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!

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

 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Year New Outlook and Revelations

Year End Madness


It was a delightful surprise to be told during my last appointment at Oncology Clinic that my care was to be transferred to my primary care doctor. I was no longer part of the clinic save for the annual tests. That really made me feel good going into the teeth of the holiday season. I also had some catering and film related work to cover some of our overhead thus giving us extra spending money. And then the other shoe dropped. Or actually, it was my right foot. I did something to my knee on the way from a film meeting. I was in a hurry and handled one of those 8 inch curbs Los Angeles is famous for badly. I didn't fall. In fact, I made the rest of my appointments that day without a problem. I went nowhere the next day. It was soon clear that I would be getting very little done that didn't involve hanging out on the sofa.

That was upsetting as I had dozens and dozens of cookies to bake. I still had shopping to do for everything from gifts to food. I knew that I would not make deadlines to ship my baked gifts to family and friends. Ironically, I have not been in this position since the year I was diagnosed. That was disheartening. However, everyone I ship to is aware of my occasional set backs, so I did not let that deflate my holiday cheer. After all, Jon would be off for a whole week, and there was a lot of liquor in the house (I highly recommend Kirkland Egg Nog Liqueur sold by Costco. It is both smooth and very, very potent). Where was I?

Jon and I had a very nice holiday with the people we love and got to spend a lot of time together. On Christmas Eve, Jon and I celebrated the 20th anniversary of our first date. It was quiet but very nice. I think we're better now as a couple, because we know how to really communicate. We sure laughed a lot during his vacation. Things were very silly in the house, and that was wonderful.

Update! I had to finally got to the ER for the knee as it was not healing. In fact, I kept injuring it. The verdict: no severe injury. I have to wear my brace at all times for a while. And I have to keep it elevated as much as possible. I am behaving now, honest.

Jon vs Manscaping

No, I haven't suggested that the poor man get his back waxed, as some have suggested. He doesn't need that kind of maintenance. It all begins with the fact that he his one of the most difficult people I know to buy a gift for. The only one who came close was my Dad. I gave up with him when I discovered he liked my baking. So I make some of his favorites for Christmas and other occasions. Jon tends to get anything he's interested in as the thoughts occur to him. He just isn't the wish list type, and then he's very particular about things he's inclined to want. There are always things tht he needs, but I don't want to feel like I'm being a Mommy by buying just things like socks and jammies. As always, I was wracking my brain as the holiday grew closer.

And then, Jon began complaining about dry, tight skin around his mouth. That's normal for a man of his age.
His skin has also gotten sensitive over the years. Thus, when I was shopping for who knows what late in the shopping season, I ran across a gift set of his shaving cream along with a moisturizer and a light scrub. It was the same company as the stuff he's used for years. He gave it a look like it was a Brazilian bikini wax. Then he noticed that I was glowering at him, he said he'd use it on special occasions. I decided that those times are called weekdays. I think he'll use it in the end. Jon likes to look sharp.

Perspectives


Throughout much of last year, I found I was upset that my blog was not getting out in a timely fashion. I just was unable to eek out any kind of spare time to put together a proper blog. I felt like I was failing to schedule my time properly. However, events in recent weeks have caused me to look at these lapses differently. For years prior to my diagnosis, Jon and I were leading a very structured life. We still had some creative irons in the fire, but that was nothing like when we were actively chasing a film project. During those stable days, we'd get an occasional semi-urgent phone call to pull a file and email it somewhere. It would barely be a blip in our day. Our weeks seldom varied in routine. There was actually a time of day on Sunday when I would write my blog. The blogs weren't as regular when I first began writing them.

However during much of last year and stretching into this one, Jon and I have been really pushing our creative projects aggressively on many fronts. Our free time has been a lot like it was when I began writing this blog. That has meant having to write whole film schedules and budgets in hours or combing through records for a ten year old contract or who knows what, but an answer is needed now, now, now. And when you start moving and shaking and making connections even at our level, it begets others seeking out help with their projects. The good thing to do is to help where you can. You do that solid without expecting one in return, because you will be rewarded somewhere down the line. Of course, that could mean trying to hook up a bunch of hospital baby beds for a commercial shoot in Canada with only hours notice (something I did) or finding someone who has a walrus for a shoot (I assisted on that one). I have some phone numbers that come in handy-like sometimes. Long story short, when you start trying to make things happen in film, whole days get derailed chasing leads that could amount to nothing. It leaves a gal mentally exhausted and really snarky from coping with my own weird crap and that of others' visited upon my door. I hate writing snarky blogs. I don't like writing them while exhausted either. They always lack the joy experiencing such zaniness can bring. And I do enjoy it. No one has a life like someone trying to make films happen in LA. When I do have a few moments of lucidity, I've been using them on writing assignments. I am now at peace with the blogs happening when they happen. I hope my readers will understand. I think it'll be worth the wait for it to turn up.


Next time – The surprisingly lucrative and exciting freelance job that dropped into our laps while I was trying to make Sunday pancakes.

Stay tuned.


Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston's Birthday

Jon finishing the chess sets.

Jon and Marie testing a chess set.

Me with my favorite gifts, the giant wok and my chef's coat.

New Year's Eve formal.

Our Christmas e-card.

Another favorite gift. I've had trouble putting it down.

The first haul of the year from the Farmers Market.

A Japanese twist on Southern New Year's Traditional Food.

A Japanese omelet with scrapple for New Year's Day.