Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Classics, As We've Never Seen Them Before!

Just because it's Tuesday and we're feeling silly, here is one of our favorite romances, told in a rather... um... unique manner.

We hope it gives you a smile!

 

And since tomorrow is the first of July, let's get a head start on our good luck: Rabbit, rabbit!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Let's Go Crazy! (On not letting the elevator take you down)

Recently, the gals of the R8 decided we needed a blog theme. We chose life journeys. Everyone seemed to have a journey ready to hand: parenting, empty-nesting, dating, weight loss.

Besides writing, I wondered, what the heck kind of journey am I on?

This morning, I woke up with the organ prologue to Prince's classic Let's Go Crazy humming through my head.




It was almost as though the Man in Purple had come to my bedroom for an intervention:



"If the elevator tries to bring your down," he reminded me. "Go crazy, punch a higher floor."

Aaahh. Right. Higher Floor!

Don't ask why (creative brains are fascinating places), but it made me think of my Word of the Year--MMM. Movement, Making, and Meditation (yes, I cheated on that one). I've had varying success these last six months in focusing on MMM each day, but I think acting on my MMM is equivalent to me punching a higher floor, picking myself up by the bootstraps, and going after my dreams.

So my journey lens will be focused on my efforts to meditate, to move, and to make.

MMM, so good.

And one last thought before signing off. Sometimes things don't make sense, like this lyric in Let's Go Crazy:

"Let's look for the purple banana/Til' they put us in the truck, let's go!"

Seriously, have you have really listened to that song?



Inquiring minds want to know: what life journey are you on? 

Monday, June 15, 2015

I've Lost 100 Pounds and I'm Still Fat: 3 Tough but Funny Lessons from an Unfinished Journey

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. I'm also not an astronaut, lion tamer or mountaineer. Please consult a professional before making life changes in any of these important areas. Thanks.

So here's what happened:

On the morning of January 1, 2010, I stepped on the scale and the display read "365."

My first thought was: "Wow, I only had two glasses of champagne last night. Why is my vision so blurry?" I blinked and rubbed my eyes. Still 365.

My second thought was: "The floor must be really uneven here. This stupid scale isn't balanced properly." I got off, moved the scale slightly, and got back on again. Still 365.

My third thought was: "If something doesn't change, I'm going to be dead soon."

The third thought was the one that stuck. I made a solemn vow (as I had done so many — many, many — times before) that I would lose a hundred pounds before the end of that year.

One year and fifty-three months later, I actually reached that 100-pound goal. It was on May 10, 2015, that my scale (the same one!) told me I weighed 264.7 pounds. When I saw that magic number, I did an exuberant but incredibly clumsy happy dance (seriously, be thankful you weren't there to see it) and supplemented my kale shake with an extra scoop of triumph.

But here's the thing: I'm still fat. Although 265'ish pounds was an incredible milestone for me, and I'm as proud as punch to have reached that weight, there is a long, rocky road (yes, that's an ice cream joke) to travel between where I am now, and where I want/need to be. And although many hearty souls have made the trip from Obesityville to Healthytown before me, the journey is different for each of us.

So, in many ways, this feels like uncharted territory. And as I make my way across the wild country, confronted at every turn by untamed bowls of pasta and perilous cliffs chiseled out of chocolate, here are a few things I'm trying to keep in mind:

You gain some, you lose some… and then you gain some back.

Between where I started and where I am currently sitting (258.6 as of this morning), I have dropped a total of 106.4 pounds. (Excuse me while I break my arm patting myself on the back.) In addition to that, however, I estimate that I've lost, gained back, and re-lost about 85 pounds. Goodness only knows how much I'll lose, re-gain and then re-lose again, before I reach my ultimate goal of 173 pounds (which is just at "normal" for me on the BMI scale.

For example, in late-2011/early-2012, I lost about 60 pounds (more on that in a future post). I then spent the next couple years re-gaining and re-losing about twenty of those pounds. I was a little depressed about this for a while. But in the long run, I kept off 40 pounds, and that was the important thing.

If you lose a bunch of weight, there will usually be an "evening out" phase where some of the weight comes back on. It's a natural (if infuriating) part of the process. But the important steps are the ones that lead us forward, and those are the steps we should count.

Decisions, Decisions: Health and Happiness, Or Pizza? (The answer isn't as obvious as it should be.)

Simply put, pizza has three qualities which health and happiness will never have: it's easy, it's always gratifying, and it's instantaneous (if you consider 30 minutes or less to be instantaneous, which apparently I do).

Granted, the whole healthy/happy thing has its own kind of gratification (such as long life and… well… happiness), but it's rarely easy, and never instant. So, when I weighed almost four hundred pounds, how often do you think I'd pass up a hot, delicious slice of instant gratification in favor of a cold, unsympathetic celery stick? If you answered "Never," you win a bag of baby carrots.

But the lesson that I finally learned is this: it's not always an either/or question. Sometimes it's an and/and decision: Pizza and salad and a walk afterwards. Instant gratification tastes better with a heaping helping of healthy habits on the side. And the happiness is never far from my plate.

Mostly mental: Is it all in my mind… or on my backside?

Alfred Hitchcock once said, "When I catch sight of my reflection, I'm always surprised that I don't look like Cary Grant."

I can totally relate to that. Not that I think I look like Cary Grant. Or any Cary (or Carrie), for that matter. But I can completely empathize with the notion that our mental image of ourselves tends to be very different from what other people see.

Some people think they're fat, but they're actually not. Other people, like me, hide in a mental hole and pretend the fat doesn't exist until they get slapped in the face by the meaty palm of reality. (Like seeing 365 on my scale, or having my father die suddenly from heart disease, when he didn't even know he was sick.)

There are also some people who lose weight and still feel fat. But here's something I just realized recently: fat is a physical thing. It may, or may not, be seen as negative.

But beauty is always positive, and true beauty is entirely mental and emotional. If we feel beautiful, we are beautiful. And while there are exceptions to every rule, the majority of people will see us as we see ourselves. 

So when you hear a little voice whispering in your ear that says you're unattractive, or unworthy, or undeserving, tell that voice to take a hike. Even if — especially if — that voice is yours.

And tell yourself every day how beautiful you are. Because, guess what! You are!

What, did you think I hadn't noticed?

So… could this be a regular thing?

I'm thinking of making this weight loss journey my regular blog topic here on the Rockville 8. Does that sound interesting, or self-indulgent? And if it's interesting, what would you like to know?

Monday, June 8, 2015

All in Good Time

I've got great news! It may be June, but I've finally found the key to the snow blower! And even though it's now summer, this discovery has caused much celebration in my house. Here's why:

In the depths of January, in my neck of the woods, Mother Nature saw fit to pile a lot of snow on my neighborhood. And I mean A LOT of snow. Naturally, that meant it was time to crank up the old snow blower. We'd bought this snow blower second-hand when we lived in Canada, so it's seen A LOT of use and I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's been throwing snow since I was in high school.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, this snow blower has an ignition key. Maybe that's to prevent Frosty the Snowman from sneaking into my garage, firing up the machine, and making his way down the street with it before cannibalizing it for parts. After all, he stole that silk hat he wears. Why should snow blower manufacturers trust him with their heavy equipment? I'm sure I don't know, but I suspect that may be why my snow blower has a key.



Through the years, the key has remained attached to the snow blower's handlebars by one of those little bead chains. You know the kind. They're often used to keep together things like dog tags. And speaking of dogs...

Last winter, we also adopted a new dog. He's a curious little beastie, eager to investigate everything that passes in front of his black, button nose. And most of the things he investigates end up in his mouth. 

He's also quite playful. And this is a good thing, since we adopted him, in part, as a companion to our more serious hound who is part tax attorney and part rodeo clown. Together, these partners in crime observed my every action as I guided the snow blower out of the garage that fateful day last January. They watched closely as I unlatched the key and inserted it in the ignition. And their eyes were on me when I moved to close the garage door.

I turned my back on those dogs for all of four seconds. Count 'em. One, two, three, four.

Behind me, I heard the horseplay commence. The dogs tumbled and wrestled alongside the snow blower before bounding off into the snowy yard. And when I reached the snow blower myself, the key was gone.

I searched for that key and searched for that key. When I couldn't find it near the blower, and I couldn't find it in the tracks the dogs made in the snow, I came to a dreaded conclusion: that rascally dog must've EATEN the key,

But time marches on.

This week, while moving the grass, I looked down and there it was--the key--nestled in the soil. Carefully, I picked it up. And, gentle reader, I'm thrilled to tell you the key does not appear to have passed through the digestive system of a canine.

What a life lesson! 

How many times have I wanted something to happen RIGHT NOW? How many times have I stressed and worked and fooled myself into thinking progress was entirely dependent on me? Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt you could just get that promotion, meet that special someone, or snag that publishing deal, if you just worked harder, faster, longer? Has that drive given you permanent butterflies? Has it ever kept you up at night? And did things work out all in good time?

Monday, June 1, 2015

What the R8 is Reading at the Start of the Summer

The Ladies of the Rockville 8 love to laugh, and write and READ! As summer kicks into high gear, we offer a peek into what's been keeping us up late at night.


I (Keely) recommend (part one):

THE SOLDIER by Grace Burrowes


What's it about? Devlin St. Just is the bastard son of a duke. A distinguished soldier, he's come back from the Peninsular wars grieving a dead brother and suffering from PTSD (or whatever they called it back then). He travels to his new-to-him country estate and finds a wild child who claims his affection and a shy woman who ultimately claims his heart. 


Why I loved it: One of the things I can count on with a Burrowes romance is how much I'm going to like the hero and heroine. Simply like them. Devlin and Emmaline are wounded souls who care so deeply for each other, it's almost magic. I'm not much of a crier, and yet this book made me sniff tears on FOUR separate occasions. That's a minor miracle in my eyes and why I think this book is worth the read.  


Who else would love it: Anyone who loves a good, traditional historical romance. Fans of Mary Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, Cathy Maxwell, and Jo Beverly will all enjoy curling up with The Soldier

Misha Crews recommends:

A DESPERATE FORTUNE by Susanna Kearsley

What's it about? For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.

Why I'm loving it: Susanna Kearsley is one of those rare authors who can tell two stories at once: a mystery/romance in the past relating to a mystery/romance in the present. I adore this kind of story, especially when it's rich with detail and historical elements. (And in my heart of hearts, this is the kind of story I would like to be able to write myself.) I was so excited about this book that I actually pre-ordered it, which is something I hardly ever do!

Who else would love it: Fans of Dan Brown (who also like a touch of romance with their mystery), Simone St. James, Kate Burton and Victoria Holt will definitely find storytelling riches in A Desperate Fortune.


Nichole Christoff recommends: 

HUNTING SEASON by Nevada Barr

What's it about? National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is the long arm of the law along Mississippi's historic Natchez Trace. When a local good ol' boy is found trussed up like a BDSM devotee and deader than a door nail at one of the Trace's tourist sites, Anna must puzzle out the crime despite some of the residents' age-old prejudices bound up in religion, race, and gender. And she must do it before the killer catches up with her.

Why I'm loving it: Anna is a strong heroine with a deep love of Nature's beauty and Nevada Barr shows me the struggle of being a woman in a man's (traditional) world, plus the wonder of the Mississippi countryside through Anna's eyes. Engaging action scenes had my heart pounding again and again. And as if that weren't enough, Nevada Barr's wordplay and turns of phrase are downright fun!

Who else would love it: Readers of Dana Stabenow's Alaska-set Kate Shugak mysteries, Anne Hillerman's Southwestern mysteries, or even novels featuring Laura Lippman's gritty Baltimore should visit Barr's Anna Pigeon and spend some time along her lovely--and deadly--Natchez Trace.

Evie Owens recommends:



YOU: A NOVEL by Carolyn Kepnes

What’s it about? You is a book about “Love in the Age of Selfies” as a reviewer on Amazon said. Or, it’s a book about stalking. Or, like the DEXTER series, it’s a book about how to turn someone into a stalker.

It’s also a compelling read. (Or rather, a compelling listen, as I downloaded the audio from Audible.)

The author used to write for Entertainment Weekly and there’s definitely a feeling that we’re getting a “peek” into how the cool kids live.

Why I loved it: The reason it caught my eye was that it’s written in kind of a twisty point of view. It’s in first person, from Joe Goldberg’s point of view, but he’s “talking” to the girl who is his obsession. So it’s a cross between first person and second person. Which is kind of hard to explain so here are the first few lines, to give you a taste: “You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn’t slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it’s impossible to know if you’re wearing a bra but I don’t think that you are.”

I’m a POV junkie, so I loved that twist on the POV. It felt fresh and interesting and the story dropped enough cookies to keep me involved. Even though, I have to say, none of the characters was very likable. I mean, in the heroic sense of the word. None of them. And yet, I had to figure out what was going on!

Who else would love it: I don’t know! I’ve talked about this book to just about anyone I know who reads and they all just kind of roll their eyes at me. LOL. But it got a lot of great reviews! It’s been compared to Stephen King’s work, and in fact, Stephen King calls it “Hypnotic and scary…never read anything quite like it.”



So if YOU, dear reader, read this book, I’d love to hear from You. Because I've got nobody to dish with... :/

Mackenzie Lucas recommends:

STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE by Steven James
What's it about? This is a plotting book for pantsers. James flies in the face of current W structure proponents who say the story needs to conform to a certain structure to work.

Why I'm loving it: I'm a hybrid writer--I'm a pantser predominately who outlines my turning points. This book is a fresh new way of looking at story. The central question is "What goes wrong?" Because you only have a story if something goes wrong. He believes if you're "open to letting the stories you tell trump the structure you've been taught, it will transform the way you craft stories forever." I believe him. And I'm all in. I'm enjoying this fresh take on getting to the heart of story.

Who else would love it: Writers interested in crafting better stories.

Lisa McQuay recommends:

AS HARD AS IT GETS by Laura Kaye

What's it about?  Nick Rixey left Army Special Forces after a op goes wrong. Now he's co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo. Becca Merritt, the daughter of his dead commander, seeks his help to find her missing brother. Nick wants to leave the bad memories of the day his commander died behind him but loyalty and devotion to duty make it hard for him to turn his back on Becca and the dangers she faces. Not to mention a sizzling attraction for Becca.


Why I'm loving it: The characters are so well-drawn and believable I feel like I have visited Hard Ink. The suspense and danger carry the story along but the real obstacles are in the emotional scars that Nick and Becca must overcome. Each must face his own fear and wounds to find Becca's brother--and each other.


Who else would love it: Fans of Tonya Burrows, Jessie Lane, and Julie Ann Walker will love this. 



I (Keely) recommend (part two):

SHUTTERGIRL by CD REISS

What's it about? Michael is second generation Hollywood royalty and Laine is a paparazza from the wrong side of the tracks. Neither can forget the brief time in high school when their lives overlapped. It's career suicide for either of them to fall for the other. They do it anyway, cuz that's how these two roll. 

Why I'm loving it: Romance meets the gritty streets of L.A. noir. In each story I've read by Reiss, she makes L.A. a major character in the book. Like Raymond Chandler, she's unafraid to walk into the dark alleys and darker emotions of her characters and that fearlessness helps craft a thrilling read. 

Who else would love it: Folks who love film noir, but want a HEA, this book is for you. 

Friends - what are YOU reading as we jump into summer?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Waiting for the Moon

    Back in the fall, I was at a used book sale at the library. There I saw a book that I decided to buy. It sat in my to-be-read pile for a few more months until I picked it up and started reading it. I was hooked.
Recently, I tried to explain the plot of Kristin Hannah’s Waiting for the Moon to the Rockville 8. When I started explaining it, I realized that my description didn’t do this book justice. The plot is impossibly implausible—in the opening scene, the heroine, Selena, tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff into the rocky waters of the Maine coast. The fisherman who rescues her decides to leave her at a nearby insane asylum where the hero, Ian, lives with his mentally ill mother and an assortment of other equally mentally challenged patients. She has lost her memory as a result of the blow to her head in the fall. The hero has psychic abilities that manifest when he touches someone. Once a gifted surgeon, he cannot practice anymore due to the fact he is afraid to touch his patients. He has retreated to his boyhood home to run a mental institution in his widowed mother’s home.
I know—sounds improbable, right? And yet it works. It’s in the details. The small moments that the author describes are so achingly real. This book takes its time drawing you in, savoring the details. Here’s one of my favorite parts. In this scene, Ian has been away while Selena’s bruises and scrapes healed. This is his first time seeing her since her initial injuries, coming up for air after a swim in the Atlantic.
Selena came up, flipping her soggy hair away from her face like some ancient mermaid. For a split second, he saw her profile, then the curtain of her hair descended again. Sparkling droplets flew behind her in a shimmering, sunlight-brightened veil.
She collected an armful of trinkets and shells, then looped a thick, slimy strand of kelp around her neck and turned toward the beach. 
She splashed through the ice-cold Atlantic water as if it were the sun-drenched Caribbean Sea. With one hand, she shoved the tangled brown hair from her face. 
For the first time in his life, Ian’s knees went weak at the sight of a woman. She was exquisitely, unexpectedly beautiful. Long, mahogany-hued hair cascaded over her arms, dripping plump, silvery tears down the white lawn of her shirt. Her face was a pale oval, dominated by the largest, most liquid brown eyes Ian had ever seen. Her full lips looked ready to smile at any second. 
By the time that Ian and Selena succumb to their feelings, you’re rooting for them. You’re waiting for Ian to come to his senses and claim her and for Selena to relearn how to communicate. The dark moment is a wonderful twist and the ending feels so right it’s like coming home.
What books have swept you away lately? What about it drew you in?






Sunday, May 17, 2015

Top 5 Songs to Rock the Heart

Music plays an integral part in our lives, whether we realize it or not. It shapes and reflects our culture and yet it is a very subjective, individual form of expression. Music can reveal who we are deep down or who we want to be--our personalities, our attitudes, or our aspirations. 

Through music, we first learn the importance of cultivating our internal lives. We discover how what we think matters, and that we’re not alone in those thoughts. Music connects us, shows us our humanity, and helps us understand our struggles are universal and that there are other people out there experiencing the very same situation. 

Music can move us emotionally, bringing us to tears, laughter, passion, happiness, or bolster our courage. It can bring back memories that we thought were lost forever. And soundtracks and singles can mark new memories that will stick with us well into old age. Music can also facilitate healing and restoration when we need to block out all the stressors of life to nurture our spirit.

In light of the important role music plays in my life, and often in my novel writing process, I wanted to share the top five songs on my playlist this week.


1.    Honey, I’m Good by Andy Grammer (Magazines or Novels album)
I love this song. It’s everything I admire in my fictional heroes. The music is upbeat, catchy, and the message honorable.



2.    Love Is Your Name by Steven Tyler
Adore Steven Tyler. He’s the consummate rock star, even when he’s crafting a new country music song. Love this song.



3.    Fight Song by Rachel Platten
Talk about plucky girl empowerment songs, this one is it and will stand alongside Katy Perry’s Roar and Firework in it's message to empower girls & women.



4.    All of the Stars by Ed Sheeran (The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack)
I love most of what Ed Sheeran writes and performs. He’s amazing. The Fault In Our Stars is a good soundtrack album.



5.    Try by Colbie Caillat (Gypsy Heart album)
Again, adore this song because of what it says to girls and women. Great song.



Bonus:
1.    Boom Clap by Charlie XCX (The Fault In Our Stars & Sucker albums)
Because I’m a romance writer I can’t resist this song. Who doesn't enjoy a song about how love makes our heart beat faster ... how it makes us feel? After all, it is our business. 


Tell me about the songs on the top of your play list. I always love finding new artists and new music to add to my iTunes collection.