Well, for a while there, I’d been meaning to get back to my second spec novel which is in progress. I’ve been doing a major rethink of the plot, coming up with some new ideas for tightening the focus and trimming some extraneous or awkward elements, and I’d been hoping to get some progress done on completing a new outline, reworking what I have, and hopefully finally putting a climax on the thing. I worked out a fair amount of the revisions I wanted while driving to and from Comic-Con.
But while I was at Comic-Con, a couple of business opportunities came along, and those have taken priority for the past few weeks (has it been three weeks already?). There’s one prospect I don’t feel ready to talk about yet that’s been preoccupying me, since it’s in an area I don’t know much about and I’ve kind of been immersing myself in finding out about it. Because of my tendency to fixate on one thing at a time, that’s kept me from making progress on the other thing that arose from my trip. Namely, an editor colleague has expressed a willingness to take a look at my spec novel proposals, and since the second one is so up in the air, that leaves the first one. But I just recently had a new insight about that spec novel which I think will strenghten it considerably — not something that requires heavy rewriting, since it’s more a tweak to the backstory and worldbuilding that will give it greater conceptual unity. And I’d just about succeeded in wrenching my attention away from the other thing and was ready to start work on getting the spec novel ready…
…when I got the copyedits for Star Trek DTI: Watching the Clock. So right now, that has to be my priority.
Oh, well. I have over two and a half weeks to get that done, and hopefully it shouldn’t take too long. So maybe I’ll manage to work on both that and the spec novel simultaneously. Or at least get the copyedits done within a few days and then shift gears to the spec novel.
I really should try to get back into the groove I was in last year, when I churned out several new short stories in quick succession and managed to sell several of them. I’ve let myself lose focus since then. Granted, going through my father’s illness and passing in recent months, and my subsequent travels to visit family and friends and keep myself occupied, have been a pretty understandable reason for losing focus. And thanks to what my father left me, at least I’m financially comfortable enough for the moment that I can afford to take my time getting these things done. Still, I’d just really like to finish up these spec novels, and I keep failing to get around to it. Plus I’ve been wanting to write some more short stories. I don’t have specific ideas for any at the moment, besides a half-formed idea for a third Hub story, but that’s why I need to apply myself to the effort.
But anyway, DTI comes first. Maybe working on the copyedits will give me a chance to continue with another project I’ve had on hold forever, namely the annotations page for the novel. That won’t go up on my site until the book comes out next May, of course, but I’d like to get it done before I forget too much about the writing process.
Once, there was a sandwich franchise in town that made a great chunky chicken salad with carrots and celery. But they went out of business, so I decided to try to recreate (or approximate) the recipe myself. I researched various chicken salad recipes online, distilled some common factors about ingredients and proportions, and used those as the basis for creating my own recipe. It went basically like this:
CHUNKY CHICKEN SALAD
1 1/3 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/3 cup celery
1/6 cup julienned carrots
2/3 oz pecans or walnuts (roughly)
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix dry ingredients (chicken, celery, carrots, nuts, salt, pepper) in one bowl and set aside. Mix mayo, lemon juice and mustard in another bowl. Spoon mayo mixture into chicken mixture and mix gently. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover bowl and chill for at least an hour. Makes c. 3 servings.
Now, when I’ve made this recipe in the past, it’s tended to come out a little short for me, more like 2.5 servings. So this time I decided to double the recipe. To make it a little leaner, I substituted plain Greek yogurt for about half the mayonnaise. (No reason it has to be Greek; it’s just that the store was out of regular plain yogurt in a single-serve container. I used about half the cup, then mixed some strawberry jam in with the rest and ate it.)
But then it occurred to me that maybe there was a reason chicken salad recipes aren’t usually that big — namely spoilage. I wondered if I’d made too much. But I checked and found that you can freeze chicken salad (though once you thaw it you should drain off the excess liquid and stir in a bit more mayo). So I froze about 2 servings’ worth, giving me 3 whole servings to have over the past couple of days. Works out nicely.
Anyway, I had my first serving on a whole garlic-oregano pita with Romaine lettuce and four grape tomatoes, just wrapping the pita like a soft taco shell. I kept the tomatoes whole, which wasn’t a great idea. The next two times, I halved the grape tomatoes. The second time, I had the chicken salad, tomatoes, and lettuce in a wrap (soft tortilla) and added cucumber; the third time, today, I didn’t have too much chicken salad left so I had it, the tomatoes, and lettuce in a half-pita. I didn’t try a sandwich per se since those are messy. If one wanted to put this chunky chicken salad on regular bread, I’d recommend thicker slices than you get from storebought bread. It works better if it’s more contained as in a pita or soft tortilla.
23 Across: “Like overdramatic spoken-word versions of pop songs.” Since I was introduced to the album The Transformed Man by my 11th-grade English teacher, and since, as a Trek fan, I’ve been aware of the constant in-jokes ever since, I immediately knew it had to be: SHATNERESQUE. What an awesome word to find in a crossword puzzle!
Although I think The Transformed Man gets a bum rap. The spoken-word song lyrics that get all the attention constitute only 4 of the album’s 11 selections, just over 1/3 of its content. The rest consists of soliloquies from Shakespeare and Cyrano de Bergerac and of original poems. At the time the album was made, in 1968, William Shatner’s reputation was that of a respected, up-and-coming, Shakespeare-trained actor of the stage and screen. His starring role in Star Trek was seen as a boost in visibility for an already impressive career, although a step down in respectability in many people’s eyes. So the idea of a spoken-word album of dramatic readings to showcase his talent was not such a strange one — and indeed his renderings of Shakespeare soliloquies like “Once more unto the breach” and “To be or not to be” are excellent. However, according to Wikipedia, “The concept of the album was to juxtapose famous pieces of poetry with their modern counterparts, pop lyrics.” (Perhaps explaining the “Transformed” in the title — the transformation of poetry over time.) Which means that Shatner recited the lyrics of several pop songs as if they were poems. Which was an interesting idea, but it misfired because people misunderstood the intent, thinking that Shatner’s dramatic readings represented a laughably bad attempt at singing. And unfortunately that overshadowed the rest of the album and led to decades of unfair caricatures.
At least the NYT crossword clue is somewhat more accurate in its description. And unfair or not, it shows what a cultural icon Shatner has become. Getting your name in a Times crossword — even better, getting an adjectival form of your name in a Times crossword — talk about immortality!
The cxPulp website has reviewed the December Analog at:
It had the following to say about “Home is Where the Hub Is”:
For those unfamiliar with The Hub, Christopher Bennett basically intended the idea to be something of a “Sci-Fi Sitcom,” a well developped story set in a science fiction universe that is funny, but one that isn’t a spoof. …Taken in that light, this story is fun. The characters are very-much in the sit-com mold, light and relatable on the surface, and the concept employs many television tropes (as listed on tvtropes.org) like the Official Couple, Incompatible Orientation, and Oblivious to Love. And I insist that the Qhpong has the makings of a Breakout Character…
The story is light and entertaining, and like most sitcoms, the Status Quo is God.
The story gets a 4/5 rating, and only one item in the issue gets a higher rating than that, though it ties my story with pieces by Shane Tourtelotte and William Michael McCarthy. I’d quibble that there is a slight change to the status quo at the end, though I guess one could say it’s done to maintain the status quo in a larger sense. And I’m not sure how Official Couple and Incompatible Orientation apply here, unless the latter is meant to apply to Nashira/Rynyan. Still, 4/5 is pretty darn good, so I’m happy about that.
I was never a big fan of Scooby-Doo back in the old days, but the current incarnation, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, is a fun revisionist/deconstructionist take, with at once a more satirical and a more fully drawn portrayal of the characters, and often a very quirky sense of humor. But this week’s episode, “The Shrieking Madness” by Adam Beechen, is the most outrageous and awesome Scooby-Doo story ever told.
It’s set at Darrow University, whose professor H. P. Hatecraft is known for writing horror novels that he claims are based on true visions from other dimensions, mainly revolving around “Char Gar Gothakon, The Terror that Hath No Name” (and the fact that it’s named in the title is alluded to). Naturally, the fake monster of the week is Char Gar Gothakon, and it’s basically Cthulhu. Scooby-Doo and the gang are taking on Cthulhu! It boggles the mind.
Appropriately, Hatecraft is played by the redoubtable Jeffrey Combs, who played the Lovecraft character Herbert West in the Re-Animator films. What’s more, the story features a guest appearance by Harlan Ellison as himself! He doesn’t really serve any purpose in the story other than to be his usual acerbic self and to be attacked by the monster; he’s actually more upset by Shaggy’s abuse of the word “like” than he is by the attack.
On top of everything else, the story involves the high-schooler characters getting their first taste of college life, and Daphne gets caught up with a bunch of college protestors (the kind who’ll protest whatever’s available) led by a very familiar-looking guy in a red beret and goatee… named Ernesto. That’s right… this one episode features Harlan Ellison, Cthulhu, and Che. And to think, Scooby-Doo teamups used to involve the Three Stooges and Batman.
Another thing that’s impressive about the story is that the team actually does something heroic for once rather than just running from the “monster” and then catching it in a trap. When the fake Cthulhu hurls Hatecraft off the roof, Scooby actually dives forward to save him, and the rest of the team pulls them to safety. One reason I’m not a big fan is that I get tired of Scooby & Shaggy’s cowardice schtick. There’s generally not much about the team that’s heroic. So that was a nice moment.
One thing threw me off, though it’s a minor nitpick amid all this awesomeness. A subplot involves Scooby & Shaggy visiting a legendary campus burger joint and being dismayed to discover it’s gone vegan. Which is weird in light of past continuity, since for quite a while, when Casey Kasem was still playing Shaggy, he insisted that the character (and Scooby as well) be, like him, a vegetarian. Now, I know this show is revisionist and presumably not in continuity with those other incarnations, but it’s a bit weird to see Shaggy portrayed as someone who hates vegetarian food — especially when such a fundamental part of his and Scooby’s schtick has always been that they’d eat anything. What also makes it weird is that Kasem was actually in this episode, as Shaggy’s father. (Matthew Lillard is now playing Shaggy, reprising his role from the live-action movies.)
This was episode 12 of the season, so presumably next week will be the season finale. I can’t imagine they’ll be able to top the sheer wildness of this one, though.
The story notes for “Home is Where the Hub Is” are now up at my site:
Although most of the discussion is in the spoiler section, so ideally you should buy the issue and read the story first.
In the mail when I returned from vacation were two copies of the December Analog, featuring my novelette “Home is Where the Hub Is” beginning on page 70. Well, actually on p. 72, because this time I get a full 2-page illustration! Alas, I didn’t make the cover this time:
I haven’t gotten around to doing discussion and annotations for my website, but I’ll get to those soon. In the meantime, check your local newsstand or bookstore for the new issue!
A reminder: this story is a sequel to “The Hub of the Matter,” which came out nine months earlier in the March issue. If you missed that one, the issue”s still available as an e-book from Fictionwise and the Sony Reader Store. Err, no, apparently it’s no longer on sale, even though the links still exist. Sorry. But HIWTHI should be comprehensible on its own.