Saturday, April 30, 2005

Spring Cleaning

I bought a desk last week. A real cool, slick, modern L-shaped desk. Thought it would be perfect to set up in my room. It's sitting, in two-parts, in the living room. The elephant in the room that visitors see, but don't comment on.

Problem is... sometimes I can be a pack rat. Tons of old drafts of novels and short stories. In folders. In Kinkos boxes. One 300-page draft on top of another on top of another. Sitting in the corner where I planned to put the desk.

So today was/is spring cleaning day. Destroying manuscript drafts. Tearing up old bills, too. Re-arranging the room to fit the new desk.

I needed a break. Came to the computer in the dining room. This is where I've usually done my writing. Not always the most convenient. With visitors. TV. Stereo. Books. I needed a desk in my room. By Sunday it'll be there. I hope.

Just gotta finish cleaning up. You know how a room gets messy before it's better? That's me. Messy. The storm before the calm.

All for a desk. Hmmm...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Chicana Role Model, Michele Serros

The past two days I've met some great creative people. Yesterday I met Vanessa Williams (Melrose Place/Soul Food the Showtime series)... more on her in a bit.

Today, I met Michele Serros, a great California born-and-bred writer who's now living in NYC. She came back home, so to speak, today to do a few book signings and appearances in the L.A. area. So I got to hear her speak and meet afterwards. She read from her two books, Chicana Falsa, and How to Be a Chicana Role Model. Then talked with us about writing, publishing, and getting stories told.

Michele is hilarious and a great storyteller. She shared her experiences working in Hollywood, as she helped with the original writing team that launched The George Lopez Show, and before that worked as a page for the show In Living Color that launched the careers of Jim Carrey, the Wayans family, and of course, Jennifer Lopez. You gotta read Serros' essay, "Seek Support from Sistas" in How to Be a Chicana Role Model for dish on how a certain dancer, now famous singer, on the show interacted with our young, innocent page on the set. Hmmm...

The overall message: everyone has a story, no matter what the NYC publishing industry tells you, no matter what the L.A. television/film industry tells you, and you don't have to please Missouri or Iowa to be true to yourself, your cultura, or for your work to be deemed acceptable.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

You're From California If...

I cracked at Alabama earlier. A friend from San Francisco shared this with me... not my jokes... but a forward. Thought I'd share.

So as not to be outdone by all the redneck, hillbilly, and Texan jokes, you know you're from California if:

1. Your coworker has 8 body piercing's and none are visible.

2. You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.

3. You take a bus and are shocked at two people carrying on a conversation in English.

4. Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair, a nose ring, and is named Flower.

5. You can't remember . . . . is pot illegal?

6. You've been to a baby shower that has two mothers and a sperm donor.

7. You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian.

8. You can't remember . . is pot illegal?

9. A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.

10. Gas costs $1.00 per gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.

11. Unlike back home, the guy at 8:30 am at Starbucks wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like George Clooney really IS George Clooney.

12. Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.

13. You can't remember . . . .is pot illegal?

14. It is barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news station: "STORM WATCH."

15. You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with their cells or pagers.

16. It is barely sprinkling rain outside, so you leave for work an hour early to avoid all the weather-related accidents.

17. HEY!!!! Is pot illegal????

18. Both you AND your dog have therapists.

19. The Terminator is your governor.

20. If you drive illegally, they take your driver's license. If you're here illegally, they want to give you one but not really.

21. Police car chases interrupt your afternoon and prime time television viewing... and newscasters give you the play-by-play like it's a sports match.

22. You can go for days without seeing or interacting with someone who's white.

23. You consider the mall the same as a babysitter.

24. Your idea of getting chubby is a woman's size 6 and a man's size 32.

25. When you see celebrities, it's no big deal.

26. Your doctor finds a way to bill your insurance company for veneers, botox, whitening, and other body/face surgical enhancements as procedures that are medically necessary.

27. You've heard of Republicans, but never met one.

They Read in Alabama?

OK. Maybe that's a mean thing to say about Alabama.

Real mean. I know they read there. They have to. Well, enough to read and write legislation keeping black folks "in their place" for many years... and now, they wanna keep gay folks "in their place" too. Or at least writers. And books with gay characters.

OK, Alabamans (or fans, or those with distant cousins, err, spouses from the state, or those with grandparents still living there...) Give us 10 reasons why Alabama is misunderstood. Because some of us artists, progressive types, and those living in the 2005s don't get it.
Posted by Hello

Savage Garden by Denise Hamilton

My good friend and writing mentor, Denise Hamilton, has a new novel coming out next week. Savage Garden.It's book number four in the popular Eve Diamond crime novel series. And this one is poised to be her breakout, most successful one yet.

If you haven't checked out Denise's work, in summary, her novels follow a fictional L.A. Times crime reporter, Eve Diamond, who uncovers and ends up solving crimes in various parts of Los Angeles. Now, these aren't your typical L.A. places often covered in national media. No Hollywood glamour, no west side glorification. Denise Hamilton's novels takes place where the stories of real L.A. take place -- East L.A., San Gabriel Valley, East Hollywood, Silver Lake, South L.A., etc... And her characters are Latino, Armenian, African American, Chinese... just the sort of folks who make up the majority of L.A., but we don't see in national media about L.A.

Denise's past novels include
The Jasmine Trade, Sugar Skull, and Last Lullaby. The Eve Diamond crime novel series has been optioned by Hollywood for possible film production. Great news. Denise also blurbed my novel coming out in July.

Check out
Savage Garden, log onto her website, and show some love for one of L.A. hottest crime novelists.
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Too Much Botox, And...

Future Writer. Wannabe model. Look at those pastels and open collar. Loved pink waaaaayyyyyyy before it was hot in Spring 2005. Dude, right on. Dynomite!

Thank God he grew into his ears. So much for them calling me dumbo, huh? These ears listened, remembered things, and then he learned to write darn good dialogue based on what they heard. hmmm...

And now that he's learned how to add pictures to the blog... look out world! (And no, my botox didn't revert me back to elementary school appearance... I wouldn't dare... but one of my characters might!!! hmmm....)
fs Posted by Hello


Some fun links (mostly writing blogs and sites) for you to check out when you have time:

Former editor at VIBE magazine.
Friends with Benefits, September 2005.
Quizzes and free things to post on your blog.
The Lipstick Librarian.
The Library Diva.
Desiree's Jacked Up World.
Diet and Write at the Same Time.
Rod's New Location.
The Daily Texican.

That's all for now. More later.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

First Book Jitters

so i'm finally figuring out that not everyone has a book coming out, that it's not some everyday thing, and that i need to be more proud and outspoken about it. but outspoken to whom? if not everybody publishes books, how can they relate? will they think you're just bragging? do they really know?

so here in l.a. i have a friend, liza palmer, who has a book coming out late summer: Conversations With The Fat Girl. liza and i vent, talk, laugh, e-mail, worry... about everything related to our books. it's our first book experience. first book jitters. you only get this experience once. and my friend tayari jones says to enjoy the ride, enjoy everything about it. she's on book two now. do i even have a shot at a career in this? is there life after down for whatever? don't wanna be a one-hit-wonder (assuming dfw is a hit). these are the things first-time novelists think, wonder, fret about... it helps to have a clicque of writers/authors... outside your regular friends, family, and support network.

the other day i finished reading "playing with boys" by alisa valdes rodriguez, and was reading her back flap bio information. and i noticed that the person who designs her covers is the same person who designed mine!!!!! i was so beside myself with happiness. something in common with one of the most popular authors out there. i guess i look for small little victories everywhere. artist is michael storrings, along with kristine noble on mine. see any similarities? ok. maybe a stretch, but still. gotta get the book, pwb, if you haven't already.

so yeah, back to Book Expo America. i'll be in NYC in june for the event. book people everywhere-- booksellers, distributors, agents, authors, editors, you name it and they're there. i was totally surprised they (kensington) put me at an autographing table. i guess that means they don't mind putting me out front representing kensington, huh? that's cool. let me stop. i worry too much. i'll be in nyc for ncore (national conference on race and ethnicity in higher education) at the same time. running from conference to conference, hotel to hotel. always running. always working (out). hope it pays off.

as for new york... and the summer... i'm like... i need like a billion dollars to do everything i want to do to shine this summer... facials, teeth whitening (professionally, not crest white strips, lol), new casual and professional clothes (my sister pointed out that it wouldn't be cool to be photographed at different events in the same outfit... that's what sisters are for, huh?), and travel money. first timers sometimes front a lot of their own costs of promotion, unless they're the boy/girl wonder of the literary season. in my head, yeah. in reality, hmmm.... :-)

and i found out that liza and i check e-mail like a billion times a day waiting for some new word from nyc -- our agents and publishers. and we save all the notes. and sometimes re-open them as if they're new. just to feel like there's something new. there's a lot of silence. that's okay. it means everyone is getting their time, place, and attention when it's due. mine is july. it will pick up may and june.

first book jitters. it ain't cool. but it is cool.

in may i'll know everything that's happening. everything will be confirmed. i'll know where i'm going to be.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Taylor Forrester is Back

I was in the grocery store today. A long line. Glancing at the magazine racks. Oprah looks fab for the 5th anniversary issue of O. Several mags are offering their summer diet tips. They sell hardback novels in stores these days. Hmmm... Then I saw Soap Opera Digest and saw the most amazing news!!!

Taylor Hayes Forrester is coming back to The Bold and The Beautiful. Now you already know I'm a fan of Young and the Restless. I used to watch B&B faithfully... until Taylor "died" a couple years ago. Now... not so much.

OK. So it's not as moving as say... troops coming back from Iraq. Or gas prices going down. Or figuring out who will be voted off American Idol this week. But still... it's news!!!

Taylor is/was played by Hunter Tylo. Formerly of All My Children and Days of our Lives. Two times formerly of The Bold and The Beautiful. Who once sued, and won, a lawsuit for being wrongfully terminated from a prime-time soap because she was pregnant (and the producers felt her appearance would change and not allow her to be sexy in her role). She went on to get pregnant again soon after... didn't tell anyone she was pregnant... and while like seven months pregnant, and on the witness stand, revealed her pregnancy to the shocked courtroom. No one knew she was pregnant... even at seven months or so. Anyway... she won $5 million in the suit and the case helped pave the way for the industry to look at looks and pregnancy discrimination. Gloria Allred was her attorney.

The character of Taylor Hayes Forrester is/was a landmark character for daytime television. The actress, Hunter Tylo, wanted to portray a wholesome, family-oriented character who did all she could to keep her family together, who had morals, values, and integrity. A good character who suffered, yet did good, for all around her, she maintained her dignity in the face of insurmountable odds. Her character "died" about two years ago while protecting her arch enemy, Brooke Logan Forrester Forrester Forrester, from a bullet from a crazed Sheila Carter.

Now, Taylor is coming back. And I imagine many long-time viewers will return too, once the character returns.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Book Fest

L.A. Festival of Books was really cool. Volunteered and worked one session. Something on science fiction. Not my normal genre of literature. Interesting fans. Interesting comments. Not a very culturally diverse crowd or panel. But I guess every genre has its target demographic. Hmmm...

Ran into lots of good friends and new friends.

Horacio N. Roque Ramirez, a cool academic from
UC Santa Barbara, who was really excited about my book and said it fits with his courses and academic research. He does a lot of work on media representation, LGBT Chicana/os and Latina/os, and images. I met him at an academic talk he did last fall in L.A. and was like: I wanna be smart like you, Horacio. So in awe. I hope his students appreciate him.

Brenda Martinez, this really cool independently published author. Her book is called
Toe-Dancing in Frenzied Circles: True Tales of Anytown, USA. What makes Brenda stand out is that she's not afraid to hustle. With her bright purple hat, book stand hitched around her shoulders and chest, she's out there working her book. Gotta admire a hard worker like that. I first met her at the West Hollywood Book Fair in 2004.

My friend Gerlie Collado, who I knew from my
University of San Francisco days. Ran into her out of nowhere.

I passed out close to 1,000 postcards for Down For Whatever. People seem interested and eagerly awaiting my literary debut. That's cool. Hope it translates to sales come July 5.

Happy Sunday. Off to a baby shower... a first for me!

Fresas Eat Hot Dogs Too!

So Friend X was excited about Date P coming to town from San Fran and introducing The Crew to Date P. Friend X prefaced us -- Date P is real fresa: preppy, rich, pretty, light, stuck up, from money, etc...

Date P and sisters, let's call them
Hocus Pocus Latina style (except not funny or charming at all), came into town to see Laura Pausini. Real fresa style, the Hocus Pocus sisters flew in from Mexico to L.A. just to see the concert. Puff puff, as Joan Rivers would say.

So Saturday Friend X introduced Date P, the Hocus Pocus sisters, and The Crew. It was real like this. Like Date P and the Hocus Pocus sisters didn't expect a black person to be in the mix. Except, like the picture you saw, when I extended my smile and a hand... they didn't even reach back. That's nice. Not.

And Friend X noticed and didn't do anything about it. That's nice. Not.

Is it a pre-requisite that Dates and The Crew at least have respect for each other? Do you need to like your friends' dates? Do they need to like you? Hmmm... What do you think? Is it a package deal? I don't think anyone needs anyone's approval, however, when a glaring red-flag like rudeness, snubbing, rejection come up, especially to your friends... it's like... HELLO. A red flag.

Well, true to Hocus Pocus style, when the night was over, which crew of fresas were first in line at the hot dog stand? Buying and eating up a storm of L.A. after-hour delicacies -- hotdogs, wrapped in bacon, topped with jalapenos, onions, mayonnaise, etc... I call 'em Danger Dogs because the late night calories are dangerous and a formula for diet disaster. Hmmm...

I guess the Hocus Pocus fresas are not too good to be seen eating in public, at 3 am, in a busy valet parking lot. I hope the fresas turn into gordas. Well, they kinda already are... but a little bit of money can buy clothes that hide what nature has amply provided.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Book Cover Under The Knife

I love my book cover. My book cover is changing.

Not majorly. Just a few nips and tucks. Colors will stay the same. The middle figure will get a bit of a refresher... baseball hat tilted to side, will lose an earring, maybe lose a chain, too.

Covers are an important marketing tool of novels. It's the first thing customers see and judge. Editorial boards discuss and debate their market research, who the target customer is, and what perception potential covers leave. Bookstore chains offer their feedback on covers and what they feel will compel customers to choose a book. Covers also affect how many books a store may order.

Last year when I met Eric Jerome Dickey at the L.A. Festival of Books, he offered that his biggest sellers have been books with some combination of yellow, red, and orange in it.

When I was asked for general ideas about the cover, I offered EJD's answer: some yellows, reds, or oranges. I offered a few photographs of people and fashions. Then Kensington and their brilliant artists Kristine Noble and Michael Storrings worked their magic. I loved the cover from the beginning, and had one or two ideas about enhancing the middle figure that I offered.

So now middle figure will be going under the knife and coming back slightly refreshed next time you see him in July.

Eric Jerome Dickey

Eric Jerome Dickey is one of my favorite contemporary authors. He writes fast-paced, L.A.-based fiction, mostly about women... though lately, he's introduced some strong work featuring male leads. Very cool.

My favorite of his 10+ collection of novels -- The Other Woman. I've introduced it to so many people, and their reaction is all the same... starts slow, but when the "it" hits, the book is on! It's fast, furious, and unfolds in so many unexpected ways that you're just like, WOW! You gotta check it out!

Last year when I volunteered at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, I served as an author escort and EJD was one of the authors I got to escort to his panel. Great guy. Down to earth. Funny. And has a great rapport with his fans. Like a great big family reunion.

EJD has a new book coming out in May, Genevieve. It's getting lots of buzz so far from old and new fans.

Hope you can make it to the L.A. Festival of Books at UCLA this weekend! The event is free. All you pay is $7 for parking. Lots of activity for adults, teens, and kids... but just an overload of fun for book lovers everywhere. You'll see me running around campus in my bright yellow volunteer t-shirt!

p.s. for past book recommendations, take a look at this or this or this or this or this. ok. that's all.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Say Something... I'm So Jealous

So by now, most of us have purchased or heard the new Mariah and the new Faith Evans. Cool, awesome, dandy, fabulous.

Why can't I get #5 on Mariah "Say Something" and #7 on Faith "Jealous" out my head? They're my morning drive-to-work songs. They're singing to me all day. I'm bopping down the hall telling people, "If it's worth your while then say something good to me..."

OK. So we're literary and a little pop culturey (maybe not a real word, but ya get it???) in L.A. Who says you can't be both? :-)

hey, hey, hey... hey, hey

Anwar, Applewhites and the Abbotts

So sorry to see Anwar gone from American Idol. He's great. Will go far in his career, I'm sure. Anwar was one of my original favorites... now it's Carrie, Vonzell, and Bo. Who knows Anwar and can set up an interview with me? Research... novel, ya know?

So first we heard
Alfre Woodard is joining Desperate Housewives. Here's the guy who'll play her son... well I'll just link up to Brotha2Brotha for this one. I hear this is going to be one "interesting" family. The Applewhite Family, supposedly. And I hear mom is totally obsessed with her son NOT leaving the house. Hmmm...

Been so behind on other important events... like what's happening with the Abbotts and Newmans and Winters families on Young and the Restless. About six episodes behind. Can anyone fill me in? It's my favorite... and here's a link to a past entry with a link to some of the show's classic catfights and confrontations o'the day.

Happy Thursday... until later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bills... Bills... Bills...

Not talking Destiny's Child songs from 1999.

We're talking about your neighbor, your colleague in the next cubicle, your cousin... or maybe even you. If you or anyone you know is stuggling with bills... who isn't, okay?... but I'm talking on the verge of total financial collapse or bankruptcy, well the credit card and bank lobbyists have won the hearts and minds of our politicians in D.C.

A bill will be signed that will make it harder for people to file bankruptcy. Some say this will make life for those with financial problems even more problematic. Not saying that people shouldn't take responsibility for their financial choices. We are all responsible for our choices, but some of our choices are shaped by society at large.

We live in a consumer-driven and capitalistic (duh) society, where people -- especially those without a lot of $$$ -- are tempted by the material goods they see in videos, on sports stars, by their employers on the other side of the tracks. Every day, a new product targets us. We're told to spend more and it will help keep the economy afloat. But if you don't get good lessons from home on how to manage money, plastic, savings... you make mistakes. I see it in college students all the time.

So now, instead of the good old days of being able to completely write off debt and start anew in 7 years or so... consumers considering bankruptcy will have to work out payment plans and pay back the banks and stores that tempted them in the first place with offers of plastic and products. Hmmm...

How many of our large corporations have gotten away with more, while Mattie down the street and Joaquin the barber will have to pay out the pocket?

The West Coast is Literary Too

And just to prove it, if anyone is in L.A. this weekend please attend the L.A. Times Festival of Books at UCLA. This is the 10th year of the festival, and close to 200,000 guests are expected. At least that's what they told us last weekend during volunteer training. I'm volunteering during the festival. Didn't get on a panel this year. Maybe next. But I can still network and meet cool folks.

They say the L.A. Festival of Books is the largest book fest/fair on the West Coast... and some say in the country. And everyone says that L.A. is only about screenwriting and movies. Which may be true... to some extent.

But I count many novel writers among my close friends or acquaintences or just writers I wanna have as acquaintences, okay :-) ... and they're all from the L.A. area: Jervey Tervalon, Denise Hamilton, Kerry Madden, Liza Palmer, Eric Jerome Dickey, Nina Revoyr, Deborah Vankin, Diana Wagman, Trent Jackson, Sheneska Jackson, Bebe Moore Campbell.

Novel writing isn't just an East Coast thing anymore. And with the multiple realities of ethnicity, class, and gender that shape life on the West Coast, the stories coming from this side of the U.S. are reflecting the people who would buy more books if their lives were represented more fully in fiction. But that day and time are coming.

I still have to laugh, though, at a conversation my friend Jervey said he had with an East Coast editor not from the U.S. originally, who said there aren't more books out there about Latinos because they didn't think Latinos spoke English or bought English-language books. That they didn't think the way L.A. is presented in some stories -- people of all ethnicities and classes living, working, loving together whether by force or choice -- was real. I'm paraphrasing, but it's more interesting when Jervey tells it. Jervey's cool like that.

That's why, if you're living on the West Coast and a writer, you have to continue to write stories reflecting the diverse experiences and groups here... because (and take note East Coast folks) the California reality will be the reality for the rest of the U.S. very soon. It already is, just not recognized or valued. And we all know California sets the trends and tests the waters for everything...

Anyway, hopefully I'll run into some of you this weekend at UCLA at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. I'll be in my bright yellow volunteer shirt... along with the thousand other volunteers!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Writing Rituals

Some writers say they must have coffee. Some say they must write only when the muse hits them. Others... write at any spare moment -- jotting notes while in traffic, keeping a notebook on the subway train, while on breaks at work. Some need an air-conditioned room. Some need natural light and an open window.

It's interesting hearing when people say they write best. Only in the afternoon. Only at night after everyone is sleep. First thing in the morning. In a noisy mall setting on Saturday at 12:37. Hmmm...

We all do it differently. One question someone asked me this weekend was this: how do I find the time to write... and especially with a full-time day job?

Here's my secret. Once I really got serious about my goal to be a published novelist, everything just kinda came together. That was in September 2001. I enrolled in fiction classes first. After that, I networked with classmates and the guests my teachters invited to class. I also joined writing groups, where we get together and give/receive feedback on each other's work-in-progress. I didn't know ANYONE who'd ever written or published a book before that point. I learned everything -- how to format a manuscript, how to write query letters, how to get the first five pages so compelling that someone would want to read on -- on my own, but also with the help of teachers and the writing mentors I eventually made and listened to.

For the longest time when it came to goals, I would tell people, "I wanna do this," or "I wanna do that." And then never did any of it. In 2001, I made a choice to not be one of those "I'm gonna" people, and just do the work on whatever goal I set. In the matter of writing, I didn't tell anyone I was taking classes, joining groups, or writing a novel. I just did it, learned and made mistakes along the way, and then let the results speak for themselves.

Kinda like losing weight. I always grew up a skinny kid and college student. After grad school, and when more money flowed in, I had more options of places and types of food to eat. I didn't exercise, or I should say increase my exercise, when I noticed my metabolism was slowing. Finally, last year -- August 1 -- I decided on my own that I was tired of carrying around 30+ pounds of post-college weight. And joined a national weight-loss program online and kicked up my workouts. Eight months later, and no longer on the program, I'm 35+ pounds lighter, but still doing the work to maintain. I did this on my own. Didn't want to be an "I'm gonna lose weight" person and then not follow up on my word.

I digress... but for me it helped to just do what I wanted to do, what I set my mind on. Despite the busy schedule. Despite long days. Despite knowing I didn't always know what I wanted to write or if I would ever get published. Despite knowing I was kinda doing this on my own and taking a risk.

But... for the record, my writing ritual is this: I set my alarm for 4:30 am. I spend 5 - 7 am writing. Monday through Friday. If not writing, I'm reading articles related to writing and publishing. But generally, I like to write first thing in the morning, before work, before my day gets busy, before my mind gets cluttered with all the billions and one things that come my way. Plus, it's quiet. I don't turn the TV on. No one's gonna call me at 5 am. Sometimes I'll have talk radio on, but most times I write with soft music on -- jazz, slow jams, country or blues ballads. Volume is low.

While at my day job, I jot notes down about little things I see or hear that would enhance my stories. Sometimes I think about where I want the scene I'm working on to go... always figuring out how I'm going to start off the 5 am ritual so that it's not a waste of time. On lunch breaks, I'll write out small charts of what needs to happen before I get to a certain scene of a story. In the evenings, while on the treadmill or stairmaster, I'm thinking about story details for the next morning's writing date.

I generally don't write on weekends. I like to do stuff. But if I do write on weekends, it's not at 5 am. Weekends, I prefer to be in a coffeehouse setting in the late mornings and early afternoons. Just 2 or 3 hours at a time. Can't be in front of a computer longer than that. Child of the 80s. Attention just won't stay that long.

Anyway, that's my writing ritual. I made it sound kinda simple, but it's really not. It's work and I'm sometimes tired at night.

But, if you're a writer, what's your writing rituals?

Monday, April 18, 2005

New Review

Brotha2Brotha blogger, Rod, has posted a review of Down For Whatever. Check it out if you have time.

It makes ME want to go out and buy the book. Oh, wait... I have to wait until July 5. Darn.



Yesterday heard the greatest reggaeton-slash-cumbia mix of some of my favorite 80s, 90s, and y2k hits... including Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon", 50 Cent's "Disco Inferno", and with a little Taylor Dayne peppered in between. Quite an odd, yet fun, musical mix.

Now, if someone knows where I can get one... or wants to send me one. You can :-) Well, maybe I need to make a trip down to The Alley in L.A., where you can get bootlegs and knock-offs of everything you need. Hmmm...

Happy Birthday Mom!

My mom is the greatest... and today is her birthday.

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Hodge Podge for $800

Today's entry is a mix and match of several topics... some original, some borrowed.

What goes on in the mind of writers? Paperback Writer has some thoughts on the subject.

Who's linking to your website or blog? You might try this site.

What do you call it when two men go out, and they're not gay? A man date.

Want to win a free book? Read on for details.

Looking for a cool, and free, counter for your website or blog? Try this.

Want some fun (not mindless gossip as I mentioned earlier, sorry Heiress!) stories to start conversations tonight? Sit closer and read this (Conversations About Famous People) or this (Page SixSixSix, though it has a billion readers and sometimes goes down) or this (The Heiress Diaries, with an interesting Lakers player story 4/16/05).

Or wanna shop from the comfort of your computer desk, or at least fantasize about what you'd like to wear when you get some funds? Try eluxury or bluefly.

Happy surfing :-)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Friday Schmiday 3

It's Friday. What you got planned? Besides taxes. That's my agenda. Urrrgggghhhhhh!

Enjoy the weekend!

Graduation Season

This is a busy time of the year I'm sure for many of you... and for me. Especially with my day job -- it's graduation season!

Though I usually dread this time of year -- it's incredibly busy keeping track of hundreds of names, tickets, blah blah blah, on the administrative end-- I am finding myself really taking in the joy many of my students and their families are feeling about meeting this academic goal.

For me, graduation was never a big deal. I never requested or wanted parties, walking across stages, wearing that hot gown and hat, and all the formalities. To me, it was a bit much. And also, I guess since I always expected to go to and finish college and grad school, it was like, "OK... Now what?"

But graduation is a big deal. And the past two days I heard so many stories from people who re-started school after 35, or raising their families, or who were addicts but got clean by pursuing higher education, or who stopped and started and stopped and started, or who never set foot on a campus in her life, but enrolled, paid, and just showed up in class... and they're all so proud of their achievements. And they should be. And I am too.

Though we've got about two months more to go in prepping for the ceremonies -- in addition to university commencement, I help to coordinate Asian, Black, Pride-Gay/Les, and Raza graduate celebrations -- it's so nice to hear the excitement people have for their season. (And before you ask, the celebrations are open to all people who support and honor the cultural heritages and stories of the communities mentioned. These groups haven't always been accepted or wanted on college campuses -- and in the Red States, I mean right place, you still have similar attitudes that don't want to include everyone as equals...)

So if you're thinking about going back to school -- do it. If it takes you 12 years to do it -- do it. If there are people around you who don't support you -- do it, and find people who will support you. If your boss discourages you from using your time for school -- use your vacation time. If you need to wake up at 3 am to study -- do it. Everyone I talked to these past few days-- people with very similar circumstances I just mentioned -- found it so worth it. These are the L.A. stories (and life stories in general) that we don't see. (Writers, get your notebooks out!!!)

And if you're a grad, and you hate all the pomp and circumstance (I truly hated all that stuff!), know that it's a big deal for the family to see you walking and dressed like a mini-professor. Just suck it up and enjoy the day. It's just one day.

But for them, it's a lifetime of dreams being realized!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Happy Birthday To...


Happy birthday. Send him some love over in New York City :-)

I'm sure he'll hate me for this. But it's his birthday (uh, well April 13...). And he's my friend.

L.A. Stories

So I posted an entry yesterday about L.A. based novels that don't fall into the stereotypical image of L.A. I posted a link and kinda hinted that you could recommend books to that site for their reading list.

Well, I just wanted you to know it wasn't just for recommending my novel. But for other L.A. stories as well. I went over to the site and sent these recommendations:

Playing With Boys by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez
Understand This by Jervey Tervalon
Sugar Skull and The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton
At This Moment by Trent Jackson
Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer
Every Night is Ladies' Night by Michael Jaime Becerra
Inner City Blues by Paula Woods

Any other L.A. stories you'd recommend?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Book Recommendations

Anybody know any good, contemporary L.A. based fiction you can recommend to The Blog About Books? A non-Hollywood/industry novel? A non-blonde and blue story? Hmmm...

Anything come to mind? Anything??? (hint hint)

Desperate Housewives... gets a sistah!

Just heard that my/our favorite Sunday night treat, Desperate Housewives, is adding a sistah! A living legend... none other than Ms. Alfre Woodard.

I knew it was a matter of time before TV-land recognized what we've already known... that black people can and do live in the suburbs. We've done it for years.

Reminds me of a joke I heard
Steve Harvey say once about a trip he and his crew and audience from The Beat L.A. made once to Cancun, Mexico. He said they were gonna shoot a promotional spot about the tropical oasis, with a bunch of black people frolicking on the sand, with the announcer asking, "Cancun?" and the crowd turning toward the camera yelling, "Yes we can..."

Good for Alfre. Good for Wisteria Lane!

Black Men and College

So while many of us with privilege are spending our money and time reviewing The Emancipation of Mimi or other pop culture materials... and while Congress is spending our money and their time trying to legistlate morality on Terri Schiavo and who can and can't get married...

  • 2/3 of black men in the U.S. who start college never finish.
  • New York City and Chicago fail to graduate 70% of their black male high school students... these statistics are similar for other major cities
  • 41% of black male high school students graduate with the peers they started with... nationally!
  • ... and black male college enrollment increased to 635,000 in 2000 (compared with 469,000 in 1976), while... get this... black female college enrollment increased to 1,085,000 in 2000 (compared with 563,000 in 1976)

These stats and more... I learned in a session entitled "Increase African American Men's Enrollment and Retention" presented by Chris Catching of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and Shaun Harper of University of Southern California (Shaun actually heads up the doctoral program for those earning PhDs and Ed.Ds in Higher Education Administration at USC).

Their question, more rhetorical than anything: How can any administrator or politician know these stats and choose not to address them? To know this and choose not to do something is an obvious message to the black community that education of our boys doesn't matter.

Answer: Black boys matter when they're entertaining, seducing, balling, or posing in politicians' photo ops... and even then, do they really matter to the public at large? Also... there should be no surprise at the correlation between the number of black men who don't graduate and the number who are part of the prison industrial complex. This is big business for the U.S. Keeping a permanent underclass only "helps" those in power keep their power. You always need workers, whether it's in the factories or in the prisons. That's a Sociology and Econ 101 basic. Not my personal philosophy, but just think about the hows, the whys, and the connections... So do black men, or brown men for that matter, really matter?

Another rhetorical question: Why should colleges continue to try and recuit African American men to their campuses if the stats show 2/3 will not finish their undergraduate degrees?

Answer: Because all people deserve a chance to pursue their dreams -- dreams that require a degree and intelligence, and not just rapping or sports talents. And many colleges are doing their part to... help? I don't know. I'm a small part of the system and I can't even answer that one. There are definitely a number of talented, smart, and capable black men who do attend college, graduate, and succeed... and without becoming a statistic: a father before they're ready, a dropout, or a campus trouble maker.

But what about the system is broken that allows so many black men to become educational statistics?

Just food for thought...

As Congress debates feeding tubes, athlete steroid use, morality issues that should be personal and not political decisions, and other issues that cloud over the REAL issues facing us-- education, lack of jobs, increased health care costs, and the fact that we're spending billions and losing thousands on a war in Iraq that some say never should have happened -- the real issues continue and the people in charge are not addressing them.

What can regular people do to hold their politicians -- senators, mayors, representatives, etc...-- accountable? How can we make sure all the silly red-tape, $5,000 chairs, bling bling/hip hop politicians of our generation, the geritol generation politicians of our aunts' and uncles' generation, and Blue-vs-Red divisions get set aside to address REAL issues and move forward a progressive agenda that works for everyone's equality and survival? And isn't liberty and justice for ALL exactly that... for all? Not just the one's who proclaim themselves right and moral? Hmmm... Maybe black boys in public schools aren't right and moral, so that's why they're allowed to slip through the cracks. So who'll be deemed as such next year? Hmmm... So interesting.

Enough of my soap box... one good statistic came out of Shaun and Chris' presentation. Prince George's County, Maryland boasts the highest African American high school graduation rate in the U.S. Let's all move to Maryland and enroll our kids there. Maybe the kids from PGCM will choose to opt for college and not for the military. I wonder what Prince George's County, Maryland is doing to make sure its students are academically successful and ready for college?

Now back to your normal web viewing pleasures...


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hooch Music

OK. So a lot of people give Mariah a hard time for coming into her own in the late 90s and early 2000s. I don't. She's emancipated. She's being herself. Being who she couldn't be when she was tied down by her fath, err... boss, I mean husband. And this Tuesday, we'll celebrate along with her as we proclaim it "The Emanicipation of Mimi" day. Yay!

I'm sure we all heard the CD for free on AOL-Preview this weekend. I love it. Mariah at her best.

But I actually got onto this topic, because of another video that was just on. I used to hate the song-- I called it the "Mattress Squeaking" song because I didn't know the name, and would change stations every time I heard it start up. It's "Some Cut" by
Trillville and Lil Scrappy... or something like that. Hated that song when it first came on the radio. Now I love it. Don't ask me why.

Right after "Some Cut" came the Jam of The Week. A new cut, "You Gonna Luv Me," by Da Back Wudz. Boy, I wish I was tech savvy enough to link some videos and pictures here. This blog would be so much more off the hook. (Teach me, someone... please...) lol. Anyway, the highlight of this song... these fellas have sampled one of the greatest divas of all time --
Jennifer Holliday, and her song "And I Am Telling You (You're Gonna Love Me)." JH is fierce and so is this song. Dude, where have I been. Obviously, not with the April 2005s, since I'm still loving Rupee's hit from the winter, "Tempted To Touch." Now, if someone can sample The Clark Sisters' "You Brought The Sunshine" into a hip hop cut for the summer... I'm your best friend!

I admit it. I love thug music, hard music, street music, hooch music. I'm a product of the hip hop generation, don't have kids, and can just enjoy myself and feel all music.

Kinda like Mariah. Emancipated.


So despite the fact that I have three episodes of Desperate Housewives on TIVO to watch, the beautiful Southern California weather outside (perfect for a run), and tons of free time on my hand this weekend (after my Saturday meetings)... I've been glued to my desk reading over my new manuscript and making notes of where I will begin revisions. Well, revisions will begin, says Nicholas, my literary agent, when he's finished reading the manuscript too. Snap. Nicholas is cool like that. We work together well.

Revision work is actually where the work begins when you're a writer and trying to get or stay published. The first draft was pretty easy for me to get through on the second novel -- started right before Christmas, and finished Easter Sunday. Not that I'm a fast writer... this story just spoke to me and spilled on the pages like that (snap). Don't know why. But after reading it today, I realize there is some uumph missing in the middle. I need some more emotional resonance to make me (and you) feel something for all the characters involved. Emotional uumph.

I'm sure Nicholas, my literary agent, will find the same thing. At least I hope that's all he finds, and that I won't have to go back to the drawing board with a whole new story, whole new manuscript. (Are you there God? It's me, Freddie! -- a play on words, Judy Blume's book title of the 70s) Revision is like a puzzle, and each little piece is important and has to fit perfectly for your finished project to be... finished.

Anyway, now that I can get unglued from my desk chair, I need to shower, shave, eat something, and catch up on Desperate Housewives before the new episode tonight.

I'm totally glued to the show.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Remember This Name Too...

Tayari Jones.

She's an author, too. And also a friend. Her new novel, The Untelling, comes out in a week.

It's hot.

Remember This Name...

Liza Palmer.

She's a friend of mine. She's also an author. Her first novel, Conversations with the Fat Girl, comes out in September.

It's hot.

80s Memory Lane Ideas and Cheating Motivation

I'm exploring love between generations in my second novel. That's all I'll say for now. I'm reading through the manuscript now... and my agent is doing the same in NYC this weekend... and I realize I'm missing some important details about the 80s. I'm talking urban 80s, not general population 80s.

For some reason, the only songs coming to mind are Planet Rock, Love is Congagious (by Taja Seville), Meeting In the Ladies Room, I Want Her (by Keith Sweat), It Takes Two (Rob Base -- is that 80s or 90s???), and Just Got Paid. I know there's more. Oh yeah, Let's Hear It For The Boy (Deniece Williams), Jam On It, I Need Love (LL), and Sugar Walls (Sheena Easton). What else??? We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off (To Have A Good Time, No No) by Jermaine Stewart. OK. Let me stop... with the lies of that last song. lol. Because you need to take your clothes off to try new ones on at the department store. Duh!?!? I digress...

What are some of your urban 80s songs, groups, hairstyles, and fashions? This is research that may be used to flesh out some details of my new novel.

And while you're at it, answer me this... what would motivate a person to stay in a relationship (or start one) with a known cheater? Do you have friends who've been in the situation? What keeps them in it... even when they and their friends know what's going on? And have you picked up your spring accessory that everyone's carrying around this season??? Someone five to ten years younger??? lol.

Writing Groups

Spent the afternoon at Zona Rosa in Pasadena with a new writers group that I'm joining. Ibarionex Perello (the man who took my website and book cover photos), Reyna Grande (who has a novel coming out next year -- can't remember the name, but will tell you later), Jervey Tervalon (the legend, the greatest teacher), and myself. I missed these days of being part of a group, sharing the drafts of our work in progress, and getting/sharing feedback.

If you're a writer with aspirations of being published... or even if you're published, there are a lot of benefits to being part of a group that you trust and can count on for support. Writing is such a solitary task. Your computer and the voices in your head are your best friend. Getting into the world and trusting your work to the process of getting feedback is eye-opening.

Anyway, we're all busy people. But Ibarionex, Reyna, Jervey, and I will be meeting about once a month to critique, share, and enjoy each others' company. I'm excited and looking forward to the process. Sounds like we've all got some cool things coming out very soon.

Gossip Challenge Follow Up

Last week... on the young, colored, and restless... I told you all about the Gossip Challege program I did while an R.A. in college and that I was planning to revisit the challenge on my first few days at the conference in Nashville.

It was hard. And it wasn't hard.

What wasn't hard was travelling on the "official" day I chose not to partake of trivial, negative, rumor-spreading. No one around I knew on the plane. It was easy. Didn't even buy my typical share of tabloids and other celebrity magazines to make my flight go by quickly. Took the book, "Playing With Boys" by
AVR, which got me plenty of stares while on the plane and while waiting to get on. Whatever. I'm loving the book, by the way.

Thankfully, I arrived at the Opryland Hotel just before midnight and my boys -- Matt, Kenrick, Scott, and Joe -- were ready to paint Nashville... a nice shade of brown. Over a couple drinks, and Nashville's best trance music, M,K,S,J and other colleagues around the country filled me in on their and our conference buddies' lives. All throughout, I steered conversations back to the person talking to me and what they were up to. Talked about myself too.

Then, I realized after the fact. I'm not a gossiper, not an active one. Yeah, I may listen to other people share their stories about themselves or other people -- and boy, did I hear some doozies! I'm like the confidante of everybody. But I realize, none of it is important. None of it. All that matters is that how I live my life and how the person I'm interacting with lives his/hers. And I realize I don't have to share one bit of naughty information someone shares with me about another person.

Anyway, enough about gossip challenges. Time to immerse myself into the fictional lives of the characters in Playing With Boys... this book is a doozie!

Friday, April 08, 2005


So now that my publisher has started sending out galleys (uncorrected proofs in book form) of the novel, some reviews have started to come in. This is always the weird part of the writing industry for me. I mean, I believe in the book and its characters, storyline, and message -- not that the message is all that profound like, say, MLK or something. Still I gotta believe that there's an audience and thousands of potential buyers of the book out there.

I found a review of Down For Whatever on Karsh's site yesterday, which was pretty cool. So I wanted to shout him out today! I love reading his blog, and then he went on a short blog hiatus, I went travelling, and then someone alerted me to Karsh's review. It was great. Check out his site.

The waiting game continues on other reviews to come in...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

L.A. Again

Something about the brown layer of gunk glistening in the California sunset makes you feel at home. Don't know what it is. L.A. at its environmental best is definitely as comforting as Nashville at its hospitable best.

Though the conference was a Student Affairs conference -- Student Affairs is the part of university life dealing with students' out-of-class learning, social, and developmental experiences -- I was able to get a lot of buzz and talk out there about the novel. I took a few hundred covers to distribute and this morning before leaving, I saw they were all gone. My new friend, Jerlena from CAL, said she and a bunch of University VPs were talking about the novel over a dinner the other night. Very cool. Jerlena's fun! Got some other very promising leads for university events and signings... so I'll definitely be at a university or college campus near you in the fall later this year.

A lot of my professional colleagues were impressed that I'm able to juggle two very important careers at the moment. The university thing. The novel writing thing. I guess it is impressive, but I don't really think about it. It's just what I like to do. Who knows? It may change one of these days.

Anyways... Nashville is nice. It's nicer to be back in the comfort of my own bed in L.A. And that's exactly where I'm going right now... and pretty soon I'll be back to normal and writing about the writing life and the gym... boy do I need the gym.

Nashville Wrap Up

Conference crushes should definitely be left at the conference.

Heading back to L.A. Enough fried pickles, smoke in bars, and southern hospitality to last me a while.

Another Nashville highlight... the Fisk University Jubilee Choir singers. Excellent. And the closing event at Play nightclub in Nashville. Coretta Scott Queen and Wild Cherry Sucret brought the house down... yes, Coretta Scott Queen, the drag alias for a colleague from another university. One of those fun shows. ACPA does it best! (And yes, they say the REAL Coretta Scott knows about the drag alias and finds it very cute... CSK is an ally of all people, as she says her husband MLK would be too... I digress).

Anyway, conference crush is heading back to East Coast. I'm back to West Coast. Back to reality. I'm too silly. Too E - True Hollywood Story.

A long, LONG day in airports and planes.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Firsts... from Nashville

Greetings from Nashville, where all food is fried and all meals include meat. Lots of meat. My goodness. Anyway, having a great time. Having a lot of firsts.

Met Dwayne from Brothers United, a great community organization in Nashville.

Almost ready for a presentation I'm supposed to do Tuesday morning. A first -- I'm usually on top of these things, but having too much fun reuniting with old friends and professional colleagues. ACPA is a conference of 24-hour icebreakers and learning and fun.

Another first. Ate fried pickles. Yes, fried pickles. Ate pulled pork. Yes, pulled pork. Ate some kind of beef that was kinda good. Only hit the gym once, my first day. That's a first. You all know I'm always talking about my gym adventures.

Ok. One more first. This is my confession, as Usher would say. I've got a conference crush. This is a first. They say conference crushes are not productive, not real, and you're only seeing each other at your best. Uugghhh. But I'm crushed.

Hmmm... Could I relocate to East Coast? For one year? For someone several years younger? Am I stupid or what? It's the stuff novels are made of. Hmmm... but this might be real. No, conferences are fantasy land. Someone tell me... crush is moving back to L.A. after finishing grad school at (North)East Coast State in 2006. Uugghhh.

That would be a first to remember.