AND OTHER FANTASTIC BOOKS I’VE EDITED.
Except for Immortal and Immortal II, all cover art and design was done by Quinton Veal.
Good evening everyone! Tonight I continue my series “Fantastic Books…” with a spotlight on (drum roll) my own eight SF/fantasy books which I’ve written and edited. So without further adieu I present me! 🙂
Colony: Ascension: An Erotic Space Opera (excerpt)
She awoke with an impending sense of wrongness. The astronaut reached for her view-screen, intending to alert Leonardo. His voice, any human voice, would comfort her, soothe her panic. Her view-screen was gone.
Everything was gone, her food, valise, helmet, suit. . . She wasn’t in her tent anymore. With a strangled cry she sprang to her feet, her heart pounding against her rib cage. Allandra saw that her new room was without windows. Just four walls, and a door without a knob. Behind her was the platform she’d just risen from, with translucent blankets.
The door slid opened and It stepped inside. It was tall, muscular and had two eyes, hands, arms, legs and feet. And there all of the similarity between It and a human being ended. Its head was triangular. Its eyes were bulging and perfectly round with black pupils. And Its nose was a small slit above a puckered mouth that resembled that of a fish.
The skin above Its tan form-fitting suit, and that of Its hands, was black with orange and brown stripes and had a silky almost wet appearance. Each of one of Its twelve fingers had a suction cup at its tip.
It pressed a metal button on its breast and a bass, undeniably male timbre, floated toward her: “Hello, Lieutenant Allandra.”
That’s not his voice. He’s using a translator.
“I am Chotz. You are on Planet Tyria,” the being said quietly. “I’m sorry if we’ve caused you any distress. I know you have questions. You may ask them now, if you like.”
Allandra hadn’t expected this. She’d expected meetings between equals. Shaking hands.
Pleasantries between two species. Not being kidnapped and confined in a. . . Cell. “Where’s Leonardo?” Her voice came out in a squeak.
Chotz’s puckered lips turned up in a fey smile. “He’s in a room much like yours, not far from here.”
Another cell. “Can I see him?”
“That’s not such a good idea right now. We need to get you settled in,” he replied smoothly.
“We scanned your planet before we landed,” she blurted. “We toured the surface. Why didn’t we see you?”
Sci-Fi Sunday: Interview with Voyage of Dreams Fantasy/Sci-Fi Writer Valjeanne Jeffers (This interview was originally published by Graveyard Shift Sisters)
When I asked Valjeanne Jeffers which of her books is the best introduction to her work, she didn’t hesitate before she replied, Voyage of Dreams.
And after reading it, I agree.
Voyage of Dreams is a collection of shorts from Jeffers longer works, intended as teaser for readers to have a taste of the genres the author writes in. There is horror, there is steampunk, there is erotica, there is sci-fi…
Now I must disclose that “Voyage of Dreams” does not have complete stories. Don’t pick it up unless you’re ready to understand that these are excerpts—written book trailers, if you will. They will lure you in and give you the need to know what happens next. You will come to hate the words, “To be Continued” (if you don’t already) and want to purchase the full-length novels. If you prefer to have an entire story right up front, I suggest reading the excerpts from her work on her Amazon author page and choosing a tale.
Jeffers has an enviable way with creating multi-cultural characters that leap beyond stereotypes. Her descriptions and imagery wrap you into the storylines. For writers, we are always searching for the “hook” that snags the reader quickly and Jeffers has figured that out.
She also creates strong female characters and I can never have enough of those. In Awakening, she sets her sights on freeing Nandi, an young African girl from the societal and family pressures of playing the part of princess. Nandi finds her way to becoming the warrior she craves to be, but not without significant bloodshed.
My other favorites?
Colony: Ascension – Reads like sci-fi horrorotica. A young female astronaut desperate to find life outside of Earth finds answers as she wakes up a captive of an alien race.
Mona Livelong: ParanormalDetective – Bizarre murders, a serial killer that is able to continue his work after death, and a female detective from the country who is the city cops’ last resort to stopping a plot that may affect all of North America.
First off, thank you for this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.
I’m a mother, grandmother, artist, poet and (sometimes) a teacher. And I love speculative fiction. I love reading it and writing it. My style of writing has been described by Charles Saunders, my mentor and a writer I greatly admire, as a world in which “science and sorcery co-exist.” Another favorite author and good friend, Derrick Ferguson, has described it as “imaginatively experimental.”
Both Charles and Derrick have described my style to a tee. When I write, I draw from horror, fantasy, science fiction, and erotica. I have a mixed-media, or I guess you could say mixed-genre style of writing. So depending upon which one of my novels a reader picks up he or she might come away describing me as horror writer, steamfunk writer etc. Some of my books can be very frightening ―I’ve even scared myself a time or two. Which, I think, is pretty cool.
When did you start writing and what drew you specifically to horror?
I started writing as a young girl; although I took a long hiatus from writing fiction and didn’t return to it until I was in my forties. I’ve always been fascinated by horror stories and shows. I grew up watching Dark Shadows, The Twilight Zone, Dracula etc. And I was always particularly fascinated by the shape shifters―vampires, werewolves and such. I was never afraid of them, instead I was sympathetic. Here were otherworldly creatures who had their weirdness thrust upon them by a bite or a scratch. My sympathy was always tinged with something else: admiration. Shape shifters, from my viewpoint, had wonderful powers!
Years later, their supernatural proclivities were gifts to me as a writer. And I began to imagine what if…? What if immortal creatures with preternatural speed and strength could change at will and use their abilities to fight for their planet? To defend the world against corporate and demonic corruption? This is how my Immortal series was born.
What inspired you to write Voyage of Dreams? What is special about this collection of short stories and how does your heritage influence your storytelling?
Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of combining excerpts from my novels and short stories into a book for sometime now. I just recently finished writing my two newest novels, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera, so I had an excuse to take the plunge and do it. Excerpts from five of my novels: Mona Livelong, Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera (these two newest novels will be out sometime in July, 2014) Immortal, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and The Switch II: Clockwork are included. I also included four short stories: “Outcasts”, “Awakening”, “Mocha Faeryland”, “Grandmere’s Secret”. I really loved bringing my stories and excerpts together― and each one is so different.
For example, Immortal is an introduction to the first novel of my Immortal series. In Chapter I, “Specter”, the reader meets Karla and is instantly submersed in her world: An alternate universe in which horror and science fiction meet, with a little erotica thrown in for good measure. As I’ve said before I don’t shy away from sexuality. I don’t emphasize it either. It’s just a natural part of my storytelling, like it’s a natural part of life.
I also included an excerpt from Immortal III: Stealer of Souls as Stealer of Souls. In this excerpt, the reader is introduced to Annabelle, a seductive and dangerous vampire. But she isn’t like any of the vampires from the old lore and films. This is a radically different type of shape shifter―with heavy emphasis on the radical. In writing Immortal III, I really got in touch with my southern roots. Annabelle is a southern belle, and she is how I’ve always pictured the southern seductress: Black, beautiful, and deadly―especially to a man. But every character should have layers to their personality, so Annabelle is not one-dimensional. None of my characters are.
In Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, a steamfunk, horror novel (excerpt), readers are introduced to Mona Livelong, the newest character in my newest series. Mona is kind of a city-country-city character. She is gifted with preternatural powers, and she lives in a small southern town right up the road from a big city. I really went out of my way to scare readers. I had a ball doing it too!
In speaking of my heritage, I’m a southern Black woman: card carrying and proud of it. I’m also a child of the 1960s, one of most moving and turbulent eras this country has ever seen. All of this informs my writing. Although a southerner, I’ve lived all over America and met people from all walks of life. So, I’m writing out of the Black experience, but I also identify with other races. My readers will find folks of all colors within the pages of my stories. Oppression, and fighting against it, is something common to all of us. Love, joy, hate, desire, suffering―these too, are commonalities we all share and that finds its way into my writing as well.
For you, what makes a great horror tale? What do you like to read?
There is so much about life that is terrifying―more terrifying than anything an author can write. For me, since I’m an eternal optimist, I like to read books that take horrific circumstances and transform them into something characters can triumph over; books with really terrifying circumstances and victorious characters; books that show the human spirit as indomitable. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten,” (Neil Gaiman). I think this is very applicable to horror fiction as well. We all know that the monster in our closet is often real. What we need to know is that we can take him down.
What scares you?
I especially, like Black authors, like Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson, that take something familiar and transform it into something lethal. The Good House by Tananarive Due is the scariest book I’ve read to date. But I’m also a diehard Stephen King fan. I dig Dean Kootz too.
How can African American artists (actors, writers, filmmakers) succeed in horror and dark fantasy fiction circles? How can women? Do you feel your work has been received differently as a Black female author?
As African American artists, our job is to create the best product we can―be it books, film, or art, and then get it out there to our fans and readers. What I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t just write books (for example) we should write the best books we can―pour ourselves and our energy into them. Give the readers all you got and leave them wanting more. And then we have to market our products. As artists, we can’t wait for someone to do it for us. You have to build your own fan base. The job of female artists is no different from that of a man’s. No one is going to open any doors for us. We have to do it ourselves.
As a Black woman, I don’t think my work has been received much differently. But, I think sometimes guys―although not those in my inner circle, of course―may think that just because I’m a woman, I can’t deliver the hard-hitting battle and gory horror scenes that a man can. I actually had a male reader tell me as much at a conference. Nothing could be further from the truth. My male and female characters can swing a sword, take off a head, and mouth an incantation with the best of them. Author Charles Saunders (in his review of Immortal and Immortal II: “Immortality”) said that I can “snap a plot twist on par with the best of the thriller writers.” Author Milton Davis, has said (in his review of Immortal) that my “fight scenes are exciting and tense.” Recommendations don’t get any better than this!
What’s your next project?
As I mentioned above, I’m releasing two new novels in July 2014; Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera. Mona Livelong is a steamfunk horror novel set in 1970. However, Mona Livelong also takes place in “North America,” an alternate historical period in which steampunk/steamfunk reins supreme, this means muskets, gas lights and steam-powered cars, to name a few. Steamfunk is one of my favorite genres. And lots and lots of sorcery. There is actually a whole cast of characters that make their debut in Mona Livelong. I hope my readers will come to love them, as they’ve come to love the characters of my Immortal series.
With Colony: Ascension, I went way outside my comfort zone and tried something totally different. Colony: Ascension is hard science fiction, a space opera―and an erotic space opera at that. But, as with my other series, I created communities of characters that are dependent upon one another for their survival. Readers can preview the first chapters of Colony on Amazon and Smashwords.
How can regional and cultural horror become more mainstream and recognizable to the wider horror fan base?
Authors have to market their books. They have to find ways of getting them into libraries. (I’ve donated books to libraries in different cities.) They have to attend conferences and they have to use social networking. These methods are already working. Many indie authors in my circle, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade for example, are achieving national recognition. I recently attended the Octavia Butler Arts and Activism conference at Spelman College (in Atlanta, Georgia, which as organized by author Tananarive Due). More recently my name was mentioned, along with two very well known writers and Janelle Monáe, no less, as one of the artists influencedby Octavia Butler. I was heavily influenced by Octavia and consider her to be one of my literary mentors, although I never got a chance to meet her.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
I never have any problems coming up with ideas. But I can be a perfectionist. What this means for me is that I have to constantly remind myself that the first draft is the first draft. It’s not going to be perfect the first time I write it. A first draft is edited and re-edited until the final product is ready. This is a battle I seem to fight with every new novel.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read and edit other writers’ novels. I’m actually co-owner of Q & V Affordable Editing, a small company I started with my fabulous cover artist, Quinton Veal. I have to give a shout-out to Quinton, he’s done the artwork for all of my novels and short stories (except for Immortal I and II). He’s also very talented writer in his own right, and the author of four books.
Thank you for this interview, Valjeanne. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’d like to thank Eden Royce, horror writer extraordinaire, for interviewing me! I had a blast!
Preveiw or purchase books by Valjeanne Jeffers and Quinton Veal at www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month Everyone! Tonight, I continue my blog series Fantastic Books… with a spotlight on SF Author Alicia McCalla, in which she discusses her grandfather as the inspiration behind her first dystopian novel, Breaking Free.
But first here is my own review of Breaking Free, which I had the distinct pleasure of editing:
“As Red Death jammed the IV needle into his arm, betrayal pierced his soul. Dr. Gary Leonard Kates, founder of the Revolution against CAGE, was tied to a chair. He thought about his three, little granddaughters as the lethal serum pulsed through his veins. He refused to tell Red Death the code. He’d take the secret to his death.” ~ Alicia McCalla, Breaking Free
Breaking Free, by Alicia McCalla is a YA science fiction novel that tells the story of XJ Patterson, a Black teenager. The story follows XJ as she battles “Cage,” a sinister governmental agency that oppresses psychically-gifted people of color, and fights to save her mom, the revolutionary Dorthy Kates-Patterson.
With flashes of brilliance, Author McCalla highlights XJ’s discovery of love in the most unlikely of places, her reluctance to take on her mother’s fight and the growth of her own preternatural powers–making her a force to be reckoned with. Ms. McCalla does not shy away from depicting the racism and classism of the alternate world she’s created, a world eerily similar to our own, nor are her characters one dimensional. In fact, she even managed to make me feel sympathy for XJ’s teenage, arch-nemesis.
Breaking Free is a fast-paced read, complete with edge of your seat SF, action and humor. And XJ is a likeable and strong heroine that young folks can easily identify with–most especially young folks of color. I thoroughly enjoyed Breaking Free, and I give it an enthusiastic five stars!
(This interview was first published on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales)
When I was a little girl, my granddad made me feel like I was a princess. It was exciting to be the only grandchild for so many years. As I became an adult, I would regularly call my granddad to check-in and tell him about my life, adventures, and latest escapades.
When I would call, I’d play a game with him. I’d ask him if he knew who I was because I never wanted him to forget that I was his first grandchild. He would laugh and tell me that he could never forget me because I was unique and that he’d always remember me because of my voice. He said, “How can I forget that you are my first granddaughter?”
The last couple of years have been difficult. When I call, it’s hard for my grandfather to remember who I am. He knows my voice and knows that I’m important but he oftentimes can’t remember my name. He’s been diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
When I began writing BREAKING FREE, I knew that I had to include my grandfather in some way. In his youth, he showed quick wit, brilliance, and intelligence. My granddad was a trailblazer but more importantly he was cool. So it was natural for me to use him as the inspiration behind XJ’s holographic grandfather.
In BREAKING FREE, XJ’s grandfather chooses to commit suicide rather than allow CAGE to swipe his mind. He sacrifices himself for the revolutionary cause and copies his consciousness into a super computer. As a holographic image, sometimes his body becomes corporeal and sometimes his memories are degraded but he’s able to use his genius to help XJ become a revolutionary leader in her Genetically-Enhanced worlds.
BREAKING FREE tackles controversial issues such as race, class, same-sex relationships and gender but there is also this connection to my beautiful grandfather. Before my Grandfather completely succumbed to his Alzheimer’s, I sent him a copy of BREAKING FREE to read. He was so proud and excited to see my name on the cover and to read the story. Lately, I’m hoping that he’ll remember me, and I’m hoping that he’ll continue to be proud.
Alicia McCalla is a native of Detroit, Michigan, who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She works as a school librarian and enjoys traveling as well as spending time with her husband and son. Visit Alicia at: www.aliciamccalla.com to sign-up for e-updates, giveaways, and sneak peeks of her upcoming novels.
Contact Valjeanne Jeffers for editing: email@example.com
Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of eight science fiction/fantasy novels, and she has been published in numerous anthologies. Purchase her novels at http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com and Amazon
She is co-owner of http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com with poet and artist Quinton Veal. Contact Valjeanne for editing, and Quinton Veal for cover art at: firstname.lastname@example.org Their reasonable prices will shock and amaze you 🙂
This week I continue my blog series “Fantastic Books I’ve Edited” with a spotlight on Author and Editor Balogun Ojetade and his fantastic novel: Once Upon a Time in Afrika.
What I can I say about Once Upon a Time in Afrika? Read. This. Book. You’ll thank me later. Once Upon a Time in Afrika is a wildly imaginative ride full of rich, vibrant characters, sorcery, African mythology, and mad cool battle scenes. This is one of those novels that I wished (while editing) that I was curled upon a sofa with, instead of sitting in front of my pc. Of course that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. But then, Brother Balogun Ojetade is one of my favorite authors and he never fails to deliver.
So, without further fanfare I present an interview with Balogun Ojetade.
Q&A with Author Balogun Ojetade
Who is Balogun Ojetade?
He is an author; a father of eight children; a husband; a Steamfunkateer; a filmmaker; a screenwriter; an actor (sometimes); a master instructor of indigenous Afrikan martial arts; a creator of role-playing games and a traditional Afrikan priest. Oh…and he always spells “Afrikan” and “Afrika” with a “k”.
When did you first get into science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction?
When I was two years old – my sisters decided to conduct an experiment and see if they could teach their two year old brother to read by getting him hooked on comic books, starting with Thor, Superman, Beetle Bailey, Archie and the Fantastic Four. Their experiment worked and I have been in love with speculative and imaginative fiction ever since.
Tell us about Once Upon A Time In Afrika
Once Upon A Time in Afrika is my Sword and Soul novel. For a definition of Sword and Soul, I will quote the subgenre’s founder, the incomparable author, friend and Jegna (“mentor”), Charles R. Saunders: “Sword-and-soul is the name I’ve given to the type of fiction I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years. The best definition I can think of for the term is ‘African-inspired heroic fantasy’. Its roots are in sword-and-sorcery, but its scope is likely to expand as time passes.”
Here’s what Once Upon A Time In Afrika is about: Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” daughter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of the powerful empire of Oyo consults the Oracle, which tells him that Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who the greatest warrior is, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament, inviting warriors from all over the continent. Just a few of the warriors chosen are her lover, Akin, who enters the tournament in disguise, a wizard seeking to avenge the death of a loved one and a vicious dwarf with shark-like, iron teeth. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament, a powerful evil is headed their way and they will be forced to decide if they will band together against the evil, flee, or confront the evil as individuals.
Why are Science Fiction and Fantasy important to you?
I learned just how important Science Fiction and Fantasy is after spending several years as an English and Creative Writing teacher in the public and private sectors. In conversing with other English teachers, I often asked them if they taught creative writing in their classes. Most did not. One teacher told me that she tried “that creative writing stuff” with her students, but quickly gave up on it and returned to a more“practical syllabus.” Upon further investigation, I discovered that she believed creative writing – particularly Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy – to be something outside – and, indeed, beneath – the instruction of English.
Most educators of English / Language Arts focus on the mechanics of the subject – how to read and write, rules of grammar, use of verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns and nouns and sentence comprehension – without the context of why and how those mechanics are used by students to express themselves.
Yes, we need to teach the mechanics – how to hold a pen; how to read; how words work – but we should not confuse use of a thing with understanding of it. Training in the mechanics of writing produces writing technicians; however, it does not make you a writer. So, you know how to spell; you can answer questions on grammar; you can repeat someone else’s literary criticism of a text – you are a technician. You can fix my text as a garage mechanic can fix my car. The garage mechanic can’t design a car. They can’t improve a car. They can’t build one from scratch. They can only ever work on someone else’s car. This is why we – and our children – need to read and to write Science Fiction and Fantasy – so that our children do not only work on other people’s texts; they create and build their own. So they are not limited to just reading a story written by someone else and providing a report on it – they are out there in the field, experimenting with new stories and questioning old ones…if only for the reason that they can.
We need to teach our children to go out into the world to add to the pantheon of human creation and endeavor, not to dissect the words of long dead men. Science Fiction and Fantasy are best suited for that.
What type of research goes into bringing one of your stories to life?
Tons of research…on the history; on the setting; on the culture and belief system of the people I write about. If we are going to write Steampunk and our story is set during the Victorian Era (between 1837 and 1901) and we want to avoid the cultural appropriation so prevalent in Steampunk, then it is necessary that we know history; that we understand how the Age of Steam was, so that we can determine how it should have been.
If we cosplay a “Steampunk Squaw,” we should research how First Nation women lived during the Age of Steam; we should study First Nation cultures and choose in which nation we are going to gain historical and sociological expertise; we should research the word “squaw”, understand it is an offensive term to First Nation women and change the name…if you give a damn.
And that is what research is: giving a damn. So I do it…a lot.
Contact Valjeanne Jeffers for editing and cover art at email@example.com
She is co-owner of http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com with poet and artist Quinton Veal. Contact Valjeanne for editing, and/or cover art at: firstname.lastname@example.org her reasonable prices will shock and amaze you 🙂
PICK UP A COPY OF STEAMFUNK HERE
A witch, more machine than human, judges the character of the wicked and hands out justice in a ravaged Chicago. John Henry wields his mighty hammers in a war against machines and the undead. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman rule a country of freed slaves that rivals – and often bests – England and France in power and technology. You will find all this – and much more – between the pages of Steamfunk, an anthology of incredible stories by some of today’s greatest authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steamfunk …
For the next two months I’ll be featuring books I’ve had the pleasure of editing (i.e. copy editing) and interviews with the authors and editors of these fantastic books. This week I’m featuring Steamfunk! edited by Authors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade. Steamfunk! is an anthology that I had a ball editing! The stories are some of the most imaginative I’ve ever read, and what made my job even sweeter was that my own story The Switch (Part I of The Switch II: Clockwork) was included! So without further adieu, I present for your enjoyment an interview with Brother Milton Davis, one of the co-editors of Steamfunk!, who has been described as “the hardest working man in black speculative fiction today.”
Q&A With Author Milton Davis
(originally published by The SPEC FICTION HUB/Interviewer Marlon Edwards)
1. You are, in my opinion, one of the hardest working people in Black speculative fiction today. I’ll be honest; I’m awed by your output. Every time I look up, you have a new novel or anthology out, or you’re on a panel, or you’ve just completed a short story, or you have a new project on the go.
Now, a lot of people start projects, but you finish them. And people enjoy them.
How do you find the time? Are you one of those disciplined creatives who carve out the same block of time every day? Or do you create in small snatches, whenever you have a moment?
I’m pretty disciplined I guess. I write every morning for about a half an hour, then for an hour every evening. I’m not much of a television watcher so that leaves me plenty of time to write
2. I think I read you say somewhere that you started writing later in life. Was that due to work and family being first priority, or did someone or something inspire you to create stories?
Family and work were definitely a big part of it, but the main reason was that I didn’t find my passion to write until later in life. It was sparked by the research I did in the ‘90s on African history and it culminated with the forming of MVmedia in 2005. I decided that if I was ever going to do it it was time. So I did.
3. If Charles R. Saunders is the grandfather of the Sword and Soul, then you are the father of the sub-genre. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say you helped to revive it.
If I’m counting correctly (and correct me if I’m wrong), you have six Sword and Soul novels, including your Meji books and your Changa books. And those are just the novels where you are the sole author.
How did you first connect with Mr. Saunders, and what draws you to Sword and Soul?
I met Charles by pure chance. I didn’t discover Imaro until 2005 when it was re-released by Nightshade books. I had finished Meji and Changa by then and tried to reach out to him with no luck. Later while on Blacksuperhero.com one of the members, Richard Tyler, announced that Nightshade was no longer publishing Imaro and that he was taking over. I immediately contacted Richard, who immediately put me in touch with him. Charles was gracious and friendly from day one. He agreed to read Meji and told me he liked it, which of course made my year. We’ve been Sword and Soul brothers since.
I love Sword and Soul because it combines two of my favorites; history and fantasy. It’s where my writing passion is for now and will probably remain for a while yet.
4. I’m fascinated by writers who have distinguished, professional day jobs, like you. By trade, you’re a chemist. Do your professional experiences ever make their way into your work?
Not yet. They’re both creative processes, but until I write science fiction I think the two will remain separate.
5. Steampunk is one of those sub-genres that is fiercely protected. Some steampunks have a hard-and-fast definition of what steampunk is, and what time frame it encompasses. Anything outside of that they don’t consider part of the sub-genre.
A little more than a year ago, you and your editing partner, Balogun Ojetade, released an anthology called Steamfunk!. In doing so, you two created a sub-genre of a sub-genre. You also pissed some people off.
What is your definition of steamfunk, and why do you feel speculative literature needs this sub-genre?
Steamfunk is Steampunk that incorporates the culture and historical perspective of people of African descent. The truth to me is that Steampunk, like most genres, operates on the conditions that anyone can play as long as you play by my rules. You don’t have to look deep to see that the historical foundation of the genre is based on a time in history and an empire that was not very favorable to and for people of African descent, especially those within the empire. The concept of Steamfunk grew out of a conversation by fellow writers discussing this fact. The Steamfunk! Anthology was a result of this conversation.
I think this genre needs Steamfunk because it allows us to express what was unique to our culture during this time period in our own way. How it’s expressed depends on the writer. I tend to take the alternate history approach. To be honest both Balogun and I were writing Steamfunk/Steampunk before we knew there was a name for it. And there’s one truth that a lot of Steampunk folks are reluctant to admit while others happily acknowledge; Steamfunk has brought more people of African descent to the genre than Steampunk in its current form and has added a fresh perspective.
5. An interesting trend that has been happening for some years now is young, Black men and women who were born in the northern United States are moving to the South—often where their parents were born—especially, Atlanta.
As this has happened, Atlanta now has what’s become a thriving Black speculative fiction community. Is that fair to say, and if so, why do you think that is?
Although our Northern cousins have contributed to the growth of the Black speculative community in Atlanta, a large portion of it is home grown. I’m a good example; born in North Carolina and raised in Georgia. I think the growth of speculative fiction among young black men and women across the board is a generational thing and will continue to expand as time goes on. Atlanta has become a hub because we’ve made it so. We have an active, open community supported by a large number of speculative fiction conventions, most notably DragonCon. Atlanta has always been a city where the black community possesses a can do attitude and this same attitude exists among black speculative creators and fans here. We don’t wait for it to be done; we do it.
6. One of the things I admire about you is, not only do you collaborate with other writers and editors and artists, but you truly respect the collaboration.
I’m paraphrasing here, and I hope I don’t misrepresent your words, but I saw you post of Facebook once that, if you want a certain artist to do your novel cover or draw your character, and you can’t afford the artist, save your money until can. You seemed to be saying, ‘don’t settle for second best.’
Is that what you believe, and, in your experience, does financial compensation make the collaboration a healthier one?
One of my beliefs is that most publishers don’t put their best foot forward when it comes to developing projects geared toward black people. They don’t feel the investment will yield a good return because of the lingering misconception that black people don’t read. I promised myself that I would produce the highest quality product my money and skills were capable of, especially when it came to artwork. So I use the best artists I can afford and I pay them in a timely manner. There’s a lot of shortchanging that goes on in this industry so there’s a lot of mistrust on both sides. I’m straightforward with what I want and what I’ll pay for it; if I can’t afford it I won’t do the deal. The result is that I get to work with some great artists.
It’s always best to pay people for their work. The backend deal can work, but so many artists and writers have been ripped off in such situations that I feel it’s best to just do the deal up front unless the artist suggests otherwise.
7. Before we end this interview, I do want to thank you for setting aside some time in your busy schedule to answer my questions. I also want to give you the opportunity to tell us what projects you have coming up.
I know you’re working on a secret project (which I’m sure you can’t tell us about yet), but do you have novels or short stories or anthologies that will be published soon?
Right now I’m working on the paperback version of Changa’s Safari Volume Three, which will be available either late August or early September. After that I’m taking a break to catch my breath and plan for 2015. I do have one more project I’d like to complete before the end of the year but I’ll have to see how things pan out. I have big plans for next year; three anthologies as at least one novel. Two of the anthologies; The City and Dark Universe, are science fiction anthologies which will be a first for me. The third anthology is a continuation of the Griots series. Everything depends on sales. If things continue to grow as they have, I believe it will be doable.
Thank you for the opportunity. I hope I haven’t put anyone to sleep.
Contact Valjeanne Jeffers at email@example.com
Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of eight science fiction/fantasy novels, and she has been published in numerous anthologies. She is co-owner of http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com with poet and artist Quinton Veal. Contact Valjeanne for editing, and/or cover art at: firstname.lastname@example.org her reasonable prices will shock and amaze you 🙂
Table of Contents
Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective (excerpt)
Colony Ascension (excerpt)
The Switch (book I of The Switch II: Clockwork)
Stealer of Souls (Immortal III excerpt)
“The caretakers’ offices are on the ground floor.” Karla pointed to each of the four cubicles, two on both sides of the shuttered kitchen. Silver’s application had been accepted with only one dissenting vote. Hung Wai said he didn’t trust him. Now, Karla was giving Silver a tour of his new home.
She gestured to the flat screen mounted to a post in the center of the room. “On this console you can listen to music or watch net shows. If it’s after 11:00 o’clock, just keep the volume settings low.” The youth trudged alongside her, dragging a green knapsack.
Karla pointed to the bag. “Is that your stuff?”
Silver grinned, his teeth were surprising white and even. “Yeah. . .”
Boy, he’s got great looking teeth for a junkie. “Is it heavy?”
“Little bit, but I’m okay.”
She returned his smile. “We don’t have far to go.” They boarded the elevator and got off on the sixth floor. “Seventy-five residents share floors two through six. Every floor with living quarters has a pool table and a weight room, and there’s a library on the third floor.”
“CLEAN doesn’t have an in-house medical staff, but if you have an emergency we’ve got a 24 hour hotline that can be accessed using any console; and a panic button on every floor.” Karla pointed to the red button next to the elevator.
“Or you can tell one of our enforcers. They’re here round the clock.” She waved at the two golden-skinned Telphranes flanking the left wall and they nodded their bald heads in greeting.
“Come on, I’ll show you to your room.” Karla walked him to his cubicle: one among the fifteen, rectangular stalls that lined the floor; followed him inside and settled in one of the two armchairs, while he sat on the bed
She grinned, “Believe it or not, I’m almost finished. Breakfast is served between 9:00 and 10:00; lunch between 12:00 and 1:00. Meditation is at 10:30, and living sessions are from 2:30 to 4:30. Matt’s been assigned as your personal caretaker. During your first week, he’s available to you 24 hours a day.”
“The house rules are posted on every floor, but I’ll go over them because you can be evicted for breaking just one. No drugs allowed unless they’re prescribed. No visits to a resident’s cubicle unless you’re invited—this one’s really important because we’ve got male and female residents living here. You’re adults, we don’t care what you do, so long as it’s consensual and it’s not group sex. No rapes or orgies allowed.”
“No physical violence allowed either. If you’ve got a problem with one of your housemates, see your caretaker. That’s it,” Karla stood, “any questions?”
Silver shook his head. “Naw, I’m cool.”
“So you think you’re gonna like it here?”
He smiled shyly. “I think I’m gonna love it.”
Karla leaned down and hugged him. “Welcome to the family.”
Tehotep sprawled on the cushioned divan, one leg thrown over the couch arm, Red and black hued carpets were scattered over the hardwood floors. Black marble columns supported the ceilings. The warehouse was lit by oil burning lamps and scented candles, the walls, decorated with paintings of mortals coupling with daemons.
He eyed the six addicts lounging about the room: four sucking greedily on rush pipes, two others making love in the corner. For weeks, he’d been luring them here. They preferred his house to the dormitories —and even the nightspots. There were no rules here, no credits to worry about. They only had to remember that his commands were law.
Now they numbered 60. Soon, he would have hundreds. For a moment, he gazed feverishly at the two slaves and was sorely tempted to join them. No, it’s time for the ceremony.
Tehotep rose from the chair and spread his arms. Come to me. . .In moments, he was surrounded by his acolytes; surviving for weeks on a diet of little more than drugs, his slaves were emaciated. He wondered if they would all survive the transmogrification.
“Take off your clothing and go to the basement.” They glanced at each another fearfully. He’d threatened to kill them if they ever went into the basement. Now he was ordering them to break his own edict?
“Obey me now.” His voice would brook no refusal. They disrobed and in twos and threes began to board the elevator. When they’d all reached the ground floor, Tehotep appeared in the center of the room. The acolytes jumped then stared at him fearfully.
Yet another sorcerer’s trick to prove he wasn’t human.
But once they got a good look at the room, they were ready to bolt.
The cellar was bereft of furniture or windows and lit by four candles, one in each corner of the room. A huge, half circle had been etched into the floor and painted with a crimson substance that glowed eerily in the dim light. Those standing near the door started to back away, mumbling under their breath.
“If you try to leave, I will kill you where you stand!” His voice held them immobile.
“You!” He called a thin, trembling woman to him, and directed her to mold her body to the design. He ordered a second slave to lie beneath her, so that his fingertips touched her toes. One by one, at his command, they fitted their bodies to the diagram.
Tehotep stepped inside the fractured circle, raised his hands and began to chant: “Transformai edivai, transformai edivai…That which is whole, let it be broken, that which is pure, let it be defiled
. . .”
Ghostly shadows appeared along the walls, their voices merging with his. The chant grew to a roar. His acolytes began to scream. . .
Now available at: www.vjeffersandqveal.com
And smashwords: Voyage of Dreams
Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College and a member of The Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steamfunk novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books 1 and 2); and the nonfiction volume: The Story of Eve. An inteveiw with Valjeanne also appears in 60 Years of Black Women in Horror Fiction. She was a semi-finalist for the Rita Dove Poetry Award and The Switch (book I) was nominated for best eBook novella by the EFestival of Words.
Valjeanne’s poetry has been published in The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Drumvoices Revue, Revelry and Pembroke Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in Steamfunk!, Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction Volumes I and II, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear. An excerpt from The Story of Eve was also published in PurpleMag. She is also co-owner of Q and V Affordable editing.
Her two latest novels: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension will be released later this year. Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Contact Q & V Affordable Editing at:http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/
Valjeanne blogs regularly at: https://valjeanne.wordpress.com
She has a podcast as “Crystal Temptress” (with her co-host Quinton Veal as “Loyal Fang”)http://www.blogtalkradio.com/vjeffersandqveal
Check out her newest release: Voyage of Dreams, A collection of Otherwordly stories featuring her best works– including Mona Livelong (excerpt), Colony (excerpt), Grandmere’s Secret, Outcasts, Mocha Faeryland and more!
Herman Lowe had less than an hour to live. The District Attorney was wearing his best suspenders and
stove pipe pants. His Stetson hat and drink sat on the table before him and his date Marissa, a shapely woman half his
age, snuggled up next to him, his arm about her shoulders.
The Pretender was his getaway. A spot where no one knew him. Even better, it wasn’t a nightclub his wife or
her girlfriends frequented.
He kissed Marissa wetly on the lips and winked, “Be right back, sugar. I gotta pay my water bill,” scooted his
considerable girth out from behind the booth and sauntered to the gentlemen’s room.
Herman pushed the swinging door open into a restroom lit by oil lamps, and walked over to a stall. As he relieved himself, he reflected pleasantly over his last courtroom win. He’d managed to convince a jury that the accused, Sonny Peters, had swindled fifty folks out of their life savings with a bogus gold-mining investment scheme.
It was a difficult case. Over the years Sonny had used a plethora of different names and disguises. But Lowe’s barristers, under his tutelage, had pieced together Sonny’s paper trail and turned it into hard evidence.
Another victory. Ten years and I’ve only lost three cases. Could be Monterrey is ready for a Black mayor. Herman Lowe, Monterrey’s first Black District Attorney, was a man who believed in firsts.
He buttoned his fly, pulled the chain to flush the toilet, and walked across the bathroom to the basin to wash his hands. Lowe poured water from a vase into the washbasin, and picked up one of the towels beside it to dry his hands.
The door swung open. He looked up but saw no one. Herman glanced behind him, shrugged and finished drying his hands.
The temperature in the room dipped from seventy to forty degrees. Lowe suddenly felt a suffocating claustrophobia, as if he were being forced inside a coffin. He clutched the towel, breathing hard, his heart thumping. By now it was so cold he could see his exhaled breath. Footsteps echoed over the bathroom tiles, slow and measured. The stopped just beside him.
A plume of breath floated toward him. With a cry of terror, he bolted for the door.
A shadow blocked his path.
Lowe’s rich ebony skin had faded to a sickly gray. That was the first thought that came to the detective’s mind, as he stared down at the body. Curtis Dubois fingered the toothpick in his mouth. He was a heavy-set man, with skin the color of brown-sugar, close-cut hair, and dark eyes. He sported a mustache over his full lips, and his youthful face belied his thirty-two years. . .
Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective (excerpt), Voyage of Dreams
Copyright 2014, Valjeanne Jeffers all rights reserved
Cover art and design Quinton Veal
Voyage of Dreams is now available for pre-order at www.vjeffersandqveal.com