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Why I Love (and write) Humor Books

Rose A. Valenta is a nationally syndicated humor columnist. Her irreverent columns have been published in Senior Wire, Associated Content, Courier Post Online, NPR, Newsday, USA TODAY, the WSJ Online, and many other local news and radio websites.

She is the author of Rosie’s Renegade Humor Blog. This is the blog for people who would be knowledgeable about current events and politics if only politicians and news anchors didn’t stretch the truth. “What else is there to do, but share an honest laugh?” Rose said.

Rose regularly attends the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, is a member of the Robert Benchley Society and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC).

Rose lived in Philadelphia for over 40 years, where she honed her humor writing skills by being married to a Philadelphia Policeman and giving birth to three children. “Times have changed. Now that we have 10 grandchildren, I’m not sure how I feel about children being exposed to the evening news. Humorous things happen, like the time my grandson asked us to come outside to see his version of ‘Frosty the Inappropriate Snowman’ right after Snowmageddon.”

Rose worked for a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill, Datapro Information Services, for 12 years as a technical staff writer, and also wrote freelance articles for other computer industry publications.

She claims that her Italian heritage stunted her growth. She is English on her Father’s side and believes that in a past life, during medieval times, she was probably a trusted member of the Counsel of the Jesters.

Her latest book is Sitting on Cold Porcelain which you can find out more about at her website at www.rosevalenta.com.

Why I Love (and write) Humor Books

by Rose A. Valenta

As long as I can remember, I have enjoyed reading and writing humor. I think everyone enjoys a good laugh and deservedly so.

Almost on a daily basis, we face all sorts of events that nibble away at our initial good mood. You wake up in the morning feeling pretty, maybe sing in the shower, remember something funny the kids did to make you smile last night – then it starts: rush hour traffic, road rage, unpleasant news reports, crowded coffee shops, and your daily routine on the job. If that isn’t enough, the company café has a lousy selection for lunch; so, you resort to eating a mundane salad; you find that you are overdrawn in your checking account by $30.00; and at 5:00 PM, it’s rush hour again. When you get home, the evening news is filled with doom and gloom and the kids need to be motivated to complete homework assignments.

You, my friend, need a good chuckle. Why? The weekend looms ahead and you already know what to expect. The kids are home from school and a fist fight will break out, your DIY project is waiting, and Murphy’s Law is always alive and well at your house – breeding offspring. Sometimes I believe the more free time we have on our hands, the harder Murphy’s reproductive system works. You have to turn the tables, or else!

In my case, I wait until the crisis is over and write satire about it on my bog, Rosie’s Renegade Humor Bloghttp://www.rosevalenta.com. You can also read humor books and blogs that address the conflicts you face, but with a funny twist.  If you do that often enough, you will actually lighten up and see things in a better perspective.

While my humor book, Sitting on Cold Porcelain, is designed to address myriad topics with a funny twist to entertain you, humor blogs have been underrated. There are hundreds of them that you can sneak read with your iPad or Kindle at work. Trust me; it will lighten your load.

Because of my humor writing, I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet some of the folks, who write humor blogs on the Internet. I have made friends with them on Facebook and have linked the best ones at the bottom of my blog page, so you can enjoy them also.

Just to name a few, we have a school teacher from Texas, Jody Worsham, who is retired and has adopted two children in recent years. She writes a blog called The Medicare Mom. You will love her mature witty take on motherhood. Marti Lawrence, a caregiver from Missouri, usually has to miss our bi-annual get-togethers at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (EBWW) in Dayton, OH; but we fill her in via e-mail. She is very entertaining and writes Enter the Laughter. Wanda Argersinger is a Director of the Lupus Support Network, she loves to write humor books on motivation and authors a blog called Lost in the Land of Confusion.  The Director of EBWW, Matt DeWald, writes My Five-Minute Commute. Our baby boomer dad, Jerry Zezima, is a very funny guy. He just released a book called Leave it to Boomer and his blog is linked on my page. If you are really feeling down, Dawn Weber’s blog Lighten Up is for you. Please check them all out. You will get more than a few chuckles.▪



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Book Excerpt: Family Plots by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh

Family Plots

Family Plots

Experts claim that the secret to a happy relationship isn’t sex, children, money or even love. It has much more to do with the power of self-deception—a belief that your spouse is wonderful, even when evidence starts pointing to the contrary. Of course, if you happen to learn that Mr. Wonderful is making extracurricular whoopee with a woman who is, say, thinner or more successful than you, you can’t pretend that your love life hasn’t just splattered in your face, like a bug on a windshield. But there are trickier, more elusive marriage malignancies—such as lies of omission, financial infidelity, or a dogged refusal to change anything, be it a behavior, an opinion, or even a zip code. These may be easier to ignore.

The story that follows involves marriage and money, death and deception.

There is also some messy business regarding an unresolved murder. It was the last decade of the twentieth century, when Big Brother wasn’t watching people so closely. I was a budding private investigator and young single mother in love with an attractive criminal attorney who, it turned out, was committing a few crimes of his own. Through much of our marriage, I managed to disregard my better instincts—even as I slid into a world of
pseudonyms, fake weddings, hidden bank accounts, and unexplained cash. It all made perfect sense to me at the time.

Looking back on the bizarre chain of events that changed the course of my life, I’ve concluded that there’s no blaming my husband for what happened.

He never forced me to lie or cheat or to commit ridiculous fiduciary crimes just to keep up with him. He certainly never asked me to stick my nose into the dark business of his past. Being immersed in this drama was like diving into an ice-cold lake—shocking and exciting at first, but then I became used to it. It never occurred to me that this could be dangerous—that hypothermia could lead to incoherent, irrational behavior.

But if happiness is the goal, perhaps denial is underrated. Especially so when you are trying to hang onto something you desperately desire. Though my former life is not one I would ever choose again, I’ll never regret how I let love pull me along the slippery path that eventually landed me a permanent place in this secretive family plot.

–Excerpt from Family Plots by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh.  You can visit Mary’s website at www.marypatrick.com or purchase her newest book, Family Plots, by visiting Amazon!

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Guest Blogger: Newsweek Editor & Pulitzer Prize Winner Jon Meacham

Jon_MeachamToday’s guest post is by Newsweek editor, Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.  Thank you for your post, Jon!

Guest Blog by Jon Meacham on Andrew Jackson and the Controversy Surrounding Him

The punch saved the day. On the afternoon March 4, 1829, Andrew Jackson’s supporters, thrilled that Old Hickory had ended the reign of the unpopular son of another president, joyfully swarmed the White House, destroying carpets and crockery before being lured out of the windows by strategically placed buckets of punch. “Here was the corpulent epicure grunting and sweating for breath,” reported the New York Spectator, “the dandy wishing he had no toes—the tight-laced Miss, fearing her person might receive some permanently deforming impulse—the miser hunting for his pocket-book—the courtier looking for his watch—and the offie-seeker in agony to reach the President.” Establishment Washington was horrified, and Jackson’s aides had to form a protective circle around the new president in order to get him back to safety at his hotel. It was mayhem; “the whole house,” said Margaret Bayard Smith, a longtime Washington observer, was “inundated by the rabble mob.” There was, though, another way of looking at the matter. Perhaps, just perhaps, after six presidents from the upper reaches of American life, democracy—Jacksonian democracy—was making its stand.

I wanted to write about Andrew Jackson not only because of what he once meant, but what he means even now. History is not a clinical undertaking. The past, as William Faulkner once wrote, is never dead; it isn’t even past. To understand Jackson is to understand ourselves—the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the hope and the tragedy.

American LionEvery president since Old Hickory has worked in the shadow of, and stood on the shoulders of, Jackson, a man who is at once ubiquitous yet unfamiliar in the first decade of the 21st century. Think this may be overstated? Look no farther than the 2008 presidential campaign, one in which both candidates evoked elements of Jackson’s character and persona. Barack Obama was a change candidate, the nominee of the party Jackson founded, who would come to Washington, as Jackson did, to clean house. John McCain was a noble warrior who bears the scars of combat, a hawkish politician with a notable temper who is also capable of great human warmth.

Soldier, brawler, duelist, lover and politician, Andrew Jackson was the first American president to be the target of assassination, and the only one to attack his assailant. Tough and wily, passionate and canny, Jackson created the modern presidency, rewriting the script of American life to give the people a larger voice in its affairs than the Founding Fathers—who preferred government by elites over mass democracy—envisioned. Before Jackson it was possible to think of America without taking the role of the people into account; after him such a thing was inconceivable. As Harry Truman once said, “He looked after the little guy who had no pull, and that’s what a president is supposed to do.”

The challenges he face resonate in our own age. He believed the financial sector of the American economy was spoiled, corrupt and bad for the overall health of the nation, and so he destroyed, at great length, great drama and great cost, the Bank of the United States. He wanted the country to be a respected force around the world, and so he was quick to send forces to confront pirates, and he engaged in an epic diplomatic battle against France when the Chamber of Deputies refused to pay money it owed the United States. He thought the American Union sacred, and so he threatened civil war to put down radicals in South Carolina who were considering moves that could lead to secession. He was convinced that church and state should remain separate, and so he resisted calls for the formation of a “Christian party in politics,” and was troubled by ministers who involved themselves in politics.

He was the first truly self-made man to become president. Jackson was, to put it kindly, no scholar. When Harvard University voted to give the seventh president an honorary degree in 1833, a Massachusetts newspaper wrote that he deserved “an A. S. S.” as well as an “L. L. D.” From afar, the man Jackson had defeated for the White House, John Quincy Adams, was horrified his alma mater was recognizing a man he thought a barbarian who could barely spell his own name.

What could he teach the next president? Here are five lessons that President McCain or President Obama might usefully heed from Old Hickory:

Talk to people outside the Washington bubble. There was no Beltway in Jackson’s time, but there was an insular capital culture that could create divisions between Washington and the rest of the country. The White House can be lonely, isolating and distorting: presidents only hear good news from subordinates and criticism from foes. Jackson understood this, and often received members of the public as well as old friends, and he traveled every year to the shore in Virginia and back to his farm, the Hermitage, in Nashville, staying at hotels and public houses along the way. This way he could hear what real people were saying and get a sense of what real people were feeling—a crucial element in the art of democratic leadership. He also kept up a stream of correspondence with people around the country. No president will ever get as much unvarnished advice as he needs—the urge to defer to the man in power softens even the strongest of advisers—but Jackson found ways to learn more than he would have if he had simply depended on his staff.

Position yourself as the voice of the many. Jackson was the first president to assert that he was “the direct representative of the American people,” and he created a dramatic narrative in which he was the champion of the masses fighting corrupt elites—and he decided who to call a corrupt elite. Whether his foes were South Carolina radicals, the aristocratic Bank of the United States, or France, he always claimed the moral high ground. It drove his enemies crazy, but emboldened and motivated his own supporters beyond measure.

Turn your vices into virtues. Jackson was, to say the least, a hot-tempered man. (He carried two bullets in his body from duels and gunfights over matters of honor, and threatened to hang his own vice president.) But he was wise enough to know how to make this possible disadvantage an advantage. Once, during a crisis over the future of the Bank of the United States, he frightened a group of callers who had come to ask for economic relief. They left, terrified that to cross the president was fatal, and thus they moved closer to his position. After they left, Jackson’s apparent fury evaporated instantly. “Didn’t I manage them well?” he smilingly asked an aide. It had all been for show—and he got his way.

Control the message. Irritated by the coverage he was receiving from the partisan papers of the day, Jackson did not just whine about the press: he did something about it, founding his own newspaper, the Washington Globe. Often dictating stories and mapping out political strategy with its editors, Jackson was able to present his case in an unfiltered way to a broad audience. (It would be as though McCain founded Fox News or Obama created NPR.)

Appear inflexible—while being flexible. Jackson was an implacable defender of the Union against early Southern moves that could have led to secession. With thundering proclamations, he threatened the radicals with military invasion—he said he would personally lead the troops into South Carolina—but behind the scenes he cautioned the Union forces against precipitating any bloodshed, and in Congress his administration quietly produced legislation that ultimately defused the crisis peaceably. Old Hickory had won again.

FDR once said that Jackson was always relevant because the battles he fought—for the people against the privileged, for democracy, and for Union—were battles that face every generation. They certainly face ours. Here’s hoping the spirit of Jackson will help us see the way forward.

Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek and author of American Lion and the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. He lives in New York City with his wife and children. You can visit his website at www.jonmeacham.com.

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Book Trivia: Interview with Internet Dating Expert Cherie Burbach

book-trivia3It’s time to play Book Trivia! Periodically, we scour the Internet for interesting authors who would like to play Book Trivia with us. By answering our book trivia questions, we get to learn things about the author no one else knows! So, let’s get ready…let’s play…Book Trivia!

Today our guest author is Cherie Burbach, author of the nonfiction book, Internet Dating is Not Like Ordering a Pizza.

cherie-burbachCherie Burbach is an author, blogger, poet, crocheter, and geek. She loves football and is obsessed with anything having to do with the Green Bay Packers.

Cherie used her experience with meeting her husband online to pen At the Coffee Shop, a humorous look at the world of Internet dating. Cherie went on over 60 coffee dates in just six months. She met lots of great people and one of those turned out to be the guy she would marry just one year later.

Cherie’s new book, Internet Dating is Not Like Ordering a Pizza, is available now.

She is the Dating Feature Writer for Suite101, staff writer for b5media, and also the author of three poetry books, including A New Dish and The Difference Now. Her latest, Father’s Eyes, has received the 2008 Editor’s Choice Award by Allbooks Review.

Readers have resonated with Cherie’s honest and inspirational “This I Believe” essay, which is the second-most popular out of over 40,000 entries on the NPR website. For more information, please visit Cherie’s website, www.cherieburbach.com.


Thank you for playing Book Trivia with us, Cherie! Here are your questions:

castaway1If Tom Hanks, in the movie Cast Away, unearthed a copy of Internet Dating is Not Like Ordering a Pizza, how would that help Tom find a way off the island?

Tom would probably have wished he would have brought a bible or GPS with him, instead! But if he did bring my book, he would be inspired by all the concrete examples on how to write a profile, email an online dating match, or end a coffee date. So much so that he would find a way off the island simply because he would so badly want to get back and meet someone special!


bs1Everyone knows rock star idol Britney Spears is always in trouble with everything you can think of. In what way could your book help her and set her life back on track?

Britney has had some bad luck in the “man” department. She hasn’t quite found the right guy for her yet. My book would show her how to present herself online and in real life so that people would take her seriously and see her for the sweet girl she is. She would get tips about moving on from the past and finding mature love that will give her the confidence to feel comfortable and secure.


american-idol-judges1You have a chance to appear on the hit talent show for authors, American Book Idol, with judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi determining whether your book will make it to Hollywood and become a big screenplay. What would impress them more – your book cover, an excerpt or your best review – and why?

Just like with the singers they audition, the judges know that a book truly is judged by the outside to start out with. They’d let me through to the next round because they would enjoy the cover. Then, they would read an excerpt and become wowed with the conversational style of writing and intelligent examples. They know this book would appeal to millions of people and would encourage America to make sure I was the next American Book Idol!


hulk-hogan1Hulk Hogan, the famous wrestler and star of his own reality show, has invited you and your book to appear on his show. One catch. You have to read a passage out of it to convince him you are star material. What part would you read?

I’d read the section on posting photos and looking your very best. It isn’t simply about putting up a good picture, there is a science to the pictures you post and they should help tell a bit about your personality. (Hulk would be impressed because he knows looking good is part of the battle.)


board-game1They’ve invented a board game using the theme of your book. What would the title of it be that would be different from your book and which retail store would they place it to make the most sales?

The title of a game on Internet dating would be “Mystery Date.” (Oh wait, they already did a game called that! haha!) They would have to sell it in pizza joints because you know Internet dating IS NOT like ordering a pizza!


tree1The Arbor Day Foundation has decided to pick one tree in your honor because of your writing brilliance. What kind of tree is it and why did they choose that tree in relation to your book?

They would plant an apple tree, because one tiny seed sprouts a tree filled with beautiful fruit and leaves that grows for many years to come. With Internet dating, the seed is the act of logging on to an Internet dating website with the desire to find someone special. The fruit, leaves, and branches are the love you find, the color it adds to your life, and the development of a new family.


barack-obama1President Barack Obama has become the author of several books and he has requested your presence at a special hush hush meeting to discuss ways to promote it. Through luck of the draw, you were chosen. What would be the first thing you would tell Barack?

I think President Obama would probably do just fine with book promotion! But if he needed a couple tips, I would tell him to hire the best possible marketing team he could so people who would most enjoy his book the most would be able to find it.


books91Finally, you just got word that your book has received the 2009 NY Times Bestselling Book Award and you have to attend the ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan. Anyone who’s anyone will be there and it’s your shot for stardom. On stage, you must give an acceptance speech. What would you say and who would you thank?

I would thank God for giving me strength and guidance and blessings beyond my wildest imagination. I would tell my husband that his love and support mean everything to me. And I would tell anyone who doesn’t believe that dreams really do come true!


Thank you for playing, Cherie! What a good sport…everyone go out and pick up a copy of her latest book, Internet Dating is Not Like Ordering a Pizza!


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