I’ve always been told I have a demented sense of humor and parts of that show up in my books.
Namely, I like to take real life and give it a wild twist to the right. Although there have been times when real life is totally funnier than fiction.
Back in 1982 I decided I wanted to write a book about a male housekeeper. My previous books had some humor in them, but I wanted to do something that I hoped would come up laugh out loud. I figured the best way was a role reversal book. Single mom with rambunctious five-year-old twin boys, a large sheepdog, demanding career, and the need for a housekeeper. Doesn’t sound all that laugh out loud, does it? So factor in boys who only have to breathe to get into mischief. While there were chuckles with our sexy housekeeper -- can a man really read the back of a laundry detergent box – it was still the kids and dog that added to the fun factor.
But the fact part about those boys was actually funnier than the fiction. You see, the two boys were based on a mischievous four-year-old girl who was in my preschool church class. Think long dark hair, angelic face, always wore the cutest dresses, and she gave her brothers a run for their money. Her mother gave me enough stories to use for a lifetime.
While I love using humor with my main characters, it’s my secondary characters that really up the humor ante.
I’ve used my parrots, dogs, tortoise, friends’ kids, even a friend’s husband with some of his disasters. My husband even said “did Terry say you could use him?” and I said “no, but Susan did”. ‘Nuf said? Terry’s in two books, Susan’s boys are in various books, and even her evil cat showed up in a few.
One friend’s blind date was way too good not to use. Same with another friend’s speeding ticket.
I always beg to be allowed to use their tales, and so far, they’ve allowed it. Do I have great friends or what?
Because they let me take their disasters and turn them into something demented and just flat out fun.
I’ve written romantic suspense, dramatic romance, but humor is something I enjoy writing the most.
Besides, can you imagine Fluff and Puff allowing themselves to be dark and dangerous when they can be fuzzy terrors of the boardwalk instead?
Which means if you’re eating funnel cake and see a pair of fangy bunny slippers nearby, you may as well hand over the funnel cake. They’ll get it anyway.
Who can forget those words from Star Wars when Luke announced he brought down a fighter and Han reminded him it’s not always good to think you’re great.
I was one of the lucky ones. I sold my first and second books right away. There weren’t mountains of manuscripts gathering dust in a closet and I felt pretty damn good. Then several months later, I sold my third book.
Wow! I was on a roll. The girl felt invincible. She saw her words as pure gold and writing was proving to be a lot easier than she expected. She had sold three books in about six months. Where else to go but further up.
All she had to do was type up a 200 plus page manuscript, send it off, and she got a contract in return.
Piece of cake, right?
On to book four. The idea was fun and what could be considered typical category romance fare at the time. A soap opera actress who played the evil cunning woman now killed off from her show, lost her money, and she’s in need of work. Trouble is, men think she’s an easy mark and women are convinced she’s the character she played on TV.
It was a fun book to write, words flowed, and I sent the manuscript off.
Then the call from my editor. “I liked the book, but I really feel the last part needs work.” Her idea of work meant rewriting the second half of the book. We discussed what she wanted to see and I sat down at my typewriter – yes, typewriter. An IBM Correcting Selectric that I purchased with part of my first advance.
After I rewrote the 100 odd pages, I sent the revised manuscript off and then worked on another book while waiting. Any writer worth his/her salt will tell you not to wait around waiting word. You get to work on something else.
Then my editor called me. “You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think the book worked better the original way. You need to put the other version back in.”
One good thing I did was keep those pages. Otherwise, I would have slit my wrists. She did ask for some minor revisions. I did them and sent the book off once again.
Now, each time meant a trip to a copy shop to have copies of the manuscript made. And each time I had nightmares of the copy shop burning down with my manuscript still there!
After a few months, I learned my editor had had surgery and was recovering at home, but she was working there. I talked to her, mentioned the book, and she said “I never got it.”
Insert scream here.
I sent her another copy – that copy shop was making good money off me! :} I also said if there were any more problems with the book to not say a word. By then, it would have been easy to kill off the main characters.
A couple months later, I got another call. “Linda, I love the book! In fact, no more revisions if we release it as a traditional romance, but we’d love to bring it out in our new line starting up next year. It’s called Special Edition.”
Naturally, I said yes. And my editor said “Great! All we need is 10,000 more words” and she hung up.
Since we’re still talking a typing job there were page numbers such as 59ZZ and so on. Luckily, no revisions and the book would be released the following June.
Christmas, 1981. My editor called, irritated with the Production Dept. That they were wrong. What were they thinking of. It went like this.
“We’ve got a problem with A Man With Doubts.”
“We need ten more pages. I can’t believe they didn’t see this before!”
“Leslie, it’s Christmas. Parties, my anniversary.”
“And I need it early next week.”
Remember what I said? Typewriter and that meant no Internet!
“What am I supposed to do with them unless I send them out of town?” By now, I was wailing.
And that’s what I did. I actually ended up writing a full chapter, about 25 pages, and getting it to NYC in time.
When I saw the cover for A Man With Doubts, I knew I wanted the original and I do have that hanging in my office.
It took over a year and a half to sell the book and it turned out to be my best seller in all the Special Editions I wrote and an excellent reminder to not get cocky.
“Are you awake, Mom? Mom, you awake? Mom, wakey wakey. Mom.”
Yep, just a typical morning in the Wisdom household as my son does his wake up thing. Except when I open my eyes I see a little white furry face with black button eyes while a cold nose nudges my cheek.
No, my son doesn’t need a shave. Barney’s a three-year-old white mini-Schnauzer whose idea of waking me up is sniffing my face and nuzzling me until I’m alert enough to climb out of my nice comfy bed and take him downstairs so he can go outside.
And while he’s outside, I’m hearing “Awake here!” That means my other son, Syd, our twenty-eight-year-old Amazon Panama nape parrot, wants to be uncovered.
If I could just teach one of them to fetch coffee, because I can’t get it until they have their ‘me’ time.
Some people don’t believe in treating your critters like humans wearing fur, feathers, or even shells or scales. You’ll even hear the dreaded “but he’s a dog.” Yes, he is, but you’d be amazed how much those little guys understand.
And all our guys have minds of their own.
Barney came to our household last summer when he was lost in the neighborhood. It took three weeks to find his owner, I was heartbroken to return him, but two days later the owner called me and asked if I wanted him. You’d think he’d always been with us. When people hear me talk to him, they think I’m talking to a human. He’s smart enough to know what I’m saying and he’s very vocal. And many times he’s happy stretched out in my chair with me when I’m writing. Friends told me Barney was sent to me since my beloved Chihuahua/Yorkie, Bogie, was going on eighteen and showing declining health. Bogie went to Rainbow Bridge in January and Barney did offer a lot of comfort then. And he still does. Although he’s only twelve pounds, that little guy does a great job of hogging the bed and it’s “no, you move” when I want more room. He seems to think my side of the bed is also his even if he has his own blankie on the bed. :}
Syd has a habit of coming upstairs if he feels neglected. Nothing like hearing a “hi!” and seeing him walk into my office, ready for his share of attention and his playpen.
Luckily, Barney’s smart enough to stay out of beak and claw range. Syd’s been featured in a past book and I know he’ll show up again.
They’re not my only kids. There’s also Florence, a twenty-four year old tortoise we’ve had since she was a baby that our avian vet gave us. We’re talking tortoise with attitude. She believes the house is hers. She wants wall-to-wall carpeting, A/C and central heat. During the summer she has her Dogloo and hibernates in the guest bathroom during the winter. Definitely a conversation piece for visitors especially since she snores when she’s hibernating. Florence may use her senses, but if I call her she will come since she follows the sound of my voice. And she loves nothing more than having the top of her head rubbed. She’s also appeared in one of my books.
They’re not my pets. They’re my babies, my muse at times, and I love them all. That’s why they show up in my books.
My kids won’t be honor students, but that’s okay. They’re tops with me.
Even if Barney does his “Mom, are you awake?” at 5am, because he’s decided he’s got to go outside.
What about you? Do you have furry, feathery, scaly, or shell kids?
Tomorrow I’ll be on a romance panel with awesome authors HelenKay Dimon and Tessa Dare at UCI’s Literary Orange. www.literaryorange.org
I know it will be a lot of fun.
Although Fluff and Puff are planning on going with me since they want to meet graphic novelist Stan Sakai who writes about a samurai bunny. Hm, I hope they don’t get any tips! I must keep sharp objects away from them!
And I’m guest blogging at MamaWriters Blog on Saturday about my furry and feathery children. www.mamawriters.com
I grew up with major allergies. Spring meant sneezing, runny noses, and lots and lots of tissues. And at the age of 22 I had my first asthma attack. The family doctor I’d had since I was 14 said “I would have thought you’d grow out of it by now.” Hm, never had it! I did grow out of it, but still.
My experience with an allergist was interesting. He was great, and naturally the tests showed I was allergic to many trees, plants, bushes, you name it. And raw tomatoes – yet cooked was okay and the funniest thing yet – marijuana. No wonder I had allergy attacks at college parties. :}
I have friends with serious food allergies and I can only imagine what they go through. It came even closer to home about eight or nine years ago when my mom went through a frightening time.
We’d been out and had Chinese food for lunch. A couple hours later, Mom complained of itching and I could see a rash on her skin. I knew it was an allergic reaction and wanted her to take an antihistamine, but she was afraid it wouldn’t work. Since the doctor’s office was closed, I had to take her to the medical group’s Urgent Care when they opened. By then, she was miserable.
We’re maybe fourth or fifth on the sign in sheet and I kept telling the receptionist that this was serious. And I noticed the waiting patients ahead of Mom refused to look at her even as you could see the rash moving up her chest.
Let’s just say I was more than rude to the receptionist, threats of the police, and so on. Luckily, a nurse came out, took one look at Mom and ran back for the doctor who came out, grabbed a wheelchair and took Mom to the back. Receptionist and I traded glares and it got nastier after the doctor later came out and tore the receptionist a new one. He told her if that rash had gone further up my mom’s throat and face it could have killed her. I sat on my hands so they wouldn’t end up around the receptionist’s throat.
By the time they released Mom, she was one very happy woman. Not itching and just floating while she’s telling me she’s hungry. I laughed, so relieved she was okay and we had a prescription for something to help any itching. The guys at the fast food restaurant we stopped at thought a loopy woman was cute.
It turned out she was allergic to soy. You’d be amazed how many products have soy. Foods, skin care products, you name it.
We look at the packages. She tried a new face cream that had soy in it and luckily, she did a patch test and only got a tingle from it. No Chinese food except for sweet and sour chicken at our favorite restaurant since there’s no soy in it.
It’s so sad because my mom’s food choices have become more and more limited. Some cereals she’d like to try have soy. Many frozen entrees have it. I don’t know what she’d do if peanut butter had soy in it.
Yes, she’d be even more restricted if she had a wheat or dairy allergy, but soy is showing up more and more.
I have a third cousin allergic to chocolate. Now that would be just downright criminal!
What about you? Any allergies you don’t like to think about?
“You think he’ll be any nicer than the leprechaun?” Fluff asked as he and Puff made their way down the pink brick road (since they’re not heading for Oz, the bricks aren’t yellow). “I’m still sorta green.” He scratched one ear with the other. “And it really itches.” He tried to reach his tail, but his ear wasn’t long enough.
“He should be nicer. He works with candy, not protecting his dumb gold.” Puff obliged by scratching Fluff’s tail. “And hello! he’s a bunny.”
It had only been a few weeks, but the bunny slippers are still a pale shade of celadon that’s not very flattering. And rumor had it golden Horace was pretending to be an Oscar and now worked as a doorstop. Talk about shooting down dreams of grandeur!
Fluff and Puff were made of stern stuff. Jazz refused to use a spell zapping the green out of their fur and warned them she still had that magickal bunny cage if they got into trouble again.
That was when they took off in search of the Easter bunny.
All it took was finding the right route to the rabbit’s lair. It wasn’t easy to find since he didn’t like company. After all, he had a lot of work to do. Unlike Santa creating all the toys he delivered on December 24th, the Easter bunny spent his year decorating eggs, molding chocolate likenesses of himself and working with the many candy companies to come up with the perfect treats for the kids. Who do you think came up with Peeps?
So now Fluff and Puff traveled the winding pink brick road until it came to an abrupt end.
“Whoa. Totally cool, dude.” They tipped their heads back looking up at what appeared to be a three story colorfully woven Easter basket with a cellophane grass roof and a large brightly colored egg chimney.
“Here we go,” Puff said, pushing a large carrot. Here Comes Peter Cottontail chimed all through the house.
Fluff danced around on the blue painted porch. “I wish he’d hurry up. I gotta go.”
“Dude, look at all the grass around here?”
“Hey! Maybe you’ll do it in the open, but I like my privacy.”
They perked up when the white door swung open then backed up.
“Whoa, what happened to you, EB?” Puff asked, staring at what didn’t look at all like the white fluffy Easter bunny little children adored.
“Gotta go,” Fluff muttered, sliding past the Easter bunny.
“Down the hall to the right,” EB told him.
Puff went inside, keeping a wide berth of the six-foot tall white bunny covered with lime green and orange spots. The rabbit grimaced as he scratched his butt.
“Tell me that’s not contagious,” Puff said, still staying a safe distance.
“I don’t think so. I don’t know what it is. It’s been going on for almost a year. I just woke up this way and it keeps getting worse.” He continued scratching, sometimes in places Puff didn’t even want to think about. “I’m really behind on my work too.”
“Where’s all the chocolate?” Fluff’s scream of horror bounced off the walls.
Puff wasted no time scurrying down the hall with EB close behind. Puff discovered that along with the strange spots, EB didn’t smell all that good either.
A room that seemed to go on infinity was filled with plank tables covered with a variety of baskets in many sizes, shapes and colors. Not one of them was filled. Shelves lining the wall were also empty.
“No chocolate bunnies, no chocolate eggs, NO CHOCOLATE!” If Fluff had arms he would have grabbed the Easter bunny and shook him. “Not even one decorated egg lying around.”
“I’ve been sick,” EB whined, even as more spots popped out over his fur, this time blue and purple and the stench factor increased. “You have no idea how much stress goes into this job. I’m expected to provide enough candy and baskets for everyone. Do I get an assistant to help out? No! Do you know how many years I’ve done this?” He advanced on the slippers who backed away as quickly as he moved forward.
“Chill, just chill,” Fluff advised. “We’re here to help. As long as you pay us in chocolate.”
“In fact,” Puff steered the spotty EB to the door. “Why don’t you go lie down while we handle this?”
Easter bunny dug in his furry heels. “I can’t do that! It’s the Easter bunny’s job to get all the baskets ready.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not doing such a good job.” Fluff investigated the contents of cabinets. “Besides, how hard can it be? Melt chocolate, pour it into molds, pop them out, and do some decorating. Hard boil a bunch of eggs, paint and make them pretty. Push stuffing into plush bunnies and chickies. See if the Peeps guys did their job. Easy peasy.”
“We’re bunnies too, ya know,” Puff added.
“This is very unorthodox.” But he’d started scratching again and more nasty smells were wafting off his fur. “Well, maybe I’ll just take a short nap. It’s been a very traumatic time for me. There’s a manual for everything on the table by the window. Just start things. I’ll come back in an hour or so and finish up.”
Four hours later, Easter bunny was still snoring away until an explosion rocked the basket/house. He fell out of his nest/bed and made his way down the hallway coughing from the burning smell in the air and waving his feet at the black smoke.
“What did you do?” Easter bunny stared at had once been a magickal workroom and now was missing two walls, and the other two were splattered with burnt chocolate. To make matters worse, cotton batting was stuck to the chocolate spattered walls along with cellophane grass in an assortment of colors, and a one foot tall rabbit carrying a basket groaned out the tune to the Bunny Hop as it wobbled drunkenly from side to side.
To make matters worse EB's agitation caused his spots to spin crazily over his fur and the nose-wrinkling stench to increase.
Fluff and Puff were decorated with colorful splashes of tinted white chocolate all over them.
“Yeah, um.” Fluff hesitated. “We guess it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be.”
“We’ll call Jazz,” Puff spoke up. “She can fix it.”
While Jazz did indeed use her magick to fix the Easter bunny’s workroom and create all the Easter treats he needed for the kids, two bunny slippers spent their time in a magickal cage and no possibility of an egg hunt for them or early parole.
Update: The Easter bunny has filed a restraining order against Fluff and Puff so they can never visit him again. And Jazz helped out creating a protective bubble that will ensure they don’t enter his property again.
Always a good idea to not let Fluff and Puff help you make any kind of chocolate.
I’m a big What Not to Wear fan. Comes from my fashion merchandising training, I guess. I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure, although it might have started out that way.
Last night, I was looking for something different to watch and ended up watching Billy the Exterminator on A&E. I’d seen the ads and was curious. I was so glad I gave in.
Billy and his family own a pest control company in Louisiana and battle cockroaches, raccoons, opossums, gators, and anything else in between.
Last night I watched him deal with a raccoon in a dumpster. The guys who found him didn’t want him dead and could have easily done that. They even put a bowl of water down for the little guy. I knew raccoons were fierce and it really showed since he didn’t want to be trapped, although Billy would be relocating him. And I laughed so hard when Billy’s talking away, raccoon’s in the cage and the little guy swipes at him with his claws and he looks like he’s laughing at getting his captor.
Then there’s clearing rats out of a house. Since we had that problem, we knew only too well how bad that can be. Trust me, if you’ve got a dead one in the wall, well, the smell is horrendous!
And yep, a gator who was caught, tagged, and relocated.
What also makes this show worth watching is Billy himself as he tells you about the various critters, even how to keep raccoons out of your trashcans, and his family. His mom, Donnie, who runs the office is your Southern belle with that spine of steel, his dad, Big Bill, who thought he could sneak out of the house to help catch a snake without Donnie knowing he was gone – silly man! – his brother Ricky and his wife, Mary.
It’s a fun show and you learn something along the way.