This week, Diana Driver and I visited The Chocolate Bar, at 1835 West Alabama in Houston, a little west of the Montrose area. Just going in the door is a treat! The aroma of chocolate almost makes you swoon.
The reason for our visit, besides to delight the senses, was to meet Gilbert the Chocolatier, who owns the shop and another one in West University. He had previously agreed to host our launch party for this fall's anthology by The Final Twist Writers, titled A BOX OF TEXAS CHOCOLATES, and we wanted to nail down the details.
We realized immediately that the shop would be a perfect place for the party. Not only are the patrons surrounded by chocolate everywhere, the decor is a purple-neon Retro, with silvery-chrome tables and black leather stools. The word "INDULGE" is carved in wood and sits right over a counter where you'd be tempted by slices of cake, cookies, cupcakes and ice cream. If you have a weakness for something yummy and fun, you'll want to let down the barricades and do just that. Holiday shopping has met its solution, too.
Most of our prior launch parties have been held in local bookstores, so we weren't sure how to approach Gilbert regarding compensation for his space and time. On the one hand, we'll be doing a big publicity campaign to get both the name of the book and the name of his store more exposure. On the other, we expect between one and two hundred guests to drop by, maybe more -- maybe LOTS more! -- and (hopefully) generate excitement, eat something scrumptious, and get their copies of the anthology signed. This may create a lot of noise, traffic and trash for him and his staff.
So - we just talked. Gilbert was easy-going and a delightful person to deal with. How could we not be charmed when he offered to make up a tray of chocolate-dipped strawberries, thus solving the problem of what and how to serve all the "book people" over the span of three hours? Once you've cut a big cake and started serving it, the last half of what's on the plate isn't so pretty two hours later. But strawberries? Perfect!
It should be noted that one of the attractions of launching our anthology there is that a scene from one of the stories in the book takes place in that very shop! And Gilbert is given a 'line' to speak, and even ends up indirectly responsible for how the story resolves! (Since he hasn't read it yet, one hopes he'll be amused at his fictitious involvement in another Jessica Carr adventure.)
Perhaps because he was pleased about that, Gilbert even offered to put out copies of our anthology next to his cash register to sell on consignment for us. How cool is that!? And he agreed that we should have a second launch party at the West U. shop as well.
It may be because a turn of good fortune has allowed him to do what he loves -- make chocolate in every conceivable shape and flavor -- and leave running the business to new partners. Maybe he'd just gotten good news. At any event, he radiated good cheer and an appreciation for the fact that he's been recognized as the artist he is, and we came away determined to come back again and again.
As a final blessing (they may come in tiny royalty packages, but for our authors, it still counts), when we discussed how much commission the shop should keep for the anthologies it sells, Diana said that bookstores usually take a 40% commission. Writers all know that's too much when we have to pay for the books upfront. He offered to waive his commission, but that's hardly fair, either. A simple conversation, and that was resolved: Gilbert will keep 25%. And The Final Twist will have another place where Houstonians can find our work!
You don't have to wait until September 24th, at 7 p.m., to visit The Chocolate Bar. The website address is www.theoriginalchocolatebar.com. If you see Gilbert, say hello from Cash.