I have this talent for sideways time, so when I graduated from high school, I got recruited by TimeLines Unlimited, Inc. Which is just a glorified bus company, for shuttling people around. Since most people can't do sideways time, we just load 'em up on the bus and let them "sleep" the whole time I'm driving. Poof! Instantaneously in New York City. Poof! Instantaneously in Dallas! While yours truly spends twenty-seven hours driving their corpselike bodies from here to there.
I'm based out of Omaha. Great place. Better than Sioux City, anyway. I don't complain--much--I mean, I could be driving cows. Live cows. Dead cows. Pigs are scary. Some of them don't sleep.
Anyway, I was on the route from New-New Orleans to Minneapolis and all stops between, just minding my own business, when I noticed one of the passengers was awake. Bugger, thinks I. I won't be able to stop in Memphis and boost a few ribs this trip. But I keep driving, because I don't want to let him know that I know, you know?
Author Stephen Brust posts the following in his blog:
"Does anyone remember the given name of Vlad's father? I think I do, but I'm too lazy to look it up, and it would be so embarassing to be wrong."
--One the commenters responds:
"Maybe Sethra Lavode is his father too...Vlad, I am your father...come to the dark side of necromancy."
First, he would inhale, savoring each part of the book, sometimes individual pages. Then he would remove the pages--either with a scalpel or by hand, keeping the edges as neat as possible--a sensual purr of torn fiber. And then, while he soaked the binding in a mixture of warm water and salt, he ate the pages, tearing them into bite-sized pieces, almost absent-mindedly, while chatting with Marina about books he had eaten, books only he remembered now.
There didn't seem to be any magic involved.
The first book he had eaten was, naturally enough, a children's primer, back in 1943, its pages already warped from the drool of his two older brothers (whom he had not seen in years). The best book he'd eaten was a copy of the Bible, too common to itself disappear, but populated with the family tree of one of the women killed in Salem, Massechusetts, as a witch; it had also contained pressed wildflowers and a few lines of erotic poetry addressed to another girl's boy-friend, rhyming skin with sin and again and again.
Marina felt the book--that is, the book's name, which was all she knew of it--lift out of her, like a bird in flight, somewhere between the mastication of pages 107 and 108. But the memory of her husband, handing her the book, smiling, kissing her forehead, etc., etc.--all of that remained, as liminal and pervasive as ever.
Marina knew then that Martin must be killed.
"My books?" she asked. "You're going to eat my books?" At that, she stepped forward, flicked on the lights, and took a good look at the man, in case she should need to describe him to the police.
He was tall and spare; both his cheeks were scarred and hollow, as if his babyfat had been cut away with a dull knife and patched back together with a soldering iron directly onto live flesh. His fingers were like divining rods, long, wide-spread, and jerking toward the floor at odd moments, making the light flash (laboriously) from the rusty chef's knife as he talked.
"I am a book-eater," he said. "I steal into houses and kill the owners; then I take the books I want and steal them away to eat them. Of note: they must be rare books. Forgotten books. Because when I eat a book, it stays eaten, unless it is a common book. I have been passionately fascinated with Pride and Prejudice, but its taste is hollow, overstretched.
"A certain book dealer tells me which houses I want...he often has the pick of everything I'm forced to leave behind."
"Samson," Marina lisped under her breath.
The man nodded.
But a plan had already formed in her mind. "Follow me," she said, and led him toward the guest room, and the Chandler.
WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Sort of; I think one of Dad's ex-girlfriends was involved. Not Deanna Durbin.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
A week ago?
DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
I used to; now it's just my handwriting.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Really good ham for a tomato, ham, and mayo on wheat toast.
DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
One daughter, Ray, without whom I would have neither an amazing store of experiences nor an unflaggingly warming (take that both ways) presence in my life.
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
If there were two of me, I would be friends with the other me, but I would frustrate me to no end. If I were someone else entirely, it would depend.
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Nope. I would pee my pants, through the action of gravity, if nothing else.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
I loved that "What cracklin' oat bran?" commercial. Really? I don't like cereal all that much, now that as an adult I can declare it muffins and danish day whenever I want to.
DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Depends on the shoe; some shoes DON'T HAVE SHOELACES. Sheesh.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Not unless Ray's life is at stake.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Their hands. If people are talking and waving their hands, I'll watch their hands.
RED OR PINK?
WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
Currently? Not only am I critical of everything that isn't me, I'm very critical of me. Right now what's driving me up the wall is that I didn't used to care whether I was pretty or not. This year, all of a sudden, I worry that I'm not pretty anymore! Gah!
WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Oh, lots of people. But I want to go visit Heather sometime. I never manage to stay in contact with her for very long before we lose track again.
WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Black pants. Green crocs.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Mrph? Excuse me, mango smoothie.
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
A very muted saxaphone-based jazz track I don't care for very much.
IF YOU WHERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Baking bread. Fresh sheets. Peaches and apricots. Coffee. The people I love.
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
Guy from Huntsville, AL, whom I was sweet-talking into giving me some files.
I can't tell you! --and cooking.
DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Not since Ray was born. Maybe before that.
Soup and smammitches.
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
The entire Star Wars series...that is, the good ones...for Father's Day.
WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
White with the lime green dancing brain.
SUMMER OR WINTER?
HUGS OR KISSES?
Hugs. I like kisses, but I've mastered the hug.
That trifle turned out pretty damned good. But usually it's cheesecake.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
I'm not reading a book now; I'm reading a blog. My blog. See? You are too.
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT?
The last TV I watched was on Friday night, I think -- Rachael Ray on the food network. Business trip makes strange bedfellows.
The sound of one hand cla--uh, I mean, the rustling sound of wind through trees.
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Stones. Ever since "Paint it Black" was the theme song from China Beach.
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Mentally or physically? Corpus Christi, probably, or a few nights in college, mentally.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I have many special talents, none of which, other than my ability to make an ass of myself, spring immediately to mind.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?Ever since Dave pointed out that the location of your birth was something often used as a security question, I have quit revealing that info. Not in South Dakota.
"The drawers are all full of books," he said. "Where are the knives?"
Marina lowered herself down the stairs as if into a slippery bath. "To the left. Bottom drawer. Under By the Light of the Fairy Moon, by Arthur Miller. Poetry."
The man opened the drawer, pulled out the book, ruffled its pages. His nostrils may have widened to take in the scent of its slowly decaying pages. "First edition?"
Marine nodded, and the intruder set the book aside slowly, brushing its cover with his fingers, as if promising it to himself for later.
The knife was old and, shamefully, spotted with rust.
"Don't you have--?"
Marina shrugged. "I'm old. Two orderlies bring my meals to the door, already hot. And I never liked to cook. I keep it around in case I need to cut the tape on a package."
"He said you'd have a lot of books, but--" He gestured with the knife.
"This is--yes, it's 1984. The year I finally admitted I was old and no longer needed to go through the motions of fussing around in here."
Marina explained about the years. "Not many books in this lot I would mind losing, to tell you the truth," she said. "Sometimes--but what are you doing here? Are you a burglar?"
1 lb. angel food cake
1 lb. strawberries
1 1/2 c. blueberries (opt.)
2 c. vanilla pudding or custard (recipe follows or use instant mix)
2 T. sugar or flavored coffee syrup
Slice the cake into 1-inch cubes and set aside. Rinse, hull, and slice the strawberries and mix with 2T sugar or (vanilla) flavored coffee syrup and set aside. Make the pudding or custard and chill, if necessary.
Assemble the trifle: In a trifle dish or other large, deepish dish that can contain all the cake pieces with a little room to spare, line the bottom with about half of the cake. Spread half of the pudding or custard over top, then half the strawberries. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the blueberries, if using. Add another layer of cake, the rest of the pudding or custard, and the rest of the strawberries. Decorate with the remaining blueberries. Serve with whipped cream for a total bliss.
Vanilla Custard Sauce (adapted from epicurious.com)
1 t. vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean but who has those lying around?)
2 c. half-and-half
2 large eggs
1/2 c. sugar
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, bring the half-and-half (and the vanilla bean, seeds removed, if using) just to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until well combined. In a small drizzle, add about 1/4c of the half-and-half to the eggs and beat together well. Repeat until the half-and-half is combined with the eggs.
Rinse out the saucepan and add the egg mixture. Over low heat and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (to help settle any bubbles), heat the egg mixture until it begins to thicken to the consistency of chocolate syrup or thinnish pancake batter; remove from heat immediately. Do not allow to boil or all is lost. Alternatively, the original directions state an instant-read thermometer should read 175F, but watch it when making at high altitudes. You can strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve if you used the bean or if you think a skin on top of the custard will be a problem.
As soon as you've removed the custard from heat, stir in the vanilla extract. It's warm enough to burn off the alcohol, but heating the extract does destroy the taste a little.
For the purposes of this trifle, let the custard cool for a while, stirring occasionally with a whisk to keep the custard smooth and relatively skin-free. When it's about room temperature, use as described above.
Or almost completely forgotten.
It was a dark and rainy night, and Marina was lingering in the guest room, next to the shelf of 1957s, wondering whether she would be able to work up the courage to finally read the last book her husband, Rinaldo, had given her before his death (an obscure black comedy by Raymond Chandler, called The Wax Museum, published in 1956 by Auden Press), when she heard the glass shatter in the kitchen downstairs.
Glad of the interruption, she discovered an unusual figure (but what burgalur is usual?) rummaging through the drawers--in search of a knife, as it turned out.
"Excuse me?" she whispered.
I didn't make it to the Space Camp, but if I go back, I probably shall.
Okay, I'm a child of the '80s. When I see a good idea, it doesn't really matter what setting it's in. I mean, I grew up thinking He-Man* was a good idea. And Transformers.** And...well, I could go on for a while.
So when I ran into this book, it really didn't matter whether it was well-written or not. Cities don't expand by growing suburbs -- they grow by rolling around the countryside and devouring anything smaller or weaker that they come across. Cities on wheels! Aaaaah! How great is that!
But then...the characters are good. And the plot isn't bad. And...well, I'm not going to say. But it didn't come out the way I thought it was going to.
Good. Refreshing. An aftertaste of berries...no wait, that's wine. Like Neal Stephenson for kids.
*A kid and his pet, neither one of them all that and a bag of chips, have been picked out by forces beyond their control to defend everything important from an undead sorcerer and his hoard.
**An alien race has blended in so well with earth society that we don't know they're here...until their traditional enemies think, "Hey...nice place. Mine now."
"The bright helm to the...thigh bone!" Munin chants. The he lurches right, towards and insect mound covered with dark shapes that normally swarm through dead flesh like it was mulch. "The thigh bone to the...beetle mound!"
Hugin follows Munin around the field of the dead, staying one hop behind.
"The pearly ring to the...scarred sword!"
"The red scarf to the...letter home!"
"It's piiiink," Hugin cawed. But softly. Because, deep inside, he knows, knows beyond all shadow of a doubt (and Hugin, there's a raven who can doubt), that if he interrupts Munin, they're going to have to start all over again.
"The icy horns to the...golden shield! And here's the memory of Baldur!"
Munin is standing o'er a shield bearing the sign of the golden disk of the sun. He lifts his beak up high in the air and strikes it down on the shield, which lets out a bell-like peal, a terrible, iron sound, and the memory of Baldur falling to the ground, pierced by Loki's mistletoe spear (but thrown by an innocent hand) gasps over his soul like the wind that howls over the body of a coward.
Hugin can see Munin opening and closing his beak, but he (thankfully) can't hear a single noise out of that overblown peacock.
But with time, they will become mighty black women who will tell you, "There's still meat on that bone. You know you want it...now put down that knife and fork and suck the meat off that bone like you mean it." And then they'll call you by some name that means something sweet.
Lee had blackened pork chops with sweet potatoes and maque choux. He doesn't like sweet potatoes; they were almost gone before I got a taste. They smelled like...cotton candy? Homemade caramel? Sugar on the edge of creme brulee, anyway. The pork chops, despite the seasoning, was almost as delicate-tasting as fish.
I had crawfish tails and gumbo. The crawfish tails were...gone. The gumbo was the taste of nostalgia (rather than possessing the depth and bitterness that a dark roux can bring you), perfectly suited to the fact that they serve people in Colorado. --A nit of mine when it comes to gumbo is the okra. I don't like slimy vegetables. But the pieces here were cut down, modest; I suspect some okra had been cooked up, pureed, and blended back in.
I took some of the bread pudding home (as if I could eat it there) and was rewarded with chocolate hazelnut sauce. Rum sauce, I think. While we were waiting for it to come out, the owner, named Martin, introduced himself. He's a tall guy with white hair who comes across as being almost genteel. I think he was amused by the fact that I had to smell everything before I ate it. Anyway, we told him we'd recommend the place, so here we are.
I can't say it was the best meal of my life, but I did have to think about it for a hint of a second before I could say that. If you know what I mean.
After Dr. Methuselah's wife, Candy, died, he went a little crazy. A little mean, a little maudlin. He mixed the genes of a weeping willow with a few DNA strands harvested from the hair of his late wife, weaving in a passel o' nanotech...
The first love tree seeded itself on top of Candy's grave. Satisfied, Dr. Methuselah killed himself.
The tree grew tall and lovely, with long limbs and leaves of peaceful sussuruss. And, after the course of a few seasons, it came to bear the most unusual nuts, the exterior of which resembled hazelnuts, spiny and vicious. The nut, however, was the color of brass, and hinged. Upon opening the nut, one would find a membrane, delicately balanced, that would always point true -- toward the holder's true love.
Some called the tree a blessing; others, a menace. But always the membrane would point toward the true love. Marriage, death, gender -- these things meant nothing. There was only the direction, and the courage to follow it.
Huntsville: Brick + wood siding = house. Beware the Quality Inn, one of life's little ironies. The weirdly-positioned handicap-accessible grab bars on the toilet are 1) rusty 2) cannot be used if the toilet lid is open. Says it all, really. Too bad it's like conference week out here or something.
But I ran into a couple of good guys from work at the airport, so I should be fine.
Anyway, the system, Spirit of the Century, seems to be able to condense the endless fiddling with numbers into a single roll without losing the dice entirely. This will not please purists. Also, the character advancement is none to speak of. This will also not please purists. But it very much pleases D!
This cola might, like Jelly Belly, pick up some kind of Harry Potter sponsorship, and then you'd be drinking grass...spackle...overcooked pork chops...
But then, what other son could create the Remembrance 2000, into which one fed the ashes of one's ancestors, animating them for a few moments at a holographic shrine?
She begged for more moments, and I, cruelly, let her have them. She vituperated me without let, but within the year, she had consumed herself, and I was free--of curse, contrition, and love.
Any book which has a sequel must have a world worth revisiting.
What makes a story worth revisiting, from a writer's point of view? What makes you want to write a sequel, especially if the first story really is finished?
My wife’s grandfather died last week. He was 96 years old and had not shaved his beard in 30 years. Lately he’d taken to carrying business cards with his name and title printed on the front: Stephen Edward Eastman, W.O.M.
“W.O.M.?” I asked him. “Weird Old Man,” he explained.
Out back behind Yggdrasil* is this place you'll never find unless you're looking for it, because it's hidden. It's a battlefield. And it looks just like any other abandoned battlefield you'll find in Asgard. Or Midgard** for that matter, except that Hugin and Munin are the only two ravens there. Dead warriors, disintegrating horses pooling in their plate-mail armor, bright blades snapped at the hilt and poxed with rust, mounds of dirt churned with maggots and pale roots, fingers reaching to the sky with bony wrists, skulls filled with shining, irregular jewels of pus-- rot as far as the eye can see--as far as a raven can see--as far as a hawk can see. Farther than that. Past the horizon. It's vast. It's...
"Corpses?" Hugin asks.
"Memories." Munin struts and preens his feathers.
Hugin looks around at the vastness of it, and says, "Then the question isn't why does it take you so long to find Odin's memories...but HOW YOU FIND IT AT ALL!" --He screeches this last bit so loud Munin scares up into the air for a second.
Munin lands in exactly the same place and clacks his beak at Hugin. "What, you don't know where the memory of Baldur is the day before he died? Or the other names of the Norns? There are quite a few, you know! You want to know how I find it all? Caw! Like...this!"
*The "World Tree." The Interstate Highway and Internet of the Gods--loosely translated.
**A word which here means the mortal realms.
Well, whatever. If they didn't know a good thing when they saw it, so bee it.
What Hymenoptera did not understand was that the drones had a secret dance of their own. Using copper wire and stolen refrigerator magnets, the drones had passed down, through the generations, a new bee technology, powered by the waves from nearby cell phones...
Within a few years, it was beevolution from Brazil to the Kenai Fjords. The population dipped for a time, but rose steadily as the techno-drones researched increasing pollen production in flowers, more efficient dance languages, and...shh...Royal King Jelly.
I've been trying to figure out a birthday dessert to make for someone at work. When I asked her, she said her favorite dessert was two layers of white cake soaked in two different colors of jello with whipped topping between the two layers.
1) Not going to assemble said cake at work.
2) Jello. Sacre bleu! This is a birthday present, not a church potluck!
3) Where's the challenge there?
And then I thought...trifle. Cake + squishy stuff + pretty colors = pretty much the same thing.
So I did a practice trifle yesterday. This isn't the same trifle I'm sending off as a birthday present (she wants berries and doesn't care for sour stuff), but it was what I felt like making. Also, I bought a big bag of cherries at $2/pound on Friday and I wanted to use them up. And a ****load of eggs in the house. Also made potato salad (with bacon). My guests may die.
Cherry Limeade Trifle
Coconut Pound Cake (via Epicurious)
2c all-purpose flour
1t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1c unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/2t coconut extract (did not have on hand but recipe stressed as being vital)
1 1/2c sweetened, flaked coconut, toasted and cooled (did not toast)
Heat oven to 325 (350 for Colorado. Center still not totally done after 1 1/2 hours. May need to raise temp and cover with tinfoil next time). Grease a 9x5 loaf pan (dust with flour if that's what floats your boat). Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a different bowl, cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Fold into flour mixture just until mixed, then fold in coconut. Spread batter (thicker than banana bread mix) into loaf pan, bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (watch for this...the crust is pretty stiff and will scrape off the batter!), 1 - 1 1/4 hours (or 1 1/2 hours at high altitude).
Cool cake in pan on rack for 15 minutes; run a knife around the edges to loosen, and invert onto rack and cool completely.
Key Lime Custard (also via Epicurious, sort of)
2/3 c key lime juice
Do this at the same time as the cake or heat oven to 350.
Beat eggs by hand just until yolks and whites are completely mixed. In a saucepan, heat the milk, sugar, and lime juice over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until it reaches a boil. Add 1/4c of the hot mixture to the eggs, whisking the eggs constantly as you do so. Repeat until all the milk mixture has been added. Pour the custard into a heatproof dish and place the dish into a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come up even with the level of the custard. Place the whole thing in the oven and bake until the custard jiggles (rather than oozes) when lightly shaken (about 1/2 hour). Do not overcook; you're looking for the consistency of instant pudding, if that, rather than cheesecake.
To assemble the trifle:
(Do this the day you plan to serve it.)
When the cake and custard are more or less room temperature, cut the pound cake into squares (I dare you to try to keep this consistent) about 1" square. Line the bottom of a trifle dish or other clear glass/Pyrex dish with the cake--don't be shy about getting a solid layer of cake in there. Whisk or stir the custard to ensure an even consistency. Spoon about half of the custard over the cake. Place a layer of ripe cherries over the custard, about 1c of pitted cherries or so. The thought of adding maraschino cherries to this makes me feel ill now that I've tasted it (I had considered it), so try it at your own risk. If you don't have fresh cherries, go for thawed frozen cherries rather than pie filling. Seriously. If necessary, you can make a simple syrup, heat it in a saucepan to boiling, add the cherries and heat until boiling again, then remove from heat, if you think it's going to be too sour. But don't use anything but real cherries.
Anyway, add the rest of the cake in another layer, add the rest of the custard, and cover with another cup or so of cherries. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Serve with a big spoon and don't worry about being neat.
(Note: Lee said the custard was too sour, but I thought it was just right.)
...Is Russian dark chocolate, nyet? This has got to be the creamiest dark chocolate I've ever tasted. At first, I didn't care for it. Dark chocolate shouldn't remind you of...not dark chocolate. Very rich, but no bite to it, well, relatively speaking. But then I tried it again, and I had to change my mind: it's very, very good, just not what I'm used to. 4 out of 5.
So one day Hugin & Munin* are sitting on Odin's shoulders, digesting corpses and crapping down Odin's back, when Hugin turns to Munin and says, "Why does it take you so Garmr-awful long to remember the most trivial of things?"
Munin snaps his beak at this. "So long? So long? Caw! Odin the All-Father has lived long and his memories, both glorious and shameful, are as numerous as the stars! Do you think I can find the specific memory among the fields of the fallen the way a maiden picks daisies? Caw!"
This peaks Hugin's interest. "The fields of the fallen--?"
But Munin is too angry for human speech and ends up cursing in Raventongue. "Caw! A-caw! Caw!"
At first, Hugin tries to explain. But this always happens whenever Hugin has an idea. Hugin patiently explains what Munin could be doing better, and Munin devolves into caw-cussing and doesn't even listen. So Hugin loses patience, too. "Caw! Caw! Caw!"
And then Odin loses patience and shoos them both away, calling for Peace and Quiet,** who are too timid to appear when Hugin and Munin are around.
*Which, if you don't know, are Odin's ravens. "Hugin" means "thought," and "Munin" means "Memory." I always get them mixed up.
**Adumbian and Astillian, Odin's goldfish.
"The two worst things...both on the same day," he said. "How about I stay here and you go?"
I laughed. "You know, he was the kind of guy who would have given--a lot--to be able to sit up at this moment and say, 'Bob, you stay here, and I'll go.'"
You know, it's more comfortable to sit in a room with a dead friend than it is to sit in a room full of live strangers.
I don't know why, but the idea has stuck in my head. If you don't follow the rules of the tribe, the Outlanders will come and get you. Even if the reason you don't follow the rules of the tribe is for the good of the tribe...I just know there's a story in there.
"DeAnna? From work?"
"I don't know," he'd said. "But last night, you sat straight up in bed and said, 'That's her anthem!'
"'DeAnna's,' you said. Like I should have known already.
"'DeAnna from Pennsylvania?'
"'DeAnna from work!' you said, and then you went back to sleep."
Okay, when I was done laughing (or at least, could speak; I still break out in giggles every time I think about it), I asked her if she'd found out what my anthem was. No dice. I've been trying to figure it out...
When I die
lay me down a fine table
and eat well for me.
Any ham sandwiches
must be deviled
and deviled be the eggs as well.
There must be soup
made with a good stock--
bones simmered clean--
and if you love me,
throw in some dill.
For wine, a strong red,
dry for preference,
but of more importance
the olives. Any pickles
must be crisp and kosher.
Cheesecake for dessert,
light and fine,
cranberry sauce if winter,
raspberries if some other time.
Don't wear shoes or hose
or ties or suits,
but you can wear black
if you want to,
if you want to.
Personally, I will always associate the characters with the initial testers. It was a little like seeing a movie made out of a book you wrote. Thanks, guys :)
"What do you eat with your eggs?"
"Okay, I'll eat toast at a restaurant. I don't even own a toaster. I have a toaster oven."
"You don't own a toaster?"
"I own a toaster oven."
"You know what you're getting for your wedding? About nineteen toasters."
"You get me a toaster, and I'm going to hit you up the side of your head."
"Hey! Everybody! Guess who needs a toaster for his wedding!"
Everybody keeps saying you have to have conflict in a story. And then they just assume you know what that means. You'd think a guy saving the world from chaos would be sufficient conflict, but no. Guy vs. Chaos isn't conflict.
Now, order vs. chaos, that's conflict.
Why? Because who knows what the guy stands for.
Conflict, in it simplest, most reduced form, is the interplay between two ideas. Good vs. evil is a conflict -- although it's been used so often that it needs more to it to make a good story.
Innocence and experience. Integrity and loyalty. Love and honor.
The two ideas need to be connected somehow, but they don't need to be simply in opposition. There are any number of almost-mathematical operators that can be used to connect them, like:
Idea + idea (Add one idea to another idea -- add "wonder" to "maturity" -- without losing either)
Idea - idea (Remove an idea -- remove "selfishness" from "ambition")
Idea/idea (A dilemma -- a choice between "stability" and "renewal")
Idea-->idea (Change -- the move from "industrial" to "information")
And so on. It doesn't just have to be idea vs. idea, like an unending wresting match. So get your idea, run through situations in your head until you find one that matches up, put characters on the ideas like clothing on an ugly woman that nobody wants to see naked, and go!
--I've tried this with a couple of very-short stories, and it works okay. The stories seem pretty easy to get in to. The problem is that as of yet, my understanding is too simplistic, and I'm just not as thrilled by the idea of writing something that's longer than 1000 words as I am with my usual method of squeezing a cloud until water drips out (hint: the clouds get away most of the time).
...Also, Eddie Izzard, not for the faint of heart: "I don't believe they're religions. I believe they're philosophies with some good ideas and some f---'in weird ones."