Get to know Brendan . . .

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From UNSUITABLE MEN:

Brendan knew he was going to get in trouble with this woman and now he had. Big trouble. He could chalk it up to the emotional morning with Riley’s baby being born and Tracy being so affected by it, but in his heart of hearts he knew that wasn’t it. After his epiphany about her sex life, he’d just held her, nothing more, until he felt her stir against him, growing excited just from being held. He wanted her to know that it was possible, that there was arousal to be found in tenderness as well.

Then he’d kissed her, resisting when she immediately wanted to touch him, or have him touch her. Just kissing, with her nakedness against him, was difficult but he did it, for as long as it took for her to stop going for his package and just be in the moment. When finally he touched her, he didn’t let her reciprocate, not for awhile. He lay her on her back and ran the tips of his fingers over every part of her—face, shoulders, arms, breasts, hips, thighs—every part of her except the part that she tried desperately to get him to touch. The puzzlement never left her eyes and Brendan realized with wonder that she really hadn’t had anyone do this for her before. It seemed inconceivable when he would have happily done only that for hours on end.

When she closed her eyes, he told her to open them again. He wanted her to see him, to see that he wanted her, but could take pleasure in her pleasure; to see that he could wait until she had everything she needed; that she didn’t need to rush frantically toward orgasm because he could be trusted to make sure she got there.

Get to know Tracy . . .

ImageFrom UNSUITABLE MEN:

Tracy leaned forward a little from her vantage point in one of the semi-private VIP areas and watched as Brendan grinned one of his signature grins at some woman in a white bodysuit. Anyone who wore a white bodysuit in a club that had black lighting was just an exhibitionist plain and simple, because everyone knew that the black lights made lighter colors glow. She sighed and leaned back in her seat so Brendan and the tramp in white were out of view once again.

What seemed like a long while later he came back to her, and Tracy smiled blandly at him. After pulling the gauze curtain to close off their sitting area, he collapsed next to her on the sofa. After a moment he slid his hand along her leg and Tracy clamped her thighs shut.

“Uh oh,” Brendan said leaning back. “What did I do now?”

“Nothing,” Tracy said. She reached for her glass of champagne.

“You sure?” Brendan asked, leaning into her line of sight.

“Positive,” she said, taking a sip and avoiding looking him in the eye.

“Okay, nothing’s wrong,” Brendan said, nodding his head thoughtfully. “So if I wanted to do something to fix the ‘nothing’ that’s wrong—hypothetically speaking of course—what would I have to do?”

Tracy tried, but couldn’t prevent herself from smiling. No one made her smile this much, or laugh as hard. No one made her feel as good as he did, or as bad as he could, or as beautiful, or as sexy, or as angry, or as jealous, or as alive. Or as completely herself. Ah, to be herself with a man—what a revolutionary notion.

Perfect Romance

I tried to write ‘perfect romance’ but don’t know how . . .

Now that ‘Maybe Never‘ is done, and I’ve had some time to sit with it, I have to admit it was hard to let Brendan and Tracy go. When I first wrote about them in ‘Commitment‘, they weren’t a couple and only very gradually learned how to become friends. But it wasn’t their story, so I foreshadowed a little bit (without even knowing that that was what I was doing) to what would become their story. Tracy was Riley’s beautiful best friend who never seemed to have a man around, and seemed content to offer commentary on someone else’s love life rather than have one of her own. In ‘Unsuitable Men‘, we learned why–Tracy didn’t have relationships because she just couldn’t. And Brendan, the man she falls for, was barely able to do relationships himself. But somehow they found a rocky, painful, convoluted path to each other.

At the end of ‘Unsuitable Men’, Tracy was still working on some stuff, as was Brendan and there was always the lingering question of whether it was even possible that they might find a happily ever after. ‘Maybe Never’ was supposed to be a love letter, my Valentine’s kiss to readers who wrote to me, genuinely concerned that the ambiguity at the end of Unsuitable Men meant that maybe, somehow, Brendan and Tracy would break up. And so I set out to assuage those fears and give these readers a gift of a perfect romance.

messy loveBy now, if you’ve read ‘Maybe Never’, you know that it was many things, but it was most definitely not a “perfect romance” – not in the sense of its technical construction and execution and most definitely not in terms of the relationship between Brendan and Tracy. They have baggage, they have issues, they have problems and doubts and all kinds of shit to work out. And that’s because at the end of the day, as I work on this craft I’ve come to learn something about myself as a writer. I can’t do perfect. Not by a long-shot. I don’t know those people whose relationships end with a tidy HEA.  I know the people who love hard, who fight hard, who mess up, who have lousy relationships with parents that influence their love lives, or great relationships with parents that still influence their love lives in lousy ways, people who sometimes get horny looking at someone other than their partner . . . people who have messy, messy loves.

I tried to give the gift of perfect romance, but couldn’t. And fair warning for those who in future may be inclined to read what I write – I couldn’t do it in this instance and likely won’t ever be able to. I offer instead, stories about what I know to be true: that sometimes, through all the craziness and the chaos that we impose on ourselves, the drama and the messiness; sometimes we reach out and we find someone. Not someone perfect, but maybe if you’re lucky, they’re perfect for you . . .

Happy Reading.

-N-

Voice Part VI

Le Mariage

‘Le Mariage launched my phase of infatuation with Diane Johnson and her work about expats, a somewhat separatist culture with which I am very familiar. I still read snippets of this book and ‘Le Divorce’ (never, never, never see that movie, it was an awful adaptation) every once in awhile. The author has a wonderful eye and ear and attention for the detail that distinguishes one culture from another, and the idiosyncrasies of each. I think she’s influenced my writing tremendously because her voice is both dispassionate and intimate.

She seems to be hovering somewhat above and apart from her characters, and yet we learn very intimate things about them. We are privy to some of their thoughts but at the same time, we get the sense that we do not see everything, leaving room for the element of surprise.

I tried to do some of that in my book ‘Unsuitable Men’. We learn something about Brendan and Tracy and how they feel and see the world by getting into their heads, but there are still things that the reader learns that are not completely apparent, though hints were provided along the way. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m no Diane Johnson. At least not yet. 😉

Happy Reading.

-Nia-

‘Unsuitable Men’ is Free on Amazon Today!

Today only, on Amazon.com, I’m offering ‘Unsuitable Men’ free.

This book I love for lots of reasons. First, because it’s the result of a reader’s challenge to me to go against my aversion to writing sequels or serials that revisit the same characters over and over again. She so liked ‘Commitment’ that she asked whether I would be writing more about Shawn and Riley. I told her I could not, but would give a stab at exploring more about Tracy and Brendan, secondary characters in ‘Commitment’ who played prominent roles. The result was this book which now has me thoroughly convinced that sometimes, revisiting characters, but with a light touch, can yield interesting new material. So if you liked ‘Commitment’, try ‘Unsuitable Men’. And even if you didn’t read ‘Commitment’ this book tells it’s own story that is not at all dependent on the previous book.

The second reason I love ‘Unsuitable Men’ is the utter, and sometimes maddening imperfection of the main character who somehow  manages to make you love her anyway. That was my favorite element of this writing story, making Brendan fall in love with Tracy, warts and all.

Read it and write me a review. Tell me what about it (if anything) spoke to you!

Happy Reading!

-Nia-

Going Long

I’ve been trying, but I can’t do it.

After many, many weeks of “studying” the contemporary romance genre from a writer’s perspective, reading as much as I can get my hands on, downloading material to my Kindle like a woman possessed, reading reviews of other authors’ work and detecting patterns of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, I finally understand something. The average romance reader seems to want their resolution around page 250 or thereabouts. On rare occasions they will accept your going on for another 25 or so. Beyond that, there is impatience. And I think I understand. Honestly, two hundred and fifty to three hundred pages is sufficient to complete the basic romantic arc in most circumstances, unless there is a fair amount of suspense and action also involved. Or, let’s face it, if you’re a very skilled writer who can communicate vast amounts of information with relatively few words (which not many writers are).

Turns out, I just can’t do it. Certainly, I could work harder to say more with less or get a real cutthroat of an editor, and I think depending on the voice, in some circumstances I probably should. But sometimes it’s just not possible for me and now I think I understand why.

When I was writing Commitment, The Seduction of Dylan Acosta and Unsuitable Men, I never envisioned them as romance novels in the purest sense. I saw the main characters’ relationships with themselves, and their process of self-evolution as being equally important as whether or not they ended up with the person they were in love with. I wanted to say more about their lives and their worlds than that they had fallen in love, faced some trouble getting together with their love interest and then finally gotten it together.

In ‘Commitment’, I wanted to explore image, fame, the changing face of hip-hop (an art form I’m still very much in love with – as an aside, if you’re in love with it too, you MUST check out  The Anthology of Rap by Adam Bradley and edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) and a man’s process of learning who he is. In ‘Unsuitable Men’, it was about Tracy and Brendan falling in love, but also about Tracy learning to overcome demons from her past that made her loathe herself and love only her outward appearance. And in ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ it was about how not knowing who you are renders you susceptible to all kinds of influences that would seek to define you. The romance was the carrot to lure you in, but I hoped the core of the stories was more than that.

In ‘Unsuitable Men’, for instance, I debated with myself for days whether the main protagonists should end up with each other at all. And I was aware that if they did, what would be most satisfying to the reader would be a ring and a wedding. But that outcome didn’t make sense to me, given the very difficult journey of acceptance and self-acceptance that the Tracy character was embarking on. She wasn’t ready for any of that. Her love of herself was too new for her to have perfected love with another person to such a degree that she could marry them. So I just could not deliver that ending. Likewise, I find it difficult to deliver the standard 250 – 275 page romance and say all that I want to say.  And that has had me very conflicted.

No resolutions reached yet, but something tells me that when I come out on the other side of this debate, I’ll probably still go long. At least a little.

-Nia-

Bad Girls

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DeviantArt Design

There’s something about writing about “bad girls” that excites and interests me. The motivations, the compulsions, the experiences of women who are not examples of the feminine ideal awakens my imagination in a way that writing about “good girls” does not. It probably has something to do with my Catholic girls’ school upbringing where I was constantly restrained, restricted, admonished, and corrected.

And of course, hanging over my head (literally) at every turn was The Blessed Virgin, the ultimate example of female virtue and self-sacrifice.

For some reason, as I got older, I was always drawn to the girls who were in many ways the antithesis of that example: “girls who rode in cars with boys”, who had a little more information about sex than most of us, girls who advocated for breaking rather than adhering to the rules. But in terms of being a bad girl myself, I was always more of a poser than an actual do-er, more of a voyeur than a participant. Even then, I think I was honing my instinct for collecting information about how people live and why they do the things they do; and girls who against all instructions to the contrary broke free of an ideal someone else created for them struck me as worth studying.

In my new release ‘Unsuitable Men’ I write about a different kind of “bad girl”. She’s not a rebel at all and by all outward appearances, she conforms. But she has another side to her that’s self-destructive and inconsistent with the image she portrays. This is a different kind of bad girl – the kind some people call a ‘slut’, a word I think should not exist in any language, not only because it’s derogatory, but because it is an oversimplification of the complex ways in which women own, disown, are in touch with or pathologically out of touch with their ability to control and define their own sexuality. But that’s really heavy stuff and I tend – very intentionally – not to write very heavy books.

Still, I would love it if you would read ‘Unsuitable Men’ and leave me a review. I like to hear what you think about my writing, but also love hearing what you think about the themes. My goal is to tackle heavy themes in a light read. Let me know how I’m doing!

-Nia-