4 Continental Afrikan Black Speculative Fiction Artists You Should Know

In my last post, I introduced y’all to 10 Black Speculative Fiction artists who I have worked with before or will work with soon.

Now, I’d like to introduce you to 4 creators who reside in the Motherland and who are creating Blacktastic works of Speculative Fiction.

In 2015 and 2016, I plan to work with these artists on comic book, book cover and film projects:

Kiro’o Games

Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Kiro’o Games is the very first professional video game studio of Central Africa.

Kiro’o Games has been in operation since December 2013 and is currently developing the first Afrikan videogame to target the international market – Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.

AfrikaCEO, game designer, script writer and programmer, Guillaume Olivier Madiba, a native and resident of Cameroon, helms a large team of brilliant, young creators. Chief among these creators are: Dominique Brand Yakan – illustration, computer graphics and game design consultant who hails from Belgium; Nono Hugues Wouafo – a residence of France who consults on IA conception, scenarios and game design; and Lead Artist Georges Pondy.

Kiro’o Games seeks to create an internal awakening among gamers around the world through the spiritual vision of their games, which are strongly based on their cultural legacies.

Drawing inspiration from myths, traditions, practices, customs, tales and legends from Afrika, Kiro’o Games has created a fantastic world that gamers worldwide will enjoy adventuring in.





Loyiso Mkize

AfrikaFrom South Afrika hails master artist, Loyiso Mkize.

From a young age, Loyiso Mkize exhibited a great interest in art. Constantly sketching, doodling and painting as he grew up, his interest eventually became his passion.

Currently working at Strika Entertainment as an illustrator for the SupaStrikas comic book, which comes with the Sunday Times newspaper every month, Loyiso maintains a busy schedule illustrating comics, including his independent masterpiece, Kwezi. He also paints. His paintings are tools that he uses to document and express views and ideas. His subjects, generally Afrikan, are his explorations into the complex nature of modern man, his environment and his culture. Finding the subject’s spirit and communicating that through the medium of paint is an effort that Loyiso has found his voice in.






Tobe “Max Spectre” Ezeogu

AfrikaFrom Lagos, Nigeria comes artist, writer and creative director at Comic Republic Media, Tobe “Max Spectre” Ezeogu.

Tobe is the artist and creator of several great comic books that combine unique and intriguing stories and amazing artwork to give us some powerful Afrikan imagery.

 Afrika 21




Setor Fiadzigbey

AfrikaOver the past few years, Setor Fiadzigbey has worked in many roles pertaining to commercial art – Marketing Illustrator; Children’s Book / Material Illustrator; Concept Developer for Animation; and Storyboard Artist for TV and Film.

Through these experiences, Setor has learned to work in many different styles, adapting his approach to fit the desired result.

Currently, Setor works as Lead Illustrator and Concept Artist with BZL Illustration Studio, a content production and illustration studio that offers world-class illustration services to any individual, organization or company that requires such specialized artistic solutions. Setor is the Co-Founder of BZL Studio, which is based in Accra, Ghana.






BLACK HEROES OF PULP FICTION (and we don’t mean Samuel L. Jackson or Ving Rhames)

BLACK HEROES OF PULP FICTION (and we don’t mean Samuel L. Jackson or Ving Rhames)

Luke Cage Noir from Marvel Comics.

Luke Cage Noir from Marvel Comics.

Some of you are saying “If not the movie by Quentin Tarantino, then what the in the hell is Pulp?”

Is it that nasty, fibrous stuff I hate in my orange juice, but my wife always buys, because – for some odd reason – she loves it?

What is Pulp?

Is it that early 80s British alternative rock band who sounded like a hybrid of David Bowie and The Human League?

What is Pulp?

Think adventure, exotic settings, femme fatales and non-stop action. Think larger-than-life heroes, such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, Marv, from Sin City and Indiana Jones.

The genre gets its name from the adventure fiction magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.

Pulp includes Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Western, Fight Fiction and other genres, but what sets pulp apart are its aforementioned fast-pace, exotic locales, linear – but layered – plots, its two-fisted action….and those characters! As author Thaddeus Howze describes them: “I like the larger than life heroes of the pulp era, loud, bombastic, often arrogant, sexy, outrageous and oh so violent…”

The first pulps were published in the late 1800s and enjoyed a golden age in the 1930s and 1940s.

And – like most genre fiction of the day…and today – Black heroes were absent. Like most genre fiction of the day, if a Black person was found in pulp fiction at all, they were the noble savage…or just the savage.

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones by artist Jim Rugg.

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones by artist Jim Rugg.

However, in 1957, we saw our first Black pulp heroes with the duo of Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, violent and vicious Harlem police officers, who operated more like private detectives, often going beyond police protocol to solve their cases.

A true master of the pulp aesthetic, Chester Himes – an accomplished author and screenwriter before going to prison – discovered the work of popular pulp author Dashiell Hammett while serving eight years in an Ohio penitentiary for armed robbery. Himes vowed to write pulp books that would, in his words, “tell it like it is”.

Upon his release from prison, Himes moved to Paris and – true to his word – wrote a string of what he called “Harlem domestic detective stories”, all but one written in French and later translated into English.

His first novel, A Rage in Harlem (1957) – first published in French as La Reine des Pomme and also known as For Love of Imabelle – which won the prestigious French literature award, Grand Prix de la Litterature Policière, gave us our first taste of the fearsome Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.

Fans begged for more of these pulp bad boys and Himes delivered, with a total of seven more bestsellers and one unfinished novel that was published posthumously: The Crazy Kill (1959), The Real Cool Killers (1959), All Shot Up (1960), The Big Gold Dream (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965), The Heat’s On (aka Come Back, Charleston Blue)(1966), Blind Man With A Pistol (1969), Plan B (1993).

While the duo frequently uses physical brutality, psychological torture and intimidation to solve their cases, Gravedigger and Coffin Ed have deep and genuine sympathy for the innocent victims of crime. They frequently intervene – even putting their own reputations and lives on the line – to protect Black people from the vicious and truly pointless brutality of the white, openly racist police officers in their precinct. Jones and Johnson generally go easy on – and even tolerate – numbers runners, madames, prostitutes, junkies and gamblers; but they are extremely hostile to violent criminals, drug dealers, con artists and pimps.

It can be said that Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones were the darkest heroes in pulp…and not because they’re Black…well, that too.

Aubrey Knight

Black PulpThe next Black hero in pulp did not come on the scene until 1983. Who was he? Aubrey Knight, a lightning quick mountain of muscle, trained to be a Null Boxer who fights in brutal matches while locked in a zero-gravity bubble.

Aubrey Knight is the protagonist of Street Lethal (1983), a jaw dropping pulp thrill ride, penned masterfully by veteran science fiction, fantasy and horror author, Steven Barnes. Street Lethal is set in a near-future dystopian Los Angeles in which Aubrey Knight must battle genetically engineered New Men, drug kingpins, brutal prison guards, a ruthless femme fatale and brainwashing similar to the horrific Ludovico Technique from the classic novel A Clockwork Orange.

Street Lethal spawned two sequels starring the street-fighter, null-boxer and virtual superman: Gorgon Child (1989) and Firedance (1993).

Barnes, an accomplished martial artist himself, gives us a pulp hero who is one part Luke Cage Noir and two parts Iron Fist…only cooler, savvier and more…well, street lethal.


Black PulpA classic costumed pulp hero, the black-hooded Damballa steps out of the forests of Africa and onto the streets of 1930s Harlem to battle Nazi’s bent on proving the superiority of the Aryan race.

Damballa (2011) is an incredible pulp adventure written by author Charles R. Saunders, the founder of the subgenre of Fantasy fiction called Sword and Soul and creator of the Fantasy icon Imaro. The action does not stop as the titular hero uses his vast knowledge of Western science, African science and martial arts to expose and neutralize the Nazi threat.

Set in 1938, Damballa is a shining example of what Pulp is when it is at its very best: thrilling, visceral, tightly-plotted, well-written, fast-paced fun.

And the hero Damballa is a shining example of what a pulp hero in the hands of a master can be: a hero the reader can actually stand up and cheer for; a hero with qualities and with a story other authors do their damndest to echo in their own creative and original ways.


fight 9Equal parts James Bond, Indiana Jones, Doc Savage and The Saint, Dillon – by his creator Derrick Ferguson’s account – first came to attention of the world a decade ago, when he began hiring himself out as a soldier of fortune. Dillon possesses remarkable talents and gifts that make him respected and even feared in a world of mercenaries, spies, adventurers, powerful technology and mystic artifacts.

Actually, Dillon first came to our attention in the Pulp fiction masterpiece, Dillon and the Voice of Odin (2003).

Dillon’s actual age is unknown, but what is known is that he was born on the technologically advanced, doomed island of Usimi Dero.  After the Destruction of his home, twelve year old Dillon and his mother fled to  Shamballah, a monastery hidden in the Himalayas.  Dillon was adopted by Shamballa’s Warmasters of Liguria, who spent the next seven years training him in various martial arts and other physical and mental disciplines.  After those seven years, Dillon elected to leave Shamballah and return to the world.

Once back in the world, Dillon wandered, learning various skills that would help him in his chosen profession as an adventurer and seeking out those who destroyed his homeland.

This adventurer is the hero of four of his own books – the aforementioned Dillon and the Voice of Odin; Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell (2010); Four Bullets for Dillon (2011) and Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira (2012) – and appears in the anthology Black Pulp (2013).

Taurus Moon

Artwork by Winston Blakely.

Artwork by Winston Blakely.

First seen in the often hilarious and always exciting, Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter (2011) and now returning in the recently released, equally exciting sequel, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem (2013), Taurus moon is a complex Pulp hero who walks a complex world of mythic creatures, gangsters and even mythic gangsters and gangling creatures.

The morally conflicted hero, Taurus Moon is often compared to another famed relic hunter, Indiana Jones. Unlike popular relic hunter Indiana Jones, however, the artifacts Taurus Moon hunts are not found in the deserts of Iskenderun Hatay, or in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. Taurus Moon’s quests take him through the grittier parts of urbanized cities; settings where Indiana Jones would get that whip and fedora shoved up his…well, you get the picture. Also unlike Indiana Jones, Taurus Moon’s clientele includes vampire crime bosses and other individuals of ill-repute.

Taurus Moon is straight up mercenary, motivated by money; yet he is imbued with nobility, which keeps him from being completely amoral.

If Indiana Jones and Blade had a clone created from both their DNA strains, with a dash of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sprinkled in, that little GMO fella would be Taurus Moon.

2014 will see the premiere of at least three more pulp heroes.

SiafuCover Balogun CoverIn early 2014, my character Nick ‘New Breed’ Steed, the indigenous African martial arts expert turned MMA fighter will enter the world with a bang in my novella, Fist of Afrika. A second novella starring Nick Steed, Fight Card MMA: Circle of Blood is likely to follow shortly behind it.

2014 will see another MMA fighter, Remi Fasina [ray-MEE fah-SHEE-nah] – a woman – battle men and women fighters – and her inner demons – on her quest to defeat the MMA champion who sexually assaulted her seven years in her past in my Pulp action novel, A Single Link.

Link Front Cover 2SCYTHE COVER IMAGE HI RESFinally, the Pulp hero Black Caesar – a former slave, imbued with enhanced intelligence, strength, endurance and agility by dark forces run amok upon a stone slave ship – debuts in the first Rococoa novel, Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises.

I have also created the Pulp hero The Scythe, the resurrected Dr. A.C. Jackson, who was murdered in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 and returns to reap vengeance upon his murderers and their kin. His story has now been expanded into a novel.

What other Black Pulp heroes and sheroes do you know of? What Pulp heroes or sheroes are you in the process of developing or creating?

10 Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists I’d Love to Work With (or work with again)!

I write.

I write Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Action and Adventure stories with people of Afrikan descent as the heroes.

Y’all know this.

But what you might not know is I love Science Fiction and Fantasy art and animation and I have been blessed to work with some great artists on the books I have authored and / or edited.

Below is a list of just a few of the Blacktastic artists I will soon work with – again, or for the first time – on a book cover, a graphic novel or an animation project. Enjoy!

Jason Reeves

Art 7  Art 6

Black Art

Sheeba Maya

Black Art

Black Art

Black Art

Craig “Flux” Singleton

Black Art

Black Art

Black Art

Stanley “Standingo73” Weaver

Black Art

Black Art

Black Art

Kristopher Mosby

Black Art

Art 12

Art 13


Black Art

Black Art

Black Art

Shakira Rivers

Black Art

Black Art

Black Art

Hasani Claxton

Art 24

Black Art

Art 29

Mervin “JJWinters” Kaunda

Black Art

Art 31

Art 32

Chris Miller

Black Art

Black Art

Black Art

How to Watch Rite of Passage and other Steampunk and Steamfunk Movies

How to Watch Rite of Passage and other Steampunk and Steamfunk Movies

watch 1When Rite Of Passage, the first Steamfunk feature film, premieres in February of 2014 at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival, you are going to be amazed.

The costumes…the props…the sets…the music…the special effects…the acting, action, production and the story, written by the award winning screenwriting team of Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis…all at such a high level you will think you are watching a “Hollywood” film, not a low budget film created by two independent multimedia companies and a “tech” university.

And just how should you watch such a masterpiece?

watch 2Should you chill with a date and a bucket of popcorn? Should you attend in Steamfunk cosplay with your other funktastic friends?

Let’s examine how to watch Rite of Passage – and, indeed, other Steampunk and Steamfunk movies (and we expect the production of many more) – a bit further:

As you watch Rite of Passage, you should simultaneously be mindful, be emotionally engaged and be critical.

Be Mindful

This is the mindset of watching a movie in a non-distracted manner.

This is about being in the present moment; watching with undivided attention and examining the full range of the film’s content without judgment.

Notice when distracting thoughts enter your head while watching the movie; let those thoughts speed through your mind then return your focus to the movie. Also, notice the emotions felt by the characters, and the feelings you are feeling in response.

Be Emotionally Engaged

This is the mindset of watching a movie with emotional investment.

Attach to the characters – in the same way you would attach to a parent, partner, friend or child. Care what happens to the characters.

Receive the protagonist with curiousity, optimism, and trust. You will notice qualities within the character that are likable and unlikable; relatable and unrelatable.  This will help you to become clear about the character’s motivations, and to emotionally invest in the character’s experience, which will allow you to tune into the character and fully experience empathic reactions. The more you actively tune in to the character, the more you’ll feel what he or she feels and, in turn, the more you will learn what the character learns.

Be Critical

This is the mindset of deriving lessons for living from the narrative, and actively applying those lessons to your personal experience.

Follow the internal or psychological story of the film – an external story, for example is a dramatic car chase; how the protagonist feels about being chased and how he or she chooses to handle it are the internal story.

Being critical affords the opportunity to examine the messages within the film.

These three mindsets – mindfulness, emotional engagement and critical-thinking – are intrinsic to your successful pursuit of everyone’s primary objective when watching a film (whether you know it or not): using the experience of watching that film to bring about personal growth and positive change.

As you watch the film with these three mindsets, you should also approach the film in two ways:

The first approach is to examine how the movie functions as a coping tool – savor the positive affect the film has upon your feeling of well-being.

The second approach is to examine how the movie serves as a metaphor – capture insight-oriented parallels.

The mere act of watching a movie can improve your mood (emotional), serve as a bonding experience with friends (social), engage memory and attention (cognitive) and serve as a good, clean source of fun on a Friday night (behavioral).

Rite of Passage: InitiationLet’s apply this model to the Rite of Passage tie-in, the surprisingly profound, yet action-packed short film, Rite of Passage: Initiation. The story is about Dorothy Wright – a pupil of Harriet Tubman – who must face a final, arduous trial to prove she is worthy to be a Conductor on the Underground Railroad.

With regards to examining how the movie functions as a coping tool, pay close attention to the scene in which Harriet informs Dorothy why she has brought her to the secret clearing in the forest for the first time and how that scene makes you feel. You will enjoy watching Dorothy’s reaction to the moment and, in turn, become more engaged in her storyline. You will probably also reminisce about your own experience in the face of some great obstacle.

The movie as a coping tool induces immediate, emotional effects, serving to connect you with the character and possibly connecting you with those you interact with well after the movie has ended – those emotions will stay with you for a while and can help you to better relate to others.

With regards to using the movie as a metaphor, examine the different facets of the mindsets of Harriet and Dorothy, Masterfully portrayed by Iyalogun Ojetade and Dasie Thames, respectively. Find parallels in your life, in nature and in society. What do the two characters represent, in general and what do they represent to you personally?

Viewing movies using the above methods now gives those movies even greater value as tools of catharsis and growth.

Of course, these methods should be practiced on movies you’ve seen before until they are a natural part of your watching process, so you do not interfere with the fun of watching a new movie, or one of your favorites, by thinking too much and becoming distracted.

After the worldwide premiere of Rite of Passage in 2015, be sure to see me afterward and let me know how the film affected you.

And yes, you should chill with a date and a bucket of popcorn and / or attend in Steamfunk cosplay with your funktastic friends.

7 Great Indie Black Speculative Screenwriters You Should Know!

Drop Squad“Man, I loved the movie Drop Squad,” a friend told me. “The acting? Dope! The camera work? Top notch! But the screenplay? The screenplay was wack!”

I said “If you enjoy any film, that’s in large part due to the writing.”

“Bruh,” he sighed, shaking his head, pitying my ignorance. “A screenplay ain’t nothin’ but the dialogue. The Director is the one who makes a movie HOT!”

I asked him “How, then, did the silent film The Artist get nominated for an Oscar for its original screenplay?”

Now, before you call my friend an idiot, know that he holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology and a PhD in Afrikan History and is a professor at a university in Georgia.

He is no idiot. He – like many others – believes the popular misconception that screenwriters are responsible only for writing a movie’s dialogue.

This is a major reason that screenwriting remains one of the most misunderstood and unsung aspects of filmmaking.

Screenwriters are overlooked by the press and all but forgotten when it is time for reviews and awards for films and independent screenwriters are lucky to receive half a hand clap.

However unrecognized they may be, screenwriters are a crucial part of a movie-making team. Every scene, from the characters, to the setting, to the dialogue to even when characters engage in those cool fight scenes we love so much is created by the screenwriter. The Director, Cinematographer, actors and the rest of the film’s production team then bring the screenwriter’s story to life on the big or small screen. It all begins with the screenwriter.

I would like to take this time to introduce you to 7 screenwriters of Afrikan descent who have written great indie screenplays in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Action-Adventure and who have created quite a buzz on the national and international film scenes.

I know that seven does not seem like many, but there aren’t many independent Black screenwriters out there and even fewer who write speculative fiction.

Hopefully, this will inspire you to one day join their ranks.

Barbara Marshall
Black ScreenwritersProbably the least “indie” out of all the writers listed here, Barbara Marshall’s first writing credit was an episode of Stargate SGU. After that she was hired as a staff writer on 2011’s Steven Spielberg produced Science Fiction television program, Terra Nova. In 2012, Marshall penned the virus thriller Peste, which details a young girl caught up in a quarantine with her family when a deadly virus outbreak occurs. The screenplay will be produced under the title Viral, with “Paranormal Activity” franchise directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman on board. Marshall’s most recent script, the supernatural thriller Exorcism Diaries, is being developed by Summit.

Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

Black Screenwriters Barnes and Due co-wrote the short story Danger Word, which led to their two collaborative novels, Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls, both set in the same zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world.

The books became so popular, fans demanded a movie and Barnes and Due delivered with the short film, Danger Word. Danger Word has gone on to be popular and fans eagerly await more shorts and hopefully a feature film from this talented couple.

Steven Barnes, a veteran author, has published 28 novels and more than three million words of science fiction and fantasy. He has been nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards. His television work includes The Twilight Zone, Stargate and Andromeda, and his A Stitch In Time episode of The Outer Limits won an Emmy Award for actress Amanda Plummer.

Tananarive Due has written a dozen supernatural suspense novels, including the African Immortals series that began with My Soul to Keep.  She won an American Book Award for her supernatural thriller The Living Blood, and she, with her husband, Barnes, won an NAACP Image Award for the mystery novel In the Night of the Heat, in collaboration with actor Blair Underwood.

Demetrius Angelo and La’Mard J. Wingster

Black Screenwriters This duo is a powerhouse writing and production team, who create, produce and distribute their own films as well as the films of others under their company, ASC/Troopers Touch Entertainment, a collaboration of Wingster’s Troopers Touch Films and Angelo’s Action Scene Combat Productions.

Troopers Touch Films was founded in the early 90s by Wingster out of his passion for the martial arts and action films. Wingster’s intent is to bring realism to action films combined with the soulful expressions of the 70s film era.

Action Scene Combat Productions was founded by Demetrius Angelo, a martial arts stuntman and fight choreographer for more than 20 years. Angelo’s passion for the martial arts and action film genre and seeing a void of ethnic action heroes in movies inspired him to begin making films in the late 90s and to found the NYC Action Actors Academy Screen Fighting Program.

Through the many excellent Action, Fantasy and Science Fiction films they have written, directed, produced and distributed, Angelo and Wingster bring us the beauty, talent, and vision of multicultural artists across various media.  

Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis

Black ScreenwritersBoth successful and popular authors of Sword and Soul, Steamfunk, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action-Adventure and Urban Fantasy novels, Ojetade and Davis decided to combine their creative talents and collaborate on live action and animated films and the production and facilitation of Science Fiction and Fantasy conferences, conventions and film festivals

They have collaborated on two successful anthologies, two short films, a feature film, a dozen wildly successful and popular events, the founding of a movement (Steamfunk) and the founding of Black Speculative Fiction Month.

Davis and Ojetade first met several years ago to discuss Ojetade, an experienced and talented screenwriter, developing Davis’ gritty Science Fiction / Martial Arts / Thriller, Ngolo, into a feature film.

Ojetade and Davis further developed Davis’ near-future world in which assassinations and assassins’ guilds, are legal and Ojetade transformed Davis’ incredible story into a unique, exciting and original script that recently won the coveted Urban Action Showcase and Expo 2014 award for Best Script.

Ojetade and Davis are weighing their options in regard to who they will work with to get the screenplay produced while working on Ngolo II.

They will premiere the long awaited Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage in spring of 2015 and continue to write novels and work on animation projects.

Below is some of the work from the screenwriters you were just introduced to. Enjoy!

Four Choose Your Adventure Books YOU Should Read!

In March 1983, an unconventional series of books held the top three entries of the Sunday Times bestseller list. These were Fighting Fantasy books – gamebooks similar to The Keys, the first book in my YOU are the Hero series, but different in that to take part in the fun of Fighting Fantasy, you also needed a pencil, eraser and dice.

The next book in the YOU are the Hero series, The Haunting of Truth High, will incorporate traditional Afrikan game elements.

According to one parent, who bought The Keys for her 15 year old son and 12 year old daughter, she was surprised that her teens, long classified as “reluctant readers,” became so engrossed in the adventures of Terry De Fuego and Jordan Drummond. “My children became completely taken over by the roleplaying as, suddenly, this was the chance to experience a book where, not only did the heroes look like them, but they were the hero.”

She went on further to say “The fact that they could also choose a hero from both genders excited them and pleasantly surprised me.”

Even before the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, however, there was the wildly popular Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks, which inspired Fighting Fantasy and my YOU are the Hero series.

In honor of those books that continue to inspire others to read and to write, I would like to share with you some of my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure titles that I am sure you enjoyed reading as well.

For those who never read Choose Your Own Adventure Books, you are in for a treat! Be sure to read The Keys first, then read the books that follow*!





*These are parodies of CYOA books, shared for your amusement. However, The Keys is real, of course!

There’s No Such Thing as Black Reluctant Readers…Just Wack Writers!

“Daddy, can you take us to buy some more books!”

We need Diverse BooksThese words I have heard often, from each of my eight children, from preschool through college. They are divine words to my ears. All of my children are avid and voracious readers, from my oldest, who is twenty-seven years old, to my youngest, who is five.

They have all grown up seeing me read, being read to and learning about the importance and power of books and being able to read – and write – them.

But some children, even those with high intelligence and good grades, would rather do anything than read. Others have learning difficulties and find reading a struggle.

Reluctant ReaderOne of my closest friends is a so-called reluctant reader. He has been for as long as he can remember. He says that reading books gives him headaches. His nine year old son says the exact same thing. His son will burst into crocodile tears if he is given a book and told he must read just one chapter.

This might seem impossible to you, but his story is not unique, especially among our boys of Afrikan descent.

What can we do to encourage our children, now classified as reluctant readers, to pick up a book, read it and enjoy it?

First, I will boldly – and accurately – state that there are no reluctant readers. That label, like many forced upon us, is a lie.

We have been using the phrase ‘reluctant readers’ like mad. Hash-tagging about them; struggling to “save” them; lamenting for them…but the fact of the matter is all of our students read – they read all the time, in fact.

Need proof?

Ask your child if they text. Ask them if they tweet; if they “hit their friends up” on Instagram or write on their friends’ walls on Facebook.

We need Diverse BooksDo they read street lit, comic books, blogs, or the subtitles on The Raid or Kung Fu Hustle? Yep, thought so.

The only things our youth are “reluctant” to read is the stuff they find boring, which means we, as authors, have to write what appeals to them, not us.

We must also acknowledge that their “literatures” – no matter how low-brow we consider them—are legitimate forms of reading.

Comic books and graphic novels are proven to be the second most popular form of book for youth between the ages of 9 and 16.

The most popular books – although their popularity has waned over the years among Black readers because, until recently, none of them featured a Black hero or shero – are gamebooks.

choose your own adventureThe Choose Your Own Adventure series of gamebooks is one of the most popular children’s book series of all time, with more than 250 million books printed in at least 38 languages. Each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions in response to the plot and its outcome. The series has been used in classrooms from elementary school to college and has been widely commended for its appeal to so-called reluctant readers.

Many children feel alienated from the reading process because they cannot relate to what they are asked to read.

For most youth, however, gamebooks make them part of the process by allowing them to make a choice for the main character.

Another reason our youth are reluctant to read a particular book is because the author’s writing fails to engage them in the story. When a reader cannot identify with a story or cannot relate to its characters, they quickly disengage.

Consistently not seeing ourselves represented in the reading material as a cool, kickass hero is a huge turn-off.

One of the most rewarding experiences for a reader is having the opportunity to create your own world. To actually be the hero. This engages us in the story and we become invested in the story because we become the hero and control the hero’s actions.

Once our youth are engaged, they will not only read but will want to read more and about different things, including other worlds and other heroes who they can relate to.

The KeysIn my gamebook, The Keys, the reader has the unique experience of choosing to be one of two heroes, the extreme journalist and martial artist, Terry De Fuego or the mathematical genius basketball phenom, Jordan Drummond who quest to awaken the ancient gods within them while battling the immortal sorcerer, Henry the Navigator and his horde of monstrous creations.

Every child, teen and adult who has read the book and given me feedback has mentioned how they loved being able to choose whether they wanted to be a young man or young woman with vastly different abilities, but both working to achieve similar goals. They also got a kick out of being able to control the hero’s actions and some even tried to make all the wrong choices just to find out how wild, scary or funny the story could be.

So, the next time you or your child is labeled as a reluctant reader, tell them you are reluctant…to read wack books. Then open up your copy of The Keys and enjoy!

JUST KEEPING IT REAL: Hip Hop’s Influence on Ghostwriting in the Black Community

Ghostwriter 1Ghostwriting is a great way for an expert with a book idea and no writing skills to get their expertise out there. The demand is high enough that you can make a good living.

A common relationship in the content marketing and book publishing community is busy CEOs and executives – probably poor writers to begin with – hiring writers to write in their name.

Here’s Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ, on ghostwriting:

“…If you’re a great communicator through non-written means and you need help to put your ideas into written language, then by all means, use a ghostwriter if you can find one with the talent to properly convey your message, and your brand.”

Not all ghostwriting is the same. Here are three common varieties:

  • Their ideas and words: In this scenario, someone pays you to turn their ideas into an article or book. You listen to them talk or take their notes and develop that into content. Or they email you a rough draft. It’s your job to clean up that rough draft.
  • Their ideas, your words: In this scenario, someone pays you to write from an outline or transcript they’ve given you. You do all the research, they approve the final draft. Or they might make substantial changes.
  • Your ideas and words: Here, someone pays you to come up with the ideas yourself, create the outlines, and write the book or articles. Their only involvement is to approve your work. This would include social ghostwriters – authors who write for celebrities who hire them to run their Twitter accounts, for instance.

GhostwriterThere is a fierce level of pride in being a ghostwriter. Yet for most, this pride is rooted in a desire to convince people what we do is not shady. It’s a sort of pride that encourages other members to resist shame.

The concern is: what would happen if your client’s readers discovered he or she did not write the blog posts or book they said they did? Would that tarnish their reputation?


When Guy Kawasaki admitted he used ghostwriters for his Twitter account, people shrugged and kept pushing forward. Business as usual.

However, when it was even hinted that Sister Souljah’s sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever, A Deeper Love Inside, was penned by a ghostwriter, people were up in arms.

Even those in defense of her speak about ghostwriting as if it is some shameful act.

Alwyn K. Wilson, author and founder of Diamond Publicationz, had this to say: My favorite writer Sister Souljah has become the latest person accused of having a ghostwriter for her newest work, the sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever. That novel came on the scene damn near 15 years ago. I instantly fell in love with the street lit novel and it still resonates as my fav. Now blogs and websites are claiming Sister Souljah used a ghostwriter for the sequel A Deeper Love Inside: the Porsche Santiago Story because the style of the writing is drastically different. Look, writers’ styles change. That shows their growth in their talent.”

He goes on to say “…she has improved but I don’t think it is so drastic that I would accuse her of having a ghostwriter; I don’t know her personally but I don’t think that is her style. Why are we as blacks a hell of a lot more critical with each other than any other race? We love knocking each other down when it is unnecessary. But what do I know right? Ms. Souljah, keep doing your thang sistah! You are my inspiration!”

The fact that people jumped on Sister Souljah for apparently having a ghostwriter and that a fan and fellow author felt the need to defend her and try to prove Sister Souljah wouldn’t do something so ‘drastic’, shows that many in the Black community see putting your name on someone else’s work…work you paid for…as a shameful act.


It is due to the influence of Hip Hop on Black Culture and how we view ethics.

GhostwriterIn most genres of music, including Soul, R&B and Pop, being a songwriter is a legitimate career, but in Hip Hop, writing for another rapper has long been something to hide.

Emerging from the poverty and deprivation of New York’s South Bronx neighborhood in the 1970s, rap gave the voiceless a voice. Because of this, MCs have a unique reputation to uphold. They have to be authentic, telling stories about their own individual experience. They have to “keep it real.”

“It’s a travesty,” legendary MC, Grandmaster Caz (aka Casanova Fly) says. “…no way you can even stand in the same room as an MC if you don’t write your rhyme, plain and simple.”

Despite this, he became most famous for a song he did not perform.

The story goes back to when Caz was part of the group Mighty Force, managed by his friend Big Bank Hank of Sugar Hill Gang fame (“I’m here; I’m there; I’m Big Bank Hank, I’m everywhere”).

Big Bank Hank had borrowed money from his parents to improve the group’s sound system, and was paying back the loan with a job in a pizza shop. One day, while he was singing along to one of Casanova Fly’s tapes at the pizza shop, in walked the legendary Sylvia Robinson, from the influential Sugar Hill Records label. She was forming a new group and asked Big Bank Hank to audition for her there and then. This should have been his cue to say he managed one of the best MCs in the Bronx – but he didn’t.

“He just took the lyrics that were on the tape,” says Grandmaster Caz. “They loved it and they made him part of the group on the spot.”

Ghostwriter HankThe song in question was Rapper’s Delight, which became rap’s first commercial hit, bringing Hip Hop – then a largely counter-culture movement – out of the ‘hood’ and into the mainstream.

Big Bank Hank’s use of Casanova Fly’s lines is obvious from the lyrics, which will be familiar to many:

Check it out, I’m the C-A-S-A, the N-O-V-A / And the rest is F-L-Y / You see I go by the code of the doctor of the mix / And these reasons I’ll tell you why / You see, I’m six foot one, and I’m loads of fun.

“He was so much not an MC, he didn’t even know enough to change the words around to spell his own name,” says Grandmaster Caz. “He just copied it word for word – he said: “I’m six foot one” – he’s not, I’m six foot one. Everything in the rhyme describes me. I’m unwittingly Hip Hop’s first ghostwriter.”

In the early days, the only thing at stake was a rapper’s street credibility, but as Hip Hop gained more currency there was a fortune to be made.

And big money inevitably changed how Hip Hop was handled and who was interested in being a part of the movement. It was an open conversation that certain acts didn’t write their own rhymes but they were making the hits.

In his 2001 song Bad Boy For Life, the Hip Hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs boasts “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks.” – thereby celebrating his money-making skills over his skills as an MC. It later emerged that Diddy didn’t even write that song.

One of the biggest hits of all time, I’ll Be Missing You – Combs’ Grammy Award-winning ode to Notorious B.I.G. – was the work of the ghostwriter Sauce Money.

After Biggie was shot in 1997, the hip hop world was in mourning and label-mate Combs – then known as Puff Daddy – was looking for someone to help him write a tribute. Jay Z felt too raw to do it himself so he put Combs in touch with Sauce Money, who had lost his mother a few years earlier and channeled his emotions into the lyrics.

Sauce Money remembers when Combs first heard the song. “He was blown away because it was everything he wanted to say,” he says. “It’s almost like being an actor. I became him; and once I became him I knew what he would want to say to Big in remembrance.”

Talib Kweli talked about how being a ghostwriter is usually every aspiring rapper’s first job; a time when they can hone their skills by writing rhymes for others, before moving on to writing their own material. “There was dudes in the neighborhood that would rap…my friends…and I would write rhymes, like, ‘try this out’.” He then went on to say that although most MCs grow out of writing for others, for some, the anonymity and easy money suits them better.

This has been Hip Hop’s “dirty little secret” since its inception. It is a secret among Black people because we have come to judge not creating a work you take credit for, whether you paid for that work or not, as “biting;” as a violation of trust.


Because we view MCs as our modern-day Djeli, or Griots, who deliver the truth about what Black life in the ‘hoods of America is really like. Throughout traditional Afrika, Djeli are charged with delivering the history and exploits of their people accurately and truthfully. As a priest in the Yoruba tradition of Ifa, if we recite a single word of the Odu – or body of knowledge – incorrectly, we are reprimanded.

Those who deliver our stories must always be found ‘keepin’ it real’.

ResumeSo if a real person is claiming to be the author behind a book or blog but hires someone else to write the content, he or she is violating an unspoken contract. He or she is breaking a serious taboo and losing credibility.

However, I think the average person underestimates just how much of the content they consume is not actually written by the people they assume wrote it.

A significant percentage of books on any current bestseller lists will not have been written by the authors whose names appear on the jackets.

You may not know it, but literary ghosts are everywhere. In this golden age of reading, publishers will not hesitate to sign up surrogate authors.

But is ghostwriting ethical?

It usually is. What makes a work ethical is its authenticity.

Most ghostwriters work with the ‘author’ to ensure that the content is authentic. The biographies need to be told from that person’s point of view; their vernacular because any resulting public appearances, interviews and discussions about the content / book must ring true.

Authenticity only comes into question when there is little or no collaboration. That disconnect can be dangerous, because the content will not ring true and creates a type of juxtaposition – “You wrote this, but you’re saying something different.”

Collaboration with a professional writer is a wonderful concept and a tremendously effective means of getting the great thinking of a great leader into the words and format that will be interesting to readers, and will make the material memorable and compelling to share. In the world of communication, it’s an extremely valuable service, whether for a book, an article or a speech.

Creation of material without the participation of the represented author, or without disclosing having utilized a ghostwriter, is a terrible idea, and in my opinion, an ethical breach, especially when said ghostwriting is used to promote a person’s image or brand.

Transparency is a virtue, and great communicators and authors are happy to give credit due when there are other writers involved. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.

So, get that novel, autobiography, screenplay or graphic novel script done! You can’t quite find the words or the time? Then hire me.

I’m a ghostwriter. No shame in my game.

Just keeping it real.


Black PulpReading Black Speculative Fiction has plenty of benefits – from heightening your imagination and creativity to building good character, to just having a great time exploring new worlds.

But now there is an even more important reason to pick up a book from Roaring Lions Productions, MVmedia and other Blacktastic authors and publishers.

New research by the University of Sussex has revealed that reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by 68% or more.

Black ReadersThe findings further show that reading a book works better and faster to reduce stress than listening to music, going for a walk or sitting down with a warm cup of tea.


Psychologists say it is because the human mind becomes part of the world of the book when reading fiction and this journey to a world outside of the one that stressed you out eases the tension in the muscles, including the heart and the brain.

You only need to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles.

Listening to music reduced stress by 61%; a cup of tea or coffee lowered stress by 54% and taking a walk by 42%.

Playing video games brought stress levels down by 21% but left the volunteers with elevated heart rates well above their starting point.

Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. By treating yourself to a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.

This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.

This is especially important for Afrikan people in America (yes, I spelled ‘Afrikan’ with a K), who suffer from greater levels of negative stress than any other group in the world.

Balogun OjetadeOn August 31, 2012, I suffered seven cerebellar ischemic strokes. The fact that I survived one such stroke, let alone seven, and never lost cognizance, nor suffered any paralysis, left doctors scratching their heads and left me intrigued by the cause, as I am in good physical shape, teach martial arts and avoid iodized salt, pork, a lot of red meat and greasy foods. I am also only in my mid-forties, so, while I was happy to be alive and – for the most part – unaffected by the strokes, I was also concerned about what caused them in the first place.

The major contributing factor is stress. Negative stress, that is. Negative stress is highly destructive and can lead to permanent disability or death. Sadly, we do not understand stress and have thus trivialized it and placed the blame for our stress on others. How many times have you told someone (or they told you) “You’re stressing me out”, as if they have power of you? We control how we deal with stress.

What is Stress?

Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand placed on it. In layman’s terms, stress is anything that causes a change in your body.  These changes are triggered by different feelings such as sadness, fear, anger and happiness. Every time your feelings change your body changes and this results in stress.

Stress Stress can create feelings of conflict and /or anxiety within you. It can stem from demands you place on yourself or from external stimuli. If stress is not identified and resolved, it can progressively deteriorate your ability to function physically, mentally and emotionally.

Everyone has stress, regardless of age, sex or race. 

All stress is not bad, nor does all stress have a negative effect on us.  Some stress we experience is good and has a positive and motivating effect. 

We have problems when we experience too much, or too little, stress in our lives. 

Too much stress causes us to feel tense and pressured; this creates conflict.  Too little stress makes us feel bored, unmotivated and lethargic, which also creates conflict within us and sometimes with others. 

Therefore, it is important to maintain a proper level of stress in your life. 

Signs of Stress

The body gives you signals to let you know that you are experiencing stress.

Some signs of stress are headaches, dizziness, fast heartbeat, abnormal eating habits, troubled breathing, inability to slow down or relax, depression, ulcers, high-blood pressure, phobias, and disturbed sleep patterns.


Stress can be caused by a number of things happening in your life at any point and time.  For example it could be not having enough money; poor self- concept; death; divorce; winning the lottery; or graduating from high school, college or Grad School, but the most frequent cause of stress is change, such as loss of a loved one; job loss or advancement; illness or injury and lifestyle changes.


Some stress is positive – eustress – and creates good opportunities and outlets in life. Positive stress can keep you motivated and inspire your creativity.

Negative stress – or distress – results in debilitating anxiety that affects your overall mental, emotional and physical health.

StudyingFor avid readers, the fact that reading reduces stress is bonus news but to those who don’t read often enough or dislike reading, it’s time for a change – one that produces good stress and reduces negative stress. It’s time to take a mini-vacation of the mind…that is read a book!

If you or your child are a reluctant reader, I recommend reading a gamebook, which puts you directly into the story and allows you to choose how the story progresses. Gamebooks are also great for avid readers seeking something unique and something that allows them to exercise their creativity while enjoying an amazing story.

So, go ahead, grab a book and give yourself a healthier and happier life!

Go here for a few books to get you started.

8 YA Science Fiction & Fantasy Books with Black / Afrikan Teen Heroes and Sheroes!

In her insightful article, Kid Lit Equality – Fantasy or Reality?’ author Zetta Elliot says “There’s clearly a direct link between the misrepresentation of Black youth as inherently criminal and the justification given by those who brazenly take their lives. The publishing industry can’t solve this problem, but the relative lack of children’s books by and about people of color nonetheless functions as a kind of “symbolic annihilation.” Despite the fact that the majority of school-age children in the US are now kids of color, the US publishing industry continues to produce books that overwhelmingly feature white children only. The message is clear: the lives of kids of color don’t matter.”

While there should be much more literature written for and about Black youth, there are several great works out there. Below is a list of some of the better and more unique works for YA readers, aged 12-18. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but is a great intro to some amazing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror books, which are sorely needed in Black homes, schools, libraries and cultural centers worldwide.

YA 1Devil’s Wake, by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due. What happens when an unprecedented infection sweeps the world, leaving the earth on the brink of the Apocalypse?

But this infection goes far beyond disease. Beyond even the nightmare images of walking dead or flesh-eating ghouls. The infected are turning into creatures unlike anything ever dreamed of…more complex, more mysterious, and more deadly.

Trapped in the northwestern United States as winter begins to fall, Terry and Kendra have only one choice: they and their friends must cross a thousand miles of no-man’s-land in a rickety school bus, battling ravenous hordes, human raiders, and their own fears.

In the midst of apocalypse, they find something no one could have anticipated…love.

AmberAmber and the Hidden City, by Milton Davis. Thirteen year old Amber Robinson’s life is full of changes. Her parents are sending her to a private school away from her friends, and high school looms before her. But little does she know that her biggest change awaits in a mysterious city hidden from the world for a thousand years. Why?

Amber’s grandmother is a princess from this magical kingdom of Marai. She’s been summoned home to use her special abilities to select the new king but she no longer has the gift, and her daughter was never trained for the task. That leaves only one person with the ability to save the city: Amber!

But there are those who are determined that Amber never reaches Marai and they will do anything to stop her.

Prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that spans from the Atlanta suburbs to the grasslands of Mali. It’s a story of a girl who discovers her hidden abilities and heritage in a way that surprises and entertains.

A Wish After Midnight, by Zetta Elliott. Genna wants out of her tough Brooklyn neighborhood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a wish gone awry transports her back in time. Facing the perilous realities of Civil War–era Brooklyn, Genna must use all her wits to survive.

This is the affecting and inspiring tale of a fearless young woman’s fight to hold on to her individuality and her humanity in two different worlds.

African American YA

African American YAThe Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson. Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbean, white, or Black American people. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him.

Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance – because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.

The KeysThe Keys, by Balogun Ojetade. Pyramids – located all over the world, among different cultures and nations – are actually portals that allow teleportation between them.

For thousands of years, there was peace between nations; there was exchange of knowledge and culture and all of the pyramid cultures worldwide advanced because of it. But the peace soon shattered and the world was cast into the bloodiest and most costly of wars.

At the same time, the Iberian Empire, led by Infante (“Prince”) Henry the Navigator, attacked the Aztec Empire. Henry, the Navigator believed the legendary Christian kingdom of Prester John (“Presbytu Johannes”) to be the Aztec Empire’s Nueva Guatemala de la Asuncion (now called Guatemala City). He wanted to find the kingdom and achieve immortality and would murder the world if it meant achieving his goal.

The KeysThe Aztec allied with the powerful Oyo Empire of West Africa and together they defeated Henry the Navigator and his monstrous army and restored a fragile peace to the world, deactivating the power of the world’s pyramids until humanity was once again ready to use their power responsibly.

Two gods – one Oyo and one Aztec – were placed into a deep sleep within the bloodlines of two warrior families from the great Oyo-Aztec Alliance. These gods, lying dormant within two unwitting teenagers known as The Keys, are to awaken only when the world – and the gods’ teenaged hosts – is ready.

YOU choose to be one of the two heroes of this highly unique and exciting gamebook: Jordan Drummond, college basketball phenomenon and math genius; or Theresa “Terry” De Fuego, self-proclaimed “extreme journalist.”

YOU battle the forces of evil and maybe even save the world!

YOU decide your destiny… for YOU are the Hero!

African YAThe Shadow Speaker, by Nnedi Okorafor. This novel opens in Saharan Africa in the year 2070, then takes its 14-year-old heroine on a quest in a world where magic, mysticism, and mind-blowing technology reign supreme.

Years after an act of bioterrorism on earth, its most dramatic effect, the opening of a border with the planet Ginen, has just materialized.

An untrained “shadow speaker,“ Muslim teen Ejii is compelled by otherworldly voices to help avert a war between the newly joined worlds.

Readers who appreciate invention will delight in Okorafor’s world building, especially the plant-based technology that allows mansions to spring from “abode seeds” and phone calls to be transmitted via gourds. Many will also embrace the novel’s complicated characters and the appearance of African and Muslim traditions in a fantasy setting.

African American YASlice of Cherry, by Dia Reeves. Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in the city of Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around.

It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities…

African American YANinth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Twelve-year-old Lanesha, an African-American girl who can talk to ghosts, lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane – Katrina – fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family – as only love can define it.