SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Fall’

Pride Cometh

 

About the book:

In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” And further, having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.

But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …

It cometh before the fall.

From ‘The Fall’:

“So, what was the disappearing act about?”

“Good evening to you, too.” Lorna stood aside and admitted Malcolm T. Mitchell into her home.

“Good evening. Now what was it about?”

Wearing a powder-blue long-sleeved linen shirt and beige linen pants, he looked like he’d shaved just before coming over. He also looked like something Lorna might want to eat for dinner. It was always easier to have the kiss-off conversation if one didn’t still just want to kiss the man in question. But it couldn’t be helped. It would be more difficult to say the words with conviction, but they had to be said: it was just a one-time thing, Malcolm. And this one time, out of consideration for his ego, she might go easy on him. In her experience, the arrogant ones were the most fragile when it came to rejection.

Shutting the door, Lorna turned to face him, and for a moment was taken aback to find him so close on her heels. She looked up at him, a question in her eyes and Malcolm smirked, then before she knew what was happening, her back was pressed against the door and he had her pinned.

“I’m waiting,” he said.

For a moment, Lorna was confused and then gradually she felt her ire rise. That and her excitement. It had been years since a man had handled her in this way—these days none of them dared. Her work came with all kinds of assumptions, not the least of which was that she wouldn’t stand for a man simply acting like … a man. On the contrary, she loved it. Malcolm T. Mitchell had either figured that out about her, or he didn’t care. It was that second possibility that irritated her. Who did he think he was? Who did he think she was? Scarlett-fucking-O’Hara to his Rhett Butler?

Putting her hands up, she shoved against his chest. It was rock-hard. She remembered that now; that beneath the urbane, collegiate exterior, Malcolm had the physique of a man who paid careful and almost meticulous attention to his body—not an ounce of extra fat anywhere. Okay, well maybe an ounce, but no more than that. She recalled running the flat of her palms across his chest and down his stomach, and the way his eyes darkened, both warning and inviting her as she moved lower.

“What exactly are you waiting for?” she asked, stalling.

“An explanation. We had a great night. And then you pull some sophomoric little …”

“Sophomoric?”

“Yes. Immature. Juvenile. Young. All those things.”

This was where she should tell him off, push him off, and ask him to leave. But she didn’t want to. And playing coy wasn’t her thing. She wanted him, and what she wanted, she generally went after with gusto. Why should this moment be any different? Afterwards, she would tell him … she would tell him … afterwards …

“And I guess you think the way to win me over is to come to my house and offend me.”

“Are you offended?”

Lorna couldn’t help but smile. She shook her head slowly as his face came closer. And just as his lips made contact with hers, she closed her eyes. He nipped her lower lip and pulled it in, sucking it lightly before dipping his tongue in for a brief taste. She remembered this as well, that he was an exemplary kisser. Good enough to almost make her forget that there could be even greater pleasures than kissing. Lorna pressed in closer for more and felt his smile at her response.

One point to Malcolm T. Mitchell.

“You’re going to return my calls,” he said against her lips.

Lorna wasn’t sure whether it was a question or a statement. She had a sneaking suspicion it was the latter, but she didn’t care. At least not at the moment. She nodded slowly and he deepened the kiss, his hands coming up to capture her wrists and move her hands from where they were still between them, pressed against his chest. Relieved of that barrier, he came closer and soon the only thing she could feel between them was what felt like a rod of granite at his groin. God bless his young soul, he was ready at the drop of a hat.

Smiling, Lorna pried one hand loose and reached down between them, feeling him. Malcolm groaned and pulled back abruptly, though their lips maintained contact. Capturing her wrist once again, he held it far away from the point of contention. Lorna smiled, just as his lips traveled down her jaw and to her neck. She tilted her head to the side to make way for him.

One point to Lorna Terry.

She didn’t want him to get the impression he could have the upper hand after barging into her meeting, and then into her home. A tie she could accept, but he couldn’t have the upper hand.

“Let’s go eat,” Malcolm said, pulling away suddenly.

Blinking, Lorna almost gasped in frustration. What the hell ..?

“I’m on to you,” he said smirking. Then he reached behind her and opened her door, standing aside so she would exit before him.

He drove them to the Harbor Inn in his Range Rover, as yuppie-like a vehicle as Lorna might have expected from the young professor. Harbor Inn was a small place set right on the banks of the Hudson; it was family-owned and simply decorated, serving fairly decent seafood, and excellent steaks. It was the place where parents of Gilchrist students took their collegians when they came to visit, or for a nice graduation dinner. On any given evening during the semester, there might be a few students at the restaurant on what they thought was a nice, grown-up date, but rarely did faculty go there. Probably because they wanted to avoid the students. But it was late spring, so there was little risk of running into anyone they knew, or might wind up teaching. Summer students rarely had the means to dine at places like Harbor Inn.

The hostess, an attractive girl with dark hair and startlingly blue eyes guided them to a table that overlooked the waters of the Hudson, and its craggy shores. Lorna loved this part of the country and missed it whenever she was gone too long. In just a few short months, the Hudson River Valley would transform, and become a golden landscape so breathtaking that people would drive from all over tristate area just to witness it. Since most of her conferences occurred in the spring and summer, Lorna was fortunate not to have missed this awesome display by Mother Nature in many years.

Their waitress surfaced with menus and rattled off the specials, and recommended wines when Malcolm inquired about a good pinot grigio. He chose one without asking Lorna what she wanted to drink, but she let it pass. The cool evening air, and the memory of their kiss in her foyer had her feeling docile and not inclined to argue.

“I was warned about you,” Malcolm said when they were alone again.

“Oh, I have no doubt you were,” Lorna said.

“I was warned that you’re very difficult to get to know. And that you throw up barriers—usually intellectual ones—against people who try.”

What was there to say to that? It was true, after all.

“I guess after hearing that, I was expecting something a little more sophisticated than the good old-fashioned refusal to return phone calls,” he continued.

“Well … then next time I’ll be sure to reject you in a much more sophisticated manner than refusing to return your phone calls.”

Malcolm didn’t smile as she would have expected he might. Instead he fixed that penetrative stare of his directly on her. “Are you rejecting me?” he asked.

“Depends on what you’re offering,” Lorna returned. “I can be a friend and a colleague. A … mentor, or …”

At that Malcolm did smile. “What makes you think I need a mentor?”

“You’re new to academia, you’re young …”

Malcolm smirked. “So that’s how you plan to play this? I’m too young for you?”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight. Somehow I doubt I’m the youngest man you’ve ever been involved with.”

For a moment Lorna’s memory flashed back to that graduate student from Ohio. She couldn’t recall his name, and that caused her a moment of something akin to shame. She was way too old to be picking up anonymous lovers. Her twenties and thirties were riddled with that kind of behavior and nothing good had come of it other than a brief, but misguided sense of sexual liberation.

“I don’t know whether to be insulted by that comment,” she said, feeling nothing of the sort.

Their waitress returned with water and with a young man who opened a bottle of wine, poured the first glass and waited for Malcolm to sample and approve it. He nodded his assent, both their glasses were filled and then their servers departed.

“Of course I don’t mean to insult you …” he began.

“Well that’s a relief.”

“Lorna. Stop.”

The forcefulness of his tone gave her pause. She felt almost chastened.

“I’m not interested in verbally jousting with you. I’m interested in getting to know you. And …” then he shrugged. “The jousting, of all kinds, can come later.”

Sighing, Lorna picked up her wineglass and took a sip, enjoying the sharp, fruity taste on the back of her tongue. It was a good choice, though she hadn’t been consulted.

“So tell me about yourself, Malcolm T. Mitchell,” she said when she put her glass back down. “What brings you to Gilchrist when your writing career is so clearly about to take off? Teaching is what a writer does at the end of his career, not the beginning.”

Turned out he was looking to become a writer-in-residence somewhere, but teaching wound up being a better bet since he had recently gotten divorced and needed the income. He had two girls—one thirteen and the other nine, who lived with his ex-wife, Charlotte, in the city. Both he and Charlotte were attorneys but apparently, while she had taken to their chosen profession like a fish to water, he loathed it, and had written his book on weekends and late at night when his household was asleep. Around the time he grew more serious about his writing, and getting published, Charlotte grew more disenchanted with their marriage.

“And the rest is history,” Lorna finished for him.

“I hope not. I hope the rest is actually just the beginning.”

He emptied his wineglass and set it aside, as though he had satisfied some internal quota for how much he intended to drink.

Little things like that made Lorna think he was probably very disciplined, possibly even structured in his life. If she was right, she needn’t worry about rebuffing him. Men like that could never tolerate the messy, jazz-like cadence of her life for very long. She woke at different times each morning, sometimes writing late into the night, sometimes before first light. She sometimes smoked, and then for a year or two, she quit.

She could be almost maniacally social at times—having dinner parties, brunches and wine tastings in her garden—and then at others, lived like a recluse. Her life was disorderly, its only constants being her work; and Riley, Shawn and her grandson. Everything else was temporary and disposable, most especially the men who passed in and out.

“I plan to read your book,” she said. “I bought it shortly after we, ahm, met.”

“You’ll have to tell me what you think of it.”

“What do you think of it?”

“Of my own book?” His eyebrows lifted.

“Yes. Do you feel as brilliant as they say you are?”

“No,” he said with a laugh. “Never.”

He had scampi with wild rice and Lorna ordered the sea bass, thinking all the while about her daughter who would have scolded her for choosing something that wasn’t sustainable. She often heard Riley in her head, as though she was the parent, and Lorna the child. Her daughter was sometimes unnervingly mature for her age.

“So I’m interested in hearing who thinks I throw up barriers for people who want to get to know me,” Lorna said, once their meal was underway.

“Professor Hunt, for one. He was very entertained by us when we were in his office this afternoon. Spent the first half hour of our meeting singing your praises.”

“Telling you I throw up barriers doesn’t sound like praise to me.”

“He also said that every conversation with you makes him feel like the class dunce. That you’re witty, sharp and have lots of barbs. That it only makes sense that you would be a feminist because you’re probably right in your assessment that no man could ever live up to you.”

Lorna took a bite of her fish. “Steven should know better. Being a feminist is in no way a reactionary thing. It shouldn’t just be defined in relation to men. Just like being Black is more than simply the absence of Whiteness.”

Malcolm grinned. “You should know,” he said leaning in and lowering his voice. “Whenever you talk like that, it makes my dick hard.”

Coming in 2016. ‘The Fall’.

Posted in Commitment Series, Writing | 14 Comments

Nia’s January Must Read: ‘Love Is’ by Tia Kelly

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‘Love Is’ opens with the very ambitious, goal-oriented and purpose-driven Diane Collins in an airport, waiting for a flight after having just endured an interview for a job that is well beneath her abilities and her lofty expectations for herself. She’s got huge plans, but knows that the job, however lacking, could be a stepping stone to where she wants to go, so she’s willing to consider it. As fate would have it, also on that flight, and in need of a buffer between him and his over-exuberant fans, is Warren “the Warrior” Scott, an NBA player with the Boston Celtics. Warren and Diane strike up a conversation and shortly thereafter a friendship that will dramatically change the trajectory of her life.

Unbeknownst to Diane, she is meeting Warren at a pivotal moment in his life and career, and though he may be the biggest thing to happen to her in a long while, her significance (and certainly her value) in his life … well, that remains in question throughout most of the novel.

‘Love Is’ is notable for lots of reasons for me. First, it’s definitely genre-bending. Though there are certainly love affairs and ‘love dilemmas’ in the story, the big questions are raised by how much Diane may or may not love herself and how that self-love, or lack thereof, may lead her into making bad decisions. The love between parents and their children is also a theme that gets a lot of attention from the author and by the time the book is done, the choices parents make for the benefit of their kids, and sometimes to their kids’ detriment is also thoroughly and thoughtfully explored.

But let me get concrete. Here’s what made this book a ‘must-read’ for me:

The Maddening, but “Relatable” Imperfection of the Heroine–I wanted to choke her out a time or two, I can tell you that. I rarely agreed with her choices and a few of them made me want to scream. But here’s one thing I didn’t do: I didn’t doubt that those were choices a woman might make, choices women have made, or choices that even with her flawed reasoning made a certain kind of sense. It is almost the most important thing to me from the beginning of a novel to the end, that I am convinced. And I found Diane thoroughly convincing. She was the friend you know, who you watch make mistakes, but whose mistakes you are powerless to prevent her from making. At one point, I could almost weep for Diane, seeing how she far she had departed from the woman she was in that airport.

The Ambiguity of the Anti-Hero–so there’s a hint for you (and a mild spoiler) by calling him an Anti-Hero. Warren Scott (whose choices reverberate in the lives of characters in several other Tia Kelly novels) is a complicated man. He does incredibly romantic and thoughtful things, and then mind-blowingly despicable things. He is heart-meltingly tender, and then unbelievably callous. But like, Diane, he is real. The realistic nature of the character is only part of the appeal for me, though. I also loved that he was an enigma, not only to the reader, but you also got the sense that he was an enigma to himself–unable to explain his feelings, or process them, unable to discern his own wants and needs; unable to stop himself going down a path that could only lead to pain for himself and others.

The Familiarity of the Themes–the story is in some ways an old and familiar one. And in the traditional telling of this story, Diane could be seen as the villainess, or at a minimum, as being, well, not very smart. But the way the author had the story unfold, you realize the slow steps people sometimes take to almost certain ruin. Only from the distance of a reader are we able to see with clarity how ruinous their choices are, but at the same time, we understand why they the protagonists and participants in the story may not see it.

The Attention to Time and Place–if you were born in the 80’s, or a pre-teen or teenager then, you will recognize all of the cultural references–the clothes people wore, the shows on television, the happenings in the world’s of sports, entertainment, and politics— and you will delight in them. These details were unobtrusively sprinkled throughout, reminding us that the action doesn’t take place in an unspecified ‘modern America’ but in a very definite era. And that era, before social media made the details of everyone’s personal life a Google search away, is essential for understanding a key plot point.  Also, each chapter, rather than being numbered, is named after a song from that era with a title relevant to the unfolding of the action. This kind of thing sets a book apart, and makes it clear that it was the product of thought, rather than an impulsive regurgitation of ideas expressed in a million other books before.

The Bold Conclusion–Around 80 percent into ‘Love Is’, you’re pretty sure you know what’s going to happen. Well, you’re wrong. And that’s all I’m saying.

Disclaimer: the author is a friend and someone I often have conversations with about writing, characters and popular culture and how that impacts what writers write, and what people read. She co-hosted an event with me in Washington DC called ‘Wine with Writers’ which gave us, as well as writers Xyla Turner and Lily Java, a rare opportunity to have face-to-face time with readers and talk about the theme of African American women in fiction, and hear their impressions of our work and characters. It was a super-fun, interesting and eye-opening afternoon and gave us a new perspective on the ways that the things we can write affect real people with real lives. That’s an awesome amount of power and responsibility to have. It still amazes me that anyone would even want to meet writers, just because of our fanciful scribblings about imagined people and their imagined lives. But I don’t think my friend and fellow-writer Tia Kelly would mind my saying that she takes that power and responsibility really seriously.

The seriousness with which she treats that responsibility is clear in ‘Love Is’. Having read everything she’s released, I have to say that this is, hands-down, her very best work.


 

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About the novel:

It took a once-in-a-lifetime bond to teach her what love is, and a once-in-a-lifetime betrayal to show her what love is not… Love Is. A different kind of love story.

Diane Collins had big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott was not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance.

Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.

From ‘Love Is’:

“I wish you would have rescued me tonight,” he said in a quiet voice.

Diane kept her eyes focused on the rising moon. “I feel like that’s all I’m worth to you.”

“No.” They returned to silence, but several minutes later he added, “I never meant to make you feel like that.”

“I know… sometimes, at least.”

He moved his feet in the water, and it splashed against their calves.

“I just don’t know what this is with you. Between us,” she explained. She inhaled the night air and released it, hoping to let all the bottled-up emotion that was building up out with it. “I can’t do another trip… All of this is lovely, and I know I probably sound ungrateful for saying this after you picked me to be here with you, but… Warren, I can’t keep doing this. Not when I don’t know how you feel. Or maybe I know and refuse to accept it.”

Cada dia que passa eu me apaixono mais por você.”

“Spanish?”

He laughed. “No… Portuguese.”

“Interesting,” Diane said, her voice trailing off, blending with the lapping of water hitting the wall of the pool.

“I probably butchered it a little. Still not always the best at speaking in Portuguese.”

“Planning a trip to Brazil?”

“No. I learned it once trying to impress a girl.”

“Did it work?”

Warren closed his eyes and shook his head. “No.”

Diane stared down at the water, looking at their feet beneath the surface. “What does it mean?”

“It basically means with every day that passes, I fall in love with you more.”

Diane looked up and caught him staring at her.

“I know one thing,” she said, looking into his eyes—a crazy hazel so intense that the color transformed into a bright green within the warm gold and brown iris she was used to seeing. The bold transformation was hypnotic.

“And what’s that?”

“It worked on me.”


 

Read ‘Love Is’ today: on Amazon, on Nook, on Google or on Kobo

Posted in Authors, Trends, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seventeen

jordan-davis-0_240x340_64I made a mistake this morning.

I turned on HBO and saw that a documentary was on. I didn’t know what it was about, but decided to watch anyway. Turned out, it was called ‘3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets’ and was about the murder of Jordan Davis, and the so-called ‘Thug Music Murder Trial’. You remember the one–in Jacksonville, Florida, a man claimed that after asking four Black teenagers in an SUV to turn down their music, they responded in a manner so threatening he felt justified in pulling his weapon from his glove box and emptying it into the side of their vehicle, killing 17-year old Jordan Davis.

I watched key scenes from the trial and I studied the faces of Jordan Davis’ parents as they listened to the evidence and tried to remain stoic. They had the drawn looks of people whose features have become fixed in sadness and grief, and who are long past pretending otherwise, their eyes somnolent and almost lifeless. I’ve never been so sorry I turned on a television as I was in that moment. Selfishly, I feared that the memory of the looks on Jordan Davis’ parents faces would ruin my day; and then reminded myself that their lives had been ruined. So, I decided to honor their pain by simply bearing witness to it, and watching the documentary through to the end.

trayvonJordan Davis’ father spoke of hearing from Trayvon Martin’s Dad, welcoming him into “the club no one wants to belong to.” His son, too, was killed when he was seventeen. And his son, also had his character assassinated after his death just as his body had been assassinated. I was relieved when it seemed the film was about to end, with a montage of shots from Jordan’s life, from his birth until his death, reminding me that he was somebody’s newborn, their toddler, their teenager. But he would never become their adult son.

Then just tonight, I hear the name LaQuan McDonald. Also seventeen. Also dead for no other reason than that we live in a society where Black boys are not allowed to be boys. There’s a dashcam video of his execution–this time, 16 bullets, almost one for every year of LaQuan’s life. I watched that too, to bear witness. And I was sorry I did.

LaQuanI tried to reach back and remember the Jordan Davis documentary and its intended-to-be-triumphant closing sequence — a video filmed with a cellphone, of Jordan, riding in a car with his friends, listening to rap music, bopping his head to the beat. Then the final shot of the film, of Jordan’s father, watching that video, wiping tears from his eyes and then finally, smiling. And with determined optimism, he nods his own head in sync with the music, and with his son. I wish I could say I felt the same optimism.

But I don’t.

I just can’t stop thinking about them. Trayvon. Jordan. LaQuan. And I don’t even want to consider how many more names we’ll never know.

Only seventeen.

 

 

Posted in The Way I See it | 6 Comments

Fight Clean, Indie Authors. Fight Clean.

fight clean logoI love authors. All of them. People who have the courage to put their thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and fanciful ideas on the page. And you know the authors I’ve come to love most of all? Indies. And here’s why.

We’re like cage-fighters. We get in there, and without all that extra padding we expose ourselves to some brutal blows. To the head, to the heart and even to the soul by opening ourselves up to the world and saying, ‘Here’s my work. Have at it.’ We toss around ideas and seize on some, discarding others. We execute well, and sometimes abysmally. We learn the rules of writing and un-learn some, and then make up our own; we churn out some garbage and occasionally some genius. And we do it all without the support and padding of a multi-million dollar publishing conglomerate to make this messy business of writing look glossy and pretty.

But here’s the thing. Lately, I think some of us cage-fighters have it twisted. We think the opponent is the reader who happens not to like what we do. Or the writer who doesn’t give us the props we “deserve”; whatever we imagine those props to be. We bleed on the page and then go out there and for some of us, we also design a cover, format the text, edit the damn thing and then try to morph into our own public relations agent. And no question: We Are Bad-Ass. We are. So yeah, it smarts a little when the work isn’t well-received.

But in this cage fight called indie authorship, the opponent isn’t your fellow author against whom you’ve developed some irrational grudge; it isn’t the reader who didn’t give you that five-star review you’ve developed a sense to entitlement to. Your opponent is only you. Just you.

So, get back in that cage, write your next kick-ass book and let the rest take care of itself. Not everyone in the reading or writing public will be part of your team, but that’s okay.

Fight your fight, indie authors. But fight clean. And most of us will be fighting right alongside you.

N.

Posted in Writing | 16 Comments

SAMPLE SUNDAY : ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ is LIVE!

The Education of Miri Acosta Cover2

From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’:

“I’m not one of your brothers, Miri,” Duardo said, his voice now almost dangerously quiet.

Miri studied his face and saw again what she had first seen in that moment in the nightclub when he came to sit with her. He wanted her. She knew he did. Even if it was just a little, there was something there in the darkening of his eyes and the flaring of his nostrils. And he was determined to hide it for some reason. The idea that she might tease it out of him was what made her go off alone with Stephan, but that had gone so horribly awry, she didn’t even know how to fix it.

“Then stop acting like it,” she said softly. “Stop treating me like it.”

Duardo shook his head and muttered something under his breath.

“You do,” she insisted. “You treat me like I’m untouchable. Not just for men like Stephan, but for you too.”

“I don’t …”

“You do,” she insisted. “If I’m not, then why don’t you?”

“Why don’t I ..?”

“Touch me,” she said. “Why don’t you touch me?”

She was beyond embarrassment now, beyond shame. Standing there, mere inches between them, feeling the heat radiating from him, Miri was only barely containing the urge to grab and hold him, to make him … something. That was the problem, she barely even knew what she wanted him to do. Kiss her; yes, of course. But more than that. She wanted much, much more.

“Miri …”

Something akin to panic flashed in his eyes, and Duardo moved to the side as though to evade her. Miri held his arm, grabbing him at the bicep. It was rock hard under her fingers. Her chest heaved, the towel came loose and threatened to fall. If it did, she would let it.

Duardo was breathing hard as well, his own chest visibly rising and falling while they stared. “Miri,” he said again, seemingly unable to complete his thought.

Touch me.”


Posted in Writing | 7 Comments

SAMPLE(S) SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ and ‘Ivy’s League’

Wine w WritersI like to write about women, figuring out who they are and what their “stuff” is. You know what I mean, right? The things that drive them, the things that hold them back, the things that block them from having the kind of life they deserve. That’s it. If I had to sum up the central theme of every single thing I write, that would be it.

And if I had to sum up my approach to writing, it would be “searching for realism.” I am rarely (okay, never) completely satisfied with anything I write, but on the occasions that I am somewhat satisfied, it’s because I think I may have struck a note of realism close to what I wanted.

For that reason, I love ‘Ivy’s League’. Love. Ivy has more than a few personal characteristics that I relate to, or have myself. But more than that, her story was one that felt real to me, and unfolded completely organically on the page–I didn’t map or chart it out, or even know where she would end up, I just let it happen as I wrote. And I also love that in her life, there’s an absence of drama other than the purely personal and domestic kind; her struggles are those that most women face in one form or another. But I’m not going to say too much more about Ivy since I’m doing an online Book Chat about her story today at 7 PM EDT, here.

And of course, I’ll be at Wine with Writers in person in two weeks. Tickets are going pretty fast, so get yours now, if you’re going to be in the DC/MD/VA area. I’ll be hanging out with Tia Kelly and Xyla Turner, talking books and drinking wine and signing my brand new release (slated for release just before ‘Wine with Writers’) ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’.

So … about Miri: I know some folks have been anxiously waiting for her. And honestly, I had a hard time understanding why. Miri was a quiet and small character for me. Someone who lived in the shadow of the much larger characters of her brothers. So writing about her was challenging. Here’s a little secret. If writers struggle, it’s for one reason only: we’re having a hard time figuring out what our characters want, and how (or whether) to have them get it.

Apart from life getting in the way of our writing, there is pretty much no other reason for writers being “blocked” other than that. And until we figure those things out, the book just ain’t gon’ come. Miri, now that her story is about to be released, remains in some ways a small and quiet character. But I figured out what she wants, and whether (and how) she gets it. So she’s on her way in very short order.

In the meantime, I thought I’d let you visit with these two very different women–both of whom have just enough slice of “real” to satisfy me. And I hope you as well.

Happy Reading!

N.


Eduardo promoFrom ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’. Coming Soon.

The sound of the door opening and shutting sent Miri scurrying back to the bed, clutching the sheets around her naked form. And then she felt silly. After all that happened the previous evening, shyness seemed ridiculous. So, while she listened to the movement in the next room, she found a t-shirt and pulled it on, recalling that Duardo had offered her one the night before, though she never got around to putting it, or anything else, on. Taking a moment to check her hair—which was pretty much a disaster—Miri went out to join him in the living area, pausing only to brush her teeth with her fingers in his small bathroom, and to splash water on her face.

Buenas días.”

Duardo looked up when she entered and spoke to him but did not answer.

Expecting some warmth, or acknowledgment of the previous evening, and not getting it, Miri was disappointed. Instead, his expression was inscrutable. But she felt brave, and more importantly, he looked incredibly hot, in a stark white t-shirt that only emphasized his sun-darkened skin; and baggy grey sweats. His scruffy and unshaven face reminded her of how it felt against her own face, and later, against her inner thighs. So Miri went to him, and while he removed what smelled like breakfast from a paper sack, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Resting her face against his broad and firm back, she felt her entire body heave in a sigh.

“Will you not speak to me?” she asked, feeling emboldened by the way he leaned oh-so-slightly backward and into her embrace. “¿Estás enojado conmigo?”

“No,” Duardo said after a long while. But still he didn’t turn around to return her embrace.

“So if you’re not angry, what is it?”

“I crossed a line with you,” he said, turning around and looking down at her. “After everything that your family …”

Miri exhaled impatiently and pulled away from him. “If we’re going to talk about how what happened between you and me—two consenting adults—affects my brothers, my family? If that’s what you’re about to say, I’m going to fucking scream,” she said.

Duardo looked surprised, though he did not comment on her cursing.

“I’m serious,” Miri said. “I walked in here on a high and you’re just going to … wreck it. I’m starting to feel like I would have been better off going home with Stephan Payne.”

And that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Duardo grabbed and pulled her back against his chest, his hands grasping her arms and holding her tight, his face inches from hers.

“Don’t you ever say that to me. He doesn’t get to touch you. He doesn’t get to go near you. ¿Entiendes?”

Being manhandled should have alarmed her, but it did the opposite. It made Miri confident, and even calm. Because she knew Duardo would never hurt her, and because she now knew that his stoic distance of a few moments earlier was the only way he knew to maintain control over the riotous emotions that were now so clearly visible in his eyes.

“I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want him near me. I want you,” she said, shrugging. “I just want you.”

“So why do you say these things?” Duardo let her go, running a hand over his head. “Just to … provoke me?”

“Because I want to get past this part,” Miri said. “This stupid part where we pretend like we don’t already know what’s going to happen.”

At that, Duardo gave her a grim smile. “And what’s that?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.

“We’re going to have an affair,” Miri said, staring back at him evenly.


Young black woman in the room

From ‘Ivy’s League’ Available Now.

Eli looked up just in time to see her coming down the sidewalk. Holding the hem of her gown up so it wouldn’t sweep the ground, Ivy looked like something out of a dream. Her dress was yellow, a soft shade like the faintest glow of morning sunlight and made of a foamy fabric that swayed as she walked. Cut in a straight line, binding her across the chest, it left completely exposed Ivy’s smooth brown shoulders and long, graceful arms. Under the hem of the dress, Eli could just make out gold strappy, high-heeled sandals that looked like something a gladiator would wear. If a gladiator was a five-foot nine, slender-as-a-reed, breathtaking Black woman in a yellow gown.

Ivy spotted him and he opened the window on the passenger side, disengaging the locks. She leaned in, her lips pursed and stern. She looked even more beautiful up close. Her hair was pulled back into a high, regal mass of kinky curls, her makeup subtle but iridescent. A stab of possessiveness impaled Eli right in the center of the chest.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Get in,” he said.

Ivy seemed poised to protest but instead sighed and opened the door, getting in next to him. Turning, she took another breath. “Eli …”

He kissed her. Hard. Hard enough to shut her up, steal her breath, and make her gasp all at once. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t respond either. Not at first, but he persisted until her lips softened and she kissed him back—tentatively at first, and then with all the feeling he had become accustomed to from her. She tasted sweet, like white wine, and smelled even more amazing than usual. Eli turned even further and reached over to pull her toward him by the waist, awkwardly in the confines of the truck’s cab.

That awkwardness provided an opening and Ivy took it, wrenching herself free and shaking her head.

“Eli,” she said again. But this time her voice was trembling a little.

He answered her by starting the engine, and pulling out into traffic away from the curb. Ivy looked frantically behind them, and then back at him.

“Eli!” She said his name yet again. “I’m working. My boss is at that dinner.”

He slowed the truck to a crawl. “Is she going to fire you if you don’t come back?” he asked pointedly.

Ivy opened her mouth to speak but did not. Her shoulders heaved, and shaking her head, she leaned back against the seat, staring straight ahead.

**************

AVAILABLE NOW.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vb8C5R

 B&N: http://bit.ly/1NOPG7i

Posted in Inspiration, Ivy's League, Public appearances, Romance, Sample Sunday, The Education of Miri Acosta, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Chat TODAY: ‘Wine with Writers’ featured author Tia Kelly talks ‘Baby Love’

Baby Love Chat Promo

JOIN the members of B.R.A.B. Book Club TODAY, Sunday, Oct. 25th to discuss Tia Kelly‘s latest novella, Baby Love.

When: Sunday, Oct. 25 at 5 PM (EST)
Where: www.facebook.com/AuthorTiaKelly

About Baby Love:
The son of an NBA legend, Trent Scott was born a catch and groomed since birth to know it. Little fazes him, including the mystery woman that appears on his doorstep with a baby in tow… even when she claims Trent is the father before disappearing. Until he can prove otherwise and find the delusional woman, he’s stuck caring for a kid he knows can’t be his… or is it?

Brandi Avery is ready to start the next chapter of her life. After coming to the rescue of a frazzled (and extremely attractive) stranger with an adorable (yet obviously upset) baby, she can’t help but fall for Trent Scott… which wouldn’t be so bad if she could convince him to feel the same way about her.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From Baby Love:

Pulling the door open, he saw a gorgeous woman and immediately thought of Lupita Nyong’o.

“About damn time!” She sounded nothing like the graceful actress.

Trent’s brow raised a fraction, but he didn’t say a word.

“Do you mind?” she asked, setting a foot inside his house.

She cut her eyes at him before glancing at her watch. That was when Trent saw the stroller behind her. Ms. Uninvited set an infant carrier on the ground between them after stepping across the threshold.

“How did you get past the gate?”

“It was open when I got here.”

Trent peered around her because he knew he closed it.

“Earlier when the ambulance was here.”

“Ambulance?”

The woman just shrugged.

“Do I know you?”

“You don’t remember me?” Her angry scowl became masked with hurt.

“Why should I?”

“It’s been just over a year, but not that much has changed other than the child we share together.”

To read more of this excerpt: http://www.tiawithapen.com/the-blog/2015/7/15/baby-love

BOOKS& WINE

And don’t forget, you can MEET TIA KELLY at ‘Wine with Writers’ on November 14th at 3 PM in Washington DC where she will be chatting with me, Xyla Turner and you, the readers. Ask Tia in person about her work, have a chance to buy her new release, ‘Love Is’, receive a free swag bag and door prizes, AND discuss the theme: ‘Romance, Realism & Portrayal of African American Women in Modern Popular Fiction’. Tickets to the event are available HERE now!

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