In Medias Res–A Guide to ‘FOUR: STORIES OF MARRIAGE’

a 'Commitment' novelin me·di·as res
/in ˈmēdēəs ˈres,ˈmādēˌäs/
adverb
  1. into the middle of a narrative; without preamble.
    “having begun his story in medias res, he then interrupts it”
    • into the midst of things.

     

This one kicked my ass. Could you tell? (Here’s a hint: when a writer blogs to ‘explain’ their book before you’ve read it, they’re terrified of how it will be received). When I thought about writing the finale to the ‘Commitment’ couples, all I could think about was how much my readers wanted it. I was mildly curious about Shawn and Riley, Brendan and Tracy, Chris and Robyn, and Jayson and Keisha as well, but I have to admit, that the primary driving force was knowing how much you — the folks who even read my droning blogs about ‘process’–wanted to hear from them.

The dilemma I never considered was: what comes after the happily ever after? Where do you pick up a story that has ended conclusively, and happily? Where might we find those people? How do you write the beginning, middle and end to a story of people who have already had that? Then I remembered that true love stories never really end. There are ups and downs, things that send you spinning sideways, questioning and falling in and out of love, and then in love all over again. And I thought about how love stories are to be found in the mundane, day-to-day-ness of being in a couple. Raising kids, having meals, going to work, negotiating balance, growth … all of that.

So, in ‘Four: Stories of Marriage’, there is a lot of mundanity. I drop you in the middle of an ongoing narrative of four marriages, not at a beginning place, but smack-dab in the middle. And the ‘endings’ of these four stories are the same way … inconclusive, but a stepping away from action at a place where you don’t necessarily know what will come next, though you think you have an inkling. The other thing I thought about as I wrote ‘Four’ was the complexity of coupledom, and my belief that relationships are often about repeating the same dynamic, making the same mistakes, and negotiating the same tensions often without resolution. Not in a bad way, but in the push-and-pull way that keep people interested in and learning from each other, maybe over a lifetime.

I can’t give you a lifetime of reading about these couples. You wouldn’t want to read that, and I wouldn’t want to write it. But I leave you with them now, to rest, just as they are.

Love & Light,

Nia

P.S. Buy it, here.

 

 

‘Behind the Pen’ is back!

Behind the Pen 2018 FlyerI only started doing book signings and public appearances about three years ago. The first one I did was my own, ‘Wine with Writers’. After that, I tested the waters with a couple others, and once I realized that I would not spontaneously combust from all that … interaction, I was all in. To my neverending surprise, meeting people who read my books is not at all like most social interaction. Large groups of people can be draining for me. Meeting readers is by contrast, energizing, inspiring, and a great motivator. Not to mention talking to people who remember details about your characters and stories that you’ve long forgotten, and who took even the smallest bit of encouragement, or found empathy for different points of view just because of something you’ve written … there’s nothing like it. It makes me humble, and grateful that I write.

So, this year, I’m doing it again, at ‘Behind the Pen’ in New York, on Saturday, August 11. Organized by the Sistah Girls Book Club. Behind the Pen was created by Sistah Girls founder, Sharee Hereford, to celebrate black independent authors and the readers who love their work. What started out as a small digital conversation has turned into a growing community (over two thousand members now!) of authors and readers who enjoy literature.

Last year, my author besties Rae Lamar, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java, and Tia Kelly were there, which made it super-fun. After the event our little band of writer-friends had dinner afterwards, and dissected everything (as writers are prone to do) with a motley crew of moms and daughters, friends and one very special reader; and the main thing we talked about was how amazing it was that people even gave a crap about meeting us. Then we moved on to how incredibly well-organized ‘Behind the Pen’ was. For a maiden voyage, they thought of just about everything, and there were no glitches that I could see. Every writer was treated like a VIP, and every reader had the time and space to interact with us in a meaningful way. There was food, drinks, music, fun and a great view of Lower Manhattan. It fueled the work that I did for the rest of the year. I think, for sure, it made me write more … and better.

This year, I think you still might be able to make it. Tickets for Behind the Pen are still available here for a mere $25. But if you can’t make it, you can order signed copies of some of my favorite books, below.

I hope you see you at Behind the Pen, but even, if not …

Happy Reading!

~N~

 

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.

 28275408_10160027638510494_259053850_o

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

The Writer’s Dilemma

introvert3When I was a kid, people used to call me shy. And for awhile, I believed them, because what did I know? I was a kid! But as I grew older, I realized that while shyness connoted fear, or trepidation being around groups of people, what I knew about myself was very different. People didn’t make me nervous or fearful, they just drained me. I found that my greatest energy, my sense of peace and of self was derived from being alone. What I am, is an introvert.

Over time, I learned how to be alone even in a crowd, and I do it still to this day because otherwise, I would be in a constant state of emotional depletion. Sometimes, when forced to socialize for work or go to crowded events with friends, I literally “get into character”, summoning my more sociable alter ego who can make small talk with the best of them, covering whatever topics are currently on people’s minds and tongues. But I hardly ever truly enjoy it. At best, I can say that it ‘wasn’t that bad.’ I’ve learned extrovert skills and am fairly good at most of them.

None of this is a big deal. Millions of people share the same story as mine. But my dilemma is that I am a writer, and to do that well, I need to engage with the world.

Wherever I go, I watch people. I listen to what they say, watch the things they do as they speak. Do they make eye contact when talking about their spouse? Do they sound tired when they talk about their job? I listen to how they speak, the words they use, the dialect, or slang, verbal tics they may have. And most of all, I love listening to people tell their own stories, of their lives, their families, their relationships. In that context, I am endlessly fascinated by people. But, as I always joke to another writer I’m close to: ‘my interest in people is purely academic.’

That’s an exaggeration, of course because I do care deeply about others. But it’s only a slight exaggeration.

What I mean is, watching people helps me write better, learn more about how they tick, which in turn might help me develop characters more skillfully. Problem is, observation only takes me so far. At some point I have to get in the ring and really, truly engage with people, which I don’t like to do because I’m an introvert: so there you have it, The Writer’s Dilemma.

If you knew before you got to this part of my blog exactly where I was going, and thought for a moment that I might have a solution, you’re wrong. I have no idea what to do about this dilemma. But I do know that it has to be solved — I need to engage to write well, but to write, I also need time, and space and silence. I’m working on a magic formula: maybe three parts introversion to one part extroversion and engaging with people? I don’t know.

If you share this dilemma, tell me . . . what do you do?

 

Unbridled Romance

Delaney CoverSome writers elevate the romance novel to a form that makes you eschew gritty reality in favor of something so much sweeter . . .

Now I’m not your romantic type. Honest, I’m not. I still stifle the urge to correct people when they refer to my work as romance novels. Not that I’ve got anything against romance novels (as this post is shortly about to explain) but I never set out to write something “romantic”, I just want to write something ‘real’. But some writers elevate the romance novel to a form that makes you eschew gritty reality in favor of something so much sweeter . . .

On Monday, I had the honor of being interviewed on Delaney Diamond’s blog; and because I anticipated the post, I went there to check it out. If you read my blog, you’re used to me spilling my guts, but if you want, you can read the interview here.  And when you get there, explore a little bit. I did. I read all of Delaney’s free reads and bought yet another one of her books. Having already read ‘Second Chances‘, ‘The Arrangement‘ and ‘The Ultimate Merger‘, but written reviews for only one of the three, I wasn’t planning to read or buy anything more for now.

But I couldn’t help it. I immediately left her site and bought ‘Here Comes Trouble‘ and when I got home, read the already-purchased ‘A Hard Man to Love‘. Now I can’t afford to be reading anything, being behind (again) on a writing deadline, but my appetite was whetted and had to be satisfied.

Delaney’s reads are quick, and in many ways the antithesis of mine. She writes briskly, in crisp, clever prose that tells you a great deal in very few words. There is an underpinning to each and every character, the hint of so much more than is told. But what she does tell is all you need to know to be intrigued.  And here’s another thing: Delaney Diamond writes pure romance. The sweep-you-off-your-feet, swooning, bite-your-knuckles kind where painfully handsome dark-haired men-of-means sweep women away to nights of untold pleasure. Her worlds are those where money is no object for the male protagonist and the women are often relatively ill-matched, at least financially. Her stories are those where money and power are their own aphrodisiacs. For the reader at least, but hardly ever for the female protagonist.

Rather, Delaney takes us through a maddening mating dance where men who have everything are befuddled by their desire for the one thing they cannot summon: the heart of a woman. In her books, women are driven to irrational behavior by love. This is the kind of stuff you tell yourself could be corny, but when Delaney writes it, for some reason, it just isn’t. You feel the mutual push and pull of lust and love, the angst, the longing, the ache of wanting someone so badly it would crush you to learn that they don’t want you.

As I sat down to write my reviews, I decided that a review of each book would not be enough. What readers need to get a sense of is the body of her work. This stuff is what you should read when you’ve had a crappy day at work, when your mate pissed you off so much you could scream, when your car got a flat tire as you drove home in the rain and the tow-truck took 45 minutes showing up while you sweated it out inside without air-conditioning. Delaney’s work is escapism of the most satisfying kind. And what’s best about it is that it has no pretensions whatsoever. Great writing, great books that are intensely, unapologetically, unbridled romance.

Happy Reading.

N.

Oh, and I’m not a Nookie, but if you are, it’s not your fault and you can still get Delaney’s books, here.

Paying it Forward . . . The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I’d never heard of a “blog hop” before today, but here’s the deal: I was tagged by author, M.J. Kane, in her blog which answered 10 questions about “the next big thing” she’s working on, She’d been tagged by another writer. At the end of this blog (which will answer the 10 questions) I will tag a bunch of other authors, effectively paying it forward and getting folks who read my blog to go to theirs and discover these wonderful authors. So it’s the author’s equivalent of a pyramid scheme, pretty much. Kidding!

This whole deal is incredibly well-timed because I am now officially “in the thick of it” – that place in the writing of your book where you can scarcely think of anything else, so just today as I was thinking about how I’ve neglected my blogging, this incredible opportunity came up for me to ramble on about the only thing I can think about these days – ‘The Art of Endings’ – my next big thing.

So here goes:

flatecover (1)Question #1. What is the working title of your book?

The Art of Endings‘. It’s not the ‘working title’ – it will be the title I use unless I get divine intervention telling me it should not be so.

Question #2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I was plagued over the holidays by a sense I had (and honestly, some reviews from people I trust) that the ending of ‘Secret’ was only somewhat satisfying. That more remained to be said. And since ‘Secret’ was definitely a departure for me in terms of style of storytelling, I began obsessing about the ending, and how the art of doing it well in writing is the hardest thing to perfect, even if you’re a pretty decent writer otherwise. And also, it was the end of the year so there was that ending to contemplate as well. And finally, some of the characters in Secret needed to find resolutions (endings) to long-troubling issues, so I decided to explore those. I blogged about it here.

Question #3. What is the genre?

I write contemporary women’s fiction. Some would call it romantic fiction. That’s probably a fair assessment as well, though for me, that’s not the only point of the books I write. The romance is what lures you in – I hope the message I convey goes beyond boy-meets-girl.

Question #4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters of the movie rendition?

I dreaded answering this question because I never draw characters with anyone in mind except themselves. They are whole and unique to me. And I also don’t watch too many movies but  here’s what I got from my Googling:

For Darren, Lamman Rucker

Lamman Rucker

For Trey, Shemar Moore

Shemar Moore3

For Shayla, Joy Bryant (plus about 10 pounds)

Joy Bryant2

 

 

 

 

 

For Paige, Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union

 

 

 

Question #5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Two men learn to understand themselves and the women they love, in the context of relationships they never thought they would have, or were capable of.

Question #6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher?

Self-pubbed.

Question #7. How long did it take to write the first draft?

Still working on it! ARGH!

Question #8. What other books would you compare it to in your genre?

Wow. Tough one. I’ll take a page from M.J. Kane and compare myself only to myself. As writers we’re in the same trenches but fighting our own individual battles. So ‘The Art of Endings’ will be like ‘The Seduction of Dylan Acosta’ in that it will have only one side’s point of view, whereas I generally write from both the male and female POVs. This time it’s all about the guys (she says, biting her fingernails with nervousness).

Question #9. Who, or what inspired you to write this book?

It all comes to me in my sleep, or something. I dunno. But seriously, when I finish a book, the characters go away. They are no longer in my head, but after ‘Secret’, they were still there, and so I knew there was more to write and I had finished it too soon. That instinct was confirmed for me by some trusted readers.

Question #10. What else about your book might pique the readers’ interest?

The primary thing would be that it’s meant to demystify the male journey toward romantic attachment. As women we wonder what makes them tick, how they decide that they ‘love’ rather than just ‘want’ a woman. What are the forces that make them form emotional attachments, and what makes those attachments stick? Women’s fiction – especially romances – have examined to death how and why women love. This is meant to give the view from the other side, the other sex.

And done. Thanks for recruiting me, M.J.!

Delaney Diamond, Nikki Walker, and Candace Shaw, tag you’re it!

Happy Reading and writing!

-Nia-

Review of ‘Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever’

Books are like movies. There’s rarely ever a new plot out there. In fact, every single book ever written is probably a variation of one of five basic plots, in my opinion. So it takes some skill to make what you write seem like something completely new. It takes even more skill to pull off and maintain reader interest when you write something that you explicitly want people to associate with something that’s been done before. L.V. Lewis managed to do that with ‘Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever’ and that’s why I wanted to dedicate my last post before I go into writing mode to her book.

Here’s my review. Please read it! And then buy her book here.

Happy Reading!
-Nia-

Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever (The Ghetto Girl Romance Quadrilogy, #1)Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever by L.V. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever is not at all what you might think.

For starters, I should say that I have a love-hate relationship with the Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James. I think the writing wasn’t . . . well, whatever, but let’s just say I wasn’t impressed by her craftsmanship. But (and this is a BIG but) she had something that many writers who are great craftspeople don’t have – she had a definite ear for what resonates emotionally. Despite my eye-rolling over some of her word choices, I had genuine emotional shifts while reading the story she crafted. But this is not about E.L. James. This is about L.V. Lewis (see what she did there? even her pen name is a play on the prior series – nice), a writer who has both emotional and verbal eloquence. And to top that all off, wit as well. Not just the ability to interject funny one-liners, but true intelligent wit that comes through loud and clear in her writing.

So if I had to say what I most enjoyed about this book, it would be that. She also paired an unlikely hero and heroine in virtually unbelievable circumstances and gave them such strong voices that you could see them and believe that they do in fact exist, or that they could.

No one is more surprised than I am that I loved this book. I hate – yes hate – the term “jungle fever” to refer to interracial relationships. (And I could go on forever about why, but I won’t.) And the only time I use the word “ghetto” is to refer to places not people. And come to think of it, not even then. So I was a little biased from the outset. But as has been the case with almost all my biases, I was proven wrong. The title is parody wrapped up in irony cloaked in social commentary with a healthy dollop of humor. So that takes care of the title. So don’t be afraid of it because of that . . . now about the plot.

I know, I know. The innocent-and-the-billionaire has been done to death. First up, Keisha is no innocent. She is a smart-mouth, streetwise, intelligent and driven woman who is not about to be led down anyone’s primrose path. But having said that, she has the wind knocked out of her by the force of her attraction to Tristan White (hah! the choice of surname, again demonstrating the author’s humor)and embarks on an unconventional relationship, being indoctrinated into the exciting and pleasurable world of BDSM. And, as was the case in that other Fifty Shades series, she is as surprised as anyone that she loves “all that kinky shit”.

L.V. Lewis walks us through her internal monologue and has Keisha thinking things that you could totally imagine you might think if presented with an extremely attractive new lover who just happens to want to tie you up and “punish” you a little bit. The exchanges between Tristan and Keisha were humorous, sexy, clever and oh-so-true-to-life, considering the utter unlikelihood of the situation. And I don’t mind telling you that the sex scenes increased my pulse, I mean, considerably. And hey, I write sex scenes, so I know how clinical the writing of it can be, but the reading of these . . . let’s just say, not clinical. At all.

Having read the other Fifty Shades series, I know what is likely to happen between Keisha and Tristan, but already it’s clear that L.V. Lewis is an artist in her own right, not someone doing a cheap knock-off, because the places where she chose to depart from the other series (not just the obvious – like the interracial relationship, girl-from-the-‘hood aspect) were smart choices. So now I’m curious to see in the remaining parts of the quadrilogy where she goes. My only complaint is that there will be three remaining parts (I hate series) but who the heck am I kidding? I’m going to buy them all.

View all my reviews