Thursday, March 31, 2005
United Farm Workers site
Cesar E. Chavez Institute
And while were at it -- learning and reflecting on the issues of labor, farm workers, and rights -- check out the film, A Day Without A Mexican. It's a great film that highlights how Californians take for granted the contributions of the 14 million plus Latinos in the state.
I hear it's starting to be the same in other states that have traditionally operated on the black/white paradigm and now with influxes of brown people. They're taken for granted, being ganged up on by the traditional black/white paradigm, while just trying to make a living like everyone else. Oppression is oppression, no matter who is the recipient, no matter the longevity of that oppression. May not be the exact same situation, but it still hurts... I digress.
My prediction. Just my sociological, institutionally-educated guess. 20 years from now, Iowa will be the next brown and black enclave of the United States. Too many old people. Not enough young people to fill their places or who want to stay there. Tons of land and farms. Some factories remaining. Small towns (for those who believe in the small-town values thing). The Iowa Legislature is proposing or toying with a no-tax plan for people under 30 who live or relocate to Iowa. OK, maybe some tradional "Iowa" values and beliefs to contend with -- it is one of the whitest states currently, but I can see it 20 years from now -- a critical mass of brown and black population shifting to Iowa.
Si, se puede.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Well, I already knew about J.K. Rowling and the new Harry Potter coming out July 16. Then found out about DFW's date, July 5.
Now, the mama of all fiction, the one to whom all contemporary black authors owe their respect, gratitude, and publication to, Terry McMillan, has a new novel, The Interruption of Everything, coming July 12.
Fun July, huh. Fun month for a first-time novelist to come out, huh? Sure, why not.
While all the kids, and their parents, and grandparents are out getting the other books, that means that much more traffic will be in the bookstores... and the potential for all those customers to see my book on the shelf is raised exponentially. Rowling and McMillan are sure-fire magnets to bookstores, so with all those folks in the bookstore, they have no choice but to see mine, huh? And once they see it, look at the back, read the description, they'll have no control over their impulse to pull out the plastic and purchase not one, but three copies of Down For Whatever. Yeah, that's the ticket.
It's going to be a fun July. That's for sure.
About ten years ago, when I was an R.A. in college, our R.A. staff attempted to do a building-wide program/event called The Gossip Challenge. We'd borrowed the idea from the Oprah show, and attempted to get our residents and staff to go one whole week without gossiping (sharing or listening to), saying anything negative about another person, or playing people against each other -- i.e. telling one friend one version of a story (usually to create sympathy) and telling another friend another version. At the time, we defined gossip as a deliberate spreading of an untruth/speculation of someone's personal life or a deliberate spreading of a hidden personal fact that we knew someone wouldn't want to be public.
The program wasn't as successful as we wanted it to be. Despite tons of publicity and overhearing people talk in the hallways or cafeteria about the idea of "not gossiping," untimately it was just the R.A. staff who took the challenge. (Maybe the discussion among residents was the success???) We kept notebooks, or gossip journals, with the intent of documenting each time we were tempted to gossip or partake of an untruth. It taught us a lot. Made us realize that it is so easy and such an unconscious act to gossip. We kept record of what went through our minds not participating in the act, and what direction the conversation turned to. Ultimately, we found that our conversations focused on "us" rather than "others." And we focused on a lot of productive and positive topics-- people's successes, dreams, hopes, and desires.
I've heard Maya Angelou call the act of gossip as a process akin to "being pecked to death by ducks." In other words, it's a slow and destructive process that can be a little painful.
Now, I'm no hypocrite. I love to read entertainment fluff magazines, even check out a few celebrity gossip websites and cable channels, and talk to friends about what I've read. Sometimes I feel bad. Realize celebrities are real people, but that more people know (or think they know) them. But they have the same problems, joys, insecurities, and triumphs at different times in life.
I think about this a lot as an author with a book coming out. Now, I realize that authors are on the bottom rung of the celebrity ladder. And debut novelists are on the lower level of that bottom rung. So maybe I'm tripping. I just think about it.
But then I thought, maybe I should toy with the idea of revising The Gossip Challenge. But expanding it to include no negative talk about others, no negative SELF talk, as well no spreading of an untruth/speculation of someone's personal life or spreading of a hidden personal fact someone wouldn't want to be public. (With the one exception being politics. Politics is different. Politicians are accountable to us. You think?)
I thought, why not try this for one day at the beginning of the month. April 1. But if I (and maybe you?) tried The Gossip Challenge on April 1, would our friends and family take it as a joke? Would we be the April fool? Anyway, I'm going to spend that day (ok, the next day too since I'll be in a plane most of the day Friday) trying to challenge the gossipy thoughts I'm tempted to think and say. No talking about Myrtle's purple polyester pants, no talking about how much weight my colleague Kaley-Joe at Blank University lost or gained (or why), no wondering why my colleague Tookey-Sue at Pizza University is bringing along a student who's also a personal boy toy, or no pondering Oda-Mae breaking the white shoe rule.
The thought won't even cross my mind.
Can I do it? Can we do it?
P.S. In addition to politics being immune from The Gossip Challenge, Braided Pony Tail Psycho Man and Contolling Husband from the gym are also immune... hmmm....
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
I've got three stacks and a few weeks down time. The stacks are next to my bedside table. And now that I'm in "relax mode" until I get edits and feedback, I don't know where to begin.
To Be Started:
Playing With Boys by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez
The Love Wife by Gish Jen
The Good Wife Strikes Back by Elizabeth Buchan
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
To Be Finished:
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Last Lullaby by Denise Hamilton
Every Night Is Ladies' Night by Michael Jaime Becerra
Southern Storm by Terri Blackstock
At This Moment by Trent Jackson
God's Country by Percival Everett
Hmmm... where to begin? So many books, so little time. I'm heading to Nashville on Friday morning and I think I want something fun to go along with me. What to choose?
Writers don't always make the best readers... meaning, speaking for myself, I buy, acquire, or receive too many books. And when I'm writing, I don't like to read much besides entertainment magazines or blogs -- don't want other styles influencing what I'm working on. Now... what will it be?
And let's not even go there with the To Be Re-Read pile. That's another story...
Every first, every new development, every little thing excites you, while to others -- particularly those who have gone through the process -- are like, "OK. Whatever. Yawn. Get over it. The charm wears off, sweetie."
Well, I've known for a few weeks that my book was done and coming out soon, but today I found something that makes it officially official. The book in on the Kensington online announcement of upcoming books -- July. Woo hoo. No going back... whoa, no going back.
OK, my private (public) excitement is over... back to your regularly scheduled net surfing...
Monday, March 28, 2005
The gym is full of stories. Just watch and you've got a zillion jump off points for characters for your fiction.
Braided Pony Tail Psycho Man showed up again at the gym. And like a hawk hones in on its prey, as soon as BPTPM hit the top of the stairs and did a quick look around, he was standing between my stairmaster and the object of his stalking. Again, he pleaded from the bottom of his corazon for another chance, talked about how much they have to lose being apart, blah blah blah. I kept the headphones low for a minute, but decided listening to the Glitter soundtrack was much more exciting, not as repetitive as BPTPM's shameful begging/pleading/stalking... and I just kept an eye on the body language, just in case things got crazy and I needed to duck. (And before you go off on me about the Glitter soundtrack, let me say... it's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It's one of my favorites among the Mariah Carey collection... but I digress...)
For the second half of my workout, I went to the elliptical machine across the room. Glitter transitioned to Lee Ann Womack (yes, again!), and I had an eye on another situation. Let's call him Controlling Husband, who apparently thought he was as well-versed in personal training as the paid professionals are. Now, I know some people have picked up some fitness tips, but this was definitely their first visit -- I could tell by the outfits they wore. Anyway, after about five minutes riding bikes, Controlling Husband's wife wanted to join an aerobic class about to start. She stood up to go in the aerobic room. He stood up, grabbed her, yelled at her to get back on the bike. She did. Five minutes later she saw another elliptical machine open up -- the one next to me. She stood up. So did he. She resisted for a minute his pulls. Controlling Husband chilled, and then jumped on the elliptical machine his wife wanted, and told her to get on the bike. The nerve. And he smelled. And he didn't know how to use the machine. And I refused to help him learn how to turn it on. (Another gym pet peeve... go through orientation and actually learn how the machines work please!!!) I digress. I couldn't stand the smell after a minute or so, so I moved to bikes a little bit away.
But seeing the behavior of Braided Pony Tail Psycho Man and Controlling Husband made me realize a few things:
1 - Everyone deserves to be, and should be, choosy about relationships; there's nothing to write home about settling;
2 - Red flags in relationships should not be ignored... no matter how cute, charming, or heartwarming they may seem in the beginning; and
3 - If he does it in public, like the men at the gym, that means the behavior in private must be ten times worse.
I think I need to stop being so nosy at the gym. It gets me a little riled up and a little discouraged about the state of relationships. Hmm...
CASA 0101 one of those spaces where everyone is welcome to learn, share, and experience their artistic points of view. It's a safe space. And Josefina is working with other artists to create a nice little renaissance in Boyle Heights and East L.A. We need more spaces, places, and people like Josefina. Working to make a difference.
I've met Josefina several times. She spoke here at the university on filmmaking and writing. She has worked with our friends at the East L.A. Women's Center. And she wants to help young people of color find their voices through artistic venues and the creative process.
Just got a bunch of e-mails about some spring time writer, directing, filmmaking classes CASA 0101 will be offering. There's some great people teaching this spring and the classes are reasonably priced. No price is too large or small if it's an investment in your future.
So... if you're in L.A., and even thinking about dipping in the creativity pool, I say go ahead, take a chance, meet other creative types... whether it's at CASA 0101 or a space in your hometown. You never know what may come of it.
Now that I'm not on deadline, and my alarm is set to a much more reasonable time, I'm still waking up at 5 am. Uuuggghhh! Not cool. If my natural alarm clock keeps waking me, I might add a couple morning workouts to supplement going to the gym after the office.
Anyway, passed the time listening to the Front Page show on KJLH, and there was a guest on who, on the surface, seems really cool and like he's doing some positive things in his community and for people of color. Forgot his name, but remembered the website of his organization, Operation Hope.
Based on what he said on the radio, it sounds like the organization is trying to help people of color and people on the cusp of the middle class/working class fringe get home mortgages, open bank accounts at real banks (not using check cashing places at a primary bank), and manage their finances much more responsibly. Sounds like I should check them out. Sounds like an organization that does work across the nation.
Not an endorsement. I'm definitely Not a financial advisor. I don't even agree with some of the compassionate conservative statements the guest made, but I do believe in making better choices when you have better information and resources to work with.
Anyway, just something worth checking into. And as soon as I log off, I'll check out the site myself. Maybe today's 5 am wake up call might be worth the inconvenience.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
So anyway, friends and I went to another favorite local haunt in Hollywood for drinks, dancing, and dishing. I had fun hanging out tonight. A real good time. Yeah. And even thought it was Easter, which is a typical family-gathering day, the place was crowded and there was tons of traffic on the 101 with other club hoppers tonight. (Yeah, in L.A. we preface our freeways with "the"-- the 5, the 10, the 101... go figure...)
But I came home, made some tea and checked e-mail... to see who, what, and from where people were linking up to me. Found a blurb about Down For Whatever on the Sex and the 2nd City blog -- Sunday, March 27 entry. So cool. Thanks for the blurb, SA2C!
That's all for now. Happy Sunday night... or Monday morning... whenever you're reading this entry for the first time.
P.S. If you happen to find blurbs about Down For Whatever anywhere, feel free to send me a quick note. I'd appreciate that information.
1. It's a draft.
2. It's rough.
3. It will go through revisions and edits, most definitely.
4. I love the title, but awaiting approval from powers that be before sharing.
5. But... most importantly, I'm happy to be done with the first draft, and looking forward to the work that lies ahead.
Now, my friends, family, and co-workers can have me back -- at least until summer Down For Whatever work begins.
Time to celebrate! And Happy Easter (if you celebrate...)
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Just not wanting to let go of my characters as I reach the end of writing my second novel. I like/love them, even with their good and bad traits, flaws and positive characteristics. A lot of writers talk about how they live, breathe, and hear their characters 24/7 while immersed in the creative process. I've been up since 5 am writing, and since I know where I'm headed in terms of an ending, I'm finding myself delaying, not wanting to say goodbye to these characters and their desperate situations. (That's what the quick e-mail break is about right now... delaying the inevitable.? I know I'll have to revisit these characters again during the revision stage, but at some point in the next few days I'll say goodbye and send them on a short vacation. Yeah, that's it. Not goodbye. A short vacation.
Saying goodbye is never an easy thing. So sang Taylor Dayne (and Mikalah on American Idol the other day) in her song, "Love Will Lead You Back." Sometimes, love won't lead you back.
(weird transition, but hold on...)
There's a stalker at my gym. He's stalking his ex-girlfriend. How do I know? Well, I used to see them together -- happily together -- at another location of the fitness chain at 5 am working out. Then I changed locations, and workout times. Now, mainly 6 pm. Another city. So did she. Alone. Until about two months ago, I noticed her ex, let's call him Braided Pony Tail Psycho Man, started showing up and standing next to her treadmill just watching her. He'd talk. She'd run. He'd pour out his heart, talk about their "amor," his "corazon" breaking, how they're meant to be together. How did I hear all this? Turned down the volume, but kept the headphones on. OK. I'm nosy. I'm a writer.
Last night, as I pulled into the gym parking lot, I noticed her getting into her car. Finished with her workout. As I drove past, Braided Pony Tail Psycho Man appeared out of nowhere from behind a wall, wicked smile, piercing look, held her car door open as she was getting ready to close it. Kinda freaked me out. I paused, looked, just so they'd know I see them, and kept driving until I found a space. Said a small prayer that she was being proactive with getting help (i.e. restraining order, telling friends and family of her whereabouts and schedule, varying her schedule so it isn't predictable) and that Braided Pony Tail Psycho Man would realize the error of his ways, seek help for his problems, and conclude that there's NOTHING another person can do to make someone feel anything. And since I don't know either of them personally, I can't just intervene and say, "Dude, chill with the stalker action. Lady, tell him to get the f*^k away from you." Anyway, he looked like he's just arrived, mainly just to "see" her. He never came into the gym to work out. And, since I'm nosy, I know what cardio machines he, and she, generally uses.
Let me echo this again, because I've been distraught over breakups in my past (but never getting to the point of being stalkerish): YOU CAN'T MAKE SOMEONE LOVE YOU; YOU CAN'T MAKE SOMEONE COME BACK TO YOU.
You only have control over your own choices and behaviors. No one elses.
Anyway, I hope their ending -- when/if it gets to that point -- is peaceful and amicable.
When I get to the ending of my novel, I'll let you know. I'm delaying, but getting there.
P.S. Don't have time/energy to get links for where to get help with endings -- relationships or novels. If you have something to share, please do with all of us.
Friday, March 25, 2005
But I can, from a first-novelist perspective, share my thoughts on getting picked up by an agent or a publisher. These are just opinions, based on my taking fiction classes and developing my platform of writer friends and people who helped me along the way. And I've come a long way from my first fiction class in 2001. But let me preface my answer by saying: there is no secret, no formula, no way to figure this out. We're all guessing, hoping, writing, and praying...
So T asks: What's the secret to getting your book picked up by a publisher?
T, there is no secret or science to getting your finished manuscript represented by a literary agent or picked up by a major publisher. But this is what I've learned in the past four years since taking my fiction writing dreams seriously...
1. Write a good book. (And since you're self-published-- T self-published his debut novel this year), keep good records of your sales numbers so that when you query an agent or publisher, you have your sales to back you up. Sales numbers, plus a good story and good writing count. What's a query? That's a professional letter you write to an agent or publisher briefly summarizing your novel and asking if they'd consider reading it.)
1a. Good is subjective. One agent may hate your work. Another will love your work. Thirty publishers may say no, but one may say yes. It's not just only good writing. It's what the agent or editor feel enthusiastic about. It's like dating in a way. Everyone's looking for the right match for a successful relationship. So what may be a good book to some, might be a terrible book to someone else. There is no science or magic to how this thing works.
2. Work on your craft. (Join some writers workshop groups, take a few classes at UCLA Extension Writers Program if you're in L.A. or go your local university's extension program. Many authors will teach workshops in their homes or the local coffeehouse. Or go for broke. Go for the MFA in Creative/Fiction Writing. Don't just do free things. Invest in your skills and craft every now and then. But do anything to get you in a circle of other writers who can give you objective feedback; friends and family don't count to me for critiques on writing style and craft unless they're writers... and most are not. But not all fellow writers and classmates are helpful. Just like office politics, there can be classmate or writer group politics. Find your allies, pick your battles, but try to keep them in a writer circle if possible. Develop your relationship with your workshop or class leader, too. They often can, and will, introduce you to other people who can help you! Become the teacher's pet and star student.)
3. Research agents. (Now, there are legitimate agents and those who are shady. Real agents don't charge you anything to read your material or to represent you. Real agents make their money after they sell your project to a publisher, and then it should be no more than 15-20% of your sale amount. Agents only take on work they're enthusiastic about or feel they can sell. therefore, do not take rejection personally. These are business decisions, not critiques on your writing skills or story or your being -- unless there are no writing skills or story apparent in what you send... then you go back to step #2. There are hundreds of literary agents out there. Look for one certified by AAR preferably or at least on their way to being certified. Look for client lists, recent books sold, etc... Or read the thank you's at the front of books you like. Most authors thank their agents. Google them.)
4. Wait, wait, be patient, and wait some more. (After you've written your professional query letter -- i.e. no misspellings, no slang, no cutesy fancy paper, no sob stories, no chicken-grease stains, no I'm-the-next-Terry McMillan-Gish Jen-Sherman Alexie-comparisons
5. Unless... (If your project is the hot one of the moment, you could be picked up right away by an agent and a publisher... of course there will be revisions, changes requested, and other things you may not have planned on. since they're in the business of publishing, listen to them. they know what they're doing. More than likely, you'll be waiting. Use this time to work on your craft. Write some short stories. Start a new novel. Do not spend money you think you'll be getting in an advance if your novel sells. Not smart. Just maintain your regular life and keep writing and waiting. But if you're the hot one on the dance floor, you may not be waiting for long!!! Like clubs and the single boy, you just never know if it's your night or not... hmmm)
6. Unless... part two. (Writers of color, LGBT writers, West Coast writers, and other non-majority groups may have an extra challenging time. I use may lightly. Some writers on West Coast say the East Coast-driven publishing industry doesn't get the diversity, mixture of cultures and languages,and general lifestyle of West Coast writers' stories. There are not many agents, editors, publishers of color in the major publication houses and agencies, so... the perception goes, people who are not like you may not get your story.
I'm no expert. I can only share based on what I've learned in the past years I've dipped into the publishing pool. I started DOWN FOR WHATEVER as a short story in my UCLA Beginning Fiction class taught by Kerry Madden. Less than four years later, but many rejections and revisions later, it'll be out in July 2005 on Kensington Books. It can happen.
With hard work, developing craft and skills, building your platform, and staying disciplined, anything can happen... but even still, being published once is no guarantee that you'll be picked up or published again. That, my friends, is a whole 'nother story and a whole 'nother process. A writer's life is never done and we all end up back at square one at some point in our careers, I've heard.
Adding to the picture perfect-ness of the day is my friend, photographer Kurt Brown, who's been getting a lot of play in print, electronic, and other media, including Brotha2Brotha. I've known Kurt for like seven years, since we were in grade school and romping around the streets of San Francisco. Who KNEW? Apparently I didn't, though I'd heard through the grapevine Kurt had mad skills handling models and lenses. Yumm... Check out Kurt's site. Check out Ibarionex Perello's work -- the guy who shot my website pics. And check out Brotha2Brotha, which has nice pics, and is the gateway to my current gossip-filled fave: 666! Some hot and not-so-hot pics, but definitely perfect for escaping the drama of your life for that of others. That's if you have a bad side. Hmmm...
Here's to a picture perfect Good Friday and weekend for all of you! What are your plans?
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Actually, Sara's a friend from a writer conference we attended together last summer, so I won't even pretend to do the fake "Well, Sara..." answer.
The blurb process is part publisher initiative, part writer initiative. Once the book was accepted for publication, the publisher asked me for my "dream" list and my "real" list of people I'd like the manuscript sent to for consideration. My publisher also asked which folks from the list I already have a relationship with, so that both of us could approach the writers in question.
Publisher sends out the manuscripts about nine months to a year ahead of publication, asks if the person would consider reading and blurbing the book, and give a deadline by which they'd like the blurb back. I also write, call, talk to the people on my list who I know and ask if they'd consider a blurb. You also tell them how much you love their work, thank them for their time and consideration, blah blah blah. Then, it's a waiting game.
So far I've gotten some great blurbs for DOWN FOR WHATEVER. I want to share them with you and publicly thank those who have blurbed me so far for the cover:
- "Fresh, funny and real..." -- Monica Palacios, writer and actress, The Original Surfer Chola
- "Few write with more honesty or so entertainingly." -- Jervey Tervalon, author, The Cocaine Chronicles and Understand This
- "A must read! Offers layered and complex portraits of L.A., and African American and Latino gay men devoid of stereotypes and cliched sentimentalities." -- Rev. Irene Monroe, religion columnist, In Newsweekly and Queer Take
- "DOWN FOR WHATEVER is a fabulous romp of colliding egos and cultures, longing and lust, and most of all, friendship. An absolute delight to read." -- Kerry Madden, author, Gentle's Holler
- "An exhilarating debut... smart, sexy, hip, painfully honest, and wickedly funny." -- Denise Hamilton, author of the bestselling Eve Diamond crime novels.
A couple of blogs I read say blurbs only matter to the writer and to others involved with publishing, and that real people don't care at all. That in fact, real people and readers see blurbs as misleading or something. I love blurbs and always look at them before considering a book purchase. But, then again, I'm a writer. Maybe I've proven my point.
I've been fascinated lately with the idea of "real people" readers -- those who aren't writers, connected in publishing, blah blah blah. What makes them buy a book? And when they do, what makes them consider the titles they purchase or read? I sometimes think publishing misses the mark by only targeting the demographics perceived as the book buying market. Book buying may be considered a "leisure class" privilege, but there's a whole 20 - 30 something, hip/urban, progressive, and of color, who don't read or buy books, but I think would if more were written they could identify with, instead of a lot of artsy, over-your-head material out there. Nothing against artsy or over-your-head...
Anyway Sara, I hope I answered your questions about blurbs.
Though I'm no expert, I am a first-time and newly-published author and have a little insight. Send more questions. I'll do the best I can.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
That's correct, Fred, for $400.
So one of the unofficial holidays that my crew sets its clocks around is LBP. For 2005, mark your calendars May 21 and 22. It's huge. Fun. Great crowds. Tons of fun (boys, girls and undecideds), festivities (dancing, people watching, and physi..., err..., mental, err..., intellectual stimulation), and fruity juice boxes (uh, drinks.) And great for those who like their crowds in hues of brown and black. Yum...
One of the running jokes among my crew is that we're all on our LBP Lifestyle Changes, uh, food and exercise plans, err... diets, known as the LBPD, to get in shape for the kickoff to summer. Now, most of you know I've been on my lifestyle change since August 1, 2004, and have lost 32 pounds. Most of my crew started lifestyle changes around the same time too.
Did it through making good food choices (Weight Watchers online -- it works, trust, and I didn't have time for meetings so online was even better! Now I'm done and just maintaining...) and kicking up my cardio... (...which reminds me, another blog topic, another time -- sweating is OK at the gym, as long as you have a towel and wipe down and put on a fresh coat of deodorant before working out; you won't believe how many people I observe who don't... or who walk the same speed on a treadmill they'd walk from their car to the house. Duh, if you're young and able-bodied and exercising like you're 300 YEARS OLD, you're wasting your money, time, and other gym members' space) ...I digress.
So I'm not exactly on an LBPD. I'm on a maintenance plan. Whatever. OK, enough of me. I'm less than 80% of the man I used to be. Love saying that. I digress too much.
My crew prefers LBP to the other similar events in Southern California. Maybe the Silverlake Sunset Junction Street Fair comes a close second. But we're all looking forward to this year. With the book coming out and some special promotions planned for that time of the year, this year's LBP should be the best yet... and I don't even go to the festivals all that much.
Long answer, Fred. We're running out of time.
Oh, sorry Alex. I'll take Exes and Texas for $800...
Just picked up a copy of Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn. The CD is amazing. No wonder it won Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals at this year's Grammy Awards. Listened to it at the gym during the first half of my cardio. Great stories. You
Loretta takes you through it... from the story of how her mom and pop met in their coal-mining town ('Van Lear Rose') to getting wild in Portland, Oregon off a Slow Gin Fizz ('Portland Oregon') to telling the town hussy, while defending her babies' daddy, "I wouldn't dirty my hands on trash like you." ('Family Tree')
So Loretta took me through the stair master for thirty minutes.
And Lee Ann Womack took me through an additional thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer. Now Lee Ann's newest is There's More Where That Came From, and that song -- the title track -- alludes to the affair and late-night calls from a secret lover who calls just to remind her, to hint, she can have it whenever she wants it. HOT!
The phone action continues on the initial offering from the CD ('I May Hate Myself In The Morning, But I'm Gonna Love You Tonight'). I'm sure you can identify... since we've been talking about exes lately -- the one you can't quite get out your system, the one who causes you pain and you can't get it together with, but as Lee Ann sings, "Ain't it just like one of us to pick up the phone after a couple drinks." We've ALL been there. I know. A couple drinks. Stroll down memory lane. Burning calories...
Anyway, 1000+ calories and an hour+ later, I think I heard two of the best country CDs out there now. Hope you'll feel the same.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Everyone should consider creating their own living will so that the conflicts, drama, and accusations that come with death and families won't happen in yours. (I'm not an attorney, don't claim to be one, so you should check on particulars related to your wishes in your own state or country.)
I'm talking about people who get involved with those serving five to ten in the biggest business in the U.S. -- prison. Saw an interesting story on the news yesterday (scroll down to video #9 on link) about the amount of fan mail people like Scott Peterson get, and how there's this whole group of... I guess you could call them prison groupies... And they love dating and getting involved with incarcerated folks. Now I know some of us like bad boys, but I've got to wonder... What's the appeal?
The other five to ten I'm talking about is what's become the new fashion accessory of my circle of friends and acquaintences. That is -- dating someone five to ten years younger. That is -- those of us in our late 20s/early 30s doing five to ten below. Hmmm. Yummm. Uh? Did I say that? Anyway, the Saturday night special I blogged about a couple days ago fits that category. My closest friend, his sister, another good friend, one of my publicity team members, Demi, Vivica had the magic stick, Camilla has the magic... ooh gross (she's like 2 years older, it counts!), and three of my day-job colleagues have picked themselves up one of these nice, trendy, spring accessories. I love it. Applaud it. Hip hop has definitely brought the generations together. All I gotta say about that one... Thank you hip hop!
Well, not totally. My next novel explores the five to ten dynamic. Age... not incarceration status. Almost done with the novel. If I could limit my internet and e-mail time to five to ten minutes a day... maybe I'd be done like yesterday!
Monday, March 21, 2005
It's a common discussion and debate among writers -- should my job be to write? to market? both? leave it up to the powers that be? How about all of the above.
My blog-cousin over at The Paperback Writer has a great entry today on book marketing. Check it out!
OK. Back to something serious. At least something related to those writer-types out there...
Now that we're more than three months into the New Year, it's time to dust off those resolutions some of you may have made about wanting to write the great American/International novel. It's never too late to get started.
For those newbies, or seasoned vets, here are some books that I've found helpful along my writing and publication journey. Links provided where found (but not gonna type in the whole amazon thing... if not there you can google the names).
Exploring life as a writer:
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. An insider's guide to writing from someone who has been on all sides of the publication table as a writer, agent, and editor.
Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. A folksy, down-to-earth and personable narrative on life as a writer and in the publishing industry.
Working on craft:
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. From a literary agent, a to-the-point guide to making your fiction shine in the first five pages... so that an agent, editor, or average person will read past those initial pages.
Writing the Breakout Novel and Workbook by Donald Maass. Defines crucial elements of breakout fiction and how to write a novel that will generate interest and have potential to hit the bestsellers list.
Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors by Jewell Parker Rhodes. A guide to improving technique, finding voice, and staying culturally authentic for people who write for and about black people.
Selling your project:
How To Get Happily Published: A Complete and Candid Guide by Judith Appelbaum. From submission to contracts to publicity, this book covers what authors can expect during the publication process.
Guide to Literary Agents 2005 by Kathryn S. Brogan. If you're finished with your novel, and it's been proofed for grammar, edited for story cohesion, and workshopped by writer peers for feedback, you're ready to search for a literary agent to represent your work. This guide shares thousands of reputable agents and their specialties. (Note: a reputable agent never charges you $$$ to read your work or, if you're a model, to see your pictures!!!)
Publicize Your Book! by Jacqueline Deval. Learn how to promote your book from a former director of publicity for several major publishing houses.
If you can get your hand on Terry McMillan's article, "Publicizing Your Commercially Published Novel," from the January/February 1988 issue of Poets and Writers, this might help if you've got a finished project and starting to think about marketing with your publisher (Hint: Publicity is not just up to your publisher -- authors should expect to do their fair share of work, too, in this area!!! Ask Marcela Landres.)
If you can get your hands on short stories or novels by Alice Munro, J. California Cooper, Pearl Cleage, and Lorrie Moore, these might help expand your view and scope of fiction, writing technique, and putting together a great and meaningful story.
All of these books and resources have been helpful to me in my short life as a writer -- I didn't get serious about my goals/resolutions until 2001/2002 -- and I hope they will be helpful for you as you pursue your writing goals for this year.
(Note, this entry didn't even get close to mentioning writer conferences and retreats. Maybe another day... or if you have some good links, please share!!!)
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Anyway, I arrived in time for discussion, questions and answers, and then the most unexpected thing. Trent blurbed ME during his reading. I was happy for that, not expecting it, because I know writers like their events to be mainly about them.
Bought a copy of Trent's book, At This Moment, got it signed, and afterwards, talked for like 20 minutes on various topics of the writing life. He's even got a blog now, so check it out when you get a chance.
A very nice event. Nice crowd at Matais -- I mean, you could feel the love and support for each other and for black books. Very cool. Can't wait to start reading his book. Probably April. After I finish up my second book at the end of the month.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
So I dropped off the second half of my crew at the airport this morning for their Vegas weekend. Real generous offer, considering I drove out to b.f.e. land -- Ontario -- at 5 am. No problem. I'm a morning person anyway. As long as the first thing I'm doing is writing or coming home. Let's not digress.
Anyway, being proactive and all, I put on my gym clothes and made a mental note to swing by the gym since it's on my way home from Ontario. No need for driving digression in the opposite direction back to the gym. Arrived at the gym at 6:30 am, brought my music and headphones, and planned on light weights and then running on treadmill. I did both, but along the way picked up a few observations of the senior citizens who tend to use the gym at the crack of dawn.
I used to only listen to my music while doing cardio. But... when you tend to wear Detroit Pistons, Michigan State, Sacramento Kings, Pro-Peace, Anti-Rape, Progressive Political t-shirts -- most of 'em I get free from relatives or from the university -- you tend to attract attention and conversation. Especially from those who think if you live in L.A., you oughta be a follower fan of every team L.A. Or those who think because we live in a somewhat safe and conservative suburban area, we should roll over and be pro-U.S./Rice/Bush everything. Whatever. So I learned to block out the crazies and neo-cons by wearing my headphones and staring straight ahead. Concentrating only on my workouts.
Well, today, just my luck. Batteries low. No music. Got lots of stares at my Michigan State shirt. Maybe because all the California teams (except for Pacific) made the next round of NCAA playoff. My assumption. Anyway, when your headphones are low, you can eavesdrop easily.
Seniors are just as dirty birdy as us 20/30-somethings. These men and women I overheard were talking about sex, flirting with each other, making overtures at each other on their respective machines, giving each other "the eye" that I thought only young folks did while clubbing... err, working out. Can't tell the difference sometimes. Hmmmm.... Never knew what I was missing lately. Not that the over 50 crowd is my target demographic. Not that I'm their target demographic either.
But my point... (finally, you say) is that we tend to lump older people into the chair rocking, soup making, 4am breakfast cooking, dollar giving, 8pm going to bed category. One of my writer friends always talks about how we tend to lump children into the same types of categories, not realizing that children are just little people with the same jealousies, rivalries, depressions, scheming minds, and lusty thoughts as adults. I guess the same holds for seniors.
Sounds like a launching point for a story. Lusty seniors who have lives. Seniors who have kept a life beyond their children. Seniors who want to keep themselves tight and active like they were in the 1970s and 1980s. I love it.
Who are the spirited seniors in your life? Give 'em a high five, sho' you right shout out today!
Friday, March 18, 2005
Supposed to write all this weekend. Perfect timing. All my hanging-out friends are heading to Vegas. Raining all weekend. Tons of down time. Maybe some laundry. Got a meeting with Oskar and Daniel this weekend -- two guys on my marketing/publicity team. One of my best friends and first friend I made in California, John, just sold his house and is moving to El Paso next week with his partner. We might do lunch or dinner. Invited to a reading down at Matais Books to see a new writer, Trent Jackson. That's about it. Hmmmm... what am I talking about.
Most people love Fridays. I'm not too partial to them. Never have been, except when I was a kid and loved watching Dallas (i.e. J.R., Sue Ellen, and Miss Ellie) on Friday nights. Long time ago.
I need to write.
But just got paid... Friday night... hmmmm.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Lately, I've been thinking about the topic. I know about books because I write, go to bookstores, check out writer websites, and read book review sections of newspapers. I think that's the same for most people into books. Same market. Same group of people. Even all the writer/publishing/author blogs are linked into one big circle of borrowing, using, debating each others' words.
Then I came across one blog entry that echoed something I've been thinking about. Instead of us all trying to go after the "established" reader, why not reach out to those folks who are not "established" readers, who don't buy books on a regular basis, and who are not in the traditional circles us writer/reader types tend to hang in. That's a whole untapped market that writers/publishers/authors need to go after.
Just a thought.
Also featured in Essence is writer-friend, Tayari Jones, whose new novel The Untelling hits shelves around the same time as Mariah's CD. Buy this book! I received an advanced reader copy and just loved it. I'm sure you will too! It's a novel that resonates.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
But, we're on the 2nd anniversary of the search for weapons, err... removing Saddam, err... bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. OK. Whatever. We were all duped.
I'm not currently a journalist, but there are others out there keeping us updated on what we're not getting in mainstream media.
How many Iraqi casualties? How many U.S. casualties? Casualties visual.
Peace rallies information
I have a shallow side sometimes. Not a lot. But sometimes.
Today I've been thinking about new clothes, jeans, and shoes. Making a mental wish list of what items and how many I need/want. I mean, I have clothes. But over these past six months, I've worn um-teen different sizes, and finally where I want to be. Everything is loose. Luckily most of my current clothes are the kind that never really go out, but they're never quite trendy. I want trendy for Spring and Summer 2005. Suggestions?
Also need to go car shopping this year. Drive a three-year-old VW that I bought four years ago. Think I want an SUV. X5, those Cadillac SUV/station wagon hybrids, Pacifica, or a VW Golf. Never had a problem with my VW, but want something a little more sporty/trendy... yet budget conscious. Car before VW was an Integra. Always had four-door sedans. Always had an import Time for an update and a change? Suggestions?
And why am I so fascinated with the "Oscar back" look everyone sported at this year's Academy Awards? Says a lot when you can get your back and love handles lean and lovely. Hmmm... A dude's gotta eat, but a dude wants to stay in shape. No suggestions needed, lol.
But I'm not always this shallow... when are we finally getting out of Iraq? why does something not quite fit right about this Brian Nicholas, courthouse shooting incident/capture in Atlanta? did Ohio and Florida go blue, contrary to what we've been told?
OK. Not that shallow. I got lots of free time. All I wanna do is write, sell some books, and really a house is the next thing on my agenda. Hmmm, a house. L.A. Single. Sounds like fuzzy math to me.
Anonymity is good in some places. You know when/where.
I'm not so sure about the whole anonymous thing when it comes to the blog world. Of course, when you don't have to give your name, you can hide and say what you REALLY feel. It's mostly negative, err... "promoting dialogue/encouraging critical thinking" blah blah blah.
"Anonymous" has been infiltrating a couple blogs that I really like to read. I read these blogs because I like the blogger, their stories, and their point of view. Sometimes I'll read comments. Sometimes I'll leave one. But what I choose to read is exactly that... a matter of choice. If I don't like it, I generally won't read it. "Anonymous" might think about this.
Tayari Jones talks about anonymous book reviewers in her blog. Read what she has to say about "Anonymous."
I don't think "Anonymous" will ever leave our midst. But, if you're listening and/or reading, we'd like to challenge you to stand up and put your name up with your comments like the bloggers whose pages you infiltrate with negative vibes, err... critical thinking moments.
I'm cool. Just thinking. Always critically thinking, but willing to put my name with my thoughts.
Major power outage this morning. East side of L.A. and San Gabriel Valley area. Had just arrived at the office, talking with students, looking forward to the end of finals week, and mini-vacations and trips coming up.
And poof! The lights went off.
Thought it was just my office, but found out it was the whole neighborhood around where I work. So I'm not crazy.
But anyway, something cool happened for like the last hour and a half while the lights were off. We talked. Built community. Laughed. Had time to connect.
Many times we're so consumed with our deadlines, personal issues, to-do lists, that often we just pass by with a quick "Hey, how are you?" without really caring. I'm guilty of that at times, I admit.
But for the past hour and a half, we sat in the darkness (we were told not to evacuate) and talked. It was nice just shooting the breeze and talking to people who, in a normal day, we'd just be manager/client, or co-worker/colleague. Real cool.
And then it got me thinking. This must be what it was like in the 1800s, or even the early 1900s, when electricity was a luxury, when there were no computers, no radios, no phones to distract families from connecting and talking with each other. When the only entertainment people had was each other. Interesting to think about.
Must have been cool when the lights went down.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Queer as Folk begins its fifth and final season on Sunday, May 22. I'll admit, I didn't watch the show the first two years it was on. Now, I'm a regular viewer. Still surprised there are no men of color in QAF-land, but whatever.
Waiting for the final season of Six Feet Under to begin. Love, love, LOVE the show and the acting and writing. Talk about an inclusive show.
Don't watch much tv, but when I do, it's mostly my shows on HBO and Showtime. And Oprah. And Young & The Restless.
Back to the keyboard... novel number two is almost done. Really, it is.
It's flattering, and unfortunate, that if a book catches on with a reader, the reading experience can be quick. Overnight or a couple days, if it's a quick read. A week or two if the work is a little longer or if you don't have a lot of time. If the work really resonates with the reader, the reader will look forward to the next novel.
So weird to think that something someone works on for months or years can be enjoyed and completed in days. Really weird.
And it can be especially fun to spice up some of your characters' names with some of these. (note, mute your computer... Buju Banton video on every page of this blog might get repetitive to you after a while).
And if you're running out of color names and descriptions, try out some of these. (p.s. I read a great story recently in maybe USA Today or another writer magazine talking about using food and nature names as colors... anybody know where I can find it???)
Or if one of your characters is flashing back... say to the 1980s, spice up your details from that era.
More to come later.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Antonio... and everyone else looking for something good to read, check out these writer friends and colleagues.
Tayari Jones, who has a new novel coming out in April, The Untelling. She also has another great novel, Leaving Atlanta, that came out a couple years ago. Tayari's writing is amazing. Such a command of words, scenes, and childhood memories. Tayari also has a great sense of humor. You all would like her if you met her.
Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, who has two fabulously fun novels out. Dirty Girls Social Club is her first. Playing With Boys is her second. She has a new one coming out early 2006, Make Him Look Good. Dirty Girls just got picked up as a series by Lifetime. Congrats! (She has a website, too, but more people are into blogs so that's what I linked here.)
Eric Jerome Dickey is great. His new one is coming out soon. Genevieve. Everyone reads him already. So let's see, who else?
J. California Cooper is one of my all time favorite writers. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a website, but if you google her you'll find all her books. If you're looking for a bit of "mother wit," life lessons, with a little bit of humor and history, you'll like J. California Cooper's work.
Jervey Tervalon. Susan Straight. Jane Smiley. Percival Everett. Tom Dolby (my label mate). Just google them.
Anyway, when I think of more cures for your writing and book fix, I'll let you know. Or... if anybody has suggestions, feel free to leave them for each other.
Back to the manuscript at hand.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Heading to Nashville April 1 - 6 for ACPA Conference and to meet with the folks at Brothers United. Will be doing a number of presentations and talks about people of color, LGBT issues, and my novel. Hope they're nice in Nashville.
Any tips? Haven't hit Tennessee since a family reunion back in the 80s in a place called Murfreesboro. Yeah, hope I got the spelling right on that one.
If you know anything about what Nashville has to offer, let me know.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Taking a short break to watch Oprah which I TIVO everyday. Fascinating show topic, kinda fitting with the new novel: Would you take him back after multiple lies and affairs?
So it's not procrastination, is it, if it's research, right? lol. One of my characters... well, won't say too much more. But this show will help me enhance the naive characteristics of one of my characters. The things some of us choose to overlook, not believe, or make excuses for when the truth is right there in our faces. I've been there. So has one of my characters. Yeah, right, a character.
Back to writing after Oprah. Yeah, right. I am. Really.
ps. have you been there?