Monday, June 30, 2014

June 2014 Martial Arts Spotlight: Jim Kelly

Okay so I was introduced to this mastermind by my boyfriend when we first met, after he discovered my love for martial arts. I didn't really know there were Black Martial Artists in movies before Michael Jai White, but then I discovered the great, Jim Kelly.


James Milton "Jim""The Dragon"Kelly was trained in Shorin-ryu and Okinawa Karate(which he received his black belt) and also dabbled in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. He was also the very FIRST black martial artist to appear in films performing Martial Arts. One of the first first films was with another one of the greatest Martial Arts film stars, Bruce Lee in "Enter The Dragon". He has inspired many pop culture images such as Afro-Samurai, Black Dynamite, The Boondocks and many others.

Mr.Kelly and Bruce Lee


Unfortunately Mr.Kelly passed last year but his image and legacy still live on. The impact he made as one of the few black Martial Arts Film stars will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"The Vast and Brutal Sea" Book Tour: Interview with Author Zoraida Cordova + Stellar Giveaway!!!

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So summer's almost here and my sister and I have this sudden urge to pick up more mermaid books!!!Just in time for Zoraida Cordova's "The Vast and Brutal Sea"Book Tour. How this amazing"Ecuatoriana", has the time to write, update her own blog and contribute to one of our favorite blogs, Latinos in Kid Lit, we'll never know. But we had a chance to sit back and chillax with her. We don't really say this often, but we loooove hosting Latina authors. Being Latina ourselves, it's just awesome to see a Latina author really doing her thing!

1. So, for the Twinja audience who isn't familiar with you, what can you tell us about yourself, particularly about your experiences, before you decided to become a writer.

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Short story: I was born in Ecuador and I moved to Queens, NY when I was 6 going on 7.
Long story: Before I wanted to become a writer, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I legit thought I was going to find the Loch Ness monster… THEN I realized, that’s not what Indiana Jones does. Yes, I was about 10.

When I was 13 I decided I wanted to be a writer. I researched agents and how to find one. I researched publishing companies. That whole time I always wrote about magical beings. At that time it was witches, and I was fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials. (I still am). Those books set off the magical world in my head. 

As an immigrant child, your family encourages you to become a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant. Something that’ll pay the bills. I’m pretty stubborn, I guess because I continued on with my English major. Eventually, I went on to drop out of college because it got in the way of the merman book I was working on. A few months later, 10 years after I decided I wanted to be a writer, we sold The Vicious Deep to Sourcebooks Fire.



2. Zoraida, have to admit! You have an awesome name! It's hard to be apart of the "Never see my name on a keychain" club, as having a Spanish name growing up, I've either always had to explain why my name is Spanish(sadly more to Latinos than anything). I have to ask, if this is not stepping over any boundaries, did you ever consider going by an ethnically ambiguous pen name?


Ohhhhh “What’s in a name?”

I can’t lie. For a split fraction of a second. I always thought it would be cool to use a pen name. For some reason, some people find it so freaking hard to say my name. Even when I say it FOR them, they repeat SA-NA-YA? Uh...yeah.

I like the fact that I’m the only Zoraida writing YA...as far as I know. I’ve come to the realization that I AM Zoraida Córdova. It’s part of my identity. If I ever use a pen name, it would be because I’d like to try my hand at a different genre and wouldn’t want to compete with myself. I would not be Zoey Smith just to anglicize my name. Ethnic names are not less easy to pronounce than made up fantasy names.

Dear little brown girls who think a “normal” name will help you sell more books, think long and hard before you do it. Your name is beautiful. It is unique. If people can say Daenerys Targaryen and Katniss and Peeta and Legolas, then they can say Zoraida. Author names should not be the same as actor names. Actors change their names all the time so they won’t get type cast, especially if the can “pass for white” like the “white guy” from Psych. Ideally, actors shouldn’t have to change their names either, but that’s a different business.

Choose the name you want. Nicknames are great. It could be Stardust Lambrosia if that’s the name you identify with. (Actually, don’t choose that one. That’s my bowling name.) But don’t do it because you think it’ll make you more palatable to the people out there who don’t even want to try to pronounce it correctly.

Was that a rant? #SorryNotSorry

3. So explain to us your "Vicious Deep" series. This is about the only book that has acknowledged that merfolk are more women, but also more than mermen and mermaids. Was there anything in particular that inspired the series in general?

I had a friend tell me to write the mermaid story I wanted to read. I wanted to have a monarchy structure, and I wanted there to be a quest. These are tropes that are very familiar. Plus, I grew up on Disney. Other than that, I came up with my own mythology for the creation of merpeople. Why are there so many “sightings” and stories of merfolk ALL OVER THE WORLD? Because they travel on the Sea Court’s Toliss Island, duh. When the island arrives, only the members of the sea court who are granted the ability to shift back and forth between fins and feet can go inland. The Sea King’s trident is basically what keeps merpeople from going crazy and murdering ALL THE HUMANS.

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The merrow is traditionally an irish merman. They’re hideous. This image is by Brian Froud whose book FAERIES is one of my favorite illustrated guides to all things fae.

When I was constructing the world of The Vicious Deep, the merrows became outcasts of the court. That was inspired by my Ancient Civ class where we learned that Spartans would take deformed babies and leave them out by the woods so as to not anger the gods. Or was it to return them to the gods? Either way, they let nature take this baby back. The Sea Court does this with their merrow babies.

Nieve, the Silver Mermaid, would find these babies and nurse them to health. It made her weak as hell, but all these years later, she has a nice big army.

4. I just started reading the second book, so without giving out any explicit spoilers, what can we expect from our hunky hero "Tristan Hart?"

Tristan Hart is the kind of guy that has always had everything handed to him. In books 2 and 3, I want to take all of those things away, and make him work really really hard to get them back.

5. From the very beginning of the series, Layla Santos has always been a major character. She's gotten to do and see things many Latinas don't get to do or see in SFF novels or works. Was it ever a question whether Layla would be a woman of color to you?

When Layla popped into my head, she was always a person of color. Originally she was only Ecuadorian, because obvs. I decided to make her mixed because a lot of kids I knew in high school were Irish/Peruvian, Dominican/Greek, Italian/Puerto Rican, etc. There are a lot of mixed kids out there (shocker), and so because she really is one of the only other main characters who is FULLY human, I thought it would matter more if she was the mixed race one. To me merpeople can’t be labeled as African American or Indian or White. They’re DEFINITELY all different skin colors Arion: brown, Thalia: greenish, Kurt: tan, Gwen: white. But I can’t put the same label to them as I could to Layla.

6. Latinos, despite being the fastest growing group in the United States, are still not portrayed as much as our non-Latino counterparts in fiction, especially SFF? Do you think there is a reason for the exclusion of Latinos in SFF?

I remember this one episode of Buffy, when they wake up that Inca mummy and she’s totally beautiful and exotic. Does that count? No…

I will say that I’m going to try to look harder. I hope it will make you all happy to know that we are having a LATINOS IN SFF for the whole month of July at Latinos in Kid Lit.


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7. Was there any book you read growing up that shaped the idea of being a writer for you? Were there any authors whose writing pushed you to become an author? What was the last book you read that inspired you? What's in your "to-read" shelf?

The book and writer that inspired me to become an author is In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.

The last book that inspired me was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Her prose is just so lovely.

On my TBR shelf is EXTRACTION by Stephanie Diaz, which I’ll be reading for Latinos in Kid Lit. Also, a lot of of New Adult romance, which I will start publishing in November 2014.

8. Diversity is extremely important to our blog. We really wouldn't be anywhere as a society without diverse perspectives. In your own words, why is diversity in books necessary?

Diversity is a giant umbrella that emcompases many marginzalised people, but I mostly speak about race because that’s what’s personal to me. Diversity in books is necessary because the kids growing up now needs to see themselves in books that are not just about immigration. Not all of us have “issues” with our cultures. We are part of society. We are NOT the comic relief. We are not the exotic new girl in school We can be the heroes of the stories. We can be the girls on the nice contemporary covers that are looking for summer love.

9. So what can we expect in the future from you Zoraida? Any new series? Any WIP's? Do you have any dream ideas you're thinking about developing?

I have some YA that I’m brainstorming. It’ll be in the same fantasy vein as The Vicious Deep trilogy, but focusing on a different magical creature. No spoilers!

For my older readers, I’m branching into contemporary romance! My novel Luck on the Line will be published on November 10th, 2014. Add it to your Goodreads!

10. Lastly, where can we all go to get your latest updates and anything or everything Zoraida Cordova?

Stop by my website www.zoraidacordova.com. I’m having a contest for those who are pre-ordering The Vast & Brutal Sea, and The Savage Blue. Also, Tweet at me!

Thanks for having me!



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Author photo:
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About the Author:

Zoraida Córdova was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where she learned to speak English by watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker on repeat. Her favorite things are sparkly like merdudes, Christmas, and New York City at night.


Links:



Buy links:



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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Confession and a Plea- Author Corinne Duyvis Guest Post

A Confession and a Plea

I’ve been thinking for weeks about what to write for this post.


Do I talk about my debut novel’s main characters? I have been saying for months that both my protagonists are disabled, that the primary romance is between two girls, that there are barely any white characters in the entire book. I’ve been saying that because I want people looking for characters like mine to be able to find them. At the same time, the book won’t be out until June 17th, and I doubt that anything else I have to say about these characters will terribly interesting to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.


What else? Do I talk about my own experiences as an autistic, bisexual woman? The need for diversity in literature? The terrible representation that’s out there for people like me?


I considered a dozen options and roundly dismissed them all. I have nothing new to say. There are tons of articles out there about these exact topics, and the odds are, if you’re on this blog, you’ve read a good portion of those articles.


We need those articles, don’t get me wrong. New people are coming to the discussion daily. That’s how I first started my “education” about the realities of marginalized groups. I saw discussions online and avidly read along. I started following activists and blogs.


These months surrounding my book launch, I’ll probably talk about diversity a lot. I’ll find topics to blog about and try to put my own spin on them. I’ll hope they’ll be someone’s introduction to these difficult topics. I’ll hope they’ll be someone else’s moment of clarity. I’ll hope they’ll be a spark of recognition for someone who needs it.


But the truth is: sometimes, writing these posts, reading them—I’m just tired.


I’m tired of explaining the same thing a hundred times over.


I’m tired of linking to statistics people could find on Google in under ten seconds.


I’m tired of posts by newcomers to the discussion being applauded, while those who have been fighting for years are looking at that same post and grimacing at just how problematic it is.


I’m tired of people not caring. I’m tired of people caring, but doing nothing. I’m tired of people caring, doing something, and tired of that something being forgotten a week later.

We are here. We are many. We breathe the same air and walk the same streets and hold the same jobs, but somehow, everyone else gets stories and we do not; everyone else is normal, and we are different. We have to explain, be nice, teach, and fight, and justify, and calmly and reasonably outline the reasons we deserve what they have—what they have in excess.


I’m tired of fighting for something we should already have.


Then I take a deep breath, vent to a friend, and continue doing what I’m doing.


Baby steps.


I’m comparatively new to the discussion, but many others have been fighting the good fight for years. They’re running diversity blogs, sharing their wisdom on Twitter, campaigning for better representation at conventions and in publisher catalogs.


I bet it’s hard on them. I bet it’s exhausting. I bet it’s frustrating.


And I bet they’re tired, too.


There’s no call to action here, no uplifting note to end things on. Just a question: 


Have you thanked an activist today?

---

A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her young adult fantasy debut, will release from Amulet Books/ABRAMS on June 17, 2014. It's a Junior Library Guild selection and has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. 

Find Corinne at her website, Twitter, or Tumblr.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fun Post, I promise...

So I'm scrolling down Facebook and catch this! Two of the illest chicks in a choreographed fight sequence, and it was unreal.

I watch tons of martial arts films, Western and Eastern(Though I wish there were more Non-Western, Non-Eastern choices to choose from, from continents like South America and Africa) and I cant believe this is unedited. Many films edit action sequences and make them look like garbage, but this is shot in one take!

I haven't been able to find the artist's names, but have fun watching!



Monday, June 2, 2014

Living diversely isnt hard. Writing diversely shouldnt be either- Guest Post on A Writer's Tale

So I met this awesome blogger/author on LinkedIn. Her name is Scarlett Van Dijk, and she has some great content on her blog about being an author, a writer, and heading down that path. I was lucky enough to be on her blog A Writer's Tale- Guest Post. Since attending BookCon's #WeNeedDiverseBooks event, Im realizing diversity should not be seen as this idea that has to be forced fed. It shouldn't be seen a fad, because frankly, my life isn't a fad. You can check out her blog anytime at this link, or at A Writer's Tale.

Writing is one of the most creatively freeing activities a person can do. Writing can be beautiful, it can be ugly. At times it can be difficult, whilst many times words can just fly off the page. Writing can reflect on your experiences, what you see in the world, what you'd like to see in the world, and it is often the first exposure a person will get to entertainment.

But sometimes we have a little trouble using the "D" word. That's right. Diversity.

There was once a time where I read books just to read books, because they had pretty covers, or interesting plots about fallen angels, or unattainable love, where "insert character here", saves "insert character there."

But through this journey of written colloquy, it wasn't until my 20's I noticed how short reaching the narratives I read came from. Typically American, young, white, able bodied, almost always straight and cis-gendered. I cant say they've always been male, because I typically connect easily to women protagonists vs men, but many others disagree.

Attending this year's BookCon, I had the greatest opportunity to sit in for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel. This whole #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag started over the lack of diversity at a children's book panel, and to be honest, it's been happening since anyone can remember, the only thing that's changed was author Ellen Oh refusing to stay quiet this time.

Writing should be an extension of yourself. And while that infamous phrase "write what you know" has been etched into the narratives of many of the things you may write as we speak, do you take the time to make sure you're writing is diverse?

No one should have to tell how important diversity is, I think many of us are open minded enough to know that by now. And also, let me make myself clear. No one is asking you to write what you DONT want to write. No one is asking you to make characters to fill a quota, and writing diversely is not, I repeat, IS NOT or should be seen as being on some agenda.

But when you step outside, do you only see one type of anything? Ok, maybe you don't live in Sacramento, CA. Maybe you're from a small community where you don't encounter many strangers or tourists, and don't openly seek people different from you.

But the world is full of people. Diverse people. The world wide web itself is a thriving source of diverse people, that with the click of a mouse, are at your fingertips. Having a day job is living diversely. Even going to Starbucks, puts you at the mercy of being around different people you might have nothing in common with.

Even if you don't recognize it, you are living diversely everyday. Why cant your writing reflect that? If there isn't a reason NOT to write diversely, there shouldn't be anything standing in the way of creating a gay main character, or a character in a wheelchair, or an Polynesian protagonist. And it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive! Try telling someone who actually is Polynesian, disabled and queer, that their narratives don't matter. Just the idea of that type of invisibility is dangerous, because it isn't just to show people who are Polynesian, disabled and queer that they can be heroes.

It's to show everyone who isn't that they can be too.

---

Bio:

Guinevere Thomas is one half of a blog duo known as "Twinja Book Reviews." She and her twin sister blog about diversity in books, their favorite martial artists, and wholly support more women, more disabled, more queer, more people of color, and diverse body types and religions in books. If you have a book that highlights strong characters like this, look don't be afraid to check her out! And yea it's pronounced Gwen-ah-veer!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 2014 Martial Arts Spotlight: Melinda Shankar

So every month we highlight a very diverse panel of individuals or groups that you may not know who are practitioners of martial arts.

With so many great types of martial arts, and so many talented individuals who have participated in the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of martial arts, would it surprise you if someone you may already know and admire just might be a martial artist?

If you're like us, you've sat back and watched the 13+ seasons of Degrassi. Who would've guessed one of my favorite characters on the show was a black belt in Karate.

So May we'd like to highlight Melinda Shankar, the actress most well known for playing Alli Bhandari on Degrassi.


Coming from an Indo-Guyanese background, she's one of the few South Asians were aware of that practice martial arts. Especially a woman.

Turns out her father owned a Karate school, has been practicing since she was 3 years old, and essentially everyone in her immediate family has earned a black belt, so it must be in her blood. 
At barely 5'3" she proves small things come in big packages. We also love that she isn't shy about the lack of South Asians that are prominent in the entertainment industry. Her longevity proves that she is here to stay, but will we ever get to see her skills in action?



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: Daughter of Zeus by Red Harvey +

So we don't do many cover reveals, but I was really excited about this book, so I(Guinevere) decided that if Im going to do one, I might as well let my first one of the year be this one!

I've gotten the opportunity to read a book from Red Harvey in the past, and I thought she was a really great sport. She was very patient, and I know everyone wants their books read when they send them, but sometimes life just gets in the way, and patience usually wins me over more than email after email asking did I get a chance to read a book yet.

Im really excited about Red Harvey's "Daughter of Zeus." Why you might ask? Because not only is it Young Adult and fantasy driven(two of my favorite things), the main protagonist is Latina! I think it goes without saying Latinos/as usually get the short end of the stick in fantasy, and sci fi. Im not sure why, but the exclusion is often overwhelming. So it's a pleasure to see authors whom are not only Latina, but writing Latina characters. Because why shouldn't everyone get to be a leading lady or man?


Still not convinced? Why don't you check out this awesome cover and blurb?!?


Blurb:

With the power of a god, would you choose vengeance or forgiveness?

The future can be a terrifying prospect, especially when Ada Freyr discovers she can manipulate electricity. Ada is grief-stricken when her abilities result in the death of her husband. and terrified of being discovered by the Prominent-run State. Unusual citizens are labeled Undesirable, and are never seen again.

Ada drives to Atlanta, intent on finding her father. She blames everything that’s happened on him, and vows to kill him for ruining her life. However, once Ada meets her father, she realizes he’s no longer the alcoholic she remembers: he’s now a Congressman with a family and a new name, ready for a Senator’s seat.

Ada’s scheme lands her on the Undesirable list, leads a stranger to stalk her, and stunts her relationship with her siblings. Soon, she has to decide which is more important: a vendetta, or forgiveness.

Release Date: July 7th 2014
Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction(Young Adult)

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About The Author: 

Red Harvey has been writing professionally for five years, and is the author of the paranormal novel, Cursed. She is a Color Run-enthusiast (meaning she walks a good deal of the way), a sushi junkie, and a self-affirmed nerdist. She lives in the Atlanta area with her husband and son.

For more information on Red Harvey and receive updates on her work, please click on the links below:


Cant wait to buy her new novel? Check out the purchase link below!

Champagne Books-Red Harvey

Red Harvey is also including a giveaway for a 15 Starbucks giveaway, a signed copy of her book and a signed bookmark to one lucky winner in promotion of her book!Please check out her generous giveaway and you won't be sorry you became a fan!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks! Help this hashtag go viral!

So we were approached recently by author Ellen Oh(Prophecy Series ,about a woman destined to save a fictional Korea)since she's been a guest on our sister blog Twinja Book Reviews. And of course, because she's our homegirl ;p

For anyone who's heard, which were sure you have, BookCon hosted an event to highlight who they thought were the biggest authors in Kid Lit. The only issue? There were all white, cis-gendered, straight, middle aged men. 
The issue isnt with their race. It's mainly due to the idea that these are the only powerhouses in Kid Lit, and they all represented the only demographic people seem to cater to in this country. White, middle aged men.
So there's a social media event going on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and we were invited to help spread the word. Our book review blog highlights books with main characters from marginalized groups. Mostly the only exception we'll make for a main character who isnt from a marginalized group, is if their love interest is, and plays just a big of part as the main character in the story(sometimes this is the case for dual protagonists, much like our future release of "The Mark of Noba").
The Campaign is called #WeNeedDiverseBooks. It is a visual social media campaign, and anyone interested, we need help to make this thing go viral.

So here's all the women of color authors I have on my shelf. To be honest, this isn't even all of them. Some I choose to omit due to the content not being kid appropriate, and some we authors who I didn't connect with. But overall, I have an extremely colorful shelf. I have about 7 piles with one than one book stacked. This indicates I have multiple books from that author, as it was difficult to fit just one picture full of them all. I have tons more who weren't women of color, and that would have been awesome to show, but that would've been about 50+ more books to show, and I wouldn't have been able to capture it in one picture.


On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.
For the visual part of the campaign: 
  • Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you. 
  • The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs. 
  • However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day. 
  • Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out. 
  • The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
  • The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.
On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.



April 2014 Martial Artist Spotlight: Balogun Ojetade

After hosting a great event on diversifying "Steampunk" , we just couldn't end the month without highlighting fellow martial artist "Balogun Ojetade"


So few are familiar with martial arts outside of Eastern culture. Many even think that martial arts is even a universal term for any martial art that hails from Asia.

Here's the deal. Every continent has it's own form of self defense. Some countries even have several variations of a martial art. Africa is no different.

I learned a little about African stick fighting a few years back, upon researching martial art's that came from the continent "Africa." I dont know them all, and I dont know all the proper terms for the many that come out of there, but one thing is clear.

Balogun Ojetade is a master of his art.


It isnt just a martial art, it is a spiritual tradition and lifestyle. Egbe Ogun is an art of wrestling , much different from Western and Asian concepts of wrestling. 

I would encourage anyone wanting to learn more, to head on over to his official site

There are many interesting principles to Egbe Ogun, so many, I dont even know where to start!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Balogun as an author, he has been highlighted twice on Twinja Book Reviews!

He is one of the co-founders of SteamFunk, a philosophy or style of writing that combines African and or African American culture, as well as approach to life, to that of the steampunk philosophy and or steampunk fiction(His words!).

He can be found @ Balogun's official blog


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Diversify Your SteamPunk Day 9: "SteamPunking Japan" with Jay Noel

Closing up for our very last day in our "Diversify Your Steampunk" event, we have author Jay Noel joining us. It's funny how you when you connect with one author who diversifies steampunk, you find yourself in the company of another. Interviewee mate Susan Kaye Quinn hosted an event on her own blog, which highlighted different authors showcasing their steampunk works. 

I cant say that I was surprised there were so few that diversified their view of the steampunk genre, but what really caught my eye was that she listed both her book, and Jay Noel's under multicultural. Many authors dont like this term, as they feel it limits what type of people will read their work. But what about us who are multicultural? What about those who seek out stories that represent more than what publishers are giving us?

I'd won a giveaway Susan also hosted, but the gift I was sent to get was unavailable, so when she offered me Jay Noel's "Dragonfly Warrior", I cant say that this prize wasn't a better fit for, and Twinja Book Reviews. So when I racked up all the authors and online presences I knew, I realized hosting an event like this was even possible. I owe all the participants a bit of gratitude for exposing those who look for such, a more diverse way of telling stories. So without further ado....


1. Let's get to the introductions. For those of us just meeting you Jay, why dont you tell us more about us?

Hmm...I'm a long time blogger, and I started my blog back in 2005. It was a creative outlet for me which spawned a popular podcast and grew to the point where it consumed all my time. I wanted to get serious about my writing, and I decided to change my blog to center around my struggles to become a novelist. 

I work in medical sales during the day, which means I do all my author-stuff at night. Yes, I'm exhausted, but it's worth it!

2. Before I get into questions about your book "Dragonfly Warrior", I have to ask, why steampunk? Was it a sub genre you've always felt connected to? Or did it just fit the story you were telling? What are some of your favorite elements of steampunk?

The first full length novel I read was The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, which led me to reading more of his books. Then I picked up Jules Verne. To me, they're the granddaddies of steampunk. I enjoy the retro-futurism and anachronism of steampunk - meshing history with science fiction.

It's not only fun, but opens the doors to unique and interesting possibilities.

3. Your novel "Dragonfly Warrior" is based on a Steampunk Japan. What was the inspiration behind this? What drew you to a fictional Japan-esque setting? 

I'm in love with the history surrounding feudal Japan, especially right around the turn of the century during their Meiji Period. It's the epitome of steampunk. I like to focus on the PUNK aspect of steampunk, which includes challenging authority. Whenever there's a major change in society, there's always conflict. The Meiji Period was about Japan opening its doors to the West and the clash of cultures. Society was undergoing HUGE upheavals - the old vs the new. 

Can't get any more steampunk than that.

4. Kanze Zenjiro is the main character in your novel "Dragonfly Warrior." Why do you think his narrative is important to the story? Why do you think audiences might relate to him?

Writing Zen's character was frightening, actually. I broke modern conventions with him, and I was scared that it wouldn't work. At first, he seems invulnerable and a caricature of the typical epic hero. Some would say he is a cardboard cut out in the beginning. But very quickly, you realize that he's very naive and innocent. And his idealism and arrogance sets him up for a big fall.

Even though I didn't intend this book to be Young or New Adult, several young people have picked up my book and loved it. It's definitely a coming of age story for sure. There's a big loss of innocence theme running through it, and I think readers pick up on that too.

5. Steampunk has typically been reclusive to Eurocentric culture until most recently. Seeing some interesting articles on your blog :) What other settings do you plan on taking your characters?

I have been touching on Africa in the second and especially third book in my series. I do plan to write another spin-off trilogy and we will dig deeper into other countries and cultures in my world. I'm looking forward to taking steampunk in some fun and new directions.

6. What are some of your favorite steampunk works? Why did you connect with them? 

Other than H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, I've also enjoyed Cherie Priest. Priests's Clockwork Century series is pretty amazing. It's an interesting take on alternative history with steampunk elements that I enjoy. I'm a fan of alternative history because I love to speculate about all the "What Ifs" in the world. I'm also a history geek, and these books let me play in a whole new historical sandbox.

7. Writing advice time! What are some tips you can give as an accomplished author, that might help aspiring writers with writing outside their own experience, and incorporating diverse characters in their writing?

Wikipedia is a great resource, but it can only take you so far. Seek out people with firsthand knowledge of other cultures to get a more personal perspective. Attended cultural festivals and other international events to get more immersed in more diverse societies. Facts are great, but each culture has its own aesthetic, feeling, and life. Don't just try to inject diverse characters or setting in your work - make it central to your writing. Make it so your story COULDN'T have happened in any other setting or with any other characters. 

My book wouldn't not have worked in a Eurocentric setting, for example.

8. Finally where can everyone find anything and everything Jay Noel?!?

My official website is jaynoelbooks.com
Also, my blog is at jaynoel.com

I love to connect with others, so please don't be shy about visiting and emailing me through either website.



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