Wednesday, August 31, 2005

One Shining Moment. USC.

So I'm not all doom and gloom, as my previous entry might have seemed. But in the midst of reflecting and packing, I did an event over at USC (University of Southern California) on Wednesday evening. It was my first reading and signing in about three weeks, and I gotta tell you it was great. I think not being in front of a crowd was contributing to my moodiness lately. Shy as I am sometimes, I love talking.

But, thanks to friends and colleagues Corliss Bennett (Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs), Billy Vela (El Centro Chicano), and Vincent Vigil (LGBT Student Affairs) I was able to get back into the swing of things and read, sign, and bring some smiles and laughs to the USC community. Great crowd of about 25 students and staff, including friends like Sabrina, Josh, Q, Dallas, Joey, Mary, and others. Thanks for coming out... I know the first week of school, especially at USC, can be filled with a ga-zillion options for things to do. But you came to hear about Down For Whatever. And I appreciate it. And thanks for buying all the books you did, too!

OK. Back to packing. It's around midnight. Clothes are folded and in a neat stack. VH1 Soul is on. Book stuff is scattered around the living room. I can't sleep. Gotta be up by 4 am to head to LAX. Think I'll sleep on the plane. Hitting the ground running in ATL. I'm outta here! Write you in a few days!

Kinda Sad. Kinda Happy. Kinda Blah. But Still Hopeful For A Brighter Day.

(Read Clay's column. It's good. And conveys many of my own feelings and thoughts right now...)

I know you've got a million things on your mind. And so do the people in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. I'm really sad at times, thinking about the suffering in our human family. I'm really happy at other times, thinking about the lives that WERE spared. Thankful for everything I have, and everything that I don't.

Even on days when I feel I can't write a lick, at least I have that privilege to sit and write... when I want to. On days when I complain about working a day job, it's a job. On days when I worry about taking lunch from home or driving with less that 1/4 a tank of gas, I know that's way more than some people will ever have. It's a gift to be alive, to know I have the capability to live for another 50+ years (barring no tragedies or bad choices), to have good days and bad days.

Yet at the same time I feel blah. I'm not one of those religious types who justifies human suffering or injustice with scripture... or who believes things can be explained away like that with whatever... Yet, I feel hopeful for the future.

Hopeful about my future. Hopeful that people who are able to re-build will be able to. Hopeful that the hierarchies of ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation will not stand in the way of helping those in the Southeast U.S. get their lives back on track. That those hierarchies won't hold any of us back... or are so subtly embedded in our thoughts that we hold someone else's progress back. Everyone deserves a fair shake.

Still, I can't help but wonder why so much of New Orleans is impoverished... why the powers-that-be and people-in-charge allow such impoverished conditions on their watch... and these are pre-hurricane conditions... So much I think about. So much work to be done, in this place perceived to be the land of opportunity around the world. Oh well.

I am... I really am... an optimistic person. I've had a privileged life, in the sense that neither my family nor I have suffered a major tragedy or set back. Things have come easy, even though we've had to sacrifice. Even though I know my place in the world with all the ethnicity, class, and gender labels put on me shape me and my progress. Still, sometimes I think my life is too easy, compared with the suffering people go through around the world. Maybe my day is coming. We all have them. I hope I can handle it when it does. This is what kids educated by Jesuits do... reflect about life and our role in the world. I'm okay, really. This is me... now.

I'm off to Atlanta. And off of blogging and e-mail for a few days. I hope you are well. I hope the best for all of you.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Celebrating The Written Word

Kinda like the Oscars, but more like the People's Choice Awards. And you get to choose!

The Quill Awards. Recognizing greatness in books.

This will be televised on NBC this fall. You can vote today. (Though I'm not sure who's nominated, how the nominations came about, or how inclusive of various cultures, genders, and experiences the awards are...)

Just found this because of an e-mail from one of my favorite independent bookstores in L.A.

Hurricane Katrina

I have never been in a hurricane, but I can only imagine the devastation, frustration, fright, and fear many of the residents in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama must feel. I'm sure those emotions built up prior to Katrina's landing... but I'm sure they are ten-times escalated. Imagine not being able to return to your home. Imagine it being under water. Imagine not having anything to return to.

In addition to other matters, my friends and I have been talking a lot about how the areas affected by Katrina are disproportionately lived in by black and brown people, and poor. I'm sure there were/are elderly who stayed, or people of the various spiritual beliefs who stayed, trying to protect their things, convinced if it's their time to go... it's their time. We've all seen the pictures and news on the devastation. And the lines just to get shelter in the Louisiana Superdome? Crazy. Packed with people, who either didn't have time, money, or means to get out of town. I heard on the news that there's no air conditioner, the bathrooms are filthy, and that the best and the worst of human kind are basically trapped in the space until they can go back to their neighborhoods.

Watched a bit of the Today Show this morning. Yeah, there's concern over the people returning home, or returning to nothing. Heard a lot of freaking questions about re-building the casinos... saving the million dollar homes on the coast... prosecuting the looters and not tolerating that behavior... always about the money and the rich. Hmmm... I wonder how the rich, and sad, history of black/white relations in the areas will affect who gets helped first and helped the best.

If you know of ways... any services, reputable charities, etc... that we can contribute to, please share. I'm looking and will share what I find. I don't have any friends or family in the affected areas, thank God, but it doesn't mean that I'm not equally concerned about the suffering of others in our human family. (Found some ways to help)

Paris Is Burning

Thanks Rod for the reminder... as you often do of pop culture and issues resonating with our community...

Paris Is Burning is being released on DVD today. So all those old VHS tapes can go to the recycling bin.

The ball scene is something totally not West Coast. So I'm fascinated with it, every time I visit NYC. It's just fascinating. And fun to watch. Don't know why this never really picked up on West Coast, but that's for the scholars to figure out... lol. Paris Is Burning was my first glimpse, back in the day, of the ball scene.

Anyway, pick up your copy today. And check out
Rod's site... again, and again, and again!

Monday, August 29, 2005

What'choo Looking At?

Aren't those glasses fabulous? I'm loving the big, bug-eye glasses everyone's adorning this season. I call 'em Jackie Os, who, to my knowledge, brought this look to fashion divas everywhere in the 60s and 70s, and now new divas like Miss Nicole are giving them a y2k5 twist... I don't know what you call them... but I digress...

Good Monday Morning Everyone!!!

Do you settle for more? Or settle for less? It's something I was thinking a lot about over the weekend. Birthdays tend to get you thinking about the state of your life, if you're doing all you want to be doing, etc... I'm in a pretty good state and place (well, I could get rid of clutter and learn a few decorating tips... just putting it out there to the universe...) And then, voila! I get a great note in my e-mail box.

I subscribe to Cheryl Richardson's weekly e-mail... one of those "Life Makeover" kind of e-mails that she specializes in. Today's entry -- Raise Your Standards: Settle For More -- really resonated with me. Take a look.

Fratman1906 wrote up a cool review of Down For Whatever on his site. Check out his blog here.

Did you know about the 2005 Black Weblog Awards? Well, if you don't, now you do...

Keith Boykin always has something interesting to write about, but today's column on Rene Miranda is especially worth reading and responding to... if you can.

My friend Liza Palmer's book, Conversations With The Fat Girl, will be out soon. So will my friend Cherlyn Michael's book, Counting Raindrops Through A Stained Glass Window. Did I tell you how important it is to buy books at bookstores? It matters to authors. So as tempting as it is to share books among friends... ya know...? :-)

And for those of you still shop at Abercrombie (you know, the store with all the white... and ONLY white... people working the main floor)... well, the store settled a lawsuit with black, Latino, and Asian civil rights groups for discrimination. Check out this news...

It's important to be a smarter shopper. Just because it looks good, doesn't mean it's good for all people. And just because it's cheap, doesn't mean the workers aren't suffering... (i.e. no benefits, long hours, no unions, no cause to re-dress management...) The Garment Worker Center has great resources to help you become a smarter clothing consumer. And an article I wrote for LOUDmouth Magazine this summer titled, Clothing With A Conscience. It's on page three of the magazine.

Have a nice Monday... I'll be back later with a wrap up of the latest in my writing life.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Names...

I gave someone the biggest laugh, though I wasn't intending to, by talking a little about my family. I started mentioning some of the names we call my aunts and uncles... nicknames, apparently given WAY back the day... Aunt Sugar, Uncle Punchy, Aunt Fatty, Cousin Donjo, etc... Not their real names, but nicknames... given for I don't know what reasons. Well, Donjo is real.

Anyway, we got into an interesting conversation about the nicknames we give in families. For whatever reason. These kinda names, if used in fiction, can be great character revealers.

Wondering what kinda interesting nicknames, or real names, exist in your worlds? Or your own? I'm still called Freddie, by the way, by my family. It's cool. I don't mind.

Fiction Class in Pasadena. PEN Emerging Voices.

My writing teacher, Kerry Madden, is teaching a fall fiction class/writing workshop at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, CA. 695 E. Colorodo Blvd., Pasadena. 626.449.5320. If you're in the L.A. area, and interested in taking such a class, check it out. Kerry's groups are great. Information below...

Oh, and just a few more days until the PEN Emerging Voices fellowship applications are due. Great program. Go for it!

Intensive Fiction Writing Class September 10th-October 29th

Dates off: October 8th & October 22nd
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
$265 per student (plus tax)(does not include the cost of the text)

Each session of this 6-week workshop, taught by author Kerry Madden, will deal with the craft of writing with a special focus on plot, theme, setting, character, and narrative voice. Within the sessions, writing exercises will be offered, as well as the chance to workshop chapters and scenes in both large and smaller groups.

Handouts will be provided on different authors and writing styles. Writers will study Brenda Ueland, Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Marie Irene Fornez, and others to learn more about developing character and structure within a chapter or a scene.

A guest novelist will visit during the latter part of the workshop. Finally, every week, writers will be able to turn in six pages of a work-in-progress for feedback, which will be returned the following week.

The Intensive Fiction Writing class will culminate in a public reading at Vroman's Bookstore on October 30, 2:00pm. The text for the class will be the story collection Best American Short Stories, 2005. Sign up today; class size is limited!

Kerry Madden is the author of GENTLE'S HOLLER (Viking Children's Books), which received starred Kirkus and PW reviews and has gone into a second printing. Her next two companion books to GENTLE'S HOLLER are LOUISE'S PALETTE and JESSIE'S MOUNTAIN, and they will be published in 2007 and 2008. You can visit her website at

Friday, August 26, 2005

Baby. We're Having A Baby. Divine Intervention.

Miracles do happen.

Got a call from one of my best friends from college. Let's call her Mel. She's married to Cav. They had a baby 8 years ago. He was a preemie, born at 6 months, and weighing just over a pound. Difficult pregnancy. The baby survived. And is a healthy, talkative, smart 8-year-old.

Over the years Mel and Cav tried for more, despite the health risks for her. No luck. A few fertility specialists saw no problems, but due to difficulty carrying one baby, didn't want to risk the drugs that would more than likely result in multiple babies at once. So, Mel and Cav decided... it is what it is. If something happens, great. If nothing happens, great. Nothing happened. Early 30s/late 30s match. Getting late for another child. So they decided to schedule a procedure for him. A vasectomy. For next week.

Mel just found out this week she's pregnant. Totally unexpected. And one week before they were ready to give up on children again. They're excited. I am too. They call it divine intervention. It really is.

Kinda good news for a Friday, huh? Now, I just gotta keep them in my prayers for a successful pregnancy through late March.

I'm excited.

Whatever. Friday. Cool.

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I say "Whatever" so much, but pronounced what-eeev-urrrrr, that I sound like the true L.A. Valley Boy that I am. Ewww. Derrick and Maurice tease me about it. It's my word. I guess. Don't know when, where, or how it started. My old phrase used to be, "and stuff like that." Hmmm.

Anyway, had an event last night. And an eventful night. Ivan is putting together what will be another successful production -- Lyfe, Starring "You" -- a night of spoken word, song, stories, and performances at Jewel's Catch One. The Catch, for you East Coast guys who haven't visited L.A. yet. It's SUPPOSED to be an early evening/after work kind of thing, people, so next time get there at 8 pm, then go get your party on elsewhere. Anyway, fun night. Ran into some old friends and new ones.

Meantime, over at The Abbey, Daniel my assistant, Maurice, and assorted company were awaiting for my arrival. THEIR party started at like 5 pm. I joined at 7:30, left, and re-joined at like midnight. Funny thing. When you're not drinking, and everyone else is, you feel kinda left out or weird. I had fun... but to me, midnight is a little late to get started on the libations. And I never drink before a speaking or performing engagement. AND, in L.A., since bars close at 2 am... yes, 2 am, starting at midnight is a hankering for a lovely DUI degree... and I don't want one of those degrees. And since we're so freaking addicted to our cars in L.A... well, someone has to be the designated driver. Yet another reason to move to NYC... or hire a driver. Hmmm....

Anyway, the main topic of conversation... besides who we spotted, observed, and were feeling at The Abbey was my birthday. What are you doing for it? I'm like, "whatever."

I never plan birthday celebrations. I think I should. I mean, I get tons of invitations and people wanting to celebrate ME. Hmmm, that's kinda cool and weird to me, but hey. And I never commit. Then by the time the day has come... the day has gone... and I don't celebrate on the day. But maybe the next day. Or later in the week. Dude, but what's a guy to do when all your friends are in different worlds? The original roommate/SF/Tempo friends, who really know you the best. The book/writer friends, who are new and know your passions. The readers. The street credibility guys. The day-job colleagues. The new friends from/in East Coast. The crushes... maybe one in each group??? Won't reveal unless you reveal, lol. Anyway... my friendship worlds don't collide... and maybe it's time for a big celebration or get-together to merge all them together. Sometimes, I swear I'm freaking juggling too many groups. If they're one, we can CO-OOOR-DINATE together. Hmmm...

I'm rambling. I'm in a writing/sharing/confessing/wanting-my-book-to-be-on-Oprah kinda mood. Did you hear? She's planning a bunch of shows about gay folks. If you haven't read it, read Keith Boykin's column -- for the upcoming shows. Keith needs to be on Oprah with his book, for reals. Beyond The Down Low. Get it. And get Down For Whatever while you're at it, too.

So... hmmm... I think that's my Friday thoughts for now. Of course, I could have given commentary on Iraq, public schools, the quality of air in L.A., but whatever... decided to give a little more of me. The spontaneous me. The me who's not so guarded. I'm really not, Maurice.


Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What's In A Name?

Frederick Smith... Here.

Hi. My name is Frederick. I'm a Virgo. And because I'm also a Smith, my name was always near the end of the classroom roster. Just a little digression as most of us get ready to return to school, work at school, or sending a young relative off to school.

I'm fascinated by names. Mine -- Frederick -- is of German descent, though my parents probably weren't thinking of the origins when they named me. I'm named after my father. My name means "peaceful ruler." That, along with many attributes characteristic of Virgos, describes me most of the time. Of course, no label or description is absolute. No label, name, or list of characteristics can describe the complexities of a person.

I was almost named Martin. Kinda glad that didn't happen. Though it's a nice name. I can't picture myself as a Martin. Being called Freddie is enough... imagine Marty? Hmmm...

When creating fiction, you look for the right name to describe your characters and also that will read well on the page. You don't want too many names that start with the same consonant, or that sound alike, or whatever. It confuses readers. You might look for symbolism in a name, something that represents a certain theme or message you're trying to get across in your fiction. You also have to think about time periods, and names that were/are popular in certain eras. For example, you won't find too many kids named Bertha, Betty, Fannie, Theodore, Cephas, Ezekiel, or Hattie today. Maybe 40 or 50 years ago. And you also have to find the right rhythm with the last name you choose for characters. Does it read and sound right? I guess that's why soap opera names sound so magical and just roll off your tongue. Same with newscasters and reporters... most of them are playing journalists. I digress. My bad.

If I'm ever fortunate to have a family, and get to name my offspring, I have a few names that I've been saving. Names that I'm fond of. Names you can use, too. It's weird how some people get into feuds over "you stole the name I wanted for my baby..." as if no two people can be named the same. Anyway... The ambiguous, boy or girl names: Taylor, Kendall (yeah, I used those first two in Down For Whatever), Connor, Kaelan, Jaden, Dana/Dayna. The boy names: Victor, Derrick, Frederick, Dylan, Thomas, Corey. The girl names: Stella, Renessa, Alexandra, Monica, Brianna, Lauren.

Anyway, what does your name mean? How did you get it? What were you almost named? What do you want to name your children? How do you come up with character names for fiction?

How common is your name? (and yes, it includes some brown and black people names, too!) :-)
Last name dictionary.
First name dictionary.
Should black names be used to name Hurricanes? (hmmm, now that you mention it, I've never heard of Hurricane ShaQuataniqua... ok, that's bad...)
Black names and resumes...
Random name generator (for you all picking character names, not sure how culturally inclusive it is...)
Creating characters for fiction (a hodge podge of interesting articles)

Happy Birthday Oskar! Frank! Daryl!

Oskar is the one in the middle, top picture... Happy Birthday!

He'll be helping me in Atlanta next week.

Happy Birthday, Frank! It's today, right? He hates the pics I took of him, sooooooo.... check out his approved photos on his site. lol.

And Happy Birthday to Daryl! On the right, bottom photo.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Coretta Scott King

Let's continue to keep Coretta Scott King and family in our prayers and thoughts, as she recovers from recent health issues. And while we're doing that, let's not forget the great deal of support she has given to the gay community... the black, gay community and related civil rights issues.

A lot of us will be in her town, Atlanta, next week. And we'll be at gatherings that might not be possible without the support and foundations laid by people like her, her husband Dr. Martin Luther King, supporter Bayard Rustin, and others who put their lives and reputations on the line for equality for all...

From News Center:
In March 2004 King in a speech at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey affirmed her belief that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue.

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," King said.

"A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

She has frequently denounced other black leaders who support amending the Constitution.

King has frequently said that her late husband also supported gay rights and saw it as a civil rights issue.

Last December she distanced herself from an Atlanta march organized by a prominent local black preacher who said Martin Luther King would have opposed gay marriage. King's daughter, Bernice King, attended the rally - speaking out against gays and same-sex marriage.

Let's not forget...

Clikque. Atlanta. All That Stuff.

So this month's Clikque Magazine highights all the hot spots and parties to hit at next week's Atlanta Black Pride-- In The Life Atlanta. Isn't that a hot cover? White looks so cool and so hot.

If you get your hands on an issue, there's a small little article (with my big old face) about DOWN FOR WHATEVER, and an ad from Outwrite Bookstore with information about my reading/signing at the store.

I'm looking forward to Atlanta. The work. The long, hard work. Here's where I'll be working:

Friday, September 2 at 7 pm. Outwrite Books. 991 Piedmont Ave.

Sunday, September 4 from 5 - 9 pm. ITLA Literary Panel. Sheraton Midtown, 188 14th St. N.E. (featuring authors such as James Earl Hardy, Rashid Darden, Samiya Bashir, Laurinda Brown, Trent Jackson, and others... oh, and of course Fred Smith)

In between events, you'll see me walking around with Oskar and company, talking about Down For Whatever, passing out postcards, listening and meeting and greeting. And going to parties. The kinds of things you have to do (and want to do) as an author.

Hope to see you there. Hope you get your hands on Clikque... and all the other essentials you'll need for Atlanta!


Crenshaw H.S. Loses Accreditation

Crenshaw High School, the only high school with a majority black/African American student population in L.A., lost its accreditation this week. What that means, basically, is that diplomas from Crenshaw are worthless as of Monday. Some of the findings of the accreditation board (WASC) include information about attendance, student conduct, and the test scores. Teachers at the school say the report is grossly misrepresented and that they have been addressing needs noted in past reports.

I don't know what to believe. But I think it's sad about what's happening at Crenshaw. I received my K - 12 education at public schools in Detroit. I feel like I got a great education that prepared me for academic life in undergrad and grad school. Some say a good education at public schools in inner cities is no longer a reality. Is that true? Or just a gross exaggeration? Or part of the overall campaign to move private corporations, religious organizations, and the school voucher thingy into our public schools? Gotta put my thinking cap on for this one.

On another related note, some friends and I were curious about graduation rates at various colleges, high schools, etc... We went to
this site for the information. Statistics don't always give the full context of what's happening, but sometimes they're interesting to look at.

Are similar public school concerns taking place where you live?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Writing Groups

If you're a writer, and have aspirations for having your work published... or just want to have more than yourself enjoy it, joining a writing group can be a good thing.

These groups can be paid or unpaid, beginning or advanced, but the thing that makes them work is that you get to receive on your work and share feedback on others' work. I've been a part of several writing groups in the L.A. area, and while in the beginning it can be a little intimidating to be vulnerable with strangers, it ultimately can be helpful to get the perspectives of other writers to see how they're feeling it, what works, what doesn't work. And it doesn't mean you have to change everything that's suggested. It means you get a perception of how others perceive your work. Take it or leave it. But being open to all feedback, and not taking it personally, is important.

I belonged to two groups led by my writing teacher, Kerry Madden. She's great. And sets a positive tone for all her classes and groups... meaning we're all here to learn, share, grow, and untimately leave the group with the best manuscript possible for submission to literary journals or to agents and publishers. Kerry's groups tend to have start and end dates... meaning, they don't go on forever. This is a good thing. Sometimes you want change. A new group. New people to stimulate you.

Formats are different. For Kerry's groups, she facilitates discussion. The group follows a simple format. The week before being critiqued, 2 or 3 writers share copies of their work to be critiqued (usually 8 - 10 pages maximum per week). We take them home, read, and answer three simple questions in our written responses, that we discuss the following week. Those questions center around what images we saw/perceived, what you'd call the manuscript, and questions you have for the reader... always asked in an "I wonder..." There's a name for the feedback method, but I can't recall off hand.

So how do you find a writing group in your area? You can visit a community college writing teacher for information. You can post a notice in a library or online site. You can enroll in a class, and then start a group once the class is over. Many writers run groups in between their books. I'll think of other ways to find a group.

One thing being in writing groups has taught me... how to give feedback to a work-in-progress that really helps your fellow writer. And learning how to give feedback has also taught me to look for those same things I critique in my own works-in-progress.

There are pros and cons to joining writing groups. You have to judge for yourself. But... I can tell you it definitely helps to have other eyes, preferably other writers (for literary form and style and story consistency) as well as regular readers like your cousin Nae Nae (for how readers might perceive a work), see your work before sending it out to journals, newsletters, agents... or publishing it on your own.

You want to have your best work presented when you decide to present it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Read This.

OK. Didn't have a topic for today. But read Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez blog/column today. It's about Iraq, and makes great connections to why we need to be scared about what's happening in D.C. and around the world... and how these events could affect our ability to buy and read some of the fiction we choose to read and buy. In her case, books about Latina women. In most of our cases, books about blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays and lesbians, and immigrants.

Take a look at the rest of her blog too. I have to read sometimes two or three times a day for both the fun entries as well as entries like today.

I promise I'll have my own original topic tomorrow. My brain is a little drained from bringing work home this weekend.

And... I didn't know this... only Congress can declare war... and so this "thing" we're doing in Iraq is not really legal. It's funny what happens when you get new knowledge. You think a bit more. And, well... our current folks in power don't want people thinking very much... because to think means to speak truth to power... and when you speak truth to power... well, you get silenced... in the name of unity. Hmmm...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tagged. Again.

Shelley got me again. You fellow Detroiter, you! :-) So did Cherlyn.

This time. Ten songs you're currently digging. This is fun for a Saturday morning.

  1. Don't Cha by The Pussycat Dolls
  2. This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) by Natalie Cole
  3. All Jacked Up by Gretchen Wilson
  4. Pimpin All Over The World by Ludacris and Bobby Valentino
  5. Golddigger by Kanye West
  6. Please by Toni Braxton
  7. Find Your Way (Back In My Life) by Kem
  8. Gotta Go, Gotta Leave by Vivian Green
  9. Taxi by Tweet
  10. Lo Que Paso, Paso by Daddy Yankee

Who's next? Whoever wants to take it on. Happy Saturday.


Natalie Cole. Unforgettable.

Got invited to see Natalie Cole on Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl.

Now, I liked Natalie Cole before. But tonight, after having the chance to see her perform live, I love her. Seeing someone perform and sing live is a rare treat these days. Such a great show... from the standards and jazz set that kicked off the first half (Unforgettable, The Very Thought of You)... to the 70s/80s R&B many of us know (Everlasting Love, Our Love)... to the encore gospel set.

Great show. Great night. And I was especially happy to experience the
Hollywood Bowl for the first time. It's so cool, having your picnic basket, wine, food at your space... and then the acoustics... just phenomenal. There are no bad seats in the house, now with the addition of flat screens around the perimeter of the space. And everyone is in such high spirits... friendly, fun, flirty. You're surrounded by hills/mountains. You see the beautiful stage, aglow in colored lights. So much atmosphere to try and capture for a potential story.

If you're ever in L.A. during the summer, you've gotta try and see a show... any show... at Hollywood Bowl.

It's unforgettable.

Photo is from the Natalie Cole CD "
Ask A Woman Who Knows."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Virgos. Legends.

I'm a Virgo.

So are a lot of other cool people, depending upon who you talk to. Seems there are a lot of us out there born in August and September. Cool. Hello Virgos!

I've never explored characters' fascinations with astrology in any short stories or fiction. Might be something I add to a character in my next project. Could be interesting, since so many people are into figuring out "What sign are you?" and "What do you think of that sign?"

Anyway, real quickly. Happy Birthday to Keith Boykin. It's his birthday season too. Buy his books -- One More River To Cross and Beyond The Down Low. That's a great present for a writer... buying their books. But anyway, enjoy the birthday weekend! I hear it's going to be kinda cool...

Last night, Rashid Darden and I were talking about the Legends Ball that Oprah threw in the spring. The crazy, random things we talk about... We said we'd brainstorm our lists, if we were to ever throw such an event. Rashid's list is up already on his blog. Mine is forthcoming. And though Rashid's birthday has passed, buy his book too -- LAZARUS, which you can order from his website. Especially if you have someone in your life who's in college, black, involved, thinking of pledging a greek-letter organization, and... I could go on and on. It's kinda like an up-to-date A Different World, but with its own twists. Rashid's a great writer.

Anyway, be a legend this weekend. A real legend. Not one with delusions of legendary status. Do something NICE. Say something NICE. Be an ADULT. Be a KID. Use your words and actions for good and not for tearing someone down...

Oh... and what's your sign? lol


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Two Weeks 'til Atlanta

Two weeks 'til Atlanta
Two weeks 'til Atlanta
I cain't wait to see my babay
Two weeks 'til Atlanta...


A country music lyric writer I'm not.
But I do kinda like that title for a short story or a novel.

Anyway, I'm heading to Atlanta in a couple weeks. For Labor Day weekend. For work. For fun. Work is always fun. Oskar, who you met a few entries below, is going with me to help out.

I'll be at Outwrite Books on Friday, September 2 at 7 pm.
Doing the Pride Literary Festival on Sunday, September 4 at 5 pm. (I am confirmed, along with a dozen or so other authors... my name just isn't up on the site yet!)

Tell all your boys and girls who've read the book to come support. Or send them to my blog or website so they can get on my e-list.

And while I have your attention, it's been a minute since I visited Atlanta (summer 1996, not for the Olympics, though). What are some must dos? Must sees? Must eats? I read someone's blog recently with some info, but can't remember whose it was... hmmm.

Got two weeks to figure it all out.

Where Are They Now? Sheneska Jackson.

So I've checked out a couple blogs and sites where people have taken us back, wondering where various movie or music stars have been.

That's cool. I like movies and music.

But I wonder if people wonder where some of their favorite writers and authors are? Like, I know writers are on the low rung of the entertainment ladder. People don't generally know about writers and their personal lives... unless we choose to share and publicize. Someone once advised me: authors are not rock stars; don't get mixed up. Very cool advice.

But I digress...

In the late-middle 90s, I loved reading books by Sheneska Jackson. I think she's L.A. based. She wrote
Caught Up In The Rapture (about two star-crossed lovers in L.A.s music scene), Lil Mama's Rules (about L.A. love, relationships, and social issues that are very timely now, kinda taboo back then... like HIV), and Blessings (set in an L.A. beauty salon, and following clients' lives around infertility, marriage, child rearing, and singlehood in your 30s). Add them to your library for some fun, thoughtful, and well-written reading.

I remember back when I was doing the grad school thing thing, being so excited about the hoopla around her start in writing. She worked full time at a hospital, if I remember correctly, and wrote every morning and night... and took classes at UCLA Writers Program. Writing teacher liked her work. Introduced her to her publisher. She got a deal. Like that. It doesn't always happen that quickly or easily, but I think I got the story right. That inspired me to want to do the same. Showed it was possible to balance work, life, and write, and make it happen!

After that, she dropped off the literary canvas... or has she? It's been quite a few years... maybe five years or so. Long time in between books, and no scandalous publicity keeping her name in the news. That's a good thing, but still...

Where is Sheneska Jackson? And when is her next book coming out? Anyone got scoop? Or read her? And want to see her next project?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I've Been Tagged... Gimme Five.

I've been tagged. Thanks Shelley! Because I had not yet finished my writing blog entry for the day, lol. This is a great in-the-meantime post.

What were you doing 5yrs ago?
Being overweight.
Being negative about things out of my control, and things I could control but didn't take responsibility for.
Worrying about getting older.
Eating all the time.
Partying WAY too much.
(How sad is that? I disguised it so well back then.)

Prepped 30 press kits to mail.
Worked the day job.
Talked to Clay and Rashid and No4Real4Real about things we're working on.
Went to the gym.
Watched Bold and the Beautiful on TiVo (excellent episode... Bridget told her mom, Brooke, to go to h-e-double hockey sticks after catching her with her fiancee -- the 2nd fiancee/husband mom has stolen from her!)

5 snacks I enjoy?
Salt and vinegar chips.
Special K Vanilla Almond cereal.
Nutter Butter cookies.
Green grapes.
Blueberry Morning cereal.

5 songs I know all the words to?
"This Time I Know It's For Real" by Donna Summer
"I May Hate Myself In The Morning (But I'm Gonna Love You Tonight)" by Lee Ann Womack
"I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack
"Make It Happen" by Mariah Carey
"It's My Turn" by Diana Ross

5 things I'd do with a million dollars?
Send most to parents and sister
Small house purchase
Set up scholarship to send a kid like me or cousin to college

5 bad habits I have?
Thinking I'm not working hard enough
Wondering what people are thinking
Afternoon trips to campus bookstore for bad snacks (see favorite snacks above)
Not calling as much as I should
Internet surfing while at work (but always get my work done... still!)

5 favorite TV shows?
Young and the Restless
Bold and the Beautiful
Six Feet Under
Good Times
Soul Food

5 biggest joys of the moment?
Being a published author
Meeting cool peeps and readers while on book tour
Maintaining 35+ lb. weight loss that I started last summer
Having proud parents and family
Being alive -- haven't always made the wisest choices, but I'm wiser now!

5 favorite toys?
Cell -- especially text messaging
Books (do those count?)
TiVo (for tv shows I never get around to watching... so sad)
(I don't tend to have a lot of toys... muy expensive)

5 people tagged now:
Liza (Jane)

Now back to writing... Thanks Shelley, lol.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Happy Birthday Monica

August 16.
My sister's birthday.
My only sister.
The best sister.
Happy Birthday Monica!

And on a completely different note...
if any of you have brothers who are completely single, college educated, go to church (and live in a church-ly way), working toward their life and career goals, like to travel, shop, and live life like it's golden, in shape, upper 20s to mid-30s, and have no ex/children/family/jail-or-prison drama surprises... I'm taking applications for future brothers-in-law.
just an ongoing joke we've got going...

Team Down For Whatever: Fred, Oskar, Daniel

Another photograph of Fred, Oskar, Daniel: Team Down For Whatever.

This one is from Frontiers Magazine at a Book Fair in L.A. in late July. Oskar will be going with me to Atlanta to help with my signings. Daniel... well, those of you in NYC already know Daniel. lol. But do you know his alter-ego, PublicistD?

The event was the first ever LGBT Book Fair at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. Fun day... sold lots of books with the help of James from Esowon Books.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It Pays To Read Mail On Time

I subscribe to this one magazine called Poets & Writers. It's kind of a cool thing to have when you're into the writing thing. Great how-to articles, stories about writers' personal experiences with various aspects of the writing life, and the best part... free money.

Well, not exactly free money... but the opportunity to find various programs and grants to which you can apply. Now, let me tell you... unless you're Miss McMillan or Mr. Dickey or Miss Collins or Mr. King... you need to find ways to supplement and enhance your income. Advances and royalties can only go so far. So Poets & Writers has a large section of opportunites writers can take advantage of, apply for, and hope for a chance of earning the honorarium.

Now, I've been on the road and doing "book stuff" for the past month and a half. Tonight decided to go through the pile of mail. Luckily the bills are on automatic pay, so no major worries there(except for that monstrosity of a cell phone bill I told you about the other day). But there were/are several deadlines for grants and contests I missed in the recent Poets & Writers, including two I told myself last year I would apply for. Darn it.

It pays to read mail on time. But I know more opportunities will arise.

Speaking of which, the deadline for PEN Center Emerging Voices is coming up September 9. Check out the PEN website for more information on this great program which nurtures a select number of up-and-coming writers in their careers for one year. Don't be late on this one. This program opens doors and creates very important connections for writers developing their career platform.

How Dallas Kicked Off My Writing Aspirations.

When I was a kid, I used to love the TV show Dallas. In fact, I looked forward to Fridays not just because there would be no more school on the weekend, but I looked forward to my Friday night date with the Ewing family.

Of course I was saddeded by the death, yet another lung cancer death or illness announced last week, of Barbara Bel Geddes, who portrayed the matriarch of the family, Miss Ellie (pictured center sitting). (On a side note, if you're a smoker, lung cancer is no joke... and I imagine not a fun way to spend your last days... try to quit if you can.)

I was such a Dallas fan, that I wrote a letter once to the executive producers, Philip Capice and Leonard Katzman (see what a dork I was... I knew which producers to write!) giving them my feedback on how they could make the show (which had started to wane in popularity to Dynasty and Falcon Crest) get back on track. Suggested set changes, wardrobe updates, and storylines to the producers. Oh my God, so embarrassing to talk about. Kids are so ambitions and uninhibited.

But this was one of my early experiences thinking about writing as a living. Thinking I could turn a television show around. And, of course, even though my writing primarily centers on novels (and an ocassional newsletter article), sometimes I think about writing for television. I'm a big old soap fan, and would love to write for The Young and The Restless or The Bold and The Beautiful.

In the meantime, I'll stick to novels. Been workshopping book number two with my writer groups and friends. Agent has it and loves it. Hinting I need to get cracking on book number three. So far no sequels or continuations. Yet. I'll leave that for the soaps for now.

And I'll continue catching Dallas reruns on SoapNet every now and then, remembering the ways that show sparked a young writer's imagination.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Odds and Ends Sunday

So I have a lot of work I need to do this weekend. That's why I'm up at the wee-hours of the night. Supposed to be working on my Atlanta contacts list for my Labor Day weekend trip. Gotta get folks to the two readings/signings I've got set up so far. If you know folks/groups I might want to contact, please hit me up on e-mail. Thanks.

I'm loving that Tweet song, Taxi. Old to most of you... new to me. Or, I should say, new to L.A. radio.

Hung out with my boys David and Eddie on Friday night. Circus. First time there in a ga-jillion years. Lots of fun. Too much fun. For you New Yorkers, Circus and Arena (next door to each other on Santa Monica Blvd.) are kinda like your Krash and Escuelita. Fun times.

So much so, that I overslept for the 2005 Black Men's Health Conference at USC. Supposed to be there at 8ish. Got there at 10ish. Working a table. It was cool. But if you know me, you know I hate to be late for anything. I'm always 20 minutes early for everything. Ask my boss. The Black Men's Health Conference was sponsored by the In The Meantime Men's Group. Great group. Great people. Great contacts. We've got a lot of work ahead of us in terms of making sure people know their health status. Scary numbers and statistics out there... especially when, as one presenter put it, some of the latest HIV/AIDS numbers of black men in the U.S. are starting to be on par with sub-Sahara Africa.

Back to work... but one more thing... What are you reading lately? I'm in between books now. Need some good fiction recommendations. Thanks.

Cheaper To Buy Airline Tickets Than...

I saw something today that I NEVER thought I'd see in my life. Gas. $3.05 a gallon. In L.A. On LaBrea, just south of the Beverly Center mall.

Driving a car, which is an absolute necessity in L.A., will soon be more expensive per month than buying a round trip L.A./San Francisco ticket.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Conversations With The Fat Girl

So I got a postcard in the mail yesterday from my friend Liza Palmer, whose novel, Conversations With The Fat Girl, will be coming out in September. It's a fun read, with a heroine with a lot of spunk, energy, and humor. It's coming out on Warner Books. And it's Liza's first... we've bonded majorly over the first-book process.

I've often joked with Liza that she and I should do a few book signings together. Our audiences would be a perfect match. Gay boys. Big girls. The high school BFFs (best friends forever), back-up prom date, boy-talk confidante... the fag hag, as we so immaturely called this pair back in the day. Not sure when or if the joint gig will happen... not sure if Liza finds it fun(ny)... :-)

But Liza and I will be on different panels during the West Hollywood Book Fair in early October. Hopefully you can check us both out on that day... if you're in the area. But, in the meantime, I'm introducing Liza to you via her blog... Jane Goes On A Diet.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Introducing Clay

I met a cool writer in NYC this weekend. Clay Cane. He wrote a novel that he's shopping around now... about the ball world of NYC. What I've read so far is good. And he just started a blog. And I wanted to introduce you all to him. Here's Clay's Blog...

West Coast Boy + East Coast Friends =

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A phone bill that could be a mortgage payment in Detroit, rent in L.A.!
NYC, DC, ATL... L.A... one of these cities is not like the other one!
Geez. My parents would kill me. I should kill me.
I'm cool. I did it myself. I'll pay it myself. Geez.
That means I'll be sticking to a rigid L.A. diet in ATL next month...
bottled water and gum :-) that's a joke.
And now I'll be reading my plan a little more closely.
I didn't know you paid for calls you receive.
I didn't know nights started when it's dark, not just after work.
I didn't know talking with writers about writing life would be so house of extravaganza.
I'm laughing... all the way to the mailbox to send off my phone bill...
This is one confession for the day...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Alisa's Back.

And I couldn't be happier. One of my favorite authors, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, who also keeps a blog, is back from taking a brief hiatus from her blog writing. I'm so glad, though apparently I'm about five days late on her return. Check out her blog when you have time.

Book Clubs. Readers. And Such.

So while I was in Brooklyn, NY meeting with the Books Are Sexy Book Club this weekend, thousands of other book club members and hundreds of writers were assembled in Atlanta, GA at the National Black Book Club Conference. They were discussing books, meeting authors, and enjoying the best of Atlanta.

This conference, which brings together readers and writers, has been successful for a number of reasons. But the most important, it seems, is that it gives readers a chance to get up close and personal with authors -- the authors whose work they already know, and those who are new and trying to develop a readership. And it gives authors an opportunity to meet the people who've spent their hard-earned dollars buying their books. That's always a good thing... and something writers always must remember... there are real people buying our creations... or considering buying our creations.

I've been thinking a lot about the importance of book clubs, especially since my first experience with the group in Brooklyn (by the way, I love the fact you guys were my first book club!). Readers are an unofficial street team, a important arm of a book's marketing team. Our personal and professional interactions with readers -- those we know and those who reading and we don't know yet -- can affect the longevity of our careers and our books. Regardless of if the book is perceived to be good or not-so-good... for whatever reason or perception. Branding is everything, as my writer colleague Rashid Darden often tells me in our conversations about the writing life.

And as writers, who often create in private, with our private thoughts and creative worlds, in the wee hours of the day or night, it is very exciting to hear readers discuss their feelings, thoughts, and insights on your work -- right there in front of you. It makes everything you do come to life. You realize how much people connect with your work, for whatever reason. I even learned things about my book that I hadn't thought about before meeting with Books Are Sexy. It's such a fun, surreal, eye-opening process hearing how your work touched people in good and challenging ways... yes, I love the constructive comments too.

Based on what I've read from the National Book Club Conference site, and from the blogs of a few authors -- Cydney Rax and Tayari Jones -- it sounds like a great investment of time and energy. Something I'll have to consider attending in the future. And something book club presidents and members might consider as they look at books and authors outside their normal range of reading and consideration.


When I was a kid, my dream job was to be a news anchor. On the right are some of the locals from Detroit when I was young... right, working your way in... Dayna Eubanks, Doris Biscoe, Diana Lewis... and in the collage, top right Kathy Adams, bottom right Amyre Makupson, bottom left Carmen Harlan. All Detroiters at some point. Since we didn't have "movie star" celebrities in the Motor City, we looked to news anchors as our celebs.

Since being a news anchor was my childhood career dream. I used to follow anchors, formats, and set changes religiously in Detroit. Used to sit in the mirror and practice reading from sheets of paper, my "scripts", to get just the right delivery. Would practice cheesy transition jokes to my fake weather and sports anchors. Would beg my parents to tape local Detroit news and send me the tapes while in college. In the Missouri School of Journalism I got a bit more practice. Got raves for my acceptable and crisp "Midwestern" accent. Kept it through the year I worked doing local news cut-ins for the Today Show at 6:25, 7:25, and 8:25 in the morning in Columbia, Missouri: Fred Smith, NewsCenter 8, Columbia.

Anyway, been thinking a lot about anchors this week... since the death of Peter Jennings. News is changing a lot. Dan Rather has new assignments at CBS. Tom Brokaw retired from NBC. News isn't news anymore. At least it seems that way. It's press kits and releases from government officials. Or celebrity news that isn't really news. No one investigates or questions anymore. We don't rely on a single anchor to reassure us anymore. We have internet news and the revolving door of folks on 24-hour news channels. Just an observation. But kinda missing the days of running home to see my favorite anchors sitting at the desk reassuring us everything would be okay in the world.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Brooklyn Recaps. Part 1. Of a Billion.

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These are some of the guys from the Books Are Sexy meeting that Derrick L. Briggs put together this past weekend. Yeah, there was a little bit of libations to go along with the discussion. More pics to come... More updates to come.

But... for those of you not familiar with No4Real4Real, run over to his blog for a fun and well-written run down of what happened this weekend in NYC. I was at a lot of those events for book work... yeah... book work. And lots of fun too.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Work Hard. Play Hard. The BK Way.

I'm baaaaaack in L.A. after five fabulous days in Brooklyn and other parts of NYC. Five days of book work. Kinda tired. Just had to get a few things and thanks out on behalf of Daniel and me:

Bluestockings: a great social justice bookstore and space in Lower East Side on Allen St; so happy to meet a new friend, Clay, who's got a book proposal that'll knock your socks off. Thanks Brooke and company!

Chi Chiz: a great drinking spot on Christopher Street in the Village, that welcomed me with open arms, quite a few Cuba Libres, and a ton of book sales believe it or not... in a bar! Thanks Kraig and the crew at Chi Chiz for a great night... and for keeping a visible black presence on Christopher Street!

BlackOut Arts Series: sponsored by the Pride In The City organizers, this night was a great kickoff to a fun, educational, and community-building weekend. Loved hearing and seeing the work of so many artists. I could go down a long list of names... but trust me... they put a lot of pride events to shame with how organized it is... and the great mix of both fun and information.

Books Are Sexy Book Club: What can I say? Derrick L. Briggs and company know how to do it right... and I had so much fun talking with a group of people who had finished the book and had a billion insights into Down For Whatever. Alex, No4Real4Real, Marcus, Carol, Dwayne, Sam... everyone... too many names to mention... loved all your comments and questions! And now Daniel and I are brainstorming the West Coast brother book club to compliment your work...

Got pics. Got stories. Gotta check with a few folks to respect their confidentiality on pictures first... Hopefully over the next couple days will have a story or two to tell...

I thank all the guys in Brooklyn for making this a weekend to remember. And the organizers of Pride in the City, People of Color in Crisis... two standing ovations for your hard work!

And to my new friends... and you truly are friends for driving me and Daniel around, hanging out with us, buying the book at events, recommending the book after events, supplying us with sleeping quarters, drinks, parties, and laughs after events... I'm really honored you took this West Coast boy in. You're making me want to move there! You know who you are...