Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jessica Scott: All For You

Today we welcome Jessica Scott as our guest this week at The Rockville 8 blog. USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, owner of three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she's a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well-adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.

She's written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

She's pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she's been featured as one of Esquire Magazine's Americans of the Year for 2012.

Top 5 Surprising ThingsYou Should Know About Jessica Scott 

1. I cry over babies. It's weird but when I hold one of my friend's babies, I get all choked up. No idea why. 

2. I pick up stray animals on the side of the road. So the rule is: if they get in the car (i.e. don't try to bite me), we either try to find their owner or we take them to the no kill shelter. 

3. I don't drink soda. Ever. 

4. There are certain words I can never spell: bureaucracy, knowledge. For some reason, I get them wrong every. time. Thank heavens for spell check. 

5. I hate sports. There I said it. I can't stand sports or anything to do with it. And? I'm married to a sports fan, so I fake it. A lot:) 

ALL FOR YOU by Jessica Scott (February 4, 2014; Forever E-Book; $2.99)

Book Blurb

Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .
Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood's newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She's also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza's body and soul.

. . . open his heart to love?
Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it's just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she's thrilled. Too bad it doesn't help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He's the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

Book Excerpt

          It was fate. It had to be. A slow warmth unfurled inside him as the doctor he could not get out of his head looked up at him, her cheeks flushing pink.
         She was all buttoned up at work. Tonight, she looked different. Looser. Unbound.
         Compelling. That’s what she was. Her fire at work. Her refusal to let him bully her. He’d admired her backbone before.
         Tonight, he admired her in an entirely new light. Her hair framed her face in careless curls. He hadn’t expected to see her outside of work. He damn sure hadn’t expected to see her here. An old familiar need rose inside him. A need for touch, human and warm. A need to lose himself for an interlude in sweat and sex and stunning pleasure. He’d given up drinking but women had apparently fallen into that category as well.
         It had been months since he’d felt a woman’s hands on his body.
         This woman was not someone he needed to be talking to at the bar tonight but he found himself walking toward her anyway.
         After the week of confrontation they’d had, he’d be lucky if she didn’t slap him the minute he approached her.
         He could do this. He could talk to a woman without drinking. Right?
         Emily met his gaze as he approached. He almost smiled.
         “Not your usual scene?” he asked, leaning against the bar.
         She shifted, putting a little space between them. That slight reclamation of power. He made a noise of approval in his throat. “I’m surprised you’re talking to me.”
         “I’m surprised you’re here. Shouldn’t you be home reading medical journals or something?” Her cheeks flushed deep pink and he wondered how far down her body that color went.
         She tipped her chin then and looked at him. “Have you been drinking?”
         He looked down at the bottle in his hand. “I don’t drink anymore,” he said quietly. No reason to delve into his abusive history with alcohol. “You?”
“Glass of wine,” she said.
         Reza shrugged and leaned on the bar, taking another pull off his water and being careful not to lean too close. She looked like she’d bolt if he pushed her. “That would explain why you’re talking to me. We haven’t exactly been friendly.”
         Her hair reflected the fading sunlight that filled the room from the wide-open patio doors. He wanted to fist it between his fingers, watch her neck arch for his mouth.
         She motioned toward his bottle with her glass. “‘Anymore’?”
         He simply took another pull off his water. He was going to be damn good and hydrated after tonight. He wondered what she’d do if he leaned a little closer. “Long story.”
         “One you’re not keen on sharing?” she asked. She leaned her cheek on one palm. The sun glinted across her cheek.
         “Let’s just say alcohol and I aren’t on speaking terms. Bad things happen when I drink.” It was nothing to be ashamed of but there it was. Shame wound up his spine and squeezed the air from his lungs. He was just like his dad after all.
         “You say that like giving up alcohol is a bad thing,” Emily said quietly.
         Reza snorted softly. He should have guessed she wouldn’t let it alone. She had stubbornness that could last for days. “It’s not something I’m proud of.”
         Her hand on his forearm startled him. Soft and strong, her fingers pressed into his skin. “But stopping is something to be proud of.”
         Reza stared down at her hand, pale against the dark shadows of his own skin. A long silence hung between them.
         He lifted his gaze to hers.
         “It takes a lot of strength to break with the past,” she said softly.
         “What are you doing?” Her eyes glittered in the setting sun and he thought he caught the sight of the tiniest edge of her lip curling.
         Her fingers slipped from his skin. “Offering my professional support?”
         His lips quirked. “Was that a joke?”
         “Maybe,” she said. “I’m working on developing a biting sense of humor. Defense mechanism against raging asshole commanders.”
         Reza barked out a laugh. “You look different out of uniform,” he said lightly, pressing his advantage at this unexpected truce.
         “So do you.”
         He angled his body toward hers. “You like my makeup?” he asked.
         Her lips parting as she tried to figure out if he was kidding or not. Finally, she cracked the barest hint of a smile.
         Something powerful woke inside him and he moved before he thought about it. He reached for her, brushing a strand of hair from her cheek. The simple gesture was crushing in its intimacy. Her lips froze in a partial gasp, as though her breath had caught in her throat.
         “Sergeant Iaconelli,” she said quietly, her voice husky. But she didn’t move away. Didn’t flinch from his touch.
         “Reza.” He swallowed the sharp bite of arousal in his blood, more powerful without the haze of alcohol that usually clouded his reactions. “My name is Reza.”
         His breath was locked in his lungs, the sound of his name on her lips triggering something dark and powerful and overwhelming.
         He wanted this woman. The woman who’d stood in opposition to him this week. The woman who lifted her chin and stood steadfast between him and his soldiers.
         There was strength in this woman. Strength and courage.
         “I’m Emily.” Her words a rushed breath.
         He lowered his hand, unwilling to push any further than he’d already gone. This was new territory for him. Unfamiliar and strange and filled with potential and fear.


The Rockville 8 is giving away two free e-copies of Jessica's All For You to two randomly chosen lucky readers who comment on the blog post this week (Comments must be between Monday and Friday. Giveaway expires at midnight on Friday, February 28th.). So, stop in and say hi and let The Eight and Jessica know how much you love her books! Or ask a question. Any and all will get you a chance to win a free copy of All For You!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Comfort Reading

When was the last Saturday that you did nothing? I mean, nothing. You didn't grocery shop, do laundry, clean the bathroom, walk the neighbor's dog, shop for jeans at the mall or even get your nails done. In fact, when was the last day that the most strenuous thing you did was make a pot of coffee? That was me. Saturday.

For the last, I don't know, many months, my weekends haven't been my own. I've either gone down to Mom's to help out or I've gone away for a weekend with friends or I've run and done errands. The one thing I haven't done is sit still and do nothing but read, because the minute my sitting goes beyond an hour, the guilt hits and I have to Do Something Productive. Yes, yes, sure. I've got issues. It is right up there with my inability to remain in bed if I think anyone else is up in the house.  But it means my to be read pile is growing ever deeper and wider and now can be contained on three shelves and I don't know how many pages in my Kindle, and my DVR is filling to capacity...

I'm sure I've mentioned this before - the remembered joy of purchasing a favorite author's new book and spending the evening and night reading it. Savoring. Living that moment in that book. And getting up four hours later and going to work. I am older now. Wiser. Or at least less able to work a full day on so little sleep. And for whatever reason, it feels as though the older I get the less time there is in a day and the more items are piled into my not finished pile (and to be read books onto those shelves, etc etc).  But we need these days, I need these days, to read a good book and remember that I love words and stories.

In the last couple years, I've been introduced to the wonderful Regencies written by Carla Kelly. She is a lovely writer, emotional and affirming. Her characters are, well, normal and kind and broken and strong and emotional and self-deprecating and courageous. Many of her stories are about the rising middle class in Britain during and just after the Napoleonic War. Military men, surgeons and doctors, mill owners. Her original Signets sell for upwards of $15 or $20 on Amazon. Sometimes even more. But thank the good Lord for re-issues for the e-reader!

This week, I downloaded two, and on Saturday, I sat and read "Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind." It was like macaroni and cheese, stuffed hamburger, pecan pie and a gin and tonic all rolled into one. Comfort and joy and kindness. With cheese on it.  You know her characters have had pasts, that at some point, life was really difficult. Perhaps even gruesome.  But the hope that she gives in the romantic relationship of the hero and heroine affirms all that is good and can be right with the world. It is a world of acceptance, of warm water, of thick red cloaks given as gifts to downtrodden poor relations.

I have had a particularly shitty last year, and am so behind in everything. There are quilts to be sewn, clothes to be washed, taxes to be completed, furniture to be polished, bathrooms to clean, plants to be planted, the list just keeps getting longer. And the longer it grows, the less am I able to sit and read.  But I took this weekend to be kind to myself. And what better way than with Carla Kelly? Do you have a favorite author that you immerse yourself in as a particular treat? Why her (or him)? Is it the characters she creates or the vividness of her writing? The story itself? Please. Introduce me to your authors!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Facing the fear of (not) finishing

I discovered as a teenager who endured her fair share of visits to the doctor, dentist and orthodontist, that I have a fear. A fear of not finishing what I start. I realized after a while that my anxiety in the waiting rooms was not due to the coming examination or the threat of my braces being tightened. No, it came from knowing that I would not finish the magazine article I was reading before the nurse came to whisk me away.

I avoided magazines for years. (No, I wasn't bright enough to figure out a different solution. No buying a copy of the magazine. No ripping the relevant pages from the doctor's copy. No asking the office manager to make a Xerox of the article in full.)

Fast forward to many years later and I realize I still have a fear of not finishing. For Christmas, I was given the first volume in a projected three part biography of the late actress, Barbara Stanwyck. That puppy clocks in at over 1000 pages. What if I start it and the next volume takes 10 more years before it's published? I'll be hanging out on a limb for that whole time.

This fear of not finishing keeps me from committing to all sorts of things -  TV shows and book series, primarily. Thank goodness that Karen Marie Moning's Fever series is complete! And that Breaking Bad is now available for the ultimate binge watching weekend. You won't find me watching or reading George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series until it is done, Done, DONE. Nope.

So, tricky thing, this fear of not finishing. I've spent a good portion of my journey as a writer beginning projects and not seeing them through to the end. I'd think that with this monkey on my back, it would keep pushing me to the finish line. I haven't found that to be the case. What good is a phobia if you can't make it work for you, I ask?

I think one reason I've been a starter and not a finisher is that there is always a rosy glow of possibility when you're in the middle of a project. No rejections, no harsh reality. Anything can happen - within the story itself and with the story's publication future. In a sense, it's a stress-free zone.

I'm working on revisions to a story I, in fact, actually, truly and honestly finished in December. After much prodding, pushing, and self-cajoling, I made it to The End. And now I'm enjoying working my way toward The Revised End.

Because at some point, you've got to face your fears. Am I right?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Be Sensible: Pursue Your Dreams

Recently I was listening to the audiobook version of Kevin Smith's Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. Kevin Smith is the director/writer of such classic indie films as Clerks and Dogma. In this book he talks about how, in the early '90s, he went from a postal employee's kid in "lower, lower, lower middle class" New Jersey to a Sundance Film Festival wunderkind.

(A quick warning: this is a great book, but if you're not familiar with Kevin Smith's work, you may want to see one of his movies before picking it up. He uses some of the naughtiest language imaginable! But he always manages to do it with lots of humor and no malice, which makes him both loveable and engaging...if very, very coarse.)

At the beginning of the book, Kevin talks about how his father's sudden death influenced him to pursue his dreams. Although this is obviously a sad subject, here's one of the things that he took away from the experience:

"...there is little sense in not at least trying to accomplish
 all of your wildest dreams in life."

I don't know if that line will impact you the way it did me, but my personal reaction was one word: Wow

All of a sudden, I was looking at things from an entirely new angle. We're taught by a well-meaning society that pursuing dreams is nice, but sometimes a little foolhardy. We're told: "Be smart. Be sensible."

But what I realized is that the smart thing, the sensible thing, is to pursue our dreams. This doesn't mean that we can neglect the parts of our life that need tending, because the electric bill does have to be paid, and the kids do have to be clothed and fed (and hugged and listened to!). Sometimes day-to-day needs can overshadow our larger personal goals. It can be difficult to find the time and energy to chase our whimsies, and pursue our aspirations.

But in a way, the fact that it's difficult makes it all the more important. The universe doesn't typically open up a golden gate, unfurl a red carpet and say: "Okay kid, there's your road to accomplishment. Start walkin'!" We have to chisel out minutes, hours, days and years to follow our heart's desire. 

There is little sense in not at least trying to accomplish all of your wildest dreams in life. So let's be smart, let's be sensible, and let's pursue our dreams.

This little bit of inspiration came to me from a very unexpected place (the dirty-mouthed, sweet-hearted Kevin Smith). I'd love to know: have you found inspiration in unexpected places? And what helps you or inspires you to accomplish your goals?