Scott Sparling

Hallucinations, a blog about writing, trains, and Wire to Wire

W2W Into the Wild

Posted on Sep 25th, 2011.

When life gets a little too lifelike for Michael Slater in Wire to Wire, he opens a drawer in his video editing suite and takes another Smiling O – an amphetamine that keeps him going through the night.

As far as I know, there is no drug called a Smiling O in the real world; it’s a name I made up. I’m actually a little surprised that no one’s ever asked me what the O stands for, though that’s probably for the best. (No, it’s not orgasm. Or Oreo.)

I almost didn't use the name. At the end of the editing process – with the manuscript due to be released for galleys – an issue concerning punctuation arose. I’d always written the plural as “Smiling O’s,” but that’s incorrect. It should be rendered “Smiling Os” without the apostrophe. Correct or not, that looked wrong to me. The O was clearly a problem. Maybe it needed to be replaced.

With the deadline looming, I spent an evening trying out every gerund/letter combination that seemed remotely plausable. My son, Zane, nixed everything I came up with, and he was right. Somehow, they all sounded like bluegrass groups. The Spinning Gs. Finally, I ended up back where I started, with Smiling O. I just rewrote a bunch of lines so the usage was singular.


That’s what writing a novel does for you. It lets you be a control freak. While the manuscript’s on your desk, you're in charge. You can obsess over every little thing, and in most cases, you get to call the shots.

But there comes a time to let go. So this week, I’m releasing four free copies of Wire to Wire into the wild. I won't be obsessing over their welfare from now on. They’ll have to fend for themselves.

The free copies are marked on the front and there’s a note inside asking the finder to read the book and pass it on. My email address is there too. The four copies are starting out in Portland, OR, but I hope they make it to Michigan and beyond. There’s a lot of great country out there to see.

I’m dropping the four books this Thursday in places related to the story: a bar, a coffeeshop, a strip club, and a freight yard or train station. I’m open to ideas as to exactly where to release the books, so if you have a suggestion, let me know.

All I ask is this: If you see a copy running around loose, give it a home for a while. Say hi for me. And don’t let it take too many Smiling Os.


"Rolling fast down I-45, bending time, feeling fine." The Black Angels, "Entrance Song."