I’ve learned a lot through this time in prison; from both observing and experiencing situations that were strange and new to me, as well as looking at familiar situations through wiser, more cautious, battle-tested eyes.
Monday, March 17, 2014
It's blog-time again, and I’m having trouble keeping my trusty pen under control, as I try to articulate… to express the thoughts in my head. At 6:30 a.m. this morning, my publisher sent the email it feels like I’ve been waiting my whole life for; the words in the subject line were glorious: “No Loose Ends Front Cover”. WOW!!! Sitting here looking at it, I feel a mix of pride in seeing something I dreamt up actually take shape in the real world and a bit of something else. I can’t lie; I’m as insecure as anyone asking the world-at-large to try or sample something I made. I’m not the type to buy into the negative, but statistics say most new writers flop. I’ve got other issues, too. Is it " 'hood" enough for the urban fiction folks? It’s a street story, kinda, with people of color (Black, White, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Italian); so, will it square with the squares? Who knows?
With music, hip-hop especially, you’re supposed to act as if you’re the baddest ass on the block and dare people to not like it. But, this is so different from that. I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen. I’m just gonna put my sweat, soul, and the odd words that came together for me out there for you, and pray some of you feel the rhythm of my wordplay. That’s Ramsey-speak for: I hope ya’ll like it.
It’s crazy. I’m almost in tears as I write this because it sucks to be stuck in this shitty-ass situation and know in my heart that I am capable of so much more. There’s 100’s of nonsensical ways to spend the days until parole is a possibility, but I’m trying with everything in me to keep taking steps forward in the real world. I don’t feel like prison defines me: "just because my body is trapped, my mind has to be". I don’t accept that because I’m here I have to give up on life until I’m free. If anyone reading this knows someone that’s locked up, send them a copy of this blog. You can do anything you put your mind to. The best part of prison is that you’ve got extra time on your hands to figure out how to get it right.
I wasn’t a writer before this place. I didn’t know half of the stuff I do before I was forced to sit still long enough to read through a Wall Street Journal. I’m far from perfect. I’ve got a long list of flaws but, I guess if there is a difference I can point to, I try to be brave enough to work on my shortcomings.
Having this book to focus on is a blessing. Having people in the world that are kind enough to give me a couple of minutes of their time over a phone-call is a blessing. Even being able to express my strange views and stories to the world via this blog and have anyone who cares enough to read it is a blessing; and I’m eternally grateful.
So here’s the cover, and the new layout for Contraband Tales. No Loose Ends is a reality; whether it flops or flies high, I’m grateful for the journey.
Check out my interview with TigerLily about life and No Loose Ends!
Check out my interview with TigerLily about life and No Loose Ends!
Sunday, March 9, 2014
What’s up, World?
So, while my hope is to give the streets (and the public, in general) a great book with an action- and comedy-packed storyline, one of my underlying goals is to give some insight into the mental states and psychology of men similar to Travis Smith, the main character of No Loose Ends (and, I guess, myself as well).
The hardships of prison only start with the loss of freedom. To the person that’s never really gotten into this kind of trouble, you’d probably say, “So what, it’s your own fault”; and I don’t dispute that we do create our own chaos. But after the blame game is done, the reality is that men are sequestered to same-sex populations for years on end, and stripped of their basic human dignities. Initially, we're told to strip, squat, and cough under flashlights; no matter your crime, and at any guards’ request. We’re fed the minimal permissible amount of calories allowed by law, and further embarrassed daily because every manner of contact we have with the outside world is preceded by the scarlet waning that the person either writing or calling is in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The human injustices are boundless: from 50-500% price increases in basic necessities like food, hygienic products, and clothing; to premiums on local and long-distance calls, and outrageous connection fees so we can stay in contact with loved ones. It’s rough! And on top of the administrative wounds, you have the heartbreak of loved ones or family that reached their compassion and tolerance limits. I’m not assigning blame here, again, because I get it: when people won’t take the steps to fix their own lives, there is only so much patience you can spare to forgive their follies.
So, let me try something here. Going to prison brings an abrupt set of life changes, and significant others are ripped from relationships without warning. When it happens, the trauma is sometimes too much to overcome. Let’s face it: unless a man/ woman has proven himself/ herself as worth the time, energy, and sacrifices you’ll have to make in order to wait for him/ her, having a man/ woman that’s locked up is kind of a bad deal.
Now a great deal of women stand by their men, and we, the collective body of men still stuck in the gulag, appreciate and commend you ladies. I’ll say it right now, just in case your man hasn't in a while: Thank you, ladies, for sticking around. But, there are a great many women that don’t; and, though it’s understandable that your lives shouldn't be on hold while we are stuck paying the price for bad behaviors, learning that someone you love or care about doesn't feel like you’re worth the wait doesn't hurt any less. And the changes that occur in men (and women) that are abandoned in this situation are sometimes devastating, mostly critical, but always real.
Soapbox aside… lets get back to the fiction. Travis Smith (of No Loose Ends fame) has a beautiful cocoa brown-skinned girlfriend, when he’s forced to make a decision: either keep his cousin out of a jam, or let his childhood mentor burn for a drug case (which would be his 3rd strike and cost him the rest of his life behind bars). Travis chooses to take the case, and gets a light sentence because it's his first offense. While in the big house, his girlfriend
Asia sends him a letter not unlike real
letters I’ve seen personally. And, though her letter is not saying it’s over, it's
one of those papercuts that cuts the heart like a machete chop.
Picture yourself in Travis’ shoes: alone in your bed area, smiling ear-to-ear as you hold magical words from the someone that still cares enough to write you. You open the letter from
this is what she has to say:
I had your last letter in my backpack for like two weeks before I read it. I knew it was gonna be some bullshit when you told me you got in trouble. You only had a few months left, and now it’s gonna be longer? I don’t know how long I can keep this up, T. I’m trying to understand your love for your cousin, but I’m just like… What am I supposed to do for another six months?
I hate school without you here. My dad has been acting funny-style with me since I told him about what happened. He won’t even give me my car because he knows I want to visit you. Now, I’m walking to class, stuck in the house, asking for rides; I gotta get a job or something.
Jayla, my girl from the Bay, told me she’s been getting money with this dude from Vegas since she left school. She’s traveling like crazy, and she asked me if I want to go to
with her this month. Dude is some kind of talent manager or something. He’s
booked her hella modeling jobs, and she just bought an ’09 Mustang. T, I’m tired
of these boring-ass classes and just being stuck in the house all the time.
What should I do?
I’m gonna take some pictures with Jayla if I go to
with them, so I’ll send you some shots of me in a bikini : ). (But you can’t be
showing them off.) Don’t get in anymore trouble, T. You need to hurry up and get
out of there. I’ll write you again soon.