Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Humor Me!

by Susanne Dietze

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Ps. 126:2

My favorite genres are pretty basic: inspy historical romance and the occasional contemporary, seasoned with tasty mysteries and mouthwatering suspense. Summer reading, however, is a bit different for me. The past two summers, I've stuck to non-fiction books on the craft of writing, because for some reason (aka motherhood) I have a difficult time being a productive writer during vacation. So if I can't write, at least I can devote myself to reading research and craft books in between reading romances. It beats bemoaning my less-than-stellar output, and helps me feel like I'm moving forward.

But last February, little did I know that my summer reading plans were about to change.
A gift box of chocates made by Mary Chocolate ...Image via Wikipedia

On Valentine’s Day, I received a wrapped gift from my husband. Rectangular in shape, I judged it to be a box of chocolate. Albeit a heavy one. Woo-hoo! Nuts and chews!

Imagine my confusion when the rectangle turned out to be several rectangles packed together, and not a one of them was a box of chocolate. It turns out they were even better than chocolate. Books. One was even a hardback.

Then I perused the titles and became perplexed all over again. After all, nothing screams “I love you, honey” like the gory cover of Seth Grahame-Smith’s brand new mash-up, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

If you haven’t read a mash-up, they're books that blend two things that don’t go together and puree them into a (potentially) hilarious smoothie. Ridiculous, yes. Crazy, agreed. But the only other mash-up I've read made me laugh. It was Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which blends my favorite Jane Austen classic with a plot involving a zombie attack on England, all while attempting to stay true to Austen’s voice.

While I liked reading it, I didn’t expect to read another mash-up anytime soon. After all, I had some serious reading to do this summer about character and dialogue and research. Nose-to-the-grindstone and all that.

Then my husband explained what inspired his choice of gifts for the most romantic day of the year. And I gulped.

He wanted me to hear me laugh more.

I’ve been taking life pretty seriously this year. I’ve been a bit stressed, a bit sober, and somewhat focused. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I hadn’t laughed in a while. Oh, I’d been amused. I’d enjoyed my books and TV and playing with my hilarious kids. I’d grinned and chortled and sighed. But I hadn’t had a good belly-laugh in who knows how long.

Last summer, apparently. My husband reminded me that when I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I’d laughed so hard that iced tea came out my nose . Why wouldn’t I like these books, too? (So despite the gory look to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, the gift was a pretty sweet gesture after all, eh?)

Laughter is, as they say, good medicine. It turns out that the act of laughing (not just being amused, not just smiling, but laughing out loud) is a cheap, easy, God-given and natural way to decrease pain, relieve stress, boost immunity, lower stress hormones, improve mood and maybe even prevent heart disease. Laughing gives our arteries, lungs and muscles a mini-workout. It’s something that binds us to other people and keeps our perspectives in check.

William Thackeray said, “A good laugh is sunshine in a house.” Well, according to my family, I’d allowed myself to grow so gloomy from the pressures I’d placed on myself that I’d let my home become a cave.

I needed to read something funny.

For me, the new genre on my summer reading list will be humor, starting with the mash-up book on Abe Lincoln. Not everyone agrees with my odd sense of humor, though, and that's ok with me. God made each of us to be unique, and there’s something out there to make each of us snigger. Sports humor, pet stories, comedians’ memoirs and joke books meet different needs for different folks. The Bible bookstore has a humor section, too. What’s important is to find out what tickles your funny bone and indulge it.

So now it’s July at last. Ol’ Abe Lincoln, the enemy of the vampires, has been waiting for me since winter. I’m planning on cracking open the book and giving my brain a little holiday. I'm sure I'll snicker over something ridiculous and stupid, but who cares how silly it is. Or whether it'll help me be a better writer. I'll be laughing. I hope you find something to make you giggle today.
What sort of book makes you laugh out loud? Do you make time to read something light and / or silly?

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  1. You've got me thinking, I can't remember the last book that made me laugh. Might be time to do some lighthearted comedy fiction shopping. :-)

  2. This was the best advertisement for these books I've read! Thanks Susie!

    Honestly I had no idea they were funny. And now I can catch on a bit better when we talk 'mash-up'.

    How sweet of your husband to notice the lack of laughter in the house and do something about it.

    I'd love more books that made me laugh. Life is serious enough.

  3. What a great husband, Susanne, to even realize your lack of laughter!

    I laugh out loud every time I read a book by PG Wodehouse. He's just funny! And in that same vein, Alexander McCall Smith wrote a trilogy of books before he became famous for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books called 3 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom. Laugh out loud funny!

    Hm. Just finished another by Wodehouse but maybe I need to re-read those Pillars of Wisdom again!

  4. Oh, great reminder. I listen to all of A. M Smith's books on Audio. The Scotland Street series was great!

    I love the way some authors blend something like a crime drama or mystery with such great characters that along with the tension come great breaks of real life craziness and laughter.

    I'm trying to find that balance. My WIP is rather gothic but my hero comes back with some silly remarks under his breath all the time.

  5. What romantic hubby! Such a sweet gesture. And so observant!

    I'm like you Susie. I read a lot of mysteries. Every so often though I like something off the wall. Something absurd.

  6. Suzanne,
    GREAT post. Wow. I read clips of Pride and Prejudice and zombies and laughed out loud too. My 12 year old thinks there's nothing better than making fun of my icon, Jane Austen. I think he liked me a whole lot better that day. LOL

    And the William Thackeray quote is fabulous. A good reminder.
    Have fun with Abe (who kind of looks a bit unearthly on his own) and those vampires. can't wait to hear about it :-0

  7. I'm hearing word that Blogger is eating comments. I think it might be happening to us. Sorry to any commenters if your comments doesn't come through.

  8. Good morning! As Lisa noted, I'm having Blogger issues today. Forgive me for taking so long to say hello! By now the coffee's gone, eh?

    Charmaine, if you find something good in the humor genre, let me know! I definitely think I need to read funny stuff more often. Summer is the perfect time to kick back and try something light and fluffy.

    Thanks for coming by!

  9. Deb, I've got to say, P & P& Zombies had me chuckling. It's absurd, but I loved it. (Among Darcy's prejudices against Elizabeth: he trained in the Japanese martial arts to slay zombies, a method much preferred by the cream of Society over her "lesser" training in China.)

    Other readers would quickly disagree with my enjoyment, though, and I can understand their objections. Authors whose works are subjects of mash-ups didn't get a say in what some see as a violation of their work. Others dislike the gory look to the covers. And yeah, I mean, look at Abe. He's all bloody.

    I am not sure if Abe and the Vampires will be as hilarious to me, but it certainly is less, er, serious reading. A good brain vacation!

    I love that your hero has some zingers in his dialogue! Sounds like my kind of guy, Deb. Can't wait to read your WIP.

  10. D'Ann, I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency but I had no clue that Alexander McCall Smith wrote a funny trilogy. I have to check them out! He's a sensational writer. Thanks for the PG Wodehouse recommendation, too.

    Laughing is a sign of health sometimes, I think. I have been way out of whack for a while. I'm glad to get these recommendations for further reading! Thanks!

  11. Hey Lisa, thanks for posting the note about blogger. What mysteries are you enjoying right now? I am going to dig back into some old Agatha Christies just for the fun of it.

    I do have a great husband. I must have been pretty gloomy indeed. In addition to the book on Abe, he also gave me a "prequel" to P & P & Zombies called Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Haven't read it yet, either.

    My husband is reading David Crowder's books (yep, from the David Crowder band). Very serious subjects (death, praise) with hysterical quips woven through. I think I need to work a little harder at making sure I'm taking in some lightness with the heavier fare.

  12. Susanne, I know what you mean about reading books to make you laugh. I've been reading a history book--A Patriot's Guide to US History--and while I love the book not just from the perspective of an American, I'll admit it's pretty much of a downer.

    So I went to the library and checked out some books.

    1) What Happened in London by Julia Quinn

    Oh, boy, did this one make me laugh. In fact, as soon as I can get to the bookstore, I'm gonna buy my own copy. The heroine is bored so when her friends tell her abotu this mysterious guy who's moved in next door, she decides to start spying on him from her 2nd floor bedroom window. Can see into his office on the first floor.

    Well, humor ensues when the sorta-syp hero mentions to his cousin that this strange girl has been spying on him.

    Her follow-up book Ten Things I Love About You isn't as humorous but still a fun read.

    Warning: sex scenes near the end of each book, but not overly graphic

    2) Patricia Veryan's Golden Chronicles 6-book series

    Technically eight books, though. My favorite is The Tyrant because of the sly humor.

    3) first PJ Sugar book by Susan Mae Warren

    Didn't make me laugh like the Quinn book, but I recommend it because I didn't feel angry or depressed after reading it like I did with a certain other CBA book that I won't mention. Solid writing. Engaging heroine. Few humorous moments to make ya smile...well, at least to make me smile.

  13. Pepper, I'm so glad you could visit today! I love Jane too. From the bits you heard of P & P & Zombies, did you think Grahame-Smith stayed fairly true to her voice? I did, and that's part of what made it so hilarious to me. Even the parts about Mr. Wickham and well, won't give that away, but it almost sounded like Jane talking. I feel like Grahame-Smith had to respect her to keep her voice intact the way he did.

    Glad you could share it with your 12-yr old, even if he mocks Jane! I think it's hardwired into our children to make fun of us. LOL. Mine do. I guess they're learning about Jane Austen by teasing us about her, though! I found an action figure of Jane on amazon and will have to break down and buy her one of these days.

  14. Thanks for the recommendations, Gina! I've already got the PJ Sugar and Veryan books on my TBR list, since we've been chatting a bit about it. The Julia Quinn sounds like a fun story and I'm not at all familiar with it, so I'm going to look for it when I'm done with Abe!

    Interesting what you said about being depressed after reading a book. I think I know what you mean. Sometimes we're disappointed or disapprove of an element. Other times, well, it's a matter of balance for me. I love inspy historical romance, but because that's the genre I write, sometimes I start analyzing the stories I read rather than enjoying them. I guess that's a signal: I need a bit of break so I can get to the place where I learn from the books and lose myself in them at the same time.

    Thanks for the recommendations!

  15. Thanks for your words, Susanne. Laughter is such a gift from God, and it does such a good job keeping us humble, too. I am reminded of some advice Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, shared with some young people on the eve of being ordained for ministry: "Use your sense of humor. Laugh about things, laugh at the absurdities of life, laugh at yourself, and about your own absurdity. We are all of us infinitesimally small and ludicrous creatures within God's universe. You have to be serious, but never solemn, because if you are solemn about anything there is the risk of becoming solemn about yourself."

    Thanks for the reminder to laugh!

  16. Great quote, Karl! Thanks for sharing it! I think I've been rather solemn about myself... Good reminder.

  17. Kristen Billerbeck definitely makes me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, I read her first book on a plane :)

    Possibly the funniest book I ever read was Kissing Adrien, an older Siri Mitchell novel. But it was more smart humor than belly laugh humor.

    Oh, and Christy Barritt's mystery novels definitely hit the out loud meter for me. Very funny. A quirky mix of dark and light humor.

  18. Kristen Billerbeck definitely makes me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, I read her first book on a plane :)

    Possibly the funniest book I ever read was Kissing Adrien, an older Siri Mitchell novel. But it was more smart humor than belly laugh humor.

    Oh, and Christy Barritt's mystery novels definitely hit the out loud meter for me. Very funny. A quirky mix of dark and light humor.

  19. I can honestly say that I don't remember the last time I read a book that made me laugh. I tend to read mostly non-fiction like you, Susanne. Beth Moore, Elizabeth George, and Joanne Weaver are a few of my favorites.

    This summer I've picked up some fiction to add a bit of 'lightness' to my reading diet!I do love to laugh, though, and enjoy watching things that make me laugh - AFV, and Lucy. Thanks for the post! God bless!

  20. Dina, I'm going to have to check out those books. I'd love to get a good laugh. And maybe absorb how other authors weave humor into their stories. Thanks!

  21. Hi Maria! Thanks for coming by. Oh my, "I Love Lucy" is still hilarious. Even when I've seen an episode a dozen times, I still crack up. There's definitely something to be said for filling your mind with things that lift you up, rather than bring you down.

    I'm so glad you came by today. God bless you, too!

  22. Hey Susie,
    I think all the comments came back home, don't you? Apparently blogger problems have been solved.

    I like your new photo!

  23. Hiya Deb,

    Yay! I think you're right and all the comments have settled into their proper spots. What a weird day in the blogger universe. At noon eastern time I still couldn't see a single comment except for one spam item, which I moderated.

    Thanks for liking the pic. You made my day!

  24. Great post, Susie! I love a good laugh. What a sweet hubby to think about your joyful spirit like that!

    There aren't too many novels that have made me laugh out loud. Janet Evonovich's Stephanie Plum series did. So have many of Mary Connealy's books. The last book I read that would have made me shoot liquid through my nose (had I been drinking at the time) was "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff. My son and I were taking it away from each other so we could read it out loud and make the other one laugh.

  25. Jen, I have *got* to get my hands on Stuff Christians Like. It sounds hilarious. After reading your blog post on it, I told my husband about the "praying/holding hands faux pas" and we were cracking up. College Christian fellowship was fertile soil for this type of thing... What a hoot!

  26. Oh gosh! I hope you laugh and aren't afraid of the dark after! Isn't that funny how the seasons can effect our reading? It effects my writing as well.

  27. Susie, there's another one where he talks about wishing he had a t-shirt that said "I direct deposit my tithe" so people won't look at him funny as the offering plate passes by. What a hoot! I keep thinking of people I want to give it to... looks like this is going to be a bookish Christmas :+}

  28. Great post, Susie. So that's what you Inkies were talking about with your mash-up words. I was ignoring all the emails at the time because I didn't understand them. LOL

    The last book which really made me laugh was Vickie McDonough's The Anonymous Bride.

    But as I read the post, I thought of Cheryl Wyatt. I think it was her first book, A Soldier's Promise which has a scene that put my hubby in a belly laugh. I read it after he did and he kept interrupting me every few pages asking if I'd got to the 'parachute jumping' scene yet. He wanted to hear me laugh when I got there and believe me, he did. It's a wonderful book.

    I can't say enough that one of the reasons I believe my marriage has lasted over 33 yrs is because of the laughter we've shared and not taking ourselves so seriously.


  29. I'd like to hear how Honest Abe does with those vampires! I'm reading The Poisonwood Bible which is not at all funny but I'm attached to the characters so I'm past the point of no return.

  30. I'd like to hear how Honest Abe does with those vampires! I'm reading The Poisonwood Bible which is not at all funny but I'm attached to the characters so I'm past the point of no return.

  31. Bex-
    nice to see you. I think I read all the Kingsolver books up to this one. So I'm way behind. I also have not read her book on sustainable farming, but I'm sure she can make non-fiction an amazing read, too.

  32. I read The Poisonwood Bible years ago. You're right, it's not a commedy, but it's quite a book. Did you know that Kingsolver actually wrote four different versions? Each one was from a certain character's point-of-view. Then, she took the pieces she wanted from each version, put them together, and got the finished book. Now that's dedication to your art! I don't think I'd have the strength to do it.


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