Monday, December 22, 2008

Friends Before Breasts

After thirty-something years I finally reconnected with friends from my elementary school days. And I made some realizations.

There are some words that can only be shared with those you knew before you had breasts. (Gentlemen, add your own comparable experiences. I won’t even try…) Yes, there are things that can be said only to friends from the time before you knew how to hide your warts. To people you could ask what ‘that word’ meant. To people you envied and loved at the same time.

The funny thing is to talk to these friends decades later and realize that they thought you were okay – even as you were busy being embarrassed because everybody else seemed normal and you felt so inferior. And then you realize that they felt the same way.
What a joy. What a release. What a wonderful discovery. And now I realize – what perfect timing.


Our group of four musketeers got together for the first time in over 30 years last summer. We rediscovered each other in person, by email, and by phone, and realized that the very things that drew us together as young compatriots were still there. That we actually liked each other as adults. And that we had someone to talk to when tragedy fell. And it did.

Our artistic musketeer’s tragedy fell when she discovered that her marriage was over. And she picked right up and amazed us with her strength. She cursed a little, dusted off her feelings, and began to build a new life. The girl is beautiful inside and out, and has reminded us that being part of a pair is nice, but being a whole person is essential…

And then, the unthinkable. The musketeer with the biggest heart got the call that no one is ever prepared for. Her soulmate -- and a gentler, kinder, more supportive soul I’ve never met -- had left his heaven on earth with her and was moving on to his next adventure. This reminded the musketeers what it meant to be there for each other. And just as we would have guessed, she put herself into taking care of others at the local food pantry instead of insisting that she needed to be taken care of. The phrase ‘steel magnolia’ comes to mind…

Thank goodness our lifeline musketeer has been on duty through all of this. She’s the evergreen vine that keeps the musketeers connected. So, while the rest of us get lost from time to time, we know this musketeer will always be ready when we find ourselves again. She remembers to be there for us even when there’s not a tragedy to remind her. What an incredible gift…

Then there’s the last musketeer. She gets lost a lot. She’s busy chasing rainbows that aren’t as pretty when she catches them. And she forgets what’s important, but she’s relearning. She is remembering why these musketeers make life worth living even when the tragedies fall. And she realizes that the other musketeers might even need her a little. She knows she needs them and she won’t lose them again.

One for all and all for one, my friends.
***

This is dedicated to all the musketeers we’ve lost touch with through the years in hopes that you’ll take the time to contact one today and remember the joy of those simple friendships.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Talking To My Arm

I’ve taken up a new hobby. And yes, you’re going to laugh, but that’s a good thing… After all, this is supposed to be a humorous blog…

My new hobby is ventriloquism. Why, you ask? Why would someone take up something that is considered a dying art? You might also ask why I took six years of Latin in school, which is considered a dead language. It’s because I fly in the face of convention. Because I fly in the face of popular opinion. Because I also fly in the face of good taste.

But, for you to really understand, I’ll have to let you listen in on a conversation with my alter ego.

Me: Meet Sophie, my dummy.

Sophie: Who are you calling a dummy?

Me: Sophie, it’s just your designation. One of us has to be the person. The other is the dummy.

Sophie: You picked the wrong one.

Me: Sophie is also my inner critic.

Sophie: There’s a problem with that. Have you looked at the end of your arm?

Me: What?

Sophie: Your ‘inner’ critic is on the outside. More specifically I’m on your arm.

Me: Yeah, I know. But this is a really big thing for me. You see, normally I talk to myself a lot. Now I’m talking to someone else, so I don’t look as crazy.

Sophie: You’re talking to your arm.

Me: No, I’m talking to you.

Sophie: Do I have to repeat that ‘end of your arm’ speech?

Me: But it’s different when there’s somebody on the end of my arm.

Sophie: Somebody? I’m a piece of material, a little vinyl, with a hand up my …

Me: Whoa! This is a family blog. Hey, you know, this ventriloquism thing is a lot easier than I expected.

Sophie: Excuse me, dear… But there’s another problem. Most ventriloquism is done when people can see your lips.

Me: I’m keeping it simple at this point.

Sophie: Simple, yeah, yeah. Why did you really pick this hobby?

Me: Why do you think there’s another reason?

Sophie: The arm knows all.

Me: Okay, you’re right. Actually, it’s all about psychology.

Sophie: Explain.

Me: I need therapy. I’m self-employed. Can’t afford a psychiatrist, so I’ll settle for talking to you.

Sophie: Do you know how sad that is?

Me: Of course, I know. But you already know I have a split personality. At least now it’s in a socially acceptable format.

Sophie: Socially acceptable? Do you realize how uncool ventriloquism is? Good grief, woman, don’t you realize that, while cars will at least swerve to miss a mime, they’ll actually aim for ventriloquists?

Me: Whatever you say. Which brings up the other psychological reason for this hobby. I’m not assertive.

Sophie: That I’ll go along with. You’ve got all the backbone of a salted slug.

Me: Thanks for that visual.

Sophie: So, what you mean is that I’m here to say the things you don’t have the nerve to say?

Me: That’s the gist of it.

Sophie: That’s a little pitiful, don’t you think?

Me: Welcome to the craziness of my mind.

Sophie: Actually Christee, I’m happy to be here. It’s the only place I feel at home.

Me: Hey folks, we’ll be here all month. So you’d better move on to another blog. And don’t forget to tip your waitress…

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Losing Found Time

Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing to realize that you’ve totally missed the point of a new discovery.

I realize this as I play with my favorite birthday gift to myself – my vacuuming robot. Yes, I was drinking wine again while watching one of the television shopping networks. But this time I was actually sober enough to notice something useful. And when my new little friend appeared on my porch today, I realized that life would never be the same.

This incredible little toy looks like a stack of paper plates and runs around the house and vacuums while I do other things. The point of this is so that I don’t have to waste time on silly things like cleaning floors, and instead I can work on books, client projects, family matters, and even paying household bills on time.

Now this all sounds quite grownup, doesn’t it? And yet, here I sit on a Saturday morning, watching Hazel (I’m trying that name on for size) vacuum my living room. My husband comes in.

“A real timesaver, huh?”

“Absolutely!” I agree with relish. I’d agree with a hot dog too, but it’s a little early in the day for that.

“So, what are you going to do now?”

Oh, I just thought I’d keep Hazel company.”

He is plussed. (I’ve always thought that if people can be nonplussed, they should be able to be plussed too.) “You do know that it’s not alive, right?”

“Of course. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need company.”

“Of course.” Yeah, I know he’s humoring me, but what do I care? I’ve got a robot vacuuming my house.

“So, you’re not going to do anything else with this ‘found’ time?”

“I was thinking about having a Bloody Mary.”

“That’s all you’re going to do with this free time?”

I nod. “You’re right. That’s just silly of me. I think I’ll also have a Mimosa.”

He shakes his head and retreats to the back of the house.

No, I don’t really drink that much, but it’s a great way to scare off a spouse who looks like he has a great idea of something you could do with your spare time. If God had wanted me to clean that kitchen, he wouldn’t have made old bread turn into penicillin.

Besides, right now I’m thinking of other uses for the robot. It’s diverting my cats’ attention away from forcing their way onto my lap while I try to type, so I’m thinking about attaching a tail to Hazel and see if I can get them to chase it around with dusting cloths on their feet. That could double the use of the cleaning time.

For Halloween, I think Hazel is going to be a bat. The ears and wings will be so cute and she can carry the candy bowl on her back so I don’t even have to stand up when kids come to the door.
And, the coup de grĂ¢ce (or is it Coupe DeVille?) is that I can sit and watch Hazel and try to think of even more uses for her so I can avoid using my ‘found’ time to address work, family, and bill-paying.


Now, if I can just teach her that I prefer two olives in my martini.


NaNoWriMo

This is the countdown week to National Novel Writing Month.

On Saturday, November 1, you can join over 100,000 people in 80 countries as they attempt to slam out 50,000 words in 30 days. That's not so bad. It's less than 2,000 words per day. And they don't even have to be good words. Heck, you've read my columns, you know that most of my words aren't good words...

Think about it!

Check it out at NaNoWriMo.org and visit me in the Louisiana: Elsewhere region!

I've already changed my novel's plot three times. No idea what it will be by Saturday. But that's what makes this so much fun.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Doing It Again?!



Yes, once again, I am engaging in the insanity of National Novel Writing Month... and I couldn't be more thrilled.

I'll be serving as the Municipal Liaison for the Louisiana-Elsewhere Region and you are cordially invited to join us as we pound out 50,000 words in the month of November. Words... No promise of plot, quality, or even subject-verb connections.

Check it out at NaNoWriMo.org and join us for a month to write a book -- just because...

Christee










Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Presentation Tips Podcast

Oh what fun!

ASTD Press, the publisher who does my business and training books, has been hard at work creating webpages for its authors.

One of my pages is located at
http://www.astd.org/content/publications/ASTDPress/bookSearch/ManagerSkillsTraining.htm

It has info on some of my books, an interview with me done in San Diego and a neat little podcast that we did about the best way to end a presentation. If you'd like to check it out, you can listen by clicking below.

Click to hear Christee Atwood presentation tips MP3.

By the way, the golden voiced fellow who intros it is my hubbie. I can talk that man into anything with the promise of a peach cobbler...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

There's a big storm a'coming...

Okay - No big blog today. It's my birthday, August 31, and I should have specified when I said I wanted a hurricane on my birthday that I meant "in a glass". So instead, we're battening down the hatches, girding our loins, and other official sounding phrases that mean we're getting ready to be blown away again here in Louisiana.

Wish us luck!!
Christee & her rubber chicken Elvis

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Presentation Skills Article

I'd like to invite you to visit my friend, Shauna Roberts, at her blog today.

http://shaunaroberts.blogspot.com/

We did an interview on presentation skills that you might find useful and even amusing!

Have a great day!
Christee

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taking a Humor Inventory

You know how sometimes nothing seems funny? I find that this is the perfect time to slow down, put on a silly hat, and take a humor inventory.

A humor inventory is the process of reminding yourself of the stuff that’s funny to you. Sort of a spelunking mission to rediscover your sense of humor. Here’s how the process works for me.

First, I read the newspaper. No, not the depressing stuff -- mainly the headlines, unusual stories, and ads. I find headlines that make me giggle like these:
  • Blizzard Hits Four States. One is Missing.
  • Lawyer to Offer Poor Free Advice
  • Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say

Newspaper advertising has its own brand of humor:

  • Classified ad: Dog, faded brown, three legs, one ear missing, blind left eye, broken tail, recently neutered. Answers to the name Lucky.
  • For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.
  • Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00.
  • Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.
  • We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.
  • Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it.
  • Dog for sale: Eats anything and is fond of children.
  • Stock up and save. Limit: one.
  • Man, honest. Will take anything.
  • Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.
  • A used car lot advertised: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!
  • Illiterate? Write today for free help.
  • And now, the Superstore--unequaled in size, unmatched in variety, unrivaled inconvenience.

I often enjoy the acerbic humor of bumper stickers. It’s the mailboxes I take out while reading them that I don’t enjoy:

  • As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools.
  • I still miss my ex-husband, but my aim is getting better.
  • My Hockey Mom can beat up your Soccer Mom
  • If you can read this, I can slam on my brakes and sue you!
  • Chaos. Panic. Disorder. My work here is done.
  • Jesus is coming. Everybody look busy.

I also find examples of humor in unexpected places. Like statements taken from medical reports:

  • By the time he was admitted, his rapid heart rate had stopped and he was feeling better.
  • Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
  • On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it had completely disappeared.
  • The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
  • Discharge status: Alive, but without permission.
  • The patient has no past history of suicides.

And so, these are the sorts of things that jumpstart my sense of humor. Well, these and a cheap box of wine. But these have fewer calories.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Being Happy Ruined My Life

Darn. I got the call today that every author dreams of. A nationally syndicated television show wanted to fly me out to talk about my midlife crisis.

It was my moment to shine. I was already practicing holding my breath to look skinnier and seeing if clear packing tape would hold up my extra chin long enough for the interview.

But then, in the phone pre-interview, the producer started asking me questions like, “What trauma made you realize how terrible midlife crisis is? Did you husband leave you?”

“What?”

He explained, “That’s what we want to hear about. Overcoming trauma to get through a midlife crisis.”

I was confused. “But if I think about it as trauma, then I probably haven’t really overcome it.”

He persisted, “But for the show we want to talk about the trials and tribulations, the problems of midlife.”

“But I’m really happy. I like talking to other people and realizing that I’m not alone in this midlife crisis thing.”

He was frustrated. “That’s not what we’re looking for.”

“You mean if I’m not depressed I can’t be on the show?”

“Well, it’s not our focus to see midlife crisis as funny.”

I thought for a moment. I could have run into the other room and asked my husband to leave me so I could be on the show. I considered it for a moment. A very long moment. After all, it is national television.

But then I thought about what I stand for. Yes, I’ve experienced the 3 Ds. Death, Disaster, and Dimpled thighs. I’ve also been depressed, flat broke, and had a bad hair decade.

And if I focused on those things, I could sound just as pitiful as any person who’s ever cried their way through an episode of Oprah. But that’s not how we in the south get through a crisis.

Maybe the national media needs to realize that the kind of survival that gets us southerners through hurricanes, deaths of loved ones, and yes, even midlife, is the kind of survival that says, “You get through it, you move on, and after a respectful amount of time, you make fun of it.” (Unless it’s a president you don’t like. Then you don’t wait the respectful amount of time.)

So I’d like to share my email to the producer with you.

Darn!! Wish I focused on my traumas a little more so I could be on the show!!!

But I can't -- that's the biggest emphasis of my midlife crisis. I have to find the humor in my trials and tribulations or I'd have gone crazy by now. Oh wait... I think that ship has already sailed... Never mind...

So, a healthy sense of humor, a good supply of Prozac, and my fancy car that goes from zero to sixty in just under a weekend -- and I'm good to go for midlife.

Thanks for talking with me and please keep me in mind if you ever decide to do a show on “Using humor to laugh your way through midlife” ... or “How to embarrass yourself in six easy steps.” I'm an expert on both of those...


So, yet again, I’m still one step away from the ‘big time’ – and all because I’m contented.

I’ve never been so depressed about being happy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Check this out!

Here's a link to a website with some great information for the alternating joy and "@#$%^&*" of midlife crisis... Because we can all use a little help from our friends!

http://www.amidlifecrisis.co.uk"
target="_new">AMidlifeCrisis.co.uk: For some people midlife is a time of doubts and insecurity, while others sail through with ease. We offer expert advice to help you through any midlife crisis.


And, on another subject, is anybody looking for a speaker to come visit their group? It's hurricane season in Louisiana and thus, my favorite time to do speaking engagements in other parts of the world...

Christee & her pet rubber chicken, Elvis

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Sunday Afternoon "Will Cheat for Chips" Poker Club




On Sunday afternoons, a very elite club meets. It consists of my 94 year old father, my 39 year old mother (dog years), my husband (ageless), and myself (do the math at your own peril).

This club is the Sunday Afternoon “Will Cheat for Chips” Poker Club. Each meeting starts the same way. Daddy tries to explain the rules of poker to Mom and me once again.

And, once again, Mom and I will ignore those rules. After all, we know we have two perfectly good poker hands tacked under our sides of the table to be used whenever things seem too hopeless. Unfortunately those hands are from a different deck and quite obvious due to the cartoon illustrations on them. Daddy tends to ignore this fact for us. David tends to just smile and nod a lot. It’s a talent he’s perfected over 25 years of marriage.

The games usually go something like this.

Mom insists, “This is getting ridiculous. Who dealt this terrible hand?”

I respond, “Let me think. Oh yes, it was you.” I’ve never been known to be a kind child.

Mom ignores me. A talent she’s perfected over 60 some-odd years of motherhood. (Very, very odd years.) “Well, I’ll bet a red chip.”

David looks dubious. “Twenty five dollars on a terrible hand?”

Mom responds quickly. “Don’t worry. You’re not in the will anyway.” For a woman wearing a fake sunflower on her head, she’s pretty quick on those kinds of responses.

As you notice during all of this, Daddy has been very quiet. That’s because he’s the only one at the table who really knows how to play this game. He’s actually studying his hand while we’re arguing over cards, room temperature, and whose turn it is to go get pretzels.

We go through a few rounds of betting, which is a farce since Mom and I just bet color combinations, not actual denominations. We like patriotic hands with red, white, and blue chips. We tend to run out of chips pretty quickly.

Finally, bored with the slow pace of play, we move on to our Dr. Pepper round of play. This is where 10’s, 2’s, and 4’s are all wild cards.

You’ve never lived until you’ve seen a poker game where four hands are laid down and are: five aces, a royal flush, five more aces, and six kings. (Mom sometimes refuses to give up all her cards when she draws new ones. She feels it is a communist plot if she has to give up a king.)

Yes, we’ve realized at the end of our game that we’ve solved no world problems. We’ve not decided what color we’re going to paint the living room, which was our first discussion of the day. We haven’t even decided who will get up to go get the pretzels.
And that’s my definition of a really good day.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Give a man a fish


A thought for today:


Give a man a fish and he'll eat for one day.

Teach a man to fish and every damn time the sun is shining he'll call in sick so he can go fishing.


Just a thought,
Christee & the rubber chickens

Monday, April 28, 2008

Eleanor said it best

My quote for the day is:

Remember, learn from the mistakes of others, because you can't live long enough to make them all yourself." Eleanor Roosevelt

Wise woman. Hang around me and you'll learn the mistakes of 20 other people...

I look at it this way -- If I'm not making any mistakes, it means I'm not trying anything new. And I'd rather be stupid than stagnant...

Deep, if somewhat skewed, thought for the day...

Christee

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Inner Child is a Dishonored Student


Yes, my inner child is a dishonored student at the school of hard knocks.

I used to think that I would be an adult by this point in my life. Now I realize that I can’t grow up. If I did, I would be expected to act like a real grown up. You know, the kind of person who discusses their 401K, politics, and impressionistic art. I still use a piggy bank for retirement, wear my old ‘Pat Paulsen for President’ button, and prefer crayons in primary colors.

How do I know that I can’t grow up? Well, you decide…

  • I read the funny papers first. And then I forget to read the rest of the paper.
  • I’d like to build a tent out of sheets and hide in it.
  • Bodily functions still make me giggle.
  • I want to go to summer camp and make some more of those potholders out of stretchy bands of material.
  • I’m writing this column with a cat on my keyboard.
  • My idea of fine literature includes the word “muggles”.
  • But I think there are many of us who would like to return to the ways of childhood. We want to laugh until milk comes out of our noses and squish a buttercup into somebody’s face. We want to tell that person at work that they’re being a big bully and if they don’t quit it we’re going to have our big brother beat them up.

I’d like to reinstate some of the rules of childhood into our adulthoods. Here are my proposed guidelines:

  • Every afternoon, we should all eat a cookie and take a nap.
  • We must be nice to others or be forced to take a time-out in the corner wearing a silly hat.
  • We should get a gold star stuck on our collar when we do something outstanding.
  • After tough meetings, we should stand and shake hands with everyone in the room and say “Good game.”
  • We should go to recess outside instead of sitting at our desks.
  • We should change staff meetings into “storytime” and tell stories of difficult clients as big bad monsters.
  • Instead of fancy performance appraisals at work, we should get report cards with extra points for good conduct.
  • We should put notes about things we are proud of on our refrigerator doors.
  • And finally, every night, we should kneel by our beds and bless everyone in our lives who has made that day special.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Script Frenzy!


Under the heading of "What Was I Thinking?", I will be the coordinator for Louisiana again for Script Frenzy. In two days, crazy people from all over will start writing 100 pages of screenplay, script, stageplay, television scripts, or whatever and try to complete them by April 30.


Want to join us? Check it out at ScriptFrenzy.org.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Impostor With Restless Leg Syndrome

Symptoms make me sick. Really. I realized this as I watched television the other day and every time a commercial came on, I felt I had the symptoms they described. A cold medicine ad had me sniffling and coughing. A little later some guy told me my dry eyes were a “condition”. And later that evening, I punted the cat off the couch and shrugged, “Restless leg syndrome”.

I am very susceptible to outside influences. I think the pioneers had it easy because there were no advertising people to tell them that it wasn’t okay to have dry skin, body odor, and bleeding from the ears. And psychological symptoms are the worst.

Psychology classes in college were really bad for me. I studied agoraphobia and suddenly decided I wasn’t lazy, I was just afraid to leave the house. I found out that I had an inferiority complex … but at least mine was a bigger inferiority complex than anyone else’s. I realized that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t hate my parents. And when I signed up for “Abnormal Psychology”, my family talked me into dropping the class after only one session. Good call there.

But not too long ago, I was reading a psychology book and discovered something that really rang true. It’s called the Impostor Phenomenon. It’s where you think that everything you’ve accomplished is an accident. That your success is just a fluke, and that, at any minute, your house of cards may fall and everyone will see that you’re not really any good at anything. Or they’ll see you in your junior high school underwear – oh wait, I think that’s a different fear.

And so, once again, I’m working on my positive affirmations.

“Christee, good job on that seminar.” My friend patted me on the back. I choked back the urge to say, “You have incredibly low standards.” Instead I nodded and smiled.

A construction worker whistled and I did not immediately look behind me to see whom he was admiring. I just nodded and smiled. (Okay, honestly, behind me was a college student with hair that was too big and a shirt that was too small. But I ignored that fact.)

My mother told me, “Well, your last column was a little better.” I took it for what it was worth, nodded and smiled.

I acknowledged the fact that I can actually know things without having a framed certificate to say that I know them. Just because my degree doesn’t say “BS in Customer Service”, doesn’t mean that I don’t know the right way to treat a guest in my home. Because it doesn’t say “Master of Fine Talking”, doesn’t mean I can’t speak without spitting on someone. And, even though I don’t have a degree in Office Management, I can actually survive an entire day in an office environment without a single call to 911.

And so, I am working to overcome my Impostor Phenomenon. Next week I’ll start working on that restless leg thing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ladies of Class Book Tour





Today I'm thrilled to be able to present information on an intriguing book. And the neat thing about this book is that its background is equally interesting.


Enter Dee Owen, a delightful woman who has created this legacy to Marjorie Owen, who passed away in 2004. For most people, that would be the end of their publishing dreams. But with Dee's help, Marjorie's dream has taken flight now with the publication of Ladies of Class.

Let's start with the book and the author:


LADIES OF CLASS WRITTEN BY MARJORIE OWEN
Publisher: Vintage Romance Publishing
Release Date: March 15, 2008

Author Bio:

Marjorie Grace Patricia Bridget Owen was born on September 11th 1911 in England and endured the bombardment of World War II. As far as we know, she was born out-of-wedlock with an Irish Lord for a father and a Russian princess as her mother.

Although her life before working is somewhat sketchy, her career, as a major London department store clothing buyer, was long and interesting. Members of the Royal family were amongst some of her more famous clients. Marjorie found time to write many short stories and four novels ranging from romance to mystery. She did not attempt to publish any of her writings. We can only surmise that she wrote for the joy and did not wish to seek any recognition or fame.

Marjorie passed away on March 28th 2004, after a very full life, at the age of ninety-three.

How did this book happen?


Mum had told Mike that she had written a couple of stories and let him read them some years ago. She expressed no interest in having them published at that time. He was never aware of the amount that she had written until she passed away.


Mike, being an only child and having no aunts or uncles, is the sole heir to Marjorie’s estate. He discovered the box full of Mum’s writings on clearing her flat in England and took them back to the USA.

As an avid reader Dee (daughter-in-law) became fascinated with Mum’s stories and books. All her writings were hand written on legal size paper or note books and on both sides of the paper. Dee began reading some of the short stories (there are fifty plus).

After reading a few, she was hooked and decided to attempt, the monumental task of transcribing them to computer. Mum’s writing was not the easiest to read, however, Dee had set herself the challenge and was going to follow through.

At first, her husband Mike assisted her with the ‘translation’ of Mum’s hand writing. At times they became frustrated with each other and Mum. After a couple of stories, Dee became an expert, reading Mum’s writing and even improving her own typing skills and speed.

As yet, Dee has not completed the task, with a few more stories to go and two novels, after three years of work. Dee decided to see if her opinion about Mum’s writing skills were correct and began submitting several of the short stories for publishing.

Several of Mum’s stories were accepted for publishing by online magazines and were published without pay. But exposure is important. A small success spurred Dee to try for bigger things. The first book of Mum’s is to be published in March 2008. “Ladies of Class” by Vintage Romance Publishing.

Both Dee and Mike are thrilled and hope that the book will be a success and lead to further books and stories being published. Their blog for Mum’s writings is http://marjo-mumswritings.blogspot.com and website is http://pangirl.tripod.com

Synopsis:

In the book Ladies of Class, Richard Hayward’s promotion and move from the big city life to the sleepy town of Burshill, England, has been shattered. Sir John Bury needs a murder solved. Clues take him from Burshill to California, Paris and London and back in time.


As the story progresses the plot thickens. Richard Hayward's reputation as the youngest officer to be promoted to Detective Chief Inspector precedes him. Richard hoped his recent transfer and move to Burshill would allow him a quiet convalescence from a broken leg.

But his peace was soon to be shattered by a phone call from Sir John Bury, the Chief Constable. A murder had been committed that night and Richard's ability to solve crimes, in spite of his unconventional methods, were needed before his duties officially began.

The results of his investigations and travels, in search of clues and answers to the apparently senseless murders are surprising. Several ladies of a particular ‘class’ become part of the inquiry.
As the facts begin to unfold, they not only amaze Richard, himself and the community of Burshill, but extends all the way to the top brass of Scotland Yard. In the face of adversity, Richard manages to outwit the criminal and emerges triumphant.

Excerpt:

Laura Clayton’s last day on earth was as ordinary as any other, right up to the few moments before she came to her messy end.


The only unusual thing about it was that she awoke to brilliant sunshine dancing on the bedroom window. March had been a spiteful month, not only coming like a lion but roaring its way through with no let up in the constant rain and lashing gales. It seemed to have no intention of going out like a lamb, but on this Saturday, the 31st, it finally relented.

“I don’t believe it!” Laura said aloud, scrambling into a housecoat and hurrying to look out at the phenomenon. But it was true and everything in the garden, which yesterday had looked dreary and sullen, was nodding and smiling and perking up in the unaccustomed brightness and warmth…

…When Julia opened the door to let her out, she uttered an exclamation. “Good grief, Laura! Look at that!”

To their equal surprise, a dense fog surrounded them, thick and impenetrable as a London pea-souper. Totally unexpected.

"Must have been all that glorious sun we’ve had today,” Laura commented. The lunchtime cloud had soon gone away.

“You can’t go home in this. It’s horrible. Oh, why on earth did George have to get his rotten bronchitis tonight? He’d have escorted you back.”

“Stop clucking, Julia. It’s only a five-minute walk away, for goodness sake. I’m a big girl now and not likely to get lost.”

Julia wasn’t happy about it but Laura insisted; she went off with a cheery “Goodnight,” and was immediately swallowed up in the fog. She kept to the paths which were as familiar to her as her own garden, but she found the silence more eerie than she would have imagined. Even distant traffic noises were hushed and she felt completely isolated in a strange world. She pushed doggedly on and without any trouble found herself turning onto the path, lined with tall trees, which would lead her out almost opposite her own house.

Suddenly, surprisingly, a figure stepped out from behind one of the great horse-chestnuts and stood in front of her. Laura wasn’t of a nervous disposition but she was startled. Then, coming face to face with the apparition, she recognized it.

“Oh, it’s you!” said Laura.





Thursday, March 13, 2008



Marjorie Grace Patricia Bridget Owen (1911-2004)

Let's find out a little more background on Dee and how she made Mum's book a reality:

Tell us about yourself – where you are from, how you got started writing, what you do when you are not writing (or anything you want our readers to know)...
Mike's Mum passed away at the grand old age of 93. Mum, Mike and I
are British. However, Mike & I have lived in the United States for
close to twenty five years, Bahamas for two years and are currently
residents of Panama, Central America. Mum loved to visit America
up to her mid eighties, in particular California, Hollywood being one of
her favorite places. As the years went on, Mum found the long
journey from England to USA too much.


Mum wrote for her own pleasure, told no one and never
sort to be published as far as we know. When we found all her
hand written books and stories three years ago, my mission began.
I love to read. And it was a challenge reading, or should I say
translating Mum's handwriting. With Mike's help I 'broke the
code' and began typing all of Mum's works. This lead to Mike asking
me what I was going to do with all of them. So I said, “get them
published.” Simple to say, but not so simple to do especially when
you are not an author and have no clue as to how to do it or
where to start. But here we are ready for Mum's first book
to come out in print and two of her short stories already in
print.

Tell us more about Mum's writings.

Mum has written four books. Two are murder mystery and two
are romance.

As far as I can tell from all of Mum's writings, she wrote the murder
mystery books from her love of mystery, who done it, and the
challenge of solving the mystery. The romance books might have
been inspired from her own, somewhat tragic romantic life. This
I understand from little snippets of information she would
impart when alive, her only diary, and possible reference in some
of her short stories.

I believe Mum just loved to write and it was a diversion from
her busy work life. Mum was the head buyer of maternity cloths
at a major department store in central London.


So, how are you marketing this book?

Being a novice to the business, I have joined Yahoo book and
promotional groups. I have a blog for Mum's writings and Mike
and I have recently started working on a website. I have hosted
author's book tours on my blog and asked for my links to be put on
blogs and websites.

Do you sell through a website?
That is one of the things I plan to do, once Mike and I have
made the website, which is a learning phase, as all of it is.

Are there more books to come?
Mum's second murder mystery book is a sequel to the first.
If the first sells, I would like for the second to be published.
Depending on the success, I may look into the possibilities
of a 'ghost writer'.


How can we find out more?

http://marjo-mumswritings.blogspot.com/

http://pangirl.tripod.com/

http://www.vrpublishing.com/

Dee, thank you so much for joining us today and for making this wonderful woman's dreams come true. We look forward to seeing more of Mum's writings in the future!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Taking my humor inventory

You know how sometimes nothing seems funny? I find that this is the perfect time to slow down, put on a silly hat, and take a humor inventory.

A humor inventory is the process of reminding yourself of the stuff that’s funny to you. Sort of a spelunking mission to rediscover your sense of humor. Here’s how the process works for me.

First, I read the newspaper. No, not the depressing stuff -- mainly the headlines, unusual stories, and ads. I find headlines that make me giggle like these:
  • Blizzard Hits Four States. One is Missing.
  • Lawyer to Offer Poor Free Advice
  • Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say

Advertising has its own brand of humor:

  • Classified ad: Dog, faded brown, three legs, one ear missing, blind left eye, broken tail, recently neutered. Answers to the name Lucky.
  • For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.
  • Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00.
  • Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.
  • We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.
  • Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it.
  • Dog for sale: Eats anything and is fond of children.
  • Stock up and save. Limit: one.
  • Man, honest. Will take anything.
  • Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.
  • Illiterate? Write today for free help.
  • And now, the Superstore--unequaled in size, unmatched in variety, unrivaled inconvenience.

I often enjoy the acerbic humor of bumper stickers. It’s the mailboxes I take out while reading them that I don’t enjoy:

  • As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools.
  • I still miss my ex-husband, but my aim is getting better.
  • My Hockey Mom can beat up your Soccer Mom
  • If you can read this, I can slam on my brakes and sue you!
  • Chaos. Panic. Disorder. My work here is done.
  • Jesus is coming. Everybody look busy.


I also find examples of humor in unexpected places. Like statements taken from medical reports:

  • By the time he was admitted, his rapid heart rate had stopped and he was feeling better.
  • Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
  • On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it had completely disappeared.
  • The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
  • Discharge status: Alive, but without permission.
  • The patient has no past history of suicides.

These are the sorts of things that jumpstart my sense of humor. Well, these and a cheap box of wine. But these have fewer calories.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to Write a Column

I write newspaper and magazine columns, so today I thought I'd give you a simple overview of the process of writing a column, just in case you aspire to be a part of this exciting and unintentionally nonprofit occupation.

First you sit at your beloved keyboard. It is, of course, best if this keyboard is actually attached to something – a computer, a typewriter, a calculator – although that last one tends to make the column a little confusing.

You stare at the blank screen. At this point, your pets will wander into the room to see what the stiff-looking person is doing. Within minutes, you have an animal shedding on your lap, insisting on being fed, or trying to mark you as his territory.

Once you have fed them and employed a lint brush, you are back at that nice keyboard. Now you’ve actually realized that you need a subject. You begin to think.

Thinking is tiring business, so you head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. On the way back to your keyboard you realize that the mail has arrived. The next twenty minutes is spent looking through the sales flyers and your bills. Your bills encourage you to ignore the sales flyers. You leave all of these to review later.

Look at that. Your coffee must have evaporated, because every bit of it is gone. You head back to the kitchen.

At this point you realize that your kitchen is a mess, so you take the time to hide the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Now it looks so nice it invites you to make a small snack for yourself. After this three course meal you’re back on your way to write.

Uh oh. A dust bunny is on the loose. You consider vacuuming. Laughing very hard, you continue back to that waiting keyboard.

Your pets are back. One is doing figure eights around your chair. The other is doing his Snoopy imitation, pretending to be a vulture on the back of your chair. After that drop-kicking exercise that always encourages them to find other entertainment, you are back at that darn keyboard.

Outside, you hear kids drag racing down your street. You walk out and stand in your yard, glaring at them as they pass. This does no good whatsoever, but you feel vindicated and turn to go back into the house.

Aha! There is a patch of weeds threatening to choke your rose bush. You feverishly tear the weeds up, talk to the plant, which seems to wilt a little from the garlic in your earlier snack, and finally return to the house.

As you wash your hands, you notice in the mirror that you look terrible. The next half hour is spent trying to “fix your face”, a term which means adding spackle to hide the signs of wisdom.

And now you are back at that damn keyboard.

You’re no closer to coming up with a subject than before. You think for three minutes, then realize that it’s starting to get dark. Time for supper.

After supper, you’re back at that $%^&*# keyboard, ready to write your column. Seeing that it’s now primetime on television, you realize it’s much too late to start writing a column today. Tomorrow you’ll have to get an earlier start.

And that’s all there is to it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ladies of Class Tour


Be on the lookout!


Dee Owen, who graciously hosted me on her blog during my Three Feet Under tour, will be visiting here soon with her book, Ladies of Class, to be released March 15.


We'll have a chance to ask Dee lots of fun questions and find out more about this lady and all the romance and mystery in her great new book!


Christee

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Peanut & Hot Pants

I definitely live in a smaller town now. I feel like Hawkeye on M*A*S*H reading the Crabapple Cove Journal when I read the daily newspaper...

In this week's police blotter in the newspaper:

Guests robbed at local hotel

A Pollock woman and a Cordova, Tenn., man were robbed late Sunday night while guests at the Alexandria Inn, 1212 MacArthur Drive, according to Alexandria police. No arrests have been reported.

A 49-year-old Pollock woman told police that earlier Sunday she was invited to a room by a female friend. Around 11 p.m., Sunday, she drove to a store and returned to find another woman she only knows as "Hot Pants" in the room, who stated the victim owed her money, according to police. An argument ensued in which "Hot Pants" hit the victim in the back of the head with the room's telephone, the report states.

The victim picked up an alarm clock and held it up to keep "Hot Pants" off her, and the suspect then picked up the victim's purse off the dresser and left, the report states.

The victim then sought refuge in another room with a male acquaintance, and about 12:25 a.m. two men she knows as "Peanut" and "Fisher" came to the door with her purse and forced their way into the room, the report states.

"Peanut" grabbed the 41-year-old Cordova, Tenn., man's wallet off the night stand, and both suspects ran to a getaway car driven by "Hot Pants," the report states. The Tennessee victim gave chase, and while running across the parking lot one of the thieves turned around and punched him in the nose, police reported.

******

Yup. You just can't make this stuff up.

Christee, David, the pets ... and somewhere out there, "Hot Pants" and "Peanut"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2008 is going to be great!

Can't you just feel it in the air? Something big is coming up. And this time it's not just my lunch...

This year the new book, In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands, will be coming out -- whether I get a new publisher or have to do it myself. I'll be creating kits for you to start your own Elastic Waistbands Society in your region. And we might even start our campaign to get Thomas Hancock's birthday as a holiday. He is, of course, the inventor of elastic.

So much cheesecake to eat ... so little time ...

Yes, this is going to be a very good year. I invite you to join in and celebrate with us.

Christee & her pet rubber chicken, Elvis