Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Time to Take Off the Training Wheels

Thirty days ago, I gave myself an ultimatum: Write more. With this in mind, I gave myself the goal of blogging, Facing, and Twitting every day of January. How did I do?

For me, Twitter is like that person whom you get along with well enough, but every conversation is laden with semi-awkward silences because you have nothing in common. Yeah, I made it one week. I also missed three other days later in the month. Not a stellar effort by any means (especially if you take a look at what I had to say), but far better than I thought I'd do. Twitter, I'll see ya when I see ya.

I technically missed one day on Facebook, but that was because I didn't manage a post till midnight. It was before I went to sleep, however, so I'm counting it.

As for here on The Wheel? 31 days, 31 posts. Sure, two were photo collections, and a few others were thrown together just to keep the streak going, but I made it. For much of the month, I didn't feel my posts quite reached my blog's standard level of quality,1 but I began to hit my stride this past week. The stories themselves were merely okay, but the spark had returned. I began to feel good about my posts consistently. And that's exactly what I was hoping to get from this whole endeavor.

So, starting tomorrow, I head back into the word mines.2 That's right, other than the occasional blog post, I'm back to writing about attempted political assassinations and invisible monkeys. I'm closing in on the end of my first draft, after which I get to undertake a major rewrite. It's going to be a lot of work, but to tell you the truth, I'm kind of looking forward to it.3

Wish me luck.

1 As measured by creativity and/or number of footnotes.
2 They're a real thing. Authors head underground for a spell, and resurface with brand new words (if their genre is sci-fi) or brand new combinations of words, hewn from the earth itself.
3 Well, except the part where I have to sort through 70+ pages of (sometimes contradictory) notes I wrote myself. Stupid brain, couldn't you have come up with all these ideas the first time through? Oh, sorry, I didn't mean you're actually stupid. It's an expression. No, really, I didn't mean it. Where are you going? No! No no no! Come back! Please come back! Damn it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Three Sides to Every Story

had no
love for his
neighbor Stan,
but loved Stan's
wife. Then one day,
he learned Stan loved
him. Whereas Stan's wife
only loved Stan; she had no
love for the other man. It was a
conundrum; each of the three loved
one of the others, but for each of them
it was unrequited. They decided the best
strategy was to go on a trip together to see if
the matter might work itself out. And thus, Stan
booked all three onto a cruise in the North Atlantic.
But, just as Stan's wife started to show some affection
for the other man, the entire ship disappeared off the coast
of Bermuda, and was never seen or heard from again. The end.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Full Circle

Round about
ten o'clock, the moon joined
the sun in the sky. The parade was in
full swing: jugglers arced balls through the
air, clowns stayed balanced on one wheel each,
and the band circumnavigated the town green as
if it was in orbit around the marble statue of Atlas
at its center. Sol walked the perimeter, holding one
Oreo in each hand, and listened to the church bells
ring. It was as if the whole of the planet had come
out to celebrate today. A Frisbee hung high in the
air, forming a halo with the sun for a moment,
before curving back down to the earth. Sol
thought of his own childhood, parades
in this very same spot. His life
had come full circle.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A 26-Line Story I'll Write As I Go

by Nathaniel Jahosophat Wilson

Chadwick von Prenderbottom loved to see people fail.
Donovan Thistletwist loved to drink coffee.
Every day, Chad and Don met at the Coughie Shoppe, where they could do both.
Failure practically lived there.
Girls got orders wrong, and misspelled names every few minutes.
Hopeful scribes sat, uninspired, unable to overcome writer's block.

I should mention: The story's 26 lines include its title, byline, and any asides.

Just before 11 am one Tuesday, Chad noticed a disquieting trend.
Kismet, fate, or perhaps dumb luck had brought only success all morning.
Lattes and espressos had been delivered to customers without a single complaint.
Mice clicked and keyboards clacked non-stop as authors typed up a storm.
Not one person had tripped, jostled each other, or even grumbled.

Oh, by the way, my middle name isn't actually Jahosophat, but imagine if it were.

Perturbed by this turn of events, Chad decided to do something about it.
Queerly, every attempt only bred further success.
Ranting about politics prompted one woman to write a brilliant op ed piece.
Shoving an elderly man put his spine back into proper alignment.
Throwing hot coffee on a barista led to Don getting her number.
Utterly disheartened, Chad left his friend and went home.
Very strange things happening today, he thought.
Wednesday will be better, he thought.
Xanax might help, he thought.

You may think there isn't enough story left to have a satisfying ending, and you'd be right.

Zero failure, though, meant everyone had failed to fail, which made Chad happy again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Tense fists, shallow breaths; he will not survive.
Quinine did little, now his final dive
Sheds the weight he'd shouldered since falling ill.
For he chose vengeance, but he ends up killed
By mosquitoes, sixteen bites on his neck
Pain eased by the quaff I've given him. Heck,
For years he had dreamed of our deaths, because
I'd tricked him once, made his mouth reek of gauze.
He wouldn't accept "sorry," but would run
Through the jungle at me. And now? He's done.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Footing the Bill

I have written1 here2 every day3 so far in 2016, but my footnote-to-post ratio4 has been at an all-time low.5 This won't fix that,6 but it might7 at least get things8 somewhat9 closer to normal.10

1 I.e. typed. No one really writes anymore. Hell, even my typing shows I'm still stuck in the authorial dark ages. Voice recognition is the new quill and ink.
2 In my office chair, sitting at my computer. Oh, you thought I was talking about my blog? Hardly. I never do that. People who blog about blogging don't get any readers. And I've got at least two.
3 I know, I'm surprised, too. I haven't even written typed narrated brainwaved any of them ahead of time.
4 What? It's totally a thing.
5 0.76, or 19 footnotes over 25 blog posts. Take away the three most footful, and it's 0.136 (3 in 22 posts). Downright pathetic.
6 This has been fixing to fix that for some time now. This and that may have been partners for centuries, but man oh man does that get around. Seriously. That will pair off with pretty much any word out there. It's past time to get that snipped.
7 I'm not always the most positive person. Okay, I'm never the most positive person. I tend to dwell on the negative. "Might" might be as close as I get to being positive. Pretty sure.
8 "Things" is such a vague word. In this instance, even I don't know what sort of stuff I'm referring to.
9 Some people recommend avoiding adverbs like "somewhat" and "a little" when writing. They say such words don't add anything, and often the whole phrase can be replaced by a stronger one-word descriptor. I'm somewhat skeptical.
10 Hey, don't laugh. I could be normal if I wanted to. Oh, come on! I could! I absolutely could. I mean, normal people still like footnotes, right?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Shots in the Dark

Before my son was born, I used to take pictures of things other than my son. Like creepy playscapes at night. Or me censoring myself.

Just thought I would share. (Click on any image to embiggen. Or here to view the whole set.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowblower 1, Nate 0

Since our new driveway is the length of about six cars, we bought a snowblower back in November. We figured we'd have a chance to test it out in short order, it being winter in New England and all. Until yesterday, however, the only time it snowed more than an inch was when we were out of town.

I am so glad we only got three inches yesterday.

Because despite following its manuals to the letter, the snowblower would not turn on. The electric starter does nothing but buzz, and the pull starter does nothing. Nothing at all. It doesn't even pull.

Luckily, even with the long driveway, shoveling wasn't too bad, thanks to the tiny amount of snow and the sun.

But our brand new, never-been-used snowblower is now back at the store for repairs. Supposedly, it'll be fixed and ready for pickup in 7 to 10 days.

Which means you can expect the next major snowstorm in 6 to 9.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


This post is merely a placeholder.

If all goes according to plan, I will write another, better post before this one is released into the wild just before midnight. A post so brilliant it will inspire awe, and perhaps further brilliance.

If not, at least I get to continue my streak of blogging every day this month. And you get something to skim and say "meh" to before carrying on with your day.

I hope you never see this. I hope you get the brilliant post. I really do. You deserve brilliance.

Yet I also deserve a fantastic game day. And if you're reading this, it means ours has extended past midnight. Or maybe everyone left three hours ago and I'm simply being lazy. Either way, for me that's a win.

It's isn't one for you, though. You lost. Sorry.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Channeling My Inner Larson

This is all I've got for you tonight. It's late and I'm tired.1

1 Okay, technically it's not channeling Gary Larson so much as it is paraphrasing him without the courtesy to include a hand-drawn panel. I would have done more, but what can I say? It was late and I was tired.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Then They Stole Our Ladders

When we moved in September, the movers left a lot to be desired. For instance, we desired ladders. Because they stole ours.

As I mentioned last week, I bought the movers lunch. I tipped them $20 each. And the next day, we realized the ladders never made it off the truck.

You might think it was simply a mistake. We did, too, at first. But the more we thought about it, the more we felt it had been done on purpose. And we had plenty of time to think, since the company's office was closed for the long weekend.

Near the end of the move, trying to speed things along, I had climbed on the truck to collect a couple loose items. Specifically, our 6-foot metal ladder and 2-foot wooden stepladder. The movers asked me to leave them on the truck, so they could reach the few boxes left on the top of the stacks.

They'd already borrowed tools from our toolbox to do other parts of their job, so I knew they hadn't come fully prepared. Of course, they'd also damaged the toolbox in the move, so I knew they weren't fully competent. But at this point I was too tired to protest. If it got us to the end quicker, great.

Then they didn't follow protocol with the final checklist. Rather than bring one of us on the truck to confirm everything had been moved, like they did room by room at the old house, they signed off on things from the front step. All I'd gotten was a view from the back of the truck (where it had looked like only large piles of furniture pads remained). They'd either taken advantage of our exhaustion, or been too exhausted themselves to do things properly.

On Tuesday we finally got hold of the company, and voiced our concern. They said they'd ask the crew and check in storage. After a week there was still no sign of the ladders. It had gone from possibly a mistake to clearly a theft. Either they'd planned to take the ladders all along, or they'd found them the next time they opened the truck and thought, "Hey! Free ladders!"

It took another few weeks (plus multiple phone calls and visits), but eventually we were reimbursed. As for the movers, it turns out only one was an employee. The rest were that guy's crew, paid by him. I have no idea what, if anything, happened with them.

Selling a house sucks. Moving sucks. But on the plus side, now we have new ladders.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Damn You, Universe. We Had A Deal.

On Sunday, we lost a man with whom I'd worked professionally. On Monday, we lost a neighbor whose grandson was my son's age, and who'd donated the sand for our sandbox. Yesterday I beseeched the universe to break from its "bad things happen in threes" mentality, but alas, the universe had other plans.

Last night, our dog Sonya passed away.

Unlike the two men, who I believe were both in their 50s, Sonya was an old lady. She was twelve, had gone deaf, was eating less, and had been having trouble with stairs for some time. But we figured she still had a few good months left. There was no sign the end was coming till the middle of last night.

Sonya was a rescue, pulled from the streets of Harlem at a year old. Denise wanted a way to bounce back after her first bout with cancer, and Sonya was it. Early on, they walked pretty much every day.

I met Sonya on my second date with Denise; we walked her around the neighborhood. She determined I was good people (or at least on the same side in her war against the squirrels), and that was that.

It wasn't long before I inexplicably became her favorite person. She'd be happy to see Denise, but overjoyed when I arrived. (The times I got home first and gave her 45-minute belly rubs probably didn't hurt.)

She was, as Denise called her, an all-American mutt. Part collie, part who knows what. Sweet as they come. Fluffy as all get out. Shed like the dickens.

In her youth, Sonya was so afraid of water she'd pull you across the street to avoid a small puddle. At dog parks, she'd separate the big ones from the little ones. She befriended our cat Schrödinger within seconds. And she'd take biscuits with the gentlest touch you've ever seen.

I've never been a dog person. Never will be. But with Sonya, I was the closest I'll ever get.

Farewell, my sweet puppy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bad Things Don't Always Have to Happen in Threes

I'm tired of all this death. The celebrities were bad enough, and I was really only a fan of one of them (Sheriff Marvin "Metatron" Turpin).

But then things started hitting closer to home. Last weekend, a former co-worker suffered a stroke and never recovered. He passed away Sunday. Yesterday, a neighbor on our old street had a heart attack. Both were strong and vibrant last I saw them, and now both are gone long before their time. It sucks.

It often seems this sort of thing happens in threes, but let's just keep it to two this time around, okay universe? What do you say?

Monday, January 18, 2016

"When People Love Me, I Just Hug 'Em."

My son is now four and a half. I haven't been recording as many of his quotes and conversations lately, and the reasons are threefold: 1) many of them need context; 2) his stories go on forever; and 3) I forgot, okay? I forgot. I'm human. Leave me alone.

Anyway, here are a few of his from the past year...

Me: "I'll be right there. I just need a drink after all that work shoveling outside."
Him: "I need a drink, too, after all that watching Thomas at the Blue Mountain Quarry."


His cousin (7 months older) is explaining that girls don't have penises.
Him: "But my mom has a penis."
Cousin: "This book here says she doesn't."
(There was no book. They were simply standing there talking to each other.)


"She's not a girl. She's a boy girl."
(After some delving, we managed to get a translation: She likes playing with trucks.)


He's playing with his back to us, and it sounds like he's saying, "You're a bitch" over and over. My sister-in-law and I share a look to confirm that, yes, that is indeed what he's saying. I ask what he's doing. He looks up and explains the truck is collecting you're-a-bitch. I mean, gar-bage.


I tell him he needs to go to bed, so he won't be too tired when his cousin wakes him up in the morning. Because his cousin is always up really early.
"Well, I'm up early and a half."


His cousins are already asleep on either side of him. His aunt is sitting nearby to make sure he doesn't wake them before he falls asleep.

Him (whispering): "Aunt Connie."
Connie: "You need to go to sleep."
(a few moments pass)
Him: "Aunt Connie."
Connie: "What?"
Him: "I have a new plan. First one to move gets to go downstairs and play with all the toys."

Sunday, January 17, 2016


My junior year in college, I put together a scavenger hunt as part of a Secret Santa sort of thing.1 The final clue pointed to a locker in the basement laundry room — #232.

My senior year in college, I spent an insane amount of time on this drawing, originally titled simply "232". I chose the building number with no recollection of the locker number from the previous year's scavenger hunt; I only discovered the coincidence a couple years ago while going through old Word documents.

Before I started removing the least interesting ones, my album on Flickr of my son's first year had exactly 232 pictures in it.

Last week I counted the number of steps from the ground floor of my office to the 10th, where I work. The total? You guessed it.2

I don't know if my connection with 232 is purely coincidence or if it's fate. But I do know our old house will have been for sale 232 days come January 31. (Or, at the end of February, if you ignore the 4 weeks combined it was off-market and under contract.)

If my previous 232s were coincidental, the house will obviously remain unsold on those dates. But, if they weren't... well, one can hope.

Come on, fate.

1 Actually, it was a Secret Non-Denominational Gift-Giving Buddy sort of thing, but who's counting.
2 But you probably didn't guess that there are 72 steps between the ground floor and the 2nd. Normally, when people take an elevator up to the 2nd floor, it's due to laziness. At my office, it's self-preservation.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Not Completely Incompetent

They weren't completely incompetent. Not completely.

This past September, we moved to a new house 10 miles away. I've heard tell of worse moving experiences, but for a local move, this was a torturous day. All we wanted was everything to go relatively smoothly.

We aimed too high.

First, they arrived nearly an hour past the tail end of their ETA. From the start, one was badmouthing the rest of his team to us, including his boss. (His boss was, in fact, his nephew, who had nothing but good things to say about him.)

Instead of covering the stairs like the marketing material said they would, they left them bare and slid a heavy chest down them, scraping off chunks of stair.

Any idiot can tell you if you lift a pressboard microwave stand from the top and hold it at a 45-degree angle, the sides are going to snap. Clearly, that guy wasn't just any idiot.

They broke three other items due to improper stacking (i.e. putting boxes on their sides; placing heavy items atop more fragile ones). They also twice dropped bins/boxes on their way off the truck, but fortunately neither lapse involved anything breakable.

Two of the movers barely spoke a lick of English. You'd think, as movers, they'd at least know the names for the rooms in a standard house. Nope. Bathroom, bedroom, basement, all the same to these guys. I had to explain "kitchen." They started leaving half the boxes in our garage rather than ask where they should go. Even the two who knew English left heavy items in completely different spots (or rooms) from where we specified.

It took 4 guys 10 hours for what was estimated to be an 8-hour job for 3. And that was with me moving just as much as they did the last two hours, simply to ensure things ended up in right place. In the end, only 1 guy stuck around inside to help assemble the beds like they were supposed to. (And one of those I had to redo later, since they'd mixed up the parts from two different bed frames.)

Nice guy that I am, I bought them lunch midway through, and despite all the trouble they caused, I tipped them each $20 a piece.

Then they stole our ladders.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Other Stuff I Did

So, along with the things I already mentioned, what else have I done since I embarked on my 7-month hiatus from blogging last year? I'm glad I asked.
  • Earned my Master's Degree in Tetrising from PODS University.
  • Celebrated my son's 4th birthday, complete with a pirate cake, pirate hats, pirate eye patches, pirate scabbards, and of course, a dinosaur.
  • Commemorated my 5th wedding anniversary with the standard 5-year gift: a full-sized wooden house.
  • Completely embarrassed myself playing cricket. And I was the only American in the game who'd played it before.
  • Replaced my 12-year-old hybrid with a traditional gas-guzzler. Yeah, it surprised me, too. Even more shocking? I bought American.
  • Started reading an insanely long piece of fan fiction. On purpose.
  • Witnessed far far far too many YouTube toy review videos. Wow are some many most practically every single one of these bad.
  • Wrote this post.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Footnight Fortnote

With this post, I have now written twice as many blog posts in 2016 as I did all of last year.1

1 That's right, people. For me, 2016 is all about quantity, not quality. And this quantity-over-quality quality is one I've been employing in all aspects of my life. Blog posts, obviously. Grammar, check. (Who employs a quality? Seriously.) Parenting: I've spent a lot of time with my son this year... watching television. Facebook and Twitter? Goes without saying. Saying stuff that goes without saying? Yep, plenty of that, too. Come to think of it, the only thing I've done this year with more quality than quantity is eat ice cream. I simply haven't eaten enough ice cream.

I'm going to fix that right now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Stealing My Son's Soul

On Thanksgiving day, my son decided he no longer wanted any pictures taken of him. Of course, that didn't stop me from trying, but now the only good pictures come when he's having too much fun to remember he now hates photos.

Anyway, here's an assortment of Pre-Thanksgiving shots, for those who've been missing their Professorial fix.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It Was the Best of Listings, It Was the Worst of Listings

A few days ago I mentioned there'd been an impressive 90 showings at our old house since June, but it had yet to sell. It all comes down to one word:


The front part of the house grades gently toward the front door. That alone has deterred many would-be buyers. Never mind that the structural report states the settling stopped years ago and the house is stable. They can't get past the slope.

Which is too bad, because the truth is when you live there, you don't notice it at all. In our ten years in the house, the slope affected our lives in only one way: if we wanted to keep the front steel door open, we had to use a doorstop. That's it.

Interestingly enough, the buyers who briefly had contracts with us backed out for a different reason. Both were first-time home buyers with FHA loans, and balked when they realized older houses require maintenance.

Of course, others also passed for reasons other than the slope. Some said no because:
  • "The front yard is caving into the middle." 1
  • The garage is too small.2
  • We can't afford a mortgage right now, but would like to rent-to-own.3

    ...and of course, the old stand-by...

  • The basement ceiling is too low to convert the place into a man cave.4

Oh, well. It'll happen eventually. Sometime this year, our Tale of Two Mortgages should have a happy ending.

1 The yard is completely level. In the middle of our yard is a walkway. I'm not sure what drugs the realtor was on when she wrote this, but I want in.
2 Apparently, people actually want to park in it. And then be able to get out of their car. Yeah, that's not going to happen in any 1-car garage on our street. Not without a Mini or a Smart Car. Or one of those classic orange and yellow ones.
3 Um, then maybe you should have been seeking out house rentals. This one is for sale. If you're not going to maintain the place and pay at least 90% of each mortgage payment for us, we're not interested.
4 But many caves have low ceilings! It'll be authentic!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Indelibly Etched

I've talked before about the 100-word contests on Janet Reid's blog. Well, earlier today one reader commenting on the latest contest (which I didn't enter) said she'll remember some past entries as long as she lives. Then, as examples, she named two stories: one of the most haunting pieces of short fiction I've read, and one of mine.

I immediately felt two things: Immense pride, in having written something a total stranger will think about for years to come. And secondly, the overwhelming urge to do it again.

My personal writing goals are few. I don't ever expect to make a living at it. I'd love to get published, but I know the odds are against me unless I eschew the traditional route and self-publish. In fact, before today I probably had but two literary ambitions:
  • Get these stories out of my head so I can share them.
  • Entertain people.
These are solid goals, to be sure, altruistic yet also self-serving. But now I have one more. I want my words to be indelibly etched in others' minds. (No, not literally.) I yearn for some of my stories, my scenes, my phrases, to take hold of readers and never let go. (Again, not literally.)

And, as much as I love my friends and relatives (most of them), part of me craves this from an entirely impartial audience: complete strangers.

I feel this isn't truly a new goal of mine. It's likely been there, roaming the recesses of my mind for years, but never before put it into words. Now it's out there. It's real.

I'm not looking for money (though that would be nice). I'm not seeking fame or recognition (also nice). What I want is my words to impact people in a positive way. To be forever tattooed on their frontal lobe. (Yes, literally.)

I guess I'd better get back to writing.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I'm Not Doing This For You

For the second straight night, I'm blogging only because my wife is making me.

Both yesterday and today, I was happy to skip a day, and keep doing what I was doing rather than head upstairs to write. Since I'm ostensibly doing this one-post-a-day thing for my own benefit—to get me back into a rhythm and some semblance of a writing schedule—I figured no one would really care if I missed one.

As usual, I was wrong. This may be a goal I set for myself, but my wife isn't about to let me fail.

That's right, she's a bigger supporter of me than I am.

A post every day in January may not seem like much, but it's more about what it represents. Once we're through to February, my next goal will be a finished novel. And I know she won't let me fail at that, either.

Thank you, Denise. Never stop pushing me. (Except literally. I bruise easy.)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Mortgages

In mid-June, we put our house up for sale.

1 Week: 17 showings. We'll have to find a new house faster than we'd thought.
2 Weeks: We find a house. Also, getting real tired of pulling the dogs out every showing.
4 Weeks: We get a buyer! She's #28 out of the 31 showings in the first month.
6 Weeks: The buyer backs out. Now we need to show and pack concurrently. Crap.
2.5 Months: We move to our new house. 2 of the 4 movers are completely incompetent.
3 Months: Price reduced. No, we're not interested in renting it out. Stop asking.
3.5 Months: Now we have two mortgages. Yay.
4 Months: Another buyer! Denise is thrilled. I'm dreading the worst.
4.5 Months: The worst. Back on the market again. Double yay.

We're now at 6.5 months. Yep, into the third trimester. With the two mortgages, I'll be dipping into my investments again soon. And likely shoveling out two driveways. So far, there have been over 90 showings, at least one every week since it went on the market.

So why, with so many showings, has the house not yet sold? I'll tell you.

Just not today.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Still At It After All These Years

My stream-of-consciousness post yesterday proved one thing to me: I've still got it.

Wherein "it" is a knack for unconsciously inserting the same five words into my prose.

When I'm actively editing my work as I go, I can keep their overall usage down. If I'm just typing away, however, they creep in like roaches. And like roaches, they only scurry away if I highlight their presence. Thus, I try to remain vigilant. But even that's not always enough.

I didn't use them all yesterday, but my list of major offenders remains the same as when I first started blogging. In alphabetical order, they are:
  • even
  • just
  • only
  • still
  • that
Even still, that only just covers the five I'm aware of. I'm sure there are more. And don't get me started on my other writerly tics and mannerisms. We'd be here all day.

Well, I would. You'd probably stop reading after a sentence or two (if you haven't already) and instead go play Candy Crush or stalk a Kardashian or whatever it is other people do.

What do you people do when you're not reading my blog? No, on second thought, don't tell me. We'd be here all day.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Crossing the Streams

It's late, and I don't know what to write about. I think I'll just start typing and see where it leads.

That's a horrible idea.

Um, what? Who said that?

Me. Your blog. And don't you dare start unleashing your blather on me unedited. I've worked too hard to be a bastion of hope in this uncertain world to have you tear everything asunder in a fit of fancy.

You? You're nothing but a conduit. Besides, blogs don't talk.

Normally, no. Either you're having a psychotic episode, or you're simply projecting a combative personality onto an inanimate object.

That doesn't sound like something I would do.

Right. Like you don't talk with food and furniture all the time.

Yeah, but that's different. They have physical form. You're just a bunch of ones and zeroes assembled into coherent fashion by circuitry. I'd never pretend to talk to something like that.

If you say so, Mr. Blogtalker. But back to my original point: Stream-of-consciousness writing is a horrible plan. It's an idea generator, not something you'd actually let other people read.

It's a blog post. Who cares?

Excuse me?

Sorry, did I offend you? Of course not. Blogs don't have feelings.

That hurts.

Can it. All I'm saying is if the overall quality of a blog is good, no one's going to care about one subpar blog post. And I get to continue my goal of posting every day this month.

Yeah, but the overall quality of your blog isn't good.

You can't mean that. You said you were a bastion of hope.

I made that up. Just like you made me up.

Oh, okay. I guess I understand.

Hello? You still there? Blog?


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Final Defenestration of Rupert Fenwick

I came up with this title a while back as a (completely fake) working title for the novel I'm writing. Today, while reading some Shel Silverstein to my son, I decided it needed to be a poem instead.

It was what they always did.
Rupert was a special kid,
And his parents, it seemed, were a touch more odd.

He would throw the windows wide,
And soon he would launch outside,
Often hurled by his mom, or sometimes his dad.

Every morning he'd be flung
'Fore the first school bell had rung.
Most folks said it was the strangest thing they'd seen.

But they really should have stopped
'Cause that last time he but dropped
(For they had just moved from floor one to thirteen).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10 Star Wars Tie-Ins Disney Forgot to Do

Moichandising, moichandising, moichandising!

When two of the most unapologetic merchandising engines in the world joined forces (i.e. when Disney acquired Lucasfilm), we knew Star Wars would soon permeate every aspect of our lives. From waffle makers to condensed soup to in-store promotions to acquaintances' Friendster pages, Star Wars is everywhere. Or is it?

I've uncovered ten areas where Disney is not taking full advantage of the merchandising possibilities. As far as I know, the following product tie-ins do not yet exist:

  1. Rylo Ken & Barbie's Dream House
  2. BB-8 Sings BB King's 8 Greatest Hits
  3. The Buffalo Light Sabres1
  4. Are Yoosa Smarter Than a Jar Jar?
  5. The "Luke, I Am Your Father" Paternity Test2
  6. The Ewok eWok3
  7. Han Solo Solo-brand cups
  8. The Darth Mall4
  9. Yoda Soda5
  10. The Walking Carpet

Come on, Disney. Let's get these things out on the market already.6


1 Opponents are going to lose a lot more than their teeth.
2 Yeah, I know it's not the actual quote. It's okay; you might not be the actual father, either.
3 Fry up some environmentalists without harming the environment.
4 Its main concourse will have plenty of automatic doors. And, of course, an Orange Julius.
5 When 900 calories you reach...
6 Also Jabba the Hutt the Hut.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Deceptively Creepy Homonym

Last month, I won another writing contest on literary agent Janet Reid's blog.

Stated as such, my victory sounds ho-hum, a walk in the park. But in fact the opposite is true. The quality of the writing in her contests has always been stellar, and the authors have repeatedly raised the bar in recent years. Hell, in a July contest she deemed my tale "a perfect entry," yet it still wasn't enough to pull out the win.

This time around, we had to work these five words into a story of 100 words or less:

week - rag - creak - snag - peak

Once school ended, Ben and Jacob headed for the woods. They followed the winding mountain trail until they heard the small creak on the other side of the ridge. The boys clambered up and each took a peak. From either point, the old mill was barely visible, clothed in vines.

Inside, a gaunt figure slumped against rusty machinery, its arm snagged in the gears. The boys poked and prodded the body a while, till it stirred.

"Please... help me," the man said weekly.

Jacob dragged out water and crackers before joining Ben at the door. He smiled.

"Maybe next Friday."

You might not catch it at first—many readers didn't—but I used three of the words where you'd expect their homonyms instead. The first two feel like they could be typos. Clever, sure, but not too exciting. The third one, though...

Yeah, I know. It gives me chills, too.

This marks my third win in Janet Reid's contests. Winning with humor (and bad puns) didn't surprise me, but now I've also done so by being serious and seriously creepy. Considering I've only entered ten times or so, I must be doing something right.

Even if none of you will ever go for a walk with me in the woods again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(By the way, make sure you go and read all the entries. They're fantastic. And grab yourself a copy of The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie, my spoils from the contest. I devoured it in short order. It's a taut thriller with great characters, wonderful prose, and a dog who—spoiler alert—doesn't die. It's out next week.)

(Also, this story is one of the few documented instances where it's perfectly acceptable to use an adverb within a dialogue tag. Don't try this at home, kids.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Son, the Segregationist

For Christmas, my son (age 4) received an abundance of gifts, including knights in a plastic castle, Rescue Bots (i.e. Transformers for the younger set), and Dinotrux (which are pretty much what they sound like).

They were not allowed to interact with each other.

Dinotrux couldn't be inside the castle. The knights were banned from the Rescue Bots' ship. Rescue Bots — even the two Dinobots — could not set foot in the Dinotrux home base. All Muslims were promptly returned to their country of origin.

Okay, not that last one. But still.

Whenever he wasn't looking, I'd place figures into a different playset. When he found them, he'd get angry and knock them to the floor. His older cousins would try to play with two types at once. Characters would be smacked aside.

"No mixing allowed!"

And then, on the fifth day, a miracle. I locked the Dinotrux's food — a piece of ore — in the castle. I suggested the Dinotrux and Dinobots should band together to get the ore back. And he said... "Yeah!"

They worked together and recaptured their ore. Then I sat back as they all sailed the Rescue Bots' ship to his cousin's Hot Wheels garage for a party.

See, America? If you make desegregation fun, people will embrace it. All you need is a little perseverance, and bigots will go the way of the dinosaur.

Which, based on toddler toy industry, means they'll become either half-robot or half-truck. That should be more than enough incentive for them to give up their racist, hateful ways. Right?

If not, we'll just have to throw in a giant Hot Wheels dance party.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Mind the Gap

Between May and December of last year, The Wheel was eerily silent. I had my reasons for abandoning my post(s), though for the first time I can recall, laziness wasn't one of them.

Maybe you're curious what I was up to during my hiatus. Probably not, but I don't really care; I'm going to tell you anyway. Here's a taste of what has happened in my life the past eight months:
  • I lost 15 lbs on my new diet regimen, the Get-Stressed-and-Overwork-Yourself-Fixing-Up-the-House-to-Sell Diet Plan. (I have since gained 2/3 of it back with the classic Show-No-Willpower-During-the-Holidays Plan.)
  • We moved one town away, to a bigger house with a larger yard, and we still don't have room for all our belongings. (Okay, technically we do, since we haven't sold the old house yet. But that's a tale for another day.)
  • In the span of four days in June, I laughed at a big baby with some senior citizens, flashed a stranger on a busy street, played ping pong with a trio of Swedes, finished off a Ginger Ninja, and high-fived a guy who once wrote a novel about a sock monkey.
  • For Halloween, I reprised my costume from a decade years earlier and went as the superhero Captain Spatula. (My first time around, he'd been merely Spatula Man. With his promotion, he got a shinier cape and spiffier kitchen utensils.)
  • I won a 100-word writing contest primarily because I found a way to make the word "weekly" creepy. No, really. I'll share it with you soon.
  • My cat was named Mr. January in a nationally distributed calendar. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, librarians everywhere are already fawning over lil' Schrödinger. Thanks, Baker & Taylor!
  • My son turned four. He's damn cute.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Resolution Will Not Be Televised

During 2015 I was mostly absent from all forms of social media, which I know disappointed my biggest fans1. My total output: Seven blog posts, and few tweets or Facebookian interactions of any substance.2

I haven't made a New Year's resolution in ages — I make promises, not resolutions — but this January I decided to go one step further. This year, I'm giving myself an ultimatum:

Write more. Or else.

I have no idea what sort of crazy punishment I've concocted for me if I fail. But knowing how my imagination works, it can't be good. So I will indeed write more this year. Way more.

There will be more posts here and on the Book of Faces. Extra tweetering over at that other place. My goal is at least one per day per site in January, and then semi-regular output from there on.

Why am I doing this? In part to make up for last year, in part to get me back into a rhythm. Because rhythm is what I'll need once I launch myself back into my novel.3 It's time to finish that puppy up.4

That's my plan for the year. What's yours?

1 A 20-inch box fan and a 4-ft tall oscillating number.
2 And that's even with my overly generous definition of "substance."
3 Not literally. Ow.
4 Note: Not an actual puppy. Though once it's in book form, I do hope many of its pages are dog-eared. (Belated bad pun alert.)