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 27, 2008

Hot Times, Wild Musings and CSI Gets Personal

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

It’s 91 degrees F (32.5 C) at the beach and it’s not the heat of the day. I didn’t catch Jon’s cold, but the Santa Ana winds or devil winds have all the pollen blown up. Thus, I’m on heavy antihistamines. I’m not responsible for what follows. Or maybe, I’m just less responsible than usual. And the blog will be shorter.

Warning – a somewhat lucid literary discussion below.

Literary Lingo

Jon asked a question about current literature that is considered a ‘great work.’ He postulated books present lit critics consider great works have characters and situations so removed from everyday life that they may as well be genre (fantasy, horror). But lit crits rarely consider genre works great. I informed him that he was preaching to the choir. My friends who teach college lit inform me that the lauded and the hyped meta fiction writers we studied in the 80s are no longer lauded or hyped. I was relieved for the sake of the students who would be spared reading impenetrable prose (Nope, I won’t name names lest I dis a writer that one you wonderful readers considers important. The ensuing fight would be protracted and ugly). But ultimately who is the flavor of the month in literary crit circles is and always has been irrelevant for me. That made me a galling and admittedly difficult grad student. As a writer, all I’ve ever been concerned with was finding a better way to have the voice in my work heard. And that’s what I told Jon to focus on. Writers can be aware of where the market is for their work and generally know how it will be received (Contrary to everything I was taught about them from high school on, Hemingway and Fitzgerald were really aware of their sales numbers). But as artists, it’s always about the work itself. What bad habits can I break? How can I push my craft to a new level? Of course, there are writers who only care about cashing in on the current hot thing. They don’t last past their own lifetime, for the most part (Believe me, they don’t survive. I’ve been processing hundreds of authors who were prolific and apparently sold well in their era. I have never heard of any of these people. And from the sampling of the text, there was good reason that they disappeared). Most of my work is in genre, and I have no issue with how it’s categorized. These are the stories I enjoy telling. I really enjoy them. I know that the memoir will have stories that will be more easily published in mainstream media. And it has all the notes that make for a popular book. But I’m writing it only because I feel it has to be written. Whatever comes from it is irrelevant to the writing of it.

We now return to lunacy.

Conversations with Craig - Animal Edition

Last weekend, there was a story all over the news and the internet about a man who found a lost dog and a sheep near a highway. A good Samaritan stopped and tried to lure the dog in the back of his vehicle to take it to a shelter. The sheep jumped in first. Craig wanted to know why everyone he knew or ever knew him thought he was that man. First, he’s the type that would rescue a stranded dog. And he has an incident with a misplaced sheep. The roommate that he had to buy back from the Mexican Police had left a sheep in the hallway of their dorm. Seems that a huge binge of drinking made stealing a sheep and putting it in the hall very amusing. Craig discovered that sheep really don’t like going down stairs. I think Craig was annoyed that people thought of him as a good Samaritan. He likes to think he has a black soul especially compared to his Ohio born girlfriend. I disagree though the mood ring he wears is always the color black. I didn’t know they were still being made. His is way cooler than the original rings. Anyway, Craig is as kind hearted and generous as my Ohio friends, Bruce and Randy. They’re all good to their mamas. They are wonderfully considerate and loyal friends. And they won’t stand by and let an innocent suffer – not even a stray. Craig hates cats and they generally hate him, yet he liberated a cat named Jello from satanic neighbors (they admitted that) who kept musing about sacrificing the kitty. He thought the neighbors were posers, but didn’t want to take the chance. Thus, he and Jello lived together for over a year hating each other until Craig moved out. The hippie girl moving in loved Jello, so they parted company. He even took the insane terrier, Hamish, to be blessed by the Cardinal. He didn’t want to do it, but his Mom asked. Yep, Craig’s a softie. He’s taken, but my Ohio boys are on the market, ladies.

When Worlds Collide

Spoiler Alert for CSI: Miami

Well, not worlds, my world and CSI: Miami. An actor friend of mine, Garett Maggart, landed a guest spot on the show. I was tickled beyond words. I told him I would be blogging about him. Somehow, he thought I meant writing slash about his character on the show. Geez, you slash a guy’s character a few dozen times and they never let you forget it. Though I did enjoy him reciting his renditions of my slash in a falsetto voice, presumably mine. I’d never want to think about Horatio Cain having sex with anyone. He’s almost the last man I’d want to see naked. Almost. I want to see Gov. Ed Rendell naked even less. I have seen him shirtless when he was Mayor of Philly. He insisted on opening the public pools by diving into one. Looked like he was wearing a black sweater. Where was I? Oh, Garett. Of course, he’d never seen the show. Most actors I know never watch the things they audition for, nor did he read the script beyond his own pages. Much of what he was hearing while being a corpse was new and rather improbable given what he told me of the rest of the show. I told him that was not unusual. He didn’t get any of the hot women of forensics leaning over him with plunging necklines, tight pants an stiletto heels. All he got was Horatio Cain and the balding cop talking over him. But he did get the sunglass scene. But Garett didn’t see it, because he was a corpse at the time. It will air during the Month of Fun for me. I can’t wait. This time, the rant will be personal.


I was processing a book at the archive that included a reproduction of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. My mind generally wanders while processing books at work. It’s a process that works best when on auto-pilot. Thus, I write scenes from novels or scripts in my head. That’s been very helpful lately, because it allowed me to finish A Soldier’s Fate even while pressed for time. That day, I was wondering if the Book of the Dead would bring up raging scarabs or Mummy minions. I didn’t even get Ardeth Bay riding through to save me from whatever. Those fanciful thoughts led me to wonder about what may be lurking on the floors below the main floor where we work. We work in a bunker of sorts that has seven stories below the first. They stretch on and on in a same-ness that reminds me of the Umbrella Corp labs in Resident Evil. And with all of those really old tomes, there’s no telling what may have been loosed down there. Jon votes for a Balrog. I think it’s monsters from the id (Forbidden Planet). It’s easy to see that our heads aren’t entirely at work. I get like this before traveling or a shoot. My head isn’t really where I am. I wish I knew where it was. I need it for other things.


More of the same. I’m pushing on getting the book out. Jon’s finishing the Gunslinger Trailer. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Flings, Mooks and Band Buses

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Spring has Sprung

It’s that wonderful time of year when vibrant flowers are in bloom, and the beautiful young men have shed their coats and shirts to jog in the gentle breeze. I still don’t have a net gun. It’s also a mere two weeks from the 2008 month long celebration of my – ack – 48th birthday. I have been asked how extravagant my plans will be. Not extravagant at all. Most of the treats in May involve the new films coming out (Iron Man, Speed Racer, and Indiana Jones 4 ). Speed Racer is of special interest because it began my interest in anime. You could say that the path to A Soldier’s Choice begins with that cartoon series. The month began early when Jon found a two pack of the last two Bourne films (Supremacy and Ultimatum) for less than the price of the pair of seeing Ultimatum in the theaters. I’ve been listening to it ad nauseum while inputing A Soldier’s Fate this week. I shall be frugal in my celebrations next month. I only plan to buy a couple of exotic ingredients to try some new French recipes from the Anthony Bourdain Cookbook like Soupe de Poisson (strained fish soup) and maybe lobster bisque. The former means buying a whole bottle of Pernod and I’m not sure if I’ll like it. Though I have liked everything I’ve tried in that book so far. Jon and I want to have another whack at making baguettes, but I need to find out if I can freeze the dough. That recipe makes a whole lot of dough for just two people. Why the frugality this year? I want to return to Paris in October for our 10th wedding anniversary. And I have to plan the trip as if there is no film happening on the budget our day jobs allow. I have found an amazing deal on a week long apartment rental in Montmartre. It’s off a lovely little courtyard and has a great kitchen where I plan to cook to my heart’s content with ingredients fresh from the farmer’s market. And it’s near the red light district of Pigalle. We have unfinished business there. Last trip, we were too pressed to visit the Museum of Eroticism (click on that link at your own risk – seriously). That’s an egregious lapse for a writer like me and a twisted guy like Jon. It must be corrected. I sent This photo from Pigalle to Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica. His response was basically ‘of all the cultural things I could have sent him from Paris, this is what I chose’. How could I not? Thus, I will be frugal in May, but there will be a lot of fun to report.

What Makes the Blog?

I get that question often. Or actually, how in the world do think up that blog? When I’m not talking about writing, it’s just my life and friends who are responsible. For example, I was having a conversation with Craig about the weather in Tucson for the shoot, and ended up hearing a long story about his college roommates there that ended with a the sentence ‘And that’s why I had to buy him back from the Mexican Police.’ And then there was his rant about the Jersification of his Ohio girlfriend that he blames on The Sopranos. I’ve met his lovely girlfriend, and I can’t imagine her using the work ‘mook’ correctly. Now he wants to do a video dictionary on how to speak and understand Jersey speak. It has to be video because there are several nuances on how a guy leans on a car and what each way means. Oh, speaking of Craig, he believes that the one legged cricket is dead, though no body has turned up yet. Thus, my friends are an excellent source. Of course, there is TV and film because I’m a fan and a filmmaker. Work can give me inspiration. This isn’t a caption contest image, but I had to share it. The illustration comes from a compilation of Irish Lit from the 1800s. It’s hard to read, but the caption is ‘A Gentlemanly Caning.’ I usually know early in the week what most of the next week’s blog will have in it.

Head of Many Hats

The great thing about wearing many hats in a Film Production company is that the labor is cheap or free, and there isn’t any time lost with coordinating communication between the many departments that work on a film. The big downside is that when one person isn’t functioning several areas of a project ground to a halt. Jon is sick again. It may be that he never completely recovered from the post shoot cold or flu. Thus, work on a trailer has stalled. The image part is finally finished, and it looks amazing. All that’s left is laying down the sound and music tracts. The trailer should be up by the weekend of May 3rd. I plan to pull stills from this version at some point today. The feature pre-production is on schedule. We’ve got more and more details in place. The only worrisome thing, aside from the blazing heat and biting flies, is the situation with airlines. We can’t afford getting caught in massive cancellations with such a tight shoot schedule. We’re planning a contingency of renting a luxury band – type bus to take the actors back and fourth if something goes completely haywire with the airline. Let see, a busload of actors with a bar. Poor Randy. He may need a whip and a gun and a chair and a top hat.

A Soldier’s Fate

The editor’s have 3/4s of the book. I’m almost finished inputing the final chapter. With Jon sick and behind on the trailer, it looks like the release of the paperback will be the second week in May, but the e-book will be out a little sooner than that. There will definitely be an expansion of Vincent Greven’s Cookbook. This time, a lot of the recipes are actually mine. I really appreciate your patience. I think you will find that the book is worth the wait.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Critics, Cynicism and Miles O'Keefe

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Yes, the warning is still necessary. I’ve had a lot of folks find the blog looking for recipes or Anthony Bourdain or info on CSI: Miami. Apparently, they were quite distressed at what they found. Though why they kept reading, is beyond me.

Discouraging Words

Well, not really discouraging. I don’t have a thin skin where critics are concerned. I’ve had my work taken apart in live, public forums in Journalism School and a Graduate Writing program. Some of those professors and classmates were bent on being sadistic in the guise of constructive criticism. And recently, bad reviews have actually spurred sales of more than one of my titles. The latest reader review to turn for A Soldier’s Choice was odd to me. It left me nonplussed. The review wasn’t wholly negative, yet the reader gave it a little less than three stars. That actually annoyed me, because it knocked down the number of stars the book has had for over a year. And in the end, the reviewer said readers would have to try the book to judge it for themselves. That’s not actually helpful for a book buyer, and it knocked down my rating. The complaint from that review and one other was that I don’t spend a lot of time delving into the background of the society that is the backdrop for the story. That was not a mistake or an accident. I developed a complete history for Rik and Vincent’s world. I know how the society works. I even have a time line that traces the Delphi Project from Demon Under Glass to the point it becomes the military’s Altered Program. All of that backstory would be relevant if I was writing science fiction. I wasn’t. A Soldier’s Choice and A Soldier’s Fate are erotic romances that happen to be set in a sci-fi story. I do reveal aspects of the society that are relevant to the characters. I chose to tell the story from Rik’s point of view. That limited, in my opinion, what could be told of the world outside of his personal experience or don’t impact his life. Rik’s concerns are simple in both books: keeping Vincent with him, keeping safe from those seeking to harm them and protecting their loved ones. I felt, and still feel, that any other details does not further the plot and would be a distraction from the main story. Jon and I write our scripts the same way. He likes to say that even bit players with one line have their own backstory, and he he’ll tell the actor what that is to help their performance. But otherwise, who cares? It may be interesting in a DVD extra, but it would slow the action in the main narrative. I feel the same way about my novels.

Speaking of the Soldier’s Books, Here’s the new postcard for the advertising blitz planned for next month. The books are still slated to come out by the end of this month.

Cynicism in Tinseltown

An actor friend of mine who has only known me for about a year told me that I was cynical about the business out here. That brought me up short. I grant that the last year has been a rough one personally and professionally, and I can detect a harder edge in me than was there before. Ultimately, I have to disagree. I may be cynical compared to others he knows out here, but the fact that I’m still willing to listen to people who claim they can help us get a film going is evident that I am far from cynical. As way of proof, allow me to share some highlights of meetings we’ve had since moving to LA.

“Let me get this straight, you want to change everything but the title of the script, but still want to say it’s based on a true story.” That was our first meeting in LA that happened the day after we arrived. During that same meeting, the producers wanted us to lie to the couple on whom the script was based. Oh, and the job they promised that prompted our relocation across the country didn’t exist.

“I want you to consider two words that will guarantee success for your film – Kato Kaelin.”

“Okay, I had your actor checked out, and he’s still a murder suspect.” This was a different actor than Mr. Kaelin. That call from my father included an offer of an airline ticket back to Philadelphia.

“Did you know that the Mystery Science Theater book has a whole chapter on Miles O’Keefe? And since when does he do Science Fiction?

“Yes, I noticed the pentagram necklace, it had to be a foot in diameter. I don’t think I can ignore the painting of Satan behind the receptionist. And was that Martin Sheen we almost ran over?” That was one strange evening. Oddly enough, it was one of the more forthright meetings we’ve ever had. They were crooks, but they were absolutely honest about it.

“Just so I understand, you want a four story set made of glass – even the floors so you can shoot through to the top. I suppose all the women are wearing pants. Space bikinis. Well, that makes it better.” Fortunately, Jon was not at that meeting. He has no guile and virtually no inside monologue. As it was, I nearly took that idiot’s head off.

“I’m sorry, but the last actor I think of to play a character inspired by Errol Flynn is Roddy Piper.”

“I really loved all the performances by the Hobbits, but I just don’t see him as the most dangerous pirate captain in the galaxy.”

“I know that your client is about to win an Emmy and an Oscar in the same year. Why in the world would he take a part playing a nearly mute sidekick?” I was right about him winning both awards, and I was also right that he would not take the part though he really loved the script.

Why even listen to casting murder suspects, former wrestlers, Hobbits and whatever Miles O’Keefe is? They usually came bundled up in a package that included funding or distribution that would lead to funding. Typically, we weren’t told about these packages until we were at the meeting. I think the folks trying to pull these stunts with us believed the temptation of funding would be enough for us to swallow any misgivings. Not so far. And why even take all these meetings? There is always the possibility that there will actually be funding offered in a deal that we could live with. Had I not been open minded and followed up what seemed to be an unrealistic e-mail, Demon Under Glass would have fallen apart before one scene was shot. I remain optimistic that things will work out, and we’ll shoot a film. And I continue, even after more than a decade of strange and sometimes infuriating experiences, to go to these meetings with a positive attitude. If nothing else, they make for amusing stories at parties or blogs. I admit I’ve changed since I moved here, but I don’t think anyone whose known me for some time would call me cynical.

Pop Culture Super-Stardom

I forgot to mention that on the very Sunday that I was ranting about CSI: Miami’s new episodes, they received the highest honor in pop culture. CSI: Miami was featured on The Simpsons. I think they did Horatio Cain justice. They couldn’t come up with a goofier story idea than would be on the actual show, and that was the funniest part for me.

More on Robotic Scorpions and Biting Flies

I found the robotic scorpions, so we don’t necessarily need to use a real one. And they also make non-robotic ones that can be smashed with a gun butt. We’ve finally firmed up the location. It has everything we need along with excessive heat and biting flies. (No place is perfect). Now comes the scheduling alchemy of getting several busy people in the same place at the same time for a number of days. If any of the Skirts know a symbol for that, I’m all ears.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Cow Corpses, Mood Writing and other Ravings

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

Cow Corpses and Robot Scorpions

The development phase of The Gunslinger continues as we await a start date.

‘Do we still need a cow corpse?’ That began one of my mornings last week. I had to wrack my pre-caffienated brain for what in the heck my partner was talking about. In the many drafts written over many years, The Gunslinger had a scene in which one of the most squirrelly henchmen shoots one of the heroine’s cattle several times prior to attempting to shoot one of her ranch hands. It was going to be a particularly bizarre scene as the actor attached to the part will most likely be shooting at his own father. We had to re-write the scene sans cow corpse because of the insane expense of a fake cow. Those of you who followed the Demon Under Glass shoot know we had a cow in that (I hadn’t realized we had a cow fixation until just now), but the expense was about a third of the film’s tiny budget. We wouldn’t even have a trained cow pretend to get shot. PETA would have a cow. They demanded documentation from the producers of O Brother, Where Art Thou (incidentally, that is a really good and really funny film) that their flying cow was not real. They had to provide step-by-step proof the process of putting the CG animal in the film. We re-wrote the scene sans cow. My partner was relieved, because that would have upended our finely tuned budget. As it was we were surprised that a horse that is standing still is about a quarter of the rental price as one with a rider on it. There are a lot of horses. The other burning question of the day was ‘Have you found a robotic scorpion?’ I confessed to not really looking for one yet. Why even bother with a robot scorpion? Though Travis is game to interact with a real one, I’m not sure the insurance company will be as keen. Though we may do a real one behind glass a la Raiders of the Lost Ark and the cobra. I think we’ll need the robot, because PETA would likely object to the way Shadow Smith disposes of his little morning guest.

Scary Myspace Notes

Under the category of captions you don’t want to read on photos from your leading man: ‘Here’s where I cracked my head open under the waterfall.’ Jon wondered why I was screaming while checking my e-mail. I often scream, but not usually when I’m looking at photos of Travis. He’s fine, but oy the palpitations! Anyway, his photos under the water shirtless prompted me to release my favorite photo from the trailer shoot (gee, I wonder why). You can find it at http://www.myspace.com/hiddenpassions click on Pics underneath the yellow smiley icon. Then, go to Trailer Shoot for a larger version.

Writing Atmosphere

I’m often asked by writers and readers what music I listen to when I write. The short answer is that I don’t listen to music when I write. I get distracted by the lyrics or the memories that the lyrics evoke, and I’m derailed from writing. Jon gets around that by listening to instrumental soundtracks when he write, so the words are distracting him. We have an insanely large collection of soundtracks. That doesn’t work for me. I get to thinking about the film the music is from and then I’m profoundly distracted. I have been inspired by songs or tracks of music. A Soldier’s Choice tone of hope and despair is from the song Rise by Yoko Kanno, performed by. The song Nasty Boys by Janet Jackson looms largely in the first story in a memoir about my mother. For some reason, Extreme Ways, the closing theme for the Bourne films by John Powell, evokes the feel of A Soldier’s Fate. I listen to news when I write or TV shows that I can tune out to background noise. It’s a habit from growing up. The family wasn’t into peace and quiet when I was doing homework. They needed their TV shows. I learned to tune them out. Oddly enough, I can’t do that with music. The other thing I’ve been doing while I write the Soldier’s novels is cooking. Maybe the reason for that is that Vincent cooks. Most days while I work on the book, there is stock simmering or something roasting. The house smells wonderful. I imagine that’s how Vincent’s kitchen would smell like. Today, there is the second attempt on veal stock and a roasted chicken stock simmering. Soon, there will be a sweet potato pie. The homey aromas don’t match the emotional torment I’m heaping on my characters (it’s near the end of the book), but it helps me work.

More Raves than Rants
Warning: Major Spoilers for a whole lot of stuff

Even before I watched the recordings of the double header, CSI: Miami, I was in a kinder, gentler mood. One of the TV shows I was listening to for background noise while inputting A Soldier’s Fate is Inronside, the wheelchair detective, on hulu.com. That show was part of a litany of Detective shows that had an adjective in front of the word Detective like The old Detective (Barnaby Jones), the fat Detective (Cannon), the blind Detective (Longstreet) and the concussion Detective (Mannix). Ironside reminded me just how goofy cop shows were back in the day. Thus, I was more kindly disposed to last week’s lunacy on CSI: Miami. Turns out, it was a fun pair of episodes. There was the silliness of a civilian instigating the extradition of a police official to a foreign country, but the resolution was a delightful surprise. There was Horatio Cain with only one gun and one clip against five, count ‘em five bad guys with guns. While the central bad guy is yacking about what was going to happen to him, Horation takes aim and shoots everybody. And he takes down two more waves of villains before the opening credits! It was actually amusing. The kidnapping of our spook-girl, Calleigh actually made sense in the context of the episode and it made clever use of basic science and forensics in how she helped them find her. I found myself rather pleased. And that wasn’t the only show to top itself. Criminal Minds had a brilliant opening scene that surprised and tickled me. But the best of the week, of course, was the return of Battlestar Galactica. I won’t discuss it here. If you haven’t seen it before, you’d have to start from the mini series to follow my raving. And then there are the huge spoilers that even the most casual comment will cause. So I will say only that it’s not only the best Sci-fi on TV (smart, sexy, funny and complex), it’s some of the best drama ever aired on TV. And it never fails to surprise me in a good way.

Stay tuned for more on the film and the book next week!