It's Throw Down Thursday! Time for our own special brand of silliness. 

Ding, ding, ding! In this corner we have...weighing in at 250 lbs. including the seasonings, boldly flaunting his russet-colored scarf, the one, the only, Jol-ly Gr-r-reen Gi-i-i-i-a-a-n-n-t. His opponent, tipping the scales at a lean 225 lbs, wearing a spotlessly white t-shirt and pants, unafraid to don an earring, the Master of Cleanliness, the Prince of Sanitation...Misstterrrr Cl-ean!

When they meet on the mat, who's going to come out the winner?

Just to keep things fresh in your mind, we've got--->

The Jolly Green Giant-

vs. Mr. Clean-

Now's your chance to predict the outcome. Who will be the victor? Be sure to give us your reasoning (that's the best part!)


It’s Two Cent Tuesday, the day of the week when M.J. takes what would normally be an inordinately long Facebook status and turns it into a blog post. Today we’re talking about the dentist.

I HATE THE DENTIST! And I DON’T use that word lightly! More accurately, I hate going to the dentist. The dentist himself is a very nice man, except for his propensity for causing me excruciating pain. That habit I’m not fond of.

First of all, I loathe that little curved mirror thingie. The dentist uses it like a shepherd’s crook to stretch my mouth to obscene lengths. I want to scream out, “My mouth doesn’t get that big!” But I can’t. Because there are 342 dental instruments in my mouth! I’m talking the water thingie, the sucky thingie, that pick axe thing he uses, and 339 other instruments. And a piece of gauze whose only function seems to be to choke me more. Sometimes I don’t think they even know what certain instruments are for, they just know that they need to shove them in my ever-expanding gob!

My mouth is fairly small (I know! Shocking!) so when they take x-rays, they have to use a child-sized film holder, and even that cuts into me like a switch blade. I mean, I really HATE going to the dentist.

Even when it’s just for a cleaning. They pick and pick at that protective covering that you’ve worked so hard to establish and then they wedge floss between your teeth until it suddenly gives and goes plunging into your gums, making them bleed. And let’s not forget the whole fluoride process. I love how they let you choose the flavor--like one of those puppies is actually going to taste good! And then they’re spinning that instrument and tickling your gums so badly you want to cry and you just have to move a little to make it stop. And when it’s all over they offer you a toothbrush. Like that’s the grand prize you’ve been waiting for all of your life. Your teeth feel so big as you walk out to your car, you wonder if you’ll be able to fit both your body and your teeth in it.

And that is just a cleaning. Today I went in to have a cavity filled.

Let me ask just one question here. Why can’t one shot numb you? Today he did like five. They hurt like a booger when they go in and hurt even worse when they squeeze the syringe’s plunger down. The kind of hurt that brings tears to your eyes first and then you close them, thinking that if you don’t see anything, maybe it won’t hurt as much. It’s a lie.

At approximately this point in the procedure your nose begins to itch like the dickens and you CAN’T SCRATCH IT! You’re thinking to yourself, if the Spanish Inquisition had only used these methods they would have found out everything they wanted to know the first day.

Meanwhile, they’re drilling on your bottom teeth while knocking your top teeth with their instruments and if you could feel your lips you would so like to cuss them out, although you know they don’t deserve it and they’re only helping you. If you’re lucky, you get a whiff of the bone they’re burning away, because that is so pleasant. Nothing like the smell of body parts smoking. After they’ve drilled their nice little canyon, they have to press the filling material in it. So they are pulling your lips to the right so hard it feels like the corners of your mouth are going to crack, while at the same time they are applying pressure in the opposite direction as they press the filling material in place.

And then there’s that awful taste! I don’t know what the heck they are doing at this point but all of a sudden your throat is full of the most vile flavor, a mixture of molten lead and blood, like they’ve opened up both a vein of ore and your actual vein! And you’re numb up to your eyeballs and today the water spraying thing seemed damaged because it was squirting both in my mouth and down my cheek at the same time. Talk about adding insult to injury! I SO detest the dentist.

And I’ve been numb now for four hours and I’m starving, but I’m afraid to eat because I know I’ll bite my 6” thick tongue or the side of my mouth, which has managed to stay out of the fray thus far.

Today I got a filling. In August I’m having a tooth removed. May the good Lord help us all on that day!

What about you? Do you like the dentist? My crazy big sister actually likes going to the dentist and getting her teeth cleaned. When we were kids, knowing about my enmity for the dentist, she used to go in my place, and oddly, no one was the wiser. Come to think of it, that may have been what got me into this spot in the first place…

Tell us your dental horror stories. Just let it out, this is a safe place to vent. What’s the worst part, in your opinion? Anything particularly gruesome ever happen to you while in that contoured chair, that blinding light roasting your corneas? Come on. You know you’ll feel better if you share it.

Did I ever tell you about the time I had my wisdom teeth removed…?


Hi! We’re going to play a little game. Ready? What do you think of when I say the words—rock star. Go!

Okay, so did you think--partier, drugs, drinking, women, fans...? It is true, those do seem to be more prevalent in the life of a rocker than say, the life of your average telephone repair man. A lot of rock romances focus on this, what has become a stereotype of a rocker. And that’s great. I’m all for it. I enjoy reading those books. I just write my stories a little differently. I like to keep it real. Or as real as fiction can be.

For instance, you are not going to see paparazzi splashed over all of the pages of my books. You’ll see them more when my characters are in L.A. or New York, but not if the band is playing Kansas City or St. Louis or even Chicago. While photographers and fans are a huge part of these musicians lives, it’s not necessarily a 24/7 kind of thing. So the city matters, and so does the specific location. Are they at the mall? Or at a private club? Are they in town for a show? Then people might have a heightened awareness of their presence. Are they at the venue? Crowds are definitely going to show up there.

It also depends on what kind of rocker we’re talking about. Chad Evans, from Trapped Under Ice would draw a little bit more attention than Chase Hatton of Abandon All Hope. Chad is much more comfortable in the limelight. He works the crowd, he makes appearances, but even he is not as outgoing as his partner Roger. Still, Chad dates models, is seen in the tabloids, has a body guard. There is a scene in Trapped Under Ice when Beth and Chad and the boys are walking to the bus through a crowd of onlookers who are held back by barriers and security. This is a big part of the story and is told through Beth’s eyes, someone who is new to it all. They are in Kansas City, a fairly sizable town, and at the venue. Later, when Chad visits Beth in Bloomington, Illinois, they don’t have to deal with fans. “They had dinner with Cassie at a nearby restaurant Pete [the body guard] checked out beforehand. There were a few stares and some whispering, but since Trapped Under Ice wasn’t playing in town, most people chalked it up to a phenomenal resemblance.”

Now Chase Hatton is a different breed of rocker. He’s a loner. He’s not part of a band, he’s the main act that is backed by a nameless band. Think Cher or Madonna. We don’t know the names of most of the members of their bands either. Chase also keeps a low profile when not on stage. He’s not out hobnobbing with the rich and famous. He probably wouldn’t have a Twitter page. It’s not that he’s not personable, but he’s from Nebraska, grew up in a middle class family—he likes things pure and laid back, like Hope. Still, when in Chicago he avoids public transit and wears a baseball cap to the zoo so that he won’t be recognized.

(My picture~Seether at The House of Blues, Chicago~May 2014)

Another factor is the genre of music. Pop stars, by
definition, are popular and therefore recognizable, for the most part. Rock band members, not so much. Even though I’ve seen 5 Finger Death Punch several times, lead singer Ivan Moody could walk right by me and I wouldn’t blink, unless I was at the venue. He doesn’t have any really distinguishing features. He wears the same kind of clothing that his fans do. He blends in, until he opens his mouth to sing.

And I think it also depends on whether the star wants to be seen. I’m thinking Reese Witherspoon could walk through an airport and not be hassled, if she chose to, or saunter through the same airport and sign tons of autographs. If she was willing to stop and speak with her fans, she’d be dolled up and make a lot of eye contact. In a rush or not in the mood to deal with that? Dressed down, wearing a ponytail, and keeping her head low.

Here’s a little story to illustrate my point. A while back Nickelback was in town for two weeks, secretly testing their new stage in our coliseum. They ate at local restaurants, drank in local bars, went to the phone store…and yet I NEVER KNEW THEY WERE HERE! Mind you, I have snuck back stage at three Nickelback concerts (and gotten thrown out). If I had seen them on the street I guarantee you there would have been a scene, believe me. However, they are four somewhat average looking guys, wearing t-shirts and jeans. I would have recognized them, if they were together, but maybe not individually. If I saw just one of them I might have been like, “Hey! That guy looks like Ryan Peake!” But knowing that Nickelback wasn’t playing in town, I might have blown it off. I would have definitely recognized all four of them, yet there were people in town that carried on lengthy conversations with them without even knowing who they are. (That burns me!)

(Seether again~House of Blues, Chicago)

I had a little fun with the idea of being recognized in my latest release, ROCK ME, GENTLY. Josh Dunningham, of Money Back Guaranteed, is told by several people that he looks “just like” Josh Dunningham of Money Back Guaranteed, but people still don’t believe that it’s him. Except for a pair of fans who do cause a scene at a restaurant despite Josh’s attempts to keep his identity on the down low.

So how about you? Ever have a run in with a celebrity? Now’s your time to shine! Tell us about it. Brag! Go on, it'll do ya some good!


Yes, it's the day you've been looking forward to all week--Throw Down Thursday! Last week we featured the Pillsbury Dough Boy vs. Mr. Whipple. This week we're going to do the flipside, women from commercials. So, we've got a cage match--it's Madge, the Palmolive Lady vs. The Chinese Lady from the Calgon commercial.

So, to refresh your memory ===>

Madge ===>

vs. The Chinese Woman from the Calgon commercial ===>

Now don't let the cleaning strength of either product sway you, it's Madge vs. The Chinese Woman, straight up! Who's the winner? Don't forget to support your answer!


Yes, we're beginning a new feature today, Throw Down Thursday! This is the day of the week you get to pit two people together and decide who would come out on top in a no-holds-barred entanglement! It may be two characters from commercials, from TV, from movies, any segment of pop culture. It may be having to choose between two songs and deciding which one is superior, and why. After you pick your winner, tell us what went into your thought process! (That's the fun part!) My best friend and I do this all the time at work during quiet moments (perhaps to the consternation of our co-workers!). Now it's your turn.

So, for today we have Mr. Whipple vs. The Pillsbury Dough Boy! Let me remind you of who we're talking about here:

Mr. Whipple ==>

or, The Pillsbury Dough Boy ==>

Okay, so you've got the two locked in a room. They have to fight each other to get out and survive. Who is your victor?


This week I'm starting a new feature titled Two Cent Tuesdays. It's a section where I ramble on and on--sometimes coherently, sometimes not so much--about a random topic. Come on! It's bound to be interesting...

Last night my husband and I went to bed late, and stayed up later lying in the dark conversing about “the good ol’ days.” We talked about how different it was when we grew up. Even things as seemingly unimportant as people’s yards. As we see it, lawns back then were meant for playing on. Houses were set much closer to property lines, leaving bigger yards with more natural vegetation. Now, for the most part, houses are erected more squarely in the middle of lots. Lawns appear more decorative, and aren’t used as much. There wasn’t a bunch of 
landscaping when we were growing up either. Maybe some bushes here and there, maybe a flower bed… Even there, flower beds have changed. What happened to the good, old-fashioned marigold? Not
that I’m a huge marigold fan or anything, but it seemed like those and petunias were the only things we planted in the seventies!

We also discussed how we both used to wander along the creek when we were young. I remember it as being such a huge adventure! I believed I journeyed for miles and miles, but I’m sure it was only about five or six blocks. He described a cobblestone bridge over his creek; I spoke about these two cement walls lining the creek that we used to dare each other to jump from. I remember it being perilously high as I stood on the edge and looked down, the bank of the creek swimming into and out of focus as my heart pounded in my chest. I’d lick my lips, my palms sweating as I stood transfixed, waiting for the courage to take that leap. (I went back to my old neighborhood years later, and to my shock the drop was hardly anything!) I recall one section of the creek that snaked through one of those humongous cement pipes. We thought that was SO cool! The way the more stagnant water smelt in there, the way our voices echoed off of the walls. The dark, secretive nature of our discovery. Heck, we could hang out in there all afternoon and no one would even know!

That led to chatting about the myriad of trees along our creeks. Remember those brown, spiky balls about the size of golf balls we used to find? (Hey! I just looked those up on the Internet. Those are from the American sweet gum tree. You learn something new every day!) And how about those trees my siblings and I called “cigar trees?” You remember those, don’t you? Well, according to Wikipedia those are called catalpa trees. (“The name derives from the Catawba Native American catawba for these trees (the tribal totem), with the spelling catalpa being due to a transcription error on the part of the describing botanist (Scopoli) making the first formal scientific description of the genus.”) Or maybe you are old enough to recall the things we called, “Stick-to-Ems” or “Badges of Courage.” Our socks would be covered with them when we returned home after hours of surveying the land. I wonder if my kids have ever seen them? We’ve taken them hiking, of course, but usually on trails, not venturing off path, tramping through the woods like we did as kids. What a plethora of tree fruits God gave us--from the hedge apple to the buckeye to the milkweed pod!



Now children tend to spend more time indoors. They have video games, Netflix, and computers. We had wiffle ball, kick the can, and books, (with real pages!) From time to time I find some of these thoughts and images popping up in my writing. Like in ABANDON ALL HOPE when Chase and Hope play hide and seek in a corn maze, rubbing husks in their hands to smell the sticky sweetness, and tripping over dead stalks and tree roots. In an upcoming book, HOMETOWN HEARTACHE, the hero and heroine meet as ten-year-olds and traverse the creek meandering through their adjoining properties. They discover a tree house (what happened to those?) which sounds eerily like one my siblings and I found during our ramblings. Nash even tries to jump the creek on his bike like my brother Pat did. 

What are some of your memories of “the good old days?” Ever go exploring? I’d love to hear your stories!