Series Etc.

19 June 2002

I have triumphed over the farina, so I had lovely CocoWheats for breakfast. Yum. And they had been sitting at an angle in the fridge, and when I pulled the tupperware out straight, the CocoWheats remained at an angle. That means they're thick enough! Woohoo!

Does anybody know what to do with parsley? We have a bunch of it that went in the stuffed peppers, and so far it's keeping pretty well. I got some wheat noodles and am going to try to duplicate Dragon's Breath from Long Life, but we have a lot of parsley, and Dragon's Breath doesn't take much. To me, parsley is something that sits on the plate in sprig form, and you push it aside or maybe play with it a little. But you don't cook with it. Except maybe we should. So: what goes with parsley? Or what does parsley go in?

And do you know what I want for my birthday? Croutons. Pepperidge Farm croutons. The onion and garlic ones are all right, the cheese and garlic even better, and the sourdough cheese and garlic the best yet, although roasted garlic will do in a pinch. I bought a bag of T. Marzetti's Cheese and Garlic, which had a big ol "NEW!" on it, and "NEW!" translates as "not known to suck!" Only they did suck. Mightily. Why us? They have Pepperidge Farm cookies out here, and we don't want Pepperidge Farm cookies. I don't eat store-bought cookies (except for Thin Mints, generally). But I do eat store-bought croutons, and if someone was kind, they might tuck a box or so in with a birthday present. Or just make it a birthday present. I'm just sayin'.

My birthday isn't until July 26, but we have a box of onion and garlic that should last us until then.

I worked on the Not The Moose Book a good deal yesterday, and a bit on the book I didn't intend to write. I got to feeling quite unattached and unphysical, so I made chicken scampi, which we hadn't had in quite awhile. It involved three pots on the stove, so the physical coordination of this meal was nontrivial, and that was good. Got me kind of back to physical reality. Also, it involved making a white sauce, and I always feel like a better human being when I'm making white sauce, making sure that it's stirred smooth and the only lumps are bits of garlic. There are sauces I like better, but none of them makes me feel better making it. Part of it is the roux, I think. There's just something good about a sizzling golden roux.

I also finished painting my journal cover, finally. Finally! After over a year. (I have been trying to be better about linking to past references, but I am entirely too lazy this morning.) It's been sitting there waiting to be finished for long enough that I started thinking that's where we keep the paints. Nope. The painting stuff all has a spot in the box next to the dresser. Whence it will be removed as soon as the paint tray is clean. I like the front better than the back, but that's been the case with every journal cover I've painted so far. My greens were more satisfactory in this case. I really didn't entirely care for the browns I managed to do without bases of umber, sienna, or sepia, and the yellow and red really don't cover well, so I had to slop a ton of paint on. So much that I wished I had a palette knife, only I was working in fairly limited areas. Which looks better now than it did at the time, I think, but is still inferior to the greens of the front cover.

Of course, now I want to do another one. I still can -- I have at least one other unused journal in the drawer, and the acrylic paint dries fast enough that I could risk it with the journal I'm currently using. That's a nice contrast to the oil paints I used for my first two. I had to wait weeks for the one to be done, and that's when I discovered I cannot go without a bound journal. Cannot. I tried to use looseleaf paper for journal entries and ended up begging with Jen to run me to Kato to get the cheapest paper journal B&N had, just so I could make it through until my painted one dried. All this was after the tornado, in the aftermath of which I was using Michelle's little rainbow cloth journal, which still smells like the store where she bought it. It was a good journal, though, the first one I did with oil paints. I wrote "Gardens" in that journal. Made my big leap in that journal to actually writing stories people might want to read.

I have trouble with the words today, tomorrow, and yesterday, as I've mentioned. But I can tell you which journal I was using when I went to my aunt Doris' house in Fridley for the last time, where I got it, what I quoted to Jen out of it. (It was the bronzeish one with the fantasy chick on it, which the Wileys gave me as an engagement gift, proving once again that they'd been paying attention all along.) At least I have some sense of time.

I have "Girl Inside My Head" inside my head again. This is something like the third morning in a row, and I can't even blame Scott this time. Curse that John Popper and his infectious, self-doubt-ridden melodies.

I was thinking yesterday that perhaps there should be a Hugo and/or Nebula for best series. Perhaps not every year -- that seems a bit much. But every five years or so? I think that different things make a good series than make a good book, and there have been at least a couple of recent examples where it seems clear that the person who won the Hugo won for her series, not for the specific book in question. I'm thinking of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Mirror Dance in specific -- I think that Rowling and Bujold won for The Harry Potter Books and The Miles Vorkosigan Books, respectively. Regardless of what you think of each series as a whole, I don't think that the people who voted for them thought, "Yes, this is the best book in the series." My suspicion is that it was the one that had been published that year.

And a good series can be all kinds of things. I think the best series consist of self-contained books that have their own plot arc, yet add up to a greater, series-long plot arc. The Vorkosigan books are a good example of this. (I'm hoping to be two books into writing another good example, but we'll see what anybody else thinks of that.) With the Macdonald Hall book I just finished, it was clear that stuff had gone before, but it was not clear that the characters had changed in the course of the book, nor did it seem vital to know how they might have changed in previous books. That was all right, but it's a different kind of good series, an episodic series. The appeal most likely lies in the way the characters don't change much. It's comforting to know that you can go back to the same characters sometimes. So maybe some of the series awards would go to things like that, I don't know. But something like The Lord of the Rings doesn't count at all, because it's not a series, it's a book that was big enough that most editions are published in multiple volumes.

I know there was already an all-time greatest series award, but that seems, well, premature, since all time isn't over yet and people do keep writing series.

Ah well. I took the time to freewrite yesterday, got out Wild Mind and was going to do an exercise out of it, but I got to going so well on other stuff that I never got around to it. Two short story ideas in one paragraph. This is why I don't do more freewriting. On the other hand, what does it hurt to have more ideas around?

That accursed Karina has gotten me thinking in terms of The Phone Book. So far I've done a Mini Story and a Short Micro Story to submit to them. (Mini Stories, by their lights, are 100 to 150 words. Short Micros are no more than 150 characters.) And they may not like them, but if not, what harm? It took me less time to write the SMS this morning than to mention it in this paragraph, and that's really hard to gripe about. Giving them my contact information took more time. Karina described them as little candies, the Lifesavers of fiction, I think, or maybe she said M&Ms. I don't know. But they help keep it fun, and that's important.

While I was freewriting last night, I came up with a couple of assignments for myself for work on the Not The Moose Book today...which was fine enough, I guess, but then I was giving assignments, so I started adding things like "clean hall bathroom" and "return videos." Sigh. But I'm hoping that having a list that's specifically for today will help me to just relax when the list is done. I've already cleaned the bathroom this morning, and Timprov returned the videos for me, leaving two scenes and five other tasks for the meantime. We're having people over tonight for Cuban food and "Better Off Dead" -- Amber and Alec and Zed. When I mentioned that I hadn't seen that movie and Timprov was going to make me, Amber and Zed both expressed enthusiasm for it, and Alec said he'd never seen it. (But Alec has never seen "Real Genius," so he's due for a kidnapping soon.) So I figured it might as well be an event of sorts. And besides, the Cuban black bean soup always makes vats and vats, and even with boiling it down for enchilada filling, we find ourselves eating bean soup for ages, so I figured it'd be a good thing to share. I always get a little nervous about introducing friends to other friends, and Amber doesn't know Alec or Zed (and, of course, vice versa). But they're all pleasant-smelling people who have never kicked puppies in my presence, and I'm asking them to eat food and watch a movie, not make lists of their ten darkest secrets to divulge to all and sundry, so I think we'll be okay.

Hope you are, too.

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