Excerpt

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!

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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.”

It’s Complicated, I Hope — Working with Complex Heroines

I love Lifetime movies. I can admit that without shame. I love spending a long Sunday afternoon stretched out on the couch with a nice, cool beverage and a long slate of Lifetime movies. So many different types. Bad Husband. True Crime. Don’t Trust the Babysitter. Prepare to Cry. These are only a few of the subgenres.

This month, presumably for Black History Month, Lifetime is airing three movies that prominently feature black women. (There are four Saturdays in February, but that’s another blog post.) You know I’m a sucker for the interracial romances, so I enjoyed the second one, Twist of Faith (the video at this link starts right up, but it includes a kiss). Then came Pastor Brown. From the promos, it looked like a story about a former stripper who becomes pastor of her church when the existing pastor dies.

And that is basically the story. It’s not the whole story, but that’s it in a very loose nutshell.

I hadn’t gotten very far into it before I noticed I was a little tense. At around the halfway point, I found I was even more tense. Once it was over, I had to ask myself what was so upsetting. I had a little trouble putting my finger on it, but with a little help from the world of adult film, I figured out the problem.

Almost all the women in Pastor Brown are horribly unpleasant. The ex-stripper’s sister is awful. The deacon’s wife is equally nasty. Her boss at the club in New York is nasty. Even her fair-weather friend is a piece of work.

The women who aren’t nasty are saintly. The former stripper is working HARD to atone for her sins (which, in fairness, have more to do with abandoning her son than with stripping). Along the way, we meet a woman escaping an abusive husband; she’s sleeping in the immense church because she has nowhere else to go. The old classmate whose wild past left her with HIV is now impossibly sweet; she sacrifices her chance to see the ailing pastor so that the ex-stripper (the pastor’s daughter) can have it.

There’s no middle ground. Everyone’s either terrible or on a pedestal. But that’s not the whole problem.

My problem, I realized, was that I worried that someone would see this and think it was the real world. The whole world of black women, divided neatly into nasty, abusive women and whores-turned-Madonnas. It reminded me a bit of Cindy Gallop’s Make Love Not Porn project. Cindy has no trouble with the porn industry in and of itself – her worry is that so many people believe that’s what sex is actually supposed to be like, because they’ve never been taught any differently. Sinnamon Love has a very thought-provoking article in Guernica on a similar subject. Black women are featured in adult film, she writes, but only in certain stereotypical capacities. She wants to see a wider spectrum of roles available to black women.

That was what I wanted from Pastor Brown. It’s what I hope to achieve in my own writing. My heroines are women first and foremost. They’re women like any other women. They have hopes and fears and desires. They’re not saints. They’re not nasty, judgmental harpies. They’re women, just like any other women.

If I’m doing my job, right, they’re just like us.

I’d like to say I made Grace Foley, the heroine of Illicit Impulse, just like us, but I can’t take the credit for that. After all, Grace came to me, not the other way around. (I know. It’s a writer thing. Work with me.) With a tough breakup in her recent past, she’s found a convenient place to land in Tal Crusoe’s bed. She’s deeply attracted to her best friend John (last week’s hot geek), but she’s afraid he’ll reject her. He won’t want a party girl like her. He won’t want to ruin their friendship.

He won’t want her.

And so she settles for what she has, which isn’t all that bad. Tal is any woman’s fantasy. John might not want her, but his friendship is too valuable to lose – especially now that he’s introduced her to Impulse. If only she didn’t want more.

Who among us hasn’t struggled with that? Not the trouble of having it all – the question of whether we should even want it?

That’s one of the forces driving Illicit Impulse, and it’s one of the things that made it such a challenge to write. I’m hoping that makes for good reading! Have a look at the excerpt up on Ellora’s Cave (click this, and then click the magnifying glass on the cover) and feel free to leave me a comment right here.

Look! It’s an excerpt!

This is not my usual day to post, but my buddy Tracey Livesay tagged me for a game. It’s called “Look,” and this is how it works.

First, I search through my work in progress for the word “look.” Then I pick a place where the word occurs and I post it and a paragraph or two around it, and then finally, I tag a friend to play along behind me.

This excerpt is from my work in progress, Project NSA, which won the Passionate Reads Pitch Contest longer ago than I like to admit. This little snippet comes from the first chapter; the whole chapter is still up, deep in the Passionate Reads archives.

Enjoy!

John took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Grace didn’t know anyone under the age of fifty who still wore glasses, but she couldn’t imagine John without them. On another man, they’d scream “computer dork,” but on him … they made him look like the hot professor on every college campus who always had a huge class filled with blushing girls. They also drew attention to his warm brown eyes, soft and bright and intense, all at the same time.

One night, a lifetime ago, he had led her, swaying and tipsy, to her door, and in the hallway, she’d stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his. The world twirled away beneath her feet, and she’d had to steady herself against him, her hands on shoulders that were stronger than she’d imagined. He’d started to return her kiss, his long fingers stroking the small of her back, drawing her closer. Then his hands were on her hips, pushing her away. He’d been so gentle, touching her as if she were a priceless antique when he kissed her forehead and said goodnight.

They’d both been drinking, he’d said the next night. Taking the next step would have been a bad idea, he’d said. And he was right. Something about him still captured her imagination, but he was right.

Good thing they were still friends.

And here’s where the fun starts — go check out Vallory Vance! She’s got some hot interracial romances and lots of other excitement happening at her blog.

As for me, I swear I’m almost done with Project NSA. I swear.