Sometimes words are not enough.

I’m not sharing this for a pat on my back or some positive recognition. It’s always been my hidden dream to make a positive contribution while I’m still living. Perhaps it’s part of the aging process that we all want to be remembered in a positive way before we move to the next level, where ever that might be.

This letter that I received today reinforces the idea that we can all make a difference. Be kind to someone with an open hand and share the best of yourself. That’s all it takes. The reward is unimaginable.

***

I’ve learned to live in my head, a place to be free. But that was not always the case. Imagine that you met a person in your life who will forever change the way you view strangers. I met such a man. He knew nothing about me, at least nothing positive nor good. He only knew that I was incarcerated for gun violence. This man taught me things a father should teach his son. Being that I came from the slums of Chicago and had been hardwired to be destructive, I grew up less fortunate than most. Where I came from did not offer hope or a different path from the one that guided me to prison. But I’ve always been creative with a vivid imagination.

I was isolated from society while being confined in a cage and forgotten. But I met a stranger who believed in me and grounded me when my life was falling apart. The culture of the streets isn’t built to elevate your potential or drive you towards success. It taught me not to trust strangers and be relentless in terms of rage.

This man wasn’t like the men that I grew up with. His skin is a different color and he doesn’t speak the same urban language that I do. But he believed in me and never gave up. And for a kid from the streets of urban Chicago, that’s the difference between life and death. This man is my role model, father figure, noble, and someone who pushes me to be great. He is my second chance. His legacy will forever be embedded into the fabric of my future. He is also the man who advocated on my behalf, and invested in me without complaint. This man is my friend, Larry L. Franklin.

Thanks to everone who has purchased a copy of “Blood of my Shadow” and who continue to sped the word. If you’re trying to contact me, you can write to me at:

Jovon Scott #M09478
P.O. Box 1700
Galesburg, Il 61402

THE BLACK RIVER

I’m sharing the beginning of a manuscript, “The Black River” written by Jovon Scott and edited by Larry L. Franklin. Jovon is an inmate in an Illinois prison who has his first published book, “Blood of my Shadow.” I continue to enjoy working with Jovon and consider him to be an up-and-coming author. Hope you enjoy the writing.

PROLOGUE

            Victoria watched the rough-water hug the riverbank. The sun retired for the day and the river gave birth to short bursts of waves that threatened the shore. Mother Nature’s elements of tranquility and destruction were on full display. Victoria’s eyes pierced the water’s surface as she studied the river that snaked through pastures and open plains. Barricades dared not to confine its flow.  

            When Victoria was young, large bodies of water threatened her well-being. So much so that she barred herself from diving into the mysteries that lie below the river’s surface. Time revealed the reason for her fears. Someone or something lived in the darkened waters that threatened her safety. But don’t blame Victoria for having a dysfunctional childhood and an overly creative mind. Her brain was hardwired to think irrationally. 

            Something was off that day; a gut-wrenching and unnerving kind of off. Victoria blamed herself for what happened when she met Chanel at the river. While all of the signs were there, it was a time of confusion when 2 equals 1. 

            “Are you scared?” Chanel asked.  “You’re shaking.”

            Victoria knew that she was afraid. As the two of them stood on the water’s edge watching the currents race by, there was an eerie silence. Victoria didn’t know why, but she had told Chanel that she wasn’t afraid. 

            Chanel had an energy about her that was quite alluring; an adrenaline junkie who danced along the edges of danger. Each adventure was accompanied by a spiritual energy as if she was suddenly reborn. 

            Although Victoria didn’t know what was about to happen, her breathing became more labored and her heart was on fire. She grabbed Chanel’s hands that were cold and unwelcoming as if she had touched a stranger. They faced each other; so close that their heartbeats were in unison. As their lips touched, Victoria was reminded of the passion that burned deep into the soul; spellbound and persuaded by the words that Chanel never spoke; eyes that shared a telling tale; and private things that were hidden from the world. 

            Chanel’s demeanor morphed into an emptiness disconnected from reality. Is this the person who Victoria had known to be Chanel, or was she an illusion? 

            “Do you love me?’ Chanel questioned. She gripped Victoria’s hand tighter as if she dared her to tell a lie.

            “Of course, I love you,” Victoria answered. But the grip of Chanel’s hand was different, causing Victoria to wonder if Chanel had become a complete stranger. At the moment, Victoria did not fear the river. She was more afraid of the entity she perceived to be Chanel.

            “Why would you ask if I loved you?” Victoria asked.

            “Because I need to know,” Chanel answered.

            “Yes, I love you. But you know that already. You’re acting strange and freaking me out,” Victoria admitted. 

            Chanel’s laugh was accompanied by a sinister smile. “If you love me, jump, jump into the river,” Chanel commanded. “Love is all about trust, right?” 

            “I will drown,” Victoria replied. “I can’t swim, you know that.” 

            “Trust me,” Chanel explained.”  I would never allow anything bad to happen to you.”

            Victoria felt overcome by emotions knowing that she needed to escape before it was too late. While she remembered fragments of what happened that day, she preferred to believe that Chanel pushed her into the river. Given Victoria’s fear of the river, that made more sense. But reality told a different story. Victoria jumped into the river. 

            Stupidity is oftentimes driven by ignorance, a compelling force that causes us to defy logic. Perhaps a need to display her courage was why Victoria jumped into the river; perhaps it was love interlinked with confusion. 

            A blind fondness accompanied by faith creates the foundation for love. But reckless love ignores your core, leaving you to think only of the image you desire; the one that caused Victoria to jump into the river. 

            Chanel stood on the shore watching Victoria struggle to evade the adversity she had feared since her childhood — drowning in the river. Her attempts to scream were muffled by the sheer volume of water. Most people who fear the possibility of death by drowning, stay away from large bodies of water. But not Victoria, she jumped into the river. 

            Victoria’s mind held no clarity or reasoning for what was happening to her. She felt the burning sensation a body experiences when your lungs take on water. The image of the river changed as she began to accept her fate. The deeper parts of the river were calm and without motion, unlike the chaotic movements of the river’s surface. The struggle to survive diminished as her body sank towards the river’s floor. 

            Victoria remembered seeing Chanel through the water’s surface; lips parted with a smile on her face. At that moment Victoria’s heart no longer beat; not from drowning but from a broken heart. Chanel killed Victoria before the water filled her lungs and severed her oxygen supply.

            She then experienced a more peaceful world as her body embraced the river’s floor. She looked up through the surface and saw Chanel standing at the water’s edge. No longer angered. Victoria was at peace. Now as Victoria accepted her fate, she saw the two of them standing side by side; both one in the same, when 2 equals 1. 

A Unique Review

A review by iloveuniquebooks.com

Blood of My Shadow is a book that covered all the shenanigans that takes place in the underworld where drugs are freely ferreted across borders by cartels. Granted that lots of books have been written in the past that gave insight about the drug world, however the author, Jovon Scot told the story in a unique and indebt way. The reason is not farfetched considering that he was an active player in most of the activities and was able to have firsthand information as well as observed everything from close quarters.

Another good attribute of Blood of My Shadow that helped in making it more “real” and pulsating is the way Jovon Scot begins the chapters with time, date and venue in dateline sort of. Once again, in helping to project the worldview of the characters in the book, the author would bring everyday life theories in explaining the motive or why the characters chose to act the way they did.

In terms of overall character development, the actors in Blood of My Shadow does not really ‘jump in your face’ so to speak. That is one area the author should have done better. The characters ought to have been more dramatic with salient unique attributes that would easily set them apart. This is not to say that they are all bland, not even in the least. However, the point is that they should have been more developed.

Another important aspect of written works whether fiction or nonfiction is the plot. It is the storyline that will determine whether a story will be thrilling or otherwise and that’s another major area Jovon Scot was able to score a bull’s eye. The book has a rich plot that seamlessly flowed from the beginning to the very end.

Another factor that helps in transforming literary works into becoming evergreen classics is the ability to make readers to identify with it, and Blood of My Shadow did well in that area. Readers that know how the underworld of drug racketeering works will easily agree with the events that took place in the book as factual while others who had no prior knowledge will be able to gain an insight beyond what is peddled in the mainstream media.

On a general perspective, Blood of My Shadow is amazing and such well detailed book can only be written by someone who was once actively involved as an insider.

The Birth of a Book

It’s been some time since I wrote a blog. I’m been busy editing , reading manuscripts, and offering contracts to authors for the History Publishing Company. Accepting contracts as an editor is a lot easier than finding a contract as an author.

Watching a manuscript travel the road to acceptance, to editing, to formatting, and to a book that smells like a blend of Tennessee whiskey and strawberry wine, is an emotional high. (Sorry, I can’t get the lyrics of “Tennessee Whiskey” out of my mind.) Perhaps it’s more like watching the birth of an author’s baby. Any yes, like any parent, the author can be gracious, protective, defensive, perhaps a bit mean, before reaching a state of bliss.

I’m showing four books that I’m played a small part in their eventual birth. They will be released in a matter of days. And I currently have eight more manuscripts making their way through the birth canal.

I must say that I’m finding the position to be both exciting and stressful. But, hey, isn’t that what life is all about. I’ll be back in a few weeks with additional books to share.

Fish Heads in an Open Bag

     Each time I drove the five-hour trip to the Dwight Correctional Center, Rebecca Bivens was on my mind.  Becca, as she was called, was found guilty-but-mentally ill for the murder of her five-year-old step-daughter.  The fact that she had been diagnosed as having a bipolar disorder grabbed my curiosity.  As an investigative journalist, I try to get into the subject’s head and experience what she must have felt. 

     As an experiment, I imagined that I was Becca, diagnosed as bipolar and off my medication.  I would then write what might have gone through Becca’s mind on a normal day.  After writing three examples, a shared them with Becca, asking her if this is similar to what goes on inside her brain.  While not a scientific experiment, I found it interesting that her initial reaction was, “Yes, that’s me.  That’s what goes through my mind.”  This was later published in Cherry Blossoms and Barren Plains:  A woman’s journey from Mental Illness to a Prison Cell” by Larry L. Franklin

***

     My name is Rebecca Bivens.  It was the 1980’s.  I was barely a teenager and the summer days were long and dry.  Bacon was frying in a black metal skillet, and the morning was clear.  My mother was talking and pouring her first cup of coffee.  Her voice was faint and the words made no sense and the sounds became one, like the annoying hum of a fluorescent light.  She probably told me that Dad and my brother were going fishing for the day, or that my room was a mess, or that I was a bad kid. 

     I might have been thinking about the fish heads I saw at Friday night’s fish fry.  The severed heads were stuffed into open bags. The bodies were gutted, washed, and rolled in seasoned flour, and cooked in black skillets like my mother used.  The heads were alive.  Their eyes and mouths continued to open and close, and called out for help.  Their misery was real and hard, just like mine.  My mother’s shouting brought me back to her reality.  My mind jumped around a lot in those days.  Maybe that’s when my mind began to slip away.

***

     The voices have no name.  They’re not these booming commandments from up above or down below.  They’re more like thoughts, racing thoughts that pound the inside of my head like a jackhammer.  Sometimes I write the words on a piece of paper, and then another and another.  Later, when I’m kind of normal, people tell me that the words made no sense.  They stare at me like I’m different, and then they turn and walk away.  It’s so lonely in my world of cherry blossoms and barren plains.  I wish that I could take you on a tour of my brain.  All of the twists and turns through the cerebral matter must be a bit like running through a maze.  Wherever I turn, I’m always lost.

***

     It’s been nearly ten years and some ten-thousand pills later since I killed Dani.  I can barely say it since I still don’t remember doing it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about it.  But each time I try, I end up seeing fish heads in an open bag.  Now I try not to think about that part.  I just think about what a wonderful girl Dani was.  I tell Larry, my writer friend, to write more about Dani.  I want everyone to know her like I did.  I want them to know how she liked to read books, listen to music, and play make-up.  I bought her a long blond hairpiece.  She loved wearing that hairpiece.

     I haven’t gone completely manic since I’ve been here.  I take my meds every day.  I can’t take a chance on losing control of myself.  But the meds are not easy.  I never feel right.  My hands shake, I get nervous, and I always have some kind of depression.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s God’s way of letting me know that I’m a bad person.  But that’s not what my psychologist says.  I get to see him one time a month.  And that’s not what Larry or the Pastor say.

     The only reason that I agreed to tell my story is so other people can better understand what happened; and my poor kids who have been without a mother for so many years.  I want them to know that I’m not a terrible person as some might say.  I want them to know about my world of ”Cherry Blossoms and Barren Plains,” and how I sometimes see fish heads in an open bag. 

Writings from a Prison Cell



I’m passing on a message from Jovon Scott, author of “Blood of my Shadow: The Rise & Fall of the Syndicate.” I edited his manuscript and arranged for its publication with History Publishing Company.

I’m writing to you from a cell in the Hills Correctional Center, looking to share the experiences from my earlier years that helped shape the storyteller I am today.

The characters and personalities in “Blood of my Shadow” come from people that I know. I’ve met some entertaining people who later became subjects in my stories, allowing me to balance imagination with the reality of my life. Getting to know me, the author, is imperative to understand why I say and write different things.

Before my life in the prison system, I was handed off from one relative to another. Most of my siblings were adopted by foster parents, causing a distance to develop among all of us. We were like strangers. Later we tried to reintroduce ourselves, hoping to bond as ordinary families are suppose to do. My father at the time was still finding himself and trying to support his children. But life sometimes has a way of reminding you that you are alone. Being the only boy in a pool of sisters and an absentee father, left me without a male role model to guide me through the perils of manhood. This was when I turned to the streets and the gang culture.

I grew up on the Southside of Chicago in the Robert Taylor housing projects. The stuff that I was forced to endure were not things that should be a part of a kid’s life. My mother was raising too many children on her own, leaving me to be consumed by the streets. When you’re raised in a toxic environment, you learn to live inside of your head and create a safe place to exist. My imagination was filled with an array of colors — vibrant and full of life.

When I first came to prison I was used to the violent and hostile environment. After all, I was raised in a world that equated to what I was being thrown into. Although this was the first time I’d ever been isolated from society, it was no different from the world on the streets. It all seemed like part of my life’s cycle. The first couple of years in prison weren’t any different than life on the streets. Eventually, prison nearly destroyed me. Prison makes you more aggressive and fills your heart with so much anger, resentment and perplexity.

I lost myself and nearly became that person I didn’t want to be. I was in a dark place and being pulled into an even darker one. I contemplated suicide. Life wasn’t worth living any more and I wanted out.

When I went to segregation for an extended amount of time, I rediscovered writing. This was where that shift from the unknown to certainty brought me back to the living. It was in that moment that I began writing “Penumbra,” which was later changed to “Blood of my Shadow.” I found myself in each of the characters I created in my stories. Writing saved my life and allowed me to see all of my lost years. The circumstances weren’t what held me back, it was me. I held myself back.

All of my writings will take you on an interesting journey filled with suspense. I thank everyone who has supported me, and I pledge to take advantage of this life-alternating experience. I ask that you spread the word about “Blood of my Shadow” and encourage people to visit my website — authorjovonscott.com I’m also on Facebook — Author Jovon Scott

I’m open to correspondence from anyone that’s interested in getting to know me and have a dialogue about the book. 
Jovon Scott #M-09478
P.O. Box 1700
Galesburg, Illlinois 61402

A message from the author.

I‘m supporting Jovon Scott, friend and author of “Blood of my Shadow.” I had the pleasure of editing Jovon’s book and bringing it to fruition. I’m posting a message from Jovon written from locked in a prison cell.

Writing and imagination have been an escape from the reality of my upbringing.  The ability to create a world where I can exist is compelling; perhaps enchanting.   The streets nearly killed my creativity and pulled me so far under that I lost myself.  The drugs, violence and other things that came along with the culture damaged my ability to feel; to be a kid, allowing myself to reach the potential of who I am today.

I was mentally isolated in a bondage that imprisoned my mind.  But words freed me from the mental incarceration, opening the doors that allowed my mind to run rapid and unharness my imagination.  Now at the age of 30, I’m free and more alive than I’ve felt before.   

Blood of my Shadow:  The Rise & Fall of the Syndicate is a depiction of my imagination mixed with the reality of the street culture.  Urban fiction and organized crime have never been entangled into one genre — until now!  This 6 book series is my mind run rapid on pages that allow you to enter my world of reality and creativity.  Thank you for your support.  I promise to keep the art of storytelling alive. 

Jovon Scott

Memories

Memory is life’s greatest gift.

It was an earlier time, late 19th or early 20th century, perhaps, when three learned men — Hermann Sorgel, Daniel Thorpe, and Major Barclay — gathered in an English pub.  They had attended a day-long Shakespearean conference in London, listening to lectures on the works of William Shakespeare and experiencing a lively discussion on the structure and theme of their favorite sonnet.  What better place to finish the day.  A bar lined one wall, a smoke-stained fireplace stood against another, and several like-minded patrons circled small wooden tables separated just enough for an intimate conversation.  The cigars were strong that night, and the dark, warm beer was smooth and plentiful.

     The Major abruptly changed the conversation when he pointed to a beggar standing outside.  Islamic legend has it, he said, that King Solomon owned a ring that allowed him to understand the language of the birds.  And a particular beggar, so the story goes, somehow came into possession of the ring.  Of course the ring was beyond any imaginable value and, as a result, could not be sold.  Legend has it that the beggar died in one of the courtyards of the mosque of Wazir Khan, in Lahore. 

     Sorgel jokingly added that the ring was surely lost, like all magical thingamajigs.  Or maybe some chap has it, he said with a chuckle, and can’t make out what they’re saying because of all the racket.

     Thorpe weighed in.  “It is not a parable.  Or if it is, it is still a true story.  There are certain things that have a price so high that they can never be sold.”  Thorpe went mute and stared at the floor.  He seemed to regret having spoken at all. 

     The darkening of Thorpe’s mood and the lateness of the evening moved the Major to call it a night.  Thorpe and Sorgel soon followed suit and returned to their hotel.  Thorpe then invited Sorgel to his room to continue their conversation.  It was there, in the privacy of Thorpe’s room, that he asked Sorgel if he would like to own King Solomon’s ring.  “That’s a metaphor, of course, but the thing the metaphor stands for is every bit as wondrous as the ring.  Shakespeare’s Memory, from his youngest boyhood days to early April, 1616 — I offer it to you.”  Sorgel fell silent as he struggled to find a word.  Thorpe continued.  “I am not an impostor, I am not insane.  I beg you to suspend judgment until you hear me out.” 

     Thorpe continued.  “I was a military physician.  I was in a field hospital when a soldier who had been shot twice was about to die.  What he told me might sound  quite startling, but strange things are the norm in times of war.  The soldier, Adam Clay, offered me Shakespeare’s Memory, and then, in the final minutes of his life, he struggled to explain the singular condition of the gift.  ‘The one who offers the gift must offer it aloud, and the one who is to receive it must accept it the same way.  The man who gives it loses it forever;’ he said to me.” 

     “And you, now, possess Shakespeare‘s Memory?” Sorgel asked.

     “I am now in possession of two memories — Shakespeare’s and my own.  They seem to merge, or maybe I should say that two memories possess me.”

     I’ve searched the works of Shakespeare for years, Sorgel thought.  What better gift than to know the inner workings of Shakespeare’s mind, and maybe touch his soul.  “Yes,” Sorgel declared with an assertive tone.  “I accept Shakespeare’s Memory.”

     “Shakespeare’s Memory” is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.  While the work is fiction, Borges’ insights into memory are both precise and profound, and as real as life itself.  Borges leads us through a maze of discoveries as bits and pieces and chunks of memory begin to unfold. 

     Sorgel recalled Thorpe’s words.  “It will emerge in dreams, or when you awake, when you turn the pages of a book, or turn a corner.  Don’t be impatient; don’t invent recollections.  As I gradually forget, you will remember.”

     Sorgel’s sleepless nights were mixed with the fear that it was a hoax, or possibly an illusion, and the longing hope that he might in some way become Shakespeare.  Memories began to return as visual images, and then auditory, sounds that issued from him when Sorgel sang a melody he  had never heard before.  In a few days, Sorgel’s speech took on the “r”s and open vowels of the sixteenth century.  He began to sound like Shakespeare.

     Memory was not the stretch of rolling hills with green meadows and natural springs that Sorgel had hoped for.  It was a mountain range with beautiful and at the same time, terrifying peaks, frigid temperatures, and the threatening crevasse just around the corner.  Some memories were shadowy, and some were so traumatic that they were hidden forever.  Sorgel enjoyed the happiness of the moment, and then his mood darkened from an unwanted memory.

     At first, Sorgel’s and Shakespeare’s memories were separate and easily distinguishable each from the other.  Then they began to mix, and finally, Shakespeare’s Memory overpowered his own, causing Sorgel to question his sanity and wonder how little time was left before he was no longer the man he once knew.

     It became clear that Sorgel had no choice but to give Shakespeare’s Memory away.  He dialed telephone numbers at random.  At first they were met with skepticism and then an abrupt hang-up.  In time, he reached a more receptive gentleman and Sorgel said, “Do you want Shakepseare’s Memory?”  And to Sorgel’s surprise, the voice answered, “I will take that risk.  I accept Shakepseare’s Memory.”

     Shakespeare’s Memory was transferred a little at a time, and was irregular at best.  But years later, some residue still remained.  “I am now a man among men,” Sorgel wrote.  “In my waking hours I am Professor Emeritus Hermann Sorgel; I putter about the card catalogue and compose erudite trivialities, but at dawn I sometimes know that the person dreaming is that other man.  Every so often in the evening I am unsettled by small, fleeting memories that are perhaps authentic.”

A journey of enlightment

Larry L Franklin

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I never thought I would write or edit five prison-related books. That was not my intention some 15 years ago while traveling a beaten-down, two-lane highway to the Dwight Correctional Center. I was about to have my first interview with a female inmate, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. What I thought would be a one-time interview, turned into a two-year journey and my first book — “The Rita Nitz Story: Life Without Parole.”

While working on Rita’s book I met another inmate who was incarcerated for killing her five-year old stepdaughter. The inmate, Becca, suffered from a bipolar disorder and unable to recall the murder. After obtaining copies of her mental health record and confirmation of her mental illness, I began another two-year journey that turned into a second book — “Cherry Blossoms & Barren Plains: A woman’s journey from mental illness to a prison…

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