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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 Male.org:

“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 Sayings.com:

“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 Women.com, 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 Quotes.com  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.”

Um…

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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The name's the thing--and a happy little quiz!


One of the great pleasures I find in writing fiction is making up character names. Considering the names you see in TV credits and on movie marquees these days, how could that not be fun if you’re writing romance novels set in Hollywood?

To some authors, though, naming the characters—especially the hero and heroine—is serious business.

Jennifer Crusie, whose books are seriously entertaining, recently wrote on her Argh Inkblog that she prefers names like Tilda, Agnes and Andie because they’re different, and therefore memorable. She says she went through four names before hitting Andie “and then reverse engineered that to Andromeda, because of her mother.”

What kind of people the character’s parents were is important, she adds, because it explains how a name came to be and how it shaped the character. I was especially glad to read that because Kitty Fancher casts a long shadow over her daughter Douglyss in San Fernando Dreams.

Kate Nagy, editor-at-large of Geek Speak Magazine writes at Heroes and Heartbreakers.com, that “while it’s true that a rose would smell as sweet no matter what it was called, in a romance novel, character names do matter in a very big way.” Heroines named Fancy and Senneth are cool, but Nagy says it’s no surprise when readers turn a cold shoulder to books in which leading men are saddled with names like Walter, Horace, Seymour or Bob. And Richard—poor Richard—is “indisputably a rake’s name…in books, at least 75% of the time Richard = TROUBLE. I have no idea why this is, but it’s absolutely true.”

A hero, Nagy says, “needs a name that suggests youth, masculinity, and usually wealth—a name that we readers can envision ourselves screaming in the heat of passion.”

Romance author Jennifer Shirk writes in Samhaim Publishing’s blog that “something struck me as I picked up yet another romance novel that had Jack as the hero’s name. 1) It’s a GREAT name for a hero and 2) Romance writers don’t really like to mess with what is already deemed a good, strong hero’s name.”

Authors love to give their heroines exotic names like Wanda, Sierra, Prudence and Tandy, she says, but when it comes to guys, they “tend to stick with old standbys like Jake, Sam, Keith, Mike, Matt and even Nate." Why? "Because a name carries an image. And we all want our hero to have the image of being strong and masculine.”

Shirk calls monikers like Bruce, Clark, Dean, Dennis, Don, Grant, Glenn, Lance, Neil, Jay, Todd, Vince and Walt “in-between names that go beyond Jake but don’t quite reach the Roark, Tyler, or even Brent, level.”

Brent? How ’bout Channing and Shia?

Meanwhile, more and more names that used to be men’s are being claimed by women: Cassidy, Emery, Reese, Alexis, Aubrey, Dana, Kendall, Madison and Monroe, to call out just a few listed at Nameberry.com as having “morphed from blue to pink.”

My Fast Lane couples are Lara and Clay, Sushma and Holt, and Douglyss and…well, I can’t say who goes with Douglyss without a major spoiler, so I won’t. Lara and Clay I picked for Palm Springs Heat partly because both names have L.A. in them. Sushma means “beautiful woman” in Sanskrit, and her Malibu Bride beau, Holt…well, Holt speaks for itself. Why would anyone settle for a plain ol’ Jake when there’s a Holt around? The name Douglyss bubbled up from the dark corners of my mind. The male form, Douglas, means “dark river,” and that certainly describes the star of San Fernando Dreams.

Should I have named my characters Vignette and Jack? Solari and Sam? Eh. In another series, maybe. For the Fast Lane books, I took my cues from real Hollywood—a place where real people with fake names play fake people with real names.  And to illustrate just how far out I could have gone, I compiled the following quiz using actual names of currently working Hollywood actors.

Good luck.

1. Who’s not real?
a)      Charisma Carpenter
b)      Nazanin Boniodi
c)      Chartres
d)     Jorja Fox
e)      Daveigh Chase

2. Who’s a guy?
a)      Addison Timlin
b)      Leven Ramblin
c)      Jensen Ackles
d)     Carlson Young
e)      Sprague Graydon

3. Who’s not real?
a)      Branagh McManus
b)      Harry Treadaway
c)      Hamish Linklater
d)     Halston Sage
e)      Chord Overstreet

4. Who’s a guy?
a)      Leighton Meester
b)      Ren Clark
c)      Saxon Sharbino
d)     Blaze Berdahl
e)      Lake Bell

5. Who in question 3 is not a guy?









Answers: 1-c, 2-c, 3-a, 4-b; 5-d.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Meet the new girl, Douglyss Fancher

Fast Lane Romance #3: San Fernando Dreams is now available from Amazon.com. Please help spread the word.




Friday, August 15, 2014

A funny thing about fun bags and brain function

You know the joke: A man’s intelligence goes down as the size of a woman’s breasts goes up.

It is to laugh.

But it is also something to test, which TV’s Mythbusters did recently. Buster Kari Byron has breasts that have struck men dumb for a dozen years and didn’t object to having them alternately squashed and enhanced and stuffed into a tight shirt. In the name of science, of course.

Byron manned the counter at a coffee shop, waiting on customers male and female while secret cameras rolled. She worked one shift at her natural C cup size, had her schmeebs squeezed down to a B for another, then bounced back with triple-D double-dingers. Sure enough, the bigger Byron’s bangles became, the more coins collected in the can. The tip can, that is.

Men are such boobs.

Except that the can was rigged to separate the men's tips from the girls’. And while men awarded the faux barista 30% more for the pulchritude of her peaches, women surmised that mammoth mogambos were worth 40% more.

Whose brain is shrinking now, huh?

And, more curiously, why?

My usual hasty and ridiculously incomplete research turned up…nothing.

PsychologyToday reported on a study that did not separate men’s tips from women’s. “One might expect that the ‘breast effect’ might enhance tips for male patrons whereas female patrons might ‘punish’ shapely waitresses (intra-sexual rivalry),” writes evolutionary behavioral scientist Gad Saad. He adds that while researchers expected that breasts that were “too small” or “too big” would result in lower tips than ones that were "just right," the data “suggest that bigger is always better...at least when it comes to tipping behavior!”

A Cornell University study of nearly 500 waitresses found that tips increased with attractiveness, not breast size. On the other hand, the subjects judged their own hotness—and their scores “increased with their breast size and decreased with their age, waist-to-hip ratio, and body size.”

And then there’s this: Archeologists have found no fertility goddess figurines that look like Eva Longoria, but I haven’t yet met a man who doesn’t worship Eva Longoria like a goddess. It’s relevant to note that in ancient societies, it wasn’t men who carried around statuettes with ginormous gazongas.

So maybe the “breast effect” doesn’t lead women to punish “hotter” babes, but to acknowledge a kind of evolutionary envy: “I want those.” Which, come to think of it, may be the exact same thing going through lots of men’s heads when they drop two bucks instead of one into gratuity jugs.

In any event, why women give bigger tips for bigger tits remains a mystery. What does not remain a mystery, though, is that shallow responses to factors that would seem to be irrelevant to long-term happiness in a relationship are not gender-specific. In the Mythbusters’ exploration, for example, women crinkled their noses and rated as physically unworthy dudes who were described as baristas and nursing home attendants, then raved over what hot foxes the same dudes were when introduced as lawyers and brain surgeons. Which makes you wonder about the many women on Facebook who have fixations on pool boys.

Human beings are complex creatures. It’s difficult to figure out what we want and why. I’m guessing that a woman with a good man in her life might still find it titillating to dream about an afternoon of wild abandon with a set of rock-hard abs. Likewise, paying attention to a robust rack hardly absconds with a man’s intelligence. He’s just, you know, momentarily distracted. Besides, a real man knows when he’s found his soul mate and doesn’t care if she could share a bikini top with Cameron Diaz.

So what do I do? First, I’m more into your Eva Longorias than your Jennifer Love Hewitts. Don’t know why. Just am. And my heroines—Lara, Sushma and Douglyss—aren’t particularly busty, but nonetheless beautiful.

And, finally, when it comes to tips, I’m a big fan of bigguns. I don’t care if the waitress is tall, short, fat, skinny, young, old, stacked, flat—or anything else. If the service is good, the waitress has earned it. And since she’s also likely to be horrendously underpaid, I assume she could use the money.

And I don’t think that makes me stupid.