E-Publishing

Island Wisdom and Island Heat: Jamaican Proverbs and ‘Turnabout Day’

Turnabout Day arrives in just a few days, on August 22, and as we continue to celebrate my blog’s Jamaica Month, I wanted to share one of my favorite parts of Jamaican culture — the proverbs.

My mom and grandmother were famous for passing along a little island wisdom every now and then, and as crazy as these sayings seemed to me when I was younger, their logic is apparent to me as a grown woman. Try these on for size and see if you can appreciate the truth in them.

1. Sometimes the cheapest comes the dearest. In other words, sometimes the effort to save money can cost more than just spending the extra money in the first place. Consider Tupperware as an example. It’s easy to balk at how much Tupperware costs, but I have Tupperware pieces that are older than I am. That grocery store stuff might be cheaper, but you’ll make up the difference when you have to replace it every few weeks. The same is true of shoes, purses, and that Burberry trench coat you should go ahead and buy.

2. Puss belly full, potato have skin. When the cat’s belly is full, she notices that potatoes have skin. I have a true story to use as an example for this one. One of my little cats used to live outside in the parking lot before I adopted her. Back then she used to eat whatever she could find, especially near the Dumpster. I think this is where she acquired her love for french fries (although I think it’s unAmerican to throw out perfectly good french fries). Now that she lives inside and doesn’t have to scrounge for food in the garbage, she’s developed certain preferences with regard to her fries. Specifically, she only eats the ones from McDonald’s. She will actually turn her nose up at Five Guys fries because of the skin.

3. Man meant fi hang cannot drown. This one’s about destiny. If you’re meant to hang, you can’t drown. It sounds a little morbid, but I actually find it kind of reassuring. After all, when your number is up, it’s up, but until it’s up, there’s no sense to worrying about things.

And here’s one for my upcoming story, “Turnabout Day”: What never happens in a year, can happen in a day. Expect the unexpected! It only takes an instant to change everything.

See, Chloe Newton, the heroine of my story, figured she’d never see her childhood playmate, Peter Darrow, again once he left Jamaica to return to Scotland. But years later, he’s back and ready to help her repair the fleet of steam-driven cane cutters that work her estate’s fields.

Plus Peter’s hot now. Yeah, kind of a complication when you’re trying to keep it businesslike and all.

The story takes place on Turnabout Day, a holiday when the upper class serves the servants. Chloe seizes the opportunity to … well … seize Peter, and hot hijinks ensue. Check it out.

She reached for his mouth, wanting to stroke his full lips. He intercepted her hand and pressed her fingers together almost painfully.

“Listen to me, Chloe,” he whispered before releasing her hand. “I won’t be like those rich boys you’re used to. I won’t treat you as if you’re made of glass.”

His promise, his desire-laden voice, made all her empty places ache, and she sighed. He slid his hands down her bare arms.

“Tonight, you must do as I say, love. You must do anything I say. Is that what you want, Chloe?”

She flattened her hand against his chest and summoned her friend Beryl’s flirtatious spirit. “What do you think?”

He leaned down toward her, moving with a torturous slowness, and she pressed her lips to his. Her skin burned where it met his. The smooth, soft surface of his generous mouth teased her. Need erupted in her, and she fought the desire to wrap her arms around him.

Before she could remind herself that she was Beryl tonight, he pulled away from her. “Chloe, kiss me. Kiss me.”

She pulled him to her and kissed him hard, the way she’d wanted other men to kiss her. She locked her mouth to his, but she’d only begun to ease his mouth open when he parted his lips for her. Then he took control, his tongue eagerly taking possession of her mouth.

Oh, yes. Yes!

So what happens next? You’ll have to wait a week to find out!

Advertisements

Happy Hour, Afternoon Delight, and an Excerpt

My first novel, ILLICIT IMPULSE, made its debut yesterday at Ellora’s Cave. I didn’t have to work yesterday – yay, snow day! – so I got to sit here like a crazy person and watch the number of likes and tweets growing on my book page. Last night, I went for a walk in the snow to join some friends for a celebratory happy hour. We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the book, and after all the time I’ve spent putting it together, I was only a little ashamed to feel relief about that.

When we did get to talking about it, I found I enjoyed the slight distance my friends allowed me to take from the story. One of my friends, new to the whole e-book thing, was looking for download and format advice. Others were curious about the next book. I found myself looking at this in a new way. After all the time hammering down the fine details, checking for flow, repetition, awkwardness, and what-have-you, all I really wanted was for them to find whatever they were looking for in a good book.

I hoped they would identify with the characters.

I hoped the action would pull them through the pages late at night.

And I hoped they would think the sex was hot.

I hope something similar for you. I hope you’ll decide to pick up ILLICIT IMPULSE. Once you start it, I hope you’ll find whatever makes a book good.

I also hope you’ll read this tiny pinch of it. This post is going up a little late in the day to call it a nooner, but maybe it counts as an afternoon delight? In any case, enjoy!

Grace met John’s gaze. “Tell me what you need me to do.”

His skin heated again. What was wrong with him?

“I need you…to take the pills…”

She lifted a fine eyebrow. “And?”

“And then have sex…”

She grinned then, her teeth very white against the burgundy of her lipstick. “With Tal. Right?”

He shrugged. That was, of course, who he’d had in mind. But what he needed already defied the fundamental tenets of scientific research. He definitely wasn’t going to go further out of bounds by telling her who to have sex with.

Grace chuckled, a throaty sound that might have been genuine amusement or something a bit less pleasant. “John, I hope you’re not thinking I’ll take these and then my eyes will be opened and I’ll see Tal doesn’t want to be in a relationship.” She put the pills back on the table next to her glass. “I mean, I know you have some kind of issue with him.”

“Issue” didn’t begin to cover it. Tal only saw her at his place, and only at night. After two years, she’d never mentioned meeting his family or going away for the weekend or celebrating an anniversary. Never mentioned flowers or Christmas gifts. So far as John knew, Tal never even took her to dinner. As happy as Grace said she was, John knew she deserved more than what she had.

“Grace, I’m not trying to pull anything. I need someone who’s not in a relationship. I need someone who’s willing to tell me everything. I even need Tal.” He hated the way that felt in his mouth. “Look, I don’t want you to get hurt. That’s no secret. And if these pills make you see things a little differently, then so much the better. But I really just need your help.”

“Good. Because I know Tal doesn’t want a girlfriend. So we’re all on the same page.”

John nodded, lifting both hands in surrender. “Right. I get it.”

“Okay.” Grace pursed her full lips. “If I do this, what would happen after the sex?”

John swallowed, hoping she didn’t sense the sudden rush of discomfort that seemed so painfully obvious to him. “Then you report back.” He cleared his throat. “To me.”

A mischievous giggle bubbled out of her. “You want me to have sex with Tal and then come back and tell you about it.” Coming from her mouth, the idea sounded ridiculous. “I presume you would need this to happen more than once.”

“Well…there are eight pills in a pack.”

Grace picked up the blister pack again and stared at it in silence. As John scrambled to scrape up the last of his persuasive powers, she said, “Deal.”

The tension that had been crushing him released its grip. She’d do it. “Oh, Grace. I owe you big time.”

She tucked the pills into her purse and laughed. “I have a feeling the pleasure’s going to be all mine. Just don’t be too disappointed if nothing changes between me and Tal,” she said. “And don’t be too shocked when you hear about what we do together.”

Diversity’s Never Looked Quite Like This

I’ve always written interracial romances featuring a black heroine. I’m like a lot of romance writers, in that I wanted to read and write about a heroine I could identify with. For years, I avoided reading romance altogether because I didn’t feel represented there. I might have stayed away from romance if it hadn’t been for law school. One of Mom’s friends sent me a couple of romances in a care package. I was so desperate to read about human beings and just enjoy the story, without the pressure of facing The Paper Chase the next day. I finished the first one very quickly and had to slow down and savor the others.

I still didn’t feel represented. But I was interested in what romance had to offer.

When I started reading romance, it looked like black women appeared in only two capacities – as the Sassy Black Friend, helping the heroine get the guy, or as the “exotic Creole” character. I was never clear on whether the Creole character was actually black. She always had dark hair and dark skin, but I always wondered why the author didn’t just say she was black, if she was in fact black.

I wanted to see – and, okay, maybe to be – a black heroine at center stage of her own romance novel. It wasn’t enough to help someone else get the guy and then be relegated to the end of a series (if she was lucky) with the only other black character in the books. I didn’t want to have to guess whether the heroine was black.

And that’s when I started thinking about writing romances. I had always written stories and I’d always wanted to write for publication. I just didn’t think I’d do it with romance. After all, I didn’t see anyone else publishing interracial romances, although I know now that there were a handful of them out there, scarce as hens’ teeth.

Then Sandra Kitt changed everything. The Color of Love is the romance novel I needed to see. The heroine is definitely black – she’s not olive-skinned or Creole – and she is definitely center stage. She and the hero, who is white, overcome the obstacles separating them (race-related and otherwise) to arrive at the end of the book with a declaration of love and a marriage proposal. I’d never read anything quite like it.

The Color of Love came out in 1995, so it was around when I got to law school. I just didn’t know about it. Once I found it, though, the game changed again. If she’d been published with an interracial romance (and Sandra Kitt has more than one such story out there), then I could do it, if I worked at it hard enough.

When my first novel, Illicit Impulse, comes out in three weeks, it will enter a very different world. I never thought I’d see a world with so many interracial relationships in books, television and movies. Interracial romances have long since made a place for themselves in electronic publishing, but TV and movies seem to be seeing the light, too. Finally.

I was the nut who stood up and cheered when Uhura kissed Spock in Star Trek. (Go easy on me. I’d been waiting YEARS for that.) I’m happy to see James Bond continuing a 40-year tradition of getting his swirl on. I was almost delirious with joy when ABC had two (three if we consider Grey’s Anatomy) well-established interracial relationships in prime time scripted television, although I miss 666 Park Avenue dearly now. Better still, television executives aren’t playing up the fact that their characters are falling in love across racial lines. These are just characters with their own needs and wants and dreams and problems. They just happen to be of different colors, and that’s the sort of romance I love the most.

I couldn’t be more excited to enter this field now, when the market exposure is growing. I’m part of a steadily growing audience, composed of people seeing these relationships for the first time and people who are saying “about damn time.” The sky is the limit now. I already know there are more interracial relationships on TV than I can keep track of. I claim the next book as my excuse, but I hope I can keep up with developments.

In the meantime, I need to make plans to see Skyfall.

My Heart Belongs to Paper … but the Kindle is Pretty Awesome

This Christmas, Mom and I elected to join the 21st century, already in progress. We got each other Kindles. We do not need to do anything on the Kindle other than read, so we got the little one with the ads. We are both hard-core book addicts. Mom started me using when I was just a kid, and now I’m trying to make my own in my house after work. We do not see how ads for other books presented on a reading device could possibly be a problem. Seriously, if you were smoking crack, and in between rocks, your pipe lit up with ads for discounts on more crack, would you ever complain about that?

I’m digressing a little. But let me just say, at the outset, that I will probably always prefer the paper book.

I’m kind of old school in this regard. I like the weight of the paper book. I like the feel of the pages. Deckled edges? Oh, yes, please! Marbled endpapers? Indeed! And the spines on the shelf! My ex gave me a three-volume definitive Sherlock Holmes set (with annotations!) that just … reassures me when I look at it. When Ray Bradbury died, I held my autographed copy of Green Shadows, White Whale and thought of his hand on the page as he signed it. I first perused Reclaiming History just because it was a hefty, hefty tome, but I bought it for the promise of reading Bugliosi on the Kennedy assassination. Sixteen hundred glorious pages, plus so many notes he had to put them on a CD-ROM. I’m drooling a little just writing about it.

I said I was addicted.

The argument for the Kindle and its ilk with regard to my chosen genre is a powerful one. Some people evidently take issue with being seen in public reading erotica. I understand. I do! I just don’t have that problem.

One night I took my copy of Fortytude to a bar and met a good-looking soldier who was also celebrating a milestone birthday – his 30th. I met a handsome intellectual who saw me reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses on the bus. The paper book shows the world not only that I do read, but it shows the world what I read, and therefore just a bit of who I am. It’s like a nametag. I personally would not have minded showing the world that I am reading Held Captive by the Cavemen. That doesn’t trouble me at all. If it troubles those sheltered souls sitting nearby, then maybe they should look into minding their own business.

But one cannot purchase a paper copy of Held Captive by the Cavemen. If one has a Kindle, though, one can have it all ready to go in less than a minute. I think it took me three clicks to put it on the machine, and now it’s waiting for me. (I need to hurry this post along, actually, so I can start reading it.)

Then I started poking around, looking for other stuff to buy. This is where the Kindle gets dangerous. Scoring a paper book takes a little effort. Hardback? Paperback? Don’t even start me on the shipping. The Kindle takes you from whim to purchase in just seconds. And so, when I found Dirty for the Kindle for just a couple of bucks, I went for it. I love Megan Hart’s work – the world she creates would be very cool to live in, even without the sex … but then there’s sex in it. A win-win if I ever saw one.

This time it only took one click. Very nice.

There’s a lot to like about the Kindle, to be sure. It’s tiny but strong. It’s discreet. It’s fast. It’s not terribly expensive. And if I’m going to be working in the realm of e-publishing – and interracial erotica all but guarantees that – I need to get comfortable with all these advantages.

The paper book is my first love, though. I will probably end up being the little old lady sitting on the park bench with a paper copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. Over on the bench next to me, a mother will tell her little boy, “See, Jimmy? That lady has a paper book. Long ago, you could only get books on paper.”

And Jimmy’s going to say, “I thought they all came on rocks way back then!”

And then the little wise-ass and his mom are going to laugh. But I won’t care.

I will be too busy stealing glances over my book at that shirts vs. skins touch football game. Those guys won’t notice. The Jane Austen makes me look harmless.

You can’t do that with a Kindle. Can you?