“What a weird, kinky f*cker…”

Time for a little shameless self-promo here. Well, not shameless – I always experience a bit of shame when doing this – but brazen at least.

*cues trumpets* THE THEORY OF ATTRACTION drops July 9th, which is Monday! Only four days from now! Let us all dance a happy anticipatory dance! Because if there’s one thing the hero of this book has, it is wonk, in abundance. In fact one of the discussions that led to the formation of Wonkomance itself centered around Ivan, the kinky rocket scientist.

I think Ruthie Knox summed Ivan up best when, after reading an early draft of the book, she said, “What a weird, kinky fucker he is.” And it’s true. He is weird. He is kinky. He is a fucker, sometimes in the metaphorical sense as well as the literal one.

Ivan’s more than just a quirky-nerd-as-seen-in-books, is the thing. I made every effort to model him after some of the nerds and geeks I know in real life (no, he was not originally patterned after Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, the resemblance only occurred to me when I was well into writing the book, though I won’t deny I love me some Sheldon and there’s certainly a similarity), many of whom are flat-out hopeless when it comes to social interaction. The guys, especially. Some of them can barely finish a sentence…at least not a sentence that’s fit for polite conversation. Their feet reside in their mouths more or less permanently. Fortunately they mostly hang out with other nerds, which minimizes the impact somewhat.

BUT…get one of those guys talking on a subject he knows well (and if he’s a nerd, you can bet there will be a few subjects he knows better than just about anyone), and he will be transformed. Let him at an experiment where he’s really invested in the outcome, and he is a different man. Focus, intensity, a voracious hunger for the topic of his interest…a nerd in the midst of a passion can be a beautiful, terrible creature. And just as anyone tends to seem sexy when they’re doing what they’re competent at, a nerd can suddenly seem immensely appealing when he demonstrates this astonishing change from awkward conversational bumbler to brilliant lecturer or genius inventor. I wanted to exploit that sea change phenomenon with my nerd hero, and once I’d stumbled upon the idea of a kinky hobby as the topic of nerdy interest…well, the book just about wrote itself.

For Ivan, one of his transcendant passions is D/s. Sometimes his nerdiness shines through, of course. His scientific word choices, his compartmentalization, none of that ever goes away entirely, despite training and self-discipline. But for the most part, kink transforms him. Kink and rocket science, of course.

Dr. Horrible: Hot.

Did I mention I find mad scientists hot? The downside of this particular flavor of hotness is, as some early reviewers have pointed out, the transformative effect only lasts while the passion is engaged – and Camilla, the heroine, raises legitimate concerns about Ivan’s ability to cope with the realities of a long-term relationship outside the bedroom. For this reason I see the book as a HFN, not a true HEA, because it’s entirely possible a true HEA is not in the cards for Ivan and Camilla. As a professor, or as a Dominant, Ivan is swoonworthy; as a boyfriend, a husband prospect, he would be a much tougher sell. This couple would have a lot to work through, and Camilla in particular would have to face some home truths about her own expectations and how Ivan might never be able to meet certain emotional needs. On the other hand, she’s a pretty big geek herself, so the cost-benefit analysis might work out for her.

Dr. Frankenstein: Hot.

But mostly: hot kinky nerd sex! And who doesn’t love that? Pre-order a copy today at any one of a variety of places:

Carina Press ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

Oh, yeah, and I guess RT pretty much liked this book or something. So it’s got that going for it, in addition to the aforementioned hot kinky nerd sex. Woohoo!

Who is YOUR favorite hot nerd and/or mad scientist? Raise your hand if you would totally do Gene Wilder as either Willy Wonka or Dr. Frankenstein!

Posted in Certified Wonktastical, Shameless Self-Promotion, Writing Wonkomance | 8 Comments

A Dewy Pink Rose By Any Other Name

Erotic romance authors have all been there. Your hero—because he’s AWESOME—is camped out downtown between the heroine’s creamy thighs. It’s been going on for a paragraph or so when disaster strikes! His lips are center stage. So are hers—her nether-lady-lips. You already mentioned his tongue, mouth, and heated breaths, and her folds. You’re fresh out of your fall-back euphemisms and facing a nasty echo. So, just suck it up and say “lips” twice in two lines? Or could you…is it totally unsexy if you…

Just do it! Use labia!

I was in this exact quandary a couple of weeks ago. Too many lips, and I was worried labia was too clinical, a mood-killer. So I ran an informal Twitter poll to see what my bitches had to say.

Turns out, labia’s cool. Like clitoris, it’s one of the prettier anatomical terms, and the majority of respondents (check me sounding all scientifical) said it wouldn’t disrupt their reading. I prefer lips and clit, myself, but we quickly overuse our favorites, so I’d like to offer a run-down of acceptable synonyms for the various and sundry human underbits. This is a combination of my opinions and those of friends, writers and readers alike. Bear in mind a) I write contemporary erotic romance, b) my readership is largely female and they don’t blush easily, and c) my characters tend to be candid, if not outright potty-mouthed. My audience may very well not be your audience. Also, I’m going to keep these examples heterosexual, merely for the sake of simplicity.

We’ll start at the top—mouth. You’ll burn through the basics in a kissing scene in no time. Mouth, lips, tongue, kiss—all spent in the first two sentences. We don’t have any sensual slang for the mouth [see also: pie hole] so you have to employ some euphemisms: his greedy assault; her steaming exhalation; the sweet violation (yeah, actually, go ahead and call every sex act a sweet violation). And when you’re out of nouns, refer to the parts as the person (her, him) and focus on the actions: he claimed her hungrily; she welcomed his intrusion, and so on. Oh and now seems a good time to suggest that no orifices should ever be referred to as his or her wet hole. Yeah…no.

Moving swiftly southward: breasts. As with the nursing adage, breast is best. Isn’t that a lovely word? Boobs is too juvenile. Tits can work, but generally only if you’re in male POV and don’t mind your hero sounding like a bit of a horny douche. Fun-bags, dairy pillows, boulders, knockers, jugs, milkers…need I even say it? To be honest, there aren’t a ton of great options. Mounds is weak. Globes is terrible—even fake breasts aren’t spherical. Bosom…maybe try that, once every five books, but it’s pretty old-timey. If the reader knows where the hero’s hands are at, flesh isn’t too awful. Again, you may want to humanize the part as “her” and let the verb be the explicit element: he cupped her; the weight of her in his hand; he fondled her through her top.

Nipple is an adequate word, and your best option, if not dripping with sex appeal. Also half-decent: peak, point, bud, nub. Like boobs and tits, nips is doltish. Avoid having nipples pebble. That’s as overdone as heroes named Griffin. Let them draw tight instead, or simply stiffen under his touch. It was also decided on Twitter that a guy “suckling like a hungry babe” is mega-squicky.

Next up: abdomen. Abdomen and abs are acceptable, the former flirting with being too clinical, the latter with being a bit…I’m not sure. Bro-ish? Abs are something you spritz with Axe Bodyspray, but they’ll do. Belly is good, though its default tone is one of softness, so if he’s ripped, you may want to mention it’s his taut belly. Middle is okay, but offers nothing in the way of implicit description. Six-pack is explicit but also pretty cheesy—definite Axe territory. Stomach is technically incorrect, referring to an internal organ, but we’re so used to terms like “a flat stomach,” no reader will think she’s admiring the firm contours of his digestive system. Don’t use gut in the bedroom—too negatively evocative. He can feel desire or trepidation or a bean burrito stirring in his gut, but leave it at that.

Before we dip down to the exciting bits, let’s pause at the hands. Hands are great—lots of perfectly acceptable sub-elements and configurations. Get specific, and swap in palm, finger, fingertip, nails, knuckles, fist, grip, touch. And since the hand is the most likely part to do these things, use actions to mix things up: cupped, gripped, squeezed, grazed, teased, held, circled, and so forth. I mean, there’s no reason to write, “He cupped her in his hand.” That’s like saying, “He chewed the food with his teeth.” If it’s implicit, save “hand” for when you really need it. And if both hands are getting up to stuff, don’t differentiate by saying left or right. Those distinctions are distracting, making readers pause to check that they’ve got the mechanics straight. Mood-killer. Instead say his other hand or his free hand, or the hand fondling her fun-bag.

Next up: pubic hair. Tricky, but happily one of those details you can omit if you want—readers don’t expect to have pubic hair described. If you do need to mention it, plain old hair (if the region is implicit) is fine, or curls. Other terms I’ve seen used are nest and thatch, which I suspect would divide an audience in their squickishness, and distract many a reader. Please file landing strip in the same bro folder as tits, jugs, and six-pack.

Hey, we’ve arrived at the junk! So, how about wangs? First off, don’t use wang. If your targeted readership is female, don’t use wang, schlong, dong, prick, boner, pole, stiffy, rod, love bone, any label belonging to something hanging in your garage, meat, beef, little guy, etc. Your best slang bets are cock and dick, and don’t overlook erection or even hard-on. Quite a few decent euphemisms, too: his length; his hard or driving flesh; his pulsing excitement. Manhood’s okay, though curving slightly toward the old-fashioned. Penis is best when referring to the organ in a non-sexytimes context (my default setting tells me penis refers to the soft state; you pee with your penis, you bone with your cock). For the head, I’m down with head, crown, and tip. Helmet? Neutral. Bulb and anything referring to a mushroom? Not so much.

Squirrellier still are the balls. And in my opinion, balls is the best word for them. Testicles isn’t sexy, and neither is sac or scrotum or nads or nuts or jewels. There simply isn’t a great, evocative, sensual term for those puppies. But if your heroine is cupping down there, chances are your reader will know what part she’s handling.

We’ll break the lady-area into three sections: clitoris, vulva (the outside bits), and vagina (the part you stick it in).

Clitoris ain’t bad. It’s sort of pretty, and its shortened version, clit, is also fine in my book. When you use those up though, where to go? I’ve relied on nub before, and smeared Vaseline on the lens and softened it all to “he stroked her arousal” or “that most sensitive spot.” Personally, I don’t like bud, and I really don’t like button. As someone said on Twitter, it made her picture a remote control. [Note to self: refer to clitoris as self-destruct button in upcoming sex scene.] Need I say, no little man in the canoe. Another I see, especially in historical romance, is pearl. That’s a bit frou-frou, but I wouldn’t sigh aloud with annoyance if I read it in a sex scene. If anyone has further acceptable terms for clit, please, do tell. I could use them.

On to the vulva! Don’t use vulva, first off. A depressingly small percentage of people know what it is (it refers to the outside bits, basically—both sets of labia, mons, the opening of the vagina, and the aforementioned clitoris) and it’s not a super nice word. Vulva. It flops off the tongue like a damp towel. Which is a shame, because it’s like, the best thing ever. The meat—har—of the area are the labia. As I said, the clinical word in this case is passable. It’s actually Latin for “lips”, and lips is great, too. In erotica, you’ll see the term pussy lips now and again, and I hate it, far more than I hate netherlips. Folds isn’t bad. Crease or cleft can work, nice alternatives to the too-blunt slit. Petals…see pearl, for clitoris. If you want avoid naming the area, some verb-based strategies that work are things like, “he parted her softly” or “he stroked the length of her plump flesh.” Do I need to even tell you what not to call them? Anything involving flaps—piss flaps, mud flaps, meat flaps, and no, not beef curtains either.

How about that vagina? I don’t love the clinical term. I’d prefer to leave it in the gyno’s office, though again, I wouldn’t toss the book across the room over it. In erotica, it’s generally acceptable to use pussy or cunt. It all depends on your POV. If your heroine would never in a million years use those words, you shouldn’t either. Let the POV character choose the term, always. As alternatives to the clinical and the crass, the hero can also penetrate the following: her slick heat; her welcoming body; her depths; or, simply, her. Some words I’d put on the do-not-call-it list: twat, snatch, anything involving tunnels or channels or velvet, and most anything with hole. Also wildly unpopular? Womb.

What what, about the butt? For the outer area, butt’s cool. Ass works, if that’s what your POV character would call it. Backside, good. Cheeks is preferable to lobes. Rear-end and bum and booty are a bit doofusy, and buns to me screams 1985. Please, no badonkadonk, because 2002 is the future 1985. I wouldn’t recommend dumper, either. I don’t need to tell you why. As for that contentious bit between the cheeks, all up in the cleft? When I write male-male erotica, I go ahead and say asshole, because my guy characters are filthy fuckers. A female character might be less inclined to think of it using that term. Here, hole may have to suffice, or soften it to tight entrance or puckered opening. Yeah, the options aren’t great, but come on—you’ve committed to writing anal. Now’s not the time to get coy. Still, the clinical options are grim—anus, rectum, sphincter, prostate. No. Also not sexy: back passage, rear entrance, service elevator. And I don’t even need to tell you, but steer clear of anything that reminds readers what that orifice is actually there for (don’t make me reference the shocker.)

Oh, and what to do with all these parts? I recommend fucking. Or making love, if your characters are feeling it. He can plumb her depths or they can use one another’s bodies. Possibly screwing and maybe getting off, but hopefully not boning or boinking or bumpin’ uglies or schtupping or tapping that ass or making whoopie [cue Newlywed Game theme].

Finally, them fluids. As a general plea, I beg writers to let bodies taste like what they taste like. Don’t make your heroine’s pussy taste like a peach, or say the hero’s spunk is surprisingly sweet. It ain’t. Not even if he’s been eating nothing but pineapple after you clipped out that idiotic Cosmo sidebar for him. Junk tastes like junk, and that’s great. As for what to call the fluids? Juice is fine for ladies, or wetness. I think I’ve probably called a woman succulent before. Famously unappetizing adjectives are moist and damp—shot down across the board due to the mildew factor. Don’t go too far, either, in the direction of lady-parts gushing, dripping, erupting, etc. Nectar and honey and the like are pushing it, though I’m sure that hasn’t stopped me from using them. I’ve also had heroes “lap up the spoils of her pleasure” or something like that. You can work around it. You can also call it her come. Or cum, as cum refers to the fluid (not the orgasm itself—you never cum, but there is often cum when you come) though I personally think cum is a homely, distracting spelling. I don’t even need to tell you that a guy doesn’t shoot sperm across her belly, right? He shoots semen (which contains sperm cells) and semen is a decent, if borderline clinical, term. Come is probably the best, and I like his release as well. Or he can release in three long, body-quaking spasms and you don’t need to name the fluid at all. I’d warn against jizz, spunk, load, bust a nut, and I’m undecided on cream for either gender.

So there you go. Bear in mind, this entire topic is massively subjective. You may use pussy and totally disgust Reader A, but another author could call it a velveteen love glove and she’ll be swooning like me at an illegal cage fight in the basement of a disused factory in Detroit. First and foremost, turn yourself on. Ignore everything I’ve said and use the words you think are hot. But please, don’t use a word that feels off just for the sake of avoiding an echo. Reading his turgid manhood is far more distracting than two cocks in one passage [bonus har].

Now please—share your most loved and hated terms in the comments!

Posted in Writing Wonkomance | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

“Stage Beauty”: Identity in Conflict

There have been only a handful of times in my life where I’ve wished I were more educated. If there’s something I don’t know, I can research it and find the answer—I live in a university town, and I have the Internet at my fingertips at all times. There is very little beyond my reach, in terms of gathering information.

But when I sat down to watch the movie Stage Beauty (2004), a longtime favorite of mine, with the intention of studying it solely for character in terms of sexual identity, I was astounded. What I found could fill a master’s thesis on the subtextual elements of body dysmorphia, gender identification, and sexual fluidity of male actresses in 17th-century London…and damn, I wish I had reason to write it. Unfortunately, there’s no call for sweeping academic essays from undergrad-educated nobodies, and this blog, no matter how lovely its readership, is the wrong platform for my fascinated (yet not very fascinating, I know) ramblings.

I will not be able to do it justice, so I will instead just tell y’all about how freakin’ awesome this movie is. For realz.

Stage Beauty is a sexual-fluidity-in-conflict social statement masquerading as a costume drama masquerading as gender-equality politico film. It is a love story between a man and himself and the woman who bravely-but-not-blindly worships him. It is heart-wrenching, gut-punching look at self-identification in turmoil, with moments of heartbreaking truth and painful fallacy brought to life by a handful of the most talented actors on whom the movie industry could lay its greedy hands.

Plot summary: During Charles II’s reign over England in the 1600s, only men could be actors. Edward “Ned” Kynaston was the most beautiful woman of the London stage, but when his dresser, Maria, makes a splash by breaking the law and performing the role of Shakespeare’s Desdemona, the wheels of social change begin to turn. Charles II decrees women—and only women—can perform the female roles. Ned is suddenly out of work; but more than that, he’s completely lost his identity, having been trained to play only women on stage since his youth. As Maria’s fame grows, Ned’s own life turns sordid. An upcoming performance of “Othello,” to be attended by Charles II, necessitates Maria and Ned work together—him as her tutor, and she as his savior.

Ned (played by Billy Crudup) is a visually stunning man. He isn’t overly tall, and in the many scenes where he is only wearing underclothes, the viewer can see there isn’t an ounce of spare flesh on his lean, muscled frame. He isn’t feminine, nor is he androgynous, but he is beautiful, and much of that beauty is in the way Crudup portrays Ned—utterly certain in who he is, thus breeding a misplaced and eventually maladroit confidence when that certainty crumbles.

It’s an ugly crumble, too, when Ned falls apart, but Crudup does it splendidly. Painfully, but splendidly. At the same time, we see Maria (Claire Danes) rise with no little hesitation from her idol’s ashes. She never wanted to destroy him, but in order to do what she loves—act—Ned, as he is at the beginning of the movie, cannot exist. And before my most recent viewing of the film, this was my big take-away from it, what I thought was its most powerful message.

I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t correct, either. While these two couldn’t live in the same role in the same world, because of their genders and sudden political and social changes, it’s more that Ned could not live in that role in that world because he had never been allowed to develop a chance to understand his gender for himself, or even his own sexual preferences.

Spoilers ahead: Continue reading

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , | 17 Comments