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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Reflection on an Oft Asked Question


Why DO you write THAT?

I covered this question when I started blogging five years ago. That was when I was doing fantasy erotica with straight couples. The questions have grown more pointed since I started putting out yaoi books. I get these questions especially after I've written something detailed about the craft of writing. I received a well written and well thought out note after I had given some writing advice to one of my blog readers who wondered when I'd use my talents for writing something more literary. I didn't get angry at the note. It was a kind attempt by someone who liked my work well enough to take the time to write. I hear much the same sentiment quite regularly from some family members. The concern is that I am not using my talent in a way that could make me real money or real fame or critical acclaim. Thus, I would be more financially secure and less panic stricken. I've even thought such things on occasion – when I'm being mopey.

The flippant answer (which I did not and would not give in response to such a well meaning note) is that books acclaimed by literary critics make money so long as they are assigned reading from some misguided lit professor. And that still isn't much money. Writers with a lot of fame and money are often writing material that they should be ashamed of if they aren't already. Why, yes I am thinking about Twilight. Unless the writer happens to be enjoying that fifteen minutes of fame for some reason, whether or not their book will be a best seller is in the same realm of probability as hitting the lottery. Because of publication pipelines – like film pipelines – by the time we in the public see that a theme has become a trend out of a given set of titles that hit big, it's too late to capitalize on it. In the year and a half it would take for that new take on angsty teenaged vampires to hit the stores or the theaters (and that is if it is picked up immediately after the six months it takes to write the book/script), the trend is on to angsty middle aged bull fighters(I have dibs on that – it's mine). My point is that trying to write in the hopes of that lucrative best seller will most likely be an exercise in frustration.

And what is literary anyway? I'm certain that the intellectuals of Dickens' day didn't consider his serialized stories high art. I know for certain that the some of the idiots we were reading in grad school are no longer considered worthy of study. I couldn't agree more. I won't even be angry about the complete waste of my time so long as no one else has to suffer through that pretentious drivel. And no, I won't name names. I don't want them to have anymore attention than they already have. There have been and still are genre books that transcend their niche to be considered literary. I'm not going to delve into specifics here. That would turn this blog into writing a paper. I'm not doing that. If you are curious, Google literary science fiction or literary horror and read on. For my part, I know that there are many authors that I shelved in their genre and in lit when I worked at bookstores. Working at the Archive deepened my belief that what is or is not considered serious writing changes with the times. I don't know how many well thought of and prolific authors of a given era I've scanned that I have never heard of – and I have a graduate degree in lit. I would look them up to find out that they first fell out of fashion and then off the cliff of literary conscience generations ago.

To be a creative person is to be on a path that is often full of pain and self doubt in general. It is insanity to further burden yourself with trying to compete in an arena that is not a comfortable fit. I am a storyteller. I love spinning yarns that are enjoyable and engrossing journeys. I put a lot of effort into any story that I tell for the page or for the screen, because there is something fascinating about the characters or the world I've created or both. Even with titles or scripts that haven't performed as I'd hoped so far (I never give up on any of my work), at least I can say that I really enjoyed hanging out in that universe or with those characters. Doing the work itself is its own reward which is good, because sometimes, that's all I get. I still work toward a day when doing something I really enjoy doing will be able to support our household. But I'm okay with really enjoying the work.

The epic year end wrap up will be out tomorrow when we are all more sober.

Stay tuned

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Seasons Merriment

We send you all the sweets with none of the calories this Holiday Season.  Jon and I wish you happiness and health. Craig says 'who the hell are all these people???' We're going out galavanting with him tomorrow if he isn't arrested by the Sheriffs in Malibu for trying to spring his girlfriend who has to work at the station. When last we heard from him he was in the parking lot blasting the all meow version of Jingle Bells at the building. The galavanting also depends up whether I've recovered from a really nasty cold. All of this will be detailed in next week's blog which will also include the end of the year wrap up and some major updates. Thus, I must leave you all now to nurse my cold and enjoy the televised yule log. You can get it online, HERE. Of, and for those who are fans of my yaoi writing, you can find the official card HERE. I animated it myself! Enjoy the day, the food and your family and friends. I'll be back next week.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Squirrels, Editing Frenzy and Seasonal Viewing


Upon the requests of several readers, I asked Craig for a squirrel update. He said that he saw a Doritos bag with a bushy tail running around his yard a few days ago. He stared at the bag until it became self-conscious. The squirrel backed out of the bag and stared at Craig for a while before scampering up his favorite tree. Craig is convinced that he had a human involved in his care at some point as it is not just unafraid of humans, it also seems to expect to be fed by humans and invited into their homes. He stares at Craig and his neighbors through their windows or front doors. For some reason, I have decided that it will be a good idea for Craig to be Santa's Little Helper this coming week. He's not particularly jolly. Or he's jolly in a very wrong way. Perhaps, a nice, fluffy Santa hat will help [Jon wants to be on the record that this is a bad idea]. Anyway, those outings should make for a very interesting blog next week.

Time Keeps on Slipping

My Grad school chum and writer extraordinaire, Sarah Freligh [Buy her book, Sort of Gone. It's the perfect gift for that baseball fan in your life], has often told me how much focus and energy it takes to edit someone's work. I still had no idea how much it takes to edit a work while carefully keeping the author's voice in tact. I have two projects that must be finished fairly soon, so huge chunks of my day are spent on them. It is far different than proof reading, and it is exhausting to my brain. I'm not saying the works are bad – quite the contrary. Iwouldn't be taking such care to preserve the author's voice and intent, if I thought they were bad pieces. It is quite a challenge, and I am out of practice. I haven't routinely edited this much prose since I was in grad school. I'll likely get faster as I go along. And, by the way, many thanks to those who have edited me over the years.

When we were children, it seemed to take forever for Christmas day to arrive. Now, I'm convinced that the space/time continuum speeds up at this time of year. Despite all of my carefully laid plans, there will still be a baking frenzy between now and Wednesday morning when I ship the cookies out. Some of the delay had to do with when people would be at their addresses to receive the cookies and when I had the bucks to sent the cookies. It still boils down to a really crazy couple of days. And isn't that what the holidays are all about – running around like a crazed yak?

Seasonal Viewing

On Christmas Eve, aside from watching some playoff clinching football, Jon and I will be settling down to watch our favorite holiday films and TV shows. I record the TV shows when they air in August or whatever unseemly early time they air these things nowadays and watch them at a far more suitable time. Once again, I'd like to take the opportunity to recommend our favorite films for this special time of year. For a classic, we strongly suggest the 1951 British film Scrooge  – released in the US as A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim and Patrick MacNee (The Avengers, and the original Battlestar Galactica). Of the classic versions of this film (the Dickensian period version), this sticks closest to the wonderful dialogue as written by Dickens and has the best performance of Scrooge. I must especially compliment the awesome performance of the scullery maid, if it's in keeping with the situation (watch the film to figure that out). Second, we highly recommend Tokyo Godfathers. Movie critic George Peluranee notes that "Tokyo Godfather is a film that shows the small yet significant ties that each of us have with supposed strangers, and tells well the story of miracles, family, love, and forgiveness" It is the story of three homeless people who find an abandoned newborn on Christmas Eve, Incredible comedy and drama ensue. Craig and his lovely girlfriend are disparate in their film tastes. If it's sweet and treacly, she loves it and he hates it. If it's wrong and horrifying, he loves it. As Craig said after we bought a copy for them to watch, every time it was so sweet it was about to make me sick, something completely wrong would happen and make me laugh my ass off. They both love the film for entirely different reasons. It has something for everyone!

Updates

I'm saving those for the year end wrap up.

Stay tuned!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wacky Week, Singing Craig and Fangirl Fun


Actually, it wasn't my appearance at Bent-con that delayed the blog. I had planned on talking about the momentous things that had happened the week prior. But then, I discovered that I needed to send a story out by Sunday night. I still had a panel to do at Bent-con, and I had to input the corrections my proofreaders sent. Beyond that, I had to figure out how to use the five or six hundred words left of the ten thousand to create a deeper intimacy for my characters that felt realistic and not rushed. [See my blog from last week about how I look at word counts]. It didn't help that I was starting off wiped out from an exhilarating afternoon hob nobbing with some amazing talent. (more on that later). By the time I finished tinkering with it, my brain was fried. I was in the 'fire bad..tree pretty...' state [that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer speak for I was one brain weary chick]. Under normal circumstances, I would have put the blog up on Monday, but I had other creative obligations. There is a Sybpress title we're trying to get out as soon as we can. And I have about six weeks of work on my new gig as a Manga editor. I had to split my time between the two. I also had a half parody/half promo cooking video to put out for my yaoi page. You can check it out HERE. It's part of covering all possible social networks to promote the new title. And I'm learning how to shoot and edit video content on my own. That's aimed at assisting me in many of my filmmaking projects, not the least of which is the cancer documentary. It was a unusually busy week. I'm getting an early run at this one by starting on Friday.

The Week That Was 11/27 – 12/3

I get reflective at this time of year as a matter of course. As one gets more mature – aged if you will – this time of year comes with more and more baggage both good and bad. Since the whole rare cancer thing happening, the holidays have had quite a spin to them. I'm not maudlin or anything like that. I look back at the last year now in terms of what have I done with the time given to me. Last year, I was looking back at the time since December 2009 and how far I had come from the initial diagnosis. From that holiday through to December 2010, I had had two lengthy hospital stays, two dangerous surgical procedures [for those who haven't seen this, CBS did a story on my cancer surgery that is notable in that the subject had my cancer and it was a positive story. Click on the LINK to find out why it is called Shake and bake and MOAS – Mother Of All surgeries] followed by ten rounds of chemo. Wow, I'd almost forgotten what fun that was. Last year my efforts had been focused almost solely on getting well. I think I did pretty well with that without being a cranky patient toward the medical team or driving the hubs completely crazy (or crazier than he already is). This year began with another hospital stay caused by a high and persistent fever. However, the year on the whole was far better than 2010. [Note – this is not the official year end introspection. A whole lot of that is coming in a few weeks. By then I'll know if I have reached an important milestone].

I was cancer free throughout 2011 and able to finally start looking at my creative career. Though I have the usual frustrations with things not moving quickly enough or sometimes, not at all, I have been really happy with what has transpired during 2011. Something we had tried to do almost 15 years ago has morphed into a source of incredible contacts. Projects that we'd shelved as untenable have roared to life. I don't have to do very much aside from find the occasional odd file (some of them were very odd files). That is very exciting, but it is also something that is going on in the background for me. The big deals for me creatively were to have stories accepted in two different anthologies and to be hired as an editor for Digital Manga. I've always been very proud of my work as an independent publisher, but I had no idea until the past few weeks of the following I have and how well thought of that work is elsewhere. My gentle readers sure are a quiet bunch. Pipe up now and then, will ya! My work during this time off during what I call a medial and writing sabbatical has not been a waste. Nor was all that time reading comics and manga and watching anime. That feels really good. I'm now juggling my editing for Sybpress with the Manga editing and my own writing, but I'm really jazzed about it.

Beware Rob Petrie

Craig took me for my latest blood scans. Though we've talked by phone often – Craig is still looking for a nemesis – I haven't seen him in quite some time. It was interesting as always. He serenaded the courtyard with The Pina Colada Song for a few verses before I could get out the door and drag him to the car. Life is fairly normal for Craig. The squirrel is still spying on him, and his father's dog, Hamish, is trying to steal his girlfriend. Ray Liotta has been scarce, but Craig has had a few encounters with Dick Van Dyke recently. Apparently, they have had many encounters before over the years, especially while Craig worked in an independent bookstore in Malibu. Van Dyke is universally known as being a very nice man, and Craig does not dispute. It's that the very tall, gangly man has the ability to appear beside you seemingly from nowhere. Craig doesn't like to be startled – even from the very happy and friendly. This seems to be happening a lot lately. It's making him real nervous like as he runs through his errands. I still plan on visiting him at the library there. Maybe he'll turn up next to me! At any rate, the trip was without incident. I had brought along cookies to keep Craig occupied in the parking lot. I couldn't risk him getting too bored and doing things like rummaging through patrol cars that tend to park in that lot.

Fan Girl Freak Out

Bent-con, like Yaoicon, was an event I really wanted to attend last year but could not because of chemotherapy. I've been posting my nerdier blogs on Doorq.com for a few years, and the founder of that site, Jody Wheeler, has been a buddy online all that time. There is something very exciting about young conventions [this was Bent-con's second year]. Connections with fans and with dealers and even with guest speakers can happen when the attendance is smaller than the huge conventions where there are throngs of people all divided up into their own cliques of interest. There were a couple of thousand people spread over the convention area at the Westin Bonaventure, the iconic Downtown LA hotel. In that regard, I was not disappointed. I talked to many of the dealers and signed up for a few mailing lists and one fan club. I discovered during one of the smallest panels I've ever spoken on that I have fans that still await my fanfiction and met another fan that was so thrilled to meet me that I was humbled beyond words – a rare feat for this big mouth.

Just a little Fan Girly!
But it was the lengthy encounters with three of the guest for which I will be grateful that Bent-con invited me to be a panel moderator. Everyone who reads my blogs knows how much I adore Jane Espenson's work. She blazed a trail on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that dragged me from being only mildly interested in the series to a rabid fan. And I'm still not sure how she did it, but she brought a new depth, sexiness and humor to Battlestar Galactica without taking away from the hard space opera edge. I loved her blogs on the trails and the foods she encountered while writing a TV series. And I now follow her witty observations on Twitter. I've also benefited from her Twitter writing sprints where she encourages followers to take some time and work creatively for 30 minutes to an hour.

Brady(left) and Cheeks (right)
Jane was there to talk about the incredibly funny and touching web series, Husbands. It's premise is that on the day after gay marriage becomes legal in the US, a famous actor (Cheeks) and a Major League Baseball player (Brady) wake up from a drunken celebration to find themselves married. Unwilling to undermine the cause by divorcing, they decide to stick it out for the cause and each other. Comedy and drama ensue. It is amazing how much complexity is packed into those brief episodes. It has one of the best lines about the nature of marriage I have ever heard. It was fascinating for an independent filmmaker who has worn many hats (most often that of a plumber on set) to hear about such similar struggles to mine in producing Husbands. Somehow, I thought that if you've had studio resources for the day job, they would be available for a producer when they did something independent. I'm a silly billy. I could certainly relate to the fatigue I saw in some of the behind the scenes photos. It all looked very familiar. As expected, Jane was a fascinating speaker. It was a thrill to have that kind of insight into the nuts and bolts of the business from her. And luckily, none of what went on in her personal panel or the Husbands panel would be repeated territory in my panel. Please, click on the Husbands LINK and watch the episodes. They are brilliant!

The second of the three people I really wanted to meet that day was Cheeks. He is not just a character. He's also a person who acts, writes and sings. I discovered his youtube videos via a tweet from Jane. They were about his life, the news and pop culture. I saw the first one when I was between major surgeries and had a zipper of staples up my abdomen. It hurt to laugh, but laugh I did until endorphins kicked in my brain. It was an uplifting experience that I repeated every time he posted. Those videos have been pulled in favor of Husbands. I hope he puts some of them up again for all to enjoy. He was an important part of my recovery from the first surgery and I was pleased to tell him that – and give him cookies.

The third person I wanted very much to meet was Wendy Pini. She was already a legend in fandom for Elfquest  which she created with her husband, Richard. I had long admired their work. But it was for her Wendy Pini's Masque of the Red Death that I wanted very much to speak with her. Masque had everything that pushes my buttons – beautiful but flawed and potentially tragic male characters who are drawn toward each other and inevitably bound. Death threatens their love and their lives at almost every turn of the page. I love writing about those kinds of characters. I will digress here – because it's my blog – to expound just a bit. In A Soldier's Choice and A Soldier's Fate there are only two options for Rik and Vincent – love or death as they literally cannot live without each other. But it's Ensnared that shares a worship of hedonism with Masque. The relationship between Darius and Andreas threatens to upend the social order and endangers them both. [experts for all titles mentioned can be found on the left under Hot Links]. There is tragedy in Ensnared, and I punish Andreas for his beauty and his flaws, but I could not dare what Wendy dared in Masque. And there in lies her brilliance to me. 

I am not a fan of tragedy. I know it is said that to read tragedy is cathartic and therapeutic for the reader or the viewer. This gal is not one of those people. I found Wendy's artwork compelling, so I thought I could skim Masque and enjoy that without getting involved too deeply. That was impossible after the first pages. I was hooked. Despite knowing where the Poe story led and where this was clearly leading early on, I was so enthralled by Anton and Steffan that I had to take that ride to the end. I wanted to tell Wendy that she was brilliant in how she wrote Masque, but it came out as a highly exasperated question about the proposed libretto for Broadway based on the webcomic. Thankfully, my reaction was the very one she had hope to evoke in her readers. Masque is just the kind of well written, accessible story that could introduce yaoi themed content to a wider audience. I'm hoping there is a way to make that happen. That intimate panel was a wonderful opportunity to connect with another talented writer I admired.

Sunday's panel on Women Make Queer Genre was a lot like a literary salon of old. The panel included Jane, Wendy and Shelly Doty, the writer/filmmaker/musician behind the intriguing  Strange Frame, sci-fi, Lesbian anime. The discussion covered why each panelists was drawn to Queer genre, the reaction of long time fans both gay and straight to their works and where they saw Queer Genre developing in the future. The panel managed to be both highly fannish and scholarly. I could see a paper being written about it. It was an amazing experience enjoyed by the audience and panelists alike. A big shout out to Mars Homeworld. You are welcome in any panel I moderate!

I am certain that Bent-con will become a large convention someday. It absolutely deserves to be. I hope to continue to be a part of it as it grows. But the fangirl in me will always cherish the unique opportunity I enjoyed while the convention was young.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks, Word Counts and Updates


Last Thanksgiving I was very grateful to have two weeks in a row off from chemo. I had enough of an appetite to enjoy the meal and the leftovers though in vastly smaller quantities than my norm. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, I couldn't eat at all and was days away from being hospitalized with a grave prognosis. So you can imagine how slap happy I was to have a nearly normal Thanksgiving for us. We didn't have tons of company which is my true norm, and I wasn't up to going to visit anyone (it's nothing serious – just coping with a flare-up of chemo related side effects. It seems one has to cope with the aftermath of the cure more than one does the disease. At any rate, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. And thank you all for continuing to read these crazy blogs and support my work. I'm enjoying some wonderful creative successes with my writing. That is, in large part, because of the gentle encouragement and occasional butt kicking I get from you guys.

The Tyranny of the Word Count

I've been writing short stories for some anthologies recently. I was invited to do so, and that was very nice. However, in writing for the specs of the publication, I have encountered having to deal with strict word counts. I am a not a wordy writer. The most difficult problem I have in writing erotica is my difficulty in describing the lovers in something beyond shorthand. The incredible word count for Ensnared was because of all the plot going on not endless descriptions of the drawing rooms therein. When I was at the archive, we scanned books – mostly memoirs self-published by some titled widow – that spent reams of words on descriptions of the china used at tea or how the drapes hung. One of my beleaguered co-workers tiredly quipped as she scanned her tenth title of such dreck in a week, 'I wonder if this one will have luncheons that happen in the solarium AND the formal dining room. That would be scandalous!' And while I enjoyed learning a lot about chemises and pemmican reading romances set in the Wild West, I just can't write that way.

So, I'm going into this assignment with constraints that I typically do not write under and the worry about how to truncate prose that I feel is written with exactly the number of words needed. Added to that dilemma is the genre of sci-fi. I must create a world unknown to the readers, establish the conflict and the characters and have time for a satisfying, highly erotic story arc in 10,000 words or less. Alrighty then! Strangely, it's the screenwriting experience that came in handy for those stories. I had to think of a big image that would sum up in one glance how to show the difference between this fictional world and ours. Once I could conjure an image like that very clearly, it was relatively easy to describe it in a short paragraph. The way the characters interacted with this image told a lot about who they were as people and how they are different from people in our world.

The bulk of the work was done in my head as I thought of that singularly telling image for the opening of the story. One of the problems in conjuring that image was I have been working with Jon for way too long. I had to solve all of the nit picky problems he would have with the cohesiveness of my universe. Jon tends to think in terms of how things would realistically evolve from the Earth we know into some futuristic Earth. While I see the sense in that, I have long maintained that advances in technology can and do happen in sudden leaps and bounds. If I am not giving a specific time in the future as my setting, it cannot be determined that such advances in my story could happen. Or to quote MysteryScience Theater 3000, if you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax. Incidentally, Jon was impressed with both story openings. Beyond that, I that to sketch the story out in skeletal details and then add only enough detail to tell a very nuanced story. Easy, it was not, but I was very pleased that I could do it. It is said you only know how much you've improved at a craft when you try something you've never tried. It's like being able to pull off puff pastry after working with pie crusts for some time. It's putting butter and flour together but at a whole other level. One story has been accepted. I think that comes out in February. I'll post a link when it is available.

Not Ready for Prime Time

I had a plan that involved filming some of my Thanksgiving cooking and warmly sharing the experience with friends and family here. Yeah...right... First off, I am far from camera ready when I'm cooking on any given day. When I have as much to do as when I'm making the Thanksgiving feast, how my hair looks and what I'm wearing is way down on the totem pole. And then, there was the positioning of the food and my hands so the viewer could see clearly. It was too much. I have a big new respect for the TV chefs that I never had before. I took some photos during the process. I'll do a little video slide show for everyone and post it later this week.

Updates

I was going to write about how the characters from one of my books, Simon Molinar of Demon Under Glass, is having trouble getting along with the characters in my Soldiers books. It's causing a huge problem in writing the latest book. However, that short story assignment threw me off further, so I couldn't really suss out the problem for this blog. It will have to wait until next week.

Next week, I'm on a comic convention panel with Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Buffy)!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kitchens, Bromances and Other Picture Postcards


My baking supplies arrived on Friday. Right now (late Saturday afternoon), I'm roasting bones for the first batch of turkey stock I'll be making for Thanksgiving. I'm saying it's the first, because I'll make another big pot full with the carcass of the turkey after the holiday. The first batch is for the gravy and the stuffing (or dressing). I like a fair bit of gravy to make sure there is enough for the leftovers! I'll make the pie crust dough on Monday. I may make some cooking videos for my gentle readers to follow along with me. No promises though. Sometimes – often times – I look a might rough around the edges while cooking. There may be some colorful language as well. I am not good enough a special FX editor to make up for all of that. I don't want to frighten people!

I roast turkey wings for the first batch of stock. The smell of turkey roasting with herbs makes me very hungry for the real holiday meal or at least a sandwich. This sort of aroma would drive my gray tabby, Mischief, crazy. She really didn't want to hear about the aromas weren't actual meat to eat but for stock. I'd have to pick meat off the wings to share with her or she would drive us all crazy. Ah, fun times... I seem to be making more and more of the meal from scratch as I get older though I started on that path a long time ago. After both parents became hypertensive, everyone had to watch their sodium intake. The boxed or bagged stuffing or the other ready made stuff was full of sodium. The funny thing is that my Mom used to make most of the meal from scratch when we were younger. She drifted toward the ready made products as we got older and she went to working nights. I began reversing the trend when I got into cooking during my college years. Cooking from scratch is cheaper, and I really have to watch what I'm eating.

The Baker's Rack of Insanity
Though I must say that say that I am way, way better physically than I was last year. This time last year I was doing chemo every other week. I'm far more mobile and much less miserable. However, I have had to deal with being more easily fatigued. I used to be able to pull off a holiday meal for a dozen people while working a full time job. These days, I have to choose a few chores to do per day, and that is it. This is why we've taken to making cookie dough on one day and baking it on another day. Packing and shipping are broken up as well. It's a little disheartening to not be as active as I once was, but I'm getting things done. Jon often points out that my full time job is recovering from the past two years. That makes sense, but the limitations still take me aback occasionally. I'm still not sure if I'll ever be able to do a 17 hour shooting day. Then again, I'm not sure if those were ever a good idea. I used hallucinate after doing those. I'm okay with the state of things most days, especially considering where I was two years ago or even at the beginning of this year.

By the way, to the left is the crazy big bakers rack that takes up a large percentage of the common area in our apartment. As you can see, there are Jon's stacking skills in evidence on the top row. The rest of the shelves contain the majority of my pantry items and almost all of my cook and bake ware. I know some of you will be trying to read the products. I dare you to try!

This past week has been interesting. I sold a short story! It's not a genre of fiction I typically write. It's a lot edgier and disturbing, and the sex is very sexy but it has extreme consequences. It was very, very nice to be recruited for the project. I'm actually going to write something closer to my usual fare – also at the behest of the editor. On the heels of being recruited as a manga editor and being included in another anthology, it's been a really good year creatively! Mind, I'm behind on many things that I need to be working on, but it isn't often I get requests from periodicals. My plan is to get back on track with the things I need to tick off my long list this week. We'll see. I'll also be going through the next round of diagnostic tests. It's more likely that I'll be taking the path of least resistance.

Updates

Most of this blog has been an update. I can't really add anything more right now.

The following is a blog I did for one of the pop culture sites I write for occasionally. It was to be a panel topic at an upcoming convention, but one of the main people who was going to participate had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict. Still, it's a fun and highly geeky topic involving some inappropriate depictions of TV characters that are moving ever slowly into the mainstream. And before anyone gets into an uproar with anyone I mention, I can either back up what I'm saying through independent sources, or I have permission to mention names and characters. So, those who continue – you've been warned. And enjoy!

For everyone else, stay tuned.


From Slash to Bromance -- Moving Beyond Subtext

Recently, I've had the good fortune of having one of my hobbies turn into a freelance job. I'll be editing translated manga into casual English for a major distributor of yaoi titles. In Japan, these homoerotic stories are sold in magazines that can be purchased almost everywhere. There are even anime versions running on TV. That there is enough of a market here for more than one distributor making money importing and translating them is pretty amazing. But times are changing for those of us who have long read and written slash fiction based on TV shows.

Despite popular opinion amongst critics, slash in fanfiction usually doesn't spring from a vacuum. [Yes, I said usually. I am well aware of pairings that would make a stomach turn like Legolas/Sauron or even Jean-Luc Picard/Elrod the Elf guy, and I am reminded that there exists Icabod/Horseman slash. Heck, I once did quite a rant on a panel about bizarre pairings that ended with me suggesting that even Opie/Barney Fife was fair game in some Slashers' eyes]. Thankfully, this strangeness is a minor part of Slash Fanfiction. Typically, there is smoke that inspires that fire in the writers.

They call them Bromances now, but 
 the phenomena has been around for a long, long time. It's a combination of writers writing much stronger parts for male characters than female characters in a series and a very strong personal chemistry between the pair of male actors. For Slashers, this phenomena begins with Star Trek's Kirk and Spock. No matter how many broads were thrown at Captain Kirk or the few that were thrown at Spock, there was never anyone closer to them than each other. Heck, Kirk more or less chose Spock over his own son. But these Bromances were not confined to Sci-fi in the 70s. Starsky and Hutch had an even hotter Bromance. Executive Producer, Aaron Spelling, called them 'prime time homos' [you should Google that, it's hilarious]. However, by and large, the actors told the media at the time that Dave Starsky and Ken Hutchinson loved each other – like brothers. And that era being a simpler time in mainstream America, few saw the subtext that was percolating between the characters. It was simply beyond the grasp of any regular viewer's imagination. There was no way such subtext would move anywhere past making out after flub takes that would go on the crew gag reel.

Things got interesting in the 90s for Slashers as it seemed that subtext was inching toward the surface at the same time that the pleas for openly gay characters (who weren't some sort of freaky serial killers) were starting to be heard. In my orbit, there was even the first signs of fan service  from media in North America from one show and vehement denial in the face of the obvious from another. Sometime between the original run and 1997 season of due South , series lead and by then Executive Producer and staff writer, Paul Gross, was shown some of the slash fiction about the lead characters in the show during an interview. He was very amused by this development. That following season featured a lot of the subtext peaking through into text on the show. It even ended with the leading men literally riding off into the sunset together. Oh, here is one of those aforementioned gag reels. But that's Canada. They actually have Gay marriage up there.

South of the border in the US during roughly that same time, there was UPN's action adventure series, The Sentinel. The first review I read of that series talked about how inordinately close the lead characters were. Of course, hag that I am, that meant I was totally there. I was not disappointed. Not since Starsky and Hutch had I seen characters with that much subtext between them. It was so obvious that our normally oblivious, stand up comedian neighbor thought those guys were doing all sorts of things he didn't want to think about – and he never noticed that Mulder and Scully were having a romance. Between season one and two, series lead Richard Burgi joked that he wouldn't mind if his character, Jim Ellison's, series sidekick, Blair Sandburg, played by Garett Maggart, moved upstairs into his room and they got on with things. That didn't go over well with either UPN or its affiliates who were already unhappy about the network's weak performance. The next season featured a parade of female characters to insert between the male leads. It didn't really affect the chemistry between the characters, but it did muddle the show enough that it fizzled out.

Nearly fifteen years later, it is a brand new world for slashers. Though subtext remains subtext in the shows itself, the showrunners don't try to run away from it. In fact, they really give it some fan service. The most accommodating of the shows is Supernatural. Frankly, that slash makes me queasy as the characters are brothers. In the parlance of the genre, I'm beyond squicked. Somehow, the show has acknowledged the fans without actually supporting their fetish or alienating them. They've even found a clever and humorous way to write the fans' obsessions into the series. I give you episodes entitled The Real Ghost Busters  ; The Monster at the end of This Book ; and The French Mistake .

I find that development an inconceivable leap from the days where the slash was hidden from all but trusted insiders of the fandom. Even non sci-fi shows like Hawaii Five-0 are acknowledging the chemistry of their leading men by doing things like a video  that rivals anything a panting fangirl could dream up. And then, I am reminded there were those Lord of the Rings ads on TBS.

I have to think that the day is soon coming that the passion between a pair of male leads on a TV show will be subtext no longer. And then what are we fangirls going to write about??

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Baking Strategies, Close Ups and Updates


Dueling tree lots on either side of the street.
It's that time of year again. The neighborhood Christmas tree lots are gearing up for an epic stare down from across the street. Questionable covers of classic Christmas songs are playing in stores [Really? It used to be not too many years ago that the staff was spared that endless loop of cheer until after Thanksgiving. The clerks look hollow eyed and world weary already. I didn't used to took like that until December 20th]. I don't like being forced to think about Christmas shopping or decorating before it's time. I haven't even done my shopping for Thanksgiving [Though we may be accepting a kind invitation to dinner from a dear friend, I always cook at home as well].

The holiday baking season is nigh. Some things, like the fruit cake, must be baked before the end of the month. It has to ferment in brandy, you see. And don't wrinkle your nose. I make a non-traditional fruit cake inspired by my late Aunt Eleanor [She couldn't eat nuts and hated those bizarro candied things] by way of Alton Brown. It's more of a spiced cake with reconstituted dried fruits (raisins, craisins and dried apricots). The fruit is reconstituted in rum! I do make a version that reconstitutes the fruit in orange juice for non-drinkers and minors. And Jon and I have found through year long experimentation that we can freeze batches of dough and bake them very successfully a couple of weeks later. This means that we can ship the freshest cookies yet with far less stress. To do that, I must plan well in advance. Supplies and equipment must be purchased. That shopping must be timed to get the best deals. A lot of thought and planning goes into this. It is fun though. When I smell that fruit cooking with the cinnamon and all the other spices, it really starts feeling festive. And this year, I may add a new twist to the backing.

Ready for My Close Up

I've been learning how to shoot videos on my own for the cancer documentary. It's not that I won't have a crew when I do the shoots. I have a camera guy and perhaps a grip. I will not have Jon with me on many of the shoots that involve medical personnel. I have to see them when they are available. Jon's schedule isn't as flexible as it was when we shot the feature film. Thus, I have to learn how to shoot, so I can tell the crew I have what I want and especially what I don't want. To practice, I used what I had on hand – me and the kitchen one camera light, a web cam, a camcorder and a Skype mic. I shot and edited two videos this week in response to videos made by two chefs I follow on youtube. Chef Ochikeron wanted to know what products I was buying from Mitsuwa Market and how I was using them. So I sent her this RESPONSE. And I really enjoyed a pumpkin soup recipe made by Cooking with Dog  (it's not what you think). I responded to that video with THIS. The goal was to see if I could do basic lighting, sound and editing. Jon thought I did fairly well though I need to work on the sound. I agreed. It took me prowling around many of the Microsoft help forums to find out how to adjust the sound recording function. There is no help menu that I can access in the program itself. I have to find help online. Oy! I hasn't feeling great last week, so I'm less than pleased with how I look, but I am happy with a first solo effort. I have more complicated shoots planned for the next few weeks. I'll post links as they are uploaded. I'm also thinking of doing some video blogs as we do the holiday baking. When I lived away from home before, I used to bake while chatting on the phone with my Mom or other family. It could be like having everyone here to share the experience. I'm not making an absolute promise. But I am seriously considering it.

Updates
There is nothing new to report. I've developing some thoughts on the editing process. I've been doing a great deal of that lately. Beyond that, I'm writing some things and planning others.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Craig vs Critters, Deb vs Japanese and Updates


Craig is being stalked by a squirrel. And Ray Liotta, but that's only intermittently in recent weeks. The squirrel has no fear of humans. Inf act, it seems to Craig, that it wants to be invited into neighbor's homes to partake of mac and cheese or other tasty side dishes. He insists that it has stood longside of him on the sidewalk listening in on his cell phone conversations. And Craig notes that his typically oblivious friend, Woody has noticed this behavior to ask 'what's up with that squirrel?' I speculated that perhaps in is the reincarnation of the three legged cricket. Craig did not find that suggestion helpful. He is now plotting against it. Looks like Jon and I are of the hook as his nemesis. He would not send me photos of him wearing the Spock hair helmet with ears on Halloween. In response, I may visit him during his next library shift and pester him about an obscure cookbook written in Esperanto. In tribute to bookstore customers throughout the years, I will have no title but will know the color of the book. I'm kidding. That kind of requests makes Craig squirrelly.

In other news, the solar powered ampersand has been taken down. Replacing it is a Christmas Tree lot. This is extremely silly, because it's way too early to buy a Christmas tree. Then, there is the other Christmas tree lot setting up directly across the street from the first. That one spelled holiday with two Ls. Still, this nonsense is far less infuriating than the solar powered ampersand. Why do I have a problem with this, some have asked. Check out the video, Top Five Things That  Must be Identified as Art courtesy of Roger Ebert.

Deb vs Japanese Part 2

Before I get to my lumbering progress learning Japanese, I wanted to announce that I have a boss cool freelance gig as a Manga editor for Digital Manga which imports all kinds of titles from Japan. I won't be translating them – heavens, no. I'll be taking the raw English translation and editing it into more conversational English and – hopefully – translated into the writer's voice. This is very exciting for a geeky gal such as myself. One member of the cool team I'm working with lives in Japan who is doing the initial translation.  I've finally had to get Skype. Yes, folks, Deb will be talking on a web cam. Ack. It will have to be by appointment only, so I can make sure my hair looks right. Perhaps I'll even wear a little make up. Web cam images are awful! But I digress. I am very excited about all of this.

My Japanese is coming along. I'm still not very confident about speaking in the language, but then, I'm still that way with speaking French. My vocabulary is really coming along. I find myself recognizing more and more of the spoken language when watching anime. That's been encouraging. The written language will take a very long time. It involves three different kinds of writing. I've just leaned the easiest one – in that I have learned how to write each symbol in the easiest set. I have a lot of practice before I'm proficient. However, I was very excited during my Halloween trip to Mitsuwa market that I recognized a written word. It was only two symbols long. I was standing in produce pointing at a sign. 'Persimmon!' I announced. The clerks were only mildly impressed. Why do language books teach things that aren't readily useful? Shamefully, I have never even eaten a persimmon. The only sentence Craig can speak in Spanish is 'I have a broken record player.' The phrase has never come in handy for him. Where was I? Oh, yes. In the same market, I called one of the cashiers a pumpkin correctly. Fortunately, she was dressed as a jack-o-lantern for the holiday. I did make myself useful translating on that visit. I helped someone with a vague understanding of her recipe for shabu-shabu convey what she needed to the clerks. That was satisfying.
I am pressing on with my practicing of speaking and writing.

Updates

I hope I haven't given the impression that the lack of updates on the film projects mean that nothing is happening, or we've given up trying. That is not the case. Almost every film we've ever written is in some stage of negotiation. On any given week, I am sending out budgets and schedules or cast wish lists. I'm routinely asked to find a fax from five years ago or a contact I had one e-mail exchange with three years ago. One should never throw anything away when working in the film business. Most of what is going on is confidential, so I haven't been talking about it. The long conversation I had with Jon in San Francisco was about how to best use my limited mobility and stamina in mounting new projects. We're still working that out. Meanwhile, I will soon start making and posting tiny videos on youtube and Facebook. They are cooking related – mostly video responses to other youtube cooks whose recipes I've tried. I'm doing them to hone my skills as a Director of Photography and as a Director. Jon's work schedule will not permit him to be on a lot of my shoots for the cancer documentary, so I have to learn to do it myself. He'll be carefully critiquing them. I don't mean just thoroughly. I mean he'll be treading carefully. I will post links here and elsewhere as well for feedback.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Road Trip, Fan Girl Fun and Updates

When last I blogged here, I was about to embark on my first trip away from home that did not involve a hospital stay in over two years. Complicating matters for my nerves was that I had to make my way to the airport with all of the bags on my own as Jon can't get off work until his usual time. Our flight was to leave a little over an hour after that. No pressure! I had the bags and we had boarding passes before leaving home. Jon carried nothing save for his ID and money and the pass. The theory was that he should be able to easily pass through security and make it before the boarding calls began. It was a sound theory. That didn't stop me from being wound up in knots about the entire prospect. And that's on top of my epic anxiety over flying.

But there was nothing that could be done. I decided that I would be at the airport well before the suggested two hours prior to boarding in case dealing the the luggage turned out to be more of an ordeal than anticipated. That meant I had to get my drink on way in advance of the flight. For my newer readers, I have to fly snockered [Hmmm, spellcheck doesn't have the word snockered. How pedestrian]. I have the intense kind of flying anxiety that makes me want to open doors while the plane is in the air. The anxiety is so intense that I am usually really sober by the time I land. Champagne was the drink of choice prior to the cab ride. It wasn't expensive, but it was nice. I suppose sparkling wine is more accurate. This stuff was not from France. Still, it was tasty. I was feeling good during the cab ride. My cabbie remembered me from our days in Playa del Rey. It seems our complex had to stop being condos and go back to rentals because of the downturn. And, I think, because they were evil. That put me in an even better mood.

The baggage thing was easy. I could check them at the curb as I had the boarding pass already. Security was a breeze compared to what we've been through traveling overseas. I was at my gate in minutes. My plan was to have a bite to eat and then more wine. I carefully researched my choices on Yelp.com the night before. I chose the eatery with the most consistent positive reviews. I don't know where these people were eating, but those were the worst nachos I've ever had. I was so annoyed that I didn't stay there to drink at the bar. I went to the spot closest to my gate. I also made some good nachos when I came home. I did not want those to be the last ones I remembered. I still had an hour and a half before Jon arrived. I whiled away the time practicing my Hiragana , the easiest part of written Japanese, while arguing with a mechanic with Air Alaska about the odds of the 49ers getting back to the super Bowl this year. I actually teamed up with a New York Giants fan to debate the man. Oh, and I was still drinking wine. And Jon was on time!

An hour an a half later, Jon and I had arrived at the San Francisco Airport Marriott and Yaoi-con. It is an manga and anime convention primarily though novelists are welcome. Since writing A Solder's Choice, I have been wanting to go to this convention. It is a place where I could find a huge audience for my homoerotica. There was a great deal of networking potential in this trip. Beyond that, we were going to a really great hotel near a city I really like. No matter what went one, I was going to have a nice bit of R&R – perhaps even some room service. Jon and I had a lot to talk about regarding our projects. This would be a great setting away from our every day routines. We were not disappointed. We had all of that and more! We also had travel mascots, Mr. Sizuyki-san, the rubber duckies (from Junjou Romantica, my favorite yaoi anime), the happy Gorn  from Craig and Oscar Wilde (who loves all things writing and naughty) to watch over our room. We also had a wine in a small cube. A brilliant invention!

From here on I will be posting photos from the costumes at the convention. One will depict the character being re-created. The other will be the very cool cosplay version. And check out a great video of the costumes and the location HERE.

There are many perceptions that the public has about genre conventions – the costumes, the weirdness. We've all seen in on the news when there is a Comic-con going on. And while that is true, it is no stranger than wearing a foam rubber wedge of cheese on one's head or painting your body and screaming through a football game half naked in the freezing cold. There are even more preconceptions about attendees of conventions like Yaoi-con or slash fiction friendly conventions like Media West  or Basecon. Those are that they are mostly socially awkward women who don't have 'real lives.' I can argue about the skewed view of those perceptions, but that is for another day. Yaoi-Con did not even match those. I'm fairly sure that almost half of the attendees were men – and not necessarily gay men. Many seemed to be partnered with female attendees. There was a wide age range from 18 to my age and beyond. They were a very racially mixed group as well. And they there highly social for the most part. There was that one very attractive though sad Legolas clone. I'm not sure what his story was. I went to the convention with networking in mind, but I had also managed to open my yap about a controversial topic and ended up with a panel. While that is an excellent way to introduce myself to a group of writers and potential fans, it could have also been a complete disaster caused by my own arrogance. How did that turn out? You'll have to go to my blog Why Can't No Mean No Panel  to find out.IIt also has the only photos of me in this shindig!


Beyond the panel, I had fangirl business. I wanted to meet the people behind two of my favorite web comics. I discovered both of them while I was undergoing chemo and couldn't sleep. I had never read a web comic before, and I didn't think I'd take to them at all. I read both from stem to stern in one sitting. One is Tea House, an adult drama with a gorgeous Art Nouveau design that is based on the lives of people who work in a brothel. The other is the starkly beautiful and compelling Starfighter, I actually spoke about the incredible skill of Starfighter's writing in my panel. I will go more deeply into my attraction to both series in my Yaoi @ Sybpress blog this week. For now, I will say that I met all of the wonderful women behind these works and it was a wonderful experience.

When we weren't in the hotel enjoying the food and the ambiance, we were in lovely nearby Burlingame. It was a really lovely little town that very much reminded us of the quaint but wealthy towns of the Main Line near Philadelphia . We had some great diner food. Sadly, there wasn't time to try one of the six Japanese restaurants there. And Jon and I had some very long discussions about all of the projects on the blocks. I can't say we came to any new decisions, but it was good to at least bring some of the things that had been troubling me for a time to light.

It was a very good weekend though the travel and the walking was hard on me. It took some time to recover, but I'm so relieved that I can travel! And we will be going to Yaoi Con next year – in Los Angeles! I regret not going back to the beautiful Bay Area, but not having to pay air fare means a lot more room service and souvenirs!

Updates

Ensnared Volume one is now available as a paperback and ebooks. For details, got to http://sybpressyaoi.com . A Soldier's Destiny is now underway once more. The rest of the projects are in flux. Some things are going on. I'll get into those next time. And, hopefully, I'll have a photo of Craig in Spock ears and a story to go with it.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mall Recon, Calypso and Packing Frenzy

This has been a crazy busy week. One day, due to a maintenance issue at our building, I was out and about for eight hours. That just doesn't happen much anymore unless I have a medical appointment that involves some sort of intimate scan. What to do for that amount of time? I went to the mall and mall walked and did some serious shopping recon. Despite my taste in timeless clothing and an odd penchant for costume jewelry, I have never been much of a shopper. I just never saw the point of whiling away the better part of a day looking for shoes. The internet has made things a lot worse for me in the wanting to shop. That and working many years in retail. Stores generally depress me, and it is easy to find what I want with the click of a mouse.

The exception to this used to be my quarterly recon sweeps through all the shops I tended to buy from. I would check out the trends for clothes and shoes and even housewares without any inclination toward buying. It's been many years since my last recon. I admit that my wardrobe needs a serious update. My yo-yoing size and not working for nearly two years means my closet is a bit threadbare. And the thrift store cookware we've been using for over a decade is falling apart. I had a lot to recon. I was glad that it was early during a work week and not during the holiday season. I prowled the shops for hours looking at everything from bras to saute pans. It was good fun, and I found a lot of bargains that were regular prices. I'm happy to report that A-line skirts and sheath dresses are doing well. I was very, very excited to see that English riding boots are all the rage and thus quite affordable when looking at the department store version. And I found some reasonably priced saute pans. Yay! I even got entertained by a group of toddlers dancing to a steel drum band. It was a Harry Belafonte tune, Jamiaca Farewell
. It was the loudest part of the mall, but there is something simply joyous in watching toddlers dance and laugh. I did manage to fill the day with some very productive intelligence gathering.

Incidentally, I believe there is a conspiracy afoot to get The Banana Boat Song
in my head. I've seen references several times this week.

Leaving On a Jet Plane

I had to postpone my usually crazy early packing frenzy for the trip to San Francisco because of the work done in the apartment. We had to put everything back in place after moving most of the furniture and everything else to make room for the workman. I feel a bit pressed because I should have been packed a week ago (I did say crazy early). I'm kind of glad Jon is at work, because I'm wackier than I normally am before a trip because of the truncated prep. Did I mention that the trip is only a few days? I'm doubly stressed because I haven't flown in over two years. This is a completely new and unfamiliar convention for me. Oh, and I've managed to get myself assigned a panel on a controversial topic that many there may not like a newbie kibitzing on. More on that in the next blog after the convention. I think my nervousness is justified. I'm making sure that my mask is well in place. It takes a lot of polishing of my appearance, a lot of thorough research on the topic and loosing my inner Dominatrix. I'm rusty at the last one, so I may also require copious amounts of wine.

I'll figure out how to make the trip work. I've been meaning to go to this convention for many years. It has the core audience for both the Soldier's books and Ensnared in one place. The networking opportunity is phenomenal. I also need to prove to myself that I can still travel. It's important to my taking back a normal life, and I will need to travel for the documentary. Besides, Jon and I desperately need a change of scenery that doesn't involve a hospital stay. I don't think we'll have any time to explore San Francisco, but this girl has always loved a stay in a fine hotel. I get that from my mother.


I'm posting this early from the hotel. There will be a whole lot more to tell when I get back.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Blog, New Book and Some Old Chestunts

I have a confession to make. I have been working on a different blog. Oh, don't worry. I'm not catting out on some strange, random blog. This one is mine as well. You see, in order to properly socially network a project, it must have a searchable tag in the cloud or the interweb tubes (don't I sound very techie when I have barely a clue). And genres also don't like to intermingle, it seems. So, I had to create a blog for the various niche genres I write in. This new blog is Yaoi at Sybaritic Press. Warning: That site is dedicated to homoerotic fiction. The excerpts are quite explicit. Read at your own risk! In that blog, I introduced the new book, Ensnared Volume One. It's now in two volumes because the 180,000 words was a bit much to fit into one paperback. The volumes are a rollicking epic filled with intrigue, danger, humor and a big sprinkling of homoerotic D/s fun. Of course, no one is entirely who they appear to be, and even the simplest actions can be lethally dangerous. Above all, this is a love story between two people from extremely divergent backgrounds.

Here is the summary from the back cover blurb:

In this world, even the most powerful are captives

Lord Darius Galatea seems to have all the power in the world. He is Leader of the Cosimo or Cosi, those who keep order in an advanced civilization built upon a strict caste system. He could have a city razed with one call or have the most high born citizen put to death for the slightest transgression. Andreas Hesper comes from the lowest caste. He used an agile mind and just the right amount of muscle to become the most successful leader of an underworld gang. A chance encounter between the two men not only upends both of their worlds, but also ultimately puts their lives in jeopardy. It is custom that some of the Elite citizens of the world class city of Amara owned their lovers as playthings for a time. But those trained playthings or Damis were from a specific caste bred for their obedience and loyalty. Never had a gang leader become a Dami and thus privy to the secrets of an all powerful Lord. But there is more to the streetwise young man who agreed to be a plaything despite the objections from his caste and those from his Master's world. Andreas felt bound to the Cosi from the moment they met. He sees and hears more than even Darius himself. Andreas knows that they must tread very carefully in both of their worlds or the attraction that so closely binds them together will cause their destruction.

For more details, lengthy excerpts, and details about the characters and how the books were written, please visit Yaoi at Sybaritic Press.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch




Last week was wonderfully cool. I managed to bake some test cookies from new recipes or new techniques of old recipes. I had hoped to make some soup stocks, but the cool streak didn't last very long. Still, I managed to figure out how to make oatmeal cookies without all of them spreading into one large, thin cookie. I also discovered that there are many cookie troubleshooting forums on line. They were very helpful. Jon and I are working on a production plan for the holiday baking that should be even more relaxed. And these recipe refinements are producing some very nice results. Jon's co-workers certainly are enjoying them. I've got my lineup fairly well set. I may be very daring and try to make macarons. [that photo is not of macarons I've made]. I'm not certain they'll make this year's rotation, because I'm unsure of how well they hold up (how many days do they last in a cookie bag or cookie jar and how well do they travel). I'm also not sure how well I'll execute them. I've done very little work with a piping bag. I've never ground nuts into flour. And that's another consideration. I have to be very careful of people with nut allergies. We already segregate the peanut butter cookies after baking. We acutally make them separate from the other cookies. And we do a heavy cleaning and disinfecting in between. I may try to make them though. We also have to have another whack at diabetic cookies as we have more and more people that fall into that category. It's not hard work, and Jon loves the resulting research so far.


The rest of the week that was not related to getting the book underway was not so great. Some people here have heard enough about my frustrations with automated customer service, so I won't rehash that saga. I'll just get angry again. Sending a book out into the world is always daunting. I'm actually depressed afterward. I find I miss hanging out with my characters. And then there is the terror that either no one will like the book or everyone with just shrug at it and walk away. I was fighting a cold much of the time, so that didn't help my state of mind. I was even achier than I usually am of late, and I had that vexing scratchy-sore throat thingy. It is very amusing that even after all I've been through as a cancer patient that I still find a garden variety cold this annoying. Baking helps with all of those negative feelings for the most part. But even a very successful round of cookie baking didn't quite lift my melancholy and discontent.

And then there is the event looming largely this upcoming weekend. I am taking my first trip since August 2009. It's my first convention since Dragoncon 2008. That's enough to make me nervous. I also opened my big yap to the convention committee on a controversial topic. Now, I'm doing a panel for the first time in years. The audience is likely to be hostile. Ah well, I've always liked San Francisco. Hopefully, we'll get to see a little bit more than the hotel during a short stay. I'll report on the whole shebang next week. That's just weird that shebang is in spellcheck, but it flags all possessive words with an apostrophe as misspelled. Strange.

Updates

I have none for this week. I'm still assembling promotional materials for Ensnared and my other works in that genre for the convention. And I'm about to enter the frenzied OCD phase of my travel preparations. I have lists of my travel lists. I'm out of practice, so I'm extra OCD right now. We'll only be gone a few days, yet my lists are ever so long and detailed. Poor Jon.

Stay tuned.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Delay of Blog

There will be no blog until Sunday. I'm frantically working to get some Sybpress titles out that must be live within the next week. I'll have a lot to share on Sunday.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Celebrations, Syndromes and Updates

I must do a tiny bit of old business first. I forgot to answer one burning question from the last blog of readers' questions. If I still haven't answered a question, it's because I'm not gonna. Anyway, the answer to the missed question is that Ray Liotta is back in Craig's orbit. From his resume on IMDBpro, he has been filming a lot over the last year. Thus, he was not intersecting with Craig. Now, he is and the chin waves have commenced. Craig is no longer as paranoid about it. However, he is really annoyed over all the sitcom actors who have moved into his neighborhood. I don't know who they are. A description like 'you know, that fat, balding guy with the hot wife on that show' could be anyone.

I may have to put back the warning I had on my blog for a while. It seems that it comes up on the strangest searches from recipes to images from ancient cartoons. I'm not sure why people click on a description that has nothing to do with the search, but some do. Heck, a number of my gentle readers have come from searches that have nothing to do with the primary subjects of this blog. They have stayed for the hilarity. That's great. I really don't get those who click on and then complain to me, because I'm not writing about what they are looking for. I mean, I have a big ol' header on top of this thing, for goodness sake. So, if the rate of complaints doesn't ebb, I'll go back to the warnings.

The Bone China Syndrome

I inherited a strange syndrome from my Mother. It had no name until the 1980s, I believe. When she wrapped a turkey in puff pastry during her first ever holiday special, Mom knew that she had Martha Stewart Syndrome – the need to opulently entertain no mater how few people are supposed to show up. In her defense, we never had a holiday where some unexpected guest showed up – family or friend and often with a stranger in tow. Heck, many a Sunday dinner featured some sort of guest – expected or not. Mom would scold for not calling ahead, but she never turned anyone away. She was a social soul, so I think she enjoyed entertaining despite the work involved. She liked it even more as the cooking duties were ceded to me. I didn't know that I had inherited this syndrome until Jon and I were in LA. During that first year, not only wasn't I obligated to entertain family, we also knew no one to invite over. I would still make full blown Sunday dinners that served at least six. I reasoned that we could eat the leftovers. And we did. Things got really wacky during our first Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in LA. Despite our relatively solitary existence, I cooked like we were having no fewer than twelve people with big appetites. I still do. It's like I cannot fathom actually cooking a holiday meal for just two people. I make the same amount of food down to the two sweet potato pies even when we're invited out. I really loved the leftovers for those meals.

I haven't done much entertaining since 2009. I was really sick during Thanksgiving. In fact, that was when I knew something was really and seriously wrong. I couldn't eat that meal. I was home by Christmas and I did cook as I usually would, but I was still on a lot of drugs that effect appetite or the taste of food. During 2010, I was not up to having guests. I think that's why I went a little batty doing the high tea for Marie. I was so ecstatic about entertaining – and seeing Marie. My knee jerk reaction to Jon and my wedding anniversary is to go absolutely bonkers. I was gong to make a three tiered wedding cake a la Ina Garten that serves 10-12 people. Even Jon can't eat that much cake. Eventually, it sunk into my brain that Jon is a lot more laid back about celebrations. I mean, that was the reason for the Las Vegas wedding. It was easy –  all we had to do was show up. We needn't have dressed up. The Elvis was because we were getting married in Las Vegas and why not? He was great. We split our reception up between an all you can eat seafood buffet, Star Trek: the Experience and a dance club at the MGM Grand. It was no fuss but huge fun. So, I kept this year's celebration simple. A steak sandwich (That's what people from Philly call a Philly cheesesteak as it comes with no cheese unless you ask for it, and one wouldn't use the name of the city you're already in as part of the description). And we had a normal sized layer cake. I also had some bubbly, but then I need very little excuse to have that. Being Tuesday usually works. Mind, I may want a big blow out for the 15 year anniversary. I'm thinking of a vow renewal in Paris. Yes, that would be lovely especially since it would be 20 years that we'll have been together. That deserves a bit of fuss.

Updates

A new Sybpress title comes out this week. Meanwhile, I am a week away from releasing a huge new title and re-releasing two other titles. I'll have blogs on three sites next week. These previews are for my regular readers only!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Readers Ask About Actors, Food and Craig

It is officially autumn once again. Once again, I sit and ponder the eternal question of why in the hairy heck I think watching football is relaxing??!!! The new neighbors who live to the right of me and above me are likely wondering things like 'Who is cursing like that? It can't be that nice, quiet lady in the apartment just beyond the pool's gate. Maybe she's having some female friends over to watch the game like an angry lady longshoreman or a ticked off girl trucker. I've never heard epithets used like that.' I've had to turn off the game and watch some cooking show recordings. I don't think punching holes in the wall is good for my knuckles.

Reader Questions

I have a number of new readers lately. Hello, new readers! I imagine that jumping into the blog from any random week is like jumping into the deep end of a pool full of piranha wearing clown make-up – scary and confusing. Thus, I have received some questions. Answering them will also provide updates. About Craig. Though we have agreed that I am not his nemesis, he still manages to upend my focus when he calls. This week I've had to talk him out of buying a megaphone, and I've refused to tell him which days I tend to visit my local library. However, I'm not sure if I talked him out of putting a special note in my account file. I suppose I'll find out when I pick up the next book. About the fingerprints, because of the number of pages we turned while working for Internet Archive (archive.org), our fingerprints have rubbed off on certain fingers. Craig found out when he was being printed for the library gig. The print operator said she sees that sort of thing with people who handle pineapples for work (I learned that on the original Hawaii Five-O) and people who handle a whole lot of paper. We averaged three thousand pages a day for three years. Our prints should eventually return. I disagreed that his gave us carte blanche to commit high crimes. I mean, it's only a few fingers that are affected. Besides, I don't care how cool it looks, using a grappling gun will end in disaster at our ages.

Other Answers. I do not cover everything that happens in a week. I tend to focus on the long arcs in my life and career rather than the highs and lows. On any given day, things will look incredibly good or incredibly bad at the beginning or the day and be radically different by the end. That's why I don't post dramatic changes on the social networks unless I'm very certain that the circumstances will remain the same for the foreseeable future. I would make my friends and loved ones crazy on almost a daily basis. I thus stick to the highlights for the week. Yes, my friends and family do get a heads up when I'm going to mention them in the blog. Craig even knows what conversations will land him in the blog. When I mention my actor friends by name, they know it's coming. I don not share most of my interactions with them. Next, I am still learning Japanese – slowly. In fact, I used some during my visit to Mitsuwa market last week. I was mainly apologizing for my unruly shopping cart. And I told my long suffering clerk that I was okay for help. Both he and the elderly lady I spoke to were pleasantly surprised – I think. I do know that I'm understanding more of what I'm hearing on the anime and cooking videos I watch. I have some time before we can consider a trip there, so the learning is going at a good pace. I'm lucky to live in a neighborhood with a significant Japanese population and a major Japanese super market. I haven't even begun to check out Little Tokyo. But I digress. Be warned, I do that a lot, gentle new readers. Last answer for this week: yes, the proofreaders have been sent most of Ensnared. I'm still fiddling with the last 60 or so pages.. It will be published on time.

I have one quick note about the upcoming books. In order to more strongly brand them for the search engines and the social networks, I will have special blogs for the upcoming erotica titles and the yaoi titles. I will still talk about writing in general and my own writing here, but the excerpts and other updates will be on those blogs. It's all about marketing. Hopefully, these moves will result in higher sales.


Kitchen Melange

One of the readers' questions asked if I combined all the styles of cooking that I'm learning or am I cooking French one week and Italian the next, etc. I do both. I make traditional Beef Bourguignon when I crave beef stew, but I also employ the method for other slow cooked beef dishes. My Dad now uses that method to make his beef short ribs. I made them that way when I was last home. I believe he has spread the practice to the southern relatives. I now know how to make Karage fried chicken, but I also use the Japanese seasonings like soy sauce, sake, mirin and ginger in the buttermilk fried chicken I learned to make from my Grandmom. It makes such a flavorful marinade without a lot of extra salt. I use kelp in my stock making because it gives it even better mouth feel and extra nutrition. On the reverse, I made this lovely Japanese chicken dish with grated potatoes as a sauce thickener; however, I browned the chicken along with onion, garlic and carrots like I would with a French dish along with the traditional Japanese seasoning. If I actually make a dish, it is usually because I know I'll use the techniques in more than just that dish.

I must dash. Those last 60 some odd pages won't fix themselves no matter how much I yell at them. I've tried!

Stay tuned.