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, July 27, 2008

Strange Days and Mutant Kittens

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.

Strange and Off-Putting

It’s been an odd week with an undercurrent of stress born of keen anticipation. It’s made all the more frustrating by not being free to talk about the underlying reasons for the stress. I don’t know if I ever will be. Even in this day of director commentaries and DVD extras, there are certain elements of a production that are never discussed with the public. They can become widely known in the industry, but never actually acknowledged. Kinda sucks, but what can you do? Right now, Jon and I are awaiting the green light on a really big film for us. We’re trying to get a re-write treatment finished before the official word. Once that word is given, the pressure will be extraordinary to produce a new script as a shoot in the fall in dependent on it. Thus, Jon and I hash over the new plot and characters during the commute to and from the Archive. Meanwhile, we have two titles due out for Sybaritic Press (in addition to A Soldier’s Fate). And then there are the pitches that came out of nowhere. Remarkably, those are almost finished. We should be sending them out by the week’s end. The real horror on that is if they are accepted. I’m not how we’d find to do them in a timely fashion with all that’s on our plates. Jon said that we may have to look at hiring writers. That’s a really odd and daunting thought for me. I’d been reluctant to hire a writer for the novelization of ‘The Gunslinger.’ But now I know that I’ll have to at some point.

Don’t get me wrong. With this green light, a lot of breathtaking, wonderful things happen for us. And I allow myself to think them from time to time and get extremely happy. But at heart, I can be as squirrelly as any of my beloved actors (incidentally, never call an actor for sympathy. All I got for the heartfelt call yesterday was ‘will you become a mogul already. I need to work.' Ah, friends.) One thing I am most wiggy about is traveling. I am infamous for my travel lists. For travel that involves months away from home, the lists are numerous and ponderous. However, it’s hard for me to truly prepared when I don’t know my travel dates – especially for the scouting trip. I understand that Jon and I may be in the air within a day of the go ahead being given. I can’t begin to describe how unpleasant a travel companion I am with that kind of notice. I need six hours to get properly smashed for the flight. Yes, it really is prudent that I’m smashed before a flight. Otherwise, I get very anxious and opening the cabin door becomes a good idea. When one of my actor friends went with us to Cannes, He was really alarmed at how much I imbibed before the 16-hour flight. Then, he was amazed that I was stone, cold sober by the time we landed. Where was I? Poor Jon. Fear not, I think all the anxiety will be overridden by all the fabulous things this shoot will bring.

Craig Again
Among those fabulous things will be working with Craig once again. He’s marvelous at keeping my on an even keel on set, but he is invaluable in dealing with New Jersey. He’s got a lot of connections. And most of them do not operate out of places like Bada Bing. The governor of New Jersey decided that the Garden State did not need a film commission. Though one can make films without ever contacting a state’s film commission (we’ve yet to use the one here), it’s helpful when a company is from out of state to get guidance for permits, security and such. Craig had some calls made. He informed me that there will be a film commission at our disposal upon arrival. It hadn’t been reinstated, mind you, but someone will be there to ‘get us all you need.’ I think his name is Al. I don’t want to ask. As long as the set runs smoothly, I’m a happy woman. Craig also made me happy by regaling me with a tale of Anthony Bourdain. Seems that he did a signing at Book Soup while Craig worked there. He was not looking forward to another celebrity chef being fawned over by the wealthy denizens of the Entitlement Zone. But the first thing Tony did after the gushing introduction was tear into the LA restaurant scene for it’s emphasis on the hip and famous instead of the food and the restaurant patrons for the attention span of a gnat. A bunch of people left. Craig said he felt like applauding. The rest of the talk reminded him more of Hunter S. Thompson than Wolgang Puck. Craig was impressed, and that is hard to do. He was as impressed as I was that Bourdain visited Saudi Arabia, a country where alcoholic beverages are forbidden, and had a great time. One last thing about Craig. He hasn’t run into anymore one-legged crickets, but he managed to come across five kittens that had eight toes on each paw (is toe the right term for a cat?). He had cell phone photos. The kittens looked like their paws were drawn by a cartoonist. They were huge, and they were adorable. Luckily, his animal loving Ohio girl wasn’t with him, or he’d have custody of at least one.

Soldier’s Fate Print Debut

I was elated to receive the proof from the distributor. The book turned out beautifully. And I’m very pleased to find that it is already selling well. The support and great patience of my readers is gratifying. I think you’ll find it was worth the wait. Meanwhile, I am almost finished the backstory of the characters for the web site. The cookbook is almost finished as well. I’m cooking a lot today despite the heat. I find that I need the soothing aromas for my jangled nerves. It’s helpful to do something that is familiar and comforting. I can now comfortably write up recipes having done them over and over with the results I expect. Yes, there were a number of times that the results were quite unexpected though not terrifying. But I digress. It was great fun hanging out with Rik and Vincent. I’m really pleased that this pitch has kept me working in their world. I have very strong ideas about the third book, but work on that won’t begin for some time to come.

Meanwhile, I am off to make more food and hang out on my sofa. There will be more refining of my many lists. Maybe I can set up a suitcase complete with a flagon of booze to go for a quick departure without making Jon crazy. Who am I kidding? I’m going to drive him crazy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Soldier's Fate Print Version Now Live

It's available on Amazon.com. To find the link fast, got to: http://soldierschoice.com .

My apologies for the extreme delay. It was my brilliant idea to change distributors with this title wihouth knowing what the learning curve would be for submissions. The result is fabulous though it took a while.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

On No, Mobsters and Rampaging Elephants

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.

Amusing Chefs
That is, I managed to amuse the chefs who work for Jamie Oliver. Those of you who read last week’s blog know of my misadventures with a mutant blob of pizza dough. Late one night while still punchy from lack of sleep, I sent a note to Mr. Oliver via his website about how I enjoyed the wacky experience and the pizzas it produced. They kindly responded with some advice to avoid having dough that grows exponentially. I then sent them the photo of the dough in question. They found it quite hilarious. I always enjoy it when my cooking brings happiness – even if it’s just hearty laughter.

Avoiding the Word No
Jon and I were told this about casting actors. You look for reasons to say no in order to quickly pare down the number of submissions. These are not random choices. They are obvious: too short, too tall, too young, too old, wrong body type, wrong ethnic type, etc. That way you aren’t seeing hundreds of people for one role. You’re just seeing dozens. That can make for a really long day, believe me. At any rate, the same applies for pitching novels or scripts. The initial reader is always looking for a reason to say no. For written materials, like novels, it’s a longer process. In General, one can’t just glance at a page and toss it aside. It’s happened, but usually, a few pages have to be read to make a decision. The initial no is usually because the material doesn’t fit the publishing company (Sybaritic Press does not do young adult stories, especially no young adult erotic, but we get a lot of submissions for it). If the query letter is bad (poorly written or too pushy or too pleading), I’ll say no without reading the material. Experience has taught us that bad query letters equate to a bad experience with a potential author. With scripts, the cover letter can kill a pitch as well. Beyond that, sending the wrong type of script to a producer gets nowhere fast (Jerry Bruckheimer is not likely to read a drawing room farce) and it is pointless to send the Sci- Fi Channel a historical romance unless one of the couple is an alien or a vampire (preferably both). Sounds logical, but it happens all the time. Some writers will not only send the wrong material to a producer or network, they will argue that these are the kind of scripts that they should be producing. Boy, that would make me want to spend lots of money and time working with that writer. HA!

Beyond avoiding the initial no, there are other reasons to reject a pitch. Most come down to money. How expensive will it be? Can it find an audience to make back the cost plus a profit. In the case of a TV series, does it have a large enough, sustainable audience to make a profit? For a long time, Jon and I had problems getting past the second hurdle in a pitch. We didn’t know enough about the practical aspect of making films to convincingly speak about costs. It wasn’t until after we’d made Demon Under Glass that I learned how to schedule and budget a film based solely on a script. Making a film and developing the many project we have started since then has taught us a lot about what things really cost. We’ve worked with professionals who know how to creatively keep costs down and maintain the right production values on screen. But even that may not be enough. When making a pitch, it helps to know what kind of money a producer has spent on similar projects. It is most prudent to be very close to that same budget. That’s never easy. Budget info is still really hard to come by despite pay services like imdbpro. Casting directors often know budgets because they need to know what they can offer talent. We cultivated a great relationship with a casting director who often advises us. A lot of research is done before writing the pitch. Then, you have to find the right words to get them to schedule a second meeting.

This has been what I’ve been up to for a couple of weeks while Jon re-writes a romantic comedy that’s up for funding. I’m keeping notes on that process that I’ll share in a blog when I’m allowed to discuss it. That’s called ‘How to Avoid Throttling the Director.’

I’ve finished the Onesheet for Blood Oath (the Soldiers live action pitch). I’m very happy to have the support of a gay publisher of Yaoi in the US. Hopefully, he will bolster our contention that there is a niche of avid fans out there for this sort of show. I’ll post the text for the onesheet and the treatment later today. The artwork is still in the works.

My Life in Film and The Godfather
Warning: Seemingly pointless rambling mixed in with necessary ramblings to follow.

I’m not saying that my life is literally like being involved with mobsters. Though I’ve had glancing relationships through various friends connected to associates. Of course, Craig would be one of them. My favorite work conversations with him invariably involved mobsters. There’s nothing like a co-worker’s expression when they hear: You should never ask why he’s called Thumbs, because he’ll show you the whole collection of them. Or They whacked their own Don without permission when they found out he was gay. They thought the Gambinos would kill them all. Incidentally, that New Jersey Family is widely believed to be the basis for the Sopranos. Puts a whole new spin on Tony, eh? I’ve had my own strange conversations with friends over mobsters. Such sentences as No, Gideon, not everyone was a bagman in high school. And to his father: You took Skinny Joey Merlino and his friends to Fellini films? Seems, he was trying to teach them some culture.

No, it’s not literal involvement with mobsters -- just that some of the conversations I’ve had about mounting films remind me of a particular scene from The Godfather (if you have never seen it, you should. If you have, watch it again). The scene is when Michael Corelone is talking to his father in the vegetable garden. Vito (Marlon Brando) explains that after his death, a trusted friend will come to Michael with an important meeting. At the meeting, he will be assassinated. It’s said in a very casual tone. Our favorite film advisors often speaks to us in such terms when outlining all the possible disasters that will befall us on any given film. He’s never said that we’d be assassinated, but given that he has said things like but the Burmese army took a detour to find the runaway monks, so it all worked out, or when you get a rampaging elephant, make sure to get a second unit on it for footage, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. The current list of potential disasters makes me wonder anew at the theory that working in the field you love is joyful stress. Meanwhile, one of my production partners keeps saying, after we begin development, I’ll settle a lot of relationships. Of course, what I hear is: After the baptism, I’ll settle all family business. That makes a person with my twisted imagination very careful to stay on his good side.

I must get back to work. There are a lot of beautiful, naked men to look at on screen. Hey, it really is work. I have to check out the shows on our pitch network. Jon and our partner have pointedly told me they weren’t interested. Sigh. It’s all up to me.

Stay tuned. A whole lot of things are influx. I should be able to talk about them soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bastille Day, Mutant Dough and Rattlesnakes

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.

Holi-daze - Bastille Day Edition

On July 14th, the French will celebrate FĂȘte Nationale or Bastille Day. I hope my lovely French friends have a great time. I’ll be raising a glass of wine in their honor. I know, I know, again with the France thing. My obsession is completely justified. Aside from the country’s support and aid in our own revolution (Forget us Lord, lest we forget the sacred sword of Lafayette) They are a sublimely civilized country. I found a recent example in the following imdb.com article:

French Labour Laws Force Ratner's Movie Set Back To LA

30 June 2008 9:07 AM, PDT From wenn.com See recent WENN news
Hollywood moviemaker Brett Ratner ran into trouble when directing his blockbuster film Rush Hour 3 - because the French government enforced strict labour laws which made filming nearly impossible.
Ratner chose to shoot the third installment of the action franchise starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Paris with hopes of adding to the movie's "fish out of water comedy".
But the French's leisurely approach to the working week soon forced the director to relocate the film set back to Los Angeles.
Ratner says, "We could only shoot eight hours a day because it was the law - the thirty hour work week in France. No overtime. It doesn't matter if you offer them triple overtime, they will not work more.
"So it's eight hour days and two hour lunches and wine service during lunch. Every crew member, in their contract, has a right to drink wine. So they have an open bottle of wine and they bring you an appetizer, a main course and then a dessert - service. It's not like you go get your own food and you sit down. So basically I'm getting six hours a day shooting.
"So we decided we've got to go back to LA and build an extended (set of Paris)."

Frankly, I saw nothing wrong in those labor laws. And as for being unable to get his pages done, I fault the director. The Bourne Identity seemed to do very well shooting in Paris, and that’s with some completely insane car chases. We certainly plan to find a reason to shoot there as soon as humanly possible. Meanwhile, have a great holiday, mes amis!

The Dough That Ate My Fridge

I’m still experimenting with making my own dough. The baguette recipe remains intimidating, so I thought I’d try pizza dough. I’ve been terrible dissatisfied with pizza since visiting Cannes. No, that’s not as weird as it sounds. That part of France was once part of Italy. There are still a lot of Italians there. I had the fortune or misfortune of having real Pizza Margherita. Don’t get me wrong. There are pizza’s here that I enjoy. I worked in Manhattan for a year and there are great pizzas there. And in Philly, Jon and I like this very non-traditional Greek Pizza made by Hispanic guys at Germantown Style Pizza. It’s particularly good when eaten with a luridly red colored soda called Tahitian Treat. But I digress. I really loved the Pizza I had in Cannes and have made several attempts to reproduce it with store bought pizza shells. The results were satisfactory at best. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Jamie Oliver make pizza on his new show, Jamie at Home. It looked really easy, so I gave it a try. The recipe called for only one rising for the dough to double in size. Then, it could be refrigerated until use. I did everything in the recipe, then I wrapped the dough in plastic and put it in a gallon sized bag in a bowl. An hour later, I looked in the fridge to find the dough was about to burst my bag and envelope the top shelf of the fridge. Even after I divided it into four sections, they grew in the bags. It had nothing but dough on my top shelf until I could pre-bake the shells to freeze. It was a tasty pizza cannibal, but oy, do I have a lot of pizza shells.

Turning My Husband On

No, it’s not at all what you’re thinking. Jon is now complaining about the headline, as it is not truth in advertising. It’s a whole lot geekier than that. And it involves A Soldier’s Choice, which does absolutely nothing for Jon. I’m working on the pitch for the live action version. I mentioned that we wanted to use Manga-style images for the opening and linking scenes. I also wanted to use them in the written presentation. That meant, doing two or three pages of comic action and having some images of Rik and Vincent for the letterhead, etc. I put a call out of manga artists for this very modes job. The bids I received for the work averaged $650 per page. The total would have cost us the same amount of money we spent on the live trailer for The Gunslinger. I plan to do a trailer for A Soldier’s Choice, but only after I get some expressed interest from the network. We’re not adverse to investing where necessary, but I was not putting that kind of money into such a small job. So, to the amazement of my hubby, I bought a sketch-pad and downloaded some reference material. I asked him to find me a software that could generate the manga panels and fx I needed, then started sketching. He got so excited over a page of eyeballs I’d done, that I thought he’d keel over. He started pulling out all of his favorite anime reference books to show me that I was creating model sheets and that’s how the animators worked. I didn’t know that. I was just practicing, because it’s been a while. I considered drawing as a creative path for a long time. I even drew a lot of comics as a teen and young adult. Ultimately, writing had a much stronger pull for me. Still, I can still work with a pencil and these softwares can make anyone look really good. And it allows my Hubby to let his anime geek out. That works all around. I’ll post the work along with the expositional material on the Soldier’s Choice website.

Conversations with Craig – Outdoor Edition

Craig took his girlfriend on a walk through Solstice Canyon in Malibu over the holiday. It was the first weekend it was open since last year’s brush fires. During the hike, they met an exuberant, young Native American volunteer ranger at the cultural center there. “Have you ever seen a live rattle snake up close?” She asked. Of course, Craig had seen many of them. His favorite hiking spot is Rattlesnake Canyon (he wonders why I steadfastly refused to go hiking with him). His girlfriend replied that the only ones she’d seen with Craig were angry ones (another reason I don’t hike with him). That snake was asleep having eaten a large meal earlier, so everyone could examine him closely. Though I cannot fathom why. Craig on hikes can be such harrowing affairs that his father bought and insisted he carry a GPS locator. If there is weird weather, dead bodies, plane crashes in a remote area, Craig finds it. I was very surprised that he hadn’t found Moe, the missing Chimpanzee. The Volunteer Rangers also identified what kind of cricket was likely to have been living in their bookcase. She was certain it was dead by now.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Apple Pie, Strikes and Andy Rooney

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.

First off, thanks for all the inquiries as to our health and safety. The national coverage of the fires seldom lets viewers know where the major cities are in relation to the various blazes. LA is hundreds of miles from the Goleta and Big Sur fires. LA County is having fires in the Santa Clarita area and in Malibu again. These are much smaller than the blazes last year. They haven’t impacted our air quality yet. So, we’re okay right now.

Holi-daze Patriotism Edition

Happy Canada Day to my Canadian readers! And for those for which it applies, Happy 400th anniversary to Quebec City. The celebrations looked grand, indeed. Quebec City’s special day was even celebrated throughout France. Well done! I have some very dear friends in Canada and some very fond memories of my visits there. I’m very fond of their actor-boys as well. Though I’ve often talked about the talent on Battlestar Galactica, but I also highly recommend taking a look at DaVinci’s Inquest, a very fine police drama that is now syndicated throughout the US markets as well as in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Jon finds it has some of the most natural dialogued he’d ever heard in a TV show. I’m inclined to agree. It also had a very wicked sense of humor (one of my favorite titles was ‘Ass Covering Day’). The performances are first rate. And if you ever get the opportunity, Visit Canada. Toronto is hip and eclectic, and Vancouver is breathtakingly beautiful with amazing food and vistas. The people are friendly and helpful, to boot.

We had a quiet 4th of July. I made an apple pie and we ate hot dogs. Alas, we had no guns, so we couldn’t celebrate the way Stephen Colbert would. Jon and I were watching the local news that day. There were a lot of trivia questions about the holiday. Several of them were about the Liberty Bell. I know there are many Philadelphians who stay away from Independence Mall (Philadelphians generally aren’t fond of tourists), but Jon and I had heard the speech about the bell dozens of times over the years. During one of my numerous jobs in Philly, I was trained by Federal Park Rangers on the sites in the Mall, so I could help guide visitors. Some of those talks are quite moving, and I remember many of them to this day. Anyway, after the final trivia question on the Bell, my ever-sentimental husband pointed out that the Liberty Bell would not be a good symbol for Quality Assurance (the current crack isn’t the first one and it hasn’t been rung in a very, very long time). While I found that remark appalling, his observation after the trivia question on The Star Spangled Banner was almost disturbing. It seems that our national anthem is filking to a British drinking song. All one can say to that is: U-S-A! U-S-A! Actually, our friends find us surprisingly patriotic. I made an apple pie. But those tales are for another blog.

The next Holidaze-Patriot Edition will be about Bastille Day. Stay Tuned.

A Strike that’s not a Strike

I’ve also received inquiries about The Gunslinger and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Since no strike was declared on July 1st, many of the e-mails reasoned that we should be able to proceed with our plans. Not exactly. There has been no strike vote taken (I’ve been told by someone on SAG’s board that they don’t have enough votes to get an authorization passed). However, there also hasn’t been an extension of the current contract. That means that actors aren’t bound to keep working and could walk out at any time. That has made movie studios reluctant to start films. Insurance companies won’t underwrite them out of concern over a walk-out. Stopping a film after cameras roll is hideously expensive – even to a major studio. Work will slowly grind to a complete halt save for smaller indie productions. It seems to have affected some TV episodics as well. At least, they aren’t having as many Breakdowns or casting calls as there should be for the TV season. It’s actually a fraction of what it should be right now. So, there is no actual strike right now, but there is very little actual work going on. No one is sure how long this state of affairs will last.

Distilled Prose

I’ve been working on my pitches for A Soldier’s Choice and some other projects. In trying to distill the lengthy and involved back-story for our heroes world and their pasts, I’ve had to first write said back-story. From the full version, I have to do a 3 or 4 paragraph version to go on a one-sheet version, it’s a glossy flier with text and images on one or both sides along with contact info. That must be further distilled into a tag line (one line that encompasses the entire concept). It’s also called a high concept pitch. The most famous high concept pitch was MTV Cops for Miami Vice. Attention spans for studio execs are short probably because they are doing the Hydra thing to the extreme. I’ve never seen people who could carry on so many conversations at once and keep track as these execs do. The pitch must be short, succinct and compelling in a few seconds. Since I’ve done all of this work, I’ve decided to put the back-story up on the Soldier’s Choice Web page. Maybe someone will kindly add it to Wikipedia at some point. I’ll put up the one-sheet as well once it’s ready. It should be really neat with the Manga style artwork.

He’s Back!

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations returns tomorrow, July 7th on The Travel Channel with some very exciting places on the schedule. If you love food and enjoy funny, biting, sardonic, insightful commentary and a real, ground level glimpse of a far flung place, watch his man. He’s infectious, I tell you. He had Samantha Brown cursing in her new show Passport to Great Weekends. To quote, dear, retiring, almost staid Samantha Brown said ‘You’ve never seen Anthony Bourdain spinning his ass in a champagne glass.’ She was dancing with The Pussycat Dolls at the time. Shocking, I tell you. So, watch Anthony. He may get you to do something wild as well.

And Now, Andy Rooney

Yes, I’m channeling Andy Rooney. I have to complain about Chipotle peppers and Ciabatta bread. Now, I like both products a great deal and use them frequently. But I’m really tired of food chains replacing them with their normal fare. I can’t get extra crispy chicken at KFC unless it is Chipolte Extra Crispy chicken. And Jack in the Box has replaced most of its burger buns with Ciabatta Bread. Sometimes, I want a regular hamburger bun, for Pete’s sake. This trend is as annoying as the sun dried tomatoes and pesto in the 90s. Geez. Okay, I’m done. Now. I’m off to make a hamburger on a regular bun.