You’re Invited to a Book Chat on ‘The Come Up’!

Book chat The Come UpSome of you, I know in the “real world” but sadly, others I only know in cyberspace. That makes it difficult for me to interface with folks who enjoyed my work (or didn’t) and who want to talk about it. But thank goodness for Facebook! It’s provided me the space to communicate directly with readers who not only give me feedback on my work, but great ideas about what I might write next.

After I wroteAfterwards and Afterburn, my most well-received books to date, I heard from a lot of readers who were intrigued with a secondary character, Jamal Turner. The resident Casanova from those books, who “tapped more ass than Usher.” I never planned a book on Jamal, and was frankly a little perplexed about why folks found him that interesting. But as I re-read the parts of my book where he appeared, I too became intrigued and wondered more about him. And it was from that ‘wondering’ that ‘The Come Up’ was born.

So again, I have to thank my readers, not just for liking what I write, but for inspiring what I write. Jamal Turner’s story led to the development of two other characters, Makayla and Devin. Now I’ve heard from a few folks that they’d love to talk about them and that’s amazing. So, hosted by my good friend, writer, Tia Kelly, I will be participating in an online book chat this Sunday at 5PM EST, on Facebook.

If you have the time and the will, please join us by clicking here and RSVP-ing to the event. There will be polls, games, and giveaways, and of course, just good old-fashioned conversation about books. And if you haven’t yet read ‘The Come Up’, get your copy!

On Amazon or Barnes&Noble.com

About the book:

Jamal Turner is near the top of his game. Widely-known as the trusted right-hand man to music mogul Chris Scaife, he’s poised to become chief operating officer of his friend and mentor’s international recording conglomerate. But while his career prospects have never been better, Jamal is still plagued by the memories of his humble beginnings, threatening to pull him back down just as he’s on the come up. 

Makayla Hughes knows who she is and where she comes from, and she flat out refuses to allow working in the high-powered recording industry to change her or her most closely-held friendships. But when she’s thrown into close quarters, working on a project with the notorious Jamal Turner, she begins to wonder whether her determination to ‘keep it real’ is also keeping her world very, very small. 

Jamal is drawn to Makayla, but he can’t let the man he used to be stand in the way of the man he’s becoming. There’s no doubt she fits into the life Jamal used to have, but what’s not as clear is whether she belongs in the life he wants. 

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘ The Come Up’ — COMING MARCH 14.

Makaylapromo2From ‘The Come Up’:

“Don’t you want to know what happened?” she asked.

“Nope.”

“Really?”

Jamal saw out of the corner of his eye that she had turned in her seat to look at him. “Really.”

“How come?”

Pulling out of traffic and onto a side-street, he hit the button above his visor that opened his building’s private garage. As they pulled down the ramp, Makayla seemed momentarily distracted, looking around the well-lit expanse in the underbelly of one of Manhattan’s most exclusive addresses. The apartment was expensive, no doubt about that, but the parking space was as well. In New York City, off-street parking was among the most prime of prime real estate.

“So how come you’re not curious about what happened when I went upstairs?” Makayla asked again.

“Because I’ve seen it a million times. I know that scenario so well, I could write the script.” He backed into the numbered parking space that was mere steps away from the elevator. Its location had been one of the main selling points, and had set him back an extra ten grand over some of the other spaces would have, but Jamal still considered it money well-spent.

“That’s kind of sad.”

“What is?”

“What these guys do to their women. Just because they can. All the cheating and lying. And y’know what the saddest part was?”

Jamal turned off the engine and gave her his complete focus. “What was the saddest part?”

“I could tell she didn’t believe me. She knew I was lying about it being my bag, but she chose to accept it. It was almost like she wanted me to tell the lie.”

Jamal shrugged. “Maybe she did. Because then it gives her the excuse she needs to stay.”

At that, Makayla said nothing, looking straight ahead.

“C’mon, let’s go up,” Jamal said, touching her arm. “Forget about all that.”

While they rode up in the elevator, Makayla remained quiet and Jamal wondered whether he’d made a mistake by exposing her so early to the seedier side of their work. This wasn’t the first time he had helped one of his artists out of a jam when they were deceiving a spouse. In fact, this was one of the tamest episodes he’d ever been involved in; and it was only because he knew the spouse in question that he was able to send Makayla up there on her own. Some women were considerably less reasonable and much more prone to violence. Once, he had personally had to talk down the knife-wielding fiancée of a top ten recording artist while she threatened to “slice his Johnson off.”

Three-Base’s domestic drama wasn’t the worst Jamal had seen by a longshot, but he was definitely a serial offender in the game of adultery; and Makayla was right, Missy wanted to be lied to. She made a lot of noise about her husband’s infidelities, but had yet to make even the slightest gesture toward separation. In fact, the few times he’d been caught red-handed, her way of coping had been to slam the other woman on social media. It was hard to maintain sympathy for a woman in a situation like that.

In the hallway leading to his apartment, Makayla walked slowly, so Jamal modulated his pace to match hers. Tonight at the book party, he wanted to spend a lot more time with her, but it was a work event, so there were about a dozen people he needed to touch base with. While he did, he couldn’t help but watch her across the room. She spent most of her time with Devin, both of them obviously thick as thieves, talking with heads together and laughing at private jokes. Occasionally, someone approached Devin and Makayla wandered away on her own, a drink in hand that she never actually took a single sip from that he could see, and an almost shy smile on her face.

She was still getting her legs under her in this world, and hadn’t yet come to realize that at events like that, she was supposed to be networking, introducing herself to people, and getting in with the right ones. Jamal would teach her all that in time.

“Here we are.”

He stopped at his door and fished out his keys while Makayla waited. Holding her clutch purse in both hands, Jamal could see the subtle lift and fall of her shoulders as she took a breath. She was nervous.

When the door opened, she paused before going in. Jamal watched her take it in. Immediately opposite the front door was the sitting area, flanked by a wall of windows, opening out to magnificent view of the Hudson. This view alone had sold Jamal on the place when he first looked at it. The price, then, had been somewhat out of his reach and the mortgage required him to forgo a lot of other stuff for a while, like furniture. For eighteen months, he’d lived in an apartment empty of furnishings except for a bed and dresser, just so he could come home to this view.

Makayla took a few steps in, and looked right and left. His living room was ultra-modern, with pieces in white and pewter. A white stacked slate fireplace was to the left, and behind it the kitchen. To the right, a long narrow hallway led to the two large bedroom suites, and an entertainment room where Jamal rarely entertained, but often sat with this laptop or tablet, or watching a solitary game. Though he had imagined his bachelor pad as teeming with people and parties, once he moved in, he found that he really wanted it to be his sanctuary. On occasion he had women over, but the parties never happened. His home was, thus far, his greatest accomplishment and he wasn’t eager to expose it to the uncertainties that came with a room full of rowdy guests.

Without waiting for his invitation, Makayla walked through the rooms, one by one, and Jamal silently followed her. She opened doors and looked in the bathrooms (all three of them), sat on his chairs and went to stare for a few moments out the living room window.

“Wow,” she said, when finally she had seen everything.

Jamal smiled.

“I never knew anyone who could afford to live like this in the middle of New York City.”

“I didn’t always live like this.” Jamal shrugged.

“I bet you’re happy you kicked your corporate law career to the curb, huh?”

“Yeah, but not because of the money. Or not just because of the money.” He headed for the kitchen, opening the refrigerator, and Makayla followed. “You want something to eat? They didn’t have much at that party.”

“What have you got?” She put a hand on his back as she leaned around him to peer into the open fridge.

Her hand on his back, exerting very slight pressure, the light scent of her perfume and just the awareness of her being here, in his space felt good. Jamal turned to face her and Makayla looked up at him, expectantly. Her eyes were wide, and large, her nostrils flared slightly and her lips fell apart a little as though she was about to speak. If that was what she intended, Jamal didn’t wait to find out. He kissed her. He couldn’t seem to stop doing that.

Sometimes their kisses were almost whimsical, like in the car earlier outside of Three-Base’s building. Sometimes they were exciting, and dangerous, like when he grabbed her in his office and stole some time before they had to go to a staff meeting. But now, this kiss, this was something else entirely. It was a prelude to something more, so Jamal took his time with it, tugging her lower lip between his, using the tip of his tongue to tease hers and letting her do the same. Both her hands were around him now, and she leaned her head to one side so they could kiss deeper, and harder.

Suddenly, a high-pitched whine broke the quiet and Makayla jerked away from him.

“It’s the fridge. It has a sensor for when the door’s left open,” he explained. Moving them away from it, he reached over to shut it but Makayla stopped him.

“I actually am hungry,” she said with a sly smile.

“Me too,” Jamal said, and she smiled wider, knowing that he wasn’t talking about food.

They made omelets with gruyere, diced tomatoes and onions, and when Jamal tried to go easy on the onions, Makayla playfully dumped more of them in. Jamal planned to take her into the entertainment room to eat but she instead wanted to go out to the balcony where they ignored the dinette and sat side by side on the same lounge chair. The chair was large but still, to accommodate them both, Makayla had to be partly reclined against his chest, which made it awkward for Jamal to eat, but he didn’t say anything because he liked having her there.

“So … about this whole thing with Three-Base,” Makayla said, while she dug into her omelet.

“Aw, man, are you still on that?”

“Yeah. I’m just curious. Don’t you ever feel … like you’re contributing to it, by being the alibi when those guys mess around on their women? Doesn’t it ever make you feel guilty?”

“Not really, no.”

“No?” Makayla turned a little so she could look at him.

The loc that he’d pulled from her bun earlier that evening had come free once again and was resting on her shoulder. Jamal reached for it, feeling its coarse thickness between his fingers. Her locs smelled like coconut.

“I don’t make them cheat. And whether I was there or not, that’s what they would be doing.”

“You sure about that?” she challenged. “If they didn’t know they had a clean-up crew, would they really be as brazen as they are?”

“I’m not the Morality Police. I’m a guy who develops artists, and does what he can to make sure nothing gets in the way of that development …”

“Or in the way of Scaife making money.”

Jamal shrugged. “That too, yeah.”

Makayla turned and leaned against him again, resuming her meal. Though she didn’t say anything, he could feel her disappointment, her judgment.

“If you’re thinking I condone what they do, that I’m cool with it, you would be wrong. If you’re thinking that because they do it, I would do it too …”

“Would you?” She turned and looked at him again.

“No.”

“I want to believe that,” she said finally.

“Look at me.”

She did.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said simply.

“You might not mean to,” Makayla said. “But …”

Jamal grinned. “How do I know you’re not going to hurt me?”

 

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Come Up’

Jamal Turnercolor coverflatMakayla Hughes watched from across the club as Jamal Turner glanced at his watch for the third time in as many minutes. In fact, she’d been watching him ever since he entered. It hadn’t been difficult to do since he was about a head taller than most of the other men there. And the way he carried himself, with such obvious self-assurance was an attention-getter as well. Not that she didn’t already know who he was—everyone at Scaife did.

Jamal Turner was SE’s rainmaker. He secured big names and closed deals, and was known to be in the innermost of inner circles of the big boss himself; sought after by headhunters from Sony, Virgin and just about every other entertainment conglomerate on the planet. But Jamal Turner was almost as emblematic of Scaife Enterprises as the man himself. Not too many people could boast of being practical besties with Robyn Scaife, invited to every single family event and able to get on Chris Scaife’s calendar whenever they wanted; but Jamal Turner could.

Rumor had it he could waltz into Chris Scaife’s office at will, sitting on the edge of his desk and taking the kind of liberties no one else would dare, like calling him “Boss Man” with a mixture of deference and irony that was hard to question. Makayla herself had once heard him do it, when at a company party she was standing just five feet away from Chris Scaife and his pretty wife and Jamal Turner approached them both. Robyn Scaife’s eyes lit up at the sight of him and the boss had looked on with barely concealed amusement as his wife and friend embraced.

To say that Turner’s reputation preceded him would have been an understatement, but precede him it did. Long before she even scored the job in the PR department, Makayla had heard of him, back when she was at CUNY-Brooklyn, scouring the internet for leads on internships in the entertainment industry. Partly because he was known to have forged-in-steel friendships with some of the artists he helped develop, and partly because he was just so damned photogenic.

Jamal Turner was a photographer’s dream. With the dark chocolate complexion, erect, hard-body posture and winning smile, he just begged to be memorialized in photographs. And somewhere along the line, he’d learned the colors that accentuated his rich darkness—orange, white, yellows and occasionally a powder blue. He was gorgeous, there was no getting around that—the kind of gorgeous that could make a girl just the tiniest bit pissed off.

Makayla was a little pissed off now as a matter of fact. Because Turner had called her boss, not her, when he’d requested the meeting with Devin. And because he was standing at the other side of the club, near the stage like he had better places to be, and a better class of people to be with. But she happened to know that he was homegrown, a kid from uptown who’d managed to make good. No matter how many recording superstars he was pictured with in the blogs, he shouldn’t be standing there like this dingy little nightclub was beneath him, because she happened to know it wasn’t.

And finally, Makayla was pissed off because she was nervous, and she never got nervous. Not about anyone. But she was nervous and just a little intimidated, to tell the truth, by Jamal Turner. He had walked by her countless times in the office, usually accompanied by someone else closer to his pay-grade, looking all confident and larger-than-life and just … delicious as all get-out.

She hated to admit it to herself, but the fact that he’d never once turned in her direction with anything approaching interest irked her somewhat. True, she was just an admin assistant, but it wasn’t like she was ugly or anything, and rumor had it that he was one of those men who didn’t even have a “type.” When it came to women, he appeared to like them all. He dated lots of famous and beautiful women, but there were also a fair number of regular girls from around the office who he’d been with as well, some model-like and slender, others heavyset and buxom. Some white chicks, and a few sisters as dark as he was. But while they didn’t seem to fit a certain type, they all had one thing in common—if their post-Jamal behavior was any indication, they mourned the passing of their time with him and would have all loved a reprise of their role as woman on his arm.

Looking down at her jeans and black batwing blouse, she wished she’d dressed up just a little more. Not because she was hoping to capture his eye—or so she told herself—but because she didn’t want to come across as dowdy, either.

But being in a nightclub tonight hadn’t been in Makayla’s plans and so the time had simply gotten away from her. She’d been trying to get some more studying done before heading out for this “quick meet-up.” That was what her boss Serena had called it anyway. Serena was one of five deputy communication directors at Scaife, and handled community relations, doing the PR for anything related to Scaife’s charities. Rarely if ever did she deal with the more glamorous stuff unless there was a celebrity in need of a little image rehab by visiting a children’s cancer ward, or donating money to a school music program. But from the sound of things, she knew Jamal Turner quite well; she certainly seemed eager to help him get to Devin.

I hate to capitalize on a personal relationship, Kay, she’d said, toying with one of her rather large earrings. But it would be a huge deal if you could just arrange this meet-up. Believe me, Jamal knows how to take it from there. All we’re talking about is an hour out of your Saturday night.

And since Makayla pretty much wanted to be Serena one day, she’d agreed. She’d only been working for her for six months, and had yet to find a way to distinguish herself, so this seemed as good a way to do it as any. And if Scaife actually signed Devin because of her intro, there was no telling what that might do for her prospects at the company. Not that signing Devin was anything even approaching likely.

Sighing, Makayla began making her way toward Jamal Turner. She only hoped Devin wasn’t in one of his moods tonight and wouldn’t embarrass her. On her way over to the club, she’d texted him to let him know what was up and he’d promised to be on his best behavior. But Devin was temperamental and always had been, with moods as changeable as the weather. If sound-check hadn’t gone well, or if he got his sneakers scuffed on the subway ride over; if there was someone on drums tonight other than his regular guy, or he’d slept a half hour less than usual the night before … there was no telling how he might show out.

When she was about a foot away from Jamal Turner, Makayla smelled him. She didn’t know how she knew it was him, she just did. It was an unidentified musk, an earthy, sexy, manly scent that had a richness to it that reeked its expense. Walking toward him, he seemed even taller, her head would just about reach his chest; the chest that was accentuated in that bright-white long-sleeved shirt in a clingy fabric. Not too many men could pull off a shirt like that without looking cheesy. Tucked into an army-green tailored pant, he looked … perfect.

Scowling, he reached up and ran a large hand over his closely-shorn head and sighed, taking one last look at his watch. Finally, he pushed himself up and away from the wall where he’d been leaning, with the apparent intention of leaving.

Makayla cleared her throat. “Jamal,” she said. And when he didn’t hear her over the din, she tried again, speaking much louder this time. “Jamal.”

He looked about for a moment, not sure who had spoken his name until finally his eyes rested on her. Jamal Turner smiled.

“You must be …”

“Makayla,” she said extending a hand. “Makayla Hughes.”

COMING FROM NIA FORRESTER

comeup cover absolute final (1)THE COME UP

Jamal Turner is near the top of his game. Widely-known as the trusted right-hand man to music mogul Chris Scaife, he’s poised to become chief operating officer of his friend and mentor’s international recording conglomerate. But while his career prospects have never been better, Jamal is still plagued by the remnants of his humble beginnings, threatening to pull him back down just as he’s on the come up.

Makayla Hughes knows who she is and where she comes from, and she flat out refuses to allow working in the high-powered recording industry to change her. Just a simple girl from the South Bronx, she doesn’t care who knows it. But when she’s thrown into close quarters, working on a project with the notorious Jamal Turner, she begins to wonder whether her determination to ‘keep it real’ is also keeping her world very, very small.

Jamal is drawn to Makayla, but he can’t let the man he used to be stand in the way of the man he’s becoming. There’s no doubt she fits into the life Jamal used to have, but what’s not as clear is whether she belongs in the life he wants.


Mother cover mistress FINALMOTHER

The final part of the ‘Mistress’ Trilogy.

Married to Jayson Holmes, and managing school, an emerging interest in a fashion career, extended family and new friends, Keisha’s life has changed well beyond anything she ever imagined. But Jayson has even more changes on his mind–he wants to be a father.

But how can Keisha, who never believed she would even be a wife, come to terms with an even more challenging role? Will she rise to the occasion and embrace the joy, fear and uncertainty of motherhood? Or will she allow old habits–and old friends–to threaten the fragile peace she’s finally found?