The New #Emma

Emma is my least favorite of all Jane Austen's novels. Yes, I like it less than Northanger Abbey. Emma as a character just annoys me. But I will still go see it. I hope artsy movies play here in Phoenix. Now that I'm out of Silicon Valley, I'm a little worried about my arthouse films.



The supporting cast of this movie looks fantastic. Bill Nighy. I mean, who doesn't love him? Josh O'Conner from "The Crown" and "The Durrells in Corfu." I saw the gal who plays Emma on a morning show. Found her kind of annoying, but for me, that fits the character.

Anyway, I'll be there like the slave I am to any costume drama.



#TheDutchHouse by Ann Patchett


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I bought this book because Tom Hanks reads the Audible version and I wanted to hear my beloved "Toy Story" favorite read a book. But I'm not an audible lover. I want to see the words. Slowly devour them and read them again when I love a sentence, so I needed to read it first. Tom had to wait.

It took me forever to read this book. I left my Kindle in my son's truck in San Diego. I don't think any of my kids know what a post office is -- besides a place you send mom when you need something mailed -- so I was without a Kindle for a good, long while. I found my old Kindles -- but one is a Kindle Fire and the other is an old black and white one with missing pixels. I couldn't get the book loaded on the older one so I had to do the Fire. I abhor reading on the Fire. But I was desperate.

Okay, enough of my Kindle drama. The book. Ann Patchett is an amazing writer, much like Anne Tyler. She takes the mundane of everyday occurrences and ensures that you will not be able to put it down. That being said, I can't really explain the plot. Other than to say it's the story of a boy who grows into a man and all that happens with his childhood home.

If you're looking for a suspense-filled page-turner, this isn't the book for you. But if you enjoy entering a different world that is painted so creatively by an expert, "The Dutch House" might be for you.

Currently reading: Maybe You Should Talk To Someone

This is another book that sounds uninteresting, but in the hands of this author, it's a fun-filled, hilarious ride. Primarily because the writer (a therapist herself) is the most neurotic character in the book and she throws it all out there. Brutal honesty and self-reflection is the key to any bestselling biography/autobiography. The other thing that's great about this book is it has short chapters so it's easy reading, but it's also very hard to put down after those short chapters.


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I'd like to talk more about Jane Austen's Sanditon, but Cox Cable's DVR doesn't actually tape, so I haven't been able to watch the last two episodes. Just when Sidney was starting to grow on me.



#TheBachelor Peter & #SanditonPBS

Without my daughter and our weekly cake date, The Bachelor doesn't hold the same thrill for me, but I watch it still because we discuss it and I want to be educated. The same reason I will probably watch "The Mandalorian." My son is a huge "Guardians of the Galaxy" fan and he told me he'd use baby Groot as firewood to keep Baby Yoda warm, so I know there is some serious affection there.


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Back to Peter. I wasn't a fan of Peter's. I was less a fan of Hannah Brown, but I thought the whole fantasy suite thing was gross. Too much kiss and tell. Bringing Hannah back to troll this season's contestants made me like both of them less. It's early in the season so I can't tell one contestant from the next. No one really stands out except the new Hannah -- who annoys me for some unknown reason. I generally watch with a book in my hand so I can't tell you if this season is worth watching. I can't really see Peter being the type to settle down even though he acts like his parents are what he aspires to. If he does propose, I'd predict he backs out before the wedding. Thoughts?

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Onto #Sanditon, which is worth watching. This is an unfinished novel of Jane Austen's brought to life by the amazing BBC and Andrew Davies. There are lots of Austen-like qualities here, but it's much darker. The Darcy character Sydney is not likable. He takes proud to a darker, unlikable level. There's a creepy incenstuous-type of relationship in the background and certainly, more sex scenes than Austen was probably capable of thinking up. For example, the Darcy pond scene that was added to "Pride and Prejudice" has received an "upgrade" and Sydney comes out of the ocean buck naked. We are supposed to believe that our heroine Charlotte is not shocked by this to see her as a strong, contemporary woman. But on the good side...it's a costume drama. It has a lot of great lines and characters that you will recognize from earlier Austen works and it's got Kris Marshall, who always manages to bring a smile. (Sex god Colin in "Love Actually.") So I'm in.


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Hydro Hotties & Other Extrovert Moves

This week when my son was here we checked out the beautiful community center in my neighborhood. It has an incredible gym with lots of classes and clubs to join. Seth suggested I join the "Hydro Hotties" which I assume is a swimming class. To be honest, I haven't checked out all the classes/clubs yet because I'd rather read and/or get my latest book finished. But when starting a new adventure, one actually has to make some extrovert moves.

So far, everyone I've met in my neighborhood is completely sweet and wonderful. My Starbucks is very friendly. My pedicure place is warm and inviting. I am really loving it here, but joining is not my thing. The churches here are also great. I've been with my friend Colleen and her daughter a few times and the one closest to me, twice. This weekend we're going to a local writers' group. So the world is essentially my oyster. But I'm still an introvert to the extreme, so this week -- after the conference and a few more chapters, I am going to take a class or join a club.


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My hikes have become a little scary as there was a mountain lion on the trail where I take my dog. Then, I heard the coyotes howling close the other night and most recently, javelinas were seen. I didn't even know what that WAS. I had to Google it. It's a brand new world out there...


ADD & Self-publishing #Finishthebook

I've been saying I'm going to start self-publishing for...awhile now. The trouble is, without a contract, I don't have the outside push to finish a book. I know how to finish a book. I have finished 40 books and had them all published. But now? Now I must act alone and it requires organization, which is not my strong suit.

Luckily, I have surrounded myself with strong organizers. One of whom took me to task this morning. For now, she shall remain nameless but she asked me, "How many books do you have partially done?"

"Um, a lot."

"Why don't you finish one?"

"Because I don't know which one I want to finish. Which one my readers want to read."

Well, let's be honest, they're not reading any while I work on five half-finished books. So, my friend had me send her all my partially-finished books. I'm embarrassed to say how many I sent her -- but she is going to read them and organize me so that I finish something. Because no one is reading anything if I don't finish a book.

I also bought Martha's new book. Because she is Martha and I know she has no half-finished projects ANYWHERE. So maybe I can learn something late in life. One never knows. I have been organized at one time in life. I wrote forty books and raised four kids, so it's in there somewhere. It's just stifled at the moment.


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If Martha can't bring it back, I know my organized friend can. I mean, I offer new writers this advice all the time, "JUST FINISH THE BOOK!"


What's your quirk?

I believe I have a few. One, I dance in grocery stores -- I mean, if you feel the music, you feel the music, am I right? My son taped me dancing in the grocery store and posted it to Snapchat with the caption, "Italian moms be like..."


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My son sent me this yesterday. This is another one of my quirks. I love to argue for fun. Even when I'm completely wrong and I know it? I will be laughing and grinning, but I keep going. It makes my kids laugh, but they keep baiting me, so I go on. My dad and I are the worst at this. We're both bad. We know we're wrong, but we dig those heels in and try to add new "facts" until someone brings out Google. Then we let them know why Google is wrong on this particular subject we are professing to be experts in. Anyway, that meme makes me laugh because I would totally take the 25 cards and then play the martyr because "Google doesn't know."

Got a quirk?


The Ritual of Writing

I don't know about all authors, but the stars need to align properly for me to get started in the morning. My life has been pretty chaotic over the last few years and that's been my excuse for not writing. Real writers don't make excuses, but I couldn't get the rituals in place. The juju was bad and writing just didn't happen. But now...

No more excuses.

I have a desk. I have an office. I have a book I'm working on right now (two actually.) I have Starbucks in my system. My dog is snoring beneath me. I have my critique partner nagging me for words to edit (thank you Cheryl!) My webmaster/friend updated my website because I was "outdated." Imagine! And so, this is where the rubber meets the road. It is time to produce. I. Must. Adult.

I must live up to this website! www.KristinBillerbeck.com She's so fantastic if you need a website. I gave her no input and she just comes up with this greatness! Love her! And she's from Shakespeare's home so I feel like that adds to the good juju. https://www.elephantandherb.com/


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Honestly though, my desk is disgusting. It needs more than a Mr. Clean sponge. It needs a completely new top and probably some bleach. But I can't think about that now. I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day. And yes, over Christmas, I watched "Gone with the Wind" -- and maybe a few Fred Astaire movies and "Casablanca." They just never get old for me. Setting the timer now, Chapter Two, here I come!


So I'm probably a hoarder. #AmWriting

Before I moved to Arizona, I purged. I kept only what was necessary. I made countless trips to Goodwill to get rid of stuff that I didn't need. I was going to live lightly. Just a shadow of a carbon footprint and all that. I kept family photos, kids' artwork and awards -- you know the drill. Stuff that matters!

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Only I actually didn't. I kept so much crap that I don't want in my new house. I'm opening boxes thinking, what the heck is wrong with me? Do I belong on the "Hoarders" show? Because I have an awful lot of things that don't really matter. Will they find me buried in paperwork and Fiona's excrement? Okay, probably not because I am clean -- I mean, I should own stock in Mr. Clean sponges and Clorox.

The one happy note is if they find me buried in my stuff, it will be in pretty boxes from Burberry and Ulta/Sephora.

We all have coping skills for living a life we don't want. Apparently, mine was hoarding crap I didn't need. Life sucks? You know what you need? A new red lipstick. Get out there! The devil on my shoulder said. Not being able to get to the computer and write had a profound effect on me and it wasn't good. I am here today to tell you, if you're living a life you don't want to live? Change it. Do whatever you can to change it. I am so grateful to have friends who helped me change it because I didn't know how stuck I was. They helped me get unstuck.

This morning, my house is filled with junk I should have left behind or donated. But I'm in Starbucks writing. I have an amazing view of the mountains from my new Starbucks and people are actually friendly here. I feel at home already and I'm writing. I'm no Shakespeare, but words are in my blood. I've had them used against me like a sword, but as Maya Angelou says, "But still, like air, I'll rise."

And I hope this experience will show me how to pay it forward. So the next person can rise. Underneath their Sephora boxes and spurned lipsticks. Or whatever their escape may be. God has a plan for each of us, but sometimes, we get off course.
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This is Colleen Coble and me in Mexico on the Sea of Cortez. This trip changed my life and gave me a new direction/perspective. Colleen invited me on their family vacation and though I felt awkward crashing their reunion, it was exactly what I needed. Sometimes, your friends see the future that you can't imagine for yourself. May you have at least one person in your life like that. And now back to Starbucks and writing.

I started a new Chick Lit set in Little Italy, San Diego. It's time to laugh again. And maybe get rid of some crap while I'm at it.


Deployment Fun...

My son is deployed on a Disney Cruise. Okay, not really. That's what I call deployment -- because Marine moms get to make up crap to cope with their babies in uniforms. For me, the best way is to consider my son is cruising and seeing the world on a great big Disney cruise ship complete with Mickey Mouse and Daisy Duck.

This morning, my son emailed me that his ship received care packages from random kids stateside. And how sweet that schools do this for the Marines/Navy? They are SOOO excited to get snacks and food from home. Anyway, Jonah says, "Look at some of these notes. These kids are savage."

They all had a good laugh sharing some of their encouraging notes.

"Fingers crossed you make it friend"

"My life is great and I love my family I get to be with because your life is
awful"

"I'm jenny from third grade and if you die it's going to be okay"

"Dear hero, thank you for your service, I sent some candy but don't eat too
much or you won't be able to run away fast enough"

"My teacher said I had to write something enjoy the candy"

"Dear deployed person, hope they don't make you stay deployed, good luck!"


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