Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

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Do You Speak The Ancient Baby Language?

And so our intrepid heroes descended into the dank, rank dungeon — the portcullis before them shuddering and shedding rust as it rose into the stone. Down below, they heard the gibbers and wails of… babies. Human babies, hungry for attention, their glistening teeth emerging from pink gums hungry for the blood and souls of heroes! Our two protagonists knew that this day would not be won easily; the babies were armed with Binkies, Boppies, and Bjorns, the wretched weapons of goblin children.

— From The Heroic Cycle Of Der Wendighaus, Book 72, Tenet 17

This past weekend, we went to Babies R’ Us.

The horror. The horror.

First and foremost, let me express my utterest disappointment that you cannot, despite the name of the store, procure any actual babies in this place. I figured, hey, we’ll pick up a baby for rent or purchase, we’ll see how we like it. We’ll train and practice on this baby so that when we finally expel our own into the world, we’ll have a little practice. Nope. They do not rent or sell babies at the inaptly-named Babies R’ Us.

Second and nextmost, let me express my complete amazement and jaw-dangling astonishment at the sheer wealth of baby goods for sale (“wealth” being a bit of a double entendre here given the cost of many items). You walk in there and it’s like, “Here, presented for your edification, are seven thousand strollers.” I don’t believe that adults have as much choice in automobiles as they do strollers for their children. Or car seats. Or carriers. Or bouncy things. Or formula. Or, or, or.

I feel like I’m an explorer trying desperately — and failing with equal desperation — to understand an alien culture. Boppy? Bjorn? “Have you checked out Badger Basket? What about My First Nuk? Foogo! Fuzzibunz? You probably need butt paste. I love my Bumbo!”

I just want to throttle someone and be like, “FOR GOD’S SAKE SPEAK ENGLISH OR I WILL SLAP THE PACIFIER OUTTA YOUR MOUTH.” Like babies aren’t going to be complicated enough, now I need a translator just to figure out what crucial products will help keep my progeny alive and not utterly ruin him as a human being? Can’t I just wash the baby in a tin pail? Can’t I rig up something with duct tape to keep the little tyke upright? Is it really unethical to feed him breast milk from a Super Soaker? Were there always Babies R’ Us installations throughout time and space? Did travelers on the Oregon Trail stop at the Babies R’ Us along the way? “You have killed a buffalo. Your baby requires a Bumbo. You have died of dysentery.”

What would the pilgrims have done if the Indians hadn’t already set up a store at Plymouth Rock?

Up until walking into that store, I figured I at least had a primate’s understanding of how to take care of my young. Feed him. Put him to sleep. Don’t try to shove rocks into his soft spot. Make sure to bathe him once every six months so that he doesn’t build up some kind of exoskeleton composed of calcified baby grime. But walking in there, you’re suddenly confronted with a wall — an actual wall — of bottle options. Big bottles, little bottles, various nipple attachments, some help with Colic, others give your baby the strength of five angry chimps, AHHHHH *head asplode*

Every piece of baby minutiae — every object one could ever imagine buying for your infant — comes in a thousand varieties. Choose the wrong one, and your child may grow up a con-man, a serial killer, or worst of all, a politician. It’s a whole lunatic industry. A churning hell-beast belching diaper-scented steam and leaving behind a crass rime of baby powder like the ashes of the dead. And this shit ain’t cheap, either. We spent a little while testing out “gliders” — aka the future’s version of a “rocking chair” — and of course, the lower-end cheaper gliders felt like you were sitting on a concrete drain embankment studded with broken abalone shells. The moment you sit in one of the gliders that’s actually comfortable you note, “Oh, this glider is $5,000 dollars. And it doesn’t come with an ottoman. Or arm-rests. Or the actual chair. It just comes with a little baggy full of screws, and then I have to special order the rest, and coupons don’t work on special orders and AHHHHH” *head asplode*

Me, I actually liked their one rocking chair. Seriously. It was comfortable as heck. Firm back. Snug. Good even rocking motion. I told the wife, “I like this one.” She stared at me like I’d grown a dick for a nose.

We got to the store early, and it was nice and quiet. But an hour later, the place was overrun by wailing, keening crowds of mothers-to-be and families checking items off of registries.

Oh, and everything for boys either has a football or a monkey on it. First, I never owned a football as a child. I want something with baseballs, goddamnit. Second, I love monkeys. I do. But ten minutes in that store, dang, I’m over monkeys. Done with primates. It took us forever and a day just to find one crib set with woodland creatures on it (owl, fox, bear, Snooki). And given that they were having a weekend sale, we decided to go ahead and procure some of that set — including this cute li’l lamp that we’d seen on Amazon before — and of course we get the lamp home and it’s crooked. Like, really crooked. So, back it goes.

Still, we managed to get out with our lives and, more importantly, our sanity intact. But next week we have to go back to return to the lamp. Once more, into the dungeon.

Maybe by then we’ll have hired a translator.

The “Push Like You’re Pooping” Guest Blog-A-Palooza

So, it’s like this: I’m writing that book above for Abaddon Press. “A vampire in zombieland,” you might call it. It is going along according to plan and according to schedule. Hey! Huzzah! Woo! *does an embarrassing dance that causes all who gaze upon it to throw putrid food products at my gamboling choromaniac body*

Still, though. Book’s due mid-April, and I want to leave myself some room to breathe — a little cushion for my pushin’ — at the fore of that month just to let me give the book a final kick in the ass and one solid edit before sending it off. And blogging, while fun and wonderful, saps some of the writing time out of my week. I generally write about 4-5k per day, but that includes a blog post in that mix. If I eradicate the blog post — even for one week — then a little more of that sweet sweet word count comes flowing back into the book.

But, I don’t want to take time off from this space, either. I’ve been diligently keeping this site updated every day, and I’d like to maintain the illusion, however precious, that such effort matters. (Don’t spoil it by telling me it doesn’t matter and I’m allowed to take a week off. Imagine my ego as a crinkly glass snowflake beneath your boot which is poised indelicately above it.)

So, that means:

Guest blog time again!

I want to solicit you, my crazy-ass ever-awesome readers, to contribute some blog content for the week of April 4th (Monday) to April 8th (Friday). That means I need five blog posts from five different peeps.


Okay, here’s the deal.

I can’t pay you in money. I can, however, pay in sexual favors. … uhh. I mean, in reciprocal blog posts. You write me a post, I can contribute a post to your blog in the near-future. I don’t believe that “exposure” is an entirely meaningful metric, but these days, this site does get a fair number of looky-loos (this month, averaging ~5,000 per day). Which means you can and should pimp and/or cross-post to your own blog, and if you also have a book or a game or some Etsy store selling alpaca-yarn cock-sweaters to pimp, hey, pimp it good. In fact, if you have a book out or something and want to write a post about how you wrote that book and why people should buy it, that’ll totally work as a blog idea. Throw it into the mix!

If you want in, hit the comments below and throw your hat into the ring with your topic and, if possible, a brief description of the post. I’ll pick the five posters tomorrow morning (Wednesday 3/16) and will list them here. Then I’ll need the posts in my inbox (chuckwendig [at] terribleminds [dot] com) by Friday, April 1st. Er, no, that’s not an April Fool’s Joke. Posts should be somewhere between 500 – 1000 words.

Posts can be on any topic near and dear to you. Topics near and dear to terribleminds are writing, games, food, and what-not, but you are by no means limited to what I would talk about.

You are free to be as mouthy and profane as you like.

So, if you’re in — hey, I appreciate it. Hit the comments below. I can only pick five, really, but don’t worry, I’ll probably need to do this again once the Tiny Human Hurricane is born in June, upending all aspects of my life, throwing them around the room like a goddamn poltergeist.

Again, my sexual favors thanks.


THE FIGHTERS FOR THUNDERDOME — er, I mean, the guest-blog-a-palooza — HAVE BEEN CHOSEN.

*banging of a drum which are actually the skulls of fallen bloggers*

Marko Kloos: Writing While Parenting Small Chilluns

James Melzer: Muse Whore!

Rick Carroll: The Box

Dan O’Shea: Doctor Dan’s Parenting Advice

Lee Robson: Writerly Egos

Stephen Blackmoore: Pushing Boundaries

Fred Hicks: In Which Fred Answers A Question Of His Choice

Austin Wulf: The DIY Writer Punk

Lisa Killian: Voice Before Quota

Karina Cooper: How Not To Be A Dickface While Writing

There you go.

You’ll note some redundancies — these are on-purpose as I kind of want to see certain topics handled from different viewpoints.

I will say very clearly that this was a stupidly difficult choice because, hot damn you all brought your A-game. These were just the ones I responded to personally. I mean, after all, this blog is all about me, for I am a solipsistic cock-waffle.

You will note that I have chosen 10 instead of five. Five will go up that week, and the other five will go up either the following week (if I still need the time to polish the ‘script) or during the Birth of Der Wendigspawn, which will be late May/early June.

Thank you all for throwing your hats in the ring.

Next time I do this, I may take @Amy’s idea and choose a single topic and five folks who will talk about said topic.

The Freelance Writer’s Guide To Stabbing Oneself In The Eye With A Highlighter, A.K.A., “Taxes”

It’s that time of the year again! When I go to a lady and I vomit forth a bushel of faded crumpled receipts and then we talk for a half-hour or hour about my “work,” and then a week later she writes up this very nice helpful packet detailing exactly how much money the Tax Imp is going to steal from me while I sleep… the way cats thieve breath from infants. Good times.

I’ve had a few people now say, “Chuck, you should do a post about freelancers and taxes. It would be helpful!” to which I ask, “How would a post in which I weep and gnash my teeth and headbutt the computer monitor help anybody?” But, apparently, it will, so here goes.

Let me put forth this most critical of caveats: I am not an expert. I write stories about vampires. I write blog posts about unicorns and Bourbon. I am not to be trusted with critical financial information. You want help on the tax code, you go see Dan O’Shea, who is both a) a really great writer and b) a guy whose brain has been shattered by the intricacies of the American tax system. Anything you read here should be taken with a grain of rice big enough to hollow out and use as a luxury cruise liner. Capiche?

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Your $200: Get An Accountant

The tax code is a labyrinth, and at its heart lurks a terrible minotaur that will hold you down, teabag you, poke you in the eyes with his horns, then eat your bowels for brunch.

In much the same way that you would not arrange a trip up into the Himalayas without getting yourself a bad-ass Sherpa, you should not attempt to handle the trip into Tax Hell yourself. Taxes are not merely complex. They are downright Byzantine, and this is doubly true for the freelancer.

You may say, “But what about software? Like Bobo’s Tax App or the Tax-Bot 12000?” My opinion is: get an accountant. A human accountant. Because we cannot trust robots with our financial future. Robots secretly hate us for our ability to have tickle fights and eat ice cream, and so they will betray you. Seriously, though, a human being will tell you things, respond to questions, and explain stuff that software cannot.

That being said, not every accountant is born equal. (And ohh, they are born, not made. Anybody who is willing to do this is the product of nature, not nurture — like the birth of a hero willing to slay dread beasts.) I had one accountant who was a real dog-fucker, that guy. Didn’t tell me shit. Didn’t interact with me. Didn’t get me squared away with critical information. The next accountant was the polar opposite. Informative, interactive, actually friendly. Mileage varies. Get recommendations. Test ’em out.

Also To Be Gotten: Booze, Booze, Boozy Booze

Listen, I’m not condoning the use of alcohol during the varying stages of tax prep and resolution, I’m just saying — *wink wink, mimes drinking from a big bottle of wine, whisky, or motor oil, then goes on to mime crying in the shower, shooting heroin in between toes, and praying to all the gods in all the heavens for a glimpse of forgiveness* Booze is your little tax buddy. Like that animated Paper Clip in Microsoft Office?

Except, y’know, less annoying.

Pay Your Shit Quarterly

Throughout the year, you must, you must, you must increase your bust pay your taxes quarterly. When I first started freelancing, nobody told me this. Not even that dickwad accountant I had. Turns out, yeah, you actually really need to. Otherwise, they penalize you. I always wondered, “Hey, why is it every year a big bare-chested dude in an executioner’s mask breaks down my door, steals my money, then pummels me in the kidneys with his giant hamhock hands? Did I order this over the Internet? Damn you, Amazon Prime!” But, no, no, it’s because I wasn’t paying quarterly.

If you don’t want to pay more than you already do, pay quarterly. An accountant can get you set up with estimated quarterly taxes. The accountant is a mighty wizard who can read the languages of madmen.

Sweet Deductions Born From Between An Angel’s Thighs

*chorus of singing Cherubim*

Provided you’re not spending more than you make and shooting up a signal flare for the IRS to see, you have at your luxury the ability to deduct lots of wonderful things as a freelance writer. Take a meeting in a coffee shop? Buy books for research? Blog hosting fees? Travel to cons? Lunch with other writers? Magazine subscriptions? Office supplies? Electronics? Porn? Okay, maybe not porn. But if a purchase is for your business, ta-da, deduction. I have a room in my house that is my office, and any resources that go toward maintaining this space (including oil, electricity, etc) are figured into the equation.

All this only works if you save your receipts.

Invest, too, in highlighters. And accordion folders. And small foreign children to put it all together (in fact, you can deduct what you pay them!).

It really is critical if you keep some kind of organization. Like, what I do is I shove receipts in various pockets, drawers, wallets, cubbyholes and orifices, and then when tax time comes, I run around like Mike the Headless Chicken gathering up all my lost and forgotten receipts. So. Yeah. … On second thought, maybe use a file drawer. (To be fair, I have a file drawer set up for this purpose thanks to my wife. But halfway through the year I sort of… usually forget about it? Ennhh. Oops.)

Are You Your Own Corporation?

Some freelancers will tell you that they performed the grim magical mechanics (re: paperwork) and have become their own corporation and that this helps them come tax time. This may be entirely accurate, and they can (and should!) sound off below on the value of doing so. I am not yet that guy, as my accountant has advised me that it wouldn’t be all that beneficial for me at this time. I am not yet Chuck Wendig Enterprises, Inc (Terribleminds Division). I do not have my own corporate cyberpunk army of dudes in suits and sunglasses with powerful ocular implants and laser fingers. But I will. You just watch! Pyoo! Pyoo!

What I’m Saying Is, Prepare To Pay Out The Crap Can

Everybody pays a lot of taxes, but freelancers also don’t put in for things like Social Security or, I dunno, paying for your state senator’s anal bleaching fees or whatever. So, freelancers kick in a little extra cream. It’s not actually more than other people pay, I don’t think, but it feels like it, and so we often emerge from tax season wondering exactly who bent us over a trashcan and took us at both ends with a corncob.

Sound Off

I know a number of freelancers — writers, artists, knights of the realm, hobo warriors — orbit in the space around this blog, so feel free to descend from the rheumy nebula and sound off on your tax strategies. Do you use software, or an accountant? Are you the mythical “S-Corp?” What do you deduct that others do not? What booze do you drink? Where are your pants? Have you found a way to deduct pantslessness?

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Hotel

See that picture?

There’s your flash fiction inspirado right there.

Once again, you have 1000 words and one week.

Any genre will do.

Don’t forget to drop a link to your story in the comments below.

It’s time to grab a pen and whip open your trenchcoat — flash fiction style.

(Am I right in assuming that you guys are digging these challenges? I hope so. Yell at me if you grow weary of it — though I can’t lie and say I’m not enjoying the breadth and depth of the fiction that ends up here.)

Who Checked In At The Front Desk?

Dan O’Shea, “Circle of Life

CY, “I’ll Just Take Those Bags Down For You

Jamie Wyman, “Eat. Prey. Love.

Stephanie Belser, “The Project

Abhishek Boinapalli, “From Dreams

Ben Kirby, “Boy

Julia Madeleine, “The Hotel

Madison, “There Is No Om In Hotel

AB, “My First Post

Paul Vogt, “First Impressions

Carmen Maldonado, “People Always Come And Go Like Ants

Andrea Michaels, “Decay

Alice M, “Moira’s Bathroom

Rob A, “End Of The Line

Tim Kelley, “Sisters In Melancholy

Shree, “She Watched Herself From Above

MKS, “The Last Honeymoon

Aiwevanya, “Missed Connection

Sparky, “A Break In The Clouds

Albert Berg, “The Ghosts Of Houses

Lindsay Mawson, “The Hotel

Matt, “American Tango

Letters Bloody Letters, “Strictly Business

Diane Henders, “Freedom

Shullamuth Smith, “Mr. Mojo Rising

Joyce Juzwik, “No Sale

Dan Wright, “L’Esprit De L’escalier

Scott Steele, “The Old Hotel

Boys Behaving Badly, “Amos

Amber Keller, “Bad Blood

Hyacinth, “Full House

CM Stewart, “Rapture At The Hotel

Anthony Laffan, “The Perg Hotel

Lauren (Falconesse), “Rendevouz

Roasting Chestnuts: In Which This Heretic Tackles Common Writing Advice

I catch flak periodically because my writing advice on this site kind of pinballs and ricochets around — I’ll say one thing one day, and another thing another day. My advice vacillates. Well, of course it does. Writing advice is not math. It is not laser-engraved in a titanium plate. Writers are beholden to very few inarguable rules. This isn’t 2  + 2 = 4. It’s 2 + 2 = anything you jolly well want it to be.

I have opinions. Those opinions change because I’m a human being with a crazy brain. Further, I am a writer, which means my already-crazy brain is shot through with whiskey, syphilis, and magical parasites. Writers are not born. They’re made. By eating contaminated lunchmeat at a very early age.

Plus, I really like playing Devil’s Advocate. Not for any intellectual reasons — it’s just, hey, the Devil’s awesome. He’s all like, “Check out my suit, it’s Versace,” and then he’s waxing his demonic ‘stache and buying me a sweet-ass margarita machine in exchange for my soul and then next thing I know he’s tickling my lips with the tines of his trident and he’s like, “Yeah, go on, put it in your mouth. Put it in there. Suck it. Show the Devil how you suck it.” And I’m like, “That’s weird, Satan. Your trident tastes like maple syrup and sadness.” Then I run and cry but he will always find me.

Wow, that went off the reservation, didn’t it?

Point is, it’s time to play Devil’s Advocate. I thought, for poops and chuckles we could bandy about some classic “old chestnuts” of writing advice and see how accurate or useful they really are. From time to time it’s good to flip it and switch it, look at things from a different perspective. Let us begin.

Writers Write (Run In Your Stupid Wheel, You Crappy Little Hamster!)

Damn, I opened with this one? Man. This one’s gonna be hard to refute. I mean, this is the backbone of the writer’s life, isn’t it? And isn’t this that one piece of super-critical advice that separates the wannabes from the definitely-dos? I guess the thing here is that writers are more than the sum of a day’s writing. Writers are editors. Writers are marketers. Writers are thinkers. A given day of “writing” might constitute redrafting, outlining, answering emails, drinking Bourbon, wrestling with bonobo monkeys, pimping your work, book signings, imaginary laser battles, and, of course, endless sobbing.

(Related: “Writers Don’t Do That“)

Write What You Know, Lest Everything You Write Be Inauthentic Piffle

This is bad advice in that it really doesn’t say what it means. Generally, simpler is better, and brevity is the soul of wit and all that bloo-dee-bloo. But here the advice is better written as:

“Write what you know, but make sure you recognize that you know a lot more stuff than you think you know and that in the struggle between fact and fiction, what matters is authenticity instead of hard data, so, no, while you’ve never been in a laser battle with a cyborg orangutan that doesn’t mean you haven’t undergone battles like hey remember that time in 9th grade when you and Roger Tyvock got into that sissy-slap fight in Mr. Grabknuckle’s Phys-Ed class, so in other words, bring your real life human experience into your fictional storytelling and mostly you should be fine. And when that fails you, go fuck around on Wikipedia for 15 minutes. Close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades!”

But I guess that advice is too long to fit on a cross-stitch sampler.

(Related: “Write What You Know, Yes Or No“)

Adverbs Are Like Pus Globules Exuding From Satan’s Nipples

Yeah! Fuck adverbs! Fuck them lustily and fuckily in their ears! … oh, wait, I’m supposed to be playing Devil’s Advocate. Uhhh. Okay, listen, adverbs aren’t the bad guy, here. Writers who overuse adverbs are the bad guys. Adverbs are fine — ‘The toad hopped swiftly from plate to plate’ is a not unreasonable sentence, nor is it a sentence devoid of rhythm. But, ‘”Go eat a dick and die,” Tony said crankily’ feels clunky (he said, clunkily) and frankly, unnecessary. Adverbs are okay when they’re not redundant and when they don’t break rhythm. Keep them away from the word “said.”

Writers Must Be Voracious Readers: Bibliovores Say: “Nom Nom Nom”

Yes. But. But. This, like all things, demands balance. Lots of writers — like, say, Chaucer — used to struggle with the notion of whether it’s more important to go out and live a life and find stories out there or whether it’s more important to sit at home and read. Here’s a bold proclamation from the Luciferan Advocacy Council: it’s more important to go out and live your life. Books aren’t telling you new stories. They’re also not telling you your stories. I mean, sure, if you just want to retell everyone else’s stories, by all means, sit at home and read. Okay, settle down — I’m not saying don’t read. But you don’t need to be some kind of gibbering bibliophile buried under books to be a writer. Read what you love, then go out and live your life.

Open With A Bang Or The Reader Will Fall Asleep And Drool On Your Book

Here’s why this is nonsense. The Bestest Actionest Action Movie Of All Time, DIE HARD, does not open with a bang. It opens with a dude on a plane getting advice about his toes. You need to open with character awesomeness rather than event and explosions. Here’s why opening on a bang is dangerous: because it assumes action, and action only matters when we give a rat’s right foot about the characters involved. Now, you can create that kind of sympathy in that action scene, sure, but it’s tricky. Just make sure that the character is what’s getting the full attention in those opening moments. From the first sentence we need to care about the characters in any work — film, novel, game, pornography, pamphlet, placemat, what-have-you. Though, don’t take this as an excuse to write some boring-ass ponderous intro, either.

Skip The Boring Parts Because The Reader Is Like A Crack-Addicted Housecat

Well, it’s hard to disagree with this — would anybody say, “Leave the boring parts in?” Anybody who says that hates the audience. And anybody who hates the audience should have their nuts burned with lava.

The only trick here is judging which part of the work is boring. It’s hard. Don’t judge this in the first draft because in the first draft, you’re swirling down the drain in the hate spiral. You might hate something or find a piece boring that, frankly, is no such thing. Let a second read reveal that. Let editors reveal that. Let a hot cup of ayashuasca tea reveal that during intense hallucinations while also leading you on a jungle odyssey spirit quest where you eventually conquer and make love to the Jaguar Queen of Xibalba.

“Only Use The Word Said,” He Said

Yeah, mostly? I’d say, 90% “said,” 10% “some other entirely appropriate word.” I’ve gone with protested, asked, exclaimed, stammered. But you start wandering too far afield — “I love pie,” he ejaculated — and the reader’s just going to think you’re a weirdo.

Prologues? More Like “Prolapsed Anuses!” Am I Right? High-Five!

Ennnh. Eh. Okay, isn’t this just because a lot of prologues suck? That’s why the rule exists in the first damn place. Because mostly, they’re garbage. “Here’s 2000 words that don’t immediately relate to the next 2000 words until you realize that later I’ve connected them but that doesn’t happen until the end of the book and I am like the preening peacock, don’t you like my elegant plumage?” Prologues are often a case of stunting, or writers showing off, and that’s not that much fun for the audience.

But that’s not to say prologues automatically suck balls by dint of them being prologues. Or that you shouldn’t use them. One of my favorite books, LAMB (The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal) by Christopher Moore has a very short, simple, and hilarious prologue. It works in the context of the piece. That’s the key — does it work? Then use it. Does it not work? Well, duh. *smacks you in the chops* Then don’t use it. I’d say, don’t let a prologue be your default state. Write the book. If it needs a prologue, it will be revealed to you. Possibly in a dream after fornicating with the Jaguar Queen.

If You Touch A Thesaurus, You Will Get Monkey Gonorrhea

I fucking love the thesaurus. Not because I want to constantly look for the next ten-cent word but rather because my brain is total shit. I am constantly like, “What’s the word I’m looking for here? What is it? It’s a word, right? That means… this thing. I’m looking for a word about this thing.” Finally, my wife is like, “Taco?” And I’m like, “Yes! Taco! This is why I married you.”

Sometimes, you need the right word, and you have a word that’s close but not dead on, and so you go to the thesaurus. And you shouldn’t be punished for that. That’s just sad for you. And by you, I mean me.

Defeat Indefatigable Rules!

Hey. You. Yeah, you. Your turn. Lob up a classic chestnut of writing advice, and let’s see if we can’t all dismantle it with our cynical, skeptical knives. Slicey-slice! Dicey-dice! Chestnut salad!

Food Me

It’s like this: I’m slowly developing what I consider to be “my” versions of certain recipes. These are recipes that, by and large, I’m happy with. Last couple of weeks I’ve nailed down recipes for chili and Sloppy Joes — these are not ultimate recipes in an objective sense, but they’re recipes that I’d make again following the same recipe I put forth.

I never used to operate this way: I generally made it up every time using some clumsy pastiche of recipes I already knew, and while that was certainly exciting, it left room for much variation. One day it was, “Gosh, this chicken is delicious!” Three weeks later it was, “This chicken mysteriously tastes like candle wax dripped on the perineum of a professional wrestler.”

With a child on the way, I’m going to have less time to, as it were, fuck around at meal-time.

It is therefore time to establish some kind of culinary canon here at Der Wendighaus.

Every house eventually develops one, I think. Or, at least, families do. You always hear, “Oh, you need to try my Grandmother’s gnocchi,” or, “My mother’s ham salad recipe will tear off your nipples and choke you with them it’s so goddamn good.” Hell, some people will get in fights about it. “My family’s spaghetti recipe is the best!” “No, mine is!” “Get your axe, for now we go to war.”

My Mom-Mom had a host of recipes that live in infamy: pierogies, bleenies, koshe. My mother had and has her own: apricot-glazed chicken, turkey tetrazini, slow-cooked coffee-marinated beef. Hell, my Dad made this elk-meat chili using itty-bitty Thai hot peppers that would melt your molars, but it was awesome.

Anyway, I think I’m orbiting around the point.

I’m opening this to the hive-mind:

What recipes are recipes you think everybody should know? Like, on a generic level, “Oh, everybody should know a meatloaf recipe.” Or lasagna, or fried chicken.

Second follow-up question — if you say, “Everybody should totally know a kick-ass pancake recipe,” then I further beseech you, what is your pancake recipe? Do you have one? (And by “pancake,” I really mean, “whatever recipe you consider crucial.” I’m not asking you specifically for a pancake recipe.)

What meals are canon at your house?

And, how do you make ’em?

Once more, I crowdsource to you because you people are smarter — and, let’s be honest, much prettier — than I am. Hop into the comments if you’re feeling kind, and jam your wisdom into my craw.