Taking back the Back Back

I saw this car ad a few days ago in a magazine that was showcasing the third row of seats in the back of their fancy, behemoth SUV. The tag line was something on the order of “The Bak Bak seat is cool”.

Okay. First of all, it’s the Back Back for Pete’s sake. And I’m not sure I have their spelling correct, but it doesn’t really matter because however they had it, it was wrong. And that was just the beginning of their wrongness.

The back back is NOT cool. And it is not a row of comfortable leather seating.  The back back sucks. It’s not meant for people, not officially, and it usually has no seats. (Exception: the wagons with the pop up seats that faced the on coming traffic behind you, aka, the vomit seats.) It’s the place where people shove groceries and tire jacks and picnic blankets too filled with prickers ever to make it back into the house. It’s usually got cheap carpet that leaves rug burns and it’s got detritus from years of living and neglect. There are no seat belts. You usually have to climb over the back row of seats to get there and no one chooses to sit there. You get stuck there because you are the youngest or smallest or someone hates you and likes watching you suffer.

The only thing cool about the back back is that if you survived it in your childhood, you are somehow a tougher human being. The sort than can handle driving backwards around curvy hills. That can handle unmentionable goo on your clothes. That has learned to flip off bad drivers in oncoming traffic that have the gall to look at you as you sit huddled miserably in the rear of the car and smile and wave at you. 

There is NOTHING cool about sitting in a comfy third row of seats in a brand new SUV, probably with cupholders and tv’s and your own climate control. Unless you’re a coddled wimp. Maybe that’s why even the ad people shied away from calling it the back back and came up with a fancy yuppie name for it. 

Wimps.

Odd What Strikes One as Hilarious


 Okay, so this particular issue of The New Yorker came in the mail a while back and for whatever reason I LOVE this cover. I can’t explain why it makes me giggle and why I want to have it on my wall. I want to go to the effort of buying a frame for it and sticking it up near my UNDERDEAD books. And the number of such things I currently have framed on my wall? Zero.

It sort of seems obvious why I would find it funny. Afterall, I write cozy mysteries with vampires and this is pretty much in the spirit of my novels. And yet, there’s a decent chance that if someone had given this to me I would have held it with two fingered distain. In fact, I would think that the very obviousness of this cartoon would make me bored by it. But, nope! My eyes keep going to the picture as I type this and I get a little rush of giggle each time.

Humor is an odd, odd thing! I think that’s why we feel so close to people who share our sense of humor. So tell me–what’s something you find funny and you can’t quite explain why?

Best pumpkin ever!

 

Here’s something to love about Facebook–you get to see a ton of funny images. Or things that inspire. Or awe.

 

Or that do all the above, like THIS:

How cool is that! If I understand the Facebook credits properly, the genius behind it is Craig Hurle and that link will take you to the Dr. Who page. (There may be others but do THEY have pumpkin Daleks? Are they awesome?)  Darn straight I “liked” the page! I will admit here that I, Liz Jasper, am a Dr. Who junkie. The new series, not the the older ones. My sister used to watch those paltry excuses for whodom when we were kids. Yes, she wore the striped scarf around like a dork (she’s my sister so, yeah, I’m calling her a dork). She had a big crush on the blond doctor. And probably the curly haired one with the big nose, too; she was that into it. I would take one look at the screen and roll my eyes and run out and shoot hoops. I was very, very condescending.  

And I still am. Hah! The new ones rule! Anyone with me? If not, Exterminate!

(Mis-) Naming your pet

We had this cat, Fuzzy. No, I did not name her. I would not have named her something so insipid, so…generic. In my family, we like to get a feel for the cat’s personality before naming him or her. (Unfortunately, this often leads to confusion, as the cat’s name tends to change over time as we get to know him or her better.)

Anyway, the point is. my cat’s personality was not the sort that goes with “Fuzzy”. “Fuzzy” belongs to a sweet cat. A nice cat. The sort that sits on your lap and purrs.

THIS cat was more the sort to sit on someone else’s lap and purr, just to stick it to you. And she’s not cute the way a name like Fuzzy would imply. Frankly, she was much, MUCH better looking than that. You know that euphemism about someone having a “good personality”? Well Fuzzy was the reverse. She had a terrible personality. We kept her because she was so darned good-looking. She was a ridiculously cute cat.

Eventually, after a few years of spurning, we got over her blinding cuteness, stopped calling her Fuzzy and started calling her by the name that went with her personality: That Little Turd.

But even that name didn’t last forever. As will happen, The Little Turd got old and her kidneys went on the blink. Which means I had to give her (foul tasting) meds twice a day and inject her with some stuff. As you might imagine, there was a lot of hiding under furniture and complaining. Often by me. We changed her name to Cranky Pants. That lasted about a minute, until we got caught in the death ray of her glare at being, once again, named something insipid. She became known from then on as Bitter Butt.

About that time I moved. I was good. I read all the books. I bought her treats and crooned at her. I bought two litter boxes so Bitter Butt could have her pick. And how did she respond? How did she show her gratitude?

Spite peeing. She never used the litter boxes unless it was as a place to stand while she went off the side. She hit the bathroom rugs, so you’d get a little damp surprise under your feet if you had to go in the middle of the night. She went inside closets. On luggage, towels, and electronics. She particularly enjoyed peeing on iPods. I don’t have an iPod. But she could sense it from two rooms away if a guest brought one in the house and was stupid enough to leave it unattended.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Oh that poor sweet dear kitty! So traumatized at illness and moving.” That just goes to show you’re a total sucker for a pretty face. “She was just expressing her feelings,” you insist.

Of course Bitter Butt was expressing her feelings! The feeling she was expressing most often was enjoyment in watching me me get down on my hands and knees and scrub up after her, coughing my way through thick vinegar clouds. I could tell because off in the distance, I could hear that rarest of all Fuzzy sounds: her purring. The little turd.

Anyone else gravely mis-named a pet?

Plotting by Magic Eight Ball

 

I don’t know why I’ve bothered to take all those classes, why I’ve wasted blood sweat and tears over my book plots…when I could simply have used a Magic Eight Ball.

“Yes!” it agrees.

Consider this passage beginning from a potential novel. “Esmeralda looked out her window and saw…”

Now, I could spend hours debating what she saw. I could dither over the wisdom of opening the novel with my heroine spying on something. I could fret over the sentence structure. And so on. You know, the usual writer’s angst.

OR

I could simply use the Magic Eight Ball.

Liz Jasper (to the Magic Eight Ball): Should Esmeralda see her hero?

Magic Eight Ball: Signs point to yes.

LIZ JASPER: Hmmm. I guess that means she should see him, but indirectly. Maybe he’s in costume?

Magic Eight Ball: Concentrate and ask again.

LIZ JASPER: Right, right. She sees him getting into his carriage on the way to a costume ball.

Magic Eight Ball: Reply hazy try again.

LIZ JASPER: They’re in the carriage together, on the way to a costume ball and he has on one of those mask thingies. AND, that when she realizes her guardian is the mystery man she kissed in the garden at the last costume ball!

Magic Eight Ball: Cannot predict now.

LIZ JASPER: And she knows he’s on his way to meet his fiancée, to whom he was promised at birth but has never seen, and Esmeralda knows she cannot let him marry someone else because she loves him! So she rings for her maid and dons the gown from that fateful night, the gown she swore never to wear again, and secretly follows him to the ball in the second best carriage!

Magic Eight Ball: My sources say no.

LIZ JASPER: Dammit! No, you’re right. It’s been done. Hmm. How about she goes with him to the ball and that’s when she realizes he’s the one?  Maybe when they’re dancing together?

Magic Eight Ball: Very doubtful.

LIZ JASPER:  You know, this is very annoying! Why can’t you like any of my ideas? I’m a published author, you know.  An award-winning published author. Fine, that was mysteries and the Esmeralda book is a historical romance, but still.  Authors need to stretch themselves. Who are you to say I can’t write a big thick romance?  Screw you.  She’s going to that darn dance, she’s going to follow him out of the garden, and she’s going to…to seduce that blind fool!

Magic Eight Ball: My sources say no.

LIZ JASPER: Fine. She’ll stumble and he’ll clutch her to him–just for the sake of keeping her from falling—and  then they’ll kiss. Ha HAH! Now that’s good stuff.

Magic Eight Ball: Outlook not so good.

LIZ JASPER: You’d probably like it if they didn’t even exchange a smoldering look!

Magic Eight Ball: Most likely.

LIZ JASPER: Maybe You think I should be working on the next Underdead book like I’m supposed to be!

Magic Eight Ball: “As I see it, yes”

As you can see, the Magic Eight Ball can save you hours of time wasting and even help you with time management! I’d let you borrow mine, but it’s having some technical difficulties right now. Maybe when the glue dries…

NOVEMBER NEWS

     Almost Turkey Day!

(Hey, I LIKE Thanksgiving. I’d do a countdown but I figure my time is better spent in the Thanksgiving spirit of looking up recipes of things I can slop gravy over. Mmmm. Gravy! No, I’m not sharing. Get your own gravy bowl!)

Award winning UNDERDEAD  and the sequel UNDERDEAD IN DENIAL are now available in eBook and trade paperback!

 

“Jo is terrific! An entertaining lighthearted romp!”~~Midwest Book Review 

“UNDERDEAD is certainly not your typical vampire story, it’s better!”~~ Two Lips Reviews

“Hilariously funny…a page-turner extraordinaire”~~MyShelf

“Fun to read murder mystery with vampires rivals TWILIGHT series”
~~ Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction

 

As a launch special, the eBook version of UNDERDEAD will be on sale for $0.99 for a limited time. To find links to both books in whatever format you prefer, click here.

WHERE TO FIND LIZ IN NOVEMBER: Pin Up Hair Emporium and Unique Boutique. Reading, book signing and wine and cheese and palm reading. You saw it right, palm reading. 6-8:30. 1560 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA

     

Take me now, Dirk Deedlehopper!

When asked why I write book series, I usually respond with something suitably ponderous and writer-ly about character development and plot arcs. And it’s true that I like the way one really gets to know and care about characters in a series. But writing a series has an important advantage no one really talks about:  you don’t have to come up with as many new names. 

I hate naming characters. I’m not kidding.  It’s really hard for me. Most of the names that pop in my head pop in because I know someone with that name.  And that causes all sorts of problems.

For instance, imagine you’re creating your hero. He’s tall, dark and handsome or buffed, blond and gorgeous or whatever. You imagine your heroine leaning in for that first kiss. She moans, “Oh, John!”

Hold on. (And not because that’s terrible writing.) John was the name of the guy who took you to homecoming your sophomore year of high school. He had fish breath and damp hands.  O-kaaay. Not John. You rewrite. Your heroine and hero are sharing a box of Junior Mints. He puts his arm around her. She leans toward him and whispers, “Oh, Rick!”

Backtrack, backtrack, ick, ick, ick.  You have and Uncle Richard, which is awfully close to “Rick.” And don’t forget about Ranger Rick Magazine which you read as a kid. How can you possibly write a romantic scene when you think “raccoon?” I mean, how much chest hair does the guy have? Eeew. Now in your head your tall, dark and handsome hero has got a serious back hair problem.

Okay.  Time to switch gears.  Let’s name the murder victim. Okay. The victim is a female librarian in her 50s.   How about Marge? You can’t think of anyone named Marge.  Except for Marge Simpson, but since your victim is too old and square to have dyed her hair blue and too young to have a nice blue rinse, chances are no one is going to think Marge Simpson. Fine.  Death to Marge! And then your mother reads the manuscript and you get this phone call:

Liz’s mom: “I can’t believe you killed off our next door neighbor.”

Liz: “What? What are you talking about?”

Liz’s mom: “Marge! Marge Wilkinson. How will I be able to look her in the face? Who’s going to watch our cat when we go to Florida?”

Liz: [awkward pause]”Her name’s Marge?”

Liz’s mom: “What did you think her name was?”

Liz (in her head): “Mrs. Wilkinson.”

Liz (aloud): “It’s okay, Mom. I can change her name to…” (Liz looks frantically around desk. Sees ad for Glendora Cleaners.) “Glendora.” Hah. Perfect.  Death to Glendora!

Liz’s mom: “Glendora? Tsk. That’s a ridiculous name for a librarian.“

So you can see how difficult coming up with names can be.  I think we should all be glad I haven’t resorted to Dirk Deedlehopper. But if I’m honest, it’s only because my best friend used to date a guy named Dirk and George Deedlehopper doesn’t quite have the same ring.

[Note: this was originally blogged elsewhere. I’m re-posting these here. See note below. Is this an endless string of notes destined to torture you? Perhaps. Why don’t you scroll down and see?]