Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Friday, September 5, 2014

One Ring to Bind Them

Four years ago today, Denise slipped this ring on my finger, and I haven't taken it off since.

Well, except a few nights early on, when it was irritating my skin. And those occasions when I set it aside in the bathroom and only remembered hours later. And whenever I've done gardening or masonry or some other activity that could sully it. Oh, and of course that time I jammed my finger playing football and couldn't get the ring over my knuckle for twelve months.1

It's okay, though, because Denise knows that even if I don't wear it all the time, my feelings for her are constant. She is my everything.

Or rather, she was. Until our son was born. Now she's half my everything. Or if you go by weight, 80% of my everything. Though really it's more like 78 or 79%. And that number's dropping.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Math is hard.

I mean, I even screwed up the title to this post. It didn't take one ring to bind us; it took two. Which proves I'm nothing like Gollum. I'll have to tell this to my preeeecious. She'll be so relieved.

(Happy anniversary, Denise!)

1 I also may have removed it once to take a photo of it. Maybe.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Thorn By Any Other Name

Up until a couple months ago, I could see an establishment called The Gold Club from my daily commute. Yes, it was a strip club. And no, I never set foot in the place; I know full well all that glitters is not gold.1

Then one day, a new banner hung out front. The club had a new name: MYNX. Later, fancier signage showed the full name as MYNX Cabaret. Though they likely employ the exact same dancers as before, it now seems like they're trotting out a lower quality product, doesn't it? Gone is the (perception of the) high-class establishment, replaced with girls and a club that are, at best, saucy. Thus, the discerning strip club connoisseur enters with lowered expectations.

And that got me thinking about book titles.

Let's say you've written a book. It's ideal title would both fit your story and catch the eye (or ear) of potential readers.2 And of course, novelists must take genre into account. Titles that play well for thrillers or mysteries will rarely cut it in women's lit. And any overlap between horror and romance is purely coincidental.3

It's also best to match your book's tone. If what you've written is quirky or humorous, try to work a hint of that into your title. Avoid puns at all costs unless they are truly clever puns. (Yes, there are such things as clever puns. No, you shut up.) And only use a trashy (a.k.a. mynxy) title if your book calls for it.4

If all else fails, just stick with something simple, and either hope the publisher comes up with a winner, or reel your readers in via the cover, jacket copy, and word of mouth.

For your perusing pleasure, here's a small sample of the titles I've considered for my first novel (about an invisible assassin whose mission is repeatedly stymied by morons):
  • And Then Came the Invisible Monkeys
  • The Unseen Agenda
  • See No Evil
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Invisible
  • Unvisible
  • Scythe Unseen
  • Invisibility for Idiots
  • How Not to Be Seen
  • The Final Defenestration of Rupert Fenwick

Most have some merit, but alas, none are fervor-inducing. The closest might be that last one, but sadly I made it up just now, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my novel. Clearly, I still have work to do.5

But no matter what, I won't sell my readers short. I'd rather my title promise more than I can deliver ("Gold Club") than lose readers by limping in with something less appealing ("MYNX") or lacking in creativity ("Naked Chicks on a Stage").

Come to think of it, I should have come up with a better title for this post. This probably isn't at all what you were expecting.

1 A partial list of glittery things other than gold and strippers: silver, bronze, iron pyrite, six-year-old girls, jazz hands, far too many greeting cards, fairy godmothers, vampires of the Meyerian oeuvre, and Gary.
2 Okay, its ideal title would actually grab people by their lapels (whether or not they're wearing lapels at the time) and instantly instill in them the innate need to buy/borrow/steal/claw each other's eyes out for your book, all before they've even seen its jacket or learned anything else about it. But, you know, good luck with that.
3 La Petite Mort: Return of the Bodice Ripper
4 You know, for instance if it's a cheap, tawdry affair... about a cheap, tawdry affair.
5 For instance, I have to finish writing it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Webs for Other Bugs That are Good

My son will soon be three. He still loves animals and books, but he recently moved onto the gold standard for boys his age: construction vehicles. Most nights before bath time, he's more dirt than boy.

Here are some more tidbits from the past few months:

We're setting the table for dinner.
Him: "That's my barracuda!"
Me: "These are my salad tongs."
Him: "That's my barracuda!"
"I watched a beetle with Wyatt and Narayan. But not DJ and Arav and Lily. They were mad."
"They were mad at you? Why?"
"I had a hammer and hit the floor. They were mad. And I said 'No thank you!' to the kids who were mad at daycare."
"No, Daddy, you don't sing."
"Why not?"
"I'm going to sing better songs. You sing silly songs."
Along with many recognizable characters from Seuss, Disney, Henson, and Milne, there are other imaginary creatures my son talks about as if they're real and everyone knows what they are. A partial list: the Backson (from this), the Snatchabook (from this), the Gulper, Grabular, Undersnatch, Spiny-Backed Guzzler, and Saber-Toothed Yumper (all from this), and Santa Claus.

I'm kidding about that last one, of course. He never mentions Santa Claus.
He is looking at a drawing of two chipmunks.
"What are they doing?" he asks.
"They're playing croquet."
"No, they're playing hockey."
"They're playing croquet."
"No, they're playing hockey."
"Nooo, they're playing hockey."
"Noooo, they're playing hockey."
"Okay, they're playing hockey."
"I think they're playing chess."

We're on a walk, and I've been carrying him for a while. I ask if he'd like to walk some more.
"Are your arms tired, Daddy?"
"Yes, they are."
"That means you have to carry me all the way home."
"I want to eat bulgogi."
"We don't have any. We're having pasta tonight."
"Put it in the bowl, mix it up, it becomes bulgogi."

(Note: He's never tried bulgogi. He's only heard of it thanks to this book.)
"Spider-Man makes webs for other bugs that are good."

(Note: He's never watched any Spider-Man. He's only seen him on clothes. Oh, and on one refrigerator magnet.)
And what would a summary of a 2-year-old's activities be without a mention of poop?

Grandma: "Let's go change your diaper."
Him: "No. I didn't poop."
Grandma: "You stink. If it's not poop in your diaper, what is it?"
Him: "It's..." (pauses to think, then looks down at the furniture he's leaning on) "...stool."

He is so much smarter than he has any right to be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Winners of the Shamu Haiku Contest!

Clearly, you people consider the ocean a solemn place. For the first time in any of my haiku contests — nay, for the first time in any of my contests, period — the number of serious entries outnumbered the humorous. After all, the ocean is dark and mysterious... much like the criteria by which I judged your haiku.

Thanks to everyone who entered! Your fantastic submissions made it tough to settle on the winners. I wish I could give awards to you all, but alas, that's not in the rules. I checked.

So, despair not if your entry doesn't get highlighted below; it barely missed the cut. And if you haven't done so already, make sure to check out all the entries.

Honorable Mention

Dan Yungk waited until one minute past the deadline before posting a comment. It's written all in one line and has nothing to do with the ocean. So why does he get a mention? Because I always reward cleverness. (Just not necessarily with gift cards.)
Every single year, I plan to participate, then run out of time...
Marian Allen, as soon as you posted this question, the answer was always going to be one. Yours.
How many entries
Will use the words, "I think we
Need a bigger boat"?
This one of Tara Tyler R's gets the nod (barely over her "Poles baited") because every time I read it I hear my 2-year-old son's pronunciation of barracuda. (That's what he calls the salad tongs.)
A lurking monster,
hidden in coral...attacks!
Boss barracuda!
Matthew MacNish had me at "cthulhu."
Dagon in the depths
la Cthulhu f'taghn
shadows of the past
J. Grace Penningon swayed me with the force of her imagery.
anemones sway
but not from force of current
back and forth alone
And this one from Juliet Lauser is beautiful, even though I must admit I'm not entirely sure what the tiger represents. (I think I've got it, but who knows.)
That tiger curls round
Two thirds of earth so we play
With his velvet toes.

First Place - Humorous

Matt Pelletier, take a bow. Just don't do it near the bow of the boat...
Frigid salty depths
Waist deep... OHGODWHATWASTHAT!?!?

First Place - Traditional

And Li takes the crown with this entry, titled "Pearls."
life's irritations
transformed by patient bivalves
jewelry from torment

And that does it for this year's contest. Thanks again to all who entered, stopped by, retweeted, shared, mocked, etc. Matt and Li, please send me a note so I'll have your email addresses and can get you the Amazon gift cards.

And before you leave,
Here's a haiku just for you.
(It's not very good.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Haiku Contest: Under the Sea!

**This contest is closed. Check out the winners!**

Announcing the launch of The Wheel’s 5th Annual Haiku Contest!

We've previously honored ninja, pirates, robots, and space. This year, in honor of my son's current infatuation with sharks (or rather, shark puppets), we're taking on water. Specifically, the Ocean.

It's not difficult.
All you do is write haiku.
(Also, submit them.)

Just follow the standard haiku structure (5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5 again) and make it something to do with the ocean. I'd stay away from pirates, but otherwise, however you interpret the theme is entirely up to you.

To enter, write your own sea-related haiku in the comments section below. Two or three lucky winners will receive 25 sand-dollars $25 Amazon gift cards.

I will be selecting the best haiku in each of two categories:
  • Humorous/Creative
  • Traditional (i.e. eloquent, evocative, etc.)
In addition, I may also reward a third entry, depending on my mood. And the mood of my wallet.

The deadline to submit a haiku is this Wednesday, May 7 at 5:00pm (Eastern Time). Official "rules" are below.

Official "Rules":
  1. To enter, post space-themed haiku in the comments section below. Multiple submissions are allowed, but if you submit more than five (5) entries, it'll be viewed as a clear attempt to pollute the waters. Any additional entries will go belly up.
  2. Standard haiku rules apply. To qualify, each entry must be a three-line poem, the first line containing exactly 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the third line 5 syllables. If you miscount, it'll throw off the balance of your submission and your chances at winning will be sunk.
  3. The contest is open until Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 5:00pm, Eastern Time. If an entry arrives after the deadline, it will not be eligible for a prize. That ship will have already sailed.
  4. Entries must be in English. (i.e. Using Japanese kanji will not help you win for best traditional haiku.) If I can't understand your entry, I'll assume your brain is addled due to lack of oxygen, and will provide medical advice instead of gift cards.
  5. Anonymous entries will not win. If you don't tell me who you are, it'll be obvious you're a top-secret government assassin with amnesia, and cannot be trusted. Your entry will be denied.
  6. Prizes will be awarded in each of two (2) categories: Humorous/Creative and Traditional. A third prize may be awarded if the mood (or a ballast) strikes me.
    • First place winners will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card.
    • An indeterminate number of Honorable Mentions will receive bragging rights over everyone who doesn’t win. Also, honor.
  7. I will act as sole judge, and select the winning haiku based on the aforementioned criteria, as well as other criteria I make up as I go along. All decisions are final, and will not be changed under any circumstances. Unless I flip-flop. I can sometimes be a bit wishy-washy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getting Back to My Roots

Astute readers of this blog will have noticed my writing has fallen off of late. Not only am I blogging less, but my posts have become very photo-centric. And though photographs and stories of my son are fun, I think we can all agree something has been missing.

By something, of course, I mean footnotes.1

After all, footnotes are the bedrock of what makes this country blog great.2 In fact, back when I first invented The Wheel, I named it after a footnote.3

So that's my goal. Cut back on posts written solely to accompany photos. Get back to writing things of substance.4 Sprinkle in a liberal amount of footnotes.5 Bake for thirty minutes.6

Sure, I'll probably give up on this goal7 within a couple weeks, and again resort to posting cute things my son says. But the important thing is I pretended it was a goal in the first place. Because it's good to have goals.

It's fun to pretend, too.8

1 Kind of like this one. (But only kind of.)
2 Great. Now that I said bedrock I can't stop thinking about the Flintstones. You know, because their beds were made of rock. (To find out what that would feel like, find your local quarry and take your soft mattress for granite.) Note: This bad pun alert arrives a sentence too late.
3 What, you don't believe me? Come on, not everything I say needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Especially since it's such a pain to eat salt one grain at a time. Just do what I do: Down a tablespoon of the stuff before you read anything I've written. Go ahead, grab a spoonful and then read my blog's origin story.
4 Of course, my idea of substance might differ from yours. I'm talking about sarcasm. Because that totally works in print.
5 To balance things out politically, I'll ensure such footnotes are right-leaning.
6 No, that's not a reference to smoking pot. It's playing off the "sprinkle" in the previous sentence as if it was part of a recipe. Didn't you know? Cooking humor always trumps drug humor. #hashtag
7 Except the part about the footnotes.
8 I'm even pretending people will read this post when I didn't include a photo. Wow, I am so naïve.

Monday, March 31, 2014

And Then The Professor Got His Hands On A Duplicator

About a year ago, I shared some Calvin & Hobbes with my son. This included parts of Scientific Progress Goes "Boink", which has a duplicator on its cover. He was only 1½ years old at the time, so I assumed he wouldn't absorb any of it. Little did I know...

For most kids, Calvin & Hobbes is a fun comic about a boy and his stuffed tiger.

For my son, it's a How-To manual.