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, February 26, 2012

Lent and Craig, Souffles and Updates

Craig turned a hose on JJ Abrams  recently. Apparently, the man walked across Craig's yard en route to a writer who lives in the same building. Craig gave him a hard stare in response to the startled sound Abrams made. It could be that Craig has grown tired of finding either A-listers or large Macaw parrots in his yard. We never did find out why Jack Nicholson was in there. Craig had been in too much of a hurry to hose him at the time. He always regretted that. When I asked why he hosed Abrams, Craig said it was in part for wasting Karl Urban in Star Trek but mostly for Super 8. Strangely, that wasn't why he called on Wednesday. He was making sure I was properly ashed for the holy day. Despite his carefully constructed persona of a remorseless heathen, Craig is fairly religious. He was not very impressed with my pledge for Lent. I go meatless on Fridays and sometimes more days a week. I responded that he has no idea how much I like bacon. This is a hardship. I almost blew the pledge on Ash Wednesday because I was on automatic pilot making breakfast. I managed not to blow it. And since it was also National Margarita Day (who decides these things?), a good time was had by all.

Meatless Dilemmas

I do a lot of prep for my meatless days during Lent. I soak and cook all different kinds of beans. I make mushroom and vegetable stocks for soups. I've become really picky about soups. I really prefer a homemade stock. It's the snacks that make meat free days difficult. Sandwiches are just too easy. Especially the Jambon et fromage on a baguette (ham and cheese). I can make a tray of mini sandwiches That will tide Jon and I over until dinner. I have to think to remember to replace the filling with fig jam and soft cheese. I try hard to make dishes that Jon and I both would eat. And he doesn't eat a particular dish, I try to find ways of making it so that it could be frozen for later. I really enjoy savory souffles, but my hubs does not. Most recipes call for servings of four or more. I had a recipe for chocolate souffles that c45+0an be frozen and baked later, but I had had no luck finding a cheese souffle recipe that could be done ,the same way. Then, one day I was up at 4am watching Sara's Secrets on the Cooking Channel. She made a twice baked goat cheese souffle. I figured that if it could be baked twice, maybe it could be frozen in between. I even wrote Ms. Moulton to ask her. She told me to try and let her know how it worked. It worked beautifully! And she praised me for the discovery, to boot! Jon is convinced that I will write a cookbook someday. He's also certain that I will be making him bento box lunches at some point. Both are probably true.

Juggling Genres

So far, I'm successfully switching my brain back and fourth between scripts and manga and business proposals. I even have a schedule for when I work on what to keep things moving forward in some fashion and have time for cooking and other shiny objects that get my attention like Mannix turning up on Murder She Wrote. That's been distracting me for at least twenty minutes. At any rate, I find I need significant breaks between projects to shift fully from one into the other. My brain gets really tired when I try to take on too much too quickly. On fun benefit about editing manga that I didn't expect was the impact on my learning Japanese. My team was trying to figure out what a sound effect was. It was written in thin, tiny characters. I wrote them out to figure out what it was. Then, I realized it was the name of the leading man. Jon read it and confirmed. “When did you start writing in Japanese,” he asked. I replied, “Just now!” I had been practicing the characters of one form of writing, but had yet to really write words. It's very exciting.


There still isn't anything that I can discuss freely. As far as I know, it should be only a few more weeks of secrecy.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brevity, Fancy Dancing and Updates

This has been a strange and really challenging week creatively. I'm really weary mentally, and there is still a lot to do. I think there will be a lot to do for quite some time to come. This is in no way a complaint. The work is exciting and fun for the most part. Even the not fun parts of the past week's work will lead to something really exciting. It was just that every task was daunting in some way. I was slowed down by the constraints that came with every task. I was also dealing with a difficulty physically that I have not seen in quite some time. It's not anything to worry about. The legacy of chemo can be a new 'normal' life that comes with occasional obstacles. This was such a week. I'm hoping to make up for the sleep I lost coping with those difficulties. But that's no fun to blog about. Let's begin with the challenges.


I have found that authors and screenwriters who ask me for advice generally have a hard time distilling their work down to a short synopsis. The best high concept pitch ever, according to Hollywood lore, was for the ill-fated Cop Rock. It was just two words – MTV Cops. Brevity is an asset in both industries. Yes, I believe that this is true for any sort of publishing. With all the diversions vying for the attention of readers, it behooves a writer to distill their work down to a tantalizing concept that can be tweeted easily (140 characters – not words – or less). This skill is useful not just because producers and publishers have short attention spans. I have found that if a writer cannot distill their story down to it's simplest explanation, they usually don't have a good handle on the plot. One of the reasons Sybaritic Press remains largely dormant toward outside submissions is that I don't have the patience to read rambling query letters and equally rambling novels.

I learned to distill plots when I was a film and TV critic in college. And I've had a lot of practice over the years writing script pitches or blurbs for books. Still, the constraints placed on me for writing pieces over the past two weeks has made the tasks much more daunting than usual. For example, I had to turn my complicated romantic comedy into a two sentence summary that explains the film completely has some 'zing' in it. Zing, he says. Next, I had to do short bios on all the partners involved. Let see, how do I take decades of work experience in divergent fields and explain how that experience applies to a film project in a convincing and very brief paragraph. That was for our partners. For Jon and I, it was a matter of morphing our bizarre work histories into short paragraphs that showed we were an asset to the production. That was a long afternoon. Speaking of constraints, I had to write a cover blurb for the manga I've been editing. For that I had to describe the plots in the book in an enticing manner without giving even the tiniest whiff of a spoiler to avid fans. Avid fan geeks have hyper sensitive thresholds when it comes to spoilers. I spent a whole lot of time writing and re-writing that as well. All of that effort yielded less than two pages of actual text.

Blog Monsters

Goodness knows I enjoy writing this blog. It has kept me connected to friends and family during difficult times, and it has spread my writing and general quirkiness all over the internet. I started this blog to promote my writing. It soon drifted to my crazy life in LA and to observations on pop culture. And I was happy with that. However, to successfully market books and build a brand, I needed something much more specific that could be easily found on a search engine. Thus, Yaoi at Sybpress  and Romantica at Sybpress were created to talk about and promote yaoi and romantic erotica respectively. So, this means writing separate blogs for these sites with some regularity. Fine. The new books have been selling rather well, and these sites are visited quite often by my readers and by new readers. Then, I realize that Digital Manga, the company for which I edit manga, wants its guild teams to promote their books among their fellow fans via twitter and blogs. I had no problem with that. I figured it would draw more readers to the yaoi blog. Then, I find out that the company would prefer the teams have blogs and twitter accounts under the name of the guild team and tagged in such a way that a search for Digital Manga would bring it up.. That's completely understandable and absolutely reasonable. Setting up these social media accounts is relatively easy when there is a team working at work. The difficulty came with actually writing the first blog for the manga, Again Tomorrow. I had to entice and titillate without revealing plot twists or or character spoilers. I had to be conversational but mindful that I am representing a company. And I had to not promote my own work. I have never been so nervous and tentative about a blog before. For those interested, the result is HERE

Geez, I just realized I'm blogging about blogging. Time to move on.

Fancy Dancing

On occasion, Jon and I have helped other filmmakers shape a pitch and a business plan for investors. I've even been paid to do budgets and schedules for film business plans. These are really easy, because they don't involve re-writing the script. The one time we were given a script to re-write, we were told to strip to the idea and start over. That script came out reading like a Deb and Jon script. Recently, we took on adapting a story into a pitch from TV. The story was not written for the camera. It was created for another form of media. Yes, I know this is terribly vague, but it is as specific as I can be. The creator has decades long experience and a large, avid following. The fans for this particular title numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and they are passionate about it. This adaptation is a daunting challenge. We've gone through weeks of pouring over the original works and asking questions of the author. The idea is to make the new material fit into the original seamlessly. I've had the treatment for the pilot a week, but have only written a a handful of lines. It's an intimidating proposition, dancing in someone else's shoes. But with the editing of the first manga out of the way, I can really focus on writing the additional material. At least, that's my plan for the upcoming week.


I've been giving them during this whole blog. Haven't you noticed?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waiting Rooms, Craig and Vague Updates

The funniest part of the last diagnostic test of this cycle was presenting Craig as my responsible adult to the charge nurse. I wasn't sure if they were going to accept him as such after he said that his relationship with me was high priest. As she detailed the things that I shouldn't be doing under sedation(working with heavy machinery or making big life decisions), I could see his nimble, twisted mind thinking of how he could perhaps get me to do all of those things. There were a few construction sites in my neighborhood that left bulldozers unattended. I have no idea what happened after they wheeled me away on the gurney. What I do know is that something happened that everyone in reception knew who 'Mr. Craig' was and that he was with me.

The most interesting part of the the test was the wait for the doctor. I was on the gurney all drugged up and ready to go while he was hunched over the PC screen riveted by something. I should have known what the hold up was. I've seen this behavior often in the two years I've been coming to LA County USC for treatment (yep, it has been two years already). He was reading my entire history. Since I've been involved in the Appendix Caner community and hear a lot of stories similar to my own, I forget how rare this illness and the treatment are. The doctor looked stunned when he turned to me. He talked about how much I had been through. That surgery wigs out a lot of surgeons. He said with amazement that I was doing very well. He even revealed that all my tests were clear (I don't actually see my oncologist for another two weeks, so I didn't know until just then). The test itself was anti-climatic. 

On the way home, Craig entertained me with 1950s songs about coal mining (16 Tons) or the way mob nicknames are generated. The latter he'd learned from a textbook on organized crime he got from the Archive. It seems that they don't just come from one's demeanor (bugsy) or weapon of choice (bats) or body part one likes to remove (thumbs). My favorite was a nickname given to an enforcer with a missing finger. The judge put the nickname 3 Fingers Brown on the court papers. He really didn't like the baseball player who had that name. Unfortunately for the mobster, it stuck. Apparently, I was still loopy enough to find all of this highly amusing.

I still have a set of blood tests and a couple of doctor appointments, but the bi-annual evaluation is over. I now have to push for my docs to deal with the side effects from the treatment that are still keeping me from a life filled with more normal activities. There are a whole lot of exciting things coming up in which I would like to fully participate. But overall, that day and the news was very, very good.

In Other News

This week had a whole lot going on. There was a lot of running around assembling legal documents and writing bios and reviewing all manner of reports and proposals. My Manga team finished the first draft of the title we've been working on since December. I'll be blogging about that this week. Jon and I are collaborating on a pitch with another writer. That means Jon and I are doing our usual dance of balancing the scifi minutia with the character development and the core romance. It was really interesting doing that dance with a third writer involved. It's going very well though it involves a whole lot of emailing.

I know that none of the above was specific, but that can't be helped. We're still prohibited from publicly detailing most of the projects going on right now. I have a tentative start date on one of them. If that holds, I will be free to talk about at least one of them very soon.

I'll have some cooking videos and other stuff up by next week.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Yummy Veggies, New Title and Bistro Reviews

I have food on my mind right now. It's been a busy week, cooking wise, so there is much to report. I even ate out at a couple of very enjoyable places this past week. I'd like to talk about those experiences. Also, today is super Bowl Sunday, a day for eating, drinking and watching the last professional football game until pre-season many months from now. Those are reason enough for thinking and writing about food. But there is one more reason food is on my mind. I have to go on a liquid fast on Monday for a diagnostic test I have on Tuesday. After a frenzy of Buffalo wings, sides and beer, there will be naught but clear liquids for me on Monday. That's no solid food until sometime Tuesday afternoon. It's been almost two years since I've had to do this kind of drastic fast. Back then, I didn't have an appetite to battle against. Oh, how times have changed. This will be fun. I wonder if beer or white wine count as clear liquids? Probably not.

Biscuit Battle and Other Skirmishes

I have made many attempts at baking buttermilk biscuits. The results have been satisfactory at best. I continue the fight, because I want to get away from fast food or supermarket biscuits and their applications (breakfast sandwiches, for instance). I am certain I have been following the directions in the recipes closely and correctly. Yet they would never be quite right. And then one day, Natalie Dupree announced on Facebook that her new book, Southern Biscuits was on sale for $1.99 on Kindle. This did me absolutely no good until she also announced that there was a free PC app for Kindle out as well. I uploaded the latter and downloaded the former immediately. This book is a revelation about the proper ingredients and techniques involved in making biscuits. Everything is simply but very carefully explained, including how to substitute ingredients that aren't available anywhere but the south. Because I viewed it as a simple dough, I don't think I took the same care with it as I would croissants or puff pastry. Truth be told, the methods for kneading and shaping are very similar just not as time consuming. I can see that one could make them quite quickly and easily with practice. This batch still didn't rise as much as I would have liked, but they were flaky, tender and melty. Jon found them to be a great accompaniment with the buttermilk fried chicken (I had a lot of buttermilk to get rid of). I've always like Natalie Dupree's shows on PBS. In fact, it is her recipe I use to make my Thanksgiving Turkey over 20 years after learning it. I was delighted that it was her book that put me on the path to biscuit righteousness.

I returned to the Culver City Farmer's Market on Tuesday. This time, I didn't have anything in particular in mind. I just wanted to really explore the tables. I was fairly certain that I would get more heirloom tomatoes, but that was all I really had in mind. I really wasn't expecting to get collard greens. I didn't expect to see any there. This isn't the south, so I didn't expect them to be grown widely at local farms. But I had forgotten that this hardy vegetable that was a staple for poor folk had become chic in Los Angeles. That's why it's selling at high class markets like Gelson's in Marina del Rey for nearly 4 bucks a bunch (crazy, I tell you). Well, I found collard greens at more than one booth. I bought the cutest little bunches I've ever seen – baby organic collards! My grandmother would have never stopped laughing, but I found them adorable at a quarter the size of a regular leaf. They were also incredibly tender when cooked with a little olive oil, garlic, onion and a cup of chicken stock. Lovely. The price was really great, too. They were about the same per bunch as at my favorite discount market. I will definitely look for those again. Being chic can have an upside, I suppose. The other meatless dishes I made this week was a French Onion soup. I like mine pureed and without the cheese and crouton topper. I did make a goat cheese souffle to go with the soup though. It's one that is baked twice thus I can freeze them and finish them later. This is important for me with these specialty dishes that only I like. If I can't freeze them, most of the batch would go to waste. I think I'm well set for yummy meatless dishes going into Lent.

Great Eats

I had errands to run in downtown Santa Monica early last week. It was a lovely day for strolling about, and I enjoyed just doing that a great deal. I don't get to that part of Santa Monica often anymore. Most of the reason is that I don't work there anymore. But part of me also has a negative association with the area. It's usually full of tourists who are problematic when you have stuff to do. And then the downtown is often teeming with the very entitled folks from Brentwood, the Pallisades and Malibu. They were all difficult customers for me when I worked at the Borders there. They aren't any better when I need to get a bunch of things on a list accomplished. But it was a chilly Monday, so the area was only sparsely populated.

Ozumo's Bar
Once I finished with my tasks, I was hungry. Once there were a lot of inexpensive restaurants of all types in downtown Santa Monica. They were a great resource for retail workers and tourists on a tight budget. As the area became more popular, everything changed. All those little food joints were replaced by upscale clothing shops. There is very little in the way of choices for retail workers now. I was not very hopeful. Still, I made my way to the rooftop dining deck on the poshly renovated Santa Monica Place. There, I found something quite unexpected. There was an Izakaya  (a Japanese bistro) called Ozumo. I found this intriguing as I had read about Izakayas but didn't think I'd run into one outside of Little Tokyo. There were Japanese tourists looking very happy in the outdoor beer garden. The bartender told me it was happy hour (2:30pm!) and there was a menu of appetizers. There was one item that I had yet to find outside of my kitchen, Karaage Fried Chicken. And then there was an Udon noodle soup that looked very much like one Anthony Bourdain had on his last show in Japan. They were very inexpensive, so I took a chance. The bartender also suggested the beer special, Primo Beer from Hawaii. Everything was delicious. For appetizers, the portions were generous. Those items with the beer were more than enough for me. Incidentally, that beer was amazing. I was stoked to find it at my nearby Beverage Warehouse, because it isn't carried in many places. Ozumo's servers were very sweet and knowledgeable. The place was gorgeous. It was a pleasant enough experience to possibly lure me back to that area for something other than an errand.


Ensnared Volume Two is Live! All versions of e-book are available at Smashwords HERE. There is also a full synopsis on that page. For those who prefer to order directly from Kindle, that should be live tomorrow or Tuesday. The print version will be live by the end of the week (hopefully). The print distributor has been on the slow side of late. Thank you for you patience. Fans of the Soldiers and Ensnared books may want to check out the blog on my yaoi page that covers why my characters are obsessed with food HERE. Don't worry, there aren't any major spoilers.

I don't have much else for this week. My mind is on that last test and the oncology appointment that follows. I have every indication that things are still clear, but it's impossible not to think about it. I am working with more speed on the latest Soldiers book and my Manga editing is coming along nicely. I'm actually being encouraged by my bosses at Digital Manga to blog about that experience. I'll be doing that starting next week.

I'm certain I'll have some tales to tell about the appointment Tuesday. Craig is my escort.

Stay tuned.