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!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Craig, Strange Visions and Scary In Boxes

These tomatoes are astonishingly good!
The photos have nothing to do with the text of the blog. Readers have expressed an interest in our Tuesday afternoon outings. 
Craig called on the Sunday after the shoot. Jon and I were making like vegetables in front of the TV. There were piles of equipment and costumes and props shoved into corners. It would take me a week to deal with those. His tone was that mix of amusement and excitement that often gives me a reason to worry. He wanted to know if Jon or I had been past Ballona Creek on Saturday. For the disaster film buffs among you, Bollona Creek is the handy conduit used to channel molten lava from Beverly Hills to the Pacific ocean in Volcano. We actually live near the creek and occasionally walked the bike path. However, we didn't typically cross the creek as we did when we lived in Playa del Rey. I knew better, but I asked why anyway.

The view of the bar from our favorite spot.
“I saw a 300 pound hairy, naked man frolicking in the creek,” he said. I could tell that he shuddered. “He was really hairy. If I'd been up north, I'd thought he was a bear. But he was happy.” Craig was most perplexed about why no one in the apartment buildings surrounding that part of the creek called the cops. He was even more perplexed when a library patron rushed into the building to have him call the cops on the hairy naked man who had traveled a mile since Craig last saw him. I was happy to report that neither Jon nor I had scene that vision. I was particularly relieved after having seen some really bad nakedness the week before at the Culver City Farmers Market. Let's just saw it involved a leathery bag lady, a loosely fitting sundress and a sudden, strong breeze. I guess she liked that free feeling in the summer time.

This is our spot in the hotel lobby bar.

It was good to hear from Craig, disturbing images notwithstanding. He's been a bit scarce this summer doing his Oliver Wendell Douglas thing growing corn and 'maters and peppers and such when he isn't being a librarian. I miss him, of course, but I am a bit vexed at him. I think he put something strange in my library file. Or maybe he just said he would and let my imagination take over. I swear the librarians at my branch have been looking at me strangely. Hmmm. I think he's being my nemesis again.

Inbox of the Damned

A view of our favorite libations.
I can't really complain about all that has been heaped upon my to do list. I volunteered for 80% or more of the pile. And I can't really say that the extra work has kept me from finishing my latest titles. I was having much more trouble with them last year when I was doing relatively little. I am making progress, but not as quickly as I would have liked. Meanwhile, the work I've been doing has a lot of benefits aside from monetary ones. I'm building a reputation as well as my brand with the manga and short stories. That will have a big impact on the books sometime next year, if all goes well. And the books are on track and fun again. I'm just a bit slower than I was a few years back. There is a work around to all that won't be ready for the West Hollywood Bookfair. I just have to slog my way though it before Monday. There will be no volunteering for something new until everything is uploaded or put to bed. I must be strict about this! I'll try not to be grumpy though.

Next week, look for a new page on Sybpress.com for the Hollywood Bookfair. There will be some great links to the authors of our titles, some info on our new titles, and lots of links to all sorts of indie fiction, poetry readings, etc. It will change frequently in the run up to the Bookfair, so check often!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Teaser Shoot Field Notes

Here is the full skinny on the teaser shoot. It's a lot of detail, but I think it will give a detailed account of how jammed packed last Saturday was.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pastrami, Epiphanies and Actor Bonding on the Shoot

The big revelation came when I decided to buy the pastrami at the deli. I didn't buy a sandwich – just the sliced pastrami and the Swiss cheese. How is that a revelation? It's just deli meat, after all. There was a time and one that is not that long ago when I would have made the pastrami from a brisket. There are a few recipes for the home cook. I have the spices, and I had the time at the point I considered it. I realized that making the pastrami was a crazy thing to do for such a tiny shoot. The actor wouldn't be eating the sandwich. Actually, there was no guarantee that we would show the sandwich. As far as that shot went, there was nothing to be gained by having homemade pastrami. Further, there was far easier and far less expensive ways to feed the cast and crew. I had entertained the notion of serving the homemade pastrami along with some home roasted turkey breast for lunch. But beef prices are crazy right now and apparently, it's not turkey season at any of my markets.Forty dollars for lunch meat just seemed appalling to me. Resisting that impulse showed that I had gotten some sense into my head about pushing myself beyond all sense and reason. That was a very happy thing, because I still had a lot of hats to wear on Saturday. And I still had a cast and crew to feed. And a pastrami sandwich to make. Incidentally, the soup in the container is real and homemade, but only because I happened to have stock in the freezer and noodles in the pantry.

I managed not to work myself to a frazzle and get to the shoot exhausted. I was very tired, mind you. I don't sleep well before a shoot – even small ones. But I wasn't running on fumes. There was almost too much to do. We had a schedule that we had to keep to get the actors (whose time we were gifted) out of the house and onto their other appointments while getting all the shots on our list done. I'll go into the nuts and bolts of what we did and when we did it on the behind the scenes blog I write for this web series. You can visit there now and see some of the photos from the shoot HERE . Just go the the LINKS menu on the right. I'll post a link in an announcement here when that goes up. On this blog, I'll just cover what was going on in my head while all this mayhem unfolded. The primary hat I wore on the day of the shoot was sound technician. I had a mike and a mike stand and audio software (thanks, Bruce). But someone had to be on a headset making sure the dialog was actually recording. It's a pivotal job, but not physically difficult. However, that kept me from other tasks while shooting a take. In between takes, I was rushing around like a hummingbird to make sure actors who weren't in the current shots were in costume and getting their makeup done. After I made the sandwich, I had to keep checking to make sure none of said actors ate the sandwich. Jon brought a dozen gorgeous donuts from a shop very close to us in the Happy Corner strip mall. On a side note, those donuts are so incredibly light that we swear the unassuming owner had to have trained in Paris. Despite the donuts, actors do wander quite a bit and most eat a great deal.

Though I didn't have time for some things I would normally do – like take a photo of that magnificent sandwich or casual shots of the actors, I made sure that I could at least check on them as I jogged from room to room in the house we were using as a location. I'd hear a snippet that let me know that my Vampire and my Doctor were running their lines together. I also liked what I was hearing of their choices on how to read the lines. I could hear the chemistry between them. “Oh, good. They're bonding,” I thought on one pass through. On another pass, I heard them chatting with my FBI Agent. It was a ribald exchange that cause me to think, “Oh god, they're bonding!” It's a fine line with actors and bonding. The line between tight knit cast capturing lightning in a bottle to a set that's run amok is a very thin one. Jon and I are always outnumbered. I don't want to tell you what they found while pretending to research on that laptop. Sunshine Lliteras, or set dresser/makeup maven, asked me if I realized that all four of the actors were deeply twisted. I knew that two of them are, but the other two really surprised me. Sunshine thinks I am attracted to a certain vibe from the folks I work with. I must admit, even my crews tend to be on the wacky side. What's interesting about that is that the initial hires were all via e-mail. Maybe I can sense wackiness through email.

The shoot was a frenzy, but it was a fairly organized frenzy. While Jon and I shot one set of actors in one room, Sunshine did makeup and set dressed the other. When Jon and two of the actors helped put the living room back the way we found it, Sunshine and I set up the green screen and the table. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Sunshine and I quickly set the meal up to heat. I chose a favorite Ina Garten recipe, lemon chicken with garlic and herbs, basmati rice and a mixed baby greens salad. Instead of boneless chicken breasts, I used in bone in chicken parts from a picnic pack. I quickly picked some red onions and cucumbers to go on the salad. All we had to do was put the chicken and the sauce in a baking dish. The rice went into another one. I decided not to stop shooting to eat, because we were very close to finishing. Of course, I was starving having not eaten since 5:30 am – it was 1pm. I also managed to not go to the bathroom for all that time either. That happens with all of my shoots. I just don't find the time. We kept moving, because we had great momentum. The new fangled camera needed very little in the way of extra lighting, so there wasn't the fifteen to twenty minutes of tweaking (if we're lucky) between shots. Jon went from shot to shot with barely a break in between. We thought we would finish with the house put back together by 4:30 or 5pm. We were finished with the house put together and eating at 2:30. I was lounging on my sofa at 3:30. That was awesome. And it was so nice to see Jon working a shoot again. He looks intense and frenetic, but he was having a great time. He was jazzed the rest of the weekend.

There were some disappointments connected to the shoot, but they were minor. I didn't get the use the orchid I took great pains to buy at the Farmers Market. The green leaves faded into the green screen. I'm am so glad that I only spent ten dollars on that and not sixty dollars on that bonsai tree. Besides, I get to keep the very pretty thing which is supposed to last up to eight months. I wanted to have more than one shot of my vampire in period clothing, but that proved to be too complicated to get done in one day along with all the dialog shots. Ah well, that why the finished product is called a teaser. It's a hint of things to come. Jon says I'm vexed because I like seeing cute guys in pirate costumes. I think that is beside the point. We'll save those shots for another day.

Overall, I'm deeply pleased at how well that shoot went. I am paying for it physically though not as much as I thought I would. I need more than today to get some real rest or I will be in trouble. A couple of actors have called to fuss at me about doing too much on my own. There was talk of hiring me a minder, so I behave myself. I've got that covered in the actual shooting budget, believe me. I can't do five days like that in a row. However, it meant the world to me to be able to do it at all. I had some bad moments this past week. My yearly mammogram put a terrible fright in me that amounted to nothing mere than a Doc being careful due to my history. I must have looked plenty freaked out though, because I was told the results (all clear) before I left. The humidity has brought back sinus headaches like I haven't had since I last lived in Philly. Not fun. But overall, I am stoked at how well things went and what that says about the future.

There is more. There is Craig and the naked guy he thought was a bear, but that'll be for next time.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia, Nervous Tummies and Film Shoots

Long before there was a Food Network and Cooking Channel, there was Julia Child on PBS. I watched her as a child for pure entertainment. Her shows were often as funny as they were informative. She just tickled me. I really wanted to try to cook her recipes when I was a kid, but they were beyond my skills then. And Frankly, the ingredients were very difficult to find. I can remember trying to find shallots in my local grocery store as a teenager. The produce clerk looked at me like I was speaking Martian. In December of 2009, when I was recovering from my first surgery and prepping for the second, the film Julie and Julia  came out on DVD. The film was based in part on My Life in France http://amzn.com/0307277690 , a biography of Julia Child's life as she wrote her first cookbook. Jon bought me that book along with Julia's Kitchen Wisdom  along with the film. While the film was funny and sweet, the book was a revelation for me at a time when I really needed it. Julia showed me that anyone can change the course of her (or his) life at any time, so long as they have the determination to do so. Being new to a field is not an impediment. Being older is not an impediment. Not speaking the language is not an impediment. It was a joyful lesson that I really needed at that point in my life. I was in the 'what's next' stage of life. I still am, actually. But it's nice to have such a great example of the world being one's oyster. The cookbook as awesome as well. There were so many recipes that were updated from her first book as equipment changed. I've worked my way through a number of recipes that I'd never tried before or tried with less than stellar results. So far, every one that I tried has been a tasty success. And I'm still considering that cow's hoof!

Lists and Piles of Stuff

No, I'm not planning a trip at the moment though it looks like I am. As I've been detailing in my web series blog, Tales from Demon Under Glass http://demonspawntales.blogspot.com/ , we are gearing up to shoot a trailer for the web series. I had almost managed to completely bury our ironing board in the closet under all the stuff accumulating for the shoot on Saturday. Of course I needed the ironing board to complete some costumes. Yep, I have the ironing board and the fabric glue out. This is scary stuff! I confess that all the running around is making me have flash backs of everything that I hated about doing shoots. But then, that may be the fumes from the fabric glue. At any rate, everything seems to be running on schedule. We plan on shooting a photo shoot with the two leads, Garett Maggart and Owen Szabo tomorrow (Thursday). The trailer shoot is scheduled for Saturday. I have to build onto my piles from my ever growing lists between now and then. I'm hoping that if I can pull this off without ending up in bed all next week, I can pull off a mush longer shoot. I'm not sure how it will work out. Truth be told, the idea of canceling the entire shebang has run through my mind on several occasions just this afternoon. Hopefully, that passes.

I must be off to make costume pieces, edit the current manga and write a piece of fiction for the yaoi blog. I should have a number of crazy stories to tell text week.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Joyous News, Tiaras and Bubbly

For those not on any of my social networks or missed randomly meeting me on the street when I was dancing about, I will get the big news out of the way first. My latest round of diagnostic tests came back clean. I have graduated to only seeing my oncologist ever six months instead of every three and only getting tested once a year instead of every six months. I had no idea just how wound up I was about this until after I called Jon to tell him. My stomach ached and I started crying. I suppose it was relief hitting me as I realized that I won't be measuring my life in such small intervals anymore. I'll have three years in remission under my belt next year (Unofficially it's January. The last time I was hospitalized was January 2011. The Docs at UCLA told me I was completely clear of disease. Officially, it's March when the Docs at USC informed me). The odds are more in my favor the longer I'm in remission. I was feeling great when I went to check out with the nurses and get my next appointment. They looked a bit glum. I'd seen them send other patients in my position off with a lot more smiles. Then, I realized that my next appointment wasn't until after Christmas. I told them that there would still be Christmas cookies. That made them smile. I was too late to celebrate with a McDonald's sausage biscuit with egg. I decided that I needed to celebrate with at least a taste of how I would have liked to celebrate – a trip to France. I could not do that with a bus pass, so I bought the ingredients for a salad Niscoise, a baguette and a mid-range bottle of bubbly. That did the trick. There's something deeply satisfying about sopping up anchovy infused vinaigrette with a baguette. That was nice. Next time though, I'd like to include a view from an apartment in Monmartre. Though I still have to grapple with the new normal of my body, I am more than ready to get on with life.


Fortunately for me, there was an occasion to live it up the every next day (and why this blog is late). Good buddy and publishing partner, Marie, was having a birthday celebration. The day was jam packed with a shopping trip to the Fashion District  in Downtown LA. I was there to get sashes for some costumes. Marie was in search of a tiara to wear at her birthday party as you do. Of course, Marie found far more interesting shops down there than I ever had. We found the material for the sashes straight away. The search for tiaras had us going through all kinds of interesting boutiques. I bought a dress I wasn't planning on buying from Ethos Vintage Closet, a place that had clothing that looked like it came from the Belle Epoch era to the roaring twenties to the 1950s. It'll be an excellent resource for costumes, but that's for a different blog. The dress was beautifully, comfy and really nicely priced. I had to buy it, right? We found the tiaras in a shop that was having a 50% off sale on everything. Thus, I found myself with one as well. I've never had one this nice. I usually only have the cardboard New Year's Eve kind. Very exciting. Marie thinks we should wear them at the Culver Hotel when we next enjoy a post Farmers Market happy hour. We will be delighted to have an audience with any gallant soul who plies us with martinis and appetizers. Speaking of appetizers, I made two new ones for the party. One was a faux duck spring roll. The 'duck' was chicken thighs marinated with Peking duck spices. The other was white gazpacho soup made with cucumber, white grapes and leeks. They were fun to make and really tasty. As always, Marie's party was a delightful celebration with a really eclectic group of people. It was aptly suitable for the glorious hostess.

Today, I am resting from all these adventures with my feet propped up and a big glass of wine (I waited until 3pm) within easy reach. I have a lot of work to get back to beginning tomorrow. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has sent me prayers and good wishes and all of you who were understanding of my occasional freak outs. It means a lot to me and to Jon to have all of this support – even if it's an ear over the internet.


The web page for the Sybaritic Press West Hollywood Bookfair booth will launch by this time next week. The plan is to have an email list to join for updates, because we will be adding titles and participants to the list as each are confirmed. I have to put my nose to the grindstone and finish A Soldier's Destiny and Vincent Greven's Cookbook among other things. I believe it can be done in enough time to get hard copies by September 30th even with all the other items on my overly laden plate. Here's hoping!

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Angst and Joy and Summer in the City

I'm growing more cranky of late. Or maybe I'm less inclined to suffer idiots in silence. Something is causing me to be more testy in public than ever have been. Last week, I was nearly run over in an intersection near the library. I was in a designated cross walk and crossing with a green light. The driver of an expensive SUV decided that making a left turn before on coming traffic reached her was more important than my well being. That was terrifying. Thus, when I reached the next major intersection, I was a little angry. I grew furious when the driver who was correctly waiting for me to cross before making a right was being honked at and cursed at by the three cars behind him. I made sure to lean down to eye level as I gave each of them the finger and asked if they'd rather the man run me down in the street. The drivers correctly assumed that I was seconds from smashing my shopping cart over the hood of their vehicles and moved on without comment. I considered letting one of them hit me, but the cars were crappy and unlikely to get me much money in a lawsuit. A Lamborghini turned up a few minutes later. It was tempting. That car costs more than the budget for our first feature. It was probably rented though. There is a high end car rental spot near here. I couldn't take the risk.

Testing Time

Since February of 2010, I've made a monthly trip to the Oncology Clinic at LA County USC Hospital to get a B-12 shot. For some reason, the Docs won't allow me to do the shots myself. I even know a registered nurse who is willing to teach me how. Beats me. The upshot is that I have visited with the lovely group of nurses who work in that clinic many, many times. There are also reminders of how far I've come physically each time I visit. Some of the patients who were being treated at the same time I was turn up. Some look amazing. Others are clearly declining. Despite all of these reminders, I often forget that 'normal' life for me is measured in sixth month intervals. Granted, I get blood tests every couple of months to make sure that the various markers are normal. They have been normal each time I've had the test since being declared in remission. The last test was just a month or so ago when I went to see my primary care Doc there. Everything looks great. So, I shouldn't be worrying, right? HA! That's not in human nature. And on a more serious note, I am a member of a forum for people who have endured this particular cancer and their caregivers. It is a place of great inspiration and support. It can also be a stark reminder of how everything can go wrong. That's very difficult to push from a mind completely. So, the day after the CT scan, I'm exhausted. I have 90 plus pages of manga script to edit. I also won't get back the results of the test until Tuesday morning. That makes for a long weekend.

Brighter Notes

It's not all gloomy in my world. There is a lot going on that is exciting for my career and very satisfying creatively. And then, there are the intangibles. After all, it has been a beautiful summer. I have been beyond happy with the produce I'm finding at the Farmers Market. The array of heirloom tomatoes has been fantastic. I have never had sweeter nectarines and plums. I have found what the fresh food folks say is true. It is very easy to eat properly when the good food tastes good. It's great to have tomatoes with flavor. I've been looking for those since moving away from my beloved Jersey maters. Salads with those, some sweet onion and tender spinach only need a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar to be heavenly. No oil necessary! And the fruit is even better than most desserts. Eating these wonderful treats actually lifts my mood. I felt lucky to have two Farmers Markets in my neighborhood. Now, there is a third! There is a small one on the route I take to Marina del Rey that started just last week. I'll have a choice between Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. Also, the food trucks have returned to Culver City and Marina del Rey has them on a different night. The foodie in me is in a joyful place.


The new books are coming together nicely for the West Hollywood Bookfair. We'll have a page dedicated to the even up in the next week or so. We're also gearing up for appearances at two conventions in the fall. I'm writing a lot of pages to get ready for those in time. Updates on the web series will be posted on Saturday.

Stay tuned.