Whence the novel?

Last night, while whining about the TV situation, I mentioned that I needed to get back to work rewriting the novel I wrote last fall during National Novel Writing Month.

For most of the month, I blogged the novel as I wrote it. Towards the end, as I struggled to make NaNoWriMo’s 50,000-word requirement, I had to go back and rewrite what I had already written, and it became impractical to keep the blogged version in synch with the “real” version. So I took the blog down, disappointing a couple of readers. I offered to send one or two of them a copy of the finished draft if they wanted it.

I was so enthusiastic about the novel during that month, and so thrilled when I made the 50,000-word requirement, and then when the month ended I decided to set it aside until after the first of the year and let it cool off before looking at it again.

Well, the first of the year came and went. And I looked at the novel every now and then but never put my nose to the grindstone.

When I mentioned the novel last night, a couple of regular readers asked me about it.

I don’t know why I haven’t been more diligent about working on the thing. I think I’m scared. I don’t really think it’s marketable; it doesn’t fit easily into any genre fiction slot, and yet I don’t think it has the heft to be considered capital-L Literature. I like it, but then again it turned out to be a lot more personal than I intended. So I have no idea whether anyone else will really care about it.

Maybe I’m too lazy to do the work involved, or too stubborn to think about giving up this passage or that one.

Of course, it was speed-written, almost a stunt. Even if it’s awful, that doesn’t mean that I’m a bad writer or that I wouldn’t be capable, under other circumstances, of producing a good novel. But something about going back to the manuscript scares me. I’m not sure what to do with it. Do I try to send it to a publisher? An agent? Do I try to publish it myself? How much editing is enough, and how much is too much?

I looked at a few pages just now, added some punctuation, turned a description into a first-person thought. Hopefully, I’ll keep at it in the weeks ahead.

Cable update

It was almost 4 p.m. and they had not yet put the filter on my cable service, so I thought maybe I’d get a last weekend with extended basic. No such luck; they got here right around 4.

The good news is that budget cable stops at 23, not 22, so at least I get AMC — a pathetic husk of its former self, to be sure, but still better than the Home Shopping Network.

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 1My brother was saying during his visit last weekend that AMC would be the perfect destination if “Mystery Science Theater 3000” were ever to be resurrected. Mike Nelson seemed to quash that during a recent interview, however, saying the rights to the premise and characters are “spread out.”

ESPN Classic is on the digital tier here, so even before today I didn’t get it. But my brother was kind enough to TiVo some episodes from “Cheap Seats” for me, burn them to DVD and drop them off during his visit. The assortment included the episode from March with a cameo appearance by Mike and the ‘bots. For the uninitiated, “Cheap Seats” is a 30-minute show which does for old sporting events what MST3K did for bad movies. Hosts Randy and Jason Sklar add their own wise-crack voiceovers to clips of goofy pseudo-sports from the ESPN and ABC Wide World of Sports libraries. Funny stuff.

Goodbye, Jon Stewart

… and Alton Brown, and Robert Osborne. At least for the time being.

As a cost-saving measure, I have dropped back for the time being to … budget cable. Budget cable stops at channel 22 or so; it’s mostly the over-the-air channels, religious channels, both C-SPANs and WGN. I will, at least for a while, be giving up “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “Good Eats,” and everything on Turner Classic Movies.

I did this a few years ago; in fact, I had the main character in my novel do it last November. It’s kind of depressing; I was watching “The Daily Show” tonight for the last time for a while. To add insult to injury, there’s a service charge for changing your service, so I won’t really see any benefit from this until the second month of doing without.

Then again, I obviously watch too much TV, so maybe this will be good for me. Maybe I’ll be more likely to read a good book, or fire up a CD, or turn on “Car Talk” or “Whad’ya Know.”

Maybe I’ll even get back to work rewriting the novel.

A shout out to the troops

I got a nice e-mail today from an old classmate of mine who’s now serving in Iraq. He found a reference to this site on the Times-Gazette site (possibly in the bio-note that follows my opinion columns).

No matter what your opinion on how best to respond to this or that international situation, I think we’re all in agreement about the serious debt we owe our men and women in uniform for being willing to go and place themselves in harm’s way — not to mention separating themselves from their families for months at a time — for all of our sakes.

Spoke too soon

Another Google search, this time without my name, found a lot of unattributed re-postings of my piece.

I also tracked down where I originally posted it: the Random Access Humor mailing list. Note that this was a 1994 issue.

Paul’s e-mail to the Romans

Many years ago — I have no recollection exactly how many — I tried submitting a piece to The Wittenburg Door (which was then known simply as The Door) imagining what Paul’s letter to the Romans might have looked like if it had been an e-mail. The magazine did not bite, and so (if I recall correctly) I posted it somewhere, to a discussion group or what have you.

To tell you the truth, I had forgotten all about this piece. Then, out of the blue, I got a very kind e-mail this week complimenting me on it. I did a Google search and found it
here and

I am just delighted that my name is still attached to it; so many such Internet postings tend to lose their source attribution.

Kenneth Schermerhorn, R.I.P.

As regular readers know, I’m the long-time publicity chair for the annual concert in Shelbyville by The Nashville Symphony. I also host, design and maintain the web page for the concert.

That concert is usually led by an associate conductor (lately, Byung-Hyun Rhee). But the orchestra owes a great deal of its excellence and community spirit to the man who led it for the past 22 years, Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who died this morning of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The symphony is currently building a world-class concert hall in downtown Nashville. Instead of being named for the donor who made it possible, the decision had already been made to name it after the man who made it necessary. Kenneth Schermerhorn took The Nashville Symphony to Carnegie Hall several years ago, and won rave reviews. I am truly sorry he will not get to conduct the first notes at the new Schermerhorn Symphony Hall.

The memorial service and concert for Maestro Schermerhorn will be Monday — the night before the concert in Shelbyville. I am going to suggest Wednesday to Times-Gazette readers that it would also be a tribute if we could have a good turnout for Tuesday night’s concert.

The morning after

Anyway, the party was an unqualified success. This morning, I’m sore (from hauling around chairs and tables, among other things) and sunburned (I didn’t think to use any sunblock).

I worked very hard last week cleaning up my apartment — which had been pathologically messy — because, at one point, the plan was for my siblings to meet here while we were waiting for Dad to tell us that Mom had left. It didn’t work out that way, but I’m glad I cleaned up the place anyway. It has, however, been a long week, between work, revival services at my father’s church, planning for the party and what have you.

The party

Mom, surprised
This is my mother a few seconds after arriving at her surprise 65th birthday party on Saturday. Two weeks ago, we’d celebrated three family birthdays at once — one of them was Mom’s — and so we were hoping she would not suspect the large celebration we had planned for her yesterday. My brother Michael and nephew Daniel flew in from California. I picked them up at the airport Friday evening, since obviously my parents couldn’t do it. John and Peggy Hackney drove down from East Tennessee, while my cousins, Judy and Glenn Maclin, drove up from West Tennessee. In all, there were somewhere between 50 and 60 people in attendance at some point during the day.
So, did we surprise her? Pretty much. She had a vague idea that something was in the works, but nothing like what actually transpired. A friend of hers from the church my father pastors took her shopping Saturday morning, and while she was gone my brothers, sister and I helped my father set up tables, chairs and what have you in the back yard.
Sole survivors
I wasn’t trying for this exact photo — and I have some others that actually show faces — but I liked the way this turned out. This is my brother Michael pushing several of the children in attendance on the swing in my parents’ back yard.

Porridge du jour

I know bachelors are famous for sometimes having odd eating habits, but mine tonight has to be some sort of record.

At the grocery store the other day, I was in the mood for some artichokes. I hadn’t had them in ages, and I love them. Unlike a lot of the Food Network chefs, who only seem interested in the heart, I love just steaming an artichoke and eating the leaves. If you’ve never done it, it’s a lot of trouble but a lot of fun. You pull the outer leaves off, one by one, dip the base of the leaf in something (Italian dressing, melted butter, etc.) and scrape the tender part off with your teeth, leaving the tough, stringy part of the leaf behind.

After you’ve gotten most of the substantial leaves, you throw away the fragile inner leaves and scrape away the choke, and then you have the artichoke heart, which can be enjoyed with the same dip you used for the leaves.

Well, I had two of the suckers tonight, and they were wonderful. But an hour and a half later, I was hungry again.

On the same shopping trip at which I bought the artichokes, I bought a box of Malt-O-Meal. I’ve been trying to do better about eating a good breakfast so that I don’t snack so much at work, and I reached for Cream of Wheat before noticing that Malt-O-Meal offered (and boasted on its label) more cereal for the same price.

So I had some Malt-O-Meal tonight, flavored with a little bit of Nutella. Even though I didn’t go overboard, the chocolate and hazelnuts in the Nutella probably cancelled out any health benefit from the fiber in the Malt-O-Meal. But it certainly filled me up.