Read Smoke!

Read Smoke!
My latest book, "Smoke: poems of love, longing and ecstasy" is available for purchase on Amazon in e-book and paperback. Click book for link.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Interview with Ananda Leeke, author of Love's Troubadours- Karma: Book One

Her self published debut novel, Love's Troubadoures-Karma: Book One has been described as "extraordinary", "soulful", "inspirational" and "one of the best written books of the year" by it's readers. In it, the author, Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke takes us on a spiritual and personal journey with heroine Karma Francois, a self proclaimed BOHO B.A.P., as she recouperates her life and learns to know and love herself in the process. I recently chatted with this phenomenal artist, yoga instructor and novelist about the book, of course, spirits that can talk, and a few things that her readers can learn from Karma Francios.

So, what was the inspiration for "Love's Troubadours"?

It was a long process. It took 10 years. The characters came to me at the Essence Music Festival in 1997. I was shaking my groove thang and the characters came to me. So instead of going to the workshops I was going to the book stores to get poetry books and to the voo doo sites and places the main characters would go. Karma's family is from New Orleans.

So the characters came to you? What was that like?

My spirituality is open to seeing and feeling my ancestors. I've always had a connection. Sometimes I'll see their face and I'll know that they're here with me. I don't have family in Louisiana but these characters came to me. First they came out in the poetry and I was like whose that?! I didnt' know how the novel was going to end. People would ask and I'd be like, "They didn't tell me yet". And it was over, I was like "Damn!" So that's how it ended.

Wow! Why do you think you felt a connection to Nawlins'.... ? It is a special city.

When my mom was pregnant with me she was close to a family from Lousisana and they'd always say we're going to put a hex on someone in the church. I stood up at Thanksgiving and I said, "It was you!" I kept trying to say why am I so connected to voo doo? And she said "Yeah, they were always talking about that and I was around them." I've always felt connected to New Orleans.

So you said that when the characters came to you, you responded with poetry. How did this morph into prose?

All I wrote was poetry and journal writing so there were these voices and I turned them into poetry. And I didn't want to write anything longer because I was lazy but these poems started to get into epic poems. They weren't meshing together because they were skipping around different periods of times---A few years later one of m y co workers suggested that I write a novel and I said, "No!" I thought it was too much. She was a published writer. She writes childrens books and I was sharing with her, how should I go about doing this. She told me, "this is not a poem any more. It's a story."

A year later I sent my friend a segment of my work. I asked him to read because I wanted to know if this was what a man would say. And then he called and said this is a novel this is so good. I said, I can't write this by myself."

So we started that journey in May of 2001 and in 2003 we finished it. He died and that shook me to my core. I didn't want to keep writing but I had a couple of agents who were very interested in my processs. They encouraged me and told me what I needed to do and it would take another two years.--- It's not somethign that I volunteered to do because I was resisting. I chose it, it didn't choose me.

So what do you think sets "Love's Troubadours" apart from other books in the genre?

It's very different than most books who are there now about African American women. I wrote a book that I wanted to read. The way it's different, and there's some great books that are out there, is that [in the novel] there are a wide variety of people of African descent and their lives and their sexual orientations and their spiritualities and you don't see that in most books.

The cover is different. It's not a woman that is barely clothed or holding a martini or coming out of bed, and not that there arent any erotic scenes, but it makes you think and realize that there are different types of women. The other thing is that I dont 'think they're are a lot of books that celebrate what it's like to be in our communities with Black poeple who are educated, who've gone to HBCU's or ivy-leagues. You don't see museum curators. I popped alot in---I wanted to make people aware of what our life is like. The messsage is that we are different.

I read the synopsis and I'm definitely intrigued. Can you tell us a little bit more about what your novel is about?

"Love's Troubadours" is about a 30 somehting african-american women named Karma Francois. She hails from Oakland California and she is a BOHO BAP (Bohemian Black American Princess) Her mother is a socialite with very deep upper middle class upbringing from New Orleans and she's a hurricane! And Karma has a twin sister who is nothing like her. She follows her mother and is controlled by her. Karma has lived an interesting life in NYC and she loses her job as a museum curator, not because she did anything wrong. She was just on the wrong side and she doesn't have a plan b. She's lived a good life. Her credit cards are maxed out and she doesn't want to return home to her mother, so she ops to go to DC where she has family who owns a condominium.

She lives in this condo at 16th and U. She's cropping out a gypsy existance as a Jo' of many trades. She trained to be a yoga teacher in college and she ends up having to do that to make ends meet. She's an art consultant and she's a museum curator at Howard University Gallery of Art. All of these are periodic gigs. It's not a full time job.

She teaches Yoga at the Our Womanist Spirit Center and it's like a community center for sisters an dthey have this monthly events. And while she's htere her ant arranges for her to see a therapist threatens "If you don't go I'm giong to tell your mother and you know you don't want that." So, Karma starts to get therapy and she runs away and she goes back to it. In this process she gets to know 6 other women and they call themselves the sister 7. None of them get into her life but they're all sharing. And finally she begins to share and she gets so much affirmation and support.

She discovers some family secrets about her dad and it throws her for a loop. It causes so much drama between her family and she has to forgive her family. And during all of this she is guided by faith. She learns a lot about trusting the universe and to stop resisting the challenges and to be right there with them.

Fly Funky Diva features a lot of posts about relationships that emphasize to women that we must first love ourselves, and complete ourselves, before we can truly love another. We can't seek a relationship from a place of shallowness because we will inevitably attract a shallow relationship in return. I understand that your book touches on this same philosophy. Can you elaborate?

Karma has that same experience. I think society tells us as women that you're supposed to nurture and be concerned about the relationship.It's programmed in you that a relationship is the be all and end all. Karma discovers that she has to have a relationship with herself.

The scripture says" Love your neighbor as you love yourself", you know? Love yourself!There's something about that that we don't quite get. Karma learns by watching her mother. She thinks she's loving herself but she doesn't realize that it is a process. She learns how to accept herself; the stuff she likes, the stuff she doesn't like. She learns to embrace all of that and when she does she starts to attract people her accept her. The level at which you can accept yourself is the level at which you can attract people who can acccept you.

The moral of the story is to take the time to find out who you are, and it's important to know your likes, but find out inside of you what makes you tick. From your spirit and not necessarily the spirituality you got as a child. That may not be it. Maybe you need to explore meditation or yoga. But things like over drinking and eating, smoking, choosing partners that may not be good for us; anything you do in excess is a sign that you need to look inward.

I don't have a perfect life but I have learned that being by my self and being still and surrendering to the spirits and finding wisdom works for me.

For more information on Love's Troubadour's you can visit the official website or purchase the book at Amazon.

You can also take a virtual walk tour of places featured in the novel with Ananda.

Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke is a yoga teacher, Reiki practitioner, artist, and writer. Her poetry appeared in Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century. Leeke is a graduate of Morgan State University, Howard University School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center. She lives in Washington, DC.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jill Scott to Star in HBO Detective Series

HBO will partner with The Weinstein Company and the BBC to bring Alexander McCall Smith's international bestselling book series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" to television. Grammy Award winner Jill Scott ("Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?") stars in the series, whose two-hour pilot was recently filmed on location in Botswana under the direction of Academy Award(r) winner Anthony Minghella ("Cold Mountain," "The English Patient") from a script by Minghella and Academy Award nominee Richard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," HBO's "The Girl in the Café"), who also executive produce.
(Courtesy of Black Talent News)

Wedding Dress of the Week

Happy Saturday Divas!

Ahhh, I've found a new favorite bridal designer this week and I couldn't wait to share his work with you! His name: Justin Alexander. His game: designing stunning, one-of-a-kind bridal gowns with just a touch of drama. I chose this particular over coat and gown because it's really a fall/winter piece, and as April is just around the corner, I needed to show it ASAP. Nevertheless, it's very regal and romantic, especially this Silk Dupion Coat with chapel length train and extravagant silk flower and Ostrich feather detachable collar and cuffs. Justin Alexander doesn't mind stirring up a bit of drama, inciting some emotion in every one who lays eyes on the bride, but if you take a look at his collection you'll discover a craftsman who never over does it. Underneath the dress is a simple and elegant matching strapless Silk Dupion dress with bias-band layered bodice. To find this dress or see more of his collection visist

Flyness and Funk,


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What '27 Dresses' reminds me about love

Morning divas,

Basically, some Hollywood writer took the old adage "always a bridesmaid and never a bride" and ran with it. One generic script later, we have the movie 27 Dresses. Now honestly, this movie was such a chic flick that even I, a chick who likes a good romantic flick, was a bit repulsed. But it was charming. Watching it at times was like drinking sweet tea, that had too much sugar in it though; flavor ruined by predictability and sappiness.

I'm really not in the business of movie reviews, particularly not lack luster productions like this.... but there really was something I liked about it. I won't give too much away, but basically the movie centers around Jane Nichols(Katherine Heigl), a young woman who has such an agreeable personalty and is so giving of herself that she makes the perfect bridesmaid. In fact, she's been a bridesmaid 27 times! Meanwhile she's waiting on a Prince Charming groom of her own, and Jane is secretly in love with her boss. Even though she dotes on him and he appreciates her giving nature, he doesn't view her romantically. Well folks, chaos ensues when her little sister Tess (Malin Akerman) returns to town and her boss falls for her. A short while after, Jane finds herself preparing to be the bridesmaid yet again, this time as Tess marries the man of her dreams.

Now what really got me was the commentary this movie offered about the difference between falling in love with an idea and a person. Ultimately (and predictably, blah) she discovers that the man she felt was perfect for her all this time, her boss, was in fact not someone with whom she had any chemistry. Accordinlgy, the one quirky journalist who appears out of the blue determined to forge a path into her life becomes her sould mate. Go figure.

Many of us are walking around, searching for the love under the pretense that we know who our ideal is but truthfully, love is illogical. So many things don't make sense. We fall for the hype about compatibility, but nothing creates passion like two people who are inherently different characters. As women, we worry about saying the right things, and controlling our emotions, and appearing completely normal. But again, so often a man will fall in love with us because of that one uncontrolable idiosyncracy.

To know love is to know that it can never be fully known. Like God, it works in mysterious ways. Perhaps it's not accurate to think that we can fall in love, because then so many of us purposefully walk, shoes untied, hoping to trip ourselves into it. Nope. We don't fall in love. Love falls on us.

Flyness and Funk,


And, the last song played in the movie was "Love has Fallen on Me" by Chaka Khan and it is one of my favorite songs. I was so happy to see this oldie but goodie resurrected on the silver screen. I decided to post it. Listen to the lyrics and you'll know why I love it! (In this medley she starts with 'Clouds'. 'Love' begins at 3:10)

Monday, March 24, 2008

SPOTLIGHT: Boondocks, "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show" (Banned)

This show was also banned from being aired on the Adult Swim Channel. This is the Boondocks' second commentary on BET and centers around a reality show being made about about a wayward Black man who hates Black people.
"We air this shit because we hate Black People!"

Part I

Part II

Fly Alert: Oversized Brown ''Naomi'' Bucket Handbag

I love to have a practical bag or two in my wardrobe that I can throw my things in and go... I don't have to worry about it getting bent out of shape or scuffed or anything and it's big enough to carry alot. Well I found this one for 34.95 at the Purse Boutique and it seems like a great choice. It's cute too!

Relax, Relate, Release! On Managing Stress

If you were a fan of "A Different World" you probably remember the therapist (played by the fabulous FFD Debbie Allen) telling Whitley Gilbert to "relax, relate, release honey!" Ocasionally, these are great words to live by. Stress is almost unavoidable. We learn this as we exit the gaiety that is childhood and become adults. It seems like from college on, there is always some aspect of our lives in chaos... If not work, then family, or our love life, or something. The truth is, stress is good. It compells us to move forward and take action. Sort of like, if something leaps out at you and says "Boo!" and you run... Well that's stress. When used, correctly, it compels you to hurdle forward. As a senior, with major obligations to fulfill before graduation from Yale, I am under more stress than I have EVER been before. Seriously. And, for two weeks I did let it conquer me. But then I remembered, we can conquer stress. Here's how.

Firstly, don't neglect the very essentials that keep you going during moments of crisis. This means you should continue eating balanced, healthy meals and sleeping! When your car needs to run fastest, the gas can't be on E. You wont go very far. When we have a lot of work to do, the urge is to forgo sleeping at all costs but the truth is just a few hours will make your work so much more efficient. If you attempt to work through dire fatigue, chances are you'll waste most of your energy just trying to stay awake.

Secondly, keep good company. Now at times like this, I narrow the phone calls I will take to Mommy, Daddy, my sig-0, and the Chocolate Diva. This doesn't mean that other people aren't important to me, it's just that these are people that I know I can talk to in times of crisis and self-doubt. These are people who know me and will not hesitate giving me a shoulder to cry or lean on. These are people who will understand my predicament and be able to motivate and inspire me to keep fighting. When you're stressed out and there's a lot on your plate, I think you should be selective about the people you open yourself to. Don't ever isolate yourself and forgo the road alone. It's very important to talk your feelings out and realize that this mountain you must climb is indeed possible. But not everyone can be there for you the way you need them to be. Know who you can go to. Form a circle of support.

Thirdly, prayer/meditation is a wonderful source of tranquility. It renews your faith not just in the Creator, but also in yourself. There's a popular saying, "He doesn't give you anything more than you can bear." This is true. Taking time out to pray or chant or to just be in silence, also restores a sense of balance that stress generally dismantles.

Excercise is an additional way to let go off some steam. I run every morning, especially when I feel over-whelmed. The simple task of having to place one foot in front of the other for three miles, and having to push myself, mirrors my greater goal at the moment. I am able to apply the same discipline and determination that it takes to complete my work out to handling my obligations. Excercise awakens the fighter in me and prepares me to face my day. It also releases those great endorphins that make us forces to be reckoned with.

If I have to concentrate, I have only one go-to energy drink. Yerba Mate Tea (also known on this blog as 'cup of jamal'). Unlike coffee, red bull, or other energy drinks, yerba mate leaves contains a naturally occuring form of caffeine and a substance that enhances your concentration rather than just giving you a straight forward jittery boost of energy. This tea is wonderful for your health and won't interfere with your sleep. I'm much more productive with this in my system.

When you have a lot to accomplish, make a schedule. Tasks become more feasible when you cut them up into bite size pieces and create a game plan. Schedules also increase your efficiency. However, don't overestimate your abilities or else you'll be frustrated and if you create a schedule for yourself, stick to it!

Be mindful of your surroundings. When you attempt to work in clutter your prone to feel overwhelmed. It's a principle of feng shui. The energy in your environment will manifest itself in you. This may mean organzing your desk and work space or relocating to a different environment altogether, like a library. Also be minful of noisy distractions like television playing or people talking. Music is not necessarily a distraction however, except music that makes you want to get up and dance. I like to play jazz and gospel softly when I need to get work done.

And lastly, allow yourself random moments of joy. Sometimes I like to push the book away, turn on some Tito Puente and bust out in a cha cha with an imaginary partner. Or I'll play some Janet and sing along. This short bursts of pleasure aren't meant to lead into an extended spell of procrastination. They should just get the blood flowing, make you a bit happier, and keep you going.

Try to keep these tips in mind next time your biting the bullet... which is probably at the moment. Hope I could be helpful. And now, back to paper writing.

Flyness , Funk, and love,


(aka Yalie in distress)