Interracial Romances

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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Swirl of Jamaica Month: Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren

I’ve decided that this August is ‘Turnabout Day’ Month, which sounds a little weird if you say it out loud. In honor of my upcoming release, a short story set in Jamaica’s steam-driven alternate history, I’m going to hit you up with Jamaica-themed blog posts all month long.

And because I’m sure you thought I forgot last month, I’m going to start with a Jamaica-themed Swirl of the Month. This month, we’re going to celebrate Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren.

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Aren’t they pretty together?

Here’s just a touch of trivia for this striking couple.

He got into the movie business when visiting Grace on the set of A View to a Kill; when one of the extras didn’t show up, the director went looking for volunteers.

Grace is a preacher’s kid (well, of course, she is) from Jamaica. Dolph’s from Sweden and studied chemical engineering at MIT.

Grace performed at the Queen’s Jubilee celebration a couple of years ago. She sang one of her songs (“Slave to the Rhythm”) while hula hooping. That’s eight minutes of hula hooping, neighbors. She had her mic in one hand and a pair of finger cymbals on the other, and she started the hula hoop up the way that most of us put on our pants.

Most of us remember Dolph as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (he had to break Rocky, remember?). He also gives a terrific interview. Check him out here with Men’s Health.

Aren’t these two a great way to kick off our new monthly tradition? Be on the lookout for next month’s Ambassadors of Swirl. And in the meantime, be sure to come back here for more hot Jamaican fun and “Turnabout Day” news. Here’s a blurb to tide you over:

Sugarcane heiress Chloe Newton said goodbye to indentured servant Peter Darrow with her first kiss, on a hillside one long-ago summer night as mechanized cane cutters worked the fields below them. Now Peter’s returned, no longer a boy and no one’s servant, to take charge of the fleet of machines that work Chloe’s estate. On Turnabout Day, Chloe takes on the uniform and duties of a maid, and she seeks the courage to offer Peter more than a celebratory drink. By giving in to his commands, she’ll surrender to his need and become mistress of her own desire.

Get ready for this touch of Jamaican heat on August 22 from Musa Publishing!

Introducing … the Swirl of the Month Club

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren were only together for four years. Dolph, now in his 50s, still speaks of her fondly.

Some of my favorite posts to write are for the Loving Day Blog Hop, which brings me together with other authors and some great readers in the service of interracial romance. This year, while I was hunting for photos of real-life interracial couples to put in my post, I actually had trouble deciding which ones to include. I found myself inspired not only by the number of interracial couples but by the length of time so many of them had been involved with each other. I was so distracted by their love stories that I almost didn’t finish my post on time!

So here’s what I’d like to do between now and next Loving Day. Starting in July, I’m starting the Swirl of the Month Club. I’ll be writing about a well-known, well-established interracial couple every month. You’ll get to see pictures, check out some trivia, and read some awesome stories of real-life interracial romances. I’m hard at work on a calendar to keep track of future entries (for me — I want you to be surprised each month), and because I can’t help myself, I’m already looking for cute pictures to post.

I hope you’re as excited as I am! Be sure to follow my blog for your monthly dose of real-life swirl. You’ll also pick up the latest news about my work and whatever else is in my head, but don’t worry. I think you’ll dig that, too.

Why the Lovings Matter and Why They Always Will

They chose each other over all comers, and that's what love is.

They chose each other over all comers, and that’s what love is.

It’s been a whole year since the last Loving Day party, and a lot has changed for me. I’m working on the sequel to my first book, Illicit Impulse, (because I still work slowly — that hasn’t changed at all), but I’ve sold a short story, and I’m building professional relationships along the way. I’m creating the set of stories I want to write and want to be known for, my brand, and as my blog header says, you can count on me for romance served hot, with a swirl.

As I’m finding my place as a writer in the world, I’m often asked why I chose interracial romances. (I’m also often called out for limiting interracial romance to black women and white men, when the Great Spectrum of Swirl is so much larger, but that’s another story.) Mia Zachary expressed much of my reason when I saw her at a presentation earlier this year. She said the protagonist is an avatar through which we enter the story. When I started reading romances, there was no avatar who looked like me, and while it’s hard to explain why that makes such a big difference, it’s hard to deny that it does in fact make a difference.

At a presentation for HarperImpulse’s Romance Festival, Cindy Gallop said this about women in business: “We cannot be what we cannot see.” The Lovings, whom we celebrate today, are actually a great example of that.

David Bowie and Iman celebrated their 23rd anniversary just recently.

David Bowie and Iman celebrated their 23rd anniversary just recently.

So many folks think that interracial marriage was illegal across this nation before the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case that bears their name. But that isn’t true. They’d been married very legally in Washington, D.C. before returning to Virginia, where the trouble started. What is true — in the late 1960s and today — is that lots of people who’d been quietly interested in pursuing interracial relationships look to them and to other real-life couples for the silent encouragement they provide without even knowing they’re doing it.

Somewhere out there, someone saw the Lovings, two extraordinarily ordinary people obviously in love with each other, and took comfort. After all, Richard and Mildred Loving weren’t chasing a fetish or swayed by stereotypes or indulging in sexual curiosity.

They fell in love. They got married. They returned home together and were awakened in their bedroom by the police. They were arrested when Mildred pointed at their marriage license. Because they were man and wife, the Lovings were breaking the law.

So they challenged the law. And the law changed.

Times have changed for those of us in interracial relationships (and they’re changing for those of us in same-sex

Tina Turner married Erwin Bach last year. By that time, they'd been together almost 30 years.

Tina Turner married Erwin Bach last year. By that time, they’d been together almost 30 years.

relationships). My stories aren’t built on such weighty stuff. But when I imagine my heroines and their men, I think of them the way I see Richard and Mildred. I write about people in love who will choose each other over all comers.

Not because of their color and not in spite of it. Not because he doesn’t see it or she doesn’t notice it or they don’t allow it to make a difference.

He’ll fall for her because of who she is. For this man, her color is just a part of who she is. How she lives and moves in the world as a black woman, whether she defines herself that way or merely identifies herself that way, is also a part of her. He loves her. And he’ll fight like hell to keep her.

That’s what my little corner of interracial romance is all about, and that’s why I celebrate Loving Day. It’s a reminder of what real love is made of and how it’s built to last.

So you wanna win something?

Here’s the link to the Loving Day Blog Hop giveaway over at Rafflecopter; head over for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Leave me a comment here, and I’ll pick one lucky soul to win a copy of Illicit Impulse and some snazzy swag.

Want to go on a Loving Day tour and find some terrific IR authors? Here’s the list of Loving Day Blog Hop participants. Stop by and discover some great reads!

And for the next stop on the hop, head on over to Stacy-Deanne‘s blog! Happy Loving Day!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Everybody.

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I have a confession to make. I didn’t get the flap about the Cheerios commercial at first, because I wasn’t looking at it. I had the TV on in the background, and unless you’re looking at the TV, that commercial sounds just like any other commercial.

When I did see it, though, I did a little fist-pumping. An interracial couple…no, it’s better than that. It’s a family. And they’re behaving just like any other family. How cool is that?

In a way, the Cheerios family reminds me of the Lovings, whose Supreme Court decision we celebrate today on the Loving Day Blog Hop. The Cheerios couple isn’t the first to turn up in American television advertising, just as the Lovings weren’t the first interracial couple to be married in the United States. Coffee Mate and Ikea both featured interracial couples before Cheerios. (I couldn’t find Kim and Adam, the interracial couple testing their new Ikea mattress, but here’s another ad for your viewing pleasure.) The Lovings were married very legally in Washington, D.C., before moving back to Virginia, where the trouble started. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal in 24 states – but very legal in the other 26.

So what’s different with Cheerios? What’s different with the Lovings?

It’s the unwillingness to back down. It’s courage. It’s the steadfast belief that interracial couples are and ought to be just like all other couples.

Television advertising is notoriously gun shy about even the appearance of offense, and General Mills got an earful from racists when it unveiled its interracial couple. But the company refused to back down in the face of public pressure. “There are many kinds of families, and Cheerios celebrates them all,” Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said in USAToday.

When the Lovings pleaded guilty to being married interracially in Virginia, their prison sentence (and take a second here to really consider the fact that there was a prison sentence) was suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return as a couple for the next 25 years. They moved to Washington, where they’d been married in the first place, and this story might have ended there. Mildred and Richard shunned publicity, and neither of them was trying to make a huge public stand when they challenged the Virginia law. All they wanted was to be able to visit Virginia – the place they both called home – as a married couple.

Guys, you’ve got to check this out on the Life magazine website – the Lovings were the cutest of couples.

The Lovings got what they asked for in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court found Virginia’s law, and all the nation’s remaining anti-miscegenation laws, unconstitutional. They returned to Virginia, where they spent the rest of their lives. Forty-six years after the decision, popular culture has covered a lot of ground. I can remember a time, not long ago at all, when interracial couples on television were few and far between. Their appearance often meant you were about to see a very special episode or that you were going to be treated to a lot of good-natured ribbing at the couple’s expense (remember George Jefferson and Tom Willis?). At one point this year, prime time network television was home to more interracial couples than I could keep up with. The writers, in the understanding that those relationships are not a pedagogical tool, are not focusing on the interracial component.

It’s the story, not the swirl. Put that way, I almost don’t mind missing the first season of Scandal. Almost.

We’ve made lots of headway. Interracial couples aren’t fighting for recognition in quite the same way today. Corporate America defends their identity as couples, just like other couples.

But there are still holdouts in the so-called real world. I myself have been seated near the kitchen door on dates with white boyfriends. Well-meaning friends have suggested that the course of true love would run more smoothly if I stuck to my own kind. People stare, although in fairness, I’ve been known to stare at an interracial couple just to see if they’re a couple.

Yeah, I’m not much better. You see, when I say “interracial couple,” I’m thinking of black people and white people. I shouldn’t ignore the rest of the world’s diversity, but I acknowledge that I’m guilty of doing so.

We’ve come a long way. We haven’t come nearly far enough. Still, the world’s changed a lot in my parents’ lifetime, and I see more change to come in mine. My hope is that my niece will grow up in a time of true marriage equality.

Let freedom smooch.

OMG! I screwed up and forgot to mention that Delaney Diamond has the next stop on the hop! Go see her — please!

**I join more than 30 other blogs today to celebrate Loving Day with the Loving Day Blog Hop! Check out the roster for other great stops on the hop (Koko Brown, Afton Locke, Vallory Vance, and my sister in swirl, Tracey Livesay, among others, join us today). And just to keep things interesting, I’m going to give away a copy of my book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, to some lucky commenter (relevant to my post, before midnight, Pacific Time, on 6/12/13) below! Happy swirling, my friends.

The Next, Next Big Thing: Taking the Hop to Jamaica

Last week, I kind of left you all high and dry with no blog post. I do feel bad about that. Things have just been out of control in real life lately. Wildly out of control. Sooner or later, I knew some innocent person would end up getting punished for it, and lo and behold, it turned out to be you.

Today, a whole day early, I’m going to make it up to you. My friend, author Denise Golinowski, tapped me last week for The Next Big Thing blog hop. Even though I didn’t thank her for it. See how patient everyone’s been with me? Anyway, the last time I did the hop, I gave you a little ten-question peek at my new release, ILLICIT IMPULSE. Today, I’m giving you a look at my next book.

  1. What’s the working title of your book? First question, and I’m stumped already. My first title for it was Fourth and Forever, but that was when the hero was a football player. I’ve since learned that he used to play baseball, so the title won’t work, even though I love it. Now I’m looking at something baseball-themed, something that still gets the idea across, so today’s title is Cleanup Man. Next week, it might be something else altogether.
  2. Where did the idea for the book come from? I can’t talk about this too much (aren’t you glad I’m doing this?) because the idea for this book came from my first book, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t all read the first book yet. Let me give you a fighting chance to do that. You don’t need to have read ILLICIT IMPULSE to enjoy this book, but if you’re planning to read ILLICIT IMPULSE, you’ll be happier if I keep some of these details to myself.
  3. What genre is your book in? It’s an interracial erotic romance.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I always have trouble with this. The two of them just look like the two of them, if you know what I mean. So I usually answer this question with Google. This time I started with “blond actors under 40.” Try that for a laugh and let me know how many blond actors you get. Then I ran across Chris Hemsworth. If he were to shave, he’d look like my hero. My heroine looks like Sanaa Lathan.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis for your book? A lifetime hasn’t been long enough for him to tell her he wants her – can he convince her with one week in paradise?
  6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? My plan is to send it to Ellora’s Cave, once it’s finished, since that’s where the first book is.
  7. How long did it take you to finish the first draft of your manuscript? I’m still working on it. I think that’s why real life is coming after me with both hands. This is what happened the last time.
  8. What other books in your genre would you compare this story to? You know, I have trouble with this question, too; I try not to read hard in my genre while I’m writing. These days I’m reading mostly historical fiction after being converted by Deanna Raybourn, Tasha Alexander, and a bag full of free historical romances I won at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Here’s a little book pron. No, no, I insist; it’s the least I can do. Behold, the contents of my giveaway bag!book giveaway
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The artsy answer to this question is that the hero wouldn’t leave me alone. And he wouldn’t, that’s the sort of guy he is. If you like something a little less woo-woo, my editor’s first question after I accepted the contract for the first book was, “Did you have a second book planned? Because if not, we’re going to have to look at this ending.” I didn’t think I’d ever finish the first book, so altering the ending – and potentially much of the rest of the story – was too much to bear. Far easier to write another book. Yeah, I like the artsy answer better, too.
  10. What else about the book might pique your reader’s interest? I take the hero and heroine to Jamaica for much of the story. My mother was born in Jamaica, and I’ve traveled there often to see my family. My Jamaica is local and authentic – I’ve never been to one of those all-inclusive resorts – and I hope my book does it justice.

That’s it, America! True to form, I’ve been too big a slack-ass to tap anyone else for this blog hop. Instead I’m going to use the space to thank my friend and genius critique partner Denise Golinowski. She bears so much of my slack-assitude with grace. I don’t even know how to thank her for all that.

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.”

Just A Physical Thing … For Now

Women everywhere know a man like Tal Crusoe. He’s a part of most women’s pasts, but he’s a nice part. A part of the past you like to visit frequently and in secret.

He’s temptation incarnate, and he seems to know it. That body of his. That voice. The whole package is like an instrument, and he’s a virtuoso. He knows just how to use it to bring you to grateful tears.

He’s very available. You can look and touch as much as you want. And so can the woman next to you.

So here’s what you have to understand.

Nothing the two of you do means that you’re a couple. You will see each other frequently, but you will not go on a date. If you’re hungry, eat first. If you don’t drink his beer, bring your own.

He is not taking pains to remember your birthday. He’ll give you something for Valentine’s Day – in fact, he might give you a few of those things – but you won’t get flowers or candy or jewelry. You are not on his Christmas card list.

You can put whatever pretty name you want on it; most women settle on “just a physical thing.” Just understand that he is very, very serious about that, even if he comes up with a cute nickname for you.

And you’ll tell him you understand that because the alternative is to refuse what he’s offering you. You have any number of reasons for not refusing. You shouldn’t have to refuse. You’re a modern woman. You’re liberated. You don’t have to live by “good girls don’t” anymore.

Besides, when will you get another chance to say yes?

This is where the trouble starts. Because each time he makes it worth your while, you get attached. It has nothing to do with how modern and liberated you are. It’s oxytocin. First there’s all the cuddling and the first time you fall asleep on him. Then there’s your first marathon session, that long night when you forget how many times he makes you come. And you don’t have to use the word “attached,” but it’s important that you get that you are now attached.

Chances are, though, that even with all the help he’s given you to understand your place, you still don’t quite get it. You’re going to get him a present. You’ll say it’s just something that you saw that made you think of him, and it’s not a big deal. His gratitude is lukewarm because he knows you’re not really telling the truth.

It doesn’t last long after that.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if oxytocin wasn’t a factor?

What if you never had to say no and never had to be confused and never had to face that awkward moment after you realize you’ve gone too far?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

My novel, ILLICIT IMPULSE, explores a world where oxytocin is no longer in control. Tal and Grace and John are in for a real rollercoaster ride as they figure out what happens when the rules don’t quite apply anymore. Once the trip is over, can they go back to their everyday lives?

Or will they discover that there’s no outsmarting the bonding hormone?

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.

Blinded with Science: The Enduring Appeal of the Hot Geek

My love affair with the intellectual started early. I was in middle school, struggling with the choice between Dracula and Edward Rochester, when I fell in with Sherlock Holmes. He was absolutely brilliant, and he could not have been less interested in women. Sure, he was a bit of a bad boy. He smoked, and let’s face it, the man had a drug problem. Still. It was riveting to watch him think, and I loved that he wouldn’t engage in all sorts of foolishness to impress women.

(I’m still all about Holmes, but just the one from the Conan Doyle books. No other Holmes holds a candle to the original.)

The modern geek is something of a phenomenon these days. He’s a little different now. For one thing, he’s a lot more likely to be successful with the opposite sex. But his appeal is still based on the same few classic characteristics.

He seems unaware of his masculine wiles. His laser-beam focus is generally trained on something other than the pursuit of women, which paradoxically gives women the chance to observe him without interruption. He’ll frown at his notes, the cute little furrow appearing between his brows. He’ll rub his poor tired eyes. He’ll spend hours and hours in single-minded pursuit of his obsession, whatever it might be. He’s on fire with passion for something, whether it’s the secrets of space flight or a cure for disease, and what woman doesn’t want a man who can be passionate about his life’s work?

He has no game. At all. When he’s into you, it’s not just to make you another conquest. He’s not trying to get away with something. Honestly, he was probably paying attention to something else when you entered his world. Once he’s committed, though, he’ll choose to pursue you with his whole mind, even if he doesn’t really know what to do once he has your attention. It’s WYSIWYG at its finest.

And then there’s the physical. The little dorky touches like his bowtie, or his comic book t-shirts. The way his glasses draw attention to his eyes. The frustrated little twist that takes his mouth by the corner when he’s figuring something out. The long fingers on a keyboard or wrapped around a pencil. He’s hot, in a very specific way.

The hot geek isn’t rare, really. He’s just elusive. Since he has no game and has no idea that he’s attractive, he’s not out on the town looking for women. He’s got other things to occupy his time. When you find one in the wild, buy him a drink. It’ll make him blush and fidget in the cutest way.

My book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, features a hot geek, John March. His passion is women, actually; he studies the things that bring women and men together and the things they’ll do when they get there. So why can’t he figure out how to escape Grace Foley’s friend zone? Is he overcomplicating matters, or are things really not as they seem?

John’s going to discover the answers – the ones he asked for and some extras – in ILLICIT IMPULSE, which is available March 1 from Ellora’s Cave.