Welcome Gentle Readers

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

Sunday, November 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.