Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
For a refresher, here's an excerpt from Chapter 1.
More Than a Summer Love (c) 2009, 2008 by Savannah J. Frierson
Charleston, SC—Summer 2000
The bass from the music and the laughter of the partying crowd was muted as the sounds trickled outside to the silent quad where two teenagers, a boy and a girl, sat on the high, oversized bench in their dance attire. They didn’t look at each other, but at the silver light of the lamp in the distance mixing with the strobe lights dotting the path and grass from the revelry inside. The girl sat with her knees to her chest, the skirt of her burgundy dress long enough to allow the position while he sat hunched over his knees, his tie undone and hanging limply around his broad neck. A slight breeze fell upon them, and it made her shudder. Sensing her brief discomfort, the boy sat up and finally glanced in her direction. She kept her eyes forward, though both knew she was aware of his gaze; and when he draped his high-school letterman jacket around her shoulders, both knew she blushed even though the light was dim and she’d ducked her head.
He hadn’t removed his arm from around her after giving her his jacket. Instead, he’d sidled up to her, making sure she’d be good and warm by sharing his body heat with her. She still didn’t look at him, but both gave internal, relieved sighs when she snuggled into his body. This was the first time all summer they didn’t care what other people thought of them being together like this, showing more affection than mere friends ever should. Maybe because tomorrow everyone would go home.
She hid her face into his shoulder and let out a shaky breath. His other hand came up to smooth down her soft, thick hair.
“Ebony,” he whispered, his lips against her temple.
She closed her eyes and clutched his white dress shirt, feeling his chest muscles bunch underneath her hand. He’d never said her name with such reverence . . . such wistfulness. The lump in her throat made it impossible to say his name in return.
“Ebony,” he said again, this time pulling back so his index finger could tuck underneath her chin and raise her head so their eyes would meet for the first time since escaping the dance. Ebony wished there were more light so she could fully see his brandy eyes and the freckles that lightly dotted the bridge of his pale nose.
“Come with me.”
She knew it was a question even though he’d said it as a statement. The lump grew larger in her throat, so she could only nod her assent.
The majority of the people were downstairs at the dance, and the counselor who was manning the residential halls was snoring up a storm at his reception desk. They stopped on her floor, the fourth floor; the boys’ floor was a level below. Ebony pulled the key out the clutch of the purse dangling on her wrist, and soon they were in her room. The way the dorm was set up was there was a common area with a single on either side. Ebony was staying with a girl from Florence—she’d been really nice—and she’d also had many male visitors after hours. This was the first time Ebony would have one, but she doubted it’d be the same type of host her roommate had been.
Liam pulled off the jacket, leaving her arms and shoulders exposed once more. She saw him drape it on the back of her chair from the corner of her eye, and Ebony slipped out of her shoes as she made her way to sit on the bed. Liam didn’t come any closer to her, just stood by her chair, his large, brawny body taking up so much space and making the tiny room feel even smaller. His hands were in the pockets of his khakis. She knew he was clenching them because the muscles of his forearms tensed and relaxed.
“Why are you nervous?” she asked, though the question sounded much sillier out in the universe than it ever had in her head. The question was painfully rhetorical—this was the first time they’d been alone alone. There weren’t any friends or books or teachers or dinners or adoring fangirls to distract them from the thing that had been building since he’d helped her carry her trunk of desk lamps, books, iron, pillows, and linens up to her room their first day here at SSGSC—Summer School for the Gifted of South Carolina.
It was Ebony’s turn to fidget, breaking eye contact with him and looking at her butter-pecan hands. They trembled, and she mimicked Liam’s nervous tick and clutched them tightly in her lap.
“Why are you?”
She wouldn’t tell him because she felt as buzzed as a lit-up neon sign by his presence, always had, but now was forced to confront it. Her dress was suddenly itchy, restricting, and she wanted to change, but she didn’t want him to leave.
She heard him approach and the bed dipped under his substantial mass. Ebony tensed at his nearness, especially when his breath brushed her bare shoulder seconds before his lips did. She sighed and closed her eyes, her head automatically tilting away from him to expose her neck to his traveling mouth. A hand slid to her stomach, and her fingers uncurled so she could touch his knuckles.
“You smell good,” Liam murmured against her flushed skin. She jumped when moisture touched her. “Taste good too.”
Ebony couldn’t believe what was happening. Of all the scenarios that had run through her mind, none of them included actually acting out on . . . whatever had been brewing between them. Even now she was thinking of ways to minimize the meaning of his mouth on her body, but when his lips drifted up her jaw to her cheek, her brain shorted.
Liam’s forehead rested against her temple, their fingers now intertwined against her stomach. Ebony couldn’t remember when that had happened, but his thumb caressing hers gave her just enough sanity so she could breathe.
“I wish you lived in Charleston.”
Ebony sighed and leaned her temple into Liam’s forehead even more. He moved and pressed his lips against her skin. “I wish you didn’t have to leave.”
She would, though. Her mother had said she’d be down bright and early tomorrow morning so they could get the van back to the church on time. In fact, her room now looked just as bare as it had when Liam had first helped her with her belongings, save for her linens still on her bed. Her mother had thought him a nice white boy at the time, though Ebony hadn’t understood then why her mother had even mentioned his color.
Now she thought she did.
“Who’s gonna keep me in line when you’re gone?”
Ebony laughed at that, that uncomfortable tension broken by their failsafe use of humor. She turned her forehead to his and they smiled at each other, his hand drifting atop her head to the bun at her nape. They stared into each other’s eyes, but then tears sprang into hers, so she closed them.
His lips were barely discernable as he kissed each slip of moisture from her cheek. Ebony was glad she sobbed with dignity, even if what she really wanted to do was howl into his chest and never let him go.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
For as long as there have been Trolling Nights, Bevin Moore has been the unofficial official Gatekeeper for her group of friends, the Femme Crew. She is always the designated driver and always makes sure the ladies do not leave the premises with someone she considers a loser. Bevin takes her job very seriously, even if she doesn’t like Trolling Nights in the first place. Yet on one particular Trolling Night, she's completely unaware someone has, finally, chosen her.
Navy SEAL Timothy Capshaw has no problem going after what he wants; and from the moment he sees Bevin sitting alone and sentry-like in a booth, he is intrigued by her. After one dance, Tim knows he wants her. How will he convince Bevin he is the man she hasn't known she's been looking for and that the need for her Trolling Nights is over?
Tim Capshaw dangled the bottleneck between the index and middle fingers of his right hand, staring intently at the booth where the singular young woman with a curly bob stared sentry-like onto the dance floor. Tim wasn’t exactly sure why his eyes had stopped on her during his slow casing of the joint, but they had. Maybe it was because she looked so out of place—and it wasn’t because she was one of the few black bodies in the building. It was her rigid posture; the fact her black top covered more than exposed; and the fact there was an empty three-foot radius around her that was rarely broken by anything other than women or servers who would chat her up for a few seconds then leave her alone again. She didn’t seem sad or depressed, either, which further intrigued him. She looked comfortable in her skin, and to Tim, that was sexy as hell.
There was a continuous hum of sound in his left ear, and Tim realized it was from a slim redhead who had one of the most stunning pairs of blue eyes he’d ever seen, but a body with more angles than a stop sign. Tim gritted his teeth and took another swig of his beer. Her interest wasn’t reciprocated, unfortunately, but he would give her a B+ for effort.
“Ah, you found her,” the redhead said, pointing toward the black woman he’d been watching earlier. “If you go over there with a drink or something, chat her up, then I’m sure she’ll give you permission to take me home tonight.” The redhead ran her tongue over her bottom lip in what he assumed was supposed to be a provocative gesture. Tim took another sip from his beer so he wouldn’t laugh in her face.
“Is she your mother or something?” he asked dryly, his Alabama drawl almost sprawling as the alcohol started taking effect. He looked at the redhead with a raised eyebrow. “Your sponsor?”
Her eyes fluttered and her cheeks turned red. He grinned. The woman was much cuter when she blushed.
“Nothing like that,” she assured him, resting her hand on his muscular forearm. He watched her painted-red nails catch some of the dim amber light in the bar as she flexed her fingers. He switched his bottle from his right to left hand, the muscles underneath her fingers cording when he gripped the bottle. This time he didn’t hide his smile when she unsuccessfully stifled her whimper.
“Who is she, then?” Tim asked, staring at the redhead when he really wanted to look back at the booth.
“She keeps the losers away from us.”
He raised his eyebrows. “And what makes you think I’m not a loser?”
“Other than the fact I know you wear a trident?” she asked, her blue-eyed gaze roving slowly over his form while her fingers caressed his forearm. “You don’t have the look of a loser.”
A corner of Tim’s full-lipped mouth curved. “Looks can deceive.”
“I’m nothing if not adventurous.”
The redhead smirked and leaned against the bar. Tim drank the final few drops of his beer and set the bottle on the bar in front of him. “What’s her poison?”
“Is that her name?” Tim asked, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
“Yeah, and um, nonalcoholic, I know—she’s our DD.”
He nodded and tapped on the bar. When the bartender approached, Tim ordered. “Can I get a Diet Coke and another one of these?” he asked, pointing to the empty beer bottle. A few moments later, both orders appeared before him, and Tim slapped down a ten. “Keep the change,” he drawled, and the bartender nodded thanks.
“Come back and let me know what she says, yeah?” the redhead commanded when Tim slid off the barstool.
Tim didn’t answer her, already stalking toward his quarry.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Anyway, I'm here, and I'm going to stalk about Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and why this novel is THE novel that started my love for reading and in many ways has influenced my writing. And even a decade and a half later, it is still at the top of my favorite books of all time. I love this book, it's as poignant now as as it was when I first read it. I think this will be a book, and this will be a series, I'll continue to read well into my eighties (Lord willing!).
In the beginning of the novel, Ms. Taylor says her father was a master storyteller, a trait he clearly passed on to his daughter. The choice to use Cassie as the narrator was brilliant because female voices were rarely heard during that time or even in the 70s when Ms. Taylor wrote the book--especially black female voices. Coupled with that, I don't think a male narrator would be able to highlight the gender differences and nuances the way a woman could; just like a white character couldn't discern the racial differences and nuances the way a nonwhite character could. More importantly, through Cassie, the reader is allowed to see the entire breadth of black family life in the 1930s South in a way an adult narrator would probably take for granted. There is the innocence and fun along with the terror and stress of what it meant to be black during that time.
And folks, I can honestly say I don't think I would've been able to make it.
Cassie is about three years younger than my grandmother, which means my grandmother is Stacey's age. Reading this book, especially towards the end and how the night riders really had the right to do whatever they wanted to black people and could get away with it...that David Logan had to burn a quarter of his crop so he could save the life of a black boy not even of his blood...wow. Black people during this time never had post-traumatic stress because there was never a "post", it was just traumatic stress every day. Can't get a good night sleep because you have no idea if you said or did something to piss off a white person. Tiptoeing in your own backyard because the laws weren't meant to protect you, were meant to be used against you, having to have those "hard" conversations with your children that white parents would never even fathom to have with theirs.
And those conversations still happening today, even if the language of it is a bit different.
I remember reading that book and believing in my heart of hearts I was Cassie Logan even though I'd never picked cotton a day in my life; or had to walk barefoot for an hour just to go to class; or had my dignity shat upon because "that was the way of things"; or having to see my parents capitulate to white people even though everyone in the situation knew those very white people were wrong. And yet...I was still told all of this growing up, warned, cautioned. I remember my uncle (may he rest in peace, as last week was the fifth anniversary of his passing) tell me to never show how smart I am to other people. I took that lesson to heart because he'd never steer me wrong and I loved him. And now that I'm older, I realize why he told me that. Because showing how smart you were was the quickest way to land yourself into trouble, specially if it were proven you were smarter than someone white. In many ways I'm still unlearning that, especially when it comes to my writing and putting myself out there. Basically, I need to own up to the fact that I am as good as I think I am, which is really hard to do when you've been taught to be humble, almost to the point of making yourself invisible, and have been very good at it for the majority of your formative years.
Although I don't think your "formative" years stop until you die.
Roll of Thunder is one of the main reasons family is such an important theme in my writing, or why my supporting characters almost mean as much to me as my main characters. Every person in that novel meant something to Cassie, even if that character was mentioned on page 57 and was never spoken of again. And while it's not a romance, it's a love story because it shows the love Cassie's family has for each other, the love the family has for the land, the love Cassie has for herself despite an entire society telling her why she shouldn't.
In many ways, nine-year-old Cassie is who I aspire to be, who my heroines aspire to be. To have that much self-knowledge and efficacy despite everything...that girl was blessed. Yes, her parents shielded her from a lot, and she had to grow up real fast between the beginning and end of the novel, but the essence of her remained the same. That impetuous, unfiltered sense of justice and demanding it; knowing you're worth dignity and respect and becoming damn affronted when it's not given instead of "accepting it as things are"--Cassie is the real definition of heroine to me. I don't mean to be all lofty about it, but she is who I want to reclaim, who I think a lot of black women want to reclaim. I think as black women grow older, a lot of us give up our inner Cassie so we can "make our way and make do", but we miss her. We really do. I know I do.
I'm slowly getting her back, though. And when I write my heroines, I try to get them back to their "inner Cassie" also. Because until you have her, I don't think you can truly, truly fall in love. And maybe it's when you're falling you realize how much you've missed her, how much you need her back so you don't fall so far you forget about yourself completely.
*rubs chin in thought* I'll have to let that bit marinate some more...