Monthly Archives: June 2013

Write Your Novel This Summer Challenge



You might have guessed this from reading my Wannabee Writer interview about a month ago.  This summer, I’m writing the first draft of my first young adult fantasy novel.  I started writing about two months ago (I’m at page 170 right now, not including a certain dictionary…wonder what that’s all about???).  I should be done by the end of summer in the middle of August or early September (maybe quicker if I’m lucky!).

Because of this, I’ve joined the Write Your Novel This Summer Challenge on Facebook.  If you go here, you’ll see that I’ve already written a post on outline, so I’m the first featured author there.

Once I get closer to the finish date, I’ll start to post some…interesting things about the novel.  I’ll be going through the revision process and tester readers after I finish.  Hopefully I’ll start sending the novel off to agents in the near future!


On My Soapbox–Paula Deen


Very sad…I can’t believe that Paula Deen is so different than the person she portrays herself to be on Food Network. She always seemed like such a nice Southern lady.

Jill's Cabana Stories and Travels

There has been a story in the news that has captured my attention the last several days, so again, I am writing an article for On My Soapbox.

I am an avid Food Network fan for many years. I have tuned into many shows of the 30 Minute Meals by Rachel Ray, Iron Chef, Chopped, Bobby Flay, and Paula Deen. I will miss Paula Deen. I was very surprised to hear that the Food Network let her go so quickly.

After her three apology YouTube videos for using “hurtful language” when using a racial slur, many of the released quotes in her deposition, and videos surfacing over the course of a few days, I now see that Food Network really had no choice. She was too much risk for their brand.

Nevertheless, being inquisitive as I usually am, I read the 33-page complaint and her deposition. The…

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The Alchemyst Book Review

The Alchemyst Book Cover

The Alchemyst Book Cover

In The Alchemyst, Dr. John Dee plans to steal the Book of Abraham the Mage from the alchemist, Nicholas Flamel and destroy the world.  Twins Sophie and John Newman just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, so they become involved in a struggle that has encompassed legend for thousands of years.  However, they could be the only ones that can stop John Dee.

Michael Scott weaves legendary creatures and people together to create an exciting read.  I was surprised to find that many people didn’t enjoy the book.  However, I found it to be very fun.  It was quick-paced, unlike some books out there.  It grabbed my attention instantly, and there was a great deal of character development in the book.

I would have to say that if you want to read the book to find out more about Nicholas Flamel, you might be disappointed.  This book isn’t supposed to teach you about Flamel.  Flamel is a large character in the book, and you do learn parts of his story, but most of the action in the book revolves around Sophie and John.

I would also say that the pacing seems a little off.  If this struggle took thousands of years, the twins seem to be getting involved in it rather quickly.  However, if it took ten years for them to get into it, we would then say that the book moved way too slow.  I guess I’d rather it move fast than slow.  This didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the book.

Other than that, I really liked the book.  I liked that John seemed to be more hesitant than Sophie about Flamel, and that there was some conflict brewing between the twins.  This book grabbed my attention quickly, and I found myself wishing that I could read more of the series immediately.  When that happens, I know that I really enjoyed the book.  I rate it 5 stars.

Senses Spa and Rainforest Room- Disney Fantasy


This post makes me want to take a nap…sooo pleasant. 🙂

Jill's Cabana Stories and Travels

One of my highlights of our recent 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy was time spent with my daughter having Spa treatments in the Senses Spa. This was a very luxurious, relaxing, and self-indulgent time spent.

We had pre-booked our treatments online, to correspond with our first fun day at sea. My daughter received an exfoliation skin treatment, and I had the Quartz Collagen treatment, (you know, to reduce those fine lines and wrinkles.)

Each of our relaxing treatments was one hour long. My Spa tech was a lovely woman from South Africa. A nice shout out to her for the wonderful time that I had. After a brief consultation about my skin, and treatment plan, it was time to begin.

She used Elemis products, and they felt soft, clean, and perfectly soothing. I felt no harshness at all, as I do have a tendency for sensitive…

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Septimus Heap: Fyre Review

Fyre Book Cover

Fyre Book Cover

***This review does contain a few spoilers***

Fyre is the last book in the Septimus Heap series.  It ties the entire series together, and brings back most, if not all, of the characters from the previous six books.

In the book, the remains of the darke domain, the Two-Faced Ring, must be destroyed.  This task brings Septimus to both Magyk and Physik, and causes him to question where he will reside in this world.  He works with both Marcellus Pye and Marcia to eliminate the threat posed to the castle.

In regards to how I thought this book fared to the rest of the series, I didn’t like it as much as Darke, Syren, or Queste.  About halfway through the book, I thought that it was running a little long.  It seemed to drag just a little in the middle, and I sometimes didn’t understand what was going on in the book.  Perhaps reading it a second time will help.

I was also a little disappointed with the ending.  It seemed to end in a weird place.  What happened with Septimus?  Did he become an ExtraOrdinary Wizard?  The book leaves off with him finishing the adventure for this book, but I thought that he would also complete his training.  That was a little puzzling to me.

However, there were parts to the book I greatly enjoyed.  I’m glad that Septimus met Hotep-Ra, and that the dragon boat was finally healed.  Angie Sage also weaved together magic and alchemy, finally bringing the two together.  Alchemy is no longer a taboo in the castle.  Even Marcia seems to be okay with it…at least temporarily.

I was also pleased that Jenna finally met the ghost of her mother, although I wouldn’t say that her mother was an entirely pleasant person.  She seemed so…formal.  Yes, she was a queen, but still.  She was talking to her daughter.  Really, the queen never gave Jenna any help or direction at all.  That was a little irritating.

Finally, I was ecstatic when Jenna finally became Queen.  I thought that was a fine culmination to her story through the series, particularly when Jenna and Beetle became a couple.

Overall, I did enjoy reading the book.  However, there were parts that I thought were missing, and I think the book was a little long.  It’s not my favorite book of the series.  I thought I would enjoy it more, since I love some of the other books in the series so much, that that’s all right.  Maybe I’ll like it more the second time.  I rate it three stars.

Social Anxiety Disorder


Do you have an intense fear of social situations?  How do you do with public speaking?  Are you afraid of constantly being judged and criticized by others?

If so, you could have one of the most common mental disorders in America:  social anxiety disorder, or social phobia.  In this disorder, the person is afraid of looking bad or being humiliated in front of others.  The person may have a lack of social skills.  These fears can build into panic attacks.  Because of this, the person may avoid certain social situations, or have severe distress over them.

Another common feature of social anxiety is anticipatory anxiety, or having fears about a social situation and being judged before it happens.  The person may be aware that their fears are unsubstantiated and unreasonable, but they can’t control it.  It just exists for them.  They can’t get around them.

In general, the person feels that something is wrong with them in social situations, but they can’t figure it out what “it” is.  Before or during the situation, the person may feel their heart pounding.  They may sweat, shake, and get an upset stomach.  Your muscles might tense up.  In more severe cases, the person may have something called “derealization” where you literally “black out” and can’t remember anything about the situation.  Say you’re giving a report, and ten minutes later, you’re done, but you can’t remember what you said.  All you knew was that you were so anxious and nervous for it, and are now so relieved it is over.

Some common situations that provoke these feelings include eating or drinking in front of others, using the phone, going to the bathroom in public places, interacting with others in parties or on dates, giving reports or asking questions, and in general being the center of attention.  Because of the nature of this disorder and where it can lead (it can significantly affect your life), the person may develop panic disorder and/or depression.

The disorder is more common in women than men.  It most often surfaces in adolescence or early adulthood, but can also originate in childhood.

Psychologists believe three vulnerabilities cause social anxiety disorder:

Biological:  You have a biological vulnerability to it.  One of your neurotransmitters is serotonin.  A neurotransmitter is a special chemical used in the brain to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another.  Sometimes these chemicals get out of balance, making for some wonky brain situations where the chemical can’t send the message properly.  This can cause the brain to react in a certain way to situations, including the provocation of anxiety.  There’s also a genetic part to this because the disorder appears to run in families.

Psychological:  The person may have had an embarrassing social situation at one point that later helped develop the disorder.

Environmental:  The person has some stressful situations that help bring out the disorder.

These factors together are part of the diathesis stress model.  The model helps to explain the relationship with genetics and the person’s environment in causing a disorder.  In this model, the person has a biological vulnerability to develop a disorder (diathesis), and psychological situations and environmental stress “pushes a person over the edge,” creating the disorder.

The diagram below is a schematic of this model.  When a biologically vulnerable individual has negative environmental situations (or stressors), they have a negative outcome and develop the disorder.  When the vulnerable individual doesn’t face these stressors, they don’t develop the disorder.  However, if the person doesn’t have the vulnerability (or is a “resilient individual”), they will not develop the disorder, regardless of whether their experiences are positive or negative.

Diathesis Stress Model

Diathesis Stress Model

Social anxiety disorder is best treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  In this theory, the therapist helps the person uncover the dysfunctional thinking patterns that create anxiety in social situations.  The person learns to react differently to social triggers.  Systematic desensitization involves exposing the person gradually to more anxiety-ridden situations.  The person is exposed to the situation in a safe environment with the therapist to work through his/her fears.  With this treatment, the prognosis, or outcome of social anxiety disorder, is generally good, with the person leading a productive life.