WRITING BLACK

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Recently, I read an article in Forbes that listed the top 12 highest paid authors of 2016 and I must admit that I was highly motivated after reading it. Now, before I get to the meat of my point, I want to make the disclaimer that as an author, I write for the love of it. It has been a passion of mine since middle school. In college, I double-majored in English and Journalism. I began penning my first book in 2009 and since then I have seven publications listed on Amazon. Like I said, it’s a passion of mine.

However, when I read the Forbes piece I was moved by several ideas. One, I was reminded that the art of writing was not dead. I also learned the dividends could be lucrative if one persevered through the pains of slowly building a large reader base while attempting to convince millions why their book is the next best thing to read. James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, and Jeff Kinney rounded off the top 3 of that list with Patterson bringing in $95 million at the top position. Rowling and Kinney tied for 2nd at $19 million. Yes, seeing those dollar signs can motivate anyone and I’ll be the first to admit that I would love to reach that type of success one day soon as an author. However, there was another factor about that list that stood out to me. Not one person was of color.

I’ve always been one for a challenge. Call it the athlete and competitor inside of me that never dies. However, this particular challenge has been a long fight. Gaining recognition in the literary world as a black writer is not a milestone that comes easy. A few names come to mind of those who were able to crack that glass ceiling. The likes of Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and of course Langston Hughes all became renowned, successful authors. They have also inspired me to become a voice for this generation. Though being a voice in this generation means being able to adapt with the ever-changing flow of current that moves with pop culture.

In addition, the literary writing world has universally been an industry where not too many black men have ventured. Collectively, writing literature has not been the strongest point culturally for black men; neither has reading literature. You don’t have to look too far beyond the reading test scores in secondary schools across our country to figure that out. You also don’t have to look too far to see that there is a significant correlation between both reading and writing. This is why I am even more eager to create books that would attract minority teens and young adults to read more often; essentially sparking more minorities to write as well. My books are not limited to the black culture only, because I write material that crosses color lines, but I have put the responsibility upon myself to create reading material that would draw the interests of the African-American community as well as those in other cultures.

Times have changed. Many teachers are finding it difficult to engage students in reading altogether because the material is outdated and students find it hard to relate to. Is Shakespeare still relevant? As an author with an appreciation for literature, I would say yes, but only to a certain degree. A lot of the literature that we read when I was in high school and college was culturally biased. The only time I didn’t see it that way was when I finally took an African-American Literature class when I was a sophomore at the University of Miami. Like other artistic genres, literature is classified culturally to a degree and maybe those color lines aren’t mentioned out loud as often for the sake of being “politically correct” or “diplomatic,” but they still exist. This brings us to another hurdle.

Black writers don’t generate the support from their own people as do other writers because collectively, again I say collectively, black children and teens are not pushed to read in their home environment at a young age as much as their counterparts. Therefore reading is not perceived as a highly valued luxury as it should be. In turn, when it comes to writing books in general, unless we’ve had the blessing of establishing a large fan base of readers most of us authors are needles in a haystack screaming to be recognized for our works. Now, couple that with being black and the odds are even more against you. The Black community is extremely relevant when it comes to pop culture; particularly when it comes to fashion, music, and cinema. Those are areas where a lot of our youth are spending a lot of their money, or parents’ money for that matter. Henceforth, the companies that are leading in those particular industries benefit from the support of blacks worldwide. Look at the demographic in the lines outside the shoe stores when a new pair of Jordans drop. Point being, if literature generated the same popularity as some of these other industries, many more of us black authors would be seeing a lot more success when it comes to selling books.

Like music, literature appeals to different tastes. Black authors can and have created works that transcend the color barriers, but not on the same scale as black musicians. The number of African-Americans that have become successful in music far outnumber the number of successful African-American authors. Also, we have to call a spade a spade, according to the trends of pop culture, music has a far more attractive draw than literature. The average teen and young adult will spend more time streaming new music rather than searching for the latest read on Amazon or browsing books in the local Barnes & Noble. African-Americans have found much more success in music than in literature. When you consider how many black musicians have benefited from top record sales compared to those who have benefited from top book sales, the gap is largely disproportionate.

I believe much of that gap is attributed to cultural preferences. In a synonymous fashion, Literature is to arts & entertainment as golf is to the world of sports. You don’t see a lot African Americans in the game of golf. There are a few and only one name is relevant when it comes to African-Americans in golf and even he hardly embraced his black roots. In addition, because writing literature is not a genre that is embraced largely by African-Americans in this generation, particularly African-American males, it is important for those of us who are black writers to really embrace the craft. We have to take every opportunity to become better writers by honing our skill set, tightening up our grammar, making sure our editing process is meticulous, and learning how to market to our niche markets. As a Black male author, I’m figuring out that I have to work twice as hard in this industry to become relevant. It is possible, but it is a difficult mountain to climb.

Ultimately, when I see the success of other Black authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roye Okupe who are climbing the ladder in the writing industry, it gives me hope that I can join their ranks and help literature become a revived trend in pop culture. However, it will take some innovation, reshaping, and great story telling to create that type of atmosphere in a genre that has been slowly declining in the black community. However, I have faith that is about to change real soon. My hopes are to write books that will simultaneously bring a larger appreciation of literature back to the African-American culture and draw the readership of other cultures as well. At the end of the day, if the product is good the majority of people will support it and appreciate it, regardless of creed or color. One Love.

#authorlife

 

About The Author:

Chayil Champion is a graduate of the University of Miami where he double-majored in English and Journalism while competing in football and track as a two-sport athlete. Champion is the author of multiple genres including, YA Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Christian Fiction, and non-fiction. His works include Affiliated, Going Pro, newly released Majesties of Canaan: The Goliath Project, and But He Said He Was a Christian.  Download his books digitally on your tablet or buy the hard copies at Amazon today!

NEW SPEEDSTER ADDS CULTURE TO SUPERHERO WORLD

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I am a comic book head to the tenth degree and I admit, even at 40 years of age, that 8 year-old boy inside of me comes out when DC or Marvel drops a superhero movie. Two of my favorite heroes were Flash (DC) and Quicksilver (Marvel) among a few others. These two drew me in because they had one thing that I was intrigued by when I was a child…speed.
Even to this day, I watch Flash every Tuesday on The CW and I love it. You can even imagine how excited I was when The Avengers: Age of Ultron featured Quicksilver as did X-Men: Days of Future Past. My football and track coaches always told me that “Speed Kills” and I always admired that cliché within the world of athletics and in the comics. When I began creating my first superhero novel, Majesties of Canaan: The Goliath Project (Release date-May 27th, 2016), I knew I wanted to add a speedster, but there were going to be a few adjustments.
For one, I wanted to add another dimension to my speedster character. I wanted him to be able to jump high, fight extremely well, carry a weapon, and I wanted him to be of color. A’ la Denin Harvick; a.k.a Slaycick (Slay-sick).
Color lines have never mattered much to me. As a half African-American, half Peurto Rican boy growing up outside of Chicago, I definitely had my bouts with racism. I’ve been called the ‘N’ word more times than I can count and have even been racially profiled by prejudiced police officers on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, none of that mattered to me when I watched superhero cartoons or read my favorite comic books. However, as a former collegiate track & field athlete, I couldn’t help but notice the paradox between the numerous gold medals won by black athletes over the years since the days of Jesse Owens and the fact that there weren’t any notable African-American speedsters in the superhero universe.
I wanted to change that. Slaycick is a British-Jamaican soldier who joins the Israeli army as the world is on the brink of war with an evil dictatorship movement that becomes a threat to the world and the nation of Israel. Prior to receiving his powers and name change, Denin Harvick was a world class sprinter who had his gold medals revoked after he was found to have used performance enhancing drugs. Once he fell from grace, he went into a deep depression, lost his home, his wife, and ended up on the streets as a wonderer.
His story is one of redemption, and readers will get his full origin story in book three of the M.O.C. series subtitled Slaycik’s Regret. When introduced in book one, Slaycick is a bold, laid-back, kick-butt and take names, soldier who goes all out for his team. He’s also a little bit comedic and arrogant, but I think the readers will love that about him. When Slaycick receives his superhuman gift, he runs at about Mach 5 (3,836 miles per hour) which is more than twice the speed of a bullet. Let’s see if he gets faster!
At the end of the day, there are no color lines when it comes to speed, but I just wanted to add a little melanin to speedster line up. Flash and Quicksilver will always be two of my favorites, but now I can add one more to that list. 😉
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POWER of 3: How Three Black Authors are Creating a Diverse, MultiCultural Superhero Universe

POWER OF 3 AUTHOR PROMO

The next few months are going to be critical for writers Keshawn Dodds, Chayil Champion, and Braxton Cosby. These three authors/novelists have written their own individual superhero stories under the new Dark Spores Novel series and will be bringing their heroic characters together in an upcoming collaboration titled “Infinity 7” to be released early in 2017.
Keshawn Dodds, author of Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince (available on Amazon) and the upcoming Menzuo: Legend of The Blue Diamond has already written several editions of the Menzuo series dating back to 2004. He constructed a newly edited edition of The Calling of ‘The Sun Prince’ in 2015 after being signed to Cosby Media Productions as an author. The Menzuo series centers around a young African-American teen named Jammal Hall, who finds out he’s from another planet and his presence on Earth has a destiny attached to it beyond what he can imagine. Menzuo: The Legend of the Blue Diamond is scheduled to drop Tuesday, May 24th. Though it is Dodds’ 2nd Menzuo book, it  will be Book 1 of the Dark Spores Novel series, followed by Chayil Champion’s “Majesties of Canaan: The Goliath Project” due to drop on Friday, May 27th 2016. Braxton Cosby’s “The Cape” will be released during 4th of July weekend in 2016.
“We’re all excited about this,” said Dodds. “We began planning this collaboration about two years ago but we wanted to establish the story lines in each book first, so people would become familiar with our characters.”
All three stories take place roughly around the year 2035, but in different locations. Champion’s Majesties of Canaan series begins in Israel and the story revolves around seven soldiers of different backgrounds and ethnicity who find themselves fighting on behalf of a future day Israel who is under attack by an evil dictatorship movement with plenty of unique and powerful enemies.
“I wanted to do something unique in terms of location and plot,” stated Champion. “So, to create a superhero story that takes place in Israel with seven soldiers of different ethnicities called to protect Israel, I thought ‘what could be more unique than that?’”
Book Three of the series will continue with Cosby’s “The Cape” before the three begin to merge their heroes and bridge storylines in the upcoming “Infinity 7” novel which the three authors will write in collaboration. The Cape opens up in a future Chicago, which has become a haven for some of the world’s most evil criminals. After an experiment goes wrong releasing a contagion in the atmosphere, several people begin taking on powerful abilities classifying them as Supernormals. Some use their powers for good, while others use their powers for bad.
There are many deep, underlying themes behind each of the novels, which readers will enjoy uncovering but Cosby, Dodds, and Champion are hoping that these novels will get people to meditate on several important premises.
Cosby is the founder and CEO of Cosby Media Productions (CMP). The company is the publisher of The Dark Spores book series among hundreds of other books. Cosby  feels that great writers know how to get the reader to embrace certain emotions while turning the pages of a good book.
“Good writers get people to think, feel, and sometimes even act on particular issues,” Cosby shared. “Our hero stories have plots that highlight justice, hope, perseverance, love, and faith. Yes, there are fight scenes and action scenes that will captivate the audience throughout the book, but there is also dialogue that will make you stop and ponder life for a moment too.”
“As an author you want your books to relate to everyone and that’s very hard to do,” admitted Dodds. “Nonetheless, people want authenticity; even in a fiction book. So I try to put those attributes into my characters so people can relate to them.”
Champion’s seven super soldiers in Majesties of Canaan, all boast different ethnic backgrounds and Champion says that creating the characters that way was intentional and reflects our need for unity.
“When the idea for Majesties entered my head back in 2011, I immediately envisioned four men and three women of different ethnic origins,” exclaimed Champion. “Gender equality and racial equality are major issues in our world today and I wanted to show the readers how people of different backgrounds and opposite sex could accomplish major feats if they work together and are focused on a common purpose; a common purpose that, in fact, blots out the color lines. That’s what Majesties does from the opening page.”
Even the storylines in each book draw on different elements that we deal with as people. Dodds’ Menzuo series has a cosmic, interstellar appeal to it as Jammal, himself, and many of the villains he battles, are all from different planets. Champion’s Majesties of Canaan has a lot of spiritual undertones to it. The lead character of the hero bunch, Peter Carmoni (a.k.a. Blessed) is a bit of a bible scholar who tries to lead his team with faith inspired actions and words; though he and his team pack a very powerful punch to say the least. Cosby’s The Cape builds its story foundation on a very scientific approach, which then turns into a battle of social will in choosing right or wrong. The three believe tying these very different plots into one story will be fun, exciting, and beneficial for all people.
“Our goal is to capture an audience of different people, of different ages, of different backgrounds, and both genders. We want everyone to be entertained and we want everyone to be empowered at the same time,” explained Cosby.
The three authors are also hoping that these novels will help increase literacy across the world. All three play a major role in education today. Champion, a former English teacher and vice principal, knows the importance of getting students to read something they enjoy and can relate to.
“As for our students, we have a culture that is changing drastically and quickly. That’s not necessarily bad,” said Champion. “However, we have to be able to keep up with the times and shifts in culture. As an author, that means writing and influencing pop culture with material they can associate with in a positive manner, but you also want to challenge their psyche and make sure they’re learning something in the process. It’s no secret. The more your read, the better reader you become. We’re looking to create books that our teens and young adults can’t put down. If this is the case, it will lead to better literacy gains all around.”
Dodds often dresses up as the Menzuo character himself when he visits schools, boys and girls’ clubs, and YMCA’s. While visiting the students he encourages them to read more often and to make morally sound decisions as they journey through life.
Cosby, who also doubles as a licensed physical therapist and an author, visits his daughters’ schools regularly as a partner to their reading programs. During visits, Cosby meets with classes in the media center and reads to students from books he has written as well as books written by other authors.
Though the three are collaborating for the Infinity 7 launch, each one will continue to keep us entertained with ongoing story lines from each of their own individual book series. Dodds is hoping that upcoming books in the Dark Spores Novel series become a major staple in the literary world.
“I’m most excited about working with two great authors who I consider brothers. Plus, I think this will be historic having three authors coming together to make a vision come to life. This will be epic and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Ultimately, these three authors recognize their roles…and just as most superheroes, Cosby, Dodds, and Champion are looking to change the world for the better.
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