Monday, June 20, 2011

high-brow literature

Last week, I found myself at a delightful wedding on Cape Cod filled with friends and strangers. And as it is with strangers and small talk, a lot of my conversations went like this:

Friend's Uncle's Business Partner: So, what do you do?

Serious Business: I'm a writer.

FUBP: Yeah? What kind of writing do you do?

SB: Freelance.

FUBP: Right, okay. But...what kind?

SB: Well, okay, I've been writing fiction-for-hire lately.

FUBP: What kind of fiction?

SB: Romance.

FUBP: Oh. Really...!

Somehow, I really had it in my head that I would somehow be able to avoid talking about what I've been doing. But there were a few problems with this thought: 1) I didn't have a good story concocted, 2) The evasion was for their sake and not mine, so I didn't really take it too seriously, and 3) I'm just not a good liar. I do sometimes leave tiny pieces out. For instance, if it was an old friend I was talking to and not a Friend's Uncle's Business Partner, I would just tell them straight up that I'm writing specifically for a sub-category of romance called Erotic Romance. Basically, my rules for disclosure are against anyone whose first reaction would include "Oh." In general, this is anyone related to me, anyone whose children I know, and people who I still think could potentially employ me.

Here's the book on Amazon. It is called 'Mexican Flames.' My editor wanted to call it 'Mexican Heat,' but it turns out there is a gay erotica book that already goes by that name.

Let me tell you a little about this book.
1) It is an e-book only. No trees were sacrificed to deliver this piece of high-brow literature to the world

2) Because it is an e-book, it has been designed to be read on e-readers. As such, it is short, and it is illustrated. ILLUSTRATED. (not by me). The funny part about this is that the book is 12 chapters, and we had agreed on around 4-8 illustrations. However, if you download the free sample chapter, you'll see that there are four illustrations IN THE FIRST CHAPTER. I have yet to download the full book myself, because two chapters are just sex, and I am scared to see those illustrated. In watercolor.

3)Did I mention that the title of the book is 'Mexican Flames?'

4)Jeremy Piven is in it.

5)This is Book One of a series. My editor-cousin wants to call the second one 'Canadian Flames.' Discuss.

Monday, June 13, 2011

old chinese ladies

This morning I was jogging home when I saw a short person clad in black, wearing a hat, pushing a metal shopper up the sloped sidewalk of Hyde Street. The shopper was piled so high with trash bags that they obscured the view of the tiny person pushing it. I'm not a very fast jogger (particularly when going uphill), but they were moving very slow, so it was just a few seconds later that I caught up with this slow-mover. Without really thinking, I cast a quick sideways glance as I made to pass them, and I was horrified to see that it was my grandmother.

Okay, it wasn't really my grandmother. My only living grandparent lives with full-time assistance in Singapore, so this tiny woman pushing this cart of recycling up this was definitely not her. But every time I see an old Asian person digging for a living, my heart buckles in my chest. Seeing as how I live next to Chinatown, you'd think I would be used to this, but no. Because every old person collecting cans to survive makes me see my parents, and even myself, and I always wonder what has gone wrong if an old woman is out struggling to push a cart of recycling up a hill by herself at eight in the morning. I usually stop and ask the women if they need help, and usually they say no. But this woman allowed me to grasp the handles of her cart and maneuver it up the hill. It was ridiculously heavy.

"You're very strong!" I told her.

"I'm 84 years old," she said. I'm not sure if she told me that because she was proud that she was still going at 84...or if she was explaining why she was now too weak to make it up the hill.

Part of me wants to believe that these women do not really need to be collecting cans. There are two poles of old Chinese ladies--those that expect to be treated like empresses of miniature empires (which many of them are). These ladies will expect all their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to fall all over themselves so that they won't have to lift a finger, ever, as a sign of respect for their old age and for their matriarchal position. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the scrappy women who believe that idleness and privilege are the worst of all traits, and they will be out collecting cans even if they live in a mansion with their eldest son, the doctor, and his wife, the lawyer. These kind of women cannot sit still because they need to feel like they are constantly providing whatever they can to the family. I prefer to think that these women belong to this latter camp, because it is a lot more comforting to believe this than to imagine that just a few blocks away from me, people are living in poverty, or that this woman's family has deserted her and that nobody is taking care of her in her old age.

That just kills me. It made me want to adopt her and bring her home with me, sit her on the sofa, and buy her a television so she could watch soap operas all day.

Related: If You Think Things Suck Now, Just Wait Til You're Old and Poor