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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Holidays!



Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays
from Our Families to Yours!

May the Peace and Light of the Season Touch Your Heart 
This Year

The Eight

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On the Side

The last time the Rockville8 featured my friend and critique partner, Lavinia Kent, was September 25, 2011. She had a fabulous cover then...the lucky...duck... But she has THREE fabulous covers, now.

Three!

If she wasn't such an awesome person, I could almost see myself being a tiny bit jealous.

But she IS awesome, as well as a fabulous writer, so I am very happy to bring her back here, to talk about those tricky side characters... and don't forget to leave a comment, if you want a chance to win an electronic copy of Mastering the Marquesswhich will most certainly whet your appetite for her January and February releases!

*~*~*


How often, when reading a book or watching television, do you come across a character you want to know more about?  I don’t mean those not-so-hidden hints that tell you who the next book is going to be about, but some side character who isn’t quite traditional hero/heroine material, but rather offers a slightly different view of the world?

As a writer, I am always tempted to fill in the blanks.  I lie in bed at night thinking of these character’s stories, both from my own writing and from other sources of inspiration.  I’ve built elaborate plots filling in how thief Bela Talbot escapes from hell in Supernatural and finds redemption; how Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter in Doctor Who, goes off to have her own adventures; what actually happens to Buffy.  (I know that there are graphic novels that fill this in, but I had my own stories before I’d heard about them, and I did not want to face a different reality.)  And I can’t even begin to think of the number of romance triangles in which I have fixed what really happens to the other guy.
Faith after

When it comes to my own writing, this can be a little bit trickier, because the side characters that I love have a way of taking over scenes and then must be beat back.  My most recent character to run rampant was Ruby, Madame Rouge, in Mastering the Marquess.  She was firmly designed to be a side character, someone to provide support and conversation, a sounding board for difficult conversations.  I certainly couldn’t imagine writing a book with a brothel owner for a heroine.  I’ve read those books and enjoyed them, but they weren’t the stories that filled my head.  But Ruby, with her deep husky chuckle, had different ideas.  From the first scene she entered, she let me know that she had a story to tell and that it was far more interesting than anyone else’s. 

I tried to fight back.  I cut her scenes.  I forced her to stay in character.  I didn’t let her wander off on her own.  She refused to go away.

I finished writing Mastering the Marquess, while firmly keeping her in place, and I thought that would be the end.

And still she didn’t leave.

And so, as I waited for my revisions, I began to play, writing a scene or two about her, discovering her dual personality, the one she showed to the world and the far softer one she only let out when alone in her room at night.  I discovered what had led her to become the woman she was, and what she secretly longed for in the futureand those few scenes grew and developed, until suddenly I had finished Revealing Ruby, my novella that will be released in January.

Writing Revealing Ruby allowed me to explore and have fun, while pushing at the boundaries of how I’d always imagined my heroines.  Ruby showed me that sometimes the side stories do need to be told, and that there can be some wonderful surprises along the way.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that Ruby didn’t fight for more space in Bound by Bliss, the second full-length book of my Bound and Determined Series (coming in February), or that she isn’t still fighting for her own book.  She is quite determined to ride (or sail) into the sunset of her own happily ever afterand I am beginning to agree with her.

What fictional side character would you like to know more about?  Who has stayed in your mind and made you pray for her reappearance?  Let me know and I’ll gift one lucky commenter with an e-copy of Mastering the Marquess.

Thanks for having me,

Lavinia Kent


Monday, December 8, 2014

Santa Baby

The incomparable Eartha Kitt, singer of "Santa Baby"
and the best cat woman IMHO.
Photo credit: FashionBomb.com
I always have visions of a perfect Christmas. I really, really do. But then reality sets in. Between the frantic traffic, the zip-up robe for your mother that you can’t seem to find anywhere, and the awkward work holiday luncheon that you have to attend even though management says it’s optional, the holidays can be a difficult time. But in-between wrapping presents in the eleventh hour and sweating over the oven, I like to reflect on what I would like Santa to bring to me. Marjanna listed the things she was thankful for a couple of weeks ago. This is my wish list, Santa Baby.

1. Peace on Earth. Enough said.
2. A really sexy pair of shoes that is also comfortable. I think that this is like searching for Sasquatch who, if he exists, never wears shoes. This thought somehow pisses me off more. Better move on to number three…
3. A small hovercraft that would fly me to work and land me next to my desk. I hate commuting. I hate fighting to get there, wearing work clothes and dress shoes and then fighting my way home. Please refer to points one and two for further clarification.
4. One last chance to talk to the ones I love who have died. I’d make sure that they knew how much I love them, how they live on in those they left behind, how grateful I am for what they gave me and how I look forward to seeing them again. Plus, maybe one of them can explain the JFK assassination, what happened to Jimmy Hoffa and what anyone ever saw in toe socks.
5. Time to read. I mean really read, quietly, with no distractions, no worries and plenty of snacks in arm’s reach. One day, I’m going to go on a sabbatical for the weekend at an Embassy Suites with a stack of books and a ready supply of my favorite snacks. The free breakfast will satisfy me then I can sustain myself with snacks while I kick back and read all the books that I’ve been wanting to get to.
6. That my car would last me to old age. I despise car payments, thinking that as soon as I drive this over-priced beast off the lot, it drops in price in leaps and bounds. And I double hate looking for said beast. Haggling over prices and options makes me feel as dirty and used as a hooker on Saturday night.
Eartha Kitt, at the height of her power. She
died on Christmas Day in 2008.
Photo credit: TheDailyMail.co.uk
7. That my child will have a good, happy and productive life where she uses her skills to the utmost of her abilities, reaches her incredible potential and finds the love of her life who will be good to her and to whom she will reciprocate the love and caring. This is the prayer of most parents I know.
8. A red toy poodle name Lucy. Yes, I already have two dogs. This would be my last. But I have this strange, homesick feeling that someone is missing.
9. My husband will continue to be who he is. Despite all of the hard things that happened to us in the last couple of years, we can still laugh like teenagers over something silly, which we did today. I mean out of control, wheezing and eyes tearing. We were at our daughter’s recital, something funny happened, and with one look at each other, it was game on.
10. That I am as good a friend as my friends have been to me. I hope to live up to the incredible people whom I’ve been blessed to call friends.

Santa, I know this is a tall order. I understand if you can’t do it all. Even one of those would be great. After all, you have a lot of other wishes to fulfill.