Monday, March 31, 2008

Reviving a Tennessee William's Classic

Last week, I had the honor of witnessing one of the best casts to ever perform in a Broadway play. Of course, this is of my own opinion, and since I've seen a very limited number of plays (I'm more of a musical kinda gal) on Broadway (A Raisin in the Sun with Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/ Sean Combs, and Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington), my opinion probably doesn't hold much weight. However, many reviewers agree that the ensemble performing Tennessee William's classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, is stellar.

The cast made history by being the first all-African American cast to take on the play on Broadway. This June, I expect Tony nods for the phenomenal performances by James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard, and the fabulous Anika Noni Rose.

Rose was amazing as Maggie the Cat. Sexually frustrated, but determined to win back her husband, Anika Noni Rose's monologue in the first act left me breathless. She commanded the stage from her very first line.

Terrence Howard is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. His performance as Brick, the alcoholic ex-athlete, was as wonderful as I expected it to be. He makes it look effortless.

I was lucky enough to meet both Anika Noni Rose and Terrence Howard after the show. It was so worth standing in the cold, New York air.

While I did not meet James Earl Jones, I did get his signature on my Cat on a Hot Tin Roof window card, along with several of the other stars. Big thanks to the cool stage hand who took my poster and Playbill backstage. Not like he'll ever see my blog, but I feel better thanking him. :)

If there is any chance in the world for you to get tickets to this show, it is worth the trip to New York. It is not to be missed.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Perils of the Internet

The Internet can be a dangerous, dangerous thing.

No, I'm not talking about the MySpace predators Chris Hansen exposes on Dateline, or the scammers stealing your credit card numbers. I'm talking about the dangers of good-natured blogs (like my own), romance review sites and message boards, and, with its full episode online feature that allows me to watch Grey's Anatomy all day long.

You see, this week, I'm working full days at my day job. Usually, I leave around noon, find a coffee shop, and write for about three hours. This week, my co-worker and I did a little switcheroo. I'm covering her while she's visiting a friend in New York City, and next week she'll return the favor while I play Big Apple Tour Guide to 60-plus high school drama students and their chaperons from my old high school.

Even though I have all intentions of bringing my laptop and writing my heart out while in NYC, we all know how these trips turn out. So, to give myself a bit of a cushion, I've hauled my laptop, word processor, and notepad to work everyday this week, determined to write.

Over the past two and a half days, my output has been exactly two paragraphs.

*insert overly dramatic sigh*

I'm not sure how it happens, but I go to check one email and it turns into three hours of hopping from website to website. Now, I could blame this on my severe lack of discipline, but I'd rather blame in on the lure of the Internet and all its extremely interesting content.

I cannot wait to get back to the pay-by-the-minute wifi of the coffeeshop. The Internet is cool, but not cool enough for me to pay for it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Inn" the Holiday Spirit!

Yeah, I know Christmas was just a few months ago, but I'm definitely feeling the holiday spirit now that I have a cover for my very first holiday story!

A CHANGE OF HEART, my contribution to an anthology featuring fellow Dorchester authors Phyllis Bourne Williams and Stefanie Worth, will be released in October, 2008 as part of THE HOLIDAY INN.

In A CHANGE OF HEART, husband and wife, Derek and Chandra Stovall, come to the Inn to say one last good-bye before giving up on their 20-year marriage, but when a snowstorm leaves them stranded, the romantic surroundings reignite their banked desire.

Here's the great cover:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Racism and Romance

I've debated whether or not to post about this very touchy subject on my very non-controversial blog, but it has come up several times this week, and has just been on my mind lately.

Author Tess Gerritsen has a very interesting blog post highlighting the case of author Millenia Black. Tess gives a very concise description, so I'll simply quote from her blog post. I do encourage all to hop over to her blog to read the post in its entirety, and also click Tess's link to Monica Jackson's blog. Monica has done a tremendous job in bringing the issue of segregation in the writing (specifically romance writing) community to the forefront.

Here's the gist of the Millenia Black situation, per Tess Gerritsen:

Author Millenia Black (pen name) wrote a book called THE GREAT PRETENDER. The characters in the book were not African American. The book first appeared as a self-published novel, with a cover depicting two wedding rings in flames, and it sold well enough to attract the attention of a mainstream publisher (Penguin) as well as foreign publishers. Translation rights were sold to Turkey and Poland. Penguin soon learned that the author was African American and decided to market THE GREAT PRETENDER as an African-American novel, with a cover design depicting two non-white women. This was done against the author’s wishes.

Now the author has sued. She feels that being categorized as an African-American author has limited her sales and has banished her books to the “African American literature” section, rather than the general fiction area, of bookstores.

Of course, I have very strong opinions on this subject since I fall into the category of authors whose books are segregated based on my race, instead of being shelved with the rest of the books in my genre. I understand Millenia Black's frustration. It is extremely safe, though unfortunate, for me to assume that the vast majority of the romance reading population will never read my book simply because they will never find it while browsing the shelves of their favorite bookstore. I believe they would enjoy the story. It's is, after all, a romance novel, with the same elements of love, heartbreak, and the eventual happily ever after romance readers expect in their stories.

But, my characters happen to be black. Their skin color isn't referenced on every other page. In fact, I think it is mentioned only a couple of times in the entire book. Yet, even in the year 2008, that one fact will make it virtually impossible for my romance novel to reach a huge percentage of the audience for which it was written.

Over the past week or so, I've wondered what difference does it make to talk about this issue on blogs. Anyone with an inherent sense of equality would have to agree that segregating books based solely on race, which is the policy with several national booksellers, is wrong. But it has been that way for some time now, and I do not see it changing.

I should stress that I've seen this mainly with African American writers. Tess Gerritsen is Asian American. So is another of my favorite romance authors, Gennita Low. Not only are their books shelved with the rest of the books in their genre, but these two non-white authors are allowed to write about white characters. I have three completed novels featuring white characters, but have been told by some in the industry that I will have a hard time selling them if I don't change the characters' race to African American. How blatantly unfair. But it is reality.

Will this blog post and countless others on this subject make a difference? Those ultimately responsible for changing these practices--the booksellers and publisher marketing deparments--will never read my blog. Will it take a lawsuit like Millenia Black's to make some in this industry stand up and pay attention? Is there enough incentive for things to change? After all, publishers are still making some money off of their African American romance writers. Does it really matter that this practice of segregation is stifling the careers of African American authors?

Today, instead of raging against the unfairness of it all (and, believe me, this post was not written in a fit of self-righteous rage), I've decided to just sit back and ponder what it would be like if this world were truly as forward-thinking as many believe it to be.