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Contest Alert: Red Adept Publishing

Check out this contest offering free prizes from Red Adept Publishing during the month of March: http://redadeptselect.com/  

Enter to win a $200 Amazon gift certificate and other great prizes from Red Adept Publishing and my fellow Red Adept Select authors.

Happy March!

Diana

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Family Board Games: A Holiday Hazard?

In case you’re thinking about board games to keep your extended family engaged,  this holiday season, let me share what can go wrong.

 

Christmas Monopoly

From morning routines to family customs, our lives are filled with rituals. I figured there was no time like the holidays to incorporate a new one into my repertoire. But trouble arrived when one of my four children suggested we add a Monopoly game to our holiday boredom prevention program.

My oldest son Ron and his wife Julie had driven into town to stay with us for a few days. Their visits, which typically last just about long enough to digest a meal, are always welcomed. However, this time they’d brought along with them the dog they endearingly called my “grandpuppy,” a wiry-haired, hyperactive mixed breed with a vision problem. To this dog, everything must look like a tennis ball—because nothing is deemed unworthy of a good chase. So as you might imagine, our two cats were nonplussed about this houseguest.  

After a food orgy that began at noon and continued well past the point of intestinal discomfort, I commenced pitching camp in front of the television. (I mean, let’s face it; there’s only so much eating you can do before every bathroom in the house is clogged.) It was time to yell, “Back away from the table, and put down your fork.”

But just as I lifted the TV remote controller, Ron blurted, “Don’t turn on the TV! Let’s all do something together. You know, like family bonding.”

First he says he’s staying for two days, and now he says, “Don’t turn on the television”? This can’t be my child.

“I know,” Ryan, my twelve-year-old, said. “Let’s play MONOPOLY!”

Ron’s face brightened. “Yeah. It’ll be our new family tradition,” he chimed.

Right then, I was glad I hadn’t followed through on selling that game in my last garage sale.

As we gathered around the family dining table with Parker Brothers, the dog and one cat joined us. Each gave the other a suspicious eye, though thus far they’d been fairly tolerant.

About twenty minutes into the game, Ron said, “Hey, Mom, I’ll give you these two blue ones for that railroad you’re holding.”

I didn’t really need what he’d offered me, but I said, “Sure,” anyway.

His eyes lit up as he snatched away my railroad card. “Suck-Er-Er-er-er!”

Okay.  This is my child.

I’d forgotten how long a game of Monopoly can last.

Ryan was the first to go bankrupt, so he moved into position to help me. Already, I’d given Ron his third of four railroads. What blunders were left?

If any family bonding was taking place, I hadn’t yet observed it. More like it was every man, woman, child, and dog for himself.

My arms vibrated from all the table shaking that Ron’s leg bouncing produced. His childhood tics had reemerged, the ones that had caused him to be sent home from school with report cards that said, “Refuses to sit still in class.” That was back in the days before Ritalin.

Next, it was my husband’s turn. He drew a Chance Card that condemned him to pay the last of his money to the remaining three players. “No-o-o!” he shouted, slamming his fist down onto the table.

The dog yelped. Then the cat, thinking she might be in jeopardy, attacked with a hiss and a few punches to the muzzle. Ryan fell out of his chair, laughing, and hurt his knee.

Julie, who was by now almost out of money, maintained a glum expression. So Ron looked lovingly into his wife’s eyes and asked, “Would you like me to give you five hundred dollars for that railroad, Hon—just to keep you in the game?”

She gazed back at him and smiled. “Would ya?”

“Of course. What are husbands for?” he gushed. Then he whisked the card from her hand and hollered, “All R-R-I-I-I-IGHT!”

 No one was surprised when eventually Ron won the game, and he was the only one who went to bed happy that night. My husband felt his position as “head-of-household” had been usurped. Julie had been deceived by her own spouse. The other children had been once again outdone by their older brother. And thanks to this entire ruckus, the dog and cat now had more trust issues than ever before.

That evening, I fell asleep and dreamed about traipsing cross-county to view exterior illumination like most normal families do.

This year, we’ll need to establish a new holiday ritual—because the most I got out of that Monopoly game was the two bucks it brought during last summer’s garage sale.

Excerpted from the book, Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road, by Diana Estill.

 

Available in paperback and Kindle format

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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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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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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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Don’t give ME the senior plate special!

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I can’t tell you exactly when it happened. Probably it occurred sometime between that first chin hair and my transition to stretch-fit jeans. But somewhere along the way I started to look my actual age, as opposed to behaving like it. This became painfully evident one Sunday morning while I was having breakfast at a place I now call “I-STOP,” as in “I stopped eating there.”

“What’ll you have,” a waitress asked me.

“I’d like the carb carcinogen combo,” I replied.

“And you, sir?” she said turning to my husband. With her pen she scrawled something on a notepad the size of an index card.

“I’ll have the monster meal, with the eggs scrambled,” he replied.

“Oh, doesn’t mine come with eggs, too?” I inquired. If so, I needed to let her know that I didn’t want a sunny runny embryo on my plate.

The server looked at me for a split second before she answered. “No. There aren’t any eggs on the Senior Plate.”

I froze momentarily and tried to rewind the audio. Did I just hear her say SENIOR? One glance at my spouse confirmed that I had. He now appeared to be searching for a safe escape route.

I checked my attire, but that helped explain nothing. Am I not wearing flare-leg jeans? Is this not a hip looking shirt? Aren’t my earrings dangly and sterling? What is wrong with this woman? Do I look like a blue haired, penny-saving, don’t-bring-me-none-of-that-boysenberry-syrup senior customer? And how come she didn’t ask hubby if he’d ordered the senior portion? 

I felt my face grow flush. Or maybe it was just another hot flash. Did I forget to apply my concealer this morning? Can she see my roots from where she’s standing? How would that be possible, given the lighting in here is one notch up from an appliance bulb?

“I didn’t order a senior meal,” I politely corrected.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Then, yes. How do you want your eggs?”

Briefly I considered saying, “On your face will be just fine.”

 

We didn’t talk about it while I sawed at my cold French toast and hubby chased congealing hashbrowns across his plate with a fork. It felt as though something tragic had just happened, something so fresh and raw that to speak of it would have been almost life-threatening, especially had the first comment come from my baby-faced partner’s lips.

We paid no further mind to the rude, undiplomatic and obviously sight-challenged waitress. Though I might have enjoyed it, it simply wouldn’t have been right to have made fun of someone who warranted her own telethon.

The drive home from the restaurant was exceptionally quiet. Minor chitchat dominated what little conversation took place. But when I entered the comforts of our suddenly geriatric looking home, I turned to my spouse and said, “Did you hear that waitress call me a senior? Am I really a senior now?”

My man bowed his head and stared at the floor tile before replying, “Yes.”

“I am?” I cried.

“I’m afraid so.”

“Gosh. I didn’t think we looked like seniors,” I said slowly succumbing to reality. “I mean, she didn’t even mention the senior meal to you.”

“I know! And I was hoping she would, too,” said my breakfast companion, “because I wanted the discount!” He thought for a second and then with a grin added, “You know, I got carded this week when I bought a bottle of wine.” He gave a conceited horselaugh.

If I’d had a walker, I’d have clobbered him with it.

I paced the room for a bit. And then I remembered something about space travel, which, on the surface, might not seem related to feeling old. However, given the way my mind works, this was relevant. “Well, Einstein had a theory about time and travel,” I said. “He believed that if people could just go fast enough—faster than the speed of light—they could stop or even reverse the aging process.”

Hubby furiously churned his feet and pumped his arms.

“What on earth are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m trying to go that fast!” he explained. Then he clutched his chest and gasped. “But I think I better go lie down.” He heaved a deep breath and sighed. “I wore myself out.”

I nodded. “Yeah, it’s not safe for seniors to overdo it.”

 

www.totallyskewed.com

Diana Estill is the author of Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life.

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Book Expo America: an inside look

P1011008 

Having spent the past three days at Book Expo America, in New York City, I am now home. Seated comfortably in a lounge chair in my backyard, near Dallas, TX, I consider the contrast in these two vastly different environments.

It is quiet here, with only the occasional hum from a distant passing automobile. Purple finches and cardinals serenade from the trees overhead. Trickling streams cascade over a rock waterfall. My cat roams, searching for any sign of invaders.

This is not New York. Not even its distant cousin.

This is the space I share with my husband, an oasis from outside concerns, a place where I find solitude when needed.  However, only a day ago, in New York City, the scene looked more like this:

 Inside the Marriott Marquis Hotel I am challenged to select, from a series of alphabetized doors, the correct elevator to carry me to street level. 

Outside, throngs of tourists and locals compete for pavement along with schools of taxis, snaking busses and viciously circling Lincoln Town Cars. Horns blare, despite posted signs that threaten to fine violators $350 per offense.

Pedestrians pay no mind to walk lights or each other. Once caught in the flow of traffic, individuals must keep moving or risk being pounded by those who surely will.

Inside the Javits Convention Center, the cars, busses and taxis are no longer a threat. But the foot traffic is equally, if not more, hazardous than it is outdoors.

In here, there are no traffic lights or unified patterns. Booksellers, publishers, authors, librarians, literary agents and others move about at every imaginable pace—and in no particular direction.

People dressed as storybook characters wander through the crowds. These whimsical figures mix incongruently with the bikini-clad women who’re offering free pina coladas.

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An extraterrestrial-looking costumed pair holds a sign advertising a book about alien abductions. I can’t help myself. I laugh at their gray masks.

There is something here for everyone, whether fans of Harper Collins, Harlequin, Hay House, or L. Ron Hubbard.

A super-sized inflated Clifford greets visitors to the main floor atrium where media members periodically collect to film a variety of authors.

Educational classes are underway on the lower level. Inside the ballrooms, sessions are filled to standing room only capacities. I attend a few sessions, climbing over floor squatters to reach whatever crannies haven’t yet been occupied.

Every hour or half hour, depending on a predetermined schedule, authors rotate in and out from behind 30 autograph tables. Between classes, I bounce from line to line to obtain signed books and have my picture taken with The View host Sherri Shepherd.P1011007

Predominately, the action takes place on the main level, around the Random House, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and other major publishers’ booths. In these areas, ARCs (advanced reading copies) are distributed to those who arrive early enough to grab them. Occasionally, an author such as James Patterson may make a brief appearance.

I spot sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, whom I had previously thought was dead. What can I say? Believe me, I’m not the only one who’s admitted this.

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 At the Ingram booth, a collection of gawkers (including myself) watches the new Espresso machine (billed as the “ATM for books”) print out an entire book, cover and all, within seconds.

By midday, my hands ache from hauling an ever-growing stash of books. My feet are throbbing from traversing the gargantuan facility, and I am tired of dodging those who are clearly more important to the book trade than I.

A stop for some much needed bottled water sets me back $3.75, but that’s just part of the carnival-like experience. In the old days, pre-recession, many of the publishers dispensed water and sodas for free. For the most part, those times have disappeared. I’m sure the food vendors aren’t disappointed.

My latest book has been nominated for an award. I try to appear happy when the winners’ names are announced, though mine is not among them. Oh, well, I tell myself, God must have something better for me. I force a smile and keep moving.

By the end of day two, I’ve scored a private meeting with an editor of a major publishing house, met a man I’ve been trying to contact for months (and nabbed his personal email address) and developed tons of new book marketing ideas. None of this, I realize, would have been possible from home, though by now I sorely miss the tranquility of Texas.

At night, in Time Square, I again meld with the undulating masses, snapping photos whenever safety permits. It seems as if I’m the only object here that’s not in perpetual motion.

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Suddenly I am struck by this revelation: I am but a single pixel in a mural of humanity.

That’s easy to forget, sometimes. Especially when I’m sitting quietly at home in my backyard.

 

 

 

 

 

Diana Estill is the author of Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life.

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