Saturday, January 29, 2005

What I Will or Won't Do for Love!!

Love... that word that has started wars, healed wounds, put smiles on faces, softened the hearts of the heartless and has filled the pages of novels since the beginning of time. It defies definition, though many have tried from psychologists, talk show hosts to mom and dad and everyone in between. We know it when we have it. Love makes us giddy, young at heart, forgetful. We walk around with goofy grins on our faces for no damned good reason. Lemons are lemonade for those in love. We begin to believe in happily ever after. It makes us feel invincible, so good sometimes that the bitch in the next cubicle doesn't even bother you anymore! We are blind to the faults of the ones we love. It doesn't seem to matter much that they don't turn down the toilet seat, and that nervous tic is "kinda cute." We just love the way their voice sounds, even at four am when you really need to be sleeping. We want to spend every moment, awake and otherwise with the one we love.

Sometimes, love is so bad, we convince ourselves that we will simply die without the love of our life. Without them, life is meaningless.

Ahh, love. And then one day, out of the blue, their voice begins to grate on your nerves, if you fall in the toilet bowl one more time you swear you'll bean him, stockings hanging in the shower are no longer a turn-on but a hazard and that tic that used to be so cute--ain't. You no longer want to stay up till four am--chatting. You want to get some sleep damnit!!!

What, pray tell went wrong?

How is it that some couples last a lifetime, while others who seem equally suited disintegrate, turning on each other like enemies from warring nations?

How do we make love last? Can we, really? Or is it that over time, love shifts from that intangible emotion to something else, something that continues to allow us to "accept" those annoying habits, the voice the touch? And perhaps those who cannot "shift" when the passions cool, call off that thing called love.

What makes people stay? What makes two really great people a horrible couple? What douses the flames of passion to puffs of smoke?

The answers are probably as numerous as the people who find themselves in and out of this thing called love.

What makes love work? What is one willing to do to make it work? Is love worth the trouble?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

How Far is Too Far to Promote Your Book??

Okay, let's be honest. As authors we all hold our breath when the royalty check arrives and pray that it will be more than enough to pay the phone bill and maybe a new pair of shoes. And as we stare at those dismal numbers we are already plotting and planning... not the next great novel, but how we are going to sell a zillion copies of our next book. We ask ourselves: what haven't I tried, what seems to work, what did so-and-so do, how in the world did that crappy book make every list in America, how did "John Doe" wind up on the Morning Show touting his new book about housewives? Am I willing to spend my next advance on bookmarks, tinker toys for giveaways, a cross-country car tour, a helium balloon with my book cover on it?

As we mull and mull over the possiblities, using our creativity and every internet connection in our repertoire, someone sends out an email about a new book marketing campaign to "Marry Your Baby Daddy Day." Needless to say, we stop cold, read the article and realize that perhaps this is what is called "crossing the line." Below is the article that was published in the New York Daily News when they interviewed author Maryanne Reid who will soon be releasing her next book, "Marry Your Baby Daddy," just in time for guess what "Marry Your Baby Daddy Day."
Marrying moms, dads need apply


Unwed parents are being seduced into wedlock by a New York writer fighting to reverse an anti-marriage trend.
Author Maryann Reid is tempting couples with kids to take the plunge in a high-profile, all-expenses paid event - called Marry Your Baby Daddy Day.

She is looking for 10 couples who will tie the knot in an effort to halt a trend that, she claims, has 70% of black parents living outside wedlock.

"Everybody in the African-American community knows a baby mama or a baby daddy," she said, using slang terms to refer to single parents.

"It's almost become trendy in the black community to have children out of wedlock. I know women who feel discomfort about talking about marriage, as though this 'baby mama' stuff is the norm. It's embarrassing.

"I wanted to get the message out there that marriage is a good thing, that we should be increasing the amount of two-parent households.

"I want to turn baby mamas into wives."

Reid, 29, of Brooklyn, is planning to offer couples a dream ceremony complete with wedding planners, dress designers, catering, honeymoon - even celebrity guests.

"We're working on a guest list right now," she said.

"It's going to be an amazing day, but there's a lot of work to be done. We're still looking for the couples and for many of the vendors.

"It takes a year to organize a normal wedding. To bring together 10 weddings on one day is a huge undertaking."

Already on board is dress designer Therez Fleetwood, whose clients include actresses Queen Latifah, Angela Bassett and the singing group En Vogue.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry has agreed to officiate the ceremony in Brooklyn's House of the Lord church on Sept. 29.

He said, "It falls within the values of the church that people should be married in a traditional sense, particularly where children are concerned."

The couples should already be living together, said Reid.

"We're not trying to fix broken relationships," she said. "We prefer them to already have a strong loving base."

Reid is known for writing about relationships in the black community.

The mass wedding is named after her latest book, Marry Your Baby Daddy, due for release in the fall. It tells of three sisters who must marry their children's fathers to inherit $3 million.

Originally published on January 5, 2005

Hmmm. Now I must admit, I have done the gift basket giveaways, CDs I've even turned over a portion of the proceeds from my book to an non-profit organization. I've done TV and radio ads and have even gone so far as to send personalized letters to bookstore owners as well as starting a non-profit organization based on the themes of one of my novels.

This however,turned promotion in a new direction. Is this exploitation? Are African Americans too ignorant, broke or disinterested in marriage that the only way a couple who have a child together will marry is to become a public spectacle. This is taking the Jerry Springer mentality to a new level. Or is it?

How far is too far?

I'd love to hear your comments

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

African Americans In Literature

Over the course of American Literary history the role of the African American character has been depicted from slave, to sex pot and everything in between. With the recent flooding of the market of AA books of fiction the world view of African Americans has taken yet another turn. No longer are the books written by and about AA characters there to make us think, change our lives or make us proud of our accomplishments but rather showcase the baser side of AA life. The wave of Urban fiction has taken over bookshelfs and are topics of discussion on book readers lists across the country. Many authors are losing book contracts or are not being resigned because they either can't or will not write what has become popular.

With literature being a vehicle that reflects the microcosm of society how do you feel the surge of urban fiction depicting drugs, murder, whores, pimps, sex that most can only imagine have an effect on how AA are viewed by the world? Is it enough to say "well at least people who haven't been reading now are?" Is it justified to say, "many who were never published before are now in print?"

As writers do we have a responsibility to society at large or simply have the right to "write what we want as long as it sells?"

(accidently duplicated comments removed)

Monday, January 03, 2005

This is Me! Posted by Hello

Literature Across the Color Lines

The following is an article that sister author Monica Jackson wrote on the black/white thing in romance. It is definitely worth a look and your time.

Romance in Black and White
I first put this up in 1998 on my site in response to much comment on black romance on an online romance site by clueless folk who apparently had no interest or exposure to anything black. Some facets of the incident seemed to be a microcosm of the majority romance community as a whole. Unfortunately, little has changed in the passing years, so I updated the article. There is no more taboo subject in this country than race, possibly even more then abortion, politics or religion. Many whites feel guilty, irritated or uncomfortable at mention of the topic. Blacks also feel uncomfortable because they fear the backlash. It's historical for blacks to back away when the whites are mobbing. It's called lynchin' mentality. When they see you hanging in the trees, they don't want to be next in line for the lynching. This could be one explanation why black authors seldom speak up openly on racial matters among whites and generally steer clear of white romance message boards where racial controversy may occur.

It wasn't until the 1980's that more then a very few romances with black characters appeared. Sandra Kitt and Frances Ray were pioneers. Gwendolyn Osborne wrote an excellent article on the subject of how black romance started. A portion of the romance reading market has always been women of color. Black women read romance and read it as voraciously as any group of white women. So what did black women read before the publishing industry allowed black heroines? They read white characters like everybody else.

When I was a teenager and reading romances, I wondered why you had to be white to fall in love according to books. If a black woman wanted to write romance before the mid-nineties, basically she had to write white characters. To put it in perspective, what if a white romance writer couldn't write white characters and sell until 1994? In the mid 90's New York started seeking black popular fiction writers. We have Terry McMillan to thank for this primarily, because with the best selling status of WAITING TO EXHALE, she made them realize that not only do black people read; they spend money on books. In 1994 Kensington Publishing started a line of romances featuring black characters, Arabesque. It did very well and Black Entertainment Television acquired it in 1998.

I sold Midnight Blue to Arabesque in 1995 and it was published in 1997. I had no clue about the publishing industry or romance. I discovered the Internet in '97. I was enlightened as to my place in the romance scheme of things when I wrote All About Romance politely asking why no black romances were included in their special listings which included romances of many other ethnicities. The site owner, Laurie Gold, asked for my book (I'd just finished my second one), and reviewed the first romance with black characters she'd read with an ensuing uproar. Personally, this probably was a good thing for me. It took a brand new, totally unknown black romance author and at least gave my name exposure to people that probably would have never heard of me at all. In the years since then, my work has become better known, and not as substandard either, but certainly not as traditional or ordinary romance.

Laurie Gold had different expectations of my second book then of a white romance. She expected a black romance not merely to fulfill the function of reading entertainment, but to fill some cultural gap also--to enlighten clueless white folk and have some deep fundamental message perhaps? She probably would have hated Heart's Desire anyway with white characters--it was satirical, a subtle parody of soap-operish romances and likely not the style of anyone who's favorite author is Julie Garfield.

Personally, I roll my eyes at many white traditional historical romances, but I would never degrade the authors' writing or talent. That sort of book is simply not to my taste. If the characters were white, Laurie Gold might have been able to see that Heart's Desire was a chick lit (before the term was created) type of novel, laced with ironic humor instead of an Uncle Tom's Cabin treatise. Primarily, I doubt that she'd judge an entire sub-genre by special expectations of one book if the characters were white.

An AAR reviewer wrote a letter to me that stated in essence, since I had the opportunity to write about black people, I should write about them in a positive fashion. I should upbuild the race! I should write about blacks as if life were the Cosby Show. Would she be writing the same comments to Tami Hoag or Lisa Gardner whose novels feature white serial killers and other multifaceted characters? Of course not. Fiction has to have conflict and reality isn't always pretty. But she had no problem holding up a black author to a different standard. She's now an author herself, and it would be interesting to see if her main objective in her fiction writing is building up the white race.

Understanding these white women's issues with black characters, beyond the quality of the work, isn't difficult--they want enough distance between themselves and black characters so as to maintain their comfort. Romance is an intimate genre unlike mystery and science fiction. You're dealing with love, sex and personal fantasies. Romance readers are notoriously picky about their place and settings, character professions, and having sympathetic main characters. If there are any underlying or unconscious issues with blacks, white readers certainly wouldn't want them in their fantasies. That's the heart of the issue.

As far as romance, a black author can only be absolutely safe writing for whites when creating an alien and exotic culture (ghetto-style hot mamas in heat seem to work well), or sanitized feel-good pablum (think Bill Cosby). Angst-ridden literary fiction is pretty safe too, and will automatically brand you a "good" writer if published, which unfortunately isn't the case with romance--often the opposite (these judgements seem to be made, good or bad, without a word of the work actually being read).

Most black romance readers want to read real stories with real people like themselves. While the black romance author generally includes subtle touches of ethnicity if appropriate to the character, we don't write overtly "ghetto" because it usually isn't appropriate to our middle-class professional romance heroines. We don't write crack whores. How different from the white middle-class professional is her black professional counterpart? Her skin color, her hair. Her sorority trappings, maybe in some portion her upbringing and worldview. But very little of what makes her a woman, of what drives a romance.

Since I originally wrote this in 1998, Zane has emerged with spectacular success with both whites and blacks. wrote an article about her with this excerpt of her work.

"People were fucking anywhere they could find a spot. I fucked three men at the same time on top of the green velvet cloth on a craps table while my cumdaddy feed [sic] his dick to two of the new sorors from the Nashville chapter. They were all on him and I thought they were about to come to blows over it because they were both being so damn greedy with the dick. Can't say I blame them though cause the brotha did have some good ass dick." Libertine or Prude,

Black sorority sisters? In my experience many tend to the more religious and sexually conservative! Zane writes steamy sex and hot sexy black women overcome by their sexual urges, in an ethnic style. Sex sells, period, and Zane's style of black sex also sells to whites. Her imitators are scrambling to emulate her.

I'm not writing that black folks don't like heavily ethnic fare also. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, and sometimes it depends on our mood. Black people come in all different flavors and tastes--just like white people do.

Reviews and Reviewers, Good, Bad or Indifferent

In all of the arts whether it be performance arts (acting, dancing, singing), fine arts (painting, sculpting, photography) or the written arts (novels, novellas, poetry), there is always someone out there who feels they have the skills and understanding of an artform to draw their conclusions about the value and validity of such and as the Romans once did give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

I've always wondered what criteria is required to become a reviewer/ critic--one who single-handedly has the ability/power to elevate or crush a career or at bare minimum an ego with a stroke of a pen.

Are these reviewers/critics frustrated "artists" themselves or are they truly equipped to judge. Does it take more than "I just like to read" to be a book reviewer? Should you understand the nuances of a genre, background on a writers career and progress or lack thereof?

What are the ideas that need to be captured in a review? And is it fair to an author to get a "nice" review even when the book is a piece of crap--so that no one will be offended.

What are your thoughts on reviews and reviewers? Does it matter what they say and your willingness to purchase a book or attend a movie?

Switching Genres

For about a good ten years I wrote primarily in the romance genre, having produced a number of books and a pretty strong following. In 2000, I had the change to "switch" and write mainstream fiction. For that the reviewers were brutal. They were just short of saying "how dare she?" LOL. Anyway, I pursued this new world of fiction and was able to tell a variety of stories in a way that I was unable to in romance. Then in 2004 I wrote my first comedic novel entitled Divas Inc. I loved it and found a totally new voice, which I think should be the goal of every writer--to stretch and do something different. The reception was well received on some fronts, while some readers took the word "diva" too literally and missed the spoof on the whole notion of what a diva is.

More recently I tried my hand at something that has always been close to my heart but I never had the courage to do--write a murder mystery! That book will be out in May and I'm terribly excited about it. I used several techniques in putting it together: the premise of "Strangers on a Train" (movie by Alfred Hitchcock, book by Cynthia Highsmith), and the movie Basic Instinct. I will leave it at that for you to ponder.

In the next few months until its release, I will post some snippets of the story to whet your appetites.

In the meantime, I must get back to plotting my next book. But I leave you with this question:

How do you feel about an author that you really like and like their work when they change genres? Do you follow that author or stick to what you like?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Book Sales and Covers

Many readers say that the first thing that draws them to a book is the cover. My question is do people on the cover or objects garner the same response?