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.

 28275408_10160027638510494_259053850_o

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

Wine with Writers Atlanta!

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.

#HolidayShort Dec. 8, 2017

Happy Birthday, Baby. (1)

Happy Birthday, Baby.

 

It was going to take some getting used to, seeing Jamal like this.

Married.

The wedding was surreal enough. Up in some godforsaken field upstate, everyone freezing their tails off and wondering why the CEO of Scaife couldn’t have his wedding in the Waldorf Astoria, or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden like every other rich Black person in New York.

But now, his brother was doing the things befitting his station in Black society, things like this—entertaining. The Christmas party was the kind of event that later got written up on Page Six, with phrases like ‘inner circle’ and ‘exclusive’ and ‘glitterati’ being thrown about. And it was true. The living room of Jamal’s apartment—which was bad as hell, there was no denying—was full of some of the biggest names in music, even some who were on Damon’s current playlist.

Interspersed with the music crowd were the music benefactors; young, wealthy, mostly White hipsters in their late twenties, or thirties, who gravitated toward talent, but Black talent in particular, just like the days of the Harlem Renaissance. Many of them had labored over sheet music since they were three, and later learned, to their never-ending dismay, that they had little talent themselves. So, instead, they invested. Or, they used their money and influence to wheedle their way into parties like this one—where the “cool, Black kids” were—and pretended for a few hours that they were just like them.

Circulating among their guests was his brother, and at his side most of the time, his wife, Makayla. They had just returned from their honeymoon and were in the newlywed phase that was a combination of touchy-feely and careful, treating each other with kid-gloves, secret smiles, and occasional surreptitious groping when they thought no one was looking. Jamal was wearing all black, and had the vaguely puffed-up-in-the-chest look of a man who is satisfied with his place in his life, and more than satisfied with the woman next to him

Knocking back his drink, Damon considered his date from across the room. Harper.

She was cute, interesting, and a little bit rough around the edges, which he dug a lot. But Damon knew they weren’t going anywhere. For one thing, she was young. Not chronologically. Chronologically, she was twenty-eight, but she had that emotionally-stunted quality that Damon saw in a lot of folks he met who worked as part of the innards of the entertainment business. Like they had stalled somewhere around seventeen, when they had “the coolest summer ever” when the music was bumping, the movies were blockbusters and they had finally lost their virginity in the backseat of their first car. And since then, their entire life had been about recreating, through art, the sounds, the feel, and the emotions of that pivotal time in their lives.

Maybe that was unfair. He was just bored. He liked parties, he liked—and now, maybe even loved—his brother, and he dug Harper, but he didn’t want to be here. It was almost Christmas, but he wasn’t in the spirit. A week from now, he would be sitting around a table with Jamal, Makayla, his other brother Marlon and his girlfriend, Renée; and his mother and her man, Perry, or Percy, or whatever the hell his name was. They would all make their way through the meal and awkward exchange of gifts, but just about everyone, except their mother, would want to be someplace else.

After dinner, when he and his brothers left, he would be the only one among them who would be going home alone. First time in four years, he would spend Christmas evening alone.

Tipping back his glass again, Damon realized it was empty, except for the ice. His cue to leave. He’d done his time. Almost two hours at his brother’s fancy party, a respectable period of time. He maneuvered his way through the people mingling near the large living room windows and toward Harper. She was talking to Devin Parks, the moody, difficult musician who had grown up with Makayla and seemed animated by whatever he was saying.

“Hey,” Damon said, touching her lightly on the shoulder.

She turned toward him, and looked, for a nanosecond, almost guilty.

“Hey,” she said.

“I’m about to take off,” he said. “You want to …?”

Harper hesitated. “Oh. I was …”

“No, I’m not sayin’ you have to leave, just because …”

“Oh. Yeah. Okay. Because …”

Devin Parks was watching their clumsy exchange with a mix of annoyance and amusement, his bluish-green eyes flitting back and forth between Damon and Harper like those of someone watching a tennis match.

“I’ll give you a shout later,” Damon said finally. He leaned in and kissed Harper on the jaw.

“Sure. Okay. Talk to you later.”

As he turned away from her, he scanned the room, looking for Jamal, to tell him he was out, but his brother was nowhere in sight. Deciding that he would leave anyway, and just hit him up later, Damon headed toward the foyer. There. That was where Jamal was. For a moment, it looked like he was just standing and facing the wall, but when he shifted his weight, Damon saw that he was facing Makayla, who was leaning back against it, and looking up at her husband.

Jamal’s voice was low. “You good?” he asked her.

Makayla said nothing, so Damon assumed she nodded, because his brother continued.

“Wasn’t so bad, right? Anyway, they’ll all be gone soon, and we can …”

“Hey, man. I’m about to bounce,” Damon said, loudly enough to get their attention.

Jamal turned to face him, and Damon glimpsed Makayla’s face. She looked a little embarrassed, as though he’d caught her and Jamal in a much more compromising position.

That explained it. He’d walked in on some newlywed foreplay.

“Thanks for comin’, man.” They exchanged a brotherly hug, and Makayla gave him a quick hug and kiss as well.

“So, we’ll see you at Christmas dinner, then?” she said. “If not sooner?”

“Definitely sooner,” Damon said, though he knew nothing of the sort. He wasn’t sure how much more of this loved-up stuff he could stand.

Outside, he lifted his collar against the cold wind blowing off the Hudson and walked toward where he’d parked his car. But when he got there, he kept walking. His feet took him to a place he hadn’t intended to go. Damon entered, and knew exactly where he was headed. Within minutes, he had completed his transaction and was outside on the sidewalk once again.

This time, he hailed a cab and gave them an address downtown.

At the building, he was let in by a couple going out, and too the stairs two at a time until he was at Apartment 4F. He didn’t hesitate before ringing the bell. He was done hesitating.

The door opened, and Noelle was standing there. She didn’t look surprised to see him, because Damon knew she had to have looked through the peephole before opening up.

“Damon,” she said.

“Hi. You have a minute to …?”

She was already shaking her head. “Damon, this isn’t …”

“Is that the food?”

An unmistakably masculine timbre reached them from somewhere back in the apartment. Damon clenched his jaw, forcing himself not to comment.

“No. It’s … I’ll be right back,” Noelle called. She stepped out into the hallway, which forced Damon to take a step back, but not before he spotted the man in her apartment. The same man she had been with in Barney’s that day almost a week ago. Michael.

Noelle …”

“Michael, just give me a minute,” she said without looking back. She pulled the door so that it was almost shut and stood facing Damon, looking up at him, arms folded.

She didn’t say anything further, but her eyes were questioning.

Damon took in the sweatpants, the casual, somewhat worn t-shirt. And yet Michael was in her apartment. Noelle’s attire meant this wasn’t a brand-new relationship. This was someone she felt comfortable and familiar enough with to wear a ratty t-shirt around. This was serious.

“I was walking by Tiffany. And I remembered our tradition,” Damon said, holding out the robin’s egg-blue bag.

Noelle looked at it, but didn’t take it. “It’s not our tradition anymore.”

Damon nodded. “But I want it to be. I …”

“You want,” Noelle said. “Always about what you want. Right?”

“No. Not just me. I know you still love me, Elle. We were going to be married. That all doesn’t go away in six months. I don’t give a shit who you’re … dating. We were more than that. We are more than that.”

His words seemed to shake her a little. She looked down at the floor, and shifted her weight. “That’s why we haven’t talked in forever? And you haven’t even …”

“What was I supposed to say? I didn’t know what to …”

“But now you do know what to say? Why? Because you happen to run into me in a store and it looks like I’m moving on?” she demanded.

“Yes. Exactly. Because I run into you in a store and you look like you might be moving on. And I don’t want you to move on. Because you’re not supposed to. And I’m not supposed to. We’re supposed to be together. And I know I fucked it up, but …”

You did!” she said, with surprising vehemence. “I needed you, and you …” She broke off with a choked sound like the beginnings of a sob. “Do you know what that was like? To go through that alone? And then you … You shouldn’t be here, Damon. You shouldn’t …”

He moved closer, reaching out and taking her by the arm, gently pulling her toward him so they were inches apart. So close, he could smell her summery scent. Damon inhaled.

“You have to leave. You … Michael is …”

“Fuck Michael. Get rid of him. You know we’re not done.”

She looked up at him again and this time her eyes were wet. Shaking her head, she exhaled. “You never did fight fair, Damon.”

“I fight to win.”

Noelle’s lips twitched, and for a moment, she almost smiled at that. She knew his stubbornness, and throughout their relationship had teased him about it, fought with him about it … and loved that about him in a way no other woman ever had, or could, or would.

“You have to …”

“Go. Yeah. You said.” Damon took her hand and put the bag in it. “But I wanted to leave this. Every year since we’d been together … your Tiffany Christmas ornament. So, you can put it on the tree, as a memory of another Christmas, and another birthday, with me.”

“But I’m not with you, Damon. Not anymore.”

He leaned in. He pressed his nose to her neck, and she let him. He inhaled more deeply, and turned his head. Noelle lifted her chin; and on instinct her lips parted a little. He brushed his against them lightly, in the ghost of a kiss. He heard her soft gasp, as though she couldn’t quite believe herself what was happening.

Damon wanted to prolong the kiss, but he knew that if he went further she would hate herself for her weakness later on, and resent him for having exposed it. It wouldn’t move them forward, it would set them back.

“Maybe I won’t be there this Christmas when you put this ornament on the tree. But I hope you do it anyway. Because I’m still with you, Elle. I’m still with you.”

There were tears on her cheeks now. But she said nothing.

Damon leaned in again. He touched his lips to the shell of her ear.

“Imagine me there, okay? When you put it up.”

When he turned away, he expected to hear her apartment door shut—or even slam—as she went back in, but it didn’t. So, he looked over his shoulder before descending the stairs. Noelle was still standing there, watching.

Happy Birthday, baby,” he said.

 

 

 

#HolidayShorts are Back!

Ice Cream PartyThe holidays are upon us, and strangely, during this hectic time of year I am more likely to want to write, even as I have less time to do it.

So, along with my sister-writers Lily Java, Jacinta Howard and Rae Lamar, I’ll be writing short pieces to celebrate the season. Mine will be available here on my blog, and on Facebook. And, like last year, the pieces may introduce you to new characters that you’ll hopefully get to know in 2018, and perhaps even some updates on old favorites. 

I hope you enjoy. And Happy Holidays!

~N~


 

Funny Seeing You

Damon hoped it wasn’t her. But the way the woman turned, the lean of her head, the slightly buoyant gait, as if she was walking on the balls of her feet, and he knew.

It was Noelle.

Of all the people, and of all the times of year …

He made to turn away, and head in the opposite direction, but wasn’t quick enough. At that exact moment, she glanced back, over her right shoulder and caught sight of him. For a moment, the smile on her face—clearly intended for the man standing next to her—froze, and slipped a little. Then, she refreshed it, smiling again and lifting a hand in a graceful flutter, to offer him a wave.

In the near distance, there was the rhythmic sound of a bell—the Salvation Army asking for donations just outside the doors—and overlaying that, the determined cheerfulness of the piped in Christmas music.

Damon waved back, and tried to smile. He saw in her eyes that Noelle was weighing whether to come over. And he saw a little resignation in them, as she relented, and decided that she supposed she would have to. After all, he was the man she was once engaged to marry.

So … this was it. The moment he knew would come, when he would run into her out in the world; and see her smiling, looking happy again, and getting on with her life without him. He had imagined he would feel something. But not this.

As Noelle crossed the crowded store, dodging the people in her path, he saw the changes. The shorter hair—formerly past her shoulders, now cut just below her ears—and her slightly fuller, curvier frame though her face, interestingly, looked more angular, and her jaw and chin more defined.

The closer she got, the more Damon’s heartbeat sped up.

“Damon.”

She stopped when she was directly in front of him. Then they had one of those awkward moments where one person leans in, then slightly away, while the other leans in … neither of them sure how intimate a greeting was warranted.

“Elle,” he said. His voice was slightly hoarse. He hoped she didn’t detect as much, and that the din in the crowded store had covered his nervousness.

“How are you?” She asked, like she really did want to know.

They finally navigated a brief kiss on the cheek. She smelled the way she always did—fresh, and brand new. A million memories rushed through his mind all in an instant.

Elle standing in front of him in line at the movies, then turning to ask him a question, her ponytail swishing, and brushing his chin, the summery scent of it, surrounding him for a nanosecond.

Elle straddling him on a Saturday morning, leaning forward, kissing his neck, and urging him to “get up, wake up, get out of bed,” so they could “play.”

And Elle when it ended, turning away from him abruptly, her long hair fanning in an arc, as she hid her face, so he wouldn’t see the tears.

The tears.

But she was smiling now, even as her companion, the stocky brother in the tweed jacket (what the hell was Noelle doing with a brother wore tweed?) waited a respectful distance away, containing his impatience.

“I’m good,” Damon lied. “You?”

“Excellent,” she said. And she sounded like she meant it. “You remember, this is my favorite time of year.”

Remember? How could he forget. It was one of the first things she told him about herself when they met. Her name, Noelle, was because she was born on Christmas Day.

‘Other kids might have felt like they got shafted,’ she’d told him. ‘But I was a late-in-life baby, and the only one. My parents celebrated my birthday all month in December. And Christmas Day? They made it … magical.’

Damon—who was accustomed to professional, polished, and much harder women—didn’t even know what to make of someone so guileless, that they’d start gushing about their ‘magical’ childhood when clearly, he was just trying to get into her panties.

“Yeah,” he said now. “Of course, I remember.”

“You look good, Damon.” She looked him over, up and down. And smiled again.

“You do, too.” He glanced over her shoulder, in the direction of the man waiting for her. “So, who …?”

“Michael,” she said. “His name is Michael.”

“Is he …?”

Elle’s smile faltered a little, and she gave a little shake of the head as if to say, ‘no, please, let’s not.’

“I have so much more shopping to do,” she said, talking over the rest of his question. “And if I don’t do it all this weekend, I’ll give up in defeat. I avoided all that Black Friday madness, but it’s still so crazy out here. But you know my family …” She rolled her eyes.

Christmas was a big deal in the Cooper family. Huge, in fact. Though she was an only child there were cousins aplenty, so the big day was quite the event. Church, first thing, then a huge breakfast awaiting their return. Following that, everyone would retreat to bedrooms for naps (though he and Noelle found other, more enjoyable ways to use that time); and when they woke, coffee, gift exchange, and finally a large dinner later in the evening during which they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Noelle.

She was never far from Damon’s side the entire time, exchanging looks and smiles with him, because like she’d told him, it was “all so corny, and all so amazing at the same time”.

Damon wondered if ‘Michael’ would be taking his place this year. Sitting in Mr. and Mrs. Cooper’s living room, surrounded by the smells of cinnamon, and pine, baking hams, and roasting turkey. Children squealing, adults laughing, and Noelle’s hand resting lightly on the back of his neck.

It had only been six months … He didn’t want to ask. He didn’t want to hear her say that, yes, Michael would be there.

“Elle,” he said. He put a hand on her arm and she withdrew it. Her withdrawal, strangely, gave him the confidence to go on. It meant she wasn’t as unaffected as she seemed. “Elle, I’d love to … If we could talk, I think …”

“Damon,” she said, sounding almost sad. “It’s …” She shook her head.

Too late. That’s what he knew she meant. Those were the words unsaid. But he didn’t believe it. The lie of those words, was in her eyes.

Before he could say anything more, Michael had approached and was standing just behind Noelle. He put a hand at her elbow.

“Hey,” he said to her, not looking at Damon. “We should probably get a move on. We have that thing, so …”

“Yes. Right. Of course,” Elle said briskly.

Damon watched as Michael’s hand slid easily down Elle’s arm, and his fingers wrapped around hers. She held accepted the hold easily, like she had done so many times before. Michael took a step away and Elle turned a little, her body oriented toward Michael, but still looking at Damon.

“Happy Holidays, Damon,” she said, with a sad smile. “It was so … funny seeing you.”

Yeah, Damon thought ruefully as she walked away. Funny seeing you, too.

~~~

 

#30Days30Stories Compilation Released!

“A novel that will surely make you question your own values in life” - The Book ReviewLately, I’ve been feeling a little more … fertile than I did last year. Last year was a year of upheaval in many ways, including a move from Washington DC to Philadelphia, and from one career to another. Lots of change; and none of which seemed conducive to writing regularly, or particularly well. But I feel much more inspired now, and the challenge this year is going to be harnessing the new surge of creativity I feel, and delivering on promises made long ago to revisit favorite characters.

To help foment that process, I started on a 30-Day sprint, writing a story a day. Most days I managed something new. On about a half-dozen or so, I re-purposed something old, or visited characters who tend to write themselves because I know them so well at this point. I posted each story on my Facebook page.  Now, at the end of the 30-Day sprint, I have a compilation, which went live on Amazon this morning. Here it is, hopefully for your enjoyment.

I welcome any questions you have about the stories, and am particularly curious about those you’d like to see again. In my experience, when my imagination about where to go next fails, the imagination of readers picks up the slack. I’d love to hear from you. And of course …

Happy Reading,

N.

Paid Companion is LIVE!

paid companion frontAbout the book:

Lia Hill isn’t a model. But she’s pretending to be.

Just for a few days, and just because she stands a earn a ridiculous amount of money. The thing is, her mind-numbingly boring job as a receptionist at a modeling agency while she tries to sell her art isn’t exactly paying the bills in her crappy apartment, and she’s desperate for cash. So when the wealthy and handsome Blake Morgan contacts her agency looking for a girl who’s “not ostentatiously attractive” to accompany him to a family getaway, Lia leaps at the chance, sending her on the adventure of a lifetime with Blake, his sister, Nicolette and Kevin, his somewhat reserved, but super-hot “assistant.”

The Morgan clan is young, beautiful, loaded and tons of unexpected fun. So what’s the worst that could happen?


Dear Readers,

Last year on Wattpad, I started writing a story that I wanted to be all about fun and lightheartedness and fluff. And I tried. I really, really tried. Not only was the experience of writing a story in parts a challenging one for me, I also discovered more about my voice. I can’t really do lighthearted and funny as an entire project. That’s hard, and not a skill I have. Funny and lighthearted moments, sure, but I think my nature is probably to get beneath the surface of just about everything, most especially people and the public faces they display.

So … a story about a woman who was a ‘paid companion’ for a week evolved into something a little different. I hope you enjoy it. It’s available on Amazon now! 

Happy Reading,

Nia

Women who Misbehave

Wine with Writers poster - final-2 (1)

On March 25th, I’m going to be in Collegeville, PA (about an hour NW of Philadelphia) with Tia Kelly, Jacinta Howard and Lily Java for a book signing, readings by the authors and panel discussion, moderated by Ashley Coleman, author of ‘Love on Purpose’.  Our discussion theme is a juicy one: “Romance, Realism & Portrayal of African American Women in Popular Fiction”. Not only do my fellow panelists happen to be some of my favorite indie authors, the topic is one I love to talk about with anyone who’s willing to listen or participate. Over the past couple of years as I’ve grown into my writing voice a little bit, I realized something. I enjoy writing stories of love, stories that are “real” and most all, stories about women who misbehave. No meek heroines for me; or if they are meek, I love writing about how they mess up, make mistakes and often wreak havoc in their lives as well as others’.

So when my fellow authors and I are together in Collegeville, I imagine what I’ll want to talk about is how romance, even though based on a simple formula, can be one of the more complex genres to write, if you want the love to feel real. I imagine I’ll also want to talk, and hear about whether realism is something people value in romance, or whether the fantasy is the hook for most readers. And finally, I definitely want to talk about how much juice I get from writing about women, specifically women of color who “misbehave”. Some of them are like Lorna, in one of my featured books, ‘The Fall’, a woman determined to blaze her own trail, arrogant, self-righteous and downright rude, and the hell with people who don’t like it. And some of them are like Zora in my other featured book for the event, ‘Young, Rich & Black’ who is determined to decide for herself who she’s going to be, even if that person is at odds with who everyone else says she should be. But I won’t get into it too much right now, because that’ll leave nothing for Saturday March 25th at the Towne Book Center Wine Bar and Café.

If you’re in the neighborhood, or can make it there, consider joining us, and joining in on the conversation. Register for the book signing and discussion free here, and/or for the wine tasting as well, for a small fee!

Hope to see you, but either way …

Happy Reading!

~N~