.[Read more…] about And so began the Conway Years
Quakers (or Friends) are members of a historically Christian group of religious movements formally known as the Religious Society of Friends… Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united in a belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access “the light within”, or “that of God in every one”.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers
For about a decade, I have identified as a Quaker. Somehow, I fell down a Google rabbit hole, found Quaker websites, and said “Yep, that’s who I am.” Then I read the books. Then I subscribed to the magazine. Then I started attending meetings. In late 2017, I joined Friends Meeting of Washington and I’ve been a member ever since.
Today, it became official official. They had a welcome activity for the nine of us who joined in the past few years. To be honest, I wasn’t really into the idea of celebrating what, to me, was a personal and spiritual decision to join this religious path. I’m already active on a committee (Peace and Social Concerns) and I’m slowly, but surely making friends.
Even though I’ve been part of the meeting for over a year, as a member, and a year or so before that as an attender, it was still important for me to step back and be acknowledged. What’s so wrong with making a concrete decision about your soul and then celebrating it with others in the community?
Nothing at all.
So I surrendered. I handed over my desire to be modest. I stopped being shy about good things that happen to me and I let my faith community to take time to welcome me and the others. Even if it was delayed–it was the thought that counted.
We had cake. We got roses. We got our “official” name tags and we even got our photos taken for the board in the hallway. And most importantly, we got introduced by members of the membership committee, who had recommended each of us.
I joked with other new member that we were part of the same pledge class now.
I talk about being a Quaker openly, but in many ways, I am starting out from scratch in my faith walk. I was raised Baptist, almost became Muslim, and then found my way to the Quakers. It’s a totally different, largely unstructured faith that still has lots of traditions that I am learning.
Perhaps most importantly is that, after years of distance from more formal religion, I am learning that community is always the most important part of the journey.
So thank you, Friends Meeting of Washington, for being the dope ass “church” that I always needed.
Note: The photo is of Paul Cuffe, a famous black Quaker that I just learned about five minutes ago.