Monday, January 26, 2015

SECRETS of Relaxing

First, the big news. The Kindle edition of SECRETS OF HONOR is on sale this week only for 99 cents. Feel free to share this scoop with your friends! Also feel free to zip over to Amazon and get your copy here:

Second, this is the last week to enter the contest on my website for a signed copy of one of Bish Denham's books. Just click the big WIN button right over here ---> to enter. New contest begins on February 1.

And now, on to today's post. Thriller writer Colby Marshall is back talking about relaxation. Get a cup of whatever-keeps-you-going, read Colby's post and the blurb of her new book COLOR BLIND, leave a comment, enter to win Bish's book, and go buy yourself a copy of SECRETS OF HONOR!

1/27/15 UPDATE: Colby just posted this in the comments section:
Also, just in case anyone's interested, I just got 2 Advance Reading Copies of my newest thriller coming out in April--DOUBLE VISION--in the mail, and I'm giving them away on twitter this week. If you'd like to enter to win, stop by my twitter @ColbyMarshall and Retweet my tweet about the giveaway or tweet @colbymarshall using the hashtag #ReadinColor. I'll be drawing those Friday. :-)

By: Colby Marshall
            Last Monday was magical.  The theatre production of CATS I directed was in the midst of a few days off between performances, and I had a very productive day.  I wrote 2,139 words on the third, in-progress book of the Dr. Jenna Ramey series (my usual daily goal is 1,000), and I accomplished a few research and outlining goals, too.  I’d finished work and…other work…and was off work for my other job for a couple of nights with nothing left to do but just sit back and rela—
Uh-oh.  I had forgotten an important part of this equation: I don’t know how to relax.

For example, my vacations are the cherry on top the ice cream that is my day-to-day working life. Finally, an entire week when nothing is needed or expected of me, when the kids are entertained and there’s no house, car, or second job to keep up with. It’s the perfect time to get some work done!

A week’s vacation is good for writing about half a novel. The beach might shine golden in the sunlight outside the hotel, and I can always be found in my chair enjoying exceptionally cool Florida air conditioning, computer on my lap, typing away. At the end of the vacation I look up and realize it’s over.

It’s not just me. According to a 2013 study from Expedia, Americans are given the fewest vacation days each year compared to other developed nations, and we allow ourselves even less. It’s both sad and ironic that in a job where I can technically set my own hours, I do it too.

Though I have to admit it’s oddly satisfying. I’m so dependent on the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal that nothing else quite compares. But somehow it all works out, at least for now. Business trips to New York City can become supplemental vacations for me and my husband. My husband is also deeply involved in my writing process, reading along and editing as I go, so it’s not like we have to be separate.

Maybe there’s an easy explanation somewhere of why our compulsion to overwork is a thing. Who knows. Suffice to say it’s a fact of our society we’ve all come to live with and accept. And looking back, I don’t regret it at this point.

The key, I think, is to find what we want to realistically do for a living and then actually make it happen. After all, we have to earn a living somehow, and if so many of us are going to end up overworking anyway, we’d better make damn sure that thing we’re devoting so much blood and sweat to really does make us happy when we accomplish it.

That’s probably why I haven’t been driven crazy(er). Even though “Fiction Writer” is about as prudent a career goal as “Singer-Songwriter”, at least every time a small goal gets accomplished, the satisfaction energizes me to keep going. Then that satisfaction shines through in my interaction with my husband and kids. I can’t imagine where my home life would be if I devoted the same time and effort into something that made me miserable.

And surely it won’t go on forever. Eventually there’s got to be a threshold we cross. On the mystical other side are structured, manageable work days capped by hours of spending time with the kids, long conversations with our spouses, Christmas shopping months in advance, and the ability to set all monthly bills to auto-draft from our bank accounts (seriously, I know some people who can actually do that!). That’s a dream worth working toward.

What’s your experience in balancing work/life?

Expedia link:

A neurological condition characterized by automatic, involuntary sensory perceptions triggered by seemingly unrelated stimuli.

There is something unusual about Dr. Jenna Ramey’s brain, a rare perceptual quirk that punctuates her experiences with flashes of color. They are hard to explain: red can mean anger, or love, or strength. But she can use these spontaneous mental associations, understand and interpret them enough to help her read people and situations in ways others cannot. As an FBI forensic psychiatrist, she used it to profile and catch criminals. Years ago, she used it to save her own family from her charming, sociopathic mother.

Now, the FBI has detained a mass murderer and called for Jenna’s help. Upon interrogation she learns that, behind bars or not, he holds the power to harm more innocents and is obsessed with gaining power over Jenna herself. He has a partner still on the loose. And Jenna’s unique mind, with its strange and subtle perceptions, may be all that can prevent a terrifying reality.

Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer and occasionally indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, three mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status.  Colby's debut thriller, Chain of Command, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, are now available, as well as the first book in her FBI profiler series featuring Dr. Jenna Ramey, Color Blind (Penguin/Berkley, 2014).  The next in the Dr. Jenna Ramey series, Double Vision, is due out from Penguin/Berkley April 7, 2015, but is available for pre-order now! 

Find out more:

@colbymarshall on
Available on Amazon here: or anywhere books are sold!

Get SECRETS OF HONOR for 99cents here!

Monday, January 19, 2015

52 LIKES and a Contest

Medeia Sharif is a talented and prolific writer. I am so pleased to call her a friend and to share in the release of her new book, just launched on January 16. I already have it on my Kindle, and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif

Cover Reveal, Evernight Teen, 2015

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She’s plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site—why do all of their eerie photos have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he’ll put up a fight to remain hidden.

Find Medeia – YA and MG Author

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

In other news, a couple of reminders about the monthly contest on my website.

This month, Bish Denham is giving away a signed copy of the winner's choice of her books to two lucky winners. Just click the button at the top of the right sidebar here, complete the form, and click submit. That's all there is to it. Winners will be drawn on January 31.

Speaking of this contest, if you would like to be the Author of the Month and do a giveaway, please email me at tikihuttimeATgmailDOTcom for details or to sign up. The months of May through November are currently available. You're welcome to stop by my website at to see what you're signing up for. I would love to feature you and your books.

This is a great way to receive a little free promotion for your name and your book. It's a perfect way to promote a new book or to kickstart or wind up a campaign for an older one.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lost Souls of Treasure Island

Four years ago, on a visit to Galveston, I encountered an unfriendly entity - a spirit or energy, dark and malevolent. In my futile search to discover who or what I met in that antique store hallway, I met this week's guest blogger, Jan Johnson.

Jan is new to the Tiki Hut. She's not a blogger, but she is a writer, with two books about Galveston and some of its ghosts. Please give her a warm Tiki welcome ♥

The title of Jan's post is the same as my blog post title (I shamelessly stole it) - "Lost Souls of Treasure Island." She used Treasure Island because back in the early 1900s, Galveston officials used the term in advertising promotions, and it stuck around long enough to make an impression.

"Lost Souls of Treasure Island"

Galveston, that grand old city that wouldn't die, is home to many restless little spirits, trapped in a world between life and death.   Those who died violent sudden deaths, especially during 1900 Storm, still roam certain structures on the Island, not realizing they are dead.   These active souls interact with the living, making their presence known to a chosen few. 

One such haunting happens at the corner of 22nd and The Strand in the Mensing Building.   Build for brothers Gustave and William in 1882, this full half block, two-story building housed a grocer and a cotton factoring firm.   But immediately after the Great Storm, it served as a morgue. 

In an oral history for the Rosenberg Library, Hyman Block remembered that his brother “was made a deputy Marshal and given a bottle of whiskey” to guard the bodies stacked on the floor.  The vicious wind and water of the storm had ripped off most of the corpses' clothing, so they were modestly covered in cloth.  Legend had it that some of these shrouded bodies fell between the walls of the building.   When it was restored in the 1980's, retail shops filled the street level and loft apartments above.

During Mardi Gras 2000, Holly and Dan lived in a second story loft on the alley.  A loud crash beneath their sleeping quarters rudely awakened them in the middle of the night.  A quick glance around revealed nothing so, after securing their apartment, they went back to bed.  The next morning, they discovered a solid brass toy cannon, weighing at least 3 pounds, lying upside-down across the living room floor by the tall windows, with its wheel bent.  The night before, it had been sitting serenely on the bedroom railing 20 feet above a glass-topped coffee table.
A vacant spot in the dust confirmed its previous location but since nothing else had been disturbed, the couple concluded that the toy cannon had been thrown across the room with substantial force.  Since neither of them had, it must had been done by someone or someTHING else that could move through walls. 

Later that year, Dan snapped a photo from the upper loft of his wife watching TV below.   When the film was developed, a large transparent, whitish cocoon materialized, hovering over her shoulder. 

“The three-dimensional image appeared to be as large as a human body wrapped in something textured like cloth,” he observed.  “Even the folds were visible.  The flash I used was reflected in the glass of a framed picture, but nothing in the room was a triangular shape, so it could not have been a reflection."   Yet, there it was . . .

Carriage drivers living in a former bordello at 26th and Postoffice swear that one of its previous clients was still in residence, showing a photo as proof.  A transparent outline of a man smartly dressed in 19th Century business attire stands on the staircase landing, tipping his bowler at the photographer.  

It seems as though a prominent, married insurance man in town had a habit of having "coffee with the ladies" every morning, discretely parking his car in the alley behind.  During one such visit, he dropped dead of a heart attack at the madam's "kitchen table."  Not knowing what to do, she quickly called her good friend, the chief of police, who sped over to observe the scene.  He quickly concluded that Mr. Insurance man must be moved to protect his good reputation!

Loading his body into the trunk of his car, the chief drove the deceased several blocks down the street to Kempner Park, then propped him upon a park bench to make it appear that the gentleman had expired while feeding the pigeons. However the man, not realizing that he was dead, remained at the bordello, searching for his car and keys!

Many restless spirits choose to stay on earth eternally to protect someone, something or someplace.  These mostly benevolent spirits remain until they are satisfied that their protection is no longer needed, freeing them to “cross over” to their next level of existence.   

The current owner of a home in the Silk Stocking District reported such a presence.  When he bought the house in 1984, he used it as his weekend get-away, throwing parties there.  He and many of his guests saw not one but two distinct friendly spirits – a short older man with dark blue baggy pants and oversized short-sleeved white shirt in the dining room who was deaf and a tall, deaf and dumb woman in an upstairs bedroom.  

Curious about these lost souls, he canvassed the neighbors.  An older lady across the street remembered her parents telling her that the lady who had lived in his house did indeed take in 2 such characters whose families had perished during the 1900 Storm.   Eventually, he reported, that the two spirits departed one Sunday morning, each leaving a gift of gratitude – he, a checkerboard and she, a small Singer sewing machine.  Apparently, they felt that the house was in good hands, freeing them to "cross over."

His is but one of the ghost stories from the active Silk Stocking District which has many lost souls coming literally out of the walls (pun intended) . . . . but that is another story! 

Fifth generation BOI (aka Born on the Island), Jan Johnson has been seriously studying the rich history of Galveston as a part-time step-on Tour Guide since 1982 and direct descendants of two 1900 Storm survivors. She earned A BS in Elementary Ed at the University of Houston, Clear Lake in 1986; then a MA in Literature in 1995 with the specific goal to write.  Her first book, Walking Historic Galveston:  A Guide to its Neighborhoods, is the city's first practical, comprehensive guide to its 9 historic districts.  Completed a full year before Hurricane Ike, it appeared on bookshelves in April, 2009.  Her second book, Beyond the Beaten Paths:  Driving Historic Galveston, was published late 2012 and begins where the first left off.  From one end of the Island to the other (almost), reading wanderers will encounter infamous characters wo pepper the Island's past, set among many vintage images.

"Galveston Island Gal"
Writer/Tour Guide/Teacher

Walking Historic Galveston: A Guide to its Neighborhoods is the city's first practical, comprehensive walking guide of the Islands most concentrated historic areas with interesting anecdotes about the people of their past. Written in a very readable voice, the book is designed for the Everyman who wanders the city streets and wonders about the inside human stories of those who lived, loved, and worked in the unusual buildings that survived them.

Jan Johnson's second guide book begins where the first left off, with an ambitious goal of including all that was left out of the first in touring Galveston, Texas. Readers will travel the Island's streets from the port to the gulf, meandering in and out of the East End before walking two areas: one of the downtown "Arts and Entertainment" Post Office District and the Broadway Cemetery. Driving west to the airport through middle-class neighborhoods, the driving guide will lead you "Down the Island" to Jamaica Beach, then return you via a circuitous route to the very eastern tip of the Seawall. Along the way, happy wanderers will encounter the usual colorful and somewhat infamous characters who pepper the Island's past set among many vintage images.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Did you miss me?

Or were to busy to notice I was gone?

Omigosh! What a month December was.

I was fulfilled, tired, happy, exhausted, exhilarated, frantic, excited, busy, relaxed, famished, overstuffed, maybe a little tipsy at times, and more. Just like most Decembers. I hope your holiday was as wonderful as ours.

Now we're back to January. 2015 - a new beginning. We're Back to the Future - a long way from that film's release in 1985. Thirty years sounded like a really long time back then. Wow.

January means resolutions for some. I no longer make them because I was lousy at following through. I'm much more successful with making and keeping goals.

The last two years, my goal list was long. Both years, I met all goals except one. This year my list is shorter, but there is one big item on it: complete the drafting of my new project - a trilogy. Not just one book, but three.

One of the things I learned last year is that, although I would love to, I can't do it all. Some of you are capable of blogging, reading more than one book a week, writing 10,000 words in that same week, all while having a full-time job, keeping up an exercise program, caring for your family, promoting your books online and at conferences, and still having room for more. Or some impressive combination of those things.

I tried. I'm sad to say that I am not one of you. I so wish I were.

Instead, I've finally come to accept that I am me. I have no minions, alter egos, ghost writers, or assistants. And I write like a turtle. What I need to do is move ahead at my own pace and do my own thing.

My top writing priority for 2015 is getting the trilogy out of my head and onto paper. Plain and simple, it will require me to dedicate more focus to actual writing.

Ergo, changes will be coming to the Tiki Hut beginning in March - until then, we're gonna be party city, baby! Afterward, we'll still be open, but our hours will be reduced. I'll share more about the changes closer to March.

This catches you up on me. What about you? I want to hear about your holiday and your goals and resolutions for 2015.

Returning to familiar things...this month on my website contest page, Bish Denham is giving away a signed copy of the winner's choice of her books to two winners.

Just click the big WIN button at the top of my right sidebar, fill out the short form, and you're entered. U.S. addresses only please.

Anyone know where I can find a used DeLorean?