Thursday, May 8, 2008

The French love me and Jerry Lewis

Dr. Missy's Almanac

Upcoming holidays:

May 11: Throw a Hex Nut Wrench Through Your Neighbor's Window Day in Deland, Florida
May 15: Snicker at a Republican Day in Pittsburgh, Kansas
May 24: Follow Someone You Don't Know Until They Get Nervous and Call the Cops Day in Boston, Massachusetts
May 25: Refer to Your Best Friend as Albert Even If That's Not His Name Day in Lansing, Michigan
May 30: National Claim to Have Eaten a Deadly Black Mambo Viper Day in Madagascar

Great review for moi!

For some odd reason my big people novel has shown up at Amazon France. Not only that, it received a four-star review! Unfortunately, I don't read a lick of French but I did pick out a few phases, like
monde de la perversion, que chaotique, and beaucoup amusée. Hooray for me!

I think.

People always ask, why do you keep your book a secret? I don't, not really. In fact, this very blog sat around for a month with a picture of me wearing a Santa hat whilst reading my opus and declaring it to be the best book ever written, or some such thing. No one said a word.

In other news, I am seriously considering creating the world's first DMI, or Dead Mother Index. It would consist of examining whatever books come my way and then summarizing how the parental units fare in said books. Of course, you readers are welcome to make submissions as well! The more the merrier!

The DMI so far:

THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY: Absent father, missing mother
ENDYMION SPRING: Parents separated
BLACK BOOK OF SECRETS: Parents alive but creepy and homicidal
TUNNELS: Missing father, deranged mother
FLORA SEGUNDA: Deranged father
AIRBORN: Dead father
AIRMAN: Parents alive and reasonably normal
PURE DEAD FROZEN: Parents alive but odd in a cool way

You get the idea.

Bev Cooke tears the roof off the sucker!

Bev Cooke is the author of KEEPER OF THE LIGHT: SAINT MACRINATHE ELDER, GRANDMOTHER OF SAINTS from Conciliar Press, the newly released FERAL from Orca Books, and the forthcoming KEEPER OF THE LIGHT, also from Conciliar Press.

Dr. Missy: Looking at these titles, I would say they are about a
lighthouse keeper, a wolf, and a different lighthouse keeper. Am I right?

Bev Cooke: Close - very close! the third book is "Royal Monastic" about a snooty princess who has a secret identity as a nun and works as a spy for Interpol.

Seriously, Keeper of the Light is about St. Macrina the Elder, an early Christian saint who was exiled for 7 years into the wilderness (and she had about as much woodlore as a life-long New York City native who might be able to identify a squirrel in Central Park) then, once she returned to her city, became destitute when the Roman Empire took away all she owned. She was basically a street person for a few years, then when Christianity became legal, got all her belongings back.

Feral is about a cat who lives in the subway and the street kid who befriends her.

Royal Monastic is a biography of Princess Ileana of Romania - who was not your typical princess and her life was not what you'd call a typical life of royalty, unless of course, being exiled, broke and sick all your life is your idea of how royal people live.

DM: What moved you to write these particular books?

BC: This little guy sneaked into my office and held some kind of weird ray gun to my head and promised that if I didn't, he'd take me into his space ship and forcibly marry me to Elvis. I figured anything was better than that, and besides, I'm already married, so I wrote the books.

Seriously, the first two have to do with my faith - in the first, I was drawn to St. Macrina, not just because of what she suffered for her faith, but for the fact that she taught her grandsons about the faith. Her grandsons went on to become giants of the Christian religion - the work they did still affects us today, and monks and nuns still live under the rules St. Basil the Great wrote down for monastics. But without Macrina's teaching, they wouldn't have been able to take the steps they did to make the discoveries they made.

Royal Monastic was suggested to me by my publisher - and the more I learned about Ileana and what she went through in her life, the more impressed I was by her - her courage, her good humour, her ability to get up and keep going when things knocked her down.

Feral is about belonging and acceptance and what you'll do to belong. Since I spent a lot of my younger years feeling very much an outsider, the book was an exploration of that. And a lot of kids spend a lot of time feeling like they're outside - I think because they're not really kids anymore, but they're not adults either, and so they don't quite fit into either 'box.' And I like cats a lot - so it was easy to write about a cat.

DM: Which of the following words describes you best?
A. Gangsta rapper
B. International weapons dealer
C. Zookeeper
D. Mixed martial arts fighter
E. Washed up soap opera actress

BC: Oh, you know, I'd love to be a combination of a gansta rapper, a zookeeper and and mixed artial arts fighter, but I'm probably more like the washed up soap opera actress.

DM: Tell us about your favorite book. Or not. It's not like I have any power over you or anything but if you don't tell us about it, I will probably do something awful to you. I hate to be that way, you know? Being an interviewer is hard, so very hard. I didn't sleep at all last night, knowing I would have to write these questions. I thrashed around in bed, bathed in a cold sweat, and occasionally I would cry softly to myself. It's a far greater burden than anyone should have to bear. It's not like I'm asking for pity, you understand. It's just that it's so bloody stressful trying to get people to answer simple questions! Tell us about your favorite book! Is that so hard? No! I don't think so! Just do it already!

BC: Oh, Dr. Missy, it's too bad you stayed up all night - you missed the greatest dreams in the world. But do I feel sorry for you? Mwhahahahahahahaha no! Because that meant *I* got them all. And I'm keeping them and not sharing - not at all! Mine, all mine, I tell you! I have all the best dreams in the entire world and nobody else can have them!


My favourite books: it's more like my favourite authors. Once I find a book I like, I search out other books by the same writer. Beth Goobie, Carrie Mac, Tim Wynne Jones, Kenneth Oppel, and Arthur Slade are about my favourite Canadian YA authors. Chris Crutcher, Dotti Enderle, Diana Wynne Jones, Arthur Ransome, and CS Lewis are some of my favourite US & British YA authors. Adult writers: Terry Pratchett, Peter Straub, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Stephen Brust, Barry Hughheart, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey. Anything by any of them.

DM: Have you done any book signings? How did that go? If you haven't done any book signings, tell us about latex catsuits or whatever.

BC: I've done two book signings. One was nice and quiet and straightforward - they gave me books, I signed them. Unfortunately, at that one, I met a fan who then showed up at the next one, and between the weird guy in the brown leather bear suit, my reclusive next door neighbour who only comes out when the moon is full and howls at it, the stranger who was only in the bookstore to buy the latest around the world cookbook and myself, we managed to overpower him and wrestle him to the ground before he was able to do more than torch the travel section of the bookstore. But frankly, if it hadn't been for the gold miner from the north part of the island, who drove everyone away with his smell, I'm not sure we'd have succeeded.

DM: What's the best part of writing for children?

BC: Being a kid in my head - I don't think I ever really grew up and this way I get to be a kid all the time, without having to spend time in my local institution and take lots of medication.

DM: Who was the better Catwoman, Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, or Lee Meriwether? Discuss.

BC: Julie Newmar - she originated the role and that black shiny plastic just works.

DM: What words of advice do you have for the beginning children's writer?

BC: Stick with it, read everything you can lay your hands on, write constantly, and write what you love and moves you.

DM: Dead mother books: Cliche or not?

BC: Cliche unless the mother is a zombie (but zombies are kinda cliche too), or the entire book is about dead people.

DM: What's the weirdest thing in your office or writing space?

BC: My four foot high stuffed raccoon, who doubles as my social secretary.

DM: What's next for Bev Cooke? And by that, I mean a writing project and not what you usually do next, which I can't mention on a family blog.

BC: Mwhahahahahahahahaha! I can't tell you anyway, it's top secret, but I will say that involves latex cat suits, international spies and a gold mine in the north part of the Island.

Seriously - I'm working on three projects - one is about a bioengineered troll who likes music and hair ribbons, one is a story told from the point of view of an insane teenager (I mean more insane than they usually are, and in different ways. Teen insanity is usually pretty cool, but this won't be), and a collaboration with a friend about a Fool for Christ.

DM: Ask yourself a question. Go on, do it. Don't make me angry.

BC: What are you going to do when you get to the gold mine?

(None of your business, you nosy parker, Bev.!)

Email of the day

Dear Dr. Missy,

What's the deal with you anyway?

Susan (but not the one you know)

Dear Susan,

What's the deal with me, you ask? I'll tell you. We swim in deep and treacherous waters, my friend, where behind every corner lurks one of those giant squid things with nasty suckers. Yes, we must face the fact that the driveway of freedom is cracked and in need of repair and the seven-point inspection plan of courage often omits step five. Why is it that we can rip a CD but we can't rip our hearts out to show our compassion? Why is the money-back guarantee of intelligence often sent in too late to receive a manufacturer's refund?

Now is the time to step back and ponder how we can return to a time when the hair of wisdom gleamed with protein conditioners, when the six-pack abs of caring were ripped and well-defined. But that's not enough! We must stop buying things where the little plastic bits are going to break off after a week's use, just as our souls have broken off and lie strewn in the leaf proof gutter of despair. I think you know what I mean.

Dr. Missy

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ruth McNally Barshaw and Rampaging Pitbulls

I've been flat on my back for the past ten days, fighting the Virus from the Depths of Hell Itself. Still it holds me in its grip, but I managed to sit up in bed long enough to update this blog. At least I think I'm updating the blog. This could be another hallucination brought on by the fever. I'm told the other day I ran through the house shouting that I was the former Belgian longjumping champion Nils LaFontaine. It was only when I stood on the dining room table to receive my gold medal that the Resident Brit and a couple of neighbors managed to tackle me and haul me back to bed. I am now relatively certain I'm not Nils LaFontaine but as they say, only a fool is completely sure of anything.

Ruth McNally Barshaw: the explosive interview!

After the raging success of my interview with Susan Vaught, I decided to try again. This time, the lovely and talented Ruth McNally Barshaw was kind enough to answer my questions and I didn't even have to threaten her much. Without further ado, here it is:

Dr. Missy: Your first book is ELLIE McDOODLE: HAVE PEN, WILL TRAVEL from Bloomsbury USA, which received Two Thumbs Up and a Hoohah from Dr. Missy. Your forthcoming book is ELLIE McDOODLE: NEW KID IN SCHOOL, also from Bloomsbury. Who the heck is Ellie McDoodle? Are you Ellie McDoodle?

Ruth Barshaw: Nooo. She's more brave than I ever was. When I was a kid, mostly
I was embarrassed to be alive. Still, we do share many of the same afflictions and idiosyncrasies. The Ellie books have a lot of little truth-becomes-art moments in them. Like where Ben-Ben is eating Ellie's favorite cereal, with his toes, right out of the box. In real life it was my daughter, Katie (who Ben-Ben is based on, incidentally). Editors think I'm wildly imaginative, but really I just lead a twisted life.

DM: England. 1942. The Second World War at its height. Bombs falling in
London. U-Boats on the prowl in the English Channel. Spies everywhere. Food, gas, and clothing rationed. Many people sleep in tube stations because they no longer feel safe on the surface. Instead of writing about that, you created a story about a girl who goes on a camping trip. Were you inspired by wartime England or was it something else?

RB: Actually it was the Korean War. My dad was a Major and enlisted in the
National Guard when he got back home. Every summer he'd spend two weeks at National Guard camp in northern Michigan. Because he and my mom had 7 kids and it'd be insane to leave her alone with us for two long weeks every year, we went with him and camped at the state park nearby. The Ellie story came from those annual trips. So did my affinity for raccoons, packing things efficiently, and campfire smell.

DM: Tell us about Fing Fang Fooey.

RB: It's a variation on Rock, Paper, Scissors, and it's used to count out who is "it" for a game of, say, Sardines, Ghost in the Graveyard, or Cereal Tag. Everyone stands in a circle with their fists in the center. Together they all chant at the same time, pumping their fists, "Fing, Fang, Fooey!" and on "Fooey!" they all thrust one, two or three fingers into the circle. Add up all the fingers, start counting from the youngest person in the circle, and the person you land on is "it." This is all carefully documented in the first Ellie McDoodle book.

DM: Kirkus describes ELLIE McDOODLE as "Part journal, part graphic novel"
which is also the case with such recent books as DIARY OF A WIMPY KID and THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET. Are we seeing the emergence of a new genre in children's books?

RB: I hope so. I'd throw AMELIA'S SIXTH GRADE JOURNAL in there too.
I'm thrilled to be in such good company with these nonstandard graphic novels. It's fascinating that all these books/series came about at roughly the same time. Each alone might have been merely a footnote. Together, and with HUGO CABRET taking the Caldecott this year (Yay!), each gains street cred. Maybe we're a mini-trend -- we need a name. And a spokesmodel.

DM: How did you come to the attention of your agent? And why does she want
to be known as Eddie "Carwash" LaRue?

RB: It was all very mysterious. One of her spies told her about my SCBWI
NYC conference sketchbook on my website (, and the ensuing discussion on some of the writer groups about whether that style would work for kids' books. Carwash approached me. As luck would have it, she liked the work-in-progress, Ellie McDoodle, and it sold. A year later I finally found out who my benefactor was: Susan Vaught, the wonderful and illustrious author of Big Fat Manifesto, Trigger, and Stormwitch, among others. I'm forever in her debt, because Carwash changed my life.

Why the name? To remind her to sell, sell, sell, so she never has to
go back to her previous job.

DM: I'm not going to ask what tree you would be because the last author
actually answered the question. Instead, I ask this: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose? And don’t say invisibility. Everybody wants that one but it’s really lame. Think about those Frantic Four people. There’s Flame Guy who shouts “Fire Ahoy!” and he catches on fire and flies around, and the Mr. Stretchy, who can stretch (duh), and Rocky, who’s made out of rocks or bricks or something and he’s real strong. Then there’s Invisibility Gal, who just stands around being invisible. Big deal. I'll bet she goes around peeping in windows at night or something creepy like that. So choose something else!

RB: Well, if I could be a tree, I would be back in first grade where I was a
tree in the class play. It was humiliating, especially getting my photo in the newspaper next to the stars of the show. I wouldn't want invisibility, actually. I've already had that, being born into a large family. My fifth-grade daughter told her teacher last week the thing she craved most was a voice -- she wanted to be an agent of change in the world, but felt if the class bullies wouldn't even listen to her, then how could she make the world listen, and stop the wars, and repair the earth? The teacher thought this was rather profound, as do I. What I crave is the superpower to preserve that idealism in all our youth. She's my youngest, and while I love seeing her grow into a thoughtful, helpful member of society, and maybe even a good leader, I'm scared about the changes that I know are coming soon. I wish all 10-year-olds could keep that enthusiasm for learning, the sense of wonder, strength and empowerment that so many of them have, and that too many people lose over time. That'd be a collective superpower, and we'd all be better for it.

DM: I went into a Barnes & Noble last week and tried to buy ATTACK OF THE
FROZEN WOODCHUCKS by Dan Elish but they didn't have it. In fact, the information desk guy sneered at me, like the book I wanted wasn't worth his attention. I'll tell you what, he was a nasty specimen. Later on, when we went into the cafe to get some Starbucks, the manager came in and started fooling with the cash register and managed to break it. "Nice job, Sherlock," I said after ten minutes of waiting, and he sneered at me some more while he failed to fix the register. In the end, we had to take our coffee and books to the front register, which he hadn't managed to break yet. The next time you go to a bookstore, what will you buy? I hope they have it.

RB: Wow, I'm surprised B&N didn't have Elish's book. You can get it on
Amazon starting at $9.66 for used and new (I admit I was shocked to discover the book actually does exist). I went to a bookstore tonight, for an author event, and bought: A tote bag with waves screenprinted on it. (I plan to add a fish; my mother's maiden name is Codd, and we do all sorts of fishy events with kitschy fishy memorabilia. Maybe I'll bring it to the next wedding) - A cow keychain that poops cola-flavored candies. - A mini Uglydoll keychain: Ice-Bat. Hmm, apparently I collect keychains. - THE DISORGANIZED MIND by Nancy A Ratey. About coaching ADD-addled brains like mine--I hope I manage to read the whole thing. :x - FUN DOLLS by Aranzi Aronzo, basically how to make cute, Japanese stuffed animals.

I got paid for some author visits this month and went on a book-buying binge that lasted two weeks. Some new favorites: Boni Ashburn's HUSH LITTLE DRAGON and Kelly DiPucchio's GRACE FOR PRESIDENT. If I buy something the next time I'm in a bookstore (critique group meeting next Saturday) it'll likely be a sandwich and a sketchbook.

DM: Dead mother books: cliche or not? Explain yourself.

RB: Sooo old and cliche. Disney started it with Snow White in 1939,
and nearly every Disney mother since is dead. Haven't we had enough of this sorry trend? Though I admit I may write a dead father book eventually. My dad died when I was 12 and it nags at me. I think dead mothers exist in novels to give characters desperation, loneliness and independence. Maybe there are other ways to achieve that.

DM: What inspires you to write? Do you listen to music, do you sit under a
shady tree, or do you stand in the middle of your writing room and scream for an hour as I do?

RB: :::laughing::: I'm sorry, that's such a disturbing visual (so unlike you). Deadlines inspire me. Paying the mortgage inspires me. The rising cost of travel inspires me. I do listen to the radio, often classical music in the daytime, NPR news in the evening. Or I listen to the small selection of MP3s on my computer, over and over and over. I'm a rut sort of person. Last year and the year before, while doing book revisions, I watched all available seasons of The Office, over and over and over, laughing my fool head off. It was glorious.

DM: What is next for Ruth Barshaw?
My studio's a mess. My adorable dog is elderly. Our dishwasher is broken. Two of my kids got engaged recently, one's pregnant. Most of our family birthdays are in April and May. I am reading two great books on illustration and transcribing harmonica songs in musical notation. My picturebook is almost ready to submit to Carwash, and I have a few new ideas for the next Ellie. March is Reading Month turned into March is Visiting Author Month. I've been running sporadically and want to make it regular. I need a haircut before I start hacking away at it myself. I want to make some Ellie dolls. Life looks to continue as it has been: Tumultuous.

DM: Ask yourself a question. Go ahead, it won't hurt.

RB: Were you ever given an upside-down spanking?
Why, yes, in third grade, for talking too much, and at the time I was, regrettably, wearing a dress. Why do you ask?

Thanks so much, Dr. Missy. I appreciate your patience. You, Susan
Vaught, Carwash and Mr. Bushida are my heroes.

Email of the day

Dear Dr. Missy,

My first book is coming soon and I want to do as many book signings as possible. Since my book is about pets, do you think I should bring my dog to the signings? His name is Rupert and he's a really cute poodle who just loves people.

Pet Lady

Dear Pet Lady,

I also have a dog. His name is Scooter and he is 95 pounds of Staffordshire bull terrier. We "liberated" Scooter when he was a puppy from one of those Michael Vick places that train dogs to fight. Contrary to popular belief, bull terriers are not naturally violent. What makes them popular as fighters is that they are very powerful and possess approximately 3,000 huge teeth.

The biggest problem with having a bull terrier is that Scooter developed the idea that he could best show affection by gnawing on us--whatever arm, foot, hand, breast, nose or other extremity he can reach is equally satisfactory. He is particularly fond of toes, perhaps because they have an interesting flavor or maybe they're just the easiest target, what with toes being at floor level most of the time. When Scooter still possessed his razor-sharp puppy teeth, the entire family went around with scabby toes. It looked like we shared a particularly disgusting foot disease.

Another thing about bull terriers is they like to shop. Scooter becomes positively giddy when we take him to Petsmart or Petco. We have to go up and down every aisle to make sure we don't miss anything, with plenty of stops to sniff especially interesting items. We finish at the hamster cages, where Scooter sticks his nose against the glass and causes the hamsters to suffer panic attacks.

One time Scooter decided he wanted to shop at Best Buy. He ran inside before we could stop him and proceeded to start a small riot. "There's a pitbull in the store!" a woman screamed, and people started running around aimlessly while Scooter patrolled the aisles. The security guy hopped in place near the front door, waving his arms and shouting about keeping calm while my son stood in front of him yelling "Don't shoot my dog!" I guess my son thought the security guy was packing heat.

Anyway, my son finally corralled Scooter near the cell phone area and brought him back to the car, where he found the Resident Brit and I sprawled in our seats, helpless with laughter. I am laughing now, just thinking about it.

Hmm. Looks like I didn't address your question about taking your dog to a book signing. That's a shame.

Dr. Missy

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Children's author reveals all!

A Quicky with Susan Vaught

Susan is the author of several nifty children's books, including Trigger, Fat Tuesday, Stormwitch, L.O.S.T. and Shadowqueen. In her spare time, Susan is a neuropsychologist and recently began sending me emails insisting she was a superhero named Insulation Plaster Woman. (Don't ask, because I don't know, okay? Sometimes it's better just go along with these things.)

I recently disguised myself as a foreign book reviewer named William "Big Bill" Schoonover and tricked Susan into conducting the following interview:

Q. Your newest book from Bloomsbury just came out. It's called The Communist Manifesto. No wait, that's Karl Marx or somebody. It's called Fat Girl and the Goblet of Fire. No, not that either. Junie B. Jones and the Manifesto of Doom? The Stinky Cheese Girl? Heck, I can't remember. What is the danged title?


Though in our endless struggle to find a title (never mind the cover), we might have cycled through all those options. Trust me.

Q. What's the book about? Does it have any wizards or unicorns in it? I'm getting pretty tired of wizards and unicorns myself.

A. Big Fat Manifesto is about Jamie Carcaterra, a fat girl trying to survive and fighting for her right to be herself in a thin, thin world. No wizards or unicorns. Sorry for the oversight. I should have at least added a dragon? A fire-spitting lizard? I'm remiss...

Q. Why did you choose to write this story? Or did it choose you?

A. This story definitely chose me. The character of Jamie popped into my head while I was trying to write something else, and *would not shut up* until I wrote her story instead. She's pushy.

Q. According to Amazon, Big Fat Manifesto features "searing prose." What the heck is that?

A. I have absolutely no idea, but it sounds hot, doesn't it?

Q. Why did you choose to write for children?

A. This sort of chose me, too. My natural "voice" seems to emerge when I write a teen character. Perhaps my inner child doesn't want to get a real job and move out on its own

Q. Barbara Walters always asks people what kind of tree they would be if they were a tree. Would you like to answer that question? I hope not.

A. A Willow! No, wait, a dogwood. I would never want to be a Genko, though. Too stinky, if fertilized. The "fruit" smells a lot like rotten dog vomit.

Q. What is your favorite book? Are you sure?

A. All time favorite: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Yep, positive. Current favorite: Who the heck knows. I'm reading Duma Key, though. You know something about Duma Key and that crazy writer fellow who produced it, right? Fellah named Stephen King--?

Q. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what artists? I can't do it because it's too distracting but I heard that Stephen King guy likes to blast death metal or some such thing while he writes. Maybe that's why his books are so creepy.

A. I listen to music. I have 10 days of music stored on my computer. I couldn't begin to list all the songs. There are thousands of them. I can tell you that my family has applied for government intervention and relief because I will play the same song over and over during particular scene constructions. For days.

Q. What's next on your agenda? I don't mean something like "In an hour I'm going home to have dinner and scratch myself and watch season three of Charles In Charge." I mean, what's next on your writing agenda?

A. For young adult stuff, the book EXPOSED is next. Howzzat for a title? Charles In Charge-- jeez, I barely remember that show, but you have irrevocably and horribly reminded me of it now. Thank you so much.

Q. Dead mother books: cliche or not?


Though I am preparing to write the dead mother story to *end all dead mother stories*, forever and ever amen because no one will be able to outdo this one. I shall dedicate it to you.

Q. Who is your favorite author?

A. Currently? Philip Pullman--though figuring out where to put the "l"'s in his name makes my brain collapse.

Q. There are rumors that you live in a fortified compound in the Smokey Mountains, where you keep herds of peacocks, sheep, cats, and lemurs. Also, there are rumors that you also keep a lot of henchmen with metal teeth around, and you make them all dress in orange jumpsuits. The whole thing sounds really creepy. How do you respond to these rumors?

A. I know nothing about any lemurs. Or sheep. And you forgot turkeys, guineas, pigeons, chickens, and a parrot who knows how to fart, bark, and meow.

Q. Ask yourself a question. Any question.

A. Why do I let my son make me watch Dr. Phil? Answer: I hope my new parrot will learn to say ARE YOU KIDDING ME? in Dr. Phil's voice and drive the entire family insane.

As a reward for being this week's interviewee, Susan will receive a case of Simoniz car wax. Simoniz sprays on clear, dries clear and gives your car a sleek-looking shine in just minutes! That's Simoniz!

Frozen Dead Guy Days are here again!

Bredo Morstoel is still dead and still frozen. He died in 1989 and ended up being stored in a Tuff Shed in Nederland, Colorado. The people of Nederland celebrate this with the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days, which this year includes an Afterlife Auction, live music by Cutie and the Beast, a screening of the international award winning documentary, "Grandpa's Still in the Tuff Shed" by the Beeck Sisters of Boulder, an Ice Queen contest, a pancake breakfast, and the Tuff Shed Coffin Race, to name but a few of the activities jammed into one incredible weekend.

More info at:

Email of the Day:

Dear Dr. Missy,

There's somebody trying to get into my house and I think it's a vampire or a politician or somebody famous. Should I let them in? I don't think I should.

Bev C. (Possibly my real name)

Dear Bev,

What kind of letter is that? You're supposed to ask about children's writing! Oh well. We've gone this far...

So who are we not letting in? Oh wait, I know--it's Dracula, isn't it? Or George Gobel. He's famous. It could be George Gobel except I think he passed away a few years ago. What about Nixon? No, I think he's gone too, unless he turned out to be a zombie and came back to life or unlife or whatever they call it.

How about Mr. Whipple? He's famous but annoying. Please don't squeeze the Charmin, please don't squeeze the Charmin, blah blah blah. What the heck was wrong with that guy? I wouldn't take my children into any grocery store where some guy lurked around the toilet paper section spying on people. Creepy!

Speaking of creepy, I
was standing in front of Max's Dog Bakery in Sarasota when a real weird specimen walked past me. He yelled at himself all the way down the street! Really angry stuff, and he waved his arms over his head, and he tried to spit on some people, and once he took a swing at a parking meter.

Once I told my kids that Max's was a bakery that made stuff out of dogs but they started crying so I said it was really a bakery for dogs, although some of the iced cookies looked pretty good to me.

Anyway, having eliminated everyone else, it must be Dracula after all. That's a good policy, I think, not letting him in, because he'd stare into your eyes and say stuff like "You must give your will over to me," and "Bend your head a little more so I can get a good angle on biting your neck and sucking out your blood," and "I hate the way you've done the bedroom--nothing in here harmonizes."

Dr. Missy

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Life Lessons from Jane Eyre

Okay, so the Resident Brit was watching Jane Eyre on television last night. I'm not a huge fan of this type of cinema, as the characters tend to wail and moan about every little thing, but I stopped for a moment when a guy cruised up to Jane Eyre. He's wearing an awful hat that looks like a giant black burrito shell curled up at the edges. Just seriously bad headgear, if you ask me. I mean, imagine if Zorro fell off an 80-story building and landed on his head. That's what that guy's hat looked like. (By the way, I'm pretty sure the hat guy is the one with the crazy wife locked up in the attic, unless that's another book.) In less time than it takes to tell, I took one look at that hat and covered up Jane Eyre's angst-filled dialogue with my own: "Hey Chester, what's the deal with your hat? Somebody sit on it or something?"

The Brit gave me the skunk eye for talking over the movie, but I think the dialogue would have been much richer if Jane Eyre had actually said that. Try it for yourself. Say it out loud: Hey Chester, what's the deal with your hat? Somebody sit on it or something?

Sounds good, eh? Now you are ready to use this phrase in everyday conversation. Let's say you've been pulled over by the state police. You roll down your window and wait calmly in your automobile, hands on the wheel so the officer can see that you aren't going for a gun. When the officer pokes his head in the window, now comes your chance. You smile and say: "Hey Chester, what's the deal with your hat? Somebody sit on it or something?"

What fun you and the officer will have as you share a hearty laugh! I'll bet you won't even get a ticket.

Don't think for a moment that this phrase only works with law enforcement representatives. Let's say that for some odd reason you've invited the Bishop of San Diego over for tea and for some even odder reason he shows up, and he's wearing the official bishop outfit, including that huge headpiece thingie. When the bishop walks in, what do you say? That's right. Say it loud and say it proud!

If people said more stuff like this, the world would be a much more peaceful place and fewer people would end up like Jane Eyre and hook up with weirdos who keep their crazy wives locked in the attic. If you ask me, that guy should have been the one locked up in the attic for wearing that stupid hat. What was he thinking when he saw himself in the mirror? "Lookin' good, Chester. You da man. Guess I'll go over and hit on that Jane Eyre chick next door."

Yeah, right.

The creamed corn that ruined Angela's Christmas

Hey, it's time for my annual Christmas story! I know, Christmas was a couple of weeks ago but I've been really busy, okay? Here it is:

Christmas was bearing down and I still had gifts to find. It was easy to find something for my niece Angela, as she devours books. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. I decided to order a book by an author I know, thinking I could get the book personally signed by said author. Angela would love it! (I won't name the author but her initials are RB.)

A few days later, the book arrived from Amazon. I stuffed it in a padded envelope, along with letter to the author asking for a personal inscription. Unfortunately, Christmas came and went and I never heard back from RB. I had to rush out and get Angela another present, one of those Fortune Teller books where ghosts and demons shoot out of the toilet or take over one of those awful Bratz dolls and make it say horrible things.

Three days after Christmas, Angela's book showed up, but the envelope was covered with odd stains. When I pulled the book out of the envelope, I found out why. It was covered with a substance that looked a lot like creamed corn. In fact, it was creamed corn. What a mess! The cover was mottled, the pages were mostly stuck together, and it smelled a little rank. When I looked at the title page, the author's incription was blurry. I'm not sure, but RB seems to have written "Rut in hall, you mothfarmer!" It's hard to tell.

Why would RB fill an envelope with creamed corn? I couldn't figure it out. Was it a message of some kind? Did it have something to do with the plot of her book? Perhaps she is the forgetful type and dumped the corn in while cooking dinner. My brain seethed with ideas but the creamed corn remained a mystery.

Later that day I received a visit from a couple of the guys at the local FBI office. It seemed that someone at the post office became concerned about the gooey envelope and sent out an alarm. As my readers well know, visits from federal authorities are nothing new, and I recognized the agents who turned up at my front door.

The bigger and more senior agent was James, but he likes me to call him Jimbo. James (Jimbo) has taken a liking to me, and he sends me a Christmas card every year. This time it was a picture card, with Jimbo, Mrs. Jimbo, and their three young children standing in front of their Christmas tree, pointing what appear to be Beretta Model 92B semi-automatic pistols at the camera. The picture was a little blurry, but if I was taking a picture with five Berettas aimed at me, I'd be in a hurry to get it done, blurry or not.

I showed Jimbo the envelope full of creamed corn and he took away a sample to test at the lab to see if it was anything heinous. I know creamed corn when I see it, so it seemed like a waste of time to me, but that's the government for you.

After Jimbo left, I started to throw away the envelope but then I spotted Mr. Bushida's cat in our back yard. Waste not, want not, I said, and took the envelope out back. The cat was playing with a squirrel's head, batting it back and forth, but stopped to look at me with its big blue eyes. I couldn't help but think that Mr. Bushida's cat, one of those big white fluffy specimens, looked a lot like the cat that Ernst Stavros Blofinger guy was always stroking in the James Bond movies. Blofinger would get Bond strapped down to a steel table and aim a laser beam at Bond's crotch, and then he'd say, "I don't expect you to talk, Mr. Bond. I expect you to be cut in half by my crotch laser." Then he'd turn the laser on and go back to his office to stroke the cat some more.

Mr. Bushida's cat went nuts when I dumped the corn on the grass. I guess he really liked creamed corn because it was gone in three bites. On the other hand, when you've been nibbling at a squirrel's head, I guess anything would taste good in comparison.

An hour later, I got a call from Mr. Bushida. He started yelling about the cat throwing up on their new white leather sofa, and in the background I heard Mrs. Bushida yelling in a foreign language, none of which I understood. Then there was a crash and Mr. Bushida started yelling in the same foreign language. I listened for a while, but aside from a few American words like "satan" and "horrible she-demon," I had no idea what he was babbling about, so I hung up the phone. I hate to be rude like that, but he was yelling at me, and I can't help it if his cat decided to yack on the furniture.

In the end, I decided not to give RB's book to Angela. I tried to get the creamed corn out but nothing worked, plus some of the pages fell out. Also, it started to stink even worse. I have to admit, I'm disappointed that RB decided to pour creamed corn all over Angela's book. I got to thinking about it, and I wondered if RB always pours food on books sent by fans. Then I wondered, does she always use creamed corn or does she switch off and use cream of asparagus soup or a can of navy beans? It's hard to tell with children's authors. They tend to be a little different, if you know what I mean. Most of them go around obsessing about dead mothers and hideous diseases all day, and that really messes up your head.

Hmmm. It looks like this story was a lot more about creamed corn and not so much about Christmas. Sorry about that. Next year, if I decide to get a book autographed for Angela, I'll send it to an author who just signs their name and leaves it at that. Angela will be happier, Mr. Bushida will be happier, and I won't have federal agents on my doorstep. At least not because of soiled envelopes.