What I did this summer

Apologies for the long hiatus. Life took a number of weird turns on my this summer, and I ended up with a lot fewer interesting things to say that weren’t also mostly depressing. But my favorite season has come, and it’s a time of contemplation and cooking and watching way too much TV.

So first, summer in one paragraph: Became my own boss: good, though the added responsibility sometimes sucks. Became sole breadwinner: my wife had a nasty run of mystery health issues right around that same time, and while she’s better now the mystery was never really solved. This included an all-nighter in the ER on a night of epic rain, and when we got home I found out the next day that an old abandoned septic tank in our yard caved in. (It’s filled in now.) Went to Canada for vacation; it was too hot. Went to the Great New York State Fair, but only a few times before I somehow injured my foot and couldn’t bring myself to do so much walking, so I missed out on a lot of yummy food. (The place that made fried mashed potatoes was gone. Huge disappointment.) I haven’t used my grill too much lately in spite of the fairly decent weather, but then it’s also in bad shape because the heat tent is corroded and near death.

Lately I’ve been more about the home cooking, as being able to set my own hours means that I can mostly plan out how and when I’ll cook dinner—with the caveat that my wife gives the cats their wet food treat right around when I’d normally want to start cooking. (That’s pinned to certain times of day mostly because one of our cats has been on medication forever.) But with football season upon us, I had to start making some good stuff for game days.

I made chicken Parmesan meatballs for the first time in a while recently. When making them for myself I usually do half a batch, but this time I did two half-batches: one for me and one for my wife. She’s eating low-carb, with the extra wrinkle that she’s also redeveloped a childhood sensitivity to wheat. (Not gluten, just wheat; it tends to cause nosebleeds, especially when she takes vitamin D3.) I’d tried to make them for her before by using pork rinds as the filler in place of bread crumbs, but this time I used almond flour. Surprisingly, almond flour did the job pretty well; I used it as a 1:1 replacement for the bread crumbs, and added about half a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a pinch of garlic.

Stuffed shells were on the menu again too, and this time I got smart about it. I made up an extra big batch using 30 shells—though I actually had a little more filling than I needed, and it was still looser than I wanted even after I tried to correct my original recipe. Oops. Instead of cooking the whole batch, I only cooked 10 of them for right away, and for the rest I bagged them up and used the FoodSaver so I could freeze them. A lot of filling oozed out of the shells that I froze, but honestly they were overstuffed anyway. Now I have a couple of awesome meals that will be easy to make when the weather gets colder and I don’t feel like putting in a ton of effort. Yay preparation!

The last time I made cheese I took a similar approach. I wanted a mozzarella and prosciutto roll for one of the football games that was coming up early on this season, and you can’t find those in Wegmans at all anymore. Sure I can find other brands if I look in Walmart or BJ’s, but they’re smaller and don’t look as good, and I like mine better than the ones I used to buy in the store anyway. So this time I got smart and portioned my mozzarella batch into three parts, made a roll out of each of them, and put two in the freezer in FoodSaver bags.

Sometime this summer I got back into writing again, here and there. Below is in the can, and next in the pipeline is Merchantman Halflight: Get a Crew, the first book of my long-overdue comic sci-fi series. I’m excited to get both of those out, but it’s been a frustrating run in a lot of ways and I’m still stuck for covers. Covers are the absolute worst, and that’s made worse by the fact that I now have to consider the problem of series covers. Those are a whole different animal, because you have to coordinate across multiple books.

What especially prompted me to write a catch-up post tonight was that I’ve finally finished the first draft of the second book in the series. This is a pretty good place for most series writers to be, except I only write when I find time and as I can get my brain to engage. Adapting the second book from my original webcomic script material was hugely difficult, as so many jokes simply didn’t work, and the comic at a few points suffered from pacing issues. The basic plot arcs are all there, but a number of things had to be shifted around a little at the detail level to keep things fresh and interesting. But at a glance, and having gone over the early parts of book 2 quite a few times, I like how it’s looking: revenge plots, character growth, selfish schemes, more aliens, a few more of Chekhov’s guns lying about, and more running gags about the former cook.

It’s a real sense of accomplishment when a first draft gets finished. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can get a cover for Below and get it published, and by then I hope to also have started on book 3. This series route is kind of interesting, but what I like best about it is revisiting old friends and learning new things about them as the adaptation progresses. Going into fall, it’s nice having old friends around.

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About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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