Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sex and the Creative Juices

After a bit of a hiatus, a friend of mine recently developed a new celebrity crush. She is a writer too, and we have a lot in common psyche-wise. In the wake of her new fascination, my friend found herself suddenly coming up with new ideas for stories, a phenomenon I have experienced over and over again. It’s amazing how this process works: the connection between sexual attraction and creativity.

As you’d expect of me (LOL), I have some theories as to why this happens. Infatuations, whether they be for characters, celebrities, or real life individuals, are a sign that the object of affection possesses some particular, powerful appeal to your psyche. He is compelling to you in some unique way. The fact that you have encountered someone who strikes a chord with you naturally sparks your imagination. You fantasize about him, in specific situations that evoke strong emotions from you. These situations are exciting, and his character is thought-provoking and forceful.

If you have any creative propensities, it is only natural that the imaginative activity inspired by this crush spurs you to some kind of action. Obviously if you are a writer, you will feel a strong desire either to write non-fiction about a subject related to your idol, or fiction about a similar personality. If you are a musician, you will want to compose or perform pieces somehow connected to him. A graphic artist will draw, paint or sculpt with a related theme; even a craft person will find a connection by making a quilt, scrapbook, costume, etc. that connects her to the character.

Can you be creative without this sort of sexual/romantic inspiration? Of course you can, it’s just more effort. I’ll illustrate: Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on my next anthology, Soulful Sex: The Science Fiction Collection. The first story I composed was initiated during a period when I was particularly fascinated by director M. Night Shyamalan. I created the general storyline and the hero’s character at this time, developing a fellow of Indian descent who was a videographer of almost preternatural talent. Things got off to a good start, but then, as fate would have it, I got distracted by a new celebrity crush.

This, of course, was my attraction to Survivorman Les Stroud. The problem was, the archetype represented by Les suggested some very powerful drama and heroism, perfect material for fiction. And this was also one of those rare infatuations that is more than a fleeting fancy, but actually hits you on a number of significant levels.

So, I found myself really struggling to finish the first story about the videographer. I’ll admit there were some plot points that would have been tricky to handle under any circumstance--for example, could I really make it believable that in the near future society had managed to replace human sex with machines? But the matter was complicated by the fact that my imagination was preoccupied with survivalist themes.

Well, I’ve been writing for 40 years, so I know how to use discipline to complete a story, and I did. It was finally time to take on the next tale, and once I moved on from the sex machine story, I found nearly the whole plot of my next one lying piecemeal in my imagination. It was, naturally, about an interplanetary survivalist. The hero was as vivid to me as any I had ever created, being my own personal version of Les Stroud in space (I don’t know the real man personally so there’s no telling how much he is like my character Joel Fennimore). The heroine’s feelings for him were intense and clear and passionate, as you might expect. Putting the thing on paper was as effortless as creative writing gets. What a relief after the struggle of the prior story!

Which brings us to where I’m at with the third and final novella for this science fiction book. I’m in the interesting position of having processed my obsession with survivalists and no longer having that as such a powerful distraction, but meanwhile not having replaced it with a new fascination. So my imagination is on its own this time. My hero is not based on anyone in particular, and the plot is simply a concoction put together from random ideas in my head. I’m finding it easier to write than the sex machine story, but certainly not as effortless as the survivalist one.

So, all this discussion begs the question, is the creative process more fruitful when a powerful attraction drives it? At this point in the romance genre I have written 32 stories, novellas and novels. Of the 32, I would classify 15 of them as having been inspired in the manner outlined above. Is there any significant way in which those differ from the rest? Well, all of my longer works utilized an infatuation for inspiration, so I suppose it might be hard to sustain a sequence of creativity without that factor. My three most popular stories also are in that group, but my personal favorites fall both within and without the category.

Most significant is that all of them were easy to write. I guess that suggests that while imaginative effort and discipline can indeed substitute for pure “inspiration,” they are definitely more work! I would state unequivocally that, given my druthers, I’d certainly prefer writing under the thrilling influence of an infatuation every time.

Too bad I have to write a new story every couple months, and am not quite that fickle!

My works to date (“inspired” ones in italics):

Between Earth and Sky
Abigail’s Archer
Office Mating
Real Magic
The Dark Prince

Souls’ Embrace

The Trio
The Infatuation

One Hundred Women
Je t’aime, Etienne
As Commonplace as Rain

Fantastic Toys

The Queen’s Lady and Her King
The Guy from Beadsville
The Frontier
The Seduction of Squire Meg
The Verity of the Vampire

Harmless Pleasure
Dead Man’s Chest

Alloy Love
Spacewrecked with Joel Fennimore

Claude’s Laboratory

Gift of Flesh
The Golden Padawan
The Scarlet Shackle
Secret Santas

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween Costume Hotness

I love costumes and if I had my way, we’d get to wear them more often than just at Halloween.

First of all, I get a ridiculous thrill out of wearing certain kinds of costumes. Now, obviously it doesn’t work the reverse way for men, but if you’re a woman it’s very cool to dress up as a female version of your favorite heroes. In the past I’ve done this many times: I was a hockey goaltender back in 1998 (specifically Ed Belfour of the Chicago Blackhawks), a Jedi knight in 2002, and a pirate a la Jack Sparrow in 2003. I have to admit, every time I’ve walked into the office Halloween party in one of these personal hero type costumes, I had the shivers.

Costume parties also offer a great opportunity to see guys dressed up in extremely cool outfits that totally outshine the sexiness of normal fashion. I’ll never forget the year one of my co-workers came dressed up as Braveheart’s William Wallace, complete with kilt and blue face paint. This year he wore the most fabulous Batman costume, while another associate was dressed as Clark Kent (with Superman costume underneath). As silly as it sounds, this pair of pretend superguys really tripped my trigger. Gives you a taste of what it would be like in the actual presence of a real superheroes, huh? Yeah, yeah, I know--there’s no such thing, right, right. Meanwhile, for those of you who recall my recent obsession with fauns, another co-worker of mine who is also quite handsome chose to come as Saturday Night Live’s Goatboy, but looked a lot like Mr. Tumnus from Narnia to some of us. Sigh....

So am I the only one geeky enough to experience this stuff at Halloween? I have a feeling not.

Let’s digress to other situations when costumes are the order of the day. Going to Renaissance Faires is fun for the shopping, the ale and the horses, but let’s not kid ourselves. The best reason to attend is seeing the guys in tights and jerkins and doublets and armor. It’s funny how you can stand next to a man in an outfit like that and your blood just heats up. Jeans and a tee shirt rarely do that, you have to admit.

Or, try a Holiday Folk Fair. We have one in Milwaukee that incorporates dancing teams from every possible ethnic persuasion. That means more tights, more kilts, more men making you wish you could get in the Wayback Machine and enjoy this eye candy every day.

I realize science fiction conventions simply make a lot of people laugh, but there are reasons why they’re hugely popular with a large portion of the population, and one of them is the costumes. Klingons are kinda geeky, but they do sport very awesome uniforms. And no matter what you think about George Lucas’s talent at filmmaking, there’s no denying the Jedi uniform is damn sexy. Gotta love the long black coats made popular in the Matrix movies too.

I suppose there’s just something basically sexy about the exotic element in costumes...the fact that they are out of the ordinary. Think about how superheroes always sport costumes, and even the basic cape-and-tights outfit Superman wears has appeal on a guy with a Kryptonian physique. It’s interesting therefore to consider the NBC show “Heroes,” in which ordinary folks discover they have individual superpowers. None have costumes (except the cheerleader, of course), and without them they are special, they are heroes, but they simply cannot be superheroes. The Japanese character Hiro drove this point home recently. So far he’s been like everyone else, dressed in everyday clothes. But in one scene he appears out of the future, and is changed into a sort of samurai look for reasons we can only guess and can’t wait to learn from future episodes. In that guise, ordinary, goofy Hiro is suddenly quite awe-inspiring...and even sexy.

Funny how that works.

I think costumes are a sort of physical manifestation of the imagination, and the imagination of course is where all the truly potent erotic stuff goes on. Imagine if you could (like the holodeck from Star Trek, okay have I proved I’m a geek yet?) experience a truly physical version of your sexual fantasies. Wow. Well, wearing costumes, and being around others in costumes, can be a little taste of that, and it can be exhilarating. From Harley fans wearing lots of leather and studs, to Goths with black eye makeup, to punk rockers dying their hair green, we express our sexual needs and interests through costumes. And that’s why they sell a lot of that sort of stuff at your local Naughty But Nice store.

There are people who disapprove of Halloween because of some perceived connection to Satanism or Paganism in the holiday. I think it’s a necessary and healthy occasion to express the imagination in ways we rarely permit ourselves.

So let me know your favorite costume worn by yourself or a friend! C’mon, you know there was that one that really turned you on...

And meanwhile, now that the annual office costume party is over, I find myself as usual already planning for the next one.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Is the Sex TOO Perfect?

The other night my husband and I had a date night, and over cocktails and appetizers at Harry’s in Shorewood, we discussed my erotic romance works. David was overwhelmingly positive in his commentary--I really never realized he liked my stories that much--but he did have one really interesting criticism.

He felt the sex was too perfect.

First of all, David said my heroes are all virtually perfect (except the scoundrels among them, who manage to be perfect scoundrels). The heroines he found pretty much likewise. That was acceptable, really; he didn’t mind my creating characters that are somewhat larger than life. However, reading the love scenes put David in mind of the same confusion and intimidation he felt in his younger years, comparing the sex in novels to his own romantic experiences. How could a guy hope to live up to that in the real-life bedroom? Couldn’t I cut him some slack and have something go wrong in these torrid passages once in awhile?

To reassure the man, I had to explain something about the female brain.

I shared with him a magazine column I’d read earlier in the week. A woman wrote in for advice concerning her relationship with her husband, who liked to look at pictures of hot, naked women. The wife was completely freaked out over this, feeling she had no chance to compete with these perfect young girls. The columnist explained to her that men’s brains are very compartmentalized when it comes to these things; no doubt the husband never compared his wife to these women at all. She was in one compartment: his unique sweetheart. The magazines dolls were in another compartment, one that had nothing to do with real life. He knew as well as anyone that they weren’t really real.

In the same vein, I explained to David, very few women confuse the way sex is in fiction and fantasy with how it is in real life. I write these mind-blowing love scenes, with their cataclysmic pleasure, preternatural intimacy, and spiritual ecstasy, never thinking for a second that such stuff happens in reality.

I wouldn’t necessarily write about sex this way if I had a different style and wrote in a different genre. For example, if I wrote literary mainstream fiction, like my idols John Irving, William Goldman, and John Updike, I would write about sex the way it really happens between normal people.

But my stories are almost mythological. The characters are very archetypal, and represent concepts and characteristics that are powerful to the psyche. The union of my various mating pairs is always at least a little cosmic, intended to speak to the soul of the reader more than the logical mind, to the subconscious rather than the ego, if you will.

Even when I’m writing a contemporary story about two office workers making love on a desk after hours (“Office Mating” from Soulful Sex Volume I), the lovers are acting out that classic fantasy on behalf of all the readers who are too wise and practical to ever act upon their office crushes. It’s clandestine love, it’s breaking the rules, but what if it was so “meant-to-be” that it actually worked? For the sake of the archetypes and the mythological theme, these two office workers are going to have fabulous sex on that desk...no one is going to tip over onto a stapler at a key moment.

But that said, I know full well if David and I had tried it in the office where we originally met, the results would have been comical at best. That’s real life, and it doesn’t need to be like my stories to be wonderful and meaningful and fun. Which is basically what I told him over drinks at Harry’s, and I think he believed me.

For all his worry, he doesn’t seem too intimidated by the competition in the pages of my books.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to Spend an Idol Night

If you have a personal hero, animus-bearer, celebrity idol, or however you wish to term it, I highly recommend you have yourself an “Idol Night” sometime. It’s not only fun, it’s good for the psyche.

My first experience throwing an Idol Night was about 15 years ago, when I was in my Sting phase. I had three girlfriends at the office who indulged my obsession (they actually dubbed me Queenie Bee) and so one night we all got together at my house for Sting Fest. Much music by Sting and The Police was played, I shared my favorite videos, and a great time was had by all.

But for my example of how to conduct an Idol Night, I will use a more recent experience, from this past weekend. My daughters Katie and Amanda and I got together for an overnight celebration of my current personal hero, Les Stroud (aka Survivorman). Interestingly, it was my Katie who came up with the idea after Les was kind enough to send me his gifts (see "Those Little Addictions"), and Manzi was all about doing it too. So we planned what we decided to call “Lestivities Night.”

Now, for a proper Idol Night you will want to of course incorporate your subject’s various talents into the entertainment for the evening. You also want to focus on whatever it is about the person that inspires you the most, the aspects that move you the most deeply. It’s also fun to explore different facets of the individual’s personality, to get a “whole picture.”

If at all possible, you should work in some opportunities for “audience participation.” That is, make the experience active as well as passive. That can mean anything from just talking about the subject matter, to playing games, to doing a project. The point is to explore the part of yourself that relates to the Idol, and learn something about yourself as well as him. If there’s any common ground between you and the object of your affection--in my case with Sting, it was our mutual appreciation of Carl Jung and his analysis of the human psyche--be sure to work that in.

[If you’re wondering how my girlfriends and I brought Jungian psychology into our Sting Fest, well...we watched Sting’s film “Brimstone and Treacle” and talked about the sex appeal of the dark side of the psyche. Educational and fun.]

So, let me elaborate on Lestivities. It began with a beautiful fall afternoon in Greenfield, Wisconsin, very well suited for an occasion that would focus largely on Les Stroud’s appreciation for the natural world. We started by making some jewelry out of rocks that I had polished myself, using the rock tumbler Katie’s boyfriend gave me for my birthday. To me this was a really relevant activity, seeing as Les is always reminding me that the stuff nature creates can be even more beautiful than what man creates. I’ve certainly always felt that way about rocks.

I finished my jewelry first, which gave me a chance to pull out my new Native American flute for a brief demonstration. I just recently decided to take up the instrument quite on a whim; I’m not even sure how it came to me, it might have even been in a dream. At any rate, I’m usually a very logical person, and to do something based on a feeling was quite a departure for me. I’m sure Les’s influence had a bit to do with it, as he frequently points out the importance of following your heart.

We adjourned to the upstairs VCR to watch “Snowshoes and Solitude,” the documentary Les made in 1999 with his wife Sue about their year-long honeymoon in the Canadian bush. The two lived as natives did 500 years ago, in an utterly deserted wilderness. It’s an inspiring adventure that provoked no little discussion afterwards. We were quite in awe.

I’ll tell you right now, the girls and I are hardly survivalists. But we do really adore our annual camping trip to Point Beach State Forest on Lake Michigan. That’s our personal “touchstone” for living in nature, so we made ourselves a supper of hot dogs in biscuits and salad out of a bag, the sort of stuff we consider camp food. (Our plan to bake the “wiener wagons” on sticks over the grill was abandoned for the oven in about two minutes; yeah, we’re real survivalists all right.) Later we also broke out the pie irons to make pudgie pies for dessert. Native North American life of yore was never like this; I’m sure they had no Octoberfest beer like we did, either.

Now it was time to really get the fun underway, in the living room where we have our big screen HDTV and kickass sound system. We alternated three thrilling episodes of “Survivorman” with listening to excerpts from Les’s music CD. This is what’s called immersing yourself in the Idol. The room was illuminted by my wood-scented candle, I had the fountain running for splashing-ambiance, and it was the next best thing to having our hero in the room.

We squealed in horror as Les dealt with giant tarantulas in the Costa Rican jungle. We laughed as he sang the fun Irish-jig-style song “The Cockroach.” We thanked our lucky stars for our safe, dry sofa as Les got caught in a horrible nighttime storm on a life raft. We recovered from our sympathetic-seasickness thanks to his most blatantly sexy recording, “I Got My Mojo Workin’.” (What would Les think to see two generations of women swooning over this song?) We despaired with him as he made the tough descent into a Utah canyon in desperate need of water, only to find a dry riverbed.

By 10:45 we were exhausted from sympathizing with our daring, determined hero as he endured heat, cold, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and all those godawful jungle bugs. We went happily to bed and were more grateful than ever to be in warm, dry, comfy sleeping quarters.

The next morning we reconvened for a breakfast of bacon and eggs (standard camp fare) and scrumptious homemade granola, the one food we had all weekend that Les might actually have eaten himself! We listened to the whole CD and talked about all manner of things.

Everyone took away from the experience a little piece of what I think Les Stroud tries to impart with his music and filmmaking. And that’s what Idol Nights are supposed to accomplish. If you are mightily attracted to and/or appreciative of someone, it’s because there’s something about that person that speaks to the needs of your soul. Katie, Manzi and I all are the sort of women who look for heroes among the genuinely goodhearted, talented but humble, spiritual sorts of guys like Les. It does all our hearts good to find that men like him truly do exist.

This blog is called Erotica with Soul, and of course there is always an erotic element to the powerful attractions we have for heroes and celebrities. But as you see, it’s that wholesome, invigorating kind of erotic element, one that a mom can share with her daughters. Our Idol Night resulted in all kinds of good aftereffects: the appreciation both for nature and for the comforts of urban life; a desire to be more spiritual and more in touch with our life goals and dreams; and the inspiration that comes from discovering a true hero, an ordinary man who can do extraordinary things out of love and spirituality.

It was a night none of us will ever forget. Try your own Idol Night sometime soon--you may have a similarly powerful experience.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Simple Erotic Pleasures


Sometimes in dreams you zero in very intensely on some small aspect of life to which you might not give a lot of thought in your waking hours. I had that experience yesterday morning when I dreamed about hugging this guy.

What I recall about this dream hug is that it was a lovely example of that experience almost all women have had at once time or another: embracing a guy in a linen shirt. You know, a regular cotton/polyester blend type dress shirt. There is really nothing to compare with that feeling of a man’s body underneath that sort of fabric. Hugging a guy in a tee shirt is completely different, as is hugging through a flannel shirt or a sweatshirt or nothing at all.

Maybe it’s because the fabric is fairly thin, and loose enough to move, but a dress shirt seems to transfer a man’s body heat and firmness in a completely unique way. The feeling is so comforting and so exciting at the same time. And you get the sense that you are experiencing the guy’s body as intimately as you could without him being naked.

Funny how when I saw this guy again, he looked especially handsome to me, just giving me a good morning smile. Maybe there’s a bonding process that goes on when you embrace a man in a dress shirt.

Now in my dream, the shirt was white. Not sure why. But I asked myself the question, what would be my personal ideal color for the linen shirt hug? What would yours be? Shirt colors can be significant you know. I would propose these possibilities:

  • If you like a white shirt: you are thrilled by the power/intelligence of a professional man
  • If you like a light blue shirt: you like a more casual man
  • If you like a tan or khaki shirt: you go for a resourceful, military, or outsdoorsy, “manly” man
  • If you like a cobalt blue or red shirt: you like a man who is intense and confident
  • If you like a brown or gray or muted green shirt: you like a man who is shy
  • If you like a pinstriped shirt: you like a man with elegance and sophistication
  • If you like a wild print shirt: you like a man who’s eccentric

I find it a simple erotic pleasure just to contemplate hugging various types of men in these various types of shirts. LOL

And meanwhile, I also gave a little thought to what ingredients I would include in a potpourri of simple erotic pleasures. Here’s what I came up with on this particular day:

  • A hug in a linen shirt
  • A guy doing a really good impression of one of your favorite celebrity voices
  • A gesture for you to “come here” (that’s a killer)
  • A guy waiting on you who isn’t actually a waiter
  • Getting within 12 inches of a good-looking guy’s hands
  • Talking with a guy about a subject you both feel passionate about
Any day you can obtain even one of those is a good day. I haven’t managed any of them yet today, but I’ll do my best to fit in at least one before bedtime. Hope you do too!