Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sample Sunday

For Sample Sunday, here's another unedited excerpt from I'm Losing You, which is with my editor as we speak. 


While Vic was at the hospital, Mona went to pick up Trey and Julian to save her mother-in-law from making the trip.
“I just made a fresh pot of coffee. The boys are downstairs watching a movie. Sit and have a cup with me.”Vic’s mother always made it impossible to simply run in, say thank you and run out.
“Oh, Mama, I promised the boys we’d have lunch then do something special today, since they’re going back to school next week.”
“I just fixed them breakfast not too long ago. Sit and talk to me for a few minutes.” She set two of her pretty china cups and saucers on the table.
Mona reluctantly pulled out a chair and busied herself with adding cream and sweetener to her cup.
“How are things with you and Vic?” Her mother-in-law asked once she joined her at the table.
“The same,” she said without looking up from her cup. “He’s too busy for me and the boys.”
“Have you tried talking to him about how you feel?”
“Too many times. He thinks I’m ungrateful and being overly-dramatic. All he gives me is the have you forgotten I’m the first black and the youngest chief of surgery the hospital has ever had? speech. I’m not asking him to step down, but I’m tired of hearing it.”
“I’m worried about you two. Victor and I went through a couple of similar stages, once while he was doing his residency and again when he started in private practice. Thankfully, we worked it out. Have you considered talking to someone about what’s going on?”
“You mean someone like a shrink?” Mona asked in a tight voice.
“Not necessarily a shrink, but a person who’s trained to listen.”
Ramona gaped at the older woman whom she loved deeply. “I’m not the one who needs counseling, Mama! He just brushes me off like what I think and feel are unimportant. I have nothing against counseling, but I refuse to go alone.”
Mrs. Stafford placed a hand atop hers. “Honey, being married is hard. Being married to a doctor is hard. Being married to a black doctor with a prominent position is even harder. You need to talk to someone.” She patted Mona’s hand. “I have a thought. What about calling Rhani? I know she’s no longer practicing, but she was trained for this. And since she’s in New York, none of your friends or associates know her.”
It sounded like a good idea, but she refused to budge on her stance. “I’m not going to counseling without Vic. If he wants to stay married to me, he needs to put forth some effort. I think he just doesn’t care.” She finished her coffee, rose and went to the door leading downstairs to the theatre. “Trey, Julian, are you ready to go? Make sure you turn everything off before you come up.”
“Do you want me to talk to him?” her mother-in-law asked with a downcast expression that tugged at Ramona’s heart.
“No. Vic knows what he needs to do. He just won’t do it.”
The boys raced up the stairs into the kitchen, and the eight-year old hugged her around the waist. “Hi, Mom. You look nice.” He offered her the sweet smile she missed seeing from her older son. Soon to be thirteen, he now thought he was too cool to express his feelings for his mother.
“Thank you.” She glanced down at her Black Girls Rock tee-shirt, skinny jeans and sandals. This was about as dressed down as she ever got, but she assumed he meant she looked stylish. “Do you guys have all your stuff together?”
“Yup,” Trey answered.
Looking at them, she felt a twinge of an emotion she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Her sons were both so handsome. Trey, whose name was actually Victor Stafford, III, was the image of his father. He had the same square jaw, heavy wild eyebrows framing deep-set hazel eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across his nose. He even insisted on keeping his hair cut close like Vic’s.
Julian was a combination of Vic and her. A mass of brown curls he’d had since he was an infant still framed his always smiling face. Of the two, he was the mama’s boy, and she thanked God he wasn’t yet ashamed to love on her in front of others. It was the only love she received these days.
“Thank Grandma for letting you stay last night, and take your bags out to the car.”
Once Trey and Julian were outside, Mona said, “Don’t worry about us. We’ll be okay.”
“I hope so. Give some thought to what I said about Rhani.”

Ramona bent down to kiss her. “I will. Love you, Mama. Thanks for keeping them.”
COMING SOON to Kindle, Nook and Kobo!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Celebrating!

This is what I felt like when I'M LOSING YOU went to the editor yesterday...


He Turned It (JSU / Tye Mashup) from Aaronjiii on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sample Sunday

For Sample Sunday, here's another unedited excerpt from my upcoming release, I'M LOSING YOU. It goes to my editor on Tuesday!


***********

Vic rested a hand on Trey’s shoulder when he came into the room with his head down and his shoulders slumped. “What’s up, man? Mom said you want to talk about something.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he answered without looking his father in the eye.

“Well, whatever it is, you don’t have to feel uncomfortable about it.” Vic sat on the black leather sofa and patted the cushion beside him. “Sit down. Let’s talk.”

His first born flopped down next to him and poked his lips out before he finally spoke. “We’re going back to school next week. Last year there was this girl…and she…” He exhaled a frustrated sound.

“Do you like her?”

Trey nodded with a hint of a smile. 

“Does she like you?”

“She said she thought I was nice, and she was always looking at me in class.”

Vic nodded. “She likes you. So, what’s the problem?”

The way Trey rubbed his palms up and down his thighs told Vic just how nervous he was. “It’s okay, man. Just talk.”

“She’s white, Dad.”

Vic smiled, knowing he needed to incorporate the real world talk into the respect/safe sex conversation. “You know what, buddy? I don’t think there would be a problem with her. What’s her name, by the way?”

“Megan.”

“Megan might really like you, but you need to know how her parents feel about her being friends with a black boy.”

“How would I find that out?” he asked, finally looking at his father for the first time since he entered the room.

“Just ask her. If she says something like she has no idea or they don’t have to find out, then you know there’s a problem.”

“Mom said Uncle Marc and Uncle Greg dated white girls, and Grandma and Granddad didn’t have a problem with it.”

“They were older than you at the time, and I wouldn’t exactly say Grandma and Granddad didn’t have a problem with it. Granddad was worried about other people retaliating against them because they were with girls who weren’t black.”

“But that was a long time ago.”

Vic knew exactly what his son was thinking “It wasn’t that long ago, and times haven’t changed that much. People can still be hateful when it comes to race. It doesn’t matter how light-skinned you are or how much money you have, you are and always will be a black man.”

Trey chuckled.

“I’m serious, Trey. Having a black president uncovered just how a lot of white people really feel about us, and we have to be careful in public situations. You’re too young to go out on dates or anything, but you need to find out how Megan’s parents feel.” Vic figured it was best to set the ground rules now.

“I know, but our friends go to the mall or the arcade.”

“Mom and I don’t have a problem with that, but there are some things you should know before we allow you to do that.”

“What kind of things?”

“Things like the right way to treat a young lady. That means showing respect for her and never putting your hands on her or yelling at her.” Vic’s own words plucked his conscience. Here he was giving his son advice that he himself needed to heed, but things had deteriorated between Mona and him to the point where all they seemed to do was yell at each other. 

“You mean I can’t even hold her hand?”

Momentarily confused, Vic frowned until it dawned on him. “No, I mean don’t push her around or hit her, even if you’re just playing.”

Trey looked horrified. “I’d never do anything like that, Dad!”

“I hope not. It also means you never do things to a girl that she doesn’t like. Don’t touch her inappropriately, and if she doesn’t want to kiss you, don’t try to make her. You can go to jail for that.”

Vic wanted to laugh at Trey’s embarrassed expression. He concluded that the safe sex talk wasn’t even necessary at that point, but he needed to get a feel for exactly where his son was emotionally. “When you were around her, did you want to touch her?”

The way Trey hung his head and a blush crept up the back of his neck, Vic knew he should delve a little deeper. “Have you?”

“Nope. I…I didn’t know what to do.”

“Well, it depends on the circumstancesyou knowwhether you’re alone or with a bunch of people. Just don’t rush it. You’re only twelve, man.”

“I’m going to be thirteen in a few months.”

“I know, but it’s too young to be thinking about this stuff. Take my word for it. You’ll be dealing with women for the rest of your life. Do you want to ask me anything?” 

“No.” Trey’s gaze dropped to the floor.

He slapped his son on the back. “Whenever you need to talk, just let me know, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, Dad.”

Vic grinned as he watched his son leave the room looking as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Trey didn’t have a clue how simple his life was at the moment. He had no job, no debt, no board of directors to answer to, and no wife to pacify.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WIP Wednesday

Since this is WIP Wednesday in some author groups, and I've posted this elsewhere, I figured I'd also share it here. This is an UNEDITED excerpt from my WIP, I'M LOSING YOU. Vic has problems...


******

When Cydney, Jesse’s wife, answered the door of the expansive brick house and let him in, Jesse was seated at the dining room table. Most of the time he and his brother sat outside on the deck overlooking the pool, but the early-August Atlanta weather was so stifling the air felt like breathing steam. Their relationship had always been easy. Until Greg was born, it had been just the two of them, and being two years apart, they had attended the same schools and worked together for a while in their father’s practice years ago. Until recently he and Jesse were the only brothers who were married.

Two plates covered with plastic wrap, two tall glasses filled with ice and a pitcher sat in the center of the table. He took a seat, and Jesse slid one of the plates in his direction. “Nothing fancy, man. It’s only turkey sandwiches, some leftover potato salad Cyd made on Sunday and sweet tea.”

“I love Cyd’s potato salad. Where is she anyway?”

“Upstairs washing the girls’ hair. That’s a real project, so we won’t see her for a while.”

Both men unwrapped the plates, bowed their heads and offered a silent blessing. Jesse filled both glasses with tea then leaned back in his chair and studied his older brother. 

“What’s on your mind?”

Vic bit into his sandwich and chewed, giving himself time to think of how to finally reveal to Jesse what was going on in his home. “Last night,” he began slowly. “I got home after eleven, and the house was dark. In my gut I had a feeling something wasn’t right. Mona had mentioned a fundraising meeting, but when she goes to those things, she’s always home by nine o’clock.” He stopped and took a couple of forks of potato salad.

“Maybe they just ran late. Why’re you making a big deal of it?”

“This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and she was wearing a little short dress like she was going out for the drinks not a meeting.” Vic drew a long breath. “And she’d been drinking.”

“Hey, you know the ladies get their drink on sometimes,” Jesse continued, playing devil’s advocate.

“I know, but she and Daphine work in the same groups, and Marv said she was home last night.”

Jesse leaned forward and his olive gaze zeroed in on Vic. “What are you saying, man? Do you think Mona is creepin’ on you?”

“I don’t know what I think. She’s been so cold lately. I tried to talk to her when she finally came in, but she refused.”

His brother stroked his unshaven chin. “The family has noticed a difference in her lately, but Mona’s always been devoted to you, man. I can’t believe she’d do that.”

“Yeah, well I don’t want to believe it either, but she’s been staying out later after every meeting. Trey and Julian spend more time with Mama and Maite than they do with their mother.”

“Does she have any new friends?”

“If she does, she hasn’t mentioned them to me.”

“I hate to say this, but if you really think she’s hiding something, you can always have her followed.”

Vic grimaced at the suggestion. “We’ve always trusted each other. That’s kind of hitting below the belt, don’t you think?”

“Has she given you any other choice?”

He shook his head. “I know I’ve been busy since I took this job, but she seemed to be as happy as I was about it…at the beginning. All she does now is to complain about my hours and how she’s tired of being alone.”

“And you think she’s not alone anymore.” Jesse phrased it as a statement not a question.
Vic nodded.

“Then you need to be sure of what she’s up to before you confront her.” Jesse rose from the table. “I’ll be right back.”

Now that he was alone, Vic dropped his head into his hands and groaned. All of the time he was in medical school, during his internship and residency, Mona had been right beside him. Now, when they had everything they had dreamed of back then, she’d left his side, and he didn’t think he could survive without her.

Jesse returned and handed him a business card. “This is the firm I used when we had that loss problem at Dad’s practice. They do business and personal investigations, and they were excellent. I got to know the owner pretty well. You can tell him I sent you.”

For a few moments, Vic stared down at the card then he slipped it into his pocket. “I need to think about this before I do anything.” He let out a rush of air that sounded as though he dreaded his next step. “It’s time for me to go home. Tell Cyd I said hi and thanks for lunch.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Character crisis

I haven't posted anything about the next book in the Stafford Brothers series since April 30th when I did the cover reveal, mainly because I've done some reworking of the early chapters after my beta readers and my critique partners expressed some concerns about the main character, Ramona Stafford.

As an author, I don't bend to the whims of the reading public, but I do listen to those with whom I've partnered to help me create a story that makes sense and is a pleasurable read. As a reader, I've come across some books where I didn't particularly like the hero or heroine, but as I continued reading my opinion changed. I've also read books where one of the main characters irked me so badly I put the book down and never picked it up again. I don't want the latter to happen with those who buy I'M LOSING YOU, so I spent extra time tweaking Mona's personality and changing the way I've written some of the beginning chapters.

Part of the issue with this story is that I write mostly romance, but since two of the brothers in the series were already married when Book One released, their stories are women's fiction and not romance. During this process, I discovered that it is much harder for me to write about married people and their issues, perhaps because they hit too close to home. 

Ramona is the beautiful, pampered wife of Dr. Vic Stafford, who is the first black and the youngest man to be appointed as chief of surgery of the largest medical center in Atlanta. At Vic's insistence, she spent the early years of their twelve-year marriage as a homemaker. Once their sons entered school, Mona busied herself with representing Vic in the medical community by heading up two different groups to raise money for medical charities.

Her life is SO different from mine. She has a live-in housekeeper. When she's not seeing to the needs of her sons or conducting charity events, her time is her own to shop, keep up her physical appearance at the gym, spa or beauty salon. This is the life she has as a result of being married to a man who makes a half-million dollars a year. 

The problem was that a few of my beta readers felt she came across spoiled and ungrateful. That's the last thing I wanted. One of my readers resented Mona's life so much, she refused to continue reading! My whole purpose in writing this story was to show that even with all of the benefits of his salary, Mona and Vic have issues in their marriage that money can't fix.

During the rewrites of the first few chapters, I made a point of showing Mona's background. Her parents divorced, and she was raised by a "pageant mom" who committed her life to entering her beautiful daughter in competitions from the age of three. 

She believed if she taught Mona who to be attractive, poised and fashionable, she would have no problem finding the perfect husband. The only reason she sent her to college was to place her in a pool of possible eligible men, and her plan worked. The problem is that this kind of upbringing taught Mona that being pretty is the most important thing in the world.

I've worked hard to show that Mona is a good woman who loves her husband and sons, but when it seems as though she's losing the man she loves, she attempts to regain his attention in the wrong way. This book is the shortest one in the series, and it does have a happy ending.

Vic's issues revolve around his new job, and I'll talk about those in my next post.


I'm hoping for an early September release, if not sooner...