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In the midst of the current pop-culture vampire craze, author, K. Murry Johnson, manages to capture a completely different side of the ubiquitous super beings with his science fiction novel, Image of Emeralds and Chocolate.
Featuring an intelligent and deft usage of clever, layered storytelling and an imaginative concept, readers are whisked into a reality where vampires not only exist but lead lives that are as complicated and afflicted as mere mortals. Readers are also compelled to trust that beings gifted with such great powers are also capable of rich undying love that spans entire generations of time.
In telling this story, the novel also manages to venture out into new territory that has never been explored to this extent. This story is somehow uniquely original but strangely familiar at the same time.
Image of Emeralds and Chocolate strikes familiar territory in that this story is about the mythical creatures called vampires. All of the typical tropes associated with the species are presented here as well. Here, vampires are deathly allergic to the sun, need blood to survive and are essentially super-powered immortals.
Along with tales of these long-lived creatures of the night and their powers, this work of fiction also takes the time to acknowledge and explore a cross generational same-sex love affair.
While homosexuality and vampirism is often explored in the works of writers like Anne Rice, here a specific black perspective is added to the fold that uses time periods in history and current cultural references to make it feel very real and relevant. By acknowledging both the past and the present, the work succeeds in telling this rich and engrossing tale.
The main plot of the story follows a teenaged musical prodigy, Eric, in his final year of high school. While he balances his time between school and music, he is also taking a college writing courses. As he fights to maintain all of his activities, he meets a handsome stranger that has just enrolled in the New Orleans-area Loyola University in his same writing program.
Thanks to an introduction by an eccentric administrator, the two characters hit it off and become fast friends and eventual lovers.
As the reader is properly introduced to Eric and the mysterious Marquis, the novel then begins telling a story rooted in the American south during slavery as a young man experiences his coming of age during a miraculous change and some of the most tragic circumstances and times in history.
The story itself actually functions more like a story within a story. The two main characters that have met and have a growing interest in each other in the present come from vastly different moments in time. As the story progresses the reader gets the distinct opportunity to see the storylines connect and witness the connection of the characters grow as the story plays out.
Though the main character, Eric is interesting and worthy of top billing in this work, the scene is stolen by the dark Frenchman Marquis. The story told about his life and experiences as a small boy born into slavery, then liberated because of a prophecy and made immortal, is one that is worthy of a second and even third book.
The attention to detail and calculated story telling makes Marquis one of the more compelling male leads in recent memory.
Thematically, tales of love and loss run throughout and help strengthen the overall connection made with the characters.
Another winning point of the novel is that it makes its home in the storied and enchanting city of New Orleans. Image of Emeralds and Chocolate richly utilizes this one-of-a-kind city as the back drop for both the story’s past and present in a variety of uniquely effective ways.
While the characters’ sexuality is a present component of the story, they do not dominate the landscape as there is a larger historical context and love concept being explored.
The book’s final act is also a satisfying conclusion to such a tale even if it a little over the top, compared to the rest of the neatly paced story.
Bottom Line: Image of Emeralds and Chocolate is a solid piece of fiction that is relatable and interesting to nearly every reader. It truly is as exciting as it is compelling.
Q&A with K. Murry Johnson by Joseph Brownell
What’s the meaning behind the title Image of Emeralds and Chocolate?
Image of Emeralds and Chocolate is a double entendre of sorts that is uncovered as one reads the book! But I will, for the sake of discussion, give a tiny bit away. The object of Eric’s affection has emerald green eyes and dark chocolate skin. To get the second meaning, you will have to read the book to find out (laugh).
Between True Blood, Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, some would say the vamp genre is saturated- what inspired you to write about vampires? Are you a fan of the aforementioned TV shows, books, movies?
I agree that the vampire genre is widely covered; however, the current offerings don’t explore black gay vampires. There are very few black vampires and no black gay vampires. I am actually quite surprised that there aren’t more black vampire leads, with the rich history of New Orleans and slavery providing so much material. I’m a big fan of all of the shows. I’ve read all of the Twilight books and the first books of the Dead Until Dark series (the Charlene Harris book upon which True Blood is based) as well as the Vampire Diaries. My initial intention was for Image of Emeralds and Chocolate to be focused as a black gay coming of age love story. There was no vampire element. It wasn’t until after I penned nearly 50 pages and decided to go see Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight that the seed was planted in my mind to change one of the characters into a very handsome vampire. I was set to be the first author to feature a black gay vampire lead.
What was the inspiration for the main character Eric Petersen?
Eric is a compilation of personas, based in part on an ex-boyfriend, my imagination, and myself. He also represents the way many people feel—awkward, not sure of themselves, butterflies in the stomach— when they fall in love for the first time. He deals with love and coming to grips with his sexuality simultaneously.
Are you working on anything new?
People are already asking me about the sequel. It is definitely in the works and I hope to release the book Halloween 2013.
For more information and to stay up-to-date with Image of Emeralds and Chocolate, visit the website.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.