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Barb’s guide to surviving Christmahannukwanzadan Solstice….You’re welcome

#6: The Office Party. (here)

#5: Waiting in lines.  (here)

#4: Visiting Santa(here)

#3: Mall Christmas Music   (here)

#2: Presents (for writers, of course!) (here)

And the #1 worst thing about Christmahannukwanzadan Solstice? Those Christmas Letters from fabulously successful people whose lives make you feel like you should be holding up an empty bowl and saying, “Please sir, may I have some more?”

[Image Credit: “The Mitherless Bairn.”- Painted by T. Faed.- Exhibition of the Royal Academy. 1855 ]

[NOTE: I just got an email with a link to an album featuring all the handmade woodworking presents my baby brother made for everyone on his gift list (including everybody who lives on his street, attends his children’s school, or waited in line behind him at the grocery store. He wanted to know why I haven’t started finished my shopping yet. From last year…

So here is a repeat post from a few years ago, followed by a quick review of Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups, Andrew Joyce’s latest anthology which isn’t exactly about Christmas (okay, not at all) but still packs plenty of ho-ho-ho’s. Meanwhile, I’ll be out doing some Christmas revenge-shopping. I’m thinking my brother’s seven-year-old twins need electric guitars and a drum set. I can’t wait for his next holiday letter!]


Have you received the traditional Christmas email from relatives and friends telling you how incredibly wonderful that past year has been for them?

Right. That’s why I don’t send them out either.

But maybe it’s time we got even. I’ve created a newsy, personal, generic form email letter. Simply send me the names of your family and your street address, and I’ll insert them into the following letter template.

Dear (check one)

___Unidentified Person Who Sent Us a Christmas Letter Last Year*. (*Even though we could never figure out who you were, but your letter said you were obviously so wildly successful we may want to borrow money from you soon):

__Loving Family and Friends**. (**As you can see from the following letter, we are wildly successful ourselves this year but we won’t lend you any money so don’t even ask.):

The fabulously successful Karpenagle family here at the impressive Karpenagle house on Maple Street in Champaign, IL, want to wish you a traditional Karpenagle Happy Holidays and New Year. (Not that you could possibly be as merry and happy as we are, of course, but you should never give up hope. Even if the new episodes of The Walking Dead and a winning lottery ticket are the only hope you have for the coming year…)

Myra Sue also performs field work on behalf of the Queen. We could tell you about it, but then we'd have to kill you of course.

Myra Sue and Wally Sr frequently perform field work on behalf of the Queen. We could tell you about it, but then we’d have to kill you of course.

This year Myra Sue Karpenagle has been balancing her careers as nuclear physicist, fashion model, and mother of four. Her latest redecorating of the tasteful Karpenagle house here on Maple Street in Champaign, IL has been featured in several design magazines, while her selfless volunteer work on behalf of blind baby whales has won her the coveted Champaign, IL PTA Mother-of-the-Year award.

Little Melvin has been scouted, but we feel he should finish the fifth grade before making any decisions on offers.

Little Melvin has been scouted, but we feel he should finish the fifth grade before making any decisions on offers. 

Wally Karpenagle has been promoted. Again. In his new position, he provides important policy advice to God. In his free time, he coached the little Melvin Karpenagle soccer team to its third consecutive World Championship. Also, he produced enough zucchini in the Karpenagle garden to feed several Third World nations, and published his cookbook, “1001 Things You Never Guessed You Could Do With a Zucchini”, which made the best-seller lists for three months in a row.

Wally Jr and girlfriend. Wedding bells ahead?

Wally Jr and girlfriend. Wedding bells ahead?

Young Wally Jr. Karpenagle is still doing well at the university. As captain, he led their football team to an unprecedented winning season while, of course, maintaining the straight-A average that has just won him a full scholarship to Harvard Medical School and an appearance on the “Wheel of Fortune”.

Luella is focused on her studies. Totally.

Luella is focused on her studies. Totally.

Luella Karpenagle has been enjoying her year abroad as a Rhodes Scholar. Her pathbreaking article on the sex life of newts was published in an actual scientific journal and she is negotiating with several major studios for the film rights.

For Halloween little Fionella couldn't decide between Einstein and Miley, but in the end she went for tradition when we couldn't figure out how to trick-or-treat with that wrecking ball...

For Halloween little Fionella couldn’t decide between Einstein and Miley, but in the end she went for tradition when we couldn’t figure out how to trick-or-treat with that wrecking ball…

Baby Fionella Karpenagle has, at 9 ½ months, begun talking in full sentences (Russian, French, and English) and is writing novels on the new iPoop Baby Genius tablet. Yesterday she toddled over to the piano and picked out a Mozart concerto, the Goldberg Variations, and an original overture.

Espotte, the impressive Karpenagel dog, was named Best of Show and Best of Breed on Earth. He was also featured in a recent “60 Minutes” report for his controversial attempts to keep the impressive Karpenagle house on Maple Street safe from the growing numbers of French poodles with silly haircuts in Champaign, Il.

We are enclosing some candid shots of the impressive Karpenagle family with friends. (Former President Obama is the one on the left, behind the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Pope is the one with the little round hat.)

We in the Karpenagel family in the impressive house here on Maple Street in Champaign, Il hope we have served as an inspiration to you.

Love, Myra Sue, Wally, Wally Jr, Luella, Melvin, Fionella and Espotte Karpenagle

(Photo credit: JillWillRun)

Actually, I only send out Christmas letters myself if we have moved recently and people will need the correct address to send gifts and money. This seems, in fact, to be a trend. So far, the only one in our house who has received a Christmas letter is the dog. Of course, she did send out a dynamite Christmas email last year.

TJs Joe Joe'sBut now that we’ve identified the six worst issues with the season—the office party, waiting in lines, visiting Santa, mall music, presents, and of course, holiday letters—I can offer you the perfect antidote: find a place to hide out with a fabulous book and at least two boxes of Trader Joe’s Joe Joe’s. I’d recommend the peppermint ones, and just about any of the stories in Andrew Joyce’s epic anthology Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. And (after judicious amounts of holiday libations) this—

BLURB:  Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups by Andrew Joyce

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and non-fiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”

Andrew Joyce is the recipient of the 2013 Editor’s Choice Award for Best Western for his novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

His book Yellow Hair was awarded Book of the Year by Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 by Colleen’s Book Reviews.

My Review: 4 out of 5 stars for Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups by Andrew Joyce


Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His books have won awards and become best-sellers on Amazon. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

So… you pull up next to a car at a long traffic light and eye the other driver. Do you immediately picture an entire novel in which that driver has just committed a heinous crime and is impatiently waiting for the light to change in order to make his/her getaway? Before the light turns green, have you filled in the details of the crime, pictured what would happen if the (obvious) criminal notices you watching them, and wondered if it would be possible to duck before bullets (or IDK…laser beams if your imaginings tend toward graphic novel territory) fly? I always thought that meant you are blessed with a writer’s imagination. Unless your name is Andrew Joyce, of course.

You see, this kind of thing has actually happened to Andrew. Lots. Whether real or imagined, he shares the details of his remarkable adventures and even more remarkable imagination in this epic collection of close to ninety short stories.  What I realized in reading the collection, is that they are actually the record of a writer teaching himself his craft. We see his experiments over the years, share the ones that get on base, the ones that strike out, and the ones that hit it out of the park.

You may have noticed a certain abundance of pictures of Danny the Dog versus those of Andrew Joyce. Sadly, this is not an accident. Danny is just cuter.

Oddly, to me the ones that resonate with the most truth are the hilariously snarky observations contributed by everyone’s favorite pooch-scribe, Danny the Dog. Although I’m still working my way through this treasury of bedtime stories, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. For one thing, it’s the perfect book to get you through the holidays. Stuck in a long line? You could run for your life from a psychopath in The Swamp. Suffering through the tortures of mall music? Check in with Danny the Dog for how to score extra turkey slices in Danny Extorts Andrew.  Need a reminder of the things that really matter? Shed a tear for Michael.

Inevitably, I liked some stories better than others. But overall, I’m fascinated by the process as Andrew Joyce invites us to join him in honing the writing skills that have already produced his bestsellers. We meet a young Andrew in the stories about Billy Doyle (his real name). We meet the writer trying out other genres for size in stories like Dead and Wise Guy. And we meet Andrew himself through the unsentimental loving eyes of Danny the Dog. Which is the real Andrew? Obviously, whichever one is writing at that moment.

If Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is an epic series of writing experiments, its readers are the lucky witnesses to the experiments’ success.

  • Book Title: Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups 
  • Author: Andrew Joyce
  • Genre: Short Story Anthology
  • Publisher: W. Birch & Assoc. (September 21, 2017)
  • Pages: 689 (!)

Purchase link: