About Charlie Hudson

Off with my combat boots and onto writing best describes Charlie my two careers. Born in Pine Bluff, Ark., and raised in Louisiana, I count myself as a military veteran, wife, mother, freelance writer, and author. What was intended to be a quick two years in the Army became a 22-year career instead, and somehow in the process, I discovered that I was an inadvertent pioneer by serving in several positions that had previously been held only by men. By the time I was in Desert Storm and later Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, women in leadership assignments was more widely accepted. My love of writing never left me though whether it is a short article that highlights an animal rescue group, penning the stories of a female police detective in the Florida Keys, or presenting issues about aging that Baby Boomers need to address, or working on a corporate proposal. When my husband, Hugh, also retired from the Army, we relocated to South Florida where we can both enjoy the underwater world in dive sites all around Key Largo. We do break away though to still travel, and especially visit the Washington, D.C. area where son Dustin is a professional dancer and lives with his wife, Samantha.

The Scientific Method….

Serious content alert. If I had been good at math (an interesting aspect of my youth I will perhaps address in a future post), I would probably not have followed my sister’s fascination with science and leaned more toward engineering. However, because she not only fixed on science at a young age and had a wonderful female mentor (rather unusual at the time) and she married a scientist, and I went into the military where science and engineering are more prominent than people often realize, I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of science during my life. Generally speaking, in the scientific method, you develop a hypothesis, determine how to test the hypothesis, conduct the tests, gather results, analyze results, either prove or disprove your hypothesis, or determine your testing wasn’t adequate and you “go back to the drawing board”. Another important element is the ability to duplicate results by independent means. If you, as a scientist, “prove” something, any other scientist following what you did should arrive at the same or very similar results. When you have credentialed scientists who give opposite expert opinion about the same matter, a very large “Huh?” should be raised.

Hubby with his background of applied physics and nuclear engineering and I have a standing joke about cold fusion which made quite a splash a number of years ago. It was such an appealing idea, it was written into numerous novels and movie scripts. Since as the TV show “Mythbusters” often demonstrated, “Hollywood physics” are not required to hold up to reality. The cold fusion “success” did not hold up to replication and the joke between Hubby and I is, “Just because it wasn’t true doesn’t mean it can’t ever be true. After all, the laws of physics as we know them might have other secrets waiting to be discovered. (My point, not his).

So, when there are opposing scientific views, the old adage of, “Follow the money”, may very well be appropriate. If sizeable sums from either government or corporate sources are involved in a particular desired outcome, well, how one interprets data may not be entirely objective. As for “soft science”, that is indeed another subject.

The Thing About Scuba…..

Like many adventure sports, scuba is not for everyone. From a physical perspective, there are few conditions that prevent one from diving. Since Hubby entered into working with “adaptive” scuba for those with situations such as paraplegic, amputees, etc., he has in fact gained an even greater understanding of the physiological aspect of scuba in addition to already understanding the physics. An example of something that had never occurred to either of us if is you have an individual who is paraplegic, there may be the associated inability of the individual to assess hydration. When you are on the water in the heat, hydrating is quite important. Therefore, in a situation such as this, you have to keep watch and perhaps remind the individual to consume water or other appropriate beverages. In actuality there are only a few physical barriers such as someone who has ear issues and therefore can’t manage the pressure involved with diving. Exercise-induced asthma is another one that in general is  risky to try to manage. Severe claustrophobia is another because the mask causes too much of an issue.

Aside from physical, however, there are individuals who have either had a bad experience or a high level of anxiety for whatever reason. Interestingly, when Hubby started teaching younger students (they lowered the minimum age from twelve to ten), he discovered there were times when he had to approach training from a slightly different angle. In some cases, the student was quite open about a particular fear and in others, it would come out in conversation. By more or less coincidence, Hubby adapted this technique to adults who seemed to be extra anxious about diving. Mostly, these individuals fall into the broad categories of a) doing this for the sake of a diving companion or b) was always intrigued, but couldn’t define actual anxiety. While there may be similarities, every individual is different and often quietly working through the anxiety enables the individual to identify the root cause. Although it isn’t always successful, he has had mostly success.

When people who have never been diving ask me, I suggest the one-day “Discover” course (it’s called different names) as the best approach. It does add an extra layer of cost if the individual goes on through full certification, but it also adds an extra layer of confidence because one of the most difficult aspects of learning to dive has already been accomplished. That, by the way, is taking the first breath underwater. Intellectually, our brains might cognitively understand it’s okay, but another part says, “Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” It happened to me and it was the strangest sensation. It’s a very common reaction and instructors are fully prepared for it with a new student. And as much as I love to dive, I realize not everyone feels the same way. For some people, snorkeling is the answer as a means to enjoy beautiful reefs and fascinating marine life. For others, going to a nice aquarium is the answer.

 

 

This May Sound Really Odd….

Okay, as I have explained in previous posts, I’m cautious when writing my novels to make everything as realistic as possible when crafting different scenes and plot points. The Internet is a terrific asset, and as I bookmark different sites, my “Favorites” list has some very odd combinations. Lord knows if I’m being monitored, I’m probably on a watch list or two. With that said, for reasons that will become apparent when I publish Shades of Deception (scheduled for the fall), I was researching retention of organs after autopsy. I ran across http://www.sciencecare.com that addresses body and organ donation to science.

Hubby and I have been organ donors for years and intend to be cremated. Last time I visited with my sister, she mentioned they will be leaving their bodies to the medical institute where she has worked for more than forty years. The site I referenced above explains how you can combine both organ and body donation. From the looks of the site, it is incredibly well-organized and there are aspects to this type of donation that never occurred to me. I also did a quick search to see if there were any negative reports around about them and didn’t find any. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, merely that the first pass was clean.

I intend to check into them some more and will re-post if I find anything alarming. If not, we may very well change our end-of-life plans. I totally understand this is not the sort of thing everyone agrees with, but for those of you who are interested, you might want to take a look.

Lovely Day Diving….

Green Moray Being Cleaned (Key Largo Reef)

Last year I allowed way too many things to interfere with diving. I made the decision to try and get out once every 4-6 weeks, and 2016 going into 2017 has been better. Since I actually work seven days a week, taking part of one day once a month (or so) isn’t what one would call unreasonable. Anyway, Mother Nature has not been kind to the charter boat people over the past several days, but it all came together nicely today. In fact, our first dive was at a site that is quite popular although not usually as interesting as numerous other spots. Today was the exception with better underwater visibility than past dives there and a cluster of groupers you don’t often see. You get one-to-three groupers cruising around on a reef most of the time. Today there were about a dozen, and a mix of types. Okay, there no Goliath was among them. Still, it was impressive. And of all the variety of parrot fish, the midnight parrot is my favorite with their dark blue coloration. About half a dozen of them came by. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo in my gallery to show how pretty they are. The other treat was a free-swimming green moray eel. Although he wasn’t as big as the one in this photo, he wasn’t much smaller. They are nocturnal and tuck into the rocks during the day, so when you find one out in the open for a while, they’re fun to watch. I think hubby got video of him – will have to see later.

The water temperature is increasing as it does this time of year and is at 75, which isn’t bad. Since I missed both Jan and Feb for diving, maybe things will work out where I can squeeze in one more day in March and be back on track for an annual total. We’ll see.

Writing Musing….

As I have mentioned, other projects have delayed me in getting a new novel out, but there will be one in early summer, although very different from anything I have done before. I am also returning to Verde Key and Detective Bev Henderson for those who have missed her. The other day was a great example of how shifts in plots can occur. There are some tricky twists in this one – Shades of Deception by the way – and in trying to set up a particular plot point, I suddenly realized I could branch along a slightly different path and solve two problems. All my fans know I strive to keep my characters “in character” and not leave the reader thinking, “Why did that happen?” I was having difficulty in getting Bev from “Point A to Point B” in a logical fashion. Also, my antagonist – rather creepy I might add – was setting up not quite as I wanted. Now that I have both situations in hand, things are flowing more smoothly.

Most of the time I have all the major plot points laid out early in the process, but not always. Georgina’s Grief is a good example. I literally had to come up with an extra character, or two as it turned out, to kill off in order to make things work. They weren’t particularly likable though, which I did because their only function was to get killed anyway. I try not to do away with “nice” people, although it is sometimes necessary. In a few cases, I admit, I’ll be sitting at the computer weeping as I “do the deed”. Such is the life of both authors and characters. Shades of Deception should be out in the fall.

Oops on the Gap….

I managed to let a couple of extra days slip by without posting and could say I’m not sure how that happened except I do know. I’ve had overlapping deadlines and am juggling several other projects and let the calendar slip a bit. On the other hand, I certainly don’t get bored. I caught up with a friend by phone whom I hadn’t spoken with in a while and have been looking at different travel arrangements I need to make. No exotic locales this time – all family or business related. Our son, who as most of the regular followers know, is with the Bowen McCauley Dance Company in the DC area. (http://www.bmdc.org) We try to go up to see him perform at least once a year and there’s almost always a performance close to our granddaughter’s birthday. It’s a little later this year being in May about six weeks after, but that’s close enough. The performance is ordinarily at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, but that’s being renovated. The Lansburgh Theater is in a different location which means managing new logistics. It’s supposed to be a nice venue and is where the Shakespeare Company often plays. It’s very much “in the District” not too far from the Capitol and the National Mall. Although we spent a fair amount of time in the area, we almost always took the Metro in. I don’t recall us being near that theater, but if we take the flight I think we will, there will be adequate time to scout things out.

The trip I’ll be taking to Wisconsin the following month is to present at a quilting guild and then go to see my friend whom I called the other day. I wasn’t sure if everything would come together and as she said, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. It looks as if it will all “sync” nicely and I am looking forward to it.

De-cluttering…..

I know people (okay, mostly women) who are immaculate housekeepers and I certainly was raised doing chores that included dusting and vacuuming almost every day. We also didn’t live in a huge house and with five people, it did get rather messy just with everyday life. I look around now at the clutter I’ve allowed to accumulate and am torn between trying to set aside time to deal with it and the idea of, “When does clutter become comfortable?” Now, as I have posted previously, Hubby and I have very different definitions of clutter and we’re going with mine. Part of the issue in and around my study is I have to keep a certain number of books on hand for ready inventory. And since I have published quite a few over the years, that inventory begins to add up from a space perspective. The other thing is we still have quite a few cold weather clothes. Once upon a time when we thought we would be leaving South Florida, it made sense to keep them. After we made the decision not to relocate, we could easily give away two-thirds of them and still have an adequate wardrobe for visiting cold places. The problem here of course is no one in the area needs clothes this warm. Each year I consider driving up to see the kids so we can haul a bunch of stuff north, but it is a long, long drive and it always seems easier to fly.

Anyway, the point is I seem to be dwelling on the idea more which probably means I should do something about it. Or, who knows, perhaps the old theme of, “Spring Cleaning”, is simply resurfacing from the days of my youth.

Another Piece Added to the Culinary Landscape……

The Capri Restaurant in Florida City/Homestead is approaching their 59th anniversary. It is the longest serving family-owned restaurant in the area and for many years was the primary restaurant with a full bar, special event capability, etc. Third and fourth generations still gather and swap stories of their first meal at Capri.

The restaurant has been remodeled a few times and this week’s unveiling of Pub 935 brings another new “Foodie” experience. It’s a completely different menu and look, and is in the “King Richard” Room – that’s the room to the far left as you are facing Capri. Small plates, “farm-to-table”, craft beers and small batch bourbons are featured. The menu is limited, but of the four dishes we have now tried – they are all excellent. The Cajun-spiced pork rinds they bring to nibble on are delicious if that’s something you like.

The shrimp and grits is a big hit, although again, it does have spice to it. The short ribs with polenta were terrific. The fried green tomatoes had a wonderful crunch and the crab bites are fried. We haven’t made it to the sliders menu yet and Hubby definitely plans to try the “From the Garden” selection of mushrooms, caramelized onions, and manchego. Unlike so many places, the portions are such that you are not likely to have leftovers. Sampling multiple dishes is what we enjoy though.

The ambience is terrific with rustic reds, beams, the original terrazzo floor brought back and more. “Sandy”, originally from Tuscany, joined Jimmy Accursio at Capri several months ago and she’s been on a roll ever since. Pub 935 will not suit everyone’s taste, but for those who have longed for a “gastro-pub”, your wait is over.

Taxing Time….

Sigh, it is that time of year again and as always, I’ll try to steer clear of politics. This post is more about process and how we’ve come to where we have with the whole business. I don’t think it’s political to say we have an atrocious tax system since both parties have managed to complicate it to an absurd degree. We’ve needed actual, logical tax reform for about the past forty years, but when it becomes as byzantine as our system is, there are no easy solutions.

So, okay, we gave up on doing our own taxes – even with the good tax software that is on the market – a number of years ago. When you own rental property it can really add to the chance of making an error and the actual situation that pushed us toward a professional isn’t important. The folks we use are not a nationally recognized name, and we have no idea how they do what they do, but they are worth what we pay. When we get the final packet which is thicker than some of my manuscripts, it reminds us of why we turned it over to them. The way we divide the workload is, I gather all the documentation, organize it, and pass it to Hubby. He takes that and fills out the forms our tax folks use to do their part. Last year wasn’t bad – I think they only had a few follow-up questions. We are extremely conservative with what we declare and that’s okay. People who take pleasure in seeking out the most obscure deductions are welcome to it.

The goal is to try and have everything shipped off by Feb 27th, but we rarely manage to meet that. Maybe this year – we’ll see.

Lazy Lobster in Key Largo….

We’ve never made it down to Lazy Days restaurant, although a number of people have recommended it. The owners have now also opened Lazy Lobster in Key Largo, Bay side. (MM 102, 102770 Overseas Hwy, 305-451-0565; http://lazylobsterinthekeys.com)

A couple of weeks ago I needed to make a run to Key Largo and asked a dear friend if she had half a day open and we’d go down for errands and lunch. Since she didn’t have a particular favorite place in mind she wanted to go to, I suggested we give Lazy Lobster a try. As most people here know, there are lots of restaurants in Key Largo and it’s one of the toughest businesses to be in. It’s not really a surprise they opened in a previous restaurant that wasn’t able to sustain. Another absolute in Key Largo (well, throughout the Keys), is there is only so much waterfront. If you’re not on the water, you really have to focus on food and Lazy Lobster does so. The decor is pleasant, there are some tables on the front porch (okay, you overlook the highway), and more outdoor seating is on the patio.

The food is fresh, well-prepared, a nice variety, and the staff is friendly. Prices are in line with places like the Fish House. If you’re in the mood for raw bar fare you won’t be disappointed and if you have a non-seafood person along, he or she will have plenty of choice as well.