Monday, February 28, 2005

Color Me Hollywood

So of course today around the office the topic of discussion was about the Academy Awards. The outfits. The hair. The winners. All good. We're all happy for Jamie, Hillary, Cate, and Morgan, and everyone else.

I work with a lot of young people, students, who had a lot of comments like, "Why can't our movies (meaning black or Latino movies) be nominated more?"

And it got me thinking about the state of films, what people see and like, and how do we get to a stage where films starring black and Latino actors get recognized more often. But more importantly, how do we get to a stage where OUR films (or films depicting us) reach a certain level of quality, that would actually garner the attention of the critics.

There's a lot of stereotypes and crap being put out, some by us, some by others, that supposedly depict the lives of black and Latino people. Often, it's filled with lots of cheap laughs and one-liners, violence, and people in stereotypical roles. Not much that depicts us as normal people, who live normal lives, who face the conflicts of life like everyone else. Whenever I see black and Latino films (U.S. made) that depict us as cussing every five minutes, toting guns, in gangs, illiterate, or poor, it really makes me wonder is this what Hollywood really thinks we're about. I don't cuss, have never seen a gun, been in a gang, and grew up middle class with lots of books at my disposal. I guess that's not very Hollywood material.

Why can't there be a primarily black or Latino or Asian "Vera Drake" or "Mystic River" or "Being Julia" or "Sideways"? Or, a black, Latino or Asian "Bridget Jones' Diary" or "Closer"? Would a studio dare venture into that territory? Because I'm sure there are many writers who are, or would like to go there. Spain seems to get it right, where Spanish-language films aren't limited by U.S. stereotypes, and where stories can focus on complex lives and conflicts.

I know there are many filmmakers who create films depicting black, Latino, and Asian lives in realistic and complex ways. I just wish they got the same accolades, support, and consideration by audiences and critics that some of the stereotype.

There's a lot more I could say, but won't.


Today was one of those Mondays where I just didn't want to get up. It's now just after 12 noon. Still not awake, but at my desk pretending to be. Yawn. To-do list is just too long to not wake up.

Luckily, I'm off tomorrow and can write. How sweet it is... to have a random day off in the middle of the week. I'm sure I'll see a bunch of real life Desperate Housewives at the local bookstore cafe. Must be nice to have a ton of money, nothing to do, and all day to do it. That's for another blog...

Hope you all had a nice weekend!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Random Saturday Night

Home on Saturday night, boo :-( Had a very productive day, yay :-) Wrote ten pages today on the new novel, technically due at the end of February, this Monday, boo :-( But probably done by end of March, yay :-)

Anyway, I'm totally loving the new novel, even though Down For Whatever hasn't even hit shelves yet. Getting my DFW galleys in the mail Tuesday. So exciting. My first baby is really coming. (Antonio, yours is in the mail!!!)

So I don't mind staying in on Saturday night, as long as I'm being productive and not wasting time. Used to be a time, before I got serious about writing, when I HAD to be in the club Wednesday through Sunday. Now, I'm like whatever... But I know come March, when I'm done with the new book, I'm hitting the streets again. Been so long, like Anita Baker sang in the 80s.

So much damn good music I KNOW must be moving the boys in the clubs, like it moves me while writing:
  • Candy Shop and Disco Inferno by 50 Cent (mmmm, that's all I can say)
  • 1 Thing by Amerie (saw the video today finally; she's so underrated and beautiful)
  • It's Like That by Mariah (classic hip hop Mariah; I'm ready to party, open the Bacardi)
  • Turn Da Lights Off by Tweet (Tweet been working out and dieting, too, I see)

I'm sure they'll all be played out by the time I'm back on the scene. Like my clothes. Gotta get the spring/summer wardrobe updated majorly! Thirty-plus pounds lighter (since last summer, thanks Weight Watchers online), I can dress trendy and not simply comfortable and in black. Yay :-) Hmmm, where to start? Who to wear? Who gives comps to writers who'll blurb them in future books and while on book tour this summer? Kara Saun? Anyone? :-)

Final thought... you think rappers are aware of their SGL audiences and following? Seems these days, everything's marketed to boy-boys and teeny-bopper girls. One and the same?



Reading List

So lately three books have been keeping my attention. Finished one, The Untelling. Working on the other two. Very pleased. And thought I would recommend.

#1. The Untelling by Tayari Jones. (can't quite get the amazon link to work now) Got an advanced reader copy of this book, and really enjoyed it. Won't tell you anything about it, except that I loved it. Tayari is on top of her writing game. And The Untelling won't disappoint.

#2. Upstate by Kalisha Buckhannon. Talked about Kalisha and the book in a previous blog.

#3. Hot Tamara by Mary Castillo. Bought it on recommendation from the blog by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez. Great, fun read.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Friday Schmiday

Most people look forward to Fridays. I don't. Especially around the late afternoon, when my weekend plans haven't solidified, when everyone is leaving the office early, and when I know my main date for the weekend will be with my computer -- working on novel #2, not getting dates on the computer.

What have you got planned?

Gentle's Holler, by Kerry Madden

So most of you know I have a novel coming out this summer. That novel would never have been possible had it not been for Kerry Madden, my first fiction writing teacher in L.A. The novel came out of a short story assignment she gave our class at UCLA back in the day.

Anyway, Kerry has a new novel coming out next week. Gentle's Holler. And I wanted to tell you all about it.

Gentle's Holler is a young adult novel, and a story about a young girl from the Great Smoky Mountains, coming to terms with life in a large family and her desire to create her own adventures beyond the holler. Set in 1962 Appalachia, Livy Two Weems finds her stories through her guitar, and young readers everywhere will find they, too, have a voice and stories to share.

I had a chance to sit with Kerry and talk about her new novel.

Fred: What inspired you to write Gentle's Holler?
Kerry: My husband grew up as one of 13 children, and I've never tired of hearing of his stories. Several of his sisters are musicians, and one of them, Tomi, inspired the character of Livy Two Weems. So I imagined Tomi as a girl growing up in Maggie Valley with a slew of siblings, writing songs.

What about the Smoky Mountain region and Appalachia makes it a rich setting for storytelling?
In 1994, I was doing research for my first novel, Offsides, and my husband and I took some of the back roads across the country. Purely by accident, we drove our kids through Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and I fell in love with the name of the town and its beauty in the Smoky Mountains. I also went to high school and college in East Tennessee, and I spent a lot of time going to the Smokies and climbing the Chimney Tops. The region is so rich in culture and language and music, so I listened to Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Steve Earle, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson -- it's blues and mountain music -- to get me thinking in the head of this kid who likes to write songs.

What would you hope readers get from Gentle's Holler?
I think that kids, boys or girls, should discover their own voices and stories. Instead of doing traditional book signings with Gentle's Holler, I am doing a series of writing workshops with kids. Livy Two writes stories of her family on her guitar, but I'm hoping her character inspires kids to think of their own stories to tell.

Gentle's Holler is published by Viking Books.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Project Runway, part 2

OK. I'm happy Jay won Project Runway. Would have been happy with him or with Kara Saun winning. Both have talent and positive attitudes. No trickery on their parts... And both will go far.

Dollhouse Shoes. Can I get some for $15? Or $5 each?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Project Runway

Been sooooo addicted to Bravo's Project Runway this year. By far the best reality show out there. The designs. The models. The runway shows. Tomorrow's the finale. Can't wait to see who wins: Jay, Kara, or Wendy. I have a favorite among those three. But really wish it was Austin sitting up there with Jay and Kara. Oh well. Until tomorrow...

University Times and Lanla Gist

On rainy days like this -- it's been raining the past billion days in Southern California -- you don't really want to get out of bed and schlep to work. You just feel like lazing away under the warm covers.

But after getting out of bed and schlepping over to campus, I found the greatest thing. Totally made my morning.

An article about me and my novel in the University Times campus newspaper.

It's written by Lanla Gist, who I must say, is one of the best writers for the paper. She's really thorough, asks great questions, and I feel like I'm sitting across from Oprah, Barbara, or a shrink when talking with her. Lanla is just great, has written for Essence Magazine, and has a novel in progress about her family's experiences in Liberia and moving to the U.S.

Some literary agent needs to pick her up now!

Now, if only the University Times was tech savvy and online, I could share the article with you. But trust me... if future articles and profiles (I can hope there'll be some!!!) on the book's release are this great, the book will have a great future.

Thanks Lanla!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Black Men Write About Love

It's not very often that black men are assembled on a discussion panel. Usually, when they are, it's for topics such as violence, race, or for their opinions on the state of Black America.

But yesterday, I participated in a panel at the California African American Museum, and the topic was something that I've never seen a group of black men assembled for: Black Men Write About Love.

Featuring authors, Donnell Alexander, Michael Datcher, Mel Donalson, Peter J. Harris, Jervey Tervalon, and me, we spent about an hour and a half talking about love.

About halfway through the panel, it hit me that this was kind of a profound thing. First, a group of black men writers who'd been (or about to be) published. Second, that we were talking about writing and specifically love. No statistics. No dangerous predictions about the future of the community. No arguing over who's the better leader.

It was really cool. And discussion, thanks to facilitator Jenoyne Adams, went from the profound and philosophical to the fun and frivolous. I was really honored to be asked to be on the panel.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ready For The World...

No, not talking about that 80s boy band from my home state, Michigan, Ready For The World. (By the way, where are they now... loved me some "Oh Shelia" and "Digital Display" when I was a kid...)

My book... is ready for the world. I just finished the final read-through. Made my final corrections, dialogue changes, and Spanish-language translations... and now DOWN FOR WHATEVER is off to the editorial and production teams at Kensington Books.

Now that that's over, I can concentrate on finishing up the next book. It's not a sequel. Totally different characters, but still set in L.A., and with a primarily black and brown cast. I love Love LOVE the title, but not revealing it yet, because I don't want anyone else to take it. But let's say I'm having fun writing it. I'm at page 160 right now. Will I finish by my deadline? Hope so. I'm staying disciplined with my 5-7 am writing time, plus random evenings. Wish me luck...

Open Discussion... Do You Like Your Job?

So I have a pretty cool day job at a university and a pretty cool rest-of-the-day job as a writer/novelist.

But as most of us spend 40, 45, even 50 hours a week at a job -- almost half of our waking hours -- I'm wondering how happy are we at our jobs. I mean, if you're gonna spend that much time somewhere, it might as well be fun, huh?

So... do you like your job? Why or why not?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Daily Texican, Weekend, Editing, and a Starred Kirkus for Kerry Madden

What up everyone? First, let me shout out to The Daily Texican for shouting out to me today. Come to think of it, I haven't shared (or figured out how to link my blog home page) other blogs I read on a regular basis. Later this week for sure... Now go check out The Daily Texican and then come back...

OK... you're back. Cool. Hope it was a good weekend for all of you. I was productive.

Volunteered for a Gospel Fest type program at Cal State L.A. all Saturday. You know church folks. ALL day Saturday. Wanna shout out to my girl, Quella "Que" Porter, who put the show together. She's only 22 and doing BIG things in-front and behind-the-scenes in gospel music in L.A... and shout out to all the choirs and headliner, T.C. Bereal, for turning it out. Got enough church that I didn't go (or need to go) to Mass on Sunday...

Read through the final proof pages for DOWN FOR WHATEVER all day Sunday. This is like my 10,000th read through, and even after all that reading, I found copy editing improvements to be made. Like all the accent marks mysteriously going the opposite way they're supposed to go in the Spanish-language dialogue. And a few sentences or fragments I swore I'd fixed in the first edit after the professional proofreader at Kensington Books went through it. That's one of my peeves... books with errors. Don't want any in mine, though I'm sure one or two may slip through. Pray that doesn't happen...

Went to an Emerging Voices reading at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. It featured writers who'd just finished taking a class by Kerry Madden, my fabulous first fiction teacher when I moved to L.A. Great reading yesterday at Vroman's. But Kerry had good news. Her newest book, Gentle's Holler, just got a Starred Kirkus in the Feb. 15 issue, which is a really cool honor to get before your book comes out. Congratulations Kerry! Here's to getting a Starred Kirkus Review...

So later this week... an interview with Kerry, some of my regular blog reading, and other highlights from my oh-so-(fill in the blank)-life in L.A.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Writing, Editing, Proofing... Oh My!!!

Just got the typeset pages of my novel from the publisher. Got less than two weeks to read through it and make any final changes before DOWN FOR WHATEVER goes into production. So cool. So exciting. But really want to read slowly. One of my pet peeves is reading a book and finding a typo. Really don't want to see one in mine once it's on the shelf.

Gloomy, rainy day in L.A. today... went to the gym, checking e-mail, proof reading, and heading to a GospelFest concert at Cal State L.A. later today.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fat Tuesday Resolutions

So count me out of the pigging out and all that other gluttonous behavior that goes along with Fat Tuesday... and, as an aside, prepping for Ash Wednesday and Lent. Lest we forget...

I'm finishing up my weight loss program in just a few weeks. Very close to my goal. Down 30 pounds since September 1. Want to lose just another 5 - 7, but can do that on my own once I cancel my program.

My secret... #1-- Stepped up my workouts MAJORLY -- it doesn't make sense to pay for a gym to barely break a sweat... or to not go at all. That's money down the drain. Hello!

#2 -- Joined Weight Watchers online program, started counting my points, and stopped eating for a family of four. Who needs supersizing or fast food everyday. Hello!

#3 -- Stopped worrying about trendy diets, restricting myself, and making good choices. That's what I learned in my program. Moderation. Good choices. And how to pick foods that will fill you up and not have you craving for junk.

Fat Tuesday. For everyone else. Not for me.

And I didn't need New Years, Lent, or any other man-made benchmark to start my program. All I needed was making up my mind to get focused. Like my friend, motivational speaker Jewel Diamond Taylor says, it's important to "keep the main thing the main thing!"

Monday, February 07, 2005

She threw herself eagerly into the path of unsuitable men...

It's almost Valentine's Day. Yay!

The day made for Hallmark, flower vendors, and gluttonous dinners at your favorite chain/pseudo-fancy restaurant... que bueno!

Or maybe not.

For those of you who like your VD like your men, women, and undecideds... funny, sarcastic, and with a bit of an edge, you gotta check out these sites for some hilarious Valentine's Day greetings.

Anne Taintor has fabulous, retro looking cards, magnets, and other materials. With a feminist edge and social commentary, these cards are sure to make anyone's day... or night. And I just love the "She Threw Herself Eagerly Into The Paths of Unsuitable Men" cards. Isn't that the motto for life in your 20s? Just change gender for your likes... and there are free e-cards too.

Be My Anti-Valentine hasVD greetings for the more economically challenged... e-cards. And they're funny and sure to make the environmentalists happy because you're not using trees.

You Yes You has more wonderful, witty, twisted and PG-13 ways to celebrate VD with the one's you like/love/tolerate.

Seven more days... am I ready for Valentine's Day or what?

Exoticize This

So I went out for drinks with my roommate and friends last night. Pretty fun night. Good drinks. Good dancing. Good conversation.

Across the smoking patio (I don't smoke, by the way) I notice three older white men, oogling and staring at every person of color walking by. I mean, like molester oogling. My friends and I notice. We're like: gross, don't look at us, we're not uneducated, looking to be a houseboy, or looking to be taken care of by an old white guy. NOT EVEN CLOSE!

So I get up to go to the bathroom. I have to pass them. They oogle some more. I try not to pay attention. Give my best snob, attitude look. Being real L.A. I feel a warm, dry, hairy hand and wrist brush up against my arm. One of the old white men. Gross. He smiles. Hands me a cheaply produced flier for a party he's hosting at his house Valentine's weekend.

It's called (don't make me gag): Latinos Fiesta De Amor

It's hosted by the three old white men. And it's for people who want to "have a chance to look for a hot Latin lover!"

OK. So some people, I'm sure, don't mind being exoticized, likened to an object, or seen as merely a sex object.

I'm not one of them.

So to all the old white men out there who think every black and brown person is looking for a sugar daddy or mama, wanting to be taken care of, or aspiring to be a quiet, stay-at-home houseboy/housewife... think again.

We have educations, goals, careers, money, connections, and we can take care of ourselves. We appreciate people of our own ethnicities and can appreciate other people's ethnicities, but not just because of their skin color or their perceived "hotness," but because we just might have similar values, goals, and interests.

Exoticize this...


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl... really?

It's Super Bowl Sunday. Though in my world, it's the last thing I'm thinking about. All I'm thinking is book stuff. My weekend to-do list:

  • Did a bunch of pitch letters and e-mails for Down For Whatever
  • Met with my marketing assistants in L.A.
  • Worked with my website designers on the finishing touches on my site
  • Saw my recent amazon numbers... not bad for a book that ain't out yet! (and not that checking out amazon is on my to-do list... it just happened)

Now it's Sunday afternoon. I'm supposed to be chugging away at the new novel, which it "due" by end of February to my literary agent. I'm close to done. Tell you when I'm there. Might head to the gym. At least no one will be there because of the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Young & Restless

So you may not know that I LOVE The Young and The Restless... the soap opera. Been watching since the mid 80s, arranged all my college classes around it, and TIVO it everyday. Anyway, while surfing the net on my lunch break, I found a site with all the classic Y&R catfights and confrontations. Fun stroll down memory lane... where were YOU when Lauren found out Sheila stole her baby and was raising it as her own??? Or when Mamie and Jill were fighting over John Abbott???