Celebrate with me—my book’s done!

I’ve finally done it. I’ve finished my latest book, sent to the publisher last night. I’ve been working on this manuscript diligently for more than two years—in-between other writings, travel (including abroad), work with Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, other community work, producing CDs (like Olmeca’s “Contra Cultura”), publishing Tia Chucha Press books, rushing out to distress calls, ceremonies, suicide emergencies, interventions, and, of course, making sure I made quality time for my wife Trini, my daughter Andrea, my sons Ramiro, Ruben & Luis, and for my grand-children as well (all teenagers now). The book is tentatively titled “It Calls You Back: A Writer’s Odyssey through Love, Addictions, Revolution & Healing.” It’s the sequel to “Always Running,” although like I told the publisher it won’t be anything like “Always Running.” It covers the period where the bulk of my first memoir ended—me leaving jail, hard drugs, and the gang life. It ends with my son Ramiro going to prison for 28 years in 1998. But I’ve also added an epilogue—Ramiro was released this past July after 13-and-a-half years behind bars. The epilogue explains how this happened. Of course, we are all delighted and anxious about my son’s early release. For now the manuscript ends on a good and strong note. Our family is united once again. The release date is set for the fall of 2011, another year from now. The publisher is the same one that did the paperback of “Always Running” about sixteen years ago —Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster. I’m honored to be included in their next year’s book list. It’s hard times, as everyone knows, and publishing has suffered big budget crunches, forcing staff and many contracted books to be cut. Still I was given the green light to continue with this book. This is a testament to my editor, Sulay Hernandez, who has worked with me in making sure this book is best one I could have written. Also to my agent, Susan Bergholz, who gave me sage suggestions for re-writes and focus. I’ve done these, although I’m sure more may come, but for now the book is essentially done. Since I don’t drink, I had to just step into nature from my office, look to the sky, shed a tear, and be grateful. Ometeotl. I’m mindful that this book is coming out in a time of darkness, uncertainty, economy failure, and a rightward shift in US politics. But these seem to be the kind of times to find the light and the fight. My wife Trini, who embraced me after I finished, and my sons at home, Ruben and Luis, were most supportive and patient during this writing period. Also the staff, instructors, volunteers, board members, and community of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural. As well as my many friends and family. I’m also sad since I lost my best friend in LA during this writing, my Mayan brother, my homie, Tony Hernandez. Others have passed on as well, including my mother Maria Estela, who I miss very much. So I hope to honor them with my truth and whatever literary dexterity I can bring to these truths. I want to say, in the midst of this during the past few days, I was able to read two poems accompanied by the wonderful East LA band, Quetzal, during their spirited performance at the Autry National Center & Museum. Their set was part of “Viva Los Muertos!” celebration that included authors (Lalo Alcaraz and Father Greg Boyle among them), Mexika dancers, Day of the Dead altars, other acts on October 30. I also facilitated a Bay Area indigenous ceremony for Quetzalli Montes, who turned four on Monday, November 1. She’s the daughter of Fabian Montes, my carnal from Homeboy Industries. What a special person Quetzalli is—and her many family and friends that were with Quetzalli will attest to her strong and unique spirit. These past month I also took part in a panel for the “Norton Anthology of Latino Literature” at the Mark Taper Auditorium, LA Central Public Library, for Aloud!. Present were one of the editors, Ilan Stavans, who also served as moderator, and writers Susana Chavez-Silverman and Ruben Martinez. I was pleased to also be one of the readers for the California Poetry Festival at the Pasadena Library with former California Poet Laureate Al Young and poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Besides reading our own work, each poet honored a deceased notable California poet (Al spoke about and read from Kenneth Rexroth; Gabrielle honored Robert Duncan). I read from and talked about my mentor, the Chicano poet Manual “Manazar” Gamboa. And I was featured for “Hispanic Heritage Month” at St. Charles Community College at Cottlesville, Missouri, not far from St. Louis—as always, I was treated well and given a chance to speak my life, ideas, and read my work. Lastly, earlier in October I took part in the Latino Family & Book Festival at California State University, Los Angeles, which featured close to 200 authors as well as vendors, panels, stage events, and more. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore was active in selling books and with book signings. I’ve been involved with this festival for many years and it’s getting better each time. I do have one bit of bad news. Along with the fact I was officially diagnosed with hypertension this past June, I was also diagnosed on November 4 with diabetes. I’ve been pre-diabetic for some time. Diabetes has also afflicted my mother, my aunt, my uncles, and others in my family. I’ve been given medicine for this, but I also plan to change my lifestyle with proper food, exercise, and less stress. The latter may be hard, but I plan to be around for a long time. c/s

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