Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who’s Your Favorite Guy in the Band?

As the eloquent John Mellencamp once said, “Forget all about that macho shit and learn how to play guitar!” It’s true, one key to most women’s hearts is membership in a rock band. I had a blast writing about a rock band in my novel The Resurrection of Captain Eternity, especially Fritz, the lead singer/guitar player. Swoon.

So let’s have some fun and talk about rock band archetypes. Who’s your favorite guy in the band, and what might it mean that you find him to be the sexiest?

The Lead Singer: There are several possibilities here. One is that this guy is the front man, the designated leader. Could be you go for the take-charge type, the most capable, the fellow who is a natural leader of men. It could also be that you are a romantic, and therefore a softie when it comes to singers. You like the guy who pours his heart out in his voice, who touches you with the music of his soul, the apparent “poet.” Lastly, you may be attracted to communicators, guys who are articulate and open--sensitive and expressive guys.

The Guitarist: The man who plays lead guitar is probably the one who is the most overtly sexy. It’s that stance, you know? You may also like him because he is the often the most aggressive musically: he gets those powerful solos where the music tears through you. Due to the connotations of being a rock ‘n’ roll guitar player, you may think of this guy as a dangerous, bad boy type. Of course, the flip side is the acoustic guitar player, the singer/songwriter type who is a modern minstrel. In this case he’s a romantic balladeer, attractive more for sweetness than spice.

The Bass Player: The bassist plays an instrument whose low notes are subtle, almost subliminal. Nevertheless, by focusing a little more intently, you can pick up on the very powerful influence his music has on the overall sound--and especially feel--of the band. You’ll go for the bass player if you like the mysterious sort, the type who works his influence subtly. Or if you are a fan of shy men, or of guys who work hard in the background, this is the band member who will appeal to you.

The Keyboardist: The piano, traditionally, is more a classical instrument than guitar and drums. The man who plays it may strike you as more of a “classical” musician, perhaps more technically talented, more conservative in disposition, or more cerebral. If you’re a little scared of conventional rockers, you may think of the keyboardist as the most trustworthy and responsible guy in the band, the one man who makes you feel safe and secure.

The Drummer: Drumming requires a certain amount of flamboyancy and energy. It is not for the faint of heart. Consequently you’ll go for the drummer if you like guys who are wild, adventurous, eccentric, or powerful. Drums being the most primitive and elemental instruments of sound, the drummer suggests a sort of primordial masculinity. If you like your men rough, driving, and unrefined, this is the guy for you.

To be honest, on different days I will be drawn to any and all of these archetypes. Among my crushes/attractions in the five categories:

Lead singer: Jon Bon Jovi
Guitarist: Rick Springfield
Bass player: Sting
Keyboardist: Bruce Hornsby
Drummer: Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)

But wouldn’t that make for a really weird band?

Monday, June 19, 2006

What’s It Take to Get an NC-17 Rating Anyway?

I really do try to write dirty books, honestly I do. I just seem to have trouble getting enough filth in there.

Okay, I’m putting in nudity, naked body parts described in detail, clear and copious references to genitalia. People are engaging in the sex act, in various poses, sometimes even with a whip involved, or two people of the same sex, or the use of amazing mechanical devices. I have sex scenes that go on for a dozen pages, intercourse narrative for a dozen paragraphs, climaxes for a dozen sentences. I describe the minutia of the arousal and orgasmic processes in every possible way I can think of. You get lust, domination, seduction, submission, sex under the open sky, on an office desk, in another dimension, am I making my point?

But when push comes to penetration, it seems I always get the same reaction from reviewers: “Not sure this is erotica”...“more emotionally sexy than erotic”...“around the vicinity of an R rating rather than an NC-17 rating.” Oh don’t worry, I’m not upset, I’m just amused. Because it’s clear to me that the term “erotic fiction” has come to indicate something other than writing about sex in an arousing manner, because reviewers also seem agreed that I write stuff about sex that turns them on.

My inspiration for this blog entry is the review my book Soulful Sex Volumes I & II just received from the infamously stringent and strident media reviewer Mrs. Giggles. Mrs. G’s reputation is as an opinionated and outspoken woman who doesn’t hesitate to “rip new ones” for even bestselling authors. I respect that, especially in a case where she truly does seem quite intelligent and thoughtful and isn’t just ranting for ranting’s sake.

I was infinitely relieved to find out that Mrs. Giggles gave my book an 88 (remarkably high) and a truly excellent review. She really got what I was trying to do and appreciated it, and her only complaint (one I’ve heard before and never mind a bit) was that she wished some of the stories were longer because she liked them.

So, Mrs. Giggles was the source of that “around the vicinity of an R rating rather than an NC-17 rating” remark above. She also called the stories sensual and sexy, but since the sex was not “kinky,” she couldn’t consider them in the NC-17 category.

Rating sex in books by the standards used in the film industry is interesting. In film, the rating is partly subject matter but mostly based on what visuals are depicted, but that is not nowadays the case in written fiction. I guarantee if any of my stories were filmed in a way that depicted everything I described, there would be NC-17 ratings slapped on that footage. But since they are merely written down, to get myself in that category I’d have to do one or more of a few things. I’d need to work in the “required” terms for genitalia, for sure. It would also help if there was less plot development and a higher percentage of sex scenes. And I’m sure I’d get a boost for some kinkiness: more frequent three ways, anal sex, bondage, etc.

But alas, I don’t seem to be motivated to write about sex that way. I have this weird approach of setting up a couple characters and making them as appealing and sympathetic as I can, and very desperate to mate for some interesting reason. I build up the tension for as long as I can stand (no doubt much longer than some readers can stand, LOL) and then the sex happens, by which time it is more often than not, pretty intense and cosmic.

Mrs. Giggles put it this way: “All the stories are actually entertaining in their own right...What stands out in these stories is how Ms. Laurence emphasizes the process of falling in love between her characters...these love scenes can be very sexy because they happen to two characters clearly meant to be together. Their devotion to each other is as moving as their love story is fun to read.”

Before this entry turns into one big toot-my-own-horn fest, let me say I have arrived at the point: I really do feel the key to writing deeply affecting erotic fiction is to integrate the “falling in love” with the sex. But if you do that, the modern reader typically shifts your work from the “erotic” category to the “romance” category, no matter how hot the sex. The characters are passionately in love, so it’s not NC-17, it’s R, no matter how graphic the descriptions of their lovemaking.

I didn’t know this going in. I’m undoubtedly the biggest goodie-two-shoes in the erotica industry. I thought if I wrote about sex, that would be erotica! And pretty much all I do is write about sex: why we want it, how we want it, what it means if we want it that way, how it feels, what it does to us, how it can change our lives in ways large and small. But alas, I always go and put love in there, like a dork.

So why don’t I just give up on trying to convince people I write about sex? Good question! I could just call my stuff “spicy” or “sensual” and stop confusing people. And I truly don’t mean to be difficult. I just can’t seem to let go of this dream that people who want to better understand what sex means in life can find some sort of answer to their questions in my fiction.

So couldn’t someone just cut me a break and say, “Wowzers, this is NC-17 stuff, baby!”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Seduction vs. Copulation

I’m clearly not the first one to notice, but I was reflecting today on the relative joys of seduction and the objective of same, that is, the sex act itself. I’m certainly not going to knock the latter. But the interesting thing is that as far as cultural expression goes, the truly powerful stuff is related to seduction rather than copulation.

The event that sparked this line of thinking was my playing Rick Springfield’s Greatest Hits in my car this morning. You should be aware that Rick saved my sanity back when I was a pastor’s wife with two preschoolers living in the middle of Iowa farm country, with no job, friends, or even a satellite dish. City girl that I was, I would throw Rick on the turntable and stare out the windows at the grain elevators on the horizon, wishing they were skyscrapers of some neighboring urban paradise. My boredom and loneliness were greatly eased by Rick Springfield’s overtly seductive music. Few musicians have so unapologetically sung seduction as Rick, and I love him for comforting me with the balm produced by my own stimulated hormones.

Consider, if you will, the bridge from the song “Love is Alright Tonight”:

Don’t worry Daddy, I’ll have her home at a respectable hour
Go to sleep Daddy, you won't think about tonight
With the night comes the feeling that I’ve got this incredible power
Gonna love her, Daddy, she’ll be feeling it tonight
Alright, it’s gonna be alright…

I too felt
that Rick had “this incredible power,” derived largely from his having an awesome body, a gorgeous face, an extremely hot singing voice, and the ability to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar. The object of his lust (in fantasyland, me) was in big danger all right. She (if only it were me) would be feeling it and powerless to fight it.

Before I completely drift off my topic and into some Rick fantasy, here’s my point: in cultural expression, seduction often seems to make the world go round even more than love does, and certainly more than depictions of sex do. If the FCC allowed Victoria’s Secret to show copulation in its commercials, I suspect Madison Avenue would leave them as they are today. Temptation, teasing, hints and suggestions are so much more effective than handing over the cake.

In my erotic reading, the same principle holds true. When I read a story that plunges right into the orgy on page one, I derive very little from the experience. But I can get crazy hot and bothered when the seduction goes on for twenty pages. Is desire really that much more fun than satisfaction? That doesn’t really make sense! But sensible or no, it often proves true. I could handle hours of watching Rick Springfield playing guitar in leather pants, just hinting at the sex with his eyes and the placement of his instrument right over the groin. Meanwhile, although I haven’t actually seen such footage, watching him have sex would probably not be nearly so powerful. (Not that it would suck, but you know what I’m saying.)

It’s an interesting phenomenon. Desire without satisfaction is not usually particularly fun. I have no urge to spend time looking at pictures of food and never eating any of the tasty dishes. I’m not crazy about shopping unless I get to take something home with me. Reading the liner notes of CDs does absolutely nothing for me--the listening is everything. But with sex, we are interesting creatures. Men are willing to go to strip clubs knowing they are in for nothing but unfulfilled titillation. Women generally prefer looking at guys in jeans or even suits than guys engaged in sex acts. Heck, I’ll get off on listening to Rick Springfield singing without any visuals at all.

So do I have a theory to explain all this? Hey, it’s me...I always have a theory. And seeing as my theories usually involve the wonders of the imagination, why not go there right away and save time?

The imagination is the source of all things spiritually powerful, even the carnal things, if you’ll forgive that paradox. If you want power, give the imagination something to work with and let it fill in the gaps with whatever it most wishes to. Sure you could have a video of Rick Springfield having sex with some young girl. But how much more effective it is just to set some interesting lyrics to the right beat and have Rick put them out there in delicious voice, letting you create your own story.

I picture Rick luring the girl away from her home, barely concealing his lascivious propensities under the polite promise, “Don’t worry, Daddy, I’ll have her home at a respectable hour.” He doesn’t seem safe--you sense the fire underneath his reassuring demeanor. Then he admits to you to his conviction that he holds “incredible power”--the very sort of sexual power you’ve been sensing in his voice, and the voice of his guitar. His motives are not honorable, in fact he laughs at you for ever thinking that, he laughs at authority in his cocky certainty of his own sexual prowess: “Gonna love her, Daddy, she’ll be feeling it tonight.” Yeah, I bet she will.

See, my imagination filled in the gaps in the storyline with fodder from my own unique imagination, the fodder that is arousing to me in particular. Arousal is unique to each individual, whereas orgasm is a physical response that is always more or less the same. It’s somewhat analogous to the fact that after a meal the feeling of contented fullness is pretty much the same; it’s the route you took to get there than differs based on your personal taste and choice.

It’s in the course of arousal that a person’s particular needs are provoked and their satisfaction promised. Your attraction to men in beards, your yearning to be treated with a firm hand, your longing to surrender your inhibitions, whatever your individual psyche needs for balance and fulfillment--these things are addressed during the seduction. The final act, the copulation itself, is more of a “Yes!...thank you,” from a psychological perspective.

In my erotic romance writing I do make sure to write about the actual sex acts, but that’s always the toughest part. It’s important to weave in some material that will spark the imagination and inspire the reader, or there just won’t be much oomph there.

But writing seduction is a lot easier. I find material for that all over the place...even in the bridge to some 20 year old Rick Springfield song.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The “How’d-I-Not-Notice-Your-Hotness?” Syndrome

My younger daughter is going through a J.D. Fortune phase. The interesting thing is, back when the show “Rockstar: INXS” was on last year, she didn’t find J.D. particularly attractive and was deeply into his rival, Marty Casey. But with the release of INXS’s new album with J.D. as frontman, Amanda has suddenly discovered the charms of the guy.

Been there, done that. More than once, in fact, but the best example is from back in 1990 when I suddenly discovered Sting. Not that he had exactly gone unnoticed by me, of course; it was hard to live through the 80s without being aware of the guy, and I certainly always thought he was attractive. I had bought the album “
Synchronicity” in the mid-80s through one of those “10 records for a penny” Columbia House deals, but for some reason only listened to it once or twice.

But this particular evening I was hanging out by myself and decided to chill out by listening to some music with the headphones (the big kind that plugged into your stereo). On a whim I pulled out “Synchronicity” and threw it on the turntable. I lay myself down on the couch and closed my eyes, and “Every Breath You Take” came on.

Now anyone over the age of 30 knows “Every Breath You Take” was easily the most overplayed song of the 80s. It was even in heavy rotation on the TV show “All My Children,” where it was the theme song of a guy who was stalking Brooke English. Don’t ask me why it should have hit me any differently on this particular occasion.

But it turned out to be the closest thing to an out-of-body experience I ever had. I gave myself over to the music and somehow became it, I became the sound emanating from Sting’s throat. The rest of me, along with everything in my environment, seemed to disappear. I felt that throbbing bass line sustaining my life force, and the chord progressions were my emotions. It was so intense that when it was over I knew I’d been changed forever.

That seems like an overly dramatic statement, but it proved true. My Sting phase ended up ranking in my top three celebrity obsessions of all time, and led me to learn all I could about the man. This quest was also an effort to figure out what exactly had happened to me during that headphones incident. Before too long I learned of Sting’s fascination with the works of psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung, and so I started reading Jung voraciously. I basically ended up conducting a do-it-yourself Masters program in Jung, even writing a book (Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life) that could serve nicely as a fake Master’s thesis.

What I learned in the course of this little personal journey did irrevocably change my beliefs about a lot of very important things in life. My erotic romance writing is certainly strongly influenced by Jung, and therefore indirectly by Sting. It’s hard to believe that someone who impacted me this greatly could have gone unnoticed by me for years.

But that’s the “How’d-I-Not-Notice-Your-Hotness?” Syndrome for you. Sometimes there are people or characters that hit you like a ton of bricks at the very first glance (for me, my hockey idol Guy Carbonneau). Meanwhile there are other people you can see fifty times, and then suddenly one day something clicks, completely out of the blue.

I suppose this is because there are a lot of complex things going on in the psyche, developments that occur constantly without our awareness. Sometimes we arrive spiritually at some point where a certain archetype has a new, intense appeal it never did before. Certainly it’s true that at the time of the headphones incident, I was going through some significant personal difficulties and questioning some long-held beliefs. The mysterious, wise, sexy shaman archetype that was Sting fit my needs perfectly. As for the fact that he led me to some real answers to my questions…well, that’s pretty uncanny, and Carl Jung would undoubtedly call it synchronicity.

At any rate, I think a person ought to pay particular attention to those instances when the “How’d-I-Not-Notice-Your-Hotness?” Syndrome occurs. If someone you normally would have overlooked is suddenly a powerful figure to you, it has to mean something fairly significant.

And if you find yourself moving on eventually, as I did from Sting after a couple of years, it doesn’t mean you’re fickle. You’re just growing.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Welcome Back, Libido

Don’t you just love the end of a dry spell?

I admit that I am a “woman of a certain age” and despite being blessed to receive my dad’s “look young for my age” genes, I am dealing with a new stage of life these days. As much as the health articles assure you that older people can have fine, lively sex lives, there have been days recently when I wondered.

Well, I suppose I should have placed more blame on the fact that I’ve been sick most of the time for the past six weeks, as well as that my mother has been in and out of the hospital and my dad struggling with the crises. But as a writer of erotic romance fiction, I suppose I panicked, wondering if my vocation was going to become a struggle, or even impossible. I thought maybe this was it, libido-wise: the end of the sex drive as we know it. I reminisced wistfully of my youth, when so often my thoughts turned to the erotic. Meanwhile, I went days without even giving sex a thought, and wondered if I was done with it all for good. Me, the keeper of the “Erotica with Soul” blog!

Well, yesterday I wrote perhaps the hottest sex scene I’ve written in a couple of years, so I guess I needn’t have worried after all. Seems it was just one of those times when ill health and stress preoccupy the body (and for good reason). Apparently it’s not the end of the line yet for this writer.

The Bible says, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Sometimes one just has to go with that. Moods come and go, creativity swells and falls, and energy waxes and wanes. It’s just another interesting aspect of living.

But I wonder, after watching that sex scene pour out of me, if during the doldrums my psyche wasn’t storing up stuff for a future time. It certainly felt like some sort of dam broke. This will be a comfort to me when next I experience a lull. My subconscious will probably be busy hoarding up erotic material like nuts for winter. I’ll try to trust that and wait for the next breakthrough with more patience, particularly if there are plenty of obvious reasons why I’m in that lull. And certainly if every time I come out of a dry spell, I get ten pages of prose like that, I won’t complain!

Still, I wish there were some reliable treatment, some magic incantation one could use to snap out of the lows. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. The thing that wakes you up is always something totally unpredictable: the discovery of a new face, a fascinating character in a book, a powerful scene in a movie that you never would have expected to have such an effect. If I could pinpoint a single trigger this time (and it certainly can’t be given full credit), it would be the scene I wrote about in my previous blog on aphrodisiacs. But that isn’t a subject I’d given much thought to before, and I had forgotten utterly about Steven Weber for the past five years and more.

So alas, when becalmed on the seas of desire, it would seem all we can do is wait for the wind to rise again at their whim.

But I do like to keep a few nice erotic romance books handy--can’t hurt, might help.