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, June 27, 2010

Chemo, Scirpts and the Tao of Deb

It's been a yin and yang kind of week. On the one hand, I have to have regular chemo after all. Nothing new has been diagnosed. This is purely precautionary. It's just a little daunting. On the other hand, some wonderful things have been happening with pitches. We have a very promising meeting for a gig that would mean a great deal to our careers and out bottom line this week. Naturally, I can't say anything about it. This bit of good news helped mitigate the other news and reminded me that I can't let myself be daunted for too long. I can't afford to be daunted for many reasons – financially, emotionally and physically. And this opportunity offers much of what I had hoped for with our screenplay writing. So with the yin and the yang in my life of late, please think good thoughts.

I had hoped to do a full blog. Aside from the various life altering news, we started shooting that fitness pilot. Oh, the stories we have to tell. But aside from the fact that she shoot is not over (we have another day on Tuesday), I am exhausted on a lot of levels. I'll have a lot more news next week including the progress on the promotional trailer editing.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What's Cooking on a Tuesday Night

I didn't have the best of days today. I won't know how bad it was until tomorrow. However, I did have some tenderloin, some Vidalia onions, some big ol' potatoes and some excellent aged balsamic vinegar from F.Oliver's. the result is an amazing dish by David Rocco that I discovered on the new Cooking Channel. It was delicious. Here's the link: http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/beef-tenderloins-con-balsamico-recipe/index.html

I learned the frites technique last night on the Cooking channel's Unique Eats. I par boiled the cut fries for five minutes, drained and cooled them on paper towels then deep friend them until crispy. Jon and I ate them with two fists until they were gone. Ah, food therapy. It's much better than punching.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Turkey, Therapy, Demons and Serious Matters

I continue being contrary in my appetites this week. There were huge shrimp on sale this week along with all sorts of steaks – presumably for Father's Day. There were even some nice, firm fleshed fish on sale. All items aimed at grilling, I'm sure. What do I crave for Sunday dinner? Turkey! Thus, I splurged on a turkey breasts and some wings. Jon wondered if I was creating a Franken-Turkey. No, not at all. I need the wings to make some stock for the gravy and the dressing. Jon's a silly billy. Mind, I did buy the shrimp and the steak as well. The sale was too good and those shrimp were enormous. I have plans for them as well. So the apartment is filled with the scent of roasting turkey and Herbs de Provence. I managed to get everything in the oven before 8am. I was pretty pleased with myself until I noticed Alex Guarnascelli making butter from scratch. Jon noticed as well. I wish I'd noticed before we ate the pancakes. Ah well. That will be for next week's breakfast. The recipe even yields enough buttermilk for another recipe. Sweet!

It may seem that I am very industrious, but this week has not gone well as far as clearing the pile of work off my plate. I was thrown off by an ongoing bureaucratic nightmare that managed to get more frustrating in the last several days. I am an infamous worrier, so this hasn't helped my focus or my sleeping habits at all. And in this state of mind, it would have been unwise to tackle that film editing program I've never used. I can't afford the new PC I'd need after I got really frustrated. I didn't manage any writing until late in the week. Some of that is the worrying. Some of that was the latest rejection slip (more on that later). Some of it was physical – no doubt a side effect of worrying. Surprisingly, I'm not worrying about the pilot we're shooting next week. I've been delegating 90 percent of that and it's a far simpler shoot that we typically attempt. At least, that's how it looks on paper. Still, I'm refusing to worry about it.

I'm certain that I need some serious cooking therapy to get things off my mind that shouldn't be churning up in there, but it's been difficult with my slim energy reserves. My goal this week is to get more activity into my day. Perhaps by the end of next week I'll be slicing and dicing more routinely. I now have two food channels to provide inspiration. I've even organized all of the recipes that I've saved from my favorite shows into folders by subject. That file had gotten out of hand. Still, it wasn't as crazy as when I would print them out. That pile was at five to six inches thick and never in any particular order. It was crazy, and it drove the Hubs nuts.

I'm actually whipping something up now. The turkey breast is resting on the counter. So, I've put the shrimp, some thin asparagus and some Vidalia onions on a baking tray covered lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. I'm going to make a salad with a champagne vinegar vinaigrette dressing. Surprisingly, I was able to get a photos of this dish. I do try to get photos for the blog, but often I'm eating while I'm plating. That which remains is not very pretty. This is really yummy.

Serious Writing

I look upon that term with great derision. I doubt that the even the worst writers that ever lived were writing for giggles. I put a lot of work into this blog when it's not something I plan to have appear anywhere but the internet. I sweat the details in all of my fiction. Yet somehow, I let the seriousness of the topic cause me to treat the memoir differently than my other work. The first time it happened, I was blocked from finishing the first chapter for months. This time, I've been hamstrung from even starting the second chapter waiting for responses from the journals that have the first one. I've had three rejections thus far, but two were personal notes which meant a lot. At some point after the second personal note, I was talking to my brother about family holidays of yore. He asked why I haven't been working on the memoir. Then, I heard my Mom yelling at me to just tell the story and stop worrying about the rest. She gave me the same advice when I got all frozen writing my thesis novel. I realized that I was being an idiot again. It's hard enough getting the writing out on a page without letting all of this other baggage get in the way.

Embracing the Demon

Strangely, it was not the memoir that I opted to work on when I finally started writing this week. I opted to clear something major off my plate and lob it down the pipeline. We were going to do something completely new for the Demon Under Glass series now in development that would be augmented with flashbacks to get viewers up to speed. However, to explain who a number of characters were and their relationship to Joe McKay or Simon Molinar and hadn't been in the first film was proving to be difficult. These relationships were crucial in explaining why Joe would end up on the run with a being who was terrifying him at the end of the film. We have to show the extreme personal betrayal that Joe suffered through that pushed him to the point where Simon became his only option for survival. Thus, my writing life got a little easier. I had lumbered through a first draft script of the second half of the novelization long ago. Unfortunately, it didn't have a number of scenes that ended up in the book. And the script has a number of things that aren't in the book.

So I had windows open for the current script, the original film script and the book building a hybrid over the last couple of days. It helped to have the performances from the film as a baseline. That made it easy to pick and shape the added dialogue to fit the new script. Despite the dangerous edge in Simon and the horrible things he does in this script, I have to show clearly that he is someone that Joe can live with under the right circumstances. And despite our viewers' knowledge of the film and the fiction, it has to be clear that there is a lot more to learn about the vampire. In fact, I found an outright statement by Simon where he says that Joe, and the FBI and Delphi only know what he told them about himself. And he makes it clear to Joe later that he may not tell him whether or not something is true. But Joe is also capable of profound surprises. Simon's behavior and Joe's must be different and unexpected to keep from being caught. All of this has to be put in the existing script and make sure that it makes sense with what was already written. I think it does though I won't know for sure until I look it over in a few days. I meed some distance before I attempt to read it again.

Once this is done to my satisfaction, I may be ready to take on some other writing. It's sort of a creative warm up for the fiction or the memoir. Oh, I know I still have video editing ahead of me this week, but that's more mechanical than creative for me at this stage.

I must be off to finish making Sunday dinner then get back to work.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ladybugs, Summer Eats and Updates

The skunk lives on in Craig's Corleone garden. Despite the continued thievery, the tomatoes have been planted. Craig is forbidden from dispatching the critter because all of the ladies in his complex deem it cute. Meanwhile, he's missing the 1,000 ladybugs he released into the garden last week. The skunk is not the suspect though. Craig believes it's Murphy the Crow and his murder. Craig rescued the bird when it was young and now regrets it. No word on whether or not he'll replace the ladybugs.

Some of these critters don't seem to go for tomatoes. I know that the squirrels and gophers didn't in my Dad's garden. I'm rooting for the tomatoes. When they come in right, they come in like crazy. I'm hoping to make some fresh marinara. I've picked up a bunch of new pizza and pasta from David Rocco on the brand new Cooking Channel. Of course, I won't wait until the harvest to try these new dishes. The local farmer's market is full of really beautiful tomatoes. None of them are Jersey tomatoes, but I'm sure the sauces will be lovely. I can always roast the tomatoes first if they are not to my liking even if it's a bit warm to have the oven blazing.

Seasonal Eats

It's funny about summer and cooking for me. Most of the food shows are talking about getting outside and grilling or making things that don't need an oven. Everything is geared towards the super light foods because of the heat. I remember adhering to that in my cooking and eating habits when I lived in Philadelphia. But save for odd years like this one, it's hot in the middle of winter here. So if I want to have a pot pie in February when it's 80 degrees in the shade here, I have one. Likewise, If I want hot noodle soup in August, it's the same thing. That's a round about way of saying that I'm making a pot roast today. I am having a cold starch as my obsession with potato salad continues. I think I've finally achieved the right balance of ingredients.


Last week was odd, because I'm still under the take it easy edict; however, I'm now being encouraged to have more activity. Thus, I'm letting my body be my guide. I do what I can until I get a bit tired then I stop. The good news is that I've been able to do a little more each day without a setback. This week is relatively free of appointments. My plan is to finish the rough edit on the interviews and the promos we shot a couple of weeks ago while finalizing the details on the fitness pilot we're helping to produce. No, we aren't changing the focus of the production company. This is just a solid for our partner Ralph Lliteras and a very cool client of his, Dr. Paul Drew. It's also a good things to exercise that producing skill set on a relatively simple shoot. We haven't shot anything in over a year. It's easy to get rusty, so any practice is welcome. We have a few more Demon Under Glass interviews to complete. Strangely, it's all the production team. I've held off on those as I wanted to hear what the actors would focus on in their answers. That and I wanted to look at other behind the scenes interviews of directors and producers. I've been particularly interested in how they pull off talking about the things that went awry without sounding bitter. Not that I'm bitter about anything...not really. It's just that some of the travails that befell our production don't make for amusing stories to my own ears. A few people I've relayed these tales to have laughed their asses off over them. Maybe it's my delivery. I may have to test run them before the interviews from us go live.

I must interrupt myself to say that it is always a thrill to hear my characters come to life. Often when I've done casting, I have closed my eyes to listen to the performance to see if I can hear the character truly speaking to me. I've had the thrill of hearing two great versions of Rik Heron and Vincent Greven in A Soldier's Choice, but I've now heard a wonderful version of Nikulainen and Sarianna from The Gift of Surrender. Matty Ferrrao does a wonderful job with Vincent, but he also did a lovely job with Nikulainen. I could listen to him for hours. It was also fabulous to hear Joe McKay from Demon Under Glass come to life once again. And then there is the intriguing twist on hearing the vampire, Simon Molinar this time. The tones were dulcet and provocative, but a bit different. My thanks again to Owen Szabo.

I've been reviewing a lot of Demon Under Glass stuff of late. That's been a necessity because of the series development and the sequel to Soldier's Fate. We've finally written a Writer's Guide for Demon Under Glass for the fiction and the scripts. We wrote a first version. It's already apparent that I'll have to teak some things. I've has a really interesting experience talking and sometimes debating the finer points of our writing with the fans and authors of the fiction. I generally refrain from participating in these discussions. As far as the fiction based on the film or the novel, I stay out of the fray because I don't want to put a damper on the ideas. We have very few rules for the fiction, I tend to only answer questions that I'm asked directly. I'm very jazzed that something we created has inspired so much consideration and discussion. However, the scripts are another matter. The plots and the rendering of the characters has to match what we consider canon. Thus, we have to really put our foot down on what we'll accept. The guide isn't meant to hamper ideas, but to prevent a writer from spending a lot of time or energy creating something that we can't film. It was also good to finally put this all in writing. As I finished, I was able to construct a character profile list for when we do the casting for this thing. And I was actually writing something other than the blog. I've been constructing a lot of fiction in my head, but none of it was making its way through a keyboard. The writer's guide isn't fiction, but it got me to write on a day other than Sunday. Now, I just have to find that 'one true sentence' 1 in any of the things running around my brain and I'm off to the races. I'm getting close with a couple of the novels. Now that I'm feeling better for longer in the day, I expect to get a whole lot of work done.

Stay Tuned!

1Earnest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (New York, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1964) p. 12.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Quiet Pursuits

This will be a shorter blog as I've been compelled to slow down and focus on recuperating for a while. Although it snowed it the mountains during my family's visit just last week, spring has sprung in Southern California and the food has been just amazing. Jon and I have been just gorging ourselves on fresh, sweet corn. And now, local cherries are in the market. They are so sweet and juicy. I even have a gadget that pits four of them at once! I love fresh spring and summer fruit more than I love candy. And I can eat as much fruit as I can stand. This all sounds sickeningly healthy, but fear not! Warmer weather and fresh fruit also make me think of some decidedly unhealthy things. And I've been aided and abetted in these thoughts by an extraordinary occurrence.

There's a new food network on cable!!! The Cooking Channel debuted on Memorial Day. Granted, it is a spin off of the Food Network, but it has a lot of stuff I haven't seen before and some favorites that I haven't seen in a long time. I almost busted a stitch during on episode of The Galloping Gourmet in which the dish actually went wrong. I have seen him set fire to his set before (he used to drink quite a bit of wine while cooking), but I've never seen one actually fail. It was fascinating. Meanwhile, Julia Child is doing a buffet for 19 people and making her own puff pastry (not in the same show). And there are new chefs for me to enjoy. All of this new inspiration has had an impact. A few of the shows were making fried chicken. On one show, an early episode of Tyler's Ultimate (there's also a cookbook) in which these elderly and well seasoned cooks at an Inn in Cape May, New Jersey flavored their cooking oil with onions and fresh herbs. I'm using a similar strategy with flavoring the buttermilk I marinade the chicken. And If I'm having fried chicken, I must have potato salad. In this case, I'm trying something I just saw today on Alex's Day Off. Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli (who writes the most sensual descriptions of food I've ever seen) bakes her potatoes for the salad.

The cupcakes from last week tasted really good. I overfilled the cups, thus they were a might strange looking, but boy did they taste amazing. I think they were all gone by Wednesday. We did share a few of them with Craig, but the bulk of them were eaten by Jon and me. Shameful! In my defense, I did eat a lot of fruit last week and certainly will today. Jon remains unrepentant. I meant to get photos even though they were mutants, but we laid into them so fast. And then, they were gone. We're pushing back the attempt at raisin bread. I've been more or less coach-ridden most of the week. My energy isn't lasting long enough this weekend to do more than cook meals. And that's been with a lost of rest breaks. I've really been wanting to whip up an new batch of stocks, but I haven't been able to go out and shop yet. Maybe next week I'll be able to do both. I'm chafing to get to the newly discovered Mar Vista Farmer's Market, but that may be a ways off. I have to behave myself. Aside from the exhaustion, everyone I know has been yelling at me about moving too fast. I think they've even been checking up on me. I get calls from people at odd times making sure I'm home and not doing anything. Some of my actors have even been calling.

I've been behaving. It doesn't take much physical exertion to edit the promotional clips for the re-release of Demon Under Glass. It's more mental torture. Jon has me using something more advanced than Movie Maker. It has a screen that reminds me of an airline cockpit. There's a lot going on, in other words. Luckily, I'm only doing the first pass at editing. Jon gets the sweat out the fine details. He likes doing that. I'm not sure how I'll do wading through the various takes to get the performance I want. I may enjoy it, or there may be a smoldering crater where my PC sat. I can't give too much in the way of insights into what we're up to. Everything I could say is a spoiler of sorts. Be patient.

I have been doing some work on the various fiction projects piled up around my work area. And working on them has brought up some interesting things about the craft of writing. But my energy wanes now that the chicken is friend and the potato salad is chilling. I think I should get a nap. Then, more cherries.

Stay tuned.