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.


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