Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Day!

This blog is being cancelled on account of snow. And contest entries that I have to judge and return with comments. Also known as procrastination...



This isn't Boston, that's for certain, but my shoulders don't know that--having shoveled the walk, the steps, and two entire parking spaces.

And now, after a good dose of ibuprofen, I'm off to get the judging done...

Have a good week, everybody. Stay warm!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Popular Culture: Some Like It Hot

My erotic romance novella, The Dom of My Heart, comes out in the erotic romance anthology Hot Encounters released by Soul Mate Publishing on February 26, and I couldn't be more excited. I read an excerpt from chapter one last night at Lady Jane’s Salon - SilverSpring.

Normally, I write hot contemporary romance. And in most of my stories, I toe that line between steamy sex scenes and erotic romance. This time, I boldly stepped over the line. Why, you might ask? Mostly, because I like my romance hot and, this time, I wanted to explore the concept of power dynamics between two characters. I love writing sex scenes. I've never been one to shy away from writing them. I don’t like the bedroom door closed in the romance I read and write because, for me, it’s all about the emotional and physical connection between two people. Romance and love is tightly intertwined with the mating ritual of sex. Period. For years, women have been ridiculed and put down for reading trash or mommy porn if they read romance or erotic romance novels. And romance writers, of all genre writers, often bear the brunt of sly, back-handed compliments and snikers about the smut they write or they experience out-right sexual harassment because they celebrate women who are sensual creatures--those characters who are not afraid to discuss and explore sexuality and the dynamics of sensuality between them and their lovers.
Mackenzie Lucas reading at LJS

Romance is primarily a genre written by women for women. Erotic romance celebrates the beautiful sensuality at the core of the mating ritual. It is a genre where women get to define and redefine what it means to be sexy, smart, strong, beautiful, and powerful for themselves. So the next time someone ridicules you for reading or writing romance, give them that knowing smile and tell them you’re redefining hot. Because what you do when you read or write romance is tap into the human condition and celebrate the most beautiful connection in the Universe. And that’s a pretty awesome.

Later this week (Feb. 10 & 11) I’m attending and also coordinating Washington Romance Writers volunteers at the Library of Congress’s What is Love? Romance in the Digital Age conference--an event that’s free to the public. At the conference, they’ll be screening The Popular Romance Project’s documentary, Love Between the Covers. I’m excited about this event because panel after panel is filled with educated, articulate women who write, study, and read romance novels. I’ll be interested to see what they have to say about the state of the romance novel, erotic romance, and the peek the romance genre gives us into our popular culture and the human condition. I have a feeling they’ll say romance is thriving.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

RED

 

I recently spent a weekend sorting through my fabric bins. Grays in one pile, purple in another, low volume over there, blue over here, with sub-categories of turquoise, aqua, navy, periwinkle, and, well, blue. Same with the greens. Chartreuse, lime, emerald, mint, grass. Purples (lavender, fuchsia, grape, raspberry sorbet). Oranges that look so fabulous with blues and greens. Finally, red was divided into pinks and red. That's it. No other sub-categories. No brick and cherry and pomegranate and merlot. Just a very small pile. Obviously, I don't own a lot of red fabric. I don't tend to gravitate towards it in stores, I'm not sure I own any red clothes - well, a tee-shirt, maybe. Not much else.

When I think of the colours that I normally surround myself with, it is generally blues and greens of varying shades. Colours of the beach, of the Ireland, of the forest, of wine bottles, of leafy green vegetables, blue cheese and even Fresca. I wear green and blue almost every day from my jewelry to my reading glasses to my clothes. It makes me calm and at home, like browsing in a bookstore or sitting on the couch with my dog. Cool as a cucumber.

It is one thing to be aware of a preference or like. To know that I prefer a house that alludes more to a beach than a Victorian front parlor. But being risk adverse and in a rut can be mistaken for remaining calm and even tempered. I reached the end of last year and wondered was I any different than I had been in January? Had I gone anywhere? Tried anything new? Umm. No.

I have a strong memory of me as a child, maybe 4 years old, during show-and-tell at school. I wanted everyone to know I'd got new shoes. Red maryjanes. There's photo of me at about 2 in a blue corduroy dress, and yes, red lace up shoes. I was not always RED-adverse. I was joyful and wanted to go forward into the fun that only RED shoes could take me.


And that's why this year I am going RED. RED isn't calm. It isn't subtle or tranquil or peaceful. Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of those things. But I am finding that action is needed in my life. Emotion. Risk. Not just to breathe but to gasp. And perhaps, like the child I was, it is time for me to put on my red shoes and go forward into whatever 2015 has for me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Girl with Pearls and a Meditation Addiction


This past Friday, I went out to dinner with family. We had great food (nom, nom, nom), great conversation, and laughed plenty long, and plenty loud.

I wore a double strand of pearls that my maternal grandfather gave his bride (who remained his bride for over 65 years). After dinner, my father gave  me more pearls--a necklace and earrings. I donned them forthwith. Wouldn't anyone?

At home, I was too hyped up to go immediately to sleep, so, again, I did what any red-blooded woman with a smartphone in the 21st century would do: I took selfies until I landed a good one and uploaded it to Facebook. Booyah!

What's making me grin in that picture, though, isn't simply dinner with family or a new necklace or a fun portrait.


It's a feeling of well-being I've been cultivating since the fall. It started with a 30 day meditation challenge and is only deepening as I continue the practice in the first month of this new year. My word of the year for 2015 is "MMM" and stands for Meditate, Move, Make. I'm not one hundred percent everyday on the making and the moving, but daily mediation is fast becoming an addiction.

I've always accepted the idea that mediation is beneficial, but mostly said, "One day," or "That's for others, not for me." Now I look for moments throughout the day when I can take a few minutes to breathe, to quiet my back brain, to dive deep into the pool of gratitude that collects at the base of my soul. In the mornings, I do a four minute guided mediation. In the evenings, I write down three things I experienced during the day prefaced by the words "I am grateful that/for..."

Of all the benefits a habit of mediation promises, perhaps the one I've seen most in action in this journey is how calming it is, how it's helped keep my moods steadier, my focus keener, my anxiety (oh, heck yeah, I still have that. I'm not dead. I'm just going hippie) lower.

Do you have a meditation addiction? Think it's all hooey? Don't know where to start?

P.S. I admit it. I really like the photo so I figured out a way to show it off. Pearls have little to do with meditation, as far as I know. But aren't they pretty?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Simple Pleasures

Last week, Mr. Christoff and I shoveled snow. (Oh, so much snow...) When we were finally able to hang-up our shovels, clip our mittens to the clothesline to dry, and pull off our boots to pad around our warm kitchen in our woolen socks, we were more than ready for lunch. So we cracked open a can of classic Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and slathered apple slices with peanut butter. And while we sipped steaming, simple soup, Mr. Christoff turned to me and said, "This takes me back to playing in the snow as a kid!"

Ditto, Mr. Christoff. Ditto.

Sometimes, those simple days of childhood seem so far gone. But really, they aren't. Not if we can can find ways to live them all over again like with a rosy nose, plenty of snow, and a simple bowl of soup. Because life doesn't get easier as we get older, does it? There are bills to pay and groceries to buy and taxes to pay and to keep up with all that, there's office angst and traffic jams and migraines.

So, from time to time, grab hold of what makes you feel like a kid again. Embrace what makes you smile. Especially when those things are so simple to find. Like soup. And snow. For my part, I intend to make time for more bubble baths. I'll clear my schedule for those old episodes of Doctor Who. I'll get my hands good and dirty planting geraniums. And I won't be shy about getting my feet wet on a good long walk with my dogs. These simple pleasures, I know, will remind me of my childhood. And they'll make adulthood a lot more fun!

What simple pleasures bring you a much-needed break? When was the last time you indulged in one? Let the R8 know!

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Word of The Year!

Keely here. I ain’t ashamed to admit it. The Word of the Year post is my favorite one to coordinate each year. So much to anticipate as we set forth into a brave new year of adventures. We’ve got a great crop of words (I’m not too humble to say “as usual.”) and we invite you to share yours. What word will dance with you in 2015, stand beside you during the rough, and celebrate your triumphs? What word will you hunker down with, take to tea, talk trash about, high five? What word will help you frame the coming year, bring you comfort, light your fire, sing you to sleep?

What is YOUR 2015 Word of the Year?

Here are ours:

Keely Thrall: Mmm
I debated. Should I repurpose last year’s word (clearing—sure could use more of that)? Should I go with agency (a little cerebral, a little bit rock and roll)? Or should I take the hedonist’s route and go with mmm. Say it with me now, mmm. It hums in one’s throat, rich on the palette like dark chocolate or a fine wine. Mmm. Mmm is a bit of a cheat. But a heartfelt, soul-deep one. It stands for Meditate, Move, and Make. A heady triptych I’ll be aiming for each day: Time in the morning and night to calm and clarify my mind, like melting butter (mmmmeditate). Time to put my body into high gear, make it boogie, give it a whirl (mmmmove).  Time to write, to cook, to explore other hobbies, to place a phone call to a friend, to volunteer for causes I believe in. To be an agent of change and creation (mmmmake). Mmm, wow. That feels good. Mmm-hm.

Nichole Christoff: Savor
Throughout 2014, I tried to stick to my Work of the Year. I tried to breath! And it worked…sometimes. But then I got what so many of us have been working toward: a publishing contract! How awesome! The contract added so much to my 2014. This year, though, with this contract in my life, I want to do more than breath. I want to savor what I’ve worked so hard to have. You see, to me, “to savor” means taking my time and really enjoying the amazing as well as the everyday. So that’s my goal! I want to savor all the events of 2015 from special occurrences to ordinary days and every good thing in between. Savor is my 2015 Word of the Year.

Marjanna Bogan: Red
I want a RED year. RED evokes action. Emotion. Joy. Anger. Luck. Love. It is a color that people notice. It is big. It draws focus. You can’t ignore RED. It is eye-catching. It is present. You want to follow the RED balloon. You add spice with RED chiles. You want to drive the little RED corvette. You want to wear the RED lipstick. You don’t trifle with RED or condescend to RED. You want to revel in RED. And sometimes, you just SEE RED. Pink is for princesses, but RED is for women. I want to be RED in 2015.

Evie Owens: Fool
After much deliberation (and consultation with my friend Deborah), I have chosen Fool for my word of the year. And NOT just because it’s a four-letter word that start with “F.” Ha ha.

Deborah suggested it because, well, because she KNOWS me and everything I’ve been struggling with over the years, and she thinks what I need more than anything is to channel the energy of The Fool card from the tarot deck.

When I looked it up, I found this quote: “The Fool is a powerful card because its possibilities all start in nothingness and reach into infinity.” (http://www.keen.com/articles/tarot/the-fool-tarot-card)

Because yes. Everything considered, I seem to ever be starting over. And that feeling, that I’ve got nothing to start with (which really IS just a feeling because all evidence says otherwise!) blocks me. It stops me from taking action, and as Deborah always says, “The universe rewards action.” And The Fool is all about taking action. The Fool doesn’t dither. The Fool sets out, unprepared, unplanned, into the unknown. I need channel me some of that!

So THEN I looked up the word “fool” and found that, along with the “silly or stupid” stuff, it ALSO refers to a “professional jester, formerly kept by a person of royal or noble rank for amusement: the court fool.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fool)

Which appeals to me because ultimately, I want to make my living entertaining people as a writer.

What a foolish thing to say, in this universe….

Misha Crews: Create
It's been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. For the past few years, I’ve been playing catch-up with my own soul: trying to chase down the person I always meant to be, and the life I always meant to have. As 2014 came to a close, I let go of my preconceptions about who and where I should be at this point in my life. In 2015, I am going to concentrate on creating the future by living in the present: with family and friends, artistically and spiritually. It's going to be a great year!

Mackenzie Lucas: Build
My word of the year is Build. To build you need to be strategic, to be intentional—you need to lay plans and stick to them if you expect those dreams to develop into a full-blown, physical representation of your goals. That’s what I want to do this year as I continue to develop my writing career. I have a strong foundation. I published two books with Soul Mate Publishing this past year. It’s been a good, solid year. I’ve grown and stretched myself not only with my personal and professional development, but with my craft limitations, too. I wrote and completed six projects in 2014. I’ll be publishing two of those books with Soul Mate early this year—February 26th and March 4th, and I have a few other things in the works for those unsold manuscripts. I’m planning to write books two and three of three different series in 2015. I’m eager to jump into those projects in the next few weeks. Is my blueprint ambitious? Yes, you betcha. But most architects are ambitious, because they have to be if they want their buildings to stand, to be experienced, to be lived and worked in. The only way for me to have the career I want is to implement a solid plan for moving ahead and building that career. What about you? What are you building this year?

Lisa McQuay: Stretch
I have a new supervisor with the energy of ten women half her age. A few weeks ago, she announced that she would like me to become certified in a certain area and said that it would be a "stretch goal" for me. Normally, I can't stand those business buzz words -- ASAP and describing an organization as "my shop" leap readily to mind -- but something clicked with me when she said it. Stretching means reaching for the limit without breaking. You have to be flexible to stretch, not so stuck in your ways that you can't move. You have to want to learn, to try new things, to use your potential and gifts to their utmost. Stretching isn't always comfortable but I want to reach new goals and in order to do that I have to move in ways that I haven't before. I feel ready to spread my wings and fly. So, this year, I want to stretch so that I can reach for things that previously I was not able to touch. 


So, this motley collection of words will guide the ladies of the Rockville 8 through the collection of seasons much of the world will label 2015. Do you have a guiding word or words to add to our pot? The more spices you add, the tastier our collective year will become!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!
Ring in the New Year in Style

Wishing You a Year Filled with Love & Fireworks

The Eight