I am not a tightwad. I believe we are on this Earth to live as well as we can and enjoy what life has to offer. That said, I am not a spendthrift either. Ever since I received my first paycheck at age 15, I understood how to equate a purchase with the number of hours of work it took to buy it. Eating out on my own was always a matter of considerable thought no matter the restaurant. I look for quality in every establishment from diner to haute cuisine. I was lucky to grow up in a city like Philadelphia where even the dives are considered worthy of national attention. My luck continues in our current neighborhood in LA. Aside from a really groovy diner in a nearby bowling alley, Pepy's Gallery (I am beyond surprised that they have a website ), there are some really good eateries that are garnering a lot of praise foodie set like The Curious Palate and A-Frame. These are walking distance from me. A little further away is Ford's FilingStation which is one of the best restaurants I've run into in a long time. I do enjoy having a fine eating out experience. However, I've never had the extra cash to try dishes I'm not reasonably sure I'll enjoy.
But eating out is expensive compared to eating at home. And the added issue of deciding on whether to go out or not – especially for Jon – is whether the food will be significantly better than what he can get at home. I forgot to mention. Jon is a very proud tightwad. And in some instances like food, I can't blame him. For the price of a check at Ford's, I can get a week's worth of high quality groceries. As I wrote in a blog over the past summer, I had been long curious about lobster rolls. Theoretically, I should love them. They looked awfully tasty on the TV. But I just couldn't bring myself to spend $12 on a sandwich I wasn't certain I'd enjoy. I got to have three for that price when I made it at home. This was the situation with fried zucchini flowers. They always looked so good, but were a very pricey appetizer. I knew I like fried zucchini and vegetable tempura, but I've never actually eaten a flower. Thus, I was reluctant to order them in a restaurant. I decided to have a go at making them at home.
I decided this roughly two years ago. What in blazes took me so long to make it? Mostly, it was laziness. I knew that a couple of stalls sold them at the Sunday Farmer's market near here, but I couldn't get up and over there early enough to get them. The New Year rolled around and with it, the pledge to eat better. Not that we eat badly, I just want to do more to support local growers. This time, I found a Farmer's market with reasonable hours. If I couldn't make a 3pm start, I could consider myself pathetic. But lo, I did get off the sofa and hustle my butt to that market. I found the flowers in the second stall I looked at. I bought six of them and a beautiful cauliflower for well under 5 dollars. I also bought some beets (I've never cooked with those) and some Swiss chard (I've never cooked those on purpose though they tasted great in my pot of collards). It was a great market for a lot of things. The rest of the recipe was simple – a little cream cheese, a little goat cheese and a few spring onions. The batter was plain flour and cold club soda. I was all delicious! And we have a bunch of veg for the rest of the week. All for the cost of the one appetizer in a restaurant. But now, when I next go to eat out, I would order the dish with confidence the next time we eat out.
Slogging Through the Morass
I think the thing I get asked most about is how I keep writing if I have a block or I don't feel like writing. There is this notion about the muse and how creative people are slaves to one. This is not the correct way of looking at being a writer. It would be unwise for a football player to take to the field after weeks without workouts or practices. The same would apply to a dancer. There are creative muscles, if you will, to writing or any other art. The way I can keep writing when I don't really feel like it is that I have practiced a lot over the years. The best thing about Grad School was being compelled to write a lot every week. I had short stories to write for classes and chapters of my thesis novel to write for my Moderator. I also had to write notes on other people's stories and papers on the books we were reading. We were always writing something. That put me in the habit of writing. Post grad school, I wrote spec scripts for TV shows I liked. I started writing fanfiction. I had a demanding readership for my fanfiction that kept me churning out material. Currently, I have an array of books I'm working on in addition to the various blogs I write. The blogs are very much a writing exercise as well as a way to stay in touch with my readers. A prolific TV writer who was an early landlord of ours advised that a writer should write every day and write anything. He wrote fan letters to his favorite performers if he had nothing else to write on a given day. So, when I have a problem with one piece I'm working on, I write something else. Usually, it's a blog. Sometimes, I still write fanfiction (I'll be putting that up on the old NovaD site at some point). There is always a new script in the works. Sometimes, I'm foolish enough to start a different piece of fiction. That's how Ensnared happened. Since it was often the work providing the least resistance, it was finished before the book I was working on. That wasn't a muse issue though. The latest Soldiers book was giving me plot problems that I've only recently resolved. One of my characters, Simon Molinar from Demon Under Glass, was a difficult fit with my soldiers. During my most recent bout of insomnia, I finally figured out how to make him work organically in the Soldier's universe. But I digress. The point is that writers who want to do this professional can't depend on inspiration or a muse to keep them going. Those can certainly get you started, but it takes a lot more than that to write professionally under a deadline. That takes proficiency, and that comes with a lot of practice. So, if you are looking to become a writer – and I haven't actually said that that is a good plan – the best route is to write, write and write some more.
The other thing I'm asked a lot about is how to handle rejection. I must admit that I don't handle it well. There is a lot of bad writing that is published and sells millions of copies. That makes me angry. I get even angrier when my work is rejected over something I think is drivel. Yes, I know that sounds arrogant. You need a bit of that trait to get anywhere in LA. I do think there is a lot to be learned from submitting one's work to publishers. It's always a good thing to know how to write a pithy submission letter or what makes a good book or film presentation package. If you are getting the same feedback from most places you submit to, that particular piece may need to be re-worked keeping the feedback in mind. I also believe strongly in independent production of film, music and books. If a mainstream outlet isn't interested in your work, there are many venues now to get it seen and find an audience. A rejection isn't the end of the world for me. What is worse than rejection to me is a phenomena that is particular to the Entertainment Industry in LA. Because no one wants to be blamed (and then fired) for rejecting a work that goes elsewhere and becomes a hit, they won't actually reject a script. You just never hear from that individual again. A casting director said it started with Star Wars but became routine in the last decade or so. We have a script that went directly from a very A list actor to his reps nearly 15 years ago. We recently learned that they still have it and are still considering it. Infuriating! That's worse than studios paying for a script to squash it in favor of a similar idea (not that I don't hate that). At least, the writer gets some cash, and though it can't count on a resume, because the script was not produced, word will get around that you sold a script to so and so. That will open some doors. The non-rejection does nothing to advance a career or line the pockets. Why do we do this again?
The projects are definitely on the front burner simmering. In a couple of cases, we've gotten farther than we ever have before. I'm getting questions about issues that sound like they will be on a contract. In fact, I'm afraid to go to the bathroom for missing an important call. Usually, I have to find something or someone and get back to our partner immediately. No, I will not take a cell phone there. I'm told I can talk about details once we're in pre-production. I'm getting really excited but trying to to.