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Gratification Now! A Self-Care Guide

Whenever I think about caring for oneself, I always remember the well-known, highly effective parenting technique that I utilized with my own kids, called Gratification Now. It works really well. And teaches wonderful, life-long lessons. The idea is that whenever you’re feeling depleted, low, sad, tired, hungry, or have a need of any kind, just…
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Wondering What Your Kid Is Saying To That Nice Interviewer?

And there you are, sitting in the waiting area, while your 9-year-old son Steven is off interviewing with the head of admissions from Milton Middle School. You’re trying to wait patiently, but you can’t help wondering, “What will he talk about if I’m not there to prod him along? Will he stick to good topics? Will he ask interesting questions?” Meanwhile, in the admissions…
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News Flash: Busy Week for the Debs – From Ultramarathons to Open Mics

Congratulations to Theresa Snyder for winning a copy of THE ASSISTANTS by  Camille Perri!  We send our thanks to Anjali Mitter Duva for being our guest on The Debutante Ball yesterday! If you haven’t already, please pick up a copy of her novel FAINT PROMISE OF RAIN.  You can still enter the GIVEAWAY: RETWEET on Twitter, and/or SHARE on Facebook by noon (EST) September…
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Finding Funny in THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING

I love a book that makes me laugh, especially if it’s nerdy humor. I love a book with books in it – it’s kind of meta and that appeals to my oddly working mind. I love book people from every walk of life. I love grand romantic gestures. So basically, I loved Shelly’s book THE…
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Deb Susan is Surprised by Ninja Turkeys

Let me begin by saying I don’t live in the country. My house lies in a fully residential suburb of Sacramento, California – sidewalks, urban sprawl, you get the idea.

Which is why it came as such a surprise one evening when my son looked out the window and said, “Mom … there are turkeys in the yard.”

“Real turkeys?”  I asked. “As in – birds?”

(I thought maybe he meant local teenagers acting up – it hadn’t happened before but you never know.)

“Yes Mom. Turkeys. Big ones, too.”

I ran for the window and then for my camera (technically, my iPad because I didn’t have an iPhone yet at the time). Sure enough, a trio of toms had invaded the yard and started hunting for grubs. They stuck around for half an hour and wandered off down the sidewalk.

Two weeks later, I woke up and wandered into the kitchen for coffee – only to find a three-foot female turkey staring at me through the sliding door in the great room. (Note: this is actually far more startling than it sounds – that door leads to the fenced backyard.) By the time I grabbed my camera, Peeping Tom-asina and her babies had wandered off to the other side of the backyard – and my smallest cat, Oobie, was watching them from the window. As with the previous ninja turkeys, the family stayed about half an hour and departed for parts unknown.

This is NOT what I expected when I moved to Sacramento.

 

Three weeks ago, on one of the hottest days of the summer, I was driving home from work when I spotted Mom Turkey and her babies – now almost grown – walking down the sidewalk a block from my house. They seemed perfectly comfortable, except for the 110-degree heat, and when I pulled over to take some pictures they sauntered into a yard and stood underneath a tree – completely unfazed by my presence.

In fact, one of the babies wandered up to look at my truck while I was looking at him.

Apparently, the Sacramento suburbs are home to wandering tribes of ninja turkeys, capable of appearing and disappearing at will. I’m not complaining. There’s something about turkeys that appeals to my sense of humor, and their off-and-on visits (with no sign of them in between) is a surprise I’ve already learned to appreciate.

Have you ever seen wildlife in an unexpected place? What would you do if you found a turkey ogling you through the window? Hop to the comments. I’d love to hear.

 

 

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Deb Susan Belongs in a Punitentiary

When the topic turns to humor, I must confess a deep and all-consuming love for the pun.

One of my all-time favorite games involves punning back and forth with someone else until one of us loses the ability to add a new pun to the chain or bursts out laughing. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have several close friends and family members who not only appreciate but enjoy this particular game.

I have a difficult time not making a pun if the opportunity presents. (My week 2 post here at the ball confirms it, as those who remember my “sea minor” joke recall.) This causes me no end of private amusement – and one very memorable socially awkward moment. (The incident involved a funeral parlor and my father’s ashes. The curious can check the comments on Deb Kerry’s Monday post – because I told the whole embarrassing story there.)

Most of the time, however, the puns are a source of harmless amusement. My family and friends have grown to expect them. My son, in particular, finds them at least as entertaining as I do, and though he groans at some of my better (or worse) attempts he’s developing a skill at punning that may someday put me to shame.

How much do puns feature into my daily life?

I recently acquired a baby abalone for my reef aquarium. It took me less than five minutes to name him Oscar.

Why Oscar?

Because … “my (a)balone has a first name…it’s O-S-C-A-R…”

(Those of you not groaning don’t know your bologna ads).

This is par for the course.

Some people think that attorneys have no sense of humor. In some cases, that’s true, but I see things a little differently. Maybe I’m just a magnet for the strange and unusually funny, or maybe I’m just few french fries short of a Happy Meal myself, but I see the world through a lens that filters heavily for humor … and most heavily of all for the humorous pun.

This translates into my writing too. My ninja detective, Hiro Hattori, doesn’t exactly approve of puns, but his dry sense of humor has more than a little crossover with my own. His friend and crime-solving partner, Father Mateo, is Portuguese, which provides some interesting opportunities for word play in between the murder scenes and “ninja moments.”

So…did you laugh or groan at the abalone? Where do you stand on puns – or on ninja detectives? Click into the comments and let me know – I’d love to hear what makes you smile!

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Deb Dana is more Liz Lemon than Tina Fey

When I first told my parents I was writing a romantic comedy, my dad widened his eyes and smiled and, after getting over his apparent initial shock, said, “Wow.”

“What do you mean, ‘wow’?” I asked.

“It’s just surprising, that’s all. A comedy. Because, you know, you’re so…serious.”

Which I guess I can be, some of the time. Or maybe a lot of the time. My brother, Brian, is the jokester of the family. He tells stories that make everyone at the dinner table laugh until we can’t breath, our faces bright red and our eyes filled with tears. He’s the one with the sharp comebacks, so that when one of his friends swears he has been working out and “doing crunches,” my brother, without missing a beat, shoots back, “Yeah — Nestle’s crunches.”

I, on the other hand, usually need a good few hours — possibly days — to come up with a witty retort, but once I do, let me tell you, I will NAIL IT. In the heat of the moment, however, my comebacks usually sound something like this:

 

That’s Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s alter ego on 30 Rock. Whereas Tina Fey is sharp and witty and known for her ability to improvise, Liz Lemon is awkward and nerdy. She also really, really likes cheese. Lemon makes us laugh, but more because we are laughing at her, not with her. In the world of 30 Rock, she is the head writer on a comedy show, which means, in theory, even if Lemon is not a standup comedian herself, she can appreciate humor. She can write funny, even if she isn’t a so-called funny person.

For some like Tina Fey, “being funny” and “writing funny” are the same thing. But for many writers out there (including Liz Lemon and myself) they are not. In the Tina Fey/Liz Lemon dichotomy, I am most definitely Liz Lemon. I have awkward comebacks and strange dance moves and also enjoy working on my night cheese while wearing my Snuggie. But I don’t have to be that person when I write. You know that famous quote by former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart about pornography? Well, that’s what humor is like for me: I know it when I see it. I can take as long as I need to come up with the perfect comic comeback, but when I do — BAM! — there it goes into my manuscript, straight from my character’s mouth. I can make my characters hilarious and quick-witted, even when Dana Bate The Person is not.

That’s why writing is so wonderful. You create these characters who take on lives of their own and do things you would never — or could never — do. No one would want to read a book about what I did this morning or last night (unless you, too, enjoy working on your night cheese, in which case…let’s talk), but I can invent characters whose lives are filled with adventure and activity and whose commentary on those adventures and activities can make people laugh out loud. Even if it takes me a while to make that happen.

What about you? Are you quick with the witty retorts, or do you, like me, stand in front of the mirror a day later and say, “Oh, yeah? Well…you have unfortunate feet! Booyah!”?

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Deb Kerry Finds Humor in the Dark Places

We stand in a forlorn little clump on the funeral parlor sales floor – my brother, my mother, and I – attempting to pick out a casket for a man who can’t possibly be dead. We are all a little lost, not sure yet who we are without him or whether the family center will hold. One thing we all see for certain but don’t know how to say: the glossy wood and satin linings are just all wrong. Dad was a man who worked hard, lived hard, laughed hard. The idea of him dressed in funereal black and lying with his hands folded in one of these slick, be-frilled monstrosities is absurd.

And then the undertaker looks at us and asks the momentous question: “What direction do you want him to face when he’s buried?”

I am in danger of being swamped, the world turned upside down and inside out that such a thing could possibly matter. A breath. A heartbeat. And then my wonderful big brother says, “I think he’d want to point north.”

With that, right there in the middle of that terrible place, the two of us are doubled over and whooping with laughter while our poor mother apologizes to the undertaker for our unseemly behavior. For that perfect shining moment, the grief recedes. The laughter unites us, pulls us back together as family, and the world rights itself and begins once more to make a reasonable amount of sense.

Some call it gallows humor. Psychologists call it a defense mechanism. Frankly, I don’t care what you call it, I will continue to find the humor in the darkest places because for me that’s what keeps the world spinning on its axis.

It seems to me that laughter and tears often lie along parallel paths, and that laughter is just as healing and necessary as tears. Years ago I watched my beloved brother-in-law dealing with the loss of his wife, and for the first time saw that grief could be beautiful. He shared his loss openly and deeply, alternating between tears and funny stories that set us all to laughing. I could see the healing unfolding before my eyes in this communal process of shared story and emotion.

The best of books follow this course, it seems to me, riding the line between the unbearably painful and the absurd and hilarious. When I read A Prayer for Owen Meanie years ago, Irving managed to make me both laugh and cry on the same page. I closed the book with a sort of awe, asking, “How did you do that?”

I still haven’t figured it out. This sort of writing takes both courage and skill, a combination of which I haven’t mastered yet. But then, I’m still learning, both how to write and how to live. And I’m hopeful that one of these days the words will line up on the page in a shining moment where grief and humor meet in the perfect chemistry of emotion.

What are your thoughts about dark humor, both in life and in literature?

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Newsflash: September 23, 2012

Congratulations to Tamara, winner of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL!

From the 2013 Debs…

Deb Kerry had a very exciting week teasing everybody with the cover reveal for BETWEEN. In case you managed to miss it, you can see it right here

Deb Dana received a galley of THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS from her publisher and can’t believe what was once a very large Word document is now an actual book!

Deb Susan has completed the second book in the Shinobi mystery series – and looks forward to starting on book 3 next week!

 

Past Deb News

Deb Tawna Fenske is still rolling through the Pacific Northwest on the Crazy 8s Author Tour! Next Saturday (September 28) she’s at Paulina Springs Books in Redmond (central Oregon) – stop by and say hello!

Deb Joelle Anthony‘s novel RESTORING HARMONY was chosen as the feature book for the Cincinnati Public Library’s Teen on the Same Page Festival – way to go Joelle!

Deb Linda Grimes is signing books at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Conference in Arlington, VA next weekend. If you’re in Arlington, and attending the Conference, stop by and say hello!

 

Deb Friends

On September 29 (next Saturday), Deb Friend Erika Robuck is also appearing at the author reception at the NAIBA Conference. Introduce yourself if you see her!

 

Deb Dish – Tell us about something that always makes you smile.

Deb Amy: A special thing that makes me smile is an email from Carol, my life-long (40 year!!) pen pal in Cardiff, South Wales. We went from little girls who loved and wrote letters about the Osmonds to moms of grown kids who write emails about work and life and everything in between. I used to just wait and wait for her letters to arrive, and now any time I see her email addy in my inbox, I know I smile. Then I grab a cup of coffee and hunker down for a good read. You can read more about me and Carol, here, in my 2007 Chicago Tribune article.

Deb Dana: My husband’s dancing. He’s actually a really good dancer, and every once in a while — when we’re watching a show and the credits roll and a great theme song comes on, or when I’m playing music in the kitchen — he’ll bust out a few moves, and it is physically impossible not to smile when he does that.

Deb Kelly:  … is trying VERY hard not to post a picture of her BLB (beloved little boy) right now. Suffice it to say he makes me smile ear to ear.

Deb Kerry: Many things, but a good cup of coffee will always do it. Also, looking out my window at – no neighbors – and seeing sky and trees and wild deer and turkeys. This makes me happy.

Deb Susan: I love to smile, so the honest answer here is “too numerous to mention,” but if I have to name just one: puns. Particularly bad puns – and more about that next Thursday. Some people don’t like puns, but I can’t help loving them The bigger the groan, the bigger my grin!