Don lives in Ohio with his wife and recently retired. As a retirement goal, he wanted to write a book and he’s written a series of humor books. Along with writing, he has been practicing standup comedy.
Stephen: today on Discovered Wordsmiths, I have Don Ake.
Don, good morning. How are you doing? Good morning. It’s a
Don: great morning here.
Stephen: Yes. It’s finally getting warmer around here though. We’ve got some cold temperatures at night still.
Don: Been a weird spring but yeah. We’ll take
Stephen: the sunshine. Yeah, definitely. So Dawn before we talk about your book let’s find out a little bit about you where you live and some of the things you like to do besides writing.
Don: I live in Jackson Township and right now, this is a transition period for me ’cause I retired from my day job in
Stephen: September. Okay.
Don: And so I writing. I’m spending most of my time right now, even in retirement writing my fifth book which will be a business related book. Oh, nice. But besides that I like to play tennis.
Since I retired I’ve been doing some standup comedy. Really? Yes. So I’m a humor doesn’t translate. 100% over to standup, but I’ve never had time to do standup and my friends have always wanted me to get back on stage. I used to do standup years ago, and so since yeah, since September.
I’ve been on stage several times and that’s a fun thing to
Stephen: do. Yeah. Cool. You, you write humor books and we were gonna talk about writing humor later, so that’d be great to talk about how it’s different than standup comedy and compare and contrast that a bit. We’ll get into that a little bit.
That’d be great. Why did you wanna start writing these humor books?
Don: It was an interesting thing in that I wrote a humor column in college at the University of Akron a long time ago. And I, at some point a few years ago, several years ago now I started, I wanted to start a humor blog.
So I call the column that I wrote for the University of Akron book, delight was called Aches Pains. Alright, play on my name. And so when I started the humor blog, I called it Aches, pains, humor Blog, and I, at the beginning of the blog, I said, yeah, I’m just back after a brief 32 year respite. But the thing with humor writing with me is even though I had taken all that time off and I had written stuff, I’d written some sketch humor I’d done standup comedy in between.
So it, it wasn’t like I hadn’t written anything but humor writing comes naturally to me. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t too long after I started blogging that. I was back doing what I do very well and do naturally. So then I started this humor blog in 2011, and by 2015 I had enough of enough following and enough material that I put it into a book that’s called Just Make Me a Sandwich, which is my first humor book.
So I never set out to write a book. I was just having fun. I was just writing blog posts and all of a sudden I have a book. My my goal, one of my life goals was to write a book after I retired. And so I figured after I retired, I’d have time, I’d write a book, and so I, I forget the math. Now it’s I fulfilled one of my major life goals like seven years early.
Okay. Which, is very rare. Followed up, just make me a sandwich a few years later with will there be free appetizers, and then kept writing. And then a couple years later introduced in 2020, right? In the middle of this pandemic. The current one, Turkey terror at my door. So that’s the history from college to now.
Stephen: And that’s cool. I remember the book Delight ’cause I went to Akron also. I, I don’t know if I remember your column, but that was 30 years ago tell us a little bit about Turkey terror and the other books. It’s humor writing. So tell everybody a little bit about what that means and what they can expect to see in the books.
’cause it’s not a story necessarily. It’s
Don: short essay humor and it’s about everyday subjects. That I encounter. A lot of it’s about me and my interactions with people, my interactions with things, but it’s about general topics that I can make. Funny, I. People have compared my writing and my books with the show Seinfeld.
They’re going, your book is really about nothing, but it’s very funny. So I consider that a great compliment. So Turkey terror, for example, where where the title comes from, Turkey terror. At my door is chapter three and chapter three. Is essays and the story of me battling the wild turkeys in my backyard that are raiding my bird feeders and the interaction.
And you’re going, how do you get, how do you get a chapter out of turkeys? It’s a story and you have this one instance and you have this other instance. And you have the interaction with the turkeys and me and the turkeys and my wife, and the problems that, that we’re encountering.
But it is a very funny story about the Turkeys other other chapters in the book deal with, stories about me being at the beach and encountering people and incidents like that. I. And we, I can make just about anything funny. For example, there, there’s an essay in the book about losing your socks in the dryer.
I’m writing like 800 words about losing your socks in the dryer and you’re going, how do you do that? That’s what I do. Okay. Now Turkey Care is different than my other two books. About a quarter of the book has to do with more serious reflective subjects. And they’re not funny per se, but they are interesting, more serious books.
There’s a story or chapter about me trying to find my real grandfather and doing it. Through genetic forensics and that part of thing, which is just an interesting story. There’s a chapter about how my parents met and you’re going yeah. Everyone has a story about how their parents met.
No, this is unique that it’s a bar pickup when they’re both 35 years old and desperate. Okay. And that’s, but that story tells a lot about how I came to be and how I am. So again, stuff like that, it’s very interesting, but it’s not it’s not humor per se. And trying to go back from humor to more serious stuff in the book.
That was a challenge when we put the chapters together. But I think it works. I haven’t had anyone complain yet that it was too disjointed.
Stephen: Okay, got it. And what would you say, is there other books out there that are similar to yours? Humor writing.
Don: My humor is short essay. That seems to be one of the trends.
Currently in humor writing my style you will see my style. If you’re familiar with Dave Berry.
Stephen: That’s exactly what I was going to say.
Don: I grew up reading Dave Berry and loving Dave Berry’s work and you can just see the influence just because I’ve read so much. One of the comparisons that I make is I read a lot and I’m a fan of the work of David Sedaris.
He is the top right now, short essay humor. He would be considered the most successful in that genre. I tell people who are familiar with his work. I’m like the Midwestern version. Of David Sedaris. Okay. It’s the same type of observational humor. Same, same style of writing.
He’s 10 times better than I am. I can’t make that that apples to apples comparison, but it’s offbeat. But it’s offbeat in the Midwest versus offbeat in some of the stories that he tells from Europe. If I ever went to Europe, I would probably write a book about being in Europe, but I haven’t been to Europe.
Stephen: And that sounds like it would probably be a good book with lots of adventures.
Don: Take somebody goofy from the Midwest who writes observational humor and stick them in Europe. Yeah I, maybe now you said that maybe now that maybe that’s two books, maybe that’s what I should do on retirement.
I should just travel the world and write,
Stephen: Or better yet the first one you write about traveling to Europe, just call it book two and never have a book one, and, what’s, what type of feedback are you getting from readers because I know. I had run into you at some event years ago, and I remembered you, and then recently I ran into you at another event.
We talked about being on the podcast. So you’ve been going out, talking to people and getting involved. So what have people been saying about your
Don: books? Humor is subjective. And my writing is it’s not common. I don’t like to write about the stuff that everybody’s writing about, and for sure, I don’t like to write the same perspective as everybody’s writing about.
But that being said, my books are very well received. It’s, I tell people no matter what, I can make you laugh out loud two or three times during the book, no matter what, and if you really get it, you’re going to be laughing the entire time sometimes. So the feedback is good.
And the feedback on the more serious stuff in the book is it has been good. Has been good too. That was one of the things that, that I was. Concerned about when we released it, just about how the other chapters fit in. And I’ve had several people just read it cover to cover and enjoy it with, but with short essay humor, you don’t have to read it, cover to cover, read it an essay, a chapter to time.
That being said, I’ve had people, they’ve read the book like over a year, and that is, is fine. My, my artist who did the covers for book one and two has described my book as the best bathroom book that he’s ever read. So it, it, it works it works however, but the feedback on Turkey Terror and the other books.
It has been great.
Stephen: So you got Uncle John’s bathroom reader and Don’s Turkey terror sitting there.
Don: Yeah, because some people like, this appeals, a lot of this is, more guy humor, more the early books and the later books but sometimes trying to get guys to buy a book who haven’t read a book.
In a long time. They’re hesitant to get the book. And I’m like no. You just read it for five minutes. You put it down and you pick it up whenever you know you can, because if you’re busy, I’m busy. And if somebody says, here’s a book and you need to read this, straight through. To keep the plot line going.
And so you gotta dedicate so many so much time a day to, to read. That’d be tough for me. Okay. This book is not like that again. You read it when you want to read it. And the one chapter, the one chapter doesn’t lead into the second chapter. And with my humor because of how it is. You are not going to find every essay humorous.
Alright, because I take risks. Some of the stuff is not politically correct, more in the early books than the late books, but, so you’re gonna read something and that one you may not find funny just for what, for whatever reason. The next one, you turn the page. And the next one, you may be laughing out loud and can’t stop laughing, right?
That’s that’s my style. I don’t want, when you’re reading my stuff, I don’t want the reader to get ahead and know what’s coming up. So sometimes I’m setting up a joke. And I’ll take a left turn and I’ll take you somewhere where you didn’t see it coming. And that’s part of the joke. It’s kinda like jumping out from behind something and scaring somebody and having a laugh.
Stephen: it. And have you ever thought of writing like a fiction story with all the humor in it? Alright,
Don: now you’re getting to book six. Oh,
Stephen: okay. We’ve got plans,
Don: I’m, right now things are book four is written at the publisher, but suffering a few publisher delays at this point. Okay. So book four is not out.
It will be out. Sometime, unfortunately I don’t have a date right now ’cause we’re working through some issues. Book five is about 80, it’s about 90% done. Okay. But that’s a business book, so that’s gonna take some time to, to edit and whatever. But book six is going to be a a novel. It’s gonna be set in a business setting.
And there will be humor interjected into that. So you have correctly, I congratulate you, you have correctly anticipated book six and you, chances are, Maybe I start writing that one before the end of the year, but we’ll have to see how
Stephen: things Oh, great. We’d love to follow up, next year or so.
Find out what’s going on how that’s going, or has gonna have me,
Don: you’re not gonna have me on the podcast for the business book. That’s not gonna work. So that would be the next book that would qualify for the podcast.
Stephen: Got it. Okay. Don, do you have a website?
Don: I do not right now. Have a website. I took a break from that when the pandemic hit.
Or a little bit before the pandemic hit. However, I will be having one. I will have a new website before book four, but I don’t, I. Have that right now.
Stephen: Okay. Alright. But we can get your books on all the usual sub suspects like Amazon.
Don: You can get it on Amazon. You can actually get a signed copy on eBay if you go in and search my name for author, signed copy.
And of course, if you want to email me at don a d o n email@example.com. I get you a signed copy.
Stephen: Okay. That’s great. When you’re. Oh I’ll make sure and put all that in the show notes so people have it there too. So when you’re sitting at the author tables and people come up, I’ve seen those authors you get some nonfiction, people with history and memoirs and whatever else, and then you get some fiction, a lot of sci-fi, a lot of fantasy some romance, and then they come over to Dawn and Dawn’s got.
Essay. Humor. Humor and they’re like why should I get your book instead of those other ones? What do you tell ’em?
Don: Oh, I tell them that it’s guaranteed to make you laugh. Do you need to laugh? Do you cannot read my books without laughing at something? So it’s very relatable. Very Simple, plain humor.
I’m making fun of things you can relate to. It’s not something that you can’t relate to. Frustrations with life, talking about trying to adapt to a digital world. Just things, there’s nothing in there that you’re going. Wow. That’s really different. I don’t know what he’s talking about.
And I don’t get, I don’t get the jokes. So you are gonna laugh and you’re gonna the book and it’s something different. So the, that, those are good selling points. But we all need to laugh. That’s what this book, that’s what this book does.
Stephen: Nice. Great. Alright, so you’ve we’ve talked about you, you’ve got plans up to book five.
You’ve worked on a couple books before this. So what are some things you’ve learned about writing that you’re doing different now than you did at the beginning?
Don: It was kinda weird when I started the Aches Pains blog. My philosophy was, I’m gonna write whatever I want, however I want, and I don’t really care who reads it.
All right? So it was, oli, politically incorrect, but not offensive. And all of a sudden I’ve got this readership that, for a politically incorrect book is tremendously diverse. And I didn’t really know how to deal with that. So I start smoothing my material out to make it funny, but less offensive to this diverse audience.
And what that means is that sometimes I will rewrite a sentence or two sentences. I rewrite those seven times. So that the people still get the joke, but the people who aren’t going to find that funny, which, that’s just the nature of the diverse audience, okay? It’s humor. The people that don’t find that funny won’t be offended, which means the next time that I write something they love, so that.
That is a big change. All right. The other thing is, as I started writing, I’m writing from the perspective of a middle aged guy, and it’s not, I’m not I keep saying politically incorrect and I. Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s just, some, in our sensitive world it’s hard not to write humor and have that to be the case but in, in writing, alright, my female audience, which I never expected to really have a strong following writing from my perspective like that has grown.
Okay? And as it’s grown, I’ve adapted to the audience. Okay. So my first book, which is The Roughest and the Most Guy Humor and probably still the most popular among guys, the second book is smoother than the first book, and Turkey Terror is smooth. Okay. It’s still funny. But it, the writing and just how I go about stuff is smoother than the first two.
That being said, I’ve had, some of my friends, the guy friends go, oh dude, that first one was just the best and this is good, but, and I’m like, yeah, I know, but we’re, we’re making it. More attractive to the wider audience and I think it, it works and the as the more you write, the better you get.
I, it’s incredible. The first book you put out is an author. You’re thinking, I cannot possibly write any better than this. This is just like the ultimate book. It’s the best that I could ever do. Now I read that book versus the third book and I kinda laugh. Yeah, that’s the best you thought you could do.
This is much, much better. Which is encouraging because once again, you look at Turkey tear and go gee, can you write better than that? I don’t think so. Now you can. You just, yeah. You just gotta keep writing.
Stephen: You don’t know what you don’t know. And I’ve talked to so many authors lately about that the biggest thing you can do to get better and make your stories better and improve, it’s not going to classes, it’s not going to conferences, it’s not reading a ton of writing books.
It’s just writing that next story, writing that next book, and not. Editing the same thing over and over. It’s writing that next thing. Writing something new. Writing and writing. Yeah, I totally agree. I will tell you that I for like humor. I like my, like my movies, humor movies.
The ones I find the most funny are the ones that are the mixed in with action, like Lethal Weapon or fast And the Furious sometimes has some of that just that action comedy. Combination. The Jackie Chan ones with Chris Rock I thought were hilarious. I think those are much funnier than like airplane.
Just my personal preference, so I, that’s why I was asking about the fiction earlier. I think getting something with your humor would work well and be interesting to see. So you mentioned doing standup. So how do you. Prepare for standup to do comedy as opposed to writing a book. How are those similar and different?
Don: I’m a much better humorist than I am a comedian. So when I’m writing something, like I said before, I could rewrite something seven times and and typically I’m rewriting I’m polishing. I’m getting that just the way that I want on paper and I can read it back on the comedy stage.
Everything’s happening in real time, and delivery is so important in standup comedy. The pauses, the facial expressions. Just the tone of voice can, can create laughs. So stand of comedy. The whole thing is can you make people laugh and make them laugh repeatedly? In a short period of time?
That’s a lot harder. Okay. The skills. To do that, and when you read like Jerry Seinfeld just rehearses it over and over and over and over to get it just right. Then on stage he can deliver it perfectly.
Stephen: It’s playing in a concert band where they practice the same piece maybe for weeks and months before they perform it one time in front of
Yeah. So you have, yeah, you have natural ability there, but that doesn’t get you, that doesn’t get you. To that status. So to, in, in messing around with the standup, I’m still, I’m still messing around with stuff. But it’s fun and I’ve been I’ve done I haven’t done great.
But that’s not what I’m doing full time. Even though I’ve retired, I’m writing most of the time and then doing some other retirement type things in addition to that. So yes, if I wanted to, if I wanted to pursue that, which would be strange at my age, but not unprecedented it would take a ton of time.
And so now I’ve just, I’m trying to. Balance my time, which is all retirees go through this state. Some days it doesn’t feel like I’m retired. Just like I gotta get up and do a podcast today. Sorry, I’m not sleeping in, I’m not watching reruns on tv. I’m talking to you. So yes, it’s a balance.
Stephen: And, but that’s I’ve talked to quite a few people who retired and wrote a book. It’s, they just couldn’t do the, let me sit here and watch Wheel of Fortune in jeopardy. And price is right all day and do nothing. They wanted to the next part of what they wanna do in their life and.
Writing a book seems to be quite popular, and I’ve had several it. The funny thing is I get a lot or I used to get a lot of computer people that have turned to writing books, and then I got a lot of retired lawyers turning to writing books which I thought was very interesting to notice. I agree.
I think a lot of people don’t realize that you can write a book your whole life as a. On the side. But when you’re retired and you can devote to it, it doesn’t mean, oh, I’m too old. It, it’s not that type of thing at all.
Don: And in essence, I waited to retire before writing my business book.
’cause my business book is going to be about the stuff that I learned in business and in a specific in business forecasting in what I did. So I’m taking my knowledge and putting it in the book to help other people. In that in that business function.
Stephen: Got it. Cool. Alright Dawn this has really been great.
I’m glad we, we had a snafu the first time We got things resolved. We got back on, so I’m glad we didn’t just let it go. Oh, there we go. Turkey terror at my door. Are you going to be appearing anywhere this summer if anyone’s in Ohio and wants to come visit
Don: right now? Good question. Right now I do not have anything set up because I am awaiting the release of Book four, which I don’t know when it’s coming out yet.
So as soon as book four, which is called Deep Heavy Stuff, which is not a humor book. Alright we’re shifting the more serious short essays on the serious stuff of life. Soon as that comes out. I’m gonna be all over the place, but I can’t set that up until we, we get that. Which, and once, once I get that, it’s gonna make an interesting author’s table with three humor books and one serious book and trying to explain to people that the differences, ’cause they’re not anything except for being short essay.
They’re not anything like each other.
Stephen: Got it. Yeah, that, that’ll be interesting. I’d like to hear about, maybe we’ll run into each other once you do
Don: that. We can do a podcast on deep, heavy stuff. Yeah. And that’ll be a much different podcast too.
Stephen: Okay, great. We’ll have to check that out.
Follow up and hopefully we run into each other. Before we go, Do you have any last minute advice? For any authors out there that are looking to write humor, what would you tell ’em? That
Don: is a hard question. Humor writing comes naturally to me. I could turn out, I could turn out a humor piece every day if I wanted to and a decent quality.
I’m gonna say, know your audience, know your target audience, and target to that audience. And it would be better to specialize on a topic than what I’ve done. I’m all over the place and that from a book standpoint is not, that has issues. It has issues with marketing and target market and all that.
So I would say observe, take a lot of notes. A lot of rewrites and try to specialize on a topic. That would be my biggest thing. And so I sound like a hypocrite and I’m going, do not do what I just did three times.
Stephen: Got it. Alright, great, Don, it’s been a pleasure talking to you again. So I wish you luck and I’ll let you know when this goes live.
Don: Thank you very much and you have a great day.
Stephen: Thanks, you too.