Humor Author Deborah Dee Harper

Deborah Dee Harper

A versatile author—that’s Deborah Dee Harper, who writes humorous mystery and inspirational fiction for both children and adults. Her children’s adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, was published in 2012 and will be re-released in four books soon. Misstep, her 2015 debut adult novel, is published by Write Integrity Press under the Pens of Mystery imprint. Misstep is the first book of her Road’s End series, and from the following description, is a full-flavored read:

Retired Air Force chaplain Hugh Foster and his wife Melanie dream of a peaceful life as innkeepers in the pre-Revolutionary War village of Road’s End, Virginia. When Hugh is pressed into service at tiny but historic Christ Is Lord Church, their dream crumbles right along with the old building. One of Hugh’s first challenges is Emma River, a woman who needs no one—especially God—and lives in seclusion in her home, Rivermanse, guarding her dark secret and hated by most of the town. With a church in desperate need of repair, a dwindling congregation, and a record-breaking blizzard, the town’s residents—comprised mostly of ornery senior citizens—are forced to outwit some drug dealers who are bent on revenge against the church caretaker. Poor drug dealers.

Misstep Cover concept update 5 (1)Laramie-cvr

Deborah, welcome to the Scriblerians.

Thanks, Cynhia. I’m so happy to be here.

You like to mix humor, mystery, and spiritual inspiration in your fiction. Which mystery writers influenced you the most and why or how?

I don’t know that mystery writers, per se, influenced me, unless it was just a natural extension of all the reading I did as a kid and beyond. I did love Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew books, although I just discovered that Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym and more than one person has written under that name. Nevertheless, I guess you’d say that she (or they, as the case may be) influenced my early writing and started me on the path toward writing mysteries. And by early, I mean about 4th grade. My first mystery was titled, The Mystery of Castle Dawn. That was as far as that ever went—the title. I should finish it someday! Of course, Stephen King, James Patterson, John Grisham, all of whom have some element of mystery in their books are favorites of mine and I suppose that may have rubbed off on me too.

Some elements of Misstep remind me of a few of my favorite movies and television series from the 80s and 90s, such as Funny Farm, Murder She Wrote, and The Golden Girls (without the sexual references and innuendo). Without spoiling the story, please share with us how you used characters and situations to tickle the reader’s funny bone.

In Misstep, one of the characters is a young man about 18 years old who comes to town in the middle of the blizzard. His name is Sherman—a bright, nearly fluorescent orange-haired fellow—who brings Sophie with him to appear in the town’s upcoming outdoor live nativity. Sophie is a camel. With all his other problems, the last thing Hugh Foster needs to take care of is a camel. Nevertheless, Sophie is here and needs a place to stay, so Hugh directs Sherman to pull the camel’s trailer over by the 18th century henhouse. Sherman misunderstands and puts Sophie in the henhouse, which receives several visitors throughout the night, some of them less than happy to see Sophie there.

Is humor a natural part of all your fiction? What other books in addition to the ones already mentioned contain humorous elements?

Yes, humor permeates most of what I write. I’ve written two other books in the Road’s End series, Faux Pas and Misjudge, which are full of humor. Other manuscripts are being developed and they too have an element of humor throughout. It seems to just pour out of me as I write.

It’s a blessing when something comes easily in our writing. So much about being a writer is hard work. Do you have a favorite scripture verse that motivates you as a writer or keeps you centered?

As part of my email signature, I’ve included Psalms 68:3, “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” It reminds me that living as a child of God is not only a glorious adventure, it’s filled with humor. God gave us our sense of humor; we need to use it!

I agree!

More about Deborah and where to connect with her:

Deborah Dee Harper lives in Tennessee but spent four years in Anchorage, Alaska, where she hiked rugged paths to blue glaciers, watched the whales (and otters, sea lions, Dall sheep, ptarmigans, bald eagles, black bears, foxes, wolves, you-name-it) in their glorious natural surroundings. She even chased a grizzly bear down a dirt road to get a picture of it. She got it too (and survived to tell the story)!

http://www.deborahdeeharper.com

Author Facebook page http://tinyurl.com/nrg8ola

Goodreads Author page www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomdeborahdeeharper

Twitter handle @deborahdeetales

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A Rainbow Kind of Day

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It’s been a rainbow kind of day.
Not the kind that have been splattered across social media of late.
No.

You know what I speak of:
a spring day when a fine mist falls from the sky,
the clouds are dark and menacing,
yet the sun is still out.
A perfect day for a stunning rainbow.

I am at home in bed due to a brutal cold,
sadly missing my friend from high school’s wedding. 😦

This day is filled with a deep sadness,
crammed into the nooks and crannies,
hiding in the shadows.
My church is packed to say goodbye to Walt Hartholt after a year and a half fight with cancer.
Thankfully the church is streaming the service so I can still partake.

Walt was active in the community,
father, husband, principal, teacher and mentor.
He touched so many peoples lives  there is now a hole where he used to be.
There is a deep sadness at his passing.
But as I hear his family and close friends speak about his faith.
About his conviction that “God is good” even through this season.
I am struck by God’s faithfulness.

Through the sorrow and rain of today,
God’s rainbow, His faithfulness, stretches across generations.

Lately,
I’ve felt like my life has been filled with bad news:
friends losing a child,
parents dying before they see their children grown,
families splitting.

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It is enough to make me only see the dark clouds,
to feel the weight of the world and all its sin on my shoulders.

When I heard how Walt, even through the pain,
remembered God’s goodness and faithfulness.
This reminder filled my heart with joy.

Thank you Walt for this final gift.
That even through the trials and pains of this world,
as Christians our joy through it all remains like bedrock.

Like a rainbow,
more beautiful for the dark clouds behind.

“God is good…
it is well with my soul.”

Please feel free to share your “dark clouds” in the comment section below or just ask for prayer. I’d love to pray for you!

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

We the People

God Bless The United States of America.

God Bless The United States of America.

 

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” The U.S. Constitution

On July 4th we the citizens of The United States of America are celebrating our countries 239th anniversary. As countries go, we aren’t by any stretch of the imagination the oldest governed country in the world. There are actual populated cities on this earth that are far older. But for what we may lack in age and maturity, we certainly make-up with in brashness, can-do spirit, and audacity. Is that good? I don’t know, any perspective less than a hundred years old I immediately consider suspect at best.

Regardless of my nation’s sometimes bloody, sometimes noble, sometimes idiotic, sometimes unfair, and sometime brilliant past or present, I do love my home and nation – warts and all. Our US flag stands for a great deal, some bad, but so much more that is good.

Consider how many people from around the world would move to the US at the drop of a hat. Think of all our Latin American neighbors sneaking in against or laws and policies because they would rather live here than their own nations. I work at a University and meet many students from other nations who would rather stay here than go back to their own nations as their academic careers draw to a close. Many struggle to stay, some are not so successful.

No matter what people may think of the United States of America, it is for me the most wonderful place to live in the world. If you were born in a different place and take offense at my statement, I truly hope you love your home as much as I love mine. My wish for you is that you will work hard to make your nation a great and a wonderful place to live.  As for me, I will endeavor to help my home maintain our national identity as “one nation under God, indivisible with justice for all.”

Is our country perfect? What does perfect mean anyway? Is their room for improvement, absolutely.  But if we don’t learn to work together and face our difficulties with civility and respect, the alternative will always be bleak.

 

Name one thing you love about your home in the United States and one thing you would change for the better.

 

How Do You Define the Horror Genre?

Mary Shelly created the modern monster character, Frankenstein.

Mary Shelly created the modern monster character, Frankenstein.

 

I’ve been “bear baiting” a bit in my last posts on horror. Yes, I have tried to be evocative, but I want to alter the tone for this blog. There are people that actually enjoy horror and probably don’t know it. Recognizing and defining horror fiction has become difficult in the new millennium, and not because it’s really hard. The true reality of horror as a genre has been eclipsed by the successful marketing of  the modern horror slasher and spatter films. Talk about horror as a genre and no one brings up Universal Studios “B” monster movies anymore. What everyone thinks of are films that are wall-to-wall blood and gore. Movies and movie franchises like the Saw films, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead, and others have done a lot to obscure modern horror stories of the 18th and 19th, and 20th centuries. Maybe that’s because we have a hard time defining what “horror” as a literary or film genre is.

How should we define the horror genre? One of my favorite working definitions of horror comes from Dr. Donna Casella, instructor\scholar of film theory, film studies, and early American Literature at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Casella states that horror is an, “An atmospheric genre — populated by creatures of dread – that plays on human and cultural fears.” Give a story a creepy atmosphere (whatever that is) to give it legs, while making sure the themes play against cultural fears and throw in creatures of dread (monsters, but monsters that can be human, or natural creatures, as well as supernatural).frankenstein-cartoon-character_zJJoosvu

The first recognized modern horror genre is known as Victorian Gothic horror. Reading those books says a lot about what got under the skin of the people of that time, especially women. During the Victorian era, significant amount of horror was written by women for women. That’s pretty progressive, considering society of that time didn’t allow women to vote, hold property, or even have checking accounts. I fell in love with Gothic horror when taking a graduate course on women authors. As tough as the stories from that era could be to read, many that were preserved had rich payoffs and were completely worth the effort.

If you accept Dr. Casella’s definition as a primary definition, and I do until someone comes up with a better one, horror as a genre can be about every day things, as well as the paranormal. Remember Stephen King’s Cujo? An adorable St. Bernard becomes one of the scariest monsters in twentieth century literature.

Horror can also contain the fantastic or mundane, but to be sure, horror isn’t always about ghosts, vampires, zombies, blood and gore, or flesh-eating monsters. Creatures of dread can be rats (Willard 1971), sharks (Jaws 1975), bears (Night of the Grizzly 1966), rabbits (Night of the Lepus 1972), relatives (Uncle Silas by Le Fanu), and even ordinary people turned murderous for one night every year (The Purge 2013).

Best selling author from the late 18th century. Her mysteries of Udolpho was ground breaking.

Best selling author from the late 18th century. Her mysteries of Udolpho was ground breaking.

One of my favorite all-time horror movies is Jack the Bear with Danny Devito. Devito’s character is a host for late night horror movies on television. There was no blood or gore, but when a neo-fascist shows up to indoctrinate a vulnerable neighborhood kid in Hitler style Aryanism, the atmosphere amps up and propels the creature of dread theme forward.  And yes, I consider neo-facists creatures of dread. Remember, horror has to play against personal or cultural fears. That doesn’t mean horror is always intended to incite fear, sometimes it’s an incredible tool for evaluating fears.

Lest you think horror can’t be humorous, you should check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahme-Smith. I laughed a lot in spite of the “bone crunching” scenes. The novel can very tongue-in-cheek in parts, at least I thought so. See what I did there? I didn’t say whose tongue in whose cheek as this is a zombie novel, right? Let’s move on.

A very hilarious and clever book is a grammar textbook called The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Elizabeth Gordon. I have used this to successfully tutor college students in English grammar. Yes, infinitives, prepositional phrases, gerunds, passive voice, and everything else English can be truly terrifying, but Gordon successfully mimics the Gothic horror style and uses it to teach English. Pretty useful for a genre blacklisted in the minds of many .

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire:

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire:

 

Douglas Winter, horror author and critic once stated,“Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.” But if you think the only strong emotion allowed in horror is horror, terror, or dread, you’ve not read very much. Pathos is just as much a part of horror as the emotion of horror itself. Consider a truly iconic horror/monster movie of the twentieth century, King Kong (2005). Personally, I find a lot to dread in this scene as to what it says about humans.

One of the founders of the Horror Writers Association, Robert McCammon, once said, “Horror fiction upsets apple carts, burns old buildings, and stampedes the horses; it questions and yearns for answers, and it takes nothing for granted. It’s not safe….Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader’s own will. And since horror can be many things and go in many, many, directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose.” (Twilight Zone Magazine, Oct 1986).

Once horror is allowed to grow beyond zombies, vampires, werewolves, and Amish vampires in space (author Kerry Nietz is my hero) in the minds of the audience. The genre of horror becomes a potent agent of confrontation and change. So let’s remember there’s more to horror as a genre than just wall-to-wall gore.