“Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.” Thus began a four week campaign in which different members of my eighth grade class wore me down and I agreed to run an after school program. We ended up with nearly a dozen intrepid souls in our merry band, including two sixth graders. Each one with a story (or novel or series of novels) in progress.
Maurice BroaddusThe timing of the call to write for the Knaves anthology couldn’t have been more perfect.
It gave me an opportunity to write alongside my students, which is always one of my favorite ways to teach creative writing because it demystifies the process in very practical ways (minus the profanity when I got stuck…though my kind-hearted middle school students offered to fill that in for me, but for the sake of me wanting to keep my job, I declined their helpful offer).
So that out time together wouldn’t degenerate into “goofing off with Mr. Broaddus” (I’m not admitting that on rare occasion my time with my eighth graders may have slid into this), I outlines a series of topics for us to discuss: brainstorming, world-building, plotting, beginnings, scenes, middles, dialogue, endings, and revision. The thing about eighth graders, especially ones who believe that after school they are “off the clock,” is that they “listen” in different ways. To the casual observer, it may have looked a lot like them insulting one another, throwing paper wads, attempting to listen to music, and cruising the latest Fortnite skins. However, when it came time to write, they were all business.
With this in mind, I wrote “Daughter of Sorrow.” This story features a heroine named Rianna (I’m not admitting that I had a student named Rianna who declared herself my favorite student. I will say that if you notice in any of my work produced between the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 the phrase “Rianna is Queen,” know that she was prone to “editing” my drafts). She’s facing the prospect of going to high school. And as many people have rightly assumed, high school is a place full of assassins. So it’s handy that her father happens to be one who has been training her and allowed her to tag along (remotely) on some of his missions.
Writing is often a very solitary art form, which has always frustrated me a little because I hate the idea of extended periods of isolating myself to create. So whenever possible, I have tried to find ways to make my art/process as communal as possible. Surrounding myself with eighth graders to brainstorm and plot is a lot like attempting to write in the Thunderdome. On the flip side, they poured that same energy and passion into their own work, too. In our final meeting, we did readings of our work. And it was obvious they really paid attention. In fact, in a moment I still think back on with pride, it was one of our sixth graders who wrote a piece so profound it ripped out our hearts and sent us spiraling into our feels.
So “Daughter of Sorrow” is dedicated to my Creative Writing Club who are eagerly awaiting to see it in print (and whom I have promised to buy copies for). They were my critique partners, they were my editors, and they were my inspiration (I won’t lie: I bawled like a baby at their promotion ceremony). However, right after their graduation, my sixth graders came up to me and said “Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.”
About Maurice Broaddus
Maurice Broaddus is an exotic dancer, trained in several forms of martial arts–often referred to as “the ghetto ninja”–and was voted the Indianapolis Dalai Lama. He’s an award winning haberdasher and coined the word “acerbic”. He graduated college at age 14 and high school at age 16. Not only is he credited with inventing the question mark, he unsuccessfully tried to launch a new number between seven and eight.
When not editing or writing, he is a champion curler and often impersonates Jack Bauer, but only in a French accent. He raises free range jackalopes with his wife and two sons … when they are not solving murder mysteries.
He really likes to make up stories. A lot. Especially about himself.
Thanks to our awesome backers and readers, the Kickstarter for our anthology, Knaves, has been a success!
Four hundred eighty-nine backers came together and invested $15,342 to make Knaves happen. Not only will this anthology be produced, but the authors will all get their raises, bringing them up to ten cents per word. Not only that, but we can so close to the art stretch goal that we are considering adding Nicolás Giacondino’s wonderful Knave-inspired artwork to the book.
One of the backer rewards for Knaves was for the backers to get the all-new editions of Blackguards, which will be called Scoundrels and Brigands. We’re pleased to announce that these books will have one brand new story in each volume, one by New York Times bestselling author Elaine Cunningham, and the other by Zin E. Rocklyn, who also wrote a story for us for Kaiju Rising 2!
This Kickstarter is set to deliver in November, 2018, and we can’t wait for readers to see it!
I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was pretty nifty. (It was even more fun as a segment in later Star Wars video games). But there was some core element of Star Wars I felt was just absent.
It didn’t take me more than a few times watching it to realize that what the film didn’t have was Han Solo.
I don’t mean Han Solo literally. What I wanted was a loveable rogue. (You’ll note that I found a TV Tropes link for the character type–that’s how common it is). It’s all well and good to have the earnest hero in the center of things. That’s kinda their job. But there needs to be someone around with a smirk and a wink and a hard edge—a little too cynical to believe in the mythic importance of everything around them (even if they’re later proven wrong). Sometimes it’s their job to undercut the narrative, to give it a little breathing room so the audience can laugh. Pretty typically, their witticisms are the ones people leave the theater quoting. They’re not in this story for the higher mission of the plot. They’re in it for some selfish reason.
But not really. Because when the chips are down, they show up to help save the day.
Or, actually, they don’t.
Even though I grew up with the Han Solo type of scoundrel and grew into the Malcolm Reynolds kind of scoundrel (as a freelancer, “I do the job, and then I get paid” became a mantra for me), I’ve developed a bit of a taste for the varied palate they can offer. Around the time I was loving Firefly, I was also reading Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. Which centers on a character who is, effectively, a crime lord in at least a portion of his novels. He’s an assassin. He’s not a nice man. But he’s affable, the kind of narrator you want to follow on whatever mission it is he’s undertaking. And, even when it’s not really the right thing, you want him to win.
I followed Mark Henry’s “Amanda Feral” series, which is narrated by a zombie socialite. Who eats people. Sometimes they’re not even bad people, it’s just that she’s a zombie, and. Well. It happens. And while the whole experience of hanging out with Amanda is kind of like being a spectator to a train wreck, it’s a glorious spectacle.
More recently, there’s Marvel’s Loki, whose Road Movie-like dialogue with Thor was the best thing about Thor: The Dark World. Never quite knowing what side Loki is on is a big part of his appeal—but, even moreso, that he’s ambiguous with charm. If you want to talk about a fan favorite character—I think it’s probably a safe bet that there’s more fan fiction about Loki on the Internet than any of the Marvel heroes. (I’m not going to actually go count them, but I stand by my suspicion).
And while characters like Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart from Ilona Andrews’s “Kate Daniels” series are absolutely the heroes—they’ve got a bit of a edge on them as well. Kate, a former mercenary, private investigator, and also the daughter of one of the universe’s big evils, isn’t always good at playing nice. Curran, who for much of the series is the leader of all the shapeshifters in Atlanta, creates a code for his own people, but doesn’t always play nicely by the rules of non-shapeshifters. They’re a pair for whom the default response is to hit the problem with a sword, and to do so with a gleeful, maniacal smile that makes bystanders scared for their lives.
Fantasy and science fiction thrive on the morally ambiguous characters who can reel you into their stories and make you want them to win, even when they’re the bad guys. While I’m no psychologist, I suspect there’s something cathartic about rooting for the scoundrel. When you’re part of a community (a family, a town, a nation), it’s important to follow the rules—but it’s not always fun. Diplomacy is hard. Sometimes just getting along with other members of your community is hard.
Rooting for the guy who doesn’t have to follow those rules? Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. In all the varieties possible.
As Han says, “There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”
Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland Entertainment, now on Kickstarter!
There are words and phrases from what one reads that stick with you throughout your entire life. From the moment you read them they inspired or changed you. As a teen, the now clichéd “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day” from the film Dead Poet’s Society was life changing, but it was reading that always struck to the core of my heart when it came to shaping who I was as both a person and as a writer of the fantastical.
No one was as pivotal to who I became in both respects than Douglas Adams. My first exposure was to the PBS import of the BBC television series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Immediately I HAD TO HAVE the books and made my mother take me to buy what was then just the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I still have the broken spined, falling apart hardcover, coated in dried green slime from a toy accident years ago. Then I consumed the radio plays on cassette, and bought the annotated transcripts to read along with.
There are a million turns of phrase that the late Mr. Adams wrote over the years that stick with me:
- “Don’t Panic.”—the words inscribed on the guide itself, and an obvious choice as a life motto.
- “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”—Marvin the Paranoid Android, moping about in his usual depressed state
- From the planet builder Slartibartfast, best known for winning an award for designing Earth’s Norwegian fjords:
Slartibartfast: I’d far rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That’s where it all falls down of course.
But the one that has always stuck with me is:
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
To a 12-year old kid, it just seemed funny, but it also made me think. Adults were weird, anyway. Why would they obsess over these little green pieces of paper? The idea was absurd—later causing me to strive in my own fiction to capture even just a fracture of Mr. Adam’s genius/humor—but his words were also spot on about the human condition. These were IMPORTANT WORDS, important thoughts! As I grew up and became an adult myself (a debatable point, I know), I found the words stuck with me.
I’ve been financially stable as well as pathetically poor, but rarely have I suffered at the hand of that ebb and flow. Money is always welcome and nice to have and all, but I’ve never let a lack of it determine my happiness. It’s been a pretty healthy attitude, focusing me instead on what truly makes me happy—family, writing, rampantly consuming all manners of nerdery…
Such a complexly written yet simply logical line transformed my entire attitude about the true answer to life, the universe, and well, everything. Words…powerful stuff indeed.
There are only a couple days left to back Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology on Kickstarter!
Featuring stories from Cat Rambo, Mercedes Lackey & Dennis Lee, Maurice Broaddus, Anton Strout, Anna Spark Smith, Cullen Bunn, Walidah Imarisha, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Clay Sanger, Kenny Soward, Linda Robertson, Lian Hearn, Toiya Kristen Finley, and Shanna Germain, Knaves contains stories about people on the wrong side of the ethical tracks, folks whose moral compasses don’t quite point north, and those who have to make hard decisions that are in that gray area between good and bad. While many of the stories are traditional fantasy, others are on the edge of cyberpunk, horror, and urban fantasy.
Backers have the options of having characters named after them, getting their query letters or their fiction critiqued by the authors or editors, and getting an original piece of artwork from artist Nicolás Giacondino, and of course, getting eBook and print copies of Knaves. Backers will also have the option of being the first to receive new editions of the original Blackguards anthology stories, divided into two volumes and re-branded with the Outland Entertainment logo, These volumes will have new covers as well as one new story in each.
Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology was selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick, and editors Melanie R. Meadors and Alana Joli Abbott have seen what a special collection of stories this will surely be. Fantasy fans of all types will find something to love. But don’t wait to back it—there are only a couple days left!
Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn.
But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat himself as he has love Warlock 5 for more than thirty years.
How did you stumble upon Warlock 5 for the first time?
I discovered Warlock 5 at my local comic book shop (Heroes Are Here in Goldsboro NC) when I was a kid. I picked the first issue up off the shelf.
Why did it capture you?
Right from the jump, that awesome cover of the first issue, featuring the 5 warlocks, had my attention. Then, reading the issue, I fell in love with the interesting, sort of hard-edged cast of characters, the fusion of horror, science fiction, and fantasy was right up my alley.
Did you have a favorite issue?
I think the first 5 or so issues were all pretty great, but that first issue will always be my favorite in the series. It did such a nice job of introducing all the characters and giving me a feel for the tone of the series.
How about a beloved character?
Savasthar, the shapeshifting dragon, has always been my favorite of the bunch, but I have a soft spot for Zania, too.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not too much. If anything, I like both Savasthar and Zania a little more. In this project, I get to write Savasthar as sort of a brooding hardboiled detective… who can turn into a dragon… so that’s pretty hard to beat.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
As with all my projects, I draw inspiration from many different places. Novels, movies, TV, other comics… It’s hard for me to pinpoint any one source. Those original few issues of the Warlock 5 comic were definitely the most vital influence.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Jimmy Z Johnston. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
I enjoy collaborating with others. Sometimes, writing comics is too solitary. Working with other creators helps to keep me sane.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I’ve known Jimmy Z for a long time now. Ten years, I guess. And we’ve always talked about writing something together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We looked at the weird relationships between the warlocks as they were presented in the original comic, and we wanted to honor the way their interactions were depicted. But we also wanted to expand on what we had seen before and deepen those connections.
What are you most looking forward to work on?
I chuckle to myself every time I think of the interactions between Zania, the punk rock necromancer, and Argon, the Terminator-like robot from the future. But from a “big story” perspective, we’re getting a chance to really explore the idea of defending multiple realities from outside threats. And we’re introducing a really, really big outside threat.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
We have to make sure to give each character plenty of “page time.” This is an ensemble cast, and no one character needs to hog the spotlight. That can be a challenge at times.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
For the most part, yeah. Any time you work on a comic like this, especially with a co-writer, there are changes and new angles that arise as you are working on the project.
In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?
I think people will read something more into the book whether or not I try to include something. But my primary objective with these stories is to entertain. Sure, there might be some subliminal ideas that I’m working into a story based on things that I’m thinking about, but I’m not going to try to hit the reader over the head with any of that.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
Well, I always wondered what would happen to the five warlocks if one of them died.