KITT is Kool!

In talking about television on Thursdays, I originally planned to talk about current shows I’m watching.  Since I watch a lot (too much!) of TV, I figured I’d be able to handle most letters.  Wrong!  There’s a Q on the horizon for Thursday.  So I decided to open it up to all shows I have previously watched.  Which means that since today is K, I get to talk about my most favoritest show from childhood – Knight Rider!!!

Just watch the intro for the show to experience the awesomeness:

That theme song still gets my blood pumping.  And on random days, from out of nowhere, the voiceover will pop into my head, and even after all these years, I can still quote it.

Almost thirty years after the show aired, we finally have talking cars.  They’re even pretty smart, since mine knows how to get places, which is better than I can do given my terrible sense of direction.  But while mine can get pretty uppity when I make a wrong turn (seriously, she says ‘recalculating’ in the most frustrated, condescending voice), she will never match the magnificent snarkiness of KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand).  

Freya with the letter K

I loved KITT.  I wanted KITT.  Almost as much as I loved and wanted David Hasselhoff.  Although that was before puberty set in, so it was a (mostly) innocent love.  I even had a Knight Rider sleeping bag, while all my friends had Strawberry Shortcake and Smurfs and teased me for having a boy’s sleeping bag.  I didn’t care, and I even still have that sleeping bag stuffed in a closet somewhere.  
 
I’ll admit it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an episode.  I did watch that gawdawful remake they did a few years ago.  One episode was more than enough, but I forced myself to keep watching out of loyalty to KITT.  I was so relieved when they finally canceled that travesty, so I didn’t have to be the one to let down KITT.  But now I’m a little worried about rewatching the originals because I bet there’s no way it lives up to my glorified childhood memories, and it will be cheesy and disappointing.  I’d rather remember Michael Knight in all his handsome, young loner glory, championing the cause of the innocents with an occasional turbo boost from his best friend KITT.
 
Did you watch the original Knight Rider?  How about the remake?  How Kissable is Freya with her letter K?

Jeans and Genes

Lily with the letter JOn this Willy-nilly Wednesday, I’m talking about jeans.  And not just any ol’ jeans.... On my most recent birthday, I opened a present from my brother and sister to discover a pair of pajama jeans.  I didn’t know what to think.  In fact, my heart kind of sank: I’d become the type of person my siblings thought should own a pair of pajama jeans - that couldn’t be a good thing.  I’d seen the infomercials, I’d heard comedians make fun of them, and they seemed like the ultimate symbol of, “Hey, I’ve given up and don’t give a crap anymore.”

After I quit work to write full time, I tried not to let myself become a pajama-wearing hermit.  Even though I’d prefer to stay in my PJs all day, I change into actual clothes every morning.  Now I’ll admit I put on equally comfy items like yoga pants or jogging clothes, but I do maintain the distinction between sleeping clothes and being awake clothes.  And when I leave the house, even for a quick trip to pick up some milk, I fancy myself up by putting on a pair of jeans and smearing on some lipstick. So even though I’m not wearing the professional outfits and full makeup I used to wear, I’ve tried not to descend into complete lazy-slob mode.  That’s why when I opened that box to find the pajama jeans, I worried I’d let myself go more than I thought.  

But I’m not gonna lie – those things are awesome!  They are so comfortable, and unless you’re up close, you really can’t tell they’re not real jeans.  So now when I’m out in the yard and see my neighbors, I don’t feel that twinge of embarrassment I did with my other comfy pants.  The best part?  They make my butt look AMAZING! Seriously.  My butt has always been a problem area.  In my teens and twenties, it was so nonexistent it was practically concave.  As I've put on extra pounds in my thirties, it skipped over juicy and went straight to flabby.  However, the pajama jeans make my butt look round and firm - I guess it’s both the cut and the stretchy material.  I haven’t been brave enough to wear them out and about yet, but if I can’t find a regular pair of jeans that makes my hind end look that great, then you might spot me prancing around town in a pair of pajama jeans.  

And while we’re on the subject of jeans, it’s time to reveal the Rish family dog genes.  Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!  It’s been fun seeing all the guesses.  They were in line with the breeds we guessed before we got the results, especially so many picks of Labrador for Bailey and Freya.  In fact, we figured they were both Husky/Lab mixes, so similar to other designer mutts being crossbred, we called them our Huskadors  – but it turns out not a drop of Lab between them.  The results show just how sneaky genes can be!

Although they use drawings rather than actual photos, I’ve pulled the official breed pictures from the American Kennel Club site.

Here’s the key for the breed ratio (the letter in parenthesis after the breed):
S = Significant – at least 50% of the dog’s DNA matches this breed
I  = Intermediate – at least 25% of the dog’s DNA matches this breed
M = Minor – at least 12.5% of the dog’s DNA matches this breed
 

1. Bailey 

Bailey
German Shepherd Dog Siberian Husky Icelandic Sheepdog
German Shepherd Dog (I) + Siberian Husky (I) + Icelandic Sheepdog (I)
 
 
2. Chloe 
Chloe
American Staffordshire Terrier Skye Terrier Great Dane
American Staffordshire Terrier (S) + Skye Terrier (M) + Great Dane (M)
 
 
3. Freya
Freya
=
Siberian Husky Poodle Chow Chow
Siberian Husky (S) + Miniature Poodle (M) + Chow Chow (M)
 
 
4. Lily  
Lily
=
Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever (S)
 
 
5. Molly 
Molly
=
Basset Hound Chow Chow
Basset Hound (I) + Chow Chow (I)
 
Some pretty crazy results!  Like Chloe, whose coat is so thin she’s practically bald, having Skye Terrier in her.  And Freya, who weighs 90 pounds, having miniature poodle in her.  But there were some results that made a lot of sense.  My parents adopted Lily from a Golden Retriever rescue group who said they thought she was purebred even though they didn’t have papers for her and that looks likely.  And although we weren’t previously familiar with the Icelandic Sheepdog, it goes a long way toward explaining Bailey’s coat and color and tail (which you can’t see in the picture).
 
And now for the moment y'all have been waiting for – the reveal of the winner! Turns out it was a tie!  So I’ll send both winners a DVD copy of Saying Goodbye. And the winners are…
 
 
Congrats, ladies!  I’ll be sending you an email.
 
Have you ever worn pajama jeans or do you think they are a crime against fashion?  Was the reveal of the dog breeds surprising or can you see some of the genes shining through?  How Jovial is Lily with her letter J?
 

It’s versus Its Insanity

Molly with the letter IAnother common issue I see when critiquing is mixing up it’s and its.  The confusion is understandable, since apostrophes can be used both to show possession and to take the place of letters in a contraction.  I’m not going to claim I never mix them up, especially when I’m typing quickly, but I do use a trick that helps keep me on track most of the time.  

 

First the explanation:

Its = possessive
When thinking about possessives, apostrophes naturally come to mind like - 
 
The man’s laugh made me cringe.
 
The girl’s freckled face peered through the window.
 
- therefore when using its as a possessive, some automatically think it should have an apostrophe: It’s fur was brown.  But this is incorrect, since its is a possessive adjective like his, her, your, our, my, their, and whose.  All these words demonstrate possessives WITHOUT an apostrophe, like – 
 
His laugh made me cringe.
 
Her freckled face peered through the window.
 
Its fur was brown.
 
Since its is a possessive adjective, it does not need an apostrophe, just like his.  If you’re tempted to use an apostrophe with its to show possession, think about how funny it would look if you tried that with his -> hi’s
 
It’s = contraction
It’s is a contraction for it is.  In a contraction, the apostrophe takes the place of a letter(s) - in this case the letter i.  And what better symbol to stand in for an i than an apostrophe?  If you squint a little, an apostrophe looks like a mutated i. Try it:  The circle part looks like the dot above an i, and the dangling part looks like a small, withered version of the base of an i.  So when I’m trying to remember the correct usage, I always think about the apostrophe like a shrunken substitute i when it and is get smushed together.
 
Now the trick:
 
Every time I write/edit the letters i-t-s, I immediately read it in the sentences as it is.  If it is makes sense in the sentence, then I add in the shrunken substitute i - the apostrophe - since that means i-t-s is the contraction (it’s).  If it is sounds funny in the sentence, then I leave out the apostrophe since that mean i-t-s is the possessive (its).  This keeps me straight every time.  So if you have trouble with it’s versus its, then get in the habit of reading every single instance of i-t-s as it is to help you decide whether it needs that substitute shrunken i () or not.
 
Does this help clear up potential it’s versus its issues?  Do you have any tips/tricks for keeping them straight?  How Irresistible is Molly with her letter I?
 
And remember: Today is the last day to enter my contest, so click here and get your guesses in by midnight!

Horrific Hidey Hole

Chloe with the letter HThis week’s recommendation via Netflix Watch Instantly ratings is the 2001 movie The Hole.  Here’s the official description:

A teen thriller about four prep school students who ditch a field trip and spend a weekend partying in an abandoned bunker near campus. But before long, they discover that they're locked in. As the hours turn into days, their suspicions grow, and they find themselves in a desperate fight to make it out alive. What began as a spontaneous lark could turn into a case of cutting class permanently.

I actually think this movie’s description does it a disservice, since it sounds like a pretty cliché horror movie.  And while I’m a big fan of horror, this one sounded so generic, I would have skipped right by if Netflix hadn’t recommended it so highly for me.  The fact that it stars Thora Birch, Desmond Harrington, and Keira Knightley (in her first big role) also helped me decide it might be worth an hour and a half of my time.

*mild spoilers in this paragraph* The film actually has more depth than the description alludes to – it’s more of a psychological thriller than a tale about survival.  It starts with one of the characters escaping from “the hole” and then the police trying to unravel what actually happened.  The character is traumatized by the events in the hole and is therefore an unreliable narrator.  Much of the film is spent trying to figure out how the pieces of the story fit together and what motivated the characters who were involved.  And it really makes you question what you would do in a similar situation – how far would you go to get what you wanted?

The Hole

There were a number of things in this movie that didn’t make sense, and it was tough to figure out which ones were on purpose because of the unreliable narrator and which ones were just plot holes due to sloppy writing.  But the acting of the main four was very strong, and I think they gave the characters more layers than what was actually on the page.  If you’re looking for something a little different from your standard teens-get-hacked-up-by-a-killer horror movie, then I do suggest trying this one.  It’s not perfect, but it intrigued me enough that I’m thinking about reading the book it’s based on, After the Hole, to see how the story progresses with more breathing room.

Have you seen The Hole?  If so, what did you think?  What movies has Netflix recommended that you enjoyed but never would have picked on your own?  How Handsome is Chloe with her letter H?

There are just two days left to enter my contest - click here for more details.

Temporarily Tweet Tales Sunday Week 13

15 Minute Tweet TalesWith the Blogging from A to Z challenge happening all month, I wasn’t sure what to do about posting my weekly 15 Minute Tweet Tales roundup.  My agenda designated Tuesday for writing tips, so the tweet tales didn’t fit that theme, nor did they fit in with the daily letters.  I could have just added them to the end of my tip post, but that would have made it even longer.  And I thought about doing two posts on Tuesday, but that seemed excessive.  Since the A to Z challenge gives the bloggers Sunday off for good behavior, I’ve decided to use Sundays for the tweet tales this month.  Because I didn’t post on Tuesday, there are more tweets than usual this time:

3/28 – Who’d have guessed rescuing animals would be her hamartia? But the injured wolf didn’t appreciate being reprimanded with a newspaper.
 
3/29 – They got a kick out of his waggish pranks until the night 1 went horribly wrong. 2 lives destroyed–1 in jail, the other in the ground.
 
3/30 – The poetaster considered himself a lyrical genius with gems like: Roses, how they smell so sweet/But not as great as this candy treat.
 
3/31 – Her expression remained sanguine as a sanguine flood swept the kitchen floor. She’d never be suspected of brutally murdering her dad.
 
4/1 – Frank is determined to pull off the ultimate April Fools’ prank so his friends will forever use antonomasia by calling him The Joker.
 
4/2 – Mocked by the judges for his looks despite his stellar voice, the disaffected contestant took an actual dump on stage. Reality indeed.
 
4/3 – Astrid always knew she’d be a star. But it was her fall off stage, not her stellar voice, which turned her into a YouTube sensation.
 
4/4 – As she searched the dumpster for food, she remembered her pridian life before the crash when she was blind to people living this way.
 
4/5 – I hoick the dog’s leash to keep him from licking his owner’s blood. I lead away my new pet, knowing I’ll finally win at Westminster.
 
4/6 – Mary knew how people would die, but only 30 seconds before it happened, making her clairvoyant abilities more a tragedy than a gift.
 
4/7 – The alien watched reality TV to form a pidgin before 1st contact, but the humans didn’t respond well to “I’m not here to make friends.”
 
4/8 - Tim threw his bowl at the wall & the oatmeal began to flocculate on the floor. The dog thought it was great. The dad missed the mom. 
 
In reading back over the tweet tales, I discovered two things. One, I used the word ‘stellar’ on 4/2, which was the day before ‘stellar’ actually ended up being the word of the day.  Weird!! *cue Twilight Zone music*  Two, on 4/5 it appears that while trying to shrink and juggle words to get it under 140 characters, I accidentally left out a word when I tweeted it.  I’ve fixed it for the blog post.
 
If you celebrate Easter, I hope you’re having a very happy one.  This is a picture of my brother, sister, and me last night.  Yes, we are dying eggs.  Yes, we are in our pajamas.  Yes, we are all in our thirties.  And, yes, we will be hiding them today!!
 
Rish kids dying eggs
 
And if Easter isn’t your thing, I hope you’re having a relaxing/productive Sunday (whichever you prefer).  
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?
 
And don't forget, I'm having a contest here.  Guess the most dog breeds correctly and win a prize.

Grasping at Love

Bailey with the letter GAccording to my agenda, today is Short Story Saturday.  Since the letter is G the genre is Gothic fiction, and I’ve added lots of G words.  I’ve never written Gothic before, so it was fun to tackle the melodramatic tone of those romance-horror stories. 

Grasping at Love
Gusting winds whipped Gretchen’s billowing nightshirt around her ankles, threatening her balance.  She fought to stay upright at the top of the cliff, not wanting to accidentally plummet off the edge.  If she was going to plunge to her death in the tempestuous seas below, she wanted it to be of her own choosing.  After all, nothing about her life to this point had been due to her decisions.
 
Her father had chosen to greedily swindle fellow members of the gentry out of their savings.  Her mother had chosen to send her away to safeguard her from the guilt and gossip.  The governess service had chosen to assign her to Grayson Manor to care for Gabriella.  And even Lord Grayson had chosen to pursue a romance with her.
 
Initially her heart sang with glee, having such a handsome gentleman court her.  Now Gretchen felt glum due to what she’d discovered in the cellar.  Painful groans had roused her from sleep and led her to the gloomy passages under the Manor.  In the flickering candlelight, she stumbled over a grisly gutted carcass.  Before she could even scream, ferocious growls sent her fleeing into the night.
 
Now she glanced up at the gleaming moon, wondering what kind of man kept a viscous beast like that in his home while his innocent niece sweetly slumbered upstairs?  And how was she going to save Gabriella and herself from a gruesome fate? 

Gothic manor

A low grumbling behind her raised goose bumps on her 

skin.  She turned and gasped at what she saw.  A giant, fur-covered creature with a lupine muzzle and teeth stood on two legs like a man.  With a graceful gait, it started toward her.  She took a step back and slipped off the edge of the cliff.  

She screamed and gripped a branch to stop her descent.

The beast galloped to the edge and grabbed at her with deadly claws.  She gaped up at him in terror, not sure which fate was worse – torn to shreds by the beast or smashed to bits on the wave-splashed rocks.

Then she noticed the moonlight glinting off the monster’s green eyes.  She knew those eyes.  She’d spent hours beside the fireplace gazing into them as she and Lord Grayson shared precious moments together.  Gretchen didn’t know how or why, but this monster was the man who filled her soul with gladness.

She realized for once in her life the choice was hers:  a quick, painless death on the rocks below or taking her chances with the beast who was her beloved.  She reached up and clasped his paw in her gentle grasp.
 
 
Do you read or write Gothic fiction?  What do you think of Gretchen’s decision? Doesn’t Bailey look Gorgeous with her G?
 
Are you good at guessing dog breeds?  Then click here for the chance to win a prize.
 
Gothic Manor photo credit to PsychoPxL

Flying Books? Yes Please!

Freya with FIt’s finally Friday!  And according to my agenda that means it’s Film Friday where I share a short animated film that tells its story without a single word of dialog.  With today’s letter being F, I’m pleased to present The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (TFFBOMML), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film this year.  At fifteen minutes, it’s on the long side for a short, but if you love books – reading them and/or writing them – then you really should watch this delightful film at some point.  

 
I hesitate to say too much about it lest I ruin the magic that makes it so special. Plus, I imagine it means different things to viewers depending on their relationship with reading and writing.
 
The first time I watched it, I got teary-eyed at several points, and by the end I was full on snotty-nosed-need-a-tissue-to-mop-up-my-face crying.  I doubt most people have that reaction, but I’m at a point in my struggles with being a writer that it was exactly the catharsis I needed.  Although I do think most readers and writers will feel the charm of TFFBOMML in some way.
 
I’ve always loved books – their stories transported me to different worlds that often felt more real than the one I was living in, and I think TFFBOMML really captures that feeling.  And even though I was a computer science minor during college, I have completely resisted the move to e-readers.  As I writer I understand the magic is in the story no matter how it’s delivered, but as an old-school reader, I love books.  I love wandering along the shelves pulling out one on this shelf or test driving another on that shelf.  I love the smell of the pages.  I love the feel of the paper.  So for me, that scene where he brings a book back to life by reading it perfectly conveys the magical connection between books and their readers.
 
But where TFFBOMML turned me into a weepy mess was at the end as the man completes his journey as a writer.  Being a writer is a long, hard road, but we travel it hoping for the day our words touch others. This film beautifully expresses how all the stories that came before help our imaginations soar until the day we’re ready to release our own story that will in turn help someone else fly to new heights.  It truly is a magical process.
 
What did you think about The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore?  Did it touch you as a reader/writer?  And how Fantastic is Freya with her letter F?
 
Also, if you haven't entered yet, I'm having a contest here.

Eureka! I’ve got it.

Lily with the letter EMr. Agenda tells me that it’s Television Thursday, and with today’s letter being E, I’m going to talk about the Syfy series Eureka.  It airs Mondays at 9:00pm, and the fifth and final season starts on April 16th.  I’m kind of bummed that it’s ending, since I’ve really enjoyed the quirky, little show.

Eureka is a blend of sci-fi and comedy about a small, off-the-map town built to nurture and protect America’s geniuses working on the latest and greatest scientific achievements.  The series started when Jack Carter accidentally wandered into town and ended up becoming Sheriff.  Because the scientists are absent-minded or arrogant or sometimes both, their experiments constantly go awry and threaten to destroy Eureka or even the world.  Even though Jack is the “dumb” one in town, it’s usually his street-smart common sense that provides the ‘eureka’ moment that helps the brilliant scientists save the day.
 
The storylines are actually very formulaic – it's easy to anticipate how things will go wrong each week and what elements will come together to fix it.  But the comedy keeps things fun, and the show has plenty of heart to make the characters worth following.  The actors are excellent - able to pull off comedy without coming across as too goofy and then turn right around and tug your heartstrings with a dramatic moment.  So a show that could easily be blown off as a silly procedural is actually very charming.  
 

Eureka

If you haven’t had a chance to watch this delightful show, Eureka is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.  Check out a few episodes to see if you’re ready to move to this futuristic town where you’re in constant danger of being blown up by someone’s brilliant idea.
 
One of the coolest things about this show is seeing the insane devices and doodads the writers think up as inventions (what a fun job!) and then wondering how many similar items are actually being worked on in secret labs around the world.  Let’s just hope there’s a Sheriff Carter around to save them when things go wrong!
 
Do you watch Eureka?  Are you sad this is the last season?  Any wishes for things to happen as they wind things up?  How Earnest does Lily look with her letter E?
 
And if you haven't had a chance, guess the breeds of my dogs for a chance to win a prize.
 

Doggie DNA

Molly with the letter DMy A-to-Z agenda shows it’s Willy-nilly Wednesday and the letter is D, so I figure everyone who’s previously visited my blog is betting I’m going to post about Dogs.  Wrong!  I’m posting about DNA.  Well… it’s actually about doggie DNA, so I guess you were right after all.  Your prize?  Adorable pictures of dogs!  And that’s not all… if you keep reading until the end, you have a chance to win an actual physical prize!

Each member of my family ‘owns’ a dog that was adopted from a shelter, so we have no idea what breeds make up their mutt-y cuteness (except for Lily – hers is kind of obvious).  With my animal-crazed family, this led to some surprisingly heated discussions as we each defended our dog’s dubious heritage.  “My dog’s a tougher breed than yours!”  “Who cares? Mine’s a smarter breed than yours!”  Yep, that’s how we roll.  We don’t actually care about the breeds, since we love them like crazy no matter what, it’s just a fun way to pick at each other.
 
In my wanderings around the interwebs, I discovered there are companies that will test your dog’s DNA to figure out the breeds.  So for Christmas two years ago, I decided that would be a fun gift for everyone and would finally put to rest whose dog is best (mine, of course).  I researched several companies, and some of them required a picture of the dog, which seemed like cheating to me (and we didn’t need to pay someone to guess the dogs’ breeds based on looks since that’s exactly what we were doing).  
 
In the end, Wisdom Panel Canine Genetic Analysis seemed to be the best bet – they had one of the biggest breed databases, didn’t ask for a picture, and broke the results into several categories.  The Significant category meant the dog had at least 50% of that breed, Intermediate meant at least 25%, and Minor meant at least 12.5%.
 
The presents were a huge success – everyone loved them… everyone except the dogs who hated having their inner lips scraped with the little brush-y things for their DNA samples.  They were not amused. 
 
We sent off the samples, and since we had to wait several weeks for the results, we made a game out of it.  Each of us wrote down the breeds we thought made up each of the five dogs, with the winner getting the bragging rights of Awesomest Doggie Breed Guesser Ever.  Now when I sat down to write this post, I fully intended to reveal the breeds of all five dogs.  But then I thought it would be more fun to have you play the breed guessing game, too.  
 
I’ve posted pictures of all five dogs below, and in the comments you can guess the breed(s) for each dog.  I will say that some of the breeds were very surprising, and that no dog had more than three breeds listed.  For the person who guesses the most breeds correctly, I will send him/her a DVD copy of my short film Saying Goodbye when it’s released in a few weeks.  It’s won awards at several film festivals, and you can find out more about it here.  
 
I’ll reveal the actual breeds and the winners next Wednesday (4/11).  Although you won’t increase your chances of winning by spreading the word, I’d really appreciate you letting others know about the contest. *bats eyelashes in a charming and beseeching manner*
 
Now here are the adorable Rish family dogs:
 
1. Bailey belongs to my brother, and she’s nine years old.
Bailey
 
2. Chloe belongs to my mom, and she’s seven years old.
Chloe
 
3. Freya is my dog, and she’s seven years old.
Freya
 
4. Lily belongs to my dad, and she’s eleven years old.
Lily
 
5. Molly belongs to my sister, and she’s eleven years old.
Molly
 
It’s weird that so many of my pictures with the dogs by themselves involve snow, since it hardly ever snows in South Carolina.  Oh, and Chloe didn’t really eat a book, it was a total frame job.  If you want to see the girls in action to get a better look at them, you can watch my ACBDog video.  Then enter your breed guesses for each dog in the comments.
 
Have you ever tried one of the doggie DNA kits?  What are your breed guesses for each dog?  How Delightful is Molly with her letter D?
 

Comma Confusion

Chloe with the letter CMy agenda tells me it’s Tips Tuesday, which means I’ll share a writing tip.  And since today is the letter C, I’m going to talk about commas.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to stir up a heated debate about the Oxford comma (for the record, I’m pro Oxford comma, and they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead, typing fingers).  My comma tip concerns commas and conjunctions.

When critiquing, one of the most common issues I notice is the misuse of the comma before a conjunction.  In many sentences, the comma is needed, but it seems to have gone on vacation.  In other sentences, the comma is not needed, yet it insists on sticking its nose where it’s not wanted.  So how do we remember whether to use a comma in front of a conjunction or not?

When I consulted my friend Google, he gave me tons of links with rules mentioning independent clauses, dependent clauses, compound components, coordinating conjunctions – the types of boring phrases that made me tune out during elementary school grammar lessons.  If you want more technical explanations, you can check out Grammar Girl or university resources.  But when I’m writing/editing, instead of thinking about the whys and wherefores, it boils down to one simple test – can the parts before and after the conjunction stand on their own as separate sentences?

For these types of sentences, I like to think of the comma as a faux period... the substitute period... a placeholder period as the sentence decides to progress some more without a full stop.  

So when I’m writing and come up with a sentence like -
 
The adorable dog ran outside and chased a squirrel up a tree.
 
- I have to decide whether there should be a comma before the ‘and’.  If I think about the potential comma as a period, then I can see it doesn’t make sense to add a comma – ‘chased a squirrel up a tree’ does not stand on its own as a complete sentence.  
 
Now if the sentence were instead - 
 
The adorable dog ran outside, and she chased a squirrel up a tree.
 
- then you do need the comma because it’s two complete thoughts.  If you were to read that comma as a period, then both sentences easily stand on their own.  
 
I hesitate to mention this because I don’t want to confuse the issue, but some experts state that from a stylistic standpoint you can omit the comma between two independent clauses if they are both short.  This is a judgment call, but make sure you understand the rule before you break it.  
 
In case you need a refresher, a conjunction is a connecting word, and you can use the mnemonic FANBOYS to remember them:
For 
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So
 
And remember, to decide whether you need a comma in front of one of these FANBOYS words or not, pretend like it would be a period if you put it there.  If both resulting sentences are complete sentences, then add the comma.  If they don’t make complete sentences, then skip the comma.
 
Does this help clear up potential comma confusion?  Do you have any comma tips? How Cute is Chloe with her letter C?