Sunday, November 30, 2008

Magic Moments

The first glimpse of your child.

Sunrise.

A shooting star.

The season's first snow.

Your lover's smile.

Puppy kisses.

An extra discount.

A front-door parking spot.

A taxi in the rain.

The last seat on the bus.

What are some of yours?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Color

I'm a visual person. As such, color has a big effect on my life and moods. It also plays a large role in my writing, but that's a Monday post.

Colors in nature are always spectacular. Here on the coast, there's a large shorebird called a Roseate Spoonbill. Sometimes I've seen them fly, but mostly I see them in the salt marshes - bright pink against dark green grass. Stunning.

Different colors and color combinations can change my mood, even if only temporarily. Colors that make me happy: red, yellow, orange. Colors that make me gloomy: mauve, beige, most pastels. Colors that relax me: blue, green.

I love black and white because it's crisp and clean. I love the way a ray of sunlight can highlight a portion of a palm frond and turn it golden as it blows in the breeze.

When a thunderstorm is rolling across the bay from the Gulf, the sky is deep blue with a hint of gray and the water looks like green ice, even though it's warm. I could watch that all day.

Today is cloudy. I love rain, but not days that are cloudy with nothing to show for it. This may be one of those.

How does color affect you?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Whew!

I had no idea how I'd handle the holiday here on the blog. While I knew you readers would totally understand if I missed a post or two, my goal was to continue posting. I managed only two words yesterday, but I did post.

Our guests have gone home, our home is our own again with just a little bit of mess, thanks to everyone who was here. Our backyard tiki hut overheard a chat or two. But like Vegas, what gets said there, stays there.

Today my hopes for you are twofold. One, that you can still snap your jeans. Two, that if today was a major shopping day, you found all the gifts and bargains you were searching for.

I'll try for a real post tomorrow - when I can think again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Busy Day

I'll be in the kitchen most of today doing prep work for tomorrow's big meal. My live-in handyman is also the world's best baker, and he's defining the space right now. The yummy smells wafting - I always wanted to use that fancy word - up the stairs are making my mouth water. The scent of cinnamon is perfectly in tune with my second cup of straight, dark, caffeine.

My jobs today are more mundane - chop 'til I drop, for the most part. But finally I have a really good knife. And a huge cutting board. If I don't chop off a finger, I'll be in good shape.

I wish you all safe travel, good food, and fruitful shopping over this long holiday weekend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This Thankful Time of Year

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. There's a nip in the air, even here in South Texas, and a tree in our backyard has some red leaves. Our turkey is thawing, and our pantry bulging with all the fixings for the big day.


I'm thankful for so many things that you'd snooze before hitting next if I were to list them all here, so I'll just confine it to a couple areas of my life.

My family. Who wants to live with a writer? We're awful at home and sometimes embarrassing in public. I'm so thankful my live-in handyman puts up with me.

Everyone who visits here. Under the Tiki Hut is still almost brand-spanking new yet I'm pleased by the number of people who've dropped by. I love when you leave comments or email me, but I'm doing the naked turkey dance - to steal from Ant Jan - because you're even coming by to read.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ready, Set . . . Write!

After some emails I received off the blog, I decided to make Mondays the official days to write about writing. So all you writers, mark your calendars.

Writers write, right? For most of us, the answer is yes. But for some of us, the answer is sometimes. For others, it's not so much.

Most writers want to write. But a few are in love with the idea of being a writer more than the actual glue yourself to the chair, slice open a vein, and pour your soul onto the page work of writing.

Writing, like a journey, begins with but a single word.

Others have written about writing at a certain time every day, or writing whatever comes to you until you're back into your story, or doing a writing exercise to get your juices flowing. Those are all good.

But once you begin, you need to keep going. Here's my story of what worked for me:

I came to writing fiction from a job that paid me real money to write other stuff that bored me to tears. Over the years I wrote proposals, created marketing material, wrote ads, and more of the like. But in these jobs, I left home and went out to work every day. When I was home, I did home stuff. And there's always plenty of it - dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc. All that plus sitting on the patio doing whatever or reading or any other leisure activity.

So when was I supposed to write?

I started by making myself sit at the keyboard for five minutes and write for those entire five minutes. Not long, but at the beginning it seemed an eternity. Then I allowed myself ten minutes to do home stuff. Rinse and repeat, all day long. When the five minutes passed before I realized it, I changed it to 15 minutes, with still the same ten minute break. Your kitchen timer works great for this.

A couple of weeks later, I no longer needed the timer. After a while, I noticed dust had collected everywhere, things that should shine were dull, and the kitchen floor had sticky spots. Oops! Time to build in a little home stuff time. This time I used the timer to make myself leave the computer so the health department wouldn't pay a visit.

Eventually, I evolved into a rhythm that worked. Sometimes life intervenes, and I need to make adjustments. But I did it once, so I know I can always do it again.

So find your rhythm. Use the timer if you need to. If you need to write, you'll find a way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lists

My name is Carol, and I'm a List Maker.

Oh, God. My dreadful secret is out. Now everyone knows why I walk around with stickies attached to my forehead.

I make lists for everything. Sometimes I have a list of lists I need to make. I'm not kidding.

Lists are problem solvers for me. Stuff that ends up on lists collects in my head like dust bunnies under the sofa. When I sort everything into lists, the clutter in my head goes away.

Right now on my desk are a list of things I need to pick up at the store the next time I go, a list of addresses for Christmas cards, a list of things to do today, and an agent list of those I'm querying for a recently completed manuscript. There's also a list of Christmas gifts with satisfying check marks next to the ones I've purchased.

Marking items off a list is a wonderful feeling. It shows me I'm making progress, and that's especially important on those days when I feel as if I'm butting my head against a wall. As long as I can mark off more items or finish more lists than I add in a day I'm in good shape.

Are you a list maker? If not, how do you keep your dust bunnies from taking control?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When Do You Shop?

Thanksgiving will be here next week, followed by the traditional opening of the holiday shopping season. But with the economy in such a shambles, retailers' Black Friday may take on a new meaning this year. I hope not.

But I'm wondering how many of us really wait to shop? I prefer to have all my gift shopping complete by now. This year I'm running a little late but I'm almost done. I won't need to scour shelves for the perfect gift along with 50 jillion others searching for the same thing. I may need something last-minute, but I hope not. I much prefer to shop all year so that when I see something great, I grab it and have my list half complete before I even think about making a list. This is something that works well for me especially for those who are difficult to buy for. You know what I mean.

Some people I know love waiting until the last minute. They run out a couple days before Christmas, sometimes even on Christmas Eve, and find all the perfect gifts in a couple hours. I wish I knew how they did that. It's a skill that isn't in my toolkit.

Is that you? If so, leave a comment and tell me how you accomplish it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Am I Awake Yet?

There are morning people, and there are night people. There are no in-between people.

Opposites attract, however, and many times early birds fall desperately in love with night owls. And vice versa. Such is the case with my live-in handyman and me. Let me just say that he LOVES mornings. He doesn't just get up early, he loves mornings with a capital L, loves them with all the birds chirping their plans for the day and the sun wiping sleep from its eyes. Loves, loves, loves!

And he's in bed by 10 p.m.

Ten? The day is just beginning. The birds have finally shut up. Don't get me wrong, I love birds and their songs and seeing them fly. But around here, they make a lot of racket. The other day, one flew into my writing window. Almost made me have to clean my chair.

But the nighttime is special. A little soft music - can't play it loud or it will wake my handyman, but that's OK. It's perfect for reading. Or writing. Or thinking. Or staring at stars outside my writing window. Recharge time.

So which are you - early bird or night owl?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Under the Lone Star

For a while, Texas had an advertising campaign that started and/or ended each ad with, "Texas: It's like a whole other country."

That's true. If you've been here or if you live here and come from another state, you know what I'm talking about. We are not a separate country now, but we once were. And there are times when Texans act as though we still are.

We've adapted Mexican food to our own liking and call it Tex-Mex. There's chili and there's Texas chili. There's barbeque and there's Texas barbeque.

We take pride in our monuments, such as the Alamo, that mark our independence from Mexico and the beginning of our own country.

Our state flower, the bluebonnet, is no exception. It's rare to find it growing anyplace outside Texas, yet in the spring it sprouts up wild everywhere here.

We even have our own language. But that's a whole other post.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lost Tool Bag

Did you hear the one about the astronaut losing her tool bag on a spacewalk?

And it was a woman. Of course. When I read about this yesterday, I knew I wanted to write about it here, but I couldn't decide if I wanted to come down on the funny side or the serious side. I thought about it overnight and still wasn't sure when I got up this morning, so I dilly-dallied around until now.

On the funny side, most women can identify with this. You hang your bag someplace, and the next thing you know it's on the floor. One time I had a large shoulder bag and had gone to the mall. Bought this, bought that, shoved it in the bag. Stopped for lunch, hung the bag on the back of a chair. Crash! Straight to the floor, chair and all. And this was something I was carrying on my shoulder. No wonder women have back problems. Babies, boobies, and bags. All heavyweights.

But on the serious side, I'm sure this would have made news even if it had occurred to a male astronaut. But it will make more news because it happened to a woman. I come from a long line of strong women. Women who for generations have believed they are capable of doing whatever they wanted to do. Women who have proven this to themselves and others through what they accomplished.

By and large, however, women must work twice as hard to be considered half as good as men on the job. And for this, they receive less remuneration, on average, than their male counterparts. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was the the first woman to be assigned lead spacewalker. Her co-walker, a male, said she showed "real character and great discipline" by continuing on.

Come on!

Would he have said that if it had happened to another man? I don't think so.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What.Ev.R.

Whatever.

Don't you love that word? Or hate it.

"Clean your room."
"Whatever."

"What do you want for dinner?"
"Whatever."

"I love you."
"Whatever."

"I'm pregnant."
"Whatever." Pause. "You're what?"

Whatever has become an automatic catchall with more meanings than the bailout plan has dollars. Ever wonder why?

Whatever has been around since the 14th Century. That's a pretty darn long time, since even before Willie Shakespeare came along.

Whatever can be a pronoun, an adjective, or an adverb. And that's probably way more than you wanted to know.

Whatever.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Work

A couple of people, both on and off the blog, have mentioned how much time it takes to write this blog. So I thought I'd time it. At this moment, it's 9:27 a.m. For me, these words I put here flow much quicker than those of fiction.

Since I promised to talk about writing one day, today seems like a good time for one of those posts. It's Monday and time to get back to work on my new work-in-progress.

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I started writing fiction for three main reasons. One, I was a voracious reader and thought if others could write, so could I. After all, I wrote all sorts of things in my day job. Two, I thought I might make some money at it one day. I'm still waiting for that day to arrive. Three, and the most important, to get all the crapola out of my head.

That's right . . . to clear my little brain so I could think. All sorts of things floated around in there. Snippets of dialogue, plot what-ifs, character images, the whole enchilada in bite-size proportions.

The first stories I wrote rolled off my fingers like . . . whatever. I haven't had enough caffeine yet to think that clearly! Then I got down to work.

So here's my first writing lesson:
Write for yourself, not for anyone else.
Write for the sheer pleasure of telling a story or creating a character or painting a picture.
Write because you can't NOT write.

If you can't do those things, writing is probably not a good choice for you. Write because you must.

All the rest of the business follows. It's the work part. All the revisions, editing, marketing, networking can be fun, too, but it's the part that's done when you want to sell what you've written.

But the real creative, writing part . . . that's the part that's just for you.

End of lesson. The time is 9:41, so it took me 14 minutes to write today's post.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Morning

When I started writing this blog, I figured I might be good for a day or two. But I have just the opposite problem - figuring out which of the ideas popping into my head to follow. One of these days I may actually write about writing.

But since it's Sunday morning, I thought I'd talk about that. Sunday.

Lots of songs about Sundays. Sunday Morning Coming Down. Never on a Sunday. Pleasant Valley Sunday. Many others, I'm sure, but these popped into my head first.

This day is clear and cool, sunny and still. Bright blue sky out my writing window.


This is our first real cool front of the season here in South Texas. Or as Texans say, our first norther. It's about 10 a.m. and about 50 degrees outside. Chilly inside, though, because the heat isn't on. It's going to be air conditioning weather again in a couple days.

While I love weather like this, it isn't my favorite Sunday weather. Unless I want to go to the beach, of course. My favorite Sunday weather is a whalloping thunderstorm with heavy rain. That way, I can snuggle back under the covers or read a book or grab my live-in handyman. All great pastimes for rainy Sundays.

But since today is sunny, I guess I'll go outside after it warms up. Or maybe a movie. Bond is back.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Full Moon

I thought it must be a full moon, so I checked it out. Sure enough, it is. Why did I think so? Because of strange occurrences over the past couple of days.

Yesterday a closet door in our guest room fell off, missing me by less than an inch. The doors are the pull-apart kind, and I'd opened the one on the left. Everything was fine until I started to close it. That's when the door on the right crashed to the floor. My live-in handyman is still flinging nasty words at it this morning because it refuses to cooperate with him.

Not so personal, but still weird, the Corpus Christi PD arrested a suspected burglar at a gas station. What's bizarre about that? The guy went in through the roof overnight when the station was closed and was still there the following morning because he couldn't get out. Now I don't know about you, but if I could find a way to get in, I could figure some way to make an exit. Here's a link, but you may need to do the free-register thingie to read.

And then, someone who knows me questions my sanity in the comments. Whell. That's OK . . . I still like him. It's just a full moon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Time

I'm back from my Birthday Bash, relaxed and rejuvenated.

And now it's time to bring this baby live and kicking into the blogosphere. I started writing here a week or so ago, but didn't advertise to anyone because I wasn't sure I could or would want to do this thing every day. That's almost a true statement - I did ask a writer friend to take a peek to see if I'd lost my mind. She assured me I was still sane.

Guess what? I can come up with something to say every day, and I love it! So I hope you'll join in and rescue me from talking to myself - and answering.

Here's my goal: I want Under the Tiki Hut to become a gathering place for readers and writers and everyone else to join together and hold conversations. We can talk about writing, but not exclusively. I want this to be more than just another writer's blog. Too often we get bogged down in details and forget everything else. This will be a place for writers to jumpstart imaginations. My interests range far and wide range, so as I've done so far, I plan to write about a different topic every day. And I hope all of you will chime in and pick up the thread, too.

So join in, invite your friends, and see what it's all about - Under the Tiki Hut!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. It's a day to show support and remembrance for all veterans of all wars. It used to be called Armistice Day, for it was in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month an armistice was signed that ended the First World War. The custom is to observe one minute of silence at 11 a.m. to show respect.

I love Veterans Day because it's one day before my birthday. So I get a 2-fer, and I take advantage of that whenever I can.

In honor of both these holidays, the Tiki Hut will be closed for some private playtime tomorrow, and maybe the next day, too, depending on how hard I play!

See you back here on Friday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Apples or Oranges

Call me weird.

I never quite got it when my math teachers said you couldn't add apples and oranges. Why didn't you get pieces of fruit?

Or in science class with the question about sound. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound? The correct answer was no. Cow patties.

And the old imagination blocker in kindergarten art class - the sky must be blue, grass must be green, dogs must have four feet and no wings. Puh-leeze.

Let's have more thinking outside the box, all the way around. And speaking of round . . . what about all those people - a little more than 500 years ago - who believed the world wasn't?

Only the weird ones believed it was round. The way I see it, I'm in good company.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Word of the Day - Claustrophobia

I can write about this because I have a little touch of claustrophobia myself. It isn't debilitating for me like it is for some. For me it shows up as little things. I don't like basements or attics. I must have blinds, curtains, drapes open so I can see outside. I get physically ill inside a cave. But the inside of a closet doesn't bother me at all - not even in the dark. Go figure.

Now, I love the water. I swim. When I was a teenager, I thought I'd like to learn to scuba dive, but when I was thinking about this I never had the opportunity. Several years ago, I did have the opportunity to go snorkeling. I was so excited. Everyone I knew who had snorkeled loved it.

The day finally arrived. We're at the spot. I donned the flippers. The goggles. The snorkel. And jumped in.

Oh. My. God.

Claustrophobia reared its ugly head and panic took over. I couldn't get out of that water quick enough. Pretty and amazing underwater views or not, I hated it.

So knowing that about me, you can gauge my reaction to the news of the accident aboard the Russian submarine. I've been aboard the USS Sea Wolf in Galveston. It's an old WWII sub, permanently moored there for visitors to go aboard. Tiny. I made it through the tour, but the hot, humid Galveston day never felt so good when I stood on land afterward. Why anyone would choose submarine duty is beyond me.

My prayers go out to all sailors aboard and their families, those who succumbed and those who survived.

Yet the mystery writer in me wonders . . . is that what really happened? Will we ever know?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Staying Focused

Sometimes staying focused is easy for me. Other times, not so much. Today my desk is a jungle. All I can see is paper covering almost every surface.


Amid the paper are three (!) containers of doggie snacks. One's almost empty and one is unopened. The other is a different kind. There's also paper stacked atop a jar of leftover Halloween candy that should come OFF my desk before it permanently attaches itself to my rear.


Then there's another stack that is a mix of books and paper.


My job today . . . get my sloppy self organized so I can work. But the weather is too gorgeous to stay inside. I'm going outside to read. Then I will tackle this mess.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dreams

Over at MURDERATI today, J.T. Ellison talks about dreams and nightmares and things that go bump in the night.

She and I dream alike - even being able to pick up mid-dream after getting up and walking around - right down to the waves. Except when I have the wave dream, I'm on the beach, not riding them. Another difference is my nighttime dreams don't have a tendency to come true.

I can take the dream thing one more step along the path. Some of my dreams are out-and-out bizarre. Not nightmares, just bizarre. One little snippet from last night's dream about a horse was that he could cover his eyes with his front feet when he didn't feel good. This horse was also unable to jump a fence. Now I have no idea what all that means. Something, I'm sure.

My husband rarely remembers his dreams. I remember almost all of mine, although many fade within an hour or two after waking. When I was a girl, my mother thought it was strange that I dream in color. Sometimes, usually in nightmares, the color is dark, like it's twilight or night. Or it's as seen through a filter like watching a noir movie. But it's always in color. Don't know what that means either.

But I know that I can always count on at least one new adventure each night when I close my eyes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Corner of the Planet

I love South Texas.

Texas is a huge place. While I'm a native Texan, I grew up in Houston. Now Houston is OK. But after living the first part of my adult life on the East Coast, I found it a little lacking in the things I like. And I'll be the first to tell you that Houston is a loooooong way from South Texas. Not only in miles, but in attitude, like the Jimmy Buffet song - "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes."

We live at the coast. It's casual and laid back. Any more laid back, we'd be in yesterday. But the people are awesome. All of South Texas is like that, even the cities. Although the cities not so much as smaller towns. And did I mention the weather? Totally awesome most of the time. And when it's not, well, we all need rain sometime, right?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One of Those Days


The sun is shining, a nice breeze is coming in off the water, birds are singing, it's a beautiful day. And I haven't done squat today. Sometimes, no matter my best plans, life takes over, grabs my collar, and says, "Join me."
What I'd like to do is just what Wrangler is doing here - nothing at all. But what I've been doing all day is chasing squirrels. Haven't caught one yet.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote!

Today is the day. Don't stick around reading blogs. If you haven't voted yet - Go Vote!

You don't need a civics lesson here. If you choose not to vote, you choose for your voice not to be heard. That means no complaining for the next four years.

Make your opinion count today.

Vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Techie Idiot

That's me!

I suppose I should be happy it took me only three tries to get the blogs I follow listed. Can you say I pushed the wrong button not once, but twice.

But I persevered and finally succeeded.

I told you I'm a news junkie. The best thing I saw this morning was bite-size Twinkies. Now we can get our preservatives in 100-calorie bite-size morsels. Love it!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Introduction

I've finally flipped my lid. Why I think I'll have time to blog, I have no idea. But it's something I've considered for a while. The other thing I worry about is that I'll run out of stuff to write about. I've never written Dear Diary in my life and never kept a journal. So we'll see how it goes.

While I don't journal, I do write fiction, mostly mystery, suspense, and thrillers, and I'm working to find an agent for my novels. I hope you return again from time to time to see what we're chatting about here Under the Tiki Hut. I'm a news junkie, so there's not much telling.

You'll see changes while I make up my mind about the look and get the thing set up. Let me know what you think as we go along. If I yell for help, please answer!