Month: November 2015

Don’t fall in love, stand in love…


Loving Nate


The Storyline of Loving Nate

Loving Nate is a story about a young woman who falls in love when she should’ve been standing in love. I open up this tale with an acknowledgment/dedication to someone named “Superman”. A bit of advice that I received from this man was to never fall in love – stand in love. Over the years, I’ve considered this lesson of sorts, even thinking back to when I was in a similar situation like Leah.

Leah meets the perfect man when she literally runs into Nate. She is swept away and is beyond help. Sadly, Nate knows that Leah is weak for him. He takes advantage of his effect on her, as she allows him to drift in and out of her life. Nate is the type of man that knows how to carry himself with a confidence level of perfection. He is totally irresistible! Leah is easily led.

My personal experience was not as shameful as Leah; however, I’ve known a version of Nate. Like Leah, I marveled at his charms and lusted for his perceived excellence. Where my experiences part ways with Leah is that I eventually pulled away when I realized that this man might have a hidden life. I paid attention to the red flags, putting an end to a situation that was sure to rip out my soul.

I always wondered what would’ve happened if I had remained in Leah’s situation. Therefore, Leah’s journey is a hypothetical journey. I also considered something that many women might contemplate – what ifs. After taking Leah on a roller coaster romance, I offer an alternative ending for reflection sakes – walk away or fight for love. After you’ve given your all to a relationship, do you ever consider the pros and cons of leaving, especially if total heartbreak seems inevitable? That is at the heart of Loving Nate.

About the Book2

Loving Nate is Leah’s story of falling in love with Mr. Perfect. Leah falls fast and hard, losing all sense of reasoning. Love can do that to a gal, especially when the guy is as smooth as Nathan Moore. Loving Nate is about Leah’s journey of falling in love when she should have been standing in love.

 Author’s Note

I’ve decided to provide two very different endings to this novella. Have you ever made a decision and wondered whether or not it was the right choice? Or perhaps you made the right choice because you knew that the alternative would’ve been disastrous? This is my gift to readers. Regardless of Leah’s final choice, I wanted readers to be able to reflect on the possibilities.



I was the one waiting around, hoping that this time Nate wouldn’t leave. I spent so many hours staring at him while he slept. Wondering if tomorrow would be the day he’d disappear, once again. Crying and desperately wanting Nate to stick around forever.

When you love someone, there’s no switch that can be turned off and on. The fire doesn’t disintegrate and ignite so easily. Nate is capable of this, but I’m not. Chloe still warns me—calls me a fool, tells me that I’m an idiot to stick around. Nate gave me one small dosage and I became addicted. Now I just don’t know how to walk away. But I do know that I have to. And even if I am able to leave, I can’t imagine that it’s humanly possible to ever stop loving Nate.

This time, I’m going to make the effort. I don’t know that I’ll be able to stay away or avoid him if he does try to track me down. As easy as it might be, maybe this will give him the initiative to leave me too. Losing him and leaving him go hand in hand. After all, this is the man that I’ve loved. My devotion to him has been unconditional.

I think he senses what I’m preparing to do. His hands are squeezing my sides, reaching behind my back, staking claim. But I know that if I don’t leave now, there’s a real possibility that I’ll be alone again. Isn’t it better to be alone by choice, than alone and rejected?

Eventually I’m hoping to sneak out of the bed, move out of his grip. God, it hurts. If my tears could only wash away the shame I feel when he disappears, maybe it would be easier to cope. But they only remind me that I miss him, need him, crave him . . . And he’s squeezing tighter, pressing against my nakedness. Is he gonna start this again? I can’t let him feel the moisture on my cheeks. Oh my gosh, it’s dripping down his arms.

The clock is blinking. I have less than thirty minutes before his alarm goes off. I wanna be out of his apartment within the next fifteen minutes, out of his life, and out of his control. And, as I strain to flex my back, without calling attention to my escape, I cringe.

There should be more difficult choices in life. I’ve been able to conquer mountains, pound down adversity, extinguish flames, and say no when everyone else says yes. When it comes to Nathan Moore, however, I’m spineless.




Why I Write…


Why I Write…

There’s something about the art of stringing together letters and varying sounds to form words to express ourselves. I’m not sure if you can relate, dear reader, but can you remember that moment when you fell in love with words? Perhaps it was so long ago that you can’t quite remember the exact moment and time. For me, I believe it was the year my little sister was born. As if it had just occurred, I can still picture my parents bringing her home from the hospital and my joy over being an older sister. I still feel the strong emotions at how elated I’d become;  how very perfect and beautiful she was. That phenomenal experience became the subject of an essay some time later.

Plain and simple, my love of writing initially extended from a need to express myself. Words would sometimes race wildly through my mind, not even providing the opportunity to vocalize my thoughts. In some cases, I was rather shy and nervous about making sense out loud. My salvation became writing. I would write on any and everything I could find; many times my mind would become flooded with questions, uncertainties, joy, pain and all. Writing at an early age forced me to settle my thoughts and streamline my ideas. I even came to create several journals – one to record actual events, another to create events that I preferred (my alternate version of reality) and others from observing others. What I didn’t know back then, I’ve become aware of now. I was laying the foundation for becoming a writer.

I found my passion at an early age. Did I stray? Of course. That’s life, and we’re doing something called living. I never ended my love affair with the written word. I’ve always read and found myself drawn to it, but this thing called writing… This lifelong journey is ever tumultuous, yet has been  engrained in my fiber.



In Front of the Tree (My Personal Story)

In Front of the Tree


(Creative Nonfiction)

I decided to sneak out of the house without my umbrella. Mommy and Daddy were out to work. Granny said I should try to protect my young bones because they will get old someday – but I didn’t care. For too many months, I was protected. As she issued maternal warnings, her forehead and eye corners creased up, displaying her cosmic existence through well-defined facial lines. Instead of recognizing the wisdom of her years, I gathered my 80s style coat and silently escaped without a glimpse from her watchful eyes. The itchy fur from my hot pink, faux fur coat was too much for my mini, 6-year old body. Every time I slid into the Eskimo gear, I felt as if someone had locked me up in a padded room. This day in particular did not require such a plush coat.

After months of winter’s somber waltz, the dance was coming to an end. The weather was turning and seemed to be on the outskirts of redemption. Winter was being dismissed and spring was preparing to serenade me. Even though the rain was ever present these days, I didn’t care; there was a touch of rejuvenation in the forecast. The rain had temporarily paused while the clouds were lightened and without swirls. I inhaled the damp air, in full force. I wondered if I loosened up, would I be able to someday blow like the leaves on trees. At the moment, the branches were skeletons. But when dressed, the trees jittered and swung – with movements mimicking the high-pitched whistle of the wind. In early spring, the arms of the trees would become filled with cone-like treats, in shades of pastel. I enjoyed their conflicting appeal: naked and dull in the cool air, yet fully clothed and alive in the roasting sun.

As I headed to school with Mike, my well-adored older sibling, I was set on practicing my new saunter. About a week prior, while watching a black and white movie, I noticed a glamorous lady walking with a book on her head. Her form was perfectly in line with the black evening dress that embraced her curvy figure as she floated on the screen like a silk scarf. I made up my mind to be just as graceful, if not better than her. Only problem was that I had to sway rather than walk, every day. My daily exercises might seem excessive, but I felt like a lady in training. I knew Mike was fed up, but I’m his little sister and felt he needed to be patient with me.

“Jae, will you pick up the pace? You better not make me late,” he scolded.

“My feet are much shorter than yours. Go ahead, I’ll catch up,” I sweetly reasoned. As I stood at the edge of the corner, a rainbow-colored puddle caught my attention. It looked like gasoline might’ve leaked into the liquid, so I stooped down to take a sniff. “What are you doing? Get away from that dirty water.” Mike’s full brown eyes were becoming thin with grief. Although a year older, he was at least a full foot taller and carried himself with urgency. I raise my head to examine his dark, neatly chiseled face and wonder why girls went crazy over him. To me, he was my older brother, he was just Mike.

“Girl, you better stop daydreaming.”

He clutched my puny left arm and led me in the direction of Heywood Avenue Elementary School. We headed west on Lincoln Avenue and were about a block from Tremont Avenue. The only cars we saw earlier were the ones lazily parked on the streets. Maybe we were early and everyone else late – or perhaps we were late and everyone else early.

As we approached our midpoint mark, Tremont came alive with cars that revived the morning. Across the street was an old, dark brown building that housed the Orange police station. Back on our side of the block, to the left stood a plump and homely, green and white house. The huge emerald shutters flapped like eyelashes, but I was not scared. Instead, my expectation was for the house to reveal a burly grandmother on the porch, ready to offer early morning biscuits – the kind of fresh treats that warm every inch of your body with love. The only problem was that the image never manifested.

I shifted my attention from the house to the large tree that sat smugly, a couple feet back from the curb, to guard the intersecting corners of Tremont and Lincoln Avenue – in Orange, New Jersey. Although its eternal home was presently shared with the green and white house, the tree ruled the yard, the corner, the block and the city. From every angle, the tree maintained a vast perpendicular presence. Subtract the relative home, the police station, and all other non- living objects in the vicinity; but leave only the tree – the character of the location would still maintain its status in American history. On the other hand, leave all else and instead remove this root of the community; there would be a decaying hole at the very center of Orange. And the scent would be of a destroyed planet, just enough of a memory combined with the uncertainty of the future.

The posture of my wooden friend always reminded me of a security guard’s firm and ever-still stance. Maybe it was a thousand years old because it looked solid. The deep ribs that extended from mid-section to the screaming branches reminded me of an elderly person. The body of this aged tree held countless tales. For every naturally carved marking, I imagined a history of this world’s journey through a youthful and rebellious past; artfully recorded into the once smooth trunk of the tree. Both joyous and solemn tales were etched into the DNA, for all to marvel on. Experience and knowledge had burdened down this tree; however, it was still dedicated to the purpose of area guardian and historian.

I was jolted out of my thoughts by the screeching of tires. “Jae, get back,” I heard my brother’s voice quiver, as he pointed in the direction of the sound that dared to interrupt the peaceful setting. While the cantankerous downpour had completely ended long before, vision still resembled that of a transparent shower curtain. I couldn’t respond. My thoughts were carried from the dark earth creature to the right of me to the sloped hill that disappeared up Tremont. There was a huge commotion that instantly slipped in and became the nucleus of all focus. I saw red and green metal objects spinning around like the red ants I used to feed hot pepper. My brain could not immediately process the unexpected incident. There were objects slowly progressing in our direction. Someone apparently put reality into slow motion.

The once-fuzzy air had become completely clear to my youthful eyes, only to deprive me once again. My natural lights were diminishing. Within moments, I saw faded visions of large forms colliding in the intersection, but could not hear a single boom nor yell any longer. The actual cars did not register as tangible items, but rather as figments in my waking dreams. I attempted to utter letters, with the desire of forming legitimate cries, but the inward yearning would not materialize to outward expressions. My corpse chose not to cooperate with my brains, and instead remained frozen. I wanted someone or something to stimulate my young muscles because I was unable to shuffle, by even the slightest degree. I morphed into a tree, much similar to the one resting a short distance away.

Am I alive? The very thought induced an internal panic attack. I was to be 7 in September – would I not celebrate another childhood milestone? My entire body seized up on me and life seemed to be gradually exiting. My tongue was moist, tingly, and heavy; I could not swallow.

From the lower parts of my body, the numbing extended to my fingertips and chest. My head swayed and I no longer saw the commotion around me. No red or green cars. No pink fur coat. No brown police station, nor green and white house. No seductive trees to steal my interest. The weather was neither cool nor warm. Daylight hid its fresh glow from my curious gaze. Color disappeared from the scene and black took over.

I was uncertain of timing and solely existed in the spirit, without a connection to my human form. Thoughts dare not disturb my peaceful relaxation. No deadly pain interrupted my rest. I was totally out of touch with the objects and individuals of earth, but steadily in touch with a heavenly world. The length of time was immeasurable.

The sun burst through my closed lids and forced me back to life. I was not dead! As I strained to open one eyelid at a time against the glimmering light, there seemed to be at least 10 shadows of people standing over me. Momentarily, I was dazed; then I recognized a familiar face, Roger – the cutest guy in my class. He was moving his lips but my ears did not cooperate. My lips did not oblige; the numb feeling was still present but fading. My mouth was arid from the lack of proper circulation during the lost moments.

I felt a coarse object cradling my small frame. Successful at my efforts to turn, I was surprised to see my former role model as my bed. Thick, dark gray roots traveled from far below the paved blacktop to well above my limited height. As my senses returned, I heard the typical bellowing of an ambulance. The stench of burned rubber faded in and out as paramedic, policemen and bystanders tried to help accident victims.

A long white arm found my small frame, as a voice asked, “Are you okay? You got hit.”

“Jae, are you okay,” my brother echoed as he reached around the uniformed policeman that helped me up.

The scene was contrary to what seemed like moments ago. Lincoln and Tremont were filled with curious faces. The mighty sun had overturned the unfair ruling and the rain seemed permanently locked up. Unlike the start of dawn, everyone eagerly welcomed the day and marveled at the miraculous events that took place an instant before. Words fought each other in the air.

“The little girl got hit.”

“All three cars pinned her on that tree.”

“She was thrown through the air.”

“Is she alright?”

“I can’t believe she survived.”

“It’s a miracle.”

“The red car flew out of nowhere.”

“No way, the green car jumped the light”

“Let the medic get the lady. She looks smashed up.”

“Little girl, are you okay? Can you walk?” The arms helped me up. The moment I began to place pressure on my right leg, the tenderness of a dislocated knee shot my efforts.

I shrieked. My thoughts drifted from my painful leg and followed my eyes to Mike. Wet streaks were slightly visible on his cheeks. He stood still, no longer displaying a fixation on school. Instead he comforted me with, “It’s okay, Jae” and “You scared me.” Most importantly, he assured me that he was right next to me and was not going anywhere.

“Alright, let’s get you in the ambulance,” the policeman ordered, then quickly carried me to the bellowing emergency vehicle.

My companion for the trip was one of the driver’s from the accident, a pale complexioned woman with deep brown-spiraled curls and cherry red lipstick. She was laid out on a stretcher. Her eyes were both bold and scared, but she found the courage to dispel my fears with – “You’ll be ok!” I was a pedestrian but the only victim not requiring a cot. Although the cars never touched Mike, he was allowed to ride in the ambulance with me. As the vehicle climbed Tremont’s slope, my eyes were fixed on the tree that protected me throughout the ordeal. Time and inhabitants were born and expired, yet this wooden warden continued to survive as a silent witness to the events that have occurred at the corner of Tremont and Lincoln Avenue.

Janice G. Ross © 2010

(I wrote this piece as part of an assignment for my Narrative class, back in 2010.)

Guest Post: Sequels, Sagas, and Trilogies…Oh My!


Sequels, Sagas, and Trilogies…Oh, My!

You’ve written your best work and the reading world, as we know it, will love the masterpiece. Like a crafty writer, your brain has already worked out plot-points and scenarios for a fantastic sequel. Then a novelist’s dream occurs, you’ve had a “creative brain explosion” and your mind has already conjured up an outline of a three book, four book,–no wait–a five book series.

The upside of writing a series:

  1. After completing the first book, a writer has learned a wealth of information about their characters. Choosing to write an addition book or more will allow the author to connect with their characters on greater levels. The time invested in character development in book one can be expanded upon. These characters become real. When readers feel a connection to a character, in a sense it makes plot more explosive. As the author of the Shaw Family Saga, I’ve come to love and connect with my characters. Fans and bloggers have commented on how real the characters seem. And a few book clubs who’ve contacted me speak of the Shaw women is if they’re friends.
  2. Readers are loyal. When they find an author that they love, they scour the internet–or the back flap of a novel–to find out more about said author. Hooking a “bookworm” with the first in a series can lead to a lifetime relationship and increased book sales.
  3. Trilogies are often paused on cliffhangers–it is in a sense, a form of enticement to continue on to the next story. Readers love books that stir their emotions and leave them in a tense situation. Pausing a novel at a peak in transition will leave the audience wanting more. A good story can stay on the readers mind long after they’ve turned the last page of the book. We’ve all seen those reviews that say “can’t wait for the next one!” (Caution, if the plot points are developed incorrectly this is also a con, which will be noted on the “downside” of writing series.)
  4. There is a potential for increased interaction with fans. Venting and praising in the form of reviews are a bookworm’s go-to. Authors get a chance to learn what fans may or may not have liked. This can lead to even more interaction by engaging on social media. For example, having a Facebook/ Twitter event where the readers can say what they would like to see happen next. Be creative, and listen to what fans have to say. It will most certainly spark ideas or potential changes in a story that you hadn’t even known was possible.
  5. Brand–it’s a big word in the publishing world. Being known as the author of the “Hunger Games” series or the [insert the first famous epic author at the top of your head hear] really solidifies a brand and increases the word-of-mouth aspect of marketing that helps authors sell, sell, sell.

The downside of writing a trilogy

  1. Time can be a pickle. Sagas are usually written over an extended period of time. While writing Miss Perfect, I had to continuously revert to the first two books. And for those stories that have even more in a series, being consistent throughout is important.
  2. Another issue with consistency is that novelist must edit their work. Sometimes scenes have been cut out or added in and it’s easy to forget that. A writer has the unedited version of a story in their memory–and if done right– the readers have the fully edited story that has been prepped for consistency and flow. Therefore, toggling back and forth from stories or having a chapter outline is imperative.
  3. Continuing the story with different segments must be done with “refresher information” in between to ensure cross-consistency. It takes a creative novelist to determine how much back story or “refresher information” to add in the next read.
  4. How about this scenario? The standalone was so impactful that the novelist would be forcing it to end the story with an outrageous climax. Many of us have read a story that was so deeply poetic, so deeply about romance and love, then BAM. The author, knowing they had a standalone goldmine, ended it with a shocking cliffhanger that in no way complements their story or their target audience just to continue.
  5. Through researching different sites, many readers complain about overly-developed first stories. We get it, book one sets the stage for the entire series. But, creating a new world and a hundred pages of the novel can be highlighted as pure setting is a no-no. Or there’s an arsenal of characters in the story that have a back story–adding another fifty pages. While focusing on just these two parts of a novel, the author hasn’t even developed an interesting plot, leading to slow introduction books.
  6. The author decides to spoon feed the reader sets of plotlines. Without sewing up these juicy webs of tension, the reader is caught in a tangle of sticky never-ending webs. Based on readers’ comments, if plotlines are being opened, opened, opened, they may just set the book aside or rant in the form of a review. This is an epic fail.

To write a sequel, saga, or trilogy, the choice is yours

Whether you choose to write a standalone or you’re in it for the long haul, there are many pieces of the puzzle to take into perspective. Outlined above are a few–subjective–reasons to continue on the road to a saga or not. What are some other ideas you can think of before taking the plunge? Write those down to ensure your best work. Don’t introduce a plotline in book one with no intention of ending it until book three. Keep in mind, it’s a big job. Have flash cards of very important points available for each book so you can cross reference. You don’t want to weave a stick web of never-ending plot.

About the Author



Nicole Dunlap obtained a B.A. in Psychology and Child Development from Cal State University of San Bernardino. She joined the Phi Lambda Theta Honor society while receiving a Masters of Counseling from Azusa Pacific University. She is married with two daughters and currently works in one of the least acknowledged careers known to man. In social services she’s learned of such horror worse than any make-believe stories… Hence, her desire to write suspense. She is the author of the Shaw Family Saga and Kill Mary Jane Doe. Under a few aliases, she has also enjoyed writing other series books. With the pen name Amarie Avant, Nicole climbed to the tippy top of the Amazon Best Sellers list in categories African American Romance and Women’s Fiction.



Facebook Fan Page:

Twitter: NicoleYDunlap or Amarie Avant





The Island Hopping Series

Jumping Ship 2016

Barnes & Noble




Also available on Amazon!

 Island Hopping T&T 2015

Coming in early 2016!

Island Hopping Grenada 2015

How far would you go for love?

How far would you go? Would you throw caution to the wind? Set aside common sense? Part completely with doubt? Give all possessions away? Forget what once was? Would you be willing to do it all for love? How far would you go for love?

In Jumping Ship, the pre-release novella to the Island Hopping series, we learn exactly how far Petrina Dugal would go for the sake of love. Pet, as the twenty-something woman is known, is tied to a miserable marriage. It’s all that she’s ever known. Pet never knew love, never expected love, never felt loved, never inhaled love and most certainly never tasted love. And then love walked into her door, right in front of her brutish husband.

Pet’s love is mysterious and enticing, rolled up in visual perfection. Michael Chen instantly captures ever ounce of emotion that Pet had bottled up. Pet and her Mikey love with every ounce of their being, until circumstances become crucial. They make a decision that what they have created is much more important than any promise that ever existed beforehand. And to show how far they would go for love, Pet and Mikey flee.

Pet and Mikey’s story is only a portion of the entire Island Hopping series, but significant nonetheless.


Pet’s husband had only left out about fifteen minutes prior, but they couldn’t be too sure that he wouldn’t suddenly get an inkling and return. Roger worked at the local police station, no more than twenty careful minutes away on Queen Street. In fact, he walked to the station daily, taking wide steps and whistling along the way. Regardless of the perception, his musical endeavors only occurred on the main streets. He was very standoffish towards his neighbors, never wanting them to see him as inviting. Not friendly at all, in fact he could be an extremely cross thirty-year-old man.

The neighbors didn’t really pay much attention to him because he was not too talkative with those that couldn’t offer him something―dollars, spirits, or anything of value. He knew how to complain and throw around his title, but that was it. Perhaps that was the very reason why he was never warned about the man that frequented his home at night and romped in his bed during the day. The same man he got liquored up with during many evening hours.

As the woman eerily reflected on her despised mate, she shivered. If Roger only knew what she was preparing to do, he would surely “slit she troat” and “lef she fah dead”. The declarations were his wedding night vow to her, in case she ever thought of crossing him. Pet felt them for sure, without a doubt.

On the contrary, her lover Mikey promised from the very beginning that would never be the case with him. He took on the vows that should have been her husband’s. Mikey wanted to cherish and protect her. Pet accepted those promises. Not because she entirely believed in them, but because she believed in his passion.

Pet’s eyes watered as her lover paused midway between the kitchen’s entrance and the back door, a house divider. She sent sweetness with a blow into the air and the enamored man reciprocated. It was the time of day that sweethearts typically did not steal away. Still it was the time of day that people began to awaken to a fresh start and new possibilities. And for that brief couple of seconds, they allowed themselves to not think about what they had prearranged and the very real consequences that could shatter their plans. This exodus had to happen. It needed to occur. He loved her and she loved him. One could no longer survive without the other. That fact was at the forefront of each movement they made.




The year was nineteen seventy-five. Barren couple, Pearl and Edward Riley stumbled upon a newborn baby girl. Her cries could only be heard by a true mother, which Pearl immediately became. Bundled up with their new child, they discovered a parcel of artifacts and a scribbled note that read: Sakkara. Pregnant seamstress, Petrina Dugal, became a runaway at the age of twenty-six. She ran away from a brutish husband, Roger, and a well-loved South American home in Georgetown, Guyana; at the heart of her rebellion – an enigmatic lover named Michael Chen. Pet and Mikey, as they became affectionately known, allowed love to blossom in front of her police officer husband and an intrusive community. Were they not aware of the dangers? Or did the pursuit of love trump obligations?

Sakkara Riley grew up with two loving parents – adoptive parents to be exact. She never knew the circumstances surrounding her discovery, until the age of sixteen. She embarks on a journey.

Jumping Ship is an introductory novella to the Island Hopping Series. There are 7 planned books – representing each of the islands that Sakkara will visit along the way.

“Jumping Ship” provides the introduction to Sakkara’s attempts to commune with her true heritage.