(Welcome to this week’s edition of Flashback Sunday, that special day we travel back in time and highlight posts you’ve probably never read because (a) All six of my followers back then turned out to be debt collectors, or (b) I was still accidentally posting everything to my “about” page. This week’s Flashback was inspired by the latest iPhone release, which seems to be getting mixed reviews by consumers who, coincidentally, have been unable to call from their new phones to lodge a complaint. Keep in mind this is still better than the Nokia cell phone issue which, as you may remember, included suddenly bursting into flames — again, making lodging a complaint extremely difficult…)
Being a journalist, I naturally received an advanced preview of the new iPhone5, which I was told came from a reputable dealer somewhere in Costa Rica.
Technology is great.
Except when it explodes in your pants.
I’ve never really liked cell phones to begin with. Now that they’ve started self-detonating, I like them even less. According to a news article sent in by Dan Collins of Alpharetta, Ga., Nokia has launched an investigation into why, once again, two of its cell phones burst into flames.
And yes — I said AGAIN.
As you might expect, demand for Nokia cell phones has dipped slightly as a result of these incidents. That’s because luxuries like instant text messaging, computer games and video imaging don’t mean much if your cell phone suddenly ignites into flames, turning your morning commute into a flaming lap dance and an appearance on The World’s Wildest Police Chases. Continue reading
I’m reporting live from the Florence Festival of Books, where I arrived to find a crowd waiting at my booth! I should mention it also happenes to be located next to the restrooms. Apparently, someone had forgotten to unlock the door, so the crowd quickly dissipated once the janitor showed up. Still, I have gotten one pre-order, which I think is a reflection of may marketing savvy…
As an extra enticement, I am offering a bite from the corners for anyone who orders two or more copies of Humor at the Speed of Life. Needless to say, I expect those corners to go fast.
I will be bringing you live updates throughout the day, using my scone as a measure of my success. If you’re in Florence this afternoon, stop by for my reading at 3 p.m. If you’re not in Florence, start driving now…
I don’t know if it’s the change of the seasons, the approaching zombie apocalypse or a tainted batch of Lay’s Chicken and Waffles potato chips. Whatever the reason, a lot of folks have been asking the question, “How did you get started?” Not to sound presumptuous, but I assume they mean “as a columnist,” and not “as a father” or “turning grey” — which, I’d like to point out, are directly related. Because of this, I thought it might be a good time to revisit my very first Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which covers the basics on how to get a jumpstart your
rejection letters writing career. I should point out that some of today’s best-selling authors got their start after reading this post, prompting writers like J.K. Rowling to call Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, “Just the advice I needed to realize my potential within the food service industry. You know, until the book thing came along.”
When I first started querying newspapers about carrying my column, I was getting one or two rejections in my email box every week. In frustration, I turned to the Internet and discovered, with a little planning and organization, I could be rejected by every newspaper in the state of Louisiana all in one afternoon.
In 2002, I began my unofficial “Internet promotional tour” across the United States by emailing a basic cover letter and a few sample columns to newspapers here in my home state of Oregon. Today, the column is running in 60 papers in 11 states and Canada. What follows are a few simple truths, mixed with some suggestions, that will help distinguish your email query from the hundreds of male enhancement offers editors receive each day. Continue reading
The Door: Sentinel of journalistic history, barrier to the commode.
As expected, the lull in attention from major news outlets seeking an exclusive on The Door
didn’t last. Morley Safer has resumed faxing images of his rear, which were mistaken for amateur photos of the moon’s surface until Misty, our front office person, noted that the moon doesn’t have trees. And now that his back has recovered from lifting a Sparkletts water bottle while disguised as delivery man in order to gain access to our newsroom, Keith Morrison has returned to his old tricks; today, he dressed as a meter reader for the local power company and blew the main breaker when his hidden camera fell into the power box.
Because of this kind of intense pressure, I was forced to leave the newsroom and post this week’s edition of The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance) after business hours and away from the office at an undisclosed
Why the sudden resurgence in media attention? I mean in addition to the fact that The Door is home to the best and worst examples of journalism since reporters at Siuslaw News began taping clippings to The Door nearly four decades ago in an effort to preserve journalistic history while simultaneously insulating the bathroom door?
For the same reason Barbara Walters left a threatening message calling me a “Diswespectful Wittle Bwat” on my voicemail: Because word got out that today is going to be special. Continue reading
As with firefighting, when it came to creating my book cover, I insisted on doing my own stunts. In this case, it meant gripping the top of a race car speeding in excess of 120 mph while simultaneously — and this was the tricky part — not messing up my hair. Oh, and I also had to hold up a cardboard sign with my free hand. We considered the idea of holding the sign between my teeth, but that idea was scrapped on the first attempt after driving through a cloud of mosquitos…
OK, fine. None of that really happened. But I would almost rather risk my life on the hood of a speeding car with a mouth full of mosquitos than promote my book, which I’ll be doing for the first time this weekend at a local book festival. It’s not that I’m one of those authors who likes to write about — but who doesn’t like being around — actual people. In fact, I am very much a people person. Not in a Hannibal Lector kind of way, but because I truly enjoy talking with and meeting new people. My anxiety over attending the book festival also has nothing to do with any fear of talking in front of large crowd, or in my case, a handful of strangers looking for the restroom as I read excerpts from my book. The truth is, I volunteer as a host for several community fundraising events each year, so being in front of a crowd — or even several confused strangers — isn’t the issue.
So what is? Continue reading
There comes a time in every man’s life when he must set an example for his son by crawling under the house to fix something. This must be done with apparent fearlessness even though he knows whatever needs fixing is going to be located in the darkest corner of the home’s underbelly, probably behind a spider web the size of a commercial fishing net.
Several years ago, I used plywood to seal up the underside of our home and stop what I suspected were nightly “rave” parties hosted by our cat. These parties generally started around 11:30 p.m. and were held directly beneath our bedroom floor, where it sounded like 20 cats playing Twister. Naturally, I had no choice but to break up these parties by getting out of bed and shoving our 60-lb. Labrador headfirst through the crawl space in our closet floor.
My point is this: Sealing things up stopped the cat parties. Unfortunately, it also turned the crawl space under our home into a frightening black void where, thanks to evolution, a species of hairy, sightless, spider-like rodents with large fangs and the ability to mobilize telepathically has nested, colonizing into the hundreds.
Possibly even thousands.
I know this because I’ve shined a flashlight down there and — this is not an exaggeration — I’m pretty sure I saw something move. Continue reading
This is my brain on caffeine and AC/DC. See? Nothing.
I often listen to AC/DC when I’m writing, especially if it’s early in the morning. At this particular moment, “For Those About to Rock” is thundering toward its big finish as guitars, vocals and drums whip the live audience into a frenzy. On most mornings, that — along with coffee, and lots of it — is enough to engage my brain. But the moment I tried sticking the ear phone jack into my left ear canal instead of my iPad, I knew something was wrong, and that even AC/DC wasn’t going to help me this morning.
Some of you know, in addition to being a columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter. Though it’s been quiet lately, last night we had two tap outs. The first was at 10 p.m. for a small wildfire that took us a couple of hours to put out. The next call was a structure fire at 1 a.m. that turned out to be a false alarm. Final bed time: 1:45 a.m.
When my alarm went off at 4:45, I put my pants on backwards and slid my feet into my wife’s high heels.
Things pretty much went downhill from there. Continue reading
(It’s Flashback Sunday! That time when we roll up our sleeves and dig into the distant past for something that hasn’t been seen in many years. Sort of like literary proctologists, except without the physical discomfort or awkwardness. That said, today’s Flashback is from 2005, back before I even had a blog because I still referred to going online as “Using the Internets.” The inspiration for this column came from my then seven-year-old son, who became fascinated with putting things in his belly button. I’m just glad that particular curiosity ended there…)
As with most explanations I find myself giving as a parent, things started with a simple “No.”
In this case, it was: “No, you can’t save chewing gum in your belly button.” My son then countered with the inevitable “Why?”
“Because it’s gross,” I explained, then added for good measure: “What if it gets stuck?”
“It won’t, Dad.”
“It might — so take it out.”
A roll of the eyes, droop of the shoulders. “But why-y-y-y-y?”
“Because I said so.”
Eventually, it always comes down to that answer, which isn’t an answer at all. But for some reason it seems to do the trick. At least it used to. Apparently on this day, my son had awakened a little wiser, and with a better understanding of the difference between battles and wars.
Oh joy. Continue reading
Before we get to this week’s Nickels Worth on Writing, I have been told by the U.S. Postal Service that sending me your nickels taped to postcards is not acceptable. Apparently, it really messes with the sorting machines, which mistakenly re-direct them to the “Clothes for Miley Cyrus Fund.” So, until we get this figured out, hold on to your nickels; my NWOW is on the house!
Does that mean my advice, gleaned from 15 years as a columnist and referred to by some of today’s most influential writers as “the fertilizer in the garden of writing,” will be any less insightful?
Of course not.
Money or no money, I promise you my weekly advice could not be any less insightful — which is why authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham and E.L. James receive this post in their
spam email every Friday, and why this weekly feature was recognized by Writers Digest magazine as “One of the few blogs that illustrates, with absolute clarity, why writers such as Hemingway became alcoholics.” Continue reading