SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Mother’

Betty2flatFrom ‘Mother’:

Jay turned in search of Rob again and instead his eyes met Betty’s. She was alone, so he went to her.

“You’re such a man,” she said when he was directly in front of her.

“Thank you?”

Betty laughed. “No, I mean you were standing there looking so oppressed for having to be here at this party in your honor. It’s funny.”

Jay grinned. “Yeah. This isn’t my thing.”

“What is your thing?” She let her head fall to one side.

Tonight she was in a white lace dress with long sleeves and wore small pearl earrings. Her makeup was scant, but she was wearing a very soft, pleasant scent that made Jay want to inhale deeply.

“Being outside, taking pictures, hanging out at home with my wife. I’m a simple kind of guy that way.”

“And your wife …” Betty shook her head. “She’s far from simple. She’s … stunning.”

“Thank you. I like her too.”

For a few beats, they both said nothing.

“So …” Jay broke the long silence. “Braxton …” He lowered his voice and mimicked her date’s baritone.

Betty smothered a giggle. “Yes. He’s very …”

“Braxton,” Jay supplied.

“It’s only our first date. I can’t decide whether there’ll be a second.”

“There shouldn’t be,” Jay said.

Betty’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, is that right? And why not?”

“Because he left you all alone,” Jay said. “To be preyed on by other men.”

Betty stared at him, her smile slipping from her face. “But surely I’m safe with you,” she said.

Before he could formulate his response, there was a hand on Jay’s arm, the soft hold immediately familiar.

“Jay, Chloe and I need you over here for a moment,” Keisha said, gently tugging.

“Oh. Yeah … I’ll see you later, Betty.”

She nodded, and smiled at Keisha before turning away.

“Chloe wants to know whether you want to say something,” Keisha said as they walked. “Like give a toast or anything during dinner. I told her I don’t want to, so if you don’t …”

“Yeah, I’ll give a toast to my wife. Of course I will,” Jay said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Rob had arrived with his wife Allison.

“You will?”

Keisha sounded so surprised he stopped walking and looked at her. She gazed up at him, her large doe-eyes liquid and full of feeling.

“Baby,” he said, putting a hand at the nape of her neck and pulling her closer. “C’mere.”

Keisha leaned into his chest. He didn’t know what else to say. Sometimes he was so focused on how much he loved her, he forgot how much she loved him. He’d never really doubted it. Even with the tough things they’d been through, the tough time they were having now over this baby business, he didn’t doubt for a moment that Keisha loved him.

She loved him like a flower turning toward the sun—naturally, instinctively and without reason. Of all the dumb-ass things they would each say and do to each other—and had—that truth remained immutable: she loved him, and he damn sure loved her back.

“So I can tell her that. You’re sure?” she asked, looking up at him. “That you want to give a toast.”

“Yeah. You want to go ahead and do that? Tell her I said it’s fine. It’s just that …” He pointed in Rob’s direction. “I got something I gotta take care of right away.”

“Okay.” Keisha moved out of his arms and gave him one last smile, her head falling back.

Recognizing that look, Jay absentmindedly leaned in to receive her kiss just before she headed off to find Chloe. When he raised his head, looking in Rob’s direction once again, he instead met Betty’s gaze. She quickly smiled at him, and took a sip of her wine. It was a wry smile, not a seductive or inviting one; but it seemed to be saying something to him, sending Jay a message that he knew he was better off not receiving.

To read ‘Mother’: 

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Evolution & Completion

mistresscover4I didn’t expect to feel this way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading.

N.

The Mistress Trilogy (based on the Commitment Series)

Mistress (Book One) On Kindle & Nook

Wife (Book Two) On Kindle & Nook

Mother (Book Three) On Kindle & Nook

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Wife’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s not my man,” Keisha said.

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

“Is he gay?”

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

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

Release Day for ‘Wife’ is here!

Wife cover

It’s way too soon for me to get all philosophical about this book, so let me just say that I hope you read it, like it and leave a review. And if it’s not your thing, please still do drop a line letting me know why.

On Sunday, I’ll blog about my continuing journey with Jayson and Keisha, but for now . . . Happy Reading!

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