Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Waiting Your Turn

I've always hated for people to call me "lucky" when something good happened to me. Truth is, I've never considered myself a very lucky person at all.

I mean, I've never won anything.

I can't remember the last time I found something valuable lying on the street or at the bottom of an old purse.

And those are things that happen to lucky people.

The rest of us are stuck relying on hard work and good fortune. And let me tell you that's nothing like luck at all.

Luck is random. You can get lucky doing absolutely nothing at all. And you're just as capable of running into bad luck as good, based on odds.

Good fortune, on the other hand, comes when you're out there making opportunities. It's purposeful and strategic, even though you can't will it to hit when you want.

It's early, but 2008 is shaping up to be a good year for many writers I know. Good fortune is paying a visit to many and I'm hoping a few more months of late nights will have her knocking on my door as well.

But for now...

My pub house mate, L. Divine, had her series extended. Eight more books.

My other pub house mate, Stephanie Perry Moore, recently snagged a deal that I'm not sure she's made public yet. Let's just say it involves one of her books, Tyler Perry and the film industry. Shhh!

Last year, among my "class" mates in The Class of 2K7, we had award-winning authors and million-dollar deals.

None of those things came about by luck. Good timing, in some respects, but not luck. What Publishers Weekly doesn't announce among all the deal listings are the number of years a writer toiled, writing, revising, being rejected only to start the process all over before they hit the six-figure deal, movie deal or received an award for their writing.

Success is about staying the course.

I'm about to come off a very long month of promoting authors during The Brown Bookshelf 28 Days Later initiative. Interviewing authors and working with BBS members has kept my mind so busy, I haven't had much time, unitl now, to think about my course. Or where I am on it.

Am I closer to success today than I was a month ago or a year ago?

I don't know. Heck, I'm not sure some days what "success" means in an industry where a writer may not earn out their advance but can still be considered successful in sales.

I'm just waiting my turn for the next good thing. The milestones that will put me closer to writing full-time.

Selling more books.

Expanding my series.

Having the DRB Clique optioned for a movie or TV show.

It figures that I'd choose a profession where none of the above can be truly planned, much less guaranteed.

Still, I believe that if I put in the hard work all of those things will happen, at some point.

Until then, with 28 Days Later now successfully behind me (my last spotlight is today. Check out Sherri L. Smith), I may actually rest my Type A mind and focus simply on my own writing for awhile.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Straight No Chaser...Jen Barnes

When I heard about Jennifer Lynn Barnes' new series, The Squad, about a bunch of kick-butt cheerleaders, I thought she'd been following me and my cheer squad around. Then I realized the cheerleaders in Jen's book are spy-type, government operatives, take no prisoners sort of chicks.


The premise for The Squad is so cool that it's bound to be one of those overnight success series. So I thought I'd better catch up with Jen before she becomes too famous to talk to me.

Which cliché best describes you as an author?

The cliché I get stuck with the most is the "teen writer"- even though I'm not a teenager anymore! If I was picking an archetype that really described me, though, it would be something more along the lines of the absent-minded professor- I'm always forgetting things and getting caught up in story ideas and plots and thereby losing track of what's going on in the real world.


Complete this sentence: I'm a total….from my BLANK to my BLANK, I could write the book on being BLANK

I'm a total television junkie. From the art of being able to quote Buffy with little to no provocation to yearly participation in E! Online's Save One Show, I could write the book on TV obsessions.

Pop Culture References

Using either television, film or literary references, give us the one or two sentence pitch you'd give film agents:

I've always described The Squad as Charlie's Angels meets Bring It On- with occasional shades of Veronica Mars.

If you did an informercial for your book, who would be the perfect celeb to serve as the pitch guy or gal? And why?

Since I have Veronica Mars on the mind, I'm going to go with Kristen Bell, primarily because she's awesome, but also because I feel like she really fits with the feel of the books- and the theme that it's dangerous to underestimate someone based on how they may first appear.


Complete this sentence: It's a good thing I'm not a stalker or else INSERT NAME OF CELEB MINOR OR MAJOR would be in trouble because

It's a good thing I'm not a stalker or else Jared Padalecki would be in trouble, because I'd put my super-spy skills to use and see if he's really as nice (and tall!) as he seems.

History Lesson

A lot of times, authors start a book with one concept in mind (especially us pantsters) and end up with a totally different story. For your most current book tell us where you story started and ultimately ended.

For this series, I really started first with a concept- secret agents who double as cheerleaders, and then with a character- a girl who considers herself the anti-cheerleader. From there, the books pretty much wrote themselves! I think Toby developed more of a relationship with the other girls on the Squad than I first realized she was going to, and her little brother ended up playing a much bigger role in the series than I had planned… oooohhhhh, and there's also a lot more romance than I anticipated up front. Really, though, these books are the only ones I've written that, for the most part, ended up very, very similar to how I'd imagined them being.

You're on a desert island with a cell phone. Miraculously it has two bars and enough battery life to make one three minute call. Who do you call?

I'd call my parents, because (a) we talk every day and we're really close, and (b) they might actually be able to get me off the desert island.

If someone were deserted on an island and came across your book washed ashore, what's the one thing they'd take from it and want to share with the world once they got back to civilization?

Hopefully, they'd come away from the book completed distracted from the fact that they were stuck on a desert island! These books are meant to be fun in the extreme, and the DIS (Desert Island Scenario) seems to be a pretty good test of that. Beyond that, I think the reader would probably walk away thinking that maybe cheerleaders- and woman and anyone else who they might underestimate- might just be more than they're given credit for being.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ANTM Live Blogging

You know why reality TV is taking over the world? Because shows like LOST and 24 take year-long hiatuses, while Survivor, America's Next Top Model and Dancing With the Stars produce two new seasons a year.

You can't watch what's not on, right? And since Top Model is back in town, I'm back watching.

Let's begin, shall we?

Is it me or are the girls on Cycle 10 too ready for their close ups?

I guess that's what happens when a group of people grow up watching a show and know the vibe. It's how people go on Real World and immediately try and fit into a role - The drunk one, The one who hooks up with the roommate, The bitchy one.

My neice will be old enough to audition for Top Model next year. So I have no doubt she'd be able to smile with her eyes and walk fierce on cue, simply from ten cycles of watching.

Alright, well, I don't get the Lauren chick. She's like, 'people say I should model so...I'm giving it a try.'

Umm...people tell me I'm funny but you don't see me running to a comedy club to do stand up.

Lauren, honey, start with the basics - put some emotion in your face for God's sake. Haven't nine cycles of ANTM taught you anything?

I love the way Tyra makes "appearances."

She's busy as all hell and even alluded, in EW, that should ANTM continue it may be without her. Instead, other super models may helm the show. My concern with that is...well, there's that whole Soul Train guest host debacle.

A host provides continuity. And while the contestants of Top Model give us plenty reason to tune in (Jade's incomprehensible utterings, anyone?) if ANTM comes to a guest host format, let's hope they bring their own spin to it.

Tyra's spin is mentoring. I've always liked the way she puts the models through various lessons based on her own experiences. But no way I believe all models are as caring as Tyra or as calm and logical as Heidi Klum. They're far too sane, those two.

Which is why Kimora and Janice Dickinson added much needed bitchiness to the show when they were on the panel.

Let's get Naomi Campbell in this be-yotch and get some phone throwing going!

Oooh hey, the little cheese head from Wisconsin is quite the little confident Cathy isn't she?

Hmm...Muhammed Ali's neice, huh? I smell potential for some good brawls. Can't wait to see which chick is going to cat fight her. Though, I'm sure it won't be long before someone feels like smacking her for referring to herself in third person. "Shaya gon' be Shaya."

Alrighty then.

Is Dominique bi-racial or just addicted to tanning?

Dom, friends don't let friends over tan.

Fatima looks like a mini-Iman. Loving her already.

Let's hear it for the chick from the Dee dot Cee (that's Washington DC) for her persistence. She's tried out eight times.

Ahhh the fighting has begun and big surprise, Shya's right there.

Blegh, the black-on-black chick fighting has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Shya, Shylanda and Fatima - I know your momma's taught you better!

Why did Jay just give a better lap dance than the model chick?

Wow, Fatima went through female circumcision at the age of seven. Wow.

That's the topic of Alice Walker's, The Temple of My Familiar. Heavy stuff.

Okay, Fatima and Shya made up. There you go.

Why is Jeanna from Boston talking like she's from Compton?

Claire has a totally runway look about her. But ewww on her drinking her own breast milk.

Is it me? I don't get Marvita's look. I mean yeah, she's working on herself in therapy. But the camera can't see your inner beauty.

Aww dang, so Ali's neice and Dee dot Cee chick got cut.

Uh-oh, Fatima is an overthinker.

Okay, photo shoots over. Nope, still don't get Marvita.

I knew Miss Jay was gonna like Claire. She has that "it" thing.

Have I already said that I don't get Lauren? Seriously. I hate when girls who don't have a passion for this come in and suck the judges in because they're just weird enough to be different. Give it to the girls who want it!

So who's heading to NYC?

Allison - the little cheese head. Love her lush, dark hair

Fatima - work it for the Motherland, girl

Kat - not even trying to spell her full name


Stacy Ann - Umm did they focus on her at all the entire show until the end?

Aimee & Amy

Claire - hope she works it out for the sexy mommy's

Whitney - reppin' for the plus-sized

Marvita - still don't get it! Guess it's a reward for persistence.

Lauren - ugh!


Anya - Miss Hawaii

Dominique - girl, let the tan go!

Bring on the cat fights and the tears on make-over day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I've Been Toured

It's my turn on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour.

And these ladies come up with the most fun questions! Check out a few...

As always, E. Lockhart has this way of making me reveal wayyyy too much about myself. Find out about my secret society, The Mecca-Lecca-Hi-Mecca-Highney-Ho's!

Carrie Jones, that sweetie pie from Maine, ties me up with questions about glue and duct tape. No, seriously read it. Somehow she got me to relate it to writing.

GCC Founder, Karin Gillispie gets me chatting about writer's block, a word I've banned from my lexicon. I'm way too much of a hypochondriac to even think the word!

And Amanda Ashby and I talk about my writing inspirations. And you know me, my answer had nothing to do with creative inspirations.

Thanks for touring me ladies. I had a ball!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Remove Not The Ancient Landmarks

Okay, if I've mangled that phrase, forgive me.

Life has a way of bringing things full circle. And that phrase is so appropriate. Several things occurred over the last seven days and they all come back to that phrase.

Earlier, last week, Princess A was tasked with finding a college-level book to read for her English class. We looked over the list and I pointed out Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and Native Son by Richard Wright.

She said, "But I didn't want a racial book. You books about race."

I kept my shock to myself. But this isn't the first time she's made a comment about her distaste for books that showcase the harsh realities of racism. She ended up choosing The Scarlet Letter.

Fast forward to Friday - I had the honor of interviewing Mildred D. Taylor, author of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry for The Brown Bookshelf. Ms. Taylor's answers moved me. She talked about people wanting her to dilute her books, the language and imagery because they deal with the harsh realities of segregation and race. She spoke about worrying that what she has to say no longer being relevant and this need for us, as a society, to make everything nice and neat.

I felt like she was talking to me. Or at the very least prompting me to ensure I didn't let Princess A run away from the past - our past as Americans, our past as African Americans.

Then, on my way home Friday, Al Sharpton was on the Michael Baisdan show talking about an event taking place in Memphis around the date that Dr. King was slain. He uttered the phrase "remove not the ancient landmarks," and I felt like - Yes, exactly!

Essentially it complements the phrase - those who don't learn/remember history are doomed to repeat it. Because if we ignore, remove evidence of or otherwise sugar coat the past, it makes it hard to put the present into perspective.

When it was all said and done, I don't regret letting Princess A choose the book she wanted. Going into a book with a bad attitude is a real mood killer. So it was essential that she choose a book she felt she could enjoy. FYI, a few pages in she was already having second thoughts.

But I digress. Interviewing Ms. Taylor and thinking about her words has reminded me that I must remain diligent about keeping the past in front of my girls. I don't want them forgetting just how many people sacrificed so they could live their current, comfortable lifestyle.

It's also a very good argument for why it's important that all readers be exposed to books by mutli-cultural authors. In the end, we've got to get all sides of the story. Not just the mainstream side!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The 28 Days Spotlight Widget is here

Interested in spreading the word about the authors The Brown Bookshelf is highlighting for Black History Month?

Look no further than our handy-dandy widget, created by Jacketflap.

See it over there, on the right? Cute little thing that shows a new book everytime you refresh the page.

It's stylish, fashionable and all the author blogs have one.

Get yours today!

Okay, so I'd never be a Price is Right model, but you've got to admit, those colors are very Brown Bookshelf. But you can customize them, ya know, in case you're into hot pink and chartreuse.

And if you are...I'll reserve comment.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Black History Moment

Since the Brown Bookshelf is busy spotlighting authors and illustrators, we're unable to post this, Booklist's Top 10 Black History Books For Youth, on our blog.

Check, check, check it out.

Three of the authors are BBS Spotlights!

Know which ones?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Commitment-Phobe, Thy Name is P

I used to be such a nice girl. So dedicated and devoted.

At one time, I was strictly a one-show gal, commited to the end.

Law & Order
Sex and the City
The Sopranos


Name it and I watched it religiously. I knew backstory. I cared about the characters, even had a mini-meltdown when X-Files moved from Friday to Sunday because it threw off the karmic energy of my week.

I rebounded from the X-Files move and all was well in my world until the HBO Block fiasco.

Sunday nights were for The Sopranos, Sex and The City and Oz. But slowly, the schedules changed. Sex and The City moved. Then The Sopranos took one of their notoriously long hiatuses. And Oz was near impossible to find anymore.

I was then stupid enough to try my hand at one of Showtime's original programs...something about Pro-ballers. Hoop Dreams, I think, with Mykelti whatshisface (Bubba from Forrest Gump). The show was moderately interesting but then with no warning they stripped it off the air.

Just gone, no story lines tidied up or anything.

I'd been burned one time too many. Kept waiting one month too long for a show to return. My viewing habits changed, gradually, at first.

I switched to procedurals: Law & Order, CSI, Without A Trace, Cold Case.

Nothing wrong with that right? Then, I realized I'd get annoyed anytime one of those shows focused on the character's lives.

I don't care about their lives. Just get to the case!!

Next thing I knew my viewing was nothing more than a tawdry list of reality TV shows. Flavor of Love (I do however draw the line at Flavor of Love 3 and I love New York 2), Survivor 110 (I mean, 11 or 12...whatever season they're on), America's Next Top Model, Project Runway.

TV and the erratic scheduling has made me into a fickle, bitter commitment-phobe.

I've had so many shows recommended to me, that I've simply refused to get into. 24 in its prime. Alias before things went to pot. Heros, which sounds interesting, thanks.

I even tried getting into a few on my own. I watched the first season of Big Love. Enjoyed it too. But I've never gone back.

I'm too resentful and salty.

What's the point of getting into a show when it's going to take a hiatus long enough for me to raise a kid in? Why invest the time and brain power into learning the characters and what's happening to them from week-to-week, knowing that just as it gets juicy the show goes off for four weeks because of the World Series or the Wide World of Bug Eating?

Seriously, why bother?

Then I watched Lost, Thursday. And I'm reminded that when TV is good, it can be something truly amazing. When a group of writers get together and dedicate themselves to spinning a yarn until it can't be spun anymore, it'll have you so caught up you forget it's just a TV show.

Still, right now, I have no intention of making any long term commitments to any show.

Lost only has eight eps anyway thanks to the writer's strike. I'm all in for those eight episodes. But if the show comes back next season? Meh, I may watch. I may not.

Another show that's kept me amused is Nip/Tuck, the modern day soap opera complete with ass shots and bawdy language. This show has everything but the amnesiac, split personality. We're talking:

- Two guys laying claim to one son and okay with being joint dads
- The son getting addicted to meth by his ex-wife who leaves him once she gets clean to go back into the porn industry
- Gruesome plastic surgery shots
- Rosie O'Donnell as a total crack pot (wait, is she acting?)
- And a sex scene shot on a roof ending in someone falling over the ledge

Any show with the cojones to write those kind of wild, outlandish and mostly inappropriate storylines has my vote. I'm watching...when I remember to.

Friday, February 01, 2008

You Brown Bookshelving Today?

Today's the day !

Since receiving that fateful email from Varian Johnson in September, I've been burning the midnight oil with fellow Brown Bookshelf members gearing up for this day. I don't think I was this excited the night before Release Day for So Not The Drama.

I don't think any of us knew just how much was involved in researching authors and having to, in essence, judge our peers to determine who deserved and/or needed the light shone their way. But knowing what I know about this group of people, had we known how much work it was, I think we all would have still dove in head first.

Because this thing, to quote a cliche, is bigger than us.

The Brown Bookshelf isn't a political statement.

It's not about creating a separate "club" of children's writers who share a common race.

It's not even a sigh of frustration, taking our ball home to play on our own field because the indusry-at-large tends to forget about so many of the African American children's authors out there.

It's actually about inclusion, reminding and tooting the horn of authors who sometimes are easily overshadowed due to the sheer number of children's books on the market.

The literay community could use more Brown Bookshelves and ReaderGirlz - working together to pool resources, serving as portals to anyone genuinely interested in finding books that may not have big publishing budgets, critical acclaim or wide distribution.

I have never been more tired than I am, right now. I think when February ends I'm going to sleep for two days straight.

But it's that good kind of tired. The kind that comes from knowing you've done something so satisfying, you're too wired to care about being tired.

So, go forth and discover, while I get some shut-eye.