Black-Hearted Bitch Gets Staged Reading in Chicago on September 11

I’m thrilled to announce that my TV pilot, Black-Hearted Bitch, adapted from my crime-fiction novel, was a winning script in the LezPlay 2015 writing contest.

According to the press release, “The judges have named five finalists, including a teleplay and four stage plays. and these writers will have their scripts presented as staged readings during LezPlay Weekend, which runs September 11-13 at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre of Center on Halsted.”

This is particularly exciting for me because I grew up in the Chicago area and can’t wait to return.

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Rocksmith, Accessories, Etc.

gibson SGYes, it’s well past the time for me to update my guitar adventures. My wrist has finally healed after a visit with my wonderful physician, Dr. Wodecki. He put me on an anti-inflammatory (Sulindac), and after two weeks or so, I was able to play guitar pain-free. The wrist is still a little stiff, but I’m back to playing guitar one to two hours a day. And loving it.

For my 58th birthday, Kimber got me a real guitar–a Gibson SG (see above). We got it through Musician’s Friend Stupid Deal of the Day (subscribe at, and I have no regrets. It’s wonderful, especially for someone like me who has small hands. Does it make me a better player? Yes. There really is a difference between a cheaper guitar and a thousand dollar one (mine was significantly discounted). They’re easier to play and sound better. I’ve come a long way from the first guitar, the Squier.

Someone asked about accessories. I gave away the amp when I passed the Squier on to my nephew, and replaced it with a Sawtooth ST-AMP-10 ( It serves my purposes, but most people probably consider it a starter amp. I also recently purchased a pedal through another Stupid Deal but have not yet had a chance to play with it.

Most of my time is spent playing Rocksmith ( on the PC. I love this game and have both versions. I should spend all my time on the lessons because they’re quite good, and I’m sure I’d be much better by now. But it is way too much fun to play the songs. I especially like playing the blues stuff (B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Bobby “Blue” Bland, etc.) and old rock (Chicago, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, etc.).

One problem with Rocksmith is that it makes me feel like I’m a better player than I am. The illusion is nice, but right now I’m much more comfortable playing with Rocksmith than soloing with the guitar and amp.

Do I want to be in a band? If I continue to play, I’m sure I will eventually want to jam with other musicians. I’m not brave enough for that yet–gosh, I still wear headphones when I play, so Kimber and the dogs won’t hear me. But it seems a natural thing one day, mainly because I’m sure I can learn so much from others.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to be better about updates in the future.

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Trader Joe’s Paneer Masala Naan Review

img125We call this Indian pizza, and it’s become a hit in our household. For one thing, it’s super easy to prepare. I heat the toaster oven for ten minutes at 400 degrees and then cook the frozen naan for five or so minutes, flipping once.

The crust is wonderful–crunchy, soft, and flavorful. Unlike a regular pizza, the filling is inside, rather than on the top, and it’s more like a paste. The satisfying mixture includes paneer (Indian cheese), onion, coriander leaves, spices, carrot fiber,  green chili, and ginger. Sometimes I put a small amount of butter and salt on it, but it doesn’t really need it.

Each piece has only 230 calories and four grams of fat, but it tastes like it has a lot more. We eat one piece each as a snack or as a small meal, but if you wanted to make a more substantial meal you could prepare two pieces, and the result would be comparable to a small pizza.

The package contains four pieces. Because they’re handmade, they’re not uniform, and it may at first appear that the package contains less than four. Relax. They’re all there.

You can find Paneer Masala Naan in the freezer case at Trader Joe’s for $2.29. We usually buy two packages at a time.

If you love pizza and Indian food, you’ll love this.

Five out of five stars.

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New Kindle Prices on Crime Fiction Novels

I have recently completed a TV adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s Orley Farm and am shopping it. In celebration of a new chapter in my writing career, I have reduced the Kindle prices of my crime fiction novels.

The two novels in the Kell Digby crime novel series, Black-Hearted Bitch and Killing Rosa, are $3.99, and Tighter, Tighter and Relative Innocence are now only $2.99.

In addition, the new lower Kindle price for We’re Here: An Investigation Into Gay Reincarnation is $2.99.

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Season’s Choice Veggie Burger Review

img108I want a veggie burger to be healthy and to taste good. I bought this package of veggie burgers from Aldi’s because I was impressed with the ingredients: carrots, peas, whole oats, zucchini, endame, corn, string beans, spinach, corn meal, onions, wheat-free tamari, chickpeas, dried onion, red peppers, broccoli, garlic, and parsley. I was also thrilled to see that the burger contains only 90 calories.

Unfortunately, this is one of the worst-tasting burgers I’ve ever eaten–and I’ve been eating them since the 1970s. This is bland, bland, bland. I ate one on a grilled potato roll hamburger bun and immediately decided the next one would be dressed up. It made no difference–the second one was also awful despite having fresh avocado, mayonnaise, ketchup, Country Bob’s, and spinach.

It is difficult to believe that this was tested. I can’t imagine how terrible the first versions were. Yuck!

2 out 5 stars

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Mama Cozzi’s Rising Crust Spinach, Mushroom & Garlic Pizza Review

Mama Cozzi’s Pizza Kitchen Spinach, Mushroom & Garlic Rising Crust Pizza

This is a substantial pizza priced at only $3.99, but, unfortunately, it is bland. Despite spinach, mushroom, and garlic toppings, the flavors never come together. We even added extra cheese and sauteed mushrooms, but the pizza was still mediocre.

Aldi’s could improve it by cutting back on the sauce (way too much). Also, I never tasted the spinach, and the overwhelming flavor is burnt garlic. Even the crust is unremarkable.

There are some good frozen pizzas out there, but skip this one. The only thing it has going for it is that it is a lot of pizza.

Three out of five stars


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Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger Review

img104I love Indian food. Fortunately, Atlanta has many fine Indian restaurants. We recently tried Chai Pani and sampled their version of Indian street food. If you’re in the area, be sure to try the Vada Pav–“serious street food” indeed!

Since I can’t eat in Decatur every day, I wanted to find something that would come close to the taste of that delicious street food. Run, don’t walk to Trader Joe’s and try the Vegetable Masala Burger. It is vegan, only 140 calories per burger, and only $2.49 for a pack of four frozen burgers.

I cooked mine on a George Foreman grill (about six minutes) and put it on a buttered and Arnold’s potato hamburger roll. The result was quite delicious. In fact, this has become my favorite burger. It also satisfies my Indian food cravings.

Five out of five stars

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DiGiorno Bianca/White Pizza Review


I love pizza and usually eat it at least once a week. When I lived in St. Charles, Illinois I loved Jim’s Pizza (which later became Norm’s or vice versa). Since living in Atlanta, my favorites have included Camille’s (which I believe is now gone), Ats-A-Pizza (here one day, boarded up the next), and Stone Mountain Pizza Cafe, which, fortunately, is still thriving.

These were all freshly made pizzas. Frozen pizzas have been a different story for me. There are few that I have liked because I’ve found most to be flavorless or worse.

DiGiorno’s Pizzeria! Bianca/White Pizza is, however, quite good. For one thing, the crust is crispy and doughy and quite excellent. The toppings include mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, spinach, garlic, and a creme fraiche sauce. DiGiorno is not skimpy here. I love spinach (cooked and raw), and I can taste spinach in every bite. The creme fraiche sauce is also liberally spread across the pizza. We love cheese in this house, so we add an additional layer of colby jack (and sometimes sauteed mushrooms), so it turns out to be quite a delicious pizza.

We cook it in the toaster oven. The directions call for 375 degrees for 22-24 minutes, but we usually cook it a bit longer and then broil it for about a minute more.

This is definitely one of the most flavorful frozen pizzas you can buy. It took me awhile before I was willing to look at the calorie count because I feared the worst. Fortunately, each piece (there are four servings) is only 320 calories. If you plan to eat it as dinner, you’ll probably eat two pieces. Even then, if this is your main meal, you haven’t done too much damage.

Publix occasionally makes their DiGiorno pizzas a BOGO, and we usually have a coupon, so we can get the price down to $3 or $4 a pizza. Not bad.

Five out of five stars

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Black-Hearted Bitch is a Quarter-Finalist in 1 Hour Original TV Writing Contest

Last year I adapted my crime fiction novel, Black-Hearted Bitch, into a TV pilot. I’m thrilled to report that it was named a quarter-finalist in the Stage32 Happy Writers TV Writing Contest.

Congratulations to the other quarter-finalists.

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Jennifer’s Garden Spring Rolls Review

We visit Dollar Tree at least once a month. I rarely look in the refrigerated/freezer case, but a few trips back I did and found Jennifer’s Garden Spring Rolls. We tried one package and then went back and purchased five more. It appears to be a regularly stocked item, so you’re in luck if you get addicted to these.

It’s difficult to beat the price. You get ten small spring rolls for one dollar. Yep, one freaking dollar. Every so often we make a variety of frozen vegetarian snacks for dinner (spring rolls, samosas, cheese sticks, pot stickers, etc.). These spring rolls fit right in with this combo. We usually make half the package, so you kind of get two meals for fifty cents.

I suggest you cook them much longer than the instructions call for (12-15 minutes at 400) because you want the crust to be a deep golden. I have not pan-fried or microwaved them (have my doubts about microwaving).

They have an addictive junk food vibe. You will want the outer crust to be crunchy because, frankly, there’s not much to the interior. And what there is is mushy. The vegetables are more like a paste than whole pieces. I prefer eating the rolls without any sauce, but my wife uses a variety of dipping sauces.

I like them a lot. They’re rich, crunchy, and street-foodish, but only 55 calories. The ingredients are simple: cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, green beans, vermicelli, salt, spice, vegetable oil (palm, peanut, sesame, soy), potato starch, wheat flour, water. The product is manufactured in China and distributed by Food Team International in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Four out of five stars.

I cannot find a website for the manufacturer. I find that a bit concerning, but I did find a page from the package designer:

While I commend the designer, the package, alas, looks nothing like the actual product.

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