SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

Eduardo promo

FROM ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’:

“So, are you going to help me or not?”

“Help you with what, Eduardo?”

“The social media nonsense.”

Miri smiled in spite of her earlier resolution to freeze him out. It was a good thing he couldn’t actually see her smile. It would betray how much of a pushover she was.

After managing to get through the entire Sunday dinner a few days ago without saying more than two dozen words to Duardo, her sense of triumph was almost immediately thereafter supplanted by a very hollow feeling when she recalled that the team was moving to a couple games out West, and she would likely not see him again for several more weeks. Talk about biting off her nose to spite her face.

Each morning since, she woke up pretending she wasn’t hoping he’d texted her, and each lunch hour felt barren and uninteresting. Miri had just about given up hope for their friendship when her phone rang. It was far too late for anyone to be calling unless it was an emergency—well after eleven p.m.—but she hadn’t the willpower to simply ignore him. Back when they’d been actually communicating, when he was away they seldom spoke on the phone, most often connecting by text. The chance to hear his voice, particularly when she wouldn’t see him for so long was too much to pass up, so Miri answered, trying to sound casual, and a little sleepy when neither of those things could be further from the truth.

The truth was, she’d been in bed for well over an hour, with all the lights off save one, and the television on, waiting for the Sandman to show up and lead her to slumber. She’d just about given up on him and was planning to try reading a novel when her phone chimed.

“If you don’t help me, I’ll have to pay a consultant. My agent tells me that’ll run me somewhere around ten thousand.”

“Ten thousand?” Miri sat up in bed, outraged. “That’s ridiculous. No not ridiculous, it’s insane.”

“Well what do I know? I guess I’ll have to pay it. Unless you want to help me out.”

“You don’t need anyone to help you out, Eduardo. A ten-year old can do this stuff. And you must have Facebook, right? And Tumblr? You …”

“No.”

“No? Not even just for you and your friends back home to keep in touch?”

“Everyone I want to keep in touch with, I keep in touch with. Facebook never made much sense to me. It basically keeps you in touch with people you never made a real effort to see in the real world. And probably for good reasons.”

Miri rolled her eyes. “I love Facebook. And Tumblr, and Instagram, and Snapchat. You get to make your own little virtual village. You admit the people you want in your village and you ignore the ones you don’t want in your village. Social media is one of the most important things to happen in the digital age.”

“You sound like an expert.” There was a smile in his voice. “So you’re the perfect person to help me.”

Miri sighed and leaned back against her pillows once again, resting the phone against her ear. Next to her bed, there was a half empty mug of chamomile tea. Tepid by now, it was supposed to be helping her get to sleep. Now she was grateful it hadn’t worked. But strangely, just hearing Duardo’s voice had settled something for her; she was relaxing and suspected that once their conversation was done, a sound sleep would follow.

“Hey. You still with me?”

Aside from being relaxing, his voice, in her ear while she lay in bed, also made her feel a little naughty, like she was doing something wrong. Miri was suddenly hyperaware of her nipples, and how they felt brushing against the fabric of her tank top. And she had the urge to slide a hand down her stomach, and between her thighs. What if she did? What would it matter? It wasn’t as though he would know what she was doing.

“I’m here,” she said.

“You’re being quiet again,” Duardo said, sounding suspicious. “Like you were last Sunday at your brother’s house. Did I … is something wrong?”

“Something like what?” Miri played with the lacy edges of her underwear. Did she dare?

“Did your brother tell you I talked to him?”

“He did.” Miri slid her hand beneath the waistband of her panties, tentative at first and still hesitant to let the genie out of the bottle with Duardo’s voice in her ear.

“And is that why you …”

“Why I what?”

For the first time in her life, she wondered whether she should wax. Like, wax … completely. Nessa said she did, and that it made sex more pleasurable. Made everything more pleasurable. Of course, Miri had never actually had sex, and had only her imagination to tell her what the “everything” referred to.

“Miri. You sound strange. What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

What was strange was that they had been on the phone for only about five minutes, and yet she was moved just by the sound of his voice to do something that she seldom did otherwise. Now, parting her legs and touching herself, Miri was stunned at how wet she was, how sensitive. She couldn’t do this with him on the phone, because after the lightest touch, she was already having a difficult time remaining completely silent, and not giving in to the urge to moan.

“So?” Duardo prompted.

“So … what, Eduardo?”

“Stop calling me that,” he said, sounding somewhat testy.

“Calling you what?” she laughed lightly. “Your name?”

“You stopped calling me ‘Eduardo’ since the second time I laid eyes on you. Now all of a sudden you address me the way my parish priest would?”

If Miri didn’t know better, she would think he was upset with her. But why? Moments before, he seemed fine. And besides he was the one who was out carousing with blondes in short skirts. But she wouldn’t think about that right now, it would upset her groove and the slick, slow rhythm she was beginning to establish with her right hand. Slowly, her eyes fell shut as she moved her fingers in circles, stroking herself. A slight moan escaped her lips and she held still for a moment, waiting to see whether he had heard it, and would react.

“Okay, it’s late,” he finally conceded. “I just want to know whether you’ll do the social media set-up for me. Just tell me that much and I’ll let you get off.”

Miri couldn’t help it. She erupted in surprised laughter, halting her motions for a moment because if she kept it up, she really would get off.

“What the hell is so funny?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. Yes, I’ll do the social media set-up for you. Although it’s really idiot-proof and if you just took a couple hours, you could do all of it yourself. The hardest part will be gathering all the images you have on your various devices, and …”

“I don’t have time for that.”

“You literally could have done some of it in the time it took us to have this conversation.”

“And what if I just wanted to have the conversation?” he asked. “What if the social media stuff is only part of the reason I called?”

Miri opened her eyes and froze for a moment. “So I didn’t scare you off by being so mean on Sunday?” she asked, before she could consider the wisdom of the question.

This time it was Duardo’s turn to laugh. “Last Sunday, that was you ‘being mean’?”

Well, as mean as she could manage, anyway.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Why?” Shit. Now what was she going to say? That she saw a picture of him with the blonde and was jealous?

Jealous. Yes. That was what she was. She’d seen a picture of Duardo with a woman he was more than likely involved with, and it made her positively green. The woman-in-the-little-white-dress probably didn’t need to surreptitiously touch herself while listening to Duardo’s voice from across the country. The woman-in-the-little-white-dress had probably experienced Duardo’s fingers doing to her what Miri now had to do for herself.

There it was. Thinking of him with someone else made her … jealous. Now what the hell was she going to do about it?

“You’re right,” she said quickly. “It is late. And I have work tomorrow, so how about we talk later this week about getting you plugged in?”

“Hey, wait a minute. I want to know why you were …”

“We’ll talk again soon, okay?”

He said nothing in response, but in the silence, she could feel his displeasure.

“One thing I need you to do though?” she said.

“Yeah. What?”

“While you’re away, take pictures. Places you go, things you see, even meals you eat. Take pictures with your phone and then save them for when I see you next, okay?”

“Sure. But wh…”

“Duardo. I really do have to get some rest.”

Miri ended the call before he could get another word in, and quickly shut off her bedside light, sliding even deeper under the covers as though hiding. And then for good measure, she turned off her phone. It took her a few minutes, lying there in the dark, to admit that there was no way she would fall off to sleep unassisted.

Sighing, Miri reached down once again, closed her eyes and summoned the image of Duardo’s tanned arms, the outline of his muscles under a grey t-shirt—for some reason he favored grey—and the look he sometimes gave her that almost fooled her into thinking that he wanted her too.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

Miri3 promo flat

About ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’:

Coming from a large Dominican family that takes their gender roles very seriously, Miri Acosta has always enjoyed the protection of her three older brothers.

Until now.

Almost twenty-three, and just graduated from university she is finally on her own instead of living with her parents. Eager to experience every bit of what she’s missed her whole life living in the most exciting city in the world, Miri decides to buck her family’s wishes and become a modern, single woman. ‘Modern’ means clubbing, dating, and … casual sex.

Just so long as her brothers don’t find out.

As she’s about to put her ‘modern woman’ plan into effect, Miri meets Eduardo Cruz, the newest player on her brother’s MLB team who is exactly what she’s running from—a bossy, overbearing, traditional Dominican walking bundle of machismo.

Miri isn’t sure what to make of Duardo … but she can’t stay away from him, either, so she decides that he’s just the right man to get her started with the whole casual sex thing.

But Duardo isn’t interested in a ‘modern’ relationship. If Miri wants him, she’s going to have to learn how to become a more traditional Dominican girl. And once he gets her, whether she wants to or not, he’s playing for keeps.

FROM ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ – COMING SOON!

Though she kept her eyes down, Miri couldn’t help but listen. Eduardo had the kind of voice that made you want to listen. It was deep and hoarse, confident and steady. His English was vaguely rather than heavily accented, and there was even the hint of an American accent to it. He spoke Spanish like someone who had been bilingual all their life, and not just recently.

When he paused in the middle of his description of his home, Miri looked up and saw that his eyes were on her, as though he had been focused on her all along. Next to him, her brother Matt noticed the mutual staring and tilted his head to the side, his eyebrows lifting. Matt would no doubt tease her later about her obvious and naked attraction to Mark’s new teammate.

He was very handsome, so how could she not be attracted? And every time she looked at him, he was looking at her too, so the feeling might even be mutual. But that didn’t mean she was going to do anything about it. If she wanted to do something about it, she wouldn’t have known how.

Her inexperience with men embarrassed her. Especially when she was around her friends. Only Marisol knew she was still a virgin, and thankfully, she kept Miri’s secret from Nessa who probably would have taunted her mercilessly. Nessa, who reported her every conquest with R-rated detail, could not possibly understand what the hold-up was, and why Miri would be “saving herself.” But she wasn’t saving herself exactly; she just hadn’t met the man who made her want to give herself.

It was probably because she’d been raised in the Church, and from the time she was a toddler had been taught by the nuns to envision the sad face of the Blessed Virgin when she was about to sin. While her brothers went to public school where they were raised in the Bronx, Miri had gone to Saint Francis, where nuns clad in brown hammered into her all the various punishments for different types of sin. The sin of fornication was a bad one. Now, older and wiser, Miri wasn’t sure she believed everything she’d learned at Saint Francis, but those lessons were ingrained in her and all she could do was modify them … not flout them altogether. She might fornicate, but only if the urge to do so was overwhelming, and so far it hadn’t been.

She had been passionately kissed, had a couple times been felt up under her clothes, and had only once gone further than even that; but the ultimate act had never happened. Marisol on the other hand, also raised Catholic, said she had rid herself of her virginity at the first opportunity, which came freshman year in college. She told Miri that when her boyfriend pushed himself inside her, her body had resisted as determinedly as though he had been trying to press his thumb through the palm of her hand.

And the blood, Marisol said shaking her head. I don’t even want to tell you about the blood.

The thought of it almost made Miri swoon. She wasn’t completely innocent, and knew that some—maybe even most—women bled the first time, but she had heard very few firsthand accounts of what The First Time was like. A couple girls at Saint Francis had boasted of being sexually-active, but at the time, Miri wasn’t much interested. She wasn’t part of that crowd. She was one of the studious ones, more interested in her lessons and books than in parties and boys.

And why was she even thinking about that now?

Que precioso.”

Eduardo had ended his colorful description, and her mother was practically swooning, her father smiling as well.

“My mother thinks it’s madness to come to New York when you can live back home,” Mark said. “Even though I can’t persuade her to let me buy her a house there.”

“No. You save your money,” their mother said. “I am used to living here now. Maybe when I am old …”

Miri and her brothers exchanged smiles. None of them dared tell her that at almost sixty-five, they thought she was at least approaching old age. And certainly no one would bother reminding her that Mark now had more money than he knew what to do with. Relative to his wealth, the small things their parents accepted—some home remodeling, new appliances and a car—were akin to trinkets.

“You mustn’t encourage your mother to come here, Eduardo,” their mother continued. “Life here is very different … aislado … very isolated. Not very much …” She struggled with her English. “Not very much … comunidad.”

“Mom, that’s his and his mother’s business if she should come,” Miri jumped in, embarrassed.

Her parents always wanted to adopt the new Dominican ball players, treating them for a time like one of their own children, doling out unsolicited advice and even scolding them on occasion. One guy who had wound up in the papers for driving intoxicated, her mother had grabbed by the ear when he came over for dinner one Sunday, telling him he had shamed his family.

“No, but I’ve considered that,” Eduardo said. “I would not want her to be unhappy. She has friends in San Pedro. And her church.”

“Yes. Very important. Do you go to Mass, Eduardo?”

“Mom,” Matt groaned. “Stop. Bad enough you strong-arm the rest of us into going.”

“I shouldn’t have to … what do you say … strong-arm you into church, Mateo. But …” Their mother threw up her hands in defeat. “But … you meet your Maker at the end. So it is your choice whether you meet him in a state of grace or not.”

“I go on holidays,” Eduardo said, smiling politely. “Not much more than that, to be honest. And usually, I was strong-armed as well.”

“You young people today …” Standing up, her mother looked at Dylan who also stood. “Time for our chaca, Dylan?”

Her mother and sister-in-law headed for the kitchen and the little ones followed, lured by the promise of a sweet dessert. Her brothers and father continued talking among themselves and Xiomara leaned in to finish what remained on her plate now that she was freed from coercing Pedro into eating his own meal.

“How about you?” Eduardo asked.

Miri felt her face warm when he addressed her directly. The heat spread down her neck and to her belly. “What about me?”

“Do you often go to Mass?”

“No.” She shook her head. “Not often.”

Eduardo smiled, and she couldn’t figure out what that smile meant. What conclusion was he drawing from the fact that she too, had to be forced to Mass? Although why she should care about the conclusions he drew was beyond her.

“Are you staying tonight, Miri?” Mark asked from the head of the table.

“No. Too difficult to get to work on time from here.”

“God forbid you should be a little late to your high-powered job as a proofreader,” Matt smirked.

“High-powered or not, they expect me to be on time,” Miri snapped.

She hated it when her brothers treated her like she was a flibbertigibbet. She was doing what most people did after college—working at a job that paid the bills until she could figure out her next move. But she supposed the fact that her job didn’t actually pay the bills was part of what caused them to ridicule her.

After she graduated, Mark had continued depositing almost fifteen-hundred a month into her checking account. Of all her brothers, he was the one who would have had standing to inquire about when she was going to “get serious” about her life, and yet he did not. Matt and Peter on the other hand were relentless in their quest to prove her a spoiled brat. Like either of them had a leg to stand on.

Mark had bankrolled Matt’s new venture, a baseball camp for Little Leaguers; and Peter’s auto body shop that specialized in tricking-out luxury cars for irresponsible athletes and hedge-fund millionaires with too much disposable income on their hands. And just because both businesses were doing well, they conveniently forgot that it wasn’t their own ingenuity that had led to their success, but Mark’s money and good reputation. Although Acosta was a common name, the family resemblance to their famous brother opened lots of doors.

“So I’ll take you home after we’re done eating,” Mark said, smoothly avoiding yet another sibling squabble by bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand. “I need to take Duardo anyway.”

“Or you could take us to the train,” Eduardo suggested, unexpectedly. “I’d like to see what that’s like.”

Mark hesitated. “I think Dylan would kill me if I dropped you at the train station, man.”

“I would prefer it,” Eduardo said, more firmly this time. “So long as …” He looked at Miri. “So long as I have a guide to make sure I am not lost.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Miri saw that Matt was smirking again.

“Sure,” Miri said, feeling a tremor in her voice that she hoped no one else could hear. “I’ll be your guide.”

SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’

From ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’:

Mark again02Later when it grew hot, Mark, his brothers and cousins shed their shirts and jumped into the pool, then sat poolside, soaking wet and playing dominoes, drinking beer, talking over each other and joking around. Dylan wanted to swim but avoided going outside when they were all there in a group, finding them overwhelmingly masculine and intimidating. Mark sat among them, as loud as they were, laughing and slamming his dominoes on the table they’d pulled outside from the great room for the game.

Ava would have loved this, Dylan remembered thinking, as she peered out at them. Then Mark had spotted her and excused himself abruptly. Peter sat down to take over his hand at dominoes.

Did you want me for something? 

He’d walked up to her, his chest almost touching hers, and Dylan swallowed. The way he said that . . .

She looked up at him and he smirked at her, like he could read her mind. Raising one dark eyebrow he held her hand, pulling her along with him into his bedroom suite, shutting the door and putting his hand at her back.

With one swift motion he’d loosened the knot on her halter top and lowered his head to her breasts. Dylan’s chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath. Just as she’d begun to enjoy that, to bask in it, Mark suddenly turned her around again so her back was to him. He walked her forward and bent her over the bed, running his hand up her spine, pressing her face against a pillow as he did.
He reached around to her front and unfastened the waist of her shorts, pulling them down and spreading her legs as he did. Dylan felt his hands again, cupping her, his fingers spreading her, massaging her until she was squirming against him.
He leaned over her, arms braced on either side of her on the bed, holding up his weight.

This is going to be quick, he said. We have maybe five minutes before one of my cousins or my brothers come barging in here.

You . . . you didn’t lock the door? Dylan asked, panicked and excited at the same time.

No.

Well, let’s . . .

She made as though to pull away and Mark gripped her about the waist with a forearm which felt like solid rock against her abdomen.

Too late for that, he said.

And that was when she felt him, already hard and pressing between her legs. With his free hand he continued to rub and stroke her as he pushed into her, exhaling deeply once he did. He moved his hips back and forth and in circles, and she groaned and pushed back against him, no longer caring who might come barging in. Within moments, Mark doubled the speed of his movements, stimulating her with his fingers, moving in and out of her and gripping her tightly about the waist all at once. It didn’t take long before Dylan was crying out, and with a deep moan, Mark emptied himself inside her.

He rested against her for a minute, kissing the back of her neck then slowly pulling out. Dylan heard him close the zipper of his jeans. Crouching, he pulled her shorts back up and with unsteady hands refastened her halter top. She had barely caught her breath before he had her completely dressed again, as though nothing had happened. But when he turned her to face him again, his eyes were warm, like melted dark chocolate. He cupped her face in his hands and leaned in to kiss her, so sweetly . . .

Don’t wash up, he said against her ear. I like knowing some of me is still inside you.

And then he left. Dylan was still pulling herself together, recovering when she heard him rejoin his brothers and cousins by the pool, ordering Peter out of his seat.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Who is Dylan Acosta?

Well, first and foremost, she’s the main protagonist in ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’, the book that I’m offering free on Amazon.com until January 9th.

But second, she’s the character I am most conflicted about in anything I’ve ever written. I like to write about women who are flawed, yet strong. Women who make a fair amount of mistakes – as do we all – but who have a core that’s solid and admirable, even if you don’t admire everything they do.

Riley in ‘Commitment’ knew who she was, except in terms of her relationships with men. She understood her own view of the world and politics and was super-intellectual, but where men were concerned, she didn’t know herself very well. She had certain standards for a relationship that it turns out she herself was not meeting, though she didn’t admit it at first. But otherwise she was a woman you could admire, who was strong-willed enough to tame a strong man and bring him to his knees.

And Tracy in ‘Unsuitable Men’ was scarred by her past but managed to hold it together and present a face to the world that was very formidable and even intimidating. Even when she might lose the love of her life, she was aware that she could and would survive it. And Shayla in ‘Secret’ is in every way a survivor. She weathers great trauma and left all who were dear to her rather than accept their defining her as a victim.

But Dylan Acosta. Oh, Dylan. This character is the one that I related to least. She is a bundle of uncertainty and self-doubt, who refuses to accept that she is loved, and seems hell-bent on compromising and thwarting the love she gets from those around her. She self-sabotages constantly, and lights fuses in her own life and is surprised when the bomb goes off. I had a difficult relationship with her. She was like the friend you alternately want to save, and choke to death. The person in your life who so frustrates you that you very deliberately expose yourself to her only in small doses.

I felt about her the way you probably will when you read ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’.  So feel free to let your frustration fly free in your reviews on Amazon . . . or on this page. And tell me: how do you feel reading about characters that you don’t relate to at all? Or if you related to Dylan, how so?

Nia

Free Today Only on Amazon.com ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’

If you’re interested, you can get it here.

If you’re like me, you download lots of free reads, and then never read them – or read them several weeks later. So I totally get it if it takes you awhile, but please do consider leaving me a review if you download. If your review is less than favorable, I still want to hear it, and particularly want to hear what didn’t work for you. If you loved it, feel free to rhapsodize at length about that as well.   🙂

Happy reading!

-Nia-

‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ is Live on Amazon!

One caution for those who haven’t read my blog before, this book is not erotica. Despite the word ‘seduction’ in the title, this is contemporary fiction about a regular girl and not so regular guy in irregular circumstances. Read chapter one here, and then if you’re intrigued, buy the e-book here!

And then, by all means, let me know what think by leaving me a review.

P.S. The page count in Amazon says 283. That’s the Kindle count, but the real page count is 380.

Happy Reading!

-Nia-

Evocative Writing

Going through the books I’ve read and rated (a part of my quest to identify all the books I ever read), I noticed something interesting. I give many five star ratings. I don’t think it’s because every single one of those writers wrote a perfect book – whatever that is – but it has more to do with whether or not what they wrote made me feel something. I rarely read solely because the subject is “interesting”. That I do for my other work around social policy. In that life, I read things that are interesting and that inform me about a particular issue and make me more effective as an advocate, speaker and writer; I enjoy it immensely and have learned so much about my country, the world and human nature in general.

But when I read recreationally, I read to “feel” something. If I learn something as well, that’s certainly a bonus.

So it’s been interesting to read reviews that other folks write, particularly bad reviews, of books that I enjoyed. Often, the negative reviewer will list at length the ways that the main character frustrated them or made them angry, how the protagonist made decisions they were befuddled by . . . and then they’ll go on to rate the book at one or two stars.

How can it be, I wonder, that you were made to feel something just by reading this author’s words on a page, and then go on to undervalue those words?

Now, this is very different from the negative review that says, “I just didn’t believe it. The author did not convince me” that these characters were in this situation, or that being in that situation, they would have made the decisions they made. That, I think, may merit some disappointment. But to acknowledge that the writing evoked an emotion and then go on to say that you didn’t like the book because you didn’t like the emotion itself, puzzles me.

Here’s an example of what I mean. When I saw the movies, ‘Gone, Baby Gone’ and ‘Mystic River’, I was absolutely horrified and made despondent by the subject matter. I was literally haunted by both for weeks after I’d seen them. Now imagine if I had been a movie critic and panned both on that basis alone.

Similarly, Chris Bohjalian’s book ‘The Double Bind’ continues to disturb me to this day, years after I first read it. I see it on my bookshelf and walk past it quickly, preferring not to even look at the cover, perhaps ever again. That emotion, however uncomfortable, does not take it off my list of all-time best books I ever read, almost purely because of how it makes me feel.

In my own writing, I strive for that. I want my characters to piss you off, or make you love them, or make you sad. If someone says that my main female character is a “nasty piece of work”, my hope is that they mean she’s a flawed person, not a flawed product of my imagination

In my soon-to-be-released book ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ my struggle has been that the main character is very unlike anyone I know, and certainly very unlike me. She is painfully insecure, easily susceptible to the influence of others, and not at all sure of who she is. These character traits make her say and do things that I find inherently unsympathetic. And that makes it tough to get in touch with her. So I’ve had to constantly remind myself that I need not like her choices, or even like her. I simply need to believe her. I hope you’ll check out ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ next month and then write me a review telling me if you believed her.

In the meantime, read the teaser and leave me a comment.

Happy Reading!

-Nia-