Hey Friends! Until we meet up March 10 at #WineWithWriters in Atlanta, I’ll post a spotlight each week — a little taste of what you’ll experience at the event where each author will introduce one of her books in her own words along with an excerpt… and wine pairing to enjoy as you read it again or for the first time.
First up… Nia Forrester! Nia is a brilliant writer and amazing person who always drops gems that are beautifully written with layered characters so real that it’s hard to let them go. Today, Nia shares her wine and book pairing along with some Q&A and an excerpt from her fantastic novel, ‘The Takedown’… enjoy!
10 Questions for Nia …
What’s in your purse?There’s one constant when it comes to my purses (although I prefer to say ‘pocketbook’ even though it’s old-fashioned because purse sounds so … girly) … they’re messy. But right now, here’s what I’ve got; and I’m going to be as author-ly in my descriptions as I can. I have: the smallest and lightest of my four (yes, I know, it’s ridiculous) e-readers which is in a somewhat flowery, colorful case; a little pencil case thingie with my fountain pens and spare cartridges; a small pocket-sized notebook with a blue-and-white paisley print cover for the unexpected stroke of creative genius; a much larger 2018 brown leather daybook/calendar; Trident Purely spearmint chewing gum, a small brush, several travel-size lotion tubes ranging from fragrance-free to coconut & lime; black leather gloves; my fancy sunglasses that I have had for a record TWO years (that’s why I got the fancy ones, because then I would know I had to take care of them); napkins from Starbucks (where I no longer buy coffee but over-pay for tea), receipts, Excedrin migraine; clear mascara; Palmer’s cocoa butter lip balm; black ponytail holders; and about a half-dozen pens.
Favorite book you’ve written? That’s like asking a parent which is their favorite child. I especially love ‘The Fall’ because it’s women’s fiction and romance and issue-oriented, and features a strong woman. All of the things I most like to read, and enjoyed writing as well. And then there’s ‘Lifted’ which featured unlikely lovers, with unconventional lives — they are wonderfully imperfect, which I think makes for good characters and good fiction. It certainly made for a good time writing it. Those books are closest to what I want to be writing. I also love the short ‘Still’, because it was moody and quiet and I was able to make myself say a lot, with relatively few words. It was a challenge, but I liked the product. And of course, my first-born, ‘Commitment’ because it is evidence of how … optimistic I was when I first started self-publishing. I was unselfconscious and didn’t think at all about the eventual reader of the book. I still can’t believe I wrote 500+ pages without considering whether people might actually want to read it. It’s even more incredible that people did read it, and that some liked it a lot.
Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why. Definitely fall. It’s my favorite time of year. I like the colors, the smells, the wind that can whip up unexpectedly, the bursts of hot and cold, which is kind of like my personality. I think it illustrates my changeable nature., my moodiness.
If you were a city, which city would you choose to be and why? I would be New York. It is a maddening, confounding, contradictory mess of a place. Sometimes amazing and surprising, sometimes harsh and forbidding. Always complicated, with an arrogant sense of its own importance, coupled with constant self-criticism.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?After law school, before I began earnestly adulting, I decided I would temp for a while, and rest my weary brain cells. All through law school I hadn’t written a word of fiction, which was AWFUL. I just didn’t have the time! So, before I went off to earn some real money as a lawyer, I decided to temp. One of my assignments was working for the U.S. Marshals Service. They apprehend fugitives from the federal criminal justice system among other things. I was responsible for admitting the marshals to the facility in Washington DC when they returned with fugitives in custody. It was upsetting to me to see people in chains. I was glad that assignment was a short one.
What technology from science fiction do you wish existed? Teleportation. I’m generally pretty mellow but traffic, airline delays (or even a completely trouble-free trip that involves flying, because of all the doggone hoops you jump through before getting on the plane) turn me into a joyless shrew. I would love to be able to just ‘will’ myself from one place to another. Also, there are all these cool places where I want to visit, where I have friends, and only the thought of “getting there” holds me back. 12-hour travel time? No thank you very much. I’m sure I’ll eventually get to those places, but not without a lot of complaining.
What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship?I don’t think it’s one thing, but if I had to pick, I would say healthy communication. With emphasis on the ‘healthy’. Which for me doesn’t mean talking for talking’s sake, or spilling your every thought. Rather, it would mean, for me, considering when, how and what to communicate. And doing it consistently, and with compassion for your partner.
Why is it so hard for people to make real connections when almost everyone wants to make real connections? I think fear. Fear of disappointment; fear of rejection; and ultimately fear of being hurt. I think that’s universal.
What are the most common road blocks that stop people from achieving their dreams? 1) fear 2) complacency; and 3) what they call in the recovery community “negative self-talk”.
If you suddenly found out that your internal monologue for the last week was actually audible, how screwed would you be? Pretty screwed. I set high expectations for myself which I guess is fine. But I also have a horrible tendency of setting high, unvoiced, unwarranted and oftentimes unfair expectations of other people. I expect things of them they are completely unaware of, and then I blame them for not living up to those expectations. That blame seldom results in outright cruel behavior, but it definitely results in me having very scathing thoughts.
An Excerpt From ‘The Takedown’
Watching Kayla get up from her place on the floor and say something to the kids as she left, Jamal’s eyes followed her. As was always the case for occasions like this, she had done something special to her hair. It fell in wavy coils to the center of her back and was pulled up and away from her face on the sides and top, peaking in the middle. Until her, he never knew—nor had reason to think about—the beauty of locs. He loved hers—the rough texture, the sturdiness, and the symbolism of them; and the way she held her back and neck regal and erect when they were piled high atop her head. And he loved the attention she got; and that he got just from being with her.
In his business, locs were still almost subversive unless you were part of the neo-soul, or world music scene. Or if not subversive exactly, they were very much the exception rather than the norm. Except for niche music, almost everyone went for the long, sleek mane of lighter-side-of-brown hair, and the almost airbrush-perfect makeup.
Jamal dug it that his woman stood out from all that, because he wasn’t opposed to standing out himself. Kayla was into darker makeup shades when she wore any at all—wine-colored lips, smoky eyes, and her naturally clay-brown complexion only enhanced, never lightened or altered with heavy foundation.
And the way she dressed was different too. Now that she had the resources to indulge her taste in fashion, she went for the yin-and-yang look. Boyishly baggy palazzo pants or billowy skirts in silk, linen and other natural fabrics, coupled with brief, lightweight but close-fitting tops with spaghetti straps; halter or tube tops, her neck and shoulders, and sometimes her back on display … sexy as fuck.
Without pausing to think how it might look, Jamal followed her, tired of the persistent distance between them—physical and otherwise.
He found her in the powder room, as expected. She was just leaving, but he crowded her back inside and leaned against the door, looking her over. Her nostrils flared a little, as though she could smell how much he wanted her.
“What was that, a job interview or something?”
Makayla’s eyes narrowed. “What’re you …?”
“You, and Robyn’s brother.”
She smirked, her eyes becoming lazy and exasperated. “Seriously?”
“That’s why you backed me up in here? To ask what I was talking about with Robyn’s brother?”
“This is where I’m supposed to get all jealous and shit, and take you home early, right?”
Makayla said nothing, just sighed, her expression impassive.
“Because if that’s what you’re thinking …” he continued.
“I would never think that,” she interrupted. “I mean, you’re Jamal Turner. You don’t do jealousy.”
“That’s right,” he said moving closer. Kayla took two corresponding steps back, until she was pressed against the edge of the sink. “I don’t do jealousy.”
She stifled a smile and her head fell back a little so she could maintain eye contact. “Why would you? Because you have everything you want.”
“Everything I want,” he echoed, lowering his head and kissing her at the shell of her ear. “Is already mine, dammit. So, I don’t have to be jealous.”
“Exactly.” She sounded a little breathless. “You don’t.”
When they played little games like this, Jamal was never sure how much was true and how much was part of the dance they liked to do, teasing each other, driving each other crazy. She still drove him crazy that was for sure. And that feeling didn’t get better with time, it got worse.
Inhaling her skin, he allowed just the tip of his tongue to score across its surface, smiling when he felt Kayla’s shiver. Grabbing her chin, he kissed her hard, messing up that dark lipstick she was wearing, and had probably just reapplied.
Feeling himself grow harder, he pressed against her, so she could feel it too. Dropping his hand from her face to her shoulder, and then to her waist, he lifted the hem of her blouse—a wispy yellow thing—knowing that there was nothing underneath. Her nipples were already hard when his fingertips brushed lightly across them. Immediately, he wanted them in his mouth, on his tongue. With his free hand, he reached for the knot at her neck, unfastening it so the halter fell, exposing her to the waist.
Makayla stepped back in surprise and gathered the fabric in her hands, beginning to lift it to cover herself once again.
“Are you out of your mind?” she asked, laughter in her voice. “We’re in Chris Scaife’s bathroom.”
“When you gon’ stop calling him ‘Chris Scaife’, like he’s someone you never met before?” Jamal murmured, lowering his head further, trying to capture the tip of a breast between his lips.
“He’s larger than life, so it’s just weird that …”
“I don’t want to talk about Chris right now,” Jamal said, cutting her off.
He sucked in a nipple and felt Makayla lift onto the tips of her toes at the sensation. She tasted good, and it had been much too long since he’d had any. The longest they had ever gone since they’d lived together was three weeks, and that was when he was across the Atlantic. This time it had been almost two weeks, and when he came back it was to exhaustion, a post-midnight call from that pain-in-the-ass Devin Parks, a trip to a florist, and one of his biggest name artists having a freak-out in an exclusive hotel.
He needed her right now. It had been too long. If it wasn’t for this little party to celebrate the christening of Brendan and Tracy’s second baby girl, he would be home, buried inside Kayla, but only after tasting every part of her. Not just the parts easily exposed in someone else’s powder room on short notice.
“Jamal. Baby …”
Her hands were atop his head. He liked how they felt there. He liked when she called him ‘baby’. And he liked that even though she was about to ask him to stop she didn’t really want him to.
“… stop. We have to …” She was talking between short bursts of breath, and by now, she was soaking wet for him.
But maybe he ought to check. Just to make sure he hadn’t lost his mojo. He slid a hand down the front of her pants and that was it—she shut him down.
Pressing both her palms against his chest, Makayla shoved him away and used to the space to twist free. Grabbing the strings of her halter, she knotted it at her neck once again, eyes wide, as if to say, ‘look what you got me into!’
Taking a deep breath, he collected himself, willing his erection to disappear. Watching Makayla reapply her lipstick didn’t really help with that so he shut his eyes and concentrated for a minute, making himself think about work. There was always at least one little problem brewing on the horizon that was guaranteed to take his mind off sex so he focused on that, and within moments felt the tightness in his groin dissipate.
When she restored her appearance to her satisfaction, Jamal took her hand and led Kayla out of the bathroom, pausing before they rejoined their friends. Leaning in, he whispered in her ear.
“Make whatever excuses you have to. Meet me at the car in five minutes.”
Y’all. I just got home a couple of hours ago. Dropped my stuff and ran back out, running errands to get ready for the work week. I’ve been mentally gathering what I wanted to say about my NYC weekend; to sum it up – #BehindThePen17 was BEAUTIFUL. Beautiful space. Beautifully decorated. Beautiful authors and readers and organizers and volunteers… yeah. Just beautiful. I should probably use another word, but that’s what it was. And, from beginning to end, the love was genuine. Plus, the music and the laughter and the selfies and the food and the energy… all of it was magic.
Kudos and a hundred hugs to Sharee and Saida for your vision and love for indie authors. You are AMAZING. That you would celebrate us in such an incredible way – in NYC?! – means so much. Thank you to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers; you made this event feel so warm and welcoming. Again, you are all incredible and thank you Sistah Girls Book Club for such a memorable experience!
Then I had dinner with my faves Saturday night. It was the first time Nia, Jacinta, Lily and I were all in the same city and the same space together – sooo much fun and the perfect way to close out the day. The conversation hit on a little bit of everything including our upcoming projects. *crickets* lol At least for me because writing has been on hold for a good minute because, well… life.
That’s when the realest moment of the weekend happened for me.
Leave it to my faves to come through with some inspiration. Love y’all. ❤
Hours later, I made it back to my hotel feeling a little lighter. True, life gets in the way. But I’m blessed to have writer friends who reminded me that sometimes life IS the way… and you simply channel your energy and write anyway. Escape and create. Because writers write.
I stayed up late with my best girl (my mom is so awesome; love her beyond words!), hanging out at Broadway Lounge, discussing the swirlnado in my mind over stiff drinks and yummy cheesecake.
This morning, I woke up feeling good. Really good.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of what Shakir writes (he’s a genre-bender), and I love it when he shakes things up while staying true to his base. Next Tuesday, March 28, is the official release date of In Service to the Senator, so I can’t say everything I want to say right now because no spoilers, of course… but just know that this is easily a 5-star read.
Today, Shakir is sharing a teaser chapter to hold us over until release day… enjoy!
“Mrs. Warren, I apologize for the harsh treatment that has befallen you, but we figured asking you to come along of your own volition would be pushing it a bit.”
Kianna’s eyes widened as she regarded the straight-laced scholar hovering over her as she struggled through her ties. “Who the fuck are you? What do you want with me?”
“Forgive me, dear, my name is Prater, and I represent the interests of an organization who wishes to see your husband take care of those interests.”
“Yeah, something dealing with Iran, right? Your ‘associate’ made himself pretty clear about your intentions.” She continued to struggle, frustrated over the deftness of which her wrists and ankles were bound. Even the collar around her neck seemed a bit more extravagant than what she figured a terrorist group would expend. She was impressed, but she was equally irritated. “Are you even a real “organization” anyway? You must be affiliated with someone, or are you trying to come up?”
“You have no idea of what our intentions are.” He scoffed, seething as she glared in defiance at him. “You’re about to find out just how real we are in a few moments, but first, we need to extract some information from you.”
“We? You don’t sound like the jackass that abducted me. What are you, Canadian?”
“Don’t be insulting,” Prater chuckled. “I’m Norwegian, but I studied abroad at Oxford. That’s not important right now, what is important is that you answer my questions properly. If you lie to me in any way, you will suffer the consequences. If you tell me the truth, it will be, by far, the most pleasurable interrogation of your life. Let’s start with something simple…what is your name?”
She hesitated for a brief moment, but figured that he might have been bluffing. She wasn’t hooked up to anything that could be regarded as a threat to harm her, so, she decided to play the game for a few moments. “Kianna Warren.”
He smiled, nodding at her answer. “Good girl…very good.”
In the next moment, the collar hummed around her neck, which initially startled her. She felt a slight prick against her neck, nothing painful, more of a nuisance than anything. The next thing she felt was a rush of endorphins surging through her bloodstream. She narrowed her eyes for a second as the rush caused a sweet and fuzzy sensation, like she’d taken a hit of a blunt. Hmm, this might not be so bad after all.
Prater kept his tone pleasant, even-keeled, as he continued to ask questions that were easy for her to answer, sending wave after wave of the drug that raised her endorphin levels through her body. That was before he got to the crux of what he really wanted to know. “Is your husband going to convince his running mate to invade Iran once they get into office?”
“What madness are you talking about? I don’t know what my hus—”
Kianna was unable to finish her response, thanks to an agonizing array of electrical charges that spiked from the collar, surging down her spine before dissipating to the floor. She arched in the chair in reaction to the pain, falling back as she gasped for breath.
She continued to breathe, spitting in Prater’s face as he took a handkerchief to wipe the newly beaded sweat from her forehead. “You son of a bitch! My husband’s gonna have your head!”
He wiped the saliva from his face and eyes, shaking his head over her ignorance. “I told you, lies have consequences.”
“I’m not lying, dammit!”
“Well, you’re not lying well, that’s for sure.” Prater leaned in for a second attempt to get an answer. “You want to try this again?”
“I told you, I don’t know what—”
Another searing blast from the electronic portion of the collar sent her into a quivering pool of flesh. She did her best to breathe deep enough to calm herself as best as possible. She was failing miserably. “Please, no more…”
“Yes, please, no more lying. I’m not a sadist…well, that’s not entirely true, but there’s no need in harming you like this. I do have a job to do, and you will not get in the way of that. What I’m having a hard time understanding is why you’re still trying to lie to me. I can tell you’re a good girl; you wouldn’t still be married to your Alpha male of a husband if you weren’t compliant.”
Kianna managed to get a view of the man who abducted her, along with the two other men in the room with her and Prater. She saw the other two men enjoying themselves and the spectacle in front of them, but there was something going on with her abductor. She couldn’t place her finger on it, but she had more pressing matters to concern herself with—like making it through this ordeal in one piece.
Prater’s face was expressionless, making it difficult to guess if he was, in fact, getting some sort of sadistic pleasure out of watching her suffer. He stood over her body, his eyes roaming over her tight curves before he took his fingers and lightly stroked them through her hair. He chuckled as she did her best to shake her mind from the mixture of euphoria and pain shooting through her body.
“There are some alternatives that we can visit,” he said as he continued to let his fingers roam. “Certain consequences that might not involve pain, that might help correct your behavior and make you more acquiescent to my commands and questions. Wouldn’t you like to find out what that might be?”
Kianna’s fight-or-flight senses began to overtake her a bit. She didn’t exactly realize what she was agreeing to, but anything would have been better than the shock therapy she was currently subjected to. “Sure, why not? What do I have to lose?”
“I’d prefer that you answer my questions in earnest, but we’ll adjust the consequences as you’ve requested.” Prater made a circular motion with his index finger in a direction that she didn’t have a clear line of sight of. After a slight pause, he began with the exact same question he left off with. “So, your husband and his plans for Iran after the election?”
“How many fucking times do I have to tell you, I don’t know what Terrell is planning? He’s not even sure they’re going to win the White House. You’re acting like it’s a guaranteed win, unless you know something I don’t know?”
Kianna realized the answer she was giving was less than truthful, but what choice did she have? Betraying her husband was not going to be the way she started off their marriage. She braced herself for the intensity of the shock she knew was coming, only to find that the shock wasn’t coming.
In the next instant, as she relaxed her body, she realized that her binds had been cut.
The next words out of Prater’s mouth confused her. “Stand up and take off your shirt.”
“You’re out of your fucking mind. Only my husband has the power to give orders like that.” Kianna nearly spat in his direction again, she was so incensed by the implication that she would even consent to such a request.
She looked over at the three creeps in the corner, focusing on the eyes of her abductor again. His eyes were almost imploring her to get it over with, like he’d seen this movie more times than he wanted to admit to. The endorphin drip continued to dull her senses, making it difficult for her to resist for too much longer.
“Fuck you,” she uttered, unbuttoning her shirt as quickly as she could muster. There’s no way in hell they’re going to take any pleasure in this whatsoever. She tore it off, not caring if the rest of the buttons ripped from the cloth, and tossed it on the floor, glaring at Prater over where the scene’s conclusion would eventually lead. After all, she was a female captive, at the mercy of a person—the face of an organization she’d never heard of a day in her life—who wanted her husband to accomplish the impossible, there was only one other conclusion she had left to deduce.
She wasn’t about to go down without a fight, either.
Anger and fear mixed within her emotions as the sudden chills caused her body to tremble. From the untrained eye, one might mistake her trembling for arousal, but Prater knew better. In fact, he took special pleasure in watching her squirm.
“Good girl, now your skirt, if you will?” His request came with a honey-sweet nectar that she wasn’t accustomed to in their short tête-à-tête, though there was nothing private about any of what was going on with the peanut gallery looking on with lustful interest. Being a psychology major in college, she was aware of the aphrodisiac of having this sort of power over a beautiful woman was having over the group sharing the space with her.
Still, she wasn’t going to make this easy, no matter how much the drip was weakening her resolve. “Go to hell.”
She heard a switch flip from behind her, and she braced herself for what was coming. Unfortunately for her, her resolve would melt away, tearing away at every fiber of her mental state. The dose of the drip rushed into her system, much more concentrated than before, causing her head to swirl and her body to sway, nearly to the point to where she needed to sit in the chair again. The more she tried to fight, the more the drip numbed her senses, making her susceptible to any suggestion. Regardless of what her mind wanted, her body wanted something completely different.
She looked at Prater, who grinned as he noticed what was happening to her. “That jolt was for obeying me for exposing your chest. Now, the skirt, if you will, Mrs. Warren.”
Kianna’s confusion was evident as she moved her hands behind her back to unzip the skirt, a slight moan escaping her lips as the fabric slipped down over her hips. Her eyes narrowed, her eyes closing with each passing second. She felt like she was dreaming, entranced by the euphoria she experienced from the drip. A smile crept across her face as she found herself on the edge of orgasmic bliss—something she didn’t want to experience in present company.
Whether she liked it or not, she was about to become a spectacle.
“Very good…very good.” Prater’s voice dropped an octave, alerting her senses into action. Her eyes flew open, the shock of feeling his hand slipping between her breasts, down her stomach and across her panty line.
She slapped his hand away, willing everything within her to clear her mind from the drugs in her system. “Touch me again and I’ll make sure you die slowly when my husband gets to you. Mark my words.”
“You have an extraordinary faith in your husband’s—hell, in your government’s—ability to find you, Mrs. Warren. If you simply understand your place—”
“My place is beside my husband, not stuck here playing bullshit international political games with someone who doesn’t realize what the real stakes are.” Kianna smiled for the first time in this ordeal, and she smiled wider when she saw the momentary confusion wash over her tormentor’s face. It was a small victory, for sure, but she wasn’t naïve enough to believe that she’d won nothing more than a battle in this burgeoning war. She tried to push the envelope with her next words. “Are you sure you want to see how this ends?”
“I can’t wait, and I can’t wait to see your face when this does end. Take her to her room.” Prater walked away from Kianna, and with a wave of his hand, her abductor dropped his weapon, unclasped the collar from her neck and proceeded to lift her from her chair.
Her senses were still dulled beyond any comprehension, but the only thing she could do was allow him to carry her to her next destination. She wasn’t sure where she was going, and in that moment, she didn’t care. She was relieved that this ordeal was over…at least, for now, it was.
Until then, she would have to find a way to survive.
In Service to the Senator by Shakir Rashaan – Coming March 28!
It’s been a crazy great few weeks for me. Leveled all the way up at a new job with a new company along with a few other life/family things… all kinds of fun and anxiety and good times. All that to say, my writing has taken a back seat in the interim… a temporary hiatus until life calms down a bit.
On another note, spring has sprung and we’re quickly approaching some cool literary events with awesome writer lineups. Coming up soon is Wine With Writers in Philly (http://bit.ly/2msJuwg) on March 25 and Girl Have You Met? in Houston (bit.ly/meetmeinTX) on April 8 – if you’re gonna be in the area, buy your tickets today… you don’t want to miss these authors!
Then summer is bringing us Indie Love In the A on June 24 at Wyndham Galleria in Atlanta! I’m so excited to be a part of this epic event again this year. Have you registered yet? Don’t wait – tickets are still available at @ https://www.eventbrite.com/e/indie-love-in-the-atl-2017-tic…. Finally, Behind The Pen is sold out, so I hope you bought your tickets… if you did, I’ll see you in NYC in August!
As always, thanks so much for the love and support… and also the most recent ratings and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. That you would take the time and let me know your thoughts about my work is everything… I truly appreciate you!