Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feeling Artistic

Today I felt like doing some's been awhile since I did anything. I figured seeing as the Year of Neil Gaiman is coming to an end in only a few days (well, I didn't discover him till last March, but you know what I mean), it's high time I indulged myself in some Neil fan art.

So here's my interpretation of the Prince of Stories. (I got the book by that name for Christmas; what a fine moniker for the man.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Glenn, Then and Now

Well, I've certainly had tenors on the brain lately. It's the time of year, I think. I listen to a lot of classical Christmas music that reminds me of my high school choir days, and those days always remind me of how much music had to do with my romantic life. (Some things never change, obviously. My Jason Danieley thing should not have surprised anyone who knows me.)

Well, I recently happened to catch on the radio Vaughn William's Fantasia on Christmas Carols. When I was a senior in high school, my choir performed this beautiful piece at our Christmas concert, and the solo part was taken by my classmate Glenn Siebert. To this day I can still play in my head his voice singing it. This boy's voice was heaven. When Josh Groban hit the scene, I immediately noticed how similar his voice was to Glenn Siebert's.

Going through three years in vocal music with Glenn around was no small treat, believe me. I got to see him as Tony in "West Side Story," as Curly in "Oklahoma!" and I actually shared the stage with him (in the chorus) as Prince Karl Franz in "The Student Prince." My head will also still play his voice singing "Deep in My Heart, Dear." Sigh...

Reading this, you may have figured I had a mad crush on this guy back in the day. Well, I didn't. I was just not the self-flagellating type. Glenn was a prom court kind of guy, staggeringly cute (70's style, which still works for me), and clearly with that voice and decent acting skills was a total chick magnet. I was not in his league. I did not allow myself one daydream about this guy, knowing that could clearly only end in tears.

So here he is, in a promo shot for "The Student Prince," in 1974:

Nevertheless, all my life Glenn Siebert defined tenors for me, which is undoubtedly why no guys on the Sirius XM Broadway Channel thrilled me until Jason came along. I was just too spoiled in high school. And I'm sure having a guy like that in the neighborhood only helped foster my conviction that being a talented tenor is just one of the most romantic, sexy things a man can do.

So what became of Glenn Siebert? Well, here he is today:

See, I wasn't making this up or exaggerating! Just read his bio and have your mind blown. He's sung solos with pretty much every orchestra in the country (the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Pops et al.), and performed the lead in dozens of operas in the U.S. and overseas. He also teaches at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, and is director of the Magnolia Baroque Festival. He's not a household word like Pavarotti, but it's pretty clear to me he's among America's most talented operatic tenors. If you'd like to hear him sing, go HERE for samples (I'd recommend the third track there).

It does my heart good--yes, that heart which didn't dare fall for Glenn back in my high school days--that to this day that voice is being enjoyed by thousands of people. Seems like a very, very happy ending to a little "love story" that never took place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ah, Kisses...

Today I reflect upon the kiss.

The fact that this physical gesture is virtually universal in human culture tells you there's definitely something to it. But really, isn't the kiss interesting?

Kissing is so commonplace that we never stop to think how strange a gesture it really is. I mean, hugs make pretty much sense, they're really quite simple: it's nice to be close to someone, to embrace them as a symbol of that emotional closeness, and to literally feel it in the pressure of another body, the crush of other arms. But kisses are another story. Why the press of the lips on another person's skin? And why are the usual targets other lips, or cheeks, foreheads, hands?

Well, I'm sure entire books have been written on this subject by psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists much wiser than I. But as a self-proclaimed expert (emphasis on the adjective, LOL) on the erotic, I'd like to address myself just to the erotic kiss. You know, that wonderful smackeroo the hero lays on the heroine as the music swells. You know, the unbelievably sublime experience with your latest crush that your subconscious mind is imagining right now.

I don't know if it's due to being born in 1956, or if today's generation feels at all the same, but I grew up believing the ultimate confirmation of the desired one's mutual attraction was the kiss. In every musical, romantic comedy, and Disney movie, that kiss was the goal, the dream, the payoff. If the Prince kissed you, then you were going to live happily ever after. Or at the very least, enjoy the following several hours in the extreme.

I found myself at an early age, and to this day, coveting lips. Oh, there are a lot of features I can enjoy in a guy's face: long-lashed brown eyes, sparkling blue ones, an unusually-shaped and intriguing nose, or just a perfect one, cheekbones, well-arched brows, a nice beard. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, as it were, my gaze will be on his mouth.

So, why the mouth? I suppose biologists will tell you there are a lot of nerve endings in the lips--this is an erogenous zone that enjoys stimulation. True, I'm sure. But something deep down tells me there's more to it than that, and I think it has to do with what else the mouth does. It eats. It tastes. It consumes. It takes sustenance. This is why sexual desire is often called a hunger. It is a hunger: hunger for another person. Oh, I suppose it can be, and often is, hunger merely for stimulation, or for the opposite sex in general. But I think more often, particularly for women, it's hunger for a specific individual.

I think you know what I mean. The target fellow is wonderful: you admire him, rejoice in who he is, long to fill yourself somehow with that loveliness you see in him. You're hungry for him. And you wish, wish, wish he felt the same hunger for you.

Now, a quick intermission before I continue, during which you may enjoy this little portrait I did awhile back, called "The Shadow Kiss."

The kiss, then, is the expression of that hunger, the communication of that longing, and because it is oral, kissing is a kind of feeding. When you offer your lips to be kissed, are you not very nearly saying, "please feed me" and, simultaneously, "please feast on me"? When you kiss the beloved, you do more than say to yourself, "this feels good" also think about the man behind the lips, about his essence, and the glory of being so close to him, of feeding on him, on this particular man. And as he kisses you, don't you delight in what you perceive to be his hunger for you, his eagerness for intimacy, his excitement at being so close to you?

This understanding of the function of kissing may be why so many women prefer it, or at least feel it's more important, than sex. Sex is so thrilling in a purely physical way, it's possible (especially for guys) to want it and do it just for the sensation. But kissing, which is less physically stimulating, seems to me to be more emotionally and spiritually exciting. When I daydream about my latest celebrity crush, I rarely or never (depending on the fascination level) think about intercourse. But kissing? That's where my imagination has a field day.

Because if, for example, Ben Linus from "Lost" were to kiss me, that would mean he desired me, and how thrilling is that? (I can hear a lot of you readers breathing heavily at this idea, you know.)

And if I am currently obsessing over some archetypal guy dressed up as a famous person (to make the distinction--after all, that guy we dream about isn't the real Hugh Laurie or Jon Hamm), that means I'm really into what he represents to me. And so, I want to be near it, to eat it up as it were, to feel it filling my belly and nourishing me. That's why I like to think about kissing him.

What interesting creatures we humans be, confusing one hunger with another, one physical act with another. But from a romance writer's perspective, it's one of the countless things that make sex and romance so fascinating.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Christmas Angel Named Harry

Some experiences you just know are going to be blog-worthy.

Last night Davie and I went to see Harry Connick, Jr. and his band at Milwaukee's Riverside Theater. People, a man this wonderful simply has to make an appearance on Erotic with Soul.

It's certainly not news to you that he is one of the great musical minds of his generation. His musical arranging and composing talents are staggering. And you'd have to have spent the last fifteen years living in a cave to not know how wonderfully Harry can sing and play piano. He's a fine actor as well...and the face, the face is divine. He ain't a bad dancer either, as we learned last night.

But as impressed as I am by all these things, I'm wild about Harry for another reason altogether: his heart. It's something of a miracle to be able to give a room of 2,500 people the feeling of being entertained in your living room, but this he managed from the very start of the show. The Riverside is one of the few venues Harry has played that has no curtain, he told us, so before the start, he looked out at the crowd. He said he found us beautiful, and his heart swelled to think that in spite of the economy we would spend our dollars to see him and his band. These words were spoken with such sincerity, you believed him--and marvelled that he would think for a minute the $40 ticket price (for the balcony anyway) wasn't worth what he was going to give us! But this is a guy who, despite his success and popularity, still treasures every member of his audience.

There was an older woman in the front row, "Fritzi Sue," whom Harry adopted as his pet for the show. She was beautifully dressed and obviously a doll...and in reward for her love of Harry, got to kiss him and come up on stage and dance with him a bit. He told her "You're beautiful," to which she responded, "If you like 'em old!" Harry's reply: "What about you is old, Fritzi Sue? You live life--it's wonderful, you live life."

The band returned for an encore, and as they retook their seats, Harry started to tell an anecdote about the second time he met Frank Sinatra. He was a minute or two into this story--and on top of everything else, Harry is an amazing storyteller--when he said, "Right after this we'll play some New Orleans music and then we'll be done, so do you have a minute?", seriously as if he wanted to be sure we could spare the time to listen to him.

It's amazing enough to meet a man this talented, charming and handsome, and not have him possess an ego the size of the bayou. But that this fellow should be one of the most tenderhearted, people-loving, genuine, generous-spirited guys you could meet...well, that's a Christmas miracle.

God love ya, Harry! Thanks for a glorious show, and for being such an inspiration.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writing About Voices

Just a short post today but I have to share.

I don't know about you, but I find a man's voice can be as seductive as his face. More than once in my fiction writing, I've tried to write about this phenomenon...but it's so much harder to describe a voice than a face. I mean, how many times can you write "velvet baritone" before you feel like a complete idiot?

Tonight I discovered someone who knows how to describe a voice. I am just amazed by this man's talent in this regard. You know how wine connaisseurs manage to come up with the words for all those subtle wine flavors? Well, Octavio Roca of the San Francisco Chronicle knows how to do it with voices, apparently.

Having been transported to somewhere beyond Cloud Nine (I lost count at Cloud Seventeen) by listening to Jason Danieley sing "Make Our Garden Grow" from "Candide," I thought I'd do a quick search to see how the performance was judged critically. (By the way, if you want to hear a sample, you can on Jason's Audio Page.) Mr. Roca reviewed a concert performance of the show in July of 2002. He described Jason's voice thus:
"easy and vibrant throughout the range, with a thrilling bloom at the top and honeyed baritonal colors that add the illusion of heft."
Why can't I write like this? Okay, yeah, at first that sentence may strike you as overblown, but that's only because in regular life people don't describe voices. Let me tell you, Mr. Roca captured just what I love about Jason's voice but couldn't describe so succinctly and well. My words, in attempting to say the same thing, would have gone something like this: "Well, his voice is so even and strong no matter where he is in the register...but when he hits the high crescendo notes, it's like you were just assumed into heaven. And there's just this sweetness you can't describe. And the most amazing thing: even though he's a tenor, and usually singing fairly high, his voice has this substance to it, this masculinity, that is completely unique."

Diana, that quality is "the illusion of heft." Yes, exactly, thank you, Octavio.

By the way, for those who care (and I honestly don't expect you to be concerned about Diana Laurence's Lunatic Phase of the Month), I am currently suffering from this weird disappointment over every male singer not being Jason Danieley. Today it even happened with a version of "O Holy Night" by Luciano Pavarotti, God rest his soul. I mean, come on...Pavarotti? But I can't help it. It's the heft, I think.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This Folder of Photos is Not What You Think

Hey, it's my 200th post! That's a lot of essays about sex. :-)

The other day I happened to gank from the internet a passleful of photos of a certain animus-bearer of mine, who to save me from embarrassment I shall leave nameless. Okay, okay, I just have to post this one, because wow, it's such a glamour shot of a normally unkempt fellow...check it out!

So, yes, I admit I have a folder of photos that bears his name. Over the years quite a few celebrities have qualified for folders on my PC. Sometimes they are named after the actual celebrity (e.g., Guy Carbonneau, although of course as keeper of his online biography it has been my job to collect photos of him, ahem). Others are named for a character, in the case where I really only get off on the person in that particular role (like Faramir, for example).

Meanwhile, my husband David also has a folder of photos. I occasionally glimpse the thumbnails when he's picking out a new wallpaper. Talk about your bevy of beauties. Sometimes he'll have a really attractive woman on his wallpaper, and I'll ask, "She's nice, who's that?" He invariably replies, "I don't know, I just really liked her eyes." Or nose. Or smile. Or sometimes a feature located lower, although Davie's more a face guy than a lot of males.

My point is, he collects photos simply because the women are cute, or beautiful, or hot. They don't represent anything at all to him beyond that. This is pretty classic for guys, who are hardwired to respond to pure physical beauty.

Women aren't so much like that. I very rarely become genuinely interested in a guy just because of how he looks. For example, I knew who Ewan McGregor was long before I saw him in "Moulin Rouge!", but the moment I took notice was when I heard him sing and a quick Google search confirmed it was really his voice in the movie. Obviously my attraction to the Kohls guy, aka Kevin Rice, is strictly physical...but I assure you, I have never actually fantasized about him. I mean, how could I? He's just a face and a body wearing Chaps clothing. I do always check the Sunday Kohls circular, but that's as far as it goes.

So please understand what it really signifies when some guy qualifies for Folder-on-My-PC status. There has to be enough there that when I look at pictures of him, something happens to me, emotionally, spiritually. A flare-up of emotion. A flash of imagination. Inspiration. Otherwise, what is the point of storing up the photos?

Every once in awhile in my life I've had one of these pure experiences of connecting so strongly with a picture or pictures, that the images just evoke all kinds of imaginative and emotional material in my brain. Last night I had one of those. It was time to start writing the last story in my new collection Soulful Sex: The Darker Side. It was to be about vampire themes, about the issue of why it is that females are turned on by the vampire archetype. It was a simple story that required no backstory, with only two characters, and I knew it could be told in under 3,000 words.

But I didn't expect to write it all in one sitting.

There are two stories in this book that I wrote in one sitting each. When that happens, you know you are in the grip of your muse. In both cases, I was looking at a photo all the while I was writing. The meat, the moving elements of those stories, was derived right out of the photo.

This just goes to show you that certain faces serve not as mere bits of beauty, but as portals through which all kinds of imaginative, archetypal, transcendent material may pass. It's true that some faces do tend to function in that manner for a disproportionately large portion of the populace (good examples of that are Elvis, Sting, Davie Bowie...okay, to stop dating myself, Robert Pattinson in his Edward Cullen role). Most of the time, however, it is a very individualized thing. Certain women adore Alan Rickman as Snape, others are crazy for Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and the two groups really don't get each other at all. There are Legolas or Aragorn women, and there are women who adore Merry or Pippin. But you see the pattern: it's not just a look, it's the whole archetype of the guy.

Awhile back I posted about Neil Gaiman's perfect face. In that post I didn't mince words, and the result was actually rather tongue-in-cheek. As much as I know I'm not alone in thinking the author is attractive, I also know he's not going to be picked People's Sexiest Man Alive. Nevertheless, I was not lying in that post as far as my own view is concerned. When Davie first showed me Neil's picture in the back of American Gods I thought he was indeed my type, but I would not have said then, "OMG, the perfect face!" My current opinion about that is the fruit of a lot of experience and reflection.

One more point I feel compelled to make: Whenever a woman feels this strongly about the appearance of a guy, whenever he reaches Folder-on-My-PC Status, you can be sure of one thing--her imagination has created a very vivid and important personality to go with the face. I sometimes refer to "my imaginary Neil Gaiman" because I recognize that fact. I can even tell you which traits of his are probably also possessed by the real man. (And really, there are very many that are not.) I am also able to step away from the pretend version and think very rationally and objectively about the real version. (The real one inspires me in an entirely different way.)

So, if you happen to discover some friend has a folder on her PC of pictures of some guy, stop before you mock. There's probably some perfectly natural, healthy, actually kind of neat stuff going on there...and it might prove interesting if you ask, "So, what is it about So-and-So that inspires you?"

(Oh, and thanks, imaginary Neil, for this final story for my new book.)

Monday, December 01, 2008


Phases are interesting things, especially if you’re like me. My phases--just ask my family--are intense. Bordering-on-but-not-quite-neurotic intense. Consequently, I consider myself quite the little expert on phases. In fact, I know all the types. Please, avail yourself of my vast, but pointless, knowledge of the subject...

Fleeting Phases:

These are the sorts of phases that seem promising at first, then simply don’t prove that interesting. You know, like that hobby that you buy a lot of tools to support, only to lose interest before those tools are barely dirty. Mine was homebrewing. I made two batches of beer, then decided this was what liquor stores and the descendants of Herrs Pabst, Miller and Busch were for.

On a topic more relevant to this blog, I’d say Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. I loved him in the first "Lord of the Rings" movie, but then I saw David Wenham as Faramir in the second film and the Viggo thing was o-vah. (And whatever happened to Joshua Jackson? Talk about flash in the pan.)

Intense, Quick Burn Out Phases:

These are those fascinations which start out super hot but inexplicably don’t last. There may not even be a clear reason why they are unsustainable, and it really surprises you considering their original promise. A year or so ago I nursed a craving for months to take up the Native American flute. I finally bought one. I was so excited! I sewed a Native American themed bag for it, I practiced almost every day, I really liked it and then, foomp.

Erotically speaking, my example would be Criss Angel. I watched him a bit on TV and my mind was just blown. I collected some photos, used him as wallpaper, blogged about him, had some nice Criss fantasies, and then, abruptly, nothing. I know plenty of women have been hot on this guy for years. I can’t explain why I petered out!

Recurring Theme Phases:

These are variations on a theme, and we all have our own individual themes, sometimes called “fetishes,” those sorts of things we have been consistently attracted to all our lives. I grew up loving to collect rocks. I can’t resist combing a beach, any beach. (I’ve even been known to comb gravel beds at shopping malls.) I got into making jewelry largely because I love rocks. And now I use polymer clay to make rocks!

Meanwhile, my erotic obsessions have included variations on a couple of good physical themes. Blond beards, for example. A big part of my afore-mentioned Faramir thing, and also traceable to personal heartthrobs Kerry Wood, the Kohls guy, and Jason Danieley (although with him it’s really the voice of course). I’m also historically crazy about guys with tousled mops of dark curls. This accounts for why Elijah Wood’s Frodo came in second on my list of favorite LOTR characters. And it may have been one of my husband’s cues when he found the picture of this author named Neil Gaiman and showed it to me as “a guy who is really your type.” So, point is, specific men may come and go, but the blond beard and the dark curls live on (not on one person at once though, ugh).

Take Your Soul in an Iron Grip Phases:

Well, there are a few of these in my life, obsessions I picked up in childhood that never go away. First for me is, of course, writing. Others would be Broadway musicals, science fiction (I should mention that obviously I went through a very passionate “Rocky Horror Show” phase), cats, and crafts.

I’ve had some men-phases like this too, guys who come into my life and make such a big impression that even after the “romantic” feelings eventually dissipate, I never lose the impact that was made upon me. The first example of this is Michael Rennie’s portrayal of the alien Klaatu in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” I was just a tot when I first saw this film, and the character shaped ever after both my ideal of the fictional hero and my standards for male valor. I rewatched the movie this week and Klaatu still works as much magic on me today as ever. (Good luck, Keanu Reeves!)

I would be remiss not to mention here Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, whose tribute website I maintain (now over 300 pages). He was a huge inspiration (or, okay, I’ll also answer to “obsession”...I mean c’mon, 300 pages?) to me for a good three years, and that’s a long time for this girl. To this day he remains a personal hero and an example of real manhood that few can match.

Impact Your Life Phases:

Some phases may not last for years, but they still make an impression that lingers for a lifetime. In the 80s I was so obsessed with pipe organs that I actually wrote a three minute piece for pipe organ. Well, it was performed publically once, okay? Yeah, yeah, only once. Nevertheless, I still love organ music and appreciate composing in a much deeper way from that experience.

My devotion to “Survivorman” Les Stroud is definitely in this category. I still adore Les but I’m a bit past the swooning stage now. However, he truly affected my understanding of my own love of nature, and taught me much about survival, even of the emotional kind. These lessons will stay with me. And then there’s Neil Gaiman. It’s only been ninth months (and I’m still in the swooning stage as you well know)...but reading the lion’s share of his works has rekindled in me my Jungian outlook on writing and my love of speculative fiction/fantasy. And best of all, if you’re me: I know reading him has made me a better writer. God, I love that man.

Bonus Type--Motivate You to Write a Fan Letter Phases:

I consider a phase as having special standing if it motivates me to write a fan letter. Even in the days of the internet, when doing that is much easier and much more likely to get some sort of reply, I still only write when a phase strikes me as significant. Here’s a list of people who have merited fan letters from me over the years (and whether or not I heard back): Leonard Nimoy as Spock (no), the cast of the movie “Godspell,” (yes, Joann Jonas), Sting (no), Kenneth Branagh (no), Richard O’Brien, author of “Rocky Horror” (yes), Guy Carbonneau (yes), comic book author Terry Moore (no), Les Stroud (yes), Jason Danieley (yes). Wow, that’s a pretty good track record...I must be forgetting a lot of the people who ignored me! LOL

Cripes, this is my longest blog post EVER. Good night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Want You But I Don’t Phenomenon

In my reflections on sexual desireability, I have found one phenomenon that rather baffles me. I’ll call it “I Want You But I Don’t.”

The IWYBID Phenomenon occurs when you are fascinated by, even attracted to, a person who simultaneously repulses you. That person possesses qualities you find charming and charismatic...but other qualities that scream “run away!”

An excellent case in point is how I feel about the character Sheldon on CBS’s sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” and likewise his three friends Leonard, Howard and Raj. The foursome are physics geeks severely lacking in social (and particularly mating) skills. Not a one of them is ugly—the actors are all cute in fact—but their hair, clothes, and mannerisms on the show do nothing for them. They are all nice guys, just appallingly lacking in the social graces. Intellectually the four could be called alpha-males, except everything else about them negates that fact.

So, here’s the crazy part: I’d love to date any of these guys, particularly Sheldon, who is at the same time arguably the most dysfunctional of the bunch. He is hilarious, which is always a plus, and a genius, ditto. But there are so many reasons to flee this self-absorbed, anal, rude, arrogant man-boy.

So I recognize I’d never want an actual relationship with a guy like this. But still, Sheldon fascinates me. I could listen to him all day rave about string theory or how to apply mechanical engineering to improve your RTA furniture. It’s pretty hot when he debates the finer points of World of Warcraft or speaks Klingon. Repulsive as he so often is, Sheldon is also sexy. It’s weird.

Geek characters are not the only archetypes that repel and attract simultaneously. I often feel that way about Dr. House, who is one moment so coldly cruel you want to smack him, and the next so adorable you want to kiss him. Clearly Lost’s Ben Linus creates conflicting emotions in a girl, but you know how attractive that guy is to a lot of us. I experience similar feelings toward Barney, the womanizer on “How I Met Your Mother,” and Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock,” and Dwight Schrute on “The Office.” There are so many men who, in spite of having some off-putting traits, just suck you in anyway.

The especially interest fact about the IWUBID Phenomenon is that a little repulsion seems to enhance the attraction. My theory is, the brain observes my desiring this undesirable individual, ergo (to use Sheldon-speak) I conclude his positive traits simply must be that irresistible.

However this works, it works. I wouldn’t accept a marriage proposal from Sheldon but I still want him on screen every minute of the show. I could rewatch a dozen times him joking about the hypothetical fellow looking for the circuit breaker in the heart of a black hole. Even in a Periodic Table of the Elements tee shirt, Sheldon looks pretty hot to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kohls Guy and Jason Updates (Admittedly Loopy)

From our Sorry But Occasionally I Must Totally Objectify Men Files: the mystery has been solved!

Tonight my pal Rebecca reported to me that a reader of her blog identified our elusive Kohls/Chaps Guy at last. (My original report: Sometimes It's Just Physical.) His name is Kevin Rice and you can read Rebecca's full analysis (and see countless amazing photos) here.

My personal fave is reproduced for you below.

I had no idea how much I liked smiles until I saw this.

I'm delighted to have a name for the face at last. And for any of you clever observers out there that are thinking, "interesting how Diana Laurence, with her self-confessed blond beard fetish, has now posted two blond bearded guy entries in a row." For the record, Jason Danieley could be raven haired and baby faced and my heart would be no less in chains to that voice.

And also for the record, I played his songs for my daughter Amanda last night and she absolutely swooned. Why have you not listened to him yet people...are you afraid he will seize your soul? Well, he will!!! But it's totally worth it!!! (OMG, I've become a ditz and the triple exclamation points are coming out now. But it's still worth it.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Voice that Makes You Fall in Love

Backstory: I’ve become a bit of an addict to the Broadway Channel on XM Radio. Broadway’s not for everyone, so don’t bail on me if you’re not into it…just hang on a bit, this is really about you I promise. You see, in the interest of your needs as a reader of Erotica with Soul, I’ve made it my mission to listen to all those Broadway singers and seek out the one whose voice makes one fall instantly in love. Not in my own interest, mind you, but so that I could inform you of who possesses such a magical voice, a voice that seizes one by the heart and sends the libido reeling.

Yesterday I found him at last.

It was an in-studio recording done by Seth Rudetsky for Sirius radio of a tenor singing the old Sammy Cahn number, “Be My Love.” By the third note (and believe me, the third note of “Be My Love” is inherently quite nice) I was clutching my steering wheel and thinking, “It’s him! It’s THE GUY!”

The guy was Jason Danieley.

Jason Danieley has the Voice. The Voice the Makes You Fall in Love. In the car, listening, I am clutching my heart with one hand and trying not to swoon on the freeway. He sings:

Be my love
For no one else can end this yearning
This need that you and you alone create
Just fill my arms
The way you’ve filled my dreams
The dreams that you inspire
With every sweet desire

Be my love
And with your kisses set me burning
One kiss is all I need to seal my fate
And hand in hand
We’ll find love’s promised land
There’ll be no one but you for me
If you will be my love

Will I? Will I? Sir, seeing as you have TVTMYFIL, which I have long been seeking among scores of Broadway tenors, baritones and basses, yes, my answer is yes!

Immediately after dinner I hit the internet to find out who this guy was. Well, he’s an award-winning Broadway performer known particularly for his portrayal of the title role in “Candide” about a decade ago, as well as more recent appearances in “Curtains” and “The Full Monty” and a concert production of “South Pacific.” He’s 37 and was born in St. Louis. His wife is also a Broadway star and also an excellent vocalist. That’s about all I know, and yet…all I need to know. After all, if I knew his favorite cheesecake I would only be compelled to mail him a cheesecake, and that’s a little stalker-y.

Now with a voice like that, Jason Danieley could have looked like a yeti and I would give him a pass. However, I don’t mind that he doesn’t look like a yeti, he looks like this:

Sigh. God, what did this man’s mother do to deserve such offspring? But before I feel compelled to burst into “Close to You” (as in, “on the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true…”), why am I wasting time? You must, of course, must hear TVTWMYFIL yourself.

So here, if you go to Jason’s website, the beginning of “Be My Love” will play for you on this page: Even better, there is a little player on his MySpace page that will let you hear the entire song as well as other tracks from his new CD “Jason Danieley and the Frontier Heroes.”

Go. Listen. Now.

Okay, see, what did I tell you? Don’t you want to marry him? Or at least sit at his feet adoringly while he sings, even if he is singing to his wife who is not you, God bless her? How can you not rejoice in being alive in a world where this man sings the words “and with your kisses set me burning”? My heart swells with gratitude! And other parts of me too!

At long last, my quest has come to an end and I can ask for this CD for Christmas so I can enjoy the bliss of anticipating the day I can fill my car with the voice of Jason Danieley at will (risking of course, swooning on the freeway).

I am making it my life’s mission to hear him in person some day, and sadly, he just did a concert a couple of hours away from Milwaukee like a month ago. But never mind, I needed a new quest anyway!

Now go! Listen to him again! What harm can it do, you’re already hopelessly in love!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What Survivorman Has in Common with Me

I’m so amped that the new season of “Survivorman” premieres tomorrow! Ah Les, it’s been too long since we got to see you starving and struggling in some new inhospitable environment. Swoon. LOL
So in honor of this auspicious event, I wanted to share with you some very cool Les Stroud lore I discovered in a recent interview. The October Studio Monthly magazine included an article by Les entitled “Backwoods Warrior” that focuses on the filmmaking aspect of his career. (For those of you living under a rock, Les films his show all by himself. But of course, if you’re living under a rock, you really ought to be watching the show for survival tips.) I took particular interest in a paragraph in which Les talked about his motivation in making “Survivorman” as good as it is:

I sat down and meditated (call it whatever you want) on the fact that I had to make this film/this day/this next scene compelling, beautiful and inspirational. There may only be one viewer, but you owe them a great show. When you present a film or any other creative endeavor you take on, you’re asking each audience member to take an hour or more out of his or her life to watch what you did. What right do I have to ask that of them, if I haven’t put everything I possibly could have into this production? Surely they have any number of other things they could be doing with that hour. I owe it to them to put all my passion into what I’m presenting.

Wow, Les, this sums up exactly how I feel about writing romance fiction! Well, writing anything, really, including this blog.

I recently read a blog post on a website for fiction readers that took a very opposite tack. The blog writer took umbrage when an editor suggested some changes to the grammar and structure of one of his posts. His thesis was that his blog was a window into his head, and therefore it ought to be whatever he wanted, without regard to the readers’ interest or understanding.

That attitude kinda frosts my cookies, friends. I have no problem with doing that in my own journal, which is read by no one but me, but when you put writing on a public forum, you thereby invite others to read it. If you don’t care that you may be wasting their time, if you make no effort to be concise and comprehensible, then to me that is putting yourself above others. There’s enough of that in human society without encouraging such an attitude, if you ask me.

I’ve seen that same thing occur recently in other art forms. Case in point: I watched a cake-making competition the other day in which the assignment was to make a haunted house cake. One of the contestants created an ugly abstract mess that she considered “art.” She pooh-poohed the judges’ negative reaction and said they were “unqualified to judge such a contest.”

Hey, sister, guess what? It was their contest! Communication is about the audience, not the “speaker,” and the goal is to get your message across as meaningfully as possible, not to express your individuality at all costs. You’re free to express your individuality in lots of ways—make that cake for yourself if you like. But in art, entertainment, and communication, your efforts are wasted unless at least a portion of the populace gets and enjoys you.

On the flip side, it doesn’t have to be everyone…it simply can’t be, people are too different. That’s the other thing I loved about Les’s statement: Even if there’s only one viewer, even if only one person reads your book or blog post, you owe it to them and to yourself to offer your best work.

I know, due to individual taste, not everyone is going to want to read a vampire romance. But when I wrote Bloodchained I did know that a lot of people like that genre, and that they deserved, in exchange for their reading time, a well-written novel. I kept that charge in mind throughout the process of writing, editing, and publishing the book. I, like Les, consider myself the servant of my readership, not the other way around.

And that’s how the deal works. Artists should never lose touch with the fact that communication is an exchange of currencies: your work for your audience’s money and time. If your ego loses touch with that principle, don’t be surprised if you, like the “cake artist” who came in last, end up with no one watching or listening.

But to end on a more positive note: The nice thing about having Les’s attitude about your work is that it really gets results. “Survivorman” is a moving and beautiful show because Les puts his heart in every episode. I hope you’ll tune in tomorrow night and see what I mean!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Um...So Your Fantasies Aren’t Like This?

I’m a freak, I know it.

When I was in grade school, a conversation with my best friend led to the discovery that not every child makes up stories for at least thirty minutes every night in bed. I was honestly convinced I was normal until that conversation. But other kids, it seemed, did not make a point of going to bed at least a half hour before they needed to go to sleep, just for the purpose of fantasizing. Sometimes these stories lasted 45 minutes, an hour, and/or ran night after night like continuing soap operas.

As a busy adult I don’t spend quite that much time fantasizing before I fall asleep. And often, this is the time I use for planning for the fiction I’m writing. But sometimes I still do as I did as a little kid and just make up stuff for fun. What kind of stuff? Are you sure you want to know?

Okay, at the risk of revealing what a total weirdo I am, here you go.

Lately I’ve been working on a really great 19th Century, Dickensian tale featuring my current fave celebrity crushes. In it, I’m a 16-year-old homeless orphan girl named Pip. I was living miserably on the streets until, cold and starving, I was found one night by a renowned hero of the “dodgy element” of London, a fellow called Mister House.

Think Fagin meets House M.D.

He has converted an old decrepit workhouse to a clothes making shop/dormitory for homeless kids like me. And instead of training us in pick pocketing like Fagin, Mister House operates the place as a legitimate business. The older kids sew simple clothes, the younger ones do mending jobs and make easy things like handkerchiefs. I happen to have learned from my deceased mom how to embroider, so they set me to work doing monograms.

Mister House is a stern, curmudgeonly taskmaster, but actually much more beneficent than his modern TV doctor equivalent. He uses the profits of the business not to get ahead, but to provide food and shelter to as many kids as he can. He may not show it, but we all know he loves us from his deeds. Naturally he’s just as humorously belligerent as the TV version. And, of course, I’m sweet on him in my girlish way.

All goes well until one day on the streets I encounter a new fellow--or at least, he’s new to me. Handsome, with dark, curly hair and a long black coat, this guy arouses my curiosity right away. He’s a storyteller, and goes around the neighborhood telling tales, mostly to crowds of children. I’m intrigued, but before I can check him out more closely, Mister House intervenes. This stranger is no stranger to him; he’s the Man in the Black Coat, and House’s urchins are forbidden to go near him. Why? No explanation, just orders!

If you can’t guess who plays the role of the Man in the Black Coat, you must be new here. :-)

Well, one day I’m out wistfully staring at a fairy tale book in a bookshop window, coveting it. Who should appear next to me but the Man in the Black Coat! Before I can escape, he engages me in a fascinating conversation about how I don’t need the book, I have fairy stories, complete with pictures, in my head. I’m enthralled. But then he tells me he knows I belong to Mister House, and understands why I can’t come hear him tell stories to kids in the street.

Which results, of course, in my sneaking out to hear him tell stories. And of course he’s incredible at it and I’m head over heels. Still, I don’t want to disobey Mister House and know there must be a good reason for his command. Oh the conflict! There’s nothing like a fantasy with two charismatic protagonists at odds!

At this point in my fantasy, House M.D. character Dr. James Wilson insisted on joining the cast. Hey, no problem. He plays a wealthy, successful doctor from the upper crust, who also has a heart of gold and therefore provides free care to House’s kids. The two of them are longtime, trusted friends.

So, after my surreptitious spying on the Man in the Black Coat telling stories, I end up lost, and he ends up finding me. You know where this is his rooms, of course. Soon I’m fed, entertained with more tales, and bundled up in bed. Now the innocent Pip, so na├»ve and trusting, learns why the Man in the Black Coat has a bad rap with Mister House. But the thing is, I don’t mind doing what the Man suggests, because I think he’s super dreamy.

Meanwhile, back at House’s place, my having gone missing has become an issue. But just then, Doctor Wilson arrives, having seen me with the Man and suspecting where I ended up. Mister House expresses his vehemence not to go anywhere near “that vile Gaiman fellow” and recruits Wilson to rescue me.

In the morning he arrives chez Man, and demands my release into his care. The Man in the Black Coat complies in a most genial manner. I’m confused as heck. But the doctor seems very kind. He takes me to his office to make sure I’m okay and talk to me about what’s happened. With amazing candor for the 19th Century, we discuss the issue; I still don’t understand what I may have done wrong and Doctor Wilson tries to enlighten me about the inappropriate nature of the Man’s advances.

He takes me home. I get back to embroidering, musing all the while on my situation. Evening comes and with it our master, who has made an especially big profit on our wares and brought us a feast. Ham, bread, potatoes, carrots, etc. and even a lovely big almond cake--it’s like Christmas. All us kids party it up, but all the while Mister House ignores me. I’m afraid he’s really mad. At long last it’s lights out, and we all curl up on our little pallets. It’s only then that Mister House tells me to come to his study. What will he say? I’m so worried!

And there it is! Can’t you see why I’m eager to go back to bed?

I told my husband about this fantasy and he just shook his head in disbelief. Needless to say, nothing like this goes on in his brain at night.

Now you might say, this is just how it is with writers, we just write stories in bed. But I still think it’s all kind of weird. For example, here we are in London, and Mister House could legitimately speak with a British accent like Hugh Laurie actually does...but he’s American. Why? I have no clue! Meanwhile, it’s not so strange that the Man in the Black Coat has a British accent, on any count (all the years in Minnesota haven’t put a dent in how Gaiman speaks). But it’s really wack that Doctor Wilson is British too, not American.

And I really got excited about that almond cake. Why an almond cake? Who knows?

So truly I am not so deliberate with nocturnal fantasies as I am with story-writing. I would never, in a story, have a character that resembled Neil Gaiman in any way be possessed of a nefarious character like this guy; it’s really sick and wrong. But in large part this whole thing is happening to me, you understand--I’m not totally in control.

Sorry this entry was so long. I caught you up on like a week of stuff here. But yeah, this is what it’s like being me.

I’d shake my head too if I were you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

“The Look”

I don’t know about you, but if there’s anything I can’t resist, it’s The Look. You ladies know what I mean. Even the most boring-looking guy gets a hotness boost when he employs The Look. And when a sexy guy does it, well, there’s nothing better.

I was made mindful of The Look this week when my daughters and I made our annual trek to see “So You Think You Can Dance Live.” I’m pretty fond of all the dancers from the show, but among my faves is Hawaiian native Mark Kanemura. And let me tell you, this guy knows how to do The Look. The choreographers recognized it too, and gave him a lot of chances to show it off. Here’s Mark from two angles doing The Look in his inimitable way:

Kill me now.

The Look involves, basically, a guy tucking his chin and looking out the tops of his eyes. And men have been doing it to us for centuries. From days of yore, check out 1920’s heartthrob Rudolph Valentino doing The Look:

Does a guy have to be Valentino-handsome to pull off The Look? Hells, no. One of the most classic examples of all time is the famous shot of Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange.” Malcolm, by nature, is more quirky-looking than hot, but when he does The Look, well, who can handle it?

And then, there’s the alternative of a really good-looking guy performing The Look; say, Ewan McGregor. You get improvement every time, people, just check it out:

Now you may have noticed already that the specific emotion conveyed by The Look can vary. Ewan, in our example, is sort of wistful, or pensive, or perhaps even simply casting his attention with no particular intent. The emotive content of The Look is not so important as the two key elements of it: (1) whites of the eyes showing under the irises, and (2) tucked chin.

Let’s check out another Champion of Successful Look Usage, Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. The Look is equally effective when the emotion is:

sadness, or...

anger, or...

pure evil.

Fascinating, isn’t it? [Sidebar: You know what’s fascinating? While I am writing this post, on my XM 80s station they are playing Roxette’s “The Look.” My life can be so weird.]

I honestly think that certain archetypes of males are deemed more sexy simply because they make regular use of The Look. For example, take magicians. Nothing conveys “I’m mysterious and powerful and in control of you” like this facial expression. Here’s Criss Angel, who does it so well and often:

Meanwhile, same story with vampires, and you know I’m right. For a contemporary example, here’s Robert Pattinson, who will be starring in the new “Twilight” movie:

Truly savvy men understand this whole thing and make the most of it. I’m convinced, for example, that Hugh Laurie uses it as much as possible in his portrayal of House. I triple-dog-dare you to count the number of “Looks” in any given episode. I mean, doesn’t this expression look familiar, House fans?

Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. If only I had him in my closet to pull out whenever I’m in the mood...oh, what?...sorry! Where was I? Anyway, CC Rogers, the talented illustrator who is currently working on a Bloodchained comic book with me, is just as savvy as Hugh. Check out her portrayal of the comic’s protagonist, Jonas:

As the kids say, [dies].

Well, I only wish I understood how this works exactly. What does The Look, that particular pose of face and cast of eyes, say to us that translates to “unbearably sexy”? If any kind of emotional content works, what is it about that facial expression that holds the power? Darned if I know. All you Erotica with Soul readers who are psychologists who specialize in body language, please enlighten us!

And men, please don’t stop.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oldies But Goodies: My Top Ten Over Sixty Men

I was talking to my octogenarian widower father this morning about my daughter’s recent success with (if you should ever read this, yes Nate, I’m referring to you!). Dad joked about signing up. We discussed how he actually doesn’t need to get the attention of the ladies: he’s a regular rock star at Alexian Village. LOL

This discussion inspired me to consider the subject of oldies but goodies. So for your consideration, I selected some of my own personal favorite sexy sexagenarians and septuagenarians. I just wish I could include Paul Newman in the bunch. Miss you, Paul!

Jeremy Irons, age 60. Back in the days of “Brideshead Revisited” (1981) I thought him possibly the handsomest man ever born. Age hasn’t set him back much.

Malcolm McDowell, age 65. I went mad over him in “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and just haven’t been able to let it go. I guess I’m not alone; I hear he’s expecting a child next January!

David Steinberg, age 66. Fun story: It was on David that I had one of my first huge crushes, back when he appeared on “The Smothers Brothers.” I was 14, he was 28…and my heart nearly broke over the fact that he was much too old for me! Oh for the days when 28 seemed old!!! Anyway, David’s not real visible now but is a brilliantly successful director of TV and commercials and one of the greatest comedic minds of our time.

Patrick Stewart, age 68. And he sure doesn’t look it…has this guy made some pact with the devil? Anyway, yes…I had a mad crush on Captain Picard—I’d “make it so” for him anytime.

Anthony Hopkins, age 70. The start for me was “Magic,” 1977. He was just as attractive in “The Edge” at 60. The man may be my favorite actor and I simply adore him.

Donald Sutherland, age 73. I fell hard for him when I saw him in “Ordinary People” back in 1980. He still sets my heart a-fluttering.

Omar Sharif, age 76. In 1968 he took my breath away back when I saw him in “Funny Girl.” Goodness he’s aged well.

John Williams, age 76. My very first post on this blog was about the maestro; I’ve adored his music since I was 14 and he is the next best thing to God in my book.

Leonard Nimoy, age 77. No list of men I loved in childhood would be complete without Spock. In grade school that character owned my heart, and Leonard did too. And I admire the fact that of all the Enterprise crew, he’s always maintained that sexy dignity throughout his career.

Clint Eastwood, age 78. Clint, without a doubt, is the Supreme Poobah of Aging Well. He’s sexy, fit, and a creative genius who shows no signs of stopping. May he live to a hundred and beyond!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

That Face, Heaven Save Me!

Sorry, today I’m going to be shallow. Horrifyingly shallow. You all know how I’m usually so cerebral and/or spiritual. All that talk diminishing the physical, with only the occasional lapse that sinks to the level of eye candiness (see my recent post about the Kohls Guy). Well, I’m not in the mood for being sensible today.

Okay, you know how sometimes you find yourself really attracted to someone physically, except there’s that one thing you have to overlook? Sometimes it seems like nobody, even the most perfect, is perfect.

Some examples:

I am secretly in love with Dr. Wilson as well as Dr. House. Robert Sean Leonard has one of the best mouths in human history, IMHO. Personalities aside (which of course I can’t really do), he’s got it all over Hugh Laurie handsomeness-wise. However...there’s the brows. Slightly too thick. Damn it, so close...

My passion for Survivorman Les Stroud is not any kind of secret. I also really like his face. I’m a sucker for men with thin lips, and his nose is very nice, and he has those wide-set eyes that I’d have given all humans if I were God. However--so sorry, dear Les--the hair is departing. I’m sure that’s why Les so often wears a banana or some awesome hat. With a hat he’s pretty perfect.

In days of yore I was wildly, desperately obsessed with Sting. What cheekbones. No, I mean really, what cheekbones. This man in his youth had godlike looks, no lie. A little too godlike to my mind, for a few years into his career, he had his nose done. The pre-surgery nose was strange, a little large, and absolutely gorgeous. The post-surgery nose was BORING. So sad. (And yes, he has the same hair problem as Les, I know. C’mon, we all age.)

This is so often the case with that nearly perfect guy. You wish his chin was a tad shorter, or his mouth less crooked, or more crooked. Even people who make their living by their faces can’t be perfect, right?

How ironic, then, that the guy with the absolutely perfect face is a writer.

I saw a couple previously undiscovered photos of Neil Gaiman today, and honestly, I almost want to smack the universe for there being someone like this in existence who can’t simply be my personal possession. Now just to reassure you, that is my attempt to explain the feeling I get looking at him, not my personal goal for 2009.

Respect, Diana, respect--this guy is your colleague after a fashion! This man is one of the greatest fantasy/horror/comic writers of all time.

Yes, yes, I know that. But the nose, God, the nose! This is a nose even more thrilling than the one Sting felt compelled to redo. And the mouth--it makes me say “Robert Sean who?” even though seven paragraphs I said “best in history” blah blah blah. Sigh, swoon.

And try telling me these eyes aren’t beyond the beyond. I love eyes with lower lids that just seem to cradle them like that. What kind of God would give a man writing skill like his AND eyes like this? It’s insane!

Best. Hair. On the planet. Sorry, Les, length does matter. Especially when curly and black. Neil has to be aware of this and is simply torturing us women by not cutting it short. Let’s pray he never changes his mind. And yes, I realize the woman who has a blond beard fetish is saying all this.

And the topper, the really incredible thing, is that you can’t blame Neil’s looks on tricks of the camera, or hair and makeup experts. I’ve seen him in video interviews. He really looks this good “in real life.” (In fact, real life brings in the voice, which is in a dead heat with the voices of Les Stroud, Edward James Olmos, and Hugh Laurie for sexiest in the known world. Kill me now.)

I’ve tried to find it, I’ve tried, but in this face I wouldn’t change a thing.

How absolutely maddening it is that one of my favorite minds in all the world lives behind this perfect face. It’s a very lucky thing that three gazillion other people are as obsessed with him as I am, so there’s only a .00000215% chance he’ll ever come upon these raving words. I’m so embarrassed, but I’m at the mercy of that face.

I can only hope you’ll keep this to yourself! I’m suffering enough....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Let’s Talk Addictions

I was blessed to be born without a propensity for addiction. (My first husband was the opposite sort, so I’m fairly familiar with the traits of an addictive personality.) So I’m a poor candidate for alcoholism, obsessive gambling, chronic shoplifting, and their ilk.

But those of us resistant to those hardcore kinds of addictions still have our little, fairly harmless ones. When you get right down to it, all of us have some things we’d really rather not have to live without.

Dr. House has Vicodin, David Duchovy has (had?) sex, Mythbusters Jamie and Adam have blowing-stuff-up.

My daughter Katie has hanging-on-to-things, my other daughter Manzi has Hitchcock movies, my husband has talk radio.

Our cats Selke, Alice and Cody have, respectively, scraps of paper, fleece clothing (to eat, not wear), and salad dressing.

And me? Well, here’s my current top ten list of addictions:

10. Olives (all colors).
9. 80’s music.
8. Guys with blond beards.
7. Tracking my web traffic and book sales.
6. Anything written by Neil Gaiman.
5. Potato chips.
4. Watching old “House, MD” episodes.
3. Cubs baseball (six months of withdrawal, coming right up!).
2. The Internet.
1. Writing about love and sex.
Happily for me, it would seem that reading about love and sex is on a lot of people’s Top Ten Addictions lists. This past week I saw that happen in a couple of interesting ways.

First of all, there’s my Google Books tracking. (Yeah, I warned you about me and tracking!) I get reports every day on how many of my books are viewed on Google Books, that neat new service that lets you search by word through bizillions of books. I also get reports on the number of pages viewed. Now a person can’t read every page in a book on Google books, but from the tracking I can tell that a lot of people do a search, find one of my collections, and end up reading all the pages Google Books lets you. The average person reads five to fifteen pages.

Google Books doesn’t tell me the search terms, but I can just imagine, based on the terms that lead people to my website and this blog. So...some person is google-book-searching on “candlelight bound slave auction” or “erotic she was brought from the harem to the king's quarters” or “rain shelter blanket arousal nipple” (I swear, these are terms people have actually used to find me). And she or he turns up one of my books, and reads a page. And keeps reading, for fifteen minutes till the Google preview ends. Aha! Hooked!

Secondly, I had a really fun, rare experience this past week. Someone bought my book Bloodchained in ebook format from my online store one night. The next day she bought Soulful Sex Volume I. Two days later she bought Soulful Sex: The Fantasy Collection. This woman is one fast reader! And imagine how I feel to find someone can’t wait another day to read another of my books! A person could get addicted to that feeling pretty easily. LOL

Well, I guess for the truly-not-addictive personalities like most of us, there’s a fine line between enjoyment and wanting not to go more than 24-hours without the thing. You gotta try not to let the latter get the better of you when it matters. But most days, it’s not a big problem if I watch a couple episodes of “House” while eating a few chips...and it’s never a problem if I want to write about love and sex.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And Now, for Some Turn-OFFS

I write a lot on this blog about the things that excite me about men--real ones and fantasy ones. Hey, what can I say, I’m a glass-half-full kinda chick. But just for a change of pace, I thought I’d think about the qualities and characteristics that for me are sex-appeal-killers, even in the most physically attractive of men. ‘Cause my opinion matters and I’m such an expert. Just can take my list or leave it, or post your own ideas!

1. Smoking. This one’s an absolute deal-breaker for me, although a guy who’s quit is of course exempt. So what’s my problem, besides the basic ick factor of the habit? To me it’s a sign that a person is either dumb, has insufficient self-discipline, or both. Sorry, but it’s just plain stupid to throw all that money away and harm your health. (And if you just think it’s cool, then you’re really stupid.) I understand that kids are dumb and some people just get hooked that way, but everyone grows up, and that’s where the self-discipline comes in. Quit. It’s not easy, but it’s obvious. Okay, you can be a valid human being and a smoker, but you can’t be sexy--at least not to people like me.

2. Stupidity. Even among non-smokers. I don’t need a guy to be a genius, but common sense is a must. He should especially not be stupid about things like money, health, and personal safety.

3. No self-discipline. Even among non-smokers. It’s a turn-off when a guy can’t control his alcohol consumption or his eating habits, or when he can’t stick to his exercise plan even allowing for the occasional lapse. Self-indulgence indicates he’s more interested in pampering himself than giving of himself.

4. No spine. Just as even someone as quirky looking as Dwight Schrute can be hot by having a spine, the opposite is true. A guy without opinions or the grit to stand up for them just does nothing for me. This doesn’t mean you have to be an alpha male to get my attention. But to have my respect you must care about something and express that appropriately. You also can’t be the aimless kind who has no plan for his life, no goals or dreams, content to go where the wind blows.

5. Bad manners, being inconsiderate. Just as opening car doors and picking up the tab are much bigger turn-ons than guys even realize, bad manners do nothing for the libido. They indicate a guy is too self-interested and self-absorbed.

6. Being self-absorbed. Speaking of, yes. A certain amount of arrogance can be sexy, but when a guy always thinks of himself first, the effect is the opposite. A woman’s interest increases with her sense that the man can and will look out for her, even protect her; if it seems like he may not even notice she needs assistance or attention, forget it.

7. Judgementalism. I like a guy with principles, a guy who believes in objective truth, in good and evil. But if he elevates those opinions that are merely a matter of taste into rules for acceptable belief, that’s a bad thing. The more appreciation he has for the various delights of living, the better. Even people/subjects/stuff he doesn’t like himself, he ought to be able to respect.

8. Sloppiness. This is just a personal thing with me; some people don’t mind a slob. And it’s a lifestyle, not a moral stance! But for me, a guy who leaves a mess behind him, doesn’t care about the look of his environment, and relies on others to clean up for him is SO not sexy.

9. No sense of humor. This is the kiss of death to sexy, people! The most gorgeous guy, unless he has wit, does nothing for me.

10. Ignorance. No one can be an expert on everything, but if a guy has no awareness whatsoever of things like pop culture, politics, history, literature, music, film, and sports, he’s not going to be sexy to me.

Gosh, I much prefer being positive when it comes to sex and men! I think this is the last time I do this. But hey, female readers, if you need to use my list to wake up your men, please do...maybe that way it will do some good. I’m sure males everywhere feel that it’s a terrible thing to fail to impress Diana Laurence. Uh-huh.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Real Dr. House

While we’re on the subject of my current pre-occupation, let us consider the question, is there a real Dr. House? Well, of course not, he’s a TV character, only crazy people think he’s real. Yet I daresay, as in the case of any vividly created, charming fictional character, there are plenty of people for whom he seems real.

For that reason I thought it would be interesting to consider the question of the relative reality/unreality of the figments of our imagination whom we hold most dear. TV’s most popular anti-hero seems a fine example to study, and if you’re not into House, just substitute another fictional person you’ve obsessed over at one time or another.

House is a great example for this study because there’s no one like him. Not in fiction, nor in real life either. It’s also very difficult to confuse him with the guy who plays him. Hugh Laurie, in fact, seems like a man who coincidentally looks like Dr. House. Being British, his accent is different. Not being lame, his walk is different. With a background as a comic, he’s not the same in disposition. Big difference. Easy to see.
However, many of us House fans fall into the very natural trap of thinking that there is a Gregory House deep down inside Hugh Laurie...that in certain circumstances or moods, surely he must be the same as House. If that weren’t true, how could he portray him so effectively? This gives us comfort that, in a certain way, Dr. House lives.

Now I’m not an actor, but I am a fiction writer, and therefore I can guarantee you, there is not a Gregory House inhabiting Hugh’s soul. Not the way we all wish, anyway. I have created a hundred-some characters, and while sometimes they do resemble me, when I’m creating someone as quirky and unique as a Dr. House, these characters are derived from stuff quite alien to my own personality. I don’t think, talk, or act like they do, nor would I in any circumstance I can think of. Meanwhile, quite often I fall completely in love with these fictional people, and I assure you I do not have such feelings towards myself or any part of myself, ever.

In my younger days, when crushing on celebrities, I often made the mistake of giving too much credit to their appearance. For example, I fell for Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Mr. Spock, and therefore felt that Nimoy in any context would be as thrilling to me as the emotionless alien. I learned a hard lesson when I saw him play Fagin in a live local production of “Oliver!” Fagin left me completely cold, having nothing in common with Spock, except a slightly similar voice.

Likewise, while there’s no denying Hugh Laurie is a handsome man, that will only take you so far. I’ll put it to you this way, House-lovers: If you were to meet Hugh for a date, would you rather he limp or not? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel he’s not House without the limp, and I would miss it, a lot. But really, a gimpy leg is not normally considered an attractive feature. My point is, it’s not really Hugh Laurie’s handsomeness that is winning you over.

Dr. House is a hybrid creation of an actor and the people who write his lines. He wouldn’t exist if not for both these elements, along with a third: your imagination. It’s your imagination that enables you to fill in the gaps in House’s life and history; it’s your imagination that make it possible for you to picture him in circumstances other than what you’ve seen on the show (like making out with you, perhaps, LOL). Whenever you “adopt” a fictional character in a personal, passionate way, the creator(s) of that character eventually become tools for you—providing with the performance more material for you to imagine the character is real. Certainly credit goes to those creators. I thank Jane Austen and Colin Firth for my conception of Mr. Darcy, and Charlotte Bronte and George C. Scott for Mr. Rochester. And my very heart swells with gratitude to Hugh Laurie and his scriptwriters.

Do I then have no love for Dr. House? Is he worthless, having no independent existence?

Well, I’ve said it before (particularly in my book Living Beyond Reality) and I’ll say it again: being “real” isn’t everything. That’s why fictional characters sometimes have as much impact on history, culture, and society than flesh-and-blood people. Would the world be the same without King Arthur, Don Corleone, Dorothy Gale, Romeo and Juliet, Frodo, Dracula, Cinderella, Luke Skywalker, Mr. Scrooge, Superman, Scarlett O’Hara, James Bond, Harry Potter, and Sherlock Holmes, the man who inspired Gregory House?

Sometimes unreal people get very close to coming to life. What exactly these beings are, I can’t tell you. All I know is, the “real” Dr. House always walks with a limp and speaks American.

Friday, September 19, 2008

House, MD: When Cranks Attract

It’s pretty easy to see the appeal in heroic men like I’ve posted about lately: your Mike Holmeses and Chicago Cubses. And most women get why bad boys can be charming—especially when, like Neil Gaiman, underneath the black clothes they are good at heart. But why is it that sometimes the most irresistible men are the cranks? Prickly, grumpy, unpleasant, off-putting...nevertheless these Mr. Rochester/Mr. Darcy types can be inexplicably sexy.

Case in point: everyone’s favorite misanthrope, Gregory House, M.D.

I’m only four years behind the rest of my fellow females in falling for this guy. I always knew I’d love the show, always knew Hugh Laurie was hot, always knew I am a sucker for grumps. But I didn’t have time for another TV show in my life. So occasionally I caught a few minutes here and there, barely preserving myself from catching that most infectious disease, House-ophilia. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago Davie started watching the House marathons on USA and became addicted. In the spirit of family harmony (our daughters are already fans), I joined in watching the new season.

The inevitable happened: here I am blogging about House.

First of all, I don’t think House would be sexy if he weren’t a genius--specifically the sort of genius that he is. As the medical version of Holmes (Sherlock, not Mike), he seems to have a preternatural ability to know what is going on in your body. This talent is in sharp contrast to his emotional insensitivity, and sets up the recurring situation of your deciding House is deeply perceptive, only to be slapped back to reality by his latest heartless crack. (There’s nothing sexier that a guy who takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride, right?)

So, he does seem superhuman in a way, and I never tire of watching him intellectually blow others out of the water and outwit his enemies armed with analytical thinking and that rapier (scapel?) wit. It’s easy to end up all starry-eyed like Allison Cameron when House saves otherwise doomed patients week after week.

To make matters worse, Dr. House is vulnerable and arouses female sympathy. He’s got that chronic leg pain that causes his limp, a brilliant plot device that achieves said vulnerability while enabling him to look cool brandishing his cane. His addiction to Vicodin is constant proof of his fallibility. And then there’s the semi-dysfunctional but charming relationship he has with his best/only friend Dr. Wilson. The guy might as well have “Please love me, I’m so alone” stamped on his forehead.

There are few things more tempting to a female than a man who has the ability to appear invincible while clearly needing love, especially when his slightly-cracked armor is wit. I don’t know if the writers who conceived “House” were simply trying to create an interesting lead character, or deliberately set out to invent television’s most irresistible leading man, but they did a bang-up job on both.

And certainly the lion’s share of credit has to go to Hugh Laurie (I can’t even resent that he gets $400,000 an episode). It’s not easy to walk the borderline between crabby and beguiling, misanthropic and heroic, vulnerable and genius, unkempt and handsome, aggravating and loveable. And in an American accent no less. It’s a consistent performance that requires vocal skills, facial expressions, and body language to all be utilized perfectly. The proof of this role’s complexity can be demonstrated if you ask a female House fan why she is attracted to him.

Sometimes it’s the expression he gets while staring at his white board struggling with a diagnosis. Sometimes it’s the particular tone he uses while delivering those zingers. It can be the way he copes with challenges, or the way he so miserably fails to cope. Just watching House limp down a corridor while the soundtrack plays the closing music of an episode, you can be overwhelmed with complex feelings that ultimately boil down to love.

I should have known that keeping away from House was only postponing the inevitable. It’s not going to end up saving me any time having avoided the show for four I just have to watch all the episodes on DVR or DVD. Plus blog about the guy. Plus, I’m sure, write some short story inspired by him.

I should have known...cranks get me every time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mulder and Scully, Open a File

Even if my ravings about my Neil Gaiman obsession bore you to tears, I recommend you read this post if you enjoy "The X-Files" or "The Twilight Zone." My life is turning into an episode of some paranormal prime time drama.

[NOTE TO THE READER: If you'd rather just cut to the intensely dramatic, amazing part, please feel free to skip the non-dramatic, milding amazing next five paragraphs.]

You guys know me, I'm eccentric but also very practical (like INTJ type people often are). I'm a fan of the scientific method and like to operate on facts, not feelings. That said, when I see wacko coincidences going on left and right, I still think they are worthy of note. So, Agents Mulder and Scully, get out your dictaphones and notebooks and get a load of this.

First, let's flash back to weird Neil synchronicity #1, from my March 19, 2008 entry, Notes on the Gaiman Crush, Part 2: While watching an interview with Neil on YouTube, I guessed what he was about to say concerning awesome Jungian author Joseph Campbell. No biggie there; could be explained by the simple fact that both Gaiman and I are authors, and rather Jungian in persuasion.

In our next episode, on May 20 I posted about Neil synchronicities #2 and #3, in I Need You to Help Me Figure Out My Brain. On these occasions I anticipated, with nearly inexplicable accuracy, what two of his stories were going to do. Spooky, yeah...but I figured these were just a couple instances of us thinking alike and having read the same books. Note, I said nearly inexplicable...but not unfathomable. But read the was still damn weird and I have yet to meet anyone who guessed either one in advance.

Fast forward to August 17's episode aka Neil synchronicity #4: My Neil Gaiman Birthday and Other Musings. This particular evening my brain invited me to dig out an old unpublished novel of mine, and I found several coincidences between the first couple chapters and my evening's readings in Neil's The Sandman. Again, the skeptic in me will say, you can find some common ground between any two books, really, can't you? And that could well be all it was, indeed.

However...what I didn't post about in that entry was one more odd parallel I discovered that evening. (I just didn't want to go on and on like a crazy person, kind of like I am in this post.) I also read Neil's Coraline that night, and both Coraline and my Looking on Darkness feature a snow globe as a key object. Yeah, yeah, just a coincidence. People write about snow globes all the time.


I have lately been reading Neil's and Terry Pratchett's hilarious book Good Omens (subtitle: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch). I borrowed it from our dear friends Cherie and Andy. (Cherie...I bet you guys mentioned the cool thing about this copy of the book once, but I'd forgotten!) Well, while reading the first half of the book, I used the front dust jacket flap as a bookmark. I passed the halfway point the other night and switched to the back flap, thus liberating the front part of the book.

Well, I got tired and decided to go to bed, and I was checking out the dust jacket for something when the book fell open to the bookplate, to reveal...wait for it...this copy of Good Omens was autographed by Neil Gaiman! It said:

Neil Gaiman
Apply holy match here -->

Very cool, very hilarious, I was charmed. Nice, Neil! But now comes the spooky part, peeps...

I closed the book. I found myself overwhelmed with the urge to read one more chapter. An urge so intense I questioned it. And I thought to myself, what if I'm getting this urge because this next chapter includes something that ties in with the autograph? So I read on.

Please understand, in Good Omens there is an important book called, of course, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. And in the next chapter, only four pages further on, that book catches on fire. I absolutely had no way to see this coming. It was crazy to me.

I quit reading and went to bed.

Yeah, yeah, I know...just another crazy coincidence. But I just had to share. Excuse me now, I have to take this call from the FBI, or is it Rod Serling beyond the grave?