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!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

While I'm Away...

I'm checking in the hospital tomorrow morning. Thus, there may be no blog for at least two weeks. I say may, because Craig my guest blog during my absence and Sara Freligh may chime in as well. Currently, he is ranting about Scott Baio and his taxes weirdness and signs he's like to see at Tea Party rallies. It's all very funny and very scary.

I'll be writing and plotting while under repair, so there should be lots to report upon my return. I'm fairly brave at the moment, but please keep those prayers and good thoughts coming!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vampires, Demons, Actors and Ron Moore

A Warning, gentle readers. This blog is a real geek fest.

Year of Fun – Ron Moore

I hadn't planned on Ron Moore being part of the Year of Fun (quick recap for those new to the blog who ask every week -- Since I will be in the hospital for a large chunk of May, the month I usually celebrate my birthday, getting cancer treatment and I'm turning the big 5-0, I'm celebrating from Jan 2010 to New Year's Eve). Our meeting was about some serious business for Jon and I, but it involved a nifty Italian restaurant, some great food and conversation that was riveting and inspiring. Thus, how could I not count it? Incidentally, 'how could I not' is my mantra for the year. My muse, Kim, was using it. I felt it had a sort of joyful deviltry and left the world open to all sorts of possibilities. But I digress. The fun begins before Ron arrives with the bartender at this happening place. Of course, we waited at the bar. How could I not? Now, Jon and I maintain that we do not have an 'Industry Look.' We can't afford the clothes our friends who regularly work in the business have. I was, as I am as often as possible, partially clad in pajamas. Jon had on his Gundam themed leather jacket. Specifically, it has a symbol of the Duchy of Zeon. It's a really nice jacket gifted to Jon from a friend who was teaching English in Japan. I couldn't find anything like it online now. Meanwhile, I was wearing my State Alchemist pendant from Full Metal Alchemist. If anyone were to peg us for anything, I'm thinking it would be as big honking geeks. I had barely tasted my wine when the conversation shifted from Jon's jacket (the bartender thought Jon raced motorcycles because of the cut) to the film he had just found a sales agent for. He seemed to be talking to us as filmmaker to filmmaker though we hadn't said anything about why we were there. Maybe we have a look. When we went to a Showtime premier for Leap Years (of note because I've never sat in front of actors while looking at them doing a hot, naked love scene on a big screen), we had been concerned about being on the right list and explaining how we were invited by Michelle Hurd and Garret Dilahunt and how we knew them (Micehlle's sister, Denise Alessandria Hurd is a longtime friend whom we met when we cast her in The Privateers. She also starred in Demon Under Glass. They just waved us in on sight. And there have been events we've sort of crashed without ever being questioned. I guess we do have that look -- yeesh. I'm not sure that the bartender expected anything from us. He may have been excited about the next step in the selling process. At any rate, the film is called The Last Bad Neighborhood. It has two trailers. One with mainly live action and one that is a mix of live action and comic book panels. I know, weird coincidence that. I won't even get into how many ideas Jon and I have had over the years that sounded way out there until everyone else was doing them. It depresses me.

In the midst of a lovely Carpaccio and an excellent pizza Maguerita, we discussed the problem that prompted seeking his advice, but as these things happen, the topic of conversation shifted to Caprica. I won't put a spoiler alert here. We'd never ask him to reveal anything about the second half of the season, and he wouldn't have told us if we had the nerve. Jon and I have been fascinated by the structure of the episodes on Caprica. It's not structured like a regular dramatic series. And it's not really built like a serial. It seemed to us that each episode was structured like a mini feature film. The scenes happen and and the tension builds without regard to act breaks for commercials. It throws me off as a viewer because the rhythm is so different that things don't happen when I expect them to. We wondered if this was a decision made at the writing stage or was it something that happened on set and everyone ran with it. The BSG directors had been given a lot of leeway to explore, so we weren't sure. Turns out that it was a decision made at the writing stage. The show is a serial but they wanted it to have a different feel from something like a soap opera or even Galactica's feel.

While we didn't ask for specifics about how the writing was coming for next season, I found Ron to be a bit rueful. He said that there is what you think the show is about when the pilot is made, and then there is what the show turns out to be about once all of the elements are in play. I believe some of the cryptic attitude may be because of the fate of the show is up in the air. I'm sure being on the bubble of cancellation or not will impact how the next season is mapped out. He's also admitted to some changes in direction because of actors becoming something he hadn't anticipated. It seems they have another Helo on their hands. To his and his staff's credit, they don't fight a character that leaps to the forefront of the sotryline due to sheer force of personality. They work it into the main premise and still managed to keep the whole thing generally on course. It's a difficult path to walk. So you let a character run away with your show entirely and have another Fozie or, even worse, Urkel? I just found in looking for links that there is an Urkel Syndrome. Or do you squelch it and possibly miss an opportunity? Ron and company handled it well. I really loved Helo as a character and I thought it wise that he became the example of why humanity should survive – from sacrificing himself to save survivors of the Cylon attacks, to marrying a Cylon to refusing to let his shipmates sink to cold blooded mass murder. It was a good call especially since it was not one Ron expected to make. I must say that the actor is absolutely adorable and incorrigible in person. He just leapt off the screen. Ron's current breakout character is incredible. He is someone than you cannot help but look at even when he's standing still and saying nothing. He is sensual and lethal and tender and caring all at the same time. I have no idea what he's like in person, but I can't wait to see what his character will be doing in the second half of the season. Ron managed to tell us a lot and nothing at the same time – as always. And that was fine as always. I was glad to get to commend him for the wonderfully adult nature of Galactica and Caprica. I knew he was far more naughty than he seemed. As always, he gave me a lot of food for thought about his work and our own, and he fed me really lovely food. Our meeting was very much like the Salon we were a part of last summer with my literary friends. A most stellar addition to the Year of Fun.

Of Vampires, Actors and Demons

Our fans and the authors of the fiction based on Demon Under Glass have expressed many theories on why characters in the film and novel were drawn to Simon. The only thing we would tell them was that Simon was not like Dracula. He didn't have the ability to control minds. Had he that gift, there would have been a lot more carnage at Delphi, and his captivity would have been far less painful. I had a hard time explaining that his force of personality, his personal magnetism made him difficult to ignore or forget. In Simon's case, he had a way of making a person think about their most forbidden desires. In the case of buttoned up and jaded Detective Taylor who had seen the worst in men for so long that she only liked them between the sheets of a paperback novel, he awakened her lust. That made her angry and intensely curious. She needed to find him to answer the question of what he did to her and how to make it stop. In Bassett, it was a craving for the power that project could give him over those who sought to reign in his research. For Joe, it was a yearning to really live without the crutch of alcohol to set his desires free. Some of those desires are carnal and without a particular sexual orientation. Joe had had trysts with men in the past but always blamed them on alcohol. Simon actually made him think about such lusts cold sober. More on their interpersonal dynamic below.

But how to explain Simon's varied impact on different individuals? I realized during some conversations I was having last week with former and future cast, that Simon is very much like an actor. Not that I'm calling actors demons. Well, actually, I have called them that or worse during a shoot but that was only at hour 17 of a hard day when I'm calling my poor husband a lot worse. No worries about us, it's all forgotten by the wrap party...after several rounds of drinks. Where was I? Yes, actors by their nature and by necessity have to be compelling enough that people want to look at them and not forget them. Each individual actor has his or her own way of achieving that effect on those they meet be they fans or casting directors or producers. Even ones not blessed with great talent have that kind of effect on people (they just can't seem to do it in front of a camera). Some are aware of this aspect of their persona and some are not – or it seems that they are not. I know it has worked on me and on Jon. We've met actors while attending functions that made a personal impact. When a role comes up that we think they may be right for, we contact them, or if their headshots pop up while we're casting something, they get seen first. Sometimes, I try to include gratuitous nude scenes in my scripts because of their impact (Jon usually removes them). Yes, this week I was subjected to some incidental flirting by a couple of actors I'm currently working with. They make me think terrible, horrible things about them Some of those thoughts involve the 18 year old balsamic vinegar I was gifted this week. More on that amazingly decadent product in the food blog. And those thoughts are distracting. They'd better not be doing it on purpose or that spanking I'm playfully threatening will not be so playful. Where was I? Simon, right. We maintain that his attractiveness (personality wise) is an essential survival and hunting skill.

Thus, Joe is drawn to Simon for the same reason everyone that meets him is. But there is also a very strong personal chemistry between them that makes Joe unable to hurt Simon when he could have during the escape from Delphi. It's why Joe fought with Simon over his murders. He needed Simon to explain himself in a way that would explain Joe's intense attraction to him. Or why he can't bear the thought of Simon being destroyed at the experiments' end even though he is a deadly threat to society. Simon's motives towards Joe are less clear. It is a novelty for him to have a human know what he is can care about his well being – even to like him. The idea of having someone like that close to him is intriguing. He's keenly interested in playing that out to see where it could go. We also think he's interested in seeing if any human would willingly take on the life he's endured. And there is no doubt about Simon's unwillingness to give Joe up once he has him by his side. That will keep the doctor safe from Delphi but it also endangers anyone who attempts to get close to him. Jon and I were content to have this attraction and connection relegated to subtext. The actors decided to make it as close to text as they could get away with (at the time we shot Demon Under Glass, we believed it would air on basic cable). I wonder how far they would have pushed the dynamic if we hadn't had those constraints? We don't have those constraints with this series. To quote our vampire, We'll have some fun.

Feeding Frenzy

I realized with a start early last week that as of midnight Sunday, I would be on a liquid diet basically until after my surgery. And then I will be chowing down on hospital food. And that's clear liquids that don't include the dense and yummy soups I've been making this past week. I realized this on Tuesday while waiting to see my oncologist. I no longer felt guilty about the delicate and decadent Carpaccio and the pizza I had had for lunch on Monday. And I didn't give a thought about the Popeye's Fried Chicken I devoured after the appointment. I had determined upon that realization that there would be no guilt about what I would eat this week. I planned on going nuts where food was concerned. But I had no plans for ordinary gluttony. I wanted to have the things I didn't typically have. But I didn't want anything gross like that KFC Double Down Sandwich. That's just crazy. And I wanted to make as many of those treats as possible. I might as well get some cooking therapy in at the same time.
I started with hollandaise sauce. This time, it was Julia Child's recipe. Ironically, it was the easiest I've tried to date and it made the perfect portion. I no longer need Eggs Benedict to make hollandaise sauce. I like spreading it on English muffins on its own. So I did. Thus, my breakfast needs were covered though I needed bacon – yes, I needed bacon! I picked that up on Friday at my favorite market in Marina Del Rey. They often have manager's specials on short ends of quality bacon (the end of a larger amount) for really cheap. And then, I discovered that there is a similar special in the specialty cheese department on the ends of wheels. Thus, I was able to try a nice sized wedge of this soft, French cheese with Kirsch for under $2.00. I already had some Brie to go with the baguette and melba toast. What's with all the snacks? My dear friend Sarah sent me a bottle of her sister's aged balsamic vinegar to taste.

F. Olivers Oils and Vinegars is located in Canandaigua New York, but it's lovely products will soon be available online. There is also a blog on the website with recipes and histories for all of the products and the story behind the adventure of opening the business. I have some very nice balsamic vinegars and have been pleased at the glazes and salad dressings it has made. But F. Oliver's is in another category altogether. It is the real deal – aged 18 years in Italy. The taste is complex. Saying it's sweet is inadequate. It reminds me of a sauce that has been reduced to it's most concentrated essence with all of the ingredients are amplified. In this case, the flavor of fine Italian grapes is amplified and enhanced. The syrup like liquid goes well with anything that red wine works well with – cheeses, crusty bread. It was fantastic on the cheese with the bread and on each on its own. But in my feeding frenzy, I was thinking outside the box. I reasoned that since I've often made salad dressing with balsamic vinegar, I would use the F. Oliver's balsamic on my seafood and arugula salad. It tasted marvelous on the roasted shrimp and seared scallops. I do believe that it would even taste as good on ice cream as I have heard. Keep a close eye on that web site and buy those products as soon as they are available. I'm absolutely planning on trying the other flavored balsamic vinegars.

Sunday's meals will feature the bacon along with some perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs sprinkled with a bit of fresh chives, fresh brewed coffee with full cream and real orange juice. Lunch will include a seafood chowder (New England clam chowder with chopped up shrimp and scallops from yesterday). Dinner is something very special. For some reason that eludes me, a number of the TV chefs I watch were making some version of Beef Wellington. If you click on hat link just noted, you'll notice that the dish is freakin' complicated. The recipes I watched last week by Sunny Anderson, Claire Robinson (the link to their recipes are attached to their names) were easy to make. But the one that I thought had the most Beef Wellington ingredients while still being easy was Brain Boitano's Welzones (a Beef Wellington calzone) Yes, that Brain Boitano. He has a fun and wacky cooking show on Food Network called What Would Brian Boitano Make. I liked his recipe, however, I made some changed. I wasn't interested in the cheese sauce that went with it. And the recipe did not include Foie Gras. I can hear the yelling about how it's made. My apologies to those whom I've offended. For those interested in the controversy and why I fall on the side of eating it, watch this segment from Anthony Bourdain's holiday special HERE. I love D'artagnan's http://www.dartagnan.com/ website, but the deliver charge is too steep for me right now. I found a nice French canned Foie Gras on amazon.com where I get free delivery. It even had a bit of black truffle mixed in. Thus, I made the mushroom duxelles (another slight difference on Boitano's recipe), cut up the filet mignon steak (it only took one and that was on sale) and made what Jon called a fancy hot pocket (the hubs is so elegant, isn't he). The result is golden, flaky, decadent and delicious.

I'll have another lovely snack involving the rest of my soft cheeses, crusty bread and the balsamic vinegar at midnight. And then, ah well. I hope for the sake of everyone dealing with me this week that I'm not too cranky. I'm very hopeful that the lovely food memories of the past few days will sustain me – even through the hospital food that awaits.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Busting Blocks and Year of Fun -- Garett Edition

Block Buster

Quick note – to the kind reader who sent me a comment – I believe in Japanese – can you resend? It got deleted before I could have Jon run it through his character reader.

My little anime obsession has subsided for the moment. I've watched and read all the exists on Black Butler and am forced to move on with my life. Despite how it looked (freakishly geeky and self-absorbed), I figured out some things that had been stalling my work on a couple of concepts. I have often had revelations about something that wasn't working for me in my writing by reading or, in this case, viewing another's. In Demon Under Glass, we have Dr. Joe McKay who was sucked into treating the captured and profoundly injured vampire, Simon Molinar. Joe knew nothing about the project before being summoned. He is appropriately horrified at what Simon is and what he has done, but he is compassionate in the care of his patient. He seems to be a complete innocent as the plot unfolds. As far as the film is concerned, that is mostly true. Mostly -- not entirely.

To continue with these characters in a series, Joe had to become more complicated. How do we make that happen? I found that the answer was staring me in the face. It took the mayhem happening in Black Butler to make me see it. I posed a bunch of questions about Simon in last week's blog. I ended up with as many for Joe by the time I finished the series. And these questions are the makings of future plots with the two characters. Joe's innocence is now very much in doubt in my head and that puts his surviving in real jeopardy. That was really necessary for me to get past the block I had about what to do with those two once they were thrown together past the film's ending. For the Demon Under Glass fans now flipping out, I didn't say we were definitely going to kill Joe at some point. It's just that I have to be able to see a way that he could be in mortal peril and have that be fair to him. After all, if Joe isn't in profound distress, there wouldn't be the fun of rescuing him or comforting him, yes? Raising these questions helped us quickly form a structure for the series of scripts we now have planned. I've even been thinking about a visual style that is very different from the film. Since the distribution will be unconventional, we may as well have an unconventional style.

Now, you may ask (or you may not but I'm going to anyway) what about the films in the offing? What about The Privateers? And Blood Oath? And the new books? How will you do all of this? The films are very much in the offing. And they are the company's first priority. However, I've already done my part in the scripts with both films. It's left to Jon to make the scripts more cinematic and solve the blocking issues so that it can be scheduled and budgeted. I'd need too much stuff to complete the production plan while I'm recuperating. And I'll need too many books to continue my research in the hospital. But I can write. And my mind can handle a lot of story lines at once. Thus, I'll be working on the treatments and maybe scripts for the longer range projects, and the novels will push to the front when the characters demand it. I actually know when we'll be publishing new books this year and the beginning of the next (excerpts will be put up after I get past surgery and possibly while I'm lazing about in the hospital.

But when, when, when will we start production on these shows? It will most likely be in the fall of this year. One of the films is supposed to shoot during the summer. The other will be much longer in pre-production, so I can't see it happening until sometime next year (though we may be working on it by late summer). We can multi-task all of this because the films would have their own line producers (not me) handling the day to day heavy lifting. We've decided as a company, we are better served to have as many projects in play as we possibly can. We never know whom we'll have an opportunity to meet that could fund or distribute or what of our works will fit their bill. Thus, while I have the inspiration, I'm going to do as much as possible. As for Demon Under Glass specifically, it's fun to be with Simon and Joe again.

Just what IS happening with the films? Sigh. I just can't find anyway of explaining that without getting myself into trouble with my partners and most likely the investors. It is a most interesting and edifying adventure which I will share one day at the bar at a wrap party or a convention. It will involve enough drinks that I can later claim that the alcohol was talking.

Year of Fun – Lunch with Garett

It was a real coincidence that all this stuff about Joe McKay was churning up at the same time Garett and I finally got together for lunch. As any encounter with him is packed full of fun. By fun, I mean hilarious, profane and sometimes embarrassing antics in public places. Craig is the only other person that has the ability to make me laugh until I can't breathe. And I know that Garett is quite the foodie as well, so I picked a place we'd never been that had great buzz in my neighborhood. I chose The Curious Palate which is just up the street from the fabulous Soaptopia and steps from the Mar Vista Farmer's market takes place every Sunday. I will devote a heft part of a blog to The Curious Palate another time. It deserves it, but I will talk about what we had for that lunch. We went for sandwiches. I had the pulled pork despite my finickiness about other people's pulled pork. He had a cheese steak sandwich Рthey wisely left off the word Philly because it was a flat iron steak with Gruyère cheese. A person could get beat up for calling that a Philly cheesesteak. The pulled pork was on a brioche roll which was fresh and soft. The pork itself was butter meltingly tender with just the right amount of tangy barbecue sauce. The steak sandwich was also butter tender and the cheese was smooth and just a little smoky in flavor. The sandwich was on freshly baked thick sliced sourdough pressed by a panini press. The food was so good that it took an effort to remember to talk to each other. As always, the conversation sometimes stopped other people in their tracks (no, I will not detail it here). I may at the aforementioned bars, but maybe not even then. Suffice it to say that I can't wait to have him on one of my sets again. To that end, I shared some of the plans about reviving Demon Under Glass and for Joe in particular. He was game for a lot of stuff that surprised me. This could be very interesting. All in all, that was a most excellent addition to the Year of Fun.

Sunday Cooking Classics and Experiments

Basics and Improv

I remember one of my first lessons as a writer of fiction was from high school English teacher. I think I was in tenth grade. She took exception to the fractured grammar in one of my compositions. I complained about all the red on the page, maintaining that I was experimenting with language like one of the authors we were reading at the time. She knew that, but she felt it was her job to be exacting in the basics. 'Master the rules first,' she said. 'Then you'll know how to break them.' Though many of my readers sometimes wonder if I've managed to accomplish either, I did do as I was told (good Catholic schoolgirl that I was). The lesson holds true in many pursuits. It's certainly true of cooking. I realized that many of my failures were because I hadn't mastered or understood many of the basics of cooking or baking. Though I live on the Food Network and haunt food shows on PBS and the Fine Living Network, It's been really recent that I started working the basics. I began in earnest when with Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It's become even more serious with Julia Child's Kitchen Wisdom and Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which I've barely cracked). I'm finding so much joy in making the best soup stocks and really loving the chopping of aromatics. My new found patience has brought fourth excellent soft pretzels, and the notion of buying pie crust seems really silly to me. But there was one basic that eluded me until this week. That I tackled it at all was because of Anthony Bourdain.

Last week, he did an episode of No Reservations on cooking essentials that covered a basic stew, the omelet, roast chicken, grilled steak, hamburger patty, spaghetti pomodoro, french fries, and boiling a lobster. Each basic was taught by a master chef yet each one was so very simple on its face. Yet I knew how difficult they could be (I still can't get the lobster quite right. In fact I almost always over cook shellfish). I watched the episode twice (for those interested, it's available on I-tunes for 99 cents). Then I decided it was time to tackle my nemesis, the omelet. I've made them for years. My father liked my cheese version. They were all wrong. I never liked the brown crust. I didn't know how wrong they were until I had one in Paris. Oh boy, were mine wrong. It's tougher than it seems to cook it to just under done then roll it out and let carry over heat finish firming the curd. Fear of under done food is my problem with cooking shellfish. But I was alone and determined to try mid-week. The amazing Jacques Pepin had given his wisdom on the subject on Bourdain's show. I was sure I had an understanding this time. I threw myself at a two egg omelet with freshly snipped chives – no cheese. I didn't do the jerk and flip onto the platter. I sort of rolled it onto the plate. But it was perfectly yellow. I think it was still just a bit tougher than a perfect curd would be, but I got really close. That was thrilling and very yummy.

I am quite experienced cooking successful vats of chili of all types (beef, turkey, sausage). But because of the complex nutritional requirements my recent illness presents, I wanted to do one that was very tasty but densely packed nutritionally. To pull this off, I finely chopped extra carrots and celery along with the onion. The chop was extra fine and I cooked them down until they were nearly brown and very sweet before mixing in the lean beef. I used the mushroom, garlic and jalapeno infused olive oil I mentioned a couple of weeks ago for a bit of heat and extra flavor. For fiber and minerals, I cooked black beans in beef stock until they were soft then I pureed them. It thickened the chili without using a roux (that would have added more fat calories). Then I mixed in finely chopped spinach at the end. It seemed like a decadent all meat chili with a bit of parsley instead of the very healthy dish that it was. The improv worked very nicely. It was so yummy that I nearly had a bowl for breakfast.

Jon and I will continue our march toward attempting a baguette this week by making loaf bread. More specifically, we're going to try to make cinnamon raisin bread. I hope our luck holds, because I really want a big hunk of that. Today's experiment involves making our own Girl Scout Cookies. We're baking the 'Slim Mints' now. This place smells awesome! We're doing the peanut butter/chocolate 'Left Behinds'. I'll let you know how they turn out!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sense Memory and No Brine Roast Beasts

I was derailed this past weekend by my ambitions and by distractions. The ambitions involved food. The distractions were creative and appear in the blog below. The earthquake gave me pause, but had no impact on the weekend (for which I am very thankful). First, I'll speak about the ambition that occupied my time.

Sense Memory

I think holidays are important to me because they were so important to my Mother. She always went that extra mile to put on a proper celebration for whatever the holiday. If there wasn't a lot of money for anything else, we always had a proper holiday table. Luckily, in my culture, a holiday feast did not require expensive foods – just time and a little bit of skill. As I grew up, holidays came to mean feasts built around some big roast beast (a gargantuan turkey or an enormous ham or both). I used to think that we had those kinds of meats because they were only for holiday meats. I later learned that they happened to go on deep sale during various holidays, so they could be the anchor of a buffet for many. Though both sides of our family can credibly claim to have Irish blood (we have the redheads to prove that), and St. Patrick's Day is my mother's feast day, I am certain the real reason we fell into the habit of having corned beef and cabbage was both items were always deeply discounted near that holiday – and they were danged tasty, too.

My ambitions with the Easter feast were hyped up by a pair of sales. Three of the chain grocery stores had hams on sale for about 80 cent a pound. One independent, discount market had frozen turkeys on sale for that much as well. While ham is my family's traditional roast beast, I can't resist a turkey no matter what. They make such great sandwiches hot or cold. And I adore turkey with dressing and gravy. Which brings up the problem with having both a turkey and a ham. I have to have dressing and stuffing along with the turkey. Just to have the turkey would be too weird for me. Thus, I have to make stock for the gravy, because I'm insane over having that singular richness to my gravy and I love turkey soup after the turkey is gone. And I have to dry some good hunks of bread and prep herbs for proper dressing. I've added almost another whole holiday feast on top of the usual Easter feast because of a reflex reaction to a supermarket circular. Oy! I also must make ham stock after carving up the ham as I have discovered the joy of split pea and ham soup. I have mentioned that I'm not having company, and we have a tiny kitchen. This a totally crazy amount of work for my circumstances and my physical state, but I am compelled by my inner Patty Warner and perhaps Martha Stewart. Mother often admitted to a touch of the crazies where holidays are concerned. Jon knows not to interfere. He knows he can't stop me, for one. And for two, he really digs turkey sandwiches and a nice slice of ham.

A Word on Brining Turkey

Don't. Just don't. With all due respect for Alton Brown that I have as well as the other Food Network chefs that engage in brining, I find the practice far too much trouble than it's worth, taste wise. Besides, there are almost as many chefs on Food Network that abstain. Despite the huge chance of cross contamination that dunking a large mass of raw poultry into a big container full of brine and ice for a few days can be, I tried it one year at Thanksgiving. We were entertaining a large crowd then, so we typically roasted two turkeys. I brined one, the other I simply cleaned and roasted the way I always have (a combination of Black southern style and French). In brief, rinse and fry the bird inside and out, put it in a roasting pan lined with carrots, onions, and celery. Season the bird inside with salt and pepper then stuff it with herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme), a head of garlic cut in half and a lemon cut in half (that's optional). I truss the legs then coat the birn with a mixture of olive oil and melted butter that may or may not be steeped with Herb de Provence. I salt and pepper the outside of the bird. I put a cup of wine into the bottom of the pan, cover the bird loosely with foil and roast it. An hour before it's done, I remove the foil and let it brown. Voila. Anyway, I did a taste test with the brined and non-brined turkeys. No one tasted a difference. They found both equally delicious. I never bothered brining again.

Where was I? Oh yes, I had a lot of cooking to do. I started on Friday by roasting the ham, carving it up then making stock from the bone while the turkey was roasting. I carved it up then made stock from those bones. Since I had no presentation of either meat to make for guests, that was easy. Alas, I have no photos of the meals either. We were too busy devouring them to shoot them. All day Saturday and most of Sunday went to the side dishes and the dessert. Yes, there must be holiday pie. In this case, sweet potato pie with homemade crust. What part of the crazies did you miss? And I was also compelled to dye Easter eggs. Luckily, Jon makes a fine sous chef and am excellent dishwasher. Getting all of this done would be impossible without him. I also had the company of the Ten Commandments to keep us company. Watching that film during Easter became a tradition. We watch it Mystery Science Theater 3000 style (basically, comically complaining during the entire film). Each year finds something new to say. For example, during the golden calf 'orgy' scene (no one was naked), the narrator intones that 'they doth ate the fruit of wickedness and drank the wine of something else, Jon said 'and they doth had the after dinner mints of debauchery.' I can't tall you what Craig was saying during the film. I really can't – it's bad. I can say it got him exiled from his house until dinner was ready. Hours of that frivolity makes chores pass pleasantly.

We had a wonderful turkey sandwich for lunch on Sunday, and dinner was ready at our usual hour despite all the fuss. I'll be packing away the leftovers to friends and the freezer including the soups. This will serve us well when I'm back from the hospital stay. Thus it was worth all the effort. And as I ate the lovely meals, I know that Miss Patty would be pleased that I had set up a proper holiday table. That's the best thing about sense memory. It brings loved ones close for a while.

Obsessions with Darkness and Light

Warning! The following is a free wheeling, explicit ramble about some of the darker and more provocative aspects of my interests and writings. Also there is extreme geekiness and obsessiveness. This section is also heavily annotated as I am certain my dear Maw-in-Law will ignore this warning.

Creative Distractions

Even people who know Jon and I well believe that we are complete opposites. I am much more gregarious than my husband. And our difference in the way we work creatively has caused problems between us as they are so pronounced at times. However, we are also very similar in nature on some matters which is why we understand each other.

One of our strong similarities is the occasional obsessive interest in a given subject. For instance, when I discovered Wonder Woman comics in the late sixties when the book was restarted, I had to read all the books that came before it. That happened over a very short period of time as I had to know the history now, now, now. Much the same happened with my interest in Nancy Drew mysteries. I read almost all of them over one summer. Jon's current obsession is an online comic called Girl Genius. After discovering it about a month ago, he spent days reading the entire series from start to its current edition. It pressed all of his buttons, particularly an interest in all things steampunk. Such onset obsessions can occupy the afflicted for many hours to the near abandonment of all else.

While I was posting older blogs on a Yaoi fanfiction site, when I ran across fiction about a very recent limited run anime series called Kuroshitsuji or Black Butler. It was originally and still is a manga series about the scion of a wealthy and powerful Victorian era family who makes a deal with a demon to save his life and avenge the murders of his parents. The beautiful, powerful Sebastian becomes the young man's completely obedient servant for the time it takes to find the culprits and dispatch them. The story I read was the most compelling of D/s fiction thus pushed my fun buttons. I would have liked the series even better if the young man, Ciel Phantomhive had not been quite so young, but that's the way some Japanese anime and manga are. Finding the fiction was bad enough. Then, I found the entire series dubbed in English online for free. By Sunday morning, I'd seen ten episodes. Last night, I found that the translates manga was also on line up to the current issue. Bad all bad as I am now fully distracted from almost all of my creative pursuits. Fortunately, I have no pressing deadlines as there is often no help for these things. I have to complete the series for the obsession to subside.

Sebastian will be with me for a while. He is that kind of cool, enigmatic, powerful and beautiful male character that I like to write. Rik Heron of the Solders novels and Simon Molinar of Demon Under Glass are characters of that type. It something about the aloof restrained male beauty of power that makes me want to see that type come undone, unleashing either passion or anger, or both. Sebastian is fascinating because he has become willingly subservient to a demanding mortal whom he must obey without question any order or whim his Master might have. That sort of fiction is just up my alley, and not just because I'm kinky. The willingness for a powerful character to put themselves in that kind of a position to a subordinate tells me there is something intriguing about the character. To quote a most skilled writer, Jane Espenson, Find your characters' vulnerable spots and poke them and you'll find a story. In the case of Sebastian and Simon there is the willingness for an immortal, powerful being to submit to a fragile human indicates some sort of need in a character that says their power is not all that it seems. That begs the questions of why this need exists and how strong that need is. And then the story begins. For me, it writes itself as those questions lead to others like: how does this need manifest itself and how does the focus of that need respond? The cliched thing to do with a character like Sebastian is to make that need and connection so overwhelming that he can subvert his basic nature and become less of a Demon (as is oft suggested with Simon Molinar). Black Butler's writers are too clever for that. If Sebastian were not the cold calculating demon, he wouldn't be Sebastian nor would be be as fascinating to watch. Yet there is an impact on this character as he subverts his will for the wishes of the one he serves or has tied himself to. He is a force of change on those around him, especially his young Master.

That is more of a challenge for the writer, and it is one I prefer. That is why Simon is still the aloof hunter of humans in my stories from beginning to end despite this need to tie himself to a human. While he finds himself doing things for Joe that he had never considered during his very long life and is enjoying the journey, in the end, Joe will be the one that will have to bend or break. The same is true of Sebastian and Ciel. In the end, the Demon will have his due for neither will ever let go of their fragile charges. Rik and Vincent are different in that they are fully human. On a side note, I find soldiers particularly sexy due to the fact that they subvert their will in order to serve in the military. Their training – especially any sort of advance training – is always described in terms of breaking wills to assure obedience. That said, Rik is made stronger through his willing submission to Vincent's will. However ill advised their relationship seemed to be at first, it has given him something to live for while all he had before was a reason to fight or die. For those truly interested in what all the hub bub is, I give you a link for the Manga and for the subtitled series. I give them with the strongest of warnings. I do not have a feint heart, and much of this series disturbed me even as it fascinating. However, one can get a good sense of Sebastian as both dangerous and subservient through this fan made Youtube compilation.

A Nod to the Heteros

Now, while I absolutely prefer to have the strong male characters on their knees, they don't always have to be enthralled to male characters. The Surrender novels are very much about male submission to a female. In the case of both titles, the male protagonists – Prince Nikulainen in The Gift of Surrender and Prince Armas in The Price of Surrender – realized that to achieve their goals in life they had to surrender control of their destinies to females who seems fragile. To have a really powerful warrior that happens to be majorly hot kneeling before a gal is compelling. Why these men chose that path and what they endure to fully subvert their will to remain on that path is where the story is. In each book, the female protagonist is also the sexual aggressor. In the case of The Gift of Surrender, Princess Sarinanna is very aggressive throughout the courtship. She takes to the idea of tying her intended down rather easily. For those inclined, you may read an excerpt. Though Nikulainen does some heroic things throughout the book, he really enjoys surrendering his physical control to his bride. The courtship of Prince Armas and Princess Laurilla in the Price of Surrender is much more gentle. That's mainly because Armas spends that time recovering from an assassination attempt that very nearly succeeds. His submission is of political as well as personal. By the time he is wed, Armas has relinquished stewardship of one powerful kingdom, the heir to the throne of another to accept Laurilla's hand with the humble title of Prince Consort. His ultimate surrender as a man known for his lovemaking skills is to allow his virgin bride to be the aggressor on their wedding night. Alas, there is no excerpt to post, but the e-book is very inexpensive.

My little obsessions does have it's benefits. It's enabled me to focus on what the third book for both the Surrender and the Soldier series will be by identifying what aspect of the existing characters is left to explore and who the new characters will be and what about their needs and desires will compel the plots. See, it isn't just a self indulgence. Honestly...

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with the film stuff and how to explain it.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Delay of the Blog Monster

It's well into Sunday and I haven't started my main blog because of the smaller blogs that appear hither and yon on the interwebs. It takes me forever to post them all since half don't have an RSS feed. I'm slowly drifting toward separate blogs for my divergent interests. I'm resisting, but it's difficult. Today, I'm delayed because I found a site that feeds my yearning for obscure, strange and twisted anime and related fiction. Of course, they have a blog section. Someone wanted me to post a couple of my older blogs about my fanfiction. First, I've been writing this blog for 4years!!! How in the hairy heck did that happen??? Second, I had to dust off the blog and take out the contest I was running at the time. I will get back to those as I expect to publish a few things this year. I also added some links as I wasn't doing those when I first started the blog. That's when I found out there's a Wikipedia page for Demon Under Glass! None of us at Draggoncor/EarthDraggon did it, so thank you, kind person, whoever you are out there. Oh, BTW, the Deborah Warner listed is the British Director of the same name, not me. Freaky thing, I hosted her at a Borders reading. We have the EXACT same name Deborah Lynne Warner AND we almost have the same birth date (we're a year apart but the same day). She blond and quite British. Weird.

At any rate, all of the babbling is to state that the regular blog will be up later today really late or tomorrow. I'm distracted with finishing my holiday side dishes and dessert. I've also found some obscure and twisted anime series that is really distracting me. I will have a blog as there are a lot of writing type issues I wanted to discuss and there is some weird and wonderful stuff happening on the film front. And I want to talk about my holiday meal.

Oh, I want to tell you that though my blog is hither and yon, my first audience -- you lovely peeps -- get it first.

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 02, 2010

What's Cooking Good Friday

Jon kindly puts up with my incessant food show watching and DIY shows, but occasionally I can see him getting worried around the edges. Mind you, I was only passing the time watching the Martha Stewart Show about raising chickens. All I said that they were sure some pretty chickens. I was never considering sending for a big box of live chicken chicks. I can't find a spot to grow tomatoes or a little thyme and basil. Where would I put a chicken coop? And I must state while there is much I admire about Martha Stewart's skills (I have many of her cookbooks and often use her online recipes). I also often find her to be a little insane. I mean, I get that she has a farm and really gets into that life. But the thrust of that episode was that everyone should go out and get a pet chicken or even a whole coop. Why wouldn't you want to raise chickens seemed to be what she was asking. That's a trifle nuts, in my humble opinion.

Besides, I had plenty of stuff to do today. Though I'm not entertaining this year. Well, I'm always entertaining. I'm not having dinner guests for Easter this year. Anyway, I was volunteered to make some extra meats and greens for the folks at Lucy's soundstage. It's no real trouble. Everything is deeply discounted and it's very easy to scale up a pot of collard greens. I just spread the prep out over more days as I still tire easily. And then there is the final day of meatless Fridays to cook for. I made Spanakopita for me and buttered noodles for Jon. I've made Spanakopita so many times, it's my go to nibble to bring along when I'm invited to a party. The Michael Symon recipe is really easy. I make it easy still by using two boxes of frozen spinach thawed with the water squeezed out instead of fresh. But The other meatless treat we're having is the first successful batch of homemade pretzels. In this case the Martha Stewart recipe did not work as well as the Alton Brown Pretzel Recipe . His was very simple and quite fun to make. I also loved the episode because he correctly noted that Philly was a city one would travel to purely to get their pretzels. I often gorge myself on them when I'm home. These were not quite as brown as the professional ones, but they were perfectly crusty outside and wonderfully soft and chewy inside. Those we'll make a lot because the recipe was so simple and the yield so nice (8 really big pretzels).

This may make all the lovely aromas of the meats roasting in the oven tolerable. What else AM I making for Easter Sunday?

Stay Tuned!