It’s Beginning to Look Like a Hallmark Christmas

Written By: Dawn - Nov• 20•17

For the record, Christmas season began at the Hallmark Channel back on October 28, with its first new Countdown to Christmas movie of the 2017 season, Merry Me at Christmas. But if you’re like me, you’re resisting Christmas until 12:01 am on Friday, November 24. Then, and only then, can all holly break loose.

Also for the record, I love Hallmark Christmas movies. Love them, LOVE them, love them. I will not pull a Mr. Darcy on you and declare my love with an acknowledgement that such a enjoyment is decidedly beneath me. I know exactly why I like them.

In a word- snow. I am Bay Area raised and now a 25 year Arizona resident. I’ve never had a White Christmas.

Which brings me to another word- fantastical, the adjective, describing “that which exists only in the imagination” but, when applying the word’s Greek roots says “make visible.”

Escapism, in my humble opinion, is a necessary form of self-care. Now more than ever we need breaks from the news, views and vitriol dominating our country right now. The holidays’ inherent optimism and demand for positive fellowship with all is the perfect time to slip away into a break from reality.

For optimum viewing pleasure, I suggest the following-

  1. Download and print the official Countdown to Christmas Programming Guide here. This guide includes the movies you missed because you observed Halloween and Thanksgiving. Don’t fret, the movies replay often enough you have no excuse to miss a single one.
  2. Comfy clothes. Pajamas are preferred, but coordinating loungewear works in a pinch. The whole reason you watch a Hallmark Christmas movie is to feel good. No shape wear!
  3. Speaking of feeling good, comfort or favorite foods are a must. One time last year I had the house to myself and I made cookie dough for my viewing party meal. What you eat when you watch your Hallmark holiday movie is your business. No judgement!
  4. Cheers! The Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game posts are making the rounds again. Gotta love the folks at Country Living magazine. (I’ll expand on drinking games later.)
  5. Lastly, and most important of all, grab a sturdy pair of rose-colored glasses. Hallmark Christmas movies aren’t exactly representative of real life. Most of the women wear sleeveless shift dresses inside the office even when it’s snowing outside for goodness sake!

While I believe in the power of knowing your market audience, the tendency at Hallmark is to make Christmas very White on white. Part of the escapism I enjoy about Hallmark is the absence of profanity and, thankfully, politics. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that viewers of color would probably enjoy this type of wholesome fare too. The storylines are so benign, would it matter if the female lead was Black or Hispanic or Asian? If they did that would it be White Christmas washing other experiences?

These are great questions, tough questions, however I’m not here to debate and criticize (much). And I recognize that there are other groups, like the LGBTQ community and plus size folks, I haven’t mentioned, but I think baby steps are a step in the right direction to start with. Hallmark movies, like many aspects of the commercial, tradition and expectation machine that is the holiday season, are as imperfect as the people viewing them.

But there is always room for improvement.

So far for the 2017 lineup, I see The Christmas Train, featuring Danny Glover. Wow, he rarely does TV! The ads for other movies appear to show a person of color in the typical BFF or office side-kick role. Okay. Let’s think ahead to 2018. Call Tyler Perry. Imagine the impact Madea could have on family in Santa Claus, Indiana (zip code 47579) who has lost its holiday spirit. Or how about a Chinese New Year story? Or Bridezilla version of a Quinceanera? (I have more ideas Hallmark Channel and I’d love to work in TV!)

So, if I feel this way, why do I watch? Why not boycott? Well, remember that love thing I mentioned earlier?

I love how ridiculously stupid Hallmark movies can be.

I love how poignant Hallmark movies can be.

I love how they look and feel like a live Christmas snow globe.

I love how relaxed I feel when I watch one.

I love how every season (Hallmark does Valentine, Spring Fling and June Wedding movies- oh my!) there is at least one movie that moves me to tears. And because it’s a Hallmark movie, it’s not an ugly-cry.

And now that Hallmark Christmas movies have a drinking game, we know they’re here to stay, so I’m working with them, not against them.

Speaking of drinking games, I’ve come up with one of my own. It’s waaay cooler than the one from Country Living and it has a diversity awareness  component. It’s also super simple, because the holidays are stressful enough.

All you need is a bottle of Jaegermeister and your listening ears. Every time  a character of color has more than three lines, you take a shot. Trust me, even if you do a DVR marathon, you’ll never get wasted.*

For now.

But there’s always room for improvement. And who knows, perhaps I’ll have some crow to eat by the time I’ve watched them all this year- stay tuned!

Happy Hallmark Holiday movie-ing to all!!!


*I’d exercise caution if you play my game during the movie with Danny Glover.

50 Days Til 50!

Written By: Dawn - Dec• 23•16


In fifty days I will will turn 50-years-old.

I’m going to spend these next few weeks reflecting , preparing and wrapping my head around another life transition in my own way. If you look around, there’s a lot of advice and quips designed to make fifty less frightening. Here are a couple I found-

Life Begins at 50- Let’s hope not. This just sounds sad as hell. I’d like to think that we’ve all been living life fully and fifty is merely a marker for a new chapter that doesn’t involve car seats, building Santa gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve, worrying about a teen driver and, if you’re really lucky, middle-age spread.

Fabulous, Fierce, Fun, Faking It, etc. at 50!- There’s a desperation to these sayings, like you’re trying to convince yourself that the elephant in room didn’t shit in the corner and the smell you smell is in your imagination.

Turning 50, Looking 30, Feeling 20- Bold-facing lying going on here and 50 is too old for peddling delusions.

50 is the new ___- I do think attitudes about aging are shifting and turning 50 doesn’t feel the same today as it did a generation ago. If Gen X knows anything, we know how to rewrite the rules.

Look, cutesy quotes are nice for cocktail napkins but I’m needing a bit more. Aging is the good news, it means you’re still in the game, that adventures await and, at least while you still have your driver’s license, you can decide which direction you’d like to go in.


As I prep for the big day, I’m relying on the wisdom of others to get me in the mindset that older is okay, reflection imparts wisdom not wistfulness and comfort in your skin (and skinny jeans) makes all the difference. On the bookshelf are-

Claire Cook’s Shine On: How To Grow Awesome Instead of Old

Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Kathi Lipp/Cheri Gregory’s The Cure for the “Perfect” Life

In addition to stretching my mind around turning fifty, I’m also committing to a fitness regiment the next fifty days. I’d like to lose 10 pounds (damn, I put that in writing). Mostly, I want to work exercise back in my schedule without giving up wine.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

What I understand most about this time in my life, is that I have plenty left to do and discover and given the time frame, I’d best be a bit more intentional in how I go about it.

From A.A. Milne in When We Were Very Young

And I’d say to myself as I looked lazily down at sea: ‘There’s nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me.’

Feeling Bookish?

Written By: Dawn - Jan• 04•16

A lifelong dream fulfilled- floor-to-ceiling bookshelves! I unpacked 23 boxes of boxes. Sometimes I like to stand in the doorway and just look at them.


I know, it’s been a while! But 2016 is here and we’re all feeling the rush that comes with new beginnings and fresh starts. Every year I set a reading goal, usually about 25 books, and it’s one of the few goals I manage to achieve (31 for 2015).

This year my friend Dani posted a great Reading Challenge template (there are many on the internet) and I decided to stretch my wings a bit and go for it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have a few thoughts on reading given that I’m both a writer and a library professional. Here are my tips for having a great year in books.

  1. Identify your appeal factors. In professional Reader’s Advisory, appeal factors are indictors of preference. Some people are plot driven, others are character driven. Some people want a fast pace, others want an epic read that spans generations in glorious detail. I am character driven, but the factor I respond to most is voice. If the voice of the narrative (note, not the narrator) doesn’t speak to me, I won’t stay with a book. Once you figure out what appeals most to your sensibilities, you’ll be able to find great books, even ones that are out of your comfort zone.
  2. Step out of your comfort zone- occasionally. I say occasionally because, let’s face it, we’re all pressed for time. Sometimes you want an easy read, a light read or a feel-good read. I read mostly commercial fiction. In part because that’s what I write, but also for the fun and escapism. At least once a year, I do opt for some literary title that’s a classic, a prize winner or getting a bit of buzz. My 2015 choice was The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendetta Vida. It’s a slim volume with an unusual point-of-view. Slightly creepy, but not in a Girl on the Train way.
  3. Don’t be afraid to jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes a book becomes the book, the one everyone is talking about. Perhaps it won an award or is based on a true story (but not, shall we say, Twilight fan fiction IYKWIM). While normally I’d advise against following the crowd, this is an exception. Why? Because it’s fun to participate in the conversation. It’s fun to read something you normally wouldn’t (see ya, comfort zone) and it’s exciting to be in “the know.” The Martian  was that book for me this year. Talk about a great voice, how could I pass up a book that opened like this- I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. 
  4. Don’t continue reading a book you aren’t enjoying. Yeah, I just said that. The older I get, the better I’ve become at letting go of stories that aren’t doing if for me. There are a variety of reasons I let go of a book but the main one is that I’m not interested in the characters. Notice that I didn’t say I didn’t like them. I’ve stuck with many unlikeable folks for hundreds of pages. (I’ll save the pain of being a George R. R. Martin fan for another post.) Trust your intuition here. I’ve read many books that have horrible set-ups (The Lovely Bones is the first that comes to mind) that were amazing reads. And yes, I understand that books that fall under tips #2 & #3 might end up in this category for you. But that’s okay!

There are several great resources for finding new books. Almost all women’s magazines and new magazines have book reviews, as do newspapers. I rarely use the NYT Sunday Book Review to find to new things, but I do pay attention its bestseller list, since those are the titles my library patrons will be asking about. Local independent booksellers are another great resource (yes Virginia they still exist) as is your local library. In fact, you can go up to a librarian and ask about Appeal Factors and he or she will take you to the NoveList database. Once there you can find read-alike titles or authors as well as good reviews and information on books you’re wondering about. I use Goodreads only as a tracking tool in my personal reading, but many people love it as a discovery spot for new titles.

What, you may wonder, was my favorite book of 2015? Easy. Marion Keyes wonderful The Woman Who Stole My Life

Wishing you all happy reading!

943894_10153423767747807_283866088086567287_n (1)

This is the reading challenge I’ll be doing.

Comic-Con 2015: The Good, the Bad & Star Wars

Written By: Dawn - Jul• 22•15

New for 2015, my Han Solo costume. Cute, simple and comfy for a long day!


We came, we waited, we saw, we waited some more and I daresay we conquered the beast that is San Diego Comic-Con International over July 8-12. One does not simply walk into Mordor and the same is true of SDCC. It’s busy. It’s crazy. The lines are insane. The volume of people can literally crush you. But if you plan, have patience and hydrate, you can experience some amazing things, things that will only ever happen at SDCC.

True confessions time, I went into this SDCC as likely my last. The stress and complications associated with going have risen exponentially since I began going in 2009 when I bought single day Friday tickets for the boys and me online in March as a last minute add-on to our annual beachside vacation. Now you have to have a registered account (easy) but the previous year’s attendees still have an enormous advantage over the general public- we have  a separate badge purchase day. Going to SDCC each year keeps your account active and I have been unwilling to let my status slip.

This year the hotel lottery was a complete clusterfuck with major technical  glitches I have yet to read a reasonable explanation of. The parking spot lottery was more complicated and complex than ever. My friend Wil and I spent three hours trying to secure lodging- by far the most stressful and expensive part of your SDCC experience- and failed using the official channels. In the end, we used Airbnb and were fortunate not to be gouged with the price.

My main reason for returning this year was simple- Star Wars. I figured Disney and Lucasfilm would pull out all the stops for THE FORCE AWAKENS. So imagine my disappointment  when all the pre-con announcements confirmed a minimal Star Wars presence.

Or so we were led to believe.

Me, Lady D and Bkitty. I have attended SDCC with these ladies since 2009!

Me, Lady D and Bkitty. I have attended SDCC with these ladies since 2009!

The Truth About Hall H and those pesky Wristbands!

Traditionally Hall H and Ballroom 20 host the biggest, most sought after panels. I have spent many hours in line and inside a panel room, but haven’t given up that kind of time since 2012. In fact, my last two SDCC’s were great without being in a high-profile panel. So when Lady D said she really wanted to be in Hall H all day, which meant camping out Thursday night, I agreed because the day included The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones (I’d never been to either panel and HBO always gives swag) and Star Wars.

SDCC began a new Hall H wristband program last year to reduce the need for camping out, limit people holding places in line for large groups and create the best sense of fairness for 7000 seats at a convention 130,000 attend.

I’ll say this- SDCC is still working out the kinks in this system. The good part- a wristband guarantees you a seat in the first panel of the morning (you may then stay all day). The bad part- you stand in line to wait for the wristbands, which are distributed at 8:30 p.m. the night before. Once you have your wristband, you may campout if being up close is important to you, or you may go home and as long as you’re back in line (separate line for wristband folks) by 7:30 a.m. you’ll get inside.

The mistake we made was getting in line late Thursday afternoon. Apparently people started getting in line as early as 9 a.m. Thursday morning (or earlier). Personally I’m glad we all enjoyed a full day of the con before getting in line, but it turned out to be a big risk. We could tell we were far back, but given that Hall H holds nearly 7000, we felt confident. At 8:30 p.m. the wristband distribution process began and this is where SDCC organizers really failed.

They had three people, with about four security people walking with them, handing out, individually since they checked your badge, wristbands for 7000 people.

There’s a term called “the fog of war” that refers to all the misinformation that gets communicated at the beginning of an event and how complicated it is to determine fact from fiction in the heat of the moment. This is exactly what happened. The #HallHLine Twitter feed blew-up and what we, at the back of line saw frightened the hell out of us. Massive line-cutting, useless security to prevent people from cutting and a slow-as- molasses process for giving out  the wristbands. Wil and I did a few rounds of recon to get to the truth, and at that point, everything we read on Twitter was accurate. The two line security people at the front of our section of the line confirmed the process.

I’m disappointed about the aggressive line-cutting. It doesn’t reflect well on the geek community but speaks to the frantic desire to “win” a coveted seat in Hall H. Despite all this, we remained confident we’d still get a wristband.

At 10:30 p.m. I did another round of recon. Twitter was reporting that people in our section of the line were screwed, that another section was hidden from view behind Joe’s Crab Shack on Enbarcadero Island. I discovered this was true. About 1500 people were lined up back there and they were section two of the line and we were in section three. As it turns out, our line security people were well aware of those others and basically did a “don’t tell unless they ask” approach. We were in shock now, and very concerned about getting wristbands.

At midnight the three wristband givers approached the front of our section of the line, Twitter said that they were down to less than 50, out completely and waiting for hundreds more. I noticed a huge swarm of bodies out of line near the front- these were the cutters. By now people in line were well aware of cutting tactics and word spread down the line to call out cutters. And people did. After  seven hours in line together we all knew who was supposed to be next to us.

In the end, we did get wristbands, I believe we were part of the last 50 given out. It was 12:30 a.m. We went home to sleep and were back in line by 7 a.m.

This was a ridiculous process that could be greatly improved by ditching the wristbands and automating Hall H entrance through the bar codes on  our badges. Have people swipe their badge to reserve a seat and then before they enter Hall H, they swipe again. If it doesn’t come up green, then they don’t get in. Even if they had only four or five iPads or kiosks for swiping, they could use staffing to ensure the line isn’t compromised. Please fix this SDCC!

If ever there was a day to be in Hall H…

So we got into Hall H, found a seat near one of the big screens and hunkered down for a long day. Hall H is self-contained with restrooms and food vendors, so you don’t need to worry about losing your spot, or about people getting in who aren’t in line.

The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead panels were great fun but my favorite was Game of Thrones because Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne, is delightful to listen to. She is statuesque and amazingly beautiful, though her character is always made fun of for being ugly and unwomanly. You could see her drinking in all the energy and fan-love in the room, which made her all the more appealing. What I enjoyed most was how she spoke about women’s roles, the one she plays and the balance of being a strong woman who doesn’t fit the traditional standards of beauty not only in Westros, but here in the US as well. I highly recommend watching the Game of Thrones panel if you’re a fan of the show.

It was all fine and dandy but as we waited for the Star Wars panel to begin, the air in Hall H changed. Suddenly more security were visible. Something was up. The only thing we could imagine that necessitated this? Harrison Ford, who never participates in Star Wars fandom.

The panel began (watch it here) and what happened there is now part of SDCC and geek legend. And I was there. I had goosebumps, I teared up. My stomach hosted butterflies and in general I felt less like a 48-year-old mom of two and more like a 10-year-old girl as the hour progressed.

For you non-geek readers this may seem like a great opportunity to say “get a life Dawn” but let me ask you this, when was the last time you felt the pure joy of expectancy? Because that’s exactly what happened. Remember what it felt like when you believed in Santa or the Tooth Fairy? Remember magic? Have you read The Polar Express? Well Santa Claus came to Hall H that day. His real world name is J.J. Abrams.

Not only did I witness the Legacy cast- Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford- I saw the new cast. (Please watch the panel for Gwendoline Christie again, she’s fantastic!) Then J.J. invited us all to a concert featuring the music of Star Wars.

And in calm, orderly fashion (so unlike the mess of the wristbands the night before) 7000 people left Hall H and walked behind the convention center to Embarcadero Island.




They gave us all light sabers! Michael, Lady D, Bkitty, me and Alex.

They gave us all light sabers! Michael, Lady D, Bkitty, me and Alex.


We were all a bit excited!

We were all a bit excited!


The sun went down and our light sabers glowed bright. What a magical evening!

The sun went down and our light sabers glowed bright. What a magical evening!

But Wait! There’s more!

It’s hard to imagine anything great happening after Friday night’s activities, but SDCC does go on. Saturday my goal was to get into the HBO Game of Thrones Experience, something I missed last year (they closed the line right as we arrived).

HBO brings props and some interactive features to an offsite exhibit. The big draw is the Iron Throne, which you can sit and pose in. Wil, Rick and I waited over four hours to get in. When we finally did, we were disappointed to discover the exhibit was one more long line as each person had to stop and do one of the interactive features. Okay, so this was cool-

White Walker me

White Walker me

But we were beat. Luckily we were able to bypass the biggest line- for a sword interaction- and get in line for the Iron Throne. They had about six costumes- Dany, Cersei, Arya and Tyrion, but I sure wish they’s brought more props because I was far more interested in those items than the interactive features. Luckily the Iron Throne did not disappoint.

Had to ham it up!

Had to ham it up!

Wil did some business.

Wil did some business.

Rick did 80's sitcom smile.

Rick did 80’s sitcom smile.

At the end of the exhibit they had photographs of the jewelry and other small props (real items would have been better) and we did get a great limited edition T-shirt with art from Robert Ball.

I would only recommend this exhibit if you are a huge fan and want to give up the better part of the day. What I wanted most of all was to sit on the Iron Throne (got bruises from the sword hilts) and that was fun, but I wouldn’t do it again. The exhibit travels and I think they bring more items to the traveling venues, so that may be a better option.

Lions and Tigers and Zombies

Part of my personal theme for SDCC this year was to try new things. To that end we sighed up for The Walking Dead Escape. Petco Ballpark is transformed into a safe zone following the zombie apocalypse. It’s one part haunted house, one part obstacle course and one part crazy. Wil, Alex and I signed up as survivors and Rick opted to be a zombie. We chose to go in during the day light hours and I’m glad we did!

You are grouped in waves (the entire operation was extremely well run) and enter the safe zone. Army tents, netting and such are everywhere, giving the feel of an emergency. We started in, all agreeing to stick together, and three minutes in I hear screaming at the front of our group and now everyone is heading toward me. That’s when the running started. Running UP the ramps to the top of the ballpark. The ramps have blood, body bags and body parts littered about them. And walkers. Some lunge at you, some don’t. There are barricades and netting you must past by. You can’t see if anyone or anything is behind them. Plus you have to avoid tripping or being pushed by other frightened survivors.

It was scary as hell and fun, but running uphill like that nearly killed Wil and me. Alex took off at the first scream and we never caught up to him-lol.

See how sweaty we are?

See how sweaty we are?

Here’s small taste, I realized I couldn’t film and dodge the undead at the same time.

This was an offsite attraction we bought tickets for and really was a blast. I would recommend it (we did the VIP pass so we could have the proof of badassness via a T-shirt) but I won’t be doing it again, once was enough! I wonder how the visibility was at night inside the park, with all those body parts on the ground, you could easily trip.

All done- a good time was had by all.

All done- a good time was had by all.

Where do we go from here?

Like I said earlier, I went into this SDCC thinking it was my last. It turned out to be my best. Not only did I witness the biggest event (Star Wars) but I planned my time better and balanced new  activities ( GOT Experience/WD run) with the traditional, like walking the floor. I spent about 12-15 hours in lines, but each time I was with friends, friends I don’t see often, so I can’t call that a waste of time.

In the end, I will try to get passes for next year again. I’m not ready to give SDCC up. But if I don’t get them, I’ll be okay. There are so many great regional cons out there (my own Phoenix Comic-Con included) that I’ll have plenty of opportunities for geekery.

As long as I have good company, I’ll be fine.

At the Blind Burro.

At the Blind Burro.

Couldn't stay away from the Blind Burro's SDCC-themed cocktails!

Couldn’t stay away from the Blind Burro’s SDCC-themed cocktails!

Best advice if you want to attempt going to SDCC for the first time?

Never give up, never surrender!


Aging In Fiction

Written By: Dawn - Jun• 24•15




While the world awaits the July 14 release of Harper Lee’s follow-up novel to her masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird, I find myself not wondering if her writing is as good as ever (I have no doubt that it is), but whether or not the world is ready to hear Scout’s grownup voice.

Aging in fiction is a tricky thing. While some characters and stories follow a linear  narrative that allows the reader time to adjust and delight in the passing of the years, others freeze the moments of the story in an iconic timeline that remains satisfying for decades or, in some cases, centuries.

Many of us delighted in following the life journeys of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Harry Potter and had no trouble watching those characters grow throughout several books. (I’m always pleased that while they grow older, Fred and George Weasley never really grow up mentally.)

On the other hand, some child or teen narrators told only one story; one with the scope and depth to be enough over time. Think David Copperfield, Holden Caulfield, Ponyboy Curtis and of course, Scout Finch. (So we thought!)

As an avid reader, I have followed many characters through the years in series, retellings or continuations by other authors. The results are mixed. In the case of two historical series I enjoy, the delightful Amelia Peabody series by the late Elizabeth Peters and the humorous Roman sleuth Marcus Didius Falco by Lindsey Davis, the authors follow real time and allow for the limitations of aging to have their effect, but not in a way that is depressing or  compromises the integrity of series. They work with it, not against it.

In the case of my favorite Jane Austen tale, Pride and Prejudice, I find that I love modern retellings (Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding being a favorite) and detest continuations in all their forms- Death Comes to Pemberly, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and the like. The reason? I want the happiness of Lizzie and Darcy set in stone. It is so satisfying I don’t need to know if they have children or the best grand parties or even if they finally came to their senses and ban Caroline Bingley from the house forever.

When I still worked in the high school library, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders never stayed on the shelves for long. Think about that. Here’s a tale from the sixties, with no smart phones, no social media and clothing descriptions- madras for goodness’ sake- millennials have no context for, that still draws teen readers in.

I’ve read the book at least four or  five times, I own it, I love the movie. What I don’t think I’d love? Seeing Ponyboy with a beer belly washing his minivan in a driveway. No thank you!

I had the same trouble revisiting Bridget Jones in her last incarnation, 2013’s Mad About the Boy. The 52-year-old (52!) married, widowed and now a mum Bridget sounded a bit too much like the Singleton Bridget and I couldn’t relate at all. I stopped reading at chapter three.

Like many of you, I’ll rush to buy Go Set A Watchman because more than anything, its publication is a major literary event. Who would have guessed that Lee’s second book would come out when our nation is facing serious racial tensions that are only escalating.

Scout’s voice rang true before, I cannot help but hope it does again.

Stay gold Scout.