Dita Parker

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life on Mars

So, did you enjoy last week's musical interlude? Was it a coincidence they were all women? No such thing as coincidences in fiction, dearest denizens, or coming from a fiction writer. Not only are authors notoriously self-centered beings who think every word they spout is golden because it may have taken them a week to form a sentence to their liking or two days to find the perfect word to describe something that defies description, most every seemingly spontaneous move or syllable is a premeditated act. We don't want to waste our time so we go for maximum effect. We don't want to waste yours so what you see is what you get, at least for my part. I like to think that extends to other authors, too.

I want to take people at face value, think the best of them until proven otherwise. If someone wants to help, I believe they genuinely want to or else they wouldn't be putting precious time into it. If someone comes off as a total asshat then maybe that's what they are. If I get burned, my bad for being so naïve, but I'd rather be naïve than a cynic, or hate or fear people just to be on the safe side. Okay? Okay. (Told you, self-centered, always with the me, writers. Say something. Come on, I won't bite. I promise to love you until you reveal yourself as a total, unredeemable prick. And then I'll try to fix you. See? You can only win with Dita. Stopping with the me now.)

I don't know what kind of brand I can build except be myself. Dita is just a pen name, not role-playing. She's everything I am, or I'm everything she is. Downside: you have a problem with Dita, I take it personally. Upside: you have a problem with Dita, I take it seriously. I don't shrug it off, say girls will be girls, and detach myself.

And what on earth were we talking about anyway? Ooh, the ladies who kept you company last week. Why wouldn't I showcase them, they are awesome. Able Women Extraordinaire Stomping On Male Excess. (If you don't know me by now, a fair warning: I do this, a lot, jumping from one thing to the other. Imagine what the insides of my head look like. It's like Highway 401 in there. Stopping with the me now.)

Awkward transition, okay, nonexistent... Really milked being sick, didn't I, but you see, I apply a very strict policy over getting sick: I'm dead set against it. Hate it. Suck at it. Highly disruptive, on all areas of life. And still: it is done. The story I talked about, the story I shouted out about after pressing Send. I've been at it for what feels like forever but what else is new, I always have more than one pot cooking and this one took a long, slow simmer.

Leave it to me to turn a simple ditty into a never-ending story, but when you write a story with characters prancing around you think you might want to revisit, you find yourself doing the unthinkable, the highly improbable, something you're dead set against because it messes with your M.O.: you plot, outline some. I did, enough I wouldn't regret choices made in this story. And plotting...that's like asking me to prove there's life on Mars. If you ever get to read the story I sent out, I do hope you'll go, "I don't see it. Much ado about nothing. What's the problem? What a drama queen." If that's what you'll think, I've done something right.

You're not supposed to see the strings, the machinations, the blood, sweat and tears writers put into stories. They're supposed to flow and you're supposed to enjoy the ride and think what a lovely time we must have had writing away, even when we may have bawled our eyes out because the pieces won't fit, no trick does the trick, and the characters misbehave. We may have spent considerable time despairing over stepping on a road most of us didn't choose in the first place, it chose us, and all we can do is keep walking and laughing and crying and loving and hurting and writing writing writing until we get it right.

Leave it to me to turn a simple thing into a complex one and milk it for all it's worth but there you have it. I repeat what I said with conviction in So You Think You Can Write: whatever the story, it's a serious effort on my part, and I want to feel good about the end result, happy about it, proud even. I want to know my characters, have everything thought out (yeah, even pantsters get around to it at some point), even if mere snippets of all that work end up in the manuscript. No matter how long it takes, and it is time-consuming.

I still dream of writing full-time, getting there faster, getting those stories out faster, even with all the changes and uncertainty and piracy and fear mongering filling the airwaves and nibbling away at us hopefuls. Writers owe it to the road to give it a shot, give it all they got, don't you think? We have to honor it, not spit and pollute and trample. Have faith. Have patience.

Yes? No? Undecided? Say something. Anything. At least promise to think about it. And have faith and patience, will you. No small task, going digging for life on Mars, but I'm on it. To keep you happy, and for the selfish impulse of making myself happy, doing what I love, in two languages no less, in different genres. I'm not bragging. I'm laughing and crying and loving and hurting and writing. I'm grateful. Amazed. Hopeful.

Never let up with the me, did I? Oh well. My party, my funeral, my little corner of Blogistan.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Had to tell someone. Just pressed Send and sent out a story to Ellora's Cave. I'm beat. Pressing that thing drains the life out of you, I tells ya. It really does. I feel as if I'd completed an ultramarathon. And have I ever, you ask? Are you nuts? I'm a fitness enthusiast, not a masochist. I'm also a writer, I have a pretty good imagination. It's a long road from What If to The End, that's all I'm saying. For now.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


What is this, the Dead Author Society (in reference to how the den has looked this week)? More like the half-dead author society, sweetie darlings. My babies gave me my first flu of the season, so I haven't written to you much this week. Well, neither have the Brontës. What's their excuse? Oh, the annual DASCon. Okay.

I gave myself a deadline; a story I wanted out of my hands by the end of the week. That's what I've been doing the past seven days, every moment I could spare; nipping and tucking, getting rid of the boring parts, breathing fire into the rest (at least that's what my throat feels like, as if I actually had), and drinking gallons of tea since coffee tastes like cigarettes when your whole head is congested.

You know what? It is done. That's what I wanted to report, but alas I can't since it isn't so I won't, but: I got close, very close, close enough to feel good about my progress. Am I going to send out a half-assed manuscript because by God I said by the end of the week I would? Of course not. When you're running a fever (and when you haven't had coffee for a week and may I please have this one addiction in addition to this awful, awful!, writing bug?!), you don't know your shit from your Shinola. And you only want to polish your stuff with one of them.

So, I won't be writing to you much until it's done, over with and out of my hands. I hope to celebrate it with a jumbo mug of café au lait from Brazilian beans I'll grind myself and sniff sniff sniff away in abandon, if I can. Ah, the small, simple pleasures. I wish you a week filled with them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The little gray cells win

Picture Devon, England, 1916. One Agatha Christie mentions to her older sister Madge that she's thinking of writing a novel. Big sister bets Agatha she can't. We all know how that went.

Well done, Dame Agatha, and happy birthday.

P.S. To win every Christie novel in your language, click here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An education

We celebrated my maternal grandfather's 90th birthday over the weekend. He's unwell after a lifetime of splendid health and thus unwilling to go without a fight, and some XO cognac once a day. I'm happy I still have him, my last surviving grandparent, a live link way back into the 20th century.

Yesterday would have been my maternal grandmother's 90th. She has been gone for over a decade now, but she's still very much present in their home, my home of many childhood summers. My second set of parents. Born a day apart, married at nineteen on the eve of WWII, years given to the protection of fatherland and mother tongue, laborious reconstruction and four children later, they stayed together until her death.

He taught me how to tie my shoelaces, use an axe, start a wood fire and drive most any motor vehicle. She taught me how to run a household in general and how to cook without books in particular, and she read to me then taught me how to read. The gender division was glaring but I got to take part in everything, to benefit from both roles at play, to play freely with both.

They were eager to teach and I was expected to listen close and learn. I got to try out things my parents might not have approved of (had they known of my adventures and tutoring...) for the fear I might be too young, that I might get hurt. Did I ever. Nothing serious, of course. But when the lesson is to get up, dust yourself off and try again, and again, until you get it right, you have to forget about pretty and let yourself get gritty. They let me, time and time again, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Wait. I wasn't going to talk about them, only tell you what I've been up to, sweetie daaarlings, because I know you could hardly eat or sleep or think straight not knowing where I'd gone, right? Tsk. Right. Anyway, no time left to talk about what I had in mind. I have a date with my WIP, and there is no such thing as fashionably late in Scandinavia, just plain rude. Since the title of this post isn't that off the mark, I think I'll leave both as is. Enjoy the rest of your week, wherever you are.

Friday, September 3, 2010


That's how my Latin teacher started every class. Yeah, that dead language. Except it's alive and well and living quietly among English and the Romance languages so shut up, if you're reading this without difficultly, you've kind of taken Latin too.

Do you hear that? That, dearest denizens, is the sound of silence. Sweeeet. My WIP sits close by demanding its turn and I stare at it begging for forgiveness, promising atonement, the attention it deserves.

I printed it out for self-editing, a habit I picked up after realizing I looked at the ms with totally different eyes that way, saw things I was blind to working with a screen. What the poor thing refuses to understand after a summer of near neglect, of sporadic encounters admittedly too few and far between, of keeping other work on the side, is that it has to wait one moment more.

The other evil, Evil!, it yells at me, work done, some wedding and trip planning taken care of, a card I'm making for my Papa's ninetieth birthday finished, and I'll be all over those pages. What it will never understand is, after all this time, it's a treat. Not the last in line, the prize at the end of the line. Something I can't wait to get my hands on, something that makes me work hard at every other task just so I can get to it.

It tends to forget some days are all about the WIP. There will be more of those now that life resumes normal programming. What we do agree on, what we both long for, is, if only all days could be all ours.