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Monday, February 29, 2016

Shawn Reviews Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope

I heard great things about Rick Famuywia’s Dope since Summer of 2015 when it came out at Sundance Film festival. And after I sat down to watch the DVD on the laptop last week, I’d have to say all the praise this film got from critics and viewers alike is well deserved. Dope is one of the best films of 2015 and possibly the best film Rick Famuywia’s career.

Dope follows Malcolm, a geek who’s into late 1980s and 1990’s old school rap and late 1980s and 1980s fashion as he and his geek friends Jib and Diggie navigate life in The Bottoms of Englewood California. While they attend school and pursue their hobbies like Manga and a band they formed, have to overcome an obstacle course of thugs, gangstas and dope dealers who bully them for acting “White”. As they work towards getting good grades and graduating high school, Malcom aspires to go to Harvard and escape the poverty of The Bottoms of Englewood.

After a meeting with his guidance counselor, Malcolm is told that his admission essay on Ice Cube’s A Good Day isn’t good enough to get him into Harvard. That his deconstruction of the song isn’t unique or shows anything distinct about him or his life experience, the things that’ll leave a powerful first impression on Harvard’s admission board. With that said, his counselor tells him he has a scheduled meeting with Harvard Alumni Austin Jacoby, the CEO of a check cashing company. On the way home to prepare for his meeting, he runs into Dom, a dope dealer who invites him to his birthday party. What happens after Malcolm goes to that party begins a journey that will truly show what makes Malcolm unique as he has to use his creativity, resourcefulness and critical thinking skills to figure out a complex series of puzzles revolving around what he finds in his backpack. The solution to that puzzle could be his rise to the top or a slippery slope downhill that could destroy him. I won’t give away that solution; this movie is TOO GOOD TO SPOIL.

Dope is a well-crafted film that tells the story of a great American Novel on film. Stylistically it reminds me of classic White teen comedies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, The last American Virgin, and Clueless, but tells a story from an African-American perspective. In between the comedy and drama is a balanced and humanized story of a boy’s journey into manhood filled with the layers, depth, and complexity. Dope is an addictive film that will have you eager to watch more of it again and again to catch all the little details and nuances you missed the last time.

I believe Dope is the kind of film people will be talking about for years, the twists and turns in this movie will really make you think. Watching Malcolm deal with the challenges in his quest to write the essay that he believes will get him to Harvard reminded me of the late 1990’s film Fresh, where the Sean Nelson character had to use chesslike strategies to overcome the obstacles in front of him and the enemies around him. As Malcom encounters each person in his personal journey they seem like players on the chessboard. Rooks, Queens, Knights, Kings and pawns. And the as the geeky Malcolm gets to know them he learns how to use each player to his advantage to get him towards the king and the eventual checkmate. When he checkmates the final challenger in the film (HUGE PLOT TWIST) the viewer starts to understand that the game of life is chess, not checkers. 

Being a comic book geek and a straight A student back in the day in I could relate to a lot of what Malcolm and his friends went through in this movie. I ran into a lot of the same kinds of situations Malcolm ran into dealing with bullies who ridiculed me for liking comic books, video games and superheroes. And like Malcolm I had to find another way to overcome those challenges in my efforts to get out of the hell known as high school in New York City. I know from experience that every day in High school with dope boys and thugs is just survival and you just live to get through a day. But the only way to get to the last day of high school, Graduation Day requires critical thinking and the ability to plan a long-term strategy.  

Director Rick Famuyiwa does a spectacular job on Dope of presenting a unique picture of African-American life. His camera work and unique visuals tell a story we rarely get to see, a story of the good kids who get caught in the middle of the world of dope dealers, thugs, gangs, and police officers in the inner city. It’s a story that rarely ever gets told about Black life, and as a kid who grew up living that life I can honestly say he captured the spirit of a life experience I knew growing up in the South Bronx.

I’d love to see more films telling stories like this about Black life, it’s these kinds of films that show what’s special and unique about Black life and Black culture. Watching Rick Famuywia’s Dope made me think about what I was trying to do with Spinsterella last year, tell a story about a part of Black culture we rarely hear in mainstream media. I believe we need more stories about Black Geeks, Black Goths, and Black people from different walks of life to put the shades and textures on Black culture that will show the world that there’s more than one Black experience.

Dope is a GREAT movie. It’s must-see viewing I highly recommend everyone picks up and adds to their Black cinema collection. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Snobs and Literary Elitists Amazon’s Kindle Readers

It used to be fun publishing eBooks on Amazon until about two years ago. That’s when the literary elitists and Book Snobs began trolling Amazon’s website. And thanks to this uppity attitude among these Kindle customers publishing books on Amazon’s platform has become a chore for authors like myself.

While Amazon has the largest audience of eBook customers, it’s clear that some customers are taking the writers who produce the content on the Kindle for granted. These eBook elitists and Book Snobs browse the Kindle catalog of millions of titles with a sense of entitlement thinking they are owed free content.

Here’s the deal: Authors like myself don’t owe Kindle readers a God damn thing. We write and publish for ourselves. These are our stories. And while we’re grateful to Amazon for the opportunity to have a platform to share them with readers, Kindle readers do not have the right to disrespect us or abuse our content by doing things like hoarding eBooks, reading an eBook through then returning it, or dropping spam one-star reviews just because they were too lazy to read a synopsis or find out what genre a book is in.

Amazon management and Kindle readers need to understand there is no never-ending pool of disposable eBooks from authors like myself. It’s our content that drives the traffic on Amazon’s website. If readers keep abusing content producers like myself more of us will take their content to competing platforms like NookPress, Google Play, Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, or Smashwords first before publishing with Amazon.

Thanks to the Book Snobs and Literary Elitists trolling Amazon I’ve recently changed my policy regarding publishing on the Kindle. For four years I’ve used the Kindle as my primary publishing platform when launching new titles. And I used to be eager to launch titles using the KDP Select program as a springboard to garner new readers and new sales.

Unfortunately, thanks to the elitist attitude I’ve run into over the past year from some ungrateful readers I’ve decided to return to Smashwords as my primary launchpad for new titles this year. Over at Smashwords readers appreciate new books from indie authors and usually don’t whine, moan and nitpick over minor issues like a handful of typos in a 300-page book that took a year and a half to write and another year and a half to edit.

Most of the readers at Smashwords understand that many indie writers like myself have day jobs. And the only time we have to work on these books are during the evenings after a long day of work or the weekends after a day running errands. So there may be an error or two we miss after reading the same text 1000 plus times.

And thanks Amazon’s stingy new policies regarding Kindle Unlimited royalties I decided to pull most of the titles from the SJS DIRECT catalog from the program. At one time it was advantageous for an indie author like myself to use KDP Select as a springboard for new titles because most readers appreciated new books. But thanks to the trolling these days from the Literary Elitists and Book Snobs it’s just not worth continuing to take a financial loss in the hopes of getting new readers. With KDP Select paying me lower royalties I have no financial incentive to keep my books exclusive on Kindle Unlimited. Under the old royalty model authors were paid a percentage of the fund which could be $2 or $3 on a borrow.

But under the new royalty model an author like myself is only paid 1/3 of a cent per page read. So if a reader reads a novel like Spinsterella all the way through, I only get $1.73 in royalties. If they bought the same book at the retail price of $3.99, I get $2.71 in royalties with the 70 percent royalty option. So it’s just not worth my time to continue offering exclusive titles in Amazon’s KDP Select Program.

Amazon’s royalty policies on Kindle Unlimited eBooks these days seems to cater to pretentious writers who write turgid 1000 page books that are over 100,000 words. The kinds of books the publishing industry HATES, but Book Snobs enjoy rubbing in the faces of people to show how smart they are. Books filled with page long paragraphs, overly descriptive sentences filled with flowery prose and fifty-cent words. Epic fantasy books that are over a thousand pages long and feature so many literary devices they’re a chore to read. The kinds of books that suck the life out of a reader after a few pages. The kinds of books that just aren’t FUN to read.

 Under the New KDP Select royalty formula these are the only books that will pull a profit for a struggling indie author. An author of an average sized romance novel likeSpinsterella (60,000 words and 280 pages) can’t make any money on Amazon with the Kindle Unlimited program. So there’s little incentive for me to make publishing there a priority or make a title exclusive there.

Thanks to this new elitist attitude among some Kindle customers and Amazon screwing with the royalties in the Kindle Unlimited program, I’m not enthusiastic about publishing my work for the Kindle. And now that I’m hearing about a plan to flag books for spelling and grammar on Amazon and take them off sale, I’m becoming even less enthusiastic about publishing eBooks on the Kindle.

The Executives at Amazon have this crazy idea that indie authors willfully publish books with bad spelling and grammar. That we just publish books to make a fast dollar off Kindle customers.

 Not understanding that we authors sometimes publish shorter works to appeal to niche audiences like the Simp Trilogy. Or that we publish smaller eBooks like the Isis series because some readers just want to get one short story, and don’t want to sit there paying $64.99 for an anthology eBook to get it.

Nor do they understand we indie authors aren’t a publishing house. We don’t have the financial resources to hire a staff of editors and proofreaders to make a book absolutely error free. Again, most of us Joes and Janes are people who write in their spare time and make spare change on these eBooks. The royalties I usually receive selling Kindle eBooks every month will barely cover a large pizza pie and a 2-liter Pepsi for the family.

If Amazon’s executives would take a long hard look at the post 2008 publishing world they’d understand that not even possible for trade publishing houses to produce error free “perfect” books due to all the layoffs in the industry. These days some of their best-sellers like J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy are littered with typos. So it’s hypocritical for Amazon to insist an indie author with limited resources to be held to a higher standard that books produced at a fully staffed publishing house just can’t meet.

The Book Snobs Literary Elitists, and Amazon Executives need to understand that eBook Publishing is something most of us authors do as a HOBBY and it’s something we do in our spare time with our spare money. Many of us indie authors just don’t have $200-$1000 to hire an editor and another $200-$1000 to hire a professional cover designer for our books.

A book that these same Literary elitists and Book Snobs will bitch and whine about costing too much when we price it at 99 cents or get upset about not being able to pick up if we don’t offer it as part of the KDP Select program.

 As an author I make every effort to write books that are fun and easy to read. And I write short works like the Isis series or my Simp Trilogy that entitled Kindle readers frown on so readers can see how fun reading is. I want my readers to have a great reading experience with my titles whether its 5 pages or 500 pages. Great content isn’t about the length. It’s about what the reader learns reading that content. 

And Amazon needs to understand that it’s content that drives the traffic at a website. It’s content producers who produce the content that brings people to that website. Many of the literary elitists and the Book Snobs who troll Amazon are making shopping for books on the site an arduous task with their spam one star reviews and ridiculous unrealistic demands on authors. The way I see it, if they keep trolling authors we may make the Kindle to E-readers What MySpace is currently to social media.

Monday, February 22, 2016

John Haynes: The Man Who Rules The World Concept cover & E’steem: The Witches of Eastland Chapter 1

Reworked the John Haynes: The Man Who Rules the World Concept cover this weekend. This one looks a LOT stronger than my previous concepts. This one I believe will catch a LOT more eyes. 

The final book that’s part of the SJS DIRECT CoverKickstarter is E’steem: The Witches of Eastland. In this humorous tale, The Devilish Diva takes on three teen witches who attend a Prominent New York Boarding school. 

Bad girl gone good! Good girl goes to school! When E’steem refuses to help a student at the Eastland Boarding School learn sorcery, she and her coven help Lucifer give E’steem a spell of trouble. Can the Devilish Diva teach three witches a lesson about magic they’ll never forget? 

She thinks she’s so much. Wait till we show her.
I rush through the halls of the Eastland dorms with Blair’s designer lipstick in my pocket and a smile on my face. Now that I’ve got one of her most prized possessions we can finally cast a spell on her that’ll make her wish she was never born.
I’m giddy with anticipation as I approach dorm room 316 and rapp my knuckles on the door once, twice, then three times. On hearing the secret code my fellow witch Willow cracks the door open and gives me an anxious look. “Did you get it Raven?”
“Yeah, I got it.” I say. “You guys ready?”
“Ready as we’ll ever be.”
I slip through crack in the door Willow made and rush into our dorm room. Candlelight illuminates the room from the five points of the pentagram we sketched out in the middle of the floor this morning.  After I get Blair’s lipstick out of my blazer pocket and hand it to my fellow witch Tempest she places it in the center of the star. Once we take each other hands we begin chanting the bad luck spell we found online.
Khitis Inyerah Dualeh Aekx Blair Warner”
For a moment, a blue glow illuminates the tube of lipstick. And then it stops. Crap, the spell didn’t work.
“What did we do wrong?” Tempest asks?
 “It was supposed to turn green.” I sigh.
“Well, we did everything we were supposed to.” Willow snarls grabbing her iPad off the bed. “We got the item of the intended and we chanted the spell-”
I look down at Willow’s iPad and figure out what the problem is. “Guys, our mystic energy isn’t strong enough to cast this kind of spell.”
“Not strong enough?” Willow snarls. “We’re one of the strongest Covens at this academy!”
Er…We’re the only Coven at this academy.” I say. And in order for Magick to truly work we need to focus a lot more mystic energy.”
“How do we do that?”
I wish I had an answer for them. “I don’t know. It’s not like we can go to one of our teachers for help on this-”
“Maybe we can.” Tempest says.
Tempest hurries over to my desktop and clicks on an e-mail I got from the Headmistress this morning. “Guess who’s coming to Eastland.”
“John Haynes? Big deal-”
“Yeah, it’s a big deal.  She says heading over to the Dark Coven YouTube Channel. As the fight between a tall voluptuous almond colored woman in a tattered red dress and a she demon plays in the browser, I watch in awe as she casts a spell that turns the air around her into a solid dome. When the demon fires a blast of blue hellfire at it, it sucks all the air out of the dome and she falls unconscious. “You know who always comes with him?”
“That’s E’steem!” Willow barks. “The Sorceress everyone talks about on the Gremoram Acknoram boards!”
“…And she’ll be here tomorrow with Mr. Haynes.” Tempest says.
…And with my job as ace reporter I’ll be able to interview them tomorrow afternoon for the school paper. And maybe she’ll give me a scoop on a magic spell or two.

E’steem: The Witches of Eastland will be coming out this Spring! Help me put a GREAT cover on this book! Please donate to the SJS DIRECT Cover Kickstarter today!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Isis: Bride of Dracula Chapter 1

Today I’m presenting a Sample Chapter of Isis: Bride of Dracula A follow-up to 2015’s Isis: Night of the Vampires, Isis Bride of Dracula is an action packed adventure where the Goddess Next Door and John Haynes team up to take on the dark Lord of the Vampires!

Dracula! Using his supernatural powers the Vampire Lord transforms Isis into his Vampire Goddess and sends her on a mission to murder Morris Phillips CEO John Haynes. Can John overcome the threat of the Vampire Goddess and escape Dracula’s house of Horrors in the Hamptons? 

John Haynes cost me a soul. And one soul is just one too many.
Now that Lilith Graves walks among the living during the day, rumors are circulating among the Undead that there’s a possible cure for Vampirism at night. If that word spreads among my brood I could lose control over my order in the Legion.
I’m filled with anxiety as I get off the elevator and rush through the red Berber carpeted halls of the Lucerne Building. I know it’s extremely early in the night for a meeting, but it’s the only time I could get on the Lord’s schedule. The faster we come up with a solution to dealing with this man the faster I can get back to business as usual with the brood.
The time on my Smartphone reads 7:28 as I push past the tall glass doors with the Lucerne Holdings logo on them and approach the reception desk. When the Lord’s receptionist sees me she pastes on a smile. “Mr. Lucerne is expecting you Count.” She says.
“Thank you Nora.” I reply.
I hurry through the reception area and through the maze of cubicles. Then I make a right and head down the hall to the Lord’s corner office. When I approach the tall mahogany doors of his executive suite they jerk open to reveal him sitting at his antique desk dressed in an Italian tailored red suit, black shirt, and red tie. As I step into his office I greet his smile with a grimace. “Count Dracula.” Lucifer greets as he drops his door opener on the desk. “I was hoping for one of your grand entrances with all the fog.” 
If this were a casual visit I would entertain him with a show. But with my livelihood at stake I’m in no mood for grandstanding. “I have no time for theatrics Lucifer.” I say. “We have serious business to discuss.”
“We do. Have a seat.”
I ease into the oxblood nailhead chair in front of his desk and meet his brown eyes with my red ones. “Thanks to this enemy of yours I lost the soul of Lilith Graves.”
“I know.”
“What do you plan to do about it?”
“What can I do about it? I deal in souls. The undead are under your jurisdiction.”
He knows why I can’t go after him. “Lilith is poisoned with his blood. I can’t bring her back into the brood-”
“Lilith Graves is an acceptable loss in regards to John Haynes.” Lucifer snarls. “I would sacrifice a thousand members of my Legion to get that man off my earth.”
He may be willing to discard the souls of the condemned like so much refuse, but that’s not a gamble I’m willing to take. This one man’s life is not worth a thousand members of my brood. “We have to do something about this! If word gets out about this cure-”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this under control Vlad.”
“But demons are talking-”
“So they always talk. Outside of some rumors on social media the undead masses don’t know Lilith Graves has been cured of Vampirism. And the two demons who worked alongside her in the Morris Phillips Tower have been reassigned to my library in the Antarctic.”
“That’s not going to contain the situation-”
“But it will allow us time to work on a solution until we can squash the rumors.”
“Is that why you summoned me?”
 “As long as John lives he’s a threat to both our operations.”
“What do you propose? With his immunity to vampire bites I can’t turn him into one of my undead-”
“Who says you have to bite him?”
I give him a look. “I thought you dealt in souls Lord-”
 “This man’s soul is not worth me taking.” Lucifer snarls. “He doesn’t have to become a member of the undead Vlad. I just want him dead.”
 Good enough for me. “How do you propose I even get close to this man? Even with power like mine I can’t challenge a demon on E’steem’s level-”
“You won’t have to worry about E’steem.” Lucifer continues. “My sources at the tower tell me that John will be out for dinner with her sister Isis tonight at Grimaldi’s. It’ll be the perfect opportunity for you to assassinate him.”
I’m not liking this. Normally I like to prepare when I stalk prey. Having to go into an Italian restaurant to take down my foes really takes me out of my element. I could easily go from hunter to hunted. “I don’t know Lord, this is short notice. I didn’t bring any of my tools with me-”
“Oh, I doubt you’ll need any tools to kill John.” Lucifer replies. “And as for weapons, there’s going to be one right in front of you at the restaurant.”
And I would be a fool not to use it to my advantage. I smile as I start formulating a plan to dispatch of John Haynes. “Well, I always did have a way with the ladies.”
Isis: Bride of Dracula will be coming out this Spring! Help me put a GREAT cover on this book! Please donate to the SJS DIRECT CoverKickstarter today!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

John Haynes: The Man Who Rules the World & SJS DIRECT Cover Kickstarter Update

Well, we’re at the 24-day mark for the SJS DIRECT CoverKickstarter. And so far we’ve raised $195 or 3% of the money needed to pay Bill Walko to design the covers for this years’ SJS DIRECT titles. I’m still pushing towards meeting the goal of raising the $2800 needed to fund the project.

I’m offering lots of great rewards this year including paperbacks, eBooks, and book packages. Andnd Bill is offering ten (10) donors a chance to own a single figure art commission of a character of their choice for a $110 donation.

Over the next 30 days I’ll be giving readers a sneak peek at the four titles that are part of the SJS DIRECT 2016 catalog.  This week I’ll be presenting a sample chapter of John Haynes: the Man Who Rules the World. A follow-up to 2011’s critically acclaimed novel The Temptation of John Haynes, The Man Who Rules The World is a non-stop action packed epic tale that practically features almost every character in the SJS DIRECT Universe!

Time Magazine has named Morris Phillips CEO John Haynes “The Man Who Rules The World”. But that world is put in jeopardy when Lucifer resurrects God Katious, a malevolent despot out to conquer the planet. With the nations’ leaders in fear of his all-powerful Gem of Omnipotence, and gods falling before his feet, John must have mountain moving faith in God to help him overcome a threat that seeks to destroy all of humanity.

Chapter 2

Marcus Jefferies has a somber look in his eyes as he slumps in the back seat of the police cruiser. For one who calls himself a block, he crumbles easily under pressure. A pity. I thought I could have used him as the stumbling block who would have caused John to fall. It looks like I’ll have to find another to end his existence upon my earth.
A flash of light takes me from the streets of the South Bronx to the Ninth Level of Hell. Harmonic wails echo through the darkened caverns filled with brimstone caves as the most depraved souls are tormented for their sins in the past life. I know just the man I want to bring back to my world.
I gesture and a ball of blue flames erupts from my hand to light my way as I march down the pathway. While I pass by cells imprisoning history’s greatest men and women I laugh as they wail in anguish and plead for me to end their agony. When I step inside the cell at the end of the path I’m surprised to see the man inside isn’t suffering. Instead he cuts a cold look at me while my imps cower in the corner. “MastiKatious I presume.” I greet.
The tall muscular chocolate colored man wearing a loincloth rises from the slab he’s sitting on and makes eye contact with me. “You presume correctly Lucifer.”
I gesture and the fire in my hands rises to the ceiling. As it illuminates the cave the former King of Katia’s eyes stay locked in mine. “I would think the man who once ruled the greatest nation in the world would be the most miserable here.”
“I will rule in that world again.”
Even in the midst of eternal damnation he still has aspirations for power. It’s good to have a dream. I’ll entertain his delusions if they’ll help me accomplish my goals. “But you’re locked in my cage.”
“It’s a minor setback.”
“What would you do if you were free from it?”
“Take my kingdom.”
“Unfortunately, you’re stuck in mine.”
MastiKatious’ hands clench into fists. “You are no lord over me-”
I smile at him. “But I have been given authority over you. And I’m willing to release you from this torment if you do a work for me.”
The cold stare of the former King of Katia changes into a piqued look. “What labor do you wish done?”
 “I’ll give you the world if you give me the life of one man.”
“I only want my kingdom-”
I gesture again and a flash of light makes the copy of Time Magazine with John on the cover appear in my hands. “This man rules my world. Take his life and you can have the world as your kingdom.”
MastiKatious takes the magazine from me and smiles on hearing my plan. “You can’t control him can you?”
This is a surprise. I never thought he’d be so astute as to understand the subtle politics transpiring him. “Then you’re aware of who John Haynes is?”
“I use your imps to keep abreast of my daughter’s affairs.” MastiKatious replies. “You made this man a god and now you fear he’ll take your world from you.”
 “Just as I have made him a god over men, I can make you a lord over him.”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Isis: Imitation of Life Chapter 1 & SJS DIRECT Cover Kickstarter Update

Well, we’re at the 30-day mark for the SJS DIRECT CoverKickstarter. And so far we’ve raised $75.00 or 2% of the money needed to pay Bill Walko to design the covers for this years’ SJS DIRECT titles. At the halfway mark with 30 days left, there’s still time to meet the goal of raising the $2800 needed to fund the project.

I’m offering lots of great rewards this year including paperbacks, eBooks, and book packages. Andnd Bill is offering ten (10) donors a chance to own a single figure art commission of a character of their choice for a $110 donation.

Over the next 30 days I’ll be giving readers a sneak peek at the four titles that are part of the SJS DIRECT 2016 catalog.  This week I’ll be offiering readers a look at the first chapter of Isis: Imitaiton of Life and the back cover blurb for the book. Set in 1937 Isis: Imitation of Life tells a tale in the Golden age of Superheroes and shows what made Isis a hero during the tense time of Jim Crow and racism in America.

Isis: Imitation of Life Back Cover Blurb:

 Life! To help Negro women in the 1930s, Isis establishes The Thetas, a sorority dedicated to teaching them the values that will allow them to live the best life possible. However, when she tries to teach Pledge Marva Connors her lessons, she soon learns her greatest challenge won’t be Jim Crow in the South or discrimination in the North, but the negative perceptions Marva has about herself. Can the goddess teach Marva to live on her feet? Or is she destined to die on her knees?

July 1937
Alma and I shuffle out of the lobby of the Carlsbad Theater with disappointed looks on our faces. I could think of a better way to spend a Friday evening. That was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life.
My best friend gives me an I told you so look as we push past the tall ornate doors of the theater and step out into the balmy air swirling around Oneonta County’s Main Street. She warned me about Imitation of Life. But me being the open-minded intellectual I had to see it for myself so I could form my own opinion.
“I told you that you weren’t going to like it.” Alma says.
“Yeah, but I had to see it for myself.” I sigh. “I’m sorry I wasted my time with that crap-”
“I’m sorry I wasted my money. I can think of a better way to spend ten cents-”
“Yeah, we could go watch one of those westerns where your people wind always up being portrayed as the savage.”
Alma grimaces on the jab. But I know how she feels. In between the coons, minstrels in Blackface and Indian squaws we colored people don’t have many options for seeing ourselves at the movies these days. I thought this movie was going to make a real statement about Negro people. But I should have known better than to trust anything that comes from Hollywood.
“Next time we go to the movies I’ll let you pick the feature Almie.”
“Let me drown my sorrows in a root beer float at Chester’s and we’ll call it even Andi.”
We march a few stores down Main Street towards Chester’s Drug Store. As we push past the tall wood and glass door the bell on it rings alerting Chester to our presence. When the short stocky chocolate colored man dressed in a white shirt, apron and a bow tie looks across the counter he greets us with a friendly smile. “Afternoon, Miss Andi, Miss Alma.” Chester greets. “Ya’ll awful dressed up for a Friday afternoon. Something going on in town?”
 “Nah, we have to pick up Doc and a Pledge from the bus station in an hour.” Alma replies.
“That new girl from Charleston?” Chester says. “I hear she’s a real smart one. Got herself a Master’s degree and everything-”
I’m hoping she can behave herself better than the last group of pledges we brought up here last month. That bunch of girls seemed to lose their mind when they got off the bus. Once they got up here all they wanted to do was go to the dancehall, shoot crap, and flirt with the boys in town. I had to send all but one of them home on Monday Morning. “Yeah, I’m hoping she’ll be a real asset to The Thetas.” I say.
“That’s if she can survive pledging us.” Alma says. “It’s a miracle one of those girls doesn’t wind up running out of my house in a straitjacket with all the crazy stuff we put them through.”
A Theta Challenge is nothing compared to what the rednecks put them through when they get back home. “At least they can have a laugh after going through a Theta Challenge Alma.” I say. “I can’t say that for any encounter you have with someone outside of these city limits.”
“Anything I can get for you ladies?” Chester inquires.
“Root beer float and a chocolate milkshake here for my best friend.” Alma requests.
Coming right up.” Chester says.
While Chester digs under the counter for the ingredients to prepare our beverages, we stroll over to the magazine rack and peruse the titles.  “Hey Chester, the new Doc Savage come in yet?” I inquire.
“Came on the rack yesterday.” Chester calls out. “This one’s got Pat Savage in it.”
I light up on hearing my favorite heroine will be featured in this one of this month’s Doc Savage adventures. I quickly find the magazine on the rack and eagerly take it off the shelf. As I flip through it Alma shakes her head. “I still don’t see what you see in Doc Savage Andi.”
 “All the muscles and that steely resolve.” I say. “He’s the handsomest Negro I’ve ever read about.”
Alma gives me a quizzed look as she examines the cover. “Negro? How is Doc Savage a Negro?” Alma inquires.
I peer down at the copper haired bronze skinned he-man in his tattered white shirt on the cover and smile.  “Why do you think they call him the Man of Bronze?”
“He sure doesn’t look like a Negro on that cover with that slicked back hair-”
With the way most of these Negro men fry their hair these days with conk you never know. “My skin color’s just a shade darker than Doc Savage Almie. And if I’m considered a Negro then he’s got to be Negro-”
“Yeah, you’re a Negro by way of Ancient Egypt Cleopatra-”
I may come from Nubia, but my skin’s still dark enough to be considered a Negro in this part of the world. “White folks always put stuff between the lines regarding us Colored folks Almie.” I say. They don’t want to admit the good things about us, so they try to be covert about paying us a compliment.”
“Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t be so overt sometimes.” Alma says taking one of the dimestore paperbacks off the rack next to the pulp mags. “Forbidden Squaw?”
“This one’s probably about a young Cherokee who falls in love with a White man and has to make a choice between her people and her heart.” I jab taking the pulp novel from her.
“Aren’t they all about that?” Alma laughs taking it back. “I swear, all these White people see us Indian women as is a hot piece of redskin ass-”
“But you Iroquois are far more sophisticated than that.”
“I’d kick a White man in his crackerjacks if he ever touched me-”
“This from the proud Chieftains’ daughter married to the town’s most prominent Negro citizen-”
My buffalo man can have his way with me any time.” Alma says as she puts her hand to her head and pretends to fawn.
“You think Forbidden Squaw was bad, wait’ll you get a load of this one.” I say taking another paperback off the rack. “Mark of the Beast.”
We grimace looking at the cover featuring a tall muscular Black man standing under the spotlight of a streetlight looking lecherously at a blonde haired, blue-eyed White woman felled to the pavement of a city street. “How about this one?” Alma says taking another book off the rack “Halfbreed-The Tragic Tale of a Mulatto Woman.”
I roll my eyes on seeing the light, bright, nearly white woman on the cover sitting on a bed with a worried expression on her face as she anxiously looks over at her White lover standing in the doorway. “The only thing worse than the fiction is the nonfiction these days.” I snarl picking up a copy of the Amsterdam News on the display of Negro newspapers adjacent from the magazines. My stomach turns reading the headline about the lynching of another Black boy by the Klan down in Georgia. “Is it always going to be this bad?”
Alma gives me a look. “I wish I could give you an answer Princess-”
 “Sometimes I’m wondering if I’m really making a difference this go around the world with crap like this still going on-”
Alma puts her hand on my shoulder. “Hey, you do what you can Andi. Even someone like you can only do but so much.”
I wish I could do more. But the Elders insisted I not get directly involved in the political affairs of the Negro when I returned to America. “I guess I can’t do everything-”
Before I can finish my statement, Chester lets us know our beverages are ready. “One root beer float and one chocolate milkshake for the two sophisticated Theta ladies.” He sings.
We head over to the ice cream counter, take seats at on the stools in front of it and prepare to enjoy our beverages. “I guess we’re gonna have to wait for God to change things regarding us colored people.” Alma says.
“I guess so.” I sigh. “Until then I’ll be reading Doc Savage.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

Isis: Bride of Dracula Rough Cover Concept

I spent the weekend drawing! And I came up with a rough cover concept for Isis: Bride of Dracula.

This is just me getting ideas on paper, nothing is final here. There are some things I want to change like composition of John’s body. I want him at a ¾ pose so people can see his full face and him expressing stronger body language as he faces off against Isis. I also want to do some better positioning of the figures because the perspective is way off. Isis needs to be a little further back and John needs to be a lot taller. The photo does a better job of telling the story than my drawing. 

The story I’m trying to tell here is that Dracula is in a mist and he’s floating above a hypnotized Isis who is holding a butcher knife and is about to attack John. John is in a defensive stance ready to defend himself. And while these two heroes take each other on, Dracula is smiling anticipating the carnage that’s about to ensue.

The mood for the cover I’m planning is very dark and spooky with Dracula’s fog swirling about at the bottom of the cover and rising to the top where Dracula floats.

If I had to sketch this out again I’d love to put in a background like a living room of a postmodern home with moonlight shining through the skylights or beaming out of a picture window. This scene in the story is set in the Hamptons and I thought it’d be fun to make a postmodern House of Horrors as those gaudy homes are kind of horrific from an architectural point of view.

This is John Haynes’ first cover on the Isis series and I wanted him to make a powerful statement on it. The body language I want John to have in the proposed cover is a man who is courageous and brave, determined and ready to take on the challenge of Dracula and his vampire goddess. 

I wanted John’s image to display strength and confidence for this cover because I believe it’s important for my readers to see a strong masculine image of a Black man in media. These days it’s rare to see that kind of image of Black men in media and I wanted readers to be presented with a strong masculine image of a Black man who was confident and ready to take on whatever challenge was placed in front of him.

The Image of Isis is inspired by actress Yvonne Monluar who was featured in the 1960 Hammer Horror film Brides of Dracula. In the picture I saw in my Google searches she was wearing an off-the shoulder nightgown I thought would show off Isis’ ankh pendant and would look great in pictures. I saw a picture of a nightgown to the one Yvonne was wearing on a lingerie website downloaded it, sketched it up and it really set the mood for the story I was telling in pictures.

Dracula himself is a Classic Bela Lugosi inspired version of Dracula with some Christopher Lee influences and some of my own contemporary touches like a higher cape collar, a tailored business suit, and a chain. This Dracula is more a businessman and is out to protect his business interests from the threat John created in Isis: Night of the Vampires.

Isis: Bride of Dracula is the final story in the John Haynes arc. If you’ve been following the Isis series that arc started in Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess, continues in Isis: Night of the Vampires and E’steem: Undercover and concludes here in this adventure. I want to close the arc with a bang and leave readers eager for the next Isis series adventure coming up Isis: Samurai Goddess.

I’m really excited about this story and I’d love to see Bill Walko’s art on the cover for it. After seeing some of his horror comics featuring The Teen Titans and the Wonder Twins I think he’d tell an amazing story in pictures using these characters and this setup!

Isis: Bride of Dracula is one of the books that is part of the SJS DIRECT Cover Kickstarter! Every donation you give helps me raise the funds to make this cover concept a reality!