Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reading in Bed

Below is my headlamp, a new favorite reading tool.

Common wisdom says that writers love to read. I'm not saying all writers love to read, but I am saying this writer loves to read. And, I particularly love to read in bed. Either before falling asleep or right after waking up, I love reading in bed.

And, (I know, I know, you're not supposed to start a sentence, much less a paragraph, with a conjunction)I found something even better than reading in bed with a flashlight, which really is a page from the reclaim-the-child-within-pop-psychology of an earlier decade. (The flashlight thing is only cool at night, though. There's no thrill to it in the morning -- even if you are reading a Nancy Drew book.)

For Christmas, I treated myself to a headlamp. It is kind of like a miner's helmet with the light centered between the eyebrows. The rubber headband on mine needs to loosen up a bit, but with my big head (I mean that literally -- in the physical sense -- my cranium is large) that shouldn't take any time. I can't believe I went this long wanting one and never got around to buying one. They only run around $10.

If you love reading in bed, I recommend the headlamp. It can be used for other things, too. Like, if there is a big windstorm and all the electricity goes out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cards: I like 'em!

I, for one, love Christmas cards. I love receiving them and I love sending them. Getting organized for the project I especially love. Picking out the cards, buying a new pen, going over my address list, composing in my head the newsletter I never seem to be able to produce on paper ... Christmas cards may be my favorite part of Christmas.

Along with clearing a table top and arranging the cards, Rolodex, stamps, and the rest of the necessary tools, I clear out a few blocks of time -- two or three evenings usually gets the job done. I'm not sure if I have ever sent a card without writing more than a closing salutation and my/our name(s). There's usually a newsy note and a chipper message for the New Year.

Now, since making my living as a writer, I have kind of put pressure on myself about the newsy note part. I still enjoy it, but now I really have to be careful about misspells and incorrect grammar. Nothing wrong with that, I know, but it does make for a more stilted message.

Some of the tools for writing Christmas cards.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tis the Season

Hot off the press!
It's the winter issue of Carpinteria Magazine.

Yes, it's that time of the year -- time for a new Carpinteria Magazine. The full-color, glossy paper publication does the little town proud. Who knew so many great people -- Susan Flannery and Barnaby Conrad, for starters -- and so much activity was packed into this sleepy little seaside town.

The magazine is available all over Carpinteria and at selected outlets in the greater Santa Barbara County area. Not sure where to find one? Call the office and ask for one (805) 684-4428. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Have Laptop, Will Travel

At right, from left are my three charges: Ruby, Nut-Nut, and Cooper. They didn't pose for this picture, I just happened to capture them sunning themselves.

A great thing about the way I make my living is that, for the most part, I can earn money anywhere there is a laptop, electricity, and Internet access. This is why house- and pet-sitting is such a natural fit with the writing life. Along with a toothbrush, pajamas, and clean underwear, I pack my ransom note-like stash of to-do lists, stories to pitch, endings to works in progress, and whatever other good intentions are lolling around on my desk. Being holed away is a wonderful opportunity to get some work done.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Role Playing

The role of politician's wife is a new one for me. In November's election, my husband won a seat on the board of directors for the Carpinteria Valley Water District. The term "politician's wife" may be a bit overboard, as Alonzo is definitely more the public servant type than the politician type. Well, maybe "elected official" is the best term. He worked really hard, stuck his neck out, and really strayed from his comfort zone. I really admire him. The other day I was thinking how he has inspired me. Not in the theme-from-Rocky-playing-in-my-head-and-I-have-shivers-down-my-spine inspiration, but more have-the-faith-to-keep-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-even-when-it-doesn't-seem-like-it-will-matter type of inspiration.

Left, recently elected Director Alonzo Orozco (that's my husband!) of the Carpinteria Valley Water District.

I can tell the inspiration has moved me to action. I'm writing in my blog ... something I think I'll be a bit more regular about.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Sweet Spot

While working on my last big project I developed a theory. Here it is: The Sweet Spot, or the best part, of work is the period in between finding out you landed the job/project and starting it. Don't you agree? The euphoria of having something lined up and some free time before you actually have to do anything is wonderful. Too bad we can't recall that feeling at will.

The Sweet Spot Theory applies to bank accounts, too. I love it when I make a hefty deposit and have a balance to be proud of for more than a few hours before all the debits sift out at 12:01 a.m. I know I'm fooling myself, in fact, that is the point -- to have a few hours of feeling good and not worrying.

My last big project? On Oct. 27 I turned in the manuscript for a guidebook on Solvang, the Danish Capital of America. That's why I have a picture of a windmill on my post. I'll keep you posted on the process of the book. It is due out in early 2011.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Water It Down, See It Happen

Put "waiting for hair dye to do its job" right up there with "taking a shower" as one of the great incubators for creative thinking. Maybe it is the regularity, or the rote-ness, of the tasks that enables the brain to relax and stoke the idea machine. (Come to think of it, many of my best ideas have come to me while doing the dishes.) But, I think it is in the water.

Author Henriette Klauser, whose book "Write It Down, Make It Happen" truly changed my life, contends that "the connection between water and creativity can be documented back at least as far as the third century B.C." She also credits the elements of no distractions and rhythmic repetition aiding creativity, but being near water is the ballast, the anchor, if you will.

I'm a believer.

And I'm not just saying that so I can stop feeling guilty about sitting in a salon chair for 35 minutes while I wait for the hair dye to do its job. I still feel a twinge of indulgence, but I remember how much writing I accomplish while all that running water -- shampooing, rinsing, -- surrounds me.

And that's why I always bring my laptop or pen and paper with me every time I get my hair dyed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Any Way You Slice It

Buzzing down the Facial Care/Skin Care/Body Lotion aisle on my way to make a quick prescription pick up for my mom in the local drugstore, I stop, take a couple of steps backward, and confirm that there is a display of egg slicers stuck amongst the inventory of beauty aids.

"Display" may be a bit of an exaggeration. Actually, the egg slicers were hanging by a strip of clips, the way lunch-size bags of chips are near the cash register at a sandwich shop. I didn't and still don't get the connection. Is this an intentional merchandising ploy or the result of "corporate" not understanding the unique market demographic of a California beach community?

I forget what we were scouting down, but one time my sister and I were in a mega-supermarket and in the Feminine Hygiene aisle was a strip of clips holding candy bars. Some of the clips were empty, unlike the egg slicers. That attempt at subliminal marketing I understood.

The egg slicers, I'm still scratching my head over. Maybe it is related to the recent salmonella recall.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eat, Pray, Be Jealous

I read "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert back when it had a seat on bestseller lists and book clubs everywhere were discussing it. The only thing I didn't like about the book is that I didn't write it first. Oh, I suppose I could nitpick a bit and come up with another item or two that I didn't like, but why bother.

Now the movie is set to debut and I find I'm still really bummed that I wasn't the one who first wrote "Eat, Pray, Love." So forgive me if I sound a little jealous and petty, but you know what kind of bugs me? The fact that the movie, ipso facto the book, is described as "one woman's year-long solo trip around the globe."

Didn't the author go to Italy, India, and Bali? That is three countries, not around the globe. And, yes, I know, Bali is not a country -- Indonesia is the country. In fact, didn't she fly from the east coast of the United States to Italy and return to the U.S. before heading out to India then Bali? That makes it even less so "around the globe."

As they are with math, American schoolchildren are famously bad at geography. I expect more from movie and book reviewers and the marketing people at Sony Pictures. Could be I'm not remembering the book's itinerary so well. Maybe my jealousy is clouding my memory.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or, does it?

Funny, how it is the unsaid stuff one’s parents do that is incorporated into an offspring’s behavior. I think the correct term is “internalize.” Certainly, my mother never sat me down for a how-to lesson on self sabotage or gave me pointers on substance abuse. Nevertheless, I managed all by lonesome to master those traits.

My mom passed on good habits to me as well. Making lists as a way to stay organized is a good example. Again, like the aforementioned example, she didn’t sit me down, pull out a free pad of paper from a local real estate agent, and enumerate tomorrow’s to-do list. Listing is something she’s always done, so naturally (I guess) I picked up the method.

My mom turns 77 this year and she still makes lists. Check out the one on the left.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Let's take a serious look

In the real estate market where I live one quickly learns that "cozy" translates as cramped, "charming" is a euphemism for ramshackle, and "close to shopping, transportation, and downtown" really means an awful location.

See the ad at right? The only doctoring I did was to enlarge the appropriate words and underline them. The misspell is courtesy of the author.

And so it goes with writing jobs -- or any job for that matter. "Challenging" means you'll work your ass off for little pay. "Chance to prove yourself" is code for we're not sure this thing will fly but will pay you minimum wage to test it.
Recently, the phrase "serious inquiries only" has really stood out. First, I want to know are the words necessary. Do job seekers go through the bother of assembling the proper paperwork to apply for job as a lark? Sort of like a grown-up prank phone call, if you will?

I think the phrase is a misguided effort to give an air of legitimacy to a completely bogus ad. Really? Are we supposed to believe that the sky is the limit supplying Web site copy at 1 cent a word?

Truly, may I offer this piece of advice? If you see "serious inquiries only" in an ad -- any kind of an ad -- do not to read any further.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Carpinteria Magazine hits the streets!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
The latest issue of Carpinteria Magazine is now available. Readers can pick up a copy at the Coastal View News office, 4856 Carpinteria Ave. in the great town of Carpinteria.

Don't you love the cover? I do! That's Dan Alvis. He really captures an essence of Carpinteria that has eluded any kind of exposure. The magazine's photography is beyond compare and almost captures just how gorgeous our slice of paradise is. Let's face it: there's just something about Carpinteria that defies definition.

The stories in the magazine are top notch, too. It is a "fun" issue. Get your copy today. Or check it out online at

Let me know what you think.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dreams Do Come True

The difficult part about having your dreams come true is keeping your dreams in the forefront of your mind. That's why experts in the field (motivational speakers, life coaches, sales managers and the like) suggest keeping pictures of your goals in front of you, like on the bathroom mirror, or writing affirmations. You have to remind the noggin just what it is you are after.

Above, doesn't the new mixer look beautiful. This is before any mixing soiled the beautiful machinery.

One of my purely materialistic aspirations has been a Kitchen Aid mixer. (BTW, I wish for world peace and like to think I do my part to make the world a better place.) The Kitchen Aid mixer, I must confess, is 100 percent vanity and indulgence. It is not as if I bake frequently or that particularly well. I wanted that appliance trophy, and have wanted it off and on for about the last 15 years.

My husband received a notice his air miles were about to expire. I thought we could get a couple of magazine subscriptions, at least, out of the deal, so I dusted off his account and pin numbers and did a little online shopping.

My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the Kitchen Aid mixer at 40,000-and- change points/miles. He had a few miles to spare, and I thought I'd cough up the tax and shipping in cash. Can you believe we weren't charged anything extra for tax or shipping?

Dreams do come true, and sometime better than we imagined.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Managing My Portfolio

Recently, I've been spending a lot of erratic time putting together a good old-fashion portfolio. You know the kind: highlights of past work printed on paper (or cardboard or foam core) and lovingly organized in a large leather satchel (which also goes by the name of portfolio). The zip of the case and being able to feel the work with your fingers is infinitely more satisfying than a digital portfolio or book.

The reason for the good old-fashion portfolio is twofold. First, it is a good exercise in building oneself up after Orozco Ink not being able to land any new jobs for a couple of months. Having previous accomplishments laid out in front of you is a big help in the self-esteem department. Second, even in this digital age, it is a good idea to have an updated portfolio at the ready to show prospective clients.

In addition to trying to hobble the portfolio together during spurts of unscheduled time, the project does present one big problem. How large should it be? I'm a big believer in "keep 'em wanting more." But, I also want to cover all my bases so prospects know all that I can do.

I love this photo of a Peruvian girl with a baby llama. But, it really doesn't belong in my portfolio for writing jobs, even though I did take a pretty good photo. Portfolios are a very good example of sometimes less is more.

Monday, January 25, 2010

On Feeling Normal

That's my husband in the video. His name is Alonzo; we have the same last name.

At eating and drinking establishments, there's a fine line between feeling welcomed when warmly greeted by staff and customers and feeling like Norm from "Cheers." I guess it depends on how one is feeling on a particular day. For example, if I was entering the establishment wearing a pair of pants with a too tight waistband feeling more and more snug with each sip of beer, I might feel a bit Norm-ish (which, hopefully, doesn't become too normal of a feeling). And I'd most definitely feel Norm-ish if I wore sweats because none of my pants fit. On the other hand, if I was freshly showered and scrubbed with well-fitting pants, I'd feel more like an honored guest.

The moral of this tale is that how others are feeling at a specific time or place oftentimes has nothing to do with anyone else than that one particular person.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's with some Season's Greetings?

As a born and bred Southern Californian, I don't feel any real compunction to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather as I know such days are a dime a dozen. Last Sunday, though, was an exception. I don't know the name of the blue shade the sky was and I have never seen the Channel Islands pop more clearly out of the horizon. It was sheer desire, rather than pure guilt, that got me bike riding.

The photo above was taken on January 7. Christmas Day didn't look too different. The people's clothing indicates how warm the weather is.

What a glorious way to reflect on the past holiday season and ponder the new year and decade (though, technically, I'm not convinced we really are starting a new decade). "Season's Greetings, indeed," I thought as I pedaled between the mountains and the sea. "How lucky am I to be riding along this beautiful patch of country on such a fine day." (Well those are not my exact words, but they capture the sentiment in a more refined manner than what was actually going through my head.)

Delving further into the "Season's Greetings" bit, I got to wondering why Southern Californians send other Southern Californians Christmas cards with snow scenes representative of New England or another faraway place? Why does the insurance agent who handles my auto coverage send me a "special wish" that is so off-base from both our existences? I'm not asking for a surfing Santa, but certainly a poinsettia is a closer to a Southern California Christmas. (And, I'm not complaining either. The card from the insurance agent is placed on the mantle along with all the other cards -- snow scenes and otherwise.)

If you'd like to see proof of the glorious weather I'm talking about, check out
Carpinteria Magazine. This is the latest issue of the magazine I am lucky enough to help publish.