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.
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.