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.

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.

It’s Complicated

Robyn2*** AFTERBURN ***

AVAILABLE APRIL 28th!

I used to think the best romances came with no mess, no baggage, no drama. And while those are still fun to read, for me personally they’re not as fun to write. That’s why I became enthralled with Chris and Robyn’s story in ‘Afterwards‘.

When they get together, Chris is somewhat disconnected from his three kids, by two different women. He’s running a multi-million dollar corporation and he doesn’t see himself as being on the market for a relationship. Add to the mix the two women with whom he had his three kids and Robyn’s recent and messy divorce.

ChrisHow can too people find ‘romance’ under those circumstances? Well … it’s complicated. And it’s what ‘Afterwards‘ is about. If you’ve read it, you see that Chris and Robyn demonstrate what we all know to be true–the heart generally finds a way. And if you haven’t read it, now’s a good time, because on April 28th, the continuation (and conclusion) of Chris and Robyn’s story, ‘Afterburn‘, is being released.

In the meantime, drop me a comment below and tell me what YOU liked best about Chris and Robyn’s “complicated” romance!

Happy Reading!

N.

P.S. If you don’t already have ‘Afterwards’ it’s $1.99 on Nook and Kindle for a LIMITED TIME!

From ‘Afterburn‘:

“Something’s come up and I need to be back in L.A. so I’m leaving tonight right after the thing.”

Robyn’s hand fell from his chest. “Tonight, Chris?”

“Yeah, on a red-eye. I need to be there first thing in the morning so there’s no way around it,” he said. But he wasn’t looking directly at her.

Why wasn’t he looking at her?

“Since I probably won’t even be there for that long, you don’t have to come to the party tonight if you don’t want to,” Chris continued. “That way you can get back home to Caity.”

Robyn tried to meet his gaze, but he either didn’t see that that was what she was trying to do, or he was evading it.

Tilting her head so that she could force the meeting of their eyes, Robyn shrugged. “No, I’m still coming,” she said. “What time are you leaving the party to fly out?”

“Probably around midnight.” His eyes were unreadable. Not cold, but flat like there was something behind them he was determined not to let her see.

“Okay.” Robyn shrugged again. “So if we go around nine or so, I have you for a few hours. If that’s all I get, I’ll take it.”

Chris looked directly at her then, his expression quizzical. Robyn took one more step, closing the distance between them and looking up so their gaze remained unbroken. Then glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one else was in sight, or earshot, she put her arms up and about his neck. She tried never to do this kind of thing in the office, afraid of how it might undermine her credibility, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Chris was trying to put some distance between them, but she wasn’t about to let that happen.

“I’ll take what I can get,” she said again, getting on her toes and pressing her lips to his neck. “Always.”

Resolutions

resolution2res·o·lu·tion (r z -l sh n). n. 1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination. 2. A resolving to do something. 3. A course of action determined or decided 

2012 has been an incredible year for me creatively. Now that we’re at the end of it, I guess I should be thinking of resolutions for 2013, “courses of action” that I will take to make it fruitful; in other words, my resolutions. But that is only one definition of the word. Resolution also means ‘ending’ or ‘the state of being resolved’. And this year, that meaning is the one that’s most resonant for me.

I’ve resolved that I am a writer always.

I’ve resolved that I know my own voice.

And I’ve resolved that I cannot be happy unless I am writing. Those are big resolutions for me, because I’ve struggled for years to subsume the urge to write, telling myself that surely there was something more practical or purposeful I could be spending my time on. Getting another degree, maybe. I even decided to split the baby, so to speak, and get a degree in Fine Arts so I could write under the guise of furthering my education. (Never did that btw) So writing has always been fraught with internal conflict for me; but this year that conflict was resolved.

As I wrote- my books and on this blog- I met many, many interesting women who’d read what I wrote and reached out to let me know that it meant something to them. They know who they are, and in the strange way made possible by this distant, digital world, they have become friends and creative confidants. They have enriched and changed my work, and made writing not nearly as solitary a pursuit for me as it once was. They indulge my navel-gazing about my characters and help me rethink some of my preconceptions about writing. And I now know, thanks to them that I’m not a voice screaming in the wilderness with no one to hear me. I never used to think it mattered honestly, whether anyone heard me or not – I would write regardless – but to know that they do adds a richness to the joy of writing, and a fullness and care to the work I try to produce that was not there before.

Before I get all weepy and maudlin, I’ll talk about something technical: one other, more literary way of looking at resolutions. The ending of my books. I generally don’t like the HEA (happily-ever-after) ending, because I like to think of my books as dropping in on people’e lives at a moment in time with the understanding that after the last page is turned, they go on (even if only in our imaginations). If after you read something I wrote you wonder how things worked out, but still feel satisfied, then I’ve succeeded. If all you do is wonder, and you don’t feel satisfied, then I didn’t strike the balance I was going for. There’s an art to it.

And that quest for balance is actually what inspired the title of the new book I’m working on, ‘The Art of Endings’ where characters you may have met if you read ‘Secret’ struggle to reach comfortable resolutions to old issues that threaten to compromise their future. Trey tries to resolve issues around his parents’ death and the sacrifices he made as a result. And we see him try to come to terms with the potential fall-out from his playboy past while building a new life with the woman he loves. Darren tries to resolve questions of loyalty and love as he struggles with feelings for his dead best friend’s fiancée; and Shayla tries to resolve the question of who she is now, in the context of a healthy, supportive relationship, something she’s never had with a man before. So essentially, I’ll explore how in life (as in writing), we may or may not get all our questions resolved or our issues dealt with but ultimately, making our peace and feeling a sense of satisfaction with not knowing may be the goal.

That’s how I feel about 2013. I don’t know what it’ll bring . . . but I’m already satisfied.

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!

Nia