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, April 23, 2017

Musings on LA, Burglary, and the Diabolical

I spent the 7th Anniversary of what Jon calls 'Deb Not Dying Day' sipping bubbly and watching Good
Eats on the Cooking Channel. That seems appropriate as the Cooking Channel and their older sibling, The Food Network loomed largely during chemo and my recovery. I'm a big fan of Deb Duchon (pictured with my bubbly). She answers many of the stranger questions I've had about where food comes from. As always, anniversaries make a person think about time passed from a significant event. In this case, it's made me think of why the move to LA most likely saved my life. This thought came at a particularly opportune moment as I have been struggling with that choice among many I've made since leaving Philly.

Life has always been a strange and wild trip for the Hubs and me since coming to Los Angeles. There were many days during the 20 plus years out here that I've seriously questioned what in the hell we're doing out here. But with all the diabolical and challenging obstacles thrown our way, there has been some magical serendipity in our professional and personal lives as well. Nothing put this in sharper focus than how I was diagnosed with a rare cancer and how I found treatment in my own backyard.

Fewer than 50 doctors worldwide know how to treat Appendix Cancer. Not many have ever heard of it, let alone know how to diagnose it. I still argue with docs that don't believe I had something so rare. Bitch, I wouldn't learn to spell Pseudomyxoma peritonei for the fun of it! Most patients die because it's mistaken or a host of other abdominal ailments or types of cancer. It's typically found during a surgery for something else. In most cases, it's too late to save the patient. My Oncologist believes I was sick for at least a year before I was diagnosed. So, in a country where treatment is available in only a handful of cities, and most doctors have never seen a case, my community clinic had a Supervising Physician who was once a resident under an Oncologist who had treated the disease years ago. She remembered the odd symptoms and physical characteristics she'd heard about from a single case and sent me to the nearest ER with a detailed diagnosis. I was days from dying. Of course, I didn't know that at the time, especially after the morphine kicked in. I didn't get why all the nurses were coming in to see me along with the minister (no priest was available) until after I got back from surgery.

The magic continued after the first surgery. They'd saved my organs from being crushed by a 13-pound tumor, but I was still full of cancer. The Community Clinic Physician continued to be a rock star. She alerted the lead Oncologist at LAC USC that there was another patient, and that solved a gigantic hurdle I had for getting any treatment at all – no health insurance. As an extremely rare case and a potentially lucrative surgical procedure to teach, I was a find. My treatment was covered in full by the Hospital. If we had remained in Philly, and if I found someone who knew what I had, the nearest treatment center was in Washington, DC and he was not in network for the most part and that's before travel, room and board are factored in. Here, I could get to the hospital by bus or train if I had to.

Life in LA can be soul crushing in how it frustrates creative people. But it is also the only place in the US where we feel normal. Everyone we know here is some kind of creative person. Anyone of is a few steps in a random direction from the brass ring. It's a place that is alive with inspiration and connections. Because of this environment, we became publishers and I became a professional author (and now cover artist). Jon has also started writing prose as well as scripts. We have a richly satisfying creative life which makes up for most of the frustrations. While I've been sidelined by cancer treatments and recovery, I've also found an amazing network of connections to writers and readers via Social Media. And I became a national expert on a very odd sub-genre of Japanese manga and anime. All of this has resulted in writing to partially support our household (something I have always wanted to do).

Thus, on this anniversary of being cancer free, I can say things are pretty good overall and gradually getting better. We're still working hard to get a film or TV project off the ground. Most of those plans are not for public consumption for a number of reasons, but they are still ongoing. And I've had the time to learn really difficult recipes and kibitz with some of my favorite TV chefs. Bourdain remains elusive, but I am patient. Also. One of his authors owns a restaurant walking distance from out place. I'll find him eventually. I've also had a lot of to tp read/ My favorite book this year is on burglary and architecture!  It's better than any caper film. Seriously! Thank you, Craig! I'm hoping to get back to world travel as soon as my knees and our bank account allows it. All in all, life is pretty good.


Meanwhile, The Month of Fun is nigh! Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lucifer, French Rent Boy and an Admiral's Sofas

Talk about a roller coaster week! I hadn't even uttered any dangerous phrases like 'Now What.' I've learned to never say or even think anything like that. It all began with me feeling fairly good about the world last Thursday. I managed to drag myself around to a couple of supermarkets, including the always daunting Costco before the arrival of a big, scary storm the I'veweatherfolk dubbed Lucifer. I don't usually take the hysterical rantings of local weather prognosticators seriously. A little rain in Los Angeles can send them into a tizzy. But the radar forecast looked like something from The Day After Tomorrow. The big red blob is the heaviest rain, and it hovered over LA from the early morning. Jon got to work relatively unscathed. We had a short power outage here lasting less than ten minutes. I thought the biggest problem we had was Jon's soaking wet work shoes. And then, he turned on his PC.

The PC and everything else on that power strip should have been fine. It is a very expensive power strip/surge protector. It had one of those insurance policies to replace damaged equipment up to $5,000. We weren't concerned until the danged thing refused to power up. After many a frantic message and a lot of Google searching, we discovered the problem was the motherboard. Fabulous. It was a refurbished machine that was cheaper to replace rather than buy the part and pay to have it installed. Either way, we would be down a computer for a week, if we were lucky. Worse was ALL of the Sybpress book files were on that hard drive, and they hadn't been backed up in who knows when. Why yes, I did give him that wifely 'I'm seconds away from taking a frying pan upside your head.' After some deep breaths and several cocktails, I decided that all may not be lost. The two books we had in the pipeline weren't under any kind of deadline, and there seemed to be nothing wrong with the hard drive. Thankfully, the current Ensnared Installment was live while the one I was working on was on my laptop (and an external and a thumb drive, because I back up stuff). There was no hurry, book wise. 

Great News/Bad Timing


One of the best aspects about the Indie Publishing community is that it tends to be generous in every sense of the word. Writers share tidbits that would be helpful to colleagues and often offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent at. One of the classiest authors in my genre, Yamila Abraham , posted that a distributor of homoerotica in French was looking for content. I hemmed and hawed about sending a query. I wondered if I had enough sales or good reviews for them to be interested. One morning after a big cup of strong coffee, I just went for it. Two days later, I had a contract! They will be publishing Vampire Rent Boy – For Love and Money! I was stunned and elated. My track record with queries has been mostly bad. The last time I had one that worked was with the original publisher of The Companion. I hardly ever get paid for stories upfront. I was over the moon. And then, I realized they needed the finished word doc of the story by March 1st along with the cover without the title. Yes, all of those files are on the hard drive in the dead PC Tower. Yikes! I was worried that the tower wouldn't get here in time or that the hard drive reader wouldn't work as advertised. It was a stressful week even while I was really happy. The PC tower arrived on Wednesday and the hard drive reader arrived today. I have all the files I need to fulfill my end of the contract. Jon is also out of the dog house. I plan on backing up those publishing files at my first opportunity. Oh, his shoes dried out by Monday, and the pool never spilled over into our living room. We were, in many, many ways, far luckier than many others in California. Lucifer was a bitch.

Writing Updates


I've started writing the third installment of Ensnared Volume 4. I have new research to distract me.
This time, it's the Lake Como region of Italy. The Lake Como research was a lot of fun. I went shopping for villas in my search for the right settings. Now, the villa rental company is stalking me across my internet travels. Mind you, I was love to rent a six-bedroom villa with a heated pool and its own dock. However, that's a little out of our budget right now. And since the world doesn't yet have military spaceships, so I had to go with the next closest thing – aircraft carriers and submarines. Admiral's quarters aren't nearly as lavish as I thought they would be. No matter. Darius is always an exception to any rule. Meanwhile, I have discovered some interesting facts that will be very useful in the narrative.

A reader of Ensnared and my blogs brought up a valid concern about changes over the course of a series. Don't worry, I'll answer in generalities. No spoilers! Would profound trauma and life altering change morph the characters readers have followed for so long into something that was unrecognizable? Please, do not fear. Aside from having a firm understanding of why these characters are appreciated and why they continue to find readers (thank you to the lovelies who keep hawking my wares), there are aspects of these characters that make them enjoyable for me to write. I have to spend many, many hours with these beings during the writing, re-writing and editing. I have to enjoy watching them at some level, or I'd never finish any of these stories.

As an example of this issue I have with depressing characters, there is a short story I wrote for the same publication that bought The Companion. It is called Product Development (this story and a roster of other awesome sci-fi can be found in this edition of Full Metal Orgasm ). That story got a lot of praise from folks who typically don't like my erotica, and I have had a lot of encouragement to make it a novel. I'd love to do it. That story was one of the best meshes of hard science fiction and erotica that I've ever done. However, Ambrose Mortimer was the most depressing and dismal soul I have ever created. I have yet to find an angle that makes me want to write the arc of a brilliant man's downward spiral into moral and ethical bankruptcy. I've got an outline, but it's been really slow going.

Ensnared just leaps out of my head. I've had a fully formed character I didn't know was there pop out on the page this week. It is a joy to spend time with those characters. And a drastic change to them would also be at odds with the plot. It is who Andreas, Darius and company are that was part of the reason the Watcher chose for them to come before him. Changing them drastically would defeat that very wise being's plans. So, worry not. The traits that make the guys and gals from Ensnared attractive to readers will endure, but that does NOT mean that the road ahead of them will be easy or that they will never suffer pain to offset the joys they share. A saga has to have some drama!

Now, I must get back to work! I will let everyone know when Tristan and company are in French. I'm am writing the next Rent Boy as well.


Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Keeping a Super kinky Couple Sexy in a Long-Running Series

I get asked about how to write sex scenes a lot between my role as an editor of Sybaritic Press and as an Admin of Yaoi a GoGo. I plan on writing a comprehensive article on the subject as it applies to Yaoi, but this question came up recently from readers of the Ensnared series. It applies to many writers I know with ongoing series.

There are advantages in writing an ongoing series. Once the universe is created, it is a familiar space filled with familiar characters. Most of the writing comes easily. This installment of Ensnared Volume 4 – Reckoning in the Desert has a lot of intrigues, danger, and revelations that readers have been waiting a long time to hear. Most of it has been so easy to write, that this part has a gigantic number of pages. However, the main disadvantage is big in a romance. It's the same disadvantage to a long term relationship – how to keep the intimacy going and how to keep the sex scenes fresh. Some writers use new kinks to keep things interesting for the reader. That's a valid route. After all, many a real-life couple incorporate new toys and other trappings in their sex lives.


But what does a writer do when the basis of her ongoing couple is as kinky as it gets? Darius and Andreas are in a full-time D/s relationship. Andreas wears a collar that cannot be removed and is tagged with his Owner's mark on his ear. Part of his daily routine is getting stretched and lubed so that he's ready anytime Darius wants to have him. Their lovemaking frequently involved heavy shackles. It's not easy to get much kinkier than they already are save for things the characters simply would never do. Darius will not switch roles nor will he actually hurt Andreas.

I always write from reality, so I turned to real life relationships for inspiration. Everyone changes according to their experiences. Darius and Andreas have gone through a lot in the time they've been together. They are not exactly the same as when they first met. Also, people tend to relax and reveal more of themselves as they grow more comfortable in a relationship. That can happen in friendships, business acquaintances, etc. There are people that will never see me without make-up on and the hair done. And there are people that I'll let see me while I have the flu. The same thing happens between lovers. Some get to see the best teddies while others get to see the comfiest sweatpants and bed head. Darius is becoming more unguarded in his personal life. In the current installment, Reckoning in the Desert, everyone in the household is seeing more of his wit and humor. This behavior is spilling out to everyone at the Dig site.

It's the new openness from Darius that changes the nature of the love scenes in the current installment. He is far more willing to drop the formality of their roles in order to be more intimate with Andreas. This change is fortunate as the pair is often pressed for time alone in this installment – even when they are at home. And when they do try to play their roles, Darius is too impatient to wait. The more relaxed vibe between them allows for them to share information that they hadn't until then. This is what is happening in this love scene which occurs the night before the departure for the Dig site.  

“I'm going to get to bed. Kleptos won't sleep until I'm tucked in,” Mykos said. “Sleep well.”
“Good night,” Darius said.
“See you in the morning,” Andreas said.
The next thing he knew, Darius was carrying him into the bedroom.
“I do know the way, you know,” Andreas sputtered.
“I'm faster,” Darius replied affably as he kicked the door shut. “Do you truly mind my carrying you?”
Andreas shook his head with a blush.
“No,” he admitted softly. “I love how I feel in your arms. It was the biggest surprise for me.”
Darius set him down.
“Surprise?” Darius asked as Andreas had him sit on the edge of the bed.
“I always drove in my few relationships,” Andreas shrugged. “And I'm used to being in charge. Somehow, feeling helpless in your arms turns me on. I'm almost always weak in the knees when you give me the look you have on your beautiful face right now.”
Darius smiled at him in the way that made him feel even weaker.
“So why do you object?”
“Who knows?” Andreas chuckled as he undressed Darius. “Maybe I think I should just to not seem too needy.”
“I don't mind,” Darius said as he watched Andreas undress. “So long as we end up like this.”
Andreas didn't make it to the hamper with the clothes. Darius caught him by the wrist and tugged him back toward the bed. Though he didn't feel the same driving need reclaim Andreas as he did the night of the first Cosi gathering, it was clear that Darius was in no mood to wait a second longer to have Andreas in bed with him.
“I sometimes can't wait to have you here pressed close, smiling like that with your eyes sparkling waiting for my kiss,” Darius murmured.
“Your kisses are amazing,” Andreas replied softly. “They make me forget where I am and who I am. I sometimes can't wait for you to gift me with them.”
Darius didn't make him wait any longer. He lowered his head to capture Andrea's lips in a sweet, intense kiss that made him sigh and wrap one leg around a powerful thigh. Andreas was getting impatient as well. He couldn't wait much longer for the push of that hard length inside of him until he was filled with throbbing heat. Darius must have sensed that impatience. Soon, Andreas had all he craved from his Cosi. Once again, he was holding on with one leg trying to keep up with powerful thrusts that robbed him of breath. And just when Andreas thought he could take no more, Darius would touch him. The next time they kissed it would be to calm down from staggering pleasure.
Andreas craved that kiss and the clean up afterward. He relished the way Darius would tend to him when he was too weak to move. The cool water Darius had him drink tasted sweeter than any other that day.
“If we make time for nothing else, we have to sleep this way,” Andreas said sleepily as he settled against his Cosi's chest.
“I won't tolerate losing this, Sweet Dami. Don't worry about that,” Darius murmured, squeezing him. “Sleep well.”

Andreas smiled. There was no way that he wouldn't sleep well.

It is my hope that readers will see something new about Darius and Andreas each time they make love in this installment. This is how I will continue to keep their relationship fresh and exciting for readers moving forward.

Sneak Peek


In the final installment of Ensnared Volume Four, readers will finally visit the Cosi Compound. This place is based on one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen – Lake Como, Italy. Take a look at the gorgeous scenery and the place I'm using as the basis for the home Darius has there. Bonus points to those who guess the nerdy origins of my obsessions with this gorgeous locale! 
That's all for now. Stay Tuned!!












Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A Tale of Two Bento

Bento Both Plain and Fancy

Back in 2010 after my Cancer surgery, nutrition was on my mind. I wasn't eating well, so whatever I managed to eat had to be very nutritious. My husband's health weighed on my mind as well. It was during that time that I discovered the cooking shows on NHK (Japanese TV) and Japanese chefs online. Lunches that were both nutritious and attractive with lots of variety are very important in Japan. These were also the kinds of meals I thought we both needed to stay healthy. However, I ran into a problem. My husband is a man who likes plain food. To him, Bento meant food shaped like anime characters and vegetables in all kinds of exotic shapes. I was pretty sure he wouldn't be excited about colorful character rice balls staring up at him from his Bento box with big grins on their rice faces.

Like any good wife, I came up with a compromise I've been very creative sneaking vegetables into his meals throughout our marriage. A surprising amount of sauteed vegetables can be added to hamburg steak, pasta sauce, and meatloaf without anyone being the wiser. For Jon's Bento, I use leftovers from dinner arranged as simply as possible in a plain container. Meanwhile, I've been exploring all kinds of different Bento. So our refrigerator shelves have two kinds.

So, Jon has roast chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots.



















While I have Soboro Donburi with salted cucumbers and tomatoes.
And while Jon has Hamburg Steak, sliced potatoes, and steamed broccoli,
I hid my Hamburg Steak and broccoli under rice lightly seasoned with soy sauce and shaped like my favorite poodle from a popular skating anime. 

Our lunches are healthy, and we save money during the week while maintaining harmony! 
I'm still working on getting him to eat more oatmeal, but I'm happy for small victories.
Stay tuned!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mini Writer's Blog

Today is my day for cooking lunch and dinner components for the week. While I'm waiting for some
chicken to reach room temperature, I thought I'd write a mini-blog. This one is primarily about my writing process (geez, that sounds pretentious). Actually, it's about what I'm working on now, how I keep all of the series that I'm writing advancing at the same time, and how I came to develop a whole new pair of characters this past week.

I began juggling back in Grad School. When I got sick of the thesis novel I was working on, I'd write something that I considered more fun. On such fun thing was a script for Star Trek: Next Generation. That landed me my first agent in Los Angeles agent. This proves that I rarely write anything just for fun. This habit was validated some time later by our second landlord in LA, TV Writer Stanley Ralph Ross https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Ralph_Ross. He said that when he was stuck, he'd write anything that wasn't a script. It could be as small as a post on a screenwriting Bulletin Board (those things that evolved into internet forums) or a fan letter to someone he admired. Stan always said that everyone is a fan of something and someone. The thing was to get the active brain working on something else so that the problem can sort itself in the background. That totally justified all the fanfic I was writing in between the scripts we were pitching at the time. Frivolous? No! The fanfic landed me in a feature documentary (Trekkies) and directly lead to our first film being funded (that is a long, bizarre, and often unbelievable story that is totally true).

These days, I have so many story lines in the works, it is a simple matter to switch-off to the one that is giving me less trouble. That's how they all move forward in some fashion. While Ensnared v4 is prominent with Vampire Rent Boy a close second, I am also working on two kinds of works for the Soldiers Saga (the 4th novel and a webcomic). Beyond that, there is a relatively brief return to my het fantasy to finish that trilogy (after a re-write of the first two books). I can't leave that story unfinished. There are fans waiting.

I can hear some of you. HET?! WTH?! But what will be the next yaoi novel and potential series? I Vampire Rent Boy) or in response to a gripe I have with certain tropes in Yaoi. The Soldiers books were, in part, a response to strictly assigned roles in a relationship (seme/uke or Top/bottom). I wanted to reflect the reality I've seen in the gay couples I know. In Ensnared it was a direct response to an iconic Yaoi series where the Seme was, in my opinion, a big asshole. I wanted to show that there can be a hot, sexy Seme with all the power in the universe who knows how to seduce absolute surrender – not abuse the uke into 'falling in love.'
had no clue until a few days ago. My Yaoi titles either being as a lark (

While I have no real gripe I'm addressing in the next novel down the road, I realized there was a setting I had yet to visit in Yaoi while I was chatting with one of my readers this week. I do that sometimes. I've never had a Yaoi title set in a fantasy realm. I love swords and adore dragons. My Het series is set in such a realm while my Yaoi tends to be present day or distant future. Shortly after that chat, my pair sprung up. They are second sons, princes from two powerful Kingdoms. Within a few hours, I knew who they are, the families they are from and why the end up together. The story has the potential for a lot of fun (sexy fun), intrigue and drama. It will most likely occupy my time when I get stuck on these other works. I hope to have a teaser for it in the next couple of months! Many thanks to that lovely reader!!

Meanwhile, Jon is working on the ebook layout for the next Ensnared installment. I am sweating the detail on Mykos' and Hector's faces. This installment is enormous!! The next one may be as well.


Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beer and Loathing, Elbow Issues, and a Naughty Genie

Last week had many awesome moments to contribute to the Summer of Fun. There was also a lot going on that is in keeping with the more annoying aspects of working in creative pursuits. We'll look at the fun first!

Beer and Loathing in Downtown


Anime Expo is a gigantic convention in Los Angeles that draws all kinds of Industry professionals. I
am very fortunate to have a couple of said professionals that I can count amongst my friends. One of them was involved in a gathering away from the convention to share all kinds of beers. You bring what you like and everyone gets to try beers that they wouldn't normally get to drink. As you can see, there was a lot of beer to be tried. The most interesting beer was brewed with peppercorns. I could see having that with a steak. The conversations were interesting. Everyone has fascinating war stories about their various jobs in the world of anime and manga. We even got to do some valuable networking. It was a really nice break from a generally annoying weekend. Incidentally, I went home with the Not for Sale Ale. Delightful!

Of course, there was a weird aspect to this outing. It was held at an art gallery in the middle of the Fabric District in Downtown LA. In fact, it was next to one of our favorite places to get interesting fabrics. The space is called Think Tank Gallery.  It's a huge space outfitted for all kinds of exhibits. Then, in the back is a place that looks like a diner. See video for the diner https://vimeo.com/141235923 . I was instantly in love with their six burner turbo engine stove. But the lovely gallery wasn't the weird part. First, that bustling street is frightening after dark. It's like something out of The Purge. While we were waiting for our ride to return (we were sitting at the window above the fabric store's sign), we watched a couple dropping off one car in a garage across the street(see the photo in the lower left corner of the above image), drive off in another, then return running from the direction they drove off. Next, there was a couple that was coming from Anime Expo (they had swag bags). They brought the bags and a lot of merchandise with them to a room off the main gallery. Then, they began taking a lot of stuff down to the car, including pillows and other bedding, a lot of boots and then the same swag bags and merchandise from the convention. Then, there was the man carrying a laughing hot blond woman whose legs were wrapped around his waist from one side room off the gallery to another. After five minutes, he carried her down the stairs to the car with the shoes and the bedding. And I will never know what the large box of dirty rubber duckies in the restroom was about. I was afraid to take a photo. It was a really creepy box. No, I hadn't had too much beer. Jon had root beer, and he saw everything I saw. Very strange but a fun time. There are more photos at the end of the blog

We were really lucky to have a close buddy that works as an Uber driver. I've known Cory since my first job in college at B. Dalton Bookseller in Center City. He came out to LA for the same reasons I did, writing, art and filmmaking. It was so wonderful to have someone take us to that desolate part of downtown who we knew would come back for us when we called. I would have missed a fabulous evening without him.

I've covered the beer. Now, the loathing. The great opportunity for a panel was not to be. Adding us to the lineup was way too short on notice to the convention. Badges couldn't be secured without great expense and the inconvenience of standing for hours in the hellish heat and sun. That wasn't happening no matter how much I wanted to do the panels and meet a mangaka whose work I admire. I'm not physically up to such tasks. Moreover, I'd lost two days work on my book cover doing a visual program for the panels. I couldn't lose any more time. These books pay a good part of our bills. I'm way behind my publishing schedule as it is. So, we missed the chance this year. But since the beer event I've discovered that I'm at the point to apply for panels on my own and get them. We have some projects coming up that will give us a lot of visuals to present next year. The lesson was a hard one, but we came out of it with more opportunities.

And we did get me meet up with one of our Cosplay Bishies! Phil Mizuno and a delightful manga
artist had a beer nearby before the neighborhood was shut down for the 4th of July Fireworks. It was short but very nice. He is really adorable and sweet in person. I wish I was less of a mess, but I'm really glad he came by.

Summer of Fun Cooking


I'm not finished with my canning projects. I really had to stop everything else while I worked on that cover. I'll finish the jams and the peppers later this week. The peppers are a mix of jalapenos and banana peppers along with some garlic. I'm mimicking the pickled peppers that would go on a hoagie  back in Philly. I also put them in collards sometimes. My tastes are more and more like my father's every year. I have become obsessed with the idea of smoking food in the oven. It can be done without any equipment aside for the wood chips and a disposable aluminum pan. It's also possible to do more than one kind of food at the same time. I often want some smoked salmon or brisket or ribs. I can freeze the meats and smoked fish keeps a while in the fridge. I may even be persuaded to share the smoked goodies! I plan on giving oven smoking a try this week.

Creative Doings


This week, I have the privilege of launching Jon's new book, Life on the Periphery. It is a collection
that is so diverse that we had a hard time describing it in a short paragraph. He has put his extremely twisted imagination to work in conjuring stories that are brutal, and delicate and hilarious and horrific in turns. And no matter the fantastic environment, there are always very real and relatable characters to follow. It is, in short, astonishingly good. Buy it! Here is the synopsis.

This astonishing collection of delightfully disparate short stories answers many of the universe's most difficult questions. Like what was life like for a city guard during the Hyborean Age battling the greatest Barbarian of all time? What does a boy find when he wanders into the woods…and beyond the realm of human senses? How does a Midwest farm girl become a pawn in an intergalactic power struggle? How does one negotiate with aliens who have an extremely invasive means of communication? What happens when a Wehrmacht soldier volunteers for a bold and dangerous experiment? Why would the defender of the universe take time off to visit a small town in Ohio? What are the unintended consequences of wish granting genies? What happens to an office worker who has a ringside seat to the end of the world? Can two immortal brothers who pursue very different paths find common ground? Life on the Periphery takes the reader on a journey that is joyful, hilarious and terrifying in turns while searching for many kinds of truths.


Playing With Dolls


I had been drawing my covers from paper cut outs that I would rearrange the way I needed them. The results were okay, but they were always a bit off in my eyes. This time, I used a free, 3D program called DAZ 3D to craft basic body types that matched my characters and then pose them. This was better because of the body proportions were accurate down to the fingers. Of course, there was a learning curve dealing with a new software. I say that calmly, but there was a lot of cursing at problems in getting an elbow to bed in a normal human direction. And I may have damned the inventor of the program to some unending torture at certain points in time. Who remembers such things? In the end, I was happy with what is my most complex pose to date that is successful. I must go to the next cover immediately. For this one, I am trying something different from what I've done in the past though it is from a popular style of romance cover. This installment of Ensnared going to show Andreas at his most seductive power. The cover must reflect that and Darius' increasingly possessive response. I really hope those elbows cooperate.

Next time – Do Craig and I finally have lunch? Will I throw the laptop into the pool over uncooperative elbows? Will I finally pickle those peppers?

Stay Tuned!








Beer and Loathing, Elbow Issues, and a Naughty Genie

Last week had many awesome moments to contribute to the Summer of Fun. There was also a lot going on that is in keeping with the more annoying aspects of working in creative pursuits. We'll look at the fun first!

Beer and Loathing in Downtown


Anime Expo is a gigantic convention in Los Angeles that draws all kinds of Industry professionals. I
am very fortunate to have a couple of said professionals that I can count amongst my friends. One of them was involved in a gathering away from the convention to share all kinds of beers. You bring what you like and everyone gets to try beers that they wouldn't normally get to drink. As you can see, there was a lot of beer to be tried. The most interesting beer was brewed with peppercorns. I could see having that with a steak. The conversations were interesting. Everyone has fascinating war stories about their various jobs in the world of anime and manga. We even got to do some valuable networking. It was a really nice break from a generally annoying weekend. Incidentally, I went home with the Not for Sale Ale. Delightful!

Of course, there was a weird aspect to this outing. It was held at an art gallery in the middle of the Fabric District in Downtown LA. In fact, it was next to one of our favorite places to get interesting fabrics. The space is called Think Tank Gallery.  It's a huge space outfitted for all kinds of exhibits. Then, in the back is a place that looks like a diner. See video for the diner https://vimeo.com/141235923 . I was instantly in love with their six burner turbo engine stove. But the lovely gallery wasn't the weird part. First, that bustling street is frightening after dark. It's like something out of The Purge. While we were waiting for our ride to return (we were sitting at the window above the fabric store's sign), we watched a couple dropping off one car in a garage across the street(see the photo in the lower left corner of the above image), drive off in another, then return running from the direction they drove off. Next, there was a couple that was coming from Anime Expo (they had swag bags). They brought the bags and a lot of merchandise with them to a room off the main gallery. Then, they began taking a lot of stuff down to the car, including pillows and other bedding, a lot of boots and then the same swag bags and merchandise from the convention. Then, there was the man carrying a laughing hot blond woman whose legs were wrapped around his waist from one side room off the gallery to another. After five minutes, he carried her down the stairs to the car with the shoes and the bedding. And I will never know what the large box of dirty rubber duckies in the restroom was about. I was afraid to take a photo. It was a really creepy box. No, I hadn't had too much beer. Jon had root beer, and he saw everything I saw. Very strange but a fun time. There are more photos at the end of the blog

We were really lucky to have a close buddy that works as an Uber driver. I've known Cory since my first job in college at B. Dalton Bookseller in Center City. He came out to LA for the same reasons I did, writing, art and filmmaking. It was so wonderful to have someone take us to that desolate part of downtown who we knew would come back for us when we called. I would have missed a fabulous evening without him.

I've covered the beer. Now, the loathing. The great opportunity for a panel was not to be. Adding us to the lineup was way too short on notice to the convention. Badges couldn't be secured without great expense and the inconvenience of standing for hours in the hellish heat and sun. That wasn't happening no matter how much I wanted to do the panels and meet a mangaka whose work I admire. I'm not physically up to such tasks. Moreover, I'd lost two days work on my book cover doing a visual program for the panels. I couldn't lose any more time. These books pay a good part of our bills. I'm way behind my publishing schedule as it is. So, we missed the chance this year. But since the beer event I've discovered that I'm at the point to apply for panels on my own and get them. We have some projects coming up that will give us a lot of visuals to present next year. The lesson was a hard one, but we came out of it with more opportunities.

And we did get me meet up with one of our Cosplay Bishies! Phil Mizuno and a delightful manga
artist had a beer nearby before the neighborhood was shut down for the 4th of July Fireworks. It was short but very nice. He is really adorable and sweet in person. I wish I was less of a mess, but I'm really glad he came by.

Summer of Fun Cooking


I'm not finished with my canning projects. I really had to stop everything else while I worked on that cover. I'll finish the jams and the peppers later this week. The peppers are a mix of jalapenos and banana peppers along with some garlic. I'm mimicking the pickled peppers that would go on a hoagie  back in Philly. I also put them in collards sometimes. My tastes are more and more like my father's every year. I have become obsessed with the idea of smoking food in the oven. It can be done without any equipment aside for the wood chips and a disposable aluminum pan. It's also possible to do more than one kind of food at the same time. I often want some smoked salmon or brisket or ribs. I can freeze the meats and smoked fish keeps a while in the fridge. I may even be persuaded to share the smoked goodies! I plan on giving oven smoking a try this week.

Creative Doings


This week, I have the privilege of launching Jon's new book, Life on the Periphery. It is a collection
that is so diverse that we had a hard time describing it in a short paragraph. He has put his extremely twisted imagination to work in conjuring stories that are brutal, and delicate and hilarious and horrific in turns. And no matter the fantastic environment, there are always very real and relatable characters to follow. It is, in short, astonishingly good. Buy it! Here is the synopsis.

This astonishing collection of delightfully disparate short stories answers many of the universe's most difficult questions. Like what was life like for a city guard during the Hyborean Age battling the greatest Barbarian of all time? What does a boy find when he wanders into the woods…and beyond the realm of human senses? How does a Midwest farm girl become a pawn in an intergalactic power struggle? How does one negotiate with aliens who have an extremely invasive means of communication? What happens when a Wehrmacht soldier volunteers for a bold and dangerous experiment? Why would the defender of the universe take time off to visit a small town in Ohio? What are the unintended consequences of wish granting genies? What happens to an office worker who has a ringside seat to the end of the world? Can two immortal brothers who pursue very different paths find common ground? Life on the Periphery takes the reader on a journey that is joyful, hilarious and terrifying in turns while searching for many kinds of truths.


Playing With Dolls


I had been drawing my covers from paper cut outs that I would rearrange the way I needed them. The results were okay, but they were always a bit off in my eyes. This time, I used a free, 3D program called DAZ 3D to craft basic body types that matched my characters and then pose them. This was better because of the body proportions were accurate down to the fingers. Of course, there was a learning curve dealing with a new software. I say that calmly, but there was a lot of cursing at problems in getting an elbow to bed in a normal human direction. And I may have damned the inventor of the program to some unending torture at certain points in time. Who remembers such things? In the end, I was happy with what is my most complex pose to date that is successful. I must go to the next cover immediately. For this one, I am trying something different from what I've done in the past though it is from a popular style of romance cover. This installment of Ensnared going to show Andreas at his most seductive power. The cover must reflect that and Darius' increasingly possessive response. I really hope those elbows cooperate.

Next time – Do Craig and I finally have lunch? Will I throw the laptop into the pool over uncooperative elbows? Will I finally pickle those peppers?

Stay Tuned!








Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jam Disasters, Book Updates and the Summer of Fun Heats Up

This week, I planned on finishing my cover and making headway on the next installment of Ensnared. However, I found myself suddenly prepping to interview a mangaka whose work I once edited on a panel at Anime Expo and prepping to speak at a different panel on Fan Service aimed at Yaoi fans on another panel. Okay, I can adjust on the fly. This is a great opportunity. I hadn't expected to speak at this convention for a long time. I was excited. And then, I get another cool request. I was asked to do a video introduction for Ori Cosplay International, a group at a convention in Belgrade, Serbia. That was great, but I had to do my hair and find my make up and put on said make up. I am so out of practice with makeup that it seemed to take forever. This video was only 17 second, mind you. Of course, Jon did some directing. It wasn't much. Here is a screenshot from the video. I sent everything where it needed to go by a little after mid-day on Monday. Now, I need to get back to the other pile of work.

Jammin' Out of Tune


Keep in mind that I have quite a bit of experience in canning in general and making jam in particular. This year, I have a fancy new pressure cooker with a canning function. I thought I was going to really get down with some jam making. There were a few flaws in that assumption. First, fruit seems to ripen into rot within hours of purchase when one plans on canning. I bought three pounds of apricots on Friday. They were firm to the touch. There wasn't a bruise on any one of them. By Saturday evening, half of them were rotten. That doesn't make much of a yield. I had to cook them down asap and buy more later. When I finally got to try my new equipment, the entire batch was ruined. I think I was too timid in tightening the rings on the lids. It is said being too tight can be explosive. I erred in the other direction. Most of the jam was forced out under pressure. The only thing that saved any of it was I couldn't fit all of the jars in the pressure cooker. I had one jar that hadn't been sealed under pressure. It sealed from the jar cooling on its own.  That would keep in the fridge for a good long while. And I had leftover jam that I put in a Rubbermaid container. But a whole lot of work had been for nothing. Luckily, the summer is just beginning. There is still plenty of time to try again. I plan on doing that later this week. Note – The refrigerator jam is delicious. Of course, I had to make some brioche bread (it's really easy. I use a no knead recipe from this awesome book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day). The recipe makes four loaves in a batch. The dough can be frozen. It also makes epic donuts!

New Multi-Author Blog!


We're re-activating the Sybaritic Press Blog next week. We realized that we have some very interesting authors with new print books coming out soon. We think readers would like to hear about how they work and what they are working on. I will introduce each blog and contribute something about the editing and marketing of the books. We are really excited to join an author program with Amazon that will link our new titles with bestsellers in the same category. We're hopeful that will mean a surge in sales for past volumes and titles in our catalog. I'll make sure the link is in the next blog!

Learning New Tricks


Jon was working on a drawing for the cover of his new book. That work prompted him to try one of those 3D modeling programs to get his proportions right on the figures. Since it was free, I decided to try it as well. Proportion and perspective have been an issue for me in the last covers. Oy, the cursing. Did I mention that free software tends to have a steep leaning curve? I managed to get the poses I needed after two solid hours to get and elbow to bend in toward the chest. Hopefully, my new neighbors didn't hear that language. I usually don't like to let them know that side of my vocabulary until football season. I also got some help from two lovely artists who are far better versed in these programs than I. Saya Unique and Candy were really essential in helping me get past some problems with this cover. I will reward them both. Readers should see a real improvement in my skills with this print cover and the next ebook. It's even made me faster in the actual drawing part. The posing part was a nightmare, but the drawing is much easier. I'm also going to take an online course on web page development. It isn't anything like coding. This course teaches artists how to customize website templates to suit needs. Jon and I want to revamp our web pages, so that I can host my webcomic there and take advantage of the amazing traffic I have on my Facebook pages. We're hoping to create a viable way to monetize the page and provide an advertising platform for Sybpress and other Indie presses.


Zorthrast The Invincible Gets a Haircut


No, I haven't blown a gasket. That is a title from one of the short stories in Jon's first fiction Life on the Periphery. It is an astonishingly good work. I say that with great pride and equal annoyance. The stories are a combination of Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror and comedy at times. They do not fit easily in a genre niche. Thus, I believe (as a publisher) they will have a broad appeal. We've already gotten some very exciting people to have a look at it! The cover art is to your right. Here is the synopsis:
collection,

This astonishing collection of delightfully disparate short stories answers many of the universe's most difficult questions. Like what was life like for a city guard during the Hyborean Age battling the greatest Barbarian of all time? What does a boy find when he wanders into the woods…and beyond the realm of human senses? How does a Midwest farm girl become a pawn in an intergalactic power struggle? How does one negotiate with aliens who have an extremely invasive means of communication? What happens when a Wehrmacht soldier volunteers for a bold and dangerous experiment? Why would the defender of the universe take time off to visit a small town in Ohio? What are the unintended consequences of wish granting genies? What happens to an office worker who has a ringside seat to the end of the world? Can two immortal brothers who pursue very different paths find common ground? Life on the Periphery takes the reader on a journey that is joyful, hilarious and terrifying in turns while searching for many kinds of truths.

Look for the announcement next week!



Book Updates – Warning! There Be Erotica Ahead


One of my stalwart proofreaders had a brilliant idea for the Ensnared books that I was already working on for the Soldiers Books – I'm going to write a guide to the universe in which they are set as well as the characters and their relationships. I'm likely to do a cookbook for Ensnared as I am for the Soldiers books. For now, I'm going to do a basic guide that I will illustrate at some point. The basic guide will be added to all the print and ebooks as soon as it's finished. It will help me a lot to have one. Right now, I keep track of everything on post-it notes. That's not very efficient.

I'm glad to finally get to the desert and what's been waiting for my characters for so long. I've had this encounter in my head from the beginning of the first volume. Some aspects of the scene changed as the characters veered from how I originally planned on them developing. I believe all the changes are for the better as they happened organically with the way the characters grew. There is magic in the way these creations grew in a different though completely logical way from what I planned. I used to wonder where these developments sprang from and how I couldn't see them from the start. Sometimes, this happens because I'm focused on the moment at hand and don't see that the character's arc had changed trajectory. Sometimes, a clever reader will point out what should be obvious. I am most fortunate to be in contact with some very clever readers. These changes don't change the outcome of the long anticipated scene, but the dynamic is quite different. This shift will impact the fallout of that encounter in ways that shift relationships for some time to come. I am very excited about writing it though it is turning out to be really emotional for me. I always get that when when my guys are going through a traumatic event.

Summer of Fun Update


The 4th of July is on a Monday this year. Jon gets a three day weekend! Along with the panels at Anime Expo, we get to meet Phil Mizuno, one of our gorgeous calendar guys who is also an absolute sweetie. And hopefully, we'll get to hang out with some terrific writers and artists while I enjoy craft beers. We have to bring in beers we like to share. I got hooked on Red Irish Ales during my last trip to Paris (I do things like that). These are really neat people that I usually interact with only on Facebook. It's an exciting addition for the Summer of Fun.

Stay tuned!