I don’t know if I’ve made public my J.J. Abrams stannery before now; if not, I’m declaring it with this post. J.J. Abrams is THE BUSINESS–his stories are the very definition of enthralling. Convoluted, but that’s the way I like ’em. I was a fan of his show Alias before I even knew it was his show, and I’m totally a Lostie. Check out this great article on him in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  A quote from the story:

Abrams says that’s only one way of evaluating the dynamics of a mystery box. “There’s no answer to the box that’s going to make you happy,” he acknowledges. But, he adds, “the key is to use the box as a bait, to grab people and bring them into one story, only to introduce another.”

What mystery box, you ask? Why, the one he talks about in The Best TED Talk Ever!*

*Ok, that’s hyperbole, but the exaggeration is very slight.

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When I went back to journalism from publishing, I experienced a significant decrease in both the quality and output of my (not for work) writing. Turns out, some advice I read in a great writing book (that I lost and whose title I can’t remember) was true: If you want to be a fiction writer, you shouldn’t pursue a career in journalism.

Not that it’s impossible to do both, but writing for a living means you have a little less creative energy to spend on your own projects. This post by John Hornor Jacobs, an advertising creative by day and a fiction writer by night*, argues the same thing.

I’m a believer in creative energy. You only have a certain amount allotted to you every day – kinda like mana or hps in RPGs. If you burn that energy working on the newest TCBY campaign, there’ll be that much less when you get home and pick up the guitar and start writing songs, or hit the keyboard and start banging out that novel.

Bottom line–figure out how to save some of that good energy for yourself.

*John Hornor Jacobs has a book coming out in August, and it sounds pretty awesome. It sounds like a Southern horror mystery type novel; I definitely plan to check it out.

The other day, my boyfriend asked if I believed in ghosts. “Of course,” I said. He kind of smirked.

“Really? Why?” He’s German and only believes in science, efficiency and VFL Wolfsburg.

“Because!” I said. “Because…there’s lots that science can’t explain, and I think anything is possible. Including the existence of ghosts.” He chuckled his uber practical German chuckle.

“Ok sweety,” he said, highly amused.

Truth is, I’ve always believed in ghosts, and so has most of my family, and so do a lot of other Southerners like us. My classmates and I grew up on the Jeffrey tales. My cousin Novena thrilled us with stories about Bloody Mary and I know at least five of my family members who earnestly believe they’ve had encounters with a haint.* Heck, even I’ve had an encounter, kinda sorta. My ex-boyfriend had warned me his house was  haunted, and one day there was this weird incident where something unseen (coulda been a mouse, but then it coulda been a haint) moved in a living room corner. We locked ourselves in his bedroom until his parents came home. This same boyfriend often told me about being ridden by a witch.

So when I read this post on Racialicious about the lack of African-American inspired folklore on the CW show “Supernatural”,  though I don’t watch the show, I could totally understand where the author is coming from. African American folklore is rife with tales of the supernatural, yet it’s kind of hard to find horror stories in TV, film and other media that are by or about black people or have origins in black culture (voodoo being the glaring exception. And maybe “Thriller.”). In fact, just a few weeks ago, my coworker and I were trying to figure out how many “black” horror films we’d seen.

Me: There’s Tales from the Hood**. And Blade, sort of.

N: Oh yeah, and Vampire in Brooklyn (raucous laughter from us both because have you SEEN this movie? It’s more of an unintentional comedy than a horror film). And…and… that movie with Snoop in it (Bones).

That’s all we could come up with.

Granted, there are probably more (and if you know of some, tell me about ’em!), but that’s all we could come up with. We fared a little bit better on books, though. Here are some that are worth checking out.

The Dark Thirty by Patricia McKissick and Brian Pinkney (I remember reading this book in elementary or middle school

The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton (has a nice section of horror folklore)

LA Banks’ Vampire Huntress Series (it’s like Twilight for Tupac fans)

Fledgling by Octavia Butler (I haven’t read this yet, but it’s on my list)

My Soul to Keep by Tananrive Due (also haven’t read it, but plan to; i hear it’s all kinds of good)

What about y’all–know of any good books featuring black ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night?

*haint–southern for “ghost”

**i LOVE Tales from the Hood! sure, it’s kind of campy, but it’s still crunk.

For some reason, I seem to have started this year off on a sci-fi/fantasy kick, reading books by Neil Gaiman and Octavia Butler. I continued that in February with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison. I was totally consumed by this book and finished it in about a day and a half. I definitely recommend it; it’s the first of a trilogy, and I plan to read the other two books by the end of the year.

One of the primary byproducts of telling stories is to expose people to each other on a personal level.

Ron Pate

A lot of people dislike Wal-Mart–understandable, since, like most large corporations, it has a few legitimate ethical issues. But Wal-Mart is ok with me, mostly because I’m a cheapskate. Another more important reason? Wal-Mart sales books. This isn’t a big deal if you live in a town that has a bookstore or if you have access to amazon.com, but not everyone has that. I grew up in a small town where the nearest bookstore was 52 miles away. I’m not sure if Amazon existed then; if so, I didn’t know about it. Wal-Mart was my only option if I wanted to own a book. I got exposed to a lot of random authors through, like VC Andrews, Lolita Files, Christopher Pike and Lalita Tademy.

Anywho, this is one of the books I randomly bought at the Wal-Mart in my hometown. I haven’t been reading much this month, but I did just reread this mystery novel, Killer Chameleon by Chassie West. It’s a neat little murder mystery: not as terrifying as a Mary Higgins Clark book and not as hilarious as a Janet Evanovitch novel, but still a fun little read. Pick up a copy the next time you’re in Wal-Mart.

Next book on deck: Siddartha by Herman Hesse.

Cool article by Evgenia Peretz in this month’s Vanity Fair chronicling how Mark Wahlberg went from bad-boy underwear model to super powerful Hollywood producer. Aside from the great content, what stands out to me the most is the writer’s depiction of character. It’s one of those literary techniques that makes nonfiction pop (when it’s done right). Some examples:

Wahlberg, meanwhile, is the big-picture, charismatic leader, championing projects with do-or-die enthusiasm and sealing the deals with the big names, like Martin Scorsese, who came aboard Boardwalk Empire as a co-producer and directed the pilot. “Steve is the worrier, Mark the eternal optimist,” says HBO co-president Richard Plepler. “The combination is what makes the alchemy.”

Meanwhile, Adrian Grenier, a rather dark and brooding searcher, fancied himself above it all—even though he was one of Levinson’s clients. Grenier was in Mexico, penniless and planning on sneaking into Cuba to make a documentary when Levinson called and spent hours trying to convince him to audition for the lead. “I said, ‘Yeah, but it’s television. And I don’t do television,’” recalls Grenier, parodying his younger self. “ ‘I do dark, independent films in New York, where I make no money and freeze my butt off, or I do documentaries in countries that I’m not allowed to go into.’

Check out the full article here.