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.

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. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Gratitude - Count your blessings instead of sheep

I don't know about you, but it seems I've signed up to receive a boatload of life advice, delivered conveniently right into my email inbox every day. Another week, another person trying to teach me 10 basic habits to a better waistline, 5 yoga moves to welcome big money into my life, 3 low calorie dishes I can whip up while I walk the get the idea.

A lot of times I'm so overwhelmed the healthiest thing I can do it hit the delete key. 

But a few months ago, I clicked through to an article about cultivating an attitude of gratitude (I don't remember which one, but I suspect it was very like this one from the website Mind Body Green). 

For some reason, the idea of a gratitude journal struck me as an easy activity to help me remember my blessings, big and small. To remind myself that the moment might be tough, but my life overall is rich and abundant. 

I started out very hit or miss, letting time elapse between entries. Before too long, though, I developed an addictive daily habit. I now place my journal on my pillow after making the bed each morning and when it's time to go to sleep, like a magnet, my hand shoots to the journal, eager to jot down the moments of grace that helped me make it through the day. To keep it simple, I stick to three items (but with room for wiggling for additions when the spirit moves me). I try to make people and events my focus, over things (but things do count!). 

A bonus gratitude feedback loop: Occasionally I tell folks they've made an appearance in the pages of my journal and why. Letting them know what they mean to me gives them a little boost, which makes me smile, which makes me grateful all over again that they are in my life. Score!

A sample entry might look like:

  • I am grateful for the shared laughter of my R8 peeps, Candy, Evie, Lisa, Marjanna, Misha, and Nichole. 
  • I am grateful for the midday walk and talk with my coworker, Rachel. 
  • I am grateful for the sound of joyful cathedral bells serenading my afternoon work. 

How about you? Do you count your blessings instead of sheep? What three things are you grateful for today?