Some people are just meant to do things in this world, and Bill Jones, Jr. is meant to write. I met Bill about a year ago while I was looking for beta readers, and I was struck right off by how easy-going and downright cool he was. Then I was lucky enough to catch samples here and there of his writing on FB. There was an ease and naturalness about how each word connected with each other, which immediately grabbed my attention. You know those moments when everything just flows and all you do is feel a piece? That’s what it was like. Later, I followed his blog, and I have to say, one of the things I look forward to most in his posts is how he ties wit, wisdom, strong opinions and know-how into them. The man’s not afraid to tell it like it is, another quality I appreciate. So it was only natural that when I was thinking of people to feature on my blog, he was top of my list. I am extremely pleased to welcome Bill Jones, Jr. to Dropped Pebbles as my first Featured Artist.
I never considered myself to be a writer growing up. In fact, it took most of my life before I thought of myself as one. I was painfully shy, and we moved a lot. By the fifth grade, I’d gone to five different schools. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have friends; I had books.
By the time I was ten, however, I was burnt out on reading. My story probably would have ended there, with my never having picked up a book outside of school requirements. But then, I discovered poetry. Not the rhyming, romantic verse teachers forced on me, I mean real poetry, the stuff of the streets. I discovered poets could be angry, and curse, and shock. They could encourage change and rant about oppression. I discovered writing could be power, and beauty, and passion.
In college, I hung out with artists, musicians and poets. That wasn’t at all unusual, except for the fact that I was an accounting major. I still didn’t see myself as an artist. On a lark, after a poetry reading, I decided to try my hand at writing a poem. It wasn’t good, exactly, but it wasn’t horrible either. I was hooked. Finally, after five or six years, I worked up my nerve and began submitting poems to poetry journals. To my surprise, several got accepted.
There were two problems. One, most of what I wrote was angry or cynical and I didn’t like it. Two, I’d never learned to write, and my “successes” were very much hit and miss. I didn’t have the time or desire to go back to school to learn, so instead, I decided to focus on my career and life. I read a great deal – all nonfiction. History, psychology, sociology, self-help, handwriting analysis … you name it. At work, I spent 10 years writing and editing business proposals and thought nothing of it. Then, a funny thing happened.
During all of this, I began to write again. First, it was just poems. Then, I started my first blog. To my surprise, my writing had improved tremendously. In all my reading and work, I’d not only learned about writing, but I’d learned enough about life to have stories worth telling.
A writer friend encouraged me to pen a short story, and I loved it. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Nanowrimo, and decided to see if I could turn the story into a book. I turned it into two books: Discovery and Awakening, the first two books of my fantasy fiction series The Stream.
Since then, I’ve been writing almost constantly. I published Emprise, and then went on to write a short story anthology, The Juice and Other Stories, as well as my first Sci-Fi novel, Hard as Roxx. Currently, I’m editing a detective novel, and I’ve begun writing more short stories.
This, from the former shy kid who never talked.
This first excerpt is from a short story entitled “Remembering.” I chose it as an illustration that sometimes you have to trust the process, despite your inner editor’s screams that you’re screwing things up. I wrote this in one breath, so to speak, and then decided I hated it. Instead of editing, I just published it as is. Of course, I’ve gotten feedback that it’s one of the best openings I’ve written. My inner editor still doesn’t like it.
The People have been walking for weeks. Two thousand sixty-four are dead. Most days, I wish I ranked among the lucky few whom have no idea how many we have lost. Every family has been touched by death. There is no time to mourn, however. The herders do not wait. We no longer even bother with our burial ceremonies. Set the bodies afire; say a prayer, and then march. Someone needs to remember the dead, say the elders. I am that someone. I am called Tofray, the Rememberer. We do not have such a word in my language, but it is one we have learned from them. More will die before we reach the end of the trail, and I will sing their song. No tears are shed along the trail. There is time only for marching. We will cry when we reach the end. Some have already named it Atok’taywa – the Place Where We Shall Weep. Just over eight thousand of us live.
Perhaps I will be fortunate and die. Then someone else will have to do the remembering.
This next excerpt is from my Sci Fi adventure, Hard as Roxx. I chose an excerpt from the first chapter, wherein I tried to balance visual imagery of the Saharan setting with painting the back story.
The phrase the soldiers used stuck in her mind: “Post-term abortion.” Jessi had been discovered and condemned to die. The soldiers admitted it in the end, and the flashes of news reports they’d picked up en route north confirmed it. Their words sickened her even more than if they’d just had the courage to call it an execution. Not only Jessi, but Roxx would be killed too, and Jazz, in case she carried whatever genetic “flaw” had allowed her mother to conceive a second child. They would be dissected and examined and no one would dare protest. Governments would stop at nothing to ensure no one found out about the woman who successfully conceived a second child – at least not until all the rich people of the world had been cured of the “genetic solution” of the past century’s bioterrorism.
One Woman, One Child. That was the law. Man had usurped their God and made it Nature’s law as well. No one was going to let a single mother from an impoverished part of Africa upend decades of peaceful oppression.
Roxx stood, her long, slim legs straddling the graceful motorcycle beneath, watching as the morning sun kissed the desert awake. It was the morning ritual, watching the desert sunrise. She was looking for something in the Sahara, but still didn’t know what.
The desert shows you nothing. You must find everything.
The old Tuareg saying had become her mantra. No morning prayers for Roxx, only a firm restatement of the day’s agenda: find another day’s survival.
This last excerpt is from a short story entitled “Mrs. What’s-Her-Name.” It’s the first-person account of a woman who has suffered an accident and lost her memory. This is my first attempt at writing from a first-person point of view. So of course, I chose a female character, because why do anything the easy way, right?
So, by now, you all know my blog is called “My Name is What’s-Her-Name” and you know why. Mom came up with the title after I let her read my first entry. It made her cry a lot, and I wanted to take it all back and edit it, but she wouldn’t let me. She said it was wonderful. She wasn’t only teary-eyed though. She cackled like an old hen when I called myself by her name.
When she was finished reading, after dancing around the question for fifteen minutes, she finally asked me, “Why do you call me ‘the grandma?’”
I kind of sputtered around an answer, not so much to spare her feelings, but because I wasn’t sure. See, with Callie around, I always refer to mom as “Grandma.” Since they are both around all the time, I call her that even when Callie is gone. I just assumed my feelings of alienation were because she was trying to be my mother, and I had no idea who she was. I finally inhaled, preparing myself for the inevitable gale storm of indignation, and told her. It was because I felt no attachment to her after the accident.
Her response was stunning. “No, honey,” she said. “You’ve always called me ‘the grandma.’ I just assumed that meant you remembered me when you were in the hospital. Otherwise, I would have backed off like Callie and Bob. Once I realized you had no clue who I was, it was too late. I didn’t want to back off then, because your doctor said it was important to try to keep as much stable as possible.”
So, yeah. She’s been doing this for me. It appears whatever issues the two of us have, they go back a long way, or at least as long as Callie’s been alive. I have been getting this increasing sense of dread that I wasn’t always a very nice person. Nobody says so, but there is this silence – like the kind you get when you attend the funeral of somebody that everyone disliked. Everyone’s glad the son-of-a-bitch is dead, but no one wants to admit it, since they’re dead, and you might end up in Hell for being honest.
I’m glad this is a computer, because otherwise you could see my teardrops on the paper.
I hope you enjoyed this sampling of Bill’s writing. Not only is he a poet and author, but this talented man is also a photographer. To learn more about him and his many other amazing works, look him up at the following links:
Writing Blog: http://thisblogblank.wordpress.com/
Independent Author Index (contains an excerpt from Hard as Roxx: http://indaindex.com/book-bio-hard-as-roxx-by-bill-jones-jr/
Books (Amazon.com Page): http://www.amazon.com/Bill-Jones/e/B005O52SDS
Photo site: http://billjonesjrphotos.wordpress.com/