Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Hot Locker Room and Bad Backstrokes

I am still swimming. I haven't talked much about it of late, because I've plateaued at the number of laps and intensity. There was nothing new to report. Well, the new year brings new challenges. First, there is the heat in the locker room. I needn't have fretted about being cold on the rainy days before I dried off enough to dress. That locker room is so hot (most of the swimmers are elderly) that I am dry before I can walk from the shower to the lockers (maybe 20 feet). I am usually sweating before I can get my clothes off to put on my bathing suit. It's hot in there. The ladies still complain that it's cold. Wow.

The other news is the new swimmer in the pool. I had found variants in my head for all of the characters from my beloved swimming anime, Free! Eternal Summer save for one. The back stroke
swimmer, Makoto (He's the guy in the back in the swim jammers with the green trim in the photo above). Not that there isn't a back stroker. There is. I refer to him as NotMakoto. The sweet young man from that series would never swim horizontally across a crowded pool. It didn't get any better when he was glared into swimming the length of the pool. It's an open swim -- no lanes And there are elderly people bobbing all over the place in random patterns. But NotMakoto just does his own thing. He's hit one really good swimmer even though she tends to hug the wall. He's been such a challenge that they now have two lifeguards during that session. Why don't they say something to him? I don't know. The seniors seem to like to self police. I think something will be said soon.

Meanwhile, now that we've survived the colds and other unpleasantness, I'm hoping to do three sessions a week for a few weeks before I decide about moving from the open pool setting to the lande swimming later in the day. I still don't think I'm strong enough for that yet. But I have lost more weight during the holidays. I'm now at the point where I'm looking up videos to improve my form. So, things are moving along. So long as NotMakoto doesn't run into me, things will continue to go swimmingly.

Monday, November 03, 2014

I Only Swim Free*

Actually, it was a dog paddle crossed with the breast stroke. I didn't do anything resembling freestyle until the last lap. That was so slow that I'm certain the lifeguard couldn't figure out how I was staying afloat. *Nanase Haruka, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club http://free-anime.wikia.com/wiki/Haruka_Nanase.

I started aquatic therapy and swimming today at the nearby YMCA. I'd forgotten so many things about swimming that it was hard to believe that I was once good at it. I hate wrestling into a swimsuit while wet (must shower before getting into the pool). Then, after getting everything in place, I had to go to the bathroom. That reminded me of being an eight year old. I met some nice older ladies who were regulars at the therapy classes and the open pool afterward. They were really social and wicked with a pool noodle. That was a helpful device in keeping me from swallowing a lot of water in the deep end. Hey, I take help from everywhere.
I did pretty well for my fitness level and the very long spate of time from the last time I owned a pair of goggles. I'm a good kind of tired and should sleep like a stone. I also avoided eating at the Taco Bell down the street though I really, really wanted a half dozen or so crunchy tacos.

Now, I have to see how I'm feeling tomorrow. Incidentally, I did snap the goggles on my head once. That hurt. Never again.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

WonderCon, The Book of Craig and Month of Fun 2014!

WonderCon 2014


We're trying to be more proactive at Sybpress this year by getting out into trade shows beyond what we've
done previously. We had an opportunity to assist a fellow indie publisher at her table at
WonderCon, a ComicCon event in Anaheim, CA (literally across the street from Disneyland). I think this is easily the biggest comic convention I've been to. It may be larger in area than Dragoncon. It's hard to tell, because the latter is so spread out. It was huge and full of wonderfully geeky stuff everywhere the eye could see. And we had to indulge a little shopping. And there were throngs and throngs in every aisle of the convention floor. There were enough attendees to give us hope that even our very specialized niche would have enough of an audience to do well. The question was whether or not the sales could offset the amount of spending we were likely to engage in or the price of food at the venue.

The answer was yes and no. Sharon's Yaoi Revolution attracted a surprising number of people to her table with the gorgeous illustrations she had made into banners. She was selling at quite a nice clip every day. We were selling prose at a comic convention. Some of the potential buyers were outright dismissive of a book that just had words in it. That was insulting. However, Sunday was terrific. I was selling my titles in sets of four at a clip. It was awesome. I even got to sign autographs. We even sold some of the Octavia Butler collection. That dug us out of the hole a little and restored our faith in comic book fans. We learned that these are not the trade shows for us. It wasn't even much use to cover for YGG Magazine. The cosplayers were all doing comic book heroes. There was very little anime costumes seen. And there was only one actual yaoi character. So, for our purposes, we need to go to an anime convention at the very least if we're going to make any sales.

Now, don't misunderstand. We had a great time. It would be impossible for big geeks like us not to have a great time. And then there was the company. Sharon at Yaoi Revolution and her family are charming and
very funny. And then there was Marie's Sister and niece (a zany toddler) and nephews (both brighter than their ages). Funny children was a recurring theme for the weekend. They were everywhere in geeky finery with their parents in similarly themed costumes. Jon and I saw a pair of little tourists heading toward the hotel pool and literally bouncing off the corridor walls. We were very fortunate to dine with Marie's niece and younger nephew on one night and Sharon's cheeky 13 year old son on another night. My favorite conversation that weekend was the one where Marie's nephew was talking about the robot army he planned on having someday and how we would use it to take of us in our old age. That was comforting.

A grand time was had by all, and I'm sure we'll go to ComicCons in the future, We just won't be going for Sybpress or YGG business.

The Month of Fun 2014


We are about to begin the month of May, my birthday month. This means that it is also the beginning of The
Month of Fun. For those new to the blog, welcome! The Month of Fun began the year I turned 40. I celebrated my birthday for an entire month by practicing the philosophy of Agent Dale Cooper. Of Twin Peaks. Basically, every day, you should give yourself a little present – even if it's just 'a damn fine cup of coffee.' It's difficult for busy women to pamper themselves. So, that month, I make an effort to do that in the hopes that it will become a habit. Some of them have. In recent years, the MoF has been filled with foods. I make an effort to try a lot of local restaurants or high end food trucks. And I try new recipes. This year, my dear friend Sarah has sent me a gorgeous little cookbook from her Sister's Premium Olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar Business, F. Oliver's. She also sent a gift card for me to get gadgets I've long had my eye on. I have some English muffin rings and a few other things along the way. Meanwhile, my good friend, muse and editor, Yvonne, sent me all kinds of seasonings from Germany where she and her husband are stationed. I have made some amazing dry rubs with some of these packets. I can't wait to try out this new lot. There is another recipe with croissant dough I'm keen on trying – and eating. Among them are lamb and duck dishes.

Another goal of the MoF is to see good friends that I don't get to see much of the rest of the year. That usually means becoming embroiled in an adventure. The number one conjurer of adventure I know is Craig. I think it's been a year since I've seen him. This cannot go on, especially since we've decided to publish him. I really should let him know about that.

The Book of Craig


One of the most talented people Jon and I have met out here in Los Angeles is former Jersey boy, Craig. He can spin yarns in extemporaneous fashion that are insightful, profane and hilarious all at once. Like many who write at his level, he makes me often feel that I am wasting my time. And as if that weren't enough, beyond that gruff and sometimes terrifying exterior, is a very kind soul – especially to women folk. When I got this email from him this week, I decided it was high time that Jon and I do what we have long threatened to do – put together a collection of his works. The Book of Chet (long story) will feature Craig's writings and writings about Craig by various souls who he has touched.

Jon wrote this apt bio:
Craig Charles Fischer, or 'Skreech' as he is called by absolutely no one, is a librarian, hiker, aspiring hobo, and part time Frank Miller impersonator. He has spent his life being forced to endure the incomprehensible spewings of the top Hollywood Elite that insist on infesting his neighborhood. Only the love of a good woman has prevented him from unleashing a bloodbath of carnage and retribution of the type so often covered by Dateline, CNN, and Bon Appetit.

And here is a typical ditty from the man himself:

Ragnorok

by Craig Fischer

When the moon shines of blood and seas roil in contention, so is the advent of RAGNOROK!

Participants in this millenium's RAGNOROK are reminded to dress warmly and not to forget pocket change for tolls. Bring Snacks! Make sure all unaccompanied children have necessary permission slips.

Unbelievers will be stripped of their flesh by lashing winds! Serpents will arise from the earthquake riven earth to torment the weak and drive them toward the sacrificial fires. The vengeful Gods show no mercy!

Just a reminder, where the name tag included in the orientation packet. There will be a pre-mixer at the recreation center(BYOB and cheese). Come see all your friends! Also, fill out the slip included in your packet for the raffle.

Let the gates of perdition fall upon the unshriven. Their broken toothed and blood clogged cries call forth reviled denizens of the underverse! Their mewlings will be crushed beneath the juggernaut of the worm!

Anyone who hasn't received their orientation packet, please contact Judith Halcomb from the women's auxillary. Judy will have a booth near the starting line, and is still looking for volunteers to help man the booth. C'mon by and help out!

The innocent's blood will boil when mixed with the fetid afterbirth of the all consuming beast.

See you there!

Updates


Three quarters of my novel is with the editor. I'm furiously pushing through the last part. Mostly, I'm furious most of the time. It seems that I just can't get anything near what I need to finished. It's very frustrating. Many things are in the works with the writing career.

Stay tune.

Photos

City waste baskets being destroyed by the trash trucks.

Food truck dude won Chopped!!

Creme Brulee French Toast from a Gourmet Food Truck.

Huge line to get into WonderCon.

Post convention martinit at the Anahiem Hilton.

Italian Ice from a gourmet food truck.

Miniature horse helper animals?!

A Zen Martini with green tea liquer.

Drought lanscaping I find pretty.

Our bartender JJ at the Culver Hotel came up with a chocolaty way to celebrate 4/22.

Chives with blossoms from the farmers market.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Private Eye, Craig vs Nick Nolte and Evil Genies

Whilst running errands in Marina del Rey, I saw what I am certain is an honest to goodness private investigator hanging out at my bus stop. It's an odd bus route. It's extremely short running from Fisherman's Village in the Marina to the Expo Line  just past downtown Culver City. At midday when the traffic is light, the entire route is less than half an hour. Tourists don't know the route. If there is one on the line, it's usually a mistake. Thus, when I saw this guy, he struck me as wrong. It's like Jason Bourne said in The Bourne Supremacy  about dear Karl Urban's character, the grumpy Russian assassin, he was wrong. The clothes he was wearing and what he was carrying was wrong. He was dressed like an older, hip and active tourist, but tourists don't take buses there. He was not a regular commuter. We know each other well enough to keep up with each other's families on that route. At this writing, two weeks later, I haven't seen him since. And he wasn't looking at maps or books, he was looking at people. Then, he takes out this insanely expensive camera and takes photos down a street with nothing on it – as you can see – except for cars parked along an expensive condo. 

After taking snaps of the street – and me (he was aware that I was aware of him) – he leaves this backpack 
with a Macbook in it to talk to someone in a modest car in the gas station next to the stop. It had just pulled up. He came back just in time for the bus to show up. He got on the bus without asking the bus driver about where it was going as tourists do on an odd line. He got off the bus two stops later and walked toward the same car that was at the gas station. Yep. Private eye. Why not a cop? A cop would have been harder for me to spot. It took me a week to spot the narcotics cops staking out the block when we lived in a very entertaining area of Venice. My policeman father taught me to be hyper aware of my surroundings. That got honed when I was a professional neighborhood watch person working of the Center City District . My life has been weird, okay?

Evil Genies


Recent events have lead me to believe that trying to make it in the film industry in LA is like dealing with evil Genies. Only, there seems to be no way to cleverly thwart them and get them to grant you your fondest wish. No matter how carefully the deal is crafted, there will always be a high price to pay for getting a wish granted. I was recently commissioned to write a pilot and a series bible based on another person's stories. It was not Guild scale, but it was a decent down payment on a scale payment. It was not in a genre that Jon and I are comfortable with, but we always said that we could write anything. Of course, we were young when we were spouting that nonsense. I also believe that I was drinking more back then. But the matter came before us as a request for help, so we felt like it would be mean to refuse.


Six weeks later, I should be happy to have a sliver of financial breathing room and a well thought of script with a shot at being a series. On some level I am. But that has been at the cost of a book that has been delayed for two years, a great deal of tension between my Sybpress partners and I over another book's release and the completion of the latest YGG Magazine. I've had to have an MRI and steroid injections related to a knee injury involving a previous incarnation of that same project that commissioned me and since this all began, I have had trouble sleeping and frequent headaches. The details of why things shook out this way are unimportant. The fact of the matter is that there is always some cost to making a deal in this town, big or small. I now understand why some artist respond to this by gouging as much money out of a deal as they can get away with. That way, when the results are years on a therapy couch or many anger management courses, it can be said that 'at least that deal paid for my bitchin' summer home' or paid for something equally lavish. I'd say that this gets us a big step closer to Guild eligibility but I now know a lot of WGA members that really wish they had been more clever with the Genie they ran across. One may think that it's a case of them down playing their lot, so they aren't bragging. Nope. They are living the be careful what you wish for scenario. Still, that is a route that will most likely get us control of the projects we do. It's a huge step, something like this gig. It could be the first of many even if the script is ultimately rejected. There will be eyes on our names at levels we've never reached. Still, I'm shaken at the realization that the bigger the step, the higher the cost.

Craig Vs Nick Nolte


Just as Craig resigned himself that there is no getting past Ray Liotta crossing his path (he's now featured in photos in most of the local shops Craig frequents), NickNolte  has begun turning up. He says he's somewhere between movie star Nolte and mugshot Nolte. I doubt that Craig will ever get to the point wary co-existence he got to with Liotta. I believe those two realized that they were both from New Jersey. Apparently, Notle gets squirrley every time Craig makes eye contact. That makes Craig more squirrley or squirrlier. Craig's the kind of guy that has to have eye contact with strange people in his vicinity. This could be bad – entertaining but very bad.

Deb vs Japanese – Coscto Part Two


My Mitswa shopping bags cause me to get involved in a lot of unwanted conversations. Usually it's something like YOU shop THERE from random non-Japanese people I run across. Recently, it got me involved in another kind of encounter. I was in Costco (as I often am) looking at garlic when a young Japanese man approached and asked me if I spoke Japanese in Japanese. I knew that sentence but very little else. Fortunately, I knew the line 'my Japanese is very bad.' That was still better than nothing, he figured. He needed help in the cold produce room. I knew enough from the Japanese cooking videos I follow that he was looking for peppers and cucumbers. I knew they were in that room he was dragging me to, and couldn't figure how he missed them. And then I knew. The boxes were stacked high with no clue as to what was in them by looking at the actual produce (that has since been changed). And the labeling was very clever like Cukes and Bells and Shrooms. No wonder the poor man was confused. I revealed the produce and got the full on formal thank you with a bow! I remembered how to say 'your welcome.' I was jazzed enough to pick up my studies in earnest once more. I see him once in a while. He always smiles.

Book Lunch


I'll finally be putting out the next installment of the Soldier's Saga, Soldier's Destiny on April 22nd. It's an auspicious day for me. I'll be four years clear of cancer and four years from the MOAS. Seemed like a good day to jump back into book publishing thing. I tend to re-write characters I love that I thought deserved fairer shake than they got in their original forms. I realized when looking for that Bourne quote that the guys are very much modeled after Bourne in a lot of ways beyond being trained killers. I really wanted the film version of Bourne to have a happy ending or at least a permanent relationship. So, I gave them one. And the Foundation was an answer to the corruption that surrounded the organizations that created the characters. I don't like characters to have endings that I consider unfair. They can be sad or even tragic but never unfair. In this book, Rik and Vincent are confronted with Altereds so damaged that there is a kill order over their heads if they can't be retrained. They must deal with the most clever Altered they've ever faced. He is, in fact, the father of them all. His legacy continues to bring them great pain and grief while he holds a secret that could destroy them. And then, there is the little matter of Bobby's wedding to a major reporter. How can that be pulled off without a media circus or explosions. Rik and Vincent have a lot on their plates while trying hard not to lose sight of each other. For fans of Ensnared, there is another short story coming out soon and a third novel in the works. I have a publishing schedule in mind for the next 12 months. Heaven help anyone that interferes with that without giving me a hideously large check!

Stay tuned.

More Photos Below

Me and my favorite partner at the CCD.




The latest book launch.



An abomination at Costco.

You're not kneeling?


My first Castella, a Japanese sponge cake.

Expo line extension West to Santa Monica.


Lilacs are in bloom now.

Fish and chips from scratch including the bun.

Latest attempt at ramen.

At A Film Locations Convention

One view from my writing desk.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Craig vs the ALA and More Adventures in Japanese

Craig scolded me today. I had been on the fence about pulling out of a commission I'd accepted to write a script. He told me that I of all people know that life was too short to do things that aren't creatively fulfilling. And then he sang me a song he wrote about Driving Miss Daisy. It's really difficult to be morose when you're laughing your head off. This encounter reminded me of another conversation I had with Craig that illustrates that as crazy as he can be, I often find myself agreeing with him.

Craig vs the ALA


Craig called last week in a dither over an exam he has to take for a grad school class. He's becoming a librarian, don't cha know. Apparently, he hadn't done well in a mock exam and wanted my opinion on the test, his answers and what the correct ones were supposed to be.

  1. A neighborhood chapter of the KKK wants to put up a competing display for MLK Day.
Craig: There's a chapter of the Klan in my neighborhood? What's their address? I wonder if I can get a gas can before the hardware store closes. Why? Nevermind? Maybe I can get enough rotten meat for a six foot cross? Can you even light a fire with rotten meat?
Me: Yes, you have to allow the display or take them both down if it'll be too disrupting for the branch. Apparently, the ALA took my stance.

  1. One of your co-workers is in NAMBLA. He wants to hold a group meeting in the community room. Should you allow it?
Craig: How quickly can I fire him as in brun ward fire? Are you crazy? We sign a pledge to protect children at the public library I work in!
Me: That is nuts! Parents in that area would sue the pants off the city – and win. It's a neighborhood of really good attorneys. And does this co-worker shelve in children's books? Craig and I both agreed that such a meeting could be in the furtherance of committing a crime. Apparently, the ALA sees no problem with such a meeting.

  1. One of the librarians threatens a co-worker during a confidential HR meeting. Do you alert the authorities?
Craig: Hell, yes. That is a criminal act. He supposed to guarantee the safety of everyone at the branch. And if he says nothing, and something happens, the library is liable.
Me: I agreed with Craig and not just because I'm the daughter of a cop. The ALA valued employee privacy over another's safety.

Craig opted to take the hit on the questions rather than mindlessly parrot it back. He gave the TA an earful in class about the real world and the word liability both civil and criminal.

Deb vs Japanese Squid Parts and Shiatsu Edition


I have been obsessed with soup stocks for quite some time. There is nothing like soup or sauce made from real stock. Also, I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a lot of markets that sell various animal parts that are suitable for the stock pot and no less than three Farmers markets for the necessary produce. I love noodles soups in general, but have become more and more interested in real ramen soup. The stuff that is the staple for college students is far different from the stuff served in ramen houses all over Japan (and increasingly in the US). Ramen has become so hip that even Philly has what is considered to be a respectable ramen house. To learn more about the makings of a good bowl, I bought Ivan Ramen, a bio and cookbook by a New Yorker who runs one of the best ramen houses in Tokyo. Aside from having a fascinating bio, he made his soup sound so yummy that I really wanted to try to duplicate his process. Thus, I found myself in two of the larger Japanese markets in the area (we're lucky to live near three of them) trying to track down the ingredients. I clever took along the Kindle reader in case my pronunciations were as bad as they tended to be or to convince the clerks that I actually wanted dried squid testicles. They are said to add sweetness to dashi stock – a key component of the Ivan Ramen double soup. Neither store had any, but I did give a few clerks quite a chuckle asking for them. My Japanese is not improving with any speed, but I do provide enjoyment for many native speakers that I run across. Meanwhile, the stocks are coming along brilliantly.

That same week, I found myself out of sorts. Some of the reason is the same matter that Craig was scolding me over. The tension was such that I couldn't turn my head. And I wasn't writing as much as I should be and I wasn't drawing at all. Massages often help, but I decided to have a Shiatsu massage to help me relax and release pent up energy. Of course no one told me that involved stretching my limbs in all sorts of unlikely positions while the attractive and very male practitioner straddled me. I was very pleased that my limbs remained as flexible as they are, but I'm not sure if it was the massage of how silly it made me. We both ended up laughing through it. I'll have to try it again.

Updates


We're working on a number of publishing relating things. But I do have a lot of work coming out in the next couple of months.

Stay tuned.

Photos

My first real bento lunch

Winter Foliage

Winter Cactus

Steamed buns

Lucky Goddess

Green Tea Fudge

Lucky Ducks

Lucky Money

finished ravioli

finished noodles

Rolling out dough

Homemade pasta start