Monday, December 31, 2007

Reach Out

OK. Wasn't Yolanda Adams and choir majorly FIERCE singing Reach Out And Touch the other day? Oh. My. God. This is my new morning inspiration song and video.

I'm not making any resolutions, per se, for the new year because I generally try to make changes and do things without making public declarations to other people.

All I hope is that through my work and writing I am able to reach out and touch some lives. Make a difference. Be a friend. Someone told me I need to smile more, not look so serious. Maybe that's something I'll work on. So if you see me... you know the drill.

And I hope to continue finding inspiration from the people around me. 2007 was great. No complaints. Hope your new year is great. And if it starts out not the way you want, you've got Happy Lunar New Year in February 2008 to start again.

Enjoy!
fs

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Some More Linking Around

Ate sushi last night. Crave. In Dearborn. I'm a happy camper. Saw one of Detroit TVs favorites, Rhonda Walker, there in between newscasts. I guess it's a cool spot.

Found some cool new sites I'm going to have to link to eventually. But check them out now and see if they're keepers for you:

Black Woman Writing (inspiration and contest for writers)
The Excitable Bore (fun observations on life)
The Urban Muse (writing inspiration)
Soul of a Man(ok, I've known about this one for a while, but I just love catching up on the funness of The Blacks)
Loving the Liberry (from a librarian... all the crazy things that happen in a library)

And just a couple more faves: Chudney Ross and Post a Secret.

Can't believe vacation is almost over and I'll be back in L.A on Friday night. Got some book stuff on Saturday/Sunday in San Diego. Got some plans for New Year's Eve in L.A.

2008 is next week! Crazy!
fs

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thank You! And Happy Holidays!

I send you all my sincerest thanks and best wishes for a wonderful Christmas, New Year, and holiday season.

I'm looking forward to more good times with you here online, in L.A., or in a city/event near you.

All my best,
Fred

Detroit's News Divos.

Isn't Mr. Brandon a cutie? Love watching him do the news here in Detroit while I'm visiting.

Mr. Kori is nice too. So is Mr. Andrew doing weather.

And Mr. Charles, who I grew up with, is nice too.

I think a broadcast journalist would be a fine character to add to one of my projects. Just gotta figure a way to figure one in.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jimmy Lee... Where Can You Be?

Reminiscing with some friends in Detroit today.

Somehow one of our old school crushes came up, someone who was in a couple grades higher than us. His name is Ronald. He was one of the preps (in Detroit, it was all about the preps -- rich, smart, and preppy -- and the jits -- the complete opposite).

You may not know him. But if you ever saw Aretha Franklin's video for Jimmy Lee (at 46 seconds is his first appearance in the video, since he was playing Jimmy Lee), you'd sing like Aretha sang, "Lord, he was so fine."

We all thought it. Women. Men. Undecideds. We were all fans.

Where is he now?
:-)
fs

What You Been Up To?

First of all, a lot of changes coming in the blogosphere the next few days. Bookmark my site: www.simplyfredsmith.blogspot.com so that you can always find me. I'll still be around.

Been in Michigan the past few days. The earliest I've ever come home for the holiday season. Keep forgetting that Michigan is a swing state. So the tv ads for the various candidates are everywhere. It's kinda cool, because in California, L.A. in particular, which is straight up blue state, and probably leaning toward the former first lady, we don't get to see any ads or much commentary.

Been enjoying reading Nathan McCall's Them. If you're in a book club, this book could be ripe for discussion. Lots of likeable and unlikeable characteristics in the characters, tons of issues like ethnicity and class, even a little bit of dysfunctional romance.

Been doing some writing. It's hard, because the holidays are my down time -- no students, no work -- but for the family, it's their prime time to see me. So I'm up at the oddest times squeezing in a few pages here and there. I'm three months late on a manuscript that I'm hoping to turn in by end of January. Wish me luck.

Been enjoying the feedback and thoughts from those of you who've picked up Right Side of the Wrong Bed. I can't wait to join your group discussions. There's a LOT we can discuss!

Hope it's a good one for you.
fs

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Travel Companionship

So I know a lot of you will be at the airport, train station, or bus depot (do people Greyhound anymore???) as you make your way to travel destinations.

If you're like me, you kinda get sick of your music collection (as fabulous as it is!!!) every now and then.

So why not catch up on some downloadable travel companionship for your iPods/mp3s this weekend...

A few of my favorites:
NPR Books podcast

Daytime Confidential podcast -- for all you daytime drama fans. Check out their website here.

On that note, they've also compiled a "What Was Worst on Young and Restless 2007" list. The show sucked all year with the new headwriter and producer crew. I could check off everything on that list. Bring back the CLASSIC Young and Restless that was the leader for a reason!

OK. Back to podcasts...

One of the first podcasts I discovered when I got an iPod was Feast of Fools. A good mix of information and comedy.

And for those of you who haven't met me, you can "meet" me through an interview I did with the FOF crew a few weeks ago. Coming Together. Leave some comments... link to your site... say hi! :-)

So, what other podcasts would you recommend for our travel listening pleasure? Um, does Michael Baisden have a podcast for his show? I try to listen on radio when I can... but I'm usually in meetings or working to catch everyday.

Happy and safe travels. I'll be checking in from time to time. Still gotta shop. And still gotta get cracking on the novel manuscript that was due like September 30. Yeah, I got work to do this holiday season!
fs

Give The Gift of An Amazon Review!

Oh, while you're at it... leave a gift of an Amazon.com review (or your other favorite online sites) of your favorite authors' books.

Of course 5's and aboves are extremely nice. But any kind or constructive reviews (how it resonated with you, your favorite parts, what it made you think about, how it's different or similar to the authors other works) will help other readers...

And the authors appreciate it too! I just did some for Eric Jerome Dickey, Johnny Diaz, and a few other new favorites.

Your turn.
:-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And I Believe You Will Do So

This Year You Write Your Novel is a part how-to, part motivational book by Walter Mosley.

And at around 100 pages, it's short enough to get you some information you need and won't distract you from the time needed for that novel or story within.

A couple other resources I just picked up today... because I'm always picking up resources: the February 2008 issue of Writer's Digest with a great series of stories on writing novels; The Writer Magazine, called The Writer's Guide to Fiction.

So are you starting now? Or waiting until New Year's resolution season in January?

Good luck!
fs

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Busboys and Poets

Did my first visit to Busboys and Poets in DC yesterday.

Loved it. But then I knew I would, since reading about the space on Tayari Jones blog from her DC days. (And Tayari, lots of people know you here...)

Now, if we could get one of these in L.A... with the same vibe, menu, and staff (mmmph, don't wanna embarrass the guy who waited my table, but dang!!! how u doing? thanks for the chocolate cake suggestion!) I'd be a happier camper.

OK. Time to pack and roll out of DC for the Detroit flight. It's cold!
fs

What Readers Want. What Publishers Want.

What Readers Want.
The other day I spent time doing signings at Urban Knowledge Bookstores in the Baltimore area. Fun times.

I learned a lot. One, many readers are spontaneous buyers... especially women readers. I encountered many who buy books to take a chance on finding a new favorite author. And many who want to actively support black arts/artists. Very cool.

Talked with Mondell and Stephanie of the Urban Knowledge stores, and they say readers want sex, violence, twists and turns, a punched up storyline. What readers don't want, they say, are elaborate language, literary awards, slow stories. They say readers will buy books based on their (bookstore staff) recommendations. And readers want their favorites to produce new books quickly.

It was very insightful those conversations. As readers, what do you want?

What Publishers Want. Maybe Readers Too?
Thought about this when reading Tess Gerritsen's blog entry, Don't Fall Off The Trail, where she talks about the pressure many authors are feeling to write quickly, write quality, and move units. BUT... instead of the traditional one book a year, or a book written every other year, some are feeling the pressure to finish TWO books a year or more.

Imagine.
fs

Monday, December 17, 2007

D.C. Diaries

Dear Diary,
Why do I always meet the coolest guys when I'm out of town. The kind that make me wish I lived HERE instead of THERE? Mmmmph. All I gotta say is 'Trell and I melt.

But all kidding aside, the guys over at Brave Soul Collective have a very good discussion group going. Monte and company are doing their thing. Enjoyed meeting all the guys and participating in their monthly discussion. Met a cool guy, Emeka, another L.A. boy and we connected. David, Sean, Reggie (my most faithful reader/fan) all came out.

But the after-set, over at The RnR Bar, sealed the night. Now I know why they call D.C. Chocolate City, and I was in a candy coma. And not to mention that I'm LOVING Janet's new single, Feedback. That's hot. And 'Trell, wherever you left to go work hard for the money... (Let me do my soap opera eye mist/cry and stare out the window). Yum.

Tonight, heading over to Damien Ministries at 7 pm. Doing a book reading, signing, etc... there. Thanks Rashid for the invite and the fabulous lunch on Sunday. Love talking shop with him. You should buy his books.

All the best,
Fred

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Smoking. And the Mason/Dixon Dynamics.

Oh. My. God. Becky.
Look at her (cigarette) butt. It. Is. So. Big.
It's like one of those (NASCAR fans) girlfriends.
You. Know.
It. Is. Just. So. Big. And. (Smelly).
Gross.

OK. So why didn't anyone warn me that people smoke in clubs/bars in Baltimore? Um. Gross. I totally would have worn NASCAR flannel and 1994 Levis out last night. Or something like that. Something that could be thrown away. Because last night I got hit with a wall and funk of cigarette smoke that was like Johnny Cash's ring of fire.

Come on people. Didn't you get the memo? Smoking is bad. Subjecting others to smoke is bad. And not to mention what your clothes smell like when you leave. Ewwww. And not to mention that the service workers/bar staff who may or may not smoke get subjected to second-hand smoke whether they want to be exposed or not.

I feel like I picked up the beginnings of lung cancer last night. For real. This morning I coughed up... let's just leave it at last night's smoke.

OK. So the Mason/Dixon Dynamic.

I often tell friends that I can go weeks without interacting with someone who is white in L.A. So, when I get to a place, like say Baltimore where I am now, or Detroit, or anywhere else where the dynamic is white majority/people of color minority, it's weird. That's because L.A. is people of color majority. And even though even though my own ethnicity isn't the majority of that people of color dynamic, you feel a sort of collective bond with the whole POC thing.

Anyway, breakfast this morning. Middle age white woman is talking down... I mean talking DOWN to a black woman who is staffing the breakfast area. "I don't care that you close at 10 am, I want skim milk NOW." She's going on in a hissy-fit for a few minutes. I'm behind her in line.

I just go, "Is that really necessary?" The black staff members kinda grinned. I (we) know they wanted to go off, but they know their place... and their paycheck. So she rolled eyes and left without her skim milk. I don't know if I embarrassed her, or if she realized that her hissy-fit wasn't necessary, or if she realized that she was late, that she could read, and that she can follow the directive of the sign that says "We close down at 10 am."

I hate it when I see white people talking down to people of color service staff. But I hate it even more when I see people of color doing the SAME to people of color service staff. Maybe it's more a class thing than an ethnicity thing.

Because I think... that is someone's grandmother, mother, dad, aunt, uncle you're talking to. A generation ago (heck, this month) that was/is your own grandmother, mother, aunt, uncle. One of my grandmothers worked in someone's home AND worked in a store. And she wasn't working for other black people. So I always think of that when I interact with a service staff person. They have feeling and self-esteem and a life too that doesn't revolve around your skim milk or attitude.

There's never a need to talk down to people because you THINK you're somebody. There are no better than's or worse than's in my book. But that's just me. How I was raised.

I forgot about the whole color dynamic in places that are white majority/people of color minority. My sister, who travels a lot, and I talk about this a lot. Especially when we go to the South, where it seems that people are taught to "know their place." And they fall in line. I know there is a line, but I don't fall in it. Maybe L.A. has skewed my vision of how the rest of the country operates... though, if you go west of LaCienega or near the 405, you can often get the same dynamic of the South.

I'm rambling. I've had two cups of coffee and worked out already. But my mind's running a million miles a minute.
fs

Friday, December 14, 2007

Too Good To Be True

Flawless. Like that delicious looking dish over there.

No traffic to LAX. Got dropped off at curbide check in. No one in line. Breezed through security. Got an aisle seat.

No crying babies. No chatterboxes in my row or in front of me. Slept all the way across from L.A. to D.C.

Rental car and hotel all set up perfectly... and you know how we always worry about that card working. lol.

Too good to be true. Um yeah.

Just watched the local forecast. They're expecting a Nor'easter here. For you L.A. folks, that is the equivalent of a snow hurricane. I think. That's my L.A. definition of it.

Do I own boots. Gloves. A hooded coat.

Um no.

But gonna make the best of it anyway, especially as I drive from B'more to D.C. tomorrow night after my B'more work is done. That should be the height of the storm.

Gotta have something high drama like the weather to talk about on Sunday morning. Won't stop me from being a tourist though. Fun being the new face in town. ;-)

Have a good one!
fs

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Computer Recommendations. Clearing Up D.C. Visit.

So I've decided that buying a new computer is cheaper than getting one I own fixed. Or am I just a consumerist who just wants a new computer.

I'm open to all brands, types, etc... What would you recommend? What do you use? I'm not looking to break the bank, but I do want the bells and whistles for music and media. Taking recommendations now.

Next, I'm going to D.C. and Baltimore this weekend. The Lambda D.C. Bookstore event is not happening anymore-- please delete from your planners.

But I am doing the following events and hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 15, 2007, 4 - 6 pm
Urban Knowledge Bookstore
7879 Eastpoint Mall
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 282-2286

Saturday, December 15, 2007, 7 - 9 pm
Urban Knowledge Bookstore, Mondawmin Mall
2301 Liberty Heights Ave, #2001
Baltimore, MD 21217
(410) 523-0017

Monday, December 17, 2007, 7 pm
Damien Ministries
2200 Rhode Island Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20018
RSVP at (202) 526-3020, extension 10

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Author's Holiday Wish List. Part 2.

So this was inspired by my friend and fellow writer, Sofia Quintero aka Black Artemis, who wrote a wonderful column by the same name on her blog: An Author's Holiday Wish List. Go visit her blog... then come back to me. lol.

I agree with all her suggestions, including, among them: 1) Buy Our Books; 2) Buy Our Books For Someone Else; 3) Write A Review; 4) Don't Loan Out Your Books. There are others in her column, and reasons why they are important, so do check her out.

Additionally, I got to thinking about some more Author Holiday Wish List Items. These are less "customer focused" and more "friends of writers focused" because at times we want to tell our friends these things, but don't always have the heart. It's all in fun... but still. :-)

1. Just because I'm working at home doesn't mean I'm enjoying a day off. So before asking us to run your errands, wait for the cable person at your house, watch your dog... ask if we're writing that day or if we can help you out. We're generous, but also need to stay focused due to deadlines -- self-imposed or publisher-imposed. On that note, try not to call us if you know we're on a writing/working schedule.

1a. Just because you happen to see us pop up on Instant Message, it's not that we're wanting to chat... and definitely not right away. We might just be checking for an email from the editor, newspaper, etc... One of my pet peeves is IM Pouncers... who message me the MOMENT I get online. At least give me a couple minutes to get settled. lol.

2. Just because we're writing doesn't mean we don't want to be invited to a night out. It doesn't mean we'll go. But the invitation can go something like this, "I want to respect your writing time, but I'd really like you to hang out with us on a Friday night. Maybe you can set aside one Friday night writing session this month for the group?" That would show your writer friends you respect their need to be at home some weekends, but that you still want them part of the group.

3. If you ask us to read some of your work, please understand if we have to say no... or if we say yes, don't breathe down our necks every other day for our feedback. Yes, we might have agreed to read your work... but we still have work and a life too. Asking for feedback on a 250 page project in a week is a bit much. And in the age of legal repercussions, we don't want to get sued because you think we borrowed your idea. That's mostly why we have to say no... even though as friends we trust you.

4. We know you think we're rich when we get published, but we're not. Most of us are working day jobs... or have to do speeches at universities and groups to make ends meet. So... don't ask us for free copies of our books. I mean, we're generous and all. But our free copies are generally for us to give to reporters, bookstore staff, reviewers, etc... who have the potential to speak to the masses about our books. So when we... let me speak for myself... when I see you spend $250 on a pair of boots, $20 on coffee a day, $80 on a night out at the club... and you don't want to spend $15 on my book... It speaks volumes about your priorities and support for a friend. Buying the book keeps us in business. Like I always tell my students when they are nonchalant or say "I don't know"-- can you pretend like you care?

4a. If you like our books, buying them tells the publisher they should support and find additional writers who write our kind of books. Especially true for niche genres, for example LGBT of color lit. There aren't too many black, gay men's stories being picked up by major publishers. Buying the books will alert publishers there is a paying market out there, and that they should be seeking more of our work. We shouldn't be a self-published genre forever.

5. Books are just as important as movies. Books are just as important as CDs. We know how anxious you are for Friday's new movie. We know you're waiting for new music Tuesday. Can you show the same excitement when we release a book? Can you send 10 text messages to your friends about our releases? Can you email your list about our books? We'd appreciate it. We'd appreciate it even more if we didn't have to ask.

6. Oh, and it's generally because of books... or studying books... that most of us have attained the level of success we have today. Reading is fundamental. Reading is fun. Reading kept most of us fantasizing about life beyond our own, when the neighborhood bully kept teasing us for whatever reason. We knew we'd show him/her by being smart and becoming more successful than they would ever be.

7. Whether we're published or not... check in with us, ask how our projects are coming along, if there's something you can do for us... maybe offer to read a passage to see if it makes sense, offer some paper for printing, bring us some coffee or tea or other treats.

8 - 100. Other suggestions for the Author's Holiday Wish List?

Of course this is all in fun... but just getting the gist of some of these would help us in our writing process and career. Thank you!

Now, back to whatever you're doing!
fs

Monday, December 10, 2007

Have You Gone Bold and Beautiful Yet?

By far, the best daytime drama now is The Bold and The Beautiful. Great cast. Balanced use of veterans and new folks. Grabbed up all the talented staff let go by the new Y&R regime.

And it's done in that classic soap style -- with a little camp and telenovela action -- that you come to know and love about soaps. The ones you watched with your grandma.

Over holiday break, give it a try. It's just a half-hour and with Betty White (Rose, Golden Girls) coming back to the cast over the holidays... you have some great daytime drama. There's a great "Who shot Stephanie?" story happening now.

Meantime, across the hall at CBS Los Angeles, Young and Restless... I try. I tried today. It was ok. Not the classic, high quality show I grew up watching. Glad to see Jack, Neil Sharon, and Nikki still around. Um. Don't recognize or care about all the newbie characters. Maybe if Gloria and the Baldwins get what they deserve...

But you gotta love this column that ran in TV Guide Canada, The Best of Soaps 2007. And in particular the quote the writer said about fan-fave Victoria Rowell's heroism for leaving the show...

The article gives the Hero Award to Victoria Rowell (ex-Drucilla), "For being the first person to see what Lynn Marie Latham was capable of and was destroying — and wanting no part of it. The bravest soap star that has ever lived. Bar none, you’re missed. Heck — I will apologize, if no one else will — you deserved better."

That about sums it up, in my opinion.

Longing for the good old days of Y&R. Heck, even the good old three-years-ago.
fs

My Time-Consuming Addiction

First, the RAWSISTAZ Reviewers did a cool review of RIGHT SIDE. Thanks Miss Cashana from Birmingham, Alabama!

Second, my publisher ran an ad/contest for RIGHT SIDE last month. And I want to publicly congratulate the following who got some cool freebies from that contest: Debby G from Connecticut; Keith E from New Mexico; Linda S from Pittsburgh; Chelsea P from Calgary; and LuAnn M from Washington state.

OK. The time-consuming addiction. Google and Amazon. Love the sites. But they're the worst enemy of a writer whose project has just been released. Even one whose project is several years old. In trying to curb my addiction to Googling myself, or checking Amazon for comments, I'm keeping a little notepad by my laptop where I mark how many times I think about searching myself... and how many times I actually do.

Why? Part is ego, but more self ego than obnoxious or outward ego personality. It's wanting to see if anything new on myself has popped up. I have found myself on the most interesting and surprising places... which is actually kinda cool. Part is also wanting to gage the interest level in you and your work.

Now, I'm not one of these folks whose life rises and falls based on alleged popularity. I'm a loner. I don't run with large crowds. I go to lots of events where I think it's funny when other "public people" do the whole "public people" thing. I've never sought out to be in the in crowd. It's so not me. But I know it's a necessary part of the writing job... or any job that requires the public to keep you employed.

But I do like to Google, Technoriati, and Amazon myself. Weird. Yeah, I know.

That's part of the reason some authors suggest keeping two computers if you can. One that is Internet ready. One that has no active Internet service.

Or setting up specific times each day to do your Internet searches, so that you don't waste time.

From one of my favorite blogs, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, Top 10 Signs You're Online Too Much and Writing On Speed, which is actually some practical tips for working hard and fast on your next writing project.

OK. Heading to the post office. Happy Monday!
fs

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Other Women in Fiction

One of the most hilarious short stories I ever read is by Lorrie Moore ("How To Be An Other Woman") in her short story collection called Self Help.

Actually, read it a long time ago but felt the need and urge to read it again. Another story of note in this collection is "How To Become A Writer." Just so dang funny... sarcastic... biting humor, much in the style of The Office, which is one of my TV faves. Check out this interview on Salon.com.

Of course, if subject circa "Other Woman" are your thing... you've gotta read The Other Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey. It's been out a few years now, but it's one that I like to read again every now and then. Especially that list of questions... Gotta read the book to know what I'm talking about. That list has come in handy when trying to clarify a few things in some of my relationships.

What are some "other women" in fiction you have come to enjoy reading?

Enjoy the day!
fs

Saturday, December 08, 2007

For "The Fam" In Uniforms

We all know "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been deemed ineffective by many, and may be out the door depending on who the next president is.

Anywho, a couple of things you may want to add to the holiday stocking of someone wanting to learn more about LGBT folks in uniform, or who are actually LGBT folks serving our country or local communities.

Coming Out Under Fire, a documentary that shoots to the heart of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and explores the World War II origins of military regulations that labeled gays and lesbians as mentally ill and sex perverts. Directed by Arthur Dong.

A Private Affair, a novel by Mike Warren, follows the life of Sean, a private in the military, who carries on a number of steamy affairs with women and men while in service, as he figures out his own sexual orientation issues.

Sounds hot. But I've been known to be a sucker for a uniform. Yum. So is my good buddy, Real California Chica. We used to have fun touring the bases down in San Diego while doing writing research. :-)
fs

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dirty Laundry. The Movie.

I've written about the film Dirty Laundry when it was making its rounds through the film festival circuit.

Now, I'm writing again to tell you that you've got to go see Dirty Laundry when it releases in theatres nationally on December 7 (NYC and L.A.) and then December 28 (everywhere else). In L.A., it plays in the theatre at The Beverly Center.

As a fellow creative type, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to support a project like Dirty Laundry during the first weekend and week... in a theatre. Those numbers, whether it's a film or a book, send a message to the powers-that-be that there is a paying audience for our types of projects.

Fun(ny). Poignant. Touching. Looking at how families deal with each other's secrets when they get together.

Stars Loretta Devine. Rockmond Dunbar. Jenifer Lewis. And Maurice Jamal, who also serves as writer and director.

Check out a trailer of the film here. Then take all your family to go see it this holiday season!
fs

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Picture Me Rollin'

Another novel that may have slipped by you... but would make a great holiday present.

Picture Me Rollin by Black Artemis follows a female ex-con, influenced by the music and life of Tupac Shakur, who's trying to stay clean on the outside, while her ex-boyfriend for whom she took the rap tries to suck her back in to the life she wants to leave behind.

I'm sure some of us know or mentor someone going through this situation. So this is definitely a book that can both entertain and build understanding.

Black Artemis is a hip-hop activist, writer, and speaker in New York City. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University and has worked with many social justice organizations throughout the country. Artemis is also a screenwriter who has won recognition for her work. She lives in the Bronx, where she was born and raised, and enjoys working with youths to find their voice through art and politics.

For the next few days, Black Artemis a.k.a. Sofia Quintero, and some of her Chica Lit colleagues are doing a special series of articles called 12 Days of Chica Lit, highlighting some of the best of the Chica Lit genre. Should be very fun!
fs

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Raising Fences: A Black Man's Love Story

In keeping with the theme of books as holiday gifts, here's a couple books I recommended from a column I did earlier this year... Michael and Jenoyne are great L.S. based writers. Enjoy!

I'm pretty lucky to have had a father, my birth father, in the home and active in my growing up years and with our family. And for as long as I did, through my adult years.

Lucky. And rare.

At least, that's what I hear from many of my students, who this week got to experience the literary world of Michael Datcher, author of Raising Fences: A Black Man's Love Story, and Jenoyne Adams, author of the novels Resurrecting Mingus and Selah's Bed. Michael and Jenoyne, by the way, are a husband and wife literary duo.

But back to the whole father thing. Michael's book, a memoir, explores his growing-up years in inner-city Los Angeles and how fatherlessness was the one thing he had in common with his neighborhood friends. And amidst the unspoken words of their single moms -- that men are not to be trusted -- Michael, and many of his friends still had what he calls "picket-fence" dreams.

It's been a couple days since Michael Datcher and Jenoyne Adams shared their work with the students. And since that time, many of them stopped by my office to say "how cool" it was to attend an event like that -- a book reading and signing, their first. Many also shared how the event moved them, stirred up memories of their growing up years, and made them think about how their own fatherlessness as children affected them -- even to this day.

Amazing how books can do that.
fs

Wait, I Said That?

So I think I said something kinda intelligent in an interview I did with the folks at the Brave Soul Collective this week. I'm sure it's been said in some form or another by other folks at other times. Still, I'm amazed.

"This (my writing) is important to me because often times, we're asked to leave our sexual orientation at the door with our black and latino communities, or we're asked to leave our ethnicity at the door with the larger gay community. My writing characters who are proud of their ethnicity and being gay is part of that effort to tell young gay people of color you can be all who you are without being ashamed or leaving parts of you at the entrance door."

Check out the rest of the interview here.

So, something like that is what I would say to some of the folks responding to my interview with the Feast of Fools Gay Fun Show earlier this week, who are criticizing black and latino people for throwing their own pride events, or who are accused of segregating themselves.

It is exactly the history of racism in the U.S. that prompted groups to decide to include and celebrate themselves, in a setting where they didn't have to be questioned, or made to feel different or wrong because of their ethnicity or other features. These festivals are about pride and inclusion, which often didn't/doesn't happen in larger mainstream settings.

But... there will always be people who put the burden to end racism on people of color... and that means there will always be opportunities to teach and challenge that way of thinking.

Which is why I do what I do.
fs

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Details and Full Circle

So I'm totally on the books for holiday presents kick.

And if you know someone who is into books like mine, then here are a couple you can add to the list of potentials for this holiday season.

Full Circle by Trent Jackson. A continuation of his first novel, At This Moment, where we pick up from that "did he or didn't he" suicide moment. Bought it but haven't read it yet.

Details by Dayne Avery. A sweeping epic of church politics, sexuality, and the U.S. South. Read it before it published. Haven't bought it yet.

But both can go in the stockings of your friends and lovers this holiday season.
fs

Fred Does The Feast of Fools

Hey everyone! Had a blast yesterday being interviewed on the Feast of Fools podcast.

And now, you to can listen to it today... via iTunes or the Feast of Fools website.

Feast of Fools episode, Coming Together.

Enjoy!
fs

Friday, November 30, 2007

Race Play and the Bedroom

All this got triggered by my friend Monica Jackson's blog entry on (mature) white women going on sex tours to Kenya. MSNBC story on the Kenyan sex tours here.

Of course this is no different than black men from the U.S. going to Brazil to have sex with Brazilians.

Or older (white) gay men going to Mexico... or Thailand... or heck, inner city Detroit or Philly... anyplace else where money talks... to have sex with underage/teen boys of color. (if someone can find a source to back this up, which we all know to be true, please share it in comments... thanks!)

Or that one of the roots of lynchings of black men in the U.S. was centered around the protection of white women's sexuality and honor.

It's all part of a larger area of scholarly research called Race Play.

ColorLines Magazine, which all culturally-empowered and progressive-minded folks should read or subscribe to, did a great issue about two years ago on the interconnectedness of race, sex, and personal choices we make, consciously or unconsciously, in our dating and mating lives. This story, Playing With Race by Daisy Hernandez, is one of the best I've read on this subject. And it's an area she has continued researching in her post-graduate work.

So most of are aware of the dynamics of exploiter on the exploited in many areas.

But what if, in the case of ethnicity and sex, it's the exploited who offers him/herself up on a "ring the dinner bell, come and get it" platter to the exploiter? This area has always fascinated me in my studies on ethnicity, class, and gender.

It got triggered earlier this week, when I read a small little story in the latest Frontiers Magazine, an L.A. based LGBT weekly. On page 80 of the magazine, at the bottom, there's a cute feature called "Boyfriend Material," where someone from the local LGBT community shares what makes himself boyfriend material.

This week's column featured an 18-year-old black man named Robert. He boasted as a little-known fact about himself, "I would say that something few people know about me is that I'm not attracted to my own race... In all actuality, I'm just a young black guy whom (sic) has always been attracted to older white and Latino men." He continues to say, "I know some may take that offensively but I mean no offense... Again I mean no harm, just being honest." (to you young scholars in-the-making, this is what could make those finals week papers more exciting to write about!)

That young man's statement struck me hard. Because, at 18, I was that young man. Thank God I'm not now. I imagine a few years of experience will evolve his opinion and identity. There are a number of factors I've been able to identify in my own identity and academic work over the years.

One, being dropped off in the middle of Missouri at 17, at Mizzou, with not a large institutional support for people/things black, I just tried fitting in with the majority. Then, me thinking that the black community had/would shun me because of being gay, I found myself in a circle of young white gay folks... but not totally IN the circle. I was the fun, black sidekick. The entertainment. The safe black guy. The window into "black" life that many of them didn't, nor would ever, delve into in or out of class. And, I also thought anything black was less than.

I always thank God for education, and having the privilege to study and learn about the cycle of oppression and the history of racism, sexism, and heterosexism in the U.S. and world.

That in-class work, coupled with me thinking about things my parents and grandparents shared from their experiences, shifted me out of that phase. Took a few years, some real-world experiences, to get me to where I am today... A culturally-empowered gay man of color who is unapologetically black, unapologetically gay, and who doesn't base my worth, or my dating, on a white/majority scale of acceptance.

That's the main reason I write the kind of novels I do... with culturally-empowered gay men of color. Because I don't want young gay men of color growing up with the "ooh, if I just get me a rich, white man all my problems will be over" mentality. Because the problems are still there. And you can't erase the black or brown of your skin, no matter how you try to blend in.

And you can't erase your mom, dad, and growing-up experiences you had. Nor should you be ashamed of how you grew up. It is what it is.

How does it, if at all, affect you? How have your identity and opinions changed or evolved over the years? What would you say to a kid like that Robert in Frontiers Magazine? Or your thoughts on how ethnicity, class, and gender are active elements in all the choices we make, personal or professional?
fs

Dating Young and Younger

For all of you out there dating across age demographics, you gotta watch tonight's episode of NBCs 30 Rock. All about dating young and younger. Hilarious.

The topic's kinda been on my discussion plate since Tuesday, as I've been doing readings and discussions about Kenny and Jeremy from my new book. Kenny's a 30-something dating 20-something Jeremy.

And speaking of hot young people, go over to check out this new blogger on the block... Richie. I've been reading his blog for a couple weeks. I recognized him in the audience at my A Different Light bookstore event on Wednesday. Thanks Richie and your crew -- especially driving all the way from where you did!

Hopefully you, Dear Reader, are reading this entry as you get home or wake up from a hot date with the person of your dreams. And if the person is younger than you are, maybe Valerie Gibson's book Cougar can give you a tip or two to make the pairing work.
:-)
fs

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Saturday is World AIDS Day

Yes. I'm still here. Will be posting on the week's book events later. Thanks to all who came or hosted. Appreciate all very much!

In the meantime feast on this.

Saturday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. Many organizations are planning events to commemorate and bring attention to the issue.

My friends over at The Wall-Las Memorias Project are hosting its annual Noche de las Memorias in L.A. this weekend. Check out the information... and if you're free stop by this event or one in a town near you!
fs

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

From Kicking It... To Forever Single.

So this week NBC News with Brian Williams is doing a series of stories on black women in the U.S., and looking at areas of education achievement, health, economics, and relationships.

Watched last night's installment on black women's achievements in higher education and can concur, since I work at a university, that black women are leading the community majorly.

Stats also tell the story that black women are the least likely of many demographics to be married, which the series will explore this week. Talked about it in a past entry on the film Soul Mate, and what I thought could be a powerful alliance between straight black women and out gay black men when it comes to finding the romantic love they seek.

I'm wondering what the stats are for the LGBT community. With such slippery, and sometimes non-defined, definitions of "dating," "hanging out," "kicking it," "just doing our thang," "we don't like to label ourselves," etc...

... I wonder if there's a segment of the population that's NEVER truly had a partner in the traditional sense of romantic partnership -- 1 on 1, no one else, no exploring options, a label and a commitment to honoring the label... at least in the beginning. A segment that's only "kicked it" and eventually found themselves in their 50s or 60s without no one to kick it with, or settle down with.

Of course there is. I'm just wondering what that must be like to have never dated, never been asked out, never had a prospect, never had someone call you their own. Of course there are days when I go into "woe-is-me" mode when I'm single or dateless, when in reality I'm just being picky at the moment.

But are we in an age where people are completely comfortable with dating, hanging out, kicking it, just doing our thang, and not being labeled... that the traditional sense of romantic relationships is a thing of the past? When is the right time to shed the "kicking it" mentality and look at the long-term investment value of those we want to date?

It's all over the place, this entry. I know. My mind is like that today...
fs

Monday, November 26, 2007

Twas The Night Before...

So one of the students asked me today about what happens on book release day? Like, is there some big sha-bang, ta-da, whatever.

Honestly, it feels like any other day. Except that now people will be able to read something I created in the privacy of my home and laptop months ago. Life really doesn't change on a book release day. Because it seems so distant and removed from me. But it is very exciting nonetheless. It's mixed bag of feelings. Does that make sense?

That's the weird part. The time distance between creation and public display. Something that is part of your home and life will be part of other people's homes and lives. Something that you've talked about on and on and on... yeah, I'm a shameless self-promoter, but not in the "I'm better than" self promotion. In the "I want you to know" version.

But other than that... hmmm. Tonight the friend/ex came over. We had a drink. Some food. Watched Heroes (my first time watching, he's trying to get me hooked... not a match). He listened to some of the excerpts I plan to read. I listened to some of his job stressors. He just joined the staff of a politician and is learning the unspoken rules of that gig.

So. Right Side of the Wrong Bed is out. Hope you'll join me for the ride.
fs

Viva Margarita. Viva Vodka.

Never too early to plan for the weekend, huh?

Though these look like summer concoctions, they can make great presents for the upcoming holidays this winter.

Will it be margaritas or vodka-based cocktails?

Well, for those who partake of adult beverages now and then.

Margarita or vodka? Today, we're talking the books. Because the weekend is still four days away.
fs

Sexy. Cool. Sunday in WEHO.

OK. Something a little more fun and light. Oh, and if you've been to West Hollywood, you know this lady in the pic... "R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-o-th-as?" She's cool like that.

Anyway, met up with a friend visiting from NYC for the weekend. Did the West Hollywood thing, which was surprisingly quiet. Abbey especially.

So we left for a little light dinner. And as we were walking down Santa Monica Blvd., heard that sexy, cool little song by Rihanna, "Please Don't Stop The Music," blasting from one of the clubs. Rage.

We stopped in. Discovered it was 18+ night. Danced anyway. Because we're sexy, cool like that.

Got approached by a guy for a dance. Very flattering. Danced. Did the post dance conversation. Waiting for the young man to get to the deal breaker question -- How old are you? It's as if L.A. folks still haven't picked up the "Living in L.A." manual -- you never talk/ask numbers, age, income, weight. But whatever. He's young, hasn't gotten the memo yet.

He was 20. I'm 34. 1987. 1973. Fuzzy Math. Saw that crush-glow and happiness evaporate from his face. Was mentally prepared for it. We danced anyway again. I gave him a card with my book info on it.

My pseudo-public status lit up his face. He asked for my number. I told him to bring his crew to my book signing on Wednesday at A Different Light instead.

I guess the deal wasn't broken. But there's no WAY I would date anyone who's 20. Dance, yes. Date, no. Not a candidate for Chris Hansen Dateline NBC. That's one story, gossip item I don't even want to be associated with, nor will you have to worry about reading about.

But back to you. Your age dating rules?
fs

Sunday, November 25, 2007

La Vie En Rose

Nothing like a little tragedy to make your Sunday. So that's why I'm heading off to The Abbey in just a few minutes to catch up with some friends, though I'm sure there will be some drama and tragedy in attendance there too. lol.

But back to tragedy. You gotta see La Vie en Rose. It's the life story of singer Edith Piaf. It came out in June 2007. And yeah, I'm about six months behind on it.

But thanks to Netflix, and a chilly Sunday afternoon, I watched. And let me tell you. An artist personality. A hard childhood. And some choices, good and bad, and you've got an amazing life portrayed on the screen.

Many critics have already said that the actress who portrayed Edith Piaf's life, Marion Cotillard, is a shoo-in nominee and possible big winner of the upcoming awards season for films. I have to say I agree, though many more "Award Films" will be released in December, that may provide some competition.

On that note. Some friends and I were debating... which actors work harder? Those who portray real-life people, and who have a real person to study and imitate? Or those who create a role based on nothing but the script and their own craft and skills?

I argued that those actors who have nothing to work with but a script work harder, because they have nothing to go on but their own mind, skills, and acting technique. That any actor can do an imitation of someone else. But my friends argued that those who portray real life people have a tougher barometer, and therefore their nominations (and wins) are more deserved... and that imitating someone's life and mannerisms is hard work. Your thoughts?

Debates aside, I hope you check out this film. I think you'll love it!
fs

This Pretty Much...

Sums up what life is all about.

Love the title. Love the simple cover. But once you get beyond the cover, you'll find a plethora of wonderful short stories. Fiction.

While most of my fiction likes tend to skew toward black and latino pop and classic fiction, I thank God my writing teacher introduced me to the work of author Alice Munro.

For any of you looking to work on your craft, Alice Munro is the master of the short story game.

And this one, Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage, is a great one to read, study, and enjoy.
fs

My Ex. My Friend.

A lot of my friends think it's weird that I am friends/on friendly terms with my exes.

They think once the door has closed, it's closed. No contact. No calling. No connecting.

I think the opposite. That if you started out as friends, why not that same level after the romance is gone. And sometimes, it's weird how you can seem to interact more positively once the work and labels are gone.

Maybe that's the thing. Relationships are work. But they shouldn't feel like work.

Anyway, just a random Sunday morning thought. Lots of these will be popping up because my mind is on a million and one things.
fs

Friday, November 23, 2007

Like An iPod But For Books

OK. This does NOT replace the idea of going to a bookstore and buying books. (For a list of independent bookstores near you, click here for an entry I wrote a few months back.)

This Amazon Kindle device is being touted as the future of reading and books. It's a small electronic gadget, which stores hundreds of books, newspapers, blogs, etc... It's wireless. It's linked automatically to Amazon.com, who designed the device, so that you can buy and download your reading material. Much like you buy and download your music material from iTunes.

Again, I LOVE bookstores. I LOVE the idea of keeping a library of books. But this gadget looks really cool for someone like me, who when I travel, often have to decide books or clothes in the era of 50 pounds or less at the airport. And the idea of hearing about a book, then being able to download and read it on the spot is exciting.

But, there are definitely many sides to the story and the device. Many bookstores and other independent businesses cannot compete with the discounting and convenience of Amazon shopping. Many consumers are convenience-minded and savvy with electronics. Some say devices like this, which are portable, will reviatlize an interest in reading and books.

As well, the Hollywood writers are on strike because of the area of "new media" and studios not being willing to give a 4 cents raise on royalties on profits from "new media" -- cell phone, Internet, other electronic media.

As a novel writer, I have to wonder if this is an area that will be a point of discussion in contract negotiations in book deals. Not just for me, but for everyone who writes books that might be bought and downloaded on a device like this.

But additionally many publishers, including the label I'm currently signed to, Kensington, sell e-books that you can purchase directly from them for your laptop or desktop computer. Some consumers might want their reading material like their music, portable and available all the time, not just at home.

Lots to think about as we make our purchasing decisions.
fs

"Black Friday"

Hmmmph. Another Black Friday. My Fridays are always black, since I am black and very proud of it.

But hey, let's not make it all prideful and political. Well, OK, lets.

Quick... do you remember one present you received or gave last year during the end of the year period? I was really trying to remember... and I don't. Not trying to be a bah-humbug, but just trying to be realistic. OK. I gave books last year. I got some books last year. I always remember and keep books.

If you're going to keep it a Black Friday, how about remembering something significant and positive about black people? How about looking every black person you pass in the eye and saying "hello"? How about shopping at a black-owned business today? I know everyday might be a stretch... maybe today, and then a couple times a month? If not a black-owned, how about one of the mom and pops around the block from where you live? Well, as long as they treat black people (and other people of color) cool.

Let's bring black back. Kinda like a certain pop star says he brought sexy back... while imitating and earning money for being black-lite. Kinda like how black rappers choose black women to sing the hooks in their songs... oops, OK, maybe that's a stretch. We know it'll be a cold day in heck before someone questions what's going on with black music and the demise of the black female soul singer.
fs

Thursday, November 22, 2007

T-giving Day Lines and Cliches

Somewhere in the country today... maybe in my own family, some of the following lines/conversations will be had. Lucky me, I will be spending time on my own in private thought and might go see a movie... in a theatre, not on bootleg (refers to a line listed below.)

And isn't it funny how no one's T-giving table/turkey looks like the pic here... or like on television. Funny how media make us think certain days should be certain ways. Anyway, here goes...

On family
"There go ______ with that dranking again, and it ain't even three o'clock yet." or "You wanna little sip? Come on down to the basement and fix you a little something."

"If y'all invite ______, I'm leaving/not coming over." or in the way it's probably said, "Who told ______ to bring his/her a*s over here with all them bad kids?"

"Ooooh, last time I saw you, you was just a baby/this high/in high school..." (when they've actually seen you in the past year.)

"We shole wish you was here..." (to some relative who is on speakerphone with the entire family... and who is probably glad not to be there, lol)

"Come on in here with the men and watch the game while they get dinner ready..." (please, if you're raising kids do not subject them to this gendered way of holiday gatherings... I HATED watching the game with the fellas and actually wanted to be in the kitchen with all the juicy conversation.)


On food
"MMM, you shole put your foot in the (greens) (sweet potato pie) (ham)."

Probably a phone call first. "Y'all cooking chitlins?" or "You know anyone cooking chitlins? I want some but don't want to stink my house up."

"The doctor said I gotta watch my (pressure, sugar, diet) but one meal ain't gone hurt."

"You ready for seconds?" or "That's all you gone eat? What, you on a diet or something?" or "Y'all sure don't eat a lot out in California... you need to put some meat on your bones." (and you're really not hungry anymore)

"I can't even get up to go to the bathroom."

"Ooh, I'ma have to undo the button on these pants."

On politics
"I like Barack, but the country ain't ready for no black president."

"I like Hillary, but the country ain't ready for no woman president."

"Things sure will be better when the Clintons back in office."

"Remember how much money we had/how good things were back in the 90s?"

"Why don't he send his own alcoholic daughters over there to fight?"

On entertainment
"We got the new ___ on bootleg. Let's watch it after dinner."

"Why should I spend fifty dollars on a night out at the movie, when Junebug brings the movies up to the shop before they even come out for five dollars?"

"You see that Oprah when ____ was on? We got it on tape."

"Hey Junior, come help me turn on this TiVo/DVR/laptop/Internet/remote."

On exercise and diet
"I'ma lose this weight after the holidays over."

"We'll work this meal off at the mall tomorrow."

On spending money
"You wanna hit the sales tomorrow?"

"Gas too high. I ain't buying presents for nobody. NObody... y'all hear that. NObody."

"Yeah, we getting up at four in the morning to get that new... on sale at..." (impossible, since the statement is made just after midnight, and no one is even trying to get to bed.)

On the meaning of the day
"Today, we give thanks, not just on this day but everyday..." (the Fake-Christian-Nice table prayer/greeting led by the designated elder or church-goer, who the month before probably cussed someone out and afterwards said them "I'ma pray for you...")

Probably from the niece or nephew back from the first semester of college... "It's called Thanks-Taking, not Thanks-giving, because of what they did to the Native Americans. Why are we even celebrating?" (true statement, but will probably be met with some rolled eyes at the table, and a "I'ma pray for you... what they teaching you in that college?)

And in your family?
fs

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Want A Little Caddy

So these past few months, I've been on this mental car shopping hunt. Not sure if I want to get a new car, or just keep the one I've had for the past two years.

Fiona Zedde and I test drove the VW Eos and that was pretty much the car I'd had in my mind as my next one. Cute, convertible, classy.

But then the past couple weeks, I've been on this Cadillac kick. Been admiring the CTS's I'd been seeing on the road. Told a few friends I was feeling Cadillacs, and that it would probably be the only American-made car I'd get. I've been an Acura/Volkswagen/BMW kinda guy since I've been buying my own cars over the years.

Anyway, they laughed, said it was the Detroiter in me. For those of you not familiar, Cadillacs are like the middle-class family's Mercedes in Detroit... at least it was like that when I was growing up.

Well, I guess my hunch on the Cadillac CTS isn't so off. It's been named the Motor Trend Car of the Year.
Only confirming that I want a little caddy in my driveway when it's time for me to get my next vehicle.
fs

Getting A Clue

So I watched the most fascinating story on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric tonight... The Secret Lives of Teens.

It's about parental use of technology to keep up with their kids' online lives. But they monitor their kids' online lives in secret. Really fascinating.

I can see many sides to this issue being valid... but one of them is that getting a clue about what your kids (or substitute younger sibling, nephew/niece, godchild) are doing so that you can be an effective parent.

Would you engage technology to keep up with your teens' online lives? Or do you think that is an invasion of their privacy? If you watch the story, and see what parents discover, you might have a clearer perspective on the issue.
fs

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter Words Writing Conference. Connecticut.

If you think 2008 will be the year you start writing your project, why not end 2007 with a workshop to get you started?

Reminder: WINTER WORDS, a Day-Long Conference for Aspiring Writers

WHAT: Winter Words offers aspiring writers advice and expertise from more than 15 published novelists, nonfiction writers, memoirists, biographers and children's authors.

Author-panelists throughout the day will tackle topics ranging from the nuts and bolts of getting published to creating great dialogue and plots to earning your keep as a freelance writer. As a special feature, freelance book editors Marcela
Landres
(formerly with Simon & Schuster) and Eileen Robinson (formerly with Scholastic) will review manuscripts submitted in advance.

WHEN: Saturday, December 1, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WHERE: Fairfield Public Library, 1080 Old Post Rd., Fairfield CT 06824

WHO:
Tony Abbott, author of The Secrets of Droon series
Prill Boyle, author of Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women
James Campbell, author of The Ghost Mountain Boys
Da Chen, author of Brothers
Leslie Connor, author of Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel
Lucy Ferris, author of Unveiling the Prophet: The Misadventures of a Reluctant
Lucy Hedrick, author of Get Organized in the Digital Age.
Linda Urbach Howard, author of Expecting Miracles
Marcela Landres, Editorial Consultant
William Martin, author of The Lost Constitution
Sara Nelson, Editor-in-Chief of Publisher's Weekly
Steve Otfinoski, author of Putting it in Writing
Karen E. Olson, author of Secondhand Smoke
Eileen Robinson, CEO, F1rstpages
Matthew Sharpe, author of Jamestown
Charles Slack, author of Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon
Jane Stern, author of Ambulance Girl
Logan Ward, author of See You in a Hundred Years

TO REGISTER: Call 203-256-3160; $50.

QUESTIONS: Contact Karen Ronald at (203) 256-3158 or kronald@fplct.org

Friday, November 16, 2007

What Am I Going To... Read?

As in, at book events this upcoming season, what am I going to read from the new book?

Well, I tested out new material from Right Side of the Wrong Bed with a group of students yesterday at Cal State L.A.s Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities. It's an academic think-tank, preparing future scholars in the area of gender and sexuality issues. And it was my first public reading from the new book.

And the students, who were a cross section of ethnicities, ages, and experiences, all said...

No back story. No descriptive blah blah blah. Read the dialogue and the action. I think the action they were speaking of is the sex, which, there is sex in Right Side, but one of the students brought her elementary-age daughter. And I wanted to respect that right to parent your child.

And... in general, I don't read sex parts at my readings, as erotica is not my genre, and I'm known to be a pearl-clutching naive boy at times. And no, that's not just a marketing ploy to appear shy and innocent, lol, as some friends have concluded. But to let you know, there is some sex in the novel. Well, more than some.

Anyway, I tested out three sections. Two were more backstory and literary. One was more about the interaction between the two romantic leads, Kenny and Jeremy, when they first meet.

And that, my friends, is what I'll be reading when I'm in a city near you over the next couple months. The build-up between Kenny and Jeremy, which I've gotta say, is kinda fun(ny) and hot.

So here are some upcoming places I'll be reading and signing. Hope you can make it. You can always get updated info on my blog or MySpace or website.

Now for the next important question... What am I going to wear?!?!?!
fs

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Them

When your historically all-black, working class, neighborhood in Atlanta becomes the hot neighborhood o'the day by white, upwardly mobile folks....

You get what is happening in many neighborhoods across the U.S. Gentrification. Dissonance. Feeling imposed on. A 2007 version of colonialism.

You also get a new novel, Them, by Nathan McCall, a story of ethnicity and gentrification told by a black, working class man named Barlowe, who watches his longtime neighborhood changing. What used to be affordable, but not hot property, soon becomes overpriced and trendy. Gradually changes from mostly black, to solidly white.

In the words of Barlowe's elderly neighbor, "They comin'."

Sounds like a great one to put on the holiday wish list... and the to-be-read list.
fs

Gym Nicknames

A sign that my imagination is just a little too warped... just like yours.

I make up nicknames for just about everyone at my gym(s). I switch it up. Sometimes go to the one in nearby Montebello. Sometimes go to the one in nearby Rosemead.

Wanna hear it, here it goes:

Meaty Muscles and Friend. A cute duo, muscular, but not too muscular. Tatted up. Real macho/machismo duo. Looks like former high school football players, but now in mid-20s. One has that dirty birdy look, like he'd hook up with the first thing that opened up on a Friday night if necessary. One looks like the good guy of the duy. I want the good guy, who recently has taken to caring about his abs... and it's paying off. Yum. They've recently picked up another friend... so now they're called Meaty Muscles and Friend... and Friend. Silly, I know.

Panda Face and Slack Jaw. Another workout duo, I think high school students, who've taken to the steroids too much over the past year. Their faces have gotten so chubby with all the muscle gain. Guys, all that "muscle" will turn to fat when you stop caring about working out.

Big Bird. A tall lady with big eyes and a Sandy Duncan pageboy haircut from the 70s.

Grand Farter. An old man, obviously a grandfather age... except, he's a grand farter on the elliptical machine which forces me to change machines when he's within a five machine radius.

Thighs and Eyes. An older gym duo. Well, older for being gym regulars. Probably pushing 50. No wedding rings. But one has nice thighs. One has nice eyes. Both drive nice BMWs and I would have no problem signing up as their sugar baby boy. lol.

Super Cuts. The ID checker at the front desk. Fun, outgoing. But haircuts look straight five dollar Super Cuts special.

Big Booty Cuban. First, I have no idea if he's Cuban. But I do know he has a big booty and thighs for such a compact, regular sized guy. Thick is what most black folks would say. Yeah, I peek when he walks by... and he walks by a lot. Second, he's the closest I've come to ever having "eye contact" at the gym. I believe he's on my team. Haven't had the nerve to say anything... he's my current gym crush o'the month.

50 Pushing 20. A woman who's got to be close to 50. Still wears long, curly locks like she's 17, a cheerleader, and still in high school. Full makeup. Chest pushed up to her chin. Flirts with all the young 20-something men. I'm jealous of her. Because she can, and probably does, get the 20-something gym boy action.

Froggy Turtle. A relatively young man, say early 30s, who definitely LOOKS capable of breaking a sweat. But chooses to walk at 1.2 on the treadmill while reading the paper, and NEVER carries a towel. But his body reminds me of a Froggy Turtle.

Molester. A 40-something guy who "pretends" to get workout tips from all the high school athletes who use the gym facility. He's a candidate for Chris Hansen's Dateline NBC, if you ask me. Leers a little too long at the adolescent boys at the gym. Nothing wrong with being gay. But definitely something wrong with lusting for minors. I give him dirty looks everytime I see him. So does my workout partner. lol.

The Little Cute Trainer. A cute little Hapa boy, no taller than 5'5. But melts the butter on my toast every time I see him.

The New Tall Trainer. A new trainer. No storyline on him yet. But he's cute. And tall.

And this is probably what gets me through my very efficient hour at the gym several times a week. My active imagination. Listening to Feast of Fools podcast. Making up stories about the boys and girls at the gym. And I know if I do it, someone's make up some nicknames about me.

I just wonder what they are... and if they're as imaginative and snarky as mine. Hope so!
fs

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writers and Maids and Bus Drivers. Oh My.

So first off, let me say that I am supportive of the writers currently on strike in the entertainment industry.

In fact, I am supportive of all labor movements and efforts to organize workers. And workers should have the right to organize, or at least have that option. It's important so that collectively, we're all taken care of. In the case of the writers, the issue is really big, according to a friend of mine who is an entertainment attorney in Hollywood.

The whole area of new media -- internet streaming, phone broadcasts, all the unknown technological advances happening everyday for our entertainment pleasure -- is huge. And the workers, in case writers, want their share of revenue their employers, in this case studios, earn off those new media broadcasts. Understandable.

So at some point this weekend, over drinks with friends, I made a small comment about how the media and general public tend to look down on working class people who go on strike -- people who work as maids, bus and subway drivers, sanitation workers, teachers -- but that the same sentiment doesn't seem to transfer to people, perceived to be middle class and educated, who work as writers for entertainment. That somehow, the writers strike seems to not carry the same angst and anger that say, a bus and subway driver strike, does. In fact, the writers are, rightly so, championed in their cause for labor relations.

So just got me wondering about the whole classism thing. And how we portray different communities who do the same things. I have no conclusion. But it's just a thought. But the thought brought a little cognitive dissonance among the crew -- the whole looking at how class affects media coverage of incidents. Maybe because some of them work in media and entertainment.

Your thoughts?
fs

Monday, November 12, 2007

Post Wedding. And Nakumbuka Day.

So the wedding was really nice. Fun. Stress and drama free. Bonaventure. Downtown L.A. Open bar. Nice touch. Very nice touch.

Seems like everyone had their own kind of open bar on Saturday night, because at the Sunday morning event I had to go to, everyone was in a sluggish post-drinking kinda mood.

Definitely not the kind of energy you need for a Nakumbuka Day ceremony on a Sunday morning.

Nakumbuka Day is a dedication ceremony to acknowledge those lost during the Mafaa, or Middle Passage, which is commonly known as the Global African Holocaust, where at least 100 million lives were lost over a period of 400 years. Nakumbuka is a Swahili word for "I Remember."

It is an annual ceremony that I've helped plan and attend over the past few years, when I first became aware there was a Nakumbuka Day. It is November 11 every year.

So we wore our white. Did our rituals. Reflected on our collective global loss, but gave thanks that we are the descendants of survivors of the Global African Holocaust.

Many people say that black people in the United States don't have their own rituals, traditions, or ceremonies. We do. I think Nakumbuka Day is a start, so that we remember from which/whom we came. As well, it's important to remember that before slavery, the slaves as we call them were human beings -- Africans -- with daily lives, hopes, lives, dreams, jobs, chores, and fears -- all disrupted by the arrival of kidnappers and free labor talent scouts.

Often, we just look at and call them "slaves" without looking at the humanity and human-ness of our people. As well, we rarely look at the psychological makeup of a people who would perpetuate an institution such as slavery on another group of people.

Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary starts with her Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome work.

Today, if it's your off day, maybe you can start with some reflection too.
fs

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weddings and The Straight Gaze

So it's been a busy wedding season for me... or my friends I should say.

Two weeks ago, a colleage from the office married his longtime girlfriend. Today, two good friends are getting married, and I'll be going to the wedding.

One thing that I find so funnily awkward is the inevitable conversation at the reception table about who's single, who's not, whose turn is next to settle down. They go around the table, and eventually get to you (who they know to be LGBT and single) and then there's the awkward stumbling/silence. Response comes in any of these forms.

"Well you're out there having fun. One day you'll settle down" (as if all LGBT people are living this hedonistic, swinging-from-the-ceiling-fan life.)

Or the...

"Well, your career is going so well, you don't want to let someone mess that up."

Something like that. I'm sure you can insert your own responses you've heard at weddings or from colleagues when it comes to your LGBTness and the straight gaze.

It's kinda like the awkward moment in winter time, when you catch a cold, and though you're perfectly healthy and with no long-term illness or health issues affecting you, the straights think something else is going on, and that you do have a long-term or terminal illness... just because you're LGBT. I don't know about you, but you can just hear the suspicions in their thoughts and questions.

Or maybe I'm just a little too critical/paranoid of the straight gaze on LGBT people?
fs

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Breakthrough Roles in Black/Latino LGBT Land

In the meantime, check out Rod's story on AfterElton about breakthrough black and latino LGBT roles in the movies.

That's Rod as in Rod 2.0.

Very cool article. Yours truly is quoted in it a few times. So is one of my label mates from Kensington, Johnny Diaz, who wrote Boston Boys Club. And a few others whose names should be familiar.

Til later.
fs

The Promising Series. Los Angeles.

The Promising Series is the only reading series in Los Angeles that exclusively features Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender writers. A goal for the series is to celebrate established writers and introduce the next generation of writers that will explore the GLBT experience.

The next reading will be held on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 7:30pm at A Different Light Bookstore, 8853 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069, (310) 854-6601.

“The Promising Series has attracted a standing room only crowd,” said series coordinator Noël Alumit. “And the people coming aren’t necessarily gay or lesbian. They come because the work presented is awesome.”

The November 7th reading will feature:

Terry Wolverton is the author of six books: Embers, a novel-in-poems; Insurgent Muse: life and art at the Woman's Building, a memoir, Bailey's Beads, a novel; and three collections of poetry: Black Slip, Mystery Bruise and Shadow and Praise. A new novel, The Labrys Reunion, will be published in 2008. She has also edited fourteen literary anthologies, including Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies. She is the founder of Writers At Work, a creative writing center in Los Angeles, where she teaches fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.

Don Cummings is a playwright, essayist and blogger. His critically acclaimed plays have been produced in such venues as Soho Rep, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Turnip Theatre Festival, Lake Ontario Playhouse, on the east coast; HBO Workspace, Theater/Theatre, West Coast Ensemble, The New Theatre, The Moving Arts Theatre, The Tamarind Theatre, The Powerhouse Theatre on the west coast. Titles include The Fat of the Land, American Air, What Do Men Live By?, Stark, Raving, Mad, The Winner and A Good Smoke.

Carlos Cabrera was born and raised in Los Angeles. He holds a BA in English from UCLA and will start an MFA program in poetry at Cornell University in 2008. His first book of poems, The Peacock's Song: A Poem in Seventeen Syllables, will be published in early 2008. He lives in West Los Angeles with Dorian, his suspiciously intelligent three-year-old cat.

Collins Carter has two selves—a former and a current. The former self was a stand-up comedienne for ten years, an actress and a morning show host for an alternative radio station. The current self chooses to express herself solely through her pen and pad. She is working on a collection of short stories and preparing her novel, Eating the Apple, for publication. Her body resides in Los Angeles, but her mind lives anywhere it desires.

Noël Alumit wrote the novels Letters to Montgomery Clift and Talking to the Moon. He wrote and performed the solos shows The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar and Master of the (Miss) Universe. www.thelastnoel.blogspot.com

The Promising Series will take place on Wednesday, November 7 at 7:30pm. A Different Light Bookstore, 8853 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069, (310) 854-6601.