Author Interview with Philip Rivera

To celebrate National Humor Month, I have an author interview with Philip Rivera. We met through an Instagram loop and I’ve read early drafts of some of his hilarious humor stories about life in the suburbs. Raising my kids in the country, I’ve found his stories eye-opening to a world that is both very different and exactly the same as mine. No matter the setting, but parenting is parenting. Welcome, Philip!

What inspired your book Suburban Luchador: The Cul de Sac Chronicles?

Lots of idle time pushing my lawnmower back and forth across my lawn like a mindless, suburban drone. This combined with other quotidian activities like taking out the trash, taxiing the kids in my minivan, and co-managing a household of four kids. I was kinda like Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, fluttering from one domestic duty to the other, wondering if there was more to this suburban life. Instead of bursting out into song about this existential search (which would have alarmed my neighbors), however, I wrote about the ‘more’ that exists in suburban life, or at least the ‘more’ I imagined. 

Your stories cover many different situations in family life. What do you think is key to taking real-life events and turning them into humorous stories?

Most real-life events have a story nugget buried deep within them. As authors, our job is to mine it out and polish it off with a little creative license and over-the-top imagination. For example, one of my stories was inspired by the everyday act of bathing my two kids in the bathtub. My daughter was one year old and my son was three. She was in the process of potty training. He enjoyed imagining his rhino-man action figure was a deep-sea diver who defused missiles. Add some fatherly creativity and the story almost wrote itself. 

Which story was the easiest to write?

The previously mentioned story, Rhino vs La Caca, had so much built-in humor and gag-worthy potty mishaps, it just needed a story flow added to it. 

Which was the hardest? 

I’m currently working on the sequel to my first book, and I’m trying to expand my creative abilities. One story I’m writing is not based on a specific life situation, but more on the universal parenting experience of keeping a stirring baby asleep before it erupts into screams. I’m portraying the scenario as if I was a SWAT team bomb defuser entering a booby-trapped apartment. It’s a fun setup, but getting the details and tension just right has been challenging. 

Who are some of your favorite humor writers?

Jack Handy, Dave Barry, and Jenny Lawson (although I could do without the profanity). 

One of my favorite humorous stories was written by Dave Barry about how he, his wife, and infant daughter were pulled out of the line by security at an airport for a more intensive inspection. As he said, what terrorists brings their baby with all her gear to the site of a planned attack?

What advice would you give a writer who wants to write humorous stories?

Humor is everywhere! It’s the sudden twist that our brain wasn’t expecting. Start practicing by looking for it in your everyday life. Keep a notepad with you (just don’t write it down in front of your spouse if they are the subject. Not that I’ve ever done that.) Identify the main character in your scene and what his/her conflict is. Then identify the unexpected twist. Take the real-life ingredients and stretch them out into a humorous or awkward scenario. For example, a man at the self-checkout line keeps getting the “unidentified item in bagging area” alert. A clerk comes up to reset the protesting machine multiple times. Stretched out: the automated register accuses him of passing off a bag of dog food as a box of tic tacs and calls in the SWAT team, who bursts through the ceiling and apprehends the unwitting criminal. Just another day at the grocery store.  

What a great way to look at a situation that would probably have me grinding my teeth at the check-out computer.

For another interview with an author who knows how to write humor, check out this post with Jen Turano.

*****

His minivan is his chariot. His mower is his weapon. Enter the whimsical world of suburbia’s favorite underdog.

Meet the average Joe who’s a father to three, a husband to one… a hero to all. When he’s not fighting crime in his fighter-jet-cloaked-as-a-minivan, he teaches high school and patrols the ‘hood for story material.

In Suburban Luchador: The Cul-de-sac Chronicles, an ordinary guy conjures up extraordinary tales about his family, marriage, and teacher job. He’s the man who’s making mortgages, meatloaf, and the middle-class sexy again.

This is the anthem of those who envision mowing and mopping as legendary movie scenes. These comically self-deprecating short stories will inspire you to take a fresh look at the wondrous, valiant and touching moments in everyday life.

Dive into Suburban Luchador: The Cul-de-sac Chronicles and ride shotgun on a domestic road trip of epic proportions.

*****

Award-winning author and family man, Philip Rivera, is out to dominate suburbia, one lawn at a time. Besides moonlighting as a humor author, he doubles as a high school teacher, diaper changer, princess ballerina ballet judge, and ninja fighter. His stories prove that minivans, child-rearing, husbandly duties, and teaching high school can be the subjects of epic adventures. His book, Suburban Luchador: The Cul-de-sac Chronicles, is a collection of humorous slice-of-life stories loosely based on his average Joe misadventures. Philip’s stories highlight the magic found in mundane life… if only we let our imaginations get carried away. 

Follow his relatable and comical suburban struggle on Instagram @philipdrivera. Get free short stories by signing up for his author updates at philipdrivera.com.

Writing Tips from Poet Lori Z. Scott

Always happy to introduce you to an author new to JPC Allen Writes. I met author and poet Lori Z. Scott on Instagram and have enjoyed her poetry so much that I asked her to guest blog for National Poetry Month. Welcome, Lori!

People write poetry for many reasons. To express pain, sorrow, or joy. To entertain, convict, or explore. To say hello, goodbye, or I love you. It’s often a go-to media because poetry is a flexible art form, with many different forms a writer can explore to craft a good poem. Popular ones include acrostic, haiku, limerick, concrete, tanka, ode, and rhyming verse. 

Poetry can also be a rigid and complex art form. Rules that govern poetry range from the strict guidelines of a sonnet to free verse, which follows no rules at all. In addition to that, poems employ a number of literary devices, including alliteration, assonance, internal or end rhyme, repetition, symbolism, meter, and more.

Still, anyone can write poetry. I succeeded mostly using two methods. The first is easy. The second will require some work. 

The easy tip: read a lot of poetry—out loud

I thrived on the simple but profound rhymes of Shel Silverstein, the silliness of Jack Prelutsky, the intricate and witty storytelling of Robert Service, the craziness of Lewis Carroll, and the down-to-earth sing-song messages of Edgar Guest. While I typically trip over my words in my regular speech, these gems roll off my tongue in a pleasing way. I believe the recitation of poems helped develop and hone my ear for poetry. Truth be told, I memorized a lot of them, and that influenced the creation of my own. Which is, coincidentally, one of the best ways to learn.

Some work required tip: brainstorming (a method developed by Alex Osborn.) 

The idea behind brainstorming is to generate a lot of ideas. The more you compile, the better chance you have of hitting gold. To brainstorm, first consider the topic you want to write about. Usually this is a single word or a theme. Then list as many spontaneous ideas as possible related to it. Then categorize the words. Group together words that rhyme, words with alliteration or assonance, and so on. If new ideas occur, add those to the list. Then build the poem. Once written, check each line for the syllable count (unless it’s free verse) and then read it out loud to hear where the accents, or beats, fall. If they don’t work, you will stumble over them. If they do, they’ll roll in a fluid manner. 

(A while back, I wrote an article for Story Embers about developing creativity through brainstorming. You can visit for more details. https://storyembers.org/5-classroom-techniques-writers-can-adopt-to-improve-creativity/

I used this method to write the poem WINTER. Notice how the rhymes, word choice, and use of alliteration work together to create the feeling of a pleasant winter day instead of a bitterly cold one.

Winter

Soft is the blanket of snow on the ground.

Gentle the breeze in the air.

Tender branches all bundled in ice.

Covered with comforting care.

Simple the silence embracing the Earth.

Restful the rise of the hill.

Beauty the sun as it kisses the sky

Tasting its peppermint chill.

Sometimes I write poetry with strict rules because my brain enjoys the challenge. Recently, I tried a Shakespearean sonnet, which often have a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG—three quatrains (four lines grouped together) and a couplet (2 rhyming lines). Poets must write one iamb (one unstressed syllable and one stressed syllable) in each segment until there are 10 syllables in iambic pentameter.

I soon learned this was no easy task… so I had fun with it, writing a sonnet about the fact that I couldn’t write a sonnet.

I think I have but fourteen lines to write.

And yet I find it difficult to do.

A sonnet has restricting rules that bite.

And trip the one who pens without a clue.

Alas, I fear the structure of this form.

Will push my puny brain to exercise

More thinking than I care to be the norm

And serve as one more step to my demise.

Iambic beat cannot be broken or bent.

I wish, dear friend, that fact was not so true.

So, though I voice my simple discontent,

I cannot find the words to see it through.

Dear Sonnet, I must put my pen away.

My ode to you cannot be done today.

I know exactly what you mean. I thought I was decent at short form poetry until I tried limericks. For more about how limericks defeated me, click here.

Thank you so much for sharing your tips, Lori. Now I know how you craft such fun poems!

*****

Elementary school teacher Lori Z. Scott usually writes fiction because, like an atom, she makes up everything. Her down time is filled with two quirky habits: chronic doodling and inventing lames jokes. Neither one impresses her principal (or friends/parents/casual strangers), but they do help inspire her writing. Somehow, her odd musings led her to accidentally write the 10-book bestselling Meghan Rose chapter book series and on purpose write over 150 short stories, articles, essays, poems, and devotions. Follow her on Instagram @Lori Z. Scott and read more of her great poems #lorizscottpoems.

Author interview with Theresa Van Meter

Always exciting to introduce to you a new author! In 2017, I met Theresa at a Serious Writer conference in Ohio. We’ve corresponded since then, and when I wanted to feature someone who writes short stories, I knew an author interview with Theresa Van Meter would be the perfect fit. Welcome, Theresa!

You are a sweet romance author. What makes a story a sweet romance?

For me a sweet romance story is filled with romance, and no sex.

Why do you write sweet romance stories?

I took my writing seriously in the ’90s with a goal toward publication, and I needed to focus on a niche. The possibilities were as wide open as an eight-lane highway. I could write anything. Despite my freedom, I couldn’t imagine, writing a scene that I’d be embarrased for my grandma to read. However, I knew that there was money in writing titillating stories and writing sweet could reduce my chances of publication. I wrestled with my decision and I even considered using a pen name. But, in the end I chose sweet.

After my grandma died, I no longer needed to worry about her reading a racy scene that I could write. However, I am a Christian now, and my road is narrow, so I still write sweet.

What a wonderful story! I understand the desire to write something your grandparents would be pleased to read.

What was the inspiration for your romantic short story, “Buried Treasure”?

Inspiration came to me when I saw a photograph in the local newspaper. It was a photo of children taking part in the annual treasure hunt at Lake Alma. There was a story there, but I needed to find my character’s names. Once I have the names, ideas flow for me.

I use an old phone book to choose their names. I have a routine that I use, so that the names I choose are random. The names chosen for this story were David and Della.

Those names sparked the idea for my fictional story. On a personal level, David is the name of my first love that I lost at the ripe old age of five. So, I wondered what might happen if my characters lost their first loves. Words flowed, and after days of rewriting and editing, the result was “Buried Treasure.”

I love choosing names for characters! Sometimes, if a character isn’t working well, I figure out I need a better name.

Why do you enjoy writing short stories? 

The simple answer is, it’s fun. But fun isn’t the only reason I enjoy writing short. I am a pantser. I don’t have a plan for how my story will start or end. In my opinion, it is easier to write short without an outline. I know it’s difficult to write a novel without an outline. I have a manuscript written by the seat of my pants and it is an editing mess. It may never be published.

By writing short, I can write many stories. I can enter my character’s lives and enjoy their story. Then savor the ending and move on to the next story. For me, it takes much less time to write a short story compared to a novel.

What are some of your favorite short stories?

This is a hard question for me to answer. I love to read. But the lack of free time limits my reading. However, one of my writing goals for 2021 is to have a short story published in The People’s Friend. I need to read that magazine again. The editors fill it with lots of well-written stories. Hmm, that gives me an idea for my website. I may create a list of my latest favorite stories from The People’s Friend.

It’s a hard questions for me, too, because there are so many I love different kinds of short stories. Click here for a list of some of my favorites.

*****

BUY AT AMAZON

By My Side brings you twenty of the best romantic stories from writers around the world.
Be transported to the past in the war-torn “Three Months of Summer” and back to the present in the gentle modern everyday situation of “The Pool Doctor.” Feel your heart racing through the ethical dilemmas in “Would You Shoot Me?” and the danger and drama of “Run From the Sun”. These stories will transport you to a world of love and romance and leave you breathless. In far-away locations or in everyday situations, there really is someone for everyone.

*****

Theresa Van Meter comes from a long line of storytellers and loves to spin tales of sweet romance. She has published her short stories online, and in magazines and her short story, “Buried Treasure”, is in the romantic anthology, By My Side. On her website, she enjoys interviewing authors about short stories. When she isn’t writing, she sells jewelry online, enjoys exercising, and playing board games with her family. Find more at Facebook or on her website

One Woman’s Romance is Another Woman’s Farce

Michelle L. Levigne is guest blogging but not as a speculative fiction author. To read those posts, click here. Today, she’s put on her romance author hat (I supposed that would have a broad brim with lots of feathers or flowers) and writes about her latest romance series and how one woman’s romance is another women’s farce.

A writer I used to know had a tagline something like, “When Love Is A Laughing Matter.” It made sense to me, because what’s the fun of romance that’s all angst and struggle? Yes, a good story has conflict and goals — but if you can’t laugh along the way, what’s the use?

Which brings me to my newest romance (sigh, published last year, but a new one in the series coming, promise!): A Match (not) Made in Heaven. Book 1 of the Match Girls. What’s the premise that ties them together? Gertie Foster, a wacky old lady armed with a computer program and determined to find them the love of their lives — whether they want one or not!

Enter Dinah Clydesdale, overworked and underappreciated church secretary who is fired because of church politics. At Christmas, no less. That sends her to a Christian job-matching service, run by our hero, Zach Foster, and his elderly Aunt Gertie. Dinah declines to sign up for A Match Made in Heaven dating service, but Gertie does it for her anyway. That puts Dinah on a collision course with a domineering woman determined to get her slightly creepy son married off, whether the bride is willing or not.

Can you see the comedy potential here?

The next book will be, Making It All Up, about Reggie Grant, Dinah’s best friend, head of the makeup counter at the local department store, and Gertie’s next target.

Too busy to read? I’m in the process of producing the audiobook of Match. Keep an eye out for updates on my blog or website. If you like clean, slightly snarky romance, you might just like Dinah, Reggie, and Gertie’s other future victims — umm — clients.

Great to hear about your audiobook! I’m sure that’s an adventure in itself.

*****

Buy at Amazon or Mt. Zion Ridge Press

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On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a bunch of useless degrees in theater, English, film/communication, and writing. Even worse, she has over 100 books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, suspense, women’s fiction, and sub-genres of romance. 

Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living (MichelleLevigne@gmail.com for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write. Want to learn about upcoming books, book launch parties, inside information, and cover reveals? Go to Michelle’s website or blog to sign up. You can also find her at www.YeOldeDragonBooks.com , www.MtZionRidgePress.com . Facebook, and Instagram.

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