‘The Fall’ – COMING APRIL 20th

TheFall_Forrester_EBOOK (2)

A note from the author:

You may remember Lorna Terry from my book, ‘Commitment’; Riley’s mother, the professor who resented her daughter’s decision to marry a rapper of all things, but more than that, as a radical feminist sometimes resented the very idea of marriage.

Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Lorna Terry seemed to be the most sure of who she was and came to me feeling ‘whole’–like there was very little for me to do but put her on the page. I didn’t wonder how she became the self-assured woman she was, she just … was. But no one comes ‘whole’. We’re all the product of little tiny pieces of experiences, lessons, prejudices, assets and flaws. So I wanted to deconstruct Lorna, figure out who she is, and why she is the woman we see in ‘Commitment’. What I uncovered was someone much more flawed than I expected, and much more layered. I loved writing this book. And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to leave the characters.

On April 20th, I introduce you to her. I hope you love her –with all her flaws and complications–as I do.

About the book:

In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” Having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.

But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …

It cometh before the fall.

From ‘The Fall’:

“It’s so weird visiting you here,” Riley said walking around the office. “I don’t recall ever coming to your office when I was actually enrolled at the college.”

“You didn’t. But I wasn’t in this office. When you were here, I had the much smaller one in Rayburn Hall.”

Riley had left Shawn with the kids for the day and driven up. For lunch was what they said, though they both knew the real reason was to finish the conversation that had been started in Riley’s kitchen a few days after she brought Cassidy home from the hospital. Already, her daughter had resumed the size she was before her pregnancy—breastfeeding and her father’s genes, probably. Lorna remembered carrying around an extra twenty pounds for months after Riley’s birth. And of course, she hadn’t breastfed at all.

“Which classes are having their reunions this year?” Riley asked lifting and inspecting a book on Lorna’s desk.

“Not sure. I usually leave town for all that brouhaha.”

“Which I’m sure makes the deans mad at you. I bet lots of people come just to meet you.”

“Don’t kid yourself. They come to get drunk and sleep with their old college boyfriend or girlfriend, to see whether all those sweet romantic memories are accurate.”

Riley laughed. “Ever the cynic. I had lots of college flings. I can’t imagine being even slightly interested in any of them now.”

“Remember how you never wanted me to meet them?” Lorna asked gathering her bag and keys. “Now that you’re older I can ask: what the hell was up with that?

“I don’t know.” Riley shrugged. “I was probably afraid of them falling in love with you or something.”

“Riley!”

“No, seriously. You always seemed to attract younger men in droves …”

Lorna thought of the grad student, whose name she now knew well—Todd Williamson. And she thought of Malcolm, who lately had begun to seem less and less young.

“That’s not true. Is it?”

“Yes, Mom. Seriously? You don’t remember?”

“No, I don’t. Like … who are you talking about?”

“Like I could remember their names.” Riley scoffed.

Though Lorna knew she didn’t mean it to be cruel or judgmental, the comment stung. There had been men, for sure, but when Riley entered Gilchrist, Lorna hadn’t yet turned forty. She was in her prime, so of course there were men.

“Did I …” She paused while locking her office door. “Did I introduce you to them all?”

“If you could call it that. I ran into some in our kitchen when I stopped by the house, or in the bathroom, or …”

“How is it we never talked about this?”

“What was there to talk about? You had lovers. You never hid that, and you always taught me it was nothing to be ashamed of. So I didn’t …” Riley shrugged again. “It was mostly no big deal. I can’t believe you’re saying you now don’t remember any of this.”

“No,” Lorna said. “I’m not saying I don’t remember any of it. I guess I just remember it differently, that’s all. There were men who were around for longer. There was Earl, there was …”

Riley seemed to detect her consternation and touched her on the forearm. “Lorna, like I said, it was no big deal.”

“You said it was mostly no big deal, actually. That’s not the same thing.”

“Well I meant ‘no big deal’. So anyway, let’s go find someplace to eat. I feel like Italian. How ‘bout you?”

They ate at Andiamo! which was a favorite of the Gilchrist community because of its enormous antipasti selection and could-stuff-a-horse entrée portion sizes. Riley ordered like someone who was still eating for two, but Lorna didn’t bother remarking on it since her daughter never seemed to gain an ounce anyway, and wouldn’t have cared if she did. Lorna herself had only recently begun to care about things like pant sizes and the number on the scale.

“So I want to talk more about me being a bad mother,” Lorna said once they’d placed their orders.

Riley looked at her, freezing just as she was about to dip a piece of bread into the plate of olive oil and cracked pepper between them.

“Who said anything about ..? See this is why we never have these kinds of conversations. When it’s about you, you get incredibly sensitive. And yet you insist on doling out brutal truths to everyone else when it’s about them.”

“What you described earlier, men coming and going, is a pretty shitty mother, that’s all.”

“That’s your judgment of yourself. I never said anything like that.”

“I don’t know how else to …”

“Look, I came here because I wanted to ask you some questions about my father. And suddenly it’s about you. It’s always about you, Lorna.”

“Ah. And now we get the truth.”

“I always tell you the truth. And the truth is this: I never said you were a bad mother. Did I sometimes wish you made it to more PTA meetings? Sure. Did I wish my house didn’t reek of pot when my friends came over when I was in middle school? Of course. Did I occasionally want you to bake some fucking brownies? Yes! But I never said you were a shitty mother!”

Riley raising her voice was so unusual that Lorna was for a few minutes, literally without words.

“I don’t know what narrative you have in your head about yourself that you’re hoping I’ll confirm for you,” Riley continued in a calmer tone. “But I had a pretty good childhood. Some of it not so good, but on balance, good. I don’t know what else you want me to say.”

“I’m … sorry.”

Riley looked up. She seemed surprised. Lorna knew it was because those two words were ones she didn’t often say in sequence. The second one she didn’t often say, period.

“You’re right. This isn’t about me. But I think some of what you said may have triggered me. Made me think of my own mother.”

“What about her?” Riley asked slowly. “We never … You’ve never told me much about your family. I don’t even know if there’s anyone left.”

“I don’t know either,” Lorna said ruefully.

“Mom. Look. If today you don’t feel up to …”

“No. You came up here, so let’s talk.” She nodded. “Let me tell you about your father.”

Riley bit into the crusty bit of bread in her hand, brushing away the crumbs that fell onto her shirt. “Okay, so …”

“It’s hard to talk about him,” Lorna acknowledged.

“Why? Was he like, I don’t know, an asshole to you or something?”

Lorna laughed. “No. Quite the opposite, actually.”

She leaned back and took a deep breath before beginning to speak.

 

 

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Fall’

The Fall Final Promo

From ‘The Fall’:

Tea usually worked to help calm her when her mind was racing, or if she could not sleep. Something like chamomile or peppermint, neither of which she really enjoyed under usual circumstances. But the chamomile didn’t work tonight, and neither did the one very small glass of chardonnay that she had immediately afterwards. Finally, Lorna tried just lying in bed, but when she closed her eyes, she saw Riley’s face—the surprise, and the disappointment, the hurt and the withdrawal.

Sitting up cross-legged after an hour of fruitless tries to get to sleep, she finally gave in to the impulse she’d had since early evening. The jeans she had been wearing that afternoon were on the floor nearby. She put them on. Then she slid her feet into her clogs, pulled a random sweatshirt over her head and left the house without even bothering to check in a mirror to see just how crazy she might look.

Malcolm answered his door surprisingly quickly, and looked tired but not as though he had been asleep. He said nothing when he saw her, but simply looked surprised.

“Are you alone?” Lorna asked.

It had only occurred to her on the drive over that he might not be.

He nodded. “Everything okay?”

“No,” she said. “Not really.”

And then she took a few steps forward which made him step back. He shut the door behind her and locked it.

“Lorna,” he said when they were facing each other again. “What …”

“Nothing. I was home, and couldn’t sleep.”

Malcolm waited for more, but then she saw him decide not to press her further about why she was there.

Lorna advanced slowly, and he watched her, waiting to see what she would do next. She didn’t usually have to initiate anything because normally he wasn’t one to wait. This time he did.

Putting her arms up and around his neck, Lorna exerted gentle pressure to pull him down. She closed her eyes just before their lips met, and relaxed her body against his. His lips softened, but he didn’t do what he always did. He was still holding back, to see what she might do. What she did was kiss him more deeply, press her tongue into his mouth, pull back and capture his lower lip between hers coaxing him, frustrated when he didn’t immediately take charge.

Letting her arms drop, she took a step back and shook her head. “Maybe I made a mistake. I thought …”

“What?”

“Nothing. I just wanted …” She turned away from him, but Malcolm grabbed her arm, pulling her back so she collided with his chest.

“You wanted what?” he demanded.

“I don’t know. I just …”

This?” he said. His lips pressed into hers, bruisingly hard; and he kissed her the way she liked him to—no waiting, no hesitating, just taking. One large hand came up to almost span her neck. He tilted her head to the side, kissing her there as well, his rough stubble scoring her skin. “This what you want?

“Yes.” Lorna exhaled. “This …”

Malcolm reached down and opened her jeans, sliding his hand down into it. He parted her with his fingers, stroking her none too gently while Lorna moved against his hand. His lips came to hers again, and he swallowed her moans, even as the rhythm of his fingers produced more of them. He moved her again, exposing the other side of her neck, licking and biting her there.

Now, he was out of control, but in charge at the same time.

“You came here to get fucked?”

“Yes,” she said again.

Abruptly, Malcolm lifted his head but his hand still worked on her. He looked angry. “I’m more than that, Lo,” he said.

Lo. He had never called her that before.

We’re more than that,” he added.

Lorna looked at him, or tried to. It was difficult to keep her eyes open or even to listen when he was touching her this way. She got on her toes, kissed him again and he made a sound of frustration. Then they were tussling with each other’s clothing, moving, lifting, peeling away. Malcolm had her naked in less than a minute and she had only succeeded in removing his shirt. Lifting her so her legs were wrapped around his torso, he carried her into his bedroom, which was dark. He had been writing, because the light and computer in his office were on. Lorna felt only the tiniest stab of remorse at having taken him away from his work. And even that disappeared when he lay her across the bed and immediately spread her legs wide.

Without further preliminaries, he stripped off what remained of his clothes and sank between her knees, shoving hard inside her with one long thrust. Gasping, Lorna clutched the sheets as Malcolm moved, each time with long, deep strokes. After her body’s initial slight resistance, she loosened and softened around him, warming and becoming more liquid.

Bowing his head as much as he could, Malcolm captured a nipple between his lips, tugging and sucking on it. The feeling was electric. Lorna’s hands came up atop his head, holding him there, and he nipped her, causing her hips to buck upward. When they did, he held her in place and pulled back, both of his hands pressing her immobile into the bed. Shifting tacks, he pulled out of her completely and sat back on his haunches. Hands still on her hips, he dragged her forward so that her butt was on his thighs. Now grabbing her at the knees, Malcolm used her legs as levers while he pumped in and out of her, forward and backward, his eyes trained downward, watching himself.

Lorna’s back was arched, only her shoulders and head making contact with the bed. She opened her eyes and saw only Malcolm’s face in a scowl of pleasure and concentration, his focus on their bodies joining. He didn’t look at her face, which was for a moment mildly troubling until the pleasure overtook all thought, and her head thrashed back and forth.

“This what you want?” Malcolm panted between breaths. “Like this?”

“Yeah,” Lorna panted. “Like that. Keep it … right there … like that …”

“Y’know what, Lo?” he said. He sounded angry. “Fuck you.”

Then he shoved her back further, so her butt was once again on the bed and he was no longer inside her. Lorna’s body clenched, protesting his sudden absence and she opened her eyes, just in time to see Malcolm come for her again, this time slinging both her legs over his shoulders and stabbing at her like he wanted to drive her through the mattress. His face was buried in the space between her neck and shoulder, again, not looking at her. She shouldn’t have cared, but she did.

Grabbing his face between her hands, Lorna forced eye contact.

“Malcolm …” she forced out. “It’s you I needed. You.”

Something in his eyes shifted and he slowed.

“Please. Don’t doubt that,” she said.

He blinked slowly and lowered his head, kissing her.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Fall’

The Fall Promo

About the book:

In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” Having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.

But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …

It cometh before the fall.

From ‘The Fall’:

Malcolm had just backed out of the driveway of his small, college-owned house when he thought of her. So rather than resist the urge, he called. The first ring sounded in the confines of his car. He waited through a second and then a third, fully expecting that he would be sent to voicemail; so her voice was a surprise. It was smoky, smooth and sounded like that of someone who had not too long ago woken up. But that was the way Lorna Terry sounded all the time, and it just about drove him crazy.

“I wondered whether you might want to keep me company for a little bit,” he said.

“Who is this?”

Her humor. That was another thing he liked about her. It was biting and sharp, not for the feint of heart. He could only imagine the number of men whose balls shrunk in the face of a woman like her.

“You answered.”

“I seem to recall having been ordered to do so.”

“I was bluffing,” Malcolm said.

On the other end of the line, Lorna sighed. “I’ll remember that the next time you order me to do something.”

“You never would do anything you didn’t want to do anyway.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I can occasionally be coerced.”

“I don’t believe it,” he said. “When was the last time anyone ever coerced you into anything?”

“Just this afternoon. Steven insisted I change the title of one of my courses. You walked in on the tail-end of the coercion as a matter of fact.”

“Is that why you looked so put-out and annoyed? I thought that was because of me.”

“You’re vastly overestimating the effect you have on my moods, Malcolm,” she said.

He smiled. Another zinger. A man would have to bring his ‘A’ game every single time with her, for sure.

Malcolm heard sounds like her moving around crockery, perhaps washing dishes, or grabbing a mug for coffee? He was curious about her life, and what she did to occupy it. Did she read in the evenings? Drink a glass of wine? Watch trashy television and drink flowery teas? Did she write, or entertain lovers? Everything about Lorna Terry intrigued him from the moment they’d met, and for a while he was proud of himself for having ensnared someone so fascinating, until his unreturned calls forced him to admit that it was she who had ensnared him.

“So what was the title of the course you were coerced into changing?”

When she told him, Malcolm spluttered into unexpected laughter. On the other end of the line, Lorna laughed with him.

“I don’t think it’s that shocking,” she said finally, a smile still in her voice. “I mean, do you know what young people are up these days?”

“No, I don’t know. Do you?”

“Well, no, but …”

“It can’t be much worse than what went on in the sixties.”

“I know you’re an English professor, but your math is terrible. I have no idea what went on in the sixties. I was born when all that was over—Kennedy had been shot, Dr. King was gone—and I missed the whole free-love party.”

He was beginning to think the whole age thing was more of a soft spot for her than she was acknowledging even to herself.

“I didn’t mean you’d experienced it, Lorna. Just that there’s nothing new under the sun.”

“Well, men’s squeamishness about women co-opting their vocabulary to refer to our sex is definitely not new. So I guess I should have known that the word ‘pussy’ would have Steven clutching his pearls.”

God, he could talk to her all night. He hadn’t been kidding when he said what he had at dinner. She made his dick hard, just because of her intellect alone. And that there was all the rest of it? Well, that just made the whole package infinitely more appealing.

“So have you come up with anything? Anything other than ‘pussy power’ I mean.”

“No,” Lorna said sourly. “I think my brain is rejecting the exercise entirely. It’s refusing to help me. Maybe you can help me think of something.”

“No ma’am. I’m staying well clear of this one.”

“Oh I didn’t peg you as a coward, Malcolm T. Mitchell.”

“I’m not. I just steer clear or coming up with, or using clever names for women’s anatomy,”

“That’s not what I remember,” Lorna said.

Malcolm felt a twitch at his crotch, but said nothing.

“And speaking of cowardice. Why are you talking to me on the phone and not here with me in the flesh?”

The way she said the word ‘flesh’ positively dripped with sex. If he wasn’t careful, this woman would have him whipped, quick and in a hurry.

“I’m not about to let you use me for my body, Professor Terry,” he said, trying to keep the tone light.

“So what would you like me to use you for?

“Well, I don’t want to be too hasty on the body thing. You can use that at will. But I want to be more than that. And I have an instinct about you.”

“Really? What’s that?”

She was practically purring now, and Malcolm felt himself developing what felt like an honest-to-goodness woody. Just from talking to her.

“My instinct tells me that you’re a woman who doesn’t value anything that comes too easily.”

“Trust me. You’re far from easy,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to work this hard to get laid a second time by a man I’ve already slept with once.”

Malcolm laughed again. “I don’t know what to do with you.”

“Yes you do. You’re just too frightened to do it.”

“Hey. Not frightened. Cautious,” he chided. “I want us to get to know each other better. Is that so terrible?”

“Not at all. In fact I look forward to it. But there’s no reason we can’t do that and sleep together too.”

“You’re being too agreeable. I think you’re messin’ with me.”

“Not at all. So come over. I’ll leave the door open for you.”

For a split second, Malcolm shut his eyes. Christ, he wished he could.

“Can’t tonight. On my way to the city to see my girls.”

“Oh. Another time then.” Lorna sounded as though it made no difference to her one way or another. If it was the last thing he did, he was going to make this woman beg for him.

“Tomorrow,” he said.

“Well …” She let the word drag out. “Tomorrow’s tricky for me.”

“You didn’t say anything about it being tricky when I mentioned it earlier. What’s tricky about it?”

Down boy. You’re the one who’s begging right now.

“I told you, Steven wants …”

“Bullshit,” Malcolm said. “I’m coming for you at one, just like I said.”

“Malcolm …”

“G’night, Lorna. I better go. This is a weird spot for cell service.”

“Malcolm …”

He hung up on her and waited. If she called back, then she was serious about canceling. Malcolm counted to ten very slowly but his phone didn’t ring.

Twenty. Thirty seconds. A minute.

The phone remained silent.


Coming soon!

What Had Happened Was …

The Education of Miri Acosta coverSo you may or may not have noticed that I’ve been away for a while. Not literally, but figuratively. I haven’t blogged, haven’t done as much online promotion of my work, and definitely haven’t been writing with the same regularity. Instead I’ve been reading, working, falling in love with my partner and out again, and in love again … and so on, playing, traveling, hanging with friends, making some enemies (yeah, for real) and living, basically. And so there it is–not sexy, but that’s my excuse for not getting ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ out this month. More about that later, but for now, let me just say … I’m back in the saddle and rearing to go.

I guess I could leave it at that, but I’m not going to. I want to tell you what I’m going to be up to next, because as solitary as the writing part of writing is, the rest is a group exercise. You read what I write (thank God) and you sometimes like it, and sometimes you write me notes, leave me comments and give me the fuel that gets me through the rough spots, or the encouragement to up my game next time. And a lot of readers give me ideas–for characters and plot points I might consider, or even entire books I might write. I can feel a lot of you out there rooting for me, waiting for me, and believing in me, or I’ve seen you, posting the gentle social media nudge to ‘get back to work already’.

All of it is appreciated.

There’s something writers don’t always tell you but I’m going to let you in on the secret. You ready? Here it is: there was a time when we wrote furtively, secretly, quietly and alone (some of us still do). We wondered whether there would ever be another soul, besides a lover, a friend, or a family member who read what we wrote and cared about it. We silently suffered with the knowledge that though the writing itself was fulfilling, it wasn’t always enough–we wanted someone else to hear our voice on the page and tell us it was good. That’s the secret. The ‘pressure’ we moan about, the pushes and nudges to ‘get back to work already’ are part of the dream, almost as much as the writing itself. To know that you contribute to the richness of the human experience with your words alone? Man, for me there is no high higher than that.

So now that I’ve admitted that I am not so cool that I can pretend not to give a shit what readers think, back to my plans. ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ is next up. August was the plan, but it’s now mid September. I won’t give a precise date because you know I never meet those deadlines anyway and it causes me heartburn when I know people are waiting and I’m not delivering. But about the book: I like this one. It’s more ‘pure romance’ than anything I’ve written in a while, about young love, crazy passion; learning that who you are is not who you may have planned to be, and figuring out that book smarts don’t equal emotional intelligence. It that strikes your fancy, read the blurb on Goodreads, here.

Following Miri’s story will be the one I’ve been dying to complete, Lorna Terry’s comeuppance, which is working titled ‘Art and Soul’. In that one, the mother of Riley, (who you may remember from ‘Commitment’, etc.) meets her match in a somewhat younger lover who is not intimidated by her radical feminism, and who forces her to face some of the consequences from her choices in the past; and to confront the possibility of a very different future than the one she envisioned. Meet Lorna and her intrepid younger man by reading these shorts: ‘Forty-Six’ and ‘Stalemate’.

And finally, on the encouragement of a writer-friend, and because I’m a sucker for people’s requests for “more” of a couple, I am working on Jamal and Makayla’s follow-up to ‘The Come Up’, this one titled ‘The Takedown’, will follow the very real challenges to the unlikely (and some say mismatched) couple’s relationship. It’ll also follow Jamal’s ascension to the pinnacle of his career, and Makayla being thrust even deeper into a life she’s ambivalent about at best, and outright distrustful of at worst. For me, the cool stories happen when a couple is together but external and internal conflicts work against them–the stuff that comes after the ‘I-love-yous’ are said and believed. This book will hopefully be one of those ‘cool stories’.

So that’s where I am. Until I get something out there, visit me on Facebook, or Pinterest. Send me email, post something on this blog. I know you’re out there, and I am most definitely listening.

Happy Reading.

N.