Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winners of Day 10 of the 12 Days of Chica Lit Blog Tour

If you're Karin Tollotsin or Patricia Cochran, then you are the winners of the prizes offered by Misa Ramirez. Contact Misa for more information.

To win the Black Artemis bundle, read my story "I.C.E." and answer the following question:

To what Brooklyn neighborhood did Nancy go for her job interview?

You can post here or at my blog on MySpace. In fact, you may want to read the story on MySpace as the formatting is better. (Blogger just won't cooperate with me.) However, correct entries both here on Blogger and on MySpace will be considered for the random drawing.

To find out if you won, tomorrow visit Toni Plummer's blog and read the last story of the tour!

Day 11 of 12 DAYS OF CHICA LIT

“Oh, my God, Nancy, I think this is the one,” sings Celestina from behind the stall. “Your brother loves green, too.”
I just mumble, “Yup, he sure does.” She swore the last three dresses she tried on were the One. My cell phone rings, indicating that I have a text message. I reach into my pocket for it and flip it open.
Have you forgotten to pay your bill? For your convenience, you can pay 24 hours online or at., . .
I slam the phone closed and shove it back into my two-year old parka.
“Is that yours or mine?” Cee asks.
“Mine,” I say. “Telemarketers.”
“Girl, you have to put your cell phone number on the Do Not Call list, too,” Celestina swears that my brother is going to propose to her at her company’s holiday party and has dragged me to three department stores from Manhattan to Westchester to find the perfect dress. I have no idea if Migs intends to pop the question. That boy doesn’t talk to me about things like that even though his girlfriend for the past three years is my best friend. Maybe that’s precisely why he doesn’t talk to me about her.
Celestina steps out of the stall wearing a strapless emerald velvet gown with a matching silk taffeta stole around the bodice. Even without a stitch of makeup and her hair pulled up in a lumpy ponytail, she looks fantastic. If he has no plans on proposing, Migs just might after one look at her in that dress.
“Wow, Cee, you’re right,” I say as I stand in amazement. “That’s the One.”
“You really think so?”
Gathering the fabric in her hands so she won’t trip over the hem, she comes over to hug me. “I can’t wait until we’re officially sisters, Nancy.”
“Me, too, Cee.” We hold each other for a second. “Cee?”
“Can we go eat now?”

When I accepted Cee’s dinner invitation tonight, I knew that in exchange for the free meal, I first would have to endure at least three hours of Christmas shopping. Last year, I would’ve been all for it. This year, however, I’m so broke, my eyes have splinters. It hurts to look at anything I can’t afford which is pretty much everything. It’s so bad that despite my lack of holiday cheer, I force myself to go every holiday party I can for the free hor’deurves and liquor.
So I appreciate Celestina making dinner all about me. Cee lets me choose the restaurant, doesn’t blink an eye when I order my third margarita and lets me go on and on about how much it sucks to be so broke during Christmas because the at-home graphic design business that I quit my dull but well-paying job at a major stationery company to start is almost dead.
“The worst thing is that I’ve been so good, Cee.” I take a big gulp and polish off Margarita #3. “I mean, if I were being irresponsible with my money or slacking off, I’d admit it to you even if no one else. But I’ve been so. . . so. . . “
Cee spears a crouton on her Caesar salad. “Disciplined?”
“Sooooo disciplined, and I’ve got ssssquat to show for it.” I reach for my fork, and drop it the second I lift it off the table. OK, I’m at the edge of drunkenness. You know, that point where you’ve drunk enough to affect your speech and coordination yet sober enough to be aware and embarrassed by the slurring and the dropsies. That’s when you’re supposed to quit. “Where’s the ssserver? I need another fork. And a Cosmo.”
God bless Cee. She rolls her eyes but bites her tongue. That’s a friend. Instead she says, “Oh, before I forget. Santa dropped this off for you at our place.” She reaches down into one of her shopping bags and pulls out a gift-wrapped box.
I stare at the box. “Oh, my God, Cee, you didn’t. . . “I finally accept it and unwrap it. She bought me the latest BlackBerry which does everything – makes calls, sends email, plays music, washes dishes. . . No wonder it costs almost four hundred dollars without a service plan.
Cee smiles. “Well, I didn’t. I mean, that’s from both your brother and me. You’re an entrepreneur, Nancy, and every entrepreneur needs a PDA.”
Only if she’s successful. I know Migs and she meant nothing but the best, but the extravagant gift makes me feel worse. No one – not even my parents and nieces in Florida – is getting a thing from me this Christmas except cards which I’ve been too depressed to even send.
And as if she can read my mind, Cee says, “We just loved the card you made for us, Nancy. Instead of hanging it along with the rest of the cards we received, Migs framed it and hung it on the wall. You’re so talented, Nancy.”
After such tremendous generosity, I don’t know if I have the heart to tell Cee that I can barely keep my current cellular phone service never mind switch to. . .
“Wait a minute. . .” I reach for my jacket and pat down the pockets. Then I start to panic. “Oh, shit! Cee, I lost my cell phone.”
Cee laughs and raises her glass. “You don’t need it anymore!”
I grab my purse and scour through it. “What do you mean I don’t need it? It’s the only telephone I have. My entire address book is in there.” I hadn’t told her that the telephone company disconnected the outgoing service on my landline because my account is sixty days overdue. If I don’t pay before the year is out, they’re going to cut my incoming service, too. “And what if a potential client calls me, and I can’t get back to them.” Never mind that for the past three months the only business calls I get are about my outstanding invoices with Yahoo! and Staples. “The last thing I need right now, Celestina, is for some pendejo to rack up calls on my phone and send my bill soaring through the roof!”
“OK, OK, OK, Nancy, calm down.” Cee should know better than to say that to me. I slam my head down on the table and start to cry. “C’mon, you’re getting garlic sauce in your hair.”
That works. I don’t want to walk around smelling like tilapia. Although at the rate I’m going, that will be inevitable since I’m also behind in my rent. I lift my head, but bury my face in my sleeve. “This is the worst Christmas I’ve had in my entire life.”
Cee reaches over with a napkin to wipe garlic sauce out of my split ends because it’s been six months since I’ve gotten a trim never mind gotten my hair done. “Look, we’ll head back to Nordstrom. How much you wanna bet it’s in the dressing room? That’s where you used it last, right?” I nod like an unconvinced toddler. “Let’s just get the check and go back. They’re probably holding it for you.”
She summons the server for the check, and we head back to mall. On the way, Cee even calls the store and asks if anyone found my phone. Two seconds after she asks, the look on her face gives away the answer.
“Let’s go anyway and look for ourselves,” says Cee. Then she starts scanning the sidewalk like a Basset hound. “We’ll retrace our steps and. . .”
“If I dropped the phone between Nordstrom’s and PF Chang’s, forget it. It’s gone. If someone didn’t kick it into traffic, and it got smashed by a truck, they picked it up and are singing Feliz Navidad to their abuelita a million miles away.”
“C’mon, Nancy, let’s at least go back to Nordstrom. Just because the girl who answered the phone didn’t see it doesn’t mean no one else there did. You never know.”
“No, Cee, I just want to go home.”
Cee drives us back from White Plains to the Bronx, allowing me to brood in silence and changing the radio station every time the DJ decides to play a holiday jingle. Only when she finally pulls off the exit and heads toward our neighborhood does she speak “Why don’t you come by our place for a bit?” says Cee. “Your brother’s been asking for you. I’m sure he’d like to see you.
Translation: Migs wants to be sure you’re not going to ruin our holidays by hanging yourself with the Christmas lights. “Some other time, Cee, OK?”
“OK.” She gives me a hug, reminds me not to forget my new BlackBerry and tells me she’ll call me later. Once I get back to my studio, I fling myself across the futon and cry myself to sleep.

I wake up around ten the next morning in the same exact position where I crashed. Slowly but surely, I get myself up. That’s when I notice the light blinking on my telephone. When I came to accept that the only calls I was going to get were from collection departments and not potential clients, I shut off the ringer on the telephone and turned down the volume on the answering machine. Since I feel bad about being such a grinch, I turn up the volume and play my messages just in case I received a call from Cee or Migs or some other relative. Maybe just maybe, a long lost friend that I had blown off one time too many while starting my soon-to-be defunct graphic design business is feeling charitable this season and has decided to give me one last chance. So I hit play and listen while pressing my fingers into my face trying to iron out the sleep wrinkles embedded in my right cheek.
The first message is from that same chick with the thick accent. This is Kathleen from Universal Fidelity calling Nancy Aguire. Miss Aguire, this is not a telemarketing call, and I need. . .”
“It’s Aguirre, ¡idiota! Ah-GHEE-reh not Uh-GWY-er!” I yell at the machine. “That’s why I’m not going to call you back never mind pay you.” I glance at the caller ID window on the machine. Area code 281. Isn’t that freakin’ Texas? Then she really should know better. Any excuse, right? I hit delete, realizing that if I had had ordered voicemail service through my telephone company instead of splurging almost two hundred dollars on this home office system, good ol’ Kathleen from Universal Fidelity wouldn’t be breathing down my neck right now because Verizon would’ve cut off the voicemail. I can’t even screw up right.
“Nancy? It’s Migs. Yo, Nancy, pick up. Look, mama, I know things are real tough right now for you, and I just want you to know I’ve got your back, OK? I’ll help you best as I can even though I’m not exactly rolling in it since. . .” He lowers his voice into a whisper. Well, as close to a whisper as a Puerto Rican six-foot-two, muscle-bound correction officer raised in a South Bronx housing project can manage. I just bought Celestina an engagement ring, OK, and, so help me God, you best not breathe a word to her. You hear me, Nancy? I don’t care if she is your best friend. If you say anything to her, I’ma go over there and kick your ass. I swear, Nancy, as I live and breathe. . . In the background, I hear Cee enter the room and ask if my brother if he reached me. So if push comes to shove, and you need to stay with us until you get back on your feet, you know, you can. OK, mama? I’ll try you again later.
Despite the threat to do me bodily harm if I spoil his proposal, I’m moved by my brother’s offer. I know it’s sincere and had nothing to do with Cee’s prodding. I’d just rather pitch a tent underneath a bypass of the Bronx River Parkway than move in on two newlyweds. I put the volume on maximum, skip to the next message and head over to the kitchen to make myself some coffee.
Nancy. . . It’s Jay. Wow, it’s been what? Definitely more than a year. Even though my refrigerator is in my living room, I spin around and run back to the phone. Listen, a little bird told me that you lost your cell phone at Nordstrom’s. No, the bird’s name is not Celestina who I’m sure was with you at the time buying out the place. Anyway, if you want to find out how I know and to make arrangements to get your phone back, give me a shout. My cell’s the same. . . It’ll be good to hear your voice… you know, in person. Well, not in person, but. . . you know what I mean. Looking forward to talking to you, Nancy. Bye.
How on earth did the ex-boyfriend that I haven’t spoken to in over a year get his hands on the cell phone I lost in White Plains?
Although Jay and I parted on good terms, I feel nervous as I dial his new number. The last time we saw each other. . . I can’t even remember. After we broke up, we made a genuine effort to remain friends and even got together for coffee two or three times. But I was knee-deep in building my own business, and he was trying to get his doctorate in psychology. Once I cancelled dinner to take on a last-minute rush job that would have brought me some desperately needed income. We rescheduled for lunch two weeks later only for Jay to bail because his advisor gave him a break-neck deadline to revise a chapter of his dissertation. I’m not sure, but I think he was supposed to call me to reschedule but never did, and so we just fell out of touch. Until now.
I’m sorry. Your call cannot be completed. Please call. . .
“Shit!” In my surprise over Jay’s call, I forgot that I had no outgoing service. I pull on my jacket and walk the five blocks to Celestina and Miguel’s apartment.

As I dial Jay’s number from the telephone in my brother’s bedroom, I feel like a linebacker with Celestina sitting on my neck like a huge shoulder pad. I look over to her and mouth His voicemail. Cee sucks her teeth and backs off me a bit.
But then I realize that I’m not prepared for this call at all.Just as the beep sounds, I hang up. Celestina gives me a questioning look. “Cee, why did Jay and I break up again?” I ask, “I mean, I remember all the damned fighting. But what was it the hell about. I can’t remember.”
Cee shrugs. “Everything. Stupid shit. All that fighting about nothing, that’s why you had to break up.”
I nod, but I’m not satisfied. It makes sense, and yet it doesn’t. “Oh, what’s the big deal?” I finally say as I dial Jay’s number for the second time. “Hey, Jay, it’s Nancy. What a nice surprise to hear your voice after all this time! Yes, I’m super curious to hear how you got your hands on my cell phone which I do need back right away so. . .” For a second, I’m lost for words. Celestina puts her hand to her ear as if she’s making a call. . . “. . . uh, yeah, call me back. Youhavethenumbersothanksbye!” I disconnect the call. I don’t know where that sudden wave of anxiety came from.
“You should’ve left him this number, too, you know, and hang out for a bit in case he calls back.”
“What for?” Before she can even answer that, I say, “Besides, it’s bad enough my broke-ass is going to have to see him to get my phone back, I don’t need him calling here looking for me.”
“Why not? What’s so terrible about seeing Jay?”
“It’s not Jay. It’s me. I don’t want him to see me like this.”
Cee looks me up and down. “OK, so you need a trim and the highlights haven’t grown out, but so what? You put your hair up. A little makeup, a nice outfit. . .”
“Cee, it’s not the way I look.” I throw myself backwards on her bed and stare up at her ceiling. “It’s the way I am. If you were in my shoes, would you want an ex-boyfriend to see you this way?”
“What are you going to do?” Cee’s upside down face pops over mine. “Wait until your life is perfect before you meet the guy to get your phone back?”
“No,” I say. “But I should at least get a damn job.”
Migs comes into the bedroom with his Love you but get out face so I head home.

Who happens to call me while I was walking the five blocks?
Nancy! Where are you? You just called me. Probably at some party rubbing elbows with other artsy types. Hope you’re having a good time. Anyway, I’ll be up pretty late so if you want to find out how I got your phoooone, call me back when you get in.
Shit! Why doesn’t the man just tell me? No way in hell am I heading back to Cee’s to return his call. Besides Jay thinks I have a life. Let him. I’ll go get one tomorrow and then call him back.

With a batch of quarters in my purse and my resume on a flash drive, I go to the neighborhood library so I can search for a job. I’m not above getting a customer service gig at a department store just to keep myself afloat, but what’s the point? The holiday season is underway so there’s probably no work in retail to be had. Better to invest my time in finding something more permanent.
When I feel my resume is in decent shape, I take a break to call Jay on the pay phone. The library is virtually empty during a cold weekday so the conditions are ideal. Having done something to better my situation, I feel ready to speak directly to him.
I take a deep breath and dial only to get his voicemail.
Tag, you’re it. . . I give a small laugh. You know what, Joaquín? I’m starting to wonder if you truly want to return my phone. Don’t let me find out you’re using up all my minutes. Whoa, where did that come from? I sound way too flirty. I hit three on the keypad so I can erase and rerecord my message. I wait for the cue, but it never comes. Only then I remember that feature only works on my phone. ¡Que estupida! I immediately slam the receiver down and back away from the phone as if it were possessed. Should I call back and apologize for the obnoxious beep I left on Jay’s voicemail? No, that would be even more pathetic.
Instead I head back to my job search. I keep it at for a few hours not stopping until my eyes blur and my stomach growls. Do I save time and grab fast (and not inexpensive) food near the library or do I save money and walk the three blocks back to my apartment and make myself a (free) meal? I decide it’s best to go home.

Waiting for me are five messages. Four are about overdue accounts including one from the telephone company. The last, of course, is from Jay and starts with a husky laugh.
Don’t worry, Nancy. I’m not using up your minutes. Damn, you called me Joaquín, too? You must mean business. Now what if I were using your phone? What were you going to do about it? Spank me? He laughs again and then hangs up.
I laugh like I haven’t in weeks. One of the things Jay used to do to crack me up was that silly spank-the-booty dance. Whenever I had an unproductive day and refused to cheer up, he’d just start galloping around and smacking his own ass just to make me laugh. It never failed. Once we had a big argument about something before meeting Cee and Migs at the movies for a double date. I was behind on a job, he was stuck on a chapter. . . I don’t think either of us really wanted to go out, but somehow we got started on each other. Right there in the middle of the multiplex lobby, Jay starts to gallop, and I just couldn’t stay mad at him. It takes guts for a man to do that in public, especially in front of his girlfriend’s muy macho older brother.
While waiting for my griddle cheese sandwich to heat, I scour through my jar of loose change for more quarters. I toss them in my purse, wrap my sandwich in a paper towel and walk back to the library, eating along the way. I even stop at a bakery and splurge on a large cup of hot chocolate.

Before I settle in front of a computer at the library, I head over to the pay phone and call back Jay. Once again, I get his voicemail, and I don’t mind. I decide to play with him just a little. Spank you? From what I remember, you’d like that. A lot. Now me? All I want for Christmas is my phone so would you pretty please let me know when and where we can meet? I’m pretty flexible. From what I remember, you liked that, too.
Whoa, I didn’t mean to go that far! What’s gotten into me? Well, what’s done is done. And what’s a little flirtation between exes turned friends? It’s sweet even if it’s going nowhere.

Over the next few days, Jay and I compare schedules and make a date via telephone tag. Not once does he ask me why I never call him from my home number, and I stop asking him how he wound up with my cell phone. He flirts up a storm, and while I can’t deny it puts a smile on my face, I do my best not to give him the impression I’m interested. Still I tease him a little so as not to hurt his feelings.
So you’re still flexible, huh? Well, then we should get together soon.
Real soon. Like tomorrow night. How ‘bout Café Sevilla’s at six?
Hi, Jay. Café Sevilla, yes. Tomorrow night, no. Migs and Cee are insisting I go to her office Christmas party because he’s going to pop the question. Migs has no clue that she sees it coming, Cee doesn’t know that I know he bought the ring, they both need me for moral support. You know how it goes. I’d like to invite you, but I don’t know. . . I’m starting to think you’re a figment of my imagination. You know, an eggnog mirage. Like Santa, I’ma need to see you to believe you. Byyye!
Misss Nancelot! You know, I almost took you up on your invitation to Cee’s office party, but I decided I want you to myself. And by the way, I known you know I’m real. You know how I know? I’ll tell you when I see you. Sevilla’s on Friday?
J-Real, so we be chillin’ at Sevilla’s on Friday, but can we make it seven, babe? I have an appointment in Brooklyn at four. Don’t want to be late lest you get it twisted. I ain’t skeered of you.

The interview I scored at the up and coming design boutique in Williamsburg goes so well, I lose track of time. I had applied only because I had no choice but to go back into the traditional workforce, but fifteen minutes after I arrive, I decide I really want this job. The pay is much less than I made at the stationery company since it’s a mom-and-pop shop – or maybe I should say a papi-y-papi shop since my bosses are two older Latino gay men – but the job requires true creativity. Not only will I gain new skills, I’ll also learn about the business. I can see myself happily making the hour-and-half commute every day for several years until I either become a partner or strike out on my own again with a real shot at making it.
I leave the loft knowing that the reference check is just a formality, and I can’t wait to see Jay and tell him all about it. I glance at the clock in the lobby. It’s five-thirty. I’ll be cutting it close, but I should make it to Café Sevilla’s on time, especially since it’s rush hour. And first chance I get, I’ll switch to the express. On my way to the subway station, it starts to flurry, and the holiday spirit just grabs me. I even start humming Sleigh Ride. When I realize how corny I’m being, I actually start to sing.

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a problem with the train in front of us. As soon as we can, we will be moving. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.
Liar! We have moved, like, seven inches in the last half-hour. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me. I’m a native New Yorker, and like it or not, these unforeseen delays happen, and I can take them in stride. But not today, damn it! For the past year and a half I’ve been working from home with only rare occasion to go into Manhattan, and now the subway wants to act up?
It wouldn’t be so bad if my train at least had paused in a station. That way I could just get off, find a pay phone and let Jay know that I’m running late. But we’re stuck underground where I couldn’t even get a signal if I had my cell phone.
The train finally crawls into the next station, making me a half-hour late. At least now I can do something besides sit and wait. I paw my way through the rush-hour crowd – thicker with the holiday shopping bags – and onto the platform. I practically have to walk to the other end to find a pay phone.
I lose a dollar and watch my train leave the station before I realize that bastard doesn’t work. But I keep my cool. It’s not like that train is going to pick up speed and make up time. I look at the system map and see that another subway line is not far. I’ll just walk to it and stop at a pay phone to call Jay on the way.

Damn it, I forgot how deceivingly close things seem on a Metropolitan Transit Authority map. Not to mention how a working pay phone in New York City is much like Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer – something that ceased to exist in my universe once I turned ten.
I walk at least a mile in my interview pumps and lose several more dollars at five pay phones before I reach the next subway line. I imagine Jay sitting at Sevilla’s, checking his watch and wondering if I stood him up. Having used my cell phone instead of wearing a watch for years, I have no idea what time it is until I get to the station. It’s now a quarter after six. I can forget about getting there by seven. At best, I’ll make it by seven-thirty. That is, if nothing else goes wrong.
Jay will give me until seven-thirty. He knows I’d call him if I could. I mean, the man knows I have no phone. Well, at least no mobile phone. He has my cell phone. So he’ll cut me some slack and give me until seven-thirty.
Won’t he?
I mean, he’s been flirting with me for over a week. Surely, Jay’s not going to jump ship at the first misunderstanding, is he?
Then again, why shouldn’t he? Especially since I’ve been playing hard to get. Well, not playing, but. . .
I have to do something. Last night I swallowed my pride and asked Cee to lend me a few bucks. Despite all his flirtation, I didn’t want to risk that Jay would offer to treat me to dinner. Even if he did, I planned to insist on paying for myself. The way I see it, I have two choices.
One, I could just stick with public transportation with the hope that Jay is still waiting for me at the restaurant. Once there I then could recover a modicum of pride by paying for my own meal. And I would never have to reveal just how much life has sucked for the past few months.
Two, I could use the cash I have to take a cab, perhaps get there only fashionably late and confess my poverty to Jay when it came time to order.

Those damned flurries I had been serenading just hours before become the bane of my existence. They contribute to a three car fender-bender on the FDR Drive. I arrive at Café Sevilla’s at ten after eight. As I run from the cab to the entrance, I keep telling myself that Jay’s still there. Of course, he’s there. Jay’s here.
But he isn’t.
At least, I have enough cash left for a margarita. Reluctant to head home to an answering machine of messages from collection agencies threatening to keep me out of heaven, Cee dying to know how my momentous day went, and Jay sparing the fewest words to let me know that my cell phone is in the mail, I sidle up to the bar. I ask the bartender to bring me a margarita. As he prepares it, I reach into my purse to pay only to
realize that the bill I thought was a twenty is actually only a five.
I would’ve burst into tears if Jay didn’t fly through the door that second. “Nancy!” He’s adorably messy, and I find myself wondering – hoping – that I look the same to him.
“Joaquín!” We give each other a hug, and I get a whiff of his cologne. I have to smile because Jay never wears cologne.
“Thank God, you’re still here.” He exhales and plops onto the barstool next to me. “You wouldn’t believe how bad traffic was.”
I laugh. “Try me.”
He seems relieved that I’m not pissed. “And I couldn’t call you. . .”
“. . . because you have my phone.” I wait for Jay to order himself a Scotch and soda. “Speaking of which. . .”
He grins at me. “I got your phone because the sales clerk at Nordstrom who found it called me. So I drove to White Plains to pick it up.”
He pauses to sip his drink as if that’s all there is to it. “Why of all people in my address book would she call you, Jay? It’s not like you were one of my recent calls. We haven’t spoken in over a year.”
Jay reaches into his pocket and pulls out my cell phone. He opens it up and scrolls through it. “Because I’m still your primary I.C.E.,” he says as he finally returns my telephone.
I take it from him. In my address book, he has highlighted I.C.E. #1- Jay. I.C.E #2 says Miguel and I.C.E. #3, of course, is Celestina.
Now it makes sense. When we moved in together, I made Jay my primary In Case of Emergency contact, and after all this time, I never changed it. To think that there was a time Jay outranked my older brother and best friend. That’s how much he meant to me.
And he still does, I realize. That’s why I snapped out of my whiny funk when Jay reappeared in my life. That’s why I had to get to Sevilla’s before he could leave. That’s how Jay knows that I know he’s real.
I feel Jay’s hand brushing my hair off my face in a way that tells me he hasn’t noticed the split ends or the dulling highlights. He asks, “I’ve missed you so much, Nancy.”
“Even after all the fighting over nothing?”
“But it wasn’t over nothing. You were starting the business, I was trying to finish my dissertation, and those things became more important than our relationship. We were drifting apart.” Jay takes my hands in his. “I used to think that was the reason why were starting arguments with each other over the stupidest thing. That that’s why the best thing was to break up.”
“So did I.”
“Well, now I understand that sometimes people who love each other fight as a way to connect. Or in our case, stay connected. I like to think that if we had known that then, we would’ve found a way to work it out.”
“New psychological insight, huh?” I lean forward to press my forehead against Jay’s chin. I wait for him to kiss my forehead and then pull back to look into his eyes. “Hey, you’re Dr. Ocasio now, aren’t you?” In the year and half since we were together, Jay must have completed and defended his dissertation. I reach for my margarita. “We have to celebrate.”
Jay’s eyes flutter. “Not quite. . .” He tries to laugh off the embarrassment of not having yet earned his doctorate. “Let’s stay positive. Tell me how’s the business going.”
“Oh. It’s going.” I roll my eyes. “Going, going, gone.” Jay and I laugh. “I guess this wasn’t our year, Jay.” I raise my glass in a toast. “To next year.”
Jay lifts his Scotch and soda. “Our year.”
We tap our glasses, but instead of taking sips, we kiss.


Want to win not one, not two, but all three Black Artemis novels I've written to date? Then post your answer to this question below before midnight: What Brooklyn neighborhood did Nancy go to for her job interview? A random winner will be selected from all the correct entries and tomorrow the winner's name will posted on Toni Plummer's blog along with the last story of the tour. Enjoy and Good

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Author's Holiday Wish List

If you're a reader, you're probably giving more thoughts to book now that the holiday season is underway. You're thinking about books you'd like to receive as presents, books you'd like to give as gifts, books you'd like to read over the holidays and the like. If you are or have a writer in your life, you may have considered what you can treat yourself or that person to in an effort to keep the words flowing. (Friend and author Mary Castillo has some cool ideas on her blog called Mary's Favorite Things.)

During this season of generosity and giving, I'd like to humbly request that you bestow a present on your favorite author. As much as we love it, the writing life is hard. Along with the magic of being creative comes the challenge of staying in business. Publishing is an increasingly difficult industry, complicated by the mystery of how it actually does and does not work to our readers. That is, the folks who may appreciate us the most tend to know the least about what we go through to get that book into your hands. As a result, sometimes our biggest fans do things – or fail to do things – that hurt our ability to get that next book to you.

So in this season of giving, I'd like to recommend to book lovers things you can do before the end of 2007 to be sure that your favorite author can continue to serve your entertainment and/or enlightenment needs in 2008 and beyond. They cost little to no time or money, and make all the difference. Here's what's on my holiday wish list.

Buy your copy. To properly feed you favorite author, you must buy the book, LOL! Seriously, it's that simple. If you borrow if from your friend and then pass it on to your cousin, of course, we're flattered. But we're also in trouble. The biggest thing that makes the publishing house think, "This is an author we should keep publishing," is book sales. Word of mouth only helps an author if it translates into more books sold not borrowed. There's no way to track borrowed books so please, if you can afford it, buy our books rather than borrow them from someone else.
Buy the book for someone else. In general, books are fantastic gifts because there's one for every person, even the one who hates to read. Now to give back specifically to your favorite author, buy the book you love most and give it to someone else who you think will love it, too. Don't just tell him or her, "You have to read this," and hope they do. And because it bears repeating, certainly don't give that person your copy, LOL! Buy the book for them. If you can get it autographed, that's a special touch, and most authors love to oblige if you're cover the postage and give us enough time. Chances are that if you go to such a length to stand by your recommendation, the person will actually make the time to read it. There's no better way for a fan of an author to show his or her appreciation than by recruiting new readers to our work. J
Ask for it at the library. Not all people who love to read can afford to buy books, but you can still support your favorite author through your local public library. Simply ask the librarian to order copies of our books if the neighborhood branch doesn't already have them. In their diligent effort to serve you, librarians do keep track of such requests as well as monitor which books are borrowed most frequently. Get your favorite author on your librarian's radar, and you have done an incredibly helpful thing.
Write a review. We don't care if it's on Amazon, your personal blog or an email you send to some friends. If you love what we've done, put it in writing so that others can see it. Especially the people who have the capacity to keep us in business. J
Tell us if no one else. Even if you're hesitant about posting your opinion of our work on the internet, at least consider letting us know how you feel. I have a folder called Besos where I keep all my fan e-mail forever! When a reviewer chops me up, I don't get that grant I was so confident about or just am having a hard time showing up to the page, I look through that folder for inspiration and motivation. I know other authors who do the same. We may not always answer (especially if your note comes when we're under deadline), but we ALWAYS appreciate it and read it over and over again! J If you do nothing else this holiday season, write a few lines to your favorite author telling them that you enjoyed their last book and are looking forward to the next one. That's it. You don't have to prove to us that you caught every nuance or read every title. We don't care about your spelling, grammar or punctuation. We only care that you exist.

If we disappoint you, nicely pull us aside. Now I don't suggest you do this during the holiday season, but. . . There's always room to grow, and every artist needs people – especially fans who truly wish us continued success – to tell us how. If for some reason, our latest work was not up to your expectations, we don't mind if you tell us. To be in this business, we have to have thick skins. Just take care to put more emphasis on love than on tough, and we'll know that you're criticism comes from a good place and take it seriously. Don't blast us on Amazon. Tell us nicely in a private email, "This didn't work for me because. . ." Be specific and constructive. Remember that we are human beings who make mistakes, have flaws and possess feelings. We know the difference between an honest but compassionate appraisal from a supporter that should be considered and an attack from a hater with a dubious agenda that should be ignored (or sometimes even checked or maybe that's just me who does that, LOL!)
Limit the request on freebies. Many authors love to meet with their fans be it at book signings, club meetings, online chats and teleconferences. Some of us can command sizable fees to speak to a group (and we must to survive despite the pervasive myth that getting published renders an author into an overnight millionaire.) Despite the need to supplement our writing income, we will often meet with a local book club for no cost. The way we see it is that you have supported us by buying the books, and we are glad to reciprocate with a few hours of our time. We also see it as an opportunity to say thanks for the support as well as to discover what resonates (or not) with our readers. I find this especially true of young adult authors who will gladly give of their time to visit schools and centers in their community.
However, if you're going to ask a local author to donate his or her time, don't ask for free books, too. Too many times schools, centers and organizations will ask an author to come speak (sometimes even teach!) when they haven't even purchased copies of the book for the library. ??? We know that public institutions and nonprofit organizations are underbudgeted. But so is your average novelist! An author cannot live to write another day when (1) s/he is volunteering her time to meet with your group in person that could be spent working on her next project yet (2) also constantly give away books for free. The cliché that time is money and money is time is true here. Please ask for volunteer time or request books but understand why we cannot always give you both.
These small efforts are the gift that keeps on giving because they help keep us in the business of writing stories that you love to read. Promise to do one of the above for just one author this holiday season. It makes a difference not only spiritually but materially, too.

Can I get an amen from some other authors out there? Additions are welcomed, too. Just remember to keep them low on cost and time.

12 Days of Chica Lit Starts Today: Here's the Lineup & Schedule

Every day starting today 12/11 through 12/23, travel from blog to blog to read great holiday stories, discover tasty recipes and have chances to win awesome prizes.
12.11.07: Mary Castillo, Author of Switchcraft

12.12.07: Berta Platas, author of Cinderella Lopez

Monday, November 05, 2007

What Happens to Female Film Directors of Color?

As I prepare to direct the book trailer for my novel PICTURE ME ROLLIN', I went to the video store to rents several films that might have the sensibility I wanted to emulate. One of the film's I rented to watch again was JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE IRT written and directed by Leslie Harris.

I found myself wondering what happened to Leslie Harris. Has she made any films since her debut? After all, JUSTANOTHER GIRL ON THE IRT won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1993. That usually means that someone somewhere is going to gamble on the director's next feature.

I go to the Internet Movie Database and enter Leslie's name. According to, despite her auspicious debut, Leslie has yet to write or direct another film. She doesn't even have a website.

This made me curious about another woman of color whose debut film received critical acclaim. I entered the name of Karyn Kusama who wrote and directed GIRLFIGHT, the 2000 independent film that launched the career of Michelle Rodriguez. GIRLFIGHT also won Sundance and scores of other prestigious nominations and awards. But it took five years for Karyn to get a break in Hollywood helming the ill-fated AEON FLUX. Since then she has only directed a single episode of THE L WORD.

The continued success of Darnell Martin conjures mixed feelings in me. Darnell's debut film I LIKE IT LIKE THAT made history as the first feature produced by a Hollywood studio to be helmed by an African American woman. I LIKE IT LIKE THAT won many kudos, too. But it took seven years for Darnell to make another feature length film - PRISON SONG. If PRISON SONG ever received a theatrical release it was short-lived and received little to no marketing.

Since I LIKE IT LIKE THAT, Darnell has directed several television projects, including multiple episodes of critically acclaimed series such as OZ and LAW AND ORDER. However, it's a mixed blessing. It's heartening to see such a talented sister earning a living as a director yet anyone who has seen I LIKE IT LIKE THAT and knows anything about the craft of filmmaking can tell you (if they're honest) that a talent like Darnell should be making films with the same regularity as directors Charles Stone or F. Gary Gray.

In fact, there are some male directors regardless of race who helm feature films on a regular basis that can't touch Darnell's talent. I can think of a few hacks who find the financing and distribution to make one clich� after the other while years pass between features from women like Leslie, Karyn and Darnell. Whether in the independent front or the Hollywood scene, my business partner and our female peers are constantly told that our �urban� stories will never be produced unless we do it ourselves. �Urban� (whatever the hell that's code for, it always applies to our projects) doesn't sell, they tell us. It won't make money. But rarely a weekend passes where a project not unlike one of ours is released. They may or may not be particularly original or well done, but they are there, always dominated before and behind the camera by men.

Music videos have been a major springboard for many men - especially men of color on the hip hop scene - to receive an opportunity to direct a mainstream feature-length film. Names of such men easily come to mind - David Fincher (one of my favorite directors), F. Gary Gray, Brett Ratner, Spike Jonze, Hype Williams, Jessy Terrero. . . But I can't name a single woman of color who has leveraged a stint in music videos into narrative film. Hell, I don't know of woman of any race who directs music videos on regular basis. Directors Franc Reyes and Andy Tennant started their careers as dancers, but has anyone given Rocafella, Tina Landon or Laurie Ann Gibson an opportunity to direct a video let alone a feature?

To finally see a female music video director who worked consistently, I had to invent her for my novel EXPLICIT CONTENT.

Despite all its pretense of liberalism, the industry conspires to give men - regardless of race, genre or even skill - an opportunity to tell their stories. It matters little if those stories are fresh or clich�. Sometimes it doesn't even matter if the projects is a commercial failure. There still seems to be chance for a male director whose film fails to find another opportunity to redeem himself. I'm still waiting for Leslie and Karyn to be given that same chance.

The latest statistic is that less than four per cent of directors are women. Women of color don't even comprise a single per cent. Yes, in 2007, the number remains this low.

And it clearly isn't for lack of available talent. In the past fifteen years, we have seen quite a few amazing women of color emerge with promising debuts only to languish before being given the resources to direct a second feature. When they do, it is often with a weak screenplay plucked out of development hell then poorly marketed (e.g. AEON FLUX. Come to think of it, the studios didn't even properly market GIRLFIGHT so if you ask me, Karyn Kusama never got a full break. And despite some major flaws, Monique's PHAT GIRLZ was not the low-brow ghetto comedy it was promoted to be. All this for another blog at another time.) While producers and distributors continue to bank on the boys and their projects - some who undoubtedly deserve it, and others who clearly don't- sisters must continue to resort to doing it for themselves.

Leslie, I know a long time has passed since JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE IRT, BUT I hope the first time we heard from you won't be the last.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kique's Ghost - The 3rd Story in the Chica Lit Halloween Blog Tour


By Sof�a Quintero

Even through the veil of my hat, I see all eyes are on me as I sachet down the aisle toward Kique's casket. Good. That's the main reason why I squeezed my big ass into the red spandex dress. The same dress I wore on our first date when I was two sizes smaller.

Just as I reach the casket, a teary-eyed girl barely out of her teens carries away a toddler on her hip. Don't ask, Lili. Just let it go. I take a deep breath and look into the casket. Damn it if Kique don't look good! The bochinche was that the last woman he burned had shot him right between the eyes. Guess not. I glance at his crotch. Well, if she aimed there, the damage is not obvious.

'Chacho, the undertaker really did an amazing job. Kique's soul patch is sharply trimmed. Those perfect lips, rose and soft, are shaped into his signature smirk. Kique looks exactly the same way he did the day I realized I had fallen for him. That memory gives me the courage to do what I vowed I would to all my disbelieving girlfriends when this day came.

I look to my left then check to my right. Everyone is too busy mourning - or glaring at the llorona en la esquina who's making a performance of it - to watch me. I lean over Kique's body, lift my veil and spit on him.

�Burn in hell, asqueroso!�

Then I spin on the heels of my Via Spiga stilettos and march out of the funeral. Through the veil of my hat, I watch the others as they stare at me, their eyes so swollen and red. Look at them crying for Kique. Wearing black. Falling over themselves to praise him now that the son of a bitch is dead.

Di que Kique was so funny 'Member the time he did eso y lo otro?

Or when he was working, Kique was so generous.

And my personal favorite. Kique loved his children. All five of them. If he knew about 'em, he loved the hell out of them kids of his.

�Hipocritas! All of them, if they truly knew him. Where's the bitch who shot him? That's who I want to see. Shake her hand. Buy her a drink. Ask if his eyes were open when she did it. Why she did it? I don't need to ask her that.

Just as I push open the door that leads from the parlor into the lobby, I hear glass crash against the tiled floor. A black wave rushes by me as mourners run past me toward the commotion. When I reach the scene, Kique's brother and best friend pull apart two women who still claw for each other. Water, glass, and carnations are all over the lobby floor.

��Saca a esa pedenja, Junior!� yells the petite negrita with the box braids. �She didn't give a shit about Kique, and everybody knows it!�

The voluptuous chinita screams back, �You've always been jealous of me, bitch, because I'm the mother of his only son.�

Someone behinds me sucks her teeth. �That ain't true,� she mumbles �Doesn't Kique have a son in Santo Domingo?�

Another woman say, �And a daughter in Haina.� The revelation inspires several gasps. Don't these people know by now that scuttlebutt regarding Kique's �reproductivity� should be believed until proven otherwise?

I'm so over all this. As the catfight ensues, I ease my way through the crowd to the exit. By the door is an easel with a poster of Kique from his three-month stint as a real estate agent. It reads Enrique �Kique� Gilberto Mendoza, April 29, 1967 - October 29, 2007. As I walk by the easel, I snarl at Kique's picture and point to the crowd. �Damn it, Kique . . . even in death!�

Once outside the funeral home, I hand the parking attendant my ticket. As I wait for him to bring my car, I break out a cigarette. Fuckin' Kique Mendoza's dead.

I had just turned twenty when we met. Before Kique I was too busy being the dutiful daughter to date. Going to college, working my way through school, practically becoming the matriarch of the family as my mother cared for my father. . . What little time I had for a social life, I didn't want to waste on the boys around me because they were just that. Boys who just wanted one thing and yet were incapable or unwilling to offer much in return.

Then Kique came along and swept me off my feet, giving me all the romance I had been missing. Craving really. Then he ruined me for all men.

That's not a compliment.

Suddenly, a chill dances up my spine, and I shiver. What gives? It was almost seventy degrees when I left my apartment! The temperature must have dropped drastically in the few minutes I had been inside the funeral home. That's October in New York for you.

I wrap my arms myself while I wait for the valet to bring my car. He takes his time, stealing long glances at my dress. Or more like my ass busting out of it. That's why you're cold, Lili! I flick away my cigarette and drag the valet out of the driver seat so I can hop in. The car's pretty damn cold, too, so I blast on the heat as I drive off.

Only when I pull onto the Bronx River Parkway do I remember I still have on this silly hat with the veil. I laugh at myself as I sit on the entrance ramp and check oncoming traffic. Just before I'm about to merge, I pull off the hat and fling it onto the passenger seat.

�Nice hat.�

I almost give myself whiplash in the direction of the voice. Kique? He wears his burial suit, my spit sliding down his tie. In fact, Kique, his suit, his body, all opaque like crepe paper. But my saliva glistens in the ray of sunlight beaming through the front car window, just as fresh as I cut it loose.

I scream so loud that only the blaring of the horns of the cars behind me snaps me out of it. And what does Kique do? He chuckles condescendingly the way he always did when faced with a woman he drove to hysteria. �Pull over, Lillian,� he says, pointing to the shoulder. He folds up the tail of his tie to blot at my spit. �We need to talk about this lingering rage of yours.�

My mind scampers, trying to remember how to handle a ghost. A wooden stake through the heart! No, that's for vampires. Besides, who the hell keeps a wooden stake in the glove compartment? Then it hits me. I do have my shiny new Club under my seat. I hit my blinker and make my way to the shoulder of the parkway.

Kique continues to rub at his tie, but the spit remains as if untouched. �Spitting on me. . . he says. �What were you thinking, Lili?�

Oh, now you want to know, asshole? The second I arrive at the shoulder, I reach down to grab the Club and swing it with all my might at Kique's head. It slices right through him, banging against the passenger window and ripping a crack through it. �Fuck!�

Only the sound of cracking glass makes Kique realize what I had tried to do. �First, you spit at me and now this?� He squints at me. �What happened to the sweet nena tranquila who would look away whenever I told her she was beautiful?�

Anger finally erupts, taking me far past fear. �Damn it, Kique, what are you doing here?� Then I remember. When you encounter a ghost, you're supposed to confront it. Ask him what he wants so you can give him what he needs to move on. They say sometimes a person just doesn't know or hasn't accepted that he's dead until a living person breaks it to him and convinces him to let go of earth. God, I hope this is not Kique's problem. The man was so full of hubris, it'll take his ghost weeks of hopelessly chasing live women before he accepts that he doesn't have �it� anymore and take his game to the netherworld. �You're dead and no longer belong here,� I say. �Que en carajo is holding you back?�

�I need you to forgive me, Lili.� He blinks at me like a child, that infamous smirk gone. �Without your forgiveness, I can't rest in peace.�

Shit. If that's true, I'm fucked. As a child, I never even had an imaginary friend but now at the age of thirty-three, I'm stuck with the ghost of the only man I ever loved? That'd be bearable if he also wasn't the worst ex-boyfriend I ever had. Like it wasn't bad enough that he lied to me about how many his-and-her kids he had, chased away my few male friends with his possessiveness, and eventually cheated on me with the most psychotic of his baby mamas. After I left him, Kique would stalk me every time he was in between women - from the �Oh, I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop to say hi� drives by my apartment to the �IF YOU REALLY FUCKIN' LOVED ME YOU NEVER WOULD'VE LEFT SO EASY, YOU HEARTLESS BITCH!!!� messages on my answering machine. I finally had to file a restraining order against him.

�Of all the women you've known and screwed in your forty years on this planet, why me, Kique?� I yell. �I mean, according to the chisme, I got off easy.�

Kique cocks his head to the side. �That's true. What I did to you is nothing compared to what I did to Sherry. Or Flaca. Or La Bembe. . . � I roll my eyes at him, and he halts the roll call of his victims. Kique looks at me with those sad eyes. Not those telenovela eyes reserved for performing deception and manipulation. The sincere eyes that I rarely saw in the short but intense six months we were together. The ones filled with tears at my father's funeral. The eyes wide with fear when Kique Jr. was diagnosed with leukemia then tight with joy when the cancer went into remission. The eyes that slacked with resignation when it finally sunk in that when I said I was never going back to him, I meant it and not playing along with the usual script he enacted with his other women.

Kique says, �But it doesn't matter that I was at my worst with them. You were the one I hurt the most. That's because you were the only one who truly loved me.�

I did love the son of a bitch. It hadn't matter to me that he was a twenty-eight year old father of three children already. I didn't care that he had those children with two different women, neither of whom he married. I didn't care that he only had a G.E.D. and changed his career every month.

�Look, Enrique, I really do want to forgive you. I mean, it's been thirteen years.� I say. Can you lie to a ghost? Probably not. So I level with him. �But I just can't. I've gone for months, even years not giving you a second thought, but when a certain song comes on the radio or I drive by a place you took me to, all the dirt you did comes rushing back right along with all the hurt and anger, and it feels like it just happened yesterday.� And here the feelings come again, and this time with an additional dose of despair. I start to cry. �I want to let go of all that shit. I've tried really hard to focus on all the good times we had. But I just can't.� Now I start to sob. �The fact that you're dead now doesn't change it.�

Kique shakes his head, and that smirk of his reappears. Bastard. This is what he wanted all along. Rest in peace my ass, he came to haunt me. Like the realization that I will never be free of these ugly feelings toward him wasn't horrible enough. I'd try again to crash in his skull if I knew it'd do any damage. Maybe I should do it anyway, it night make me feel better even if just for a moment. No, Lili, you can't afford to break that window any worse.

�So you can't forgive me,� says Kique. �Do you know what that means?�

I wipe my runny nose against my sleeve. �What?�

�You haven't forgiven yourself yet.�

I suck my teeth at him. �Forgive myself for what?�

Kique sucks his teeth back at me. He knows I hate when he mimics me, pendejo. �For putting up with the shit I did and never giving me the hell I deserved for it.�

I think about that. I was so young. Back then I thought that if you were truly committed, you loved unconditionally and that meant relaxing my standards beyond recognition. All through high school and college, I told myself You're pretty, intelligent. . . You come from a good family. You're getting an education and planning a career. Why is it so hard for you to find a boyfriend? Then Kique came along and heaped on the romance, and grateful for attention, the validation, I did overtime to rationalize all the flags. So he didn't go to college. Don't be such an elitist, Lillian. And so what Kique has three kids but has never been married? Nena, if you prefer a Latino man and rule out single fathers, you drain an already shallow pool! OK, so he didn't tell you about them until you were head over heels. He was falling for you and was afraid of losing you. How can you not forgive him for that?

For the first three months when things were idyllic, it was easy. Kique always has a job, sometimes two. Kique not only supports his kids, he actually makes time for them. He didn't pressure you into sex, was gentle when you were ready, and is always attentive to your pleasure. I used all the good things about Kique as excuses for putting up with the mind games he played during the last three months. Only when he stood me up one night after going to his ex's apartment to visit his son did I draw the line. He said that had just pulled a double shift but didn't want to disappoint Kique, Jr. and ended up falling asleep on his ex's couch.

While he was �sleeping on the ex's couch,� I was crying my eyes out on mine. But the possibility that Kique had been cheating on me was the farthest notion from my mind. In my lovestruck naivete, I truly thought that something terrible had happened to Kique. (He did allude to a thuggish youth.) I had called his job, his friends, and even his mother. She actually sighed and said, �Nena, there's nothing wrong with that boy for you to be so worried about him. Nothing you can fix anyway, and you shouldn't have to if you could because you're a good girl, Lili. Por favor don't give Kique another thought.�

I couldn't understand how his own mother could say such a thing. Eventually, Kique arrived at my door with a half-dozen roses. I rushed into his arms, sobbing with relief that Kique was with me in one piece.

My genuine concern floored Kique to the point that he couldn't tell me his story with a straight face. He expected me to be furious. To interrogate him while knowing all along what he had been up to, curse him out, maybe even hurl something at his head. Then Kique was supposed to seduce me, I was supposed to forgive him, and then we were supposed to have a fuckfest, all the while knowing that we were entering into an unspoken agreement that this scenario would repeat itself for as long as we were together.

The problem was I had really loved and trusted Kique with all my heart. Unlike his other women, I didn't need to be with him. I wanted to be with him. Looking past all our differences, I chose Kique, and that made his betrayal all the more egregious. As young and inexperienced as I might have been, I wasn't going to tolerate his constant betrayal of my love and trust. When Kique pulled me away from, looked me in the eye and insisted that nothing had happened between his ex and himself, the guilt in his eyes told me that I needed to stop lying to myself. He was not the man for me.

Damn it, Kique, er, his ghost or whoever, he's right. It's been thirteen years since I've been with the man, and I still haven't forgiven him for what he had done to me. But that's because I still blame myself for allowing him to do it.

I look at Kique who's checking himself out in the rear view mirror. Some things never change. �Kique. . .� I say to get his attention. He taps his finger on his tongue then wipes it across his eyebrow before looking at me. I snicker at the paradox of his old vanity and his newfound depth. �When did you get so damn insightful?� I ask.

�When you run toward the light,� he smiles, �a lot of things get really clear.�

�You're supposed avoid the light, Kique, not make a mad dash toward it.�

�Only if you want to live, Lili. Not when you're ready to go.� He pauses then continues, his voice heavy with exhaustion. �'Chacha, I ran toward that light, and I got, like, hosed with more wisdom then I could handle. That's probably why I had to come back and unload some of it. You know, before I could rest.�

It never occurred to me that Kique was unhappy. When I would hear through the grapevine about his latest escapades with the woman of the hour, I would swear that he enjoyed it. That it was all sport for him. That he reveled in the drama that he created over and over again. How bad it must have been for Kique to be so ready to let go and leave his kids behind. Especially if in that rush toward the light and the accompanying torrent of wisdom, he finally got an accurate count of how many kids he actually fathered.

I try to find something nice to say. Despite all the bonding, it's kind of hard. Finally, I settle on, �You made a really pretty corpse, Kique.�

Of course, he beams at that. �Thanks, Lillian. And thanks for coming to my wake in my favorite dress.� He hands me the veiled hat. �You know, you were the best thing that ever happened to me, but I always knew you deserved better.� Kique has said that to me before, but for the first time, I actually believe he's sincere. �That's why I did everything to mess it up. Then when I did mess it up, I tried so hard to win you back. Which is why when you wouldn't take me back, I got ugly. But I never stopped loving you, Lili. I mean, as best as a guy like me could. I truly gave you my best and, I'm sorry it wasn't worth much and that I broke your heart.�

I take a deep breath and give a long exhale. �I forgive you, Enrique.�

�No, you don't.� Ever the drama king, he practically sings when he says it. �You're just saying that to get rid of me.�

�Uh, if you were in my shoes, wouldn't you?�

�Yeah, but 'member what I said. You can't forgive me until you forgive yourself. You didn't realize that was why you were stuck until I told you three minutes ago so no way you're gonna get over it. . .� Kique snaps his fingers. �� Just like that.�

I think I'm going to cry again, this time out of frustration. The ghost is more trying than the man ever was, I swear. �OK, here's the deal, Kique. In order for me to forgive myself so that I can forgive you, you gots to go, man. I mean, be reasonable here. If you haunt me, you're gonna piss me off, and that kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?�

Kique gives it some thought. �Yeah, I can see that.�

�And have I ever lied to you.�


�So please I'm asking you to trust me on this. If you leave and go wherever it is you belong - and stay there! - I promise you that I will work through this.� I start to cross my heart but quit when I remember that the last time I crossed myself, I heaved a wad a spit onto Kique's cold body as it lay in a casket. �In fact, I guarantee you, Kique, your leaving is going to go a looong way in helping me make peace with what happened between us. It's best for both of us if you go.�

There goes that impish smile again. I brace myself for the worst, but Kique say, �OK.� His apparition steps through the door and climbs out of my car. My car suddenly becomes so hot, I snap off the heat. Kique turns around to look at me through the cracked glass of my passenger window. �One more thing, Lili.�

Damn it. �What?�

�An incentive.�

�What, Kique, what?�

�That dude who keeps hanging around your cubicle? Stop punishing yourself by blowing him off. He's the One.�


Nena, don't play dumb, you know you're no good at it. I ain't telling you nothing you haven't already wondered. Get over yourself and go out with the man.�

Before I can say thanks and goodbye, Kique's ghost blows me a kiss, pulls away from my car and just fades away.

� Sofia Quintero 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's Not Too Late to Join the Chica Lit Halloween Blog Tour

Organized by the one and only Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Chica Lit Halloween Blog Tour features short ghost stories from five of your favorite authors in the chica lit genre.

It started this Saturday, October 27th and continues right through Halloween The authors -- including Sister Outsider's Sofia Quintero -- write and post short Halloween tales on to their blogs for all their fans to see. From freaky to funny, you won't want to miss a single story. Here's the schedule. Missed a day? Don't worry, it'll still be there.

Saturday 10/27 – Berta Platas
Author of "Cinderella Lopez"

Sunday 10/28 - Mary Castillo
Author of "Switchcraft"

Monday 10/29 - Sofia Quintero
Author of "Divas Don't Yield"

Tuesday 10/30 - Kathy Cano-Murillo
Author of "The Crafty Chica Collection"

Wednesday 10/31 - Caridad Pineiro
Author of "The South Beach Chicas Get Their Man"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The following monologue is an excerpt from my novel Picture Me Rollin. In this scene, the protagonist Esperanza explains to her mentor Maite how her mother ended up in a prison. If you own the novel, you will find it on page 186.

"He kept beating on her and beating on her, and they would arrest him and let him go. They told her to leave him, but he said he would kill her if she did, and she had every reason to believe him. So Mami tried to get him to move out without breaking up with him. She begged him to leave. 'It's not good for our girls to see us fighting like this all the time.' And the cabez�n. . . His name was Roland, but behind his back Dulce and I used to call him el cabez�n 'cause he had this big head in every sense of the word. Mami never even knew we called him that 'cause she wanted us to show him respect. Anyway, at first Roland fronts like he agrees with Mami, and he starts packing. And little by little, he loses it. He's ranting about all he's done for us, getting us off of welfare, and buying us good food and pretty clothes. Roland's grabbing anything and everything he thinks he bought for the house, throwing things in his boxes. He storms into the kitchen and rips the radio out of the wall. Mami's behind him. She's not trying to stop him from taking anything; she's just trying to call him down. And then he reaches into the dish rack and grabs the knife. So, you see, Mami got lucky in that fight, because it was el cabez�n who went into the kitchen and got the knife. I don't know how she got it from him, but if she hadn't she'd be dead . . . . She'd be dead, and he'd be out by now beating on somebody else. But people in my neighborhood are, like, 'Brenda got lucky. She got the knife. She got lucky.' But Mami wasn't lucky. Three years of black eyes, loose teeth, and cracked ribs. But they called my mother a murderer."

One of the reasons why I wrote Picture Me Rollin was to bring awareness to this little know consequence of domestic violence. There's an increase in the number of women incarcerated in U.S. prisons, and a significant factor in this increase is domestic violence. Although our criminal justice system continues to be weak at protecting women from abusive partners, it has been quite strident in criminalizing women who kill their abusers in self-defense. To learn more about this and other related issues, visit the following sites just to start.

Some Facts on Domestic Violence in the United States.

Think the Jennifer Lopez movie Enough is an accurate portrayal of domestic violence? Think again.

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

Self-Defense is Not a Crime

National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women

Join the Chica Lit Halloween Blog Tour!

Organized by the one and only Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Chica Lit Halloween Blog Tour will feature short ghost stories from five of your favorite authors in the chica lit genre.

It all starts on October 27th with Berta Platas, author of Cinderella Lopez. Join us and tell your friends. My story will be posted on October 29th and poses this question: what if the worst boyfriend you ever had died a violent death and didn't have to the decency to go straight to hell where he belonged? ;) Boo!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Terry McMillan Goes Off on Authors/Publishers of Sensationalist Books

A fellow author (an amazing one actually and a great person at that) was forwarded a letter writtten by Terry McMillan to Karen Hunter. In it she goes off on Karen for helping her ex Jonathan Plummer to write his novel as well as Simon & Schuster for publishing it. Below is what was forwarded to my peer so I don't think it's the entire letter. Nevertheless, these are Terry's words. In any event, I'd love to hear what you think of what she has to say.
The three of you, along with the other publishing houses who have been kind enough to add "special" urban/ghetto imprints are all about to see a major shift in your ongoing and relentless publication of exploitative, destructive, racist, egregious, sexist, base, tacky, poorly-written, unedited, degrading books. Like a number of Black bookstores who are starting to refuse to sell this trash, I, along with other Black literary organizations, supporters, book clubs as well as writers are about to make our opinions known, to aid in making clear to the public just how demeaning these books are and what it means to our community.
It is sad that it took years of selling trashy sexually-driven as well as tell-alls before so-called black writers were ever allowed in the Big Publishing Houses's Little Rooms enough to FINALLY get our own imprints. Why hasn't Walter Mosley or Edwidge Dandicat or Barak Obama or Terry McMillan or Jamaica Kincaid among others ever offered our very own imprints, I wonder?
I've heard that Simon & Schuster has even gotten some of its authors out of jail just to go on a book tour. Karen, you should be ashamed of yourself, but like Jonathan, I can tell that you (along with your sister-in-law Wendy Williams) are all cut from the same cloth. You care nothing about pride as a Black woman or you wouldn't align yourself or even put your name on some of the ugliest words and stories possible. You are an embarrassment and for someone going around bragging about being a Pulitizer Prize winner (which I understand you are not, that you were associated with other writers at the Daily News who actually deserved it) you should be ashamed of yourself for relying on such a prestigious literary prize to co-write some of the despicable and outrageously base books that you can. I find it sad indeed when a Black woman of your so-called reputation was willing to help my ex-husband write a tell-all describing "the juicy details" about our so-called relationship. You know he is a liar and a thief and that he played me and you didn't care. As long as you got paid, and this is precisely why no one (last week I understand according to Book Scan a whopping 600 copies had sold nationwide, and only 87 on the entire west coast) is buying it. Karinne "Superhead's" book is tanking just like Balancing Act, and RJ's book is not going to fly either.
This is the beginning of a brand new trend, so be prepared for it. Years ago white folks bought us and worked us as slaves. You're doing the same exact thing. The only problem is that back then we didn't go willingly. Malcolm X and Dr. King and Rosa Parks, among others, didn't fight for us to get to This, and this is precisely why you are beginning to see a lack of support for these disgusting books.
So Karen Hunter, you can put your name on them if you want to, and you along with Louise and Carolyn have already been reading on Black Voices (among others) what they have to say about Simon & Schuster (but they're referring to all of the Houses with these ghetto imprints) among other sites, how people are getting fed up with these books, even the "reluctant readers" are bored with who's having sex with whom and degrading tell-alls that show black people in a negative and stereotypical light, have no respect for these type of books, for you Karen Hunter ("run the other way when you see her name") and you have already seen the beginning of downward spiral in your sales department, I'm sure. It's going to continue, because with all things exploitative, the reign always comes to a halt.
Jonathan's reign of terror is. And the publishing industry's exploitative role in all of this is too. And Karen, there are only so many scandals out there, and people are getting tired of reading about others' sex lives. Why don't you write about yours. Give 'em something to talk about.
Terry McMillan

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

That White Girl

If you regularly read my blog or have heard me speak in person, you know that I can be unapologetically proprietary about the term "hip hop." As an activist, I am quite critical of the phrase "hip-hop" being used synonymously with "gangster" and "thug." While I cannot deny the occasional intersection between hip hop and street life, I loathe the wholesale equation with the two. There are very few novels that explore that connection with the complex treatment of the role that race, class and even gender play in it.

There is a new addition to the small but growing canon of bona fide hip hop fiction that steps up to the plate to tackle this important yet difficult task. And check it. It was written by a White woman.

That White Girl is the debut novel of Jennifer "JLove" Calderon (ne� McLaughlin) and is inspired by her own life. Sixteen year old Amber is growing up middle-class in multiracial Denver during the 80s and attempting to find her place. Her search for community leads her to many places including, from a graffiti crew to the local Crips and all the drama that entails. These experiences force Amber to grapple with a variety of issues, both personal and political.

In the wrong hands, That White Girl could have been all the things that hip hops of color love to hate: White girl dabbles in Black culture – or what she thinks is "authentic" Black culture, whines, "Why can't we all just get along?" and never learns a damned thing about that gangsta called Racism and his first lieutenant White Privilege.

But JLove is no poseur. She has a proven track record as an activist, demonstrating time and again that she not only loves hip hop, she adores justice. JLove is not the female equivalent of Isaac of Barbershop who believes he's Blacker than you because he's fluent in Ebonics. She's not the one to throw shade at the other White person at the hip hop summit because she believes that there's just so many "Cool White People" points to go around and wants them all for herself. She's not that the chick who thinks her love of all things hip hop makes her immune to white privilege.

As a person who knows Jennifer personally, I can testify that she's the one who is unafraid to pull the coattails of other White folks when they engage in racist behavior and does so with empathy. She's the person who truly listens to her fellow activists of color even when what they say is mad hard to hear. She's the woman who never "forgets" that she's White, is in constant struggle with what that means, and always searches for ways and opportunities to exploit her racial privilege toward the ultimate goal of a building world society where it no longer exists.
JLove's that White girl, and I hope you cop and enjoy her novel.