Friday, August 27, 2010

My heart belongs to someone else

What if you could have two soulmates?

When we come of age, before our first relationship, we're told that one day we'll meet the one person who will complete us.  That there's one person who we will be compatible with, who will have the same values and life goals, one who will be like our lover and our best friend.  What if that's not true?  What if we are meant to be with two people for the rest of our lives?  Not two at once (I do not advocate living like Big Love); but what if in one lifetime there are two people who will complete you?

Let's say a girl is dating two guys.  Both match the girl in different ways:

Guy #1: Personality, Interests, Desire to travel, Career goals, Sense of humor

Guy #2: Family goals, Work ethic, Desire to settle down, Faith, Values

Is having similar values more important than similar interests?  Or is it more important to have the same career goals than it is to have the same goals for your family life?  Its hard to say.  So I ask you this: If you had a choice between the characteristics that match with Guy #1 vs. those that match with Guy #2, which would you choose?

My response is: Why choose?  How long should you have to wait before you meet one person with all the qualities that you are looking for in a mate?  I wager that you don't necessarily have to wait; different people can be your soulmate/true love in different times of your life.

I asked my friend Khalid if he could help me look into this true love concept further.  He reviewed a few works of fiction to explore this idea using some characters you might be familiar with:

Many different genres of media/film have depicted this notion of a true love conflict to entertain our minds and tease our hearts.  

Example 1: X-men (Marvel Comics)
The relationship of Wolverine/Logan, Cyclops/Scott Summers, Phoenix/Jean Grey

This story, like all other true love tales, focuses around the generic love triangle that envelops its readers/viewers with its captivating drama and somewhat thrilling suspense.  You have Scott and Jean who are childhood friends and have grown amongst each other for years.  To Jean, Scott represents all that is simple, structured, and secure within her social world.  She is familiar with Scott:  she knows his background, his past relationships, his family, maybe even his credit history, lol.  Now enters the rogue element of Logan.  He carries that cool, bad boy charm that girls and women classically fall victim to time and time again.  With Logan and jean, a small attraction could be identified from a moment's glance.  Each of these men are desirable for Jean, however it is the manly competition of Scott that keeps the interest in Logan from progressing as strongly as it could.

Now let's try to break down this situation in reference to our true love dilemma.  Which particular male mate is more apt to suit Jean?  Disregarding the actual outcome illustrated by Marvel as to which suitor she chooses, it can be interpreted that both mates are somewhat destined for her.  Both carry positive and desirable characteristics.  And above all else, they both share a passion for Jean that is incomparable to any other character within the X-Men series.  So what really made Jean choose Scott over Logan?  Laying all the facts down, the only clear distinction that could have made a difference is that Scott met Jean first!  It was Jean's commitment that she felt she made to Scott early on within their lives that prevented her from allowing Logan to pursue her more fervently.  In layman's terms......Jean just didn't want to be seen as a whore within the series, lol.  But let us not divert our attention from the fact that the viewers and readers, due to society's influence on just and plausible relationships, had a hand in convincing good old Stan Lee into illustrating that these particular love birds end up with each other.  However, is it really true love when a couple like Jean and Scott end up together...even though there is another person out there with the same capabilities to make Jean happy?

Let's examine another example:

Example 2: The Dark Knight (Batman - the movie version)
The relationship of Batman/Bruce Wayne, Rachel, Harvey Dent/Two Face

In this story, you have Bruce Wayne who transforms himself into the trained, masked vigilante of Batman.  An individual armed with advanced technology, weaponry, martial arts, and his unsurpassed intelligence set out to rid crime within his hometown city.  However as Bruce Wayne, he is a charming multi-billionaire who owns most of the city and businesses within it.  The social drama within this tale comes full circle with the involvement of Bruce's past time sweetheart, Rachel Dawes, and her attraction to Bruce and established lawyer, Harvey Dent.  In this scenario, you can see the same situation that has developed within the X-Men series where Harvey is playing the role of the safe, committed lover and Bruce as the faithful but rugged/reckless lifelong companion.

Now the writer of this story has mixed around some points that were acknowledged in the previous examination of the X-Men characters.  With Bruce being the initial love interest for Rachel, why is it that as the story progresses she finds herself in the arms of Harvey Dent?  Why is Bruce not accepted as Rachel's true love???  The answer is the persona of Batman.  Devoted to his duty to protect not only Rachel but everyone within his city of Gotham, Bruce's obligation to serve as Batman conflicts with the idea of him living his life happily with Rachel.  Harvey, who on a broad scale contains decent characteristics and his own charm, can somewhat be seen as a comparable replacement for the caped crusader but because he does not share in the complete responsibility of protecting the entire city he has less to distract him.  Within the movie, Rachel explains in detail that she believes Bruce will always need to be Batman to feel complete within his life and that she doesn't feel that this is conducive for her predicted future lifestyle.  Now let's further examine this.  Does this demonstrate that for true loves to co-exist with each other, no other obstacles must exist?  Is it impossible for true loves to look past each other's personal baggage and/or previous obligations before they can truly be together?  If the man is able to save you from being thrown out of a 10 floor building but not be able to win your heart, is that fair?!

I would like to finally add some notes that I have compiled while randomly interviewing individuals on their thoughts of true loves.  Now these individuals all have different backgrounds and upbringings which make all the opinions valid and colorful to say the least:

True love doesn't exist because if your destined person were to perish or engage their feelings to another, where does that leave you? Alone?

True love doesn't exist because if your destined person is an individual of the same gender as yourself but your beliefs contradict such things....what do you do?  Imagine the same situation for different ethnicities.  Or even ages, perhaps.  What if your true love is an 80 year-old lady with 9 cats while you exist in your roaring twenties. Do the two of you find each other and remain together?

The idea of true love is a pagan idea, or in other words make-believe.  It comes from the belief that there are matching souls for everyone.  However if one of these souls is destined for heaven and the other for can they be matching?  Each individual is in charge of their own soul.  No one is linked to one another for they each have their own ability to choose their destinies.


Thanks to Khalid for this exploration of two soulmates/true love from your perspective.

Leave a comment with your opinions about two soulmates or true love.  Also, leave a comment with your favorite example of the two soulmates scenario.

Jessica Ebony

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Lucky Option: Nicholas Sparks

"Luck is when preparation meets hard work."

I must have heard that phrase a thousand times.  People use it when they give advice to dreamers and they want to encourage the dreamer that one day their efforts will pay off.  However, the idea that Luck is attached to being ready and diligent is an interesting notion.  Traditionally, luck is seen as a random opportunity that is bestowed upon you by some authority with more power.  What does that have to do with preparation and hard work?

Is Luck when you get something that other people think you may not have deserved but it is just handed to you.  Or, perhaps Luck is when you are preparing just as long and working just as hard as everyone else but You are the one who gets the opportunity that others had always hoped for.

Well I question all of these things as I finish reading the novel The Lucky One by the famed author Nicholas Sparks.

He is the wildly successful author who penned The Notebook, Message In A Bottle, A Walk To Remember, Nights In Rodanthe, Dear John, The Last Song, and several other #1 New York Times Bestselling novels.

When most people think of Sparks, they think of love stories.  Beautiful tales about a man and a woman who meet eachother, fall in love, face turmoil, perservere through it and even though they have had hard times, their love sustains them in the end.

Touching, right?  Sounds like a good theme for a movie, doesn't it?  It has been so far.  The titles that I mentioned have all become film options and have ushered in huge crowds to box offices around the world.   That's why many people think of Nicholas Sparks as being lucky.  How else could a business finance major who once owned a company that produced orthopedic products have such a profitable book franchise and movie making career?

One must admit, his stories are formulaic and in one sentence I have described the essence of 6 past novels that he adapted to make some of the world's favorite romantic movies.

Yet, after reading The Lucky One, I have come to realize that Nicholas Sparks isn't quite as lucky as we think he is.

I know nothing of his hard work (which I can assume he works hard) or his preparation.  What I can tell you is that he is a man who draws on the typical Southern small town lifestyle for inspiration and has a gift for storytelling.

The only other Sparks book I have read was A Walk To Remember.  I love this story.  But, I don't love it beacuse it was a beautiful tale about a man and a woman who meet eachother, fall in love, face turmoil, perservere through it and even though they have had hard times, their love sustains them in the end.

I love it because of a few subtle details which I also recognize in The Lucky One:
- the story is set in a small Southern town
- the courtship of its characters involves the outdoors and picturesque scenery
- the stories involve families, not just the two characters who fall in love
- the antagonist is someone or something that annoys/saddens the reader but is also easy to relate to; there is no true evil force, just an unfortunate circumstance
- **My favorite part** the characters possess a Southern charm; there is no forceful nature to the courtships; it is pure and honest while most contemporary authors have steered clear of this approach 

When I think back on all of Sparks' movies that I have seen, this is what reigns true for each one.  I think that any reader/viewer can enjoy a sappy sweet love story.  But the charm attached to Sparks writing style is what makes these stories so special.

Now that I have read my second Sparks story (the movie adaptation will begin filming in the fall, starring Zac Efron) I no longer see Sparks as The Lucky Option.

Like The Lucky One's protagonist, Thibault, Sparks has a gift but he just knows how to use it better than any one else.  He was destined to be a great author, just as Thibault was destined to carry out his search for the girl in his good-luck-charm-photo that saved his life during the war.

Luck might be the marriage of preparation and hard work for some people.  But for Sparks, it is just a matter of a heartwarmingly wholesome formula that gives people hope and warms their hearts.

I look forward to watching The Lucky One when it is released next year.  I also look forward to reading more of Sparks books.

His new novel, Safe Haven, breaks from his traditional genre.  The thriller will be out in the fall and the movie has already been optioned to be adapted as a film.  I wonder if Nicholas Sparks will receive the same praise for his new take on storytelling.

Leave a comment if you disagree and think that Sparks is The Lucky Option when it comes to adapting films.  Or, leave a comment if you enjoyed some of the commonalities that I was drawn to in his books.

Jessica Ebony

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Writer's Secret Weapon: Writers Clubs

So, you want to be a writer, huh?

I hate to break it to you but every one wants to be a writer these days.

Now, I don't say it to be harsh because I obviously want to be a writer too.  However, the fact of the matter is that a great deal of people have decided that they want to be writers lately.  Every celebrity under the Tarpaulin Sky has a book out.  Most of them did not write alone but they sure are making money from it!  Since we see Hollywood making such a profit, us average Joe's and Jane's have decided that we can make money from it too.  

But there is a catch, my friends.  We need to be published, well-marketed, and spend money to make money as an author.  And thats not something that all of us have readily available at our fingertips.

My question is: If we all want to be writers, who can help us achieve this goal?  Who can help us bridge the gap of money and marketing power that these celebrities have used to make them successful authors?

The solution: Writers Clubs

I recently attended the next Writing Workshop in the series conducted by James Taylor where I learned about the best kept secret of an Atlanta writer: the Atlanta Writers Club.  The club president, Clay Ramsey, spoke with us about the benefits of joining this 550 member organization.

The Atlanta Writers Club (AWC) is a group of writers/publicists/agents who get together once a month to discuss their craft, network with one another, and help each other become more successful writers.  They meet on the 3rd Saturday of every month and usually have 2 speakers come into each meeting to present on a wide variety of topics that any potential writer could benefit from.

Ramsey informed us of the services AWC offers to its members (annual dues = $40; student dues = $30!):

  • Workshops held by prominent and knowledgeable writers
  • Lunches/Dinners with writers
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Writing Contests with cash prizes
  • Annual Conference where writers can sit down with an agent who will review their work
    • For most writers who are trying to get their book out into the universe, this is hard to come by.  This is an inexpensive way to have an agent review your work and give you the feedback you need to become successful.  If you cold-call an agent and send them your manuscript outside of a conference like this, they may or may not return it with comments (if they even have the time to look at it and review it).
  • **Best Feature** Access to Critique Groups
    • Critique Groups meet monthly or bi-monthly to edit manuscripts
      • groups are divided by areas of Atlanta and genres of literature
      • writers submit work online one month in advance and receive feedback in front of group
      • manuscripts are edited for grammar and clarity from multiple different perspectives

Now that you know about the benefits of AWC, I'm sure you're asking yourself: What's in it for me? Why should I join their club?

The answer is simple: Any struggle that you have gone through as a writer is something that these people have already been through.  They understand how it feels to be rejected by agents.  They know what its like to re-write your work over and over again.  Who better to receive feedback from than another set of writers?  The opportunity to join their ranks is unique and amazingly affordable.  I'm not sure why any future author would want to pass it up!

After describing his wonderful club to us, Ramsey gave our group a few tips:

"Writing is a solitary process.  Editing requires a group effort.  Have your work edited as much as possible"
"The more you get in a room with an agent and your work, the better."
"Write what you know.  Write what you'd like to know.  Write what you love."
"Read the book The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
   - This book shows writers how to make the first page intriguing enough to impress an agent/publisher.  There is no need to wait until the second chapter or 50 pages into the book for it to catch the reader's attention.

**Most Important Advice** "Develop an Elevator Pitch.  Imagine you are stuck in an elevator with the best agent in the world and you have 30 seconds to tell them what your book is about."
    - In those 30 seconds you must make the agent want to read your work.  The pitch can be one sentence, starting with 'What if...' This one-liner needs to tell the agent why they should read the book, what its about, and why they may want to help you publish/distribute the book.  For example, the pitch for Cast Away would read like this: "What if you are trapped on a desert island and all you have to keep you alive is your survival skills and a beach ball named Wilson."  Maybe that was not the best pitch in the world but you get the idea...

All in all, the second I am done with my first manuscript, I am calling up The Atlanta Writers Club to coach me through the process of becoming a published writer.  It may not be as simple as the process that Chelsea Handler, The Kardashians, and Barack Obama had to go through, but I think I'll be in excellent company with the AWC.

Leave a comment if you know of a Writers Club or another writing organization near you.  Also, leave a comment if you'd like more information on AWC's upcoming events.

Jessica Ebony

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Even More About Nothing with T. Drake

"We love for a while then a light goes,
Took me a while just to write those..."

Wordplay-le, better known as Wale, strikes again with his More About Nothing mixtape.  In the last few years, artists like Lil Wayne, Jeezy, Gucci Mane & Drake have saturated the market with mixtapes.  For a lot of fans, these tracks provide some new music to tide them over until their next album is released.  As a New York transplant I see mixtapes a little differently.

I remember listening to mixtape tracks on NY radio stations when I was growing up.  I never knew at the time that mixtapes were any different than albums but I did know that I was listening to some songs that most people around the country were not exposed to.  My favorites when I was in high school were The Grey Album (produced by Danger Mouse with lyrics from Jay-Z's The Black Album and beats from The Beatles' The White Album) and The G Unit mixtapes (yes, they used to be talented).

I love the idea of a mixtape.  An artist puts out their music that is often more lyrically potent than a commercial LP with beats that have better production value or beats borrowed from other artists. Its a win for the artist because they get to build up their popularity and are still able to perform these songs without the release of a studio album.  Its a win for the fans because the music is free!  To me, its just like blogging.  A writer blogs to get their thoughts out into the universe without worrying about being 'commercial enough' for their consumers to buy their work.  The writer does not need to try to please an editor/publisher/literary agent to get their work read.  However if your content is any good, a blog can help you get a book deal or have more interest from ur readers, much like a good mixtape can lead to better distribution deals, playing bigger shows, and a wider fanbase.

So as I was listening to Wale's 2nd Seinfeld-entitled mixtape (if you haven't checked out The Mixtape About Nothing, you are missing out) I fell in love with the lyrics to The Break Up Song.  I have enlisted my dear friend Justin (also known as T. Drake), a fellow NY transplant and resident music expert, to help me analyze what Mr. Folarin is trying to tell us in this song:

YouTube: Wale - The Break Up Song

When “All I Do” comes in as the melody, you already know this is either going to be a tight track or it’s going to flop stupid hard.  To each their own…it was tight to me.  Let’s take an overall look at this… from the Seinfeld snippet, to the sample, to the lyrics…the track is complete.  

For those of you who don’t know “All I Do”, the one sampled for this mixtape is the Stevie Wonder version.  The ORIGINAL original was done by the Jackson 5 and a cover done by Troop.  

YouTube: Stevie Wonder - All I Do

YouTube: Jackson 5 - All I Do Is Think Of You

YouTube: Troop - All I Do Is Think Of You

That’s the ancestry of the track…the part sampled goes lyrically as such: “All I doo…is think about yooou”…which makes its use in “The Breakup Song” quite tactful. Tactful to the point that the beat/instrumental/musical production (whatever you want to call it) represents the subconscious and the lyrics represent the thoughts… In representing thoughts…simplicity is ESSENTIAL for this track!  First line “See, Breaking up is hard, to move along is even harder.” It’s real life.  Breakups that have emotional ties to them tend to cut past all the life learned complexities of thought and cut to the core of emotions.  From there the track continues to delve into the emotional stresses on an individual level as well as the “post breakup” interaction.  The lyrical recollection of thoughts is not only something personal to Wale (see 1:05 of track) but also applicable to individuals.  The train of thought of this post breakup mentality touches the “essential” thoughts: “wonder who they’re sleeping with”, “we still be friends, right”, “we really shouldn’t but…” things that resonate.

There's so many songs, poems, and stories about breaking up.  This one hits me personally.  As Justin mentioned, the lyrics are simple.  Breaking up can suck.  You always think it will turn out differently. Post break up, you still wonder about the other person. Its unavoidable and it creeps up on us just like Kramer randomly busting into Jerry's apartment after a long day.  Wale captures it honestly in The Break Up Song and for that I appreciate him.

If you aren't already a Wale fan, check out his mixtapes and of course his album: Attention Deficit.

Leave a comment if you can relate to Wale's expressions in The Break Up Song.  Or leave a comment about your favorite Wale lyrics.

Big thanks to Justin for your breakdown of the lyrics.  Check out more from him on The Heroes! Blog or his personal blog Phlocaine.

Jessica Ebony

"Thought this was forever love,
Guess it was just seasonal..."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ABBE: ATL Budding Book-Writers Emerge

I love festivals.

There's something about a festival/conference/expo that excites me. I think its the possibility of getting free t-shirts with cheesy logos, attending workshops lead by motivational speakers, and visiting booths with people selling their work that makes me love them. So when I discovered that the Atlanta Black Book Expo was this past Saturday I made sure I was there.

The 1st Annual Atlanta Black Book Expo (ABBE) was held at the Georgia International Convention Center. The ABBE was started by writers and business professionals who felt that Atlanta authors, publishers, poets, screenwriters, printers, bloggers, and playwrights could benefit from promoting their work together.

As I walked around the Expo I noticed the different creative avenues that the participants used to market their work. I saw everything from

Spoken Word CD's
Raffle Gifts
Elaborate Displays
Business Cards

While I was there, I met some very interesting writers and publishers who were eager to answer my questions about their work:

What genre do you usually write?
"Murder Mystery" "Erotica" "Poetry" "Chick Lit" "Motivational" "Historical Fiction"

What's your motivation for writing?
"Entertainment" "Inspire the readers" "Educate about issues" "Arouse/Excite"

What form of publishing do you use?
"XLibris (Self Publishing)" "CherryMoon Publishing (Self Publishing)"
"Blue Water Press (Small Traditional Publishing)"

How long have you been writing?
"I've been writing for 40 years since retiring from the service." (I was impressed by this answer)

Do you attend a lot of events like this in Atlanta?
"As a poet/performer, I get hired to perform at Spoken Word events around Atlanta."
"No, I just started attending events like this."

The last response surprised me. It should not have (this is only the 1st ABBE) but people have yet to realize how many avenues they have to market their work in Atlanta. I heard this response from nearly every person I talked to at the Expo. I decided to talk to the authors/publishers that I met about Written Mag's Mary B Morrison event, how I look for similar free events on Access Atlanta, and how I review literary events on my blog. Hopefully the writing community in Atlanta will become a little more connected now.

The Expo featured interviews of several authors on a main stage in the center of the exhibition hall so that ABBE attendees could learn more about how these writers overcame the struggles of the industry. They also had several awards that participants won based on the appearance of their displays/marketing tools.

I decided that the ABBE participants deserved some ScatterBrained Writer recognition as well. Here are the winners of my awards:

Best Display
African Violet Productions LLC

Danyel A. Edwards - author, poetess, spoken word artist
Display by Facets of Love
Lakita Garrett - atmospheric consultant

Best Gimmick
I'deyah Books
- 7 year old author!
I'deyah Ricketts wrote her first book at age 4 and now travels around the country promoting her work.

Best Collection of Past Work
Yusef Poole, Esq.
- lawyer/author
Yusef has written several articles in newspapers and local publications which were displayed at his booth. His book Road to Barrister: An Urban Monologue is about his journey as a person who came from a disadvantaged background and ultimately became an Ivy League educated attorney.

Impressive Resume
Roland S. Jefferson
- author
The Damaged Goods author has several reviews from prestigious publications and New York Times Bestselling author Zane on the back cover of each of his novels. I am particularly interested in reading White Coat Fever which is a crime drama set on a black college campus during the Civil Rights Era.

Best Takeaway
Langston John Blaze
- author
I was drawn to this author's table because of the poster for his book The B.E.D.: The Bold, Erotic, and Dangerous.
Check it out, it is racy and intriguing.

Best Promotion
Felicia Coley
- author, shoe blogger
At her table, the first thing you notice is a fabulous pair of shoes! Anyone who purchased a copy of her book How to Stylishly Fall From Grace: Revelations From My Perfectly-Flawed Life was entered into a raffle to win their very own custom-designed bedazzled high heel pumps.

Best Pitch
Cherry Moon Publishing
- self publishing company
Two seconds after I walked up to their booth, I was already asked if I was a writer and how I would like to publish my first book. They market themselves as the self publisher's self publisher helping writers produce copies of their book in order to work towards getting a larger distribution deal in the future. Cherry Moon provides several services including editing, critiquing, and affordable writing classes (which I intend to check out).

Now that I have given out my first set of ScatterBrained Writer Awards, I must encourage you to support the writers who came out to ABBE this year. I am already interested in reading their work and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Leave a comment if any of the writers mentioned in the blog spark your interest.

Jessica Ebony

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Writing in Motion: 500 Days of Summer

Hey everyone!

Terence here from Much Ado About Nothing, to deliver your weekly dose of Writing in Motion! I've been having kind of a rough week so I decided to turn to something that always makes me happy, 500 Days of Summer! I love this movie and I heart the two leads (Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) more than words can express.

How could you not heart these two?

This movie is great for reasons other than the actors. It's a romantic comedy weaved into a coming of age tale told in a non-linear fashion, meaning that it jumps between the 500 days. So one scene you may be on day 12 and leap to day 233 and come right back to day 36. It's a fantastic way to show a relationship which isn't always perfect (cause really, which ones are?).

There is one particular scene that will turn this movie into a new generation classic. Here is how it was originally written in the script:

Tom and Summer are in a LARGE CIRCLE OF PEOPLE at a party. TIME CUTS reveal that Summer is talking with, laughing with, drinking with, and possibly flirting with many of them. Tom notices, smiles, pretends it doesn’t mean anything, but he’s clearly jealous, not in a sexual way but of the attention they’re getting from her. It’s been a while. He misses that attention.

Now what the filmmakers chose to do was film this in split screen showing us Tom (JGL)'s expecations vs the reality. As you can see in the video below, the translation from the screenplay is amazing. The use of split screen to show what he is actually feeling versus what he wants to feel is a bold choice from the filmmakers and paid off.

'500 Days of Summer' Expectations vs. Reality @ Yahoo! Video

If you haven't seen this film, please do so IMMEDIATELY! It's so good and a great way to see that you don't have to go from beginning to end to tell a story.

Bonus Clip: This hilarious parody of Sid and Nancy with JGL playing Nancy and ZD playing Sid.
Cinemash: Sid and Nancy

Friday, August 6, 2010

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is...

Everyday I go to my favorite websites: People Magazine, E Online, Essence Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly to see what the latest news is in the entertainment world. One day I'll highlight my favorite bloggers from each website but for now, I wanted to talk about a cool photo gallery that put up a couple days ago.

20 Classic Opening Lines in Books

To most people, this may just be a collection of openers from boring authors who wrote books you were forced to read in high school.

For me, it means a little bit more than that. When I was growing up, my dad suggested (forced) my brother and I to read the Classics every summer. He said that to stay ahead of the rest of the kids in our college prep school, we needed to become familiar with these books. He assured us that every other kid in our class had already read them. My dad also convinced us that these books would be in our curriculum during the school year.

So every year he would make a list of the books we had to read. Anything written by Dickens, Orwell, or Bradbury was fair game on this list. Every year my brother and I would reluctantly head to the library in search of these books written by old dead guys. My brother would have rather played video games and I would have rather watched endless hours of TV. After we read the books, we had to write a summary on what the book was about, the important themes, etc.

Talk about some nerds, geez.

Like clockwork, we would enter our English class each September and when our teacher mentioned the books that we would focus on for the school year, the Classics we spent all summer pouring over were never on the list. Needless to say, we were pissed.

It was not until late in my high school career that I realized we were fortunate to have read those stories. Not only were they timeless tales, but quite a few of them stay in my head as my favorite books to this day.

We were annoyed with our dad at the time and obviously would have rather spent our summer vacation relaxing, but he tried his best to expose us to important literature at a young age.

Having said that, I will leave you with some of my favorite opening lines from a few of my favorite Classic novels, short stories, essays, and poems:

"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868 (I received this book as a present from my godmother for my Kindergarten Graduation)

"Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door." The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, 1845 (Poe's writing still scares the crap out of me, in a good way)'

'It was a pleasure to burn.'' Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1953

"Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom." Common Sense by Thomas Paine, 1776

"True! - nervous - very, very nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?" The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, 1843

"1801 - I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with." Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 1847 (Stephanie Meyer references this Classic in the Twilight Series)

''It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.'' A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859

"You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings." Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818 (I chose to read this instead of Pride and Prejudice)

To me, these lines are special for a few reasons. They reflect an important issue that the main characters must overcome. They introduce the overall theme that will be revealed in the story. Ultimately, these opening lines expose some of the famous writing style that each of these authors will use throughout the reading.

I liked researching opening lines so much I think I will post my favorite closing lines soon. Leave a comment with your favorite opening line from a Classic or a Contemporary work.

Jessica Ebony

"A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead." The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, 1951

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Find your Boo in the pages of Darius Jones

Have you ever caught yourself in the grocery store walking past the magazines, cook books and greeting cards when all of a sudden your eyes stop? One book draws your attention...with the suggestive title, lovers embracing, and author with a clever pen name.

Some call these books romance novels. Some call them erotica. Whatever you choose to call it, when a book fits that description, you know whats in between the sheets, I mean pages. Do you buy this book? Are you embarrassed? I used to be. But this past weekend, I learned that there is no need for embarrassment when it comes to sex, romance novels, and Mary B. Morrison.

On Sunday, I attended the event Brunchin To Find Your Boo at The Hammond House, an African American arts museum located in the West End in Atlanta. This event was hosted by Written Magazine, a publication in the Atlanta World Daily and 10 other major papers around the country. Written Magazine caters to ravenous readers by highlighting authors, literary work, publishers, and events. The Brunchin To Find Your Boo event intended to give Atlanta readers access to New York Times Bestseller Mary B. Morrison as she released her 15th published book: Darius Jones.

When I registered for this event, I was asked two questions about relationships. I thought wow, I assumed Mary B. Morrison books were just about sex...but I answered the questions anyway:

What makes a soul mate?
When I think of a soul mate, I think of this quote: "True love is your soul's recognition of your counterpoint in another person."

What makes a person dateable? A willingness to do some of the things that you enjoy together; the desire to share new experiences with one another.

When I arrived at the event, we were greeted with yummy Mimosas and gifts! The first gift that I discovered were coasters that had a clever catch phrase: Written: Celebrating the word. Celebrating the reader.

Inside the main room, where the book discussion would take place, we found the newest edition of Written on each seat. This edition focused on 2010 Women of Influence in Publishing. On the cover of the magazine was a collection of books and low and behold, a book by Pearl Cleage was included in the collection. After sitting down we began to play Are you dateable? Bingo.

These were such cute additions to this event! Soon after bingo we were introduced to Mary B. Morrison (she also writes under the pen name: Honey B). I learned a few interesting things about this writer that I did not expect:

  • Her Honey B novels (more racy than the Mary B. Morrison books) are read by many men; she never male bashes, she simply provides tips for relationships
  • She has published an anthology Diverse Stories: From the Imagination of Sixth Graders
  • Her readership ranges in age from women in their 20's to those in their 60's; her oldest reader is 101
  • She sells relationship products on her website and provides workshops called Tell It All where women can get advice from men (instead of just their girlfriends) about their relationships (She can host a workshop in a city near you)
  • She visits the cities she writes about and she does research for the explicit parts of her books
  • In order to gain distribution, she chose self publishing; after a few months she found a literary agent and she began working with Kensington for Mary B books and Grand Central Publishing for the Honey B books; when she started writing there were many black self publishers, that has changed recently
As an author and business woman, I must say I was impressed by the way she diversifies her business. We were then introduced to our new boo, Darius Jones:

  • Like her typical characters, Darius Jones is someone you can love to hate; a pro-athlete, wealthy husband, and father, Darius struggles with remaining faithful to his wife as he is tempted daily by beaufitul women. Mary B poses the question of whether or not we should hate him because of his indiscretions with his adoring fans. Is he wrong for giving into his temptation? Why do these women put a man they know is married on such a pedestal?
  • The novel, like her others, exposes the idea that "If you won't work hard at your relationship, someone else will" and that "Communication and forgiveness are the key to successful relationships"
  • The short chapters and cliff hangers leave the reader wanting more as they follow Darius, his wife Ashley and Darius' mom's assistant Bambi in their personal lives
  • Characters come back from other books within Mary B and Honey B's repertoire
  • This book actually has the least sex out of all the others, she wanted to see if her readers would notice the difference

At the end of the event, I was happy that I came to learn a little more about Mary B. Morrison, her interesting approach to a career as a novelist, and her ideas about relationships. Here's some final thoughts she gave to the audience:

"I don't think I'm much different from any person who says they want to write a story one day."

"I encourage women to meet 1 person a week, just give them a card with your email on it and see where it goes."

"Get dressed up, go to a bar, sit with your favorite book, turn to the man sitting next to you and ask him: 'What's the last book you've read?' Even if he's married, he will still engage in conversation. Men love to talk about themselves. You never know, you may learn something new."

Be on the lookout for the release of Mary B. Morrison's latest projects:
The Rich Girls Club
The Eternal Engagement

And check out the rest of her novels if you need a little bit more romance in your life.

Leave a comment if you've read a good romance novel lately. Or leave a comment if you want me to let you in on some of Mary B's more X-rated advice that she gave to us on Sunday.

Jessica Ebony