Dita Parker

Monday, December 22, 2014

When all is said and done

 
Warning: verbal incontinence ahead.

Year-end review time! So how did you do, compared to how you expected to January 1, 2014? I started out all eleison, all merciful, not too hard on myself. And ended up, well...as the Mythbusters will tell you, failure is always an option. It wasn't a catastrophic failure, this year merely confirmed an observation: I'm an on-off person. When there's work to do, I'm all over it. When it's time to kick back, shoes and gadgets go flying into the depths and won't resurface until it's time to go back to work.

So. Maybe I should apologize for the radio silence here at the den but I won't. True to form, I've been working hard so I can enjoy some rest and relaxation over the holidays. Be with family, visit friends and take care of the new addition to the family, Chloe the cat. I know horses and hounds but I've never owned a cat. [I know. No one ever owns a cat, not really...] I've envied friends with cats and I've wanted one for the longest time, and now we have one, and not just because I wanted one but because the whole family did. She's a European shorthair and the sweetest, fiercest thing.

All in all, my life hasn't been very tale worthy. Work. Exercise. Family & friends time. Chores. Not always in that order but always some combination of the above. There's been some backstage drama worth a post or ten but that's personal and a business matter and nothing I can go into right here right now. It has certainly given me pause and another glimpse at the unsavory underbelly of a trade I've worked in for a long time in many capacities. So hardly a surprise, just another observation confirmed. People are the best, kind, loving and compassionate. People are the worst, cruel, selfish and unjust.


What else? I've been thinking about memory and identity and our lives, the only shot we have at doing everything we'll ever do, and I've been thinking about time, how it's become a luxury item [although I do believe that's an illusion, a creation after our own selves; there's still time, we're the wasteful ones and always in a hurry]. There are no winemakers in the family, only people who enjoy wine. Should you decide to become a vintner, from scratch, buy land and vines, it would take you a minimum of twelve years to see a grape worth squashing. The prerequisite of a quality wine is a quality vine, and those can take up to forty years to yield their best produce. Forty years. Still wonder why some wines cost a fortune? Someone somewhere waited half a lifetime for a vine to reach its full potential. Sometimes they wait by the vine in vain. Sometimes it comes to nothing. You can make bad wine from good grapes but not vice versa.

Take your time. Wait it out. See what happens. No time like the present. Carpe diem. Strike while the iron is hot. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that we make decisions based on cool careful calculation, on knowledge, the intellect, dollars, pounds and euros, the bottom line. Maybe lie is too strong a word, the wrong word. Maybe it's not a lie but a blindness to how much private emotions and past experiences factor. We like to think of ourselves as sensible beings who can keep our sensibilities in check when the limbic brain, the reptile brain gives the first and fastest response in any situation and most of us never learn to override it. Most of us aren't even conscious of it's workings but everyone knows the physical reactions, the swell of emotion that so easily takes hold of you when something unexpected happens, good or bad. If you have time, you reason. If not, you react.

Some are all emotion and reaction all of the time. No one is reasonable and sensible in everything they do. Feelings factor and that's a fact, one dictators have shamelessly milked since the first undecided human decided s/he needed a determined leader. How else would despots garner attention and gain followers? Why on earth would anyone raise a hand or their voice against another unless they're driven by a logic, a rhetoric, that stands and falls on the feelings they generate, the reactions that follow, the emotional satisfaction they can bring?

"I'm going to slaughter 6 million people. Who's with me?" "I will give you a strong, proud nation, the greatest this world has ever seen, a glorious kingdom that will last a thousand years. Who's with me?" The power of words. The power of emotion. Words can be used to generate empathy and respect. Words can be used to create conflict, to divide and oppress. The very same words in some cases. Take the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, their words too often misused for personal gain, selfish purposes, evil. Just listen. Look around you. Here I babble but the world, oh dearest denizens, sometimes the world just renders me speechless.

Like dearest Europe, for example. Where are you going, old girl? Anti-immigration, anti-Islamic sentiments, anti this and anti that. Hatred disguised as nationalism. Nationalism disguised as patriotism. Egotism disguised as reason. This is your answer, your solution? What's the question again? You make them up as you go to justify your actions or should I say reactions because the only brain I can see at work and in charge is the reptile one. You feel threatened, you attack. Is there a reason to feel threatened? That's what I'd like to know but man is it hard to have a conversation with someone deeply immersed in a monologue. Take Erdogan whose new palace is bigger than the Louvre. The Louvre! And don't get me started on Orbán. One of my oldest friends is half Hungarian, and she's just... Well, not living in Hungary for one and probably never will be if this is their trajectory. And Putin... Putin explains Russia and Russia explains Putin. Don't be fooled, though. Russia and the Russian people are two very different things.

And I'm at it again, aren't I, soapbox out and foaming at the mouth... Great, just great. Let's talk about something else, shall we. The holidays? Yea! Whether you celebrate at Christmastime or not many around you do. I know it's a hard time of year to be alone. If you are, I still hope you enjoy the peace and quiet the holidays bring, even for a few days. I hope you do all the things that make you happy, things you enjoy, and if that's too much self-absorption to your liking, I hope you take up people on their invitations for you to come over for dinner, drinks, coffee... Maybe they're not asking because it's the Christian, Christmasy thing to do but because they really want you there. Life will resume normal programing in a few, you'll be swept away and full of excuses why you can't thanks for asking maybe some other time. Go.

We most certainly celebrate Christmas at Casa Dita. There's not much religious faith at the heart of our celebration because of the different individuals and denominations coming together, but there's love and compassion, there's empathy and respect, the moral compasses of die hard worshipers, agnostics and atheists alike. A religion, a life!, not rooted in love, compassion, empathy and respect...what purpose does it serve?

From soapbox to pulpit. Religion and politics? I just broke some social media rules, I believe, like all two of them. It's just that... Gah. 'Tis the season? Up next: New year, new gear! Are you thinking of a theme for 2015? Share if you dare. I've been on Facebook and Twitter, can you believe it, on-off as per this year's/this life's theme, but still. So find me if you want to keep in touch on a more daily/weekly basis.

I haven't had time or energy for writing fiction lately and that's a shame because I write in my head all the time. I intend to be a good girl over the holidays and get some words down on paper. Yes, paper. Still enjoy that, immensely, both writing on some and reading print. The computer and keyboard need a rest and I need some rest from them.

The dark days have been a drag but we got some snow yesterday and there's more coming in today. No more dreaming of a white Christmas, it's here and so is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Which means longer days from now on, slowly but surely! Another cause for celebration, what our "pagan" ancestors celebrated before baby Jesus and St. Nick started facing off. Can't shout too loudly, though, this is the land of Santa after all. Since we live in the vicinity, he visits Scandinavian kids on Christmas eve.

You bet the wee ones are excited and so am I. I need a break and some downtime with family and friends. I hope you get some rest too or if it's an adventure you crave, I hope you find one. I hope you find what you're looking for. I hope you keep the faith, whatever lies at the heart of your belief/s, and I hope whatever it is, it's rooted in love, compassion and respect. It would be sooo easy to give in to despair and cynicism, the world bombasts us with reasons every day. But we're not quitters, are we, sweetie darlings? It's our world too and love is our resistance.

Merry Christmas, sweetie darlings, and a most excellent new year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You've got the love

[This post first appeared on Cassandra Carr's blog on November 19, 2012.]

Happy IMD, everyone! The who in the what now? International Men's Day!

Ah, men. Sweet, strong men. Dependable, delectable men. Brave, baffling men. I think deep down, when-the-chips-are-down deep down, men and women are not that different from each other. But there are things, moments, insights, I've had the pleasure of experiencing only around men. Coincidence? Probably. Conclusive? Hardly. Fascinating? Absolutely.

Let's see...

The point of storage space is having extra storage space. Not actually storing things in those closets and on those shelves but having the option to do so.

When in doubt, don't consult the instruction manual, your partner, friend or anyone else for that matter. It's always best to keep your own counsel, because...

...if you want something done well, you're going to have to do it yourself. Even if you have absolutely no idea what you're doing.

If you think the grocery list reads 22 pounds of flour, don't question your partner's handwriting or sanity, don't exercise your own judgment, don't call home. Buy 22 pounds of flour. Go home. Your partner: "What am I going to do with 22 pounds of flour?" You: "That's what I'd like to know."

If you can't find a product on that list, don't consider another brand, not even if it looks and sounds identical. Again, don't call home. Buy nothing instead.

If you get sick, always turn it into a big production because if you're just a little sick you're not really sick. Better make it known one foot is firmly in the grave or else you have no business being sick. If you're really really honest to God sick, even then you're not really sick because you're The Man, the man everyone depends on, for everything. Everyone knows that. Especially you. Seek help when your head falls off. Take it under your arm and calmly tell the horrified hospital staff, "It's nothing." *death grunts* "Seriously. Nothing." *more death grunts*

Technology is your friend. Even when it is your foe. Even when pen and paper would have accomplished the same task in ten minutes, maybe five, it is nothing compared to the sense of triumph you feel after dueling with a piece of equipment or programming for five, maybe ten hours and coming on top. You may not be able to repeat the miracle, but then again victory wouldn't taste as sweet if anybody could do it whenever they wanted to, including you.

Get what I'm getting at? Having said all that, I will say this: I can't imagine life without my father or brother, my husband or sons, my friends or fantasy men, the male leads of my books. They've made me happy. They have never stood me up, they have stood by me. They have shown me a good time. They've made me feel all woman.

As for the woman haters I've had the misfortune of crossing paths with... Oh but you're missing out on all the affection and admiration women have in store for alpha males and deltas alike. You're still in the beta stage. Not beyond redemption but not exactly doing anything to improve gender relations, promote gender equality or act as a positive male role model, what International Men's Day is all about.

Ladies! Today, let's give the men in our lives an extra big kiss, huge hug or long call, just to let them know the world wouldn't be the same without them. I'll leave you in the big, capable hands of one Alexander Rifkin. There's a book making the rounds of the literary world and changing the look of covers with its subdued colors and subtle hints. Well, you don't need a suit and tie to get my attention. Flesh tones and a little (or lot, your call) skin still works for me. *sigh*  When they're beautiful, they're beautiful.

[You can ogle at my Alex standing to your right (scroll up a bit) and/or watch this most excellent and educational little film: ‘Furballs,’ or, how to inspect your ‘guineas’ for any abnormalities.]



Everything sounds better in French, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ti prometto vendetta


Remember, remember the 5th of November... It's Bonfire Night meaning it's V for Vendetta night at Casa Dita.

What's with the rose? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love and anger

Temperature: 10/50 degrees and galeforce winds

Eating: see below

Drinking: such a sore throat I'm concentrating on hot beverages

Watching: Finnish Ismo Leikola win the first ever Funniest Person in the World competition. Also just watched Syria - Faces of War, Prix Europa 2014 winner in the Best Current Affairs Program category. Faces of War follows Finnish photojournalist Niklas Meltio to Syria where he's been documenting the war since 2012. I raise my hat and glass to you, Mr. Meltio. And if you're the praying kind, dearest denizen, put in a good word for him for me. He has lost dozens of colleagues in that conflict alone.


Listening: feeding the melancholia that follows the arrival of fall with the beautiful baritone of Matt Berninger

Reading: How We Learn by Benedict Carey

Writing: some unfinished business messing with my writing mojo. Not complaining or explaining, just stating a fact, a debilitating fact, but I'm working on it, one day and word at a time. Plans I had don't work anymore, and it's getting harder and harder to not feel defeated or deflated by recent events. It's a matter of trust. Principles. And I know I shouldn't go there and I shouldn't say things like that but you know what? Screw that. Facing facts is the road to both wisdom and freedom. And I do like my freedom. And I do looove my principles. And I sure as hell don't take kindly to being jerked around.

Feeling: the anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death is drawing near and I'm getting ready to lose him all over again. There's a fine line between sweet remembrance and rehashing the past past a point where the memories become hurtful not healing. You can actually reinforce a trauma by reliving it one time too many, by stamping the memory so firmly in your psyche you end up worse off than when you started your personal purge so take care. I don't want to forget him. Not what he meant to me, not what he taught me, not how losing him made me feel. I loved him. I still love him. And I know he loved me, too. I miss him. I miss you. The talks. The teasing. The somber moments. The fun. I won't forget. How could I ever forget.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Can you make this thing go faster?

Yesterday was International Day of the Girl Child. And you were expecting a lecture, weren't you, dearest denizens? You didn't get one because you know what I think. You know what to do. You know what I think you should do. I have only one thing to add to every post I've written on gender and feminism and equality: 

Gentlemen, we need you. Women can debate these issues among themselves all year/century/millennium long but that is only half the discussion, half the solution. With still too few of us in positions of power i.e. with voices that carry you need to lend us yours. Not just your benevolent thoughts and a candle lit at eight on a Tuesday but your actual words, spoken out loud, when you feel, no, when know you should say something. Call bullshit when you hear it, call out idiots when you catch them, don't expect the situation to improve only because you're not actively trying to hinder progress. 

You don't need superpowers to be a hero. You don't even need to be a hero to gain our trust, garner our respect or win our love. All you need to do is promise you'll be there when we need you. The time is now.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Things we lost in the fire

So. By now you're probably well aware of recent events re: EC, a situation that has gone from baffling to loaded to see you in court. If not, click on, there's nothing for you here, because, to quote Elton John, it's sad, so sad, it's a sad, sad situation, and it's getting more and more absurd.

Reaction/consequence recap: Countless readers have vowed to stop buying EC titles and several reviewers and/or bloggers have said they won't touch EC releases, past or present. Some authors have asked readers to stop buying their books in fear they'll never see the money and/or in hopes they'll soon be eligible for reversal of rights. Some have never had a problem with EC but are now caught in the crossfire. Many need every writing dollar, euro and pound and are horrified by the imminence of flatlining sales. Some have new releases coming out, books they started waaay before all of this started but works that will be DOA. Spectators are popping corn because if you can't laugh you'll cry but this ain't funny. Just business?

As if having to contend with pirates wasn't bad enough. Or trying to figure out Amazon, the effects of the adult filter, e-book return policy, KU and the new imprints they're rolling out. Distributor turned publisher. Now there's a hat that doesn't quite match the outfit. When you're in the business of making money for stockholders, preferably on your terms, terms that give you the winning edge, you don't do the competition any favors, you do everything in your power to hold on to those terms and that edge, for as long as you can. Knavish? Just business.

The current keeps getting stronger and many authors are tired of swimming in it, against it. Some will scramble to shore, some drown. I wouldn't be surprised if even those who've vowed to never-ever ended up self-publishing, going indie, because they feel they have nothing to lose. Many who've asked for their rights back see this as an opportunity to start afresh. A lot of talent up for grabs, except some of that talent is very wary. Live and learn. Read the small print. Twice. Third time between the lines with a lawyer. Sleep on it. Sleep some more. Then possibly say thanks for the offer, no thanks just the same. Once bitten and all that. Whom to trust?

Some say this is killing their concentration, their writing mojo. Our craft, our business, our livelihood, is writing. That's what we'd like to focus on. Not to make light of Miss Litte's plight. Like I said, this ain't funny. None of it is, to any of us. Some lose sleep. Their peace of mind. Income. Editors. Readers. Books. Traction. Faith. Some feel like crying. Like crawling under a rock and dying. Taken for a ride then thrown under the bus at the end of it. Victimized? More like collateral damage as someone put it. Powerless, like a pawn. A lot of frustration in the air but above all else, above everything else, a deep heartfelt sadness. All the hours, all the hard work put into books, the passion and dedication... What's going on? When will this be resolved and how? Whom to trust?

We have genuine concerns. We've asked fairly simple questions. If the answer is awkward or complicated, if it's a hard pill to swallow to either the publisher (any publisher/distributor/vendor/party in this joint venture of ours) or to us, whatever the solution or the answer, we'd like to have it all the same. Writing is our passion, absolutely. It's also our profession, so let's keep things professional, doing business. Truthful answers delivered in a timely and professional manner. Facts and acts to match. Thank you. That is all.

What can you do? Your money, your choice. You can always keep track of and keep in touch with your favorite authors. Listen closely to what they're saying and if you really want to help act accordingly. Many of us are hurting, trying to make sense of it all, trying to make plans, which isn't easy when you feel you don't have all the facts and you can't see the endgame, only speculate. Some just don't care anymore and are lashing out and that's the depth of their despair right there, how bad it's gotten for them. I won't judge and I can hardly blame them, they didn't start the fire. All of us will suffer the consequences of a wide variety of ever-gathering actions and reactions coming in from all sides. What a business.

What am I going to do? I'm going to take the kids to BJJ and then I'm going to work out until I taste blood. My meditation. My medication. I just took a trip to secure more work so wish me luck, although luck has nothing to do with getting the job. Being good at what you do, improving your skills i.e. your odds, that's what it's all about. Blood, sweat and tears? Like nobody's business.


P.S. Things I've learned working with/for people around the world:


Have a problem? Fix it.
Made a mistake? Admit it.
Spoke too hastily, too harshly? Apologize.
Never toy with people's trust. Never play with their money.
Respect and goodwill once lost is often lost forever.
Cause and effect. In that order. Don't get confused.
For every action there's a consequence. The same applies to non-action.
Don't let temporary become permanent.
There's no stopping a setting sun. Doesn't mean it won't rise again tomorrow. 


Too cut-and-dried? That's business.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A history of violence

Temperature: Fall is in the air/Everywhere I look around/Fall is in the air/Every sight and every sound... But thanks for letting summer linger for so long, much appreciated.

Eating: apples in any form/recipe you care to imagine

Drinking: now why didn't I think of that? Cider, sweetie darlings!

Watching: Losing Iraq (2014). Warning: graphic content, as in death, not just destruction.

Listening: to Mama Rosin

Reading: gearing up for see below

Writing: about to be tested for a project so wish me luck because I want this gig. “You want me on that team. You need me on that team. Who's gonna do it? You?

Feeling: how to explain the world to your kids? Russkiy Mir, the Russian World, a neighbor for whom life, the economy and everything is a zero-sum game, a neighbor on a mission to not just peacefully cohabit but to oppose, to challenge. Or ISIL. Being asked is it true a group intended to pick a random Norwegian family, invade their home, kill them and put it on the internet? Are they coming here? Could that happen to us? Having to ask your children not to look at graphic pics or watch any videos, not even on a dare, ever, please promise me, because once you do you can't not see them and there are things in this world you don't want to recall, trust me, it's bad enough you know these things are happening to someone somewhere. The mother in me just wants to shield them and the woman in me just wants to bulletproof them and the human in me just wants to make them understand that it's their world too and that their voice and choices matter, so use them wisely and make them conscientiously. Destruction is easy. Building, restoring, preserving. That's what I hope they'll always focus on.

Pacific Day of Peace, dearest denizens, wherever you are.

http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lore

Written words. Which ones last? The wisest, most notable ones? Who's to make that choice, that distinction? So which ones do last? Those that have been shouted out the loudest for the longest time? Wrong or right, from the mouths of megalomaniacal masters of the universe or salt of the earth, they've passed The Test: social proof. Do they last? Words that by some quirk of fate weren't destroyed in a war or natural disaster, a pyre or purge, ethnic or cultural?

Human history is a story written in the hindsight tense. Arbitrary. Unfair. Crap-shooting. Often apologetic, usually not. Countless words go unrecorded, unheard. There is no preserving or restoring what's already gone. But not all is lost. Myths and fairytales are a lingua franca. They have a common ancestor somewhere in history. We are cousins, you and I. Distant, perhaps, but cousins all the same. Many fables and morals are cousins, as well. We migrated and the stories migrated with us. We changed with the times, so did the stories. But something in them, in us, stays. The same questions will always be asked. Who? What? Where? Why?

Coming into a story, even midstory, you're instantly pulled into the story. Admit it. You feel the need to find the answer to those whos, whats, wheres and whys and stick around until The End. Even if it's not your usual fare. Even though you have better things to do. Even when you know it won't be all that memorable. But does that stop you from watching or reading? Nooo. Because you've got to know.

This in-built inquisitiveness of ours has survived war, famine, floods, societal and cultural upheavals. Stories? Weave them into the collective unconscious and they do the same. What if? What next? Where will it all end? Victory and defeat, allegiance and disobedience, candor and betrayal, valor and cowardice, fear and foolhardiness, love and indifference, truths and lies, actions, reactions, consequences... The stuff that humans and the very best stories are made of.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nothing gold can stay

Temperature: June was cold, July was hot and August was rainy. September? We'll see, won't we. We can keep arguing about what is normal but climate change is a fact. And things are getting worse instead of fixed.

Eating: an ugly ass but oh so fresh whatever-greens-I-could-find-plus-some-cottage-cheese salad. Heavy lunches put me to sleep.

Drinking: green tea with honey to ward off the flu in the family. Totally works. Does too!

Watching: my firstborn grow right past me. So I'm not the tallest building on the block but come on, he was a baby three minutes ago!

Listening: to Bebel Gilberto's Tudo

Reading: something that read out loud, sotto voce, would put you to sleep

Writing: something that read out loud, sotto voce, should make you forget about sleep

Feeling: Love, so much love I can't give to those it belongs to because they're gone. You want it?


Friday, August 22, 2014

Haste makes waste


There's a professional classical musician in the family. Someone who has devoted his whole life to studying music and made a career of performing it to us poor folk who enjoy his art but never learned an instrument beyond dabbling. He learned and he plays it and oh how he plays it. Preludes, symphonies and everything in between. No score is too hard, no conductor too demanding.

What sounds so lovely and looks so effortless is the result of decades of hard work and single-minded dedication, endless hours of practice and repetition. And passion, the love of music, the hunger to learn more.

Education takes time. Devoting yourself to a craft means devoting time to learning that craft. The young hopefuls of today don't seem to have time, our house musician said. Ideas and eagerness, sure, maybe even passion, but time, no. They watch talent shows and follow popular YouTubers and what not and think anybody can do it, overnight, just like that.

You don't achieve richness of sound, excellence of execution and maturity of expression overnight, just like that. Those take years of hard work. Sometimes that hard work comes to nothing. You don't get into the best orchestras, you don't become a professional at all. But if you don't dedicate time and yourself to it, you never will.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Live to tell

Yesterday, the 12th of August, was International Youth Day. Yesterday, Robin Williams' suicide was all over the news. And the Academy was chastised for its "Genie, you're free" tweet, for implying, even inadvertently, that suicide is always an option, a way out, which I'm not sure was the message they were going for, but if the discussion that ensued comes back to message the UN was trying to convey about youth and mental health, so be it.

So can I just say something on the subject, not from a professional but a deeply personal perspective and experience? Well, I'm going to anyway, so if you don't wanna hear it, it's time to click on.

The summer before the last year of junior high, O spent a fun evening with his buddies, went home, tied a noose around his neck, cuffed his hands behind his back and hung himself. That's where his parents found him two days later, Sunday night. My sister lost a friend in college, a smart, witty and bubbly girl that one night stepped in front of a train. My husband's cousin shot himself in the army after a squabble that, by all accounts, could have been resolved with a sit-down.

Nothing connects these people apart from the fact that they were young, they are gone and no one had a clue that's where they were headed. Nothing in their demeanor, speach or actions hinted at thoughts they could have been thinking for a while. A spur of the moment thing then? We'll never know, we can only guess, and wish they had talked to us, someone, anyone, about the knots in their mind and the pain in their chest, whatever made the heart so heavy.

Isn't there always a clue, we're just too clueless, blind, insensitive to see? Here's the thing, and feel free to object, but we live not double but triple lives. There's the public level and persona we take to work and school, a personal one we share with family and friends (which may extend to people at work, school, etc.), and a private life we may share with both of the above, or not. Never fully, that's for sure, and it's always a personal individual choice how much and with whom you share that inner life.

Some have no problem talking about anything and everything with anyone who'll listen. Some have problems talking to others, period. It's not necessarily a matter of chemistry, temperament, trust, how long or well you know someone, some external condition, but an internal struggle or shadow, and I guess that's what baffles us not privy to that information, that personal inner lever. How could someone so full of life harbor thoughts of death?

It's easy to lose connection with colleagues, with friends, even family. It's just as easy to lose connection with yourself. That rich inner life can turn on you, overwhelm you, and some are better equipped than others to fight and find their way back, to sort it all out. But what becomes of those too tired to seek help themselves? Those who don't have anyone to help them seek help? Those who're told to stop crying wolf, to snap out of it? Those who do seek help but never get it, for whatever reason?

My oldest is now a preteen. Well in advance, and many times since, I told him something I was told in my youth, something that helped me, something I hope will help my kids through the turbulent years ahead. "I have bad news and I have good news. The bad news: For the next few years, life will suck. When you don't know what and how to feel you will feel ten ways at once. You'll love everything and everyone one day and hate the same with a vengeance the next. The good news: It will pass."

I've only had one thing to add to that: Don't be afraid of your thoughts, your impulses or your emotions. A full life, a rich inner life, is not a life without strife but a true to life honest life without the rose-tinted glasses, a life where you face and embrace the whole spectrum, not just the rainbow. If your thoughts, your impulses or your emotions do start frightening you or overwhelming you, you must bring it up. Talk to a friend, a family member, doctor, teacher, priest...whomever you feel most comfortable talking to. If they can't help you, they will help you find someone who can. If you feel death would be preferable to feeling what you're feeling, you owe it to yourself (because that's who you're stuck with, that's who you need to get along with, get to know, first and foremost) to get to the bottom of it. Why not see this thing, your life, to the end, whenever that end comes, because rest assured life inevitably and eventually grants a death wish even if we never lift a finger to further it. So why hurry.

I once walked alongside someone with a diagnosed, debilitating depression. One of the longest and most frightening and frustrating and humbling walks of my life. Long because it took two and a half years. Frightening because I feared she'd lose the will to live. Frustrating because there was nothing I could say or do to help her or heal her, my love couldn't save her, all I could do was walk with her while she did all the work, the hardest part, sorted out all the unfinished business that burdened her soul. Humbling because she let me be there all the same, in all my utter uselessness and helplessness, and because she talked to me, showed me that inner life of hers, trusted me with it.

This much I can tell you about our walkabout: There will be days, weeks, months when you will be certain you will never pull through. Amid those thoughts, somewhere in the back of your mind, another thought flashes, dim and distant, occasional but definitely there: It doesn't have to be this way. Seize that thought. Reconnect with yourself. If you never felt that connection in the first place, search for it. Build it. Build on it. Take all the time you need, however long that is, and it may be a very long time, but there's no hurry. You may have to shut out the world and focus on yourself and yourself only while at it. Some people will understand and they will be patient. Some won't and they will be cruel. Seek professional help if that's what it takes, take the label, the diagnose, the meds if need be, just don't give up on yourself. Every day decide to hold on for one more day. Repeat. Every day. There will be setbacks. That's OK. Don't rush it. Don't expect a road to Damascus moment. You don't have to find Jesus, the meaning of life or anything of the sort, just your way back to yourself. One breath, one moment, one day at a time.

Take this with a grain of salt or through the container at me but give things another think before you act on any impulse or emotion, as strong as they are, as all-important or permanent as they may feel. And don't always think too long before you speak, as scary as it may feel, as crazy as it may seem. It's your life so stake your claim. Own it. Own it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

100 years of Jansson

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of artist Tove Jansson. And when I say artist I mean author, painter, illustrator, cartoonist, caricaturist... 

She lived and loved freely and worked incessantly, wanted to be remembered for her paintings but is perhaps best known for the Moomin, their eponymous valley and adventures. Which is just as well. It's a microcosm of infinite wisdom adults enjoy and appreciate along with (or even without!) kids. Translated into more than 40 languages, you should be able to read them in your mother tongue. For other works, search

Tove Jansson Life, Art, Words: The Authorised Biography


Sculptor's Daughter: A Childhood Memoir
 
The Listener

The True Deceiver

The Summer Book

A Winter Book: Selected Stories

Art in Nature: and other stories

Travelling Light

Fair Play


If you're in London you're in luck, you have some two weeks left to get thee to the Institute of Contemporary Arts right on The Mall and catch the Tove Jansson: Tales From the Archipelago display that presents "original unseen photographs and material relating to her life and work, illustrated books and early first editions."

If you're near Covent Garden you're in a hurry,  there's a Moomin Summer Madness - A Birthday Party going on, a day for the whole family, this very weekend.

If you're in Scandinavia, or planning a visit, you still have some four weeks to catch a wonderful exhibition courtesy of the Finnish National Gallery that covers all periods of Jansson’s career.

If you're in Japan (Japanese love and I mean love all things Finnish in general and the Moomin in particular), you have a whole year ahead, filled with goodies, to look forward to.

If you're a curious being, you're in good company. Nothing was ever too tiny or trivial for Tove. Life was a big adventure in a small boat, every morning a new opportunity to start afresh. “All things are so very uncertain, and that's exactly what makes me feel reassured." (Moominland Midwinter)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Coming around again

How are you, dearest dearest denizens? Doing well, I trust, being as Tardis as they come, right? We came back late Friday night and on Saturday I celebrated my birthday in glamorous fashion by doing loads of laundry with some bubbly close at hand, estupidamente gelado i.e. insanely cold as Brazilians drink their beer. Vacation time is over but summer certainly isn't, the sun finally found it's way to Scandinavia and it's a hot one.

The last leg of our trip was a scorcher of a week in Denmark where we met a lot of very nice (and very tattooed!, what's up with that?) people, at least half of whom had probably done bit parts in Vikings (the TV series) at some point, judging by those tattoos I mean, which read like episode guides. If Finland is a forest spotted by towns and fields, Denmark is a (level) field of connected islands spotted by towns and forests. Using Swedish was just as useless as I thought it would be, apart for reading signs and such. They might understand what you were asking but trying to decipher the answer... Holie!

The World Cup now feels like a hundred years ago. I felt sorry for Brazil for a minute or two. So did they. And then life and the party went on. Germany displayed amazing restraint on the pitch, playing against a team playing in total shock, and admirable sportsmanship and support later on, on Twitter for example, and I second Mesut Özil: "you have a beautiful country, wonderful people and amazing footballers-this match may not destroy your pride! #Brasil".

Life resumed normal programing but they'll never ever forget. They're still talking about the loss against Uruguay in 1950. 1950! Brazilians still love football but many hated the Cup (read: FIFA) and are actually relieved Brazil didn't win because then all the insane amounts of money spent would have been forgiven and the protests forgotten. They didn't deserve to win and that's that, not with how they played, and maybe the pressure was too much, the expectations too great and the signals the team got, well, like I said they were mixed. What do I know. What I do know is football has always been fun and free and inclusive, an outlet as much as a doorway to a better future, everything the multibillion business the Cup is wasn't.

Next in line: the Olympics in 2016. We'll see how that goes. Don't know if we're going. Time to get back to work and down to business or we're definitely not going. Looking forward to it, actually, going back to work. No, really! Sure it was fun spending time with family, mine and Hubby's. On the rare occasion all siblings on both sides get together, I've counted 4 nationalities of 3 denominations with an atheist and agnostic thrown in who speak 5 mother tongues and all work in different fields. A family of many cultures and colors and creeds, some deeply rooted, some expats on the move, and it may look and sound like Babel but it's our life. It's life.

Such is my family, sweetie darlings, and such is the world and such a shame not everyone sees the beauty or respects the diversity of it all and I guess I can't make them, but we're all cousins on this planet, some more distant than others but cousins all the same. So when that's the world you know, your truth and your experience, how depressing was getting up to speed with the news after doing the Dark Side of the Moon Tour i.e. trying to unplug and avoid news outlets of all sorts. Pretty damn depressing. South Sudan and Syria, Gaza and Ukraine, Libya and Egypt, ISIS and Boko Haram, Ebola and terror, extremism and nationalism of the worst kind. Never again but always one more time.

What a family of feuding, belligerent clans we are. One thing I've noticed, no, four: In the middle of all the barbarity, it's easy to lose sight of all that's good and right and getting better. In the middle of all the savagery, it's easy to lose hope and trust and faith things will keep getting better. In some, any sign of vulnerability or helplessness, of distress or fear, rouses the need to protect. Some it just puts in a sadistic rage, and when that rage takes over you get a baby torn out of a belly sliced open with a machete. A five-year-old shot in the head. A woman raped to an inch of her life then buried alive. A man gutted like a fish. Not on the dark side of the moon. Not in some alternate sick twisted world. Ours.

I know you can't dwell on it all day long or you'll go mad. You cannot not think about it because it's like toothpaste oozing out of the tube. Good luck trying to push it back in. It's out, it's a mess, so what are you gonna do about it? What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, I guess. Everything, I suspect, because last night I dreamed I was back with my grandparents where I spent many happy summer weeks in my childhood.

I wasn't a kid in the dream, I was an adult and so were they. Not old like in the end, just adults. Funny that's where my mind went for solace. Logical, really. They gave the best years of their youth to a war that claimed her brother early on and a piece of his mind forever after. The very same years I spent at university having fun and getting a degree, he spent dodging and firing bullets while she worked her fingers to the bone in backbreaking labor so he'd have a home to come back to.

He rarely talked about it, any of it. She often told stories about life in the home front and what her brother was like, and one of my most treasured pictures is my great-uncle in his uniform, 19 years old, so very handsome and about to die. I could only imagine her pain. She missed him all her life. I could only imagine her fear. Would she lose her husband next?

He came back after years of fighting and close calls with barely a scratch on him. How is that possible? How do you go on in the middle of all that, after all that, with all you've witnessed and suffered and sacrificed? Play some football, meet up with family and friends, go out and see the world, not with a rifle on your shoulder but a backpack? You just do because you have to and because there is no option and it's not always your choice or voice that matters, it's not about you but the people around you.

So much randomness, a location lottery, a game of chance, an inch, a second that changes the course of one's life or spells death. So much love and selflessness, so much beauty and wonder, a word, an act that changes the course of one's life for the better. What a world we live in, sweetie darlings. What a family we are.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Away we go



Temperature: heading south because it's been c-c-c-cold up north

Eating: what the garden and greenhouse deign to give. They're kinda pissed the sun won't shine. As am I. As if it helps.

Drinking: would that help?

Watching: the World Cup! And it's turning out to be the surprising and exciting copa das copas the Brazilians hoped for.

Listening: to Chrissie Hynde's Stockholm
 
Reading: just finished Home by Toni Morrison. That book is a Tardis, so much bigger than its size! Next in line: The Goldfinch. Laugh all you want at my tardiness but when you read in more than one language you don't have a TBR list, you have TBR lists. So there. So shut up.

Writing: back and forth to settle something that's been up in the air for far too long. Hoping to return to good news, just in time for my birthday!

Feeling: my wanderlust about to be slaked. Be good, sweetie darlings, willingly good. I will see you soon. And if, for whatever reason, I never do, promise me you'll be a Tardis, always bigger than your size.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Bloomsday!

"I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality."
  
~James Joyce (1959) by Richard Ellmann

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oppression! Inégalité! Division!

Temperature: a rainy 5/41 (the day before yesterday: a sunny 24/75)

Eating: in a minute

Drinking: you know what this continent needs? A nice tall glass of Foot In Ass. And I don't mean the kind being served by some of our fellow nations near and far with an...how should I put it...what's that song...yes, an empire state of mind. I mean the kind that pops your head back straight on your shoulders because you seem to have lost it.

Watching: traveling via cinema before hitting the road: La Grande Bellezza, The Lunchbox, A Thousand Times Goodnight, Michael Glawogger's globalization trilogy.

Listening: to a lot of angry shouting and not much in the way of actual problem solving.

Reading: congratulations to Hassan Blasim, “perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive,” who lives in Finland of all places.

Writing: birthday invitations (not mine, but I do love throwing a party!)

Feeling: so disappointed in Europe right now, fearing in a time that calls for daring. This promotes neither prosperity nor peace.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mala fide

Temperature: on the rise

Eating: can't, there's a bad taste in my mouth
 
Drinking: my last cup of sorrow regarding a professional/business matter. Enough.

Watching: nature put on a summer dress, how beautiful she looks

Listening: to life roar every time I step out, what a lovely sound

Reading: something that made me want to tell someone to go sit in a corner and think about what they did while I go sit in mine and think about what to do next because this...this is...just... Enough already.
 
Writing: back in the politest of terms telling them I've been patient, I've been reasonable and I've been understanding and that I'm at the end of my rope, when what I really want to do is scream at the top of my lungs. “Enough already.” Seriously. Enough is enough.

Feeling: on the ropes, sweetie darlings. Sorry to sound so negative, I try to focus on the positive, summer's coming and a proper vacation and travels and adventures, but if you only knew.







Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When I'm 84

Mercifully free of the pressures of youth, I'm gonna grow up, settle down and leave childish pursuits behind. On second thought, no.

I'm gonna start smoking cigars. Not like every day but every once in a while, those big fat juicy ones that last all afternoon. I'm gonna sit outside in a comfy chair, a book in one hand, that cigar in the other, puffing the day away.

I'm gonna eat candy. Like every day. Not many I really like but the ones I like I really really like so that's what I'm having.

I'm gonna have some port every night before bed. Or every morning before I get out of bed. I'm gonna have a glass of whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want it.

I'm gonna try out a hallucinogen. Gotta know before I go what all the fuss is about.

I'm gonna have a this-is-what-it's-all-about heart-to-heart with my grandkids, if I have any. I assume that by the age of 84, I'll have some wisdom to dispense. And the wisdom to discern if I don't.

I'm gonna make sure I live where I've been happiest. I think I already know where that is. You're welcome to visit 'cause I ain't budging, I'mma soaking in bliss till the end.

I'm giving away but the bare essentials so there's no fuss and no fighting over what's to be done about them. Can't take 'em with me, can't put a price on what's priceless, and the most precious things sure as heck don't fit in a box.

I'm gonna take a daily walk around the neighborhood, or block, or garden, holding Hubby's hand. Or maybe we'll just sit outside, side by side, talking or just watching the bugs, birds and bees, the wind in the trees, and maybe we won't see them or hear them as well as we used to but at least we'll be together.

I'm gonna die on my birthday, but I'd rather not do it when I'm 84. Let's make that 104. Nice, round, coming full circle ring to it, don't you think, dying on the day you were born, in the middle of a great book/good meal/interesting conversation, nothing left unsaid, nothing left undone. Well, except that book/meal/convo. Being dead, I doubt I'll mind all that much.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Many a little makes a mickle

Temperature: a rainy 8/46 degrees

Eating: what's left of that Saturday night of sheer delight, see below

Drinking: not for a while, had too much fun and way too many cocktails just the other night with a couple of couples we invited over for dinner

Watching: The Wind Rises and Rio 2 with or without the wee ones real soon

Listening: to the poetic soul of Anthony Joseph

 
Writing: wrote a round of takedown requests just the other week thinking fuck you very much, even visited a forum where users thanked one another for sharing Alex, a book they could have bought for $0.99. You can imagine what my share of those ninety-nine cents is. And so you probably imagine I won't miss those cents. But those cents add up. Ten books here, thirty-four there, another one hundred and twenty some place else. Many places. Way too many places.

Support authors. If you like it, buy it, the slogan on that forum read. In that order. As if they were doing us a favor. I felt sick inside. So damn sick and tired and I know what you're thinking, “Don't go there. Why did you go there? Why do this to yourself?” Look at that pic on Denysé's blog. Look at that royalty check. I'm still waiting for mine, hoping for the best, expecting the worst. That's why. You want to make sense of things. Am I really that hopeless? Are my books really that bad? Sales have plummeted, books tank, so you wanna know why and what's wrong because how the hell else will you be able to fix things. But how do you fix this? How do you make it better?

Any suggestions? Anybody? And don't say just ignore 'em. Some authors do. Most can't. They feel that's like giving permission. Like a shopkeeper turning a blind eye to shoplifting as long as someone buys something, but when they steal more than you sell... That's not what you'd call a sustainable business model, is it? And if you are to treat writing as a business you have to take these things into account so it is kinda hard to just ignore it and it's becoming ever harder for many of us to justify our profession, business-wise, you know. Working for free is not a vocation (except for the very wealthy, which for the most part authors aren't), it's volunteering.

Feeling: I want to write as Dita too. But do I want to feel like this every time I do? Mad, sad, bad? Is that why I've navigated toward other shores? Not just because I got mouths to feed and bills to pay and talents I want to put to good use but because of the emotional toll Romantica has taken? So I come out as the strong and stoic type. I'm much more sensitive and vulnerable than you'll ever know. All authors, all artists are. We have to be or else we lose connection with the world and ourselves, with the tangible and the invisible, with everything we feel so keenly and love so dearly and try so desperately to put down in words. Do you understand what I'm saying? Can you sympathize?

Authors don't necessarily need a publisher. They need a good editor and maybe an agent and even a lawyer. Readers? Do authors need readers to write happily ever after? Some are starting to think that they don't. That if there's no money, no future in writing for publication i.e. the reading public, then what the hell are they doing pissing in the wind? Writing makes them happy. The business end of things makes them miserable. Cut the business end of things and go back to being happy. Problem solved.

I kid you not, folks, that is how some of us feel, and I will never ever forgive those making things so damn hard for all of us if some of my favorite authors go back to writing for the desk drawer. Put that in your pirate pipe and smoke it. If you can get your hands on it. Which you won't be able to because it will be hidden away with all the other precious things in their life and if you'd shown some respect when you had the chance maybe we'd still be enjoying the fruits of their labor. I dread the day but it's coming. For some of us, it's just a matter of deciding today's the day. You think working on a dream is hard. It's nothing and I mean nothing compared to giving up.

Support authors. Buy a book. If you like it, buy another. My heartfelt thanks to all readers who do.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Because the night

Why not go to bed early tonight, dearest denizens, say around 8:30? Turn the lights off, the heat on, and have some frisky fun, with your partner or by yourself. If you feel extra dedicated and super peppy, keep going until you can go on no more.

Have a sexcellent time, sweetie darlings!

With love and smooches,

D.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Northward


Temperature: a sunny, no, cloudy, no, sunny, cloudy, make up your mind already -4/25 degrees

Eating: just had grilled halloumi salad for lunch

Drinking: gallons of green tea with tons of honey to nip this flu in the bud, the influenza was quite enough, thank you very much

Watching: Nature's balancing act. We had two days of skiing and two weeks of skating all winter, we did spring gardening just the other week, now we suddenly have more snow than we had Dec/Jan/Feb combined. WTH?

Listening: to Elbow.


Reading: loads of centenarian Tove Jansson to the wee ones who'll still sit still and listen. (She's not just for kids, hint hint. Oh and you just have to visit Helsinki this spring/summer and go see this.)

Writing: quoting (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow): The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. And to my family, friends and fellow earthlings below Mother Earth's waist: Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. (Albert Camus)

Feeling: Looking out the window, neither one of the above is true, but I've caught whiffs in the air, I've touched proof in the ground, seen timid bugs and drowsy bees. Spring is a warm wind away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hey brother

Lances at the ready, gentlemen, I'mma climbing on a high horse. Cue groans oh gawd it was such a lovely day what now? International Women's Day! Yes, I know, but I was kinda busy on Saturday, and this year's theme stands every day of the week/month/year. Equality for women is progress for all.

You gotta wonder sometimes, and gents please don't charge before I've had my say and please please don't take offense because I do not mean every man on the planet, but are men stupid or something? You really want to shoulder the burden, financial, political, enter areas of overrepresentation here, on your own? Like really really? Because women sure feel that way sometimes, that you're making life unnecessarily hard for yourselves keeping your own counsel, upholding your old boys' clubs, anti-social networks closing the door on fully capable, willing and able women, people differentiated by the fact that their breasts tend to be bigger than yours.

Considering that our breasts have nothing to do with our brains, they sure play a big and baffling part in the oddest of times and places. The same goes for other discriminating factors. Irrelevant. At least they should be. So don't go there. With your eyes, or your hands. Your thoughts? Keep them to yourselves if you're with Camp Chauvinist. And go camp somewhere else. It's 2014 for crying out loud but you wouldn't believe it reading the Everyday Sexism Project stories and suchlike.


I have one, every woman does, starring that part of the female anatomy that makes many a man stir and stare and many a woman insecure for life. This was way back when I had hardly anything to make you stare or stir, a time when I didn't know if I liked what I saw or what I would be seeing in a year or two, but there they were. Now. Picture a bus with many school girls, young and a bit older, on board. Along comes a gang of three boys, 17 to 19-year-olds, about to play a game as they make their way to the back: breast spotting. Breast spotting with running commentary.

I had plenty of time to realize what they were doing. Plenty of time to watch their faces, see those smirks, listen to their lewd remarks and laughter, hear other girls hiss and curse. Time to wish I was someone else, somewhere else. I intended to look away, pretend I saw or heard nothing, brush it off with indifference. I ended up looking the boy who stopped in front of me straight in the eye.

Big mistake. I still remember what he looked like and I still remember what he said, but I was thirteen years old and I hated them, those boys I didn't know and never saw again with the fire of a thirteen-year-old, and that makes the whole episode that much harder to forget. To them it was just a stupid game. To the girls in that bus they were just stupid period. But when the games and comments start piling up some girls really do stop listening and some girls stop talking and some girls stop believing they'll ever meet a decent guy and if they do he's probably just pretending or a recovering asshole about to relapse and who wants that, you know.

I'm not kidding, gentlemen. I kid you not, I've held a girl's hand, tried to talk her out of giving up on you, told her there are plenty of good men out there because I knew there were, just you wait and see. So for the love of all that is holy please don't make your life unnecessarily hard, okay. Don't be an insensitive jerk. It's 2014 for crying out loud meaning you're very much at risk of being on the receiving end, the punch line of a sexist joke and who wants that, but what goes around comes around, you know. Or as a former card-carrying playboy now a father of three girls put it: "Poetic justice much?" I wonder what he'll teach his daughters about men, what he'll tell them about his wild days and ways.

Many women have turned feminists, and I mean hardcore, card-carrying feminists, after breaching the gates of power or breaking through the glass ceiling only to be confronted by some card-carrying chauvinist questioning her every move and word. Many men have turned feminists, and I mean hardcore, deeply concerned feminists, upon the birth of a daughter. They look at the world through the eyes of a woman and don't always like what they see. They know what kind of boys their girls will face along the way because they've met them all, maybe even been one of the worst kind once, and there's nothing they can do about it now but be responsible, empathetic role models not just for their daughters but their sons as well.

I know men who wish women ruled the world. I know women who wish we did. Most people I know just wish we could get on with the business of living and loving without having to hide or exploit or abuse or excuse or resist or explain our own sex, or the opposite one. Making a power struggle of it is a monumental waste of time and resources and we're kind of running out of both on this planet so...truce?

Empowering your sisters benefits all you misters. There's nothing in this world we wouldn't do for you. You've capitalized on that. There's nothing in this world we can't do. Why not capitalize on that too.

All yours,

D.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mrs. Rochester goes to town

How are you, sweetie daaarlings? I'm, hmm, getting there. I've spent my days in bed lately, and not in a sexy way. But who said being sick was boring? I've been busy going places and meeting people. The strangest of places and the oddest of people.

I took the scientific approach and did a sensory deprivation experiment while lying in the throes of fever. OK, I didn't set out to to do an experiment but that's what I ended up doing. Hey, gotta take what you can get out of every experience, right? So. Silence, darkness, and an immobile, piping hot Dita, and not in a sexy way. Unless women down with influenza are your thing in which case I was It.

I soon lost track of time. An army of ants marched under my skin as if all my veins had been slashed open and my blood flowed freely, sloshing around. I sank into a state where I couldn't distinguish between sleep and wakefulness. Things I saw and heard while thinking I was awake were just a dream. And I did things I thought were just a dream but weren't. How do I know? I'd made notes.

That's what I found in my notebook, the one I keep next to the bed. My mind roaming freely albeit feverishly, I'd made notes. I found snippets of dialogue and descriptions. For what story? Hell if I know. But. My subconscious was not above hitting way below the belt. I'd also written down lines for stories I've already written and published. Lines that would have been awesome had they come to me months, years ago. Pieces that would have fit perfectly but were hopelessly late for the party.

The price of being a pantser? That vague feeling that maybe the story isn't done, that something, something you can't put your finger on is missing, you know it is, but you have to stop writing at some point and call it done The End. And it is done. The story is accepted and edited and published and congratulations you did it again moving on what else?

Obviously that vague, nagging feeling never leaves you. Or me. I haven't gone in search of those missing bits no one else seems to long for, but my subconscious has obviously been hard at work. Hard at work, my hot buns, and not in a sexy way. Unless women with hot-to-the-touch cheeks are your thing in which case I was It. More like slow at work because it sure took For-Frickin'-Ever and some serious sick days to finish certain stories. Too little too late too bad moving on what else?

What else? I got to meet someone I lost long ago, someone whose visit I've been looking forward to but they never had the time. They still had none. "I can't stay." I knew that. We met at some airport, late afternoon, sun hanging low, the light dusty yellow. They only said a few things, left me with something and then just left, but in that moment...happiness, pure and clean. I was light as a leaf, floating, swirling.

And then the bus went off the bridge. Always the same bus, always the same bridge. Bye-bye purse. Shoes off, coat off, anything that could pull me under, off with it. How do I manage it in seconds in a bus that's taken flight and is about to collide with water? It's a dream, hell if I know, but our dreams seem to know us.

The madwoman in the attic finds the door unlocked and goes on a cleaning spree to purge whatever 'filthy burden' weighs you down. Best not to stand in her way or dissect it too much. She knows what she's doing so let her work her magic and be done with it. How kind of your mind to heal and guide you when you need it the most so just let it, even if the method feels like a punishment, not a prize.

[If you know your Jung you know that he believed dreams were doors to the unconscious. Not a mask for but a mirror of your true self and your honest feelings and being open to whatever your dreams were telegraphing could help solve and resolve real life, waking life issues. Yeah, I know. I used to write off dreams as maudlin mumbo jumbo. I paid them no mind.

Then I went through a patch fraught with physical and emotional stress fringing on overload. Voluntarily but still. Sleep brought no relief. Sleep tossed me unarmed into knife fights. I got stabbed, without exception. I hid. Got stabbed. Fought back. Got stabbed. Attacked. Got stabbed. The pain was real and searing and you don't register it the second you get hurt but the second after when the wound opens and the blood flows.

The violence culminated one night as I lay face down on the ground while a man approached me, hand raised, holding a gun. This is usually the point where your mind yells cut and you wake up. Those stabbings hadn't killed me but as surely as I knew they were coming, that this would be one of those dreams, I knew the man with the gun wasn't stopping. And he didn't. He shot me in the head. He shot me dead. The one and only time I've died in my dreams.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Cliché? More like touché because after that final face-off the dreams changed. I became indestructible. A maudlin mess on the inside, perhaps, but a maudlin mess with superpowers. I'd pulled through. For all the violence, in some warped way, those recurrent dreams helped me survive something I thought would kill me. Congratulations you made it moving on what else?]

What else? Recurrent themes. My feverish self and I had debated whether you ever really get to choose your stories or do they choose you, make a mess upstairs, scream and stomp around, that madwoman in the attic, until you're forced to let her out and be done with it. Do you own up to any in your writing or favorite reads? Are they conscious choices on your part? We say we read for pleasure. And nothing else? Would we write or read a story if it wasn't up our alley? How often do we pick up a book/theme/genre off our alley? Honestly. What's behind our choices? Better not dissect it too much lest it stop working its magic?

Because it is pure magic, isn't it, the power of stories. As with dreams, the best are vivid but very few are lucid. We may not know the mechanism behind it all, the triggers and buttons, the hows and whys, but those stories, those fantasies, they know us or else the effect they have on us wouldn't be real, and it is, isn't it, whether that effect is physical, intellectual or emotional. Fear, lust, love, loathing, anger, pain, pride, envy. As with dreams they are real reactions. Real life reactions to fabricated worlds.

I find the power of stories and myths simply astounding. I find our fascination with them super interesting. I find people fascinating period. If there's no arguing about taste, why call anything a 'guilty pleasure' (an ontological oddity that makes my brain sprain)? What are we ashamed or afraid of? What our tastes reveal about us? Too much? Everything? What we love, hate, fear, despise, hope and lust for? Or are we just trying to understand what it all means to others? Better not dissect it too much lest you lose your ability to enjoy your filthy fix?

All guilt no pleasure and labels like filthy make many a therapist a boatload of money and the pharmacy industry very happy. Not making light of anyone's real plight or calling either mental health care professionals or pill makers pushers, just saying that the madwoman in the attic may, in all her primal intensity, be wiser and smarter and saner than we give her credit for. She knows it's all about myths and symbols and fantasies and dreams. We're the ones who insist there is a real world, a real life, that reigns supreme over the invisible, and that we are in control. She knows it's all one and the same and that we are in denial.

That's what the notebook said, how the scrawlings read. Told you I dove off the deep end while I drenched the sheets, and not in a sexy way, unless a woman coming down from a severe fever is your thing in which case I was It. And what does that tell us about you, hmm? Now if I could only decipher what that bus dream means...

Oh well. Time for another primal scream if there ever was one, a time to let it all hang out: carnival season. Too bad I'm still recovering. Doesn't mean there won't be a party, a party where the madwoman in the attic is queen, a party where myths and symbols and fantasies and dreams live in perfect cacophonic harmony with the 'real world' and 'real life' and hell yes in a sexy way. Unless a good time including but not limited to music, dancing, tipple and nibbles isn't your thing in which case you're not invited. Nah. Of course you are. The price of admission? That for once you trust your dreams not your thoughts.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Anytime you need a friend


For erotic romance authors love and lust, sweet emotion and hot sex, are inseparable. Can't have one without the other. Relationships are not sealed with a mere kiss, unless it's one that touches everywhere, and desire is no good without devotion. That is our cocktail of choice, one we serve in flavors ranging from vanilla to spicy hot.

Of course love is more protean, more multifaceted than that. We know that, but our craft is crafting tales of hanky panky with a happy ending so love's other facets and faces tend to get less coverage, often none. Well, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or in this case, when in Scandinavia, do as the Norsemen do.

These bastions of brotherhood, these champions of equality, dedicate the 14th of February as much to friendship as courtship, maybe more. Maybe they're just not that into romantic antics, you say? They're just not into imported festivities, especially those that come with costly commodities attached, I say.

I find friendship one of the dearest faces and loveliest flavors of love. To do as the Norse do, I now use Valentine's Day to celebrate the gift of good friends. My oldest friendships span over three decades. Yeah, that's how young/old I am. It's a case of till death do us part with these two women, women I've grown up with and women I plan to grow old with. I have friends. And then I have them.

They know who they are. You know who you are because I will never tire of telling you how much I love you and admire you for who you are and respect what you do for others. What you've done for me. Without you, where would I be now. That's a dedication I stamp wherever I can. That's a dedication waiting to see the light of your e-reader's screen. I have...I had...have...gah...two Romantica WIPs where friends play an important part. Friendship is a theme right up there with courtship.

They say authors should never use a friend as a plot device or a mouthpiece. They can stop right there. I mean, what did you just say? Use. A. Friend. Use a friend. What kind of girl, what kind of author, do you take me for? I would never use a friend. My characters would never use a friend, unless they're monsters who would use and abuse a friend in which case they are headed for a world of hurt. My characters can speak for themselves, thank you very much, and the plot advance just fine without puppets. That's not what friends are for, how can you say that, how can you even think that?!

I am shocked. Taking a moment to breathe in and out of a paper bag, that's how shocked I am. Use a friend. Tut-tut. Share with a friend. Trust. Be loyal. Be honest. Dependable. Offer an ear and a shoulder, a place to stay, sustenance. Have fun. Get serious. Get mad without fearing disapproval. Get sad without fearing rejection. Travel. Talk. Keep a secret. Keep in touch regardless of geography, or life situation, or lifestyle. Be there. Be here now.

That's what friends are for. That's what a friend is. Someone whose heart and door are always open.