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Sunday, February 22, 2015

You gotta lotta 'splainin' to do, Laura Roberts

My guest is Laura Roberts, a ManWARrior who writes about sex and travel, one of which is a familiar topic to regular readers of this blog.

Laura knows what she’s talking about, as she wrote a column called V is for Vixen, which chronicled the real-life sexcapades of the apparently very horny people of Montreal, before moving to southern California and turning her talents toward fiction.

As I read Laura’s book Naked Montreal—and how can you not read a book with that title?—several questions emerged. So I asked her to do some ’splainin’.

I’ve been told that women don’t wear makeup to please men, yet when the narrator of Naked Montreal works as a cam girl, she wears makeup to please the men who watch her online. So, what’s your take on why women wear makeup?

I only wear makeup for photo shoots or when attending important events where I will be on display, so my view of makeup is that it's for projecting a certain image. It's like donning a costume; I have the license to act like someone else while the makeup is on. It's theatrical.

In Naked Montreal, Frankie wears makeup as a cam girl because of theatrics. She's taking the stage as an object of desire, so she enhances her natural assets for the camera. Everyone on TV wears makeup—even the men—so I don't believe that women wear makeup for men alone. They wear makeup for everyone who looks at them because they enjoy being seen in a certain light and to project a certain image.

Why does bateau mouche sound like something they could have done in Fifty Shades of Grey to break up the monotony and spice things up a little?

I never thought of it that way, but you're right! French words are popular in the bedroom—or boudoir—especially when you get into more hardcore erotica. Ménage is probably the most well-known. Bateau mouche sounds very S&M to me. I picture a man spanking a woman who has to pretend to be a sled dog, and if she moves out of alignment he shouts, "MUSH!"

In reality, though, a bateau mouche is an open-air excursion boat on the Seine in Paris, or on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal.

Who hangs out more in Montreal’s “slutty side,” men or women? And why?

There's a bit of a gender dividing line when it comes to strip clubs vs. burlesque performances. Generally, women love burlesque because it's artistic, whereas men love strip clubs because it's less art, more sex. Women performing burlesque often come from the stripping side, and some move freely between the two.

Ultimately, Montrealers don't view sex or sexual activities as "slutty." They accept sex as a normal, natural part of life, and see no reason to hide it from view. There are strip clubs and sex shops on the main drag, and no one finds it offensive. These are just options amongst many types of entertainment the city has to offer.

I’m from Wisconsin, and we have 432,338 words for cheese because we have 432,338 kinds of cheese. So, is it really true that “once you’ve tasted one pate poutine, you’ve tasted them all”? I mean, why wouldn’t poutine made with plain cheddar curds taste different from poutine made with jalapeno or garlic and chive curds?

Ah, therein lies the rub! There's only one kind of cheese curd sold in Montreal, so the poutine purists get riled up if you try to sell them something without said curds. There is a shop in the city that sells different takes on the dish, but even they don't stray from the traditional curd unless you pay extra for mozzarella, feta, goat cheese or whatever "vegan cheese" is.

It's an interesting conundrum, because Montreal has tons of different kinds of cheese, but you never find them in poutine. I suspect it's because poutine is considered low-class dish, and "pate poutine" is an attempt to elevate it. I've actually never tried pate poutine, though I have enjoyed many other variations on the theme, including the slightly sacrilegious Italian poutine, which replaces the gravy with Bolognese sauce.

I don’t know about you, but to me, French fries smothered in cheese sounds pretty American, regardless of whether you use cheddar or Cambozola. But if it’s recipes you want, do a Google search. If you want to find out what goes on behind closed doors in the land of Celine Dion and the Royal Mounties, click here to learn more about Naked Montreal, and here for its sequel, Naked Montreal: Porn Stars and Peccadilloes.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Valetine's Day ain't what it used to be

Wine? Seduction? Bare-bottomed cherubs shooting arrows at potential lovers? What the hell is Valentine’s Day supposed to be about? As usual, I turned to the Internet for a hasty and incomplete answer., the official website of the Witchcraft Information Centre & Archive, eschews our modern notions of pink hearts and fancy chocolates and delves into Valentine’s Day’s roots in the pagan feast of Lupercalia, which honored the she-wolf who nursed the twins who founded Rome. Young men drew the names of young women from clay jars, and the resulting couples had to hang out, as it were, for the duration of the three-day fertility fest.

“The Lupercalia proper began on the 15th of February with animal sacrifice and ritual flagellation,” writes WICA’s founder, Dr. Leo Ruickbie. “After slaughtering a goat and dog in the sacred grotto of the she-wolf, the young men would run through the streets whipping women and crops with the flayed hide of the goat to promote fertility.”

University of Colorado at Boulder historian Noel Lenski notes that these shenanigans were performed drunk and in the nude. “Young women would line up for the men to hit them,” he told National Public Radio. “They believed this would make them fertile.”

Hit me with a dead goat, big boy: Not something you’ll ever see on Sweethearts Conversation candies.

But is it the wackiest image your 21st-century grey matter can conjure? It shouldn’t be. Not in the face of emerging evidence that thousands—if not millions or even billions—of women plan to run through the streets to the nearest sacred grotto of Hollywood debauchery to spend Valentine’s Day night watching a gazillionaire spank his cherubic girlfriend’s bare fanny.

An Associated Press article by Leanne Italie opens with an anecdote about a 22-year-old Maryland woman who plans to ditch her boyfriend to watch Fifty Shades of Grey with her BFFs, then hook up with him afterward.

Oh, and February 14 is his birthday.

Italie reports that some hubbies and SOs will be dragged by their short hairs into theaters, but chances are those guys will get something in return later.

"My husband is not into Fifty Shades,” a Cleveland woman told Italie. “He'll be surprised by the intensity and high level of intimacy in the film. Since it's Valentine's Day, I'm sure a lot of women are using this opportunity for date night and turning up the heat in the bedroom."

On the other hand, on the same day, a movie called Old Fashioned, about how chivalry and healing ensue when “a small businessman meets a sweet Midwestern girl with a cat,” makes its debut. The trailer says Old Fashioned is “based on the bestselling book Fifty Shades of Grey…NOT!”

So, there’s still plenty of debate about what Valentine’s Day is all about, and the extremes seem to be “men with handcuffs” and “women with cats.” If you ask me, red flags abound in both descriptions. Because hearing that a woman has cats makes me want to get naked and whack strangers with the skin of a freshly slaughtered goat.

But that’s just my allergies talking.

I have some ideas about Valentine’s Day for my household this year. There will likely be chocolates and champagne and a beloved movie or a few episodes of Rehab Addict. No whips. No cats. No dead goats or ritual floggings. If you’re into any of that, fine. Because, really who cares where Valentine’s Day came from or what any society thinks it should be about? No one has to agree, except two people who plan on spending it with each other.

The Fast Lane romancesPalm Springs Heat, Malibu Bride and San Fernando Dreamsblend modern and old-fashioned. Click on the covers to learn more about the individual books or the e-book only Special Edition Box Set. For a quick Valentine's Day smile, check here to see the Fast Lane Romance live-action trailer!

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 entrée 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.