Writing Funny – Carolyn

Yesterday’s Malice in Memphis meeting’s speaker was one of our founding members who spoke on writing humor. One great actor (whose name I can’t remember, but I suspect George Burns) said that ‘dying is easy, comedy is hard.’ Boy, is that true. In my younger days when I did a fair amount of acting with a couple of our local theatre groups, I hated being cast in a role that was supposed to be funny. I do think I can write funny, but I sure as shootin’ can’t act it. I am entirely too self aware. You can’t worry about holding your stomach in and be funny.

Someone else (I think it was James Thurber, but don’t quote me) said that ‘remembered disaster is funny.’ Frankly, that’s the best definition I’ve ever heard. But only if it is survived disaster as well. He wrote a series of essays on remembered disasters. My favorite is “The Day the Pig Fell in the Well.” Now, that’s funny.

I love the great slapstick comedies. There is something about a pie in the face that makes me laugh. The stuffier the receiver of the pie is, the funnier it becomes. Laurel and Hardy did the ultimate pie-throwing scene in which one small accident with a pie ends up resulting in a giant crowd flinging pies at one another. Okay, you had to be there. But look it up some time on Netflix. You will laugh. I especially like the woman who winds up sitting in a custard pie, gets up, wriggles her skirt down to cover the mess, and walks off without a care in the world.

Hyperbole is funny. The worse things get, the better.

Logic is funny. Punch lines must be surprising, but they must also follow logically from what went before.

Misunderstanding is funny.

Chaos is funny.

What is not funny is being mean-spirited. There is a thing in TV comedies called “Jumping the shark.” That’s the moment when something happens that so doesn’t work that it destroys the characters. The classic is the scene in which Fonzi actually jumps a shark in Happy Days. The show went on for a long time, but it never recovered.

Comedy that is happy, funny, clever, smart, sassy can be destroyed by one moment in which it becomes mean-spirited. Hurting people is not funny. Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey can be absolutely vicious, but she is never mean-spirited. She pokes fun at people’s pecadillos. She pokes holes at stuffiness. She does not laugh at dire poverty or physical handicaps. The people she goes after deserve to be taken down a peg. We love her first because she says things the rest of us would like to say and dare not, and second because down deep we know she’s a sweetie.

I have always thought that Northern Exposure, one of my all time favorite shows, was killed in its last season by mean-spiritedness. I’m sure you can name others.

I wish I could tell you how to think funny. I just know that my friend Phyllis thinks funny all the time. The rest of us have flashes, but most of us are no Buck Henry. So, remember, dying is easy, comedy is hard. And go for it, baby.

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Celebrating a long (100 years) life! Plus, some awesome free books!

I’m leaving for the funeral of a sweet man we called “Grandpa Paul” (to distinguish him from my hubby, Paul). Paul Sears, my dear sister-in-law’s father, was a class act. Smart, witty, interested in everything and everyone around him. He was also a wonderful listener. (Is that a lost art, I wonder?)

He lived well and celebrated his 100th birthday a few months ago, but his body was worn out. He passed away with his family around him, and today he will be buried in the Sacramento Valley National Veteran’s Cemetery.

Goodbye, dear man. You will be remembered most fondly.

Grandpa Paul

Devoted Dad and Grandparent passed away peacefully, May 17, 2017 at UC Davis Medical Center. He lived to be 100 years, 1 month and 28 days old. Born on the first day of Spring, March 20, 1917 in Beverly, MA. to Everett Wm. Sears and Caroline M. (Leonard) Sears, raised by his father and loving step mother Blanche S. (Vaughn) Sears from a young age after his mother died from illness. He was pre-ceded in death by his brothers Everett, Walter and Earnest Sears. Paul was very proud of his Sears family history which dated back to the 1500′s in Plymouth, MA. Paul attended high school in Wenham, MA. and Palmer Chiropractic School in St. Louis, MO. While in St Louis his schooling was interrupted by WWII when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He proudly served and was stationed in Trinadad, the port of Spain. His rank was that of Master Sergeant. Paul moved to California after Honorable Discharge. The majority of his career post military was spent in the grocery business initially working for Safeway until he became the owner of The Wayside Grocery Store in Rio Linda, CA where he met his bride while she was looking to purchase a Christmas tree. Paul fell in love with and married Roslyn Welliver (deceased) in 1959. After leaving the Wayside Grocery Store he went to work for Circle K Corp and retired after 25 years of performing supervision and management. At that time Paul held the Circle K record for being their longest employee. The last store that he managed was located in Elk Grove, CA. Paul’s hobbies in his retirement years consisted of jotting down ideas for inventions on 3X5 cards and the study of natural healing & nutrition. He was incredibly intelligent and enjoyed sharing his knowledge. He loved family first of all and had a quirky sense of humor that kept us all laughing even up through the last hours. He will be deeply missed. Paul is survived by 5 children; Paul Sears (Denise), Karryn Salonen (Dave), Vickie Gammill (Andy), Kathy Price (Ray, deceased) and Cindy Johnson. Paul is grandfather to 10 grandchildren; Shawn, Cheryl (deceased), Lori, Bill, Ricky B, Cindi, Ricky U, Derek, Carson and Camey, as well as 10 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren. It will be a magnificent reunion in heaven some day! 

~~~

Also, I wanted to share this great giveaway. Available for a short time only, so grab and read for FREE! Click on the image to be taken to the download page.

Abstract Vector Orange And Yellow Background

Black Hills Rancher is FREE only at Instafreebie! Thank you, Rodeo Knights!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends. Happy reading!

Deb

 

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fourth malice anthology – Carolyn

Sorry I missed my turn last Sunday. I was what my mother used to call low sick. I finally gave up and went to the doc in the box at Kroger to get some antibiotics. I try to avoid them, but occasionally needs must. I still have no stamina. I was actually ahead of schedule on writing the book that is due at Harlequin on July 1. Now, of course, I am behind again. Oh, well. I always say I work better under pressure, but occasionally I’d like the opportunity to try the way normal people do it—five or ten pages a day or a chapter or whatever. Just a schedule. Not gonna happen, this time, at any rate.

I am up to date with editing the Malice in Memphis stories. I could do them with less mind than it takes to write my own stuff. At this point I think we need to take a break. This will be our fourth anthology, although it will be the third published. The Memphis in May anthology is being held up so that it will come out for next year’s festival. This one about Elmwood cemetery is the perfect examplar of what happens which you give a bunch of writers a shove, but do not limit their creativity. The stories range from civil war times to contemporary, and from ghosts to murder. I do enjoy editing them, although I’m not always certain I am pushy enough. I believe that it is important to preserve the writer’s voice. Certainly easy to see in a group of short stories by different authors. Several of our people write funny. Several write downright scary. And everything in between.

Short stories generally need a kicker at the end—that little twist. Done well, the kicker is patently obvious, except that the reader doesn’t pick up on it until he is supposed to get it at the very end. It is important to establish the sense of place quickly, and the atmosphere. But what is not important is to tell the reader what you know that he may not need to. This is known as an information dump. Don’t. Your reader does not care one whit how much you know about the history, or the layout, or anything else unless it is germaine to your story right that moment. In a place like Elmwood that has so much history, the temptation to give out interesting facts is great. Don’t. Keep your reader right there and then, and when he is comfortable, knock him out of his comfort zone. Then you’ll probably have a good story. Our newest anthology is going to have some doozies.

 

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Did you ever try speed-dating?

Speed-dating wasn’t a thing when I was single (shortly after the last ice age), but the subject comes up in my friend Marin Thomas’s new Love at the Chocolate Shop book, Sweet Home Cowboy.

speed dating

I had so much fun READING these Speed-dating scenes, I wound up WRITING one–from MY characters’ points of view–in MY book (Sweet Summer’s Kiss), which releases next month. I can’t wait to see how many readers make the connection and what they think of the idea.

two pair of cowboy boots

Here’s a snippet from Marin’s book, followed by a snippet from mine. Same scene…only different.

Rosie opened her mouth to speak then frowned at a woman two tables away from Elena. “Gretchen, I thought you were dating someone?”

“As I keep telling people—my sister in particular, one date does not a relationship make,” Gretchen said, not looking up from the menu.

“Especially when the female half of the equation disappears without leaving so much as a glass slipper behind.”

Gretchen’s chin shot up as a hunky-looking stranger slipped into the chair across from her. “Hi, Cinderella. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Daniel. What–?”

“Let’s save the chit-chat for the event,” Rosie said. “Each date will last three minutes and the lady will ask the first question. After the gentleman answers, he’ll ask the next question and so on and so forth.”

“What are these for?” Gretchen’s new tablemate asked, holding up a notepad and pen with the chocolate shop logo on them.

“Feel free to use the paper and pens to jot down names, phone numbers or anything else that will help you remember each other,” Rosie said. “When the timer goes off, the ladies will remain seated and the gentlemen will move down one table, then we’ll begin another date.”

“When do we get to sample Sage’s chocolate candy?” Wren asked.

“After the first round we’ll take a break. Sage picked out a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon donated by the Two Old Goats wine store to go with her chocolate wine covered coconut stuffed dates.” Rosie held up the plate of chocolates from Elena’s table. “Sage would like to know what you think of her chocolates, so please fill out the questionnaire before you leave.”

Rosie returned the dish to the table. “Before I forget to mention it, the chocolate shop will host a second speed dating event a week from today. If you’re interested, there’s a sign up sheet on the counter.” She twisted the knob on the timer. “Ready…set…begin.”

“What’s your last name, Wesley?” Elena asked.

“Banks,” he said. “Where are you from, Elena?”

She frowned. “You’re not going to ask my last name?”

“You can’t answer a question with a question.”

“Las Vegas.” She nodded to his hat. “Are you a real cowboy?”

“Born and raised on a ranch north of Livingston. How old are you?”

“Twenty-five. How old are you?”

“Twenty-seven.” He narrowed his eyes. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I had a fiancé but not any more.” She ignored the questions in his eyes and asked, “Do you live on your family’s ranch?”

“No. I’m the caretaker of a rural property outside of Marietta. What do you do?”

“I’m an elementary schoolteacher. What’s your favorite color?”

“Brown.”

“Then why are you wearing a blue shirt?”

He shook his head. “My turn.”

The cowboy was a stickler for rules.

 

Sweet Summer Kisses Open

In case you’re curious, my hero and heroine met on New Year’s Eve and she left in a bit of a rush–not unlike Cinderella, although she kept both of her shoes on–this is Montana, after all.

As she stowed her bag under her chair, she heard a voice say, “Gretchen, I thought you were dating someone?”

I wish.

She picked up the menu Rosie had left on the table. “As I keep telling people–my sister, in particular, one date does not a relationship make.”

Gretchen kept her focus on the menu to avoid any other personal questions, which left her completely blindsided when a male voice said, “Especially when the female half of the equation disappears without leaving so much as a glass slipper behind.”

Gretchen’s chin shot up as Daniel Andrews slipped into the chair across from her. “Hi, Cinderella. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Daniel. What–?”

Rosie cleared her throat to get people’s attention.

“Let’s save the chit-chat for the event,” Rosie said. “Each date will last three minutes and the lady will ask the first question. After the gentleman answers, he’ll ask the next question and so on and so forth.”

Daniel picked up a notepad and pen with the chocolate shop logo on them. “What are these for?”

That same crazy zing she’d spent five months pretending she’d imagined shot through her system at light speed, blocking Rosie’s answer.

If Jonah could isolate and duplicate the chemical reaction that happens every time Daniel comes close to me, he’d make a fortune.

Not that Jonah needed money. According to Krista, he’d bought a cute little “starter” home a few blocks from his and Daniel’s parents’ to live in with Krista and their puppy until their new dream home–a future wedding present–could be designed and built.

Luckily, Krista’s move had opened up her condo so Gretchen could move into Marietta—a opportunity that meant she could avoid buying a car for the time being. Her bike had been a fraction of the cost and she loved the exercise. Fluctuating hormones also meant fluctuating weight gain. One reason she limited her chocolate consumption.

And Krista had sublet at a reasonable price because Gretchen’s six-month internship didn’t pay very well. Which meant…I live alone.

The thought hummed through her body as if the past five months hadn’t happened. No roommate to introduce Daniel to if I wanted to take him home tonight.

A pleasant warmth not unlike her body’s reaction to a gulp of Copper Mountain Chocolate Shop’s cocoa filled her mid-section.

So wrong on so many levels. No. Not happening. Nothing’s changed.

“You go first.”

Her breath caught in her throat when she realized Daniel was talking to her. “Pardon?”

He tapped his watch. “We only have three minutes. You ask the first question. Then it’s my turn.”

“Oh.” She folded her hands on the table in front of her and wet her lips. “Why are you here?”

“I like chocolate.”

Liar, she mouthed.

His grin lit up the room. “My turn. Why did you disappear?”

“Crisis of conscience. I did it for your own good.”

His beautiful ebony eyebrows pulled together above his elegant nose.

“My turn again. Why are you here?” She made a circling gesture. “In Marietta.”

“Job opportunity. Starts Monday.”

A clutching sensation in her belly warned her there was more to this answer, but he didn’t give her a chance to ask. “I’m a big boy. Don’t you think I’m capable of deciding what’s good for me and what isn’t?”

“You don’t know me.”

“I know more than you think.”

A skitter of panic vibrated through her body. Some locals called Marietta the gossip capitol of the world. But he couldn’t know the truth about her. Her sister the pastor was the only one with that knowledge. “Guessing doesn’t count. I should go.”

He reached out but didn’t touch her bare arm. His fingers hovered, like a magician ordering a rabbit to appear. “Can we go somewhere and talk when this dating thing is over?”

Maybe she owed him that. An explanation. The one she’d decided covered all bases without really saying anything. It seemed to work with her new girlfriends, maybe Daniel would buy it, too. “Okay.”

Before she could say more, Rosie’s timer went off. Daniel got up with the same ease and grace he’d shown when they’d danced. He studied her, his eyes searching for something she couldn’t give him before turning on one heel and walking to the next table. She didn’t recognize the pretty young woman with the messy brown hair and warm complexion seated one table over, but she didn’t have time to decide whether watching Daniel flash his trademark smile at another woman made her jealous or not because her view was blocked by a pair of wide shoulders and a black cowboy hat.

Each male to sit across the table from her had merits of his own but none held a candle to Daniel Andrews’s pure charisma. The Two Old Goat’s cabernet paired perfectly with Sage’s chocolate wine covered coconut stuffed dates. She’d just filled out Sage’s survey when a familiar touch closed about her elbow. “If we’re quick, we can slip out before they start Round Two.”

She froze. “What if you miss out on meeting Ms. Right?”

He rubbed his nose against the side of her cheek and put his lips to her ear. “I’ll settle for Ms. Right Now.”

And, darn, if her traitorous body didn’t want the exact same thing.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’m off to a car show. Some of the vintage models are actually older than me. ;-)

Deb

PS: Marin Thomas has a couple more days of Speed-Dating fun on Facebook. Prizes galore and you get to hang out with Marin Thomas!!! Here are three of the links! Have fun!

https://www.facebook.com/LoveattheChocolateShop/

https://www.facebook.com/MarinThomasWesterns/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMarinThomas/

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Epic Fail of a medical sort

Warning: this is ugly.

Do all hospitals leave the heart monitor hook-ups on a patient after a procedure? I discovered these when I was getting ready for bed. Good grief!

Do all hospitals leave the heart monitor hook-ups on a patient after a procedure? I discovered these when I was getting ready for bed. Good grief!

Yesterday, I had a routine colonoscopy. For those of us of a certain age, these preventative measures become just another nuisance of growing older. This was my third time in this rodeo. I get one every ten years, whether I want to or not. But it may be my last because I walked away with a bad case of PTSD.

To recap: the prep is nothing short of disgusting–an evening of rushing to the toilet followed by a fitful sleep, then getting up at 3 AM to drink my final two liters of cold, yucky liquid to finish tidying up my bowels so I’d be prepared for my 11 AM procedure.

Thursday morning: the nurses were all very nice. I wasn’t worried going into this because I’d never had problems in the past. I thought I knew what to expect. But, for some reason, the anesthesia wore off too soon, and I awoke to the sound my own moans, groans and cries as someone skewered me with a dull blade of some sort. I remember hearing voices discussing the fact the doctor was having trouble finding passage through my troublesome colon, mostly I only remember the sound of my agony.

They must have given me more drugs because the next thing I knew I was alone in recovery, groggy and shaky. None of the nurses were present, but the person who took my initial intake info helped me up and handed me my bag of clothes. I got dressed and returned to be handed a tablet where I was supposed to grade my experience. At that moment, everything was a softly shaded blur. Since I remembered the nursing staff prior to the procedure quite clearly, I gave them high marks. (When I called the hospital to complain today, I told them they might want to re-think the legitimacy of any review given by a person under the influence of drugs. ;-) )

I was wheeled to my husband’s truck and that was that. Until he asked how it went and I remembered that moment of terror and pain and confusion when I awoke in the O.R. Call it a flashback. My hand is shaking while I write this.  My stomach clenches and my heart races every time I think about it.

Normally, I’m not one to complain. But I needed someone to know this happened so, hopefully, it won’t happen again. The hospital seemed to take my complaint seriously. I singled out the specialist who did the procedure…at least, I assume it was him and not a janitor they invited to have a go at me…for reprimand, in part, because he never spoke to me–not before or after. He didn’t wait around to see if I was okay–even though he might have guessed that I wasn’t…unless it was the janitor wielding the scope. As they wheeled my gurney into the operating room, I heard the doctor ask if this was patient number XXX. He didn’t say my name. He dehumanized me. Then he hurt me. But it was probably easier for him since I was just a number, not a person.

So, am I going to live? I hope so. Every twinge has me running for the thermometer, and I’m anxiously awaiting my first bowel movement to check for blood. (Never thought I’d ever write those words in a blog.) I am praying that my poor body has withstood this abuse and won’t hold a bad decision on my part against me. I thought twice about using a local doctor in my little one-horse town, but my primary physician, who I like very much, set up this referral. Next time, I will do my homework. (I did try to research the specialist’s name online, but nothing came up. I assumed that was a good thing.)

I’m diving back into to my deadline book. Wish me luck. And any advice on dealing with PTSD would be helpful.

On the bright side, nothing goes to waste for a writer, so you can probably look for something like to happen to some unsuspecting character in some future book. Guess who the bad guy will be? ;-)

Deb

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I make my entrance

I make my entrance. We do the show. It feels really good until our sound cue (softly chirping cicadas) jumps to the “oohs” from KC the Sunshine Band’s 1975 pop hit “That’s the Way (I Like It).” We pretend not to notice. This season, nobody has yet won two challenges, making it anybody game. That also makes this season unique: it never taken this long for a queen to win two challenges. Sharon and Alexis did it by the third competition episode, and Tyra did it by Episode 5.

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Nearly one quarter of all business

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Every Day is Mother’s Day – Carolyn

I only saw two people this morning—one man, one woman—wearing white roses. When I was growing up, every Mother’s Day one either wore a white rose, if one’s mother were dead, or a red rose, if she was still alive. I don’t know when the custom died out, but I always liked it, although wearing a rose the color of blood for a live mother seems a bit macabre.

My daughter asked what I wanted to do about MD. I told her absolutely nothing. My mother always said, “Every day is Mother’s Day.” That’s because my father and I always turned it into some kind of joke. We once gave her a cake with an icing cigar on the top.

Mother’s Day is another of those “For Marketing Only” days like George Washington’s birthday or Valentine’s Day. I am always delighted with chocolate—preferably Dinstuhl’s chocolate strawberries, which are better than anyone else’s—but since the day I discovered I could actually buy my own chocolate rather than wait for someone else to give it to me, my chocoholism has caused me endless fights with myself. Then I also discovered that women should buy their own perfume, never what someone else gives, even if it’s the most expensive perfume going. That was a big epiphany. Actually, that’s why I seldom wear the stuff. I buy it, then forget to put it on, and it goes bad after a while. I never know how much is enough, but too much is an abomination.

Anyway, in my family every day was Mother’s Day. My mother was a leading actress at the local Little Theatre. She wasn’t a great comedienne, but boy, was she a good dramatic actress. By the time I was twelve I was working backstage, designing and building costumes for shows that she was in, and doing everything from painting flats to finding props. Since my father, the engineer, worked backstage as well, I was always under parental supervision—not that I ever caught them at it.

Eventually, I acted. Badly, in most cases. Sara Bernhardt I am not. I always worried about holding my stomach in on stage. I hated the idea of letting it all hang out. Our summer group—mostly college kids—put on stuff we thought our adults would think terribly avant garde. One summer we did Oscar Wilde’s Salome. Guess who played Salome complete dance of the seven veils? When I dropped that last veil I heard my mother gasp all the way from the back of the audience. The dance got good reviews. The acting did not. Hardly surprising since none of us had any idea what the play is actually about. Neither of my parents ever mentioned the show. Thank heaven.

For those of you who have gone backstage to congratulate your friends, here are a couple of sure fire non-compliments. My favorite is “Darling I could cry!” Then there is “Good God, that was a play.” Bet your friends will never notice.

Anyway, I am in the white rose category and have been for some years. I hate it. I’d give anything to watch one of my mother’s hissy fits again, although they drove me nuts at the time. So, for those of you still wearing red roses, give your mother a call, take her to lunch or the movies, and realize that although she drives you crazy, it’s preferable to the alternative. cmc

 

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You Can Be Whoever You Want to Be! (Pat)

Probably the best thing about being an author is you can be whoever you want to be during the course of the book.

Yes, it is short lived, but it is so great while it’s happening.

I’ve been a lot of things during my writing career.   I’ve been a Scottish heiress, a old west female sheriff (yes, rare but it actually did occur), a saloon owner, the daughter of a mob boss, an army surgical nurse, a governess for a wealthy New York family in 1940, an animal vet, a member of the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, and a paramedic to mention a few of my  temporary occupations.  While you are writing, you become those people.  You feel their pain, their fear, their successes, their romance.

My favorite occupation for a heroine is the reporter.   In my new work in progress, I return to the my first profession.   I was a news reporter with The Atlanta Journal at a time when there were few women in the field and I had to fight for every step  up on the news ladder.

I started as a summer intern, then city news clerk and moved to writing obits before graduating to general news.    At the time, I was the only woman reporter on the news side other than the religion reporter.   I couldn’t cover the police beat (too violent, apparently, for a woman) until I was the only reporter in the news room when three policemen were killed in a suburban county.   I then got to cover the investigation since I was first on the scene..

As a reporter, I longed to go higher.   I wanted to be a foreign correspondent or cover the Supreme Court.   I did cover city, state and federal government and the courthouse beats but never reached that foreign correspondent dream.   At least not until I started writing fiction.   And now, in my book in progress, I can indulge that dream.    Temporarily, at least.

I’ve written several  heroine journalists previously, but my current one in the fifth of the Covenant Falls series is MY personal heroine, the  journalist I always wanted to be.  Jenny Talbot is a free spirit, one who never let anything stop her.   She made it to the Middle East on her own.   The story is always more important than anything else.   More than family, comfort, money, personal safety.     Disabled by a shoulder wound during a bombing raid in Syria,  she is still seeking  stories wherever she can find them, and she finds a number of them in Covenant Falls.

It’s temporary until she can get back to a war zone where she can tell the story not of war but the people affected by it..But will a small town and a charming Ranger Captain be enough to end  her lifelong purpose,  and can he ever trust another reporter after his former fiance, a TV newswoman, dumped him after he was  badly wounded?

I really love these two people, and it’s such a delight to live vicariously through their pasts and present.

 

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I honestly wasn’t surprised to hear

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