Month: August 2012

Birds, Bees … and Fantasies

Today I’m writing for the ladies. I’ve got a question for you.

Are you paying enough attention to your fantasies?

I’m asking because I have kind of a bad feeling about this. I can’t point to a specific reason for thinking this, but I think that not enough of us are paying attention to our fantasies.

That’s not good, ladies. Not good at all. Not good for anybody.

See, if we’re not paying attention to our fantasies, people start to get the crazy idea that we don’t have any fantasies. And then there’s all kinds of wide-eyed wonder when it turns out that women are interested in reading erotica and have been interested in it for years.

It may be that everything is okay, and all you ladies do in fact have active, thriving fantasy lives unburdened by guilt or shame or excuses or any of that. But for whatever reason, I’m getting the impression that a lot of us are not investing in our imaginary worlds.

Maybe everyone’s just being discreet. What a concept, right?

Maybe it’s just my chosen line of work talking – after all, my office is in the imaginary world. I just think that all of us should be able to slide into a nice little sexual fantasy whenever we have a minute or two to spare. When? How about anytime when you’re not driving the car?

It doesn’t have to be something out of Femme Productions or Wicked Pictures. It doesn’t have to have huge production values or expensive sets or any of that stuff. It can if you want, that’s fine. We’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s start with a little quickie.

Do you ladies have a quick little fantasy you can pop into when you have just a couple of minutes?

At the outset, let’s find those couple of minutes. I guarantee that you have two to five minutes to yourself at some point during the day. You’re in the shower. You’re washing the dishes. You’re on the elevator or shopping for groceries or walking from the parking lot. That’s enough time.

In the space of two to five minutes, you can come up with an imaginary location, an imaginary partner (or partners), and an imaginary situation. It doesn’t take long to transport yourself to a beach or a sleazy hotel or a dive bar or the Playboy Mansion or wherever you want to go. Hell, since I wrote last week’s post, the elevator has been one of my favorite places. And I bet you kind of already know who you want to come with you, right?

Sure, you can bring your man if you want. But you know what? You don’t have to. You do not have to take the man everywhere. You can bring a celebrity or an athlete or that good-looking UPS guy. I honestly don’t think FedEx and UPS hire unattractive men – I’ve never seen one who was anything less than model-hot.

I keep talking about bringing a man because that’s the team I play for, but it’s your fantasy! Bring another woman into your fantasy if you want. No one has to know what goes on at the little party in your head.

So what do you want to happen at the little party in your head? Here’s where it gets interesting. Because if you’re put off by the idea of having sex in your fantasy, that’s okay, too. It can be just as powerful to imagine proximity to your partner – what he feels like and smells like and sounds like. Is he whispering? Is he just standing too close to you? Is he just staring at you … like that?

That’s nice, right?

What if you have more than a couple of minutes? That’s good news. You can run the two-to-five-minute fantasy over and over again, or you can come up with brand-new scenarios. You can switch partners or locations. You can add all sorts of wonderful details. You can experiment with lots of stimulating ideas. If the world was your oyster in two to five minutes, imagine what you could do if you had unlimited time.

How does your garden grow, neighbors? Do you dare to leave me a little of the who, where and how in the comments?

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In Praise of the Bad Boy

He’s not Mr. Wrong. He’s not a garden-variety jackass. And while he may genuinely be a good man, he is nobody’s Mr. Nice Guy.

He’s a bad boy. Lots of women love him, and lots of men want to be him. But I don’t think we really understand the bad boy. If we did, I think we’d stop thinking of him as some stranger who sweeps into our lives from somewhere else, and we’d start seeing him everywhere. Even in the boy next door.

So who is the bad boy? That’s a difficult question. To get a better look at it, I think we should look at some exaggerated examples from higher literature.

The bad boy is determined.

If the bad boy appears to flout society’s rules, it’s because he has something that matters to him more than society. Let’s look at an example from sci-fi history: Khan.

What do you mean, who? Well, would you recognize him if I said, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!”

This is the short version of the story. Captain James T. Kirk picked up Khan and some genetically engineered folks who took over the Enterprise. When Captain Kirk took back his ship, he punished Khan by “placing” him and his people on Ceti Alpha V. He basically said he thought Khan was really cool and that they’d had an interesting time together and that there was no one in the world like Khan.

Then Captain Kirk disappeared and never called. I know. That doesn’t sound like him at all, does it?

After Ceti Alpha V was devastated, there was nothing else for Khan to do there but sit around and think about how much – how very, very much – he hated Jim Kirk. You just know he recited that “’round Perdition’s flames” speech over and over again under his breath. All his genetically engineered buddies had probably memorized the Tale of How Jim Kirk Stuck Me Here and Then Blew Me Off. So when that glorious day finally came, and Khan could get off Ceti Alpha V, Khan’s agenda only had one thing on it.

Khan could have rolled right up on Jim Kirk and taken him out. It could not have been hard to find Jim Kirk with a ship full of people under mind control. In fact, he hung nose to nose with Jim Kirk and could have taken him out with an hour or so left in the film. But his vision is to make Kirk suffer. As the film develops, you watch him pass on easy solutions in favor of methods that bring him closer to his goal. Khan’s willing to destroy people’s minds and bury folks alive and rip off shiny new technology and blow up property and alienate those closest to him — and kill a few people — on his way to making Kirk suffer. The action builds and builds and builds, until Khan finally gets exactly what he wants.

A bad boy picks a goal and sticks to it, come hell, high water, or Ceti Alpha eel. Nothing else matters. People can’t take their eyes off that electricity.

The bad boy thinks big.

The idea of realistic goals has no meaning for the bad boy. He’s more about going big or going home. Or going big and then going home with you. He doesn’t have to worry about failure because he isn’t going to fail. Failure is for other people.

For my money, no one thinks bigger than Lex Luthor. They just don’t build them like that any more.

In the original Superman movie (I’m a purist, and I think this is the only Superman movie), Lex Luthor breaks the supervillain mold. His mission is to make big money in real estate, but he’s not just going to flip houses or start showing properties or anything like that.

First, he’s going to buy up lots of California desert. Then he’s going to knock the California coast into the sea, which would make his property the new California coast.

He recognizes that he needs a big tool for a big job, so he rips off a nuclear missile.

He recognizes that Superman can stop one nuclear missile, so he rips off a second.

He knows that Superman might still find a way to stop him, so he rips off some kryptonite.

From there, it’s just a simple matter of putting the kryptonite around Superman’s neck, launching the missiles in opposite directions, and watching the fun. It’s crazy to think that one person could cause havoc on that scale all by himself, isn’t it? But Lex Luthor’s giant plan almost worked. If he hadn’t fallen into the trap of associating with the wrong people, Lex would be a very wealthy man now, once he ducked responsibility for killing Superman.

But it never occurs to Lex to go for a smaller – or legal – idea. He considers himself the greatest criminal mind of all time; why should he go for smaller? Even with Superman against him, even after repeated setbacks, Lex sets great big goals for great big rewards. Why should any of the rest of us dream small?

A bad boy doesn’t think less is more. If less is actually more, wouldn’t all of it be even more than less is?

It’s never a bad time for the bad boy.

No matter how things might seem to be falling down around the bad boy, unless his life is in immediate danger, he will find time to have sex with his woman. At the very least, he’s thinking about having sex with his woman. To illustrate this, I turn to one of my new favorites in the bad boy family: Ben Zajac from Boss. (You can even watch the first episode online for free.)

Let’s illustrate it for real. Go look at him. That’s nice, right?

Ben is trouble. He’s not as ruthless as Tom Kane is. In fact, Tom Kane put our golden boy on his knees (not to do anything, just to make a point), which I didn’t think I’d enjoy until I saw it. But Ben is still trouble.

As much as he has on his plate, though, Ben is never too busy to have sex. I think it’s safe to say that Ben is at least theoretically interested in having sex with you. Yes, you, reading this in the real world.

Oh, you don’t think so? To determine for certain whether Ben Zajac wants to have sex with you, take this quick, two question test.

  1. Are you female?
  2. Can Ben see you?

(Don’t be so quick to say ‘no’ to #2. Sometimes Ben can see women who are immediately behind him, so there’s a chance he can see you, all the way out here.)

If the answer to both questions is ‘yes,’ then Ben wants to have sex with you. That’s why he’s crowding you a little in the elevator. That’s why he’s looking at you like that. He wants to have sex with you. Like right here in the hallway. With people around.

Last week, on the second season opener, Ben is all stretched out in bed, rocking a pair of boxer briefs (whoo hoo!) and listening to his wife describe how worried she is about the way Tom Kane is starting to push him toward the margins of power. When Ben sees that his casual efforts to reassure her are not working, he gives her a little smile that says, “Oh, I see. Does Daddy need to turn that frown upside down?”

Now this is not the same as that patronizing attempt at comfort we’ve all seen before – that “let me distract you from something you should be worried about because I don’t know what to do about it.”

This is the gesture of a man who is so confident about what’s going to happen that he can stop for the pause that refreshes.

A bad boy tells his woman, “Hey, I got this.” He looks her in the eye and really, really means it. And then he turns that lady’s frown upside down.

So … is the boy next door more of a bad boy than you thought? Do you think he knows he’s a bad boy? And what do you plan to do about it?

Look! It’s an excerpt!

This is not my usual day to post, but my buddy Tracey Livesay tagged me for a game. It’s called “Look,” and this is how it works.

First, I search through my work in progress for the word “look.” Then I pick a place where the word occurs and I post it and a paragraph or two around it, and then finally, I tag a friend to play along behind me.

This excerpt is from my work in progress, Project NSA, which won the Passionate Reads Pitch Contest longer ago than I like to admit. This little snippet comes from the first chapter; the whole chapter is still up, deep in the Passionate Reads archives.

Enjoy!

John took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Grace didn’t know anyone under the age of fifty who still wore glasses, but she couldn’t imagine John without them. On another man, they’d scream “computer dork,” but on him … they made him look like the hot professor on every college campus who always had a huge class filled with blushing girls. They also drew attention to his warm brown eyes, soft and bright and intense, all at the same time.

One night, a lifetime ago, he had led her, swaying and tipsy, to her door, and in the hallway, she’d stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his. The world twirled away beneath her feet, and she’d had to steady herself against him, her hands on shoulders that were stronger than she’d imagined. He’d started to return her kiss, his long fingers stroking the small of her back, drawing her closer. Then his hands were on her hips, pushing her away. He’d been so gentle, touching her as if she were a priceless antique when he kissed her forehead and said goodnight.

They’d both been drinking, he’d said the next night. Taking the next step would have been a bad idea, he’d said. And he was right. Something about him still captured her imagination, but he was right.

Good thing they were still friends.

And here’s where the fun starts — go check out Vallory Vance! She’s got some hot interracial romances and lots of other excitement happening at her blog.

As for me, I swear I’m almost done with Project NSA. I swear.

All My Heroines Are Mouseburgers

Helen Gurley Brown’s book Having It All opens with 17 bullet points. She says that if the reader identifies with as few as five, the book’s advice might be helpful.

These are my five:

  1. You’re smart.
  2. You’re eccentric and not un-proud of being “different.”
  3. You can keep a lot of things going at once.
  4. You sometimes hurt.
  5. Peculiar (to put it mildly!) as you are, you can’t think of anybody you’d rather be.

Having It All, pages 3-6.

My mother gave me my copy of Having It All. I was very young, somewhere between tenth grade and the end of college, and I’m not sure she read it – it describes how to give a blow job in a level of detail one might not expect from a gift from one’s mother. (It’s possible my mom did read it, though. She is sui generis.) I’m not sure what I expected from Ms. Brown when I began reading, but when I finished reading the 17 bullet points, I knew she was talking to me. Not to the go-getting, overachieving, good girl everyone preferred to think was me. She was talking to the girl who felt awkward and out of place all the time. The girl who wondered if she’d ever escape being typecast as “Most Intellectual.” The girl who was afraid that she was headed for a predictable, boring life, without boyfriends or fancy clothes or an exciting job.

I was the mouseburger, a girl for whom the biggest obstacle to having it all was her own belief that she couldn’t have it. Looking back from here, it’s hard to believe that was ever true about me. But years ago, I was absolutely standing on the outside, looking in – and not understanding that the door was open.

I knew I could have a top-notch education, an impressive career, all the stuff that goes in the alumni magazines, but when I found out I was a mouseburger, I learned that I could have the rest, too: men, sex, the career of my choosing, money, excitement, and a world free of boredom. I have to thank Helen Gurley Brown for that by itself.

I also have to thank Ms. Brown for helping me build the stage where my stories play out.

I once thought the whole romance genre was comprised of what I call Polly Perfect romances. Polly was younger than 30 and devastated that she wasn’t married. Polly didn’t date all that much. Polly had an “appropriate” job in a nurturing profession. Polly fell instantly in love with the first person she had sex with, never made any relationship mistakes, married Peter Perfect and was perfectly pregnant by the end of the book.

A lot of people loved Polly Perfect. A lot of people still do. I hated her. What about those of us who chose the wrong men first? What if we wanted to be reporters and secret agents and cowgirls? What if we didn’t fall in love with the first people we fell into bed with? Was romance not for us?

Until I read Having It All, I thought the problem was with me. After I read it, I started writing romance my way. I was a mouseburger on the rise, and I wanted that new world to be the backdrop for my stories.

It wasn’t just okay to be single. It was awesome to be single.

Single women didn’t have the same opportunities as coupled women. They had more opportunities. Different opportunities. Exciting opportunities.

Sex before marriage wasn’t something to hide beneath layers of shame. It became a playground. A laboratory. An adventure.

This is the world my romances live in. This is where my heroines live. They’ve got the world on a string, until The Day Everything Changes. That’s where the fun starts. Who knows where it’ll end – and where we’ll all go before we get to our particular brand of Happily Ever After?

Helen Gurley Brown was my first guide into this world. I think she’d be happy to know that I’ve been having a blast here. I’m not the only writer working in this world by a long shot, but I’m so, so grateful to have found my way here, and I owe Ms. Brown so very much for showing me that this is my world, too.

I don’t have it all yet. In the meantime, I’m living by the advice on page 358.

“Don’t miss what’s offered.”

Cocktailery: A Summery Take on the Midori Sour

You know that quote from City Slickers? “Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place.” My cocktail philosophy is similar. Some people need a reason for a little drinkee. I just need a place.

Well, that’s not altogether true. I guess I’m just willing to settle for a lot less reason. “Gosh, it’s hot” is a good enough reason for me. Today, I want to share my favorite “Gosh, it’s hot” cocktail. It’s a nice way to celebrate the oppressive heat, the beginning of school, the upcoming television season, or every day’s opportunity to savor all the summer fun the dog days have to offer.

My favorite summer drink is a variant on the Midori Sour. I don’t like the sensation of being horribly drunk in the heat of the day, so I use a fairly lightweight alcohol. I even include a little fruit, so you can call it a health drink. (Aw, you’re welcome!) Here’s what you’ll need.

  1. Crystal Light Lemonade. I don’t get anything from the Crystal Light people for mentioning this here. I like to use it because it’s sweet without being cloying, low on calories, and easy to make. I also think it pays to use a mixer you can drink by itself.
  2. Midori. The Midori people aren’t giving me anything either. Midori has a light, sweet flavor like honeydew melons. There’s not a tremendous amount of alcohol in Midori – it’s about 20% alcohol by volume. That’s about half what you’ll get in Bacardi Superior, which weighs in at 40%. You can use Apple Pucker if you find you want more flavor with less of a kick; Apple Pucker runs about 15% alcohol by volume. I often use the DeKuyper melon liqueur, which is a touch stronger at 30%. (Note: I am not talking about Pucker Vodka. Pucker Vodka runs a bit stronger at 35%.)
  3. Frozen fruit. I freeze my own – I’ll cut up a pineapple or pluck grapes and freeze them in a container. If you want you can buy some frozen fruit from the store; it’s popular for smoothies. I like to keep the pineapple in tidbits for snacking and in little spears for stuff like this, but you can put a couple of tidbits into the bottom of a glass, too.

Let’s begin.

Pour about an ounce-ish of liqueur into the bottom of the glass. I’m a bartender, so I keep pour spouts in my bottles. I know when I’ve poured an ounce. Pour spouts are a good investment; they will keep your home beverages nice and uniform. If you don’t have them yet, an ounce is more than it takes to wet the bottom but about halfway to “hey, isn’t that kind of a lot?”

Fill the glass up with the lemonade, and then drop the frozen fruit into the glass. As you’re sipping, the fruit will thaw out and you’ll have a nice little surprise when you’re done.

You’ll want to tweak this for your personal use, of course. Are you using a tall glass? Try a little extra liqueur. Not about the lemonade? Crystal Light has some seasonal mocktail mixes that seem tailor-made for things like this – I have popped a little Apple Pucker into their Appletini mixer. How about a little soda on top to give it a little glimmer? Whatever works.

This is typically not a strong drink, but when it’s hot outside, I don’t want a lot of alcohol in my beverage. Either I’m hot and tend to drink faster, or I want to gradually consume a couple drinks. Neither situation (drinking faster or drinking more) is ideal for a strong drink, unless you just like feeling all sloshy in the hot, hot sun.

I’ve suddenly got a taste for one of these! What’ll you have?

Storm, Black Panther, and Playing the Level Field

Was it just a month ago that I was playing What If with Storm and Wolverine? Well, I was actually in the middle of blogging about something else when I heard the news from World of Black Heroes.

Storm and Black Panther are through. I refer to the good people at World of Black Heroes for my facts, and I encourage you to do so as well.

I know I shouldn’t be all excited about all this, especially given that the apparent catalyst for it is the destruction of Wakanda as we know it. But Storm and Black Panther were not a happy couple for long, if at all. And if it is wrong to be happy that these two people are now free to pursue real love and real happiness, then some part of me embraces wrong and does not wish to be right.

The awful truth is that the whole marriage never worked for me because it felt like Something We Should Do. It was the Expected Thing. I cannot support the contrived pairing of two characters who have little in common beyond their skin color. It bothers me that it is apparently Expected to get black characters together, all matchy matchy, with no regard for what might make a better – or even a more interesting – relationship. I just think that’s sloppy storytelling, and I won’t get behind sloppy storytelling.

It is not enough for black characters to merely occupy a predetermined corner of the playing field. I won’t be satisfied until black characters have access to all of it. With that in mind, although I was pouty and cranky about Storm and Black Panther’s matchy matchy marriage, the slow decline and collapse of that marriage took these two off the pedestal and made them real. They had become like so many other married couples, high-powered and otherwise, who were going through some rough times. They weren’t working out, for reasons both predictable (refusal to settle into preconceived marital roles) and unpredictable (one partner’s Phoenix-empowered colleague laying waste to the couple’s homeland). When I heard these two were actually in marriage counseling at one point, I had to shake my head. How courageous to put these two – the “perfect,” matchy matchy superheroes – in marriage counseling. I aspire to that sort of courageous plotting. Having access to the whole playing field includes playing on the part that’s covered with rocks.

But now, interracial romance fans … now begins the task of finding a strong shoulder (perhaps an adamantium-fortified shoulder) for Storm to cry on. Let the what if games commence.

What should happen now?