Review: ‘Ribbons & Belle’

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!

N.

 

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?

Website: http://www.lilyjava.com

Twitter: @LilyJavaWrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLilyJava/

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.

 

‘Because My Heart Said So…’ – A Friends-to-Lovers Collection

Because My Heart Said So Launch Promo

This is going to be one of the coolest things I get to do this year, for sure. I’m collaborating with three of my favorite indie authors, Jacinta Howard, Rae Lamar and Lily Java to bring you ‘Because My Heart Said So …’ a collection of four Friends-to-Lovers novels to be released in June. Until then, we’re getting you better acquainted with the four stories, four couples, and of course the four writers who will be bringing them to you.

Join us on our Facebook page here for exclusive content, giveaways and a chance to connect with the authors from now up until our June release date.

And BONUS: Just in case you can’t wait that long, Jacinta Howard has a new release this month! ‘Finding Kennedy’, the next installment in the bestselling Prototype series drops on MAY 20th!

traviskennedyreference2

For a sample from ‘Finding Kennedy’, visit the author here.


 

Finding Jacinta Howard

Well, she hasn’t been missing. But it’s been a while since we heard from Jacinta Howard, and only because she was working on a couple of exciting new projects. First, on May 20th, she releases the next installment in her bestselling Prototype Series.

Finding Kennedy CoverWell, she hasn’t been missing. But it’s been a while since we heard from Jacinta Howard, and only because she was working on a couple of exciting new projects. First, on May 20th, she releases the next installment in her bestselling Prototype Series. Remember ‘HAPPINESS IN JERSEY’? Catch up with Zay and Jersey, and then fall in love again, with Travis and Kennedy. Coming May 20, 2016. More about her other project later. First check this out …

From ‘FINDING KENNEDY’:

We rode for what felt like forever. Until my mind quieted. Until the noise in my head was less than a hum. Until the vibrations of the bike were even with my breaths.

We pulled up to a place that sort of looked like a small house that’d been gutted and turned into a storefront. The entire street was lined with quaint buildings like it. It smelled like fall– crisp and clean. “Evan’s” was written on the sign that hung just over the front door.

“Where are we?” I asked once I’d pulled my helmet off, smoothing my braid, which was hanging over one shoulder. My body was still humming, coming down from the high of our ride. I was still seated on his bike and watched as Travis removed his helmet, raking his fingers through his hair.

“In Allen, just outside Dallas. I wanted a beignet and some wings,” he said, nodding toward front door of Evan’s as he climbed off.

A small smile touched his lips, and he helped me off the bike. “Was the ride too much?”  he asked, watching as I stretched my arms above my head.

“It was perfect.”

He smiled, brushing a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

“This place is owned by a cat named Evan from back home,” Travis explained, as I looked around. “It’s pretty low key,” he offered, reading my expression. “And it’s old school, so no TVs.”

I looked down at my boots.

“I gotta warn you though, dude is a little… off.”

“Off?” I met his eyes again, grinning.

 “Last time I was in here, he was trying to tell me that world is actually flat. Like, he argued me down about it. Got all animated and shit, talking about how Antarctica is really an ice wall.”

I laughed and he shook his head, his dimple showing as he chuckled.

“Why does he think the earth is flat?”

“Your guess is good as mine. I tried to follow what the hell he was talking about– something about gravity being an illusion, and the earth really being a disc.”

I laughed, eyeing him. He smiled and grabbed my hand, interlacing our fingers as we walked together toward the entrance.

“I kept thinking he was gonna laugh, but it never came,” he continued. “All he kept saying was ‘stay woke.’” He widened his eyes, looking like a zombie, and I laughed.

“And you still come here?” I asked as we paused in front of the door.

 “You know how hard it is to find a good beignet in Texas?” He raised his brows.

“But beignets and wings?” 

He nodded his gaze sweeping over me, landing on my boots. He grinned then met my eyes again.

 “My taste is particular.”

“Guilty pleasure?” 

“Nah,” he said, his eyes turning serious despite the playful grin on his face. “I don’t believe in that. You should never feel guilty for enjoying what brings you pleasure.”

A half hour later, we were seated at one of the plush booths, and I was completely in love. Evan’s was the coolest place I’d ever been—part restaurant, part bookstore, part record store. It smelled like vinyl and sugar. I chewed slowly, smiling at Travis who was watching me intently, waiting for my response since I’d told him I’d never actually had a beignet.

“So what’s the word, baby doll?”

I swallowed, relishing the sweetness of the pastry, and grinned.

Yum.”

He laughed, stuffing the last of his into his mouth. Sly Stone’s “Just Like a Baby” played from the speakers, the lazy groove filling the space, seeping into my bones, relaxing me. Or maybe that was just Travis’s energy. I’d expected this day to be like last year, unbearable, too drenched in reality. But I felt almost… dreamlike. The sadness, the ache was still there, but it was hazy instead of overpowering. I could breathe with Travis. 

JHowardConnect with Jacinta Howard
“Thanks to Jacinta Howard’s skill in making Jersey and the rest of the cast colorful and solid,  [Happiness in Jersey] is full of flavor, while offering a mix of life lessons to ponder long after reading.”—USA TODAY


‘Women: Withstanding All’ is AVAILABLE NOW!

12821341_1536520193308506_1308045738074794702_n (1)So, it’s RELEASE DAY for ‘Women: Withstanding All’ the anthology developed for Women’s History Month that features 14 women writers of disparate genres, including me. Get your copy, and then please leave a review. But if you need persuading, read the excerpt below from my writer-friend Lily Java!


Excerpt from: ‘Lucky Penny’ by Lily Java
(Mother)

Letter No. 1
July 14, 1996

Dearest Penny,

I was sitting on the grass in Central Park, watching your daddy and your Uncle Marcus play the stupidest game of Frisbee I’ve ever seen. It involved one-handed play since the other hand had a Bud in it. They were both pretty drunk off the six pack they’d brought into the park and hidden under the carriage of your stroller, even though neither of them had drunk more than two beers a piece. Yeah they’re lightweights, and we’re lucky the cops didn’t spot them; but they were having fun so I didn’t mind. Your daddy works so hard; I like to see him let loose when he can.

12828418_1765381300350623_150603436990195949_oYou were there, lying on the blanket Grandma crocheted for you. I worried that the yarn she’d used was too scratchy, but you never seem to mind and always fall asleep on it like it’s the most comfortable thing in the world. Not this time though. This time you were wide awake. Your beautiful, expressive brown eyes were opened to their fullest and staring at me with such intensity, it startled me. It was like you could see right through the back of my head. It surprised me so, I said, “Oh!” Both my hands came up to my mouth to hold back all the other errant exclamations that wanted to come out of me.

Either your dad or your uncle must have seen the gesture because the next thing I know, they both came running. Your father knelt in front of me and said, “Honey, what’s wrong? And I blurted out the one thing that probably would succeed in doing nothing to ease his mind. Yes, your altogether ludicrous mother said, “We can’t die!” And then, your dad’s eyebrows shifted to a different height on his head very near his hairline. I’m going to digress here and say that’s the same exact look he gave me when I told him I was pregnant, but that’s a totally different story.

I could feel them, your dad and his brother exchanging looks, but I kept staring at you. See, it was in that moment approximately ten weeks after you were born that it hit me like a sledgehammer on the foot. You were so utterly beautiful lying there; truly the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It was the look on your face, I think; so innocent, such trust, such helplessness, and so much love all mixed together and confined in the face of an angel; and it was up to me and your father to protect you, cherish you, and love you. That meant we had to take care of ourselves until you weren’t helpless anymore. No, it wasn’t a sledgehammer, it was something larger—an anvil around my neck.

Your dad reached over to you then. “Lucky,” he said, easily getting your undivided attention in a way he often did with me too. “You really need to stop scaring Mommy.” And the spell you had me under was broken. Whatever you had communicated to me in that moment wasn’t gone, it was just released into the atmosphere and leaving me with only two thoughts: One, I need to join a gym, and two, I need to start writing you letters.

To connect with Lily Java:
Amazon: http://goo.gl/Wx0bkh
Email: lilyjavawrites@gmail.com
FB Page: www.facebook.com/AuthorLilyJava
Twitter: @lilyjavawrites
Website: www.lilyjava.com

Women: Withstanding All Anthology–Meet Angelia Vernon Menchan

AngeliaThis contribution to the anthology is from a writer-friend of mine, the very prolific Angelia Vernon Menchan. Her work features amazing slices of life in small but satisfying bites. Check her out here on Amazon, and then read her excerpt below …

From “I Want You … And My Career, a short in the Women: Withstanding All Anthology:

Jefferson’s nose flared as it was prone to do when he was annoyed. Alicia’s heart lurched because he was a handsome man whom she loved completely, but no one told her that love, marriage, and having a child meant she would have to give up her career.

“We are discussing it now, Alicia. I’m not risking my child-“

“Jefferson, you have one more time to call OUR baby your child. I’m carrying our child, in our marriage, where we make life changing decisions together!”

His eyes narrowed before he turned and allowed the door to close behind him as he walked out of the house.

I think we just fought Alicia thought as she made her way to their bedroom. She was happy about becoming a mother and having their child, but giving up her career for over five years wasn’t an option. She never agreed to that. She was not agreeing to that. She quickly showered and shook off the conversation. They would talk later. Jefferson was her husband, not her dictator.

To read this and other stories in the Women:Withstanding All Anthology, pre-order for $1.99 on Amazon!

PreorderAnd connect with the author:

http://angeliavernonmenchanserials.blogspot.com

www.twitter.com/angelmenchan

https://www.facebook.com/angeliam

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