Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

My top ten New Year's Resolutions:

10. Get dressed before noon at least one day a week.

  9. Eat chocolate once every other day.

  8. Stop sassing my muse.

  7. Stay away from cute little shops except on the weekends.

  6. Listen to our dogs.

  5. Drink wine only with meals.

  4. Quit rehashing openings and endings.

  3. Believe in myself.

  2. Laugh.

And my #1 New Year's Resolution:

  1. Have Faith.

Photo by Steve Evans Licensed under Creative Commons

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: Rochelle Staab

Greetings from a bar stool at the Tiki Hut on a starlit beach near Los Angeles. I’m Liz Cooper, L.A. psychologist and sometimes sleuth, sitting as close as I can get to the bartender mixing Tipsy Tequila Cocoa*. Swathed from my ponytail to my Uggs in layers of white cotton, a wool scarf, jeans, and my old U of I college varsity jacket, my nose is cold, and I’m egg-nogged, gifted, caroled, red-and-greened, and It’s A Wonderful Life’d out. California born, I consider forty degrees at the beach a frostbite alert but beneath the portable heater at the hut, I’m content and surrounded by people I adore.

On Christmas morning, my Dad surprised Mom with tickets for a New Year’s Eve Mexican cruise, meaning for once in my thirty-eight years I can celebrate my New Year’s Eve singing “Auld Lang Syne” somewhere other than the annual party at my parents’ house. I’m planning on a midnight kiss I’ll remember all year.

Undaunted by Dad’s shift in plans, Mom switched gears and gathered a group for a New Year’s Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve party at the Pacific Ocean. The waxing crescent moon above me punctuates the night sky with a lustrous apostrophe. Laughter mixes with the sound of waves lapping to shore. At the end of the bar, mini-cheeseburgers are disappearing fast off bamboo trays. My best friend Robin, looking like a marshmallow in need of toasting, shivers on the stool beside me with her arms crossed over her chest and mittened hands tucked under the armpits of her white puff coat.

Mom, in a full-length, cream-colored woolen cape, passes out paper and pens, asking her guests to circle the bonfire on the sand. “To bid bon voyage to 2011, I want everyone to write down what you’ll leave behind, plus your resolutions for 2012. When you’re done, throw your paper into the bonfire for the universe to look after, and then we’ll toast to the year ahead.”

My fingers sufficiently warmed by a second cup of spiked cocoa, I plop on a blanket near the roaring fire, write and then read my list to Robin. “I’m leaving behind Jarret.” Whoa. Why, after being divorced for three years, is my ex on any list I make? “No, wait. Do-over. I’m leaving behind cellulite. I intend to go to the gym in 2012.”

Robin laughs. “Both lumps are squatters. Once exes and cellulite settle in, they don’t leave. But I think it’ll be easier for you to lose the ex than to ditch the cellulite, Liz. Sorry.”

“I’m motivated.” I smile, glancing toward the hut across the sand. Nick—my reason to be in shape and the focus of my midnight kiss—is at the bar with my brother. “Oh, and I’m leaving behind anything to do with crime, unless—”

“Trust me.” Robin puts up her hands. “Trouble is on my leave-behind list too. What are your resolutions? Aside from keeping Nick busy, of course.”

“Easy. Laugh more. Love more. Give more.” I toss my list into the fire and watch it burn. Yes, I believe 2012 will be a good year. What else could happen?

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Carol, thank you so much for inviting Liz and me to cozy up Under the Tiki Hut today. The start of a new year brings opportunity for new beginnings and do-overs. My goal for 2012 is better time management (can someone sell me extra hours? Please?) To end 2011 in style, I’m giving away a copy of WHO DO, VOODOO? to a lucky commenter. For a chance to win, share one personal goal you’d like to accomplish in 2012. U.S. residents only, please. Good luck everyone, and all the best for a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Rochelle Staab, a former award-winning radio programmer and music industry marketing executive, blended her fascination with the supernatural and her love for mystery in WHO DO, VOODOO? the bestselling first novel in her Mind for Murder Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. BRUJA BROUHAHA, the second novel in the series will be released in August 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I Can - So Can You

This is the time of year I start thinking about my goals for next year. Actually I should have done this already, but it's been so crazy I haven't had even two spare moments until now.

All the same, I think my subconscious has been thinking about next year for a few weeks. For although I'm only starting the process, I have some goals and some changes in my routine in mind.

My Writing Planner is on my desk, and I'll spend this week making a lot of decisions.

One decision I've already made will affect all of you. But not too much.

Starting the first week in January, I'm returning to absolutely putting my writing first.

Saying it here makes it a reality, you know - complete with the Official Tiki Stamp.

What this means for me is no more blogging and email over morning coffee. Oh, I'll still have the coffee. But instead of a slow and easy wake-up, I'm jumping straight into my manuscript. I'm going to set some time and word count goals for this morning writing time, too. Not sure exactly what yet. Something reachable but out of my comfort zone. I need to push the limits.

I will most likely need to play with this whole concept for a bit to learn exactly what works best, but I feel this is the road I need to be on right now to accomplish everything I want to before summer.

What this means for you is that I'll be responding to comments here and visiting your blogs in the afternoons instead of mornings. You may have noticed over the last few weeks that I've done more and more of that anyway because I was so busy with everything else. So I think we'll all survive.

How about you? Are you thinking about goals or have you already made your 2012 goals?

Do you change up your routine from time to time? Or I'm weird that way?

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: J.L. Campbell

Ya know, I’ve come a long way since J.L. Campbell told my story in Hardware – which only got published last month. In 2009, I was going through a truck-load of problems. You see, I’m the problem-sorter-outer for my family and friends. So, I was dealing with my girlfriends’ relationship drama, plus that of my parents and then along came Quinn, who looked like bad news, but really wasn’t.

It did take him a while to get past my defenses and boy did I have many. I thought he was a gangster, but he showed me otherwise. It also took me some time to get over myself. Thing is, at first glance I’m snooty and I did have some, ahem, prejudices. But if you get to know me, you’ll find out that I’m just shy with people I don’t know. Anyhow, Quinn helped me turn all of that around. He’s the centre of my world. Well, him and our son, Chad, who came along a while after…but you’ll have to read Hardware to find out all about that. If intrigue and suspense are your thing, then you’ll enjoy our story.

But to get to the point of my visit, it’s coming on to Christmas and in Jamaica, there are certain things that tell you what time of year it is...stuff like Dark Fruit Cake, that’s yummy and has quite a kick if you get carried away with the rum and wine. Gungo Peas makes a nice dish of rice and peas. Baked Glazed Ham is eaten at almost every meal. Poinsettias bloom in brilliant reds, peach and white. Delicious Pot Roasted Beef is a must and so is Sorrel, a lovely deep burgundy drink that comes from a plant. We do tend to flavour this drink with lots of rum.

We have Midnight Mass and Watch Night Services across the island and for those who like to party, there are office get-togethers, stage shows and pageants…oodles of activity that take us right through the season. Best of all, there’s the time with friends and family and the goodwill that flows from one end of the island to the other, like the chilly winds that come from North America. Oh, and for those of you who get lots of snow, that’s something we never experience.

Here’s wishing all the best of the season for you and yours. Carol, thanks ever so much for allowing me to share an insider’s view of a Jamaican Christmas Under the Tiki Hut.

J.L. Campbell is the author of Contraband, Dissolution, Don’t Get Mad…Get Even, and Hardware. She is always on the lookout for story making material. She also loves company and can usually be found lollygagging on her blog at

Her website is at and her Twitter handle is @JL_Campbell.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

NOTICE: Something weird is going on with my Google Account. If I should go MIA, I'll be back ASAP. Not sure of the problem. Keep your fingers crossed for a happy outcome :)

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I'm participating in D.L. Hammons' Deja Vu Blogfest. This is the first blogfest I've ever participated in, so I hope I'm playing by the rules.

Since Friday is Top Ten day, I looked back through old top tens and found an early one that didn't receive any comments.

This post is from Friday, May 15, 2009.

Happy Friday!

Top ten things to love about dogs:

10. Wagging Tails
"See how much I love you?"

9. Soft Ears
"Oh yes, right there!"

8. Big Smiles
"I just shredded the newspaper in the other room and you didn't see me."

7. Good Sits
"Okay, just for you. What's next?"

6. Comfort
"I'm here Mommy. Everything is all right."

5. Play Time
"Now! Now! Can we play now? Pleeeze!!!"

4. Protection
"The UPS man is MINE!"

3. Nap Time

2. Doggy Drool
"Look! I made a picture on the window!"

And the #1 thing to love about dogs:

1. Kisses
"I love you!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Blogger: Conda Douglas

Swoop’s Zippy Gift

Swoop flew through the corridors of the closed Sprite Mall. She paused and hovered at every display window, then shook her head and flew to the next. Nope. Nothing there for a one-winged fairy in the next store either. She bit her lower lip and flapped her white wings in slow arcs. It’d been easier when they were first Toddle Wings and their folks got the little toys for them to exchange. But now she and One Wing were both thirteen years old. And last year One Wing got her a gorgeous flying jacket in Flight Instructor Green. She’d gotten him a pencil. Okay, it was tough to find one of those tiny, tiny pencils, usable for a five-inch fairy, but still—lame.

She stopped at the Tiki Hut Travel window. The humans in the Idaho mountain town of Sprite loved to “get away” to warmer climes after the holidays. They spent the holidays selling stuff to other humans, those who loved to come to snow country. Swoop would never understand humans. Huge posters showed the various warm destinations. She stared at the central one while synapses sparkled in her mind. Now, she knew the perfect gift.

* * *

Swoop dithered. While she waited for One Wing, she checked her construction once, twice and again and again. Checked the line where it stretched from the second floor balcony around the central court, past the two story poinsettia display, down to the bottom of the support pillar on the first floor. Checked the eyelet and string handles she’d spent the last few nights making. It would work. But where was her best friend? Much later and there’d be no time for his gift. The Toddle Wings would be getting up and racing to the bottom of their Christmas trees to see what Santa had brought. Days ago, she’d told One Wing to come to the second floor balcony before dawn for his Christmas present. She’d gotten up an hour earlier. She yawned.

“Don’t you know Santa won’t come if you don’t sleep?” a familiar voice interrupted her mid-yawn. One Wing.

She snapped her mouth shut as a horrid thought came to her. What if he hated his present? What if he thought she believed him a cripple and was taking pity on him? So not true, One Wing got around the vast-to-fairies mall a lot better than the rest of the fairies. Often Swoop forgot he was missing a wing and couldn’t fly.

“Since I got up so early, where’s my gift?” One Wing asked.

Worried and unable to think of what to say, Swoop pointed at the line.

“This is it? Um, great,” One Wing said. “What is it?”

“It’s a zip line,” Swoop said. At One Wing’s blank look, she explained, “You grab the handles,” she picked up the handles in either hand, “and leap off the balcony and then you’ll zip on the line down to the first floor.”

She looked over at her friend, whose mouth stood wide. “Um, I didn’t mean—” she started to apologize when he snatched the handles and leapt on the balcony railing. He looked over his shoulder at Swoop. “Best Christmas gift ever, thanks!” Then he jumped off the railing, single wing held straight out. He laughed the whole way down, so loud it echoed.

So happy it made Swoop’s heart sing. Best Christmas gift ever.

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Christmas is my favorite time of year. I grew up in the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho and that meant we celebrated Christmas to the max! Snow! Lights! New skiers falling off the mountain! Many of my writings are based on that fun and crazy childhood, including STARKE NAKED DEAD, a cozy mystery that will be released in summer of 2012 by L&L Dreamspell. Swoop's Zippy Gift takes place in the world of my 'tween fantasy THE MALL FAIRIES:EXILE, the first book in a trilogy to be released by Muse It Up Publishing on February 24, 2012. Since writing two novel series doesn't take every second of my time, I'm also an eTalent Scout for the new eBook publishing company Barbarian Books Follow me on Twitter @Conda_V and read about my writing life at Conda's Creative Center and please become my friend on facebook I love new friends!

Monday, December 12, 2011

This One's For You

I have about fifty jillion things to do. So much, in fact, that not only can I not make a list, I can't prioritize what sort of order to put things in on that non-existent list even if I could make it.

For the past week, I've only been able to make a daily list of everything that must be done on that particular day. Some Most days, I had carryovers. Massive fail.

There's nothing I can delegate, nothing I can ignore, nothing I can postpone - although everything writing-related was automatically shifted to January. The writing list is brimful, too; but it is manageable, and I can prioritize and set goals there. I'm looking forward to doing just that in a couple more weeks.

The Tiki Hut has been my beacon of sanity. I can come here and lose myself for a bit visiting you, reading your words, sharing a comment with you on your blogs and responding to your comments here.

Thank you so much for visiting and taking me away from my real life for a few minutes a few times a day. Last week you helped me escape writers cramp, flying dust, a tilted budget, new recipe hell, long lines, and much more.

This week I'll be knee deep in paper and ribbon, Christmas decorations, yapping dogs who don't understand what has happened to their quiet-ish ordered world, cookie dough, and more.

So I'm really happy for your comments here and your posts on your blogs. You keep me in touch with my writing self. And that keeps me grounded. Thank you.

Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done :)

Happy Monday!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

The top ten reasons Santa doesn't have a Fantasy Football team:

10. The elves are too small

  9. Except for Elf

  8. The Three French Hens won't leave the Two Turtledoves alone

  7. The Ghost of Christmas Past demands too many instant replays

  6. Ebenezer Scrooge wants to take the ball to the bank

  5. Blitzen has a thing for quarterbacks

  4. The Grinch doesn't follow the rules

  3. Rudolph's nose telegraphs plays

  2. Frosty sweats

And the #1 reason Santa doesn't have a Fantasy Football team:

  1. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore refuse to be cheerleaders


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Blogger: Melissa Ann Goodwin

You’d think that by now I would have learned my lesson about touching stuff at Grandma’s house. I’ve had plenty of time to think about that while lounging in this hammock under the Tiki Hut on this white sandy beach, with just three days to go until Christmas.

I’ll back up a little and explain. Last year, when I was 12, Mom and I were going through a rough time, so we went to spend Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa at their house in Vermont. I was pretty down in the dumps, and I kept wishing that I could escape to a place where things don’t ever change.

Grandma had put out her miniature Christmas Village – you know, those collections of little cottages and Ye Olde Shoppes, with carolers and a skating pond and all that. It’s really pretty and old-fashioned looking, and I admit I was kinda fascinated by it. You probably won’t believe this, but one night I made the BIG mistake of touching something in the village, and the next thing I knew, I was in it! Even though I’d been wishing I could live in the Christmas Village, the minute I got there, all I wanted to do was get back home.

Anyway, that’s all another story, because the other day, Grandma said, “Jamie, I think we should go with a Polynesian Christmas theme this year!” So instead of putting out her Christmas Village with the cotton batting snow and tiny cottages, Grandma got all this white beach sand and spread it in a big box on top of a table. Then she added a bunch of fake palm trees and all these miniature Tiki Huts. She strung colored lights all over it and added some fat little Santa Clauses wearing grass skirts, leis, and Santa hats.

Last night, after everyone else was in bed, I came back into the living room to check out the Polynesian Christmas beach scene. I saw that one of the Tiki Huts looked a little crooked, so I reached out to straighten it, and … well, I think you can figure out what happened next ….

It’s hot out there on the beach, but it’s nice and cool here under the Tiki Hut. A few minutes ago, one of the fat Santas in a grass skirt said he’d bring me another ice-cold lemonade. If I squint, the white sand looks a little like snow. The ocean water is an amazing swirl of colors that reminds me of Mom’s opal ring. While lying in this hammock, I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to get back home in time for Christmas. But this year, I’m 13, and I just spotted a couple of really cute girls in bikinis heading this way. So now I’m thinking that maybe I’ll just hang out here under the Tiki Hut a while longer, and worry about all that other stuff later.

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Melissa Ann Goodwin
Author of The Christmas Village
I treasure wonderful memories of a happy and carefree childhood growing up in the beautiful New England town of Andover, Massachusetts. I am especially grateful to the teachers there, who encouraged me to read the books that inspired me to become a writer. I have written many stories, poems and articles for the Fun for Kidz family of childrens' magazines, and my non-fiction work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including Guideposts' Angels on Earth, Caring Today, and The Caregivers' Home Companion. I'm also a restorative yoga teacher, that's why my blog handle is "WriterYogini." My husband, artist J. Richard Secor, and I currently live in Santa Fe, NM, but we've sold our home and plan to tour the U.S. and Canada in an RV starting next spring.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What I Write in a Pinch

Last night at ten o'clock, I realized I hadn't written a blog post for today. Not only had I not written it, I hadn't even thought about what to write.

I haven't done that in a long time. So if this sort of rambles all over the place, you'll know why. Even at ten o'clock I didn't get to writing this right away. I'm thinking on the fly. The time is late. And I'm tired. So my words will get a brief proof before I place the post in the queue.

It's not really anything new. Thinking on the fly is pretty much what we do when we create a story.

It doesn't matter if you're a plotter or a pantser, whether your thoughts come out as bullet points on an outline or as your first draft.

The Original Idea comes first. For all of us. It doesn't always have to be the same thing. Original Idea can be a character, place, time of year or time of day, a setting, a premise, a what-if, an action, or absolutely anything.

We may not stick to it. We may change it as we go. Or we may switch it around. Or we may do countless other unspeakable things to our words before we're done with them and call it a story.

But somewhere in that story is our Original Idea.

It may not have grown up as you thought it would, but it's in there someplace. When you find it, dust it off a little, make it shine. Then send it out in the world to play.

After all, Original Idea is just that. It's part of you. You are the only one who could have written the story exactly as you did. You had help from critique partners, betas, editors. But you created the story based on your Original Idea.

Be proud of it. It won't let you down.

Happy Monday!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday's Top Ten

It's the giving time of year again. Should you feel moved to give to those less fortunate this season, here's my own personal list of the top ten places that would certainly appreciate your gifts. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

The top ten groups that could use a Santa Elf:

10. Animal Shelters

  9. Homeless Shelters

  8. Women's Shelters

  7. Senior Centers

  6. Meals On Wheels

  5. Ronald McDonald House

  4. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

  3. Fisher House Foundation

  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation

And the #1 group that could use a Santa Elf:

  1. Toys for Tots