Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Books and Bunnies

This morning I was looking at the books on my to-be-read shelf*. I've touched on this briefly before, but it's been a while.

Some of these books are new. There's one by David Baldacci hiding that you can't see here. Some have been on this shelf for years. Why is that?

Obviously I want to read them, but so far I haven't.

Yet I continue to purchase other books - and read some of them first - before touching others that have had a longer shelf life.

As writers, we continually strive to choose the best titles for our projects. Yet the title and cover are ultimately decided by the publisher with little or no input from us.

What makes us, as readers, choose one book over another to read on any given day?

Is it title? Cover? Knowing the type of book or style of writing of a particular author? What makes me choose Lisa Scottoline to read one day and pass over her for James Lee Burke on another?

I don't have a ready answer. It's something I think about each time I choose a new book. Or crowd others onto this shelf.

There's an empty space or two there now. Time for a visit to the book store.

*No dust bunnies were harmed in the shooting of this photograph.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday = A New Beginning

We all know how Monday's can be. Maniacal. Morose. Messy. And More.

But we can change how we handle Mondays.

Start by transforming how you you think of the day.

Instead of Maniacal, Mondays become Melodic.
Now some Mondays may play like Bach or Beethoven, but others play more like Aerosmith or Coldplay. Listen for the melody of your Monday, and take your energy from it.

Instead of Morose, think Merry.
Give yourself three minutes to cry over your problems, then kick the blues out the door and tell them to stay away using a firm voice. Lock the door so they can't return. Plaster a smile on your face. Watch a funny YouTube video. Watch another if you haven't laughed out loud yet. Then get moving.

Messy? No. Methodical? Yes.
At least until you get going. Organize your thoughts instead of letting them run wild. Organize your desk if you left it in a mess. Read. Anything that works for you to let you focus after a wild and wooly weekend. Then you can start your Monday from a moment of clarity.

Think of Monday as breakfast . . . let it fuel your week.

And why is this blog post a little later than normal? I had some minor computer glitches going on.

Of course.

It's Monday :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten reasons to be a dog:

10. Yummy Smells
I don't know why Mummy tells me no sometimes.

  9. Muddy Feet
She really doesn't like these - but they're fun.

  8. Rain
I love the way it feels on my nose.

  7. Sunshine
I want to stretch and stretch and strrretttch.

  6. Breezes
Oh, yeah. They bring more yummy smells.

  5. Ear Scratches
And the way Mummy rubs them all the way to the ends. I luv that.

  4. Snacks
Snacks? Somebody say snacks?

  3. Naps
Especially on the sofa.

  2. Tummy Rubs
These are THE best.

And the #1 reason to be a dog:

  1. Squirrels!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blogging is Such Sweet Sorrow

I love blogging and visiting blogs and commenting on blogs. I love all the friends I've made here in Blog Land.

But blogging can also be a major pain in the posterior.

You know what I'm talking about.

What am I going to write about today?

How am I going to carve out enough time to visit all my favorite bloggers today?

Have a finally, really, for sure lost my freaking mind?

You know what? Maybe I have. I don't care - it's worth every crazy moment.

So I wanted to take a little breather and tell everyone who visits here how much I appreciate you.

Thank you for visiting Under the Tiki Hut.

Thank you for commenting.

Thank you for your time, and please visit again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Surprise - It's Spring

Spring has finally arrived - officially. The Spring or Vernal Equinox occured this year on Saturday, March 20.

And this morning it's 34 degrees here in San Antonio.

For those of you in the north and in the mountains, I know that's not bad. But for South Texans, it's a little chilly. It's especially a little chilly when it's supposed to be maybe 50-something in the mornings this time of year.

So I'm sitting here drinking a cup of coffee on this sunny, but cold, morning and wondering how in the world I'm going to relate this to writing. And it dawned on me.

This is just the kind of thing our characters face. Or should. At least every once in a while.

"What do you mean he's not here? He's always here on Mondays."

"That bus sideswiped my van! How am I going to deliver all these flowers?"

"Look! That man has a gun!"

"You're pregnant?"

It's the element of surprise.

Sometimes you can pre-plan and program these in. Sometimes that's not an option.

When you're writing that first draft, sometimes an area feels plodding or stale. Or maybe you've stared at the screen for an hour and nothing works.

Try a surprise.

It's the Dreaded Middle of your story. Maude is on her way to choir practice. She's picking up Edna, Bessie, and Cora. How dull. The next plot point happens at choir practice, but you can't just open with Maude there because she and the "girls" have things to share with the reader before the plot point.

Maude has a blowout. Bessie has chest pains. Edna, the organist, slams the door on her hand. Cora, bless her heart, forgot her purse. When they go back, someone is breaking into her house.

You might have a different or better plot twist. You might have a small obstacle. Or you might delete everything you've written.

It doesn't matter.

What happens is it gets you more involved with your characters. You see them in a new light. You learn how they deal with problems or catastrophies.

It perks up your writing.

I'm perking up, too. I've consumed a little caffeine and the sun has warmed us up to 45.

Yes!

It's going to be a good week.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday's Top Ten

NOTE: I approved a comment this morning that came in after the time limit I set up on Blogger to try to outwit the spammers. The comment hasn't shown up at the post I thought it belonged to. So if you commented on one of this week's posts and your comment isn't posted or I haven't responded to you in some way, please comment again. I haven't heard of this happening to anyone else, but it's happened to me twice here Under the Tiki Hut, so I'm sure it's user error - me being the user. Sigh. Now on to the Friday's Top Ten.

==========

Top ten colors of spring:

10. Cherry Blossom

  9. New Leaf

  8. Daffodil

  7. Strawberry

  6. Robin's Egg

  5. Hyacinth

  4. Pear

  3. Mango

  2. Ocean

And the #1 color of spring:

  1. Flamingo

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Paddy's Back

Today, everyone is Irish.

I can hardly wait until it falls on a Friday for a Top Ten. But I digress.

No, I don't.

I'll still do a Top Ten this Friday, but how about an Irish Top Five?

5. Irish Soda Bread
4. Corned Beef and Cabbage
3. Danny Boy
2. Parades
and drum roll . . .
1. Green Beer

May your blessings outnumber
The Shamrocks that grow.
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY! 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Make Up Your Mind

Once again on Monday morning I can't decide what to talk about. Only today instead of having to reach for a topic, three or four keep raising their hands, pushing the others out of the way, and yelling, "Pick me! Pick me!"

So I decided to write about making choices.

It's rarely easy.

I'm not going anywhere near real life choices here. Writing choices are hard enough.

They start the moment we begin thinking about a project. You know that time. An idea pops into your head. It grows a little bit. A little more. Pretty soon you notice it hopping on one foot and turning somersaults.

Then you think a little bit about it. If I go with this what comes next? What's that character really like? What's her name? What does she do when her world falls apart? What if?

Yikes. In ten seconds you have five choices to make. And that's only the beginning.

They don't stop.

On the last editing pass . . . you're so close to finishing you can taste it. The last chapter . . . last page. Your palms are sweaty. Almost done. For real.

Uh-oh. What's this?

Why did she say that? That's really stupid. She should've said this. Or, no. This is even better. Which one would she say?

Choices.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Guest Blogger - Stephen D. Rogers

Today I want to welcome Stephen D. Rogers to Under the Tiki Hut. He's visiting here today as part of his SHOT TO DEATH Blog March, so please give him a hearty welcome and ask him a boatload of questions. He's got answers!

Stephen is the author of SHOT TO DEATH (ISBN 978-0982589908) and more than six hundred stories and poems. He's the head writer at Crime Scene (where viewers solve interactive mysteries) and a popular writing instructor.

For more information, you can visit his website, http://www.stephendrogers.com/, where he tries to pull it all together.

= = = = = = = = = =

"Are you sure this is all right?"
- LAST CALL

So begins one of the 31 stories contained in SHOT TO DEATH. Within that beginning lurks the ending to the story and everything that happens between the beginning and the end. Or at least it seems that way to me.

"Are you sure this is all right?" In other words, the person speaking is fairly certain that "this" is not all right, but is willing to ignore instinct in favor of reassurance.

Whatever "this" is, I suspect that the story will prove that "this" is anything but all right. In fact, that arc seems so apparent that I have no interest in writing the story.

But I've already invested seven words and three pieces of punctuation. How can I just throw them away? Think about children all over the world who have no words of their own.

Shamed into continuing the story, I decide to work that first line. The person who asks the question is a private investigator who not only knows the difference between right and wrong but is working undercover to test the employees. That scenario adds a little dimension to the question.

So. A PI is hired to investigate employee theft. Next question. Under what circumstances would employees actually discuss the acceptability of the theft? A new hire isn't going to ask whether it's okay to steal a ream of paper or corporate trade secrets. The circumstances have to encompass a gray area.

In my experience, the grayest area I've ever seen is food and drink for restaurant employees. The rules are all over the place. A new employee may very well have to ask whether it's all right to pour a free coffee or grab a free hunk of bread or freely eat a take-out meal that was never picked up. Whatever the rules, almost all restaurants draw the line at drinking alcohol on the job, although I did work at one that didn't. Or at least sort of didn't.

All that remains is the writing.

For a chance to win a signed copy of SHOT TO DEATH, click on over to http://www.stephendrogers.com/Win.htm and submit your completed entry.

Then visit the schedule at http://www.stephendrogers.com/Howto.htm
to see how you can march along.

And then come back here to post your comments. Phew.

= = = = = = = = = =

SHOT TO DEATH contains thirty-one stories of murder and mayhem.

"Terse tales of cops and robbers, private eyes and bad guys, with an authentic New England setting."
- Linda Barnes, Anthony Award winner and author of the Carlotta Carlyle series

"Put yourself in the hands of a master as you travel this world of the dishonest, dysfunctional, and disappeared. Rogers is the real deal--real writer, real story teller, real tour guide to the dark side."
- Kate Flora, author of the Edgar-nominated FINDING AMY and the Thea Kozak mysteries

"SHOT TO DEATH provides a riveting reminder that the short story form is the foundation of the mystery/thriller genre. There's something in this assemblage of New England noir to suit every aficionado. Highly recommended!"
- Richard Helms, editor and publisher, The Back Alley Webzine

= = = = = = = = = =

Thank you, Stephen, for visiting Under the Tiki Hut today. As we say in Texas, "Don't be a stranger."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Whatever Wednesday

First, VR Barkowski presented me with the Sunshine Award. If you haven't visited her blog yet, go do it now . . . right after you finish reading here.



I love this! Makes me happy and warm. I want this flower growing in the bed outside my window so I can see it every day while I write. Thank you, VR :)

I'm passing the award to two other sunny blogs:
Elana Johnson
Holly Ruggiero at Scribbles and Splashes

Check them out, too!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Next up, M.Gray at The Ethos. The Logos. The Pathos. passed the SIX TRUTHS & A LIE game to me. My job is to tell you six truths and one lie about me. Yours is to spot the lie. Let's see how we do:

1. My mother taught me how to cook, and the first thing I did was not put any water in the pot of potatoes. It got worse from there.

2. I drive a Smart Car.

3. My sister and I finish each other's sentences. Still.

4. When I was a little girl I loved to climb trees, and I'm surprised I never fell out of one.

5. I broke my arm when I was seven by falling off my bike.

6. My awesome live-in handyman spoils me, and I love it.

7. I hate housework.

Go for it. I tried to make it easy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And last - but not least - is an announcement. On Friday I'll host my first-ever guest blogger. So you'll be spared one week of the Top Ten.

My guest will be Stephen D. Rogers, a prolific short mystery writer, as part of his month-long SHOT TO DEATH Blog March. He'll talk about how one of the stories from his collection grew out of the first line.

For more information on Stephen, you can visit his website at http://www.stephendrogers.com/.

Stephen will be available throughout the day Friday to respond and answer questions. So please stop by and pick his brain.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Have People

We always hear this: Write what you know.

I say this: Never limit yourself.

I can only speak for myself, but I know a lot about some things, not so much about others. Overall, I know a little about a lot of things. But there are also many things about which I know nothing except that they exist or that people do them or whatever. Then there are those things that I don't have a clue about. Don't know they exist at all. I'm sure there are a ton of those.

Probably we're all pretty much alike in this way.

I write mystery and romantic suspense. There are body counts. I've never killed anyone or watched anyone die. There are male and female points of view. I'm not a man.

You get the idea. For many things, our imaginations are enough. We go online to find bits of information that fill in gaps.

But there comes a time when we need more. How do we find it? We ask. You may get a dozen no's, but then you'll hit the jackpot. You'll find someone who knows someone.

I know this from experience.

Right now there's a scene in the manuscript I'm editing that involves sailing on a Hobie. I know nothing about that. I don't sail, and I've never been on any type of sailboat. I went online and found a lot of information, but what I found didn't really help in my scene.

So I asked around. The most wonderful man is now helping me whip this scene into shape.

Be prepared.

On the first go, I heard things like this doesn't make sense . . . this couldn't happen . . . no one does this . . . and more.

That's why we need people to help us.

I've incorporated his first round of suggestions into the scene and sent it back. I'm waiting to see how close I've come to getting it right. Probably another go or two after this one before the technical part comes together.

This is why writers need people. None of us wants to be accused of ignorance or not doing our research.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

It's nice to have people.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten easy ways to get yourself in trouble:

10. Drop your keys into a hole.
That little slot between the elevator and the floor works well for this.

9. Trip over a curb.
Any direction, up or down. Same result.

8. Back into your neighbor's car.
This works best when you're in a hurry and your neighbor's home.

7. Leave your manuscript in reach of your puppy.
Make sure your printer is working and you have ink before trying this one.

6. Keep the open can of paint at the foot of the ladder for easy access.
Try it with new shoes.

5. Swat the wasp nest out of the corner of your porch with a broom.
They won't mind. Trust me :)

4. Don't bother checking the date on the milk before preparing cereal.
No need to try a small spoonful before digging right in.

3. Transfer your astringent and eye makeup remover to matching bottles because they look so nice.
You'll always remember which is which. Trust me again :)

2. Flip the mixer on high speed right after dumping in the flour.
Try this in July to cool off - it looks like snow. Sorta.

And the #1 easy way to get yourself in trouble:

1. Prepare dinner for guests - only to discover at the last minute you've used the last of whatever is absolutely required for what you're making.
Works every time. Guaranteed!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sugar Doll Award

Last week Laura Eno at A Shift in Dimensions presented me with the Sugar Doll award. Thank you, Laura!


She's such a sugar doll herself. But wait until you read her short fiction. Laura, have you written a story yet about a Sugar Doll?

In order to accept this award, I have to tell you ten things about myself:

1. I love to read for pleasure. And my favorite genre is romantic suspense.

2. My mother named me after my uncle and grandfather. Had I been male, I would have the same first and middle names but they would've been spelled differently. I'm so thankful they weren't named Barnaby and Sebastian.

3. I'm a native Texan.

4. I've lived around. Some of the places are New York City, Miami, and Nashville.

5. I don't like bugs. I'm not afraid of them, but I have a lot of allergies. I never know what will happen when something takes a taste of me.

6. I hate Benadryl. But I'm so glad it works!

7. I love bright, happy colors.

8. I'm pretty much a klutz.

9. Arf and Woof make me smile. Most of the time.

10. I hate to shop.

I'm passing the Sugar Doll award on to:

Aubrie Dionne at Flutey Words . . .



All Sugar Dolls. Check them out and see for yourselves.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Writing With Your Horoscope



It's time for you to move beyond any logical concerns you have about your creative abilities and just let your natural talent take over. This may require a higher level of trust than you've previously attained, but with five planets in your 5th House of Self-Expression, the only thing that can hold you back is your fear of success. You have the vision and the ingenuity, so get out of your own way and let it flow.
 
That's my horoscope for today, Monday, March 1, 2010.

Sometimes my writing life needs something to kick it in gear. I think this will do it today.

I've been plugging away at the editing process on my WIP, and thinking a bit about the next manuscript. But I've let the querying process on a previous one slide to the bottom of the hill.

Today I have three things on my writing plate:
  1. Edit the next scene.
  2. Tackle the synopsis again.
  3. Send at least three new queries.
I need to trust that I'm moving in the right direction. Have I been standing in my own way? I have no idea. But I do believe that we're not always aware of the barriers we erect.

So for sure if you're a Scorpio, go back and reread our message for today.

If you're not, go back and read it again anyway. Forget it's a horoscope.

Those words are plain good advice for all writers any day of the week. We need to trust in whatever talent we have. Our talent, not someone else's. Write the stories we want to write. Not the stories our favorite authors have written. Not the stories that follow a trend we don't enjoy reading.

Write the story you want to read.

When we do that, we write from our hearts.

Fear of success? A lot of people have this, not just writers. How can you tell? I found this article that has an interesting quiz. And a few more that covered some more obvious signs.

Think positive. Trust your instincts. Write with gusto.

Be a winner.