Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Press Releases for the Self-Published Author

Part of a successful self-published book promotion is a solid well-written press release. When it’s combined with other promotional efforts like social media including Twitter, Facebook and traditonal efforts like networking with bookstores and vendors a press release can make a huge difference in getting the word out about a new title to readers.

What is a press release? A press release is one-page document stating that tells the media about the debut of a product, service or event.
In addition, a press release contains contact information so that media outlets can contact the author/publisher if they’re interested. With book releases being soft news, authors shouldn’t expect any calls from big media outlets. But if it’s written strong enough hook, maybe a local paper or a newsletter will pick up the story and do a feature about the author and their book.

A good press release is 300-400 words maximum and broken into:

Headline- a hook that grabs the reader and makes them want to read more about your book.

Body – This answers the questions of:

What the book is about,

What audience the book is targeting,

Who the author is,

Why they wrote it,

And where it’s available for purchase followed by your Contact information.

Keep a press release short, four or five paragraphs max. And it should be written from bottom to top, with the most important information first, and contact information last.

A press release is an author’s calling card to the world and should be proofread to ensure there are no typos, spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. If there are mistakes in the press release, many in the media will probably believe that there are errors in the book.

An author should write their press release two to three weeks before submitting a book to the printer. Once the book is published, The press release should be submitted online on the day the book hits big online retailers like and Barnes&, because this is where a large percentage of a self-published authors’ sales will come from.

Examples of successful press releases I’ve done include:

The best time for an author to launch a press release is Monday morning at 7:30-8:00 AM. This is when all the media outlets are looking for fresh stories and fresh leads.

The worst day to send out a press release is Thursday, Friday or the weekend. Most of the editors at media outlets are making their plans for the weekend and will not be interested in looking at any press releases unless it’s major hard news like national or international news. Press releases on soft news like book releases are likely to tossed in the trash by editors on any day except Monday morning.

While some sites and publishers charge, there are places where authors can go to submit a press release for free. These include,, and

A smart author uses more than one press release site in their book promotion; this ensures that their book gets maximum exposure in a majority of media outlets. Each hit on a press release site means one more person knows about an author’s book than before.

All About Delays

A few days ago in the blog Anatomy of a cover I sneak previewed the All About Nikki cover. I promised it would be available at online retailers in June.

Unfortunately, the book will be postponed until further notice.

Usually I only release one book per year. This year I wanted to increase my productivity to two books, but being between other projects (other people’s books) I’m taking a break from my own books to help those authors get the best quality products on the market.

The book isn’t too far back in the production queue; All About Nikki is 95-99 percent complete. Pages are laid out, the cover is designed, and the press release is written. I only have to buy the ISBN, barcode, go through one more round of proofreads and assemble the PDFs. Easy stuff, but I want to take my time with it and do it right.

All About Nikki is a project dear to my heart. What started out as a simple companion to the All About Marilyn screenplay has evolved and snowballed into something very unique and special for me. I want to make sure it’s the best quality possible. I wrote Nikki specifically for a Young Adult audience (8-14 year olds) and painstakingly took care to make the book as child friendly as possible. My goal with the book is to get those teens and tweens who watch shows like Suite Life of Zack& Cody, That’s so Raven, Hannah Montana, True Jackson V.P, Wizards of Waverly Place, High School Musical and all those cable shows thinking about careers behind the camera of their favorite shows. Maybe even inspire them to start writing their own scripts and making their own YouTube Videos. With only two percent of African-Americans writing screenplays, everyone needs to do more to encourage little brothers and sisters towards focusing on careers behind the camera instead of in front of it.

While I can’t release the All About Nikki book right now, I’m hoping to get it in print later in the year or sometime next year.

Friday, March 25, 2011

All About Tidbits (Easter Eggs) in All About Marilyn

Here are some fun facts about my third book All About Marilyn:

The first draft of the script was completed in July of 2007. It was my first attempt at writing a screenplay from scratch. I've been told by many that my books read a lot like movies so I decided to give it a shot.

The original All About Marilyn script was 113 pages on 8.5” x 11” paper.

That first draft opens with Marilyn sitting in the AATA agency; around the bottom of page 20 in the book. This was changed in 2008 because I felt it the original opening scene didn’t effectively establish the characters of Marilyn Marie and Nikki Desmond or the theme of contrast in the story.

All About Marilyn was the last story I completed before my first laptop, a Dell Inspiron 2500 died after over six years of service. The last things I did with that computer was to print copies of All About Marilyn and The Temptation of John Haynes, then the computer died for good. I still have those manuscripts in a box today.

With my laptop dead and me having no money and no job, I was forced to revise the script by hand on notebook paper. It was while writing this second draft by hand that I established the opening scene in 1996 featuring the filming of the episode of All About Nikki, Marilyn’s failed movie career, and the brutal audition for a direct-to-video movie at G-Town Productions. I didn’t get to transcribe that part of the story into Word until April 2008 when I finally found employment for a couple of months.

The final version of All About Marilyn is actually 135 pages when printed on 8.5” x 11” paper.

For many in the film industry, 135 pages is too long for a script. But I feel at that length it comprehensively tells the story I want to tell about Black actresses in Hollywood. Besides, if I were to shoot it, I think the final movie would end at about 110 minutes anyway.

All About Marilyn wasn’t just the first screenplay I wrote. It was actually the first story where I intentionally used more complex literary techniques like irony, foreshadowing, and symbolism.

Contrast is a key theme in All About Marilyn. Light and Dark, Fantasy and Reality, Young and Old, Rich and Poor, Black and White are played off each other in the story to show the differences between Marilyn’s real world and Hollywood’s fantasy world.

I actually got the idea for the story of a washed up child star while watching an episode of California Dreams. It was first season episode featuring Heidi Lenhart. From what I saw in that episode, Lenhart’s acting was much better than the entire cast of the show. That got me to doing a search on her with Google and IMDB for her and the rest of the cast of the show. From what I’ve seen Heidi Lenhart is a solid actress who never got the breaks she should have. Her work in Au Pair proved she could carry a movie on her own.

What fascinated me about Heidi Lenhart (in addition to her great acting and her dynamite body) was that she was the same age I was at the time. That’s where I got the idea of making Marilyn a 34-year-old; I wanted the character to be similar to an old high school friend, and the story would be a way of seeing how well she’d be doing several years later.

And yeah, Heidi Lenhart is White.

But the Marilyn Marie character is Black. Inspiration does not know color, and anyone or anything can be a muse for a writer.

Still, my goal was to write a story about an African-American actress and the barriers sistas encountered in Hollywood, but the teen star stuff is what made the storyline relatable to me when I approached the keyboard. When I was in high school and in college in the 90’s I watched a lot of teen shows like California Dreams, Saved by The Bell, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Boy Meets World Sweet Valley High and many others. Many of the actors at the time who starred in those shows were about my age. And many of the African-American ones weren't working. Hollywood doesnt' have that many parts for Black women over 30.

So after reading about Lenhart, I did research on over 100 actresses from six decades. I pondered what it was that caused one actress to have a hit and a successful career another to stall. Was it race, politics or a combination of both? As I answered the question I began to develop Marilyn’s fictional experience in Hollywood.

The All About Nikki show is inspired by the classic 1990’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the classic 1995 film Clueless.

Nikki Desmond is inspired by Hilary Banks from Fresh Prince and Cher from Clueless. All About Nikki was supposed to be a Fresh Prince-esque sitcom with a black female lead who acts like Cher from Clueless.

The Name Nikki Desmond is a play on the name of the character Norma Desmond, from Billy Wilder’s classic film Sunset Boulevard. It foreshadows the tragedy to befall Marilyn Marie in Hollywood.

Marilyn Marie’s show All About Nikki comes on Monday Nights because that’s the night The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came on back in the 1990’s. And Fresh Prince was one of the most dominant shows of the 90’s.

The All About Nikki dolls on Marilyn’s bookshelf are inspired by the Clueless and Blossom dolls that came out in the 1990’s. Yeah, those shows were popular enough to warrant their own dolls back in the day.

The joke Rumsfeld What Would I use this for?...Why we’d use these to wax the Rolls was created one Sunday during Sunday dinner in 2004 when I was showing my brother some clothes in a Brooks Brothers catalog and we were talking about rich people. Since then it’s a running gag I toss around every now and again.

Nikki Desmond is supposed to be the polar opposite of Marilyn Marie. One of the things I noticed is that many actors often play characters who are the opposite of who they are in real life. So a mean nasty girl would probably be played by a girl next door type. It’s crazy, but that’s how Hollywood works.

Marilyn Marie’s name is a play on Marilyn Monroe. Like the iconic starlet, her career is supposed to end in a mysterious and tragic fashion in her mid 30’s.

Marilyn’s adult life is inspired by the tragic fall of many child stars I’ve read about over the years. Many child and teen performers struggle in their adult lives because their larger than life television alter egos are so endearing society can’t see past them when they star in other roles.

Marilyn’s fall isn’t due to drugs or alcohol, or any substance abuse because I wanted to make the point that that a descent into poverty can happen to anyone, even good hardworking people. Contrary to popular belief, many actors, especially African American ones live paycheck to paycheck like the rest of us and struggle to pay their bills. Sometimes a brotha or a sista just hasn’t caught a break.

Marilyn’s faded 1990’s wardrobe is based on my personal experience from being long-term unemployed on three occasions. As my newer clothes wore out, I found myself reaching in the back of the closet for more vintage garments from back in the day. If it fit, and was clean I wore it. From my experience the last thing out-of-work people buy are new clothes, groceries and other bills often take priority first.

Story wise Marilyn’s faded 90’s clothes, hair, and her beat up Mercedes convertible symbolize how much the world has changed around her. She’s supposed to look like her life stopped in the 1990’s when her career stalled.

This is something I actually had to do whenever I lost a job. My life practically stopped durinig that year and things didn't really get started again until I got another job.  I wound up putting stuff I wanted to do on hold while conserving funds to pay bills and praying for a break.

Marilyn getting excited over a box of Kashi cereal is also something I’ve experienced personally. When you don’t have a lot of money, you tend to appreciate the little things like a box of cereal in life.

Marilyn's taking handouts from her Church food bank and hustle at the gym is something I've had to do as well to make money. When you're unemployed long-term, the only way to make ends meet is through handouts and odd jobs. 
And Marilyn assessing her soap in the locker room before going to wash up is also something I’ve had to do myself with a variety of products. When you’re poor, you have to really make every penny stretch from soap to snacks. At one point around 2006-2007 I was living on $2 a day. Buying dinner one day can mean you don't eat for the rest of the month or you don't have any soap. I can practically look at a package of anything and size up how many servings I can get out of it.

The Clown is a character that represents the young struggling actor; a kid right off a bus. He’s caught up in the fantasy of Hollywood. He doesn’t wake up to see real people until the fight between Marilyn and Tabatha.

The Clown is the second of three guys to be kicked in the nuts in one of my books. The first poor fella to get kicked in the nuts is Gerald gets kicked in the testicles during an argument with Cassandra Lee in The Cassandra Cookbook And Lucifer gets kicked in the nads by John in the final act of The Temptation of John Haynes.

Marilyn vs. Tabatha is actually the second catfight I’ve written. The first is between Isis and E’steem in the final act of Isis.

Sabrina Lowenstien is inspired by actress Stockard Channing. When I wrote the character I heard her voice. I thought she had the range to play a tough ballsy woman with a loving softer side.

Sabrina and Ava are agents on two sides of the spectrum in Hollywood. One is the young, hungry kid, out to steamroll anyone who gets in the way of her success, the other a seasoned pro who has learned to see the value of the people around her.

Ava’s elevator pitch is something that is commonly done by the more ambitious in L.A. When actors, executives or agents are leaving offices and are waiting for an elevator to arrive, people rush out and try to pitch projects them in that brief time. It’s part ambush, part query, and it takes a lot of balls to attempt because it can go either way.

Marilyn’s pitch for the movie SELL OUT is a commentary on how hard it is for African-Americans to get a screenplay produced in Hollywood. Out of the 14,000 screenwriters in Hollywood, only two percent of them are African-American. And less than a tenth of them work. So maybe two or three brothers or sistas are writing scripts in a given year.

The movie title SELL OUT is also a tongue-in cheek way of foreshadowing on character actions in the story and a commentary on making it in Hollywood. It’s implied in the subtext that Garrett sells out to get his film made. It’s also implied the only change he made was allowing Tabatha Strong, a White actress to star in his film. And that’s when he gets a $100 million budget to tell his story.

Marilyn’s failed movie Dark Ride is actually inspired by the numerous late movies I watch when I’m relaxing on the weekends. One of my guilty pleasures is to watch bad movies on WABC’s Channel 7’s Late Movie. These B-Movies usually have cheesy production values, lots of nudity, sex scenes and next to no plot. The perfect way to end a night of writing. Trust me.

Marilyn’s failed movie Dark Ride is also based on research. Of those 100 actresses I did research on Most of their first film projects are absolutely terrible. Usually actresses’ first movies are plotless with cheesy production values, lots of nudity, sex scenes and next to no plot. The perfect way to start a career.

The dig Natalie makes about finding Marilyn’s movies in the 99-cent bin is based on my shopping jaunts at PathMark here in New York. I often find many DVDs there of movies both good and bad, and I’m surprised by the now big names featured in starring roles in these discounted films.

The Tabatha Strong character is inspired by Amanda Bynes. Bynes always plays sweetheart roles, but I always felt she could do well in a dark gritty role. If I ever made an AAM movie I’d hope she’d come out of retirement to play the role.

Tabatha’s self-destructive behavior is based on the self-destructive behaviors of many actors and actresses like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen.

The build up to Marilyn and Tabatha’s fight is loosely inspired by the riot in Sal’s Pizzeria at the climax of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. That move taught me in a hot crowd where emotions are running high anything can happen. People can say and do things they normally wouldn’t when a crowd is egging them on.

Tabatha’s handlers were added in 2009 after a screenplay contest reader told me in their analysis that the script fell apart for them when a high Tabatha rushed out to confront Marilyn. I was told handlers would stop the fight between Tabatha and Marilyn and my rewrite of that scene was to call bullshit on that reader’s analysis. Having personally seen drug addicted people go BERZERK in the South Bronx, and on TV shows like COPS, I know NO ONE can handle a junkie. (Just ask Charlie Sheen’s Publicist) When someone is high on angel dust, cocaine, or Crystal Meth like Tabatha, the most people can do is find a room, lock the door, and call 911. Do not come out until police show up. Do not try to reason with a person who is high on drugs and berserk! It can cost you your life!

Marilyn’s disfigurement was to show the impact of the violence berserk drug addicts do when they’re high on drugs like Crystal Meth which make users paranoid. I wanted to show how dangerous drugs like Crystal Meth are and how the actions of addicts hurt other people.

Several numbers in the script sluglines have significance to me in real life such as:

Room 167 is a reference to 167th Street, the street I lived on growing up in the South Bronx.

3430 is the number of the building I lived in as a child on Park Avenue in the Bronx.

Apartment #3C I lived in as a child in 3430 Park Avenue. I try to feature Apartment #3C and the number 3430 in all my books.

1820 was the original address of STRIVE the job readiness workshop I worked at during my term of service at Americorps*VISTA.

The Next School is actually based on The New School in New York City. I don’t know if they feature fine art as a major, but being located in Union Square near the Village, I figure it’s got to be a starving artist hangout.

Professor Chris Cherry is inspired by veteran actor Robert Gilluame. Gillaume has the staid demeanor of a college professor.

Art modeling is a job many actors do in New York City when they can’t find paying jobs. Universities often pay top dollar for good models. It’s decent money…If you don’t mind being nude in front of a group of strangers! I gave Marilyn that job because it’s a starter job that most people can get when they come to New York with no college degree and no office skills. Plus it was a way to get her into college.

The verbal barb “I have something to say to you…You Stink.” Marilyn tosses at Shay in the hall at the Next School after she gets the job as an art model is an actual joke I use in real life. It’s actually one of my catch phrases.

Marilyn not only poses nude for money, but it’s a metaphor for her courage. By allowing herself to be vulnerable she shows her inner strength.

When looking at a nude, the strongest element of the art is supposed to be the face. That’s where the story is in the picture. 

The decision to put a nude on the cover was risky, but I believed it was the definitve scene in the story. When I designed the art, I wanted people to focus on the red lips on the cover; they're the strongest point of the drawing.

Eric James is based on…ME! Usually I stick myself in my stories either as a lead or supporting character. This is actually the third time I’ve based a character on myself in my books. The only stories where there is no Shawn James based character are Isis and the upcoming All About Nikki.

Before I self-published Marilyn I submitted it to several screenplay contests to see how it fared with the so called “professionals”. It didn’t do well at all. Two contests told me in their analysis that the screenplay fell apart. One reader said the story fell apart for them at the part where Marilyn is confronted by the paranoid drug addicted Tabatha. They couldn’t believe that a drug addicted person surrounded by a mob of people would attack Marilyn; that handlers would stop the fight. These people have not met Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan on a good day. This same reader didn’t understand why Tabatha disfigured Marilyn and went on to defend her at length. I guess they overlooked Tabatha’s meth-fueled paranoia, and insecurity about taking her job. And that addicts who are HIGH don’t follow logic!

Another contest reader felt the story fell apart for them when Marilyn went to New York. They said that part meandered for them there. They felt Marilyn getting the job as an art model was too convenient (in real life, 95% of people get jobs through friends. And art modeling isn’t a job most people want, especially in the winter!) and thought her confessing to Eric was arrogant. I always felt her confession was the ultimate act of humility and courage, a way of starting her relationship with openness and honesty.

Both thought 135 pages was too long. One reader told me they’d cut 30 pages from the script, the other actually wanted the story it to end at Bob Hope airport with Sabrina. And we wonder why Hollywood makes so much crap. Without the fight there’s no powerful climax to act one. And if the story ended at the airport, we’d get no Chris, No Eric, and no romantic happy ending!

All About Marilyn was the first book I self-published on my own through my SJS DIRECT imprint. My first two titles Isis and The Cassandra Cookbook were published by However, the page layout for screenplays is very precise and I wanted to make sure the pages printed properly so I decided to do it myself. Everything from the front cover to the back cover is designed by me.

The page layouts for All About Marilyn follow the industry standard for screenplays but with a few modifications for paperback readers. First, there’s a bit more white space so the reader can rest their eyes. Second I used Garamond font instead of Courier so the pages would be easier to read. In addition to being entertainment, I wanted the book to be utilized by others who wanted to write their own screenplays.

The original plan for All About Marilyn was for the book to be a “DVD with pages” and the book was to contain several special features in addition to the main script. In addition to the “Behind The Scenes” featurette I wanted to feature scripts from three episodes of All About Nikki. But I thought those additional scripts in the back would confuse readers. So I scrapped those plans and made Nikki her own book.

The reception to All About Marilyn has been extremely postitive from the public.  Women of all ages and races identify and relate to her character, and really enjoy the story. Right now it's the second best selling title out of all my books.

I'm hoping these Easter eggs get readers excited about picking up a copy of All About Marilyn. It’s a great story that will make you laugh, cry, and think about what goes on in Hollywood!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anatomy of a cover (All About Nikki Cover Sneak Preview)

Covers take a lot of work. Almost as much work as writing the book.
To let readers see how much work I do to design a cover, I’m going to take them step-by-step through the process.

This was the cover I originally teased for All About Nikki and what made the Lulu test copy. Originally, I wanted to use this as a final cover because it contrasted All About Marilyn’s nude cover. But the design is really bland, uninspired, and the composition is stiff. I was trying to evoke a younger Marilyn Marie in the design, but she looks OLD and matronly. I always felt I could do better.

As I was writing All About Nikki, Nikki Desmond became her own character. And reading through the finished book in revisions, I felt she warranted her own unique and distinct cover design from Marilyn’s. So I went back to the drawing board and designed a new abstract concept in my head.

The theme for the All About Nikki Cover is Super luxury. When I was designing Nikki’s cover I was inspired by the Tiffany Catalog and Cartier Diamonds and I wanted those themes to reflect in the art. Nikki’s a rich sophisticate from the 90’s, and she needed a pose that was formal, but with an attitude.

Since I wasn’t feeling Marilyn’s pose on Nikki, I went over to (WARNING NUDITY!) and went through the art models until I spotted Trisha. The Trisha 010 pose had the attitude I was looking for. Bought it, downloaded it, and studied it. Roughed out a sketch of what I saw in my head:

Just some basic lines roughed out to get the composition right. Then added some details:

To finish out the pencils. Nikki is supposed to be a 1990’s sophisticated sista, so I studied a bunch of reference pictures of Hilary Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Actress Mari Morrow, and Cher and Dionne from Clueless, Chanel Suits, and other stuff from the early-mid 1990’s. From those pics I gave Nikki got a 1990’s styled suit (actually saw this one in a Spiegel Catalog) along with the curly natural hairstyle Hilary wore in early episodes of Fresh Prince. When I was happy with the pencils, I move on to inks with a ballpoint pen then scan it up and it looks like this:
A pic of clean lines that show up strong on a scan. From here I do Photoshop work to clean up any stray lines, ink spots, or smudges on the drawing. (Oh man does this stuff show up on scans and it DRIVES ME CRAZY!) Sometimes I zoom in to 1200% so I go deep into the pixels to clean up these blemishes. Then I print up some copies on a laser printer and do my coloring work.

One of the things Shawn has learned about designing covers is to NEVER COLOR ORIGINALS! If a mistake is made, there’s no way of fixing it! On color models I do about two or three to test out different color combinations:

The navy and black hair was nice, but Not really Nikki for me. More Marilyn Marie goes to Church. The colors on the French blue with the auburn hair SCREAM Nikki Desmond for me. Plus the auburn hair really plays off the French blue suit and makes the art pop! And those white High heels are so late 80’s-early 90’s!

With the figure colored it’s back to the scanner for four or five scans. That’s right four or five. When scanning you need a BACKUP. Sometimes a JPEG gets corrupted, sometimes you mess up a file and can’t undo, stuff happens. A backup keeps you from losing your mind.

With the art scanned in it’s on to Photoshop. Magic Wand takes away the white background from the paper and leaves me with a clear figure:

Which is cleaned up in Photoshop. Smudge marks and uneven color in the suit are clone stamped into uniformity, stray lines blended in or erased and then our figure is transposed onto a new colored background using the Place command. Shawn Can’t use Tiffany Blue, because it’s trademarked. But since this is a 90’s motif,

Shoulda watermarked this. But the pic is really small and low res.
 He’s going with a teal/Cyan color. Teal was one of THE colors in the 1990’s along with French Blue. It was on everything from basketball jerseys to T-shirts, coffee mugs, you name it. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing teal in the 90’s. Plus it kinda fits within the Tiffany/Cartier/Chanel theme I’m going for.

White bars for the title are added at this stage and the title is added. They’re almost transparent to show the contrast between Marilyn and Nikki’s stories. Nikki’s a kid who wants to show herself and make a statement. We see her whole body on the cover because the book is ALL ABOUT HER.

A few mods are done from here for the final:

While I like the black letters I don’t feel they’re not very strong. They don’t really grab me like the white ones do. And they kinda break away from the four-color theme I use on most of my covers I only use four colors. So I’m experimenting with White letters to stay within that theme. (Trying to make that O show up under her shirt)

I really like this art so it's probably gonna be final art for the front cover. Crossing my fingers that it passes through Lightning Source with no problems.

Now the back cover…Well, that’s another story!

With the front cover done and the text edited, I'm hoping to get All About Nikki out by this June. Stay tuned for details on the release!


Saturday's blog will reveal the All About Marilyn Easter eggs!

Monday, March 21, 2011

RAWSISTAZ Review of All About Marilyn

Below is the Rawsistaz Review of All About Marilyn

Present day, Marilyn Marie is a "has been" teen sitcom star. The cancellation of her show, All About Nikki, is the beginning of the many trials and tribulations she will have to endure in order to seek redemption.
As the screen play opens in the past, we are treated to Marilyn in character as Nikki Desmond. As the play continues in the present day, Marilyn is preoccupied with landing acting roles but feels rejection after rejection due to her age and the stigma of the character Nikki. She is relegated to roles as an extra. In dramatic fashion, a destructive incident occurs that literally transforms her as her life begins anew.
As a screenplay, ALL ABOUT MARILYN was an enjoyable and adventurous reading experience. The author James provided screenplay terminology which was helpful. The images were descriptive, the dialogue engaging, an effective plot, and an unexpected climax. ALL ABOUT MARILYN is moving, entertaining, and heartfelt; one that readers of plays will enjoy.

Reviewed by Dawn R. Reeves

of The RAWSISTAZ(tm) Reviewers

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why is that Black Person Not Smiling? A commentary on why African-Americans don’t Smile all the time

Smiling is considered a positive social cue in Western culture. A smile on a person’s face often implies that a person is happy and enjoying themselves. That they’re warm, friendly and approachable. That they’re interested in someone or something. However this social cue is not seen the same way African-American community as in the rest of the world.

Many brothers and sisters don’t smile in public because it’s not socially prudent in the African-American community. Being seen as warm, friendly and approachable in urban areas, especially inner-city neighborhoods is a sign of weakness. To street hustlers a smile is a sign that someone is a gullible mark they can take advantage of with a con. To more violent predators like gang members and hard-core criminals a smile is a sign a person will be an easy victim will put up little resistance if attacked. And to the mentally ill and drug addicted a person’s smile can be misinterpreted as mocking them or making fun of them.

So to avoid trouble, many brothers and sisters put on a grimace or glowering expression when they go outside. This serious expression is to protect them from the many predators that lurk on corners in the inner city.

Unfortunately in social situations outside of the Black community, this “game face” brothers and sisters use to navigate the streets of the inner-city can be misinterpreted by those who don’t understand African-American culture. In the workplace supervisors and co-workers often mistake the “game face” brothers and sisters use to navigate the streets for not being happy at work. In sales and customer service positions, the game face can be misread as surliness an attitude or hostility by customers and managers.

On streets in neighborhoods outside of the inner-city people can misread this “game face” and imply a person of color means ill intent. This isn’t’ the case at all. Many brothers and sisters are just trying to get from point A to point B and are trying to avoid running into trouble.

The truth Many African-Americans are very happy. In private situations at home and with friends most brothers and sisters smile, laugh and have a good time. At work they enjoy what they do. Unfortunately, they just can’t show it on their faces in public out of fear for their safety. So please don’t read the grim facial expressions on the faces of brothers and sisters as a sign of anger or hostility. Sometimes things just aren’t what they appear to be.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

10 Ways The Self-Publisher Can Improve The Reader's Experience

Self-publishers overlook the reading experience when they design their books. What’s the reading experience? All the elements of a book that come together to make a book easy to read. Little things like fonts, illustrations, and page layouts can turn a memorable story into an enjoyable reading experience. When self-published authors focus on designing books that are as reader friendly as possible, customers are more eager to recommend them to others.

Here are ten areas self-publishers can work towards improve the reading experiences in their books:

Avoid small fonts Nothing aggravates readers more than having to read a page filled with little tiny letters in font sizes 10 or lower. Many self-publishers use these small fonts to condense pages and save money on short-term printing costs, but cost themselves long-term sales. A good size for fonts in a books interior are 11 for Garamond and Book Antiqua, and 12 for Times New Roman.

Avoid printing text in hard-to-read fonts Fonts like Arial and Courier New are frustrating for readers to sit through (and headache inducing) for long periods of time. When laying out pages, self-publishers should consider round serif fonts like Garamond, Book Antiqua and Times New Roman for blocks of text. These fonts are easier on the eyes and more comfortable to read during passages.

No white space Some self-publishers and POD companies try to reduce page counts by cramming paragraphs together. Again, this short-term attempt to save money on printing costs often cost a publisher long-term sales. Customers are more likely to leave a book with tightly packed paragraphs right on the shelf and buy a book that’s easier to read. Part of an enjoyable reading experience is giving the reader some room between the lines so they can rest their eyes and think about what they’ve read. If a reader can run a finger under the space between the lines, the page layout of the book has good white space.

Long rambling paragraphs This one can kill a book deader than disco. Nothing is more discouraging to a potential reader than spending an evening with a book filled with long blocks of dense text. Short simple paragraphs encourage readers to read more of a writer’s story and read it faster. Prose in a novel should be no longer than four or five lines. Seven to eight lines maximum. Any paragraphs longer than that should be chopped into smaller bite-sized paragraphs.

Too much detail Is it important to describe EVERYTHING to the reader? It’s not the writer’s job to explain everything. In a good story a writer gives the reader “just enough” detail to conjure an image in their heads and lets them make things up as they go along. Overly dense descriptions bore the reader and take them out of the story.

Good non-fiction has short paragraphs that state “just the facts.” This compels the reader to read more about a subject. If it’s not relevant to helping the reader learn more about the subject, leave it out.

Telling instead of showing A good story focuses on what characters are doing, not what they say. SHOWING is ACTIVE and describes what a character is doing NOW; this grabs the reader and gets them asking questions. Those questions give the reader an incentive to read more of the story and get the answers to their questions.

Telling a story on the other hand is PASSIVE and focuses on the action going on from a past tense. Telling a story leads to a flat dull reading experience that keeps the reader from asking questions and involving themselves in the story. Because the narrator is explaining everything to the reader, they have a harder time being drawn into the reading experience. Why should the reader look for answers in between the lines of the story when the writer is going to explain everything to them?

Awkward dialogue Oftentimes, dialogue in a writer’s head sounds great, but when read by other readers sounds clumsy. To avoid awkward and uneven dialogue, I read the conversations my characters are having aloud. By speaking my character’s lines I get a sense of whether or not it “sounds” like something someone would say in real life. If you find yourself stopping or struggling while trying so say your character’s dialogue aloud, then it’s bad dialogue.

Fancy fonts on a cover. Sure Vladimir Script looks great. Just not as the title of a book cover. For readers, fancy fonts are frustrating to figure out on a store shelf or on a computer monitor. If a reader can’t recognize title of a writer’s book is from six feet away, they’re not likely to pick it up. Before committing to a cover design, print out a copy of the cover and stand six feet away from it. If you can read the title from that distance, it’s a great cover layout. If not, it’s not working.

Covers that don’t tell a story. Most books are judged by the cover. Because most writers aren’t graphic artists, many don’t know how to create a single visual that grabs readers and tells their story effectively. In addition, budget issues often prevent self-published authors from being creative enough to tell a story in pictures that grabs readers. But there are a couple of ways to overcome this obstacle. A writer can find a great cover design for about $350 from a design service, or they can commission art.

If a writer wants to make their book stand out it’s best to spend a little extra towards a design that’s unique and distinct and will make their book stand out in the marketplace. A cover should be unique and distinct to a writer’s story, that’s why I don’t recommend using stuff like stock photos or clip art. I’ve seen too many stock images re-used for other products and even on other book covers!

Page counts that are WAY too long. Writers often think that War &Peace is 1,000 pages and Harry Potter is 900 pages so they can write books that are 500, 600 even 1000 pages long. WRONG! In the world of self-publishing smaller is better. There’s nothing more discouraging to a prospective reader than a long, dense book written by a complete stranger they’ve never heard of. Plus it’s frustrating to sit through a book that dense. A good length for a self-published fiction is under 200 pages minimum, 400 pages maximum. Nonfiction can go up to 500 pages if the subject matter is detailed and relevant. When it comes to self- publishing a title: KISS (Keep it Super Short) As a Self-published author, you’re trying to build a reputation with customers. Leave em’ begging for more!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Temptation Tidbits (Easter Eggs) in the Temptation of John Haynes

Here are some facts about my new novel The Temptation of John Haynes:

The novel was originally completed in 2006. It was actually written after The Cassandra Cookbook (2004) and before All About Marilyn (2007). So if you’re one of the handful of people who own all my books and you’re shelving titles in the order that they’re written, and not the order they published, it’s Isis, The Cassandra Cookbook, The Temptation of John Haynes then All About Marilyn.

Temptation was vehemently rejected by literary agents and small publishers when I submitted queries for it in late 2006. Many hated the premise. I mean REALLY HATED THE PREMISE. And many more felt it wouldn’t sell. I was told by the pros it didn’t grab them, I used too many big words in my sentences, I used too many adjectives and it wasn’t right for a commercial audience. If only my Dell Inspiron 2500 hadn’t died I’d share some of the more venomous e-mails I got during Temptation’s query process. I never felt a book get so much hate from publishing professionals in my life!

In the face of so many rejections, my original plan was to self-publish Temptation after The Cassandra Cookbook with a 2009 release date. Unfortunately, I had to scrap those plans because I hadn’t finished editing the manuscript. Because I had cover designs and page layouts ready for All About Marilyn, it was moved up in the queue and published first.

The original manuscript for The Temptation of John Haynes was over 121,000 words and 400 pages. Over five years, 30,000 words and two chapters were trimmed from that first draft to tighten the book to its published 93,300 word length.

The world had changed so much since 2006 I had to re-write certain details in the story during final revisions of the book in 2010. AOL had gone out of business, so that was omitted and replaced with plain ol’ Microsoft Outlook. While VCRs are no longer manufactured, but I kept them in the story because some people like myself still use em’ as clocks (And to watch the occasional program NOT on DVD like Static Shock). And Plasma TVs are no longer considered top-of-the-line, but I kept that in the story cause I was lazy.

Temptation is written in a revolving-first-person perspective. I went back to my traditional no-nonsense style of storytelling which is short on details and long on action for this book.

John Haynes is the main character from my failed first novel, The Changing Soul I wrote back in the mid 90’s. And he’s been around since 1990. The Temptation of John Haynes is actually my sixth attempt to write a story with John Haynes.

In old John Haynes stories like The Changing Soul, John was a contemporary African-American fiction character. I moved him over to the fantasy genre because he was on the shelf and I didn’t want to spend time creating a new character. Yep, Shawn was lazy. And the first five JH stories do suck that hard.

The Temptation of John Haynes ties in heavily to events in Isis. It’s not a direct sequel, but is linked to events in that book.

Temptation makes a reference to an event in The Cassandra Cookbook as well. In a chapter featuring e-mails during his job hunt, John is one of the candidates considered for a position at ITC Foods Product Management positions. This is ambiguous, hinting either that events transpiring in Temptation happen before The Cassandra Cookbook, or that ITC still hasn’t found that right person to manage their Frozen Foods Division.

Originally, Temptation was to feature a scene of John watching an old episode of Marilyn Marie’s TV show All About Nikki, but I felt too much continuity would get in the way of the storyline.

The cross-referencing of other titles I published was inspired by a business approach 1970’s-1980’s Marvel Comics editor Jim Shooter used to sell struggling titles at the time. Shooter used to have best-selling comic book characters like Spider-Man or The Avengers mention events transpiring in another heroes’ series like the X-men or Daredevil in their comics. This was done with the hope that readers would have the incentive to buy other titles, especially poor sellers like X-men and Daredevil at the time. Along with the new writers like Chris Claremont and Frank Miller putting a new perspective on the stories of weaker characters back then, cross-referencing sold a lot of comic books and pushed a lot of weaker midlist titles and characters to the forefront of Marvel Comics.

As it stands now, there’s sort of a “universe” between Isis and John Haynes where stories stand alone but are somewhat connected by a continuity of events. Will Isis make an appearance in the future? Will John make an appearance in an Isis story? Will there be a John Haynes sequel? I’m thinking about it.

Morris Phillips is inspired loosely by the Kraft Phillip Morris Corporation. And yeah, it’s a corporation that’s more powerful than the President.

The Morris Market is an amalgamation of the Kraft store  and Food Emporium, a supermarket where I had my first job.

The Marshmallow Cookies  and Chocolate Snaps mentioned in the chapter where John is shopping at the Morris Market were actual products made in the late 70’s to the 1990’s by Nabisco. And they were GREAT.

And yeah, I mentioned Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies and Chocolate Snaps because I want someone at Kraft Phillip Morris to bring em’ back into production along with Royal Lunch Milk Crackers and Crown pilot Cookies.

WGMS is inspired by Black-Owned WBLS-FM in New York City. WBLS and WLIB are the last two black-owned radio stations in New York City and I’m hoping they stay that way.

The movie “SWIRL” Halle Berry stars in Temptation is inspired by her controversial work in Monster’s Ball. And yeah, John’s disgust towards “SWIRL” mirrors my feelings towards Monster’s Ball. And yeah, I’d tell Halle Berry that to her face.

The Character of John Haynes is actually based on me. The name John Haynes is a play on Shawn James. If you didn’t know it, Shawn is just John in Irish. There are characters based on myself in all of my books with the exception of Isis.

John’s apartment #3C is a reference to the apartment number I used to live at when I was a kid. I try to reference this apartment number in most of my books whenever I can. I also try to reference the address of that old building number 3430, but so far it’s only been referenced in All About Marilyn.

The character of Lucifer was inspired by actor Keith David, DC Comics Character Darkseid, and The Emperor from Star Wars. Whenever I write Lucifer, I hear Keith David’s voice. I always felt Keith’s deep baritone voice would be a perfect fit for a cerebral villain like Lucifer who was a master strategist of psychology and world politics.

The character of E’steem was inspired by actress Salli Richardson and the Arthurian villain Morgan Le Fey. Whenever I write E’steem she sounds like Salli Richardson. I always felt Salli’s sultry voice and articulate speaking manner were perfect for portraying an intelligent sophisticated demoness with political aspirations. Moreover, she often plays her characters with such depth and humanity; that really inspired me to write a more complex human character.

The Gargoyles on the balcony in The Morris Phillips Penthouse are a sly reference to Disney’s Gargoyles. Disney’s Gargoyles was the first place I heard Keith and Salli’s voice work. And since both Lucifer and E’steem are inspired by actors Keith David and Salli Richardson I wanted to put a nod to that show in the book.

The demon character of Brent Morrison is inspired by actor Rene Abujernois. I felt his voice was perfect for a butt-kissing toadie with a dignified manner in Lucifer’s Legion.

The demon character Carol was inspired by actress Phlycia Rashad. Rashad has a cool sophistication that I feel would make her perfect for an old school business executive.

Lucifer’s Legion of corporate employees and the Lords of Hell are inspired by DC Comics Darkseid’s Elite.

The “Corporate Hell” of demons working at Morris Phillips is a tongue-in cheek joke making reference to how the cut-throat the workplace is.

The “Tempting Fate” featurette in the back of the book almost didn’t make it to final copy because it wasn’t costing out. I struggled throughout December of 2010 and made myself crazy trying to condense all my reasons for writing the story into five pages and keep the book on budget. Thankfully things worked out. Self-Publishing on a shoestring means I have to design the entire book so it falls under a certain price point. $15.00 is the threshold for what people will pay for a paperback at retail and I couldn’t afford to add any extra pages. The more pages a publisher adds over 400 the harder it is to turn a profit minus printing costs and retailer discounts. This book has one of the slimmest profit margins I’ve ever seen, but it meant a lot for me to get it to readers.

The cover used on The Temptation of John Haynes was not the one I wanted to use. First I wanted to commission a cover and spent $400 for an artist to draw a cover. It sucked.

Then I designed a cover using my concept art with a black background. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t print at Lightning Source due to some 300% density issue on the black. So I did some research and came up with a custom Midnight Navy background that was close to black.

I hope these tidbits will give readers an incentive to pick up the book. I’m also hoping that it doesn’t spoil it too much for those who haven’t read it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

OOSA Online Book Club's review of The Temptation of John Haynes


John Haynes is a guy who is very humble. He is the type that you would take home to momma. John has goals and he’s determined to do it the right way. He is considered one of the good ones. Of course Lucifer does not like this one bit and he is making it his business to make sure that John does something that is not to God’s liking. Now enters beautiful and sexy E’steem. E’steem has been assigned to John so that he will fall. Even though she uses many tricks and is backed by Lucifer, this is a task that turns out to be bigger than expected.

Will John fall for E’steem or vice versa? Will Lucifer win? Or will good triumph again?
The concept of the “The Temptation of John Haynes” was very good and held my attention from the first page. There were a few typos, but not enough to hinder the story. I think Mr. James did a good job.

Reviewed by: Sophia

I was pretty floored when I read this. This is the first book I've written to recieve a five-star review I've ever recieved from a book club. I'm really excited about it! Hoping this is the start of something big for this book!

This Saturday I'll be revealing Easter Eggs hidden inside the pages of The Temptation of John Haynes and letting readers in on the long journey this book took from conception to print.
Get your copy of The Temptation of John Haynes at today!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The NAACP Image Awards Celebrate Mediocrity in Black America

I’m gonna go on record stating that the NAACP Image awards were a steaming bag of crap this year. Quote me on that. With this year’s Image awards the NAACP gave awards to the most popular celebrities and not the best work by African-Americans in 2010. By rewarding people based on who they are and not what they’ve done, the NAACP betrays what it’s supposed to stand for, the advancement of African-American achievement and excellence.

Looking at some of the winners this year it’s clear why the NAACP Image Award is TARNISHED:

Getting To Happy Best Fiction work? COME ON. Many in publishing called it the worst book Terry McMillan ever wrote and one of the worst of the year. Black book clubs across the country RIPPED IT in their reviews. Yet it wins an award for being Best Fiction with the NAACP. WTF?

Surely, if the NAACP opened itself up to many of the small press and self-published authors out there, maybe they could have found a more deserving candidate who could have given their award some prestige.

Frankie and Alice Best Independent Film? HELL NO. Another critically panned film that got an award it didn’t deserve. That award should have gone to Night Catches Us. But it being a small independent film with NO STAR POWER meant NO CHANCE with the NAACP.

Halle Berry Best Actress in an Independent film? HELL NO. That award should have gone to Kerry Washington for Night Catches Us. But Kerry isn’t as popular as Halle and her winning means the show wouldn’t get any ratings.

House of Payne Best Comedy? NOT IN A MILLION YEARS ON JUPITER. House of Payne is absolutely HORRIBLE. Boondocks Season 3 was the best African-American comedy PERIOD. The Winston Jerome episode OWNS everything Tyler Perry did in his WHOLE CAREER. But Aaron McGruder gets no praise from the NAACP for his work because Tyler Perry has FATTER POCKETS.

David Mann Best actor in a comedy? Dude gets upstaged by EVERYONE ON HIS OWN SHOW. No, that award should belong to Terry Crews on Are We there Yet? Crews commands that show and is a solid comedy performer. But Mann wins the award because of Perry’s FAT POCKETS.

Vanessa Williams for Best actress in a TV series for her work on Desperate Housewives? NO WAY. While I love Vanessa’s work in Ugly Betty and her body of work overall, the writing hasn’t been there on DH for her to work with. Seriously, she hasn’t even appeared in enough episodes for any critic to form a consensus of her work yet. No, that award should have gone to Salli Richardson-Whitfield for her YEAR of solid work in Eureka.

For Colored Girls Best Picture? WTF? Yeah, some of the performances were by some of the actresses were strong. But the movie itself was a TOTAL MESS. A puerile screenplay, horrible cinematography, inept direction, and terrible writing. It wasn’t the best Black film by a longshot. But with so many bad films last year I guess it’d be embarrassing to give an award for Best Picture to crapfests like Lottery Ticket or Our Family Wedding. Yeah, the Black movies were THAT BAD last year.

Tyler Perry Best Director. GOOD GOD NO! Perry is an abomination to film, the Ed Wood of Black Cinema who made TWO TERRIBLE films last year. Yet he clears multiple awards from the NAACP. Couldn’t the NAACP given this to the Hughes brothers for their strong work on Book of Eli? Or how about the Director of Night Catches Us? Both would have been more deserving of the award than the master of the cinematic hot mess, Tyler Perry.

Instead of taking the opportunity to elevate lesser known work from people who are truly talented in the Black community, the NAACP sunk its credibility to an all-time-low by focusing only on who was rich and famous. The entire Image Awards show was a big ratings grab for the NAACP and a circle jerk for the Black Elite.

And that’s what makes the NAACP Image Award a joke in the eyes of the Black Community and the rest of the world. It’s also what makes the NAACP a joke in the eyes of the Black community and the rest of the world. Watching a bunch of out-of-touch rich niggers patronize themselves for being mediocre isn’t entertaining. It’s embarrassing.

The sad thing about the NAACP Image Award is that it could have some merit if the NAACP imposed some standards for quality in their nomination processes. Instead of just nominating people for being Black, how about judging brothers and sisters work based on some criteria for content? With all the African-American film and book critics out there they should be able to form a consensus on what material deserves to be nominated, what needs to be rewarded, and what should be passed on. And from that consensus it would mean much more when African-Americans gave an award to other brothers and sisters for their work. By rewarding the best and brightest in the Black community it would give NAACP Image Award value and make it something brothers and sisters can aspire to achieve. Moreover, it would give African-Americans an incentive to try harder and step up their games and hone their crafts.

As it stands right now the NAACP Image Award is nothing more than a consolation prize given to Brothers and Sisters for just being Black, not being the best African-American in their craft. What kind of award is that to win? What standard is that for excellence? What kind of message does that send to brothers and sisters in the African-American community? What kind of message does that send to our children? Don’t try hard, just show up and be Black? Oh, and be popular. Are we really that shallow as a people?

That kind of reward doesn’t advance Black people, it sets us back. It’s a slap in the face to everything Dr. King and all those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement stood for. It’s the equivalent of telling Black people to settle for being Maids, Pullman Porters, and Janitors instead of aspiring to be business owners, managers, executives, and even President of the United States.

Seriously, I thought the NAACP was the National Association for the Advancement of All Colored People. But the NAACP Image Awards show was more like the National Association for the Advancement of Certain Colored People. Instead of inspiring brothers and sisters to advance to the next level by rewarding our best and brightest, the NAACP continues to enable mediocrity by rewarding Black people for poor and substandard work.

As long as organizations like the NAACP keeps rewarding African-Americans for settling for less, Black folks will never have the passion to do their best. And that’s going to hurt the Black community in the long run.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie's Finest Work

With the passing of Dwayne McDuffie I wanted to share some of his best work. This is in no way a comprehensive list of his work, but these are movies, TV shows and comics I can highly recommend  out of his large body of work.

All images TM and (C) DC COMICS, Marvel Comics, Warner Brothers, Disney. Used for journalistic purposes only.

Dwayne's Best Comics (well, the ones I own)

Damage Control #1-5-A hilarious comedy about the employees who work at company that fixes all the damage caused by superhero battles. A great read that really needs to be compiled in trade paperback.

Hardware#1-The start of the series about Curtis Metcalf, the Black man inside the corporate machine of Alva Industries. Hardware is a complex series about how being Black in the White corporate world is colored in shades of gray, and how politics prevents things from being as simple as we think they are.

Icon #1- To get into this fascinating series about an alien who is forced to live on earth as a black man during and his reconnection to the modern day black community you have to start with the first issue. Icon is a deep and thought provoking series that takes a look at black society and black culture, and will have readers asking themselves what they stand for.

Blood Syndicate #1- A gang of superheroes protect their turf as an intrepid reporter seek to find out the truth about the conspiracy behind The Big Bang.

Static #1- The first appearance of Virgil Hawkins, the teen with electrical superpowers. I highly recommend readers start this series from the beginning because once you start, you’ll be compelled to read the entire run.

Static #2- The Origin of Static and the action packed conclusion of his battle with Hotstreak.

Static #3- Static vs. Tarmack. An awesome issue with lots of action.

Static #4- Static finds out who the big wheel in Dakota is- Holocaust!

Icon #5 and #6 - Icon and Rocket takes on the Blood Syndicate. And we learn more about the conspiracy regarding the Big Bang.

Shadow Cabinet #0- A new team of heroes and a major turning point in the Big Bang Conspiracy.

Icon # 10 – Icon Vs. Holocaust

Icon #13- The first Appearance of Buck Wild- A character that’s a parody and a tribute to Marvel Comics Character Luke Cage.

Hardware #15- The powerful climax of Hardware’s war with mentor Edwin Alva and a major change in direction for the series.

Hardware #16-The debut of Hardware’s new armor! Gatefold cover by John Byrne!

Worlds Collide #1-It’s actually a collaboration of all the writers of Milestone Media as they cross over into  DC comics, but it’s comic no one should miss. You can make your own cover with the re-usable stickers!
Icon #18- Icon vs. Mullet Superman. Nuff said.

Static #14- The conclusion to the Worlds Collide Storyline. Static Saves the Day!

Icon #20- The Secret of the Big Bang Revealed! Find out who is the mastermind of this Conspiracy!

 Dwayne's best work on Television and Movies (That I've seen)

I’d also love to recommend the Static Shock Television Series, but unfortunately Time Warner hasn’t released seasons 1-4 on DVD for some reason. But there’s a compilation of the first six or so episodes on DVD. Comic fans like myself need to start a petition to get this series on DVD. With all the Justice League and Batman Tie-in episodes, it's essential that the series be released NOW.

Justice League- Season One- The Animated Universe of Batman: The animated Series and Superman: The Animated series begins encompassing the entire DC Universe as a team of heroes forms to protect the world from villains on earth and beyond.

Justice League Season Two- Some of McDuffie’s best work is in 26episode season where he redefines the DC universe. All the storylines build up to the powerful Series Finale “Starcrossed”.

Justice League Unlimited Season 1- Actually this box set compiles the first two seasons of Justice League Unlimited. Over the course of 26 episodes we ponder if the Justice League will turn into their evil alternate universe counterparts the Justice Lords as they battle the government forces of Cadmus. It’s a fascinating storyline full of twists and turns and surprises.

Justice League Unlimited Season Two- The powerful finale to the Justice League Unlimited series.

Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths- McDuffie’s adaptation of a classic DC Comics story mixes touches of the Silver Age with the modern age and makes everything fresh to new viewers who never read a comic. This brilliant movie led to the later television series Young Justice.