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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 are terrible; 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? What's with all this ANGER? I mean, why can't I ever see a true balanced picture of black-on-black love onscreen? And when did it become wrong to see two black people in love on a movie screen? Seriously, Is it even possible to believe that two black people can love each other since we don't see it at all in the 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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Plagarism Pisses Me Off

Recently, I found out some jerk took my amazon review for Why Did I Get Married Too and passed it off as their own on IMDB. I immediately reported this to their administrators and I hope they delete it off their page.

I know that when you put your writing on the net, anyone can read it. I also understand that anyone can copy what they see on the web and use it in any way they wish. But it boils my blood when someone takes my writing and tries to pass it off as their own. It shows a lack of talent and a lack of class. I put a lot of hours into my writing and a lot of years into developing my web presence, and it pisses me off when someone steals something I’m trying to share with readers and presents it as something they wrote.

So to all those who read my writing: Whether it’s a blog post, my reviews on amazon, or an excerpt from one of my books, if you cut and paste it onto another site or use it without giving me credit or a link, it’s plagiarism.

Knowing how to use Ctrl +X and Ctrl+V do not make you a writer. It only means you have a rudimentary knowledge of how to use Microsoft Windows. And that’s not going to take you far in the writing world. Sooner or later you are going to get caught like Jayson Blair, James Frey or Kaavya Viswanathan.

Taking someone else’s writing and passing it off as your own is not writing. It’s stealing. If I find out anyone is doing this with any of my work I will report it to the webmaster or whoever is in charge of that site. Furthermore I will ask them to remove the writing citing Federal copyright laws.

If anyone in cyberspace wants to use my materials, please ask for my permission through an e-mail, private message on IMDB, or by contacting me through the comments section of my blog. My blog is clearly listed on my amazon profile page. There’s no reason to steal from me. I’m willing to share my work on any forum if I’m given credit for it.

There will be another Blog this Saturday night. It will be 100% written by me.

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.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Harlem Book Fair 2010

Okay, I'm back from the 2010 Harlem Book Fair. It was an okay show this time around. Networked with some people, and promoted my three books. Lowered prices and offered free cupcakes. (No takers on the cupcakes)
A fun moment was when I met two readers of my blog (Didn't know this area of cyberspace was that popular)
This year Bought a Gazebo so my family (YAY FREE LABOR!) wouldn't broil in the 90 degree sun. Glad they were there to support me. (I have to thank my brother for providing the skirt that made my table look elegant and polished!)

Our new improved table! 100x better than last year!

Our intrepid writer hawking his wares at the fair.

Unfortunately, A strong wind turned our tent into junk. Had to cut my appearance short as and family was getting headaches from the heat. (ALWAYS TREAT YOUR LABOR RIGHT OR YOU'LL PAY DEARLY!)

At the end of the day, we sold one copy of Isis. Six hours of work, with more effort an improved table, and free treats for customers and I sold the same amount of books as as last year! YAY!

Bad News:

The Cassandra Cookbook is on its way out of print. It's been out for two years and it's made no scratch. Isis sells well, and Marilyn is selling well, but poor Cassandra isn't pulling her weight sales wise. I loved writing this book, but I can't afford to keep it in print. So if anyone wants one, GET IT NOW!

More Bad News:

I won't be doing the fair again. Walking around the grounds today I realized It's not my market. 98 percent of the fair is Urban/Street lit and my Contemporary fiction titles don't fit in that venue. As much as I'd like to offer readers a positive alternative to Urban/Street lit at the HBF, I just can't afford it. With money tight (no job right now) I'm focusing my limited resources on venues where I can get new readers. And Since most of my readers come from the web, it'll be more facebook/Twitter stuff from now on.

Will I release my other two titles? Yeah, but I'll be scaling back promotion on those books. This year I scaled stuff back for All About Marilyn and it actully sold more copies So for my newer titles this means fewer review copies going out for review (Book clubs who took titles and didn't read/review them will not get another or another request for submission!) and fewer promotional copies will be given out to vendors/readers. Self-publishing costs money and with this recession (Depression) with no end I have to save money for job search/day-t0-day living.

Writing is becoming less of a job and returning to a hobby...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I’ll be attending the Harlem Book Fair at table R11 on 135th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard Saturday, July 17, 2010. I’ll be offering autographed copies of Isis, The Cassandra Cookbook, and All About Marilyn. The prices will be cheaper than most magazines! Heck, they'll be cheaper than dinner at most fast food restaurants!

So if you’re in New York City make a day of it! Come on down to the village of Harlem and:

  • Meet an obscure, unknown, self-published published writer!
  • Get an autographed book from an unknown, obscure self-published writer!
  • Get your picture taken with the same unknown, obscure self-published writer if you bring your own camera!
  • Ask him questions about his books and the thankless and not-so lucrative world of self-publishing. (Hint: DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB FOLKS!)
  • Help a struggling unemployed brotha pay his bills by buying a book! (Or at least break even on the table this time!)

So remember, Shawn’s going to be attending The Harlem Book Fair Saturday July 17, 2010 at table R11. Mark your Calendars!

And remember folks, each book you buy at this fair helps Shawn towards his goals of publishing new titles, keeping old ones in print, (THE PLUG WILL BE PULLED ON THE CASSANDRA COOKBOOK IF HE GETS NO TAKERS THIS YEAR!), and attending the Circle of Sisters Expo as a Vendor!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

NAACP endorses the legalization of the sale of Marijuana-ARE THESE NIGGERS CRAZY?

I read that the California NAACP is endorsing a measure to legalize the sale of marijuana citing “the disproportionate arrest rates for black men.”


I’m no advocate for the failed war on drugs, but legalizing marijuana will not change these “disproportionate arrest rates among black men.” It’s shortsighted to believe that legalizing marijuana and taxing it will stop the systematic oppression of black men. If anything, legalizing marijuana will further lead to the further oppression of black people.

The NAACP has it wrong. Black men don’t only get arrested for drug possession, they also get arrested due to numerous crimes committed while using marijuana. Domestic violence, sexual assaults, rapes, robberies, and even murders. In many cases individuals smoke weed before going out to commit crimes. To quote what I hear from people on the street: “When people get high, they do stupid shit.”

So does the NAACP realize what it’s advocating? Marijuana lowers people inhibitions. The side effects of marijuana use include impaired judgment, anxiety, and paranoia that leads to violent and dangerous behavior. Does the NAACP want more black people to have access to a product that turns functional brothers and sisters into unstable, irrational people who commit crimes? Has the NAACP read about the numerous mentally imbalanced brothers and sisters killed by police while on a drug-induced rampage? Have they read about the families who are torn apart by weed use?

But I guess the NAACP believes it’s more beneficial for the black community to suffer disproportionately from violent crime than for a few black men to do time for possessing a controlled substance.

Then there are the side effects of Marijuana on a person’s health. What most weed smoker’s don’t know is that one joint has the tar and nicotine of a PACK of cigarettes. A single blunt has the tar and nicotine of a CARTON of cigarettes. So brothers and sisters who smoke weed are more likely to get bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer at an earlier age. Does the NAACP want to promote a product that is detrimental to the health of African-Americans?

But I guess the NAACP believes it’s more beneficial for the entire black community to suffer disproportionately from a variety of health problems related to a toxic product than a few black men to do time for possessing a controlled substance.

Marijuana use is also known to trigger schizophrenia in individuals whose families have a history of mental illness. In other individuals it’s known to alter their brain chemsistry that they become mentally unstable. The paranoid and dangerous behavior from mentally unstable marijuana users will lead to an increase in violent crime. Does the NAACP want to promote a product that will increase the violent crime rates among African-Americans? Does the NAACP wish to promote a product that is synonymous with turning functioning individuals into mentally ill wards of the state? Do they understand that caring for mentally ill brothers and sisters who become wards of the state will COST taxpayers money instead of these individuals PAYING into the system?

But I guess the NAACP believes it’s more beneficial for more black people to suffer disproportionately from mental illness than for a few black men to be arrested for possession of a dangerous substance.

In addition to damaging the brain, Marijuana can damage a woman’s reproductive system and causes a number of birth defects in children once they are born. These can range from learning disabilities like ADHD, to mental retardation. Does the NAACP really want to see more African-American children in special education classes?

But I guess the NAACP believes it’s more beneficial for more black children to suffer disproportionately from learning disabilities than for a few to be arrested for possession of a dangerous substance.

So that proposed legal marijuana isn’t as harmless as the California NAACP thinks it is. Yeah, short-term a few people (none of them black) will make money from opening smoke shops and selling herb to people. The state will receive a few tax dollars on the side as a kickback. And a few black men might not go to jail for drug possession (I’m sure the American legal system will find something else to charge them with like violating Federal Interstate Commerce Law or some other trumped-up charge). But the passage of this law won’t lead to the advancement of colored people. If anything, it’s gonna set brothers and sisters back to the Stone Age.