Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten things that make me laugh:

10. Slapstick

  9. Giggling kids

  8. Funny jokes

  7. My dogs

  6. Unexpected surprise

  5. LOL Cats

  4. Funny movies and videos

  3. Funny things people say

  2. Humor in the comment trail

And the #1 thing that makes me laugh:

  1. Myself when I do something stupid

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guest Blogger: Randy Jeanne

Randy Jeanne grew up a child of the 50's in "The Valley," a suburb of Los Angeles famous for its Bob's Big Boys and indoor shopping malls. A fan of Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt, she aims to evoke old-fashioned romantic values in her writing while at the same time creating heroines to whom modern women will relate. Stealing Amy (a romantic adventure along the lines of Romancing The Stone) and Lights! Cameras! Love! (a romantic mystery set on a TV studio lot) are available as digital downloads at all the usual outlets. Visit her blog at and her website at

Over here!
Don’t tell Carol, but I’ve hijacked her blog for the day, and instead of heading for the Tiki Hut, we’ll be spending the day…
Under The Palapa!

Yes, I’m down here in sunny (er, that isn’t a raincloud in the distance, is it??) Puerto Vallarta. (Go away, thunderhead. Take your lightning elsewhere!) First order of business, as always, is a visit to bartender Javier for a piña colada. And, what luck! There’s a cooking demonstration going on, and Jorge’s got shrimp tacos on the grill. So what if I just finished breakast? I’m on vacation!

Anyway, now that we’ve covered the cocktail and snacks portion of our program, let’s proceed to the third part of Carol’s summer challenge. Namely, as I haul out my laptop, what’s distracting me?


I know you’re waiting for me to describe the hunky guy swimming laps across the pool…or the one standing waist-deep in the shallow end flexing his biceps.

Sadly, they’re not what’s distracting me today (which may also explain why I’ve managed to make it to 57 without getting married, but I digress…)

No, what’s distracting me is the mother-daughter duo on the other side of the bar. They’re giggling with their heads together, sharing a private moment of laughter…y’know the type. Best friends. Great characters for a novel.

And that’s when it comes to me that…geez…all my poor heroines have mother “issues.” Which is kinda funny since, although my own mom died when I was young, I couldn’t get along better with the woman who became my stepmother. (Sidenote: Man, if she ever reads any of my books, she’s gonna have cause to wonder!)

Take Stealing Amy, for instance. In that story, the heroine’s identity has been stolen, causing her all sorts of grief—to her socialite mother’s undying embarrassment. And when Amy finds herself tangled in a web of international intrigue (with the requisite hero, of course), her mother arrives on the scene to make things worse.

Likewise, in Lights! Cameras! Love!, plain-Jane Daphne Smith blogs as a seductive alter ego who’s got Tinseltown (not to mention her hunky boss) all a-buzz with gossip. Who do you suppose threatens to expose her identity? Right, dear old Mom.

Finally, in Leftovers (available soon), Rose Thornton laments the life of hand-me-downs which began the day her father married a former actress…and includes the current situation where she finds herself falling in love with her step-sister’s estranged husband—the ultimate leftover of all.

What about you guys? Are there characters across your novels who consistently carry more weight than others? Do you see patterns of re-occuring character types who happen to appear in your real life? And to you readers, what kind of secondary relationships do you enjoy reading about? What sort of dynamics bring those relationships to life?

Hey, thanks for joining me here today…let’s have another round of piña coladas while we discuss, ‘kay? Drinks are on me! (And don’t let the approaching storm scare you—we’re always safe under the palapa.)

 P.S. to Carol—Thanks for letting me hijack your blog today!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Creating: Social Media and Time Management

I'll just state flat out ... no, I don't have the magic answer to stop the time suck.

I spent most of my social time last week adding people to my groups little by little. I punched the Like Button a lot and commented on several posts, but I didn't do too well on making original wall comments or tweets. I also joined Google+ - thanks to Clarissa for the invitation :)

Since all this jabbering about and eavesdropping is brand new to me, I know I'm spending more time there in these first few weeks than I ever plan to spend again. I know this because if I continue to spend so much time there I've defeated my purpose. I would then have no time remaining to write. And I get cranky if I go for a while without writing.

Even with all that, my Goodreads page is in sad, sad shape. One day I will tend to it. Sadly, that day will probably be when I'm totally embarrassed by its condition. I've thought about all this more than a bit because all of us have a finite amount of time in each day.

Although I don't yet have any sort of answer that works for me, I do have methods I'm going to try. And I'm going to share them with you. If you have something that works for you, please share with the rest of us.

Set a Timer
This method works well for me in other areas, so it's my go-to for any time crunch. I check in at the Tiki Hut early. Then mid-morning, after lunch, late afternoon, and evening. Depending on my schedule I may check here more or less often, but those times are pretty standard. I spend 30 minutes to an hour early reading your blogs. I rarely get to all of them in that time frame. I spend about 15 minutes on subsequent check-ins throughout the day. I read your blogs then. And on the following day. I try not to read in the same order all the time. If I add 15 minutes morning and evening to this schedule, that gives me time to check-in, comment, and say something on each social media outlet twice a day. I hope. This will be the best option because it will be the least intrusive on the rest of my day and still allow me to maintain contact with everyone. This is the method I will try first.

One Media at a Time
If the timer method doesn't work, I will visit each site one at a time once a day. But I will set a timer here, too. No more than 15 minutes for each site visit. This will take an hour of time as opposed to the 30 minutes above. It may be that I will need to do things this way for a while before cutting back to twice a day visits. I hope not. If neither of these work, then I have to rethink.

From time to time, I'm sure there will be conversations I want to follow. But I can't let them take over my day. I think if I have a plan in place, I'll know where I need to be and not be as prone to get too caught up in something.

I may be all wet. It may be that nothing will work. But I have to try.

I don't know if I will start this week or next. I had some social media goals when I began, and I'd like to reach them before letting things build the rest of the way organically. I will probably focus on achieving those goals before I cut back. I hope most of them are met this week. They're not huge goals, but to me they will put my pages and profiles and circles and followings and friends in more respectable positions. And that will make me feel better about myself and about being more active.

The Top Things I Need to Remember
Prioritize - Put first things first. For me that's family and writing. Everything comes second after that - blogging, email, and social media included. This is the basis behind using a timer and staying firm.
Read - It's what I tend to drop first when I run out of time. And I hate that. I love to get lost in a great book.
Unplug - It's important. It doesn't have to be for a long time. Even a few hours once a week can work wonders.

So how about you? Do you manage your social media time? Or does it manage you?

Share your secrets. We won't tell.

Promise :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

The top ten definitions for hot:

10. Radioactive

  9. Stolen

  8. Sexy

  7. Blazing

  6. Peppery

  5. Passionate

  4. Trendy

  3. Infuriated

  2. Sweaty

And the #1 definition for hot:

  1. Summer

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Blogger: Savannah Foxx

Savannah Foxx is an aspiring paranormal romance writer. She has just completed her first single-title novel TIMELESS and begun work on its sequel. For more on Savannah, stop by her website and check her out.

Hi Carol, thanks for having me. I have to tell you that recently my muse has been out for coffee and when I read the scenario for your guest bloggers I was immediately transported to your Tiki Hut and inspired to write. A big thank you for kicking my muse in the behind J


     Laptop in hand and slathered with SPF fifty, I made my way to my home for the next few hours. My writer buddy was gracious enough to lend me her Tiki Hut so I could wrap up my latest novel. I cast my eyes over the dancing blue water spread out before me and licked my sun-dried lips as I took a seat. Thank heaven for Chapstick. I dug my feet into the hot, white sand and covered my toes with its warm blanket of crystals.

     Shaded by the massive umbrella overhead, I was just about to rest my hands on the keys when a delicious cabana boy sauntered up to me offering a choice of beverages to quench the heat of midday here in Tiki-heaven. My hand hovered over the Corona, light with a hint of citrus, but I chose something sweet, decadent, creamy. The liquid cooled as the milky coconut passed my lips. My choice, a pina colada, complete with pink mini-umbrella.

     My laptop sneered at me. Okay, back to work. My story was set in Chicago, in November. There I was in paradise and I had to write about winter in the windy city. What was I thinking? I blew a puff of air through my puckered lips and got to work. A small breeze brushed against my cheek and carried a wisp of hair that stuck to my Chapstick-colada lips. Damn Carol...couldn’t your Tiki Hut be in a hotel room...with no windows...

     The slight wind beckoned again. Focus Savannah, Focus. I closed my eyes and imagined the breeze was no longer gentle as it whipped my hair and the rain spat in my face. Yes! The warm sand up to my ankles became frigid sleet that nipped at my toes.

     I slid into a groove. The cold November rain surrounded me as the Chicago winds howled. Howl? But it wasn’t the winds in my head that howled. A small dog leapt in and out of the waves yowling at the white foam that raced towards the shore. Not far behind him strolled his dish of an owner. His bronzed skin glistened as tiny droplets of water trickled from his sandy hair onto his well-formed pecs. I bit my lip as my fingers typed. THIS is why I am a pantser. Cold. Rain. Done. I knew what my second love scene would be...Hel-lo shower.

How ‘bout you? Do you continue writing and make your word count, or do you invite the handsome hunk over for a drink? Decisions, decisions...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Creating: Social Media - Getting Started

Some of you may have noticed the snazzy new buttons in the right sidebar beneath between my profile and the followers button.

I have finally joined the rest of the world in the phenomenon we call social media.

For most of you, all of this is old hat. I'm still learning all the ropes - and I mean ALL. Let me start at the beginning.

My newly designed website  - - went live yesterday. It's one that I will be able to maintain all by myself, and I'm totally thrilled about that. I'd love for you to visit.

Facebook came next. OMG. My friendly techie guru assures me I need an author page and a regular profile. I'm trusting she's correct. I've found some of you, but not nearly all. The f-button on the right is to my page. I'm hoping you'll all Like it. Search for me if you want to be my friend, too. Put in my name and San Antonio - I should pop right up. I'd love to see you there as well, but I'm still a private-enough person that I don't feel comfortable posting the link to it here. I'm sure after I've been on Facebook for awhile I'll feel differently, but it's something I have to work through.

Next, my techie friend signed me on to Goodreads. This site is fairly straightforward, but there are so many of you and so many books. I started with the auto-lists Goodreads provides. Books and Friends. I'm not much beyond that at this point, but I'll get there. Punch my Goodreads button :)

Then. Came. Twitter. OMG times a million. I've sent a couple of follow requests. But like the others, there are lots of you and one of me. So one more click, please :)

And what about Linked In? How many of you are there as well as these other groups? I think I need to put on makeup, get my nails done, and dress in something besides my pj's before I sign in over there.

So I'm begging ... please don't leave me hanging out there.

Or here. I need your help with all the tips, tricks, rules, and anything else you can tell me about the current state of all the social media sites. The etiquette. Who may I follow? Who should I NOT follow? Who SHOULD I follow? Besides all of you, that is. Is it different on each site? My questions are born of ignorance, but I'm a quick learner.

Are there other places I should be, too?

Fill me in. Get me up to speed on how to best navigate the perils of social media and still keep smiling.

Next Monday I'm going to post about social media and time management.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten games at the Tiki Hut:

10. Sea Gull Gallop

  9. Water Wobble

  8. Beer Bouncing

  7. Sand Shuffleboard

  6. Wine Whining

  5. Pineapple Punching

  4. Beach Buggy Bingo

  3. Flip Flop Fling

  2. Book Ends Boogie

And the #1 game at the Tiki Hut:

  1. Margarita Mixer

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Shirk

Hi, all! Jennifer here!

Thanks so much to Carol for hosting me today! This is so much fun to be somewhere else for a change. :-)

I'm sitting on my deck right now--although not for long because it's getting HOT. But I'm staying somewhat cool with my favorite summer cocktail: 
the pineapple chili margarita! (try this recipe. You won't be sorry) 

Anyhew, being out here brings my mind to SETTINGS in stories we write. I tend to place all my romances in seaside surroundings. Why? Probably because I love the beach--and also because I live by the beach. (I go with what I know)

BUT... settings not only create at atmosphere for the reader but it can be used as a marketing tool as well. I know writers don't like to think that far ahead, but that's what I've decided to do now. Writing stories set in fake beach resorts give me an advantage in my home town because I actually live in a beach resort. When I do book signings people tend to pick up my book since it involves an area similar to where they're vacationing, regardless of the genre I write. 

Now, I'm actually thinking of taking this to a new level with my next book and use the REAL setting of my hometown to create an even bigger marketing tool. I'm counting on my local book sellers wanting to help market a book that is set where people are on vacation. (at least that's what they've told me! :))

So think about your setting for more than just your story. Your setting can also help promote your book.

My recent book GEORGIE ON HIS MIND is set in a beach town and Booklist recently had this to say about it:
"It’s the mature way Walt responds to Georgie’s shenanigans that make this romance a standout. Shirk’s novel is as breezy and charming as Georgie’s seaside surroundings, and her sweet love affair with Walt will linger in the reader’s mind long after the tale is told." From Booklist --Courtney Jones

Georgie Mayer has no boyfriend and rarely goes out. In short, she needs a life. Since she's graduated college and returned back home, her brother's protectiveness has been in overdrive, and she hasn't been able to have any fun, never mind get a date. 

So what's a poor particularly attractive girl to do in a situation like this? The only thing she can do: find him a woman!

He'll thank her for it in the end. That is, if his best friend Walt Somers would stop interfering with her plans. The handsome pharmacist has made no secret that he doesn't approve of what she's up to. Unfortunately, having Walt hanging around does strange things to her mind, and suddenly she can't help but take a healthy interest in him. But how can Georgie entertain thoughts of the two of them together when Walt still treats her like his best friend's little sister?

Avilable thru
Amazon and a library near you. :-)

Thanks again for having me, Carol!

WRITERS:Do you live in an unusual or popular town? Have you thought about creating your own book around that setting?

READERS: Do you have a setting you prefer in books you read? 

= = = = = = = = = =

Thanks so much, Jennifer, for being my guest today on Under the Tiki Hut. I know everyone is happy to see you!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creating: Finding What Works

My name is Carol, and I'm a pantzer.

Not. Any. More.

During the chaos that was my most recent manuscript, I vowed to never work that way again unless I had no choice. Life ran amok for a couple of years beginning right about the time I started on the manuscript. It was drafted in fits and starts, sometimes weeks or months in between short writing sessions.

The finished first draft bore no resemblance to what I'd envisioned originally. Characters had no pizzazz; story had no pop; the plot waved a white flag.

After much work, comments from my awesome critique partners, and returning to the drawing board about a million times, the story finally came together.

During the last six months of solid work, Shiny New Idea spoke up. I made notes. And notes. And more notes.

Off and on, while I was finishing revisions to my WIP, I tried out a few writing programs. I didn't find any I liked. So I made some Excel spreadsheets to hold all my SNI notes. So far Excel is working very well for me. I still have a lot of blanks and some unanswered questions, but I'm an organic writer - one thing grows out of another. One idea may fill in several blanks.

A couple weeks ago, I started working on a plot. OMG! This is the first time I've ever plotted anything before writing it. Before now, I've come up with a plot as I'm writing that usually needs revising, beefing up, and backtracking. This time I'm doing - or trying to do - all that first draft thinking before I write. My goal is to save myself a lot of time, confusion, and heartache. And to have a guideline to return to if life goes haywire again.

I had pages of circled words. Lines from one word to one or more other words. Crossed out words. Lists of words. Phrases. All in pencil.

How in the world was I going to keep track of everything? The main plot, subplots, clues. I don't like clutter. I like everything where I can see it. These two statements are not contradictory. I wanted a neat, tidy way to keep track of my plot and characters and story.

Remember this keeping track problem. I'll get right back to it.

Another thing I always have trouble with is getting a handle on the protagonist's voice. I'd decided early on to have her blog in first person - to a Word file - so I could hear her and start with the real her in Ch. 1 and not have to rewrite many times to finally find what she wanted to hide. I'd find that out as she blogged.

Last week both of these things came together.

I set up a Word document with a book fold - I see pages 1 and 2 at the same time, landscape across the screen. On my left is a bare bones outline for Ch.1. On my right is my protagonist's journal - maybe a blog later if I feel I still don't have a full enough grasp - for what is in Ch.1. So far her words are briefer than the outline. I like this because since I'm working with half a sheet for each I'm forced not to get too detailed. And I can hear/see the protagonist's voice reacting to what's happening with her in that chapter. It's a beginning.

I also made a little square and filled it with a different color for the main mystery plot, each subplot, and for clues - all clues, real, misleading or otherwise. I'm going to paste one or more of these at the beginning of each chapter outline so I know what's in the chapter. I'm planning for this manuscript to be told only from the protagonist's viewpoint, so I don't need to track who's POV I'm in. I'm also going to graph it out on Excel so I have an instant visual as I go along so I can see if someone or something is getting too much or not enough face time.

I'm a few chapters in. Will I continue with all of this throughout the planning process? I have no idea. If it continues to work as well as it has so far, I'm sure I will. If not, I'll tweak or experiment with a new method. The best thing I like about this is I can see everything for that chapter on one screen.

I hope I've explained this well enough you can understand what I'm doing. The idea isn't to get you leave your free-wheeling pantzer self behind or to suggest you give up your favorite writing software.

The take-away idea is to keep at a problem until you find what works for you. Keep at those revisions until your story is the best you can make it. And keep moving forward.

Never give up.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten summer vegetables:

10. Tomatillos
Salsa Verde

 9. Zucchini
Zucchini Bread

  8. Eggplant
Eggplant Parmesan

  7. Sugar Snaps
Raw in Salads

  6. Okra
Rolled in Cornmeal and Fried

  5. Peppers
Any Way You Want Them

  4. Cucumbers
From Sliced to Pickled

  3. Corn
Roasted or in a Salad with Tomatoes and Basil

  2. Avocados

And the #1 summer vegetable:

  1. Tomatoes
Sliced, Diced, Fried Green, or Fresh Salsa - can't beat 'em!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Guest Blogger: Janis Patterson - Or Is It Janis Susan May?

It's both! And maybe more.

Janis Patterson also writes romances and horror as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson. LURE OF THE MUMMY by Janis Susan May, the first ever horror novel from either Carina or Harlequin, will be released August 29. THE HOLLOW HOUSE, a cozy historical mystery by Janis Patterson, will be released November 14, also from Carina Press. She and her husband, a Captain in the Navy Reserve, just returned from overseas deployment, live in Texas with three rescued furbabies – two neurotic cats and a terribly spoiled little dog. Janis has two websites – and

Well, here I am, sprawled under the Tiki Hut, a fresh Mangorita (a frozen margarita made with fresh mangoes) beside me, my laptop in front of me and for scenery, white sand, surf and palm trees. Best of all, not another human being in sight. What bliss!

Bliss, however, is not conducive to good fiction. While in life it might be a sustainable end-all and be-all, in fiction it gets boring rather quickly. That’s why when a book reaches the point of ‘Happily Ever After’ – it’s over! What makes fiction interesting is conflict.

Conflict is one of those convenient catchall phrases that means both everything and nothing. Basically, it is two things in opposition to each other.

Conflict comes in two varieties – external and internal.

An example of external conflict might be environmentalists versus developers. Two people with different visions want control of the same company. A man wants freedom and adventure while a woman wants commitment and a safe home (or vice versa) but they are overwhelmingly in love.

Internal conflict is just that – internal, within one person. The female developer knows that the new shopping center would be good for the town, but she hates to see the old swimming hole where she spent so many happy hours replaced by concrete and glass. A man might be attracted to or even falling in love with a woman who is so very like the woman who broke his heart so many years ago and he knows he has to stay away from her.

Now admittedly some of those examples were simplistic if not downright cheesy, but they are examples of conflict, and conflict is what drives books. If you’re writing a romance, you might have a wonderful time showing a man and woman meeting, liking each other and finally falling in love while taking lovely walks and enjoying nice dinners and attending symphonies. That would be wonderful – in real life. In a book it would be a snoozer.

Instead, bring conflict into play. Make him suspicious of smart women. Make her distrustful of charming men. Give them both backstories that make it seem unlikely they will ever get together. Throw in other conflicts, anything from differing business practices to hired killers. Make them earn their Happy Ever After – and then leave them to it.

Same if you’re writing a mystery. How boring if the detective follows every clue, processes everything according to the rules, finds the criminal and has him sent up for a good long time, then ends up having a lovely dinner with his adoring wife and ruminating about the nobility of his job. Again, a scenario to be wished for in real life and to be avoided like the plague in fiction.

Give them problems! Give them uncertainties! Give them bad ideas and bad luck! Make them think their world will end, and then let them save it and work things out at the last minute. It will make their Happy Ever Afters that much happier.

Now, here under the Tiki Hut, I am seriously conflicted as to whether to order a Pina Colada the next time around or stick with my Mangorita. Also, should I remember this is bathing suit territory, or curse the calories and order some botanas (snacks)? Sigh. Such conflicts.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

Top ten reasons to throw a party:

10. Why not?

  9. You saw Miss Piggy fly

  8. The drought broke

  7. Or the sun is shining

  6. That darned chicken finally crossed the road

  5. The police need something different to do

  4. Your new book release

  3. If not you, who?

  2. The Limbo Song is stuck in your head

And the #1 reason to throw a party:

  1. It's Friday!