Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex.

Let’s talk about sex, bay-bee. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things, and the bad things, that may be… let’s talk abooooouuut sex.

Specifically—the vocabulary. Now, I’ve told a lot of stories to a lot of friends over the years, and have gotten an absolutely outstanding return on investment out of a few of my less fortuitous encounters (to Mr. 15 Seconds of Glory, thanks as always for the laughs). As with many things, it’s incredibly easy when you’re playing it for a joke.

But when I’m actually writing a sex scene for a novel, hooooo doggies. It’s not setting it up that’s the challenge, or striking the right tone that ties it into to the plot, it’s figuring out what the hell words I want to use. See, I grew up on a steady diet of Harlequin historical romances (and I do mean “grew up”—my mom’s hospice nurse started bringing me her hand me-downs when I was 13, after which I moved on to acquiring armloads at our local used bookstore), which meant a steady diet of moist grottoes and throbbing members and strawberry-tipped, quivering mounds. Writing like that is perfectly suited to a format like a historical, but it would be woefully out-of-place in one of my books.

And yet at the other end of the spectrum, using the bare, basic terms just feels so… medical. Like the science class in Varsity Blues: “penis, penis, penis; vagina, vagina, vagina.” Romance author Boone Brux has a hilarious blog post about writing sex scenes, in which she persuasively advocates the approach of just calling it what it is… and yet, somehow, seeing those words mixed in there on the page with everything else can feel a little jarring to me sometimes. The next best range of terminology is the slang category, which is used with great confidence and to very sexy effect by erotica writers like Megan Hart—but that’s not really me, either.

So for now, I am relying on pronouns. The judicious use of “me” and “him,” presented in tight enough context that the reader can seamlessly ascertain which relevant part of each person’s body is being referred to at any given time. It’s also helpful that the scenes I’ve written do not unfold in full, HD, play-by-play detail… it just isn’t needed, or relevant, for the kind of stories I’m trying to create. But if at some point in the future that approach happens to change, I will definitely be revisiting the issue… and girding up my quivering mounds to do it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How to Sing Like a Karaoke Goddess

note: not me

I feel like karaoke is a love-it-or-hate it phenomenon. When one of your friends suggests an excursion to your local sing-a-long joint, you're either whipping out your phone to consult your list of personal greatest hits while you run through some vocal warm-ups, or you're diving under the nearest table. There is no in-between. But if you're in the table-diving camp, take heart: it really is fun, if you approach it with the right attitude. And, of course, with a little alcohol.

The first thing I want to tell you is, a great singing voice is NOT a requirement. Karaoke is all about spirit. Yes, there may be (me, my husband, or one of our immediate family) some asshole up at the front of the room making love to the mic and belting out the high notes like an American Idol wannabe. Especially if you live in New York city, where actual professional singer-types have been known to make appearances at karaoke bars on their off-hours and show off. But remember: that person with the pretty respectable singing voice is up there performing out of an insatiable hunger for attention, but you? You're just here to have fun. And here's how you're going to do it.

First rule of karaoke: pick a song everybody else is going to know. Nothing will kill a room faster than a weird, obscure B-side by a band that's barely seen the light of day. People want to keep the party going! Which brings me to my next rule:

No dreary ballads. Not everything you put in has to be up-tempo, but save the slow, swampy tearjerkers for your breakup mix.

And along those same lines, make sure you choose something under the five-minute mark! No matter how much they might like the song in real life, nobody wants to sit through eight minutes of karaoke American Pie, or karaoke Stairway to Heaven, or karaoke Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Not even--and I know some of you will be shaking your heads, but you have to trust me on this one--not even six minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody. (And seriously, even if it weren't six minutes long, nobody should be trying to do Bohemian Rhapsody anyway--it's too. damn. hard. There was only ever one Freddie Mercury. So just don't.)

So, having covered the basics of song selection, we can now move on to the second, and equally important, aspect of creating an awesome karaoke experience: etiquette guidelines.

Number one: don't ever, ever sing over top of somebody else's song. We all put songs in the queue cause we like them and we want to sing them, and the biggest buzz-kill of all is to wait the 20 or 30 minutes for the mic to make its way around to you, only to have some shit-faced frat boy or overly festive bachelorette kill your song by bellowing along with it and drowning you out. If it's not your turn, you can sing along--just don't scream.

Number two: clap! Even if the person who just finished singing sounded like a rooster with a bad sinus infection, you give them applause to show how cool it was that they just got up there and sang. Cause when it's your turn, even if you sound like a rooster with a bad sinus infection, they'll be neighborly and clap for you!

And the final rule, which is also the best rule: make friends. People in karaoke bars are, by their very nature, a little more fun than people in regular bars, cause no matter how seriously you take it, belting out pop songs in front of a room full of total strangers is a pretty silly thing to do. You can't be shy, and you can't be self-conscious, so you might as well strike up a conversation with that group of dudes next to you that keeps putting in Journey songs. It will probably lead to an adventure.