Archive for February, 2012

Go west, young man!

February 29, 2012 1 comment

I’m going out of town this weekend for a memorial service for my departed Uncle Emmett.  A bunch of the family is converging in Wisconsin for the get-together, and this will be my first chance to meet most of Emmett’s offspring (I’ve only met one of them in person, and I’ve “met” my namesake cousin the paleontologist through e-mail a few years back).  This will be the largest gathering of the Bennett clan I’ve ever been to.

It’s also my first opportunity to drive west from Cincinnati, and only my second visit to the Central Time Zone (I once went to Chicago as a kid).  I wasn’t sure about whether I wanted to drive, since I had a pretty rough time of it with the bad weather last Thanksgiving, but when I checked air fares, the prices were startlingly high (maybe because I waited too long to look into it?).  Greyhound apparently has a new, more comfortable and high-tech fleet of buses, so I was tempted, but the travel time was too long and I didn’t look into it early enough to get a discounted price.  So driving it is, and it should be maybe an hour less than the drive to the DC/Baltimore area which I’ve made a few times now.  I should be able to make it in a single day’s driving.

However, it looks like there will be severe weather along most of the route on Friday, and I have no desire to face another day of driving in those conditions (as it happens, “driving rain” is a misnomer), so I’ve decided to leave a day early, setting out tomorrow (Thursday) morning.  It’s not yet clear whether anyone there can put me up for a day (my hotel reservations are already made for Friday to Sunday), but at worst I can stay in a motel for a night.

I’d actually been hoping to get through the climax of my spec novel in progress today and tomorrow, but then this came up and I’ve spent most of today thinking about and preparing for my day-early departure.  I did get a decent amount of work done this morning, planning out all the various character interactions and key events that constitute this complicated sequence and finishing the preceding scene that leads into it, but this afternoon I haven’t been able to focus on it enough to get it actually written.  In fact, I realize I still need to do more planning, particularly getting a better sense of the environment where the sequence takes place and where characters and key locations are relative to each other.  Hopefully my long drive tomorrow will give me time to think it through in more depth, though I’m not sure how much time or attention I’ll be able to devote to writing during the trip.  Still, I’m on track to get the first draft done early in March, hopefully before other projects demand my attention.

Anyway, I should go start packing…

SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN thoughts: Pilots and early Season 1 (spoilers)

February 22, 2012 6 comments

I’ve been Netflixing the first DVD volume for The Six Million Dollar Man, containing the three pilot movies and the first season, and I’ve been meaning to post some thoughts, but haven’t gotten around to it until now.  These can’t be the kind of detailed reviews I gave for Mission: Impossible, since I don’t remember enough details and don’t have the time or inclination right now, but I’ll just give some general observations.

6M$M was based on Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg, which as I recall was more of a violent spy novel than the series, and also treated the technology in a relatively more realistic and limited way; for instance, Steve Austin didn’t have superspeed so much as improved endurance, and his bionic eye was just a disguised film camera that didn’t give him any actual vision.  The series, of course, ramped it up to give him superstrength, superspeed, and telescopic/infrared vision.

The original pilot movie, called simply The Six Million Dollar Man, was written by Howard Rodman (pseudonymously) and Terrence McDonnell and produced and directed by Richard Irving.  It’s a prototype for what’s to come, and some things haven’t quite fallen into place.  Steve is a civilian astronaut here, and instead of the novel’s and series’s Oscar Goldman, the man behind the bionics project is the stern, manipulative Oliver Spencer (Darren McGavin), who’s introduced in an interminably slow, boring, and totally unnecessary elevator sequence intercut with the far more fascinating sequence of Steve’s preparations for the test flight that will lead to his crippling accident.  Those portions are compelling because of the evident cooperation the production had from NASA and/or the Air Force, letting them film with an actual test vehicle and use real flight footage. The sequence feels totally real with all the technical chatter over the radios and is intriguing to watch.

After Steve’s crash, Spencer convinces Dr. Rudy Wells (portrayed here by Martin Balsam) to give Steve his prototype bionics, the price being that Steve will be essentially chattel to Spencer’s intelligence agency and run special missions for him.  This fairly dark idea is one that didn’t last past the pilot movie, and has been explored more fully in later superpowered-spy series like The Invisible Man (2000) and Jake 2.0.   Anyway, the bulk of the pilot is devoted to Steve being convinced to accept the bionics and then trying to learn to use them while coping with the post-traumatic stress from his crash, plus his developing romance with his nurse (played by Barbara Anderson, fresh from a recurring stint as Mimi on Mission: Impossible).  Eventually he gets sent on a rescue mission that turns out to be just a test of his abilities, he survives it, and then the movie just kind of ends, with no resolution to the romance or to the question of Steve’s future with the agency.  It’s a disappointing fizzle after an interesting beginning.

Lee Majors actually surprised me here and in the movies to follow.   My impression was that he was a pretty bland, one-note actor, and while it’s true that he’s fairly deadpan and understated, I found he was pretty good at conveying an underlying emotional intensity or sincerity, at least up to a point.  And his performance style fits his character, an astronaut trained to be cool and controlled under pressure.

A lot was retooled for what followed, so the pilot can’t be considered quite canonical.  Steve was retconned into an Air Force colonel, and Spencer was forgotten, with Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson, of course) being retroactively established as the man behind his creation.  The latter two pilot movies were produced by Glen A. Larson, who approached them as James Bond-style spy thrillers, complete with a horrible theme song written by Larson (“He’s the ma-a-a-a-n!”).

Wine, Women, and War is the more Bond-like of the two, opening with Steve attending a party in a tuxedo that then converts into a wetsuit — though Steve isn’t quite the womanizer Bond is, spending most of the movie mourning the death of a female contact from that initial mission and rebuffing the advances of the curvaceous Michele Carey, though he eventually ends up at least literally in bed with Soviet agent Britt Ekland.  And Larson gives Steve some of the most sophomoric, crude sexual innuendoes in history, like “Sorry I had to violate your porthole.”  The movie has a somewhat unfocused story in which the grieving Steve is trying to avoid further assignments but gets manipulated into taking his vacation right next door to the bad guys, and eventually gets with the program just in time to discover an underground bunker of stolen nuclear missiles (including an American Polaris missile that everyone said had to be fake because none were missing, but turned out to be real after all, without any explanation being given), culminating in a totally ridiculous climax whose death toll must implicitly have been enormous.  The only advantages the movie has are special effects by the great Albert Whitlock and a score by Larson’s frequent collaborator Stu Phillips (who employs a leitmotif that’s a prototype for his Battlestar Galactica theme a few years later).

What surprised me about this movie was how the Soviet agents weren’t portrayed as the enemy; rather, they and the US had a mutual enemy in Eric Braeden’s arms-dealer character, and they formed an uneasy alliance to defeat him.  (David McCallum gets to haul out his Ilya Kuryakin accent as a cosmonaut friend of Steve’s who’s also moved into intelligence work.)  That kind of friendly attitude toward the USSR was unexpected from Larson, given how in the original Galactica, every peacemaker character in the entire series was either a deluded appeaser or an evil quisling.

Oscar is introduced here and portrayed as the same kind of manipulative hardass as Spencer, but Richard Anderson is a much more amiable performer from the start, so it doesn’t really fit him as well as the characterization he developed in the series.  And the role of Rudy is taken over by Alan Oppenheimer, best known these days as the voice of Skeletor in He-Man, as well as numerous other animation credits such as Ming in Filmation’s Flash Gordon (using the exact same voice he later used as Skeletor) and Merlin in The Legend of Prince Valiant.  He, too, is more amiable than Balsam.

The second Larson movie, The Solid Gold Kidnapping by Alan Caillou (story) and Larry Alexander (story and teleplay), is the better of the two.  It involves an attempt to expose an international kidnapping ring led by the ever-charming Maurice Evans and rescue an American official pivotal to peace talks with China.  Elizabeth Ashley, who impressed me greatly in her two Mission: Impossible appearances, plays a scientist who injects herself with memory RNA from a dead kidnapper in hopes of discovering where the bad guys are.  This leads to some interesting debates with Steve about the ethics of human experimentation (Steve knows a thing or two about being a guinea pig and is still ambivalent about his lot in life), and a subplot involving the risk that the procedure could damage her in some ill-defined way, yet that subplot fizzles out as abruptly as the romance in the pilot.  Future Galactica regular Terry Carter appears as a US agent who shepherds the ransom in gold bars, hoping to track it to the kidnappers, although they manage to sneak the gold out from under him through a clever misdirect.  All in all, it’s probably the best of the three movies, although it has the same weak-ending problem as the first and some more of the painfully bad sexual innuendo from the second.

The portrayal of Steve’s bionic powers is slow to develop.  He doesn’t even use his bionic eye in the pilot, and in the other two it’s mainly for night vision, though I think it has telescopic uses as well.  But it has no “boop-boop-boop” sound effect yet, and the sound effect for his bionic limbs hasn’t emerged yet either.  Also, he never uses a bionic jump in any of the movies.   Still, aside from the problematical ending of WW&W, I’d say these two fit fairly well with series canon.

The weekly series was produced by Harve Bennett (no relation), future producer of Star Trek II-V, and introduces the familiar musical themes of jazz musician Oliver Nelson.  Lee Majors and Richard Anderson were the only regulars at this point; Rudy was occasionally mentioned, but Alan Oppenheimer appeared infrequently.  Steve’s ambivalence about his work was largely dropped, although he retained an everyman, do-gooder mentality that sometimes clashed with Oscar’s more bureaucratic priorities and a tendency to break the rules and do things his own way; however, Anderson made Oscar such a sweetheart that it was always a given that he’d come around and do the right thing.  I know I always liked Oscar, but watching these episodes again has reminded me just what a fine, charismatic performance Anderson gave and what a good rapport he had with Majors.  In the series, the characters rapidly become best friends, routinely calling each other “pal.”

A quick look at the first several episodes:

“Population: Zero”: A whole small town near where Steve grew up has seemingly been struck dead and Steve goes to investigate, with shades of The Andromeda Strain.  Turns out they’re just unconscious thanks to a sonic weapon developed by a disgruntled scientist.  An okay story, but the main thing that stands out for me is Nelson’s music.  Features the debut of the paradoxical use of slow-motion photography to represent Steve’s superspeed and other bionic feats.

“Survival of the Fittest”: Two weeks in and they’re doing a plane-crash episode, with Steve and Oscar stranded on an island with two agents sent to kill Oscar.  Feels like an attempt to cash in on the airline-disaster-movie trend.  Not bad, but has an awkward conceit: the agents have an unrevealed accomplice they call Bobby, and there are multiple characters named Bob, Roberts, etc. to create a multiplicity of suspects (though I guessed well in advance who it actually was).

“Operation: Firefly”: The title refers to an advanced laser powered by firefly glowjuice, developed by a scientist who’s apparently been kidnapped.  Luckily, his daughter has ESP (oy) and can lead Steve to him through psychic flashes.  Lots of slow scenes of canoeing through the Everglades (with a kookaburra sound effect left over from a jungle picture), a fight with a rubber alligator, the psychic girl falling in quicksand in one scene and having her jeans magically clean again by the next shot, etc.  Forgettable overall, and notable mainly as the debut of the bionic-eye sound effect.

“Day of the Robot”: Steve’s friend John Saxon gets kidnapped and replaced by a robot built by Henry Jones so he can steal an antimissile defense system.  Saxon acts stiff and robotic throughout but Steve is slow to catch on.  Still, Saxon strikes a good balance between robotic and convincing, and it’s fun to watch the bad guys dealing with the glitches in this imperfect prototype technology.  Culminates in an extended slow-motion robotic/bionic slugfest, and the familiar bionic-limb sound effect makes its debut as one of the noises made by the robot, while the whistling sound effect that will come to be used for objects bionically hurled through the air debuts as the sound of antimissile missiles.  Most of the music is stock, but Nelson kicks in with a major musical set piece in the final act, one that will often be heard as stock later on.  (Oddly, the robot’s leitmotif here is a variant on the timpani rhythm that opens the show’s main-title theme.)

More to follow…

A good day’s work

February 18, 2012 2 comments

Actually a good couple of days’ work, but especially today.  Yesterday was mostly research.  I’d been trying to find online science papers about a particular astrophysical phenomenon — or rather, more recent papers to confirm and elaborate on what I’d read in a paper from 1973, once it occurred to me that more current research might be more useful.  But the paper that looked most promising was no longer available online.  However, the University of Cincinnati library did have the journal in its stacks, so I went over there yesterday to find it (though I couldn’t locate it at first and needed the librarian’s help).  It did indeed contain a lot of useful detail, though I’m not sure how much I’ll end up using.

Anyway, I spent the rest of my time at the library that day writing the next scene (though it doesn’t use any of the stuff I researched — that’s a chapter or so away yet).  But I was kind of winging it, and some of it involved characters preparing for a part of the story I haven’t entirely figured out the details of yet, so the first thing I did this morning was to revise it (and I’m sure I’ll need to revise it some more once I do sort out those details).  But I’ve managed to add three more scenes today, including two big ones that had a lot of worldbuilding and plot-advancing stuff.  The scene I just finished was the first scene I’ve written from the viewpoint of the main antagonist, and the second I’ve done from inside the head of a member of that species, and I came up on the fly (an appropriate phrase, since they’re avian) with some really cool details about their psychology and communication, their culture and worldview.  So I’m feeling pretty good right now, much better than a few weeks ago when I was struggling to get anything written.

I’m not so sure about the first big scene I wrote today.  I realized that it covered similar ground to a scene that comes earlier in the same chapter, but which I wrote about two years ago.  I’ll probably have to review those two scenes and figure out what I can change or delete to get rid of the redundancies.  But it may be best to wait until I have the novel more fully written and I can see where certain threads end up going.  The thing is, the scenes involve a character and subplot left over from the old version of the novel, one that I was unsure whether to keep in this version.  I decided that it does serve a purpose that’s relevant to the climax, but realized that I barely mentioned this character in my outline.  So I felt I had to add another scene to give this character more to do, and that did let me flesh out a fair amount of worldbuilding and political backstory — though I’m still worried that I’m falling into the same trap as before and getting too enamored with fleshing out the larger universe rather than focusing on the core plot.  Although I’m pretty sure that the details I added here were directly relevant to the plot, and I can trim off the excess in revisions.

Actually none of the scenes I’ve written in the past two days are in my outline, although a couple of them cover information I spelled out in a bullet list within the outline (I needed to work out how the complicated events to follow were supposed to unfold before I wrote about how they went wrong).  Turns out the outline jumped too abruptly to the climactic action and I realized I needed some more buildup and transition first.  But now I’m through that phase, and things are about to start shifting into high gear.

The value of an infodump

February 15, 2012 1 comment

I haven’t posted in nearly a week since I’ve been focused on my spec novel.  Last time I said I was pleased that ideas and solutions were finally coming to me, but it turned out to be trickier than I thought, since a lot of those ideas didn’t work.  What I was trying to do was find a better way of conveying a key piece of exposition that I’d originally delivered via a big “textbook excerpt”-style infodump.  I’d tried to make the passage somewhat entertaining — it was actually a slightly facetious paraphrase of information from an alien database — but it still felt unwieldy, and conventional wisdom is to avoid such infodumps as much as possible.  So I was trying to find a way to convey the information through character dialogue and interaction instead.

But the more I tried to crack the problem, the more I realized that maybe I’d chosen the encyclopedic infodump in the first place because there were valid advantages to doing it that way.  When I considered characters who could provide the information instead, I couldn’t avoid certain problems.  For one, those characters would be privy to a key fact that I wanted to conceal a while longer (because I had a big dramatic reveal planned for it later on), and I couldn’t think of a good reason why they’d reveal only the part I wanted.  For another, if it just came from a character, the protagonists wouldn’t be sure enough of its legitimacy.  I wanted to convey a society-wide institution, not a personal opinion.   As a corollary, even if they had gotten the basics from a living source, they would’ve still wanted to consult a more authoritative reference to confirm it.  Finally, the idea was important enough to the story that it was worth shining a spotlight on rather than trying to slip in between bits of character interaction.

So once I accepted that there was value in keeping the encyclopedic passage, I tried to improve the presentation of it.  I trimmed and streamlined it as much as I could, and I cut some bits of it that I could cover in later conversations.  More importantly, I seeded in some earlier cryptic references to the concept, built it up as an important secret and got a main character motivated to hunt down the truth, so that when the infodump finally arrives, it’s been earned rather than just dumped in our laps and hopefully feels like a reward for the characters and the reader.  And I did add some subsequent discussions to flesh out the concept more and reinforce the validity of the infodump.

Okay, honestly, I’m not completely convinced it works now.  But at least it works better than before, and well enough for a first draft, so I can move on.  Maybe I’ll think of a better solution in revisions, or get a helpful suggestion from a beta reader or editor.

In the meantime, yesterday I wrote the last big “replacement” scenes I had to do — the counterparts to a couple of scenes in the original version, serving an equivalent role in the revised plot but with some different characters and backstory and a different setting, and with some extraneous elements dropped.  I was able to cannibalize and repurpose some lines from the old version, although I took a passage that had been one character’s internal debate and fleshed it out into a conversation among four people.  Once I’d done that, I was able to copy in the last four scenes from the old version that could still work in this version, with a few tweaks to reflect the changes.  So by last night, I had reached the end of the reusable material.  I wrote one and a half more scenes in the old version before I abandoned it, but there’s nothing in them I can reuse; in fact, my discomfort with the direction those scenes were going in was part of the reason I decided the old version wasn’t working.

That means from here on in, there’s no more recycling — it’s all new the rest of the way.  So now we’re really getting somewhere.  And I abandoned the old version just before the climactic portion of the story started to ramp up, largely because I realized that the climax I had outlined wasn’t coming together right.  I’ve realized there are a few more scenes I need to add first — one I have to insert earlier to keep certain characters in play, and a couple of preliminary scenes to build toward the climactic stuff — but I’m close to the endgame at long last.

One thing, though — one of my goals in revamping the novel was to trim its length somewhat by eliminating unnecessary threads.  But I’ve added so much new, necessary material to the current version that my word count at this point is 3000 words more than the total word count of the abandoned draft.  I guess that’s okay if the novel works at whatever final length it ends up being, but hopefully I’ll find material to trim in the rewrites to come.

I really hope my momentum keeps up and I can finish this draft of the novel before other responsibilities have to take precedence.  It was over two years ago that I stalled out on this book, and I really want to get finished with at least a rough draft of the entire novel before any more delays arise.

Kind of a good week writing-wise…

In the past few days, I’ve gotten two tentative invitations for new writing projects, though one is much more tentative than the other.  I hope they both come to fruition, though.  At least, it’s a good sign that I’ve gotten approached twice this early in the year.

Also, today I finally got paid in full for my latest Star Trek Magazine article (well, latest published, but second-latest written), after the first check got lost in the mail.

Meanwhile, my progress on the spec novel has had a bit of a setback, but in a way that’s progress in itself.  I realized that just trying to keep as much as possible from the old version of the story wasn’t working; there was too much infodump and lecturing and not enough characterization or emotion to make it work, and at the same time I wasn’t making good enough use of the setting and situation at this part of the novel.  I realized there were some things I could do to address both problems at once, so I have to do some major rewriting of this portion and replace a lot of the recycled material with new content.  It entails partly reversing a decision I made before to reduce the number of distinct alien races I used in the story, because the old version was getting too cluttered and unfocused.  So I was initially skeptical of the thought that including another alien race (indeed, one pretty much recycled from some of my old unsold fiction) might be the way to go here.  But it’s okay, because I’ve solved the main clutter/focus problem (by having the central arc of the back half of the novel grow out of an established character and species whose motivations tie into another significant piece of worldbuilding in the novel, rather than tossing in a different antagonist and species that have no connection to any of that), and because I can use this alien race in place of another one that I was planning to use anyway in the final stage of the story (and was on the fence about using at all), so it gives the story more cohesiveness if I set them up here.  Moreover, it lets me showcase the setting more, making it come alive as more than just a backdrop.  So I think that this time it will serve the story integrally rather than sending me off on a tangent like before.  At least, I hope it will.

If nothing else, at least I finally feel my imagination is fully engaged with this project; the ideas are flowing more quickly now and I’m recognizing both problems and solutions that I wasn’t seeing before.

DTI: FORGOTTEN HISTORY plot description now online

The Simon & Schuster catalog entry for Forgotten History has now been updated with the book’s cover blurb (replacing the Watching the Clock blurb that they’ve been using up until now.  Here it is:

The agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations are assigned to look into an anomaly that has appeared deep in Federation territory. It’s difficult to get clear readings, but a mysterious inactive vessel lies at the heart of the anomaly, one outfitted with some sort of temporal drive disrupting space-time and subspace. To the agents’ shock, the ship bears a striking resemblance to a Constitution-class starship, and its warp signature matches that of the original Federation starship Enterprise NCC-1701—the ship of James T. Kirk, that infamous bogeyman of temporal investigators, whose record of violations is held up by DTI agents as a cautionary tale for Starfleet recklessness toward history. But the vessel’s hull markings identify it as Timeship Two, belonging to none other than the DTI itself. At first, Agents Lucsly and Dulmur assume the ship is from some other timeline . . . but its quantum signature confirms that it came from their own past, despite the fact that the DTI never possessed such a timeship. While the anomaly is closely monitored, Lucsly and Dulmur must search for answers in the history of Kirk’s Enterprise and its many encounters with time travel—a series of events with direct ties to the origins of the DTI itself. . . .

Also, the “Preliminary” banner has been removed from the cover art there, so I guess it’s now officially the final version.

A productive week (at last)

This past month I’ve resumed work on the spec novel I’ve been struggling with on and off for a few years now — the one where I had to stop and rethink pretty much the whole second half of the book because the story had gone off the rails.  I’ve had the new outline ready to go for some time (although I had some new ideas that I just recently added to it), but other projects and stuff kept me from focusing on it until recently.  However, it’s been rough going.  Revising the first half(ish?) wasn’t too hard, since I just needed to weave some new ideas and lines into the material I already had.  But then I got to the part where I had to start making some major changes.  And not just writing new scenes, but restructuring what I had, presenting a lot of the same ideas in a different context and order so that they served different purposes in some cases.  Basically I had to take some pieces out of the old version, mix them with some new pieces, and put together the puzzle in a new way.

And I had a very hard time figuring out how to do that.  I don’t know what it was, but I got really, really blocked and couldn’t think my way to a solution.  I had all these tenuous thoughts floating around in my head, drifting in and out of my awareness, and there was nothing I could grab onto and go, “Yes, this is how to start the scene, and the rest falls into place like that and that.”  My mind just couldn’t hold focus on it.  It got so frustrating that I was starting to fear I’d lost my talent.  (Because it wasn’t just this book; I’ve been equally stumped on a Hub story in progress for months.)  Although in retrospect I think lack of sleep may have been a factor.

So I did what I’ve done in the past when I had trouble focusing: I took my laptop over to the campus library so I could work there without the distractions of the Internet, the TV, the kitchen, etc. — and just so I could get a change of scenery to stimulate the little gray cells.  Though it helped a lot that the night before, I’d finally thought of a hook to get me into the first reworked scene.  I reminded myself — and it shows how far off my game I was that I forgot about this — that the key was to find a character angle, a way to give an emotional hook and viewpoint to the scene so it wasn’t just exposition.  Once I understood what the scene would be about on a character level, I was able to work it out.  And once I had that starting point, plus the quiet of the library, I was able to succeed at reassembling that chapter in its new form.

And in the couple of days since then, I’ve been continuing to make steady progress, a mix of writing new scenes and plugging in or revising old scenes that still fit.  Maybe I’m cheating a bit; there are some important story revelations that my revised outline had suggested approaching in a new way, but I fell back on just a slight variation on the old way so that I could reuse a lot of old text and make some headway.  But I’m not sure I’ll keep it; this is an early draft, after all, and I’ll have plenty of opportunity to refine it.  Right now I just want to get the basic story structure put together, and then I can go back and polish the details.

Anyway, I’m now to the point where I have to come up with some major new scenes, though there’s probably a certain amount of dialogue from the old scenes that I can fold into them.  Basically, the core plotline of this part of the novel is much the same, but the key character who comes in at this point and sets the protagonists on the path toward the climax has been replaced with a different character who serves a different and more interesting agenda — besides being a member of a species already established in the novel so that she has closer ties to an existing character, and so I don’t have to add in two further species and all their respective culture and history and psychology and all that extraneous stuff that was cluttering up the novel before and sending me off course.  That lets me tell this part of the story in a more focused and compact way.  But since most of what comes next is new material with a new character, I have some thinking to do before I can get into it.  I’ve been reviewing all the stuff I’ve written over the years about this character’s species, both background notes and an unsold story about them, to refresh my memory and help me get into the right mindset.  Although there’s not as much of it as I’d like.  (I wonder just how many good ideas I’ve had in years past that I’ve forgotten now because I didn’t keep detailed enough notes.)

So I need to write maybe two major scenes and one minor scene mostly from scratch now, and after (and between) those are a half-dozen more scenes from the old version that I can plug in with minor changes… and then I’ll get to the point where I stopped work on the old version and it’ll be all new material the rest of the way (basically the climactic action and the denouement).  I’m finally making real progress, and I hope I can keep up the momentum.

Luckily, something that I was afraid would derail my burgeoning momentum didn’t happen.  According to the production schedule my Star Trek editor sent me a while back, I was due to get second-pass galleys on DTI: Forgotten History sent to me for review, with less than a week before the deadline.  So I was expecting to have to spend much of this week poring over galley pages again.  But as it turned out, I simply got an e-mail from my editor containing a mere five proofreader queries which I was able to fire back answers to in less than an hour, and that was that.

Tortellini and the three sauces

At the grocery store the other day, I decided on an impulse to buy one of those clear plastic trays of fresh-ish pasta, specifically a chicken-prosciutto tortellini.  I was thinking it might be a way to make use of the jar of light alfredo sauce I picked up the previous week (which I used to make Italian sausage fettucine alfredo, because I haven’t had alfredo sauce in a while and wanted a change of pace).  But when I was about to start cooking it, I decided that I should instead just toss it in olive oil and grated parmesan, so the flavor of the tortellini wouldn’t be covered by a heavy sauce.  I had that alongside broccoli cuts, and I actually found it a little bland; I even ended up mixing the tortellini and broccoli together to make it a little more interesting.

Now, there were 30 tortellini in the package, enough for three equal servings, so I had enough leftovers for two more meals.  I was going to put alfredo on the second serving yesterday, but I ended up going over to the university library to do some writing, and afterward I discovered there was a new pizza-by-the-slice concession in the student union, so my lunch was a slice of vegetarian pizza.  After that, I didn’t want to have another cheese/dairy-heavy meal in the same day, so for dinner I had the second serving of tortellini with red sauce (and more parmesan), with baby lima beans as a side dish.  That was better, but still just okay.

So today I finally had the last serving with alfredo sauce, and I also mixed in some peas and freshly ground black pepper, and served along with a slice of garlic toast.  And it was excellent.  The taste of the tortellini filling wasn’t overwhelmed by the sauce, but instead they complemented each other fairly well.  And the peas were a very good idea.

I know in theory that different kinds of pasta are designed with different sauces in mind — their shapes are meant to hold onto different types and thicknesses of sauce — but I’ve never really explored how they go together, so it’s just been trial and error — or, more usually, just using whatever I happened to have on hand.  But my experiments with the tortellini were a good illustration of how different sauces fit with different foods.  And it’s good that I saved the best combination for last.

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