A Salute to those who gave all.

Let me start this by saying today’s blog with have nothing whatsoever to do with writing, comedy or romance. If you came expecting such, I am sorry. In light of tomorrow being Memorial Day, I decided to take a departure from the usual me and talk about something other than myself. As someone who was raised with many fine men and women who proudly served this country, I thought I owed it to them to make this left turn from the norm.

 

When most people think Memorial Day, they drop their heads in honor of those who paid for our freedom to pretty much do whatever we want. Like I said above, I was raised knowing many of those proud men and women. The tragedy that most of those called to duty don’t come home didn’t really affect me. God was gracious enough to bring many of my family home. But, with age came a little wisdom. I realized that sometimes the cost of freedom isn’t simply lives lost, but lives changed forever.

 

My grandfather served during World War II. He was in the Navy, primarily in the Pacific. Most of what I know comes from my grandmother, because rarely did he talk about his time at war. I know he had been in Pearl Harbor right before that horrific attack that changed the course of America. I know he was injured during a battle and lay on the deck of his ship for hours until the fighting was over. He didn’t tell me that. I picked it up listening to my grandmother tell us stories. I don’t know the man he might have been if not for the war, but I know the man that came out of that horrible war. My grandfather was a quiet man, who loved family above all else. He thought it more important to relay life lessons than spend money to keep us happy. At the time, I would have rather had the cash, but now, as a man in his forties, I look back on those lessons and wished I’d listened harder. Still, I can only pray that I became half the man he hoped I’d be.

 

My dad and several uncles also served our country when called. They did so without a second thought. Some during wartime, some at the fringes of wars that would change how this country viewed war. Like my grandfather, they never talk about what happened, or what they saw or did. See, the pattern there.

 

As I grew from a teenager to a soon to be man in his twenties, war again loomed over our world. This time, instead of it being relatives talking about — or not talking about — war, it was my friends, and cousins. People I’d grown up with, laughed with, been stupid with. This time the impact affected me on a personal level because some of those people didn’t come back. Those that did weren’t the same people I’d known. The things that they’d done and seen had aged them beyond me in so many ways. I’d been in college at the time and could only watch the war unfold on the television screen, while my friends were fighting not only for freedoms we seldom think about, but bleeding on foreign sands and dying by inches to ensure we had the right to those freedoms. I will never understand what they endured, but I can say thank you for what they did for me. For those that didn’t come back, I will bow my head and pray that God granted them the mercy this world rarely allows.

 

I said this above, but it is so damned important, I’m going to say it one more time. Our freedom is not something automatically given to us. It isn’t some God given right. It is something bought and paid for with lives. Lives Lost. Lives changed. Either from post traumatic disorders, loss of limbs, lungs clogged with the stench of burning oil fields or gas released by people who thought they were more right than the rest of the world, our friends and family were changed forever from the people they should have been. They live with the horrors that only man can inflict on one another in ways we can never even attempt to comprehend.

 

So, as you sit in front of your grills tomorrow, enjoying your family and that stack of ribs, remember who bought you that time together. Because, they’re still buying it every single day.

Star Wars Rules! Read this blog or the Dog gets it, Fett style

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We interrupt this regularly scheduled Comedy Blog Series for an important announcement.

 

Star Wars is better than Star Trek!

 

Feel free to quote me on that, but before you change to some other blog expecting another insane rant on this controversial subject, let me digress a bit. Because this isn’t a rant. Rather it is at its heart a discourse on ideologies. That might sound strange to you but that’s how I see this long fought over subject. I am somewhat an expert on the subject, so bear with me.

 

I live in a house divided. Little did I know when I got married that this die-hard rabid Star Wars addict had unknowingly married a Trekkie– Trekker? Whatever they call themselves. I just know I married one. I freely admit to liking Star Trek. Like most people of my generation, I grew up watching reruns before becoming enamored of the many spin-off series that came about because of the movie franchise. Let’s face it. If you love Science Fiction, before the age of VHS and DVD, the television was your only place to get a fix. For the most part, Star Trek was only your fix.

 

That said, I love Star Wars.

 

But, why is there such a division between fans? Why do we find ourselves on different sides of the Neutral Zone on this subject? Like I said, it all comes down to ideologies.

 

At its core, Star Trek is about man’s ability to rise above our natures and achieve anything once we put our minds to it. Trek is also about seeing our fellow man as equals. The series taught a generation that color, religion, and birthplaces weren’t reasons for hate. It showed us that the path of war leads only to ultimate destruction. Gene Rodenberry gave us a future we could find hope in, because it offers something more. It offers us all that we can be. Should be, free of our hate, prejudices, and a million other things that hold us back from finding peace amongst ourselves.

 

Okay, that sounds like some awesome reasons to totally jump on the Star Trek bandwagon. And, it does. I love Star Trek for the worlds it opened up for me. I look forward to that future for my grandchildren and their children. I pray for it on their behalf. I just know humanity well enough to doubt it ever happens.

 

Star Wars is the opposite side of this coin of Science Fiction Duology. Star Wars is about understanding that something greater governs our actions. Some divine will that we are all a part of. Lucas also plugged into something primal that everyone can understand. The eternal struggle between good and evil, where there can be no light without the dark to balance it. George Lucas tapped into the consciousness of our belief systems to construct a world where this struggle is never ending. Evil will rise, but good will always come to challenge it. This is a story that is timeless and resonates with humanity because we get it. All our varied mythologies address the concept. It has for thousands of years. Star Wars might not have had the social impact has had on us as Star Trek has, but it speaks not of us as physical beings, but to us on a spiritual level.

 

Star Wars’ devotees understand that we are in a constant struggle with our dark sides. We strive for the light, but fall under the weight of our own temptations. We can empathize with Anakin Skywalker’s battle with himself, because daily we fight that same fight to do what is right in the face of our own selfish desires. Lucas shows us that there is a greater purpose. A greater power. A truth if you will. What we do as an individual affects more than just us. We are part of a vast universe. Our personal power combines with it. Whether it is the Force, God, or whatever you personally believe, we are part of the organism that is this world. Only through understanding our role in this and submitting to it can we know what it means to be part of something much more profound than a singular existence.

 

Plus, Star Wars is just plain more fun than Star Trek. Trek has a seriousness to it. Star Wars is about adventure. A rogue with a heart of gold. A young man thrust into the role of the hero he always wanted to be. A princess not really in need of saving. A giant teddy bear that can rip your arms off. An all knowing droid and his clueless companion. A dark knight in need of salvation. Best of all! The baddest man in the galaxy, the Fett himself Boba. There is literally something for everyone to fall in love with.

 

Sure, many knock the prequels, but taken in context and as a whole, the story captivates you and draws you in to the deeper meanings behind what you see. It could truly be the story of our times in many ways. Like Trek, the Wars gives us an allegorical view of us as a people and the truths we cling too.

 

That said. I see nothing wrong with being a fan of Star Trek or Star Wars, as long as you’re a fan of Science Fiction. Out of every genre, I honestly believe Science Fiction is the best. Not because of space ships, aliens or really cool swords, but because of what these two examples of it convey so well. There is a future — or in Star Wars’ case, a long time ago — and it is one filled with the hope that humanity can be better than itself. As long as you cling to that hope, there is a chance of that future coming true.

 

Before I leave you, there are several movies and documentaries out there about this eternal struggle between Trek and Wars. If you would love to see the best I have watched, check out Fanboys. It is two things I love, funny and proves once and for all that Star Wars is better than Star Trek.

 

Until next week, where I may or may not return to Jmo’s Comedy-o-rama,

Live Long and May the Force be with You,

Jmo

Comedy in Two Parts

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If I remember correctly, I’m supposed to be doing something about comedy this week. Of course, this has been one of those weeks that makes you forget your own name, so who knows? Since I’m brain dead, I beg your forgiveness for any rambling drivel you may be forced to endure on my behalf.

 

Comedy is the exaggerated norm. That is I guess the first Law of Jmoism. Without a normal base line to go from you can’t achieve comedy. Comedy works because first and foremost you present a believable character or situation and extend outwards from there.

 

I love Big Bang Theory. Sure, it’s a sitcom about unbelievable characters, but if you go back to that first season and the beginning episodes, the writers gave you characters you could believe in. They might have been outside most peoples’ circle of friends, but they presented them first in ways that you could understand and empathize with. After they hooked you, the craziness began.

 

That’s how I do it. In my books, I attempt to introduce you to characters, who are unabashedly raw, human, flawed. Sure, they’re vampires, werewolves and ghosts, but at their hearts they’re just like you or me. But, not that guy. Yeah, you over there in the corner. Put that away and move on. Shoo… Shoo…

 

Now, where was I? Oh, yes.

 

See what I did there. I started off serious. You were probably thinking that this guy, meaning me, was about to make some profound point or another. Then, he, me, moves on to talking about werewolves and such. You were still on board, but might have been wondering where this was leading with your finger cautiously hovering over a bookmarked icon on your toolbar. Wham! I end it with some insanity about a guy in a corner? But! You kept reading, because it might have been mildly amusing, especially when you began to think about all things this jerk in the corner might have had to put away. I bet your mind might have even dipped into a gutter or two. Mine did.

 

But, that profound point you were waiting for me to make is this. Comedy is seriousness laced with the ability to make your imagination work overtime. It’s just like horror. The lights dim and you imagine all sorts of lurky things coming toward you in the dark. Comedy is horror’s opposite. Instead of the dark, it’s mimes in sunshine coming at you. Okay, bad example, but you get the idea.

 

The second Law of Jmoism is that you can’t be funny all the time. Comedy in huge doses just doesn’t work. For one thing, it makes you one dimensional. Do you laugh all the time? Man, I hope not. People might think you were crazy for one thing. For another, life is about the good, the bad, and then you have the Facts of Life. The Facts of Life. Loved that show, but I’m not digressing as you may think. The facts of life is this, you have equal, or sometimes unequal parts of good and bad in your life. Laughter allows you to deal with the bad. Sorrow allows you to appreciate the good all the more because it is fleeting at times and needs to be cherished.

 

So, if you’re planning to attempt comedy, trust in balance. There is balance to more than just the Force. Latticework in your funny when it’s needed. To break a heavy situation. To hide insecurity. To showcase a character’s snark or personality, but understand this. If your own thing is one liner after one liner, it won’t work. It took me awhile to figure that out, so feel free to learn from my mistakes.

 

Exaggerate the norm. Let’s go back to that. Enhancing a character’s personality quirks is just one tool. I’ll refer back to Sheldon on Big Bang for this one. We all know someone who is introverted and maybe just left of center. Which is why we love him as a character. Here’s the thing. After five years of watching him, we see evolution in his character. He is not the same guy we got to know in the beginning. As writers, we need to strive to have the ability to do that in our characters. If your hero or heroine is the same person they were on page one, as they are on page two hundred, you just failed.

 

How to twist a character, though. What you talking ’bout Willis? Serious, but funny? That just seems like a contradiction in terms. Well, it is, but it works. To show you what I’m talking about, here’s a few of my tricks.

 

In Love at First Stake, I had Donatello Ravell, be allergic to human blood. Savannah was the ultimate Buffy. She was trained to kill Vampires, but really not experienced enough to get the job done.

 

In Were Love Blooms, Madison Lee is the ultimate Southern Belle, but a European vacation gives her something they didn’t cover in her Southern Belle handbook. A raging case of the werewolf cooties. Nicholi Grant, the hero in this story, is the consummate straight-man to her Lucille Ball. Like I said above. Comedy without seriousness doesn’t cut it.

 

Love Free Stake Hard, gives us Deme, a four thousand year old Vampire, who has never truly lived. It’s up to our human heroine, Dela, to show him that a life not lived is not really a life at all.

 

Each of those three examples start off at that norm base line I talked about. Normal people in normal, or in my case, paranormal, situations thrust into situations that can’t help but lend themselves to comedic episodes. You twist the serious until you laugh at it or cry from experiencing it.

 

I know I’ve harped on that sorrow and cry business, but that is the heart of comedy. Avoiding the stuff that you can’t face without going insane.

 

A Southern Deb who suddenly becomes a werewolf? To her, it’s the end of her world. To us, it’s a chance to laugh along with her until she realizes her curse just might be the thing that she’s needed to make her stronger.

 

A first time Vampire Slayer, who might not be up to the challenge, but who is up to falling for the Vampire she’s sent to kill? Again, end of one world, beginning of another.

 

These aren’t just stories, they’re examples of looking on the bright side and finding happiness.

 

And, that just might be the point of Comedy.

 

Til, next week…

 

Happy Reading!

Jmo

Serious About Comedy

 

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Robert Heinlein said in his book Stranger in a Strange Land that man is the monkey that laughs at himself. At the time I first read it, I found this an odd thing to say. Then, as the line haunted me, I realized he was right. People love to laugh at their own faults and the mishaps that break the monotony of their daily lives.

 

When I started writing, I never considered the possibility that I’d want to write comedy. My first two books were far from comical. In fact, I’d made it a habit of starting and never finishing horror novels. Thanks to my wife, I read a few romantic comedies and said to myself, wow, words can be funny. That isn’t to say I had never read comedies before. I cut my teeth reading Douglas Adams and Robert Asprin’s Myth series. Funny was funny, but Romantic funny? Sure, I loved to watch them, but read them? Write them? I couldn’t see myself doing that at the beginning of my writing career. I was too serious. Took myself too seriously, might be closer to the truth.

 

What changed that?

 

I learned to laugh at myself. Okay, that was an old habit, but I took a defense mechanism that served me well during my formative years and transformed it into a literary art form. And, they said internalizing stuff wasn’t good for me.

 

First off, let me say that writing comedy isn’t easy.

 

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of this dissertation. Writing comedy. How do I do it? What mindset does it take to make fun of yourself and purge all that out on a computer screen? You might think a warped one, but I like to think I’m saner because I write comedy. Huh? Yeah, I’m getting to it. Maybe it won’t all get out in one blog post, but I hope to explain what it takes to write comedy. At least, I will the way I approach doing it.

 

The first step is to observe everything. To write comedy, you have to be able to understand that people cling to happy. Lives are tough all over. Work, family, finances, the news. All these things take the funny out of life. You worry that you’re not doing enough for your family, you’re working too much, war will break out at any moment. Aliens will abduct you and do silly things with probes. Those things clog the brain with so much crap that you have to laugh at the little stuff, or you’ll go insane. Problems, but probes, but then again, I guess they could, too.

 

Just look at sit-coms. People laugh at pratfalls, embarrassing situations, turkey stuffed on heads. You name it. Why? The answer is insidious. Just like people listen to the blues to feel better about themselves, people laugh at the small miseries of others because it isn’t them that it’s happening to. Sad isn’t it, but so true. Not to sound jaded about the subject, but we’re a callous bunch some of the time.

 

That isn’t to say, all comedy is about us feeling better because it’s not us, but that’s part of it. We all do it, so don’t tsk tsk at me. The Three Stooges wouldn’t still be popular today if it wasn’t. But, there’s a flipside to that self centered idea. We laugh because we’ve been there. Silly things have happened to us that have embarrassed us at the time, but we survived and lived through it. We are stronger because of it! We laugh because we empathize with the character. In my books, stuff happens. It happens to good people at the most inopportune times. They cope and get over it, just like we do.

 

Comedy, if anything, is about making normal. Most books don’t portray the truth of the human condition. They portray a stylized version of what life would be like if we lived in a perfect world. We don’t, so why should literary characters have it so good? They shouldn’t. That isn’t to say that stylized version of life doesn’t have its place. I like reading perfect worlds as well as the next reader. It allows us to view the world as we’d like it to be. Comedy allows us to step outside the real world and view it with the perspective of someone who has survived it.

 

Think about that a second. If you never had stuff rolled over you, you wouldn’t grow. We grow up to be the person we are because of life’s little embarrassing moments. If they didn’t happen, we couldn’t deal with the truly hard stuff. Hopefully, my books balance the comedy of life with the harder truths that life deals us. Comedy without tragedy doesn’t exist. They are two sides of the same coin.

 

Let me get personal for a moment. When I lost both my grandmothers within a year of each other, it was two of the most painful moments of my life. Both of those women gave me love and knowledge that still resides inside me to this day. Anyone who has lived through losing someone like that, knows the furthest thing from your mind is laughing. It took a great long while to recover from those losses, but when I did, the first thing I did was laugh. I remembered not their deaths, but the little things that made them them. Believe me, these women were amazing, but with eccentric traits that made them so memorable that the stories would make you hold your gut from all the laughter. Fifteen years later, I don’t look back with a mourner’s eye. I look back with the eye of someone who was loved by those two women and laughed with them, because of them, and because they taught me how to laugh. That laughter is told within my pages. It is their legacy through me.

 

Comedy is the knowledge that pain can be overcome. It is laughing in the face of pain so great that tears can’t begin to cover the emotion. It is the memory of life lived and life as it will one day be. The present isn’t as funny as the past and future. Why? Because, we’re too busy living it, to see the comedy in it. We get too full of ourselves to think anything we’re suffering could in any way be humorous. To us it isn’t. That doesn’t mean our friends don’t see it. As a result, we tend to despise them for it.

 

So, what is comedy? Comedy is the lives we live. Comedy is the human condition. Comedy is that guy slipping on a banana peel while a vampire is munching down on his neck. Yeah, okay I might be twisted, but I know that people enter my worlds to laugh at the seriousness of their existence and say…

 

 ‘World do your worst! I may not get out of this alive, but I’ll eventually go out hoping I laughed more than I cried. I loved more than I hated. I was surrounded by those I love, more than I sat alone. I held hope alive, more than I despaired. Lastly, I read as many books as I could while everyone else was waiting for the movie to come out so they could see what the deal was all about a good year after I already knew. More importantly, Comedy is our way for dealing with what life has to throw at us. We laugh to make it hurt just a little bit less. Sorry, to leave it on a sad note, but sometimes the truth needs to be told.

 

Before I go to do whatever it is I have to do, I ask you to stay tuned because next time I will delve more into my approach to comedy, but I felt I needed to lay some groundwork first. So until next week, happy reading.