Friday, September 28, 2007

West Hollywood Book Fair

The 6th annual West Hollywood Book Fair takes place Sunday, September 30, 2007 in West Hollywood Park, L.A. I'll be there. Hope to see you there.

Attending book fairs is how I find most of the new finds that end up on my book shelf. I guess you could call me a book slut. Show me some personality and intelligence on an author panel, and I'll pick up your book.

Fell in love with L.A. Banks books because L.A. Banks was such a fun and approachable and REAL person at the Decatur Book Festival this past Labor Day, a panel she shared with Fiona Zedde and Jeanne Stein. And I had never really ventured into reading vampire, paranormal before. And actually all three authors were great!

Re-ignited my secret love for Jackie Collins novels because of all the juicy tidbits she hinted at in her books and Hollywood celebrities at last year's WEHO Book Fair.

Got to see the late Bebe Moore Campbell for my first time at the 2005 WEHO Book Fair, and started re-reading her novels which had already been in my collection.

Found myself going back in time with Young Adult fiction after a fabulous YA panel at this year's L.A. Times Festival of Books. Discovered Coe Booth's novel Tyrell, along with some other great works by Meg Rosoff, John Green, and Nancy Werlin.

And having participated in joint panels before, I love the added value of sharing audiences and picking up new readers who might not have otherwise discovered you. I'm all for sharing the stage.

Anyway, you just never know what you'll find at the WEHO Book Fair, or any other similar event. And the fun part is that we all seem to find ourselves over at The Abbey after the day's festivities. Sunday at The Abbey. Always a treat!

See you next Sunday, September 30, 2007 at the West Hollywood Book Fair.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

En Vogue

On an En Vogue listening kick lately. Don't know why?

Don't you miss their songs and vocals? How each could take lead and you would still like the song? How each member had her own identity, yet could come together for amazing music? And those harmonies... wowsa. I'm such a harmony nerd.

Aaah. That was just the 90s. It's too soon to say they don't sing like they used to.

The Ev Vogue music collection on Amazon. Might be a good holiday present. Yeah, it's that time to start thinking holiday gifts.

One present to fans... Can some company bring Ev Vogue back and strong as ever? With new music, new videos, and a promotion budget that rivals the teeny-bopper one-hit-wonders?

We'd love that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chaka Khan. Funk This.

Ooh. This should be a treat. Out today, September 25.

Funk This. A new project by Chaka Khan. One of my favorites.

Love the song Disrespectful by Chaka Khan, featuring Mary J. Blige.

Anyway, give it up to MySpace... well, Chaka Khan's official MySpace page where you can hear two of the new singles, Disrespectful and Angel.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Relationship Dealbreakers, Lies, and The Hunt

Oh, this isn't one of those down-on-relationship posts. Not at all.

In fact, just recommending a couple books and an online column that might enhance all of us before committing to that next romantic relationship on the horizon.

The first, is Dr. Bethany Marshall's Dealbreakers: When To Work On A Relationship And When To Walk Away. She writes a very popular relationships column in one of the LGBT magazines here called In Los Angeles.

The second, is Dr. Robin L. Smith's Lies at the Altar, where she analyzes ten myths and ten truth that can start as food-for-thought for that next commitment.

And finally, Clay Cane's The Hunt and The Hunt, part 2 are among my favorite columns by him, with some very down-to-earth and humorous words of wisdom. In fact, just read every column Clay Cane has written.

One of my family members always said while we were growing up is, "Relationships are more than who looks good or who is funny."

I ignored it when I was young and naive. But now I totally get it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Boiling Crab

On a much lighter note. I just had the most delicioso lunch at The Boiling Crab.

It's part of a chain, yeah, but a small chain. And one just opened in my part of town. They're even on MySpace.

Been there three times in the past two weeks. I guess in addition to my books, I love my seafood.


Paying To Have Yourself Published

Or self-publishing, as it's often called in the industry.

That is... paying a printer, company, business to print a book you've written.

I know several people who have gone the self-publishing route. They have been successful. They have been hustlers. Some have sold more books than me. Some have sold less than me. (I know, only because they have shared or tried to pry a number out of me. Most of the time, if pried enough, I'll make one up. It's kind of like you don't ask someone how much money they make, how old they are, how much they weigh... at least that's how my parents taught me...)

Anyway, I came across this great entry on Tess Gerritsen's blog: On Self-Publishing Again. If you are a writer, and considering going the self-published route, I strongly encourage you to read and ponder the essay.

For the record, I always aspired and had faith I would be published by a publisher in the industry. I knew if it took six rejected books sitting in my dresser drawer, the seventh would be picked up by an agent and a publisher. I was lucky. My first novel was picked up, in less than two years from when I set a goal to write and publish a book.

And not that I had anything against self-publishing. It works for those who want it to work for them.

However, I knew several things.

One, I have some means, but I don't have means to pay for publishing my book. I knew that's what publishers do as part of their investment in you as an author.

Two, I know the publishing industry works on a number of fine-tuned business networks that get your book distributed. I'm resourceful, but not so much that I could get my book into every chain and independent store in the U.S. And let's not even think about overseas bookstore distribution. I'm a hustler, but only with the things I want to hustle. Bookstore distribution ain't one of them.

Three, I knew I would benefit by having a team of professionals there to edit, give feedback, market, and call on if I was picked up by a publisher. I am an independent soul. But I know I can have a blind eye to my challenges, which a professional editor can point out. I can market and publicize events I plan in L.A. But I didn't know all the details that go into deciding how to market a book -- from the font size inside the book, to the book spine decor, to the cover color and design. I didn't know book chains often have a say in a lot of this. I never would have know this had I self-published.

Finally, I like to have control over my life, but I'm not dogmatic. I wanted my editor and agent to suggest changes, to be brutal with my writing challenges, to tell me if something would work or not work. My take is if they're investing in my career by publishing me, I can be open to their suggestions. Because I love pleasing the people work I work with and for. A professional edit for story is priceless. Another professional edit for grammar is priceless. You get that for free when you're picked up by a label. Again, part of their investment in your career.

Some self-published authors have told me they didn't want to give up control of their work or make changes to it. When I tell them I've never had anything taken out, removed, debated, or censored, they're floored. And when I tell them that most of the feedback I get is positive, and asks for additional writing and backstory, they're floored. It isn't the territorial battle they perceive it to be. My editor is very nice. We have a great working relationship. I look forward to our talks.

Anyway, I know there are a myriad of reasons people choose to self-publish or seek out the traditional agent and publisher route. There are valid reasons for all choices. Sometimes the choice is made by the industry... fiction topic X isn't selling anymore, or the the market of X is saturated and can't take another book of this sort.

I just know for me, whether it was a large or small publisher, I wanted that contract and that chance to be on a label. And who knows... one day, if I fail to meet sales goals, I may be in a quandry where I decide who's going to publish my work. Lord willing that day won't be any time soon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Write... Said Fred

So yeah, people always ALWAYS joke with me about my name being Fred. "What's up Right Said Fred," as in I'm Too Sexy Fame. It's cute. It's funny. But I don't sing.

Anyway, I do write. And I have been on a kick lately. A writing kick... at pre-dawn hours. And a net surfing kick at writing advice websites... after dark.

One of my new favorites is A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. I read this every day and find some new entry or link that gets me thinking about my author career. Two entries I recently paid attention to: New Year's Resolutions for Writers and No Vacation For You. Blunt, but real, advice for those aspiring for an author career.

I also love reading the blog of Tess Gerritsen. She writes best-selling medical mystery novels. And I just love her insights on being a published author.

Buzz, Balls, and Hype is another one I read pretty regularly. As well, Two Minds Full.

Many folks I meet who aspire to write or be a published author always talk about how they can't find a writer community, can't afford to take a class, or have time to join a critique group. For whatever reason. I understand.

But the next best thing, if you can't find a community or take a class, is to read and learn from those who have done it. Online. There, you'll meet other writers -- aspiring or otherwise.

Then, when you're done surfing, take what you've learned, digest it, undo the wireless access, and put the pen to the paper. Something. Daily.

Write... Said Fred. (Or, Don't Talk, Just Kiss... another Right Said Fred classic)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


So you say music has lost its "uumph" and they don't make it like they used to? Think again.

Donnie has a voice reminiscent of Donny Hathaway, a message reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, an originality reminiscent of Stevie Wonder. All with a 2007 and Donnie spin and freshness.

And in an age of digitized voices and ghettofied lyrics, it's refreshing to have a real voice and live music back in r&b. And songs that mean something other than giving dance move instructions.

I went to Donnie's show in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend and was blown away by him and his band. And if you get his newest CD, The Daily News, or his debut, The Colored Section, I know you'll be blown away too.

Check out Donnie's MySpace, and hey, while you're online, log onto LOGO to get his latest video moving up The Click List chart (If I Were You, left side, 6th from top, and don't worry about leaving your info before submitting your vote).

Happy listening.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Had a great night with the group of writers who contributed to Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica. Hope you pick it up for yourself or for someone else in your life.

Went to the reading at A Different Light, where my friend Fiona Zedde participated, along with editor Jolie du Pre, and other contributors. Jolie is one of the nicest people I've ever met on the writing circuit... and organized, concerned about all the writers in the book, and generous. That delicious dinner after at Bossa Nova... yum!

Commercially, erotica is a growing market for fiction. So is paranormal (vampires, werewolves, etc...) So is fiction with elements of stereotypically urban life. So is young adult fiction. Seems like everything's a trend, as everyone's trying to find the next big thing... the next Harry Potter it seems.

When you're a writer, you look at trends. So do your agent, publisher, and editor. And not that you allow trends to influence your writing style, but they are always bugs planted in your ear, in your fingers, as you try to stay in the game. The game... meaning moving units. The game... meaning also being true to your writing voice.

Anyway, I think you'll enjoy the stories in Iridescence. And if you're interested in contributing to an anthology of erotica, you might check out this call for submissions for a new anthology Jolie du Pre is putting together. Check out the call here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Time To Write

A lot of people tell me they want to write.

A lot of people tell me they don't have time to write.

Found this very cool column on A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (a site I check out pretty regularly)... about putting time into perspective.

Relax, Don't Do It.

Now I'm about to stop wasting time online and start some writing.

Crush o' The Day

Don't be jealous...

Um, it's only in my imagination that I'm crushing on Marcus Patrick, having seen him performing here in Hollywood on Friday night... oh, and last Saturday night too.


And don't be checking out his MySpace . Or his website either.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Every Dark Desire. Fiona Zedde.

I've talked about Fiona Zedde a lot.

And if you're in L.A., you can meet her tonight solo (Thursday, September 13 at 7:30 pm, A Different Light West Hollywood) or next week (Monday, September 17 at 7:30 pm, same bookstore) as part of a panel of contributors to a new anthology, Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica.

So when I first met Fiona Zedde at In The Life Atlanta in September 2005, I was very excited. We were both on our first novels -- me, Down For Whatever; Fiona, Bliss. We were (and still are) on the same publisher label, Kensington. And we hit it off!

Now, Fiona has just published her third novel, Every Dark Desire, which came out Tuesday, June 26. I'm so proud to share similar career paths and friendship... and now, I want to share a little bit of her with you. We talked/interviewed recently about her life, accomplishments, and her contributions to black LGBT literature over the past years.

1. So you're about to publish your third novel in three years. Congratulations! Tell us a little about the third book, and what's similar or different from your first two...

Thanks, Fred! It has been three years hasn't it? The time is flying by much too fast. Well, this new book is certainly a departure from the first two. The primary difference is that it is a vampire novel. Every Dark Desire begins with the human, Naomi and follows her transformation into Belle, a vampire and hedonist who initially resists what she has become because of her passionate ties to humanity. Eventually she grows to accept this new existence, but not before almost succumbing to dangers lurking for her in Jamaica. Despite this departure from my previous work, DESIRE does have in common with BLISS and SIN a healthy dose of the erotic.

2. You must be able to stay awake 24-hours a day, since you've written a book a year, started grad school, moved across country from Georgia to California, and still maintain a long-term relationship. Help us understand how you manage to have it all and do it all... what keeps you going?

One thing I need is my sleep, so staying up into the night and morning is not at all my cup of tea : ) Over the last year, I've certainly faltered and wondered if I was going to be able to do everything that I've set out to do. But with the help of my wonderful partner, McKenzie, and some incredibly supportive friends (aka second draft readers) this ride hasn't been too bad. Now, there's one more year to go in graduate school and then on to other challenges...

3. Can you talk a little about your writing techniques? When you sit down to write, where are you? What are you doing? Anything on in the background or outside your window? Do you set page goals?

One of the things that i've taught myself is to write almost anywhere. As long as it's reasonably quiet and I have a notebook and pen, then i'll jot down something relevant to one of the projects I'm currently working on. The ideal thing is for me to be in my office at home, writing from my desk that has a view of my overflowing bookshelf. The window is to my back because sometimes I get too easily distracted. Being able to write in most settings has done a lot for my productivity. When I'm waiting alone for someone/something, I just pull out my notebook and write until it would be impolite to continue. Other than those waiting times, I prefer to work in absolute silence with my door closed and my internet connection severed.

When I have a strict deadline, I try to set page goals. For instance, this summer I want to make some significant headway on my thesis, but I also have a book that's due in to the publisher around September.

4. I do too, Fiona. That September deadline is looming for me too :-)

And because of that, I've decided that I need to have a certain amount of page numbers written per week in order not to freak out when it's time to switch my focus from one project to the other. So far, so good.

5. So you're among the forefront of current black lesbian literature. How does that feel? How do readers feel you've represented the community or their lives? Is that how you want your work to be categorized?

That is absolutely sweet of you to say, although I disagree. I can think of at least three other black lesbians doing amazing work and getting the recognition that they deserve. Hearing about their successes and reading their stories inspire me to become better at this writing thing so I can some day step up to their level.

I've gotten some lovely emails from readers telling me how certain story lines resonated with them on one level or another, and that's been great. I don't think it's a matter of representation for these readers, it's more so seeing some part of themselves reflected in what's being put out by the publishing world. One of the reasons that I started on this path was the blatant lack of black lesbian stories out there. As for categorization, I think if you're not coming from or telling stories about the white mainstream, you'll be put in a box of some sort. I certainly don't want to be categorized/ghettoized at all, but it's a reality of where we live. Still, as long as my readers can find me, I'm ok with it. : ).

6. OK. So I'm going to ask you for a few of your favorites. Tell me your first response... so we can get to know you...

Favorite musician: Dinah Washington. I think her textured voice is one of the best things to close my eyes and relax into.

Favorite food: That's a hard one. Or maybe not. Rice. That's my favorite food. You can have it in so many ways. And when it's perfectly cooked - meaning firm and loose - it's a bit of heaven on the tongue.

Favorite political cause: There's no favorite, really. I believe in equal rights for all and support the various causes tied up in that, whether it's women's right to chose what to do with her their bodies or the freedom to marry movement.

Favorite shallow pasttime: Watching CSI when I should be working.

Favorite vacation spot: My back yard. And when the money is thick, la Isla de Mujeres.

Favorite book: Talk about a hard question! I love Jewelle Gomez's Don't Explain. And since you asked about "book" singular, i'll leave it at that.

7. Any final words or thoughts you want to share?
Let me take a moment to do a shameless plug: I'll be at A Different Light in West Hollywood on Thursday, September 13th signing and reading from the new book. That's it. Thanks to everyone who made the time to read all this. Have a pleasurable summer. The book hits the shelves June 26, although i think many stores will have it at least a week or so before that.

You can contact Fiona directly through her MySpace page.

Monday, September 10, 2007

First Person Plural

Can you believe it's fall already? Me either.

Geez, the time and summer flew by. It's a good thing (means it wasn't boring), but it's also an indicator of just how precious time is. It's also an indicator that all those resolutions we/you made nine months ago are still attainable and startable (is that a word... startable?)

I started reading the most interesting book on the plane back to L.A. First Person Plural, by Andrew W. M. Beierle. He's an author on the same label I am, Kensington, and Fiona gave me the galley while I visited her in Atlanta. Fascinating story, First Person Plural. About conjoined twins, men, one is gay and one is straight. Imagine. I couldn't imagine. I tend to get pretty squeamish at things, and I thought this story would make me a little weird, but it's a very touching and entertaining novel. I'd recommend it, if you're looking for some new fiction that is not your everyday book about gay characters.

So back in L.A. and back on the grind again. Soon as I got off the plane, it was non-stop action. Friends wanting to celebrate my birthday, which was two weeks ago, but I wasn't here. Got a bunch of mail to go through. Received two boxes of galleys of Right Side of the Wrong Bed. It's that time again... getting ready for the launch/birth of another book, while finishing up another one on deadline. Yeah, writers see their books as babies. At least I do. Back on the 5 am wake ups to write.

If I'm gonna get everything done I want to get done, I wish I could clone myself. Or become a first person plural myself.

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thelma From Good Times

So I love the show Good Times. Watch the reruns on TV One all the time.

Thought Michael was cute, back in the day. Told you my thoughts about those tight beige cords James Evans used to wear.

But I always though Thelma was FINE. Even last night, while watching the show, I was like back then people didn't hit the gym, or do surgery, like they do today... and she still looked good. That's natural beauty.

So anyway, today I'm playing hooky from writing. Surfing the net. And lo-and-behold.

I found out what Thelma, well Bern Nadette Stanis the actress who played Thelma is doing. Well, one of the things she's doing.

She's writing relationship advice books. And doing pretty well at it. Who knew? I didn't. Did you? Well, now you do! Check out Bern Nadette Stanis' official website here. She'll be a featured author at the National Book Club Conference in Atlanta in August 2008.

On another, related note, last year I was thinking... Thelma from Good Times would be a great addition to the cast of Noah's Arc, possibly playing a sister of one of the main characters. Thought the actress who played Willona, Ja'Net DuBois, could have played one of the characters' mothers.

Then this year, after Victoria Rowell left the role of Drucilla (a character and actress who I absolutely love) on Young and The Restless, I thought... Thelma from Good Times could play an excellent Drucilla. She would probably be the ONLY person I could accept as a re-cast for Dru, if the original actress wasn't available.

After all, same age range. Still has face and name recognition. And still has the audience recognition from black people in the U.S.

I'm surprised no casting director has picked up Bern Nadette Stanis for a major role recently. Can't solve that personally, but can pick up one of her relationship advice books!


I have a lot of role models in my life.

Some... are in my mind, people I look up to and aspire to achieve like they do and have. Others... I know.

That's why I really loved Keith Boykin's recent column, The Black List: Top 100. The list just makes you realize how many positive people are part of the black community in the U.S. and worldwide. And Keith's an inspiration to me.

Many others. They're all in my mind. Gotta get them on paper, in my personal journal, one of these days.

Did I tell you I love to start my morning off with two songs: Make It Happen by Mariah Carey, and It's My Turn by Diana Ross. Well, I do.

And did you watch Oprah the other day, with President Clinton and his new book Giving? Great show. The message... we all can give and make a difference in our communities and abroad. Loved the micro-loan site, where ordinary people can help someone across the world... Kiva, loans that change lives.

I also think Clay Cane is cool. His writing really makes me think. People who make me think inspire me.

Have a great weekend!

Tourists Are Allowed To Flirt

But I didn't. And I'm flying back to L.A. this weekend.

Worked out at the Bally's Total Fitness in Southfield, near my family's home. Saw the most gorgeous trainer. Light skin African American. Not to tall, not too short. Compact, lean build. Expressive, bright eyes. Working with a woman who needed the training. Friday morning around 10 am.

In my mind... you know the stories you allow to go through your mind: he's looking, notices I'm a new face, sees I have good technique... on the machines. Wants to talk to me, but can't. lol. Of course, reality hits. (I know I'm not the only one to have these conversations in my mind).

Trainers are sales people. They are friendly because they need new clients to make new money. And... gym folks are hard to read. Period.

Tourists are allowed to flirt. It's the whole "what stays in Vegas" mentality. This time I didn't. But I'll be looking forward to seeing my gym crush over the end-of-the-year holidays when I'm in Detroit again :-)

Detroit. Casinos. Foreclosures.

Just an observation.

I think there is a high correlation between Detroit's record rate of mortgage foreclosures and the casino and gambling industry that the city has been banking on to lift it up.

A lot of people say it's due to Detroit's nebulous economy. But the economy has always been shaky, since the early 80s. And I don't recall people losing their homes as much as they are now.

Just a thought. I wonder if the city has looked at foreclosure rates prior to legalizing casinos in Detroit in the 90s, as compared to now, 2007.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Little Sass Never Hurt Nobody

Wasn't Aretha Franklin a little brash and sassy on this album cover? Go Aretha! Now you see why she continues to bring "it" today.

Discovered this album last night, while my sister and I were going through some old albums that my dad used to collect. For those of you who are new to me, or my blog, my father died in March 2006, and so we discarded a lot of things. Kept a few things.

The albums we wanted to keep. And we found this one, With Everything I Feel In Me, last night in one of the boxes. Found some other cool ones too... still in their album covers... and plastic wrappers. Original Nancy Wilson, Etta James, Teddy Pendergrass, and Aretha Franklin albums.

Kinda cool.

Then, we found some pics of when my dad and mom were first dating. Dating looked so fun back then!

There were some bar/club pics, when I assume you had to take out all your date's girlfriends... for approval. Because it was always my dad, with my mom and three or four of her friends. And they dressed up too, in suits and dresses (no sagging, like today's dress-up style lol...)

There were some pics from a weekend trip they did to Puerto Rico. And my sis and I were like -- they never took US to Puerto Rico!

There were some pics from some march/rally at the Mall on Washington D.C. Couldn't make out the picket signs or the issue. But, I was like... how cool. They had common issues they were passionate enough to go to a D.C. rally together. How cool.

Looks like couples did a lot before deciding to commit to each other back then, late 60s, early 70s.

A little brash and sassy never hurt nobody... so we should try to bring it back to the dates and partners we have today.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Saggin', or Sagging, Depending On Where You Live

So I wouldn't dress like this, but I think it's hot, kinda sexy. Yeah, I said it.

Of course we're talking about the sagging, exposed boxers/undies, look that has been pretty popular in urban and suburban settings for a few years now.

But what's even more popular these days are the number of cities developing legislation to ban the style of dress. A number of public school districts are doing the same... developing more rigorous dress codes for their young people. (NY Times article; Minn News Tribute aritlcle; MSNBC story)

I have mixed feelings on this. Lies, I don't have mixed feelings.

One, young people have always expressed themselves with their fashion. It's what young people do. It's also what people who have no other means to express or assert themselves in society, due to whatever category or life circumstances they face, do -- with the clothes, hair, nails, etc... Some people may not like the choice of fashion expression, and judge it harshly, but it's expression nonetheless.

Two, I am optimistic that most young people know where sagging is appropriate (the club, a picnic, kicking back with friends) and not appropriate (work, an interview, school) I really am idealistic that our young people know (or can easily discern) where to draw the line in various settings.

But I think to legislate fashion, or to draw the conclusion that a fashion choice leads to other social issues, is a bit much. Each era, or decade, brought young people fashion that elders didn't approve of. It's kinda like a role elders are supposed to take on... disapprove of the things they did as youth.

Anyway, this weekend I saw a bunch of sagging in Atlanta. Men and women. In the clubs, at the picnic, on the streets, etc... I don't sag, but I don't hold it against those who do.

Gave me a lot of hot tips on trendy undies I need to add to my wardrobe.