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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Annie Douglass Lima

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.

There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today we're doing something a little different. This Random Interview is combined with a New Release Blast (and giveaway) for Annie Douglas Lima's next book: The Gladiator and the Guard. So let's dive right in!

Annie Douglass Lima
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrap-booking, and international travel.

What is the best dream you ever had? Alternately, what is the worst nightmare you’ve ever experienced?

I don’t often remember my dreams, but once every couple of years I’ll have one that makes a great story. There was one about a young prince who was forced to flee from his palace when invaders attacked, killing his parents. Together with his bodyguard (also a young boy), he disguised himself and lived in a poor neighborhood in a far corner of his kingdom, waiting for an opportunity to rescue his people and claim his rightful throne. That dream later became my first published novel, Prince of Alasia.

You're the next Disney princess. What fairy tale is your full length movie and how would you use your new ability to control woodland creatures?

What fairy tale? I have no idea! I don’t think there’s one out there with all the elements I would want: cats and unicorns and dragons and a kingdom to save with the handsome prince I’m already married to. I think I would need to write that fairy tale myself!

I would get the woodland creatures to build me a house far away from everything, where I could sit and write for hours or days on end without a single interruption (unless I was in the mood for one). But only after the kingdom had been successfully saved, of course.

Describe your life as a film genre.

I think I’d say a travelogue. I have been to a total of twenty different countries and lived in four of them (including being raised in Kenya and currently living in Taiwan). I love to experience different parts of the world!

What method do you suggest for dealing with dragons?

Make friends with them. You might want to consider bringing along a cat, as I hear they are often talented in this area. And having a dragon as a friend can come in very handy.

Who is your fictional best friend and what activities do you choose to do together?

I have lots of fictional friends, all characters in my books (or in ideas that may someday grow into books). They tend to leave me out of their adventures, but I do get a front-row seat to watch while they have them. Many of the adventures get written into plotlines, but a lot of them are unrelated and will never be written down. I mean, the characters do have lives outside the pages, obviously.

You have to trade places with one of your characters for a day. Which and why?

Very few of the characters in The Gladiator and the Guard have the kind of life that I’d want to live for a day! But if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with Skipper. That isn’t his actual name, but he keeps his real identity a secret, and with good reason: if the authorities found out that he uses his sailboat to smuggle slaves away to freedom, his boat would be impounded and he would be sold into slavery himself. Though I don’t like the thought of the danger, I’ve always wanted to be a hero like that.

If you had to write only in one crayon color for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Purple. It looks nice, and it’s also dark enough to be easily read.

 If you had the honor of naming something really big (a country, a spaceship, a planet) what would you want it to be and what would you name it?

I would like to name a spaceship that’s built to take humans to meet or develop a relationship with an alien species. I’d name it the Heartsong. I’m currently working on a science fiction novel by that title; the word is significant because it represents the character or essence of an individual or people group. Singing a person’s heartsong to someone else is a metaphor for helping someone to truly understand that person. I couldn’t find a way to squeeze a spaceship with that name into the story, but it would be almost as good if I could name one in the real world instead.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?

I would like it to be, “Could you tell us a little about your latest book and the setting it takes place in?”

I would answer it by saying, “Why, yes. I’m so glad you asked! The Gladiator and the Guard is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, the first one being The Collar and the Cavvarach. The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own. Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil. The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.
The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world. An emperor, who is never named, governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia. Eight separate provinces (independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents. Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit. This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.
The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth. There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks. From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature. On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.

Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork. Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks. Those who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” one belonging to someone else. The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).
To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.
Here’s the back-cover blurb for The Collar and the Cavvarach :
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

And the blurb for The Gladiator and the Guard :
“Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?”

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Connect with the Author Online:
Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Goodreads Giveaway: Call of the Waters

It's finally coming! I've set it up for pre-order, and it's temporarily at 99 cents so grab your copy now.
This book is a continuation of my Elemental Realms series, which I launched last summer with Lands of Ash (if you haven't read that one yet, CLICK HERE)

After decades of Elemental War, humans are rebuilding their civilization from the ground up. Empathic healer, Quill, lives on an isolated farm, hiding from her family's turbulent, war torn past. However, when the voices of Water Elementals force their way into her thoughts, Quill fears she will bring destruction upon those she loves. 

Help arrives from an unlikely source, her mother's estranged father. Eanan hasn't seen his daughter since she eloped with Quill's dad. Now, in spite of the inherent danger of Elementals, Eanan seeks the Evermirror, a mythical gateway to the Water Realm. Quill's only hope for safety and sanity may be casting her lot with her grandfather. Running away will break her mother's heart, but unless Quill learns to commune peacefully with the Elementals, their powers may tear her apart from the inside.


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Call of the Waters by H.L. Burke



          Call of the Waters

          by H.L. Burke


            Giveaway ends May 07, 2016.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

    Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Readers and Writers: Obligation

Readers and Writers: A Delicate Balance

This is part of a multi-part series regarding some potential pitfalls and difficulties on both sides of the reader/writer relationship. It's important to note that different writers (and readers) will have different comfort levels. It has been a surprise for me how many authors suffer from serious social anxiety, it's always important to remember that you cannot own another person and while the writer does not have an excuse to treat another poorly, sometimes they may not, for their own mental well-being, be able to engage with you in the way you would prefer.
This series will focus mainly on things I've observed about writer/reader interactions. It will in no way be a blanket statement of how it is appropriate for all readers to interact with all writers, or vice versa.
Some subjects we'll be covering:

Part One: Do writers have an obligation to readers?

With readers essentially being customers to writers, producing a "product" readers enjoy, there are some times when it starts to feel that we owe readers something. 
  • We owe them a timely release of our next book. I think the whole "will George R. R. Martin die before he writes the next Game of Thrones" controversy is the most well known version of this.
  • We owe them a professional product. 
  • They feel a sense of betrayal when we kill off a beloved character or take the series in a direction they don't like. 

All of those could merit a discussion about whether or not there is an "obligation" or just a perceived one ... I'll break them down a little here, though.

Deadlines and the Indie Author

The Martin example gets paraded a bit because it's blatantly bad manners to speculate on another person's mortality especially in regards to how that will adversely effect you. It's on the taste level of complaining that you have to cancel your trip to Vegas because Grandma kicked the bucket at a bad time. 
However, there is a more reasonable sense of disappointment when you read on an author's site that their new book will be out August of this year ... and then August rolls around and no book. Technically the author did break a promise here.
However, it is a little different from a situation with a plumber or a contractor, someone you hired for a specific job. The writer isn't your employee. A writer being behind schedule would be more like a movie release being delayed or if your favorite restaurant closed down for a few days for some reason.
Yes, those things may inconvenience you and may cause you to take your business elsewhere, but it isn't as if they restaurant failed you personally for not serving you lunch that day.

A Professional Product?

As for a professional product: my problem with this, no one knows exactly what they mean. I mean we all might be able to identify a book with a microsoft paint cover, lots of typos, and formatting that runs together ... but if you find a book that lacks these basic things just don't buy it. You don't owe the writer your money, and it is pretty easy to prevent accidentally buying an awful book. Amazon makes the look inside available on most books. Let the buyer beware, but again, I don't think the author owes you anything (though if the author doesn't at least attempt to make her/his work passably professional, then the author really shouldn't expect to make it their "profession." ... there actually are some hobby writers out there who are just publishing for the fun of it. I know, crazy, but true.).

Readers feeling Betrayed

The last one is where it gets the most problematic, for me, anyway. You want an emotional reaction from your readers, but anger is not usually desirable ... however, not all stories are going to end in a happy and upbeat way. A lot of very famous literature ends with a main character dying. It's often the only appropriate end. I'm sure there are plenty of posts out there about how to handle something like character death ... but even a well-handled one will often get an adverse reaction.
So on one hand, you can't help that.
Where it becomes a problem is when readers attempt to coax and/or bully writers into writing something a particular way.
"If you kill this character off, I'll never buy another of your books again" or things like that. I have definitely seen this. With a big named author who gets thousands of messages tweeted at them all the time, it becomes noise after a bit, I'm sure. They can't listen to every fan. It's simply impossible.
However, with an indie writer, there might be a lot more contact between a writer and their core fans.
Sometimes you can even find yourself writing for a particular reader. While it is good to have a target audience, making one particular readers (or group of readers) the representation of that audience can cause one to lose their own "voice."
I sometimes feel this way about even big productions. I swear, for instance, that some BBC writers (you know who they are) skim tumblr and use what they find to craft their scripts.
You also start falling to the in jokes and "fan service" that may get a reaction in the short run but don't necessarily make for an enduring story (You know what would be cool? Let's have the Doctor ride in ... on a tank ... playing an electric guitar ... the fans will love that ... Sorry, sorry, rant over ...).
There are already enough confusing voices clamoring about what makes a proper story or proper writing. Sometimes you just have to be prepared not to please everyone.
I see this with writers and reviews all the time (They're doubling up on character development because a reviewer didn't think it was deep enough. They're shortening the backstory because a reviewer thought it was too much), and while I don't think writers should turn a blind eye to potential flaws in their own work, the basic fact that you will never please everyone means you have to learn to shrug off about 90% of what flies at you from reviews.
Sometimes it's good to look at big name books and remind yourself that even they have bad reviews.
And two people can read the same book or watch the same movie and see totally different things.
After The Force Awakens I got into it with a friend of a friend online who said there was no character development in that movie because "we don't know anything about them."
So I broke down, detail per detail everything in Finn and Rey's introduction scene and pointed out the subtext of different visuals and actions to show how much nonsense I thought this was.
But in fairness, what the person said wasn't exactly wrong. Episode VII painted characters through images and implications. Very little in those first few scenes was plainly stated. You had to look for it. You might argue that's a little too subtle for something with a pace that fast and it would've been better served to slow down the start of the movie and add in a couple of scenes that took their time with it, but writing the character introductions in that way was a legitimate style choice. Won't please everyone, but it's hard to argue it was wrong. Is there really a wrong in art?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Robin Merrill

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today we sound the trumpet fanfare as an elaborate coach and four rolls up, depositing Robin Merrill at our doorstep.

Robin Merrill

The Interview

Your life is being made into a movie. Who plays you? Who plays your love interest? (or who plays your arch-enemy?)
 I am played by the lovely Alicia Coppola, and my love interest is played by Tahmoh Penikett (You're welcome Alicia!).
Sum up your life in five words and two punctuation marks.
Was lost. He found me.

What weather is your writing? A dark and stormy night? A sunshiny day?
My writing is a cold wind.

Your book is being made into a movie, who would you like directing it?
 Greg Nicotero 

Who is your fictional best friend and what activities do you choose to do together?
 My fictional best friend is Carol Peletier. She teaches me how to use various weapons and bake yummy casseroles using limited ingredients. 

Favorite flavor (of what? EVERYTHING!)?
Indian Pudding

If you could enter any fictional world, which would you choose?
Battlestar Galactica (reimagined)

Congratulations! You are now president of this blog post. What's your first executive order?
 Dark chocolate for everyone!

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?

What is your favorite book? (A tie between Watership Down and Shardik!)

Robin Merrill is the author of several books including Shelter and The Jesus Diet devotionals. Visit her at robinmerrill.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring Into Fantasy GIVEAWAY!!!

We're at it again!

This time 28 great Fantasy Authors have banded together to bring you an awesome prize.
What prize?
Maybe I should've said PRIZES! 
That's right, the winner of this giveaway gets a $50 Amazon.com certificate AND an ebook bundle of 28 wonderful flinch free fantasy novels.
Why flinch free? We're all members of the Clean Indie Reads Site which means while not all our books are for children, you won't find anything more graphic than a low PG-13 rating. So if you're a parent with active teen readers or just enjoy your fiction without a lot of graphic violence, sex, or language, this is a great giveaway for you to enter. 
Also, did I mention these books are fantasy?
That's right! Magical worlds, mythical creatures, and marvelous adventures, at your fingertips. 

You can enter using the rafflecopter below. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

What Am I Working On Now?

Honestly, I'm a little bit between major writing projects right now. I've just finished several things (which I'll detail below), but I'm not actively writing anything (though who knows? That might change at any time.).

But never fear! That doesn't mean there won't be new releases. Here's what you can expect over the next several months:

In my "New Year's Promises" post, I mentioned one of my upcoming projects was the sequel to Lands of Ash. That is actually now finished with the exception of a final proof read and cover art ... and I have to write the blurb. I'm not even sure where to start with the blurb. I hate blurbs ...

Also, I have written the sequel to Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors. It's been through a decent amount of beta readers and critique partners, but still needs a few major edits (and of course, final proof and cover art.). If you're a fan of the first Nyssa story, be ready for more awesome! This time on a zeppelin!

I've recently been working on two short stories which I hope to enter in anthologies. Honestly, while those are written and just need some editing, I'm not sure when they'll be available. If the anthologies fall through, I'll publish them on my own. There's also the Space Kitties 2 anthology which I wrote a short for (you can see the first one here, but I'm not involved in that project) ... My short story for that is called Free Range, Organic Cats. Fun, huh?
My other two anthology candidates are a Steampunk Fairy Tale Retelling called The Clockwork Cabinet and a dragon story, Serpent in the Clouds. 

So I'm basically sitting on four finished projects (the kitty one doesn't count because I sent it to the anthology editors a while ago, and it is out of my hands) ... if you don't count The Invisible Princess, the semi-sequel to An Ordinary Knight, which ... dang it needs so much work that the thought of editing it exhausts me.

I always feel ill at ease when I'm between projects. I feel like I should be working on something ... but I seriously just finished major edits on the Nyssa sequel as well as writing the Serpent in the Clouds short ... It's not like I've been slacking ... but oh well.

If you want to stay updated on all things H. L. Burke, follow me through my email list.




Saturday, April 16, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Adrienne Dunning

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

(cartoony loudspeaker voice) Introducing ... the incredible ... the greatest ... ADRIENNE DUNNING!

Adrienne Dunning

Author Bio
Adrienne Dunning is simply a Southern gal who has fun playing poorly at golf when she’s not crafting novels.  She loves all forms of expression—writing, dancing, cooking, talking—and does them frequently and with abandon.  She creates endearing and feisty characters full of humor and just a little awkwardness to keep them "real".  Although a possible mystery series is under current exploration, her current works are primarily aligned with the contemporary romance/chick lit genres.  She is heavily active in her local NaNoWriMo chapter, and Seeking Solace, her debut novel which released in April 2015, is the resulting product of a NaNo project.  Her second novel, a paranormal/contemporary romance titled Revolution, released October 1st.

Interview Questions:

  1. What’s the most important lesson you ever learned from a cartoon?  From Wile E. Coyote--- never give up.  No matter how many times you get smashed by that ACME anvil, get right back up and try again.
  2. Your life is being made into a movie. Who plays you? Who plays your love interest? (or who plays your arch-enemy?)  Good question!  I have no idea who would play me! Melissa McCarthy?   Love interest-- if this were true biography, then there isn't one, unfortunately.  If this is a biography with fictional elements which included a love interest for me... then David Tennant. 
  3. You receive a contract that allows you to have any pet you want (mythical or real) but in return you have to spend a week AS a pet to a mythical creature of your choice (dragon, giant, sphinx?). Do you take it or do you decline?   I'd take it I think.... I'd want to have a Phoenix, and I'd want to BE a pet for a unicorn.  Dragons are awesome, but I don't think I'd survive having one or being one's pet!
  4. Would you rather travel to the past or the future?  Absolutely the past.  Don't even have to think about that one!  I love history and would give anything to actually witness it.
  5. Who wrote the book of love?  Is this a trick question?
  6. For the length of the day, you can replace all the world’s water with one substance of your choice (don’t worry. The sea life will adapt.). What do you choose?    Lime jello!  Why?  It's jiggly!  The world would be jiggly!  That, and it would freak my friend Kathy out since she firmly believes that jello is an alien lifeform.
  7. Sum up your life in five words and two punctuation marks.  Live in joy.  Dance! Laugh!
  8. Congratulations! You are now president of this blog post. What's your first executive order?  First order--all followers receive baskets of chocolate.  Because chocolate is awesome.
  1. If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?  Q: What's for dinner?  and A:  You pick this time!

Adrienne Dunning’s books are currently available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle formats:

Adrienne Dunning’s books are on Goodreads:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

If you ask a writers' group a question...

If you ask a writers' group how to punctuate a sentence ...

At least three people will tell you how to totally rewrite the sentence from scratch because they think it is "awkward" or "could be better."
Of these three at least two will totally be off base because they have no idea what the context of your sentence is, and there's a high chance that at least one will be undeniably worse than the original sentence. 

Someone will point out how a word in your sentence offends their ethnicity/religious heritage/profession due to something 200 years back in its etymology that you would only know if you were a philologist.

Someone will pipe up about how dogmatic reliance on punctuation and grammar is an evil that destroys artist expression because McCarthy didn't use quotation marks so you shouldn't either, dagnabbit.

Someone will make an appeal for artistic freedom and say there's no right way to write anything.
Someone will take major offense at this last person and say, of course there is! It should be illegal to write any way but this.

Someone will give the correct answer to the original punctuation question but by then the author is hiding under the bed crying, so it doesn't really matter.

Writing groups aren't evil. They're usually quite helpful and can give us a break from the solitary life of a writer ... and sometimes they'll have some great ideas.

And obviously this is an exaggerated satire of what happens in writing groups.

Still, I am in like six different writers' groups ... and all of them have done this at one point or another.
I may have even derailed a conversation once or twice myself.
While it is amusing to mock, it's what happens when you put creative and passionate minds together, and that's kind of fun to me. 
However, you do need to learn to be a strong enough writer to take ownership of your work and just ignore advice that doesn't give you what you want/need.
Not everyone is at that point psychologically. 
I was born with an extreme ability to do my own thing no matter what (often to my detriment, admittedly, but when it comes to people trying to get me to do things their way, I'm nearly immune). 
A lot of people need to learn the skill, though.
And sometimes seeing how nobody agrees on a topic is a great way to learn that sometimes you just have to choose and know you won't please everyone.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Lori B. Duff

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today's guest may or may not have brought cookies. She also may or may not be Lori B. Duff!

Lori B. Duff

Author Bio

Lori B. Duff is a Humor Blogger and Columnist. She has released two books, “Mismatched Shoes & Upside Down Pizza” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, & the Laundry Basket,” both of which are technically non-fiction, and available on most online retailers. (If you click the hyperlinks you’ll get to Amazon. Amazon had both books as the number one hot new releases in humor essays, allowing Lori to share screen time with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Chelsea Handler and Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers and a host of other funny women – and this being perhaps the only time that anyone has ever called Lori ‘hot,’ and in public no less, for which Amazon will always live in a special warm place in Lori’s heart.) Her writing has been compared to that of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris. A lawyer by day (writing is fun but not terribly profitable) she is married to her husband of 17 years, and has two teenaged children who are completely embarrassed by the stuff she writes, hence her Instagram screen name: embarrassingduffmom Because why pretend? Lori’s website can be found at http://loriduffwrites.com

The Interview

What weather is my writing? A dark and stormy night? A Sunshiny Day? I’d have to say it is the kind of day where you don’t know how to dress, so you’d better dress in layers and keep a raincoat in the car, because it could be cold, it could be hot, it could be sunny or rainy. In other words, a Tuesday in Georgia where I live where, as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes. Except in August. Then it is always eyeball meltingly hot.

My life is being made into a movie. Who plays me? Who plays my love interest? (or who plays my arch-enemy?) Who plays me is an easy one – Mayim Bialik, since I’ve been told ever since her Blossom days that I look just like her. Plus, she’s a real-life nerd, just like me. A friend of mine photoshopped my face into a picture of her (as Amy Farrah Fowler) and Sheldon, and I showed it to my kids. Even they couldn’t tell the difference. See for yourself:

You can’t tell the difference, can you? But we look good in a tiara, no? As for my love interest, my husband looks like what would happen if John McEnroe and Bill Clinton had a love child. Some would say Richard Gere, so I’ll go for him because, well, wouldn’t you? My arch-enemy? I’d have to go with Kim Kardashian because it irritates me to no end that people with no talent or skills or work ethic get all the fame and fortune.

I receive a contract that allows me to have any pet I want (mythical or real) but in return I have to spend a week AS a pet to a mythical creature of my choice (dragon, giant, sphinx?) Do I take it or do I decline. I take it, of course, because think of all the blog posts I could get out of that adventure. The question is only implied as to which pet I’d want, and which mythical creature would take me as a pet, but I’ll answer it anyway: if I could have any pet I’d probably pick something mundane and Earthly like a cat because mythical creatures always seem sentient and I would feel odd owning something that could talk and/or was smarter or wiser than me. I’d kinda feel guilty owning a unicorn, for example. It would be like claiming to own the sunrise or rainbows. I’d be the pet of a Giant, because they’re like big people, in some fairy tales, and so would be less likely to accidentally roast me with a fire breath or claw me to death in some instinctual hunt.

Would I rather travel to the Past or the Future? The future, because of running water and climate controlled indoors and grocery stores. If I don’t shower every 24 hours, my hair becomes so greasy it looks actively wet, and I get noticeably stinky. I honestly don’t think I could stand myself for more than two days without being able to clean myself. I’d also like to feel comfortable drinking the water. Plus, I would be so afraid of saying something or doing something that would change the course of history if I were in the past. When I was a little girl, I used to spend large amounts of time imagining what would happen if Laura Ingalls Wilder could come visit me, and all the amazing things I’d show her. I didn’t ever imagine going to visit her, because man-o-man, her life seemed tough. I mean? Chamber pots or holes in the ground? No thank you. And having to act like women are the weaker sex and deferring to men all the time? I’d be burned at the stake as a witch within three days. Of course, all of this is assuming that it isn’t SO far in the future that the inevitable zombie apocalypse has occurred and brought us all back to the mess I was trying so hard to avoid.

Give myself a new look, as dramatic as I want. What is it? The middle-aged Jewish version of Serena Williams. Strong as all get out, confident, and beautiful. Plus, her ability to actually do something reasonably athletic without falling.

For the length of the day, you can replace all the world’s water with one substance of your choice (don’t worry. The sea life will adapt.). What do you choose? Lemon Jello. Because everything would look sunny and yellow, and it would be really fun to swim in, and it is fun to eat.

Sum up your life in five words and two punctuation marks. Hard work and happenstance: laughter.

Congratulations! I am now president of this blog post. What's your first executive order? It is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature to speak to anyone else in a non-emergency situation prior to 9:00am and/or before the first cup of coffee has been finished. To do anything but read (and eat) at the breakfast table is considered rude and unforgivable.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would I want it to be and how would I answer it? Assuming there were truth in it, I’d want the question to be this, “Mrs. Duff, how does it feel to be the first humor writer to be given a Nobel Prize in Medicine?” And I’d answer it like this: “It feels fabulous. More specifically, I’m thrilled that everything from courtesy laughs to rip-roaring snortfests have now been recognized as actually being the best medicine. Because really, what feels better than a belly laugh shared with a good friend? And more to the point, the money will allow me to quit my day job. I wage war for a living as a lawyer. I’d rather write silly stories and make myself laugh.”   

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