Posts Tagged ‘writing’

[The Village. Video File enclosed.]

I am “The Most Secret Spy” in Spyfunkdom.

My dossier until quite recently was apparently,

“HIGHLY CLASSIFIED” and unpublished.

Alas, my cover is now blown.

#6: B.J. Jones
B.J. Jones!
Subject profile:
B.J. Jones is an attorney, business consultant, writer, artist, community activist, minister and mom. She is C.E.O. of Griot Arts Media. Her books "A Call to Gather" and "Zion Hill" are available on She is a NFT artist, active as an Administrator in the FB writing, film and faith communities. Her short film script "Right Place. Right Time." won Honorable Mention in the Orlando Urban Film Festival (2017). The film is forthcoming. B.J. Jones is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and Georgetown University Law Center.


FB: B.J. Jones

Twitter: @walkinginpower

I.G.: b.j._jones

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

    When I saw the first post for the Spyfunk anthology, I knew I had to submit a story for it. I love Jazz and wanted to write a story that incorporated cryptography and the mathematics of music into the story line. I lived in D.C. for many years and became aware of the alphabet soup of specialized intelligence agencies there. I currently live near NASA. Both D.C. and NASA are central in the story.

    In Codes and Coda there is an ensemble of characters, including three siblings Jeff, Jim and Jackie Ben Ivan and their associate Tyler Patterson. I wanted to add a few next level twists so I added spy dogs and satellites. My story is also an homage to Ivan Dixon, the actor, director and producer who portrayed strong, insightful African American men. Amongst his extensive resume, he directed the films, Trouble Man and The Spook Who Sat By The Door. Hence the names Ben (son of) Ivan and Ivan Research Corporation are inspired by Ivan Dixon.
This one was popular in a previous Spyfunk! File too…

The control of and access to satellites are central to

global communication and power.

 Black folks must be brokers at that table.”

  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

    The motivation for the Ben Ivan siblings is a sense of justice and a desire for African Diaspora people to be in power positions in global and space circles. In addition, they have a strong sense of family, intellectual curiosity and love of Jazz. The use of dogs with high tech chips and specialty tech training is a vehicle that is increasingly used in investigations. Dogs are now trained to be able to smell the chemical coatings of microchips.  The control of and access to satellites are central to global communication and power.  Black folks must be brokers at that table.

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

    I have many favorite spy movies for different reasons. “The Spook Who Sat By the Door” by Sam Greenlee was a book passed around by my family members when it came out back in the day. It became a favorite film because it was so revolutionary. I watched I Spy with Bill Cosby and Greg Morris in Mission Impossible on t.v. and all the James Bond films. I still love the Bond films. I love the character Felix Leiter played by Jeffrey Wright, Jinx played by Halle Berry and Lashana Lynch as a Black woman 007. I like Atomic Blonde because of the implied triple agent ending. I like the Kingsman films’ premise of a “principled” spy organization independent of a government entity. I also like the 24 Legacy t.v. series starring Corey Hawkins. The back story of his character Eric Carter, and in particular his connection with his old neighborhood as a resource, is relatable to me.
  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

    Josephine Baker received the Croix de Guerre from France for her role as a spy in World War II. Based on her celebrity status, she used her sheet music to smuggle intel to the French resistance. Josephine Baker was a global citizen, visionary and activist. The flip side of that is COINTELPRO. Ernest Withers, the African American photographer used as a F.B.I. informant to spy on Martin Luther King, Jr. is a prime example of spies used against the African American community.
If you don’t know Josephine Baker’s story already, definitely have a look here! And here!

  1. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

I think that fiction is often prescient. One aspect of Codes and Coda is the use of dogs trained in spying and discovering devises. In recent news, electronic sniffing dogs assisted in the arrests of a paedophile ring in Mexico and in the raid on Jeffrey Clark, former Department of Justice attorney in the Trump administration.

  1. Best spy hero?

    James Bond for fiction. Harriett Tubman for history.
A link to the story of Harriet Tubman from

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

    Raoul Silva. He is always scary and analytical. SPECTRE is a villain of sorts, with its own character. It outlives any one villain and is literally more invasive and inherently dangerous.
Click for a clip of Silva in action

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

    My character Tyler Patterson would definitely enter and maintain a relationship to keep deep cover. He has his own standards, rules and alliances. He has experienced and understands betrayal and loyalty. He is committed to his missions. My character Jeffrey Ben Ivan would not enter into a relationship in order to keep cover.
  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

    I would like to see Idris Elba as the next Bond or as a 007. I have questions of whether he would be limited by the existing James Bond character arc. I also like Rege-Jean Page for the James Bond/007 role. He could have longevity, as well as charisma. Maybe have Idris as “M” and Rege-Jean as Bond…
[Russell: Yeah. I can totally see this. Full interview at ]

  1. Any questions you want to ask me?

What’s next for you? Another book soon? Any plans on making your writings into films or a series?

[Russell: Well, immediately next for me is a lot of uni work! Currently finishing my Masters and going to have very little rest time between that and starting doctoral research! But it’s been really good to get back on the writing saddle, and that is going to carry on I hope, because it helps with the rest. I’m on SLOW progress with an Arthurian fantasy tale I really want to get out there. I have a newer urban fantasy universe in which I have one novella tale out and am working, I don’t mind saying, on a few more while I work out how the full-length is going to work. I’ve done an interview for that on my friend D.A. Lascelles’ site here. And I’d LOVE to have some more adventures with my own spy characters, but I’ll go into that in a future post really soon! Thank you so much for asking this!]

An excerpt of B.J. Jones’s story, Codes and Coda, plus a link to picking up this collection, is here for you. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, there’s a link in here and if you have, and you have time, drop us a few reviews! Be more than just a number…

[AKA: Funk Five.]
File #5 contact: 
Denny Upkins
Read on for full mission brief...

1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

The story was initially a script for a potential collaboration I was doing at the time with my buddy Camille Debose, who is a gifted filmmaker, photographer and a college professor. We had ideas for a short film that would be easy to shoot on a nominal budget with a story that packed a wallop. Life happens and both of us have very busy and demanding careers. So plans for the project were put on hold indefinitely. Nevertheless the story stuck with me, and I felt it was one that needed to be shared. So a few rewrites later, and we got The Bonds That Bind.

Without spoiling the story, I will say that two of the heroes are inspired by real life loved ones and personal superheroes of mine. You can learn about their incredible origin story here.

This story (at least this iteration anyway) definitely wouldn’t have been a reality if it wasn’t for the incredible people in my life.

2. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

You think you know but you have no idea. Each character in the story has an agenda and some of them are fighting internal battles. Once said internal battles are revealed, it becomes clear that the one who appears to be the antagonist, is battling impossible odds.

On rare occasions it is about believing in someone and seeing the good in them even if they struggle to see it in themselves. A lesson taught to me by one of my mentors, author David Dark.

3. What’s your favourite spy movie?

Fast & Furious 6 probably takes the top spot with Skyfall and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, running closely behind.

4. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

I do but none that I’m at liberty to divulge. What I will say that many of the same skill sets needed to be successful in both espionage and investigative journalism/detective work overlap.

5. Best spy hero?

In real life: Harriet Tubman, Josephine Baker and my personal patronus, Alan Turing.

In fiction, there are a number of them: James Bond, Diana Prince, Phil Coulson, Melinda May,

And of course Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne of ABC’s Revenge.

6. And favourite spy villain?

Li-Na, the North Korean sleeper agent and season five Big Bad of Strike Back: Legacy.  Played by Emperor Philippa Georgiou herself. I’m a hardcore fanboy of all things Michelle Yeoh on any day ending in ‘y’ but Evil Michelle Yeoh is the gift I did not know this world needed. But you really couldn’t call her evil because she continuously served as a glitch in the matrix that is western white imperialism and consistently called the powers that be and by extension the viewers out on their hypocrisy and their part in systemic racism and I was here for all of it.

“I’m a hardcore fanboy of all things Michelle Yeoh on any day ending in ‘y’ but Evil Michelle Yeoh is the gift I did not know this world needed.”

Anna Espinosa who was played by perfection herself, the Goddess known as Gina Torres in the ABC series, Alias. Espinosa was a recurring rival to the show’s lead, Sidney Bristow who was played by Jennifer Garner. Espinosa was the Moriarty to Bristow’s Sherlock and those eps always made for great television.

Gravedigger who was one of the antagonists of season 3 of Black Lightning. He was played brilliantly by Wayne Brady. Much like  Strike Back’s Li-Na, a very strong argument could be made that he wasn’t a villain because he was an unapologetic revolutionary fighting for freedom for other Blacks and metas and he reluctantly had to fight in a war to achieve those goals because, well, freedom isn’t free. Especially in a world built on antiblackness.

Nikita series Big Bad, Amanda Collins, who was brought to life masterfully by the incredible Melinda Clarke. She may just be the best version of a live action Emma Frost to date.

The beguiling Raina, portrayed by the talented Ruth Negga by on the Coulson May Power Hour (billed in some regions as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.) I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Werner von Strucker who was also a recurring baddie. My adoration for the latter certainly has nothing to do with my weakness for cute cerebral psychopaths or actor Spencer Treat Clark. Nope not at all. [shakes head convincingly]

7. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?


Idris Elba is a class act and one of the most talented entertainers in the game today. The fact that he isn’t helming multiple franchises is absolutely criminal. He deserves better and nothing less than the best. I’ll leave it at that.

8. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

For the two spies in my story, I believe they have a strong core of morals and ethics and would do their best to do right by all parties involved but their primary allegiance is towards the greater good….whatever that would entail.

9. Any questions you want to ask *me*?

Your story is now part of an anthology that will no doubt be cemented in the ongoing renaissance that is Black Speculative fiction. As an author, as an artist, how does it feel to have that kind of legacy?

VERY interesting question! This is the sort of thing I must first start off noting what an honour it was for me to be one of those chosen for this anthology in the first place. But yeah, further than that, I’m delighted that I got to write this story, which I hope is the start of much more. Not just by me, but by others who had that same thought when sat in front of their computer reading the casting call in the first place and go on to do amazing things. I’m really looking forward to what comes next and as strange as this sounds, it might sink in a bit more as to what has happened now a lot more once that happens. [Russell]

Thanks for stopping by, Denny, and thank you for reading, viewers! And speaking of reading, here’s an excerpt from Denny’s tale, The Bonds That Bind. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for news of the next entry. Be seeing you…

Apologies, readers, for the wait between files. Be assured there are more being gathered by our best agents as we speak.

Our fourth file is brought to you straight out of Spy School. This session’s contact:

John. F. Allen.

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

    The idea for the characters were inspired by James Bond and how he was not a very good spy, lol! He was way too flamboyant, and everyone pretty much knew who he was before he even started to engage in his mission. The best spies are those who can blend into their environment and avoid suspicion, which Bond always failed at. The physical descriptions of the characters are patterned after Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, and David Oyelowo.
  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villain tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

    The two major characters are motivated by ambition and self-gratification. Service to country is the excuse they use to justify their true motivations and fulfil their duties to their superiors.

  2. What’s your favourite spy movie?

    Four-way tie: Argo, Spy Games, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Spy. Argo is based on a true story, which I found to be an almost perfect operation for a group of spies to be involved in. Spy Games deals with very interesting subject matter, characters, and timelines. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is very real-world espionage adaptation of a novel from one of my favorite spy fiction novelists, the late, great John Le Carre’. Spy is a comedic look at the very Spy tropes I expose in my story, which very much inspired my approach in some ways.
  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

    About 20 years ago I worked as a Private Investigator and I learned a lot about subterfuge, thinking on my feet and surveillance. In one instance, I sent a Mexican employee into a restaurant to listen in on a conversation between a subject and their extra-marital partner regarding a plot to murder my client for insurance money. My employee didn’t speak English very well but understood it well enough to write down what they heard, and they also had a hidden recording device which we were able to transcribe later. Thankfully, their plans were thwarted, they were arrested, and my client was able to live their life without fear of being murdered.

  2. So, from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

    Yes, I believe so. Most of the popular spy films we are given are very much action oriented and because of this, they are very over the top and make it almost impossible to suspend disbelief. On the flip side, many of the BEST and true to life spy films lack the over the top action and are much more believable but aren’t very mainstream. These films are much closer to true life spies, in my opinion.
  1. Best spy hero?

    I’d have to list Felix Leiter as portrayed by Jeffrey Wright in the Daniel Craig Bond films. He was the epitome of the soft spoken, cool agent, who kept a low profile and was able to blend into his environment. I had hoped that they would’ve spun the character off into a sister franchise, but alas it never came to be.

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

    As silly as it seems to mention this character, but Gru from Despicable Me fits the bill for me. I think that he has the most growth as a villain I’ve seen and yes, even though it’s a children’s movie, his ability to utilize his strengths and discover NEW ones through his journey are very interesting to me.
  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

    It depends on which of the three primary characters you’re referring to. For Oxford Jameson, he would enjoy any romantic/sexual escapades he encounters while on mission and consider the other party expendable upon conclusion. He also wouldn’t hesitate to assassinate the other party with prejudice if it became necessary. As for Aisha Zewde, her take is almost the same as Jameson’s, but she would likely consider, however briefly, the possibility of preserving the life of the other party, if for no other reason than serving as an exploitable asset. However, she would just as easily assassinate the other party if they in any way endangered her life or the mission. Lastly, Kwento Adebayo would be much more discreet and conscientious where his mission is concerned. He would have planned out his mission with the scenario in mind and put fail safes into place. However, if his life and the mission depended on it, he would take extreme actions as a last resort only.

  2. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I personally feel as though I’d rather have him portray Felix Leiter and leave James Bond white, if we had to go that route. That said, I would much prefer he portray a NEW character whose origins are black to begin with.

  1. Any questions you want to ask me?

    This was fun, would you be open to more interviews with me in the future?

Absolutely! Actually, I’ll definitely want to be doing one of these myself as well, so I should probably consider some questions from elsewhere for that if you’re up for such things? [Russell]

Want to read an excerpt from John’s story, Spy School? Well, you can find it right here. And once you’ve done that, the rest of the collection is available when you want it here too, as a paperback or an e-book. Thanks, John, for a great interview.

Our third special Spyfunk! agent will take us to the 1970s and beyond.

File #3’s contact:

Gavin Matthew

See the full mission briefing below...

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

My story was inspired by my love of 70s Black action films and my fixation with train rides. Part of it is also a nod to how espionage-like the Black Power Movement conflicts had been.

2. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

The two protagonists are motivated by a loyalty to the Black community. One has dedicated her life to the fight for freedom against oppression. While the other is forced into action for survival. The glue that binds them to their heroic goals is the sacrifices others close to them have already paid in pursuit of their mission’s success.

3. What’s your favourite spy movie?

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

4. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

The entire list Civil Rights and Black Power cloak & dagger conflicts. It is interesting and maddening how hard a whole government fought to abuse, control, and profit from an entire people despite there having never been a threat from them. Then the resilience and intelligence of our people to overcome such an enemy is simply invigorating.

5. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

Of course. In reality the idea of good guy is murky in espionage. Weatherman committed terroristic acts but they also stole and leaked evidence that shined a light on countless government sanctioned acts of violence and surveillance. Then, at the same time, fiction breathes life to events that could have happened, allowing us to paint an idea about situations we may never know the truth about.

6. Best spy hero?

Dan Freeman

7. …and favourite spy villain?

Dr. Kananga

8. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

My protagonist weighs the relationship partner’s ethics and then gambles with telling them the truth. They then deal with either a new ally or a new enemy.

9. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I would watch it with hopes that is well written with cultural ideas woven amongst its classical tapestry.

10. Any questions you want to ask me?

Do you have any pointers on how to secure life as a full-time writer and novelist?

[Russell – as I’m not at this point a full-time writer or novelist; in fact more of a full-time student these days, I may not be the absolute best person to ask this one! That said, I’ve seen enough of it to know one or two things. The main one in this case is there’s a difference between full time and what I’m doing that everything else you’re doing is depending on it, income, timetable etc. but the fundamental matter of that is that you need the output to get the input. So you have to be actually writing very often. Sounds obvious, but at that level it’s like an exercise regime, that you have to keep up at least a basic level of fitness to be able to do it. It isn’t how much you’re doing; it’s that you’re frequent, and that makes the rest easier for you.

I’ve another completely converse point there, in that given you’re centring your occupation around that, you’ve got to be prepared to do other things which *aren’t* writing in order to get yourself where you’ll want to be. Some of these are fun. Some will not be. But just be ready for that aspect too.

Are you ready for an excerpt from Gavin’s story, Train, Pain & Naturals? Of course you are.

Gavin Matthew is a writer known for his unique characters and lively dialogue. His projects are rich with culture and tend to have feature strong images of women. He is a screenwriter and a novelist, having a deep love both the creative mediums. With his belief that writing can be another form of freed fighting, he seeks to inspire any and everybody who reads his work. Gavin Matthew is the writer of the short story Train, Pain, & Naturals which is one many tales found in MVmedia’s Spyfunk! Anthology.

Spyfunk! Author Interview subject:

Joe Hilliard.

Known Aliases:

El Originario Extraño del Kalypso Kid

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

 When we moved from rural Michigan to Los Angeles in the early-80s, one of the big connection points to the other kids was lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), comic books, and tokusatsu. That was my youth. Lucha libre became a real cornerstone when I started writing, the masks, the milieu, that feeling of anything is possible. Watching the 60s and 70s films where Santo or Blue Demon could go from spy to vampire killer to Nazi Hunter to time traveller to solving the Bermuda Triangle, with a, “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!” and out the door. When Milton Davis pushed out the original Spyfunk call in 2017, I wrote “Dory Dixon” in a notebook, and printed out some research on the 1954 Caribbean Games. That initial draft played on a defection and hidden staircases and double crosses. Real Cold War tropes. While that draft “An Incident at the Embassy” never came to fruition, the true life story of Dory Dixon (noted in the coda to my piece) kept haunting me. It wasn’t until post-COVID when I started going to live lucha libre again here in SoCal and saw local guys like Mike Cheq that I realized I was looking, even in a Cold War setting, to capture that hype of live lucha, and the theatrics of those films. Milton reopened the call for stories, and Dante Davis leaped out as a reluctant hero caught up in intrigue, and finding his place in the world. He’s a bit of Dory Dixon, a bit Blue Demon, working on his Napoleon Solo.

Dory Dixon
  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

Like a lot of us, Dante Davis is driven by a few different engines – loyalty, doing what is right, and yes, a desire for excitement, for an adrenalin rush. We all know having those engines driving in all directions, especially when we are young. As the titles says, this is his origin. He is coming to terms with who he is, what those drives mean. How he can live with them? How can he change to fuel those engines? Should he change?

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

Just one? Ah! While far from traditional, Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST (1970) is as intriguing a betrayal of loyalty as you will see. More traditionally, Fritz Lang’s MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944), Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949), and Peter Glenville’s THE COMEDIANS (1967), all based on Graham Greene novels really kill it, and I will watch them over and over again. Or, it’s simply JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, fight me on the brilliance of Rowan Atkinson in that!

  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

I’m a sucker for the oddness of  Wild Bill Donovan’s OSS, the World War II precursor to the CIA. There’s something about the wide net of recruitment, this throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. Moe Berg the baseball player. Julia Child. Who is hiring these people? How is this real? I think of the opening sequence to the film THE RIGHT STUFF where they talk about hiring circus performers and barnstormers to be astronauts and you have this same feel. It’s what backgrounds the end of my story, where you have a wrestling promoter running your spy ring. It’s real, it’s not believable. It’s “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!,” which is pretty amazing in real life.

  1. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

I think the tension is, no matter how crazy you think your storyline is, there is someone attempting something that much crazier in real life, which should give anyone pause. Look at all the Fidel Castro assassination plots that the CIA cooked up in the 60s. It’s been going on forever. Never underestimate the human capacity to concoct means of violence and subterfuge on his fellow man…

  1. Best spy hero?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mickey Spillane’s Tiger Mann. They are some of the first spy novels I remember reading as a teen, even before Ian Fleming. My love for Fawcett Gold Medal 60s spies knows no bounds though. The “Assignment” novels by Edward S. Aarons starring Sam Durrell – 125 pages, no waiting. So, so good!

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless from the “Wild Wild West” tv show. So diabolical, and so fascinating!

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

Dante Davis is not the James Bond/Napoleon Solo lothario. He would undoubtedly look to an alternative. We see that he lives in a crazed Cold War place, but the underpinning for him was much more of the straight-forward character. The impetus for this was the Santo/Blue Demon films of the 60s/70s where the hero is “noble” in the traditional sense. Even when spying. And the tokusatsu heroes like Kamen Rider or Ultraman. Not that they are childish, or naïve, but that’s not the main impetus here. Perhaps a little more pulpy than saucy. That’s our Dante. But some of the other rogues that show up in this piece? They would have no such compunctions.

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I was a little crushed Elba didn’t get the Doctor Who gig actually. I love me some science fiction Elba more than anything. Bond still is an intriguing thought. His Luther was (still is), so compelling, I think it would be tempting to compare any Bond appearance by Elba negatively in that light. Much like how Roger Moore’s work as Simon Templar influences my view of his James Bond performance. Or Remington Steele invades Pierce Brosnan’s Bond for me.

  1. Any questions you want to ask *me*?

Who’s your go-to wrestler, when the chips are down? And, when can I come visit you in London???

(Well, there are many fine choices. But if we’re talking in their prime, I tend to look no further than the Deadman. To this day I don’t remember a debut impacting me quite like that one. These days I’m loving Blackpool Combat Club. The latter would depend upon when I’m actually *in London these days, which is not always easy to know! See the introductory post 🙂 – Russell)

Joe Hilliard. Writer. Luddite. Teller of Tales. Michigander by birth, in the wilds just outside the World’s Largest Walled Prison. Misspent teenage years in Los Angeles on a diet of Blue Demon, Chester Himes, Philip K. Dick, the Circle Jerks, Judge Dredd, and This Island Earth, on the fringe of 80s Hollywood. Graduate of the University of Michigan, which only added Kawabata, Tsui Hark, Krazy Kat, and William S. Burroughs to the mix. Marks time as a paralegal in sunny California.

Besides, SPYFUNK!, his short stories can be found in DIESELFUNK! from MVmedia, THE LEGENDS OF NEW PULP from Airship 27, HARD-BOILED SPORTS, SHUDDER PULP, JAMES R. TUCK’S HEROES OF HOLLOW EARTH, and ORIGINS AND ENDINGS VOLUME 1 from Pro Se Productions; AUTUMN PAINTED RED from Asylum Ink; MEAT FOR TEA: THE VALLEY REVIEW; and BLUE COLLAR REVIEW. His non-fiction comic book work can be found in APB: ARTISTS AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY from Rosarium Press and COLONIAL COMICS VOLUME II: NEW ENGLAND 1750-1776 from Fulcrum Publishing.

I don’t have an online thumbprint these days. Just LinkedIn for the day job. Find me there!

In conjunction with the imminent release of Spyfunk! I’ve managed to get hold of some of the authors in order to ask a few questions and find out more about the authors. Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find out more about Napoleon Wells. See below for answers, and in addition, you can read an excerpt from his story entry...

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character? 

My story exists in a larger world of Black Speculative Fiction, and I like to think of some of my imagery as Blackanime/Africanime where the world, concepts, conflicts and characters are all Black and fully realized. The world around those characters is always dangerous and my main character, Bul, has constant purpose and complicated motivation. He came from my need to see characters like him in stories, but finding few.

  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

 My hero is probably closer to an antihero and sometime mercenary. Still, he will do his job and try and save the world he knows. My villain’s motives are murky past, gaining enough power to tear this world apart.

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

I’d have trouble picking between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tenet, From Russia with Love and Our Man Flint.

  1. Best spy hero?

Considering his relative clarity and absurd luck, I’d say Ethan Hunt.

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

I prefer rich, layered villains, with a bit of style, so Bond’s Silva edges out Blofeld.

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

 Bul would do just about anything to see the mission completed, as long as the mission runs close to his own ends. Relationships, like weapons, his nanos and his power, would have to be a means to an end. They are a distraction he can’t afford while working, otherwise. Outside of work…

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

My thinking is that we need our own iconic Black characters in all areas of storytelling, so we don’t have to marvel at the novelty of a “Black Bond.” There are many richer Black/African world’s and stories to pull titans from, and we should start there. A film or series following the trouble of my character Bul would be dope, given the world around him, the stakes, it’s centering on Black characters and the peril.

Here’s an excerpt of his Spyfunk story, A Bullet From A God’s Gun.

Napoleon Wells is a Clinical Psychologist, Professor and author of Black Speculative Fiction. He focuses on stories that center Black lives, mythologies and experiences. His works tend to incorporate the Psychology of Black/African experience across the diaspora as a means of building rich, fully realized frameworks for stories centered on Black heroes, villains and worlds. He believes that the erasure and exclusion of Black existence from many genres can be directly and necessarily defeated by the stories being brilliantly told by Black Griots and artists. He builds stories based on the magnificent reality of Black futurism which he already sees in daily life. If he isn’t busy writing something strange and beautiful, he is likely treating patients, writing a social justice column or watching a rap battle. You can find and follow him on social media at:

Hey everyone!

This is a good time to dust off this here page and apologise for not being around in a while. Things have been very busy, and in a really good way, though this has of course affected other things. I’ve not had any novels out that I haven’t told you about or anything; the last tale I had out was in The Elementals, where I had a fun time telling the tale of a young East London witch just trying to hang out with her cousin and being thwarted at every turn. If you happen to still be after a copy of this doorstep of an anthology, do get in touch – might be able to help you out there!

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy retraining somewhat as a historian as well as a writer. There have been reasons, and I’ll probably report more on that when I get the chance, though mostly spending time elsewhere on that front. If you want to know more about what I’ve been doing with that sort of thing, I can point you at some volunteering work with the RAF Museum in London which I have been up to in the last year. I should also probably tell you that I’ve additionally been busy taking a History M.A. at the University of Leicester but when I’ve finished that – this is happening:

Back on the writing; I’ve had a fantastic return to Milford, this time for a retreat on which I got back to one of my favourite places which recharges me like little else. It’s taking time, but I’m working through an Arthurian tale I would really like to tell, though I’m hopeful it will be worth the wait to release it to you all.

However, I’ve been enjoying working on some shorter stuff in the meantime which I’ll keep ensuring sees the light of day. In fact one of the things here is to let you know there’s another story coming very soon, if you didn’t know already. This time, it’s a step into the murky world of espionage as the legendary Milton Davis has compiled a collection of fine spy stories from past, present and future eras centring characters of African/African Diaspora descent, including my own, Rundown in Jamdown. We’ll come to that in one of the future posts but for now, I’m starting with this here intro to what sort of thing to expect and a link to the excerpts up so far. Also, where you can order, because obviously we’d all love you to read the rest! All that remains is to begin introducing you to some of our authors, which will of course begin imminently!

Stay tuned; however be reassured that these messages will not self-destruct.

Earlier this week, I dusted this thing off to post on here with a guest blog from Timber Phillips, which if you missed don’t worry, you can always find a way.

Since this time, we have officially launched! And if you want a copy of this mighty tome, you may find our characters slinging various spells at a rate up there with any of your other shopping deals this weekend.

But once more, we have a guest post, in the form of long-time friend and fellow writing type D. A. Lascelles. You can catch his own posts on the Lurking Musings site, when he’s not round here for tea, virtually or otherwise. Anyway. *drumroll*…

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I write as D.A Lascelles and I am a lapsed romance writer. I started out writing with the BBW Romance Writers group and had my first novella, Transitions, published in 2012. This was a paranormal Romance with an ancient ghost, a boy and a very clever and strong willed student called Helen who you will get to meet if you read this anthology. I’ve also published a collection of shorts (called Lurking Miscellany) which also feature characters from my story in this and a fantasy called ‘Gods of the Deep which has no relation to The Elementals. However, it does feature Rachel Drake and Lady Catherine who you may recognise from Out of this World Alphas.

 I live in Manchester in the UK. I also dabble in photography and, on occasion, I have been known to indulge in some teaching.

This anthology is all about elements. Which element or elements are dominant in your story?

In this story no single element is particularly dominant. The elementalist is someone who talks to all four of them pretty much all the time and they like to help him out. Though, I guess in one critical scene his control over fire is very important, but you would have to read the story to find out how.

In the Elementalist character, I was exploring an idea I have been playing with for a while, particularly in Lurking Miscellany, about elemental magic and environmentalism and things that can taint the earth, water or air and what the manifestations of those elements might think about that.

Author! What’s YOUR element of choice?

The reason why I made my elementalist character a wielder of all four is because I actually cannot choose one over the others. I see any elemental theory of magic as being about balance and and control so to use one to overwhelm the others defeats that purpose. Though I am reminded of the XKCD cartoon which riffed off The Last Airbender and introduced Mendeleev – bender of all 118 elements.

Yes, I studied science at university. Why do you ask?

How did you find your way to this anthology?

I got involved with one of the previous anthologies – Out of this World Alphas – and had such a great time with that I signed on for this one too. Though I struggled for a long time to get a story idea down that I was happy with. Then, one day on a train, I sat down and started to write and by the end of the journey I had the first scene where Ash visits Helen in her new office. And the way this story ended, there is room now for another sequel that I am currently pondering…

Author! You have just been imbued with the power of your choice of ONE of our anthology elements. Which do you go for and why? What might you enjoy do with your powers?

The two powers I would like from my story are not elemental based. I’d love Ash’s ability to change form and manipulate perceptions using glamour. It is also hinted (more in Transformations in Lurking Miscellany than here) that Helen has an incredible will power – she is very difficult to fool with mind control or illusions and can often think her way out of problems really easily.

However, if I had to choose an elemental power it would have to be the ability to control the weather, which I guess is mostly Air and Water. The recent bad weather in the UK has absolutely nothing to do with this decision nor does Manchester’s reputation as a very rainy city…

Finally, a question for one of your characters. What’s going on in this story?

Helen: *sighs*Look, do you know how difficult it is at the moment? I have a PhD viva in a couple of months I have to prep for, and we just had this awful time at the archaeological site where we were confronted with this…

Tina: Shhh, spoilers.

Helen: What do you mean, ‘spoilers’?

Tina: I mean, we can’t tell them big secrets about what happens in the book.

Helen: But, look, he asked. He sat there, with his note book, looking so journalistic, and outright asked us what goes on in this book. How am I supposed to do that without mentioning the…

Tina: Ah! Stop it. *waggles her fingers* No one likes spoilers. You wouldn’t like it if I told you how your favourite TV programme ends.

Helen: My favourite TV programme is that documentary about the death of Julius Caesar I watched last week. I think the whole world and anyone who has ever seen a Shakespeare play know how that one ends. Anyway, it can’t be spoilers, it has already happened. We lived through it.

Tina: Yes, but they haven’t read about it yet.

Helen: Who are ‘they’? And why are you waving your hands around at empty air like you are at a very slow rave?

Tina: *sighs* I’m doing a fourth wall break. You know, like Deadpool.

Helen: Who?

Tina: Never mind.

Interviewer: So, what can you tell my readers?

Helen: Well, there’s some fascinating archaeology, a bit of Latin, a really interesting library and an excellent example of a Roman fortress that demonstrates some fascinating principles of bronze age archi…

Tina: You aren’t selling it, Helen. You have to mention the magic, the weird mind stuff and the sex scenes otherwise they won’t bother to read. Oh, and Simon, you have to mention him.

Helen: I was hoping to avoid thinking about him for a while, actually. I’m in a weird place with him at the moment. And what do you mean ‘scenes’? There was only one sex scene.

Tina: *shrugs* At least your love interest doesn’t change appearance at will and have a really complicated family of creepy fae.

Helen: You met Ash’s family?

Tina: Not yet, I think that’s planned for the sequel. I caught a look at the author’s notes yesterday. They weren’t very well secured. Or neatly written. Or at all coherent, really.

Helen: The sequel? Is that where we deal with… well, you know… HIM… properly?

Ash: Can’t we have a rest before we do any more really dangerous stuff? I’m sick of running around woods chased by an insane Elementalist.

Simon: Oi, who you calling insane? And what’s this about love interests?

Interviewer: Excuse me, I’m fairly sure I only asked for one person to answer this question….

Helen: Yes, me. So, there’s Roman stuff, Archaeology, some Elemental magic…

Ash: Some faerie magic too…

Helen: Yes, that too… Something dark buried in the heart of Manchester we aren’t supposed to talk about because Tina says so, and probably a bunch of other things I’ve forgot to mention. Now, can I please just get back to my work? Did I mention I have a viva in a few months?


Amazon author page:



It’s funny how the lightest of gestures can become something much bigger whether by accident or design.

For me, the last two years have felt somewhat lost to me for the most part, with personal circumstances meaning at times anything beyond getting through the week in one piece was pretty much off the table. Things remain off-track, but have at least settled enough to take a few deep breaths and work out where to swim to next.

In the last few months, some pretty good things have turned up, including a chance to portray a fascinating historical figure in front of a museum audience, but that is a story I shall revisit another time. Earlier this week, I had something crop up I could only consider a massive opportunity, but of course it was then that the weight of self-doubt landed on my head. So I decided to do what any person with such reservations would do. I took to my personal Facebook page, of course.

The response was…pretty good. And further to that, I’ve seen several friends ready to Do The Thing, or already doing it, this week. So it felt like something I should probably at least partially look after, or champion for the time being. Here goes!

First of all, I would like to thank Emily’s Diary, for bringing this wonderful and encouraging tiny potato into my life. It’s always handy to remember when one forgets.


Secondly, I should probably stick down the list of known planned attendances this year, and also planned activities which might affect the year’s movements. Should there be anything you readers see that you either think I should probably be at, or would perhaps like to see me at, you need but let me know and I’ll add/check the diary/tell you I’m double booked at earliest convenience. And of course, some of these will be subject to change or cancellation on my part.

Current Writing plans:

  • Finish and release Winter Storm. This is a priority task, having not managed in 2015 or 2016 for enough reasons to cover a very personal blog post which I’m not going to be doing. However, know that words are happening again, which is the start you always need with stuff like this. I am also doing my damnedest to make sure it’s worth the wait for you all.
  • Should that succeed, I do have the first of a new series to draft. I won’t be done with the Grenshall Manor Chronicles by any means, but this thing is something I’ve been talking about and sketching ideas for when I’ve had five minutes of late. It’s a very different setting from what I’ve done so far, and it needs to happen (at least for me). I won’t get ahead of myself, but if I got this far, I’d be very happy.
  • There is a possibility of short stories in and around this time. No promises to myself or others, but if the opportunity presents itself, both in terms of my time and a place to put it/them, then activity shall happen.

Provisional planned convention attendances:


  • LarpCon –3-5 March 2017, Leicestershire
  • Eastercon– 14-17 April 2017, Birmingham
  • Nerd East July 3 2017, Durham
  • Nine Worlds—4-6 August 2017, London
  • Worldcon 75 –9-13 August 2017, Helsinki
  • Sandbach Author Signing Event 23 September 2017, Sandbach, Cheshire
  • FantasyCon 29 September—1 October 2017, Peterborough
  • Octocon—6-8 October 2017, Dublin

Third, and finally, as previously stated, my task appears to be to wave and encourage people to Do The Thing wherever appropriate and/or possible. I shall start here. And know that of course the definition of Doing The Thing is an intentionally broad one. It doesn’t have to be rulership of a global power. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes there are days when making it out of bed should be celebrated as the triumph they are. Only you yourself will know what you can do, and want to get done, on a given day. But know this: I’m going to do my best to be there for you in spirit, and if you want to tell us about The Thing you are doing, please feel free to comment away below!

I’ll also designate this post as a permitted spot for getting hold of me and checking on progress with the things I have listed above for myself. Know that this isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list of missions I happen to have for the year, but it’s an important enough list for me all the same.

To those of you out there who are going for it, I wish you the very best of luck, and look forward to hearing tales of your victories and your valiant deeds.  I’m keen to have some to share with you, and also hopeful of adding more cool stuff to the list in future posts, should the year allow it.

Good luck, all! Go out there and shine. You’ve got this, one and all!


P.S. If you got here already, you probably know about my other social media outlets, but in case you don’t:

Find me on Facebook as R A Smith

On Twitter: @RASmithPSL

Also Xchyler Publishing website:

And their Facebook page!

Only a week after the event, here’s my event report. Just like back in school. The short version: a great time was had and lots of new and interesting people were met, including some heroes of mine in within fiction writing. Can’t say fairer than that…


So I arrived on Wednesday evening, and stayed through to Sunday evening. We managed to get in early on the whole registration thing, which was good because it got kind of lively when the convention proper commenced. All told, this one had 10,000 guests which makes it the biggest World Science Fiction Convention held yet! So it is just as well the ExCel Centre in which it was held happens to be HUGE. Seriously, this thing is so big, it has TWO Docklands Light Railway stations for access.

Now, I’ve never been to this particular type of convention before, and discovered rapidly that having that word in the title can mean many different things. I looked at the event and thought it looked interesting, but got a nudge to do some stuff for it several months back by some good friends in Emma and Esther and said, ‘sure, I’ll happily do a panel or two’ (having never done panels before). By the time I reached the event, I had signed up for six, and a book signing spot. I approached initially with a fine combo of eager excitement and a degree of terror, but actually found the sheer scale of fixtures a great help on this one. I spent more time on the Wednesday night finding my way around a wonderful iPad app, which essentially provided a scheduler for me, choosing which other events and panels I was provisionally interested in attending, that I kind of forgot about the pre-panel prep.

Well, apart from the first one, for which I needed to source good examples and stories behind fiction and film which ‘got London wrong’. I had a little chat over a tea with Michael, (who was kind enough to put us up for the duration, even lending us his bedroom. Hero!) and between him, Joy  and myself, we managed to add a couple of examples to the reserve. For the record, I now need to watch the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes at least twice, so I can finally get round to watching it, and to spot everything we cited both at home and at the panel . Thor’s rather curious London Underground travel route in Thor: The Dark World I knew about already.

The first panel I attended was amusingly titled, ‘LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour and SF Narratives’, and had a frankly brilliant line-up, including Jean Johnson as moderator and Charles Stross on bass guitar (the instrument part may or may not be an untruth).  Energetic, insightful and packed, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to have got started on my little tour.


Then, very relevant to my current chosen path and equally entertaining, The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic. Another cracking panel team including none other than Paul Cornell and Robin Hobb, moderated by the excellent Liz Bourke. Good as this panel was, migration started quite early, though I soon remembered why. Straight after this, A Conversation with George R.R.Martin, Connie Willis and Paul Cornell. Yep—that did mean Mr Cornell needed to run, or figure out how to co-locate. He chose the former. Luckily, that meant he could go straight in, whereas when I left at the end, I got into the first very large queue to get into the double suite that this popular fixture hosted. That was a lot of people. Paul did a great job keeping the conversation and the questions flowing, and a good time was had by all. I finally got to my panel that evening and for a first one, I was happy enough with it. I did discover a thing though; being on panels with other authors often just helps you part with money as you seek out their work. Mike Shevdon was on this one with me, and I am now the proud owner of a copy of Sixty-One Nails, following a fascinating conversation about some of London’s more interesting traditions still kept today. The source of that book title is one…


Two readings concluded the day, catching some from Frances Hardinge, as usual sporting her trademark stylish hat, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, reading cool new things.

And that was only Thursday!

On Friday, I arrived to be overwhelmed with panels I wanted to attend, and ended up not making either of the 10ams I wanted to see. I will keep checking for transcripts. However, this was because I was queueing for a Peter V.Brett signing with Joy. Well worth it, and got Sixty-One Nails signed by Mike Shevdon in the same hour. Being there got us a chance to catch Paul Cornell just before his signing and say hi too.

image_00038 image_00040 image_00044

 I really enjoyed a swordplay for writers workshop, of which I was sure to take photos and odd notes here and there. Definitely educational. I sat on two panels, Developing LARPs—World vs. Character and got plenty of interest out of that, then Urban Fantasy: London, which I enjoyed immensely. There was a lot to talk about in an hour, including the obvious question of ‘why London’? and mentioning a bunch of other cities, with Manchester coming up too thanks to certain questions and myself and Tony Ballantyne being resident there at present. Learned a lot, talked even more, both after the panel and throughout the con. I also managed to get to the Titan/Tor party thanks to Tony, and enjoy a beer and a chat with a bunch of people in the publishing world. Finally met artist Sarah Anne Langton thanks to Ian Whates and a natter with Peter V.Brett, to name a few. Also, got a bit of tasty birthday cake.

Saturday, I went wandering around the gallery section and chatted to Ade Brown after seeing some tremendous artwork. He has the Where Angels Fall website currently under development, but I’ll be sure to check in once it is done. There were many other incredible exhibits, but no photos of course from me. However a chance wander helped me bump into none other than Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Peter Grant series [Rivers of London/Midnight Riot in US) being the first]. We ended up going for a coffee and effectively a small kaffeeklatsch, which was about as pleasant a way to spend a morning as I could ask for.


I sat on two panels, Race and British Speculative Fiction, which may have run from 13:30 to 15:00 on the programme, but I was still talking with panellists and guests two hours later on that one. And enjoyed every minute of it. Then LARP Safe: Building Inclusive Worlds in the evening. Perhaps my smallest-attended panel of the con, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Also, I collected a surprise moderator badge for this one due to the original not being able to make it. I would like to say now that this wasn’t anything to do with me seizing an opportunity and bundling the original moderator into a cupboard for an hour. That’s not how I roll.

Finished up the day with a top-quality 80s Night Dance. No, really. It had exactly the right level of cheese for my tastes, though they almost killed this poor chap by seguing several 80s wolf-themed or mentioning songs in. Go on. Think about it. There were a quite a few. In fact, perhaps a competition is worth thinking about…


Though the con did run to Monday, Sunday was my last day there, regretfully.


The morning schedule proved relentless, with a signing first thing, sharing a table with the delightful Melinda Snodgrass, straight into a kaffeeklatsch with Adrian Tchaikovsky,  great fun, and then a rush out to my final panel, Representation, Whitewashing and Internationalism in Fandom. My last panel, and a superb one, thanks to a brilliant audience and a top panel in Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Eylul Dogruel and Andrea Horbinski. I felt we all had something different to bring to that table, and we again had a long chat afterwards. Sadly couldn’t get into the Charles Stross reading because I’d been beaten to it, and my final official thing was getting along to the Robin Hobb signing.


A note on that signing. I thought I was mostly going along to help Joy carry some books at first, but over the panels and events attended where Robin was present, she very much sold me on reading her books. So by the time I got into this photo, I was very definitely a fan!

I didn’t attend the Hugo Awards, just because we had a long drive back that evening, so had to content myself with reading the results. But we did stop to quickly chill before we left, reminding me that I hadn’t mentioned any of the many parties going on in the evening. As well as advertising future events in the Fan Village, some other entertainments were laid on including the Tolkien Society running a big quiz, bidders for future WorldCon events giving us a flavour of their nation and city, quite literally in most cases. I’ve tried a salty liquorice liqueur courtesy of Helsinki’s bid for 2017, Kansas fed us several times some delicious pulled pork, and Japan introduced us to several fine whiskies and the wondrous green tea flavoured Kit-Kat, to name but a few.


Overall, this was a truly amazing experience in which I got firmly bitten by the convention bug. I’m already setting plans in motion for next year! Next up this year, an entirely different affair by way of the Labyrinth Literary Festival up in Stockton, where I shall have a reading and be happily to sell you and/or sign books. I look forward to seeing some of you there!