Monday, March 2, 2015

Inspired to Change It Up

At the end of January, Bish Denham bestowed upon me the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you, Bish! I'm honored to be an inspiration - as long as I don't inspire you to do mean, evil things :)

Here's what I have to do. In the interest of time, I copied and pasted from Bish's blog:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.
2. Display the award logo.
3. Nominate at least 15 other blogs (more or less) and provide
a link where they may be found.
4. Then, go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated, and where to find the information they need to accept (rules).
5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.
Three things that inspired me the most during the past few weeks:
1. Love.
2. Joy.
3. Wonder.
I see these things all around me. I see it in you. I'm most fortunate to have you all as my friends.

I'm not giving this award to anyone. It's yours to take. Post it in your sidebar and be inspired.

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It's the first Monday in March, so I'm also announcing the new contest on my website. Y'all remember Colby Marshall, right? She visited the Tiki Hut back in January, and you can read her post about having a hard time relaxing here. This month, Colby is the Author of the Month. She's giving away a signed copy of COLOR BLIND along with a  messenger bag from another of her thrillers, DOUBLE VISION, to one lucky winner!

To enter, click the big WIN button at the top of my right sidebar. It takes you directly to the contest page on my website. Read the rules, Choose the answer to the question about the photo, fill out the entry form, and click Submit.

Winner will be drawn after 6 pm Central Time on March 31.
Contest open to U.S. residents only.

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Do you remember way, way back at the beginning of January I told you I would be making some changes in my blogging activity? And they would begin in March?

Well, it's March, and it's time for those changes. Beginning with this post I will be blogging only on the first and third Mondays of each month for the foreseeable future. Or at least until I finish drafting all three books of the trilogy I'm working on. As I'm only about a third of the way through the first book, you can see I need more writing time.

I will still visit everyone who visits me. I'm also still interested in guest bloggers, only I'll fill those slots much more quickly. If you're interested in guest blogging at the Tiki Hut, please email me at tikihuttime AT gmail DOT com

See you here again on March 16!

Monday, February 23, 2015

It’s All in the Name

Bish Denham is here this week talking about creating characters and giving them their names. And how sometimes they name themselves.

HOWEVER...Late Sunday night, Bish emailed me that "Due to circumstances beyond my control I'm not going to have any internet connection for a few days. Don't really know how long. I'll be there when I can."

So I'll be filling in for her here until she gets reconnected. Y'all will just have to deal :)

UPDATE: Bish is here after all! YAY!!!

Here's Bish.

Thanks for letting Marvin and me visit your blog, Carol! Marvin is really digging hanging out at the Tiki Hut because it reminds him so much of the islands. (Thanks, Bish! You and Marvin are always welcome here.)

It’s All in the Name
People ask me where I get my ideas and how long it’s taken to get something written. Well, A Lizard’s Tail has been simmering for a long time.

It began around 1977 in the Virgin Islands while I was working for a friend who had a ceramics shop. She made souvenir ceramic mugs and other touristy things, for wholesale. I helped with pouring slip, cleaning, and glazing. One slow days we’d sit around playing with clay, making small sculptures, beads, or hand-molding bowls.

One day I “sculpted” a lizard. When it was dry, I glazed it and fired it. It came out looking quite mischievous and obviously needing a name. Another employee, who helped pack and deliver orders to the various stores, was a nice, humorous guy name Marvin.

He saw the lizard and liked it so much I decided to name it after him, to which he replied that Marvin needed a last name. Right then a wind chime tinkled. From out of the blue his full name came to me. Marvin P. Tinkleberry. What the “P” stood for I had no idea, but we all agreed the name suited my little lizard sculpture quite well.

I knew immediately that I had a character for a story.

Early notes indicate that I was thinking of making him a kind of story teller that explained things like, why hibiscuses are red or why lizards do push-ups. But none of those ideas felt right.

And so Marvin slumbered. Later notes talk about him being vain and full of himself. I was getting closer. Then, about ten years ago, the actually idea for a story came to me. Marvin had to have conflict, what greater conflict could he have than dealing with a dangerous feral cat?

Thus, A Lizard’s Tale began to take shape. I wrote the first rough draft in short order. It was the revising and rewriting that took a long time. I did it in bits and pieces, in fits and starts, because for me, revising is the hard, boring part, though I’m getting better at it.

After I self-published Anansi and Company, I was determined to put Marvin out there too. And now, here he is in all his glory, a vain, young lizard who believes he has a destiny.

What, you may ask, does the “P” stand for? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out.

A Lizard's Tail
by Bish Denham

From the moment he hatches, Marvin P. Tinkleberry knows he is destined for greatness. For one, he has a marvelous, well-groomed tail. For another he can puff out his throat pouch in the most spectacular way. Maybe the other lizards in his colony don't take him seriously, but he knows the truth. It lives in the marrow of his bones; he's going to be a hero.

When a feral cat threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall in the Garden by the Sea, Marvin knows it's HIS destiny to get rid of the fearsome beast. Travelling Over the Hill to find help should be as easy as snapping up a sleeping moth. But it doesn't take long for Marvin to see that the world beyond Stone Wall is not the same as his pampered life back at the garden. From the deadly Sucker Cactus Forest to deadly mongooses, danger lurks around every corner and Marvin will have to decide if he's willing to be the hero he's long bragged about being.

Bish Denham was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. Her mother's side of the
family has lived in the Caribbean for over one hundred years and she still has plenty of family there whom she visits regularly.

She says, "Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic."

Bish has known many lizards in her life. Marvin and Leeza are based on two that lived in her bedroom.

She is the author of Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Folk Tales which you can also find on

Twitter: @BishDenham


This is the last week to enter the contest to win a copy of one of Nancy G. West's humorous mysteries about Aggie Mundeen. Click the WIN button at the top of my right sidebar, and enter for a chance to win. See for details and information on Nancy's books. Winner will be drawn after 6 p.m. Saturday night. Good luck to all!

Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Organize Your Writing Life

I'm happy to welcome Jan Christensen back to the Tiki Hut. Jan, as some of you may recall, is my critique partner. Besides being the author of a gazillion and one short stories, Jan is also the author of three separate novel series--Valleyview, Paula Mitchell, P.I., and Tina Tales--each currently with two books. The third Tina book is about professional organizer Tina Shaw and is titled CLUTTERED ATTIC SECRETS, which will be released this spring.

I mentioned specifically the Tina book because Jan's post today is about organizing the business of our writing lives. I've learned to do some of these things. Others I'm either working on or have shoved into my Maybe One Day folder.

I may be hopeless in some areas, but Jan keeps trying :)

By Jan Christensen

Want to streamline your writing life? Want to be able to find the papers and files strewn here, there and everywhere?

There are two ways to begin to handle a cluttered work space. You can set aside a large chunk of time to get going, or if you know you won't want to work that long, try for about twenty-minutes every day until you're finished.

First, look around the area where you work. Is it a mess? Many people claim that creative people thrive in a mess. Frankly, I don't think anyone actually thrives in chaos. I think instead, they believe it will be too hard to get it cleaned up and keep it neat and tidy.

But it’s really not that difficult. Let’s start with the cleaning up. You need a box and a trash bag. Label the box “donate.” Look around the area and quickly throw anything away that is actual trash into the bag. Then look for anything else you never use, know you'll never use, and/or downright dislike. Decide whether to donate or trash it. Whether you realize it or not, these items are a distraction to you when you're working.

Take out the trash, and put the donate box in your car. The next time you’re out, drop it off so you won't be tempted to retrieve something later.

Get two more boxes, or three if you have a lot of paper to sort. Then pick up each object still standing. Do you need and want to keep it nearby? Put it in a box labeled “Keep.” Do you doubt you’ll ever use it again, but are not sure? Stick it in the other box which you label with a date six months from now. Keep a running list of the objects you put in that box as you go. If you have stacks and stacks of disorganized paper, place them in the third box, labeled “Paper.”

When you're finished, seal up the box with the date on it, and hide it away somewhere. Put the list in a place you'll be able to find easily if you really, really need to retrieve something from that box before the six months are up. If you haven't gone near it in six month or only retrieved one or two items, donate it or throw it away without opening it.

Place the other objects you’re keeping around the area again and get rid of the box. Now you’re ready to tackle all that paper.

Have a large, clear space to make piles. Probably you have the beginnings of books or short stories—pile them up together. Put articles, if you keep paper copies of those you've written, in another stack. Maybe you have articles written by other people about marketing you've clipped or printed out. Separate pile. You probably have collected business cards and pieces of paper with contact information on them. Set them aside to work on another time. What else have you been collecting? Household items like recipes, bills, coupons, receipts? Separate pile for all of this. Don’t try to sort inside the piles until you've finished with all the paper. The reason for this is because you need to know what type of things are in there so you can divide them up reasonably.

When done, pat yourself on the back. Now pick a pile. Use file folders for the short stories, and notebooks or manuscript boxes for the novels. Then decide where to keep them. If possible, I recommend as many file drawers as you need just for your writing, keeping them separate from your household files.

Do the same for the marketing pile. I use a big three-ring binder for all the marketing information I've gathered. Tabs separate articles about Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Blogging, Kindle, and on and on. Now you'll be able to find just what you're looking for. And know just where to put the next item you decide to keep.

Do the same for any other categories, figuring out whether to use file folders or notebooks—whatever you think will work for you, or, as I do, use a combination of both.

Every day before you leave your work area, clean it up. Have an in box set up to place current projects in, but file and put away everything else you've pulled out for the day. This should take no more than five or ten minutes.

If you use your workspace for home office chores, set aside some time every day to handle the mail and other things you need to do like getting birthday cards and bill payments ready to mail, filing away receipts, and anything else. When you come back for your next work session, you will be able to start right in without pause, without distractions. It’s a good feeling.

Someone screams inside the old, neglected Victorian house next door, and Tina Shaw runs to find out what’s wrong. A woman bursts out the door saying her aunt is dead. Murdered. Tina notices that the hallway is piled high with cartons. Later when the woman begs her to help clean up the house, Tina hesitates. She’s just begun a career as a professional organizer, though, and her hands itch to start on a new job. As Tina sifts through the clutter, she finds clues the murdered woman left behind. She learns the woman was rich, and all her relatives are suspects. But when the will is read, Tina and her family also become suspects. After her mother is arrested, Tina begins investigating in earnest with the help of her boyfriend, Hank (the Hunk). Will she find out who the killer is before her own life is put in danger? Second in the Tina Tales series.

Amazon author page:

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Writer's Evening Out

On a cold, drizzly afternoon in the middle of flu season, I found myself at Club ER with Live-In Handyman, who had been less than careful with some of his motions and now couldn't move his neck or shoulders.

Club ER turned out to be the most popular spot in town with only a few empty seats remaining. It was so much fun that we stayed for several hours - way longer than we do at most places. To occupy myself, I read from my Kindle and people watched.

Several people caught my attention but one of the most interesting ones was a 30-something male. I was busy making him into a character, possibly a future hero, until he opened his mouth.

I expected intelligence, passion, and a wry sense of humor. What I got was whiny, arrogant, and refusal to accept that any of his problems may have been his own fault. In my head, I scratched him off the hero list. After trying to figure out unsuccessfully what clues I missed, I spent a lot of time on my Kindle.

Several hours later, about midnight, they finally released Live-In Handyman. I left him in the waiting room to get the car. I’d parked in the first space on the second row, straight out from the side of the entrance, no more than 100 feet away and directly under a light. Note: I’m very bad at judging this kind of distance. It may have been much closer, but I’m certain it wasn't farther.

I walked out the door into freezing temps, an icy wind, and total darkness. All the parking lot lights were off. No moon. No stars. No lights anywhere except from the recessed emergency room doors behind me that faced in a different direction from where I was headed.

Coming from the bright fluorescents, my eyes hadn't adjusted to the darkness. I could barely make out rows of cars, but there was nothing distinguishing about any of them. There was no moon. No stars. It was pitch black.

Then I did the classic Too Stupid To Live thing. Yes, I did. I plunged into the darkness. A woman. Alone.

One thought overrode everything else as I walked, and that was to get inside my car before some maniac grabbed me.

Starting with the first step, I wobbled down a long ramp I didn't remember walking up when we arrived. At the end of the ramp, I stepped onto gravel instead of the sidewalk. I took a couple of steps and stopped to think how long this was, thinking it marked the first row of parking so it must be about 15-20 feet long.

For some reason, I looked down. A fire hydrant I hadn't seen in the darkness stood an inch or two from my leg. I freaked a little bit about that. Had I really seen it in the darkness and not realized it? I could've really injured myself. And who would've found me? Even though I was only feet from the ER entrance.

So I felt my way around the hydrant and took a few more steps feeling for the curb. I found the curb and stepped off. I couldn't see the asphalt below, and the curb was higher than I anticipated by an inch or two. I staggered to keep my balance. I have renewed respect for those with little or no vision.

I crossed the traffic lane directly to the car in front of me, knowing it was mine. It was, and it was parked next to another curb-bound gravel area. I tottered around over uneven ground until I stumped the toe of my shoe against the curb. But I’d reached my car.

If anyone had been watching, I’m sure they would've believed I was VERY drunk . . . and I was going to drive. There’s an upside: I could've found out what it’s like being arrested. I think only a crime writer would call that a perk.

I touched the panel on my doorframe, and the lights came on when the door unlocked. Only then did I think I could've pulled out my keys and pressed until I found the unlock button and at least a little bit of the area would’ve been lit.

Then I had a second thought. Why didn't I also pull out the little flashlight I carry for just such emergencies? Or use the flashlight app on the phone in my pocket?

Maybe it was due to not having any food or water for more than ten hours or the stress over an injured spouse. But I was a blonde baby and little girl, and pulling dumb stunts like this from time to time is just how I roll. Life’s an adventure!

In the car, I locked the door, started the engine, turned up the heat, and drove the hundred feet back to the entrance. Live-In Handyman shuffled over to the door holding all his achy parts and got in. Through his chattering teeth, he said, “Why didn't you warm up the car?”

Fortunately, I’m a forgiving woman, and the sweet loving man is still alive.

Bless his heart