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Day 22: V.H. Galloway

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Veronica Henry writes speculative fiction under the name V.H. Galloway. Born in the Ft. Greene section of Brooklyn, N.Y., she is a resident of Austin, TX, who has also lived in Ohio, California, and Nevada. From her career in tech, to her fascination with the stars, she is made of and loves all things geek.
In 2008, she traced her African ancestry to Sierra Leone and the subsequent trip still remains one of her proudest moments and her fiction often incorporates African themes.
Her short story “We Have Ended” is an example. It was chosen to be a part of Fiyah Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction’s first issue, “Rebirth,” a review of which you can find earlier on this blog.

Her horror/sci-fi hybrid, The Un-United States Of Z is a trilogy series that even for non-zombie fans has been described as “tasteful insanity.” In this trilogy, Galloway shows that even during the zombie apocalypse, the country remains racially divided. She has said “Reflecting this reality in my work is important because I think that its is only through ongoing dialogue that we can effect change.”

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Learn more about Veronica on her website and follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

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Day 21: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911) was born to a free African-American woman in Baltimore, and studied at her uncle’s school, the William Watkins Academy for Negro Youth. She worked briefly as a servant, becoming a teacher in Ohio and Pennsylvania when she was in her mid-to-late twenties.

In 1854, she moved to the Boston area, and became active in abolitionist movement, lecturing publicly against slavery. In that same year, she  published Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, which sold over ten thousand copies.

In 1859, her story “The Two Offers” was published in Anglo-African Magazine, making her the first African-American woman to publish a short story in the United States.

The story concerns two cousins, Laura and Janette, who consider Laura’s two offers of marriage. Janette suggest her cousin’s hesitation is due to her not wanting either man. Laura feels obligated to marry. Harper does not disclose the race of the the characters, suggesting similarities in how women are viewed and treated in black and white society. Her story provides an alternative to the established gender roles of the age, letting Janette embrace the idea of having her freedom by becoming “an old maid.”

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Some may say this story isn’t horrific enough. Since women of the time faced these choices–marry or live in poverty, I’ve decided to include it. A line from Harper’s story:

A shadow fell around her path; it came between her and the object of her heart’s worship; first a few cold words, estrangement, and then a painful separation; the old story of woman’s pride—digging the sepulchre of her happiness, and then a new-made grave, and her path over it to the spirit world; and thus faded out from that young heart her bright, brief and saddened dream of life.

Read “The Two Offers” online free.

 

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Day 16: Sumiko Saulson

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Sumiko Saulson is a novelist, poet, and artist from Los Angeles, California now living in Oakland, California, who by age 19, had two self-published books of poetry. She is the Oakland Art Scene reporter for the Examiner.com and also a lead vocalist in the alternative rock/crossover band, Stagefright, that combines gothic and alt rock influences with reggae.

Saulson has penned several novels– Solitude (2011), Warmth (2012), Happiness and Other Diseases (2014), Somnalia (2015), and Insatiable (2015). Many of her short stories have been published online or with presses large and small, including Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales From the Lake Volume Three. In 2016, she won the Horror University’s Scholarship from Hell, given by the Horror Writer’s Association.

She has also compiled a non-fiction book collection of author biographies and interviews called 60 Black Women in Horror (2014), which she is currently in the process of updating the book to add at least another twenty writers.

Her short story anthology Things That Go Bump In My Head (2012), has something for just about any horror lover–a few old-fashioned scares, a ghost story, and dark humor. You can also find her work in the Colors in Darkness anthology of horror featuring characters of color, Forever Vacancy.

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Learn more about Sumiko on her website and follow her on Twitter.

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Day 14: Jewell Parker Rhodes

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Jewell Parker Rhodes, born February 12, 1954 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is an American novelist and educator. While she is best known for her middle grade novels, including Ninth Ward, which received the Coretta Scott King Honor Award, Rhodes has published six novels for adults, including American Book Award winner Douglass’ Women and the Marie Laveau trilogy.

Ever the educator, she is also the author of two instructional guides for black writers: Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons For Black Authors  and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction. Each is comprehensive and energizing, chock full of excerpts and advice from over 30 black writers. Fiction Lessons is a nurturing book for affirming, bearing witness, leaving a legacy, and celebrating the remarkable journey of the self.

In The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction, Rhodes talks about the cultural heritage that African Americans can trace back hundreds of years to the West African storytellers-musicians-historians called griots. She encourages us to be modern-day griots, acquainting ourselves with the work of earlier writers and committing our own lives and the lives of others to paper.

Her Marie Laveau trilogy begins with Voodoo Season –earlier versions are titled Season–and tells the story of Marie Levant, a great-great granddaughter of Marie Laveau, a medical doctor compelled by unseen forces to relocate to New Orleans. The city’s slave-holding past merges with the present, to reveal that women of color are still being abused, raped, and turned into undead zombie-like Sleeping Beauties in a horrifying revival of the Quadroon Balls. Only Marie can untangle the medical mystery.

Her precise and engrossing style has created a work that celebrates Laveau’s legacy of spiritual empowerment, prophetic vision, and voodoo possession, allowing us “to appreciate truly the glory and wonder of being a woman; powerful; spiritual; in control of her life and body; valuing ancestors, family, and community.”

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Find out more about Jewell at her website and follow her on Twitter.

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Day 2: Jemiah Jefferson

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Jemiah Jefferson was born in Denver, Colorado. Now living in southeast Portland, Oregon, she works in the editorial department at Dark Horse Comics, Inc. and is a regular contributor to Popshifter.com.

Jefferson started writing fiction at the age of twelve, always with the goal of writing the material she wants to see but that doesn’t yet exist. According to her website, the first draft of the novel that would become Voice of the Blood was written in 24 hours in 1990 in a fit of inspiration.

After another six years (and several more novels and short stories) she took her experiences of living in San Francisco and of her contacts with the young, amoral, and beautiful that she had there and applied them to situations and characters already in existence in her imagination, fueling the creation of an extended vampire “family.” This led her to four novels–Voice (originally titled Vox Sanguinus), Wounds, Fiend, and A Drop of Scarlet.

In addition to detailing the fascinations and desires of this “family,” Jefferson’s novels move from 19th Century Europe to modern-day US to reflect the paranoia and possibility surrounding 9/11 and the concept of “art crime.” The books have been compiled into an omnibus edition.

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Jefferson has announced on her Facebook page that her novel, Mixtape for the Apocalypse will be pulled from publication shortly. If you can, grab a copy before then. If you already have one, hold on to it.

You can find Jemiah on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

 

Sycorax’s Daughters: A Release and an Appearance

Sycorax’s Daughters the Horror Anthology of fiction & poetry by African-American women, edited by Kinitra Brooks, PhD, Linda D. Addison & Susana Morris, PhD is coming February 2017 from Cedar Grove Books.

In June 2015, editors Brooks and Addison contacted African-American women authors–including me–and poets based on their creative talents in writing about women, race, sexuality, and/or speculative fictions, asking them to consider the vast possibilities that interweaving black women and horror can express.

Brooks, Addison, and Morris are of the contention that peoples of the African diaspora encounter elements of horror on a weekly or even daily basis. Each week, millions of black folks go to church or religious practice and are possessed by the Holy Ghost or ridden by the orishas and loas—what is this if not an Africanized manifestation of spirit possession, a common horror trope?

Sycorax’s Daughters is an opening salvo of what is hoped to be a burgeoning field of black women’s creative horror fiction. There are also plans for a companion volume of new critical horror scholarship by black feminist scholars.

Thought provoking, powerful, and revealing, this anthology is comprised of 28 dark stories and 14 poems written by African American women writers. Tales of what scares, threatens, and shocks them will enlighten and entertain readers. The works delve into demons and shape shifters from the historical to far future imaginings. These pieces cover vampires, ghosts, and mermaids, as well as the unexpected price paid by women struggling for freedom and validation in the past.

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Contributors include: Tiffany Austin, Tracey Baptiste, Regina N. Bradley, Patricia E. Canterbury,  Crystal Connor, Joy M. Copeland, Amber Doe, Tish Jackson, Valjeanne Jeffers, Tenea D. Johnson,  R. J. Joseph, A. D. Koboah, Nicole Givens Kurtz,  Kai Leakes,  A. J. Locke, Carole McDonnell,  Dana T. McKnight, LH Moore, L. Penelope, Zin E. Rocklyn, Eden Royce, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Andrea Vocab Sanderson,  Nicole D. Sconiers,  Cherene Sherrard,  RaShell R. Smith-Spears,  Sheree Renée Thomas, Lori Titus, Tanesha Nicole Tyler, Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, L. Marie Wood, K. Ceres Wright, Deana Zhollis

Sycorax’s Daughters is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Several in person events are planned for this important release, including the book’s debut at Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue Research Library on February 25th from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. I’ll be there, along with many of the other authors and editors to sign books and speak about the project.

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Day 1: Helen Oyeyemi

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Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984, moved to London with her family at age four. She wrote her first novel while at school studying for her A-levels. For those of us from the US, that’s sort of like study for the SAT in order to be considered for entrance into a college or university. Also while still at school, she got a publishing deal and The Icarus Girl, a ghost story about an eight-year-old girl torn between her British and Nigerian identity, hit the shelves.

Her third novel, White is for Witching–described as having “roots in Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe”–was a Shirley Jackson Award Finalist and won a Somerset Maugham Award. Set in Dover off the South East coast of England, the Silver family house has been home to four generations of women, weaving threads that bind them cross time, space, and death. I loved the points of view in this book–the teenage Miranda’s, her twin brother Eliot’s, and yes…the house itself has it’s own voice.

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Readers are divided about White is for Witching, because it is a bold work. Oyeyemi trusts the reader to be able to follow along without explaining every move, every shift she makes in this Gothic tale. It has subtlety, it has a bite that you might not feel until the welt raises on your skin hours later.

Like much of Oyeyemi’s work, White is for Witching is a commentary on beauty, horror, nationality, and race. Her novel Boy, Snow, Bird is an inventive take on the Snow White and Cinderella fairy tales. Her latest release is a collection of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, which is on my to-read list. 

Since 2014 Oyeyemi has lived in Prague. Find out more about her work on her website.