Is there such a thing as too much climaxing? (In your manuscript, Jeez!)

image For those visiting for the first time because of the search term “climax,” welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! This weekly feature is when I share the writing wisdom gained from 15 years as a columnist by — much like a porn movie — quickly stripping things down to the bare essentials and offering techniques that hopefully lead to a lot of “oohing” and “awing.” It’s a weekly feature Publishers Digest has called, “Writing tips that will keep your manuscript out of the slush pile, especially if there’s return postage included…” and what porn star Ron Jeremy has touted as “Enormously engorging… Oops, I mean engaging.”

But enough accolades!

The climax.

For those who zoned out after discovering this is a post about writing, welcome back! For everyone else, especially those working on a manuscript, short story or article for publication, you already know the climax is that point in your piece that brings everything together in a way that leaves your reader feeling completely and utterly satisfied by someone who is, at least in literary terms, a giving lover skilled at pacing the climactic moment specifically to put the reader’s needs ahead of their own.

Needless to say, this can be challenging. And not just for male writers, many of whom have already skipped ahead looking for the next “climax” reference. Whether writing a mystery novel, erotica, a humorous magazine article or non-fiction blog post, a reader needs to feel a sense that they are working toward something — a big reveal, moment of enlightenment, resolution to a problem, punchline — in order to be fully engaged and eventually finish with that sense of satisfaction we strive for as husbands writers. Continue reading

It’s official: Everyone wants to be cool

(What am I doing posting on a Thursday? It’s my turn over at Long Awkward Pause and the excitement is tangible! Or maybe it’s just arrhythmia…)

George Clooney supports the "Speak Up: Save the Mimes" project and SO DO I!

George Clooney supports the “Speak Up: Save the Mimes” project and SO DO I!

A recent poll conducted by the staff at Long Awkward Pause suggests that a whopping 95 percent of Americans (living within a one-block radius of LAP headquarters) either want to be — or already consider themselves to be — really cool. And not just because of their proximity to our office. I should point out that the other five percent are moving somewhere else because they are “tired of being asked stupid questions.”

Still, unless you’re a government contractor, the numbers don’t lie. And based on the results of this small but accurate representation of America, it’s clear everyone wants to be cool. In today’s social-media driven world, that means keeping up with and joining the latest causes trending on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler Pinterest, MySpace, posted in laundromats, etc.

Hey, anything that raises awareness on important issues is a good thing! Everyone agrees on that! (At least everyone within a one-block radius). The problem is that the coolness-by-association factor that comes with supporting an issue is becoming more important than the issue itself. Especially when there’s a celebrity involved… (Read more by joining me at LAP!)

Once the food in your refrigerator becomes self aware, no one is safe

People often get us confused because we look so much alike, but Sean is on the right.

People often get us confused because we look so much alike, but Sean is on the right.

As a tribute to my friend and fellow firefighter who is officially retiring today after 25 years, I’d like to offer this story from a few years ago as a testament to his bravery, dedication and complete lack of refrigerator cleanliness skills. Though I’ll miss having him on the nozzle when the flames are showing, I find comfort knowing he can turn his attention to serving the community in other ways, such as cleaning out his fridge more often to prevent another attack from self-aware gravy.

Thank you for your service, your mentorship and for being my friend.

But seriously, Sean — you really need to watch it with the food spores…


Admittedly, the closest I have been to an actual military “hot zone” was when, on a grey August day in 1977, my Cub Scout troop was deployed to sell candy on the same block as the Girl Scouts. Our prime objective was Hilltop Road, which was a critical strategic vector. At least in terms of foot traffic. Because our troop transport had overheated in the Carl’s Jr. drive-thru, the Girl Scouts had already claimed the high ground next to a busy movie theater. Outnumbered and without tactical advantage, we implemented our most effective defensive strategy, which was to form a tight perimeter directly behind 220-pound Billy Schlependorf. Continue reading

As tans fade for Oregonians, risk of being mistaken for corpse increases

image Before long, those of us who live here in the great Northwest are going to change. And when I say “change,” I don’t mean for the betterment of mankind. I mean from a healthy tan to having a skin tone similar to tofu. That’s because, in a matter of weeks, the only sunshine we’ll see for the next six months is going to be on Bachelor in Paradise. For Oregonians, this is the time of year when we cover our firewood, weatherproof the house, and promise to stay in touch with new friends made during the summer who, by late October, have decided to move back to El Ranchito, Calif.

But for those who stick it out (or those without four-wheel drive who are simply stuck), it means finding an alternative to the sun so that we can retain at least some semblance of a tan. And let me just say that it has absolutely nothing to do with vanity. It does, however, have everything to do with a collective fear shared by all Oregonians — which is of drinking too many cocktails on a flight to Portland, passing out, missing the connection, then getting buried alive after being mistaken for a corpse by a Miami Customs official.

Hey, it could happen. Continue reading

Six pizza-inspired inventions worth a Long Awkward Pause

Like every Saturday, I’m over at Long Awkward Pause with the rest of the gang making comments about The Saturday Six, which is a collection of six weird images that are related by theme. Sometimes even by blood. Although to keep our PG-rating, we stopped accepting family portraits sent from Alabama. This week’s theme is pizza-inspired inventions, such as in this first example…

1. Pizza Cup Keyboard!



 BrainRants: Not pictured with beer… disapproved.

Omawarisan: Is there an option for Sicilian pizza?

Ned: I wonder how many times I’d stick my thumbs into the pizza trying to hit the space bar?

(Would you like more examples of deep-dish crazy? We’ll even throw in free breadsticks! Then join me for another slice over at Long Awkward Pause…)

Is your manuscript in its eighth trimester? It may be time to induce

image Though I’m still working on the eBook version of my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, that doesn’t mean I’ll be using it as an excuse to stop posting my weekly NWOW. No way! I’ll use a fictitious illness for that. Speaking of fictitious, this weekly feature was recently recognized by Publisher’s Weekly as offering “A level of writing insightfulness rarely seen outside of mental [writing] institutions…”

But enough accolades!

Let’s face it, editing the second draft of your story or manuscript is like a visit to the proctologist: You want it to go quickly; you want to avoid too much grimacing; and you know before you get start there’s going to be too much crammed in. Yet statistics show that early detection of grammatical “polyps” is the most effective way to prevent the spread of bad writing.

But apparently not horrible analogies like this one. Continue reading

Seven more minutes of childhood; a father’s wish for his daughter the morning of 9-11

I’ll never forget how I felt this day 13 years ago as an American, a firefighter and as a father — and how each held its own kind of hurt that has never completely healed. But of the three, being a father watching the sparkle in my then six-year-old daughter’s eyes noticeably fade just a bit continues to be the memory that lingers most…

image My alarm clock went off the same as it always did back then, coming to life with the morning news — my preference over the annoying, high-pitched alternative of chatter. Instinctively, I swatted the snooze button and bought myself another seven minutes of sleep.

In the years since, I’ve thought a lot about those seven minutes, and how the simple push of a button postponed a bitter reality for just a little longer. When the news came on again, word of the first airliner crashing into the World Trade Center stopped my hand just short of another seven minutes of blissful ignorance — a time span that now seems like an eternity.

Lying there, listening to the details, I regretted not pushing the button one more time.

A hundred more times.

A thousand.

In that same moment, I also understood that the impassive gaze of terrorism could only be averted for so long, and that, eventually, I’d have to meet it — along with the questioning gaze of my daughter. Continue reading

Consequences you can expect from horrible pick-up lines

image I’ve been ridiculously happily married for almost 10 years now, so the singles bar scene is a long-forgotten memory. Or maybe just a deeply repressed one. At least it was until yesterday, when a friend came to town and invited me out for a quick beer. As we began catching up over Dos Equis, we couldn’t help but overhear a series of pick-up lines being exchanged by a group of 20-somethings who — at least in their minds, and thanks to several happy-hour pilsners each — had assembled a list of clever lines no woman could resist. Assuming, of course, the women in question were all desperate to gain U.S. Citizenship.

As a service to single men everywhere, and in particular to that group of 20-somethings once they’ve sobered up, I felt obligated to jot down some of those horrible pick-up lines and explain — through a “trial” and “error” format — what they can expect should the words actually leave their mouths in the general direction of an actual living female, intoxicated or otherwise. Continue reading

Not all who wander are lost — they might be looking for their car

image As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, I’m severely directionally challenged. I have admitted this openly, without shame, in hopes that I might be an inspiration to those out there who, at this very moment, might be looking up at the Seattle Space Needle and wondering:

When was this thing moved to Atlanta?

I specifically mention the Space Needle because experts suggest that people who are easily lost should use landmarks as a way of maintaining a sense of direction in unfamiliar territory. For me, this means staying keenly aware of my surroundings while, at the same time, avoiding eye contact with anyone who might actually be willing to offer directions. Though some think this stems from my stubborn streak, it’s really more about avoiding a conversation that begins something like this:

Hi there. I seem to be lost. Can you tell me the easiest way out of the parking lot?

This is no exaggeration; I actually did get turned around in an unfamiliar parking lot this week. That’s because I made the mistake of not retracing my exact steps back to the car. Instead, I took the nearest exit leading from the building and proceeded directly outside which, for me, was like walking into the “Upside-Down Room” at the House of Mystery. I eventually discovered that I was at the complete opposite end of the parking lot from where I came in — but not before my wandering caught the attention of at least three people who stopped to ask if my car had been stolen. Continue reading

Children’s photos sure to give you a Long Awkward Pause

Because tomorrow is National Grandparents Day, and we know our grandparents would never say anything bad about any photo of their grandchildren, I and the rest of the staff over at Long Awkward Pause will say it for them during this week’s Saturday Six.

You’re welcome, Grandparents…

1. Ballerina And The Game Twister Combined


BrainRants: This one’s a future Russian weightlifter. Or Oompa Loompa

Omawarisan: There’s so much here! Here’s what I’m settling on. This kid has huge hands. Her hands are like white baseball gloves.

Ned: I believe this is the earliest known photo of John Wayne Gacy.

(I hate to say it, but we have more examples of children who are probably in therapy now thanks to photos like this. If you’re missing one from your album, chances are it’s on this week’s Saturday Six at Long Awkward Pause…)