SAMPLE(S) SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ and ‘Ivy’s League’

Wine w WritersI like to write about women, figuring out who they are and what their “stuff” is. You know what I mean, right? The things that drive them, the things that hold them back, the things that block them from having the kind of life they deserve. That’s it. If I had to sum up the central theme of every single thing I write, that would be it.

And if I had to sum up my approach to writing, it would be “searching for realism.” I am rarely (okay, never) completely satisfied with anything I write, but on the occasions that I am somewhat satisfied, it’s because I think I may have struck a note of realism close to what I wanted.

For that reason, I love ‘Ivy’s League’. Love. Ivy has more than a few personal characteristics that I relate to, or have myself. But more than that, her story was one that felt real to me, and unfolded completely organically on the page–I didn’t map or chart it out, or even know where she would end up, I just let it happen as I wrote. And I also love that in her life, there’s an absence of drama other than the purely personal and domestic kind; her struggles are those that most women face in one form or another. But I’m not going to say too much more about Ivy since I’m doing an online Book Chat about her story today at 7 PM EDT, here.

And of course, I’ll be at Wine with Writers in person in two weeks. Tickets are going pretty fast, so get yours now, if you’re going to be in the DC/MD/VA area. I’ll be hanging out with Tia Kelly and Xyla Turner, talking books and drinking wine and signing my brand new release (slated for release just before ‘Wine with Writers’) ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’.

So … about Miri: I know some folks have been anxiously waiting for her. And honestly, I had a hard time understanding why. Miri was a quiet and small character for me. Someone who lived in the shadow of the much larger characters of her brothers. So writing about her was challenging. Here’s a little secret. If writers struggle, it’s for one reason only: we’re having a hard time figuring out what our characters want, and how (or whether) to have them get it.

Apart from life getting in the way of our writing, there is pretty much no other reason for writers being “blocked” other than that. And until we figure those things out, the book just ain’t gon’ come. Miri, now that her story is about to be released, remains in some ways a small and quiet character. But I figured out what she wants, and whether (and how) she gets it. So she’s on her way in very short order.

In the meantime, I thought I’d let you visit with these two very different women–both of whom have just enough slice of “real” to satisfy me. And I hope you as well.

Happy Reading!

N.


Eduardo promoFrom ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’. Coming Soon.

The sound of the door opening and shutting sent Miri scurrying back to the bed, clutching the sheets around her naked form. And then she felt silly. After all that happened the previous evening, shyness seemed ridiculous. So, while she listened to the movement in the next room, she found a t-shirt and pulled it on, recalling that Duardo had offered her one the night before, though she never got around to putting it, or anything else, on. Taking a moment to check her hair—which was pretty much a disaster—Miri went out to join him in the living area, pausing only to brush her teeth with her fingers in his small bathroom, and to splash water on her face.

Buenas días.”

Duardo looked up when she entered and spoke to him but did not answer.

Expecting some warmth, or acknowledgment of the previous evening, and not getting it, Miri was disappointed. Instead, his expression was inscrutable. But she felt brave, and more importantly, he looked incredibly hot, in a stark white t-shirt that only emphasized his sun-darkened skin; and baggy grey sweats. His scruffy and unshaven face reminded her of how it felt against her own face, and later, against her inner thighs. So Miri went to him, and while he removed what smelled like breakfast from a paper sack, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Resting her face against his broad and firm back, she felt her entire body heave in a sigh.

“Will you not speak to me?” she asked, feeling emboldened by the way he leaned oh-so-slightly backward and into her embrace. “¿Estás enojado conmigo?”

“No,” Duardo said after a long while. But still he didn’t turn around to return her embrace.

“So if you’re not angry, what is it?”

“I crossed a line with you,” he said, turning around and looking down at her. “After everything that your family …”

Miri exhaled impatiently and pulled away from him. “If we’re going to talk about how what happened between you and me—two consenting adults—affects my brothers, my family? If that’s what you’re about to say, I’m going to fucking scream,” she said.

Duardo looked surprised, though he did not comment on her cursing.

“I’m serious,” Miri said. “I walked in here on a high and you’re just going to … wreck it. I’m starting to feel like I would have been better off going home with Stephan Payne.”

And that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Duardo grabbed and pulled her back against his chest, his hands grasping her arms and holding her tight, his face inches from hers.

“Don’t you ever say that to me. He doesn’t get to touch you. He doesn’t get to go near you. ¿Entiendes?”

Being manhandled should have alarmed her, but it did the opposite. It made Miri confident, and even calm. Because she knew Duardo would never hurt her, and because she now knew that his stoic distance of a few moments earlier was the only way he knew to maintain control over the riotous emotions that were now so clearly visible in his eyes.

“I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want him near me. I want you,” she said, shrugging. “I just want you.”

“So why do you say these things?” Duardo let her go, running a hand over his head. “Just to … provoke me?”

“Because I want to get past this part,” Miri said. “This stupid part where we pretend like we don’t already know what’s going to happen.”

At that, Duardo gave her a grim smile. “And what’s that?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.

“We’re going to have an affair,” Miri said, staring back at him evenly.


Young black woman in the room

From ‘Ivy’s League’ Available Now.

Eli looked up just in time to see her coming down the sidewalk. Holding the hem of her gown up so it wouldn’t sweep the ground, Ivy looked like something out of a dream. Her dress was yellow, a soft shade like the faintest glow of morning sunlight and made of a foamy fabric that swayed as she walked. Cut in a straight line, binding her across the chest, it left completely exposed Ivy’s smooth brown shoulders and long, graceful arms. Under the hem of the dress, Eli could just make out gold strappy, high-heeled sandals that looked like something a gladiator would wear. If a gladiator was a five-foot nine, slender-as-a-reed, breathtaking Black woman in a yellow gown.

Ivy spotted him and he opened the window on the passenger side, disengaging the locks. She leaned in, her lips pursed and stern. She looked even more beautiful up close. Her hair was pulled back into a high, regal mass of kinky curls, her makeup subtle but iridescent. A stab of possessiveness impaled Eli right in the center of the chest.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Get in,” he said.

Ivy seemed poised to protest but instead sighed and opened the door, getting in next to him. Turning, she took another breath. “Eli …”

He kissed her. Hard. Hard enough to shut her up, steal her breath, and make her gasp all at once. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t respond either. Not at first, but he persisted until her lips softened and she kissed him back—tentatively at first, and then with all the feeling he had become accustomed to from her. She tasted sweet, like white wine, and smelled even more amazing than usual. Eli turned even further and reached over to pull her toward him by the waist, awkwardly in the confines of the truck’s cab.

That awkwardness provided an opening and Ivy took it, wrenching herself free and shaking her head.

“Eli,” she said again. But this time her voice was trembling a little.

He answered her by starting the engine, and pulling out into traffic away from the curb. Ivy looked frantically behind them, and then back at him.

“Eli!” She said his name yet again. “I’m working. My boss is at that dinner.”

He slowed the truck to a crawl. “Is she going to fire you if you don’t come back?” he asked pointedly.

Ivy opened her mouth to speak but did not. Her shoulders heaved, and shaking her head, she leaned back against the seat, staring straight ahead.

**************

AVAILABLE NOW.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vb8C5R

 B&N: http://bit.ly/1NOPG7i

You’re Invited to ‘Wine with Writers’ in Washington DC!

Wine with Writers bannerIndie writers are an elusive breed. We don’t do a lot of public appearances, may never hit it big enough to show up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, or even do a local radio interview. But we do love connecting with our readers, people who tenaciously dig through the hundreds of thousands of offerings on online retailers and, against all odds, find and stick with us.

So, eventually, how could we not want to meet those intrepid readers?

This fall, two of my colleagues and I will be in Washington DC, sitting down for wine, finger food and conversation at The Fridge DC, a hip, indie (of course) art gallery in the heart of Capitol Hill. The event starts to 3 p.m. sharp and will run until about 5 p.m. For this first run at ‘Wine with Writers’ we’re not going to be talking about any one book, but about the larger theme of ‘Romance, Realism and the Portrayal of African American Women in Modern Popular Fiction’. But no fear, this is not meant to be some deep, boring and dry academic lecture but a conversation among the authors and you, the guests, talking about the books we enjoy and what they mean for how AA women are portrayed in culture. In addition to myself, on hand will be authors Xyla Turner and Tia Kelly, signing books, talking about their any of their characters that grabbed you, and giving away oodles of cool stuff. And did I mention there would be wine?

Besides the great company of your fellow readers and writers, guests will receive a complimentary gift bag of books and other goodies from some of our favorites, and have the opportunity to purchase (or pre-purchase) autographed paperbacks of Xyla, my and Tia’s new (not-yet-released) books. We’re starting the ‘Wine with Writers’ franchise in Washington DC, but hope to have events in other cities in 2016, so stay tuned and look out for those events with other exciting indie authors.

Come join us on November 14th from 3-5 p.m. at The Fridge DC by getting your tickets here! Don’t wait till the last minute because space is limited. This is not a photo-op, but a private, intimate gathering of folks who love books. And wine.

And just in case you don’t know much about our work, samples and buy links are below.

Happy Reading!

N.


About Xyla Turner

Xyla Turner was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, Xyla wrote short stories and essays that have won numerous awards in local to nationwide competitions. She is an avid reader, but a sucker for romance. Specifically, sassy females and dominant males. Xyla is a dedicated educator and a life coach. Outside of reading, Xyla likes to spend time with her family and travel. She writes different genres, but her favorite is romance.

Her latest release ‘League of Bosses: The Client’ is available now!

League of BossesAbout ‘League of Bosses: The Client’: ‘League of Bosses: The Client; is a short story about an ambitious local plumber and his new feisty client. He’s on the fast track to success and the interruption from Tiffany, threatens his future and tempts him to throw caution to the wind and take a chance with the hot client who gets under his skin.

Excerpt:

The next day, around noon. A knock came to her door and in walked Tiffany Fox carrying a big bag of food in her right hand and another bag in her left. These were big clothing bags, but they looked heavy. She put them down and ran back outside and came back with another bag.

Every man, totaling four in the living room had their eyes glued on her ass. She had on some yoga pants, a tank top and her streaked hair in a ponytail, displaying her beautiful face. The woman was covered, but every curve could be seen and every man onsite would have a peek.

A possessiveness came over John as he heard a few low whistles and other men started to come down the stairs to see what the spectacle was about.

“Hey, guys.” She waved. “I just wanted to say thank you for all that you’ve done, so I brought lunch. I hope I’m not too late. It’s spaghetti with turkey meat sauce, salad, bread and sweet tea. I made enough for twenty-five people and I was told there were nine of you all together, so you can get seconds.”

The men were all smiles and some were openly salivating at the beautiful woman.

Before he realized it, John stood up, stalked towards her, grabbed her hand, and ground out, “A word.”

He brought her through the living room, the kitchen and to the backyard where nobody was, and seethed, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“What?” she looked confused.

“What do you mean, what?” he replied as he placed her against the door, with his body tilted down towards her.

“Why are you mad at me? I asked you if I could drop something off and you said yes.”

“Not dressed like that.”

“This is my workout gear.”

“Oh, but don’t I know it, and everyone else. You can’t come into a room full of men dressed like that with food. It’s like walking into the lion’s den. Now not only are they salivating at your food, but also salivating about you.”

“Well, I am single, John. There is no harm in looking, right?”

John’s eyes grew wide and he raised his brows. “Oh, that’s the game you play?” He lifted his hands like he was surrendering and backed away.

When he turned to leave, she grabbed his wrist and said, “Wait.”

He halted but remained turned away from her.

“I only want you to look at me, John.”

He felt like a drummer was pounding in his ears, her words were assaulting him. She was young, probably more trouble than he really wanted and just cooked a whole meal for a crew of men that were simply doing their job. Before he could think any further, she rubbed his arm and he turned and in one step partly picked her up and put her against the door again, but with his hands on her ass, holding her taut body to his.

“Say what?” He whispered on her lips.

Her breathing was labored, but she mumbled, “I just want you to look at me.”

He took her lips with his own and caressed them with his tongue. She tasted like sweet tea in the summer time. He moaned and picked her up, so her legs wrapped around his waist. He bit her bottom lip, then a small moan escaped her, which sent John over the edge. He squeezed her ass and pressed her in harder so she could really feel him. Then he pulled back.

Damn.

He released her and kept his forehead on hers.

Available NOW on Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Kobo!


About Tia Kelly

Tia Kelly is the author of contemporary and women’s fiction. She is known for her candid way of capturing life’s moments, one character at a time. You can visit her here.

About Tia’s upcoming release ‘Love Is’: Diane Collins had big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott was not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance. 

Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.

Excerpt:

A low grunt beside her got Diane’s attention and she looked to her left to see a man trying to get comfortable in one of the seats. His long frame poured into the aisle in front of them as he shifted his stiff magnificent body, making his unusual length stand out even more.

Love isA family with two young children stopped in front of her and the stranger. staring openly, unlike Diane who tried to keep her gaze discreet. The mother held onto a Polaroid camera and one of the kids clutched a piece of paper and pen.

“We hate to bother you, Warrior, but do you mind?”

Diane turned to look at the guy now wearing a scowl on his face as he took the piece of paper and scrawled his name across it.

“No pictures if you don’t mind. I’m just trying to spend some quality time with my lady before our flight,” he said in a voice so low that it was barely audible.

The group moved on and Diane sighed with relief after noticing no other stragglers threatened to invade their space. Turning the page, she mumbled to her seat mate keeping her own curiosity about him in check. He was a man that clearly wanted to be left alone, but that was until she was dragged in to the imposition his celebrity caused him. “Your lady?”

“They usually leave me alone if I have company.”

She smiled, not able to resist the urge to tease him. “Glad to know I could be of assistance. By the way, I’d be highly upset if after all I did to save you from your fans if my man happens to forget my birthday this year.”

He laughed and the sound of it stirred her soul. She placed the magazine on her lap and turned to get a good look at him. He kept his head down, but she still noticed the intensity in his golden brown hazel eyes beneath thick, dark furrowed brows. A passerby interrupted their polite conversation by calling out “The Warrior.” With his head still bent, she saw his face go from relaxed to obvious discomfort. A group of young men repeated the nickname and the guy beside her clenched his jaw. Strong, angry nostrils flared above full lips and for some reason, Diane felt the need to protect him.

Her soft voice broke the tension and she placed her hand atop his forearm. “I take it you would rather they don’t recognize you.”

“Right now just isn’t the best time for me.”

“You must be pretty famous. People are whispering and staring at you.” Diane watched the corridor fill with people slowing down just long enough to get a glimpse of The Warrior as he waited at the gate.

He shrugged and shifted again in his seat, not saying anything but also not moving to get from under her touch.

A gate attendant appeared and offered him two small white flight pillows. He struggled as the attendant watched without offering any more help that might invade this man’s space. On instinct, Diane reached to help, placing the pillows behind his back only pausing to ask if that made him feel any better. When he nodded, the attendant returned to her post at the counter.

His laborious effort of pointing behind him was just as uncomfortable for her to watch. “Landed on my back during last night’s game.”

“Game?”

He smiled and laughed again.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re refreshing.”

“No. I’m just confused. Would it be safe to assume you are referring to basketball?”

He nodded.

“No need in telling me more. I don’t follow sports so any conversation about teams and the like would be wasting your time and mine. But I do hope you find relief soon.”

The Warrior smiled and signaled to get the gate attendant’s attention.

“Your ticket?” he asked Diane.

“My what?”

He pointed toward the sign with their destination and flight number nearby. “Are you going to New Orleans, too?”

“Uh, yes.”

He stared at the ticket she used as a placeholder in the magazine and slipped it from between the pages before handing it to the attendant. “There was a mixup when my lady and I made our travel reservations. Is there any way you could seat her beside me in first class?”

Turning back to Diane after the attendant walked away, he offered a stiff shrug. “Like I said earlier, I hurt my back in the game and now the spasms are killing me. I just want to rest during the flight. Do you mind sitting with me? That’s the only way I can make sure whoever has that seat doesn’t work my nerves the next few hours.”

Diane looked back at the uniformed woman that was still smiling and typing on the computer terminal in front of her. “Why me?”

He lifted his head and once their eyes met, Diane felt herself drawn to him. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the attendant returned holding a new ticket out for Diane to accept.
“Mr. Scott, we’re about to start boarding, but I’m willing to allow you and your companion early entry so you can get situated. Please follow me.”

Diane paused, but he nodded after standing and gestured for her to follow. Collecting her belongings and his small bag so he didn’t have to bend down to retrieve it, she walked with him toward the jet bridge.


About ‘Ivy’s League’By any measure, she is a success. By any measure that is, except her own.

Ivy Livingstone has entrée into Washington DC’s political elite, lives in an exclusive neighborhood and sends her son to a sought-after private school. But her beautiful life is a gilded cage. She is independent, but alone. And unfortunately, very few men are confident enough to believe they are in Ivy’s league.

Eli Thomason has all the confidence in the world, except when it comes to his own judgment about women. And his attraction to Ivy Livingstone proves him right. She is everything he shouldn’t want: a woman above his station and beyond his means. He overreached once before and still lives with the heartbreaking consequences, so why does he find it so difficult to leave Ivy alone?

And if their own baggage isn’t enough, Ivy and Eli have to contend with circumstances around them that seem to confirm their worst fear: that the bond they’re beginning to build can’t possibly last.

Excerpt:

As they drove, in a companionable silence, it was a complete contrast to the tension-filled trip the evening before. The morning was cool enough that Eli had to turn the heat on for the first few minutes, but after that, it was comfortable, and one of the most beautiful fall mornings Ivy could remember. The sky was the brightest blue and large cotton-ball clouds drifted by. She rested her feet on the dashboard and saw Eli glance at them, shaking his head but not complaining about them being there.

“Yknow last night?” Ivy ventured. “When a lot of things got said in like, the throes of … passion or whatever, I just wondered how many of those things hold up now, the morning after.”

“Things like what?”Eli asked.

“Things like, ‘you’re mine’ … things like that,” she said.

Eli glanced at her. “Second thoughts?”

“No,” she said quickly. “I just want to make sure you don’t have any. Men have a way of …”

“Talking nonsense before they bust a nut?”

Ivy laughed. “Well, yeah.”

“Not this man. I meant it.” He gave her another long look.

“So. At Woodmore, how does that … how are we going to make that work?”

“What the heck does Woodmore have to do with it?” Eli asked. “It’s none of their business what we do. And besides, who even knows if we talk to each other outside of that parking lot? Who would care?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Jenna Tate for instance.”

For what seemed like a long time, Eli said nothing. “How do you know about her?”

“She approached me. The morning you were sick and didn’t come. She walked up to me and made it pretty crystal clear that you and she … knew each other.”

Eli sniffed. “That was nothing. And it’s over with. Obviously.”

“Were there others?”

“No. It only took one time for me to know that it was a dummy-move in the first place.”

“Well, not one time, Eli. Because now there’s me,” Ivy pointed out.

“You think for one second, what’s going on here is like what happened with me and Jenna Tate?” he asked. He sounded angry.

“I don’t know. Because I have no idea what happened with Jenna Tate.”

“I told you, it was nothing. A horny woman who wanted to slum it for a while, and a guy dumb enough to walk right into it.”

“She wasn’t ‘slumming-it’ with you, Eli. You have to stop saying stuff like that.”

“That may not be the way I think of myself, Ivy, but it’s definitely the way some of those folks at Woodmore see me. And if you pretend otherwise, you’re kidding yourself.”

Ivy exhaled. “We’re getting off-topic. I want to know how we’re going to handle when we’re at the school. Our boys go there; it’s a very conservative school, so we can’t expose them to any …blowback.”

“What blowback? And how will we handle what exactly?”

“Eli, I don’t want to fight. I just want to know how I handle the Jenna Tates and the other women who might be curious about our relationship. What would you have me say to them?”

Suddenly Eli was pulling over to the side of the road, doing so abruptly enough that the tires screeched and gravel on the shoulder sprayed behind them. He turned to look at her, and Ivy feared for a moment that he was really angry. But he wasn’t. The only looks in his eyes were certainty, and steely determination.

“What I expect,” he said, “is for you to tell them if they ask that I’m your man. If any of them step to me, I intend to say that you’re my woman. And if any of the Upstanding Christian Brothers over there step to you, I expect you to do the same.”

Ivy’s lips twitched. “What did you call them? Upstanding …”

“I’m serious, Ivy. As for the school and the administrators, it’s none of their business, and where anyone else is concerned, you’re off the damn market.”

Ivy leaned over and nuzzled him. “I swear to god, I just got wet when you said that.”


To attend ‘Wine with Writers’ in Washington DC, buy tickets here.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: Eli’s Way

Eli's Way cover2COMING … Sooner or Later (you know I’m terrible about predicting these things), the sequel to ‘Ivy’s League’

________

From ‘Eli’s Way’:

On October 12, 2009, Eli Thomason awoke to the clear and certain knowledge that he was no longer in love with his wife. Like opening his eyes the morning after suffering through a long and uncomfortable fever, he felt the absence of that love and the lightness and emptiness in his heart where it once had been. It happened just that suddenly.

He sat up in bed and took a breath, allowing the feeling to settle inside him, examining it for authenticity. It was true—he didn’t love Stacy anymore.

She’s gone, he whispered.

Later, when he was busy and occupied with his day, the full dimensions of the realization would have dulled a little bit, but the core of his new understanding would remain—his marriage was as good as over.

What did you say?

Next to him in bed, Stacy rolled over and mumbled, looking up at him with sleepy, half-open eyes. She was just as pretty as she had always been, and now, like this, even sexy. But he felt nothing for her. The evening before had been rough and tension-filled, as most of their evenings now were.

Nothing, he said.

Stacy turned over and hugged her pillow in a way she had not hugged him in ages, already uninterested in him and whatever it was he might have had to say.

She was gone. From his heart, and now, Eli knew, soon to be gone from his life as well.

_________________

And on Tuesday February 2nd, 2015, Eli Thomason woke up with the clear and certain knowledge that he was in love in Ivy Livingstone, and would be for the rest of his life. He didn’t know how he knew, but he just did. Only three weeks since their long separation over the holidays, and one week since he had begun sleeping in her bed again, and yet he knew.

“Why don’t you do it here?”

Here?”

“Yes. Do it in the basement. There’s a lot more room, and if you’re going to be spending the entire day watching football, at least I get to know that you’re nearby.”

Only partly dressed, Ivy stuck her head out of her dressing room as she stepped into her skirt. She paused as she awaited his response. Eli smiled at her, his gaze scanning the length of her legs, clad in dark, opaque tights. Jaden was at his father’s so they could take their time getting ready for work and have breakfast together. Ivy still preferred that her son not wake up with Eli in the house since they hadn’t quite broken it to him that “Mr. Eli” was a little more than a “friend” to Mommy.

But having him host a Super Bowl party at her place certainly sounded like the kind of thing a woman would be comfortable with only if she was planning for a man to be around for a long time. Particularly since Ivy herself couldn’t care less about what was up in the NFL on any given Sunday.

“What’s the hesitation about?” she laughed, emerging from her dressing room and grabbing a silk blouse off her armchair and shrugging it on. “You’ll get to use that basement you helped me fix up. Or is it that you don’t want your friends to meet me?”

“Some of my friends can get real rowdy on Super Bowl Sunday,” Eli warned, though his misgivings went much deeper than that.

“So what? Don’t all men get rowdy on Super Bowl Sunday? The only condition I have is that you not expect me to fetch and carry buffalo wings, and chips and beer and what-not. Another thing that happens to men during football season is that they turn into Neanderthals and start ordering their women around.” She winked at him and went looking for her pumps.

While she executed her search mission, Eli reached for his overnight bag and grabbed his undershirt. He had a job clear on the other side of the Beltway and would have to leave in half an hour if he wanted to be at the job-site before his guys got there. But for that time constraint, he would have wanted to have more of a conversation about this. Hosting a football party with a bunch of dudes at Ivy’s house shouldn’t be that big a deal, but it was. Last night he noticed when he opened the fridge that she had added some of his favorites to her grocery list, and in her bathroom, there were new toiletries, an extra toothbrush, razors and other items he invariably forgot to bring when he spent the night.

For Ivy, these things were a natural progression of their relationship and she didn’t make a big deal or attach any expectations to them. But Eli did. They had stumbled a little coming out of the gate, but now he felt as though they were as strong a unit as he’d ever known. And if he’d learned anything about Ivy, he was pretty sure she was ten steps ahead of him, and probably already knew what he had only that morning realized—that any outcome other than the two of them being together was unacceptable.

Catch up by reading ‘Ivy’s League’! Available now on Kindle and Nook.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: Ivy’s League

Strong Enough promoMost Sundays I just post a sample and let it speak for itself. This time, I wanted to tell you a little more about why I wrote this book. I had a couple of creative inspirations, as I mentioned in a previous blog, and this book came out of me and poured onto the page in less than a week because of that inspiration. But in addition to the folks that helped this idea germinate, for a while I’ve observed something interesting: while some Black women have been bemoaning the lack of “good men” there is a segment who see that problem from a unique perspective–meeting men who are perfectly “good” but who think that by virtue of  her individual success somehow, she would not consider them as partners. And of course, there’s always the segment of friends and family who are beating that drum as well and reinforcing the “scarcity of men” message, but particularly for women who are successful in their own right.

I have a friend who was planning to buy a house and her mother told her not to because then “men will think they can’t do anything for you that you can’t do yourself.” Her mother was basically telling her not to price herself out of the market! (She went ahead and bought the house, by the way).

Another variation on this theme comes when, like Ivy, a successful woman meets a man whose own success is comparatively modest and he starts hearing our society’s mantra in his head about men having to be the breadwinner and provider so the relationship goes awry either because he begins to feel competitive with his woman, or simply insecure. And of course it’s not always the man’s fault. I personally know a couple women who thought they were prepared to be in a relationship with a man with less than them, and who later found out that it was they who were hearing that mantra about men providing and they who came to resent their man for not being that person. One friend complained to me about her man not being able to cover the full cost of an expensive tropical vacation she’d planned for them.

Now, of course my little book doesn’t give any answers to this dilemma, but it was a lot of fun describing all the troubling questions that arise. Anyway, I hope you’ll check it out. And to help encourage you to do that, here’s a little snippet of ‘Ivy’s League’.


From  ‘Ivy’s League’:

He was there for almost thirty minutes, standing by himself near the bar before Ivy noticed he was gone. And when she did, Eli watched her look frantically around the room like someone who had just realized they misplaced their car keys or phone. Then she stood and finally located him, her shoulders sagging in relief. Leaning over to whisper something in Ryann’s ear, she gave a brief wave to Bernie and the other guy and then headed toward him.

“What’s the matter?” she mouthed when she was directly in front of him.

Over her shoulder, back over at the sofas, Eli saw Ryann shake her head and roll her eyes.

“I’m tired, Ivy,” he said loud enough so he could be sure she heard him. “It’s been kind of a long day.”

“Okay, so let’s go. Why didn’t you say something?” She took his hand and after one last wave in the direction of her friends, they left.

In the truck, Ivy immediately slid her shoes off her feet and curled them beneath her, using her coat as a blanket and resting her head on his arm. Eli’s minor irritation grew. He needed her to recognize his mood and respond to it; he didn’t want to have to tell her he was feeling crappy. As unfair as it was, that was what he felt like right now—and if Ivy wasn’t half-drunk and hadn’t been spending all her time with her friends she would have detected his mood ages ago. Because that was the way Ivy was with him—attentive, nurturing, intuiting what he wanted in and outside the bedroom.

In just a matter of weeks, Eli was strung out on that, and on her. He wanted her all the damn time, and it frustrated him that in watching her with her friends tonight, he realized something—it wasn’t the same for her. She had a complete other life without him in it. If he wasn’t there, she would find a Bernie to fill his slot in an instant.

“How much did you drink?” He was picking a fight and he knew it. But if he was uncomfortable, he was damned if she wasn’t going to be uncomfortable too.

“I can’t even remember. We started early, like I told you. Ugh. I better get lots of water in me tonight.”

“Right. Because I don’t want you hung over at my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner.”

At that, Ivy sat up and looked at him. “I’ll be fine for tomorrow. All I need is a lot of water.”

“Because you’ve done this before, I guess.”

“Done what before, Eli? Gone out with friends and had a couple too many. Yeah, I guess I have. But only very occasionally. Unless you forget, I have Jaden most of the time, so it’s not like this is a habit or something.”

“And what about that Bernie guy? Him hanging on you like that, is that a habit?”

“Eli.” Ivy’s voice was firm and she sounded completely sober all of a sudden. “Stop it. What is it? What’s really going on?”

And at that, he deflated. Eli’s heart contracted with a strong emotion he recognized all too well. Except this was stronger, deeper than anything he’d felt before. This was so strong, so deep he could almost feel it choking him. She knew him. She knew him. It had been no time at all, and she could read him like a book.

“Bad day,” he managed. “That’s all.”

Ivy reached out and touched his cheek. “Sorry to hear that, baby,” she said, stroking him there. “Want to talk about it?”

Eli told her about the check bouncing and about the overdraft, about his fears for the winter and about Zion’s school fee. On any other day, he might not have thrown that part in, but what the hell? The weight of it felt like too much sometimes, and Ivy was always there, wanting to lighten the load.

“I’ll take care of it,” she said unexpectedly.

“Take care of what?”

“All of it. I’ll loan you some cash until you clear things up, and then …”

“No. I’m not letting you pay my son’s school fees. My bank fees.”

“I’m doing neither of those things. I’m loaning you some money for a couple weeks, and that’s all.”

“What’s the difference?” Eli snapped, his voice sharper than intended.

“The difference is I’m not giving you something you wouldn’t otherwise have, I’m just helping you stop the bleeding until you can catch up with the person who put you in this mess.”

“And if I don’t? If they don’t pay me right away? Then I’ll owe you.”

“And wouldn’t you rather?” Ivy challenged. “Wouldn’t you rather owe me than Woodmore? Than the bank?”

“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t.”

“Then you’re an idiot,” Ivy said. This time she was the one who snapped.

She pulled away, leaning against the passenger side door rather than on him, and neither of them spoke for the rest of the way to her house, which was saying something since the ride was not a short one. Once there, Ivy got out before him, walking barefoot to the front door and letting herself in, leaving it open for Eli to follow.

He had spent many nights here before, and was familiar with every room now, but tonight it felt foreign. Its … niceness was an affront. The high ceilings he admired, the granite countertops in the kitchen and pristine floors throughout were all trumpeting his failure and crying out her success. Eli dropped his overnight bag at the foot of the stairs leading to the second level, considering whether he should stay.

“Do you want one?” Ivy was standing in front of her Viking refrigerator, holding a bottle of water up to him.

“No thanks,” Eli shook his head. “Look …” he began. In the kitchen, her back to him as she stood in front of the open fridge, Ivy froze, waiting. “I think I’m just going to head out. I need to be alone tonight. Tomorrow I’ll just come before dinner to get …”

“No.” Ivy turned and shut—no, slammed—the refrigerator door.

It was Eli’s turn to freeze.

“You’re staying here,” she said. “That’s what we planned and that’s what we’re doing. I’m not letting you go off somewhere and lick your wounds because you had a bad day and God forbid, I’m in the financial position to help. No, Eli. We are not doing that. You’re not leaving.”

He gave a brief laugh.  “Ivy, what the … what’re you going to do? Physically prevent me?”

She came from behind the kitchen counter and stood in front of him. “Of course, I can’t do that,” she said, and her lips were trembling.

Feeling like an asshole, Eli put a hand at the side of her face. “Look, don’t … don’t cry or anything, a’ight? You just don’t understand, Ivy. As a man, I can’t …”

“Stand the idea that I might have something you don’t? That I can help when you need it? No, I don’t understand—you’re right. What if the situation were reversed? Would you want to help me?”

“Of course. But that’s what a man is supposed to do!”

“And a woman is supposed to be her man’s helpmate.”

Eli exhaled and ran a hand over his head, removing his knit cap and resting it on the foyer table. His coat he removed and hung in the coat closet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ivy’s shoulders relax now that she knew he wasn’t leaving.

“C’mon,” he said, taking her hand and grabbing his bag. “Let’s just go upstairs and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”

By her slight hesitation, Eli knew that Ivy’s impulse was to insist that they stay and talk it out. But it didn’t matter how long they talked, or what she said. He wasn’t taking her money. To do so would make him feel small, and that wasn’t what he wanted to feel with her. That was too much like the place he’d been before.


‘Ivy’s League’ is available now on Kindle and Nook.

Thursday Teaser: Ivy’s League – AVAILABLE NOW.

Ivy bed promo flat largeFrom ‘Ivy’s League’:

“Eli … stop. You know I can’t stay any longer. Your mother’s going to be here any minute with …” Ivy gasped at the sensation as his tongue made contact. She was already incredibly sensitive and a little sore from the night before.

But god that felt good …

Eli …” She looked down at the mound that was his head, moving beneath the sheets; and almost of their own volition, her legs spread wider, instead of closing which was what her brain had instructed them to do.

Her overnight stay had been unscheduled and unplanned, taking place after a Woodmore Praise Chapel during which both their kids had performed. Gavin attended, and afterwards asked whether Jaden could spend the night, and so with a couple of hasty text messages to Eli, Ivy inveigled him to make similar arrangements for Zion if he could. Then there was a speed-race down the Capital Beltway to his house, where they both barely got in the door before he was on her. Ivy’s face was pressed against the wall, her pants unceremoniously yanked down, and her underwear ripped until it was a useless rag.

But the interlude was destined to be brief because it was a weekday morning and Zion was on his way back here with his grandmother to get dressed for school; and Ivy had to run home and pack a bag for Jaden and meet his father in the parking lot at Woodmore to hand them over since this was his weekend.

The sun had not yet risen and it was bitterly cold. Around Eli’s house, there were several mature trees, and though few of them still bore leaves, Ivy could hear the wind through the branches, making it difficult for her to come to complete wakefulness. The last thing she wanted was to leave this bed, and this man who now was sliding up along the length of her body, his hand on her inner thigh, stroking and coaxing.

“One more time,” he breathed.

“Eli, we can’t.”

“One more,” he said again.

He nudged against her, and Ivy realized that he wasn’t wearing a condom. He froze, and that was when she knew he realized the omission too. They were face to face now, and their eyes met. Eli’s held a question. Without saying a word, Ivy answered him, arching slightly upward off the bed and allowing him to slide deep inside her.

Damn you feel good,” he said, pushing even deeper and clutching her ass with both hands.

Ivy pulled her knees toward her chest and wrapped her legs high up and around his back. Eli increased his pace, thrusting hard and long and deep. The pressure and pleasure and rhythm all rolled into one delectable and indescribable sensation, and Ivy’s eyes lost focus.

“You with me, baby?” Eli asked breathlessly, sounding, Ivy thought, a little panicky.

That was quick, and unlike him. But she could certainly relate. Without the latex barrier, every feeling was so much more … vivid. Eli was about to come. He didn’t want to do it without her, and from experience Ivy knew he would hold out to the point of discomfort to avoid it.

Through her pleasure, she smiled. Oh Eli, she thought, this macho bullshit has got to stop.

Struggling to focus, she raised her head and licked his earlobe, then took it between her lips and gently sucked, tugging it once, twice, and then …

“Goddammit!” Eli grunted and went stiff as a board. For the first time, Ivy felt his release deep inside her. It felt right, the way their lovemaking was supposed to be. She clenched tighter, pulling him in and holding him there.

She opened her eyes still smiling, but Eli was not.

“I told you don’t do that!” he hissed.

Ivy giggled.

AVAILABLE NOW. #2 AA Literary Fiction.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vb8C5R
B&N: http://bit.ly/1NOPG7i

The Book Where Nothing Happens

UPDATE: AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

I like books where nothing happens.

I know, I can feel you rolling your eyes and thinking, “What on earth is she on about now? And where is that Acosta book she’s been promising forever?” But stay with me … Though Ivy's LeagueI am as much  a fan of books where there’s lots of action and surprises I especially love books (and movies) where there is the slow evolution of characters as they realize something about themselves, their lives and their relationships. That happens sometimes in the middle of a crisis, but sometimes it happens in slow stages, as they’re going about living their daily lives. Something small may happen to trigger big changes.

So recently, after reading a few books like that, I decided to write one. And I have to give credit where it’s due–this book happened because of women I know, because of experiences in my own life and in no small part because I read a book called. ‘The Reeducation of Aria Jackson’ by Angelia Vernon Menchan, and another called ‘A Natural Woman’ by Lori Johnson, and also because of something Aja Graves said in passing which she now tells me she has no recollection of.

I mention these inspirations because it’s not often that you know from whence you’re stealing your ideas as a writer, so when on the odd occasion I have that level of self-awareness, I like to holler it out. Anyways, ‘Ivy’s League’ is a mashup of ideas from all those people. It’s a book about a woman not unlike most of the women I know, and about a man, not unlike some of the men I know. And its about their slow coming together. Other than that, not much of anything happens. But I had fun writing it, and hope you’ll have fun reading it.

‘Ivy’s League’ will be on Amazon on Monday, September 21st and on Barnes & Noble shortly thereafter.

And yes, Miri Acosta and her education are still on the way. Soon.


About ‘Ivy’s League’

By any measure, she is a success. By any measure that is, except her own.

Ivy Livingstone has entrée into Washington DC’s political elite, lives in an exclusive neighborhood and sends her son to a sought-after private school. But her beautiful life is a gilded cage. She is independent, but alone. And unfortunately, very few men are confident enough to believe they are in Ivy’s league.

Eli Thomason has all the confidence in the world, except when it comes to his own judgment about women. And his attraction to Ivy Livingstone proves him right. She is everything he shouldn’t want: a woman above his station and beyond his means. He overreached once before and still lives with the heartbreaking consequences, so why does he find it so difficult to leave Ivy alone?

And if their own baggage isn’t enough, Ivy and Eli have to contend with that of everyone around them, hell-bent on confirming their worst fear: that the bond they’re beginning to build can’t possibly last.


From Ivy’s League:

“What’s going on, girl? You all alone finally?” Ryann answered her phone without greeting.

“Yup. Gavin and Jaden just left. Now I’m bored.”

“Call up your little Toolbelt Stud and tell him to come over,” Ryann laughed. “You don’t know when you might get another chance, since Gavin is only a seasonal father.”

“I’m sorry I mentioned him to you at all,” Ivy said, though she had been thinking along the same lines herself.

“Why? First time in months I heard you talk about a man!”

“Because now you’re going to pressure me to do something you know I’m not comfortable doing.”

“Look, the worst has already happened,” Ryann argued. “Your goofy ass fell out and showed your literal ass, so it can only get better from here.”

Ivy laughed and idly reached down, yanking up the leg of her sweats and running her fingertips over the scrape on her knee. “So you think I should just call him and … what? Ask him out on a date?”

“Why not? It’s the twenty-first century, Ivy. Women who wait around for a man to make the first move wind up … waiting around.”

“I don’t know,” Ivy said. “What if he has a girlfriend?”

“Then hopefully he’ll say so from jump and you won’t almost get cut up by some pissed-off chick from Southeast showing up in your driveway at two in the morning looking for her man.”

“You scare me sometimes, you know that? That sounded way too detailed to be made up on the spur of the moment.”

“Who said it was made up? I didn’t ever tell you about …. Oh crap. I have to go, girl. I see one of my targets walking through the lobby. Let me go see if I can talk to him. He should be good for at least two hundred grand for the Foundation.”

“Okay, I’ll call you later.”

“Don’t,” Ryann said. “Don’t call me until and unless you’ve called that man first. And you better have a good story to tell too, or I’ll hang up on you.” And then she did just that.

Ivy walked through kitchen, picking up the remains of her and Jaden’s early breakfast, dumping leftover food in the trash and the dishes in the sink. Looking around her, she admired her kitchen.

Large and sunny, the surfaces were all white granite, the cabinets, dark oak. She had paid a pretty penny to have it renovated when she moved in, proud of the accomplishment of buying her first home, and filled with a bursting sense of endless possibilities. She would entertain; friends would sit around the center island with long-stemmed glasses filled with the best chardonnay. She would serve goat cheese and Scottish smoked salmon on rosemary and basil crostini, and they would all have clever conversation about the Obama Administration.

But once she and Jaden had moved in, Ivy grew weary of the constant din of construction, and more than that, wary of the numbers being quoted to her by unscrupulous contractors for whom a single woman of means was like blood in the water to man-eating sharks.

She had gotten as far as the kitchen but still had the basement to go, and there was a stubborn recurring clog in her guest bathroom that made her have to steer overnight guests to her master bath instead. It hadn’t been a huge problem thus far because overnight guests were rare. Only her mother, her Aunt Gwen, and Ryann when she had too many glasses of pinot, ever needed to spend the night. One day, though, Ivy would have to get that bathroom fixed.

One day. Or ….

Ivy paused, leaning over her sink and biting into her lower lip.

It was what Ryann would call a “bitch-move”—calling Eli up and telling him she needed some work on her house just so she could see him again. But the fact of the matter was, she did need some work done on her house and the chance of him actually cheating her on the price was slim-to-none since they kind of knew each other. And he probably went to Woodmore Church and was in the Men’s Auxiliary or something. Guys like that didn’t cheat single mothers out of their hard-earned money did they?

Finding her purse, Ivy fished out the business card he’d handed her just before they parted. The card was simple and tasteful, with none of those superlatives (fast, excellent service!) that made her instantly suspicious. Instead it consisted of just six words, and a phone number in a simple, unadorned script.

Thomason Home Improvements

Repairs. Remodels. Restoration.

The card stock was expensive and dense though, so Eli Thomason clearly recognized that the simplicity of the words had to be offset by a subtle nod to quality of workmanship. She smiled, liking him more by the second.

At the school, even though she had a mission to get Jaden’s birthday stuff down to the Café and get to work, she had been almost excruciatingly aware of him walking just behind her, except for when he held the doors open for her—or standing just over her shoulder. It was ridiculous, but he just felt … solid. A strong reassuring presence that a woman could lean into, bury her face into his chest and just … cry.

Ivy shook her head. What a ridiculous thought! Why would she need to cry?

Her life was good. People probably envied her. She had a four-bedroom house in one of the best neighborhoods in the Washington DC suburbs, where the value of real estate only ever increased; her son was handsome and healthy and well taken care of; she had friends (a few anyway) and a career that gave her the chance to influence causes she cared deeply about. And on her best days, she felt pretty, didn’t carry an extra ounce of weight, was in good health and fairly young. Why on earth would she need to cry?

Shoving the question out of her mind, and pushing even further down the possible answers to the question, Ivy reached for the phone. She hadn’t given Eli her number because he didn’t ask, so there was a good chance he might not answer. Hesitating, she dialed the number but did not hit the ‘send’ button.


Happy Reading!

N.