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, 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.


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.


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.