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.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BILL FRIDAY

Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Bill Friday?

Bill Friday: You would ask the hard question first. 

This is going to sound silly but, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to give just one answer to a question like that. It’s like the answer changes out of necessity every few years, from childhood into adolescence… teenage to adult… then into who I am now. And right now, I’d have to say that I’m a man who knows his time is short. Not because I have some kind of diagnosis hanging over my head. I don’t. But when you’re young, you think you’re never going to age. That you’re invincible. That you are going to dodge every bullet, and do every thing you randomly set your mind to. Then after a few years, or decades, you realize… okay, I realized… that thoughts like those were just crap. You grow up with dreams that don’t get realized. You want to play centerfield for the Dodgers. When the expiration date for that passes, you tell yourself you want to be the play-by-play announcer for the Dodgers, and you’re glad that one didn’t happen because the guy with the job is finally just retiring after 67 years. So you get yourself busy forgetting all those random thoughts. You make yourself busy by living, getting married, rising your kids, working thirty-some-odd different jobs… none of which ever satisfy the something that’s gnawed at your insides since the day you quit dreaming and started living. And somewhere along the way, after all those years and all those experiences, you realize that the only thing you have to show for them is your recollection of them.

And then, you write.

So I guess, to answer your question, I’d have to say that I’m the guy who writes what he remembers.   

DF: What do you do to keep yourself in cheese and crackers?

BF: For most of the last ten-plus years, I have worked as a driver in the freight transport industry, primarily at night, after the rest of the world has gone to bed. After a while working graveyard, I discovered that the world is a much quieter place when there’s no one awake to interfere with your thoughts. It has been in this profession that the majority of my writing has taken shape. Most of my work hours involve the companies and corporations in and around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Without realizing that it would eventually become a “thing”, I started tagging photos and posts with the hashtag #LAXConfidential while blogging and using social media. What started out as an unintentional homage to film noir became another way for me to sort out all the memories I was making out of life, and work. Eventually, it became the filter for the words inside my head to find their way out to the public. 

DF: Tell us a little something about your background.

BF: Here’s the part where pride and embarrassment start sounding the same. I was born and raised, and have spent my entire life, in Southern California. I’ve never lived more than a half-hour drive away from my childhood home. I graduated high school, and am currently a three-time college drop-out. I say currently because life has taught me that you can never totally rule anything out for the future. While I was on my way toward becoming a first-time drop-out, I took an English Composition class. Over the semester, I managed to turn in two of the ten writing assignments that all students were given during those 18 weeks. With three days left till summer vacation, and after the turn-in deadline had passed, my professor, Betty Dillon, informed us that if we still wanted to turn in 100 percent of the semester’s assignments, we could earn up to 50 percent grade credit on them.

After stalling for two more days, I began writing just before midnight, and finished all eight by sunrise. Later that morning, I turned them in at the final informal class meeting.

When I got the turned-in assignments back, Professor Dillon’s comments made me think she was writing about some other student. She liked them. Really liked them. Weeks later, when grades were mailed out… yes mailed, because no internet… I had gotten a C in the class. Exactly half-credit for all assignments turned in after the deadline, if all the grades were A’s.

I didn’t write again for twenty-five years.   

DF: How long have you been writing?

BF: In 2004, between jobs and spending way too much time watching Syfy Channel, I wrote a screenplay about a chupacabra, just to prove to myself I could. It was more an excuse to write out a lot of frustration in my life at the time. Looking back, it was a thinly-veiled auto-biography. I still have the script, not that it was any good. But it began to stir up a lot of what had been balled-up inside me that would end up coming out in the years ahead. Still thinking I wanted to write movies, I started and stopped a few more scripts. A couple of years later, the one I still think was some of the best writing I ever did was lost in a computer crash. I learned a lot about writing from those early years, which took another turn when I started writing online.    

DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?

BF: Don’t be “superficial.” Not everything a writer writes is going to be a work of art. Some of it will be worse than your best, and there won’t be a damn thing you can do to fix it, but be true to the depth of the feelings running through you while you’re writing and, eventually everything will work itself out. 

DF: Do you enjoy writing?

BF: I suppose, as a writer, I’m required by law to answer yes. But since I’m still under oath, I’ll tell the story this way. Because my writing is so personal, as most poetry tends to be, there are times when I just don’t think I have the words to adequately capture the thoughts or feelings that gave the first spark to the poem I’m working on. That’s pretty much always how it starts, with a word or phrase that captures a passing thought. Everybody has random, passing thoughts throughout the day, but if all goes well, mine end up creating a “beginning-middle-ending, one act story.” One that usually takes up little more than a single page. And if I don’t like where it’s going, I click save and file it away to be made better later.

That’s the luxury of poetry for the writer. If something sucks, you don’t have to keep plowing through it because you’re already 50,000 words worth of invested in a character or a plotline. You just file it and move onto the next thought, and the next. 

But as far as the pure act of writing goes, I love writing so damn much, I don’t think I can even tell anyone without sounding like a crazy person. The only people who would get it are other writers. The best I can do, and as writers we do this all day anyway, is try and express that love for it as we might through the voices of our characters. Only in this case, the characters are the people in front of us who ask. And the voice is expressing ourselves in ways they would understand. Like cooking to a chef, or running to a runner. Even a baby’s first steps to a parent. Every explanation is fair game if it clicks with the person standing in front of your words.   

DF: What writers have influenced you?

BF: Another funny thing about being a poet… I really don’t like what passes for poetry all that much. When most folks think of poetry, they think of flowery words from centuries-old voices like Byron and Shelley. When I think of poetry, I think of centuries-old voices like the angry Hebrew poets of the Psalms or the epic of Beowulf, and recent angry voices like Charles Bukowski. I have poet friends who I read, but poetry, as a genre of writing, let’s just say I would rather find the poetry in other forms. When I think of influencers, I think about how many times I’ve read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” cover to cover, or the first few novels of Stephen King. Believe it or not, I actually like reading screenplays. Everything from Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” to Quentin Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn.”    

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

BF: Right now, I write for myself. So much so, that I’m genuinely surprised by the positive feedback I get from my writing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be someone who thinks of the reader first. The words that come out of me are still just an extension of who I am when nobody’s paying attention.   

DF: Are you interested in critics or criticism?

BF: No. And for many reasons. I guess first, because I haven’t been subjected to much criticism… yet. To date, having only been published in anthologies and online, I haven’t gotten any bad reviews, or really, any good reviews. So the first of either kind I get with the release of A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET will both be a new experience for me. I do expect that to become a thing for me in the near future, because of the plans to have four books in print by the end of 2017, two poetry and two fiction. But for now I can say that they haven’t been a factor in what I’ve written.

You’ll have to get back to me in a year from now.  

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

BF: If you believe those online demographics generators, like the kind that hides in the “tools” section on your Facebook page, my following is very clearly outlined. Apparently, women read poetry 2 to 1 over men. Also, nobody under 25 of either gender is much of a fan. I could speculate on both of those metrics, but what’s interesting to me is that the audience you think you might be writing for, the one that you might have thought could relate to what you were saying through your words, is not the crowd that’s reading me. I would hope, in the future, that these disparate groups would somehow become more evenly balanced. I think my work has as much to say to those not in my demo. And as I go forward, I hope that, if anything could affect the way I tell my stories, it would be that desire on my part to say what is uniquely mine to say in a way that would be the most widely receivable to all people.

I think every good story, whether it is a 50 word poem, or a 50,000 word novella, should be universal on some level.

DF: You and I first got to know each other when we both wrote for BrooWaha. For the uniformed can you explain what BrooWaha is and what you wrote for them during the period of your affiliation with them?

BF: Oh, man. It’s time to jump in the Hot Tub Time Machine with Peabody and Sherman for that one. Back in the fall of 2006, I worked as an inventory manager for a surgical supply company. Business was interminably slow, and I already had the writing disease. As I sat at my desk with a fully filter-less work computer, I began to search the internet for “writing opportunities,” and found BrooWaha. Broo was a startup created by Ariel Vardi, a video game designer from here in Venice, California, originally conceived as a “Citizen Journal.” A way for local writers to share what was happening locally with the exploding World Wide Web. I signed up for the gig the first week of January 2007. The beauty of the early days of Broo was that there were absolutely no restrictions on what kind of writing you could contribute, everything from street-level journalism and political coverage, editorials, creative writing, comedy, sports, you name it. By the middle of 2007, after Los Angeles had become somewhat successful, an edition for New York writers was created. And within the pages of the New York edition, a movie reviewer made a name for himself among the readers on both coasts. A guy who went by the pen name, “DL Ferguson.”

I still love your reviews, by the way.

Anyway, by the end of my run at BrooWaha, late in 2011, I had been given a regularly featured column, “Friday on Friday.” After 5 years with the site, I left, realizing that those years had been like my do-it-yourself school of writing. It was also at the end of that run that I realized my writing had begun to condense and compress itself into something more closely associated with what could be called poetry. I’ve written mostly nothing else since.         


BF: In the almost 5 years since the end of my time at BrooWaha, my life underwent a lot of changes. A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET is the mirror of that time. There’s some dark, and there’s some light, and a lot of what all writers go through during times of self-reflection. But mostly, it’s what the subtitle says it is, “a life in poems.” Because when I look back on my life, I don’t remember in chapters. I remember it one poem at a time.   

DF: How personal are the poems in A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET? How deep into you did you get to bring them out?

BF: A couple of years ago, when I would post poems online, I realized that they were the ones that were only scratching the surface of what was going on in my life, or what was affecting me on the inside. When I would share these safe poems on social media, I knew there would have to be a book someday that had “all the good ones” I was hiding because I didn’t want to offend someone.  It even got to the point, when I would tweet or post status updates, I would use the hashtag #GoingInTheBook, to remind myself that one day I was not going to be able to stay safe anymore. But it wasn’t until the selection process began, and my editor and I started deciding what poems really were “going in the book” that I knew just how deep I was digging. 

DF: Why poetry at all?

BF: Writer’s block, originally. When I started writing my weekly feature post for BrooWaha, it didn’t take long for me to see that, based on quite a few circumstances, my words were drying up. It used to be easy to sit and bang out an 800 to 1,500 word post. By this time, it was hard just to scratch out a few lines. After some more time went by, some of these posts were shortening their way into just a few lines of prose. But what happened in all this drying up was, the thoughts were becoming more concise as the words became less. It became my way of not only conveying large ideas in a tight space, but it allowed me a freedom of expression that having to bang out 5 double-spaced, 12 point type pages never did.  I became hooked on what just a few sentences could do to allow me to get some thought onto the page without burying the lead under a construct that no longer suited me.

In the bio on the back of the book, one of the summary lines about me reads, “…became a poet out of necessity.” That pretty much sums it all up.  

DF: What is the difference between the creative muscles you have to use for poetry and the ones you have to use for prose?

BF: You said muscles. I believe that’s a very accurate way of looking at it. I used to think that poetry was the harder of the two disciplines. It didn’t make any sense to me, and I hadn’t written any since that one class in college. Before I wrote the unsold screenplay, I first tried writing a novel. Got 150 pages into it before my writers’ marathon muscles ran out of gas, and I didn’t try again. After that experience, and the continued shortening of my pieces until they reached the size they are now, I’m even more convinced that some writers are just born for certain types of writing. But I also believe that any writer can stretch out and strengthen their creative muscles, and conquer any length of expression. It’s all about desire and training.

In the early 1970s, there was a miler from New Zealand, Rod Dixon. Over the course of the next 10 years, he made himself into an elite marathoner, even winning the New York City Marathon in 1983. I think writing is like that. Poetry is a race that ends in almost no time. Novels are marathons. But the same principals apply. Make each step count. After A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET and its follow-up book are published, my goal is to complete and publish two, 50,000 word novellas in 2017. 

That will be my stretching out.    

DF: Can we expect to see more books of poetry from you?

BF: Now that SKUNK STREET is done, there will be one more book of poetry before the end of the year. The title of that book, A HOPEFUL MAN: a second life in poems, speaks of a realization that is summed up in a quote from Bernard Malamud, in his novel “The Natural”,

“We have two lives, Roy. The life we learn with, and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness.”

After that, and after the longer form fiction coming next year, who knows?

DF: What is a typical Day In The Life of Bill Friday like?

BF: Currently, because of the wacky hours I keep for the job that keeps me in cheese and crackers, most typical days in the life are of the upside-down-to-most-people variety. I start work at 5 pm during the week, and noon on the weekends… yes, I often work 7 days a week… and most of those hours are on-call, meaning I could have a job that puts me on the road at a moment’s notice. But my days are mostly my own.

I get to sleep between 2 am and 4 am, and whenever it is that coffee finally finds me, I’m writing, until it’s time to pack it all up and get back to LAX. 

The convenient thing I’ve found about writing poetry is, there’s no right or wrong place to get your words on. Sometimes a word or phrase will hit me right in the brainpan, and I can just as easily thumb-type it into my phone, or write it down on a corner of my cargo manifest for coming back to later, as I can writing full-length pieces on my home computer. I’ve actually written entire poems, some of which appear in SKUNK STREET, while standing in an airline cargo terminal or in five spare minutes at the warehouse. It’s a discovery I came to slowly, and over time. In the same way that there is no right or wrong place, there is also no right or wrong way to write poetry. 

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know about you or your work?

Bill Friday: As far as the work? 

A DEATH ON SKUNK STREET is available this Memorial Day, May 30th through all the usual outlets like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and direct through the publisher, Hostile 17 Print.

Also, any questions about the next book, A HOPEFUL MAN, appearances or bookings for both books, and additional products from Hostile 17 Print can be sent directly to, or found on my website,

As far as me?

I’m still writing.    

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BERTRAM GIBBS

DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs? Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of ...