Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Setting My Summer Writing Schedule...

As the quarter winds down, it's time for me to get my summer objectives down.


1. Money Shot is priority #1. From June to August, I will pretty much spend about eight hours a day with my subjects. My Thunders Mouth contract requires a minimum of 80,000 words, but I think it'll probably come out more toward 100,000. What I think I'm going to do first is write Chapter One right after the quarter ends. I have plenty of interviews and background to do it. After that, it's back to the San Fernando Valley for my information.

2. Money Shot (fiction): One, I need to come up with a new title for the novel. Two, I'm going to go back over the manuscript and make some changes. I need to know when I can expect the copyedit. If I can expect the copyedit in late summer, then I can make the changes in plenty of time. But you never know with Kensington. I like them, but I have NO clue to when I'll receive stuff.

3. I go to my Fraternity Centennial Convention (yes!) in Washington DC, and I think I'll stop in NYC before. Every so often, you need to meet and eat lunch with folks. So in one trip, I can meet with my editors at Kensington and Thunders Mouth, while also checking out my agent Manie. One thing people don't know about the book industry is how infrequent you can actually see folks that pay you. Eight years, three books at Kensington, and I've met my editor Karen Thomas around three times (maybe only twice now that I think about it. Once at Kensington, and then at BEA). I've never met my editor, Anita Diggs, at Thunders Mouth. I met my previous agent, Deidre Knight, once. And I've never met my current agent Manie Barron in person. But that's de riguour. However, I think a meet and greet is in order this summer, just to make sure we're all on the same page.

4. I have two book projects that are in various stages of completion (around 30,000 words). One is my Slaveryland project that I stopped last fall, and the other is a detective series I'd like to develop. If I have time, I'll putter around with them and try to advance them forward. I doubt that I'll be able to finish either one of them, but I'm going to get close. The goal would be to finish them by mid-fall, so when I turn in Money Shot, I have two more manuscripts in the coffer. It takes a bit for folks to decide to buy, negotiate, etc. so this will be cool to have perculating while I'm in school.

5. Find a damn good publicist. So far, everyone has told me that they've been underwhelmed by the publicists who specialize in black books, and I have to agree. My criteria is that you better not do a job that I can IMMEDIATELY tell that I could do better. That means scheduling me to some rinky dink late night radio shows in teenie tiny markets, just because you know that radio hosts. At this point in my career, I want national coverage for my books, and I want to start branding myself in the same way other national authors are branded.


1. MK Asante is working on a great documentary project and he's asked if I'd like to make a contribution. At first, I was hesitant because I know how much stuff I have to do. But then I thought about it and realized that this would be an historic project, and I'd like to be a part of it. So you make time.

2. Summer is twelve weeks, and since UCLA doesn't open until late September, I figure I can write one full screenplay and part of another one. My next three scripts have to do with the black church, terrorism, and a black tradition.

3. I'm going to clean up Yardies as much as possible, but not sweat it if it's not ready to be seen. I'll work on Yardies over the long term.

4. The Showcase has been great in that I'm receiving calls and emails pretty much every day. Managers, production companies, etc. want to see my script. We'll see where that leads.

5. I want to develop a treatment I've been working on about Fraternity/Sorority life.


1. I tamped down the amount of lectures I did last year because of school. Not next year. I'll be lecturing at least twenty times during the year, and I'm scheduling throughout the summer. I need to know my schedule as soon as possible. I'll schedule school around the lectures.

That's pretty much it. I know that it sounds like a ton of stuff, but in reality, if you are REALLY disciplined, you can get it done. I'm a person who gets VERY nervous, and sort of paranoid, if I'm not writing. I can literally feel a weird nervousness happen in my shoulders, as though someone is going to come to the door and take all of this away if I don't get to work.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Okay, I'm on page 88, and I'm ready to get to the third act of Yardies. It should be pretty smooth sailing from here, I simply got sleepy last night and stopped writing. I even came up with a twist in the story, which made me a bit hyped.

About to head to the gym. I haven't really been on the lifecycle for a month, and after a weekend of barbeque, I'm feeling lumpy and dumpy. The belly's getting a bit swelly and I need to buckle down. Got on the scale this morning: 214lbs. I'd really been hovering around 211-212lbs, but I think I've REALLY gotten off track. So today is back to six meals a day, with my diet of clean food. 8 glasses, roasted chicken, avoid the carbs, etc. I think I'm making my Fraternity convention (July 25th) the target date to get to 200-205. That's six weeks to lose 14 pounds. Should be a snap.

Gotta watch the DaVinci code this morning and then write a report. I have three more screenwriting showcase packages to drop off. And then I need to drop off Sloan script.

Monday, May 29, 2006


I'm on page 83 of Yardies, dippin' in and out of the script, adding things, taken out things. I thought Biko, my main character, was taking me away from my story, but I realized that he wasn't. I was. So I went back into the script, added elements that I'd either missed or didn't see at the time, and now I feel better. I'm at the point in the script where shit is about to go horribly average for all of the Yardies.

Right now, I'm on youtube, watching old school hip hop like the GOAT duo, EPMD, the Big Daddy Kane tribute on Vh1 (BDK dancin' with Skub, classic), and Kool G. Rap and DJ Polo. Thank god for youtube. Speaking of VH1, has anyone noticed that VH1 Soul is what BET should have been? But that's a dead horse.

Oh, today I had an adventure in black businessland. God, I love my people, but they can sho' make it hard for you to spend money with them. Let me begin...

It's 11am, and something in my soul tells me that if I want to get the fam some 'cue, I better act fast. You see, black businesses have mad, wicked, crazy hours and days open. For example, my frat brother Sean lives in Oakland. Like the righteous black man he is, he tries to shop at as many black biz's as possible. He owns a house, and therefore needs, well house stuff. The only black owned hardware store in Oakland IS NOT OPEN ON THE WEEKENDS. I repeat, the hardware store is NOT OPEN ON THE WEEKENDS. Monday, they are open bright and early. But the weekends? So there's your template. (That still doesn't match my boy MK Asante saying that in Philly, he went to a black restaurant where a waitress put her hand on one side of the menu and said, "We ain't got none of that." Classic!)

So I'm hungry for some swine and beef links from Phillips Barbecue. Side order of potato salad, beans and two pieces of 7up cake. Nothing unusual about that. Ask the wife, she's down. The kid? He places an order of ribs, mixed sauce. Seven year olds are specific.

Okay, hop in the Jeep and head out. Cranking old school dancehall to 62 (that's as high as my stereo goes), set the equilizer to SUPERBASS, and I'm rolling down Wilshire to Vine to Crenshaw. Wanted to enjoy the sun. Get on Crenshaw rolling south. Now, there are two Phillips and black folks, per usual, have definite opinions about which is the "best" one. As a rule of thumb, when a black owned restaurant has more than two locations, the restaurant that has the most white customers is the one black folks avoid, not because they don't like white folks, but because they believe that the food is "toned down" for white folks palatte. We like our food highly seasoned, and the myth in the neighborhood is that white folks' tongues can't stand much more than salt and pepper. Not sayin' it's right, but ya know. So instead of going to the Roscoe Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood, most black folks will roll to the eastside and eat at the Manchester and Main Roscoes where they KNOW white folks don't frequent. Hell, black folks barely try to go out to Manchester and Main. But that's another story.

Anyway, back to Phillips. There are two. One is on Crenshaw, right off the 10 freeway. That's the one black folks think is inferior. But it's hot, and there's a line going down the block. I chose to pass it up and go to the o/g Phillips in Leimert Park. Now, here's where it gets tricky. I drive extra ten miles to that Phillips, only to be confronted with a handwritten sign that says "This location closed today, Memorial Day, Wednesday, and Thursday". My first reaction is "what the f%&%!" Does Toys R Us close on Dec. 22, 23, 24, 25? Why are you closed???? People will pay double for barbeque on Memorial Day and Phillips is laughing at our money! Why???

Regroup time. I get a bright idea. I'm going to call my order in to the inferior Phillips. I'm going to laugh at the fools who didn't have my foresight. 411. Los Angeles. Phillips. Yes, dial that for me. Recording: "We aren't taking phone orders". Brilliant!

It's back to the "black folks avoid" Phillips. The line has quadrupled. Phillips has about two and a half parking spots. Okay, maybe five? Zoning laws? Anyone? Why do I have to park catacorner at the generic gas station in order to get some 'cue?"

I get in line, and the sun has moved from Baghdad to Crenshaw. I'm sweatin' like three hoes in church. Inside, Phillips has placed a sign Stevie Wonder could read, explaining to our friends not familiar with black barbeque about how to order. Sandwiches, which of course ain't sandwiches, sauces, etc.

Two hours later, barbeque in hand, I finally make it back to the crib. My son looks at me like I've circumnavigated the globe. I know he's made a mental note that traveling to a black barbeque pit ain't worth the trouble. I think he's right.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

As Made Famous By...

Yaya. If you watch America's Next Top Model, then you'll know.

Most Popular...

The HoodieTees website goes up in about ten days, but I've been wearing a couple around town and campus. This one is the most popular by far. The guy behind the counter at Phillips Barbeque wants one. The sister at UCLA wants one. And someone on the street stopped me and asked where they could get one. Brilliant! I've always liked the self-evident nature of the message. lol If you want one, let me know! I have a few in stock before I make another order. The revenue is going to help me fund a few media projects.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Goals For The Weekend...

This weekend is going to be pretty straight forward.

1. Wake up early tomorrow and kick the soccer ball around with my son.
2. Go to a Fraternity luncheon.
3. Work out on the life cycle.

Starting tonight, it's a race to the finish line for Yardies. By this Tuesday, I want to be at either 105-110 pages. That will finish it. After that, I'll spend time cleaning it up, filling in some of the plot holes, before turning it in to Dave. I'll do a rewrite later this summer.

Time to turn in the Sloan script, Men Of Their Times. I think we get some notes from the science mentors in July, rewrite, and then it's done. After that, it's a race to $10K

Still no word on the NBC Fellowship. I need to know if I got it because that will determine how many lectures I will do. Last year, I didn't lecture that often, and I took a financial hit. I don't think I'll do that next year. I'm going to go back to lecturing around twenty to thirty times during the year, including Black History Month. School will just have to fit around it.

Received my advance check for non-fiction Money Shot...thank you very much Manie Barron and Thunder's Mouth.

Which reminds me: I STILL need to finish filling out my author's questionaire. I swear,I will finish it this weekend.

One of the things I need to do is fill out my "team" on the book side. I need an expert publicist, not someone who thinks they can do it, but has no track record. I need a publicist who can get me on national television, position me as an "expert" on various topics, yada, yada, yada. I have a great accountant. I have a great attorney. I have a great agent. I need a great publicist.

Weight: 213lbs. I've slipped in terms of my daily food regimen. A bit too many In & Out 4by4s and I'm feeling a bit lumpy. So, it's back to six good meals a day, and four times a week on the lifecycle, and then to the goal weight of 205lbs. For the past couple of weeks, I've been using two 20lb dumb bells, and that's going well. The addition of racquetball on Mondays (and possibly more times during the week) will help drop my last eight pounds. Softball has been fun, but I'm not sure from week to week if I get to play. I do know that my joints are bumpin' after the games.

In a couple of weeks, my little side biz will be up and running. It's a t-shirt shop called HoodieTees, and I think it's going to be a hit. I wore one of the t-shirts on campus on Wednesday, and a sister immediately said she loved the shirt and wanted one. Brilliant! Some of the cash from HoodieTees is going to fund my first new media business. Peter Guber has really got me going with this whole new media/mobile phone content/internet thang.

You have to remember, or maybe you didn't know, that in 1995 I started the first black owned ISP on the West Coast. It was called RBG Online, and my partner and I were profiled in the LA Times and Black Enterprise. Our 28.8 modems were state of the art! We had about two hundred of them, and we watched as the black community (our customer base) pretty much yawned. We were a bit ahead of our time. At the time, the prevalent Internet model was an AOL type community. We'd come from the BBS messaging board community, and so we decided to use a buggy, yet beautifully attractive GUI system called Galacticomm as our operating system. We had to send out thousands of disks for folks to sign on. Little did we know that the BBS was rapidly becoming obsolete as soon as we opened the packages. We should have figured something was wrong when the Galaticomm owner committed suicide. C'est La Vie.

But my attitude is that failure is another term for case study. And I use RBG Online as a case study as to what not to do, and what to do. My new media businesses will use that knowledge to be more successful. I'll be a media mogul yet!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Think BIG...

Think BIG...
Think BIG...
Think BIG...
Think BIG...
Think BIG...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Goals for the week...

Page 90 by Saturday. I'll take a rest and then see about killing the rest of the script by that Monday. After that, I'll go back through it and fill in the holes. After that, it's 100% Money Shot. Okay, not really. I have two scripts I want to write over the summer, but I think 90% Money Shot is more like it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Life is about slots and putting people into slots. We resist, but in reality, we're very comfortable in those slots. We know what we've going to get, and you actually get paid pretty well to stay in those slots. Innovation is RARE, and those who innovate tend to pay a price. When it comes to the business of writing, I've always had a yin-yang relationship with being in a slot and my desire to innovate.

For example, there are books outside of the African American genre that I'd like to write, however since my success is in the African American market, it's damn near impossible to break out. I'd have to cultivate a whole new audience, hell, before that I'd have to convince my agent that it was worthwhile to do. So I'm going to be writing books in the African American genre for my writing career. Is that bad? Not really. I LOVE writing about Black people. But it is bad in another way, since I'm basically constrained.

I mentioned that because in my 434, Dave gave us the real about how you are looked at as a Hollywood writer. If you establish yourself as a comedy writer, then voila, you write comedy and not drama. You fit into a slot. Women writers are in a slot. Black writers are in a slot. Etc. Your artistic sensibilities want to rebel against being slotted, but your bank account welcomes it. What's funny is that I like writing because I tend to hate anything that resembles a conventional occupation. But the more writing you do, you realize that writing is just as conventional as anything else. And every writer is slotted, whether they like it or not.

Going Back In Time...

Yesterday, I was asked to speak at an elementary school during their career day. So I talked about being a writer. But what I didn't know was that this school, now a charter school called KIPP, used to be called St. Anselm Catholic School, which is where I went to first through fifth grade. So I found myself standing in my old second grade classroom over thirty years after having been in there last. It was the most surreal experience ever.

The kids were PHENOMENAL. These were fifth grade kids who wanted to know about royalties, book runs, the sale projections of a new book, etc. LOL . I was impressed, and it's funny how I could pick out the future writers. These were students who talked about writing and the emotion tied to it. I wish I had enough scrilla to fund a writers workshop for them.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


It's 2:45 am and I'm on page 60. I'm going to write ten pages tomorrow. Right now, I'm watching C-Span's coverage of Book Expo America. Now BEA has a special place in my heart. One, in 1996, I watch C-Span's coverage and decided to write my first book, The Divine Nine. And two, I signed at BEA when it was in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. It was fun and huge at the same time. Next year, when my book(s) come out.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The First Draft...

One of the toughest ideas screenwriters have to get used to is the fact that their first draft is utter crap. Seriously. I think most folks get so elated that they've finished their script that they automatically think it's ready. Not true. But I had that same idea. See, since I come from books, I tend to write my manuscript, go over it a few times, and then send it to the editor, where she'll tell me where all of the crap is located. With scripts, that's the writer's job. So you have to rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite some more. And that's why I'm not too concerned if my Yardies script isn't the greatest. As my teacher Dave says, this draft is just a blueprint. And that's what I see. In the fifty or so pages written, I have TONS of plot holes to be filled, description to be tightened, and dialogue to be revamped. But I'm going to press on without looking back. We only get ten weeks (really nine weeks) to start, write and finish a script. With that short period of time, you've got to plow through. So, it's onward tonight. I'm looking to write seven to ten pages.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Going on a Writing Binge...

I can feel it in my bones. I'm going to write tonight and see if I can get to page 70 of Yardies. I need to finish the first draft as soon as possible in order to do a bit of a rewrite. Plus, I have to look over my Sloan script. Still waiting on the word from the NBC/NAACP Fellowship folks. I hope I get it, but who knows?

I have a bit of a side business I'm about to start called, and the t-shirts have come through. If Mark Burnett of Survivor fame can use t-shirts to conquer television, why the hell not me? My boy MK Asante is working on the website. He's about to graduate from UCLA TFT and I'm going to miss him at school.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My 434...

Is absolutely hilarious. I swear, I'm having more fun in this group than I think is really allowed. We really do go over our pages, but the conversation always tends to gravitate toward humor, innuendo, and funny stories. Dave, our fearless leader, is a breath of fresh air. He's a UCLA film school grad, working writer, and knows what he's talking about. But he also knows that being a writer is about stressing yourself out. So would he add to it? He give EXCELLENT notes, and keeps it light. Kudos.

Yesterday, there was an accident on my block. A woman decided to pull out of her parking space, and then make a U-turn. Bad idea. She was clipped by a car, and then the domino effect started. At the end of it, one car was totaled, a parked car was badly hit, and another parked car had its bumper damaged. That bumper belonged to my Jeep. I've got to call her insurance tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Played racquetball for the first time yesterday, and man, what a game! Who knew? Everytime I saw racquetball in the movies, it was always played by a couple of Wall Street up and comers, one intense and the other out of shape. I never thought about playing it myself. But it's a fantastic workout and does everything I need: hide the actual cardio workout with a fun activity.

Back to work...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goals for the week...

1. Get to page 60 of Yardies.
2. Meet with Lexington for more Money Shot
3. Meet with my Sloan science professor. Prepare to turn in Men of their times for the Sloan.
4. Work out four times this week. Restart the diet. Right now, I'm at 212lbs. Feeling fat. Need to get to 205lbs, the original target.
5. Clean up an old completed script. I need to rewrite it, but before I do that, I need to clean it up. I wrote this before getting into UCLA, so I can now see a ton of issues.
6. Continue reading Alex Epstein's Crafty Screenwriting.
7. Inquire to my agent about when I should receive my Kensington contract. BEA is happening this week, so that could be the holdup. But ya never know.

I was driving the Jeep today when a strut decided to come loose. So now, I have to roll out to get a new set of struts. But regardless, mother's day was great. Took the wife to Fred 62 in Los Feliz with the little boy. Ate the Santa Fe Frittata. Saw a past UCLA film school grad while there. Wrote twelve pages today, and I'm still not sleep (it's 4am right now). Time for bed.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Second Base...

Played softball for the first time in over twenty years. UCLA film students took on USC film school students and we waxed them 21-10. I went 2-4 with a single and a double. Damn near did a face plant on the double. I woke up this morning and realized that every joint in my body aches. But it was damn fun, and I'm going to try to get out there when they play on Wednesdays.

Still writing Yardies, and I have four weeks until the end of the quarter. But I've also pulled out some scripts that I'd stopped writing, or needed to begin rewrites. I figure that when I get stuck writing Yardies, I can continue working and moving forward. It's worked for the past week.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Showcase Results...

Hey y'all, MEN OF THEIR TIMES won honorable mention in our annual UCLA Screenwriters Showcase. To recap, each year we anonymously send copies of our scripts to industry professionals around town, and they give us notes and grade them. There are five winners and five honorable mentions, and we usually submit about forty to fifty scripts. So that's pretty good for my first script at UCLA. Now I want to read the notes to see what people found strong and what they found weak. I mainly entered because I wanted those notes, but who knows? Maybe I can get a manager from this whole deal? The winning scripts are performed on stage in June, and it's a fun time to hang out and watch the work of your fellow students. Two of my boys, Dan and Phil won, so it'll be fun watching their scripts.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Longest Year...

By all measures, it's been a long year. I look back on when we first walked into Melnitz Hall and it seems like it was eons ago. Most of the first year screenwriters are burnt, and simply want to get their 434 done. Driving up and down 101 was good for the old brain, and I was able to move the script forward. I'm going to try to bang out the second act by the end of next week, and then finish up two weeks from now. I'll use the rest of the quarter to make it better.

I'm giving more and more time to Money Shot. I finally have a handle on how I want to tell the story, and as UCLA winds down, I'll change my focus.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Lakers Lost...

Well, I'm bummed. My Lakers have gone fishin'. I've finished playing golf in Half Moon Bay, and I feel a bit refreshed. Needed to get away from writing for a while. I drive back tomorrow morning, and then I'll start writing again.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Headed to Half Moon Bay...

I'm heading out to play golf at Half Moon Bay this morning. I need a break. I'm WAY behind on my script, mainly because it's really starting to feel like a LONG year. I'm going to do a scene-o-gram to get it back kickstarted, and then try to finish the first act by this weekend. Just write it, don't rewrite it. Met with Lexington yesterday for Money Shot. A REALLY cool guy. Always considerate, and in this industry, that's not a given. Have to finish reading a script I may have to either polish or rewrite. Looking forward to the summer...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Felicia Henderson...

Felicia Henderson, exec. producer of Showtime's Soul Food, UCLA MFA screenwriting grad, and currently getting her PhD at UCLA, came to Suber's class and talked about her experiences. Right after was admitted into UCLA, I called Felicia to get the 411 on UCLA film school. So it was good to see her speak on Soul Food. She had the most successful black drama on television, but said that it is damn near impossible get a black focused drama on television. And that's a damn shame because I want to create a television drama from the AA point of view. But it was fun listening to her experience, and from a writers' standpoint, it was a clue into how hard one has to work on a show.