Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Living Big, Fighting Flour and Some Updates

The past week was an interesting one. As always with me, it is full of duality. On the one hand, I am coping with the 'new normal' of my body after cancer and chemo. On the other hand, I must find a way to make the most of my clean bill of health. I was told by a caregiver of an appendix cancer patient who did not have the advantage of finding treatment that works that I should be living big in all things. His mother would have done incredible things with the reprieve I have been granted. He was right about his mother. She would have done extraordinary things with more time. His was an admonishment that I could not ignore. But how does one live big in all things when walking is often painful and other problems sometimes keep one housebound altogether? I think I have a solution. At least, it worked for me this week. One day, I will go out and walk or do some exploring or do an errand. On those days, I will push myself physically. The next day, I will rest, but I will do something mentally that pushes me or hones an existing skill. Or I'll work on a more rote tasks like those involved in cooking as a meditative thing.

So, each day involves some sort of betterment – even the days where I don't stray far from my sofa. I have decided to work on my French language skills on my non-outing days. To that end, I am watching French news and what television shows I can find on Youtube. For example, the French version of Law and Order: Criminal intent is Paris EnquĂȘtes Criminelles. Very interesting. Watching cooking shows really helps because I can follow along more easily. And to really keep my mind nimble, I'm also learning Japanese. Slowly. Cooking videos help there. As does anime. Luckily, I have a Japanese supermarket close by with staff to practice on. For French practice, I have an international calling plan and a certain someone I can call! And the language study is not just to keep my mind sharp. I have business in both countries. So, I am striving to live big in every way.

Oh, thank you for the kind words of support over the insurance insanity. I realized on Monday that since July was only a week away, I didn't need to go through getting a referral for the B-12 shot. I just changed the date of the appointment. The oncology clinic nurses were very understanding about it. They, too, felt the extra appointment was a little crazy. Thus, the one phone call saved me a considerable amount of consternation last week.

Deb Versus Puff Pastry

When I noticed Martha Stewart gently repairing part of her dough were the butter had seeped through her dough during the first rolling, I knew that I could succeed. I had been very concerned about the bit of butter that was on my rolling pin after I wrapped the dough to let it rest after the first and second turns [after the butter is incorporated the dough is rolled out to about 19 inches length wise. Then, it's folded in thirds like a letter and turned 45 degrees and rolled out again or wrapped to rest]. The other thing I had to watch was that the dough didn't get covered in too much flour. Between each turn, it had do be carefully and thoroughly dusted off. That was difficult as there was flour everywhere There was so much flour in the air that I wondered about explosions. There was a lot of flour about. That photo was taken after I had cleaned things up a little bit. All the while between rolling out the dough with each turn, I worked on the blog or some other writings. It was a pleasant way to pass the time. Once the dough was finished, I had to let it rest a couple of hours before attempting the palmiers. They were remarkably simple to make. The dough is rolled out onto a surface coated with sugar. Then the edges on either side are rolled toward the middle. Then, the dough is sliced and baked. They were delicious. I was very pleased at how the recipes turned out. I believe that I will try to make croissants this coming week.

Book Updates

I've given this a lot of thought. Since we're planning on new covers and revisions and all sorts of things like new artwork and book trailers, I'm going to wait on excerpts until the books are ready to be published. I want to encourage readers to buy the book after reading the excerpts. I've also had to accept the fact that whatever excerpt I put up will have some sort of spoiler in it. I'll try to keep it to minor ones and I'll give a lot of warning.

There are no film or web series updates this week.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Insurance Insanity, Kitchen Therapy and Modest Updates

Last week was every bit the roller coaster I expected – and a few things that I hadn't expected. In the midst of having the tests to check where I was with the cancer (For those who missed my posts, I am still free of the disease. No new tests are scheduled for six months), I received my shiny new medical card.. Actually, it's cardboard, so it isn't really shiny. I'm excited because I have coverage that will handle anything that arises. I don't have to worry about a sudden cutback in subsidized cases at USC. Apparently, I had completely forgotten what an amazing hassle a health insurance carrier can be. When I enrolled under the state's new managed care program, I was asked to fill out the information for my primary care doc. Which I did. I figured that since I was getting oncology services at a state subsidized facility, and that my primary care doc had already made the referral to said oncologist, I was covered there, too. Not so. And I find this out moments before I'm due to hear the results of my tests. I must take this form two buildings away and several floors up to an office to switch my coverage and – hopefully – get an override for that day's appointment. They said hopefully because I had already received out of plan services that month when I had the CT scan. I hadn't really slept in three days, and I was already half way freaked out. I must have looked very reasonable when I reached the insurance office. Who knows? They did get things underway swiftly with the switch in assigned, care and they did override the denial of services in a little less than an hour. I may have been looking homicidal again.

By the time I got back to my regularly scheduled appointment, my brain was fried. I was barely engaged in the argument between oncology and the pain management doc I'd met during my last ER visit. They were arguing with each other as to whether I was in pain. No one really asked me. I plan to revisit the issue with my primary care doc – whomever that is. Why is there a question? Well, I was assigned one at USC, but that doesn't take effect until July. Meanwhile, I need a referral to get my B-12 shot. So, for a five minute appointment, I have to have a whole other doctor's visit to get a piece of paper. I can't complain. There are far, far worse insurance horror stories on the various appendix cancer group forums. I can only sigh. My tests are clear, and that's the most important thing.

Kitchen Therapy

I took refuge in the kitchen among other, less savory places. Well, not unsavory. I don't want to frighten anyone. Let's just say that they were strange places – even for me to seek refuge. As I was not sleeping, I often found myself in e-mail or chat room debates. I do mean that literally. A chat room would open up, and I'd be in it with someone seeking my opinion on something or agreement with something else. I was not agreeable by and large. I think I've been living with Jon for too long. Not that he's disagreeable. He just likes to debate on an opposing view for the sake of a broader conversation. As I mentioned in last week's blog, producing books or films or anything has complicated my views as a fangirl. So for those who chatted me up at 3 am, I wasn't trying to pick a fight. And I was cranky. Sorry.

The kitchen was safer. I had a lot of practical cooking to do. I bought a lot of meats on sale and had to prep them for freezing or cook some for the week. I made two kinds of soup stock – roasted chicken and mushroom. I really like doing basic cooking. There is something calming about chopping all those veggies and completing tasks I've done hundreds of times before. Roasting garlic makes me really, really hungry for some reason. The scent triggers something. I did a lot of foraging this week with my grocery shopping. Since I'm walking more, I take my little shopping cart and going to all the markets that have significant sales. I was pretending I was marketing each day in Paris. That didn't work at all, but I did get a lot of exercise along with the savings. I made many discoveries during those shopping jaunts. For one, Trader Joe's has a really nice fresh pizza dough at only $1.29. Also, my bargain/ethnic market has three varieties of tahini for half the price of my regular markets! They also have fresh pita from a local vendor. These were very exciting discoveries that warrant further study like Thai red rice and imported fava bean products. Sweet!

I did some fancy cooking this week. I made a pizza with that Trader Joe's dough. Also, I made mayonnaise for the first time. There wasn't enough for the potato salad today. That may happen more often as I liked the taste better than the jarred. I also had another crack at making sushi. The results were as good without nearly as much comedy. I say not nearly as much comedy. There was some. There is always a least a little. I also tried some new Japanese dishes. The one that was the most challenging was Tamagoyaki, a rolled omelet. While viewing the youtube video that taught me how to do that, I learned about bento box lunches in which the Tamagoayki are often featured. With these new found mad skills, I sprung upon Jon the bento breakfast! The sausages are heart shaped and everything. For some reason, I suspect Jon thinks I've gone around the bend. What is so strange about shaping sausages? He should worry when I make him hot dog octopi or rabbit shaped apple for his lunch. No, he really should worry, because I'll have gone bonkers. Oh, and that bento video is really strange, but I can't stop watching that dog.

I made the dough for the new sugar cookies. I plan to bake them off on Monday. I will also attempt puff pastry. It's definitely time. I shall post photos!

The above was written on Sunday. It is now Monday. I'm still exhausted from insomnia, but the puff pastry is underway! I will post details in a separate blog.


I've been informed that the Special FX Supervisor for Octodemon and the director are working on post production issues. Everything else is in flux. I expect to get more details on where that project stands later in the week. The script for Demon on the Run, the web series based on Demon Under Glass is almost finished. I didn't get much done on it last week because of everything going on. I'm not going to post the script. There are a lot of really fun things that I don't want spoiled in any way.

The books are coming along nicely. I think they will be done by the end of August. I'm re-releasing both Soldiers books when the sequels publish. I've changed some things to reflect the script for Blood Oath. And there will be new covers as well to match the artwork in Blood Oath. My only difficulty is finding excerpts that don't have major spoilers in them. That's what happens when the love scenes are not gratuitous. I'm still sifting through the chapters to find something.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekday Blog -- Good News

Good news, everybody! I aced my last set of tests -- even got rid of that pesky anemia for now. No new tests are scheduled for six months! I totally had a martini. There were three olives, and it was dirty. Then, I had a nap. I am out of practice guzzling martinis.

I have to see my regular Doc to discuss managing my side effects and what may have become permanent (or the happier phrase 'new normal') in the next few weeks. But that's for another day. Right now, I'm planning my various celebrations...and a showgirl outfit.

More news on Sunday including food, film and book updates.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Tests, New Recipes and Familiar Foibles

This week has been very difficult. There are a number of reasons for this. The biggest reason is that I was going through a routine that I haven't had to do for three months. It was back to the lab for blood tests. And then it was back to radiology for the CT scan. And this time, I had to go to the appointments without Jon. He's got a cool new day job that has many things that he enjoys. It is connected to the visual arts. It has a lot of varied detail work that he enjoys. And there are even office cats to occasionally stand on his keyboard and head butt him. The job is a fantastic thing to have happened for both of us. Still, it was daunting to have to go to these appointments on my own again. The CT scan was really a fast appointment, at least. I barely had time to choke down the contrast drink – this time it was 'banana' smoothie flavored – before I was called in. I was out in a never heard of two hours! There was also the scintillating company of Ray Proscia who was kindly shuttling me about. All of that offset the ordeal of having the tests. Now, I have to figure out who not to worry myself into a frenzy before I get the results.

Christmas in June

It's more than six months to the next holiday baking season, but it is time to start planning! I have been watching some new dessert themed TV shows of late, and I believe I may have found a sugar cookie recipe that I like. This one doesn't require rolling the dough and cutting out cookies! The search for a durable but tender chocolate cookie continues, but I think we're going to do sample batches of the sugar cookies. I also think the time has come to try puff pastry. Martha Stewart made a batch and made it look even simpler than the last demo I watched. I want to be able to make this to make Palmiers as a Christmas treat among many other things. The Martha recipe produces three pounds of dough which is enough to make tons of Palmiers, cheese straws and en croute anything that isn't moving. I also want to make croissants. It's a similar recipe to puff pastry, but the dough has yeast in it and needs an extra day to proof. While I also feel that trying that recipe is inevitable, I think I should try the puff pastry. There will be some 'lucky' locals who will get to sample the results. I don't like to ship the goods unless I know they're really good. No worries, non LA peeps, I may ship some out to a few folks for more opinions.

Accidental Genius and Other Writing Foibles

Some of the constants in my genre fiction are very deliberate. The oddest – and the funniest to me – is that in all of the worlds I write in whether they are in some strange future or a fantasy past, the weather is almost always in the fall or winter. Spring and summer fly past in a blink, but I luxuriate in the crispness of fall and the biting cold of winter. The reason for this is not because I like those seasons above others. I actually prefer the spring. Basically, I've lived with the Hubs for far too long. He likes even the most far flung scifi fantasy to make sense in every day moments. Knowing what I know about men, I realized that they would never lounge about in their homes wearing the beautiful silk knit pajamas I often imagine them wearing. Jon has often told me that if I didn't object, he'd be in his boxers or less at his PC. Thus, I couldn't make that work in my head even as fiction. So, I made the environment cold most of the time. Cold environments also require fireplaces and cuddling. Genius!

Other constants are by products of my own interests but have been thought of as a brilliant, deliberate choice. My obsession with food has become a constant in whatever I'm writing. Relationships are forged and shaped around meals, in my opinion. A character's relationship with food says a lot about who they are. In my romances, the first sign of a sensual nature is an appreciation for all aspects of food – taste, texture, smell. Recently, some of my fiction has attracted attention in Japan. I may have my titles published in Japanese! But that is a very long story for another day. One of the things I was praised about was the focus on meals and cooking. Did I know that made my work seem very Japanese. Of course, I did, I replied. Yeah...sure. (The image is from an anime based on a very popular Japanese romance. This would be breakfast.). There is also an appreciation for my twisted sense of humor there that some critics have felt was out of place in a romance. Obviously, those critics have had much more orderly romances in their lives than I've had. Or my friends have had. At any rate, those aspects of my writing were much less planned. I'm really pleased that they work, or I'd be in trouble.


I don't really have any on the film and web series fronts. I've been a bit distracted last week with the medical tests and panicking about them. I've been taking refuge in my fiction and the latest script. And a shameless amount of anime. I don't expect that to change much until mid-week when I get my results.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mosh Pits, Updates and Defending TPTB

I was in a mosh pit of sorts on Saturday at the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd.. It was filled with the shortest and most erratic dancers I've ever encountered. Some of them even had pacifiers. The band members in this battle of the bands were pretty short, too. Some of the musicians were the same size as their guitars while others could have used a box to reach their keyboards.

It was the 6th annual Rockstar Music Education Program Battle of the Bands for kids 12 and under. It was...an experience. Here's a promo for the program which is supported by the rock community in Los Angeles. This was the only venue where pork pie hats were appropriate as they were on the heads of many children. Jon and I attended this pint sized battle of the bands to support young Shelton Lliteras (the one with the red, spikey hair), son of Jasmine, PA extraordinaire on Demon Under Glass. Many of my Facebook readers have wondered whose head that is in my profile picture. Here's the whole photo. Jasmine is in the foreground. Gary Lowrance, grip extraordinaire on Demon Under Glass and very scary ex- special forces, is in the background. Shelton is the grandson of Ralph and Marguerite, our long time partners in the production company and our de facto family in Los Angeles (along with the eclectic collection of friends). Shelton's band, Fergus on Fire (I have no idea why) performed Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. Shelton was quite focused. He had that 'I live only for my music' look onstage. The rest of the band was just completely adorable. He can't wait until next year. Neither can we.

Updates – Divergent and Various

I'm doing the updates next rather than at the end because I'm going get all geeky in the next segment, and there are some of you who'll want to bail or hurl rather than get dragged along. Shame on you! The essay will feature a thoughtful analysis of why network executives should not be considered minions of Satan for canceling a favorite show.

My apologies for freaking out folks with my blog of last week. I still don't think it had even a hint of a notion that I as abandoning any of the projects because of my problems with chemo side effects. This is not the case at all. For longer term projects like The Secret Cancer, it means that the process will take even longer to complete. I have had to cancel my trip to Philadelphia for the Awareness Walk and the interviews I had planned to shoot during the trip. However, I will get to Philadelphia at some point in the future. My family is there, after all. I'm just not going this month. I will begin my interviews out here with the survivors who've contacted me. There are doctors our here that I think would be relevant to the film, like the ones who saved my hide, for example. And I will likely be shooting the interview with Audrey Hepburn's son in Los Angeles. That project is most certainly moving forward. And I am still seeking support for that film. It would help if my readers would click on the banner at the bottom right of this page and then click on the red FEATURE THIS link at the bottom of the perks on The Secret Cancer's Indiegogo.com page. Even if you do not donate (and I hope you will), clicking FEATURE THIS will get the project on the main page which will most likely help us reach our goal.

The horror film, Octodemon etc. is still moving forward. I don't think my role in the project will have to change at all. Because of the way it's currently scheduled, the demand on me would not be as big as it would be if it were three straight weeks. We're working our way through casting the supporting roles and troubleshooting the FX issues. At this point in time, the current start date remains the same – early July.

The Demon Under Glass web series, Demon on the Run, is back on track. We've got a really fun script in the works now that I've figured out what our assets are. Once that is complete – and I expect that to be finished this week or next – we will finish casting. I've put our a call to my fandom peeps for names of veteran genre actors for parts in the flash back and the fantasy scenes in the episode. Our thinking at present is to shoot sometime in August. It is a relatively short shoot (3 days, max), so that isn't very demanding. Two of the major locations are within walking distance of our place. I will be taking it very easy.

There was a little bit of a slow down with the books last week due to the request from the anthology. I had to get the pages to my two readers. Then I had to input the changes they made – in record time. A big thank you to both of you! I am back on track with both books doing a few pages each night on one of them. Slowly they are adding up to two separate novels that I am very excited about.

From Fangirl to Hyphenate

For the uninitiated, a Hyphenate, in this instance, is an individual with a dual role in a film production. I am a writer-producer, for example. On most of my shoots I am a writer-producter-wardrobe-caterer-janitor with room for a few more titles depending on how small the crew is.

But there was a time when I was primarily a fan of TV and films. And then, I became a fangirl of many things (some of those things could haunt your dreams). The difference is the degree of intensity. A fan is someone who simply likes a show and enjoys discussing it on the day after an episode ends. A fangirl or fanboy takes that quite a bit further – typically to the point that it annoys and/or frightens family, friends and co-workers. The intensity of the interest is most keenly manifested when a beloved program is canceled. The manifestation is some sadness and lots of rage typically aimed at the unfortunate sot who canceled the program.

I have been among the enraged at the cancellation of a beloved show. Because cancellation of sci-fi shows seems to happen at a swifter rate than any other kind of program, I have been among those who express dismay and disgust at networks failing to nurture such programming simply because they don't understand it or they hate science fiction or for both reasons. It doesn't help change that point of view toward the much hated The Powers That Be (TPTB) to find articles in which they actually admit things like The X-Files wouldn't have been given a chance to find an audience if it debuted today.

The change in my point of view toward TPTB began when we did our first short for a pitch to TV. The Privateers basically cost us $1000 a minute, but that was under an old SAG contract and getting crew for next to nothing and working everyone like a circus monkey using army surplus costumes for the most part and no alien make-up or hairstyles. You can see the results HERE. In writing the business plan, we had to figure out an average budget per episode. We also had to make an argument that we could attract the minimum number of viewers needed to generate enough revenue to cover the costs. I learned a lot about the cost of a sci-fi show then. I know a whole lot more now – well over a decade later. Yes, incredible advances in software have made insanely difficult special FX possible and more cheaply than even five years ago. Yes, they can be done more cheaply. They cannot be done for free. Almost everything in a sci-fi show is more expensive than other programs. If it is a space based show, then everything save for talent and crew is more expensive. Wardrobe cannot be bought off the rack. Sets are show specific. Then, there is hair and make up. The list is long and daunting.

Despite the blockbuster sci-fi films, TV sci-fi programs have a niche audience. They tend to struggle a lot more than a cop show or a sitcom. Even successful shows have to watch their budgets. On Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Trek shows that followed, an episode with lots of guest stars, new sets or locations were off set by shows that may have a couple or no guests and occur on standing sets. They are called bottle shows. I recall that my change in attitude manifested itself during a panel I was speaking on at a convention. Someone wanted to know why the only aliens on Trek or most other shows were humanoids with something strange on their foreheads. I tried to tell them that the cost of inserting a CGI alien into an episode was cost prohibitive – insanely cost prohibitive. No one wanted to hear it. The audience preferred to rage that TPTB were holding back the creative staff. I actually instigated a panel at Dragoncon about the limits of what fan productions would do as a business model. I argued that they work as a labor of love for all involved. Participants are either donating their time and talent or it is steeply discounted because they want to be involved in the show. Once it becomes a licensed, income generating business, union rates for everything would apply. Such projects would live or die not only from the dedication of those participating, but on the income that it can make to cover real-life expenses. As the panel was filled with producers of such fan content, Jon and I were not popular in that room.

I realized that I had really changed in my world view when I found myself defending SyFy's decision to cancel Caprica. I am not a fan of the SyFy Channel. I have really personal reasons that have nothing to do with being a fangirl. One might even say, I deeply dislike the network. From the fangirl point of view, the network has done little to endear itself to avid viewers. For a number of years, it had a programming director that was widely reported to not like science fiction. I'm sure this dim view of the channels motives was not helped by the inclusion of Professional Wrestling or the sitcom Saved by the Bell in its line up. Saved by the Bell only lasted a short time. The wrestling remains. No love for the network here. And I adored Caprica and everyone involved in the show. I thought it was some of the most sophisticated science fiction ever aired on a weekly basis. I was alarmed that it was on the chopping block. My resentment toward the network didn't help my view of their reasons for even considering axing the program. And then, I was on a live chat with the current programming director. He stated and I later could confirm that the ratings were in the mere hundreds of thousands – not even close to a million. The show would need at least three times the ratings it was drawing to survive. When I heard those numbers, I knew it was over. And it was justifiably over. At the end of the day, this is show business with a capital B. If fans wanted to be enraged, they should be enraged at the Battlestar Galactica fans that stayed away in droves because Caprica didn't have enough space ships. Yes, I have been told that was a reason for not watching the show. It simply was not making enough to cover its bills. They gave it a full season's run and even mounted a Twitter campaign to raise the profile of the final episodes. The fans failed it.

It costs a lot to gamble on producing any new TV program. They take a long time to become profitable. Meanwhile, the money is flowing out. It's an especially expensive gamble on sci-fi shows. Yes, they should find a way to figure out ratings beyond the current systems. And yes, viewers are looking at more content online. The problem with that is that online viewing is still not generating the revenue that broadcast and cable does – not even close yet. When a show gets canceled, it's usually to stop the hemorrhaging of money. So, when my fellow fangirls and fanboys, please keep in mind that programming execs aren't necessarily minions of Satan for canceling a favorite show. It might help the cause to watch it when it airs and on TV.

Stay tuned.