Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years Later

The Rockville 8 honors all of the fallen heroes from that terrible day and the loved ones they left behind. We will never forget. 

Peace to all.

Photo by David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Welcome Author Lori Ann Bailey!

This week, the Rockville 8 welcomes guest author Lori Ann Bailey who has graciously agreed to join us here. We're thrilled to hear about her new release, Highland Deception.

The End... or Is It?

Lately, I’ve seen lots of authors posting pictures or notices when they finish their work in progress announcing that they wrote the two words… The End. Much applause and celebrating ensues, and rightfully so, but until I started seeing these posts, it never occurred to me to write “The End” or “Happily Ever After” at the close of a book I had just written.

Which got me thinking, why have I never done this and why is there some part of me that feels I can’t, that it’s just inherently wrong for me and would somehow cause a rift in the universe if I did so? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great for others to be proud of finishing a manuscript and celebrating, but for some reason now, those two little words make me cringe.

Maybe it stems from the idea that as a reader, I don’t always enjoy reaching the conclusion of a book that I’m so heavily invested in the characters that I want to keep reading. Those words make everything so final. Even now as a writer, when I craft my stories, I’m already thinking ahead to how my secondary character’s stories are going to play out and how my current hero and heroine are going to be part of their lives.

To me the end of a novel is just the start of the character’s story. It’s a way to get to the beginning. The struggles my characters have to face are just the catalyst that brings their lives together. My husband and I have been married for eighteen years and while I can recount how we met, how we fell in love and every detail of our wedding, it’s everything that has happened since then that is “our story.” We’ve had children, lived in several places, had disagreements, and wonderful memories of doing special things together.

To me, my characters are real and they deserve life after my manuscript whether I write it or not, they have the possibility for a future. In my debut, Highland Deception, Lachlan and Maggie find love, but they still have friends and family looking for that special someone. They will be part of these other character’s stories.

So I’ve never considered writing those fateful words at the end of a novel but now, after some deliberation, I have considered writing,

The Beginning.                                                         

Highland Deception

Scotland, 1642. Maggie and Lachlan must fight their growing attraction, battling suspicion and intrigue as religious and political turmoil threaten to tear their clans apart.

He has sworn he will never marry.

Lachlan Cameron is honor bound to see a wounded lass to safety, although he has well learned women are deceivers, and this lovely maid harbors a wealth of secrets. But Maggie's free spirit and charms enthrall him while he works to discover if she is innocent…or a spy scheming with his enemies to destroy his clan.

She has sworn she will never fall in love.

Maggie Murray fled her home to avoid a political marriage to an abusive man. Salvation comes when the Cameron laird, unaware of her identity, protects her as she escapes. His kindness slowly warms her, and she’s tempted to confess her real name. But his strong sense of honor would force him to return her to her father…and torment at the hands of her scorned betrothed.

Purchase Highland Deception here:

Excerpt from Highland Deception 

Maggie rose, pulled her skirts up, and waded into the water while Lachlan remained close on the beach, but she noticed he stayed watchful of their surroundings. The cool water was refreshing. She sighed then turned to take in the full view of him. “Would ye force a woman to do something she doesnae wish, if it got ye something ye wanted?”
Lachlan’s gaze returned to her. “Not unless it was for the good of the clan.”
An image of Conall flashed in her head, and she shuddered as dread washed over her. It was the answer all men in his position would give.
“But I would listen to her reasons,” he continued. “Sometimes women see things we dinnae.”
She breathed out. Even though her reservations about revealing her identity lingered, it was nice to know he was willing to listen. Would her reasons be sufficient to appeal to him as a man? She thought he might listen, because he didnae seem the type to force his sister into an abusive marriage. He’d let her go out on her own.
As squealing children ran by, cold droplets speckled Maggie’s legs, and she made a small shriek as the liquid sent chills through her. One of the boys heard her and turned then splashed her again. Suppressing a giggle, she reached down to cup a handful of water and toss it back. She dropped her skirt, and it fell into the water.
The lad laughed, and they continued back and forth. A stream of water hit her headpiece. She scooped up and aimed, but he ran just out of reach and took off to join the friends who were calling to him. Pulling the wet headpiece off, she ran her fingers through her hair, and when she looked back at Lachlan, he had a boyish sideways grin on his face. Well, it wasn’t that innocent. He suddenly looked as if he wanted to devour her.
Her chest tightened, and her core clenched. Something about the way he looked at her made her want to taste him, too, and she didn’t even know what that meant.
“Come here, lass.” His deep voice washed over her and sent waves of excitement coursing through her.
Swallowing, she sauntered toward him. His arms snaked around her waist and pulled her flush to his chest as his lips crashed down on hers, causing tingles to erupt on her skin and need to ignite in her core. The kiss was warm and slow, strong and possessive. She melted into it.
When his tongue delved into her mouth, she returned the caress and rose up on her toes to get closer and her arms gripped onto his hips. Being in his arms held a strange appeal she wanted to spend more time exploring, learning why her body turned into a wobbly mess when any part of her brushed up against him.
Water spattered her cheek, and the kiss broke. The boy and his friends laughed, and she looked at Lachlan.
He had not been spared, either. Drops of liquid streamed down the side of his face. He looked dazed. She would have expected him to be annoyed with the boys, but he continued to study her as if she were the only person in Scotland. Fighting back the blush this time, she licked her lips. She wouldn’t be ashamed of wanting him.
“Ye know I want ye, lass.”
“Aye.” She wanted him, too.
His hand rose and caressed her cheek. It trailed down until one finger was left tracing her lips. She gasped. She started to quiver with anticipation, then he backed away. “Tonight,” he said.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bucket Lists

Here at the Rockville 8 we had a recent conversation about bucket lists. Here are some of the items we came up with. What's on yours?

                                  Misha Crews

1) Hike the Appalachian Trail: I'm putting this one at the top because it's by far the least likely thing I'll accomplish. Although I love Nature, I mostly appreciate her from a bug-free, climate-controlled environment. But I've been fascinated by the A.T. ever since I was a child, and despite the unlikelihood, I still have the hiking of it on my bucket list. I take comfort from the fact that Emma Gatewood first hiked the Trail when she was 67, and Lee Barry completed a through-hike at the age of 81. So I have a few years to build up my strength (and my nerve) and make a go of it.

2) Spend a year doing volunteer work: I'm privileged to know some amazing people who give most/all of their time to humanitarian efforts. Although I've occasionally been invited to participate (all great projects need warm bodies to fill the ranks), I've never been able to do more than help in a very peripheral way. I'd love to be able to take a solid year, or more, and do whatever needs doing: disaster relief, literacy programs, homeless shelters, whatever. To paraphrase George Harrison, it would sure do me good to do some good.

3) Write all the stories in my head: Okay, maybe this is the least likely thing I'll accomplish. Like most writers, I have hundreds, if not thousands, of stories rattling around in my imagination. I would dearly love to write all of them. Even half of them would be pretty darn okay with me.

Keely Thrall

1) Like Misha Crews, I have hiking on my mind. When I was in grad school I had to do a little research on el Camino de Santiago for an internship project. I fell in love with the idea of wending my way through northern Spain. I lived on the Costa del Sol for a year when I was a kid, but never explored the rest of the country. The idea of walking in the steps of countless travelers before me fills me with curiosity and a sense of the connections between past-present-future.

2) Go back to school to earn a Ph.D. In what? Who knows. I think the subject matter is less important to me than the journey and the accomplishment of tackling a rigorous challenge. I’m not an academic by nature (I like to make s*** up and that clashes with things like insuring you get your facts straight), but I love academia and the environment of learning.

3) Channel Bob Hope. I’m serious! That man had a massage every day. He even traveled with a masseuse. What is not to love about that? The man lived to be 100. You can’t tell me a daily massage had nothing to do with it! (Also, is it just me or did Bob Hope steal his nose from Lorenzo de Medici.   

                                 Lisa McQuay

1) Visit all 50 states. I don’t want to just visit but spend quality time finding out what makes that state unique. I would like to take a camper with my husband and spend a few months seeing this country. Visit the Grand Canyon, see the Northern Lights, and go where the road takes us.

2) Go back to school to get a degree in something just for the love of learning. It would be something like English, Journalism, History, or a foreign language. Possibly doing this with an eye to teaching that thing that I love learning.

3) Start a non-profit program to help people, especially those suffering from illness. There are so many people who are having difficulty. Even small gestures mean a lot to those who are not well. There are so many opportunities to do good things.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eye Candy

The hot weather made us think of other things that are hot, both past and present. Enjoy!

Hugh Jackman

Gregory Peck

Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor

Ryan Reynolds

Gary Cooper

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Needs a Laugh!

Who doesn't need a laugh on a Monday? Here are a few favorite chuckles from some of us at the Rockville 8. We hope they make you smile!

Nichole Christoff

What do you call an alligator who is also a detective? An investigator!

Misha Crews

Why is the farmer a pillar of his community? Because he's always outstanding in his field.

Lisa McQuay

What do you get if you cross an elephant and a rhinoceros? Elephino

Why couldn't the flower ride his bike? His petals fell off.

What do you call a computer that sings? A Dell

Keely Thrall

Let's makes like a shepherd and get the flock outta here.

What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idear.
What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? Still no idear.

What do you call a hot sheep? A wooly sweater.

Your turn!

Do you have a joke to share?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Making Waves and Memories

Since I just returned from vacation, I thought I'd tell a story in pictures. I didn't do any writing, but as Stephen Covey suggested, I sharpened the saw. In other words, I rejuvenated myself and just allowed my mind to let go of everything that's been stressing me.

Storm rolling in. (copyright)

Aftermath of the storm. (copyright)

Waiting for the play, "Lost Colony," to start on Roanoke Island.
The play was really well done. The fight scene at the end even included
a woman on fire. My daughter said that after the actress ran into the wings,
she saw the stage hands throw her down and extinguish her.  Later that
night, my daughter pointed out a shooting star over the set, which went all
the way across the sky from left to right. (copyright)

The pier. I loved the colors.

Fishing boat. The stark white boat looks
so fresh and crisp against the sky. (copyright)

A sand crab trapped at the bottom of the stairwell. We tried to catch him to take him back to the beach but he ended up jumping in the pool. My daughter worked for 10 minutes in 9 feet of water to dip him out of there with the pool net usually used to skim things from the pool. I taught her to crab at a young age and she did me proud. However, when she tried to go up the stairs with him in the net, he leaped back out and was back to square one. We had to leave him because he was too agitated at that point.
This was one angry little crab. (copyright)

After being inside for ten minutes, my daughter said,
"I"m worried about the sand crab. Can I go check on him?"
She went back to rescue him. Even prouder of her concern. (copyright)

My husband and daughter in the foreground, leaving the Wright Brothers Memorial,
the site of the brother's first flight. (copyright)

A serene sunset. (copyright)

All three of us were sunburned on various parts
of our bodies. I'm in the foreground on the raft, my daughter in
the ring. My husband said I looked like a sarcophagus. (copyright)

We went to a nearby national park because we heard that
you could drive through the park and see bears. We saw this
guy on our second trip, standing by the side of the road. He
was right outside my car window, which was as close as anyone
should be to a bear. (copyright)
Sunset at the national park. (copyright)

A wedding at the nearby pier, on the top floor. I thought it looked
magical with all of the lights. My husband is in the doorway downstairs.
Two pictures of the pool and the steps to the beach on our last night. I loved looking
at the pool at night. (copyright)

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.