Monday, July 18, 2016

In Which Keely Makes the 3 Month Meth Mark

Last Labor Day weekend, I woke up thinking I'd sprained my pinky finger in my sleep. It hurt, but I didn't think on it beyond, "ouch" and went about the business of having fun with my visiting mom.

A few weeks later and the "sprain" hadn't improved. A Google search after that, and I was certain I had nerve damage. Off to the doctor and the start of a four month odyssey of tests and uncertainty that ended with a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis (PA).


I've suffered from psoriasis since the age of twenty, after a perfect storm of Mono, Strep throat, and antibiotics decimated my immune system. Psoriasis isn't fun. Nope. It's a flaky nuisance designed specifically to make the sufferer feel about as confident in their body as an underweight, molting, three-legged rabbit with tics and a carrot allergy.


But, you know, one puts on one's big girl panties and muddles through. In the last few years, I'd finally come to a workable detente and figured I had this particular hassle figured out. Creams, lotions, potions, and patience.

Ha, ha, surprise!

Now, it's not like I think my self-congratulatory, "you've got this, girl" pats on the back triggered some weird-ass karma, but it is beyond frustrating that I'd just settled into a maintenance routine when the PA decided to take roost.


The good news, of course, is that PA is treatable.


Sunday, July 17 marked the three month anniversary of my first dose of methotrexate. I take 8 tiny pills once a week and a dose of folic acid daily. My skin has improved exponentially (good-bye sucker flakes!). The joint tenderness that had, between onset of the pain to first dose, spread throughout my entire body, has decreased to the point where I no longer move like the Tin Man in need of a lube job.


Of course, the drug makes booze a bit of a danger. Stupid liver incompatibility. As a result, I haven't had a drink since April 15. Turns out, I miss the social aspects of alcohol consumption a lot, but the physical drag that can come from drinking just a bit too much, just a little too often, not at all.


Another BIG win since clearing away the fog of pain and lethargy of a regular drink after work: I've spent a lot more time on my writing. The result: I've finished a round of revisions on my WIP, resubmitted to the editor who requested them, and dug into book two of the series.

I'm not always sure about what's causal vs. correlated, but the story I tell myself each day is that I'm functioning better because I'm treating myself well.


Seems like a positive "happily for now" place to end things, so I'll sign with this question: how do you handle the sideswipes your body slams you with as you age? Emotionally, logistically, or other...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Midsummer Night's Reading Dreams

A number of the Rockville 8 ladies are out on vacation - and who can blame them?

But let it not be said that we can't field a varied and compelling beach read list however brief it may be! Read below for what Lisa, Misha and Keely are reading now and what we're diving into next - and let us know whose pages YOU'RE turning this summer!

Misha Crews

What I’m reading: Dark Angels by Karleen Koen

How’d I find it: I love this author, and always try to read anything she writes. Her first book, Through a Glass, Darkly, is one of my all-time favorites. Dark Angels actually came out several years ago, and somehow it slipped under my radar at the time of publication, so it was quite a treat to find it!

I recommend it because: It's overflowing with fascinating characters, complicated love stories, and intrigue. Lots and lots of intrigue! Plus, it's set in the 1600s, in the court of Charles II, and Koen handles the historical details beautifully.

What I’m reading next: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hopkins. 

Lisa McQuayWhat I'm reading: The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

How'd I find it: I've read other works by this author and just adore her. I read Marianna first and couldn't put it down, even going back to my favorite parts to re-read them when I was finished. It stayed with me for a long time and I kept thinking about all of the plot twists and hint that she subtly gave us to lead us to the conclusion. 

I recommend it because: it has a fascinating setting, historical mystery, centers around a fascinating occupation, and the characters are unforgettable and well-drawn. 

What I'm reading next: That Thing You Do, by Maria Geraci. I met her recently and had some great conversations with her. I'm betting her books are equally wonderful. 

J. Keely Thrall

How'd I find it: Funny story, in the wake of Fifty Shades of Gray, a pal recommended author Cherise Sinclair for anyone who wanted to read well done BDSM romance. I admit, I was curious so I scooted on over to Amazon, looked CS up and bought the first book at the top of the search...which happened to be book one of Blake's Masters and Mercenaries series. 

I recommend it (the whole series) because: it's goofy, over the top, kick butt fun. Blake's characters aren't people you'd meet in real life, but who the heck cares when you're having as much fun as they are blowing s*** up, roughing up the bad guys, and having kinky sex? That said, in each book, Blake deftly pulls the heartstrings as her h/h work for their happily ever afters. When I need a break from heavy, I love the wild, kooky ride I take each time I enter this world. 

What' I'm reading next: Good golly, I have no idea! Suggestions, please! 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back to the Books
I took a hiatus from writing, not because I was tired of it but for other good reasons which I’ve discussed before but don’t really want to rehash here. What does matter now is this—once you’re ready to start your writing again, how do you get your writing groove back?

I decided to look into what others have written about this. This is a compilation of all the advice that resonated with me.

On the website Live Write Thrive, guest blogger Janice Kersh gave a list of ways to start writing again. My takeaway from what Janice said is that you must create a ritual such as having a certain type of tea or reading a poem that puts you in the mindset.  It should be something that triggers the start of your creative process, whatever that might be.

The full text is here.
At The Write Practice, Marcy McKay suggested to let go of the guilt. You will not get the time back you’ve spent away from your writing. Another thing suggestion she made is something that has worked well in the past for me—to set a minimum goal for yourself that you must complete each day.  Whether it’s one page, 250 words, one scene, etc. just make sure that you complete your goal each day. See more on this here.

Nathan Bransford notes that you must realize that your first day back will not be productive. It will not be perfect and it will not be good. Accepting this fact will help you muddle through that first session. More on what Nathan said is found here.

At Standout Books, Paige Duke says to be intentional and organized. One way she suggests is to use an organizer. I used to use one of these and when I was faithful with it, it worked very well. I think that I need to dust it off and start using it again. It would help me plan and carve out time to do my writing. More on this here.

One last thing on kick-starting your writing that Janice Kersh said that resonated with me is to recognize that your writing style may have changed. Embrace what comes next and go with the flow. I do feel differently than I used to—not like I don’t want to write but not the same, either. Perhaps that’s part of why I don’t know what to do—because I’ve changed. So, if I’ve changed then maybe my process needs to change as well. This is something I’ll have to consider as I find my new normal.  

Does anyone have any other suggestions for getting your writing going after a hiatus? I’d love to know what they are.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

Happiest of Father's Days!

One of the most attractive things about a man is his prowess as a good father. When women see men who are engaged and active in the raising and care of their children, they go a little gaga. Is it any wonder? The species is propagated when good men are able to ensure that their progeny continue on. It is in the providing for and the care of these little ones who are unable to care for themselves that we see what a man is made of and if his line will blaze into the future as a mighty warrior. So here's a big thank you to fathers everywhere who have wiped noses, encouraged perseverance and roar-dom, who have helped us up when we've fallen, who have dried our tears when we feel like life has defeated us, who inspire us to be better than we ever thought we could be. We love you. And we thank you for your sacrifice. Happy Father's Day!!!

Monday, June 6, 2016

In Which Keely Shares a Recipe for an Open Door Cocktail

From my office door, I hear birds chanting a multilingual song cycle. The wind ruffles the tree leaves, Zephyr's fingers mussing green hair, fond and friendly. An airplane vrooms overhead, a few seconds of technology drowning out the steady drone of the carpenter bees that buzz around my air conditioner. All big talk and posturing, the bees are like punks hanging out at the square on a small town Saturday night.

Every so often, the breeze slips through the screen door, unscented today because the wild vine grown lush and curly up the wall of my second floor stone patio is bloomless. My nose appreciates the reprieve from wisteria's tyranny, No blowzy perfumed punch to the sinuses today, no sir.

The sky is a faded, milky blue crowded out by a mix of fluffy popcorn and that dense layer of dirty white that says, ha, and you thought you'd have a drink outside tonight, no dice, I'm gonna open up and cry all over you. Honestly, those clouds have been rude bullies all spring. Do they even like raining, do you think?

All day, I've been touching base with what's going on through my open door, staying in the moment, exercising my five senses (taste: mint gum. The flavor of which technically *could* come from the garden beyond, so I'm going with it) and igniting my imagination (what if we could train the vine to grow in origami shapes?).

I'm all lit up with possibility and potential. And it feels good (cue the music!).

Want a piece of the action?


Then might I advise an open door cocktail, stat: 5 parts senses, 1 part dreaming.

Mix well, drink liberally, and see if this magic elixir doesn't imbue you with a sense of wonder and well-being.

Bonus alert: this recipe is calorie free!

Monday, May 30, 2016

92 Pounds and Counting: Remembering What's Important

Today is Memorial Day, which is way, way, WAY more important than whether or not I am losing weight again. (Way.) So I'm just going to give you a quick update on my weight loss journey, and then it will be on to more important matters.

A Quick Update

Yes, I'm pleased to be able to tell you that I'm slowly reversing the trend of my weight re-gain (huzzah!). There's been no magic to it: it's just eating salad, tracking calories, and walking. My next post will be on August 22, and I'm hoping to have even more good news by that time. In the meantime, you can catch up with my weight loss ups and downs by clicking this link.

A Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day is our special day to remember the men and women who have given their lives in service to this great nation. (And yes, although it may be flawed, it is, indeed, a great nation.)

On behalf of the women of The Rockville 8, I'd like to formally extend our thanks for the sacrifices of the few, in service to the welfare of the many. Our gratitude is deep and never-ending.

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?