Wednesday, December 24, 2008

MEMPHIS LOVE . . .

This morning I made an impromptu appearance on live radio! While signing books at Brentano's last night, I made a reconnection with an old classmate from my LeMoyne-Owen College days. Come to find out, my old classmate is the host of his own radio show on KWAM 990 (The New Voice of Memphis). "Tony Todde" is my friend's radio name and it was my pleasure to appear on his hour-long show this morning at 11:00.

A big shout-out to Tony and all of the other Memphians who came out and showed me some love at Brentano's this past Tuesday evening. My Memphis signings have been my favorite and most successful ones, thus far. The homefolks really know how to make a homegirl feel special (smile).

I'll be at Brentano's (Oak Court Mall) again this Saturday (December 27) from 2pm-4pm. If you'd like a signed copy of After The Dance or you'd just like to stop by and say, "Hello," come out out.

Until later . . .

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #33 . . . 13 Reading Habits . . .

1) Quite frequently, I'll read the last few pages of a book--just to see how it ends. Seldom does it lessen my enjoyment of the story, nor does it keep me from finishing the book.

2) I love libraries, but I buy more books than I borrow.

3) When I start a hard-back, I generally remove the cover until I've finished reading the book.

4) I've been known to read in the tub.

5) Sometimes I'll read more than one book at a time.

6) Don't ask to borrow one of my books. I hate loaning them out because I know they're not coming back.

7) I prefer reading literary fiction, short story collections and essay collections.

8) I tend to use bookmarks and prefer not to dog-ear the pages of my books.

9) I've been a regular reader of the newspaper since the age of twelve.

10) In recent years, I've stopped subscribing to a daily newspaper and switched to being a weekend only subscriber.

11) Typically, what's popular or on the best sellers lists doesn't interest me.

12) I tend to read books that have been out for a while.

13) On average, I read at least 4 hours a day. Of course, this includes the amount of time I spend reading online.

Do we share any reading habits? Do you have any odd reading habits?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #32 . . . 13 Christmas / Holiday Traditions (Past & Present)

Baby Boy's 2nd Christmas
from Lori's Picture Collection

1) Shortly after Thanksgiving, I start listening to Christmas music and I don't typically stop until sometime in January. Yeah, not everybody in the fam is down with that, but what can I say? Some of my favorite Christmas cds include--Grover Washington's Breath of Heaven, Boney James' Funky Christmas, the Jackson 5 Christmas Album, Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration (by various artists) and The Best of Vanessa Williams: The Christmas Collection.

2) Putting something in the bell ringers' kettles. I feel guilty when I don't.

3) Participating in Advent ceremonies, festivities and observations.

4) Enlisting my son's help in putting up the Christmas tree.

5) Pulling out and plugging up the Black Santa who dances to Jingle Bell Rock.

6) Mailing Christmas cards.

7) Watching Christmas movies. Charlie Brown Christmas, "Polar Express" and Chevy Chase's "Christmas Vacation" are some of my favorites.

8) Listening to Grover Washington's "Breath of Heaven" at night, by candlelight. One year, while living in Cleveland, the hubby and I lit the candles, opened the curtains and watched it snow while listening to the music.

9) Before our son was born, the hubby and I spent Christmas Eve delivering gifts.
10) After our son was born and while we were living in Memphis, I'd cook a huge pot of chili on Christmas Eve and invite our relatives over for the exhange of gifts.
11) When I lived in Memphis, I'd make a couple of lemon meringue pies for my family's big Christmas dinner. Since my move from Memphis, I've managed to weasel out of this task (smile).

12) Driving around the city after nightfall on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and taking in all of the beautiful (and/or tacky) Christmas displays and lights.

13) Getting my grub on at my cousin Gertrude's house on Christmas Day.

Well, do we have any traditions in common? Feel free to mention a couple of your own Christmas / Holiday traditions.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

UNSUNG . . .Who would be on your list?

Besides the food, one of the things I most enjoyed over the Thanksgiving holiday was a TV One television special entitled "Unsung." The 4-part series explored the lives and musical talents of The DeBarge family, Phyllis Hyman, Donny Hathaway and The Clark Sisters. Each hour long segment gave a detailed account of the individual's or the group's rise and subsequent fall from the limelight. The series greatly exceeded my expectations and I managed to catch every segment except the one on The Clark Sisters--which was unfortunate, because of all the artists profiled, I know the least about them.

Some of the things I learned about the DeBarge family truly shocked me. I mean, I knew some of them had drug problems, but dag, not ALL of them! And like an astute observer on another blog pointed out, whatever they were using and abusing, straight-up wrecked some sho'nuff havoc on those good looks. They now all look to be about the same age as their 70-some year old mama. Say it aint' so, Chico, say it ain't so! (LOL) Yeah, Chico is my favorite DeBarge and I hope one day soon he and some of the others are able to get it together and come back out strong.

The Hyman and Hathaway stories I pretty much knew, but they still left me melancholy and wondering what each might be doing now and much more great music might they have produced had they lived.

I do hope the folks at TV One plan on continuing the series and perhaps even, at some point, including a few unsung actors and atheletes in the mix. "Unsung" was some of the most insightful, educational and entertaining TV I've watched in quite some time. If TV One is considering expanding the series and is in need of a few suggestions, the following are a few "unsung" singers, groups and musicians I'd loved to see profiled: Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott Heron, Angela Bofill, Bill Withers, Roger Troutman, Slave, The Sylvers, The Brothers Johnson, Billy Preston, Michael Henderson, The Stylistics, The Dramatics, Norman Conners and Loose Ends . . .

Obviously, I could go on, but I'll stop there. What about you? What "Unsung" entertainers from the music world would you like to see profiled in an upcoming show?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Signed Copies Of . . . After The Dance . . .

Believe it or not, while I was surfing the net one night, I stumbled upon a site where someone with a signed copy of my novel, After The Dance, was asking $60.00 for it. Huh? LOL! I'm saying, you can buy the durn thing at any bookstore for $15.00 (or less if you go through Amazon) and if you send it to me, I'll sign it and send it back to you for free.

Yes, the offer is, indeed, still open. If you mail me your copy of After The Dance, I'll sign it and pay the postage required to have it mailed back to you. The offer has been extended and will remain open until Friday, December 12, 2008. If you're interested, email me (go to my blog's "view my complete profile" page for the contact info/email address) and I'll tell you where to mail your copies.

Hey, Michelle F. from Memphis, if you're reading this, your copies arrived in my mail today! (smile) Thanks for supporting my efforts. I'll sign the books and get them back to you ASAP. Also, I'm looking forward to seeing you and all of my other Memphis friends, family members and associates in the coming weeks.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Parameters of Blackness (Part II: Electric Boogaloo)

Prior to the publication of After The Dance, I shared a portion of the manuscript with various friends and relatives. A comment from one of my cousins took me by surprise. According to her, the names of my primary protagonists--Carl & Faye, weren't "Black enough." My initial reaction was--"Huh? Say what! Come again."

Yeah, according to Cuz, I should have named my characters something along the lines of "Shauneequah" and "Jondavious." OKAY . . . Now, had the remark come from someone other than this particular cousin, perhaps I might have understood it.

To give you a bit of background, even though I'm a few years older than my cousin, we spent a fair amount of time together as kids. Our grandmothers are sisters and our families have always been close. Just like I did, my cousin grew up in a two-parent household. Her parents and mine left the hood a LONG time ago. Just like I do, my cousin lives in the suburbs and like me, is in a marriage that has lasted longer than 10 years, and like me is the mother of one child, a son.

No one in either of our immediate families has a name like Shauneequah or Jondavious. Not that there's anything wrong with either of these two names, I'm just saying--why would my cousin or anyone else feel justified in implying that I'm being something other than Black if I opt NOT to go the Shauneequah and Jondavious route? Are names like those somehow more authentically Black than names like Carl & Faye or Lori & Al or Wendy & Brian? (Yeah Cuz, what? You thought I wasn't gonna call you out?! LOL)

My cousin's son and my own are both African American youths who have excelled academically since Kindergarten. Does that fact somehow make them less authentically Black? As the Black mother of a Black son and as someone who writes stories about Black people, am I somehow obligated , for the sake of "keeping it real" to churn out portraits of African American boys who make failing grades and flunk out of school? Who only dream of being sports figures and hip-hop artists? Who only look up to pimps, drug dealers and gang bangers? If so, for whom am I keeping this real? And why?

I think, like a lot of people, be they Black, White or Other, my cousin has bought into the lucrative fiction of what Black is and what it ain't--a fiction that's currently being cut and repackaged before being sold back to us, like so many nickel and dime bags. A fiction created by the image and identity hustlers who've set up shop in the publishing world, the music industry, Hollywood and the like. They get paid well feeding us a steady diet of the same old, tired stereotypical images and even when we know better, some of us have allowed ourselves to get hooked. Yeah, we're buying it, ingesting it and eventually, like addicts, finding ourselves somewhere (whether it be at the bookstore, the movie theatre or in front of the television) straight sprung, fiending, frothing at the mouth and wanting to beat-down the first somebody who dares suggest, "You know, maybe all of that sh!t ain't good for you . . ."

In the December 2008 issue of The Writer, there is an article entitled, "On writing against ethnic stereotypes," which mainly focuses on the media's distorted and one-dimensional view of Italian Americans. The author of the piece, Paola Corso, states that stereotypes aren't necessairly bad when used purposefully and I tend to agree. I'd love to see more African American artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, etc. attempting to flip the script by manipulating stereotypes via satire, parody and humor. I attempted to do some of that in my own debut novel. But these days, more often than not, the most serious offenders (pun fully intended) and eager perpetuators of some of the most vile, negative and derogatory things said about Black men and women are other Black men and women.

To be clear, I don't have an issue with names like Shauneequah and Jondavious. I have plenty of Shauns and Jons in my extended family and within my circle of friends, none of whom I consider more or less Black than my cousin or myself. My issue is with the mindset that suggests there is only one way of being authentically Black . . . an authenticity that is all too often narrowly defined and tied to a host of negative images and outright stereotypes.

You know, at some point I may write about a character named Shauneequah, but you'd best believe she won't live in the hood, have a crack habit, take licks upside the head from her gangbanging boyfriend, Jondavious, or work for a process-wearing pimp who dreams of being a rapper (smile). Nope, my Shauneequah will probably be an African American businesswoman who lives in Charleston, owns a seafood restaurant, a beachside home and a pilot's license. She'll probably be in a long-distance relationship with some well-to-do resort owner, a North African she met while vacationing in the south of France (I am so making this mess up off the top of my head, LOL). My Shauneequah will probably be in the process of legally adopting her deceased best friend's little girl, both of whom, the best friend and the little girl, just so happen to be White.

Yeah, I know, a story like that would never get published, at least, not by someone like me.

(If you're interested or you missed it--PARAMETERS OF BLACKNESS: PART I)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #31 . . . 13 Dog Types I Would/Have/Might Consider Owning . . .

I'm not a "dog person," but like the members of the next First Family, I may soon find myself sharing quarters with one. Sigh. My son and the hubby have their hearts set on some BIG a$$, hairy, stank-breath dog. Black Labs. Golden Retrievers. German Shepards, etc. My typical response to suggestions of this type are, "hell no" "have you lost your fricking mind?" and "forget about it."

Truth be known, my dog of preference would be a cat. (LOL) I like cats. I know cats. Cats use the litter box. Ordinarily, they don't suffer from chronic halitosis or enjoy rolling in their own poo. But since owning a cat is out of the question (the hubby is allergic), and I know I'm going to be the primary caretaker of said dog, I've drawn up a list of canines I would (have or might) consider owning.

1) Invisible (I mean really, wouldn't this be ideal? Can't we just all pretend?)

2) Stuffed (I'm saying, imagine the flexibility that comes with this choice. No barking. No shedding. No vet bills. No huge mounds of crap in the yard . . .)

3) Puppy (Okay, in all honesty, I've yet to meet the puppy I didn't like. If only they didn't eventually grow up to be big, stank breath dogs . . .)

4) From a pound or animal shelter (I do very much like the idea of rescuing some lost or abandoned or ill-fated pooch.)

5) Jack Russell (If I'm doomed to own a dog, I'd prefer a smart one. These dogs have always struck me as highly intelligent.)

6) Rat Terrier (This fits my preference for something small and cute. I'd actually be open to owning two of these, but the hubby appears to have a strong bias against any animal with the word "rat" in its name.)

7) Any short-haired Terrier (Have you noticed a theme or pattern yet? LOL)

8) Mutt (I've heard mixed bred-dogs have the best dispositions. And while I could easily live with a neurotic cat, co-habitating with a nut-case for a dog is out of the question.)

9) Beagle (I think this would make for a good compromise. It's not too big, not too small and they seem halfway intelligent, I mean for a dog.)

10) Hunting Dog/Pointer (My grandfather hunts and has always owned a hunting dog or two. So, I kind of know what to expect from this breed and they appear to have a fairly decent temperament.)

11) Chihuahua (Once upon a time, I didn't really like this type of dog. As a child, all the ones I ever saw were bug-eyed and yapped a lot. But in recent years, I've seen some cute and relatively quiet ones. The hubby grimaces at the thought of owing what he considers such a "foo-foo" dog.)

12) Any small, short-haired, female dog (Yes, I would prefer a girl dog. Of course, the hubby is lobbying for just the opposite.)

13) Hairless (Come on, how could you not love a dog who looks scared and shivers a lot? At least I wouldn't have to worry about her shedding .)

Well, any suggestions? I'm open . . . even though I'd still prefer a cat.
Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Memorable Characters . . . Lasting Impressions . . .

I recently finished a book I already know I'm bound to read again, Blues Dancing by Diane McKinney-Whetstone. I'm a late convert to Ms. McKinney-Whetstone's work, but with two books down and another one waiting for me on my shelves, I'm well on my way to becoming one of her biggest fans. Her characters in Blues Dancing were so well-drawn and full of life, I haven't been able to stop thinking about them.

Plot driven, action-packed, drama-filled stories are fine and dandy, but there's nothing I love more than a truly memorable character, a character capable of occupying a place deep within the recesses of my gray matter-- days, months and years after our original encounter. The following list (in no particular order, mind you) contains some of my all-time favorites. I hope it will inspire you to think about and share some of yours.

1) Verdi Mae & Johnson (the couple from Diane McKinny-Whetstone's Blues Dancing whose jones for heroin alters their lives as well as their love for one another)

2) Sula (the delightfully evil female protagonist from Toni Morrison's novel by the same title)

3) Blue Hamilton ( the brother with the blue eyes from Pearl Cleage's Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do. A good friend and I are still debating the significance/symbolism of those blue eyes, LOL)

4) Laz (the lovable, wool hat-wearing character from Suzan-Lori Parks' Getting Mother's Body)

5) Sophia (from Alice Walker's The Color Purple. My apologies to all of you Miss Celie and Shug Avery fans. Sophia's stubborn defiance wins me over every time.

6) Easy & Mouse (the unlikely partners from Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mystery series)

7) Socrates Fortlow (from Walter Mosley's thought-provoking, Always Out Numbered, Always Out Gunned)

8) Pecola Breedlove (the little girl who longed for blue eyes in Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye)

9) Grant Wiggins (aka "The School Teacher") & Jefferson (the reluctant teacher and student from Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. Just thinking about them makes me tear up)

10) Walter Lee (from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun. I've long identified with Walter Lee's desparate sense of longing. Sorry P-Diddy, but Sidney Poitier's portrayal of Walter L. in the original screenplay won't ever be topped)

11) Hazel (the running little girl from Toni Cade Bambara's short story, "Raymond's Run")

Okay, your turn. What characters have made a lasting impression on you?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Check This Out . . .

The following is a link to my most recent interview . . .

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

YES WE CAN . . . YES WE DID . . .

Barack Hussein Obama
The first Black President-Elect
of the United States of America
"Ah--so this is what the New World hath finally wrought . . . "
Joseph Asagai
from Lorraine Hansberry's
A Raisin In the Sun

Monday, November 03, 2008

Some Information & A Couple of Special Offers . . .

THE INFO

My website (lorijohnsonbooks.com) is undergoing a few tweaks and adjustments, so if you visit and discover it down, please check back again later.

THE OFFERS

If you own a copy of my book and you'd like it signed, feel free to send it to me. I'll sign (or personalize) your copy (or copies) of After The Dance and pay the costs involved in having it (or them) mailed back to you. You'll find my email address on my blog's profile page. Email me and I'll let you know where to send your copy or copies. Books, signed or unsigned, do make great holiday gifts (smile). I'll keep this offer open until the first week of December and I'll post periodic reminders.

For my Memphis Peeps or anyone who plans to be in the Bluff City over the Christmas holiday, I have a special offer for you. I'm having two signings at the Brentano's Book Store in Memphis (Oak Court Mall), one before Christmas (Tuesday, December 23, 5pm-7pm) and one after Christmas (Saturday, December 27, 2pm-4pm). The first person to show up at either signing and who purchases TWO OR MORE COPIES of After The Dance (a single copy is only $15.00 plus tax) will receive a FREE AUDIO version of the book. The audio book is regularly priced at $82.75 and the actors do a wonderful job of giving voice to Carl and Faye. So, come on out and do some holiday shopping or else just snag a really nice gift for yourself (smile).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #30 . . . 13 Trick Or Treat Don'ts (REDUX)

Yes, I posted this very same list of Trick or Treat Don'ts last year. But it was a fun list and it's not like anything has changed. So, if you and yours are out there doing any of this mess on Halloween, please stop (smile)>

1) DON'T send your kid out to knock on doors until you've first taught him/her proper Halloween etiquette. "Give me some candy!" and "Is that all you've got? are not acceptable subsititutes for "Trick or treat! and "Thank you."

2) If you're 13 years old or older and you're thinking about knocking on my door and asking for candy . . . DON'T . . . unless you're looking to be embarrassed or have the police called on your behind.

3) If you're thinking about letting little Ashley dress up like Peaches the stripper or Kitty the call girl and calling it a costume . . . DON'T! That mess is SO NOT cute.

4) If you forgot to buy candy, DON'T try to subsitute those stale mints and those dried up sticks of gum that have been sitting in the bottom of your purse or in that dusty bowl in the living room forever. That's just nasty . . . and trifling.

5) If you're one of those anti-sugar freaks, DON'T pass out toothbrushes and dental floss--sheesh, just turn out the lights and keep your durn door shut.

6) DON'T send your child up to my house clutching one of those big, green, 30-gallon sized trash bags, unless he/she is pretending to be a sanitation worker. It's Halloween folks, not garbage pick-up day.

7) If you're sitting in the house in your drawers, getting your drank on, when the door bell rings, do us all a favor and just DON'T answer it.

8) DON'T pass out candy you had left over from Valentine's Day or worse yet, last Halloween.

9) If you notice that my porch light and all of my house lights are OUT or I've got a big a$$ neon sign on my door that says, NO CANDY HERE!" DON'T bother to knock or ring my freaking doorbell.

10) If you see me out trick or treating with my kid, DON'T jump out the bushes and holler "Boo!" unless you're looking to get clubbed, maced or possibly even shanked. Mama DON'T even play that.

11) If your religious beliefs prevent you from participating in Halloween, DON'T spoil it for the others folks/heathens who do, by passing out prayer cards, verses from Revelations or communion wafers.

12) If there's a thunderstorm or a blizzard or the weather man says there's a tornado, hurricane or a freaking tsunami in the immediate vicinity, please DON'T show up at my door trying to trick or treat.

13) DON'T send your child out door-to-door on Halloween without a costume or at least some make-up. That's not trick or treating folks, that's just plain ole begging.

Okay, did I just about cover them all? Are there any others you'd like to add? (LOL)
Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Vote For Change In 2008 . . .

I early voted yesterday. I live in North Carolina, one of those all-important "swing states" and folks here have been early voting since last week. Given all of the local new reports about the record turnout and having witnessed for myself the overflowing parking lot at the library when I intended to cast my vote, I knew to arrive early. So, even though the polling place didn't open until 11:00 am, I arrived at 9:30. It was good thinking on my part, because, sure enough, there was aleady a line of 15 or more people in front of me.

Patience is not one of my virtures. Most of my friends and family members know if they keep me waiting for too long without a damn good reason, I either leave or start (whatever it is) without their slow behinds. The last time I can remember waiting in a line with that many folks in front of me was for concerts tickets to see the R& B artist, Maxwell back in 2001. The main thing the Maxwell ticket line had going for it was constant and steady movement. In contraxt, the early voting line I joined yesterday at 9:30 was one that didn't lurch forward until 11:00.

Still, I resisted the urge to say, "later for this." No, I stood there with the others and waited, comforted by the fact that at least I'd arrived early enough to stand inside of the building as apposed to outside in the elements. My decision to endure the 1 and 1/2 hour wait was further affirmed when by 10am the line behind me was already outside and consisted of probably three times the number of people standing in front of me.

I first registered to vote shortly after my 18th birthday. Even though I haven't necessarily voted in every election since then, I've always taken the right to vote seriously. For me, it goes beyond "civic duty" or even the often touted, "folks died for your right to vote," line of reasoning.

I don't have any memories of the speeches, rallies, protests, marches, sit-ins, beatings and murders that took place during the Civil Rights movement. Even though I was living in Memphis, TN at the time, I was a preschooler when Martin Luther King was assassinated. All I can remember and never will forget from that chaotic and emotional period in our nation's history is the sight of my mother weeping . . . (see here for the full story)

But what I do know and fully appreciate is my history--my own personal history . . . my family's history . . . United States history as well as the history of African Americans in these United States. And I know it hasn't all been pretty and triumphant or the crystal stair (smile) that some might have us believe. There has been, on the other hand, plenty of inexcusable, unwarranted and unacknowledged horror, pain, struggle, poverty, depravation and inequality, the kind of wich doesn't necessarily fill me with pride for my country or fellow citizens.

Just this past weekend, a suspicious event at one of the local polling sites, prompted my husband and I talk to talk to our school-age son about the historic suppression of the Black vote, the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the election tampering and tomfoolery that's occured in recent years in places like Ohio and Florida.

So, if you're waiting for me to say, "It doesn't matter who you vote for, as long as you vote," it ain't gonna happened (smile). Sorry, just because something is the nice, polite, politcally correct thing to say, doesn't make it a truth I'm willing to buy into. Nope, for me, the truth is, it does matter, this year more than ever. Our nation seems to be at a crossroads and I, for one, am fearful of what lurks at the end of the narrow and treacherous path we've been plodding and stumbling along for the past eight years . . . if not, all of my life and then some.

That's one of the main reasons why, yesterday, I was so willing and eager to wait in an unmoving line for however long it took to cast my vote . . . my vote for change. And if you really want to know the truth, some of us have been standing in this line for generations. When the time finally came for me to press that lever, don't think I didn't feel the presence of all those who dreamed of such a moment, but never lived to see it, standing right there beside me.

And later that evening, when my son arrived home from school and the first thing out of his mouth when he burst through the door was, "Mom, did you get to early vote?!" not only did his interest and enthusiasm make me smile, it made me view my relatively small sacrifice within the larger context of generations to come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #29 . . . 13 Interesting Facts & Juicy Tidbits from THE LEGS ARE THE LAST TO GO (by Diahann Carroll) . . .

Just about everyone knows Diahann Carroll, right? The African American actress who played Corey Baker's mom in the groundbreaking '60's television series Julia? Since that time Ms. Carroll has played quite a few other memorable tv "mom roles," among them Whitley's mom in A Different World and Preston Burke's mom in Grey's Anatomy. One of my favorite Diahann Carroll "mom roles" took place on the big screen when she played opposite James Earl Jones, in the '70s movie classic, Claudine. Surprising enough, the beautiful and talented Ms. Carroll also managed to pull off playing a b!tch, as Dominique Deveraux in the '80s tv series Dynasty.

I'm more than mid-way through Diahann Carroll's new memoir, The Legs Are The Last To Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying and Other Things I Learned The Hard Way, and I thought it might be both fun and somewhat englighting to share some of what I've discovered about her from my reading.

1) She's 73 years old.

2) She was born Carol Diann Johnson.

3) She considered giving the following title to her latest book--Too Old To Give A Damn: Things I Never Could Have Said While Working In Hollywood.

4) She was 19 when she starred in her first movie, Carmen Jones (she played one of Carmen's sidekicks).

5) Her first marriage was to Monte Kay, a man 17 years her senior and whose dark coloring and curly hair initially led Ms. Carroll to assume that he was African American, rather than Jewish.

6) Hal Kanter, the creator of Julia, wasn't sure Ms. Carroll was right for the role. He thought her a bit too worldly and glamorous.

7) She had a tumultuous 9 year affair with Sidney Poitier, which helped wreck her marriage to Monte Kay.

8) She admits to having had plastic surgery.

9) She admits to having undergone "medically guided" LSD therapy."

10) She lip-syched "Summertime" in the movie version of Porgy and Bess and while she loved the music in the movie, she despised its portrayal of African Americans.

11) She was once engaged to David Frost.

12) She was married to Vic Damone for 10 years.

13) In this book, Ms. Carroll comes off as very much "the diva" and a bit of a drama queen, but one with a truly wonderful sense of humor and grace about herself and her less than perfect past.

While I'm not yet finished with The Legs are The Last To Go, I'm already eager to go back and read the book Diahann Carroll penned in the '80s about her life, if ony to see what I missed (smile). Did you discover anything about Ms. Carroll that you didn't already know. Do you know anything about Ms. Carroll that you'd like to share?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Parameters of Blackness: Too Black vs. Not Black Enough . . .

I bet I'm not the only one who has ever wondered what makes something or someone too Black as apposed to not Black enough. Come on, don't act like y'all don't know what I'm talking about? Okay, wait . . . does the use of a word like y'all mark me as Black? Southern? Ignorant and uneducated? Are any (or perhaps, all) of the aforementioned synonymous? In some people's book, apparently so.

Okay, so what if I make a practice of always speaking and writing in grammatically correct English. Will it have an impact on my DNA? The melanin in my skin? My cultural identity? Will it somehow make me less Black?

One of my best friends, a woman who has known me since my freshman year in college has this peculiar habit of laughing at something I've said and then telling me, "Girl, you so Black!" Hmm, so what exactly does that mean? And when compared to whom, I wonder?

Every few years, I have this habit of giving my hair a break from chemical relaxers and wearing my tresses au natural. In case you're wondering, yes, I am currently in the middle of one of those stages. But I've long been fascinated by what other Black folks read into both this practice as well as the appearance of my hair in its natural, unrelaxed and unstraightened state.

I remember being in a conversation with a co-worker once and her making a comment that I'm sure a number of Black & White folks alike would have deemed politically incorrect. After making the remark, my co-worker looked over at me (and my naturally nappy head) and said something along the lines of, "I guess that means my Black card is gonna have to be revoked, huh?" I grinned back at her and said, "What? Did you miss the memo? Naw girl, see, I'm not even in charge of that this year."

The truly funny thing is--just as soon as somebody labels me "too Black" for one reason or another, someone else is quick to step forward and suggest I'm somehow not quite Black enough.

I never will forget the time I was talking and laughing with one of my Black male co-workers when he up and said, "You must be married to a White guy." I was like, "What? Huh? Where in the heck did that come from?" By the same token, my spouse (who is indeed, very much an African American man) tells me his co-workers (the ones who've never met or seen me in person) are in the habit of assuming he's married to a White woman.

Okay, so obviously, I'm in a no win situation here (LOL). But you know what I've decided? Just as folks have a God-given right to think whatever the hell they please about me and mine, as long as I know who the hell I am, it's all good (smile).

Still, I'd very much like to know from all of those who have deemed themselves the arbitrators of such--what sorts of things define Blackness? I'm saying, is there like a list or something? If so, what sorts of things are on it?

--Whether or not one can get down with a plate of collard greens and neckbones?

--Whether or not one grew up in the ghetto, in the projects or in the hood drinking red Kool-Aid and eating fried bologna sandwiches?

--Being able to rap, dance, carry a tune, play Bid-Whist and sing Old Negro spirituals?

--Belonging to a church where folks shout and speak in tongues?

--Being sexually promiscuous? Being athletically gifted?

--Wearing locs? Braids? Sagging pants?

--Having any (or all) of the following in your immediate family--a crack head, a pimp, a gang-banger, a stripper, a two-bit ho . . .

--Being loud, ill-mannered, always ready to fight and or cuss somebody out?

--Being a high school drop-out? Having a criminal record? Being on welfare? Having five children by five different partners?

Do any (or all) of the aforementioned fit into your definition of Blackness? If so, why? If someone who wasn't Black described African Americans exclusively in those terms would you or would you not be offended? Is there a difference between embracing a positive stereotype and embracing a negative one? What qualifies one to decide who's too Black and who isn't quite Black enough?

To Be Continued . . .

But feel free to comment now, if you'd like (smile).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #28 . . . 13 TV Shows I'm Embarrassed to Admit I Watch . . .

I don't watch a lot of television. Never have. But these days, I'm watching even less than in previous years. Frankly, most of the stuff that makes it on the tube either bores me or I find insulting. Yes, I am hard to please and most of the shows I do like, don't stay on for very long and/or a good number of folks find rather odd. Hey, such is life.

The only NEW prime-time series that currently interests me is Life On Mars. It's different enough to hold my attention, though I'm not sure for how long. At the present, the only prime-time series I watch with any degree of faithfulness, outside of NBC's Nightly News, is Brothers and Sisters. Like I already admitted, I'm weird like that (smile).

Even though I don't have any problems owning up to the fact that I enjoy a number of news programs, a variety of music specials and documentaries, as well as shows like HBO's Real Sports and The Wire, the following list is composed of TV shows I'm ashamed to admit, I have actually been known to sit down and watch from beginning to end. Sure, I watch them, but there's only one in the bunch that really has me hooked . . .

1) The First 48: I just started watching this over the summer. So all of the repeats are new to me. I'm not so sure why it fascinates me, other than the fact that I've been able to gain some insights into the minds of criminals and detectives. Perhaps this is research for some future novel? (smile) And of course, I especially enjoy the episodes filmed in Memphis. Gotta give it for the homefolk in the Dirty South.

2) Jon & Kate Plus Eight: Every time my son and I sit down to watch this show, the hubby leaves the room. He doesn't have to worrry, my dreams of having 4-5 kids have long since passed. Besides, watching this crew will most definitely make you think twice about having additional children.

3) Blues Clues: Well, only the reruns featuring my boy, Steve, mind you. This is one of those back down memory lane sorts of things. Blues Clues was the first show I allowed my son to watch as a preschooler.

4) Bridezilla: How these women, (particularly the ones who are tore up, from the floor up, as we used to say back in the day) get away with the crap they pull both amazes and amuses me.

5) The King of Queens: The hubby got me hooked on this over the summer after he talked me into watching an episode with him. Even though I do find the show funny and very well-written, something tells me the hubby identifies just a wee too much with that nit-wit Doug.

6) Divorce Court: While I'll watch any of them, I prefer the reruns with Judge Mabelean. She cracks me up.

7) Real Sex: What can I say, other than it appeals to my inner freak (LOL)?

8) Soul Train: I doubt this one comes as any real surprise. The fact that I'm old school has been well established.

9) Joel Osteen: "Don't drink the Kool-Aid!" is what I used to whisper at my hubby whenever I'd catch him watching a Joel Osteen broadcast. But one day, I sat down and listened for a minute and even though I'm still a little leery of dude's smile, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

10) Inside Edition: Mainly, I watch this show in order to get my entertainment news and because I'm generally too lazy to get up after the evening news goes off.

11) Buy Me: Since in recent years it always seems like I'm in the process of either buying or selling a house, this show appeals to me.

12) Funniest Home Videos: Just call me a sucker for silly cat, dog and baby videos.

13) Oprah: It's only been in recent years that I've become ashamed of being such a hardcore Oprah fan. But yes, I've watched her show ever since it hit the airwaves One of the best things about living in Charlotte is that Opie's show is repeated in the evenings, so I don't ever have to worry about having to record or miss a show. But don't worry, you'll never catch me on one of her "favorite things" give-away specials screaming like an idiot. That's so uncool (LOL). I also don't typcially don't bother to watch the show when she's doing her in-depth celebrity interviews. Sorry, celebrities just aren't my thing, unless, of course, we're talking about somebody like, PRINCE!

So what shows do you watch that might surprise those who THINK they know you?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Quotes That Make You Go, "Hmm . . . "

I'd like to thank one of my Old School Mix visitors and Goodreads Friends, Damika, for introducing me to the following quote by Quincy Jones:

"The tradgedy of Tupac is that his untimely passing is representative of too many young Black men in this country . . . If we had lost Oprah Winfrey at 25, we would have lost a relatively unknown, local market TV anchorwoman. If we had lost Malcolm X at 25, we would have lost a hustler named Detroit Red. And if I had left the world at 25, we would have lost a big-band trumpet player and aspiring composer--just a sliver of my eventual life potential" (Quincy Jones)

Doesn't that make you think? Not just about the lives of talented celebrities like Pac or Oprah, but ordinary folk, like yourself? We live in a society that appears to worship youth, money, popularity and little else and personally, I think that's unfortunate. Tupac was young, good-looking, popular, talented and doing better than most of us ever will financially, but we'll never know what else he could have been or accomplished. We'll never know his true potential or genius.

Isn't the same true for any us? Had you died at age 25 how might it have impacted the lives of the folks nearest and dearest to you? Moreover, what might you NOT have accomplished, seen to fruition or watched come to pass? What lessons or opportunities migh you have missed had you died at 25? Or for those one or two of you who have yet to reach that grand ole age (smile), what if your time had come at age 19?

A few of the things I would have missed had I breathed my last breath at age 25 include:

*not being able to see my still healthy, alert and funny grandfather live well into his '90s;

*being married to my college sweetheart for more years that I care to announce on this blog (smile)

*bringing another life into the world and watching him grow into the smart, handsome and vibrant young man that he is today;

*publishing my first newspaper article, my first magazine article, my first short story and my first novel;

*helping one of my oldest and dearest friends through the end of her 17 year marriage;

*accompanying my husband through the removal of a cyst from his brain;

*witnessing the joy and delight my parents take in being grandparents.

What about you? What sort of life enriching experiences might you have missed had you departed this world at 25? What gifts or talents might you have missed out on sharing with the rest of the world?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #27 . . . 13 Bad News Neighbor Types . . .

Note: I posted this last week, but when the date on the Thursday Thirteen web site never changed, I pulled the post. Hopefully, all will go well this week (smile). Comments are welcome!

Since I've been an adult, I've lived in three homes and six different apartments and/or townhomes. At one point, we were moving around so much, my folks started calling me and the hubby the gypsies. So, I've lived in a lot of different neighborhoods and had both the pleasure and the displeasure of getting to know a variety of neighbors. The following are some of the more . . . memorable.

1) The Loud Music Lovers--All right! If I have to hear the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies and/or Working Nine To Five, on blast one more time . . .

2) The Anti-Lawn Care Crew--You mean to tell me there are six of y'all living over there and don't none of y'all know how to use a lawnmower!?

3) The Dope Fiends--When it comes to the neighborhood crack house, at least you know where it is. But as the hubby likes to say, the bad thing about living next door to a meth-lab is that you usually don't know that sucker is there until it blows up.

4) The Cat Lady and/or the Dog Man--Umm, why is it that the nice ole lady who lives with the 15 cats always wants to bring you home-made goodies?

5) The Good Time Gal--Look, if you're skanky enough to sit out on your patio in the wee hours of the morning, boo-hooing into your beer about all the men you done did or let do ya (below my bedroom window, no less) don't get mad if my hubby yanks up the window and yells down for you to pipe down and take your stank butt to bed. Personally, I'da told you to wash first, but that's just me.

6) The Nosey-Butt--Why is it that every time I break out my barbecue grill or I'm getting ready to add something to my landscaping or I'm talking to a contractor, you've got to bring your nosey-butt over and see what's up?

7) The Thief--My uncle shared this one with me. He said one night his shed got broken into and some of his lawn equipment was stolen. A couple of days later, he hears what sounds like HIS lawn mower. (Hey, he swears he knows what his lawn mower sounds like). Anyway, he peeps over the fence and spies the neighbor, the one who belongs to the Anti-Lawn Care Crew, out there cutting his grass with what looks like my uncle's stolen lawn mower.

8) The Broke Down Car Bunch--Dag man, whatcha doing over there, running a chop shop? Can't you do something about all those rusted out cars and engines you've got in your yard sitting up on bricks, providing shelters and playgrounds for cats and rodents?

9) The Chain Smoker--Tell me this, how is it that you can keep your car so spic and span, I'm saying, be outside bright and early on a Sunday morning washing that bad boy, but you've got so many durn cigarette butts in your yard, it looks like two inches worth of accumulated snow and it's the middle of July?

10) The Folks Who Fight--Okay, here's a thought, why don't y'all find yourselves a boxing ring or sign up to be guests on The Jerry Springer Show and get that mess out of your systems? A relative once told me, one of his neighbors called the woman he was living with out of her name so often, he (my relative) just knew the couple's poor kid was gonna grow up thinking his mama's name was either bit@h or ho'.

11) The Lovers--Okay, enough with the bedroom gymnastics already! If you must got at it like elk, why not get rid of the loose head board and the old box springs or better yet, just toss the mattresses on the floor so I don't have to hear all of that racket?

12) The Folks With The Bad-A$$ Kids--To the parents, care-takers and or guardians of the bad-a$$ kids. Look, I know it's hard. So why not just pack your bags and let them have the house? Hell, they're tearing it down around you anyway.

13) The Nut-Case--True story. We once lived next door to a fool who got a kick out of feeding the neighborhood raccoons. He said he found it therapeutic. Okay, fine. The only problem was after eating their fill on Mr. Nut Case's balcony, the nasty-a$$ critters would come over and take a crap on ours. When we asked Mr. Nut Case to stop, he said we were being mean and kept right at it. When we complained to management, Mr. Nut Case accused us of putting sugar in his gas tank. After the hubby started talking about getting a gun, I agreed it was time to move.

Okay, so who lives in your neighborhood? (LOL) Have you ever have to deal with any characters like these?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Few Thoughts On . . . The "Black" Bookstore Section Debate . . .

Okay, let me just confess up front, that I've deliberately avoided sharing my views on this "hot topic" for reasons which, if you continue reading, will become readily apparent (smile).

Basically, I view the Black book store section as a marketing strategy that has long worked in favor of African American authors and readers of our work. As the story I shared in a previous post suggests (See Here), I enjoy both browsing in bookstores and reading the work of African American authors. The Black bookstore section makes it easier for me to find my favorites as well as discover work by authors with whom I'm less familiar.

While I can understand why some might feel this strategy has out-lived its usefulness, I'm not so sure shelving all of our books alongside the books of White & Other mainstream authors is necessarily the Best or the Only solution to what some folks in recent years have come to view as a Problem. Certainly, if there is a section in the bookstore set aside for mystery, then African American writers of mystery ought to be in that section. The same, I think, should be true of romance, sci-fi and other such well-defined genres.

But I have serious doubts about the notion of there being a financial benefit to all of our books being shelved in with the general population. I think for many African American authors, especially new and lesser known ones, the exact opposite would be true. Why do I say that? Well, for one, folks like me, who like to browse, would be doing a whole lot less of it. If you're a debut author and your book is shelved in among the millions of other books in the store, chances are, I'm not gonna stumble upon you.

As a debut author myself, what I want more than anything when it comes to bookstores is VISIBILITY. That means, number one, I want to be IN the bookstore, which can be a battle itself, even if one is traditionally published. (Believe me, I could tell you some interesting/horror stories, not just about the chains, but the smaller "Black" bookstores too). And number two, I want to be some place where folks, who are interested, or just might be, can readily find me.

And to those who might ask, "Well, don't you see the importance of courting a non-Black readership, too?" my response, "What makes you think I don't?" (smile). I value ALL of my readers and I'm open to sharing my work and discussing it with any and everyone. Just yesterday, a friend, who just so happens to be Indian (from India) called and told me how much fun she had discussing my book with a friend of hers. At my last bookstore signing, the only copies of After The Dance I sold were to White women. And get this, about a month or so ago, a predominately White bible study group read and discussed my work (LOL). Yes, there is quite a story behind that last example and no, my book isn't Christian fiction.

What I've discovered is that the people who truly want to read my book will . . . and oddly enough, they seem to know how and where to find it--whether in the bookstore or elsewhere (smile). Yes, I am being somewhat sarcastic, but that's only because I've begun to sense that underlying SOME of the current angst about the African American bookstore section is a desire to stamp certain forms of African American literature as "less than." For the record, I don't think my work will be tainted if it sits on a shelf next to the latest street lit author, any more than I believe it will be elevated somehow if it sits on the shelf alongside a book by Morrison or Atwood. Nor do I view the Black bookstore section, as so many others apparently do, as some sort of waste-land or rat and roach infested ghetto. Sorry, I just don't.

Yes, there is plenty of what I'd call garbage out there, not just in the Black book store section, hell, all over the dang bookstore. But that's the beauty of life and being able to make choices. As I've stated elsewhere in the Old School Mix, one person's 10 day old cabbage is quite often another's manna from heaven. So, no, I don't really have any problems with my work being shelved in the "Black" section of the bookstore.

Now, on the other hand, what I don't care for so much is all of our books being labeled, "urban." I'm sure for some, this is the same issue, but for me, it's a trickier matter of semantics. Not every book written by a Black author is necessarily "urban" in either tone or feel or subject matter. I have a friend who writes historical fiction, primarily from the Civil War period and recently while wandering through the bookstore, I saw a stack of his books on a table marked, "Urban fiction." Clearly, my friend's work is anything but "urban."

But you wanna know some even bigger pet peeves of mine? Bookstores owned by Black folks who offer little beyond street lit and erotica and mainstream publishers who have apparently decided that the aforementioned are ALL we read. Now, until some folks are willing to discuss those kinds of issues in an open, honest and zealous fashion, there's not a whole lot more I care to say about the buying, selling and marketing of books by African American authors . . .

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hold Up, Wait A Minute! A FREE Audio Sample of After The Dance . . .

I guess I started tooting my horn a little too soon (see previous post) because today I discovered the audio version of After The Dance is now available via Amazon.com.

The actors (Caroline Clay & Ezra Knight) who read the work do an EXCELLENT job. If you'd like to listen, a FREE audio sample is available HERE. (Just press the listen button and you'll hear both Carl & Faye at no charge).

Now, if you're interested in purchasing the download, Amazon is runing a promotional special for only $29.79!

Wow! I've never been a big fan of audio books, but now that I've heard a sample, you know I can't wait to listen to mine (LOL). Oh, and I absolutely LOVE the cover on the audio version. No, it's not how I picture the characters, but it conveys so much warmth and tenderness. Beautiful! Job well done!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Horn-Tooting Links . . .

The following is a link to an article about me that appeared a couple of Sundays ago in the Charlotte Observer: "SoMeck writer sets appearances." One small correction though, even though I am from Memphis, I relocated to Charlotte from the Cleveland area. I know, it's confusing (smile).

Did you know After The Dance was available on the Kindle reader? See Amazon.com for details.

The audio version of After The Dance recently went on sale. A digital version is available via Griot Audio (an imprint of the Recorded Books Library Site) on something called a Playaway for the tidy sum of $56.75. If that's too rich for your blood, why not ask your local library to make it available for all of your area's library users?

You may still be able to pick up signed copies of After The Dance at the following locations: The Barnes & Noble (The Arboretum Shopping Center, Charlotte, NC); Joseph-Beth BookSellers (SouthPark Mall, Charlotte, NC); Park Road Books (Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte, NC); The BookMark (Uptown, Charlotte, NC): Joseph-Beth BookSellers (Legacy Village Shopping Center, Lyndhurst, OH); and possibly SeneAfrique in Cleveland, OH.

Actually, at last report there was only one signed copy of After The Dance left at SeneAfrique. But the African arts store is still worth a visit anyway, if you're in the area (smile). Here's a link to a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer interview with one of the owners, Waly Sene.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hand Selling & Pitch Preferences . . .

What turns you off as a consumer? What type of pitch approach works best for you?

Not long ago, I was in a bookstore browsing in the section set aside for"African American" fiction when one of the bookstore employees walked over and asked if needed help finding anything in particular. When I told her no, I was looking, she made an interesting comment. She said, "You know a lot of this stuff is garbage."

Now, had I not agreed, the conversation might have taken an ugly turn (LOL), but since so much of stuff showing up the "African American" fiction shelves these days makes me grimace and shake my head, she got no argument from me. For the sake of full disclosure, let me just add that I'd also had a successful book-signing in this same bookstore the day before this particular conversation took place.

Anyway, the bookstore employee went on to give me a glowing and detailed review of a book by an African American author that she'd absolutely adored. When I asked the middle-aged White woman what had prompted her to read a novel by an African American author and that had something of an "urban" storyline, she'd laughed and said, she felt a certain obligation as someone in the book business to read beyond and outside the realm of "dead White authors."

I nodded, listened and took note, in part because I'd heard/read good things about this same author's work elsewhere. Even though on that particular day, I ended up purchasing a different title, I won't soon forget the bookstore employee's enthusiastic sales pitch and I'm sure at some point, I will check out the novel she recommended.

A number of things generally play into my decision to buy or not buy a book. At the top of my list are factors like recommendations, reviews and excerpts. I pay particular attention to the recommendations of folks whose reading taste are similar to mine. If I keep hearing about a book or seeing mentions of it everywhere, I'll typically go online and take a look at some of the reviews written by both customers and bonafide book critics. If I've never read the author's work before, I generally make an attempt to read an excerpt before I make a final decision.

The bookseller's approach worked well for me because she soft-pedaled her pitch and made an effort to both ascertain my tastes and engage me in polite conversation. What doesn't work so well for me is the hard-sell or what I've come to view as the "hustle man" approach.

Pitch turn-offs for me, include the following:

Shoving a book in my face or hands and saying something along the lines of this, "This here is the bomb! You really do need to buy/ read/check this out today!;

Hounding me, chasing me, or following me around with a book while I'm browsing in a bookstore, at a festival or while I'm out in the grocery store parking lot;

Questioning my intelligence, racial solidarity, spiritual integrity, sanity, willingness to help a brother or sister out, etc.;

Bombarding me with notices (email, snail, etc.) about your latest book, literary endeavor and/or accomplishment, but never attempting to engage me otherwise. I mean, an email just to say hello, how ya doing or a comment on my blog every now and then wouldn't hurt;

Turning up at somebody else's event, uninvited, for the specific purpose of hustling me and the other guests with your literary wares;

Authors who under the guise of marketing and promotion-- boast, brag and otherwise act like they're the best thing to hit the scene since barbecued beans and chicken wings.

I do understand and appreciate that some of the items on my "turn-off" list don't bother others. We're all different and that's a beauty thing (smile). I'm also certain that to some my comments will mark me as a snob or some kind of an elitist. Oh well . . . go ahead and hate me for thinking books deserve better than to be hawked like crack, stolen sneakers or bootleg dvds (LOL). Really, all I'm doing is sharing my preferences and trying to get a better sense for how others go about making that decision to fork over their hard-earned dollars for a book. What say you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Warrensville, OH Public Library Pics . . . From The Reading & Discussion of After The Dance

Yeah, I know, this event took place way back in July and I'm just now getting around to posting the pics! What? Can't a sister be busy? Anyway, my son took most of these pictures and I think he did a fairly decent job.

I truly enjoyed my visit to the Warrensville Public Library. Not only did I finally get to meet Emanuel Carpenter of Thumper's Corner (AALBC) fame, but I was also treated to my first real taste of in-the-flesh feedback. It's simultaneously an odd, humbling and heady experience when folks you don't know show up at one of your events in order to express their praise and appreciation of your work.

Again, I'd like to thank Elayne Jackson for insisting that I visit the branch and for making it all happen. Also, my hat goes off to Mr. Carpenter who drove all the way from Westlake in order to assist me with a reading of After The Dance. Not only is Emanuel an excellent writer, he is an all around cool and level-headed guy. He's been toiling in the background for a few years now, but I have no doubt that he's destined to make a BIG SPLASH on the literary scene one day soon.

Lori & Emanuel
Giving Voice to "Carl & Faye"
At The Warrensville, OH Public Library
From Lori's Picture Collection
July 2008
Emanuel Carpenter & Lori Johnson
at the Warrensville, OH Public Library
From Lori's Picture Collection
July 2008
Lori Chatting With A New Fan
At The Warrensville Public Library
From Lori's Picture Collection
July 2008
A Reader Shares Her Opinion
at the Warrensville, OH Public Library
From Lori's Picture Collection
July 2008
Lori With Library Staff Memebers (Elayne & Aaron)
at the Warrensville, OH Public Library
From Lori's Picture Collection
July 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #26 . . . Last 13 Books I've Read . . .

There just isn't the time to read as much as I'd like or even as much as I did only a couple of years ago. These days I'm too busy writing, marketing or skimming other things (like magazines, newspapers or blogs) to even garner the energy it takes to hunker down with a good book. As painful as it is to admit, sometimes I'll go for weeks, without reading a single book and typically, I don't even finish half of the books I start.

But as the following list suggests, when I do find the time and the engery, I'm very much an eclectic reader. Even though I lean decidedly toward literary fiction, I'm pretty open to some of everything. If you'll look closely, you'll find on my list books by women, men, African Americans, Canadians, dead authors, etc. You will also find a bit of poetry, a couple of essay collections, a mystery, a childrens' book and a love story, penned by none other than yours truly (smile).

While visiting Cleveland in July, I met a young Black woman who'd only recently started reading books that weren't written by African Americans. She said when she'd bring home the non-African American titles, some of her friends & family members would tease her about her reading selections. My jaw dropped when I heard that. The thought that anyone might actually limit themselves to a certain type of book, based on someone else's opinion astounds me. Why limit yourself or care. The world is full of all kinds of books. When it comes to reading, just like eating, the joy for me is sampling a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Anyway, the following list is in no particular order, but I believe it's a fairly accurate accounting of the books I've read (from cover to cover) over the past year or so.

1) Trading Dreams At Midnight (Diane McKinney Whetstone)

2) Savoring The Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara (Linda J. Holmes & Cheryl Wall, editors)

3) Family Bible (Melissa J. Delbridge)

4) I Wish I Had A Red Dress (Pearl Cleage)

5) Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Jeff Kinney)

6) No Time To Die (Grace F. Edwards)

7) The Last Days of Dogtown (Anita Diamant)

8) Wise Blood (Flannery O'Connor)

9) Moral Disorder: And Other Stories (Margaret Atwood)

10) After The Dance (Lori Johnson)

11) Weather Central (Ted Kooser)

12) D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths (Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire)

13) Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays and Conversations (Toni Cade Bambara)

What was the last book you read? Have you read any of the titles on my list?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Birthdays . . . Who Has One On The Same Day As Yours?

While listening to the radio this morning, I learned that the following three individuals were all born on September 13: Tavis Smiley, Tyler Perry and Iyanla Vanzant. Interesting, huh? Well, it is to me, particularly because my father also celebrates a birthday on September 13 and he shares quite a few of the personality traits & quirks (both good & bad) of the three aformentioned celebrities (smile).

I have a birthday in September as well. No, not on the 13th, even though my Mom says she was hoping to have me on that day, if only so she could give me to my Dad as a gift he wouldn't soon forget. But I guess the Muse-Maker had a slightly different plan because my entry into the land of the living didn't come until 10 days later, on September 23rd.

I'm honored to share a birthday with none other than John Coltrane. As I've mentioned, more than once in the OSM, thanks to my Dad, I grew up listening to 'Trane's music. Long before I knew we shared a birthday, I had an interest in him and his work. Based on what I've read, I'd dare say Mr. Coltrane and I have a number of things in common--though, none of which, besides our love for music, I'm fixing to share here with you today (LOL).

But what about you? Do you share a birthday with someone well-known, whether famous or infamous? If so, do you think you have anything in common with that person? Do tell.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #25 . . . 13 Unfortunate Talk Show & Reality TV Truths . . .

Before we dive into the list, let me just put it out there, I'm not a fan of too many talk or so-called reality tv shows. It wasn't always that way. Back in the day, I couldn't get enough of The Real World. I even watched a couple of seasons of Survivor and Big Brother. I'll even admit that every now and then, for laughs, I'd tune into Springer or Maury, but it didn't take long for all of that mess to get OLD.

I'm saying, to each his or her own, but, for me, most of these shows have become so predictable, senseless, exploitive and uncreative, I fail to see the point of watching. I mean really, don't we all pretty much recognize the following scenarios?

1) If two 300 plus pound women are fighting over a guy, the fella in question is sure to be skinny, unemployed and/or in need of extensive dental work.

2) If there's a drunk in the "reality" house, there's sure to be plenty of gratuitous cussing, fighting, vomiting and other overly gross and graphic losses of bodily functions before the season's end.

3) If she's dressed in a French maid outfit, punctuating every other sentence with "girlfriend" while owning an Adam's apple as big as a baby's fist, she's probably a man.

4) If her hair-do is jacked up, hacked up or a right hot mess, her attitude probably is too.

5) If there are more than 3 attractive individuals in the "reality" house, the expectation is--two or more of them will hook-up for at least one session of hot and heavy boot-knocking.

6) If his mama, sister, auntie, play cousin or any combination of the aforementioned are on the show boisterously defending his behind, he's probably a dead-beat daddy, been locked up more than a time or two and/or is trifling as all get out.

7) If she's willing to kiss Flava Flav in the mouth, she'd probably kiss a dog square in the butt for a sum between $200 - $500.

8) If she's blonde, big-breasted and an airhead, she probably won't be among the first kicked or voted out of the "reality" house.

9) If there's a Blk man in the "reality" house, he will undoubtedly fall into one of the following stereotypes--"the angry Blk man," "the funny Blk man" or "the overly sexed Blk man" (who in the hell casts these shows anyway, David Duke and his crew?)

10) If she's weeping and wailing, hyperventilating or doing a Holy Ghost dance, she's either just been informed that the baby ain't his or she's somehow ended up on Oprah's Favorite Things Give-Away Show.

11) If his shoes are pink, purple, orange or red and he's wearing an outfit in the same color, he's either a preacher, a pimp or a circus clown.

12) If any of her kids are named Barcardi, Courvoisier, Alize, Chivas, Martini or in honor of any other brand or type of liquor, she more than likely isn't certain who the baby daddy is.

13) If the kid is barely 3 years of age, weighs close to 100 lbs or more and is on the show scarfing down doughnuts or big boy burgers with bacon & extra cheese or a tub of buffalo wings and all while clad in an adult-sized diaper, his Mama 'Nem and the talk show host/moderator are all big-time enablers who need to be getting the child in question some help rather than allowing him/her to be so blantantly exploited.

Hey, don't get mad at me. I just call 'em like I see 'em (LOL). So, do you have any reality show and/or talk show truths you'd like to add? If so, have at it!