Hard as Roxx Soundtrack

Originally posted on This Blog Intentionally Blank:

All of my books have a soundtrack. It’s probably because in my head, they all play out as movies. For now, however, they will have to content themselves as books. My latest book is Hard as Roxx, release date 2012. Below is a sampling of videos from its soundtrack.

If you only listen to one, try “Jangfata,” which means “The Road Is Long.” It is the pacing and the energy of the book. Although the story is Dystopian, I have quite a different view of what life will be under an oppressive regime. Life finds a way.

I realize the song selections will seem random now, but trust me, they will make more sense when you read the book. Put on your dancing shoes, clothes your eyes, and be. Roxx is gonna take you places you’ve never been.

Meet Roxx – “Do It Like a Dude,” by Jessie J

Desert Time…

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Ferguson, NO MO

Security forces charge demonstrators after being hit by water bottles during a protest against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson
I can hear the shouting,
though it’s vague and difficult to discern
over the clamor of the newsie, verbal paparazzi
providing us 24×7 coverage of
“We don’t really give a shit,
but they never did find that fucking Malaysian plane.”
Beneath the civil unrest, there’s bubbling turmoil.
“We’ve been here before” and
Missouri trees bear strange fruit,
blood on the streets, brothas to shoot.
But poets whisper, the street urchins
are beat-boxing ’bout Nikki Minaj’s booty
and Jay-Z’s beatdown in elevator shafts
that only go down, while rising.

Back inna day, there’d be a different
Nikki at the microphone
and she wouldn’t be whispering. But
these are the days of million-dollar
hip-hop “poets” too busy in their box seats
to be bothered with the streets.
I wonder if the revolution happened
Brother Gil told us it wouldn’t be televised
but I thought CNN might have mentioned it.
So I sit back and remember 1970
because visions of Kent State, as fractious
and damnable as they are
remind me that pigs hate whitey too.

Hell, the only thing we have left
is hatred,
ain’t it?

I can hear my grandma calling:
“Somebody turn the channel. This damn
television is stuck on 1970.”
Maybe somebody should write
a song about it. Want ta hear it?
Here it go:
“Ain’t no niggas, ain’t no whiteys
ain’t no magic anymo’
Ya’ll don’t hear me, though I’m shoutin’
Ain’t no Ferguson, No MO.

I don’t think this microphone is turned on.

Him a Shotta


Him a shotta
livin life on him edge.
Girl by de side, she wait
for him light fe break.

“Why fe you a romeo?”
she say, but him naw respond
‘cau him a shotta,
and him too hard fe speak.

But she naw sceered a him.
His frown mek her wet
down dere in her tropical flow
so she a-come back at him,
“Deny dem shottas and refuse thy game.”

“Gwan, girl,” him say.
“My naked weapon is out; quarrel,
I will back ‘pon you.”

“Dem’s not your words,” she say.
“‘Sides, me have seen ya weapon,
and dat ship naw sail.
“Ya kiss by de book.”

“Me gwine kiss ya in yon’ tropics.
Beseech ya girl, come by me,
and come, girl, an’ come.”
So she gon’ swoon a bit,
and Romeo, him continue,
“Arise, and a come, fair sun,
burn ya’ tropics and kill
de envious moon.”

“Again, I say, ‘Deny dem shottas
and refuse dey game.’”

“And if I will not?”

“Den be but sworn my love
and I’ll be a shotta too.”
And she t’row down she rope
and say, “Climb up, bway,
an’ be quick. Me feelin’ a tropical
storm a-come.”

“Me come, fair Juliette. Me come,
me come, and come, and

Excerpt from Awakening: The Backwards Man


I’m almost through my revision/tightening of Awakening, the 2nd book of The Stream, which I’ve tentatively retitled Grandfather Time. Since I’ve reached it, I thought I’d share my favorite scene.

Behind them, approaching from the lighted room, was a bizarre vision of a man being led by twin horrors. The man was tall and thin, his features concealed by a loosely fitting, hooded tunic. He wore likewise loose-fitting pants tied with a rope belt made of twisted gold strands. Both the tunic and pants were amethyst, giving him the bizarre appearance of a purple monk. On his head he wore a wide-brimmed hat, despite already being shielded by the hood. The hat rose into twin peaks, as if the hard leather had been placed over horns. The round brim stood as wide as his shoulders. Though standing in the lighted room, his face was concealed in shadows. As he moved forward into the darkness, the shadows grew, seeming to envelope him, as though he had become one with the surrounding murkiness.

His head, torso, and arms all faced forward, towards the group of rescuers as they rounded a turn and out of sight. Grotesquely, his hips, legs, and feet faced backwards toward his group of sycophants. He led a strange cortege of hook-nosed women with aggressively protruding breasts; the too tall, too thin, or too bent; human pincushions; and the diseased, dripping with open sores. All wore brightly colored clothing that was covered in drab brown robes or shawls. These beings marched in asynchronous, ludicrous fashion behind a small company of addled bodyguards dressed as harlequins with capes and long baggy robes. The guards held long, bent spears that ended in razor-edged points. At purely random increments, they would slice or stab one of the followers, or each other, eliciting both yelps of pain and a tittering chorus. As a result, none of the followers seemed to be actually watching Charlie or the backwards man, but were engrossed with mindlessly torturing each other.

The backwards man strode in the direction of what should have been forward but which appeared to be rearward, in pursuit of Charlie and his group. The hooded figures bony arms were extended, restraining the two snarling beasts that tested their iron chains. Each monstrosity had a broad chest and sturdy legs that ended in wide, padded feet that allowed them to move silently across the concrete floors. Their chests were no more than eighteen inches above the floor, but due to their enormous frame, the beasts stood five feet at the shoulders. Their heads were equally massive, with reptilian features that ended in a wide mouth full of two-inch teeth. The beasts were dull brown, with red striations on the sides of their heads that made them appear even angrier than their snarling, drooling demeanor asserted. They looked as if some hellish breeder had managed to graft a small Tyrannosaurus’ head on an oversized, lizardized bulldog’s frame.

“Fetch,” the backwards man said, in a voice that was simultaneously deep and effete. He released the hellhounds from his scrawny hands, and they bolted in snarling pursuit of Charlie’s group, their chains clattering behind.

Today’s Email from Amazon re Hachette


I received the following email today and thought I’d share it.  Neither party is acting in  authors’ best interests, and so this blogger has no opinion on the subject.

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at http://www.readersunited.com

Excerpt from Awakening

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 11.22.00 AM

Here’s a quick excerpt from Awakening, in Chapter 22, “Henchen Henceforth Penchen.” The chapter’s title is the name of a pet rooster, named after my mom’s own pet rooster from her childhood. Fortunately, her childhood was different from my characters’.

The family stopped at a dingy, little shop off the main highway to pick up supplies they needed, while her dad talked to the locals and enjoyed a smoke outside. When he had finished smoking, he went inside, leaving the girls alone in the barren parking lot. They stopped on every weekend trip at Dusty’s Rhodeside Supplies, where Jimmy LeBeaux had become something of a regular. The two girls paced back and forth, idling in the desert heat, until their father had finished his business, along with his usual two more cigarettes and as many “cold ones with the boys” from the small fridge that Dusty kept hidden behind the counter next to a loaded shotgun. The girls were alone except for the occasional tumbleweed or roadrunner that eyed them warily from a distance. After twenty minutes, Jimmy called in Reyna to show off how pretty his daughter was. Robin followed her in, although she wasn’t certain her dad remembered he had a second daughter.

“Yeah, she’s a looker, Jimmy,” Dusty Rhodes—his actual name—said, giving the thirteen year old Reyna an inappropriate leer. Reyna drew in her body tensely, as if his eyes could actually touch her skin, and made a sour face. “You’re gonna be chasing the boys off’n her with a shotgun in a couple years.”

“Hell no I ain’t,” Jimmy said. “Ain’t nobody gonna mess with my baby girl. Ain’t nobody that stupid.” He laughed and placed his hand on Reyna’s shoulder. Reyna stiffened, but did not otherwise react.

Robin stood in a corner of the cramped store, pretending to be interested in the merchandise on the shelves, but, in actuality, was just enjoying the limited cooling ability of the big swamp coolers nearby. Her dad’s truck had air conditioning, but he refused to use it, claiming it burned too much gas and overtaxed his diesel engine. As she watched her sister looking as if she were caught in a poacher’s trap, she realized how obviously Reyna hated being there, and wondered why her dad never seemed to notice. Then again, she figured, noticing his daughters’ needs was never one of her father’s strong suits.

Finally, when the beer ran out, Jimmy LeBeaux wrapped his bony arm around Reyna’s waist, and announced they had to get to work.

“Why don’tchu brang that pretty wife of your’n down sometime, Jimmy?” Dusty asked. “Me and the wife would love to have y’all over. The wife makes a mean pot roast, and I know for a fact you’re sick of all that damn Mexican food.”

“That’s for damn sure,” Jimmy said, his tobacco-stained teeth showing.

“We’ll cook you up some good ole Texas chili—get you some American food for a change.”

Robin glared at Dusty and considered telling him that she was pretty sure that Albuquerque, her mom’s birthplace, was still in America, but caught Reyna’s cautionary look, and held her tongue. She expected her father to come to her mom’s defense—after all, she and Reyna were part Mexican themselves—but Jimmy only laughed.

“We might do just that some time,” Jimmy said laughing. “I’ll bring you some green chiles so you can spice that Texas chili up New Mexico style, he said. Me and the girls are gonna be harvesting real soon—looks like no more’n a couple of weeks.” He walked to the door, and gestured for Robin and Reyna to go out to the truck. As Reyna turned, Jimmy playfully patted her on her round butt and said, “See, she gets that from her mom. Being Mexican does have some usefulness you know. I sure have me some fun with her mom, if you get my drift.” He and the men all laughed as Jimmy joined his daughters in the dusty parking lot and loaded the rest of the supplies in the bed of the large truck.

As they started on their way, Robin offered from the back seat, “Tio Carlos always says that if you’re part Mexican, you’re all Mexican. He says that once you’re part of a Mexican family you belong 100 percent. So, that means that me and Reyna are Mexican too. Even you, Daddy.” Robin hoped that her logic would persuade her father to not associate with men who seemed to dislike her people.

To her disappointment, but not surprise, he said, “Your ‘Tio’ Carlos is an idiot.” As he said “Tio,” he made quotation marks with his fingers, two of which held another cigarette. The gesture made Robin nervous, as he took both hands off the steering wheel to do so.

“Tio Carlos has a law firm, Dad, and he makes more money than, like, all the LeBeauxes put together,” Reyna said in his defense.

Barely looking, Jimmy LeBeaux reached over and slapped Reyna on the side of her face. “Don’t smart mouth me, little girl,” he said, exhaling acrid smoke in her direction. Robin jerked back in her seat with a start and began crying. Reyna however, kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead and neither moved a muscle nor made a sound.

“You shut the hell up back there, little girl, or I swear to God we will be eating roast rooster for dinner tonight.”

Robin began to weep harder, but had enough experience to do so silently. She wished to herself that she could be as strong as her big sister, who was surreptitiously soothing her younger sister by reaching back and stroking her leg.

Don’t Give Up.

Bill Jones, Jr.:

And the moral of this story is …

Originally posted on Just Me:

This was an ordinary day, at an ordinary time, in an ordinary place.

There once was a man, who needed to reach the sea. For years, he’d been tormented by the People. They bullied him in school; they never understood when he spoke, for he wasn’t from wherever it was he’d drifted to when he found the People. So, on an ordinary day, one full of ordinary heartache, he decided that he must leave. He had naught but a very small boat, made from the old tire of an enormous tractor. To reach the sea, and freedom, he had to cross miles of scorched earth, with nothing to protect him from the sun. He had no shoes, no shirt, no hope.

But he did have his boat.

After pondering his predicament, he decided that the boat would make a Very Nice Hat. So he wore the boat, reaching the sea…

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