So, yesterday I had one of the highlights of my year so far when I attend #BehindThePen 17 in NYC. These pictures are ones that I grabbed from the Internets (I'll have more later). But here are 5 reasons why it was so awesome.
1. It was sold out. You can't tell from these pictures but it was PACKED. People traveled from across the country (and from other countries) to chill with us, and I don't think words can explain how incredibly cool and humbling that is.
2. Mimosas. Great music, great decor, great mimosas... they were all present.
3. Reading readers who read are the best ever. Meeting people who want to meet you and support you is again, beyond words. As my girl Nia Forrester always says, y'all make me want to be better, for real. I always leave hoping that it comes across how much I truly, truly appreciate meeting you and all the love you show me. It's humbling, inspiring and my heart is still smiling (cheesy but true).
4. #4Writers4Love finally got to connect in person! I've met them all separately before but this was the first time that me, Nia Forrester, Lily Java and Rae Lamar were all together-- and our conversation, the time we got to hang and vibe with each other... man, it was for real one of the highlights of my year. Love y'all.
5. Sharee, Saida and the entire Sistah Girls Crew are so awesomely fantastic. Seriously, you guys KILLED it. It was gorgeous, fun, the vibe, music and energy were right and it was just really, really cool. Take a bow, ladies. I'm honored to have been part of such a dope-ass event.
Keeping Willow the third book in The Prototype Series is now live and available for purchase on Amazon! Click here to purchase. Happy Reading!
Okay, so here's the Keeping Willow playlist. Normally these Prototype playlists are pretty diverse in terms of genre, but this one is mostly all soul music for some reason. I dunno why really? Maybe that was just indicative of my writing mood this go-around.
As usual, the playlist includes most of the music mentioned in the book and a few jams that just fit the overall vibe of the story, or illustrate what the characters were going through. Some are just songs that I listened to a lot while I wrote. Actually, now that I'm looking at it, this entire list is full of songs that I listened to a lot while I was writing.
There are a couple of songs that I pulled that just remind me a lot of what I think Devin's drumming would sound like—the song by Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar, "Never Catch Me" has frantic drums that just lift the track to the next level and the opening drums on "Partners in Crime" by The Internet are so dope. That song actually fits the vibe of Devin and Willow's relationship overall.
I think more than any of my other playlists this one is really curated for the book in terms of the actual sequencing of the songs.
At any rate, hope you enjoy!
Listen to the Happiness In Jersey Playlist and the Finding Kennedy Playlist.
Keeping Willow. Coming 8.10.17
Hey y'all. So, the third book in The Prototype Series, Keeping Willow is coming out on Aug. 10. Woo-hoo! Let's just say this book was a long time coming. Three years, in fact. Sheesh.
But Willow and Devin's day has finally arrived and I'm happy to get their book out because these people took me through the ringer. They took a few twists and turns and at times irked me to no end but these two characters are probably among my very favorites ever. They have heart. They have soul. They have growing pains. Together, they can be explosive-- sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not so good way. But I love these two separately and together and I hope you'll dig them too. I think I may've even learned a few new things about myself writing this book, which is always a nice added bonus, right?
Anyhoo, check out an excerpt from Keeping Willow, arriving 8.10.17, below.
From Keeping Willow. Coming 8.10.17
BACK THEN. DEVIN.
“Low Low, you gotta get up.”
Nothing. The lump in the bed didn’t move.
“Willow.” I touched her shoulder, partly because I couldn’t see her head. It was buried underneath my comforter.
“Baby, you gotta get up.” I shook her shoulder this time, and she finally stirred, blinking up at me sleepily. I smiled, even with tired eyes and her hair wrapped in up in a red sleep rag thing, she was gorgeous. Just stupid pretty. My gaze dropped to her full lips before meeting her eyes.
“It’s almost 3:30.”
She blinked heavily again. “Already? Shoot.”
The fact that she was wearing her nighttime hair tie meant she was serious as hell about that nap. “You’re gonna be late.”
I sat down on the edge of the rumpled bed, searching for my shoes. It was mid-afternoon but it’d been cloudy all day. The light trying to stretch its way through the window was muted, casting a soft blue-ish glow over the room because Low insisted on buying me blue curtains a couple of months ago.
“It adds dimension to the room,” she told me. I didn’t care about curtains but they did make the room look more relaxing, I couldn’t lie. Marvin Gaye was playing on my record player and I grinned because Low had finally really gotten into the warm sound of vinyl after fighting me about being “old school.”
She yawned and rolled onto her back and tucked her arm underneath her head, like she didn’t need to be at the airport in Dallas by 5:30 to catch her flight home.
“I have a little time. It only takes an hour and half to get to Dallas and my flight doesn’t leave until seven.”
I shook my head, eyeing my shoe underneath her backpack. Other than her bag in the floor, the room was clean and airy, because of Low. It was so comfortable, I felt like crawling into bed with her and crashing too.
“You’re pushing it,” I told her instead. “You still gotta get dressed and you know what an event that is.” She wasn’t wearing anything except my old red Hawks t-shirt. “I don’t want your dad thinking I’m the reason you missed your flight home.”
Willow sighed audibly when her phone buzzed on the bed next the pillow. She picked it up, squinted at the screen, and tossed it back onto the blue comforter.
“My mom,” she answered my unspoken question. “I just didn’t want to talk to her while I was over here.”
“What’s up with that?” I met her eyes, brow furrowed.
“She thinks I’m ‘playing house’ with you because I’m over here so much.”
“Since when did she say that?”
Willow shrugged, pulling off her hair thing and tossing it onto the bed. “The other week. She says she doesn’t know why they pay for me to live on campus when I really live over here.”
I bit the inside of lip, my gaze scanning the room. Willow’s books were on the small desk she insisted on getting for me. Her clothes took up practically half of my closet space. One of my dresser drawers now belonged to her and her soaps and girly whatnots were in the bathroom shower rack. But I liked it that way. I wanted her near, all the time.
We hadn’t spent a single day apart in months and I was kinda tripping because I really didn’t want her to leave now, even though I knew she needed to see her fam for the Thanksgiving holiday. She was flying in to Houston a little earlier though, since she’d be coming into Atlanta the day after Thanksgiving to be with me. Our new manager, Jay Little, had three shows lined up out there--- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Trav was still hesitant about buddy but these gigs proved he was ready to handle us, in my opinion. Plus, I was looking at what he was doing with another band out of Atlanta, Black Bottom. They were blowing up and had just brought him on as their manager a few months before.
Doing the gigs in Atlanta was big but I also wanted to check for my moms and Omar, see how they were doing. Moms finally landed a job, not where she wanted, but it was something at least, working in the cafeteria at Omar’s middle school. But the gap between unemployment and her finding work left them in a tight spot. And her punk ass landlord went up on her rent. I’d been sending money when I could but my paper was low too.
“Can you give Kennedy back her headphones for me?” I looked down at Willow, who yawned and stretched again. She worked the early shift at Aroma today, the coffee shop near campus where she started at the beginning of the semester.
“Where are they?”
“On your dresser somewhere I think. Or maybe in your truck?”
She twisted her lips, thinking. “You’re bad as Jersey, losing other people’s stuff.”
“They’re not lost!
“But you don’t know where they are.”
“They’re somewhere near here. I do know that.” She smiled, as I absently rubbed her calf, since she still hadn’t made a move to get up. “Oh my gosh, last night she was amazing, right?”
Kennedy joined the band as a singer at the beginning of the semester, when she moved to Tyler to stay with her grandma Pepper, Trav’s neighbor from the down the street. Kennedy changed everything when she joined Prototype. Zay elevated the band when he’d joined. But Kennedy completed it. She’d changed Travis too, because dude was in love with her on some “alter my entire existence” type shit. Buddy actually told me that the other day, and was dead ass serious.
“She’s next level. She’s startin’ to get why she’s dope, which is the key. You can’t just be good. You need to know what separates you from everyone else so that you can lean into it.”
Willow’s eyes were lowered when she looked at me and she tugged at the bottom hem of my t-shirt.
“I love it when you talk like that.”
“Like all…” she shrugged grinning. “Devin-y. I’m gonna get t-shirts made with your quotes.”
She bit her lip, still smiling at me. I knew that look in her eyes and I grinned, my groin tightening because that look, coming from Willow Elizabeth Harden, was better than any high I’d ever known.
“What’s up?” I asked, letting her pull me toward her by the hem of my shirt, wrapping me in her coconut scent.
“We have a few minutes,” she breathed, against my lips. She bit hers, then released it.
“Nah, we don’t, love.”
She nodded against my mouth, “We do,” she whispered, reaching and wrapping her arms around my neck, pressing her mouth against mine, her tongue tracing the seam of my lips, making me uncomfortably hard.
She pulled back suddenly, and in one quick motion, pulled her t-shirt over her head. Her eyes were still on me, her cheeks flushed because she was still brand new and getting used to her body, and to me looking at her body. But she liked it.
“We do,” she said again, as she kneeled on the bed in nothing but a pair of purple underwear. The afternoon light creeping through the blinds left a zigzag pattern on her belly that I traced with my fingertips. I bit my lip shaking my head as I took her in. Damn.
“You better look and see what time the next flight is.”
Devin Walker, drummer for The Prototype, has one priority: turning his alt-soul band into the superstar act it's destined to become. Singularly focused on his music, his creative passion is all-consuming—that is, until he crosses paths with his best friend’s college roommate, Willow Harden.
Willow was drawn to Devin from the moment she first saw him. And when Devin does, finally look Willow's way, she's easily seduced from her protective bubble into the lure of his fast-paced ambitions, though at times, she wonders if she can handle it.
Unable to resist their potent chemistry, Devin and Willow free fall into a relationship that makes them question each other and doubt themselves. Devin knows he should probably leave her alone; Willow knows life for her might not be any good without him. Can they possibly make their love work? And if so, at what cost?
I was recently asked by Pink Heart Society to contribute to a special issue they were putting together about romance writer's of color. They wanted me to talk about my journey in publishing as a black woman-- which is right up my alley if any of you have witnessed me on my soap box when such questions are posed.
At any rate, I'm super honored to be included with this fantastic list of authors. You can read about me and the other dope authors by clicking HERE.
So, yesterday was Indie Love in the A 2017. And it was all love. Here's why:
1. Jos is awesome. As the founder and curator of Indie Love, Jos-Renee Marks, a reader who just has a lot of love for indie authors, has tapped into a market. A huge market of readers who support writers with their dollars, mouths and hearts (corny as that may sound) and it is so, so appreciated. Her event, in my mind, really set the precedent for these gatherings of indie writers-- which are all so awesome.
2. I sold out of almost all of my books! Okay, I'm gonna keep it 100 here. Basically, I came to this event thinking that I wasn't going to sell many books. Not because I'm a negative thinker or don't believe in "speaking life" into my activities and whatnot. But I'm a realist and as sensitive as I am, I like to think I'm a fairly pragmatic thinker. My last release was Blind Expectations in December. That book, while well-received, seemed to kind of be my most... debatable book? Meaning, it seemed to take folks through the ringer and make people feel some type of strong reaction about Trevor and Leah and their coupledom. All that to say, I didn't expect to sell a ton of books or whatever. But yo... I SOLD OUT of almost everything I brought--Better Than Okay, Blind Expectations and Finding Kennedy. The only books I really had left was one copy each of More Than Always and Less Than Forever and a handful of Happiness In Jersey books. Y'all. That is humbling. And so freakin' dope. I LOVE Y'ALL.
3. READERS. Without readers, would I be a writer? Well, yeah. I'd write for myself. But I publish my books because I want y'all to read them. I want to entertain you. I want to touch you. I want to make you think about things and life differently. I want to be affirming to your heart and spirit. I want you to love love. The readers I get to meet at Indie Love fill me up for the rest of the year, seriously. You guys are just... the absolute best.
4. Panels. I love the panel discussions at Indie Love. They're always so interesting and enlightening and just cool. And when the panel discussion is standing room only-- dude. I can't adequately explain how freakin' dope that is. (Shout out to my mama who is the bomb and sold book for me even while I was participating in the panel discussion).
5. Books! Who doesn't love books!?
All of that said, a lot of you (most of you) came by asking when the heck I was gonna be done with Keeping Willow. It's been just over a year since I published Finding Kennedy and I need to hurry my ass up with it. Okay, nobody said that but I know I need to. My release date for Finding Willow, the third book in The Prototype Series is Summer. Alright, that's vague. But I'm shooting for a late July/early August release. My daughter is going to both of her grandmas for a bit so that should free up a little bit more writing time for me... so yay that. I also have a lot of books in my head (and few good starts on paper) that I'm excited about-- that includes the fourth book in The Prototype Series, Loving Cassie which is Bam and Cassie's story. Hopefully, that will come sooner than later.
Until then, long live INDIE LOVE IN THE A.
As some of you know, I'm currently knee-deep into writing the third installment of The Prototype Series, Keeping Willow. For those of you familiar with the series, this obviously going to be Willow and Devin's book. It's shaping up to be... different. Interesting.
See, the thing with Devin and Willow is we've already been introduced to them in Happiness In Jersey and Finding Kennedy. They're already together and we've gotten a glimpse into their, well, kinda dramatic relationship dynamic. Willow is a little spoiled and Devin is hyper focused on his music, with overprotective tendencies that tend to veer into jealous territory. Then, add in the fact that at the end of Finding Kennedy, we see the band on the cusp of breaking out of Tyler, TX with their new song playing on Atlanta radio, and it's obvious that everyone is in the midst of big change. That's been fun and even a little challenging to write. I want to get this story right. I want to make this series everything I imagine it to be in my head. I've never read about a black, college-based, alt-soul band before in fiction. I want The Prototype Series to be, well, the prototype for the potential these kinds of stories have.
Basically, pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself that's probably not even necessary, honestly.
Anyway, I opened my email the other day and got some super cool news—the second book in The Prototype Series, Finding Kennedy, has been nominated for a 2017 RONE Award! It's nominated in the New Adult category but voting doesn't take place until later this month (check back for the update so that you can get your vote on). In the meantime, you can read the review that helped get it nominated right here. From the review on InD'tale:
"There are laugh out loud moments and the story develops and flows at a pace making it an enjoyable read and one that is easily finished in one sitting. With this well written and pleasurable story, Jacinta Howard has ensured that after reading this book readers will go back to start this series at the beginning. "
As I said you can check back here later for info on where/when you can vote. It's so cool to be nominated again—my debut novel, Better Than Okay, was also nominated for a 2015 RONE Award as well.
If you still haven't read Finding Kennedy, you can purchase it here.
***And... I'm doing a GIVEAWAY. Just drop a comment below and tell me ALL of the members of The Prototype and I'll gift you with a signed copy :-). Good luck!
**CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! THANKS FOR PLAYING!**
Wine With Writers (Philly Edition) was so incredibly dope... hands down my favorite event of the year so far. And why wouldn't it be? Take a look at all of the things that made it so cool.
1. Readers came from near and far. Seriously, folks traveled from other states to chat, sip and hang with me, Nia Forrester, Ashley Coleman, Lily Java and Tia Kelly. On all of those days that I'm stuck inside of my head, feeling down, feeling wack, I'll remember this day in Philly- when reading readers came and said a lot of super nice things about all of us and our books.
2. Nia Forrester. Nia Forrester (who spearheaded Wine With Writers with the first ever event in DC) spilled the beans on her writing process, how her experiences influence her writing and let everyone know about Keisha. Y'all know Keisha.
3. Tia Kelly. Tia Kelly organized/produced the entire event and it was so fantastic and fun. She's so talented. She's also the bomb.
4. Lily Java read a dynamic excerpt from Blackbirds and she should seriously consider a job in voiceovers. Like, seriously.
5. Ashley Coleman broke down why love is a choice. Love with intention, y'all. Listen to Ashley.
6. Wine. Yum.
7. My mom came! I love my mom.
8. The talking. We discussed black lives, black women, writers block, love, relationships, books, romance, fiction, the book industry, wine, insecurities, vulnerabilities, and life. And well, it was awesome to be surrounded by so much intelligence, passion and love.
9. READERS. READERS. READERS. I love readers. Your support, especially for indie authors, is just... it leaves us all speechless. I literally was speechless a few times yesterday, as those of you were there know. Readers are awesome. Readers rock. Readers are dope. Readers read. I love readers.
Long story short... can't wait for the next the installment of Wine With Writers.