Sunday, September 30, 2012

Famous Books With Different Versions

     My second ebook with Musa Publishing, Kaishaku, went through extensive editing.  It went from about 10,000 words down to 7,000, and then back up to 12,000.  The entire beginning was chopped out, then partially restored, and the middle significantly buttressed.  Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about famous books that had two or more versions.  You’ll find some examples below.

                                    Books With Different Published Versions

1)      The Stand, by Stephen King:  This was the first example that I thought of, being a huge horror fan.  King’s story (first published in 1978) was an 1152 page tome, but the publisher convinced him that it would sell better if he axed about 150,000 words, or over 300 pages.  However, in 1990 he put out the long version as The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition.  Which among other changes switched the story’s setting from 1980 to 1990, and updated the pop cultural references, etc.  I’ve read both, and the longer version is better—more information and new characters in a book I love.
2)      A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess:  This one’s a little stranger.  This 1962 novella had 21 chapters.  However, the publisher convinced Burgess that Americans wouldn’t accept the ending 21st chapter, so the U.S. editions only had 20 chapters and a darker ending.  (SPOILERS AHEAD)  The 20th chapter has Alex recovered from the Ludovico Technique, and starting a new gang, continuing with his violent lifestyle.  The 21st, though, has him meeting up with old gang member Pete, and being inspired to stop his violent ways, and settle down, get married, have kids, etc.  (END SPOILERS)  The publisher thought Americans would find this happier ending to be unrealistic, and it wasn’t included in U.S. versions for over 15 years.  Interestingly, Stanley Kubrick, the director of the film version, initially didn’t know of the missing 21st chapter, and when he did, rejected it, going with the darker, 20 chapter version.  Author Burgess hated the movie, thinking that it glorified meaningless sex and violence.  Furthermore, he hated the fact that he was best known for this book, as he considered it a lesser work, one he’d knocked off in three weeks for money.  The story was based on a real tragedy in Burgess’s life, as his wife was beaten (and subsequently miscarried) by U.S. service members during World War II.
3)      Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.  This novel was first published in 1860 in serialized form.  (SPOILERS AHEAD)  In the original ending, Pip meets Estella in the streets, and learns that she’s remarried after her abusive husband died.  Pip remains single.  However, some of Dicken’s friends thought this ending was too sad, and got him to rewrite it.  In this new ending Pip meets Estella again, after the death of her husband, but she’s single, and the implication is that she and Pip might marry.  (END SPOILERS)  Most modern editions have the second, happier ending, but some include the first, sad one later in the book.  Literary critics seem to be split on which version is superior.
4)      Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein.  This 1961 science fiction classic’s situation is similar to The Stand.  Heinlein’s publisher thought that his original version was too long, and convinced him to cut out about 60,000 words, or roughly 200 pages.  After he died, his wife had the original version published (in 1991).  Most readers seem to prefer the long version.
5)      The Bible, by various authors.  I don’t think I need to include much detail on this—probably everybody knows that there’s many different versions, different languages, and about the extreme controversy which often accompanied these edits.

                     Different Plot/Endings Within One Published Book

6)      Hopscotch, by Julio Cortazar.  This 1963 book by Argentine Cortazar is definitely different, to say the least.  It can be read in a linear or non-linear fashion.  The book has 155 chapters—1-56 are designed to be read linearly, and the remaining 99 can be read in sequence, or completely out of sequence based on an included “Table of Instructions,” or however else the reader chooses, as they “hopscotch” through the story.  The writing style changes throughout—first person to third, and grammar and spelling change from chapter to chapter, too.  Some chapters are supposedly written by other authors, or purportedly from other novels, which may or may not even exist.  Haven’t read this one, but I’m certainly intrigued—if nothing else, it sounds extremely creative and atypical.
7)      Choose Your Own Adventure series, by Edward Packard, Ray Montgomery, et. al.  I used to love these as a kid.  Packard invented the concept, in which the reader is presented as being the main character, and goes through a page or two, and then is presented with two or three choices at the bottom of the page of what they want to do (i.e., “If you want to fight the monster, turn to page 74.  If you want to flee the room, turn to page 56.”).  Each choice leads to different results, then you go a page or two, make another choice, and so on, until “you” get to one of the 40 or so possible endings (many of which resulting in “your” death).  Packard hooked up with Ray Montgomery, and they started putting these out as a series in the mid 1970’s, starting with 1975’s The Cave of Time.  They’re up to over 185 books in the series, and still going strong.  This type of book invented what’s called the gamebook genre, and there have been many imitators.  Two of the best known are the Give Yourself Goosebumps series (by R. L. Stine) and the Fighting Fantasy books (by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone).
8)      Pretty Little Mistakes, by Heather McElhatton.  This is another Choose Your Own Adventure-inspired book, billed as one for adults.  This 2007 book has 150 endings—75 good and 75 bad.  Like in Packard’s series the bad endings can result in the death of “your” friends and “you.”

                 Different Version of One Story, in Various Entertainment Formats

9) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.  As Adams admits in the forward to a later edition of the book, this story is hopelessly convoluted.  It started as a radio series in 1978, and then was eventually written as a novel, and then a series of books—five by Adams in the “trilogy,” and one more authorized book by someone else after Adam’s untimely death.  Because of this the original beginning of the tale has multiple versions.  One of my favorite series, too—certainly the funniest sci-fi stories I’ve read.

Musa One Year Anniversary Blog Hop Contest Rules

     Slight change this time.  As in the previous blog hop, you can enter simply by leaving a comment.  But this time you can enter more than once—if you comment on one post you’re entered once, if you comment on two you have two chances, etc., meaning you can have up to five chances to win, total, as I plan five posts during the hop.  I’ll close the contest at 11:59 p.m., October 8th, and do a random pick then, and choose two winners.  These will be announced on October 9th or 10th.  The two winners will have a choice, too—they can have a free copy of Dead Reckoning or Kaishaku.  Thanks for participating, and please visit the other hopper’s blogs, too.  Also thanks to Musa Publishing for arranging this fun promotional opportunity.
       Additionally, Musa itself is giving away a Kindle Fire and Swag Bags.  See the Musa blog for more details.
      Link is below.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blog Hop and Guest Blog Schedule

     I'm happy to announce that I'll be participating in my second blog hop, which starts this Monday, October 1st, and runs through Sunday, October 7th.  This is a particularly special hop because it's for Musa Publishing's one year anniversary.  Just as with the previous blog hop, this means I'll be posting more often, probably at least 4-5 times during the week.  So I encourage everyone to stop by, and also visit the other Musa authors who are participating, which the last time I checked was 78 other blogs!  Like before I'll be offering  free copies of my ebooks to contest winners.  See you there!
      Additionally, I'm participating in the Halloween Spooktacular being run at Book Lovers Hideaway.  My guest post about Halloween costumes will be up on October 7th.  The address is:   There will be an ebook giveaway contest with this one, too.   

Monday, September 24, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Limburger Cheese

     There’s a good chance that the reaction upon reading the topic of today’s post may be different depending on the reader’s age.  Middle aged or older people will probably nod knowingly, and think about a joke involving bad smells, while younger readers may be left wondering what limburger cheese is.  Because limburger cheese, while still with us, is definitely dated.  People still eat it, especially those who are either German or have German ancestry, but its popularity has long since peaked.  Limburger also had a boom period in popular culture in the early 20th century, appearing in television shows (like “The Little Rascals” and “The Three Stooges”), cartoons, books, and comics, often as an easy, what-a-rank-odor gag.  Famed aviator Charles Lindberg was even teased with the nickname “Cheese” from neighborhood kids while growing up.
     This cheese originated in the 18th century, in the Duchy of (obviously) Limburg, which at present is located within Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.  It starts off as a harder, crumbly cheese, but after several months it becomes a soft, even spreadable cheese, which is the form that’s most commonly sold.  Typically it’s served as a sandwich, often on rye bread with onion.  Here in the States the hotbeds for it are in the Midwest, in Wisconsin and Ohio.  I first had it in the mid 1990’s at an outdoor barbecue.  I remember a friend of mine had brought her two-year-old son, Tyler, and his reaction to it was a minor freak-out, followed by wails of “Stinky feet!  Stinky feet!”  (Needless to say, he wouldn’t eat any of it.)
     The odor is the dominant trait of limburger cheese.  Which, when you think about it, is kind of weird.  There are many other strong/repellent smelling, but commonly eaten foods, like say, onions, or garlic, or fish, but these aren’t considered to be as extreme.  And proponents of these foods either enjoy the smell, or else usually think it’s not that bad, certainly not foul enough to offset the good flavor of the food itself.  But limburger’s kind of different—I think that even the biggest fans of it would admit that the smell is pretty horrible.
     We all laughed at the time, but it turns out that little Tyler’s words were fairly accurate.  Because the bacteria which ferments limburger is Brevibacterium linens, which is also present on human skin, and is partially responsible for body odor and especially foot odor.  A 2006 study found that malaria mosquitoes are equally attracted to the smells of both the cheese and human feet.  This study was given an Ig Nobel Prize, which is a Nobel Prize parody given out to the most unusual or trivial achievement in scientific research of the year.  Although later, as a result of this study people started using limburger cheese to bait mosquito traps in Africa, so limburger is actually saving folks from getting malaria.
     As I’ve stated before, my love of cheese—all kinds—almost has no bounds.  But limburger probably comes closest to testing this.  The rumors are true—the smell is awful, and hard to get around.  But, despite this, it’s not without its charms.  It’s not something I can enjoy by itself, but on a cracker it was okay, kind of pleasantly tangy.  Therefore, this is a rare case when something that reeks of death tastes all right.  But I’d advise eating it outside, or at least in a well-ventilated room.
     And Tyler, if you’re out there, I hope your first meeting with limburger cheese wasn’t too traumatizing, and didn’t give you hysterical lactose intolerance or anything.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Scrapple

     Many of the items I discuss in this blog column are foods or beverages that are new to me, and that I’ve tried only once or twice, in the past couple of years or so.  Today’s topic is unlike these, because I’ve been eating scrapple since I was a small child.
     Scrapple is, like the name suggests, composed largely of pork scraps.  These include the liver, heart, and head meat (cheek, jowls, tongue etc.).  The entire pig’s head is sometimes boiled down, bones and all, in fact.  This resulting meat mishmash is then mixed with cornmeal and wheat flour (sometimes buckwheat flour) and spiced, typically with thyme, sage, black pepper, and savory (this spice name is new to me, and seems rather arrogant).  When finished it resembles a block, and the preparation involves cutting off slices and frying them.  The condiments put on scrapple vary.  Some go with ketchup or mustard, and others go the sweeter route and use maple syrup, jelly, honey, or apple butter.  It’s known as a breakfast food, and can be served by itself, or mixed with eggs.
     Scrapple appears to be an American invention, and some claimants credit it as being the first pork dish invented in the U.S. (or more accurately, what would become the U.S.).  It was developed in the 17th or 18th century, in the area around Philadelphia and Chester County, Pennsylvania.  There are several European precursors, though, like white pudding (Ireland, Scotland, England), hog’s pudding (Western England), and panhas (Germany).  It’s strongly associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch, a corruption of Pennsylvania Deutsch (or Germans), also known as the Amish and Mennonites.  As such, scrapple is popular in the Mid-Atlantic States (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland), especially in a circle radiating out from Philadelphia, and largely unknown elsewhere.  In college, I was surprised to learn that my friends from central NJ and New York City had never heard of it.
     But enough about the ingredients and history, let’s get to the taste.  And that is awesome, really top notch.  I prefer it to sausage and bacon, and this is high praise, as I really like these meats, too.  The spiciness is a great mix—not hot, really, but delicious (I mocked the name “savory” before, but I can’t deny the resulting savory-influenced great taste).  I like is so much that I don’t use any condiments.  Alas, my constant traveling for my job means that I’m often away from scrapple’s home, and my lack of cooking skills (and living in hotels with little to no cooking equipment) means I don’t get to have it very much.  Essentially it’s become a holiday treat for me—around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
     I realize, after reading the ingredients, that scrapple might come across as being repugnant—most of the people I talk to about it openly express disgust at the thought.  To which I argue that most of these same folks gobble down sausage, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets, which also might inspire revulsion if you learn about what’s in them, or how they’re made.  But, I hope omnivores, especially fans of breakfast meats, will consider giving it a fair trial—I think they will come away with a favorable impression.  Although trying it will be difficult, unless you live in/near the Mid Atlantic States, or other places with a significant Amish/Mennonite population.
     It’s rarely served in restaurants, but I do want to highlight one very good exception-- Helen’s Sausage House in Smyrna, Delaware.  I had a scrapple sub there, and it proved to be excellent.  Not surprisingly, Helen’s is also very good at serving its titular meat, too, for those not given to experimentation.  I enjoy their logo, too—it’s a pig wearing a chef’s hat, sitting in front of an open fire.  In fact, it’s basically sitting on the fire, so close that its belly and genitals are surely being singed, or cooked.  Oddly, the pig apparently couldn’t feel better about this, since it’s grinning maniacally.  The restaurant does have weird hours—Monday through Friday, 4 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday, 4 a.m. to noon.  Confused?  They do serve chiefly breakfast food, and they evidently cater largely to truckers. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale

     I’ve been working in the Chattanooga, TN area for a couple of months, and down here the best specialty beer store is Beverage World, just over the border into GA.  Beverage World is a cool store, with an impressive selection.  Plus they go the single bottle solution one better, in that they have twenty kegs on the premises, so you can try one ounce samples for fifty cents, eliminating some of  the risk of buying beers you may not like.  Anyway, while there I noticed a new variant of Rogue—Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale.  It’s hard to miss.  The bottle is painted Pepto-Bismol pink, and it’s a generous twenty-five ouncer.  The price was steep ($12), but I found a friend willing to split the cost with me, and so we snapped it right up.
     Going in I naturally had misgivings.  That’s a lot of different flavors in one combination, and these flavors are clearly not common ones to put in beer.  But I couldn’t resist it—I love maple syrup, doughnuts, and bacon separately, so together they might be an excellent beer bouillabaisse, a brew orgy, if you will.  We cracked it open, and had at it.  The odor was very sweet—I’d say the doughnut/maple smells predominated, in a pleasant way.  The color was a brownish-orange—a crappy color for say, a car, but not necessarily a negative one for a beer.
     Here’s where I stop writing nice things.  It tasted like swill.  Utter garbage.  At my first sip my co-investor was momentarily concerned that I was going to puke, and he wasn’t far off.  You do taste the billed flavors, but they most assuredly do not complement each other.  It tasted like Rogue had brewed up a regular beer, then dumped day old doughnuts, inferior maple syrup, and a can of potted meat into it, stirred it around, and called it a day.  (I understand the process was surely more sophisticated, but that’s what it seemed like.)  I took a second swig to confirm the first one, and much later a third.  My taste buds fairly screamed their protest with every encounter.
     Well, “misery loves company” is an adage I certainly think is true, and that, combined with an impulse to socialize further, led me to go door to door at the hotel, offering samples to the rest of my crew (readers of a past post might recall I did the same with the snails, only in that case I was sharing a tasty treat).  A steadily growing group of people came with me as we visited my colleagues like an August version of Christmas carolers, only instead of giving out pleasant singing we provided a bizarre, repellent alcoholic beverage.  The consensus was consistent—pretty much everyone hated it.  I can only remember one positive review.  A few other folks did praise it with faint condemnation, but that’s about the best it got.  A few people were visibly (and understandably, I admit) mad at us after their trial.
     So there you have it.  Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale is an abomination, a Frankenstein’s Monster of a beer, shambling through the countryside, terrorizing the peasants, slaying the livestock—okay, this metaphor has gone off the rails, but you get my point—it’s unmitigated crap.  Please don’t, however, take this as criticism of Rogue brewery as a whole.  I’ve enjoyed many of their other varieties, such as their Dead Guy Ale, their OREgasmic Ale, and their Brutal IPA.  Plus I give them props for going out on a limb, taking a big risk.  But, sometimes when you gamble you lose, and this was one of those times.
     Finally, also don’t think this bad experience has crushed my willingness to try other exotic beers.  For example, I’ve heard of brewery which makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich-flavored beer.  There’s a good chance it’s gross, but I can’t wait to give it a try.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Underrated Horror Gems--"Fallen"

     Unlike my previous underrated horror gem posts, the subject of this one is more recent.  Fallen came out in 1998.  It was directed by Gregory Hoblit, and starred Denzel Washington, Donald Sutherland, John Goodman, and Embeth Davidtz.  A pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini and Elias Koteas had supporting roles.  Also, on a more obscure note, horror character actor Robert Joy (Land of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes remake) had an early small role.
     In Fallen Denzel is John Hobbes, a homicide detective.  A series of murders happen, which are particularly puzzling since they appear to be committed by a culprit who has already been executed.  As the story progresses, Hobbes begins to suspect that a demon may be involved, one which appears to be capable of possessing a series of people.  Sutherland plays his boss, Goodman and Gandolfini his fellow cops, and Davidtz is the expert on demonology.
     (SPOILER ALERT—DON’T READ THE FOLLOWING FOUR PARAGRAPHS UNLESS YOU WANT PLOT POINTS RUINED)  I was impressed with the acting in  this movie, especially in light of horror’s (let’s face it) often shaky acting standards.  The demon, Azazel, possesses multiple characters, one by one, and each actor does a good job of showing this transformation.  I particularly liked the scenes when Azazel jumps from person to person quickly—they were nicely frightening and effective.  Plus the idea that this was possible simply from bodily contact was very chilling, and added a new twist on the concept of possession by making it instantaneous.  Kind of like the 1982 version of The Thing—the characters weren’t sure who their friends were anymore, and this leads to a paranoia that I always find unsettling, and therefore ghoulishly entertaining.
     The story’s nasty, too—the body count is fairly high, sometimes of characters that you care about, and evil deeds are sometimes committed by (demon-possessed) children, even.  I really identified with Hobbes—he’s a decent man and talented detective, doing his part to catch criminals, and yet forces beyond his control are conspiring to take away his reputation, his freedom, and his life.
     Granted, the movie isn’t perfect.  There are a couple of significant plot holes, such as why Embeth Davidtz’s character, Gretta Milano, neglected to tell Hobbes that demons could possess animals (which would have changed the whole ending).  Either she didn’t know (unlikely considering she’s made it her life’s study) or she didn’t think it was relevant information (again, unlikely, since Hobbes clearly needed all the help he could get.)  Also, there’s the question of, if possession is so easy and quick, why doesn’t Azazel (and other demons) do it much more frequently, and rape and murder thousands, or millions, to spread misery and fear (and to have fun)?  I guess the possible answers to this are they do and every war, serial killer, etc., is demon-caused, or that they’re limited/thwarted by agents of good (maybe angels?).  But, for me, these are relatively minor quibbles, and they clearly don’t affect my enjoyment of the film.  All movies, especially when they involve unrealistic or supernatural elements, will have at least a few illogical/impossible issues.
     I also liked seeing Embeth Davidtz again, particularly in the Gretta role.  I first became aware of her in the third Evil Dead movie (Army of Darkness), where she plays Ash’s love interest (Sheila) and a demon-possessed woman (Evil Sheila, and no, she doesn’t sport a goatee like Evil Spock in the original Star Trek episode).  Kind of funny that she’s still battling demons, across the years and in different movies.  Also, staying on her, I appreciated the fact that her character was asexual, even though she’s undeniably attractive.  A lot of movies would have forced a tacked-on romance between Gretta and Hobbes, even though in this case it would have been unrealistic and detracted from the story.
     (SAFE FOR EVERYONE—NO SPOILERS)  In closing, then, if you haven’t seen it, you might want to give Fallen a look—it’s a good film in a frightening but not overly violent or gory type way.  Be forewarned, though, that there’s a very real chance that the Stones song “Time is on My Side” will get stuck in your head after viewing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Upcoming Guest Blog Schedule

     Over the next several weeks, I'll be posting on some other blogs.  On consecutive Sundays (September 9th and September 16th) I'll be appearing on the Musa blog ( with a two-part post about book titles.  This title post will also be on fellow author Sloane Taylor's personal blog ( on consecutive Mondays (September 17th and September 24th).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Canned Bread

     Over a decade ago, the conversation at work turned to food, as it often does, and a friend of mine, Bruce, mentioned eating “canned bread.”  Predictably, the listeners all expressed surprise, and assumed Bruce was making something up for a joke, as he was often wont to do.  However, he stuck to his story, and gave a little background.  He’d eaten it, he said, while working on a sailboat in the Caribbean.  They were often out to sea for long stretches, meaning fresh food was at a premium.  Canned bread was one of the culinary compromises that the crew made.
     Lo and behold, Bruce wasn’t lying.  A short while later he brought some back for us to try.  He opened up the container and gave pieces to any willing takers.  I tasted some, and was pleased.  It was good, in a sweet sort of way.  Bruce’s honesty was validated, at least about this single issue, on this one day.
     Flash forward to the present year, and I received a blast from the past while walking down the grocery aisle.  There it was again.  The label read, “New England’s Finest—B&M Brown Bread—Raisin.”  I bought a can and tried it once more, for I am just that conscientious a blogger about food items, and plus I was hungry.
     My memory was sound.  It was as good as I recalled.  It’s definitely weird though—it’s almost more of a cake than a bread.  The molasses, which I assume is necessary to keep it moist even in a can, leads to a distinctly sweeter taste than normal bread.  The label provides several serving suggestions, many of which are average sandwiches, like peanut butter and luncheon meat.  I question whether this would work out, due to the flavor of the bread and its tiny size—we’d be talking round finger sandwiches.  But, to be fair, I haven’t tried it this way—I ate it plain.  I regard it as a dessert, really.  But I definitely do recommend it, and will certainly eat it again.
     (The following paragraph is rather scatological.  So skip it if you dislike this type of humor.)  The only issue I have with canned bread is its name—B&M (for Burnham & Morrill).  In this day and age, I think if I were a marketing executive, I would suggest they change it to M&B, or Burnham and Morrill.  Also, I admit I snickered when I scanned the removal directions from the can, which read, in part, “If necessary, gently push loaf out one end with a spoon.”  I know, I know, I’m very immature.