THE NEXT BIG THING…who, me?

the-next-big-thingWelcome everyone to my blog post for The Next Big Thing Hop, the traveling blog that asks authors who they consider the NEXT BIG THING, and then has them pass along the questions for those authors to answer in their blogs.

I’m honored to have been picked last week by Nia Trevisa as her choice for the Next Big Thing.

Here is my Next Big Thing Post!

1: What is the working title of your book?

The God Killers
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was studying art and art history at a local university and decided that it would be cool to have an art gallery owner who recovered stolen artwork on the side. It then morphed into an Urban Fantasy because of my love for the genre.
3: What genre does your book come under?

Urban Fantasy
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would probably cast the actress Paula Patton to play Ivory Blaque, my protagonist, Matthew McConaughey as Johnny Philcher my antagonist, The Rock as Malik Tokugawa the love interest and Shemar Moore as Antoine Valentine, the foil.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Former art thief turned art gallery owner/art recovery professional gets caught in the middle of a secret Cold War between humans and vampires after obtaining mystically enhanced Civil War pistols and learns about her own past as a former lover threatens to kill her, while new suitors actively vie for her attention.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

The God Killers is the first in a series of books featuring Ivory Blaque being published by Seventh Star Press with a tentative release of summer 2013.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

1.5 years
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

None, as it is unique in its characters and situations in my opinion.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The gift of storytelling I received from God and my wife and kids.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The novel contains horror, mystery, action/adventure and romance, features a female protagonist living in Chicago, and the story/series deals with classic and non-contemporary urban fantasy creatures as well as mythological beings and urban legends.

Below are the links to the next chain of authors, who will be posting next Wednesday. Be sure to bookmark their sites and add their new releases to your calendars. Happy Writing and Reading!

1. Urban Fantasy/Horror author: James Lee Nathan III

2. Poet and Literary fiction author: Kimberly Reed

3. Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi author: Paul West

4. Sword & Soul/Steamfunk & Epic Fantasy author: Balogun Ojetade

5. Sword & Soul/Steamfunk and Sci-Fi author: Valjeanne Jeffers

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CELEBRATION, GRATITUDE & TESTIMONY IN MY CREATIONS, AMEN!

I have always been fascinated with storytelling as far back as I can remember. My father used to tell me stories in the fashion of the old radio serials he listened to as a child. I learned to read early on, thanks to the time my mother invested in me, and eventually became a voracious reader. As a result, many of the books and stories set for my age group bored me to tears and that’s when my life changed forever by a trip to the local drug store. That time was when I was first introduced to comic books, my first foray into speculative fiction. I greedily devoured them, as many as I could get my hands on. Not only was I intrigued by the stories I was spellbound by the artwork as well.

I tried to emulate what I saw in the comics and as far back as the second grade I began writing and drawing my own stories, based on the comics I read. Eventually, I began reading adventure classics such as King Arthur, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc…

As a student, I pursued all forms of writing throughout my academic career such as, poetry, essays, short stories and script writing. I am currently in the process of finishing up my Liberal Arts degree at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis), with a focus on Creative Writing. My goal is to begin substitute teaching while I continue writing.

Recently I was honored to have my debut novel, The God Killers picked up for publication with Seventh Star Press. It is scheduled for a summer release 2013. An official press release from the publisher will be forthcoming shortly!

To say that I am overjoyed and in a state of surreal shock would be a gross understatement. Right now I am totally humbled by the enormity of reaching this milestone in my writing career. I believe that this calls for a CELEBRATION!!!

Over the years, I’ve shown my work to friends and family who told me I had a talent for writing. I only half believed them however, it appears that there was some merit to their belief in me and my abilities and for that you have my eternal GRATITUDE.

I want to publicly and sincerely express my gratitude to GOD, my wife of 17 years, Melodee L Allen, my daughter Chelcee Shields, my son Jayden Allen and my mother Barbara Jones for your understanding and unconditional LOVE!!! Special thanks go out to RJ Sullivan and Maurice Broaddus for their friendship and mentoring which made my announcement earlier a reality. I would also like to thank Mr. Rodney Carlstrom, for introducing me to a GREAT group of writers and for being the best little brother a guy could have! And I also want to give a shout out to Indiana Horror Writers for their friendship and support, I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

VERY, VERY SPECIAL THANKS GO OUT TO: Stephen Zimmer and the WONDERFUL folks at SEVENTH STAR PRESS for believing in me, giving me a shot at following my dreams and welcoming me into the FAMILY! MUCH LOVE TO MY FELLOW SSP AUTHORS!!!

I want to thank each and every one of my friends and family who supported me in the pursuit of my dreams. I am truly blessed to have made it this far and I also want to encourage anyone who reads this to NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS! I’m the living TESTIMONY that it CAN and WILL happen if you work at it and believe in yourself. Someday, your CREATIONS will come to life also, DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’!***

GOD BLESS YOU ALL & REMEMBER TBIYTC (The Best Is Yet To Come)!!!

#writemindiztrulyblessed&highlyfavored&totallygeeked

AMEN!

***Admitted & Unabashed Journey Fan

SWORD & SOUL: An Opportunity for Growth in the Fantasy Genre

africaFrom my earliest days as a reader, I’ve always been fascinated with myths, legends and fantasy tales, whether it was King Arthur, Robin Hood, Treasure Island or Lord of the Rings.

I found reading as an escape from the real world and many of the problems I found in it. I placed myself in every story and experienced every peril the protagonist found themselves in. I was truly hooked!

As I read, I was confronted with images of dashing scoundrels, pirate swashbucklers and valiant knights ala Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and Sir Lawrence Olivier. I would spend hours running around outside acting out the scenes from films, writing my own stories about those types of characters and drawing images from the various artworks of Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell.

As time progressed, I realized that many of the legends and myths other than the Greek/Roman or Norse were often ignored and/or neglected in books and film. I had to go seek out stories of other cultures and when I found them, I spent hours reading about them. The myths of the Egyptians, Native American tribes, Asia and parts of Southern Africa were EPIC stories which were incredibly interesting and beautiful, but getting absolutely no attention.

When it came to fiction, my choices were limited. The images of other black people I read about in books were either as poor people, racially discriminated against, slaves or servants. Still, there was no Black, Asian or Latino fantasy heroes to be found.

Another friend and fellow author, Milton Davis had the following to say in a recent blog post titled, The Cool Factor.

“When I look back to African based images that stuck in my mind growing up two images come to mind; Shaka Zulu and Kunta Kinte. The Zulus come the closest in my mind of African coolness. These were the people who defeated the British at Isandlwana. Hundreds of books have been written about them. The Zulus were considered so cool that when Oprah was on Dr. Gates show that traced genetic roots she said she thought she might be descended from the Zulu (sorry Oprah!).

And then there was Kunta Kinte. The story of Roots is a powerful narrative, a story that reflects the struggle of African Americans in this country. It was moving and thought provoking but not cool. I did not want to be Kunta Kinte.”

Because of the fact that the rich heritage and histories of other cultures had not been tapped, many of us who were of color and fans of the fantasy genre, felt shunned and altogether ignored.

I was faced with the realization that none of the heroes of Epic Fantasy looked like me or came from any other history, myths or culture besides Eurocentric ones. However, I was unaware of a little publicized novel titled, “Imaro,” even existed, but had I known, quoting my friend and fellow writer Balogun Ojetade, “Charles R. Saunders would be a billionaire by now.”

In one of Balogun’s blog posts titled,” SWORD & SOUL: Much needed new genre? Or “simply something old, with a new coat of paint?” He wrote the following: “According to the genre’s founder, Charles R. Saunders, Sword and Soul is “African-inspired heroic fantasy. Its roots are in sword-and-sorcery, but its scope is likely to expand as time passes.”

Had I known back then, what I know now…

Alas, let us fast forward to the present.

I only recently discovered the Sword & Soul genre, but I was immediately drawn to it. I started to think back to all of the stories I’d read years ago about African history, myths and legends. As a writer, I was inspired to write about heroes, kings and queens who heralded from Africa or at least an Afrocentric fictional land.

I think that the genre of Sword & Soul has a lot of potential to awaken the imagination of its readers and possibly spur them to explore the histories, mythologies and cultures of places other than Europe, while staying true to the factors which made the fantasy genre so appealing to begin with.

I believe that writers should write from their hearts and tell inspired stories. For myself and some other writers including: Charles R. Saunders, Milton Davis, Balogun Ojetade, Talitha McEachin and Valjeanne Jeffers, we are writing inspired stories from the heart which are at once poignant, powerful, and beautiful. However, these stories happen to be told with a focus on Afrocentric worlds and from Afrocentric perspectives.

Fantasy tales spun with a certain level of integrity to history, mythology and its source material, can go a long way in enticing, entertaining and educating its readers. The time is nigh for the genre of Fantasy to grow beyond a focus on mainly European settings and examine other cultures so that that it may become more diverse and reach a more diverse audience.

It is my calling to write, but it is also my mission. My writing is an expression of who I am, yet I would like for it to also be something which entertains, educates and enlightens those who read it. When I come up with my story ideas, I strive to write the very stories I would love to read and write them in the best way I possibly can. I want to develop intriguing, relatable and dynamic characters, which I then put into sensational and stimulating circumstances. This is my greatest challenge as a writer and I fully embrace it. Sword & Soul Forever!!!

RIP Renae & Dwayne

Monday,  7 January 2013; 0923

Today I woke up and said a prayer for the friends I’ve lost over the past two days. Emotionally, I can’t truly describe how I’m feeling right now. Hurt, numb, surreal, confused, angry, sad/depressed…that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As a writer, the act of writing is an expression of self. It paints a picture to the reader of who and what I am. It reveals the inner workings of my mind, body and soul, as best as words can describe them. I’ve come to discover in my lifetime, that despite my rather large vocabulary, there are not always words which can accurately convey the emotions I’m experiencing at a given moment.  I can usually come close, but it’s never quite accurate.

Since learning of the passing of my friends, I’ve been grappling with a hollow feeling in the core of my soul. The shock of their sudden deaths have me reeling in my grasp of the enormity of it all. Renae Allgire was one of the kindest, sweetest and gentlest souls I ever knew. From the time I first met her (just shy of a year ago) she welcomed me into the IHW with open arms. Her warmth, respect and sincere kindness were deeply appreciated. Renae always had kind words of support and encouragement. She believed in my talents as a writer, but most importantly she believed in me as a person. I remember the very last exchange between us on New Year’s Eve. It was as pure, heartwarming  and sincere as could be.

ME: On the eve of this New Year, I intend to reflect upon the great moments I’ve enjoyed this year, pay tribute to those I lost and learn from my mistakes. I was afforded the opportunity to meet a lot of great people in 2012, some of which have grown to become my closest friends. I’ve reached out to old friends and through it all I’ve grown as a person and as a writer. I want to thank my family & friends for your support of me both personally and as a writer. I LOVE YOU ALL! I INTEND TO MAKE 2013 A GREAT YEAR & MY YEAR TO SHINE! HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR, MAY GOD BLESS EACH & EVERY ONE OF YOU!!! REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!

#writemind

RENAE: Very nicely said John, I count myself fortunate to have met you during 2012, and hope that our friendship carries over into the New Year and continues to grow. May your New Year be filled with success, happiness, love, laughter, and good health. ~ Cheers my friend~

Renae Allgire passed away Friday, 4 January 2013.

Renae1

Yesterday, Sunday, 6 January 2013, I received word that my friend of nearly 30 years, Dwayne Hackett, died suddenly the day before. Already reeling from Renae’s sudden passing, I was now confronted with the passing of a man I’d known for more than half my life. I choke back the tears and sorrow, even as I write this post. For years we’d known each other, been through the things that kids go through together. Argued over comics, sports, girls and laughed over those same things. As time progressed, we went our separate ways and lost touch with each other. However, through facebook we reconnected and kept in touch almost daily. I got to know his son and through mutual friends, we came together for the first time in twenty seven years. It was a very special night, and one I’ll never forget. We took pictures, laughed and talked about the old days and fun times. We picked up right where we left off so many years ago. I had no idea that that night would be the last time I’d ever see my friend, or spend any time with him.

Dwayne and I shared a love of movies, music, comic books and the Indianapolis Colts. He was a supporter of my artwork and writing, who always encouraged me to pursue what I loved. He always hyped me up to anyone who would listen. He was a member of the IHW facebook page and my facebook group The Media Man Forum. He always had a joke, and could make me laugh even when I didn’t want to. Losing him and Renae hurts. As the tears of sorrow roll down my face, I have to honor their memory and recount the joy it was to know them and share the time I had with them. I believe in a lot of ways I was better for knowing them and gained so much by having them in my life.

John and Dwayne

Renae Allgire and Dwayne Hackett, I SALUTE YOU! I LOVE YOU BOTH & I MISS YOU DEARLY! GOD BLESS YOUR SOULS & YOUR FAMIIES!!!

New Years Goals

The New Year is a time for introspection and reflection. We reflect on the past year and grow from the good and learn from the bad. Then, we look inside at who we’ve become and how the events of the past year have shaped us. Personally, I had a great year in 2012. Sure, there were ups and downs. There were times when it seemed as though nothing was going my way. I was irritable, I cried, I became frustrated and came close to throwing in the towel.
But, there were also times when it seemed that I’d struck gold. I met and acquired new friends, and gained a greater focus as it pertains to my writing. I made strides, both as a writer and as a person. I was happy, I laughed, I became euphoric and realized that I’d come too far to turn back.
I suppose, you could say that there was a yin-yang of events and emotions tied to 2012. Some years it seems as though things were worse than years past. However, the thing about the NEW YEAR is that it provides us with new opportunities and the chance to gain new experiences and apply what we’ve learned from the mistakes and bad times of previous years.
I gave up making New Year’s resolutions and replaced them with solid goals. I don’t want to focus my time and energy on fretting about keeping promises, I’d much rather focus that time and energy on reaching my goals. And if I don’t reach all of my goals, then I keep on reaching until I do. Developing a plan and working towards achieving your goals is more constructive than making promises to yourself, which you may end up breaking anyway. At least that’s how I see it.
I’m looking at 2013 as my year to shine! I have renewed my confidence in my writing, set my goals and I’m embracing who I am as a person. Will I have moments of frustration and self-doubt…probably, but I will also have the chance to apply all that I learned in 2012 to my life and strive to work harder and smarter towards my goals, how about you?
#writemind