This collection of horror stories does not disappoint. Black Magic Women showcases scary short stories by women of color, starring black women in roles we’ve not seen before. From unexpected vampire love stories to women serial killers, ghosts to werewolves, cursed dolls to living, morphing skin, you’ll love every story in this collection. Eighteen stories, each one riveting until the end. Who says short stories can’t be as entertaining, striking, engaging and frightening as a novella or novel? These stories beg to differ (and to be read). The Killer Queen was my favorite. Which one will be your favorite?
Yeine Arameri is a young girl from a far-off land within The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that is thrust into political war between her two cousins simply because her mother was a former heir to the kingdom, who turned her back on the throne. What should have been her mother’s position-and problem-to deal with is now hers. Her cousins want to kill her because she exists and is therefore a threat to them and their right to be heir to the throne. If Yeine can survive the first 24 hours in her new home, she just might live long enough to be killed when it is actually time to give up her life. You just have to read this wild-ride fantasy to see what I mean.
In a land where billions of people live alongside everyday magic and gods, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is a breathtakingly fresh take on fantasies. The word-building is rich and seamless intertwined with magic, gods, technology and political intrigue. A gem of a read.
For anyone with a love of comics, graphic novels and webcomics produced by Black, African American and African artists, writers and illustrators, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena C. Howard is an amazing trove of knowledge and insight. The information is thorough, well written and packed with history of where and when Black artists and writers began making comics, many times without acknowledgement of the publishing community.
With names familiar and unfamiliar, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics list entries alphabetically by last name, along with birth and death dates, colleges and universities attended, what their talents are/were and their comics and titles.
Examples of entries are: Dawud Anyabwile, co-creator of Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline; Jabaar L. Brown, founder of Underground Comixxx; Mat Johnson, author of Incognegro; Ajuan Mance, author of 1001 Black Men; and Jackie Ormes, "creator of Torchy Brown, and the first published female African American cartoonist."
Whether you love comics, graphic novels and webcomics, have an interest in them or even just a curiosity, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics will satisfy your level of interest and more. The graphics and illustrations don’t disappoint either.
A unique take on the graphic novel, Infinitum by Tim Fielder, is a stunning masterwork of science fiction. A hardcover book with clear and detailed graphics (one panel per page), Infinitum follows the never-ending life of Aja Oba, a king and legend of a man. It begins in his kingdom in Africa, where he longs for an heir, but his Queen is unable to bear children. Knowing that he has a child with one of his lovers, he takes the child from his mother, even as she begs Aja Oba not to. For this act, the lover curses Aja Oba. His fate, he can never truly die.
An outstanding leader and military strategist, Aja Oba is cursed to live a continuous life throughout the ages of humankind. His travels take him from Africa to the new world during the slave passage, to several world wars and into the vast future of humanity. Over the centuries, he watches his lovers and children die, while he is cursed to continue living. The artwork is stunning, the story captivating and Aja Oba intriguing to the end…of his life? You’ll have to read to find out. I highly recommend it.
Black Star by Eric Anthony Glover is a fantastic, action-packed ride about a future Earth. Brilliant scientist, Harper North, and a crew are sent on a mission to find a rare flower that will aid in medical treatment. However, the planet they travel to is hostile: the temperature and environment can change in an instant. Of course, there are challenges: the ship they are on is hit before landing and two crew members die; North escapes the ship but leaves one crew member, still alive but trapped in her lifepod on a burning ship, behind.
Samantha Parrish, the crew member left behind, escapes the burning ship and comes after North. Parrish is an expert at survival and races against time and North to get to the one-person shuttle pod that can escape the planet and return to Earth, hopefully with the rare flower they were sent to retrieve. The battle is on between scientist and survivalist--who will escape and who will be left behind.
Black Star is a wild, fast read with incredible graphics, fast-paced story telling and realistic emotional ups-and-downs along the way. A well-written tale of survival against the elements and against your fellow human. In tough and dark situations, the real inner human comes out.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is a mind-bending fantasy that grabs you from page one. In a post-apocalyptic Africa, fear runs rampant: fear of invaders and fear of those who don’t look like the rest of the population. It touches on things that are real and happen even now in African nations; sometimes it’s very raw and graphic, but it maintains its truth about the terrible things that happen to girls throughout Africa today.
The title character, Onyesonwu, is an Ewu, someone who is seen as evil and shunned just because of the way they look. Onyesonwu is also a sorceress, but she won’t learn this until her middle years. When she learns she can do things that others cannot, she wants to learn more. Onyesonwu knows of someone who can teach her the things she longs to know; his name is Aro. But there is one main reason Aro refuses over and over again to teach her the mystic ways—Onyesonwu is a girl.
Once their arguments and battles over that fact are finished, Aro at last decides to teach her. Then, from Aro’s teacher, both Aro and Onyesonwu learn that she is to fulfill a prophecy—to correct the wrongs done by the Nuru people and to kill the one who rules them all.
The dynamic writing by Okorafor pulls you in to this fantasy world, with real-world touches, and stuns in the spell-binding writing on how the sorcery works in this post-apocalyptic world. A fascinating read.
This month, we’re taking a look at another reference book to help us with our craft. The Screenwriter’s Bible (I read the 5th Edition) by David Trottier is an absolute must for anyone looking to write and sell a screenplay or TV script. When it says on the cover, “A Complete guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script,” it delivers on its promise. Even though I mostly write fiction novels, you should see how many sticky notes I have tagged on pages throughout my book. I would recommend this to anyone who writes; there are several elements that apply to other forms of writing as well.
The Screenwriter’s Bible is divided into Books, from I to VI. It begins with “How to Write a Screenplay: A Primer” discussing “How stories work” going through discussions on concept, plot, character creation, theme, dialogue, and scene-making. And that is just Book I. Book II covers, “7 Steps to a Stunning Script: A Workbook,” allowing you to create a screenplay concept and write down your thoughts and outline, helping you develop your story thoroughly from Act I to finish.
Book III is, “Proper Formatting Technique: A Style Guide.” Mr. Trottier doesn’t mince words here, if you want to get your screenplay past the initial screener, it has to be formatted correctly or it won’t get looked at. Period. He offers sample scripts for you to follow, “Formatting in a nutshell,” to each part of the screenplay—what they’re called and how they should be formatted on the page. Book IV, “Writing and Revising Your Breakthrough Script: A Script Consultant’s View,” gives you insight into breaking into the industry and “key principals and exercises in revising scenes,” so your work stands out along with your formatting.
Book V informs on “How to Sell Your Script: A Marketing Plan.” It goes over everything from selling your work, protecting your work, preparing your script for the market, creating a marketing plan, how to find an agent, “How to pitch without striking out,” and even “How to sell your script without an agent,” and so much more. The last part, Book VI is, “Resources and Index,” with a link to updates on the Bible’s latest editions, industry organizations, writers’ organizations, schools, software, directories and more. The index is thoroughly organized, so if you’re looking for something specific, it’s easy to find.
If you’re serious about scriptwriting and breaking into Hollywood, this is your guide to getting your screenplay or TV script past the front door. Read it, follow the guidelines, do the workbook and you’ll have a knock-out story concept and correctly formatted script that with luck and perseverance will get your script seen where others don’t get past the front door.
(As mentioned, I read the 5th edition, so if there are later additions, they can only have even more helpful information for you, staying on top of an ever-changing industry.)
Wakanda forever! What an amazing collection of short stories about the technologically advanced, spiritually laden land of Wakanda. Award-winning authors from the African diaspora contribute their own visionary tales of the Black Panther and his homeland. Eighteen short stories touch on various aspects of the marvelous country: from tales of past kings/Black Panthers to the regal, warrior-class of the Dora Milaje; from the technological genius sister of the latest Black Panther to the troubled upbringing of Killmonger. There is something for everyone in this heavy, wonder-filled volume.
A few of my favorites are And I Shall See the Sun Rise, Ukubamba, and The Underside of Darkness. Survival tales of the queen of Wakanda, child-kidnapping tales even in this hidden country, spies and traitors, as well as visits to a burgeoning country called America and its days of slavery, all are here in this one magnificent volume. Each tale grabs hold of you, mind, body and spirit and sets you down deep in the rich history of Wakanda.
Grab your copy of this ground-breaking anthology by Marvel—Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda, edited by Jesse J. Holland. You won’t be disappointed.
A plot-driven tale, Kurzhon The Life-Taker is about a lone warrior who doesn’t bat an eye at taking a life, if it pleases him and his warrior god. Kurzhon resides in a land with elves, sorcery and plenty of sword-and-axe action. A cold-hearted person with a cold and hard past childhood, Kurzhon cares for only one thing—well, two things, but you’ll have to read the tale to find out—battle, with plenty of bloodshed. Traveling the continental land of Straifa, he has a goal to rule the land entirely and bring back the warrior ways he was trained in. But first, he must find a wizard named Zakariah, who has somehow placed a mark on Kurzhon, which our warrior does not like one bit. He is at no one’s beck-and-call and desires to kill this wizard for marking him, once the mark is removed, of course.
Kurzhon’s travels take him through several stops before getting to the land of Resslayke, where the wizard resides, and to the king who wants to strike a deal with Kurzhon, the last warrior of Vultaika. Along the way, the Life-Taker fulfills his title, killing those who challenge him, get in his way without cause or do wrong in his eyes.
Although the characters don’t have much depth, the story moves along at a good pace. If you’re into battles and bloodshed, this story will suit your tastes well. Be aware, it is for mature readers. The ending lacked closure for me, but the Epilogue promises a future tale in this warrior’s story. I feel we haven’t heard the last of Kurzhon The Life-Taker.
I read an advanced copy, so the cover is not final. Check your favorite online bookstores to see when Kurzhon The Life-Taker is available for sale.
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