Conversations With My Wife: Donkey Hoe Tee

Have you ever wondered how they change lightbulbs at the Barnes & Noble? You think some guy is just walking around with a 20 foot ladder and a bag of bulbs? No–that would be too non-invasive. Instead, they drive a cherry picker into the store and let its constant beep-beep-beep echo throughout the store for what was probably the entire morning. I don’t know, because Matador and I couldn’t last more than ten minutes. We each grabbed a book and got the hell out of there before the murdering began. As usual, when we arrived home, my wife asked us both what we got. Here’s the conversation she had with me:

Her: What book did you buy?

Me: Don Quixote.

Her: Really? You know there’s a copy on the shelf right there, right?

Me: *looking over her shoulder* Oh, no, I didn’t realize. (In my defense, the books on our shelves are arranged with the spines facing the wall for reasons.)

Her: Have you read it already?

Me: No, but I’d like to have my own copy anyway.

Her: That’s fine. I don’t want you touching mine because it’s old.

Me: So…

Her: So…

Don’t get me wrong; my wife and I communicate just fine. For example, last night, we made plans to watch a movie after we put the kids to bed which we both understood to mean be in bed and asleep by 9pm.

We have fun.

The Summer of Heat and Despair

Central Texas has been under an Excessive Heat Warning for what feels like months now, and I can’t remember a time in my 42 years when I’ve seen a more pointless advisory from the National Weather Service. What exactly are you expecting us to do, NWS? Get under our desks? Put wet paper bags over our heads? We know it’s hot; we’ve been outside, trying to live our lives. Oh no but it’s like, really hot. No doy. That’s why we’re dropping our kid off at school at 5:30 a.m. even though they don’t open ’til 8. Gotta be smarter than the climate change, as my dad would always say.

In other news, someone asked me the other day how my writing was going, and I can hardly describe the deftness with which I changed the subject. Everything about writing and publishing and marketing is annoying me right now. No, annoying is not the right word. Discouraging. Everything about writing and publishing and marketing is discouraging right now. Nine to midnight used to be my prime writing time, but these days the only thing I want to do after the kids are asleep is put myself to sleep. Netflix still hasn’t called about turning Vise Manor into a limited series, probably because Vise Manor has an actual ending.

I’m so mad at Brand New Cherry Flavor right now. It is such a refreshing blend of humor and darkness and the 90s and Hollywood and revenge and horror, and though it builds to an incredible crescendo, it ends so abruptly. So many people die, nothing is resolved, and Lisa Nova just throws up her hands and says welp, I guess my work here is done. Worse, I can’t seem to find the book the show is based on on Amazon. That at least would have given me some hope of maybe finding an actual ending to this story. Boo, Brand New Cherry Flavor. Boo, Severance. Boo, God’s Favorite Idiot. I’m tired of shows that don’t provide any closure.

Not you though, Midnight Mass. You cool.

(Also, a body hopper named Boro? Where did you get that idea?)

Speaking of body manipulation, Rainbow learned how to roll over a few days ago. Unlike our first child, Matador, we aren’t obsessing as much about her development. She’ll roll over when she rolls over. She’ll walk when she walks. She’ll add, subtract, multiply, and divide when she’s five like her brother. This was one of those milestones where I was alone with her, so I made sure to capture the moment in photos and save the relevant surveillance footage from our Nest camera. It’s funny how we spend so much time waiting for something like this, only to remember a few nights later that now she can roll over in her crib and forget how to roll back and cry, cry, cry.

To our credit, we didn’t go rescue her when she rolled over around 11:30 p.m. last night. She eventually found a comfortable way to sleep, and then at 5:30 a.m., figured out how to roll onto her back again. Never seen someone so happy.

Speaking of being happy, I was able to do a marketing thing this week without feeling the immense guilt every self-pub feels when they desperately beg for reviews. Since my first marketing stunt was basically an invitation, I decided to follow it up with a thanks for staying with us type card. Sometimes you get these from hotels as a way to remind you of your vacation and subtly drive you towards leaving a review (for a free upgrade during your next stay!). In addition to subtly threatening that I know where they live, my goals were to thank them for buying my book, remind them to review, and get them to sign up for my newsletter.

As with my first mailing, I got a lot of text responses from people who had received the reminder who were digging into the book now or moving it to the top of their TBR pile or not what they would call a ‘reader.’ Regardless of the outcome of these mailers, I do enjoy the little chats that come from them. And honestly, sometimes people do need a little reminder. If you do it in a fun and infrequent way, I don’t see a downside. Well, yeah, sure, the money you spend on the printing and mailing, but if you were worried about money, you wouldn’t be a self-pub in the first place, now would you?

I honestly did have a friend tell me, “I’m not much of a reader.” To which I replied, “As a writer, I hear that a lot.

Speaking of readers, Matador is burning through books these days. The above photo is him at school delving into some light erotica. As someone who was exposed to Delta of Venus at a very young age, I’m still not sure when would be the appropriate time for him to start reading more adult titles (as in, Young Adult or Replay or Neuromancer). I remember a point in my own childhood where librarians were stopping me from checking out titles they thought too mature for me, which may or may not have led me to a life of crime. I don’t want that for him. No More Verastiquis in Jail–that’s our family motto.

For now, I suppose I’ll just keep all of Anais Nin’s books high up on the shelf. I mean, if you’re not pushing huge decisions off to some indeterminate date in the future, are you even really parenting?

Parental Anecdotes: Floop Flakes

The Adventures of Floop and his trusty sidekick Agent Speckle continued tonight, though not without constant interruption from Matador. Oh, it can’t be that bad, Daniel, you say, as if you were somehow watching us through a camera hidden in the air conditioning vent, but it was. Here’s a little example of how the interruptions went, and I swear on the unparalleled beauty of Natalie Portman that this is as close to verbatim as humanly possible.

Me: “Once upon a time, Agent Speckle was…”

Matador: “What about Floop?”

Me: “You have to let me finish. So, Agent Speckle was…”

Matador: “But dad, what about Floop?”

Me: *thinking I’m smart* “Okay, so Floop was…”

Matador: “What about Agent Speckle?”

Me: *blood pooling in eyes* “Bud, I need you to stop interrupting. If you have a question, you need to raise your hand and then I’ll call on you.”

Matador: “Okay.”

Me: “Okay. Thank you. Now, once upon a time, Agent Speckle was eating a bowl of Floop Flakes.”

Matador: *raises hand*

Me: “Yes?”

Matador: “I’ve never eaten a bowl of Floop Flakes.”

Me: “Bud, that’s not a question.”

Matador: *slowly raises other hand*

Me: *sighs* “Yes?”

Matador: “Why have I never eaten a bowl of Floop Flakes?”

And scene.

That’s my kid, folks. He’s too smart, and I feel him closing the gap between us intellectually every day. Pretty soon, he’s going to be reading the books on my shelf and telling me how I’ve misinterpreted Lolita and House of Leaves. His taste in books will surpass mine any day now.

Don’t believe me? Here he is at school today reading erotica.

He’s my little sophisticate, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Literary QOTD: The Innocent Table

Charlotte went up to a little table of imitation mahogany with a drawer. She put her hand upon it. The little table was ugly, no doubt, but it had done nothing to her.

Lolita, Chapter 21, Vladimir Nabokov

This has to be my favorite quote in the entire book. IMHO, it sums up how much HH hates Charlotte, how much disdain he has for her, that even an ugly little table doesn’t deserve to be mistreated with a simple touch by the Haze woman. How does an author even come up with something like this? How outside of the moment does HH have to be to even think this? What the hell is happening?

There is plenty of critique and meaning-assignment for Lolita out there in the world for you to read, but the more encounter, the less I think I enjoy the book. I read recently about how the flowery prose was the point of it, how it was a put-on to heighten the ridiculousness of the subject matter. So that’s Nabokov making a display for his readers? Because I’ve read other critique that says it’s HH making a display for his jurors.

Maybe we’re all just overthinking it. Maybe it’s just a good burn on Haze.

Modern Childhood, Modern Texas Summer

Forty years apart, my son and I are having vastly different childhoods. The culprit? Texas has somehow moved closer to the sun. Not sure how that happened, but here we are. I remember spending summer days outside all day every day no sunscreen not hat no sunglasses and not dying.

Now Matador doesn’t even want to go outside. At all. And honestly, I don’t want to send him out there. I guess we’ll just sit inside and read.

Dad’s Journal: The Horrors of Astro’s Playroom

My son still lacks the hand-eye coordination to play video games on the PS5, but that doesn’t stop him from plopping down next to me in my chair to watch and order me around as I play. Recently, while looking for a new game, he asked for Astro’s Playroom. And that’s fine. No violence or nudity or harsh language to be found here. What you will find here, however, are little cutesy Astro siblings acting out some of the best and worst moments in gaming history. And that’s all fine too, until you see something that gives you instant PTSD. Something like:

It will be years yet before El Matador experiences the horror of The Last of Us and the utterly soul-crushing death march of its sequel, and I can’t help but envy that kind of ignorance. For him, the world is still a wonderful, friendly, and inviting place.

Silly boy.

Silly boy with your dreams!

Welcome To The Shelf: Patterns, Phones, and Poems

Although I’m a big fan of You Need a Budget and everything they’re about, I’m equal parts proud and ashamed to say that I don’t have a budget line for books. No part of saying “this is how much I’ll spend on books each month” makes any sense to me. You don’t budget; you just buy. The more books the better! Fill up every bookshelf in the house and when you’re done, buy another bookshelf. Today, we welcome some impulse buys based on random posts I saw on Twitter.

The Black Phone, by Joe Hill. Joe has been blowing up Twitter with reactions to the new movie based off his short story of the same name. I can only vaguely remember reading any of his work before, perhaps Horns, but I’ve never really given him a chance. So what better place to start than a collection of short stories? The premise of the Black Phone movie sounds great, and with the knowledge that the book is always better than the movie, it only made sense to pick this one up. I’m hoping for an Asimov or PKD situation where Hill’s short stories are so good that they make me want to read the novels. (Honestly, I thought that’s why novelists wrote short stories in the first place, to drum up interest, but 🤷.)

Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson. Considering how much I love Neuromancer, I was a little ashamed that I had missed this one from the father of cyberspace. Gibson’s other novels have been kind of hit and miss for me, but I saw Pattern Recognition mentioned multiple times in a single day (though now that I think about it, those were probably Gibson’s retweets), so I decided to get myself a copy. It also didn’t hurt that a review of Vise Manor calls out a similarity between my book and the Blue Ant series that this book kicks off. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out I’ve ripped off Gibson yet again (see: Xronixle), but I would at least like to see the source material.

Collected Poems (1947 – 1997), by Allen Ginsberg. If you’re anything like me, and I know I am, then you remember exactly where you were sitting when Dade quoted Ginsberg’s Howl in English class. It’s just one of those poems that stick with you, that keep showing up in popular culture as each new generation discovers it. I saw Ginsberg mentioned on Twitter the other day and thought my shelf could use a collection of his poems. And that’s how books get purchased. I don’t have a strong intention of sitting down and reading this book cover to cover, but I want it on my shelf just in case.

That’s it for this week. In the mail as we speak are a handful of books that no shelf should be without. Hit that bell and like and subscribe and wupfh so you don’t miss it!

Review: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

Well, that was weird. Awesome, but weird.

Have you heard of those movies that are originally standalone but are then reworked to be part of a series? Pretty sure they did it with a couple of Die Hard films. Anyway, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once feels like one of those movies that could have been reworked into a decent Matrix 4. It has all the right themes, all the right questions about identity and multiple versions of ourselves, probability, and above all: choice.

But, with the exception of a few homages, this isn’t a Matrix movie, which is fine because it easily stands on its own. It’s funny, weird, poignant, and… fresh. It’s not a Batman or Superman movie. There’s no cinematic universe. It’s downright novel in that way.

Michelle Yeoh, Short Round, Lo Pan, and Laurie Strode all shine in this movie, and I loved watching them play action and crazy and subtle one scene after the other. The only actress I was lukewarm on was Joy, but she came through in the end. I had even more appreciation for her after reading the trivia on IMDB that said Awkwafina was originally in line for the role.

More than anything, it was great to see Short Round / Data back on the screen again. He is definitely his own thing, and that thing is endearing. Even in 2022, his voice will take you right back to childhood.

There’s not much you can say about Everything, Everywhere, All at Once without spoiling the movie, so I’ll leave you with this: the hype leading up to the theatrical and home release was huge, my expectations were huge, and from the moment the movie began to the last second some forty-two hours later, it delivered.

Stream it on Amazon tonight for $20. It’s worth every penny.

Literary QOTD: In that order

Presently, the lady herself–sandals, maroon slacks, yellow silk blouse, squarish face, in that order–came down the steps, her index finger still tapping upon her cigarette.

Lolita, Chapter 10, Vladimir Nabokov

There are plenty of books that might convince you of your mediocrity as a writer, but none so much as Lolita. Reading it is like taking a master class in flowery prose, a lengthy linguistic lesson in additive adjectives. Of all the quotes from this story, the above (emphasis mine) is the one that puzzles me the most. I cannot figure out why the words “in that order” are in this sentence. Is it a dig? Is it just how she appeared to him coming down the stairs?

If I were being tested on it, I’d say the latter–as in, he was describing each detail as he encountered it. But I prefer the dig interpretation–as in, these are the remarkable descriptions of Charlotte Haze in particular order, her face coming last.

I’m probably overthinking it, but I love this line.