Thursday, April 27, 2006
I don't know about you, but this week has gone sooooo S-L-O-W. I'm so looking forward to the weekend. I'll be travelling again to the Midwest. But a couple of fun things to look forward to this weekend. What are your plans?
1. Akeelah and The Bee. Why am I so friggin excited about this movie? Maybe it's the childhood teacher's pet flashbacks. Maybe it's being called nerd because I cared more about books than kickball. Maybe it's because I did spelling bees in elementary school -- 1st runner up, never the winner, darnit!
But as with all films of substance, especially those that are not your mainstream black-focused movies -- i.e. guns, cussing, gut-wrenching poverty, and hookers or pimps as everyday black life -- it's important to support during the first weekend. So go support Akeelah and The Bee this weekend. Show Hollywood that YOU know there's more to the community than the stereotypes generally presented in film.
2. Feast of Fools. I discovered this podcast a few weeks ago, and now I'm so totally addicted. iPodless? Then listen to them online at the Feast of Fools website. It's fun. It's gay. It's gossipy. It's a party for your ears. And a FREE weekend party if you're a little short on cash. And I'm loving me some Miss Ronnie, one of the co-stars of the show. Yes, you've got some fans Miss R!
3. L.A. Times Festival of Books. OK. Back to the books yet again. But this festival brings thousands of book lovers together with their addiction of choice -- reading. Better than addictions that can kill you, you know? Anyway, if in L.A. this weekend, the UCLA campus will be the place to be... well, if you love books that is.
Anyhoo, I'll be on a plane to the midwest. Fun. Joy. Happiness. It's the weekend. Currently reading Ten Little Indians, a short story collection, by Sherman Alexie.
What are your plans?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
But for those of you who shop at Target, you have no excuse not to get it now. Her novel has been selected as Target's "breakout novel" and you 'll start to see it in stores soon. More info on Tayari Jones site.
To have your book sold and distributed at Target... that's such a HUGE thing for an author. Because you know how many times you go to the store for one thing... and end up with a huge basket of electronics, music, books, and other items.
Anyway, cool news for a very cool person.
Yeah, there ARE bigger issues in the world that I'm in touch with. But I have a pop culture side, too.
Anyway, American Idol. Totally feeling Chris...'s singing. Totally feeling Paris' singing, too, but she's just not getting the verbal (or voter) love from judges and viewers. I can't put my finger on it why she's not really connecting. Either way, I'm hoping for a Chris and Paris showdown at the end. They're the best singers in this year's competition. Period. As for winner, I'm thinking Chris. That mmmph factor, heartthrob vibe that no other male winner or top 2 has ever had, and love from the judges... he'll definitely sell some units, concerts, and have boy and girl fans. You predict???
NBA. Totally feeling the Detroit Pistons. Always have... during their winning and not-so-winning seasons. Looks like they're on their way to an easy-breezy-beautiful NBA championship. Of course, there's still love for many of the other teams and players out there. I love basketball. Can't play a lick, but love to watch. Oh yeah, most definitely.
Yeah, there's gas prices, Iraq, tornadoes, and corrupt politicians to think about. But knowing that you're already in the loop on those things, and that you're not distracted by bigger issues, what pop culture things are you musing?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
While I see the connections between ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc..., there are many who say those are all separate issues that should be tackled in their own way and time... and by their own folks concerned about those issues.
Listening to Front Page this morning on KJLH (I am a total Dominique DiPrima fan... she's doing her part to really enlighten people!), I am reminded that there are many folks in our communities who think the fight for equality is one that should be fought in separate ways, by separate communities of people.
In L.A. now, the big discussion is about immigration and how this issue affects communities of color. With the KJLH Front Page listeners, many have turned it into a black vs brown argument. Logically, it doesn't make sense. Not all immigrants are brown. Not all immigrants are illegal. And definitely not all immigrants are of Mexican descent. Sounds like "divide and conquer" to me, but many say you have to take care of your own backyard before you can tackle the forest... so to speak. What do you think?
One thing that's totally overlooked in our national discussion is an entire geographic area of the U.S. that's basically ignored in the discussion of poverty, healthcare, jobs, and way-of-life. The Appalachian Mountain areas of the eastern U.S.
A couple writers I'm aware of have written fiction and non-fiction about the issue of class as it relates to the Appalachians -- Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina and Trash) and Crystal Wilkinson (Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street). Check them out.
But I'm wondering what you think... Are there connections between issues and opressions? Is class the category that should unite people in the fight for equality? Does a critical look at class issues take away from discussions of discrimination around ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation? I think they're all linked and interconnected, but many disagree.
What about LGBT people living in Appalachia, rural America, or chronically impoverished and unemployed in our large cities? We tend to think all of us are SINKS (single income, no kids) or DINKS (doube income, no kids) with tons of disposable income. Maybe that's another commentary. Maybe that's a novel or short story idea...
What's the discussion in your part of the world?
Monday, April 24, 2006
Anyway, another big drama queen event is taking place this week. Two in a week? How can we handle it?
The Daytime Emmy Awards, recognizing the best and brightest in daytime television, are taking place in Los Angeles this Friday, and again, I'll be in the air heading to the Midwest to take care of some personal business. So again, I'll miss the main event, but hear the results before I see them on Tivo/DVR.
But my allegiance in the Daytime Emmy Awards is always to the Channel 2 soaps -- Young and Restless, and Bold and Beautiful especially. Thanks to my dearly departed grand-folks, aunts, uncles, etc... I have been hooked since a young drama queen boy in training. Oh well! I could be addicted to other things that actually kill ya, you know?
Anyway, one of my dream DREAM jobs has always been to join the writing team of a daytime drama. Preferably my fave, Y&R. It's been pretty good lately. If not Y&R, maybe my own. Maybe Down For Whatever, the nighttime drama for hmmm... some network. That'd be a riot. There's still some story possibilities for Keith, Marco, Rafael, and Tommie. Ya think?
Anyway... here's hoping your day is drama free, except for what you read in a book or watch on a screen. That's the only place drama belongs anyway... everything else is just water rolling off your back and something you are definitely equipped to handle.
Friday, April 21, 2006
I love pageants. Always watched them since a kid. I probably have TOO much trivia stored in my brain from winners to runners-up to state contestants.
Tonight, I'd be glued to the television for Miss USA pageant. But... I'll be in the air, flying to the midwest to take care of some family business. Thank goodness for Tivo/DVR service.
Anyway, I'm rooting for Miss California naturally. Tamiko Nash. Pictured on the left. Though sometimes I root for states I've lived in: Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, or Indiana. Whatever. Silly, huh? Yeah, I know I'm into social justice and equality and feminism... but despite all that I think the pageantry and SHOW is just fun.
My friends and I usually do a contest after the initial walk-on. We have to pick the winner based on the initial walk and introduction. Fold it up. Put in hat. And whoever predicted the winner... gets something good.
Anyway, I'll probably know the results long before I get to see the show. But this is my Public Service Announcement for all you pageant fans out there!
Have a nice weekend!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
If you're not familiar with Denise's work, let me fill you in. She writes mysteries set in L.A. But not the sunshine/beaches/palm trees/size zero L.A. you might think about. Her novels reflect the true ethnic and class diversity of our City of Angels, with her previous novels focusing on Asian Pacific, Chicano/Latino, Middle Eastern, and African American characters. They're very contemporary and current.The current novel focuses on the city's Russian population.
The mysteries are solved by Eve Diamond, a newspaper reporter, who comes across cases and works to solve them in her reporting. Eve Diamond is the constant character who holds the novels together.
On another note, Denise Hamilton is one of my guardian angels in L.A.
When I was getting started, Denise took me under her wing and provided a lot of writing, publishing, and networking advice. The advice and connections were rewarded. Denise happened to mention me to the man who is now my editor at Kensington, John Scognamiglio. The rest is history. And while I'm not turning out novels at the one-a-year pace like Denise, I'm holding my own.
If you get a chance, check out Denise Hamilton's current or previous novels. If you've read any already, drop a line here and tell us what you think. And send her a quick congratulatory note... and a thank you for discovering me!
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
This morning I caught a little bit of the network stories on the Duke/Lacrosse Team rape investigation. And I'm still surprised that in 2006, journalists and people in general, still try to find ways to excuse or justify the act of rape and sexual assault. And I'm even further surprised that a woman journalist posed the questions that aimed toward damaging the credibility of the alleged victim.
Not taking any sides in this specific case. I was not there. Don't know the folks involved. But in general, we live in a society that blames victims and alleged victims of sexual assault, all the while taking a blind eye to sexism, heterosexism, and male privilege that contribute to the culture and act of sexual assault. People will use all sorts of excuses to discredit sexual assault allegations:
"S/he was drunk"
"S/he wore clothes that were seductive"
"S/he works as an exotic dancer"
"S/he got around. Everybody knew."
"S/he started and then got cold feet"
"S/he knew what s/he was getting into"
And what? And what? No excuse.
Anyway, I haven't been keeping up completely on the story. Just hearing bits and pieces when I'm near a television. But a couple things pop into my mind:
1. Journalists really don't see themselves as teachers or as having the ability to shape/change the way people think. Otherwise, the journalist I watched this morning wouldn't have even gone that route in her questions to the alleged victim's family members. I think some give and take has to be considered in the whole "balanced" thing -- balance doesn't mean take opposing sides of an issue and leave people with their previous perceptions and ways of thinking. To me, "balanced" means taking your responsibility to influence people's thoughts. But if you don't learn to critically think in Journalism School, then you won't have the ability to help others critically think.
2. Parents don't always know their kids. I've worked with students from junior high school age through university age. Dealt with and had to decide on a number of school disciplinary issues. Students, when away from their parents, sometimes put on a different face and personality. And it's a side the school/administrators see but the parents don't. Junior and Princess may be nice, innocent, God-fearing people at home. But away from home can, and might, show the complete opposite behaviors and characteristics. And having worked with college students of privileged backgrounds, I know the lengths those parents will go to dis-prove ANYthing you allege or say about their kid. Bribes. Threats. Calling the university president. Getting so angry and wanting to use a racial slur against you, but know they shouldn't. It's interesting.
Anyway, many colleges and universities will be holding Take Back The Night events. These events provide an opportunity for students, staff, faculty, families, and community to come together to help stop rape, sexual asault and domestic violence. If there's a college campus near you holding an event, stop by and support. Even if you're not a student, you're welcome to attend and provide positive support.
Basic statistics on rape and sexual assault.
Men can stop rape.
Stop Prisoner Rape.
Sexual assault and LGBT community.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Sounds like fun.
And like just the sort of book people (like me, oops did I say that?!?!) could probably relate to. White-picket-fence boy/girl meets project boy/girl. Degreed girl/boy meets street-smarts girl/boy. Sparks fly. Families get upset. Modern day Romeo and Juliet dramas.
What is it about the bad boy/girl that some folks who weren't raised a bad boy/girl find so darn irresistable? Including myself. Yeah, I admit it. That's enough confession for now.
I think that's where the motivation for my next novel (Summer 2007) came from -- Right Side of the Wrong Bed.
I mean, people aren't entirely good or bad. And people aren't entirely smart or stupid about the choices they make. Those are subjective terms, open to interpretation. We're all shades of gray and have our complexities. Some folks who look the bad-boy part may not even be bad. They're just performing gender. Advertising. Portraying an image. All the while holding a 9-to-5 downtown exec job and USC/Morehouse/Pepperdine degrees. And those are things that interest me as an observer and writer.
Still... many of us are drawn to the short-term excitement, real or imagined, of the perceived bad boy/girl. Some of us grow out of it. Some of us dive right toward it the older we get. And I'm wondering what you think is the appeal?
For a look at some boys who may be good, bad, or all shades in between, check out one of my fave blogs: Hoodsworld.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Apparently, that's a big deal for some folks-- to venture out alone into the unknown. And last night as I visited a neighborhood haunt, Club Chico, I met two new people who knew me from writing a novel... and they were surprised when I answered their question "Who did you come with?" with "Myself." These guys -- two recent transplants from Oregon (black guys from Oregon at that!) -- were a little taken aback. I guess they thought I'd roll with a posse or entourage or something.
But as I listened more closely to what was really going on, I knew what was up. It's a similar story I hear and observe a lot. People don't generally feel welcomed or do a lot of welcoming to new faces or people who are not with a "clicque," or the observers sitting at the bar or standing against the wall. And sometimes there can be some shinier gems among that "solo" group, than the gold-plated types garnering all the attention at an event. But anyway...
The black Oregon transplants to L.A. had this idea that everyone knew everyone already (which we know isn't the case) and that it's hard to meet and make friends in L.A. gay/black scene. I hear it from guys all over. And there's probably more to the story in each case. But anyway...
So is it an individual/perception thing? Is it a gay/black community thing? Is it an era-of-electronics thing (i.e. people feel more comfy behind a screen and keyboard, than face-to-face conversation)?
Aaah. So much to think about among other serious issues. But creating community is something that I think is a responsibility we all bear.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Breaking all the rules…
At thirty-three, Kenny Kane seems to have it all: good looks, a great career as a university administrator, a silver BMW, a sprawling home in the tony hills of Monterey Park, and a hot firefighter for a boyfriend – that is until he cheats on Kenny with a woman! After devoting the past seven years of his life to his ex, the last thing Kenny needs is to get involved with someone new. So when he meets Jeremy Lopez at a West Hollywood bar, Kenny is content to just buy him a drink and leave it at that.
Is the only way to go…
But Jeremy won’t take “no” for an answer. Six feet tall, dressed in baggy, low-rise jeans and sporting plenty of bling, Jeremy is “straight-up East L.A.” He’s also a mere twenty-one-years-old – and of Dominican-Mexican heritage. Except for one white boy back in college, Kenny’s always dated other African-American men.
When it comes to getting what you want…
But he can’t deny the chemistry between them. And before he knows it, Kenny’s having the time of his life – hanging with Jeremy and his boys… clubbing and hitting frat parties… feeling like a kid again. But how long can a thirty-something like Kenny keep it up? And is he really gonna find what he’s been looking for with a kid like Jeremy – or will Kenny wake up feeling like he’s on the right side of the wrong bed?
“Reads like real life… this smart and touching novel just won’t entertain you. It’ll make you think and perhaps remember.” – Black Artemis, author of Burn
“Funny, touching, and intoxicating. Smith has written yet another compulsive read.” – Maurice Jamal, writer and director of Dirty Laundry and The Ski Trip
“Open Right Side of the Wrong Bed to join Fred Smith on a fun, rollicking ride through L.A., where the men are fabulous and the wit is as sharp as the latest pair of trendy jeans. By turns sexy, funny, and heartbreaking, this book is sure to please.” – Fiona Zedde, author, Bliss and A Taste of Sin
"Anyone who's ever been in one of those ‘so GOOD yet so BAD’ relationships will relate to Right Side of the Wrong Bed. Frederick Smith is a gifted author who has written a page turner filled with wit, comedy, and very memorable characters. Don't miss it!" – Patrick Sanchez, author, Girlfriends and Tight
Order from Kensington Publishing.
Order from Amazon.
Order from your favorite online retailer or independent bookstore (links inside story).
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Got to see J. California Cooper the other day in L.A. She spoke at Esowon Books, a cozy store on LaBrea south of the 10 Freeway, that focuses on books by and about black people. (Image on left is from the National Book Club Conference, August 2005, in Atlanta).
If you haven't had a chance to hear her speak and read, you're missing some entertaining discussion. She tends to talk in storytelling style, going from subject to subject, about whatever pops into her mind. At her Esowon Books talk, she talked about everything from sex to drugs to the characters talking in her head to the trees and paper dolls that kept her company as a kid. Don't worry. She's not off or anything. Just a wiser, older woman who tells good stories.
And also writes good stories.
When asked about what motivates her to write, she answered that as a Christian she follows and lives by the Ten Commandments... and that as long as people break them, or have the tendency to break them, she will always have something or somebody to write stories about.
And if you've read any of her novels or short stories, you know that J. California Cooper definitely imparts some mother-wit, tell-it-like-it-is wisdom, and straightforward lessons in life.
My favorite short story of hers is "$100 and Nothing." But I love all her short story collections and novels. The new one, Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns, is sure to be a winner and a classic too.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Blame it on the rain... that I didn't want to get out of bed this morning. Or go to bed last night. Not a good combination when your day job... well is your day job. Writing full time sounds mighty fun. But can be mighty draining on the day-to-day finances.
Blame it on the rain... that I don't always follow the advice of those closest to my writing career. "You can't go out there pissing people off with your observations on ethnicity, class, gender. It's too sensitive a subject." I think I think too much, which is not something that always pleased my teachers and academic advisors. I always flipped things around and looked at them in different ways. Still do. I'll leave my novel characters to do the observations on those issues. Can't piss off a fictional character.
Blame it on the rain... that when we use the word "illegal" it's now the code word to describe people from California down to the tip of South America... and the Caribbean too. But it doesn't trigger you to think about people like this.
Anyway, it's raining hard in Southern California this week. It's not the pretty picture of sunshine, palm trees, and beachfronts. Maybe will purchase some Milli Vanilli on iTunes today and rock out to Blame It On The Rain while trying to stay dry... and outta trouble
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
It's that time of year again... the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 29 and 30, 2006 at UCLA.
Before I got published, I used to volunteer with the festival. Very fun experience and a great way to meet your favorite writers up close and personal. It was also a great way to learn about ways I could enhance my chances for publication.
Very worthwhile event if you're into books and writers. And also a great way to publicize yourself and your book... where else can you find a captive audience of thousands of readers?
The L.A. Times event usually kicks off the summer, while the West Hollywood Book Fair winds down summer in Los Angeles. If you're around, I'm sure we'll run into each other at these events.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Yay! Just found out two cool things.
One. One of my favorite L.A. bookstores, Esowon Books, has a new website. Esowon is an independent store that focuses on books by and about black people. Great space. Great staff!
Second. One of my favorite writers, J. California Cooper, will be at Esowon on Wednesday, April 5 at 7 pm, to talk about her new book, Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns.
She's always got some wise, wild, funny story to share during readings. I'm looking forward to seeing her speak on Wednesday and getting the book.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Anyway, Krystle and Alexis, i.e. Linda Evans and Joan Collins, are reuniting for a very fun, bitchy, divalicious stage production about two aging stars who hate each other, but are forced to work together for the money and for a much-needed career comeback.
Sounds like fun.
And they say the stage production will be complete with an infamous Krystle/Alexis catfight, which were highlights of the Krystle and Alexis relationship... remember the guest house fight? the lily pond? the mud at the spa? How many others? lol.
I was always a soap fan, but my parents didn't want my mind "corrupted" by content they didn't agree with... so I had to sneak and watch as a kid. Little did they know the corruption their innocent boy... uh, oh, anyway, you get the picture my friends :-)
From the Entertainment Tonight website.