Category Archives: Books & Writing

Tuesday Terrific: Pose (2018 – )

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Pose is a fictional television series depicting the New York ball community in late 80s (season 1) and early 90s (season 2). The show has real life trans and gender non-conforming actors and several of the behind the scenes crew – directors, writers, consultants, choreographers etc are from within the lgbtq community. Several of stories lines were inspired by the documentary Paris Is Burning. In fact, on IMDB the director of Paris is Burning, Jennie Livingston, is listed as a consulting producer on the show.

It felt like the first season was for the community. To give people a chance to see black/brown gay and trans people on screen as fully formed three dimensional characters with dreams, hopes and desires. The characters experienced pain, disappointment and drama but the harsher possibilities – physical violence and death – weren’t weaved into the story lines. As a viewer, I got nervous whenever one of the girls went to work on the piers or had an argument with a boyfriend.

Season two felt a little grittier. Madonna’s Vogue hit the charts and suddenly middle class white women – who had no idea this world existed – want to learning how to dance like the ball kids. Scouts are now showing up to balls looking to snag dancers for auditions. Community-wise the feeling is “finally the world will see us and give us the respect (and $$) we are worth.” Opportunity is in the air, but so is violence and death this time around.

I guess the writers felt it would be unrealistic if another season went by without showing violence and its impact on the community.

pisburningWhat I found interesting about the second season was the emphasis on Vogue as the sole reason that members of the community thought they would finally be embraced by the mainstream. In reality, many members of the ballroom community thought they were on the verge of stardom because a filmmaker – Jenny Livingston – was making a documentary about them. Many people featured in Paris Is Burning thought that they were going to receive money from the film. The film, which was released a year after Vogue, was a success that received plenty of acclaim and criticism. Unfortunately, the financial success did not trickle down, leaving many disappointed.

Imagine if in season one of Pose a character or two had mentioned an outsider to the community coming in to record their stories and film the balls…

One of the performers in Paris Is Burning, Pepper Labeija, offered this criticism of the film: “I do think that Jennie missed the point that there is life after the ball. She didn’t let people know that this is a hobby, not a whole life. We don’t all stand on the pier and vogue all night.”

Though it is fiction, Pose does what Paris Is Burning does not: shows there is life outside of the ball. This is what happens when people from within the community have some input and control over the media depicting it.

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I wonder what direction the third season of Pose is going to take. Secretly, I hope that they pull a Bobby Ewing with Candy – but that’s unlikely.

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No Exchanges – No Returns (An Excerpt)

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Deadly Bargain: A Colors In Darkness Anthology – on sale Feb 14th

An Excerpt from my story:  No Exchanges – No Returns

Victor stood off to the side as Sabrina approached the strange man and his table of curiosities. The dealer swept his dreadlocks to the side and turned on the full force of his freckles and wide smile. “Good afternoon, miss. My name is Henri.” He waved his hands over the goods. “See anything you like?”

A phony French accent and olive skin, Victor thought as he picked at his nails. That’s all it takes to impress college girls.

“What do you have?” Sabrina asked.

Henri pointed to a trio of thick red candles with gold symbols carved into them. “These are from Marrakesh. You light one as you meditate, and it will help you focus your energy on healing.” He drew her attention to a gold chalice. “I acquired this in Madrid. It’s rumored to be from the treasures hoarded by the Knights Templar. And this,” he picked up a crystal spray bottle full of amber fluid, “is perfume from Cairo.”

She picked up a faceless ragdoll. “Let me guess. From Berlin? Or a nomadic tribe on the outskirts of Algeria?”

“No.” Henri’s coal black eyes sparkled. “That’s from Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” They shared a laugh. “I’m a traveling man who picks up things here and there. No one can give you a better deal.”

Victor tuned out the conversation. Passing off dollar store junk as valuable trinkets. Got to give him credit though, he’s obviously wearing every stitch of clothing he owns and isn’t breaking a sweat. Dude is wearing three or four layers.

In the middle of a story about Stonehenge, Henri raised his arms and a brief flash of gold came from inside of his coat. Now, Victor was interested.

Sabrina stepped back and wagged a finger at the dealer. “Oh no, I don’t mess with anything from Stonehenge; I’ve seen Halloween III.” Her gaze shifted back to the red candles. “I have a friend who I think will be interested in these. Is it okay if I take a picture?”

“Sure, but understand I don’t put items on hold. If someone else comes to me with cash in hand…”

“Do you have a card? If my friend is interested, I’d want to call to make sure the item was still available.”

Victor was dumbfounded. She’s getting his phone number? She’s seriously making a play for this dude, this wannabe pirate?

“What’s your name, miss?”

“I’m Sabrina.”

Henri snapped his fingers and appeared to pluck a business card from the air. When he held it out to her, she caught a glimpse of his tattoos. “Sabrina, feel free to call about the candles or anything else you may be interested in.” He smiled slyly and winked at her.

Blushing, Sabrina turned to Victor. “I’ve got to get back. Are you coming?”

Victor shook his head. “No, I’ll be along in a few minutes.” He waited until she rounded the corner to take her place in front of the table.

What will Victor buy? How will it change his life?

Get your copy of Deadly Bargain to find out!

Deadly Bargain: New Horror Anthology

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No Exchanges-No Returns, my new horror story, is one of the 13 featured tales in DEADLY BARGAIN: A Colors In Darkness Anthology. Pre-order your copy today!

About the book:

Some deals should never be struck and some dealers should never be trusted. When faced with your heart’s desire, will you ignore that tingle in your spine or the hair rising on the backs of your arms? The offer- It’s too good to be true and you can feel it. The dealer smiles with a devilish gleam in his eyes. Holding out his tantalizing wares, his eagerness adds weight to the very air around you. It’s not a lot of money at all, sometimes it’s even free, he says and yet you know that this is the costliest item you will ever own.

Inside these pages you will find thirteen tales of horror – deals that should never have been made and the horrible costs of those deadly bargains!

Sherlock Holmes Vs The Cenobites

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Sherlock Holmes And The Servants of Hell by Paul Kane

It’s 1895. Sherlock Holmes’ has returned to his home in Baker Street after being presumed dead. Having defeated Moriarity at Reichenbach Falls, he is a changed man – bored with life. With no arch enemy, life holds little to no meaning for him. He disappears for days at a time— indulging in drugs, exposing himself to deadly disease and other activities not suited to a man of his esteem. Easily solved cases do nothing to stir Holmes imagination.

Watson cares for his friend the best that he can. A doctor, he felt helpless when his beloved wife suddenly fell ill and died. Fighting his own guilt, he is determined to do whatever he can to keep Holmes on this side of human existence.

Then, a couple with a curious missing person’s case comes to Holmes for help. A man has disappeared from a locked room. Police aren’t interested because there hasn’t actually been a crime. Then, there’s another missing person and another. With each new case, it becomes clear that something very strange and dangerous is afoot.

There are whispers of a secret cult and a box that open unseen doors. Eventually, Holmes and Watson realize what they are up against. To these logical men, it is a revelation that Hell exists and has been waiting for them.

—-

Paul Kane has created a fun story the weaves together Sherlock Holmes’ canon and elements of the Hellraiser universe. I recognized elements from several of the films/books: the vagrant, the pillar with “something” missing from, Lemarchand etc. This story takes place before Pinhead, but (if you pay attention) you may recognize him in a brief, pre-Cenobite cameo.

In fact, there are lots of cameo appearances that span Clive Barker’s literary universe. This can be a little distracting at times. It is a bit like watching a movie and recognizing all the celebrities playing minor characters; for a moment, you are taken out of the present story.

Even though it draws heavily from the movies, don’t be fooled. You may think you know where the story is going but it goes in another direction.

I recommend this book. 🙂

 

What’s IT To You?

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I probably won’t get around to seeing the new IT for a while.

I was resistant to a not-Tim-Curry Pennywise from the start. Yes, I know the miniseries has issues, but it was regular television, not cable. The writers and director were only going to get a fraction of the novel to the screen. Did it have a lot of gore? No, but – at the time – the show hit all of the creepy, scary, never-trust-a-clown buttons.

The early trailer for the new movie made me put my reservations aside. Pennywise in the slide projector was clever and the movie, in general, looked good.

Then, I saw a clip where the clown spoke….and the spell was broken. Pennywise sounded like a cartoon chipmunk (think Alvin’s uncle). IT went back to “meh”.

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It also doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to the Castle Rock TV Podcast. They are doing a review/retrospective of the books and characters that will probably show up in Hulu’s Castle Rock, a new series based on the works of Stephen King. The first story they tackle is IT. Over several podcast they have explored the book and the miniseries.

 

So, in a sense, I’m full of IT. 🙂

I’ll get around to the new movie eventually; that opening weekend box office means IT will be haunting theatres for a while. The reviews and audience reaction suggest that I probably will like IT–when I give it a chance. For now, I’ve had my fair share of clowns.

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Tuesday Terror: A Small Dark Place

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A Small Dark Place by Martin Schenk (1997) is a horror novel that is broken into two parts. In part one, Sandra and Peter Wiley are on the brink of financial ruin. They have been struggling for years and have enemies dedicated to seeing them suffer and fail. Then, Sandra remembers an event from her youth—the riveting rescue of Baby Carlotta. The country fell in love with Baby Carlotta when she fell into a dry well. The rescue took several days, but she was pulled out of the hole alive and (thanks to donations from well wishers) one hundred thousand dollars richer.

Desperate for cash, Sandra and Peter decide to create their own Baby Carlotta moment by having their son Will fall into a similar type of hole. They set a “trap” for their boy and wait for him to cry out. Unfortunately, it is their daughter Andromeda—a child who is frightfully afraid of the dark—that falls in.

Part two is set in the present, roughly 1997. Andromeda is all grown up and coming back home. The rescue had various affects on people and the prospect of her return is just as exciting/anxiety producing. While the town is ready to have a parade and herald the return of their favorite daughter, Andromeda is ready to settle some old scores. She learned a lot in that small, dark place and she’s ready to show the world.

The book does a great job with the parents. You really do understand how they got to a point where exploiting a child like this seems like a viable option. At the same time, the decision isn’t an easy one. If they don’t do it, how far down in metaphorical darkness will the family fall? Could the family even survive? If they do it (and they do), how will that change the relationship dynamics? Can you really justify endangering a child for the greater good of the family?

At the same time, this is a horror novel. So, plenty of one dimensional characters abound but they don’t need to be fleshed out beyond their relationship with the Wiley family. It was a fun read for me, especially since I remember the real-life Baby Jessica incident.

If you were born in the mid 80s or later, you probably don’t know anything about Baby Jessica. On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure was playing in a backyard with other children when she fell down a dry well. It took rescuers two to three days to get her out. Thanks to round the clock cable news, the nation watched every step of the rescue.

There were images of her parents at the top of the hole talking to her, singing songs. Experts behind desks explained how the rescuers planned to drill a parallel tunnel so that an adult human can get down to her level set her free. There were interviews with neighbors, background pieces on the community—saving this little girl was an event.

To my memory, it was acknowledged as a freak accident. No one blamed the parents. There were no threats of taking the baby away. People sent prayers, cards and money – not death threats. This was pre-Internet, people with horrible thoughts didn’t have a venue to instantly and anonymously share their venom with the world.

Once Baby Jessica was pulled out of the hole, there were a few immediate follow up national stories to assure everyone that she was physically and mentally healthy. She met President Bush (the 1st one). Then, the news cycle moved on.

If you want to learn more about Baby Jessica, many stories about her are archived here: Baby Jessica Rescue Page

Reviews: The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

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Available at Amazon | Kobo

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

From Omnivore Bibliosaur:

Sexy, suspenseful, and full of surprises, The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales features an array of previously published short stories starring women of color. Tawanna Sullivan serves up a sampler platter of genres: erotica, horror, suspense, thriller, fantasy, and romance. This slender volume is the perfect companion for any spare moment or a leisurely morning.

-read the full review

From Black Lesbian Literary Collective

Overall, I enjoyed this collection, and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a short, fun, Black lesbian read. Sullivan is good, and while the erotica is probably her best work, I’d love to see her do more with speculative fiction and horror.

-read the full review

Beware The Savage Jaw of 1984

Doublespeak, constant surveillance, alternative facts, the pursuit and maintenance of power at all cost… Of course, I’m talking about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. These books are just flying off of the shelves.

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Animal Farm is one of my favorite books. It’s a tale about animals who revolt against the farmer who is oppressing them (forcing them into labor, killing them, etc) and what happens after they win. Driving off the humans is one thing, creating new rules to run the farm is another. In truth, it’s a story about the Russian Revolution (Lenin, Trotsky and the gang) but the allegory does not depend on your knowledge of Russian history to work.

If you are in an Orwellian frame of mind, here are some other media suggestions:

David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and The 1980 Floor Show
At one time, David Bowie wanted to create a musical based on 1984 but the Orwell estate wasn’t interested. Those songs were incorporated into Diamond Dogs, an album that cast a very dark image of the future.
While the musical itself didn’t happen, you can get an idea of what Bowie was going for in The 1980 Floor Show (recorded over 3 days in October 1973):

Brazil
Can you imagine what would happen if Monty Python got their hands on Orwell’s 1984 and made a movie? You don’t have to imagine–it kinda happened. In 1985, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame directed Brazil – a film that’s a spiritual cousin of 1984. See, a worker – a cog in the wheel of a totalitarian government tries to correct a mistake and all hell breaks loose:

*An alternative title for this post: They’ll Split Your Pretty Cranium And Fill It Full Of Air

WILTW – Hidden Figures: The Secret of Hampton High School

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By NASA [Public domain]

It’s 1956. Mary Jackson is a computer at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. She wants to continue her education and get an engineering degree. Good news: The University of Virginia offers engineering courses at a local high school – Hampton High. Bad news: Hampton High is for whites only. Ms. Jackson has to petition the City of Hampton to get special permission to take the classes.

Going into the school for the first time, Mary Jackson makes a shocking discovery…

Hampton High School was a dilapidated, musty old building.
A stunned Mary Jackson wondered: was this what she and the rest of the black children in the city had been denied all these years? This rundown, antiquated place? She had just assumed that if whites had worked so hard to deny her admission to the school, it must have been a wonderland. But this? Why not combine the resources to build a beautiful school for both black and white students? Throughout the South, municipalities maintained two parallel inefficient school systems, which gave the short end of the stick to the poorest whites as well as blacks. The cruelty of racial prejudice was so often accompanied by absurdity, a tangle of arbitrary rules and distinctions that subverted the shared interest of people who had been taught to see themselves as irreconcilably different.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, p 145

 

It’s here! The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales (ebook)

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The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales is now available via Amazon and Kobo.
The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

The Introduction:

A collection of previously published stories, The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales is an eclectic mix of black lesbian fiction. These are stories of love, lust, desire, mystery, and revenge—with a touch of humor here and there.

There are two stories of “pure” erotica; sex is the engine driving the plot. In The Souvenir, a woman riding the subway gets a front row seat to a live sex show. In Just Desserts, the erotic potential of chance comes into play when a couple is stranded at an airport.

Several tales delve into the up-and-down nature of relationships. When Narcia loses her lust interest to her best friend in The Next Girl, long held resentments rise to the surface. After a disastrous day, lovers in The Getaway take an impromptu trip and reaffirm their commitment to each other.

In Losing Michelle, a horror writer wishes her partner would leave her alone—until the woman goes missing. Originally published under the pseudonym Evelyn Foster, In Remembrance of Her finds a woman negotiating with dark forces in a quest to save her lover. Despite rumors, Chante is drawn to the mysterious Diana in The One Who Got Away.

Themes of community and forgiveness are also explored. In Operation Butch Ambush, rival factions come together to save women from a nefarious group that reprograms butch lesbians who have strayed from strict gender roles. Aria comes home from a hellish week at work to a nasty surprise in Cat and Mouse. In The Homecoming, it’s a funeral that prompts Melanie to revisit the past and her fractured relationship with her family.

Also included are flash fiction pieces with bite. Famished and Witness are about different forms of hunger.

Spanning a decade, these pieces reflect the political and social realities of their times. For example, before same sex marriage or civil unions, a lesbian couple who wanted their union recognized in some legal capacity could get into a domestic partnership (if their municipality offered it).

I enjoyed writing these stories; I hope you enjoy reading them.

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