Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BARBARA DORAN

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Barbara Doran?

Barbara Doran: I'm a New Pulp writer, currently published by Airship 27. My work includes "Claws of the Golden Dragon" two years ago, a Sinbad short - "Sinbad and the Island of the Puppet Master", "Wings of the Golden Dragon" (due out soon, we hope) and a Sherlock Holmes/Van Dusen crossover that I hope will be appearing someday in Ron's Sherlock Holmes anthology. (Not soon, however; he's got quite a queue there.)

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

BD: I'm currently living somewhere in the general vicinity of the birthplace of powered flight. (That's Dayton, Ohio, where the Wright Brothers designed and built their aircraft.) As for keeping the bill collectors away, I'm a very lucky writer in that my Long Suffering Husband handles that side of things. I just keep my own personal Tiger and Dragon from immolating themselves. Mostly. Err...back in a moment. Time to put out another fire.

DF: Tell us a little something about your background, if you please.

BD: I was an army brat who moved around a lot as a kid. Chicago, Carbondale, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and finally Ohio. My father is a Western Beast bred and born and my mom was a native born Chinese, born in Nanjing just around the time of the invasion. She came to America for college and met my dad at his mother's cafeteria in Carbondale, IL. (Amusingly, genetic tests show that I have more than 50% Asian ancestry, thanks to my Dad having Northern European ancestors. He always has claimed to have a Chinese stomach.)

I studied as a software engineer at the University of Dayton, but my first love was always writing and I spent most of my spare time with fanfic. It took a while but I finally realized I really preferred writing and that's where I put most of my focus. Truly dedicated readers might be able to find some of my old work still out there. They may even recognize a character or so.

DF: How long have you been writing?

BD: Pretty much from the day I learned to read. Bits and pieces, mostly unfinished, but my brain was constantly creating fanfiction universes based on my comics and TV shows.

DF: What's your philosophy of writing?

BD: The words go on the screen. Keep typing until they're done. Then edit. And edit. And edit. Respect your characters' personalities. Respect your readers' intelligence. Make sure the plot doesn't wander around and get lost in the scenery. Keep things moving, even when there are plot points that need to be talked about.
Don't stop. Just. Don't. Stop.

DF: You a plotter or a pantser?

BD: I'd say I'm mostly a pantser, but I use research as my guide. I like to think of writing as creating a clay sculpture. I know the general shape I want, but sometimes I have to add some material here, remove some there. And every so often, take the whole blessed head off and redo it.

DF: Do you enjoy writing?

BD: I love writing. I realized, years back, that it really was the thing I should have been doing with myself. Even when I'm not at my computer and putting words down, they're working their way around inside my head. So one could say that I'm creating stories all the time.

Too, I've discovered that I simply don't know what to do all day if I'm not writing. So, when I'm not persuading my children to do the dishes and/or their homework, I'm tap, tap, tapping away.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

BD: P.C. Hodgell, Diana Wynne Jones, GNU Terry Pratchett, Dick Francis, Walter Gibson, Arthur Conan Doyle, just to name a few. I've also become quite fond of N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series. It's amazing and devastating and I'm really looking forward to seeing where she takes it.

DF: Do you write for yourself or for the reader?

BD: Really, both. I try to make sure the work can appeal to more than just a narrow audience, of course. However, if I don't enjoy what I'm writing, I'm not going to be able to do a good job with it. So I write for readers who like the sort of things I like to write and hope that's a wide enough appeal to draw in readers.

DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?

BD: I don't go out of my way looking for them. I do get beta readers, but that's to make sure what I wrote works and doesn't leave questions. I'd be glad to get more reviews, though, to get an idea where I might improve.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? is there an audience for Barbara Doran?

BD: As far as my original pulp work goes, I think the audience would be fans of shows like the Green Hornet. Sinbad and Sherlock Holmes both have a fandom and I'm overjoyed to write for them.

I hope there's an audience for the sort of work I do. I'm not a hard-boiled detective type writer, but I think there's room in New Pulp for the type of over the top, weird science/magic crossover stories I like to write.

DF: Do you crave recognition?

BD: I'd like my work to be known. I'm a fairly shy and retiring person, so I don't mind letting it do the talking for me.

DF: Do you think that New Pulp will ever have respectability?

BD: I think it already does, really. There might never be a big New Pulp publishing house along the lines of DAW or Baen or Tor, but I think it's getting more and more wide spread.

DF: What's the best advice that you can give someone who wants to write New Pulp?

BD: Don't talk about it. Do it. Also, research is always your friend. Even if you never put a word of what you've found directly in the work, it'll act as a foundation for the piece and help your world feel more lived in.

DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?

BD: As a pantser, pretty important. I've learned that when I find myself blocked and uncertain about what I'm doing, it's usually because I'm headed in an unworkable direction. So I trust my subconscious to be looking ahead of me and saying, "Eh, Barbara, what the heck are you doing?"

DF: What is the one book or story you’ve written that you would recommend to somebody to read who doesn’t know anything about you?

BD: Right now I only have the one original New Pulp out, so I'd have to recommend "Claws of the Golden Dragon". However, when it does come out, "Wings" is a much tighter, better written piece. It's set in Shanghai a little before things got bad and features mobsters, spies, monsters, magic and Gods. Oh, yes and a bit of romance, just for spice.

DF: What are you working on now?

BD: A rather large, probably not for Pulp, novel about a colony of humans stuck on a water world and dependent on Artificial Intelligences for survival. They live on floating islands (AI'lands) and are on the run from an insane and homicidal AI named Varos, with only their own AIs to help stop him. It's sort of a space opera, as the SF is quite loose.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about you?

Barbara Doran: Along with my love of Green Hornet, I'm a big anime and Shaw Brothers' fan. My work is peppered with references and I will gladly award a great big know-it-all-prize to anyone who recognizes where one of my characters got their name, personality and/or appearance.

Friday, September 2, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I remember when I had to do these back in elementary and junior high school and I absolutely hated them because…well, I did nothing during my summer vacation. Oh, I most likely went down south to visit my grandparents, read some books, goofed around with my friends, did some writing but that was about it.

And that’s kinda how my summer vacation 2016 went as well as an adult. Patricia and I made it down south to Florida and Washington, DC. While I reveled in the heat as it was anywhere from 90 to 100 degrees every day we were down there, Patricia put our jointly owned .45 automatic to my head and said either I take her back to Brooklyn or I could stay in Florida sans brains. We had a much more pleasant time in our two weekend visits to Washington DC. The first was for her family reunion and the second was that I could go see the “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains” exhibit at The International Spy Museum. Just in case you haven’t seen them on Facebook, here’s a few pictures:

I saw some movies. Most of which disappointed me. Seriously, I saw better and more entertaining movies on YouTube and Netflix than I did at the theaters this summer. You can bounce on over to The Ferguson Review for some movies I saw such as “War Dogs” “Suicide Squad” “Star Trek Beyond” and “Ghostbusters” among others.

Did I read? Yeah, I managed to read a couple of books. Mike Baron’s “Banshees” (Review soon to come) And two biographies of World War I flying ace Eugene Bullard. I read his bio on Wikipedia and I wondered why this guy wasn’t having movies, television shows and adventure novels written about him. So as it happens so often in my creative life, I figured that if nobody else was going to write books about him, I’d have to do it. So that’s my project for the fall/winter of 2016. You keep me honest and every so often drop me an email and ask me how it’s going, okay?

I did complete a Dillon project but you’ll have to go over to the DILLON blog to see what it is. See what I did there? And there’s another Dillon project I have in the works. If you’re a fan of “The Magnificent Seven” “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Expendables” series then this is one that you’re gonna love. Details will follow at the Dillon blog.

Other than that, everything is cool. How’s thing’s by you? Please feel free to comment on how your summer vacation was. And here’s a picture of Mark Bousquet’s canine companion Darwin for no other reason than I like Mark and Darwin.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...JANA OLIVER

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Jana Oliver?

Jana Oliver: I’m someone who has found that listening to the voices in my head and writing their stories into book form is a pretty nifty job.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

JO: I live near Atlanta, Georgia and my tax returns state “Author”. Yeah, for real. I’m still jazzed about that.

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.

JO: I have a checkered past, in that I wasn’t always a writer. I started out as a registered nurse, did a gig as a fill-in DJ, wrote advertising copy for major retailers and was a travel agent. All of which actually helps me now that I’m a wordsmith.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

JO: The late Sir Terry Pratchett’s unlimited imagination still stuns me, the depth of Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries, as well as the world building of urban fantasy authors like Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Chloe Neil, Suzanne Johnson, etc. Most of the time when I read something amazing, I lean back in my chair and go “Wow, I want to write that late someday.”

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Jana Oliver?

JO: Jana has always been eclectic because my stories don’t stick to one genre. Whether it be young adult urban fantasy, paranormal romance, historical/paranormal mysteries or contemporary mysteries, I’ll write the book if the story and characters intrigue me. Most authors try to stick to one genre. I get bored too easily, so my audience is all over the map.

DF: Do you write for yourself or for your readers?

JO: A little of both. Mostly I write for the characters who “use” me as their scribe so their stories are told.

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

JO: Its. A. Gift. Doesn’t matter who you believe gave it to you this time around, it’s a gift. The books/stories are important. They reach into peoples’ hearts and their lives. So in my mind ignoring that calling is a bad thing. Sure, we all have times we can’t write because of family, etc., but the bottom line is if you having this calling, you should be doing it.

DF: Are you interested in critics and their opinion of your work?

JO: Luckily I’m a lot more thick-skinned than I used to be. Mostly my spouse watches the reviews and lets me know if there’s a common thread, something I might be able to fix in future books. An example is that when I was first writing, my villains were pretty cardboard. Now I give them full back stories, motivations, the whole works. That change came because of reader comments.

DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?

JO: I’ve learned it’s VERY important. Because if not I hit a wall in the story and waste time trying to fix stuff.

DF: Tell us about THE DEMON TRAPPERS series

JO: The DEMON TRAPPERS series is currently five books (the final one—VALIANT LIGHT—is coming out in November) and it has a worldwide following. Which is pretty cool given it’s the tale of a 17 y/o girl who just wants to follow in her father’s footsteps. How hard can that be? Well, pretty hard since he traps demons for a living and the trappers in Atlanta aren’t fond of a female in their midst. But Riley Blackthorne does have someone rooting for her—Lucifer, in fact. That’s never a good thing.

Riley is a great character to write: Strong, caring and actually learns from her mistakes. And she’s mouthy. (I have no idea where she gets that trait. Ha!) Besides Hell and its demons, Riley has an adversarial relationship with Denver Beck, a young veteran who is her father’s apprentice. Their stories have proven very popular. It’ll be sad to say goodbye to them, but I want the series to end at just the right time and not overstay their welcome.

DF: Tell us about THE TIME ROVERS series

JO: Can you say “Genre Blend”? Because that’s exactly what this series is. Historical mystery, paranormal, a bit of science fiction and romance. I send a time traveler from 2057 back to 1888 London during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, not to find the killer, but to locate a missing time “tourist.” But Jacynda Lassiter, my Time Rover, realizes that nothing is as it seems because of the Transitives, a group of shapeshifters than can mimic anyone’s appearance. Add in some Fenians, some missing dynamite, a plot to change the future and that’s the Time Rovers’ series in a nutshell.

Because I’m slightly crazy, I spent an incredible amount of time ensuring the Victorian details were as accurate as I could get them. To that end, I’ve attended a number of academic conferences on JtR and Victorian London and numerous trips to the East End to wander around the dark alleys. Sometimes you just have to do your pub research firsthand. (wink)

In the end, the Time Rovers series won eight or nine major writing awards, found me a literary agent who helped me launch my career in NY. All because a small Canadian press (Dragon Moon) took a gamble on me and my very unique trilogy.

DF: You appear to have achieved a good deal of successful in both the Young Adult and Supernatural genres and joined them both successfully. Care to tell us your secret?

JO: I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’m best when I incorporate some paranormal element, even a small one, into my stories. When paired with the young adult genre, that worked very, very well. I think part of the success is that I always try to do something unique rather than following the trends. Which is why my heroine in the Demon Trappers did end up with the Fallen angel as her soul mate.

DF: You were around at the beginning of the independent self-publishing movement on The Internet. How did it begin for you and has it developed into what you thought it would?

JO: I began my career self-pubbing in 2001, back when there weren’t all the tools in place to help make the job a “easier”. Getting the books stocked at Amazon was a pain in the butt (now I work through Createspace so the printing and shipping are automatic) and e-books didn’t exist. At present 80% of my sales worldwide are in electronic form. That rocks. Back then the best way to build my name was going to conventions and hosting a podcast, which is how you and I met. Now there’s all the social media platforms that offer a truly worldwide audience. It still boggles my mind that people in far-flung parts of the world are downloading my indie books.

DF: What have you got in the works?

JO: I just published DEAD EASY, which is a YA/New Adult contemporary murder mystery set in New Orleans. Couldn’t resist messing around with a serial killer and a quartet of amateur detectives. I’m about to start writing VALIANT LIGHT, that final Demon Trappers book.

DF: What is a typical Day In The Life of Jana Oliver like?

JO: I drag myself out of bed about 8, and veg until about 9:30 as I don’t like eating first thing in the morning. Usually I answer e-mails, do social media posts during that time period. And pet the cat, who insists that she curl up next to me on the couch while I sip my coffee.

I’m more of an afternoon person, so I truly don’t really start writing until noon or later, then work through until my nap. A brief snooze allows me to work out scene problems and refreshes me. Then I write until the spouse gets home. If I’m on deadline, I will write after supper and on the weekends. It all depends on the schedule.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Jana Oliver: Just wanted to thank you for all the great questions!

More information about Jana Oliver can be found at her website so just bounce on over THERE RIGHT NOW and her Facebook page can be found RIGHT HERE

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...SEVEN STEPS

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Seven Steps?

Seven Steps: Seven Steps is a original story teller. She writes Science Fiction, Contemporary and Urban Romance.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

SS: I live in New Haven, Connecticut. According to the government, I am an electronic health record specialist. But in my heart, I've always been a writer.

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.

SS: I was born and raised in Queens, New York and have two brothers and one sister. New York in the 80's and 90's was an awesome place to grow up. The fashion back then was a trip. There are many photos of me floating around in neon colors, or with fanny packs, or skorts. I had the typical blue collar family. My father worked full time, while my mom stayed home. We went on family vacations every year to Disney. And, like everyone else in the 90's we video recorded everything. That's not always a good thing. There are some VHS tapes out there that I wouldn't mind setting fire to. But it was all fun. I had a pretty good childhood.

DF: What were you like as a child?

SS: I like to call myself a rebel bookworm. I cut school to hang out at the library. I must've read a book a day back then. In addition to being a book worm, I was also a theater geek and starred in several plays in high school. My parents were very involved in my life. My dad took me to Waldenbooks (an old school book store) and we hung out there for hours just reading. My mom was very invested in my education and made sure that I was an A student. In addition to all of this, I was a daydreamer. My head stayed in the clouds.I distinctly remember walking around the streets of New York with no shoes (gross, I know), my jeans on backwards and a flower painted on my face. Looking back, I wish someone would have stopped me, but I was being me, so it's okay. I was, and still am, very into music. My father and younger brother are both bass players and singers, so music was very big in my house. Especially Motown music. I enjoyed that music growing up, but once I hit the teenage years, I was big into rock music. Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Aerosmith, Linkin Park. I'm sure my parents thought that something was wrong with me, but, again, I was just being myself and finding out who I was. So socially awkward kid + theater geek+ book worm = one weird but interesting child.

DF: Do you feel that the adult you is still in touch with that child? And does that child still influence your writing?

SS: Definitely. I can be a dreamer a times, but fortunately my husband reels me back down to earth. He's very grounded, and I'm always in the clouds, but we compliment each other. Growing up, I kept diaries, which I still refer back to from time to time. I don't want to lose touch with who I was. A big chunk of writing is longing. The main characters long for things. You long to move your readers’ heart. There is a lot of longing involved. As a child, I longed for things. Acceptance, friendship, to be part of the in-crowd. I make sure to tap back into that sense of longing when I write, and I hope that that translates to my readers.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

SS: Octavia Butler's book, “Kindred” really spoke to me. The notion of black people in science fiction was not really something that I saw before I started reading her. I liked that I could see myself in her story, as opposed to someone who didn't look like me. Also, Orson Scott Card's Alvin the Maker series was influential. I love fanciful books, and his work really fulfilled that within me. I read a lot of Shakespeare and a lot of classic books. Doctor Doolittle, The Wizard of Oz series, Goosebumps. Anything that sparked my imagination, I read.

DF: Are you interested in professional and/or amateur criticism of your work?

SS: Yes. I love all criticism of my work. It means that people are reading it.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Seven Steps?

SS: In a perfect world, I would love everyone to read my work. I think that the people that would relate most to it are people who like things a little different. Not your normal stories, that novels that spark something in you. Novels that make you think differently. That's what I write.

DF: In what direction do you think your work is heading?

SS: Onwards and upwards. I would like to make writing my full time career one day.

DF: Tell us about THE SLAVE PLANET.

SS: THE SLAVE PLANET is set on the colonized planet Venus in the distant future. Men have allowed themselves to slip into slavery through centuries of bad decisions. After that, its left to women to take over. The planet really flourishes after that. With men out of the picture, women bring technology, government and education to new levels. The drawback is, women have become more brutal, more heartless. Within all of that is Nadira and Kiln. Kiln is Nadira's slave and, over the years, they've fall in love. Due to the constraints of society, they have to keep their love a secret. Eventually, they are discovered by Nadira's mother, an inter-planetary ambassador. After that, its all down hill. Death, political intrigue, forbidden love, defiance and redemption makes this a book that everyone should check out. THE SLAVE PLANET is the first in a trilogy. The first book is available on all platforms. The second book is due to be released this summer.

DF: Tell us about BEFORE I WAKE.

SS: BEFORE I WAKE was fun to write. It is made up of two short stories. When I got back into writing a few years ago, the first thing that I wrote was “Playthings”. It's based on true life events, believe it or not. One day, me and my husband were in the supermarket, and he went to get produce while I went to get cereal. In that split second when he disappeared around the bend of the aisle, I thought to myself, what if he was never there at all (didn't I tell you that I was prone to flights of fancy?). “Playthings” is the story of, what if he was never really there at all. Its a great story. Very much like The Twilight Zone, Unsolved Mysteries, and The X Files.

“The Cottage” was the second short story that I wrote. I was listening to “Ordinary Day” by Vanessa Carlton and this story just came to me. What if all of these crazy beautiful things happened, and it was all just a dream? “The Cottage” is a beautiful period piece and I am very proud of it.

DF: You’ve got a story in the A DIFFERENT KIND OF LOVE STORY anthology. Tell us about it.

SS: A DIFFERENT KIND OF LOVE STORY was put together by writer\publisher Riiva Williams. I networked with her on Facebook and was so happy when she put out the call for this anthology. I donated an expanded version of “The Cottage” to this anthology.

DF: Where do you see Seven Steps in five years?

SS: With twenty (20) or more books under her belt and going strong.

DF: Any projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

SS: Yes. I am working on THE CIVIL WAR, the sequel to THE SLAVE PLANET. That is coming out at the end of the summer. I also have THE LAST ROCK KING releasing this fall. It is a contemporary rock star romance.

DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Seven Steps like?

SS: I like to joke and tell people that my middle name is struggle. I wake up around 4:30AM and write. Around 6 or so I wake up my daughter and get her to school by 7:30. I then try to do some more writing until 8:30. Then I'm at work at 9:30. After work it's all family stuff, dinner, that kind of stuff. Its definitely a grind. One day, I hope that I will be able to write full time.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Seven Steps: I am active on social media. You can find me on Facebook at\SevenStepsAuthor or on my website at I enjoy linking up with new people, so let's connect. The link to my book is:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...JAIME E. RAMOS

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Jaime E. Ramos?

Jaime E. Ramos: I am a writer who lives in St. Louis MO. I was raised on the bad streets of Gary Indiana and graduated Calumet High School. I am a happily married man with one son, named Thomas. I love dogs and writing and reading and watching football. I am a lifelong Chicago Bears fan.

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

JER: I am a Claims Adjuster.

DF: Give us some of your background info, if you please.

JER: Let’s see. I graduated High School and immediately attended Indiana Boys State which is a competition sponsored by the American Legion. I was nominated to be a County Commissioner in the competition. I tried college a couple of times and found it to be not my cup of tea. I have worked blue-collar jobs like factory work and restaurants. I have worked in the insurance claims field for the last fifteen years, proving that a college education isn’t really needed, at least I didn’t need one to become successful. I have a successful marriage to my wife Phyllis. Phyllis is the one person that can handle my many personality flaws and I appreciate that greatly.

DF: How long have you been writing?

JER: I have been writing since the age of six.

DF: Do you enjoy writing?

JER: I enjoy writing now that I have had a small tastes of being published. Lingering in obscurity is not fun and I never write just because I am bored or whatever. I write with a purpose.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

JER: Great question. Roger Zelazny, Ernest Hemmingway, Robert Shea, James Clavell, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the great David Michelinie.

DF: Do you write for yourself or for the readers?

JER: I have never written anything for myself. I’m not really sure exactly what that means. I write with a purpose to tell stories that others can read.

DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Jaime E. Ramos?

JER: I would like the whole world, the entire planet to read my work.

DF: How did you get involved with New Pulp?
JER: I gravitated to New Pulp while doing research for a prose super-hero story that I had written. I was looking for a publisher and discovered Pro Se Productions. I found my home in this genre and made real sound business and creative connections. New Pulp also kicks my creativity into over-drive.

DF: Do you think that New Pulp has the potential to be The Next Big Thing? (Whatever that means)

JER: I think Pulp being the precursor to comic  book characters and other genre fiction has always been a viable universe for Hollywood and publishing houses.  As New Pulp evolves there is always a chance that new fans and creators discover the genre.

DF: Where do you see New Pulp being five years from now? And do you see yourself as still being an active, vital element of New Pulp?

JER:  I think that many New Pulp publishers will discover new writers with diverse characters and settings.  I think the Movement will gain steam and broaden as a genre.

DF: Tell us about your involvement in LEGENDS OF NEW PULP.

JER: Well I had gotten an email from Tommy Hancock and discovered how ill he was. I wanted to help him in some small way. So I sent out a few messages to other writers (you included) and asked if a benefit anthology with the proceeds going to Tommy or his family would be in line. The answer as a resounding YES. I knew that I wasn’t a “publisher” per say, and I would need help putting the book together. I contacted Ron Fortier at Airship 27 and he loved the idea. Ron really took the lead and put it together, I proofed roughly half of the stories.

DF: How do you feel about the runaway success of that book?

JER: I am ecstatic that the book has been a success.  So far the book has won some awards and I am proud of  the creators.  I am also very proud that Tommy has benefitted from the proceeds.  It’s great to see a community come together.


JER: This book has been in the making for three years. It is a “shared world” setting, in which each author’s characters share the same space and environment. After a technological singularity has plunged the world into war and darkness, a small city is built from the ashes. After a self-appointed monarch rises to control the inhabitants, super heroes are called upon to fight for the citizens. I created this really complex history for the world, but the stories are relatable and the characters are solid.

DF: David Michelinie is one of my favorite comic book writers. I loved his work on “Iron Man” and he created the World War II hero Gravedigger, one of the best African-American characters in comics. How’d you persuade him to join this project?

JER: I became friends with David on Facebook after sending him a fan-message. David graciously answered fan questions from me and we eased into a very cool “internet friendship.” When I came up with the concept of Singularity, David agreed to look at my concept, but didn’t commit until I actually sold the idea to a publisher. I pitched the idea and within a week a publisher committed to the project. David was then forced to service and created an amazing character called the Righteous Red. His story for the project is stellar!

DF: Will there be more books to come?

JER: I think so. I have been in talks with my publisher at Pro Se Productions and we are looking at sales. Sales generates sequels so if the sales are strong, I hope their will be more books. My goal is to create a brand and I have worked hard to put it together. I am ambitious and relentless.

DF: Which is tougher, writing or editing?

JER: I think editing is more difficult. I enjoy reading the stories that people write, but I don’t enjoy being the “heavy.” Editing is really not in my wheel-house, but I have learned to do the best I can and keep it positive. I let the writers know that I am in their corner and they seem to respond to me.

DF: What is a typical Day In The Life of Jamie E. Ramos like?

JER: I get up early and head to work down in the city of St. Louis at 8 AM. My office is just a few blocks from Busch stadium. I work on claim files until 430 PM and then I head home. After getting home, I visit with my wife and son and my dogs Coco and Chewie. After dinner, I try working on Facebook and writing stories that I am committed too. I try to take in either Game of Thrones or Ancient Aliens before turning in for the night.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else you want to add?

Jaime E. Ramos: I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed by you, sir. I hope that Singularity becomes a great success and watch for announcements for my next solo novel “Cash Rawlins and the Infernal Eye.”

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sean E. Ali Says It Better Than I Can....

From the “WHAT’S MY NAME?!” File…

"A man's true wealth is the good he does in the world." -- Mohammad

Superman died yesterday.

That is not hyperbole, not romantic nostalgia, not delusion, not exaggeration - it’s a fact as sure as you’re breathing in and out.

I'm going to wander a bit as I reflect on the passing of a Titan among Titans. A man who walked with legends and giants in his sport and kept stride before taking point and leading the way.

You probably know him by other names, the Kentucky Kid, the Olympic Medal winner, the Louisville Lip, the Mouth, Cassius Marcellus Clay, or maybe by the first name he bestowed upon himself before he went out into the world and made believers of everyone he encountered…
…The Greatest.

The second name he took ownership of, the name he fought under and fought for is the name we all know him by best after that first one - Muhammad Ali.

There was power there. There was power and dignity in the choice made. The name was bestowed upon him by the Nation of Islam, led at the time by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but he took ownership of it. It was more than a badge of racial pride or rebellion - Muhammad Ali was the embodiment of who he was, the culmination of the search and successful establishment of an identity that wasn’t a product of oppression, social and racial inequality, or the gift rewarded to his lineage from some forgotten slave owner in the heart of a segregated so-called democracy. The name was his, it was his before he knew he was looking for it, and he would not go back to confines of anything else that may have made him more palatable to the conventions of a society that did not accept him or include him in the first place.


That was the question he set out to answer when, while he was still known as Cassius Clay, he was asked by a reporter about the meaning of his name and Clay responded that he would have to find out…

…but I’m getting ahead of my own recollections, let’s back up a bit.

When he was a little boy, Cassius Clay had a bike. He went out one day, stopped off somewhere, parked his bike and when he returned, it had been stolen. Clay and his mother reported the theft and the officer he spoke to just happened to run a program that taught boys how to box. Clay jumped on the chance to learn to fight because when he found out who stole his bike, he wanted to be able to beat him up…

…it was a different time, when we settled things with fists over bullets. Yeah you might get hurt, but you lived to fight another day.
Clay grew, became more proficient at boxing and eventually represented the United States in the Olympics bringing home the gold medal before turning pro and building a career that would be legendary. Clay was fast, he was powerful, he was strong, he was brilliant, and he knew it…

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

When Clay was coming up in the ranks he gained another reputation. He was described as brash, bold, a loudmouth, a fool, cocky…

…in other words, he wasn’t liked very much.

We revere him now, but at the time? Cassius Clay was a showboater who was going to walk into his comeuppance one day. That expected day was when he fought for his first title bout at the age of 22 against Floyd Patterson. There’s a great story from a reporter who was sent by the New York Times to cover the bout that he was to run a loop from the site of the bout to the nearest hospital because they wanted to be sure he was on hand when Clay was sent into the intensive care ward by Patterson…

…that guy was probably disappointed by the outcome.

Patterson was cut down by Clay’s speed and power and the world had a new champion who loudly proclaimed who he was and would be for the remainder of his life…


That night, he really did shake up the world.

And it wouldn’t be the last time he did that.

As Clay continued to fight the question he hadn’t been aware he was asking began to persist until it moved to the forefront of his association with the Nation of Islam. The Nation was considered a hate group by mainstream media in the heart of volatile times that would eventually be the Civil rights movement. Fronted by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and his outspoken, dynamic protege - Malcolm X, Clay finally confronted the question…

The answer became Muhammad Ali.

And no one outside of the Nation and Clay’s fans were cool with that. Reporters continued to call him Clay, which Ali would correct every time. Every. Single. Time.

He was Clay in the press, Clay to his critics, Clay on the billing of the bouts he had, and Clay to his opponents…

…in particular Ernie Terrell, the holder of the next belt that Ali had to claim on his mission of unifying the title to be the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Terrell called Ali Clay through the weeks leading up to the fight. Ali warned Terrell that if he kept calling him out his name that he would pay for it. Terrell persisted…

…Ali kept his promise.


This was the mantra chanted over and over again during that bout. Every time Ali laid into Terrell, he ended the exchange with that question. Ali would put Terrell on the edge, he would set the man right on the verge of a fight ending knockout…

…and then he’d back off, look Terrell in the eye as one man to another and bellow through what had to be a fog of pain and a haze of agony the question…

And then he’d open up on Terrell again. Step back to observe his work shake his head with dissatisfaction and ask again…

And the beatdown would resume in earnest...
...Ali dragged that beating out for 15 rounds.

It's in strong competition for the meanest, most brutal fight I ever saw in my life, the other being Mike Tyson’s first title match.

And actually Tyson was more merciful in that bout, he put that guy away much faster than Ali torturing Terrell.

But the end result was quiet and profound.

He was never called Cassius Clay again by anyone, friend or foe.
However it wasn’t the last time he’d have to stand up and fight for who he was and who intended to be.


There’s a reason I reflect on this particular battle and what follows almost immediately over the others. Ali had chosen to adopt a name, a religion, a culture that was as opposed to most of his numerous other achievements in and out of the ring. There’s a reason why this brutal ballet and the bigger battle in the offing - Ali’s refusal to be drafted stand out as I reflect on his life and what he was to me as a fan and a young Black Man coming up.

Ali took that stand knowing, absolutely knowing that he’d lose everything he fought so hard for. He’d lose the status, the money, the fame, the title, all of it because he chose to be true to his faith, principles and name by taking an unpopular stance.

But just like Superman, he stood there and waited for the bullets to fly. And for many that was it, Ali refused to step up and that made him unpatriotic at best, a traitor and a coward at the worst. This was before he became a hero to the mindset of the general public, before he put away men like Fraizer and Foreman three and a half years later. This was a time when a man who was a Muslim, true to his faith, true to his name, and dedicated to doing no harm that involved taking lives for a cause he did not believe in or support was no only unpopular, it was considered unAmerican.


It was an unspoken question, a new mantra, the click of a pendulum keeping time against the backdrop of bloodshed and rioting and the fall of voices of a generation. It was the cadence Ali kept time to as he stood tall despite his material losses. As he began to explore other avenues as a public speaker for the Nation after Malcolm X’s split from the organization. He was terrible at it initially, but as he had done in his previous life, he persisted until he became adept at it. The raw talent was there in his taunts and poetry in boxing matches, and like his fists Ali found precision in his words which only extended his reputation in the Black community as “The People’s Champion” and “The Greatest”.


He rebuilt himself in his time away from the ring. He answered that question conclusively to himself, his circle, his faith and Allah. He stood his ground, refused to be bought by offers of restoration of everything he lost through apology of wrongdoing and compromise for expediency’s sake. He was right in his heart, he believed what he believed.

He wasn’t in this fight for compromise, he was in it for a win.

The US Government didn’t know who they were fooling with.

The only people surprised by the eventual overturning of his conviction and restoration of his license to fight seemed to be the very people who condemned him and eventually vindicated him when they realized Ali could not be brought down.


That question has been answered. It was a name he chose, a name he owned and a name he fought for.

It was an example of what happens when one man believes in himself and has the presence of mind to remain true to himself as he discovers who he is.


That is the question I toss out ahead of me because the name Muhammad Ali chose belonged to my great grandfather who came to America the end product of a line that traveled through Iran, Iraq, India, Ethiopia and eventually Northern California starting in Sacramento and migrating down into the Bay Area.

It’s the name continued to be passed on to my grandfather and my father. It’s a name I wear proudly despite the drawbacks that come with it in a post 9-11 world.

It’s a family name I hold on to and when asked by more than a few folks, “Wouldn’t it be easier to change your name? Maybe take on your mother’s maiden name or something?”

Yes it would be easier.

But it wouldn’t be the truth.

It wouldn’t be who I am and who I will always be.

Muhammad Ali was my example a long time ago. He not only wanted to find an identity, but in pursuing that identity, he went to Africa and embraced the many cultures across that continent, he traveled the globe as an ambassador of sorts and never tried to deny who he was, or where he felt he fell short in his life.

These days, you talk to a younger generation and they draw back at the history they could avail themselves to, the discovery of something more than the narrow confines of the neighborhood they were born into and no farther. They are fronted these days by guys like Floyd Mayweather who asks what Africa ever did for him, as opposed to what he could to make the world a better place outside of an expensive sportscar in his driveway.

They look across the horizon but don't see anything as if learning about these places, cultures and people diminish being part of the USA (since that's were I am) - their end all be all.

They missed what Ali discovered by asking a simple question loudly...


It wasn't about being self absorbed or self serving for Ali, he was too busy trying to give of himself while discovering himself to become a complete human being.

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth."

He stood with pride and dignity even as Parkinson’s diminished his ability to speak and move. He continued to show up, be counted, to give well past his part, if things like that could be measured.

He didn’t hide. He didn’t walk away. He didn’t abandon who he was because the road would suddenly be easier if he just went along to get along.

He is, because his influence in my life is a forever kind of thing, my hero. He is the example I strive for still.

He is that for a lot of young men of my generation who, when heroes were in short supply, had the real Superman…
…and he looked like us.

And in my case, he wore my name when he could’ve gone back to his old one.


He is Muhammad Ali.

And he is the Greatest.


That’s a question I never have to ask, because just like Ali…
"I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want."

That was the lesson he taught me. And when I step into the ring daily, that lesson's a part of the gloves I lace up.


And more importantly, what's yours?
Peace be upon you. And upon you be peace.

Peaceful Journey, Champ. You will be missed but not forgotten.