Grow a pair of mittens, part four!

Some days the Weather Channel really ticks me off. Those days are roughly November through March. That’s right, it’s time for my third annual rant on winter storm names!

Once again I had completely forgotten about this idiotic practice, until a couple of family members posted a link mentioning “Damon”. Apparently that’s what the Weather Channel decided to call this two-bit punk Nor’easter that dropped a foot of snow on us Wednesday. A foot. Seriously. I know in Georgia they’d call it the end of the world, and Maryland would shut down for two weeks, but here in Syracuse if a winter storm hits us with anything less than three feet in 24 hours, it gets laughed out of the friggin’ sky. A storm like that doesn’t rate a name. When a storm does rate a name, it gets a big menacing one like “The Blizzard of ’78″—not a name it’s likely to share with the kid who makes a few bucks shoveling up after it.

Here’s the part that irks the frell out of me: The Post Standard, our local paper, has outright given in on this. The link I saw was from them, referring to the storm as “Damon”. I knew the paper had gone steadily downhill in the past… er, my entire lifetime, but now they’ve simply crapped the bed. A Syracuse paper ought to be above this nonsense. They ought to be leading the charge to mock those snowphobic twits down in Atlanta for coming up with this concept two years ago. They ought to be running articles every year mocking the storm list, and in every story if they refer to the name at all they should do it in sarcasto-quotes and make our righteous disdain perfectly clear.

We all know the Weather Channel is doing this only for branding, nothing more. You know that, right? Sure, they claim it’s about better communication, getting things across more clearly, but that’s crap. They wanted to start the ball rolling and be the ones rolling it, because then it’s a feather in their cap. You know who names hurricanes? Actual official weather agencies. Nobody names snowstorms, except for some goofs in Europe who frankly ought to know better. (Really, guys? You have the freakin’ Alps and some places with darn cold winters, and you want to bother naming winter storms? Sissies.)

This year we have further stupidity: named storms still miss out on completely legitimate major events that would rate a name. The week before Thanksgiving, Buffalo got blasted by five feet of lake effect. Five feet in one day is a lot, even for Buffalo. Ralph Wilson stadium was so badly snowed in, the Bills had to hold their upcoming home game in Detroit. But did that storm get a name? Nope. The Weather Channel reported on it, but didn’t find it name-worthy, even though this is the exact kind of standard we should be using for whether a storm gets a name. When a barrage of lake effect hits Buffalo so bad that even they have trouble dealing with it, that’s when it matters.

The arguments in favor of naming these storms when they don’t deserve names are no more coherent than they ever were, but they’re undercut completely when the idiots pushing this crap don’t even think an actual significant event belongs on their list. Winter storms may be better organized than summer ones, but when they don’t do anything beyond throw down a bunch of typical weather, who gives a crap?

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Dual book limbo

I’ve reached a slightly frustrating point in writing lately, because I now have two books in limbo. They’re both waiting both for more feedback (I have a very thin beta reader pool, and haven’t found the motivation to try expanding it) and in one case, for a cover.

My goal is to get Below out next, and that’s mostly just waiting for a cover. I had hoped to get it out by the end of the year, but circumstances have rendered that impossible, so look for it (hopefully) in early 2015. I suppose I should get some blurb feedback before then.

Meanwhile I very recently finished Merchantman Halflight: Get a Crew, book one of the series. (I decided the subtitle had grown on me enough to keep it, pending any unforeseen better ideas coming along.) I think the blurb I have needs a little work, but it’s mostly there; the most useful feedback I got on it was the need to connect some items a little better, and see about maybe trimming it back a smidge.

(Blurb feedback is a weird thing for me. I believe, and have been told, I’m pretty good at writing blurbs for other people; I just struggle with my own. But sometimes I’ll also see feedback I absolutely know can’t work, and it makes me come off as defensive. The Halflight blurb is a great example, because with an ensemble cast you really can’t focus strongly on just one or two characters, and with a sitcom layout you really can’t point at a villain or describe the conflict in terms of stakes. I knew it’d be a tough blurb to write, because the story doesn’t fit a more typical model, but it’s hard to say “Sorry, I thought of that approach but I already rejected it because I knew it was a bad fit” without sounding like a tool.)

With the first book in the series more or less “in the can”, though, I’ve already begun work on the second. I’ve never once published a sequel to anything, but the dynamic there is very interesting. For one thing, I think it’s important to reestablish the characters. One of my very favorite books of all time (Jinx on a Terran Inheritance by Brian Daley) did this, and it worked beautifully. While throughout the book, even at the beginning, it was clear that there was history I was unfamiliar with at the time, I never once felt truly lost. Things got explained without being heavy-handed. The book was the second in a trilogy, which I discovered only because my mom picked up a bunch of books at a yard sale; but to this day it remains my favorite of all of them. It couldn’t have done that if I was lost from the get-go.

That said, I don’t fault writers of e-book series for skipping the re-intro if they want to. They can make the fact that it’s a sequel clear in their blurb, and Amazon makes it pretty easy to find the first book. But I very much like the idea of someone picking up one of my books in a series, enjoying the heck out of it all on its own, and then going back to see where it all started.

Sequels often have a tonal shift, as well. What’s surprising to me is that I can almost feel it, even in the opening chapter. The style really hasn’t changed, but I think because I know where the story is going with this book, it carries a different mood for me. The first book was very much all get-to-know-you interactions as the crew settled into their roles and repeatedly failed to establish anything like a “norm”. The second book, although it carries that along to a lesser degree, primarily has themes of expansion and revenge. (A lot of that is Xanatos Gambit stuff. I’m really looking forward to writing this.)

I’m not sure how long it’ll take to write the second book, but considering the first started in fits before it finally got rolling in a strong way, I suspect this one will go quicker. My hope is that the first will be out—and my backlog completely clear—pretty close to when the second is ready. This story has waited 13 years to be told; it doesn’t want to wait a whole lot longer.

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Pointless controversy: Michael Bublé’s Christmas music is terrible

I’m going on record: I don’t like Michael Bublé, and especially not his Christmas music.

It’s nothing against him as a person. It’s not even that he’s a bad singer; he isn’t. My problem with him is that I find his voice lacks character. He’s completely bland, like biting into a sugar cookie where the baker left out any salt. (We’ve all had that cookie, haven’t we?) While I write this, I’m listening to classic Christmas music from the great Robert Goulet, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Andy Williams, and other greats of the past. Heck, Johnny Cash; his version of “I Heard the Bells” gives the song a depth of meaning I’ve never heard from anyone else, ever.

Maybe the great artists of the ’40s through early ’70s are an impossible standard to live up to, but with Bublé basically aping Sinatra, I feel like he left the door open. And mind you, I don’t count Sinatra as one of the greats when it came to Christmas music; his Christmas music always felt bland to me as well. But Bublé is taking his not-quite-Sinatra voice—which doesn’t have half of Sinatra’s uniqueness—and doing updated takes on a lot of classics with arrangements similar to the originals. His cloned covers have a weird too-perfect sound, while his voice takes all the finesse and specialness out of them.

Again, the man is a perfectly good singer. Where I find fault with him is that he has no unique stamp at all. You can hear his voice and know it’s him, but there’s nothing special or even particularly emotive about it; if we already lived in the future where perfect speech synthesis was a thing, I feel like a robot could turn out the same work. And that lack of uniqueness extends into the very arrangements he picked for his Christmas music. Unlike, say, Barry Manilow, who took Bing Crosby’s classic upbeat Jingle Bells and re-created it with a fresh charm, Bublé’s stuff just doesn’t pull it off.

Maybe this is a better explanation: On Mystery Science Theater 3000, there was a frequent joke whenever an actor appeared on screen who looked vaguely similar to three other celebrities. The joke was always “X as Y in the Z story.” It was even funnier if the three celebrities had nothing to do with each other and didn’t even look all that alike themselves; but any time the joke came up, you could see it. That’s how I feel about Bublé’s Christmas music: His voice doesn’t really have a character of its own, but it’s more like a Sinatra impersonator with really good musicality doing somebody else’s song in their style, as faux Sinatra. Whenever I hear one of his Christmas songs, I very much want to hear the original with that arrangement—not just because it’s more familiar and it’s the voice that’s supposed to go with those sounds, but because it’s just plain better.

So, Christmas radio stations of the world: I implore you to play less Bublé, more Goulet. And no more Jewel, because good gads her Christmas music is awful. And this should go without saying, but that one Dan Fogelberg song is not a Christmas song, and playing it among Christmas music should earn you a slap across the ears.

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Mug pancake with sausage

I was recently introduced to the delightful concept of mug pancakes. When you don’t want to go to the hassle of making a whole batch of pancakes, this works great. I have a variation on the concept that I think is even better.

The classic mug pancake using Bisquick is to use ¼ cup of Bisquick mix, 1/8 cup of milk, whisk it together in a mug, and bake in the microwave for a minute or more. (In my little low-power microwave, it’s more like two minutes.) However I recommend adding 1 tbsp. beaten egg or Egg Beaters—which I happened to have on hand—which brings it in line with 1/8 of the Bisquick box recipe.

And now, as promised, the variation.

Mug pancake with sausage

  • ¼ cup Bisquick mix
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. beaten egg
  • 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 3 frozen fully cooked sausage links
  • Coffee mug

Add Bisquick, milk, and egg to mug, and whisk to combine. Insert sausage links into batter. (They will stick out well over the top.) Cut butter or margarine into small chunks and add to batter. Nuke for 1:30 to 2:30 depending on microwave power, basically until batter is cooked through—an inserted knife or toothpick should come out pretty clean.

This is only one pancake worth, essentially. Do not give in to the temptation to double the pancake—it will overflow the mug. The butter is there for extra flavor, but it will probably be better with more melted on afterward. If you’re a syrup person, you can always add that later. If you’re adventurous, you could try mixing some in with the batter.

Because I’m a sucker for bad ideas, I’m now wondering if an oven-baked variation on this concept could be used to make little pancake cups and give the McGriddle a run for its money. Here’s what I’m thinking: Mix some syrup into the batter, and put about 3 tbsp. of batter into each pocket of a buttered muffin pan. Using something that can withstand heat as about a ½-inch spacer, put an identical muffin pan on top (buttered on the bottom), and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350°. Heat up some sausage and cut it into chunks, and scramble some eggs. Add eggs, cheese, and sausage to the finished pancake cups—or add them a few minutes before the cups finish cooking. The main part I’m wondering about here is the syrup, if there’s a risk it could burn; every recipe I’ve ever seen for homemade maple-infused pancakes has discussed creating maple crystals first that get mixed into the batter in their hardened form.

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Let’s blog a parade: 2014!

Thanksgiving: check. Snow: check. Pumpkin muffin: ate them already. Doh! Nevermind, let’s do this thing. This is a live-blog, so keep refreshing.

We start off with a musical number extolling New York. Which on Thanksgiving I think is appropriate, yet for all the dancing I’m… whelmed. This is kind of a low-energy opener. Oh well.

And now the line-up: Sting, Kiss (really?), Idina Menzel, Meghan Trainor (ack), Pentatonix (yay!). NBC is pimping out a number of its show stars today again. The Ninja Turtles will be here, but will they be the good ones from the ’90s or the crappy Bay version? Guess we’ll find out. If it’s the Bay version he’ll get to have crapped all over my childhood twice.

Sorry NBC, I’ll just never buy Katherine Heigl as a high-power adviser to the president. She has zero gravitas.

Next musical number: from Honeymoon in Vegas. With Tony Danza. Oh wow has he aged, but he looks like he fits this crooner role decently. This is low-energy too. Maybe I’m already missing the caffeine. The pornstache on this guy in white is creeping me the heck out.

I think I finally figured out that these Surface commercials are meant to be a parody of the old Mac vs. PC ads, but artless. The Christmas version is out now, with a crappy jingle done to the tune of “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland”. I know it’s tongue-in-cheek, but it still sucks.

Now there’s a number from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. You had me at the title. This isn’t a gigantic dance production but the old-timey style, rapid overlapping lyrics, and farce elements are brilliant. Actually it makes me want to see this. Not badly enough to travel to New York and pay Broadway prices, but still, it looks funny.

I still don’t have a pumpkin muffin, but my awesome wife went out into the snow and got me a McGriddle. Upgrade! There’s a special coming up called How Murray Saved Christmas. Looks goofy. I’m in. And now Al Roker is holding the Ronald McDonald balloon. How fitting.

The cast of Sideshow is performing now, but the dance style reminds me more of the routines from White Christmas. With all the beautiful snow outside, and that being my go-to movie while putting up the tree, I want to do that right now.

Oh boy. Another heartstring-tugger from Folgers. And the famously even-keeled Kate Gosselin is gonna be on the Celebrity Apprentice; yeah, that’ll go well.

There’s a broadway show called The Last Ship. Even though there’s a TV show by the same name. Confusing. Sting sold his role so well though I couldn’t even recognize him at first. This has a nice charm to it.

Al Roker has gotten goofy, but not in a good way. Either he’s weary of the series star interviews or he’s lost his mind. And about this live Peter Pan show coming up: Who made the law that said Peter Pan always has to be played by a woman? Having a grown woman, especially an attractive one, play a young boy is just friggin’ weird. Although Shakespeare used to be obliged to do the exact opposite, but that’s because the 16th century was broken.

I know it’s not snowing in New York, but I can’t imagine it’s very warm out right now because it’s 29° in Syracuse right now. My question is: How are the Rockettes not freezing their butts off? If it was me out there in bare shoulders and sheer hose, I’d have no motor control at all. Also they’d send out one of those comic Vaudeville hooks to drag me off the street.

Chase says “Your phone is now your wallet.” Sure. Nothing bad can come of that.

I do enjoy the sound of a good marching band. Would rather Western Carolina University’s crew had chosen something festive instead of Billy Joel, but whatever. And now we’re coming up on 10:00, with the official start of the parade proper. I can’t even describe how awesome it is to be a kid on the sidelines there, and I only got to do it once.

And Sandra Lee is leading the way on Tom Turkey. Kind of ironic for such a football-happy holiday, because she’s the chef who doesn’t know tailgating from a cocktail party.

Thomas the Tank Engine has made his way down the street, and now country singer (ugh) Lucy Hale is delivering a song. At least it’s not as twangy as most.

Ack, some cheerleaders are doing another country song when we come back from commercial? This one is twangy. Gah. The Madden Brothers are performing “We Are Done” next, and its chorus is so ’70s-tastic it makes me want to throw a rock. Gah!

But here comes Snoopy right behind them! All is forgiven!

Becky G now performs atop the Dora float. Never heard of Becky G before. I do enjoy bubblegum pop, but unfortunately this is bubblegum Latin.

Sesame Street has changed a lot since I was a kid, but it’s nice to see most of the classic characters are still around. I don’t recognize some of the new ones. It has to be really tough managing the puppetry on that float.

Hey! We have a high school band from Baldwinsville representing in the parade! Go, local kids!

Meghan Trainor is up now. I was going to say I wanted to give her one more chance since I can’t stand her signature song, but she started off immediately on a Nicki Minaj-style rap. Since she’s not actually Nicki Minaj I only give it a 9.5 on the eponymous rage scale, but… ugh. And I just can’t get behind this retro style she does. Nothing against those who can, but this ain’t for me.

Okay, that whole dancing clown thing was weird. What the frell is wrong with New Orleans? Followed up by cabaret star William Blake singing on a float. I’m not familiar with him, but he’s really weirdly made up. He looks a lot like Ethan Suplee as a vampire. Behind that, Ronald McDonald and his balloon.

Here comes Mr. Peanut. 98 years old. It’s weird to think just how long some advertising mascots have been with us. American Authors are coming up behind on a baseball-themed float, singing their annoying song “Best Day of my Life”. I swear someday I will outlaw the use of banjos in pop music.

It appears Microsoft is behind this recurring ad thing they’re doing where the elves are lost on their way to the parade, because they’re following each one with that terrible new Surface spot. This is actually making me miss those ads with Justin Long and the guy in the bad suit. And those were stupid.

Hello, Kitty!

Huh. I didn’t know “Jealous” was a Nick Jonas song. It’s not bad at all. This is actually the first tolerable song performance that wasn’t from a Broadway show. The marching band from the Bahamas behind him is pretty good. The flamingo float coming up after, not so much.

The new Paddington balloon following up behind the Seaworld float, suitcase in hand, looks unfortunately like he’s a lawyer chasing them. And behind him, the Sino-American Friendship Performers with Chinese dragons and whatnot. Nothing spectacular, but pleasant. There’s a joke about Chinese consumer goods in there somewhere.

Sheesh, I spend 30 seconds in the bathroom and come back to find old ladies in clown getups dancing with walkers to Twisted Sister. I kid you not.

Ah, and here come “wildly popular British boy band, the Vamps”. This is literally my first time ever hearing of them or this song. It’s unoffensive, but it seems like if they were wildly popular on this side of the pond I’d have some awareness of the song.

Here comes the red Power Ranger balloon. Never got into them as a kid, because I was too old when they got big. It also looked way too silly.

Snack food Pirate’s Booty has a new float. Interesting. Sabrina Carpenter is singing on deck, and this is… bubblegum country. I’m distressed by how almost-likable this is. Gotta give country props for still having a sense of melody, I guess; pop has mostly lost it.

Toothless! Love that big guy.

Here’s a commercial for Into the Woods, and if you listen hard you can hear my sister’s head exploding. She didn’t make a cherry pie this year. Feh.

I always have to give mad respect to Cirque du Soleil. It’s amazing what they do. Right behind them, the new balloon for Eruptor from Skylanders. I’ve never played it, but that’s a cool balloon. And this next marching band is fantastic—wish I’d caught their name.

Here’s the Sprout float, with that weird squeaky chicken. I still don’t get it.

Oh gads. More country atop the Gibson float. This is Dan and Shay. It’s typical. I don’t mind that country is represented in the parade; it’d be weird if it wasn’t. But still… ugh. At least Spider-Man is a nice respite. But sadly I only mean respite. Country comes right back behind that with Needtobreathe. Yes it’s one word. I don’t get it either. Google says they’re a Christian rock band, but dude, that was country. Thank goodness for the Harlem Globetrotters and the blessed brain-cleanse of “Sweet Georgia Brown”.

Yay! It’s snowing in New York! And here! But not in front of the store itself, where the Varsity Spirit Cheerleaders are performing to a Kiss song. And right behind them is Kiss themselves. I missed out on the whole classic rock scene, so I have no connection to this band. My only real thought here is that someone needs to drag Gene Simmons and his ego kicking and screaming out of the public eye—with that big Vaudeville hook. And a flatbed with a winch. (Oh, quit gushing, Al. One for the ages? It wasn’t that good.)

Adventure Time! Okay, so I’ve only ever seen one episode, but it was amusing.

Now we have a marching band performing Bohemian Rhapsody. Finally, an awesome song from a marching band. I feel awful for that girl who just slipped though—looks like it’s slick out there. Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters.

Ah. The Ninja Turtles iteration we have here isn’t the live-action ’90s one or Bay’s abominations, but the modern CGI ones. I can live with that. MKTO is performing “Classic” on the same float. This song is kind of played out. The rap part annoys the crap out of me, though the rest I don’t mind.

Kool-Aid Man! Oh yeah!

Okay, this Coke commercial is cute. I do wish we didn’t need hashtags in all of them, though. NBC is letting us know about a new series called A.D. based on the story of Jesus, possibly with a greater focus on events after his resurrection. I’m not sure. I’m not sure NBC can pull it off, either.

These dancers doing a bunch of video game themes, including the classic Sonic theme (the only one that counts), are making me smile. The pity is, not one of these kids knows the visceral joy brought by the music they’re dancing to. Now I feel old.

There’s a new Pikachu balloon. I hate anime like most people hate getting punched in the throat, but I have to admit this little guy is cute. And the snowman he’s holding is adorable.

Welcome to the NYPD marching band. And a Big Apple float, where Romeo Santos is performing a Latin hit of his. Latin music just doesn’t connect with me; more so when I can’t understand the lyrics. Where does it fare on the Nicki Minaj rage scale? Well, on a bad day it may as well be country.

The Virginia balloon is up now. I still have not seen the animated special for that. Is it any good?

I could probably stand to watch the live Peter Pan for Christopher Walken alone. More so if they really let him let loose and bring his weird sense of beats into it. And hey, props to Jennifer Aniston for pushing so hard every year for St. Jude’s. Good work those people do there.

The new Annie is performing on a float. I saw the movie with Carol Burnett when I was little, but I was so young I don’t think I fully connected with it. The new movie looks kind of cute, but nothing that’s gonna get me into the theater. Heck, I still need to see Big Hero 6; I heard it’s fantastic.

Another marching band performs in front of Macy’s, and now comes the Poppin’ Fresh balloon. Also known as the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Kind of a weird mascot, but he’s grown on me. Domino’s has a float with a cookie-making theme. Country singer Cole Swindell is aboard, twanging it up. Guh.

Huh. Random Barbie commercial out of nowhere. I guess they figure the kids are paying more attention the closer it gets to noon. That reminds me of a video I saw recently about that new Lammily doll. I have no interest in the whole doll equality warrior agenda, but I will say she looks adorable. And Barbie’s always been much too freakily slim.

A group called Before You Exit is performing aboard the Smurfs float. This is my first time hearing of them, but this song is decent. A marching band after them performs Taylor Swift’s annoyingly overplayed “Shake It Off”. I wanted to like that song, honestly; I just find it way too repetitive, and that “players gonna play/haters gonna hate” lyric is so, so stupid. Come on, Taylor, you can do better.

Renée Fleming brings us “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland” (not the stupid Microsoft version) aboard the Central Park bridge float. I was hoping to like this. But between something she’s doing with her voice and the treatment of the song… no. This is surprisingly terrible.

The Aflac duck is on a float now instead of a free-flying balloon. Every time I see him though, I always wish they’d have that one guy who’s always surprised to see him show up holding the balloon, or in this case maybe just waving from a balcony or something.

We now have Lewis the duck and his wife Lois, with his kids Lance and Lisa. Theme naming just annoys me. But hey, Pentatonix is performing on this float. They’re awesome. I do enjoy a killer a cappella group.

The super-creepy Elf on the Shelf is right behind that. Seriously, I don’t get the Elf on the Shelf. He freaks me out. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a dead ringer for a skinny version of Big Boy, but he reminds me way too much of a cheesy mascot from yesteryear that now comes off as super-kitschy.

Foothill High School band from Nevada is performing “Nutcracker a la Vegas”. I appreciate that they brought something Christmasy into the mix here.

Idina Menzel is performing Mariah Carey’s classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You” from the Lindt float. I expected her song to be one of the best performances of the day, and she does not disappoint. This is either the first time I’ve heard this song covered, or the first time I’ve heard it covered that I didn’t block out, but it works.

Spongebob Squarepants follows Idina like he’s chasing all that chocolate on the float.

And there’s the third and last of Microsoft’s lame commercial breaks. That whole “Let’s help Santa and the elves get to the parade” thing was so dumb. The really sad thing is, I can picture the room full of execs who were all really excited over this idea. It would have needed a lot more cleverness and about seven more spots to really sell the story.

Feh. Of course we had to have a marching band play “Happy”. Can we be done with that now?

Here come the elf balloons, which means Santa Claus isn’t far back. Hard to believe it’s been three hours already. Not as much Christmas music today as I would’ve liked, but it’s snowing, so there’s that. Santa comes along with one of the weirder songs of the day.

It’s been a fun ride as usual. Al Roker signs off with a shout out to the troops who are away from home today keeping the rest of us safe. God bless all of you, and thank you for your service.

And now, I have cooking to do!

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Subtitle blues

The first book of Merchantman Halflight needs a subtitle. I’m finding this tremendously difficult.

When I originally envisioned the series as a Webcomic, I planned each printed book (they all do that, so why shouldn’t I?) to cover about 150 issues. I was fortunate enough to nail exactly the pace I wanted in the novelization. The comic’s first book I originally thought should be subtitled Five Stars as it literally takes place in five star systems; the second book’s subtitle I’ve had in mind for just about as long, and I think it will work perfectly as-is. The third and fourth books, and a prospective fifth (I don’t have the scripts to fully cover it yet) are also easy to subtitle.

But for the novel, I don’t know if Five Stars will cut it; it’s too cheeky. My current working concept is Get a Crew, which effectively is how the book opens and works on a lot of levels—but the level it doesn’t work on is punch. I just don’t feel moved by it, and if I don’t feel moved, will readers?

Titles are the absolute worst. There are people who say that about blurbs, but they’re wrong; titles are way harder. Not that this series is going to be easy to blog anyway. This, minus the fact line, is what I’m looking at (first draft) for the first book’s blurb:

Best friends Cole Brinnet-Gur, captain and legendary cheapskate, and Vince Jozig, ever searching for his fourth concurrent girlfriend, are ready to expand their interstellar shipping business. After clawing their way out of debt and parting ways with an insane cook, they need a proper crew for Halflight. What they get instead are a trigger-happy ex-mercenary who once blasted a city into orbit, a young pilot named Mishap, and a hard-pranking, hard-partying engineer with purple eyes.

With the jury-rigged old cruiser long overdue for repairs, Cole is beset by constant demands for parts and supplies. Vince’s decisions about cargo, relationships, and cuisine are as questionable as his grasp of ethics. But their worst headache of all is security specialist Ryxissa and her best friend Old Jack, a monstrous gun she’s happy to introduce to any pirate, thief, or petty annoyance standing between her and the end of a three-year quest.

Surviving the pirate-infested trade routes of the Fringe is enough adventure for anyone. Halflight’s new crew has to survive each other first.

What should be patently obvious here is how far I had to deviate from my normal “formula”. There’s no act structure nor even a real possibility of one, so temporal focus is much looser and aims for about the 1/3 point. This is an ensemble cast and there’s no way to focus on one character very easily. It’s heavy on detail to the point of kitchen-sinking, but it’s a deliberate choice for comedic impact; I do think it plays better in humor blurbs than in others.

But none of that helps me pick the best subtitle. These books would be pretty unblurbable if I didn’t already have a lot of practice writing blurbs. I have far less practice picking effective titles and subtitles. (My first book’s title was sort of a “best I can do” choice after the first two choices fell through.) There’s an art to it. I’m happy with the choices I have in mind for the later books, but this one is tricky.

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Halflight Lives!

I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I had a darn good excuse: I was already frantically working on adapting my long-dormant comic into a novel. This past weekend I finally finished the first draft, and managed to fly through a rough edit of the first draft.

The effort started in July, but it didn’t really get rolling hard until much later, so all things considered this book came together really fast, at very much a NaNoWriMo kind of pace. That’s the benefit of having it all scripted out, I suppose. The hardest thing I ran into was the adaptation barrier, trying to figure out what scenes couldn’t work, what could, and what of the former could be saved.

A few jokes fell out along the way and, honestly, I’m fine seeing some of them go. But a few new ones unexpectedly fell in, so the trade-off was worth it. Another benefit of the scripts is that I was able to insert foreshadowing or simply fill in details that don’t come up till much later, so that everything feels more connected.

The first book finished exactly where I wanted it to. Word count is slightly higher than expected, but not by so much that it’s far out of line with my original goal. I wanted around 80K, and got about 82K.

Now the hunt begins to settle on a subtitle, and I’m going to start looking into cover options. I think this is the kind of book where I could composite a cover with stock photos myself (except, of course, if I wanted to include the ship on the cover), but there’s one major problem: I’d want a cover that said it was both sci-fi and humor, and that’s a hard pairing to achieve.

In the meantime I’m still moving forward trying to get Below out of post-production hell. I still have a goal of getting that out before the end of the year.

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