Thursday, November 25, 2010

Here's the information on my Black Friday Ebay Auction.

I'll autograph all three copies of my books with a message of the winner's choice and gift box the books in an attractive package for Holiday giving.

Here's what the lucky winner will recieve in the gift box:

ISBN: 978-1589392366

In the aftermath of a horrible tragedy, Isis the long-lost daughter of Osiris, has committed a heinous crime. Because she didn't receive guidance from her father, the elder gods show mercy on the young goddess by stripping her of her powers and imprisoning her on an uncharted island in the South Pacific.

Osiris and Isis reunite with his long-lost child to begin the difficult process of establishing a familial relationship. Hoping to guide Isis towards the greater destiny she's supposed to fulfill, her parents begin teaching her the ways of the gods. However, Seth's herald E'steem lurks in the shadows offering the young goddess freedom for a price. Caught in the middle of a never-ending war between the gods, Isis must choose to either return to the troubled world she knows all too well, or take a journey down an unknown path where faith is her only guide.

The Cassandra Cookbook
ISBN 978-1-60264-229-4

Cassandra Lee’s lifelong dream is to take over the Downtown Brooklyn bakery with her name on it when her parents retired. Her dream turns into a nightmare near the eve of her wedding when she learns corporate giant ITC Foods has plans for the store and her low down down low fiancé Gerald is caught in the arms of another man.

Cassandra perseveres, acting as her parents’ agent working with ITC rep Simon James to complete the deal. As their professional relationship gets personal, Simon reveals a secret that devastates Cassandra. Sending Cassandra over the edge, Simon must come up with a plan to heal her broken heart and make her dreams come true.

All About Marilyn
ISBN: 978-0-615-34258-0

Marilyn Marie is desperate to break away from Nikki Desmond, the rich spoiled rotten character she played on the hit 1990's teen sitcom All About Nikki. Scraping by for years on work in two-bit made-for-video productions and handouts from friends, the 34-year-old actress anxiously waits for the big break that will jump start her stalled career. Tragically it comes on the set of the movie SELL OUT when she's attacked by Hollywood's current it girl Tabatha Strong.

While recovering in the hospital, Marilyn prepares for the greatest role of her life: Being herself. However, the ghost of Nikki Desmond continues to haunt her as she travels to New York City with a new face and a new lease on life. Eager to move on, Marilyn realizes she must reconcile with her troubled television past if she wants to have a future in the real world.

This is a rare opportunity for a lucky reader to get a complete set of titles from me personalized with my autograph and a personalized message. Surprise a friend or loved one with a very unique gift from an obscure, self-published author that may become a rare collector's item one day. Hey, it's better than giving someone a sweater! Each copy will be brand new, unread and crisp as it came off the printing press. Each of these books retail from $12.95-$14.95 at online retailers unsingned. You can get the whole set in this auction for a song!

Shipping will be $4.00 for the set. I only accept payments via PayPal and payment is due three days after the end of the auction. Good luck!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

100th Blog Extravaganza! (Okay a Progress report, but I'm still Celebrating!)

Welcome to the 100th post of Shawn James, Black Freelance Writer! I want to thank all the readers who stayed with me since 2006, and thanks to all the new readers who have started reading this blog over the past year for supporting this page.

This blog has grown so much over the past year. Last month had the most readers than in any time of the history of the blog. I actually had over 1,000 hits! One of my goals was to expand my web presence and I met that goal this year. I’m hoping to continue building an audience of readers over the next year and I’m gonna work hard to keep that momentum going.

Thanks to this page, more readers know about my books than in the history of my writing career. I'm hoping everyone continues to help me get the word out about my books and my writing; I have much more material I'd like to share with readers.

I’ve grown so much over the past year as a writer; I’ve gone from publishing with a POD publisher to publishing titles on my own. I can actually put together a page layout form start to finish, and design a cover in Photoshop. I’m releasing articles on a regular schedule. My productivity is finally back to where it was in 2004 when I was writing 1,000+ words a day.

On the promotion side, I’m networking with writers. I’m networking with readers. I’m doing shows like the Harlem Book Fair. Getting the word out about my books. I never thought I’d be doing stuff like this back in 2002 when Isis came out.

Gonna do my first book signing this week at the Monroe College Bookstore. I’m gonna try to have pics of that event for everyone in a future blog.

Around Black Friday I’ll be offering an autographed set of Isis, The Cassandra Cookbook, and All About Marilyn on Ebay, with a piece of original art by me or an Isis T-shirt thrown in. I’d love to do two sets, one where the proceeds are donated to charity, the other for promotional purposes. If the response is good I’ll do more in the future.

The winner of the auction can have a personal message written in each of the books. So if you want a special one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one or yourself, check out the auction that’ll be coming up on November 27th.

For the next hundred blogs and thereafter, I’m going to continue providing a mix of content about writing, publishing and discussing issues about the African-American community. I’ll also continue promoting my self-published books and art.

Work wise, I’m gonna be busy cleaning up The Temptation of John Haynes for the next two months getting it ready for its January 2011 release. I’m working hard on some great articles; next week will start a series about the high dropout rate among African-American males.

Again everybody, thanks for your support.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Cassandra Cookbook Conundrum

A pinch of Hard Work.

A dash of determination.

A recipe for no sales.

The Cassandra Cookbook was supposed to be a recipe for literary success. It was well-received by literary agents, book clubs, and most critics It’s a book praised for its solid premise, well-developed characters and tight storyline.

Unfortunately, African-American readers weren’t interested.

Despite handing out numerous free (over 40) promotional and review copies to vendors, aggressively contacting African-American book clubs, and bookstores, the sweet story about the girl working towards developing her own recipe for success in Downtown Brooklyn is a failure. Isis and All About Marilyn kick Cassandra’s ass in sales.

I’m trying to find out what went wrong with The Cassandra Cookbook. It’s a mystery that baffles me. Everyone likes the story when they read it, but can’t it get any takers when it comes time to buy it. I’m still trying to figure out:

Is it the price? $14.95 isn’t that pricey for a trade paperback Cassandra’s size. I mean, I offered it for $5 at the Harlem Book Fair this year with lots of lookers, but no takers. Amazon discounted the book down to $2.36 this summer and STILL no buyers. Meanwhile over the summer, Isis and All About Marilyn continued to sell and pick up readers and interest.

Is it the cover? Some reviewers said they were turned off by the cover. I’m trying to figure out what is it about the cover repulsed people? The composition of the figure? The image of a black woman with blonde hair? Or is it because she’s a light-skinned African-American? My pencils? My ink and color work?

Some complained about the colors I used on the cover. I used pink and blue in the cover design because that’s what most publishing houses were using on their chick lit covers to “cute” up their design. Chick Lit covers often used illustrations to appeal to young females. But I guess African-American women don’t like cute stuff on their book covers. Many in the Black community thought I was selling a children’s book and not a piece of contemporary fiction targeted at them.

Is it the title? Many on the street misinterpreted my attempt to be clever with the title and thought the story detailing a sista’s recipe for success was a real cookbook. Maybe the concept of a Cassandra Cookbook went over most readers’ heads.

Was it the writing? While most liked the story, some complained that I over-worded some paragraphs. I don’t think the paragraphs in Cassandra were wordy; Read Jane Austen, Anita Brookner or any English author and you’ll be in for some dense paragraphs. Others didn’t like the fact that I used the word “digress” or the word “pink” so many times. I don’t know, I thought I by using a word like digress would help readers develop their vocabulary; something a reader would need to expand for exams like the SAT, GRE, or civil Service tests. And White chick lit heroines have pink everythings; from their cell phones to their nail polish. Was I wrong to think African-American women would identify with a woman who liked cute pink things?

Could I have offended some brothers and sisters with the down-low storyline involving Cassandra and her fiancé Gerald? I did my best to be as sensitive as possible tackling that particular storyline showing how the harm down low men cause for black women is emotional, and not about a man’s sexual orientation. What hurts most sistas about down low brothers is their violation of a sista’s trust and their lack of honesty. It’s more about the lying to them about being straight than a man being gay. However, I understand homophobia is rampant in the African-American community, and perhaps many brothers and sistas were turned off by a storyline that explored complex gay issues.

Is it because I’m a black male? I don’t know. Many sistas don’t mind picking up books by other black male authors like Eric Peete, Eric Jerome Dickey, or Carl Weber that feature black female protagonists. Isis and All About Marilyn both featured female lead heroines and readers love those stories.

Was it the editing? I’ll take responsibility for the errors in Cassandra. Truth was I wasn’t in top form on editing because I was starting a new job and working with a new computer a year after my laptop died. But hey, those street lit books have 50X more errors than Cassandra does and brothers and sisters are more than eager to give those titles a chance regardless of quality.

Could it be the timing? I released the book unaware that street/urban lit had become the new hot thing in African-American fiction. The way this book has been recieved, I have to wonder Is anyone black even still interested in contemporary African-American fiction stories anymore?

Or is Cassandra just a victim of the sophomore curse? This is a tragedy usually befalls an author’s second book.

All I know is I did the best I could with Cassandra. I put my whole heart into that story and it hurt to watch it received so negatively by readers, especially women of color who I wrote it for.

While many may not like it, Cassandra was a very inspiring and uplifting story for me. I was out of work for a LONG time (Since November 2002) and was depressed over losing a job I failed to do well at (Brothers at the reception desk= FAIL). While I was writing Cassandra’s story in 2003-2004, I managed to work my way out of depression and lost over 40 pounds. Cassandra was the first book since Isis that put a smile on my face. I loved sharing what I knew about the black business world on paper.

I also loved trying out new techniques. The Cassandra Cookbook was the first story where I experimented with a new softer style of storytelling. In the past I often wrote darker, more cerebral characters and very intense storylines. Cassandra’s story model was the first to feature lighthearted characters, a quirky storyline and a bit of fun. I designed the plot structure to have more of a comical nature than the seriousness of stories like Isis, All About Marilyn, or The Temptation of John Haynes.

Doing things differently with Cassandra’s story had a huge impact on my writing career. When I queried literary agents; it was the first book that attracted their serious interest. Cassandra almost got representation. It almost got sold. It almost made it to a table at Barnes & Noble. It coulda been my big break. I believed in the story even though positive rejections piled up in cyberspace and in the mail. Everyone telling me how great the story was encouraged me to persevere.

Then in July 2007 in the middle of editing it and revising All About Marilyn my first laptop, a Dell Inspiron 2500 died after seven years of service. I put my dreams on hold but continued to do revisions on loose-leaf paper hoping to self-publish Cassandra and share it with readers.

As I found employment in early 2008, I set a goal. No matter what happened with this new job, I was going to publish The Cassandra Cookbook. In my first 90 days on the job I spent my nights revising Cassandra while adjusting to a new work schedule. I saved up money from my first few paychecks eager to share this great story with brothers and sisters and spent several thousand dollars in between the book fairs, mailing out free copies and other promotional efforts to get the word out about this book. It saddens me to see all that work I did to publish and promote this book went nowhere.

The Cassandra Cookbook was my first book back from a long journey back from depression and unemployment. I've done all I can over the past two years and I don't know what to do anymore. I love this book and I don’t want to see it die. I believe in what I wrote. I believe Cassandra is a great story that will put a smile on people’s faces. I just wish brothers and sisters would take the time to give this great book a chance.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Happened to Black-On-Black Love?

What’s wrong with Black-on-Black love?

Seriously, what’s wrong with a Black man loving a Black woman? Why is it considered a bad thing to see two people of the same race in a loving, caring relationship nowadays? What is so wrong with wanting to love someone of your own race? What’s wrong with wanting to see a picture of a black couple holding each other? Why does that image disturb and upset so many? More importantly, why does it disturb and upset so many Black people these days?

Seems like everywhere I go the Black folks want to have a relationship with anyone but each other. Black men want White women, Hispanic women, or Asian Women. Black Women want relationships with White men, Hispanic Men or Asian men. When Black men speak of their experiences with Black women they call sistas bitches and hoes and say a having a relationship with them is the most horrible thing that happened in their lives. When Black women speak of their experiences with brothers, they call them lying cheating dogs and say there’s nothing worse than a relationship with a triflin’ no good Black Man. I’m wondering why is there such enmity between Black men and Black women these days? How did this rift happen and where did all the love go between brothers and sisters?

Relationships between Brothers and Sisters are in a sad state of affairs. When it comes to black-on-black love, it seems it’s not about how much love two people can share with each other, it’s more about how much abuse two people can endure from each other nowadays. Instead of seeing love as an beautiful experience that brings people together, brothers and sisters these days seem to see love as a game of humiliation and one-upmanship. Lying and manipulating seem to be the basis of a romantic relationship instead of open honest communication. Cheating between partners is considered normal and acceptable. Black people nowadays seem to say I love you with contempt for each other. Even basic social interactions between black men and black women are so adversarial and confrontational now. Smiling or paying a compliment to a brotha or a sista in the street is likely to get met with a scowl or a profanity filled response. I’m wondering where all this hostility came from and why can’t black people can’t show love towards each other.

I know it wasn’t like this a generation ago. I hear stories from older brothers and sisters talking about old school Black-on-black love. They tell their stories with pride and passion about brothers and sisters coming together and sharing their hearts and souls. They talk about how black men found Black women beautiful and how Black women found Black men handsome. They talk about remaining together throughout the good times and the bad. They talk about loving black and having long-lasting lifetime relationships where love grows stronger as times and people changed. They talk about how black people were kind and civil towards each other; how a kind word was often met with a smile and thanks. Those days feel like a different age.

Today black-on-black love feels like it’s an endangered institution. It’s sad that a lot of Brothers and Sisters don’t care for each other the way we used to. Truly it’s a tragedy that we don’t see value in a human being who has the same skin color as us. That we don’t care enough about our brothers and sisters enough to see them as someone who we’d like to share a relationship with. That we don’t love ourselves enough to see each other as attractive, desirable partners and companions. When black men and women can’t see black love as beautiful it weakens the integrity of the Black community and undermines the structure of Black America.

Love can’t grow out of the seeds of hatred. Rooted in the corrupted fruits of this growing animosity between brothers and sisters is a poison that is slowly destroying the soul of Black America. If Black people can’t find love of themselves amongst themselves, then they won’t find it elsewhere. No one else can love Black unless Black loves itself.

While it may be bleak right now, I’m not giving up on black-on-black love. I want to find love with a black woman. To me, Black is beautiful and nothing gives me a greater joy than the sight of a beautiful black woman. It makes me proud to see a black man and a black woman sharing black-on-black love with each other. The image of a Black man and a black woman together warms my heart. To see someone who looks like me sharing an intimate moment such as holding hands, in a warm embrace or a passionate kiss, to me is a beautiful thing. I know it’s out there, and I know one day I’ll discover it.

There’s nothing like Black-on-black love. The energy shared between a black man and a black woman who loves themselves and loves each other is indescribable. It’s an aura of that radiates and glows so brightly; the only way to understand it is to be a part of it. Black-on-Black love is a beautiful experience that every black person should have at least once in their lives. Unfortunately so many brothers and sisters hate each other nowadays they’ll never know the joy of Black love like their grandmothers and great-grandmothers did.

So I ask again: what’s wrong with Black-on-Black love? And why can’t more brothers and sisters find it?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Romantic Comedy- A Rant in Three Acts

I’m a guy. I like romance. I like comedy. My question to Hollywood is: Why isn’t it possible make a decent romantic comedy these days?

I mean, Hollywood used to be able to make great romantic comedies. Classics like Marty, Working Girl, When Harry met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, As Good As it Gets, Boomerang, Pretty Woman, and Waiting to Exhale are all favorites of mine. All these romantic comedies had perfect balance of plot, story, character development and action to keep most girls and even most guys like me glued to the screen.

Then Legally Blonde came along. And all of a sudden it was okay to be DUMB. Maid in Manhattan came along and it was okay to be SHALLOW. Deliver Us from Eva Came along and it was okay to be MEAN. Worse, thanks to these movies it was okay to LIE and MANIPULATE, because in the end the man of your dreams will still love you in spite of the fact that you CONNED him into believing you were something that you AREN’T. Because being yourself is WRONG and no one will LOVE you for BEING YOU. Seriously, what kind of messages are we sending to girls about how to court the opposite sex in these movies?

I’m not saying all the romantic comedies of the 2000s blew; I did enjoy 13 going on 30; that movie had a great message about being yourself and the ramifications of lying and manipulating. Plus Jennifer Garner was a delight to watch! But most of them like Maid in Manhattan, Little Black Book, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Confessions of a Shopaholic and that damn Sex and The City movie are wretched brain numbing drivel, and the messages in these films do not promote good values to men and women or model how healthy relationships are developed.

In today’s romantic comedies there’s little to laugh at and even less to learn about love. I have to ask: When did love get so mean? When did comedy get so cruel? When did romance become a game? Where's the humanity? Where's the depth and substance? More importantly: Where's the LOVE, the HEART and the SOUL?

And on the black side of the romantic comedy: Why is there so much misogyny in black romance? Why are brothas always at odds with the sistas in black romantic comedies? Why can't I ever see a true balanced picture of black-on-black love onscreen? When did it become wrong to see two black people in love on a movie screen? Is it even possible to believe that two black people can love each other since we don't see it in media these days?

There's just so much anger onscreen that I can't feel the love in a romantic comedy these days, black or white. And while some will say I’m a man and I don’t understand romance I do understand what I like in a romantic comedy. Unfortunately, it’s not on the silver screen of most multiplexes. Here’s what I want to see in a romantic comedy Hollywood:

A female lead that can do stuff like fix a car, build stuff and knows how a PC works. Yeah, smart is SEXY.

A male lead that isn’t a Jerk. A nice guy that isn’t bland. A guy with some charisma. And more importantly, a guy who can keep his shirt on.

Two people who are attracted to each other by their hobbies and interests. Yep, things in common drive people together. Likes attract in most cases.

Some real chemistry, attraction, and desire between two characters. Two people who CARE about each other.

Some depth and substance in the storylines. Marty, Working Girl, Pretty Woman, As Good as It Gets were all love stories with humor and substance. And that’s what made them classics.

Women who have interests outside of shopping, hair, and nails. Guys who aren’t into cars, money and clothes.

Men and women who aren’t dumb. Stupid is not cute, nor is it sexy. Stupid is Stupid, and the audience hates stupid. Trust me.

People who don’t lie and manipulate each other in a relationship.

Two people who meet through a once in a lifetime fluke, and not through some predictable set-up. Think the greatest romance of all, Marty.

People who aren’t obsessed with having another person in their lives. Insecure and whiny aren't cute. They're annoying.

A woman who is fine with being alone. A woman by herself at a table and is comfortable with being alone is sexy and mysterious.

A sense that while love is hard, it can be fun too.

Plus sized people in a romance. Yes, Hollywood it’s possible for people over a size 2 dress or 40 regular to fall in love.

Older people involved in a romance. Yes, Hollywood it’s possible for people over 35 to find love.

Role reversals. Instead of the nerd pining for the hot chick, how about the hot chick pining after the nerd? It’s a great change of pace and might grab more viewers than the standard formula.

A true sense of what’s funny.

And yes, it is possible to write a great romantic comedy about heroes and heroines who are NICE, HONEST, and KIND to each other. Put the conflict in the STORY like you did back in the day with those romantic comedy classics and I guarantee you people will go out to see romantic comedies again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why I will NEVER write a Street Lit/Urban Lit Novel

I’ve written a lot of stuff in the 20 plus years I’ve been writing.

I’ve made home-made comics.

I’ve written novels.

I’ve written short stories.

I’ve written feature-length screenplays.

I’ve written TV episodes.

But I will NEVER write a Street Lit or Urban Lit book.

I’ve lived through enough poverty in my life and I know there’s nothing glamorous or exciting about being a drug dealer, gang member, or a prostitute. Growing up poor in the South Bronx during the 1980’s and early 1990’s during the height of the crack epidemic, I know that most black people are NOT criminals. Most brothers and sisters I knew were out trying to get an education and improve the quality of their lives.

I know for a fact the handful of individuals that went for the fast cash of criminal enterprise and terrorized inner-city neighborhoods across the country weren’t seen as heroes by most of the people who lived there. Nor do I feel they need to portrayed as such today by publishers. While it may profit many in the publishing industry financially to produce these urban tales and distribute them to the public, I cannot in good conscience write material that I know will be harmful to an impressionable young reading audience.

Personally, I feel it would be irresponsible for me to write stories making heroes out of people who participate in the destruction of my community and have no qualms about taking the lives of their own brothers and sisters for a few dollars. Furthermore, I feel it’s ethically wrong to mislead readers by writing exploitative tales that exaggerate the realities of what transpires in the inner-city. There are a million great stories about the experiences of African-Americans across the country, and I feel it would be very narrow-minded of me to only write about crime and urban blight.

“With great power comes great responsibility”- Ben Parker

I read that in a reprint of Amazing Fantasy #15 in Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics and those words have stayed with me growing up. As I got older and I returned to the pen at sixteen, I realized I had the power to create any story I wished using my imagination. However, I understood I had a greater responsibility to make sure the stories I put down on paper and eventually published enriched people’s lives. Outside of the flash of cash, bling, cars, designer clothes, graphic sex, and violence in most street fiction stories I’ve read there’s very little substance. Readers don’t learn anything from these stories outside of entertainment.

As a writer, I feel people should get something more out of the books they read besides entertainment. Good literature gives readers better understanding of a subject and an insight into a different part of the world. Great literature inspires people to change their lives for the better.

I want my stories to do the latter and the former.

I feel writing Street Lit and Urban Lit wouldn’t enrich the lives of my brothers and sisters. Writing these types of exploitative stories would only continue to perpetuate the worst images of black life and reinforce numerous pre-existing stereotypes about African-Americans. These types of stories only validate and justify what most readers all over the world think they know about African-Americans and don’t detail the diversity of the experiences of African Americans within the black community. Readers learn nothing new from these stories and get no insight into a different part of the world. It inspires no one to make changes to their lives or the world around them.

My mission as a writer is to create positive stories about African-Americans and the African-American experience. I want to educate, inspire and uplift my brothers and sisters. I want to create stories that give readers an expanded perspective of black life. I want to show my brothers and sisters parts of the African-American community they’ve never experienced. There’s a whole world of African-Americans and African-American experiences outside of the ghettoes of the inner-city. And I won’t be able tell stories about those experiences writing in the limited categories of urban fiction and street lit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Retirement of Amanda Bynes

I was really shocked when I read Amanda Bynes stated she was retiring from acting at 24. I was sure I’d be seeing much more of her work onscreen in the future. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case and that’s going to be a huge loss for everyone.

With the retirement of Bynes, Hollywood has lost one of it’s the best performers. A talented comedienne, a solid actress, and a consummate professional who lived a clean life on and off the set. Honing her skills over the past fifteen years, in sitcoms, sketch comedy and feature films, Bynes developed perfect comic timing and a strong screen presence. She always gave strong performances with a lot of heart and passion.

It’s an understatement to say liked Amanda’s work; I never missed an episode of What I Like About You and even saw some of her movies like Lovewrecked and She’s The Man. She was a delight to watch onscreen and I was sure I’d be hearing her acceptance speech on Oscar night in a few years. She was that good. I always felt it was a matter of when she’d find that breakout project and take her career to the next level.

While her reasons for leaving acting are her own, I understand that she’s making the right decision for herself. It’s better for her to move forward and discover what makes her happy rather than stay in a career she isn’t satisfied with. After reading about so many tragic ends for child stars while doing my research for All About Marilyn, it’s great to hear about a former child actor leaving the entertainment industry on her own terms rather than in a body bag.

So why am I writing about Amanda Bynes and not someone more popular say like, Michael Jackson or Gary Coleman? Well Amanda’s work onscreen inspired me to write. When I was writing All About Marilyn, Amanda’s high-strung performances inspired me to create the Tabatha Strong character. When I was writing her, I heard Bynes’ “voice” as Tabatha.

For those who think I’m colorstruck: If Salli Richardson were to retire from acting, she’d be getting a blog post too. And a much longer one at that. Her work had an even bigger impact on my influencing my writing; her performances inspired three characters in four different books.

Amanda Bynes probably won’t ever read this, but I’d like to thank her for entertaining me these past few years and inspiring my writing. Maybe if I’m lucky there will be a chance to see her work again.

May I Help You? Brothas Need Not apply

The next time you’re at the register in a store, the teller window of a bank, or the front desk of a hotel take a good look at the person behind the counter. Chances are you’ll rarely ever see a Black male working there.

When it comes to service jobs which require public interaction, Black males are the least likely to be hired even if they have the qualifications to fill the job. Positions like receptionist, administrative assistant, sales rep, customer service rep are often filled by a White woman, Black woman, Hispanic woman, Asian woman, or Hispanic man.

So why don’t we see Black men in at the front desk? A little bit of sexism and a whole lot of racism. Most corporate cultures have an institutionally racist perception of Black men that taints their hiring process. The unwritten rule within the policies of most businesses is that Black men should not be in jobs where they are visible to the public. Traditionally, the front desk/counterperson was considered the “face” who represented the business.

That’s where the sexism comes in.

In addition to these unwritten rules and institutionally racist policies towards black men, many in management have a sexist perception of who should work in front-desk service positions steeped in dated traditional roles for men and women. In the past people who worked in positions such as a receptionist, administrative assistant, or customer service rep were White females and females of color. Employers who subconsciously adhered to these traditional roles for men and women want their service person such as a receptionist or administrative assistant to be a hostess, someone who invites people into their business and makes them comfortable with a soft pleasant voice that they believe is soothing to hear over the phone.
Because of this racism and sexism, the institution of management in America frowns on the idea of having a Black male in front-desk service positions. Many in management regardless of race don’t want the person representing their company to be a Black male because they fear it could be detrimental to the growth of their business and will alienate customers.

So how are these hiring practices detrimental to Black males and employment? With the service sector being fastest growing area of the economy in the United States over the last twenty years, oftentimes these are the only jobs available in urban areas. With most service positions in the inner-city oftentimes being filled by Black females, Hispanic females or Hispanic men, this discrimination leads to the disproportionate unemployment of Black men. In some urban areas the unemployment rate of Black males is close to 60 percent while the unemployment rate for other minorities (especially by gender) is much lower.

In the past, businesses in the service sector offered jobs to Black men were in non-visible areas such as the mailroom, copy clerk, stock clerk, porter or maintenance. However, many of these traditional service positions where Black men were employed were eliminated after the tragedy of 9/11. After 9/11, some businesses realized they could be more productive without these positions. Other firms realized they could hire Hispanic or Easter European workers in the same positions for a lower salary and less benefits. Worse, many in management were more comfortable with the idea of having Hispanic men or Eastern European men in these service positions and preferred hiring them instead of Black men.

Unless there’s a drastic change in the perceptions of American society regarding African-American men and service sector, many if not most Black men will not be able to find and retain full-time employment. This will lead to an economic crisis in the Black community not seen since the drafts of the Vietnam War in 1965.
Currently the service sector, especially front desk positions that require interaction with the public are a “hostile environment” when it comes to the employment of Black men. Most managers regardless of race do not have a positive perception of Black males in the workplace. Moreover, many in business regardless of gender or race are extremely hesitant to hire a Black male as the “face of their company.

Because of decades of institutionally racist policies and culturally sexist perceptions of work and gender roles, many in management regardless of color cannot comprehend the idea of a Black male in a service position requiring public interaction and hire other minorities whenever possible. Usually, when a Black male applies for a position in the service sector, candidates are often perceived as lazy and incompetent during interviews or even before they apply for the position. Employers often use these prejudices to disqualify many capable black males from employment even if they meet all the requirements for the position.

The few Black males who overcome the discriminatory hiring process and are employed
in service positions are often met with no support from management and resistance from co-workers. Instead of feeling “welcomed” during the first few weeks while adjusting to the new workplace, many black men encounter a work environment that is distant and tense with managers and co-workers who have very little patience or understanding. During this adjustment period, management tends to punish new Black male hires and threaten them with termination for small mistakes. However, these same managers would usually tolerate the same mistakes from a female or Hispanic male employee in the same position.

Co-workers often express their discomfort with Black male employees in service
positions with passive-aggressive behavior. For example, during the training of a new black male hire, a female assistant will withhold critical information that is integral to the employee performing their work duties. However, this same assistant would easily share this information with another female co-worker. Other passive-aggressive behaviors Black men have faced in the service workplace from co-workers included memos not being delivered to their desk, documents being “lost”, management not introducing the new hire to seinior staff or other co-workers or “forgetting” to return from a break so the new hire could take theirs.
Oftentimes, when Black men try to communicate with co-workers in service environments, they are met with defensive body language, indifferent responses, or they’re met with downright hostility. With most service positions requiring constant communication between co-workers, it becomes nearly impossible for a Black male to perform well in the workplace.

Black men also deal with resistance from customers as well in front of the counter. Many customers of numerous ethnicities are more willing and eager to complain about perceived “harsh treatment” or “rude service” when served by a Black male at the counter. Other customers have complained of “hard tone” or “hostility” on the phone with a Black male customer service rep. Moreover, some customers perceive facial expressions of black men as “angry”, “surly”, or “menacing”, when they approach a black male clerk or sales associate for assistance. Other customers perceived themselves as being in danger and won’t approach black male employees at the counter and the sales floor.

This hostile and racist environment within the service sector creates a “self-fulfilling prophecy” where Black men are unable to perform the basic tasks of their jobs. Because they are perceived as incompetent, lazy and judged by unrealistic double standards from managers and co-workers, many black men become frustrated and resign. Other Black males are terminated for minor infractions and have their work records unfairly tarnished. This turnover creates a false perception in society that black males are poor employees. However, this is far from the truth. Most Black males do not perform well in service positions due to institutionally racist policies, cultural adhesion to sexist gender roles in employment, a lack of support from management and co-workers, and prejudices from the public.

Can the service sector change the way it treats black men seeking employment? Yes it can. To do that will require American management to change its culturally racist perceptions of Black men. Employers will have to overcome their prejudices and move past stereotypes they have learned about Black males. They will have to be paitient and understanding and learn how to support their black male employees the same way they support black female employees and other minorities.

Why am I writing this? I’ve been employed in numerous service jobs since 1994 and over the years I’ve noticed a pattern in how minorities were placed in jobs and how Black men were treated in the workplace. From my observations over the years I noticed that Black men worked out of sight in the back, other minorities and females of color in the front regardless of education. At hiring pools, women of color and Hispanic men with the same qualifications were hired before Black men for a front-desk or administrative support position. When I was placed in the front-end service jobs like the receptionist’s desk or at the circulation desk of a library, I was met with tremendous resistance from just about everyone. I often wondered if it was racism; looking back I’m pretty sure. People aren’t comfortable with the idea of a Black man serving them, and that has to change.

I’m deeply concerned that if these trends continue in the workplace Black men will have an even harder time finding and retaining full-time employment. With the unemployment rate of Black men reaching 60-75 percent in some urban areas, I feel it’s time brothas started discussing the racist, sexist and discriminatory hiring practices in the service sector.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All About Casting

Okay, let’s say hypothetically I get a chance to actually make an All About Marilyn movie tomorrow. Who would best fit what roles? Who would be the best director? Well this is who I’d like to see in the major roles along with runner-ups based on the performers available now.

NOTE: This is FANTASY CASTING. No parts are offered nor is this a REAL film in production!

Salli Richardson Whitfield as Marilyn Marie: Richardson is the most underrated black actress in the business today. Better in her craft than Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Queen Latifah, ANYONE. From what I’ve seen in her work on Gargoyles, Eureka, and films like Black Dynamite, I am Legend, Posse, Never 2 Big and How U Like Me Now, I know she has the skills to play Marilyn Marie. Richardson conveys a tremendous amount of emotion and humanity onscreen and would perfectly present Marilyn’s inner strength and emotional vulnerability onscreen. Richardson has a mesmerizing screen presence that keeps viewers eyes glued to the screen, this sista is so strong onscreen she can effortlessly carry a movie from beginning to end the same way Superman carries a battleship to port. In my eyes she’s only been one role away from being a superstar. Could Marilyn be it? I believe so. I think audiences would connect with her as an older, washed-up Marilyn, and she’d be incredibly effective in portraying Marilyn’s transformation from faded starlet to human being. Another plus is that Richardson has an active interest in fitness and nutrition, a strong body, something required for playing Marilyn.

Runner up #2 Regina King. Another former child star from 227, she’s evolved as an actress with amazing set of skills in films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Ray. I believe she’d play a strong Marilyn with a tremendous humanity and compassion. AAM would be a great role to add to her already impressive resume; Marilyn is a strong leading role and there’s a lot of room for her to show her solid acting range. I also feel Marilyn would be an impressive vehicle to show studio executives that she could carry a movie on her own. The only things keeping out of the lead is whether or not she’d do the required nudity for the role.

Runner up: #3 Tia Mowry. Tia has shown she’s grown as an actress since her “Sister Sister” days. Her work on The Game is some of her best work of her career. On that show’s fourth season she’s shown the start of an amazing range, and I believe the role of Marilyn Marie would allow her to take her skills to the next level. As a former child star grown up, I believe she has experiences to draw on that would allow her to give a powerful performance. The only thing keeping her out the lead role is whether or not she’d do the nudity required for the role. She’d be a sleeper in this role; I feel she’d surprise everyone and make them re-think who she is as an actress. I believe AAM could be her Big, the breakthrough role that shows she has what it takes for playing more dramatic parts.

Stockard Channing as Sabrina Lowenstein: As I was writing Marilyn, I used to hear Channing’s voice as Sabrina, so I’m kinda biased on this one. But I can tell you from watching her work on The West Wing and Six Degrees of Separation and The Stockard Channing Show on YouTube she has the elegance and grace to play Sabrina as tough and crusty but sensitive and soft at the same time. I feel she’d have amazing chemistry with King or Richardson onscreen; it’d be something incredible to watch either of these seasoned veterans onscreen with a master like Channing. I’d also pay money to see if Mowry had developed the skills to hold her own with one of the best actresses in the game.

Runner up: Meryl Streep. Okay I’m really REALLY dreaming here. But come on, Meryl Streep and Salli Richardson- Meryl Streep and Regina King working togehter? People would pay money and then some to see either of these two onscreen! (People would also pay money just to see if Tia Mowry could hold her own with this seasoned veteran!) Streep is incredible onscreen and she’d play Sabrina effortlessly. The only thing keeping her out of the role in my eyes is whether or not she’d be able to effectively have chemistry with Richardson or King.

Pauley Perette as Ava Gardner: Sure she’s 40-something but she doesn’t look a day past 27. Perette would be a blast as the glib, fast-talking administrative assistant “agent in training” who sells Marilyn into a tragic turn of life-changing events then weasels her way out of it with a smile.

Runner up: Sara Rue: Sara Rue would be a perfect Ava; she showed a lot of spark in Less Than Perfect and looks like she’d be a convincing administrative assistant. The only drawback: Would the audience accept sugary sweet Sara Rue as a manipulative conniving cutthroat businesswoman trying to steal her boss’ clients?

Salma Hayek as Lucia Baretto: Hayek’s work in Frieda speaks for itself. I feel she’d effectively play an intelligent compassionate woman with humanity and a sense of humor. Since Lucia is a dressed down church counselor for most of the film, it’d be a great role for her to show her acting range instead of her assets.

Runner up: America Fererra Fererra’s work on Ugly Betty and films like Real Women Have Curves and The Sisterhood of the Traveling pants shows she is a strong performer in lead and supporting roles. I believe she has what it takes to play Lucia as an intelligent compassionate Latina with humanity and a sense of humor. Nothing really holding Fererra back, she’s so great she’s in neck-and neck competition with Hayek (her former boss on Ugly Betty) for this supporting role.

Regina King as Shayla Sims: Another former child star from 227, She’s evolved as an actress with amazing set of skills with roles films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Ray. I see a great intelligence in her that fits a college professor like Dr. Sims. I also see a great sense of humor in her that would allow her to effectively play off any actress who played Marilyn and convey a sense of long-term friendship.

Runner up: Snaa Lathan I love Snaa’s work! Nuff said.

Amanda Bynes as the adult Tabatha Strong: It’d be a change of pace for Bynes who is used to playing sweet sugary roles. However I believe playing a crazed, meth addled insecure starlet would surprise everyone and show the long acting range I know she has. Like former child stars Mowry and Fererra, she has a lot of personal experience to draw on for the role. Comedy actors are often better in dramas and I feel Tabatha is the kind of role that would allow Bynes to breakthrough to more serious roles the same way Tom Hanks and Robin Williams did.

Gene Hackman as Hiram Silverstien: Sure he’s retired, but no one plays smarmy douche better than Gene Hackman; dude should have his face on a bottle of Massengil or Summer’s Eve. Watch Crimson Tide, The Sting Superman, anything he’s been in he’d be perfect as a racist, misogynistic fast talking slick Hollywood executive.

Jason Alexander as Martin Rosenthal: No smarmy Hollywood exec would be without his pet lawyer and no one would be a better one than Jason Alexander. He’d be great to watch as butt-kissing toadie!

Reggie Hayes as Dr. Ellis: He was great as a lawyer on Girlfriends, and I think he’d have a great bedside manner as the doctor who helps Marilyn during her stay in the hospital.

Keenan, Damon, Kim and Marlon Wayans as the G-town Productions crew: These guys would be awesome to watch as casting directors of the low budget prodco who roast Marilyn crispy. I definitely would love to see Marlon as Kwon; even more eager to see what they’d do with improv in this scene.

Heidi Lenhart and Kelly Packard as Natalie and Holly: These two former California Dreamers would be perfect to play a pair of rich California blondes who give Marilyn a hassle at the gym. I admit I’m biased in casting here: It was Heidi Lenhart’s performances in first season episodes of California Dreams I watched that inspired to create the Marilyn Marie character and the premise for this story.

Debra Jo Rupp as Lori. Many remember her as “Kitty Forman” on that 70’s show. I remember her as the evil office manager in Clockwatchers tearing Parker Posey a new one. I feel she’d be perfect as a snobby co-op board president who uses her position and power to crush a faded starlet. (SPOILER!)

Tahj Mowry as Adam the Clown: It’d be a nice change of pace to see the grown up smart guy playing a wide-eyed wisecracking, young ambitious Hollywood kid looking for his break. Mowry is a solid performer and I think he has the range to play this major supporting role as Marilyn’s last fan. (SPOILER!)

Wesley Jonathan as Garrett Williams: Wesley Jonathan is another teen/child star from back in the day. I feel he’d be solid in both the early sequences supporting role as a young black ambitious PA and later as a man who grows up into a director working on his dream project. Again I’m biased; I used to hear Jonathan’s voice when I was writing Garrett character.

Runner Up: Jaleel White Everyone knows Jaleel White was Urkel on Family Matters. But what many don’t know is that he has grown up to become a writer, producer and director. White would be perfect for Garrett and would have a boatload of experience to draw from. The only thing holding him back ironically: URKEL!

Robert Gillaume as Professor Chris Cherry: A seasoned veteran performer, Giaullme would play a professor Cherry with grace, intelligence and warmth. It’d be fun to see how any lead actress would hold their own with him.

Michael Ealy as Eric James: Ealy has a down to earth presence which would work great for Marilyn’s love interest. He’s a solid actor who’d be a great asset to any cast Doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes for the ladies. Besides, light skinned brothas haven’t gotten any love since 86’!

Runner Up: Anthony Anderson: Anderson also is incredibly versatile and very underrated, I’ve checked out his comedy and drama work and I think it’d be great to see him as a love interest; something we haven’t seen from him before.

Director: Debbie Allen Debbie Allen is one of the best black female directors in the business. Stage, Screen and Television she has the skills; to make a solid Marilyn production. With a track record of turned the struggling sitcom A Different World around 20 years ago and has directing The recent musical version of The Color Purple and A Rasin in the Sun, I know she’d effectively translate what I wrote into pictures onscreen. She’d be very sensitive to the issue of black women in Hollywood; I think she’d put a lot of passion and heart into an All About Marilyn production.

Runner up#1 : Denzel Washington. All About Marilyn is written with a very unique art style that utilizes contrasting visuals and symbolic imagery, and complex three-dimensional characters. After watching Washington’s Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters, I’m very confident that Denzel Washington’s lens could effectively tell Marilyn’s story. Washington has shown a great sensitivity and humanity towards African-Americans in his films; this is a crucial component to Marilyn’s story. I also have great confidence that Washington would play up the Christian undertones without being too preachy.

Runner Up#2: Spike Lee. One of the best directors of the 20th Century, All About Marilyn is a script tailor made for Spike Lee’s camera. I know Spike Lee would make a beautiful Marilyn film that features contrasting visuals and symbolic imagery I designed. I also have faith that he’d develop the characters into complex three dimensional people full of humanity. Watching Lee’s work in Bamboozled I believe he’d brilliantly tell a story about Marilyn onscreen without compromising the integrity of the script. Another Plus is that Lee is a Native New Yorker like myself and he would shoot the New York in such a way that it’d come alive and build into the powerful climax.

The only thing keeping Lee out of the director’s chair in my eyes is his past misogyny towards black women. Girl 6 speaks volumes about his contempt for black women. Marilyn is a movie about the struggles of black actress behind the camera, and requires a filmmaker to have a sensitivity towards the sisters and their struggles.

Yeah, I’m choosing a lot of underrated performers, former child stars, and B and C and even D list actors. Would they work together well onscreen? I don’t know. However, I feel the best performers don’t come from the A-list. I feel that the B, C and D listers can show something once given the shot at a lead roles. Yesterday’s supporting role is today’s lead star.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Commission Projects

I recently finished doing my first commission job, a page layout and editing project for another author. I’ve shied away from doing these types of projects for years, fearing an appearance on The People’s Court if things didn’t go well. But to my surprise this project went very well. The client was very happy with the finished book.

Normally I work more on the creative side of writing than the technical side of publishing, but this was a very enjoyable experience to apply my skills and experience towards completing a more technical publishing project from start to finish. Page layouts and cover design are usually the last things I do when I’m putting a book together, but things on this one came together fairly quickly:
From the customer’s materials I was able to put together a very attractive cover and page layout. Having self-published my own books, I didn’t want her first book to fall victim to the series of mistakes on my first two books. This one follows the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style for front matter, has clean copy and almost no errors (I'm only human). I feel it would fit right in on a bookstore shelf.

Would I do another editing/layout job? Probably. Would I do a commission/assigned writing job? I’d be open to give it a shot. It really depends on the specs and if the client was realistic about what they wanted. I’m always open to new experiences and further developing my skills as a writer/self-publisher.

I don't find anything Precious about "Precious"

Before I saw Lee Daniel’s “Precious” I perceived it as a poorly made exploitative racist film that perpetuates the worst stereotypes about black people. Six months later and eight dollars poorer after watching Lee Daniels’ “Precious” at a matinee, I still see the movie as a poorly made exploitative racist film that perpetuates the worst stereotypes about black people. Critics hail this movie as a masterpiece of film-making, I regard it as the most offensive film since Birth of a Nation.

Adapted from the novel “Push” by Sapphire Precious is tells the story of Clarice “Precious” Jones, a morbidly obese sixteen-year old with a lot of issues. Stuck in the eighth grade reading at a second grade level, She’s pregnant for the second time by her father, a nameless man mixed among a montage of bacon grease and Vaseline. Kicked out of school, she’s sent home to her mother Mary, a foul-mouthed stereotypical Regan era welfare queen who only cares about making welfare money off her daughter and keeping her case open so she cans sit on her butt and watch TV all day.After getting knocked out by moms and in between a profanity laced argument between Mary and Precious we watch as the enthusiastic Principal (who was apathetic as she kicked Precious out of her wonderful public school) comes out in the rain (This doesn’t happen in real life. I went to public school in the 1980’s and no one came out to your house; they just pushed you to the next grade regardless of your grades) to tell her about Each One, Teach One, an alternative school where she can get her GED. Oh Precious can get an education but just not in HER school. Don’t you just love the liberal hypocrisy!

The next day (or a few weeks later can’t really tell in this movie because the transitions are so choppy in this incoherent movie)Precious over her mother’s objections (she wants her to be a welfare queen like her) signs up for Each One Teach One, an alternative school full of colorful clichéd characters like Stand By Me, Welcome Back Kotter, Stand and Deliver, or whatever teen movie they were pulled from so she can work towards getting her GED. The class is led by Miss Blu Rain, an attractive light skinned woman and one of many light skinned/white saviors featured prominently in this movie. We’re also introduced to Ms. Weiss, a haggard welfare caseworker, another light/white savior. While getting ready for her first day at her new school, Precious sees herself as a skinny blonde white girl. (A pitiful attempt at symbolizing her self-hate) Shawn wanted to see about getting a refund for his movie ticket but didn’t want drama. So he endured another hour and a half of nonsense, including a visual of Precious and Mom in a scene from an Italian movie she’s watching on PBS one night.

As her fellow students help Precious on the road towards literacy, and a healthy pregnancy, Problems pile up on ol’ perpetual victim Precious. In between fights, guys dissing her and tripping her up, Her mom yelling at her for not cooking the pig feet and Macaroni and cheese right, Mary and Precious and her grandmother try to pull a fast one on welfare case worker which makes home visits. There we meet Mongol, Precious’ daughter born with Down Syndrome that stays with her grandmother so she can keep the welfare duckets rolling in.
But wait a minute there’s a BIG PLOTHOLE HERE. Wouldn’t Mary want Precious to keep Mongol and take care of her herself instead of parceling her off to grammy? SSI (Supplemental Security Income) paid $400 a month for kids with disabilities back then. And SSI checks (paid for by Social Security, a branch of the Federal government) don’t count towards income on welfare cases. Also, being a parent or guardian to kids with disabilities entitles parents (and relatives) to qualify for a Section 8 voucher (another federal program) and Section 8 housing. But Mary must be one of those illiterate Welfare queens who is SMART ENOUGH TO MANIPULATE CASE WORKERS for a STATE WELFARE CHECK but DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO MILK THE FEDERAL SYSTEM FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS.

Oh yeah, and welfare case workers didn’t make home visits back then. I grew up on welfare back in the 80’s as a kid in New York City and Case workers NEVER came for home visits (TOO DANGEROUS). Every visit to welfare offices in the 1980s was face-to-face at the HRA office (sat in many a waiting room during my childhood).

After the welfare mess is settled, the movie lightens up as precious steals some chicken, (Even though this would have been nigh impossible due to all the INCH THICK BULLETPROOF GLASS in eating establishments back then in the South Bronx and Harlem Plus customers placed their orders and paid FIRST.) Enjoying her snack, precious soon gets sick, and pukes, then off to class where the labor pains kick in. We meet Precious’ dream man and the Sweathogs rally behind their classmate for some happy times.

After Abdul is born and Precious leaves the confines of the hospital and her light skinned dream man orderly, Mary welcomes her grandson home by slamming the baby to the floor and attacking Precious in a violent assault which climaxes with Mary throwing her color TV five stories down and missing her by an inch. Precious then breaks into Each one teach one with her baby and the movie starts falling apart. After a struggle with City services, (no help) Miss Rain allows the now homeless Precious to stay with her. It’s here that we find out Miss Rain’s a lesbian (not that this has any relevance to the plot, other than to reflect Sapphire’s and Mr. Daniels sexual orientation.) Big deal.

Soon after Precious finds temporary shelter at a halfway house, we get some mumbo jumbo about workfare (which actually didn’t start until 1988) and home health aide training for a minimum wage job that could stop Precious from achieving her GED, but none of this is developed or explored. This all reaches a climax as Precious is told in the halfway house by her mother that her daddy has died of AIDS and she should get tested. Soon after that we learn Precious has HIV as well. It’s not soon after this that Precious reveals things to Miss Weiss (but not before stealing her case file, and reads what’s in it with her each one teach one buddies.)

A few months later (Again, hard to tell due to the choppy transitions in this movie) in the social service office the empowered Precious who can now read and write at an eighth grade level has a confrontation with her mother where mom breaks down and confesses to all the abuse Precious has endured. Giving up once confronted by the White establishment, she hands her back Mongol and Precious goes off with her kids and we’re supposed to believe she has hope for a brighter future.


I mean seriously WTF? WHERE’S THE HOPE? HIV IN 1987 is a DEATH SENTENCE. AZT which was STILL IN CLINICAL TRIALS hasn’t been RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC YET. (It was released in 1990 for prescriptions). THE DIVISION OF AIDS SERVICES IN NYC HASN’T BEEN ESTABLISHED YET. In reality, due to the lack of financial resources, medical resources and medical technology back then, po’ Precious would have GOTTEN FULL BLOWN AIDS AND DIED in 1988 or 1989 and her kids would wind up WARDS OF THE STATE or BACK WITH MARY WHO WOULD HAVE MILKED THE HELL OUT OF THOSE KIDS DISABILITES TO GET AL THE GOOD GOVERNMENT BENEFITS. And the most Precious would have gotten for all her hard work was a patch on the AIDS QUILT if Miss Rain could arrange it. (Remember that patchwork of thousands of AIDS victims unfurled every year in DC? It’s currently in storage somewhere at the Smithsonian while the AIDS pandemic continues to claim victims worldwide)

Precious isn’t a deep thought-provoking film. Director Lee Daniels uses exploitative images to deflect the viewer’s attention from shallow storytelling and weak character development. The viewer’s emotions are so caught up watching the graphic violence, profanity, sex, and twisted behavior of the characters that they have no idea they’ve been swindled by a con artist.

Precious isn’t inspiring, nor does it uplift. It’s an emotionally manipulative film that secretly masks a shameless cash grab by a consortium of self-hating uncle toms (Daniels, Sapphire, Fletcher) who with the aid of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry seek to pander to white America and sell them the story about black life they’re most comfortable with. This group of sell-outs laughed all the way to the bank at the expense of Black America; thanks to this film adding to the current trend of degrading images, a generation of brothers and sisters are now going to grow up thinking the behavior in this movie is the rule for black life and not the exception.

What’s even more dangerous than the twisted visuals within Precious are the institutionally racist themes in the undertones of the message in this movie. Underneath the false messages of love and hope, is a message that African-Americans are inferior. In Precious “White” is right; Everyone who approves of Precious is either white or light skinned and without the validation and approval of these individuals she can’t overcome the odds. Dark skinned black people are seen as inhuman, savage, and violent. They only speak in profanities and act like barbarians. Without the help of the white establishment (government services) to educate blacks there’s no way for Precious to become “civilized” functional person. Only when whites love and approve of Precious her can she learn to love herself. What a load of CRAP.

Director Lee Daniels takes his self-hate to a new level of depravity surpassing the degrading images he presented to the public in Monster’s Ball. In between his clumsy and inept visuals we have the same old racist stereotypes from the Antebellum South repackaged in a brand new box. We have the big illiterate who must be saved by the great white society, the fat welfare queen mammy who only speaks in a dialect of profanities, the anonymous faceless black male who is depicted as a monster but never developed as a full character, the nappy headed child who follows Precious around, and the light skinned and white heroes who teach our hero to love herself. Ideas about what black life should be like straight from the Ku Klux Klan from a black man more dangerous to African-Americans than the KKK, Skinheads, and the Aryan Nation combined. Seriously, if Daniels could get$60 million in ticket sales out of brothers and sisters and has the influence to win international acclaim for this patronizing, self-hating, anti-black propaganda, I shudder at what else he could be capable of.

What angers me more than this movie is what transpired behind the camera. Behind the scenes, Mr. Daniels showed a lack of integrity in promoting this film. Knowing that Precious would have African-Americans seen in a negative light, he still released it at Cannes anyway as a “story of hope”. That shows malice of forethought and a depraved indifference to his brothers and sisters in the black community. I truly loathe this man and everything that he stands for. With every film he makes he sets the African-American community back a century. It doesn’t matter that he’s hurt the future of the black community with his movies, he’s got his millions right now.
There’s nothing “Precious” about this movie. It’s pornography masquerading as art.

Anyone with an iota of black pride should avoid this movie and any other Lee Daniels films. They’re TOXIC.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Burn Hollywood Burn,
I smell a riot goin’ on,
Now they’re guilty now they’re gone,
Yeah, I’ll check out a movie,
But it’ll take a black one to move me.

For those of us old enough to remember the old PE Jam Check it out on YouTube
Not anymore.

The classic Public Enemy rap jam had the right idea. Hollywood needs to Burn. Burn in Hell. The recent trend in movies depicting African-Americans as po’ desperate nigras is so racist and offensive I want to head to L.A with some torches.

Seriously, movies like The Green Mile, Monster’s Ball, Precious, The Blind Side, and the upcoming Frankie & Alice make me mad.

Scratch that, they ENRAGE ME.

Why? This new trend of movies featuring images of po’ downtrodden nigras™ make me sick to my stomach. In allegedly enlightened White liberal Hollywood there seems to be a patronizing attitude towards African-Americans showing up onscreen lately. In the undertones of the films I’ve mentioned is an underlying message that African-Americans aren’t intelligent people capable of making their own way in life without a white savior. It’s a condescending view of Blacks and black life that the rest of the world should have outgrown in its media when Diff’rent Strokes was cancelled.

I thought America was moving past these types of exploitative movies when The Cosby Show debuted to blockbuster ratings in 1984 when I was 11 and filmmakers like Spike Lee, Robert Townsend and Mario Van Peebles were crafting films with more balanced images of Black life a few years later when I was a teenager.

Unfortunately, instead of their work ushering in a new golden age of Black cinema that takes brothers and sisters to the next level cinematically and elevates the black consciousness, Hollywood is turning the clock back to the good ol’ pre-1984 days of hustlin’ jive ass-niggers, pimps, hoes, big fat loud mouth mammies, shufflin’ uncle toms and every other racist stereotype ever depicted featuring African-Americans onscreen in the past century in brand new shiny packages.

Hollywood 2010 feels a lot like Hollywood back in 1930.

It’s frustrating to watch as black people who should know better like Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey make and produce this nonsense.

It’s more frustrating to watch as film critics hail these racist movies as well-made films and laud them with praise.

It’s even more frustrating to watch as black actors and actresses proudly win industry Awards for playing embarrassing and degrading roles.

But what angers me most of all are the masses of brothas and sistas PAYING MONEY TO SEE THIS SHIT INSTEAD OF PROTESTING IT.

Is black America as a group so broken and dysfunctional that it doesn’t stand up and speak out anymore? Do black people have any dignity? Or has BET sapped it all away with its ignominious portrayals of black life?

It hurts my heart to watch as a generation of young brothas and sistas drink in the poison within narrow-minded images in these movies as a picture of what black life should be. I’m mortified knowing many will grow up believing these stereotypes and institutionally racist pathos are how “normal” black people live.

It saddens me that a generation of brothas and sistas won’t grow up like I did and be blessed to watch a Cosby Show, a Fresh Prince, a Roc, a Sister, Sister, or a Smart Guy and see that there’s a world of hardworking, competent, functional black people who don’t live in a ghetto. What’s worse is that because brothas and sistas don’t have these images in front of them they won’t come to think that anything is possible if they set their mind to it.

Almost two years after helping to elect the first African-American president, the liberal hypocrites in Hollywood refuse to promote any new, positive images of African-Americans in their movies or TV shows. Instead of “changing” of their images of blacks in media to reflect the man they helped put in the White House, they arrogantly they continue to perpetuate a blackout of African-Americans on network TV and perpetuate the most racist stereotypes in feature films and cable television.

All while stating they’re “not racist”.

Fuck Hollywood. Let’s make our own movies.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Okay, I have a question for everyone out there:

Does anybody read this thing?

Or am I typing into cyberspace to the chirps of crickets?

Do I have an audience of readers?

Where is everybody?

I sometimes wonder how many people actually come to this blog. Who are my readers? Where do they come from? Do they like what they read? Or do they hate it?

Over the past couple of years the comments section has been well…dead.

However, since I’ve been writing the Hollywood and screenwriting stuff I’ve been getting some traffic. A blip. Should I continue to write those types of articles? Is anyone buying my books as a result of reading this blog? Checking me out on Twitter? Facebook?

I’d love to hear more from readers. I’d like to get to know you better. Take a minute and post a comment. Let me know what you’re thinking.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All About the Kindle

All About Marilyn is now available in the Kindle format on So for all the ebook readers out there, now you have the option of buying Marilyn and downloading it to your kindle, nook, ipad or other electronic reading device for the low low price of $9.99.

This is the first book I’ve published in both electronic and print versions. I’m hoping to get The Cassandra Cookbook on Kindle soon as I fix some spelling and grammar issues.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I've got a best seller - I think

I’ve got a best seller! I’ve got a best seller!

Well, for a couple of days.

I recently found out All About Marilyn was in the top 100 list of best-selling screenplays on Last Saturday it was #38th top seller in the Screenplay category. Is it a best-seller? Could it be a best seller? Hey, I don’t know until the royalty report comes in. I just take the good news as it comes.

I’m just pleased to have a script that competes in paperback sales with scripts by heavyweights such as Quentin Tarentino and Kevin Smith. It speaks volumes about how strong this script is and how far it's grown from it's self-published roots.

Amazon’s listings aren't the New York Times, but I’m proud to know Marilyn is doing better than any title I’ve produced in my short career. I’m hoping I can build on the momentum and get the word out about this story; I feel it’s one of the best books I’ve written.

I’m urging everyone to go out and get themselves a copy of All About Marilyn. It’s a great story and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book #5 Teaser

I’m making more progress on Book #5 than Book #4–

Okay, enough of the secrecy.

I always play my cards real close to the vest when it comes to upcoming titles. I usually don’t want to spoil the reveal for readers. This isn’t final art; just a quick sketch and some Photoshopping of what I’d like for Book #5’s cover. (TEASER IMAGE COMING UP!)

All About Nikki is the companion to All About Marilyn. It’s written in the screenplay format and the storyline for the First Season is split among eleven episodes. (Truncated from 14 episodes due to page counts) The concept is The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Meets Clueless. It’s written and designed for a Tween/YA audience, so there’s no profanity, sex or any adult themes. But there are plenty of laughs. Nikki is a sitcom, and jokes come with the medium.

The draft for this cover art uses the same abstract style as Marilyn, but adds a splash of Tiffany-esque color to the mix. I couldn’t use the official Tiffany blue (trademarked) so I substituted light blue for it.

The concept for this book is DVD boxset meets paperback. Just like in Marilyn, there will be bonus material to help aspiring screenwriters learn the proper form for writing their own TV episodes.

I’m excited about this book; it’s a project that kinda came out of nowhere when I was editing All About Marilyn. I wanted to do a couple of bonus Nikki episodes for the back of Marilyn, but the writing went in its own direction. By the fall of 2009 I had 14 episodes completed and Nikki got her own book.

I’m cleaning up the grammar and working on the layouts for the cover and the interior. It should be ready for print by the end of this year or next year. Season 2 is in the works as we speak.

Now I only have to get my finances in order for a print run…

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thoughts on Tyler Perry

Thoughts on Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry is a very gifted man. I respect what he’s trying to do as a playwright and a film-maker.

I just don’t like how he’s doing it.

My issues with Perry regarding his films are his lack craft when it comes to screenwriting. What’s worse is he’s making no efforts to improve the quality of his writing. Almost ten films in and he still hasn’t grown enough in his craft to effectively tell a story on the screen. After seeing him make a series of disastrous mistakes in the recent Why Did I Get Married Too I can no longer support his films.

Perry continues uses a stage play model for his films and this is hampering the quality of his work as a film-maker. Using the stage model for storytelling in his screenplays slows down the pace of his films and prevents him from effectively telling a story onscreen. Screen and stage writing are two different performance mediums; each has its own unique structures and form for storytelling. Perry needs to learn the basics about screenwriting before making another film.

Perry’s first mistake in writing his screenplays is telling instead of showing. On stage, characters can tell the audience about fine ladies going to church, Drug dealers selling crack in the neighborhood or a woman being slapped. On film, these expository sequences DRAG a film to a CRAWL. It’s BORING.

For film to have an IMPACT on the audience they need to SEE the church ladies in THEIR SUNDAY BEST PASTEL SUITS headed up the steps of the FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, the audience needs to SEE the CRACK DEALERS ON THE CORNER OF FIFTH STREET PEDDLING ROCK. They need to SEE the WIFE BEING BACKHANDED BY HER HUSBAND FOR BURNING THE DAMN GRITS AGAIN.

Films are about ACTION. They’re about SHOWING what’s going on NOW. The actions the people take in a screenplay NOW define their CHARACTER. On film, CHARACTER is what people DO not what they SAY. There’s no need to TELL the audience what’s going on, SHOW THEM.

Second, Perry’s plots and storylines are weak. Again, this is because he insists on using a stage model for the screen. In a stage play a writer can have several storylines going on at once. However, on film, the main storyline has to get started FIRST, and the SUBPLOTS later. Movie audiences need to know immediately: Who is the main character? What do they want? What’s keeping them from getting what they want? And more importantly: WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

In most of Perry’s films there is little to no focus on the main character in the first ten minutes of the film. We meet supporting characters like Madea, Joe, Mr. Brown…and then ten or twelve minutes later the main character shows up to start the movie’s primary storyline. This confuses viewers. It prevents the audience from getting to know the main character and caring about their story.

Seriously, Perry needs to introduce us to the main character in the first frame of the film, and let that character show the audience what she wants to achieve BEFORE bringing in Madea, Joe or Mr. Brown.

Third, Perry’s dialogue doesn’t work on the screen. His characters talk too much, and in many cases they talk about nothing. In a stage play dialogue can say exactly what they’re doing, but in a screenplay it’s called “on the nose” and it’s a sign of a bad screenwriting.

In a screenplay, dialogue has more than one purpose. Dialogue in a screenplay not only advances the plot, but it reveals the characters to the audience. Dialogue shows the audience a character’s personality, their “voice”; the words they use have a subtext. The audience has to read between the lines of what they’re saying to get to know them and what they’re really about.

Fourth, Perry doesn’t develop his characters into three-dimensional people. In most of his films characters are either one extreme, good or bad. This one-dimensional portrayal of people turns most of the characters in his films into caricatures, not real people the audience can identify with and relate to on a human level. In real life people aren’t black or white, good or bad, they’re shades of gray. And it’s these various shades of gray that create depth, texture, and layers and give characters a unique complexity that intrigue viewers.

Because of this lack of complexity in Perry’s characters, the people in his movies come out of the story at the conclusion just like they went in at the beginning. No one ever learns a lesson from their experiences, issues and conflicts are never really dealt with, and the audience never sees anyone growing into a stronger person from their ordeals. In most Perry movies, the heroine never really does anything to help herself; the man of their dreams beats the bad guy, sweeps her off her feet, they get married and live happily ever after. Real life isn’t that simple.

And neither is life in good movies.

In good films, characters undergo irreversible changes at the climax of the story. These turn of events transforms the characters into people who are totally different than the people who started at the beginning of the film. It makes the audience think about what they’ve seen and drives the writer’s message home.

Now my other series of beefs with Perry are his lack of craft as a filmmaker. His sequences are often clumsy. In his films a series of scenes don’t lead into another sequence of scenes and these transitions prevent the story from being told effectively onscreen.

Perry often shoots his films similar to the way his stage plays are filmed in a “Master Shot”. While a “Master Shot” works well for a stage play, shooting action on film is different. Action in one scene takes place with numerous shots: Pans, close-ups, Cut, smash cuts, A single scene in a movie is made up of twenty or different frames of film, not just one or two. Action is going on all around the viewer, and they need to see it all. Perry needs to invest in a good cinematographer and film editor so his stories have a distinct feel that is clearly Tyler Perry.

Tyler Perry has come a long way, and I respect the brotha for that. But he really needs to take some time to learn more about the craft of screenwriting instead of churning out poorly written and poorly made films for black audiences. Short-term he’s making lots of money on audiences of desperate black moviegoers starved for product by providing a large quantity of movies. But he’s hurting the long-term quality of his brand.

Perry can’t build his studio’s reputation on just films and television series from his stage plays. To expand his business, he needs to further develop his skills and craft. Perry has to transition out of a “stage” mindset into a “screen” mindset. That’s going to require that he learn an entirely new set of skills.

To get in a “screen” mindset I’d suggest Perry read Syd Field’s Screenplay for starters. And Follow it up with Robert Mckee’s Story. Then I’d suggest he read some classic screenplays like Sunset Boulevard, The Hustler, Marty, Big, Chinatown, Summer of ’42, Training Day and Do The Right Thing so he can learn how a good screenplay’s storyline is structured, and how characters are developed.

Instead of insulting Spike Lee, I feel he should listen to the brother’s criticisms. Lee has over 25 years of experience and knows how films work. His movies are classics. His comments about “coonery” are valid. The African-American audience is diverse and there is more than one “black” experience; Perry needs to learn about what his audience wants. Long-term, Perry’s single-minded focus on entertaining the “Southern chitin circuit” with urban stories about downtrodden women won’t help him get the national and international support needed to expand his expand his burgeoning film studio into a competitive media enterprise. To take his business to the next level, he’s going to have to offer audiences something other than Madea.

In addition to hearing Lee out, Perry needs to network and hire other black directors like Debbie Allen, the Hudlin Brothers, the Hughes Brothers, Denzel Washington and F. Gary Gray. Learn some tricks from seasoned cinematographers like Ernest Dickerson. Talk to seasoned screenwriters like Spike Lee and Keenan Ivory Wayans, Robert Townsend and Darryl Roberts. Film-making and screenwriting are crafts. The more he learns from people who have been there, the better quality of films he can provide for the African-American community.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sabotaged Book Promotion- Where Do I Go from Here?

Unfortunately, my second attempt at an appearance on the radio with Dr. Thompson to promote All About Marilyn was sabotaged by paranoid insecure family members. I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity like this again. I’m trying to figure out where I’m going from here.

I wish I could get everyone to understand how hard it is for self-published authors to promote books. Most bookstores don’t want to stock self-published books on the shelf, due to their inability to return them. Readers are often wary of self-published titles after being burnt by other self-published titles with poor writing and even worse grammar. Reviews are almost impossible to get. It’s an uphill battle, but three books in I was making progress.

For this book to get the interest of one talk radio show spoke volumes about how strong it was in terms of the quality of the writing and the topic I was presenting. The show targeted the core audience for the book; African-American women. It was my shot at taking my writing to the next level.

And it was blown by insecure people who have no idea how the publishing industry works.

Talk radio interviews are an opportunity for an author to sell their product and themselves. I’d perfected the pitch for this book; I was using it as a platform to get African-Americans talking about screenwriting. There’s a desperate need for more African-Americans to learn this craft. Less than two percent of all the 14,000 screenwriters in the Writer’s Guild of America are African-American. With only 500 writers out of that 14,000 working at any given time, this means less than four people of color are working as screenwriters regularly.

I also wanted to discuss how the lack of black faces behind the camera is affecting what blacks are seeing onscreen. How this shortage of black screenwriters is causing a shortage of material, and how this shortage of quality scripts is leading to a lack of work for black actors and actresses. How a lack of black producers and executives is preventing quality projects from being greenlit, financed and distributed. How black actors and especially black actresses have next to no advocates at the executive level at the six major studios.

I was also going to discuss the drought of quality roles is especially hard for African-American actresses. Marilyn’s story put a human face on all those talented sistas who struggle for work in movies and TV. The story detailed many of the obstacles black women face in the entertainment industry like racism, sexism, misogyny, and studio politics. On the show I wanted to discuss in detail why we don’t see great black actresses in other roles on the movie screen or TV on a regular basis.

Sadly no one is gonna hear me discussing these topics. And they really needed to be discussed in an open forum.

A generation of Brothers and Sistas is growing up with racist movies like Monster’s Ball, Training Day and Precious or poorly made Tyler Perry movies and TV shows as the only images of what it’s like to be African-American. Kids are growing up reading poorly written Street Lit and Erotica believing this is the standard for African-American literature. Instead of our arts taking a step forward with our first Black President, African-American art, media, and culture is taking a huge step back.

I’m really frustrated. I want to bring positive stories to the Black Community. I want to write stories that inspire, uplift and make people think. I want to publish material featuring a diverse array of African-American experiences on the bookstore shelves. But I keep running into roadblocks. From family, and from the black community itself. Everybody’s got money and support for the thugz, ballas, and hustlas and every other black who fits a stereotype, but where are the helping hands for regular hardworking Brothas like me?

I was building strong momentum over the past year from the release of the Cassandra Cookbook into Marilyn’s release. Getting the good reviews, building the network of contacts. Working on my craft to get better at writing. Preparing new titles for future release.

That momentum has all but stopped because I’m trying to figure out a new way to get promotion and sales for my books. It’s hard enough to get books in the hands of readers when they do know about them, harder when they don’t know about them. I’m just wondering where I’m going from here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


When I’m not writing stories or doing research on topics for stories I like to check out what’s going on in comic book land. Since 2008 I’ve been reading a lot of webcomics. These online strips self-published and self-financed by the artists are often better than anything mainstream publishers produce nowadays, and everyone should give them a chance.

Some of my favorites include:

Something*Positive - I got hooked on this strip at my last job and read through two years of in an hour at lunch! It’s one of my favorites!

Girls With Slingshots - Great strip about two girls, a bar, and a talking cactus.

Queen of Wands- An awesome strip by Aerie. It’s finished its run a few years ago, So check out her new strip-

Punch an’ Pie with Chris Daly. Great strip with a lot of laughs!

ShortPacked! Fun strip by David Willis about one of my favorite hobbies- Collecting action figures!

Penny & Aggie- Spent the course of a week getting caught up with this one; Really solid writing and tight storylines featuring complex, three-dimensional characters.

Head Trip Hilarious strip by Shinga. Her artwork here reminds me so Much of Disney Animation!

Webcomic artists like self-published authors make their income off their strips and merchandise from the strip, so support them by buying their books or giving a donation through the PayPal links on their sites. Pens, paper, bandwith, food gas, and lodging don’t come cheap, so if you enjoy the strips, help em’ pay the bills so they can keep making more!

Progress Report

Unfortunately, my appearance for the radio with Dr. Maxine Thompson was cancelled last night. The show will be rescheduled, and I’ll let everyone know when the new date for the show is, probably by using Facebook or Twitter.

It’s been two weeks since I last posted anything; why I’m just writing a progress report and not a topic for the blog. ....

All About Marilyn seems to being doing well out of the gate. Two months after its release I’m getting great reviews and positive feedback from readers. The book is generating a lot of enthusiastic responses from casual viewers; that’s a plus. When a book excites casual buyers, it shows it’s a solid product. ....

I really want to ramp up the promotion on Marilyn; two months into promotion and I still haven’t hit the streets yet. I’ve only been to one bookstore and contacted one vendor in Harlem. There’s been a lot of rain, snow and sleet here in New York. I’m hoping the weather gets better so I can make the rounds to vendors Uptown.

I’m working on a new headshot. Got a new camera and I’m taking pictures. The headshot on the back of Isis and All About Marilyn actually comes from a Post Office ID card I took in 1999. Yep, I was in a hurry way back when I was self-publishing Isis and rushed to find a headshot. I know it’s a little grim looking, but better than anything else I have in my current album.....

Working on revisions for Book #4. Cut down another 3,000 words so the 97,000 word novel is now 94,000 words. I’m working on cleaning up the book’s layout. I like using bigger fonts like Book Antiqua and Garamond; at the 11 or 12 size because it makes stories easier for customers to read and isn’t so hard on their eyes. I also like White space between paragraphs. Now I have to find a way to make sure it costs out. A $16-$18 paperback is a tough sell at retail, even if it’s 400 pages. With a 55% discount at retail it'd be about $14.00. That's a big hit to the wallet. I want to keep my books affordable.

Still haven’t even sketched up the cover design for this project; but I’ve got some ideas floating in my head. Still crunching numbers on hiring an artist for the cover. Yeah, I know models are all the rage for book covers, but I can’t afford a photo shoot right now. Until I find a new job, It’s gonna be illustrated art. Then again if I can’t come up with a cover concept, I may just go with a plain cover like Catcher in the Rye.

My goal for Book #4 is a fall 2010 release. But I may hold back for an early 2011 release. I really want the quality control to be the best it can be for this title.

I’m still learning more about Book promotion; I’m finding that January is the best time to launch a new book. A lot of the independent bookstores are resetting their shelves and looking for new product. Many of the book clubs are starting their reading lists and looking for fresh titles. Readers have money to spend on Gift cards. Bloggers and shows are looking for guests to fill their schedules.

A real article will be posted up here soon. Eventually. Just working on my schedule...