Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Sort of Calm Before the Storm

My Writing Desk
Confession: I've always loved rainstorms.

 The weather is perfect for writing, like the rain is sending out tons of great ideas that drip down onto your laptop computer (well, not literally of course, because that would suck.)

An Appalachian mountain girl, I've found my career path took me down into the "flat lands" of North Carolina, and just two years ago I found where I believe I truly I belong: the gorgeous coastal town of Wilmington, NC.

But with Hurricane Matthew --- well, let's just say there is TOO much storm.

We've been very fortunate and my hearts and prayers go out to those in hard-hit areas.

My understanding (but I'm not a #WeatherChannel guru) is that #HurricaneMatthew will hit us around early AM Sunday. (My church services at the Episcopal church are cancelled. So with all those Episcopalians running around, you know there's an empty ABC store somewhere.)

But all kidding aside, there was no mandatory evacuation  for our area, so I'm just hunkered down and prepared in case the power does go off.

I'm hoping the wind and rain catch my ideas and let them flow into me...but as it looks, they are all being flowed into the tree outside my window.

Everyone stay safe during the #hurricaneWatch.

And for my family and friends in Asheville. You may not see effects from Andrew, but hold on, you'll have your chance when you get snowed in this winter because #WinterIsComing.

Here are some pre-landfall pictures from #CarolinaBeach. They were taken Yesterday 10-8. The picture outside my window was taken 10-7.





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Monday, April 4, 2016

If the Political Candidates Were Downton Abbey Characters

No, it's not Downton Abbey. You know, that copyright thing.
Millions of Americans recently bid farewell to the Crawley family, and while we said goodbye to one period drama, we're still stuck in the middle of the political drama race to the White House. The presidential candidates and Downton Abbey characters have a lot in common. We've matched them with their counterparts, as well as some reasons you should (or should not) vote for them.

Hillary Clinton:
Violet Crawley
Why? She's been playing this game longer than anyone realizes, which is why she's able to get stuff done. When she can't, she will send a zinger when you least expect it, nailing you to a wall. Something warns you that turning your back on her may be the last thing you do.
Pros: Would always get the last word in diplomatic negotiations.
Cons: Would always get the last word in diplomatic negotiations.

Bernie Sanders:
Tom Branson
Why? Revolution! Everyone deserves a chance! Triumph of the middle class! Who cares about your damn emails! Sanders would be right there with Tom, waving signs at the socialist meetings, maybe even marrying into the Crawley family to bring down the system from the inside.
Pros: A good driver.
Cons: Well, that socialist thing.

Ted Cruz:
Lord Grantham
It's not that he's a bad guy, it's just that he's just so much BETTER than you. And he's always right. Except when he isn't. Then he's still right.
Pros: Impeccable taste in dressing gowns.
Cons: Losing half the family fortune.

John Kasich
Dr. Clarkson
Why? You forget he's there, then suddenly he shows up and delivers a life-changing diagnosis that puzzles everyone. When you want to know more, he fades into the background. 
Pros: Definitely who you want around during childbirth.
Cons: How often will he deliver babies at the White House?

Marco Rubio:
Ms. Pattmore
Wait, is he still in the race?  We don't know because he's running around behind the scenes just trying to keep the GOP family together and afloat, making sure everyone thinks the production was effortless, although it was nothing but blood, sweat and tears. 
Pros: Creates a fabulous Crepes Francaise
Cons: Has a bed and breakfast of "ill repute."

Donald Trump:
Lady Mary
Why? Looks great on camera, and despite being mean and spiteful, everyone still likes them. Is able to ruin your life and still, somehow convince you that it's all your fault.
Pros: Lots of money, and comes through when the chips are down...eventually.
Cons: Must stay away from Turkish diplomats.

I'm typically an apolitcal person, but with the train wreck that is our recent elections, I'm wondering if, like Edith, the voters will ever be happy.

Of course, Frank Underwood from "House of Cards" could wipe the floor with all of them.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Saint Patrick (and Why He's Cooler Than I Ever Thought He Was)

Confession: Technically, I took this picture in Scotland. But that's okay. Saint
Patrick may have been from there...
No matter where you're from, or where you were born, today, you are Irish. What better way to celebrate one of the great saints in Christendom than with green beer?

But seriously, the more I learned about St. Patrick, the more I learned he was even more cool than I ever knew. Here are the top seven  things you probably didn't know about St. Pat. for #SaintPatricksDay 


1. He was loaded.
At least, his parents were. While St. Patrick may have become a priest and lived a more modest existence later, in his earlier life, his parents were very well-off, particularly by the standards of the time.

2. He wasn't Irish.
He was Scottish. Or English. Maybe Welsh. No one is 100 percent sure where he was from--tradition says his parents were Roman citizens who were most likely living in England. One thing is for certain: he wasn't Irish.

3. Blue is actually the color traditionally associated with St. Patrick -- not green. I'm not sure why. You can see a traditional artistic rendering of his icon here  (or as I call them - Christian Super Hero Trading Cards)

4. He was a slave.
Raiders took Patrick when he was a young man and sold him into salvery where he wokred in Ireland as a shepherd. Patrick leaned on his faith to help him through this difficult time.

5 After he was freed, an angelic vision told him to go back to Ireland.
Imagine going back to the people who enslaved you! Patrick, guided by God, returned. As a result of God working through him, many of the Irish converted to Christianity.

6. He used the shamrock as a teaching tool. 
Patrick had a heart for the souls of the dear Irish people. At the time, the pagan celts were worshipping the sun, moon and other parts of nature. used the shamrock to explain the Trinity--how three separate elements of Father , Son and Holy Spirit can be both three in one, both different, yet the same.

7. Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover?
This has nothing to do with Saint Patrick, but it's 1 in 10,000.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. #ErinGoBraugh!



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Some Questions for Mr. Trump (You Won't Get Asked on CNN)

I rarely get political. Seriously. 
The way I look at it, the whole system is broken and we won't go forward until we end career politicians. I don't think Jefferson and Washington envisioned a system where you start running for re-election your first year in office.

But I'm disturbed by Donald Trump. In a really, really, bad way. (Is there a good way to be disturbed?)
I'd like to ask him these questions, none of which are policy related. And you won't see them on CNN.

Mr. Trump, feel free to reply.

1. The name-calling. What's up with that? 
Are we in bleeping THIRD GRADE. I get it. You think people are losers. You diss on women for the way they look (nevermind that you're not exactly Bradley Cooper. ) Free speech and all. I get it. 

But it's not the best for diplomacy. We all know that Kim Jong Un is a (insert derogatory comment here), but to call him that on the world stage, esp. in the decade of You Tube (aka, play your worst moments over and over again) and esp. when he has nukes, well, don't think that's best for business.

2. How are you going to get Mexico to pay for that wall, short of all-out war?
Trade sanctions? See #1 above. I've heard you hire more Mexicans than Americans to work in your hotels. Is that true?  

I got news for you--- Mexico is too busy having issues with drug cartels to pay for the wall. 

3. How do you reconcile your faith with whatever you're doing?
Hey,, I'm not one to throw stones. God  knows I wouldn't want my personal life on display. I'm a Christian, abeit a heavily flawed one. I don't like to question whether or not anyone is a Christian. That's between you and God.

But-- correct me if I'm wrong--didn't you say you haven't asked forgiveness of anyone? That's pretty standard for a card-carrying Christian. Even the most liberal and most conservative theologians would agree on that.

Here's an article from CNN that expounds on this (written by a conservative columnist) http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/05/politics/evangelicals-donald-trump-questions/

4. Why haven't your PR gurus advised against the orange spray tan?
I'm not being mean or name calling. I'm just saying. You don't look healthy. Take care of yourself. 

5. What the waht is up with the "earpiece malfunction" that made you hesitate on the David Duke question? 
Why didn't you say, "I've got a problem with my earpiece. Can you repeat that?" Or ""Oh, KKK---I thought you said KFC and I was about to comment on their wonderful family bucket deal."

6. Do you really want to make it easier in the constitution to sue the media for defamatory articles?
I get it. I was a reporter for more than 7 years. I agree the media has gone off the rails. But you're in the party of Lincoln, who believed in defending the democracy. May I quote Mark Twain: "The duty of the press is to print the truth and raise hell." 

And do you really think you'll get the votes to do that? Congress has to go along with it you know.

Like most Americans, I'm really put out with things going on with both sides of the politcial spectrum. 

My conclusion on Super Tuesday?
I'm giving out slaps and cupcakes. And I'm all out of cupcakes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Things I'd Like Millennials to Know About the 80s

I can remember looking through my sister's yearbook and laughing. My sister graduated in 1977. This was the 80s, and I was totally mortified by the long, straight, hippie hair everyone had.
"Just wait," she said. "Some time folks are going to look back at your 80s styles and laugh."
"Never gonna happen," I said.
After all, how could you NOT love the 80s: Neon. Hair teased to heaven. Parachute pants. These things would be trendy forever, right?
Okay, I stand corrected.
Each year, college professors are given a list that lets them know about the world of incoming freshman. The point is that not all of the students are going to get cultural references. After all, this is a generation that has ALWAYS had computers, and never remembers a time when Bill Gates was not the richest man in America.
Stirrup pants aside, honesty though, there are some things I'd like Millennials (such as my niece) to know about the 80s:

1. First and foremost ---and I think this is pretty darn cool-- I remember when things were transitioning to using the computers as a regular part of a classroom. No, incoming college freshmen weren't required to have computers, but there was always a computer lab in each dorm. I remember in 7th grade, so fascinated by the first Apple IIe . Of course, in 7th grade, all I did was this program that moved a mouse around a maze to get cheese, seeing this transition was cool.

So, 80s folks are not amazed by the new technology---we are amazed that the new technology doesn't doesn't $8,000 grand a pop. 

2. We were absolutely convinced that, at some point, the Russians were going to nuke us all to Kingdom Come. Just watch Fox's "The Americans" if you don't believe me. 
One of the things that blows me away is that my niece (born 1996) HAS NO CONCEPT OF THE COLD WAR. It was starting to warm up a bit in the 80s.

3. Yes, esp. looking back at the movies of that decade, we had some cringe-worthy lack of political correctness. And yet, for the most part, in my community, everyone still got along. 

4. We all remember where we were during the Challenger disaster.

5. Teachers put the fear of God into us that by 1990 the U.S. was HONEST TO GOD going to be on the METRIC system. 

6. What Lady Gaga is doing now, Madonna did back then. And with male dancers. In cone bras.

7. Our music was better. Sorry. It just was. 

 8. I clearly remember seeing my first cell phone. A friend's dad had one for business and we were carpooling and he let me use it to call Mom. It cost like a gazillion dollars a minute. I thought I was so cool.

9. Republicans and Democrats still threw bricks at each other, but it was almost tame compared to the   level of things now. There was a lot of voter apathy in the 80s (I remember doing a speech about it for a class assignment). Now it seems folks are gearing up to vote a whole year before the election. People were passionate about politics but they weren't bonkers over it.

10. Millennials   will never know the sheer joy of wearing parachute pants.  Sorry. I pity you.

11. Yes, we really did wear neon and parachute pants and HUGE glasses and "jams"  and yes, we really did think it looked great. And while I confess that pictures of me from way back when make me think "what was I thinking?" I always get a bit sentimental when I watch "Halt and Catch Fire" on AMC.

12. Our high school had a special session where teachers taught us about AIDS and how it was spread. I'm not sure if this was a state thing or CDC or health department thing. The "press" over AIDS was like the coverage of breast cancer now. It was a big scare and teachers were trying to eliminate a lot of confusion over how it was spread. 

13. We loved computers, but movies like "Wargames" and "Tron" gave us a healthy dose of skepticism. If the Terminator worldview has taught us anything, we know that all machines eventually become self aware and enslave us all. Hey, hear us now and believe us later.

14. The first floppy disks for Mac computers sometimes got stuck in the drive, and you had to uncurl a paperclip and stick it in this hole to trigger a spring to pop it out. 

15. The suckiest printer of 2015 is gold compared to the best dot matrix printer of the 80s.  We used to link different sheets together to make banners. 

16. Millennials: You don't remember the joy of reading the new "Calvin and Hobbs" cartoons. I had college friends who got a newspaper only to read that comic.

17: Flying was not common. I mean, people did it, just not on the level they do today. And airport security was, of course, nothing like it is today. I think that was the last time I actually enjoyed flying on a plane.

18:  Atari video games required a good bit of viewer imagination to make them work. And we were fine with that. 
 
19: I remember watching Michael Jackson (when he was black) doing the moonwalk at the American music awards. Mom rarely let me stay up so late when I had school the next day, but she had a feeling this would be like my generation's Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Of course, now everyone has seen the moonwalk, but when you saw it, for the first time on TV, it looked like this dude was defying the laws of physics. I remember thinking "how is that happening?" Of course, I shortly got out my penny loafers and learned how to do it myself.

20. I think this is one thing that really makes me pause: not only will my Millennial niece not understand the Cold War, she will NEVER remember a time of EAST and WEST Germany.  I was in college (in the 90s) when the wall came down. I was blown away. It was something I never thought would happen.

In closing, I'd like to leave this AWESOME poster by Stephen Wildish. It's an 80s movies alphabet.
See how many you can name and check out the answers and his awesome cool stuff here http://www.stephenwildish.co.uk/images/Film_Alphabet_Answers.pdf

So, what do YOU want Millennials to know about the 80s?
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is mental health the only remaining stigma? My mental health heroes (and a free book!)

May is coming to a close, but before it does, I wanted to share some information for Mental Health Month. May is Mental Health Month, designed to promote education and awareness of  mental health issues. Recently, John Nash, the schizophrenic mathematics genius featured in the movie, "A Beautiful Mind," was killed in a car accident, along with his wife, Alicia.

Mental Health is an issue near to my heart. My first novel, "Saint Jude," dealt with a teenager with bipolar disorder, and I have had dear friends struggle with this disorder. I have been amazed and dismayed that, at a time when it seems like nothing is taboo, that mental health still seems to be one of the few, remaining conditions for which it is "acceptable" to stigmatize. Angelina Jolie takes a preventative mastectomy, and she is on the cover of Time. Catherine Zeta-Jones takes a preventative hospital stay to deal with her bipolar disorder, and the response is something more like what you would see in a gossip tabloid.  (Before someone makes a statement that breast cancer is fatal and bipolar disorder is not, please remember that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young adults and teens. I mean no disrespect toward either woman.)

I wanted to share some of my mental health heroes. Some folks who inspire me, and some pieces of information. Read down to the end of the article where you can get a FREE coupon for my novel, "Saint Jude."

In no particular order:

1-- Kay Redfield Jamison
Not only is Dr. Jamison one of the leading experts on manic-depressive illness, but she also has the disorder. Her book "An Unquiet Mind" is a brilliant perspective as a clinician and a  patient.  Here's a clip from a UVA interview... 


2-Vincent Van Gogh
While his artistic temperament seems to be synonymous with the troubled artist stereotype, the bottom line is that he was a troubled, talented man during a time when there were few, if any resources available to help him.

I'm a huge sci-fi (and Dr. Who fan) . One of my all time favorite Dr. Who episodes was "Vincent and the Doctor," where he goes back in time and meets Van Gogh . It does a good job of showing the struggle with mental illness. Even if you're not a sci-fi fan, you'd love this episode. It's all over Netflix and several areas for free viewing I believe. Here's the full episode on You Tube.




3-- George Handel
Handel wrote one of my all time favorite pieces of music, the "Messiah." (which , btw, is actually supposed to be performed at Easter instead of Christmas, which is when many places present it. ) Handel wrote this is a little over two weeks in what was believed by many to be a manic episode

Here is one of my favorite pieces from it - "And He Shall Purify"

4-- Nellie Bly
While Bly did not have a mental disorder (at least, not one that I am aware of). As a reporter in the 1800s, she went undercover in a mental institution to expose the conditions there. It was a breakthrough for investigative journalism. It shed light on many atrocities I will not go into detail here.

5-- Winston Churchill
"Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished," wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill's bipolar disorder in Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.
This is by no means, an exhaustive list. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has a list of famous people who had mental illnesses.

And now for the free book.
If you would like to get a copy of my novel "Saint Jude" (which was rated one f the "best 100" books books for teen readers in a guide by librarian Nancy Keane) you can order it on Smashwords. Enter the following code for the coupon before June 6, and when you check out, the book should register as free.

Here is the page for the book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58667
And the code is: TR27J




Monday, May 18, 2015

Ice-T--- Sweet or not?

Without doubt, this is, quite possibly, the coolest sign I have seen in a restaurant. Period.
Props to Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn of Wilmington, NC.