Saturday, March 9, 2013

'64 Buick Riviera

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Sense of Place

       Everyone knows that the sense of smell is the strongest one tied to memory. I know that and am reminded with every visit to my Dad's garage. Or should I call it a workshop since for as long as I can remember he's always been working on one project or another.

      The house, a small white bungalow at the top of a hill, the HUGE yard in front filled with so much greenery the City of L.A. should be paying him for the oxygen he provides, and even the outside of the garage have all changed in appearance over the years but one place has remained the same. Dad's workshop.

      Hanging out with him in the garage, his neighbors walk up the street, on the return trip home, arms weighed down with grocery bags, or walking down the street toward Sunset Blvd. with hands that won't stay empty for long. He'a known most of his neighbors for years. Decades even. Some stop to chat. Others walk by taking a quick glance into the garage satisfying their curiosity. He introduces me to new neighbors or old ones I haven't already met. "This is my son." always brings a smile to my face.

I have my own key to the garage so once in a while I stop by to pick up or drop something off. Usually something that he worked on for me. I flip the light switch up, enjoy the cool air inside and inhale deeply. The smell of wood, metal and years of elbow grease make me feel right at home every time.

During my last visit though I make sure to take a look around. Studying objects that stick out to me reminding me instantly of pieces of my childhood. I smile at everything that has been in the same place in the garage as far back as I can remember and notice those that seem out of place.

I myself never feel out of place when I'm in here. I'm always at home.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Story Before Mine

This is a post I've been wanting to write up for a long while and I guess it'll be a work in progress. I want to tell you a story. A story before mine. The story my Grandparents wrote together starting in Los Angeles back in 1948.

Guadalupe Cruz and Javier Meza (1948)

One of my favorite pictures on display at my Grandparents house was one taken on their wedding day, December of 1950. Sixty-Three years ago and the world was a different place. Los Angeles moved at a much different pace and was second to only Detroit when it came to producing automobiles. The city's population was half of what it is today at just under 2 million and although we still may not be producing more cars, we sure are producing more people, and in turn, more drivers.

Wedding Day ( Oct 1950)
 I was blessed recently with more family pictures when I was asked to make copies for the rest of the family. Pictures from the day Guadalupe Cruz said, "I do" and became Javier Meza's bride. All these years, two generations later I feel like I received an invite when I look at them. They say a picture speaks 1000 words. Well, I've got 6 of them PLUS a recording and they'll tell you a story alright. They'll tell the story before mine.

Grandmama getting ready. Her cousin and Maid of Honor, Josephine Nuñez holding her veil.
On her way to La Placita Olvera to say "I do".

Time to cut the cake. 

Cake for everyone.

Smile! You're married now.
     My Grandmama's cousin, Josephine Nuñez, was best friends with a major player in Los Angeles at the time. His gift to my grandparents on their wedding day was an 8mm camera, film, projector and screen. It's because of his gift that I am able to enjoy this footage 63 years later and share it with you.


 Thanks for watching. More footage to come.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Field Of Dreams. Field of Memories.

   If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you'll see a timeline filled with many car pictures. Mostly old Fords and Chevys with the occasional Plymouth and De Soto if I happened to get lucky at the car show. My friend, Rafael, noticed my love for cars and invited me to tour his workplace, Dodger Stadium. He knew there were a few vehicles bearing the Dodger logo I'd love to see and photograph.



This was a great opportunity for me and to think my photography got me through the door. Well, that and knowing the Director of Community Relations sure helped. There was no way I'd pass this up. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980's was incredible. The Raiders had a Commitment to Excellence, our Lakers had Pat Riley and Showtime and the whole city had Fernandomania.

I took Rafael up on his offer on a Friday morning. Step out from office and you're right there in the game, along the third base line. Now, this was the off season and architects were present preparing the park for some much needed renovations. No game was being played but that doesn't matter. Dodger Stadium and the 352 acres the stadium sits on IS the field of dreams. Chavez Ravine is filled to the brim with memories both good and bad. Joy and Heartbreak. Wins and Losses. Maybe the renovation will make space for more memories...and Championship trophies?

 As we toured the stadium I couldn't help but drift off into a memory of my own. We came upon the batting cage area Kirk Gibson used before hitting the walk off Home Run in the 9th inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I wasn't at the stadium that night. I was at home watching the game with my Grandpa Chino on a 13 inch T.V. in his bedroom. Kirk Gibson's HR shocked Oakland just like the Loma Prieta earthquake would the following year. The excitement traveled through the L.A. streets and the cheers he received reverberated through the hills of Elysian and Echo Parks. Grandpa Chino and I heard those cheers in stereo because we were just a mile away from the epicenter.

 I'd like to thank you, Rafael, for the amazing tour and experience. I've been to many Dodger games but to be able to walk the same halls as many of the greats that wore the uniform is something I never thought I'd do. I thank you for the new memories and for helping to bring back old ones.

 I bought a white jersey that day and am planning on adding my grandpa's last name to it. I'm proud to carry his blood in my veins. Catch me at a game next season representing the "Gonzalez" name on my back. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hijos de Los Angeles

     It's been a while since I last posted anything but I figured I'd pick up where I left off a few posts back. In that post I talked about believing how people are put in your path for a reason and that's because I believe everything happens for a reason and it's up to us to put the pieces together, figure out why and what we're supposed to do with them.
    Mike de la Rocha called to invite me and my wife to a party being thrown for Eric Garcetti (L.A.'s next Mayor) and say no more, we'd be there. I have tremendous respect for both these guys. I've written about Mike in a previous post. I'm a big fan of his as a musician and as a person. He sets a great example.
    Some of you know I've been working to promote the library I work for. My dad told me that people are always willing to help but sometimes need one person to step up first. Mike was that first person to step up and Mike, if you're reading this, I appreciate your help and I'm always ready to return the favor. Thank you.
   About a year ago I wrote a post about my Grandparents and El Paso, the city they were born, raised and married in before moving to Los Angeles. I was excited to hear from Eric Garcetti (on Twitter) telling me he read that post and we chatted (tweeted) briefly about the similarities between our Grandparents. When I met Mr. Garcetti in person about a month and a half ago, he remembered the post and who I was. He was very cool in person and even read about the Open Mic program with Mike at the library the night before. That meant a lot because not only did I feel my efforts were paying off but Mr Garcetti is concentrating on running for Mayor of Los Angeles and still reads the tweets of the people (libraries) he follows on Twitter.
    I still haven't completely figured out why these guys were put in my path but I'm convinced that if anything at all I should learn from their examples and continue to put in work for my city, our city, the City of Angels.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A "Beastly" Conversation With Jim Marquez

         I met Jim Marquez and Rick Mendoza at a Holiday Art Sale last December. He was hangin out, drinking and oh yeah he was selling his book, "Pieces Of L.A." there too. We got to talking a little and I knew I HAD to read his book. I bought it the next week at Antigua Cultural Coffee in Cypress Park (because I had no cash at the Art sale) and when I was done reading I had so many questions I had to ask him. Check 'em out.

Hey, Jim, I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I just finished reading Pieces Of L.A. and I’ve got to say, it IS hardcore, man. I really liked it and enjoyed how you connected the beginning and the end of the story. You and I talked briefly when we met but after reading this book there’s more I’ve got to know.

Hey, thanks for the kind words. Glad you got through it. It's not for the faint of heart that's for damn sure.

So first off, I’m sure you answer this all the time but I’ve got to ask you myself. The nickname “Beast”, where does it come from?

The Beast. Yeah. I love that name. It describes me perfectly. A very good friend of mine, an artist by the name of Emmeric James Konrad, who I collaborated with on a book we did last year called "Suckling the Urban Teat", he did the illustratons, sorta like a Charles Bukowski and Robert Crumb thing, or a Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman thing; anyway, Emmeric had invited me to read at this underground speakeasy in Downtown LA one night, on 6th and Alameda-this was back in 2006-and it was a nasty debaucherous, hellish place, a REAL speakeasy-god, I loved that joint-and I read onstage, cursing yelling, sweating, stomping about, howling, because that was part of my performance back then, and very drunk too, of course, nobody paid any attention, and all these naked models were prancing around, and Emmeric was waiting for me at the bar in the back of the room. He points at me and says, 'You, my friend are truly a beast amongst all these beauties!" And we stopped short, our eyes went big, and we both said at the same time,"That's it!" My stage-name if you will, and because it is known to anybody who knows me that I drink like a beast, fuck like a beast, live life with the abandon of a great beast, and, certainly writes like a beast, that moniker, 'The Beast', would make a lasting impression. And it has. Almost like a living character, a reflection of me and the man in my stories. When I enter a room people say, "It's the beast!" and yes, I like that very much. 

So, 12 books in 6 years? Really!? The things you write about are real experiences. When do you find the time to get out into L.A. and live these experiences you write about?

At night. When all the other good, wholesome, christian-folk are climbing into bed at 10pm because they have to get up early for work the next morning, I'm out prowling about. Not every night, mind you, there are a couple nights I go out, hit the bars, the art parties, openings, closings, after-hours, roof-top madness, and then don't crawl home until 8am. Sleep it off the next day, lay around, sober up, cry, eat a late lunch, read the paper, answer emails, do my facebook, go to Starbucks, get my head straight, then, late at night, usually about 3am I start writing, go until about 6am, then, hit the pillow. And the ten years I spent backpacking across Europe, solo, has filled the files and memory banks with enough experience for ten men. But I don't actually 'go looking for stories'. Naw. That's amateur hour. Don't carry a notebook either. You stay in one place long enough and the shit's gonna find you. I just allow myself to be open to that. If I'm in a pissy mood I avoid it, move on. If I feel relatively safe I'll stick around, see what happens. Go with that drunk woman who's inviting me back to her place up in the hills. Or, tag along to an underground scene, or whatever. Or have that next drink because so-and-so is buying. Other nights I read voraciously, go to theaters to catch films, go to Santa Anita, the track, bet on the ponies, have lunch at historic food joints around the city, meet a buddy for happy hour at El Torito, and all those places too shit happens; I remember it and file it away. Try to remember the feeling, the look, the sense, the mood. It ain't rocket science. Too many 'writers' try to make more out of it. But I am in it. I'm an arrogant bastard so the point of view is always through me or a third person pov that's usually me too. Not interested it other people's stories. I must have that passion, that closeness to the happening in order for me to do it any justice. You tell me a story about what you did in Palm Springs. Ok. I'll listen, laugh, nod my head in agreement, but if you ask me to write it out for you I can't do it. I simply don't want to. It's your story. YOU write it. Henry Miller once said "Write what you know". I do.

People can find your writing in many different places online and in print. Besides the 12 (gazillion) books you have out, you’ve also written for magazines and sites like Citizen LA, LA Weekly and Is there a particular outlet that you prefer to write?

Whoever is willing to publish it AND pay me for it, THAT'S my favorite outlet.....Serioulsy though, I loved writing for "Citizen LA", the arts and culture magazine, print, monthly for over 4 years, out of Downtown Los Angeles. They let me get away with murder. And it's there where I started my 'name' in this writing gig. I was very independent, the editors left me alone, and never changed a fucking thing. Which was wise. I have degrees in English, a teaching credential, an ESL teaching credential, have taught literature and conversation and writing for 15 years, I know of what I speak. Wish to Christ LA WEEKLY would run my stuff-I had a few things in there a long time ago in another galaxy, but I guess I'm too much, or they're too pussy, or I just suck. LatinoLA I love because in addition to running my pieces they are kind enough to let me post free announcements for my shows and signings. But it's the books I self-publish, where I am truly a god. Not THE God, but A god. I can do whatever I want. Even the mistakes, and there are plenty, are mine, but I'm still proud of them. Grassroots, brother. Just got to get those books into more indy markets around the city. One great place is "Half Off Books" in Uptown Whittier. They just sold out a box load of "Pieces of L.A.". I was suprised. People actually asking for the damn thing. I'm like, wow, fuck me! They ordered more, plus other titles from my catalog, and want an order of my next book due out in March. Now THAT's an independent bookshop. I want more of those shops! Hell, at Antigua Coffee House in Cypress Park I had a stack of books and half of them were stolen. As an artist that makes me feel great. Stealing my literature? Are you serious? Fuck yeah! 
How long have you been writing and when did you know that writing was what you wanted to do full time?

Since the second grade. And, since the second grade...My teacher had a writing contest, I didn't know it was a contest, I thought it was just another writing practice assignment in class. I wrote this fantasy thing about a dog who was this Sherlcok Holmes type of doggy detective. Short, silly, stupid. The next day the teacher anounced the winner of the best story and she called my name, then, called me up to the front of the class to read my story to the other 40 kids there. Then, and this is the most important part: she gave me a giant plastic Tootsie Roll bank filled with tiny Tootsie Rolls. I thought: WOW! I got candy for my wrting? Really? They give you stuff for writing? I wanna do THIS shit!   

How would you describe your writing style to someone who hasn’t read any of your books?Which author would you compare your work to or would you?

My style is not to everyone's taste, I know that. I accept that. It's rough-going, but elegant I think. And most foul. Very Sexy. Over the top. Naive. Scatter-brained. Loving. Lonely. Erratic, Pulsing. Electric. Intense. Moody. First person narrative but lately switiching to third person. Unafraid. Honest. Stories about bars, booze, broads, sex, death, memory, dreams, passion, adventures in foreign lands, dealing with the humanity of sketchy environs, race, class struggle, art, identity. I am proud to say that my writing shares the same flavor as, but by no means can begin to compare with the likes of Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Oscar Zeta Acosta, F. Scott Fitzerald, Nathaniel West, James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway, Henry Miller, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King. All those guys and more I read, still read, they took me into worlds I never knew, then, became familar with as I got older. Yes, they influenced me, but I've also established a beastly-voice of my own....This novel of mine,"Pieces of LA", is about all those things I listed, but it's wrapped around a murder mystery and takes place in different parts of Los Angeles, each chapter is a new area of the city. And, for the first time, I deal heavily and harshly with cultural identity. I hear it's all the rage now.          

Your books all have great shots on the covers. I know all the photography is handled by your main man Rick Mendoza. How long have you and Rick worked together and how does that influence the work you put out?

The "Mini-Beast" as I insist on calling him. Yeah, man, he's a fucking god too. We first met I forget, maybe five years ago. It was at another speakeasy called 'Higgins' that used to be at the corner of Third and Main, under a gallery. For many years. A true speakeasy too, in that, as mentioned before, with no set closing times, unlicensed debauchery, musical acts, celebrities, and hot like a motherfucker because it was in those caves that are all over the downtown area, and I noticed this dude drinking straight whiskey at the end of the bar, the way I drink. Most artists or kids have cocktails, mixed drinks, vodka and cranberry, but he was pounding Jameson Irish whiskey, like me, little ice. I thought, huh, finally a real drinker, you know? We'd see each other, tip our glasses, catch glimpses at various parties that Emmeric Konrad was taking me too and introducing me around town, and when the opportunity came up to write for the 'Citizen LA' (again, because of Emmeric's introductions, first to Linda Ford and Jonathan Jerald, then, to eventual Uber Publisher George Stiehl ), and lo and behold, Rick was starting there too as the photo editor. I'd come up with a column idea, some outlandish bit of stupidity, tell Rick about it, he'd go out a get a shot that reflected the essence of the piece. After a while, Rick and I started hanging out together on the scene, and he was snapping away, using those shots for the stories. We'd hit back stage of fashion shows, film festivals, art parks, beauty contests, after parties, drugs, sex, booze, naked girls, drunk with actors, porn stars, politicians, police raids, guns, everything. He has this roving Weegee-like eye of capturing the moment, and unafraid to go places. There was a TV crew once that wanted me to do a cable show, to show my beastly-world, and I had set up places to shoot, got permission all over town because people owed me favors for giving them good coverage for the magazine, but the cameramen they sent out couldn't keep up with me. Rick could. That's what made he and I stick. It got to a point that whenever there was an event I'd show up and Rick would be right there too, soildering on. Whiskey in hand, screaming like a madman, running and sometimes falling down, getting the shots, keeping up every step of the way. I was on book number four when I decided to ask Rick to do a cover. He's the real deal, he shoots for national publications, he's done award shows, studio work, has been flown all over to take shots of celebrities for TV and film, so I was shy to ask him to do a cover because I had no cash to pay him. Turns out he was waiting for me to ask. And all he wanted in return was credit, and lots of whiskey and tacos. Done Deal ever since....As for the covers I tell Rick what I'm thinking about, he tells me what he's thinking about, to capture the spirit of the text. He has lots of time, and then little by little I'll get the emails, jpegs attached, 'what do you think of these?' We go back and forth, tweaking, adding, bitching, until he have a final product. We'll sit at the bar at 'Coles' on 6th and Main with grilled cheese sandwiches and Kibeggan whiskeys to make it so. I like his mind for this because even though I always have an exact vision for what I want he's able to adjust it, offers another view to what I'm thinking about, and makes it perfect. My work is very visual, lots of raping of the senses, and we make sure the covers capture that. People LOVE the covers. Gotten to point now that at my shows I sell poster-sized prints of the covers. People want the Mini-Beast! In additon to the years we put in at 'Citizen LA' and the books, Rick and I have done pieces for "Artilley", a national arts magazine, and worked on projects for artist Robert Vargas' Red Zebra Art and Fashion Show over at the Crocker Club in Downtown LA. 

I caught this video of you reading “Girl In The Café”. What’s it like getting on the Mic and sharing your thoughts with strangers? Did you
ever/ Do you still get nervous?

The booze helps. Serioulsy. Nervous? Sometimes. But when I'm reading I'm in a zone, like great sex: don't bother me let me finish! HA! I have years of teaching experience, of independent travel where you make friends quickly and on the fly; I love interacting with strangers. Of being in front of large groups of people, acting the fool, so that prepared me for the public reading. I've done radio too. POWER 106FM. College radio. Internet/Cable TV. I especially like reading for strangers because they don't have to feel obligated to like it. When they do I am extremely grateful and blown away.  

As a writer I’ll assume you do lots of readings at lots of different venues all over L.A. What’s that like and do you have a favorite spot you like to read at? Why?

Christ, I've read all over the damn place. I swear to god I am the best kept dirty secret in Los Angeles. You're the first whose ever wanted to run a piece on me. Thank you...Anyway, I've read at universities, high schools, the bars, art festivals, gallery openings and closings, Million Dollar Theater, Beyond Baroque, Olvera Street, Pershing Square for Autumn Lights, Barnes and Noble, The Last Book Store, Half Off Books, Libreria Martinez (Lynwood), Edward James Olmos Literary Festival, Dutton's, Antigua Coffee House, and the radio and TV stuff, Hollywood, Westside, Eastside, Northeast, tons of Downtown LA galleries, Farmer & Merchant Bank Venue. It's fun, nerve-wracking, chaotic, exhausting, arousing, hectic; just happy that people want to hear it. But lately, after all that madness, I'd prefer to read at a quiet bookshop, tired of raising my voice over broken glasses and drunken banter, you know? Universities are cool too. Lots of hot chicks there. But no ONE favorite spot. I've done it all. Trippy because I'm nowhere as well known as all those other Latino writers. Not that I want to restrict myself, but you go where you can. I'm self-published, it can be tough. Well, no, that's not entirely true: people on the Latino art circuit have heard of me, they do know about me, but most want no part of me. They're afraid. I'm too much of a beast for them to handle. Jim's too crude, he's drinks too much, he says bad words, he sleeps around too much, he farts too loud, he's always hitting on the girls, he writes about fucking, he doesn't know Spanish, he's not really from East LA, he doesn't know the gang names, he talks too honestly about his own people instead of getting on the white man's case as you're supposed to, he angers the gods, he doesn't sacrifice his individulaity, he doesn't give proper respect to the elders...whoever the fuck they are. Please, give me a fucking break! I'm my own beast. Oh well, their loss...     

Are you working on anything right now? What can your fans expect you to release in 2012?

My next book, my 13th, is called "Beastly Bus Tales". Due out March 17th. Hardcore stories about Jack Morales, our 'hero' from my novel "Pieces of L.A." as he takes the buses every night on the way home late, after hitting the bars. The freaks he comes in contact with; the dealers, artists, prostitutes, psychos, homeless, gangsters, rich kids, the phonies, cops, racists, drunks, the whole whiskey soaked tapestry that is Los Angeles after midnight through Jack's bloodshot eyes. And Mini-Beast is doing an amazing cover! It's a brick wall, and all the bricks in the wall are like tiny tiles, each with a tiny picture illustrating the stories in the book. He's been taking pics when he can over the past six months. And spray painted in dripping red paint on this wall is the book's title. I came up with that in a dream. When I told Rick my idea he was for once speechless, but in a good way, I think. And, because I respect Rick's work so much I'm keeping my name off the front cover so as to enhance the art of it all. My name however, will be in GIANT LETTERS on the back over! HA! 

What advice would you give others (youngsters) who may be considering writing/journalism.

Don't do it....just kidding. If you really gotta do it, it had better be inside of you to begin with. You don't learn this crap. Sacrfice a lot too. Sleep. Various relatonships. Money. Be honest in your writing, even if it pisses people off. If you wanna be on Oprah, then, ok, lie. Write for yourself, that's what a real writer does. Fuck the reader. Fuck the audience. The people will come around to you. So never keep them in mind when writing. Real writing connects on its own. Be serious in your writing. You want people to woot, woot, woot you at some lame-ass poetry-slam bullshit-drum-circle or whatever, then be a comedian, don't waste your time writing. Write what you know. Get experience. Always write about something from the inside out, never from a distance. Listen. Observe. Be smart. Get drunk, fuck, get to know people, places, habits, like a cop staking out a suspect. Then attack. No mercy.
Where can your fans connect with you to keep an eye on future readings and releases? 

Fans? I got fans? First time I ever heard that one. Cheers, lad. Now, STALKERS, maybe. But, ok, if they really wanna know then I beg you to check out the following two sites:
Books (print & apple itunes/ibookstore downloads):
Events, news, work in progress, pics, random thoughts, casual sex hook
(You can also Google me, but for some reason they took down all the 'pics'. There were hundreds of pics from the past 5 years that Rick took, now it's just video stuff. I don't do the YouTube thing usually, it's always been in photos for magazines)
Thanks for your time, Beast err may I call you Beast? 

That's Mr. Beast to you, pal...

Front Cover of novel 'Pieces of LA"
'Jim Marquez at Union Station, Downtown Los Angeles"
'Jim Marquez strolling the back streets of Chinatown, one of his favorite haunts'
'Jim Marquez reading from "Pieces of L.A." at Farmers And Merchants Bank, Old Bank District/Gallery Row, Downtown LA' 
Jim Marquez Lost in Downtown LA
Cover from Jim's best selling "From East Los"
Cover from illustrated book with artist Emmeric James Konrad 'Suckling the Urban Teat'
Irish Whiskey for The Beast & Mini-Beast
Photographer Rick Mendoza at Bar 107 (Downtown LA). Photo by Jim Marquez

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Conversation with S.J. Rivera

      I had a chance to sit down with Xicano writer, author of the books, Demon In The Mirror and Amerikkkan Stories, and owner of indie publishing company, Broken Sword Publications, S.J. Rivera and ask him some questions about his writing influences, children's books and his plans to take over 2012. Okay, well, I wasn't technically sitting WITH him but I was sitting down when I wrote the questions and I assume he was sitting down when he answered them. If you're a fan like I am you're going to want to read his answers. 

At what age did you begin seriously writing and when did you begin to consider yourself a "writer"?

Does anyone ever really consider themselves a writer? I’d be curious to hear the different responses to that question. Believe it or not, I didn’t really get into writing until I was in college and started getting positive feedback from peers and professors over mundane assignments. I never had the opportunity to really “write” in high school so it was a new experience. Taking a run of the mill writing course in college really turned on a few lights in my head, so to speak…I also started reading a lot of different authors that inspired me.

I didn’t begin seriously writing until midway through college though when I began to write for a Chicano newspaper (that I helped found) and befriended some Chicano poets and writers at school. I also started doing poetry readings in and around town. We started a poetry group and would frequent the coffee shops and bars and do readings for anyone willing to listen. It was fun and there was an energy at readings that was electrifying. You’d read a piece about the hood or about the cops and people would shout out and yell. It felt good. One of the guys in the group had a portable PA and speakers and we’d post up on street corners in downtown Denver or on campus. We’d just go off in the middle of the day and spit Chicano poetry and people walking by. Sometimes we’d crash karaoke bars and perform spoken word over songs that were playing, like “Lowrider” by WAR.

I began to see that there was more to this writing thing than just dusty old books written by dead White guys. It became addictive. I also wanted my voice to be heard and I wanted to reach more people so my interest in journalism grew. At one time I wanted to be the Chicano Hunter Thompson.

Have there been times where you wanted to give up? How did you get past that? 

Yeah, a few actually - life’s funny with the lessons it teaches you. Like many from the “Fight Club” generation I figured I’d struggle for a while but eventually make it as a hotshot journalist and then be “discovered” as this unsigned talent. But real life isn’t like that.

I did indeed struggle and found out what it’s like to amass a pile of rejection letters from traditional publishers and agents. I became a bonafide journalist and discovered that it’s nothing like you think it is – where I envisioned covering “hard news”, I found myself covering 8th-grade renditions of “Bye Bye Birdie” and little league ball games. Talk about disappointment - I went from the fire of street poetry to the mendacity of covering small-town politics. It felt sterile and dead.

No matter how hard I dug for gritty, “real” news I was always tossed back into the reality of journalism – at the beck and call of advertisers…that left a bad taste in my mouth. I was hiding who I was and trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t right. I was, of course, writing all the time after work as an outlet for my corporate frustration but I had nowhere to share it. I missed the freedom of publishing a newspaper where I could say what I wanted, when I wanted, unedited and uncensored. I was at a crossroads.

After 9/11, I switched gears and became an EMT. Again, Hunter Thompson had an influence on me. He rode with the Hell’s Angels for a year and wrote a book about his experiences. I wanted to do something like that. I wanted to throw myself into something completely different and get up close and personal with death and destruction…and then write about it. I got my wish.

I ended up being certified as a firefighter/EMT and even made it half-way through paramedic school. I was hired by two top fire departments in Florida. Here I was in the middle of rookie school as a professional firefighter, signing documents on how I’d want my funeral to go (picking pallbearers etc.) when I had to throw the brakes on and really take a look at what I was doing. It was almost like an out of body experience. I knew that if I stayed as a firefighter I would dedicate the rest of my life to it – I was good at it! But my heart was never really in it and it was time to take off the mask.
I walked away from that career and turned my experiences into a book (Demon in the Mirror). I decided to once again listen to my heart and started my own publishing company and I haven’t looked back since. It was funny because when I was in rookie school; all the guys would ask me what I did before the FD and I would tell them: I was a writer. I would get lots of funny looks. I like to tell people that I was no more a firefighter than Hunter Thompson was an outlaw biker.   

Who is it (outside of family) that you would say has helped you the most? 

Hmmm…that’s an interesting question. My family has helped the most. I would say that the support and feedback that I get from people who read my work has helped quite a bit. There was a couple of counselors here and there but really, family has been the strongest supporter. This thing I do – it requires that you push yourself because there are not going to be a lot of people there to help you. You have to know what you want and be willing to go after it. Some might say it’s a pipedream to become a “writer”…but like they say, the difference between a professional and an amateur is that the pro never gave up. I’ve always pushed myself the most but friends and family have helped tremendously.

Who are some of your favorite authors and what is it that you like about their work?

Whew! There’s a bunch. Hunter S. Thompson is one of my all-time favorite writers. He was amazing. He made me want to be a journalist and a “gonzo” writer. I wanted to be the Chicano Hunter Thompson! He was unafraid to be himself on the page. A lot of people hold back and edit themselves before they ever commit a word but Thompson always wrote whatever he thought and I really respected that. He had a knack with words that made political stories come off like poetry. He was an amazing journalist and a very talented writer. He investigated the Ruben Salazar story long before the mainstream knew what a ‘Chicano’ was. He wrote about politics drugs, booze, and the perils of the American dream. He made being a writer exciting.

Other favorites include Henry Rollins, Richard Matheson, Rod Serling, Stephen King, William S. Burroughs, Rodolfo Acuna, Rodolfo Gonzales, Subcomandante Marcos, Che Guevarra…and a ton of others. Rollins really had a huge impact on my writing because he was another writer who was not afraid to speak his mind. His writing really appealed to me at a time when I was bored with the “classic” poets and writers. Reading his work was like getting hit with a sledgehammer and I dug that. He also created his own publishing company and carved his own path into the literary world all by himself and I really respected that and wanted to do something similar. Oddly enough, I have a rejection letter from him as well. It says, “Good Luck, Mr. R”. All of the rejection letters and the naysayers motivated me.  

I've read DITM & AS. The poetry and short stories are definitely "Hardcore". How many real life experiences have you shared w/ your readers in those two books?

I like putting a lot of honesty into my work. It’s raw, unrefined and like broken glass. You don’t read a whole lotta stuff like anymore that because people are afraid to be honest about themselves in their art. There’s actually quite a few real-life influences in both works. I’d never admit to all of them and there’s legal disclaimers at the beginning of both books [laughs]. But there’s a lot of truth in both books.

Everyone gets their ideas from somewhere and I’ve always contended that Stephen King must have had the shit beat out of him by some nasty bullies when he was growing up because he writes about it so convincingly. I had a newspaper ask me once if I had ever killed anyone (regarding DITM) and while the question was offensive I took it as a compliment – if my work is making you think twice the I am doing something right.

A lot of things that I write I will lend my imagination to – I enjoy letting the theater of the mind take over and watching what happens. A lot of times I’m speaking to something that happened in the past and embellishing it a little. Other times it’s exactly how it went down. Other times still, complete fiction. I like leaving the reader guessing. I think that’s part of the fun in my work – you’re never really quite sure if I’m pulling the wool over your eyes or not. That said, I think the seriousness of certain pieces speak for themselves. 

Do you have any advice for other writers? (Particularly young writers)

Read. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Read until your blue in the face. If you don’t have time to read you don’t have time to write. Then…write!! Write until your hands hurt. Copy writers you like. Try and get their voice down. But write…you have to get all of those bad stories out of you before you can start writing the good ones and sometimes that takes a while, trust me.

Don’t give up and don’t let people tell you ‘you can’t’ do something. I hated a lot the early stuff that I wrote – to this day, much of it is unreadable to me but it was necessary to “get it out” so that I could learn from my mistakes.

So I would tell young people to not give up, despite negative criticism etc. The world will always need good storytellers, despite advances in technology. Also, write what you want to read! It doesn’t make sense to write something you wouldn’t like to read yourself. I know a lot of people say to write what you know but I think it’s more important to write what you love.  

Your books are self-published. Tell people what that process is like and what the pros/cons might be when going that route. 

It’s a steep learning curve and it can seem overwhelming sometimes. I struggled for a long time to find a traditional publisher and wasn’t getting anywhere. If you read my stuff you’ll see that the kind of stuff I write is not going to end up in the Penguin Anthology of Poetry. I decided to take matters into my own hands much like Henry Rollins did. I was determined to do it myself…whatever that meant. So I read, researched, dotted my I’s and crossed my t’s and here I am. I am the owner of a bonafide independent publishing company. Small but all mine. I’m the boss.

I’ll start with the cons first. You’re on your own. Any and all money required is going to come solely from you. It’s an uphill battle trying to compete with traditional publishers who can afford marketing and promotion, book tours and press. It’s a constant struggle to keep your name out there and to compete with the big name authors who have a corporation backing them. So, it kind of sucks to see celebs hawking their books (they didn’t write) on these lavish book tours but it’s more rewarding to have people actually read and enjoy your book without having to goad them into it with status or big name pubs.

The pros are that I have total control over what I write and how I market myself. No one can tell me anything. I choose the title of my books, the layout, I edit the writing, I choose the artwork – I have total freedom to say whatever I want. I can pursue and publish whomever I want. I love that freedom!

A lot of writers can’t say that because they are restricted by their contracts with their publishers or agents. They have to maintain an image and they have to meet their obligations. I enjoy the freedom to be myself and I think my work reflects that.

I started my business with the intent of seeking out the kind of work that traditional publishers would not spit at. It’s a tremendous effort to put together a book and get it on the market so there’s a sense of self-accomplishment. It’s indeed easier for anyone to self-publish these days because of technology but it’s hard to publish something that people actually want to read. I have a great sense of pride when people tell me they enjoy my books and the work that went into them.

There’s this negative stigma against self-published authors that stems from the traditional publishers wanting to corner the market. The truth of the matter is that there is more freedom in self-publishing now than ever before. There might not be as much money in it but not everyone does it with the illusions of getting rich. I started off doing this just wanting to get my work out there and that still holds true today. It’s nice to make money doing it but that was never the sole intent. As an independent publisher and a Xicano one at that, I feel that I am carving out my own niche and having a blast doing it.  

Are you working on anything right now? 

There are a few things in the works…some secret some not [laughs]. I am always writing so you never know what will come together. For starters, I want to publish an anthology of Latino lit in 2012. I’m looking for raw, hard-hitting talent and I want to showcase that in a book.

Books like that are few are far between so I want to help change that if I can. Again, I want to publish books that I would want to read. I’m hoping to get a couple of heavy hitters on board for that book but we’ll see how things work out.

I’m always writing new material. I may re-release the out of print “Alcohol Soaked and Nicotine Stained” and I’m also working on a short story collection.

What can your readers expect in 2012? (Any children’s books? LOL)

It’s funny that you say that because I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book! I still might someday, it depends. They can expect more of the same from BSP. I’m excited about the future of this endeavor. 2011 was a great year for BSP. I strive to fill a void with my books and hopefully I am doing that and want to continue.

I am hoping to make more public appearances if I can and also to reach out to young people and show them that they have a voice. I think people can expect BSP to come out strong in 2012. This is gonna be a crazy year and I want to be a part of that.

Is there anything you write just for yourself? How much of your writing will never see the light of day? 

Oh yeah - all kinds of stuff. There’s a ton of material that I wrote before my first two books were published (I’m talking volumes) and there’s stuff that was edited out of both of them as well. I write all the time. Some of it will never be shared with people because not everything is for public consumption. A lot of it is too personal. I think Luis Urrea said in an interview once that when you are writing you want to avoid revealing too much because it comes off like a sledgehammer – instead, he said, you want to reveal just enough so as to cut like a scalpel. That resonated with me quite a bit because a lot of my material is very personal. I like to do both…but yeah, a lot of is just for me.

If anybody would like to get info on how they can submit their writing for your anthology or get in touch with you how can they do that? 

You can email me or send submissions for consideration to mail@brokenswordpublications

You can find me on Twitter @sjrivera and @brokenswordpub
You can find me at my website: or on my facebook page:

I host a monthly podcast show which is archived on my site or you can look me up on Sound Cloud at

There you have it. A closer look into the mind of the man behind Broken Sword Publications. Great stuff coming from S.J. Rivera in 2012. I'd stay tuned if I were you.