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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, May 14, 2017

Adventures with Miss Patty

Adventures with Miss Patty

By
DL Warner


Part One – Dancing with the German

Mother was divorced in 1983, but that was only part of the reason why she and I were chasing after a
75-year-old woman down the length of Amtrak’s Crescent City train to New Orleans in 1985. That situation largely stemmed from two room service hamburgers ordered at the Macon, Georgia Hilton in 1979 and the funeral of my beloved Great-Grandpop, Jim.
My Brother had ordered one of the hamburgers. I believe that the incredible possibility of never setting foot inside a Stuckey’s roadside store ever again while en route to visit our southern kin made him a little crazy in the head. I can't say that I blamed him. We actually flew to Macon instead of taking the interminable drive jammed in a very used car with temperamental air conditioning. Those had always been awkward and largely silent sojourns for a group of people who were always vaguely uncomfortable in each others' presence. While I had been elated that the trip wouldn't take more than a few days instead of more than a week, I couldn't help being uneasy about rushing to a funeral.
Father rented a car that was cavernous and enthusiastically air-conditioned when we arrived at what was considered an airport in Macon, Georgia. It was the first car he had ever rented. Mother, known to my friends as Miss Patty, was more than frayed around the edges when we landed in Macon. That was her first plane trip. Had she her druthers, I doubt that there would have been a first. She was terrified of flying. Only honoring someone as terrific as Grandpop Jim could have gotten her on a plane. Luckily, smoking was still allowed in parts of the plane. I had been the designated child to sit with her. It's still unclear to me how smoking is relaxing. The smoke I inhaled from the full pack she consumed didn't do me any good. Nor did she ever relax the vise-like grip on my arm from take off to landing. By the time we disembarked from the tiny prop job that took us from Atlanta to Macon, our nerves were completely frazzled. I think if we had to wait for the local kin to finish debating who was the least busy and pick us up, Mother or I would have been screaming to the rafters in the tiny airport. Besides, my Father had been used to having autonomy of movement while visiting Georgia and preferred it that way. That seemed especially true on this trip.
My mother, brother and I became convinced that more was afoot than a funeral when we headed for downtown Macon instead of out to the edge of town and Grandpop's house. We checked into a Hilton Hotel instead of dividing up mattresses and box springs across the floor of the humid familial homestead like a UFO cult or mobsters hunkered down for a long street war. These unprecedented extravagances caused my Brother to extrapolate wildly on Father’s new found joie de vivre. The result was the aforementioned room service hamburger. I did not believe for one second that we were authorized to sign for meals on the room, but the evidence was hard to ignore. We were in air conditioning in Georgia that was not inside a Handy Andy convenience store near Grandpop's house. I admit to being overwhelmed by the possibilities as well. I, too, ordered a hamburger from room service.
The burgers were good, but I'd had better at diners for a third of the price. We ate everything except for the curly parsley garnish. The trays were banished to the small table in the corner of the room. When our parents returned from the family summit with Grandpop's preacher, I was studying for mid-terms and my Brother was making fun of the local news anchors. The lovely scent of grilled beef and onions still hung in the air. My mother looked really sad. I expected that. She really loved Grandpop Jim. In a family full of hostile factions, especially toward in-laws, he had been squarely in her camp.
My Brother and I adored him because he was still spry enough to walk us to the Handy Andy for comic books and Popsicles. Grandpop Jim had also introduced boxed cereal to breakfast in Macon, giving us a reprieve from the giant, meat feasts they still made in the mornings well after the long hard days on the farm had ended. And he used to slap his knee when he laughed. He laughed a lot.
Father looked angry and tense entering the hotel room. His jaw was tight which meant he was really upset. My Brother and I got tense, thinking there would be a room service related explosion. Instead, he went to make some phone calls.
Mother looked at the room service trays and then at Father making expensive phone calls from a hotel phone rather owlishly. She picked up a cold, gummy piece of a French fry from the tray and ate it.
“I've never had room service,” she said quietly before picking up a small pile of clothes and heading into the bathroom to change.
I think I was the only one who had heard her. Father hung up the phone with a loud bang a little while later. Then, he took us to the Pig n' Whistle for pulled pork barbecue sandwiches. The ill-gotten hamburgers were forgotten in favor of slow-cooked, spicy sweet meat on the fluffiest of buns.
My strongest memory of the funeral itself was an irreverent one that Grandpop Jim would have enjoyed immensely. We were in an extremely hot, stuffy country church during a service long enough to make a High Mass seem as short as a movie trailer. I was fanning myself with the funeral program. My Brother was reading it.
“What's a Funreal?” He asked.
I looked at my program. Sure enough, funeral was spelled wrong.
“I don't know what a fun-real is, but I know it isn't here,” I retorted.
My mother stifled a chuckle which caused my Brother to lose his composure entirely. He slid down to the floor shuddering with silent laughter.
Months later, Mother's lament about room service still bothered me. I was a sophomore in college who'd never given a thought about how my parents spent their vacations. My father had taken up deep sea fishing at some point while we were still in grade school. Mother got two weeks off a year from her job at a hospital lab. I'm sure that just having a break from work gave her some amount of respite. But the trips we took couldn't have been much fun for her. We were either heading down the highway to visit the Georgia in-laws or heading to Atlantic City for a week by the beach – sort of.
In Georgia, she was still cooking and cleaning and looking after us on top of dealing with the hordes of our Father's southern relatives. I always found them to be a raucous good time with all the beer and Old Grand-Dad bourbon flowing, but I can't say that anything that happened there was restful. In Atlantic City, there was generally less cooking – unless they rented a room with a kitchenette – but there still wasn't anything like luxury. Whether we were at the beach or at the motel pool, Mother spent her day with her eyes glued on me and my Brother and whatever stray cousins were with us, making sure we didn't drown. How she didn't burn her retinas out in the glare of reflected sunlight, I'll never know.
When I thought about it, Mother never had what could be called a real vacation. Her sad statement about hotel room service brought me up short. It was the first time that I felt what I call Adult Childhood Guilt. That is, the guilt I felt as an adult about things my parents went through when I was a child. I would feel this many more times as I grew older like when I found out just how little fun there is to be had driving around with a cranky toddler is in the car. I decided that from that year on, Miss Patty was going to have real vacations.
The plan to go to New Orleans evolved after five years of fairly successful, modestly luxurious vacations in Atlantic City. I wanted to go somewhere exotic. Mother was newly divorced and more than a bit down about it, so I thought that year's vacation should be something really special. I also wanted to go somewhere far enough away that we wouldn't have any visitors from Philly. I didn't mind the occasional Aunt or cousin coming to hang out in the nice hotel room. Miss Patty certainly enjoyed company. But she was down, and I thought she needed real rest on that trip, And I needed to talk to her about some things I wasn't ready for the family to hear.
A Caribbean cruise was my first thought. The fare was all inclusive so we wouldn't need much spending money. It was certainly luxurious. However, the price was just beyond what I could squeeze out of my budget. Since Mom wouldn't fly anymore, and I wasn't that crazy about planes at that point either, the trip had to be to somewhere exotic that I could afford and could reach by train. New Orleans had a lot of bargains during the summer months. I had no idea why those 4-star hotels were so cheap in July until we got there, but it didn't matter at the time I booked the trip. I found a luxury hotel just steps from Bourbon Street for the price of a mid-range Atlantic City hotel. The Crescent City train to New Orleans made a daily trip through Philadelphia. It couldn't have been easier to plan.
Miss Patty was a very outgoing woman. She smiled easily and could start up a conversation with almost anyone. This trait is particularly useful on a train. We had nice wide leather seats that reclined pretty far back in the main passenger area. I had really wanted a sleeper car, but that was way out of my price range. And since they didn't look like the sleeper cars in Murder on the Orient Express, it didn't really matter. We spent most of the evening after dinner in the bar car of the train. That was where the wine was, after all, and it was where Mother could have a smoke.
On a later train trip without me, Mother would nearly miss re-boarding her train to Atlanta in Washington D.C. because of a wager involving a Bourbon taste off. Apparently, two gentlemen on the train got into a heated disagreement over whether Jim Beam or Maker's Mark was the better Kentucky Bourbon. Amtrak only carried Jim Beam. For some reason, Mother went with one of the gentlemen to purchase a bottle of Maker's Mark on the layover in Washington D.C. He was the one dressed like Colonel Saunders, of course. They barely made it back. The argument was never settled, but I understand there was quite a party in that bar car.
On this trip, we met Sadie. I can't recall her last name. She said she was in her 70s, but her skin was smooth with just a few smile lines. She had white hair done up in a lovely twist and was on her way to visit her great-grandchildren. I can't remember what we talked about until way into the night, but there was a lot of laughing. We walked Sadie to her seat as it was a car before ours and went to sleep. I didn't think we'd see her again. She was bound for Mississippi and likely to be gone by the time we were and about.
Just before dawn, the conductor began the announcements for the first breakfast call and for those getting off the train at Atlanta. We managed to doze through the announcements. As we went off to bed, we'd signed up for the last breakfast seating since we were going to the end of the line. At a little after six in the morning, Sadie was shaking my shoulder.
“Wake up! Alabama and Mississippi are dry,” she said.
Well, that made no sense, especially since I was half asleep.
“What?”
“They stop serving liquor after Atlanta. The train is dry until Louisiana,” she said impatiently.
I turned to wake Mother, but her eyes had already popped open. Now, I don't want to imply that we're winos in any way, but we had a lot of train trip ahead of us. And it isn't nearly as entertaining stone cold sober. Sadie had turned by then and was heading out of our car at a brisk clip. I grabbed a tote bag that had my books for the trip and my purse to follow her. Mother was right behind me. We were really moving by the time we reached the dining car. Atlanta was less than five minutes away. The bartender was on duty but still setting up for the day when we piled in.
At first, the bartender was reluctant to sell us a tote bag full of small bottles of wines and spirits. The beverages had to be consumed in the bar car, and I doubt he thought that was possible. We assured him that we would stay in the car and that we wouldn't be drinking everything ourselves. He was dubious, and I wasn't up to using my feminine whiles. It was six in the morning. I hadn't even brushed my teeth. My feminine whiles were still in my toiletry case. We opted for looking pathetic, then gave him a huge tip when he complied. We took turns guarding the stash while each of us cleaned up and changed clothes. We had breakfast and lunch in the bar car, guarding our horde like dragons guarding their eggs.
I can't recall what we talked about in the time between leaving Atlanta and pulling into Meridian, Mississippi where Sadie took her leave of us on surprisingly steady feet. I remember that the time passed quickly and the swiftly moving scenery seemed more interesting. I don't think it was purely the secret stash though that certainly helped. There was a hint of wickedness that we three shared as we poured our refills in such a way that other denizens of the bar car remained unaware of the treasures we concealed. Other than some rare days when Mother, my Brother and me played hookey from work and school respectively without Father's knowledge did we share in a conspiracy. This was a watershed of sorts between mother and daughter.
Our good spirits both literal and figurative continued even after we reached New Orleans. As is the way of a protracted trip on Amtrak, the many delays along the route amounted to a few hours late in our arrival. I hadn't been concerned. There was more than a one night credit card deposit on our room. It had been paid in full. As with all of our big vacation over those years since Granddpop Jim's funeral, I paid for the entire trip save for spending money before we left Philadelphia. And I brought my receipt. Thus, despite having a slightly noticeable buzz and being thoroughly rumpled from a 17 hour train trip, I was brooking no nonsense from a night shift hotel clerk. Miss Patty discovered that her daughter had an imperious side that had never manifested itself at home. I gave the clerk and the night manager such a what for that they upgraded the room to one with a view of the riverside.
The room was really nice, but we were too wound up from the events of the day for dinner from room service. Bourbon Street was mere steps away. Though it was a Sunday night at 10 pm, the street was jumping. Music was blaring from every open door. Most establishments also had barkers trying to lure people not persuaded by the music to come inside. We were hungry, but it was too late and we were too tired to figure out which of the local eateries wouldn't be too much for our timid Northern tummies. Thus, that night we settled on one of those chain restaurants that has all sorts of allegedly eclectic paraphernalia on the walls and waiters in whimsical suspenders. Miss Patty called them O-It's-all-the-same-agains Restaurants. These were safe introductions to local food. Each menu had at least a couple of regional dishes or reasonably close facsimiles. She tried some shrimp gumbo. I had jambalaya. The food was satisfying and the atmosphere just zany enough for our train weary sensibilities. The after dinner nightcap and travel fatigue caught up with us just as we got changed for bed. I could still feel the rumble of steel wheels on tracks in my sleep.
The slight time difference from Philadelphia and our excitement caused us to be up and about really early. We had breakfast at a local diner then took a carriage tour to get a feel for where the nearby attractions were. It wasn't even noon when we figured out why our rooms were so inexpensive. A heavy, hot blanket of humidity descended upon the city as we finished the carriage tour. Our driver and tour guide, Hattie, told us that sensible souls stayed inside until later in the afternoon when the sun wasn't hanging overhead. Mother looked wilted, and my clothes were already clinging uncomfortably everywhere.
“Mad dogs and Englishmen, I suppose,” Mother said as we stepped out of the coach. “But you have a list and some of those places are just down the street.”
I could see the shimmering mirage effect on the pavement in the next block. “They'll be there later, too. We're supposed to be taking a break from hard work.”
“We just stay in the hotel room?”
“Sure, why not? We have books to read. There are more in the lobby store if we run out.”
Miss Patty smiled. It was that conspiratorial smile from the train. “Let's get some snacks and sodas for the room.”
The skies grew dark an hour or so later. A violent and noisy thunderstorm roared through the city. We fell asleep while reading during the midst of it. Apparently, we were still exhausted from the trip. It was just as well we came back to the room. The rain was so heavy as I drifted off that the huge hotel across the street was a vague gray mass. I was doubtful of going back out again at all that day.
The next morning we were smarter tourists. That may have been due to the lazy evening and full night's sleep pushing train fatigue from our minds and bodies. We woke early and took in a few sights at first light, making sure we were back inside the hotel room or someplace cool until the afternoon thunderstorm passed. On the third day, that place was a ramshackle building called Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. It was a tavern that purported to have been a pirate den. The nearly albino blonde bartender regaled us with how nary a horse was ever shod in that establishment during the time Lafitte owned it, but many a plot was hatched that drove Andrew Jackson to drink. I had no idea if any of the yarns were true. All I knew was that the beer was really cold and the slate roof kept the dark wood and stone building comfortably cool. The bartender, like our tour guide, was a natural storyteller. I learned quite a bit from the hours we whiled away nursing those beers as the afternoon thunderstorm raged on.
First, I learned that if a tourist spies an old woman on roller skates pulled by a fire engine while being chased by a flock of ducklings, he could be persuaded to stay in New Orleans and tend bar in a bona fide pirate den. That actually seemed reasonable to me. Miss Patty looked at me curiously. I planned my trips with lists of lists. Being whimsical about changing cities was something that she didn't expect from me.
“Sometimes, you have to go with the signs,” I said with a shrug. It was time for another beer. I wasn't ready to talk about the impending change in my life.
Second, and even more exciting, I learned that the pirate den had become a writer's den at some point. There were writers both known and unknown in the joint almost nightly talking about writing and the jarring quirks to their lives they had endured. I had long been interested in writing and writers. The interest had become a pull that I could no longer ignore. Yet I had never met anyone who was a professional fiction writer. I knew about a dozen seasoned journalists from my undergrad years. I learned a lot from those very interesting souls, but I really wanted to meet people who made their living making up stories from whole cloth. I really needed Miss Patty to meet people like this.
I had become resentful since graduating college. I didn't want to be in Public Relations. I didn't want to be a news reporter. I wanted to have James Michener's life. I wanted to write while under an umbrella on a beach in Hawaii or some other exotic place and make a living at it. When the trip was planned, I knew that I wanted to change the direction of my life. Though I doubted there would be any objections to my going to graduate school in general, I needed Mother's support for the major I had in mind. The films my mother introduced me to often involved those who marched to a different drummer. She always admired those screen heroines who bucked convention to follow their dreams. She loved the tales of expatriate Blacks in 1920s Paris. And more than once during my young adulthood, I was told how she would have easily been a love child in Haight-Ashbury or a mud covered hippie at Woodstock had she not married so young. Miss Patty wanted to be a painter. I was told after her passing that she had talent. But when she was my age, respectable women went from their father's house to their husband's. Women pursuing an artistic bent were either 'funny' or loose. I worried how she'd feel about this path I desperately wanted to take and where it may lead me. But I needed her support above any others. Somehow, I hoped to find a way to show her who I had become.
When we left the tavern late in the afternoon, it was cooler. We set out to enjoy the tableau that was Bourbon Street. The performers were taking up their places for the lucrative evening shift, and there were enticing scents drifting out from the many eateries. Mother was quiet for a while. I was worried that she wasn't having a good time by the time she finally spoke.
“We could take a cab back to Jean Lafitte's after ten,” she suggested while we considered menus posted in front of restaurants.
I smiled at her. She had heard more than I thought. “No, I don't trust the cabs going or coming back. And we don't know when the writers will be there. Besides, they may all be jerks. Let's get some dinner.”
We had everything blackened that night including the vegetables and the dessert, but somehow it all tasted good. The local karaoke was not, but it was funny. We really enjoyed Bourbon Street. We even saw a mock, old school funeral procession playing When the Saints Go Marching In. It was like seeing a movie in real life. Of course, the cop's kid and ex-wife also spotted every pickpocket in action and reacted accordingly. Father's edicts always seem draconian when I describe them, but I've never had a bad incident while on vacation.
The next day, the rains came in the morning. The weather report said that it would last throughout the day. My reaction was to order the deluxe room service breakfast with a herb omelet and a rasher of bacon each, a carafe of coffee and orange juice and toast. It was rolled in on an opulent cart with silver accents and very fine linen. This was appropriate. There was a Royal Wedding to watch. Sarah Ferguson was marrying Prince Andrew. Miss Patty was quite tickled to have her coffee in the delicate cup and saucer while watching the events unfold. I was pleased that everything was steamy hot, and the bacon was extra crispy.
“You know, these royal women have the same tastes in hats as the church women at Zion Baptist. One of them looks like she has a bird's nest with the bird on her head,” she said wryly.
It was true. The contraptions formed of incongruous shapes, colors and textures perched just so on those well-coiffed heads reminded me of the women fanning themselves in that tiny southern church. I wondered what those refined women sitting so still in Westminster Abby would think of that comparison. During that delicious and leisurely breakfast, we gleefully critiqued outfits, hair, and hats. Our favorite moment was late in the proceedings when Queen Elizabeth reacted with cat-like reflexes to corral her grandchildren before they ran after the wedding carriage.
“She's fast for a woman that age,” Mother observed. “Didn't even lose that hat.”
We kibitz over clothes and all of the pomp until the meal was done and the coffee was nearly gone.
“It's still raining,” I said as the coverage wound to a close.
“Emmmhmmm,” Mother replied. “The weather trollop said it would be until the afternoon.”
“We could fill out the postcards,” I suggested. “It would be great to actually mail them instead of handing them out when we get home. There's a mailbox in the lobby.”
I found the cards and pens and we set about writing at the little table by the windows. The coverage of the wedding ended at some point. The next program featured interviews with regional celebrities. That week's special guest was author Eudora Welty. I wasn't paying close attention to the interview as I had not read her work for some time. But Miss Patty was listening.
“She sounds like you,” she said at one point.
I looked up from the tome I was trying to inscribe into 3 square inches of the postcard to figure out what she was talking about.
“You mean you hear voices in your head that make your write?” The reporter asked.
“Now, I'm not saying I'm crazy,” came the dry reply. “I'm saying there is a point at which the characters become so fully real that they speak to each other. Then, I write it all down.”
I still think the reporter thought she was crazy, but I smiled. At that point, I had never heard another author describe the process that way.
“Is that what you mean?” Mother asked.
I nodded. “Sometimes, it's like watching a movie in my mind. Then, I have to write it all down.”
“You always were writing things down everywhere,” she replied thoughtfully. “And the nuns always said you could write.”
And we have to listen to the nuns, don't we, I thought.
“It's like I have to write, Mom,” I said. “Sometimes, the stories in my head drive me to distraction. I write now because I have to write. I think I always felt that way.”
“But you've been doing well in your job,” she countered. “Can't you keep writing on the side?”
I didn't want to tell her that I hated that job and public relations in general. It was organized lying. The Park Avenue company I worked for was still dealing with the Apartheid government in South Africa, and we'd had staff meetings that included discussions on whether to supply VIP clients with cocaine. I got a headache at 3 pm every single day in my power suit.
“I made the wrong choice with my career,” I replied. “I want to work with books and writing. I've found a Graduate Program in Philly where I can get a Masters in two years. It requires a novel to graduate.”
“You could teach,” Mother remarked. “And you can move back home.”
I nodded at that. That was the angle I planned to take with Father. He wasn't living with Mother anymore, but I still didn't want to deal with his disapproval. Teaching was something that I neither wanted or eschewed. It seemed to come with the territory for professional writers, so I was open to the idea. And the notion calmed my mother down.
“You aren't going to go tramp around Paris like James Baldwin, are you?”
“Maybe. But If I do, I'll take you with me.”
She was quiet for a moment, affixing stamps to the postcards. “I could paint in Paris.”
Miss Patty in a beret with an easel painting along the river Seine. That made me smile.
We had a lovely, mostly lazy week in New Orleans despite the oppressive heat. We traveled on a River Boat – where Mother refused to let me belt out Old Man River – to the Plantation near the site of the Battle of New Orleans. Two things we learned from that day. First, plantation houses aren't as big as Hollywood would have you believe. And second, that southern belles had the vapors in that humidity and in those layers of petticoats is no longer a question in my mind. We wondered how they ever remained conscious and upright in the summer. The heat and humidity made if hard to breathe even on the airy veranda of that elegant mansion wearing modern, breathable fabrics. Thankfully, this modern riverboat was fully air conditioned.
There was a ladies night at the nightclub in our hotel on the last night of our stay. It was a tempting offer of free wine and an appetizer buffet along with free admission. I wasn't in the habit of clubbing with my Mother, but I thought it would be a nice diversion for a couple of hours. Our train was scheduled to depart early the next morning. So we put on our dancing clothes. Or, I put on my dancing clothes. At that point in her life, Miss Patty was a chair dancer. She looked lovely though. Miss Patty always looked classy when she stepped out. It was the 80s, thus I had big hair and a black mini dress and a jacket with shoulder pads. I looked like I belonged in a music video between the hair and make-up, and that was what I was going for.
“I still can't get over how fast you go from looking like a librarian to that,” she commented. “Just like Wonder Woman.”
I rolled my eyes and ushered her out of the door. If the men in Philly nightclubs are an indication, I did okay getting dolled up, but I never seemed to be as put together and glamorous as Miss Patty was when she and my Father went out to paint the town. From the heads that turned and the eyes that followed us as we entered the establishment, we both did okay.
Since my 18th birthday made me eligible to drink in New Jersey, my friends and I went out dancing almost every Friday or Saturday or both. Discos were still in vogue and most hotels had a dance club. Thus, there were a lot of joints to choose from. I loved to dance. In college, I used up most of my elective course hours on dance classes. Both sides of the family and all generations could really cut a rug. Thus, most family gatherings involved showing off new steps or proficiency in old routines. Most participated save for me and a couple of bookish cousins. I never liked dancing in front of the family, not even after I had had some training. It seemed that everyone had a role in the family. There were the mechanics, the cooks, the gardeners, the big party people. I was brainy and nerdy. I had glamorous cousins who were center stage at those gatherings when my nose was in a book. Even after I became more complicated than that, it was impossible for me to show my family. Mother knew I went clubbing with my buds, but I think she believed I stayed in a corner with them talking about Star Trek as the bass pulsed around us.
As I stalked into the nightclub, Miss Patty seemed to realize that I was no longer a wallflower. I had learned from the secretaries I worked with on temp jobs to walk into a club like I was on a fashion runway. My walk wasn't exaggerated, but it was in time with the music playing. I expected to be looked at, so I was. I picked a table near the dance floor where everyone could see us. Then, I ignored everyone in the room save for Mother.
“There are some men trying to get your attention,” she informed me after the cocktail server took our order.
“Ignore them until at least seven o'clock,” I replied.
“Why seven o'clock?”
“Most of the married ones will be gone,” I said, sipping the wine. It was the kind that was sold by the gallon, but it didn't make my throat raw. “Married guys cruising hotel clubs are hoping for a quickie.”
Miss Patty looked at me owlishly. I patted her hand.
“I've never had one,” I assured her. “But I've had offers, and I've seen a lot of pitches. Let me get us something from the buffet.”
I stalked to the buffet and back with an assortment of fried appetizers. There were vegetables, but they were battered and deep fried as well. But it was tasty and free. We ate and danced in our seats and quietly critiques the dancers.
When seven o'clock rolled around, we had eaten four plates of fried everything, and half the men who had been sitting at the bar were gone. There were more dancers on the floor as the music was cranking up.
“Excuse me,” A soft feminine voice said from behind our table.
We turned to find a very blonde, well-dressed woman. She looked to be between my age and Mother's – late 30s. We looked at her expectantly.
“Excuse me for bothering you,” she said. Her accent was German. “I was wondering if you wouldn't mind dancing with my husband.”
She pointed across the room to a table where a very blonde, well-dressed man sat grinning at us. He waved. Mother and I waved back.
“He looks all the time at MTV and knows all the steps,” she continued. “He really wants to dance with someone who knows how to do the moves. He can tell you can.”
“I haven't been dancing,” I replied in dismay.
“He knows from the way you walk,” she explained.
I looked at Mother. She shrugged.
“Sure. Why not?” I said. “Tell him to pick a song when he's ready.”
“Isn't that something,” Mother said. Then, she looked concerned. “You don't think this will lead to some orgy, do you?”
After nearly spitting out my drink, I shook my head. “Not likely. I saw Deter over there dancing in his seat. He wants to dance.”
I knew when the next song began that it was the German's number. Sure enough, he was walking towards me. I stood and met him on the dance floor.
“Because you look like Janet,” he said with a smile. “You like the song?”
“Sure do.”
Deter could dance. It only took a few moves for him to figure out how to follow me. It was impossible to do the choreography from the video, but there was a routine in it that suited the size of that dance floor. My partner was my mirroring everything with a big grin on his face. I was only aware of him and Mother while we danced. As long as she didn't have a look of horror, I figured I was doing okay. What I didn't expect was the applause as the song ended. I laughed as Deter kissed my hand. Then, I curtsied and went back to the table. Miss Patty was grinning.
“I didn't know you could do that!” She exclaimed. “You were always so quiet. Your Aunt Ellie and your cousins should see that.”
“I'm not ready to tour. Shouldn't we get another drink?”
The server came back with an ice bucket and fresh glasses.
“The couple over there bought you a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé, ladies,” she said, filling the glasses.
“That's easy for you to say,” Mother quipped as she tasted the wine. “Now, that's good.”
We raised our glasses to the Germans then we touched them together
“To more great adventures,” I said quietly. The fact that the trip was ending saddened me, but I was excited about the road to come.
Miss Patty smiled and took a sip. “I'm glad you're coming home. It seems like I have to get to know you all over again. Do you know how you'll pay for school?”
“Not a clue,” I replied. “I don't know if I'll even get in the program. I just know that I have to try.”
“We'll find a way,” she said with confidence. “I'd like to see Paris someday.”

I hadn't realized it then, because I was too much in the moment, that I'd always be grateful to my Brother ordering that room service hamburger.   

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!