By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
He does most of his writing in the morning; she writes in the afternoon and evening. They're each other's first editor.
When he writes, he slips on round, dark glasses that make him look like Stevie Wonder. They block the screen's radiation.
"You sound like your old grandfather," she says. She calls him "follow-the-rules Fred"; extracautious, he reminds her of Fire Marshal Bill from In Living Color. She doesn't let him wear the geeky glasses out of the house.
"They're not supposed to go outside," he protests. "They're not sunglasses. They're for the computer."
"I think it comes from him being on the police force," she says, massaging his neck.
Off the living room is their exercise and meditation room. July listens to Buddhist monk chants and meditates every day. He sees a light open up in the sky and the beam focuses on him. He lets the energy pour straight through his skin.
"I picture myself getting a direct circuit to God," he says.
The creamy opal in his wedding band pulls the light. "It's an energy stone," he says. "There's fire in it. Spiritual energy."
Interracial relationships are the one always-talked-about topic when July speaks. He doesn't like the word "interracial" because all human beings are of the same race, he says. Men aren't from Mars. Women aren't from Venus. We're born in the same hospital out of the same mothers, he says. If a Klingon married a Vulcan, that would be interracial. Their head and ears are different. With humans, there ain't nothing different but skin tone. He prefers the word "inter-ethnic."
If someone in the audience asks, July tells them his wife isn't black. But he doesn't bring up the subject. "Why should I?" he asks.
He says he started out being a "race man," inserting "black man" when really he could've been talking about any man. In his next works, he's trying to cover everyone instead.
He doesn't want to be the black-writer-in-the-box. That's why he split with his literary agent: He says she wanted him to nestle down into his niche of black writer speaking as the voice of black men. He wants to broaden and expand that role: "You look on the bookshelf and there's Waiting to Exhale volumes one through 50. I have no interest in writing number 51."
Last week, he and his stylist went shopping for a suit for him to wear on the cover of his second Doubleday book, From Tin Man to Real Man. The $2,000 Armani on Brothers, Lust and Love appeals to women, he says, but since he wants to target men too this time, he lost the tie. And to get a more casual look, he spent only $700 on the suit.
The book should be out in January. Once again, the metaphor of the woodsman without a heart isn't brand-spanking-new, nor are the main ideas. The book's gist is that girls are raised to be emotionally expressive and men are taught to be emotionally void. "Men are raised to see manhood as conquering and controlling, and women learn interdependence," he says.
For instance, there's the story about his cough. He sat in his living room feeling the cough get thicker as it sank deeper into his chest. It got so bad he could barely breathe; he slept sitting up, if he slept at all.
Lacy told him to go to the doctor. No, he said, he was a man, he could tough it out. But it kept getting worse.
Thumbing through Time magazine in a pulmonary specialist's waiting room, he figured the guy would tell him he was wasting his time. Instead, the doctor told him his bronchitis had grown into an infection. The fluid-filled sac around his heart was the size of a soccer ball.
He could have died. If he hadn't decided to be a man and take the pain, he says, he could have cured the cough and skipped the surgery.
That's July's advice in a nutshell: Avoid the bigger problems. Don't stay in relationships you don't want to be in because you don't know what else to do. Don't just wait and tough things out, because they won't get better on their own. You have to make things better. "Happy isn't a place," he says. "It's a process."
July believes the book is going to be a success and that he's going to be the next big motivational speaker sensation. In part, this is an affirmation thing: Every time he says "if," he corrects himself and changes the word to "will" or "when." He will be financially successful. He will be the next motivational speaking sensation.
And already there's evidence to show that he's right. He's booked to speak at the Black History Month Book Fair on February 20 in Chicago; he's been nominated for the fair's nonfiction book of the year. He's got another article coming out in Essence. Someday he wants to take a trip back to the Windy City and be on Oprah. It's gonna happen, he says. He's already gotten a call back.
Best of all, Lacy believes in him. This next book, she says, "it's going to be an international bestseller."
He agrees: "It's gonna be huge.