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, April 24, 2011

Feasts, Freedom, Fundraising and Updates

Sandra Lee is doing soul food on TV that is confusing me. I'm not horrified like I was over her Kwanza Cake. But I am confused. Now, she's making grits. Oh, dear. I wasn't even planning on looking at her, but once I start, I can't seem to stop. She's strangely fascinating. Today is a holiday (Happy Easter everyone!), so it's a big food day. I have a lot of ingredients about that I don't typically include in my pantry. Like evaporated milk. Evaporated milk reminds me of the holidays - especially when it's in coffee. That may sound a might strange to you latte and capuccino fans, but I like evaporated milk in my coffee. I buy it at holidays to use in sweet potato pies as my mother did. And, like her, I used the left over evaporated milk in my coffee. There is always some left over, and she didn't like it to go to waste. I associated the taste of the combination with holidays. I'm enjoying a cup right now. Then, I must get back to cooking. The meat and dessert are done. Only the side dishes remain. No, we're not having company for this meal. It's just a holiday habit to cook a feast. Like the Easter 'basket.' Besides, there will be lots of leftovers and minimal cooking during the week. That's very good for me as we have a very busy week.

Tube Free at Last

On Wednesday, almost a year to the day, I had an abdominal catheter removed. It should have been gone a year ago, but that is a long, exasperating story that I'd rather not get go into right now. Aside from being free to enjoy baths again and not just showers, I am now free of anything chemo related inside me. I can really start exercising which will help me mitigate the impact of the chemo side effects. It's just all around good. The next hurdle to clear is to get the docs to let me administer my own B-12 shots. It's the only appointment keeping me going back once a month instead of every three months. It's a really long trip there and back for a ten minute appointment. In the grand scheme of things, it's just an inconvenience. It will become more of an issue when I go back to work full time. But that worry is for another day. Right now, I'm just slap happy to be able to do crunches or take a bubble bath. Hey, I could go crazy and do both! I've come a long, long way. This time last year, I was in the ICU sucking on glycerin sponge pops while watching Judge Mathis. Life is way better now. There is one thing that really troubles me though. Craig has volunteered to be my personal trainer. He's insisted on it, in fact. That is a scary thought.

The Secret Cancer Documentary

While Jon has been and still is working on the re-write of the horror script, I've been working on the documentary. There isn't much in the way of writing like a script, but there is a lot of coordinating and reading. There is a new website. You can find the link HERE. I also launched a fund raising initiative yesterday on a page that helps creative people raise money for all sorts of ventures that don't attract the typical investor. You can find info on the campaign and what we're offering to investors at this LINK or the one on the side of this blog. I also started a Facebook page and a Twitter page. I have to cover all the social media to reach as many people as possible. The set up is time consuming, but I do believe that it's as effective nowadays as a publicist. Oh, and about the fund raising effort. I will be nagging about that here, on my Facebook and on Twitter for 90 days or until we reach our goal. This is a really important initiative and it needs as much support as possible.

I must give a shout out and a big thank you to my volunteer film crew in Philly and in Ohio. Thanks to my darlin' nephew, Brian for agreeing to help me out during the shoot in Philly. And a big thanks to Randy and Ross for agreeing to PA in Cleveland in August. To quote Randy, PA is Latin for circus monkey which is how hard they work. There's a good example of what it's like HERE.


The Novels – I've been making nice, steady progress on them despite all the goings on. I hope to get them to the proofreader before we head to Philly in June. I've been really tickled with having Colonel Rik Heron put my vampire Simon through the equivalent of boot camp. The other book is shaping up nicely as well.

The Film and Web Series – We're about to complete casting for the film. We've confirmed on lead and are waiting for the other. As soon as I get paperwork back and confirm the start date, I'll formally announce everything. I did set up the blog page for the field notes and photos. We may even put up some of the behind the scenes footage Jon and I will be shooting. The Web Series should have a script soon – in the next week or so.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Me and Audrey, New Cause and Updates

With all this writing I've been doing, my gentle readers have been wondering if I was still cooking. Oh yes, I am. In fact, most of my breaks from the grind were to chop up some veggies (that is like meditating for me somehow) or make a meal. I've actually discovered another cooking show, Your Japanese Kitchen. Now, the music is incongruous and the co-host is odd (here is a sample ), but I've been learning some very interesting tips from her and improved on a dish I really enjoy. I made gyoza , Japanese pan fired dumplings, last week.. It was a simpler recipe than I've tried in the past. I also learned about garlic chives which are tasty in many things. To be fair, I wouldn't even attempt the recipes if I didn't live very close to a Japanese supermarket. I would, however, watch this show. There is something calming about her technique.

I've also had a revelation about making gravies and sauces. The television was watching me early one morning as I had left it on. On it was Chuck's Day Off with Montreal chef Chuck Hughes. He was making a roasted garlic soup using a roux made with roasted garlic, butter and flour. I had a eureka moment. I could add roasted garlic to some of my gravies and sauces. It wouldn't work every situation – like turkey, but it certainly works for beef and pork. This is a delicious combination, in fact. Also, anytime garlic can get in the body, it's a good thing. Oh, I also plan to make the garlic soup. It looked yummy.

Road Less Traveled

Well, less traveled by me. The road is actually crazy traveled all the time. It's just not one that Jon and I use. Olympic Blvd. is about ten minutes away depending on traffic. We had to go to Staples for some paper. It was then that I noticed there was a Trader Joe's a block away. A half a block from that was an enormous Ralphs supermarket. I was ecstatic. I haven't shopped at a Trader Joe's since we moved to this place four years ago. I have missed that store so very much. There are some nice foodie products like truffle oils for great prices. And then there is two buck Chuck, their lovely wine, that sells for $1.99. At least, it did the last time I visited. These stores are easier for us to get there than the Marina on weekends, and I have more options with weekly sales. This was all very exciting.

On Not Making Jon Crazy

I made a difficult decision for a net head when I was diagnosed with cancer. I decided to steer clear of websites about Appendix Cancers – especially the stories from the other patients and survivors. The reason, dear readers, is that I am a bit of a nutter. I will internalize the experience I read about and worry incessantly that I will suffer the same fate. I don't exhibit symptoms I read about. I just worry about them. I am an Olympic caliber worrier. When I worry, I don't sleep or eat – two bad things in a cancer patient. And negative stories about survival were bound to have an impact on my outlook which can be deadly. Of course, I was extremely curious about the cancer – which is formally called: Mucinous Adenocarcinoma of the Appendix and Pseudomyxoma Peritonei or PMP. Info can be found via the links alongside this blog. But I knew it would be more problematic to know more than what the doctors were telling me until I was further along in my treatment. I did it for me so I would have the best chance at survival. And I did it for the Hubs, so I wouldn't make him crazy with worry about my worrying. I also made sure that he was eating (and when I was too weak to keep an eye on that, I had Craig nag him about eating and sleeping). He's come out of all this more stressed than he'd like to admit. I think that the end of the Archive or as we like to view it, a sudden writing grant from California unemployment, has been good for him. I think he's needed the time to vegetate. He's back to his usually squirrely self. Now, I think he's ready to make a film. Actually, two. But more on that later.

A New Community and Cause

When I finally looked at the web pages about PMP, I found a whole community of people with this rare disease. I also found that most of the stories about how they were diagnosed were similar – sometimes identical – to mine. Namely, mistakes were made in diagnosing PMP. Usually, it was multiple mistakes over several months or years before the correct diagnosis was made. PMP is so rare (only 1500 cases a year in the US), that most doctors never come across it over the course of their careers. So, the failure to correctly diagnose is not a matter of negligence, it's lack of awareness. And that is frightening. I was extremely lucky to have had a primary care doc who had been trained by a doc who had been trained by the only expert in PMP in this country. Still, it took all of my symptoms aligning in her head, after three different treatments failed, to make the right diagnosis. I had the version of PMP that was very slow growing and remained localized in my abdomen. Thus, I was still stage one despite having been sick for years – long enough for the tumor to get big enough to rupture my appendix. Despite all of that, my prognosis was excellent. Others I've recently met have the much more aggressive version of the cancer. In the same amount of time, they had made it to stage 3 or 4 and it had invaded lymph nodes or other organs. Time is not the friend of this type of PMP. It was what killed Audrey Hepburn. She too went for quite some time without a correct finding of the cancer.

All of this was distressing. I wanted to do something to help raise awareness among potential patients and among doctors. The first thing I'm doing is participating in an Awareness Walk that happens to be in Philadelphia this June. More info about it can be found HERE. It's too early right now to register for the walk, but I believe you can donate. At any rate, I'll start bugging folks about it starting in May. I'm starting my training this week. I'm hoping for a lot of support. The other way we're helping the cause is by doing the thing we came out here to do. We're making a film. The documentary called 'The Silent Cancer' will begin shooting in June. Aside from the Awareness Walk, there is a conference in Philly that week featuring the doctor who pioneered the treatment for PMP and trained the doc who trained mine. I've also entered into discussions with Audrey Hepburn's sons about howthey will participate in the film. I am thrilled about this as I have been a life long fan of her work. And if you are wondering about how to support that effort, I'll be posting information about that mid-week.


Meanwhile, I've just been relayed a message from the horror film's director that we're going to start shooting in three weeks. Okay then. Jon is still doing the re-write, but what are you going to do? What I'm going to do when I get back from Trader Joe's is finish the shooting schedule. That should be ready by tomorrow. I'll have a blog page up for the film after every one has signed. My field notes from the shoot will be there, here and on my Facebook page. There sill be more photos on the field note blog though.

While all this is going on, I am back to working on the novels. I've been managing a few pages a night when everything else has gone quite. Time with my gorgeous men is my refuge from all I've gotten myself into during the day.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Homework, Stick Work, and Compound Nouns

It has long been my dream to be able to afford to stay home and write. It's been an even bigger dream to be writing for something that was about to be produced or published. I had imagined just how amazingly awesome that would be. Of course there would be some sort of libation and possibly some nibbles involved. And in the midst of it all, the words and scenes would come as easily as making toast. Have I ever mentioned how often I burn toast?

Like most things in life, writing a script for eminent production is not all that I had imagined it would be. I sat most things in life, because some things in life are better than I had imagined. For example, Vancouver in the dead of winter (incredibly beautiful) or France in the spring (ridiculously beautiful). But writing under deadline like that even without a day job to further crunch the time available is not easy. When we wrote Demon Under Glass, we had a project that already existed in a treatment. We simply had to fill in the script while keeping limited resources in mind. [That was how the cow bloodletting did not make it into the script. For those who don't know about the cow, the short version is we were going to have the captive vampire feed on a live cow in the isolation tank. Before we finished the first draft we found out that renting a real cow – and yes, that's possible – or a mechanical cow – also more available than one would think – would have cost a significant percentage of the budget. In the case of the live cow, our insurance rider would have been enormous and we would have had to have someone from the ASPCA present to make sure no one actually fed on the cow. Also CGI cows weren't as easily obtained as they are now making them as expensive as the other options. ]. And that was the short version. When a detailed treatment exists, writing the script is relatively simple. You always wish for more time to tweak, but it can get done.

The Warehouse Movie (it has a name, but I'll get into that later) was not even a concept six weeks ago. We had a concept for something vaguely similar based on a building our former roommate works in. But this space was completely different. It was so different that we couldn't adapt that other concept to work in the space. Thus, we had to start over. Craig is the reigning king of stories about people doing goofy things that run into something dangerous. I went to him for inspiration. He gave me so many ideas and other assistance that he's getting part of the Story By credit. Of course, collaborating with Craig has its price. More on that later as well.

Typically, after the concept comes a short treatment. For us, that's usually 5 to 10 pages. Then, we like to do a really detailed treatment of 20 to 50 pages when all of the action and transitions are thoroughly worked out and all that remains is writing the dialogue. For Demon Under Glass, we had the short treatment already, so we were able to move on to the longer treatment before working on the actual script. We didn't have that luxury this time. All I had was a vague seven page treatment and a basic character breakdown sheet. And though there wasn't a stated deadline, I was aware that the time that we would have the space to shoot in was limited and a window would be closing in the next couple of months. Basically, it needed to be done now, now, now.

Thus, for the last couple of weeks I've been working full time as a screenplay writer. The first thing I realized is that having a structure really helps. When I had the day job, the structure was writing happened after dinner was consumed and cleared away until the bedtime ritual began. I thought having an expanse of time from morning until after midnight would make me more productive, but that really didn't prove to be the case. I needed a routine to keep focused. The first couple of days suffered as I figured out how to allocate my time.

First, I had to accept that even if I'm not leaving the apartment for anything, I really need two hours to go from sleep to fully functioning. One of the side effects I have to battle is incredible joint pain and stiffness which is especially bad early in my day. After I do the morning rituals and deal with that, I write for a few hours. If I don't make lunch, Jon will work through until dinner with his headphones on editing. Lack of food gives him headaches and makes him cranky, so I make lunch. I usually take that opportunity to do some prep for dinner like put on a pot of collard greens or something else that needs low and slow cooking. Then, it's back to writing until the evening and dinner. The longest stretch of writing is the evening. I might go from 7pm to 1am with only the odd break now and then. The smaller chunks of time writing meant more pages somehow. I never quite mastered writing while having nibbles. Any sort of snack brought the flow of work to a halt. Though I really enjoyed some of those snacks – especially the onion and leek soup alongside french bread smeared with a bit of foie gras. Likewise, libations didn't work well with writing. One glass of wine would make me sleepy and I'd end up napping. So much for being a two fisted drinking writer like the greats of old.

I'm not saying that it was all difficult. As usual, most of the pressure came from me putting it on myself. When I was just letting the pages come as they would, I was having a great time. It helps that we know two of the actors involved very well and that made writing dialogue a real hoot. One actor is a very respectable, self-possessed lady who has long held positions of great responsibility. We decided that she needed a completely evil, salacious side. It was a kind of role she had never played before and would be a lot of fun. The other is an actor who looms largely in most of our productions. He has an amazing and twisted sense of humor. It was fun to figure out what this actor might say if he were in this given situation. It was a lot of fun putting him in those situations. The third actor is known for a certain type of role. Again, we decided that he needed to show a vastly different side. I blended my love of 60s and 70s era cop shows with my warped sense of humor and a very odd horror film hero was born. He has been a whole lot of fun to write. I really can't wait to see him come to life.

But the true joy of writing this script came from my primary research source to all things strange, Craig. I asked him for information on some of the worst things that the LAPD was accused of in the bad old days when it was said that corruption ran rampant. I then learned about things like 'stick work' (use of a baton in ways that were not appropriate) or 'tune ups' (things certain police were said to have done to suspects to get information or punish miscreants). And I kept for getting the name of the mob family in New Jersey that is said to have killed their own don because they discovered he was gay (the DeCavalcantes). Craig is like a very strange and scary wikipedia.

And then, we get to naming the film. I laughed so hard that I cried.

Me: What about Tentacles?

Craig: There is already a film called Tentacles. Jonh Houston and Henry Fonda were in it.

Me: Stop lying!

Craig: It's true. I think the creature had one big eye and a beak. We have got to have one big eye and a beak in ours.

Me: I wanted the monster from It Conquered the World, but I got overruled.

Craig: What about Sharktopus?

Me: You know that's taken, and there's no shark.

Craig: Whatever it is has to have the Alchamagod in it.

Me: What the hell is an Alchamagod?

Craig: One of those made up words they put in the third sequel to a really bad film.

Me: This is the first film, Craig.

Craig: That's what makes it perfect.

It went on like that for quite a while. And in that conversation above are parts of the name of the film. I can't talk about the title or the actors cast quite yet. Everything is still being firmed up. I should have more news on the film and when it will shoot by this time next week. Fingers crossed.

I've also been working on new recipes and techniques!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Blog Delay -- Deadlines and Side Effects

I have a deadline for the Horror Movie (it's now, now, now basically). Meanwhile, my joints have decided to be uncooperative with my deadline concerns.Thus, all my focus has to be on finishing the script. This has become quite an exciting and fun project that has generated a lot of creativity in all of us.

The upside is that there will be a lot to share next week (like who is in the horror film and when we start shooting) including a cooking revelation (it's so obvious but I've never seen it done).

Stay tuned.