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, April 23, 2017

Musings on LA, Burglary, and the Diabolical

I spent the 7th Anniversary of what Jon calls 'Deb Not Dying Day' sipping bubbly and watching Good
Eats on the Cooking Channel. That seems appropriate as the Cooking Channel and their older sibling, The Food Network loomed largely during chemo and my recovery. I'm a big fan of Deb Duchon (pictured with my bubbly). She answers many of the stranger questions I've had about where food comes from. As always, anniversaries make a person think about time passed from a significant event. In this case, it's made me think of why the move to LA most likely saved my life. This thought came at a particularly opportune moment as I have been struggling with that choice among many I've made since leaving Philly.

Life has always been a strange and wild trip for the Hubs and me since coming to Los Angeles. There were many days during the 20 plus years out here that I've seriously questioned what in the hell we're doing out here. But with all the diabolical and challenging obstacles thrown our way, there has been some magical serendipity in our professional and personal lives as well. Nothing put this in sharper focus than how I was diagnosed with a rare cancer and how I found treatment in my own backyard.

Fewer than 50 doctors worldwide know how to treat Appendix Cancer. Not many have ever heard of it, let alone know how to diagnose it. I still argue with docs that don't believe I had something so rare. Bitch, I wouldn't learn to spell Pseudomyxoma peritonei for the fun of it! Most patients die because it's mistaken or a host of other abdominal ailments or types of cancer. It's typically found during a surgery for something else. In most cases, it's too late to save the patient. My Oncologist believes I was sick for at least a year before I was diagnosed. So, in a country where treatment is available in only a handful of cities, and most doctors have never seen a case, my community clinic had a Supervising Physician who was once a resident under an Oncologist who had treated the disease years ago. She remembered the odd symptoms and physical characteristics she'd heard about from a single case and sent me to the nearest ER with a detailed diagnosis. I was days from dying. Of course, I didn't know that at the time, especially after the morphine kicked in. I didn't get why all the nurses were coming in to see me along with the minister (no priest was available) until after I got back from surgery.

The magic continued after the first surgery. They'd saved my organs from being crushed by a 13-pound tumor, but I was still full of cancer. The Community Clinic Physician continued to be a rock star. She alerted the lead Oncologist at LAC USC that there was another patient, and that solved a gigantic hurdle I had for getting any treatment at all – no health insurance. As an extremely rare case and a potentially lucrative surgical procedure to teach, I was a find. My treatment was covered in full by the Hospital. If we had remained in Philly, and if I found someone who knew what I had, the nearest treatment center was in Washington, DC and he was not in network for the most part and that's before travel, room and board are factored in. Here, I could get to the hospital by bus or train if I had to.

Life in LA can be soul crushing in how it frustrates creative people. But it is also the only place in the US where we feel normal. Everyone we know here is some kind of creative person. Anyone of is a few steps in a random direction from the brass ring. It's a place that is alive with inspiration and connections. Because of this environment, we became publishers and I became a professional author (and now cover artist). Jon has also started writing prose as well as scripts. We have a richly satisfying creative life which makes up for most of the frustrations. While I've been sidelined by cancer treatments and recovery, I've also found an amazing network of connections to writers and readers via Social Media. And I became a national expert on a very odd sub-genre of Japanese manga and anime. All of this has resulted in writing to partially support our household (something I have always wanted to do).

Thus, on this anniversary of being cancer free, I can say things are pretty good overall and gradually getting better. We're still working hard to get a film or TV project off the ground. Most of those plans are not for public consumption for a number of reasons, but they are still ongoing. And I've had the time to learn really difficult recipes and kibitz with some of my favorite TV chefs. Bourdain remains elusive, but I am patient. Also. One of his authors owns a restaurant walking distance from out place. I'll find him eventually. I've also had a lot of to tp read/ My favorite book this year is on burglary and architecture!  It's better than any caper film. Seriously! Thank you, Craig! I'm hoping to get back to world travel as soon as my knees and our bank account allows it. All in all, life is pretty good.

Meanwhile, The Month of Fun is nigh! Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lucifer, French Rent Boy and an Admiral's Sofas

Talk about a roller coaster week! I hadn't even uttered any dangerous phrases like 'Now What.' I've learned to never say or even think anything like that. It all began with me feeling fairly good about the world last Thursday. I managed to drag myself around to a couple of supermarkets, including the always daunting Costco before the arrival of a big, scary storm the I'veweatherfolk dubbed Lucifer. I don't usually take the hysterical rantings of local weather prognosticators seriously. A little rain in Los Angeles can send them into a tizzy. But the radar forecast looked like something from The Day After Tomorrow. The big red blob is the heaviest rain, and it hovered over LA from the early morning. Jon got to work relatively unscathed. We had a short power outage here lasting less than ten minutes. I thought the biggest problem we had was Jon's soaking wet work shoes. And then, he turned on his PC.

The PC and everything else on that power strip should have been fine. It is a very expensive power strip/surge protector. It had one of those insurance policies to replace damaged equipment up to $5,000. We weren't concerned until the danged thing refused to power up. After many a frantic message and a lot of Google searching, we discovered the problem was the motherboard. Fabulous. It was a refurbished machine that was cheaper to replace rather than buy the part and pay to have it installed. Either way, we would be down a computer for a week, if we were lucky. Worse was ALL of the Sybpress book files were on that hard drive, and they hadn't been backed up in who knows when. Why yes, I did give him that wifely 'I'm seconds away from taking a frying pan upside your head.' After some deep breaths and several cocktails, I decided that all may not be lost. The two books we had in the pipeline weren't under any kind of deadline, and there seemed to be nothing wrong with the hard drive. Thankfully, the current Ensnared Installment was live while the one I was working on was on my laptop (and an external and a thumb drive, because I back up stuff). There was no hurry, book wise. 

Great News/Bad Timing

One of the best aspects about the Indie Publishing community is that it tends to be generous in every sense of the word. Writers share tidbits that would be helpful to colleagues and often offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent at. One of the classiest authors in my genre, Yamila Abraham , posted that a distributor of homoerotica in French was looking for content. I hemmed and hawed about sending a query. I wondered if I had enough sales or good reviews for them to be interested. One morning after a big cup of strong coffee, I just went for it. Two days later, I had a contract! They will be publishing Vampire Rent Boy – For Love and Money! I was stunned and elated. My track record with queries has been mostly bad. The last time I had one that worked was with the original publisher of The Companion. I hardly ever get paid for stories upfront. I was over the moon. And then, I realized they needed the finished word doc of the story by March 1st along with the cover without the title. Yes, all of those files are on the hard drive in the dead PC Tower. Yikes! I was worried that the tower wouldn't get here in time or that the hard drive reader wouldn't work as advertised. It was a stressful week even while I was really happy. The PC tower arrived on Wednesday and the hard drive reader arrived today. I have all the files I need to fulfill my end of the contract. Jon is also out of the dog house. I plan on backing up those publishing files at my first opportunity. Oh, his shoes dried out by Monday, and the pool never spilled over into our living room. We were, in many, many ways, far luckier than many others in California. Lucifer was a bitch.

Writing Updates

I've started writing the third installment of Ensnared Volume 4. I have new research to distract me.
This time, it's the Lake Como region of Italy. The Lake Como research was a lot of fun. I went shopping for villas in my search for the right settings. Now, the villa rental company is stalking me across my internet travels. Mind you, I was love to rent a six-bedroom villa with a heated pool and its own dock. However, that's a little out of our budget right now. And since the world doesn't yet have military spaceships, so I had to go with the next closest thing – aircraft carriers and submarines. Admiral's quarters aren't nearly as lavish as I thought they would be. No matter. Darius is always an exception to any rule. Meanwhile, I have discovered some interesting facts that will be very useful in the narrative.

A reader of Ensnared and my blogs brought up a valid concern about changes over the course of a series. Don't worry, I'll answer in generalities. No spoilers! Would profound trauma and life altering change morph the characters readers have followed for so long into something that was unrecognizable? Please, do not fear. Aside from having a firm understanding of why these characters are appreciated and why they continue to find readers (thank you to the lovelies who keep hawking my wares), there are aspects of these characters that make them enjoyable for me to write. I have to spend many, many hours with these beings during the writing, re-writing and editing. I have to enjoy watching them at some level, or I'd never finish any of these stories.

As an example of this issue I have with depressing characters, there is a short story I wrote for the same publication that bought The Companion. It is called Product Development (this story and a roster of other awesome sci-fi can be found in this edition of Full Metal Orgasm ). That story got a lot of praise from folks who typically don't like my erotica, and I have had a lot of encouragement to make it a novel. I'd love to do it. That story was one of the best meshes of hard science fiction and erotica that I've ever done. However, Ambrose Mortimer was the most depressing and dismal soul I have ever created. I have yet to find an angle that makes me want to write the arc of a brilliant man's downward spiral into moral and ethical bankruptcy. I've got an outline, but it's been really slow going.

Ensnared just leaps out of my head. I've had a fully formed character I didn't know was there pop out on the page this week. It is a joy to spend time with those characters. And a drastic change to them would also be at odds with the plot. It is who Andreas, Darius and company are that was part of the reason the Watcher chose for them to come before him. Changing them drastically would defeat that very wise being's plans. So, worry not. The traits that make the guys and gals from Ensnared attractive to readers will endure, but that does NOT mean that the road ahead of them will be easy or that they will never suffer pain to offset the joys they share. A saga has to have some drama!

Now, I must get back to work! I will let everyone know when Tristan and company are in French. I'm am writing the next Rent Boy as well.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Keeping a Super kinky Couple Sexy in a Long-Running Series

I get asked about how to write sex scenes a lot between my role as an editor of Sybaritic Press and as an Admin of Yaoi a GoGo. I plan on writing a comprehensive article on the subject as it applies to Yaoi, but this question came up recently from readers of the Ensnared series. It applies to many writers I know with ongoing series.

There are advantages in writing an ongoing series. Once the universe is created, it is a familiar space filled with familiar characters. Most of the writing comes easily. This installment of Ensnared Volume 4 – Reckoning in the Desert has a lot of intrigues, danger, and revelations that readers have been waiting a long time to hear. Most of it has been so easy to write, that this part has a gigantic number of pages. However, the main disadvantage is big in a romance. It's the same disadvantage to a long term relationship – how to keep the intimacy going and how to keep the sex scenes fresh. Some writers use new kinks to keep things interesting for the reader. That's a valid route. After all, many a real-life couple incorporate new toys and other trappings in their sex lives.

But what does a writer do when the basis of her ongoing couple is as kinky as it gets? Darius and Andreas are in a full-time D/s relationship. Andreas wears a collar that cannot be removed and is tagged with his Owner's mark on his ear. Part of his daily routine is getting stretched and lubed so that he's ready anytime Darius wants to have him. Their lovemaking frequently involved heavy shackles. It's not easy to get much kinkier than they already are save for things the characters simply would never do. Darius will not switch roles nor will he actually hurt Andreas.

I always write from reality, so I turned to real life relationships for inspiration. Everyone changes according to their experiences. Darius and Andreas have gone through a lot in the time they've been together. They are not exactly the same as when they first met. Also, people tend to relax and reveal more of themselves as they grow more comfortable in a relationship. That can happen in friendships, business acquaintances, etc. There are people that will never see me without make-up on and the hair done. And there are people that I'll let see me while I have the flu. The same thing happens between lovers. Some get to see the best teddies while others get to see the comfiest sweatpants and bed head. Darius is becoming more unguarded in his personal life. In the current installment, Reckoning in the Desert, everyone in the household is seeing more of his wit and humor. This behavior is spilling out to everyone at the Dig site.

It's the new openness from Darius that changes the nature of the love scenes in the current installment. He is far more willing to drop the formality of their roles in order to be more intimate with Andreas. This change is fortunate as the pair is often pressed for time alone in this installment – even when they are at home. And when they do try to play their roles, Darius is too impatient to wait. The more relaxed vibe between them allows for them to share information that they hadn't until then. This is what is happening in this love scene which occurs the night before the departure for the Dig site.  

“I'm going to get to bed. Kleptos won't sleep until I'm tucked in,” Mykos said. “Sleep well.”
“Good night,” Darius said.
“See you in the morning,” Andreas said.
The next thing he knew, Darius was carrying him into the bedroom.
“I do know the way, you know,” Andreas sputtered.
“I'm faster,” Darius replied affably as he kicked the door shut. “Do you truly mind my carrying you?”
Andreas shook his head with a blush.
“No,” he admitted softly. “I love how I feel in your arms. It was the biggest surprise for me.”
Darius set him down.
“Surprise?” Darius asked as Andreas had him sit on the edge of the bed.
“I always drove in my few relationships,” Andreas shrugged. “And I'm used to being in charge. Somehow, feeling helpless in your arms turns me on. I'm almost always weak in the knees when you give me the look you have on your beautiful face right now.”
Darius smiled at him in the way that made him feel even weaker.
“So why do you object?”
“Who knows?” Andreas chuckled as he undressed Darius. “Maybe I think I should just to not seem too needy.”
“I don't mind,” Darius said as he watched Andreas undress. “So long as we end up like this.”
Andreas didn't make it to the hamper with the clothes. Darius caught him by the wrist and tugged him back toward the bed. Though he didn't feel the same driving need reclaim Andreas as he did the night of the first Cosi gathering, it was clear that Darius was in no mood to wait a second longer to have Andreas in bed with him.
“I sometimes can't wait to have you here pressed close, smiling like that with your eyes sparkling waiting for my kiss,” Darius murmured.
“Your kisses are amazing,” Andreas replied softly. “They make me forget where I am and who I am. I sometimes can't wait for you to gift me with them.”
Darius didn't make him wait any longer. He lowered his head to capture Andrea's lips in a sweet, intense kiss that made him sigh and wrap one leg around a powerful thigh. Andreas was getting impatient as well. He couldn't wait much longer for the push of that hard length inside of him until he was filled with throbbing heat. Darius must have sensed that impatience. Soon, Andreas had all he craved from his Cosi. Once again, he was holding on with one leg trying to keep up with powerful thrusts that robbed him of breath. And just when Andreas thought he could take no more, Darius would touch him. The next time they kissed it would be to calm down from staggering pleasure.
Andreas craved that kiss and the clean up afterward. He relished the way Darius would tend to him when he was too weak to move. The cool water Darius had him drink tasted sweeter than any other that day.
“If we make time for nothing else, we have to sleep this way,” Andreas said sleepily as he settled against his Cosi's chest.
“I won't tolerate losing this, Sweet Dami. Don't worry about that,” Darius murmured, squeezing him. “Sleep well.”

Andreas smiled. There was no way that he wouldn't sleep well.

It is my hope that readers will see something new about Darius and Andreas each time they make love in this installment. This is how I will continue to keep their relationship fresh and exciting for readers moving forward.

Sneak Peek

In the final installment of Ensnared Volume Four, readers will finally visit the Cosi Compound. This place is based on one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen – Lake Como, Italy. Take a look at the gorgeous scenery and the place I'm using as the basis for the home Darius has there. Bonus points to those who guess the nerdy origins of my obsessions with this gorgeous locale! 
That's all for now. Stay Tuned!!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A Tale of Two Bento

Bento Both Plain and Fancy

Back in 2010 after my Cancer surgery, nutrition was on my mind. I wasn't eating well, so whatever I managed to eat had to be very nutritious. My husband's health weighed on my mind as well. It was during that time that I discovered the cooking shows on NHK (Japanese TV) and Japanese chefs online. Lunches that were both nutritious and attractive with lots of variety are very important in Japan. These were also the kinds of meals I thought we both needed to stay healthy. However, I ran into a problem. My husband is a man who likes plain food. To him, Bento meant food shaped like anime characters and vegetables in all kinds of exotic shapes. I was pretty sure he wouldn't be excited about colorful character rice balls staring up at him from his Bento box with big grins on their rice faces.

Like any good wife, I came up with a compromise I've been very creative sneaking vegetables into his meals throughout our marriage. A surprising amount of sauteed vegetables can be added to hamburg steak, pasta sauce, and meatloaf without anyone being the wiser. For Jon's Bento, I use leftovers from dinner arranged as simply as possible in a plain container. Meanwhile, I've been exploring all kinds of different Bento. So our refrigerator shelves have two kinds.

So, Jon has roast chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots.

While I have Soboro Donburi with salted cucumbers and tomatoes.
And while Jon has Hamburg Steak, sliced potatoes, and steamed broccoli,
I hid my Hamburg Steak and broccoli under rice lightly seasoned with soy sauce and shaped like my favorite poodle from a popular skating anime. 

Our lunches are healthy, and we save money during the week while maintaining harmony! 
I'm still working on getting him to eat more oatmeal, but I'm happy for small victories.
Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mini Writer's Blog

Today is my day for cooking lunch and dinner components for the week. While I'm waiting for some
chicken to reach room temperature, I thought I'd write a mini-blog. This one is primarily about my writing process (geez, that sounds pretentious). Actually, it's about what I'm working on now, how I keep all of the series that I'm writing advancing at the same time, and how I came to develop a whole new pair of characters this past week.

I began juggling back in Grad School. When I got sick of the thesis novel I was working on, I'd write something that I considered more fun. On such fun thing was a script for Star Trek: Next Generation. That landed me my first agent in Los Angeles agent. This proves that I rarely write anything just for fun. This habit was validated some time later by our second landlord in LA, TV Writer Stanley Ralph Ross https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Ralph_Ross. He said that when he was stuck, he'd write anything that wasn't a script. It could be as small as a post on a screenwriting Bulletin Board (those things that evolved into internet forums) or a fan letter to someone he admired. Stan always said that everyone is a fan of something and someone. The thing was to get the active brain working on something else so that the problem can sort itself in the background. That totally justified all the fanfic I was writing in between the scripts we were pitching at the time. Frivolous? No! The fanfic landed me in a feature documentary (Trekkies) and directly lead to our first film being funded (that is a long, bizarre, and often unbelievable story that is totally true).

These days, I have so many story lines in the works, it is a simple matter to switch-off to the one that is giving me less trouble. That's how they all move forward in some fashion. While Ensnared v4 is prominent with Vampire Rent Boy a close second, I am also working on two kinds of works for the Soldiers Saga (the 4th novel and a webcomic). Beyond that, there is a relatively brief return to my het fantasy to finish that trilogy (after a re-write of the first two books). I can't leave that story unfinished. There are fans waiting.

I can hear some of you. HET?! WTH?! But what will be the next yaoi novel and potential series? I Vampire Rent Boy) or in response to a gripe I have with certain tropes in Yaoi. The Soldiers books were, in part, a response to strictly assigned roles in a relationship (seme/uke or Top/bottom). I wanted to reflect the reality I've seen in the gay couples I know. In Ensnared it was a direct response to an iconic Yaoi series where the Seme was, in my opinion, a big asshole. I wanted to show that there can be a hot, sexy Seme with all the power in the universe who knows how to seduce absolute surrender – not abuse the uke into 'falling in love.'
had no clue until a few days ago. My Yaoi titles either being as a lark (

While I have no real gripe I'm addressing in the next novel down the road, I realized there was a setting I had yet to visit in Yaoi while I was chatting with one of my readers this week. I do that sometimes. I've never had a Yaoi title set in a fantasy realm. I love swords and adore dragons. My Het series is set in such a realm while my Yaoi tends to be present day or distant future. Shortly after that chat, my pair sprung up. They are second sons, princes from two powerful Kingdoms. Within a few hours, I knew who they are, the families they are from and why the end up together. The story has the potential for a lot of fun (sexy fun), intrigue and drama. It will most likely occupy my time when I get stuck on these other works. I hope to have a teaser for it in the next couple of months! Many thanks to that lovely reader!!

Meanwhile, Jon is working on the ebook layout for the next Ensnared installment. I am sweating the detail on Mykos' and Hector's faces. This installment is enormous!! The next one may be as well.

Stay tuned!