Category Archives: Project Graduation

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

So, Dancing with The Keene Stars 2017 has come and gone and this year was one that will go down in my memory banks and diary as one to remember for the rest of my life. For so many reasons.

Project Graduation is an event held in our town’s high school the night after the kids graduate. And yes, I did just call them kids. They are. All under legal age, mostly 17 and 18. And what do 17 and 18 year old kids like to do to celebrate, test boundaries, and prove their cool factor is off the charts? Some drink and/or engage in illegal drug use. Project Graduation provides every single graduate a safe haven for the entire night after graduation, and engages them–not in illicit, illegal behavior — but good, fun, funny, and memory making behaviors with their fellow graduates. It is a smoke-free alcohol-free, drug-free night where the kids (!) are locked into the high school and not allowed to leave without a parent picking them up and escorting them out. Keeping them off the streets and at parties where they could get into potential trouble is one sure fire way of keeping every graduate alive to get to the next stage of their live. In the 100 days between high school graduation and college start-up more kids this age die in alcohol and drug related ways than at any other time. That pre-frontal cortex of theirs hasn’t fully developed yet, so they still make stupid decisions thinking they are sound ones. Project Graduations helps keep this number down with a goal toward eliminating it from the statistical curve.

Now. PSA complete. Back to DWTS.

I saw my first DWTS show four years ago when it was brought to my town as a fundraiser for Project Grad, and I wanted to participate within the first 10 minutes of the show. I actively – and I mean ACTIVELY pursued a spot on the next year’s roster and was -Yippie- given one! I was a STAR! I thought I knew how to dance before being picked. Yeah…not so much. The 8 weeks of preparation were grueling and oftentimes frustrating. I’d just undergone surgical removal of a melanoma from my stomach and was in constant pain, worried about my deep incision line, and frustrated because I wasn’t doing well in practice. When all was said and done, I loved the experience.

The next year I was a judge.

This year I was partnered with a STAR and the Gods above gave me the perfect one. I call him my brother from another mother, although in truth I could have agewise been his mother! We were in sync from the first 5 minutes of meeting. Every rehearsal was a shear joy – physically testing – but shear joy.And when all was said and done, we came in first place both nights!

The backstage moments of the competition, though, are the memories I’ll cherish the most. All 20 dancers formed a solid wall of friendship and camaraderie, knowing we were doing something good for the community and for our kids. I met community leaders I’d never met before and found some true, lifelong friends among them.

Volunteerism is a facet of this country that more people aspire to than actually engage in. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of not knowing where to go to offer your time, your money, or your expertise. I’ve always thought that to have a strong community, you need to be engaged in that community, so ever since my daughter started school I volunteered for room mother, snack mom, to be a chaperone on trips, etc. She’s been out of the house for 10 years and I still feel a responsibility to my community to give back. Participating in annual 5ks for local charities; attending auctions to raise money for school upgrades. Heck, even saving the box tops on tops of cereal boxes all contribute to making my community a better, safer, healthier place to live and grow. Hence, Dancing with the Stars.

So. I said this last year when I wrote my after-dancing blog experience and I’ll say it again this year: VOLUNTEER. There are so many opportunities within your community to make a difference. And believe me, you may not think you’re making a big one, but you are. For me, keeping that one kid who had the idea to go to a graduation party, drink, and then get behind the wheel of a car to head on home off the road makes a huge difference. Just think of all the people effected if he crashes and dies: his parents and loved ones, friends, anyone else involved in the crash and their loved ones and friends, the response teams, medical personnel and grief counselors pulled in to care for the survivors, and the kid himself who has just now lost his future. All because he wanted to go to a party and celebrate his high school graduation and didn’t make wise choices about drinking.

If I am asked to perform or judge next years’ DANCING WITH THE STARS fundraiser for our town high school, you can put money on the fact I will say “Hell, yeah!” Whether I dance, judge, or just sell tickets, it will be one of the highlights of my year.

When I’m not dancing you can find me here:

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, female friends, Friends, Life challenges, Project Graduation, Strong Women, Uncategorized

#Dancetime is upon me

 

Tonight is my last dress rehearsal before tomorrow’s first night of competition for Project Graduations’ DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS.

The last time I danced in this competition I was the STAR and this is what I looked like:

This time around I am the partner. Just as much responsibility – remember what Ginger Rogers always said? She had to do EVERYTHING Fred Astaire did;  backward and in heels – but not nearly the amount of nerves or anxiety. In fact, this kind of sums up how I’m feeling:

So, if you’re in the area on Friday or Saturday night and are looking for an evening of fun, entertainment, and want to support a worthy cause, hop on down tot he high school, pay your 20 bucks and have a great time.

You won’t be disappointed!

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, New Hampshire, Project Graduation, Strong Women

Why #writers need to #recharge.

I’ve been going at 120 miles per hour the past 3 months – ever since the New Year. I’ve got two books in final edits and galleys, I’ve got three more I’m working on for release at the end of this year and hopefully the beginning of 2018. I’ve committed to blogging more and am going to the gym 5-6 times per week. I’m doing a presentation at a conference next week, in addition to traveling 4 major times this year  ( airplanes, people!) to other conferences. I’ve got a brand new book out  TODAY and am doing promo for it as well.

This is all in addition to my normal life stuff. You know: cooking, cleaning wife-ing

Oh, and I’ve got Dancing With The Stars in 15 friggin’ days, so practice, practice, practice!

It’s only the beginning of April, but I feel like I’m burnt out already. Or I did, that is, until this past Saturday. Saturday night I did something I haven’t done in a long, looooooooooong time: I went out with friends.

Thank God and all that’s Holy for friends.

These friends don’t write.

These friends are all my age ( give or take a few months).

These friends all have children the same age as I do.

I have a history with these friends that doesn’t include plot lines, story arcs, or Capezio dance shoes!

And these friends keep me grounded while at the same time recharging my soul.

It was so wonderful to spend a few hours just talking about nothing and everything. I didn’t think once about how terrified I am of giving my presentation to a (hopefully, fingers crossed) large audience next weekend. I didn’t for one second agonize over a line of dialogue that I just couldn’t get right. I didn’t think about my feet, sore, and huddled in Merrel’s because they were so swollen from dance practice.

I didn’t do anything other than simply be, have fun, and laugh.

My hermetic existence is a given. I accept that I need to spend long stretches of time alone just so I can get my stories on the page.  I know I let world changing events float by me without so much as even a comment or a consideration just so I can finish a chapter. I get that sometimes I’m grouchy and pale and my eyes look like they’re bleeding because I spend countless hours staring at a computer screen. I accept all this and I go with it.

But it felt so blessed GOOD to not think about anything other than the conversation drifting around me.

God gave the world so many wonderful things. Free-will; faith; chocolate; wine. But the best thing he gave us was each other. People. Friends.

If you haven’t talked to or seen a friend in a while, call them TODAY! Not email, not a text, Actually put your mouth to the phone and speak to them. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

When I’m not wallowing you can find me here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

And as an added reminder, TODAY is the day COOKING WITH KANDY is released. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet ( and that begs the question “why not?”) here are the links:

Amazon //B&N // Kensington // Kobo // Apple // Google 

 

 

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Filed under Author, Author Branding, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, female friends, Friends, Kensington Publishers, Life challenges, love, Lyrical Author, New Hampshire, Project Graduation, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women

On #Dancing, #DancingWithTheStars and feelings of inadequacy

 

 

I’m pretty confident I mentioned in a previous blog that I’m participating in the 2017 Project Graduation event DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS again. This is my third year. Year one, I was the STAR. Last year I was a judge. This year, I am the partner to a Star.

Three years; three different roles.

Year one was fraught with anxiety, anger, and a little angst. Anxiety because I thought I knew how to dance but when I was shown how to really do it, I didn’t. Not even close. Anger because my partner was, well, let’s just say we weren’t perfectly matched, and leave it at that. And angst, because I  truly was mentally tortured about falling down on stage or being a laughingstock.

I survived. No falls.

Year two I was a judge. This key role filled me with nervous tension so tight I thought I was gonna snap in two at a moment’s notice. Since I remembered how terrified I was standing center stage and being critiqued, I was determined to give nothing but positive and kind feedback.  I didn’t say anything negative.  I hurt no feelings and offered no critical analysis. Everyone did fabulously, to hear me tell it.

I survived. No hurt feelings. No snapping.

This year, year three, I am a partner and I was initially filled with dread. I have to make the Star look good. I am, after all, the professional ( for lack of a better word) and I’m expected to know the dance, the moves, and to radiate calmness for my Star.

If you know me you know I NEVER radiate calmness. But I have nothing to worry about. My STAR is, well, a STAR!! He is patient, committed to winning, and loves to rehearse. He came into the dance studio filled with ideas and they’re good ones!! He will win this competition. I am merely his prop, and very happy to be one!

I will survive without feeling dread, for sure!

Keene Dancing with the Stars is scheduled for April 21 and 22 and you can order tickets here: tickets

Hope to see you all there. It’s guaranteed to be a great night of dancing, fun, and a few laughs.

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, Life challenges, New Hampshire, Project Graduation, Strong Women

My other life..and yes, I do have one!

 

dwts

I get asked this question A LOT when I tell people I’m a writer. It’s a little snarky, a little condescending, and a whole lot of rude ( to me), but I don’t think the people who ask it are intentionally trying to be rude…at least I hope they aren’t.

The question? “Well, what else do you do?” The implication being I can’t just write.

Well, yeah, ya can. But I get what they mean.

Let me ‘esplain, Lucy.

lucy

For most people who don’t write – and that would be a very large majority of the free world – they view sitting down and writing something as boring, a time waste ( or a time suck, depending on who you ask), or something you do when you’ve got a few extra minutes. I’m not judging those people. They simply don’t know the hours upon hours of work involved in getting a blog/book/article written. Again, no judging.

But I always like to answer that question truthfully. Yes, I do DO other things. I’m married, so I do all the things that go along with that ( get your mind out of the gutter!) I have friends, I do charitable work, I exercise, although from the size of my a**, not enough!
One thing I’ve been doing the past few years is volunteering for my local High School’s Project Graduation Fundraiser, DANCING WITH THE STARS. Yes, it sounds exactly like the tv show. Yes, we have Stars who comprise people in our community, and Partners, who are either previous stars or who have a little dancing experience. It’s a two night event and the largest fundraiser for Project grad.

And yes, I am participating again this year, my third year in a row. This time I am the PARTNER. (Try not to be too impressed!)

I’ll be blogging about this event until it occurs on April 21 and 22 and filling you in on all the little details, backstage gossip, and other sundries, along the way.

There might even be a romance book somewhere in the future about it……

When I’m not dancing – or needing my inhaler! – you can find me here:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

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Filed under Author, Characters, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, Kensington Publishers, love, Lyrical Author, Netgalley Reviewer, Project Graduation, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

#2017…one month in

goals2

Goals are wonderful things. They give you intention, allow you to focus on an outcome, prepare you for the future. Goal setting is something, I feel, most people do between 12/31 and 1/1.  I know I do, and most of the people surrounding me do, as well.

Which brings me to my goals for 2017. We are only one month into the year but I’ve already had to shift and re-evaluate some of those goals. And again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

So, my goals were split into two categories: profession and personal.

goals

We’ll evaluate the professional ones first because there hasn’t been too much deviation there. Yet. For 2017 I set out to: write 3 books, post to my blog 3-4 times per week – every week – and increase my social media presence with new formats. Since no one can write 3 full-length ( greater than 75000 words) books in 31 days ( go ahead, I double dog dare you to!) I have to evaluate the other two. In the month of January, I posted 24 new blog pieces. That’s an average of 4-5 postings every week. Woot! More than I planned for, so YAY me so far. Second. Social Media. I joined TRIBERR and not only devised my own TRIBE, Strong Women. Loving Men, but followed several others, all linked to my Twitter account. I started January with 1,1oo followers ( I don’t even know 1100 people personally!) and by January 31 I had 1,347 followers. Yowza. Goal 2 already skyrocketing! On the professional side, I’m moving along at break-neck speed.

Okay, so now the personal. And I will tell you right away, break-neck speed does not describe how this is moving.

I always want/need/dream to lose weight. This year, I added going to the gym 5-6 times per week in order to help with that desire. Days January 1- 26, I went to the gym 19 times, which for me is monumental! Day 27 I pulled my back out and day 28 I got the flu. So. I didn’t exactly finish the month on an up-sweep. I did manage to go 19 of 31 times, so even though that’s not the 5-6 times per week ( which would have ended the month between 25 and 29 times) I didn’t do too too too terribly. But I also didn’t lose any weight, so yeah. There’s that.

goals3

So this puts us to February’s goals. The professional ones continue on. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The personal ones have gotten a little kick, though, because I just found out I will be dancing in the Keene Dancing With The Stars fundraiser again this year and I’m doing a wicked fast and lively dance.

dwtsWeight loss is almost guaranteed ( yippie) but I also have to be in shape to manage not to have a heart attack while I’m hot footing it. So that means even if I’m tired, sick, infirm, or aching, I go to the gym 6 times per week. Bar none. No excuses. None. Niente.

I’ll check in at the end of the month and let you know if I’m alive…I mean…how I’m doing.

When I’m not setting/achieving/failing goals, you can usually find me here :Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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Filed under Author, Author Branding, branding, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, Life challenges, love, Lyrical Author, Project Graduation, Romance, Strong Women

The year of YES

I did a post at the beginning of this year, telling you all that I’d made 2016 the year of saying yes for me to things I don’t usually  say yes to ( or even want to!) Thought I’d give you an update on how that’s going.

yes

I said yes to attending a woman’s expo earlier in the year as a vendor when an old friend asked me to. I was allowed to have my own “booth”, set up to sell copies of my books. This wasn’t a book conference, or a literary meeting, but an expo for women of all ages, all walks of like, and was filled with all things pertinent to, well, women.  Life style coaches, diet, exercise gurus, local and national vendors alike all converged on my local college for the day. I figured if I sold one book I’d be happy. Didn’t sell one book…sold 50. Mostly to people I didn’t know ( so that’s a plus!) Very glad I said yes to my friend when she asked me to participate. Another reason I was happy I’d said yes was when the guy at the booth next to mine told he was the sponsor of a woman’s retreat weekend, coming up this September and he would be thrilled if I participated and  maybe…wait for it…be a speaker. As a speaker, I’d also be able to sell my books during the weekend’s own trade/vendor show. Since this is the year of yes I said…Yes! I’ll let you know how it goes after it’s over next month.

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Even though I retired from my job last year so I could write full time, I said yes to going back for a few months to help my old office out with a problem. Because I knew there was an end-date on that “yes” I was happy to help out and actually had a good time interacting with my old patients and my crew. I really don’t think I need to tell you how happy my husband was when I said yes to this, since I would be getting paid for my time!

yes1

I was asked to be a judge in our annual Keene Dancing with Stars and said yes – and was sosososo happy I did. I had oodles of fun and made some new friends.

I attended RWA in July ( you know that!) and this year when the call went out for volunteers to work the conference I said…yes. So glad I did because I got to chat up some of my all time favorite authors, like Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins, in a casual, fun-filled, no stress-sweat situation.

Remember my friend who asked me to participate in the woman’s expo? She also asked me to participate in this year’s Taste of Home Cooking show that will be happening this October at our high school, and again, I  said yes, because I get to sell my books to the 600-800 participants this event usually sees attend. More on that after October, but another good reason to say yes to something I’d rather avoid – crowds!!!

 

Here’s where you can find me when I’m not saying yes!:

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Dancing with the Stars, female friends, Friends, Life challenges, love, New Hampshire, Project Graduation, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

Almost Showtime…

I bet you were thinking this was going to be another blog entry about Keene DANCING WITH THE STARS. Wrong!  The showtime I’m referring to in the title is my own showtime – or more specific – my new writing schedule.

Today is my last day of work AGAIN!!! and from 5 pm tonight onward I get to live my dream AGAIN!!! of being a full-time writer. You all know I retired last year, and within 4 months got asked to “fill in”  because the girl that took over my job…well, let’s just say she didn’t work out. Because I had designated 2016 as the year of “yes” (Thank you, Shonda Rimes and insert the sarcastic tone right here) I felt I couldn’t say  no to my old employer because, 1. it was the year of saying yes and not the knee-jerk no’s I always gave; 2. I didn’t want my former patients to suffer, 3. this is, after all my husband’s business and it didn’t feel right to say no, and 4. it was only supposed to be for a few weeks until they found a replacement.

Fast forward 4 MONTHS – yeah! 4 -freakin’-months – and I finally said “no more.” It was a little more forceful than that, and may have been peppered with an expletive or two…or ten… but today I am done. Finito. Basta. No more.

So, starting bright and early tomorrow morning ( and by that, I mean the middle of the night because I still suffer from that damn chronic insomnia) I get to spend the days, all the glorious days, writing once again. And thank you, Jesus, it’ just in time because I’ve got three deadlines for this year all lined up with actual DATES!! Heaven help me.

If you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry. I’m fine. Just chained – intentionally – to my desk, my fingers splayed across the laptop keys, my brow grooved into two lines resembling caterpillars on my forehead, deep, deep, in writing mode.

The zone is calling and 5 pm can not get here soon enough…

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, Life challenges, Project Graduation, Romance, Strong Women, The Wild Rose Press, WIld Rose Press AUthor

New Stars Crowned

And so, like so many before them, another week has closed in my life.  But this wasn’t an ordinary write-until-I-drop week. This week I took a pseudo-break from writing and reveled in my participation in my town’s Project Graduation fundraiser DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS…

projectgrad

and I’ve never been filled with so many lingering, joyous, and charged emotions.

I’ll start with the lingering ones. I am, despite what I show to the world, not the most people-loving person. I tend to judge  people for how they behave and the things they say( still working on that, daily!), I find myself more times than not nervous and anxiety plagued about saying the wrong thing, and I just would rather be writing than socializing. I could so very easily – if given the chance – be a hermit.

But…..

This cast of DWTS was such a diverse, open, and fun-loving group of people I found myself sucked into their revelry and good spirits every single time I was with them, and all my unleashed misanthropic tendencies went the way of the dinosaur, leaving me with a such a sense of camaraderie and fellowship that I truly WANTED to spend more time with them. Their sense of selflessness and goodwill was overpowering and made me feel hopeful that our little community will continue to thrive and move forward on that good old fashioned Yankee ethic of neighbor helping neighbor. Selfless devotion to a worthwhile cause filled this group of people with purpose and made me a better human just being around them.

At last year’s event, I was a dancer. This year I got to sit back and be a judge. Which role did I prefer? If you had asked me a week ago I would have said judge, every time. But after watching the faces of the dancers, hearing the roaring approval of the audience, and witnessing the ego-growth of each and every participant, I can truthfully say it’s a toss-up. Being a judge was heaps of fun, not to mention much less physical and arduous work, both of which we all know I loathe. ( Sloth, thy name is Margaret-Mary.) After witnessing the joy on the faces of each dancer as they finished a magnificent routine and understanding their sense of individual accomplishment, I realized I wanted to feel that, too. I am so very proud of every dancer, Star and Partner alike, and hope they are as equally proud of themselves.

As I write this, day is dawning through my window and I know the DWTS cast and crew were out last night after the event, partying, dancing, and expelling huge sighs of relief that it was all over. When they wake this morning, a little tired, a little sore, they will relive each dance step, wonder how they could have made it just a little better, and nit-pick every move  that wasn’t dance-perfect. This is normal for a morning after. I hope, though, as the day wears on, and the facebook and text congratulations pour in,  they will also start to comprehend what a monumental feat they all accomplished. No, they didn’t cure cancer; didn’t drive out poverty; didn’t feed the world. What they did do was devote countless hours of their time, energy, and thoughts to benefiting the graduating high school seniors of our community in order to make their official send-off into the next phase of their lives a fun, safe, and memory-precious night of celebration through an alcohol-free party chockful of activities.

So today, I am emotionally charged with positive feelings of pride, joy, friendship, and love for my community and its members.

And I know these feelings are lasting ones…..

Dancing with The Keene Stars 2017 is already under production, and I pray I am asked to participate again. There is no way I will say no!!!

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Filed under Author, Dancing with the Stars, Life challenges, Project Graduation

The challenge to push…

This week I’m participating in Keene Dancing with the Stars again, just as I did last year.

projectgrad

Many of you know this already, but what you may not know is why I chose to participate again this year.

Last year  I was a STAR,which meant I was the featured community name, the person friends, family, and neighbors came to see compete and for whom they voted.

I didn’t win, but there was no expectation I would and I didn’t agree to dance for that reason anyway. I agreed for 2 reasons: 1. DWTS – Keene version, is a fundraiser for Project Graduation for KHS, which is an all-night, alcohol-free party sponsored by the community for the graduating seniors of the high school. The party keeps them contained, safe, and free from alcohol and drug use for the night, and, 2.  I was at a point in my life where I realized I was stagnating, not trying anything new, and not growing. And I needed to.

So, this year, when  I was asked to be a judge (and  not a dancer, thank you, Jesus!) I immediately said “yes” for the same reasons and one more: I needed to continue on that path of challenging myself to learn and experience new things, and to try and gain some insight into myself and what motivates me to do the things I do and write the things I write.

A little esoteric, you ask? Yeah, maybe. But here’s what I mean: as a writer – and a writer of romance, to be exact – I could continue on very nicely and just keep writing my stories of families, love, and happily-ever-afters. No worries there, because I will, BUT I need to challenge myself to discover new avenues of ideas to write about, and to do that, I need to meet new and different people, learn new and exciting things, and have new and diverse experiences, all of which will lead to me being a better writer and ultimately, a better person.

So, if you are sitting around wondering what to do this weekend, please consider attending this worthwhile event. You’ll have some fun, see some friends, and more than anything, know you will have contributed to the health and safety of an amazing group of high school seniors.

Tickets are available here: DWTS

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