SAMPLE SUNDAY: Paid Companion



So, the experiment is over. Soon, I’ll release the full novella, ‘Paid Companion’.  I can’t lie– it was stressful. I may have some strengths, but discipline is sadly not among them, so it was a struggle writing on a weekly schedule. I considered writing all ten chapters at once but that seemed like cheating, so I only wrote this story when it was speaking to me, and that meant there were a couple of weeks when chapters weren’t posted . But here it is … the last installment I will post before the novella is released. I hope you enjoy. And if this is the first time you’re hearing of this, jump on over to Wattpad to check out the other 9 chapters.

Happy Reading!



Miami, FL, 6:16 p.m.

Kevin watched as Lia browsed the aisles of the souvenir shop, pausing occasionally to look at one of the tchotchkes, or brightly-colored t-shirts, the assorted landscapes with poor attempts at depicting the Biscayne Bay sunset. After dashing from the bar to Blake’s SUV which was parked at the dock, they sat in the muggy confines of the vehicle, both of them silent for a moment until Lia finally looked at him.

Now what?

The way she asked the question made Kevin’s dick twitch. Something between them had been stripped away since their conversation over alligator nuggets and beer. Now there was no longer any pretense that they had any business being back on the mainland, except that Kevin wanted to spend some time with her. That knowledge hummed and buzzed between them as they sat there in the warm, stuffiness of Blake’s luxury vehicle.

Want to see a little bit of Miami? Kevin asked her.

Yeah, Lia said. And maybe get some cool stuff for a couple of my friends.

So he took her to the first souvenir shop he spotted, one of those brightly-lit, garishly decorated places that featured garments in every pastel shade known to mankind, sunglasses, flip-flops and knick-knacks so cheap that once packed, they sometimes didn’t even make it home without damage or destruction. But Lia seemed to be loving it. The cornier the item, the longer she lingered in front of it. So far she had a figurine of a frog sunning himself under an umbrella, an alligator grinning either mischievously (or menacingly; Kevin couldn’t decide) and two hollow yellow cans that purported to contain “pure, unpasteurized Florida sunshine”.

Pausing in front of a row of pink tank tops with cartoonish pictures of coconuts strategically placed over the breast area, Lia grabbed one and showed it to him, grinning.

“This is just the kitschiest thing ever,” she said. And then after a moment’s hesitation, she dropped that into her basket as well.

“You do realize you’re wasting your money, right?”

“I do,” she answered evenly.

“Okay.” He shook his head in amusement.

“You know how they say, ‘it’s the thought that counts’?” Lia asked, resuming her stroll along the aisle. “It’s true. No one’s going to care about this stuff. I know that. But they’ll care that while I was away, I thought of them.”

“Yeah, I get it. It’s just …” He broke off, deciding not to speculate on her financial situation. But it was just that he’d gotten the impression that the money for this gig wasn’t inconsequential for her.

“It’s worth it, believe me,” she said, as though she’d read his mind. “Most of this junk is for my best friend Steph. She’s two lampshades away from being a hoarder and if I go anyplace and come back without a whole bunch of crap to feed her habit, she’ll never speak to me again.”

Kevin smiled again, but didn’t comment, contenting himself with hanging back and watching the rhythmic sway of her walk. She was a tiny, little thing, with a backside he would describe as ‘pert’. On the boat earlier that afternoon, he’d made a point of not looking at it too often, of not looking at her too often. His cousins Kim and Tanya were hawk-eyed about stuff like that and if he’d so much as glanced in Lia’s direction one time too many, they wouldn’t have been too shy about calling him out on it.

And that’s why he’d made this little deal with Blake who had his own reasons for wanting to sneak back to the mainland for at least one day during their little family vacation.

A’ight, Blake said when he asked for the favor. You got first, but on Wednesday you’re helping me cook up a reason to take off on my own.

On his own was not strictly accurate. Blake had an agenda and it most definitely did not include being ‘on his own’. It was only a matter of time before that whole situation blew up in all of their faces but that was Blake’s concern. Kevin’s only concern at the moment was about five-foot three and walking a few paces ahead of him.

Finally, after another aimless few minutes, Lia was done, and Kevin trailed her to the cashier and waited while she dumped all her selections onto the conveyor belt. When it was all said and done, she had racked up just over sixty dollars’ worth of nonsense. Just as she was about to dig into her purse, Kevin reached over her and handed the cashier his credit card. Lia didn’t do that thing that most other chicks would have done and pretended to resist; instead she tilted her head back and grinned at him like a kid who had just been handed an ice cream cone.

“Thank you,” she said.

Heading back out to the car, parked at the curb, Lia at his side swinging the Pepto-Bismol pink plastic bag from the store, Kevin realized he didn’t have much of a plan. Getting her away from the family and alone—that had been his plan. Beyond that, he had nothing. And as far as “seeing” Miami? He couldn’t think of what to show her, and couldn’t be less in the mood for sightseeing.

Then he remembered—there was one place he definitely wanted her to see.


 “This is yours?”

When they pulled up, the house seemed modest, quaint, even to him. It was a small bungalow, almost obscured by mangroves, painted a soft creamy, off-white, with a slate roof. A row of shuttered windows, Caribbean-style, lined the front, broken only by a single, red wooden door in the center.

“Yeah,” Kevin said, reveling in the look of wonder and pleasure on Lia’s face. “C’mon lemme show you inside.”

The entire house was comprised of only three rooms. The living area was wide and seemed expansive because of the lack of real furniture, except for a sectional that lined one wall, and the hammocks that hung from the wooden beams above. Colorful raffia rugs covered the tiled floor. An arched doorway to the left led to the kitchen, and one to the right led to the bathroom. But what had drawn Lia’s attention, as Kevin knew it would, was the rear wall of the house. Because it wasn’t a wall at all. It was a row of French doors, all of which he unlocked and flung open revealing the true secret of the house, which was that it was built on the beach, only steps away from the blue, blue water.

“You know,” Lia said finally, ‘This is wildly impractical.”

Kevin laughed out loud. He would have expected nothing less from her.

Then she turned to face him, shaking her head. “It’s also the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen,” she added.”

“I dreamt it,” Kevin confessed. “One night when I was in college, I dreamed about a house like this. And I promised myself I would build it one day.”

“You built this?”

“Well. Not me. Not literally. I had it built.”

Lia stood at one of the French doors, her hand resting on it as she stared out at the water, her expression dreamy.

“Took a while before I could find someone who would actually do it,” he continued, feeling like he was babbling to fill the silence. “Because, yeah, it is impractical. Even though we’re on the leeward side, if there’s hurricane, then …”

“There was a hurricane. There are always hurricanes. How does this house withstand all that?”

“It survives,” Kevin said nodding. “It takes on a little water, but … it still stands.”

While he talked, Lia slid off her sandals and headed out onto the sand. He watched her as she made her way closer to the water, scoring lines in the sand with her big toes as she went. From behind she looked even more diminutive. Suddenly, she turned and looked at him.

“Is this beach private?” she asked.

Kevin shrugged. “More or less.”

Lia turned to face the water again and began peeling off her clothes. Kevin watched, transfixed as each piece was removed, not even blinking. He waited until she was down to her bra and underwear before he could even swallow, and when he did, it felt like he had a golf ball in this throat.

He kept trying to talk himself out of his attraction for this woman, listing in his head all the ways she was different from the usual women he was drawn to—Afro-Cubans with long, thick, lustrous dark hair, curvy but slender bodies, formidable breasts. Lia had none of those things, and yet he was finding it more and more difficult to keep his eyes off her whenever she was around.

Bringing her here was even more out of character. This was his sanctuary; the home he had chosen to make for himself when the old man had doled out the resources for each of his kids to buy a home. Blake chose to buy himself the bachelor pad, Nicki had saved her money until she decided to settle in the DC area and bought a house in Chevy Chase, and he had chosen to build this little bungalow, a place few people had been privy to.

And yet he wanted to bring Lia, this woman he barely knew and had helped hire to be Blake’s woman. As if that whole situation wasn’t ridiculous enough, now he had spirited her away for … what he didn’t even quite know.

“You coming?” Lia looked over her shoulder again. “We probably don’t have much time before it starts raining again.”

She was right. The sky was still dark, and weather pattern moving through was not quite done with the Miami area. But Kevin stripped down anyway, until he was in his boxer briefs, and walked out onto the sand to join her. Lia turned to face him when he was next to her, and they looked at each other. As if by prior agreement, they closed the space between them and Lia’s head fell back so she could look at him.

“You are so short,” he teased.

She smiled, and rose a little on her toes. “Better?”

“Nah,” he said. “Not yet.” And then he reached down, cupping her ass with both hands, and lifting her up.

Lia squealed, and on instinct, wrapped her legs around his hips and her arms up and around his neck. Now they were face to face. Kevin felt the rise and fall of her chest against his, and another rise, lower, at his groin.

This is better,” he said before he kissed her.

But Lia was not one to passively ‘be kissed’. She was an active participant, her hands roaming his jaw, the back of his neck, the top of his head. She moaned and leaned into the kiss, her lips and tongue playing enthusiastically with his.

When their lips finally parted, Kevin’s dick was like a steel rod that was maddeningly close, but far away, from where it wanted to be.

“Y’know what?” Lia spoke against his neck, her lips soft and her breath warm but making him shiver. “I really like your whole family. But I’m pretty sure you’re my favorite.”

“You’re silly,” he said turning his head and kissing her again. “And you’re a liar. You don’t like my whole family.”

Lia pulled back. “Yes I do!” Then a smile crossed her full lips. “Okay, yeah, Kim and Tanya are pretty unbearable. But everyone else, I …”

He kissed her once more, his hands on her ass gripping tighter to prevent himself from grinding against her like a horny schoolboy. After a moment, he felt Lia’s legs slacken like she wanted to be let down, so he obliged, gradually releasing his hold on her ass so she could slide back down and onto her feet.

Once she was standing again, she looked up at him, that little sly smile of hers still on her face.

“We’re really good at that together, huh?”

Yeah. They were.

Lia lifted an eyebrow.

“Oh, I thought that was a rhetorical question,” he said, pulling her close against him again. “Yeah. We’re good at that together.”

But as he leaned in, Lia braced her palms against his chest. “Since we have to head back soon, I want to do something real quick before we go.”

“I don’t know if can promise it’ll be ‘real quick’,” Kevin joked.

Lia slapped him on the chest and rolled her eyes. “I don’t mean that. C’mon, lemme show you.”

She dragged him back toward the house and picked up her hobo-style purse from where she’d dropped it by the door, fishing out a Ziploc bag and a small sketchpad.

“The sun’s going to set soon,” she said. “I want to draw you. Sitting right there, by the doors, looking out at the sea.”

He didn’t know why, but the suggestion moved him. Kevin submitted when Lia led him by hand to the French doors, and directed him to sit on the steps that led out onto the beach. She arranged him so he was in semi-profile, one leg almost extended, foot resting on the steps, the other pulled up, knee almost to his chest, his arm resting along it. It was the way he might naturally have sat—and probably had in the past—if he was alone here and just contemplating life, looking out at the water.

He glanced back at Lia, who had perched herself in one of the hammocks, and had taken out a charcoal to begin working.

“Don’t look at me,” she instructed. “Look out there.”

“Yes ma’am. How long is this going to take? I can’t sit still for long.”

“You don’t have to sit completely still. Just don’t move from that pose.” Her voice already sounded distracted, and Kevin heard the vague scratching of charcoal against paper.

Outside, the rain began again. They hadn’t made it into the water, but he was still in his underwear and Lia in hers. Their clothes were on the beach, getting soaked through. He considered telling Lia that, but didn’t want to wreck her creative groove. And besides, they wouldn’t be any drier if he went to get them now.

“It feels weird just sitting here while you stare at me,” he admitted.

“I’m not ‘staring’, I’m studying. And you don’t need to just sit there, you can talk to me.”

“What would you like me to talk about?”

“Anything you want,” she said, her voice still dreamy.

“Yeah, but what do you want me to talk about?” he said, still teasing her.

“I want you to talk about why you have a different name from your siblings,” she said.

Kevin froze. He contemplated.

It wasn’t something they talked about outside the family. Hell, it wasn’t even talked about inside the family. Spilling it to a virtual stranger was risky, even if that stranger had signed a non-disclosure agreement. But the words ‘stranger’ and ‘Lia’ didn’t go together. She didn’t feel like a stranger, she felt like a ‘familiar’.

And even more curious, he wanted to tell her.

“Okay,” he said finally. “I can talk about that.”

Kevin took a deep breath, and began.

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Been a Long Time …

Oh, I’ve been around. Doing this and that, more related to life than to writing. But I am back in the saddle and recalibrating my release dates, so stay tuned!

One of the things that gets me back into that creative space is communing with other creatives and with their creations. This one, ‘Ribbons & Belle’ by Ey Wade is work I read a long while back. As I get back into my groove, I’ll be posting some shorts just for fun, and as the year draws to a close, releasing new work. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll check out some of the work from the writers I reviewed and enjoyed, like this one!

randbA review of ‘Ribbons & Belle’ by Ey Wade

I read this book now several months ago, and recently happened across it again, recalling that I hadn’t reviewed it. And then I recalled why. ‘Ribbons & Belle’ is one of those books you want to sit with for a while after you’ve read it, because it raises interesting questions under the guise of a ‘simple romance’. But having read this author’s work before, I was forewarned that it probably wouldn’t be quite as simple as it might initially appear. For starters, the female lead is named Annabelle Lee, whose namesake is a tragic figure from an Edgar Allan Poe poem about a man who mourns his lost love, a love so great that even the angels are envious. So I was fully prepared for this Annabelle to be a tragic figure.

And she was. Somewhat.

At the beginning of the novel we see Annabelle mourning a loss, and yearning for what was lost. And that writing—the opening scene—was some of the most beautiful I have read this year. It had some the same hallmarks of Ey Wade’s writing in another of her books I read, ‘When Clouds Touch’—there is a fairytale like aspect, an otherworldliness to it that makes it sound lyrical and feel almost magical. And, as in that book, even the physical characteristics of the main characters were uncommon. Both Tyson and Belle are showstoppers in their own way, but not in a romance novel way. They are unique. Again; like in a fairytale.

But Ey Wade’s fairytales are somewhat like ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ with a very … well, grim, underbelly. That element was definitely present in this story. The details of what and how Annabelle lost are enough to make you want to weep. She has had miscarriages and her marriage ended as a result. But one particular pregnancy loss was incredibly difficult, and forced her into making a choice that no woman would want to make.

But then there was the love story, the coming together of Annabelle and her interesting, somewhat quirky suitor Tyson Ribbons (see what I mean, ‘ribbons’ and ‘belle’ –very reminiscent of the names in children’s stories, right?) who is determined to be her Prince Charming despite the incredibly difficult dilemma she presents him with. Annabelle is trying to get pregnant, and she’s doing it through artificial insemination; a plan she has no intention of delaying or changing simply because a persistent and seductive new man enters her life. And to further complicate matters, despite the obvious conflict of interest, Tyson is to be her counselor through this process. The counseling sessions become subterfuge for him to learn more about the mysterious Annabelle and for the two to grow closer.

Their closeness, and developing relationship is tested when those close to Tyson and to Annabelle learn troubling new details about her last pregnancy, and question whether she deserves what she wants most—motherhood.

So here’s my take. I loved Tyson, and particularly loved that his affection for Annabelle grew from afar at first and then turned into something more. The choice he made—to pursue Annabelle despite her circumstances—was one I would have counseled a friend against, but somehow it seemed to make sense for the man he was. I believed him completely, and felt like I understood him. Annabelle, less so, probably because I think a culture that tells women that they are incomplete unless they are mothers is oppressive. And Annabelle seemed to have bought into that in ways that made me want to throttle her a times. She was so single-minded in her drive to be a mother, that I couldn’t relate. But of course, I have a kid, so what do I know about wanting and not being able to have one? So … when I stopped judging her, I liked her more, and just wanted her to get what she wanted.

But I have to admit, when The Big Issue with Annabelle’s pregnancy was revealed, I wanted to see the characters struggle with it some more. I wanted to see a little more push and pull over this incredibly difficult subject—most of the conflict about it was external, and where Annabelle had to school a couple people, I got it but was more curious about her own internal struggle, and perhaps even an internal struggle between the couple. All in all though, the writing was solid, and the ending satisfying. But most of all, I think the story, the characters and the conflict were uncommon and unexpected; all of which, for me, made ‘Ribbons & Belle’ well worth the read.

Happy Reading!



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Paid Companion: A Serial Novella

paid companionI don’t blog as much as I used to. Hardly at all, actually. So on the advice of my writer-friends Kim Golden and Xio Axelrod (just so we know who to blame if things go awry), I’m going to try something new. A serial-novella. To keep it tongue-in-cheek, I’m going to make it something I might not normally write. And if I like it when it’s done, I’ll publish it on Amazon, B&N and all the usual platforms. And if I (and you) hate it, we’ll never speak of this failed experiment again.  That’s the deal.🙂 So … here we go — every Tuesday for the next five weeks, click here, to follow the story, ‘Paid Companion’. I’ll post the first 10 chapters and then go dark to finish and publish on Amazon, shortly thereafter.

And if you want to read a serial by people who actually know what they’re doing with this serial novel stuff, go check out ‘Crossing Paths’ on Wattpad

And check out Kim’s full-length work here. And Xio’s here!

As far as this story, the title kind of speaks for itself, but I won’t give you a blurb because I have no idea where it’ll go just yet. Here’s a little taste of ‘Paid Companion’, before we get down to business next week:

Sunday, 2:13 pm, Washington, DC

“You’re not really doing this, are you? Tell me you’re not doing this.”

“Damn right I am. I’m not in a position to pass up that kind of money,”

“You’d be a hooker, Lia. I don’t care what they call it—you’d be a hooker.”

Lia laughed and tossed the last of her clothing into the small weekend bag and zipped it shut, setting it on the floor next to her unmade bed. Stephanie was her best friend and she generally followed her advice, because it was basically sound. Most of the time. In this instance though, she couldn’t afford to listen to her.

“It’s a lot of money. More than I’ve ever had at one time in my life. And for what? To stand around and look cute during a week-long vacation with a man who’s pretty damned cute himself? Tell me honestly that you’d pass that up.”

Stephanie said nothing for a few moments then sighed. “Okay, fine. So I would probably do precisely what you’re doing. But we need to make a plan before you get on that plane.”

“A plan?”

“Yes, a plan. You’re getting on a private jet to meet a complete stranger and be his ‘paid companion’ for a week. That sounds like the beginning of a bad novel, or an episode of Dateline Mysteries. So we need to have a plan for if you get in trouble and need me to come get you, or send in the cavalry. Or the Miami PD.”

At that, Lia paid closer attention. Stephanie was right. She didn’t know Blake Morgan except as someone whose pictures got taken in magazines a lot. He could be a homicidal maniac who because of his wealth and influence could easily ‘disappear’ foolish young women like her, with no consequences at all. But that was part of the thrill—not knowing what awaited her at the other end of that plane ride. Surely not death. Based on Blake Morgan’s photos, a girl was much more likely to lose her heart than her life.

“Okay, Stephanie. Let’s come up with my escape plan. Just in case.”

“Thank you,” Stephanie sighed. “I always feel much better when I have a plan. Especially when I’m sending my best friend off to become a hooker.”


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✦✦✦ Release Day Spotlight✦✦✦ Because My Heart Said So by 4Writers4Love

It’s RELEASE DAY! My co-authors and I were interviewed by My Reading Nook! Check it out …

my reading nook

For this month’s Author Spotlight, MRN is doing something a little different. Instead of featuring one author for June, MRN is hosting 4Writers4Love and their just released anthology, today in fact, Because My Heart Said So – A Friend-to-Lovers Collection. If you don’t know who 4Writers4Love areyet, you will by the end of this month.

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Lily’s Path to More

BMHSS Final CoverOver the past three weeks, you’ve gotten acquainted with three of the writers from my upcoming collaboration, ‘Because My Heart Said So’. One by one, Jacinta Howard, Rae Lamar and I have submitted to the inquisition of the author who has played the role of project manager, house-mother and general herder-of-the-cats, Lily Java. Sure, she had her character Sydney from ‘Because My Heart Said So’ do the actual interviews, but that is consistent with who Lily is—she gets people to ‘do stuff’, adding a process where there were previously only “cool ideas”. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that without her tenacity in pursuing the “cool idea” of a collection of Friends-to-Lovers stories, this book would not have happened.

So, along with Jacinta and Rae, I am super-excited to have everyone get to know Lily Java and her stellar work. She has been the level-headed calming influence of our group, the one who keeps me on task, gently prods me back into focus when my ideas wander, and I think Jacinta and Rae would agree, pretty much the “adult in the room” when the rest of us begin to get goofy. And the fact that she’s a damn good writer whose lyrical contribution to the Collection classed up the joint? Well, that’s a bonus.

Welcome, Lily Java! We’re old friends so it seems odd to have you here for something as formal as an “interview”, particularly about something that we collaborated on. But since you had me in the hot seat at least once, I’m thrilled to be able to return the favor.

So let’s start here ‘Because My Heart Said So’ is very definitely a compilation of romance novellas, and you very well-received debut novel ‘Sticky Moon’ is not purely romance. You wowed us with that book. Why depart from that genre? Or have you departed from it?   How do you think you’ve evolved creatively from then until now?

I’m absolutely not through with the suspense genre. There are two more romantic suspense novels in me fighting to get out. One, I plan to publish in the fall. But the mini—departure is definitely part of my evolution as a writer. I still feel like a virgin in this industry. So new, fresh, and dewy. It’s an odd feeling given my actual age. Before I published ‘Sticky Moon my brain was full of stories — all types. I’d been a deeply closeted writer in my head my whole life with a ton of unfinished ideas. Once I finished something for the first time, which was only about 2.5 years ago, it was like the flood gates opened and all this very disparate stuff started flying out. Then I realized that was fitting ‘cause I’m nothing if not radically independent. I never liked being put in boxes or categories so the idea of being married to one type of story didn’t sit well with my imagination. Last fall, I started trying to establish a regular writing schedule that fits sanely into my life and writing smaller stories that I could finish while also delving into other genres. I could’ve easily been a detective in another life and I adore suspense novels and movies, so it was natural for that to be my first book. But despite that, I believe love is THE strongest and most unpredictable emotion so trying to write a story without love being an element would be the most challenging for me. And relationships involving people in love interests me a lot.

Sticky MoonYour genre-hopping leads me to believe you get inspiration from varied places. Tell us about that. What inspires the different types of genres you write in? Where do those ideas come from?

Literally everything inspires it and the ideas come from everywhere. A few days ago I was trying to catch a cab and nearly collided with this woman in her seventies with fuchsia hair, wearing makeup and an outfit that resembled the wardrobe of a teenager in a bad copycat version of an eighties John Hughes coming-of-age flick. Consequently I cannot get the vision of that woman very far out of my head. Making shit up about her is on a pretty constant loop in my mind: is she the landlord for a young newlywed couple in Brooklyn who are falling out of love already as they look for a starter apartment or the dynamic aunt and sole support to a schizophrenic nephew who she fights with child services about so he can continue to live with her or is she a former disco queen whose personality is frozen in time (think creepy Betty Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane)? I don’t know yet but that woman I saw for about 10 seconds is definitely going into a story. I think the key to finding and using inspiration is not being afraid to let your mind go in a completely off-beat direction.

Everyone knows that we creative types are a little temperamental. Rae and Jacinta and I have already described the love-fest of a process for getting this book together, at least logistically speaking. But what were your greatest fears about this process? What were the best surprises about it?

We had a brutally short writing schedule for this book and I’m a slow writer. And since I’m also the type that’s always piling on to my challenges like a damn fool, I was simultaneously the primary manager for a project at my day job that if it didn’t go well I could easily have lost said job. Oh yeah, and my house was and still is, under some pretty major reconstruction that I’m overseeing alone. So consequently my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t finish the book on time.

My second biggest fear was that I’d finish the book but the story wouldn’t measure up to the incredibly talented writers I was working with. I’m not neurotic so I got over that fear fast though. I knew the other stories would be really wonderful so if mine sucked one out of three ain’t exactly bad odds for the reader. In the end, I did finish on time and I liked how my story came out. That wasn’t the biggest or even the best surprise though.

The best surprise was how well we four meshed together as people and writers, seemed to carry over into how well our stories meshed in the book. When you do a collaboration like this eventually everyone takes on a role, you find out everyone’s strengths or weaknesses and you hope fervently that you all don’t have the same strengths and weaknesses. In our case it was repetitively clear working on this project that we complemented each other in ways that were often surprising and educational.

Syd and EllTell us about your story in the ‘Because My Heart Said So’ Collection. What’s your guy like? What’s his girl like? What’s their ‘love language’ when they’re together?  

Elliott is an interesting guy. He’s at the top of his game or so everyone thinks because he’s hip, focused, and brilliant at almost anything he attempts especially managing people. He’s also a man who has always been recognized or encouraged by women and his relationships with them but, except for the women closest to him, he sees that gift only as a means to an end. He’s never been in love, nor does he particularly think he needs it and then he meets Sydney. Sydney is also interesting but in a very different way. Painfully shy, inherently quirky, studiously insightful, and stubborn are some of the words I’d use to describe her. Sydney can also be profoundly honest given that she sees most things in black or white, and rarely grey.

As for their love language both Sydney and Elliott are vivid and visual creatives. So first and foremost they bond that way. They know that artistry makes them each observant and perceptive about the world at large and consequently gives them both an intensity in how they perceive each other. But on a personal level they also see a similar dysfunctionality in their respective families and upbringing. There is a fragility and innocence to Sydney that Elliott immediately feels protective of. There are deep-seated fears in Elliott that he doesn’t quite measure up to his shiny image, which Sydney who is well acquainted with fear, scoffs at, because to her mind Elliott is very nearly perfect.

One of the things about collections of work from disparate authors is that the ‘voices’ have to vibe well for the collection to hold up. How would you characterize your voice and those of the other authors?

Nia’s voice is so current or maybe a better word for it is relevant. Whenever I read one of her books I literally feel as if her characters are echoing thoughts inside my head. A Nia Forrester book always makes me personally feel present and accounted for when I read it, which is not only validating, it’s cool. She’s also got a phenomenally sensual undercurrent running through her books that can be surprising as well as exciting because she’s clearly an intellectual. But that just goes to show you. Men? Smart girls are very sexy.

Jacinta. Where do I begin? Talk about sexy. Okay, I won’t start there. Jacinta writes intimacy in relationships better than almost anybody I’ve ever read and I’m not talking about physical intimacy. It’s almost like she tunes into what her characters think and feel emotionally with such precision that when she presents it — you can feel it. That is a neat fricking trick to have as a writer. I remember reading her the first time and just how the characters shared riddles about music became a metaphor for their closeness and I thought: Oooo, how she’d do that? And lately Jacinta is getting deeply in touch with the sensual side of her writing. I’m starting to carry fans around when I read her. I’m just saying.

I love Rae’s voice. It’s extremely memorable to me because it makes me laugh while also articulating something I think is extremely hard to share accurately in books about relationships: the fact that all humans are flawed but not necessarily tragically flawed. Rae’s characters represent the reality of how men and women actually are with each other to me – the good or bad, and often that reality is sweet and hilarious. I once asked Rae whether she was the comedienne in her family and she said no. I realized later that Rae’s funny not because she’s trying to be, but because she’s telling the truth.

My voice? That’s easy. Moody, graphic, esoteric — but hopefully not frustratingly so. There’s so much going on under the surface with my characters, to use a well-oiled phrase, a lotta deep shit. I think I have a tendency to make all my characters seem relatively important to the overall story, even the minor ones, because everybody’s got a place here, right? Speaking of place even a setting can play a defining role in how things pan out. Basically there are so many intriguing layers to people and places, it’s very hard for me to forget that when I write.

People always want to know what authors are like, personality-wise—the people behind the pen can be somewhat of a mystery. Give me one word that tells readers something they don’t otherwise know about each of the authors of ‘Because My Heart Said So’, yourself included.

Nia — hypothesizer

Jacinta — designer

Rae — diplomat

Lily – solutionist

-Your voice is really unique, particularly in the black romance genre. If you could pinpoint one characteristic you possess that you feel aids you in your writing approach, what would it be and why.

I have been an avid reader practically all my life. There is nothing that gives the visual and imaginary part of my brain a better, more thorough workout than reading all kinds of things, and all the time. It primes my pump if you get my drift. Geez, that’s like a joke. How many clichés can you put in one sentence? But what can I say, it’s the truth.

-What’s your biggest writing fear?

Running out of time before I can write my best work.

-Indie publishing can be incredibly taxing at times for most writers. Has there ever been a time when you thought about no longer pursuing writing, as in actively publishing books? If so why and what convinced you to continue pursuing your craft?

From the summer of 2013 when this all started for me until now I only thought about no longer doing this once. I’d release ‘Sticky Moon’ a month earlier than I wanted to because of my husband. By that time he was too sick to read it but I’d been reading passages to him for nearly a year. And he was in essence my strongest source of support and encouragement for almost three decades. He’d been telling me to write forever so when those blinders fell from my eyes there was one person happier than me – him. He died seven weeks after I published my first book and for ten months after that I thought it had been a fluke. I’d written SM as some weird cathartic therapy trip and woe is me I’d never be able to pull it off again. You know that sort of nonsense. But underneath it all, I knew it was bullshit. Yeah I’d lost my #1 fan who also happen to be a fab editor and that can be debilitating for a writer. Writers may write for themselves but they also thrive on recognition of their efforts and their vision. To know someone “gets” you? Sheeeit that’s everything.

So what convinced me to get back on the horse? I took one of those weird quizzes on social media and it said that my one defining trait was ambition. And it even showed a drawing of someone literally reaching for the stars in the sky. That shocked me. No, it floored me. I’d always associated ambition with the material wealth and the circumstances that go with it and that has never been me or what I’m about. However, keeping my eye on the ball and how to catch said ball, has always been important to me. I am one of those people who is excessively goal-oriented about things I want to accomplish. Turns out that’s ambition and I don’t think I‘ve ever been happier with an accomplishment than I am when I write books.

If you could pinpoint one moment in the ‘Because My Heart Said So’ collaboration as being the most memorable what would it be?

For me that would be when we made the decision to read each other’s stories. As a group the four of us have been fairly democratic in our decision making. In the beginning we decided that we wouldn’t read each other’s work until the day the book was released. Shortly after we submitted the book for pre-order when it was still in its draft phase the concerns started mounting. We put it to a vote and it was decided we should read the work in its entirety to figure out whether the four stories worked together or whether each individual story worked at all. Everyone got a lot calmer after we did read it, you could literally hear the breathy sighs of relief through the computer screens. That was the first and only time I felt we had a real crisis of faith in the project.

This collection has spurred a lot of interest in each of the authors individually and collectively. Where do you see your creative path taking you as an author personally? And where, if anywhere, do you see the collaboration with these particular authors going?

When I sit down and think about it, I know I have at least ten more novels in me, maybe more. I occasionally think at some point I’ll try being a hybrid writer if only so I can admit once and for all how absolutely impossible I am to micromanage and control.😉 I also want to write a play and a screenplay. So, that’s where my creative path takes me to… more.

I see this collaboration as a blessing for all of us so I believe it should blossom into more writing as well, definitely more books. I’d like to see us take on another theme or maybe even two. I see us being substantively supportive to each other’s individual writing goals too. I’m going to contradict myself here because that in fact, may be the best surprise to have happened in this collaboration, the establishment of trust that in our little quartet there is someone who “gets” our voice and is enthusiastic about it being heard by as many people as possible.

And where can readers find you online?


Twitter: @LilyJavaWrites


Amazon Author Page

About Lily Java

Lily Java2When she isn’t indulging her new found writing superpower, Lily raises funds for culturally rich arts organizations planning events in the iconic landmarks of one of her favorite cities in the world, New York. Other times she dotes on the artists she lives with (her family) hoping they’ll reciprocate by letting her feed her passions for reading and writing without feeling neglected or getting all grumpy about it. Lily doesn’t fly or wear a cape (presently) but she does read the minds of the characters she writes about, who come to her in multiple genres as well as all sizes, shapes, and colors. A true ambivert, Lily enjoys solitude just as much as she likes meeting and talking with other passionate readers and writers.


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Rae Does Her Celebratory Booty Dance.

An interview with ‘Because My Heart Said So’ contributing author Rae Lamar!

Lily Java

Once again Sydney Tarr’s has commandeered my blog but I am not mad at her y’all because she came with her third interview from the team that wrote Because My Heart Said So, A Friends-To-Lovers Collection being released on June 15th and available for pre-order on Amazon now for a discounted price until release day. Today she is speaking to the captivating author Ms. Rae Lamar. Have at it Sydney!

Sydney: Hi Ms. Lamar, I’m really happy to meet you. I have to tell you I’ve actually read the Aris Series (at Lily’s prompting) and I loved the books. After reading your work I heard that you’ve been writing for a long time and that you’d published several books before the Aris Series hit the market. Is that true?

Rae: Hi Sydney! It’s great to meet you too. And please, call me Rae. I’m so glad to hear…

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Sample Sunday: ‘Because My Heart Said So’


BMHSS Final CoverThis has been a crazy-exciting week! Along with Jacinta Howard, Lily Java and Rae Lamar, I’m thrilled to announce that our Friends-to-Lovers Collection is available on Amazon for pre-order in advance of our June 15 release date. We’re all a little shell-shocked honestly, and hadn’t thought too far beyond getting the book written so now that we have, we’re befuddled about what to do with ourselves. So let’s take this one day at a time, starting with a Sample for Sunday.

From ‘Because My Heart Said So’

About ‘Acceptable Losses’ by Nia Forrester

Quentin is in the middle of a separation from his wife that seems to have no conclusive end in sight, while Lena is stuck in Single Girl Hell. The only respite either of them have is their regular coffee dates, while working on shared projects at a very demanding job. Sick of hearing about Lena’s semi-disastrous attempts to couple-up, Quentin decides to fix her up. With his brother. Seems like a perfect solution; after all, his brother is a decent enough guy and Lena deserves that. Perfect … until it appears that the fix-up might actually work.

From ‘Acceptable Losses’:

“This was so not what I was expecting,” Lena said, laughing as she and Darius exited the fitness studio. “When a guy asks me out, I’m thinking wine … fancy hors d’oeuvres, a complete meal maybe …”

“We can do something like that next time,” Darius said.

“So now that you sweated my tail off, am I free to go?”

“Nah. We’re going to Jamba Juice,” he said, inclining his head to the left.

Lena sighed. “Okay, you’re in charge, so let’s do it.”

“You did well in there,” he said as they started walking.

“Thank you. Was it a test or something? Something you put women through to see whether you want to take them on a real date?”

“Nah. Why would I need to test you? My brother says you’re cool people, so you’re cool people.”

Lena shook her head. “That’s all it takes, huh? Q’s endorsement?”

“He’s never steered me wrong.” Darius shrugged.

“And is he in the habit of … steering women your way?”

Darius laughed. “I do a’ight on my own.”

Lena didn’t doubt it. While they were working out, more than a few gym-bunnies shot envious looks her way, their eyes skimming Darius’ frame, struggling not to stare. It was a special kind of high, she couldn’t lie—being with That Dude at the gym, being the object of all that envy.

When Lena called him back to let him know she was free, Darius told her to “dress very casually, and for an active evening.” So Lena had worn loose black yoga pants, her tennis shoes, and a long-sleeved, white Under Armour shirt, pulling her hair back into a high Afro-puff. She imagined he was probably taking her to play laser-tag or something, but when she met Darius at the address he gave her, she got out of the Uber and realized it was a Washington Sports Club.

We’re gonna work out, he’d announced, looking pleased with himself.

And they had. After a half hour warm-up on the treadmill, Darius took her through his routine of dead-lifts, bench presses, squats, and flies. Somewhere about forty minutes in, Lena felt those endorphins kick in, and actually started to enjoy herself.

And it didn’t hurt that she got to watch Darius’s muscles ripple and tremble as he put them to work. Even the grunting and groaning as he handled the heavy weights was kind of sexy.

Now, as they walked down the cobblestone sidewalks of Wisconsin Avenue, Lena was glad she’d come. Working out was something of an afterthought for her most days since she worked long hours, so it was good to see how well her body held up under pressure.

“After we get our smoothies, want to see my studio?”

Darius was walking closely at her side, but not touching her. Lena pretended not to notice the looks he got from other women. His tattoos didn’t just cover his forearms, she’d learned; they were all the way up to his shoulders and neck as well. And when he lifted his shirt in the gym to wipe his brow, there were even more on his chest.

“I would love to see your studio,” she said. “But you’re not going to talk me into getting a tattoo.”

He grinned. “No authentic tattoo artist would do such a thing.”

In Jamba Juice, they both got energy bowls and sat at one of the tables to eat, Darius’s long legs stretched out beneath it, on either side of Lena’s.

“So is this your standard Wednesday night?” she asked.

“This is my standard, any-day-of-the-week night. Except for Fridays. On Fridays, I hang with Q.”

“Every Friday?”

“Without fail.”

“That must get irritating for women you’re involved with. Friday is supposed to be date night, couples’ night. Do you ever bring your dates with you?”

“Nah. Friday is about me and Q. If she’s not with that, she can’t be with me.”

“That’s a pretty hard line to draw. I guess I should be flattered I was invited to hang out with you two last Friday.”

“You should,” Darius said, looking at her seriously for a moment. “He’s never done that before. Neither of us has. That’s how I knew you were important to him.”

Lena looked down into her bowl and scooped up a spoonful of strawberries and yogurt. “I don’t know about all that. We’re friends, and he wanted me to meet you, that’s all.”

“Hmm.” Darius looked at her searchingly. “Y’know, I’m going to share something with you about my brother …”

Lena looked up, waiting.

“He doesn’t … always know his own heart. So when he wanted me to meet you, like maybe so I could ask you out, I wondered, y’know. Especially when I saw you two together.”

“What did you wonder?”

“Whether friendship was all either of you wanted. From each other, I mean.”

“Did you ask him?”

“I did.”

“And what did he say?” Lena asked, trying not to sound too eager to know.

Darius shook his head. “I’d rather hear what you say.”

Lena forced herself to meet and hold Darius’ gaze. “Your brother’s married,” she said. “And even if he weren’t, we are most definitely just friends. I wouldn’t have accepted your invitation tonight otherwise.”

Every word of what she said was true, but then why did it feel like a lie?

Darius’s eyes held hers for a few moments more. “Okay,” he said finally.

Then he looked down into his bowl again and dug in, coming up with a heaping spoon of fruit and oat grain which he promptly ate, chewing like it was the most delicious thing he’d ever eaten.

When he swallowed, he leaned back and watched her eat a few bites. Lena pretended not to feel self-conscious at being so openly regarded, and kept eating, albeit more slowly and daintily than she might otherwise have done.

“So,” Darius said, “you want to hang out again sometime?”

Moment of truth, Lena.

Darius was waiting, his light-brown eyes trained on her face. All the confusion about Quentin aside, he was the most attractive man who had asked her out in eons. And the most fascinating. If she had met him any other way, and at any other time—like before she met Quentin—she would be jumping out of her skin to say ‘yes’. But she had met Quentin first and had only met Darius because he was Quentin’s brother.

Then she recalled what Marlon had said earlier that evening: He’s married, Lena, and it looks like he’s trying to stay that way.

“Yeah,” she said to Darius. “I think I would.”

He grinned. “Hurry up and finish that,” he said, “So I can walk you over to my studio. And talk you into that tattoo.”


‘Because My Heart Said So’ is AVAILABLE NOW TO PRE-ORDER!

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