Evolution & Completion

mistresscover4I didn’t expect to feel this way.

Letting a character go, ‘finishing’ their story and moving on to the next is usually every easy for me. By the time I kick them out of my head and write ‘THE END’ I’m a little bit glad to see them go. Like a parent sending their kid off to college (which I’ve not yet done, so there is a strong possibility I don’t know what I’m talking about) there is sadness, but also eagerness to see what the next phase will bring.

This week, I finished my journey with Keisha, my main character in ‘Mother’, and I didn’t expect to feel so terrible about saying goodbye. I think it’s fair to say she’s my least-liked character. The backstory is, she did something in my book ‘Commitment’ that by some standards would make her an irredeemable human being. I’ve gotten numerous emails from readers saying some variation of, ‘I really love your work, but I can’t read about Keisha; I just can’t. I don’t even think she deserves a happy ending and I’m scared you’ll give her one.’

In ‘Mistress’, we see that there might be some merit to those strong emotions because Keisha has apparently learned nothing from prior experience and has gone on to live a life that other people would say only confirmed that she was “a bad person.” But I happen to believe that are very few “bad people” in the world. They do exist, I just don’t believe there are very many.

Wife Cover1f2In my other line of work as a lawyer, I often say about the people whose interests I represent (most of whom have broken some law, some of them in very hard-to-defend circumstances), “would you like to be judged in your totality as a human being on the basis of the very worst thing you ever did?” That question often causes people to become very pensive, thinking back to the time they, let’s say, told a vicious lie about someone, stole something, or committed some other act about which they are now very ashamed. And after thinking about it, they say something like, ‘no, I wouldn’t. I’m a better person than that act would indicate.”

And see, that is why I wanted to write about Keisha. In ‘Mistress’, ‘Wife’ and ‘Mother’ I wanted to write about the evolution of a woman who must learn not to judge herself on the basis of the worst thing she ever did, and not to define herself on that basis. She has to learn self-acceptance and self-love. And of course, there’s a little romance thrown in there as well, but Keisha’s romance is also about learning to love yourself enough to believe you deserve love from someone else; someone worthy. So for me, the more important love story is that which Keisha begins to have with herself.

How does a ‘mistress’ learn she can be more?

How does a woman who was a ‘mistress’ embrace the role of ‘wife’?

How does a wife who has no recollection of being mothered decide to become one herself?

Mother cover mistress FINALThat was what the ‘Mistress trilogy’ was really about for me. And so it stood to reason that once I had written ‘Mother’ I should be glad to let her go because from the standpoint of a writer, she has ‘evolved’ and is now ‘complete’. But Keisha’s complexity made it hard for me to end her story. And in fact, I couldn’t even bring myself to write the words ‘THE END’ as I customarily do.

Like that parent sending their kid off to college, I know they may never live with me again, but find myself thinking, ‘would it be so bad to just drop in for a visit?’ But that’s as far as I can go with that analogy because it would be a very bad parent indeed who never did drop in for a visit to their college-age kid. And sadly, in this case, I would be a very bad writer indeed if I could not simply let Keisha be … complete.

Happy Reading.

N.

The Mistress Trilogy (based on the Commitment Series)

Mistress (Book One) On Kindle & Nook

Wife (Book Two) On Kindle & Nook

Mother (Book Three) On Kindle & Nook

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘MOTHER’

Mother promo1From ‘MOTHER’:

Watching as she scooped up her hair and fastened it at her nape while opening the container of Singapore rice noodles, Jay smiled at his wife’s perfect double-cantaloupe ass. Wife. He rarely thought of her that way. She was still his girl—in all senses of the word, that was the way Jay tended to see her, something less than a grown woman, his homegirl, his lover, holding it down, and putting it down. His girl.

Walking directly into her backside, Jay pressed Keisha into the kitchen counter, loving the way she instinctively let her head fall to one side so he could kiss her shoulder and the length of her neck. Even as he did that, Keisha reached for the chopsticks and filled her mouth with the curried noodles.

“You don’t want to heat that up?” Jay asked against her skin.

“Nope. Too hungry. Too tired,” Keisha said, over a mouthful.

“Too tired, huh?” Jay reached around in front of her and slid his hand down into the front of her underwear.

“Uh huh.” Keisha widened her stance, making way for him and pressing backward a little.

She ate as he stroked her, eating and moaning, moaning and chewing. Jay laughed into her hair.

“You want to eat after, maybe?” he suggested.

“No. I’m going to sleep right after. So we have to multi-task.”

“Uh uh. I need your undivided attention.”

Jay reached around and took the chopsticks from between her fingers, dropping them on the counter and unzipping himself. He dropped his jeans and underwear only as low as was absolutely necessary and crouched slightly, angling so he could press himself between Keisha’s legs. Arching her back, she gave a sudden gasp as he entered her. She was already wet. It didn’t take much with them.

“You’re so full of it,” Keisha teased. “All you need is for me to open my legs and you’re good.”

“Nah,” Jay said tonguing the back of her neck and wrapping an arm about her waist. “I don’t just need your body. I want your mind … your … soul.”

Keisha gasped as he gave her a deep upward thrust. “You have all that,” she said.

You have me.

That was what she’d said to him one night when Jay had gotten into his head the dumb idea that he needed to take her out for a night on the town in the city. They’d been married only a few months, and he’d been concerned about her adjustment to small town life. The club excursion was a disaster. The minute she’d come downstairs in that halter top and tight jeans looking the way she looked when she dressed up, Jay should have torpedoed the whole plan.

As any idiot could have predicted, once they got there, dudes kept hitting on her. If Jay was more than five feet away, it only took a second and they descended like hyenas. He never had to step in because Keisha immediately rejected all advances, proudly displaying her simple gold wedding band. But it still bothered him in a way that was much more pronounced than it had before they were married.

Jay thought he’d contained his discomfort pretty well, and planned to hang in there for the rest of the miserable evening, not wanting to ruin Keisha’s fun with his irrationality. But before long, she was the one who was suggesting they go home.

In the truck, just as they’d pulled onto West Side Highway, she grabbed his arm without turning to look at him.

I don’t need all that anymore, she said, her voice loud in the silent cab. Nightclubs and parties and stuff? I don’t need it. I’d much rather stay at home with you.

And Jay had glanced at her then, wanting to see her eyes and assure himself of her sincerity. She’d smiled at him, and nodded.

Really, she said. And as for all those fools who try to talk to me? Jay, you don’t never have to worry about that. You have me. You have me.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Mother’

 

Mother cover mistress FINAL

From ‘MOTHER’ coming Summer 2014

No.”

The word was out before Keisha could stop it. Before she’d even completely thought it. And from the look on Jayson’s face, it surprised him, too.

“No?”

“I mean …”

“You don’t want to?”

“I meant not now,” Keisha amended. “Just not now, that’s all.”

Ignoring the hints had been simple enough, especially since she was sure he couldn’t possibly be serious. They’d been married less than a year, and things were still up in the air, with his new business, her new career.

“I don’t mean now either,” Jay said. “I meant maybe in a year or so. But you’re taking those shots and that’s for like, three months, right? What if we decide to do it sooner?”

And so there it was.

He might say he didn’t want babies now. He might think he didn’t want babies now. But once she wasn’t taking her Depo shots, all bets would be off.

Keisha lifted her eyes from her plate and focused instead on her husband. Standing in front of the fridge, reaching in for orange juice turning to pour them both glasses, he had no clue that he’d just dropped an atom bomb.

Having babies was not something Keisha was willing to contemplate. They were something she hadn’t been forced to discuss before they were married and she’d been operating under the vain and foolish hope that somehow, she could avoid the subject for, say, the next thirty or more years ‘til she was too old to have them. But that wasn’t true either, because even before the ‘I do’s’ Jay had mentioned wanting sons and she’d easily avoided talking about it because neither of them had been confident about taking care of themselves let alone children.

“Tea or a cappuccino?”

Jay had moved on to making the hot breakfast beverages. Following their Saturday morning routine of eating early at their kitchen table and talking about their week, Keisha was going with him to the store.

Almost a year ago, Jay had acquired a small photo business in town, a modest place that was barely enough for him to eke out a living at. But now it was taking off, because he’d turned it into a photo studio where he took family portraits and vanity shots, booked events and did natural light photography of engaged couples and women seeking glamorous headshots for dating sites.

“Cappuccino.”

It was the only way Keisha was able to have caffeine—with frothy, warm milk that almost masked the taste. Jay had gotten her a machine for her twenty-sixth birthday, his attempt at a joke about her past as a barista in a Brooklyn coffee shop. The real gift had been four days in South Beach, a belated honeymoon in a resort where all their needs were taken care of from sun up to sundown. Hands down, those days had been the happiest of Keisha’s life—just her and her man, thinking about no one and nothing else, wrapped up in the newness of being married, and in each other. The way it was supposed to be.

After eleven months of marriage, Jayson Holmes was still the most incredible stroke of luck to have happened to her in her entire life. Every day began with her staring at him, and wondering at the cosmic mistake had led to her finding him, and having him fall in love with her, of all the women in the world who might have had him.

“So what d’you think?” Jay asked looking over his shoulder. “You stop taking the shots and then take the Pill instead so that if we want to get pregnant sooner, it’ll only be a month before we can try for real.”

“I don’t know,” Keisha said, shoveling a piece of toast in her mouth to avoid giving a full answer.

“Or,” Jay said, “we could just … roll the dice.”

At that, Keisha almost choked on her bread. She swallowed hard, now eager to get some words out, because that ridiculous suggestion could not go unanswered.

“We’re nowhere near ready for something like that. Your business just got off the ground, I’m going to …”

“But you’re assuming it would happen right away. Sometimes it takes a while. And I read that when you’ve been on the shots, it sometimes takes longer.”

“Where have you been reading stuff like that?”

“The internet. I looked it up.”

He’d been looking up stuff about going off birth control and conception times? Holy shit.

Speechless

I’m not often without words, but I was when I saw this book trailer made by one of my best reader-friends, Deloris and posted on my wall! Loved it so much I had to share.

Click on the image below to see an AMAZING homage to ‘Mistress’ and ‘Wife’, two books I was surprised to enjoy writing as much as I did.

Enjoy!

mistresscover4

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Wife’

MarcuspromoAThe building was quiet. As she made her way down to the ground floor, the chill seemed to enter Keisha’s very bones. Supposedly, it got slightly warmer once it snowed, but it sure didn’t feel like it.

“Hey, Miss Crawford, what you doin’ up so early?”

Keisha stiffened at the sound of the familiar voice, and the sardonic way in which, ‘Miss Crawford’ had been pronounced.

Marcus lived on the third floor. Tall, and brown-skinned with a trim, slender physique and a suave manner, he’d moved in a few months after Keisha had. All the women in the building, most of them married Moms, had gossiped about how much he looked like Blair Underwood. He looked nothing like Blair Underwood, but Keisha understood the comparison—he had the same kind of cool, that same quiet charm. And he exercised that charm very liberally, though usually not on her. With her, he was sarcastic.

Right now, he was standing at the mailboxes, wearing a suit, jacket in hand, shirt unbuttoned at the neck, tie hanging open. He’d clearly spent the night elsewhere and was just making it back. Smiling at Keisha, he looked her over from head to toe, the way he always did when he saw her, like he could see through her clothes, like he could see through her.

“Good morning,” she said. Glancing at him, she paused at the door to pull on her knit hat.

“Better pull that zipper all the way up to the neck as well,” he cautioned. “That Hudson Hawk is whipping up out there like nobody’s business.”

Keisha looked at him. Her father, Rey, called it that as well—the Hudson Hawk—the wind that came off the Hudson River during the cold months and made New York feel like Little Antarctica on the worst days.

“I’m just going across the street,” she said. “I think I’ll make it.”

“I’m sure you will,” Marcus said. “I got a feeling about you. That you’ve survived a lot worse.”

Marcus said things like this all the time. Like he knew her or something. It was among the many reasons Keisha didn’t like him. He looked at her, talked to her like he knew. Occasionally she wondered whether he’d heard something. But in New York, girls with pasts like hers were a dime a dozen, so she was probably being paranoid. Most of the time, she ignored Marcus’ tone if she couldn’t avoid him altogether.

Janine, who lived on the top floor, told her Marcus was a promoter or something like that. Wasn’t everybody? New York was positively overflowing with people who wanted to sing, dance, act, promote or manage celebrity clients. That was a world Keisha had tasted, and her memories of it were quite bitter.

“I didn’t see your man’s truck out there,” Marcus continued. “Snow kept him away? Wouldn’t keep me away.”

A few times—a few times too many for Keisha’s taste—she’d run into Marcus as she was entering or leaving her building with Jay and the two men had exchanged greetings the way men do. During those exchanges Marcus never looked at her the way he did when he ran into her alone. Probably because he worried that if he did, Jay would kick his ass.

“He’s not my man,” Keisha said.

As much as she didn’t like him, she always allowed herself to be dragged into these little verbal sparring matches with dude for some reason. And the minute she said it, she regretted telling him that she and Jay weren’t involved like that. Her new habit of telling the truth was often inconvenient.

“Is he gay?”

“No,” Keisha almost laughed. “He’s not gay. But he’s just not my …”

“Yeah? Good to know,” Marcus started up the stairs toward his floor. “Y’all look like a couple in a Macy’s ad, so naturally I thought … Anyway, good to know, Miss Crawford.”

Broken

JaySqueakyCleanFlat

I’m not sure I’ve ever actually met a “whole” person in my life, and I happen to believe that we can all give ourselves over to love even when we’re broken. And aren’t we all? Even just a little bit? The first time I tackled the ‘broken-and-in-love’ thing was with Tracy in ‘Unsuitable Men‘. Homegirl had some serious issues going on: knew she was beautiful but felt ugly, wanted a perfect man while knowing full well she was a very imperfect woman . . . But she still fell head over heels, deeper-than-the-ocean in love.

After her, I was hooked. And I did another broken character in ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta‘, and then again in ‘Secret‘. And now, in ‘Wife‘, there’s Keisha. Boy, is she ever broken. The things she’s done, the ways she’s undervalued herself–she should be a mess. And she was. Now, she’s beginning to put herself back together, and while she does so, maybe that leaves room to expose the ‘brokenness’ in the man she loves, Jayson.

As tempting as it was to write the kind of book where a “good guy” comes and rescues the “bad girl” from herself, I couldn’t do it. If you read ‘Mistress’, you know that there was no way Jayson wasn’t just a little bit broken himself, given what he’d been through, and furthermore, let’s face it, sometimes love is just the broken part in one person being drawn to the part of another person that they think will help them heal. I’m not saying that’s the healthiest kind of love, just that sometimes that’s just the way it is. And when that is how it is with a couple, how does it play out? When one of them begins to heal, and is a little less broken, what changes between them?

In ‘Wife’, that’s where I went with Keisha and Jayson. Expect no knights in shining armor from me. And no fair maidens either. I like the messy ones; the ones who’re broken. Hang with me a little bit–let’s see if they can put themselves back together.

Happy Reading.

N.

‘MISTRESS’

Part I of the ‘Mistress’ trilogy.

Keisha Crawford is at a crossroads. Just when she thought she’d finally risen above the scandal in her past, her latest “sugar daddy” passes away, and now she’s being evicted from the luxury penthouse she thought was hers. Slinking home to her father’s house with her tail between her legs, Keisha’s only goal is to get out of Brooklyn and back to the lifestyle that she’s become accustomed to. But when you go home again, it’s that much harder to let go of the person you used to be.

Kindle

Nook

‘WIFE’

Part II of the ‘Mistress’ trilogy. 

No longer a mistress to wealthy, much older men, Keisha Crawford isn’t certain who or what she is anymore. But one thing she is sure of is how she feels about Jayson Holmes, the handsome-as-sin ex-con who gave her a reason–and the courage–to change. Jayson’s going through an identity crisis of his own. He wasn’t the kind the man who was supposed to wind up in prison, and now that he’s out, he’s serving a different kind of time—living in regret for all that he’s missed, the relationships fractured and opportunities gone for good. 

Now Jayson needs to make some changes and build a new life. But when he does, he just may find that Keisha shouldn’t be part of it. 

Kindle 

Just a Thought: What if There’s More Than One?

Keisha3

I read a really interesting review of another author’s work yesterday. The reader was asking whether it was necessary for the author to demonize one love interest to make the second love interest more attractive.

The reader said: “I’ve seen this too many times in romance novels. One love interest is made into the bad guy so the other can be the heroine’s white knight.”  And I thought: yes! Exactly!

We all know that life is more complicated than that, and sometimes the love of your life might not be as easy to spot as fiction would have us think. Or, more interestingly, why do we always talk about “the love” of someone’s life?

What if there’s more than one?

In my latest book, ‘Wife‘, I follow Keisha Crawford and Jayson Holmes, two broken people whose pasts cause them shame and regret. They share a bond that is intense and sometimes even destructive of the new path they’ve chosen for their lives, but like that line in that great movie goes, they just can’t quit each other. When we meet them first in ‘Mistress‘, they’re both at a turning point and find what they most need in the other. That experience, as fleeting as it was, marks them for each other and bonds them on a level even they don’t quite understand. There’s no doubt that Jayson is the great love of Keisha’s life, and vice versa.

But what if there’s more than one?

In ‘Wife‘, I explore how different people make us grow in different ways, and whether positive or negative help us reach a place of self-acceptance, or not. One character in particular has this effect on Keisha and the temptation was there to make him the ‘bad guy’. But it didn’t feel right to me. He isn’t a bad guy, he’s just not Jayson. So I ran with this idea that maybe, just maybe, there isn’t just one. And maybe there is no bad guy. If there were, that could be too easy.

I don’t want to do easy. So I’m forging ahead with this idea that sometimes there isn’t just one, and am eager to see it play out in the final book in this trilogy, due in the Spring. I hope you’ll hang with me so we can explore this theme together.

Happy Reading!

N.