Guest Post from Elwin Cotman – exciting young author.

Elwin read his previous collection, The Jack Daniels Sessions to our writers group. His new book – Hard Times – is out and his book launch is at Pegasus bookstore in Berkeley later this week. Elwin has a uniques way of writing, but his voice when reading is amazing. Well worth an evening.

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Back to Reality

1To the bearer of the sandbag: slide back two steps for every one you gain, because the levee does not give ground easily.

2Leper steps, needles pricking his calves and thighs.

3His life measured in steps of ten, one after the other, then again.

4Behind the rifle aimed at his cheek: a hairy face plastered with three stripes of black hair and his

5Eyes like the heads of rusted nails, lips drawn back from broken teeth.

6The deputy kept as close to him as a brother, his curses swallowed by the storm.

7Or maybe he had lost his voice and moved his mouth in hateful habit.

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The above excerpt is from “The Revelation of John,” a story in my new collection Hard Times Blues. It deals with the Flood of ’27, when terrible storms devastated the Mississippi delta. Blacks along the Mississippi lost their crops, their livelihoods. They also lost their freedom: black men, like my protagonist, were forced to work the levee in a vain attempt to stop its breaking. Equally as terrifying was the aftermath, when the Army Corps of Engineers abused the blacks who survived. It is a tragic event in US history, and most people I’ve met have never heard of it.

But it is a part of our history. And my genre of choice—fantasy—is the perfect way to explore it.

I write fantasy because it is fun. The inclusion of dragons and elves automatically makes a story more engaging for me. However, my subject matter is often not fun. Even in entertainment, the tragedy of the black experience is inescapable. Nor should it be escaped. It should be dealt with head on so that the world does not forget. The events of Hurricane Katrina becomes especially egregious when people know the same thing happened almost 100 years ago. Past and present are one.

As a kid, I spent my days and nights in Prydain, Narnia, Redwall Abbey, and Krynn. I always felt left out because there were hardly any black characters in these stories. It was when I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved that I saw how fantasy could tell my American story. Here was a horror story, with all the dread and uncertainty that makes good horror. The horror itself stemmed from slavery. The ghost of the dead daughter served to make the story more realistic; a key to learning the degradation of black people.

In my work, I explore historical injustice, police brutality, gentrification. They stem from of a desire to bring these issues to light, but also because they reflect my experience. My world is a multicultural one, and my writing is my truth . . . filtered through dragons and zombies. I once asked Charles de Lint, who some consider the father of urban fantasy, if he ever ran into resistance from publishers for writing black and indigenous characters. His reply was that any publisher who had those reservations wasn’t worth his time.

De Lint is a wonderful fantasist, with stories of fairies and bards that would enchant you. More important, his work is compassionate, addressing the lives of the indigenous, the homeless, the survivors. His writing brings you back to reality.

That’s what fantasy does for me: it brings light to the real world. It also offers the perfect platform for tales of heroism. The Afro-American experience holds numerous stories of rebellion against overwhelming odds. Thanks to fantasy, I have the language to honor this history and heroism.

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Elwin  Michael Cotman is a writer of urban and folkloric fantasy. He blogs at www.lookmanoagent.blogspot.com. Hard Times Blues can be ordered on Amazon,com here.

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Don’t Let The Fairies Bully You!

I have mentioned before that fantasy can be a vehicle for social commentary and so I enjoyed coming across this blog post from Melanie Hatfield. It will reveal to you why I never leave the house without my hip flask and some single-malt! Ms. Hatfield’s debut novel: “Kingdom of the Snark: The Quest for the Sword” has just been released on Amazon and Smashwords.

And so with her permission: What To Do If You’re Being Bullied By Fairies – Melanie Hatfield :

I haven’t blogged much about my debut novel, but now I am at a point where I can admit (or should I say confess) that my first eBook, a fantasy/comedy titled Kingdom of the Snark:  The Quest for the Sword, will be online by July.  In my book, my heroine is bullied by fairies and I realized:  What should we do if we find ourselves picked on by those mischievous pixies?  Have no fear, for I have listed some helpful tips below.

Even house elves got bullied!

1)  Ignore them.
Conventional wisdom tells us to talk about our problems with those who cause us grief. This does not apply to fairies. If you tell them how their actions make you feel, they will not only continue to mock you, but will tell all of their fairy friends so they can join in and pile on the humiliation.  If fairies taunt you, it is best to keep your mouth shut and wander in the opposite direction.  It is important to avoid eye contact at all cost, least they cast a spell and make you dance (clothing optional).

2)  Sing them a song.
If ignoring them doesn’t work, you can distract the fairies with a song. Fairies love a tune as much as the next traveler.  If you have a harp, strike a few cords and see if they’ll jam with you.  Before long, maybe they’ll forget that they were hassling you in the first place, or at least like you enough to allow you to journey past them without further hindrance.

3)  Carry anti-magic devices.
When the fairies use their magic against you (and they will), counter their dust with crystals, a rainbow grenade, or other anti-magic device to render them helpless.  Buyer beware:  Never purchase such weapons from a seller you do not know.  There are many merchants in the world who take advantage of fairy victims with bogus devices.

4)  Give them a taste of ale.  
Fairies have never been known to hold their liquor, although they love to try. It only takes a thimble to get them into a drunken state of unconsciousness.  While they’re sleeping it off, you can tip-toe away.

5)  If all else fails, fight fire with fire…literally.
Fairies burn easily.  Sic your pet dragon on them.

Do you have any tips on how to handle fairies?  Are you a fairy and think you’re just misunderstood? Tell us about it in the comment box!

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“Kingdom of the Snark: The Quest for the Sword”  is now available at Amazon and Smashwords.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).