Thirty Days of Fire-Day 6: Someone Who Fascinates You And Why

A person that fascinates me? Just one? I think that person has to be Anne Rice.

I have been fascinated with her, by her, since I was 14 years old.

 

I am fascinated by her because she was born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien. I am fascinated because on her first day of kindergarten she told the nun her name was ‘Anne.’ I am fascinated by her because of the richness of her imagination. The fact she was born on Halloween. How sensitive she is and how her upbringing has permeated every part of her writing.

I am fascinated by her because she seems to be a unicorn.

Anne Rice fascinates me because her power, her prose is so unassuming! She has fascinated me by her words, seduced me into her world with pages. She gave voice to dark portion of my imagination–without apology. When I heard Anne Rice speak, I would have never thought something like Armand, Claudia or the legendary literary immortal Lestat would have come from her!  Anne looks like a schoolteacher!

Anne is fascinating to me because she is so unlike any female writer I have come across. Even my beloved Shonda Rimes. I respect her talent. I revere her imagination. And the prowess–I strive for. She’s a dark shero. And I love her.

Please tell her I said so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[image from realfoodgirlunmodified.com]

Thirty Days Of Fire: Day 5- A Place You Would Like To Live, But Have Never Visited

I have never seen the ocean.

I would love to live in Santorini. It’s a small Greek island that has all this light, and the sunsets are amazing.

This country became part of my imagination thanks to the last Olympic Games being in Athens–you know the one. This is the games that allowed us to know Michael Phelps is really Aquaman (he has to be! The boy is a fish!)!

But I digress.

It was the pictures of the sunsets that got me. It was the pictures of the sunrises, the colors and lights that strewn threw windows that got me. When a YouTube beauty guru Jackie Aina went?! And showed how BEAT, snatched and SLAYED she was?!

Ooh!

I had to go. I must go. It’s one of the reasons why I’m getting a passport. The other reason is to shoe shop internationally.

Besides, I’ve always wanted one of those big hats that Audrey Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady to sunbathe with.

As a side note and homage-

(shouts to Aunty Jackie! Jackie, Jackie, Jackie Jackie!

Jackie, Jackie Jackie!

Jackie, Jackie, Jackie, Jackie! If you’re a fan of hers, I know for a fact, you just did her intro in your head!)

[image from desireepeeples.com]

Thirty Days Of Fire: Day 4 (10 Interesting Facts About Me)

I’m a pretty grounded girl, with some quirks and perks. Here are some:

 

1.) I wanted to be a ballerina. At age 4, I loved to dance. And I still do. I love the way my body moved and wanted to become a ballerina. The only Black girls that I had seen dance was Janet Jackson and Debbie Allen (keep in mind, I will be 38 in June)! But I wanted to be a dancer. I made show of stretches and jumps and wearing pink. That was the color that I knew ballerinas wore. If I’m honest, I still love ballet. My sister gave me a DVD that displays the New York City Ballet work out plans. I sometimes put that on, and pretend I’m still that young girl.

 

2.) I wanted to study film at NYU. My oldest memories are of watching film noir with my aunts and father. I was fascinated by the process of idea-script-film. And I still am. When I was 17, I wanted to go to NYU to study English. But then changed my mind and decided I wanted to get a doctorate in film. I knew NYU had the best film program in the country (Spike Lee went here!). I’m still fascinated by idea-script-film process. As a writer, I have to be. I have a few books that I want to see as films. One of them is RUBY. You should get a copy. Click here.

 

3.) I love old movies. My favorite movies are Sunset Boulevard, The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not and The Maltese Falcon. I blame my parents. Growing up here in St. Louis, I was a fan and patron of Saturday morning cartoons! After the cartoons on the local network KPLR (Channel 11), there were old movies on after 11 am. When I would send Saturdays at my Grandmother’s house, I could stay in the room with the adults if I was quiet–and watched what they watched. This, more often than not, meant I had to watch movies that were as old as my Nana. But I am grateful for it. I loved it. I loved the glamour. The makeup and the stories. To this day, I adore a quiet day and AMC or TCM.

 

 

4.) I suffer from insomnia. In working nights, and being a parent, sometimes really throws my body clock off. From that, insomnia happens. It doesn’t happen as frequently as it used to, but in time of extreme stress, sleep in the first thing to go.

 

5.) I love to cook.  I love the Food Network. I invest in my cooking tools. Cooking, the act of putting things together that I can eat, is quite relaxing. I have come up with the coolest recipes because I (in a last life) wanted to be a chef.

 

6.) I had red hair through my twenties. Through my 20’s, I was obsessed with having long red hair. I found out the my maternal family had Irish roots, and some of the most powerful women in the Marvel Universe were redheads–so why not? I thought I was cute! My grandmother, mother and godmothers hated it. Sigh.

 

 

7.) I am a huge Anne Rice fan. I think my fandom with Mrs. Howard O’Brien Rice (AKA Anne Rice) had to have begun once I had seen Interview With a Vampire. I had watched the movie because I was so in love with Tom Cruise (Your judgement is irrelevant). From that movie, I was fascinated with her. I drank up anything her imagination had to offer! I love her mind, and am trying to get to her masquerade birthday party to see her before she leaves the world. I’m currently going through Ramses The Damned:  The Passion of Cleopatra. I highly recommend it.

 

 

8.) Shonda Rimes is my hero. The fact that Shonda Rimes exists is a reminder that Black women can and do everything. I am excited about Shondaland, and maybe one day creating my own. I think that Shonda is brilliant, savvy and honest. I love her, because I see myself in her. And maybe, just maybe, if I push the hustle forward, I do the same thing.

 

 

9.) I quote Shakespeare and comics in casual conversation. ‘Oh what fools these mortals be!’ I love the Baird. I think Shakespeare is brilliant and necessary. I was thrilled to know that there are words he created that were folded into the English language. I use the phrase ‘hugger-mugger’ frequently (this is phrase found in Hamlet)! And when I am around fellow Baird nerds, elevated language is the norm.

 

 

10.) I’m happily tattooed. I got my first tattoo at 23 (It is 3 kanji that means ‘phoenix.’). I sometimes forget its there! I also have 4 more planned to get. When my mother saw it while I was giving birth to my oldest daughter, she asked what it meant. I told her, “If you can read this, you’re too close.” She believed me.

 

 

 

 

 

[image from answeringenesis.com]

Thirty Days of Fire: Day 3 (First Love & First Kiss)

 

I had strict parents.

My first love and first kiss are not the same person. In the interest of being honest or earnest, my first kiss came from a dude named Leon in my 7th grade homeroom at Yeatman Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri.

It was the second semester of 7th grade, and we were playing Truth or Dare. Or was it Spin The Bottle. I think it was Spin the Bottle. Our teacher, Mr. Kelsey, was gone somewhere (because I went to a public school; this is the type of shenanigans we did.), and the bottle landed on Leon. I got up and put both hands around his almost Jesse Williams-esque face, and kissed him smooth on his face. I remember the crowd of kids in desks around making the ceremonial siren noise “Oooooh!” I remember I skipped back to my seat. Why did I skip? I mean, I was 12. I hadn’t had my first kiss and according to the books I was reading (Sweet Valley High, The Baby-Sitters Club) most girls had gotten their first kiss by 13! I thought I was behind the curve. Sorry, Leon. It meant nothing. It was all business.

First love? Oh, wow! There’s something a little more complicated. My childhood sweetheart, is not my first love (spoiler!). When thinking about who that young man is? It is a young man by the name of Daniel B. Nelsen. I met him when I was about 17 and I was a Senior in high school. He asked me to marry him, and I said yes, but I had no idea how to be a good girlfriend (let alone someone’s wife!). But Danny was sweet, attentive and utterly wonderful. He was a reminder that good guys still exist, and I deserved one.

Where he is now? I don’t know. But wherever his head lay, I hope that he can still think of me and smile. And mean it.

Thirty Days of Fire: Day 2 (Earliest Memory)

As creative as I am, my earliest memories are a blur. My earliest memory is being carried by my father. That one is the most vivid.

I was about 5 and my father was taking my baby sister and I to our maternal grandmother’s house here in St. Louis. He had to go to work and my grandmother was going to watch us. I remember he was carrying my baby sister in his arms. I had on a puffy purple Oshkosh coat and wanted to be carried up the stairs to her front door.

I remember him picking me up, sister secure on his right side, and scooping me up as if I weighed nothing. As a parent now, I know how hard that was for him. And how heavy kids are.

I remember how deliberate his steps were. How measured. How he kept us safe. How, in retrospect, that act of acknowledgement and love sustained me. I remember the color of my grandmother’s brick house. I remember how tight I held him.

From his shoulders was the safest place in the world. Thirty years later, I found no other safety. I can see now, it was when I raised my tiny arms, and he picked me up, I was indeed a Daddy’s Girl!

And I’ll never have another.

[image from YouTube]

Thirty Days of Fire: Day 1 (Five Problems With Social Media)

Image result for day one

 

As a writer, and a generally nosy person, I love social media! I can share info. I can announce new projects, and post new work. As great as social media is, it has it’s drawbacks. Here are some:

 

1. Exposure culture. As a writer, one of your jobs, your abilities even, is to people watch. As a woman, I am learning what it’s like to ‘hold something to yourself.’ This means not everyone needs to know your business–and not everyone needs to know the business you know. I cannot stand exposure culture. Some things are better left handled off screens, and face to face. Or not mentioned. There is a reason therapists and journals exist. You don’t have to put everyone on blast. You really don’t. Class is still an option.

 

2. Feeling as if you’re missing something. I often take breaks from social media. Sometimes the noise from all the people that I follow gets to be too much (see problem 1). And I step away for as much as 90 days. But I ‘peek in’ every so often to see what’s going on. I hate feeling like I’m missing something. I hate feeling like people can’t just call me or text me. Social media sometimes feels like people, human interaction, is becoming more and more of an option–or unnecessary.

 

3. The inundation of other people’s crazy. Social media is not a journal. SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT A JOURNAL. Not all 5, 50, 500 or 5000 of your friends need to know you and bae broke up again. That your kids are getting on your nerves. Or the struggle plates. No! No one really cares! Tell Jesus get a nap an do better!

 

4. Subliminal messages. As a writer, this is ridiculous. I am guilty of this from time to time. But now? I block and delete. My patience and time are valuable. If you need to get at me, call me. Don’t veil your comments. That just makes me think you’re scary, and still wouldn’t confront me if you had to–or need to. Do Jesus.

 

5. Ex-partners following you. I have gone out of my way to make sure my exes couldn’t follow me. I have searched names, nicknames and done a preventative block because I don’t want the problems. I don’t need the problems. It’s bad enough some exes remember my phone number! But you wanna invade my personal space too? No, no ma’am. Preventative blocks are an vaccination from social media. I swear by them!

 

Social media is wonderful. Just make sure you make time for real life too.

 

[image from Aflac.com]

 

 

From The Crates: Leaving

From time to time, I find cool pieces that I did and saved. That series is called From The Crates. Here’s one. Enjoy.

LEAVING:

(c) October 2015 JPHarris

The voices are aging. The forebarers that lit the path through the igniting of thought are leaving towards the same light that sent them.

In contemplation, I find myself going to these people: my mother Bessie Bush, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. It was my mother whom introduced me to the worlds books hold, and the solace they provide. In my darkest moments, she would ask me, “Are you still writing?” I would answer her as my situation dictated. I recognize there will be a day where I will no longer have benefit of her voice on the other end of a phone. Despite past contention, she has been graced to be my mother. I will need her until the Lord will need her Home. I thank her for being my mother when it would be easier not to be.

Anyone that knows me understands my love for the other 2 aforementioned women. With the nation losing our grandmother Oracle in Maya, I grappled with that sense of loss-I have enjoyed her work since age 9 when my mother gave me her copy of I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. All we, yes we, have left of her, is what she left: her letter and voice.

Toni Morrison is 84. The same age as my grandmother whom would be 86 this year.

I found Toni Morrison in high school and was rapt with her tone and description of anything. I knew then, this gift of words and being a writer, was indeed a craft. Indeed a craft. There will too be a day where the world will only have her letter…and voice.

The Word of God says “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” In this space, I commit these intangibles back to Him seeing as He is the giver of all good gifts. In that process, in the beginning of the becoming and faith in its end, I believe a portion of my legacy will be left to treasure in letter and voice.

See mom, I am still writing.

Never As It Will Be

“The sun is bright this morning,” Nia sat sipping coffee slowly in her long lavender robe on her white elm front porch. With feet bare, and her long dark brown curls, framing her pecan colored face, she looked towards the direction out towards sun. Nia sipped, wondering if he was doing the same thing, suddenly happy the front Georgia porch was left open and not enclosed as her mother suggested. At this exact moment, could he be drinking coffee, watching the sun, thinking of her? She smiled at the justice of that thought. Nia wondered if what the saying of the old women she knew was true. The heart wants who it wants, it will never listens to your head. She smiled, the light of the thought warmed her better than the sun.

The habit of being awake early began with the carrying of her first child, Candace, almost five years ago. Insomnia made her nights into days; the sun becoming her signal to sleep. Nia rocked in the beige porch swing, happy the house was quiet enough to hear her own thoughts and see them through. Married life suited her, yes. Nia knew to be faithful, forsaking every other to cleave to her husband, Vander, so the two of them could be one flesh. She knew how to do that. Their life was supposed to have a cadence, a loved rhythm, which they planned aside from what could be found writhing on bedsheets. The passion would be cyclic, she knew. She knew how to be a wife, knowledge of that position didn’t push her to the front porch in her robe, with the matching lavender chemise underneath. He did.

This angel of her own making, this man-made god of her youth and imaginations. He whom she saw when she heard music or closed her eyes. Even his name was angelic when she breathed it in showers or alone with her thoughts for too long. James. The heat produced at the christening of his name over her tongue was unlike anything she had. Of course, she he knew to have him would be to forfeit her responsibility, her children and her faith. James would take all she built, all she promised herself to become and withstand. Being with him would be to change the course of her life’s path in the worst and most incredible way. Nia held on to the blue coffee cup, her head resting on the back of her thumbs and didn’t fight the tears this time. Nia recited the same prayer she had for the last few days.
“Father, either remove him or give me whom my heart wants. Either way, Father this must change. I cannot bear to be his and be here where he is not. Make him go away or make me his. In Your grace I stand, In Your love I am complete. I thank you. Amen.”

The tears where hot, flowing faster than the white painted porch could absorb them. The sobs came, deep and loud, but the release not complete. Nia thought about her last night with James two months before in August, right before her birthday in the first week of September. Nia remembered the cologne he wore. Savauge by Dior. She remembered his hair. His dreadlocks where redone and pulled back and his skin was deep ebony. His football player build inviting and marked often during their tryst with her nails in his back. He wore this cream collared shirt. He caressed her cheek, kissed her as he told happy birthday. “I have loved you since I was seventeen, Nia Hamilton. A decade later, it’s still like high school. I told you then you were mine. A husband ain’t ever gone change that.” He had kissed her pulled her towards him to cup her face, moaned into his mouth.
From his favorite restaurant, Malone’s for a an early birthday lunch lead them to the Lattimore Hotel soon after. Nia remembered the lovemaking, as she felt the heat from her cup. She remembered how he mastered her, made her pleasure and passion a priority. She smiled remembering how she yielded to how his body mastered and matched her own, along with its hunger. James was determined to sear himself into her memory. She bit her lip remembering how he had mastered her, anticipated her body, her open mouth and held her close after. Nia, after a decade and more after their first meeting in a Wyatt Senior High School Junior year in, after him being her first at that year’s prom, could not shake him.
Even now, Nia he wanted to run to him, full speed. She wanted to take nothing her love for him and sprint towards him. Through the fields before her, towards the sun, and not stop until he was in arm’s length of her own hands. “Dear God.” She began to will herself back to composure. Nia remembered what her mother told her, how she found out. How her mother kept everything from Vander. James had written a letter and let the gift she now wore at her mother’s house. On the phone her mother, Elizabeth, told her with the grace mothers have, she needed to end her relationship. “I don’t know what is going on, I don’t need to know. But James is not your husband, and you know what kind of man he is. Let James alone, Nia. Soon. Vander is who needs your attention. Give that man this robe and stuff back!”
Nia shoulders began to shake from sobbing. The sobbing let the coffee and its contents to spill over onto the porch and her feet. The heat from the coffee was a relief to pain in she had. That burning was understood, could be explained, even treated This burning had no explanation. She couldn’t pray fast enough to keep ahead of it. James haunted her. When she was driving. At work. Even with her husband of six years. This pain of being without him was unbearable. Being with James was impossible, but James thought she would return to him, just like always. Every time she would dream and saw him, she felt safe, loved. The cruelty came when she opened her, and he was gone.
Even the night before, sleep evaded her. Thoughts of him soothed and tempted. Her body relaxed and opened where he had touched. Nia left the bed she shared with her husband to work off the energy. She wore the pretty lavender chemise to bed, hoping Vander would touch her, kiss her, make love to her like he used to. She decided to do laundry, to make her day easier when she did wake up. While washing clothes, his ghost followed. She went to the office on the first floor and made sure checks were signed, four white envelopes stacked neat to take to the post office in the morning. She heard James call her name, low and hungry.
Nia washed dishes instead of running them through the dishwasher, praying the hot water would make her focus. She wished his hands were around her, his chin in the meeting of her neck and collarbone. “Relief, Lord. Send it.” She loved him. She wanted him. She couldn’t have him. The screen door closed with a bang. “Mama, are you okay? You look so pretty this morning, Mama. Daddy wanted me to find you.” Candance asked, her four-year-old wisdom and dark hair pulled in a ponytail on display. Nia sat up straight in the swing, making no attempt to dry her face. “I’ll be okay, baby.” She smiled. Her daughter’s eyes seemed to search her own as Candace walked over to her. Nia believed her daughter saw the lie she told, but didn’t know what it was.
She rose from her perch on her porch swing, picking up her coffee cup from the porch among the puddle of coffee. Nia ushered Candance through the screen door, hand on her back. “Daddy wanted to know if you were going to drink coffee with him this morning. He has his cup already, Mama.” She shook her head behind her daughter. “No, I don’t think I will, baby. I already had some.” She swallowed hard, let the door slam behind her. “I have other stuff I have to do this morning.”

(c)JBHarris,2018

Snippet-The Gypsy Hand

It was her first night singing. The Gypsy Hand was one of the most popular clubs in Gaslight Square. She smoothed the blue dress, the prettiest thing she had ever worn. She looked in the foggy mirror, stomach fluttering. She had no idea how to she could get from this room to the stage downstairs. Yet, she knew she would.

In some of the movies that she and her friend Deborah sneaked into, there was someone to come and get the star. In the clubs down the street, there were people that came and reminded someone where they were. How much time was left. She took a deep breath, thinking. Thinking of everything that could be, would be ahead of her. She opened her eyes, looking at the papers next to her. Doc had run in her room, and dropped of the crumpled papers as he dashed away. She heard a thunderclap, and smiled.
The music swelled downstairs, filling the room she rented with piano sounds. She thought about her grandmother, and the rhyme she spoke of when she was scared in the time of bad storms. “Sugarbaby,” she would say, leaning close to her ear. “You just sing this song, just like this here:

Miss Mary Mack,
All dressed in black.
With silver buttons
All down her back.

She clapped the correct rhythm for her to follow, wrapping her hands in hers. The callouses on her hands, rubbing the smoothness on the backs of her hands. She remembered the stories her grandmother told about farming, cotton picking and being the daughter of ones not born free. “Whenever I got real good and scared at that ol’ rain and thunder,” she’d tell her. “My grandmama, yo great- great Nana, Oleander, told me this lil ole rhyme.” She had smile, opening her eyes again. The little girl gone, the woman with the new hair and borrowed dress looking back at her from the foggy mirror.
She looked down at her hands, heard the thunder again. She closed her eyes , willing her hands from their resting place on the bed. The bed was hard and too small, but it was all Levi had. The room was all he could spare, and it was a way not to be home with Aunt Linda. She began to clap, “Miss Mary Mack, All dressed in black,” She continued the rhyme, willing the tears and ache for family away.

There was a knock at the door, quick and loud. “Miss Ethylene!” It was Doc, remembering his manners of not going through her door when it was closed. “Here me!” she answered. “Miss Carolyn sent me upstairs to go and get you so you can come downstairs!” He sounded out of breath. It was time. Carolyn, whom she only met last week, with the song he just gave her, was waiting downstairs. Everything was downstairs. “Tell her,” she exhaled. “tell her here I come.”
Doc’s footsteps mimicked the thunder outside. She stood, smoothed the dress borrowed from Levi’s wife, Naomi. It was a relic of her former life in New Orleans as a debutant. At least, that’s what she told her when she dropped the gorgeous gown off the day before. She turned in the mirror, examining the lines and the babydoll pumps next to her moisturized feet. They were unwilling to go into those hard shoes, or she was unwilling to give away that last bastion of self—the little girl who ran bare foot in delta clay and dust.

She reached down, picking up the shoes, icy blue like the dress. She grinned, remembering Ms. Naomi had said she had those ordered through the Sears clasping the doorknob which looked like a big diamond, she bit her bottom lip. She looked over her shoulder, her red hair shimmering in the dim light. “Okay, Ruby. Getcha ass downstairs.”

[The Gypsy Hand is a fictional bar set in St. Louis, Missouri during the heyday of The Gaslight District. The Gypsy Hand is also to a pivotal setting in my novel, RUBY. The Gypsy Hand will be a prequel to this novel. It will be released March 2019. If you want to know more about Ethylene and The Gypsy Hand, get a copy of RUBY by clicking here.]