Jacinta Howard, Wine & More Writers

27369183_988762447938823_4710214341044635762_oNot only is Jacinta Howard one of my top 3 favorite indie authors, she is definitely one of my top three favorite people that I’ve met through writing. And it also doesn’t hurt that she’s basically my hip-ness Yoda. If she’s talking about something in popular culture, I make sure I go check it out because I know her finger is on that pulse. But that’s just about how dope (that would be her word, not mine, really) she is.

The thing is, her writing is dope too, and it has it’s fingers on the pulse as well. It’s current, it’s fresh, it’s accessible and so emotionally resonant that I sometimes try to save her new releases until it’s Friday, and there is wine within reach. When I thought about authors that I wanted to be part of Wine with Writers on an ongoing basis, she was one of the first. Her calm, Zen-like vibe comes through in her writing, and surrounds you like a warm blanket but you know and feel that there is a depth of emotion churning beneath.

In person, she comes across as the girl you bring home to meet your parents as one of your best friends, just so you can use her name when you want to do things they are inclined to imagine that ‘That Nice Jacinta Howard’ would never do. And … she’s also kind of goofy at times, a fact to which this interview will attest.

Come meet her at Wine with Writers on March 10 in Atlanta, where she will be in her element, dropping knowledge as well as beats, with me, DL White, Tasha L. Harrison, Rae Lamar and Lily Java. It’s going to be a …dope event, I promise you.

Anyway, here’s a little of an interview with Jacinta.

Fun question: would you like to see into the future? Why?

Nope. It’s hard enough just dealing with the past and the present.

That’s a true thing. Random, but tell us this: what’s in your purse?

I’ve reverted back to my old self and have only been carrying a purse occasionally lately. But receipts from Chick-Fil-A and Marshalls, pens, and probably hair ties for my daughter.

What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast?

The last show I “binged” sorta-kinda was Black Mirror Season 4. Letitia Wright’s episode was pretty dumb but she’s awesome as Princess Shuri in Black Panther, so there’s that at least.

Now this one, everyone will want to know: if you could level up humans as a species, what stat or ability would you increase?

Our ability to think independently- without the constant yearning for a “leader,” our discernment, and our empathy. Gosh, our empathy. Humans can be so judge-y and gross. I’d also increase our ability to hold our breath. I dunno why but that feels significant.

You have a lovely daughter who looks like you basically cloned yourself. She’s young but I feel like you’ve probably started thinking about this: what do a lot of parents do that screws up their kid?

Give them too much sugar and then wonder how come they won’t sit down somewhere.

What problem or situation did TV / movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t? The “very special” drug episode. Don’t nobody care if you smoke weed, dude. Cool out, Brenda.

What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship?

For married relationships? Regular sex. Obviously, what “regular” means for you is very specific to your marriage/circumstances, and shouldn’t be defined by outside folks. But “non-existent sex” is definitely indicative of a larger, significant problem, right? The truth is in the sex, man.

Why is it so hard for people to make real connections when almost everyone wants to make real connections?

Because most people don’t actually want real connections, only connections that specifically suit them and their needs at the time. I sound cynical.

What are the most common roadblocks that stop people from achieving their dreams?

Systemic oppression. Lack of discipline. An idea of success that’s linked to the principles of capitalism. An unrealistic expectation for what “dreams” are and how long it often takes to achieve them. Overnight success stories are not an actual thing. Also, everyone can’t be rich and famous, or be like, looked at all the time—and that’s okay. Somebody gotta be a plumber. Nothing is wrong with being the plumber—especially if you own your own small business. College isn’t for everyone either, and that’s also okay. Get a trade.

And finally, what tf you suddenly found out that your internal monologue for the last week was actually audible, how screwed would you be?

Thing is, I have to be on social media a lot for work. If y’all could read my thoughts while I’m on Twitter, FB or IG… sheesh. I never think anything hurtful or like, mean. But I am like: Why do people need so much attention? No, for real. Why do you think you need to be looked at by everyone? And like, so often? Why do people think they’re so smart when they clearly are not? Why do people think they’re so original? Your so-called individualism is cloaked in sameness. No, super judgemental, Christian. That actually is not at all Christlike. Why are people so condescending and judge-y? Does it make them feel smart? Don’t people get tired of being snarky all the time? Why do you think anyone cares about you lip-syncing your favorite song in the car? You are not in a music video… for a reason. Was that snarky and judge-y? Probably.

Check out an excerpt from one of my faves of Jacinta’s, which will be accompanying her to Wine with Writers.


From ‘Blind Expectations’:

This time, he knocked on her door. And when she opened it, he saw dried tears on her cheeks.

“What do you want?”

She wasn’t surprised to see him there. Her voice was barely audible, dry and hoarse. He stepped inside, shutting and locking the door behind him, as he yanked on the hem of her t-shirt, his t-shirt, jerking her close. His mouth was on hers and she yielded instantly, kissing him so hard, their teeth clacked together, clawing at his biceps as he lifted her before lowering them to the ground. She tasted so good on his lips—sweet and rich like the merlot she’d probably drinking. He didn’t bother with her panties, simply pushed them to the side as he freed himself from his sweats and all but slammed into her with a low, animalistic grunt. She was digging her short nails into his back but still managed to lift her head enough to get at his mouth, pushing her tongue between his lips, her taste filling every part of his being. She was moaning on every breath, her cries almost primal, and he pulled at her hair, burying his head in the space between her collarbone and her neck, grunting as he drove himself into her warmth, hunting for his contentment and peace, trying to find it in her, in spite of all that was between them.

‘Blind Expectations’, Available Now on Amazon- http://amzn.to/2hSntCf

Book/Website Link: jacintahoward.net

Meet the author at Wine With Writer- winewithwriters.splashthat

‘Secret’ Release Day!

Whew. It’s here! The release day for ‘Secret’. All the levers have been pulled and it will go live on Amazon sometime today. I spent the last several days agonizing because it’s so different from anything else I’ve written in that it’s not pure romance, not chick-lit and in some ways lacks a genre. Still I stayed true to my favorite theme of self-discovery through relationships, and hope you like it.

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!


Seven Days ‘Til ‘Secret’ . . .

ImageThere’s something about countdowns that invoke a mild sense of panic in me. Any countdown, even the one on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know what that’s about, but I am having a similar reaction to the Seven Day Countdown to the release of my new book ‘Secret’. To alleviate that anxiety, I’ve decided to spread what I hope will be cheer. I’m reducing the price of all my other books to $1.99 until Secret’s release day, December 24. The price reduction will be effective immediately and run until December 24.

And if you’ve already read any or all of my books, I am giving away a signed hard copy to anyone who posts a review on Amazon and sends me the link to that review at authorniaforrester@gmail.com.

And finally, for the next seven days until release day, I’m posting a series of blogs called Secrets We Keep about the dirty little secrets we keep in relationships. Speaking of dirty secrets, you may want to check out Unsuitable Men (and that’s all I’m sayin’).

My first blog in the Secrets We Keep series will be out later today. In the meantime . . .

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!


Voice Part II – ‘Caucasia’ by Danzy Senna

I won’t review this book here, except to say that I gave it five stars. One of the reasons I loved it was not just the unique nature of the voice, and of the situation it portrays, but because it is about several of my favorite topics: race, identity, and relationships. And as a bonus, it addresses some of the wrongheaded decisions parents make in the name of improving the lives of their children.

The tone and pacing of the story is definitely not for everyone, and if you need “action”, you will likely not appreciate ‘Caucasia’ much because almost all of the action is internal. I read this book years ago, and wondered then, why no one told me about it sooner. So many great writers, so little time . . .


Emotional vs. Physical Infidelity?

ImageMy friends and I have an ongoing debate about the relative weight that we place on emotional versus physical infidelity. The central question goes something like this: if you were to discover that your partner was having many intense, deep and searching conversations with someone else, sharing their innermost thoughts and yet honestly hadn’t ever considered sleeping with that person, would you feel more or less betrayed than if you discovered they had a one-time only sexual encounter with that person and were genuinely not interested in repeating it?

For me, hands down the emotional infidelity would be a deal-breaker. I’m not sure there would even be anything to discuss. Sexual infidelity would also be a bitter pill for sure, but I think the nature of sexual attraction is such that I could understand (though not condone) an intense physical, momentary connection with someone else. Now what would concern me more about physical infidelity would be what it implies about my partner’s honesty, or their ability to forego sexual gratification in favor of something else (i.e., the emotional relationship with me) that they value more. 

Many of my friends are preoccupied with the actual act itself, the idea of their loved one touching and being touched by someone else. I wouldn’t want to picture that, certainly, but I think it troubles me far less than the average person. In my writing, I explore jealousy and infidelity in all its forms quite a bit, working out through my characters what that concept means to different people. I was first alerted to my apparently uncharacteristic lack of jealousy when I shared with a friend that an ex-boyfriend had gone to a strip club with friends. She was aghast and thought it was incredibly permissive (not to mention naive) of me to have “allowed him to get away with” such a thing – looking at another woman with lust, etc, etc. I explained to her that I thought men who went to strip clubs were being had – being sold an image of sexual wantonness by women who were more likely thinking about their dry-cleaning and despising the very men who gave them money. Still, she insisted strip clubs are like a gateway drug to physical infidelity and I should manufacture some disapproval even if I did not honestly feel it, the next time he suggested he and his friends were planning to spend their evening in that way.

Well, that boyfriend didn’t last for other reasons, but it got me thinking: are there gateways to emotional as well as physical infidelity that we should close off just to guard our relationships? Some women forbid their husbands or boyfriends from having female friends. Others don’t permit them to go on vacations alone or “with the boys’. For me, that all seems like a little too much work and in the final analysis, futile.

Emotional and physical infidelity are sometimes the consequence of opportunity and recklessly exposing oneself to temptation, but I think more often they are a symptom of something being broken to begin with. The question always, will be whether it’s worth the trouble to fix.

In ‘Commitment‘ I explore the relative weight placed on different kinds of infidelity, but also strongly encourage you to see this little known movie, ‘Last Night’ with Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington (also Eva Mendes and Griffin Dunne). Amazing treatment of this subject, well-acted and far too probing to have been a theatrical success, as all good films are these days.

And then I’d love to hear what you think. Emotional vs. Physical infidelity? Which is worse?

Laws of Attraction

Painting by Cheri Reichers, available at CheriArt.com

I don’t believe that we have one soul-mate in this life. While I love the idea that we might all have someone out there who is our bashert, and would be delighted to be proven wrong, I tend to think its a romantic, fanciful notion. What I do believe is that as we journey through this life, we meet many souls that connect with our own. In my own life, I have had at least two such encounters and neither was with someone who was either sexually or romantically interesting to me. The first time I experienced that connection, it was to a friend who within a week seemed more like a sister, with whom I shared thoughts, experiences, fears and dreams that I had never before shared with another human being. Over time, our lives took different paths and we saw each other less, but across continents, marriages, deaths and births our connection has remained exactly the same. We no longer speak everyday, or have the luxury of falling asleep in each other’s beds because we could not bear to voluntarily end the conversation, but even now, almost twenty years later, when we do talk it is effortless. Our connection seems to transcend the mundane details of our lives. We just fit.

My second experience with that kind of connection happened very recently with someone who is so different from me in so many ways that it’s a wonder we can even sustain a conversation. And yet from the moment we met, it was instant, electric attraction. What made it most interesting to me was that while it was not at all physical, we had a stereotypical moment of eyes meeting across a crowded room and feeling a sense of recognition. When finally we spoke, it seemed strange that we were introducing ourselves when I was sure I knew him in some elemental way. It felt foolish because I was very clear that we had never before met.

A few minutes into our conversation, completely unexpectedly, he told me that he felt like he knew me and that I was someone special to him though he knew we had never met before. It was rather unsettling, to say the least, not only because he’d voiced his feelings so frankly and so soon, but because his feelings were a mirror image of my own. On the occasion of our meeting, we weren’t given much of an opportunity to talk at length but before we parted he made me promise not to leave without telling him how to get in touch. I broke my promise and told myself it was inadvertent – things had just gotten too hectic before I left. But in reality, I broke my promise maybe because I had no category into which I could put this person or this unusual experience.

Several months later, out of the blue, I thought of him again and wondered how he was and had dim regrets that I hadn’t kept in touch. I felt as though I had lost a friend, but chided myself. This was no friend, this was a charismatic stranger and nothing more. My conscious mind told me I was being silly. The very next day, I got an unexpected message. A mutual acquaintance of ours reached out to me to let me know that this ‘stranger’ had been searching for me, and asked whether it was okay to provide my contact information. I said that it was, and he reached out to me immediately and expressed such uninhibited joy to be reunited. And almost instantly, I felt as though something I had lost was finally found.

I don’t know what the laws of attraction are, and how it is that some people touch something in us and we simultaneously touch something in them. I don’t understand why I sometimes meet someone who is, objectively speaking, quite attractive physically, and yet something about them repels me. And I don’t know what the formula is for making a relationship grow and flourish, rather than sour and die. Examining these questions is on my short list of obsessions, studying the many dimensions of human relationships: turning them over and over in my mind. After years engaging in this curious pursuit, working through it in my writing, I’ve decided that in all likelihood, there are no laws of attraction. There are only souls reaching out into a vast universe of other souls, finding another who for a time meets a need. But occasionally, there are those souls that connect in a way that does more than that, they are the ‘mates’ of your soul who help you become your complete and best self. I am so grateful to have met mine.

Snarky: When Good Critiques Go Bad

Click image to read the full review.

In my limited time blogging, I haven’t been shy about saying what I don’t like about a certain popular trilogy.  In fact, I’m rarely shy about anything, even admitting when I’m wrong. Yesterday, I grabbed a link from somewhere that led to a particularly lengthy takedown of the series, the characters, the editors, the readers and finally, the author. It was easily a 2,000 word tome, this “review”.  And I use the word review loosely because the writer/reviewer seemed to have spent as much time grabbing movie clips online as she did critiquing the content of the books. She freely admitted to having hated the first one from the very first sentence, and nevertheless being inexplicably drawn to read the second and third installments. And at some point, what began as amusing and creative became a cesspool of pure, unadulterated snark. Meanness of the worst kind, bordering on cruelty.

Now there is no doubt that writers voluntarily put themselves out there when they put pen to paper and publish their work. Generally speaking, we want to hear what people think and keep our fingers crossed that there is some segment of the reading public who will like what we’ve done.  And with this particular series, there is no doubt that a significant percentage of the public liked what this initially self-published author did. So much so that not only publishing houses, but Hollywood came calling and she landed a seven-figure deal for the film adaptation of her work.  Now, say what we will, this is every self-pubbed author’s dream scenario. We can pretend that we would be equally satisfied if we had no public support but plenty of critical acclaim, but I don’t buy it. Ideally, we would have both, but my guess is that if forced to choose, a majority of us would take the cash.

That’s likely what’s behind a lot of the snark about this series. The awareness that with negligible talent, this writer was able to pull off something that happens to one lucky author once every decade, if that. She has become the Kim Kardashian of the literary world – someone who is viewed as famous with very little natural ability to justify that fame, and the wealth that’s come along with it. I don’t even have to imagine how much that’s pissed off the literati, all I have to do is Google the name of the books and the word ‘review’ and a flood of snark will come cascading my way, some of it well-meaning and much of it funny, but most of it just plain nasty.

I had the series recommended to me by a family member who said she loved it. I told her I’d heard about the hype and would read it, so I did. I admit that by the time I finished the first few chapters of book one, I felt somewhat like a hostage to my impulse to finish all reading material that I start. And by the end of the trilogy, I was downright resentful at the series’ success. That feeling lasted for about a week.  And then common-sense returned. And following that, empathy.

Here’s the thing folks: it takes extraordinary bravery to share what you write. Few of us who do feel completely confident about what we have committed to the page. And fewer of us still will write something and go on to share our work despite our insecurity about how it may be received. Even praise doesn’t banish our uncertainty. One bad review can negate all the good ones, no matter how numerous they are. Hence all the jokes about book critics with that novel hidden in the bottom of their locked desk drawer. And let me tell you, when you read some of the reviews of this popular trilogy, almost all have flourishes that reek of  “frustrated-unpublished-novelist.”

I think the writer of this trilogy, however technically flawed her product, spoke to something that women are feeling today.  I for one am intrigued about what that might be and what it says about us. So lately I’ve begun to focus more on that question, and less on the millions of dollars this author is earning, some say unjustifiably. I’ve also decided to focus on the guts it took to put herself out there, knowing that legions of armchair critics would be polishing their swords, ready to eviscerate her for having the temerity to think she had something to write worth reading.

I say more power to her.  And to those purveyors of snark, go ahead, let’s see some of your work. I dare you.