Free book alert

You Can’t Change Crazy is currently available for free from Apple iTunes and iBooks and from Smashwords. Here are the links:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/you-cant-change-crazy/id465242449?mt=11
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/86759

Kindle: 99 Cents

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My Fiction Writing Method: Wandering for Words

My Fiction Writing Method: Wandering for Words

 

 

After reading what other authors have to say about their writing process, I’m ashamed to admit my bad habits. Some set word-count goals and force themselves to remain at their computers during specific times each day. But I follow an internal voice that tells me I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. It’s possible that I have authority issues, even with my own conscience. As evidenced by my current weight, self-discipline isn’t my strongpoint.

Nonetheless, while working on a chapter for my forthcoming novel, I decided to keep track of my writing methods. I likened this effort to maintaining a food journal (which, for me, might have been more beneficial). By looking back at my scrawled notes, I hoped to uncover both my good and bad writing practices.

Having ignored the urge to surf the Internet and check Facebook postings, I planted my butt in my work chair and got down to task. I needed to write another scene, a big one, to complete the final edits for my novel. No more procrastination. No more diversions. No more excuses.

Here’s a recap of what followed:

 

Nothing looks emptier than a blank page. To stop the agonizing pain, I type, “Chapter 8.”

I have no idea where I’m going with this story.

Pushing past my resistance, I crank out the opening sentence and pause for a self-congratulatory moment. Woo-hoo! Way to go, girl!

Before I know it, I’ve written several paragraphs.

But then the words float away into the ethers.

Waiting…

Waiting…

Still waiting for Divine Guidance to intervene.

I’m thirsty. I should get a drink. Maybe an idea will come to me somewhere between the office and kitchen.

At the fridge, the answer I’ve been waiting for arrives! I race back upstairs to my computer so I can write it down before I lose my train of thought.

Furiously, I churn out the next few sentences.

Once more, I’m stumped.

Waiting…

I rise from my chair and pace as I consider my next character move.

A car drives past my house, and I see it through my office window. Staring outside, I notice the front lawn looks parched. When is it EVER going to rain? Did I remember to reset the lawn sprinklers so the water police won’t fine me for watering on the wrong day? I should go check.

 

On my way back from the garage, I realize I have to pee. I’m inside the restroom, still concentrating on suitable character actions, when I glimpse the toilet paper holder. It’s nearly empty. I check the overhead cabinet. None in there.

Scenes continue playing out in my mind.

Didn’t I recently buy a jumbo pack of toilet paper? Maybe I stuck it in the pantry.

Finished with my business, I leave the throne and detour to the kitchen storage area. I have to restock the toilet paper. If I don’t, next time, I’ll be stranded.

I stand inside my walk-in pantry, lost, trying to recall what drove me there. Out of nowhere, I remember a word I couldn’t locate earlier. I repeat the word, over and over, hoping it won’t slip away before I write it down.

To my right, I spot not one, but three, multi-roll packs of toilet tissue. Omigod, am I becoming a hoarder?

Suddenly, I make a connection between hoarding and something in my storyline. That’s it! I know what should happen next! I trot back upstairs to my computer, holding two rolls of toilet paper.

At the keyboard, I realize I forgot to put away the tissue. However, I don’t dare return to the bathroom. I simply can’t afford to take that risk.

 

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It’s not Easy Being Indie

Often I read articles or blog posts about independent eBook authors who’re making it big, selling 100,000 or more eBooks in less than a year, receiving six-figure offers from major publishers, or landing movie deals. My spirits are lifted and hopes rekindled by such news. However, I quickly remind myself that for every one of these fortunate (and, no doubt, hard-working) authors who are hitting the Big Time, there are thousands of others who are refreshing their Kindle Data Publishing dashboards every few minutes and wondering why their sales numbers haven’t changed in days.

 Truth be told, I’ve spent most of my self-publishing time on neither end of that sales spectrum (though I admit to being a numbers checker). So I thought I’d offer a glimpse of what middle ground looks like. 

I’ve written three humor books and one short collection of, I’m almost (but not quite) ashamed to admit, bathroom humor essays. What began as a silly newspaper column grew into a full-time obsession when I wrote my first book, Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road. I didn’t set out to become a humorist. But I don’t need to tell you what happens to plans. Right? 

Initially, I didn’t fully appreciate my book market size and competition. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are a few statistics: According to Amazon’s category listing details, as of today, there are 18,223 humor books available on Kindle. In the past ninety days, 2,939 of those titles were added to the Kindle store.

 For my eBooks to simply maintain their rankings, I must constantly outsell the new titles coming on board. This means that every time Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, Ellen DeGeneres, or Jenny McCarthy releases a new book, my books lose whatever position and ranking they’ve previously built. I wish these famous folks would just be content with their awards, TV shows, and stage appearances. But, sadly (for me), they’re not.

 Flipping through the TV channels last night, I paused to catch a glimpse of an Oprah rerun. There sat Jenny McCarthy, looking all gorgeous and well-rehearsed as she discussed her latest release with the Queen of Book Marketing. I folded my arms and tried my best not to be a “hater” (or a “hate her”). Humorists like me don’t get invitations to promote our books on Oprah. We get asked to provide free speeches at ladies’ garden club luncheons.

 Oh, sure, I once garnered mild interest from a top-tier literary agent. But in the end, the woman said my “platform” wasn’t big enough. I wanted to say, “Oh, yeah? Well, my caboose is!” But I doubt that would have helped my case.

What the agent was telling me was this; I didn’t perform stand-up comedy, and I lacked my own radio and television show. My material was good, but without a blog like Snooky’s (Okay, her name wasn’t tossed out—but I got the drift.), this businesswoman feared I’d be a tough sell. Most likely, she was right.

 After that exciting but big miss, I forgot about agents and dared to publish my own work.

 Some suggest my paperback books have sold well, for an “unknown” author. Sales figures have been less than stellar, though, if you ask me. Nonetheless, in 2010, I decided to release Driving, my first book, in eBook format. With no previous formatting knowledge, I followed the Kindle and Smashwords publishing guidelines to make my book available through multiple outlets. I had no idea what to expect, but I figured I had nothing to lose . . . other than maybe a little despair.

 To my surprise and delight, readers found me!

 I’m not entirely sure how this happened. I did no advertising, other than on my own website (which was getting all of  three hits per day). The only people who seemed to be visiting my blog were ones offering to enhance male performance. My family (excluding my husband) and most of my friends paid zero attention to what I’d written and even less to how they might help me spread word of my books. 

It wasn’t until I received my first sales report from Smashwords that I realized Driving was selling overseas. Through Smashwords’ distribution arrangement with Apple, the book was selling in the U.K. and Canada! How were these audiences finding me? They weren’t visiting my website or blog, to be sure. I could see the number of visits posted on each site. Something else was leading readers to my work. But what?

 I wondered what might happen if I did a little advertising.

 Some research led me to Kindle Nation Daily, Daily Cheap Reads, The Frugal eReader, Red Adept Reviews, and Kindleboards.com, where I tested the waters with various sponsorship ads and banners. Over the next four months, I rotated my books’ exposures through these channels. Each ad produced a bump in sales, followed by a tapering off. But the lift was enough to get my books off the ground and into their Amazon categories’ top 100 lists.

One year after the eBook launch of Driving, this title is currently #167 in Amazon’s Kindle humor category. (That is among all 18,223 titles.) Today the book is sitting at #21 in Amazon’s Kindle humor essays listings and #8 in humor/parenting.  

Despite my book sales success, I have not sold 100,000 eBooks. Nobody has offered me a movie deal. Playboy hasn’t asked me to pose nude, either. (And if they do, the answer is “ARE YOU CRAZY?”) Oprah doesn’t, and likely never will, know that I exist. But thousands of readers do. And I am humbled and sufficiently awed by that knowledge.   

Personal success is measured not by how much of the journey remains ahead of us but rather by the distance we’ve already traveled. The stamina required for completing a book, the courage it takes to publish your own work, the faith that’s needed to believe what others don’t, and the fortitude necessary to stay the course are all accomplishments to celebrate. In between hitting the refresh button, of course.

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What’s Funny about IBS?

 

What’s Funny about IBS?

After years of shunning “potty humor,” I’ve written a book on crap. Well, okay, I didn’t actually write on crap—that would be disgusting—I wrote about the subject. Now I feel the need to explain why I changed my mind. Like any sane reasoning individual, I blame my family. 

You see, most of my clan suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), or as I call it, “Infinite Bouts of Shoo-Shoo.” Why do they call it “irritable,” anyway? Wouldn’t “dangerous” or “explosive”  be more accurate? But I’ve digressed. 

For years, my relatives have regaled each other with stories of diarrhea disasters. Each time one of my kin offered another hilarious tale about being doubled over in some remote location that lacked a toilet, I threatened to include his or her story in my next humor book.

 Over time, my imaginary manuscript gained a title. Soon my adult children were beginning their “uh-oh” reports with, “I’ve got another story for your Crap Chronicles book!” 

A few years passed before my son and husband began pressing me for action. “Quit threatening and DO IT,” my husband taunted. “If you think there’s no market for it, it’s sure to go viral.” 

I wondered if diarrhea could be all that funny. I mean, other than to junior high school students. Yet weren’t we all hee-hawing privately about these untimely attacks? Either my kinfolks were completely warped (a strong possibility), or I was shortchanging readers’ ability to identify with, and laugh at, someone who’d pooped his pants.

 To be truthful, I think I held back because I felt ashamed of my own, and maybe my spouse’s, mishaps. Why would I want to admit to the kinds of embarrassing behaviors these stories revealed?  Hadn’t I already exposed enough family craziness in my other humor books? Did I really need to discuss our bathroom habits too?   

After I considered this more carefully, I realized anything feared is great fodder for humor. When it comes to dreaded outcomes, losing bowel control in public ranks right up there with discovering your prior spouse made a secret sex tape.

 No one is too powerful or smart or refined or beautiful to suffer an intestinal revolt. No one. But plenty of folks are too insecure or ashamed to admit they’ve “shart” their shorts. Those who swear they’ve never come close to crapping their britches just haven’t lived long enough. We come in to this world needing diapers, and the majority of us leave the same way. 

Anyone who’s experienced the aftermath of going toe-to-toe with a “Hell Burger” or ever caught a case of “traveler’s trots” will surely agree that, given enough time and distance from the ensuing humiliation, there’s something therapeutic about sharing news of such events with a close friend or family member. In fact, doing so is the best way to get rid of any residual negative emotions. 

We can choose to be either embarrassed or tickled by our limitations, but not both at the same time. Shame and amusement simply cannot coexist. 

Confessing tummy turmoil is nothing to be ashamed of, anyway. It’s healthy to laugh at ourselves and to be reminded of our physical and human constraints. 

This is why I decided to write Crap Chronicles, an eBook that includes my seven best IBS stories. The title is available now for 99 cents in Kindle format. (Actually, you can get the title plus the stories for that price.) I don’t know how many people will buy the book, but at least I’ve finally found the courage to divulge what I swore I’d never write. Already, I’m feeling lighter! And, no, not from IBS.

So can IBS be funny? Perhaps that depends on who is the victim and what are the circumstances. But to my clan, we never tire of trying to “one up” each other with our tales of affliction. And I’m guessing that, when it comes to potty humor, we’re not chuckling alone. 

If you’d care to read an excerpt from Crap Chronicles: When IBS Strikes in all the Wrong Places, you can find one here

I’d love to hang around, but I have to run because I’m feeling a little rumble I can’t ignore . . .

   Crap Chronicles: When IBS Strikes in all the Wrong Places

   Available now from Amazon for Kindle: 99 cents!

www.thecrapchronicles.com

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Last-minute Tax Deductions

Last-Minute Tax Deductions

Every year, I search for tax deductions to lower my bill to Uncle Sam. So far, the best way I’ve found to escape paying federal income tax is to remain unemployed.

But if you were smarter than me and you actually earned something last year, it’s time to get creative. Don’t worry about being audited. If your computers are like mine, they’ll crash sometime within the next 24 months—and then you can just tell the IRS that you’re unable to locate your records. They won’t care. But you can tell them this anyway.

I didn’t earn anything last year, after I accounted for all my valid deductions. By the time I subtracted for my costs of paper, printing supplies, and decent-quality Merlot (You don’t think I can write this stuff without alcohol, do you?), I didn’t make a profit.

In fact, my auditor husband tallied my expenses just so he could prove that my financial contributions have been, to be overgenerous, nonexistent. According to him, if I stay on course and continue to work hard, by age 65, I might achieve a positive cash flow.

My spouse doesn’t understand why I purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of books every year. I try to explain that I need to compare my writing style to those who are making money. But he thinks I should spend more time at the library, despite the fact that our community doesn’t have one. And he can’t fathom why I need a Web presence when my own family members refuse to read my columns, which is exactly the point of why I need one.

Still, it would be nice to feel valued for what I produce—which is why I’m begging you to consider me for any last-minute tax write-offs you might need. I know you’re thinking that all charity deductions had to have been made before year end. But I’m perfectly okay with backdated checks.

I’ll also accept leftover holiday gift cards and unexpired free meal coupons. Please send your donations to the Save a Humorist Fund, a U4(c) my scam corporation, c/o Totally Skewed Productions, 555 Obscure Lane, Nowhere, TX, 77890. All contributions are fully tax objectionable.

Additionally, you may purchase my one of my books and claim it as a tax deduction—provided you can invent some business reason for owning it. *

* Consult your tax advisor before making any stupid decisions. Actual deductions may vary. Past audit evasions are not valid predictors of future detection. Not suitable for persons under age 12, individuals who are laugh-impaired, oxygen-deprived, or for those who are taking mood inhibitors. Do not read while driving, operating heavy machinery, or texting. Some thinking could be required. May cause sudden excitability, unexpected oral emissions, snorting, frequent howling, and abdominal cramps. Should any of these symptoms occur, stop reading and immediately notify your book club.

http://www.TotallySkewed.com

 Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road

Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life

Stilettos No More

 

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Book offers humorous advice for women over 40

My third humor book, Stilettos No More, is now available in paperback and eBook formats (Kindle, iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Smashwords). This title offers zany advice for women over 40. Here’s a short news release, followed by an excerpt:

Time to Hang Up the Stilettos?

Whether she’s warning women about the hazards of high heels or lamenting over the fashion persistence of thong panties, author Diana Estill milks humor from midlife. In her new book, Stilettos No More (Corncob Press), Estill lampoons shoes that cost more than tires and swears on her “thigh trimmer” she’s past the age to “walk on stilts.”

Fatigued by all the anti-aging rhetoric that pervades our current culture, Estill, 56, claims 50 isn’t the new 40 . . . “without the help of Botox, a plastic surgeon, or Photoshop.”

Instead of trying to look like a Desperate Housewife star, the author suggests women should learn to expect and accept some physical changes during midlife. It’s the feisty, funny side of 50 that Estill seeks to promote by sharing her own perspective as a reluctant “senior.” She’s not afraid to tell the truth about her tummy woes or unwanted toe hairs—or to caution younger gals of what awaits them.

Stilettos No More is Estill’s third book of humorous essays and is available now in paperback and eBook formats from Amazon and other booksellers.

Estill’s previous book, Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life (Corncob Press) was a humor category 2008 ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist and a 2010 International Book Awards Winner.

From the book, Stilettos No More:

The Big “M”

As much as I hate to beat up on doctors, the truth is, once a woman nears the “Big M,” she might as well not whine to a physician about anything during her annual checkup. No matter what her complaints might be, her doctor will likely dismiss them by telling her that she’s either entering or in the midst of menopause.

This is kind of like seeing a fortune teller who says your luck is about to change. Of course it is! Nothing remains static. So it’s pretty easy to be accurate when you’re being this vague.

It can easily take a decade to pass through “the change.” Therefore, being told that almost every minor health symptom (no matter how wardrobe threatening) during this time is somehow related to menopause is more than an annoyance. It’s a waste of your “health spending” dollars.

We interrupt this stream of consciousness writing to bring you the following important medical disclaimer:

I am in no way qualified to offer medical advice, so please consult your doctor if you’re looking for anything other than absurd health opinions. A physician may give you even more bizarre instruction, but at least those recommendations will be offered by a professional who is properly insured.

So, like I was saying, save your medical co-pays and buy a personal hair trimmer. You’re going to need it. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Despite the frustrations of being told so, much of what occurs during midlife is attributable to hormone fluctuations. And that includes the appearance of unwanted hair and the loss of one’s car keys.

First, it’ll be only a lone dark spike emerging from your chin. But then, overnight, this hair will grow faster than the US deficit. You won’t see it before bedtime and yet, by the next morning, this new arrival will be long enough to fashion into a pin curl.

The next thing you know, all sorts of fuzz and freak whiskers will erupt. And that’s when a good hairstylist can be your best friend. Just make sure she’s young enough to see well.

My hairdresser is a second pair of eyes scrutinizing my ever changing appearance. She was the first person to call my attention to the billy goat beard I’d sprouted under my chin—a necklace of platinum-colored fringe framing my drooping jowls. This hair was so light and fine that, without my reading glasses, I couldn’t see it.

In her diplomatic way, my stylist offered her best professional advice: “LET ME SHAVE THIS STUFF OFF!”

A few months later, when my hairdresser began fretting over something on my forehead, I feared the worst. Surely I wasn’t going to have to start using Botox too!

While cutting my bangs, she paused and stared at me. With one hand she scooped my hair straight back and peered more closely.

I waited to hear the dire news, whatever it was.

With an index finger and thumb, she plucked at something.

I felt a tug on my forehead.

“Omigod,” she exclaimed. “It’s attached!”

Glancing up, I saw her pulling on a single strand of white hair that must have been four inches long.
When she finally stopped laughing, she said, “Do you want me to remove it?”

Briefly I considered leaving the sprout intact and saving it as a conversation piece. Imagine all the laughs such an oddity might generate. If I left it alone, once my bangs were in place, only my hairdresser and I would know the straggler wasn’t part of my normal mane. But then I reconsidered and asked her to pluck the hormonally haywire hair. To whom would I have shown it, anyway? None of my friends see well enough to notice their own strays.

****

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Award-winning humor book now $2.99 on Kindle

I know how much Kindle owners (I’m one) appreciate a good read at a low price, so I’ve just made both my humor books available on Amazon for the low list price of $2.99.  But it gets better! Amazon is discounting Driving (not sure for how long) to $1.99!

Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road: Humorous Views on Love, Lust, & Lawn Care includes tales of misadventures in travel, home repairs, and everyday life.

 

Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life offers wacky wisdom and advice to help conquer life’s daily annoyances. Deedee (my alter ego) explains why women won’t read maps, Bubbas build the best burgers, and wise men should never use the B-word, “budget.”  A ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist.

These titles are available in paperback too.

Thank you for checking out my books!

Diana

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