Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crime Stories

I've read just a few crime stories and mysteries, but I know they are a huge slice of the fiction market.

I just discovered a new blog, Crime Sistahs, which features black women authors who write crime novels/mysteries. Check it out.

Also, one of the authors featured on Crime Sistahs is based in L.A., Pamela Samuels Young, who has a number of books that look interesting. What's also fascinating is that she works full-time as an attorney and still manages a writing career.

A couple of my crime/mystery faves both hail from the Los Angeles Times, and are now writing their novels full time. Paula L. Woods and Denise Hamilton.

Seeing that we live in such an unpredictably violent world at times, it's nice to sink into the safety of our favorite chair or room to read about fictional crimes and mysteries.

Are there any fiction crime/mystery series that you follow that you want us to know about?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Books: Low-Cost, Educational, and Thoughtful Gifts

As an author, I'm always about the shameless plug about myself or the book industry. This is no different :-) Every purchase you make adds to our payday, which if you weren't aware comes twice a year for published authors -- June 1 and December 1. All those purchases add up and mean something for us... and we thank you for your support!

Now I know many of you, including myself, are tightening up the wallets and purses. I read somewhere that it's becomong "less embarassing" to talk about our personal economies, and I'm no different. So I'm all about low cost, yet thoughtful, shopping and gift giving.

First, for the next 48 hours or so you can download Oprah's Holiday Hits 2008 for free. It has some goodies on it, including something from Aretha Franklin's This Christmas cd and Brian McKnight's I'll Be Home For Christmas cd.

Of course books make great and low-cost holiday gifts that can last and be used forever. Yesterday, I celebrated the 1-year release date of my latest, Right Side of the Wrong Bed. Author Carleen Brice is encouraging non-black readers to give black authors a try with the campaign, Buy A Book By A Black Author And Give It To Somebody Not Black.

If you're into books by black authors, here are some of the sites I check out to learn about the upcoming releases. There may be others, and feel free to share them here with the readers.

APOOO African American Book Club
R.A.W.Sistaz Literary Group

The best part about these sites... you can shop at home and avoid the craziness at the malls, which are usually one of my favorite weekend hangouts, but not during the winter holidays.

Have a great one!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Name Game

Whether it's for writing purposes, or my "fantasy" list of potential kids, it's fun to brainstorm names.

The other day I discovered a really fun sight, Nameberry, that tracks trends in baby names. What really stood out was an entry called In Praise of Regular Guy Names, in which they praised the comfort of male names such as Fred/Frederick. Aaaah, finally something cool and modern about Fred, lol.

But names are important, and significant markers of the times and generations. Today's grandparent names, in the black community in particular -- Betty, Melvin, Barbara, Sandra, Gladys, Edward, Jackie -- will one day be replaced by names such as DuShawn, LaKeisha, Lexus, Jovan, Precious and the likes.

A group of my students has a fun little game going where they've given each other "old school" black nicknames -- Willie, Hattie Mae, Cleophus, Ruthie, J.C. (Jimmy Carter), Sis, Beulah Mae, Otha, Carl, etc... It's a fun way of keeping some history and traditions alive.

I don't know if children are part of my future, but I've always tended to favor names that could go for either gender, names such as Taylor, Kendall, and Lauren/Loren. But I also like names like Kyle, Jess, Seth, Steph, Xavier, and Ruby which are more on the safe side. There are "not-so-safe" names I like such as Desdemona and Delilah. I think with a last name like Smith, three-syllable first names are a good combo.

For writing purposes, or just fantasizing about your future family, thinking about names is an important, meaningful and fun part of life. Your future kid names? Or any old school names that resonate with you?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Tattooed Soldier

This novel has been chosen as our "One Book, One Campus" pick.

The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar, a tale of immigration, class, revenge, homelessness and conflicts among the lower rungs of Los Angeles society around the 90s L.A. riots. That's just the take I get from reading various reviews.

Good thing for book clubs like "One Book, One Campus" or Oprah's Book Club or Today Show, etc... They definitely introduce you to books you'd probably never pick up unless recommended by a larger program or celebrity. That's always a good thing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

L.A. Stories. Valet Parking.

Real quick... you know you're in L.A. when you arrive at the gym, find NO parking spots, and realize that you've never used the gym's valet service.

I did today. For the first time.

I valet park most everywhere else I go -- clubs, restaurants, sometimes the mall. Yeah, the mall -- malls in L.A. are super crowded on weekends. I mostly valet in the evening and night hours, for safety sake.

But never thought I'd resort to valet parking at the gym. In the daytime. It felt kinda lazy.

But it was better than driving around for 15 minutes and using up all that gas.

L.A. stories.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Mercy

Toni Morrison's new novel, A Mercy, is out. I will purchase and read it soon.

Toni Morrison is one of those writers whose books I will purchase no matter what. I don't need to read the back, or reviews, or the hype. I know I'll get a good read. There are a few other authors I feel that way about.

But, in case you're an audio/visual learner, here are a few links of Toni Morrison talking about her latest novel. I hope you find them interesting.

Toni Morrison on Charlie Rose tv show. 30 minutes.

Toni Morrison reads excerpts of A Mercy on NPR. 4-parts, 1 hour total.

Toni Morrison on interview. About 5 minutes.

Toni Morrison interview on the BBC. About 20 minutes, but interesting to hear questions from the British perspective considering that country's role in perpetuating the African slave trade.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death In Daytime

So you know I'm so into Young and the Restless. And lately it rocks... and the only other thing that'll make it rock more is the return of Victoria Rowell as Drucilla!

Daytime Confidential has a sneak preview of this week's Paris storyline, along with the death of a major character that brings back several familiar faces of the past for the funeral.

The other part that rocks is the return of Eileen Davidson as Ashley Abbott. A great heritage character of the show who never should have been off the Y&R canvas, but writers make choices sometimes that the audience doesn't always understand.

And apparently, while she was off the soap canvas, the actress published her first novel, Death In Daytime, about a veteran soap actress who is accused of murdering an executive producer she clashes with about character development.

Sounds like a juicy read. And at $6.99 on Amazon, it's a perfectly affordable gift for the holidays... or to give yourself just because.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Blaming The Blacks On Gay Marriage Failure

So we're in class over the past few days. Still talking election.

Everyone's still on high from the Obama win this week. And pretty much everyone's on low from the Prop 8 passage in California.

But then the conversation digresses. Students/activists invested in the gay marriage issue start blaming the passage of the proposition on the black community in California.

Their reasoning -- the blacks voted in record numbers in California (and around the country), and a majority of black voters (most stories say 70%) voted yes on Prop 8, or against gay marriage.

But what they (the students and the media) failed to mention is that black voters make up less than 7% of the entire voting population of California, which means that voting block may or may not have made much of a difference in the Prop 8 issue.

And then what they failed to think about is this -- 1) the black community isn't the only community that votes against gay marriage; and 2) the only time any of the gay marriage activists truly seek to work with black or Latino (gay or straight) communities is when it comes to gay marriage, in other words getting numbers for a vote.

Where are these same marriage activists when it comes to: 1) hate crimes against black/Latino gay or straight youth; 2) health issues and disparities among various gay communities; 3) racism in the gay community, gay clubs, gay-owned businesses; 4) any other issue -- whether it's serious or just pop culture -- that pertains to gays and lesbians of color?

True coalition building isn't just about a one issue cause. And while I (and many other black people I know) support gay marriage, many of the activists involved need to start the relationship building LONG before election season, and not just for one issue.

Now, the marriage advocates are taking to the streets of West Hollywood, and some of my students of color who have gone to support the protesters say they're looked at funny, almost as if the marriage advocates are just itching to say something ethnically derogatory, considering how the vote came out.

I know one day we'll achieve true equality in marriage and other human rights. The closed-minded folks won't be around for long, and the youth will change things. Things are changing now. But it won't change while people are blaming black folks for how the recent Prop 8 vote turned out.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Chicken and The Gays

Here in California, we're a pretty liberal and progressive bunch... for the most part, and mostly along the coasts in Southern and Northern Cali.

We overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama. We voted funding/a bond for high-speed rail train.

We even voted down parental notification for minors who want to have abortions.

So you see... for the most part we're a pretty progressive and forward thinking state.

Oh yeah, we even voted for the ethical treatment of chickens and other farm animals. They have to have a certain type of living quarters, must be able to spread their wings, be all they're meant to be... before shipped off to market. Hurray for the chickens.

But the gays... apparently still can't marry in California. At least, a small majority of voters don't want the gay/lesbian couples to have the same rights as other couples when it comes to making that permanent commitment to each other.

So let me get this right... chicken rights have been attended to more than the rights of gays? Isn't that ironic?

A couple things that strike me in this developing story. One, there are still 1.5 million absentee and provisional ballots to be counted in California -- those are usually more educated and forward-thinking folks to vote in advance. Two, 70% of black voters (and over 50% of Latinos) in California apparently voted against gay marriage rights.

We have a lot to work on in terms of coalition building among communities of color... and communities of animals.

But we can and we will!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We Can! We DID!

I'll have to admit, I was a bit nervous that some kind of trickery would happen.

But I spent most of the day going from smiles and encouraging conversation with students... to my eyes watering up when I thought about the significance of this election and what so many of our folks desired and fought for.

It happened. We Can! We DID! Amen!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

In Our Lifetime

I'm so excited about voting on Tuesday!

I mean, I've voted before but this time is different because it's for Barack Obama. Who'd have thought that "in our lifetime" we'd be on the verge of electing a president who happens to be black. So exciting.

My sister and I were talking about my dad who died a couple years ago, and how excited and proud he would have been for this "in our lifetime" moment. I'm sure many of your families have had similar "in our lifetime" discussions around the kitchen table. I'm sure many of your friends and families are cautiously optimistic that Tuesday will turn out the way we'd like, in terms of making history and electing Barack Obama.

I'm a morning voter. Generally there between 7 and 7:15 am. My polling place isn't very busy. It's a senior citizen home. It's Southern California. I know my area will go Democratic and progressive on many issues, including No on Prop 4 and No on Prop 8.

Once we make this milestone on Tuesday, what other "in our lifetimes" will we aspire to? And will this milestone be the motivation so many in our communities need to strive for their goals and dreams... and see that they are possible?

Some of my favorites watching/thinking/worrying about the election:
Diary of an Anxious Black Woman: Planning an Election Party

Aunt Jemima's Revenge: has TONS of great commentary pieces on the election season... read all the blog if you've got time!

Tayari Jones will be in Ghana on Election Day, but shared her election thoughts before leaving.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday Night In... To Out

Saturday evening. In right now. Out later... maybe.

These songs I can't get enough of right now...

Can't Believe It, T Pain (this is usually the first, second, and last song I play on my iPod at the gym... don't ask me why... so freaking sexy this song)

Single Ladies, Beyonce (drives me mad happy crazy everytime I hear it... never EVER been this giddy over a new Beyonce cd... does that make me crazy to never have been this way before?)

Bust Your Windows, Jazmine Sullivan (I'd never do it -- bust someone's windows -- but you know how guys can drive you crazy sometimes, lol)

Spotlight, Jennifer Hudson (has nothing to do with what's going on with her family tragedy... loved the song and played it endlessly long before that situation... just LOVE the words, melody, and her stroll in the video)

Happy Saturday Night... out or in!