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Chapstick Emergency & Writing Rituals

This morning I finally sat down to work after a nightmare walk with my little princess dog who thinks using her legs is beneath her. My daughter texts me, the second I type the first line, "Mom, I need chapstick."

"What happened to the two I just bought you?"

"One is in my work apron and the other in my makeup bag."

"Sigh. None in your purse?" Then it dawned on me the ridiculous of the situation. "You do realize this is a scene straight out of "Napoleon Dynamite, right?"

"LOL so true. Audrey gave me some."

Thank you, Audrey.

I don't know if all writers are like this, but my brain needs to sit quietly and imagine before I sit down at the keyboard. I have to know where I'm going and live in the story for a bit while I wait for the characters to talk to me. Every time I get interrupted, that whole process has to start over again. My Irish/Italian temper will come out to play if it happens one too many times.

If you haven't seen this scene, it's very offensive, but I think it best sums up what it feels like to be interrupted when in the writing moment.

Being in a creative field is something you really need to be in the right mood for. In my other job (property management) I'm fine to not "feel" it. I just show up and do the work and go home. There's no deep-seated need to prepare or get all zen before sitting down to the computer. Some days I really wish I was wired for more of that. Where you do a job, you get paid, you go home. And other days, I think I'm a WRITER! That is the best job on earth!


And I really believe it is the best job. But here's my standard writing prep.

1. The dog has to be walked.
2. I have to have espresso (which means a drive to Starbucks, which means I need to be showered with makeup.)
3. The house has to be clean. If I look around and there's a mess, my mind is cluttered so that has to happen
4. All my email chains must be answered and replied to.
5. Bills must be paid or I'll stop and worry about things.
6. Candles lit, prayers said.

I think that's about it, but in a chaotic life, it's a lot and if something disrupts my chain, the whole day can be thrown off. That's when I wish I just went to work and typed like a monkey on a keyboard. Do you have rituals that help you get into the mode of work?

Which Jane Austen character are you? Be honest!

If you're a woman, of course, you want to be Elizabeth Bennet--but are you? I'm not. I came to this ugly conclusion the other day while watching a few minutes of "Pride and Prejudice" (Colin Firth version, don't even acknowledge the other) and Elizabeth casually waits for Darcy to come back to her after talking to his aunt, Lady Catherine.

I've been trying to write my latest novel under extreme stress. I think it's enough to send the average person running to a mental institution for a "break." But I'm not the average person, I'm a little more emotional than the average person. I'm...wait for it...Marianne Dashwood from "Sense and Sensibility."

Marianne Dashwood


Photo from

“A woman of seven and twenty, said Marianne, after pausing a moment, can never hope to feel or inspire affection again.”

Yeah, I tend to catastrophize things. Also like Marianne, I believed in the goodness and the best in the world. I loved the idea of happily ever after and never wanted to watch anything that didn't end in bliss where LOVE won. Even if it was an unrequited ending like "The Thorn Birds" or "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" -- love won and was eternal if not here on earth.

Stoic People Confuse Me

“Esteem him! Like him!" Marianne is trying to get a little passion out of her sister as Elinor describes her love for Edward.

Marianne cannot understand her sister Elinor. Who wants an insipid relationship? I feel ya, Marianne. Why bother?

Why Marianne is still relevant...

As the news gets darker and people become angrier, this is where I'm most like Marianne. Elinor's stark view that Marianne should grow up and get acquainted with the world (reality) just ticks me off. I've been told that since I was a kid. I SHOULD feel this.
I SHOULD act like that. If Marianne and I want to go through life skipping happily and ignoring the darkness, let us be. When the Colonel chastises Elinor for trying to turn her sister into herself, I just love his words in this scene. He gets it.

"I knew a lady very like your sister - the same impulsive sweetness of temper - who was forced into, as you put it, a better acquaintance with the world. The result was only ruination and despair. Do not desire it, Miss Dashwood" Colonel Brandon

"Marianne does not approve of hiding her emotions," says Elinor. And neither do I. I'm simply not capable of it. If I feel it, you will know it. But at my ripe age, I'm finally okay with that. It's how I'm wired.

So all that to say, I am still on Chapter 14 of my latest novel, "A Year of Privilege" so I could use some Colonel Brandon in my life to tell people to back off. Let the airy, dreamy lady work!! Take your reality and SHOVE IT!

Which character are you, and why?

Aye Matey -- Colton as a Pirate #TheBachelor

The Bachelor opens at some cheesy theme party restaurant where wannabe actors must humiliate themselves to make a living while waiting to break into Hollywood. They dress up as pirates and put on a show. It's horrifying and it makes me very glad my kids are past this age.



Caelynn and Hannah talk again about their fake beauty pageant drama and up their rivalry. Then, they dress like tramps and have a competition where they try and "beat" each other with a padded board off the 'plank.' Caelynn is the winner of this fake competition and goes off with dread pirate Colton. Hannah B is left in the audience visually seething and plotting poisonous ideas in her mind.

Demi is ridiculous and such a producer-pick. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard and she seems to have an obsession with the "cougars" ie., anyone older than 27. She tells us she is the only one who excites Colton and makes him nervous. Courtney tries to talk to Demi and give her a clue, but she's not having it. She is here to grow her Instagram followers and maybe get a villain guest appearance on "Riverdale."



Caelynn talks to Colton and I have to say for playing his "V" card up so much, he's a very handsy dude. Meanwhile, Hannah B is stalker-watching them and making herself turn into single white female. She then decides it's a good idea to approach Colton with the passive-aggressive ultimatum, "If you like her, you can't like me." Which after their awful date, you'd think she'd wait this one out. Caelynn acts ignorant of this rivalry because she is in it to win it. She then gets the group date rose. "He is fixing to beef with people!" My daughter says.


Elyse is the gorgeous redhead. They're going to Belmont Park in San Diego. Colton announces it's not a one-on-on and then a few children come screaming around the corner. They're all from a local hospital and it's so sweet. They're both so good with the kids and it's nice to see his charity at work. It gets kids out of the hospital. How amazing is that?

They enter a grand ballroom, which has "private concert" written all over it. Elyse tells the excruciating story of losing her sister -- who carried her baby to term with cancer. The baby was born, but her sister passed. It's nice that both of them can connect on the hardships they've endured. Then, surprise they get a concert by Tenille Arts.


My daughter says she is not disappointed in how many shirtless shots they are showing of Colton. Now he's working out when the group date arrives and everyone gets a shirtless hug. Oh my gosh, it's Terry Crews and his wife. I LOOOVE Terry Crews. But this "workout" date is my nightmare. The "strongest" woman wins. Fred Willard is there to call it Now I want to watch "Best in Show." Who wants to get gross on a date?


Elle says this is her future. Showing up for "Bachelor" competitions in the audience. They play the "Six Million Dollar Man" music, which is unfortunate because no one knows what that sound is anymore. Onyeka won and still looks good. She's a beast, good on her! They take off in the limo.

Then he sent Caitlin home for some unknown reason before the rose ceremony. How utterly humiliating. He said he didn't feel the spark. Dang, that's brutal. Nicole gets the group date rose.


There's a pool party. It's boring. Fake drama. Fast forward. We stop at Caelynn starts talking crap about Hannah B to Colton because she's clearly never seen the show before. I don't know that Hannah B is smart enough to be the manipulator that Caelynn calls her: Toxic. Deceitful. Manipulative. I think I'm going Hannah B on this one. I think she's got serious self-esteem issues, but I think it's the other one who is a problem. Opinions?

I don't know why Colton is acting like this is rocket science. Just wait it out. Instead, he's talking to Dr. Chris, who of course, has OUR best interest in mind--and that means drama.

I made it through a whole show!! Yay me!

I have no idea who went home. LOL

Blog Troubles: Hollywood is Boring

I started reading "People Magazine" when I was ten. I won't even make you do math. That was 42 years ago. And yes, I'm ancient, we get it.

Yesterday, I was being interviewed by a new writer and they asked what my blog was about. Well, it used to be pop culture, I told her. But pop culture got boring and inundated with too many "blah" wannabe famous people. Now you can be Insta famous, or YouTube famous, you can be on one of 800 channels or live streaming companies. It's not like back in the day when we had three basic TV channels and everyone came home to watch the "Thriller" video at a certain time.


The country, as a collective wondered WHO KILLED J.R.? Spoiler: It was Kristin

Now, there is so much to pull our attention away and we aren't doing things as "one" any longer. It makes it hard to write about pop culture with interest. And this isn't a pathetic "I wish it was the 80's" blog. Though I'm not above that. It just means there isn't that much to interest us as a worldwide phenomenon and that's creating too much division in my opinion.

It doesn't help that I am not obsessed with Meghan Markle. I do think she's a narcissist and I think it will end in tears for Harry. Sorry. That's just my opinion and I get that it is not a popular one. But the press loves her and I really couldn't care less.

And cable is a dinosaur. My kids' generation streams everything. If I didn't have cable TV, none of them would care. But there is really a deadness in Hollywood right now. There doesn't seem to be a new idea under the sun. (Hence the remakes.) And everything chooses to preach rather than tell a story. Content is shoved at us and we are told it's greatness. "A Star is Born" comes to mind. It was meh. I liked it, but wouldn't see it again and didn't find it nearly as interesting as "Bohemian Rhapsody." Yes, I know they cleaned up Freddie Mercury's life for the big screen, but that's because the people who made the movie cared for him and wanted to honor his memory. There's nothing wrong with that. We do that in every eulogy we write.


The movie didn't leave out the truth and I think it even went light on how scared of AIDS we were in the 1980's and how difficult it was to be a gay man back then. They glossed over it because it got in the way of the story they were trying to tell. Remember that Hollywood? When the story was paramount? If we do that in a Christian book, we are attacked for it, but Hollywood shoves an agenda down our throats and we are supposed to be grateful.

So, I ask you, who has your attention today? What do you stream, watch on YouTube or look forward to every week?

Chuck Norris's Wife: Why you must be your own medical advocate!

Full disclosure: I've had MS since I was 19 and back then, they told me I had "demylenating disease." Lucky for me, there was no internet back then and I couldn't look it up. So I lived in ignorant bliss until I was officially diagnosed at 28. What that means is that I had some of the first MRIs back in the 80's. So I've been at this awhile.

The last few MRI's I've had they tried to give me contrasting dye. After one time, I told my neurologist that I would not do it again. I was sick for two weeks and SO was my mother. My neurologist didn't apparently believe me because the next time I went for a MRI, they tried to give me the dye again.

"Nope," I said. "I'm not taking that crap in my body again." (I do believe I said it that eloquently. I'm a writer, you know?)

The technician said, "But the doctor ordered it."

"I'm not doing it. Should I leave?"

They have a schedule to stick to, so they did the MRI anyway. Not long after this, all these studies started coming out that the dye is a problem. And now Chuck Norris's wife is suing over the dye saying it almost killed her.


Here's the thing I cannot stand about many doctors. Many are so arrogant that they think they know your body better than you do. And they simply don't. Especially a human barometer with MS. We have been through the ringer, we know what works and what doesn't. I did some crazy treaments with my MS. I'm not above trying things, what do I have to lose? Vitamins; chelation therapy; NAET (allergy elimination therapy); getting my fillings and the mercury out; Betaseron Shots; Copaxone shots; Vitamin B12 shots; LDN (low dose naltrexone); and hormones. Some of it worked, some of it didn't.


Here are some truths that I learned: The fillers in generic medicine are GARBAGE and they bother my sensitive system. Kaiser will not let me pay full price for "real" meds and when they switched Copaxone to fake Copaxone, I opted out. I'd rather take nothing than fillers that affect my health. And they do. I don't care what your so-called "studies" say.

That is why it's so important for you to be your own advocate when it comes to healthcare. Especially in these trying times when insurance is up in the air and idiot bean counters are making healthcare decisions based on the bottom line. That is just so wrong on every level.

Even while researching Chuck Norris's wife, there are lots of articles claiming there are no studies that show any ill-effects from gadolinium-based contrast agents. That doesn't mean it works for everyone. They said the same thing about thimerosol in the MMR shots in the early 90's. That doesn't mean that every baby's growing nervous system can handle it. It means MOST growing neuro systems can handle it.


If something doesn't work for you, stand up against your doctor. They are not GOD. They are doing their best, but sometimes, their best isn't good enough and their studies are often outdated and worthless to those of us with sensitive systems. I also believe big pharma pays to make sure those studies say whatever they want them to say. Remember when they said there was no problem with a breast implant exploding sticky, gooey silicone in a woman's body? Ask the women with joint issues and autoimmune problems about that.


Already, the drug companies have started calling Chuck Norris and his wife, quacks and saying studies show blah, blah, blah. I can tell you from experience -- as can my mother -- that these dyes are dangerous for some of us and I would never ever have it again. I'm having another MRI soon, and you can be sure I'll tell the tech the same thing I told the last one if they try to give me that poison.

Miss Austen Regrets...

This is an old movie and I watched it last night. It has Greta Scacchi in it and I love her. (She played Camille opposite Colin Firth.) I love Camille, it's one of my favorite books. It's not lost on me that nearly all my favorite books are about unrequited love -- but I write romance. Hmmm. I'm sure there's some Freud stuff in there somewhere.

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Anyway, the Jane Austen movie depressed me. Who wants to know that Jane Austen struggled to get publishing contracts and afford simple things like a roof over her head? She had to rely on her less intelligent brother. Do I need reminders that life isn't fair? I do not. You imagine that Jane and say, Dickens went through life unscathed, but the truth is, they'd never be great writers if they did. Yes, Jane Austen's world was small, but that did not stop her from capturing the unfairness of English society. Dickens's life was a mess, but at least he was paid well. Artists never have an easy go of it in life, do they? I mean, how much easier is it to feed yourself if you are a STEM graduate? That certainly hasn't changed in hundreds of years, has it? Okay, that's my whine for the day.

I also saw the new "Mary Poppins Returns" and I am not a fan. Sorry if you are. I thought Emily Blunt did a great job, but there was just no magic to the movie. The songs didn't stick at all either. I thought the Hamilton guy just had no charm on the big screen. Maybe it's me. And apparently, I was in the bathroom when Meryl Streep was on, so if she was magical, I missed it.

#DirtyJohn on @BravoTV -- Are you watching?

First, let me say that I'm not going to judge this woman. She was starved for love and affection and this wolf in sheep's clothing came into her life and lied. Could she have been more diligent? Sure. Should she have listened to her daughters? Of course, but it's not like they'd been supportive of her before, so I get it. This guy was good at what he did. He was a drug-addicted nurse who still managed to get jobs even after jail time. The cops couldn't nail him, so what hope does a middle-aged interior designer have?


But I am going to judge Debra Newell's mother. This woman was a crackpot who taught her daughter to forgive people who were dangerous. Dangerous! Be a good Christian! Believe people when they talk -- no matter what their actions show you.

Debra's mother forgave her son-in-law for SHOOTING and KILLING her own daughter. Wrap your mind around that. I mean, it's one thing to forgive someone in your heart and not hold onto bitterness and anger. I get that, but this MIL helped the men with a reduced sentence and went to church with him. What kind of insanity is that? Was it any wonder her daughter was groomed for a sociopath?

Debra's mom Arlane Hart testified in Billy Vickers' defense after he shot and killed his wife of 13 years, Cindy Vickers. He pleaded guilty to "manslaughter" though he shot his wife in the back of the head at point-blank range. I'm a Christian. I believe in forgiveness. But I also believe in consequences and Billy did not get the consequence that he deserved for gunning down the mother of his children. I think the betrayal of the mother against her daughter has a lot to do with why Debra made her own stupid choices.

Sociopaths are good at what they do. I do think John Meehan could happen to anyone, but I definitely think the mindset of "everyone is good and let's show them love" contributed to Debra's blind ignorance. It's hard to convict a sociopath because there is often no motive for the evil they do. They're playing a game in their head that none of the rest of us are aware of -- but in their mind, they WIN and you lose. That's enough of a motive and it is not easy to prove in court. Victims screaming for justice look crazy, which is exactly how the sociopath will portray them.

So are you watching "Dirty John?" What part of the show made you the angriest?

BTW, I'd love to see John Meehan's sister on the ID Network's "Evil Lives Here" because that poor sister of his endured a lot before John ever met Debra. She's from San Jose. Get on that ID Network.

Guest post by @AskHannah

This is a guest post from my close friend Cheryl who writes as Hannah Alexander. Obviously, she is not as vapid as me because she posts on the eternal and topics with depth. (While I could easily discuss my thoughts on "The Bachelor" last night.) We all could use some depth. Maybe some of us more than others. Here's Cheryl:

The pressure is on to create as I’ve been promising readers more books this year–and that means new books, not just new editions of books that have been published before. Life changes, however, and I’m not the same person I used to be. I wrote thirteen unpublished novels in fourteen years–with the rejection letters to prove it–before finally seeing those manuscripts find homes at publishing houses. That’s a lot of determination, I realize, but I simply had more determination then. I was much younger.


So after more than 30 novels with traditional publishers, and several indie titles, I’m finding a new system to keep me moving forward and getting those words written every day. Jim Denney’s book, Writing in Overdrive, is a huge help to keep me moving forward. So thank you, Jim. You’re a true encourager. My husband, Mel, who provides research and editing for our books, is also a great encourager.


Something else I’ve found recently that has really helped me to keep producing is the buddy system with a long-time writing friend, Kristin Billerbeck. When you’re working with a publisher, you always have a deadline and an editor urging you on. When you’re publishing independently, I’ve found that it really helps to have another writer urging you on daily. So as Kristin and I hold one another accountable, we find that we have been able to move forward toward our goals. We both plan to have three new novels completed this year. Each. Yes, that’s a lot for us, but if we keep moving forward, I think we can do it.

Latest Release:


Do you have your buddy system in place? Living the Christian life is not meant to be a solo venture. After moving for the second time in two years, Mel and I have discovered how much we miss having a church home. We’re still looking, but we have made some new Christian friends who are also actively seeking God’s will in their lives. That means a lot.

Do you have a small group, a Sunday school class, Christian friends you meet with weekly to discuss the Bible? Maybe, like me, you’ve found that you’ve “been there, done that,” and have slowed the forward push. Maybe you don’t read your Bible as often as you did when you were younger. Or maybe you’re reading it more. Good for you! Perhaps you could share some of the insights you’ve discovered with another Christian. Share the wealth.

Wherever your Christian walk is today, is there someone you could share it with? I’ve found that, as with writing, it’s much easier to grow when someone else is growing with you. It’s more fun to share.

Back to the Beginning #TheBachelor

One thing I like about Colton the Virgin as the bachelor is that all the women have to bring something to the party. They don't seem as vapid as usual. They're actually looking for the real deal. Now, I don't know if they'll get it, but I'm hoping it's more enjoyable to watch than the stereotypes we get every season. (Crazy girl, Obsessive Girl, Skanky Girl, etc.)

In the beginning, the show focused on actual relationships. Let's hope we're going back to that place because the franchise has jumped the shark otherwise. I don't have a favorite yet, but that gal from Carlsbad who met him once sure looks good next to him in their picture.

Ugh. They just showed Becca. She was NOT my favorite. So lucky he got dumped by her.

#GoldenGlobes -- I tried

I really did try to watch, but seriously, I have no attention span for self-congratulatory crap. Which is all this was. Usually, the clothes are interesting and I liked a few gowns, but certainly not enough to put up with fake Jim Carrey pretending to be funny or a decent human being. I was happy that Michael Douglas won for "The Kominsky Method" but upset that Alan Arkin didn't win. He's fantastic.

The show isn't for the easily-ofended, but the writing is SO good and these actors are such pros that it's very easy to watch. I actually heard about it from my Marine son, so even young people like these old men.


I was also upset at the claim that "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" was called anti-semitic in Andy Samberg's monologue. Granted, I'm not Jewish, but for anyone who is, I'd love to know how it's not a celebration of that culture. I mean, there are stereotypes -- like in "Moonstruck" about Italians, but in fairness, the stereotypes in that movie were very true of my Italian family. So I don't know if that's what it is about or something else.


I was also very upset that the actor who plays Susie Myerson didn't win in her role. Oh my gosh, there is a scene where she walks through a class on buying a mink or a raccoon coat and her reactions are absolute perfection. Love that character. Love the clothes on that show -- oh and the handbags. It's such a pretty show to watch. I love all the colors. I like the comedy bits the least, but the family stories are wonderful.

If the lead actress isn't Jewish, well, hey, neither was Cher or Oympia Dukakis who played her mother. And they were fantastic. That is the perfect screenplay for me, "Moonstuck." So great.


I took this picture of the mother's handbag when watching at my mom's over Christmas. So great, but my favorite is the outfits that the main actress wears. She had a tiny navy purse with a red bow. Divine!

Finally, apparently, it was an upset that "A Star is Born" didn't win for best picture. But I just thought that movie and the song were "meh." I love Lady Gaga and I enjoyed the movie, but I wouldn't see it again and that's always my measure of movie greatness. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was movie greatness and deserved to win.

How much did you make it through? It's my first award show in a long time and I guess I haven't been missing anything. The self-righteous tone of Hollywood is nauseating.