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, August 26, 2007

Rollercoaster Week but not of Love*

This week’s entry is more than a little bipolar. I had been struggling with the content and tone for a while, then decided to forge ahead. My family has always been more than irreverent in the face of loss. In fact, both sides has seen more than their shares of funerals filled with seemingly inappropriate hilarity. Who am I to tinker with tradition?

New Title from Sybpress

I’ll put on my publisher’s hat for a moment to make a long anticipated announcement.

Seilschaft by Jo Perridge & Cliff Morten

The best selling gay erotica title from Germany is now available in English!

When two rough and ready men get caught in a snow storm during a mountaineering trip their first instinct is simply survival. However, when cold and danger force them together neither man is fully prepared for the consequences, and conflicts soon begin to flare to the surface. Seilschaft is a harrowing, passionate, and sometimes dryly humorous tale of dominance and submission, denial and acceptance, and an intense battle to keep an altered relationship alive despite the odds.

"Mountaineering can be so sexy!... With much psychological sensitivity the authors show the 'walk on the edge' between deep friendship and hurt pride. Surprising turns happen, but one thing stays the same: the hot and hard, uncompromising sex they share."
Translated from a review for Seilschaft in the biggest Germnan gay magazine, "Maenner aktuell", June 2006

Follow this link to the ordering link and a look at the gorgeous cover.

Writing and Distractions

I spend most of my day job writing in my head. Usually it works really well. I can refine a segment or a whole chapter in the course of a shift, then write it all down once I get home. This week was difficult because of my co-worker and long time buddy, Craig. First there was the story about General Giggles that was somehow connected to his studies of Father Yod. But the worse part was the tune he planted in my head. It was The Theme from A Man and A Woman (I had the audio file here, but it made the blog impossible to load, so go to this site instead). Now, I’ve gotten annoying songs in my head before. This job makes me particularly suspeptible, it seems. I’ve had odd things like The Cover of the Rolling Stone running in my head for days. Last week, the naughty boys in this complex were singing Viva Viagra by the pool (a really stupid ad, if you ask me), and I couldn’t get that out of my head for a while. But the tune Craig implanted was insidious. My writing ground to a halt for a couple of days. I rallied late in the week though. I’m better than 3/4s through A Soldier’s Fate. I’ll be creating a web page in the next week or so with a full chapter and other excerpts for readers to check out.

On top of distractions in my head, we are living in limbo with the film projects. I don’t know what film we’re be working on or even what country we’ll be in next month. This makes me, the anal retentive traveler, very, very nervous. More on this as it develops.

Change and Sadness

It’s been a week of sharper ups and downs than even my normal LA roller coaster ride. I have some people that I’m fond of mover out of my every day life. Change is the only constant here, it seems. Still, the change in a comfortable routine is difficult. Our stalwart set guy and Sybpress driver, Randy, has returned to his ancestral homestead in Dayton on family business. It wasn’t a goodbye, but he’ll be away for some time. As he’s become a fixture in many of our activities, it’ll be strange not seeing him. However, he is being a good son, so we wish him well.

And there has been another death in my family. This time, it was a favorite Aunt and the last link to my mother. My Aunt Eleanor was always a lovely and stylish woman. I’ve always admired her. She dated Bill Cosby while in High School and he never really got over her. While he was on the Cosby Show, he sent her a beautiful blown up photo of her has a teenager. A copy of it ended up on the set. Late in life, he contacted aunt Ellie himself to invite her and her family to dinner when he was in town. I’ve been thinking a lot about her, my Mom and their older sister, Elizabeth. They loom large in the series of short prose I’m working on now. The memories make me sad, but the stories are all quite funny. So, I’ll cry a little bit today, then have a glass of wine in honor of the Harris sisters. Then, it’s back to work. Hopefully, those stories will bring them to life for those not fortunate enough to have known them.

*Love Rollercoaster by The Ohio Players

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Paris, Tsunamis and Naked Actors

Paris Blues

Of late, my yearnings to return to Paris have been particularly strong. I’ve been planning the trip for our 10th wedding anniversary next year, and that’s helped a little. At least I have a firm plan for return. I’ve even started planning to do some cooking with my lovely French friends while we’re there. I plan to introduce them to the steak sandwich, and if I can find a way to get the key ingredient, I shall make a sweet potato pie for them. But that’s more than a year from now. The plans help. However, it’s been very difficult lately. It’s not a snobby or cultural thing. It’s a sybarite thing. I miss the pace of the city. I really miss the food. Paris is a very big, urban cosmopolitan center. One commute during rush hour will clearly illustrate how the city is very much like New York. However, despite this being every much the bustling metropolis, there is a true appreciation for slowing down and having a lovely cup of coffee, or simply enjoying an exquisite morsel of bread. In fact, that there is so much time spent on beautiful bread tells a visitor that food is not just food. It is part of the joy of life – joie de vivre! I miss just living with my senses and savoring everything.

I have not been helped with my longings by the media either. The newest Bourne film has some scenes in Paris. One of them around and in Gare du Nord, the train station we used when we last went to Cannes. Then, there is the new Mr. Bean film, Mr. Bean’s Holiday which is all over Paris, the TVG train and then in Cannes as well! I actually recognized a small intersection there. TV has given me no respite. One of my favorite TV chef’s, Gaida de Laurentis, did an episode of her tavel show, Gaida’s Weekend Getaway’s in Paris. She went to culinary school there. That show brought up all the memories of the many Italian restaurants we visited (surprisingly easy to do, incidentally), and reminded me of all the things I have left to see there. Paris is very much like New York in that it takes a long time to really know the city. I worked in New York a year and lived only 90 minutes away by train and visited often. However, I’d say that I still don’t know ¾ of that city well. Alas, today, I’ll have to make due with some home cooking with a French accent.

Making Waves

We received our Tsunami Evacuation Plans by mail on Friday. Don’t worry, family who is reading this, we are at the very outer edge of the Evacuation Zone. According to the color map on the very nice, glossy brochure, we just have to cross the street to be out of the zone. Additionally, there is a police station five minutes from here that is out of the zone completely and is an evacuation center. It was a cryptic mailing. The thing that was of concern for me was the phrase ‘we will issue an evacuation warning in advance of the event if there is time...’ If there is time?!! Geez. Well, all we have to do is cross the street. Why did we get this mailing? We think it was because of the fallout from the actual Tsunami warning that went out last year. It was a thorough warning and reached a lot of people, but it gave us no plan as to how to get away from the coast or where to go if we could get away. That was a fascinating experience. Usually, we get the special announcement alert on TV, it’s an Amber Alert. I was staring at the word Tsunami when a friend who lives along the Venice Canals called to ask if he’d heard the alarm correctly. That’s when I got concerned. We were fine in Playa del Rey (we were 100 feet above the coast by the time you reached our last apartment from the beach), but he is at ground level. Fortunately, the alarm was canceled shortly afterward. We do keep an emergency kit handy, and my friend has neighbors in houses that are tall enough and rated strong enough to withstand waves long enough for rescue. Isn’t LA fun?

Playing with Actors

I get mail about my blogs like last week when I wrote about working with actors. Most are nice notes. Some are envious. Those opinions are misguided. Working with actors is not the same as meeting them as fans. It’s serious work where everyone’s creativity and skill is put to the test. We all have to be careful of each other’s sensitivities while pushing hard to get just the right kind of performance. Last Saturday was a blast for everyone. We did a lot of good work, and I saw the potential for amazing performances. However, it was exhausting.

But that’s not to say I don’t have fun with them. Actors are attractive people with big personalities and lots of charisma. That’s why people want to watch them. They are also flirty and naughty because they like being looked at – a key part of being an actor. I’ve loved interacting with them from the first one I ever met, but it is a challenge to this sybarite. Once you enter into a working relationship with them, it’s hands off thinking about anything else. Even before I was married, this was difficult. They tease and flirt and even make overtures that they may or may not follow through to keep a producer close. My first cast was for the first version of Hidden Passion Films nearly 20 years ago (have a ranted lately about how long it can take a concept to get a green light). Those gorgeous boys drove me crazy. While we were at a Romantic Times Convention to promote the concept, one of the actors answered his hotel door with a towel around his neck after just leaving the shower. No towel around his waist, mind you or pants or underwear, for that matter. He was fabulous, but I was trying desperately to be professional. Dang it all! Maybe because I’m a bit older now and married, I can enjoy the flirting more without being frustrated. Of course, I still think evil, horrible things about my actors at times – okay, most of the time. I channel those lusty urges into my writing. My HPF actors are all very yummy and naughty. I adore them and think they’ll end up with quite a following. I’d say more things to incriminate myself, but some of them read this blog. :)

Torturing My Leading Men

The long hand version of A Soldier’s Fate is in the home stretch. I should have the cover art very soon and the webpage shortly after that. This section of the book has been difficult because I am actively traumatizing Rik and Vincent. It’s been difficult to write – surprisingly so. However, I came up with some surprising character development, so that’s been fun. Stay tuned for more.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hidden Passion Films - Romance Novels for the Samll Screen

It’s been an odd week. There was the water heater fiasco that befell us and a couple other people we know in different parts of town. There was the one errand I tried to do all last week that remains undone. It was a frustrating week on almost every level I can think of. But there was one thing that happened that was both fun and creatively satisfying.

We started work on the two short films that will launch Hidden Passion Films. The concept is to produce films from period romances for the small screen (DVDs, download). We picked two very simple scenes that represented different periods as an example of how the full features would look. One of them is The Gift of Surrender the other is The Gunslinger. More can be found on the concept on the website for Hidden Passion Films. It’s still under construction, so I’m not sure how the type will appear on some browsers, but the concept is there.

The shorts are less than 10 pages each, so we did the rehearsals for both in one afternoon. Jon lead the actors through a table read, and then walked through the basic blocking of the movements. The actors for The Gunslinger are Travis Willingham . I like his current headshot a lot better, and I like the scruffy version even more. I’ve written about Travis several times in this blog. He’s really good in the role, and he’s extremely funny to work with. Our leading lady is Jennifer C. Sparks, a relative newcomer who is also quite good and very natural in the part. It’s always a fascinating experience to hear the words you’ve written actually performed the way you heard them in your head. I love writing novels for the independence of the creative process. I am very possessive of my characters and loathe to let them go. However, there is something wonderful about seeing the characters come to life even though the writer must lose them to the actor.

The leads for The Gift of Surrender have changed since I first mentioned the short. We had to recast Nikulainen as the original actor has gone on a theatrical tour. The new actor is David Matthiessen. He is quite dashing and compelling in person, and the camera really loves him. I should note for those who've seen POTC: At World's End (SPOILERS for those who haven't) , that when Johnny Depp seems to stab himself on the Black Pearl, he's actually stabbing David, who did such good impressions of Depp, he was given those lines about the rope. There were several moments during the rehearsal when I heard him speak the lines the way I heard Nikulainen in my head. It was thrilling. The very lovely Lisa Lee is still on board for Sarianna. She’s a bit more of a spitfire than I envisioned Sarianna, but I liked the interpretation. She really enjoyed tying up our Niku. The poor man was kept on his knees through all the direction that Jon was giving. He didn’t seem to mind. I certainly didn’t.

It was an exhausting day despite relatively little physical activity. Working with actors takes a lot of mental energy, and the process itself is tiring. I was in bed hours before my norm. Naturally, no writing got done Friday or Saturday. That’s okay though. I felt that we accomplished a lot. Now, we have to secure the location and set the dates. Stay tuned.

A Brief Rant

Some weeks ago, I was ranting about all the mutations of cheese steaks that I found appalling. Well, the most appalling of all is in my home town of Philadelphia. There at the Barclay Prime Hotel is a Kobe Beef cheese steak that costs $100! It has shaved truffles on it, for Pete’s Sake. That’s ridiculous. I’d never order that unless it came with a side of the French Rugby team, naked.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Film, Food, Writing and Spider-Pig

Food, Film and Me

What follows is a lot of rambling. I’m becoming more like my southern relatives as I get older. There is a point in all of this.

Food has been center stage for me of late. It’s a large part of A Soldier’s Fate. I’ve actually made all the recipes in those books. It plays a role in the Cop novel, Freak Experts (more on that later), and it looms large in my personal life. My day job is located near no eateries. Even with a car, it would take too long to find something and get back in time. So I’ve been cooking more. And that’s a good thing. It’s easier to try to eat right when there is no alternative (yep, given the option, I’ll still go for an In and Out Burger). And it’s not a chore, really. I’ve been hooked on cooking shows since The Galloping Gourmet. I had a chance to watch the old shows on the Food Network a while ago. They were as funny as I recalled. From there, The Frugal Gourmet sparked my fancy. I started cooking for my family around then.

It was The Food Network that really opened up my culinary world. I’ve watched it since the beginning and have a stack of recipes from the website that is several inches thick. I never thought of myself as more than someone who could follow a recipe until recent years. Last week, I was able to re-create an amazing meal I had at the Bistro of Santa Monica by figuring out what the key ingredients were. And I’ve figured out how to make my favorite appetizer (tex-mex eggrolls). I found a recipe that was close to the one I had at the Cheesecake Factory (the only thing I haven’t had there is the cheesecake).

I have not been alone in becoming a Foodie. Over the years, it’s been easier and easier to find exotic ingredients in regular supermarkets. You should have seen the face of the Acme Markets manager in Philly when I asked for Panko Flakes 15 years ago. It’s easy to find almost anything mentioned on a cooking show now. And the Foodie thing is all the rage in films this year. We thought one of the best scenes in Spiderman 3 was the omelet making scene between Harry and MJ. Not only was it a flat out sexy scene, the omelet was perfect (they are not supposed to be brown on the bottom). I admit to being really geeky in noticing that the food was correct in that scene, but I’m not alone. The film makers behind Ratatouille hired the renown chef behind The French Laundry restaurant to consult on the kitchen scenes. They actually made all the dishes scene in the film and then digitally animated them. It was a cartoon and the food looked amazing. Now, the whole rat thing, I still shudder over. I enjoyed the film, but admit to getting freaked out by a number of the scenes.

The food in movies things is a pre-occupation for me, because I’ll have to be the food stylist on the short and or feature we’re developing (I say that because we may skip the short and do the feature – we don’t know right now). The entire short revolves around a meal of fried chicken and biscuits. The food has to look appetizing on camera. It doesn’t have to be that edible (in film, it often isn’t), but I’ll make sure it is for the actors’ sakes. And we have to have several plates to replace food that has lost its looks. Neither the short nor the feature will have the budget for a stylist, so that will be me. I make good fried chicken, and I’ve made biscuits good enough to get past my southern Grandmother. I’ve even fed cast and crew on three different shoots. I cook to relax and focus, so I often cook during production meetings. But this will be a lot of pressure. Maybe it’ll get me a food show. (Food Tips from a Mad Black Woman)It would have to be set in Paris. Okay, now I’m digressing. I know how to make the food. I’ll have to get some pointers from an actual stylist on how to make things look glossy and what not for the camera. It should be a fun thing to learn.

Pop Culture Comes Home

A few weeks ago, while on our way home, we saw searchlights. That’s not odd for LA, but it is weird on a weeknight and in a part of town with no theaters. As we passed the lights, I could see a huge sign from the freeway. Our neighborhood was one of the LA locations with a Quik E Mart . There were long lines for weeks, but we finally decided to go. It was surreal, to say the least. I have to commend the guy manning the Squishee machine. He actually said in a reasonable Apu impersonation ‘Thank you and please come again.’ I was impressed. And I enjoyed that Squishee and the accompanying brain freeze. The movie was a blast. It was very inappropriate and delighted in being so. And for reasons I simply cannot explain, my favorite thing from the film was:

Does whatever a spider-pig does
Can he swing from a web?
No he cant
He's a pig
Look out,He is the spider-pig

On the Writing Front or Pile it On!

I am nearly finished the first draft of A Soldier’s Fate. Oh, I’m very pleased that Ann Cain will be doing the cover. I really loved her work on A Soldier’s Choice. And the plot for the third Surrender novel, The Legacy of Surrender is well underway. The memoir about my family is slowly coming together. It sounds like an insane juggling act, but aside from the occasional notes on the memoir and Surrender book, my focus is A Soldier’s Fate. In the midst of all this, Freak Experts, my cop novel, has started percolating once more. I had a real block on that book for a few key reasons. I really wanted to do the story that happened before the script for the film takes place. But that wasn’t really working for me. The crime plot was not as strong as what I have in the script. I had many of the same problems writing the novel for Demon Under Glass. Adapting our film was far more difficult than I ever thought. When I decided to stop fighting the script for Freak Experts and include it with flashbacks from the partners’ first case, the block went away. I can’t get to it for some months, but I know what I want to do.

That brings up another problem. I had never planned on writing a romance novel for the film ‘The Gunslinger.’ That’s what the film that needs the fired chicken dinner. We had intended it to be just a romance novel for the small screen. However, since we’re doing a trailer for The Gift of Surrender, I’m now given pause. It would be a shame to put a short up for a romance and not have a novel to go with it. I just don’t know when I could write it. Ah well, that’s for another blog.

Next week (hopefully), the rehearsal for the shorts.