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Hot beach reads

The 2013 Beach Book Festival will hold a day festival on Saturday, June 22, at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway hotel for its annual event honoring the summer’s hottest reads in the world publishing capital.

Those interested in participating as a vendor or speaker should send a note to for more information. The day festival is free and open to the public.

The 2013 Beach Book Festival has also issued a call for entries for its annual awards spotlighting the hottest reads of the summer season.

The Beach Book Festival will consider self-published or independent publisher non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children’s books, teenage, how-to, science fiction, romance, comics, poetry, spiritual, compilations/anthologies, history, business and health-oriented books.

The grand prize for the 2013 Beach Book Festival is $1,500 cash and a flight to the event on June 21 at the Grolier Club in Manhattan, one of the world’s publishing landmarks.

Submitted works will be judged for general excellence, i.e., the potential of the work to be an engaging beach read this summer season. More information and registration available at Deadline for entry is May 25, 2013.

Heartbreak motel

In Mexico there is a significant difference between a “Hotel” and a “Motel.”

Without putting too fine a point on it, this distinction can be summarized as follows: the “H” in Hotel stands for Hospitality. The “M” in Motel stands for Paid Sex.

If only I had known this 18 years ago when, along with my wife and mother-in-law, I steered my truck through the entrance of what turned out to be a drive-in whorehouse. How did this happen? How did something as simple as a one-night sleepover in Guadalajara go so wrong? 

My wife and I were on our way home to Puerto Vallarta at the end of the first buying trip for our shop. To save money, Consuelo (Lucy’s mom) had flown into Guadalajara, instead of Vallarta. By the time we’d picked her up at the airport, it was too late to undertake the five-hour drive home, so we went in search of a place to spend the night.

The camper of our pickup was crammed full of the merchandise we’d  been collecting all summer, and we were a little leery of parking it anywhere but a highly secure location. After lunch in nearby Tlaquepaque, we’d asked around for a hotel with secure parking. A friendly man in a cowboy hat informed us that el Motel Melanie had the most secure parking in the area. And so, following his directions, off we went.

 The Motel Melanie had a gated entrance, manned by a security guard. Once he let us in, we drove halfway around a small circle until we were stopped by a woman dressed like a waitress. I told her we needed a room for three people.

“Señor,” she informed me politely, “this is a hotel de paso, not a hotel familiar.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

The woman glanced uneasily at my elderly mother-in-law (a devout Catholic) who was sitting beside me finishing up her fifth rosary of the day. “Señor,” the woman said, “in a hotel familiar, you pay by the day. In a hotel de paso, you pay for 12 hours at a time.”

Blinded by my urgent need for secure parking, I missed her meaning entirely. “That’s okay,” I said. “We’ll just pay for two 12-hour periods.”

“Are you sure?” she said.

 “As long as the room is clean, we’ll be fine.”

“The rooms are very clean, señor. We change the sheets various times a day.” She gave me a severe look and pointed her chin at my mother-in-law. Clueless, I shrugged my shoulders.

The parking turned out to be unbelievably secure. You actually got to park your vehicle in its own garage, behind a steel accordion curtain! Once parked, you climbed up a short flight of stairs to your room. So enamored was I with the parking, that I’d made up my mind and paid in advance before actually seeing the room, which was probably a mistake.

The room had the weakest lights I’d ever seen. I turned them all on, and the room was still dark. The bed was heart-shaped and covered in bright red bed imitation velveteen. And attached to the ceiling above the bed was a king-sized mirror.

Consuelo excused herself to use the restroom.

Lucy and I looked at the bed, the mirror and then at each other.

“Whoops,” I said.

“That woman,” Lucy recalled, “told us the TV only gets four stations.”

“Right,” I said, reaching for the remote, “we better check.”

Station number one appeared to be a “public affairs” channel and was showing a topless panel discussion. Station number two featured sports and currently displayed a nude mud wrestling match. Stations three and four appeared to be broadcasting non-stop XXX-rated smut.

“There’s something odd in the bathroom,” my mother-in-law said, rejoining us.

“What’s that, Mom?” I asked, hurriedly turning off the TV.

“There’s a metal bar in the middle of the bathroom, hanging from the ceiling. I wonder what it could be for.”

I poked my head into the bathroom. The bar was suspended at the ideal height for hanging someone by their wrists —n ot high enough to dislocate a shoulder, and not so low, you’d have to slouch. “Well, Mom,” I said, “to me it looks like one of those all-purpose hanging bars. You find them in the best hotels.”

“Oh,” she said. “Can we turn on the television?”

“TV’s on the fritz, Mom.”

“Well, then, maybe I’ll just take a nap.”

“Good idea.”

“Honey,” my wife said, “could I speak to you a minute?”

After surreptitiously unplugging the TV, I followed Lucy into the bathroom.

“We can’t stay here,” she whispered urgently. “If my mom catches on, she’ll have a stroke!”

“You’re right,” I said. “But this place is perfect for the truck. Houdini couldn’t break in here.”

“My mother,” Lucy whispered forcefully, “is not going to spend the night in a whorehouse!”

“Okay, honey, I’ve got an idea. I’ll stay here with the truck, and you get a taxi and take your mom to someplace more respectable.”

“Are you joking?”

“We must protect the merchandise at all costs,” I said.

“If I were you,” she said grimly, “I’d be more concerned with protecting my testicles.”

Then we heard the sound of the television, and a moment later Consuelo saying, “It was just unplugged.”

Diving for the outlet, I reached out, upending a lamp, got my hand on the plug, and yanked.

“I can’t believe,” I proclaimed piously, “the kind of filth they show at a respectable hotel nowadays!”

From then on everything went fine and somehow, after dinner, we all managed to get to sleep without incident. Until 4 a.m., when a knock sounded on the door, followed by a voice yelling, “Time’s up!”

“No, no, no!” I shouted from my makeshift bed on the floor, “I paid for two entire 12-hour shifts. Don’t do this to me! I’m in here with my mother-in-law, for God’s sake!”

 “Your mother-in-law?” the voice yelled. Shame on you!”

— Gil Gevins

Gil Gevins is the author of the hilarious best-seller, Puerto Vallarta on 49 Brain Cells a Day, and three other books.

A momoir

(This is the prologue to Tracy Beckerman’s new book, Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs. Reposted by permission of the publisher. The book can be ordered here.)

“Good morning, ma’am.”

“Good morning, Officer.”

“Are you aware that you made an illegal left turn onto this street?”

“No, sir,” I lied.   “Didn’t you see the sign at the corner that said, ‘No left turn’?” he asked in standard police monotone.

“What sign, Officer?” I responded in standard suburbanite bull doody.

“That big sign over there, Mommy!” shouted my daughter from the backseat, as she pointed back in the direction of the school.

Apparently, my almost three-year-old, who could not yet read, was an idiot savant when it came to interpreting street signs.

“I guess I missed that sign.” I shrugged. “There were too many minivans blocking my view.”

He gave me a dubious look and then lowered his oversized mirrored Ray-Bans. If I hadn’t been dressed in my bathrobe, I might have actually made a snarky comment about his ’80s-style sunglasses. But people who live in fluffy, blue bathrobes shouldn’t throw stones.

“Is that your bathrobe?” he asked suspiciously, peering down at my robe. The cat was out of the bag.

“Yes, it is, Officer.”

“And are those birds on your bathrobe?” he wondered.

“That’s Mommy’s ducky bathrobe,” chimed in my daughter from the backseat. “She likes it ’cuz it quacks her up!!” She quipped, quoting a bad family joke. The cop wasn’t amused.

“Can I see your license and registration, please?” he finally asked.

“Hey, Mama. Hey, Mommy. Hey, Mom,” chanted my daughter.

“One minute, puss,” I said as I rummaged through my handbag, which was equipped for every possible kid emergency from a hunger meltdown to a snot explosion, but apparently not for being stopped by a cop.

“Hey, Mama. Hey, Mommy. Mamamamamamamama . . .” she repeated.

“Your mommy is busy right now,” said the officer impatiently.

“Hmmph!” snorted my daughter. “I wasn’t talking to you, you big bubba!”

I gave the cop a withering smile. I was going to jail for a very long time.

In my bathrobe.

— Tracy Beckerman

Tracy Beckerman writes the syndicated humor column and blog, “Lost in Suburbia,” which is carried by more than 400 newspapers in 25 states and on 250 websites to approximately 10 million readers. She’s also the author of Rebel Without a Minivan: Observations on Life in the ‘Burbs. She has served on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Let’s write!

This is one impressive line-up.

Dave Barry, Alan Zweibel, Heloise, W. Bruce Cameron, Joel Brinkley, Tracy Beckerman, Suzette Martinez Standring, Gina Barreca, Jerry Zezima and a number of other gifted writers are all part of the June 27-30 37th annual National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ conference in Hartford, Conn.

Register by April 1 for the early registration fee. Click here for the full conference line-up and registration information.

Suzette Martinez Standring, who wrote the book on column writing, is teaching a workshop about the art of a writing a column that stands out. This workshop is slated for April 26 in Boston. Click here for details.

The Grailville Retreat and Program Center in Loveland, Ohio, invites writers to attend “Writing as Healing,” a workshop led by writer and nurse Jeanne Bryner.

This workshop, which runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, uses writing (poetry, journaling, narrative) and other forms of creative self-expression to explore themes of physical and spiritual healing and thriving. The fee is $45, which includes lunch. Reservations are required. Some scholarships may be available. Call 513-683-2340 or click here.

A bare compliment

Have you ever been told you look young while lying nude on a backboard, wearing a neck brace and stretched out on a gurney?


Well, I have.

Neener. Neener. Neener.

When you first arrive in the emergency department, they ask you the usual questions.

“Ma’am, what happened to your clothes?”

Haha! No, they knew my apparel had been cut off in the ambulance, or they guessed I was headed to the grocery store naked that Friday morning. Either way, it was irrelevant.

So first they asked, “What’s you name?”


“How old are you, Hillary?”

“33. No, 32. I have a birthday…coming up…this week…”

And that’s when I heard it, as from an angelic male voice drawing me toward a bright light down a rose-scented tunnel.

“Wow, she looks young!”

Right then and there I wanted to spring off that backboard with a cry of, “I’m cured! Peace, ya’ll!”, and take myself off for a victory jog around the hospital corridors, but

a. I had multiple rib fractures, which wouldn’t allow me to roll off the table, much less spring from it

b. I figured once that doctor or nurse got a flash of my full, jiggling thighs and cellulite, he might not think I looked so young anymore, and

c. I was pretty sure I could be arrested for indecent exposure, even while in the hospital. Of course, my defense would have been perfect: temporary insanity brought on by a crazy good compliment after a traumatic injury.

But failing this I lay there with an asinine smile on my face, waiting for someone to tell me I also had a brilliant mind and a winning personality.

Instead they took me for a CAT scan.

Later my euphoria was dampened by a nurse saying she thought I was older and then gloating over her own youthful appearance, overhearing a couple of nurses comment to each other that I smelled worse than expected (I couldn’t shower for six days, people!), and by my doctor asking me how much I weighed and then hazarding a guess — 70kg.

“I don’t know how much that is,” I told him. (There goes the brilliant mind theory.)

I’m surprised he didn’t cry, “Damn!”, claim he forgot something in another room and shuttle out of there never to be seen again. Instead, he bravely said, “140.”

“Last time I checked, I was 134,” I responded. I magnanimously added, “But you could be right; I haven’t weighed myself in a long time.”

After all, 140 isn’t bad at all, and I hadn’t weighed myself in a while.

And, obviously, I’m not one for being vain.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra is a mother of four and a writer at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. She has been published multiple times at the humor site Aiming Low. She lives in Arizona where she takes every chance to explore Native American ruins and natural wonders.

Rest in peace, but not at Disney

So then… I scroll through the FAQ on the Disneyland website to prep for our upcoming trip.

The section, “What items are not permitted in Disneyland Park,” contains things you’d expect:

• Alcoholic beverages
• Illegal substances
• Weapons

BUT they also list:

• Items that may be disruptive (e.g., laser pointers, slingshots, stink bombs, air horns)

(Thank goodness. Can’t tell you how many times our enjoyment of It’s A Small World has been ruined by a nasty stink bomb. Although to be honest, some of those have been human-made by our own party.)

Disneyland’s list clarifies:

• Weapons of any kind (including guns, knives, billy clubs, brass knuckles, nunchucks, stars and other martial arts equipment)

(Nunchucks? Really? Are lethal Ninjas flinging nunchucks at unsuspecting Disneyland tourists?)

The forbidden list also includes:

• Restraining devices (e.g., handcuffs, zip ties) or any suspicious items (e.g., box cutters, razor blades, duct tape, wire)

(Um…duct tape – handcuffs – zip ties? So basically, don’t bring your rape kit to Disneyland.)

You also can’t bring:

• Masks (unless you are dressing up for a particular event)

(So is someone thinking: “Well, I WAS going to dress up for my Forced Sexual Abduction — but hell, if I can’t even bring my rape kit, there’s no point in bringing the mask. Damn you, Disneyland, you take all the fun out of a day at the park!”)

But the item that really caught my eye on the list of items you cannot bring is:

 Cremated remains (e.g., urns, vases, boxes)


This is completely true. Go to the FAQ on Disneyland’s website.

They list rolling devices (bikes/trikes/motorbikes), plus 19 other things, for a total of 20 forbidden items.

So, does this mean that out of the 15 million people who visit Disneyland each year, enough of them brought HUMAN REMAINS to the park that it made the list of Top 20 Items You Cannot Bring To Disneyland?

Can that be right?

Are people sneaking in urns of cremated friends and family to simply SHARE THE EXPERIENCE? As in: “Grandma loved Disneyland. Didn’t seem right to make the trip without her. Kids, strap her in good — these teacups get a little wild!”

Or are people planning to arrive with their cremated loved ones —  BUT DEPART WITHOUT THEM? As in: “OK kids, you know how much ol’ Uncle Ricky loved Space Mountain, so just before we start the five-story drop, open the urn, spread those ashes and let him loose!”

But if Disneyland IS the Happiest Place on Earth, why wouldn’t they allow people to lay their relatives to rest there?

In fact, I see a huge untapped market for Disneyland! Might I suggest some slogans?

Welcome to DisneyCrypt – the Happiest Resting Place in the After Life.

Come be a Forever Sleeping Beauty in our Magic Castle Coffins.

Blast into the Great Beyond with Buzz Lightyear’s fully functioning Rocket Casket.

Enter Neverland in your own Peter Pan Pod.

Ashes to Ashes, Fairy Dust to Fairy Dust – Check out Tinkerbell’s Tomb.

Jump down the Ultimate Rabbit Hole to a True Wonderland in our Mad Hatter Urn.

Enjoy your Eternal Rest in Belle’s Burial Chamber.

Two for One — This Week Only, at Mickey’s Mausoleum.

Put the FUN back in FUNeral with Goofy’s Graves!

But then I suddenly realize that this crafty entertainment conglomerate already has the burial market covered! Check out the description of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride:

“Drift into the Dead Man’s Grotto, where the skeletons of past pirates litter the…haunted ship whose crew drank themselves to death. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

Yo ho, yo ho – a Disney burial’s the death for me!

— Darcy Perdu

Darcy Perdu shares her bodacious blunders, hilarious humiliations and amusing adventures — and asks you to do the same on her blog. Her real-life stories of running a business, wrangling two kids, traveling hither and yon, and navigating relationships will remind you of your own funny experiences — so come share them and read others.  You’ll laugh; you’ll gasp; you’ll chuckle — you might even snort!

Kids who roost

(Nancy LaFever’s interview with humor writer Amy originally appeared on Reposted by permission.)

It’s not uncommon these days for grown children to move back home with parents while looking for a job after college, due to financial concerns or a change in life circumstances. But some parents that would normally be empty nesters are finding their young adult kids have yet to fledge or show signs of leaving home any time soon. As a parent, how do you be supportive of your children while edging them towards independence and the door?

My Move sought advice from humor writer Amy Mullis for tips on the topic.

My Move: According to your blog, Mind Over Mullis, you have two sons, 22 and 24, living with you and your husband. This could be prime empty-nest time to hang out with your hubby, take up the cross-bow or enjoy other child-free pastimes. What methods have you tried to persuade the kids to get their own place?

Mullis: “Nancy, it might be most helpful to make sure parents know what NOT to do in this situation. Do you remember the movie Gremlins? The rules to remember: Never expose the gremlin to sunlight, never get it wet, and never EVER feed it after midnight. Well, that’s standard procedure for KWR (Kids Who Roost).

My Move: I’m familiar with parenting guides by Dr. Spock, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,”etc., but not aware of the Gremlins Parenting Method. Would you elaborate a bit on it?

Mullis: “There’s no real need to worry about the first two rules. My guys haven’t seen sunlight since the PlayStation came out. They live by the light of an electronic screen. As long as the rechargeable batteries in the Xbox controllers hold out, they never need to leave the house. My tip? As soon as you can manage a snatch-and-grab, shove those batteries down the garbage disposal.

Never get it wet? I have one kid who never goes in the bathroom without his laptop. He hasn’t showered on his own since I was slow with the diaper in 1991. It’s not likely he’ll meet with any more moisture than a power flush provides. So I’ve shaken — not stirred — all the canned soft drinks in the house. Sooner or later one will blow up in his face and give him an understanding of what reality shows are all about. If that fails, there’s a trick with the kitchen sprayer I’m dying to try.

As for the last rule, I find that it’s the most important one. NEVER, EVER feed them at all. Kids are like fire ants. Once they find a food source, they bring in reinforcements and sting you till your wallet goes up in smoke. And Wal-Mart’s got nothing in the garden center to take care of these guys. Unplug the refrigerator before they find the string cheese left over from last Christmas.

(By the way, that cross-bow thing is beginning to sound pretty good. Thanks for the tip.)”

My Move: Parents often provide encouragement and support to inspire their children to succeed. With the demise of the Hostess Company (may Twinkie rest in peace), what will you do to bribe — err — motivate the kids?

Mullis: “Don’t keep food in the house. That sort of thing is trouble waiting to happen. Unless it’s liver mush. There’s nothing like liver mush to inspire outward-bound motivation.”

My Move: Your boys are in school, right? Do you, hubby and the kids have a general timeline for launch? Does your projection synch with the kids’?

Mullis: “I figure I’ll see the last kid leave just about the time he discovers that all I have to leave him in the will is some do-it-yourself magic beans. I’ll provide the beans. He’ll have to do the rest.”

My Move: What advice would you give other parents with children who have yet to leave the nest or have come back to roost?

Mullis: “I come from the South where we have large extended families to help each other in times of dire need. I suggest you make sure there’s enough family that they can always go live with somebody else. That’s the perfect time to get back at your Aunt Mildred for saying you have the figure of a chamber pot. Or that brother-in-law who still owes you money from the Self-Scratching Underwear scheme that petered out.”

My Move thanks Amy Mullis for her thoughtful tips and hopes she can say “bon voyage” to the boys sometime soon.

— Nancy LaFever

Nancy LaFever is a contributor to and pens the blog, Single People’s Grocery Lists. As a freelance writer, she has published more than 150 magazine articles and hundreds of blog posts on topics including fine crafts, business, women’s issues, travel, humor and popular culture.

“Three chairs for Jerry”

This humorous column by Jerry Zezima originally appeared in the Stamford Advocate on Feb. 15, 2013. Reposted by permission. 

A man’s home is his hassle. That’s why he needs a throne to sit on. And I’m not talking about one made of porcelain.

I refer, of course, to a guy chair — a big, comfortable seat he can relax in after performing such exhausting tasks as throwing out the garbage or picking up his dirty socks and underwear, a place fit for a king while he sits in front of the TV and either watches sports for hours on end or struggles to stay awake for the 11 o’clock news.

My wife, Sue, bless her heart, said I needed one. So we went furniture shopping.

When we arrived at the store, Sue told the greeter, who did her job well by greeting us, that we had an appointment with a saleswoman named Melody. The greeter telephoned Melody, who was in another part of the store, and said, “There are guests at the front desk.”

“This sounds like a hotel,” I said. “If we’re guests, can we stay overnight?”

“Sure,” the greeter answered. “We have bedroom furniture upstairs.”

I noticed a bar with wine glasses and empty bottles.

“Did I miss happy hour?” I asked.

“Yes,” the greeter said. “We just finished the wine.”

While we were waiting for Melody, I walked around the store, which probably had more chairs, tables, beds, bureaus, sofas and nightstands than Buckingham Palace. There were enough footstools for an ottoman empire.

“Try out the chairs,” Sue suggested.

“You want me to sit around and do nothing?” I asked. “That’s what I do at home.”

At that point, Melody showed up and said she was helping another customer but that we would be in good hands with Gloria.

“We’re looking for a chair,” Sue told her.

“What kind?” Gloria inquired.

“A guy chair,” I said. “For me.”

Then I proceeded to tell Gloria the long, sad story of the history of all the chairs that were supposed to be for me but were co-opted by Sue or our various pets, including our late, beloved dog, Lizzie, and our still-living cats, Kitty and her fat daughter, Bernice.

“The first time we got a chair that was ostensibly for me, we put it in the family room and Sue started sitting in it to watch ‘Law & Order’ and all her other shows,” I explained. “I was relegated to the rocking chair. At least I got to practice for my old age, which is rapidly approaching.”

“You don’t look old,” said Gloria.

“That’s because I’m shockingly immature,” I replied. “It makes me seem younger.”

Sue agreed.

“Anyway,” I continued, “the chair was getting clawed by our cats, so Sue put a slipcover on it. Then she said we needed another chair.”

“It was supposed to be for him,” Sue chimed in.

“Was it?” Gloria asked.

“No,” I said. “Sue started using it and our dog took over the first chair. She didn’t even watch ‘Law & Order.’ We put it in the living room, which we seldom use. I still sat in the rocking chair.”

“Now we’re looking for a third chair,” Sue said. “This time it’s really for Jerry.”

I picked out a very comfortable club chair that matched the sofa and the second chair.

“It’s the only chair that Cindy Crawford attaches herself to,” Gloria informed me. “She uses it for her collection.”

“Does this mean Cindy will be visiting us to watch TV?” I asked excitedly.

“She doesn’t come with the chair,” Gloria responded.

“That’s OK,” I said. “She’d only take it over and I’d have to sit in the rocker again.”

The new club chair was delivered a few days later and put in the family room. I’d like to say I enjoy it, but our cats have taken it over.

As always, I am not going to take this sitting down.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. The author of Leave it to Boomer, he has just finished his second book, The Empty Nest Chronicles, slated to be published later this year. He has won four humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month in March 2012.

Reflections of Erma