Working out with MS: Pilates

Okay, I'm not a fan of exercise to begin with -- so let's start there. I like to hike, I used to like to run (when I could) but my dropfoot has taken hold and I can't run any longer. So I've had to seek alternative workouts.

Let's look at my neurotic excuses, shall we?

*I hate gyms because I'm an introvert and it's too much noise and people. (Ick.)
Not to mention I'm a bit of a germaphobe -- so there's that. End of gym.

*Yoga died a sad death for me because my balance is so bad (vertigo) and that would be fine in a roomy studio, but in Silicon Valley, that doesn't happen, so I feel crunched and like I'm going to fall into someone. End of yoga.


Enter Pilates: I thought Pilates was something I could do because you get your own little station, so if you fall, you fall into machinery, not some innocent bystander. I found a free class on Instagram and I took it. I made it through the whole class and it was zen and kicked my butt. Okay, maybe we have something here, I thought. So I signed up for four classes a month. I may take more as I get stronger, but for now, that is more than enough, I still hurt from class. So it's keeping my muscles strong without getting heated (another important factor in MS workouts because if you get hot, your multiple sclerosis acts up and then you have more symptoms.)

It's really tough on your core, which is exactly what I need and it's scheduled so I have to go or I pay for nothing. And I'm cheap that way. When I pay for something I don't want to do, I can't afford to miss it.

So for now, I think Pilates is really going to work for me. It's not cheap, but if it keeps me strong and upright, that is worth every penny. Plus, I'm vain, so I need to stay in shape because I don't want to wear ugly clothes.

I'm writing today. This post is my warm-up. I already did some editing and now I write...

Writing Style: Taylor Swift in the World of Beyoncé

This week I got feedback on my latest projects. Now let me reiterate that it was excellent, timely, professional advice. And I trust this writing professional implicitly and she challenged me to go deeper -- which I need to do in this publishing climate.

I'm writing about wealth and privilege (Wentworth Heiresses) in a time when all of that stuff is not relevant to normal people. People are into #MeToo and making deep, emotional statements about the world around them. I'm still walking my dog and dancing to Adam Ant down the sidewalk. Then, I had an epiphany yesterday when my mom sent me the new Taylor Swift video and said it reminded her of my daughter.

The world is falling apart. I don't want to go there. I don't even read the news anymore. It's so ugly and depressing and full of name-calling and I don't like that. It's bad juju for me. I like happy, colorful energy and though life has taken me through the wringer in the last few years, I'm still not ready to go "deep" in my fiction. This writing professional was adamant that I didn't need to -- but if I wanted to catch up with what's happening in publishing, then I did -- and that is 100% truth. But I think I'm the Taylor Swift of writing and I'm oblivious to what's going on in the real world, and happily so. Like Taylor in this video.

So I guess I don't want to catch up. Not because I couldn't -- I'm a good learner -- I would figure it out. But because I don't want to explore those dark places emotionally that other people seem to love in their fiction. At least not yet. Even when I read Thomas Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" he didn't take me emotionally to some of the places that today's fiction does. I don't want to be depressed or feel dark things. Which may make me a dinosaur and irrelevant in the publishing world, but I want to look at the shiny, pretty side of life. The world needs those depths plunged. I just don't think it's my job to do it.

I grew up with "Pillow Talk" and Doris Day as my influencer. My mom said I never walked anywhere as a child -- I danced. I think that is my nature and I'm going to stick with that.


While WWII was raging on, Fred Astaire was dancing.


While the world battles, I want to dance because there are enough writers out there who can plumb the depths of life's harsh truths. My current book is about five sisters with three different moms, but the same dad -- who inherit billions. I wrote it because I wanted to explore what it's like to watch a father be a good father to one set of kids and a terrible father to another. It's not rocket science -- but it interests me and for now, that has to be enough.

Incidentally, I have never been everyone's cup of tea. My humor is not for everyone and can be quite offensive to some people. Luckily, in today's market I CAN write what I want and that is a blessing! I'm also going to buy me a bubble gum cover that everyone says is out of fashion. As if.

"Write to Market!" They said.

That is such great advice. Write for the market and you will sell lots of books. It's such an easy equation. Why can't I just do that? The rules for fiction that sells are so basic in the romance genre.

  • Nice heroines (Ie., not snarky)

  • Handsome, manly heroes (ie., not nerds in venture capital)

  • Romantic settings (not Silicon Valley -- trust me on that one!)

  • Primary focus is on the relationship (this one really gets me, I'm too ADD for that.)

The problem for me is that my favorite romances don't have these elements, so that really screws me up."Pride and Prejudice" has the best hero in the history of heroes, and he's a total jerk. (Until we find out who he really is.) Lizzy is so proud and full of herself that she turns down a proposal that could rescue her family from entailment laws. And is the suburbs in England really that romantic?

What about "Jane Eyre?" Mr. Rochester might just be a sociopath. LOL "Far from the Madding Crowd" -- Bathsheba definitely has narcissistic personality disorder and Gabriel Oak is probably an enabler, but he loves her as Jesus loves us -- when we are not worthy of being loved. Could there be anything more romantic?


My current heroine is a social worker in San Francisco. She dresses badly and couldn't care less. The hero is a would-be lawyer who has secrets and a broken hip. The setting is a gothic mansion in modern-day San Francisco where the heroine lives with the father who abandoned her. This is what my brain is like. It is NOT normal. It cannot do what it's supposed to. I'm feeling frustrated today that I have to finish this story with too many characters and a lot of resolution still to go.

If only I could throw a sword fight in and make my heroine swoon over her handsome rake savior. Alas, I cannot. I just need to finish the book. If you identify with any of this craziness, this post is for you. Not all of us are meant for the masses. Some of us are meant to appeal to a specific palate. Just finish the book. I have to tell myself that after 40 books published. Just finish the book. It's for someone.

The life of an #ADDAuthor without a contract...

I've spent my whole career writing under a contract. A contract, for me, was like homework. It gave me a reason to get something done the night before it was due. When a book is under contract you know you have to finish THAT book. Right now, I have a few in my head, but I'm focused on two. One is "A Year of Privilege" about the first of five sisters who inherit billions. I'm stuck on that one. I wrote myself into a corner and it's taken me about a month to get out.

But while I noodled on that one, I started working on "Love and Other Unlikely Events" which is about two sisters. One is bipolar, gorgeous, enigmatic and slightly unhinged. (Until we find out why later.) And the other one is neurotypical, trying to build a life where she doesn't have to care for everyone and against the idea of marriage, or as she refers to it "voluntary modern-day indentured servitude."

I'm closer to finishing the first one, so I should get on it. But I'm not sure the second one is right for self-publishing, so this is stopping me on both books. I got a clear message last night that amounted to, "Do you want to eat?" So today, I'm writing. This blog is just to avoid selecting which book I'll work on today while I listen to my dog snore.


On another note, I watched a good documentary on Walt Disney on Netflix, it's called, "Walt: The Man Behind the Myth." It ends in the Walt Disney museum in the Presidio in San Francisco. I really have to get up there. Anyway, I enjoyed seeing what a charismatic dreamer this man was and how we need more people like him, with solid character and vision, in our world. I feel like everyone who has vision now is just money-hungry and self-serving. Could be my view from Silicon Valley though. I just wish I had Walt's drive!


Also on Netflix right now is "Saving Mr. Banks" and that's an amazing movie if you haven't seen it. I've put this off long enough. It's time to work.

Remember reading? #AmWriting #AmReading

Books for me are so heavenly, such a beautiful escape into another world where everything works out and the bad guy gets his. Can't life be more like this? Yesterday, while at the vet, the young tech was reading "The Thorn Birds." Oh my gosh, you can imagine how excited I got. It's one of my favorite books ever and I've read it at least 10 times. Well, the tech wasn't quite so smitten, but she said she was definitely going to finish it. Sigh.


Isn't that the greatest thing about books though? One can inspire someone into a career and another can read the same thing and be like, "meh, it's okay."

I haven't been reading so much. I have "nystagmus" which is a part of my MS that makes my eyes jump, so the print doesn't stay still. It makes it very difficult to read and honestly, that's the only thing about this stupid disease that can make me cry. I miss immersing myself in a book so much -- languishing in the bathtub until the book and me are both waterlogged.

Audible is not the same for me because I love the written word. I love to see it. I love to read a beautiful sentence over and over again -- savor it like a fine meal.


Reading is truly one of the great pleasures of life and as my eyes calm down, I have a growing TBR list. My daughter has just finished Jon Krakauer's book about the guy who goes into the wild and passes away -- ironically called, "Into the Wild." This reminded me I wanted to read, "Under the Banner of Heaven" which took me to that dangerous place called the bookstore. Why are there so many temptations for my weak, little eyes?

On a happy note, I'm an excellent typist and it's not stopping me from writing, so I need to quit whining and get back to work. Fiona went to doggy daycare, so I am utterly without excuse. But after "shopping" all morning and soaking in the new, delicious covers, I want to devour some books now!

#Bachelor Finale Tonight!

Will Colton find love? Will this be the most dramatic rose ceremony ever? Well, it was the most dramatic exit from a rose ceremony ever. Colton jumped an eight-foot fence to get away from Chris Harrison. And how perfect was it to see a disheveled Chris being awoken from his peaceful slumber looking ratchet and extremely middle-aged while chasing an athlete into the dark wilds of Portugal? I'm here for it! It was worth the price of admission y'all.

So we left off with:
Colton loves Cassie.
Cassie is not so sure. Cassie's dad is REALLY not sure.
Colton's worst fears have been realized. Started with 30. May end up with 0.
Tayshia loves Colton.
Hannah G is blinking wildly and has no clue what's going on. But she could love Colton. I mean, why not?


My daughter has to work tonight, thus ruining our eventful Monday night "Bachelor" viewing party. I could not be more annoyed. I think there's some kind of daughter protocol. I make you cake and dinner, you show up for the dang Bachelor. You were not raised in a barn!

I guess I will write on my book tonight. I've been stuck for a bit. My characters are not behaving. It helps to watch bad reality television and let the creative subconscious work. Also, copious amounts of espresso help too.


Lent is upon us -- giving anything up?

Well, I started a diet yesterday -- on Fat Tuesday. There's something so inherently wrong with that. My daughter, however, is giving up fast food for Lent. So yesterday, she stuffed herself with McDonald's -- living her best life.

I'd like to give up my dog for Lent, but no one wants her. Now before you think I'm a terrible human, I think you should offer to take her for a day. She is the worst walker on the planet. She is little but thinks it's a wise thing to do to just walk in front of someone and stop -- someone who doesn't see that well beneath her and has vertigo. That seems smart.


Back to Lent. Yesterday, Elle told one of her Christian friends that she was giving up fast food for Lent and her friend said that Lent was Catholic and she shouldn't have anything to do with the Catholics. Seriously? It's 2019 and we can just all be Christians? We have to put labels on things and make ourselves better than others? If Elle wants to give up fast food, I don't care if it's for National Nascar day. It's a good thing. If she's doing it for Lent to honor the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, all the better.

I should probably give up reality television for Lent. It doesn't make me a better person. Though watching Colton clear an eight-foot fence to get away from producers on "The Bachelor" was certainly a highlight of my week. My BFF texted me that she hated Demi last night. I was like, really? Elle and I love her. I mean, if you're dumb enough to go against a girl whose mom is in federal prison, you deserve what you get.

It looks like "The Bachelorette" will be Hannah B and not Caelynn. They're interchangeable to me, but I think it should be Caelynn because of what she did for Cassie by outing Kirpa's power play. Hannah G is probably going to get her heart broken, but I cannot see a season of her. Tayshia seems like she'd be a fun Bachelorette, but I don't really trust her that she's in love with Colton so then I wonder if this is all an act. Cassie screwed up production so we know she won't be back for that role.

I think Chris Harrison prefers Hannah B -- and she's a sweet person -- but I don't know that she makes good television. Love her or hate her, Demi is good television.

Anyway, I'm not giving up reality TV for Lent. But I should. In fact, after I write my chapter today, I'm going to move on to the Bahamas with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Publishers: Give the readers what they want, CHICK LIT!

I've had so many readers come to me (and writers too) that they are missing the deep messages combined with the humor of Chick Lit. Everything being published right now is so dark and depressing. Do I have suggestions?

Publishers seem to want "deep messages" right now. People don't want to read deep messages right now. You know why? The world is freaking depressing! Tornadoes are taking out children. Political arguments are leaving their gooey film all over us and daily we seem to be reading about another man who took out his family.

What is wrong with wanting to lighten up? During WWII, you know what Fred Astaire did? He danced. He made the world forget the ugliness for a few hours and lightened the mood. We need more lightening of moods. More writers who remind us that life isn't all bad. Sure, there are tough times, but how great was "The Bachelor" last night? I mean, let's escape for a while, right?

Fred Astaire is my lifelong hero because he kept the world's spirits up when it was at war. He just danced.


Me with my hero on the Queen Mary.

So, publishers, I'm telling you what my readers are telling me. They're tired of your deep, heavy crap and they want to lighten up. Yeah, life sucks sometimes. We get it, but we don't want to go there as readers. We don't need the new version of "Jude the Obscure" to tell us the world is dark, okay?


From a personal standpoint, what publishers want right now, depresses me. And I can't write it. Yes, I COULD write to the market, but then I wouldn't be obstinate Kristin and so that's not going to work for me. For my readers, I'm 40k words into the first book in my "Wentworth Heiress" series, which is about a man with five girls and three mothers. You do the math. He's made some mistakes in life, but I don't want the sisters to wallow in it. That's depressing and it's not reality. Life isn't like that. Even in the midst of darkness, we are wired to laugh.

Anyway, I'm going to self-publish it because no one gets it. That's fine. I get it.

Publishers can call Chick Lit, "Humorous Women's Fiction" but readers know what Chick Lit is, and they still want good Chick Lit. Is it their fault publishers deluged the industry with crap slapstick humor and called it Chick Lit? It is not. So if you want those readers, they're out there. Bring it back. Swallow a piece of humble pie and bring it back.

A public service announcement by Kristin Billerbeck.


#FreeSolo -- the stuff of nightmares!

I saw "Free Solo" last night, which is about the free climb (no ropes or beaners -- just death if you mess up) up El Capitan. Now if you've never seen El Cap up close, let me just say that even the movie on IMAX doesn't do the rock justice. It is MASSIVE. Climbers 1/4 of the way up are mere specks. This man, Alex Honnold, definitely seems to be a character. His father would have been Aspie, and I'm going out on a limb (not a far one) and say that Alex definitely has some Aspie characteristics. His girlfriend is a saint.


I cannot stop thinking about the athletic feat this man accomplished. I mean, the cameramen who are working with him, can't even watch when he goes over the more difficult passes. Which is really the entire slab of granite.

He also scaled Half Dome which is another sheer granite wall. People fall off Half Dome pretty much annually and that's hiking up with a steel cable to hang onto. Alex went straight up the sheer face of it without a rope.


My daughter goes to Yosemite at least four times a year and that's the only reason she agreed to go to the movies with me. I didn't think I'd make it through the film, as I have an extreme fear of heights AND I have Vertigo. So that movie on the IMAX screen was not on my list of top things to do. But I loved it. I'm curious if someone who hasn't seen El Cap in person can understand the scale. I can't even look up at the climbers when I'm there, it makes me so nervous. And those people are hanging off ropes.

Elle and I were literally sweating watching him scale the wall -- and we already knew he made it to the top! It's pretty intense.


National Geographic Photo by Jimmy Chin

This is a story and a character who deserves his own film and I felt so deeply for the filmmakers like Jimmy Chin as he stressed for his friend's climb. You can FEEL his stress. I pray that Alex is done taking these kinds of risks, but somehow I doubt it. It's a really emotional experience to watch someone conquer that kind of feat. A great film that is truly compelling not just because of the amazing athletic accomplishment but also because of the human element. I just can't stop thinking about it.

Thank you to @SelmaBlair for speaking out on #MS

Multiple Sclerosis is never the same disease in anyone. That is partly why it's so hard to diagnose. It's also partly because so many doctors still want "hysteria" to be an actual diagnosis so they can send "hysterical women" on their way.

I was diagnosed at 19 with "demylenating syndrome" which ten years later became "Multiple Sclerosis." Looking back, I can appreciate that my neurologist didn't say the words "Multiple Sclerosis" -- who knows if I would have had all those kids. (I had two by the time I was officially diagnosed.) Pregnancy is generally great for MS. After pregnancy is usually not. This is when Selma was first having symptoms and couldn't find help for her crazy symptoms. She was dropping things and had extreme fatigue.

MS feels like you're going nuts. Things don't work right and you can't find a reason. My eyes were jumping so fast with nystagmus, I couldn't see and actually went blind one night. The next day I was officially diagnosed.

The Nightmare of Ignorant Doctors

The diagnosis didn't come before I went through a nightmare with doctors. When I was 19, I started having double vision. A general practitioner would not give me a referral to a neurologist and he actually told me that I needed a psychiatrist, not a neurologist. Nice bedside manner. Luckily, my mom paid for the neurologist and I had one of the first MRI's there was, but I still didn't know I had MS.(Neuro didn't tell me because at the time, there was nothing they could do and he didn't want to saddle me with the diagnosis.) Another general practice doctor told me years' later that the numbness in my leg was probably me wearing my jeans too tight. And an ER doctor told me that my sudden blindness was an inner ear infection. Is it any wonder I don't trust doctors?

Selma's Symptoms

Selma's symptoms are very different from mine. I have trouble with names and words when I'm bad (so great for a writer!) And I have a lot of vision trouble and numbness. I will say the worst symptoms are that soul-crushing fatigue (which thankfully I have not had for years) and "foot drop" which prevents me from running anymore. That's depressing. (But doing a face plant isn't that much fun, so I'm good.)

Anyway, it's an embarrassing disease. You often look like you're drunk, you might not remember people's names and you don't always trust your memory, so it's really brave of Selma to tell her story and give voice to multiple sclerosis. Applauding her brave battle -- may it be short and successful.