Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Whatever Turns You On

Never a week goes by that I’m not reminded of the challenge of writing fiction with any kind of erotic element. Unfortunately, sex is an arena that is more individually personalized than any other aspect of psychology. What turns one person on can not only do nothing for another, it may actually turn that person off.

We are aroused by different circumstances, different environments. We all have particular “types,” and may or may not share them. Finding common ground can be very difficult, and forget about finding someone exactly like you. Is there anyone other than me out there who is attracted to the same set of men I have blogged about here (say, Admiral Adama, Mr. Tumnus, Survivorman Les Stroud AND Jim Halpert from “The Office”)? Anyone who worships (chastely of course) John Williams while also lusting after an assortment of hockey players? Anyone who loves sex scenes but is no fan of C-words? How about anyone who enjoys the occasional “movie for mommies and daddies who love each other,” but finds the usual erotic book cover—naked torso of ripped guy—completely unappealing?

Anybody out there scoring 100% with me? Didn’t think so!

Okay, here’s a good example of how very particular we can be about our arousal triggers. A number of years ago I read Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, because I was a big fan of her vampire books and also liked reading erotica. For those unfamiliar, these three books are intensely S&M in character. I’m not saying they aren’t well written, and I’m sure hold great appeal for many in the D/s community, but they were not especially erotic to me…more icky, actually.

However, I’ve always been very intrigued by dominance and submission. Taken to a certain degree, it’s one of my biggest turn-ons. I’ve read a couple of the current popular authors in the D/s genre, and while the sex scenes were too extreme to me, I did find the elements at play very interesting. Meanwhile the D/s movie “Secretary,” with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, was one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen. And I had a wonderful time writing my novella “The Scarlet Shackle,” although the content was not acceptable to my publisher at that time (it’s now offered by the Living Beyond Reality Press READ FREE Project, if you are interested). It is very mild D/s, but has appealed to many over the past couple years and even been endorsed by a popular D/s website. See? Some hate it, some love it.

My point is, even on this one issue—dominance and submission—there is a spectrum, and a person falls into a very narrow band upon that spectrum. The D/s fiction I enjoy may be horrifying to you, or far too tame. Ditto every other approach to sex.

It’s for this reason that I’ve hesitated to leave behind the short story/novella fiction length. I’m always hopeful that by including three to twelve tales in a book, so that even if the reader isn’t crazy about one, hopefully they will enjoy another. I know this from experience, from buying erotic anthologies over the years: there’s one or two stories in the book that are really arousing, and the rest will probably just be interesting, with one or two clunkers in there that just do nothing for me at all.

But a person can make herself crazy trying to write original, interesting fiction that includes sex. Is there enough, or too much? Will it be hot enough for people who demand “dirty words,” while not turning off the more sensitive? If I make the hero the computer geek sort of guy I’m attracted to, will I lose 95% of my audience immediately? If he’s nice will the bad boy lovers hate him; if he’s bad will he lose the reader’s sympathy?

And you wouldn’t believe what an issue it becomes even deciding if the label “erotic” is appropriate!

Long story short, fiction is no substitute for individual imagination. When a person invents a sexual fantasy for herself, it is custom-made. But when that person opens a romance book, unless it’s very formulaic and that reader is way into that formula, it becomes a total crap shoot. Naturally I write what arouses me. Whenever I get into an argument with myself about how much a particular passage or story is going to arouse someone else, I’m lost in the quicksand in no time. You just can’t even shoot for that goal.

Although I’m getting the impression if I wrote about some office guy who looked just like Jim Halpert, an awful lot of you would like it!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Poem: I Still Want to Kiss You

Sure I still want to kiss you—some things never change.
(Though I don’t really miss you, and we both feel estranged.)
Sure, I still feel the wanting when I look in your eyes…
like a mystical haunting I can’t exorcize.

Time goes by, time heals all, and I don’t miss the pain;
I don’t miss the pall you could cast on my brain.
But I still want to kiss you, I won’t try to deny,
and I still want to hold you, though I can’t say quite why.

It might be only the particular blue
of your eyes, or merely the certain hue
of your hair, so familiar, of which I’m so fond
that make me consider restoring the bond.

Why don’t these remind me of tears that I shed?
I should be resigned, be determined instead
To remember the hurt and to keep you at bay,
Besides, I’m quite certain that you think that way.

So I’ll hide what I’m feeling, and you’ll do the same,
and we’ll keep right on playing our nice little game;
both relieved that the days of anguish are over,
both set in our ways of ignoring each other.

But I still want to kiss you—some emotions won’t die—
and I just can’t quite see you as any old guy.
So I guess I have got to just leave it at this:
you’re the man I forgot, but I still want to kiss.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Blushing as I Write

Needless to say, writing about sex is something not everyone is comfortable doing. I would venture to say that even those of us who do it professionally are not always comfortable doing it. When I spoke at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention last year, I was amused to hear my fellow erotica panel members discuss how they constantly find themselves using words they would never be able to say out loud. Every now and then I field a proposal from an audio book company, and I turn them down every time...just not sure this is the kind of material anyone wants playing in their car.

Now, as fans of my writing know, I write the “tamest” and most tasteful erotic romance around. A few people over the years have suggested it isn’t even erotic, in fact. I don’t do any classic “dirty talking.” Nevertheless, I do write plainly about sex, and to do so, you really have to get into the characters heads as well as their beds. It’s a little like method acting, I guess. I literally have to get into character and imagine precisely what it would be like being in this situation, with this particular other person. I have to find what it is about the situation that inspires passion and focus on it. I have to feel what the characters would feel, hear what they would say to each other, and literally share in their arousal. Yes, literally—of course. And then I have to find a way to convey it all in words that will speak to the reader’s imagination graphically enough so he or she feels it all too.

You know what sex is like: you’ve experienced attraction, temptation, arousal, embarrassment, bliss, satisfaction, regret, contentment. Well, all those things also happen to an author when that person writes erotic fiction. Sometimes you find yourself quite averse to the idea of writing a sex scene in three pages, but what unfolds in the story literally seduces you. You go from, say, anxious and preoccupied, to completely focused on physical pleasure.

And sometimes, frankly, it’s embarrassing. No, I’m not talking about writing a passage so hot your husband catches you masturbating at the keyboard. (Now that I mention that...I wonder if it’s ever happened to any of my ebook reading fans. Interesting thought...) What I mean is, loss of self-control tends to be embarrassing, and when you write erotic fiction this frequently happens. You have to make sure it happens, or the scene won’t be authentic. I mean, if this guy you created can’t turn you on, he sure as hell isn’t going to do it for the heroine or the reader.

So imagine yourself the last time you were really, dizzyingly aroused. Now imagine having to write down whatever comes into your head while in that condition. NOW imagine having other people read that stuff—your husband, your best friend, your daughter or your mom. (Yes, in my life they have. Yikes.) See? Embarrassing.

And yet, not shameful. I won’t ever write anything that would make me feel ashamed to have people read who actually know me. I have a conviction that while sex is definitely a private thing (and it’s embarrassing sometimes because to the erotica writer it is no longer private), it is definitely NOT a shameful thing. Ideally, it’s healthy, wonderful, and a lot of what makes life worth living. It’s what makes flowers bloom, painters paint, the sun shine, and singers sing. I’m really quite proud that writing about it is a lot of what I do.

But it can still be embarrassing. I mean, for example, anyone who reads my novella Gift of Flesh—the scene when Naissun climaxes over Miakaela and she thinks, “Welcome death, beautiful, beautiful death”—that that was how I sincerely felt about him when I wrote the scene, all hot and panting as I typed. I put this intense stuff out there for total strangers (and worse still, friends and co-workers) to read.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. :-)

Monday, January 08, 2007

So You Like Him TOO?

Let me explain that subject line. A few days ago I finally got around to putting a tracker on this blog, It’s about time, I’ve been keeping this for over a year and a half! Anyway, I was AMAZED at (1) the number of visitors I get, and (2) the ways they discover the blog. The stuff people are searching for has reassured me about my own sanity!

First of all, wow, there are a lot of people who are fans of John Krasinski, who plays Jim Halpert on NBC’s “The Office.” I discovered some people who have written some very cool fan fiction about him too, and I see that the appeal I find in the character is having a very similar affect on a lot of women out there.

I am also very surprised to see the number of people googling “Sean Maher shirtless.” For those who don’t know, Sean played Simon on the short-lived but awesome show “Firefly.” He did appear shirtless on the show, and I guess I’m not alone in noticing he was not just your run-of-the-mill shirtless guy. It’s staggering to me that a guy in a supporting role on a show that aired I believe only six times, even if he did have a supporting role also in a feature film spinoff of said show (and did appear shirtless in said feature film as well) should have made such an impression on the general populace. Wow.

My tracker also tells me that a lot of people are fixated on the hot males who populate the Discovery Channel. I guess Discovery does have a larger-than-average quotient of attractive men, seeing as it is heavily weighted towards guys who scale mountains, build flying machines, and slop pigs (that latter is a tip of the hat to Dirty Jobber Mike Rowe).

Speaking of the Discovery Channel, I have to say nothing surprised me more than seeing the number of people searching for “Les Stroud naked.” Well, Les has appeared naked on his show “Survivorman,” but his privates have been consistently pixilated. Apparently, however, he has fans determined to turn up the real deal, nudity-wise. Les does not appear naked on my blog, either, and for the record (not that I want to admit how thorough I have been in researching the man) I can assure you there are no naked photos of Les anywhere on the Web, although I guess with this paragraph I have guaranteed attracting more of those who are looking. Also for the record, I have not myself been specifically searching for such photos…Les pixilated is more than enough for me.

Now in the circles I run in, when I say things like “Oh, this necklace I’m wearing? That’s the logo of the show ‘Survivorman’ with Les Stroud,” I invariably get the response “Survivor?” No, NOT “Survivor,” I think that show blows. My point is, in the States you don’t find a lot of people who have heard of Les. It does my heart good therefore to find out I’m not alone in my admiration for Mr. Stroud. Wise women of Canada, hopefully your southern sisters will catch on eventually.

All this has been very reassuring. I have never been one to be drawn to the obvious (Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, etc.), but instead am forever falling for non-glamourboys like Edward James Olmos and John Williams. (Heck, I’d make out with goofball MythBuster Adam Savage.) But I consistently maintain that there’s more to sex than the obvious, and the attractions women can feel for men attests to that. Apparently my taste is not so off the beaten track as I thought. Apparently I’m just a regular, red-blooded American girl.

Hope springs eternal that one day Les Stroud will top People’s Sexiest Men List.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Become a Soulful Sex Partner!

Okay, that's not what you think it is.

"Soulful Sex Partners" is a crazy idea I had New Year's Night, to enlist the help of as many people as I can in helping me write my next book (a spicy romance novella).

I'm currently recruiting as many members as I can to take part in the process. As soon as I have a nice group assembled, I'll start providing opportunities for people to send me their input for the new book. I plan to use polls, chats, and email to get the Partners' ideas on everything from the genre of the book to the name of the heroine's cat, if she should have a cat, perhaps she's allergic.

As far as I know, nothing like this has ever been done before, so I'm pretty much making it up as I go along! Nevertheless, I'm excited that the thing actually might fly. I already have three fantastic websites signed up as Soulful Sex Website Partners (Coffee Time Romance, Novelspot, and The Romance Studio), and eight individuals signed up yesterday as well. This is only the beginning!!! (Yeah, I'm excited.)

So, if you'd like to take part, the first step is to find out all about the plan on my Soulful Sex: Partners blog, where I will be chronicling the saga of the project. The second, even more crucial step, is to sign up as an SS Partner yourself. You can participate as much or as little along the way as you like.

But if you are a Partner, you are guaranteed one thing: your name will be included in the acknowledgements of the book when it is published by Living Beyond Reality Press. Does life get any better than this? LOL On top of that, I'm running a contest in January...anyone becoming an SS Partner in January will be eligible for a drawing to win his/her choice of any item from the Living Beyond Reality Press Bookstore.

I hope you will consider being a part of my little experiment. I think it is really going to be fun, and I can't wait till March when I will officially start on the writing. Go, sign up now, you know you want to!!!