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Alicia McCalla Interviews Tony Cade and Leo Ware About Fox Chronicles Kickstarter Campaign

Alicia McCalla: Okay. Hey everybody and welcome to my writing playground. This is Episode 11 of Diverse Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories Podcast. I'm your host author Alicia McCalla. Thanks for tuning in. This podcast is all about me honoring my son's legacy by sharing BIPOC, science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories with the world. This is a place where we probe underneath these stories to get into the core message intended by the author or creator, and then listen to the author read their stories in their own words. Today, I have the wonderful opportunity to share something a little different. I'm very excited to be a supporter and to highlight this incredible Kickstarter campaign. But first, let's do some introductions. Okay, everybody, you guys want to tell us a little bit about who you are and share your biography with the listeners?

Tony Cade:       You want to go first, Leo?

Leo Ware:         Me, oh okay. Fine. Yes. My name is Leo and I am an editor, educator, performer and I just really love words. Okay. I love my language. And I like to come onto projects or people ask me all the time how to edit, make things sound a lot better, and everything. So I've just been doing that for half a decade. And this will be my first published credit as a writer. I'm a co-writer on the Fox Chronicles along with Jeffrey. And I am excited to be here.

Alicia McCalla: All right now.

Tony Cade:       Okay. Well, for those of you who don't know me. I'm Tony Cade. I'm the owner of Challenges, Games, and Comics, which is a comic book and gaming store located here in Atlanta, Georgia. I have basically been involved in, you know, I guess pop culture fandom since like the mid-eighties, when I started off as a photographer for the Atlanta Fantasy Fair and Dragon Con. Since then, I've gone on to do the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo, which is a convention here in Atlanta that basically is free to the public and will usually have about 50 vendors and about 60 hours of programming. And also a few years ago, I was one of the founders and editor in chief of Terminus Media, which was a combination of an art class and a screenwriter's group. They used to meet in the gaming area of my shop, and we actually got those two groups together and formed Terminus media, and they started producing comic books and also producing artwork and stories for different corporations and including the CDC.

Alicia McCalla: Wow. You're impressive, Tony. You do know, I love you, right.

Leo Ware:         He does a lot.

Alicia McCalla: He does, right. Okay. So can someone share the scope of the project as well as the reason and inspiration behind it?

Leo Ware:         Yes.

Tony Cade:       All right. Well, the way the Fox Chronicle started off is that I thought I was pretty much out of the comic book, independent publishing business because I was doing the expo and also running the gaming store. But I actually had two artists, Fritz and Pao who actually contacted me like a week apart. And both of them were saying that they wanted to do stories, featuring a character that I created in the past. And, you know, I thought it was kind of weird that both of them would contact me. You know, one's here in Atlanta, the other one's over in the Philippines that they would both contacted me at basically the same time and wanted to do stories with this character. And so what I proposed to them is that I wanted to do a rebranding of the character and re-envision the character and have more or a different purpose than I originally created. I basically created the character of Autumn Fox to be like a young adult type character that would feature stories that both kids, adolescents, and adults could get into. But will also be socially relevant and tell stories and give information.

Leo Ware:         And that's where my voice comes in.

Alicia McCalla: Okay.

Leo Ware:         Yeah.

Alicia McCalla: Okay. So the two of you guys, you guys are the team, right? Is there...

Tony Cade:       We're a small part of the team.

Leo Ware:         Yeah.

Alicia McCalla: A small part of it. Okay. So how did the team come together? What did you decide to do there?

Tony Cade:       Well, basically I had a story idea that I wanted to do. So I plotted out the story. But as far as producing and writing comic books myself, I consider myself still a rookie. Even when we worked on projects and stuff with the CDC and I was in a writer's room, I was basically like, you know, the idea guy. And then it was kind of like, you know, plot out the story and I turned the rest of it over to like you know, Peter and John and Robert to flush everything out. So what I basically did was plot out the story of the Autumn Fox Chronicles and then I contacted Robert Jeffrey who, you know, is an award-winning writer. Right now he's probably writing at least six different Indie titles. Was one of the participants in the DC Writer's Workshop, you know.

So this is a man who definitely had a lot more experience writing comics than I did, because like I said, if I wanted to, you know, do this again, I wanted to make sure that I put my best foot forward. And so that's why I contacted Robert and Robert always loved the original incarnation of the character. So he was all on board about my re-envisionment. But I also wanted to make sure that since we were writing a character, that was a woman, that we made sure that we have the sensibilities and the problems that women face as part of the story.

Alicia McCalla: Right.

Tony Cade:       And so that's why I reached out to Leo and asked her to help participate with the story because I wanted to make sure that we were doing the character with the proper voice and sensitivities of things that Robert and I might overlook.

Alicia McCalla: Got you.

Leo Ware:         Yeah. What better way to do it. True.

Alicia McCalla: Yeah. I think so.

Tony Cade:       And she did a great job of that.

Alicia McCalla: Awesome. So it sounds like, you know, you kind of got your team together, but can you speak a little bit about how this team brings the vision together or like, you kind of spoke a little bit towards it, but what makes each person's unique perspective or insight to make it relevant to this project?

Leo Ware:         Every person that we have on this project is a person of color and it is also a team that is balanced out with genders and everything. I am non-binary. You also have just like people from across the world. So we're going to bring...

Tony Cade:       [Crosstalk 08:06] The Atlantic and Pacific. We got this.

Leo Ware:         Yes.

Alicia McCalla: You've got it all, right. Okay.

Leo Ware:         Yes. Our voice in creative [inaudible 08:13] is going to be very diverse in itself and that is kind of the place that we live. Because this is based in Atlanta and Atlanta is very diverse, but not everybody really knows that. But I grew up around different types of people. And I love that Autumn Fox is of Korean and Asian and African descent. So like I grew up with a lot of Asians and Hispanics. I grew up speaking three languages, and just really excited for this character because right now I am learning Korean. And we did put in a bit of that into the story.

Alicia McCalla: Fantastic.

Leo Ware:         Because why not showcase her culture as well as how much of a wonderful character she is in the first place. So yeah, we're just going to put all of our cultures, all of our heads together, and what we know about being human and do this project. And I think it's going to create something truly just cool and expensive.

Alicia McCalla: Right, right, right. I love it. Okay. So at the center or heart of this project, what's the core or the deeper message or theme that you guys like to impart to people who fund you or to the readers?

Tony Cade:       All right. Well, part of this kind of like goes back to when Robert and I were working on our project with the CDC. We learned about the Sabido Method and it actually got us really involved with the whole thing of edutainment, where you basically create stories where you are passing knowledge on the people, but you're not preaching to them. You know, it was like with the project that we did for the CDC, it was about HIV and AIDS awareness. And we basically, you know, did a mini-series that was animated that talked about those things. But when we actually put it in the front of focus groups, we literally had people say, I thought you guys were going to teach us about HIV and AIDS. And we had done such a good job with the drama and [crosstalk 10:35] the information with the drama that it went completely over their heads.

                             And they took a test before watching animation and they took a test after the animation and it actually showed what knowledge they had actually picked up. And so that's one of the things that we're doing here with The Fox Chronicles is there are a lot of social issues that are going on and a lot of different problems all around the world and so we're going to be touching on all those problems. But we're going to be doing it in such a way that it's going to be involved in stories that involve action and drama, you know, and cool fight scenes. So when we speak upon different things, it's actually going to be like part of the story. So we're going to be imparting knowledge, but we're not going to be preaching.

Alicia McCalla: Got you. So is there, so like for the first project that people would read the first comic, for that one, is there like an underlying theme or something?

Leo Ware:         Absolutely.

Tony Cade:       Well, we've actually been trying to keep that on the down-low.

Alicia McCalla: Well, you do know that's my podcast. I'm trying to dig at it. So who came up with the core theme for this first book? And is it something that they experienced or share like maybe even Leo might want to speak to being a woman? Is there some issue that you feel like women could connect with?

Leo Ware:         They already brought to me an issue that women can connect with.

Alicia McCalla: Got you.

Leo Ware:         Like they came up with that and I was like, that's a, I can roll with that. I can run with it, like across the world. Tony, do you want me to say what it is or like, what is it?

Tony Cade:       All right. Well, the first story. The first issue is going to be like a 30-page issue. So in the first 30 pages, the reason that we're doing a 30-page issue is to give us the chance to introduce Amber, give a little bit of origin story, give a little bit of background about her and her parents and the culture of her parents. And then we go into the storyline, that's basically going to be dealing with human trafficking, which is an issue that we came in. We didn't become involved with. But during our work with the CDC, we found out that there were other types of epidemics that had nothing to do with bacteria or viruses that the CDC was dealing with and we had no clue. And we had already said that that was going to be, you know, the CDC kept doing these projects that we definitely wanted to do something about child trafficking because that's a problem here in the United States and over in Asia.

Leo Ware:         Yes.

Tony Cade:       And unfortunately because Atlanta is a hub for basically everything, also a hub for child trafficking. So this is something that was, you know, very important to us that we wanted to touch base on with our first story since we weren't able to do it with the continued projects that we were doing with the CDC.

Leo Ware:         So the way that I come into that is because I grew up, I was born and raised in Atlanta, Grady baby. And yeah, I've seen all of that. And like when you're like super young, like three to seven, like you do get to see a lot of that and stuff happening around you and you don't really know. It's just normal. It becomes very normal. And I think this is really going to humanize what it's like to be a young woman in that city and grow up around all the ideas people put on to you as also as someone who is multi-racial, it is very strange to be there, especially in the South. And everybody just assumes a lot of things about you and your culture kind of gets erased because you are put into a box so hard. Like yeah. It's very weird. And thankfully I've gotten a lot of exposure to different people. So I didn't get caught up in that box as I would have. Yeah. So very excited to speak on this subject too because this human trafficking is...

Alicia McCalla: Yes. It's intense.

Leo Ware:         It is very intense.

Alicia McCalla: Especially in the African-American community, because nobody really speaks on it. I mean, it's like girls just go disappearing and they end up in this human trafficking and it's like it's commonplace or it's normal.

Leo Ware:         Definitely.

Alicia McCalla: I mean and we call it human trafficking, but it's like the slave trade never ended. And nobody wants to deal with that. Nobody wants to highlight that. So the fact that you all are kind of taking that on, I think is extremely powerful. All right. So Tony, did you come up with the human trafficking because you talked about it from the CDC, you know, what made you guys go with that for the first one?

Tony Cade:       As I said, it was something that I said that we were going to do. We never got a chance to. And so basically, you know, having this opportunity to re-envision a character and start back telling stories. Because to me, I always think of like stories and fables and everything else, it's to me and especially in the beginning to their core, they're survival skills. You know, you're supposed to learn something from stories. You're supposed to be entertained by stories, but you also want to learn something from stories. And I want it to be able to tell stories where it's like, okay, this is how you recognize trafficking. Okay. This is how you deal with trafficking. This is who you report trafficking to. This is how you get out of trafficking. You know, I wanted to be able to give information and give knowledge, but still, be able to tell an entertaining story. And like I said, you know, nobody likes to be preached to, unless you're going to church on Sundays. It's like, you know...

Alicia McCalla: I know; I think the people at church want a story.

Leo Ware:         And if the preacher is good, he's usually someone who knows how to tell a story [crosstalk 17:31].

Alicia McCalla: Story. Yes.

Leo Ware:         That's the best preachers.

Tony Cade:       Basically. It doesn't matter which book you worship out of it's full of stories and those stories are in there to teach you.

Alicia McCalla: Yes.

Leo Ware:         Seriously.

Tony Cade:       So, you know, even as a creative writer, my thing is like, okay, we're going to tell stories. Let's teach. And if I can tell a story where you don't realize you're learning, it's like remember the old Fat Albert cartoons, hey if I learn something before it's all done, you know.

Leo Ware:         Yes.

Tony Cade:       The viewpoint stuffs I'm thinking of.

Alicia McCalla: Perfect. Okay.

Tony Cade:       [Crosstalk 18:08] he's like, "Hey, I'm doing, you know, a comic book about domestic abuse." People will be like, "Man, I don't want to read that." It's, you know, [crosstalk 18:21] and stuff but if I give you a gripping story that has that as part of the story, and then you learn something then think you're good to go.

Alicia McCalla: So I love that idea of the gripping story about domestic violence or something but in a way that's learning and soulful and entertaining. I think that's powerful.

Leo Ware:         Yeah.

Alicia McCalla: All right guys. So tell me a little bit about Autumn. Autumn, you said Autumn Fox? Who is she? And what's at stake for her?

Tony Cade:       You want to take that Leo.

Leo Ware:         I'll take it. Yeah. So she is a young teenage, like brown person, a brown girl in Atlanta, who's growing up and trying to find her bearings. But she's also growing up with this entity or this person in her head, John and John found his way to her, through her actual genes. He's an alien intelligence which you'll find out in the book. We do that exposition there. But yeah, John lives with her, in her head, has been with her since birth. And if you didn't know anything about, what do you call it? It's kind of like a, not a mental disorder. We all have intrusive thoughts. Yeah. And some of us have a lot of them. So I would explain John at this point in her life as a big intrusive thought. And he expands himself over time because he starts to train her to be a warrior and she's got that going for her. She's got this whole warrior spirit, but she's like a normal girl in school in Atlanta like hanging out but also training to fight. Like these big aliens, these wars and like training to use her powers, and she doesn't even know the beginning of what she can do.

                             And that is something that I think relates to a lot of young women. You don't know the beginning of what you can do. The world never tells you like how incredible you are and like what you can get your hands into. And I think that's going to be really, really great to watch, especially for other young women that are brown because Tony had this idea because he does have three daughters that never got to see comics that, you know, characters that look like them yet. And behaved like they do, use the same dialogue, you know what I mean?

Alicia McCalla: Right.

Leo Ware:         So I definitely wanted to put the culture and the language into the comic book. So it's not just, you know, this perfectly speaking world that's yeah. We need to put actual language that we use in that book and not police it to sound like white man's language. We want to dismantle that also.

Alicia McCalla: Yes. You're not looking for the...You don't want her to be the super girl language, right?

Leo Ware:         Yeah, no.

Alicia McCalla: I got you.

Leo Ware:         Like she's got it. She's educated and everything, but this is where we live and these are the people we're around and this is how we speak here. So that's what we're going to use. We're going to also make sure that it's legible so everybody can read it and really get the idea. So that's another way. Because just like we have to figure out how to make our lessons learnable and palatable and just, you know relatable for everyone. You want the language to do the same thing, but also not depleted, not take anything away from it.

Alicia McCalla: Right.

Leo Ware:         So yeah, that's Autumn. She's like this kind of stubborn, headstrong girl but she can get herself into trouble because she is you know, young and no one really respects teenagers. They don't. No one does. Even if they have the greatest ideas, teenagers are our best protesters. The ones that really get stuff done, time and time again, throughout history. They have got things done because they are in this weird zone between adolescence and adulthood and they have a voice and they're willing to put it out there. So I think a teenage black woman is going to be able to do a lot. We can play a lot with Autumn.

Alicia McCalla: So perfect. Do you guys want to take some time now to share the screen and show Autumn to the world? Or I know the people who are listening, they won't be able to see, but we can show for the folks on YouTube.

Leo Ware:         Okay.

Tony Cade:       Let's see. I didn't prepare any of that though. Let's see.

Leo Ware:         I have the Kickstarter up on mine. I can share that screen so they can see the panels.

Tony Cade:       Yeah. Go for it.

Leo Ware:         And I'll also go down and show the artists that are on the project as well.

Alicia McCalla: Yes.

Leo Ware:         So we have a little video for everyone to play up there. This is one of the cover arts for the Fox Chronicles and we have some great cover artists. Here are the black and white panels into color. A couple of our covers here.

Alicia McCalla: Yes. Beautiful.

Leo Ware:         Yes, she is an action.

Alicia McCalla: She is. Okay.

Leo Ware:         All those things that [inaudible 24:42]. Here we go. So this is our writer, Robert Jeffrey. This is me.

Alicia McCalla: Yes.

Leo Ware:         Fritz.

Alicia McCalla: Okay.

Leo Ware:         La'Vata E. O'Neal, she's got some great stuff. All of her art, I can't even begin to explain how excited I am to work with all these talented people. Like I've been...

Alicia McCalla: Right.

Leo Ware:         This is my first project. And I'm just like, where have I ended up?

Alicia McCalla: You guys have an incredible team there.

Leo Ware:         We do. But yeah, we're almost there too and...

Alicia McCalla: Perfect.

Tony Cade:       You want to show all the different covers really quick?

Leo Ware:         Oh yeah, we did.

Tony Cade:       What is the show? Who did which ones?

Leo Ware:         Oh yes.

Tony Cade:       [Inaudible 25:27]. This is the [crosstalk 25:29].

Leo Ware:         This is by Candace Han.

Tony Cade:       The wrap-around cover.

Leo Ware:         This one is the one by La'Vata.

Alicia McCalla: Got you.

Leo Ware:         Yes.

Tony Cade:       [Inaudible 25:42].

Leo Ware:         Here is Marcus Williams and Sheldon Williams is here. I love this one a lot.

Tony Cade:       That's going to be off the wall cover.

Alicia McCalla: Got you.

Leo Ware:         All right. That's our thing.

Alicia McCalla: So Tony, while she is showing everybody, do you want to tell potential Kickstarter funders about why they should give this project a shot or why it's important to support a project like this one?

Tony Cade:       Well, hopefully, you want to support it because you like what we're showing you here. We're going to give you quality artwork. We're going to give you a really good story. It's going to be a book that you're going to be able to share. You know, I would definitely, you know, having this stuff you'd like, you want to share it with your teenagers. You're going to enjoy the stories reading them as an adult, you know. And it's basically one of the things and stuff is like you know, we're doing it for a purpose because we want to teach and we also want to entertain. And I think we've accomplished both with this project. I think at this point right now we're a little about what, a thousand away from our goal.

Leo Ware:         Yes.

Alicia McCalla: Yes.

Tony Cade:       But we've also got some really incredible stretch goals. We're going to be adding additional prints and even more story possibly.

Alicia McCalla: Yeah. I was going to ask, I mean, I didn't look at the extension but are you guys going to do web series with Autumn Fox because that could be fun? Is that already on your list?

Tony Cade:       We've been talking about doing a web series where we're going to have it and stuff. We've already started looking at different outlets for later on where people can get digital copies of it and be able to do it. But like I said, this is just the first book. We've got many stories that we've actually started plotting and planning out. So, you know, that's one of the reasons we're on Kickstarter. They help give us that kick start. You know usually in non-pandemic times; I probably wouldn't even go to Kickstarter. When we were doing a lot of our other projects and stuff when I was with Terminus, we basically took the funds from projects that we worked on for different companies and agencies, and then we used those to produce our comic books. But because of the pandemic, we weren't able to do a lot of the contracts that we would usually do.

Alicia McCalla: Got you.

Tony Cade:       And then here even at my own business here, the Comic Shop, we took a serious decrease in revenue because I wasn't able to do tournaments and you know a lot of the featured events we usually do. We couldn't even do it, we usually get a big bump when we do our expo here in the mall, but we weren't able to do any of that. So this is literally a situation where I'm reaching out to everybody on Kickstarter because I actually do need help. And I need that kick start to get this project moving forward and give you multiple stories and multiple things in the future.

Alicia McCalla: Got you. All right. So you guys, we talked about it. So where do they, do they just go to Kickstarter? What do they search or where should they go to be able to support the campaign? And I'm obviously going to put the link on my blog in the end, but maybe you want to tell people where to go.

Tony Cade:       Yeah. Just go to the Kickstarter page. You know, just search the Fox Chronicles. We're definitely going to pop up. If you want to go to my shop's Facebook page, you know, Challenges Games, I've got plenty of links to it there. The Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo's site has links. And if you just briefly do a search on Google, you know, for The Fox Chronicles, it'll definitely show up.

Alicia McCalla: Okay, guys. Thank you so much. I'm going to close us out now. Thanks, everybody. I appreciate this fantastic opportunity to share the project. I love also to hear if listeners have decided to support this campaign, feel free to post a comment on my blog or YouTube channel. I'm author, Alicia McCalla, and I write black warrior women in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror for readers who want diverse protagonists and unique storylines. If you enjoy this episode and want to support me or donate to My Cup Of Tea Fund, just head on over to my blog on my website, find this post, and click on the donate button at the bottom.

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