Every aspect of #WineWithWritersATL was so fantastic — the music, the wine, the food, the ambience. But nothing topped THE READERS! ❤ I cannot express how grateful I felt last night; your presence and energy and genuine love for all of us means everything. I only wish there was more time last night to sip & chat… y’all are the BEST. And Quan and LaShawn… hey y’all! 😀 Can I just say how thrilled I was to see you?! *hugs*
Special thanks to Nia Forrester, the originator of #WineWithWriters. Three years ago, Nia launched this event in Washington, D.C. then again in Philadelphia and now in the A. Because of her vision, readers were able to enjoy a casual, engaging literary experience in southwest ATL last night and have what Lily Java perfectly sums up — an intimate, no-holds-barred discussion about the books we love and why we love them. I am still full just thinking about it. Nia, your brainchild is truly something special and I continue to be in awe of your talent, humility and benevolent spirit… congrats on another huge success!
Wine With Writers was a sold-out event… a for real, turning-people-away-at-the-door, sold-out event. Last night was by no means an easy feat. From the planning and the space itself to the transition between the mixer to the discussion to the book signing, it was all on point. Jacinta Howard, you da real MVP. Thank you so, so much for leading the charge and, most important, just being you. I could see your heart in every detail last night… you are amazing!
Definitely can’t forget to express my sincere appreciation for Grace Octavia. It was a pleasure meeting you, Grace, and thank you for moderating our discussion!
And to my sister writers — Jacinta, Lily, Nia, and now DL and Tasha — I am so inspired by and grateful to know you. Keep sharing your incredible gifts with the world… I love y’all! ❤
ICYMI: Check out a couple of clips below from the event.
Ever pick up a novel about a Dominant woman only to find Her story is told from a submissive point of view?
SAMOIS is definitely not that.
In this fourth installment of the Nubian Underworld Series, Shakir Rashaan introduces a female supremacy fantasy world led by our faves Lady Neferterri, Mistress Sinsual and Mistress Blaze. Join them along with sajira, shamise and a special VIP guest at the NEBU compound during a shocking and sultry “SAMOIS Society” weekend in the A, guaranteed to question the definitions of loyalty and friendship.
Check out the exclusive excerpt below from Lady Neferterri’s point of view… enjoy!
“my Lady, there are a couple of SUVs here with federal government plates at the front gate, and a Secret Service agent requesting Your presence.” Sigma’s voice boomed through my earpiece as I was making final preparations for the Marketplace session later. “What is Your ETA, my Lady?”
To say my whole world stopped would be an understatement. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to expect this VIP attendee or not, so I kept that information close to the vest in case it didn’t come to fruition. While I realized it would be wholly unreasonable to expect her attendance, I held out hope that the promise of complete privacy and the recommendations of several of her colleagues who enjoyed the Thebes compound in northern Virginia would convince her that the trip during her scheduled time away from her Sir and work would be worth it.
Sigma’s radio communications in that moment were proof that the efforts were not in vain. “Sigma, please let our guest know I will be there within three minutes.”
“Yes, my Lady, relaying the message to the agent now.”
I wasn’t sure who I wanted to accompany me to the front entrance to receive this guest, but I decided it was best to maintain a measure of decorum and deal with her myself. It wasn’t like we hadn’t had high-powered clientele before, but reaching this high was rare air to say the least. Beloved had been communicating with her Sir for some time now, back when he was a US Senator, but with his recent promotion, it had become difficult for him to get out without triggering media frenzies.
My game plan was to have one of his girls to attend the event, and I acquiesced to the presence of Secret Service agents on the premises also. What that meant was for me to explain on the fly to the rest of the attendees that everything was fine, the agents were not looking for anyone, but they were there to protect their assigned official. Considering this was both a one-shot chance for her to cut loose and a rare chance to expand the quality of the clientele a bit, I couldn’t leave anything to chance by someone getting a bit star-struck and start running their mouth on social media.
I took one of the golf carts and made my way to the front entrance, where Sigma was waiting for me. His facial expressions had me wondering if he’d been around this type of government appearance before. He didn’t give me any indications that he was nervous or anything of the sort. He helped me out of the cart, offering his forearm for me to hold on to while we walked toward the SUVs.
“Did the agent give an idea of who they have with them?”
“No, my Lady, they stated that their orders were to wait until You arrived, and they would allow You to speak to them directly.”
I wasn’t sure how to receive that information. “That’s fine, Sigma, I assume they are in the rear SUV?”
“That is correct, my Lady. I was told once You arrived to escort You to that vehicle and to seat You inside to speak further.”
“Are you comfortable with that plan of action, Sigma?”
“No, my Lady, but these are Secret Service agents, and they are acting under orders. In that vein, i am willing to offer a little faith that this is standard operating procedure.” Sigma held my arm tight, trying to not sound too protective, but he understood that, Secret Service or not, his directive with regard to my safety overrode everything else.
“Then, let’s play it their way for now, and if anything is off-key, I’ll make sure to let you know. There was a reason I wanted you by My side for the weekend, and I’m comfortable handling this knowing you know what to do if things go left,” I replied as we made it to the rear passenger door of the SUV.
Sigma opened the door for me, ensuring I was comfortable once I was inside, doing his best to avoid staring at the beautiful woman sitting in the seat next to me. He paused for a second, gathering his thoughts before he refocused his attention on me. “i will be outside the vehicle awaiting Your return, my Lady.”
Once he closed the door, I turned my attention to the striking beauty sitting in the captain’s chair next to me. She nodded toward her agents, who exited the vehicle so we could have some privacy. “Mrs. Alexander, I would like to thank You for making accommodations for Me and My team on such short notice. It is difficult to plan these things out, as I’m sure You can imagine.”
“Ms. McAvoy, I am glad that the schedules and stars aligned for You to make an appearance and enjoy Yourself. I’m hopeful that we will be able to provide the type of environment that Your Sir will be comfortable allowing You to indulge in moving forward.”
Lea McAvoy was the current White House Press Secretary, so having her in house was a major coup. She didn’t get a lot of down time, so the fact that she wanted to spend it at NEBU was a source of pride for me. Coordinating efforts with her Secret Service detail was exhaustive, but in order to have what I wanted, I had to put up with things I might have been uncomfortable with.
Watching her smile was worth every bit of stress I went through. “My Sir is looking forward to hearing about my excursion to Your compound. If everything goes according to plan, He and My sis may require the ability to have You and Yours secure a contingent of Your closest friends and extended family to join us for an event at our private residence out in California at a date to be secured later.”
“I’m looking forward to providing You with that experience. Beloved and I are hopeful that Your Sir is able to become the second black POTUS this next election cycle.” I leaned back in the seat, doing my best to soak in the gravity of her last statement. In a recent history of game-changing moments, this was the next in a long line of them. “Do I need to make any special accommodations for You and Your detail? All other arrangements have been made to Your specifications.”
“My Lady, You have been more than gracious, and that alone is enough for Me to make the call back to DC to speak to My Sir further. I’m sure He, You and Your Beloved will have a lot to discuss moving forward. I can’t wait to put Him in contact with You both.”
“I’m pleased to hear that, Ms. McAvoy. I’m very certain Ramesses will be anxious to discuss some next level discretionary measures to ensure that He can balance things out. If His path comes to fruition, those measures will become critical.”
I did my best to keep my elation under wraps, but it was difficult to do so in front of her. We’d had a chance meeting at a fundraiser for Vice President Terrell Warren—he was Senator Warren during that time—and once he and Ramesses were in close proximity of each other, the whole “game recognizes game” familiarity drew them together. The ensuing conversation inside the presidential suite at his hotel was still being talked about by amani and the girls, especially when they were able to sit and enjoy it with the Second Lady, Kianna Warren, and Ms. McAvoy.
From that moment forward, we’d been able to maintain streamlined communications with the Second Family, maintaining a heightened level of discretion, to the point to where the only persons who even knew of our connection to them were sworn to secrecy, under penalty of ostracization. We couldn’t risk not having access to the circles that they were in, especially if we wanted to implement other phases of the grander scheme with regard to having more exclusive clientele visiting the compounds on a regular basis.
“We can stop with the formalities, Neferterri. You can call Me Lea, and My Sir isn’t thinking about the Oval Office yet. There’s too much he and President Yeager have to deal with at current, including the current Stateside issues and trying to fund the infrastructure upgrades and other projects to continue to stimulate the economy.” Lea shook her head as she realized she was bringing work with her yet again. “Forgive Me, it seems I need this a lot more than I’d originally thought. I didn’t mean to bore You with the droning going on inside the District.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Lea, we know it can get to be a bit redundant at times, but we have confidence they will get everything taken care of before the midterm elections come around.” I patted her hand to bring her down a few notches so she didn’t feel so agitated. “What can I personally take care of for You?”
“Right at this moment, I just want to rest for a bit before the festivities begin later tonight,” Lea smiled as she perused the itinerary I’d sent to her on her smartphone. “I’m quite looking forward to the spectacle of this Marketplace session. I doubt I will partake personally in the selection process, but it will be fun to watch it all unfold. The submissive that You screened and vetted for Me will be quite enough for Me to enjoy this weekend. I thank You for that, and that will be enough to recharge the batteries and get back to My Sir and sis.”
“Well, please know that if You do have anything, Sigma is the quickest way to get to Me. he is the security director for the event this weekend, and he is in service to Me also,” I replied. “Let’s get You set up so You can get comfortable, and if You don’t mind, I would like for You to get reacquainted with our girls and boy. I’m sure with the bubble that You have to live in up in the District, having some people who aren’t in the grinder would be a refreshing respite.”
“I’m looking forward to that meeting, My Lady. They were an absolute pleasure to be around, and it helped My sis a lot with being comfortable in her surrender watching shamise and sajira in their interactions around the two of You.” Lea leaned toward me, close enough that I could inhale her mango-fresh scent. Her eyes spoke volumes, but I did my best to keep things on the level…for now. “Is there anything that I need to do to make things less distracting for You during Your event? We did our best to be as low-key in our arrival as possible, we don’t want to provide any more of a distraction than necessary.”
“All I want You to do is unwind, enjoy the weekend, and if You need to have any of the submissives that I have designated to take care of any of Your needs, please let Me know. You have to get back into the fight after this weekend is over, I want to ensure that You have built up enough capacity to deal with the madness.” I patted her hand, returning her mischievous grin with one of my own. “We need to do whatever it takes to get You back in the fight and looking damn good while doing it, I got You.”
You already know that we’ll discuss ‘Identity & Individuality: The Movement Toward Issue-Based Black Women’s Fiction.’ It’ll be a candid, intimate, fun exchange… facilitated by Essence® bestselling author Grace Octavia! Register now and join us… can’t wait to see you Saturday!
Today, the spotlight is on DL White! What stands out for me about DL’s writing is that her style creates the clearest images as she draws you into her story. Take ‘Brunch At Ruby’s,’ for example — I loved how DL contrasted the personalities, paradigms and predicaments of three best friends as I followed them through sometimes-sweet-sometimes-salty brunches, surprising romantic connections and points of conflict I didn’t always see coming (no spoilers). In her latest blog post, DL described ‘Brunch At Ruby’s’ as “warm women’s fiction.” Yes y’all… it truly is and this novel is fantastic.
Get to know DL in the Q&A below then check out this week’s wine pairing recommendation and an excerpt from ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’… enjoy!
10 Questions for DL …
Would you like to see into the future? Why? Nah. I like predictability as much as the next guy but I also love the element of surprise. If you STAY ready you ain’t got to GET ready. HA!
If you could only choose one vacation destination where would you pick and why?
Eauh Gah why are you asking me thisssss??? A beach. I don’t know which one but it should have soft sugar sand and blue green water and the air should be warm… that’s as specific as I can get.
What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast?
It wasn’t Netflix, but the L Word… I found it online and blew through that series like CRAZY. I think I stayed up all night to watch the last season. I heard a rumor that the show was coming back, though I feel like people are just playing with my emotions. But can Jenny still be dead but Dana come back? GAH JENNY SCHECTER WE HATE YOU!
What will finally break the internet?
I’m not sure it can be broken at this point. It’s so evil, it’s all powerful.
What’s in your purse?
Like fitty eleven pens, ibuprofen, 4 tubes of chapstick, 2 lippies (beauty bakerie- get hip to it!) my organizer, my wallet, Tangy Mae Kindle, and one of those multi charge cord things so I can charge all of the things. And of course the work phone and the Ho phone.
Favorite book you’ve written?
Brunch at Ruby’s. It’s always going to be my Book Baby.
Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why.
SUMMER. I just LOVE it, heat and all. I moved south for the HEAT and the sunshine. Spring is a close follow up. If I don’t have to worry about a jacket and the skies are blue and cloudless…. Heaven.
If you were a city, which city would you choose to be and why?
Some place modern and cosmopolitan but also kinda small townish and downhome…. Like Atlanta. Or maybe my vision of DC, a hip chocolate city.
What technology from science fiction do you wish existed? Teleporting. I neeeeeeed that technology. Like, I love going places but I hate the airport and I don’t like to drive long distances. If I could just… arrive… at the nearest beach that would be great.
What are the most common road blocks that stop people from achieving their dreams?
Fear. In my opinion, roadblocks boil down to fear. Fear of unknown, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of the word no, of people not liking us or our ideas. When we stop being afraid of what could or won’t happen, when we get rid of the what if’s, we’re able to push forward. Speaking for myself, really.
An Excerpt from ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’
He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.
To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn’t much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.
“I mean, with all due respect, Leslie…” KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. “You’re not my competition.”
That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.
Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. “Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake.”
“I’m not… slumming. I hadn’t been over here since I moved back and— “
“And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?”
KC’s eyes narrowed and his brows formed “V” of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.
“Tam, why don’t you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready.” I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.
As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC’s arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.
“What do you want?” I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. “We’re about to close up.”
He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. “I just… was around and— “
“Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So… what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?”
“I’m not steal—” He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. “I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— “
“No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— “
“That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn’t know this shop was here.”
“Well, now you do.”
I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.
Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but… damn, he was fine.
“Now I do,” he acknowledged, with a head nod. “All I’m saying is that we should be able to co-exist.”
I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.
“It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them.”
He scoffed, but I ignored it. “We can’t coexist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years. Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn’t hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of…”
I shrugged, shaking my head. “Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you’re already rich, so now you’re just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It’s about more than a cheap haircut.”
“What do you want me to do, Leslie? Shut down my shop on some first dibs bullshit?”
I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of familiar feelings from being too close to him.
It’s Rae Day! 😀 My turn for a little Q&A plus my wine recommendation for ‘Blur’ followed by a fun excerpt of Jade and Kyle… being Jade and Kyle. lol I love them so much.
Don’t forget to register for #WineWithWriters… can’t wait to see you March 10! ❤
10 Questions for Me: …
Would you like to see into the future? Why? No. It’ll come soon enough.
If you could only choose one vacation destination where would you pick and why? One? This is too hard. All I know for sure is that I must have waterfront views.
What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast? The first season of Riverdale. I was curious, and I think the CW does high school soaps very well, so I decided to give it a shot. They got me, man. I think it’s because it was such a blend of shows gone by – Cruel Intentions meets first generation 90210 meets Gossip Girl meets another show I can’t remember right now. I didn’t expect it to be as dark and creepy as it is, a definite plus for me. And it’s a trip to see Luke Perry playing Archie’s dad and doing a good job at it so that means Dylan McKay is officially dead. Oh and he co-parents with his ex-wife, Molly Ringwald, in a city led by Mayor Robin Givens. Yeah. Creepy. I enjoyed my two-day binge though. Very entertaining.
Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why. Fall. Football season is in full swing by then. Atlanta is a forest, and the colors are gorgeous. My favorite holidays happen, including my birthday. And I can wear all my boots.
What technology from science fiction do you wish existed? Personal energy shields and force fields. And when activated, it would be like The Glow from The Last Dragon.
If you could level up humans as a species, what stat or ability would you increase? Empathy.
What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship? Connection. Depending on who you are, that could mean physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Whether one or all of them matter to you, that connection must exist between you and your significant other or the relationship suffers.
Why is it so hard for people to make real connections when almost everyone wants to make real connections? Vulnerability is scary as hell and some people are unwilling to take that risk, so there’s that. Also, people have differing definitions of “real” – if you’re able to find a person who has the same interpretation as you, it’s a win.
What are the most common roadblocks that stop people from achieving their dreams? Overthinking, fear, insecurity – the usual suspects. Lack of faith in yourself. No clarity of what “your” dream truly is; some people are out here living others’ desires for them so they’re running fast in the wrong direction. Blind spots that are never realized. A variety of things could be a reason, but these are the first that came to mind.
If you suddenly found out that your internal monologue for the last week was actually audible, how screwed would you be? Totally. My week was too peopley and full of meaningless stuff, challenging my personal freedom which is my core value. When that’s violated, I’m not my best self on the inside. Not proud of that; it’s something that I continue to work on by respecting my rhythms and setting better boundaries.
Excerpt from ‘Blur’:
Another game of Gin with drinks of the same name.
“Five… four… three… two…” Jade rapped along with the song before she flashed an Ace of Hearts, the final card in her grip, then slammed it down to win her third hand in a row. “One, run, ya done when I see… you…”
Kyle smirked as she celebrated. “All that and you ain’t nowhere, playa.” After calculating the score, he raised the notepad so she could see the score for herself. “I’m still up forty… but keep dancin’.”
Jade stopped and frowned.
“Your deal. Just make sure you don’t give me what I need to get this last seventy or this game is over.” Kyle sat back and watched as she snatched the cards, stacked them up and began to shuffle. “But I must say that I appreciate how you don’t let all those L’s get you down, baby. Didn’t expect you to catch up this quick either… then again, you do tend to take these bitches down to the wire—”
“Cut,” Jade snapped, narrowing her eyes.
“My pleasure.” He cut the deck and nodded for her to proceed. “Run it.”
Jade tossed cards back and forth between them as they continued talking shit.
Just like old times.
This was exactly what she was hoping for on the way to his house… a chance to press the reset button on their friendship and get back to whom they’ve always been — two homies stretched out with nothing but dap, digs, drinks and no drama between them. They were still avoiding what happened the other night and Jade was completely okay with dodging that conversation because it was the last thing she wanted to talk about… and because it never should’ve have happened. Even after the “enjoy the dick” pep talk that Rachel delivered earlier in the day, Jade couldn’t hype herself up to accept such a casual arrangement with Kyle. Reducing him to a fuck buddy to relieve her of a self-imposed drought felt wrong on so many levels, and she refused to risk their friendship again due to another weak moment. So now her new plan was to get things back on track. Back to the way things were. Back to what they had always been to each other.
Hey Friends! We’re counting down to #WineWithWriters… books, music, wine, more books, more wine and conversation. What will we be talking about? ‘Identity & Individuality: The Movement Toward Issue-Based Black Women’s Fiction.’ It’ll be intimate and fun and candid and fun and insightful and… did I mention fun? Register now and join us Saturday, March 10. Can’t wait to spend time and sip wine with you.
Now let’s turn the spotlight to Lily Java! Vivid scenes and beautiful language are her signatures and, what I enjoy most, are the secondary relationships that add even more depth to Lily’s stories — specifically in her latest novel, ‘Blackbirds’ where also experience the bonds between mother and son, father and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter that touched my heart and made me smile. And what I love most? Those sensual slow burns where the tension is thick and passionate connection is inevitable. Get a taste of that in today’s excerpt from Lily’s fantastic novel, ‘Blackbirds,’ after some Q&A and this week’s recommended wine pairing… enjoy!
10 Questions for Lily …
Would you like to see into the future? Sure. Why? I have a nosy streak and while the future itself sometimes scares me, knowing what it is for sure, doesn’t.
What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast?
Breaking Bad. I did it over a holiday weekend right before it’s last season. I’ll never do that again. Felt like my head was going to explode.
What will finally break the internet?
Humans, breaking the world. Or on a smaller scale me forgetting to pay my wi-fi bill again.
Favorite book you’ve written?
Sticky Moon. It’s my first. It’s also the only book of mine someone I truly loved, then lost, got to read. Small pieces of our relationship were scattered all over that book.
If you were a city, which city would you choose to be and why?
Venice, Italy. It’s strange, intimate, extraordinary, mysterious, beautiful but not exactly, conventionally so. It appeals to me. Think about it, there are NO cars at all, only boats, swimming, or walking will get you where you want to go. The streets themselves are like secret passages that lead to bigger, better secrets. People love it so much even though it’s not long for this world and clearly not meant to exist at all. It’s often crowded and its true inhabitants, the ones closest to it – not just visiting — are grumpy as all hell about its popularity. They want it all to themselves cause they know what they have, something unique…special.
If you could level up humans as a species, what stat or ability would you increase?
Perception or perhaps a better word is empathy. As far as I can tell that’s the coolest thing about being an artist who projects or tells stories about humanity through their art. That well of insight or awareness of others. That willingness to dive deep into their observations of the world and everyone in it. It’s not guaranteed but I would hope increasing that capability in people would give them better dreams or more expansive goals to shoot for that included more, not less people.
What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship? Great sex. Actually, I meant to say GREAT SEX. Lol. Nah, just kidding. Okay, what I really mean is great… intimacy. A healthy relationship to me is all about intimacy. Having an affinity or rapport with someone only comes with familiarity and confidence that you really know them. Trusting someone enough to tell or hear the truth, and be completely vulnerable, that’s intimacy. To be so close that you know someone else’s mind almost as well as you know your own — that can see you through a lot. Good or bad.
What do a lot of parents do that screws up their kid?
Have them. Seriously, if there’s even a hint in your mind that you are going to royally fuck up the parenting part then step away from the bed until you have an opportunity to lay hands on the appropriate reproductive deterrents people. Not even remotely kidding about this.
Why are there so many people who are lonely? I think everybody is lonely to varying degrees because ultimately the only one you’re really forced to listen to ALL the time, anywhere you go, is you. Just the thought of that makes me lonely.
If you suddenly found out that your internal monologue for the last week was actually audible, how screwed would you be?
Not too bad actually. I tend to say what I think so I’m used to being in a certain amount of trouble all the time. And when I do manage to keep my mouth shut, which is often, you only have to look at my face to know what I’m thinking. I also meditate to keep my noisier self at bay.
An Excerpt From ‘Blackbirds’
BOSS Lounge was the single set’s hunting ground of nightclubs in Santa Barbara. A tight space, it seemed to be filled to all possible proportions by the time Elliott got there at about twenty minutes after midnight. The outdoor patio was the place for dancing, and the DJ was clearly settling in for a long string of seriously accessible dance hits. The crowd was feeling him and seemed to be in a bit of frenzy as they swayed, jumped, and pumped their hands in the air.
It wasn’t long before Elliott spotted Brian and Sydney. They were at the bar. Brian sitting on a stool with his arm casually strung around Sydney’s waist. They both were laughing and holding tall fruity looking drinks with straws appropriate to the beachside ambiance. Sydney had changed after dinner. She was wearing low-waist black pants with a simple grey midriff. She had on a lightweight black leather jacket but it was open and did nothing to hide the smoothness of her skin around her flat stomach and picture perfect navel. Elliott stood frozen, watching them from about twenty feet away. People were bumping into him, but he didn’t notice or care particularly. He was more interested in figuring out how he’d get Sydney out of there without causing a scene.
Then Brian whispered something in her ear. She nodded vigorously, and they were moving into the crowd and dancing. Elliott thought he’d had enough just seeing Brian’s hand so casually placed on Sydney’s waist, but he’d never seen her dance. He found he was both fascinated and incensed at the sight of her. It was like he was looking at someone else — some part of her he hadn’t met yet, like some pod creature had taken over Sydney and suddenly she was moving with a sensuality she’d never even hinted at before. Brian danced to her back, his long muscled arms out on either side of her, and Sydney was swaying in front of him. Her waist and hips seem to separate from each other and move independently from other still very noticeable parts of her body.
Fuck it. Maybe a scene was called for.
It was during that thought that Brian finally spotted him. Spotted him or felt his presence might be a more accurate description. Slowing his pace, Brian stood there for a moment watching Elliott watch them. Finally, he nodded and bent low to whisper in Sydney’s ear again. When he’d finished, her head whipped around, and when she spotted him standing across the patio, her smile was so huge Elliott almost forgot how pissed off he was.
Fighting the packed house, Sydney made her way towards him with a measured and unhappy Brian close behind.
“Elliott!!” Sydney grabbed both his arms and shook him jumping up and down slightly. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
He suspected she was pretty sloshed, but she did a good job of hiding it with youthful exuberance. Something she’d no doubt learned from watching Cyrus drink himself silly over the years.
“You have to dance with us. You must! But first,” Sydney pointed one finger in the air, “first I must go to the bathroom before I embarrass myself.”
Brandishing the finger back and forth at both of them, Sydney made one final command,
“Don’t either of you move from this spot. I’ll be right back.”
They both watched her go.
Brian spoke first.
“Hey Elliott, glad you made it out man.”
Elliott had never known what it felt like to have ice running through his veins until that moment.
“I thought we were all hitting the sack early, Brian.”
Brian shrugged, “Hey man, the plan changed. We did try to call you.”
“Yeah,” was all Elliott could manage.
“Can I ask you something, Ell?”
“Are you ever planning to tell her?”
“Tell who? Tell what?”
“Tell Sydney, man. Tell her you’re into her.”
“Shut the fuck up, Brian.”
“Oh, I see.”
“You’re irritating the fuck out of me right now.”
“Yeah, I can see that too. The question is how exactly am I doing that? Are you really trying to tell me you came all the way down here with your balls twisted because you’re on the ‘we should all be asleep by now patrol’? Man, if that’s the case then you are more fucked up than I ever imagined.”
Elliott took a step closer to him, “What did you just say to me?”
Brian raised both hands and backed away.
“I like my job way too much to fight you for her, Ell.”
“Maybe you ought to leave then.”
“I will,” Brian said, starting to turn away but not without a parting shot, “but Ell, you should stop playing at being Mr. Unattainable with her. I’d bet half my paycheck Sydney is into you too, but she thinks you’re friends,” Brian said the word ‘friends’ using air quotes and a half smile. “I guaran-dam-tee you she doesn’t think she could possibly have someone like you. Can you believe that shit? As special as that girl is, she has no fucking clue you’re ready to stab me in the heart for her right now on the damn dance floor.”
“Go if you’re going, Brian. Be in the hotel lobby at seven a.m.”
“Yes sir, boss man.”
And with that goodbye and a little salute, Brian took his leave.
It’s crazy that we’re only about three weeks away from #WineWithWriters. Have you registered yet? Do it. I’d love to spend time and sip wine with you. ❤
Today, the spotlight is on Jacinta Howard! Several words come to mind as I think of her storytelling. Musical. Honest. Distinct. Soulful. Memorable. And always LOVE. The characters, the emotions, the reactions, the angst and the connection — Jacinta nails it every time, delivering happily ever afters that give us forever feels.
After a little Q&A and this week’s wine and book pairing, get into the emotional excerpt from Jacinta’s beautifully written novel, ‘Blind Expectations’… enjoy!
10 Questions for Jacinta …
Would you like to see into the future? Why? Nope. It’s hard enough just dealing with the past and the present.
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.
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.
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.
If 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.
An Excerpt 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.
Almost exactly two years ago, I was scrolling my timeline and saw a post someone shared. I can’t recall who shared it, but I remember that I was one-clicking on Amazon minutes later. That day in March, I started reading In Her Closet, Book 1 of The Lust Diaries by Tasha L. Harrison. And on March 10, 2018, I’ll get to meet Tasha in person as well as join her in a panel discussion at Wine With Writers in ATL… yes!
Until then, let’s enjoy some Q&A, an excerpt from Tasha’s latest novel, ‘The Truth of Things’, and find out what she suggests as the perfect wine pairing for the book… enjoy!
10 Questions for Tasha …
What’s in your purse? First things first, it’s not really a purse. I feel like it’s sheer size and weight have pushed beyond the purse description into bag territory because it’s a big ole bag. In my big ole bag, I carry my travelers notebook which usually has about three composition size books in it; a pencil bag with more pens, pencils, or markers than anyone could ever need or use in one day; my deck of tarot cards and sometimes a small deck of affirmation cards I like to keep on me; a bag of healing crystals—right now it’s carnelian, selenite, and rose quartz; my kindle because I don’t like reading on my iPhone; and a million things of chapstick that always seem to get lost in the bottom of my bag. Favorite book you’ve written? I don’t really have a favorite, but the one I had the most fun writing was Having it Both Ways, the third book in The Lust Diaries. It was just fun to write. Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why. Summer 4-eva. I grew up in South Jersey, and I’ve lived in various cities in the Northeast most of my life. Summers always seemed so precious and tragically short. August is also Birthday month. Me and my sons (fur baby included) are all Leos, and we usually spend it on the beach. Mostly I love summer because I’m a sun worshipper. I tend to spend a majority of my summer evenings and weekends reading or writing on my back deck, slathered in sunblock, with a beer in hand, and the sun on my face. If you were a city, which city would you choose to be and why? New Orleans. It’s dark, dangerous, dirty, fun, loud, and it’s perfectly okay to be slightly tipsy most of the day. In fact, it’s encouraged. At any moment a band can start playing, and people will be dancing in the streets. Everyone is a weirdo, and no one cares. NOLA feels like the dark, gooey center of my soul. If you could choose your age forever, what age would you choose and why? I turn forty this year, and I wouldn’t mind holding here. I feel young enough to do things but wise enough not to let those things get me arrested. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Hands down being a soldier in the United States Army. It was both the best and the worst job. The day to day stuff was tedious and dealing with people who wore their rank and ego on the same sleeve was mentally exhausting. However, it did offer me an opportunity to travel and experience a diverse group of people from all parts of the US. I also learned to respect weapons and qualified on quite a few. Handy skill to have. What technology from science fiction do you wish existed? That thing from Matrix where they could download information into a brain. There is so much I want to learn and know. Having a quick way to download it would be awesome. What’s the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship? Definitely communication. If you can’t communicate effectively, all of your relationships will suffer. What do a lot of parents do that screws up their kid? I think that parents spend a ton of time trying to make their kid into a mini version of themselves versus actually getting to know the kid and letting them be and become whoever they are. Why are there so many people who are lonely? Why is it so hard for people to make real connections when almost everyone wants to make real connections? It’s really easy to blame this epidemic level of loneliness on technology, but I think it’s a large part of it. It’s definitely the reason why people have a difficult time making real connections. Words or a picture on a screen will never equal the real intensity of sitting across from someone and experiencing them in real time, but getting to the place where you can trust folks enough to let them in that way has become increasingly more difficult. We burrow in our hidey-holes and play on a tippy-taps (iPhone, computer, whatever) and create what feels like real relationships. You have to put in real effort to bring that relationship offline and into real life. Sadly, most people either don’t want to make that effort or have given up on trying. What are the most common roadblocks that stop people from achieving their dreams? Mindset. A lot of what kept me from pursuing my dreams was rooted in an ideal image of the person I thought I was supposed to be. Once I changed my mindset and decided that an idea of perceived perfection was less important than being fulfilled and happy, things changed and pursuing my dreams became easier. If you suddenly found out that your internal monologue for the last week was actually audible, how screwed would you be? Completely and utterly screwed. I’ve had some thoughts this week about myself AND others that should remain in the brain vault.
An Excerpt From ‘The Truth of Things’
Walking through the doors of Camden County Police Department wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing voluntarily. Memories of the last time I was here flooded me as I stepped across the threshold of the precinct. I shook my head, pushing away those thoughts and the feelings attached to them and walked right up to the Sergeant’s desk.
“One second, honey.” The cop behind the desk said, holding up one finger to silence me as he continued to scribble in his notebook. I gritted my teeth.
Do not show your ass in this police station.
After what seemed like an eternity, the officer lifted his head. Within seconds his countenance went from rude and dismissive to leering. “What was it you needed, beautiful?”
“I want to file a complaint.”
His mouth twisted into a sour expression. “For what?”
“Property damage. I was detained by a couple of your officers last night and one of them damaged my lens. I’m a photojournalist, and I need that lens for work.”
The desk sergeant sighed and reached under his desktop. “Fill out this paperwork, and someone will contact you about reimbursement.”
No-fucking-body was reimbursing me for the damage to this lens. I mentally assessed the balance of my credit cards and tried to figure out if I could replace it as I filled out the complaint form.
When I was done, I brought the clipboard and my form back to the desk. “Can you give me some info on two men arrested last night?”
“What are their names?”
“Two guys with the first names Emiliano and Khalid.”
“Do you know the names of the arresting officers?”
“Raymond and Stevenson.”
The desk sergeant entered the names into his computer and took some time to scroll through the records. “Looks like Emiliano Perez was released this morning. Khalid Williamson is still in custody.”
“Okay, thanks.” I pushed away from the desk and turned to leave…
And slammed right into a sweaty, panting Officer Levi Raymond.
My eyes didn’t know where to land first. His gorgeous face, dark brows, thick dark lashes. He wore a stretched out singlet top which was basically a rag meant to strategically cover his nipples. Remnants of last night’s dream flickered through my mind as I watched a droplet of sweat trickle down his chest, a chest covered in curling, wet hair. Slightly damp sweatpants hung low on his hip bones revealing those two lines on either side of his abdomen that said hey, look down here! Iliac furrows, that’s what they were called and, holy shit, was that the imprint of his—
“Ms. Greene? Is everything all right?”
I managed to drag my eyes away from his crotch and back to his face.
“Those guys didn’t come after you did they?” he asked, seeming genuinely concerned. “Did something happen?”
I shook my head, eyes tracking a droplet of sweat from his neck to his chest. “No. No…I…” My mouth was suddenly very dry…Can I please lick that droplet of sweat off of your chest? “Your partner broke my camera lens,” I blurted. “Came in to file a complaint.”
His brow furrowed. “Okay. I’m sorry to hear that your property was damaged. I’m sure the precinct will take care of it.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure they will,” I said rolling my eyes, annoyance about my damaged property overriding my sudden lust-triggered, bashfulness.
He stared at me a moment longer. “Is there something else you need? Are you confused about something?”
“Excuse me? Confused? No, absolutely not.”
“Okay, I just wanted to make sure.” He gave me an uneasy smile.
“Well, I did want to thank you for walking me home.”
Wait. No. That’s not what I meant to say at all.
“Really? You didn’t seem all that grateful last night.”
“Yes, really. I’m not usually that rude. Well, no. That’s a lie. I am usually that rude, but maybe I was a little too harsh—”
“Miss Greene…it’s fine.”
“Call me Ava.”
“Ava,” he said, his voice filled with the smile that twitched at the corners of his mouth. “You can call me Levi.”
And suddenly I was thinking about how that voice would sound in a much lower, much more secretive tone.
“But I did overstep. I apologized.”
“No, it wasn’t—you didn’t overstep. I still should’ve been more gracious.”
“Okay, how about this. How about you treat me to a cup of coffee?”
“Buy me a cup of coffee, and all is forgiven,” he said with a nonchalant shrug.
“I…but I’m on my way to work.”
“So I’ll take a raincheck.” He hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his sweats, tugging them just a bit lower and short-circuiting my brain.
“Is that appropriate?” I asked.
And more importantly was this what I wanted? When I walked into the police station, I meant to file a complaint for damage done to my camera lens and maybe check on Emiliano. But Levi, standing in front of me all sweaty and hairy and manly in all the right ways, demanded more of my attention. And he smelled so good. How could he be so sweaty and smell so good? God, he smelled like something I wanted to hold in my mouth, roll over my tongue, and savor for a good long time.