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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When a man says he’s losing his mind over a woman, he means it

Next to my desk I have a pile of newspaper clippings, magazine pages and hand-written notes full of ideas for blog posts. Every now and then I go through it and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Take this two-page spread from the January 12, 2014, USA Weekly. One side features pictures of Christina Ricci, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Bell; the other has an ad for the Just Stop It, the “Hot & Gorgeous Bandeau Bra That You’ll Love To Show Off!”

The Just Stop It, “the first strapless tube top bra to give you the support you deserve,” has Super Stretch!, erases back fat and delivers NO MORE SAGGING BUST!

But the other page has Christina Ricci, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Bell.

Was I interested in the bra, or the babes? A year later, I can’t remember.

The stack also includes a slew of cartoons illustrating the different approaches men and women take to fashion. For instance, in Mr. Boffo, a woman with her eyes popping and mouth drooling says to her husband, “Here comes Babette in the tiniest topless, backless, frontless, see-through string…sandals.” He looks less than thrilled.

And in an Arlo & Janis, bride-to-be Mary Lou excoriates her fiance Gene for not informing his mother that attire for the wedding will be “dressy casual.” Gene leaves the room to dutifully call his mom and deliver the crucial news: “Mary Lou said dress casual.”

Somewhat related is a bit I wrote down from comedian Pat Dixon. He said, “Women have larger corpus callosums than men, which means women think with their whole brains. Which sounds great, but it’s not. Because what it does is conduct a lot of emotional input into every logical decision. A man has an underdeveloped corpus callosum. It’s puny. So when a woman asks if she should wear the red one or the blue one, the skirt or the jeans, the shoes or the boots, with or without the belt, I want to crap in my hands and throw it at her.”

Why didn’t any of my high school science teachers ever explain anything that clearly?

A newspaper story from October 9, 2012, muddied the waters, though, with a report saying that regardless of whether men get women, women should get men because female brains include tiny bits of male genetic material.

As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Dissecting the brains of deceased women, University of Washington study researchers found “fetal DNA that could only have come from a male.” The researchers couldn’t say if it came from babies the women carried, brothers who inhabited their mother’s wombs before them, or if it migrated through generations from their grandfathers or uncles.

In an unrelated article, though, Shape magazine reported that a Kinsey Institute study showed that men like to be hugged—and that women who understand that and hug them are more likely to get laid. That understanding may be the result of learning, but it could also be that the globs of male cells at the fringes sometimes cut through the noise about cute shoes and the nuances between plain-old casual and casual/whatever with a message like, “Hug him!” Where women get the idea that they must stop their boobies from drooping I don't know. All the male parts are saying is, “Boobies!”

Was that what I was thinking? Probably not. But linking all this stuff together must make me seem a lot smarter. And I'd say I did all right for a person who apparently lost a chunk of his already diminutive corpus callossum before he was even born.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wait a minute, mister post-man

Hmmm...haven't posted in a while. I probably will. Pretty soon.

Until then, every post since 2010 is still archived here, so check out Classic ManWARs. Or check out the two ManWAR books, aptly titled Man Writing a Romance and Man Writing Another Romance to read during the dull moments at home or work. At 99 cents, they're cheap laughs--and chock-full of insights based on hasty and ridiculously incomplete research!

But remember, do not drink coffee while reading these books!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I wish you a merry Christmas cookie

I promised author Gin Jones that I would post a Christmas cookie recipe this week as part of a blog tour. Easy right? Right, because The Man Writing a Romance knows exactly one cookie recipe, and it’s the one on the cover of every box of oatmeal—modified liberally because The Man Writing a Romance follows no recipes.

Now, you might be thinking, “But, Dave, that’s not a Christmas cookie recipe,” but when one has naught but a single recipe, said recipe is appropriate throughout the year. And who doesn’t say—in December, at least—that we should “keep Christmas in our hearts” all year round?

Plus, the recipe on the box is for raisin cookies, which is fine. If you’re gonna do that, I suggest those gushy-gooey baking raisins and doubling the amount because, hey…twice the gushy, twice the gooey. Me, I say to hell with the raisins. Load the dough up with chocolate chips or, even better, chocolate chunks.

Chocolate chips occupy a warm space in my heart. Especially at Christmastime. When I was a kid, my mom set aside a day as Christmas Cutout Cookie Decorating Day. My sisters and I got to help with everything, from rolling the dough to cutting out the shapes to slathering on icing and topping it with jimmies and sprinkles.

I hate jimmies and sprinkles. And,  to tell you the truth, I’m not all that fond of icing, either. Or sugar cookies. Doing the decorating was a blast; eating them not so much. On the other hand, I scarfed down my share of chocolate chip meringue cookies, chocolate crinkles and fudge.

See the pattern?

Among the cutouts we made every year was the family of gingerbread men. (It was the 1960s—we called them “men,” even though three of the five in my family were female. And we called them “gingerbread” even though they were made from sugar cookie dough.) We each decorated our own. My sisters created fashion plates modeled on cardboard Barbies wearing punch-out paper outfits. I covered every square centimeter of mine with Nestles’ bittersweets. But there still was that icky icing and too-sweet sugar cookie taste to contend with.

Eventually, my gingerbread dude evolved into being the only “naked” treat on the tray. I’m never involved in decorating any more, but my sister carries on the tradition with her family—and the legend of the “Naked Dave” cookie (now also known as the “Naked Uncle Dave” cookie) persists. You can see it by clicking here.

I guess I could share the cutout cookie recipe and suggest you leave one in the batch bare. Instead, I’m going to give you the gift of chocolate.

Because it wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate.

Naked Uncle Dave’s Riff on Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Only With Chocolate Chips Instead of Raisins, Plus Double the Chocolate Chips

Makes four dozen

• 1 stick plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar (A little less tastes better because, you know, too much sugar = blech.)
• 2 eggs (Jumbo ones—not those wimpy “large” or “extra-large” ones. What a joke.)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda (If you’re a man, don’t get this confused with baking powder. Ask a woman; she’ll know.)
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (Or just flick the salt shaker over the mixing bowl a couple, three times. I mean, why get another utensil dirty?)
• 3 cups oatmeal (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
• 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (Or, hell, make it two cups.)

Heat oven to 350°F. In the meantime, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until creamy. Really beat the crap out of it. High speed. If your mixer goes to 11, set it to 11. (Note: If dough flies around the kitchen, use seasonally-appropriate swear words. Also, use a bowl that’s big enough to fit all of these ingredients, or you’re gonna hafta transfer them, and that’s just one more bah, humbug thing to wash.)

Eat a few of the chocolate chunks.

Throw in the eggs and vanilla and beat some more. Combine the flour, baking soda (NOT powder), cinnamon and salt, dump them into the already beaten glop and mix it up. Add oats and choco chunks and mix again. Sneak a couple more chips first.

Now, make little meatballs with the dough and plop them onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake eight to 10 minutes or until golden brown. After they’ve cooled on a wire rack, eat the less visually-appealing cookies and serve the rest to family, friends and loved ones.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Six packs on ladies? Absolutely not!

You’d think that six-pack abs had something to do with the type of tummy one would get from consuming too much beer, but "six-pack" is, of course, the correct name for what looks like a waffle strapped to the midsection of the typical shirtless male romance cover model.

I could say I don’t get why women find a belly that looks like a breakfast entrĂ©e sexy, but then, I guess it might be hard for some women to understand why men’s eyes pop when a woman who looks like she’s wearing water balloons as big as honeydew melons jiggles by.

I like that jiggle on a woman; it suggests a cuddly softness that feels so comforting on a cold winter night. Or a hot summer day. Or any other time. Which is why I was so disturbed to learn from Yahoo! News that there are now Victoria’s Secret models who have super-taut rectus abdominis muscles. I’m not crazy about six-packs on men—and even not crazier about them on women.

I know, you ladies with six-pack abs are now thinking that I’m trying to low-body-fat-shame you into having soft bellies. But it’s not just an aesthetic thing. It’s also a health thing.

And by health, I mean unhealth.

Fitness expert Molly Galbraith says in the Yahoo! article that the only way a gal can get her abs to show is by doing lots of work in the gym and in the kitchen to melt away all-over body fat that nature puts there for good reason. “While that level of effort is definitely doable, it’s often not sustainable or healthy over the long term,” Galbraith said. “To some degree, absolutely you can make the best of what you were given, but you have to keep in mind that it might be excessive stress on your body to change the shape that you were given more than what your body is comfortable with.”

Galbraith knows first-hand. After three years of extreme dieting and over-training for figure competitions, she lost her period, experienced crippling fatigue and brain fog, and developed polycystic ovarian syndrome, adrenal dysfunction and an autoimmune disorder.

“It was my body rebelling,” she said. “Nowadays, I just want to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong.”

My hasty and incomplete research showed that that’s more than good enough for most women to catch the eye of most men. Contrast this Yahoo! Answers comment from a woman—“Seeing a girl with abs and muscles shows she cares about her body and that’s a turn on”—and this comment by a man—“I like a girl who is herself.”

And then there are these comments by a blogger at Single Black

“I like a woman to be as close to perfection as reality would have. What that means is that I don’t want to date a woman whose stomach is more chiseled than mine. It’s just not natural. Stomachs should be flat, but choosing between six-pack abs and a little pudge, and I’ll take the pudge every day. Be healthy, be happy and be confident, and in my eyes you’re beautiful.”

On the other hand, ab work is important for men. Pilates expert, celebrity trainer and fitness author Chris Robinson told WebMD that men are far more likely than women to have weak back muscles, and strengthening the abs—or “core”—reduces the likelihood of lower back  pain.
Which means that those guys on romance novel covers would make great partners for women who like to move furniture around—fun and functional, for sure.

Still, I have to say that beer and waffles are meant to go into your stomach, not to be etched into your physique. None of the Fast Lane heroes is over-abbed. Flat tummies, toned shoulders, strong arms, yes. But more Matthew McConaughey than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

None of the Fast Lane heroines flashes her abs, either. Lara works out because it makes her feel good, Sushma is satisfied with her curves and Douglyss’s secret to staying slim is a steady diet of sugary chocolate cereal.

This is what my ladies are. And my gut feeling is that being themselves is what makes them attractive to their suitors.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Real women bring Fast Lane characters to life

My good friend Pamela DuMond said, “Hey, Dave, you want to do this ‘Meet the Character’ blog tour thing?” and I thought, “I like meeting characters, so sure.” Then she explained that I wouldn’t be meeting characters, but introducing them so that other people could meet them.

I knew that.

In any event, the timing of Pam's invite worked out great, because I now can answer her questions with a video!

A few months ago, filmmaker, screenwriter and advertising professional Paige Brien read San Fernando Dreams and suggested we make a trailer for the whole series. Book trailers are pretty common, but we didn’t just want a bunch of stills with words superimposed on them. We wanted action. Real people moving about, delivering lines of dialog. And so I did some fairly thorough and complete Internet staring at Internet photos of models and actresses represented by The Rock Agency in Madison, Wisconsin, and found Angela Campbell to play Lara and Beeshoua Lee to play Sushma.

They did a great job with very little preparation. So did Kaylen Statza, who played Douglyss with no prep at all because she joined the cast on shooting day. Kaylen walked into the studio an hour after Paige called her because of a scheduling conflict, and a few minutes after that, she was standing in front of a green screen in a red gown and acting like…Douglyss.

The guy who played Clay, Jarrod Crooks, did a fine job of appearing to be captivated by a beautiful young woman who was playing a beautiful young woman. Not as easy as it seems: I know that if I had been in his shoes, I would've looked more dopey than debonair.

You can watch the movie here in a minute and nineteen seconds. Still, I promised Pam I would fill out her “Meet the Character” form. She did the same a week or so ago. Her blog post is here, and her books are here.

I could write a book about any of my three heroines—oh, wait, I actually did that. I chose Lara for the spotlight in this post because she made the spark fly that changed not only her life, but also the lives of a whole bunch of characters. Lara's "invasion" of Fast Lane forces Sushma to leave the corporate nest to soar on her own and play a key role in mending Douglyss’s broken wings.

Lara’s also on the first page of Palm Springs Heat and the last page of San Fernando Dreams, so even though she steps aside to let Sushma and Douglyss bask in the glow of their own stories, the series ultimately is about Lara. I owe her my everlasting gratitude.

What is the name of your character?
Lara Dixon

Is she fictional or historical?
She’s fictional in that I made her up; historical in that she’s a lot like me.  

When and where is the story set?
Right now; Los Angeles.

What should we know about her?
She’s very bright, but has a difficult time finding her true calling.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life? 
She gave a lot during her first marriage, then got betrayed. She wants revenge.

What is the personal goal of the character?
At the beginning, it’s to destroy the man behind a billion-dollar men’s media corporation for promoting a lifestyle she considers disrespectful to women. Her goals change, though, when she discovers that people aren’t always what they seem to be. Including herself.

What else do we need to know?
Palm Springs Heat, the first book, introduces Lara, her nemesis Sushma and Clay Creighton, the man behind Fast Lane. Sushma gets to be a heroine in book two, Malibu Bride. Introduced in Malibu Bride, Douglyss is the star of San Fernando Dreams, in which the lives of all three heroines converge.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lovin' her body and soul

I recently ran across this quote:

“If a man loves a woman’s soul, he'll end up loving one woman, but if he loves a woman’s face, all the women in the world won't satisfy him.”

It sounded good, but I kept wondering exactly why.

I started by examining my own experience. I’ve fallen in love three times—five if you include two of my own female characters. But I don’t think falling in love with characters who are essentially you counts.

My first love was a girl in high school. She was cute, but I suspect most guys wouldn’t describe her as sexy or hot. Some people thought we were mismatched because I was on the Dean’s List and she wondered who this Dean guy was, but we talked and laughed a lot. She made me feel good.

Then I had a girlfriend in college. Kind of. Actually, she had a boyfriend—but it wasn’t me. She had held onto her high school crush and installed me as the workaday stand-in. She was cuter and smarter than my high school lady, but eventually I was the one asking what I was thinking.

Then I met Mary Jo. Both of us fell fast and hard, entertaining thoughts after just a few days that he/she was The One. I will say that I did love her face. And her body. Her hair. Her clothes--all that stuff. I truly thought she was a beautiful woman in the way we most commonly mean in our society, which is to say physically. After a three-year courtship and thirty-two years of marriage, I still do.

But what did her soul have to do with it? I don’t remember thinking much about that.

I turned to the Internet, and my hasty and incomplete research introduced me to examples of sublime wisdom such as this quote from Aarti Khurana at Life Love Quotes and

“Real men don’t fall in love with a woman’s body. You don’t need to have amazing curves or a flawless complexion to be defined as attractive. Your beauty is not a criteria for a man to fall in love with you. When a man loves you for your compassionate heart and your beautiful soul, then you will be the most beautiful woman on this planet just for him.”

There was more wisdom on the topic at this page, but an ad for plus-size women’s clothing blocked it out.

Another hit brought me to quotes from Christian author Stasi Eldredge, including a comment about how when God creates Eve, he calls her an ezer kenegdo, which translates not into “companion” or “helper,” but “sustainer beside him.” Dissected on God’s Word to, the Hebrew term means that God intended women to be “a ‘power’ or ‘strength’ for the man who would ‘be his equal.’”

My research, such as it was, also led me to the profane, such as this gem at Brainy  uttered by contemporary deep thinker Paris Hilton: “No matter what a woman looks like, if she's confident, she's sexy.”
Nonetheless, much wisdom can come from the profane, and for that I needed to look no further than my own romance stories. In San Fernando Dreams, Douglyss—who is adept in the deployment of a profane tongue, says, “We’re all a little weird, or got some bug up our ass, or some bullshit. And if you can’t find someone to put up with whatever the fuck it is, you might as well not even exist.” A few pages later, she realizes who that person is for her.

In Palm Springs Heat, Sushma asks Clay, “What do you see in Lara Dixon?” He says that he and Lara had similar life experiences, that they shared important conversations and that “she seems to get me.” Noting that Clay’s had lots of lovers, Sushma sums it up this way: “You are saying that all of the women were beautiful, but you were looking for something more that was always missing.”

In Malibu Bride, Sushma is disagreeable, pushy and bossy—personality traits that often get her into hot water. Holt, though, loves her not in spite of those things, but because of those things. “I like it when she talks back,” he says. “It helps me keep my edge.”

So I seem to have addressed my own question before I even asked it, a sign that I really knew the answer all along. Our physical and intellectual—and even spiritual—flaws can hide the beauty in our souls. But not from everyone.

Especially not The One.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Decoding those pesky subtle signals

A 27-year-old dude calling himself “Available in Illinois” recently told Dear Abby he had “no clue on how to read women’s subtle interest cues, if they ever display any.” They apparently have never simply ripped off their shirts to show him their silicone-enhanced breasts, as they do in porn videos, but he nonetheless “would like to believe” they are interested in him because he “puts in at least two days a week at the gym working with weights.”

Geez, he’s got even me foaming at the mouth.

Abby told him that any woman who finds him attractive and wants him to strike up a conversation will—I shit you not—"make eye contact and smile."

Really? I work with weights at a college gym four to six times a week, and the 19-year-old cuties at the check-in counter look at me and smile every time. They also  routinely initiate conversation with suggestive statements like, “Would you like a towel, sir?” or “We close at four today, sir.”

I’m assuming “sir” indicates their hormones are flowing at twice the normal rate due to my middle-aged hotness. I have to assume, because, even though I’m twice as old as A in Ill., I still don’t know when a woman is displaying those cues. It’s really not fair, because you ladies know exactly when a man’s interested…because he’s always fucking interested.

Maybe that’s overstating things. But it’s no exaggeration that men often have a difficult time figuring out women’s minds—and not just when it comes to “interest.”

For example, when I assistant-coached a youth league girls’ softball team, one particularly obnoxious princess showed up to a game and announced that she couldn’t play. I asked the head coach what the deal was, and he said “women’s problems.”

Now, I know what “women’s problems” are. Being acquainted with Midol, I said—to the coach, not the player, in a manner I wrongly assumed to be discreet—“Really? They have things to deal with that.”

After the game, the young lady’s mom accosted me by shouting from the stands, “Who the hell do you think you are, telling 13-year-old girls to go on birth control?” At first, I wondered who the hell she was talking to.

Fortunately, I have women in my life who can translate for me. One of them—my wife—noted that birth control pills can, in fact, be used to reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. OK. The leap to “telling 13-year-old girls to go on birth control” still spanned quite a chasm.

Here’s another example: When I worked at a major metropolitan newspaper, I told another reporter whom I’d never spoken to that I liked her review of books about alien abduction—not to see if she was “interested,” but because I like books about aliens. She said, “I don’t see why anyone would like being butt-fucked by little green men.”


A few years later, this same reporter told a mutual friend I was “always hitting on the secretaries.” Said secretaries worked at desks between her department and mine, and they sometimes fielded calls that should have been sent to my phone instead of theirs. Our conversations went like this:

Secretary: Dave Thome, we have a call for you.

Dave: Thanks. Send it to extension 211.

Scintillating though these exchanges obviously were, I never expected them to lead to an hour of exchanging bodily fluids in a sleazebag hotel after deadline.

Before I met my wife I had no problem striking up conversations with pretty young things to see if they were “interested.” I also had no problem talking to them if I wasn’t interested in their “interest.” I worked with women and went to school with women—they were other people who happened to be part of my daily life. Even now, when I check out at the grocery store, I smile at the lady—or guy—on the other side of the counter just to start the transaction on a friendly note. I do not assume that anyone smiling back is “sending out signals.” I just think they’re being friendly, too.

I can see how it might be easier for some guys to talk to some gals—and vice versa. I don’t have a problem talking to anyone—well, almost anyone—but I imagine that’s just me.

There are two things I’ve learned about understanding women talk, though. Any man who wants to keep his sloppy reproductive bit intact should think several times before saying anything about what's going on with women's sloppy reproductive bits at “that time of the month.”

And, yeah, it doesn't take any subtle cues to understand that there is, indeed, nothing funny about being butt-fucked by aliens.