Bonne Anniversaire, Lavender!

So I just realized something this past Christmas – while I was busy doing all the crap you do for the holidays – that I’ve been writing romances under the name Lavender Parker for three years! Time flies when you’re having fun (and having crippling creative blocks, but I digress…)

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Although it’s a bit past the official three year marker, I decided to do a lil wrap-up of the past three years for myself and you, my poor starved readers. So without further ado, here’s some musings on my past writings and future writings as well:

Favorite Book (so far): The Burning One

This is difficult, but I think my favorite overall is still The Burning One. It’s my biggest flop, sales-wise, but I still love the unusual story. Especially near the end of the book, when the story shifts to South America and Cee and Indira really have it out at Indira’s farm in the middle of nowhere. It’s a strange, slightly controversial story but I’m happy I wrote it. To me, it’s one of the most interesting stories that I’ve written and explores the dark and shady areas of psychology and grief, as well as romance.

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Frank Ocean.

So as fans of Frank Ocean know, his looooooooong awaited album was supposed to drop today.

fooled ya

fooled ya

Surprise surprise, it hasn’t. Now, technically, there’s still several hours left today in which this album could drop, but it’s not looking good. While Frank’s fans cry in a corner, I was going through people’s reactions on Twitter and I had a realization.

I am Frank. Frank is me.

Not really. Frank is (arguably) a music genius and definitely more influential and interesting than I will ever be, but we’re both similar in at least one aspect – endless delays. Pushing forward projects that we might not be ready to let go of creatively because we feel like they should be finished. Enough, already! I find myself thinking when I’m staring at an unfinished scene in a book that should’ve (by my estimation) been finished months ago. I get so frustrated at myself for taking a long time to finish a book that the book ends up taking longer and longer. Months pass beyond my initial self-imposed due date. Any excitement and stimulation I felt about finishing a book starts to drain away.

But I keep pressing on. This writing ‘thing’ isn’t just a casual fling with me. It’s a lifelong love affair that I have to keep nurturing. Once I finish one book, I’ll move on to the next and then the next and the next. I think about my characters and their plot problems everyday. I write everyday, even if it’s only a paragraph. It might not be as fast of a process as I’d like, but I have to remember to keep it as creatively enriching as possible. I have to stop pushing myself to force out fast food and remember to let my ideas marinate. Not forever, but for as long as they need to become tasty morsels for all of you who enjoy my work.

Who ever said the life of a creative was easy? Cuz they lied! But to all my fellow artists out there, it’s worth it. I think πŸ™‚

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I hope Frank feels the same way.

For all of you dying for updates, here’s what my VERY LOOSE schedule looks for the rest of 2016:

  • a novella spin-off of Flower in the Desert that I discussed in an earlier post. It’s tentatively titled Light in the Wilderness and should be out late this month
  • Beautiful Beatdown is very high on the priority list, of course. Hoping to have it out this fall.
  • I hope to have more installments of Dirty Rotten Dixons out before Christmas

Thanks for reading my rants~

L

 

(all images, credit to owners)

Summer Lovin’

Hello dear readers!

As many of you may know, my book Flower in the Desert was a fun, quick little beach read type of story and I decided I want to make that an on-going thing. So soon, I’m going to release a ‘sequel’ in the loosest sense of the word.

This new novella will focus on two new characters – Tommy and Soledad – who will have their own adventure in the American Southwest. I really enjoyed writing Flower in the Desert in that setting and this new book will follow in the same feel as the original while telling an all new story. Also, Tommy will be a Native American hero. I know a lot of you guys really enjoyed that in Flower and so did I. I don’t think there’s a lot of NAM/BW out there right now, so I’m happy to do what I can on that front πŸ™‚

I’ll let you guys know more deets when I have them, but for now, that’s something to look forward to. Well, I’m looking forward to it, at least!

As far as House of Pain #3, Beautiful Beatdown, I’m planning that for late Summer. I’m really feeling Tiny’s story and House of Pain as a series in general. I’m hope you guys are enjoying it, too.

That’s all for now, hoping you guys are having a great Spring!

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It’s Deep, Fam

Recently a friend recommended to me that I check out Being Mary Jane, which is currently available on Netflix. For everyone who doesn’t know, Mary Jane normally airs on BET and it stars Gabrielle Union as a popular daytime host on an MSNBC-esque channel. The show follows her ups and downs in the dating world as well as in her career field. My friend texted me about it and it sounded up my alley and I had some free time, so I plopped down on my couch and decided to watch. At first, the show appeared to be similar to many romantic comedies – girl wants guy, guy shows up unexpectedly, girl is surprised and has a comedic freakout while she readies herself for guy. I was prepared to flick it off at the first sign of cliched or hackneyed writing because, let’s be real, I probably should’ve been writing my own novels and not watching TV anyway.

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As you can probably tell, I had some preconceived notions about the show. I thought it was going to be similar to Girlfriends which was created by the same producer. No offense to lovers of Girlfriends (including my boyfriend, who used to watch old reruns for shits), but I was never that into it (even though the theme song still gets stuck in my head randomly from time to time grrr) I also hadn’t heard much about Being Mary Jane in general. Everybody on Facebook or Twitter is always talking about Scandal or Empire but no one seems to be paying attention to this little show on BET. What a tragedy, though, because let me tell you – Being Mary Jane is great.

For starters, Mary Jane lives in Atlanta, Georgia in a ridiculously beautiful home. She dates ridiculously beautiful men and she herself is ridiculously beautiful (seriously, what kind of virgin-blood-infused youth elixir is Gabrielle taking? Gimme some!) So basically, it has a similar set-up to a lot of contemporary romance stories – MJ is a successful single woman who wants to settle down with the right man and have kids. And when I say ‘right man’ I mean educated, successful, and HOT. I could go on and on about the Hot Man Candyβ„’ that is on this show but I won’t…

Yeah… pretty sure he knows he’s hot.

Mary Jane’s dating woes take up a good portion of the show and, as a romance writer, of course I’m interested in the way the writers tackle that subject. They do a great job, in my opinion. Mary Jane’s romantic entanglements feel fresh and are portrayed in funny and sometimes heartbreaking ways. Also, can I just mention that I LOVE that they portray female masturbation and female sexual appetite as a normal and regular thing? All the praises for that. However, what I really think stands out about Mary Jane as a show is the way she interacts with her colorful and dysfunctional family.

MJ has a well-known, once highly successful father, a manipulative mother with Lupus, an older brother who was once successful in his own right but now has drug problems, a younger brother in college who has a side job dealing weed, and – my favorite of all – a snarky nineteen year old niece who’s already the mother of one baby and is pregnant with another. Now, I’m not going to go into all the family drama or give away plot points but I love that the writers chose to give MJ such a rich and interesting family dynamic. The drama comes from the immediate situation – Mary Jane’s family is basically living off of her and she feels burdened and taken advantage of – but there’s so much more to it because the characters are extremely well fleshed-out and their relationships have a lot of layers. There’s no cliched or one-dimensional characters here. The writers have taken typical, cliched Black tropes – the drug addict, the unwed teen mother – and turned them into three-dimensional characters. They’re funny, flawed, hot messes who are all ultimately lovable and sympathetic characters.

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As a lot of you might know from my books, I have a ‘thing’ for writing families. I enjoy writing about family dynamics. Not only biological families, but also the families that we create for ourselves with friends and people who we meet in life and choose to love. I really appreciate that the creators of Mary Jane took the time and made it a priority to focus on her family. They could’ve chosen to focus mostly on her friendships or her relationships but I think the show is better for going in the direction that they did. It makes it richer and more well-rounded. It’s not only a show about an extremely successful woman with a lot of money, but it’s also about how the people who know her best react to her success and come to terms with it and, at times, take advantage of it.

Also, the show is just really funny, daring and sexy. Seriously. Watch it.

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Another show that I think does a great job of portraying another black family in a deeply layered and interesting way is Empire (although I’ll admit I’m not caught up on this latest season).Β  The show is wacky and over the top, but the family relationships (almost) always feel based in reality. Giving them the backstory of the Cookie’s jail sentence and their prior life in poverty was really smart, in my opinion. It adds a layer of desperation and the feel that, even though they’re extremely successful and rich now, they could easily backslide into poverty. Anyway, I’m late in talking about Empire, but the family dynamics were what kept me tuning in every week, as well as the good music.

And of course, Cookie is one of the best characters ever.

So there you have it. I hope you’ll all give Being Mary Jane a shot, if you haven’t already. I think I’ve gushed enough about it, so now I’ll give you some updates although there’s not much to report. I’ve been busy writing lately, but it’s slow going. No surprise there, eh?Β  2016 is gonna be all about playing catch-up with my series so expect me to be more active in the coming months. I’ll be updating about the third book in the House of Pain series, Beautiful Beatdown, soon. So if you haven’t read the second book, Spitfire Suckerpunch, you might want to get on that πŸ™‚

 

(all images credited to owners)

Looking Ahead

Now that 2015 is almost over, I’m trying not to be depressed about my work output this year. 2014 was a really productive and creative year for me, and 2015 was, to say the least, NOT. But I’m not going to let myself get too down. I’m proud of myself for releasing Spitfire Suckerpunch, and I hope that you guys are enjoying Tate and Shay’s story.

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For right now, I’m working on finally finishing Kiss of Life. Vivica’s story has been haunting me for a long time and I know you guys are very anxious to see how her story plays out. I’m very motivated to get it to you guys sometime this holiday season, so just know that I’m working hard on it and it will be coming!

A Devil Named Dixon has been on the back-burner forever, and for fans of that series, I apologize. I wrote the first part when I was struggling with Spitfire and I never thought it would take this long to complete. I’m actually considering taking it off sale until I can finish the rest of the parts. I don’t want to disappoint anyone who’s been waiting a long time for the continuation, but I just am still not in a great place, writing-wise. Kiss of Life is most important right now.

Anyway, I hope you guys are enjoying fall and getting in those pumpkin spice lattes while you still can.

If You’re Feeling Romantic

This is going to be a totally random post… so bear with me πŸ™‚

I was putzing around HBOGo the other night, trying to find a new and different movie to watch. My only real criteria was that it had to be a romance, of course, because duh. Anyway, I came across the 1976 Barbra Streisand movie A Star is Born. I haven’t seen many of Streisand’s movies, but the first half of The Way We Were is one of my favorites, mostly for Bab’s performance as a strong-willed, charismatic woman who is determined to get her man (the second half gets a little melodramatic and ridiculous–not in the good way).

Killin' it.

Barbra killin’ it since 1976.

I settled on A Star is Born and was immediately drawn into the movie based on the sheer power of Bab’s performance. However as the movie went on, I began to really love the way that Babs and her bad boy lover (Kris Kristofferson) interacted. You can really SEE the way they fall in love and worked together as a couple, despite their differences and his self-destructive behavior. They really know each other and are intuitive about why they act the way they do. There’s no silly misunderstandings or miscommunications. Babs is a ride-or-die kind of chick with her man and I really love that in my heroines (in case you couldn’t guess).

As I watched, I started to think about some of my favorite movie/TV couples that have inspired my writing. So, long story short, here’s a list of some of my most influential couples!

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice: This is an obvious choice. I love the witty banter. I love that both characters are flawed. I love that both characters learn to accept and understand each others’ flaws. I love that Elizabeth is strong-willed, but through Darcy, learns to not be so judgmental. The book is great, but really, any movie/TV adaptation is all about the chemistry between the main actors. My favorite version is the 6-hour A&E mini-series, which is a great way to kill a Sunday, but the Keira Knightly version is also lovely and she and Matthew Macfayden, who plays Darcy, have killer on-screen chemistry.

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Luther and Alice, Luther: If you guys are sleeping on the BBC show Luther, you should find it on Netflix and give it a watch. The interactions between psychopathic Alice and rage-aholic cop Luther (played by scrumptious Idris Elba) make the show worth watching. She’s cunning and smart, but so is he, and they have a fun cat and mouse game throughout the first season. She’s always in his ear, begging him to step over the line and join her on the dark side. You watch their relationship develop from enemies to allies to… something more. It’s so fun to watch actors who have such great chemistry play off of each other.

Noni and Kaz, Beyond the Lights: This movie is new (it just came out a few months ago) but it has a great, believable portrayal of a relationship between a Beyonce-esque singer and a cop with political ambitions. The actors are amazing here and the story is very low-key at times, despite the subject matter. The relationship feels organic and never forced. A great scene to watch is when Kaz convinces Noni to sing karaoke in Mexico. Pretty much all the scenes in Mexico are awesome.

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Starbuck and Apollo, BattleStar Galactica: This couple is super dysfunctional, but these two actors ooze sexual chemistry. Starbuck is an alpha woman and Apollo is an alpha with a beta streak, so they butt heads often. Things don’t end happily for these two, and they tend to be a hot mess, but their relationship is deep and they really do know and love each other. All of the relationships on this show are very well drawn, but to me, this one really carried most of the emotional backbone of the series.

Baby and Johnny, Dirty Dancing: Another obvious choice LOL. Do I really need to say much about them? IMO the scene that best shows Baby and Johnny’s connection is a small scene right after they see each other for the first time after they have sex. Both Baby and Johnny are awkward after their first night, because neither wants the other to regret it. Johnny acts brusquely towards her and she simply calls out his name. He turns around and, after a moment, smiles at her, and she smiles back. All is right with the world. Such a little thing but such a big moment. Love it.

Do Min Joon and Chun Song Yi, You Who Came From the Stars: I love this Korean drama with the fire of a thousand suns. It follows an alien who’s been stuck on earth for 400 years and the hot mess of an actress who moves in next door to him. It can be funny one moment and heart-wrenching the next, and the actors play off of each other so well. I love their banter! Do Min Joon is a cold unemotional alien (with a sad back story) who slowly learns to love the wacky, flawed Chun Song Yi. The character of Song Yi (and the actress who plays her) really makes this show worthwhile. She’s an anti-heroine, but has many redeeming traits. She always stays true to herself and her own sense of honor. It’s on Hulu with subtitles, y’all. No excuse not to watch it.

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Beecher and Keller, OZ: This relationship is in no way healthy or functional, but man if it didn’t leave an impression on me! These two men love each other but, for the most of the series, are hell-bent on destroying each other. Watching their relationship unfold was like a train wreck, but it still sticks with me, all these years later. Another memorable (and unhealthy) relationship on this show was between O’Reilly and Dr. Nathan.

I’ve prattled on for a long time, so I’ll wrap it up there. These are just some of my all time favorite couples, but there are many more. What are some of yours?

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Another Alice gif… just because I love her!