Thursday, March 29, 2007

LOUDmouth. Are you one?

Well, I'm generally soft-spoken and shy. Surprises people, especially when they know I write. They think I'm supposed to "be" a certain way.

But on some issues, I can be a LOUDmouth, and that includes being proud of a publication I help to publish.

LOUDmouth Magazine, a feminist focused publication, focusing on a single topic each issue. Our latest issue, NEWS, is out.

Hope you check it out!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

G.I. Jesus

Just learned about this new film this morning on KPFK's Uprising. Sounds very good.

G.I. Jesus is the story of a Mexican citizen who joins the U.S. military in order to gain U.S. citizenship, does a tour in Iraq, and upon returning to the U.S. finds his wife and family have changed and embraced "American" life so much that they've lost many of the values they were raised with in Mexico.

It's being released in independent/artsy theatres in a few cities -- L.A., NYC, a few others. But it looks and sounds like an interesting analysis of cultural values, war, and how the "American Dream" collides with these areas.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Two new books. With ties to Los Angeles. In the classic noir tradition.

Los Angeles Noir brings the ethos of Chandler and Cain filtered through a twenty-first-century, multicultural lens. This is a literary travelogue from the Chinese mansions of San Marino to the day spas of Koreatown to the windy hills of Mulholland Drive, the baby gangsters of East Hollywood, the OG entrepreneur of Leimert Park, the old money of Beverly Hills, and the working class of Mar Vista. Los Angeles Noir offers tales of crime and passion and betrayal from some of the most innovative and celebrated writers working today. It is edited by mystery writer Denise Hamilton.

Sleeping With Strangers is the latest from Eric Jerome Dickey, and follows Gideon, a highly skilled international hit man, through his adventures from Atlanta to Tampa to Amsterday... and beyond. The novel comes complete with Raymond Chandler-like dialogue and writing.

I like the noir genre of film. Haven't read the style much in books. But these two books look like winners to me.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ghettonation: A Journey Into The Land of the Bling

OK. First, disclosure. Cora Daniels and I are represented by the same literary agent. But, I don't benefit financially for sharing info about her book.

Now, back to blogging. This sounds like an interesting conversation starter. The topic of "Ghetto."

Originally used to describe a physical place where the Jewish community was required to lived, the term "ghetto" has been transformed by powers-that-be for pop culture use, and seems to refer no longer to where people live... but how they live. I'm sure you've uttered, or heard others say things, consciously or not, like, "That's SO ghetto."

In her book Ghettonation: A Journey Into The Land of the Bling and Home of the Shameless, Cora Daniels takes on one of the most explosive issues in our country in this thoughtful critique of America's embrace and fascination with the "ghetto" persona that demeans women, devalues education, and celebrates the worst African American stereotypes.

She also offers critical analysis into pop culture icons of ALL ethnicities and life experiences -- in music, TV, films, and books -- who embrace/perform "ghetto" to make money and raise their street-credibility points with fans.

The book just came out this week, and Cora Daniels will be making some appearances in Los Angeles in early April, where we can hear her talk more about her book and related topics. I'm sure she'll be in your city too.

You also may be interested in her previous book, Black Power Inc., a look at black professionals born at the end of, and after, the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., and how their perspectives on ethnicity, power, and class are influenced by what their parents taught them about the movement, who they are, and their histories.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cover Shot

OK. I was gonna save this for later, since the book doesn't come out until this fall, November 27 to be exact, and it's not available yet to pre-order anywhere.

But, we're friends. And friends can share, right? (An 8-month tease... some friend!?!?!?)

So here's what we think will be the cover for Right Side of the Wrong Bed, my new novel, published by Kensington Books.

Well, if nothing changes, this will be the cover. And I've learned that in this business changes are always possible.

I like. Actually, I LOVE.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Word Nerds

I am a self-professed word nerd. Meaning, I like to read pretty much anything I get my hands on. Have done so since I was a kid. Ever since my days as a teacher's pet in elementary school on. Words, reading, and writing kept me focused on my academic and personal goals in life.

This weekend... I'm SO late on this... I discovered a new podcast: The Word Nerds. It's about exploring the roots and origins of words we use daily in English. It's fun. It's educational. It's word nerd listening heaven :-)

Anyway, I've never been ashamed of my habit/hobby of reading or writing. I'm not a hermit, I have social skills, I still interact regularly with friends and family, and I do have my share of non-reading fun. Still it stings, when someone calls you a word nerd... with a negative connotation in their voice. And makes you want to keep your reading/writing habit in the closet.

Especially when fun these days is defined as "who can have the sluttiest weekend" to "who slept in the longest on Sunday" to "who did the most shots." Not knocking those things. I have my moments too. But they're not hobbies. OK, maybe for some.

Anyway, no shame here. But while reading Clay Cane's blog, and the review of John Amaechi's book Man in the Middle, I found this quote (from Amaechi's book) which Clay loved and I do too:

“If you really want to screw a bunch of poor black kids, tell them to focus on basketball when only one in a thousand will even make it to the college level, let alone secure a scholarship. It’s a great way to make sure there’ll be plenty of street cleaners and burger flippers. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of honest work, except the low income and lack of benefits. But when dead-end jobs become destiny, that’s when hope departs and despair takes root.”

I guess being considered a word nerd isn't so bad after all. Might be kind of a leap, but I think you get the gist of what I'm writing about today.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why Are You Single?

OK. So there are larger issues in the world than say... relationships and dating. But still...

There's no other question in the world that irks me than "Why are you single?" I don't like it if it's asked of me. I don't like hearing others asked the question. So, I don't ask that question of people. Not that I'm defensive about currently being single.

But, the question assumes many things that just seem weird to assume: 1) that the person being asked has Godly powers to magically put him/herself in a dating/romantic relationship; 2) that despite all the good qualities of the person being asked the question, there must be a flaw in the person being asked that s/he doesn't admit; 3) that it's a right to be in a dating/romantic relationship, rather than a privilege; 4) that one should always be in a dating/romantic relationship.

I heard it over the weekend. One of my students came to me, one of the 1988 boys, and said one of his classmates asked him the same thing. Said it made him feel like there was something wrong with him for not being in a dating/romantic relationship. I advised him not to worry about other people's assumptions about his dating/romantic life. That contrary to popular belief, there are more single gay men than those in long-term (or even short-term) dating/romantic relationships (I heard it at some speech recently, I might be incorrect... if you know, please clarify for me/us)

When you are single, how do you feel when asked "Why are you single?" I can tell you, I start to feel defensive, but then respond with what I really feel, which is, "I'm happily single, but open to the possibilities."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mix Tape

Once upon a time, before MySpace, there was a time when people expressed their friendships not with a "Thanks for the add," but with a mix tape.

Yeah, those cassette tapes of 15+ songs that you meticulously chose and recorded, that centered around a theme: a breakup, graduation, the summer of 19_ _, songs that remind me of you, new relationship, etc... Those tapes where you tried to minimize "blank space" at the end, or not have that annoying "click" between songs (pause, rewind, record).

This weekend I got an email from my friend Daryl, now I call him Dr. Daryl, who is about to move from Ohio to NYC to start his first medical practice, a new residency. Or something like that (need a good shrink in NYC, Dr. Daryl might be your guy... and he's a brotha too). While cleaning out his condo to prepare for NYC apartment life, he found a box with a mix tape I made for him back in 1994. Of course I didn't remember making it, but once he shared the playlist with me, I realized that yes, indeed, I'd made it.

Called this one: Classy Songs and "Classy" Songs. Among them: Old Friend by Lena Horne, Dare Me by Pointer Sisters (still one of my favorite songs), Try Me by Jasmine Guy, Treat U Right by Angela (pronounced AHN-gela later in her career) Winbush, and Let Me Love You by Lalah Hathaway (Daryl and I made up a dance called the Let Me Love You). Let me not forget A Shade Shady by RuPaul, Inside That I Cried by CeCe Penniston, and Where Is My Man? by Eartha Kitt.

Talk about a time capsule. Don't ask about my musical taste. I spent too much work study money on music :-)

A few weeks ago, I got new bedroom furniture. And while cleaning and throwing out stuff to prepare for furniture delivery, I found a box -- yes, a BOX-- of tapes. Both store-bought and those I made at home. Mix tapes. Had the dilemma: toss them (I hadn't listened or noticed them in YEARS) or keep them for pete's sake (I don't even have anything that plays cassettes anymore, but I like looking at the playlists). I opted to keep for a short while, while trying to locate and buy some of the songs on iTunes.

Found some books too that I'd forgotten I owned. Weird.

I don't have a problem tossing things. I do get sentimental, but I try to follow the "if I hadn't thought of or used it, why keep it?" rule.

Fiction writers -- how would holding on to material things that are clearly dated and old manifest in a character and their current living condition, work life, or relationships? Or what other items, besides mix tapes, represent life in the 80s and 90s?

Thanks Daryl for a nice stroll down memory lane. Are we getting old(er) or what?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Women and Hip Hop Culture

Today is International Women's Day.

There's some great scholarly work being published lately on topics that explore intersections of ethnicity and gender issues. Scholarly work by women. A few weeks ago, I shared the pending release of Ghettonation: Land of Bling, Home of the Shameless by Cora Daniels.

This week, the release of another academic work examining women and hip hop culture.

Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop's Hold on Young Black Women, by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, explores the impacts of hip hop's increasing alliance with the sex industry, the rise of groupie culture in the hip hop world, the impact of hip hop's compulsory heterosexual culture on young black women, and the permeation of the hip hop ethos into young black women's conceptions of love and romance, while interrogating the complexities of young black women's engagement with a culture that is masculinist, misogynistic, and frequently mystifying.

In my day job at the university, I've been in several discussions with students, faculty and career center specialists, primarily those of African descent, about the career choices students aspire to... and how those choices may or may not be influenced by commercial hip hop culture.

For example, back in the day (however far back you want to go) university students aspired for careers that helped and aided their communities -- teachers, social workers, doctors, journalists, attorneys, etc. Many still do. But many of my professional peers have noticed an increase in the amount of black students who come to university with entertainment career aspirations: model, stylist, singer/rapper, actor, athlete, etc...

It's not passing judgment. It's just an observation... at one campus... that happens to be in Southern California. It could be just a SoCali thing. However, we wonder if the careers our students aspire to are influenced by the images and careers they see in their media and musical choices. Good question, wouldn't you agree?

Anyway, Pimps Up, Ho's Down looks like a great book that, just like Ghettonation, will jumpstart some serious discussion in and out the classroom.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Don't Be Late

Don't be late to a one-woman show by Jenifer Lewis. You'll get yourself embarassed and clowned. And don't open candy, or shuffle with your grocery store plastic bag of Jenifer Lewis paraphernalia either during the show. Just. Don't.

So in the midst of all my computer crash drama over the weekend, I went to see the one-woman show by Jenifer Lewis, Bipolar, Bath, and Beyond, which is currently playing in Los Angeles. Phenomenal show. If in L.A., go see it. It's been extended for a few more weeks.

But if you go see it, don't be late. Get there on time. Or else. Let's just leave it at... or else. Don't. Go. There. It's funny, but not funny if you're late.

Hey, I'd feel the same way too, if I prepared a show/performance, and someone tried sneaking into the theatre 40 minutes into the show. And she called them out, too, especially on the "CP" time excuse many of us use.

Like my dad used to say, early is on time. Anything after that is late.

So a couple things that I've been late on. One, I finally finished reading Eric Jerome Dickey's Chasing Destiny. Loved it. And admire EJD's career as a writer. He doesn't know it (or me... well we met in passing at a book fair in L.A., but that's far from knowing someone...) but I look up to the way he has managed and maintained his publishing career. If I could manage a book or two a year, and books that are contemporary and riveting... well. I just look up to EJD's career.

But what I'm really late on is beginning the Lambda Award nominated Three Sides to Every Story by Clarence Nero. I've had the book since November, when I attended his book reading/signing at In The Meantime in L.A. Put it in my "to be read" pile with the 12,000 other books there. Finally picked it up last night after finishing Chasing Destiny... and am finding myself hooked already. Good work Clarence! Friends had been telling me it's one of their favorites of 2006, and now, late as I am... I'm finally getting to it.

In the next few weeks, I'll be posting a sneak preview of my next novel, Right Side of the Wrong Bed, here and on my website and my MySpace page. Additionally, I'll be posting the new cover... should be getting it any day now. And I'll be seeking your support as we roll out the new novel later this year, and want to get to your book clubs, summer and fall events, and hear from you how you've found yourself on the Right Side of the Wrong Bed.

Anyway, know you have a bunch of things to get to. So don't be late trying to read this. Later.

Monday, March 05, 2007


First word of advice. Well, a few.

Back up your really REALLY (I mean a dozen really's) important work on your computer. Including pictures. Including your iTunes library. Everything.

I've been offline, and not too happy about it, for the past week or so. My laptop crashed. I just got it in October. Less than six months ago.

Now, some of you might be asking, just like all my friends did... Well, what did you do? Were you looking at dirty websites/pictures? (Answer is no... and why is that the FIRST question your friends always ask when you have computer problems?) Did you download anything online? (Nothing except the upgrade to my virus/spam protection subscription). Did I spill anything? (No... just my tears as I saw the proverbial blue screen, with a bunch of writing about stuff I know nothing about.)

Called the tech staff of my computer company... which was probably half-way around the world... and spent two hours (about 45 minutes waiting for a tech staff) trying all these last-minute efforts to save my computer. Nothing worked. Yeah, a few blips and the desktop came on for a second. Then nothing. Blue with a bunch of writing. Part of me wants to believe there's hope, and I insisted on mailing it back to the company for a repair/replacement. The realist tells me that it's done. My October laptop baby.

Thank God I keep all my manuscripts-in-progress on a flash drive, and I email to myself everyday what I'm working on. But... what I'm really worried about... is my iTunes library. Superficial me. I don't want it gone. That's SOOOOOOOOOOOO much work downloading all those freaking CDs. iPod still works fine, and everything is stored on it.

Still. Lesson. Writers. Back up your data. Until I get my laptop back, I've only got my office computer during the day... oh, and the 6-year-old laptop I retired last October. Gonna dust it off for the next week or so. Thank God I'm not on an urgent deadline, though I am in the middle of novel three and hoping to finish this spring.

Funny thing. That 6-year-old dinosaur never gave me one problem. It was just S-L-O-W. And getting slower by the day.