Dita Parker

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Few. The Proud. The Morons.

"Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?" 

Have you outlined your contingency plan yet, or perhaps carved it in stone, chopped off the precious piece, made several duplicates and put them in a safe place? No? Me neither, I realized, when put to the test. Compared to the most diligent strategists, I'm a moron and not a major in mitigation.

For someone who has never entertained illusions of immortality, I'm alarmingly underinsured on many levels. There are wishes I've made known to my family. Certain things I keep repeating to and reminding my loved ones of so they don't have to second-guess or, worse still, never hear me say them. Wouldn't want my last word or thought to be "D'oh!" Then there are things I hadn't even thought about. 

Hubby's sister called asking if we could meet without the kids, theirs or ours. She and her husband wanted to talk to us about something. She sounded so serious we thought it had to be something awful, but she refused to say more over the phone. After several days of sweaty-palmed hand-wringing, a sigh of relief, but we still needed a moment to digest.

What they wanted to know was this: If anything ever happened to them, meaning if they both died in some freaky or plain unlucky accident, would we raise their children? They wanted us to be very sure of our answer because they would then make it clear to both set of grandparents this is their express wish.

I could be elected President of the Universe and it would be nothing compared to their vote of confidence. We, who had never considered what would happen to our wee ones if anything ever happened to us. We, the Los Dumbos of crisis management, and still they were willing to trust us with the lives and future of their children. Our answer? A resounding "Yes."

You can dread. You can hope. Think somewhere a clock is ticking or know every beat of your heart. Different endgame, same result. Life goes on.  

"'Supposing it didn't,' said Pooh. After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this."
A. A. Milne

Monday, February 22, 2010

Out with the new, in with the old

I popped into the arts and ents section of The Sunday Times Online looking for an article. Noticed the first Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award instead, an article titled: "Erotica author in running for short story award." The caption beside the picture of said author tells us she is a former glamour model. Under the caption there is a link titled "A Terrible Story." By this time Dita is a) intrigued? b) disgruntled?, or c) both? I had never heard of writer Kay Sexton. If I've seen any glam shots of Ms. Sexton, I don't remember them. I fail to see a connection or the relevance.  

She is one among twenty writers long-listed. But is she on an equal footing? If your past endeavors were highlighted, if the reader was reminded you also write genre fiction under pen names while running against well-established authors, if the image gallery contains prize winners, renowned interviewers, novelists and playwrights, and your caption read neither writer nor author but former this and that, wouldn't you be able to just feel the love? What does it matter what she used to do? If they're not showcasing the long-listed story, what else are they doing besides being obvious?

Somebody tell me I'm seeing things that aren't there. Tell me they aren't screaming "Are the pages of our publication to be thus polluted?" between the lines. "A Terrible Story?" (The link takes you to a short story by Hanif Kureishi. "A Terrible Story" had nothing to do with Ms. Sexton's piece. It was all in my mind, not in the interesting layout. If it's indeed a noteworthy theme in a writer's career, they failed to mention how much sex factors in Kureishi's books. Love Kureishi. Hate double standards.)

Tell me I'm paranoid and I'll forever hold my peace. Until you do, I'll be feeling uneasy, the way I do every time someone suggests I'll never be taken seriously if I keep up writing genre along with literary fiction, every time I'm informed I'm wasting my time on entertainment.

You know what? It's not my mission in life to fulfill someone else's expectations or ambitions. I need to read and write in both the art and the entertainment segment, if you must make a distinction, and obviously there still is one, a very loaded at that. Fine. Just don't hang your hang-ups on me. I'm a selfish being doing what I want to do most because doing otherwise would be self-deception. So is saying that one form of writing is not as self-indulgent as the next, that some are more right or righteous somehow. There is no objective meter for these things, but there is room for everyone. Give it a rest. I promise to when you do.  

What was I looking for, before I got derailed? An article on the digitization of tens of thousands of nineteenth century works of fiction from the British Library. That means both the arts and the ents segment, my friends, everything from Victorian classics to the infamous serial stories, free of charge and segregation, hmm, provided you own a Kindle.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Can I get a witness

Cute and well-endowed in the cerebral department, what more could a woman want? Today, I have mad love for two men. One might find it odd since we don't know each other (I'm almost quite normal, promise, Mr. Brandhorst!), the other knows it very well but does not mind being reminded.

We have a "I heart Tim Brandhorst" thing going among Ellora's Cave authors this week for his article in DBW. He not only managed to see Raelene Gorlinsky and Jaid Black for the brilliant and business savvy women they are, but to take a dispassionate approach to the merger of passion and hard work at work throughout Ellora's Cave from authors to back office to end product.

Why wouldn't we be happy to hear what he had to say when it's all true? Not that I have a comparison as far as erotica publishers go, but I have no complaints or regrets either, far from it, EC and yours truly madly deeply have gotten along swimmingly!

Oi, J! If you're spying on the Missus on this important date, I didn't forget, only saved the best for last. I know what you're thinking and what you'll ask, so: No, we're not that old, they're only numbers, and yes, I would love to double the years. You will always be my dream come true.

I do owe one more man another set of thanks, though. Hadn't it been for a party he threw, Hubby and I never would have met. So thank you, dearest B, and happy birthday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Free eBooks!

Now that I have your attention, I'm diverting it to my alma mater of erotica for details, but here's the catchphrase and the catch: BOGO. To give as good as you get, buy an eBook at 10 percent discount from the monthly selection and a free copy of that book will be sent to a friend, along with a personalized greeting card from you. 

2010 marks the tenth anniversary of Ellora's Cave and there's more than a day or two of wicked fun in store, ladies and gents, it's an entire year of devilishly delectable deeds done in deets, and the sales and contests to go with it. 

Those of you for whom romance without sex is like alcohol-free wine, on the light side if not utterly pointless/unconvincing/deficient/all of the above, should accept no substitute, especially this year. As for those of you still on the fence... It really is greener on this side, red-hot actually, so don't fight us. Join us for the joyride!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

All for fun and fun for all

Wonderful weekend ahead, folks! Plenty of reasons to have fun and celebrate another day of living and another day of life, another

Well-earned weekend (unless you're working, but since it isn't a given these days, good for you!)

Saint Valentine's (see A league of extraordinary gentlemen for pointers on alternative modes of celebration)

Chinese New Year (Metal Tiger, which means... I have no idea what it means)

The 21st Winter Olympics (we might run out of those sooner than we'd like, so get it while it's...not too hot)

Insert your favorite pastime/waste of time/road to ruin here

Little sis giving birth any day now (neither here nor there for y'all, but awww, it's a baby, one I won't have to squeeze out, only enjoy, a cause for celebration, surely), just in time for 

Carnaval!!! To be in Rio right now, but if I could be in Salvador or Olinda...damn! 

If you hate crowds, and people in general, don't approach Brazil during carnaval. But if a hotspot of fun is your cuppa, you won't need batteries to keep you going, the baterias will keep you up all night, day in, day out. If you still need a pick-me-up, ask for Indian Viagra (not to be confused with counterfeit drugs from the South Asian subcontinent). 

I think they banned those beverages, though, at least in Olinda, because it extended your happy hour to a week without sleep. It doesn't necessarily mean it's not available. But you don't need a drink to enjoy yourself or to stay awake, I promise. Leave your valuables, your hang-ups and any lingering cynicism home and dance to the rhythm of the saints. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go see a wholesaler about some party foods. I told you, plenty of reasons to have fun this weekend, several reasons to be glad you're alive, to enjoy the company of friends and family, or silence, if that's your pleasure. It can't be wasted time if you enjoyed wasting it, right?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


If anyone asks, never once did I mention fear in this post. I'm doing my best Jedi gestures here and telling you I feel none and you never heard a whisper about it. We were getting into a discussion about first impressions and I wasn't confessing that maybe somewhere deep down where self-preservation resides a part of me is getting ready for a round of ground-and-pound.

I was asked if, after so many months in the making, it feels anticlimactic having Alex Rising out (release date pending). What? Are you kidding me?! My story is coming out!!! And then it crept up on me, the inner oppressor did. The unreasonable voice of reason reminding me to enjoy the high because I would need the memory of it when hit with the lows. Someone will like my little ditty, someone will categorically hate it, and that's all there is to it.

Bruises fade, you get used to the hammering, but the brain is a tricky organ, not as easily bended to the will as the body is. It's built to contradict us at every turn so we wouldn't get too complacent. It's a paradox that we need to be plagued with questions, doubts and fears to grow when they can also do much damage if let run the show. 

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but first it only hurts. And annoys, and makes you feel stupid and small. Come on, it does. If you're human, it does, but since you're also smarter and greater in spirit and courage than you give yourself credit for you understand that, as someone said that Cindy Lauper once said that Chaka Khan once said, you'll get over it.

So what's the problem? I fear being misunderstood, of what I write being misconstrued and turned into something it isn't, of first impressions being everlasting ones. A good opinion once lost may be lost forever. A good impression may translate into expectations I might not fulfill or even want to trying to do something different next time.

It's stupid, I know, at least related to fiction, since I might not even want to explain where some idea or inspiration came from, what possessed me, and above all because I embrace the notion that when a story is out, it does no longer belong to the one who wrote it but those who need it (as Il Postino's poem-snatching postman put in), and it's theirs to enjoy and interpret as they please. 

Pride and Prejudice was initially titled First Impressions. Neither Wickham nor Darcy was who Elizabeth thought they were, but she had to get past those first impressions to get to the truth. It could have just as well been titled Second Chances. Not everybody gets one. Maybe that is at the root of the problem. Maybe that is the fear. 

I'm getting way ahead of myself, I know, but one thinks about things. One sometimes thinks too much about things, especially those one has no control over, e.g. postini filching my story and having their way with it. I promise to try to let go gracefully and not turn it into a wrestling or pissing match no matter what they end up saying. It will soon be theirs, and I'll live, why wouldn't I, my story will finally be out!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The great pretenders

So what do you say to this year's Oscar nominees? I say yes yes yes to Christoph Waltz, he owned every scene, and Avatar's Best Original Screenplay snub. I say nein nein nein to the consistently amazing Samantha Morton being overlooked in the Best Supporting Actress category and Avatar running abreast Hurt Locker for nine awards. Avatar may be an imposing movie, it's just not an exceptionally good one.

Great diversity in the Best Picture category, even if they only had one slot for a film where sports tackles racism. But Up is up there, and when was the last time an animated film qualified? (Goes check... In 1991. Beauty and the Beast.) Up in the Air made it, living proof romance (in American cinema) isn't (brain) dead. Precious, Inglorious Basterds, District 9...

Awkward transition, okay, nonexistent...

After reading a short story of mine, a friend asked: "Who are you in this story?" She wanted to know which one of the characters was based on me. She knows me well enough to try to search for me in my stories, to hear my voice, not only my writing voice or that of my characters. I'd also managed to create enough distance between these voices and personalities that in the end she wasn't sure what and who she heard. So she asked, and I answered: I'm none of them, for sure. I'm all of them, surely.

Like actors call upon everything they've ever had the pleasure or misfortune of learning about the human condition, and study the rest, so do writers dig up every joy, pain and sorrow they've lived through and imagine what they have not had the delight or horror of experiencing firsthand. It's the same with translators. We're not quite as mad as we seem, only impersonating, but since the best of us are doing such an outstanding job creating a multitude of fully developed selves, no wonder some people get confused about fact and fiction, author/actor and their art. 

The most talented of these mimes step not only into someone else's shoes but someone else's skin, and when they get into character we don't see role playing, we don't think "role"; we recognize life. Depicting monstrosities without passing judgment requires a great deal of empathy. You have to be able to digest much. Everything, actually. Not blindly idolizing people, for all their heroism, takes a hefty dose of cool detachment. You have to doubt what you're sure of, at least every now and then. 

All of the above entail imagination, being blessed (or cursed?) with a vivid mind. What is bigotry, what is hatred, but fear of the unknown and a severe lack of imagination? You can't portray, at least not convincingly, what you won't understand.

However you achieve an impassive approach to whatever you're impassioned about, you have to cover your tracks. Acting, writing, translating...you cannot be caught doing it. You can't let your technique show or what you tried to depict becomes an imitation of life or reads as Translationese making it that much harder for your audience to suspend disbelief. 

I have great respect and immense admiration for those who fool me into believing it is someone's life unfolding before my eyes or mind's eye as I read or watch, not merely a counterfeit one. That is no small talent, having such a powerful yet ethereal effect. It's a magnificent one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Follow the White Rabbit

Snow depth: 28 inches
Eating: mandarins
Drinking: white tea
Watching: snow falling on spruces
Reading: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Writing: trying to sort out that space thingy with the dream sequences which, if killed, will lead to confusion, if left alone will lead to even more confusion, if killed altogether will result in some serious collateral damage
Feeling: a flu coming my way, ETA 24 hours

I know some sort of illness will lay the smackdown on me from that slight ache that has nothing to do with exercise, from that fatigue that has nothing to do with how I've slept. No fun at all, folks, but one of the most wonderful things that have happened in the past couple of years started out while sitting in bed feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired.

A scene started rolling in my head and I could see it quite clearly. Okay, I thought, what's this then? I dropped what I was doing on my laptop very ineffectively anyway, and pulled up a blank page. I hadn't done that in a while, a very long while, but I did it then with no other thought than wanting to know what happens next? Amazing things, as it turned out when I started listening and watching and recording what was going on in the life of someone I had never met, someone who hadn't even existed before I gave them life and they gave me the spark to write it down.

What I wrote that day is unstructured and unpolished but enthused to the max. I saved that piece. It reminds me of how I felt that day, sitting in bed typing away. I forgot everything. The flu, the fever, the time, eating, drinking those all-important fluids... Flow, being in the zone, was all I felt, although I didn't become conscious of it until much later, thinking back on how deliriously happy I'd been. And it was happiness I felt writing, pure and simple. I may have started out feeling like crap but ended up smiling ear to ear. 

Soon after that day the dreams started, and it didn't take me long to realize with monumental certainty I would regret it. If I didn't act on it, I would regret it. The pull was strong and a bit scary but the good kind of scary, like when you don't know where you'll end up, you only know you have to go before it's too late. 

Into that current I dove and I still don't know where I'll end up writing-wise but at least I have no regrets. Come what may, I won't one day be crying into a nice glass of Syrah thinking about the days when what I wanted flashed before me in bright neon lights and I just dug out the Pregos, crossed the street and walked away as if I hadn't noticed. 

You can't always get what you want, as the Rolling Stones sang, but if you try sometimes you get what you need, whatever it is that gives you the Cheshire grin. I never took a wrong turn following my instincts. How much intuition do you dare leave unexplored?