Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feeling Artistic


Today I felt like doing some portraiture...it'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"...you 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


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.