A few things writers and superheroes have in common

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, a weekly feature Publishers Digest has called, “Writing advice guaranteed to keep you out of the slush pile — or any pile, really…” and what The Master of Horror® Stephen King has heralded as, “Writing tips similar to a hobbling. And no, that has nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings…”

But enough accolades!

My NWOW is when I take the experience gained through 15 years as a newspaper columnist and, in what I promise is a purely hypothetical comparison, get on all fours to offer bits of wisdom much like a cat with a hairball. For those who aren’t cat people (or who thought they were before that last example), I apologize. But trust me, my dog scooting example was worse. The point is, I have too many pets and really need to keep them out of my analogies. My other point is that I should probably get to this week’s NWOW, assuming anyone is still reading. Continue reading

Sad breaking news…

DATELINE: OREGON — Call it a sign of the times, but this image shows how even in a state where all residence are required to wear hiking boots and smoking is strictly limited to medicinal marijuana (mostly), childhood obesity has gotten so prevalent that some parents are being forced to sell their children…

Sadly, more than 100 families in Harrisburg, Ore. have opted to sell their "huge" children rather than pay for a health club membership.

Sadly, more than 100 families in Harrisburg, Ore. have opted to sell their “huge” children rather than pay for a health club membership.

Photo from ‘The Box’ reveals evidence of possible Liberace séance

"Skippy" the rabid, blindfolded squirrel.

“Skippy” the rabid, blindfolded squirrel.

There are certain iconic phrases woven into the fabric of our collective experience. They are phrases which, upon hearing or seeing them, create an anticipation that has been engrained in us since childhood…

Once upon a time…

It was a dark and stormy night…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

RELEASE THE SQUIRREL!

Only that last example, however, means it’s Tuesday and time for this week’s edition of The Box in our newsroom! For those who might be unfamiliar with this weekly feature, possibly because your parents never read you the fairytale about a magical newsroom that lives in the shadow of a rabid squirrel named “Skippy,” I should probably take a moment to explain so this all makes sense.

Each Tuesday, with the help of Skippy the Rabid Squirrel, I utilize my investigative journalism skills to uncover the mystery behind a photo selected from The Box: a collection of unidentified photos which — much like Dolph Lundgren movies — have remained unclaimed since the 1980s. Continue reading

Sitting in your kindergartener’s chair may require an extraction

image It’s time for this week’s installment of Post Traumatic Sunday, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. What these posts aren’t about is venting or vindictiveness.

So what’s the point?

Simply to offer the reflections of someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how: with humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who constantly inspires me to laugh for the right reasons.

Now, we can all laugh together…

* * * * * * * *

Though it had been five years since our daughter’s first parent/teacher conference, my wife and I felt the same familiar anxiety as we entered our son’s kindergarten classroom, sat across from his teacher, and realized:

Neither of us is getting out of our tiny chair without having it surgically removed. Continue reading

A Nickel’s Worth from ‘The Most Outlandish Tale About Anxiety and Depression Ever Told’

image “WAIT! THE STORY DOESN’T START HERE!”
— Adam Sendek

(For those following the BLOG HOP already in progress, click HERE)

Regular readers of this blog are probably wondering why I’m starting this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing with a quote from Adam Sendek of The Chowderhead and Long Awkward Pause? Or maybe you’re wondering what a “Chowderhead” IS exactly? To be honest, I can only answer one of those questions definitively. The other I have to assume won’t clear up without frequent applications of tetracycline.

As you’ve probably guessed, this week’s NWOW is going to be a little different. That’s because it’s part of a collaborative effort between a dozen bloggers, each of whom has contributed 200 words as part of a continuous storyline initiated by Adam.

Here’s the catch: The only details each blogger receives are the 200 words that come from the blogger before them. Aside from that, you’re flying blind at the keyboard. But hey, Stevie Wonder does it, right? As I wrote my portion, I realized that incorporating it into this week’s NWOW might be a great way to experience a dozen different writing voices attempting to harmonize from 12 different rooms. Sort of like an asylum after “lights out.”

And with that, our story begins by clicking HERE

Home insurance premium up? Thank my clumsy dog

Apparently, today is National Pet Day. No one told me this. Not even our dog, who is always the first to point out important holidays such as “Arbor Day,” “Bring Your Dog To Work Day,” “National Hydrant Awareness Day” and “Bathe Your Cat Day” (which I think he made up.) Nonetheless, we love our chocolate Labrador, Stanley, and his two adopted siblings, CJ and Hazel. To celebrate, I’d like to offer this post from the past in tribute to Stanley and all the pets who make our lives so much richer, not counting what we spend on home repair…

This is the face of rising homeowner’s insurance.

Each year, we gather as a family to have our pets blessed on St. Francis Day. We do this because we want to give our pets every advantage, particularly if there’s a chance — through divine intervention — that our Chocolate Labrador’s IQ could be raised above that of a standard carrot. I know this is supposed to be a general blessing situation, but I think God would agree there was a serious oversight during Stanley’s creation process.

I know He is very busy.

I know He sees all.

But maybe He was also trying to catch the season finale of “Hell’s Kitchen.” Continue reading

A gift from The Hook (or why I tell him I don’t celebrate Christmas)

image They say the best gifts are the ones you never ask for. They also say to never look a gift horse in the mouth. While I agree with both of those sentiments, I have to assume “they” have never received a gift from Robert Hookey, comedic maestro behind The Hook and Rob Ford’s running mate for the 2016 Niagara Falls Moose Lodge presidential race.

Perhaps because he is Canadian and not subject to U.S. privacy laws, or possibly because he has an overactive imagination fueled by pure maple syrup, Hook claimed to have discovered information about me which — as a gift — he promised to keep quiet. However, because I believe in full disclosure, and because these were too funny to keep to myself, I have included his discoveries here, along with some explanations. Mostly because I don’t want Peter Dinklage kicking down my door.

I promise it will make sense later… Continue reading

While you were sleeping… I was dragging a dead cow

image Tuesday is normally when I post my riveting investigative journalism feature — at least compared to watching TV static — called The Box. Then again, normally I haven’t spent the early hours of the morning on the scene of a car accident involving a cow. Such was the case this morning at 2 a.m., when my pager went off next to the bed and, five minutes later, I was behind the wheel of a wailing fire engine with a crew of five wondering, Did I hear that call correctly?

Moments later, medics were on scene reporting over the radio that the driver was out of the car with only minor injuries. Though not audible, there was a collective sigh of relief by everyone in the engine. That’s because, in most cases, getting tapped out in the middle of the night for a car accident usually means rolling up on something pretty awful. Particularly in a relatively small town where there’s always chance you’ll be extricating — or placing a tarp over — someone you know. As an emergency responder, you build up coping mechanisms for dealing with the anxiety and adrenaline that occurs when you approach a scene, work the scene and leave the scene. Keeping that in mind, when you find out there’s no loss of human life, the result is like the release of controlled pressure in a steam kettle; it’s immediate and takes a while to simmer down. That’s when a different kind of coping mechanism comes into play: Gallows humor. Continue reading

That time my daughter found Nemo — then ate him

image To say you could catch a fish from the kiddie pool at our local Outdoor Festival several years ago is like saying you could turn a few heads if you backed your SUV into a Harley during the Sturgis Rally.

My oldest daughter had just turned seven, and the pool was literally brimming with farm-raised trout that would’ve just as quickly latched onto a Milkdud as Powerbait. Given a window of 15 minutes of fishing for every dollar, most kids old enough to hold their own poles were standing gawk-eyed with a fish in their sack after less than five minutes. So, when my daughter landed her seven-incher, I asked if she wanted to keep it or throw it back in — hoping against hope that she would opt for the throw-back.

I think my exact words were something along the lines of, “Sweetie, do you want to keep the baby trout until he runs out of air, or put him back in the water with his family?”

“I want to keep him,” she said firmly, then turned to her mother and asked for another dollar. Continue reading

If the jeans fit, wear them (until your legs go numb)

image Welcome to this week’s installment of Post Traumatic Sunday, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. These posts aren’t about venting or vindictiveness as much as they are about reflecting someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how: Through humor.

Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who constantly inspires me to laugh for the right reasons.

Now, we can all laugh together…

* * * * * * * *

I have a favorite pair of jeans I refuse to give up, and which, over the last few years, my wife has attempted to eradicate on six different occasions. She hates these jeans because, according to her, they are “ripped, frayed and embarrassing.” Particularly when I forget to change them before going out somewhere in public, such as our front yard. Her attempts to get rid of my jeans have escalated from them being “lost,” to an incident last week in which she claimed my jeans “spontaneously combusted,” forcing her to put out the flames with the nearest extinguishing device: A meat cleaver. Continue reading