SAMPLE(S) SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ and ‘Ivy’s League’

Wine w WritersI like to write about women, figuring out who they are and what their “stuff” is. You know what I mean, right? The things that drive them, the things that hold them back, the things that block them from having the kind of life they deserve. That’s it. If I had to sum up the central theme of every single thing I write, that would be it.

And if I had to sum up my approach to writing, it would be “searching for realism.” I am rarely (okay, never) completely satisfied with anything I write, but on the occasions that I am somewhat satisfied, it’s because I think I may have struck a note of realism close to what I wanted.

For that reason, I love ‘Ivy’s League’. Love. Ivy has more than a few personal characteristics that I relate to, or have myself. But more than that, her story was one that felt real to me, and unfolded completely organically on the page–I didn’t map or chart it out, or even know where she would end up, I just let it happen as I wrote. And I also love that in her life, there’s an absence of drama other than the purely personal and domestic kind; her struggles are those that most women face in one form or another. But I’m not going to say too much more about Ivy since I’m doing an online Book Chat about her story today at 7 PM EDT, here.

And of course, I’ll be at Wine with Writers in person in two weeks. Tickets are going pretty fast, so get yours now, if you’re going to be in the DC/MD/VA area. I’ll be hanging out with Tia Kelly and Xyla Turner, talking books and drinking wine and signing my brand new release (slated for release just before ‘Wine with Writers’) ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’.

So … about Miri: I know some folks have been anxiously waiting for her. And honestly, I had a hard time understanding why. Miri was a quiet and small character for me. Someone who lived in the shadow of the much larger characters of her brothers. So writing about her was challenging. Here’s a little secret. If writers struggle, it’s for one reason only: we’re having a hard time figuring out what our characters want, and how (or whether) to have them get it.

Apart from life getting in the way of our writing, there is pretty much no other reason for writers being “blocked” other than that. And until we figure those things out, the book just ain’t gon’ come. Miri, now that her story is about to be released, remains in some ways a small and quiet character. But I figured out what she wants, and whether (and how) she gets it. So she’s on her way in very short order.

In the meantime, I thought I’d let you visit with these two very different women–both of whom have just enough slice of “real” to satisfy me. And I hope you as well.

Happy Reading!

N.


Eduardo promoFrom ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’. Coming Soon.

The sound of the door opening and shutting sent Miri scurrying back to the bed, clutching the sheets around her naked form. And then she felt silly. After all that happened the previous evening, shyness seemed ridiculous. So, while she listened to the movement in the next room, she found a t-shirt and pulled it on, recalling that Duardo had offered her one the night before, though she never got around to putting it, or anything else, on. Taking a moment to check her hair—which was pretty much a disaster—Miri went out to join him in the living area, pausing only to brush her teeth with her fingers in his small bathroom, and to splash water on her face.

Buenas días.”

Duardo looked up when she entered and spoke to him but did not answer.

Expecting some warmth, or acknowledgment of the previous evening, and not getting it, Miri was disappointed. Instead, his expression was inscrutable. But she felt brave, and more importantly, he looked incredibly hot, in a stark white t-shirt that only emphasized his sun-darkened skin; and baggy grey sweats. His scruffy and unshaven face reminded her of how it felt against her own face, and later, against her inner thighs. So Miri went to him, and while he removed what smelled like breakfast from a paper sack, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Resting her face against his broad and firm back, she felt her entire body heave in a sigh.

“Will you not speak to me?” she asked, feeling emboldened by the way he leaned oh-so-slightly backward and into her embrace. “¿Estás enojado conmigo?”

“No,” Duardo said after a long while. But still he didn’t turn around to return her embrace.

“So if you’re not angry, what is it?”

“I crossed a line with you,” he said, turning around and looking down at her. “After everything that your family …”

Miri exhaled impatiently and pulled away from him. “If we’re going to talk about how what happened between you and me—two consenting adults—affects my brothers, my family? If that’s what you’re about to say, I’m going to fucking scream,” she said.

Duardo looked surprised, though he did not comment on her cursing.

“I’m serious,” Miri said. “I walked in here on a high and you’re just going to … wreck it. I’m starting to feel like I would have been better off going home with Stephan Payne.”

And that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Duardo grabbed and pulled her back against his chest, his hands grasping her arms and holding her tight, his face inches from hers.

“Don’t you ever say that to me. He doesn’t get to touch you. He doesn’t get to go near you. ¿Entiendes?”

Being manhandled should have alarmed her, but it did the opposite. It made Miri confident, and even calm. Because she knew Duardo would never hurt her, and because she now knew that his stoic distance of a few moments earlier was the only way he knew to maintain control over the riotous emotions that were now so clearly visible in his eyes.

“I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want him near me. I want you,” she said, shrugging. “I just want you.”

“So why do you say these things?” Duardo let her go, running a hand over his head. “Just to … provoke me?”

“Because I want to get past this part,” Miri said. “This stupid part where we pretend like we don’t already know what’s going to happen.”

At that, Duardo gave her a grim smile. “And what’s that?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.

“We’re going to have an affair,” Miri said, staring back at him evenly.


Young black woman in the room

From ‘Ivy’s League’ Available Now.

Eli looked up just in time to see her coming down the sidewalk. Holding the hem of her gown up so it wouldn’t sweep the ground, Ivy looked like something out of a dream. Her dress was yellow, a soft shade like the faintest glow of morning sunlight and made of a foamy fabric that swayed as she walked. Cut in a straight line, binding her across the chest, it left completely exposed Ivy’s smooth brown shoulders and long, graceful arms. Under the hem of the dress, Eli could just make out gold strappy, high-heeled sandals that looked like something a gladiator would wear. If a gladiator was a five-foot nine, slender-as-a-reed, breathtaking Black woman in a yellow gown.

Ivy spotted him and he opened the window on the passenger side, disengaging the locks. She leaned in, her lips pursed and stern. She looked even more beautiful up close. Her hair was pulled back into a high, regal mass of kinky curls, her makeup subtle but iridescent. A stab of possessiveness impaled Eli right in the center of the chest.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Get in,” he said.

Ivy seemed poised to protest but instead sighed and opened the door, getting in next to him. Turning, she took another breath. “Eli …”

He kissed her. Hard. Hard enough to shut her up, steal her breath, and make her gasp all at once. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t respond either. Not at first, but he persisted until her lips softened and she kissed him back—tentatively at first, and then with all the feeling he had become accustomed to from her. She tasted sweet, like white wine, and smelled even more amazing than usual. Eli turned even further and reached over to pull her toward him by the waist, awkwardly in the confines of the truck’s cab.

That awkwardness provided an opening and Ivy took it, wrenching herself free and shaking her head.

“Eli,” she said again. But this time her voice was trembling a little.

He answered her by starting the engine, and pulling out into traffic away from the curb. Ivy looked frantically behind them, and then back at him.

“Eli!” She said his name yet again. “I’m working. My boss is at that dinner.”

He slowed the truck to a crawl. “Is she going to fire you if you don’t come back?” he asked pointedly.

Ivy opened her mouth to speak but did not. Her shoulders heaved, and shaking her head, she leaned back against the seat, staring straight ahead.

**************

AVAILABLE NOW.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vb8C5R

 B&N: http://bit.ly/1NOPG7i

NOT-SUNDAY SAMPLE: From ‘In the Nothing’

In the Nothing blog2This is my new adult offering, that I’ve been working on for what seems like AGES. It’s about a young woman struggling to find her place in the world after her mother dies, and she is faced with the prospect of being kicked out of the home of her her aunt, who is her reluctant caregiver. In her quest to find a new job, she stumbles across what seems to her like another world, or privileged young people whose lives and prospects could not be more different from her own. Her name is Trinity, and her story is called, ‘In the Nothing’. Release Date: whenever.

Unedited Excerpt From ‘In the Nothing’:

Opening the store with Skylar every morning wasn’t a chore; it was a blessing. Waking up at dawn and getting dressed before anyone else was awake; walking out onto H Street where the traffic was still light and muted and standing on the almost deserted Metro platform – it was all good.  When she got uptown, Skylar was usually in a bad mood and barked out orders at Trinity as they got the store ready to open for business.  They alternated on the chore of walking a couple blocks down around eight a.m. to get coffee and pumpkin bread from a nearby coffeehouse by which time Skylar’s mood had improved and she became chirpy and chatty again.

It was on these mornings that Trinity learned about her life which sounded almost too good to be true.  As Skylar babbled in almost stream-of-consciousness fashion, Trinity discovered the following: Both Skylar’s parents were attorneys. They lived in Potomac, Maryland with Skylar’s younger sister whose name was Madison. Since they’d both her parents had gone to Ivy League schools, they expected Skylar to do the same.  She’d gotten into Dartmouth and Vassar, and was hoping that by the time the year had passed and her deferral period was over, she would be able to convince her parents that she needn’t go to either.  Because, you see, what Skylar really wanted to do was go to New York and live with her best friend who had an artist’s loft in SoHo, which was incredible since SoHo was now ridiculously expensive and who could afford to live there anymore even though it was supposed to be the kind of community for artsy types.  But her parents didn’t like her best friend and made disapproving faces when she even mentioned her name, which was Stella, a name Skylar thought was wonderfully old-fashioned and so not what Stella was really like so it was kind of ironic and the only reason her parents hated Stella was because when they were in the ninth grade Stella had been involved in a huge scandal that involved Francie’s father. Francie, whose real name was Francesca, was a girl they went to school with, and the only reason her Dad hadn’t gone to jail was because Stella shocked them all and told her parents she would lie if anyone went to the police because everything that happened with Francie’s Dad, she wanted it.

The constant chatter was Skylar’s singularly most noticeable trait. That and her beauty. Every single time Trinity saw her, she was struck anew by how effortlessly incredible-looking Skylar was.  No, it wasn’t just effortless, it was careless. She wore ugly clothes and no make-up and seemed to barely care about her disheveled natural, but still managed to look like something someone had dreamed up as the ideal Black woman. Though small-waisted, she was curvaceous in all the right places and had long limbs that she moved with the grace of a dancer. Trinity wasn’t gay, but decided that she was a little in love with Skylar nevertheless.

This morning, she waited outside, glancing at her phone to check the time.  Skylar was almost twenty minutes late. Even though she projected an air of indifference about almost everything, Skylar had always been punctual and businesslike when it came to opening the store, so Trinity was on the verge of worry when a gray Land Rover pulled up and Skylar spilled out.  She looked like she’d just woken up and was wearing jeans, flip flops and a t-shirt so large it clearly didn’t belong to her.

“Trinity,” she said. “Ohmigod I am so sorry. I overslept. Let me let you in. I’m going to have to run home and change. You’ll be okay?”

“Sure,” Trinity said.

The car still idled at the curb but because of the tinted windows it was impossible to see in. Trinity waited as Skylar unlocked the front door and they both went in. Skylar disarmed the night security system and flipped on the lights.

“You’ll be okay for the next hour or so?” she asked.

“I think I can handle it,” Trinity said.

“Brad won’t be here till about ten and I’ll be back long before then. D’you want me to bring you a coffee and pastry on my way back?” Skylar’s words came out in a rush. Despite her careful I-don’t-give-a shit mask, it was clear that being late had unsettled her.

“That’d be great. Thanks.”

“Okay. Thank you so much.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”  She gave Trinity’s shoulder a brief squeeze before running out the door.

Trinity locked the door after Skylar left and began the process of opening the store; logging into the computer, turning on the lights and doing a walkthrough.  It felt good being there alone.  She had a book in her backpack that she was trying to get done so she fished it out and sat at the register.  If only she could leave for her coffee, but it was too risky.  Besides, if she waited, it would be on Skylar.  She only ever got the coffee and pumpkin bread every morning because she didn’t want to look like what she was – someone for whom every penny mattered.  Skylar got coffee and pumpkin bread, so she did too.  It was funny how Skylar seemed to assume that Trinity was just like her – that she would understand about choosing between colleges and parents who were pushing you to do and be more, and friends who lived in tony parts of New York City.  It created a strange sense of inclusion. Skylar’s ignorance and her utter lack of interest in anyone but herself made it easy for Trinity to conceal the grim details of her own life.

Skylar was back before nine, this time dressed in her own clothes and followed by a tall, blonde young man carrying a tray with three coffees and bags with pastry.  He set them down on the counter in front of Trinity and turned to Skylar who tilted her head back to gaze up at him flirtatiously.

“Thank you, Carey,” she said.  Her voice was different, a little more high-pitched and girlish.

“Anytime,” Carey leaned in and kissed Skylar, a deep, open-mouthed kiss of the kind generally reserved for when you were in the act of lovemaking, or about to be. When they were done kissing, Skylar turned.

“This is Trinity,” she said.  “We love her.”  The last three words were directive rather than descriptive.

“Hey Trinity,” Carey grinned at her.  “You mind if I join you girls for breakfast?”

Trinity offered him a thin smile and watched as he grabbed the second stool next to her and perched on it, reaching for one of the coffees.  Skylar leaned between his open legs as they all ate and described how she’d run into Carey the night before at a pub off Dupont Circle.

“We haven’t seen each other since junior high school,” she told Trinity.  “He never gave me the time of day then.”

Carey laughed.  “I was dating Hayley then,” he said.  “And she was your friend.”

“Oh bullshit,” Skylar said.  “You weren’t enlightened enough to date a Black chick, that’s all.”

“Oh but I am now,” Carey said.

As he and Skylar gave each other significant looks and nuzzled, Trinity pretended to be engrossed in something on the computer in front of her.  One week.  It had been one week since she’d started working here.  She stole glances at Carey’s hair when he was distracted.  It was so fair, it was almost white.  His skin was a strange bronze that more likely came from a bottle than from exposure to the sun.  Along his arms, there were fine hairs like peach fuzz.  He was well-built, athletic and probably good-looking. Trinity didn’t feel qualified to judge since she’d never been attracted to white guys.

Carey slipped out just after Brad showed up and the workday began.  There was generally very little to do in the store, just as Brad had warned the day she hired.  Most of Trinity’s time was spent examining the items on the shelves, reading the labels and marveling at the prices.  Everything was either organic, all-natural, or chemical-free.  There were essene breads, almond flour, psyllium husk fiber, and oils of various types.  Then there were the protein powders and weight-loss shakes, coconut milk and water and grains that weren’t identifiable just by sight.  She tried to learn the names and purposes of everything, studying each item just as she’d studied in school.  Occasionally, Skylar or Brad would try to draw her into their conversations, but generally, they talked on their cell phones, or slipped into the storeroom to watch television on the 20-inch set that was hooked up with cable.

“Rick’s back tomorrow,” Brad said almost to himself as they were eating lunch.  “So we’re going to want to make sure we clean up thoroughly at closing tonight.”

“I could stay and help,” Trinity offered.

“Don’t be a suck-up,” Skylar said.  “Brad has plenty of help with Jenny and Paul.  He’s just being a drama-queen.”

Jenny and Paul were the high school students who came in after five.  Trinity had never met them.

“You’re going to love Rick,” Brad said to Trinity.

“He’s an over-the-hill hippie,” Skylar said dismissively.

“Ohmigod, he’s only thirty-five,” Brad protested.

Skylar laughed.  “I knew you’d defend your little secret crush,” she said.  She made kissing noises and only laughed harder as Brad turned beet-red.

Just then the door opened and they all looked up.  Skylar shoved aside her sandwich and jumped up.

“Baby!”  She stood on her toes and threw her arms around the neck of their visitor.

He was about six feet tall and looked Middle-Eastern or Latino, with dark olive-toned skin and thick jet black wavy hair that was long enough to permit him to pull it back into a short ponytail at his nape.  He had formidable eyebrows and eyes that were dark and intense.  A neat moustache and about a day’s worth of hair shadowing his jaw didn’t quite succeed in disguising his good looks.

“Hey Ethan,” Brad said.

“Hey, how’re you doin’ Brad?”  Ethan hugged Skylar back but looked over her shoulder with curiosity at Trinity. “Who’s this?”

Skylar turned.  “This is Trinity.  Trinity, my boyfriend Ethan.”  She looked at Trinity evenly, the memory of that morning hanging in the air between them.

“Hey Trinity,” Ethan reached over and briefly took her hand.  “Nice to meet you.”

Trinity smiled.  “Hi,” she said.

“What’re you doing here?” asked Skylar.  “We don’t have plans till later.”

“I tried to reach you last night.  Your housemates were all squirrelly.  And you didn’t answer your phone, so . . .”

“It died on me,” Skylar said breezily.  “I went out with Max and we got so wasted . . .”

“Well, I need to change our plan for tonight and I was up here getting some paints so I figured I’d stop by.”

“And I’m glad you did,” Skylar looped an arm through his and led him to the back of the store.

Brad and Trinity watched them walk away.

“Now you’re part of the conspiracy,” Brad said dryly.

Trinity looked at him.

“That boy she had in here this morning wasn’t the first.  Our Skylar’s a total slut, I’m afraid,” he said matter-of-factly.