Monday, August 28, 2006

Alan Rickman’s je ne sais quoi

It really bugs me when I can’t figure out why a guy is really attractive. This is my problem with Alan Rickman. The man is 60 years old, has an extremely unconventional face, and is hardly known for landing romantic lead roles. Nevertheless, his allure transcends logic and is so potent that I doubt he could play any part without seeming sexy.

Over the past weekend I saw him in “Blow Dry,” a 2001 British comedy about a quirky national British hairdressing competition held in a small town in Yorkshire. Alan plays an aging barber in business with his son, who has turned from his celebrated competitive success of the past due to his wife’s running off with another woman. His son is played by the young and always heart-throbby Josh Hartnett, who is the film’s romantic interest. However, as always, Alan Rickman steals the show.

His portrayal of Phil, the hairdresser, is understated. His bitterness over his failed marriage seethes quietly, and when he decides to intervene against an old rival’s cheating in the competition, he is stealthy and low key. Against the flamboyant backdrop of the other hairdressers (you can imagine), he seems as solid and humble as they come. But when ultimately he brings all the films plot lines to rights by competing in the final round, Phil suddenly unveils a passionate and creative streak buried for years, symbolized by the stylized scissors tattoo he bears on the sole of one foot.

I’m not a big tattoo fan, but I found that revelation an extreme turn-on. It was like a private secret unveiled. Of course a guy like this would only have a tattoo in a spot no one would ever see except on the most rare, significant occasions. (Only a guy like this could endure the pain of a tattoo on the sole of the foot!)

And somehow the tattoo was a metaphor for the charm of Alan Rickman himself. There’s something rare and special about this guy that you can’t put your finger on, but I suspect he knows where and what it is.

That je ne sais quoi succeeds whether he’s the sinister Professor Snape in the “Harry Potter” movies, the downright evil Sheriff of Nottingham, the eccentrically powerful being Metatron in “Dogma,” or the romantic hero Colonel Brandon in “Sense and Sensibility.” It even works when he’s Harry in “Love Actually,” a guy who cheats on his wife with a rather sleazy co-worker. Alan is a marvelous actor, and indeed becomes someone new in each of his roles (particularly as the voice of Marvin the depressed robot in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”). Nevertheless, whomever he’s being, that certain something always shines through.

Sometimes I think it’s Alan’s unusually sensuous features, but then I was likewise as drawn to him as Marvin. Perhaps then it’s his unique voice, so refined and so often deliciously haughty. But would I rather look at him or listen to him? Maybe it’s the dry, detached manner that is the one common thread in his performances--that cool and unflappable, slightly disdainful demeanor.

Oh, I give up, I can’t even guess what it is about Alan Rickman that makes me so crazy. But I do know, whatever “it” is, no one else has it.

Any theories out there? I know I’m not the only one nuts about this guy....

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Yes, today I'm here to blog about the sexiness of Canadian men.

Back in the day when I published my weekly ezine "Hockey Snacks," I coined the term "canuckophilia" to mean the love of Canadians and the Great White North. I got a ton of reader mail on the subject, and there were an awful lot of American women with "eh?"-fetishes. (Meanwhile, my male Canadian readers were astonished to learn this and many planned trips south to find out for themselves if they could get chicks by saying "aboot.")

I retired from the Hockey Snacks gig in 2002 but remained a fan of Canada. Lately, embroiled as I am in my most serious celebrity crush in a long time, I am rediscovering my old tendency toward canuckophilia. I used to be fascinated by Canadian hockey players, and now that it is a Canadian survivalist instead ("Survivorman" Les Stroud), I see some recurring themes.

According to the fantasy at least, Canadian men are tough, resourceful, real guys. In hockey, it seemed the Canadian players were the ones who could augment their skills with sheer determination, and hang in there when other men wussed out...qualities one certainly finds in my hero Les. There was also an unsullied, unsophisticated, genuine niceness about most Canadian players. It was almost as if life in the simpler, closer-to-nature environment of the north made for men of character.

In my day job I sometimes deal with Canadians on the phone; they are typically warm and friendly and completely oblivious to my romantic enjoyment of their Canadian accents. Part of the charm of these guys is that they have no idea that some Americans are canuckophiles and actually find them sexy. They don't realize some of their southern neighbors fantasize about Canadian men who can play great hockey, subdue the wilderness, and curl. I've blogged before about the sex appeal of curling, that other great Canadian sport, and I likewise doubt that Brad Gushue has a clue. (Pete Fenson may be the closest thing to a hot Canadian man that the U.S. has to offer. LOL) So not only do Canadian guys have all this going for them, they are humble and self-effacing to boot.

There is also a kind of exoticism about Canadian men which I'm sure they would never understand or acknowledge, but which some American women perceive. While we all live in North America, and speak the same language (and there's a whole nother sexiness going on with the francophones up north), Canada is still different from the U.S. We may make jokes about the McKenzie Brothers, Molson-swilling lumberjacks, and hockey players missing teeth and "puttin' on the foil," but there is still a romantic mystique about those who in a country that contains vast wilderness and extends far above the arctic circle. Okay, so maybe only 10% of Canadian men live more than a hundred miles from the border...still, there are guys up there who are tough enough to deal with cold temperatures, outsmart bears and moose, and hit 75-mile-an-hour slapshots.

The archetype of the Canadian man doesn't appeal to everyone; he's no James Bond, no Vampire Lestat, no erudite, sophisticated, or overtly sexy hero. But for those of us attracted to ideals like self-reliance, humility, strength of character, kindness, determination, and competence, that guy in flannel with the fishing gear or hockey equipment can be mighty alluring.

It's nice to be crushing on a Canadian again....

Friday, August 18, 2006

From 13 to 50

Today I'm turning 50. Pretty exciting stuff! Makes me glad that I have found some success with my fiction writing in recent years, seeing as career-wise, that was my life's goal from the time I could hold a pen. But until three years ago I would never have guessed it would be romantic erotic fiction that would be my ultimate claim to fame. I guess you can't always anticipate what ability will eventually surface as significant to your life.

It's crazy to think I've been writing about sex for 37 years. Even crazier that I can remember the first time I did it. I went through puberty at age 13, and it was almost as if one day the stuff we'd learned in that "special class for girls only" sounded gross, and the next it started to be intriguing. But one particular day I was thinking about this boy in my junior high class that I had a crush on, and it seemed to me that such intimacies with him might not be disgusting after all.

I think my pubescent feelings were something of a precursor to the view of sex I would eventually hold for a lifetime. I hadn't yet discovered what orgasm felt like, nor had I seen what a naked man looked like, so the nitty-gritty of sex was still to be discovered. (Let me interject that shortly after this my parents did a terrific job of educating me; I read a couple excellent books they provided me and learned all about everything.) The actual act of intercourse seemed scary, but the concept of conjugation was very compelling. So you see, from the very beginning, the physical act of sex was not my primary focus when it came to the erotic. It was much more spiritual and emotional.

Chris, my junior high crush, was a very shy boy who barely spoke to anyone much less me. Perhaps it was because he seemed mysterious that I was drawn to him; at any rate I didn't really know him personally at all. Nevertheless, I was suddenly acutely aware of a fellow human being in terms of his maleness. I sat behind him in algebra and studied the flesh on the back of his neck, the shape of his limbs, the line of his jaw. I put my hands on the desktop close enough to his back to feel his warmth. I was full of yearning that seemed wonderful but terrible. I thought about touching him, kissing him, and found myself reacting to these thoughts in a whole new way.

I felt surrender: the primordial female response to masculinity. I wanted to give over to him, to let him be aggressive to me. And these feelings made sex, for the first time, seem potentially a desirable thing. The abstract thought of Chris entering me, of our bodies melding, was very sweet. Intercourse I still wasn't sure of, but that deep closeness, that physical connection, had great appeal.

So I wrote about it in my diary. I didn't write about the sex act, but about the abstract concept of being joined to this boy. And to this day, although I do write about the sex act now, it's these same feelings and concepts that to me are true erotica.

I must have reread that diary entry a hundred times, for years afterward, along with the other passages I occasionally penned. Into adulthood and over the decades to follow, I often wrote erotic scenes and stories about men to whom I was attracted. These were all for my own private consumption, but having the sort of approach to erotica that I did, I worked hard to make them vivid and well written and emotionally as well as sensually compelling.

It turned out these efforts were not in vain. In the late 90s I began to share some of my stories with a couple of close friends, who begged me to write more. In 2002 I wrote a piece of Star Wars erotic fiction and posted it online. That was the turning point, for I began to get real fan mail for this story and for the first time to consider writing erotic romance for publication. I had been freelancing with minor success for three decades and written four novels, one self-published, but I had never thought of selling work in this genre.

It took me 33 years to get to the point of deciding to do so, but then only about a month to find a publisher--actually two publishers. And here I am, finally having found my writing niche, and turning 50 years old. I think it never occurred to me that my strangely abstract, spiritual/emotional approach to sex would appeal to others, but apparently there are quite a few people for whom it strikes a deep chord.

I feel a lot younger than 50, and can still pass for 40 to strangers (throwing in a recent picture I like, out of sheer vanity--LOL), which I guess is a fortunate thing for a woman who writes erotic fiction. And although I'm not as obsessed about sex as I was in my mid-30s (when my second husband met me, lucky guy), I make up for it in the wisdom that life experience brings, much of which does touch upon the erotic.

In other words, I'm very happy to be 50 years old and specializing in writing erotic fiction. That 13-year-old is still in here somewhere, still in awe of sex, still trying to figure it all out.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Les is More

I recently blogged about several attractive fellows from the Discovery Channel, one of whom was Les Stroud, aka "Survivorman." Well, you know how it is: you can never predict what particular person is going to capture your imagination, and in the intervening days, Les has trapped mine. I've also learned there's more to Survivorman than I originally realized.

I have a strong theory why I find so much appeal in a man who specializes in survival. If you'll pardon the arrogance of this statement, I'm a pretty capable person myself--intellectually and emotionally, anyway. Meanwhile, however, I was raised in the early 60s with the romantic ideal that men are strong and protective. In spite of my independence, deep down I have always craved a hero to rely on, someone almost supernaturally able to deal with challenge.

So it was only a matter of time until I found myself attracted to Les, particularly considering the format of his show. He's all alone in these beautiful but dangerous locales...just the man and the camera that connects him to you. When he looks into your eyes (via the lens) and shares with you his most intimate reactions to his plights of survival, you feel yourself bonding with the guy. You suffer with him when he shivers with hypothermia, you pray with him that he won't be attacked by bears, you hunger and thirst with him as days pass and his body pines for nourishment. That kind of shared experience has its effect.

Nevertheless, I confess the allure of Les Stroud crept up on me slowly. He is capable but not dashing, pleasant-looking but not gorgeous, manly but not macho. He can seem almost ordinary at times (if you ignore what he's doing), as he goes about his business quietly with moments of humor and occasional annoyance. After I had spent enough time with him to notice a friendship forming (if familiarity with a TV personality can be called "friendship"), I suddenly realized I felt more than that. One day I kinda liked him; the next I was holding pretend conversations with him in the imaginary wilderness of western Ontario.

Yesterday, however, things took an even more intense turn.

I was killing time and decided to see if I could come up with a nice Les wallpaper with some spectacular natural backdrop behind my new hero. In the course of this, Google turned up someone's personal blog page that featured the line: "Les Stroud--I want to have his babies!!" I figured I'd found another "Survivorman" fan. But when I clicked from Google to the page, I found the reference was in this girl's "favorites" column, listing him as her favorite musician.

I knew Les was a musician, as I reported here before. But it isn't his primary claim to fame. My curiosity piqued, I dug a little deeper and found a page of Les's on which he spoke more about his musical career. It included three free MP3's of songs he had composed and performed. I chose one entitled

It was an interesting folk fusion sort of song, with acoustic guitar (Les) and fiddle taking the lead roles. I liked it a lot, and it was certainly out of the ordinary. Then over the music rose the narrative voice of Les, the one I knew well from watching his show, speaking softly and slowly of his childhood daydreams. And abruptly, without warning, he began to sing.

I am not exaggerating when I say, I had an intense physiological reaction to this. A flush of heat flashed in the core of me. It was a kind of shock, a gasp of delight but more awe-full than happy. Why shock? Well, it wasn't that it didn't sound like Les: it did. And yet, I had truly never guessed his singing voice would be that beautiful. I stopped breathing, ceased moving, experienced nothing but that weird flush and the sound of Les Stroud's music in my ears.

I haven't had a reaction like that to music since when I heard Ewan McGregor open his mouth and sing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" at the beginning of "Moulin Rouge." As on that occasion, I found it hard to believe what was happening--that this person possessed that voice--even though the proof was in my very ears.

I listened to the other two songs. All three were wonderful. Les's guitar playing was wonderful, and the fact he wrote these songs was just one more fact at which to marvel.

It's hard to find men who excel in the esthetic realm and the physical one. Sometimes the survival master's comments on "Survivorman" do verge on poetry, and clearly his love of the natural world and his camera work also mark him as having artistic sensibilities. But there is something about music that, at least for me, transcends all. So this discovery proved to me Les Stroud's soul is a match for that mind and body that I've seen endure and conquer the physical realm's toughest challenges.

What is it about hearing a man sing that just makes you want to lay your heart at his feet?

Over the years I've gotten quite good at mastering celebrity attractions. I know they are 90% fantasy and 10% fact, and I stay conscious of that. That said, Les Stroud is almost too much for me. None of this is acting, it's all the real Les. I fear the fantasy/fact ratio with him is more 40/60. I find myself actually aching a little if I think about it too hard. I'm sure his wife could tell me plenty about his faults and the downside of living with him (as if I could, as she did, live with him without electricity, plumbing, or even metal tools!). But this time the wonders of this man are rather irrefutable.

As much as that pains me, seeing as I won't ever even meet him, it's also really marvelous.