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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Success of DC’s New 52 is a cover for the same old business in the Comic Book industry

Many in the comic book industry are rejoicing over the initial sales numbers of the DC Comics new 52 relaunch. Some books have sold 100,000 copies and have been reprinted three or four times , and others are completely sold out People are coming into comic book stores and shop owners are limiting sales to one per copy in some areas.

Dan Didio and Jim Lee and Bob Harras are patting themselves on the back.

But I wouldn’t call it a success.

More like a band-aid on a bullet wound.

Marvel had the same initial success in 1996 with its Heroes Reborn reboot. And again in 1997 with its Heroes Return reboot. But by 2001 numbers had plummeted back to the 50,000-70,000 levels because the initial creative teams had left those titles and a series of inexperienced secondary teams took over the titles without editorial guidance.

The speculators may come for a moment and inflate the sales numbers for those new #1 issues, but they aren’t going to stay to sustain that growth. No one is going to keep paying $3.00- $4.00 for 32-page comic books six months from now. Nor are they going to continue shelling out $155.48 every month for 52 plus titles a year from now.

Didio, Lee and Harras may be patting themselves on the back, and many of the fans may be rejoicing.

But Shawn knows it’s just the same old denial in a new costume with a brand new #1 stuck on it. That success everyone is bragging about is just a smokescreen just like the DC Comics relaunch.

Didio, Lee and Harras fiddle while DC burns creatively.

And Shawn can smell the game run on gullible comic fans stinkin’ like vomit.

This latest DC comic book relaunch does nothing to effectively address the long-term problems plaguing the comic book industry It’s business as usual. A brand new band-aid on the same bullet wound that’s now festering with pus and gangrene.

And the paitient is getting critical internal injuries from the hollow point they were shot with back in 1993.

With each passing day that editorial and corporate management at the big two comic book publishers don’t work towards comprehensively repairing the long-term damage from the 1990’s excesses it continues to push the industry towards a collapse it may not come out of.
similar to the distress our current real estate market is in.
Except there is no government bailout on the horizon because the comic book industry is small enough to fail.

And sadly I think we need that collapse to happen. I actually think the world would be a better place if Marvel or DC stopped publishing.

As a comic fan I know it’s cold to say it’s a good thing for Marvel or DC to stop publishing but if it leads to serious change the industry needs to survive, I’m all for it. Many in the comic book industry right now are just LAZY. They’re complacent. Creatively they phone it in with gimmicks, cross-overs and events instead of writing simple easy-to-read stories a ten-year-old today can access. They stretch plots out at a pace so slow that a storyline goes for six or seven issues before a simple plot point like a hero putting on a costume and going to action is resolved. They use shock and gore instead of style and substance to grab the readers’ attention. Imagination and creativity have been stifled because everyone is just focused on collecting a check.

Seriously, over the past twenty years comic book writers and artists have gained too much power over comic book publishers. And editorial is afraid to reign in these out-of-control creative types in out of fear that a popular hotshot writer or artist will defect to a competitor. That fear gives the creative types no incentive to try. No motivation to work within editorial parameters and really get creative. No passion to CARE about the work they produce or commit to a series for five or six years honing their skills.

The inmates are running the asylum and the guards supervising them are asleep. Moreover, the public is indifferent to what these madmen conspire behind closed doors.

I feel if one of the big two stopped publishing it would cause a ripple effect in the comic book industry. I feel it’d get the fans to taking comic books for granted and buying them out of habit. Get the shop owners to really think about what they’re ordering. And maybe those working in the industry would finally WAKE UP.

Maybe if the writers and artists had no place to sell mediocre work to, those top name writers and artists would STEP IT UP. Maybe if there was no one to GIVE them a check every month for mediocre work, they’d be FORCED to TAKE RISKS and FIND what appeals to a larger audience. FORCED to find out what kids from this generation RELATE TO. What they IDENTIFY WITH. Maybe they’d be FORCED to create content that would appeal to a new generation of readers instead of a bunch of over 30 White males who are too damn old for comic books.

And maybe if those complacent types had to COMPETE with the new kids fresh out of art school and the seasoned veterans for WORK at one of the surviving comic publishers, they’d take their CRAFT more SERIOUSLY. I doubt a guy like Rob Lifeld would be able to get away with half of his crap if he had no place to sell it, and I doubt Kevin Smith could get away with leaving a series unfinished for months if a publisher saw that their bottom line would be affected by it.

And maybe we could finally see some CHANGE to the comic book distribution system. Maybe if publishers were DESPERATE enough, we could see comics back at a supermarket or a place where children can see them. Maybe if there was no Time Warner or Disney financing mediocrity at Marvel or DC, a shop owner would be more open to stocking some of the self-published titles in their place. Maybe Archie would become a bigger competitor. Maybe more indie titles would gain a larger audience. Maybe those new readers will finally discover that next great book that was lost in the sea of mediocre titles at the big two.

Could a collapse in the comic book industry make things better long-term? It worked for the movie industry in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Big studios like MGM, FOX, and Warner Brothers almost went bankrupt producing multimillion dollar musicals, Westerns and Epics in an era where Civil Rights, Women’s lib and Vietnam were changing the country’s perception of itself. When they saw their bottom line heading towards zero, they were FORCED to change their approach to filmmaking and adapt to service the entertainment needs of the new audience. And that’s when we got new classics that people in the 1970’s could relate to. Stuff like The Godfather. Shaft. Jaws. Star Wars.  Superman: The Movie. Saturday Night Fever and Grease. The invention of the Horror/slasher genre. The invention of the Marital arts movie. The invention of the Blockbuster and the mainstreaming of the Black film. New talent started coming into film and doing things differently and reaching new audiences.

Do I really want the comic book industry to collapse? Yeah,pretty much. The current structure is helping no one and enabling mediocrity. There’s so many markets the comic book industry could be targeting and millions of new readers they could be reaching. But because many of the current regime at the big two comic book publishers are fat and happy they have no incentive to take the risks needed to reach out to those audiences of new readers. Maybe with them out of the way, more serious competition can get in the game and bring the change that’s desperately needed in the comic book industry. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Mission of SJS DIRECT and what I publish (My first Video!)

 A little video I put together detailing my mission as a publisher and a writer. Bear with me, I'm still learning the ins and outs of making videos on the Mac. And yeah, I know I need a haircut and a shave.

And my All About Marilyn commercial:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Black Community Reaps A Bitter Harvest

The Bible states we reap what we sow. That the seeds we put into the ground grow into the fruits of our labor. After twenty years of Thug Life, Gangstas and coonery I’d have to say The Black community is reaping a Bitter Harvest.

It’s no secret that the problems in the Black community have actually gotten worse over the past twenty years. But looking back at what went on in the late 1980’s and throughout 1990’s I realize that Brothers and Sisters are reaping what they sowed.

In the late 80’s 1990’s The Black Community allowed Hollywood and Madison Avenue to plant the seeds of Gangsterism in our kids by allowing them to watch fools like Biggie, Tupac on MTV and supporting gangs like the Crips and Bloods allowing them to go from the West Coast to the East Coast corrupting everything Black in its path. They promoted a propaganda of Thug Life to our kids through hip-hop charlatans and they persuaded many to walk away from the tradition of education and hard work denouncing them as “acting white”. Following the cult-like ideologies of Thug Life they renounced their traditional Black values and imbibed the teachings of false Prophets like Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Biggie Smalls Nas and Jay-Z  as religion.

And twenty years later after those seeds were planted we now The Black Community now has a 70% dropout rate among Black Men, an 80% unemployment rate and most brothers under 30 who survive  can barely read their own name if it were put in front of them. Because The Black community believed the false propoganda of Thug Life as a mantra of truth it no longer produces Doctors, lawyers, civil service workers or entrepreneurs who can build and support the Black community's economic base.

Instead our communities produce inmates, weed smokers, alcoholics, and an assortment of BUMS and NIGGERS who don’t possess the basic skills to take care of themselves. Sometimes I wonder if these negroes can wipe their asses in a straight line.

In the late 80’s early 90’s The Black Community allowed the degradation of our sisters through the misogyny in hip hop and film to go unchecked. We went from strong sistas like Queen Latifah and Monie Love talking about the strength and empowerment of Black womanhood to Women like Lil’ Kim proudly proclaiming “She’s a Ho”. Being sexually promiscuous soon became the standard for the black woman and that jezebel stereotype was legitimized when Halle Berry won the Oscar for Monster’s Ball.

And years after planting those whorish seeds in the minds of our sisters, the Black community no longer produces strong, intelligent Black women but new age prostitutes. Most Black women who grew up imbibing the racist stereotypes in the racist media promoted by Madison Avenue and Hollywood now think it’s okay to act and dress like a tramp. Worse, they think it’s okay to abuse their bodies like a prostitute like Karrine Steffans instead of treating it like the temple God intended it to be.

Further corrupting the future of the Black community are the values programmed into the Black woman’s mind since the Vietnam War. A second generation of lost confused Black women think they can do things “on their own and they are “strong and independent.” When really they are “weak and incompetent.” These wrong thinking sistas think it’s okay to have a baby out of wedlock, as 7 out of 10 children in the black community are now born to single mothers. Our community has gone from producing the types of sistas who would make supportive and caring wives to producing whores who value money over morals. Young Black women now spend more time baring their bodies instead of showing how they can be a help meet to our brothers.

I see an even more bitter harvest coming for the future of the Black community if it doesn’t start taking corrective action. The Coonery of Tyler Perry, The thuggery and whoreishness promoted in Street Lit and Victim Mentality of films like Precious and For Colored Girls along with the prison culture disgused as hip hop by clown rappers like Lil’ Wayne and Gucci Mane our children and grandchildren imbibe today could further corrupt the next generation of Brothers and sisters if we don’t pull up these weeds and briars and burn them.

One generation of fruitful Brothers and Sisters has been lost because the last generation weren’t responsible husbandmen and didn’t take good care of our vineyards of our communities. Most of the fruit we’ve grown over the past twenty years is spoiled, rotten and is good for nothing but to be cast into the draught.

I’m urging brothers and sisters to think about what seeds they plant in their minds. Because the seeds of weeds and briars we sow today may grow up twenty years later into an even more bitter harvest that will continue to choke the life out of Black community.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Entering My Third Year of Unemployment And Trying to Stay In The Game

Keep going.

God told me that one Sunday the week I lost my job three years ago. And I’ve been trying to obey him since.

Over the past two years as I looked for that new job to pay my bills, I’ve been blessed to build momentum with each book I published. Winning over the critics. Getting new readers. Slowly building an audience and praying for that big break.

But coming on the third anniversary of losing my job, I’m running into obstacles that are undermining all the momentum I’ve built these past two years.

My unemployment is exhausted. My saving is on the brink of being exhausted. I’m almost out of money. And I’m nowhere near being able to live off the revenue of my books. I don’t even know if I can afford to keep them in print.

But I want to keep going. To keep building momentum. Working towards that next job. Working towards that big break.. And trying to get to that next level.

I don’t want to stop. Because I feel if I stop I won’t have the ability to get my life started again. It was hard enough fight to start my life over at 34. And that was after having to start all over again at 26, 29, and 34. It takes all my heart soul and spirit to fight with the resentment and resistance I’ve faced from racists, uncle toms, and people too insensitive, insecure, and selfish to understand where I’m coming from in my quest to find employment.

As I get older it just gets too tiring to fight with arrogant people trying to push me out of a job just as I’m trying to get a foothold in their workplace. Telling me after I’m hired they want someone better instead of learning to appreciate who they have.

I’m still trying to keep going. Still trying to stay in the game.

But three years later after losing my job, I don’t think I have the strength to start all over again at 40 or 41. I need to find that job that starts my career soon. To have the audience discover that breakout book, to finally get things going. I feel this is sink or swim time for me in both my careers.

It’s been mentally and physically exhausting to rebuild things for the second straight time. It’s frustrating and even more mentally and physically draining to hold on to what I have. I need things to work this time. I need things to get started because I don’t think I can do this again.

I do not wind up where I was back in January 2003- April 2008. Broke and living on $2 a day, depending on family to help me out. Counting down to the last penny. Struggling to find the money just to pay for the little things and praying some big expense I can’t afford doesn’t come up and stop me dead in my tracks, like the dead laptop that kept me from writing and accessing the internet for close to a year in August of 2007.

I realize from here on in if I don’t get a job in a year or so, writing, my secondary source of income is probably going to be my primary source of income. I’ll be too old to get that office job I’ve been dreaming of getting since I was 21 and graduated college back in 1994.

The job market here in New York City is a brick wall. Managers here twiddle their thumbs telling unemployed people not to apply for jobs or play a game of run-around with interviewees while they secretly plan to hire their friends and family. At 38 now I barely stand a chance in this job market with a college degree. In two years at 40 I’m pretty much fucked.

If I’m going to keep going I’m going to need a miracle. I’m reaching the point where I can’t go any further. If people don’t start buying books soon or I don't find a job, I'm going to wind up in a bad spot.

I'm asking everyone to help me out during this time by buying a book or an eBook.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How The Gap Can Fall Back Into Profitability

In the late 80s’ when I was a teenager everyone wanted to fall into the Gap when it came to fashion. And by the mid 1990’s the Gap was an iconic brand.

Back in the 1990’s GAP were the clothes a teen could wear to school and look cool, and an adult could wear to work and stand out as stylish. Pieces were full-cut mix-and match classic style that people could build a functional wardrobe out of.

And the quality of Gap clothing was unmatched by any other manufacturer in the late 80’s early 1990’s, Gap clothes used to be virtually indestructible and could survive years of launderings. I still own six or seven Gap shirts from my high school and college days that look practically brand new after over 100 washings.

Unfortunately in fall of 2000, The Gap decided to go in another direction walking away from its preppy clothes and classic style. As the Gap decided to discontinue mainstay products like the Big Oxford, the fleece hoodie with the words GAP on it and signature Khakis, they alienated their core audience of working class young people and families. In a serious miscalculation, then CEO Mickey Drexler thought he could win over young teens with club wear and seasonal trendy clothes.

It was a mistake that The Gap never recovered from.

 Over the past decade the Gap brand continued to decline. Instead of returning to those mix-and match wardrobe classics that established Gap as an international brand, management decided to stay on the trendy and hip path further alienating customers. Moreover, they cut corners on things like thread counts per square inch, colorfastness of dyes, and lowering the quality of their clothes making theme practically disposable. Today a Gap garment can barely stand two or three washings before the dyes run out of it or it starts to fall apart.

Unfortunately, this low quality still comes at a premium price. Which is why customers avoid the Gap and head over to competitors.

In the face of declining profits, and a tarnished brand, Gap management now plans to shutter a significant percentage of its stores in the U.S. and expand their business in China where the brand is still profitable.

I feel that’s a stupid decision and shows how incompetent Gap’s management is. Just like the U.S. consumer tired of Gap’s poor quality, the upwardly mobile Chinese customer will tire of it as well. No, instead of closing stores, and laying off thousands of people, they need to FIRE SOME EXECUTIVES who have been at the top TOO LONG. It’s clear to me Gap Inc’s management have become TOO COMFORTABE, TOO ENTRENCHED, have LOST THEIR PASSION, and are COMPLETELY OUT OF IDEAS.

Because their leadership has abandoned their relationship with the customer, the Gap Brand has no direction. Look at the embarrassing amateurish new logo design they tried to pass off a few months ago to represent their worldwide brand. Who would think that was a good idea except an apathetic group of employees who are so dead inside that they don’t care about the quality of their work.

I feel that The Gap is a solid brand and can turn itself around. It has an international reputation for classic style and iconic brand recognition. The problem is the current leadership is too comfortable collecting a paycheck to make any serious efforts towards changing things to win back the customers who fell in love with the brand almost twenty years ago.

I feel Gap’s current management lost touch with the middle class. The brand is struggling to find its place because everyone at the top doesn’t understand the needs of its middle class customers who are upwardly mobile high school students, college students, grad school students and entry level and mid-level employees in the workforce. I feel the age of a Gap customer usually is about 14-60.

An iconic middle-class brand like The Gap should be competing with high-end niche retailers L.L Bean, Bill’s Khakis (excellent quality), Lacoste, Brooks Brothers and Orvis, (again top notch quality) not lower-tiered mass-market brands like Sears and Target. That’s what Old Navy is for, and why Old Navy should be selling disposable clothes primarily to children, tweens, and young adults who outgrow and destroy clothes. And Banana Republic should be a premium brand competing with luxury retailers like Ben Silver, Paul Stuart, Tuttle, Ralph Lauren Black Label and Gorgio Armani. Banana Republic should be selling to upwardly mobile senior management types, looking to make a powerful first impression in the corporate office or a social event.

If I were running the Gap, I wouldn’t be retreating to China like a bunch of cowards. No, I’d be weathering the storm and trying to reconnect with the Gen-X and Gen-Y customers in the U.S. who made the Gap into an American institution. I’d try to win them back over to the Gap brand by bringing back those classic staples they remember like The Big Oxford, and Khakis and the classic GAP hoodie. I’d focus on a catalog of updated Classic clothes that would be mix-and-match wardrobe staples that work well in the office as well as home and promote how a good man’s or woman’s wardrobe is built on essential pieces. Along with the jeans and Khakis would be work clothes like slacks, skirts, dresses, blazers, barn coats and suits. Yes, I feel Gap should be selling suits or suit separates. People used to value Gap clothes so highly at one time they’d wear them to weddings, business meetings and other formal occasions. The quality of Gap clothes needs to get back to that level.

And to win over customers alienated by poor quality I’d increase the thread counts back to the pre 1998 levels and strive to get product made in the USA if possible. Sure the end product would cost a little more, but when I was a teenager back in the late 80’s early 90’s, people were paying the premium prices to own Gap clothes because the quality was so high. And in my Gap the fit would be full-cut traditional fit. No low-rise, ANYTHING. No, slim fit or any of that hipster crap. That stuff shelfwarms and winds up on the clearance pile everywhere I go. Low-rise/slim fit alienates regular customers who become frustrated when they go to the store, find their size in the label and find out it just doesn’t fit. Traditional fit works best for a practical for a mix-and-match wardrobe of essential pieces a working person or a student needs on the job or at school.

As for the ad campaign I’d keep it simple. Have YouTube type videos where customers talk about what Gap has meant to them over the years. Flashback to the 90’s heyday with vintage ads. For every Generation there was a Gap. And there can be a Gap for this Generation. To me the Gap customer is Middle class and upwardly mobile. The models would be clean shaven guys, and polished females. They’d be presented doing things upwardly mobile people would do. A small businessperson who works out of their apartment meeting a client. A small businessperson having a meeting at a coffee shop, or getting ready for work. Riding the train. Walking with their cell phone on the way to somewhere important. Being in a business meeting at an office. Even going to church.

I’d move away from those scruffy unshaven men and unkempt females they currently have in their magazine ads slacking and doing nothing. Those images are associated with FAILURE. People see them as LOSERS. People who don’t shave or wash their hair ARE SEEN AS BUMS and JUNKIES by customers. That’s not the image anyone wants to associate with an iconic brand like the Gap when they buy their clothes.

Clean shaven men with haircuts and polished females are associated with SUCCESS. These are the men and women people want to get to know. MOVERS. SHAKERS. These are the people customers want as FRIENDS. The people customers want identify with, relate to, and to DRESS LIKE. These images SELL CLOTHES because they make consumers FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES.

And along with the ad campaigns I’d be bringing back a seasonal “Vintage Gap” item from the 80’s and the 90’s. Remember Sandblasted Jeans? Surfwashed Khakis? Classic Gap shirts? The I’m sure another generation would like to try the Classic Gap staples of another era if they were limited edition items.

Personally I feel The Gap is still a strong brand. With the right leadership, they can weather the storm and get a new generation of American customers to fall in to the Gap. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trial of The Goddess Chapter 1 and a Note

I'm right in the middle of writing a new book (Finally) and I didn't have time to finish the article I planned for today. So here's the first chapter of the  international smash hit Isis prequel: Isis Trial of The Goddess available in ebook on Nook and Kindle and for your ipad. It's also available in print only on amazon (Shawn can't afford a Lighting Source run due to dwindling finances.) The royalty money from the paperbacks and eBooks you buy helps keep me able to stay afloat for one more day!

On top of it I'm having some shitty internet service today, so I'm lucky I can get this to you.  Articles will be back on Monday!  (I hope)

Chapter 1

Under the moonlit sky, I look down at the corpses of Klansmen strewn about the grass in my backyard. When my crusade is over these United States will have their benighted and corrupt White leaders replaced with a fair and just order I establish.

I’m sure there’ll be retaliation from the Whites to other innocent Negroes in town when they become aware of the retribution I have meted out for myself. As their goddess, I cannot let my brothers and sisters suffer for my actions. Having the power to do something about the inhumane treatment my people suffer I must take final action to end the oppression of the Negro people. Only the total extermination of this White vermin will allow my people to live in peace. They have stolen this land from its rightful owners and brought my people here in bondage. I will remove the White menace from this land and fairly recompense those peoples oppressed under the conditions established by their unjust constitution.

I walk through the dozens of broken carcasses dressed in bloodstained white sheets and hoods over to a small body wrapped tightly in a bloodstained white blanket. I look down at my son and tears well up in my eyes. I would have let them live had they spared you. Now I look forward to making their women see their children like this before I kill them.

Squatting down to examine the body of my son, I see the charred corpse of my late husband Joe hanging on the tree in out backyard out of the corner of my eye. I’ll make sure you both have proper burials before I go on my crusade.

I storm over to the smoldering wooden shell that was once our home. Embers of the fire that once destroyed it still glow red in the broken blackened boards lying scattered on the ground and inside the gutted framework. As I step onto the porch, the smoky stench from the wafting smoke is almost unbearable. I must find the shovel to dig their graves.

Entering the doorway, I walk past pieces of a mirror that once sat in our entranceway, broken glass from our window, soot and ash from the fire. I know I left the shovel right next to this mirror. I put it here this morning when Joe gave it to me. I meant to put it back in the shed, but I forgot about it when Joseph started crying. We were doing some chores before going out to the store to buy some things. It still should be here.

The full moon casts down in the house and I see the shovel covered in soot, lying on the floor amidst the broken glass and burned wood planks. As I reach for it, a white light approaches me from out of nowhere. The light grows brighter and larger; I put my hands in front of my face to keep from being blinded by it.

In the instant that the light gets in my eyes my surroundings change. Wherever I am must be a lavish place; I’m standing on gold tiles. I’m familiar with the wall paintings that display the exploits of the gods of ancient Egypt; I’ve seen them many times in the royal palace of Nubia when I was a little girl. However, this place feels different. Could I have been transported to Heliopolis to join my fellow gods?

I look down the corridor and see a pair of golden doors detailed in raised symbols on the far end. As I start walking towards them, they open and two men approach me.

One of the men is tall, strong, and handsome. He’s dressed like a prince in a white pleated kilt, golden pectoral collar and brown sandals. Rings are on his fingers and his golden necklace has an amulet on it in the shape of a falcon. When I look at his face I see myself. We could be twins.

The second man is taller than the first with skin as dark as coal. He must be at least seven feet tall. His muscles are larger and thicker than the other man’s; he must be very strong. I can see myself in his somber face as well. He wears brown sandals and a black pleated kilt held up by a pair of purple straps. The only jewelry he wears are the textured gold gauntlets on his wrists and the amulet on his neck that depicts a jackal’s head. In his hands are chains. Are these for my enemies?

When I approach the gods they greet me with somber expressions. Are they grieving the loss of my family too?

“Are you Horus?” I ask the handsome man.

“I am.” He answers.

“And you are Anubis?” I ask the dark skinned man.

“I am. He answers.”

“It is unfortunate that we first meet under these circumstances sister.” Horus says. “I regret your reunion with us will not be an amicable one.”

Horus grabs my wrists. Anubis clamps the iron chains on them. I struggle to pull away from him as Horus clamps more chains on my ankles.

“Take your hands off me!” I demand. “I haven’t done anything wrong!” I demand.

“Goddess Isis, by the authority of the Elders of New Heliopolis I place you under arrest.” Horus says.

When he says that I yank at the chains on my arms. However, even with my incredible strength I can’t break them. “Under arrest? I haven’t done anything wrong!”

Anubis grabs me by the shoulders. His grip is so strong I feel like I’m in a vise. He leans over to address me.

“It would be best if you did not resist us.” He whispers in my ear.

The gentle tone of Anubis’ deep voice eases my fears. I stop resisting.

“Be silent and comply with us sister. You will be able to explain your case to the Elders.” Anubis reassures.

I take a deep breath and let it out. I hear my heart racing as Horus and Anubis lead me down the corridor towards the mysterious golden doors to face justice for the crimes I’m accused of.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jury Nullification

There’s a dirty little secret in the criminal justice system prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges don’t want you to know about: The Jury does not have to follow the instructions of the judge when it comes to interpreting the law when they deliberate. They can make up their own minds regarding how the law should be applied. It’s called Jury Nullification.

Jury Nullification has been around for years. It was used to acquit those who helped slaves escape after the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in the 1850s.  It was used during prohibition to acquit alcohol smugglers 60 percent of the time. In all cases, the jury refused to convict individuals because they felt that the law being applied in that case was unfair and unjust.

Prosecutors and judges don’t want you know about Jury Nullification because your ignorance of the law benefits them. It allows them to process and clear criminal cases and appear like they’re sending criminals to jail through due process.

And because the Jury only knows about the judges interpretation of the law, they convict people based on the law instead of the facts in a case. 

But sometimes we the people have to re-interpret the law, because how those in the criminal justice system are applying it in an unjust manner. Like in the case of Rayon McIntosh. If there was ever a case for Jury Nullification, it’s his.

If enough people on juries took the time to interpret the law as they saw fit it could change the laws of the land. It was the numerous acquittals of smugglers that led to the repealing of the Prohibition laws back in the 1930s.

Personally, I feel if people of color knew about Jury Nullification and applied it during the deliberations of brothers and sisters, I feel that there would be fewer African-American  males in the prison system. This could change how the judicial system views our issues in the community. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shawn James Could Have Been Rayon McIntosh- Why I relate to this Brother

Why am I so passionate about Rayon McIntosh? Why do I care so much?

Because Shawn James was Rayon McIntosh in 2002. And I was Rayon McIntosh again three years ago. And I’m Rayon McIntosh today.

While I don’t have a prison record, I do understand what he’s going through because I’ve been through it myself and still going through it. I know how hard it is when you’re trying to start picking up the pieces of your life only to have someone take the broom and dustpan away from you just when you start sweeping things up.

I was starting to pick up the pieces of my life in a similar fashion to Rayon. I’d been out of work since 2001 and I suffered from a deep depression after losing a receptionist job I thought would be the start of my future after two weeks in 2002.
It took me six years to overcome most of my problems and get things going in the right direction.

Like Rayon, I thought my luck had changed when I passed a civil service test and got a job working in a college library back in 2008. From personal experience I can tell you working the circulation desk is just as dangerous as working the counter in McDonald’s. And smart-assed college students can pull stunts just as dangerous as thugettes trying to slip possible P-note $50 bills past an unaware cashier.

Try opening a library early in the morning. You are on your own against people who have their watches set five minutes too slow who verbally abuse you about not being on time. Other students who don’t want to get the call numbers from a computer terminal and want to argue for five to ten minutes. People who want to throw a hissy fit because they left their ID card at home. And students who are too damn lazy to take college seriously and whine and moan when everyone else gets the reserve books for classes before them. People steal paper from the copier. It’s hostile territory and it requires the coolest of cool heads to navigate.

Yes, working the front counter anywhere is that dangerous. The Circulation desk in the library I worked at I was a cramped little space with one way in and one way out. When people jump the counter and rush the one way in, like they did with Rayon, that person is for all intents and purposes boxed in. So I understand why he acted the way he did.

In places like libraries and McDonald’s patrons and customers can get really aggressive. Aggressive enough to hide books, steal books and rip pages out of them. Bold enough to lie and say something in the lost and found with someone else’s name on it is theirs. Slick enough to come behind the counter and steal journals. Slick enough  to steal money from people’s coats and money out of purses in the back. Hostile enough to put up a fight at closing time.

And management loves to hide behind company policy and blame the employee when mistakes are made in servicing customers or dealing with unruly customers. They love to create unwritten policies like unpaid overtime and searching student bags for stolen books and then abandon the employee when they follow these rules.

And they love to fire people and hang them out to dry when they make a mistake or take some action that they think makes them look bad.

And for a brothers like myself and Rayon McIntosh, losing a job just when you’re about to get your life in order so abruptly is like getting the rug yanked right out from under you just as they’re getting their footing.

Now I’m a brotha with no criminal record and a college degree. Rayon McIntosh is a brotha with a felony conviction. I’m 38 and Rayon is 31.
But we’re the same person.
Even though there’s a seven-year-age difference between us, I could easily have been Rayon and he could have easily been Shawn.

I just lost my job in October 2008. I was blessed enough to have built enough of a savings from that job at the library to start picking up the pieces of my life again as a self-publisher. I’m not anywhere near where I want to be, but I’m putting one foot in front of the other.
Rayon could be losing years of his life. He was on parole and being charged with another felony means he’s going to do serious time. He may not get the third chance I’m working towards.

I know how hard it is to turn your life around after a rough period. You run into so much resistance it’s like swimming against a tsunami at high tide or trying to go up a waterfall. People like friends and family don’t want to help you change and go forward because they’re comfortable with the status quo of you at the bottom. Even your own body resists you, making you sick because it’s comfortable with going nowhere. Some days you feel like you’re drowning.

And when you finally get a job and start taking steps to rebuild your life people at work from bosses to co-workers and even customers resist you because they’re comfortable and don’t like the change you represent. Instead of getting support, you feel abandoned. So just getting through a day is a struggle.

I’m praying for Rayon McIntosh. This young brotha needs God’s help and the support of everyone. It’s easy for any of us to judge his actions that day as excessive and call them criminal, but until we walk a mile in his shoes can any of us truly understand why he did what he did.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughts on Rayon McIntosh, McDonald's Worker Arrested For Defending Himself

I was watching the news and caught the story of Rayon McIntosh a McDonald’s employee in Greenwich Village who was assaulted by two black women when he questioned the authenticity of their $50 bill. When they jumped the counter and he defended himself, with a steel bar he was arrested and charged with assault.

McIntosh, an ex-offender who spent 10 years of his life in prison for manslaughter is just a brotha trying to get his life in order. I don’t feel he should go to jail when he did nothing but defend himself from two women who jumped the counter and were preparing to escalate their violence against him. Looking clearly at the video, it was the ladies who struck first.

Also, it’s against McDonald’s company policy to accept bills larger than $20. This is a sign clearly stated in EVERY McDonald’s in New York City. I’ve been to quite a few McDonald’s where the cashier would just walk to the back, come back with their manager and tell me they couldn’t accept the bill. Or they’d tell me right to my face.

McIntosh probably went above and beyond with customer service just accepting their bill, and probably did this because in a White area like Greenwich Village it’s common for people to have $50 or even $100 bills, and in most cases they are scrutinized for authenticity. Scam artists love to go to fast food places and pass off P-notes to get the change and leave retailers holding the bag.

Having worked the front desk in two previous jobs I know how dangerous it is and how you have to handle people with kid gloves. An irate customer can put a counterperson’s life in danger when they become aggressive. And when an irate customer jumps the counter it’s an act of aggression that can put other people’s lives in danger. What if these thugettes had a boxcutter, razor blades, or worse a pistol? More people could have been hurt or even killed if McIntosh not taken actions to defend himself. He had no idea what was in their pockets, and in a life or death situation where a customer is bold enough to jump the counter and commit criminal trespass to inflict bodily harm, you kick ass first and ask questions later.

And I also know how retailers take the coward’s way out in these situations abandoning employees by hiding behind company policy. Spokespeople from the company will love to say stuff like “He was acting on his own” or “This was a violation of company policy” Which is a load of bullshit. If any McDonald’s senior Executive were in the same situation with a pair of crazy chicks I’m sure they’d beat the shit out of these thugs too.

These thugettes were lucky they got out with fractured skulls, a broken arm and a few cuts. I know if it was me, and they jumped the counter to continue an assault. I would beat their asses until they were DEAD. It’s not a crime to defend yourself when you feel your life is in danger.

And Rayon McIntosh shouldn’t be in jail for it.

I ran into a lot of ex-offenders like this when I worked at STRIVE. And a lot of them were good people who made a mistake. As I see it Rayon McIntosh is trying to start his life over, working at the bottom to get to the top. I don’t feel some heifers looking to run a game with a possible P-note should cost him his second chance at life.

McDonald’s shouldn’t be giving Rayon McIntosh a cold shoulder. They should be giving him the full power of their legal team and demanding the District Attorney drop the charges.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sequels To Previously Published Work

Readers have  asked me about writing sequels to several of my stories like Isis, The Temptation of John Haynes, All About Marilyn and All About Nikki-TheFabulous First Season. While I’d love to work with those characters again, I don’t want to write Isis 2 All About Marilyn 2 or Temptation of John Haynes 2 because I feel it dilutes the richness of the original story.

I’m not a fan of writing sequels. Why? Because I feel a sequel is a rushed sloppy story tacked on to an existing story just to make a quick buck. (See Star Wars prequels, Spider-Man 2&3 and most street lit novels) It’s lazy, uninspired and unimaginative. It’s no challenge to write. In sequels old characters do crazy stuff to shock the reader, new characters are shoved in awkwardly and instead of a unique reading experience, the reader gets a formula that leads up to a flat reading experience. I feel I can write better than that and the readers deserve better than that.

I also don’t like sequels because I don’t want to be bogged down by the continuity of older stories when I’m writing new ones. While I may reference events from one story in another, there is no hard set of continuity rules for any of the stories I write. I want readers to be able to pick up any story I write and read it through without being forced to read a dozen other books to be up to speed on everything.

I believe every story should be an access point for new readers with its own beginning, middle, and end. If a reader chooses to read Isis and stop there then hey, it’s okay. And if they want to pick up other Isis stories like Trial of the Goddess to read about Isis’ trial before she got banished to the Island of Solitude  or Baptism of Blood to read about E’steem’s origin then cool. And if they want to fast forward to The Temptation of John Haynes to see what’s going on with E’steem today, great.

And if readers choose to read All About Marilyn and enjoy it, they have the option of readingAll About Nikki-The Fabulous First Season to see what the TV show she starred in looked like. And readers of All About Nikki- The Fabulous First Season who want to learn more about the actress who starred in the fictional show, then by all means pick up All About Marilyn. While both stories are designed to be companions to each other, they’re written in such a way that a reader can pick up either volume and easily start reading it without having to dig in the backstory of the other.

Each story I write is self-contained and readers can pick and choose the stories they want to read.

I’ve seen this approach to storytelling successfully used by comic book editors like Jim Shooter and the late Dwayne McDuffie to get new readers into comic books and watching TV shows like Static Shock and Justice League Unlimited. Applying this approach to the publication of my stories over the past three years has worked well for me. Sales of Temptation of John Haynes have led to Isis sales. And people who read the free Isis prequels then turn around and read Isis. And I’m hoping Nikki readers turn into Marilyn readers and Marilyn readers turn into Nikki readers.

Yes, there will be follow-up stories to John Haynes, Marilyn, Isis, and even other characters in those stories. One day. I'm still plotting them and trying to find time to write them in between a job search. But when I do publish them, they’ll be single, self-contained volumes that stand on their own and can be read by themselves. Personally, I believe a new story with an original premise is a lot easier for new readers to access than a sequel that links directly from events from a previous novel.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Planning a YouTube Video

This is only a Test. The real video will be much better (I hope)

I’m planning a series of video blogs for YouTube. It’s something new, something different for me. Normally I’m known for my work with words. I don’t know how people will react to seeing the man behind the stories.

I feel if people see my face and hear my voice it’ll give them a personal connection to me and my work. I feel that by forming a relationship with the public, it’ll give them a reason to check out my books and give them a try.

Content for the blogs will vary. I want to talk about stuff regarding my books at first, but I’m hoping to branch out to into making commentary about issues in the African-American community.

My only fear about doing a video is my voice. I’ve never been comfortable with the way I sound. While I’ve often been told I speak articulately, I often get a lot of heat about the way my voice sounds. I’ve often been mocked about the way I speak, and that makes me hesitant about pursuing this venture. I’m trying to overcome my anxieties.

I feel making a video series will help me get my message out and give me access to a larger audience of readers. So I’m trying to face my fears about speaking to the public before I make a video. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Voting Shouldn’t get you Jury Duty

Homer Simpson once said that Voting only got people Jury Duty and that was the reason why he didn’t vote. It was a powerful commentary on why Americans don’t participate in their government.
Many Americans don’t register to vote because their name and address wind up on Jury Duty master wheels.

Personally, I feel that policy prevents most Americans from participating in the electoral process. Voting should have nothing to do with Jury Duty. In fact nothing should get in the way of getting voters to the polls.

I feel taking the addresses from voter lists to create master jury wheels abridges “The People’s” Constitutional right to choose their representatives and Senators and other officials through elections as stated in the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd 24th and 26th Amendments.

With so many elections critical to the direction of the country these days I feel it’s time for Federal, State, and local governments to stop using voter lists for master jury wheels. All over the country there were elections decided by a few hundred or so votes or even a dozen votes in some cases.

Imagine if all those people sitting on the sidelines avoiding Jury Duty summonses participated in those elections and voted. Imagine how their votes could have changed the makeup of The Presidency, The Senate, The Congress and many state local elections. Imagine how they could have changed the direction of the country.

Voting shouldn’t lead to people getting a jury Duty notice. All a vote in an election should get an American is an opportunity to choose the politicians who will represent their interests for the next two to four years. Those mailing lists should only be used for letting voters know about elections and nothing else.

If the courts want to find a place to get a pool of perspective jurors, I suggest they make their system all volunteer instead of compulsory. And make compensation for serving competitive with today’s living wages. Maybe if the courts compensated in proportion with today's wages people would be interested in participating in supporting the judicial system by serving on trials. Currently a Jury allowance won’t even pay for parking in most states.

Personally, I think it’s time America got rid of its compulsory Jury Duty system and make it an all-volunteer system that compensates people in proportion to standard wages. Moreover, these allowances should be tax-free and not counted as income for public assistance like Americorps* subsidence allowances are. If a citizen’s right to due process under the law is so important, then all branches of government should have no problem spending money to help people get justice.

Voting and Jury Duty are two separate things. And one shouldn’t lead to the other.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Comic Book Reboots Fail

Since 1986, comic book publishers like Marvel and DC have relied on “reboots” to keep their characters fresh in the eyes of readers and to allow new readers to start reading a character’s adventures. The “reboot” concept usually requires editorial to end a long-running original series of a comic book and start over with a new number one issue. The new number one issue usually starts with an updated character origin, and a more contemporary premise.

Usually these rebooted characters are written, drawn and penciled by critically acclaimed writers and artists. And things flow smoothly for about the first 36 or 50 issues.

Then the wheels fall off the bus.

Around the 36th or 50th issue, members of the original critically acclaimed creative team who started the series leave the book. Then or the 37th or 51st issue, new lesser known artists and writers are hired to write and draw the character’s adventures. Unfortunately, it’s during the transition period between creative teams that problems arise.

As the new writers and artists try to find their footing creatively, the quality of the stories and art declines. The books’ sales start to decline and interest in the character wanes among comic readers.

Nowadays, many titles at Marvel and DC are now actually on their second, third, fourth and fifth and even sixth number one issues. What causes all these titles to collapse again a couple of years after starting over so soon?

From what I’ve observed over the past two and a half decades studying the comic book industry, a title’s creative and sales decline began during the transitional period after the initial acclaimed creative team left a title and the second lesser known creative team began its run.

What was the cause of that collapse during the transitional period? Was it the new writer? Was it the new artist? Was it a lack of chemistry between the two? In a lot of cases I couldn’t blame either the writers or the artists. Most of those writers and artists have done solid work in the past. And most went on to do other work elsewhere that was top quality.

Personally, I think what causes this collapse when one creative team leaves and another takes the reigns of a title is a lack of leadership and guidance creators have received from the editorial department. I have to wonder in a lot of cases: Did the editor make sure the new writer read all the old issues of the run before plotting their new stories? Did the editor make sure the writer had a good handle of the character by discussing their plans for the series long-term? Did the artist read all the previous issues to get a “feel” for the character? Did the artist submit model sheets for the characters? Do they have a feel for the character’s overall design? Did the writer and the artist meet with each other and the editor to discuss their short and long-term plans for the series? Are both on the same page with the editor about maintaining the mission for the character while they tell their stories?

It was clear to me by reading a few comics in transitional period between the old and new creative teams that editorial didn’t sit down with both the old writer and the new writer to plan a solid direction for the title when it was time to prepare the issues transitioning between the acclaimed author and a secondary writer. Moreover, during meetings with the second writer there wasn’t time taken to examine their work thoroughly to make sure they had a clear understanding of the character. In a lot of cases, the new writer often didn’t have a good sense of the character’s personality or “voice” before they took to the keyboard to write the story.

It was also clear to me that editorial didn’t make sure that the artist had a solid understanding of what the character looked like. A lot of times it felt like the artist hadn’t practiced enough to get a “feel” for those little nuances that make a comic book character distinct. In some cases like later 2001-2002 issues of Iron Man volume 2, and Captain America Volume 2, the character design changed from panel to panel and page to page.

Reboots in the comic book industry are a clear sign that there isn’t something wrong with the writers or the artists. It’s a clear sign that there’s something wrong with editorial management at comic book publishers. Without consistent direction and leadership from editorial to provide comic book writers and artists with guidance on how to work within structure and form of house standards, series start out strong with the first more experienced creative team and then quickly falls apart when the second inexperienced creative team comes on.

And instead of editorial management working on a comprehensive business plan that allows for a smoother transition between the issues where the old creative team leaves and the new one starts, they just take the lazy route when sales decline end the series and start over. Again.


And again.

And again.

To the aggravation and frustration of old readers and new ones.

This kind of incompetent leadership is one of the reasons why the comic book industry continues its two decades long decline downward spiral into oblivion. When long-running comic book series have five new number one issues over the course of twenty years, it’s a sign there’s apathy in editorial. This indifference from the top for the medium trickles down to the writers and the artists and leads to their work becoming more and more uninspired with each new number one issue.

The constant rebooting of comic book titles devalue the characters in the eyes of the reader and the general public. Each time there’s a new number one issue it gives veteran readers a reason to stop caring about characters they grew up with because they feel “their” stories ended with the last issue of the previous volume. Moreover the debut of a new first issue makes new readers indifferent to what makes a comic book characters great because they have no historical standpoint to connect them to the character emotionally.

Some say the new number one issues allow new readers to “jump on” a series easily, but where’s the customer’s incentive to buy back issues and pick up those stories they missed out on? Where’s the new customer’s security in knowing that the new series featuring said character will continue if the old one was cancelled so abruptly? Why should they continue buying a comic book series if there’s going to be a new number one issue in 36-72 months and the current series will end with no definite conclusion?

Storytelling is all about endings and beginnings. Setups and payoffs. And many in the comic book industry don’t understand that the reader has to CARE once they START reading comic books and they have to KEEP CARING in order for them to buy the books regularly.

All a comic book reboot does is give the reader a reason to NOT care. It creates a vicious cycle of failure, focusing on the negatives that didn’t work in the past instead of working towards improving on the positives of the character in the future. Once something is published an author can’t take it back.

God doesn’t give people reboots when they make mistakes. When we fail, fall, or go through hard times in life, we don’t start over with a brand new life. All we can do is learn from our mistakes, pick up the broken pieces of our lives and move on.

Creative mistakes in comic books aren’t fixed with a new number one issue. They’re fixed with strong editorial leadership and a clear line of communication. A good editor works with the writer and artists to make sure they synergize with the mission of the character’s story and craft work that is easy to follow and relatable to the reader.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Don't Go To Work To Be Comfortable

At my last job at a college library, six months in and one month before I was let go, one of my co-workers asked me if I was comfortable on the job.

I thought this was the stupidest question I’d ever been asked. Why?

I don’t go to work to be comfortable.

Comfortable employees are a sign there’s a problem in a workplace. A big problem from the top down.

When people are comfortable at work they have no incentive to learn new things. To grow in their craft. To get better at what they do, or aspire to be the best in a professional arena.

Comfortable workers stagnate. They have no motivation to try anything new. They don’t want to take risks. They have no passion, no energy, or enthusiasm. They don’t want to do anything that’s out of the routine they’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Comfortable workers are the kind of mediocre people who choke the life out of new employees with their negative energy and make them apathetic. These are the kind of employees whose lack of vision turns a thriving company into dead-end jobs where nothing gets done. In short, comfortable workers are the kind of people who drive businesses out of business.

I don’t go to work to be comfortable. And I don’t want to be comfortable at work. Work is a place where I’m hired to do a job for someone else and get things done for them. It’s a place where I go to compete. To be challenged. To see where I stand in the marketplace compared to others.

If I want to be comfortable I’ll go home.

Why do I want to be uncomfortable at work? Because being uncomfortable on a job makes me adapt to survive there. It makes me learn new skills to become more competitive. When I’m uncomfortable my mind is open to learn new things and take risks. Being uncomfortable gives me the vision to create markets where there are none and travel roads where other people are afraid to go. It makes me step up my game and work towards making it the best it can be.

Professionally, I feel work is a place where I learn how to apply my existing skills and learn new ones so I can take myself to the next level in the next position. I feel if a person isn’t trying to work towards developing the skills to attain the next position they shouldn’t be there.

A comfortable employee is dead weight. They’re a drain on company resources wasting time and money. I feel comfortable people should be sent home permanently so they can relax all day.

In hindsight reading between the lines I see that it was my co-workers weren’t comfortable with me. Complacent people hate competition. They hate those with a drive to do better because it takes them out of their safe place and makes them look like the mediocre employee they are. Moreover, it makes them feel guilty about their own lack of initiative and the lack of progress they've made in their own stalled careers.

Work isn’t about comfort. It’s not about being happy. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s about doing what you have to do for someone else so you can do the things you need to do for yourself. As Denzel Washington’s character in The Great Debaters said “We do what we have to in order to do what we want to.”

People need to get their heads right about the workplace. Because you don't go to a job to hang out. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

OOSA Online Book Club's Five-Star Review of All About Nikki

All About Nikki-The Fabulous First Season is available now at and online retailers!

"All About Nikki" is a spin-off of sorts of Shawn James' 2009 release "All About Marilyn." "All About Nikki" is written in teleplay form. If you've never read a teleplay don't let that deter you. Mr. James does clarify everything in the book by giving you Television Episode Basics before the book even begins.
Readers are introduced to the title character, Nikki Desmond. Nikki is a spoiled rich girl who has the world at her feet and is a little mischievous. When she gets kicked out of boarding school, yet again, her mother Leslie wastes no time and ships her off elsewhere. Leslie is a successful businesswoman and she doesn't need any distractions or interruptions, her only child included. So it's off to another boarding school for Nikki. In this instance, Nikki's father decides to step up to the plate and have Nikki live with him. When Nikki moves in with her father, the whole household turns into utter chaos. Nikki is rude, arrogant, and has great disdain for anyone not like her. She treats the family maid like she's beneath her and she often uses racial slurs when talking to her or about her.
With Nikki not being the most pleasant person to be around most of time, her father Donald wants to see if he can change her attitude by enrolling her in the local public high school. He wants her to appreciate the things she has, and he definitely doesn't want her to grow up expecting everything to be handed to her on a silver platter.

The concept is brilliant the way he intertwines both books - "All About Marilyn" and "All About Nikki." It was a pleasure. I highly recommend readers purchase both books. It is truly a unique reading experience. Shawn James is an author to keep your eyes on. Kudos, Shawn, for the wonderful job you've done.

Reviewed by: Anna

This is the second book this year I've written to get a five-star review. I'm urging everyone to pick up a copy of All About Nikki and it's sister book All About Marilyn, because they're not just great screenplay books, they're great stories too!