It pays to be a wise-ass.
A little while ago, I was being interviewed for an article to run on a news blog serving the Northern California suburb where I grew up. The article was about local kids who’d gone on to do something with their lives, and the interviewer wanted to know what was it that separated me from most other writers.
“Two things,” I answered. “One, I’ve been writing professionally for more than forty years. And B, I’m an inveterate wise-ass.”
In my case, the two overlapped beautifully.
A couple of years ago, I retired from a career in advertising. And just so you know, it was light years away from Bewitched. Spent four decades writing ads, commercials, billboards, brochures and what-have-you. For everything from cars and motorcycles to Mexican Restaurant chains, airlines, toys, and heavy equipment manufactures. Even helped a successful, socially challenged Seattle businessman advertise for his future Mrs. wealthy recluse.
All of which was done under insane deadlines and then pitched to clients who couldn’t wrap their brains around why they needed to spend money advertising in the first place. Let alone laying out good funds to run stuff that was patently silly.
Like an ad for an imported line of ATV’s, showing a rider at night in driving rain, on his little 4-wheel, slogging through a seriously mud choked field, beneath a bold-type headline that read, “Take it where the sun don’t shine.”
Or an ad for a company that makes those little mini bulldozers you see on construction sites. The ad had to talk about how tough, rugged, economical and dependable these mini-dozers were. And it had to speak to cement and concrete contractors, since it was running in their industry’s trade magazines. Best of all, it was due yesterday. What the hell do you do? You grab some photos showing one of these little machines zipping around with tons of wet cement in its bucket. Under which, the headline says, “Enough to make any concrete guy good and hard.”
Or an in-store banner for a line of imported dirt bikes, whose manufacturer supported this segment of the motorcycle market with a little free factory-sponsored tech support for amateurs racing their particular bikes in the dirt. No visual this time. Just a huge banner hung in dealerships around the country. Picture an all black background, with huge, dayglo green letters, proclaiming, “You gotta be nuts to moto without a good supporter.”
The whole thing taught me how to work under the pressure of a deadline.
And how to be funny as hell, on command.
And most importantly, how to be fearless as a writer.
If you can put words on paper in a way that tells a story about characters the reader can come to know and care about, you’ve got a brain.
If you can do that AND make your reader laugh out loud from time to time, you’ve got a sense of humor.
And if you can accomplish all of that without worrying about what your great Aunt Sylvia’s going to say; or what your BFFs think about it; or the reviewer for the local paper (who hasn’t liked anything printed since Gutenberg), then kiddo, you’ve got a spine.
Ultimately, there’s only one person on the planet your writing has to please.
And you look them square in the eye every morning while you’re flossing.
Take a look at the sample included here, and see what I mean.
Trust me, I’m really pleased with this hunk of writing.
Title: Chump Change
Author: Jeff Lee
Genre: Humor, Comedy, Crime, Murder, Mystery
You think being the Bounty Hunter and Repo Guy to the Stars is easy? Just talk to “Fish” Fishbein. If he isn’t trying to round up a heavily lubricated ex-rocker, he’s flying down the freeway in a repoed Wiener Mobile, chased by the pistol-packing deadbeat who owns it.
A bail bondsman hires him to track down a crew of unwise guys who blew off their court date to snatch L.A.’s monthly parking meter take — 300 grand in quarters. Then they start dropping like flies. And Fish has to catch the killer.
Maybe it’s the city’s armed and dangerous Parking Meter Czar. Or his brother-in-law, a corrupt televangelist who needs some serious coin to bankroll his foray into Bible-based porn. Or the Rev’s wife and co-minister, who’s several clicks beyond crazy about toddler beauty pageants. Or, it just might be the defrocked talent agent who’s dying to make Fish a reality TV star.
With more than seven tons of quarters at stake, bodies are dropping faster than turn-downs on America’s Got Talent. And if Fish and his hog-riding buds, Kenny and Einstein, don’t nab the killer in a hurry, they could get eliminated themselves.
Chump Change is author Jeff Lee’s third book in his Adventures in La-La Land series, following The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour and Hair of the Dog. If you enjoy the whacko characters, situations and fast pace that Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard bring to the party, check out all of Fish Fishbein’s big adventures.
WARNING: Contains some of the most hysterical explicit sex scenes ever written.
This is a scene from my most recent book, Chump Change, a fast-paced, hysterical mystery that pokes a ton of satirical fun at the L.A. life, crime, murder, sex, porn and the entertainment industry. “Fish” Fishbein, the book’s main character, has just repoed a restored old Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, and is being chased by the pistol-packing deadbeat who owns it.
“Fish checked the outside mirror on his side of the Weiner Mobile and everything looked pretty normal.
The San Diego Freeway was its usual congested mess for this, or any other time of day.
Except for one ancient, thrashed looking beater, a disco-era Caddy, headed in the same direction as the Weiner Mobile.
And in one a hell of a hurry.
It was only about a hundred yards behind him and closing fast.
Passing slowly under the Sunset Boulevard overpass, he watched the back window on the old Caddy’s passenger side roll down.
Now the top half of a really husky looking guy in a satin N.Y. Giants fashion statement was fighting to lean out of the opening.
Fish kept his eye on the old car as the rear seat passenger reached back in and brought out a pistol big enough to snuff a grizzly.
Or at least make it reconsider a life choice or two.
Then he saw the guy’s gun hand jerk skyward and almost instantly, a pair of huge ventilation holes opened up in the rear and front of the Weiner Mobile.
“Gun!” Fish shouted. “Everybody on the floor! This crazy son of a bitch is shooting at us!”
He yanked his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 911.
“L.A. County 911. What’s the nature of your emergency?”
“The nature of my emergency?”
Most times, Fish had a problem trying to keep his inner wise-ass from coming out to play.
“Yeah, I’m trying to win on Wheel of Fortune, only Vanna won’t sell me any freakin’ vowels.”
Like most federal, state and county employees, Fish’s 911 operator was required by law to check her sense of humor at the door when she clocked in for her shift that morning.
“Sir, are you aware of the penalty for making a false 911 call in California?”
“Look, my name’s Morris Fishbein. I’m a repo guy and I’m headed North on the San Diego Freeway, about half a mile past Sunset,” he blurted into the phone.
“I’m in a vehicle I just repossessed. The deadbeat owner and some of his friends are right behind me. And one of them just took a freakin’ shot at us!”
“Can you describe your vehicle?”
“Yeah, it’s a restored old Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile with personalized plates that read MEAT MAN. The whole thing’s painted tan and yellow and it looks like a giant hot dog.”
“Tan and yellow, sir?”
“Just picture a thirty-foot-long penis on rye.”
Amazon link: http://amzn.to/1KEN8U3
Born near New York City and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jeff Lee has spent his entire writing career in Los Angeles. For more than 35 years, he has been a copywriter, producer and creative director for some of the advertising industry’s most recognizable agencies, winning numerous awards for his creativity and wise-ass sense of humor. Typical for his industry, none of those ad agencies are still in business, but Jeff appears to have pretty solid alibis for the deaths of each one.
Retired from advertising, Jeff now spends his time on his own writing, having produced four novels – The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, Hair of the Dog, Chump Change and Bird Boy. Each of these books debuted to rave reviews, garnering all 4 and 5-star reviews.
Trained as a cook in the Army, he still enjoys being creative in the kitchen, and admits that few things in life compare with the thrill of discovering you’ve just given a nasty case of food poisoning to 140 heavily-armed troops.
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