Lonnie G. Johnson - Inventor of the Super Soaker

Redefining Black Friday – Celebrating Black Inventors

It’s the day after Thanksgiving in the US again, also known as “Black Friday”. In recent tradition, this has been a day of rampant, unapologetic commercialism. Hordes of eager shoppers rush to stores to kick off the Christmas shopping season and spend money they don’t really have. Well, I’m tired of it, as many of you are (including outdoor sporting goods chain REI, who announced their anti-Black Friday stance with much fanfare). So let’s change it. Let’s make Black Friday something meaningful.

Let’s talk about brilliant black people.

It might surprise you to learn that, as a kid growing up with a strong interest in science and technology, I actually had a lot of black role models in those fields. My schools in Detroit did a great job of exposing me to the great African-American scientific minds like Charles Drew (father of the blood bank), Mae C. Jemison (first African-American female astronaut), and of course George Washington Carver (the peanut guy). But once I got out of Detroit and started interacting with my white classmates and co-workers, I realized that they hadn’t received the same education I had. Their knowledge of non-white scientists was sadly, sorely lacking.

Today I took to Twitter to spread my message of #BlackFriday tech entrepreneurs.

This is just meant as a starting point to incite curiosity and plant a thought seed. I’m sure I missed a bunch. Feel free to add some in the comments.

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else

Living the writing life

My poor, lonely blog has been neglected for a while. It’s largely because I’ve been focused on finishing my new screenplay, thinking about what I’m going to do with my latest novel, and the usual various tasks that a man in his 30s has to take care of. Ironically, I’ve been so busy writing I haven’t had time to write in the blog.

But, in a way, that’s a good thing because it shows that I’m so absorbed in my work that few outside forces can take me away from it. I’ve had an incredible run of creativity over the last 6 months and I’ve finally produced some stories that were percolating in the back of my mind for years, and others that were totally new ideas I didn’t even know I had in me. It’s fulfilling work, more fulfilling than all of my other accomplishments.

That’s why I keep doing it. It’s lonely, not financially stable, oftentimes frustrating, and sometimes humbling work. But it’s the only thing that really makes me feel alive.

So I keep writing.


Death of a fan

Today I learned that one of my faithful readers, Randy, has died.

He had been disabled for a long time, and mostly confined to his home. But he used social media to connect with people around the world. He knew he was not long for this world, so he had arranged for his family to post a Facebook message to all his online friends. It was one of the most moving things I’d ever read.

I’m not a hugely popular author, but I do have a number of people I’d call “fans”, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have them as supporters. I always say that writing a story is only half the work; the other half is finding people who care about it. Whenever I find someone who genuinely cares about what I do, I cherish them and I do my best to care about what goes on in their lives too.

Randy and I were friends on Facebook, and although I’d never met him in person, his posts were a constant source of entertainment in my feed. He read voraciously, and often supported indie authors (I found more than a few interesting reads because of him). He was an unapologetic and fierce Democrat, and although he was even further to the left than I am, his passion was genuine and informed and I never felt like I needed to disagree with him.

It is often said that the online era has made human relationships distant, cold, and devalued. Sometimes, that is true. But it is also true that technology has enabled ways for us to connect with people across vast distances, and through difficult circumstances. I never met Randy in person, but I knew him in a small way for many years, and I know that the people he met online helped ease the pain.

Rest in eternal peace, my friend.

Nightcrafters preview

My new novel is in Kindle Scout, and you can help it win!

My new novel, Nightcrafters, is now participating in the Kindle Scout program. If I get enough nominations, Amazon just might officially publish it! And, if you nominate and Nightcrafters “wins”, you get a copy of the eBook for free! So please get your clicking fingers ready and nominate my book. It only takes a second, and I’ll love you forever!

Nominate Nightcrafters on Kindle Scout

Nightcrafters preview

Sneak Peek: My new novel, Nightcrafters

At last, I can reveal what I’ve been working on for over a year. My latest sci-fi/fantasy novel is Nightcrafters, and you’ll be able to read it soon.


Kal Kai was once a nightcrafter-in-training until he learned the cruel truth of the craft. Every time someone uses magic, they lure dangerous creatures into our world. After his mentor expels him from the nightcrafter ranks, Kal meets a high-ranking government official and a flirtatious scientist with a modern theory of magic. Together, they have all the skills needed to stop the nightcrafters for good. But Kal’s greatest opponent will be the same man who taught him everything he knows.

Nightcrafters- fantasy and science fiction by Ramsey Isler

Screenplay with annotations

Adventures in Screenwriting

I’ve started writing movie scripts. My first one is basically complete, and currently undergoing edits. I’m in that special “gratification” phase between “I’ll never finish” and “everything I wrote is crap and I don’t know why I’m doing this”. Needless to say, I’m enjoying the gratification while it lasts.

But, as a novelist, I have to say I enjoyed writing a full length story in a month. Novels are long, laborious works of love and sweat and pain and joy. But the screenplay thing is quick in comparison, and an exciting process from beginning to end. I am 100% sure that this is because I’ve spent so many years crafting stories in long form. Somebody just starting out in screenwriting would probably find it very challenging. It’s all relative.

For me, screenplays are an outlet for the stories I’ve had in my head for years, but they weren’t quite right for a book. Sometimes I think of stories that are rich in visuals, audio, and sight gags…and it’s quite difficult to pull those off in prose. But with the screenplay I can paint with images, and that’s creatively liberating.


Movie Review: Ida

One of the Oscar categories that Americans routinely do not “get” is the Foreign Language film. Mainstream audiences typically hate subtitles, and they really hate stories they can’t relate to. The cinema sensibilities of Europe, South America, and Asia don’t always cleanly translate to those of us used to Hollywood structure, and Ida is sadly just the latest film fitting the trend. Ida is black and white, slow, takes place in Poland, and has very little music. For all those reasons, it was destined to be a movie not many people saw. But it is a beautiful film nonetheless, and one worth watching mainly because of its cinematography.

To be honest, I found it a little hard to watch Ida all the way through. At one hour and 22 minutes run-time it’s not even a long movie, but its slow pace makes it feel like it’s dragging along. Much of that is due to the film’s remarkable lack of sound. There’s little dialogue, and hardly any music. But this is not the kind of movie you watch for thrills and excitement.

Where Ida really shines is in its visual storytelling, but it doesn’t use expensive CGI or rich colorful landscapes. Director Pawel Pawlikowski pulls off the amazing feat of making the ordinary look stunning. He takes simple, drab settings that most of us would not pay any attention to and he puts them in a different perspective that finds astonishing beauty in mundane surroundings.


I like directors who try to make their movies so beautiful that each shot is a work of art, and Ida is that kind of movie. From beginning to end, you can take a random moment in the film, print it, stick on the wall of an art exhibit, and pass it off as the work of a master photographer. That’s what makes this film truly special. The story isn’t much, and it’s certainly not going to leave you with any good feelings when the end credits roll, but you will definitely remember the images which tell a story far behind the sparse words in the script.


This post is part of my Oscars 2015 series, where I review/discuss movies up for that coveted golden trophy. Check out the first post in the series, my review of Birdman