Thursday, December 31, 2009
Some think it has to do with the shortage of “eligible” Black men. These same statistics cite that out of a random pool of 100 black men many are unemployed, (17 percent), incarcerated, (8 percent) or did not finish High School (21 percent). These numbers state that close to fifty percent of black men aren’t the type of males Black women would find acceptable for marriage and this is why there are so many single women in the African-American community.
However, I have to wonder if the lack of married Black women due is a perceived shortage of “eligible” black men or a lack of true Black-on-Black love among African-Americans today.
What is Black on Black love? The ability to love one’s self as a black person, and the ability to take pride in the beauty of being African-American. To look in the mirror and see oneself as a black person capable of expressing love, receiving love and as someone who deserves to be loved for being themselves by other black people. To have the ability to look at other black people as people capable of expressing love, receiving love and deserving to be loved for being themselves as black people.
I really don't think a shortage of men is the reason why so many black women aren’t married, but a shortage of values and character in the African-American community. On the surface, many unmarried black women who complain about this “shortage” say they seem to “have it all” only have it on a material level. However, when I listen to these sistas speak on deeper discussions of internal traits such as character, I often discover that many black women don’t love themselves or see themselves as valuable enough to be loved or deserving the love of others. I believe it’s this lack of a sense self-worth, is why so many black women struggle to find partners, not because of a shortage of Black men.
I truly believe it’s the poor self-image and low self-esteem that many African-Americans have about themselves that causes men and women to have difficulties in finding partners to marry. This negative perception of self goes beyond race, class or gender and is buried deep within the subconscious minds of brothers and sisters. Because both Black men and Black women don’t see themselves as lovable or beings capable of expressing or receiving love, they have little to no standards about what behavior they'll accept in a relationship, and will settle for less than a full commitment from their partners. Without the standards and boundaries self-love establishes, there can be no dedication for a commitment like the institution of Marriage.
It's scary what I've read about Black men and women are tolerating in relationships now. Some are willing to "share" a man and others (both men and women) who just are indifferent about their partners cheating on them. More violate their own personal boundaries and accept relationships with lost, broken, or emotionally damaged men. A few even pursue men of another race or only to find their different colored partner has the same type of toxic character and personality traits they tried to escape from the black men they were pursing.
Because Black people don’t love themselves, they settle for less in life, something unheard of twenty years ago or even forty years ago. Sometimes I walk around my neighborhood feeling all the negative energy around me, I have to ask myself: Where has all the love gone?
I think that the African-American culture is now so full of misogyny, sexism, and self-hatred that a black woman isn't seen as someone valuable by both black men or Black women and that’s why the marriage rate is so low for African-American women. Due to the constant exploitative and disposable images of objectified, degraded sexual, black women, many black men do not see a black woman as someone beautiful or valuable; someone worthy of being an equal partner for life. Worse, many black women do not see themselves as someone having great beauty or value to be someone's equal partner for life.
Many of the character traits presented of Black women in the media these days emphasize the external and not internal. Because there is so much promotion of the external character traits (looks, material possessions, financial status, sexuality) very few Black people see the true value of a black woman's internal character traits (grace, intelligence, compassion, strength, dignity, tactfulness, courage, organization, kindness, patience, understanding caring), the traits men see as valuable in a woman enough to commit himself to her in a marriage.
This same cultural misogyny and self-hatred has also poisoned the way black women see Black men. Many Black women do not see a Black man as a valuable partner due to the numerous false stereotypes used to identify him. These unrealistic pictures of what makes a "successful" man (Well-educated, handsome, "good" six-figure job, expensive clothes and driving a luxury car, good in bed) focus only on the superficial external character traits of a Black man and not the internal character traits (honesty, integrity, caring, tactfulness sensitivity, patience kindness, courage, dedication, determination, a sense of humor, leadership, creativity) that make a Black man a good partner in a marriage.
The contents of character within men and women form the values that are supposed to complement each other so both partners can support each other for the duration of the relationship. Unfortunately, because so many African-Americans have a poor self image and such low standards in who they choose for partners today, relationships are often formed on shaky foundations with broken, damaged, lost or non-committal partners. Without a relationship built on the solid foundation of common values found in internal character traits there's no structure to build the supports for a long-term commitment like a marriage.
Shawn's advice for the lovelorn, lonely, Sistas: Love yourself. Don't look for love; love will find you. Love attracts love. And if you love yourself, others will love you.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
My most recent experience with this cultural trend was when I took my PC Repair class a few months ago. I was talking to one of my classmates when another interjected “He talks like a white man.” I didn’t take offense to it; Even when I was in High School, at college or the many jobs I’ve worked people have been surprised by my articulation and strong diction. Like it was unexpected for an African-American male to express any semblance of intelligence.
I have often been laughed at by some and mocked by others for my intelligence and good diction, however I haven’t once thought of changing my speech pattern to reflect what is perceived as “black”. While my peers may have thought my speech was peculiar, I never saw speaking well and being intelligent it as just a “white” thing. I always thought intelligence reflected positively a person’s character; a sign of patience, understanding compassion, and reason. Those were character traits to me that every person should try to aspire to have.
Some of the people who have inspired me and my writing didn’t consider expressing their intelligence or speaking well a white thing either. I don’t believe Malcolm X was seen as “acting white” when he spoke articulately back in the 1960s. Neither was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And I enjoy hearing African-American actors like Salli Richardson, Keith David, Charles Dutton, and Denzel Washington perform because of the near perfect diction in their performances.
From what I’ve learned about the African-American experience Education has always been a “Black” thing. Throughout history, from the Ancient Egyptians who were masters in Astronomy, science, engineering and math to artists like Juan De Pareja, writers like Phyllis Wheatley, or inventors like Benjamin Banneker and George Washington Carver to educators like Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune Barack Obama, African-Americans have always pursued excellence in education.
Even my slave ancestors aspired to learn because they saw education as a way to improve their economic and social condition. After many southern states like Virginia passed laws against teaching slaves how to read and write, many still persevered towards gaining literacy because they saw it as an opportunity to empower themselves. From the 1800s up until almost recently, being an educated intelligent black person who spoke well was considered a good thing. It wasn’t considered “acting white”.
So I’m wondering where did this “acting white” thing come from over the last fifteen or twenty years? As I see it, what people called “Acting Black” as it’s seen in mainstream America to me doesn’t seem like a representation of “Black” but a perpetuation of longstanding racist stereotypes. These “real black” images presented to the African-American community seem more like a repackaging of the degrading images of the black buck, the coon, the black harlot, Tragic Mulatto, jigaboo, and the mammy to me.
What’s more ironic to me is that many of the wealthy rappers, ballplayers thugz and other assorted people who perpetuate the degrading images of “acting black” are the same ones sending their children to high-priced private schools to learn how to speak well and become intelligent, while promoting to the black masses a message of ignorance.
So on this issue of race and identity I often wonder who really is “acting white” and who is “keeping it real”. Are the African-Americans who aspire to speak well and express their intelligence “keeping it real” because they follow a centuries long history of education that has been part of the black community, or are the African-Americans who identify with “street” culture “acting white” because they promote and perpetuate a stereotypical image of African-American life that makes Middle America comfortable.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
There’s a crisis in the Black community. One that is tearing apart the fabric of African-American society. However, the cause of this crisis isn’t poverty. It’ not the proliferation of guns, drugs or crime. It’s not the lyrics in hip-hop music. The real crisis in the African-American community has to do with culture and values. Thug culture seeks to supplant African-American culture as the main identity of the Black community. And all good Black people have to do for this evil to win is sit back and do nothing.
The Black community must understand: One man’s gangsta is another man’s fascist.
Like the “Good German Jews” before us, many African-Americans throughout the country are sitting passively while the fascist menace of thug culture insidiously imposes its values on the overall Black community. In Black neighborhoods, This propaganda proliferates its message by hijacking our art, literature and leaders, as gangsta rap, street lit, and their spokespersons gun-toting rappers, diamond wearing entertainment moguls and ball players glamorize crime, guns and ignorance as “keeping it real” or the only way blacks have a “true” identity in America.
Like Adolf Hitler and his SS soldiers, these thugs portray themselves as the “true blacks” and their perpetuation of old white racist stereotypes as the only way to be “black”. These Aryans of the black community exploit the media promoting false ideals like “hustling”, being a “gangsta” “Stop snitching” “Ride or Die,” “Pimping” and being a whore as the truth while denouncing the ideals of education, hard work and business ownership established over four hundred years by blacks such as Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, Sojurner Truth, Fredrick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Mary Mcleod Bethune, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others as “acting white”.
It’s a message taught on the streets, in schools, on Televisions and in the prisons and even in some homes. Those who are educated or who aspire to be educated about the truth are being murdered or driven out of the community just as doctors, lawyers college professors, teachers and intellectuals were driven out of Germany and the territories it occupied during the war while the thugs teach their message: A message of hate-Self hate.
One man’s colors are another man’s Swastika.
One man’s gangsta is a white man’s coon.
Unfortunately, like the “Good German” Jews who went along with things they knew were wrong many Older Blacks and black leaders sit back and passively watch as Black youth imbibe the fascist propaganda of a self-destructive set of ideals thinking it’s just “trendy” or “hip”. Others are just too scared of reprisal from these junior fascists to teach the truth to the next generation.
I realize those thugs and gangstas who are “keeping it real” in the Black community by are just like the “Good Germans” who became Nazi soldiers. They are “only following orders” of superiors. It wasn’t excused at the Nuremberg trials. It can’t be excused by Black America now.
Why am I writing this? I realize I can’t sit back and do anything. I cannot stay silent any longer.
I cannot be a “Good Black”.
I must do something to make sure evil does not win.
Having experienced the violence and terror during crack epidemic of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s here in New York City as a result of some members of my generation being taught these false messages of thug culture, I won’t be a Good Black Person. I understand in order for this evil to succeed again in destroying my community and corrupting another generation with its warped values is for the countless masses of hardworking black people to sit back and do nothing just as the Jews did in Germany while Hitler’s regime came to power.
I understand that Like Hitler and his Nazi regime, these thugs and gangstas will destroy everything around them in the black community in their quest for power. Just like the South Bronx I grew up in as a child in the late 70’s early 80’s was destroyed by in the power struggle for turf, African-American neighborhoods all over the country will be turned into war zones the equivalent of Poland, England, Austria-Hungary and Russia during World War II.
And just like the Nazis, those fascists who practice the thug culture make up about less than .05 percent of the black community the same way Hitler’s regime were only a small part of the German population. However, because the silent majority of “good Germans did nothing 100 percent of Europe was destroyed by the Second World War. The inactivity of all Blacks on this issue of race and identity in the 21st century will eventually lead to the total extermination of the African-American race in the United States.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Would you buy this image on a T-Shirt?
For years I’ve wanted to offer a T-shirt based on the cover of my first book Isis. I always thought the ankh symbol I designed for the cover was interesting enough that it would appeal to casual buyers in addition to people who have read the book.
At the Harlem Book Fair this summer, the cover of Isis attracted the attention of to casual buyers- many female. Their positive reactions encouraged me to ponder seriously pursuing a merchandising venture.
I want to offer the shirt in the following styles that would appeal to ladies: standard T-shirt, fitted, T-shirt, tank top, and spaghetti strap tank top. My goal is to use the Isis shirts to target a female audience (she is a female fantasy character) of fantasy fans and casual buyers. My hopes are that the shirt would get people interested in learning more about the book. Maybe even get some book sales.
From what I’ve seen at my trips to comic cons and trade shows, there are a lot of female fantasy/comic/sci-fi fans out there. Unfortunately companies aren’t’ offering merchandised to women and girls and the ones that do are offering sporadic merchandise. Usually Most comic and fantasy based products like T-shirts are usually designed for men. However, I know that there are ladies enjoy this merchandise too and I’d like to try to create my products for those customers.
I’m exploring my options and may experiment with offering products at a POD print company like Cafe Press or Spreadshirt. I’d love to hear from people regarding their experiences with their products before I think of offering products from there.
I’m working on cleaning up the Isis symbol in Photoshop right now and I’m writing up a slogan. I’d love to have a product up in time for Christmas. Just want to know if there are any customers interested in buying it.
Yesterday, I took my Comptia A+ 220-602 and got a score of 834 out of 900. Two weeks ago I took my 220-601 and got a score of 836 out of 900. So in addition to being an experienced freelance novelist and screenwriter, I’m now A+ Certified Computer technician. I’m officially able to fix and build PCs.
I’m thinking about doing a weekly Q&A where people send me questions about PC problems on my blog and I’d try to answer them. I figure it’d be a great way to combine my two skills- writing and Computers.
So if anyone has any PC related questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section of this blog.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Category: Writing and Poetry
We are Pouring Tea with The Cassandra Cookbook Author Shawn James and we are adding some lemon in this water for taste to get our members the answers they have been waiting for.
Yes, we have the juicy details right here on My Space just for our reader’s and fan’s. We ask this Author a lot of questions, by opening the doorway to this Author’s world we get your questions answered, so please join us! Sit down and pour yourself a cup of tea while TBGB’s Book Club welcomes you into the doorway of Mr. Shawn James.
TBGB: Tell us about Shawn James the Writer.
SJ: Shawn James is an easy going guy, who spends most of his time writing stories, novels and screenplays. He works seven hours a day, six days a week, with breaks scheduled in between; for errands, meals and sleep. When he has a day job, he works six hours a day, six days a week, after work on his writing. His mission over the past fifteen years is to create positive stories about the experiences of African-Americans; that will inspire readers to take action towards changing their lives for the better.
TBGB: Now, Tell us about Mr. James the Author.
SJ: Shawn James the author is a hardworking businessman; whom works tenaciously towards promoting his self- published books about the positive experiences of African-Americans. He networks with book clubs, book stores, bloggers and anyone who will read or buy his work.
TBGB: How did you become a Fiction Novelist?
SJ: I have been writing stories since I was nine years old. I started out wanting to copy the art in my brother's comic books. But I couldn't draw so well so I decided to use words and pictures. Professionally, I've been writing novels since I graduated college in 1994. It was a great way to relax.
TBGB: How has becoming a writer changed you if any in your life today?
SJ: I spend a lot more time in front of a computer than I should.
TBGB: What has inspired you to write The Cassandra Cookbook?
SJ: I wanted to create a positive story about the experiences of African-Americans in the workplace.
TBGB: What about the novel did you want the reader to identify with?
SJ: I want the reader to identify with the experiences the characters have in the story. It's easy for many of us to be like Simon and get so caught up with facts, figures, policies and procedures that we forget about the valuable people that give a company its true worth. It's also easy to be like Cassandra and be so wrapped up in their works that they lose their identity and sense of self worth that they sell all their talents and skills short.
TBGB: Is there anything about writing this book you didn't like?
SJ: I really enjoyed writing this book. In fact it was so much fun working on this book that I lost 30 pounds!
TBGB: Our member's had some interesting questions about the cover of this book, who is the Artist? And what made you decide on a drawing for the cover?
SJ: I'm the artist who drew the cover. Before I write, I sketch out what my characters look like so I can have a point of reference when I'm writing their descriptions. Since I couldn't afford a cover artist, I thought that sketch would best tell the story of the Cassandra cookbook.
TBGB: I believe the character on the cover is holding a bouquet of flowers and appear to be of masculine form and the book is about something totally different did you find it difficult to come up with a cover theme to match your story line?
SJ: Errr.... That's not a bouquet of flowers. That's supposed to be a chocolate muffin with a candle in it, and that masculine form is Ms. Cassandra Lee. From what you're telling me, I really stink as an artist. Really, really stink as an artist. I have got to get a pro for that next cover.
TBGB: Our bag.
TBGB: (Laughing our butts off.)
TBGB: I bet you get alot of questions concerning the cover of this book does any one question stick out the most as silly or ridiculous or is all of the questions about the same?
SJ: I don't get that many questions about the cover, because people are so excited about the plot and storyline that they pay very little attention to the cover. But I'm gonna have to revisit that cover and replace it one day.
TBGB: We really enjoyed reading this novel; please tell us about why you decided to put so many twist and turns in this storyline?
SJ: The twists and turns in the story came about organically. Some of them like the scandals and corporate backstabbing were inspired by things I saw transpire on many of the jobs I had in real life.
TBGB: This novel seems to have some bearings on today's economic situations how does this now play in advertising your book?
SJ: I wanted to detail the elements of success in the business world. While I was doing research on numerous corporations I quickly learned that many of them started as simple mom-and pop operations or small one-person businesses. Many were started during economic downturns. As I learned the secret ingredients these companies used to expand themselves, I began developing a promotional campaign detailing Cassandra's recipe for success. In Cassandra's story are tips and advice the reader can use to advance their own career.
TBGB: Wow, this IS awesome!
TBGB: How does your family and friends support you with your writing?
SJ: My family supports me 100% In fact; my brother and sister helped me with my table at the Harlem Book Fair this year. Monroe College published an article about my books in their Alumni newsletter.
TBGB: Please see further details relating on this newsletter by visiting Monroe College website to see if you can request an archive issue or back copy relating to Mr. James.
TBGB: Now, some of our member's want to know are you single?
SJ: I'm single and I'm available.
TBGB: Now I will pass this on to the 3 members’ who wanted to know. Smile.
TBGB: Where do you promote yourself the most in book stores or through book clubs?
SJ: I do most of my promotional work online. This is how I've contacted many of the Black Book Clubs and many Black Book Stores. I've also done some networking with book vendors on the street, but the web is the primary way I promote my work.
TBGB: Do you believe Authors have to promote themselves or do you believe the publishing company should do it?
SJ: Authors have to promote their own books; it’s the only way the public is going to know about them. At the publishing house, the advertising budget is small and the few promotional dollars are spent on the Best-Selling Authors. Everyone else, especially first time authors have to hustle to get the word out about their books.
TBGB: How is writing books for publishing companies different then musicians singing songs for record companies?
SJ: As far as I know in book publishing an author signs a contract giving the publisher permission to print the book in North America. They're paid an advance on the first print run of 5000-7000 copies. If those sell well, the author begins earning royalties of ten percent of the list price on sold copies. I don't really know how it works in the music industry but I think the songwriter gets paid royalties on songs they write and publish. This is why registering copyright is so important, as it on public record who owns the song.
TBGB: Wow, Readers please pay attention on how an Author gets paid. Book Clubs especially. We can help by advertising the feature Book-of-the-Month on our websites.
TBGB: If you were to give advice to a struggling Author what would you say?
SJ: Hang in there this is going to be a rough ride. Grow a very, very thick skin. Get used to hearing “No” more than “Yes”. Get used to hearing “No” than your “Own Name”. Listen to criticism, because it can only help your writing get better. Don't quit your day job! and save money. Save lots and lots of money.
TBGB: What are some of the new projects you are working on and what are some of the projects you have already out?
SJ: My first novel, Isis is available at online bookstores right now. It's an action packed fantasy story that utilizes Egyptian mythology and African-American history to tell the story of Isis, the daughter of the Egyptian god Osiris who after a horrible tragedy has to reconcile with her family.
In addition to Isis, I have two unpublished projects I'm planning on releasing.
All About Marilyn is an original screenplay about a typecast 1990's teen star that at the age of 34 must reinvent her so she can move forward in her personal and professional life. I was reading about the numerous struggles black actresses like Jurnee Smollett to Halle Berry have to face in trying to find work.
My next novel, The Temptation of John Haynes is a Christian, fantasy novel about a man whose soul Lucifer seeks to take by making him a CEO of a major corporation. If the beautiful she-demon he places there as John's assistant can get him to compromise his personal and spiritual beliefs he'll make her a member of his elite cadre of demons.
Both of these projects are on hold until I find another full-time job. I'm hoping I can find some work soon because I really want to share these stories with readers.
TBGB: Yeah and we would like to really read them!
TBGB: How do you feel about book clubs swapping online for books?
SJ: Not a fan of it. It takes royalties away from authors.
TBGB: I know a few of our member’s were guilty of doing this from websites like Paperbackswap.com, etc. and they are STRONGLY advised not to do so, it violates our membership rules. We ARE here to support our Authors. Our President is very strict on this rule. (To any Authors who have dealt with this from our book club please bring to the Club President attention.) We know none of us is perfect but MISTAKES can be corrected to build a stronger bond with our supporting Authors.
TBGB: Do you think book clubs help Authors with sales and promoting?
SJ: Definitely. If it wasn't for book clubs like TB&GB no one would know about my books. Without Black Book Clubs there'd be no way for most authors to get the word out about our books.
TBGB: Well, thank you Mr. James for the compliment.
TBGB: What can we do to improve the relationship between Authors and Book Club?
SJ: You guys are great, some of the best communication, and support. Everyone is friendly courteous and professional. Other book clubs could learn a thing or two from you!
TBGB: Well, thank you again our Club President will appreciate that. We will pass it on to all our members.
TBGB: Is there anything you would like your fans to know?
SJ: In addition to writing novels, I'm writing screenplays. I've entered some screenplay contests, and I'm working developing scripts for a TV series.
TBGB: Well, we wish you all the luck on that we really do.
TBGB: Is there anything you could tell us exclusively?
SJ: Cassandra Lee's story is actually inspired by the story of the real life Sara Lee Bakery, which the owner named after his daughter. He later sold the bakery and the name went on to become an international brand that manufactures everything from cheesecake to handbags!
TBGB: Wow that is good to know.
TBGB: If you could change one thing about the book we just read what would it be and why? Or are you completely satisfied with The Cassandra Cookbook?
SJ: I would definitely correct all those typos I missed. I really would change the cover as well.
TBGB: Laughing, I think overall this is really a good book. We really enjoyed reading this book. It brought some good topics to the table. We will recommend reading this novel to everyone.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A BOOK REVIEW FOR THE CASSANDRA COOKBOOK BY SHAWN JAMES.
Category: Writing and Poetry
Title of the Book: The Cassandra Cookbook by Shawn James
Publishing Company: Virtualbookworm
ISBN: 978 1602642294
Member Reviewer: Anicia Walker, Lisa Valadez and Chris Michael
Book Read: June Book Read
Book Rating: 3 Tea Bags and a enjoyable story
The Cassandra Cookbook is based on a character by the name of Cassadra Lee. She is a hard working individual with some big time goals of her own. She bakes up her own recipes for success. Wanting to own her parent's business located in downtown Brooklyn, she also is in the middle of planning on getting married with in days of taken over her dream job to the man of her dreams of course. She muli-tasks while keeping a level head, what else could she ask for?
She has worked very hard on her Culinary Degree to help with her parent's bakery that has been in the family ever since Cassandra was a baby. Now, that her parent's are looking to retire in the near future here is her chance to put her Degree to work, why else did she get it? Well is wasnt for to hang on the wall in a small cramp office for a home for dustmites that's for sure.
While Cassandra is called to the bakery which seem like a last minute business meeting a request by her parents. Cassandra is all to thrill, she assumes this is the big day. The day her parents will turn over the keys and she becomes the boss. She had several ideas on those new pasry donuts, the ones she dreamed of baking herself she had even included whip cream cheese as a filling. Hmmm, tasty.
However, her dreams turns into a nightmare as her parents expose the truth as to why they called Cassandra into this private family affair. She is given a hard cookie to swallow, she cant bare to hear that her parent's had plans and ideas of their own.
Who told them to start thinking about all these bigs ideas without including her! Her mother and father reveals plans on selling the bakery to a big corporate gaint once they become retire! What! She cant believe this, how did she miss this? Didnt her parents see how much she love the bakery as a child? Maybe they have been tasting to much sugar this morning!
Now devastated she goes home to find comfort in the arms of her fiance who is at home finding comfort in the arms of another man! Just days before the wedding could anything else go wrong?!
Cassandra finally is convinced life has sold her an uneven oven she can't bake in without getting lumps in the middle. What to do next? She must somehow try to get her life back on track but how?
Soon things start to turn around for Ms. Lee. She becomes the representative assigned to handle her family affairs and find some answers to her questions. She start dealings with a handsome stranger, named Simon.
Well how do Cassandra turn her apples into pies? You can find out more once you pick up this great fiction novel.
A very good book read for this group, we were not to thrill about the cover it almost turned us away from the read as well as the typo errors which made it difficult to get back on story line but when we got caught up with this tasty morsal it became a good book to eat oops I mean a good book to read.
We enjoyed Mr. James imagination into betrayal and Corporate giant power and as we continue to read, we wanted Ms. Lee to become a success in the end.
We found this novel both entertaining and enlightening we hope you can enjoy this book as well.
Monday, July 20, 2009
A pinch of hard work. A dash of determination. The recipe for this story is very simple: Shawn James tries to create a sweet commercial fiction novel infused with tasteful bits of dark comedy. The end result of the project came out far better than I expected.
I’m not a commercial fiction writer; I’m just a guy who uses African-American fiction to explore concepts and ideas African-Americans don’t usually read about in the hopes of opening up Black people to new ideas. In my first two books, The Changing Soul and Isis, I explored the psychological effects of the ghetto and Egyptian mythology as it related to the African-American family. Having completed both a contemporary African-American novel and a fantasy novel, I was looking for a new challenge. So I decided to write one of those entertaining commercial novels I often read between writing books. With my combined decade of writing experience and reading experience I felt I was ready to try creating a story in the genre.....
The movies Strictly Business, The Apartment, and Clockwatchers and the Simpsons episode “Homer’s Enemy” were major inspirations for this project. I loved the dark satirical comedy Clockwatchers used to make comments about the workplace and how human beings interacted within it. I always got a laugh out of the clever social comments early episodes of the Simpsons made about life in America. Strictly Business was a movie I simply enjoyed watching; the performances were good and its heart was in the right place. The Apartment was an old film that had a tremendous impact on my writing and the development of this novel. After watching Billy Wilder’s great film I realized the workplace had a tremendous impact on the human condition. Watching these movies gave me ideas for a humorous novel that made social comments on the African-American experience in the workplace.
I started writing up a draft of a book called Integrity Sucks. It was a simple straightforward story about the African-American workplace with lots of commercial appeal. I copied the storytelling model of all the movies I had watched to the letter. Following that storytelling formula was my biggest mistake. Most of those movies I watched often showed the workplace from a White perspective. The White view of the workplace was often jaded and cynical; the total opposite of the point of view I experienced in the African-American world of work.
I wanted my story to say something about the human condition within the African-American experience, not be a re-hash of white stories with black characters in it. So I started thinking about my own experiences in the world of work. From what I observed in the workplace, most African-Americans aren’t angry or a bitter about their jobs. African-Americans often see employment as an opportunity for growth and change. To blacks work is a place where poor men and women often oppressed by racism and discrimination have an opportunity to find their true value and actualize their untapped potential.
Focusing on the positive experiences of the African-American workplace I began re-writing Integrity Sucks into The Cassandra Cookbook. The new story I planned would be the recipe for Cassandra Lee’s success working on a licensing deal with ITC Foods. Basically a recipe is a process of combining raw ingredients together through a series of steps to get a certain finished result. Depending upon the experience of the person, combining these raw ingredients together causes them to change chemically, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. While Cassandra had experience in the area of baking and customer service, she was inexperienced in the area of licensing. She has to combine her experience with Simon who is inexperienced with people but experienced with the business of marketing. As these two raw talents work together, romantic chemistry swirls around them. This causes them to change, some sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. However, as she and Simon learn from each other’s experiences they achieve their goals. Simon is promoted to ITC’s baked goods Product Manager and Cassandra expands her business into the Cassandra Brand name.
On the surface of the book would be about a business deal to expand the business of two companies; however the deeper story would be about the personal growth of the people working on the deal. Throughout the story the main characters learn what people are worth. On the quest to preserve the integrity of her family’s business, Cassandra learns how valuable she is. Working towards his promotion, Simon learns what makes the products his company produces valuable are the people behind them. It’s only when he discovers Cassandra’s value as a person, is he able to complete the deal.
With my plot and theme in place, I researched successful business people and their companies so the fictional black owned businesses of ITC Foods and the Cassandra Bakery could be as realistic as possible to readers. ITC Foods was inspired by the Parks Sausage Company, one of the oldest black owned food distributors in the U.S. Established in the 1950s it makes all types of sausage and meat products. The story of the Sara Lee Bakery was the inspiration for the Cassandra Bakery. In the 1950’s the owner of the Sara Lee bakery actually named the store after his daughter and sold it to a corporation. If he only knew his daughter’s name would become synonymous with a worldwide conglomerate that produces everything from cheesecake to handbags!
With the ingredients for writing the cookbook in place I got to work developing Cassandra’s recipe for success. I had a lot of fun writing this story, more fun than I had working on any other novel in my fiction writing career. I looked forward to sitting in front of the computer every day during the two years it took to write Simon and Cassandra’s story. I hope you learned something from reading it.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
There was a Street lit table right next to mine. Those guys writing about gangstas, pimps, drug dealers hoes, hood rats and any other racist stereotype did brisk business with people snapping books up all day. I was deeply saddened; At the fair, it looks like black readers have come back to embrace the racist stereotypes so many fought and died for over a century to dispel with open arms. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Lorriane Hanesberry, Dorothy Dandridge, Thurgood Marshall and Michael Jackson are probably all looking down at the Black Masses in disgust and disappointment.
I spent six hours in the hot sun practically ignored by the black reading audience I’ve been wanting to write for since I was 16. My mission back then was to write positive stories about the Black experience. Stories about overcoming the odds, facing adversity and growing into a better person who improved the quality of life for their community. It seems no one wants to read those kinds of stories anymore. In the aftermath of the Harlem Book Fair I have to wonder if the community is committed to change or if its scared of it.
In the aftermath of Electing the First African-American President I wonder if there is any hope for the African-American reader. Instead of taking that step forward with Obama, most young brorhers and sisters on the streets are taking ten steps back when it comes to what they read. I have to wonder: Is the self-image of Black men so poor that all most think they can aspire to is drug dealing, pot smoking, pimping, and being a thug? When did Black women look in the mirror and start seeing a prostitute or a madam? Is the Black Community’s self-esteem so low that it doesn’t see itself as capable of anything but being a criminal?
A long time ago I came to the understanding that what one feeds the mind comes out of the body. As a person thinks, they will act. If the popular black literature is about drugs, crime and all sorts of debauchery today then I shudder to think what will come out of the Black Community in the next 20 years.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
THE 2009 HARLEM BOOK FAIR
SATURDAY July 18, 2009
135th STREEET AND MALCOLM X BOULEVARD
AT BOOTH R19
FROM 11AM to 5.P.M.
LOOK FOR THE PINK TABLECLOTH!
Shawn will be autographing copies of his books THE CASSANDRA COOKBOOK and ISIS answering questions about writing, print-on-demand publishing and other writing related stuff. Check out sample chapters of his books at www.myspace.com/shawnsjames
Monday, June 01, 2009
I'm posting the first three Chapters of my first novel Isis, a fantasy story that combines Egyptian mythology, and African-American History into an action-packed adventure. I wrote this back in 1999; it was the second novel I completed and the first I self-published in 2002 . I wasn't the greatest editor back then, so if there are any grammatical mistakes, please be understanding about it. I'm posting these chapters so readers can compare and contrast my earlier writing style to that of my recent novel The Cassandra Cookbook
(c) 2002 Shawn James
The blue flames of the lake of fire light my way as I descend into the dark pit of Hell. The sweet smell of brimstone and the harmonic wails of tortured souls put a smile on my face. I miss this place. As a herald I spend most of my time on Earth collecting the souls of the damned and torturing the souls of the righteous. It's a job I enjoy and wish to return to. If I had to stay in that palace one more day I think I would have snapped. There's only so much torment a soul can take.
I cross the lake of fire walking across a bridge of dead men's bones. As I approach the cave of the crocodiles, the great serpent Lord Seth slithers out to greet me. He's anxious to hear what I have to tell him. Ever since the elder gods banished him here, I have been his eyes and ears to the outside world. Without me all he'd know is darkness. Lucky for him, a lot happened during my visit to Heliopolis. Disguised as a servant, I was able to acquire some
valuable information. This time we will finally destroy the gods.
It's been a long time since I've made someone suffer. I take a seat in his throne, cross my legs, and smile at him. He gets back at me by being polite. That's just cruel.
“Greetings E'steem. Have you brought me more souls to torment?”
“I have something better than souls master.”
“What could be better than a soul?”
“Information. I've been in the palace of the gods.”
“There's no way you can enter the palace of Heliopolis-”
“There are ways. Remember my father went into Heliopolis.”
“Your father was slain by Osiris.”
“Do you want to hear what I've learned or do you want to discuss ancient history?”
He scowls at me. “What have you learned?” He barks.
“There has been a trial among the gods. The daughter of Osiris has been banished to the Island of Solitude for crimes against the gods.”
“You lie, I have no niece. My brother's only children are his bastard sons.”
“Oh but you do have a niece. This is the child of Osiris and a Nubian slave whom he sired as concubine. Her name is Isis, the same as her stepmother.”
“I watched my brother for centuries. I would have known if had left Heliopolis.”
“Perhaps not. He might have disguised himself to elude you.”
“What were the charges against her?” Seth digresses.
“She let hatred enter her heart. She betrayed the gods and went to worship another god.”
“I'm sure she was cleared on the latter charge. Osiris would have to punish ten thousand generations of Egyptians for not worshipping the gods.”
“Osiris didn't judge his daughter. Ra and the elder gods passed judgment on her. Remember, Osiris can't try a member of his own family. And you know Ra' s sentences are always harsher than Osiris'.”
“Hold on. If she has let evil into her heart why isn't she here?”
“She hasn't embraced the evil inside her as part of herself as you did. There's still hope that she can be redeemed.”
“Just like the elder gods to show mercy on one of Osiris' bastards. If she were my child she'd be rotting here.”
“What you have told me is of no use to me.” Seth continues. “So my brother has another bastard. I cannot harm a hair on his head.”
“That's where you're wrong.”
“How? I can't leave this place to extract vengeance upon-”
“You can harm Osiris in a way far worse than slicing him to pieces. Now that Osiris is aware of his daughter he will surely want a relationship with the child.”
“True, nobility was always my brother's greatest flaw.”
“Think about it. There are two sides of her family she can embrace. She's halfway here.”
He thinks abut it. “Yes, you're right. Perhaps I can harm my brother this way.”
Seth smiles in anticipation of the execution of my scheme.
“Go ahead with your plan E'steem. Go ahead and bring me the soul of Isis.”
I am a prisoner of the gods.
They say I have hatred in my heart. With all that's transpired in my life these past few years I'm inclined to agree with them. You can't experience what I've been through and even want good inside you. When everyone and everything you love and care about is destroyed all you have left is bitterness and anger.
It probably doesn't sound like much for someone to let hatred enter her heart, except I'm not an ordinary woman. I'm a goddess. We're held to a higher standard than humans; we're not supposed to give into our emotions the way humans do. My mistake was giving into my rage. I wanted to destroy a nation of people because they killed my family. I still do. So to save the world from me and me from myself, the elder gods stripped me of my powers and banished me to an uninhabited island to sort things out.
The elder gods don't call this island a prison. To them, this is an “island of solitude.” It's supposed to be a place where I can think about what I've done and why it was wrong. Personally, I’d rather be imprisoned in a traditional filthy rat-infested jail cell. At least I’d know what to expect. The first day I was here I ran right for the shore to swim off this rock. I wanted to spite the elder gods and show them they had no jurisdiction over me. I quickly learned not to challenge the power of the gods after experiencing their interpretation of iron bars. When I got close to the water, I couldn't see anything, but I felt like I slammed into a wall. A really hard wall. A really really hard wall. Strange thing is I skim rocks on the water all the time. I thought about it later on. It would be foolish to plan an escape by just swimming; where would I go? There's no land for miles. All I can see around me are the deep blue waters of the Pacific. That's when I realized I'm going to be here for a while and I better get used to it.
The elder gods say I won't be allowed to leave this island until I'm redeemed. That's not going to happen any time soon. I have a lot of unresolved affairs I have to take care of before I can even think about getting back in the elder gods good graces. Besides dealing with the death of my family, I just found out my father is Osiris, King of the gods of Heliopolis. King of the cowards is a better way to describe him. It makes me so angry to think about the way he treated me at the trial. He told me he wanted to start a relationship with me after I've been redeemed. I feel that's too little too late; I needed his help yesterday and he won't face me. If this is the way he parents his children I'm beginning to see why Egypt fell.
I'm mad at Osiris for abandoning me, but I don't hate him. He's not so bad; in his own way he
tried to help me before I was banished here. Along with that empty promise to see me, he gave me some parting gifts. The first was a pair of smooth gold gauntlet bracelets. They must be enchanted because I can't take them off no matter how hard I pull at them. They used to feel funny on my wrists, but now I'm getting used to them. He says they'll give me hope. He might be right, every time I look at my reflection in them I feel like I might have a chance of leaving this island.
The second gift was a journal and a pen. Osiris says writing will help me deal with my feelings. I don't know, seeing my emotions written down on paper scared me. I never realized how dangerous my anger was until I saw it staring me in the face. Looking back at what I wrote in my journal when I first came here I've cursed every Heliopolitan deity at least twice and called my mother a few names I wouldn't repeat in church. If I were to say the things I wrote to anyone, I'd regret it for the rest of my life.
Since I've worked through most of my anger and grief, I've been trying to make a life for myself on my new home these past few months. In the beginning it was hard living here; the gods didn't provide me with any amenities. I was banished to this island with the clothes on my back, a short white linen wrap kilt and a crop top. I had to find everything else I needed to survive on the island myself. After several days of exploring, I found food and water. On the fertile land in the center of the island, trees and bushes grow a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. Oranges, bananas melons, that sort of thing. There's a spring on the South side of the island.
Now that I've been here awhile I've got a routine. Chores keep me busy from sunup to sundown. As soon as I get up, I say my prayers. I know it's strange for a goddess to serve God, but that's my religion. Osiris may be my father but he's not the almighty in my eyes. I've served God for over a thousand years now and I'm not about to stop now. I know he's with me and he'll help me out of this mess.
After I pray, I jot down a few thoughts in my journal. Nowadays I write about the experiences I have on the island. It's not much, just a few paragraphs about what I've done for the day. I usually spend my afternoons gathering fruit and vegetables for my meals and fresh leaves for my bed.
Around sundown I take a bath and try to rest for the next day. I don't get much sleep, most nights I just stare up at the night sky. I'm afraid to sleep because when I dream it's always a nightmare. I keep seeing what happened to my family over and over again. Those memories make me so upset; I'm afraid to face them. I know what I did; I just don't think it was the only reason why I got this evil inside me.
I watch Isis from my window as she writes her thoughts in the journal Osiris gave her. I still have reservations about the judgment Ra passed on her. I always felt his sentence was too harsh. She has withdrawn so much in the time since she's been imprisoned. The hatred can only grow inside her if she's left to herself again.
We made a promise to Keer-Sheba an eon ago to look out for her daughter. We haven't kept our word. We left Isis to the reprobate ways of humanity while we gods went about our business. Osiris and the elder gods are foolish to believe that he can have a relationship with Isis after she leaves the island. She'll never leave the island without our guidance.
I leave my bedchamber and head for the hall of judgment. Osiris is there judging the endless stream of souls with the balance and feather of truth. They have waited a long time to be judged, they can wait awhile longer.
“Osiris, I must speak with you. It's important.”
“I am about my business. Can this wait until later?”
“No, this can't wait.”
He takes the feather of truth off the balances. “Isis, what is this about?”
“It's about our daughter. We can't leave her alone again.”
“Ra has passed judgment on her. When the hatred is purged from her soul we will-”
“I know what Ra said. But we can't wait until then. Our daughter has gone on too long without our guidance. She'll never be redeemed without our help.”
“Isis, we're not supposed to interfere. She has to find her own way and we're supposed to go about our business.”
“What's our business Osiris? To advise and protect man. Your daughter is of mortal flesh, worthy of our aid.”
“Those are no longer our duties. Long ago in Egypt yes, but not in these godless times.”
He reaches to put his feather on the balance. I snatch it away from him. He scowls at me. I'm not going to let him do this to our family.
“I never thought you'd be a hypocrite. Who needs more help than our daughter?”
“I'm being practical. There are-”
“You can try the hearts of men but you won't try to face your own child. What kind of judge doesn't obey his own laws?”
“A fair and righteous one.”
“No. A corrupt one, and I know you aren't corrupt. Do you want Isis to be one of these unworthy souls?”
He sighs. He always does when he knows I'm right.
“Send for Horus. Tell him he is to rule in my stead until this affair is taken care of.”