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, November 28, 2010

Toxic Produce, War Stories and Big Thanks

Being Thankful

I hope everyone hither and yon had a great Thanksgiving. May you all be enjoying lovely turkey sandwiches as we are. And a big thank you for all who sent notes and well wishes for the holiday. They all mean a great deal to me. Without getting really mushy, I have to say that I have a lot to be thankful for. Last year at this time, I was extremely ill with no clue as to what was happening. That was so frightening. This year, I'm tumor free and 2/3rds through with my treatments. Yes, 2/3rds. The Docs have decided that due to the rare nature of my cancer, to err on the side of caution with chemo. Thus, I have five more to go instead of one. Still, I'm not deterred. A delay in my plans is far better than facing this all over again in a few years. So, I'm Thankful to be on the mend and to have the love and support of my family and friends as I press on. I can't begin to thank all of you who've sent notes and prayers to those who are toting me around and sitting with me through treatments. The hubs still thinks this gig with me is a good one. The cherry on top of things this week was having the vigor to make a full, southern style meal and modestly entertain (more on that later). For a foodie like me, that meant the world.

Organ Meats and Toxic Produce

All summer long, I've been gleefully gorging myself on fresh fruit. I kept big bowls of cut fruit ready for snack attacks. I'd also been enjoying all sorts of green salads. Since the lovely gift of fine, aged balsamic vinegar, I'd even been making my own dressings. That's before we get to the fruit smoothies. I'm nowhere near being an advocate for the raw food movement (frankly, that movement puzzles me deeply), but I was one produce eating machine. Thus, when told that my blood counts were down, I immediately began to think about my strength building menus and fall fruits and veggies. And that's when my brain caught up to the restrictions and warnings the doc was laying down. While my immune system was suppressed, I was forbidden from eating any raw fruits or veggies because of the chance of contamination. Really?? Things have gotten that bad in the food supply chain that fresh fruit and vegetables require a health warning? I don't know about you, but I found that to be appalling. Fortunately, I was able take care of the fruit cravings with juices that were Pasteurized. And the great thing about fall veggies is that they taste great roasted. And that tastes great with balsamic vinegar. Alas, I had to stay away from salads. The spinach salad with fresh raspberry vinaigrette could contain deadly toxins. On the other hand, I was allowed to have all the organ meats I could stand. I took the opportunity to get my fill of Ann Burrell's wonderful chicken liver pâté .

What Was Cooking Last Week

The weather was so cool this past week (we woke to temps in the 30s on a few mornings last week), I've been able to use the oven without having to turn on fans or even the AC. Today, it's cool and windy out while our apartment is very cozy with the scent of turkey soup in the air. Thus, last week I was in prep and cooking paradise. And I had a new implement in my arsenal. I bought a proper chef's knife from the Giada DeLaurentiis collection. It was very efficient and extremely scary to have such a sharp implement in my hands. I had to re-learn my hand positions and technique for the increased sharpness. I set up my sitting down chopping station and spent a couple of hours whacking away while looking at cooking shows I've seen a dozen times. Delightful, it was. I bagged the veg and spread the actual cooking out over a couple of days, so I wouldn't tax myself. I think spreading it out made the food come out better. I spent more time on each dish. They turned out very well, especially the turkey and the sweet potato pie. I didn't make as many pies as I typically do, but these very few turned out exceedingly well. The turkey was amazingly flavorful and moist. And all of this was accomplished without a nap attack in front of the stove or while the guests were eating. I felt quite accomplished.

Year of Fun – Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is part of the Year of Fun, because it was wonderfully normal for us. Aside from a properly opulent array of dishes, we celebrated with Phil and Marie, alums of Borders Store #93 and our very good friends. As is our tradition, we shared war stories of store #93 with a horrified newcomer. Oh, how can the stories be, you may ask. It's a book store after all. I'll just share the punchlines, and you can be the judge.

  • And I asked him why he was naked and smoking a cigarette in the men's room. He said it relaxed him.

  • As if to draw a fine point on our argument, a homeless man soaked in gasoline with an open can of fuel and a match turned up in front of a tour of regional managers.

  • How did no one notice the guy taking a dump in front of the men's room door?

Ah, good times. It was an evening filled with great food and laughter – the kind of laughter where you start crying. I can't think of a better way to spend a holiday.


The writing is going at about a page a day. I can't complain. There will be a cookie making frenzy before the next round of chemo. I'm saving Craig vs jury duty for next week as I'll be seeing him this week.

Stay Tuned.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hail Organ Meats

Whether it was time or liver, my counts were pre-chemo normal. Thus, they proceeded with the next cycle. I thought I'd come out of it feeling less fatigued than I do. Alas, I've been a big sleepy head since Friday. So the tale of Craig vs Jury duty and other adventures will have to wait until next week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ai No Kasabi, Fanfic and Inspirational Annoyances

Way back in the day when I was heavily into fandom and fanfiction, I once sought to settle a protracted flame war on one of my lists by co-writing a primer on BDSM. It was a well documented little tome written for writers and readers with a bent toward that kind of kink. The co-author and I felt we'd produced something that gave an author a grounding in reality that allowed for creativity in their plots. Chief amongst the rules was that the submissive was a willing participant in the relationship while not being unstable or under aged. Alas, all our efforts settled nothing in that particular flame war. Eventually, I left that list and that fandom because of the constant squabbling.

My lesson from the experience aside from squabbles produce little or no fiction, is that people will write things that scratch their own particular itch no matter how wrong or even disturbing that itch appears to other people. For a time, I tried responding to fiction I found confounding or even offensive with a story that would show those problems I have in sharp relief then mock them. No one noticed. I mean, the stories would go over well, but no one got why I originally wrote the story. I'm used to that. I once wrote a piece that was so full of references from The Simpsons, it could have been a script from the show. No one noticed. Whatever.

Inspirational Annoyances

Then, I decided to do like Joe Haldeman when he wrote The Forever War . He wrote the first novel in response to Starship Troopers . Thus, my career in erotic fiction largely stems from being annoyed at something I read at some point in time. This even applies to Demon Under Glass to some extent. I've published stories about Simon and Joe that I didn't agree with while wearing my Editirx hat. No, I'm not going to go into the minutia of what I didn't agree with or to what degree. If you've followed the Delphi List for any length of time, it's fairly clear what my point of view on those characters and who they are and are not. I even wrote a non-canonical story, Identities, for one of the collections to show how I would throw Joe and Simon together romantically as a response to similar stories. But annoyance cannot fuel an entire novel. What's been happening is I get the spark from an annoyance but at the end of many weeks and hundreds of pages, My characters have taken on a life of their own in a universe of my own creation, much like The Forever War. Sometimes, I even lose track of what originally caused me to write the danged thing because I've become caught up in who the characters and their worlds evolve into being.

Why am I bringing this up? Don't I already have four charismatic male characters whispering in my ear for attention? And aren't I almost too fatigued to write more that a page every few days? Why yes, I am. So, of course, I have a whole other novel barging into my brain looking for attention. This began with a series of Japanese novels and an OVA (mini-series) called Ai No Kusabi Or The Space Between. It's a riveting series that scratched many of my itches. However, the internal contradictions in the novels and OVA and the ending made me absolutely nuts. I won't detail them lest someone here wants to read for themselves. Everything is in the Wiki link. Strangely, I haven't read much of the fanfiction. It's not easy to find, for one. And for two, the pairings I've found have made me run in the opposite direction. It's clear to me that most of the fanfiction I've found has been about putting pretty people together and very much not about who the characters actually are. I was annoyed enough from the original novel and OVA. I didn't need to get more vexed.

Out of all of this, Ensnared was born, and Darius and Andreas joined the men rattling around my brain seeking my attention. Both this book and the Soldiers book are moving at the same pace. I fit my latest Demon Under Glass story in between them. I suppose Simon is getting the most attention overall as he is in the Soldiers book and the short story. He would like it that way. This particular story is one I've wanted to write about Joe and Simon for quite a while. It's running longer than expected. I'm sure Simon likes that as well.

As for Ensnared, it's set in a post apocalypse Earth well into the future. The world that arose from the ashes has a strong caste system and, despite the existence of government and law, is truly ruled by what had been an underworld gang that has existed since the disaster that destroyed the original civilization. The Cosimo or Cosi are run by Darius Galatea. One night he has a near scandalous encounter with Andreas Hesper, an underworld Crew leader who has dealt with the Cosi often but never met Darius. At the same time as this relationship is brewing, someone with a lot of money and power is trying to have Andreas killed. When he discovers that he is not safe anywhere in his own territory, Andreas reaches out to Darius for help. The price is a year of service as Darius' Damian or tame plaything. The answer to the mystery not only turns the caste system on its ear, it threatens the growing attachment between the two men.

Here is an excerpt:

The morning brought no answers for Andreas. He couldn't stay in the hotel another night. Someone would tip his pursuers soon. That would make other hotels in the area out of the question. Andreas was running out of options. He decided to take a risk. He went to the communications console and put in a call to Cosimo Tower. The receptionist was beautiful but very snotty when she got a look at Andreas, but he insisted that Lord Galatea would speak to him. She all but rolled her eyes when she put him on hold. He prayed she hadn't hung up on him. Seconds later, Darius was on the screen.

“Forgive my intrusion on your day, milord.”

“Darius. Have you forgotten?” Darius asked mildly.

“No. It's just that I missed being killed last night,” Andreas replied. “Whoever is after me has a lot of money, and I'm running out of places to hide.”

“Do you still have the pass to Amara?”


“Come to me immediately,” Darius said. “How close are you to the border?”

“I'm just on the other side at Octavius checkpoint.”

“Get across the border. My security will meet you there.”

“Thank you, Darius.”

“It will be my pleasure. Move now.”

The screen blinked out. Andreas threw on his clothes and jacket, checked to make sure he still had the pass and the paperwork from the professor. At the last minute, Andreas decided to take the back stairs that led directly to the garage – the preferred method for Elite guests to leave. Just as the door to the landing closed, Andreas heard the elevator ping. Then there was running down the corridor toward his room. Andreas ran down the rest of the stairs. He figured that they would have broken down the door and found him gone just as he swung onto the motorcycle. As he peeled out of the garage, Andreas saw that there were two black vans parked across from the hotel. One still had men in it. They spotted him as he roared toward the checkpoint. There would be no time to clear the pass. He could still be attacked while at the checkpoint itself as it was considered part of No Man's Land. Andreas gunned the engine and jumped the barrier at the checkpoint. The police would be on him before he could get much further. He just prayed that they wouldn't shoot first.

Patrol cars barreled onto the scene just as the black vans smashed their way through the checkpoint. One police car blocked Andreas from moving forward while another got between him and the black vans that were still advancing. Andreas shut down his engine and put his hands on his head. The black vans stopped, but the occupants filed out and drew weapons. Andreas was still not safe. Cops on both side of the border were not known for honesty. He held his breath waiting for the 'stray' shot that would end his life.

Suddenly, a phalanx of sleek, powerful vehicles appeared blocking the vans and the police from Andreas.

“Relax, Andreas,” a voice said from behind him.

Andreas put his hands down and removed his helmet. Darius was walking toward him with the air of a man in full command of a situation. His beautifully long, silken hair gently stirred in the breeze. His eyes were covered by sunglasses, making his face look cold. Andreas wondered if he should be worried as he came very close. Somehow, he found the courage to get off the bike and face him.

“What happens now?” Andreas asked trying not to tremble.

Darius removed his sunglasses and gazed warmly at Andreas.

“I will offer you my protection in my home while this contract on you is investigated,” Darius said. “It is obvious that the only way you will be completely safe is in my custody.”

“I can't argue that,” Andreas said. “But what do you want in exchange for this protection? I don't have very much.”

Darius smiled at him. It was a beautifully predatory smile that sent a chill down his spine.

“I want you, Andreas. Wasn't that clear the other night?”

“You want me...as a lover?”

Darius shook his head. The smile, like his eyes, grew hotter.

“We will be lovers, but that isn't enough for me, exquisite Andreas,” he said softly. “I want you to be my Dami. I want to own you body, mind and will for at least a year.”

Andreas felt like the ground dropped from beneath his feet. His body was reacting even as his mind was rebelling. He wanted Darius like he'd never wanted anyone before, but could he give himself so completely to someone he barely knew? Could he risk turning him down? What would he become if he accepted?

“Trust me, Andreas, and submit to me completely. Now.”

That voice made him hard and weakened everything that was trying to fight this. His final thought before he spoke was that Viktor would never let him hear the end of it.

“Yes, Darius,” Andreas said softly as he met the Cosi's gaze. “I will be your Dami. I submit.”

“Good,” he murmured taking Andreas by the hand.

They threaded their way through the vehicles until they could see the would be hit squad. They were quite safe as the Cosi security team outgunned them and were on a hair trigger for any movement. Andreas couldn't believe that they remained with all that firepower and the police still there. How much were these guys being paid or what were they facing if they failed?

“Attention,” Darius said in a booming and commanding voice. “Andreas Hesper is under my protection from now hence. He is my property and as such, you will have to take on the Cosi and me to get to him.”

Andreas inhaled sharply causing Darius to turn toward him. The Cosi's eyes were hot as he dropped Andreas' hand to grab him by the hair at the back of his head. Finally, those full, firm lips were on his then that tongue was pushing inside his mouth, claiming him more forcefully than words could. The kiss was voracious and demanding. Andreas responded even as his knees weakened and he sagged against the larger man. Darius lifted his head and smiled down at him.

“Yes, Andreas. You are mine,” he murmured.

The hit squad peeled off back across the border. The police also departed.

“I'll have the motorcycle brought to my garage,” Darius said. “Come with me. We're going to my home. I think you've had enough today.”

Andreas looked at him gratefully then followed wordlessly to the private car that waited just beyond the perimeter. Darius guided a then shell shocked Andreas into the car then buckled him in.

“Try to relax, Andreas,” Darius murmured. “My staff is working on their connections in Kacia and beyond. And with you out of harm's way, your Crew can focus on finding out who is behind all of this.”

“Why did you let them go?”

“They are little fish who probably only know a low level go-between,” Darius said. “We need to find out where this money is coming from.”

“And letting them go means whoever hired them knows that the Cosi are involved,” Andreas said. “What if they back off?”

“Doubtful,” Darius replied. “They kept coming despite our inquiries, and they crossed into Amara and faced off against the police.”

“Yeah,” Andreas sighed.

“This is all very inconvenient for me,” Darius said. “I had plans where you are concerned.”

“No worries, I've got a good handle on the wine gig,” Andreas assured him. “I think the research for it saved my life yesterday, because I wasn't anywhere anyone would expect.”

“That's good to hear, but I meant it was inconvenient for my seduction of you,” Darius said.

“But you got me to be your Dami in less than 48 hours.”

“I would have preferred to draw out the dance and have you walk into the arrangement – not run into it,” Darius said.

Andreas found himself exasperated and amused.

“But you have me.”

“I have your body,” Darius countered. “But your mind is in several different places. As it is, I'll have to feed you and see that you've made contact with your crew and otherwise relax you until I can have you.”

“You're going to let me have contact with my crew?”

“Of course,” Darius replied. “You will still run your crew. Your mind is too agile to remain completely idle, and you have a job to complete.”

“Why didn't you tell me that straight away?”

Darius glanced at him with that predatory smile. “I wanted your surrender to be absolute. No conditions. No haggling.”

“You wanted my trust.”

“I must have your trust.”

“And all of this firepower and effort are ultimately aimed at your own pleasure,” Andreas chuckled. “Isn't that a little self absorbed?”

“Not at all,” Darius replied. “If I am allowed my pleasures, I am relaxed. If I am relaxed, I am better at my work.”

“So the fate of the world depends on your orgasms?” Andreas asked incredulously.

Darius laughed. “Well, yes. You are a cheeky one. I can't wait to train you.”

Andreas smiled his most winning smile. “I don't know if that can be trained away. Many have tried.”

“We'll see,” Darius murmured.


Things are still moving slowly according to my energy levels.

Stay tuned.

Thanksgiving Kitchen Therapy and Pulled Pork

Thanks again for all the kind notes, prayers and well wishes. I think I've bounced back. I know I feel way better than I did two weeks ago. I'm not up for any Mixed Martial Arts matches or cliff diving, but then, I wasn't able to do those at my healthiest. Those are crazy ideas. I have been able to do my walking for exercise, and, thankfully, I am back in the kitchen for some much needed therapy. I'm still not getting a lot done otherwise – this is the most writing I've finished in weeks. I am working though not much is making it through the keyboard. But more on that later. The point is that my brain and my motor skills are communicating once more.

Thanksgiving Kitchen Therapy

This is a great time of year for someone who enjoys kitchen therapy. Even though I'm not throwing dinners that require table and chair rentals, I will always cook a Thanksgiving meal of some sort. That meal involves a lot of procedures that are almost meditative in quality. I always liked chopping things and mixing things. I really miss the 'hen talk' between my mother and her sisters while we worked. When I moved out here, I used to call my one remaining Aunt and talk to her while we both prepped our meals. Now, I have two food networks to watch while I work. There is no family gossip to be agog over, by the meditative quality remains. I was particularly jazzed to find some really pretty produce at the market along with a hefty supply of fresh turkey wings. Why am I doing this so early, you may ask. It's not entirely because of the fatigue associated with chemo (though that's a good reason). I always tended to start prep on things that can be made and frozen like turkey stock and pie dough early because of my work schedule. The sanest way to tackle a holiday feast is to break it down into parts that can be done ahead. If I've timed everything well, there are very few dishes that I have to make on Thanksgiving day. And no one is the wiser. As long as there are sandwich makings and pie, Jon pretty much doesn't care what else is happening. Speaking of pies, I'll be making the pie doughs tomorrow and freezing them. They aren't difficult to do especially with a food processor; however, things do tend to go wrong when pressed for time or doing too much at once.

I also lucked out at the market on pork shoulder. There was a spectacular sale going on. I have a rub that I came up with that isn't barbecue. I substitute the heat and the sweet with Herbes de Provence, so it's a more herb-y pulled pork than barbecue. I tend to prefer cooking pork shoulder that way to automatically making it barbecue. I like to have it in a sandwich with spicy mustard or as the main part of an entree with a rich gravy. The herb pork shoulder gives me many more options with meals.

And no worries. The stock and the pie dough ate the extent of my cooking ambitions this weekend. That and a steak sandwich. I really want one of those.

In part two of this blog, I will be discussing my writing. This will include rants from extreme nerdom and some very dark themes.

You've been warned.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Blood, Craig, Al Qaeda and Updates

I'm not sure where the week went. I didn't really do a whole lot. First, there was the heat. One morning at 6 am, it was 72 degrees. Needless to say that by noon I was wondering if humans could actually roast while waiting for a bus. Unfortunately, I had to go out for my various pokings and proddings and breathe the molten air. These few outings were all I could manage. I think I've written a grand total of three pages for the week. That's a paltry output considering how much is going through my mind. But that's what a low blood count gets you. And I wasn't being particularly brave about chemo being postponed this week. I really felt like crap warmed over. I was fairly certain that I'd end up being admitted from side effects (I barely avoided it during the last cycle). Believe me, I was grateful for the break. I don't like feeling so weak and tired. The days seem to drag by which is why I'm surprised that it's already Sunday.

Craig vs Al Qaeda

It seems there is an Al Qaeda sponsored magazine on Archive.org. So naturally, Craig has decided to poke at it with a stick. Thus far, he's praised them on their efforts to build their homoerotic death cult. That's resulted in the expected threats against him. The English is so bad though that he can't figure out if they want to re-circumsize him or behead him. I told him that I was fairly certain it was the latter. He's also trying to translate some of the replies. It's a lot of Arabic with his name in English sprinkled throughout. Patriotism comes in many forms, I suppose. And he is having a good time. Meanwhile, the garden is going to seed. In other Craig news, I think he's finally decided to blog. I'm not sure if the blog will be about his life or a random collection of rants against the Dutch. No one but Craig knows. I believe it's better that way.


There isn't much to report as I haven't been getting a lot of writing done. I know where the books are going as I have outlines for each that are about 30 pages long. Getting there has just been slow. The big new development is that I may do my own artwork for both books. Because what else would a person with fine motor skill issues do – take up sketching for the first time in decades, what else? That's not true. I did the character costume studies for the Privateers short because the prospective designers had never heard of low budget. Blind fury can really get those creative juices flowing. It's much the same reason for me sharpening my pencils now. I just can't justify the cost of an illustrator for the books right now. Luckily, I'm married to a man with an art degree and absolutely no guile. He'll let me know if the artwork passes muster – not matter the risks to his personal safety. Hopefully, I'll have an excerpt for next week.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Chicken Destiny, NaNoWriMo and Updates

Thanks for all of the messages of well wishes. It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Considering the impressive list of what could be going on with side effects, I'm still getting off relatively easily, so I'm focusing on that – when I'm awake enough to focus.

Chicken Destiny

I seem to be destined to roast a chicken today. This was the subject of many of the cooking programs last week. I was told on one that Julia Child could judge how good a cook someone was by their roast chicken. That's sort of normal as it is a kitchen basic. But roasting chickens were turning up in the books I was reading last week. That was a little weird. And then chickens were on sale at my favorite market for $.67 a pound. At that point, the cosmos is telling me to roast a chicken. Of course, while I'm massaging a chicken with a big wad of soft butter, you get a lot of phone calls. I had to do the big, surgeon level hand wash about a half a dozen times before I got the bird into the oven..Incidentally, I found that chicken fat and butter leave the hands very soft even after frequent hand washings. I'm not sure of how Julia would judge my chicken, but it and the gravy were quite tasty.

I'm still planning on making big things like croissants and puff pastry, but I have no idea when. It's taking me longer to bounce back after a chemo cycle. And in a couple of weeks, I'll have to do my ramp up to Thanksgiving dinner (turkey stock must be made and I do pies a few days in advance). So, what I've done is make sure that I have all the ingredients on hand for a high energy day when I can have a whack at one of the recipes. And I mean whack literally. In both recipes, one has to beat a mound of butter into a thin square before incorporating it into the dough. Hopefully, I won't alarm the neighbors. And on the cookie front, we have one more cookie we need to experiment with. Our attempt at oatmeal failed miserably last year. I'm still puzzled as to why. We have some new recipes that we're going to try. Meanwhile, all the cookie packaging I ordered is here.

Deb vs NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is upon us again. And this year, I simply must speak up. While my number one bit of advice to people who aspire to be writers is to write, I have deeply conflicted feelings about this effort. The Wiki on the project is very upbeat and talks about how many words are written. My experience is through the people on the professional writing list I'm on and the fanfiction lists I still haunt. I'm seeing dozens of writers torturing themselves over what they aren't getting done. By the end of the month, many are so demoralized that they don't write at all for weeks. This doesn't strike me as a positive exercise. The only way a writer should be subject to that kind of hard deadline is if they're being paid. If a writer insists on doing this, ignore the deadline and just enjoy the experience of workshopping with a bunch of writers in the same both. He, see what you have at the end and build on it. Only compete with yourself – don't use other writer's progress as a yardstick. Meanwhile, I'm staying off all of my writing lists until mid-December.


Speaking of writing, I'm working on the things that require the least amount of energy, the novels. There are two that I'm bouncing between using the path of leas resistance. I hadn't planned on doing two. The second one sort of sprung from nowhere and wouldn't go away. So my Soldiers have some competition. I'll go into who they are and why they popped into my brain when I'm closer to finishing. I hope to have another Soldier's excerpt soon. As for the shoots, everyone involved is quite understanding and ready to move forward when I am.

Stay Tuned.