Can you believe February is already here? Man, time flies. Seriously.
I wanted to pop in and let you know that even though my release game has been off... I'm still writing! I've shared some stuff that I'm working on, and plan to release in 2019 already, which you know about if you've signed up to receive my newsletter but I've still received some questions about what I'm working on, so I thought I'd share here as well.
First up, will be Bam + Cassie's book, Loving Cassie. This is the fourth book in The Prototype Series, and I'm super excited to get it out to you all. I don't have a release date as of yet but it's coming soon-ish. I'm super feeling this couple and want to get their story right.
If you're not familiar, or need to catch up, you can check out the first three Prototype books--Happiness In Jersey, Finding Kennedy and Keeping Willow here.
Next up will be The Morning After. Yes, the same book that I told y'all was coming in the "Winter 2018" in the back of The Night Before... That obviously did not come into fruition and I'm really very, very sorry for not coming through with that on the date that I said I would. But, Ava + Elias are still in the works. Promise. I know some of you expressed that you wanted to read their completed story and I wanted to write it. In fact, I've started writing it, and the tentative plan is to release it very quickly after Loving Cassie. Again, I won't give a date, other than to say it's coming in 2019.
In addition to the two books that I just mentioned, I also have started on two separate books. One is focused on the youngest brother of Elias Young (from The Night Before) and his love/mother of his children, Zoe. The other, is about Alexis, the younger sister of Brian Jace from The Love Always Series. I'm super geeked about both of those stories as well, and the plan is to release them both this year as well.
So there you have it-- my tentative writing schedule for 2019. Things may change, maybe more will be added but for now, that's what I got. Hopefully your year is off to an awesome, joy-filled start. In the meantime, happy reading!
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This drop-in takes place after Happiness In Jersey and during Finding Kennedy and parts of Keeping Willow. Merry Christmas!
I woke up with a start, sweaty and disoriented. Still half-sleep, stomach sinking, I reached for her, but the space next to me was empty. Slowly, I blinked my eyes open, cognizance hitting me in bits as I rolled onto my back, studying the darkened ceiling through blurry eyes, inhaling the scent of cinnamon.
I was at my parents’ in New Orleans. And Jersey wasn’t in my bed tonight. She was down the hall in the guest bedroom. I was tempted to creep into her room. But the last time I did that she was so paranoid it ruined the mood.
“Zay, what if they hear you in here?” she’d asked, her baby doll eyes wide and full of worry. “I don’t want your mom to think I don’t respect her home.”
I tried to convince her nobody was paying attention to us. Well, not enough to be checkin in on what we were doing. My dad wasn’t tripping at all, as long as we were discreet. I tried explaining that me being in her room wasn’t even about sex. I just wanted her close. But after she kept fidgeting in the bed for thirty minutes, I finally got up and let her be.
I frowned, running a hand over my head. I was tired but I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep. The uneasiness from my dream was still swimming in my stomach and I ran a hand up and down it, hoping it wouldn’t turn to nausea.
I sat up in on the sofa bed where I slept in the office/sometimes gym, and slipped on my sweats and t-shirt before pushing out of the room, following the smell of cinnamon into the kitchen, which was dark except for the oven light.
Just like I suspected, Jersey was up, standing over the open oven, and I shook my head, unable to help my grin because she was so cute. She was wearing the same baggy pajamas she’s put on before she went to the bed, the pair my mom had bought for her last year, our first Christmas together, because she thought they were good vibes. She shut the oven just as I walked behind her, wrapping my arms around her small waist.
She yelped jumping backward into my chest. “You scared the freakin’ crap outta me, Isaiah!” she said, turning in my arms, eyes wide. “Why do you do that?”
“It’s not my fault your hard of hearing, baby doll.”
She rolled her eyes, which were sleepy and a little puffy. Her thick hair was pulled into a messy ponytail on the top of her head.
“Um, no. You move like a cat. Or a freakin’ ghost warrior or something.”
“A ghost warrior?” I asked, grinning, arching a brow. “The hell is a ghost warrior?”
She smiled up at me, and I buried my nose in her neck, inhaling her. Her skin was warm and sweet.
“Why are you awake?” she asked, wrapping her arms around my neck, raking her short fingernails over my scalp.
“I wanted you.”
She grinned and blinked up at me her cheeks tinging red at my simple confession, turning me on even more. Jersey always pretended to complain about that—how I always wanted her in the middle of the night, before I came completely into consciousness, when she was my singular thought. I hadn’t craved anything the way I craved Jersey since I started playing music. A year later, it was still here, maybe even more intense because I knew her body so well now, knew the rhythm of her breaths and moans as well as my own. More than that I knew her heart, her spirit, and her body reacted to that knowledge.
She dipped her warm hands under my t-shirt and ran her fingers down my stomach, pulling absently at the waist band of my sweats, while I kissed her neck, trailing my lips up to the shell of her ear.
“Come to bed with me.” I nipped her earlobe.
“Baby…” she breathed her chest rising and falling faster even though she was shaking her head. Jersey’s voice was one of my favorite things about her—silky and sultry like she should just whisper in my ear all the time.
“Why are you up for real?” she deflected softly, tilting her head up to look into my eyes. “Did you have the dream again?”
I pressed my tongue to the inside of my cheek, and released a breath. Her brown eyes turned sympathetic.
“I’m not surprised, since you’re back at home. Was it exactly the same?”
I’d been dreaming about my brother and sister, Rachel and Isaac, lately. Nothing heavy, but it was disconcerting because they weren’t settled in my dream. They were looking for me, asking for me, panicked because no one knew where I was. It’d been popping up with more frequency over the past three months. Every time, I’d wake up completely disoriented, and once, even grabbed my phone to call Rachel before realizing what I was doing.
I ran hand over my head as Jersey pressed her forehead to my chest, still raking her fingers down my stomach in soothing strokes. I didn’t know what the dreams were about. I just wanted them to stop. The clearest vision I had of my brother and sister, outside of looking at pictures or video, was being tainted but a disruptive dream that I couldn’t shake.
“I asked Pepper about what it meant,” Jersey said, looking up at me. “She said it could signify change. Or that you’re battling with something that needs a resolution.”
Instantly, I thought of us, and I could tell that’s where Jersey’s head was too. We’d been struggling lately. Arguing over bullshit, tense and tight almost all the time. It was throwing everything off, even the music, although we’d both gotten good at playing through our issues without alerting the rest of the band. But it was stressful. Something had to give soon, and we both felt it.
“Maybe so,” I said, not wanting to dwell on it at 4:15 a.m. on Christmas morning. “I know what kind of resolution I could use right now,” I said again in her ear, feeling her shiver against my chest. I hand my hand up under her fluffy pajama shirt, tracing my fingers down her ribcage to her hip. Her skin was soft, smooth, and I grabbed at her hip, pulling her into me. “Come on, love. Just lay down with me for a minute.”
“Oh, Trav and them will be here later, around one they said,” she offered, letting her head fall to the side while I kissed on her neck.
“Zay!” she erupted, laughing.
“What baby? Why you got me beggin’ on my birthday?”
“You never have to beg. Have you seen you?” she asked playfully, letting her gaze sweep down my chest.
“Then whatchu doin?” I asked, grabbing her by the waist again, pulling her into my erection. “C’mon and take care of me.”
She rolled her eyes, still smiling. “I have to wait for this last batch to finish baking so we can have them in the morning.”
I frowned. “Why? For real, nobody even cares whether or not there’s cinnamon rolls.”
She immediately stiffened in my arms. Shit.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that,” I said quickly, pulling back so I could meet her eyes. She looked deflated when she inhaled, scratching behind her ear as she stared at the ground.
“You know what I’m tryin to say, love. It’s just not necessary for you to be up in the middle of the night doin’ this. Everyone understands.”
“Yeah,” she shook her head, her voice guarded and tense. “You’re right. It’s not that deep. And this is almost done anyway, so…”
She attempted to push past me, but I held her, trapping her in front of the counter next to the warm oven with my hands on either side of her.
“Hey.” I waited until she met my eyes. Her expression was bored now but I knew better. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I was just talkin’ okay? It’s late, or early, or whatever. I appreciate that you care enough to make them for everyone. So does my mom.”
She rolled her eyes.
“I said it’s whatever, Zay. The moment is over. I am tired though. And I’d like to go back to bed.”
I traced my teeth over my lower lip, waiting for her to look at me. But she was still scowling, staring at some spot on the kitchen wall. I sighed.
“It’s too early in the morning for this.”
“Exactly,” she snapped. She tried to push past me again, running as usual, but I refused to move.
“What are you doing?” She glared up at me.
“We about to be into it for the rest of the day?”
She looked away but I dipped my head to meet her eyes.
“No,” she said, finally looking at me. “But you’re dismissive.”
I bit the inside of my lip and stared at her. She was damn pretty. And so damn mad all the time.
“Of my feelings,” she clarified.
“You talkin about your Pops again?” I asked wearily. “Because I know this ain’t about cinnamon rolls anymore, especially when I spend all day lately dancin’ around you and your feelings—makin’ sure you ain’t mad, or pissed off or whatever you feel like pulling from the thin air because you won’t direct it towards him.”
“Don’t be an asshole.” She scowled at me and agitation surged in my chest.
“Don’t be selfish. You ain’t always the only one with shit goin’ on Jersey.”
Her lips parted and she blinked up at me.
“I told you a million times that if you wanted to go to that wedding, then we’d go. You made the decision to skip it.”
“Which you were happy about.” Her tone was accusatory.
“Am I supposed to feel bad about that?” I raised a brow and looked at her. “Because nah, I didn’t think you needed to be there, subjecting yourself to some shit that you knew was gonna make you sad. Why would you wanna treat yourself like that?”
We’d been round and round about her Pop’s getting re-married and his punk ass excluding her from the process completely, then requesting her presence at the shit at the last minute, trying to guilt her into going. The woman he was marrying was jealous of Jersey. It was obvious to me the second we met last year. Both her daughters were going to be in the wedding but her Pops didn’t ask Jersey to be in it—his only child.
Every time I thought about the way she looked when she first told me that shit, eyes wide and full of tears, her entire body weary and defeated, I wanted to drive to Atlanta and beat the shit outta dude. Make him leave her alone for good if all he was gonna do was bring her pain and make her question herself to the point where we ended up getting into it.
Jersey inhaled, then pulled her phone out of her pocket and showed me the picture from his wedding that was pulled up on the screen. He was smiling with his new family. Jersey was staring at the screen, the dim light, casing a glow over her features, as she gnawed on her lip.
“He sent you that?” I asked, lowering my voice.
“About an hour ago. I guess they’re still up celebrating.”
I shook my head, and passed it back to her, trying to get a read on her.
“So where we at with this?” I met her eyes.
She got mad whenever I told her to forget him and to cut him off completely. And she got upset when I told her she tell him how she feels. Either way, I take the brunt of his bullshit.
“You regret that you didn’t go? And if you do, do you plan on takin’ it out on me all day? Cuz I’d like to be prepared.”
She stared at the ground so long, I could practically feel the thoughts racing in her head. Long seconds ticked by of us listening to each other breathe. She pulled out her phone suddenly, and deleted the picture. Then she scrolled to his number, and blocked it. She stared at the phone for a minute before meeting my eyes.
“No. I don’t regret not going,” she said finally. “I didn’t belong there.” She shook her head, biting on the corner of her lip, the look in her eyes so vulnerable it made me take a step closer to her, like I could absorb her pain, if it were ever that simple.
“But you belong here. Exactly where you are. Up making cinnamon rolls for everyone at four-fifteen in the morning.”
She grinned and rolled her eyes, biting on the corner of her lip. “I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for your birthday,” she said, so quietly I almost didn’t hear her. “Because I know you don’t like cake.”
My chest tightened and I drew in a breath, as she pressed her curly head against my chest again, inhaling deeply.
“I seriously don’t know what I’d do without you, Zay,” she murmured into my chest. She lifted her head and looked me in the eyes. “I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting lately.”
She lifted up on her tip toes and pressed her mouth to mine, softly at first, before pressing into the kiss. “I love you.”
“I got you,” I told her for the millionth time since she came into my life, meeting her eyes. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere, ever. Okay? But you gotta stop always pushin me so hard all the time, tryin’ to make me prove it.”
She exhaled deeply as we stared into each other’s eyes.
“I know,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”
I dipped my head down, pushing my fingers through her thick hair when I kissed her. This time she opened for me immediately, slipping her warm tongue into my mouth tangling it with mine. Her back bumped against the counter but she just angled her head the other way, wrapping her arms around my neck, sliding her fingers through my hair as she stood on her tip-toes pressing closer. I reached behind her, distractedly turning off the oven as she kissed on me neck.
“C’mon,” she whispered, pushing off the counter.
I smiled, biting on the corner of my lip. “Merry Christmas and happy birthday to me.”
She rolled her eyes, but didn’t release my hand as she hurriedly pulled me toward the back room.
So, Indie Love L.A. was this past weekend, and it was pretty awesome. Not only is L.A. forever one of my favorite cities (it never feels like I'm just visiting when I'm there) but IndieLove is one of my favorite yearly events for many reasons. Here are a few reasons why:
1. IndieLove was one of the very first events to shine a spotlight on the indie author and reader community. And that's super important. My very first real book signing was at Indie Love, and that's exactly what it was too, all love.
2. Seeing women who love books come together is lovely. It's no secret that the black women writers are often overlooked, underserved and marginalized in the publishing world. Independent publishing platforms have provided a much-needed space for us to flourish and tell our stories, which do matter. Indie Love has played a big role in the support of these writers, and that is awesome. Also, I love how supportive authors are of one another. Seriously, it's so inspiring to see that kind of support.
3. I love meeting readers. Y'all, I'm pretty introverted, and not in the cool way that's trendy right now. This is a thing has admittedly only gotten worse since I've been working from home almost exclusively for the past nine years. I'm not a hermit or anything—I definitely do get out regularly but yeah, making small talk is sometimes draining for me. But meeting readers? Man. I love, love, love y'all. You make me smile and blush and just feel fantastic, and I'm so appreciative of you, seriously. I don't take the time you spend reading my books for granted— not at all.
*Also, shout out to my aunt Kathy and uncle James who took a break from their anniversary celebration to pop in and say hi to me-- and provide us with snacks! Love y'all!
4. I had the best nectarines and plums possibly ever. This has nothing to do directly with #IndieLove, but the day after the event, I went to brunch with my #BMHSS homie (and dope writer/person), Lily Java. There was a farmer's market right next to the restaurant, and DUDE. I rarely pass up a good fresh peach (my husband can tell you this), and that little farmer's market in L.A. took the entire trip to the next level.
5. The panels were so fun. Back to the actual event-- I did two panels, both of which were fantastic. I was admittedly pretty nervous about the one I did with my husband, Mike Jordan. We didn't prep at all, so what you got was what you got—off the cuff, authentic and real (awkward). Ha.
All that to say: I can't wait until #IndieLove2019!
Hey everyone! As mentioned yesterday, I'll be in L.A. this Saturday for the fabulous #IndieLove book signing, where I'll be hosting an "intimate session."
If you want to ask me anything specific, here's your chance! I'll also (probably) live-stream my session. So, if you have any burning questions you've been meaning to ask—about my books, my characters, writing process, romance in general, why I talk so much about hip-hop in my books, WHATEVER— drop them in the comments and I'll answer them on Saturday. :-) <3
Woo-hoo! It's been a minute but I wanted to pop in and remind you that I'm headed to Indie Love L.A. this weekend! L.A. is one of my favorite cities and I'm super excited to head there for one of the best events in the land, Indie Love! I'll also be doing an "intimate session" in addition to signing books, so, yay that!
Hope to see you in L.A.!
After successful events in DC and Philly, I'm so excited that #winewithwriters came to Atlanta! Take a look at more pics from Saturday's sold-out event which featured author/creator of Wine With Writers, Nia Forrester, myself, and authors Tasha L. Harrison, DL White, Lily Java and Rae Lamar. The discussion--Identity & Individuality: The Movement Toward Issue-Based Black Women's Fiction— was moderated by author/Spelman professor Grace Octavia.
Photos by Mike Jordan
So #winewithwriters happened yesterday, and in addition to me saying "awesome" like, 100 times in the span of five minutes, we had a fabulous discussion. We talked publishing, diversity, black women, romance, love and more, and it was just incredibly dope.
Also, can I just say I love my fam? My mom, who is just the best as well as my husband and cousin... y'all rocky and I'm grateful for you.
Anyway, Wine With Writers was completely sold out (yay!) and it was an awesome good time. Here are five reasons why.
#1- Nia Forrester is one of the legit coolest people I know. Of course, Wine With Writers is the brainchild of Nia Forrester, who is not only one of the absolute best writers I know, indie or otherwise, but is just a super cool, super smart, super wonderful person. She has such a genuine spirit. I'm so happy that she created this platform for us to come together to drink and discuss books!
#2- Lily Java and Rae Lamar are the absolute best. As usual, it was great to connect in person with two of my absolute favorite people and my sister-authors, Rae Lamar and Lily Java. Y'all have no idea the amount of love, encouragement and just inspiration they speak to everyone who knows them. Not only are their words magic- they're just two of the kindest people I've met, and I'm happy to know them. I love y'all.
#3- DL White and Tasha L. Harrison are fantastic. It was a blast having the opportunity to talk and hang with the incredibly sweet, insightful DL White and also Tasha L. Harrison.
#4- Grace Octavia's dress. Um, so Grace was killing it yesterday. Just gorgeous. I'm so happy Grace (who I've known forever) and who is a fabulous writer/professor was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to moderate what was an awesome discussion.
#5- Reading readers who read, support indie authors, and like wine. Seriously, readers rock. Thanks to all of the readers who came out to drink and hang with us-- you, as always, are beyond appreciated. You make me want to be better and I love you more than words could ever say. I can't wait for the next Wine With Writers!
Woo-hoo! I'm happy to announce that #WineWithWriters is completely sold out! You guys have no idea how excited I am for tomorrow! Since we are at capacity, we won't be selling any tickets at the door, unfortunately. But for those of you who RSVP'd, I'll see you tomorrow!
DL White's Brunch At Ruby's is one of the best indie debuts I've read. And that's saying a lot because y'all know the indie talent well runs deep. The book was emotional, smart, complex-- and just a great work from a great writer. I'm so excited that she'll be at #WineWithWriters on March 10. That's just one week away! You can still get tickets here--> winewithwriters.splashthat
Check out DL's #10Questions:
Excerpt from Leslie’s Curl & Dye:
He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.
To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn't much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.
"I mean, with all due respect, Leslie..." KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. "You're not my competition."
That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.
Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. "Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake."
"I’m not… slumming. I hadn't been over here since I moved back and— "
"And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?"
KC's eyes narrowed and his brows formed "V" of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.
"Tam, why don't you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready." I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.
As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC's arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.
"What do you want?" I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. "We're about to close up."
He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. "I just... was around and— "
"Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So... what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?"
"I'm not steal—" He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. "I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— "
"No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— "
"That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn't know this shop was here."
"Well, now you do."
I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.
Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but... damn, he was fine.
"Now I do," he acknowledged, with a head nod. "All I'm saying is that we should be able to co-exist."
I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.
"It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them."
He scoffed, but I ignored it. "We can't coexist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years. Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn't hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of..."
I shrugged, shaking my head. "Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you're already rich, so now you're just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It's about more than a cheap haircut."
“What do you want me to do, Leslie? Shut down my shop on some first dibs bullshit?”
I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of familiar feelings from being too close to him.
"I just want to run my shop, KC."
"And I want to run mine."
Leslie’s Curl & Dye Link- https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075J6LQ8X