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Citywide Blackout

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Citywide Blackout is the home for artists of all kinds, from filmmakers to musicians to authors and everything in between. The show also covers comic-cons, book expos, and film festivals.


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Citywide Blackout is the home for artists of all kinds, from filmmakers to musicians to authors and everything in between. The show also covers comic-cons, book expos, and film festivals.








Ben Chou meets the minds behind the movies at BAAFF

The Boston Asian American Film Festival has a special meaning for us, as it’s one that we had the pleasure of covering back in the show’s early days. In October, the festival returned for its 15th year and my co-host Ben Chou was there for it. In this three-interview collection he speaks with the great filmmakers whose works were screened as part of BAAFF. First up is Michele Rae Jouse for her documentary, “Nurse Unseen.” The film explores the little-known history and humanity of the unsung Filipino nurses risking their lives on the frontlines while facing a resurgence of anti-Asian hate in the streets. Michele talks about the personal connection to the story, as well as the much wider tale told through the 92-minute film. She and Ben look at the history behind the Filipino nurses, as well as the many interviews done as part of the writing process. They talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the healthcare community. The next interview is with Director/Producer Jennifer Takaki, Executive Producer George Hirose and Producer Linda Lew Woo for the documentary “Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story.” Corky Lee passed away in 2021, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film is an intimate portrait of the life, work, and advocacy of pioneering Chinese American photographer Corky Lee. Takaki followed Corky Lee for nearly 20 years, documenting triumphs and tragedy. Jennifer, Linda and George go into the 20-year process and all the things they saw and memorable moments of the filmmaking process, of which there were many. They talk about Corky’s five-decade career and the many, many things he photographed and the advocacy aspect of his work. They talk about the importance of having a good editor on the project and what they hope people take away from watching the film. Closing out this episode is Jonathan Hsu, the producer of the narrative feature “Starring Jerry as Himself” and narrative short “Closing Dynasty (aka. Queenie).” The first film shows how a family documents how their immigrant father Jerry, a recently retired Florida man, was recruited by the Chinese police to be an undercover agent, only to discover a darker truth. The short shows us how on a school day, a 7-year-old hustles strangers for money on the streets of New York City. Jonathan takes us through both films and the stories behind both and Ben offers his own perspective and how it impacted him. They talk about the shared theme of both films and how they were developed from there. Jonathan talks about personal connection with “Starring Jerry” and how the strong familial connection influenced the story.


Rhode Island Author Expo: Political chaos and real-life adventures across the world

As the big day approaches, here’s the final of the two-part series previewing the Rhode Island Author Expo, which takes place on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. It’s a free event with more than 100 writers, panels, raffles and more. David Shoorens is up first and his book, “The Refuge,” may have that “ripped from the headlines” sound, but I assure you, it is a work of fiction….for now. The U.S. is a broken country, with a far-right president granted unprecedented power over their political opponents. We talk about the story and how it came to be, the characters that inhabit it, and his take on the world as it is now. Closing this episode out is Thomas Brillat with his first book, “Ekaternia.” The main character Ekaternia is a relative of Tom’s and he talks about how he learned of her story, and how he turned these family tales into a completed book. He goes into the more memorable stories and how he wrote what was effectively a ‘practice book’ before writing this one.


Author’s debut memoir shows hope amidst a battle against addiction and abuse

Maya Golden’s life seems perfect—award-wining journalist, loyal wife, and a new mom. But in private, she battled addiction, perfectionism, and rage from sexual abuse at the hands of many people. In her new memoir, “The Return Trip,” (Rising Action Publishing Collective) Maya shares her journey to end the secrets of her life and the three moments of divine intervention that saved her. In this interview, Curtis and Max talk with Maya about what inspired her decision to share her story, how it helped in the healing process and what she hopes readers take away from it. We look at the writing process and how the story was helped by her editor and the many writing groups which she’s a member of. Pitching a story is old hat for a veteran journalist like Maya, but a novel is an entirely different matter, and we look at how long it took before a publisher says “yes.” Maya talks about the challenge of coming up with a title that really encompasses the story. We also look at the next book she has in the works and the new paths it’s taken her down.


Lessons from fish and lessons from life

It’s that time again—the return of the annual Rhode Island Author Expo, happening on Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. As part of our coverage, I’m once again previewing this event by speaking with a handful of the 100-plus writers that you can meet there. Opening this episode is Brielle Lilygarten, who’s released two children’s books: “Fishy Fishy” and “Fishy Fishy Goes to School.” Brielle and I talk about how she’s made the pivot from middle school teacher and realtor to children’s writer. We look at the lessons she hopes that readers take from these books and what we can expect down the road. After that, it’s Paul Mainville for his book, “Fifteen Miles: One Man’s Journey to Find Family and Self.” It’s based on Paul’s journey to meet his birth family years after learning that he was adopted. Paul talks about the process of writing his debut book and what he experienced reliving this part of his life. We go into the significance of the title and if we can look forward to another book in the future.


Maggie Giles takes us on a “twisted” murder case

It all starts out with a simple jewelry heist…until things take a most unexpected turn! When cracked open, the case morphs into a full-fledged murder investigation with an unknown drug that seemingly connects a string of deaths. Quite a story, eh? Well, buckle up, because in this episode, Curtis and I talk shop with author Maggie Giles for her new book, “Twisted.” Along with being a great crime thriller, the story explores the different sides of crime and mental health and asks the question: How much are we responsible for when we aren’t fully in our right mind? Maggie shares the origin of this story and all the different changes she made from first draft to finished product. This includes cutting down the narration from multiple points of view to just a few. She shares the lengthy research she had to do and how her time with Women’s Fiction Writers Association—including being in charge of social media—benefitted her during the story crafting process and in promoting her works. Maggie takes us into the minds of her characters, which run the gamut of personality types. She talks about who made the final cut and which names got left behind (and may come back in a future book?).


Legends and myths tie together a three-story horror collection

It’s that time of year, so what better to talk about than a three-story release form Crystal Lake Publishing? “Dark Tide 9: An Unholy Triquetera,” features new works by William Meikle, Curtis M. Lawson, and Jason Parent. Jason joins us to talk about his story, “A Knot Within a Knot,” in which the survivor of a plane crash finds himself going from bad to worse. Meanwhile, an elderly woman faces off against a god of night and his steed from the confines of her airplane seat, while another hides from night and storm in the hope of a new dawn. Jason, Curtis and I talk about how this book got its start and the different stories done by Parent, Lawson and Meikle as well as the different myths and legends that each writer utilizes.


Father-daughter writing duo pen extensive fantasy series

I love a good fantasy story, so it was a real pleasure to speak with Dr. Michael Nelson and his daughter Isabelle for their “Annie Abbot” series, now two books in with “Annie Abbott and the Druid Stones,” and “Annie Abbott and the Race to the Red Queen.” The story’s got a real-life inspiration, as some of the people and locations are based on Michael and Isabelle’s own adventures around the world. It was great to talk about the writing process and how these two decided to pen a fantasy story. Michael has his own writing background as the name behind the Emmett Casey Chronicles trilogy and talks about the challenges and fun of pivoting to this new genre. Isabelle shares her own experiences as a writer and how it’s been crafting the worlds, creatures and magic of these books. Recently, the two took part in CastleChaos MultiCon, which took place in an actual castle! This sounds like a blast and Michael and Isabelle share some stories from the event.


Two comics for the price of one!

The name Scott Hoffman (AKA Babydaddy) is well known in the world of music as co-founder of the disco glam band Scissor Sisters. And now we can add “comic writer” to his resume with the release of his two series, “Nostalgia” and “Wag,” both available through Comixology Originals. Scott and I talk about how both these series came to be. “Nostalgia” is about a reclusive rock star in a dystopian future, and you can bet Scott channeled some of his time in the music industry into this title. We also go into the sick artwork, which is some of the dreamiest, trippiest drawings I have seen. Next is “Wag,” also in a dystopian future, but that is where the similarities end. Wag is the story of a loner in a post-apocalyptic world, who hears voices in his head. We talk about the legwork that went into creating the character and the world he lives in.


George Franklin takes us into the hallways of Washington in his new book

Let’s face it: politics is pretty nuts. And who better to capture that wild, sometimes insane nature than George Franklin, a longtime lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Congressional candidate, and author. In his new book, “A Feeding Frenzy in Washington,” this former Fortune 500 corporate executive and Capitol Hill staffer pokes fun at DC and the politicians who comprise the circus we call Congress. But don’t let the characters fool you—this is entirely a work of fiction. No, really, it is. In this episode, Curtis and I talk with George about what went into writing this book, his fourth to date. He talks about the characters and some real-life inspiration that worked its way into their creation. George has worked in Washington longer than some of us have been alive, and shares some of the people that he’s met that resonated with him. He defines just what a lobbyist is (surprisingly, the movies and shows have it wrong!) and the work he did over the years. Of course, this interview wouldn’t be complete without asking George the all-important question. When it comes to democracy in 2023, are we going to be OK?


Meeting the creative minds at MICE

Recently, Ben Chou and I went to the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE). For me, it’s been many years since I went there, and remember what a great collection of comics they had, many of which I still have today. Well, this year did not disappoint. Held at Boston University’s Fuller Building, the event featured dozens of comics creators, some at the start of their careers and others with a slew of titles to their names. In this episode, Ben and I talked with a some of artists and one of the minds behind the event (who is also an artist, so remember that!). First up is Savannah Strodder. This was her first MICE and we talk about the experience, the people she met and some important lessons for her artistic career. Savannah has a comic out, “Mundae,” with beautiful illustrations and absolutely no text, so the reader can make their own story. I really like the concept and yes, I purchased a copy. I wonder how my story will go….. Hannah Templer may be a familiar name—she’s worked on titles like Doctor Who, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and many more. Hannah also has a great series called “Cosmoknights.” It’s all about a ragtag group of space gays out to save princesses from the patriarchy. Needless to say, I bought both volumes shortly thereafter. We go into the origins of the series, how it’s grown over the years, and what we can expect in the forthcoming third volume. Hannah also shares some of her times at MICE and what she likes about the expo. Tak Toyoshima is perhaps best known for his Secret Asian Man comic, and for years he was an exhibitor at MICE. Well, he’s also one of the organizers as the Art Director, and let me tell you, that’s no cake walk. Ben took the lead here, and the two talk about what led to Tak taking on this new role and what it’s been like. Tak gives us some history on Secret Asian Man as well as some other projects he’s working on (hint: think Choose Your Own Adventure). He and Ben talk about the state of the comics industry and the pros and cons of the recent changes that it’s seen. Wrapping this episode up is Shaina Lu. Like Savannah, this is her first time at MICE and she shares the great memories made over the weekend. Shaina is in the process of releasing a new comic, “Noodle & Bao,” all about a food cart that stands against a hip new café and gentrification. Shaina said the series takes a cue from what she has seen in Boston’s Chinatown and we go into that as a theme. Shaina is also an art teacher for elementary students and we look at her teaching style and how she helps guide the next generation of creatives.


Boston Asian American Film Festival celebrates 15 years

The Boston Asian American Film Festival (BAAFF) is an event that will always have a special place in my heart. It was among the first events that we covered on this show, and I loved the diverse assortment of films that were shown. From its early days hauling the films in a box from venue to venue, BAAFF has grown a lot over the years, showcasing films from around the globe by some of the best in the business. Now, in 2023, it’s entering the 15-year mark, and doing so with works in every genre, from Oct. 12-22. Festival Director Susan Chinsen joins me for a rundown of the event, which will include both in-person and virtual screenings. Susan and I talk about some of the names you’ll see at the festival, as well as its growth over the last decade and a half. She shares some of the early memories as well as what she sees as BAAFF’s impact on the film world after all this time.


A haunted mask and ancient evil take the stage in Kevin Lucia’s new book

It’s that time of year and we’re kicking it off with one hell of a horror story! Friend of the show Kevin Lucia joins us to talk about his debut novel, “The Horror at Pleasant Brook,” out on Oct. 13 through Crystal Lake Publishing. This Halloween, a malevolent, creeping horror invades a small, isolated town nestled deep in the Adirondacks. It cares nothing for this town’s secrets, prejudices, or flaws. Its only desires are to consume everything in its path and spread, until nothing else remains. A small group of people stand in its way. They are the leftovers, the ignored, the excluded, and the dismissed. However, as the evil grows, they prove to be the only ones strong enough to stand and fight. Cool synopsis, huh? Kevin, Curtis and I talk about the menacing force that we’re introduced to in the first chapter and the real-life origin that happened during his day job as a teacher. Kevin’s a familiar name in the horror publishing industry through his work at Cemetery Dance, and he shares how this helped him in the writing process. We’re introduced to some of the heroes of the story and what makes them stand out, and discuss some of the character types that reflect life in 2023. We look at some of the tropes in horror and the ones he hoped to avoid in this story.


Michael Eon holds back nothing in “These Things Happen”

In his recently-released book, “These Things Happen,” writer Michael Eon weaves his own battles with substance abuse and a challenging childhood into the story of Daniel Zimmer. I loved this book from the first page and was drawn into the story of Daniel’s early life, which we see transposed with his later years. This book is available through Girl Friday Books. The characters are really amazing, from Daniel’s brother Max—whose struggles with mental health frame much of his life—to love interests Jill and Brie, to his father. Michael and I talk all about the many people in the book, some of whom came right from Michael’s own life, and the different roles they play. Music from bands like The Ramones and Black Sabbath plays a strong part in Daniel’s upbringing, and of course we take the time to nerd out about favorite bands and songs. Michael also talks about his childhood and his battles with substance abuse. The author shares a lot of details, and we go into who the theme of substance abuse and the message for the readers.


William Sterling shows us why puppets are just terrifying

I think we can all agree on that one, right? So of course these creepy dolls would find themselves into the pages of William Sterling’s soon-to-be-released book, “String Them Up,” out on Sept. 22 through Crystal Lake Publishing. In this interview, William takes us through the town of Hollow Hills, which is plagued by a series of brutal murders. We meet the toymaker, once a beloved member of the community, now the prime suspect in the killings. William talks about Sinclair Redman, a man with a dark and haunted past who must unearth the truth behind the killings as the bodies continue to pile up. William talks about the concept of toys in horror and why it appealed to him for his new book. We look at his first time working with a publisher and his own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to promoting his work. Plus, there’s a great giveaway for those that pre-order the book!


Jonathan Panetta talks mental health and music

As it says in his bio, Jonathan Panetta is “trying to heal the world with a hard rock brain and a punk rock heart.” In this episode, we talk about how songs like “Inner Demons” deal with mental health and what he hopes people take from listening to them. Jonathan shares the creation process behind his new EP and the different avenues he goes down when it comes to sound and style. Jonathan’s done some collaborating, particularly with friend of the show Dany Horovitz on the single “Make Use of Your Time,” which was inspired by the “Life is Strange” video game series. We talk about working with Dany, how this happened, and other artists he’s worked with. Jonathan and I do a little nerding out over the game, the amazing soundtrack and some of the takeaways from the story. “Inner Demons” also has its own music video, and Panetta worked with Nesskaf Productions and we look at the planning process and cool visuals seen throughout. Opening this episode is an excerpt from “Make Use of Your Time” and closing things out is the full track, “Inner Demons.”


Death is just the beginning in Susannah Marren’s new book

In mystery thrillers, a death often happens right off the bat. Such is the case with our next guest, but we also get a slew of tightly-held family secrets. In this interview, Curtis and I sit down with author Susannah Marren to talk about her newest book, “Maribelle's Shadow,” in which the death of Maribelle Walker’s adored and impressive husband Samuel unearths the secrets and lies between Maribelle and her sisters. Curtis and I talk about the theme of secrets, a common element in Susannah’s work and why it plays such a prominent role. We also look at how Samuel’s death leads to those secrets being revealed. Susannah has a long career in teaching gender studies and guest teaching creative nonfiction. She talks about the research she did for the book, which included interviewing many women across the country, and what she learned. She also shares her favorite and most challenging parts to write.


Jennifer Tefft talks new music, old venues, and working with the best

If you’re part of the Boston music scene, then the name Jennifer Tefft likely rings a bell. If not, you’ve got some listening to do! In this episode, Curtis and I talk with Jenn about the recent release of the acoustic version of “Going Out,” all about escaping for a night on the town. We talk about its sound and what the full band version will be like. She’s got another single, “Love & War,” and goes into what we can expect from that. Friend of the show Nina Pickell was the executive producer for both songs. Part of the process included working with musical heavyweights Munk Duane at Bad Stella Studios and Hans DeKline, a Grammy winning Los Angeles mastering engineer. Jenn has been part of the Boston scene for some time and we talk about her fave venues, both past and present. We look at the state of the scene and get her take on all the recent changes. Jenn also share some stories from her time as a music teacher and the lessons she works to impart. We kick off the show with an excerpt from “Love & War,” and end the show with the full “Going Out.”


The heroic (and steamy) world of Ryder O’Malley

You’ve toured the world of superheroes in author Ryder O’Malley’s Heroes of Vanguard series. Now, it’s time for something a little bit darker. This writer (whom I have never spoken to before, honest!) used his love of comics to craft a M/M romance series, now four books long. On Sept. 14, Ryder debuts the Villains of Vanguard with the first installment, “Corrupted Desire.” Here’s a look at what’s in store: The world is going to burn, and I’m the one holding the match. Prison hardens a man. Even worse, my ex testified against me in court. Ten years into my sentence and the inmates of Cold Iron fear me. It’s lonely, but it’s the price of survival. This isn’t the place to think about friends, let alone a relationship. When Vanguard needs a criminal with my fiery skills, my time in the slammer is cut short. To keep my freedom, I only have to put down a Southland’s newest king pin. It’d be easy if the local do-gooder stopped interfering. Gallant won’t be the reason I get locked up again. If he wasn’t smoking hot, I’d crush him. On second thought, maybe he needs a pounding. The heroes are playing with fire, but I’m not the one about to get burned. Ryder and I dive right in, starting with the origins for this series and the climactic battle of shifting from his previous work to the world of romance. He takes us on a journey through the process of how romances are written (and Hallmark movies too, apparently) and the unique style he’s going for. We even get treated to a brief excerpt from the writer himself! Buckle up folks, this one’s gonna be epic.


Todd McKay shares the therapeutic mission of Help; Hear; Heal

Therapy is one of the most important tools to help someone who has experienced from abuse—but it’s so expensive that many cannot access it. That’s where Help; Hear; Heal comes in. Since their founding, they’ve connected people with the resources to get the help they need. Founder and CEO Todd McKay joins us to share the organization’s progress since it was launched just one year ago and some of the dedicated people who’ve joined. We discuss how they provide financial support to help people access therapeutic services and how they can sign up if needed. Todd also talks about their partnership with Thriveworks and what they’ve done together. Todd shares some personal stories regarding a member of his family who was assaulted and how this led to Help; Hear; Heal’s founding. We discuss the stigma for those who need therapy, both men and women, and the challenges they face while on this journey.


Chris Cuffaro takes us on a journey through 50 years of music photography

As the man said, “I have a million stories and the photos to prove it.” Over the last four-plus decades, Chris Cuffaro has photographed the biggest names in the music industry and now those photos—and the stories behind them, have been collected in a new app called “Greatest Hits.” Using the app, you can see some of the photos he took of all the greats and hear a brief tale of the experience. But this is just the beginning, Chris says. In this interview, we talk about the app’s origins and how he came to work with the New Zealand-based digital media team at iSPARX. We talk about how he spent 12 years going through his countless photos to select the best—in black and white, of course—and record the stories that he remembers best. We also dive into Chris’ past—the inspiration he received from legendary photographer Richard Avedon and how taking photos at local concerts led to a career that has put him in the same room with the likes of Rob Zombie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Ice-T. We talk gear for a bit, his preferences and the importance of staying current in a business where the equipment is always changing. Chris shares his plans for the future of the app and how he plans to grow it in the years to come.