SAMPLE SUNDAY: DL White’s ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’

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DL White is another of those writers that, if the world were a just place, we would hear a lot more about. I just started reading her work last year when she had a promotion running, and quickly became a fan of her keen eye and ear. She writes real, mature, women’s fiction with just enough romance thrown in, and describes the inner lives of women  incredibly well (check out, ‘Brunch at Ruby’s’). No cookie-cutter, endlessly wisecracking, paper-thin characters here. This is the good stuff.

So it’s going to be a particular treat to meet and sit with, and share a glass (or three) of wine with her at Wine with Writers Atlanta on March 10. That’s next Saturday, y’all! I think you can still get a ticket if you’re interested. If you make it out to meet me, DL White, Tasha L. Harrison, Rae Lamar, Lily Java and Jacinta Howard that would be cool, but if not, please check out the books. And with them, have a glass of wine of your own.

I’m just getting to know DL, but I really want you to get to know her (and her work!) too. So … here’s her interview. Ten questions, and some very funny answers, followed by a Sunday sample of  ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’.

Love & light,

N.

Ten Questions for DL White

Would you like to see into the future? Why? Nah. I like predictability as much as the next guy but I also love the element of surprise. If you STAY ready you ain’t got to GET ready. HA!

If you could only choose one vacation destination where would you pick and why? Eauh Gah why are you asking me thisssss??? A beach. I don’t know which one but it should have soft sugar sand and blue green water and the air should be warm… that’s as specific as I can get.

What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast? It wasn’t Netflix, but the L Word… I found it online and blew through that series like CRAZY.  I think I stayed up all night to watch the last season. I heard a rumor that the show was coming back, though I feel like people are just playing with my emotions. But can Jenny still be dead but Dana come back?  GAH JENNY SCHECTER WE HATE YOU!

What will finally break the internet?  I’m not sure it can be broken at this point. It’s so evil, it’s all powerful.

What’s in your purse?  Like fitty eleven pens, ibuprofen, 4 tubes of chapstick, 2 lippies (beauty bakerie- get hip to it!)  my organizer, my wallet, Tangy Mae Kindle, and one of those multi charge cord things so I can charge all of the things. And of course the work phone and the Ho phone.

Favorite book you’ve written?  Brunch at Ruby’s. It’s always going to be my Book Baby.

Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why. SUMMER. I just LOVE it, heat and all. I moved south for the HEAT and the sunshine. Spring is a close follow up. If I don’t have to worry about a jacket and the skies are blue and cloudless…. Heaven.

If you were a city, which city would you choose to be and why? Some place modern and cosmopolitan but also kinda small townish and downhome…. Like Atlanta. Or maybe my vision of DC, a hip chocolate city.

What technology from science fiction do you wish existed? Teleporting. I neeeeeeed that technology. Like, I love going places but I hate the airport and I don’t like to drive long distances. If I could just… arrive… at the nearest beach that would be great.

What are the most common road blocks that stop people from achieving their dreams? Fear. In my opinion, roadblocks boil down to fear. Fear of unknown, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of the word no, of people not liking us or our ideas.  When we stop being afraid of what could or won’t happen, when we get rid of the what if’s, we’re able to push forward. Speaking for myself, really

27786239_10159967782015494_1652126059_o (1)Wine/Book Pairing:  Chateau St Michelle Riesling/ Leslie’s Curl & Dye

 

From ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’:

He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.

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To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn’t much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.

“I mean, with all due respect, Leslie…” KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. “You’re not my competition.”

That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.  

Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. “Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake.”

“I’m not… slumming. I hadn’t been over here since I moved back and— “

“And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?”

KC’s eyes narrowed and his brows formed “V” of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.

“Tam, why don’t you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready.” I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.

As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC’s arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.

“What do you want?” I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. “We’re about to close up.”

He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. “I just… was around and— “

“Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So… what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?”

“I’m not steal—” He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. “I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— “

“No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— “

“That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn’t know this shop was here.”

“Well, now you do.”

I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.

Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but… damn, he was fine.

“Now I do,” he acknowledged, with a head nod. “All I’m saying is that we should be able to co-exist.”

“Coexist? Seriously?”

I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.

“It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them.”

He scoffed, but I ignored it. “We can’t coexist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years.  Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn’t hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of…”

I shrugged, shaking my head. “Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you’re already rich, so now you’re just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It’s about more than a cheap haircut.”

“What do you want me to do, Leslie? Shut down my shop on some first dibs bullshit?”

I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of familiar feelings from being too close to him.

“I just want to run my shop, KC.”

“And I want to run mine.”
Book/Website Link:

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075J6LQ8X

Get to know the author: http:/BooksbyDLWhite.com

Jacinta Howard, Wine & More Writers

27369183_988762447938823_4710214341044635762_oNot only is Jacinta Howard one of my top 3 favorite indie authors, she is definitely one of my top three favorite people that I’ve met through writing. And it also doesn’t hurt that she’s basically my hip-ness Yoda. If she’s talking about something in popular culture, I make sure I go check it out because I know her finger is on that pulse. But that’s just about how dope (that would be her word, not mine, really) she is.

The thing is, her writing is dope too, and it has it’s fingers on the pulse as well. It’s current, it’s fresh, it’s accessible and so emotionally resonant that I sometimes try to save her new releases until it’s Friday, and there is wine within reach. When I thought about authors that I wanted to be part of Wine with Writers on an ongoing basis, she was one of the first. Her calm, Zen-like vibe comes through in her writing, and surrounds you like a warm blanket but you know and feel that there is a depth of emotion churning beneath.

In person, she comes across as the girl you bring home to meet your parents as one of your best friends, just so you can use her name when you want to do things they are inclined to imagine that ‘That Nice Jacinta Howard’ would never do. And … she’s also kind of goofy at times, a fact to which this interview will attest.

Come meet her at Wine with Writers on March 10 in Atlanta, where she will be in her element, dropping knowledge as well as beats, with me, DL White, Tasha L. Harrison, Rae Lamar and Lily Java. It’s going to be a …dope event, I promise you.

Anyway, here’s a little of an interview with Jacinta.

Fun question: would you like to see into the future? Why?

Nope. It’s hard enough just dealing with the past and the present.

That’s a true thing. Random, but tell us this: what’s in your purse?

I’ve reverted back to my old self and have only been carrying a purse occasionally lately. But receipts from Chick-Fil-A and Marshalls, pens, and probably hair ties for my daughter.

What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast?

The last show I “binged” sorta-kinda was Black Mirror Season 4. Letitia Wright’s episode was pretty dumb but she’s awesome as Princess Shuri in Black Panther, so there’s that at least.

Now this one, everyone will want to know: if you could level up humans as a species, what stat or ability would you increase?

Our ability to think independently- without the constant yearning for a “leader,” our discernment, and our empathy. Gosh, our empathy. Humans can be so judge-y and gross. I’d also increase our ability to hold our breath. I dunno why but that feels significant.

You have a lovely daughter who looks like you basically cloned yourself. She’s young but I feel like you’ve probably started thinking about this: what do a lot of parents do that screws up their kid?

Give them too much sugar and then wonder how come they won’t sit down somewhere.

What problem or situation did TV / movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t? The “very special” drug episode. Don’t nobody care if you smoke weed, dude. Cool out, Brenda.

What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship?

For married relationships? Regular sex. Obviously, what “regular” means for you is very specific to your marriage/circumstances, and shouldn’t be defined by outside folks. But “non-existent sex” is definitely indicative of a larger, significant problem, right? The truth is in the sex, man.

Why is it so hard for people to make real connections when almost everyone wants to make real connections?

Because most people don’t actually want real connections, only connections that specifically suit them and their needs at the time. I sound cynical.

What are the most common roadblocks that stop people from achieving their dreams?

Systemic oppression. Lack of discipline. An idea of success that’s linked to the principles of capitalism. An unrealistic expectation for what “dreams” are and how long it often takes to achieve them. Overnight success stories are not an actual thing. Also, everyone can’t be rich and famous, or be like, looked at all the time—and that’s okay. Somebody gotta be a plumber. Nothing is wrong with being the plumber—especially if you own your own small business. College isn’t for everyone either, and that’s also okay. Get a trade.

And finally, what tf you suddenly found out that your internal monologue for the last week was actually audible, how screwed would you be?

Thing is, I have to be on social media a lot for work. If y’all could read my thoughts while I’m on Twitter, FB or IG… sheesh. I never think anything hurtful or like, mean. But I am like: Why do people need so much attention? No, for real. Why do you think you need to be looked at by everyone? And like, so often? Why do people think they’re so smart when they clearly are not? Why do people think they’re so original? Your so-called individualism is cloaked in sameness. No, super judgemental, Christian. That actually is not at all Christlike. Why are people so condescending and judge-y? Does it make them feel smart? Don’t people get tired of being snarky all the time? Why do you think anyone cares about you lip-syncing your favorite song in the car? You are not in a music video… for a reason. Was that snarky and judge-y? Probably.

Check out an excerpt from one of my faves of Jacinta’s, which will be accompanying her to Wine with Writers.

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From ‘Blind Expectations’:

This time, he knocked on her door. And when she opened it, he saw dried tears on her cheeks.

“What do you want?”

She wasn’t surprised to see him there. Her voice was barely audible, dry and hoarse. He stepped inside, shutting and locking the door behind him, as he yanked on the hem of her t-shirt, his t-shirt, jerking her close. His mouth was on hers and she yielded instantly, kissing him so hard, their teeth clacked together, clawing at his biceps as he lifted her before lowering them to the ground. She tasted so good on his lips—sweet and rich like the merlot she’d probably drinking. He didn’t bother with her panties, simply pushed them to the side as he freed himself from his sweats and all but slammed into her with a low, animalistic grunt. She was digging her short nails into his back but still managed to lift her head enough to get at his mouth, pushing her tongue between his lips, her taste filling every part of his being. She was moaning on every breath, her cries almost primal, and he pulled at her hair, burying his head in the space between her collarbone and her neck, grunting as he drove himself into her warmth, hunting for his contentment and peace, trying to find it in her, in spite of all that was between them.

‘Blind Expectations’, Available Now on Amazon- http://amzn.to/2hSntCf

Book/Website Link: jacintahoward.net

Meet the author at Wine With Writer- winewithwriters.splashthat

What I Learned at Wine with Writers ATL

 

iStock_000052910038_Medium-56b09b3f3df78cf772cffbb6What I Learned at Wine with Writers

I’m not good at personal appearances. I only started doing them about a year and a half ago and remember thinking—with exhaustion—about how stressful it is to stand in front of a room of people and to … speak. I think my best voice comes through in writing, so speaking feels like a chore, especially since I do it so much in my other job.

This weekend, at Wine with Writers, something occurred to me as I was waiting—with a fair amount of terror—for my turn to read aloud to roll around. Here’s what I learned. I didn’t start Wine with Writers so that you could see writers.

I started Wine with Writers, so I could that I, and other writers could see you.

Writing is quiet. For me, it’s often silent. I don’t like being spoken to when I write, and I definitely won’t be speaking to anyone. But once the words are on the page, and set free into the world, I want to hear what you thought of them. Did they move you? Did they anger you? Did you get me? Do you understand?

That’s why writers clamor for reviews, or at least that’s why this writer does. So I can listen. So I can hear you. But I find that some of the most thoughtful readers, the people who are most moved by books, sometimes freeze at the task of writing a review. It feels daunting to them, like being asked to submit an essay to a judgy teacher. And more than that, it requires them to do that which they most admire in writers—it requires that they choose the right words to portray feelings. And I know from experience that that is hard work.

So, this weekend at Wine with Writers, surrounded by my old writer friends the quietly funny Rae Lamar, the lyrical Lily Java, the dopest of the dope Jacinta Howard, and my new writer friends the exuberant Tasha L. Harrison and she of the silky, sultry written and spoken voice DL White, I realized something. I realized that I wanted to hear more from the women in the audience than I did from any of us.

I wanted to know what moves, frustrates, thrills and inspires you.

I wanted to know why you came.

I wanted to see, and listen to you, the largely hidden tribe of women who find life and sustenance in books.

I got that this weekend. I saw you, I heard why you came, listened to you. And it ended far too soon. Thank you. We will do it again.

Love & light,

N.

 


 

Wine with Writers ATL

I love writers. I really, really do. They’re such rare breeds. Most of those I’ve met (either IRL or in online spaces) tend to be gems, who on the outside are quiet, and unassuming but once unwrapped … whoa! And I feel privileged whenever I get a chance to participate in some of that unwrapping, by talking about their books, their philosophy of writing, and some of the big questions in life.

In Atlanta, on March 10, I get to do that with my sister-writers Rae Lamar, Jacinta Howard and Lily Java. Just like we did in the Philadelphia area last year, we’re getting together at Wine with Writers with a fairly small group of readers, some wine and delectables, to talk about art, and life and how the two often become intertwined. What’s even more exciting, is that this year we are joined by Tasha L. Harrison and DL White, one of whom I discovered late last year, and the other whose work I began to read just weeks ago.

They’re very different types of writers, but both have this thing I love — realism. So we’re going to talk to them about that in Atlanta, sip some wine, chill with good music, meet  readers, give away some stuff, and sell some books. And of course, Lily, Rae, Jacinta and I will join the conversation, and answer whatever questions you want to ask.

If you’re in the area, drop by and join us. This isn’t a book fair. It’s smaller, more intimate and leaves lots of time for conversation; for you to get to know us, and for us to get to know you. This time, the theme is ‘Identity & Individuality: The Movement Toward Issue-Based Black Women’s Fiction.’  These days, personally, I’m finding it harder than it used to be to create escapist fiction. And it made me curious what other authors are feeling, especially those who–even in the best of times–find it difficult to not include issues they care about as part of their narrative thread.

If this sounds like your vibe, register for the event, and see you in ATL!

Love & light,

N.

In the meantime, check some of the work I personally enjoyed very much by the featured authors:

Sticky Moon‘Sticky Moon’ by Lily Java

Someone very close to Myra Lambert has been brutally murdered. It’s commonly believed that her longtime stalker is the person responsible. Troubled ex-cop Glenn Sparrow was hired to play bodyguard for the vulnerable real estate heiress, while his best friend NYC Homicide Detective Lt. Max Harper solves the case. After a foiled abduction, Glenn and Myra retreat to the Catskills and the Lambert family farm, where they hope she’ll be safer and harder to find. In this remote, secluded refuge time seems to stop for Myra and Glenn, offering them an open window into each others world. What they find may be what they both have been searching for, but with a killer on the loose and Myra his possible prey, time may also run out. Are there limits to the lasting happiness a couple under siege might find with each other?

22’22’ by Rae Lamar

Having suffered the loss of her fiance, cushy job and luxury Midtown Atlanta condo at the height of the U.S. recession, Nina Drake packed up and left the ruins behind to start anew in sunny South Florida.

With no life and no friends, Nina settles in and resigns herself to the simple existence of a gift shop attendant where she passively observes the scores of colorful clientele living in the five-star resort where she works. After a few random run-ins with a peculiar resident, Nina’s boredom gives way to curiosity and she blindly steps out of her dull routine into someone else’s shoes…and the arms of an irresistible stranger. But it’s only a matter of days before Nina goes from dreaming of romantic possibilities to realizing that this tawdry hookup can never evolve into something real…

In spite of Nina’s aversion to his sordid past, Dean Whitmore is determined to make her believe that his intentions are as real as their instant connection. And the fact that he only has a few weeks to prove it to her before life leads them in different directions just makes the challenge that much more appealing…

 

Keeping Willow‘Keeping Willow’ by Jacinta Howard

Devin Walker, drummer for The Prototype, has one priority: turning his alt-soul band into the superstar act it’s destined to become. Singularly focused on his music, his creative passion is all-consuming—that is, until he crosses paths with his best friend’s college roommate, Willow Harden.

Willow was drawn to Devin from the moment she first saw him. And when Devin does, finally look Willow’s way, she’s easily seduced from her protective bubble into the lure of his fast-paced ambitions, though at times, she wonders if she can handle it.

Unable to resist their potent chemistry, Devin and Willow free fall into a relationship that makes them question each other and doubt themselves. Devin knows he should probably leave her alone; Willow knows life for her might not be any good without him. Can they possibly make their love work? And if so, at what cost?

 

Truth of All Things‘The Truth of All Things’ by Tasha L. Harrison

WHERE I COME FROM, COPS AREN’T SUPERHEROES.”

Photojournalist and wedding photographer Ava Greene has been unlucky in love, and even though she calls herself a hopeless romantic, she is more than a little bitter about it. The only attention she seems to get is from the men she has absolutely no interest in and has become unintentionally celibate in her effort to avoid “trash ass dudes” and has officially given up on the idea “the one” when Officer Friendly rolls up on her block.

“NOT ALL COPS…”

Arrogant and just shy of being a cornball with his bad-dad jokes, she knows that this stocky cop might just be the one to make her second-guess every thought she ever had about cops.

Ava tries to make it clear to Levi that she doesn’t need saving, that she doesn’t need to be worshiped, but he is convinced that is exactly she needs. But when Ava finds herself on the wrong side of the law, will he be the hero she needs or toe the “thin blue line?”

 

‘Brunch at Ruby’s’ by DL White

Brunch at Ruby'sRuby’s Soul Food Cafe has been the neighborhood hot spot their whole lives, so it’s only fitting that Ruby’s is where Debra, Maxine and Renee meet monthly to do what girlfriends do– eat, drink and offer unsolicited advice on life and love.

Debra Macklin has it all: a successful career, a long marriage and a happy 12 year old daughter. But she’s hiding a secret that could not only shatter her perfect image, but destroy her marriage and career. When her secret is spilled, Debra is poised to lose everything she holds dear.

Maxine Donovan is a self made woman but despite all she earns and owns, she’s on a constant quest for Mr. Right. Handsome, aloof Malcolm Brooks might just be The One, but when Malcolm’s attention turns toward her friend instead, Maxine is ready to risk a strong bond to fight for him.

Renee Gladwell left a lucrative job and a handsome boyfriend to nurse her father and Gladwell Books back to health. A temporary stay has turned into four years of struggling with Alzheimer’s and a family owned bookstore that is in no shape to sell. Renee is in limbo, caring for a man who is slowly forgetting his past—including her. When she meets Malcolm Brooks, her life brightens, but is love worth risking a friendship?

Brunch at Ruby’s is a funny, inspiring, soulful look into a lifelong friendship where bonds are bent, but never broken.

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

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