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, December 27, 2009

Hurt/Comfort and Hollandaise

I don't know why, but I had to make Hollandaise sauce this morning. It's probably Julia Child's fault. I have been reading her memoir, My Life in France with great relish. There wasn't anything mentioning Hollandaise per se, but there was talk of buttery dishes. And I'd been craving something more than butter to go on an English muffin. Don't be too impressed by my Mother sauce making skills. Food Network's Tyler Florence came up with a delightfully simple recipe involving a blender. The longest part of the recipe is melting the butter. And it holds up without ever breaking. I felt using that recipe was cheating until a few days ago. While browsing through Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, I found she'd included a blender Hollandaise sauce along side of the original recipe. I suppose that's where the notion of making it today came from. I've been a bit Julia happy since Christmas.

Ah, I know what you're thinking. I've had a huge health scare. Why am I making a sauce whose principle ingredients are egg yokes and butter? Shouldn't I be eating the healthiest of healthy food? Yes and no. My Doc says that there is no such thing as a diet in my world now. I need calories. My blood work is such that eggs aren't an issue. She told me to eat what I want – especially what I crave. It should be noted that I have resisted the all bacon day. I'm still on an antibiotic that throws off my taste buds. Thus, I'm waiting for that to clear to go for the bacon-o-rama. Butter and eggs taste fine though. Fear not. I don't plan on gaining back all the pounds I lost. My diet is very well balanced on the whole. Right now, I'm burning everything I eat.

Hurt/ Comfort and Writing Realities

The whole surgery thing has raised questions from Jon about the physical problems real people have after a major injury like a gunshot and how quickly they would be in any kind of action. Specifically, in the case of The Gunslinger, is it realistic for KD to make love with Shadow just days after being shot? Jon is a real stickler for realism even in fantasy. For example, one of the Hidden Passion scripts, The Highwayman, involves the rule of law in Georgian England. Jon spent a great deal of time researching the circumstances under which someone could be arrested and where and how they would be incarcerated. It was all very interesting, and it actually fit well with the script I had in mind. This isn't always the case with Jon's research, especially where the Romance genre is concerned. I am often the first to rant at the unnecessarily stupid plot elements in Romance novels, but I also know that fans of the genre expect to see certain things – even if they stretch credulity. Sometimes I have to over rule Jon in favor of what's expected and hope it doesn't look ridiculous.

Thus, I concede that a character may not be in the best shape a couple of days after having a slug dug out of the shoulder in olde Wilde West days. They were no IV antibiotics, and painkillers were hit or miss. But I don't think I should be used as a measuring stick. I have nearly 30 years on both characters and am no where near in as good shape (if they were real, mind you). Moreover, the genre fans demand some hot comfort to go with that hurt, Jon has already said that he'd direct the scene to be awkward at first and then grow more passionate. He knew I wasn't budging about the scene. After all, the menstrual cycle is not a factor in most romance novels (including mine). The women are not bloated or crampy – ever. Why would they be? What woman would want to read that for an escape?

This experience will certainly impact my non-genre writing. This sort of experience is a great way of showing how strong a vulnerable character can be or how vulnerable a strong character could be in the wake of sudden and serious debilitation. I certainly can write about it with much more depth than research and interviews could have given me. This won't happen for a while. Right now, it's all too close. I'll need quite a bit of time to write about it with the kind of perspective that such writing would require. For now, the writing that I'm thinking about is much lighter fare. I need some serious escape even if it's memoirs about crazy holiday dinners past that I've been thinking about recently. Who knows? Right now, I'm going back to Julia Child cooking in Paris.

Bon Appetite!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yule Logs and Good Cheer

So, Jon and I are doing the Christmas thing watching the televised Yule Log on KCAL-TV channel 9 Los Angeles. I taped it as we weren't conscious at 6 am. It's 4 hours of a fireplace burning while carols are playing. The jauntiest of carols, Sleigh Ride by Johnny Mathis is on. I've heard three versions of Last Christmas by Wham. I had no idea there was more than one. I don't think there needed to be more than one. And boy, can singers ever mangle Silent Night. My absolute favorite remains the version by the Temptations. That version sounds like they're all drunk. That whole Christmas album of theirs did. But I digress. I find it surreal to tape four hours of a fireplace burning, yes. Since it's in the 70s outside, a video fireplace is most prudent. And it is very nice.

We weren't sure how much we'd celebrate Christmas this year. A week ago, I wasn't sure if I'd be up to anything at all. Tramping around for a live tree was out of the question. That's tiring under the best of circumstances. Luckily, we had a small, artificial tree from our first Christmas in Los Angeles. I wasn't sure I wanted to celebrate anything then either. We were in the city for ten months. The option on the script that brought us to LA had run out with no production date in site. We didn't really have any friends there. It was our first Christmas away from Philly. It was hot and foggy (how do you celebrate Christmas in heat and fog). And I was still profoundly grief stricken in the wake of Mom's passing late that summer. A few days before Christmas, I was moping through a strip mall near USC when I saw the tree on a clearance table. It reminded me of one that Todd Manning, a soap opera character from One Life to Live had. It was just a little fuller than Charlie Brown's Tree. And it looked like the sort of thing Manning would hang beer cans and action figures from. My Mom loved that character. He was the most interesting person that show had ever produced, so I bought it. We put it up every year even when we have a live tree. I've never hung a beer can in it, but we do put our action figures in it as ornaments. That did the trick this year. And with the lovely wreath gifted to us by Lucy, Ralph and Marguerite, the bouquet from the Archive gang and other decorations, the little apartment is really festive. I feel a thousand times better than I did at Thanksgiving. I have found in the last weeks how profoundly loved I am. There is too much to celebrate to let the holiday pass without some cheer.

Santa and Jon were very generous. Jon was very clever considering I didn't think he had time to shop. I have some books by Julia Child including My Life in France. I've wanted to read that for years. But I find myself reading Julia's Kitchen Wisdom first. I have to have a look at those recipes. I am doing some cooking today. I've had to set up a rig that allows me to chop things while seated on the sofa. I also have to rest a lot between steps and even longer between dishes, but the meal is shaping up. Jon is a fine sous chef keeping up with the dishes and lifting the heavy pots and pans.

I must make an aside here. I've gotten ham glaze on my face somehow. And Jon is testily pointing out that no carol should be sung with 'dooba dooba dos' in them unless it's be Fred Flintstone. I think it may be time to turn off the Yule log.

It's many hours later. We've watched the Alistair Sim Scrooge (it's the best), and we're full of ham and other dishes. I'm pleasantly tired. I think we managed to make rather merry, to quote Bob Cratchit. I hope all you have as well.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Happened and What's Next

Well, it wasn't just the flu that had me in bed for weeks. During the umpteeth visit to my doctor in three weeks, she heard something in my abdomen. Four hours later, I was in a Santa Monica ER floating along on some really powerful painkillers and realizing that I watched The Godfather far too many times. I'm not going to get into the details of all of what went wrong. I don't feel entirely comfortable putting all that personal detail up on the interwebs. You can call me or e-mail me privately if you want to talk about it.

However, I can share that I have been the object of fascination by scores of perky interns and my super savvy surgeon who'd never seen anything like my case (that does a lot toward making a patient feel like she'll recover).. I've been pushed through silent, dark hospital corridors in my bed like Vito Corleone being hidden from hit men ( found a clip HERE but it doesn't have any audio).

I've been asked many detailed questions about my job at the Archive during some very embarrassing physical exams (apparently electronic archiving is the bees knees with medical personnel. I wouldn't have minded it I wasn't exposed for all the world to see much of the time. Somehow, I was able to answer in great detail. That was probably the morphine pump. I found a way to pass an entire day by watching nothing but court reality shows. I don't normally watch much of that kind of programming. It's too much like Jerry Springer but without the fighting (then, what's the point). That choice of viewing may have been because of the pump. It was more likely that I was trying to find any programming that did not mention Tiger Woods. That was really hard to do without the Food Network. I really missed the Food Network while inside.

I have never been hospitalized in my entire life. Yet, in one visit I managed to have procedures that I've only read about (and some I'd never imagined). I even had the mask over my face in the OR with the counting backwards from 100. I really don't remember thinking 99. While most of this will do wonders for the depth of my writing. And there were some amusing 'only in the Entitlement Zone' aspects to the hospital. They don't bring food around at intervals. You have to order it from room service. Let me say again, you have to order it from a menu from room service. And there were lovely aspects to the care like back rubs and a pedicure (the nurses found out the day after my surgery that I had never been hospitalized and wanted to calm me down so the meds could work, I suppose). That was really nice, but all in all, I would have just assumed skipped the whole ordeal.

However, life is what it is. I had a serious surgery and a long road to recovery. I'm not allowed to think about anything but eating and sleeping for the next few seeks. I'm writing today because so many people needed to hear from me. I really appreciate all of the well wishes and offers of help. I accept all of it including the rain dances. But worry not, knowing me, I'll be writing now that I'm more clear headed. It helps my state of mind. I plan on doing a little cooking at a time. I have to eat, and I like my cooking best. The cookies will not be in time for Christmas, but there will be cookies. Jon has been assisting me for years. I can talk him through most of it from the sofa. I need to have that cheery smell in the air. I am home with the hubs, the love and support from my extraordianrily strong family and friends. I also have some lovely gifts from my Archive friends (including protection from the Happy Gorn, thanks Craig)

That's all for now. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comfort Food, Healing and a Little Funk

There are sweet potato pies and a big dish of mac and cheese in the oven. It's four days late, mind, but it's in there. The turkey is carved and awaiting re-heating. There is a delicious normality in the scents. I'm actually hungry enough to eat the two pies. Jon's bottomless pit has return as well. In the land of the studio/archive, Craig is well enough to have two forbidden tacos during the course of the day. They are forbidden by his health conscious girlfriend. And the other co-workers are back to eating their microwaved corn dogs and other questionable repast. Collectively, we're still trying to figure out what WAS that.

Shortly before we were felled, our company was planning on a big December shingdig for the studio, Dragoncor's new digs and the premier of Blood Oath. We'd begun interviewing caterers, and I was planning the press kits and guest lists. But before we really made any headway, I heard from a friend who does these sorts of functions several times a year. I had contacted her for advice. It was sobering. She strongly suggested that we wait until well into January. It seems, holiday party slots go quickly among the people we wanted to invite – for the ones still in town. Many try to hot foot it out by mid-December. She thought our date was good, but she thought we'd be lost in the competing parties. “Nothing is happening in mid-January,” she advised. I was relieved. My concentration was waning, and I was just realizing that I was really sick. Much to my surprise, everyone else involved was ecstatic to wait. We can all slow down and hone the presentation. I can really rest during the big Christmas break. But most groovy of all is being able to squeeze into a much smaller little black dress. Sweet.

I really appreciate all the very nice notes and concern. That helps a lot. I was really grumpy for a while. That's the funny thing about those romance stories where the hero or heroine is being nursed back to health. The patient is so surly as to be evil. The patient is not in the least bit attractive. I won't get into the scents and sounds. It's just ugly all around. But who would read a romance that included mucous or other even more odious fluids. I wouldn't (and I don't want to know about any such fiction either).

I've been working on a much longer blog about the writing and the projects and the joy of finding Soul Train reruns from it's ealiest days (nothing lifts the spirits like a little Funk). It should be ready by next week.

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hiatus

I've decided to look on the past two weeks as a DIY Spa Cleanse. I've been alcohol-free, fat-free, meat-free and a lot of days, food free during that time. I'm certain that everything bad that was inside me is gone. I've had quite a pre-holiday slim down as well. The fevers, coughing and what not are, thankfully, over. Jon and I are almost working at a normal level. Needless to say, we are way behind in everything. I haven't been able to write in all that time. There will be a full blog over the Thanksgiving Holiday. There are great things happening despite the pestilence that visited our house. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Always Remember


I am late for the eleventh hour, but I couldn't let the day pass without asking that everyone remember on this Veterans Day/ Remembrance Day all of those who fought and died in world and regional conflicts. Hopefully, there will come a day where the list does not grow longer. For tangible action, consider donating to places like the USO that assists soldiers and their families.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Familiar Feelings and Other Whimsy

Craig has given me the Happy Gorn to protect me at the new office along with a missive from Mister Hooves.. Alas, Jon and I seem to have re-caught the Thing Going Around the Office. I've had to postpone meetings set for Monday. I've decided answering the phone is not a good plan. Yesterday, I almost asked an investor 'Why you call me? Me need soup!' Even Ralph and some of the soundstage people are hacking up lungs. None of us think it's H1N1, but there is paranoia with each cough or sneeze. I'm just tired of the raw throat and the wet cotton in the brain. I'm finding it hard to comprehend the football games today. And the keyboard is blurry.

Strangely, other than feeling awful again, it's rather pleasant here. The weather is beautifully cool. The incredibly early Thanksgiving sales at our market prompted me to make a dry run at the turkey(that thing was 20 lbs for $7.00!), gravy and dressing. Thus, the apartment smells lovely. I'm also making some stocks from the leftover roast chicken carcass and the turkey carcass. There will be very yummy gravy and restorative soup in a few hours. Our short and long range plans are on schedule. Or they were. I can't look at the last list of resumes until I can read without my ears ringing. It's a minor delay at best. I hope.



So there are many exciting things on the horizon and much in the way of yumminess in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I can't really focus on the ode to the Phillies I wanted to do this week. It has a fabulous diatribe against sports coverage in Los Angeles. And then there is the preview of the CSI Trilogy this week. An arc involving all three shows is in the offing. Alas, all I can think about is my very raw throat and the ringing in my ears. Meanwhile, I will share the latest safety tip at the Archive and Ralph's latest method of leaving me messages. What will he do when the offices are finished?
Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Gorn, The Caterers and A Cunning Plan

Craig has become obsessed with my shoes. I don't work in my shoes. I take them off and put on the kung fu slippers I purchased at the same time as the order for Rik and Vincent's outfits. As I've said, who can resist ordering something from kungfu4less.com? I keep my shoes under my work station. Craig noticed them this week and has become obsessed with planting a plush Gorn in one of them. I'd never heard of such a thing. I thought he might be speaking in code and was planning on doing something diabolical with them in addition to hiding them in strange places around my work station. He finally acted on Friday. The Archive denizens were squirrelier than usual as we were filled with donuts and Halloween candy. Craig put a Gorn on my workstation as he left. I'm hoping he meant me to keep him. He isn't exactly a happy Gorn, but he is terribly enthusiastic. I've also decided to hide my shoes to avoid temptation. Meanwhile, here is the funnies thing we've ever seen in an elevator.

Excitement and Terror
Since last week, our launch and holiday party plans have firmed up considerably. A caterer remains elusive, however. I had visions of visiting all these business and sampling their tasty finger foods. Instead, I'm having my blood pressure raised by very snippy people who don't DO our area of town or if they do, the prices make my head spin. I've heard a lot of 'oh, if you want tables and chairs, that will be considerably extra. I wondered how they planned to set up the buffet without tables. In the little online forms, I indicated that we didn't have our own. They all noticed the hefty head count. They must have seen that we needed something to put food on. I almost screamed when one told me that each floral centerpiece on the buffet table would be $100 or so. Do you know how many glasses of wine we could have in place of three centerpieces? Marguerite and I have been brainstorming and came up with some solutions that should still look elegant, taste good and do not involve spending a bloody fortune or have us cooking anything. Jon and I may do a few trays of Christmas cookies, but that's not hard considering how much baking we're already doing. We'll also be able to give three of the four people to whom we ship single packages of goodies heir treats in person. I'm trying to figure out a reason to fly Sarah out here to get hers as well. Perhaps her current opus can be made into a film? What do you say, Sarah Jane?


The terror part is not the party. No matter the obstacles, Marguerite and I will figure out a way to through an elegant and tasty party. The terror part is the screening of Blood Oath's pilot presentation. No matter how hard a production company works and no matter how good everything looks to us, we can't know for sure what we have until someone unrelated to the film evaluates it. Though I seem arrogant about my work (and I admit to being somewhat arrogant), I'm still very nervous about that first screening. And that's before we get to the network suits we've invited. Since we want them to buy the program, that makes for a lot of pressure. Still, we're confident enough in our work to throw this shindig. We'll have our actor boys in person for Q&A. That's Lance Wesley, Matty Ferraro, Aaron Blake and hopefully, Brian Avery. They are all gorgeous and charming in person. And we'll have a little nosh afterward.

So, if you are in the LA area and interested in some cutting edge, live action yaoi, email me for an invitation.

It seems that the Eagles have decided not to torture me this week. Hopefully, the Phillies will follow suit. Both games play in south Philly today. Oy! I'm glad not to be trying to get to the airport there today.


A Very Cunning Plan
Warning: There be many spoilers and strong opinions ahead.

As I wrote in yesterday's mini-blog, we watched two films last night. I watched Scream Blacula Scream on my own as Jon was napping. Each film was a treat for vastly different reasons. The first was The Naked Monster, a loving send up of B monster films from the 50s and 60s. It makes very clever use of existing footage and casting of actors from those films (The Thing from Another World, War of the Worlds, and This Island Earth for example). In many cases, these were the last roles for those iconic actors. They all seemed to be having a great time, so we had a great time watching them. There were even a couple of bits with the wonderful Forrest J. Ackerman whom I had the pleasure of meeting more than once. We've toured his amazing home and had a long chat about Sci-fi pulp fiction. We had hoped to have him in Demon Under Glass, but the timing never worked out. At any rate, the Naked Monster does not have great acting and the special FX are really clunky around the edges, but the film works because it salutes films with many of the same issues. There is an enthusiasm for the material and a genuine sense of humor in the script that it is hard not to be charmed by it. And if you have never seen the films The Naked Monster is honoring, look them up and have a look. They are all true gems and often the inspiration to film makers we watch today.


The thing that Battlestar Galactica: the Plan did to me first and foremost was make me realize how much I miss that show. I enjoy a lot of varied TV shows, but there simply isn't anything out there right now that routinely surprises and challenge and impresses me. It was good to feel that way again if only for a couple of hours. The second thing I felt was deep satisfaction. One of my few complaints about the series finale was that Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell died way too quickly and too easily considering the suffering he caused. However, The Plan revealed that Cavil suffered a fate that was akin to a living hell for him. Not only did his plan to destroy humanity fail. He couldn't get rid of the survivors. The other models were behaving irrationally where humans were concerned or proved to be just plain incompetent. And worst of all for him was the realization that had he succeeded, he still would not have had what he wanted from his 'parents' (the Final Five – all the love he felt they were squandering on humanity. There would be no 'sticky hugs' for Brother John. There would be sorrow and mourning and profound dismay and disappointment from beings whom he desperately wanted approval. That, for Cavil is true suffering. Thus, I no longer feel like he should have been keelhauled under Galactica. The Plan answered a lot of unanswered questions and problems I'd had with the original run of the show. How were the Cylons finding them after they jumped away from the Colonies? Who had written Cylon on Boomer's locker mirror. Why Boomer hadn't managed to kill Adama from point blank range? None of these questions kept me from enjoying the series at the time, but it was nice to have some sort of explanation. Above all, I was impressed at the very simple but incredibly powerful motivation behind the unfathomable attack on the human colonies. Cavil orchestrated the extermination of millions of humans in a gambit to get the undivided attention and love he felt he lacked from his 'parents.' He was acting out like any child would when feeling neglected. This child happened to have control of a near limitless nuclear arsenal and and arming a robot death machines. Simple but powerful motivation was the hallmark of this BSG. All of the technology and FX pale in comparison to the power of overwhelming elemental drives. Jane Espenson's script brilliantly conveyed this without once being heavy handed, and Edward Olmos' direction brought out amazingly moving performances that never overplayed. The result was astonishing. 'This has happened before' is the cryptic utterance of all of the final five when the nukes begin to explode. And it will again when a very head strong, petulant teen with a new found philosophy and a very dangerous new form acts out in 'Caprica.' I can hardly wait.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blacula, Naked Monsters and BSG's The Plan

I used to dress up in thigh high boots and corsets and the like for Halloween. Since moving to LA, I'm inclined to do that on any given Tuesday, Thus, I am home watching Scream, Blacula, Scream. It has a Blacula, Pam Grier and that Black guy from Ironside. Why wouldn't I be watching that? Next, we'll likley watch The Naked Monster , a hopefully good spoof of such films as The Thing from Another World. It features a brain-dead sheriff, a stolid secret agent and a sexy scientist team with a grumpy retired monster fighter to battle a 60 foot, three-eyed cross between man and dinosaur. It also stars many actors from B movie classics often in their final roles. Who wouldn't want to see that. And after our brains are filled with cheese, we'll watch BSG: the Plan. After all, you must save the best for last. I'll be reviewing all of them (spoilers and all) in the blog tomorrow. Save for Scream Blacula Scream. I'm nearing the end and have no idea what I've been looking at.


Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Food P0rn, Plot Twists, Updates and Unscheduled Nakedness

Of late, I've grown to really love cold rainy days, because I love to cook. Our home is very toasty and smells really yummy. Thus, last week's weather in LA should have been cooking heaven for me. Unfortunately, Jon and I were still fighting off something going around the office, so I didn't do very much cooking this past weekend. I am proud to say that I've emptied my freezer of leftovers and did not throw them directly into the trash. I whipped up many things over rice or noodles. Jon seemed to enjoy all the dishes, so I suppose it was a successful and frugal effort. All I did last week, cooking wise, was warm up re-invented leftovers. I didn't even have fixings for a lovely and decadent cup of hot cocoa. This would have been really nice on Wednesday when it was really pouring. Even with the carpool, we came home with soggy shoes and thus cold, unhappy feet. The parking lot at the new facility is vast, you see. We were all thoroughly wet before even reaching the end of the building, let alone the car itself. Alas, I could not take advantage of the gray, chilly days. By the time I had all of my ingredients, the weather had changed markedly. To quote my poetic friend, Marie, it went from cold and damp to 9,000,000,000,000 (I believe that may be a bazillion) degrees in about a day. The apartment is like a sauna (albeit a fragrant one). It's weird to be in a room so hot while watching football. Ah well.

On a side note, I swear I just heard a penalty call during the New York/New Orleans for unnecessary punching. Does that mean that there can be punching during the game that's considered necessary? I'm curious. Much time has passed. I've been distracted by cooking and some other more troublesome matters. The blog is very late this week. In fact, there was no blog at all last Sunday. My apologies.

It's now Friday. Jon and I are home sick...again. No, it's not H1N1. It is something that keeps running around the Archive. This fun thing has the body aches and near debilitating fatigue. Even so, I am making a quick version of my favorite chicken stock to make some restorative soups. Jon is not so much for the old fashioned chicken soup, but he does like cream of tomato soup with crackers (Ritz, of course). I have a lovely recipe for roasted tomato and red bell pepper soup by Sunny Anderson, another Food Network diva I like. And with this recipe, he gets the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the tomatoes, garlic and the red bell peppers. I've also made a crockpot full of mulled wine from a recipe shared by one of my French friends. The whole pace smells wonderful. That helps a lot. And I really like the idea of drinking something that is also known as Glogg. Unfortunately, I have no flagons. The soup is finished and it tastes quite yummy. All we need now are some gooey grilled cheese samiches (yes, I meant samiches).

Food P0rn Part Deux

When Anthony Bourdain did his Food P0rn (I'm using the zero instead of an o to avoid search engine problems, okay), it was an interesting excursion through what highly trained chefs and extreme foodies call a hedonistic experience. It was entertaining and informative, but not anywhere near erotic. I was a little let down by that, because Bourdain is sensual and poetic in expressing his views on foods in any given episode. I've been inspired by this way of viewing food and cooking. It certainly has crept into my prose and scripts. But last week, I was exposed to an artists in sensually describing the sights, sounds and tastes of a kitchen. Alex's Day Off is Alexandra Guarnaschelli's new show on the Food Network. The premier episode featured a very simple meal of bacon, eggs and hash browns. It was sexier than some of my most naughty fiction. The way Chef Alex ordered a 'sloppy pound' of bacon made Jon look up from his work to ask what EXACTLY was I watching. I had been enjoying her posts on the Facebook all week long. One involving a butternut squash caused me to all but run out and buy one in hopes of having a similarly intense experience. Tonight she was talking about a sandwich. It sounded like way too much fun to have with a sandwich. She is extraordinary as a chef and a lover of food. Do have a look at the show.

Editing Surprises

No I don't mean discovering that Jon has changed my brutal mutant soldiers into ballet dancers. These surprises are about subtlety in the performances that pare very pleasing to someone looking for her characters to come to life. There was a lot I saw live and on the monitors dureing that made me happy during the Blood Oath shoots themselves, but it's hard to see everything. Throughout the fight scene I was watching to make sure that Goggles(Aaron Blake or Brian Avery) didn't lose his red scarf or that Vincent's (Matty Ferraro) ponytail didn't unravel or Rik's (Lance Wesley) military patches stayed in place. There weren't a lot of moments when I could focus on the facial expressions that happened during the fight scene. As a movie fan, I prefer action scenes that are telling me something about who the characters are. I expect the same character exposition during love scenes as well.
For example, the fight scene between Hector (Eric Bana) and Achilles (Brad Pitt) in Troy was a tragic ballet of grief and anger and honor. It was as sad as it was beautiful (Yes, even with all that bare, glistening skin, I noticed the actual fight). My favorite thing about the final duel between Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker during Revenge of the Sith is that the nature of their entire relationship played out during it. The fight was almost painful to watch. But my favorite example of an American film (Hong Kong action films have this down to a fine art) that uses character exposition during a fight scene and a chase scene brilliantly is Mr. &Mrs. Smith. Their first knock down drag out fight against each other is brutal, but it's also very funny and extremely sexy. It is quite clear that their being on opposites sides has not changed their feelings for each other. And then there is my favorite chase scene in film (same film). They dissect their whole relationship during a harrowing and death defying pursuit on a major highway. See the trailer HERE. It has some of the fight scene (you'll have to wade through an ad for another film). Incidentally, and completely unrelated to my point, I must commend Brad Pitt on his performance in Mr. & Mrs. Smith in that he was completely credible as being dangerous and goofy.

I'm not comparing out modest pilot to those big, expensive films. However, I was still looking carefully at the fight footage as Jon edited it to find my characters. You don't need high end production values to convey a sense of the characters through their action. And I did see them in brief glimpses during the frenetic fight. As Jon worked on the FX one frame at a time, I was impressed by the facial expressions of both Lance and Matty while they were fighting. I saw Vincent's determination, his temper and even his playfulness. In Rik, I saw the intense focus, the temper and the sardonic Colonel Bastard that is in the Soldier's novels. In each of them, I saw protectiveness and sometimes panic over each others safety. I would have never have seen that on the soundstage because I was too far from the action and they were moving way too fast. However, on a regular TV screen, everything was apparent. I could clearly see Vincent and Rik without them uttering a single line of dialogue. It was very exciting.

Project Updates

In other Blood Oath news, we've set a tentative date for the premier screening. I plan to firm it up in the next two weeks. We are toying with the notion of inviting fans of Yaoi, Manga and homoerotic sci-fi to the screening to generate some buzz. We have to decide on that soon as the screening will be the week before Christmas.

It's really odd, but five years ago, Dragoncor/Earthdraggon couldn't avoid shooting in November. Now, it seems that we can't avoid shoots in January and February. That's the current status of pre-production for the next film. It's not so bad though. It's not blazing hot, and a number of actors we're interested in for the horror film and the western are more available during that time (TV season is still on hiatus in January). We decided not to fight against the tide. Aside from the frequent illnesses, all of us are consumed by assisting Lucy with the soundstage launch and the new distribution arm of Dragoncor/Earthdraggon. I have to write up protocols for submissions for that. Jon had to drop everything to do an online, animated advertisement on Thursday for the soundstage. It's been exciting to watch all of this take shape, but it is draining at times for everyone. I can't imagine going into full-blown pre-production on top of all that. There are only so many hats that can fit on one set of heads.

CSI: Miami – Times They are a Changing

I remain flummoxed by the tones and plots on CSI: Miami this year. I'm not displeased by any stretch. I'm just really surprised and a little suspicious. What's going on here? I mean we have a hostage situation in one episode that does not behave in anyway like any other hostage situation I've seen on most police dramas. The twists and turns in that episode really surprised me – and not unpleasantly (see, I was paying attention to more than half naked CSI Cardoza (Eddie Cibrian). A side note, Jon postulated during last weeks episode where CSI Cardoza was running around shirtless and shoeless in low slung shorts while on the beach that perhaps the near naked thing is the actor's MO. I did some image surfing on the interwebs and found that he does, indeed, have no problem with being in a towel or less. Delightful. But where was I? Ah, yes, fun plot twists. The hostage ep was very interesting. My only criticism is an ongoing one. I'm not sure how many times armed gunmen have overrun their law enforcement building, but I really think after the first time, there would be some sort of armed security at the entrances. Last weeks ep, Bad Seed, was truly unique for the series. It didn't have an outright bad guy for one thing. The killer was a number of elements coming together to create food contamination that was in no way intentional. And the investigation was more science and less interrogation. In other words, the issues were really complex. The solution was not ideal, yet the journey to the conclusion was satisfying. Wow. And I'm really liking the more team-like feel between the actors. Horatio Cain (David Caruso) was content to let the team run with the ground work. He came in for the key interrogations. I'm seeing more and more of this from him. It fits the Steve McGarrett paradigm. In later seasons, he also was less in the field preferring to orchestrate the actions from behind the scenes. Still, I hope we haven't seen the last of Horatio's deadly shooting.

Unscheduled Nakedness

The best thing about the heat wave two weeks ago was some late season skin baring amongst the fitness conscious hot guys in the neighborhood. Two Saturdays ago, it looked like a calendar photo shoot had erupted outside our building. It wasn't like a Diuex du Stade calendar (that link is so not work safe). It was more in the racy fireman range. One of the lovely specimens was stretching on a utility pole in front of our building. He had on some sort of white spandex bike pants rolled down low. He was built as though fashioned by a talented sculptor, and he was glistening with sweat. But what I liked most was the self-effacing smile that graced that gorgeous mug in response to my most likely maniacal grin. He was so sporting about my leer, I didn't feel it was right to ask him to wait while I fetched my calander. There were about a dozen more such specimens getting in their runs on the route to Marina del Rey. I sure as heck didn't mind the heat any more.

Speaking of changing seasons. The change to standard time is next week in the US. As a reminder in the UK, the wonderfully naughty PSA aired. Thank you, Sylvette for the pleasant heads up!

Finally, thanks to everyone who sent notes of concern. We're on the mend. We just had to really take some time and rest.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Blog This Week

I was actually writing it despite delays due to cooking and the usual chores, but I have to deal with some pre-production issues as Ralph is unavailable. I have been completely distracted by this. So, double the fun for next week. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Garden Gnomes, Cakes and the Wandering Blog

Jon and I are tasting fondant and experimenting with gingerbread squares. No, these aren't some really strange marital aids, but more on that later. I wanted to open the blog with Craig in garden gnome form. The Archive commissioned an artist to do these funky three foot tall versions of long term employees for the garden at it's headquarters. Craig's is this Mini-Me thing wearing Peppermint Patty's shorts and sandals. The expression is the strange squint he gets with one eye bigger than the other when he's thinking something homicidal. But Craig hasn't sent me the photo. I'll get it, believe me. Meanwhile, back to the gingerbread.

Adventures in Architecture

We're opening up our local holiday baking repertoire to include gingerbread houses. Thus, Jon was using templates and a ruler and making bevel edges on the squares so that they stood interconnected without being glued. I blame the Food Network. Of course, one has to watch the holiday specials. Otherwise, I would have never seen Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Cake. I still wish I hadn't, but I'm glad there is now evidence online. Every year there are shows with gingerbread cake competitions. These produce some amazing cakes, but we were never convinced that they tasted good. All the ingredients had to be edible, but many did not appear to be tasty. Thus, Jon got a wild hair about building a tasty gingerbread cake that would look interesting even as it is being slowly demolished by holiday revelers. We made our first batch of dough this weekend. It's makes for sturdy walls, but the taste is rather bland. We'll try a more cake-like recipe later today. The idea is that bricks could be cut and stacked from the cake. Yes, this all sounds a bit involved for a table centerpiece. I gladly concede that.

The Food Network thing has grown from catching my favorite cooks on Saturday mornings to watching the competitions like Food Network Challenge (That started because one of the ads showed a contestant whose cake literally burst into flame. We had to find out how a cake can burst into flame) and the Next Food Network Star. We get wrapped up in these competitions. Lately, I've been wrapped up with the latest winner of the Next Food Network Star. I used Melissa D'Arabian's pastry recipe in the apple pies I made in Philly. I posted photos on her Facebook page and we've been corresponding ever since. And she's not the only one I hear from frequently. Many of my favorites are very net savvy and like to interact with fans. It's been so cool to receive praise from chefs I admire. And I'm not above some cross promoting. I'm thinking of sending them the Vincent Greven Cookbook. A complimentary blurb never hurts a title.

Needless to say, holiday cooking has taken on a great deal of complexity due to my broadening culinary interests. I'm planning my Thanksgiving menu now. I'll complete my cookie list very soon. The sales on baking ingredients begin in a few weeks, and I have to know how much we'll need to fill the ever growing list. We have learned that the cookie doughs we make freeze for weeks with no difference in taste when baked. That will enable us to stretch the cookie making out over more time and not make December so pressed with getting them done and shipped. I'm toying with the idea of making the Thanksgiving dinner a fund raising event for Feeding America. That will depend upon whether we can fit a decent sized table in this tiny apartment with room to move around. I rather like the idea of having some foodies over for a salon and fundraiser. We'd still show some awful movie to talk over. Some traditions must be maintained.
All of this interaction with the TV chefs means I'll be documenting everything I'm doing this holiday season. This will include videos that I'll likely inflict er, I mean share with the blog.

Oh The Places I have Gone

In addition to actually publishing my blog here and on myspace. It has an automatic feed to my author page on amazon.com and my facebook page. I also share parts of the blog with various sites with specific interests. I put the cooking bits on Paula Deen's Get Cookin' site and I post any sci fi or horror related revies on Doorq.com. I'm usually very busy shortly after finishing the blog. What I didn't know was That it is appearing elsewhere where many eyes are seeing it. I've found two instances where my TV reviews and reports were on the news feeds to the shows I was talking about on the Internet Movie Database and the blog is listed on Blogs to Watch at Google.com. I wish I'd known. I would have plugged my books or film projects somewhere in the rant.s I shall endeavor to do that in the future. Meanwhile, I'm pleased that the people I'm yelling about may actually be reading my praise or critiques.

Meanwhile...

My writing continues at a good pace. I should finish the script I'm working on now. By next week, I hope to move onto the one that's been the focus of two years worth of research. The films and other projects have reached a juncture where I can't talk about them. Hopefully, I'll be free to do so next week.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bad Chemistry, Fall TV and Kitchen Perils

I have to admit, finishing that first story in Mom's memoir left me exhausted. I've never had that happen with any writing before. I suppose that's because I've never been as personally to my work before. Then I had an immediate case of remorse about sending it to some close family members. In short, I was really distracted by the time it came to writing the blog. There were many things I wanted to write about, but I had no energy.

This week, my distraction is most evident in the kitchen. After a spice mishap and a near tragedy involving a pan full of hot canola oil, I decided it might be safest and sanest for me to adjourn the weekly cooking until tomorrow. When I get klutzy in the kitchen, it's best to leave. It was only a matter of time before I slipped with a knife or my newest toy, my ultra sharp mandolin. The sofa and my keyboard are far safer than my stove.

This week, my focus seems to be on pop culture. I have Fall TV rants to expand upon. But these seemingly fannish observations are a lot about writing and how it interacts with actors and other, less creative influences that make well intentioned scripts go horribly wrong. So for my literati geeks out there, this is germane to 'real writing.' and it is easy to relate even if you have never seen the shows.

Experiments in Chemistry
Spoiler Alert for CSI, CSI:Miami and Eastwick. Also, the opions below are my own. They are strongly heald and well reasoned. Yelling at me will not change them.

I was most unhappy going into the new season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Fan reaction to last seasons changes prompted the network to interfere with this season. First off, some vocal fans were unhappy with the departure of William Peterson and unhappy with Lawrence Fishburne's character. Despite having the series created around him and being an executive producer, William Perterson always had one foot out of the door at CSI. It was always a matter of time before they left. I was leery of the introduction of Fishburne, but impressed with his choices in portraying his new role. He allowed himself to be an entry level tech on the team and opted to play Dr. Raymond Langston as a highly talented mega nerd. It was a refreshing choice for an A-list action star. Some fans though were annoyed that he was not being more like Morpheus from The Matrix trilogy. I was mightily vexed, because I so enjoyed what Fishburne was doing with the role. I was even more vexed at the return of Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) whom I've loathed since the pilot. More on that later. But CSI is a clever program for it's genre. It is the most innately funny of the CSI shows. It also takes itself the least seriously. Fans wanted the Matrix, the opener gave it to them in spades complete with more bullet time than has ever occurred in a network TV show. For a couple of seconds, Dr. Langston became Morpheus and kicked One of the multiple intruders dressed like Agents through a plate glass window. It was one very amazing scene that was brilliantly foretold in the opening in riveting slow motion (please, watch the opener HERE). It was the only place where Fishburne broke his choice of character, thank goodness. In the remaining parts of the episode, he was his usual nerdy self. I think this was the producers' way of saying 'You want the freaking Matrix, you've got it. Doesn't it look ridiculous?'

A writer can develop and define a character, but an actor is the one that breathes life into it through the choices made in how the writing is expressed into action. Those choices affect everything including the character's chemistry with other actors in the show. In the case of Fishburne, the nerdy doctor and former pathologist, there is a lot of natural chemistry with the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Robbins. The chemistry works and it makes sense. It was probably in the script, but the actors really ran with it. Thus, they are delightful to watch.

However, there are characters who have no chemistry, especially no romantic chemistry no matter how much a writer wants it to happen or how blatant it is supposed to be in the script. This scenario happens more often than not. Unfortunately, if the writer is a series creator, the chemistry created in the script is often foisted upon the actors whether they feel it or not. The results are often disastrous. In the case of CSI, it's Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle. The characters have always had terrible chemistry. Each had more chemistry with almost every other character. Together romantically, they were painful to watch. But for whatever reason, it was forced down the viewers throats that they were destined to be a couple. Yet Sara leaves the team once because of burnout after Gil proposed. When she returns briefly, she never asked after him. Then she left the entire country and informs him via a video e-mail. He inexplicably follows. This season, I'm to believe that she's left the man she's married at this point to return to a job she had come to loathe for crushing her soul simply because they need a little temp help. I am to further believe that she left her new husband while living in Paris. Is CSI now pure fantasy??? I am appalled at how little real thought is put into this season's developments. Yet, I shouldn't be. Script writers, especially creators, rarely seem to realize which characters are really right for each other. I think the reason is that screenwriters still think that their vision is the only one that matters. That just isn't the case in TV or film. In film, there is the actor's and director's vision to contend with. In TV, it's mainly the actors. But they are the ones that are reaching viewers each week.

Smart writers and producers run with the chemistry that develops between the characters even if it's unexpected. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the epic love story was supposed to be between Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar ) and Angel (David Boreanaz). However, it became clear that the stronger chemistry was between Buffy and Spike ) (James Marsters) . Fortunately the talented Jane Espenson ran with that chemistry making for some wonderfully steamy episodes and a heart rending series finale. It was really good stuff. Ms Espenson, I believe, is responsible for running with the sizzling chemistry between Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) in Battlestar Galactica. Running with the acros choices can make for fabulously fun TV viewing.

Unfortunately, many TV writers and producers try to force the original plans for their characters onto the actors and their viewers. Thus, we have Sarah Sidle and Gil Grissom or B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris (Star Trek: Voyager) or JD and Elliot on Scrubs which is a tragedy that keeps repeating.

We've been lucky with our characters and actors. I try to cast with personal chemistry in mind. Most times, I have at least one of my leads cast before I look for the other. Thus, I have someone to interact with the actors in the audition. Thus, My Vincent and my Rik have good chemistry together in Blood Oath. My Shadow has chemistry with my KD in The Gunslinger. The only problem we had was with The Privateers. We wanted Dravyk's love ultimate love interest to be a surprise. We also meant for he and Commander El-Minya to have a hostile relationship. Well, Karl Urban and Denise Hurd had far more on screen chemistry that we'd ever planned. So we tweaked future versions of the script to have Dravyk be a flirt with El-Minya mainly to annoy her. They are thus still a lot of fun to watch on screen without implying that there will be more to the relationship.

Fall TV Rant
This section is less about the craft of TV writing and more about my opinion on a couple of network TV shows.

I didn't rant much about CSI: Miami last season. It was kind of a ho-hum season. Not even the stupid things that happened rose to a level where I felt the need to shout about it. I was hopeful going into this season. The ads implied a fun flash back to such things as how Horatio Caine got his signature sun glasses and how his team was formed. I envisioned an amusing romp in the past while Eric Delko fought for his life....again. Alas, aside from one detective having a porn moustache, there was nothing at all amusing. It was the usual, heavy handed goofy stuff. There was, however, a new character. CSI Cordoza (Eddie Cibrian) was introduced in the series opener. He is tall, dark, gorgeous with dimples. By episode two he is caught in a hostage situation in police headquarters (yes, I said police headquarters). My irritation at the half dozenth time that station has been invaded by armed gunmen gave way to glee when Cordoza whipped off his shirt (as you do in hostage crisis). I'm not sure what other inane things happened after that (my mind had wandered to somewhere fun with CSI Cordoza), but I now have a reason to continue watching the show.

The biggest delight of the new fall season has been Eastwick, the ABC TV show based on The Witches of Eastwick, a novel by John Updike and a film by George Miller. It's the story of three women who are unhappy in their lives brought together by a wish to fulfill their most secret desires. Their wishes begin to come true with the arrival of the mysterious and wealthy Darryl Van Horn, someone who may not be of this Earth. The series brings the talented and gorgeous Paul Gross back to American TV. Like many women and some men, I fell madly in love with him as Constable Benton Fraser in due South. Gross managed to be very charming and sexy playing a wide-eyes innocent, straight laced Mounty. He is incendiary as the gleefully wicked Van Horn (who has the delightful habit of whipping off his clothes as often as possible). The series is scary and intriguing yet it has a light, humorous touch. The rest of the cast is really good and really easy on the eyes. I'm not sure how long the series can run. In the book and the film, the trio of women coming together is the beginning of the end. Things sipral out of control fairly quickly. I'm not sure how long Eastwick as a series can keep the suspense going before it has to reach a conclusion, but I'm more than willing to go along for the ride.

Real Life Stuff

I haven't been just watching TV these last couple of weeks. I've been working on business plans with Ralph and helping shape a book proposal for another writer when I'm not doing my own writing. Ralph and I are juggling a lot of complicated things so that when we make our next film, we will continue making films. This keeps me really busy even during the day at the Archive (That makes for some awkward moments, believe me. I've already had an actor come greet me and Jon while hip deep in processing books for upload). It's been nice to have a little diversion from the telly. In the next few weeks, the Blood Oath pilot presentation will be finished. In addition to pitching it, we plan to have a screening with Manga, anime and yaoi fans. If any of you are in LA next month, I hope you'll come take a look. We'll also be doing auditions for the horror film. Casting is always interesting. This time, I'll keep a detailed visual and written record of the process. As always, stay tuned.

And now, I must return to the kitchen. I have a carne asada recipe that I have to crack.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Adverbs, Blockages and Updates

Why do romance writers abuse adverbs? Why do they slap any 'ly' on any word at the end of a quote and think it conveys any sense of real emotion? I really shouldn't read the books at the Archive. They just make me mental. In my defense, it couldn't be helped the last couple of weeks. The new systems were so slow, all I could do is wait and read while the process moved to the next page. Thus, I was treated to words like acquiescently. I know it's a real word, because it didn't get a red line under it as I typed (and I believe I may have seen it on the SATs. But it didn't give me any real insight into the character.

Silly me complained out loud. That lead to the conjuring of adverbs that even the worst writer would avoid. Though I must admit that I really liked assbackwardly. The ensuing conversation brought Craig back to his ongoing objection to manroot and her sex as adjectives during love scenes. I still concur with his derisive view though I think Jon made a better point that there is no way to use the word womb in a sexy manner. We all agreed that the worst karaoke song Craig could possible sing is I Touch Myself in his lounge lizard Elvis style and that winking during the key phrase made it worse. I understand completely that this had nothing to do with the grammatical debate, but that's how the discussion ended.

Immoveable Forces

Speaking of writing, I finally finished some really important stories this week. I even sent one of them out to be reviewed (I'm uncharacteristically nervous about that one). That one is Dancing with the German, the first story in the memoir about my Mom. Late in the week, I realized that the primary obstacle in finishing the danged thing was me. For some reason I can't really explain (though I suspect it's because the events were important to me), I got hung up with imbuing each sentence with tremendous importance. I should have been simply telling a story like I do in my genre fiction. After all, I have always argued that story telling is storytelling no matter the genre. Leave it the critics or English teachers to assign importance to individual sentences. I believe this vehemently, yet I still managed to get in my own way in finishing this story. I suppose that no matter how many business plans I write or productions I run, I'm still a writer prone to flakiness. Now that I finished that one, I'm moving on to the other unfinished works in the pile. Hopefully, I won't get in my way again.

Updates – Fall 09

While we still await an official green light, we now know that the first of the films to be produced will be Art of Darkness, a horror film. The logic is that it is set completely in Los Angeles and a lot of it in the building we're currently occupying. It's just the easiest to begin and requires the least amount of logistical maneuvering to complete. Also, one of the actors we need to sign for The Gunslinger will not be available for the next several weeks. Since we need this actor for distribution, we have to wait. Besides, we've really wanted to work with him for some time now. On the Blood Oath front, jon is still slogging through post FX editing. I appreciate the advice given to pitch with the rough cut and our concept art, but we learned a hard lesson in selling Demon Under Glass. I will never show anyone rough cuts. No matter how well versed they are in looking at films, I just don't think it's wise. No one can visualize what you have in mind for a finished product. I've seen dozens of them, and I'm always surprised when I see the final films. Thus, I want to give this pilot presentation the best shot possible. However we will be releasing stills from the footage as soon as Jon can color correct them.

Many thanks to those who sent kind notes, cough remedies and videos of naked French rugby players while I was sick. They helped a lot. Especially that last bit. I'm cutting this short, because I still have a lot of chores before the start of the week. As always, stay tuned.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brando, McBeal and Writer's Block

Strangely, the worst sentence to be inflicted upon my ears last week did not come from Craig (in the red hat). He did have a tirade against Ally McBeal and co-ed bathrooms and the fear of converting legions of women to lesbianism. It went on to such a furor that I had to give him a hug. After that, he went to have a carne asada taco and was happy the rest of that day. No, the worst sentence of the week involved Marlon Brando, a duck, a tiny guillotine and an infamous Paris establishment in Montmartre. I'm not repeating the sentence. It's disgusting. And since there are several versions of the lurid tale, I'm not inclined to believe it happened. The Archive is settling into the Warehouse space with an unexpected side effect. When it was in the Library at UCLA, we were a very quiet lot. Our space was part of the reading room, so we worked in almost complete silence for very long stretches. We're the only ones on the floor save for the set building mill and Lucy's office suite. Those are separated from us by thick walls. Thus, we've been talking more. I've learned that the rest of the staff is fairly twisted. Not twisted to the level of Craig, but far more twisted than I ever thought. That's a good thing. Meanwhile, we're making ourselves at home in ways we never could have in the library. The Tom Cruise poster has already been defaced by Craig. And I'm not sure how you can feel an A-bomb coming. Maybe it whistles.

On a side note, the Eagles are losing 31-13 in the 3rd quarter. I neglected to get hammered before tuning in (it's 10 am when the game starts. That's a little early for even a brunch buzz). My neighbors are being reminded about my colorful Fall vocabulary. I'm turning on the Food Network before I get a headache.
Not much was happening on the soundstage, save for a new lab being installed. The action last week was between the buildings. There was a night shoot involving a riot, Coation spies and a burning car. It was pretty cool -- at least the remains that we saw.

Writing Update – All Projects
August marked a month of rare writer's block for me. My tendency to multi-task while writing usually means that if one project is stalled, I am making progress with another one. This was not the case last month. All the stories were at points where I'd written myself into a corner – even the cookbook. It's taken a while to figure out in each instance where I went wrong and how to get back on track. August was a month of distractions, most happy but some not so much. I haven't been able to get much done after the long days during the relocation to the studio. I'm certain that the blogs reflected my crankiness over this problem. When I can't get lost with my characters, all I have left is the sometimes crushingly monotonous routine. The days certainly drag when I can't complete chapters or scenes in my head. As the new routine settled into place, I was able to take time with each unfinished work and get back on track. The fluidity hasn't returned to my writing yet, but it will come back soon. I'm beginning to write in my head at work again. Thus, I'm a happier camper than I have been in the last couple of weeks. This is an unusual situation. I'm glad that it's working itself out.

My plans are to finish the first story in my Mother's Memoir (perhaps as soon as tonight), then send it off to readers. I want to know if the style and tone work with the content. There is a script I'm mid-way through that I want to finish, but I also need to complete the cookbook first. Beyond that, there is a script we have to finish before the end of the year and I want to do sequels to the Soldiers and the Surrender books. They have been percolating in my head for quite some time, but I don't see starting them until early next year. It sounds like a lot, especially with my work schedule and the demands of the production company popping up almost daily.. The pages come somehow. I don't plow through 20 a day even when I'm on a roll. But even a week of half pages adds up to something by the weekend. I just look at the task like that.

The film meetings are still pending. I'm seeing a lot of activity on the social network that our contact is on, so I know something is happening. I still don't know what that is or when I'll be told about it. But we're pressing on with that which we can control. It'll be interesting to see what succeeds first. Stay tuned.

This is a really brief blog that has taken hours to finish. I'm still plagued by fits of coughing and now fatigue from the cough suppressant. More next week, hopefully.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Digs, Good Grub and Great Possibilities

I knew long before I ended up in a bathroom stall with the Archive supervisor that last week would be weird. Yep, the rest room adventures continue but without chipping paint and inhaling bleach fumes. The office space is still a work in progress, but it's getting more liveable with each passing day. Meanwhile, the sets on the first floor continue to amaze. Every time we walk by, there is something new to look at. We're not sure when Lucy sleeps. Working out of a space we've coveted for the last ten years has been an exciting though strange experience. It's great to be downtown again. There are so many things that are sold wholesale that I enjoy. Heck, it's good to just have a new routine after nearly three years. And then there are the Taco Trucks in the parking lot.. Their burgers and fries are great, their carne asada tacos have become an obsession for Craig, me and most of the scanners at the Archive. The food is cheap, fast but made with such care and attention that Anthony Bourdain would drool. [On a side note, I have mounted a campaign focused on getting Mr. Bourdain to visit Philadelphia on No Reservations. He has deliberately ignored the city due to some New York related prejudice. Well, if he can figure out that the Bronx and Detroit has something to offer his taste buds, he can well get his kiester down the turnpike to a city that has had great food creds for decades. I plan to remind him of this weekly of this profound failing until he goes or there is a restraining order.]

Update of Sorts

Where was I? Ah yes, the studio. It's one thing to be figuratively close to fulfilling all one's creative dreams. It's something else to be physically close to everything one has associated with those dreams. Walking into the place where you've planned on making most of your films and not actually work on a film has been more daunting than I thought it would be. Such dissatisfaction is not without its benefits though. The last time I felt this level of dissatisfaction was when Randy and I were working the overnight shift at the GAP. The result was Demon Under Glass. I can get really aggressive when I am profoundly dissatisfied. And that location provides an endless array of possibilities. Right now, Ralph and I have plans for making films that can happen without involvement of any of the parties we are negotiating with. He's going to be making that fact very clear to the people we're waiting for this week. It is a harder road for us, to be sure (and one I'd rather not undertake) but it gives us more control over the films creatively and my patience is wearing thin. More details on the plan will be revealed if we actually have to go down that road.

Return to Rants?

I stopped ranting about CSI: Miami at some point last season. It had become mundane in its silliness thus not worth my wrath. The finale was so confounding that I couldn't really think of how to complain about it. A few days ago, I saw the preview for the season opener and found myself smiling. It was a flashback episode of how Horatio Caine and his team were formed. It included everything down to when he started wearing those sunglasses. It actually looked amusing – deliberately amusing. Mind, this flashback is occurring while Delko is fighting for his life from a gunshot wound....again. But I may be willing to overlook this improbability if the rest of it is really funny. As my dramatic TV watching dwindles for other things, it would be nice if I could make the most of what I still watch.

Another side note. The Eagles won, but the quarterback broke his ribs. It's the first game of the regular season. Sigh.

This is going to be it for the blog this week. On top of everything I have to do writing wise, I've had this persistent cough and a heaviness in my chest that's slowing me down. By the way, anyone still waiting for me to reply to an e-mail, I'm getting to you. I still have cooking chores before I can get to the writing. Thus, I must end it here. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sweat Equity, Writing Women and Farewll to Philly

Jon and I spent the week hanging out in a men's room with Craig sniffing chemicals. That wasn't nearly as hip or fun as it sounds. The Archive moved into some unfinished space at Central City Studios. They got a fantastic deal on rent by taking the space 'As Is.' That meant, the denizens of the Archive had to put in a lot of sweat equity to make it habitable. Since Jon and I alerted the Archive to the space in the first place, we volunteered to clean out the restroom for them. The bathroom dates back to the 20s and was largely done in marble. Jon and Craig spent the week stripping and scraping the paint to get to the marble tile while I scrubbed layer upon layer of grime off of everything else. Ralph even put in some time as a plumber. The air was hot, fumey and because of the wildfires, smokey.
Despite the masks and gloves we wore, it was tough going. I still don't know why it is that whenever I'm near a soundstage, I have to deal with toilets. I'm either plunging or cleaning or both – even with honeywagons. I hope that part of my film karma is not ongoing. The end result of a week of hard physical labor is that Jon and are are really jacked up just in time for the holiday. We were so tired at the end of each day that we got nothing done on Blood Oath or the other projects. I'm so glad we have three days to recover. By tomorrow, we should be working at our usual pace.
Anyway, five days in close quarters with Craig is really intense. He is a truly twisted and hysterically funny guy. I don't think I've ever heard Jon laugh that hard. The man seem to have as many nemeses as he does friends. I found this out when he was trying to decide whether or not to contact the safe cracker he knows. There is a large safe in one of the Archive's rooms. To move it, it has to be opened so the bolts holding it to the floor can be removed. I now know at least three people who know safe crackers. I think one of those IS the safe cracker, but I don't want to know. Strangely, two of them are from the East coast and pre-date my time in crazy Los Angeles. I'm beginning to realize that I'm destined to associate with really odd people. Working with Craig made the tough job easier to cope with. The restroom was working and ready for business by mid-day on Friday. We had quite a sense of accomplishment and dish pan hands.
I'm loving the wholesale places open to the public near Central City Studio. There is a restaurant supply warehouse across the street. It's like Costco on steroids. I'll be shopping there next week for sure. And I still have to see the produce and seafood markets. The shopping could easily get out of hand.

Mainlining – Philly Trip Part 3

Twenty years ago, I was mid-way through the Creative Writing Graduate Program at Temple University. I had given up on having writing as a thing I did on the side and embraced the fact that it was something I had to do as a focus in my life. I had been excited about getting into the program. Later, I was thrilled when I learned that I had a full Fellowship to pay my way to a degree. During the first semester, however, I realized that it wouldn't be the nurturing creative environment I had envisioned. The Literature classes were full of serious minded students that understood a lot about Freud but very little about how writers actually think and work (strangely, they found this sort of information irrelevant in studying a writer's work). Many of the professors held similar views. In the Writing Workshops, we spent a lot of time picking at each others work while the professor looks on. To me, the workshops tended to reduce the works offered to a middle ground shared by those sitting around the table. Often the works lost their spark and the writers were more confused than ever about how to continue. My dim view of writing workshops and writing programs was summed up nicely in a recent New Yorker article.

The frustration with the workshop was shared by other female classmates. I'm not saying that the men in the workshops were a problem. Well, yes I am. I have no idea why that was or I perceived it to be that way. At any rate, 20 years ago this summer, a group of us ladies formed our own workshop. We committed to weekly meetings and devoted a lot of time to detailed, constructive critiques of each others stories or chapters. We were disparate in ages and backgrounds and experiences. The mix served us well. There was no professor to impress, so we weren't trying to be clever in the critiques. These were honest and thought provoking encounters. I learned a great deal about writing realistic dialogue from those sessions. And I learned to trust my own, very spare style of writing. Beyond that, something magical happened at those meetings. Being women, we always had food. Being writers, we usually had wine. It was an incredible bonding experience that involved a lot of laughing amidst the frank discussions about our writing. Our Little Group, as Philomena called us, was the best part of attending that writing program. I count it as being responsible for helping me find my voice as a writer.

Thus, I was determined to see as many of the ladies as possible during my latest trip to Philly. It would be a different kind of gathering because of the husbands along, but it was still a marvelous experience. Only Philomena and Sarah were available, but it was a fabulous evening. Phil told us she had moved from her fabulous digs in Bala Cynwyd. She said that she and her hubby were downsizing. Thus, I was surprised that she offered to put us all up for the night after the gathering. We are thus really surprised after winding our way through the Main Line to find Phil's house on a block full of huge mansions. Sarah worries that her humble, slightly dented compact car would get us booted from the area. Of course, Phil's house was a mansion as well. It was built by famed architect Frank Furness. The house was amazing with two dining rooms, a library and I don't know how many bedrooms – some with fireplaces. It was such an amazing place that Jon and I are going to write something to shoot there. And Phil's tremendous flair for hospitality remains unchanged. She and her husband, Steve, put on an elegant and delicous spread of grilled beef tenderloin and wild salmon served on a beautifully set table on one of the two patios. Jon said the table looked like something out of a Food Network show. I was expecting Ina Garten to come bustling out at any moment. Beyond the fabulous food and great wine (of course), we had some really great conversation. It was a real life Salon save for ours had more talk about golf and desserts. I came away from it renewed in my conviction that meeting those women was one of the best things that ever happened to me as a writer. I can't wait to see them again.

In-Laws

Jon and I were on a mission Monday. We had to load up on two precious Philly foods, have a certain neighborhood pizza and beverage and see Jon's parents once more time and spend some time with his sister and brother-in-law. The foods were a dozen Federal Pretzels and Tastykakes. I have no pictures of these goodies as they were consumed shortly after we returned to Los Angeles. It was terribly hot and humid that last day. Fortunately, most of what we had to do in Center City was doable via the underground mall near the train station. We took the train back to Germantown, the section of the city where Jon and I are from (I moved to Mount Airy just before grade school. We were after Germantown style pizza and the terribly lurid Tahitian Treat soda. Jon sister, Judy and Brotehr-in-law, Michael, sprung for the treats. Judy and Michael are a really fun couple especially considering that they don't drink or own a television.. They, like Jon's Mom are Quakers. They live a frugal life that is still very rich in experiences. They just returned from a lengthy jaunt around Europe. They went in their frugal fashion but the photos and stories tell of a really great trip. I like them because they are the religious but not in a preachy sanctimonious way. Their way usually involves prop comedy. I've never met non-film people more into props. They manage to be citizens of the community and of the world and never fail to impress me. We had pizzas and looked at the new kitchen and new photos. Note: the photo to the left are the signs from the gala opening of the new kitchen in which the family dressed up as dysfunctional diner employees at Momma Mike's diner. It makes sense if you know them. Sort of. Before heading back to Dad's, we spent a little more time with the Maw and Paw-in-law. It's always good to see them. They are infinitely interesting people to talk with.

Homeward Bound

It was very hard to leave Philly this time. I really had a great time connecting with everyone. And I feel their absence more keenly. Time with Dad was especially nice. And as he is older, I realize that I have to get in time with him as often as possible. Fortunately, LuvU 4 Ever is shooting just an hour away from all my loved ones there. I will take advantage of the down time to see them at home or have them stay near the shoot. That made coming back a lot easier.

Updates

Silly me forgot this week ended in a holiday. Thus, the film finance meetings aren't until mid-week this coming week. Meanwhile, I am in the home stretch with Vincent's cookbook and I've begun outlining the next Soldiers book and Surrender book. I'm not sure when I'll flesh them out, but I thought I should outline while the details were swimming in my head. I have two other pieces to finish before I'd start them. If I have any big news during the week about the films, I'll post an announcement here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Angerman, Klaus Kinski and the BFB

No I did not misspell anger management. If you click on the photo to the right, you will find the most inane name for a character ever. It really is Tor Angerman, US Attorney. When I found that in the pile at the Archive, I found it fairly amusing. Craig is still calling me to shout 'I AM Angerman!' through my phone. There's a certain amount of fun to that character name. But I as I actually looked through the book. I became really vexed that it was ever published. It wasn't just that there was a Tor Angerman in the story, Objections Overruled, it was that the story was inane because of garden variety sloppiness. The sloppy plot begins with our Heroine, Kaiti (again, not a typo), facing off against her ex-husband (Angerman – yes, I'm going to keep saying his name) in a death penalty murder case. Even if you apply CSI: Miami legal logic to this, and the judge didn't remove one or both of them from the case, it is unfathomable why a rich family would have their only daughter defended by the ex-wife of the prosecutor especially after they are caught having relations in a public place! Actually, they would both face disbarment for such behavior. Now, I know there is an audience for this sort of thing. No one would keep publishing it if there were not. What bothers me is that the editor didn't catch it or that Angerman name. Jon quipped that she may as well have named him Thor Largemember, Esq. (if anyone out there uses the name, I want royalties). That the book was published full of glaring inanities speaks to a cynicism in their view of their readers. Quality doesn't matter. They'll read it anyway. Now, that may be true, but the attitude really irked me. Does it cause that much money to have a little pride in their titles? Yeesh. I'll take “Percival, fetch me my breeches' any day. Now, I have to figure out how to stop Craig from calling me up to yell Angerman through my phone.

Conversations with Craig

Craig has been obsessing about Klaus Kinski this week. Who knows why. I've never been a fan. But them, I've never been into scary German actors in brooding German films. However, now I'm obsessed with Kinski, too. It seems that when Kinski revealed to people close to him that he was dying, Director Werner Herzog suggested that he write his autobiography and slander everyone he know or didn't know. The result was Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski. The kindest official review called it pornographic. Due to lawsuits, it was pulled at some point by the publisher. Some copies are still out there (thus, my obsession), but the cheapest I found was $50US. For that kid of dough, I'd buy the fixings for a lobster dinner. However, I am intensely curious. It is said to be so outrageous as to not be believed (farm animals factor in there somewhere). Then there is relationship with Herzog. I can't understand why and actor and director worked together so often when they were often conspiring to kill each other – seriously. Of course, Craig thinks this is a hoot. He really gets tickled over an interview Herzog gave in which he threatened to put a bullet in Kinski's brain then his if he abandoned his a shoot in the middle of a South American jungle. Who can work like that? Jon understands how it can be important to find that one great actor to bring your vision to life, but all that would end for him with the first hand grenade tossed in our backyard. This is a really twisted business. I still want to read the book.

Hot Time, Summer in the City

California is on fire once again. And though we are far from any flames, the evidence of this huge blaze outside of LA can be seen for miles. This is the view from the sidewalk outside our apartment (we're approximately 30 miles away). The smoke is reaching us though. Jon and I are on antihistamines with the air conditioner running. We may be sent home from the Archives new locale as it's downtown and getting even more smoke. The weather is supposed to break soon. Hopefully, that will allow the firefighters to make headway.

Philly Visit Part Two – The Grillin-ing

When last I left this story, it was only Friday. Jon and I had successfully shopped for the food I was to make on Saturday, and we'd had nice visits with my darling Nephew and Gideon. From Center City, we took a commuter train out to my Brother's suburban neighborhood to get a lift to Dad. It seems that Keith has become southern in his middle age as he detoured from Dad's to have us say hey to my Sister-in-Law, Michelle. He would have fumed at such course deviations when we were kids. I was glad to see her for a little while on her own. I knew it would be hard to talk to her one on one at the Big Family Barbecue (BFB). I've always liked Michelle. She raised a fun and sweet child (the Nephew), and was very good for my Brother. Our family has always been on the volatile side, she was always one of the few calming influences. It was a quality visit though not a long one. I really wanted to get back and make the pie dough so I wouldn't have much to do on Saturday. I had planned to be out of the way in the kitchen before the BFB prep began. Best laid plans...

When we got home, the kitchen was already in full prep. There was food everywhere, including tomatoes, green peppers and squash from Dad's garden. I took one look at the place and knew that I would have to make the pie and short ribs around my Stepmom the next day. Surprisingly, I wasn't freaking out. I really should have been. In all the years they'd been married, I'd spent very little time with my Stepmom. I actually didn't really know her until this visit. And here I was invading her kitchen. Her really beautiful, spotless kitchen. She was great though. I found her to be a very kind and funny person. She was great to hang out with. And she got on well with Jon, to boot! That was good as he is my sous chef. But then there were the BFB guests to fret over. They were mostly from the Warner side. I had never cooked for most of them – with good reason. During my childhood, I had witnessed many a cooking battle at family events. I knew whose collard greens were never welcome at a family gathering and whose potato salad just had too much egg in it. And then there was the great sage stuffing battle of 1972.

Back then, we would foolishly extend invitations to the extended family for major holiday meals. And is the way of big, crazy families, old grudges were often fought in subtle fashion in the kitchen. Who was the best cook was often at issue. Mom was always laid back about others cooking in her kitchen. It was how she got other people to do meals in her stead (and how I ended up making Sunday dinners since high school – that was one crafty woman). As she was also working second shift on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, there was all the more reason to let the incoming aunts or cousins take the lead. That didn't sit well with me though. I liked my Mom's Thanksgiving dinners. I still make my Mom's Thanksgiving dinner (with a few tweaks that are my own). I especially didn't want anyone messing with the stuffing, one of my favorite things about a turkey dinner. Well two of my Aunties got to fussing about the seasoning of the stuffing being off. And during the ensuing battle, the stuffing was re-seasoned than re-re-seasoned. When it came out of the over, it was so full of ground sage and poultry seasoning that it was green and inedible. I spent that holiday seething at the women. The next year and every year after that, I made the stuffing.

The battle and the snide comments that followed haunted me as the day of the BFB arrived. And then, the big blow. Dad didn't have the food processor he said he had. It was, inf fact, a hand mixer. That was unsuitable for making pie dough. I would have to do it old school...with forks to blend the butter into the flour. No pressure....sure. And with Stepmom watching. I was using a new pie dough recipe by Melissa D'Arabian , the latest winner of The Next Food Network Star. It was a very simple recipe that looked like smooth fabric draped in a a pie tin when rolled out and baked into brown flakiness. I tweaked it slightly (adding apple juice instead of water and two tablespoons of sugar). The recipe was given to Melissa by her French Mother-in-Law, and just looked so simple. And it was....with forks (of course, that was what the Mother-in-Law used, after all). I was do pleasantly surprised that the pie turned out even better than it had at home. I was so excited that I wrote Melissa and sent the photo to her facebook page. And she wrote back!!! I was so pleased. But nothing made me happier than when the Warner clan pronounced that it was a really good pie. They also loved the short ribs, too. I braised them in a red wine liquid similar to Beef Bourguignon. It was enough to make me cry, and I did when they all left. I had had cooking recognition before from the Queen Bee herself, my Grandmom Dolly. But that had been in private. This was the first public acknowledgment of my skills.

But beyond the praise, I had so much fun hanging out with Dad while he patiently explained why my grilled chicken usually was charred outside and raw in the middle. We talked about the fish he caught (we had that fried) and his wonderful garden (the tomatoes were too much – so good). And just talked free of all baggage. I met my cousins grown children and were amazed at how lovely and accomplished they were. Jon was my Stepmom's favorite being as he was always doing something she needed done. And of course, his parents, my Maw and Paw-in-Law, were quite popular. It was a wonderful afternoon despite the crushing heat and humidity. I can say, I hadn't connected that well with family probably ever. Now, I find I want to go to the next reunion and have that big family vacation. I really had a great time.

I stop again because the reunion with Sarah and Phil deserves its own space in the Philly sage. More updates next week.