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!


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.