So Many Reasons to be Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving! In the midst of autumn, families gather to enjoy a meal together and recount their blessings.

A couple of days ago alumni outreach from my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, called me. The senior I chatted with asked me if there was any advice I’d offer someone about to graduate.

Now, I don’t think of myself of an age to offer life advice, but, as we spoke, a pattern from my life emerged.

Give Thanks

CC0: https://pixabay.com/en/thanksgiving-fall-pumpkin-flowers-2903166/

This year I’m reminded of something else to be grateful for: the chances I’ve been given to do something special, something different or unexpected, and how those chances have paid handsome dividends in my life.

Even from simply deciding to go to Austin for my degree, for pursuing engineering instead of something else, the choices I made and the chances I took created unique consequences. If I’d chosen differently, I’d have ended up somewhere else. With a different degree, I’d have worked at some other company for my first job, likely in a different city, and I would have gained entirely different skill sets.

Instead of moving to Houston and accepting a transfer from that first job to Baton Rouge, there’s no telling where I would have ended up or who I would have met along the way. And while moving to a new city can be daunting, moving to a new place after that where you know no one is even scarier. It’s certainly true that it’s harder to make friends after college.

But because of those moves, I made friends and got to expand my world view. As a big city girl, moving to Baton Rouge was extreme culture shock. Then to experience the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the storms that came after… Let’s just say that I now follow hurricane season every year with a greater understanding and concern than if I’d stayed away from the Gulf Coast.

Even the way I write is affected by choices I’ve made. Because I’m an engineer, I like to think about the way things work. If you haven’t checked out my series on Why Engineers Shouldn’t Watch TV, you’ll find that logic and fact are important to telling good stories. So as I build worlds and explore the inexplicable, finding a plausible (if fictitious) reason for why things work the way they do is a way that I make things feel more real even within the realm of fantasy.

Perhaps if I hadn’t studied science and fed my fascination for understanding how to build or fix things, I wouldn’t consider that a lack of magic in Worvanz would lead to infrastructure breakdowns, as in Dark Empire, or the need for mermaids to have highly transmutable cells and the impact of their biology on their lifestyle, as in the Sea Deception series (coming soon!).

The choices I’ve made impact me in much more personal ways, too. I look around the table at my family, at the man I married and the children we share, at the home we live in, the food we eat, the things we choose to discuss and the books we decide to read, and I realize that all of these small choices add up to build who we are as people. Anytime we go a different path, the effect of that choice may be profound.

And today, as I think about the season of Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful that I have no regrets about the way life is turning out for me. I’m blessed with a family to love, with friends, with a home and a career, and a passion for storytelling that fuels my soul.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Previous years: 2017 2016  2015  2013

Halloween Word Wednesday: Spooky, Frightful, and Scary

Happy Halloween everyone!

It’s my favorite time of the year. Our neighborhood is having a block party, so I’m putting together a craft table. My pumpkin garland still needs to hang straight, though.

There’s so much candy, so do come by. My teal pumpkin treats are all set: I got Halloween pencils, pumpkin erasers, and glow sticks. If you don’t know about teal pumpkins, they are placed in your trick-or-treat area to indicate that you have non-food treats for those trick-or-treaters with food allergies. Here’s my teal pumpkin:

I’ll be in costume, too. This year I’m thinking “Dark Fairy.” So don’t come to my door expecting candy if you’re not dressed up.


Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

On Wednesdays we will identify an unusual word, provide its definition, and discuss its application or its impact.


Today’s Word Wednesday is a bundle of Halloween fun. I decided to look at the origins of “spooky” and “frightful.”

Let’s start with “spooky”:

A spook is a ghost, so this word means “like a ghost” or eerie or scary. Horses can also be spooked, making them nervous or skittish.

Frightful” has a few different meanings:

1) something that’s dreadful, terrible, or alarming
Fright is a sudden and extreme fear. It’s not a general word. When I was writing “Sea Dreams,” I used “fright” and then went back to change it to “anxiety,” since the character felt a long-lasting fear.
2) horrible, shocking, or revolting
We hear about “frightful” messes and such in 19th century gothic novels. To my ear it sounds very proper, but a “revolting mess” sounds worse than a “frightful” one.
3) unpleasant or disagreeable
This last use is a softer application of the second definition.

And what about “scary”? I was interested to discover that this word has two meanings:

1) causing fright or alarm
This is what I expected. However, “scary” can also mean
2) easily frightened or timid
I have never seen “scary” used this way, like “my scary toddler doesn’t like going upstairs in the dark.”

What other creepy Halloween words do you like to use this time of year?