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In light of all of the drama after the Zimmerman verdict and talks about race & racism, I wanted to share my thoughts from my Facebook page today, because this philosophy is at the heart of my reasoning for writing my current epic fantasy series:
“I will say this – that the racists of America, of all colors, are starting to realize, that they don’t have as many allies in the general population as they thought or once had…I can feel it & it’s a great thing. Racism concerns me deeply because I want the best for us as human beings, and it’s inextricably bound to some economic problems we have. We cannot progress as a species until we learn that we’re more alike than we are different.”
And now here’s an excerpt from Book I of THE ELEMENTS (Chapter Six), Enjoy!
“Kgosi’s plan of attack is foolish,”
“What do you mean? The Lungi prophesy says that the Kishnu will begin to follow the Lungi way. My uncle is only pretending to fulfill this to take back our lands. He says their land belongs to our people and they drove us into the caves long ago – Ajuoga you have taught this yourself. It is a good plan,”
“Is it a good plan or is it foolish? There are gods – there are those before us. The Lungi believe this too. They say that their god gave a word that our people would come to him, after a war which the Lungi will win. Is this not the very thing Kgosi is doing? Does it matter that he does this with intent? He still does it Phenyo. There are better ways to have war than mocking a man’s god. We should let the Lungi be. Everything that we need is plentiful here, the land is good to us. We want for nothing. Kgosi is a fool of the worst kind – he spills the blood of our sons to show his power. His war is not with Nkosana, it is with the god of Nkosana. It would be better if he aimed his spear at the one whom he can see. Men are not suited for wars with the unseen,”
“That is why I want to lead a group of women there instead Ajuoga.I would like your blessing and a muthi for this journey,”
“You ask for my blessing and I will ask those before us for this, for you. You ask for my muthi and I will make a special one for you to drink. You will ask Kgosi to give this duty to you, and he will fill your ears with laughter,”
“I will show him that mine is a better way,”
“The women in Kishnuizwe have always been warriors in some form or another and you are the best – as good as most men and better than some, but Kgosi thinks too much of men Phenyo.Victory in war he preserves for men,”
“I want to ask the she-god myself …I believe she will give me the power to bend my uncle’s will to mine on this matter Ajuoga,”
“I have been waiting for you to ask for proof of the she-god Phenyo…so long have I waited for you to believe. Now you have at last asked to see her, though your asking comes wearing the cloak of disbelief,”
”If I did not believe there was a she-god -” Ajuoga stood and leaned over to touch Phenyo’s face and her hand felt for her nose then moved down to her lips. Using the tip of her thumb and the finger next to it she pulled a little at Phenyo’s lips and held them tightly, as if one more utterance would summon a known terror. Her next words were frightened, whispered caveats and she let go of Phenyo’s lips before she spoke them.
“No, No….No Phenyo! She gives us words only for truth. She does not protect those who use them for lies. You know this daughter. We speak only of what we do or will do or what is – never if I did or did not. There is a she-god or there is not!”
“There is,” said Phenyo, visibly startled
“I believe. I want to see her,” she continued. She may as well go along with it. Although Ajuoga seemed willing to show her the she-god, she had decided long ago, that no matter how obviously a figment of her mind, she would behave as though she were real. It was the respectful thing to do.
“Good! Now that you have asked you shall see daughter of mine. Will you lend me your eyes?…will you tell me what you see? I want to know of her face – again…the she-god. I want to know of her beauty! My eyes….my eyes….I only have eyes in my sleep! There was a time when my eyes could see…long ago…I was still a girl. The she-god came to me then but I did not believe! I saw her with my eyes and she took them with her when she left me Phenyo – she took my eyes! I refused to believe but I was only a girl. Will you be my eyes Phenyo? I want to see her face again!”
Ajuoga trembled as she rubbed her hands together. Her words rushed into one another in desperation then were slow, like a procession of beasts running with all their might, slowing down for a cliff ahead and slamming into one another’s flesh. For the first time Phenyo felt afraid in her company but reached for Ajuoga’s leathery face with courage and wiped away the tears with her fingers. Ajuoga seemed more like a stranger with remnants of familiarity to her now.
“Yes mother…from where will she come?”
“Shhh…only believe what you can see…daughter. Believe what you see,” Ajuoga stood slowly and spread her arms – the left one towards the ceiling and the other perpendicular to it. Though closed, her eyes shone a dull white through the lids and escaped between her lashes at the bottom, like rays of a partially eclipsed sun. The arch in her back straightened itself triumphantly against the rush of wind that flew into the dwelling, past Phenyo, then orbited both women. Ajuoga’s hair rose and fell as Phenyo’s neatly woven hair withstood the wind. Dust and small pieces of debris danced. Phenyo stood but wanted badly to abandon her flesh standing there, allowing herself to escape invisibly, unable to be followed or seen. Shiluba could be heard outside scurrying about and making high-pitched pleas. If the winds didn’t calm soon, the chimpanzee would seek comfort in the heights of the trees away from the izindlu.
“You are Phen-yo,”
“Yes…are you from those before us?”
“Phenyo…you are a fine woman indeed. I see why she loves you so,”
“You are the she-god?”
“What have you done with mother’s tongue?”
“She is here still – and has not been harmed,”
“What do you want of me?”
“I did not summon you Phenyo. What do you desire of me?”
“What is your name?”
“You wanted to know my name? How can a she-god help you?”
“I didn’t believe,”
“I know – she knows. I told her you would not believe until you could see,”
“Whose blood belongs to you?”
“No Phenyo, I am not an ancestor of the Kishnu, the Kishnu are of me,”
“Then you are -”
“Phenyo, do you believe?”
“Will you believe?”
Tags: Ajuoga, America, authors, books, Chiluba, chimpanzee, economics, epic fantasy, fantasy, fiction, God, Kgosi, Kishnu, Lungi, Nkosana, Phenyo, Philosophy, Race, Racism, species, Talitha McEachin, The Elements, TK McEachin, Trayvon Martin, verdict, war, wind, writers, writing, Zimmerman
I thoroughly enjoyed this list. Some things were news to me but most I know of & avoid like the plague in my own writing. This is from columnist Rob W. Hart on Lit Reactor. Writers pay attention:
We, as writers, are trained to kill clichéd phrases in sentences. But that’s not the only place they can hide—they can infect the spaces between the words, too.
Clichés can infect storytelling techniques.
Need to build some tension? Have a time bomb with a digital readout slowly ticking down to zero!
Is your narrator a dick? Blame it on abusive parents!
Want to get all writerly in conveying the plot? Put it in a dream!
These are storytelling devices that pop up again and again, crutches for the writer to lean on and help move the story along without actually having to stretch their abilities. What follows are, to my mind, the worst of the bunch.
1. Characters describing themselves in mirrors
Why it’s easy: Describing a character when you’re writing in the third person is pretty easy when the narrative voice is omniscient. But first person is a bit of a challenge—how do you convey what your character looks like without making them sound vain and self-obsessed? Wait, how about using a mirror!?
Why it’s a cop out: It’s lazy, it’s been done to death, and anyway, no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail. I would argue you don’t need to belabor the description of your main character anyway. You can hit the big points—if your character’s defining trait is a deformity or a hairstyle—there are ways to work that into the narrative. For the rest of if, you have to trust the reader. First that they don’t need to be coddled, and second, that they’ll project something onto the character.
2. Broadcasting an upcoming plot twist
Why it’s easy: Sometimes you need to give a little weight to a character who’s been sitting around and doing nothing, or make sure the reader is on his or her toes. What’s wrong at a little hint at things to come?
Why it’s a cop out: This is the “little did he know” principle of storytelling. In The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, toward the end of the book, the albino monk is captured by the story’s heroes. And it says—I’m paraphrasing here—something like: “Little did he know that he’d soon turn the tables.” Leading me to ask: Why would you broadcast a plot twist? Especially in a book that’s classified as a thriller?! Dan Brown isn’t the only author to commit this crime. It’s just the first example to come to me.
3. Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting
Why it’s easy: It’s hard to justify bad behavior. If your narrator is a dick, you still want him/her to be a redeemable dick, or at least someone damaged enough that their dickishness isn’t so far-fetched. You know what makes people into dicks that you can’t really question, you just have to accept? Bad parents!
Why it’s a cop out: Almost every fucked-up character in fiction can trace his or her issues back to being sexually abused or slapped around by parental units. Making the parents into monsters is an easy way to explain away bad behavior. It’s too easy. The thing is, sometimes this can be profound or deeply affecting. But a lot of the time, the bad parents are there for the sake of it. You know what’s scarier? Someone growing up in a normal household and still becoming a dick.
4. Too many inside jokes/references
Why it’s easy: Because you need to make sure everyone knows you watched The Big Lebowski.
Why it’s a cop out: Few things stop me as cold in a story as an inside joke or a belabored reference. We get it. You’re funny and you watch cool stuff. But I would need two hands and both feet to count the amount of times I’ve read references to rugs that tied the room together. Writing for your friends, or for your own ego, is a sure way to alienate a reader.
5. The chosen one
Why it’s easy: Your hero isn’t just special. He/she has been chosen by some higher force!
Why it’s a cop out: Characters can be special without being touched by the hand of fate. And anyway, if your character is the only person who can solve a given problem, does that make him/her heroic? Or just easily coerced? They have no choice but to be heroic, and that’s not really heroism. Very rarely is this trope used well. Most of the time… it’s not.
To continue reading this hilarious & informative piece, please click HERE!
Tags: authors, books, character, cliche, cliches, cliches in writing, fiction, Lit Reactor, literary devices, literature, plot, Rob Hart, Rob W Hart, stories, storytelling, TK McEachin, writers, writing
Toni Morrison once again makes history, this time as being the first author to host a digital book signing via Google Hangout. She is the author of novels such as The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Jazz and many others, including her newest book, Home. The award winning author has received such honors as the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature. Additionally, she is currently the last American to date, to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Ms. Morrison was live from the New York Google office to talk with fans about her latest novel, Home. Her latest novel tells the story of Frank Money, a 24-year-old African-American veteran of the Korean War, and his journey home a year after being discharged from an integrated Army, into a segregated homeland. A few lucky fans got the privilege of speaking directly with the author via live video streaming, asking a question they submit ahead of time, selected by Google. The questions were wonderful and her answers even better. I especially liked the question regarding banned books of hers. Ms. Morrison also literally digitally signed the e-books of those who joined her on the panel using the Google technology. It was a delight to see her & hear her poignant answers to questions. I look forward to seeing more authors using this technology via the Google Hangout. Here is the video (the event lasted only 23 minutes) if you missed it:
the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.;legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.
the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature. Compare contagious magic, imitative magic, sympathetic magic. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/magic?s=t
Human control of supernatural agencies or forces of nature…exactly what the Dragon Shield does for its bearers. If you’ve read my short stories A Tale of the Four Wizards, especially about the Wizard Kaempie, you know that the young conjurer gave up certain powers that he possessed to The Northern Winds as a sacrifice so that the wicked queen Hacatine, who had been seeking to strip him of his power, could not destroy the peoples of the Realm.
Say’s the young conjurer,
If I relinquish my magic to the one force that she cannot conquer, then she’ll never possess it. Never. It will always work against her. –Kaempie A Tale of the Four Wizards
The Wind, being a power of great good, used Kaempie’s contribution to create The Songs of Wisdom. It’s these songs that the children sing which activates the power of the Dragon Shield.
It’s not something the tribal people learn overnight. They must experience some tragic mistakes, sit down and listen to the elders, and accept their people’s tradition before they can take advantage of the benefits of this magic.
In the Dragon Shield, Ian finds himself in the midst of that learning curve, and he too becomes wiser for it.
Where did I get all this besides from my insanely busy imagination?
Well, I don’t really like to think about my stories as being allegories. But on the other hand, I’m a Christian and I believe in a loving Creator that gave mankind a redeeming power (his Son) that, when called on, can save him from any evil the devil (or the world) would thrust at us.
So the Songs of Wisdom and the melody of the Dragon Shield, which is sung by innocent children, creates an aura that keep darkness at bay, and has the power to heal.
Magic, yes. But it could, if you’re looking for it, speak of something more phenomenal.
The second installment of the Ian’s Realm Saga The Dragon Shield expounds on the magic of the Realm. For readers wanting to know more, the short stories The Dragon Shield shows us how the native people use that magic as a form of protection.
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