Finally found the Holy Grail of writing in Google Docs on the Chromebook…

My writing buddy...

My writing buddy…

I’ve been using Google Docs on my Chromebook for writing since, oh, day one. Day one of my Chromebook days, that is. My tech ADHD always has me jumping around from device to device, from app to app, but I do try to do nothing but write on the Chromebook so that somewhere deep inside me, my brain knows that by me sitting in front of that particular device, I should be writing.

I’ve always been a devotee of Scrivener, but nothing like that exists web-based or Chrome App-based, so I’m relegated to simple text documents. Google Docs is a natural for the CB, since it’s fully integrated and synced, and the offline mode works just fine for those rare times when I’m either (a) on a plane without wifi (scary thought) or (b) in heavy solar flare activity where neither local wifi or my iPhone hotspot work. And GDocs works just fine, with one exception: that sucker bogs down when the document gets too long.

It had gotten to the point where I was writing individual Docs for each chapter just so I didn’t have to go through the pain of loading the document and scrolling down to the bottom of 30,000 words to pick up where I left off. Unlike a standalone text editor (Word, etc.) GDocs ‘starts over’ at the beginning of the doc each time it’s opened. And the Chromebook, an ARM-based lightweight laptop (basically a tablet with a keyboard), doesn’t have the guts behind it to power through the scrolling. I had resorted to dropping a bookmark at the beginning of each chapter with an ad-hoc table of contents on page one so I could jump to where I left off. Silly stuff.

The magic of the Interwebs pointed me to the Holy Grail. Microsoft Word and its equivalents have end-of-document key combinations, like Shift-F5, or Command-Page Down and so on. The Chromebook has neither F keys or a Page Down key, so nothing was working. Until I stumbled across a Google Groups post from a John McFarlin that shone the light as follows:


ctrl + search key + left arrow

ctrl + search key + right arrow

ctrl + alt + up arrow

MOVE TO END OF LINE (move right)
ctrl + alt + down arrow

ctrl + shift + left (or right) arrow

ctrl + shift + search key + left (or right) arrow

alt + backspace (replaces DELETE key)

alt + search key, to turn caps lock both on and off


And so my life just became much easier…


More »

Wow…my 13 year old is boarding a plane tomorrow with the Philly Boys Choir…to PARIS.

Hard to believe, but the day is finally here. Two years ago when my son Evan was accepted into the Philadelphia Boys Choir as a cadet, we knew each summer the choir traveled to some amazing destinations. Just in the past few years they’ve gone to China, the Baltic states, the Grand Canyon; they’ve sung for Pavarotti, Julie Andrews, presidents and prime ministers; they’ve had experiences that will last a lifetime. We couldn’t wait until he had his opportunity.

Two years went FAST, man. We’re spending the day packing his suitcase, then tomorrow dropping him off in Philly to board the bus for JFK airport. From there he flies to Paris via Reykjavik, and will visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, take a boat cruise on the Seine, visit Normandy Beach, and sing in such places as the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Literally unbelievable, I’m still coming to grasps with it. Yes, THAT Paris. In France. Europe, even.

Am I nervous? No – Evan’s got more stamps in his passport than most US adults, I’d venture to say. One of the benefits to being in the travel industry; my kids are very experienced travelers. I’m sure Evan will be giving advice on how to pass through airport security properly, how to board the plane, and where to find the restrooms in foreign airports to the other kids. Crowded airports, long lines, rude & harried travelers – nothing will faze him.

I’m a bit anxious at not flying with him, I’ll admit. That’s a very rare occurrence. Not that I’m superhuman and can shield/protect/save him if something goes wrong, but it’s a father’s inherent job; my mission in life, as it were.

Here’s a shot of him as a cadet, borrowing the famed red blazer for a performance when he was allowed to sing with the full choir.


Now he has his own blazer. His own singing career, so to speak. And his own trip to Paris.

I’m jealous. I’m excited. I’m thrilled. But most of all…you guessed it…I’m proud.



More »

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment performs…INSIDE the Rock

An absolutely stunning show last night in Gibraltar. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment performed in St. Michael’s Cave INSIDE the Rock, surrounded by stalagtites, stalagmites, and dripping water through the limestone above. Easily the highlight of the trip so far. Just…stunning. Hope my quick iPhone pics do it justice.



More »

First time traveling without a Mac. My plan is as follows:

Those of you who “know” me (inasmuch as anyone knows anyone online – I could be an 85 year old great-grandmother of seven, for all you really know), know that I’ve been a diehard Mac/iDevice user for quite some time. And while that’s still the case (I live in, and will always live in, a Windowless house…get it?), I’ve modified my “mobile” usage over the past year.

I’m jumping on a plane tomorrow (well, walking slowly so as not to alarm TSA) to Spain for an 8-day business trip, and for the first time since my pre-laptop days (right around the time the mammals rose up) I will be traveling without a Mac of any sort. This is a BIG step for me. With the lone exception of a one-night trip to Milwaukee last year (which totaled less than 30 hours away) when I brought only an iPad, this trip will be Mac-less for the first time.

homepage-promoAs sad as this may sound, I’ve been preparing for this Mac-less trip for a while, knowing how my mobile habits were changing. And now, for the first time since those mammal days, I don’t even technically own a Mac laptop. The trusty MacBook Pro is now in the extremely capable hands of my son Zack, who will surely put it to great use. I am now down to the eclectic mix of:

  • Main computer: Mac mini (running dual-core i5 processor @ 2.3 GHz, 8GB RAM, added in a 256GB SSD drive – smoove)
  • Laptop: Samsung Chromebook (installed Ubuntu on SD card, so it dual boots to either Chrome OS or Linux…muahaha)
  • Tablet: Nexus 7 (completely replaced my iPad 3 – just much more portable & convenient)
  • Phone: iPhone 5 (I haven’t moved away from iOS, but I am curious to see the next Nexus phone…)

On this trip, the latter three will be joining me. No Mac at all. Weird. But what I’ve done is set myself up to be completely Mac-less on a mobile basis.

I’ve switched my business emails over to GMail – matter of fact, I now have five different email accounts feeding into it, so the Chromebook easily handles it. With Chrome OS, you can’t “install” apps – everything is web-based, and I’ll be the first to tell you there ain’t no decent web-based IMAP service for email.

I’ve got all email accounts running into K-9 Mail on the Nexus tablet, meaning I have a true separate IMAP system for each one when needed. I’ve also got movies and books, of course.

And finally, the iPhone is jailbroken, so I am able to create a wifi hotspot wherever, whenever (even in Spain next week). Meaning even if I’m running the Chromebook in Chrome OS (as opposed to the LInux side, where I can use LibreOffice, Gimp, etc. even when offline), I am able to fully use the web-based stuff.

I’ve even got an app for the Chromebook called Code Anywhere, meaning I can log into my business’ website via FTP, change HTML code, and reupload. My biggest fear to being Mac-less on the road was losing the ability to use Dreamweaver to change web pages, but Code Anywhere works in a pinch.

So now my out-of-office work is done on those three devices. Which on a side note, combined cost less than the MacBook Pro…hell, the Nexus plus Chromebook total cost was the same as a base wifi-only iPad…and they weigh less!

And it should work just fine…right?



More »

Welcoming back Robert Swartwood to the Author’s Cafe with his new release, Walk The Sky (and a book giveaway)


How about a little Western to spice up your work week? I’m happy to “reintroduce” a good friend who has been here before (though before I had that cool little bookstore/cafe image above), Robert Swartwood. Author of horror, suspense, and thrillers (including one of my favorite reads, No Shelter, with the butt-kicking Holly Lin) has dipped his toes into a Western genre for his brand new release, Walk The Sky.

Check out Robert and his work on his site, follow him on Twitter for some off-the-cuff food remarks. Plus he’s got some swag to give away, so read through and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Ladies and gents, Walk The Sky:

One of my favorite genres is the Western.

And I say this as someone who hasn’t watched nearly as many Westerns as he should.

In fact, considering the amount of Westerns out there, I’ve probably seen only a handful.

But for some reason it’s still a favorite genre.

Yes, there are tropes that seem to constantly pop up — the anti-hero, the cavalry, show down at high noon, and wanted posters, just to name a few — that our understanding of life in the “old west” is probably nothing like what it was really like to live back then.

Still, the setting seems to make for great storytelling, or at the very least, exciting storytelling.

Walk the Sky, a short novel I co-wrote with the late David B. Silva, is a subgenre of the Western: the Weird Western. It starts out as a typical Western — two men on the run from a posse — but then quickly veers into supernatural territory.

It was great fun to write, but also challenging, as we tried to stay true to the time period.

A lot of the Westerns you see on TV nowadays take liberties with the setting and characters and even weapons. Originally there was a scene in Walk the Sky where a jar of gumballs falls off a table and shatters, sending a scatter of them everywhere. A friend who read an early draft did some research and found that gumballs hadn’t been invented during the time that the novel takes place. It wasn’t a big problem — we easily changed gumballs to penny candy — but still it was something we initially overlooked.

Another thing we needed to research were the weapons used back then. When we think of Westerns, we immediately think of six-shooters and Winchesters, but many of those guns weren’t invented until the early 1900’s, and as Walk the Sky takes place in 1875, we needed to be conscious of which weapons that were featured (we didn’t, for instance, want to feature a gun that wasn’t invented for another three years). Sure, we could easily have fudged the weapons to make them work, but it was important to us to keep the setting and time as realistic as possible.

And that, I think, is one of the reasons I enjoy the Western genre so much. Nowadays there’s just so much technology that it makes it almost too easy for the good guys and bad guys. But back then, there were no cell phones or computers or Internet. If someone was in trouble, they couldn’t easily send out a text message. It helps ramp up the suspense. And it also helps us remember a time when we didn’t take all our technology for granted.


Things are bad for Clay Miller and George Hitchens.

For starters, they’re on the run from a posse out for blood. Then, as they ride through the Utah desert, the two come across the crumpled body of a young boy on the brink of death. The boy can’t speak, but it’s clear he’s frightened of something nearby. When asked what’s got him so scared, the terrified boy writes three letters in the dirt …


By nightfall, Clay and George are tied up in jail. They can’t move. They can’t speak. They can do nothing but listen to the boy, outside, screaming for his life.

Yes, things are bad for Clay and George.

And they’re only going to get worse.

Walk the Sky is available in paperback and on Kindle (US and UK) at a special introductory price of 99 cents.

Enter to win a free copy of the paperback at Goodreads.

What’s your favorite Western, either book or TV show or movie? Let us know in the comments section by Friday 4/19 midnight EST, and Robert will gift five copies of the Kindle edition to random participants.

Many thanks, Robert, and much appreciate the kind giveaway. Wanna win an e-copy of Walk The Sky? THEN DO WHAT HE SAYS.


More »

My son and Philadelphia Boys Choir are performing at Carnegie Hall today. Yes, THAT CARNEGIE HALL

UPDATE: Photo (actual one, not the stock photo of a piano I found on Google) at the bottom!

Another in a long line of Proud Dad posts. My son is boarding the bus, along with 60+ other Red Blazered young men, on their way to Carnegie Hall for a performance today. (Before you ask, yes – I tried the “how do you get to Carnegie Hall line…it’s lost on today’s youth).


I couldn’t be more proud, or floored. Yes, THAT Carnegie Hall. Wow…just, wow. I wonder if he, at 12, has any idea how amazing this is? Probably not…but that’s what the Internet is for, right? Posterity, man – that’s why I do this.


UPDATE: Photo on scene!



More »

Kicking off “Author’s Cafe” on the blog with an interview with Leah Petersen, author of Cascade Effect


I’m proud to introduce a good friend (though that may be presumptuous of me – she may hate my guts for all I know…) I’ve had the rare privilege of meeting in person. Yes, real flesh and bones in a world of bits and bytes. Leah Petersen is a talented author, an outspoken supporter of fellow authors, and a very entertaining Twitter follow (especially if you hate your day job – she’s got some great one liners).

I read her debut novel, Fighting Gravity, last year (review here), easily one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. Truly great storytelling, hard to put down, and I attribute that 100% to the characters she created. Those characters are back for another story, picking up where the first left off. Cascade Effect (The Physics of Falling, Book 2) was released last week, and Leah was generous enough to stop by the “all new” Author’s Cafe to chat about it.


CE_cover_series-194x300SU: Pretend this is Twitter. Sell me (and the readers) on Cascade Effect in 140 characters or less.

LP: Jake survived exile & an execution order. Now he’s back with his emperor, and the assassination attempts are the least of his problems.


SU: Cascade Effect is a sequel to Fighting Gravity, a self-contained story that left off with a bit of a hanger that led naturally into another story. Was this planned, or was FG supposed to be a standalone?

LP: Fighting Gravity was written as a standalone, but changes in the editing and revision process with my publisher ended it quite a lot earlier in the timeline than I’d planned. At that point I had to decide whether I simply wanted to let their story end at a different point in time than I’d planned, or write a sequel. I ended up writing a sequel.


SU: I found FG to be a fascinating blend of science fiction, romance, and class/nobility. Does CE maintain that same mix, or did you go more in-depth into one area versus the others?

LP: I like to think all elements are still strong and in a good balance, but as is the nature of sequels, I was able to get more in-depth about the society itself, the class issues, their history, and more details about how that specifically impacts the classes day-to-day.


SU: One of the central themes of both stories is the marriage of not only a ‘commoner’ with a noble, but also between two men. The latter is obviously a hot button issue in recent years with a lot of progress towards acceptance. Did this influence what you wrote originally, or was that relationship something you always wanted to put to paper? 

LP: The same-sex relationship was never a deliberate plot device, just something I realized was going to happen when I really started to set down the story. Once I was writing a world where homophobia was one of those archaic ideas from way-back-then, the marriage was a natural progression. But I’m sure I must have been unconsciously influenced by the issue being so much in the public consciousness, I started writing the first book shortly after Prop 8 passed in California. And once I realized how intrinsic it was to the story, it was deeply satisfying to NOT address the issue. At all. No one comments on it in the story because no one cares. They are prejudiced against Jake for a completely different reason.


SU: Jacob Dawes rose from the slums to the palace in FG. How does he continue to grow, whether positively or negatively, in CE? Give one aspect, without giving away the story, of course.

LP: Jake’s very often (OK, pretty much always) selfish and short-sighted. In Fighting Gravity, he’s largely acting from a position where he has no power, and as self-destructive as his actions end up being, it doesn’t usually have the potential to affect anyone but him. In Cascade Effect his situation has completely changed, and his obtuseness has the potential to affect millions, even billions of people, of all classes of society. The only thing to do there is either learn to be less selfish and short-sighted, or make colossal screw-ups on a galactic scale. So, no spoiler, but either he learns to grow up a bit, or the whole empire comes crashing down.

SU: Are there any plans for a follow up? Will this become a trilogy, or more?

LP: Yes, there’s a third coming. I plan on torturing Jake one more time before I let him be.


SU: Last but not least, take as much time/characters to describe the overall story arc you’ve put together for Jacob and the emperor, and why readers will enjoy it.

LP: A reviewer said this was a story that convincingly put the prince and the pauper in bed together. I love that way of putting it because, at its heart, this is a love story. But it’s also a story of just a guy, with all his flaws, who gets pulled out of the dregs of society, the worst of circumstances, and thrust into the world of privilege, power, and prestige–where no one wants him. Until the emperor does. Then everyone hates him even more. It’s the story of how Jake deals with prejudice and discrimination and not only changes himself, but the world around him when he refuses to accept the labels put on him and others like him. And how he deals with the cost to himself for doing it.



A big thanks to Leah for taking time out of what I can imagine is a very busy launch week. Do yourselves a favor, folks. Visit her site. Follow her on Twitter. And most of all, take a look at Fighting Gravity (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Goodreads) for the first in this series, then Cascade Effect (Kindle, Goodreads, other outlets coming soon) to pick up the story of Jake and Pete as it moves forward.



More »

And NOW baseball season has begun (a Proud Dad post)

Thought I’d put up a quick post about the true start of baseball season for me: my son Evan’s opening day. (Plus I wanted to try the WordPress app on the phone).


I hustled him out of his Philadelphia Boys Choir practice (yes, another Proud Dad plug) just in time for the game.

His pitching line for his one inning:

1.0 IP, 3 K, 0 BB, 0 R

Three up, three down, end of inning (insert Good Morning Vietnam reference here).

Looking forward to a great season. At least it’s warm out…finally!

Update:He struck out with bases loaded. I’m disowning him.

More »

My TweetDeck filters – some sanity and organization reclaimed

Though I bounce between TweetDeck, HootSuite, and even the Twitter app on my desktop, some new filters I’ve implemented on TweetDeck (not available on the other two) have made it much easier for me to stay sane and clean up my lists. Without further ado:

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 11.08.18 AM

I’ve eliminated most of the #ff listings on Fridays (though my other devices still get notifications…), the automatically-generated robot newspaper (I admit, I had one a couple years ago, until I realized how useless and self-aggrandizing it was), the social network of teens and sushi photos worldwide (my thoughts on that here), and “I just ousted Bob as mayor of the mens restroom on 5th and Broad” posts.

Yeah, I’m probably pissing some folks off out there by ignoring certain types of tweets. And I’ll get ignored back by some, I’m sure. But damn I feel better…


P.S. Can’t wait tell you guys I finally dumped Facebook…

More »

Kindle Quality Notice, eh?

Happy Monday morning to me – here’s the first thing I see in my Inbox:


We’re writing to let you know that at least one of your readers has reported some problems within your book, Gabriel’s Journey (Evan Gabriel Series).

There are typos in your book. You can find examples of this error at the following location(s): Kindle Location: 447 / Error Description: “discrete.” should be “discreet.”

Be sure to check out the Typos section of the Guide to Kindle Content Quality Errors page by clicking the link at the end of this message.

For further information regarding these above reported issues with your book, please see the Guide to Kindle Content Quality Errors.

Yep, caught me. I did miss a discrete versus discreet (and thank you no, I don’t need a grammar lesson – it just got missed).

And while I could be all  like, “what?” and “who?”, I’m more like, “cool, there’s some quality control out there.” But then I’m all like, “but what about some of the unreadable jibbererish out there masquerading as novels?” But then I’m all like, “cool, they’ll get found and corrected too.” So then I’m all like, “chill.”

And Monday carries on…


P.S. Through the magic of ebooks and the 21st century, the error was corrected and re-uploaded in less time than it takes to down a mug o’ joe.


More »