Monday, 2 May 2016

Comedy and the Older Woman – How far can you go?

Today, I’m writing a serious blog.  (‘NO!  Don’t do it!  Don’t’ <sounds of heels screeching on floor as body dragged offstage>)

I write comedy.  I wrote stand-up, and had a regular column gig for many years.  My published crime books and most of my short stories are (hopefully) humorous.  My blog…well, that sometimes goes off the wall.

But I’m noticing that as I get older, the comedy seems to become more shocking.  Or rather, I am shocking people more.  They don’t know how to take it.  I see them gasp and act confused.  Did I really mean what I said just then?  Was it meant to be funny?

I don’t believe it’s because I’m writing a different level of material.  Nope. 

So why?  Why does my comedy seem to shock readers more than it did twenty years ago?

It’s not the readers.  It’s my age.

Writing comedy when you are thirty is ‘cute’.  I can’t tell you how many people told me that I ‘looked cute on stage’ as I innocently said some outrageous things that made people laugh. 

Saying outrageous things on stage when you are over 50 is not ‘cute’.  Women over 50 are never described as ‘cute’ (unless they are silly and feeble and quite old. Not to mention petite.)  Women over 50 cannot carry off ‘innocent’ (unless portraying someone very dumb.)  Women over 50 are expected to be dignified.

Phyllis Diller was a wonderful comic.  She did outrageous things on stage, and we laughed with her.  But she dressed like a crazy-woman and had us laughing AT her as well as with her.  Some women I know dislike the fact that Diller made herself ridiculous in front of an audience.  I don’t, because I know why she did it.

Forgive me while I pull a Pagliacci.  Yes, I still write comedy.  But I don’t do stand-up anymore.  I’ve found that women my age are not well received by crowds (especially liquored-up crowds). 

Women who are young and pretty can get away with murder.  Even better, they can get away with comedy.

BUT: A woman over 50 who makes fun of younger women is (often) seen as jealous.  A woman over 50 who makes fun of men is (often) viewed as bitter. A woman over 50 who makes fun of other women over 50 can get away with it, but the big audience isn’t there.

So my hat goes off to women like Rita Rudner, who do it still. I admire her so (and not just because she is slim and petite.)  I’ll stick to combining comedy and crime on the printed page.  At least that way, I won’t end up murdering my audience.

Postscript:  I pulled a tribute to Phyllis Diller, at the launch of my latest book, The Goddaughter Caper.  I wore an outrageous hat and a sign that said, "Return to the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home."  Everyone laughed and loved it.  I made myself look silly.  Which demonstrates that when a woman over 50 engages in self-deprecating humour, it is approved by audiences.  'Nuf said.

Friday, 29 April 2016

THE GODDAUGHTER CAPER Launch raises $400 for the Hamilton Literacy Council!

Many thanks to everyone who came out for the launch of The Goddaughter Caper last night in Ancaster! We had a blast. Ran out of cannoli.

Thanks to Joan O'Callaghan for the hearse and coffin cookies, and to Pam Pamela Blance for the dark chocolate truffles!
And a special thanks to Gareth Bond, Don Graves and Cathy Astolfo for the kind roasting of the author.
(Unfortunately, the McGodfather (Dave in kilt) forgot to bring the camera, so pix may be slow in coming.)
Congrats to the two winners of the Best Mob Costume (immediately below)

Sunday, 24 April 2016

THE GODDAUGHTER CAPER Launch Take 2! Barring hurricanes, tornadoes, this book WILL LAUNCH this Thursday!

Okay, the weather gods didn't like me much in March.  (Snow, ice, frogs, locusts, on the scheduled day of book launch.)

 Don't make me eat 50 cannoli by myself again!

Registration is only required if you want a cannoli.  Come Anyway.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Where have all the Readers gone? (in which our Bad Girl gets serious for a change...)

Read interesting stats today from Kobo.
Apparently, 75% of ebook readers are women.

(Back in the days when I first started teaching about writing, the early 90s, the stat was 60%. That is, 60% of readers were women .)

Back to the Kobo study:
Of that 75% of readers who are women, 77% are 45 and older.

The largest single group (30%) are 55-64 years old.  (I now fit in that age group. Curses.)

The reports states that the average prolific reader (that would be me) buys on average 16 print books a year and 60 ebooks.

For all you math types, that's a total of 76 books.

Back up to my college class two weeks ago.  I ran a quick poll.  "How many books do you read in a year?"  I asked.

The poll was confidential.  I ripped up pieces of paper and had them write down their total.  They dropped the anonymous slips on a table on the way out.

The results were shocking.  Let me state first that this is a college credit continuing education class, so we have students of all ages in it.  Crafting a Novel is at the top end of the Creative Writing Certificate - most people take it last, because it is rigorous.  (You have to write a full synopsis and many chapters of your novel by the end.)  So these aspiring novel writers would be avid readers, right?

Books Read in a Year:

Most number of books read:  26
Average number of books read:  7
Least number of books read:  1

Yes, in a writing class of 20, only one person reads 2 books a month.
And one fellow manages to read one book a year.  But he wants to write a novel.

By now, if you are a writer, you should be hitting your head against your desk.

So who is reading books out there?
Aged 55-64

And what are they reading?
General Fiction (whatever that is)
(But twice the number of romance books as the other two categories.)

I have 20 students in my Crafting a Novel class.
No one is writing romance.
No one is writing mystery.
Almost everyone is writing a Hunger Games clone.  (Not the exact title. You know what I mean.)

Stephen King said it best.  "If you want to be a writer, you have to do two things: read a lot and write a lot."

For established writers, reading is part of our professional development.  Every published novelist I know reads several books a month.  I read an average of two books a week.  That's over 100 books a year.  (One hour a night, people.  That's seven hours a week.  Not unreasonable.)

I weep.  I weep for the waste of time, effort and paper.  Can somebody please tell me why anyone would set out to write a novel when they don't read and read and read as a hobby?

Monday, 4 April 2016

Bad Girl's 'What Not To Wear' (and what's left)

I just emptied my closet of everything that doesn’t fit.  Hoo boy.  Have I been living in a dream world.  On the other hand, I can find all four remaining items quickly now.  (okay, six.)

Three sizes of clothes were in that closet. Three.  Sizes one and two (not their real names) were obviously made in China, where voluptuous is a concept rarely understood. 

Itemized list of remaining items:

1.      One sapphire blue chiffon evening gown, cut to there.  Yup, requires a special bra, one of those ‘plunge’ bras (and I don’t mean push up.)  I call this dress “my last hurrah.” See, my theory is, people are so mesmerized watching to see if the girls are going to fall out, that they don’t notice the rest of the bod.  (Don’t knock it – works for me.)

2.       One not horrible silk kimono tunic top.  Cost the earth (meaning more than 50 bucks.)  The current ‘go-to’ favourite for book signings.  (Now, the only choice for book signings.)  Also blue.  Seeing a trend here.

3.       One pair of boring black pants.  The ones with the adjustable waistline, and by that I mean a choice of two buttons.  (I tried elastic once.  Not on my A list.  I don’t contract well under pressure.  Remember those dolls little girls used to play with that were made to resemble a real baby? (Pee hole and all.) You squeezed them and…nuff said.)

4.       My funeral dress.  Black. Shapeless.  I was hoping it didn’t fit.  Wish it were blue.
5.       One navy and emerald green Nygard designer jacket that goes with nothing.  (Of course, there’s nothing left in the closet for it to go with.  I’ve just given it all away.)

6.      A blouse I hate.  But it fits.  (That’s why I hate it.)

It looks lonely in there.  Think I better empty the dresser drawers and hang up some sweaters.  And maybe a yoga pant or two.  Bras?  They hang them up in stores, don’t they?  Do cotton nightgowns count? 

Of course, clearing out a closet after nine years (the last time we moved) is a lot of work.  Some might say, it is more work than losing a few pounds to get back into some of these clothes.  (Okay, so I’m going to hell for that lie.  Humour me.)

But I have a theory about that.   Everybody knows if you want to get pregnant, forget about taking your temperature and all that crap; the quickest way to get pregnant it is to give away your maternity clothes.  So I figure…give away my thin clothes, and I’m BOUND to lose weight.

 Me, wearing my winter coat.  It's blue (big surprise).  And it still fits.  So it's going everywhere.  Thank gawd for air conditioning in summer.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

I HATE THAT (in which Terry Ambrose gives us a new look at schnitzel. Sort of.)

Okay, so I've corrupted his premise somewhat.  But what's a little corruption between friends?  Today I'm delighted to invite Terry Ambrose to the Bad Girl blog, and he rose to the challenge of wacky.  Who says you can't be literary and lunatic at the same time?  Take THAT <sic>
(over to Terry...who is also offering a free book!  Check it out below)  

I've learned to hate "that". Not as in, I hate something, but as in, "the word." It all started while I was working on an anthology of Hawaiian mysteries to benefit literacy. Our project editor made comments on my story and noted how much editors hated the word "that." Pfft. Big deal, right?

Shortly thereafter, my wife and in-house editor Kathy, began marking all instances when I used—the word. Jeez, I used it a lot. So, I put myself on a diet. No more—well, you know. There are times when we can't avoid saying it, but other times we're just using verbal shorthand to make life easier.

What's a writer to do? Sometimes, no amount of rewriting will do. So, what about a substitute? Do you remember the 1984 Saturday Night Live skit with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest as Willie and Frankie? They're talking about all those painful things they hate, but instead of his now-famous line, Willie says, "I hate it when schnitzel happens."

Somehow, I don't think the Willie and Frankie scene would have turned into quite the comedy icon it did with a word substitution. Yet, we writers continue to strive for new turns of a phrase. Depending upon their genre, some writers make substitutions to avoid cursing.

Let's conjure up a protagonist who is a reporter/amateur sleuth. Her last story turned into a political hot potato after she exposed the mayor's son as a Peeping Tom who dons women's underwear on his adventures. Our hero's job is on the line after the scandal her story caused. Enter her editor—who is renowned for his flaming expletives. He strides in with another story, throws down the assignment, and says, "You're gone if you schnitzel this one up!"

Yes, schnitzel is a useful word. Just not as helpful as the real deal. So, let's be clear. I am on a schnitzel diet, but still use the word when necessary. And you can take that to the bank. Sorry, everyone, I schnitzeled up.


Terry Ambrose is a San Diego writer of the Trouble in Paradise (McKenna Mystery) series, and the License to Lie thriller series. Terry has been nominated for multiple awards and won the 2014 San Diego Book Awards for Best Action/Thriller.
Terry’s novels receive consistent praise from readers for their complex characters and plots. Kirkus Reviews said Terry’s writing has “. . . the kind of snark that will remind readers of Elmore Leonard.”

A precious necklace…an arrogant stranger…an unsolvable murder…
McKenna and his PI-wannabe tenant, Chance Logan, investigate the death of a Honolulu troublemaker and discover dead men tell no lies, but the living certainly do. Can they crack a case with no clues, no evidence, and no witnesses?

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