To Cry, or Not to Cry? Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow…

My grandmother used to cry whenever we said goodbye – even if we were just heading out the driveway to go home, twenty miles away, and would see her the next day. I loved that woman, and was closer to her than to almost anyone – but sometimes it did “get old” watching her cry. I didn’t understand it, and I was helpless to make her feel better. I didn’t realize, as a... read more

Take Just 60 Seconds Now to Protect Yourself and Your Facebook Friends

We all know there are imposters and fake accounts on Facebook. These people’s aims range from simple money scams to shilling for what may be a legitimate business that doesn’t even know their affiliate or employee is damaging their reputation. Their goals could be even more nefarious: social engineering for intelligence gathering. It isn’t just the NSA that’s social media savvy;... read more

Has Our World Spun Off Its Axis?

There are people who think that any disagreement with their views is unacceptable, and when they become frustrated at their inability to get the other person to “see the light,” they resort to anger and ugliness. Sometimes, the anger is understandable, even righteous. Ugliness – in the form of ad hominem attacks, bullying, crass memes, vandalism, or violence – never is. There are... read more

Deconstructing Constructive Criticism and Praise

Many years ago, I took Tae Kwon Do lessons from Grandmaster Don Wong Kang. I was not exactly one of his success stories; I was more curious about martial arts than motivated. But I did learn a mean sidekick and survived long enough to earn a yellow belt. More to the point, I learned from him something even more valuable, as a writer: When someone takes the time to correct you, or to give you constructive... read more

Punctuation Check-up: The Doctor Will See You Now

Terminal Punctuation Disease It’s a real problem. But fortunately, there’s help. No, you won’t find it in an online pharmacy, and you don’t have to cross the border. Just sit back and pay attention. Ending, or terminal, punctuation marks always go inside quotation marks. For example: “John said he’d do that on Tuesday,” said Mary. The quoted line of dialogue ends... read more

Happy Halloween!

Halloween, also known as “Break the Internet with Your Noveling Angst Day,” or “Reverse Triskaidekaphobia Day,” is upon us. It is the day when too many of us eat too much bad candy (or argue that there is no such thing as “bad” candy, declaring that the witches have decreed Halloween to be magically calorie free). It is the day when parents convince small children... read more

Objectifying Others for Fun, Laughs, and Profit

Long before the first book was published, I thought the site People of Walmart was horrible. Not just because it exploits – for profit! – the unattractive and mentally challenged among us, or because Walmart has allowed it, but because its success has encouraged ever more mean-spirited people to post even worse images of “weird” people who make them uncomfortable, people they... read more

Treat Yourself to a Good Book!

No tricks, just treats: If you’re in the Houston area this Saturday, be sure to drop by the Maud Smith Marks Library (@maudmarks) and treat yourself to a good book while you meet and mingle with 25+ local authors who will be there all afternoon, reading, presenting, selling, and signing their books. I will be there from 12:30 to 5:00 PM, with copies of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; A New Leaf... read more

Joanne Harris, A Writer’s Manifesto, and Click-Baity Headlines

We’re all tired of click-baity headlines. “She Takes Off Her Left Shoe and Gives It a Sniff. What Happens Next Will Have You Rolling on the Floor” – somehow, in the back of our minds, this evokes images of Buffalo Bill – “It Rubs the Lotion on Its Skin, or Else It Gets the Hose Again” – from Silence of the Lambs. And yet, click-bait still works. Even as the... read more

Antisocial? I Know I Am, But What Are You?

My dad brought me a box of memorabilia that included my grade school “memory book.” Tucked into its pages was an assessment letter from my Kindergarten teacher: July 1, 1969 Dear Mr. and Mrs. F______: Holly has been a dignified, rather inflexible, and self-centered kindergartener. It is very difficult for her to project beyond herself. She moves from one close friendship to another but her inability to... read more

Where Do the Characters Come From?

My friend Willard Campbell asked, “Since I don’t often read children’s books I’m not familiar with your characters. Do you write other books? How do your characters find their way?” Find their way? I don’t know – it’s my job to get them lost and make that a challenge for them. You’d have to ask my characters how they find their way. My first year at... read more

Book Signings & Speaking Engagements!

Eight years is long enough to practice avoidance and get really, really good at it. That’s how long it’s been since Trockle was first published; I still remember standing in my kitchen, on the phone with Vivian Zabel, President of 4RV Publishing, as she informed me that the printed books had arrived and it was now time to think about things like book signings, author visits, and speaking... read more

How to Add StumbleUpon Button to JetPack

Back in April 2015, JetPack removed the StumbleUpon sharing button. Joey Kudish explained: “Despite supporting https for their script tag, Stumble Upon’s sharing badge loads a bunch of http only resources, thus producing mixed-content warnings and not working properly for https sites. Stumble Upon has no plans to update this as per their public documentation.” Fair enough. For some of us... read more

Real Self-Confidence

Self confidence is inner peace. It is a deep-seated belief in yourself; it is contentment with who and what you are. It is not the misguided belief that you are perfect, or somehow better than others. It is not a delusional belief that there is no room for growth or improvement. It is not “attitude.” Self-confident people are able to take criticism with an open mind and a grain of salt. Years... read more

Can’t Log In to on Chrome?

[Update: There was a conflict between the Alexa extension in Chrome and the website that made it impossible for affected users to log in, on the weekend of 10/3/2015. Alexa Support notified me a few days ago that made a change that fixes this problem. You should be able to reinstall or re-enable the Alexa extension, if you wish, and log into, now. I... read more

Schrödinger’s Closet #storyaday

The house was old, rambling, and overpriced. A “classic fixer-upper” in realtor lingo. A smart developer would tear it down and build a little row of shops with pre-fab walls on a concrete slab, slap on a charmingly quaint facade, and call it a day. “There’s quite a bit of interest in this property,” said the agent. It gave me a lump in the pit of my stomach to think what... read more

The Unicorns #storyaday

“What is it, Father?” Norbert walked back from the abbey slowly, his once-proud and swaggering gait now that of a careful, elder statesman. “Her Ladyship wants a unicorn,” he said. “A unicorn? Is she mad?” Bianca took her father’s arm and guided his steps over the broken stones at the threshold of their small cottage. “Quite. But she is very definite about... read more

United at Last #storyaday

Selma watched from a distance as they lowered the caskets into the ground. She scanned the faces, looking for someone she recognized. People had gathered at the graveside – neighbors, friends, the media. Such a lurid fascination they had with the words “murder-suicide.” “–a terrible, terrible thing.” Selma caught snippets of their conversations. The mourners leaned on... read more

Cassandra Foretells of Adventure #storyaday

Arius picked up the bones, gave them a little shake, and tossed them on the ground with a grin. “What do you see there, Cassandra?” He and Balen turned their eager and expectant faces to their sister. Cassandra peered at the bones from every angle. With narrow-lidded eyes, she cocked her head to one side, then the other, contemplating. She stepped, barefoot, around the circle, laying her... read more

M.A. #storyaday

Some did it for money, others for kicks. Charlene did it for both. She reached into the tarnished brass mailbox next to the Carson Mansion’s front door – one of the few homes that still had a letter box on the front porch, rather than a community box at the street corner for mail-carrier efficiency. Laziness, thought Charlene, but then she never sent snail mail, anyway. She felt around at the... read more

#storyaday: The End of Week One

One week down, 24 more days to go! I don’t think I’ve set a record, yet, for month-long blogging challenge participation. It has been both easier and harder than you might expect, playing Scheherazade, coming up with a new tale each day. It’s gratifying that no one’s said, “What’s the big deal? You’re a writer, right? Isn’t that what you do, like, all the... read more

What Are You Willing to Die For? #storyaday

“What are you willing to die for?” Our senior History teacher, Mr. Rassmussen, threw that question out to a sea of blank looks. “Your iPhone, Mr. Wilkes?” Wilkes’s head shot up at the mention of his name, and he tried to hide the phone, which was considerably smarter than its owner, in his lap. Mr. Rassmussen held out his hand, palm up, and waggled it impatiently. Wilkes hung... read more

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