For Suzanne Tucker, life was a road that few people traveled down in happiness. Unable to bear children, her husband leaving her and being underappreciated at her job made her one of those people. She feels like God has failed her so she decides to take matters into her own hands to have the good life she feels she deserves. However, starting over could only be successful if you have a plan and a plan she did have. Suzanne starts with her job. Being a print journalist, all she has to do is showcase her talents for others to see and what better stage to present it on than the internet. Suzanne makes a bold move in starting an anonymous blog to report the real news about the local celebrities in her community…or is it? When the creditability of her postings is called into question, salvaging her reputation becomes insignificant in comparison to the major aftermath to come.
Meanwhile, the tragic death of Tasha Everett, a high school valedictorian and community favorite, has the homicide detectives in a whirlwind. She had overcome the loss of her brother in the Iraqi war, her mother’s drug abuse to prescription medications and her father’s alcoholism only to end up dead on the side of the road. With the primary elections looming, the Mayor wants the responsible party for Tasha’s death brought to justice but circumstantial evidence and no leads has the detectives at a standstill. Will the lack of a motive cause someone to get away with murdering the county’s most heartfelt success story?
Women know when their man is keeping something from them. Whether he’s planning a surprise birthday party or hiding an affair, men have tell tell signs that let women know something is up. Take my husband Ellis for example. We’ve been going through another rough patch in our marriage but for the past month, he’s been coming home early to spend more time with me and the kids. I’ve received four pieces of jewelry; earrings, a necklace, a bracelet and a ring, all half-carat diamonds of a matching set and now we’re on our fifth date night at Luigi’s Bistro in downtown historic Macon. Date night, huh, an idea Ellis came up with to put the spark back into our marriage. Now don’t get me wrong, every woman dreams of a man who would display these actions on the regular but as I said, this just started a month ago and after nearly finishing the whole bottle of the 1941 William Roberson South African red wine we had for dinner all by himself, I knew there was more to the story.
Ellis laid passed out in the backseat of one our two Lexus sedans as I pulled into the driveway of our home in North Macon. His tan two-button stretch cotton blazer served as a pillow bunched up under his head while one of his chocolate brown Stacy Adams loafers dangled from his right foot. This was my second indicator that something was wrong. The Ellis I knew wouldn’t convert a $300 suit coat into a head cushion no matter how drunk he was. His clothes represented his status and his status meant more to him than anything, even me at times, I felt.
Our two daughters were at a sleepover at a friend’s house supposedly so we could take advantage of having the whole evening to ourselves. Much good that would do us now. I glanced over the middle console and rolled my eyes at him resting comfortably on the cream leather seats. Having to wait another week to fake an orgasm was all right with me. It’s not like the intimacy was there anymore. Emotionally, we both were at a disconnect with each other.
“Suzie Q, my lil Suzie Q,” Ellis slurred as the engine going quiet woke him from his comatose state. He wiped the drool from his chin with the back of his hand and frowned at it as if it was its own fault for being there.
“I can’t do this no more.”
I adjusted the rearview mirror in the car to get a better view of him in the backseat. He had placed his blazer in his lap and was gently smoothing out the wrinkles with his hands. There was the Ellis I married.
After laughing the drunken man’s laugh, he sulked, “You were right. You’re always right.” His soft but ashy hands loosened his silk tie and unbuttoned the top button of his white fitted French cuffed dress shirt. A second later, he put on his blazer, re-buttoned his shirt and tightened his tie. It was then I realized he wasn’t sure if we were home or had just made it to the restaurant.
“Right about what, Ellis?” I asked playing dumb.
“You really gon’ make me say it, huh?” He sat up and squared his shoulders as our eyes locked in the rearview mirror. I could tell he was trying to appear more confident than he actually was but there was a hint of doubt hidden in his glare. Dark circles had formed around his eyes making him look older than his thirty-eight years of age. The corners of his mouth drooped, either from the alcohol, his secret thoughts or both. He looked tired and restless as if he had been carrying a heavy burden for a long time. I guess he was ready to release it because he finally admitted what I had already known, “Fine. I’m cheating on ya. Been cheating on ya and neva gonna stop cheating on ya.”
I nodded and smiled as his words echoed over and over in my head. It’s one thing to think your spouse is cheating but to know and have them tell you like they don’t care, it does something to you. Without even realizing it, I had slipped off both of the four-inch black leather pumps I bought earlier in the week to match the black ankle length smocked waist dress I wore specifically for this date night.
“Who is she?” I asked calmly as I pulled on the release lever to lift up the steering wheel. I also lowered the driver seat to give me more room to maneuver.
“You don’t need to concern yourself wit’ the pa’ticula’s.” Leaning forward and speaking in a cocky tone, he insulted, “Just know that being wit’ her made me realize I married a twenty, not an eighty.” There was that laugh again. That drunken man’s laugh but this time I could hear the relief behind it as he sat back and repeated, “Twenty, nothing but a twenty. You can thank Tyler Perry for helping me see that.”
Click. He looked from side to side at each door, confused by the sound the automatic locks made.
“What was that?”
“That was the sound of the beginning of your BEATDOWN!”
Moving in one swift motion like I was casting for the next Matrix movie, I hopped up on the back of my seat and started wailing on him, a pump in each hand.
“YOU SORRY SON OF A BITCH! HOW DARE YOU COME AT ME LIKE I HAVEN’T DONE A DAMN THING FOR YOU ALL THESE YEARS! IMMA KILL YOU!”
First, he tried to grab my arms to keep me from hitting him but the adrenaline rush from my rage was no match for him. His only mode of survival was to exit but my clever thinking in locking the doors delayed that action.
Tugging on the door handle frantically, he screamed, “AGH! Woman, are you crazy? Get off me!”
I never believed the stories people told about blacking out until that day. How could you not remember committing an act of violence toward someone but now I understood. Something inside you snaps and you can’t control it because you didn’t even realize it happened. One moment, I was bashing Ellis’s skull in with my heels and the next thing I knew, he had unlocked his door and fell out the car to safety. Lucky him.
“You done lost your damn mind!” he yelled from the lawn, wiping blood from the side of his head. He laid down on our concrete driveway in a half pike position inspecting the rest of his body for other wounds.
I sat down in the seat staring straight ahead, huffing heavily as I clutched my pumps in anger. I could hear my racing heartbeat ringing in my ears so I shut my eyes tightly to try to calm the noise but all it did was produce stars. I quickly shook my head from side to side to rid of them before staring at myself in the rearview mirror. I’m crazy? I’ve lost my mind? Negro, you can’t be serious. The anger I felt transformed to hurt without notice. Tears flooded my eyes and my nostrils flared with each breath I took. No, I wasn’t ready to cry yet. I wasn’t ready to test to see if the no run Mary Kay mascara I was wearing was indeed true. Not now and definitely not in front of him so I unlocked my door and got out the car, ready for round number two.
“Suzanne…” Ellis eyes widened and his posture shrunk as I slowly approached him. The arrogant bastard who considered me twenty percent of a woman not ten minutes ago had now disintegrated into a helpless weakling. The stench of alcohol smothered the Hugo Boss Sensation cologne I once loved to engulf myself in. Now, all I could smell was fear on him as I inched closer like a lioness ready to attack her cornered prey.
“Don’t Suzanne me.” I choked on my words as I swallowed hard to drown the tears heading for my eye ducts. “Just tell me why? Is it because she’s younger than me, or maybe it’s because she’s darker? Being wit’ a ‘light bright’ don’t make ya black enuff in da eyes of yo’ peoples?” I spoke my last statement with the southern twang of a 1830’s slave.
Instead of answering me, his eyes darted around like a ball in a pinball machine. I knew he was looking for an escape route so I made my move before he had a chance to find one.
“Baby, wait,” he sat with his hands out, palms up in a submissive pose, pleading.
“Oh, it’s baby now, huh?”
Ellis could see it written all over my face that there was nothing he could say to salvage this night and the only thing he could do to save his life…was run. My wild swing caused the heel of my pump to catch enough of the back of his overpriced shirt to plug a hole and tear it right down the middle just before he got away. Not settling for defeat, I hiked up my dress thigh high and took off after him. As I chased him barefooted through the backyard of our half-acre manicured lot, all I could think was, Damn, I should’ve activated the child safety locks. His punk ass would’ve never got outta that bitch alive.
Ericka K. F. Simpson was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. Her passion for writing began in grade school writing poetry and short stories. In high school, she pretended she was a newspaper sports writer and wrote articles about her experiences playing on the girls varsity basketball team. Those articles later turned into short stories and soon evolved into her first novel, I am Your Sister. Ericka is now a self-published of four books: I am Your Sister, In Fear of Losing You, Making Our Difference and Reality Check: Sometimes One Dose Isn’t Enough.
In June 2010, Ericka won the Black Writers Reunion and Conference 2010 Atlanta Scholarship Competition (http://www.blackwriters.org/volume7-issue6/). She currently resides in Macon, GA, where she is currently working on her fifth and sixth novels.
Get to know Author Ericka K.F. Simpson
1. How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I have been writing since grammar school and I started off by writing poems and short stories to escape the everyday worries of the world. I remember pretending I was a sports journalist and writing about the basketball games I played when I was younger. I even interviewed some of my friends (teammates) for fun to make my stories more real. To be honest though, writing runs through the bloodlines in my family. My maternal grandmother was a local columnist for The Perquimans Weekly in Hertford, NC for 7 years. I believe I inherited my love for writing from her.
2. Are there any other writers who have inspired you?
Oh yes. My grandmother was also a librarian so I read a lot of books as a child. Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni were the reasons I started writing poems. As I grew older and began to read more fiction novels, John Grisham became my favorite author. I love law and wanted to be a detective when I was in middle school so I was intrigued with the storyline of his books and how fast he was able to write them. In college, I struggled with my sexuality and a friend recommended E. Lynn Harris novel, Invisible Life. I fell in love with his works because I finally read a book that related to the difficulties I was going through. His works were the first I had read or even heard of that spoke about homosexuality in the black community. It was the first time I didn’t feel as though I was alone in the world. E. Lynn Harris inspired me to tell my story so I began writing books that other black girls who were struggling with their sexuality could relate to.
3. What inspired you to write Reality Check?
The original inspiration came from a co-worker who was having marital problems with her husband and like my other books, my characters are born from people I know. Once a story develops in my head, the only way to get it out is to write it down and 129,000 words later, Reality Check is here. While editing the first draft of Reality Check, a second inspiration fueled me to change my storyline: Christianity. As I did my rewrite, I realized I wanted to write a book, not about religion but about people’s everyday struggles with religion and Christian living. My characters range from those who believe in God but choose not to live for Him to those who believe in God but straddle the fence when living for Him to those who believe in God and have dedicated to living a true Christian life. We all are or have been one of these three people so I thought it was important to include each type in the book. That way, readers can see how each character’s belief plays a part in the decisions they make and where the outcome of these decisions leads them in their life’s journey. It also shows how allowing one’s own desires to infect one’s interpretation of the Bible can be deadly.
4. Reality Check is not like your previous novels. Why did you change genres?
My previous novels are gay and lesbian centered and yes, Reality Check does not fit that category. It is a suspense novel with a Christian undertone. I never intended to switch genres but I think it’s important for a writer to not be confined to one particular subject matter if they so choose. My sexuality does not define me as a writer so I do not want to limit myself to writing about that only. There are many faucets that make me who I am as a person and Reality Check was a way to give the readers more of me. I love to write and my goal is to be known as a great author, not just a great author of gay and lesbian fiction.
5. You are a self-published author. What made you pursue self-publishing as opposed to signing with a literary agent and/or a major publishing house?
When I finished my first book in 2003, I solicited numerous agencies and publishing companies for representation but to no avail. I didn’t let it discourage me so I decided to self-publish at that time. Now, I’ve grown accustomed to the freedom I have as a self-published author. I set my own deadlines which relieves me of the pressure in having to submit a manuscript that I may not feel is my best work. You have to be disciplined though. If you’re familiar with taking an online class or independent course, you know there is a lot of responsibility that comes with those liberties. It’s the same for a self-published author. If I take too much time off in between projects or if I allow writers block to slow my progress, I’m not only hurting myself but I’m affecting my reader base as well. With self-publishing, you have to invest the time, money and resources in yourself to be successful in it. Writing is the easy part. Selling yourself is the major part of this business.
6. What are your current projects?
I am currently finishing my fifth novel entitled, Jazzy Ladies Productions. It is a book that is based off the lives of me and my friends during the first few years I lived in Georgia. No The Best Man drama, though. My friends actually wanted me to write a book about our group, so I’m having fun in developing their characters and creating a storyline that incorporates everyone. It’s on schedule to be released December 2011. After that, I plan to return to my first novel, I am Your Sister, and write a sequel to it.
7. Once Jazzy Ladies Productions is released, what are your plans to promote it?
I am planning a book tour where I will visit 12 cities in 2012 during Black Pride celebrations. I am also planning to participate in larger book festivals and book conferences across the country to place all of my books on a bigger stage. Information for both these promotions and others will be available on my author webpage: www.ekfsimpson.com