Posted in Life stuff

Stand Up to Cancer- Or Sit Down to Read

Hey, readers, writers, and fabulous people. I don’t often ask for things around here. The dirt piles up because I don’t ask you all to wipe your shoes before coming in. Dishes are sometimes stacked because I live on wine and coffee (grapes and beans = good balance) while writing, and well…anyway… I’m sharing a GoFundMe, but it’s not about me.

It’s for Baby Willow.

She belongs to friends of ours. Her big sister is my daughter’s person – or one of them because when you’re in middle school, your tribe is larger than it might be at my age. Baby Willow is ten months old and was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia just last week. I know I connect with people around the world, so I thought I’d share her story.

Willow’s Journey

They (don’t ask me who they is, they just go by ‘They’) say that prayers and positive energy travel across the globe. If you happen to have any glitter in your pocket, grab a pinch and toss it out there for Willow. If you have a few bucks, it’ll help. If you can click the share button, that might help as well. See? Multiple ways to help.

What I don’t know is just how hard this is though I’d like to say I do. What I don’t know is what it’s like to live in a hospital for five weeks with your family coming and going while trying to carry on with day to day life. What I don’t know is how hard these two years of chemotherapy will be. What I don’t know is how many colds fevers will occur over the years to come when Willow’s parents will wonder if cancer has struck again.

But I know this: I know this is a beautiful little girl. I know her smile is contagious. I know she is strong. Probably stronger than the rest of us. And I know when the mail starts coming in, it might look like a scene from a movie. Stacks upon stacks of bills from cardiologists, neurologists, oncologists, anesthesia, bloodwork, pediatricians, tests, the five-week use of the institutional crib…all the stacks and still the worry over Willow.

Look, GoFundMe campaigns aren’t perfect. But they help. Sharing helps. So today, as you go about your day, maybe you can think of Baby Willow.

Baby Willow – GoFundMe

And I was serious about that glitter. Sprinkle that shit all over – glitter is forever. I know this because I have two teen daughters and glitter almost as old.

Take care of one another and keep smiling.


Posted in Life stuff

It’s November – NaNoWriMo18

‘Tis the season and all…though I don’t allow that until mid-December in my house. Usually, November for me means NaNoWriMo. Thirty days, nine of them with my children home from school – though not this year, 1667 words each day for an end result of a novel finished in a month. Or at least, for those of us who write longer novels, 50,000 words complete.

Here’s why I love NaNoWriMo:

It fits months of effort into one small period where accountability matters most and editing matters least. For those of us who like to write on an annual schedule, we write in the fall, finish in the winter, and edit in the spring for a summer or fall release.

It’s perfect.

Here’s why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo18:

I’m a little sad. It’s my second year deciding not to do it.

I have to say that again, and as I type, I’m going to say it out loud because that makes it real.

       I’m a little sad. It’s my second year deciding not to do it.

Sad or not, I have to know where to best spend my time.

I have three novels I’ve written in various November months which are not released. These past two years have been hell. Absolute hell. But, as I wiggle my way back one slip and fall and twist and turn at a time, I know it’s important to get these novels back on the market.

They are not just in editing…they are complete rewrites. My readers may remember when I said I was going to copyedit 34 Seconds one more time before releasing it. I did. But if I had the time and the will to do it, I would have rewritten the whole thing. And I probably would have deleted about 20,000 words. Nikki would have been stronger. There would be less of Chris and their failing marriage and more of her personal struggle back and forth to find her place within her own world. And as much as I may have hated it, the last 36 hours with Will may have been edited down. But that would have been hard for me to do, so a rewrite may have focused more on the first half and less on the second.

But the three NaNoWriMo novels I have, are in a rewriting process. This means a lot of things for those few who’ve read Just Jules and it means everything to me for Finding Her and What May Come (which is still a working title).

So this year, and maybe even next, I am skipping NaNoWriMo. I’ve even said out loud I may have outgrown NaNoWriMo. It’s a community like no other. It’s an honor to have a halo over my photo. It’s amazing to know so many others are doing the same thing at the same time. And the cheerleaders are filled with pep.

But, more than anything, it’s fun. It’s a challenge at times and not at challenging other times. For this year, at least, I am not doing it.

So, here’s to you. All of you who are setting daily goals and sticking to them. Be sure to set your support and tell your friends and family what you need to get through this month.

If this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo, remember to leave yourself some room, give yourself some love, and be realistic. Here are some great things to remember:

  • Send your inner editor on vacation until December 15th. I say that because, by the time December 1st comes around, you’ll want a break. Take it! Walk away and come back to your work before you forget where you left off.
  • Take notes within your manuscript. Don’t make changes, make notes. I can’t tell you how many times I renamed a character in the middle of NaNoWriMo but didn’t remember until I went to edit in the spring. Who’s Riley? Landon? Who is that? All the same guy…I just changed his name.
  • Drink – a lot! Water, juice, wine, vodka, bourbon, and are coffee are all acceptable. Just be sure to add more water than vodka or bourbon throughout your day.
  • Eat – not as much. Halloween candy is readily available for the at least the first half of November. That last week might bring you Thanksgiving leftovers.
  • Write. Just write.
  • Daily count. You’ll need 1667 words each day. This means weekends too. And days when bills are due. And work days. And days you don’t feel well. Days you need to vote, days people are playing sports, and any day that ends in a Y or the word day.
  • Accountability – NaNoWriMo has a fabulous site where you can enter your daily word counts and see how you are doing compared to your goals as well as within your local NaNo community.
  • Community – join your local NaNoWriMo group. They have done this before. They are amazing support, and they will get you out of your house and into a bar or coffee shop or library for reserved writing time. Go do it!
  • Leave your space – write somewhere you don’t usually write. Try not to write this month in front of the TV while watching the latest with your family. You’ll be sad but probably not surprised when you fail.
  • Keep going – if you know you are falling behind or if you have the big thing coming and know you won’t be writing one or two days, get ahead. This blog is almost 1,000 words, so 1667 is easy peasy!
  • Celebrate – throughout the month and at the end. Celebrate! A lot!
  • Do it again. If you fail or succeed, keep doing it. It’s fun, it’s supportive, and it’s something you can schedule every calendar year.


Enjoy your month.


Posted in Life stuff

Stop. Slow Down. Stop.

This morning, Halloween morning, a mother wakes possibly looking at the costumes her children were excited to wear, has ingredients sitting on her counter for the class party treats she may have helped to plan. She might not watch for the bus, maybe she’ll be sedated, but she’ll hear it. She’ll know when it arrives. Or if it passes her house because it no longer needs to stop for her children.

This morning. Halloween morning, just another Wednesday for some of us, a mother wonders how to move on. A father catches tears with his thumb and first finger wiping his eyes clear of the canceled plans of the day. He won’t need to worry about that project due at work. Somehow all the stress that led him here, to this Halloween day, will end because just as easily as he may have hoped before, someone else will come in and pick up the pieces in his career so he won’t need to fill his mind with his job.

This morning, Halloween morning, classrooms will miss three beautiful young children. The air will lack their laughter. The streets, filled with monsters, goblins, and princesses, won’t be the same without them.

“Trick or Treat,” one may have said.

“Smell my feet,” the other may have replied, probably his twin brother.

“I can’t wait for tonight. Mommy, have you finished my costume yet?” the boys’ older sister may have asked before walking out the door to meet their Tuesday bus.


I cannot imagine what today looks like in this new world. A world without a family. But I will ask that everyone today, tomorrow, and every day after, pause, slow down, and remember. Tonight as your goblins walk streets trying to scare, giggle, and gather candy so heavy they cannot carry home, pay attention. If you’re in your car, look for them. And when you see a bus or a school zone or a neighborhood speed limit sign, pay attention.

Three young lives are gone today because in one of the safest places in their minds, the simple walk to the school bus, they were bowled over by a woman driving a truck. I can’t imagine being this mother, this father, this teacher, this bus driver. I don’t want to go there in my mind. But I can take this time to ask everyone to come together and think of them all in the course of your busy day ahead – and pause when you are in the car. They will be in my thoughts for a long time.

Put the phone down.

Deal with your baby crying.

Slow down.

Pay attention.

Stop for school buses.


Be patient.

Lives are on the line.

Stay safe.


Posted in Life stuff

It’s Monday–again

I’m sitting here listening to the clock tick. Then tock. Then tick again.

Do we still have clocks that actually tick and tock anymore? I grew up with clocks all over my house, and after living in a renovation home for the past two years with anything labeled decor still packed in boxes, I can say with all certainty, I do not hear a clock ticking in my home.

What I hear might be the rumbling of my stomach. It’s 9:30am. I’ve been awake since 5:30am. And I have bloodwork in just over an hour. I can’t eat until after the bloodwork. So tick-tock. If I start to hallucinate the cow jumping over the moon or a dish running away with the spoon — well, nevermind. That might actually happen here in my tick-tock-less home because I loaded the dishwasher only to have a sink full of Monday morning dishes, so if my dishes and spoons just ran away to another home, let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised.

Since I have time with rumbling noises that lack a tick and a tock, I thought I would reflect. I’m hungry and severely lacking morning coffee on top of it being Monday, so reflection time might not be the absolute best way to spend my time. However, it is what I will do.

We’ve been through a really difficult month. A month ago, I relived the day my father passed away six years before. It’s still painful, but I will share if you are lucky enough to still take a breath or feel the rumbling of an empty tummy, it will get easier. The day after, we celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a big party. Ironically enough, six years before, I missed her birthday party. She turned six years old and my father passed away. Not on the same day, mind you. But I wasn’t in the state where my daughter was celebrating life because I was half a country away listening to the clock of life unwind one slow breath at a time.

That year, my daughter wanted a zebra cake. So I did what all moms of soon to be six-year-olds do, and I consulted my favorite intern, Pinterest. With directions on how to make the perfect zebra cake and dreams of nailing it, I planned a party. In the end, I missed the party, didn’t make the cake, and may never have even said happy birthday to my daughter. Well, maybe I did, but for full effect of grief, I don’t remember saying it or being a part of a big event, so if the words came out, they only did so naturally.

A friend of mine made her zebra cake, and she had a party all the same – just without her mother. We all know what matters most and what tasks we can delegate or give up altogether when something else arises. It wasn’t that anything was more important than my daughter at that time, but rather that the time to truly say goodbye occurs once. And if you’ve ever been on the phone with me you’ll understand what I mean. I have a tough time with a simple phone goodbye, so I end up saying the words about three times before I hang up or I hear the dead air left from the other person who had the power to disconnect. Truly saying goodbye only happens when we can’t ever say it and be heard again.

That zebra cake was beautiful. Well, the pictures were. Six years later, I decided to make the zebra cake I never got a chance to make. And I know my daughter at age twelve much better than I did at age six. At age six, she wanted a zebra with a touch of pink. At age twelve, she thought about just a black and white zebra but ultimately, I decided she was too colorful for that, so I made her a rainbow zebra cake and let her decorate the outside.

I think we did okay. And we laughed. And we had fun. And the cake was delicious. And after six years, she got her zebra cake, and I got to make it just for her.



Moments before cutting into this cake, we got news that rocked our world and spun not only us but our community into a new reality.

A teen….one we knew well and loved immensely, had committed suicide.

I won’t get into his story. It’s not mine to tell. But with the love for my father, the love for my daughter, the time to build her a fun cake from scratch, and the joy of life, it’s taken me a month to come back here. To write again. To get my planner out each day and start to live again.

It’s the one thing we can do. Because we’re here.

We can live.

And drink vats of coffee after bloodwork has been completed.

I hope you all are well, and I wish you love and peace.


Posted in Life stuff

Father, mine and someone’s

Today, six years after losing my dad, I’m sharing my coming out story again. This is also a reminder that we can make connections that take us back to these special moments. I danced with a gentleman several months ago who was too young to be my dad but reminded me of my father in many ways. I hope his children know how awesome their dad is.

Stella Samuel - Author

He wouldn’t have danced with me, my father. The day he gave me away, I told him we were only having dinner, not a full reception. Ours wasn’t a traditional wedding anyway, so skipping the father-daughter dance wasn’t a big deal to me.

Dancing wasn’t the only thing he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t have read my screenplays, but he’d happily watch the movies once some Hollywood director ripped apart my words until the idea behind them was all that remained. He would laugh though. No matter what we were doing so long as it wasn’t dancing, he’d laugh with me. A quiet all-knowing laugh that would leave me wondering if my laugh didn’t quite hit the rhythm of the joke. And he’d talk with me.

He’d ask questions, wonder where my life was, where it’s going, and what I needed from him to reach my dreams. He’d listen to my…

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Posted in Life stuff

It does get easier…I think

I was told yesterday as we sat outside with our toes in the sand and tacos and beer between us, the sense of loss I feel all the time doesn’t usually bubble up until today.

So, we were a day early yesterday hosting our annual celebration of life lunch. I woke this morning, and it hasn’t hit me yet. Not like a ton of bricks anyway. It’s there though. Almost like a cloud over my head. Eeyore’s voice saying he’s okay when everyone really knows he’s not. The images are still there. The moments. The tears. The long talk before his final breath. The Temptations song on the radio – the one I can’t place anymore. It’s all there.

And there is another sense of loss too. The idea that someone alive is also gone. Dead. Out of reach. That’s there too. This is why I gather friends each year to celebrate life instead of sitting and mourning. Because I have so much good in my world right now, so much I wish I could share with my dad. But he’s not here.

I reached out to a good friend yesterday and started the conversation off with, ‘This is a problem I’d normally ask my dad about before anyone. I called my mom, and she was helpful. But I need to ask you too.’

You see, we can still live. We can carry on. And we can recognize where we are when we are there and what kind of support we need, even when our support is gone.

In the six years since losing my dad, my little redhead has grown to a smart, curious, eager young man who still has my father’s grin and hair. My youngest daughter shares her deepest secrets with me, and it’s this kind of communication that took me years to accomplish with my father, but it’s also the kind of communication we had all through my adult years. My oldest is now a teenager in high school – with a boyfriend. My world has been turned upside down and is starting to settle, but these past two years, I needed my dad more than ever. The fact that I am still here and still thriving, still striving to be the best I can tells me my dad did a good job. He raised me with integrity. With respect. With kindness.

He’s not here today. But he – and my mother, but she’s here and I still lean on her – set me up to live. To live beyond their influence, beyond their lives, beyond his last breath.

Six years after telling him I will be okay, and he could go, I can say with all honesty, I am okay.

I miss him with everything I am. But I give him credit he deserves because I am okay.

I am okay.

We all suffer great losses. Death. Divorce. Empty Nest. Sobriety.

A new life.

A new life is on the other side.

If you’re like me, often in a dark place, often missing what you once had, missing someone, wondering what could have been, wishing someone could see you now, wondering how to carry on after this huge change, just move. Just move. Forward. Sideways. Up and down. Move. Each day. Every day. Move.

This is life.

We live. We lose. But while we are still here, we can carry on. And we can do it with an intensity we’ve never had before.




Posted in Fiction, Peek into Stella's Books

Chapters of 34 Seconds

Do you want to read the Prologue and first two chapters of 34 Seconds?

Sign up for my newsletter and grab the first two chapters plus the prologue for free.


Clearly this post isn’t done! And it’s getting likes.

And you can sign up. And I think MailChimp is set up to send you a link to the chapters. But I kept pushing this post out…and out…and out because I wasn’t ready.

Clearly, my calendar caught up with me. It’s no longer a scheduled post I need to find time to write…it posted! Just like that.

But it’s okay. I’m okay, And you’re okay too.

And I’m human. So I say sign up – but I have no link.

I’m not ready.

So I’ll put this on my calendar for another few weeks and see if I will be ready then.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience and acceptance for simply being human.

And if you really want the chapters…I’ll send them to you. Just message me. 🙂




Posted in Life stuff

Tuesday Morning

Yes, of course, I remember. But instead of the usual where were you on that fateful day post, I’d like to share some things I remember about the days following September 11, 2001.

I remember kindness. I remember patience. I remember people all around me in grocery stores, on the road, at the mall pausing to smile, to connect.

I remember being American.

I was recovering from a breakup…it had been a while, but we talked often. We’d healed. She’d moved on. We stayed friends because I wanted her in my world. After a few hours at work, I called her, and we headed to downtown Denver and sat in a bar across the street from the World Trade Center which was decorated in a huge pink bow because the walk for cancer was coming up, and Denver turned everything pink in preparation for October each year.

Everything was quiet. She talked about the potential of being recalled into the Air Force where she’d spent eight years. But more than our experience together, we were with community. People in the apartments nearby hung American flags from their balconies, something their building probably didn’t allow on a normal Tuesday. The bar was pretty close to empty, but the few of us there talked. We tried to smile. We didn’t ask what one another did for a living. We didn’t care about which neighborhood we all lived. No one seemed to notice the two lesbians sitting with them. There was no judgment on the beer we ordered. No small talk. It was calm, quiet. But more than that, everyone was respectful.

You see, in moments duress, sadness, in moments of attack, we are all connected.

We paused to recognize our own humanity, our commonality. We don’t do this every day. We are all too busy. Some of us feel a sense of entitlement. We honk horns at lights while a mom in front of us is trying to reach a sippy cup for her crying toddler in the safest moment she can find on the road. We complain if the cashier at the grocery store talks too long to the customer in front of us because we are in a hurry to move on to the next task. We are impatient. We are sometimes cruel. We taunt and tease. We poke fun at the expense of others.

We are human.

In those days following September 11, 2001, we weren’t all that different at all. We were human. We were patient. We were kind. We took the time to compliment one another, to recognize something good in each other. We were humans – together.

Each year, I look for that again.

I see it sometimes. I see in where I live. But sometimes we fall off this wagon of commonality and forget to pause and reflect. Sometimes we forget we are all in this together. Sure, we don’t all share connected lives. But we all live. And we all die. While we’re here, we love, we hurt, we anger, we laugh. We smile. We feel. We want, desire, and yearn for various things, and though those things may differ, we all know that feeling of passion and desire.

We win. We lose. We try. We bother.

And sometimes we don’t.

This week and into the next, and if you’re up for a challenge, the weeks to follow too, try to get back to this place. If not every moment of every day, at least one moment each day, do something kind. Make a difference. Show some patience. Share a smile. Tell a joke and make someone laugh.


Remember we are on this rock together. We won’t all agree. But we can try to find a commonality each day. Each day, let’s try.

Every year I remember all the lives lost. All the nationalities. All the Americans. All the people left behind.

Today, I share this song by Melissa Etheridge about Mark Bingham, one of the many heroes on Flight 93.

Things have changed since Mark and Todd and others forced Flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania rather than into its target. Mark could marry who he loved today. He’d probably have a hugely successful business and a proud mother today. It took him years to come out and years to be open…today I bet he’d be a happy advocate.

Instead, he and the others on that plane will forever be heroes.