Do Not Publish that First Draft

Starting in 1999, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November. It is a good way for writers determined to start or finish their books to hold themselves accountable.

Today (11/30) is the last day of NaNoWriMo. Many of you have met your 50K goal and will have a new book sitting on your table tomorrow. Congratulations are in order. Someone get the wine.

But I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t tell you the truth and the truth is that mess on your table is not ready for publishing.

Hundreds and thousands of writers and aspiring writers will have complete manuscripts by tomorrow (12/1), but these are messy complete manuscripts. They still have to be revised, professionally edited, and formatted. So, please, do not publish that first draft.

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I am republishing this post from 2017.


You have finished your book. This is admirable because so many people never finish. This is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. Congratulations!

But, while this is an accomplishment worth celebrating, you are not done. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.

A rule of thumb is that you do not publish a book you just finished writing. After you have finished writing your book, your manuscript is now considered the first draft. It’s called the first draft because it is the first copy of the book ever in existence where you have made no significant changes. It is a rough draft of the story from your mind to the page.

“In any piece of writing, whether a novel manuscript or a blog post, the first draft is also known as a rough draft. From start to finish, it’s technically a complete piece. It has a beginning that moves to a middle that concludes with an ending. But it’s a messy complete piece. There are still thoughts to ground, sentences to be revised for maximum reader engagement, and spelling errors to fix. Which is why a rough draft should never, ever, ever be your final draft.”

– Innovative Editing

Once you have finished the actual writing part, it’s a good idea to let the manuscript sit for a while. Take a few weeks off from the writing and do something else. Then, return to it with fresh eyes to begin your self-edits. This Writer’s Digest article has some excellent tips for self-editing using these 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers.

You may also decide to join a critique group or recruit the help of beta readers before sending it in for editing. And by editing, I don’t mean your English teacher friend. You really should hire a professional editor.

Whatever you decide, the point is to make sure the manuscript is as polished as you can make it before publishing. With Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and other POD (Print on Demand) services, I know it’s easy to upload a Word Document or PDF and say you have written a book, but I implore you not to publish the first draft/rough draft of your book. I promise you, it is not ready.

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Click Here for more Indie Author Basics.

Signs You Are Not Ready to Self-Publish Part 2: Not Preparing Financially

I once paid $300 for a book cover. At the time, I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on a cover. Not only did I not have the money, but even if I did, I couldn’t afford to invest it into a book cover when there were, as I saw it, much more severe priorities in front of me. But, I was young and excited, and I wanted to publish this book, and I wanted that cover.

But I was broke, broke.

So, what did I do?

I set up a GoFundMe.

I went around to people I knew and explained my vision and why I was raising the money. I (and get this) talked to people.

And I don’t like talking to people.

Not only did I make enough to purchase the cover I wanted, but I also made that money right back at a Book Signing in Chicago.

It was 2014, and we were at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. I had just released my first screenplay, which, interestingly enough, is the book that inspired The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen.

I made that $300 back and then some.

You might be thinking, “But, EC, if you couldn’t afford to pay for a book cover, how did you cover editing?”

I didn’t. I had a friend edit the book, which is why it is retired today.

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Photo by Annelies Geneyn on Unsplash

Self-Publishing is an area where the term, Proper preparation prevents pissed poor performance holds much weight. We don’t talk about it enough, but financial planning is part of the basics of Self-Publishing.

Self-Publishing requires a mindset shift regarding how you feel about yourself and how you look at your finances. One of the first things I’ve noticed in my journey is that most first-time Self-Publishers haven’t decided if they are publishing this book for themselves or publishing the book for others to read.

Did I confuse you there? Read on.

Publishing for Yourself vs. Publishing a Book that Sells

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Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Publishing a book for yourself means you fulfill your dream of becoming a published author and want to give copies away to family and friends. It means you are not selling the book or wanting to create a business out of it; rather, you want to satisfy a desire for something you’ve always wanted to do.

In this case, it would not be necessary to put a lot of money into this project, mainly because you are not getting the money back through sales since you are not selling the book. You may decide to get your book cover made using a cover template from KDP or Lulu or a homemade cover from Canva. You might choose to have a friend edit the book for you or use free software for formatting. This would be sufficient for a book you don’t want to sell. There are tons of economical ways to publish a book for this purpose.

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But, suppose you are publishing this book because you want to leverage your business, spread your message and get it into as many hands as possible. Suppose you are a speaker and want to sell copies at your event, see your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble or get the book stocked at bookstores, libraries, and schools.

What if you are writing this book because you want other people to read it?

In this case, you must prepare for this journey from the mind of a business person and not only an author.

When you publish a book you intend to sell, you consider other factors outside of what you want from the book because this book isn’t only for you. You think about building a platform, the market, and you consider the financial obligation necessary to bring the vision forward. 

This isn’t to say write a book that doesn’t speak to your soul. It means you publish a book that speaks to your soul and the soul of others. It means you are publishing a book you see is needed in your community.

“You may have a robust knowledge of quantum computing but if everything the audience wants from you is how to use Microsoft Excel, give them just that. You write no book about quantum computing until you are able to build an audience around it.

Most self-published authors don’t do this. They do the exact opposite. They write what they like and try to figure out how to shove it down people’s throats.”

-David O, Entrepreneurs Handbook

Publishing a Book You Want to Sell Requires A Financial Investment

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Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

Spending money on your book is only an investment if you have put a strategy in place designed to ensure how you will sell this book. This, in my experience, is the difference between publishing for yourself and publishing a book for other people to enjoy as well. Many authors who venture into Self-Publishing ignore the market, so the book doesn’t sell outside of close family and friends because they have written a book no one wants to read. 

When was the last time you bought a book by an author you have NOT been following for some time, on a subject you really don’t care about?

This is called Indie Author Basics because we focus on laying a strong foundation (a well-written and packaged book) to make it easier to build everything else on top of it. Too many new Indie Books are not attractive, not well-written, poorly produced, and is about topics no one cares about. As a result, the average self-published author makes less than $1,000 per year, according to a survey by Guardian in 2015, and a third of them make less than $500 per year.

What does this have to do with preparing financially?

When authors publish books they intend to sell for reasons outside of themselves, they are mentally prepared to invest the time and money to produce a high-quality product because they know they will get a return on their investment if done right.

Again, an investment isn’t just putting your money into something. Investing is putting your money into something you know will yield a return, either financially, mentally, or spiritually. It is the act of allocating resources with the expectation of generating an income or profit.

That’s why we had to talk about if you want to even publish this book to sell it first because not everyone wants to publish a book to sell it, but for those who do, financial investment is necessary.

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My dope $300 cover for my first screenplay

My books do not sit on the shelves with major traditionally published books (and sell) because I’m the best writer or because I have the best books or even the best marketing strategy. I also put good money into producing my books, among other things. I wasn’t going to say this, but it needs to be said that I practice what I preach.

It also needs to be said I am on a budget just like most of us, but I prepare early for this so that what I do invest into publishing my book isn’t coming from the money I need to grocery shop or pay bills. It is coming from the money I have saved and put away specifically for this project since I first decided I will publish the book. That’s how seriously I take my writing.

I am not saying spending lots of money on your book will guarantee sales. It won’t. You first have to publish a book people want to read.  (Although I got my money back from what I spent on the cover from the screenplay, the book did not continue to sell after that.) But, after that, making sure the book is well packaged plays its part too.

I am also not telling you to sell a leg to publish your book. There is nothing wrong with finding economical ways to publish (premade covers are cheaper than custom made), but if you try to find the cheapest way possible or skim on editing because you don’t want to put in the work, it will only cost you more in the end.


CLICK HERE FOR MORE INDIE AUTHOR BASICS WITH EC!

The Enemy of Poetry

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I am not at all surprised I am enjoying Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just as I am. While I am not an actor,* I try to learn as much as I can from others. Even if it’s reading a book, I want to know what brought us together and what purpose I might piece together that we are intended to serve to each other.

I have had this post sitting in my drafts since the beginning of May. It wasn’t until I read this chapter last night I could finish it and feel comfortable publishing it.

In Chapter Ten, Center Stage, Miss Cicely is recounting her training with Vinnette Carroll playwright, actress, theater director, and the first black woman to direct on Broadway, with her 1972 production of the musical Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

In discussing art, Miss Cicely (I like saying that) explains in just a few short sentences everything I want to convey in this post. 

“Vinnette taught me to learn technique and then to forget it–and to resurrect it only if it served my portrayal. Technique is important, to the extent that it is undergirded by emotion. I once knew an actress who was a brilliant technician, but her portrayal fell flat. She could create a moment and bring it to fruition, yet it was apparent she wasn’t feeling anything, and as a result, neither was her audience.”

Cicely Tyson, Just as I am, Chapter Ten, pg. 156-57

“Technique is important, to the extent that it is undergirded by emotion.”

I never consider myself an expert on anything. I will say what I have come to know in my experience, both as a writer and listener of poetry, is to watch out for intellect. By intellect, I mean the need to be so fancy you confuse the reader. It is, in my opinion, similar to using technique and forgetting emotion.

That is why I often feel that intellect, if not used in balance with emotion, passion, and heart, is the enemy of sound poetry.

“Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.”

Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems

I have read poetry so over my head I could not possibly relate to it. Metaphors and similes were so puzzling I am not even sure Maya Angelou could decipher what the poet meant if she were alive. I once read a poem that ended with the author saying he or she had eaten a bird. I do not know who or what the bird symbolized. All I know is a bird at the beginning that ended up eaten by the end of the poem.

Poor bird.

I did feel sorry for the bird to this poet’s credit, so I was not without emotion completely. It is not lost on me that readers can discover their own meanings and interpretations of poems, which is part of the fun. We learn what the author intended for the poem to communicate and what we got from it based on our personal experiences and feelings. I love hearing how a poem I’ve written resonated with readers, even if what they got from it was different from what I thought as I wrote it.

But, I like to think reading and writing is a partnership. While the first person our writing serves is ourselves, I would hope there is something to be gained by the reader too. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in the beauty of language that there is no substance, just pretty words. I expressed this in the poem Give Me Life.

To me, this would be similar to the woman Tyson references, who was a brilliant technician when acting but could not move her audience.

If you know anything about me by now, you know I am a Black Movie Buff. It’s like Justice said in Poetic Justice about having something deep to say, about having a voice.

Lucky: “What you write about in that notebook?”

Justice: “That’s my poetry.”

Lucky: “You trying to say my cousin’s shit ain’t poetry?”

Justice: “It ain’t if he ain’t got nothing deep to say. Gotta have a voice. A perspective.”

Intellect can be a strength or it can be a weakness.

If there is an easier way to say something, write it plainly, and it will reveal its own depth. I like to write the poem as it comes to me and then come back later to dress it up. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little icing once you have the cake.

Here is another quote I picked up from the quote of the day from author and editor Shayla Raquel’s newsletter, which I also just read yesterday.

“Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.” 

— Meg Rosof

*I said at the beginning of this post I was not an actor. I should say I am not a professional actor, as I do have some experience with it. In High School, I was part of a special program to write and perform plays. I cannot remember the program’s name or what the aim was, but this was my first official summer job. I did this for the summer of my Sophomore and Junior year, taking an official drama class my senior year, where I would also perform my poetry live for the first time as a monologue. In 2015, I was featured in a stage play at the DuSable Museum.

But as I reflect, fun as it was, I prefer to write the screenplay. Ya’ll can do the acting.


Yecheilyah's 4th Annual Poetry Contest

Have you entered this year’s poetry contest? I hope I gave you some inspiration! Take your time but keep your eyes on the clock. June will be here before you know it.

Submit your love poem on or before June 1st.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Note: I have not read any of the poems submitted yet! I don’t read any of the poems until the contest has ended and everything is in.

The Power of Your Author Name: A Message to First Time Indie Authors

Barack Obama released another book on the seventeenth of November, 2020. It was already a Best Seller with over two-thousand book reviews on Amazon just a few days after release. Obama’s name alone skyrocketed this book to the Best Seller’s List before we had time to decide what we wanted for breakfast that morning.

And Sister Soldier’s March 2021 release, “Life After Death,” the long awaited follow up to The Coldest Winter Ever is already a Best Seller. That’s right. A Best Seller and the book is not even out yet.

The same can be said of Amanda Gorman, whose poetry book The Hill We Climb, and Children’s Book, Change Sings, is already a best seller.

These books don’t release until September!

Today, we are talking about the power of your name and the role it plays in your author branding and marketing yourself as a first-time Indie Author.

What’s in a Name?

 

A person’s name is a connection to their identity and individuality. It is the history of who a person is. When you think of names that have become prolific, you are not just thinking about a person’s name. You are thinking about all the things that person has done, their experiences and contributions to the world.

Sometimes, we hear a name, and it is not a good image we see. Names like Jefferey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy make us tremble, but even these names show a name’s power. We tremble because their names are connected with the horrific things they’ve done, and hearing those names brings to our memory those heinous acts, in the same way, hearing Maya Angelou’s name gives us hope.

When branding yourself as an author, it is good to have the same author name consistent across platforms. Your name doesn’t just tell someone who you are, but it helps build brand recognition.

This means using the same name across your author’s website, the same name in your social media handles and emails, and the same name on your book covers.

“You can show genre with cover design, blurb, logo, and many other cues, but publishing under lots of names in the digital age is a recipe for disaster.” – Anne R. Allen

The more people see your work connected with your name, the more they remember who you are.

It is why we call them “Name Brands.”

Michael Jordan is a brand name, an icon whose career has made his identity equivalent to excellence. When people buy Jordans, they know they are buying a top-quality shoe. And even if it is not a top-quality shoe, it is what the people believe. Why? How did someone whose name once meant nothing now mean everything?

Well, that’s another blog post. For now, let’s just stay on topic and keep it simple.

Michael Jordan proved himself as an exceptional basketball player, and his work ethic is connected with his nameThe more his work became recognized, so did his name.

Your work and your name are connected, whether you are a servant of good or bad. If you are doing good work (in this case, we are discussing writing) and not using your name or changing your business name every six months, you make it hard for people to connect who you are with what you do.

“It’s much easier to build brand recognition if you keep all your publishing activity under the same name and the same expression of that name.” – Jane Friedman

Nikki Giovanni, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, and Richard Wright.

Chances are you’ve heard these names before, and if you are like me, you will notice these names on book covers at any bookstore. You might even stop to scan or flip through the pages of a book simply because you recognize these author’s names.

Book Titles

The name of this blog started as the name of a book series I was writing.

In my Pretty Woman voice, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”

While I have found a new purpose in this blog, it was a mistake to name this blog after a book. The problem with using the title of your book as your blog name, author website, or social media pages is you will probably write more books.

Are you going to create more websites and accounts for all the books you are writing?

Of course not.

Your name is one of the most powerful, FREE resources you have for marketing yourself as an author.

When you first meet someone you introduce yourself, and you start with your name because your name is your identity. It is more important than your job title and degrees. And when people remember our name, it makes us feel important, recognized, and valued.

What about Pen Names?

Anne R. Allen has published an excellent article on that already, so I will refer you there. While her post is about why pen names are not a good idea, Anne’s number one good reason for using a “pen” name is the one loophole.

  1. It’s the name you’re known by, even if it’s not the name on your birth certificate.

It is absolutely okay to use a name that you’ve been known by even if it’s not your birth name. The key is not to keep changing it though. Pick a name and stick with it.

Consider Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Sonia Sanchez, Kwame Ture, Whoopi Goldberg, and others. None of these people were born with those names just as I was not born Yecheilyah Ysrayl. Although I was not born Yecheilyah, I do not consider it a pen name. It is more than that, it is the name for which I am now known.

Use Your Name

“Once you know what author name you’ll be using, be relentlessly consistent in the expression of that name throughout your websites and social media accounts.”

– Jane Friedman

No matter what name you choose to brand, use that name everywhere. It will help people to identify you, and when they remember you, they remember your work.

No one cares about the title of your book or your book, for that matter.

What people care about is you, the author so it is your NAME and your author photo that will stand out the most in your social media profiles and on your website.

Think about it: It’s not about “A Promised Land.” It is about the fact that Obama wrote it. He could have titled the book The First Black President and people would have bought it. People are buying him. People are buying Obama.

I am not a fan of the term, but when people say that “people buy people,” what they mean is in the beginning, readers are interested in the person more than the book. Then as they begin to trust the person, they trust anything connected to the person, including the book.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?
  • What motivates/inspires you to write?
  • What has your journey been like?
  • What’s your story?

Instead of using a lot of different names or the title of your book, focus on branding one name across platforms.

www. AuthorName . com
Facebook.com/Author Name
Twitter: @Author Name
Instagram: @Author Name
Clubhouse: @Author Name

The stronger your brand name, the easier the marketing. We all hope to get to the point where people hear our name associated with something and run out to support it without blinking.

Use your name. That is all.


Looking for more Indie Author Tips? Check out the catalog of articles here. From this point forward, Indie Author Basics posts will publish on Wednesdays.


I am Soul is 99cents for a limited time. And remember, if you read it, review it!

The Black Plague

Steppers Delight Giclee On Canvas by John Holyfield

They treated them like The Black Plague.

This walking pestilence ravaging the Earth.

Walking all proud-like and powerful

all royalty-like and purposeful

infecting generations of people with its culture, music, dance, and cornrolls.

This was a virus that needed to be controlled.

They could not have this thing infecting people with all this hope.

COVID-19 is terrifying, but empowering the people was worse

so, the powers that be raised their glasses, smiled and solidified the oath.

 

The first phase was overt

strip them of their names, rape their wives, and remove their clothes.

Next, shackle them together and dismantle their dignity.

The vaccination was so far working.

They became Mammies instead of Mothers

and Negroes instead of Kings.

 

But the Black Plague continued to spread

continued to influence

and shift the direction of the Earth

there was no restraining the wind

out of its affliction grew the epidemic

of black excellence

building communities, gaining wealth, and reestablishing identity.

The so-called powers had to take their power back

and so, they infected their neighborhoods with crack.

Mass incarcerate them

“Jump Jim Crow” them

redline them

school-to-prison pipeline them

hide their history

hide their truth

miseducate them and kill the youth.

Put your knees on their necks

and stick your knives in their backs.

But none of it worked.

 

It was a secret deeper than White Supremacy

more in-depth than the witchcraft of stolen identity

deeper than unarmed black men bleeding in the streets

more frightening than charred bodies hanging from trees

more detailed than this apparent sickness was the truth

these people they called plagues were not plagues at all

they were Prophets

and healers of the Earth.

 

It was no wonder the more they were afflicted,

the more they grew.

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 10: The Women with Blue Eyes


Chapter 10: “The El Che Steakhouse Murders”


Big Steve felt the phone vibrate in his jeans as they entered El Che Steakhouse and Bar, but he ignored it. This was like one of those moments in the movies where someone sees a white light during a near-death experience, but he wasn’t dead, and this light was blue.

“Hey, fam, ya’ll see that?”

Big Steve tapped his friends, Chris and Marquis, as they made it to their table on the other side of the restaurant.

“Damn,” said Marquise.

The men sat down at the table, “Look like its our lucky day fellas,” said Chris.

Steve pointed to the table in the distance, “Look at they eyes though.”

“I’m not screwing her eyes,” Chris said laughing.

“I’m serious though. Ya’ll don’t think that’s weird?”

“Maybe they contacts,” said Marquise.

Steve shook his head, “I ain’t never seen contacts that bright bro.”

“What can I get you gentlemen?” asked the waiter but the men were glued to the other table.

“Hello?” The Waitress rolled her eyes.

“Uh yea, water,” said Chris.”

The waitress put her hands on her hips, looked over at the other table and then back to the men.

“Everybody want water?”

“Yep,” said Marquise, still staring across the room.

“Let me get a shot of crown, no ice,” said Steve.

The waitress wrote down his order, rolled her eyes again and walked off.

Chris got up from the table and Big Steve grabbed his arm, “What you doing man?”

“Imma go talk to her.”

Steve frowned, “what?”

“I ain’t about to sit here with my tongue out like ya’ll. Got my eye on that little Japanese one. I love it when they little like that.”

The men laughed hard and the women across the room all turned to look at them, their crystal blue eyes piercing. It was like a lucid dream. Either this wasn’t really happening, or they were three of the luckiest men on Earth. Time seemed to stop as the women looked deeply into their eyes from across the room.

“Maybe I should just sit here a minute,” said Chris, unable to take his eyes off the Japanese one. He didn’t know if she was that fine or if he actually couldn’t look away.

In seconds, the women appeared right in front of them, their bodies bursting out of their clothing. Steve didn’t know how they had made it over to their table so quickly or how the thickest, darkest, sexist found her way onto his lap, his chin in her hands, her eyes locked on his. He wiped his brow. It had suddenly gotten hot.

***

Paschar turned around, slowly, careful to pay attention to every inch of her body. As she locked eyes with the biggest man at the table, her girls followed suit, rays of blue light shooting like lasers into the men’s eyes. They had frozen time and within seconds had glided over to the table. It didn’t matter that there were seven of them and three of the men. Men who thought they were getting orgies were the easiest victims anyway.

Paschar sat her booty on top of the man’s lap, strategically placing it on the part of his jeans where his penis was rock hard. Their lips met and she kissed him deeply, strongly. She enjoyed the kissing, their tongues lapping onto the other, the fresh taste of his scent. She could taste his essence. His past and his present. Everything that led him to this place was on her tongue. Everyone in the restaurant disappeared and it was just her and him.

She inhaled and with it sucked the oxygen out of his lungs, slowly suffocating him. Big Steve’s eyes swelled with surprise, his erect penis was now limp at the door of death. He couldn’t breathe. He knew it was something strange about these women, but it was too late. She had latched onto his mouth and wouldn’t let go. He pushed hard against her body, but she was like concrete. He was well over 200lbs. How in the hell was she stronger than he was?

The color drained from his face as he pushed but the woman didn’t move. Steve’s head got smaller as his body shrunk, his skin clinging onto his bones. The same was happening to his friends, their clothing was getting bigger and baggy as the women sucked the energy from their body. Paschar kept her lips locked on Steve’ and sucked until he was a sunken corpse before her.

She stood and searched the man’s pockets for the device that kept vibrating. She touched the screen. She learned how to operate cell phones years ago. It was strange how addicted the humans were to it, but she had to respect Hephaestus’s work, God of technology. He was getting his just as she had just gotten hers. She read the words on the screen.

Jason: Eh, I’m on my way, where ya’ll at?

Jason: Steve…

Jason: Eh, Steve where ya’ll at?

Jason: Hey man I’m not gonna be able to make it, somebody hit my shit, call me.

Jason: Hey man, sorry I missed ya’ll earlier. We got it taken care of. Tried calling. Hit me back. Peace.

Paschar smiled, wiping the sides of her mouth with a finger as Steve’s energy pulsated throughout her body. The girls had finished their meals as well. She slipped the phone into her purse and the women vanished, leaving three corpses at the table.


Chapter 11 “She’s Involved”

Are you new to this series? Click here to start from chapter one.

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 9: The Women with Blue Eyes


Chapter 9: “The Car Accident”


Jason kissed Amarie on the cheek.

“Be good,” he commanded.

Alright ma, I’m out,” he said, hugging his mother. Dad had already said his goodbyes and was at the dog track by now. Jason shook his head. That man and the dog track. He had given him some good advice though. Mainly, that he shouldn’t trust that woman and that he was stupid for even going over there. He will give the lecture on “a woman’s ways.” Jason’s dad thought women were sneaky and often did more dirt than men. Every woman except his wife, that was.

“She probably tried to hoodoo yo ass. I’d stay away from her,” he had said. Jason laughed at the thought. Dad had his way of warning you. Jason wasn’t sure what it was, but he was glad he had left when he did. Besides, it wasn’t like he was going to ever see her again, anyway. He entered his car parked in his parent’s driveway and honked the horn as he drove out and down the street. He was driving for a while when he came to a stoplight.

Jason picked up his cell and typed.

“See what the fellas doing.”

A horn went off behind him. “Move it buddy!”

“Aiight, aiight,” he said, noticing the light was green.

Jason knew he shouldn’t try to text while driving, but he did it anyway and he figured everyone did. Jason had confidence that he was careful, casting his eyes on the road and back down to the phone. He never missed a beat. I’m good at this, he thought as he put the finishing touches on his text. The sound of a screeching car, honking horns, and the smell of rubber tires sounded around him as his car jolted forward, knocking the cell out of his hand.

“Oh shit!” he sounded as he pulled over.

The cars around him slowly pulled away, nosy drivers going 5mph to see the damage. Jason exited the car as another car pulled up behind him.

“Damn,” he said at the dent in the back. The driver of the other car parked behind him. He glanced up. It was a woman. Figures. In Jason’s mind, women couldn’t drive. He didn’t believe that in a sexist type way. It was just what he observed from women he knew and the women he dated. He loved his mom, but he didn’t think she knew how to drive either.

The woman stepped out of her car wearing black, fitted slacks, a white blouse, and high-heeled shoes. Her hair was pinned up on the top of her head, and her earrings were pearl studs. Those slacks filled out in the back. Jason stared.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened,” complained the woman.

You slammed into my shit is what happened. “It’s not too bad,” he lied, exhaling, hands in his pockets. He noticed the woman was staring at the car with a blank facial expression. She looked like she didn’t know what to do. He took his hands out of his pockets and held it out for her.

“I’m Jason.”

The woman pulled her eyes away from the car, perked up, and took his extended hand. “Oh, sorry. I don’t know where my mind is these days. Tina. Nice to meet you.”

Her hands were soft and melted into his palm like butter. This is not the time, Jason said to his hardening manhood. Just her hands alone had turned him on. This was different. But after what had happened with that other woman, he had to keep it together. She would probably try to hoodoo him too. He quickly let her hand go.

“Umm.” Tina dug into her purse and retrieved a card. “I guess we can exchange insurance info until the cops get here.”

“Yea, mine is in the car. I’ll get it for you.” Jason turned away to retrieve his information. While getting it out of the glove box he noticed the woman had also returned to her car. She appeared to be shaking her head in frustration. Jason exited the car and walked up to Tina’s car. She was talking to her GPS. He frowned. That was kind of weird. He didn’t think they worked that way. Maybe hers was broken. Or maybe she was one of those hoodoo women.

“Those things are the worst,” he said, and Tina jumped at his voice.

“Didn’t mean to scare you. Are you alright?”

The woman threw the GPS in the backseat and straightened up, exiting the car to stand next to him.

“Yea, I’m sorry again. This is a mess.”

“It’s okay. Here’s my card. Police should be here any minute now. I’m supposed to meet up with some friends. I wish they would hurry up.”

Tina took Jason’s card and gave him hers. “I know right?”

Jason and Tina engaged in small talk as the time passed and Jason became more and more frustrated. It had been almost thirty minutes and no sign of the cops. Jason looked at his phone.

“Man, where the hell they at?”

At his complaint, the red and blue lights appeared in the distance as the sound of sirens resounded.

“About damn time.”

Tina bit her lip. “Listen, this is my fault. I’m sorry again. I didn’t mean to make you miss your friends.”

Damn would she stop apologizing.

“It’s all good. Do me a favor, though?”

“Yes, anything,” she said perking up.

“Stop apologizing!” he laughed, watching her cheeks turn red. She was brown skinned, so it was super cute.

Damn she cute.

“Okay, I hear you. I’ll stop apologizing,” she smiled.

***

Tina’s hands wouldn’t stop shaking. She hoped Jason didn’t hear her talking to Az through the GPS. He was a pain in her butt.

“Let me make it up to you,” she said.

Jason smirked and Tina’s heart fluttered.

“Are you asking me out?” he asked, eyebrow raised, dimple piercing his cheeks.

Tina looked down, blushing. “I guess I am.”

Jason rubbed his hands together.

“Wow, never had a girl ask me on a date before.”

Tina hit his arm, “That’s right because I’m a woman.”

Jason stepped back, holding his chest, “Dang woman, is that how you treat all your dates? You violent.”

They laughed.

“I guess everything is okay here?”

Tina and Jason looked at each other and then back to the officer. They didn’t even see him walk up. He held a pen and clipboard in his hands.

“Yea, we good,” said Jason, cutting his eyes at Tina.

“Who hit who?” asked the officer. He sounded irritated.

Jason nodded at Tina, “She hit me.”

“Give a sista up just like that huh?”

“You did hit me though. Twice,” he said rubbing his arm.

Tina shook her head and Jason winked.

The cop cleared his throat and Jason pulled his attention away from Tina.

“Where do I sign officer?”

Turn right on green.

Tina’s nerves returned and she perked up at the sound of the GPS. Uh oh. Az.

While Jason signed papers, she took the time to return to the car and reach for the device in the backseat.

“I knew you’d find a way,” sounded the  device

“Az?”

“Hitting his car was brilliant,” said the GPS lady.”

Tina relaxed. It was definitely Az.

“Yea, well, just wait until he finds out I did it on purpose and that our meeting was no accident. He’ll hate me forever.”

She glimpsed at Jason from the window of her car. He looked up at her and smiled. She smiled back, halfheartedly. Chicago police were slow, especially for minorities. Her little trick should keep him away just long enough to keep him from meeting up with those friends Az already said were doomed. Tina sighed. She had saved the man. Her work here was done.

Or so she thought.


Chapter 10 “The El Che Steakhouse Murders”

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