Monday, October 26, 2015

Our Most Memorable Halloween Costumes

It's that time of year! Halloween is spook-tactular, haunt-abulous and scare-tastic. And what's more fun than looking back and remembering the joy of Halloweens past? So this year, the Rockville 8 are happy to share with you, our most memorable Halloween costumes.

 Evie Owens 

The first costume that came to mind was the wizard costume I made for my eldest. Nobody who knows me now would believe this, but I sewed her that costume. It was cheap black cotton but I splurged on the shiny silver stuff I lined the dagged sleeves with. She loved it but I can't put my hands on a picture. She was 11 or 12.

When I was a kid, we went for the kind of costume we could make out of whatever was in the house. I usually ended up as some kind of gypsy. I don't have any pictures of that, either. But one of my best friends at work goes ALL out on the holidays, and last year, on a whim, I joined her. I picked up a cheap purple wig and some false eyelashes and aimed for "animeish." I do have a picture of that and it's memorable mainly because I was doing the online dating thing for a while and I posted the picture there. You'd be amazed how many guys in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area have a thing for women with purple hair. None of them were the right guy, though. Hmmm. Maybe I should have tried a different color...

Keely Thrall 

Most memorable costume: Athena, goddess of wisdom.

Age: 10 or 11 (the costume was memorable, what year I wore it...somewhat less so.)

Why: I was in a Greek gods phase, with my nose firmly stuck in D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Athena was clearly the coolest of all the Goddesses, so smart, so reasonable and clever. So totally me! I got a wooden staff (possibly a broom handle?) and had a little stuffed owl perched on my shoulder (when not in working as my familiar, my brother used that poor owl as a football, tossing it down the laundry shoot for field goals. Stupid boy!). But the best part of the costume was the toga. Mom and I found a vibrant, purple, velvety cotton that draped beautifully. 35 years later (give or take), I still have that fabric and it still makes me smile. It’s a little worn around the edges, but still vibrant. Like me.

Lisa McQuay 

Most Memorable Costume: It's hard for me to pick just one but for our purposes here, I'm going with my Harpo Marx costume.

Age: 13

Why: I wasn't even going to go trick or treating at the ripe old age of 13, but my mother asked me to go with my brother who was 9. We decided to go as Harpo and Groucho. My mother rolled my hair in rags for Harpo's curly hair. I used my mother's trench coat, and an old fashioned squeeze-style bicycle horn my grandmother had given me for my bike. My brother, who is dark, had my father's horn-rimmed science experiment glasses from his college days (we both had hours of fun with those), slicked back hair, and the black suit my father had worn to my baptism. Everyone knew who we were. When we went to the door, my brother said "Trick or Treat" and I blew the horn as Harpo always did instead of speaking. It was memorable because it was my last time trick or treating, but more importantly, it was because my brother and I were a team and because we were able to use things we already had.

Mackenzie Lucas 

Most memorable costume: I dressed up as an old lady, with gray frosted wig, granny shawl, and long skirt and cane.


What made it memorable: I had my picture in the local paper. It was pretty cool for an eight-year-old. And, too funny that my mom used to actually wear that wig. It was really a frosted blond color, but it could easily pass as old-lady-gray hair. ;0) The other very cool thing was that I was able to do a Google search on this article to find the picture in the local paper.

Marjanna Bogan 

I remember wearing Casper the Friendly Ghost. I was 4 - would be 5 that December. I was in kindergarten at St. Patricks Episcopal. And for whatever the reason (and I don't remember now if I ever knew then as a child), we were on Panorama News at Noon on channel 5. Which I think was hosted by Maury Povich. I just remember milling around a stage, there was candy in a bowl, and somehow my costume - complete with a mask that covered my face and didn't allow for clear vision - was a focus.

My second most memorable was my brother's. We were, gosh, in junior high? I was wearing Alec Bourgeois's cut-aways and a bowler. Eugene was in his kilt and carrying his bagpipe. And for one piped song, he was given the mythical Toblerone by the family that gave one out to the best costume each year - and I received full sized packages of M&Ms.

Misha Crews 

Most memorable costume: Okay, so I know this isn't original, but my most memorable costume was dressing like a cat in fifth grade.

Age: 11

Why: Because of the parts that are most important in a cat costume: the ears and the tail. My mother had a fake fur hat which happened to be black, and she generously sacrificed it to make me a beautiful pair of ears and a long tail. The fact that they looked and felt real made me feel extra-catlike. And now that I think about it, the fact that my mother went the extra mile to add that perfect touch is what really made that costume memorable. Thanks, Mom!

Nichole Christoff 

Most Memorable Costume: Nancy Drew, Girl Sleuth

Age: 7

Why: After finding a vintage Nancy Drew novel in a box of books in my attic, I was hooked. And when I went back to school in the fall, I was ecstatic to discover my new teacher had the entire, yellow-covered series. I gobbled them up. Reading about a smart girl with a can-do attitude who starred in hardcover chapter books made me feel so grown up! It was my mom who then suggested I be Nancy Drew for Halloween. I wore my blue polyester pantsuit, my white blouse with a big loopy bow, and carried a notebook and a magnifying glass. I felt like a grown-up--and that it just might be cool to be a smart girl with a can-do attitude.

And what about you...?

What's your most memorable costume? Please share below. And Happy Halloween, from the
Rockville 8! 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Moving Forward

Photo: Emily Reed
Lately, the Rockville 8 has been blogging about our life journeys. I’ve haven’t done a post relating to this theme mainly because I wasn’t sure what mine was. But, now I think I know. My journey is to move forward. To reinvent myself, or maybe just go with the flow of progress and growth that’s been interrupted while I addressed my health crises and had the five surgeries required to get back to…well, me. Now that I’m past the medical issues, I feel like a tidal wave has engulfed me. It’s as if I built a flimsy dam to hold life back until I could get back on my feet, and now it’s opened—rushing at me, carrying me downstream at a faster rate than I can sometimes manage.

My current reinvention is taking a certification program for my job. It is intense—eight hours a day, five days a week, complete with tests and homework. The tests are hard. In the last class, half of the people failed the first exam. No one wants to go back to work and tell management they can’t pass the expensive class that the boss funded. Their stress only ramped up my stress.

However, despite the difficulties, I’m discovering that I can do this. I’m working hard, a lot harder than working forty hours a week at my job. This requires evenings studying as well. I’ve had to miss social events that I would normally attend which makes me feel sad and isolated. But, it has forced me outside of myself, if that makes sense. It’s made me reach for something that I wasn’t physically strong enough to reach for a couple of years ago. It’s reminded me that I’m young and need to get back in the game.

Change is difficult. Even good changes are stressful. I’m trying to look at this in the most positive light. Sometimes, when it’s late and I’m tired of studying, it’s not easy to stay positive. But I’m working on it. I’ve been through fourteen weeks of training since the middle of June and I am about to start two more weeks on Monday. I’m plowing through it. I’m surviving. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Top 20 Ways to Make Your Romance Hero a Sexy Alpha Guy

Oftentimes, when I'm between projects and life is crazy-busy, I take a hiatus from writing. I knew my life would be crazy this past month with increased time and responsibilities required at the day job plus the added stress of getting my teenage sons to practices/games/social events/writing those college essays. So I did what any respectable romance reader-writer-mom would do, I fell into a heap of romance novels to get me through it.

For the writers among us, we know reading is essential to our craft. We need to know what’s out there, what other writers who are currently defining our genre are writing, and what readers are reading. We need to look at best-selling authors’ work to try to dissect it to understand why readers are reading it and what they’re looking for in a good story.

Two books I read made me pause to reassess my heroes. The first was an older Jill Shalvis book that was re-released last year, Her Sexiest Mistake, and the second was Katy Evans’ Real. These two books hit me right in the gut. So I had to look at them closely and figure out why the hero in each of these books took my breath away and why I fell so hard for them as I read the books . . . because I want to do the same thing to my readers. I want to give them a sexy Alpha hero who takes their breath away and makes them fall in love all over again.

So here’s what I discovered about writing a sexy Alpha hero who doesn’t come across as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, but someone who is worthy of the fiesty heroine in my stories.

1.    She perceives him as a sexy bad boy, even if he’s not totally a bad boy in reality. He might have the trappings (look like a tough bad boy, but he’s got a soft, good heart).
2.    His actions are unapologetic and he’s got a take-charge attitude all the times.
3.    He uses his power and strength for good. Always.
4.    He’s comfortable in his own skin.
5.    He’s unapologetic about what he wants--and what he mainly wants is her. He goes after what he wants, even if he’s misguided at times. He’s not wishy-washy.
6.    He’s competent at what he does, whether he’s a high school chemistry teacher or a underground boxer.
7.    Even though he’s tough, he’s got a softer side where we see his protectiveness and compassion for his family members, kids who populate his life, pets, the people he’s claimed as family.
8.    He pokes gently at her flaws and doesn’t let her remain stuck or run away from them.
9.    He serves her and takes care of her at times (makes her a meal, fixes something for her, takes care of a task that is more difficult for her).
10. He sees her--really sees her--deep down. As Michael Hague says, he sees her essence, not just the fa├žade she puts on for the world to see.
11. He’s not afraid to show both his affection or his attraction, no matter how edgy and passion-filled it can be at times. He’s hungry for her, yet he genuinely likes her as a person, too. Her strength, her personality, her quirks. He’s attracted to everything about her, not just her body.
12. Sometimes, he’s a pissed off Alpha male, but he’s always in control of his anger.
13. He’s on to her tricks when she’s trying to pull one over on him.
14. He’s a Saint & a Sinner.
15. When she pokes at him, he doesn’t back down. He stands his ground calmly.
16. He grows and learns about himself just as much from the heroine as from the lessons life throws at him. He’s different with her and for her. He wants to be a better man because of her.
17. He’s a Protector & Provider.
18. She feels totally safe with him, for good reason. He’s proven to her he won’t let anyone hurt her.
19. He’s intense.
20. He desires her above all else--he’s cut her from the pack; and whether he knows it yet or not, she’s the only one for him. Period.

So, there you have it ... my Alpha male theory, based on two books that I recently adored. How about you? What have you noticed you love about the heroes in the romance novels you've been reading? Those Alpha guys who took you by surprise, body-slammed you, and took your breath away? I’d love to hear your list!