Monday, September 27, 2010

Weddings

Ah, weddings. Joyous occasions. Dreams of a lifetime coming true. Each wedding as unique as a fingerprint. And so it goes with my son Cory and Ashlee, his betrothed.
"What?" you say in shock. "I did not know Cory was engaged!"
Don't feel bad. It just happened a few days ago. Cory texted me to tell me that he needed to talk to me and I should stay up late till he got off work so he could call. OK my mom antennae were working overtime. He nicely added, "It's nothing bad!" so that I would not totally freak out.
All evening I wondered. George went to bed but he couldn't sleep because he wondered too. What was going on with Cory?
Finally he called after work to tell me that he and Ashlee were getting married.
We were excited to hear they were engaged.
Then he said, "We're getting married Wednesday. This Wednesday."
My previously baby boy then told me that they had talked it over and wanted to get married without a lot of people telling them how to handle it. Then he said they did not want a formal wedding, just a justice of the peace type ceremony because after all, it was not about the fancy party, but all about them and their relationship.
Wow. When I wasn't looking he had grown up.
So we have been in a flurry of preparation. Even a quick ceremony needs some planning. Right now, we are anticipating stormy weather on the day of the event, Sept. 29th, so we don't know how a wedding on the beach will go off. But it will happen. Cory and Ashlee are determined that it shall.
I picture us at the beach, with a tropical storm on our heels. The anchorman for Channel 7 is standing there, whipping in the wind, rain soaked and hardly able to stand. He is commenting about the storm's fury. He has to shout to be heard.
"The winds are now up to about 45 mph. I can hardly stand. I cannot see too far in front of my face but...wait, what is that?" The camera pans in on a small group of people, each clutching a palm tree to anchor themselves to the sand.
"Oh, my God, there is a wedding going on here in this hellhole of a day! I can't believe these hardy souls. They are determined."
He momentarily stops as something white cartwheels across the sand and disappears into the gloomy windy scene. "Oops, here comes the bride!"
Sorry, my imagination just got hold of me. We are hoping and praying for good weather. Please hope for us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Power of Laughter

Writing a humor book is definitely a boon for the author. People tell you how much they liked your book, how they laughed out loud, laughed on the airplane so hard that people were looking at them in concern. One woman has it in the bathroom so she can read it while she is parked in there. Often, her family hears uncontrolled fits of laughter from the bathroom and they know mom is reading the "Wet Pants" book again. That stuff is good to hear.
Likewise, I heard from a nurse the other day. She treated a patient in the emergency room for some varied complaints. It turns out that her husband, a man she was extremely devoted to, had just passed away, leaving her alone and lonely. She was depressed without the man she had lived with for so long. Her symptoms were severe enough to have her admitted to the hospital and she talked to the nurse that night.
"I don't have anything to laugh about," she confided. "I need to be able to laugh again."
The nurse, who had just finished my book, left and came back with the book, urging her to read it. The next time she walked in, the patient was giggling, especially impressed by the gynecologist with the bad toupee. When she was discharged, the nurse gave her the book as a gift. Now that was nice.
A friend of mine, who volunteers at an assisted care facility, read from my book each day to the residents. She said they laughed and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it seemed that a few more than usual passed away in the weeks after, so we wondered if it had to do with my book.....
We all need laughter in our lives.

The Art of Freecycling

If you have read my book, Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants, you hopefully noted a chapter on my freecycling hobby. A few years ago someone introduced me to the Freecycle Network online. It's a very cool way to get free stuff that you don't want to spend money on and it's a cool way to get rid of the crap in your house that you don't like, but someone else with much worse taste than you will love. It's a great system. Of course, it has its downfalls.
Lately, I have been noticing that some of the "givers," assuming that others should be grateful for the items they post on freecycle should respond in a way that shows extreme respect for their gifts. One freecyclist lists each item separately:
1 barbecue fork
2 used candles
a table with 3 legs (can be propped against a wall)
12 issues of AARP
Only one to a customer please and email me with which item you want and what you want it for. No resellers please. Note: I go on EBAY every day and if I see my items on there, there will be big trouble.
So some free things come with a price tag anyway. The last thing I got seems to have a price tag. It is a "wood" dresser. Now mind you I don't need a dresser. But I got it in case my mother in law would like it for her spare room or my son would want it for his. We got to the house. The lady was very nice. The dresser was huge. It is like a triple size, and not in the best shape. However, neither of us had the common sense to say that it was just not right for us and George sweated and hauled that sucker out to the truck. When we got home, he sweated and hauled that sucker out to the garage where it still is.
We debated. Put it out for bulk pick up? Well, then George would have to haul it out again. I felt he had done enough of that. Then we thought, "Put it on freecycle." So I did, with a picture so people would know the size of it. The first lady that wanted it kept updating me for 5 days when she was going to pick it up. I finally gave up on her. But I had another taker. She was delighted to take it off my hands. We planned for 3 days when she would come. Today at 2:00. Now she tells me she has changed her mind.
Today I am thinking that if I open all the drawers and set it in the yard, it could make a nice apartment house for mockingbirds and bluejays. They could each build their nest in a drawer. Meanwhile I am looking for other stuff to freecycle.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Holidays

It has been an interesting week. Say what you want about the "full moon" folklore. Any classroom teacher will be able to ascertain when the full moon is in effect by the behavior of her children. And so it went this week. The full moon bloomed. So I thought it was time to put the week behind me and look forward to whatever holidays were in store for me for Friday. The first two were not particularly helpful to me in my quest for a stressfree day.
Tomorrow, first of all, is Celebrate Bi-Sexuality Day. It seems that this movement was started in 1999 in an effort to allow bi-sexuals to become recognized as a distinct group. Previously, people assumed that you were either a heterosexual or a homosexual. The addition of bi-sexuals shows that you just can't assume anything.
The second "holiday" is "Earth Over Shoot Day." Now, this day reflects, unfortunately, the fact that we are using up our natural resources faster than our earth can regenerate them. "In 2010, the worldwide human population is projected to use 150% of the resources the earth can generate in a year." Recycling, everyone? (I do feel that they could have named this a bit more creatively. I wish they would have asked me for help.)
And, finally, the holiday I really need. Friday is "Innergize Day." In other words, you need to destress by taking time for yourself and taking care of you. (Just make sure you recycle while you are doing it.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speaking in Public

Well I have not spoken in public for a while but Saturday was the day. I did a workshop at Holy Cross Hospital for pre-school teachers on the subject of ADHD. It is an easy topic for me, I have probably done 50 such talks on the subject so anecdotes come easily to mind. What is funny about my presentation is that I followed a group of therapists and social workers who had their very nice organized powerpoint lectures.
Me, being one step ahead of hieroglyphics, stepped up to the podium with my overhead transparencies dropping out of my hands, falling to the desk in a disarray of organization, my notes not quite in order. The facilitator of the meeting, who is wonderful, had to assist me with techology issues for my DVD segment. So while she was doing that, I sold raffle tickets for her for a basket of arts and craft projects. Definitely a many-faceted speaker.
But the audience was so impressed with my ability to plug in an overhead projector, sell raffle tickets, and juggle transparencies, that they crowded over to my table to buy any books I had written. Even though I added my disclaimer about the Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants book: "You know, this is not a children's book. It is for feisty women of baby boomer age. My evil twin wrote it." They still wanted it.
It was a great morning!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rabbit Trails

I find that I need some little projects to break up the hugeness of marketing attempts, or even writing a book. When you self publish, you own all of the material in your book so that kind of works out for me in other ways. As I am working, I may take time out to polish an essay or short story and send it off to a contest. My writings, being humorous types, can stand alone as a written piece so often I will enter a chapter or part of one in a writing contest. It keeps me sharp and helps me hone my writing since I am going to be sending it to someone else to read.

I have had a couple of short stories and poems published this way, and placed in some contests. There is nothing better for the psyche, especially an ego that feels overwhelmed by entering the publishing world in today's economy.

I am also learning that I am becoming a little more flexible in my way of thinking. I keep hearing "e-books" and it gives me the willies, because to me books have always been tangible. But I am crossing over to the e-side and learning about electronic books and why they are the wave of the future. Also working on a video trailer and some short "YouTube" videos for promotion. Whoa! Who would have thought that could happen?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Full Time Job?

I have to be kidding in my last blog. Marketing is a full-time job? Nonsense. I have a full-time job, I am a reading specialist in a busy elementary school. That's my full-time job. In addition, I tutor about 6 hours a week and am working on a second humor book. Throw marketing into the mix. Well, the first thing I had to do was set a parameter. I had to give up one thing. I temporarily halted work on my second book so that I could work on spreading the word about Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants.

My next attempt was an event called the Senior Expo. At first thought, this seemed right up my alley. I thought to myself, "Self! Here is the venue for you. Lots of gray haired people who are at that time in their life where they say what they want, do what they want. My kind of people. Well, it turned out not so good for my book. As a matter of fact, the only people who bought my books were my gracious critique group who came out in force to support me. The senior citizens at the Expo seemed more interested in anything free than in my book. However, I took down some email addresses and some phone numbers for a mail list and it netted me 2 definite speaking engagements and a couple of others that I have not followed up on.

I've heard that radio stations prefer to set up interviews with an agent or publishing company. I tried to contact a couple of baby boomer stations that I found with no success in getting an answer. Then I contacted my favorite oldies station that I listen to all the time. I emailed the station manager, gave him the facts that I was an avid listener, and got an interview on the air on the morning show (aired twice). So I will be trying for more of that.

My next step was to initiate my blog, with the help of a couple people. Thanks to Ashlee and Matt I am up and running. I never even heard of a widget before so I am glad to have help. They connected my blog to my books which is really cool. Ashlee is now redesigning my entire website so that it will not look like a techno-dinosaur did it.

This week I plan to contact all the local libraries and send them a bio of me with a picture of the cover of the book. And I will contact our local newspaper to see if they can do an article. Local magazines will be a target too as I get going.

I am currently reading other blogs and getting to know bloggers and hoping they get to know me.
The more I read, the more I find out that I am getting confused. So now I am thinking I need someone to put all the inbetween parts together. And I am debating? Do I advertise on Facebook? Do I pay to have my blogsite linked to a whole bunch of others? It is probably time for an expert to step in.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Self Publishing- The Next Phase

So I was started. All my friends and co-workers had bought the book. I could see it on Amazon and on the iUniverse page in all its glory. My first attempt was in using Facebook. I was a Facebook user already but not daily so this was going to be different.

The first thing that happened is that I found people from my high school graduating class that I had not spoken to since graduation. I found a friend of mine, and one thing led to another and soon I was emailing with lots of them. I talked about my book. That caused some mild interest. Then Elaine Landau (prolific children's author and friend) made an offer on Facebook. She said, "I will send you a book if you promise to send a book out to five other people before the end of the year." It did not have to be a book we had written but just a book that was something special to us. So I took her up on it.

I sent Elaine a copy of Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants and she sent me a copy of one of her hundreds of books. Then I advertised her message on Facebook. The first person who agreed to do it was one of my old high school buddies. I packaged up WWW to her and sent it off. She loved it and filled Facebook with her comments. She ordered more copies, her friends ordered more copies.

Then she started a Facebook page for me about my book. That was pretty neat. Her enthusiasm bolstered my confidence and I started being more vocal about my book. It was not unusual to see me give out my card at doctor's offices, at Weight Watcher's meetings, at libraries, etc.

Then I started talking to people who were going through the same issues I was. I got a recommendation to contact a Communications Agency that sends out press releases in order that you can offer your book for reviews. In about 2 weeks, I had around 30 requests for copies of my book for review purposes.

Out of that group of books I sent out, I got about 23-24 reviews, most of them excellent. Many are on Amazon.com. In addition I received an invitation to do an interview on a radio show. That was a lot of fun.

Next, I thought about the market that I wanted to target, which is of course Baby Boomers. I contacted a place that does marketing for baby boomers, including book reviews in their magazine. I paid a modest fee and had a book review put in their magazine and did 2 radio interviews.

All this time I was surfing the net and looking for more instances of baby boomer sites that might be of help to me. I realized that marketing was a full-time job.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

To Market, To Market: A Daily Report

Well, the realization has hit me that I am going to be marketing my book like crazy. My first 2 books (children's) were traditionally published and my marketing has consisted of public speaking and signing books, giving workshops on writing to children, literary and educational conferences and flyers. Word of mouth does a lot also. But the publisher, Magination Press, also has a Marketing Department, which sends out review copies, press releases and rents booths in major conferences. So my books are seen whether I am out there pushing them or not. They have even been translated into Korean, which is way cool.
Now comes my next book. This book is self-publshed by iUniverse and I cannot complain about the quality of the book. One of the best things was that my assigned editor was a Baby Boomer Woman who totally identified with the book. She was my target audience and she was editing my book. I felt very fortunate. I had some reasons for self-publishing this time. I wanted my sister to collaborate with me on it and do the illustrations, a dream of mine I have had for years. In addition, I just did not want to go through the extensive rejection process with the slim hope that someone would want my book illustrated by my talented sister. So I went with iUniverse, since a friend had used them and was very pleased with the product and the process.
It was harder than I thought. Being traditionally published means that the most technological you have to get is to correct the editing that goes back and forth between editor and author. You never have to worry about how many spaces after a period, or a semi-colon or where to put the paragraphs, etc. So I was surprised how much work went into the technology of the book, especially since I had to scan the illustrations and make sure everything was the right size. Deciding where to fit the illustrations was also interesting. Would they take up a whole page, half page, quarter page? They were asking an awful lot of a person who is technologically challenged. Then there was the process of working with an artist. My sister does not do time lines well, I don't know many artists that do. She is a perfectionist and long after I would have pronounced the drawing "Perfecto!" she would still be rubbing it with her eraser and adding extra lines to it to get just the right look. And it takes a lot longer to draw illustrations than it does to edit. I have to say though, that her illustrations are amazing and I would not change them in any way.
So all that work, over a year to get the book in shape, over a year to get the illustrations in shape and finally, VOILA! A book is born. A bouncing baby book titled Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants! Now the real hard stuff began I had to market this book. How would I begin?
Read tomorrow's blog for my first steps into marketing....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Hamster Hotel

I must admit that I perseverated a bit today on a juicy little tidbit I found in an article online about a place called The Hamster Hotel in France. I found out that if you want to see what life would be like as a hamster, you can go to this hotel, which is very reasonably priced, by the way, and live out your dreams as a furry little rodent. Evidently this creative gem is not pricy at all compared to the five star hotels and might be an excellent choice for your next trip. After registering at THe Hamster Hotel, you will find that your room resembles a giant hamster cage. Each guest is outfitted with a hamster mask. (I believe if you want an entire costume, you would have to provide one yourself.) Meals are nutritious hamster type meals; fruits and grains and nuts, healthy for humans as well. Drinks are provided in water bottles with straws coming out from them to get that real hamster feel. Bedding is made of hay/straw type stuff and it was not clear if you just lay on that or if there is some kind of fabric or mattress provided. In addition, exercise wheels are provided for you to run throughout the night. My son, Cory, and his girlfriend, Ashlee came up with some thoughtful questions about the hotel. They seemed quite interested in the thought of being a hamster for a get away weekend.
Questions
1. Is an exercise ball provided for you to roll in?
2. Does it smell like a hamster cage? That would not really be attractive to me.
3. Is care taken to limit birth control there? Hamsters multiply like crazy.
4. Is the water bottle attached to the wall?
5. When you have to go to the bathroom, do you just go in the hay/straw or is there a non-authentic bathroom for humans?

Hmm. Good questions. I'll get back to them on that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Deadly Spork

Cafeteria lunches in the elementary school! I never had the luxury of eating in the school cafeteria. At Rupley Elementary we went home for lunch. I lived right down the street from the school and we went home where Mom made us tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, just like a Campbell's commercial.
Nowadays, though, children eat in the lunchroom and it is a scene like no other. Each child has a 5 digit number which they punch into the computer. Their account comes up and they are charged for the lunch. Things have changed in school cafeterias. Dessert has been eliminated from the menu. No more cookies or cake. However, carbs rank high in the food line. Children can choose from tacos with mystery meat surprise, very cheesy macaroni and cheese the consistency of denture paste.Rolls and mashed potatoes and plantains. There are a lot of names that fall short of the real food, like "riblets" and "chiken." Pizza is always served on Friday, a hit with the kids, as is Mexican pizza, little octagonal pizzas with what appears to be kibble on the top.
My favorite food is a corn dog. Call me an idiot but when Corn Dog day comes around, it's all I can do to not lunge at the trays as the kids go by with their weiner-on-a-stick.
Children can also get frozen pops with their lunch at times. Blue and red lips and tongues result. In addition, you can usually tell what was served at lunch by what the children are wearing on their clothes. More food gets on the child than in. Also on the floor, and on the tables.
It is hard work monitoring the cafeteria. If you are walking around, you spend your whole time answering questions during the kindergarten and first grade lunches. You walk all the way across the cafeteria, spotting a child with a raised hand.
"I don't have a spork." Fine, I have a whole pocket full of sporks here. Then the child next to him raises her hand. Soon I have a whole chain reaction of hands going up in the air.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"She looked at me."
"He said a bad word."
"She took my sandwich."
"I feel sick."
"I want my mommy." Tears start at that point.
"Could I have some ketchup?"
I answer back, "Why do you need ketchup? You ate all your lunch already."
Shoulder shrug. No ketchup provided.
Just as you think that you are going to die if you have to answer one more question, a little girl calls you over and when you get there, she gives you a hug and says, "I love you."
I melt. I am ready to do it all over again.
I often station myself at the compactor. Now this can be a dangerous place because not everyone has mastered the art of aiming and putting the tray in the compactor in one smooth motion. It splatters and as the person helping out, it splatters on me. Call me Sticky. But it is interesting to note the eating habits of elementary children.
Most of the food, whether it is brought from home or bought in the cafeteria, goes into the garbage, especially anything that could provide any kind of nutritional benefit to the child. What is always eaten is candy, cookies, chips, ice cream (sold on Wednesdays) and juice (with 10% real juice and 90% real sugar). What isn't eaten is cafeteria broccoli, salads, green beans, and fresh fruit. Kids with lunches from home toss lovingly packed sandwiches, fruit, healthy snacks and salads. Well, they try to toss these things. I make them take them home to show Mom they are not eating them so that they will rethink what to pack.
So on a diet of sugar, sugar and preservatives, the kids then, covered with ketchup and mustard and chocolate milk stains get in line to go back to the classroom to try to learn for the next two hours.I know how that is going to go.
But my problem is a little more self-serving. Those carbs can look mighty tasty as they get swallowed up by the compactor. So far I have resisted the urge to yank a couple of chicken nuggets off the trays for a quick snack. And the corn dogs, well they are just not the same once the cornbread coating is eaten off the hot dog and all that is left is a naked wiener with a bite in it going down the chute. But I have been tempted, signs that I have been doing this for too long.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Clue in the Dog Bone- Thank God, the Ending! Nancy Drool

George and Bess stared in disbelief when they found Nancy waiting for them at the airport arrival gate. “How did you get here so fast?” demanded George. “We thought we were finally rid..I mean, we were worried that we would have to get along without you.”

Nancy plunged into a long-winded account of her adventurous journey. When she got to the part about the large expanse of bubble gum, Bess gasped. “You didn’t use all the peanut butter, did you? I have been dying for a peanut butter sandwich. Oh well, you didn’t by any chance save any of that bubble gum, did you?”
“Bess!” yelled Nancy. “Will you forget about food? We have a mystery to solve. Now here’s my….where did George go?”

Bess whirled around.. George was nowhere to be seen, but there was a folded slip of paper where she had been standing. Nancy read it aloud.

To Whom It May Concern:
While you were standing here arguing about the peanut butter, a man sneaked up behind us and kidnapped me in connection with the mystery. He has a lot of money and isn’t bad looking so I’ve gone over to the side of the enemy. Happy Hunting!
George

Nancy stuffed the note into her pocket to be used later as evidence. “Bess, we’ve got to find George. She doesn’t know what she’s up against.”

“What is she up against?”

“I don’t know. But if that guy is as rich as she says, I’d like to get a look at him.”

The two girls decided lunch was more important than George. So they stopped at an attractive little tearoom called “The Red Teapotskaya.” Nancy happened to have an expert command of the Yugoslavian language and ordered for both of them. As Bess reached for her fourth piece of cabbage pie, Nancy bolted up and dashed for the rear of the restaurant.

The minutes ticked by. Bess waited patiently, then started on Nancy’s dinner. Just as she finished dessert and began on the sugar bowl, Nancy appeared, white and trembling.

“Nancy!” exclaimed Bess with her mouth full of sugar. “Did you get any new clues?”

“No,” muttered Nancy, clutching her stomach. “I was throwing up in the bathroom. I think I have the flu.”

This new development forced Bess to postpone her second dessert and assist Nancy to the hotel. A surprise was awaiting them at the door of their suite. Three young men were standing there.

“Ned Tickertape!” exclaimed Bess. Instantly Nancy seemed to feel better.

“Wait a minute!” she bellowed. “You’ve got Dave Sevens. Stick to your own territory.”

“Bess thought it over. “What will you take for Ned?”

“Twenty-five dollars.”

“I’ll give you a dime.”

“Fifteen dollars,” Nancy bargained.

“A quarter.”

“Ten dollars!”

“Thirty-five cents.” Bess wasn’t giving up.

Suddenly Ned burped.
“Ugh!” Bess shuddered. “You can have him.”

“Boys- and girl,” said Nancy in her pompous-detective-like voice. “We must find George and save her from a fate worse than death.”

“That’s all right,” put in Burp Meddlesome. “I can always find a new girlfriend.”

“Well, that’s true, but she hasn’t paid me back for my plane ticket yet. And besides, I have a feeling that finding her will provide a clue to help us solve the mystery….” Everyone groaned.

“---and get a reward that we can split among us so if anyone wants to be cut out….”

Everyone assured her that they would help her to the very end.

“Well, what do we do first?” inquired Bess.

“Hmm, for one thing, we’ll investigate all the dog bone factories in the area,” said Nancy. “Burp, you get a phone book. Dave you go rent a car. Ned, you check out all the local dog pounds and see if you can find any more suspicious looking bones. Bess, you…”

“I’ll go get us some refreshments,” said Bess quickly. As soon as they were all gone, Nancy lay down and took a nap.

By the time she awoke, Burp had copied the names and addresses of 3 dog bone factories, along with directions for getting to them, Dave had parked a battered green roadster in front of the hotel, and Ned was rushing in with a collection of dirty rubber bones.
He was excited. “What a clue!” He exhibited a yellow bone with a message inside:

Winski’s Gourmet Shop
12 East Slovakia Blvd.
We handle everything for the discriminating Slovakian dog.

Nancy was ready for action. “Okay, team, time to move in!” She caught up her detective kit.

Burp grabbed his size 15 FF cowboy boots. “You think we can solve the case today?”

“No! I said it’s time to move in. We need to find another hotel fast, because I think Bess may have gotten us thrown out of this one.”

Bess followed Nancy out the door, brandishing the remains of a Plaster of Paris leg of lamb. “How was I to know it was just for display? Next time, make sure the hotel has a 24 hour restaurant attached.”

The five chumps squeezed into the roadster, with Ned driving and Nancy navigating. The gourmet shop was about 4 blocks away and it took them most of the afternoon to get there.

An old lady with snow white hair and twinkling blue eyes greeted them as they rushed into the shop. Nancy was elated to find four rubber bones for sale, identical to the one Pog had dropped on her toe.

“I’ll take all four of these,” she ordered, pulling out her Rent-a-Czech credit card. In addition to the bones, the group purchased a leash and harness for Dave, who was always wandering off and getting lost, a rubber mouse for Burp to squeak on the plane ride home, and a rawhide bone to tide Bess over until dinner.

As soon as they returned to the car, Nancy began to tear open the rubber bones with her handy detective knife. Each one contained a folded piece of paper!

“Inspected by Operator 27,” she read. “That’s no help.” She gave the bone to Burp, who tossed it at the car behind them.

Ned checked the next bone. “This one contains a recipe for cabbage rolls.” Nancy tossed the bone out the window while Bess stored away the recipe for evidence.

The third bone contained nothing but an advertisement for ear syringes. In the fourth bone, was a number.

“16-27-L-M-93,” read Dave Sevens. “It sounds like a code.”

Ned pulled up before a long white building. “Well, here’s the dog bone factory.” He was busy cleaning out his ear with the end of the rubber bone.

The 5 chumps scrambled out of the roadster and headed for the rear delivery door. What would they find inside?

Nancy, clutching the code paper and an assortment of rubber bones, led the way into the darkened factory. No sooner had they stepped into the room and closed the door, than 2 men in ski masks emerged with a large burlap sack. The men grabbed Ned Tickertape, stuffed him inside and disappeared in the darkness!

“Well, this looks like the place.” Nancy was pretty sure. “Everyone start looking for clues.”

Bess dropped to her hands and knees and began to sniff the ground. Nancy sniffed the air in the corners for a moment and then hurried over to a dark corner. She tripped over a cast iron dog bone and fell into a pit full of boxes.

No one could find her. The remaining 4 chumps waited for over an hour. Bess’s stomach began to rumble. Finally Burp heard a noise. A hidden door on the south wall opened and Nancy emerged, clutching a box.

“Nancy!” cried Bess. “Are you all right? What about Ned? Did you solve the mystery? Did you happen to notice any rest rooms?”

Nancy brushed a patch of dust off of her sleeve. “Well, I found the storeroom!” she announced gleefully. She dragged an old man forward.

“Professor Ironbeard!” exclaimed Bess in disbelief.

“No, this is Professor Ironbone!” explained Nancy.

"For years now, he has been locked up in this dog bone factory, hidden away by his evil twin brother in Quiver Hites. Professor Ironbeard inherited the family fortune, once his brother was MIA for the last 7 years. Professor Ironbone hoped that someone would find one of his bones and save him from his life imprisonment."

"What's the reward?" asked Bess excitedly.
"Er...that is one of the shortfalls of mysteries sometimes. They don't always pay off," declared Nancy. "But we do them out of the goodness of our hearts, anyway."

"Yeah, well, the goodness of my heart is not going to pay for my trip here. Or my other expenses. Or my valuable time," said Burp. He had quite an attitude.

"And of course, we lost George and can't find her," said Bess loyally.

"True," said Nancy. "But my main concern is that she owes me for the airplane ride. So I say we start a new mystery and see if we can find her."

Stay Tuned for the Quest of the Missing Sap.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nancy Drool: The Clue in the Dog Bone pt. 3

It took a few minutes to revive Ned’s lost faith and then his car was sent to the junk yard. Nancy tossed some clothes in a suitcase and phoned her friend Bess Moron.

“Bess!” she exclaimed. “I’ve got to go to Yugoslavia this afternoon to solve a mystery and I was wondering if you’d care to go along.”

“Just a minute.” Bess disappeared from the phone. Nancy waited for a few minutes.

“Mother says I can, as long as I don’t speak to strangers and get home in time for dinner.”

“Bess, we’re going to Yugoslavia! We’ll be gone at least until after dark.” Actually Nancy was not too sure just where Yugoslavia was, but she thought it was somewhere near Idaho. Or maybe Mexico.

Bess groaned. “Does that mean I’m going to miss dinner?”

“No,” sighed Nancy. “I’ll provide the food, if you’ll call George and tell her to be ready by 1:00. She slammed down the receiver and looked up the number for the Quiver Heights Delicatessen.

She kept the waitress busy over the phone. “I’m going on a short trip to Yugoslavia this afternoon and would like to order a little something to take along….about 50 pounds of salami, 7 chocolate cakes, 12 orders of ravioli, a barrel of dill pickles and a jar of prune juice. Yes, this is Miss Drool. How did you know?”

Her errands completed, Nancy went downstairs to have lunch. Hannah was setting down a platter covered with a slick black mass of something.

“Cheese soufflĂ© again?” Nancy was disappointed. “I am thankful I will be getting away from them for a while. All we ever eat around here is cheese, cheese and more cheese. Ever since that huge cheese sale at the market. I had no idea it would take so long to eat 5 tons of cheese.”

As she attacked the mass with a butcher knife, the telephone clamored. Nancy and Hannah both ran for it but Nancy neatly tripped Hannah, causing her to sprawl on the kitchen floor. Nancy picked up the phone.

“Nancy, this is Ned. Have I got a coincidence for you! I can’t believe my luck. Our whole college is being transferred to Yugoslavia for the weekend.”

“Wow, that is lucky! Now you can help me to solve the mystery.”

“Well, now…I-er- won’t have much time. I am doing research on Yugoslavian sports events. And Yugoslavian racing cars. And Yugoslav….”

Nancy glanced at the clock and observed that it was a quarter to one. “Ned, I’ve got to go,” she interrupted him. “We’ll see you in Yugoslavia.” She banged down the receiver.

“Hannah, I wish you wouldn’t chew bubble bum when you’re on the phone. You always get it on the receiver and I’ve got it all over my face now.” Nancy started peeling it off her right ear.

“Well, that’s a sticky situation,” replied Hannah. She exploded with laughter at her own joke and the gum that covered Nancy’s ear. Nancy didn’t even crack a smile. Instead she cracked her elbow when she tripped over an ankle sock and fell to the floor.

At 12:55, Nancy, Bess and George were on their way to the Muskox River Airport. By driving slowly and cautiously, obeying all traffic lights, and using her turning signals properly, Nancy was able to avoid serious accidents. In fact, the three pedestrians, two mailboxes and football team which she mowed down were the only entanglements she encountered.

There was some confusion in the airport parking lot where a milk truck had just overturned, and Nancy was unable to go any further due to the swarms of cats headed for the accident scene.

“Bess, you and George had better go in ad get the tickets while I park the car,” she directed in her no-nonsense head detective voice.

George scrambled out of the car and headed for the Air YugoFrancoScandaSlovakia Terminal, with Bess and the food basket in hot pursuit.

At last, Nancy found a place to park. She was just slamming the car door shut when, to her dismay, she noticed her place start to taxi down the runway. Bess and George waved merrily to her from the plane window.

“Wait for me!” Nancy bellowed. She leaped forward. With one quick and mighty bound, she thrust an arm forward and caught hold of a wheel on the underside of the rising plane.

Nancy didn’t waste time worrying about her predicament. She was too busy wasting time looking for a seat belt. None appeared, strange to say, so she perched on an axle and tried to enjoy the ride.

Suddenly a bird landed on her head. He leaned over and pecked at her ears and scalp. Figuring that he might be searching for nesting materials, Nancy pulled out a handful of her hair. The bird watched in disgust as a big bug flew out. Then he flew away squawking.

“Fussy,” muttered Nancy. Her arms were beginning to ache, so she tried to divert her mind with the panorama below her. It was an unusually clear day and an expanse of bright pink land stretched out for miles and miles. Pink? Nancy blinked her eyes and looked again. What could it be?

Fortunately, or not, for Nancy, she was destined to find out. All of a sudden the wheels of the plane began to rise up into the body. Nancy made a wild grab, lost her balance and catapulted earthward.

She landed with a bounce on the pink ground. It looked like….yes, it was bubble gum! And she was sinking fast!

Nancy tried chewing her way out, but to no avail. Her jaws had tired before she had freed even one big toe. As she continued to sink into the marshmallowy sticky mess, she thought and thought. Suddenly, she was struck with a brilliant idea.

Reaching into her Professional Detective Kit, she pulled out a jar of peanut butter and began to grease herself up.

It worked! She slid right out of the bubble gum…and kept on sliding. As a matter of fact, she slid all the way to Yugoslavia and got there an hour ahead of the plane. Unfortunately she was issued two traffic tickets…one for driving on the freeway without a vehicle and one for leaving bubble gum deposits on the exit ramp, causing sticky traffic jams.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nancy Drool: The Clue In the Dog Bone pt. 2

In part 1, Pog, Nancy's dog, has just bitten off Hannah's finger. The action becomes intense...

“Well, I didn’t put it there,” retorted Hannah. “Pog did when I tried to take his bone away.”
“Are we having ladyfingers for lunch?” joked Ned. Hannah spun around and glared at him, cradling her injured hand.
“You keep out of this!” she snarled. At once, a free-for-all ensued of which Nancy became the referee. Fists, dust, shoes, the silver urn and one lone finger were tossed recklessly about the kitchen. In the midst of the confusion, the back door flew open and Carson Drool sprawled on top of Pog.
It took Nancy some minutes to disentangle herself from the hanging lamp, at which time Hannah was stuck halfway into the dishwasher and Ned was hiding behind the garbage cans.
“What did you bring me?” demanded Nancy as she rushed to her father’s side. She picked up Pog’s bone and tossed it out of Mr. Drool’s way. It landed on Ned’s head with a hollow thump.
“Ow!” Ned rubbed his crew-cut head.
Carson Drool groaned and sat up. “I brought you a picture of FDR.”
“FDR?”
“Yes. Franklin D. Rosenbaum, Chairman of the Quiver Heights Sword Swallowing Club. Is Ned here?” He glanced across the kitchen. “I thought I smelled something. How is Old Leadbottom?
Ned’s head appeared over the top of the largest garbage can. “Nancy,” he said. “There’s something funny about this dog bone.” He squeezed the center of the dog bone and Nancy noted with her trained eye, that it fell apart. Inside was a rolled-up scrap of paper with writing.

“Help! I’m a prisoner in a Yugoslavian dog bone factory!” Nancy read out loud.

“Well, this sheds a new light on the situation. I have a new mystery to solve, a prisoner to free, and a reward to collect. Her eyes were shining. So was her nose where Hannah had given it a mighty punch. Ned handed her a handkerchief.

“Nancy,” Ned was serious. “I think this note is a hoax.”

“Why?”
“Well,” Ned puffed out his chest. “This bone is made of third grade rubber. It would never have held up all the way from Yugoslavia. Also any handwriting expert would tell you that this note was written by a calm, undistressed hand- which is not in keeping with the character of the message. And, anyway, on the bottom of the bone it says “Made in Japan.”
As Ned rested his case, Nancy tossed the bone aside. “Oh Ned. It’s so easy to see why you are no detective. You have to have much more evidence than that. I suggest we go talk to Professor Ironbeard.”

“Who’s he?”

“He is a philosopher of ancient Egyptian Culture.”

Ned just was not getting her reasoning. So what? What’s that got to do with the price of peanuts in Memphis?”

“Well, actually nothing. But a good detective never overlooks a possible clue. And, anyway, the Egyptians had dogs, didn’t they?” She grabbed her purple jacket and led the way to the driveway. Ned knew when not to argue.

The ride to Professor Ironbeard’s House took about an hour in Ned’s Junk Heap of a car and less than five minutes on foot. He lived exactly two houses down from the Drools.

As they crossed the porch, Nancy spit into the palms of her hands and rubbed them over her hair. She brushed her teeth with her finger and added a red crayon to add brightness to her cheeks and lips. She murmured, “Professor Ironbeard once had designs on me. During the Mystery of the Moss-covered Pyramid and even now I think I have to be careful around him. He is still quite mad about me. Poor poor man,”
A quick knock on the door and the door flew open to reveal a smiling bearded face. The face looked at Nancy and the smile gave way to a darkening scowl.

“Well, what do you want now?” demanded Professor Ironbeard.

“We would like some information about ancient Egyptian culture,” Nancy replied, scratching a scab on her elbow. The scab gave way and started bleeding. Nancy wiped it on her purple jacket.

“How much information would you like?”

“Oh, about fifteen minutes worth please.”

The professor made some mental calculations.

“Okay, Deposit fifty dollars in the box by the door.”
“Professor!” exclaimed Nancy Drool. For old times’ sake, for all I meant to you, can’t you give me a better price?”

Professor Ironbeard thought for a moment and finally smiled at Nancy. “One hundred dollars it is then.”
Nancy was exasperated. Mysteries had not been easy to come by. How was she expected to come up with one hundred dollars? She searched her purse and found 3 wadded up dollar bills, 3 quarters and 1 slug, all of which she put in the box. She made Ned empty out his pockets but he seldom had any money of his own. Most of it went for bailing his father out of jail. Mr. Tickertape drank like a fish, or rather a whale, Because of his extensive water drinking he was hauled into jail when the water supply started to run dangerously low. After all the towns people got their showers and baths and washed their hair and clothes then he was let out again.

Professor Ironbeard led his visitors into the study and invited them to sit down. They glanced around the room but did not see any chairs. Nancy pulled up a statue of Nefertiti and parked herself on it and Ned sat on the floor.

“The Egyptians,” began Professor Ironbeard, “were a remarkable group of people. They developed a highly sophisticated civilization without what we now consider necessities: electricity, plumbing, automobiles, and Mae West.” He glanced around about the room to see if anyone had caught his joke but no one was laughing. Nancy was busy scratching herself and Ned had fallen asleep.

“Well, to continue, During the Reign of King Tutti Fruitti, The mummy was invented. The king accidentally ventured out in a sandstorm and by the following day he was so full of holes that they had to cover him with bandages to keep him from falling apart. They buried their kings in elaborate tombs called pyramids, which, to my way of thinking, was a waste of time. Why should ten thousand slaves have to work for years building a fancy tomb just to bury some old codger who couldn’t see it through all the bandages anyway?

“These used to guard these pyramids with huge stone monuments called Stink, ---er, spinx,--er-sp—statues. These were made out of sandstone and resembled huge dogs.

“Dogs!” exclaimed Nancy. “That has a direct bearing on the case. Ned, wake up---I’ve solved the mystery. That note was written by an Egyptian king who’s been living in Yugolsavia under an assumed name. He’s looking for a dog…”


“But what would a king be doing in a dog bone factory?”

Nancy thought for a long minute. “Well, then put it this way. He’s disguised as a king disguised as a Yugoslavian factory worker. He;s really a dog looking for a pyramid and he wrote the message so someone would help him back to Egypt and…”

“Dogs don’t hide notes in bones!” said Ned. “Anyway, what would a dog want with a pyramid? I thought they were for kings and don’t go telling me it’s a king disguised as a dog disguised as a king disguised as a Yugoslavian factory worker.”

“Well, I give up.” Nancy was impatient. “Have you no faith? Don’t you believe in magic, millstones and mustard plasters? Revive your lost faith, my good man, before it is too late.” She pushed him toward the door.

“Where are you going?” barked Professor Ironbeard. “I was just going to tell you all about the Egyptian mass transit system.”

“Save it for the next mystery,” Nancy yelled from the hallway. “The next plane to Yugoslavia leaves in an hour.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More Early Writing

When my sister and I were young we read all of the Nancy Drew books voraciously. As we got a little bit older, we looked upon Nancy and her old fashioned ideas and friends a little less kindly. In fact, this second look gave way to a whole set of Nancy Drew Parodies, starring Nancy Drool. Consider one of our favorite stories, written by us as a team and illustrated by Diana.
The Clue in the Dog Bone
Nancy Drool galloped down the front staircase, dragging a hairy purple jacket after her."Hannah!" she yelled.
Their housekeeper, Hannah Gruesome, burst through the kitchen door wiping her runny nose on a freshly laundered towel. "You bellowed?"
"Of course!. I'm going to take Pog for a walk. Ned will be here at about 10:00. Try to keep him away from Dad, you know how their personalities clash." Nancy dug a battered silver whistle out of her jacket pocket and blew into it. Drops of spit collected on the edge of the whistle. There was a series of thumps and clicks in
the next room and then the faithful little terrier appeared in the doorway. With a low yelp, he clamped his jaws around Nancy's ankle and hung on for dear life.
"Pog certainly isn't keen on morning walks," observed Nancy, fastening her foot more firmly onto her ankle.
"Come,Poggy, dear!" She gave him a nudging boot in the rear and he sailed out into the onion patch. Nancy followed him into the front yard and sniffed appreciatively. The air was brisk and fragrant, marred only by the odorous black smoke that issued from the toilet plunger factory down the street.
She left Pog to attend to his own affairs while she searched for clues with her handy dandy magnifying glass. Ever since The Secret of the Old Jock, in which she had accidentally blown up an athletic underwear shop, new mysteries had been difficult to come by.
A 15 minute search revealed a couple of sodden matchbooks, a rubber doll with no head, and a rusty soda can. Nancy searched the can for hidden messages but it contained nothing but a dead cricket. She tossed it into her neighbor's yard. Pog trotted up and dropped a humongous soup bone on her left foot.
Nancy was irate. "Pog, will you quit dumping old junk on my feet? Last week it was a stinky used milk carton. Here, take your old bone!" She hurled it and it sailed past
Pog's right ear.Pog keeled over in a faint. Nancy lugged him into the house and deposited him in the middle of the dining room table, right in the middle of the turkey platter.
"You have a visitor," remarked Hannah. Nancy hobbled into the living room, favoring her left ankle.
"Well, if it isn't Ned Tickertape!" she called to the tall athletic figure who was surreptitiously stuffing a silver urn into his coat pocket. Ned whirled around quickly.
"Hello, Nancy Drool!Is your father around, cause if he is, I'm outta here. Ever since I called him 'a chip off the old blockhead' during the Scarlet Skipper Mystery, he's been looking daggers at me."
"Oh, silly Ned. He has not been looking daggers at you. He has been practicing for the annual Sword Swallower's competition next month. Don't worry. He's still at work anyway."
They head toward the kitchen area, discussing Ned's various adventures at Emesis University. By this time, Pog was back to normal and had bitten off Hannah's little finger.
"Hannah!" said Nancy sternly. "How many times have I told you not to bleed on the kitchen carpet? And pick up that finger. It's an eyesore." (to be continued)

So now you see it. The raw and rare rantings of a couple of early writers looking to bring down Nancy Drool and her friends.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Inkbloods

I work with an amazing writer's critique group. Why so amazing? Because they are very serious about their writing and growing, not only as individuals but as a group. I was introduced to them by my husband, George, who became a member quite a while before I did. It was a Who's Who of people, as far as I was concerned. The first night I was treated to writing of such quality and such diversity that it took my breath away. Yet no one has made the jump to publishing yet. Their personalities define their work. First there is Joe, the patriarch, who is everyone's friend.(Everyone in the world, that is!) Joe is a retired Air Force Colonel whose combat stories and recollections frame a tenderness of heart. It is an amazing combination. Matt, currently a commercial pilot, likes quirky adventure, laced with perhaps pirates, zombies and talking birds. Fast paced, funny and rather irreverent in his views on life, Matt is pretty much of a wise ass, which is why I like him. You never know what you're going to read from Matt. Jane writes lovingly of people that could be people from her past, sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. Her European roots add character and dialogue to her stories that is realistic and entertaining. Her heart shines through in her work.
Another writer is Adrianna. Of Brazilian and Italian descent, her writing reads with a beautiful accent, lilting and reading almost like poetry. Her stories are memoirs of her beloved family and friends during very trying times during the political unrest in Brazil. Her words read like music to our ears.
Pat, a retired teacher, which I long to be, writes beautiful and full stories with amazing plot lines, characters that should not be real but are, such as colonies of mermaids and mermen. Her writing also transcends ordinary language and flows in beauty, dialogue being a particular strength of hers.
Then there is Sara. Sara, who writes with subtle humor and grace. Her stories of boomer humor have us sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the next installment. Her word choice and her dialogue intrigue us, as she appears to be the proper lady at all times, yet she manages to titillate and enthrall us with her heroine's hijinx.
Then there is George, whose writing has been labeled "noir." I am not sure what that all means but he has a dark kind of humor, full of surprises and encounters with devilish type people. Characters may die unnatural deaths, and twists and turns keep you wondering what could be next.
Then there is Miette, who is a retired judge. Her writing mostly resembled that of lawyer's briefs (no pun intended) until not too long ago, where we found that the writer in Miette had taken over the court reporter. And we can't wait to find out what happens next in her suspenseful and exciting book.
Last, but not least, is our moderator, Sue. Sue is an environmentalist who is passionate about nature and animals. Her writing's soul reflects her own thoughts and priorities. Sue is a nurturer, kind-hearted by nature and knowledgeable about so many things, due, in part to her voracious appetite as a reader.
Then there is me, the hard-core humor writer. My writing is always sure to have a bad word in it, a pun, a tacky word choice, you name it, it is there. But despite our differences, we are this wonderfully close knit group of people who know each other's writing well and are willing to help.
Other members come and go, but this group of people tends to have staying power. The Inkbloods! I love them.