Monday, May 23, 2016

In Which the Ladies of the R8 Leap into Summer

This summer the ladies of the Rockville 8 have a whole lot of fun planned,
from vacations to new books to a little something, something extra.

J. Keely Thrall:

Vacation: A staycation! Sadly, I’m not headed to RWA Nationals this year, but I *am* looking forward to spending some time at my condo’s pool! And wonder of wonders, I think it will be TWO FULL WEEKS. Aaaah, I can already feel my shoulders dropping from up around my ears as I turn into a boneless sloth...

Book release: Protecting His Own, by Cherise Sinclair, latest in her popular Masters of the Shadowlands series.This is a companion novella to the book Breaking Free, a look into Beth and Nolan's HEA. I'm also on tenterhooks for the next "Beyond" book from writing duo Kit Rocha. This post apocalyptic franchise swept me up in a whirlwind earlier this year and I'm salivating at the thought of getting my hands (and eyes) on the next installment of kinked out fun.

Movie: Star Trek Beyond (or pretty much any geek movie franchise installment. I’m not picky!)

Lagniappe: Earlier this year I submitted a MS to Entangled and received a "revise and resubmit" letter from one of their editors, with a due date of late June. Totally stoked to send it the requested edits and see where it takes me!

Misha Crews:

Vacation: I've been invited to Williamsburg, VA for a week's writing retreat. It's been years (decades?) since I've been to the Williamsburg area, and not only am I looking forward to hanging out with some writing friends and getting some good work done, it will also be fun to get reacquainted with a part of the state that I don't get to visit very often.

Book release: Neil Gaiman's The View from the Cheap Seats, which will be released at the end of May. I've pre-ordered the audio book, which he narrates himself (swoon!). Here's what the publishers say about it: "An enthralling collection of nonfiction pieces on myriad topics–from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories to comics, films, and literature – observed in award-winning #1 New York Times bestselling Neil Gaiman's probing, amusing, and distinctive style. An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his fiction." Can't wait!

Movie: Hello, My Name is Doris. (It came out in March, but I missed it in theaters; now eagerly awaiting the dvd.) This movie looks hilarious and heartfelt, and those are two of my favorite things!

Lagniappe: Actually finishing my novel! I've been working on this book for years, and it seems unfair to leave the characters in limbo like that. It will be great to get it done and out into the world, and then get on to the next novel. It's going to be a great summer.

Mackenzie Lucas:

Graduation: My middle son is graduating high school in little over a week. Hoorah!!! I'm looking forward to this in that bitter-sweet way emptying-nest mom's do. Then summer will be all about preparing him for going off to university in August. I'm also looking forward to my own graduation from massage therapy school at the end of August. Yeehaw. Ready to get out there and get my business rolling.

Vacation: Hopefully a family vacation to the Outer Banks in July, if I can get it planned in the midst of the chaos that is my life right now.

Book release: Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis. This is a new series start by Shalvis, set in a coastal town, probably much like her popular Lucky Harbor series. Can't wait to devour this one when it
comes out on June 28th.

Movie: Bad Moms, which comes out July 29th. Looks hilarious. And, oh-so irreverent, and yet strangely applicable from the trailer.

I had to look this one up, because I didn't know what it was ... it's broadly known as "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure." So, my lagniappe for the summer is looking forward to enjoying the sun and fun one day at a time as it comes, and to writing a new novella set in the Essence world as well as the first book in a new series. As well as enjoying my kids this summer. Guess I've got a lot of lagniappe.

Lisa McQuay:

Outer Banks. A corner condo with an ocean view and a screened porch with breezes from the front and side. I can't wait to slow down, walk on the beach, read and just plain chill. It's been a hectic 2016 thus far.

Book Release: Kiss Me That Way by Laura Trentham. I read her historical series, Spies and Lovers, and absolutely loved the books. It's released on May 31, 2016 and I can't wait to try one of her contemporaries.

Movie: Jason Bourne. My husband and I love, love, love the Bourne movies and have watched them over and over. When I told him recently that the "Tires felt a little splashy on the way over here," he knew EXACTLY what I was talking about. I was so excited when I saw the advertisement on TV for the new movie that I ran to the next room where he was to tell him the good news.

Lagniappe: Finish my current Romantic Suspense novel. Get it to the agents who requested it. I'm currently doing a schedule to make that happen.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yes And...

This past weekend, I had to throw the equivalent of a wedding reception for an event at my daughter’s school. Suddenly, everyone else who was on the board had other commitments. It’s not that I had no commitments but I decided instead of worrying I would step forward. Or, at least I wouldn’t take one giant step backwards with everyone else.


Recently, at another event at my daughter’s school – yes, I live there these days – a senior made a speech about her future endeavors. She said instead of saying “no” or “yes, but” she decided that she would say “yes and.” The words “yes and” leave us open to possibilities. “Yes but” is basically a form of no. Maybe not a complete 'no' but a wimpy way of saying “I don’t really want to do this because of this-this-and-this but I will if I have to.” A “but” in the statement closes doors. An “and” opens you up to possibilities.

I thought about this in context to the reception I just planned and executed. It was difficult, scary and hectic. But it turned out beautifully. I made connections with people I would not have otherwise. I stretched myself to try new things. But most importantly, I did it. I said “yes and.”

There’s wisdom in the enthusiasm and energy of the young. It goes to show you that life lessons are everywhere if you’re really listening. And remembering the “and” that follows the “yes.”

Monday, May 9, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mothers out there, here's wishing you a wonderful day, week, and year. We celebrate you. All you've done. And all you will do. Often, it's a thankless job. One that requires patience, unconditional love, and lots and lots of sacrifice. So we at the R8, want to take a moment to let you know we appreciate you and value you. May your life be blessed ten-fold for the love and care you've extended to your children and families. Love to all! Thank you for what you do!

Monday, April 18, 2016

In Which Keely Keeps Her Pillow, So There

Every so often, I get on a Walden Pond tear and decided it's time to declutter (why dictionaries don't yet recognize that as a word is something I don't understand). I winnow out my clothes, chase down tchotchkes, renew order to closets. Of course there are sacred cows in my home, things that remain safe from the chopping block year in and year out. Including the subject of today's post. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I have a throw pillow so beyond “tired” I hide its original casing under a more respectable cover so it won't freak people out when they visit. 

Respectable Outer Wrappings by J. Keely Thrall

In the weeks before heading off to my first year of college, my stepmother and I were shopping in one of those discount stores that carry STUFF. Cool stuff, useless stuff, wearable stuff, edible-if-you-don’t-care-about-expiration-dates stuff. Potential this-needs-to-come-to-college-with-me stuff. 

We walked past an end cap and there it was. The Pillow. Ugly-cute. So many light-years away from my style, it still amazes me that it landed in our cart. It matched nothing in my burgeoning suite of heading-to-school items. Tacky, I thought. Cringe-worthy, I feared. Eyebrows-raised-what-was-I-thinking-recrimination-worthy, I knew.

But bloody hell, I fell for that pillow, hard. 

Grumpy pillow! Photo by J. Keely Thrall
So hard, I still have it nearly thirty years later. Today, the spun fiber filling is clumpy and unfluffable. The beige background has some suspicious staining. It's missing a lot of its surface stitching. 

But that face. That grumpy-before-Grumpy-Cat-was-cool face. That not-found-in-nature eye color. That This-Deserved-Velvet-attitude of the portrait’s subject.

How, I ask, can I throw that away?

I can’t.

And since it still give me a spark of joy, Marie Kondo (mistress of tidying up) says I don't have to. 


What about you? Are you a tosser or a keeper? Do you have the equivalent of a security piddow whose super powers you hide in Clark Kent style outer garments? Or is that just me?

Monday, April 11, 2016

90 Pounds and Counting: Just Keep Swimming

Wow, it sucks to write this, but it's true: I have gained more weight. Sigh. I wish I had some deep insight or reasonable explanation, but it's just the same old, same old. I don't mind saying that I'm a little discouraged. But it ain't over! My plan is to follow the advice I've given myself in previous posts, and just keep at it. I'll be back on May 30th, and we'll see how things are at that point.

Two titles I had considered for this post were: "I Got Nothin'" and "WTF?" but instead, I went with "Just Keep Swimming," because sometimes, that's all we can do. So here's a little bit of Dory from Finding Nemo, singing my personal anthem. I hope that where every you are in your personal journey(ies), you are also swimming forward towards your goal! See you in a few weeks.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Beauty and The Beast and The Rockville 8

Question: who loves fairy tales more than romance writers? Answer: pretty much nobody. And one of the most enduring and romantic fairy tales is Beauty and the Beast. So today, we at the R8 thought it would be fun to discuss our favorite versions of this multi-faceted and much-loved fairy tale.

Misha Crews

Which version is your favorite? Like everyone, I adore the 1991 Disney version (a book-loving Beauty, plus Jerry Orbach and Angela Landsbury? What's not to love?). But I think my favorite is the 1978 book by Marianna and Mercer Mayer.

Why this one? It's the first time I remember being exposed to this story. And even as a child, I was touched and fascinated by the idea that even the meanest, creepiest beasts might have a tender side. Maybe there's a reason why they roar and rampage. In addition to the romance, this story helped teach me to look past the exterior and realize that with everyone - beauties, beasts, and betweeners - there is always something going on underneath.

Mackenzie Lucas

Which version is your favorite?
Really, the only version I know is the Disney version. I'm sure there is a Grimm Brothers version or a Hans Christen Anderson version, but I've never read any of them or really seen any other versions televised on in the movies. So I'm sticking with Disney's Beauty & The Beast.

Why this one?
What's not to love? Dancing candle sticks and clocks. Plates and forks and teapots that sing? It's magical. Seriously. And the beast is a good guy underneath his bluster. Plus, there's just something attractive to me about a man who needs to be tamed. And I think Belle does a mighty fine job of it in this version. I also adore that she's bookish. ;0)

What one thing (if any) do you wish that version had handled differently, and why?
I wouldn't really change anything about this version. The part I personally had the most anxiety over was when Gaston leads the whole village to rise up against the Beast. For some reason that kind of injustice tweaks me the wrong way--kind of a falsely accused trope that I really hate. Jumps all over my sense of justice nerve.

I do believe that the Beauty and the Beast trope is a core story I use often in my own fiction. Sometimes the woman is the Beast and sometimes it's the man. Either way, love heals and tames all. Gotta love it.

Lisa McQuay

My Favorite Version:

My favorite version is the first version I saw, starring George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere (real-life husband and wife).

Why this one?

Trish is so luminous in this version and George is appropriately prickly and ill-mannered as the Beast. I liked the moody and mystical quality this production had.

What would I have handled differently?

I remember being slightly disappointed as a young girl that George wasn’t younger and more of a Disney-like hero. As an adult, I see that there’s a sexy quality and intensity to him that is quite attractive. I wouldn’t change a thing.

J. Keely Thrall

Which version is your favorite?

Well, I adore the Disney version. A heroine with brown hair like me! And she reads! And what a cute beast. Love your whiskers and your library, dude! But for this occasion, I’m going with Beast by Judith Ivory. It’s an historical romance, but set around the turn of the 20th century, still not an era often visited in romance. Its heroine is Louise, a young woman so beautiful men go slack-jawed when they see her. Our hero is Charles, a French sophisticate who is blind in one eye, scarred, and walks with a limp. Definitely a little beasty boy in the looks department.

Why this one?

Ivory’s writing style is lush and textured, her conflicts heartfelt yet emotionally grown up. This couple’s issues are not easily solved “if only they would sit down at talk it over.” Their HEA is hard fought, passionate, and satisfying.

What one thing (if any) do you wish that version had handled differently, and why?

I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a consummate re-reader of books. I will read a story into the ground if I love it hard enough. But the opposite is true for me, too, and this book falls in the latter category. I was so entranced while devouring Beast that I knew reading it again would be like trying to get back-to-back holes-in-one on the golf course. Sure, the second ace is cool, but that sense of surprise, awe, and uniqueness is somehow lessened with the repetition.

For nearly 20 years I’ve held my full immersion into Ivory’s world locked deep in my heart, a “pure romance” epiphany that needed no further enhancement (for this same reason I’ve not been able to re-read Lord of Scoundrels [another iteration of Beauty and the Beast, perhaps??]. Thinking about Beast for this post makes me wonder: with 20 years more reading and 15ish years of writing under my belt, is it time to take Beast off the shelf and see whether it continues to live up to my hype?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Easter That Wasn’t Easter

This was a weird Easter. I didn’t do all of the normal things I do each Easter. Instead, my daughter returned late last night from a three-day school trip to New York. She saw three plays and did a tour of the city. It was the first time she has been away from us other than staying with friends and family. She’s been talking about all of her adventures, excited and happy about her trip and proud of herself for navigating it without her parents.

I wasn’t as nervous about it as I thought I’d be. Yes, she was being chaperoned. But it was more than that. I had faith in her. I knew that she’d take care of herself. Her father and I have tried to instill independence in her. However, she is innately self-reliant.  Even when she was a toddler, if she fell or hurt herself, she generally wouldn’t cry. She just wanted to get back to what she was doing. She learned to put her own seatbelt on in the car seat and would get angry if I tried to do more than check it at the end. As soon as she could walk she wanted to push the stroller rather than ride in it. Her mantra was “I do, I do, I do!”

It gives me a pang to think about her leaving home. The next few years are going to be a transition to preparing to eventually turn over the reins of her life to her. I’m learning to be ok with that. But I’m glad that it isn’t happening tomorrow because I’m not quite ready yet. But I’m working on it.