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, January 30, 2011

Blue Basil, Funky Karaoke and Updates

What's Cookin' and Growin'

Jon and I finally made it to the Mar Vista Farmer's Market . It's really hard to get up and out of the house early on a Sunday. It was even harder to get up and out when it's been raining (sorry, east coast peeps for sounding wimpy). We managed to get there well before noon. I had a plan of sorts – get some eggplant and zucchini and maybe some fennel and leeks. I also wanted some apples or pears to roast. And then there were the ever elusive squash blossoms. I didn't find the eggplant, and I only found the sign for squash blossoms. Now, I know at least one vendor sells them. He said they tend to get snapped up early. I shall try again in the next week or two. Hopefully, I can drag myself over there when the place opens. I really want to have a stuffed and fried squash blossom. Then, things got a little crazy. I did get the leeks and fennel as per the plan, but I also found some green tomatoes. And that's when I spotted the herb vendors. I had been growing chives and dill since Christmas. But this vendor had thyme and Italian oregano and African Blue Basil. Who wouldn't want that? Now, my window sill is full of foliage. And all the while I was shopping, There was this guy in a sixties era tuxedo with a red jacket under a gazebo singing a medley of sixties soul – all by himself with a Karaoke machine. I particularly enjoyed his version of Shot Gun especially when he actually did the jerk (the performer kind of looks like the emcee in this video except in a red tux). Why didn't I have a camera? Ah well, he made shopping a very funky experience. Hopefully, he'll be back next time.

I finally made the roasted eggplant caponata from my Ina Garten cookbook. Of course, it wasn't until I got to the end of the recipe that I noticed that you have to wait at least two hours before serving for the flavors to marry. Oh bother. Well, it's close enough to dinner not to matter anyway. I shall have some as a snack later. It tasted pretty good when I tried it to test for seasoning. I'll make sure to get a proper photo. Now, for dinner, I'm making Aaron McCargo, Jr.'s Buffalo chicken tenders with blue cheese dipping sauce! That may get a photo if I don't eat them too quickly.



Though I'm still not ready for working on a shoot, that doesn't mean we aren't working on the productions. Right now, I'm trying to find period costumes for my Vampire, Simon Molinar (for the flash backs) and some permanent fangs. I'm also researching locations online. We're also interfacing with our production design and FX peeps on the look of the shows. The plan is to have a lot of the planning finished by the time I'm side effects free, so we can schedule the shoots and get started. We'll be having some of the production design meetings as early as this week. I had a chat with one of our film mentors last week. Much of the discussion was a bit depressing. Our mentor is known for hitting us with cold hard realities. However, he said that the web series ideas are good ones. More and more funding sources and studios are requiring some sort of visual proof of concept. If it has an audience already – that's even better. Though we'd shoot them anyway as we really are itching to shoot something, it's good to know we're on the right track.


My output is increasing with each passing week. I'd say I'm up to a couple of pages – sometimes more – a day. I'll be putting up an excerpt for the Soldiers book this week on its own. I'm doing some homing right now. And we've started working on the Demonspawn book and other publishing issues. We'll have a date for that soon as well. Ideally, we'd like to release it as we're shooting the web series to have some cross promotion.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Freedom, Kitchen Horrors and Updates

The big news is that on Tuesday, my Oncologist decided that the side effects to chemo were outweighing the benefits and canceled the last two cycles. They even removed the PICC line that same day. So, I have finished treatments. Of course, I have a battery of tests to complete to make sure that I am tumor free. It will also take months for the side effects to fade away. And I'm still Neutropenic. More on that later. But the good – no, great news is that I finished with Chemo!!! I can eat ice cream (and I have). My particular drugs caused me to have a severe sensitivity to cold including food and drinks. That was fun. But no more of that unpleasantness. I can now start making plans for the rest of my life or lat least plans for the spring and summer. Craig is already suggesting that I train for a marathon (and he didn't even read last week's blog). I like the thought of training for something (I will be walking, not running). But Craig's idea of training usually involves running up a mountain. I wouldn't consider running up a mountain when I was much younger and in top physical condition. I sure won't be doing that now. There is a beach to walk along just 15 minutes from our building, for goodness sake. But all of that is for when I'm free of side effects. That will take time and me on my best behavior as a patient. So, for now, I'm behaving.

Kitchen Nightmares

Not the Gordon Ramsay show. I'm talking about the potential dangers for someone on a Neutropenic diet. As I said earlier, I find it disturbing that fresh fruits and vegetables are considered a danger under any circumstances. Just how badly is food being handled in the supply chain? But wait, the advice gets more ominous when venturing to eat outside the home. The advice on eating at any restaurant – don't do it at all. In fact, I should wait at least two months after my counts are normal to eat at a restaurant. The same advice applied to eating anything prepared at a deli counter. That includes getting sliced meats and cheese, too. But my favorite bit of advice involves buffet tables. Of course, I'm not allowed anywhere near them right now. But the advice is to stay away from them for at least a year after my counts are normal. If they cause that kind of concern, it's likely that I will be avoiding them from now on. I'm far from a germophobe, but these sorts of warnings gives a girl pause about everything I do that's food related.

I'm batty enough without letting this make me crazy. I think I'll focus on making things that I am allowed to eat like ice cream! I'm also experimenting with dishes like roasted fruit salad and Caponata. Or I plan to experiment with those recipes. I have to gather the energy to go shopping for the produce and then to cook it. I've got some really healthy veggie dishes ready like hummus (with roasted garlic) and a big ol' pot of collards. So I'm set until Tuesday. And that's fortunate, because I'm also not allowed to have leftovers that are over 24 hours old. Yeesh! I'm off to have that ice cream.

Soldiers Update – Empathetic Killers

This book had brought up some new aspects of Rik and Vincent's personalities to explore. The visitors crashing in on their lives bring into sharp focus the fact that they were bred and trained to be remorseless killers. While he has few regrets over anything he did as a soldier, Rik had hoped that their work with the Foundation wouldn't involve any killing let alone killing individuals they are suppose to be helping. This bothers Rik a great deal. How can he and Vincent save washed out Altereds, gain their trust and bring them back into the fold while maintaining that the alternative is death? However, when it comes to dealing with Simon Molinar, Rik is glad for the lethal part of his persona, because he feels it something that Molinar can understand and either respect or fear. The relationship between Molinar, Rik and Vincent is complex and strained. Molinar is expecting respect and even awe from beings he considers his progeny. Rik has to find a way to keep the military brass from having him destroyed before they can get all the Delphi information out of him. Even beyond that information, Rik realizes that Molinar is valuable as a resource to all the history of Altereds he has witnessed. Meanwhile, Vincent is acutely aware that Molinar is a threat to the humans working closely with him. He is usually one second away from breaking one of the Vampire's limbs to make sure he behaves himself. This situation makes for some tense meetings in the beginning. Here is an excerpt that is the aftermath of one of their more heated encounters with Molinar. [MILD SPOILERS]

“It was a smart move to put Braun in the middle of it,” Auerbach commented.

“Aside from the kill order not being anything we want, the threat will carry more weight with Wolverine squad if it comes from him,” I said. “But he's the last resort. We need to try to reach them and persuade them to give retraining a try.”

“That's a tall order, Blitz,” Auerbach said. “They will be very angry and deeply hurt on many levels by their treatment under the military.”

“Hey, no one is better at anger than me,” Vincent said. “But I could be reached with the right amount of patience and kindness. We know they've seen what the Foundation is about. Who knows, maybe they were heading here to demand we fix them.”

“You may be right, Hardcase,” Auerbach said. “I pray that is the case.”

“Amen,” I said. “Even if they're willing, this is going to be a long, tough road.”

“We have time to prepare,” the Doc said. “They won't be alert and aware for quite some time. But to the matter that is more immediate, how is our aged guest?”

“We had a long talk during a tour of the facility,” I said. “We had to come to an understanding.”


“We told him we'd tear him limb from limb if he didn't behave,” I replied.

“Literally,” Vincent added. “He doesn't need arms or legs to cooperate.”

“How did he take it?”

“He understood that we are cut from the same cloth as he,” I said. “We got through to him.”

“That's good, but I need you fellas to understand something,” Auerbach said. “While I find our subject incredibly fascinating, I am not Doctor Bassett.”

Vincent and I gaped at him.

“I know how you boys think, and I'm grateful,” he replied. “But I studied all the records on our star guest, especially the staff logs. I know how manipulative he can be. That's why I want to know what happened to Doctor McKay.”

“I wondered why you asked about him,” I said. “What was so special about McKay?”

“Doctor McKay was as non-violent as a person can get. It was clear during the Delphi experiments that he had problems with Molinar and his killing though they had a clear rapport,” Auerbach replied. “A year after he escaped Delphi, Molinar was able to persuade McKay to leave with him and go on the run.”

“Why in the hell would he do that?” Vincent asked.

“Initially, McKay ran because the new version of Delphi was to feature him as an experimental subject. He carried the genetic marker that would respond to Molinar's DNA,” the Doctor replied. “But he stayed with Molinar for over a decade – long after there was anyone hunting him.”

“How does anyone know that?” I asked.

“The second project director, a Dr. Whitmore, kept a distant eye on them when they were traveling out of the country,” he said. “Delphi couldn't touch them, but I suppose there was curiosity about what they were doing. I'd love to know why McKay stayed so long and what happened after they dropped completely from the radar.”

“I get what you're saying,” Vincent said. “Anyone that could get someone like this McKay to stay with him despite hating the killing...”

“Is a master manipulator,” Auerbach said. “But I love my job and my office bar too much to be distracted. Still, I'm glad you drove the point home.”

“We protect our own, Doc. What's next for him anyway?” I asked.

“We'll debrief after we finish with the data chip. If the information passes muster, we put a transponder in him where he can't get at it and start looking for ways to make use of his information,” Auerbach replied. “You'll be spending a lot of time with him here and likely on that op.”

“Yipppeee,” Vincent muttered.

Despite this rocky beginning, Rik and Vincent will find themselves hanging out with an ancient Vampire who likes to kibitz on Vincent's cooking. But theirs will always be a complex relationship. Since I decided that I had more than one book with this story, it's been much more fun to write. I don't have to jam so much in a short span, so the character moments are happening naturally, and that's always fun.

I plan to have some love scene excerpts soon.

Film Updates

Jon and I have been busy bees working on scripts and editing stuff we've already shot. There is some new interest from a group of funders in our Jersey project. We're looking forward to hearing from them soon. As for the web series, I can't schedule a shoot dates until I'm fully clear of side effects. That's part of the whole behaving thing. I've even been yelled at by my actors about rushing into a shoot. Thus, I have no dates for the web series right now.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bubble Girl vs Tap Water

Craig called me Bubble Girl on Friday. That wasn't exactly helpful though it was amusing. He was trying to make me laugh about the week I've had (and I'm still having). I'm housebound until Tuesday because my white blood cell count is very, very low. My immune system is compromised, so I can't be exposed to anyone who may be sick. I'm still not allowed to have fresh fruit or vegetables or tap water or fresh ground black pepper (it has a fungus, you know). Of course, now I want all of those things, including tap water which I don't normally drink. This state of affairs has delayed my chemo treatments again. And while I might have been annoyed at the delay so close to the finish, I'll take that over another hospital stay. There was talk of readmitting me in isolation until my counts rose to something closer to normal. Luckily, my temperature is still normal, and I actually feel no different than what has been normal for me of late. So, I get to stay home. That saved me from actually becoming a difficult patient.

Of course, like my sudden yearnings for tap water, the moment I'm told I can't go out is the instant I decide I want to train for the LA Marathon (walking it not running). Not that I don't have enough to keep my mind occupied at home. I have a lot to read and a lot more to write. More on the writing later. And then there is the cooking. I have a bunch of new cookbooks to explore and the Hubs underfoot to fetch ingredients from the forbidden supermarket or – even better – to do the dishes between the various stages of cooking. Sweet! I've already made a big pot of French onion soup and a pot of black bean chili. Those recipes weren't even in my new cookbooks. The lemon chicken in Ina Garten's How Easy is That turned out very nicely last week. Despite all that lemon, the chicken wasn't overly tart. It was just very nicely flavored and ever so tender. As for what's next, I noticed a roasted eggplant caponata (dip) that looked good and easy. I just have to talk Jon through buying a good eggplant. That should be interesting since I've rarely cooked with them.

And during the weekend, I have a lot of NFL football to watch. It's strangely peaceful without the Eagles in the playoffs. There is certainly far less profanity. Since I have no vested interest in any of the teams, I can just enjoy the games. So far, they've been riveting. I should be able to make it to Tuesday without going stir crazy. I know I'm not ready to train for a marathon. At least, not yet.


None this week. Despite the time home, my focus is off for writing. This blog took me two days.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

New Year, New Recipes & Writing Updates

Ringing in the New - Finally

Jon and I got off to a very late start, and things are moving very slowly. At this moment, he seems to have abandoned dismantling the Christmas tree for looking at a site called batmobilehistory.com. I blame that on Roger Ebert. It's a long story. The reason for this scandalously lazy day is that we finally had our New Year's Eve celebration last night. Thus, we were up quite late watching two of our favorite holiday movies: The Thin Man which takes place over Christmas. I suppose we should have watched After the Thin Man which takes place over New Year's Eve. Ah well. The other film, which takes place over Christmas to New Year's Day is Tokyo Godfathers, a brilliant and crazy funny anime about three homeless people (a Transvestite, a teenaged runaway and an old rummy) find an abandoned baby then set off to reunite her with her parents. Joyful fun even while becoming brutal and unflinching at times. I mention this film almost every year, because it should be on everyone's holiday play list. But I know the big question is: What was served, food wise? I was in an odd mood as far as my appetite goes, so I didn't do the cheese and Pâté platter. Instead, I made Buffalo wings. What can I tell you? I really wanted some hot wings. Meanwhile, I made Carb man aka the Hubs linguine with a olive oil and garlic sauce and garlic bread on the side. That made him very happy. As for today, it's New Year's Day here, so we're having the black eyed peas and collard greens along some lovely ham. By tomorrow, I should be ready to face 2011. Yes, I know there is an Eagles Playoff game to torment me. Since I'm really surprised their season turned as well as it did, everything else would be gravy.

Allure of the Stove

There are no cooking channels on the TV at the hospital. Thus, I've gone a little bonkers catching up on my chefs and getting ideas on new things to try. I realized that overall, my every day cooking had fallen into a rut. For someone who is appetite challenged this is not a good thing. I should remember this lesson well as I discovered it while taking care of my Mother during her cancer treatments. That's when my cooking skills really expanded. I was trying to find things that she would eat. I even learned to make bread during that time. It was good for her and great relaxation therapy for me. Well, I need both aspects of the practice now. Luckily, the current mantra on the two food related network is cooking great food on a tight budget. Though some chefs still mention things like saffron or truffle related products in their recipes, most are adhering to the mantra and sticking to ingredients easily found in a supermarket. So unless Kirkland comes up with a 128 ounce can of saffron or a vat of truffle oil, those recipes will have to wait a while. This week, I'm working on a lemon chicken dish a la Ina Garten. I had something that was called lemon chicken in the hospital. It was an abomination. The texture didn't even seem like chicken breast. The only reason I had to believe that it was were the bones. Awful. I mean to right that wrong with a proper version. The rest of the recipes will be fresh takes on things like pot roast, meatloaf and stews. I plan to use my new collection of flavored oils and vinegars and the new collection of exotic salts in this effort. Hopefully, this will be as relaxing as I hope it will be.

And now, some ramblings about my current fiction. Warning: it will seem weird and may be off putting to some and there are some tiny spoilers here and there. Tread carefully.

Writing Updates

I realized two things this week about the latest Soldier's book. First, I have too much material for one book. The appearance of Simon Molinar from Demon Under Glass, the havoc he causes and the fate of Joe McKay are enough for one book. Dear Simon is loathe to share the spotlight with anyone – save for Joe. And in this book or books he is facing a lot of issues like his own mortality. In this future, the world has become too small for him to hide in the shadows. And due to the resurgence of interest in Delphi Project technology, there are people actively hunting him with the same or better financial and technical resources as he. Additionally, they have weapons developed to use against Altered Soldiers that are just as dangerous – if not more so – to him. Thus, this immortal has to face the fact that on a practical level, he has become mortal. All of this is in addition to facing the legacy of the time spent with Joe McKay and their investigation of Delphi. Simon's story also covers a lengthy covert op with Rik, Vincent and Ellie is Europe trying to destroy Delphi related technology and acquire or kill the American developing the program. That's a whole lot going on. When Simon isn't around, Rik and Vincent are contending with an all female squad of washouts that must be retrained or euthanized. There is a constant battle between the Foundation and the Generals over this squad. Meanwhile, Rik is the target of another soldier's obsession . This situation may push Vincent into an extreme act that could separate the men forever. You see, far too much material. I've decided to write it straight through then figure out where to break it up. My lucky(?) editors will get the whole thing. However, there won't been a big gap between publishing the books.

My second problem is that I'm having trouble putting my characters through the turmoil that I need to for the plot. I have to drag my poor Rik and Vincent into some pretty dark places. They aren't completely dark books. I mean, I have to be me which means each book has its own twisted moments of humor. But there is a lot more darkness than usual. Writing dark has always been hard for me even when it's integral to a plot. I never found writing that kind of fiction cathartic. It usually just depresses me. I suppose that's what the love scenes are there for – to counter the darkness. I will have to write some numerous, lengthy and exquisite love scenes then. Well, that makes me look forward to continuing. Excerpts are in the making.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Plus Sides, Thwarted Plans and Updates

Well 2010 was right scary at times, but I don't want to dwell on that. Pity parties make those really tough days even harder to get through. Besides, there has been a whole lot on the plus side of facing cancer. Rarity, for one. I have a rare enough cancer that I was able to get completely free treatment at a very fine teaching hospital. There was some extra luck in that my primary care Doc had been a resident and still had connections at said hospital. It cut down on the evaluation by four months. The head of Oncology had only seen two patients like me in 20 years (both are still cancer free which makes me very happy). Of course, that means I get to meet every resident in the program rather than being assigned to one Doc, but they are all so very young and earnest that I don't really mind. They all love hearing the crazy story of how I was diagnosed, and I like being a star. Blind luck, for another plus. Somehow, I found just the right desks to land on in the various government bureaucracies to get long term assistance in other areas. Good days were another plus. Before the second surgery, I got to have a really long run up to my 50th birthday. I also discovered what a cool neighborhood I live in, got to cook new and exotic recipes and got to read a whole lot of books. And then there was the writing. I will save that for Updates, but it was a good year for writing. Last but not least, great support has been a really big plus. The Hubs has been extraordinarily steadfast and patient. The family who helped a lot by staying calm. My dear friends here who've helped schlep me to appointments or who sat with me through chemo. And everyone who has kept me and Jon in their prayers. I've never, for one moment, felt like I was facing this alone. That has been and continues to be a really big plus.

So I turn the page on a scary but not too horrible a year and look forward to more pluses and much better days in 2011.

Best Laid Plans

About an hour after I wrote the paragraphs above, I finally decided to take my temperature. I'd been having chills all day and was curious to see if I had a fever. Well, I did. In chemo world, that means I have to report to the nearest ER. I thought I'd bee there several hours, but would be home for the New Year arriving eating tasty nibbles. That was not the case. During the countdown, the ER Doc was explaining why they were admitting me and that it was likely it would be some days before I could go home. Joy. Still, there were positives. During my stay, my counts were raised to normal. That means that I should be on schedule to finish chemo by the end of the month. Jon and I hadn't planned on going anywhere during that time anyway. All I have to do is replace the collards and black eyed peas I've had to toss. We'd left everything on the stove when departing as I didn't think they'd keep me. The food was out until the next afternoon. Jon had stayed the night in my room. That was tragic. Both dishes had turned out very well. But they are cheap eats. I will make more for this Friday. Because I'm having my New Year's Eve, dagnabit. Oh yes, with tasty nibbles, movie marathon and the midnight toast. All that will be missing are those lame New Year's Eve programs especially the one with Kathy Griffin, and I can live with that. Now, all I need is a tiara...


I've been most pleased that I have kept writing in some fashion throughout the year. Mind, I'm not writing as fast as I would like. Sometimes, my focus is like that of a kitten with shiny objects. Still, I have my Soldiers sequel well under way. And, somehow I started an entirely different novel. That seems a bit crazy, but it actually helps me keep going. When I'm blocked on one, I work on the other and they are getting done. I don't kid myself though. I know that I won't really reach optimum output until after I finish the final cycle of chemo. On the film front, we still plan to shoot the web series we started production on before I got physically overwhelmed. There are some new possibilities for locations because of a very cool new camera we have access to. We're thus rethinking what we can do with shoots like Demon Under Glass. It's all very exciting. Hopefully, we'll be shooting something in several weeks. As for the big shoots, we had a lot of activity shortly before the end of the year on two of the films. More meetings are upcoming soon. Enthusiasm is high and the connections look good. It's been a long since the last film, and that has tried our patience and sapped our resolve at times. But I must admit that the connections we've made during all that time are really good. And that sort of thing does take either a long time or a lot of blind luck. The upshot is that there should be a lot happening with the big films in January and February.

Stay tuned.