An incarcerated person asked these questions for Wayne T. Dowdy. Because of privacy concerns, the name of the incarcerated person will remain anonymous. Straightfromthepen.com gives special thanks and will provide a complimentary copy of Essays and More Straight From the Pen.
Q: Since you have started using this blog, has the sales increased on your books? A: I haven’t noticed much of an increase in sales since I began writing the blogs. But since my release from prison, I have increased the number of views on the blogs, and the circulation of eBooks on Smashwords.com by making certain eBooks free.
Q: Since you began using this blog, have you talked about your books? A: Yes, during the first two years I did (I paid to get a website and blog created in 2015), but I haven’t written promotional content in several months.
I got involved with the prison reform movement in 2016, and then later began writing blogs relating to prison reform, but also to help fight my way out of prison. I became an outspoken critic of the former BOP Director (Mark S. Inch), who changed halfway house policies (reducing available placement period from up to one-year to “up to four months”).
On prison reform, I wanted to do my part in creating positive change, so I put my personal writing and sales promotions on the side until I could get out of prison and put things in action. Now I am back. Look out!
Q: How many books have you written? A: I’ve written four books but only have two I’m marketing. I had a special purpose for UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D (I added sections to the original UNDER PRESSURE to inspire the aspiring writers). To make it a better value for my readers, I combined the original novel with the sequel and produced UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Wayne T. Dowdy, with the help of Midnight Express Books when originally published.
The other book is technically a personal magazine because it combines genres. ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN has 11-essays, 1-short story, and 3-poems, which I’ve discounted the price of at $8.95.
My case manager read it and commented, “Parts of it make you want to laugh, others make you want to cry. There’s a lot of wisdom in it.”
Q: Have you written any novels? A: UNKNOWN INNOCENCE and UNDER PRESSURE are fiction.
Q: When did you start writing? A: I wrote for decades in personal journals. At the age of twenty-five, while serving a state sentence, I wrote drafts for a series of pornographic literature. I gave my collection to a married woman I was having an affair with and asked her to keep them for me until I got out.
She was jealous. Everything I wrote did not include her. When I got out and wanted my writings, she said they got lost or her husband threw them away, either way, my perverted writings conveniently disappeared.
Maybe I’ll return to that genre if sales don’t improve on what I’m writing now. 🙂 With the success of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, there’s a large market for that type of writing.
Q: Did you go to college to learn to write? A: Yes, and No. In 1981 I did take Creative Writing in college. In 2006-2008, I took a professional writing course through the Long Ridge Writers Group to learn how to write essays and short stories for magazine publication.
Q: Were you published in any magazines? A: Yes, but I was published before taking the course. In 2003 I was first published in the A.A. Grapevine under a pseudonym. I’ve been published several times since then; however, none of the publications satisfy my ego, which always wants more.
These are my magazine writing credits: The Sun (Chapel Hill, NC); The Iconoclast; Confrontation magazine, the literary journal of Long Island University; Savage Kick magazine; and many others under a pseudonym related to recovery from drugs and alcohol.
Q: How has writing changed your life? A: Writing, in general, has not changed my life except on an interpersonal level. But writing does help me to formulate ideas and allows me to express myself without interruption. That means a lot to me when I feel the issue is important and needs addressed, whether it’s what people want to hear or not.
One day I hope to answer that question by saying my writing changed the quality of life by making me rich and famous, but in the meantime, I must say it keeps me constructively occupied and that I take pride in knowing my writing impacts the lives of others, as many have said to me throughout the years.
Q: Are you writing another book now? A: No, but I do have ideas for one coming soon and I am plotting on writing query letters and articles I want to see in print, something my ego loves (seeing my name in print).
Jeffrey P. Frye never fails to deliver well-written and entertaining stories from his life. His unique background in the legal and illegal professions gives him writing credibility that keeps readers wanting to see what he produces next.
Bank Robber Stories contains humor and a variety of mixed-emotional avenues for readers to experience. A great read for the curious minded about life on the inside of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons and what might lead a person to change professions from the legal to illegal.
Mr. Frye is now in the process of returning to his natural state before his fall from grace. He will confess to “Not Thinking” if asked, “What was you thinking?” Reading this book proves it!
~ Wayne T. Dowdy, author of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, and ESSAYS AND MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN.
It takes a special kind of person to turn their adversities into success; their sadness into joy that’s used to entertain others.
And it takes a person with tenacity and depth to continue to seek the sunshine when all you’ve ever known is the rain. And it takes a person with natural talent to be able to write a story under these conditions that’s captivating and that you don’t want to put down.
Wayne T. Dowdy is such a person, and UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is such a story.
In UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, Dowdy takes the reader into the lives of his protagonists, Bobby and Nicole, and tells the story of how it all went terribly wrong. How the forces of bad luck, helped along by a crooked FBI agent and attorney, conspired to take Bobby behind the walls of the United States Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. Using a pen along with a vivid and epic imagination, Dowdy draws upon his life in the free world, as well as his nearly three decades of walking the line in some of the roughest federal pens in America.
Moving along at a steady pace, UNKNOWN INNOCENCE tells the story of Bobby’s wrongful conviction. Sent up the river for life without parole, Big Bobby never gives up hope though. The one thing that has eluded him for most of his life is the very thing that turns out to be his salvation. Love. UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is a riveting tale that transcends genres. It’s a mystery and a thriller, with a love story woven through its fabric.
Wayne T. Dowdy is a writer for the masses whose voice has purpose. It tells the World, “No matter what happens to me, I will not give up.” This voice takes the broken pieces of a life and combines it with raw talent to bring forth a beautiful mosaic. It’s a voice that says, no matter how guilty I may be, there is still unknown innocence in each and every one of us.
UNKNOWN INNOCENCE consumed my first novel, UNDER PRESSURE by Mr. D, and part of my second book published by Midnight Express Books (UNDER PRESSURE–MOTIVATIONAL VERSION). What separated the second novel from the first was the addition of “The Story Behind the Novel” and the addition of the first two chapters of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE.
After writing the sequel, I decided to give readers a better value by allowing the sequel to consume the original novel.
For this blog post, I’m providing a peek into the most important part of the Motivational Version (The Story Behind the Novel ), and one randomly selected chapter that shows one aspect of prison life in some of the more dangerous prison settings, Chapter #6, Let It Go.
Warning: Not Politically Correct! Contains Violence, Profanity
Let It Go
Months later, on a cool spring morning, Stan
and Bobby returned from the yard and took their showers before being counted at
10 A.M. Shortly thereafter, they went to eat Spanish omelets, oatmeal, biscuits
and gravy for brunch. That afternoon, Stan sat near the center of the TV room
watching VH1. The TV room was on the walkway at the rear of the cellblock that
joined the tiers. Terry, Jake, and three of Jake’s friends were huddled in the
back corner. Two Jamaicans, who were acquaintances of Stan, sat closest to the
only door, talking. Stan lowered the volume on his Walkman to hear Jake and
Terry’s conversation. A few minutes later his suspicion was confirmed: Terry
still planned to involve Wendy.
“She’s coming over the holiday weekend in
July and I’ll talk her into bringing in the package,” Terry said.
Stan stood and turned to face all five in
the corner. “Keep my sister’s name out of your mouth,” he said.
“Keep out of my business, boy,” Jake said.
Him and his three friends stood. Terry stayed seated.
“Don’t try fucking with this boy!” Stan said.
Terry stood. “I won’t let anything happen to
her, dude,” he said, his voice a high-pitched tone, almost a shrill.
Rastaman stepped out the door and cleared
the corner of the tier to get Big Bobby. At the same moment, Bobby walked out
of his cell to go get some hot water. Rastaman saw him and yelled in his
Jamaican accent. “Yo, mon, Stan need you.” Bobby slung the cup in his cell.
One of Jake’s partners positioned himself
near the door by the other Jamaican, who sat looking toward the television with
a know-nothing stare on his face.
“You’re damn right you’re not because you’re
not going to pull her into your shit,” Stan said. “Find another way to feed
Jake’s other partners tried to position
themselves behind Stan, who turned to put the wall behind him. Jake moved
closer to him and said, “What’s up? You want to get this out of the way, right
“Smash that punk!” the one by the door said.
Terry edged closer to the door. “Y’all cut
this bullshit out, dudes,” he said. “We’ll all go to the hole.”
Jake moved within arm’s reach. Stan shoved
him in the chest with both palms. “Get off me, punk,” he said.
Jake stumbled backward. He regained his
balance and rushed back to get in Stan’s face. “Want some of this,” he said,
and pushed him back.
“Don’t take that from that cunt,” another
yelled. “Hit him!”
The one by the door pulled a shank from his
waistband. “Let’s stick this bitch,” he said, his back a foot from the door.
Everything changed fast: Big Bobby barged
into the room. The door smacked the doorman holding the shank, knocked him into
Terry, who shot to the wall near Bobby.
“Hey,” the doorman shouted, as he turned to
see who had hit him with the door. His face paled when he saw Bobby. He hurried
beside Jake, faced Bobby.
Jake had moved to the corner when Bobby
rushed into the room. “What’s up?” Bobby said, his voice coarse.
The two who had surrounded Stan moved with
Jake. Terry stood against the wall with his arms crossed. Bobby moved within
striking distance of the doorman.
“Let it go, man,” he said. Rastaman had
followed him into the room. The other Jamaican stood and positioned himself
beside his partner and Bobby.
Stan eyed the two who tried getting behind
him, and then he moved near Bobby and the Jamaicans. He looked at the one with
the shank. “Put that up before I stick it up your ass,” he said.
“You got the easy part done,” the doorman
“Cut the bullshit,” Terry said.
Still winded from rushing down the tier,
Bobby said, “All of you need to put this on ice. Nothing good’s going to come from
us going to war over whatever the hell y’all got going on in here.”
Jake took a step closer to them. “Tell your
boy to keep out of my business, big guy.”
Bobby started to speak. Stan pointed at
Terry. “I’ve done told that idiot I didn’t want him involving my sister in your
business, buddy,” he said. “If you can’t respect that, we’ve got big problems.”
“You’ve got big problems with all that
mouth,” the doorman said. Seconds earlier, he had slipped the blade of the
shank in the front pocket of his pants and covered its handle with his hand.
“Look, man, my problem’s not with you but we can make it that way if you don’t back off,” Stan said. He moved closer to him. “I don’t give a damn about you having a shank.”
Bobby stepped between Stan, Jake, and the
doorman. The Jamaicans stayed in the background, propped against the wall by
the door where Terry stood. The doorman jerked out the shank. Before Bobby
could stop him, Stan maneuvered around him and grabbed the doorman’s wrist
holding the shank. In a continuous motion, he twisted it behind the man’s back
and yanked it to the base of the neck, as he forced him against the rear wall. “What
you want to do now, bitch?” Stan growled, keeping the pressure on the back of
Jake advanced toward Stan. Bobby grabbed him
by the shoulders and slung him against the wall, and then turned his head to
glance at the other two, making sure they weren’t getting involved. “Stay out
of it!” he said.
The Jamaicans, who were much larger than
either of the two they faced, had moved between them and Bobby. Both Jamaicans
had their arms spread, angled toward the floor, palms opened, inviting war or
peace. “We don’t want no trouble,” one of the other two said.
After he had failed to free himself from Stan’s hold, the doorman dropped the shank. It clanged as it struck the floor. “All right, man. You got it,” he said, his voice strained from stress.
Jake stayed still against the wall; fear
written on his forehead: Bobby’s massive chest six inches from his nose.
Stan used his foot to slide the shank to the
far side of the room. Then he released his hold and stepped away from the
doorman. “Let’s all let this shit go and get the fuck out of here before the
hacks come and slam us in the hole,” he said.
Everyone exited the television room; their
eyes darting one from another, sweat dotting their foreheads. Stan waited until
last to leave, motioning for the doorman to get his shank and go. He did so
silently, his head held low.
Five minutes after leaving the TV room, Stan
had told Bobby all that had gone down before he walked into the drama. They sat
in Stan’s cell with their arms crossed, sodas sitting on the floor by each of
their legs. Neither one uncrossed their arms except to take a sip from their
“What you think about it?” Stan said. “You
think they’re going to let it go or what?”
Bobby cleared his throat and repositioned himself on the toilet bowl where he sat. “I’d like to think they’ll let it go and leave us alone, but you know how things go in these places. They may claim a truce only to gain an edge for an attack. I’m going to keep an eye on ‘em, for sure.”
“You know I’ll keep an eye on them. And if
Terry and Jake don’t leave Wendy out of their plans, they’d better keep an eye
on me,” Stan said, and then got up from the edge of his bed. “I’m telling you,
man, if they don’t, it’s going to be bad. Wendy may become a widow before it’s
over with if they don’t.”
“Well, … we’ll just have to play the cards
dealt and play the game well. Let it go if you can,” Bobby said. Then he rose
and patted Stan on the back. “Gotta go, Pal. Keep your eyes open. Yell if you
need me, okay?”
“Okay, man. I’m sorry I got you into this
“Don’t sweat it. It’ll all work itself out
however the hell it’s supposed to turn out.” Then he ducked to leave the cell.
He stopped on the tier.
“See you later,” he said and threw up his
hand before walking back to his cell.
The Story Behind the Novel
August 14, 2019: This novel was published while I was in prison and most
content remains the same; however, on May 8, 2019, I was released from the
custody and control of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. I removed some
of the original content from “The Story Behind the Novel” because it became outdated.]
story behind the novel may surprise you because I wrote it while serving a 420-month
federal prison sentence. Mr. D.” is the pseudonym I used for my first book to
avoid any confusion associated with my writings. I am a writer of many genres
and am aware that some readers are “profanity-sensitive”; I don’t want anyone
to be confused when purchasing my books, essays or short stories. Though not
used frequently, profanity is often necessary to capture the personality of a
character or to make a scene or setting more realistic; especially, when writing
about prison life. A person allergic to profanity may safely read most of my
personal essays (inspirational, political, creative nonfiction), but may break
out into a rash or go into anaphylactic shock when reading what I write as “Mr.
D,” a pseudonym I chose based upon the song, Dancing with Mr. D., by the
Rolling Stones, and because my last name begins with “D” and some people call
me Mr. D.
should the reader find motivation by reading this? It came from the confines of
a prison. If I wrote this from inside, without an electronic data storage
system, and without access to the Internet, someone “out there” with all of the
available technology and resources can really work some magic. This is the
story behind the novel:
am a federal prisoner serving a lengthy prison sentence; to be precise,
thirty-five-years, without parole, for armed bank robbery and associated
charges. I started on August 18, 1988. I have never used the Internet or seen a
cell phone, other than in magazines or on television. I’m somewhat prehistoric,
prison, our movement and activities are limited. For instance, I only have until
7:45 pm, Monday through Thursday evenings, to type at the library, which does
not begin until my living unit gets released for chow (usually by 6:00 pm). At
the library, I use a dumbed-down, AlphaSmart, word processor to type with until
the library closes [AlphaSmarts were removed from the library before my release
and replaced with the worst typewriters available, with no memory recall
Normally, a writer using an AlphaSmart would have an interface cord to connect to their PC to upload what they typed on the AlphaSmart, and would then make modifications to the text in their PC; e.g., change line spacing, font size or style, underline words or adjust margins. I don’t have a PC to upload what I have typed and cannot modify what I have written, other than typical editing functions, such as copying and pasting and using spellcheck to correct misspelled words (program does not check grammar or punctuation). Fortunately, the presets include double line spacing, one-inch top, left and right margins, and a 12-pt Times New Roman font. If I want to add an underline to a word or a case cite when doing legal work, I have to create a separate file, count spaces, and then use the underscore key to create an underline. Then I have to run the original document back through a low-quality printer to complete the process.
That gives you an idea of what limited capabilities are when writing and typing from inside a prison (and I am fortunate to be able to do what I do). Some prisons only have ancient typewriters, with no memory storage capabilities. (I authored Under Pressure on such a primitive device.) The only other day I have to work on my writing is on Saturday because the library does not open on Sunday or holidays. During the morning I skip going to eat to type from 7:30 am (or whenever the door opens) until 9:15 am. Then I have to return to the cellblock to be counted. Yes, all of us men must stand up and be counted at 10:00 am, 4:00 pm, and 10:00 pm on weekends and holidays. The 10:00 am Count is a special event: we don’t have one during the week. I often use the break for the count to proofread what I’ve written, or to prepare for what I will write.
Once the count clears and the prison staff begins feeding the noon meal, I often skip chow to go type some more. I am usually typing by 11:30 am until I have to turn in the AlphaSmart at 3:15 pm. Fridays and Sundays are my days of forced rest from typing at the library: the only place I can type personal projects.
Where am I during the week when not at the library? Working. I work as the document control clerk in a textile factory of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc., trade name UNICOR. My meager MONTHLY salary averages near $200.00. I used that income to pay for my enrollment in the Long Ridge Writers Group on January 8, 2007. The course is outlined for completion within two years. On July 7, 2008, I graduated. During the same time that I was taking their writing course, I wrote the short story, “Under Pressure.” I attempted its publication by submitting my 6,158-word manuscript (typed on the ancient typewriter mentioned earlier), to various magazines, college literary journals, and entered it in PEN’s Prison Writing Contest. It didn’t win. Then on January 1, 2012, my ambition was born to convert the short story into a novel, the hard way, almost five years from the date of when I enrolled in the Long Ridge Writers Group to learn how to write and market short stories and essays. One year after I decided to turn the short story into a novel, it was available worldwide.
biggest problem in getting started with converting the short story into a novel
came from not having any way to electronically store data. When I finished
typing at the prison library to return to the cellblock, everything I had typed
was deleted according to policy. I knew having memory storage would ease the
pain of the revision process (some pages I retyped up to five times to correct
a typo, verb tense, or to replace or to add “one” word). I solicited help from
my family and friends to have my manuscript scanned and stored on a disk or CD
as a word.doc format for the manipulation of data. One of my two sisters, who
was not real computer savvy, did go to different places attempting to find what
I needed, but the best she could find was someone to scan and save it as a pdf
file, which I didn’t think would allow her to alter the text back then (now
converters are available that allows a person to modify Portable Document Format
I began the conversion process in light of the troubled waters ahead before I learned about the publisher, Midnight Express Books (MEB). Approximately six months after I had surrendered the idea of finding an easier, softer way to write the novel, I discovered MEB through an ad in the Education Behind Bars Newsletter (EBBN). EBBN ran an ad in Prison Legal News and asked for submissions. I submitted an essay and began receiving complimentary copies of the newsletter. In the last issue I received, I noticed an ad for MEB, who works exclusively with prisoners seeking publication [the publisher retired].
that point, I had decided to go the traditional publishing route, so I passed
along the information to another aspiring writer. MEB sent him a brochure. He
asked me to read it and asked that I give him my opinion. I was sold when I
read about MEB’s optical character reader and computer program for scanning
manuscripts, and then being able to digitally alter the text. I immediately
added their contact information to the system provided for e-mailing and
recording addresses (TRULINCS & http://www.corrlinks.com). Thus, began the
correspondence that lead to MEB helping me publish my first novel.
On January 14, 2013,
CreateSpace.com released UNDER PRESSURE for sale to the public as a print-on-demand
book. [Note: Amazon closed CreateSpace,
which was a self-publishing division for paperback books. Now authors must use Kindle
Direct Publishing and pay Amazon twice the amount of commission for books sales.]
following day Amazon.com posted UNDER PRESSURE. Now it is available worldwide
upon demand through the following sources:
[Link removed due to agreement with Amazon KDP Select program]
[10/26/2020: Removed several links where sold. eBook sold on Amazon contains all links in updated version, August 14, 2019, NOT original version]
[THE POINT IS] If the product in your hands (or before your eyes) came from inside a federal prison, with the assistance of MEB, imagine what you can do “out there” with all of the available technology.
Maybe one day I will find out. For you, though, if you are an aspiring writer or just a reader with ambitions, apply yourself to the task and reach for your dreams: they may be closer than you imagine.
T. Dowdy aka, “Mr. D.”
I welcome all comments and will respond to all questions as soon as possible, which may vary according to the number received, but I will respond.
Military Police ﬁnds Roger Johnson slumped over the
steering wheel of his Mercedes Benz, a bullet hole in his head. State Senator
Leroy Johnson wants swift justice for the murder of his son. The military turns
the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent Ward
promises Senator Johnson he will ﬁnd the murderer.
Big Bobby Sanders drank too much the night of the murder.
Lost in a blackout when the murder occurs and unable to prove his alibi, DNA
evidence put him in jail for killing his friend. An exotic dancer knows the truth. She gets
forced out of town after telling her story to attorney Zachariah Zambroski.
Under pressure by Agent Ward to
close the case, Zambroski convinces Sanders to plead guilty to avoid the death
penalty. In prison he befriends a man who ultimately introduces him to the
lovely Nicole Anderson, a former dancer who ﬁghts to free him.
“UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is a riveting tale that transcends genres. It’s a mystery and a thriller, with a love story woven through its fabric.” Introduction to UNKNOWN INNOCENCE by Jeffrey P. Frye, author of “ONE CRAZY DAY,” Murder Slim Press (www.murderslimpress.com).
Guns, Drugs and Thugs: Drug Store Spree by Wayne T. Dowdy
When I pulled in front of his rundown, Georgian Revival style house, with a hipped roof, panel door, and yellow gutters, I noticed curtains and drapes covering all windows. That made me feel uneasy, so I popped the hood and then got out to tinker with the breather for a moment, slammed the hood and walked to the trunk. That is where I kept lots of money and drugs that other dope fiends and thugs drooled at when seeing. Many of whom I knew would take it from me if given the opportunity. I stashed more money inside a secret hiding spot I made. Then I walked around the car, stopping to tap on each tire so I appeared to be checking their inflation. I hid the trunk key inside the fender well, on top of the rear tire, away from view of those inside. Then I eased toward the front door of the house. The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd played on a sound system. I knocked. Leonard opened the door ….
Essays & More Straight from the Pen by Wayne T. Dowdy
Essays and More Straight from the Pen shows the power of
change, gives hope to readers wanting a different life.
The well-written essays take readers deep inside the life of
the author who overcame circumstances and obstacles that kept him chained to a
life of drugs and crime.
The stories inspire and motivate people to not give up or
lose hope, and to fight for a new life.
Purchase these books today. You won’t be disappointed.
Merle Haggard, Chyna, and Prince, all engrained memories in the minds of their fans and foes. Regardless of any flaw painted in history by the news media about either of their lives, each of them accomplished more in life than most of us ever will before the lights are dimmed and we exit the stage, with far less glory than the contestants did on American Idol who left without the prize.
AN INSPIRING EX-CON: Country Legend, Merle Ronald Haggard [April 6, 1937-April 6, 2016], knew the “Working Man’s Blues.” He began his life as a troubled youth. His “Mama Tried” to steer him right, but he still “turned twenty-one in prison [not] doing life without parole.”
In 1958 his troubles lead to him serving time at the historic San Quentin prison in California, after his convictions for burglary and an attempted escape from the county jail. He was twenty-years-young when he walked into San Quentin, a prison known for its danger and violence.
While there, he played in a prison band, and then in 1959, sat in the audience as the legendary Johnny Cash performed his legendary performance inside San Quentin. After Merle Haggard’s release and climb into the music industry, he appeared on the Johnny Cash Show and confessed his tainted past to the world. People continued to love him and his music; especially, songs like the controversial “Okie from Muskogee.” Some of my favorites were “Mama Tried” (and mine did), “Working Man Blues”; “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive”; “Branded Man,” and many others.
In 1960, two and a half-years after he began his prison sentence, he strolled through the prison gates and began working toward an amazing future. He signed his first music contract in 1962 and never slowed down enough to look back.
He blazed the trails over the next few decades, all the way to the annals of history, by becoming a truly great entertainer and songwriter. He produced thirty-eight number one hits, and performed almost 600-songs, including 250 that he wrote.
By 1977 he was elected to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In 1994 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 1972, former President of the United States and Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, granted Merle Haggard a pardon.
For a person who goes to prison, becoming a success after release is an incredible feat: the things he accomplished were an incredible feat for anyone. Merle Haggard inspired musicians and others all around the world and became the idol of many lost souls who dreamed of following his lead.
Merle Haggard set a positive example for people in many ways; especially, those who go to prison and get released. The stigma attached to a prison record that trails an ex-con was much worse when he got out of prison, than it is today, and yet, he proved a person can get out of prison and go on to become a success story.
Each person who gets out and does not return is a success story, regardless of fame and fortune.* The success of Merle Haggard was phenomenal and he deserved a lot more praise than he received.
His last appearance was on April 6, 2016, on his seventy-ninth birthday. His music may fade away as the younger country musicians roll out the hits, but the songs he wrote will forever be preserved in digital heaven.
AN IDOL DIED: On April the Seventh, the day of my birth, the show that birthed numerous talented musicians, aired its last show. American Idol gave birth to such talented entertainers as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkston, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Chris Daughtery, Jordin Sparks, Kelly Pickler, and many others.
American Idol was one of the few television shows I watched with any consistency, and now it has moved on into the vaults of digital files. For years to come, millions of loyal fans will not forget the pleasure of watching the show: the experience deeply engrained in the memories of those who enjoyed watching the birth of stars and entertainers.
On the day American Idol died, an extraordinary entertainer, musical genius and legend, performed his last show in Atlanta, Georgia, the place of my birth.
AN AMERICAN PRINCE: Prince Roger Nelson [June 7, 1958-April 21, 2016], played his final chord and flew away on the lyrics of his last song, two weeks after his last live performance (April 7, 2016, Atlanta, Georgia).
The flamboyant Price dazzled his fans and audiences with spectacular performances that included his mastery of musical instruments and the lyrics he wrote.
He wrote his first song at the age of seven and went on to become a magnificent entertainer, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, record producer, actor, film director, and an all around influential person who inspired countless others.
He wrote a lot of songs for other artists. To avoid conflicts with the oppressive Warner Brothers, who did not allow him to use his own name, he changed his name several times and wrote “Slave” on his face. I believe he stated on television that he did that because of him not owning rights to his own songs. He rushed to fulfill his contractual obligations to produce a specified number of albums. I heard him say on CNN that when he told children he couldn’t use his own name that his Mother had given him, that they couldn’t believe it. At least, he said something along those lines. He also used various other names for the same reason.
Prince sold over 100-million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artist of all time, and it is not over yet. His unreleased music lives on with the released hits fans have rushed to buy since his death, taking him to the top once again. Even after his death, innumerable hits will escape their resting place from inside a secret vault, hidden behind a steel door, deep inside his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
I did not know Prince stood at five-foot-two and wore six-inch heals to make himself taller. His physical stature may have been under average, but he was an above average individual, who inspired and helped numerous others reach the stars.
Prince kept an entourage of lovely women around who often performed in his band. Three of the absolutely captivating Beauties known to be with him, were Vanity, Sheila E, and Carmen Electra. It was he who came up with the stage name for the doll who became “Carmen Electra.”
I fought tears on April 22nd as I watched an interview of CNN with Stevie Wonder, as he struggled to tell about their relationship and the influence Prince had had on his life and the lives of others. The music of Stevie Wonder and Prince, both penetrated racial boundaries and had the power to change lives.
Prince was scheduled to play at the Half-time Show for Superbowl 2007. When the rain began to fall, I believe it was a radio host who called and asked if he knew it was raining because he was wondering if he’d still perform.
“Yes, it is raining,” Prince said. “Can you make it rain harder?”
Most entertainers would have probably cancelled. Prince thrived in Purple Rain.
On April 24, 2016, Renee Montgomery of the Minnesota Linx, shared her story about Prince inviting her and the rest of her team to a party at his mansion after their win. He gave her and numerous others an experience never to be forgotten. He will never be forgotten.
He performed from 1976 until two weeks before his death. The legend of the American Prince will forever live on in the hearts of his millions fans.
Prince was born in the year Merle Haggard went to prison, both musical legends passed on to the next phase of existence within weeks of each other. Several other entertainers gave praise to both men for being an inspiration or helping them become better musicians and entertainers. Both men deserved lots of praise for accomplishing what they did during their lives. Their legacy lives on in the songs they wrote, preserved forever in history on reels of a tape, discs, or some form of electronic media.
WRESTLER, TEACHER, ENTERTAINER, ACTRESS: Joan Marie Laurer, best known as the female wrestling star, Chyna, who once held the title as the Women’s Champion of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), fought her final round in the battle of addiction and tapped out on April 20, 2016. She was forty-five.
Originally from Rochester, New York, she moved to Florida and continued her educational pursuits. In her later years, she moved to Japan and taught English.
After her move to Florida, she graduated from the University of Tampa before she entered the World of Wrestling and became a famous person, who accomplished many things in her life.
With a muscular physique and exceptional strength, she was a force to contend with in the ring and never hesitated to challenge a competitor.
Chyna declared herself to be the “9th Wonder of the World.” Her predecessor, Andre the Giant, had already claimed to be the “8th Wonder of the World,” so she respectfully took the next spot, rather than to challenge his claim to greatness.
Chyna left the WWE in 2001 and posed for Playboy, appeared in adult and mainstream films, and reality TV shows like “The Surreal Life,” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Read more about this amazing woman’s life in her autobiography, “If They Only Knew,” which made it to the New York Times best-sellers list in 2001.
Chyna was a special woman and too young to leave life to chase whatever title waits upon the other side. She no longer has to fight the demons of her addiction. I hope she left the demons behind and now rests peacefully in a safe place.
* Read my next blog about recidivism and re-entry initiatives to reduce the absurd recidivism rate in the American Criminal Justice system. Fairshake Reentry Resource Center is one program created to help ease the transition back into society for those released from prison. Visit their website at http://www.fairshake.net. For those incarcerated, contact them and request their well-written Reentry Package. Fairshake Reentry Resource Center, P.O. Box 63, Westby, WI 54667. For those with Corrlinks, send them an email to request the reentry information: email@example.com.
Wayne T. Dowdy writes straight from the pen. Purchase his books and essays at StraightFromthePen.com or from your favorite online and offline booksellers. Look for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in May 2016 ($14.95); over 400-pages of intense scenes, suspense, drama, and excitement. Warning: for Mature Audiences only, contains sex and violence. Available in paperback and eBook formats.
02/21/2021, Update: I continue to be grateful to my former publisher, Midnight Express Books, for helping me put my books on the market while serving a 420-month federal prison sentence. On August 28, 2018, I walked outside into the free world for the first-time in thirty-years and ten-days, without having handcuffs and leg shackles on courtesy of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.
UNKNOWN INNOCENCE BY WAYNE T. DOWDY
Numbers and the way things work out sometimes amazes me. Reorganizing UNKNOWN INNOCENCE to make it wrap around UNDER PRESSURE proved to do so after I had moved and renumbered chapters and pages to make the plots coincide. The way things worked out made me feel I had indeed created a Masterpiece, a true work of art. I love how it turned out and will share an unusual aspect of the writing process with you for entertainment purposes. I don’t know what any of it means, or if it means anything, other than just the way the numbers fell.
What I experienced during the reorganization process falls into the categories of numerology and synchronicity, with synchronicity being defined by Merriam Webster as the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seems related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of casualty — used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung.
I wrote UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in five parts; some parts I wrote about Big Bobby as a prequel to UNDER PRESSURE and the other parts as the sequel. UNDER PRESSURE by Mr. D contained four untitled parts and fourteen titled chapters, whereas UNKNOWN INNOCENCE contained five titled parts (Part I: Ladies & Lust; Part II: Ten Years After; Part III: Innocence Jailed; Part IV: Betrayal; Part V: Justice Delayed), and twenty-five titled chapters.
CHANGES: The logical sequence of events required Parts I and III of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE to go before the plot in UNDER PRESSURE, and for Parts II, IV and V to follow the four Parts of UNDER PRESSURE for me to create a happy ending.
In the writing stage I did not envision doing as I have done. That thought sprouted and blossomed into what has surely become the making of a masterpiece. As I was doing the final touches on the manuscript to submit it the publisher, the thought occurred that lead to the change. A mental image of a thicker and better novel flashed inside my brain. I saw a different cover with Wayne T. Dowdy on it and an opportunity to make a better product by improving on the plot by combining the two stories. (The paperback cover did not have my name on it.) Word count was another factor. Thirty-five thousand words versus eighty-five thousand, for a modest price increase seemed a better value for my readers and a prime opportunity for me to do what I had wanted to do for months: change the most popular part of UNDER PRESSURE, the synopsis and opening chapter.
WHY CHANGE? The story begins hard, too hard for some, I imagine, with the protagonist (Stan Mason) sitting in the United States Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, plotting the murder of another prisoner, Jake Stephens. The synopsis leads one to believe the book about prison, as does the Prelude and opening chapter (“The Shank”). The opening scene and setting is in prison and captures the true essence of life inside some of the most dangerous ones, but the story contains much more than prison scenes: love, companionship, life on the outside, legal issues, politics, living in a dysfunctional family, etc.
THE COVER & CONTENT: Given that everyone who read it said it was a page turner and kept them wanting to find out what would happen next, I knew I had a good story. But when sales figures indicated that 1) it lacked something; 2) needed more marketing, or 3), that I needed to find a way to put it in the hands of more readers, I started looking into other areas to identify possible factors interfering with sales. The cover elicited numerous favorable comments, so I didn’t think cover design was the problem. Then I discussed the issue with fellow writer, Jeffery Frye, who suggested I change the synopsis on the paperback. Then with some of my more “saintly” readers commenting on the violence and profanity, I thought about how it began and then identified that as another potential source that hindered sales. Knowing that the start is substantially different than the rest of the story, I concluded that the synopsis and opening chapter gave a false impression about what was contained between the covers. I assumed that the free preview on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com left potential customers with the wrong impression. At that point, I began thinking about combining UNDER PRESSURE with UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, which was completed but needed reviewed again to make sure it was publication ready. Within three weeks of focusing on it, I knew I was onto a worthwhile project, and so here I am today wondering just what is really going on with this mysterious adventure I found myself playing the lead role in. This is where it gets weird.
WORKSHEET: I do not have a typical computer to work with (read “The Story Behind the Novel” in UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D, which you can do for free on Smashwords.com or Amazon.com or by purchasing the magazine, and you will understand my situation). Because I do not have an electronic file, I kept a typewritten table of contents (TOC) to make notes on and to help me organize the structure by listing chapters, page numbers, and the parts I named as I constructed the novel. The TOC became my worksheet for the reconstruction project. I will ask the publisher to post a copy of the worksheet in this blog. These are the current chapter titles in UNDER PRESSURE since the book is still pending processing:
PART I: 1) The Shank; 2) The Oasis; 3) Enough; 4) Temporary Absolution; PART II: 5) Wendy; 6) Let It Go; 7) Big Bobby; 8) Stan; 9) Jake; PART III: 10) Vengeance; 11) Deceit; 12) Mercy; 13) Karma; PART IV: Freedom.
If anyone has any suggestions for names of the four Parts in UNDER PRESSURE, please send your suggestion before October 15, 2015, to firstname.lastname@example.org. [Too late! :-)]
These are the chapter titles for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE. The number to the left of the title is current. The one in parenthesis is the former. All of Part I remained the same. The five Parts are as they will now appear.
PART I, Ladies & Lust: 1) Sheila; 2) The Feds; 3) Life In a Jail Cell; 4) Initial Appearance; 5) Zachariah Zambroski; 6) Looking for Ladies; 7) Delilah; PART II, Innocence Jailed: 8 (11) Plea for Your Life; 9 (12) What Now?; 10 (13) Disappearing Witness; 11 (14) Morality; 12 (15) On the Road; 13 (16) The Trial; PART III, Betrayal: 14 (17) Sting An Attorney; 15 (18) Working It Off; 16 (19) Dirty Deeds. UNDER PRESSURE now comprises PARTS IV-VII (chapters 17-30 and pages 134-280) of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE. PART VIII, Ten Years After: 31 (8) Romance on the Wire; 32 (9) Looking for Sheila; 33 (10) Trouble with Ladies; PART IX, Justice Delayed: 34 (20) The Hunt; 35 (21) The Visit; 36 (22) Perfect Timing; 37 (23) Going Home; 38 (24) Things Change; 39 (25) Justice.
Now for the significance of all the above. Notice the “8s” in the numbers. After the Reconstruction era, I saw how the former chapter sixteen (page 112) had become chapter thirteen and began on page 88. The title: “The Trial.” I went to trial on November 7-10, 1988. The jury found me guilty of all four counts alleged in the indictment for armed bank robbery and associated charges. The former chapter eight that began on page 88 was “Plea for Your Life.” I refused to plead guilty for 120-months with a consecutive 60-months. The court sentenced me to 420-months after I went to trial and lost while exercising my right to a trial by a jury.
Okay, seeing all of that got my attention. Then on August 31st, my case manager called me in to get a financial form that the United States Pardon Attorney wanted me to complete. In June of 2014, I had applied to the President of the United States for a commutation of the remainder of my sentence and $25,000.00 restitution order. My older brother’s birthday is 08/31/53. He died from a drug overdose on August 6, 1978, twenty-five days before he turned twenty-five. Many years later, his death become a motivating factor for me to help others live without using drugs and alcohol. (After his death I was arrested in Lebanon, Kentucky on 08/28/78, for robbing three drug stores at gunpoint.) On this sentence I was arrested on 08/18/88, and was in pretrial status for 188-days before the Judge pronounced my sentence on February 22, 1989.
Two days before I turned thirty-seven, I stopped using mind-altering substance and started trying to regain control of my life to become a better human being. When I saw my case manager on Stanley’s birthday, I requested an updated progress report. A few hours later, I noticed the 188-jail credits and that the title of Chapter Thirty-seven was “Going Home,” which had previously began on page 188.
GOING HOME: Now I “know” I will be going home before my tentative release date of April 24, 2019; I don’t know if it will be due to legislative changes, receiving the commutation of sentence or what, but I am sure I will be released early. In 1983, while serving time in the State of Georgia, I told my fellow prisoners I would make parole. “You’re crazier than hell,” was typical response. All of them knew I used to be rowdy and disruptive. In 1981 I was convicted of Mutiny in a Penal Institute, before being involved in taking over a prison to escape with ten others. I miraculously paroled on August 1, 1985. (Read “Fence Rows & The Price of Change” ($0.99) if you want to know about those incidents. Individual essay only available in eBook from all major eBook retailers. For the print version, please purchase ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, $8.95, USD.)
I read something years ago that claimed the number “8” was a lucky number for me due to the day I was born. To be arrested and denied important important motions filed in court, and to have experienced so much pain and agony during the eighth month did not make me feel eight was a lucky number. But the truth is that if I had not been arrested and locked away in a box for decades of my life, I would not be alive and you would not be reading about the making of my masterpiece, or this strange telling of how the numbers fell.
________________________ 02/21/2021 Update: Order my eBooks and essays from my author’s page at Smashwords.com or your favorite eBookstore. Buy UNKNOWN INNOCENCE now.