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There is something extremely nifty going on in Omaha on Saturday, September 7th, 2013. Not only can you see my blue hair, you can learn a thing or two.

Jenn Bailey and I will be running a Writers’ Boot Camp for SCBWI-NEBRASKA.

Jenn starts the day with Scrivener 101. You’ll see how to storyboard, organize research, revise using keywords, and a lot more. Imagine being able to pull up all of your main character’s dialogue at once to see if his speech pattern remains the same. Track a secondary plot thread. Check your research–videos, pdfs, sound files–right in your Scrivener program. Save time and write a tighter, multi-layered manuscript.

Next, Twitter Tune-up.  Learn how to connect with agents, editors and other writers, or movers and shakers in any industry. Where and how to join a chat. And find out how to hashtag, MT and RT with the best of them. We’ll demystify the lingo and let you in on the etiquette of successful Tweeting.

Last of all…face it. You know you need a website. If you’re like me, html and CSS might as well be Aramaic. But there’s a way for anyone to put together a beautiful website, with or without a blog. I will hold your hand and take you step-by-step through the WordPress Workout. We will set up a site together, so you can see exactly how themes, headers, titles, widgets, pages and blogging work. We’ll talk about the dreaded SEO and how to get recognized by Google. You’ll leave with your very own site, ready for your personalization.

Everyone’s invited, whether children’s writer, adult writer, business person, student or teacher. Anyone who wants a bit of web presence or must produce documents should come.

Also, Jenn and I are a ton of fun.


Don’t let the crowns fool you.



yahoo, you’re hacked, but good. admit it.

I don’t like being played for a fool, but I think I’ve been played.

Like a honky-tonk piano.

Gather ’round kiddies. Maybe you’ll discover you’ve been duped too.

I hadn’t worked with email from my PC for two weeks except to put the KidLit Scoop together, which takes all day Sunday. At the time, my email was sketchy–hard to get into, logging me out, taking forever to load an email, timing out, etc. I changed my password twice, emptied my PC cache a billion times and managed to get done what I needed to get done.

By week three the whole email experience became hopeless. The server’s website urged users to report problems, but made it impossible to do so.

So I complained on Twitter.

Nearly immediate response from Yahoo.

I won’t go through the ridiculous suggestions they gave me to “fix” the problem. Suffice to say I spent days and days working on nothing but The Yahoo Email problem, taking and giving Yahoo feedback through Twitter DM.

I ended up with a the damn brand new iteration of Firefox–which, who wants the newest release of ANYTHING, before they have worked out the bugs? Had to set up all my marklets and pinlets and special thingies, some of which I lost because they don’t work in this new Firefox incarnation, and pick the icons and toolbars and skins in the new interface WHICH I HATE WITH A PASSION THAT KNOWS NO BOUNDS. But, I like it better than Chrome or the others. I know this because I downloaded other browsers to see if my Yahoo mail would work in them.

Oh, yes. I tried everything.

I watched for an official announcement of some sort from Yahoo that would give me some confidence that they knew what they were dealing with and would at some point repair it, but there was nothing.

Nothing in the news.

Nothing on tech blogs.

Nothing on Yahoo’s site.

But plenty of complaints in Yahoo Answers and on Twitter.

I really like my Yahoo. Been with them eight years. With a heavy heart I researched other email providers, because I just couldn’t lose any more work time.

I settled on Outlook. It’s got unlimited storage, huge attachment allowance, you can direct Gmail through it, all kinds of stuff. And I tweeted about my decision to leave Yahoo loud and clear, last night.

Today, my Yahoo email works. Pretty much perfectly.

After nearly a month of glitches building to outright unusability, it works.


I went back to this link my good friend Vivian Lee Mahoney sent about a hack attack on Yahoo. Supposedly in just the last several days. I’d dismissed it as the cause of my problem because I knew damn well I hadn’t clicked on anything. And my trials had started weeks before this past weekend. So I surfed links from article to article, reading comments and…

Here’s the deal.

There’s an asshole in Egypt who figured out a hack that allows him to get into Yahoo accounts without a password.  What’s more, there’s a cottage industry in the Middle East, finding ways into big companies’ programs and selling the illicit information on internet boards. Furthermore, big companies know this, and the smart ones pay bounties to independent hackers who find holes in the programming and report it before criminal hackers can take advantage.

Yahoo does not do this.

I digress. let Yahoo know about this Egyptian guy in November. ‘Course Yahoo coughed and told everyone to move along, nothing to see here.

But finally the problem has made it into the news, because the Egyptian posted a demonstration of how to actually do the hack on YouTube. Perhaps he didn’t like Yahoo pretending everything was A-OK.

Now the whole world is acting like it’s a new deal, like the hack to Yahoo just occurred this weekend.

All Things D thinks the current problem is the same as the November problem, still unsolved.

Yahoo ain’t spillin’ the beans.

But what they are doing is telling users to change their browsers. Turn off their firewalls. Clear their caches.


Pull the other one.

being online safely

I can’t go through the rest of the day without having my brief say. Just to get it off my chest.

Adorable agent, @BookaliciousPam was assaulted last night by a rejected…writer.

You heard me right.

Pam was saved by her dog, a Jack Russel terrier. (Let’s not malign the accompanying bulldog. From what I can gather, it is still a puppy.)

And now comes the hand-wringing about being too available on Social Media. Like we should all hide behind fake names and put masks on our profile pictures a la Michael Jackson.

Let’s reel it in a bit.

Writers, agents, publishers…we are in a public business. And in this day of personal advertising, almost every profession is a public business. We have to accept a certain amount of “being out there”.

Heck. I started out as a lurker. But soon enough, I wanted to connect with people. I wanted them to know who I really am. Fine, I usually have a stupid non-photo Twitter Avatar up that I change pretty often. It amuses me. But if you go to one of my THREE BLOGS you will find a photo or two of my actual person. And my Tumblrs should have Gravatars of actual me, but at this point, I can’t swear to it.

You know where I generally live if you follow my blog and Twitter. But what you DON’T know is my exact address and phone number, because…

  • I don’t call my husband by his real name in my writings. Anywhere. Or my children. I don’t publish pictures of them unless their faces are blobbed out.
  • I have paid the extra bit of filthy lucre for my domain name on my website for teens,, to be registered by proxy, which means my personal info such as my street address is not public information. Yes. I didn’t know about this stuff when I first bought my domain. Imagine my shock when I found out that people can look up any domain name and see who owns it. Yeah, fine. But they also see where the domain owner  lives. ACK.  **Check your public domain name info here.** Just have your company register it by proxy–GoDaddy does it on the cheap. Other companies can do it for you as well.
  • FourSquare. Oh, FourSquare. You give handy discounts, but you also tell people where the eff I am. Guess what. YOU CAN TURN OFF THE PART WHERE IT TWEETS WHERE YOU ARE. I still don’t use it, but Freckles does, and I TOLD HER TO TURN OFF THE PART WHERE IT TWEETS WHERE YOU ARE.
  • Facebook I only use for people I actually know. And I have locked it down like Alcatraz. Keep checking it, my friend, to make sure you have your Book of Face tuned correctly on the privacy settings. They keep a’changing. I am always stunned by how people lock a select few things, but miss others. A good snooper, such as myself, can go in the back door and find out a lot of stuff if you don’t check. Every. Setting.
  • And by all that is holy, if you leave an empty house, don’t Tweet vacation pictures. I Tweeted the hell out of my trip to Albuquerque when I took Freckles McYoungest to college. But Big Bopper was home, in our house, with Hairy Beast. Also, Catler, who is probably even more ferocious.

Do not take any of this as a finger-wagging at Pam van Hylckama Vlieg. If someone is crazed, they will hunt you down and it will make no difference what you do to stop them. There are police blotters full of violent stalkers who focused on people NOT on the internet, even people who never had any social interaction with their stalkers at all.

Pam did not bring this on herself. Pam is not responsible for the violence done to her.

This blog is in response to the worry I see on Twitter today about exposing ourselves in our social media interactions. I thought I would share a few things I do to not make it easy for your average nut to harass me and mine.

a tale of two twitties

Yes, read that blog title carefully.

I had the strange need to voice my concerns (start a shit storm) about two different companies on Twitter these past few days: First Watch Restaurant and Dell Computers. Let’s compare and contrast the responses I got from these hive minds, shall we?

The lovely @CarmenNodar joined @JennBailey, @HTBeers, @susanuhlig and me at lunch on Tuesday. THIS IS A HAPPENING, BABY.

Carmen never comes to lunch with us. She usually eats healthy cost-effective food from home while the rest of us go nuts at various eating establishments.So we were super-duper thrilled she was coming with us to…First Watch. And oh, how convivial we were around the table.

Until the potatoes came.

The new, crappy potatoes.

They are mushy. And tasteless. And just. Blech.

The old-recipe potatoes are one of the top reasons we go to this particular restaurant. So when we got back got to the coffee shop, I repeatedly tweeted our displeasure of the NEW POTATOES to the @First_Watch twitter account.

Still waiting for a response.


This morning I went to the Dell website to read the FAQs for some help on a battery charging problem with my laptop. When I couldn’t find a solution, I took to their chat. When I was VERY FRUSTRATED with their level of help, I started tweeting derisively.

IMMEDIATELY, two Dell representatives asked to assist me. I chose one. She stayed with me on Twitter DM until we found the problem. It took quite awhile. QUITE AWHILE. But she was patient and encouraging and stuck with it. She is shipping me an ac adapter toot sweet.

That is what Twitter is for–a two-way conversation. My customer service rep is obviously Indian, and conversing on Twitter made it SO MUCH easier for both of us, as our accents didn’t get in the way.

So I am commending @ShibaniAtDell for her supreme professionalism and knowledge. I will definitely update you guys on the outcome of this whole she-bang, but I hope this turns out well.

Because honest. I have really, really loved my laptop.

kansas scbwi is all a-twitter

We are so frickin’ lucky in this SCBWI region of ours, called Kansas.

I live in Kansas City, Missouri, but the Missouri hub of activity is in St. Louis. The Kansas hub of activity is in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.



We’ve got such talent and resources. We can do things like:

That was Jenn Bailey, owner of The Social Lites, a social media company. She’s brilliant of course, has presented at the SCBWI-LA and NY conferences. But she’s more than a Twitterer. She does all kinds of corporate presentations and works for businesses on all their social media needs.

Also, our RA, Kim Peek is a big wheel social media guru, travels to do a lot of presentations.

Could you pick out our RA emeritus, Sue Ford? Big time blogger, computer whiz.

Colleen Cook was in the back, there, schmoozing with Ann Ingalls, author of Little Piano Girl. She’s written quite a few freelance books now, one of which is a very good one about being online safely, for tweeners.

Oh, and Barb Stuber, author of Crossing the Tracks was getting her feet wet. And we had newbies and semi-newbies and even somebody who was just there eating a doughnut who joined us.

And of course Melody, who wanted to make a love connection with Old Spice Guy.

Oh, who can blame her? God help me, I love these commercials.

old spice guy says hello to the ladies

You’ve seen this guy:

Great advertising campaign, right?

Baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Sunday night I was editing the Never-Ending Sunflower Scoop, like I usually do. I tend to get punchy whimsical around about then, and I tweeted this:

A frazzled woman having a little fun, okay? So my Twitter-buddy, Kelly Fineman tweets back:

Oh, *giggle giggle*, two ladies entertaining themselves as they drudge away at their laptops late at night.


The next day, Kelly discovers…

How did she let me know?


Really wish I’d had my Flip at the Ol’ Sekrit Writing Location as my buddies and I scrambled to get a look at the clip. And our mouths fell open.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Old Spice is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT.

As far as I can tell, their Product Spokesman is answering questions and bantering with people from Twitter and Facebook, but they are also trawling Twitter for people who ARE JUST TALKING ABOUT OLD SPICE GUY, NOT TO HIM.

Get the difference?

Through this one humorous, 40-second clip on YouTube, Old Spice has lured dozens of people into talking about their product who would not have done so, without it.

And we did talk about it! Whose fathers wore Old Spice, the fact that they have more than one scent now, whose husbands wear it now.

Pray the Old Spice marketing department only uses its brainpower for the public good, because it is comprised of geniuses.

Evil. Geniuses.

I am pounding my brain to figure out how to apply this to marketing our books. PLEASE. COMMENT. I BEG YOU.

welcome to my nightmare

Some day, I will write a novel about the most frightening species in the rogue’s gallery of monsters, mutants and deviants:

The Doll.

I have always DESPISED dolls, from my earliest memories. They are like, totally creepazoid. They look at you with those dead soulless eyes, like they’re planning something. Waiting for you to fall asleep.

Oh, make no mistake. They’ve got you dead in their sights.

There’s even one on Twitter. And she doesn’t even TRY to hide what she is:

I could never understand those other kids who carried their little babykins around, lovin’ on them, cooin’ at them. They were friggin’ pieces of plastic that smelled funny when you left them out in the sun.

Tell me that doesn’t look like a dead thing.

I guess the thing that makes them so disgusting is that they’re NEAR alive. If they were outright fantasies like a Muppet, or, of course, actual babies, they’d be adorable. But this pseudo-quasi-almost-living being strikes me as kind of blasphemous.

So watch out for this little gal on Twitter:

That’s right. They’re part little girl, part plastic, and ALL PSYCHOPATH.

what jung has to say on jung

My Twitter faux-nemesis, Mike Jung, posted a blog about the difference between his virtual-temperament and walking-around-self.  Writers are encouraged to have a large on-line presence these days, and the bigger the personality, the better.

You could say that Mike projects a rather *ahem* large personality on Twitter.

Yet he claims that if you meet him in the flesh you will be overcome with his genteel self-effacement.  What is one to make of this conundrum?

Mike Jung is a big fat liar.

No, seriously.

Let’s take the example of the guy who “goes on a toot” on Saturday night, then crawls into the chuch pew next to you on  Sunday morning smelling of Axe and Tic-Tacs.  He nods  approvingly every few minutes during the sermon on temperance.  Which of those faces is the real deal?


C. G. Jung, another Jung almost as famous as Mike, tells us that as individuals we have unlimited potential.  We choose consciously and unconsciously what parts of our character to express–whether to be kind or brusque, generous or selfish, dignified or Mike Jung.

We are ALL libertines; some of us suppress it and some of us let ‘er rip.  But we are also Puritans. Some on the inside, others on the outside.


So how much should we worry about making sure our insides and outsides match?

Not one little bit.  We should strive to to make the wall between our interior and exterior selves porous.  We shouldn’t be afraid to know what we’re hiding.  Hell.  Let it come out to play!  That hilarious sarcasm you’ve recently unleashed may like it out in the sun.

Right, Mike Jung?

hearing your own voice

It took me a while to find my voice.  In writing, I mean.  Let’s not go all melodramatic.  People hate that.

I’m in the gooey middle of an experiment called Tweet Mystery of Death.  It’s a 6-week “play” of sorts on Twitter.  A critique buddy of mine identified the character I play without my telling her.



She recognized my “voice” in my tweets of  in-character dialogue.  Even though I’m playing a young, male go-fer for a movie star.  With an unhealthy yen for bananas and a penchant for blackmail.

His voice is different from my WIP’s MC’s voice, an admirable teen who has had a lot of bad breaks.  Yet you can still identify that author’s voice as mine, too.  Just like my non-fiction pieces, @mermensing tweets, blogs,  grocery lists…

So what is voice?

Part of it has to be sense of humor.  While my sense of humor will change slightly for each character, in the end it still has to make me laugh too, so there will be similarities.

Syntax, sure.  Whether  a writer uses a lot of passive sentences, inverts the subject, “ing”s or “ly”s.  Goes choppy.  Or uses long, flowery, flowing discussions that seem to run on and on and describe every single detail until there’s nothing for the reader to imagine for him or herself because the writer has  covered every stinking thing that could possibly occur to the reader to think about.  I have a writer friend that likes to describe exactly what her characters look like, so a police sketch artist could draw a wanted poster.  I like to throw in a few key details, and let the reader fill in what they think is good-looking, or ugly.

Word choice.  Here ya go.  This is probably the key way to figure me out.  I admit that I have favorite words: detritus, flabbergast, bubble, jitter, harridan, smirk, boobs. (YA here, okay?) I always have to do that word search thing to make sure I haven’t put “detritus” in my MS 42 times.  (This is a separate issue from “weasel words” like: well, just, started to, etc.)

I can hear all you Sweet Young Writers out there saying,  “How do I get me some  Voice?”

Well Grasshopper, snatch the pebble from my hand.


Or better yet, get a blog.

Because the only way to “get” voice is to write it out of you.  The harder you try to get a voice, the less natural your voice is.  Bad voice is formal, artificial, stilted.  Good voice is–you.  In the old days, you would fill 100 notebooks.  But now getting a voice is more fun.  Get a blog, and write.

Make your goal something just out of the range that you’re comfortable with.  If you’re sure that you can do 100 words, make it 200.  If you’re sure 200 words will be a snap, make it 300.  DO IT EVERY DAY.  Pick a subject and go.  For a beginner, LiveJournal might be the best choice, because you can link easily with other writers, support each other, have a dialogue.

And hey!  When you get started, come back and tell me about it–in your own voice!


write this way

For me, every Friday is Write With Your Friends Day.  Maybe not as productive as my solitary writing days, but oh, so much more fun.  And necessary to keep me from boarding the Grand Funk Railroad.


Our day starts in a college library, where we don’t have interweb access.

This is good.

And we have to pretty much be quiet.

Also good.

It’s kind of fun to toil away, look up occasionally at the other writers’ faces as they wrestle with their muses. Some eyes roll toward the ceiling.  Some out the window.

Do I look like that?  Like I’m passing a kidney stone?

We all have different typing styles.  The spurters.  The slow but steadies.  The bangers.  The light touchers.

Say.  That sounds kind of dirty.

Back to the YA.

In the afternoon we zip over to the coffeeshop where we nosh and work on things that don’t need so much, uh, concentration.    Like Twitter.

Yes, yes, yes, I’m back on the Twitter thing.  You may notice that I have crossed from Twitter consumer to Twitter provider.  I can’t help myself.  It diddles my highschool note-passing receptor.

So another Friday is tucked neatly under my writing belt, and while my output may have suffered a bit today, I am primed for maximum production the other six days of the week.

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