I have been awarded Honorable Mention in Genre Fiction for the North Street Book Prize![Read more…] about Honorable Mention – Genre Fiction- North Street Book Prize
When I was in my late 20s, I learned that people sent out year-end updates about their lives to their friends and family members. Such letters were seen not only as normal, but as polite. College friends of mine were the first people I knew who did this.
As for me, an early adopter to social media, I didn’t understand the appeal of telling all your business in December when you could be telling it all year long, as it happened.
I enjoy sending out holiday cards, though. Probably more than receiving them. I like the idea of having an outdoor photo shoot in cute clothes and letting people see how well you aged over the past year. I reckon you’re supposed to be showing off your children in these cards, but eff these kids.
I don’t have any anyway.
My cousin Jayonna came over (masked up) and used my camera to take photos of me for my holiday card. I taught her a little bit of composition, gave her the long lens (to stay even safer), and we played around for an hour in my backyard (and side yard). I liked the results.
It’s hard getting things done in Conway when you’re poor. Some of my friends ask me not to call myself poor. Others prefer that I say “broke” instead. The truth is that I’m somewhere in between. I don’t have a job with any sort of benefits. My health insurance consists of prayer, masks, and staying at home. I can’t get what I want when I want it without considering what I’d have to go without.
But I do have the generosity of my Patrons. Thanks to them, I am able to actually be a writer on a full-time basis. I can pay my rent, my internet (now with better upload speeds!), my cell phone bill (though service is spotty at best), and some streaming entertainment. Most times, I can afford food, though sometimes I apply for SNAP benefits. Right now, North Carolina gives me about $13 a month in benefits.
Thanks for the cobb salad and pack of Fresca, North Carolina.
There’s not enough to be said about my Patrons, though. It’s humbling to know that over a hundred people believe in this vision and have followed me from DC to Conway to help me see it through. I say often that I will try not to disappoint them. Most say I could never disappoint them. It still makes me anxious, though. I never want to be known as that author guy who went to the country and disappeared.
So I work as hard as I can to live up to my promise. And you know what? I think I did okay this year.
In May, my anthology Time was released. So was my novel Children of Fury. I am proud of them both, but especially of Children of Fury. I knew it would be complicated trying to explain that it was Volume III of a series for which Volume II hadn’t been released, but in the end, people didn’t care much. I got good reviews, but I could always use more.
Additionally, I published two short stories set in the Dark Nation universe, and connected to Children of Fury. The first was Thunder Rolls, a sequel story in which a character contracts COVID-19. The second was Pascal, a prequel story centering on a secondary character from Children of Fury at the age of six.
Thunder Rolls hit number one on release day. Pascal is climbing the charts as I write this. I am proud of myself for that.
Sincerely. It’s progress.
Over the summer, I was invited by Dr. John Shevin Foster to contribute a piece to a segment of the Black Theatre Festival that he produced. I decided to write a monologue in a Shakesperean style (modified sonnet/iambic pentameter) called “Such a Night as This.” It’s from the point of view of a rather straight-laced Black gay man whose more progressive husband goes missing overnight during the protests of 2020. It was performed really well by the actor Adrian Baidoo.
I always get a kick out of seeing my work performed.
I wanted to be finished with Dark Nation, Volume II by now. I am not, though I am much further along than I was a year ago and the ending is in sight, but I have to be candid about why I am not done. I was really distracted by my committments to Gamma Xi Phi, the arts fraternity that I lead. There was way more on my plate than there ought to have been, and that’s a major lesson for me. In 2021, work will be more evenly distributed. My part will get done regardless. I have modeled, taught, checked-in, and done everything else I could possibly do as a leader. All there’s left to do is let others lead and allow them to fail if they have to.
I’ve been seeing in social media memes lately that “I’ll just do it myself” is a trauma response. As I unpack that, I can commit to not doing it all myself in 2021, unless it is my work as a writer.
I almost forgot a major accomplishment of 2020! For the first time, I actually applied to writing awards. I won’t say which ones exactly, but I applied to five different awards in my intersecting genres. I did it because I feel confident that the work is good enough to be recognized. Losing won’t be the worst thing in the world–I’ve never even applied to any literary awards before now. (Besides maybe the Clik Magazine honors back in 05 or 06)
Applying to these awards can be expensive, and my Patrons and friends really stepped up to make sure that applying would not be a financial burden on me.
Back to Gamma Xi Phi. I don’t want anyone to think that GXP was a burden on me this year. I truly enjoyed every challenge and felt fulfilled each time a project was completed. My chapter, Beta Lambda, provided adult coloring books, supplies, and mental health information to over 50 households in Northampton and Halifax Counties. We initiated more members than we have in any prior year (including my mom), chartered a chapter in Raleigh/Durham with another on the way further south, made forward-thinking policy changes, and really did a good job with virtual programming.
2020 was good to me. However, it was not good to many others. We lost too many people to an avoidable plague. We switched to modes of learning that most families were not ready for. And the news was unrelentingly bad day after day.
I hold space for all those who didn’t have a good year. I see you and I understand. You are here and that is enough.
I apreciate your support. I thank you for reading. And I’ll see you in 2021.
I am one again honored to share with you a stunning cover designed by Hello Boogie–the same phenom who illustrated the cover to Yours in the Bond! I am so pleased that she was able to create a cover similar in style to that of Birth of a Dark Nation, yet with its own style that brings out the abject despair and darkness of the Children of Fury story. I am forever grateful to her for bringing this to life
Now it’s time to pre-order your own copy of Children of Fury! You can do so at the very same EventBrite link to RSVP for the book launch. [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-conversation-with-author-rashid-darden-timechildren-of-fury-release-tickets-92933250855 ]
You do not have to attend the event to secure your book, and you don’t have to pre-order to attend. But I sure hope you will do both! Each purchase comes with e-book access as well as a physical copy of the book.
Thank you so much for all of your support! Spread spread the word to your friends, family, and social media–and use the hashtags #ChildrenOfFury or #DarkNationVol3.
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!