Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Cynical Goody-Goody and Her Men


I suppose this is as good a topic as any for Christmas Week....

A new visitor to this blog might not expect this of the author of a blog with “erotica” in the title, but anyone who knows me at all is well aware: I am a total goody-goody. Yes, even about sex, which I really want to be wholesome and healthy all the time. While I’m anything but perfect (I could list dozens of faults for you, but that would not be Christmas-y, LOL), I am also a ridiculously upstanding citizen. I have fears of and/or aversions to drugs, drunkenness, breaking the rules (even jaywalking), sexual perversions, cruelty in any form, etc.

Meanwhile, I harbor no illusions that reality is a safe or comfortable haven for goody-goodies, as must as I wish it were so. You see, I grew up influenced equally by Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals and the terrible headlines of the late 60’s. I love books and movies with happy endings, but I’ve found very few people in real life who behave anything like the fictional characters I idolize. I spent 15 years married to a gay man who (understandably really) was unfaithful to me for all of them. Meanwhile, I am now married 15 years to a man who has been faithful to me for all of them.

Life has certainly sent me a mixed message.

I am not really changing topics now, as you will see shortly.

My regular readers know that I spent a lot of months quite devotedly fixated with Neil Gaiman. Certainly that wasn’t the only crush upon which I’ve expounded here, but probably the one you could most thoroughly study were you interested enough to go back to all the posts (and who would be? LOL).

So what happened with that? Well, as always happens, I eventually saw enough about him that I didn’t like, and my infatuation died. Don’t get me wrong, I still admire (and one might even say am still in love with) the genius qualities about the man. I certainly adore his work. but I couldn’t sustain the romance with those faults just so up-in-my-face. The emotions went dormant...they only come out occasionally when they are directed toward an utterly imagined version of Neil that is obviously all my concoction.

I recognize that it is neither fair nor reasonable for me to withhold my infatuations from less-than-perfect guys. I know all about real life and real people. But I just can’t help it. When the guy I crushed on all freshman year was snide in the way he signed my yearbook, I was devastated. I’ve reacted likewise to idols who have (1) gotten arrested for public drunkenness, (2) “defected” to another sports team, (3) been caught using drugs, (4) treated their fans coldly, (5) divorced their wives for other women, etc. (I’m not referring to Tiger Woods here, but you can guess my opinion of him.)

Christmas is a very romantic time to my mind. Just as we all strive to find the perfect gift, throw the perfect party, have the perfect family gathering, at holiday time I think about perfect romance. I get really sentimental about whatever celebrity I might currently be dreaming about. So more than ever, my demanding goody-goody heart cannot tolerate less than heroic behavior.

A few days before Christmas this year I glommed on to my holiday-time fixation for 2009. I saw singer/songwriter Ben Folds as a judge on the NBC show “The Sing-Off.” I can’t resist anyone who can talk intelligently about music, particularly in such an upbeat and good-natured way. I checked out his music more fully and found I really love it.

The Internet is a curse to goody-goodies such as myself. You can hold on to your illusions about a celebrity for only as long as it takes to Google them and read some biographies. Ben Folds’ “crime” is that he’s on his fourth wife. Now the rational, cynical, coldly realistic part of me says, “You can’t judge a guy (a) when you’ve never walked in his shoes and (b) when you don’t know him in the slightest.” My best guess is that Ben is like most people: really wonderful in many ways, really terrible in others, and no worse than average.

Still, my goody-goody self yearns for a man who can talk brilliantly about music in an upbeat and good-natured way, and also has no flaws at all. Yes, I know I’m a terrible person. Didn’t I mention that right up front? The best I can do is be in love with the part of Ben Folds that initially caught my fancy, and give the rest of him the benefit of the doubt. That sort of works, but not as well as I would wish for. Bummer, but that’s life.

That said, what keeps my goody-goody hopes alive is that not all my idols have done things to let me down. I’m sure they’ve got faults too, but they are not such apparent and glaring ones that I can’t overlook them, even with my insane standards. A couple of examples of my personal heroes who have not failed me in any respect are Guy Carbonneau and Les Stroud. Both of them are brilliantly talented in their respective fields, and seem also to be good, principled, disciplined men.

While I don’t necessarily fantasize about these two every night anymore (not that I’m admitting I ever did, ahem!), I can and do think of them fondly whenever they come to mind. I appreciate and treasure them for being in that tiny category of heroes that have managed to remain on their pedestals. And icing on the cake is that both have had actual personal dealings with me and treated me with great kindness.

By the way, there’s one more guy in this tiny, special category that I should mention: The one I’ve been married to for the past 15 years. I figured out pretty fast that David was a man of principles and integrity, and time has proven me right.

I may have a ridiculous way of crushing and uncrushing on people, but in the final analysis, I’m no dummy.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Holiday Dreams Redux


Three years ago I blogged about my favorite holiday fantasies and I’m in the mood to indulge again likewise. While my real life is pretty darn good Christmas-wise (happy, healthy, employed family; super awesome husband; great cats hiding under the tree, etc.), it’s still fun to imagine the holiday in some alternate universes....

A Dexter Christmas in Miami. The charming serial killer takes me for a ride on the good ship Slice of Life, as the sun sets on a glorious tropical day. His boombox plays “Christmas Island,” Jimmy Buffett carol covers, and steel drum songs, and we sip mojitos. Dexter’s heart blooms with holiday cheer as I tell him that even though I know all about his nefarious career, I completely get it. No one should be alone on Christmas, after all! Forget Rita and “the kids” for now; this is a night for me to enjoy Dexter’s wit and dangerous good looks.


A “Lie to Me” Christmas in Las Vegas. Cal Lightman takes me on a preview of the Strip (I’m going in real life in January for the first time), for who better knows the ins and outs of Vegas? Watching him see through every poker face, and listening to him whisper about hidden truths in that great British accent, I’m eager to get him back to our glamorous suite. We’ll eat pricey hors d’oeuvres from room service, drink champagne, and play Truth or Dare. Of course he always wins, but that’s not a bad thing....

WMHS Christmas Concert with Mr. Schu. In this one I can sing exactly like Idina Menzel, and get to join the “Glee” gang as guest artist at the McKinley High Christmas Concert. What fun being conducted by the handsome and sexy Will! He and I bring the house down with our duet of “O Holy Night” (what a voice he has). But my personal favorite moment is singing and dancing with him to “The Christmas Waltz.” Of course, afterwards in private he’ll treat me to a glorious performance of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Whatever you are, Mr. Schu.

The Merlotte’s Christmas Party/Fangtasia Holiday Bash. I just have to jet down to Bon Temps to hang out with the gang at Merlotte’s. Definitely will need to get Sam, Bill, and Jason all under the mistletoe. Wow, that would be something, wouldn’t it? And just as good would be hanging out with the vampires at Fangtasia. I’m sure Eric would be in a generous mood for the holiday. I’d be happy to sit at his feet waiting for a little nip, and I don’t mean eggnog.


Holiday Time in Alphabet City. As much as the storyline of “Rent” pulls no punches about the downside of life, I’d sure love some candlelight time with Roger and Mark in their cold New York apartment. We could sing carols (and my favorite songs from the show) while Roger played guitar. Mark could teach me how to play dreidel. Two guys for one girl? Heck, that’s la vie boheme, right?

A Christmas Drink with My Favorite Doctors. Speaking of two for one, I could take a side trip to New Jersey and swing by Princeton Plainsboro Hospital. Imagine martinis with Drs. House and Wilson...now that would be interesting. And by “interesting,” I mean, hard to decide which guy is sexier. And what could be more festive than watching House annoy Wilson while they each get progressively tipsier? I’d definitely volunteer to be designated driver in order to spend the night in that nice new condo of theirs.

Four Calling Nerds (yes, that’s a weak 12 Days of Christmas reference). Call out for Thai food and let’s play Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock under the tree! Yes, for some inexplicable reason I’d love to enjoy some holiday time with Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj from “The Big Bang Theory.” Now that I know how to play with dreidels, Howard could explain the physics. Leonard could provide some nice music on his cello while rolling his eyes at Howard. Raj wouldn’t speak at all of course, but he’d look darn cute. And Sheldon could say anything at all and I’d love it. I’m sure he’d wear a Christmas sweater with a diagram about quasars on it.


Christmas with My Dear Vampire Conner. How could my holiday be complete without celebrating with the hero of How to Catch and Keep a Vampire? As those of you who have read the book know, Conner was alive, er, undead in the time of Shakespeare. Consequently he knows how to celebrate Christmas in the 15th Century way, complete with decorating the Holy Bough, singing Medieval carols accompanied by the lute, and doing those incredibly cool Renaissance dances like the pavane. He’ll make a fine blaze in the hearth, pour us some nice hot wassail, and tell me stories literally of Christmases long, long ago. It will be my pleasure to give him a little holiday draught, and then he’ll sing me to sleep by singing the Coventry Carol. Lovely.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can You Really Find and Date a Vampire?


I supposed I asked for it.

My book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire is starting to raise questions like this one, and I realized it would be handy to have a blog post that addressed it, so I’d have a spot to refer those inquiring along these lines. For example, a fan of the book recently asked me, “I want to meet a vampire, but I’m too shy to approach one, especially since they are so attractive...what can I do to get over my shyness?”

So let me start by saying, I have an aversion to being a buzzkill, especially when the “buzz” involves being imaginative. For example, let’s say you’re talking to fellow fans of a TV series. Let’s work with the example of “True Blood.” Everyone is going off about how much they’d love to date Bill, how cool it would be to talk to him about Civil War days, how dreamy his eyes are, etc. I’m not going to be the one to say, “Look guys, there is no Bill, and I doubt that Stephen Moyer knows anything special about the Civil War.” Au contraire, I’m going to be the one saying, “If Bill came to Milwaukee, I wonder where I’d take him on a first date.”

Recently at one of my book signing appearances, an obviously very intelligent and mature teen girl asked me, “Have you had imaginary friends?” I said (with total honesty), “Only like dozens! I have them right now, several of them.” And this girl proceeded to tell me about her imaginary friend with wonderful enthusiasm, very much as if he were real. Maybe someone not like me would have said to her, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” But think about it a minute: she said “imaginary friend.” It’s not like she’s deceiving herself that the guy is real, in a flesh-and-blood way. It’s just that she’s clever enough to take him just as seriously as her flesh-and-blood friends. And in my opinion, she should.

So, if you really must have me say it in black-and-white: No, I have not dated any real vampires. No, I am not in my book offering tips for finding real vampires and going out with them. But what fun is it to dwell on that?

The fact is, I (and millions of other people) have hung out with vampires in our imaginations. As well as with pirates, space aliens, satyrs, etc. Well, fewer with the satyrs I’m sure. Our inner, imaginative lives mean a lot to us. We’d like to understand them, know how to handle them, realize ways of making them more interesting and helpful. And that, if you must know, is why I wrote my book.

Now if you know anything about effective fantasizing, you know Rule #1 is to set aside reality. At the climax of the play, the villain is not going to turn to the audience, “breaking the fourth wall” as they say, and tell them “You do realize I’m not really going to kill the hero in this scene--we’re just acting.” Just as you get to the moment of the hot love scene in your bedtime fantasy, you do not tell yourself “I must keep in mind I’m not really Hugh Jackman’s girlfriend.”

On the contrary, effective pretending is enhanced by anything you can do to make it seem more real. Why do you think so many people get a charge out of seeing there’s a Web site for Oceanic Airlines? Or buying a four-pack of TruBlood from the HBO Store? Or following Dexter on Twitter? Of course you know you can’t buy tickets on an Oceanic flight to get to the Lost island. You know there’s soda, not synthetic blood, in those bottles. And you know some marketing person is posting as Dexter. But what fun is it to dwell on those facts?

This is why I hate to have to step out of my persona as Diana Laurence, friend of vampires, expert on dating the undead, and counselor to vampirophiles everywhere. This is why I don’t want to have to tell someone with a vampire dating question, “You do realize I’m not seriously talking about dating real vampires, right?”

I suppose in the interest of full disclosure and so I don’t get sued by someone, I have to go on record in this regard. But it’s not like I’m enjoying having to write this post.

The way I truly prefer to reply to the girl asking about her shyness problem is this: Don’t worry...the happy thing is that vampires, with their mind-control talents, can simply hypnotize you into not being so shy. Just walk up to the vampire in question, showing off the red satin ribbon on your wrist, and he’ll be happy to solve the problem for you.

That’s my “story,” and I’m sticking to it. Get it? Good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reflections on My Whirlwind Book Launch


As I occasionally mention, I don’t usually write too much about the doings in my little world on this blog. But a couple people have suggested that readers might actually find it interesting to hear what its like when you experience the success of publishing a book in wide release. So, I thought it might be fun to reflect upon what has happened to me in that regard.

Fun? Yes. Exhausting? Yes! Satisfying? Well, considering I’ve been working towards this goal since I was in grade school, definitely yes.

As a little kid I’m sure I thought there could be nothing so thrilling as publishing a book. But, blame it on human nature, there’s a negative side to everything. I want to save the good stuff till later, so let’s get that out of the way.

The negative side to my experience can pretty much be blamed totally upon myself and my own attitude. Much to my amazement, I found that when I saw my book on the shelf of my neighborhood Border’s store, my prevailing emotion was, “No one will ever find it! Why can’t it be in a big display?”

[By the way, if you are confused about the back story--like why it is that although I had eleven books in print already, this book was such a big deal--you can read the story of my publishing house
here.]

Ironically, I remember quite clearly countless other occasions in bookstores when I looked wistfully at the books on the shelves and sighed, “If only my books were in stores everywhere, instead of just for sale on the Web! Will it ever happen?” Wait, let’s back up a couple more steps: There was a time, just a few years ago, when I was blown away seeing my book covers on Amazon, and a time, a decade ago, when I was thrilled just to hold a printed book with my name on it in my hand.



Ah, humans...we are our own worst enemies, are we not?

And this was a lot of my problem during this experience. Whatever I achieved, it always seemed that my brain set the bar of “true success” as higher. My book is the #5 vampire humor book sold by Borders; I wanted it at #1, or better still, somewhere on the New York Times Bestsellers List. To date, reviews are running 35 to 3 as enthusiastically favorable, but those three bad ones made me think--against all reason--that I had failed a little. I got to appear on local radio; but TV wasn’t interested, and my shot at being on CBS didn’t pan out.

One thing authors really need to do to judge their success reasonably is to set aside the completely preposterous picture so many people have of the opportunities in publishing. Even I, who have been freelancing for decades, forget to be realistic.

Sure, some authors become true celebrities, but even the most famous are not like celebrities in other fields. Neil Gaiman is a rock star in the writing field, but 75% of the time I bring him up to someone, they haven’t heard of him. Literally hundreds of thousands of books get published each year--and that many people simply can’t become famous. Did you know that selling over 5,000 copies of a book is consider decent? Did you know you can sell fewer than 100,000 copies of a book and it could be on the NYT Bestsellers List? Doesn’t seem like much, and having 100,000 people know you does not make you much of a celebrity, in the grand scheme of things.

When I signed my book contract, a lot of people said, “Now you’re going to quit your day job and write full time, right?” Well, I’ll put it to you this way: That super successful author who sold 100,000 copies of his book got substantially less money for it than my day job salary pays me. It would be a fairly comfortable living...but only if you knew for sure you could repeat it once a year, every year!

So I guess I’m not completely to blame for feeling unsuccessful. My friends’ idea of success was that I had it made and now could be a full time author, and that didn’t happen. The thing is, it’s pretty rare that even successful, multi-published authors can live on their royalties alone...at least not in any fashion we spoiled Americans call living well! LOL



But now I come to a good transition point. Let’s talk about the upside of all this, and I will say now that if a person has a good job and the royalties are just bonus, then YES, the money is indeed a wonderful thing! Not only as money, but also as validation. Writers, even successful ones, spend a lot of hours in their lives writing for absolutely nothing. To receive the remuneration your talent and hard work merit is a wonderful thing.

And while this experience is not going to make “Diana Laurence” a household name, nor even make my other eleven paperbacks sell ten times more than before, it is still wonderful to have bathed a little in limelight. My publisher is very successful and has been for years; to be the top-selling author in their history, which it seems I will be, is definitely something to be grateful about.

So, that’s the deal regarding fame and fortune, the two things by which so many of us measure success. But in fact, the best things about this experience are in other categories. So let me share with you the things that brought me the most joy.

1. There were certainly many moments of excitement, possibilities that even though they didn’t pan out (so far) were great fun to contemplate. In this category: talk of pitching the book to Hollywood, the possibility of being on the CBS Morning Show, and the chance of having Charlaine Harris read the book and provide a quote. Fortunately I recognized these were all long shots, so I was more pleased that they were serious possibilities at all than disappointed that they didn’t happen.

2. Other things happened that truly were fantastically cool. Getting in Glamour magazine next to Charlaine Harris was awfully thrilling. There were other examples of when big media treated the book like something famous, like Publishers Weekly and Sugarscape.com. (And here’s a tip for you: “being treated like something famous” is actually what fame is, usually!)

3. Those 35 good reviews did not suck. Even though I tend to give negative reviews way too much weight, I really ought to recognize that appealing to over 90% of reviewers and averaging 4 stars out of 5 cannot be considered failure. Without doubt, some of the greatest moments of this experience were when one reader or another really grasped what I was trying to do with the book, or reacted with joy or laughter or enlightenment. Seriously, that’s pretty much the best thing about being an author.

4. While no one started up a fan site like the Twilight fans so often do, on a smaller scale a lot of people were lovely enough to treat me like a rock star. Most gratifying was the support and response of my Facebook friends, most of whom friended me because of this book or my other writing, and have never met me face to face. Without doubt my friend/fan CC Rogers made me blissfully happy by doing gorgeous portraits of all the vampires in the book, as well as making me a charm bracelet from them. So many people were genuinely thrilled by my good fortune, it was amazing.

5. It was so fun seeing word of my book spread to various corners of the world (real and virtual). I found that a random person had tweeted “The author’s a Maven, a great read!” Wow, how did that happen? My publisher reported crazy sales to countries like Trinidad and Tobago, and Lebanon. The book appeared on retailers lists, like Chapters/Indigo’s Top Five Vampire, Werewolf and Zombie Guides. Who picked it? Huh! I saw (via WorldCat) countless copies appearing in libraries all over the U.S....and being reserved! Crazy. Most incredible of all was walking into a random tiny bookstore in a small town and actually finding copies on the shelf. Man, was it everywhere?

6. I am addicted to “True Blood,” and it was so amazing encountering mutual fans who loved my book, via reviews and interviews on TrueBloodNet and TrueBlood-Online. Just being associated with something so successful was very cool.

7. It was a blast sharing my experiences with my family and [non-Web-only] friends. Doing my author appearance presentation for a crew of them at a bookstore was incredibly fun. And what could top going with my 83-year-old dad to a couple bookstores where I would be speaking, and having him see the book displays and posters of his daughter? Everyone was so happy for me and so encouraging, I’ll never forget it. My own husband made me feel so important, too! And he certainly was a true Personal Assistant that I couldn’t have done without.

8. While my bookstore appearances were not overrun with people (truth be told, book signings seldom are), I loved being in the environment of those lovely stores and meeting the people who work at them. Without exception my hosts were kind and informative and really loved everything I did. My radio appearance also went really well and my host was charming and urged me to do it again soon. My appearance on a trolley for Halloween was a huge success; the people aboard laughed at every tiny thing I said--and that’s always a great time, for sure! I did not feel like a star doing any of these things, but I definitely enjoyed the positive, delighted response of all who heard or saw me. And that rocked!

9. And possibly best of all, I met all kinds of wonderful people. The people I worked with at my publisher acted like true friends throughout the process. The new fans I made online have been amazing. And I met one fabulous family of four women (three generations) who loved my presentation and the book so much, I need never make another fan and my work will have been worthwhile! I know some of these new relationships will last a lifetime, all because of this book.

10. And yes, it is patently awesome to publish a book. When I got my first [four-figure] advance check, it seemed like a miracle. When I heard (and saw the photo) that my book was on a display table at the Madison Square Garden Borders, I thought I was dreaming. When I saw myself on a huge poster (in full color! LOL) at Books-a-Million in downtown Chicago, I could barely believe it. And when I learned my book will be in Target stores soon and will be a Recommended Read in January, I thought, “This is not happening!” (I still don’t think I’ll believe it till I see it!)



So to wrap up this huge tome, I am not nor ever will be famous or rich. My book will not be touted by Oprah, or make any bestseller lists. I won’t be doing a cameo on “True Blood.” My book will not be made into a movie and there will not be action figures of my vampire friends (which is a shame, hey?). In fact, in two or three years my book will probably pretty much be forgotten, except by the people that it really touched in a significant way.

But really, those people are the reason I do this. And the best thing about this book deal was how many more of them there will be now than before.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bloodchained II: The Secret of Secrets


Boy, am I happy to report the long-awaited release of the sequel to Bloodchained! I felt bad every time I saw someone googling "when will the sequel to Bloodchained be released?" Well, wait no more: It's available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and Living Beyond Reality Press...or simply ask your local store to order a copy for you. eBook versions also available...Kindle coming soon.


I'd love to tell you what happens in Bloodchained II, but there are people who read this blog who (mystifyingly! LOL) have not yet read the first novel, and I don't want to give away who lives, dies, is a good guy or a bad guy, etc. in Bloodchained. But if you like vampire romance, or suspense, or historicals (especially about the Renaissance), these could be books for you.

Fans of Bloodchained, you'll be reunited with your old friends from Audica, as well as meet some new, mysterious and alluring Roicans. There's plenty of the same suspense and surprises that you loved in the original novel. And it all ends up in a very interesting place.


For more information and buy links, please visit my Web site's Bloodchained II page or the official site,
www.bloodchained.com.

And on a more personal note: This is my fifth book to come out in 2009 and I am ready to take it a little easier! (As if that were possible with all this How to Catch and Keep a Vampire stuff going on! LOL)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pinch Me I’m Dreaming


Things happen to me that I find very exciting, but ain’t necessarily so for you readers. That’s why I don’t really like to inundate you with every detail of the successes of my writing career.

But in this case, screw that, I just have to crow! LOL You see, what’s happening in my life right now is--and in no way am I kidding--the pinnacle. So please indulge me while I share a little update about my book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire on this, its official release day.

Some of the publications that have featured the book so far are Publisher's Weekly, Glamour, ForeWord, Ingrams Advance, Gifts and Decorative Accessories, and Greetings, as well as dozens of Web sites and blogs such as www.sugarscape.com (largest publication for teens in the UK), www.trueblood-online.com, and www.mediaite.com.


I’ve been doing interviews for a number of blogs, and this Sunday an interview I did with the Anniston (Alabama) Star will be appearing in their print and online editions. I live in Wisconsin...so that’s pretty interesting! I have five bookstore appearances in the next couple weeks, and will also be doing local Milwaukee radio on Monday.

Reviews are pouring in nearly every day now, and they have all been good to glowing. HTCAKAV was chosen #3 favorite vampire book by www.internetreviewofbooks.com, made the Chapters/Indigo top five vampire guidebooks list, and is an Ingrams featured title.

I got the biggest news of all this week when my publisher told me not only was my book going to be sold in Target stores, it was selected to be a preferred read for January 2010.

And the capper: they will be doing a second printing. The 50,000-copy first run is tapped out! May I remind you, all this before the official release date!

Do you see now why I need to be pinched?

Last weekend I took a little vacation Wisconsin Dells, a resort town in the middle of the state. We were shopping on the main drag and I made a joke about finding my book in a local shop. We came upon a little bookstore in the next block, I went in, and sure enough, there were five copies on display in the Romance section. It’s incredible enough to find one’s book in Barnes and Borders, but in a tiny Book World in the Dells? Well, my publisher tells me they’ve sold copies to Australia, Lebanon, and Trinidad and Tobago, so I guess I need to get used to this!


Oh and meanwhile, my own publishing house this week released my 12th paperback title, Bloodchained II: The Secret of Secrets. I’m starting to see stores stocking my backlist titles, so it seems this vampire book may be bringing my older works to a brand new audience.

That would really be a dream come true!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

79 Crushes?


Actually, I’m sure I’ve had more than 79 crushes in my lifetime. I just noticed that according to this blog’s labels, I’ve had 79 posts about crushes of mine. The true number may be more like 279, and I’m not ashamed of it. If you’re in three-digits of crushes and counting, you shouldn’t be either.

This week’s episode of the CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother” really cracked me up. When asked by Barney if he fantasized about other women, Marshall said he couldn’t unless he first fantasized that his wife Lily had died. This daydream involved Lily’s contracting a long term case of fatal hiccups, and only giving up the ghost after a long struggle, attempts at miracle cures, and fundraisers. Then after “an appropriate amount of time,” Marshall finished grieving and granted Lily’s dying wish, moving on with his life to fondle a busty delivery girl. In other words, the justification portion of the fantasy was a good 20 times longer than the sex.

I’m with Lily; better Marshall should have let her live and just fooled around.

I am a huge fan of marital fidelity (having been a victim of marital infidelity), but when it comes to one’s interior life, I say, go nuts. No one ever did his/her spousal faithfulness a favor by squelching the sex fantasies (just ask your favorite fallen televangelist). Meanwhile, a [few] dozen fun little crushes will be a lot easier on your psyche than the one that grips you for years.

So, I’ve told you about a lot of my crushes on these pages, but for fun let’s just cover a few more I’ve not mentioned before. Today I’ll run down a few select choices from my junior high/high school years:


Beatle Boots. This guy wore pointy boots with those sorts of heels like the Beatles wore in their early years. No one else in the school was that self-confident. Well, the rest of him gave him plenty reason to be, but the boots were what put him over the top.

My Math Teacher. I developed a crush on him for two reasons: (1) He was especially nice to me. (2) I was halfway through high school and had never crushed on a teacher, and felt I was really missing out. It always happens in the movies.

My Creative Writing Teacher. A year later, and not so much in my control as the math teacher. She was a woman. I didn’t dream about sex with her or anything, I just wanted to be her, and for her to really, really like me. To the point that it hurt enough I knew it was a crush.

Half the Varsity Basketball Team. They were really cute, they were really good, they were so tall. Except the one short one, who by virtue of that was unique and special and even more awesome because he had to work so much harder. Oh, and this was the 70s, so their uniform shorts were really short. Those were the days.

My Cousin. And boy, this is one of those moments you hope your relatives don’t read your blog. I saw my cousin every five years or so, but now we were both into adolescence. We listened to music and he pretended to conduct it, which struck me as funky and very sexy. He had very nice brown eyes. The fact that the attraction was illegal made it all the more tragic and enjoyable.

The Kid I Babysat. Speaking of inappropriateness, I sat for three neighbor kids, and this boy was maybe three years younger than me and really too old to be babysat. We all got in a tickle fight. I went home with my 50 cents an hour feeling quite strangely giddy.

The French Exchange Student: He had a quirky, foreign-looking smile, looked great in a Speedo, and was, well, French. Usually simply being French is enough, you know?

The Guy at Lunch: He always leaned up against the same wall and I caught him looking at me more than once. That was sufficient to classify him as Mysteriously Inscrutible. I’m a sucker for inscrutability anytime.

Smile, Hair and Voice. When you’re an adolescent girl, a cute smile, a head of tousled curly hair, and one of the best tenor voices in the choir is enough. Actually, way more than enough. He played an old guy in the school operetta and still looked a luscious seventeen, if a bit distinguished.

Smile, Brains, and Sense of Humor. Or, those. They work too. He could be an intellectual or a goofball. I liked him so well I asked him out 18 years later after my divorce. I think I scared the crap out of him; or maybe he’d just lost the sense of humor.

Cool Name. This guy in my Physics class was named Roland. He was pretty cute, too, but Roland. Isn’t that excellent?

Are you starting to think it doesn’t take much? You mean cool name wasn’t enough for you? Or boots?

Hey, I was going to end up writing a bizillion stories about love and sex, I had to gather material.

And the Crushes label count is now 80.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spot the Book, Maybe Win a $100 Amazon Certificate!


This week not only did I find my book on the shelf of our neighborhood Borders, one of my pals at Sellers Publishing spotted it on this display table in the front of the Borders store at Madison Square Garden. Blows my mind! And right next to FU, Penguin, too! (I love that blog.)


So, if you live in the U.S., odds are the book is in your nearby Borders, and will be at your local Barnes & Noble soon. Canadian readers, it's on its way to Chapters. Heck, I've been told it's going to be at stores all over the world in the next four to six weeks.


Well, I’m just so darn happy, I had to throw a contest. Enter and you could win a $100 Amazon gift certificate or a personalized autographed book! It’s easy and fun to enter: all you have to do is spot the book in your local store and email me a photo. And I'll enter you twice if you're the first entrant from your state or (for non-U.S.) country. For complete contest details, visit the contest page on my Web site
HERE.

I can't wait to see what you find on your local shelves and display tables! Good luck!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Twilight vs. True Blood


Everywhere I travel on the Interwebs these days, I encounter articles, posts and comments with themes similar to the following:

  • Twilight is too silly
  • "True Blood" is too smutty
  • Edward is a sissy, please bring back Nosferatu
  • Forget vampires, I dig werewolves
  • Forget vampires, I dig zombies
  • Vampires are better than anyone so shut up
  • Bella should shut up
  • Sookie is annoying
  • Team Edward vs. Team Jacob vs. Team Bill vs. Team Eric in all possible combinations

Some of this bashing is humorous and for fun, and then I can get a laugh out of it. But a lot of it is amazingly mean-spirited. I am sometimes tempted to put on a “make love not war” button. I know it’s human nature to say “my favorite vampire show/vampire hero/vampire-loving heroine is better than yours,” but everyone please chill! Whatever happened to “all kinds make a world?”

First of all, it seems kind of silly to me to do literary analysis of either Twilight or the Sookie Stackhouse books. Everyone on both sides needs to realize that none of these books can possibly be “worthless,” considering legions of readers love them. They were written to entertain, and just because they don’t entertain you, doesn’t mean they have no value.


I realize that sometimes it’s hard to get your mind around just how different people are from each other. I’m stunned by it every time I encounter it. But taste is an individual and varied thing. Just this week a fan told me her favorite story in my latest collection, Soulful Sex: The Darker Side, was the very one I happened to like the least. This has happened before, I assure you.

Truly, there’s probably no aspect of life where people differ as much as they do about sex. Not only do people have varied and disparate erotic preferences, oftentimes what one person likes is boring, unpleasant, or even disgusting to another. Consequently, when we argue about matters with erotic content—and you must recognize that the “Twilight vs. True Blood” debate is one such—opinions can certainly clash violently. That’s why it’s imperative to recognize this is a matter of taste, not esoteric absolutes.

I think about Stephenie Meyer’s first imaginings of Edward, so many years back. She had to have thought the concept of vampires avoiding the sun because it revealed their otherworldly appearance was original and interesting. I’m sure that writing about it was delightful. It is, in fact, a clever idea and one that has a certain charm.

No doubt Stephenie, had she thought about it, would have figured not everyone would go for this interpretation of the undead. But no writer can possibly aspire to please everyone, so that would have done little to dissuade her from writing about it. I’m sure she never guessed that one day it would become in vogue to bash the idea of “sparkly vampires” with as much virulence as you see on the Web. Of course, at the same time, there are plenty of people who think the concept is fabulously romantic.

Writers write for the people who will enjoy their work, not those who won’t. Think about it: what else can you do?

Our society has come a long way in learning to live and let live in the sexual arena. Most people recognize the diversity of erotic taste, just as they recognize that different people have different favorite colors, food, music, etc. There are a few absolutes, certainly (pedophilia, for example, is absolutely wrong), but much of the time we’re talking about just opinion. Blonds with beards get Joan excited, while Asians are a turn-on to Jean.

And therefore I’m suggesting, once you see that a million or two people (1) adore Twilight, (2) live for "True Blood," (3) think Edward is hot, (4) are crazy for Bill, etc., that should tell you none of these are worthy of condemnation. We all have our preferences, and you probably want to respect the preferences of others.

I think it’s fun to talk about favorites—I have ever since we passed around slam books in school (how’s that for an ancient term?). Mine (currently at least) are "True Blood," Eric, and vampires. That said, there’s a certain plotline in Breaking Dawn that I thought was brilliant; some days I really adore Bill; and Jacob and Sam have showed me that shapeshifters have their charm.

But what I really love is that there is so much out there for paranormal romance lovers of all stripes. So let’s celebrate the excellent variety of the smorgasbord! It’s so much better for the digestion.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Talkin' 'bout Vampires on Video


I have a little treat for those of you in any of the following categories:

1) You've always wondered what I look/sound like.

2) You're desperate to get tips on vampire dating.


3) You want to know more about my new book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire.

4) You really need to blow three and a half minutes on another funny online video that is at least as entertaining as Keyboard Cat.

If any of these define the person you are at this very moment in human history, you will not want to delay watching me in the new video below...

Don't say you weren't warned.

(Oh, and by the way, the book is starting to appear in stores, is in stock at Barnes & Noble online, and available at Amazon...coming soon to stores worldwide, everywhere by October 23.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ten Sexiest Stars of Classic Broadway (IMHO)


Yes, I'm obsessed with Broadway. And why not? Guys singing, guys dancing, guys in great costumes (and yes, many of them are gay but they're still hot, for heaven's sake), romance in abundance, and plenty of sexiness.

I've been obsessed with Broadway since I was a tiny child, as my list below will attest. Alas, I also live in the Midwest. So I'm far from an expert on the current stars trodding the boards in NYC. Still, I can recognize all kinds of classic and unforgettable performances over the years. So, for what it's worth, here are my top ten guys who rocked the stage (and sometimes screen) with their hotness:



Yul Brynner, the King of Siam, "The King and I" (1951) (see also
this post) - Exotic, beautiful, funny, fierce and vulnerable...wow. Oh, and also shirtless throughout the whole show.

Robert Preston, Harold Hill, "The Music Man" (1957) - The original charming shyster of Broadway. Prof. Hill, I never heard those bells, till there was you.


Gerome Ragni and James Rado, Berger and Claude, "Hair" (1967) (see also this post) - The originators both of the show and the starring roles, they served as inspiration as I passed through puberty. I slightly preferred Claude.


Victor Garber, Jesus, "Godspell" (1971) (see also this post) - Is it wrong to think of Jesus as hot? Well, he wasn't actually sexy, just sweet and funny and brave and lovable. I'm still not over my crush on Victor, it's been a doozy all these decades.


Richard O'Brien, Riff Raff, "The Rocky Horror [Picture] Show" (1973) (see also this post) - To say he's not classically handsome is to state the obvious...but the show's creator and eccentric star was undeniably sexy in this role. It's downright scary how sexy...


Kevin Kline, The Pirate King, "The Pirates of Penzance" (1980) - Sure, he's goofy, but you can't resist him in that "alarming but effective costume." He can swash my buckle anytime.


Michael Crawford, The Phantom, "The Phantom of the Opera" (1986) - Appropriately, I fell under the spell of his voice without needing to see his face.


Anthony Rapp, Mark, "Rent" (1996) - Can't really put my finger on why I'm so attracted to Mark (my daughters saw the show on Broadway and were sure I'd go for Rodger). He's just damn cute.

Hugh Jackman, Curly, "Oklahoma" (London Revival) (1999) (see also this post) - If you like Hugh, then you should rent.this.now. He's absolutely breathtaking.


Jason Danieley, Lieutenant Joseph Cable, "South Pacific" (Concert Version) (2006) (see also
this post) - I'm cheating a little here, having not actually seen Jason perform this role or any other, but his version of "Younger Than Springtime" is absolutely heavenly.

That's a pretty eclectic group, hey? I know I left out scads of other worthy candidates. Please share your favorites of yore or today in the comments....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is Defanging Really So Terrible?


This morning my publisher alerted me to a recent article on Slate.com by Grady Hendrix, entitled "Vampires Suck; Actually, they don't. And that's the problem." Grady has a real problem with what I call the defangitization of vampires. He's a lot like Dr. Steven Grey (pictured), a vampire featured prominently in my upcoming book, How to Catch and Keep a Vampire, and author of the essay "The Hideous Domestication of Vampires." The two share an intolerance for anything but the old-fashioned Nosferatu kind of undead.


Their complaint seems to be resounding louder lately. The more popular vampires become with the general populace, the more they are being reinvented according to individual interpretations. Whereas once (Grady would say, pre-Buffy) anyone telling a vampire story tried to stay consistent with Bram Stoker, nowadays it's a bloodsucking, or even nonbloodsucking, free-for-all. And it's the nonbloodsucking that has folks like Grady brandishing pitchforks.

I'm sure you must be dying (or undying, if you're a creature of the night) to know what I have to say on this point. Right. Well, I took it upon myself to respond to Grady in his comments section, and in the interests of laziness, will reprint here for you what I said:

It seems to me there are two types of vampire fans: (1) people who want to keep strict adherance to the "classic" archetype, and (2) people who want to adapt the vampire fit their preferences, even if those characteristics are far afield from the old legends.

I'd like to assure Grady that the original, "monstrous" vampire archetype will always be with us. Meanwhile, I have no problem with creative adaptation. The immutable essence of the archetype, no matter what spin you put on it, is that it is the Shadow, refering to the term used by psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung.

Whether he kills or not, drinks blood or not, hates mortals or not, the vampire archetype always represents some sort of dark aspect of human nature that society shuns and hides--all the while obsessing over it. Whether that shadowy, guilty obsession is sex, violence, danger, evil, etc., the vampire serves as the perfect seductive personification.

Bill Compton is not a killer but he represents the socially unacceptable and morally compromised. Edward Cullen is not a sexual threat but he still personifies danger, unpredictablity, and uncontrollable desire. These and other "new style" vampires may be too angelic for Grady's taste, but they are always devilish to some degree.

People of all cultures, ages and interests are reinventing vampires in new ways, always to work out their own dark urges and express in the fantasy realm what is not possible in reality. So let them! I'm sure Bram Stoker's Dracula won't mind.

So there you have it: I do appreciate those people who don't want to see the old-style vampires "die out." But you see, an archetype that powerful is not going to be killed off by any mere popular trend. At the same time, there's never anything wrong with being creative and innovative about your character development and storytelling. There's room for Bill-lovers, Eric-lovers, Edward-lovers and Dracula-lovers.

I say, variety is the spice of undeath.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Possession


I’m a fan of “True Blood” on Facebook, and yesterday the fan page put up a notice of new tee shirts that say “Sookie is mine.” For those of you who don’t watch the show, the reference is to vampire Bill Compton’s statement concerning his mortal love, Sookie. This declaration is more than simple romance: it guarantees Sookie’s safety in the face of the covetousness of other vampires. Possession is just that big a deal in vampire world.


Well, this posting set off a slew of comments, needless to say. And not a one was negative. Not a single “isn’t this chauvinistic?” remark. On the contrary, everyone was wishing they were Bill’s, or Sookie was theirs, or they were Eric’s or Sam’s or Jason’s, etc.

It would seem that possessiveness, in spite of all society’s politically correct efforts to the contrary, remains sexy.

I’ve touched upon this topic before, in my
3/9/08 post about “Lost’s” Benjamin Linus. His fierce proclamation regarding Juliet —“You’re mine”—is still haunting the dreams of infatuated fans everywhere. To those who find Ben attractive, this greedy, covetous, jealous statement is just about the hottest thing he’s ever said.

Possessiveness, in practice, is not the most desirable trait in a mate. In its most dysfunctional form, it has driven psychopaths to kill. More typically, it causes strife in relationships and makes money for marriage counselors. But in fantasy, fiction, and shows like “True Blood” and “Lost,” it’s all kinds of sexy and romantic.

This is another one of those throwbacks to our more primitive days. When females depended upon males for protection, food and shelter, it was a boon to have your man ferociously possessive of you. You didn’t want him to take it lightly that a competitor or enemy might steal into your camp or castle at night and abscond with you. Men were (and in many ways still are) hardwired to look upon women as prizes to be won in competition with others, and the words “she’s mine” meant victory. Women were flattered to be considered the object of such competition, to be favored enough to be a “prize.” The words “you’re mine” meant a man had found her worthy of fighting for, perhaps to the death.

As obsolete as such concepts are today, we can’t completely put off those primitive feelings. The resulting phenomenon is that a female’s emotions are stirred by the storylines of “True Blood” and “Lost.” We love the concept of a vampire so desperately in love with a mortal woman that he forbids any other to dream of possessing her, and puts his fury behind the words. We even experience a sexual thrill when a diabolical villain declares his possession of a woman who shuns him, knowing it is a demonstration of his desperate desire for her.

I have lately been making my way through the Twilight books, and I must confess there is a recurring problem for me. It’s Bella’s aversion to marrying Edward. I understand her feeling some shame for marrying so young, but I know in her position I would give more weight to my delight at having such a fellow want to bind himself to me. I wondered if perhaps the teens of today are the first generation to not feel such traditional emotions on the subject.

I admit I’m incorrigibly old-fashioned, but I fall back on those things that thrilled young girls in the 60s and 70s: getting “pinned” or having your boyfriend give you his class ring…carving your initials together in a desk…getting an engagement ring. I wondered sadly whether it was becoming passé to feel you belonged to someone, and they belonged to you. Should candy manufacturers stop making those hearts that say “Be Mine”?

Well, the comments about that “True Blood” tee shirt were very heartening to me. The old instincts, apparently, are not dead.

I’m not alone in wishing I could hear Bill or Eric growl “[your name here] is mine.”

Friday, July 31, 2009

Battle of the Sexes


I’m bound to get someone’s ire up with this post, I’m sure.

First off, let me say the following: (1) I believe men and women are different, but neither is superior. (2) I realize you can’t generalize about all members of a gender, but I think certain gender tendencies are well established. (3) My “gay-dar” isn’t perfect but close to it (probably comes of being married to a gay man for 15 years when I was younger).

Okay, so let’s get to it. Davie and I recently watched the second episode of this year’s “HGTV Design Star” competition. The challenge in this ep involved the ten contestants divvying up into two teams, and each team redoing a kitchen. Teams were picked “playground style,” and ended up with Team Amy (consisting of four women and one guy, Dan, who is probably gay) and Team Nathan (consisting of three men—one of whom, Antonio, is definitely not gay—and two women). You can see Team Nathan (left) and Team Amy in the photo.


Both teams had some good (and bad) design skills going for them. Both teams had a guy (Dan and Antonio) they had to rely upon for carpentry. So it became clear quite quickly that the winner was going to be determined mostly by project management skills.

Team Amy was led by a female and had a preponderance of females. Team Nathan was led by a male and had a preponderance of males. What a fun social experiment. Now I don’t feel that “project management skills” are gender-linked in any way. But given the right conditions, “focus” can be.

Team Amy fell prey to having an unfocussed leader. More than once, Amy’s emotions collapsed under the time pressure. Another member of the team was too scatterbrained to accomplish her share of the work. There was no cohesion. As the project unfolded, it was Dan who took over leadership. He tried to keep people on task, and also served as a steadying influence. In fact, at one point I had to cry, “These people need more testosterone!” And Dan, regardless of sexual orientation, definitely had that. Sigh…there’s nothing that irks feminists more than the sight of a man having to comfort his female “superior” when she dissolves into tears.

Team Nathan didn’t have much better of a leader, sadly. Nathan didn’t have much in the way of organizational skills either. However, without some of the emotional distractions occurring for Team Amy, the largely male team did stay on task and conduct their project more logically. And speaking of testosterone, it was the very heterosexual and aggressive Antonio who ended up taking charge and keeping the team in line.

So in the end, Team Nathan completed the kitchen re-do, largely successfully. (It needs to be mentioned that the room’s best feature, a faux hammered metal backsplash, was the brainchild of one of the women.) Meanwhile, when time ran out, Team Amy had left countless tasks incomplete, hadn’t had time to clean up, and didn’t have a chance to put out any accessories. Yikes.

Is it really fair to credit this failure to estrogen and the female nature? Not completely. I’d be the first to say that the average woman is just as capable as the average man of bringing a challenge to a successful conclusion.

However, in this particular case, I truly believe we saw the feminine nature proving to be a disadvantage. The price women pay for their well-developed emotions and their sensitivity to the world around them is this: sometimes we find it too hard to turn that off, ignore the pressure and emotional conflict, and power through to closure. Meanwhile, the same tendencies that can make men insensitive oafs oblivious to what’s happening around them, can be a real boon when closure is the goal.

None of this demonstrates to me that men are better than women. What it shows me is that the success of our species depends on the participation of both genders in reaching goals. Together we not only bring different skill sets, but sometimes completely opposite ones that complement each other perfectly. Team Nathan didn’t win this round of Design Star because it had more men; it won because team members of both genders brought a better balance of aptitudes to the task.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At Your Service


On innumerable occasions I have blogged about the sex appeal of aggressive, alpha-male type guys. Well, today it’s time to look at the flip side.

The other day Davie and I were watching “The Next Food Network Star,” and I was suddenly reminded of a totally different style of guy that really sends me. Calling this particular archetype “the servant” doesn’t completely do him justice, since that implies a slavish subordinate. I’m talking about a man who dedicates himself to serving you out of his own free will. He’s chosen the role because he enjoys it.

My favorite contestant on the show is Jeffrey Saad, a handsome 42-year-old currently working in real estate. Don’t be misled: Jeffrey’s prior history includes culinary school and many years of operating restaurants. In the episode of which I speak, the remaining five competitors teamed up to cater a Miami cocktail party. Jeffrey served as host, and his background as a restaurateur was apparent.


Welcoming the guests, Jeffrey was warm, gracious, welcoming and cheerful. He said something in Spanish that I, who only know English and French, could not translate beyond it including some sort of expression of being “at your service.” Whatever he said, it was hot. And for much of the rest of the evening, Jeffrey bustled around the party, proffering trays of food, tending to guests’ needs, and adjuring everyone that he would “take care of them.”

I should tell you that Jeffrey is no poser. He’s a very sincere, guileless fellow, kind-hearted and slow to anger. That lovely smile of his is not faked. And I could see he truly enjoyed playing the role of “servant,” not because he’s into the subservient role, but because he knows he does it well. He pleases people. I’m sure that has to feel good.

All I know for sure is, it would feel very good to have this man wait on you.

The episode put me in mind of a dinner party I attended many years ago with some co-workers. It was a potluck, with a dozen or so of us gathered at the home of the boss’s secretary. Our financial analyst, Mark, had been a waiter in college. So for the occasion he reprised that old role, pulling out chairs to seat us, bringing dishes around, refreshing drinks. Mark was a good-looking guy, but he never looked so appealing to me as on that evening, with his suddenly straight posture, and one hand tucked behind at the small of his back.

I’m sure all you readers of both genders have had the experience of being waited upon by a truly talented service person. That kind of attention can be quite an aphrodisiac. My theory on that is, the manner of a expert waitperson somewhat mimics courtship. The attention convinces you that this individual sees you as important. The kindnesses of bringing food and drink seem like gifts of affection. The fervent expression of a desire to please is, well, mildly sexual.

Of course you know the serviceperson is simply doing a job. But if they truly seem to enjoy that job, it’s hard not to get caught up in the lovely little charade. The result of this is genuine pleasure on one side, and, if nothing else, a generous tip on the other.

Just watching Jeffrey wait on other people was thrill enough to me. I think if he did it to me in person I might positively swoon. Nothing says lovin’ like a guy who smiles at you over a tray of canapés.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When Slaughter is Sexy


Those of you who have watched Showtime’s series “Dexter” will recognize this little verbal portrait (if not the photo below). But I ask you to read this next paragraph, and consider: what about such a guy is sexy?

Here we have a serial killer, fascinated since childhood with blood, vivisection, and murder. He is emotionless and can only mimic the human behaviors that are normally prompted by feelings. He is asexual, and unable to muster any kind of desire or arousal without, shall we say, serious stimulation. However, killing—and even sometimes the act of killing committed by another—produces excitement, joy, and even lust in his otherwise cold heart.

That’s Dexter in a nutshell. Of course to be fair, there are a few other things about him to be considered. He learned from his father an ethical code that he strictly obeys: to kill only those whose crimes are so horrific that they are more of a threat to the public that Dexter himself. He truly wants to be human, and is conscientious in his efforts to behave like a kindhearted fellow. While incapable of feeling “protective” of his girlfriend, he certainly has an intellectual commitment to watch out for her well-being. And yes, he’s got a fine sense of humor.


Still, a serial killer is a serial killer. Dexter is a very creepy fellow, with his needles and knives and careful attention to using protective plastic sheets.

All that said, this particular homicidal psychopath is undeniably sexy. It helps that Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter, is sensuously handsome and has a melodic, warm voice. But I maintain it is the concept of this character that hold the true charm. It’s really quite brilliant.

It’s a fact that many women have a strange interest in the Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys of the world. Twisted though that seems, it is due to the fact that serial killers possess a few key traits—warped, I’ll grant you—that appeal to basic feminine nature.

  • They are powerful, literally wielding the power of life and death.
  • They are predatory, the ultimate in aggressive (the supreme alpha male if you will).
  • They are brilliant and extremely skilled at what they do.

Certainly these things are true of Dexter in spades. And the writers of the show have cleverly worked out his personality so that women will be even more drawn to him. He is harmless to you and me. He’s not evil—or at least has his evil side under control. He’s not motivated by sex and is not a sexual threat. He feels nothing, so somehow doesn’t seem as culpable for what he does.

And he’s charming, funny, gentle mannered, and as a sort of Robin Hood of Homicide, actually a hero.

With all that going on, a lot of us ladies are happy to overlook the downside of Dexter’s personality and habits. We are even more happy to be able to safely indulge the secret perverse interest we have in sociopaths like him.

As a writer, I can only say, kudos to the creators of such a complex and fascinating character. I’ve created a lot of (hopefully) sexy protagonists, but never one like this.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fun News re My Vampire Book


Well, it’s been over a month since I updated you about my upcoming book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire. What a difference a month makes! In that time the release date has been moved up a couple of times (it’s now official: October 23!), a Facebook fan page sprang up and gets more fans every day (please join their ranks HERE) and the book has become available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Chapters.

In case you think this has been all play and no work, I assure you that’s not the case! For the past five weeks my editor and I have been slaving madly away at editing, rewriting, creating more cool content, etc. In fact, you can take a sneak peak at the beautiful design of the book on my website
here.


So come October, you will be able to find copies in bookstores everywhere (and hopefully prominently displayed!). Until then you will just have to keep wondering...
  • How to spot a vampire

  • How to end up dating him

  • This Dr. Grey fellow I’m obsessed with and why I shouldn’t be

  • The name of the most beautiful song a vampire ever played on guitar (IMHO)

  • The potentially dangerous secret of the red satin ribbon

  • How to say no to a vampire

  • And what happens if you say yes
And those are just the tip of the vampiric iceberg! I’m so excited to share it all with you, I won’t even mind this year when summer fades in Wisconsin! :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Wanna Be Cat Deeley


Just ask my husband how I often I launch into praise-filled raveouts about the hostess of “So You Think You Can Dance,” Cat Deeley. I know, I know, I get carried away. But I think the reasons for my girl-crush are kinda interesting, so hear me out.


Cat has done a lot in her career as a DJ, model, and TV personality, but my familiarity with her is limited to SYTYCD. So in this post I’m only speaking of Cat’s persona on the show. What I love about her is that she is young, gorgeous, shapely, and every inch a beauty, but on SYTYCD she almost never operates as a sex object. On the contrary, her relationship both with the audience and with the contestants is quite overtly maternal.

The media in the Western world normally never waste an opportunity to exploit sex, so this is astonishing. Here we have this woman who could easily be all kinds of sexy, but she simply doesn’t operate that way. I don’t know how much of this is her idea and how much is the producers’, but for me it works wonderfully.

Cat is far more than the host of the show. She is den mother to the dancers, always encouraging them and sympathizing with them in a way that plays as 100% sincere. During each season’s tryouts, Cat goes on the road to hang out with dancers waiting in line, warming up for their auditions, weeping over rejection and celebrating over success. Her sensitivity and tenderness toward these competitors is truly touching.

When the live show episodes get underway, Cat makes it plain that the tribe of 20 contestants are her “babies.” The judges may disapprove, may chide, may even browbeat, but Cat is “mom,” unconditionally. When dancers get the boot, it comforts the viewer to know Cat is there for them in the hour of their demise—a shoulder to cry on, a cheerleader to the end.

And what makes this all the more striking to me is that Cat is almost as young, and certainly as attractive, as any female on the show. Nevertheless she never crosses the line between maternal behavior and sexual seductiveness. The contrast is particularly interesting when some young, hot female celebrity is guest performer. Sure, I can appreciate the allure of someone like Kristinia DeBarge, but it seems so shallow when compared to the appeal of a more complex female archetype like Cat.

I’m not one to get into clothes and hairstyles; you won’t catch me watching Oscar red carpet reports to check out the gowns. But I do enjoy seeing Cat get dolled up twice a week, just to observe a woman looking really beautiful in the media without it being overtly about sex. Interestingly, that makes her all the more sexy, in my book.

Perhaps it’s because I like seeing a “spokesmodel” (horrible term!) serving a purpose that is more than being a pretty face and hot body. Cat demonstrates that a beautiful woman can have a deeper value, as she performs the role of guardian angel to her charges, and friend to her studio audience of predominantly adolescent girls.

Watching her makes me feel rather proud to be a woman. And that’s why my husband keeps having to listen to my recurring raveouts about Cat Deeley....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yul Brynner and My Creative Past


The other night I watched, for the umpteeth time, the amazingly wonderful movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "The King and I." I have loved Yul Brynner's portrayal of the King of Siam for as long as I can remember.


This was the first time I had seen the film since I began my career writing romantic and erotic fiction. Watching all the scenes again, I was amazed at the influence this story and the King's character had upon my own storytelling. For example, I realize now that my novella Gift of Flesh (which you can read free online
here) drew upon my subsconcious memories of the movie: the Burmese slave Tuptim falls in love with the man who delivers her to Siamese court, Lun Tha, just as my Miakaela fell for Naissun. Meanwhile, the Siamese king's struggle to reconcile the demands upon a strong monarch with his own personal mercy was doubtless some of my inspiration for Marcus, the hero of my story "The Scarlet Shackle" (also a free read here).

In truth, I could see in Yul Brynner's portrayal of the King the very essence of so many of my romantic heroes. I can see glimpses of him in the afore-mentioned Naissun and Marcus, Finn from Bloodchained, Prince Lucan from "The Dark Prince," Mr. Wellesley from "The Verity of the Vampyre," Adesteis from "The Chieftain's Man," and too many more to mention ("etcetera, etcetera, etcetera," as the King would say).

Yul won both a Tony and an Oscar for the role, so I am not alone in my admiration. As the King he managed to touch upon some very contradictory desires women feel for men. We want them to be strong, yet compassionate. We want them dominant but tenderhearted. We want them capapable of being funny and charming, but just as able to be stern, aggressive, and possibly even cruel.

It is virtually impossible for a real man to pull off all these traits and behaviors. To create a character who exhibits them all cohesively requires some brilliance, which of course Rodgers and Hammerstein had in spades. But just as much credit goes to the late Mr. Brynner, whose physical beauty, sexual attractiveness, acting prowess, and comedic talent all came together to create one of the most memorable characters in the history of both theater and film. I will always be in love with the King of Siam, and I have no doubt that love will continue to be reflected in many more of my characters as long as I continue to create romantic heroes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vampires or Werewolves?


[SPOILERS: Take note, I have some “True Blood” Season 1 and New Moon spoilers in here, so read no further if you are in the middle of either!]

As a romance author I have certainly observed the rise in popularity of both vampires and werewolves (as well as other varieties of shapeshifters) in romantic fiction. Obviously I’m all over vampires as a romantic archetype, but werewolves were another story. You can probably chalk that up to lack of experience…the extent of my familiarity with werewolves is pretty much Lon Chaney and “American Werewolf in London.” At any rate, I just have never quite gotten the appeal.

I thought maybe you have to be a dog person.

Well rejoice, readers; this past week I got to know a couple of shifters more personally, while simultaneously reading Stephenie Meyers’ New Moon and watching Season 1 of “True Blood.” It was interesting enjoying these storylines that are so parallel in this regard. Edward or Jacob? Bill or Sam?


Well, obviously at first blush a girl is going to go for the flashier choice, the vampire. (Edward is literally flashy, in fact.) With both guys you get someone who is really attractive, complex, interesting, compelling, and deliciously dangerous. What’s not to love?

Well, if only because of sunshine-aversion, a vampire can’t always be there for you. Both Bill and Edward are forced by circumstances to absent themselves at length. And who steps in to fill the void for Sookie and Bella? The shapeshifters. After all, most of the time they can be (more or less) normal boyfriends for you. The fact that they sometimes turn into animals doesn’t prevent them from dealing with you like perfectly nice guys would, the rest of the time.

Meanwhile, in both storylines, Jacob and Sam also function to protect the heroine from madmen and monsters who would do them and their loved ones ill. Sort of like Lassie, only male. (See, I knew this was a dog person thing.) And even though I prefer cats, I have to admit Sam-as-collie coming to Sookie’s rescue was really awesome…and it was adorable how he, in dog form, lay at the foot of the bed guarding her.

Likewise, Jacob’s ability to wax lupine is pretty cool, when the whole point of it is to snatch Bella unharmed from the jaws of some vicious vamp. Wolves are actually really wonderful animals, and giant wolves that stand between you and the bad guys are even better.

So, we really have two classic romantic archetypes here, and each has a unique and powerful appeal. Sometimes a girl is drawn to the anti-hero—someone dangerous, a little deranged, very scary in a sexy way. Other times she simply wants to feel protected and safe, watched over by a fierce and strong guardian creature.

So okay, I get it, I get the werewolf/shapeshifter appeal. They can be attentive, faithful, strong but gentle, and wonderfully protective. I’d love to have a big, powerful, abjectly devoted guy like Jacob around. And Sam can sleep at the foot of my bed anytime.

Just so you understand, if Edward returns from Volterra suddenly, or if Bill comes back from the Tribunal, I’m going to have other priorities. That’s just me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bill Compton, Protect Me


I told you I’d be blogging about “True Blood” again soon.

Well, in my last TB post I, not surprisingly, talked about the appeal of the vampire archetype. Obviously, vampire-wise, Bill Compton has it going on. He’s a real master of looking out of the tops of his eyes, he’s dangerous but charming, he’s half a beast, half a fine Southern gentleman.

As if that weren’t enough, the show lets him play a second and equally alluring role: the Knight in Shining Armor. A vampire in shining armor? Sure! You’ve seen it before in the pivotal and classic moment when Edward Cullen saves Bella from being crushed between two vehicles. The nifty side benefit of those vampiric powers is that they can be used to save damsels in distress.

And who’s in more distress than True Blood’s Sookie? The townsfolk think she’s crazy, the local young ne’er-do-wells are hot for her, and the neighborhood vampires have her in their sights. She may be brave and tough and spunky, but that doesn’t help when you’re outnumbered or outweighed by a hundred pounds. Or the assailant has supernatural powers.

Ah, but no worries: there’s Bill.


Bill, delightfully, is defined by the values and manners of the Old South (without that nasty racism of course). He is courteous, deferential, and painstakingly polite. And like any well-bred, properly-raised Southern boy, he puts women on a pedestal. They are to be watched over, guarded, protected, fought for even to the death.

No modern guy could behave in such a way—talk about politically incorrect. But due to his temporal displacement, Bill can get away with it with our blessing and admiration. Thank heavens! Because it’s absolutely wonderful and you’re not going to find a man like this anywhere in the 21st Century.

So Bill expresses his love for Sookie in Shining Armor fashion: vigilantly, and with preternatural thoroughness, he watches over her. When a threat appears, he’s on the scene in nearly the speed of light. He intervenes, wielding not anything so prosaic as reason, legal threats, or even a handgun, oh no…he wields his deadly fangs and supernatural strength.

Tell me, what woman doesn’t, somewhere in her soul if not all over it, want a man like this in her corner?

Not only that, but the passion with which Bill defends Sookie is so intense, it’s obviously not simply a matter of duty. It’s very, very personal, a fact reinforced when he employs the words “she’s mine” to fend off other vampires. [And I just love how the plot of this story makes it possible for a man to say of a woman, “she’s mine” and a woman to say “I’m his” and get away with it, with the female audience’s enthusiastic support. Very clever.]

Wow. So intense. The reaction of viewers to this show demonstrates to me that as great as the equality of the sexes is in nearly every respect, when it comes to sex and romance, a whole lot of us crave a trip in the Wayback Machine to the 19th Century. We’d love our own personal Knight in Shining Armor…or better still, a Creature of the Night in Shining Armor like Bill.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Help, My Celebrity Crush is Dating Someone


My regular readers have had the *cough* privilege of observing, since its inception, my celebrity crush on Neil Gaiman. Although I've settled down quite a bit on that subject, Neil is still a person of no small significance in my world. (There's the fact that I dedicated Soulful Sex: The Darker Side to him earlier this year, and the fact that my last vacation was built around a pilgrimage to drop a copy off at one of his Minneapolis hangouts. Okay, yeah, no small significance.)

So I thought it only right to share with you the latest classic stage that I went through in this little saga.

Let us begin with one fact that I fully and totally embrace, and constantly tell others: When you have a celebrity crush, the person you are smitten with seldom bears much true resemblance to the real celebrity. Oh they look alike, to be sure. They have the same voice. They are in the same line of work, probably. But beyond that, it's a lot of embellishment by the psyche.

Knowing this, and wanting to take my own advice, I have many times referred to my celebrity crush as "my imaginary Neil Gaiman." Meanwhile, for a very long time I avoided all the places on the internet where many details of his day-to-day life are right there for one to monitor. Because, I reasoned, the real Neil Gaiman (although very cool and worthy of tremendous admiration and respect) is not the guy for whom I'm carrying a torch. Not really.

Well, the temptation was just too great. And as often is the case, in following Neil's blog and Twitter account I found out so much about him that it really largely killed the crush. He just wasn't the same as the way my imagination had worked him out to be. Which, duh, Diana, is how it always is, remember?

Is any of this ringing true to you guys? Like you had this vivid picture of this half-Edward-Cullen, half-Robert-Pattinson person with whom you were totally infatuated? Only to find out too much about the real guy and feel all weird and freaked out by it?

Okay. But on to today's point. So, I only very recently learned that, as I suspected, Neil was divorced. And then, yesterday, he went public about his dating musician Amanda Palmer, with whom he has been friends for some time. And you know what just cracks me up? I actually felt a pang of jealousy/sadness/grief about this! As if it had any relevance to me at all!


That just goes to show you how confused your psyche is about these things. From the beginning of my Neil Gaiman Infatuation I fully recognized I was head over heels for not Mr. Gaiman the Real Person, but my dear and wonderful Imaginary Version of Same. And seeing as it is the former, not the latter, who is dating, you'd think I couldn't care less. And STILL, with full understanding of all this, and in my infinite wisdom as Web Person Who Explains All About Sex and Romance, I still felt a five-minute-long pang!

It's just crazy.

But that's how "projection" works. It's very hard to separate your internalized view of your celebrity crush from the actual person, even if you know better.

Well, I took a deep breath. Then I reflected upon the fact that Mr. Gaiman's choice of being with Ms. Palmer over me was really not any indication of my personal inferiority. Then I laughed at myself for a very long time. Ah the human soul! It's just so nuts.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is. Maybe I'm just saying, if you've ever gone through some "it kills me to think Robert Pattinson may be dating Kristen Stewart" moment, and then felt like an idiot for that emotion, please don't. It may be weird, but it is SO normal.