Bass Reeves-Frontier Marshal Vol. IV

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS

Presents

BASS REEVES FRONTIER MARSHAL Vol 4

Airship 27 Productions is excited to announce the release of “Bass Reeves – Frontier Marshal Vol. 4”

There was no greater lawman in the Old West than Unites States Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves. For thirty years, Reeves rode throughout the untamed Territories under the famous Hanging Judge Isaac Parker out of Fort Smith. In that time he captured well over three thousand outlaws and survived several deadly gun battles.

Writers Ron Fortier, Derrick Ferguson, Terry Alexander and Mel Odom offer up four brand new, action packed adventures of the legendary Bass Reeves. In these stories the Marshal will employ all his wilderness skills to deal with some of the most brutal, cold blooded killers on the frontier. While at the same time protecting the innocent whom he has sworn to serve.

“In this volume, we really put Bass Reeves through some challenging times,” confesses Ron Fortier, Airship 27 Managing Editor and one of the volume’s contributors. “From dealing with renegade outlaws, to vengeful Indians, Marshall Reeves has his handful both staying alive and bringing the bad guys & gals to justice. This is the Wild West where death can come from anywhere at any time.”

In all the annals of American history there was never a finer lawman than Bass Reeves, Frontier Marshal. So saddle up pilgrims and get ready for some rip-roaring action.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Derrick Ferguson Contemplates A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET

It never fails to amaze me how I can read a book and come away from the book thinking and/or feeling about it one way and then read that same book years later and come away with a totally different feeling. Maybe it was just the mood I’ve been in the last couple of days. I’ve been kinda of introspective and contemplative as I usually tend to get when the year winds down and while arraigning books in my bookcase, I took down Bill Friday’s A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET and on pure compulsion, read it.

First off, you have to understand that when it comes to poetry my appreciation of the art form begins and ends with Dr. Seuss. I simply never developed what I consider to be a proper appreciation of poetry so I never blame the poet if I don’t get the poetry.

But I’ve always liked Bill’s poetry as it has such a dark, witty sarcasm that greatly appeals to me and I liked A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET well enough when I first read it back in 2016 that I wrote a blurb for the book. But I’m a different Derrick Ferguson today from the one who read the book four years ago and a whole lot has changed for me emotionally and I suppose that’s why many of the poems in Bill’s remarkably intimate book have a whole new meaning for me as I caught myself time and time again, re-reading some of them two or even three times.

I have always admired Bill for his ability to be so concise in expressing such raw emotion so succinctly and conveying complex feelings with a deceptive simplicity that is also deeply profound. It’s not easy to do and my respects to Bill for being skillful and talented enough to do so.

The first time I read A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET it made me think. When I re-read it a few days ago, it made me feel. And in a subtle way, despite the angst and darkness in many of the poems, there’s also a lot of hope and wonder in them as well. In a very strange and unexpected way, A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET was a book I didn’t even know I needed to read but I’m glad I did.

Get you a copy of A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET here

All American Sports Stories Vol. II

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS

Presents

ALL AMERICAN SPORTS STORIES Vol 2

Airship 27 is excited to present three new pulp tales that shine a light on American sports.

Each displays the inherent drama and personal sacrifices required when any man or woman pits their strength of will to accomplish their goals.

“Next to religion, nothing contributes more to the American way of life than sport.”

 Jock McKenzie, award winning New Hampshire sports reporter and radio personality. 1925-2013

BROOKLYN BEATDOWN – Derrick Ferguson – Levi “Dancer” Kimbro faces his greatest challenge in the ring vs the savage Deathblow Ballantine. This time it’s personal.

BASEBALL IN DECEMBER – Dexter Fabi – A young rookie player is mentored by an old pro and together they experiences the longest record season in the game’s history.

THE KICKER – Ron Fortier – Returning Vietnam veteran Lucas Brown must over come a tragic disability to recapture his dreams of gridiron glory.

Here are three dramatic stories detailing the excitement, thrills, beauty and drama that is American Sports as told by today’s New Pulp scribes. Artist Adam Shaw provides the powerful cover and Art Director Rob Davis the twelve interior illustrations. The clock is ticking, the game is on the line and only the best will triumph.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon in paperback and soon on Kindle.

(https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946183962?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860)

Shadows Over Cymande: The Complete First Season

Now that I’ve got the first season of Shadows Over Cymande done with, I suppose it’s as good as time as any for me to try and explain what I’m doing with this series, where it’s going and how it came to be in the first place.

Why did it start? Well, if you’ve been a Patron of mine for a while and before that you know my work from my Frontier period then you know how dedicated I am to presenting online serialized fiction. I don’t know why that is and someday I’m going to have to sit down and try to figure it out for myself but I’ve been committed to telling serialized stories ever since I first discovered The Internet. I spent a lot of years in DC/Marvel fan fiction writing serialized stories about my favorite superheroes and I enjoyed it immensely. Fan fiction was a good way for me to keep the creative juices flowing when I got stuck on a piece of original fiction. And since I considered it highly unlikely that either DC or Marvel was going to come knocking on my door and offer me a job, it was a fun way to tell the superhero stories I always wanted to read. I also made a lot of good friends. Many of whom I still work with and socialize with to this day.

So, when I started up this Patreon thing, I naturally intended to use it as a way to tell serialized stories that in some ways would be me experimenting with storytelling in a way I thought would be more entertaining that just presenting it as a novel.

Of course, there’s the whole ethical angle of me experimenting on your dime when I’m supposed to be entertaining you but we’ll put that to the side for awhile.

Shadows Over Cymande was born out of my love of Soap Operas, believe it or not. I grew up during the 1970s and 1980s when Soap Operas were the primary daytime television entertainment. And for a time there, we even had nighttime Soap Operas such as “Dallas” “Falcon Crest” and the wildly successful “Dynasty”. The daytime Soap Operas are almost all gone, now. I think only two or three are still hanging in there, including “General Hospital” which was one of the daytime Soap Operas that is a huge influence on Shadows Over Cymande

There was a period during the 1980s where “General Hospital” was the craziest, most batshit insane pulp action adventure cliffhanger serial you ever saw. Luke and Laura Charles (played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis) along with superspy Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and ace reporter Jackie Templeton (played with a ruthless kind of feistiness by Demi Moore. Yes, that Demi Moore) ran around the city of Port Charles getting embroiled in wild adventures that came straight out of comic books and 1940s Saturday cliffhangers, culminating into the classic “Ice Princess” storyline which saw our heroes battling the wealthy yet insane Cassidine family bent on world domination who had at their disposal a weather machine they intended to use to freeze the Earth if they didn’t get their way. Believe me when I say that for a few years there, “General Hospital” was unlike any other Soap Opera on daytime TV what with its mad scientists, secret societies, hidden cities within cities, ruthless crime bosses, fights, captures, chases, explosions and fates worse than death. And mind you, this was every day.

In fact, the show was so popular it attracted a whole lot of really world renowned actors and actress who showed up either in cameos or small supporting roles. Culminating in a genuine Film Icon, Elizabeth Taylor herself appearing as Helena Cassidine, matriarch of The Cassidine Clan looking for revenge against Luke and Laura for foiling her husband’s plans to freeze the world.

And then there’s “Dark Shadows” It started out as a Gothic melodrama and didn’t really take off until a year after it’s debut when Jonathan Frid took center stage as the vampire Barnabas Collins. It didn’t take long after that until we also had werewolves, witches, warlocks, zombies and all sorts of monsters running around Collinsport. And if that wasn’t enough, the writers threw in concepts such as parallel universes and time travel. “Dark Shadows” even flirted with Lovecraftian themes with the “Leviathans” storyline, heavily influenced and inspired by Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos.” And just like “General Hospital” this batshit insanity was on the tube five days a week.

In fact, the first scene of Episode One of Shadows Over Cymande is intended as a homage to the first scene of the first episode of “Dark Shadows” which has the heroine Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) arriving by train to the mysterious town of Collinsport, located in Maine. My heroine Alexandrea Ainsley similarly arrives by train to the mysterious city of Cymande in South Carolina. 

And on top of that, for years I’ve been taking notes about ideas for a series of novels involving two African-American families of great wealth, power and influence with lineage going back to the Civil War and their rivalry from the days of slavery to the 21st Century. I envisioned it as a John Jakes type of multi-generational epic series of novels. But after a few years I realized that this was a genre I simply wasn’t hardwired to write. For one thing, it would take tons of research and quite frankly, I’d rather be writing than doing research. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for writers who can spend years doing pure research before writing Word One but I’m not that breed of writer.

But somewhere along the line I got the bright idea that maybe I could smoosh all of these ideas/concepts together and come up with something halfway readable. Judging by the fact I have not as yet gotten an email from my patrons demanding to know What Is This Shit? and Can I Have My Money Back? I guess I’m safe for the time being.

So why not call the first twelve episodes Book One instead of Season One? Mainly because unlike the other serials that are running here, I currently have no plans as yet to publish Shadows Over Cymande as a novel. It’s going to be running here exclusively on my Patreon for a good long while. And if I think of each twelve-episode arc as a Season that will enable me to build certain storylines organically and manage the huge cast of characters much better. So far, I’ve got five Seasons planned. But that could change and it could go longer. Or something else could happen and I end it sooner. These days I like to be extremely loose with my writing plans. Makes me feel less constrained.

So, we’ve met most of our main and supporting characters in Season One and been introduced to the Redfern and Jalmari families. The Redferns are deep into highly advanced technology that almost seems…well, alien or magical in nature while the Jalmaris have connection to…Something Else.

(Cue ominous music)

Even though we now know who killed Carol Baylor and Walter Pinckney, there’s still a lot about the why they were killed that still has to be uncovered. As well as the words the unconscious Carole said to Isaiah Jalmari. And what happened to Sheriff Mark Francis? Why did David Redfern just suddenly disappear? Why was he spying on his family? Why does Cab Westminster have a retro secret office straight out the 1950’s in his basement and why is he typing up reports on everything that happens in Cymande?

I promise I won’t be stringing out these mysteries for long. But the thing about writing something like this is that for every mystery that’s solved, it seems to give birth to two more that need to be solved.

If you’re at all curious as to what this is all about then just bounce on over to my Patreon site. Shadows Over Cymande: The Complete Season 1 is available in both Epub and Mobi formats I hope this has enhanced your understanding and hopefully enjoyment of Shadows Over Cymande. And if not, let me know and I’ll take another whack at it and we’ll see where we’re at.

You can find my Patreon site HERE and besides Shadows Over Cymande there’s plenty of other goodness such as Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde and One Night In Denbrook to enjoy if you’re so inclined to part with a couple bucks a month to check it out.

My Thanks to Perry Constantine for his technical assistance in preparing the ebook version and his most excellent cover design.

And as always, Thank You for your time, your patronage, your interest and support in my work and may God continue to bless you and yours. Stay safe and be good to yourself and others.

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…BERTRAM GIBBS

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been three long years since we did this last so we have to do this obligatory bit of business for the people that came in late. So here we go: Who Is Bertram Gibbs?

Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, writer, brutally sarcastic curmudgeon, cinema, television, and comic book historian, purveyor of true crime stories, collector of oddities. 

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS it is that you do for your cheese and crackers? 

BG: While I am always saying/reminding people I’m from the Bronx, New York, I live in Lynn, Massachusetts.  I do issue the warning that I have constructed an electrified moat around my home (oft referred to as ‘The Psychedelic Shack’) and is guarded by a bevy of attack gerbils.  That’s on top of my rescue pup and three cats. Regarding the felines, one is a spastic germaphobe, one constantly retreats to the basement to work on her thermo-nuclear device, and the last one sits calmly, staring and plotting the demise of us all.

DF: One of the things that intrigued me about you right from the start is your background so yes, I’m gonna make you tell the folks at home about it. Proceed.

BG: OH, C’MON!!!

My rapier wit, my brutal sarcasm (re-mentioned in case the readers skipped over the first part), my near-encyclopedic knowledge of films, my love of comic books, and my cinematic writing style which lets the readers ‘see’ the story they’re reading.  But originally, we crossed paths when I was writing for Curtis Fernlund’s Justice League fan fiction site where he was great and righteous enough to publish a novel I wrote (that DC/Warner wouldn’t) in monthly installments (The Return of BWAH-HAH-HA, for those who came in late).  It was a team-up story with a lot of cameos from the DC heroes’ roster.  I decided to let Plastic Man, The Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Booster Gold go after Lex Luthor, using their combined powers of annoyance.  This was done in the 80s period where super heroism was mixed with outlandish comedy.  I tried to do all the characters justice and threw a few comedic moments that the DC writers didn’t come up with.

DF: How long have you been writing?

BG: YEESH!  If you want photographic proof of when I started, there’s a pic of me at 4 years old, frowning in front of a typewriter (I’ve aged of course, but the frowning rictus remains the same).  If you asked Ma, she would say it was about the time I learned to read on my own; which was at 3.  Ma had read me comics since I was aware enough to question the bubbles above the superheroes.  One day, after a bedtime story, I complained (yeah; I’ve been doing that since birth) that I didn’t like the story.  She said, ‘So, go write one!’  Been writing ever since.

Ma was my biggest fan and harshest critic.  I would sit in my room, writing in longhand, finish the dozen or so pages and pass it to her for review.  She would sit in her chair, a cup of tea on the ever-present folding TV tray next to her chair, going over page after page until she was done.  One of two things would happen: Ma would either tell me she liked it, commenting on the plot, the story structure, the characters, then give a few tips on how I could improve it.  Or, she would lock eyes with me, take a sip of tea, then tear the sheets of paper in half, then in haves again, telling me why the story didn’t work, if it seemed like I used a known character or one from something else I wrote, or if it was crap to begin with, then proceed in telling me why she felt it was crap.  All the while smiling under her dark eyes and speaking in her soft Lauren Bacall voice.  Which could also go full New York with a Jewish twang.

True, the latter could be ego-blitzing, but living in a sarcastic environment, where the digs flew like a flock of insane geese, it thickened my skin.  And helped me deal with rejection.

Quick Ma story showing her caustic remarks weren’t just meant for the family: She had to go through a parents/teacher’s night and each one (there were eight in total) said that I was attentive, had my homework down, always willing to help out, polite, always had my hand raised with an answer, and things like that.  Ma got bored of hearing the stings of praise by the third teacher.  The last one said basically the same thing as the others, except she added, ‘When Bertram was born, they broke the mold!’  Ma said in her dangerous monotone, ‘And to make sure there were no duplicates, we backed a truck over the pieces.’

DF: In the three years since we last did this, have you found an audience for Bertram Gibbs or have they found you?

BG: A little bit of each.  I’ve been passing my stories around to different people; professionals and John Q Public.  The civilians really like them; so did some of the professionals, but not enough to publish them because they did not fit into a particular literary niche.  And because my stories read like a film instead of a book, the few professionals who responded felt they were off-putting because I did not adhere to a particular format.

Between the end of last year all the way into the Spring, a filmmaker asked to do a film adaptation of The First Thing We Do.  Because I lack the talent to do screenwriting, the gent happily took on that task.  What came from that was very disconcerting.

He had merged one or two characters, changed the gender on one, removed key murders, altered the motivation of the villain, as well as the ending, and because the story revolves around my two NYPD Homicide detectives, Desmond Fine and Frank Costa, versus them being equals, he tried to make one the older, senior detective and the other the newbie on the force.  That caused a bit of a back and forth brouhaha between us because I explained – repeatedly – that a pairing of that type was an overused film trope that went back to Kirk Douglas’ ‘The Detective’. 

Then it occurred to me that even if he changed the characters and the events from the book for a film, it did not change what I wrote in any way.  I decided to allow him to make whatever changes he wanted to (within reason) because if/when the film came out, it would turn people towards the book.  The readers would see what as written versus what they saw and determine which was done better.

End result: he couldn’t get the funding to get the production off the ground.  That equally saddened and overjoyed me.  Sure, I was disappointed, but felt that if the book was in the right hands, and the time was right, a film would be made based on my story and characters one day.

DF: The world has changed in extraordinary ways in the past three years. How has it affected your writing? Has it affected it at all?

BG: If anything, the dark paranoia and tenuous nature of the world; especially 2020, has spurred my imagination.  Part of my work has more of a cynical edge, and part has more humanity running through it.  Many I know are going through anger issues, anxiety attacks and increasing bouts of worry and depression.  But they are what they are and even as bad or horrific as they are – in my mind – they’re only temporary.  We have gone through troubling times and have gotten over them.  WW1, WW2, the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars. The assassination of both Kennedys, King, Malcom.  9-11. The Oklahoma bombing.  Waco. School shootings, mass murders. The murders of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and others. And on.  And on.  Ad infinitum.  I am old enough to remember them all.  That said, I am fully aware of the social and political unrest that appears on the news every other minute, but throughout it all, I am hopeful.  We, as humanity, have come out of each one a little more cynical, but – for the most part – on the better side.  Maybe not as complete as we’d like it, but they’re stages in our being.  It’s an understanding that we, as a society, are broken.  And we’ve known this all along, but now and once again we have to face the shattered pieces and fix it.

Which is why I write.  I create worlds where this; our reality, doesn’t exist.  And if it does, it does in a somewhat different way.  Despite the dark, weird and otherworldliness of my stories, there’s a degree of hope at the end.  And if there isn’t, the ‘bad guy’ gets their due.  Either way, I like to see my stories as a distraction to our day to day.  Something to take your mind away, if only for a few minutes.  To give you a moment of peace so you’re not dwelling on what’s going on around you.

DF: Whenever I recommend your work to anybody I always tell them to start with THE FIRST THING WE DO… is that fair of me?

Some months back, I would have said yes, but these days, no.  To clarify that answer, I have to tell you a story, and we all know that stories are a part of life.

When I first met my publisher, the company published ‘Reflections From the Abyss’.  Because of my aversion to sequels and feeling that if you can tell a story the way you want it, it should be a one-and-done.  That is how I wrote ‘Reflections’.  The publisher demanded a follow-up story and because the book had a finite ending, there was no logical way to create a ‘next chapter’.  But the requests continued and my imagination led me to think in a cinematic way.  Like in films, you could do a prequel; a story that happened before the story.  So, using my detectives, Desmond Fine and Frank Costa, I came up with an earlier case that became ‘The First Thing We Do’.  After that was published, the kinks in the fabric started to show.

Seeing that how I ended ‘First’ did not refer chronologically to how ‘Reflections’ began, I knew I had to write a bridging piece that tied both works together.  That story is called ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’.  At the same time, the publisher began to make very drastic changes in how their author’s work was to be published (marketing, the cost of book covers – which had to be from their house artist -, editing, the actual publishing, and how the nut fell into the author’s lap).  While I debated each point, a friend – who is a big fan of my detectives – pushed me to write another book with Fine and Costa.  Again, ‘Reflections’ had such a finite ending, it really couldn’t be done without stretching the reality I created.  In short, ‘Reflections From the Abyss’, while being published first, is actually the third in the series, and ‘The First Thing We Do’, is the first story while ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’ is the second.  I can send you a stack of 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back if you’re confused by this point. 

Then thanks to my watching the ‘Forensic Files’ show, I figured out how to do a follow-up story to ‘Reflections’ and keep the reality, well, real.

Suddenly, the head of the publishing company became ill and subsequently passed away.  The person who took over started sending a battery of emails, reassuring the authors that their work would not go unattended.  They were followed by more emails that invited the authors to submit more work, requesting said authors to invite new and unpublished authors to join, and adding a new price structure that seemed legit if you were willing to hock your mother’s respirator to get your work published through them. 

Warning: When a publisher sends you an email filled with spelling and grammatical errors, moonwalk the hell out of there.

So, I did a test:  I sent a copy of the bridging story that was purposefully quite graphic in violence, profane past the point of shock value and purposely filled with spelling and continuity errors.  I expected that these glaring points would be mentioned and a request for a rewrite would follow.  What I received was a contract to publish it, filled with said new and improved pricing structures and detailed sections on what they would not do to push the book; which was just about everything.  I requested the full rights of ‘Reflection’ and ‘First’ and ended my relationship with the publisher.

So, because both books are out of print, you may find them online somewhere, but will have to pay a hefty price for them.  But no worries; as the Joker said, ‘It’s all part of the plan’.

DF: Tell us about NO WORD OF A LIE.

‘No Word of A Lie’ is Stage One in my nefarious plot for world domination.  The book has 14 short (and in some cases, not-so-short) stories covering different genres.  Science fiction, modern fantasy, satire, straight drama, realistic horror, comedic; all stories that I feel everyone will enjoy.  Taken from the Amazon site:

‘A man dies and finds Heaven is not as perfect as advertised.  Two friends and how a long-hidden secret change everything.  What goes on in a self-help group.  A man who is stalked by himself.  A 40s private eye works to solve the case of an impossible murder in modern-day Hollywood.  A serial killer is forced to take a hard look at his misdeeds.  The ultimate workout program.  A man finds out how far he will go to change his life.

These stories and more.

As you turn each page, you’ll find No Word of A Lie.’

At this point, the book is only available in Kindle format.  Maybe as time moves forward, I will include a paperback edition.  But, as it stands now, you have a collection that is a little over 500 pages for $3.04 a pop, so versus adding a luggage rack to lug the thing around in to your cart, I think you’re getting a pretty decent bargain. 

DF: What other pots you got boiling on the stove?

BG: Now that I am publishing my work through Amazon, I intend to re-publish my crime thrillers in book order.  In a short time, you’ll have a slightly revamped and updated ‘The First Thing We Do’, ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’, ‘Reflection From the Abyss’ and the other dozen or so books I’ve written that follow.

I will also be publishing another mystery, outside of the Fine and Costa pieces, called ‘Split Decisions’, and my irreverent take on the superhero genre, called ‘The Collector’.  There’s also a second book of shorts in the making.

DF: What’s A Typical Day In The Life of Bertram Gibbs like?

BG: Since the fun of COVID-19, I’ve been working from home.  I get up around 5:15, have my coffee and alternate between watching the news and a show I have on DVR (presently, it’s the first season of Star Trek: Discovery).  Then around 6:20, I do a moderate workout with weights, then assist my wife in getting ready for her day at the office (she does not work remotely).  Then I begin my job in credit and collections.  Insert 16-ounce mugs of coffee through the day.  Because I have my work laptop on the same long desk as the home computer, I roll in my chair from computer to computer, office-working on one while writing or noodling on a story on the other.  So, if a camera was filming me, it would be like watching a tennis match with me rolling from one end of the desk to the other.  I tend to do my stories on weekdays so I can devote my time to hanging out with my wife in the evenings and weekends.  Of course, there will be moments when my brain returns to a story and I go to add a line or page or two.  My wife is my inspiration; my muse, and she thankfully understands when I get that glazed look in my eyes (outside of my generally glazed look) and skips to the office to go back to a story.  Or begin a new one.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m hoping, as all writers do, that No Word of A Lie is a springboard to being able to write fulltime.  A bum can dream.  Writing is the best thing I do.  Legally, anywho . . .

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should or need to know?

Bertram Gibbs: There are probably some odds and sods I could add, but they’d probably bore you to tears (I know it does me).  So, I will leave it to your readers to ask whatever question they feel the need to ask.  I will respond, but will warn you to expect a modicum of sarcasm in my answers.  As Ma has said, my level of sarcasm could power a third-world country.

NO WORD OF A LIE is now available on Amazon. All you got to do is bounce over to HERE

And Bertram is a really entertaining guy to hang out with. Why not slide on over to his Facebook page and make friends?

40 Odd Things About Me…

1. Do you put ketchup on hot dogs? No.
2. Choice of soda? Coca-Cola
3. Do you put salt on watermelon? I don’t eat watermelon
4. Can you swim? Like a dolphin.
5. Hot dogs or burgers? Cheeseburgers
7. Do you believe in ghosts? Yes.
8. What do you drink in the morning? Hydrate with plenty of lemon water then a gallon of coffee.
9. Can you do 100 push ups? Even when I could do 100 push-ups, I didn’t.
10. Favorite season: Summer.
11. Your favorite animal? Elephants
12. Tattoos? None.
13. Do you wear glasses? Yes.
14. Do you have a phobia? Is fear of your dreams considered a phobia? Is so, yes.
15. Do you have a nickname? When I was a kid my family nickname was “Booga.” As an adult, most everybody calls me ‘D’ or ‘Fergie.” My wife Patricia even calls me ‘Ferg’ 75% of the time.
16. Ever been arrested? Twice.
17. Do you remember your first kiss? Absolutely.
18. Rain or Snow? Rain
19. Can you change a tire? Yes.
20. Favorite flower? I don’t have one.
21. Can you drive a stick? No.
22. Ever gone sky diving? No.
23. Kids? None that I know of.
24. Favorite color? Red and/or Black
25. Favorite actor? Pam Grier.
26. Can you whistle? No.
27. Where were you born? Brooklyn, NY
28. Surgeries? Tonsils and adenoids when I was a kid.
29. Favorite smell? Freshly baked cornbread and fresh cut grass.
30. Shower or bath? Shower. Who’s got time for a bath?
31. Last Song You Heard? Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It”: The Jellybean Benitez Remix.
32. Broken bones? None, yet.
33. How many TV’s in your home? 3
34. Worst pain? Toothache.
35. Do you like to sing? Yes, but I do it in private as I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
36. Are your parents still alive? My mother is.
37. Do you like camping? Nope. Did it once. That was enough.
38. What do you binge watch? You mean currently? I’ve been into The Classics in recent months: “The Office” “Seinfeld” “The Bob Newhart Show” “The Simpsons” and I’ve recently discovered how hilariously deranged “Bob’s Burgers” is.
39. Pumpkin or pecan pie? Neither. Apple or sweet potato
40. If you feel so inclined, feel free to play along with a photo of yourself.

Charles Saunders (1946-2020)

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve heard of Charles Saunders passing away. In those couple of days I’ve had a few well meaning people ask me if I were going to write something in reference to his passing and while I fully understood why they would ask me that, I also didn’t feel as if it was my place to do so. And here’s why:

There’s this psychological pattern commonly known as “imposter syndrome” where an individual constantly doubts their talents and refuses to believe that they deserve their success, popularity or achievements. They fully expect to one day be exposed as a fraud and live in fear of the day that happens. You find it a lot among writers. Oh, yah…a whole lot of writers, trust me.

My imposter syndrome manifests in me through my relationship with a number of professional writers that thanks through the Internet I have met, worked with, met in person and even become friends with. The very notion that these accomplished men and women whose writings I have read and enjoyed for many years that treat me as a fellow professional still blows my mind and I often feel that somehow, I’ve tricked them into thinking I’m far more intelligent and talented than I actually am.

Which brings me to Charles Saunders. When people asked me if was I going to write something about Charles, I felt that Ron Fortier, whose friendship with him goes back to the 1970s and Milton Davis, who worked quite closely with Charles in recent years were more qualified to speak about Charles and that I would be stepping on toes by being presumptuous in claiming a relationship that wasn’t there.

But after talking with my wife Patricia and re-reading some of the letters Charles wrote me, I realized that there indeed was a relationship Charles and I had for a long time even though we had never met in person. I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am without Charles Saunders. Don’t get me wrong…I would still have been a writer. It’s what I’m hardwired to be. But it was Charles Saunders that expanded my notion of what a black writer could write about. He, along with Octavia Butler, Chester Himes, Ishmael Reed, Samuel R. Delany and Langston Hughes helped me to have the courage to write what I wanted to write, instead of what I was “supposed” to write or what I “should” be writing.

I discovered IMARO sometime during the 1980s when I spent a lot of time on weekends hanging out in Manhattan’s used bookstores. At that time, I was hip deep in Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber and the sight of a Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery paperback with a black hero on the cover was enough to drive all the air out of my body. I bought the book on the spot, asked the guy behind the counter if he had any more books like that. He gave me that; “Get outta here, man,” look and so I took the book home and during that weekend read it two times. Next weekend I read it two more times. It was that much of a revelation to me.

You have to understand that I didn’t get much encouragement from black folks as to the stuff I liked to write. Even other black writers didn’t have much respect or liking for my pulp influenced action adventures or Science Fiction or Sword and Sorcery. “That’s stuff for white people” I would be told or, “You need to write books that will educate. Our kids don’t need that.”

So when I found Charles Saunders it was akin to Indiana Jones finding the Ark of The Covenant. Here was proof that what I liked to write could be published. I could write what I liked to write and it would find an audience. As this was pre-Internet I had no way of knowing the setbacks and indignities Charles himself had to struggle with and like most visionaries he was not accepted or appreciated the way he should have been because he truly was ahead of his time. He is now known as the Father of Sword and Soul, but man, did it take him a long time for that acknowledgment. It’s not an easy thing to be the founder of a genre. But that’s what it means to be a trailblazer, leading the way for others to follow. Quite often, it’s the scout that returns to the wagon train with a lotta arrows in his back. But because he went on ahead and found a way, the wagon train gets to where it’s going. And all of us who have loved Charles for the characters he created and the stories he told are still on that wagon train, because it’s not the destination. It’s never the destination. It’s the path you create and the journey you take, the pushing of boundaries further and further out so that the ones following you know where to go because you made that road easier.

Charles Saunders expressed an appreciation and enjoyment of my work that still sustains me when I hit those days when the words struggle to flow the way they should. I consider myself blessed that for a time we exchanged letters and communicated not just as writers but I also hope with all my heart, as friends.

Thank you, Charles.

From the “Chadwick Forever: A Stepping Off Point” File by Sean E. Ali

“Is this your king?”

Stick a pin in that, I’ll get back to it.

During the promotional tour for BLACK PANTHER, Chadwick Boseman was asked if he had directly experienced the social impact of the film, and did it affect how he approached the role. At this point in his life, Boseman had already been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and was privately undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy to combat it. Without revealing that, here’s how he answered the question…

“There are 2 little kids–Ian and Taylor–who recently passed from cancer. And, throughout our filming, I was communicating with them, knowing that they were both terminal. What they said to me, and their parents, is they’re trying to hold on till this movie comes. To a certain degree, you hear them say that and you’re like: ‘Whew. Wow. I’ve got to get up and go to the gym. I’ve got to get up and go to work. I’ve got to learn these lines. I’ve got to work on this accent.’

“To a certain degree, it’s a humbling experience because you’re like ‘This can’t mean that much to them.’ But, seeing how the world has taken this on, seeing how the movement, how it’s taken a life of its own, I realized that they anticipated something great. I think back now to [being] a kid and just waiting for Christmas to come, waiting for my birthday to come, waiting for a toy that I was going to get a chance to experience, or a video game…I did live life waiting for those moments. So, it put me back in the mind of being a kid, just to experience those 2 little boys’ anticipation of this movie. And, when I found out that they…”

Boseman suddenly seemed to feel the full weight of the experience and was unable to continue, because the end of that remembrance is that Ian and Taylor were unable to hold on until the film’s completion. They, despite this relationship they had built, passed away before BLACK PANTHER was finished. Boseman breaks down in tears and eventually he had to excuse himself from the discussion, leaving his cast mates and director to finish up that particular part of the junket.

But the clip, which I posted below is powerful because that man and that vulnerability is an insight into who Chadwick Boseman was. It’s an openness that was rare for him, but it was also very telling about the man’s conviction to carry on. And through this story and countless visits to other children like Ian and Taylor Boseman never let on that there was a deeper meaning to him, a need to not only fight for his own life, but to also be there to comfort the generations that would follow him.

If you watch the man behind the roles, Chadwick Boseman comes across as a man of purpose, passion and conviction. He lived his life unlike most entertainers with a certain sense of obligation and responsibility to not just achieve but to exceed expectations, to create and portray characters on the shoulders of those that sacrificed and fought the battles on the behalf of future generations like his who would pick up the torch and carry it. During an address at Howard University in 2018 as their commencement keynote speaker, Boseman recalled how he, as a student at Howard at the time, had encountered The Greatest – Muhammad Ali as he was crossing a courtyard. Ali who was in the last years of his life, but still every bit of the man and legend he was, locked in on Boseman and assumed a sparring stance. For a few moments Boseman had the unique honor of trading a couple of light jabs with The Champ before Ali’s security and assistants moved the legend along to whatever point in history they were headed to next. Boseman recalled that he left “floating like a butterfly”. For Boseman, the encounter was one he told the students he would have to draw upon later.

He spoke to them of how he was impacted by teachers and actors and the unique chances and opportunities he got as he was raised on the shoulders of those that came before him. How he left Howard and found almost immediate success landing roles and rapidly climbing to his first real TV acting job on a soap opera he doesn’t name where he found himself cast as a character some would say was stereotypical: A young, but angry, man who is directionless but eventually attracted to a gang and their lifestyle. Boseman relates how he was “troubled” about the part and, after a couple of episodes in the can, was invited up as he was filming the third one by the producers who wanted to share their satisfaction with his work and put forth the offer to let them know if there was any concerns or needs on his part because they were looking for a long run with him. So he questioned some of the motivations of his character by asking for background info. The first question was where was the character’s father?

By the time he’d gotten to the second question dealing with why was the character’s mother deemed unfit which led to his character and the character’s brother going into foster care, they were re-reading his resume like they’d missed something. The meeting ended amicably enough, he went back on set and finished shooting for the day…

…and he was let go the following day.

He used his own doubts and questions of that event and how the reality of losing that job gave him a reputation as “difficult to work with”. I’ve been there myself. I’ve got a doozy of a story about my first graphics job which lasted about 14 hours total. So I get exactly how he must’ve felt.

What I enjoyed about watching that address is the appreciation he got eventually for standing by his convictions and questioning the role despite the outcome. Given the people he went on to play and the heights of his career, he made what would become a solid call. What brought him back to himself was his encounter with Ali. The few moments The Champ had called upon his past to recall the fighter he always was even in fun in those few glancing jabs. What he concluded was that in a sense Ali was giving him a gift – a transference of the fighter’s spirit that Ali called upon so often in victory and defeat to face impossible odds and rise above in victory or fall in defeat with the promise to not quit and get back on your feet so you can get back in the fight. If you take time for it, the address is an inspiring half hour and delivered with a sense of awareness, passion and urgency to be up and doing. To not just represent, but also respond.

And if you find another two or three minutes, as I did, check out Boseman’s tribute to Denzel Washington at the latter’s API Lifetime Achievement Award celebration. Boseman’s being in awe of Denzel along with the gratitude given to one of the greatest actors of his generation by his direct contribution to Boseman’s Howard and acting experience that allowed him to study and act in Britain. His praise and earnest appreciation moved a usually stoic Denzel to tears and a standing ovation that you could see was genuine because he was blown away by Boseman’s sincerity as he said there would be no BLACK PANTHER if it wasn’t for Denzel responding to the call to raise the next generation.

People often look at folks who lionize the passing of an entertainer saying they do not rate the level of attention given them. That it’s celebrity worshipping and shouldn’t be voiced or encouraged. In some cases that is generally true. You mark their passing say it’s a shame and move on.

But Chadwick Boseman isn’t one of those. Go look at his body of work, the icons he played, the roles where he would not allow content to be compromised for fame’s sake. For embodying all of the lessons learned at Howard, the values from his upbringing in his family, his humility gained through failure and success, his respect for the past, his passion for the present, his responsibility to the future, and a sense of urgency bought about by knowing his time was short so his actions had to matter.

“Is this your king?”

You better believe he was.

And, in a very real sense, always will be simply because he was trying to be the best man he could be. We could learn a lot from his example.

“Everybody is the hero in their own story. You should be the hero in your own story.”

And that’s who Chadwick Boseman was at the end of the day: the hero of his own story.

And for a time or two, he even saved the world to boot.

While it was sudden to us, it was his time. I hope he finds the veldt King T’Challa spoke of when he said…

“In my culture, death is not the end. It’s more of a stepping off point. You reach out with both hands and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into the green veldt where you can run forever.”

He will be missed for much more than BLACK PANTHER, but he leaves behind a brief but impressive legacy.

And consider it a stepping off point to pick up the torch and carry it forward.

And I wish him a Peaceful Journey.

Chadwick Forever.

And the clips I mentioned above can be found below…

Be good to yourselves and each other.