Hells Yes Hawaiian Chicken

Adapted from food.com.

Chicken:

Serves plenty.

  • Chicken thighs and breasts, as many as you need.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • teaspoons garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • So much ground pepper
DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine soy sauce, pineapple juice, oil, brown sugar, garlic powder, ginger, dry mustard and pepper in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Reserving 1/4-1/2 c of sauce, pour remaining sauce over chicken breasts in a shallow glass dish or ziploc bag.
  4. Cover or seal and marinate at least 2 to 3 hours, or overnight, turning occasionally.
  5. Grill over medium heat approximately 6 minutes per side, basting with reserved marinade. Grill until done.
  6. Tent with tinfoil.

Pineapple Rings:

  • I whole pineapple cut into rings
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Ghost chilis, to taste

Grill ‘em up after the chicken is tented.

Black Rice and Lima Beans:

  • Follow the directions, honestly.

The Competitive Edge

I’ve been thinking a lot about competition lately.

I’d like to share a story from my childhood: When I was very young, the town we lived in held an Easter Egg hunt at the local park. This was in the mid-Seventies, the era of “Free to Be You and Me”. The concept of childhood self-esteem was just getting started. Our mayor made a brief speech, reminding the children that there were enough eggs for everyone as long as you only kept two or three. I remember my father patting my shoulder at that.

The father standing next to me told his son, “Don’t listen to that BS. Go take everything you can.”

What a miserable thing to do. Right? For eggs, of all things. It didn’t look to me like the family couldn’t afford a few dozen eggs at the supermarket. But there’s this grown man, telling his son to push other kids out of the way and take everything he can lay his hands on.

I’m sure he thought he was teaching his boy a valuable life lesson about being a winner. About being a competitor.

That’s not competition. That’s childish and selfish.

That viewpoint is not about winning. It’s about making other people lose.

But it’s the kind of competition most of us have been brought up to believe in, isn’t it? And that impacts many of us to this day.

I think writing used to be more competitive, before the internet and Amazon’s self-publishing mechanisms. When the marketplace wasn’t immediate and your platform was heard only as loudly as your publisher could trumpet it.

And I think in a lot of ways, that kind of competition was a good thing. Having publishers act as judges may have been difficult, hurtful, and sometimes prone to abuse, but it kept your goddamn dinosaur erotica at bay.

Being older than the internet meant cranking out my adolescent short stories in privacy, in my room, and sending them to Dragon and Argosy and Asimov’s. I never got published, but I often got good pieces of advice from people who, I presumed, knew what they were talking about.

  • Don’t try to tell three stories in six pages.
  • Your characters need to need something.
  • Your mis-use of tense makes my sphincter tighten.

Well, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.

Now there’s obviously still competition like that. I’m still not in Argosy, I’m still not with Tor. But to be honest, I’m not making a lot of effort in that direction right now.

That’s partly because my focus on work for Apocalypse Ink trumps it, but also partly because there are so many more places to publish online. Paying markets, markets which are the equal of the big magazines of my youth.

I’m going to tell you another story. In Junior High school, despite my feelings about competition, three things combined to make me join track and field: I liked to run, I knew I was fast, and I noticed that girls liked guys who played sports.

I spent about six months running races before I quit.

Because I never beat anybody. Because even though I improved my personal time in every race, I wasn’t winning. So I gave up.

I’ll say it again: That’s a pretty immature view of competition.

Today, I’m writing to beat myself, not anybody else. I’m writing to refine a skill, a craft. I’m writing to learn more about the effort of writing, and in the process, I’m learning more about myself.

That’s a competition I can get behind, because honestly, I know my competition’s weak points.

How does competition sit with you? Is it something you embrace, something you look for in your craft and your work? Or is it something you avoid as a matter of course?

Surprise Surprise!

My fictional characters don’t often surprise me, but when they do, it’s quite a surprise.

FAMISHED: THE RANCH has been rolling along well. My alpha readers have been invaluable, and so far things have been not simple, but at least reasonable.

Last week, though, my primary antagonist made something clear: He’s smarter than his cousins. I knew that already, but I didn’t realize how dumb my original outline made him out to be in this section. The plot as outlined required him to overlook something fairly obvious, and this character wasn’t having any of it.

It’s a good thing for the book! The story will be better for it.

It’s a terrible thing for my rapid progress.

I don’t turn on a dime. Flexibility is a known issue for me in all aspects of my life. I don’t like that, but I have learned to accept it. When plans change, I often need a bit of time to adapt.

The problem is, I don’t have a lot of time. By week 4 of this month my available time is going to be slashed until May, which means the first draft’s got to be done before then. I can edit, revise and adjust, but I can’t be wrestling with these fundamental plot points in April.

In traditional mode, I worried about this for a week in private, then reached back to the alpha readers for advice (something else I often struggle with). They were unanimous: The new direction is correct and improves the book immensely. They removed my last possible hope of sticking to the original plotline, bless ‘em.

So I’m writing this post for three reasons: Firstly, I haven’t blogged in a while. Secondly, this is the only thing I’ve been able to think about for a week.

Finally, I’m hoping that writing about the issue publicly will result in writing through the issue when I’m next able to sit down.

How about you? When your characters present a surprise, do you seize it and run? Or like me, do you need to deliberate and figure out where the new path leads?

My Biggest Accomplishment

Many of you know that I’m interested in public speaking.

I joined the Toastmasters organization in 2014, both to improve my skills and with an eye toward their highest honors. This is a little unusual for me – I’m not much of a joiner, and I usually guard my free time pretty well. But speaking is something I enjoy, something I do well, and something I could theoretically spin into a career change at some point. Getting the initials after my name seems like a good start to that idea.

(Also unusual, in that I’m not much of a planner, but that’s neither here nor there.)

One of the last speeches you give to your club is a “Persuasive” speech, where your goal is to get your listeners to agree with your points, or take some concrete action. The only way I could measure this, I thought, was to convince people to buy a copy of my first Gentleman Ghouls novel, FAMISHED: THE FARM.

Bear in mind my club is largely composed of women slightly older than myself. I expected horror would be a hard sell, and that if I could make my case, I’d be able to judge my success. I used my earlier blog post on the value of horror as the baseline for the speech and amped up the ending with a call to action using horror as a means of self-knowledge and self-improvement.

80% of the audience bought a copy.

This would be enough of a success, but two other things happened that I want to share.

After that speech, we went into “Table Topics.” This is impromptu speaking, where the facilitator calls up members and gives them a question to answer. I’m going to my first Table Topics competition in two weeks, so I go first in the meeting.

I delivered a three-minute speech on confidence and its appearances, detailing my own journey from low self-esteem to the raging egomanic you all know and worship today. I also gave pointers on how to fake that confidence, which is in many ways the first step I took to real confidence.

After that speech, every member got up and spoke. All of them, even one who suffers most from nerves and a fear of speaking. He later said that my one-two punch about facing your fear and showing confidence inspired him to get up and speak, and some of the others backed him up.

But it gets better.

One of our newest members is a college student and personal trainer at our fitness center. My previous speech was based on my post about the benefits of books and reading. Not only did he buy a copy of my book, but he came up to tell me that speech had inspired him to get his very. First. Library card.

I personally inspired someone to go to the public library, sign up, and start reading for fun.

I’ve done some cool things in my life, and many things I’m proud of.

But knowing that my love of books and the institution of libraries got someone who hadn’t read for pleasure in years in the door?

Yeah. I might put that one on my tombstone.

The Killer Summer

Kid’s games. Child’s play. Call them what you will. But that night?

That night turned anything but fun.

We were … fifteen, sixteen? Old enough to better, young enough to bounce back. We were sprawled out on the hammock in our big back yard, a rat’s nest of rope and cables strung between metal poles that jutted out of the ground at a 45 degree angle.

There were four of us: Myself, my sister Kat, and my two dear friends – Lance and Eddie – sharing grapes plucked from my mother’s garden. The season was summer, with endless twilights that stretched into forever, and the evening was cool enough that playing outside sounded like a better idea than biking to the arcade.

The game … was Killer.

Some of you were born before me, in a time when casual talk of murder between children wasn’t considered normal. Some of you were born after me, in a time when it was cause for school lockdowns. But we knew the game of old, and we played it to win.

We drew teams. Me and Eddie, against Kat and Lance.

We drew straws, and we lost. Eddie and I would become the hunted.

Scared? We weren’t scared. We knew the score and we laughed at the danger. They couldn’t outsmart us. We’d make it fifteen minutes, dead easy; and then it would be our turn to make a kill.

The killers walked into the house, to get a Coke and give us our head start. The discussion was brief, the answer was clear – the garden. It was late enough in the year that the cornstalks were high and the grapevines were full. That’d be the place to hide.

We had some time. Five minutes. We feinted into the darkness, toward the root cellar, laying a false trail; just in case. Lance was known to cheat, pulling aside the blinds to spy upon his victims. Then we crouched, and doubled back through the night; then lay down in the garden on our bellies, smelling the rich, black earth.

We watched the back door of the house carefully. No sign. Five minutes had passed.

They’d gone out the front door, then. A legal move. A few minutes passed before we caught sight of Kat, slinking along the wall of the house toward the root cellar.

Our feint had worked. We held our breath as she moved, as quiet as death itself, then threw open the cellar doors. We laughed quietly, behind our hands. No luck, Little Nikita, no luck.

And over our laughter, I heard the sound behind us.

I turned. Lance, hovering over us, less than a body’s length away. They’d split up, and he’d jogged around the block to come through a neighbor’s yard, had made his way into our hiding spot.

“MOVE!” I yelled, and scrambled to my feet. Eddie, taller and lankier, jerked himself upright and into the lead. We sprinted into the night as Lance swiped at me with one bare hand. No tag – no kill.

Eddie was in front of me. The night had grown darker. My heart was in my throat. I turned my head. Right behind me. Just out of reach. I turned back. No Eddie. He had dived to the right, somersaulting. Why?

The metal pole of our hammock support caught me right in my sternum.

I don’t remember falling. I don’t remember anything except being on my back, staring at the stars, trying to breathe. Lance told me later it was the worst thing he had ever heard – like a backward scream, air being sucked  into my bruised lungs with a terrible, strangled cry.

We were no longer hunter and hunted. Three voices went up at once, calling for help. Calling for my parents.

I woke up in hospital. The heart is a muscle, and I’d managed to bruise three ventricles. The skin of my chest was smeared yellow and purple, the color of smashed grapes from my mothers’ garden. No running – not for days, maybe weeks. No physical exertion. Doctor’s orders. It was a month of lying still, reading comic books, eating ice cream.

Lousy night.

But a killer summer.

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