Friday, May 27, 2005


ABOUT A MONTH ago, I had my annual mammogram, which is not such a big deal because I don’t experience much discomfort as other women seem to. However, two weeks after the mammogram, I get this letter in the mail telling me that my mammogram was incomplete & they want to do additional imaging on the right breast, and possibly an ultrasound. I see the words “breast cancer” in the body of the letter but I force myself to look away. So I make another appointment for a follow-up mammogram (5/25). This time they tell me the doctor will review the films right away and will give me the results within 2 hours. Of course, as I wait the 2 weeks for the appointment, I try not to panic, start praying to God for divine healing, and then wonder if my writing about cancer (in Choose Me) may have jinxed me.

AS A SPIRITUAL person, I try not to believe in jinxes and superstitions and all that, but because I am a mortal first, sometimes I can’t help it. Sometimes when I fear something really bad, the opposite happens. Sometimes when I tell myself to believe the best will happen, it turns out negatively. Of course, this refutes everything that faith stands for, but I am not perfect.

NEVERTHELESS, I WALK into the clinic prepared for the worse, but expecting the best, still praying, asking God to cover me in His blood. I see a sign that says “Please sign your name on the sign-in sheet and have a seat.” I don’t see a sign-in sheet so I go up the receptionist, who proceeds to tell me, “Sign your name the sign on the sheet,” while pointing to the sign-in sheet AROUND the reception table. I’m thinking, wouldn’t it make more sense to put the sign-in sheet NEXT to the sign? (HELLO??!!) Next to the sign-in sheet is a woman (the supervisor or manager), who says very pleasantly (possibly over-compensating for the possible bad news some of us might get): “Good Morning! Are you here for imaging?” I want to say, “No, I’m here for breakfast.” Instead, I say, “Good Morning!” right back. After I sign in, I sit down. Looking around, I notice that while the ages vary, the women are predominately white, one African-American and no Latinos (that I can recognize).

LUCKILY, THEY HAVE coffee (which isn’t very good but it did the trick). I have brought my laptop with the next novel, my headphones with fresh batteries & plenty of CD’s, and my prototype book. I am prepared to wait the two hours.

MY NAME IS called & I’m directed to another receptionist who asks my name & the time of my appointment. She doesn’t ask about insurance or the doctor’s order. Then I’m told to have a seat in another set of chairs (weird—why we couldn’t sit in the main waiting room, I don’t know) with two other women, one of whom has brought her husband.

I DON’T EVEN get to finish my not-so-good coffee before they call me again. The over-compensating pleasant supervisor-manager asks us three women to follow her—“No men allowed!” she jokes. (“Ha-Ha-Ha,” everyone laughs—except me. I want this nightmare over with quickly, without the comic relief.)

WE ARE THEN led to the changing room where we are given the same directions we have been given in the past ('cause they're so complicated): You can use one of the dressing rooms that isn’t occupied to change, wipe off any deodorant, lotion, whatever; then put your things in a locker, take the key with you, blah-blah-blah. Yeah, sister, we know the routine by now.

AFTER CHANGING, I join the other women in yet ANOTHER waiting room where “The View” is droning on the mounted TV and everyone is trying hard not to stare at each other. There is no chatting, no laughing in this room, not even when Joyce Baer or Star Jones (or whatever-her-married-name is now) crack a joke. I leave my laptop and headphones in the locker because there doesn't seem enough time to pull everything out, then pack it up before they call you again.

FINALLY, THEY CALL me into “The Room.” I get a very pleasant tech who is very “technical” in her directions, but in a nice way. For the first time, the man-made breast-crushing machine hurts. I see her almost cheer like she's pleased with her images (hooray for her, not so good for me); I want to scratch her eyes out. I am then directed back to the waiting area.

I TRY TO read some passages from Choose Me, but every so often, the pages blur as I start to think about the outcome. I don’t read the passages where Adam deals with his cancer. I begin praying again. Glancing discreetly around the room, I think, “I see what’s going on here. This is a conspiracy. They’re just doing these additional images and ultrasounds to milk the insurance companies, or get money from temporarily-uninsured folks, like me. And so what, if they scare us in the interim? We’ll be sure to schedule our next mammogram without fail.” I find solace in this thinking & it gets me through the next 15 minutes when my name is called AGAIN. But this time, the tech tells me I can remain sitting as she announces (in front of everyone) that they want to do an ultrasound; it’ll just be a few more minutes.

I TRY NOT to panic. I can feel the eyes of the women closest to me looking at me. I think they’re thinking: “They must have found something. Glad it’s you and not me.” I keep telling myself, "It's a cyst, it's a cyst. They'll probably just want to aspirate it. (Doesn't that involve a needle?) I go back to reading—or pretending to read.

WHEN THEY CALL me AGAIN, an ultrasound tech (who isn’t so technical) comes or me; she is genuinely nice. The ultrasound is much more pleasant (the gel is so warm & soothing), and I’m thinking, “Why can’t the breast-imaging machine be like this?” (My sister says it's 'cause a man invented the breast-imaging machine & a woman invented the ultrasound.) After a few scans, the tech tells me she doesn’t see anything, but the radiologist is going to come in & make sure. I am relieved to see that the radiologist (& the resident trailing her, along with all the techs are all women; I'm not a feminist or a sexist but female attention is very important in this situation). She scans me for a few seconds & is also convinced that she sees nothing, just wanted to make sure & "see you next year." Hasta la vista, baby. I run out of there so fast, I don’t even care that I didn’t get a chance to edit my book. I have lunch with two ex-coworkers who are so happy to see me & make me laugh so much, I yearn for the old days. Briefly.

AFTERWARDS I THINK (because I am always a writer): “This is going to make an insightful piece in one of my future books. One day. But not now.”

Peace, Love & Soul
Paz, Amor, y Alma


Saturday, May 21, 2005

JUST GOT BACK from attending my niece’s graduation in SIU; drove 5 hours from Carbondale—by myself (actually my daughter was with me, but she was in the back seat chilling). Words can’t begin to express the pride I felt watching my niece get her bachelor’s in dental hygiene after all she’s been through. She introduced me to her friends as “the famous author,” which made feel good, but also embarrassed me. I keep telling people I am NOT a famous author—yet. My sister also has a bad (albeit well-intentioned) habit of telling people I got a million-dollar book deal. I told her I don’t want some crazy psycho kidnapping me for ransom, for money I never got(!). Do I sound irrational—I don’t think so! We live in a crazy, mixed-up world. She insists I should “claim” that statement. I don’t mind stating my book will hit the million-dollar mark, but I don’t like lying about the book deal—I wish I did get a million dollars, but it was much, much, much less than that (you hear that, crazy psycho kidnappers!).

I HAVE BEEN editing the new novel, In The Picture I Have Of You (ITPIHOY), almost daily and I just have to say, God is good. Words are just coming into my mind from both the left & right. Just when I think I’ve gotten a scene down, some new revelation comes to mind. I’ve changed the main character’s name, Dimaris, to Xiomara, because: 1) when I received the rejection letters back in ’97, every single one of the editors referred to my character as “Damaris” (apparently she was some Greek mythology character); and 2) I have this obsession with unique names, especially those that start with “X” or “Z” ( I always have a character in my books with a name starting with either letter). In Choose Me, it’s Zephyr.

THE GOOD NEWS . . . My book is featured in the June issue of Essence magazine (woo-hoo!) on page 106 with the rest of Walk Worthy Press’s recent releases. It’s not a feature, or a review, but a print ad. I feel proud, but not in an arrogant way. I don’t feel famous, but I feel proud, but not in an arrogant way. I don’t feel famous, but I feel my dream of being featured in Essence has come true. Now I just have to get on their top 5 Bestseller List . . .

THE NO-SO GOOD news . . . I got my June Latina magazine issue and I was VERY disappointed that there was no mention of my book. I know my publisher sent them a press kit. And earlier this month, I e-mailed the editor reminding her about my book. We first corresponded in 2003 when I sent off the manuscript to WWP. She was very encouraging & told me to keep her up-to-date. I mean, I wasn’t looking for a full-page feature, or even an interview, just a blurb in the June calendario, or possibly a book review. Maybe she didn’t like the book; maybe she didn’t even read it. Maybe the Christian theme threw her off. I guess I am more hurt than disappointed because: 1) she didn’t even bother to write back; 2) Essence is running a print ad on WWP books including mine, and while one of the main characters is an African-American male, the female character is a LATINA. And then people wonder why I identify with African American culture more than my own Puerto Rican culture. It’s because they have always accepted me more than my own “so-called people.” And it isn’t even about the publicity, it’s the principle of the thing. I’M A LATINA AUTHOR WITH A BOOK ABOUT A STRONG LATINA CHARACTER. Latina constantly gets letters from readers who are tired of their disregard of dark-skinned Hispanics, as if we all look like J-Lo. Why do “we” have to bring this up at all? They know we come in all colors. I guess they saw the “Black characters” on the book cover & assumed it wouldn’t “appeal” to its “pale-skinned” Latin readers. Am I overreacting??

FORTUNATELY, I WILL get over this snub. I have to keep telling myself not to sweat this petty stuff. This is about Him, not about me.

MORE GOOD NEWS . . . Choose Me will be reviewed in the new local Latina magazine, Cuerpo, so I'm happy about that. I’m happy because I met Lissette Calderon (CEO & Founder) when Cuerpo was just a dream, just like my book was once a dream. So I guess it means more to me than being featured in “that” other magazine.

ON A WHIM, I just did an on-line search under my name to see what was new as far as reviews, and Romantic Times gave Choose Me a rating of 4 ½ stars out of 5 (which translates as “fantastic”). Woo-Hoo! I know I shouldn’t put too much stock in these things because if I accept the good, I’ll have to accept the bad. For now, I think I’ll accept the good. (

Peace, Love & Soul
Paz, Amor, y Alma

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The New Novel -- But First . . .

It’s 9:33 PM and I’ve decided to turn off the TV because I don’t want to hear the news anymore. They’ve been talking about the two little girls who were killed up in Zion, IL (on Mother’s Day) by one of the girls’ father (an ex-con). Not that I want to tune out that kind of stuff but after a while, the media capitalizes on horrific crimes such as these to appeal to the court of public opinion, get the grieving relatives with tears on camera. My daughter kept saying over and over that she doesn’t understand how a father could kill his own daughter, how ANYONE can stab and beat two little girls. She asked me if I ever worried about stuff like that when she and her brother were little, and I said yes, of course. I remember Jeanine Nicarico and the Atlanta Child Murders. I remember wondering why I brought children into this world and not having an answer even though I loved my children. Then because I am a spiritual being, a believer, I start telling her that this is all scriptural, that mothers will turn against daughters, fathers against sons, etc., that the reason God allows things like this to happen is because we (humanity) are becoming complacent with the “every-day” killings of city folks, especially children, especially people we don’t know. When something happens, we think, “Oh, that happened on the South Side,” or “Oh, we’re safe here.” There’s no sense of community, no compassion.

I will remember the names of the two little girls (Krystal Tobias and Laura Hobbs) just like I remember the names of the hundreds of other children who have died in Chicago in the years past.

I promised myself that this blog would be dedicated to a Year-In-The-Life of a new author s/p (that’s “status-post” for ya’ll without medical term experience a.k.a. AFTER ) the book deal. But I’ve noticed (from reading other authors’ blogs) that they occasionally discuss life, love, pet peeves etc. And you can’t help talking about those things when it’s around you and they influence your writing.

It’s now 11:05 PM . . . And now “Book News” . . .
This month has been very busy with CHOOSE ME. I can’t believe April is over and May is here. Soon it will be June (yes, I’m a poet as well) . . . I’m getting nervous, excited, and other emotions I can’t describe. Health-wise, I am almost fully recovered, thank God (and I don’t mean that figuratively). Now if I could just get rid of my allergies, I’d be perfect.

Last month, I visited several bookstores: Women & Children First, Pan de Vida (Bread of Life), a Christian bookstore, and a couple of chain bookstores (Barbara’s Bookstore, Border’s, Barnes & Noble).

Women & Children First (not to mention, I love the name) has been one of my favorite bookstores since my children were little. It was where I escaped when I would drop them off at their father’s and where I met Julia Alvarez, Esmeralda Santiago and Sandra Cisneros. I had always dreamed of seeing my book in their store window and holding a reading as I attended is years past. But I knew a reading was probably unlikely since the store catered to a predominately feminist and lesbian clientele. So when I went there to speak to one of the co-owners about the possibility of scheduling a reading, I wasn’t surprised when she got THAT LOOK in her eyes and said, “We don’t really have many religious events.” She admitted that she had received my press kit and book but hadn’t read it. I explained to her that it wouldn’t be a “religious” event (like a revival), it would be a regular reading and even though the main character was a Christian, I considered her an independent woman, in charge of her sexuality. I then added that my goal wasn’t to “convert atheists into believers” (to quote Kanye West), just do a reading at my favorite bookstore as I had always dreamed of doing. Then she suggested hosting my book release party, as long as I could guarantee that my family and friends would show (translated, as long as I could guarantee lots of sales). She really was very nice, asked me the usual curious questions about publishing, but after stating that she would read the book and contact me about the possible book party, I have yet to hear from her; it’s been three weeks. I know I should follow-up on my end but I’m taking this as a sign that maybe her bookstore isn’t the place for my book party.

I then called the manager at the Barbara’s Bookstore located at the hospital where I used to work. During my intro, he sounded nonchalant or uninterested; I couldn’t tell which. In the end, he asked me to send him an advance copy of the book. Later in the month, I visited the bookstore and the “nonchalant” manager turned out to be a very nice (and African-American) guy. He believes my book will sell well given the multi-cultural angle, since the market remains untapped in contemporary fiction. He also suggested that I come in and sign the books (since the store is too small for a reading) which he would then affix with “Signed by the Author” stickers (something I had suggested in the letter I wrote him). He didn’t seem at all fazed by the Christian theme and asked questions about Christian fiction and my road to publication. We ended up having a great conversation. Lesson learned: Sometimes first impressions are not true indicators of a person’s character.

I have been getting almost daily e-mails from my publicist and publisher. My publicist has been sending almost weekly updated daysheets for my upcoming book tour beginning in June. (A daysheet is an itinerary of scheduled speaking events.)

The scariest e-mail I got was from my publisher asking me how the “new novel” was coming along. I was like, HELLO? The first one hasn’t even been released yet. I had been working on it off-and-on so I asked her for a deadline since I work quicker under pressure. Apparently, she was under the impression that we had settled on a May 1st deadline(!) When I told her I could not recall such a deadline (which is true), we decided on a deadline of August 1st (much better!) My “new novel” is actually the first book I wrote, which I need to revise before submitting it for approval.

Most recently, I got an e-mail about receiving a poster for my book signings which I will need to take to the bookstores with me, though I have yet to receive it.

My first interview for CHOOSE ME will be published in Marcela Landres’s May-June 2005 LATINIDAD™ Newsletter. If you would like to read it, you will have to subscribe to Marcela Landres’s newsletter (

UPDATE: A recent e-mail from my publisher requested that I get the “new novel” as soon as I can (YIKES!). So, I’ve been editing every day like a madwoman on a mission from God. Meanwhile, there’s my day job, ongoing book promotion, my niece’s SIU graduation, my mom’s arrival from Puerto Rico on May 12 (which means I have to clean the house!) – need I say more. I gots to go . . .

Peace, Love & Soul
Paz, Amor, y Alma