Thursday, June 30, 2005


WENT TO DETROIT last weekend for my first Official Real Book Signing which included a reading. The drive up was a trip (metaphorically); actually, once we got on 94 East, we were fine. It was leaving Chicago and then trying to find the hotel in Detroit that gave us the flux. There was so much construction outside of Chicago & also going into Detroit. We left at approximately 11:00 a.m. & arrived in Detroit by, I want to say, 5:30-6:00 p.m. (normally a 5½ drive). Then at the hotel, I was assigned a room, not only by the side exit door (which opened & closed all nite), but by the ice machine (which noisily dispensed ice all nite long; I know it was hot but how much ice did people need?!), AND the elevator (DING! DING! went the bell all nite long) AND the indoor swimming pool (whose door everyone kept slamming).

DETROIT WAS JUST as hot as Chicago. It looked like Chicago, too. At least the West Side. We didn’t go downtown but I saw a little of their skyline—they have nothing on Chicago. We headed straight to the bookstore. Denise was early picking us up. It was great to finally meet her. She is very authoritative, confident and but as not as abrupt in person as she is on the phone or in e-mail. She reminds me of my cousins, Elvia (facial features) & Lizzette (physique), & my sister, Marie (personality). (e.g. When she asked us where we wanted to go to kill time, I said, “Sightseeing?” She answered, “Ain’t nothing to see in Detroit.”) We talked & laughed all the way to the Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore.

BEFORE THE EVENT got under way, we talked at length with Nkenge Abi, the manager, about anything & everything—from the high percentage of AIDS cases in the African-American community to not participating on a panel with Zane (more on that later).

AT FIRST IT looked like no one was coming. Then two gentlemen showed up (from Toledo, OH); very nice looking, one of them had dreadlocks like Choose Me’s character, Adam. They were both friends of Nkenge. First, Cheri & I gave a brief synopsis of our books; then one of the men (Steve, also a writer) asked if we could be persuaded to read. Cheri read first, holding her book up as if she was reading to little kids & was going to show them the pictures after reading (I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out later).

THEN I READ. I wasn’t really nervous but I kept stumbling over some words (even though I had practiced the night before). I was aware that I wasn’t making eye contact with the audience but I knew if I looked up, I would lose my place. Then my voice started getting dry and I started cracking. (Later, Denise told me I read too long & I should cut it down—fine by me!) THEN the questions came: 1) “I heard Denise ask you if you were fluent in Spanish; did you have much exposure to the Puerto Rican community?” 2) “How much of your life did you use for your character?” (I knew that question would come up but I was ready for it.) Then I asked the men if I captured the voice of the male character in Adam & they both said I did. The other guy (Adam-Twin) said that although he wasn’t going thru what the character was going thru, he could relate to the apprehensiveness about dating again because he was going thru a divorce himself & trying to gain custody of his autistic son (OK, did anybody ask you?)

AT ONE POINT as we continued the dialogue, I noticed of the corner of my eye that Adam-Twin had released his dreads from their ponytail band & was fingering his locks (much like a girl would) & I just thought, “What is he doing?” (I guess it didn't help that when I was giving my synopsis, I said that Adam was an African-American with dreadlocks & gestured toward him. (Don't ask me why I did that. Although he was attractive, I wasn't attracted to him & I wasn't flirting with him, I swear.)

STEVE BOUGHT THREE books (mine & Cheri’s & the book written by the Walk Worthy Editors, God’s Word for the Unmarried Believer), which was nice; Adam-Twin didn’t buy any, & didn’t look guilty. I know I shouldn’t be perturbed that he didn’t buy any, but I just felt it made him look cheap. As I was personalizing Steve’s copy, I asked him what he wrote & he said he wrote children’s books (he has 4 kids, including two teenage daughters, to which he will probably give the books). Then he said Adam-Twin was his illustrator. Cheri asked him if he had any work with him & he immediately pulled out an illustration from his portfolio. As we were admiring it, a bus tour of some 20 people from Columbus, OH, which was scheduled to tour the Black Holocaust museum on the 2nd floor, came in. As Nkenge ushered them into the seats, Steve & Adam-Twin disappeared.

THE COLUMBUS GROUP was part of an organization called EXCEL which finds scholarships for high school students who want to go to college. Cheri & I reiterated our synopses about my books, they asked us questions, and then we encouraged the students to continue their higher education before they got married or had children. Despite the low turn-out & few book sales (“One book at a time,” Denise said), I thought the event went very well. I felt more confident. Of course, I thought of some things I could do differently next time. Like I’m not going to say, it’s a love story anymore, even though it is about love (God’s Love). But I’m going to say it’s a relationship story about a Latina and . . .” though Denise said she liked that I said it was a “love story and not a romance.”

AFTER WE SIGNED the in-store stock copies (5), we went to Steve’s Soul Food restaurant. Denise said she hadn’t been there in a while but she heard that they had closed it down for a while (hmmm, red flag?). As soon as we walk in, a pregnant woman is being led out, crying, her pants & blouse wet. Apparently, her water had broken in the middle of her meal. Everybody kept telling her, “It’s alright. It’s going to be alright.” Why did Denise say, “She thinks she’s crying now? She’s going to have a whole lot to cry about later.” (Something my sister would say; she is too funny.)

THE FOOD WAS great. I took moderate portions of things I knew I would like; though I got some salmon (which I rarely eat) & it was kind of tough. The peach cobbler wasn’t that good; the rest (smothered beef spare ribs, white rice, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, barbeque rib tips) was very good.

the road about 4:30 p.m. and arrived back in Chicago around 8:30 p.m. (of course, we got lost once again just outside of Chicago). All in all, it was an experience. I slept ‘til 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning & it felt good. So good, that I forgot all about my radio interview at 12:00 with a Washington gospel station (YIKES!).

IT WAS MY mom’s last day in Chicago so we just hung around talking, took the last few pictures. I had a headache (probably from having the A/C directly on me so much). She made arroz con gandules & bistec. I almost got teary when I hugged her because I felt like we didn’t spend as much time together; we didn’t talk that much because You-Know-Who was always no more than three feet away. She’s going to come back for the Book Launch Party on July 22nd & I hate to say it, I hope he doesn’t come.

SO UNLESS SOMETHING new comes up on the daysheets, I’m pretty much free to continue promoting my book on my own. Today I bought a new cell phone & did some planting in the front yard (hostas I got my cousin, Luis), something I should’ve done a couple of weeks ago. I really need to clean the house before the next tour date (July 8-9) to Milwaukee. Speaking of which . . .

SO GETTING TO Zane Panel Discussion . . . We were supposed to have a booth at the NAACP Convention but apparently, the organizer couldn’t afford one so she wanted to put us on a panel with ZANE (the bestselling erotica author) and Denise said, “UNH-UNH! What’re they going to talk about?” so she said we could scratch that off our itinerary. I was really looking forward to going, though. So all we have are drop-bys at a couple of Barnes & Noble’s & B.Dalton stores & a signing at the Cultural Connection, which I’m assuming is an AA bookstore.

I THINK I’M getting a little less anxious now after the Detroit experience. The bus tour contained a mixture of ages and such a large number, I don’t think I’ll ever get another crowd like it. Except for the Book Launch Party which is supposed to have a guest list of at least 50. If I invite my entire family (including kids) & friends/acquaintances, the list will go past that so I think I’m going to have to make it an Adults’ Only event. That’ll go over well. I’m thinking of making a separate celebration for just the family at this dance studio which hosts events. We’ll see.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

WELL I DID my In-Store Stock Signings at three Border’s Bookstores on Monday, JUNE 20. The three stores ordered 3, 4 and 8 copies; all sold-out—woo-hoo. (When I asked why so few copies were ordered, they said it was a corporate decision, but that the fact that they sold out so quickly would probably guarantee a larger reorder quantity next time.) Everyone was friendly & cordial & helpful. I called them “ghetto signings” because I signed the books standing up, no comfy table & chair.) My family & friends kept asking me how I felt & telling me they’re proud but I just feel like it still hasn’t hit me. Weird. About a quarter of my family (14 members) were there for support (& responsible for most of the sales; my mom bought 2 for her friends in Puerto Rico (yes, they read English); my stepdad bought one for his sister in PR -- who doesn't read English-!); my cousin bought another one even though I gave him a free one. At the last stop on Border’s on North & Halsted, I think the manager couldn’t wait for my loud family to leave because we were just “hanging out”, talking, my mom brought me roses & was taking pictures left & right. I’m not sure if he said I should schedule a formal book signing because he wanted us to leave or because he thought it would be another chance to make more sales.

I HAD MY radio interview with Wali Muhammad from WSRB (which airs in Chicago, Northern Illinois & Wisconsin) & it was so frustrating. First, the pager I was supposed to call him wasn't working so he called me 1 1/2 hours earlier to tell me he'd call ME @ Noon. By 12:40, he hadn't called, so I called my publicist. Finally, he called me to say he was stuck in traffic. My home phone was acting up, apparently, he couldn't hear me thru the handset so I tried the speaker, but he still couldn't hear me. Then he tried calling me on the cell & he said I was breaking up, I guess because he was taping the interview via his computer. We finally did it from my home phone via the speakerphone with me screaming thru the speaker & saying, "I'm sorry, I can barely hear you. Could you repeat that?" Anyway, he said it got it. It will air next week sometime on "The Communicator Show" (I've never heard of it but I think it's 107.5 WGCI). Since I don't listen to the radio except when I sent my alarm clock to WNUA, I'm not sure, but I couldn’t tell him that. I’m afraid of telling people because my voice sounds weird on recordings. They're giving away 5 books when it airs. (I went out & bought a new home phone at Home Depot.)

WALI ALSO PLUGGED my signing at Afrocentric Bookstore on July 23 & the Signing/Appearance at the Bessie Coleman branch of the Chicago Public Library (7/30).

SPEAKING OF BESSIE Coleman, I finally spoke to the main Collections person at Harold Washington CPL & she started off pretty friendly telling me how they order from their distributors, depending on whether books have been reviewed by Library Journal, Booklist, etc. She found my book info in her system & said, "yes, this certainly is something that we would order, blah, blah, blah... we'd probably order about 20-30 copies." Since it’s listed under AA lit, they'll go to the libraries in AA neighborhoods (typical, because no one else will read them, right?). So I told her that my book also has a Puerto Rican character & that I would like the book sent to a couple of branches in the Latino neighborhoods I grew up in. I asked her if it would be possible if the books could be ordered by July 22nd & she said she had already placed the order for this month (I guess she thought I said June 22nd). I then said, "The event is NEXT MONTH." So she said there's a possibility she could order the books before then. And then, she just cut me off & said, "Thank you for calling & inquiring about your book"--! I'm going to call the Bessie Coleman branch tomorrow & speak to their Head Librarian, make HER put in the official request in writing or e-mail.

MY BOOK LAUNCH party has been scheduled for FRIDAY, JULY 22nd, 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO BOOKSTORE. At first, I was not very happy. #1 – It’s not my alma mater – why not NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY?? #2 – Friday evening during Chicago’s RUSH HOUR on LAKE SHORE DRIVE?? #3 Where the heck is U of C??? So today, I took a drive to U of C but instead of the LSD, I took the Dan Ryan & exited on 51st Street—not exactly the most scenic route. I could just see my Anglo friends driving down here, locking their doors, praying. Luckily I turned East which was the right direction; unfortunately, I didn’t have the address with me so I got lost, went around in so many circles, asked one person, who got me more lost, finally got the right directions & found the bookstore. I was able to find a meter despite the construction (that’s something the South Side has in common with the North Side). Since I didn’t have the contact person’s name, I was just going to ask the first person I saw in the store but obviously I looked very lost because the first woman I run into asks me, “Can I help you?” I told her I was doing a reading next month & I couldn’t remember the lady’s name. She said, “I’m Janis. And you are?” (the coordinator of the event). She recognized my name right away. So we shook hands & she showed me where the readings usually take place, and that they normally order like 25 books, in addition to stock copies. She said that my publicist stated I was bringing a cake, which was news to me. I hadn’t thought of it, but it’s a good idea. Anyway, I saw plenty of street parking & there is also a garage a few blocks away so people who really want to come, will come. I was glad I took the drive down there.

THEN I DROVE to Border’s on Broadway/Clark/Diversey & looked around for CHOOSE ME. I found it in AA Lit – ONE COPY! (I pulled it out of the shelf where they just had the spine sticking out and placed it prominently on the top shelf, face-up.) I started to ask a salesperson if it was the only copy and then I saw three more copies on the “NEW FICTION” table. I felt vindicated and recognized.

TOMORROW I HAVE another radio interview with Voice of America which airs all over the U.S. and Africa to 94 million people a week – talk about intimidating. I hope it goes better than my first radio interview.

AFTER THAT, I leave for Detroit on Friday 6/24 for Saturday’s Signing/Appearance as part of Walk Worthy Day at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore (I just love that name!). I am so nervous. It will be my first official reading. I bought some clear sunglasses since I can’t read up close with my regular prescription glasses (but also so I can’t see “all eyes on me”). I’m driving up with Cheri Paris Edwards, fellow WWP Author of PLENTY GOOD ROOM who’s done several readings so I feel a less anxious.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


I WAS AT work when my daughter arrived with a next-day package. It was from my publisher so before I even opened it, I knew it was my book(!) – actually two copies. I kind of screamed out (not too loud since I was in class): “My book!” The whole class burst out in applause. I think I almost cried.

I QUICKLY DEDICATED the first copy to . . ."the most important person in my life, my Rock, my reason for living, my everything. Thank You, God, for Your many blessings and for my gift. I will do my best to always honor You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.” This copy will be framed in a special display frame.

THE SECOND COPY went to my daughter because, well, she is my daughter. My sister was kind of disappointed; she actually had a minor attitude while teaching her Math class (and it wasn’t just because half of the other fifth-grade class--which gets on her bad side--had switched over). After the class, I asked her if she was upset and initially she said no, but then she admitted that she was, a little. But after I talked to her, I think she understood why I had to give my daughter the second copy. My sister then reminded me that it was she who recommended that I revise my secular novel into a Christian novel. I told her I would acknowledge that fact when I dedicated the THIRD copy to her. The FOURTH copy will go to my little sister because she has this belief that she has always felt left out because my middle sister and I are so close (in age & in relationship). No matter how many times I tell her I love her the same, she will believe what she wants to believe (sigh). You can only please so many people.

THE FIFTH COPY will go to my mother. At first, I thought I should have given her the first copy but then my sister reminded me that she hasn’t given me the information I have requested for years (the story of my father). So though I love her most of all, she is #5 on the distribution list – UPP!(it’s a sister thing, you wouldn’t understand).

ALL DAY LONG, the students were asking questions: Could they see (i.e. touch) the book? (You can touch with your eyes.) Where is the book available? (Border’s) What’s that? (Oh, no you don’t know what Border’s is.) Could they buy the book? (No, it’s for adults.) Could they read the book? (No, it’s for adults.) Maybe I should have written a kids’ book. One of my dreams is to write my own House on Mango Street/Catcher in the Rye/When I was Puerto Rican/A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which will stand the test of time. One day, I will.

Peace, Love & Soul
Paz, Amor, y Alma


Thursday, June 02, 2005


WOW, IT’S JUNE. . . I remember when I used to think, "my book comes out Summer 2005," then "my book comes out in six months. . ." It seems so long ago


Still working on "the next novel," trying to secure a place for the Book Launch Party, etc.

Following is a list of my booked events for JUNE 2005. If you live in or near Chicago, or Detroit, check out my scheduled appearances in June.

The following events are all drop-bys (which means I go to the bookstores and sign their in-store stock. Although the times are supposed to be flexible, I have scheduled my own times):

10:00 – 11:00 AM
Borders #483
7100 Forest Preserve Drive
Norridge, IL 60706
P: 708-457-2111

12:00 NOON – 2:00 PM
Barbara’s Bookstore
(located at my old job! -- Northwestern Memorial Hospital)
201 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
P: 312-926-2665

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Borders #058
(Michigan Avenue)
830 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
P: 312-573-0564

5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Borders #564
(North & Halsted)
755 W North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610
P: 312-266-8060

SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 1:00-3:00PM
Walk Worthy Day at the Shrine
Book Signing (with Cheri Paris Edwards)
Shrine of the Black Madonna
13535 Livernois Avenue
Detroit, MI 48238
P: 313-491-0777

If you are unable to come to any of these events due to vacation schedules, you can pre-order the book on-line for 35% off ( it will be waiting for you upon your return.


Love, Peace & Soul,
Amor, Paz y Alma,

Xenia Ruíz
Author of CHOOSE ME
Walk Worthy Press/Warner Books
“Told in alternating voices, this debut novel is the tumultuous story of a Latina and an African American man whose search for one another takes a detour through the perfect love of God.”
(Finally here at bookstores everywhere – June 20, 2005)