Friday, January 29, 2010

Fiction Friday: I'm Renewed!

Last Saturday I went to a writers' workshop in Columbus on plotting. As you may or may not know, plotting is my downfall. Most of my other writing skills have shown steady improvement over the ten years that I've been writing seriously, but creating credible, character-driven plots is still beyond my abilities.

Hosted by the Central Ohio Fiction Writers group, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, the seminar was presented by Laurie Schnebly Campbell. Although it was geared primarily towards romance writers (don't sneer -- they have about a 500% better chance of being published than other genres, because romance sells) there were good points for all fiction writers.

She talked about the impact of birth order on personality (oldest kids are used to being first and make every effort to stay there, second kids will compete, but usually in a different arena, youngest kids--well, we all know what youngest kids are like). And about the four priorities that drive people's lives (excellence, comfort, pleasing and control).

She showed us an Enneagram that reviewed 9 different personality traits (perfectionst, nurturer, achiever, romantic, etc.) and showed how they linked with the others.

And then she explained how you can use all this information to drive your plot.

Told you that to tell you this: I haven't been in Blogworld much this week, because the book is moving forward again. And although I love you all dearly, and can't think how I used to get through life without you, producing a good novel (whether or not it ever gets published), a novel I'm proud of, is my life's dream.

So I'll probably be a little scarce, until I either finish a first draft (yay!) or run dry again.

Last Week's Winners:

I got tons of great recommendations for truly funny comedians. I'll be featuring clips (and saying who contributed them) on Web Wednesdays over the coming weeks.

This Week's Prompt:

Create a character in your mind. Define his/her gender, age, birth order, priority and anything else significant you know about him/her.

Bad news: your character just got fired.

Now tell me how he or she will react, and why, based on the qualities you've given him or her.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Little Town: Beer Can Robbery

From the city that gave you:
o Death threats from the mayor
o Lap dances for the city manager
o Shoplifting arrest of the police chief's wife and
o An 18-hour standoff by the SWAT team with a parrot

The Raisin Chronicles is proud to bring you the Riversider who robs a convenience store using only beer can as a weapon!

On Tuesday, a man got a can of beer from a convenience store cooler here and then apparently tried to rob the store clerk by threatening to brain him with the beer can.

The clerk's brother came out from the back and wrestled with the man, who ran out to the parking lot to his waiting SUV--the one with the clearly visible license plate.

My question: Does threatening someone with a beer can constitute armed robbery?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Web Wednesday: Eddie Izzard

My plan is to post something from each comedian recommended on Fiction Friday last week, in no particular order.

Last Friday I asked everyone to tell me about their comic muses last week on Fiction Friday, which is currently in a fugue state, and thinks it's Humor Friday. I must take to a specialist in Zurich. (Okay, I stole that from Woody Allen, whose early essays were one of my favorite things, at least until he started shacking up with his step-daughter.)

Anyway, many of them were classics, and most were at least familiar to me, but Rachel, over at Rachel's Ramblings, recommended Charlie Izzard, and he's a pip!

Monday, January 25, 2010

10 Things That Make Me Happy

Suzicate at The Water Witch's Daughter challenged me, and 19 of her other closest bloggy buddies, to list 10 Things That Make Me Happy.

The question reminded me of the time Clueless Young Husband and I were in adoption counseling and they asked us, "What can other people can do to make you happy?"

And CYH replied, "Give me money."

So, in that spirit, here are my 10 happy things:

1) Being given money. There is, by the way, a direct correlation between the amount of money and the resulting happiness.

2) When the Dems manage to pull their heads out of their asses and get something done. (Okay, that one's hypothetical.)

3) Tiny moments from everyday life. For example, a few months back I saw an aging biker in the grocery store parking lot, securing a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best to his chopper with bungee cords. To this day, the memory fills me with delight.

4) Getting up by 6 a.m. on Sundays, so that I have 3 and 1/2 hours to blog and generally fart around before I get ready for church.

5) My church, and, specifically, worship, which is the only place I get to sing my heart out, because it's best for everyone when louder voices drown mine out.

6) Logging into Blogger and finding a new Follower!

7) Sharing the tagline for my new novel-in-progress at the Central Ohio Fiction Writers Workshop Saturday and having people laugh loudly and a lot. The tagline: "On her 50th birthday, Ellen Arbogast receives two invitations in the mail: one to join the AARP, the other to attend a gallery-opening featuring nudes of her daughter, painted by the daughter's lesbian roommate."

8) (Most of) the people in my life (even when they're not giving me money).

9) Hiking at Charleston Falls with my friend, Pauline, who knows all about plants and trees and can usually answer my zillon-and-six questions.

10) Boss-cations: when the boss takes time off, giving us mice a chance to catch our breath, which is happening this very week. Yay!

I'm supposed to dub 10 more knights to sally forth on this quest, but I think I'll let future champions nominate themselves. If you do, let me know so I can pop over!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fiction Friday: Our Comic Ancestors

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time watching stand-up comedy and comic films, and one thing that interests me is trying to identify the comic forbears of various comedians and comic actors.

For example, Dick Van Dyke was clearly inspired by Stan Laurel. For Alan Alda, it was Groucho Marx.

My own single greatest influence was probably Bob Newhart, from whom I learned the humor of the unsaid.

Last Week's Winners:
The responses to last week's prompt, to finish out one (or more) of a list of 10 "Lists of Three," totally blows away any prompt I've tossed out there before. I got 51 entries from 10 different people, and they're all hilarious.

K of Interstitial Life
Candles, Champagne and Unplanned Pregnancy

What A Card of What A Card:
2) Wynken, Blynken, and that girl with the buggy eyes.
3) Baseball, apple pie, and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.
5) Cats, dogs, and my baby brother
7) (That was the summer I saw) England, France, and Trina Johnson's underpants
9) Recipe for Soup: Celery, carrots, and an old leather shoe

Mr. Knucklehead
of Knucklehead!
1) The butcher, the baker and a syphilitic old Quaker.
2) Wynken, Blynken and Charo.
3) Baseball, apple pie and reality television.
4) Diamonds, emeralds and implants.
5) Cats, dogs and a side of onion rings.
6) Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and receding hairlines.
7) England, France and a pair of dad's pants.
8) Lawyers, guns and a two-hour shootout would be awesome.
9) Celery, carrots and a chocolate covered Twinkie.
10) Candles, champagne and Sandra Bullock.

Berowne of Savage Reflections:
Baseball, apple pie and -- steroids.

Dedene of Soyez Bienvennue Chez Moi
Wynken, Blinken, and Nicolas Sarkozy. (They're all midgets, right?)

Steven G
1) The butcher, the baker and the undertaker
2) Wynken, Blynken and Helen Keller
3) Baseball, apple pie and Malcom X
4) Diamonds, emeralds and Barney Frank
5) Cats, dogs and Vietnamese food
6) Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and cash for clunkers
7) England, France and power bidets
8) Lawyers, guns and Moses
9) Celery, carrots and wabbits
10) Candles, champagne and vaseline

of The Paddock
1) The butcher, the baker and my mother??
2) Wynken, Blynken and her brother
3) Baseball, apple pie and deep sea diving
4) Diamonds, emeralds and bus driving
5) Cats, dogs and walnuts
7) England, France and bare butts
9) Celery, carrots and mustard
10) Candles, champagne and busted

Rachel Cotterill of Rachel's Ramblings:
The butcher, the baker, and that unemployed bloke - you know, the one who never quite managed to diversify when the villagers all had enough candlesticks to go around twice.

Ellie Bellen of Distracting Minutia
2) Wynken, Blynken, and the men that loved them.
3) Baseball, apple pie, and a punch in the eye.
5) Cats, dogs, and the people that mate them.
8) Lawyer, guns, and the guillotine

Mrs. Mullet
of Frogs in my Formula

1) The butcher, the baker and Feng Shui Director
2) Wynken, Blynken and Turducken
3) Baseball, apple pie and breast implants
4) Diamonds, emeralds and QVC
5) Cats, dogs and Nutria
6) Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and mullets
7) England, France and Uranus
8) Lawyers, guns and the Conservatory
9) Celery, carrots and giraffes
10) Candles, champagne and Erik Estrada

This Week's Prompt:
Who is your comic inspiration? Put another way, name your favorite comedian or comic actor and tell me what makes her/him so funny. Feel free to leave a link to a sample of her/his work (which I will promptly steal for Web Wednesday).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Old Joke #28

After too many months on the range, a young cowboy comes into town looking for some female companionship.

The bartender at the saloon breaks the bad news. "There ain't no women in this town."

The cowboy is aghast. "What do y'all do for sex?"

"Well," says the bartender, "if we get desperate enough, Old Man Thompson has a herd of pigs out at his place."

The cowboy stares at him in disgust.

"I'll never get that desperate," he says.

"That's what you say now," says the bartender, "but you'll change your mind."

As the cowboy gazes around the saloon, he sees all the men in the place nodding their heads in agreement.

"Never happen," he says, and stomps out the swinging doors.

When he returns to the town after his next stint on the range, though, six more womanless months have passed and the situation hasn't changed.

"Give the girls down at Old Man Thompson's a try," suggests the bartender. "Everyone else does."

"No way," says the cowboy.

Finally, though, the night before he's due to leave town for the range again, the cowboy breaks down and sneaks off to pay a visit to Old Man Thompson's. He returns to the saloon only to find the word has gotten out.

Beneath his ten-gallon hat, his face turns red.

"I thought you said all you guys do it," he says to the bartender.

"They do," said the bartender. He starts to chuckle, and the men in the bar burst into raucous laughter.

"Then what?" howls the cowboy.

"You picked the ugly one."

(There's a variation on this joke, where the barroom acts all freaked out when the cowboy returns, and the punchline is "You chose Black Bart's girl!")

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Web Wednesday: The Newest Member of the Senate

The Bad News: Message from Massachusetts, where they already have universal healthcare, to the guy with stomach cancer who called into my clinic last summer, the one who was living in his car: "Fuck you, buddy, you're on your own."

The Good News: My bookkeeping job at the free clinic looks solid!

Monday, January 18, 2010

10 9 Things You Didn't Know About Me

Poindexter, over at Diary of a Technophobe, a recent follower of the Raisin Chronicles, has asked me to join in a meme, the ever-popular 10 Things You Didn't Know About Me.

Because I've done this a couple of times before, I don't think there's much left you don't know about me, so, instead I'm sharing 10 Things I Didn't Know About Me, but have learned through (sometimes painful) experience.

1) I'm not very adventurous. If I had a chance to go up in the the Space Shuttle, I wouldn't. Ditto a trip to Antarctica, the Amazon and the Andes Mountains.

2) I tend to like everyone, and even after I figure out someone is Not Very Nice, I find it really hard to remember that when I'm dealing with them. This makes me an excellent target for Corporate politics.

4) Despite earning a tidy living in the IT field for many years, I have little talent as a computer programmer. I once wrote a computer program so complicated and difficult to maintain that after I left the team, they not only re-designed and re-wrote it, but held a party and burned my version in a fireplace.

5) After drinking my daily fiber supplement from a glass fresh from the dishwasher, I have come to the conclusion that Metamucil, like revenge, is best served cold.

6) My first husband once told me that I have the personality of a chameleon. "You take on the personality of whoever you spend a lot of time with." Which makes it a good thing that I'm now married to Old Dog, who tells the truth and keeps his promises.

7) I have limited abilities in the area of spatial concepts. Despite this relatively well-known fact, people constantly ask me geography questions both large ("Where is Sierra Leone?") and small ("Is the Bursar's Office in Building 11 or Building 12?). I used to try to answer; now, I'm much more likely to reply, "Why are you asking me a geography question?"

8) In a related issue, do not EVER ask me for directions.

9) I'm an overachiever, and even to this day I frequently sign up for more than I can accomplish, which is why this is both late and 9 items instead of 10 -- because I have two of my adorable grandchildren upstairs, soon to wake and want breakfast and the promised trip to the children's museum. So, we'll save that last riveting item for another day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fiction Friday: It's Alive!

Okay, the good news is, my computer was just virus-infested. The computer monkey I took it to said he could fix it up for $130, or he could build me a new one for (cough!) and he'd transfer the files for free.

Who can resist a deal like that?

So, next week I'll get my quad-core machine, with 8 Gb ram and a terrabyte of storage. (Imagine that you hear those grunting/growling noises Tim Allen used to make.)

I'd tell you the price tag, but I don't want anyone snitching to Old Dog before I have a chance to break it to him in my own way, with lots of alcohol and winsome behavior.

Last Week's Winners:

Berowne: When I received the Raisin Chronicles award, I was so pleased I felt I was floating -- like Sully on the Hudson. :-)

Madtexter (Corey James): "If your body is fat, decorate it." (He says he paraphrased this from Paula Deen, but in comedy, paraphrased is a whole new joke.)

GregoryJ: My motto is: Stand up and be counted. Don't just be a number.

StevenG: List of three: Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the U.S. Constitution.
(My choice of Steven's multiple submissions, based on the fact that I found this one the funniest. Another one, about his wife's blue jeans, was a lovely compliment to her but not, I think, intended as a joke. Or, if it was, then NOT a compliment, and she should chase him around with a frying pan.)

walk2write: This is the year I lighten up and let myself go. Now there's a contradiction for you from someone who wants to shed about 15 pounds!

Nice work, everyone!

Next Week's Prompt:

I'd like to try this again, with more specific direction. For next week, finish out one of the lists below with something that doesn't match and, consequently, strikes you as funny.

1) The butcher, the baker and....
2) Wynken, Blynken and....
3) Baseball, apple pie and....
4) Diamonds, emeralds and ....
5) Cats, dogs and....
6) Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and....
7) England, France and....
8) Lawyers, guns and....
9) Celery, carrots and....
10) Candles, champagne and....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If You Have Nothing Good to Say....

When I was a kid, my mom told us, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything."

Apparently, Pat Robertson's mom did not share the same message.

Yesterday on The 700 Club, he said:

When people start claiming to know the mind of God, and explaining the cosmic reasons behind great tragedies based on their own prejudices, they take a giant step across the line that separates religion from superstition.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Web Wednesday: The Sad News

There is no Web Wednesday today because yesterday my computer died.

It had been ill for quite a while, and I've been vacillating between getting it fixed and buying a new one. I'd love to have a new one, but, as we've discussed before, I'm tighter than Beyonce's sweaters, and I hate the idea of spending that much money. (I'm also a techno-snob, so don't bother to suggest I could buy something low-end for cheap.) So, I kept putting it off, knowing that Something Bad was going to happen.

And, sure enough, yesterday when I got home from work, ready to finish up my assignment for Dedene, who has generously agreed to tutor me in French via Skype, my machine had blue screened, and no amount of restarts would get it past the death screen.

I'm using Old Dog's really old dog of a laptop (purchased second-hand from Ye Olde Job after the sales team had pronounced it too decrepit to use anymore) to write this, but I don't have access to my hard drive, and all the cool videos people have sent me.

So, no Web Wednesday and no French lesson today.

I loaded Word onto this chien ancien this morning, so maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to pull off Fiction Friday.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Old Joke #27

A man walks up to the ticket window at Heinz Field.

“I’d like two tickets to see the Steelers in the playoffs,” he says.

“I’m sorry, sir,” says the ticket agent. “The Steelers didn’t make the playoffs this year.”

The next day, the man returns.

“I’d like two tickets to see the Steelers in the playoffs.”

“I told you yesterday, sir,” says the ticket agent. “The Steelers didn’t make the playoffs this year.”

Every day for the next two weeks, the man returns, with the same request. Finally, after fourteen days of this routine, the ticket agent loses it.

“Why do you keep asking me for tickets?” he yells. “Pittsburgh didn’t make the playoffs this year!”

The man smiles.

“I know,” he says. “I’ve been driving here from Cincinnati every day, just to hear you say that.”

(Which is the kind of stuff you have to enjoy if you're going to be a Bengals fan.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fiction Friday: Writing Humor

Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant, who is perhaps most famous for once having a mammography machine catch fire with one of her breasts clamped in it, and is the author of a dozen or more books on humor and comedy has identified 8 types of jokes:

1) Cliche -- take a cliche and use it in an outlandish way. The best example I can think of is "Coyote vs. Acme" by Paul Simms, which is a legal filing by Wile E. Coyote against the Acme Company for $17MM for selling him faulty products.

2) Comparison -- this is much like the metaphors and simile exercises we've done in the past on Fiction Friday here at the Chronicles. For humor, though, these analogies take a left turn. I once saw a list of similes constructed by teenage writers and this one stuck with me: He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

3) Definition -- Ambrose Bierce was the king of this. Example: Quotation: the act of repeating, erroneously, the words of another.

4) Exaggeration -- in "Twas the Night Before Solstice," James Finn Garner offers a politically correct version of the Clement Moore poem:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads

5) List of Three -- where one doesn't fit: "The butcher, the baker and the Wall Street derivatives broker."

6) Misdirection -- Where you think a story is going one way, and it hares off in a completely different direction. Old Joke #10 is a great example of this.

7) Motto -- My motto is: Anything that looks like a raisin should be kept covered, preferably in a good dark chocolate.

8) Observation -- Any of the My Little Town entries fit this category, but especially the first one.

If you want to know more about writing humor, go visit Leigh Anne!

Last Month's Winner:

Steven G --

The best Christmas present I ever got was a private lesson in humility.

Back in the late eighties, my younger sister developed breast cancer just after turning 30. This followed on the heels of a bad divorce where the ex got the house so she could keep her teacher’s retirement. After just having a breast removed, she was frail didn’t look well that Christmas. I had just bought my first camcorder and couldn’t wait to show it off and film the annual event at our parent’s house that morning. I found myself awkwardly avoiding aiming the camera at Cindy all day. I was selfishly embarrassed for myself because I had no clue how to deal with her situation. During the few precious years that followed, I learned to film her, without a thought of my own ineptness.

The best Christmas present I never got was the first year she didn’t show up.

Next Week's Prompt:

Using one of the options listed above, construct a one or two line bit of humor.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Old Joke #26

A man arrives home later than usual after playing golf.

"How did it go today?" asks his wife.

"Terrible!" he replies. "Harry had a heart attack on the fourth green."

"Oh my God," says the wife. "That must have awful."

"You're telling me," he says. "All day long, it was 'hit the ball, drag Harry, hit the ball, drag Harry.'"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Little Town Tuesday: They're Resolutions, Not Goals

This morning when I got to the gym at 5:30, the parking lot looked like this:

where it usually looks like this:

Which just goes to show you that self-delusion is seasonal.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Write Me a Winner!

Entries open today for the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Sponsored by the University of Dayton and the Washington Centerville Public Library, this is an essay contest with humor and human interest divisions. First prize is $100 AND free admission to the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, held right here in beautiful Dayton, Ohio (which costs other people 375 bucks).


Human interest?

We bloggers write that stuff every day -- for free.

By now you're probably saying to yourself, "My God, why is Jeanne telling all of us potential competitors about the contest? She must be the most altruistic woman on the face of this planet!"

And while that, generally, is true, it also happens that, because Erma grew up here in Dayton, and because the money for the contest comes from a fund her family set up, there are separate divisions for Dayton-area residents and the rest of the world.

So the fact that some of you are funnier that I'll ever dream of being does not impact my chances of winning.

So, if you think you'd like to win $100 and a chance to attend a great humor-writing conference, go check it out.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Web Wednesday: To Buy or Not To Buy

There will be no Web Wednesday today computer died.

Okay, it's not exactly dead -- the screen still lights up, but it won't boot, so it might as well be dead.

It's been sick for a while, and I kept putting off doing anything about it, trying to decide whether to fix a 5-year-old machine, or go buy a new one. And every time I'd get an email from HP or Dell, and go through the exercise of configuring a new machine, the final price tag would make me shudder and decide to wait.

So stinginess makes cowards of us all.

I'm writing this post on Old Dog's laptop, which we bought second-hand from Ye Olde Job after the sales team declared it too old to be viable. From that, you can deduce how decrepit it must be. Plus, it doesn't have access to my hard drive, where I store all the cool videos people send me.

So, no Web Wednesday, and probably no Fiction Friday either.

I wonder when the shakes will set in....

New Year's Eve 2009: The "T" Party

Where "T" stands for "Toddler."

Who better to usher in the baby New Year with than babies?

Harper, age 1, and Robbie, 2, check out Grandma's toy collection:

while Lily, 2, takes a cuddle break with Mom:

Phinn, 3, enjoys a short respite:

while the big girls (Grace, 7 and Kylie, 5), plot mayhem:

and Sam, age 4, gets his groove on:

Finally, just as Grandma is about to keel over, everyone settles down for the night:

Wishing you and yours the happiest of New Years!


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