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Reasons To Bang The Bad Guy, Pt. 1

13 Apr

by Madeline Iva

Saranna DeWylde got me thinking yesterday about why we’re so attracted to awesome villains like Loki. Because we are. I am.  Before I unleash my perverse romantic side, let us be clear: I’d never go near an evil dude in real life.  (I can’t help thinking of this guy who said to me in college: Women only like assholes, never the good guys.  No, David, most of us like the good guys.) That said…here’s the break-down on why we are simply fascinated with depictions of excellent villains and their equally hot cousin, the anti-hero.

(What is an anti-hero but a villain who was so damn attractive he was morphed by popular demand into Super-Duper Flawed Guy.  Examples: Damon on Vampire Diaries, Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sawyer on Lost — I could go on and on and on…)

From a romance perspective, a great, charismatic villain provides hideous temptation to fantasize.Their are specific qualities that particularly tempt us.  Let’s explore them, shall we?

THE VILLAIN AS A FANTASY OBJECT OF REDEMPTION:

  1. We especially like a villain with teeny bit of good in him: Romance readers are always willing take a small nugget of goodness and blow it up into something mate-worthy–even heroically substantial. Readers feel this especially for good looking men.  Would that we were as kind to women*** Anyway, Jamie Dornan playing Paul Spector in THE FALL is a serial killer, but also a loving dad to his daughter–therefore, it hurts when his world is falling down around him at the end and he has to explain to his daughter that he’s not going to raise her anymore and probably not see her again. There’s not the usual feeling of satisfaction that he’d been caught for his evil deeds and is going away for forever.  (I think the point originally was to show the audience that he’s victimized his daughter as well–but there was such an intense depth of emotion to the scene that it mutated into something more complicated, intriguing, and relatable.)
  2. Villain as misunderstood– underneath his/her reprehensible actions, there’s a world of hurt in that villain.  The villain needs someone to kiss the boo-boos and make it better. Frankenstein’s monster just wants to give the little girl a flower. Is it his fault she passes out from fear and people mis-construe the way he carried her off? He’s just MISUNDERSTOOD PEOPLE!
  3. Villain as a fish out of water – Loki fits this — he’s a fish out of water in Valhalla.  He’s intelligent and incredibly powerful, but despite his talents he’s not the leader–he’s not even one of them. Despite his strong call to lead, he’ll never get the chance because he’s a cuckoo in the nest. He’s all twisted up from the git go cause of the lies and things that were hidden from him – none of which is his fault. And frankly, NO ONE CARES to make it right with him. All paranormal monsters are always a fish out of water when it comes to normality–even when normality is being an immortal god in a giant hall at the end of a rainbow.
  4. Villains as victims/victims of betrayal:  Sebastian Stan was cat nip as THE WINTER SOLDIER in the movie of the same name.  Inside that weird bromance-core was an understanding of Stan’s plight: He can’t HELP IT – it’s not his fault—he’s been brainwashed!!!!  And those lips, yi.  Meanwhile, James Franco in Spider-man loved his father, and was blinded to the truth by his father, because his best friend and father both lied to him. The ending of the first Spider Man is drenched in irony through Franco not realizing that his virtues (his loyalty to his father) means his best friend becomes his worst enemy. I remember watching the first movie long ago and liking Franco in his proto-villain phase far more than anyone else in the movie even before Franco became a big deal.

    James we hardly knew ye as Harry Osborn.

  5. Villain as vulnerable: we relate to flaws A LOT. A top-notch villain can is as much a prisoner of his past and deep psychological needs as anyone else.

    Kylo Ren is angsty, unstable–ready to crack open and bleed pain. Yum!

  6. For some villains, happiness is just so close–yet so far away! Show me a villain who has the chance to change and I’ll show you a riveted romance audience.  The best villains often have pain they cling to that goads them towards doing evil–and when there’s a chance the villain might back off from this emotional sticky point before the point of no return oh, we are in our happy place! That’s how you know romance audiences–we want happy endings for anyone we find interesting.

NEXT WEEK: VILLAINS & OUR FORBIDDEN DESIRES

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

***Women on the whole are a lot more unforgiving towards other women than they are towards men. I think with a romantic perspective and therefore believe that my readers view worthy, hot men as objects of romantic conquest/relationship projects. At the same time I believe almost all women are still socialized to be harshly judgmental when it comes to other women–especially those depicted in romance novels.

Is that statement upsetting? I would never want to accuse someone unjustly of sexism, but even I fall down when taking the quiz below–see how you do:

  • Name three women you know personally who sleep around a lot, but you DON’T think are sluts
  • Name 3 woman you know who doesn’t prioritize their kids but you don’t judge them as neglectful moms
  • Name three women you know who have some kind of authority over you or someone very close to you that you don’t think of as busybodies or annoying bitches.
  • If you read a romance novel about an unmarried woman, who is intensely focussed on her career, and doesn’t want kids, or to take care of the people around her–would you see her as a role model? Or would you think she’s too selfish and unlikeable for a romance heroine? Now if the character was switched to a romance hero, would you also think he was selfish and unlikeable?

 

 

Bang-able Villains

12 Apr

Hello Lovely Readers! Elizabeth Shore is away today. Instead, we have a happily edgy post from the amazing and kick-ass Saranna DeWylde here.  I asked Saranna to do a guest post after I saw this exchange on facebook:

Yes! Exactly!

So I asked Saranna to talk to us about why we women are sometimes (often?) a bit more interested in a really good villain than they are the hero.

I absolutely love a well-constructed villain. I don’t mean an anti-hero, I like them, but this post is all about the E-ville. Is that a misspelling? Not at all. Say it out loud, roll it around in your mouth. You’re not a good villain unless you have the mustache-twirling pronunciation. Maybe even a bit of goatee stroking. You know what I mean?

No, I didn’t. 

When I first think about favorite villains, Hannibal Lecter comes to mind, but he’s not really a villain anymore, is he? In the television show, he’s more of an anti-hero.

 

Is he??? I haven’t seen this show, but I’ve heard so much about it…Check out the preview above.

What especially interests me about villains and their bangability is societal reaction and what we deem acceptably attractive in people. No one thinks anything about me saying I’d like give Darth Vader a run for his money except to say that maybe his parts don’t work in that suit. I maintain he could probably give really great orgasms with The Force. A little breath play, and pretty much whatever else he wanted you to feel. (Is it getting hot in here, or is just me?)

Old Darth does it for Saranna, Kylo Ren is all tortured and interesting to a new generation.

If I say I thought Paul Spector was hot from The Fall, I’d be one of those twisted girls into serial killers. But I know real serial killers. I was a prison guard. I hung out with them for eight hours a day, sometimes sixteen. None of them look like Jamie Dornan. And none of them were ever the least bit attractive to me.

Which is not to suggest that because someone is physically handsome in real life he’s NOT a serial killer….Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha

(Incidentally, I didn’t crush on Jamie Dornan until The Fall.)

Fictional evil is attractive. There’s a nod to everything that’s not the ideal. That’s not a princess. That’s not perfect. And part of us wants them to win because that means we can too. A charismatic villain makes so much easier to acknowledge our own sins, see our own dark places, and we can empathize with him in fiction, because we don’t have to own our massive flaws for real.

I find when a hero holds up his virtues it’s much harder for me to say, yes…that’s me too. The writers of Luther posited through show dialogue that women specifically were attracted to evil men because we were able to claim some of their power for our own. There might be something to that.

While we’re at it, I kind of have a type. The Devil. Almost anyone can play The Devil, and that’s an insta-girl boner. Hell, this could probably comprise most of my list. Apologies to Tom Ellis in Lucifer, though. He’s hot, but he started out an antihero so he doesn’t make my list. So pretty, though.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer

With that said, let’s open our Slam Books to

Top Eleven Villains I’d Bang.

Not ten, because I’m being contrary in honor of our villains. (After, you better share yours, too, or I’m not going to share my slap bracelets.)

In no particular order:

Darth Vader– As I said before, he could do some crazy shit with The Force. I just keep thinking about that choke hold. Amirite?

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), American Psycho– That might actually be bad sex. I’m not so much down for the coat hanger and he’s so arrogant, he’s probably terrible in bed. I think I really just want to pet his shoulders and his hair after we eat at Dorsia.

Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), The Fall– Well, I mean. C’mon.

Paul Spector in The Fall, aka Jamie Dornan

Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek), From Dusk Till Dawn– Everyone wants to let her bite them. Everyone. She’s single-minded in her approach to food and any other pleasures. I support this wholeheartedly.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), The Wolf of Wall Street– I’m not sure if it’s the part where he says, “the book, motherfucker) or if it’s because he’s unrepentant about what a piece of shit he is, and I don’t know if I’d think the real JB was attractive, because he did actually hurt people. But his characterization? Yeah, I’d hit that.

Lizzie Borden (Christian Ricci) Lizzie Borden series– Here’s a woman who isn’t taking shit from anyone. She knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to take it. Whatever the cost.

Viggo Mortenson, The Prophecy– His portrayal of the Big D is one of the best ever. He’s not meant to be attractive, yet, somehow still is. He’s horrible, and awful and I love every second of it. “Little Tommy Daggett. How I loved listening to your sweet prayers every night. And then you would jump into bed, so afraid that I was under there. And I was!” Really, do you promise? Please?

Gabriel Byrne, End of Days– Gimme. (I also dug him as the priest in Stigmata, but he was sort of a hero there. Kinda. It doesn’t count.)

Mark Pellegrino, Supernatural– He’s almost an anti-hero. But not quite. Just enough… I love his character so much.

Sam Neil, The Omen Part 6400-I don’t know. I just can’t help myself.

Bradley James, The Omen TV series-He doesn’t want to be bad, he just is. And when he finally owns it? Boo yeah. Bring it, handsome!

Anyway, those are my eleven for the moment. My list is ever-changing, but I’d love to know which villains you’d like to lock in your bedroom. Tell me in the comments below.

Want more Saranna? Check her out on facebook, or sign up for her newsletter at her website. Tomorrow I’m responding more to Saranna’s post — check it out!

And follow us at Lady Smut where we’ll happily explore your dark side all night long.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

As Young As We Feel? Considering the Younger Man

11 Apr

Don’t laugh. One person’s pacifier is another person’s sex toy.

By Alexa Day

I’ve never been one to do things just because other people are doing them. I’m content to let everyone else jump off the bridge our mothers told us so much about.

But now Cindy Gallop has me thinking about dating younger men.

I often struggle to explain who Cindy Gallop is and why her opinion matters so much to me. My knee-jerk response is usually, “Cindy Gallop is life! Cindy Gallop is a hero!” You all are probably looking for more than that, though, so let’s get you some facts.

Cindy developed Make Love, Not Porn, a video-sharing platform through which participants can upload videos of themselves having real-world sex with their partners, and stream videos posted by others. Her search for investors demonstrated that people are generally uncomfortable with openly supporting sex-positive businesses. But years of success in a male-dominated field (advertising), along with an understanding of how women do business (we “share the shit out of” the things we like), have made her quite an influencer in the realms of sex, gender, and business. Cindy once said she was the first person to include the phrase “come on my face” during a TED talk. In fact, I wrote about her at the 2014 Romance Festival, where she rocked my world.

Cindy has dated younger men for years. It’s part of the reason she came up with MLNP. Her younger partners learned everything they knew about sex from porn, to everyone’s detriment. MLNP, which bills itself as “pro-sex, pro-porn, and pro-knowing the difference,” offered viewers a more realistic set of videos to learn from. Or just to enjoy. You know, the days are getting longer as the seasons change.

When I first heard the MLNP origin story, I remember shaking my head and thinking that’s what comes of dating younger dudes. Now I’m not so sure. Now I’m starting to think it might be a good idea.

And it’s not just because I’m getting a little older myself.

I tend to be more about the older guys. They’re more established. Their self-confidence comes from life experience. They know who they are and what they want.

But Cindy says much of this is also true of younger guys … and they’re really good in bed.

This January, in New York Magazine, Cindy wrote “Why Sleeping with Younger Men Is Best — No Matter How Old You Are.” In the article, she said her primary criterion for choosing a new man was a simple one. He had to be nice. Everything else followed from that. No need to worry about what he thinks of your body — he’s a good guy. Your emotions are safe with him. When you make sure you only date the nice ones, she says, you’re only spending time with the men you respect and admire. “You meet younger men who appreciate everything about older women,” she says.

That makes sense. As much as I want to tell myself that they only have to be nice if we’re going to talk afterwards, I can see how having a nice partner, how making that a priority, would reduce unnecessary stress and make for a more pleasant experience. Even if this isn’t going to lead to a relationship, having a good person as a partner just makes things easier and, according to Cindy, sexier.

About the sex. According to Cindy, the sex itself is the icing on the cake — stamina, confidence, and short recovery periods — but icing is important, even when the cake is pretty damn good. Now, the older guys are pretty spectacular in their own way. Far fewer of them, I would wager, are still looking to porn for technique. Years of experience have made them creative. They already know what they do well. Still. Maybe there’s something to be said for a little more physical prowess and dare I say, a touch of innocence?

While a lot of women might avoid revealing their bodies to a younger lover, for fear of what that hardbodied fellow might think, Cindy doesn’t have that problem. Of course, it helps that Cindy has boatloads of self-confidence. She’s not all that concerned about what any man might think of her body — she thinks she looks fantastic. Besides, she’s not going for those superficial souls who might have something to say, since her rule is “nice guys only.” She’s also not trying to get married. Wedlock and children have never been part of her master plan. Her chain of younger lovers, in short-term and long-term relationships, is the romantic solution that works for her. She doesn’t have to worry about any one man’s opinion for any longer than she wants.

Cindy says society tends to approve more of older men with younger women. I wonder, if that’s true, why the general public has so much to say about older women with younger partners. Is it the old discomfort with women being single at a certain age? Is it the sense that an older woman is more in control of her life, and by extension, her relationship? Is it our prudish society rebelling against a grown woman’s choice to have a younger sex partner, with all the superficial frills and thrills?

Damn, is it just jealousy?

One thing is for sure: the disapproval of prudes and nosy people isn’t going to stop Cindy Gallop. It never has.

Maybe that’s why I’m considering taking a page out of her book.

Follow Lady Smut … all the way to Atlanta! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

Your Naughty Secrets = Sex Positivity!

5 Apr

by Madeline Iva

You know, even a Miz Vanilla like me — someone who’s been with one partner for almost a thousand years — can look back on my past and shake my head at a few of the things that I’ve experienced.  How about you?

Meanwhile, there’s nothing like some really down and dirty girl talk to take “Did I really do that?” into the hilarious realm of sexually bold myth-making.

Although the down and dirty stories can happen in a mixed-sex setting, there’s something instantly reassuring about being in the middle of a group of mature women sharing.

WHICH IS WHY–

Lady Smut is hosting a party at Romantic Times Booklover’s convention in Atlanta, GA.

HERE’S THE PLAN:

We gather at the event.  We share epic sex-capades, we laugh, we give you prizes.

It’s not just fun — it’s sex-positive.  No sluts, no slut shaming.

NO SEX — NO EXPERIENCE — NO PROBLEM!

Yet sometimes these things run the other way.

Sometimes the extremely experienced realize it’s their time to rule, and they start making those who are less experienced feel less-than.

None of that at our event! We’ve got prizes for the queens of chastity as much as anyone else.

Here are the deets:

Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever

LadySmut bloggers are hosting an event at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7.

THE RULES: We’re going to play a game where everyone stands up to begin.  Then we ask you a series of questions starting with “Have you ever–” Answer ‘yes’ and stay in for the next round.  Answer ‘no’ and you’re out. It’s that easy.

Win crowns, toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! A raffle will be held for a big basket of books for all.

Event: Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m.Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

Click on the link above — let RT know you’re coming.  Then follow us at Lady Smut, where you can tell us anything. ; >

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Person Of Interest: My TV Show Hangover

30 Mar

He’s a soft-spoken, hot killer–if you like that sort of thing.

By Madeline Iva

The upside to having a week long bout of stomach flu was enjoying a PERSON OF INTEREST marathon, aka watching Jim Caviezel eye candy.

I’d never been interested in watching the show until I saw a recommendation on i09 that was like: The last season is out! You have to go check out the entire show on Netflix! Well, okay then.

Now I’ve finished the last episode, and I am in the thrashing throes of a terrible TV show hangover…So thanks, i09.

Of course, seeing commercials for the show at one time, I thought: Hey! It’s that guy who was the leader of the Others on Lost.  And hey! It’s that guy who was in that whack sci-fi alien/Viking film (Outlander—but not the Outlander you’re thinking) and G.I. Jane. Damn he’s hot. Even when he’s looking anxious and sad.

I *liked* Carter and am following her from this show to other work she’s done.

So why wasn’t I interested? Cause it seemed to be about these wistful attractive women in danger, and this creepy-yet-competent ex-military guy who saved them with some slightly futuristic computer device. Yawn. Happily, it’s not like that AT ALL.

WARNING: SEMI-SPOILERS AHEAD!

Even in the first episode there a tart reversal and the heroine in need of saving turned out to be something else all together.  That made me happy and kick-started my whiffling through all five seasons before pulling the plug on Netflix. (I have a book deadline coming up and need to buckle down.) Also, I had no idea that it was a bit futuristic. (Though since the election it leans into that zone where it’s not completely Science Fiction, it’s really more like Really Scary Science Fact.)

The show with an AI called “the Machine” spitting out numbers that saved people morphed a lot as it went on. It started out as a kind of surveillance heavy 24, with a lot of white, male characters. Instead of dumbing down like most shows do, it went the other way…We saw more POC story lines and actors join the show, more female characters & LBGT references—and more female villains. The show found a sci-fi geek audience and as a result, leaned into progressive, liberal ideas and concepts as it went along, reversing its stance on the surveillance machine from “I know it violates our rights–but look! It does good things!” to “I’ve created a monster! A MONSTER!” wails of despair and gnashing of teeth.

But when we’re talking the best parts of the show, I’m sorry, CHARACTER IS KING! Pontificate on all the weighty discussions you like including:

  • AI and personhood
  • Safety vs. privacy in the modern state
  • Misuse of governmental power

my true obsession will still lie with Jim Caviezel and powerful story arcs about Carter, Sameed and other human characters. The AI lacked all qualities I want to spend time my with: sexiness, humor, cleverness, and personality.

Jim Caviezel, on the other hand, is this reader’s hero proto-type. The character he plays, John Reese is brooding, handsome, soft-spoken with a sense of humor, and yet, um, deadly.  Because he’s in mourning for his dead one true love, every episode leaves you wondering–will he feel the pull of desire/love/passion again? Oooooh how I wanted him to! But then I’m a complete masochist for the unattainable hero.

A do-er, not a talker, Reese has done bad things to a lot of bad guys—and yet, he can no longer tolerate the grim, clandestine life where he was given orders, but no iron clad proof of guilt for those he assassinated. Unquestioningly following orders eats at his soul, until he’s at the point where despite orders, he can’t betray his partner—who at the same time betrays him.  At the top of the show, he’s lost his mission in life, his identity, and even his one true love.  He needs redemption and a purpose—enter Harold who has a quirky all-powerful machine and gives John Reese’s ex-CIA black ops dude a goal in life.

Tarij Henderson – so sparkly bright and fun off the TV show, plays Detective Carter–who goes looking for “the man in the suit” out shooting knee caps of bad guys and breaking a thousand laws while doing so.   Now, I knew from Kiersten Hallie Krum via facebook, that Carter left the show at a certain point. For Kiersten it was hard to keep going after that. For me, knowing Carter was going to leave but not when or how ended up giving the show tremendous suspense — and like a horror movie I waited, tense and clutching my pillow to see when It Happened, getting more and more wrenched about it the more I liked her character. Henderson did a phenomenal job with developing her character and growing it. By the time she left the show, I was nodding my head thinking about what Lexi says about the infuriating state of racial diversity in entertainment today…This is another tragic example, and though the actors actually sought to correct that as much as they could in their penultimate scene together, grrrrrr. And now I’ve followed Tarij over to not just her Oscar nominated role in HIDDEN FIGURES but also over to EMPIRE where she’s did an actor 180 and portrays a completely different kind of role. (Why has no one on Lady Smut talked about Cookie yet? Why?)

Kevin Chapman plays detective Lionel Fusco, a crooked cop who finds redemption after some swift strong-arm tactics from Reese sorts him out.  Lionel got some great noir-ish lines and had fabulous delivery. I wonder if they had planned on making him such a big part of the show from the beginning, or if he was a happy discovery.  Reese has done much worse and seems less fundamentally tethered to the world.  As Jim Caviezel said at one point (I paraphrase from an interview I found on You Tube that took place at some con) Reese is a shark.  If he stops moving, he dies.  Other men have described him as batman in a suit.  It’s very interesting that the show portrays these two paths to redemption, each with its own singular flavor.  Lionel’s character has some charming grit, and a less tragic trajectory.

Michael Emerson was born to play the role of Harold, reclusive billionaire dork.  Harold builds the machine that plunges the characters into their episodic heroism.   Amy Acker (you know her from Firefly) got the thankless task of spending half her time having moral dialogues with Harold, while the other half was spent voicing the words and motives of the AI. Not fun—not fun at all, and yet she carried the weight of a whole other character upon her shoulders to the point where you felt like there actually was a machine with some proto-personality hovering about inside the internet ether.

I enjoyed the inclusion of Sameed – a short, female version of John Reese’s character, showing that a woman could do whatever a man could– and playing a kind of sociopath role to boot. No guilty torment for Sameed!

Although the show starts off Reese and Harold as the stars and swiftly includes Lionel and Carter as side kicks, the show changes direction in a fundamental way.  Soon, it becomes more of an ensemble cast with Harold and Amy Acker’s character, Root, in the staring roles.  We often see a lot more of Sameed as well, and John Reese’s role shrinks substantially over five seasons.

I think this was a wise move on the part of the producers…nor did a greater sense of inclusivity (fall out from Carter leaving the show?) seem to bother Jim Caviezel much in interviews about the show.  There was a way in which the show settled his character arc and then let it rest there.

Then they turned to other topics that more heavily involved Michael Emerson’s role as Harold, and his moral responsibilities as the one who created the surveillance AI machine. By the end, the AI character, AKA “The Machine” had as much character growth and backstory as any of the other characters—not an easy trick to pull off.  

Another thing that I liked about the show was that it started off grim, and only got more grim as it went along. But I’m perverse that way…

I’ve watched all five seasons now, and I now have a horrible tv show hangover. I actually went to You Tube and started watching a lot of videos taken at various Comi-Cons to ‘learn more’ but really to ramp down my addiction until I could walk away.

Hangovers I now think, are more than any other reason why we authors have social media platforms…So people have a place to go when they can’t say goodbye.

In all these interviews, I never really wanted to hear anything about what the creators had to say about the show, even though they were articulate men of ideas. I wanted to hear from the actors instead. This is because in essence the creators HAD their say…and we saw it all play out. Choices about character deaths, romances, etc, we saw the creator’s ideas were splatted across numerous episodes and dialogue everywhere. I was more interested in the background behind the show. What kind of training the actors go through? What kind of humor did they share? How did cast members related to each other? (Jim Caviezel trained with special delta forces men in San Diego, Tarij told all kinds of Jesus jokes poking fun at Jim, and Michael Emerson is every bit as articulate and intellectual as his character.)

Now I’m going to go off and write something in Jim Caviezel’s character’s voice…buh-bye!!!

Follow our blog — we’re not soft spoken, we’re outspoken, but charming nonetheless.

And check us out at RT Booklovers convention where we’re going to have a really fun event:  Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/ event/never-have-you-ever- ever-ever

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

“Up On the Hog Babe, Let’s Go For a Ride”: The Hot Men & Sexy Voices of Male Audio Narrators

27 Mar

HOT MEN, SEXY VOICES: Last Saturday was #VALoveFest at Virginia Festival of the Book 2017.  Among the excellent panels during the day by far the most popular was THE MEN OF ROMANCE panel where audio narrators shared their experiences about the work, a bit about their backgrounds, and their appreciation for the romance genre.  Below is a video that you must watch/listen to if–like me– you twitch involuntarily at any real man who is into romance.

Andi Arndt was the fabulous moderator. She spoke with David Brenin, Luke Daniels, Will Damron, Derek Perkins and Aiden Snow. Jennifer Dodde Conner captured this video of the event. (Caution! It looks like the video goes sideways for a second–but it’s just for a moment and then gets righted again.)

Details of note:

Luke Daniels has done audio for Heather Graham and Sylvia Day among many, many, others.

When Will Damron does the really sexy stuff he uses the name Jeremy York.

Aiden Snow mostly does military romances, but he likes romances that play out deep gender and relational dynamics.  Most of the time, however, he said “it’s like: ‘Up on the hog babe, let’s go for a ride.'” And all the women in the room about fainted.

Speaking of Aiden Snow —  I saw him walking across the lobby at the festival — and having been converted by my friend Adriana Anders to beardy hot goodness, I said to myself ‘Damn, who is *that* guy?’ (Shoulda stopped him and gotten a picture.  I’m just kicking myself now. Oh well!)

Derek Perkins is British and does a mean Scottish Accent.

I, for one, find a man’s voice at the top of the list for the sexiness factor.  I think that romances often neglect the serious ear appeal of the right voice.  There are men who I find reasonably attractive, but when they speak and their voice is like low thunder, I’m suddenly riveted by their whole being.  I want to chitter like a cat at the window watching birds fluttering around outside.

Perhaps it’s because there is something fundamentally right and reassuring to me about a relaxed, warm male voice.  It’s a verbal embrace, a reassuring caress in my ears that everything is going to be all right.

I’m so curious to find out if any of you listen to audio books and if you do listen to audio books, are you aware of who the audio narrator is? I know Richard Armitage narrated two Georgette Heyer book, but do you actively seek certain narrators?

Are you like me? Does the right male voice send you?

If you want to listen to more of the panels from Love Fest, including HEROINES OF DESTINY — which is the panel that I moderated–go here on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1905127766399699/permalink/1909010616011414/

Kiersten Hallie Krum will be back next week — and I’ll be blogging more on Thursday about other fascinating & fun parts of Love Fest.

Meanwhile, get on the hog, babe, and follow us at Lady Smut. ; >

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroines of Destiny!

23 Mar

You could go to college and get married — or you could be a brown fairy with wings instead! Choices, choices, choices.

by Madeline Iva

Go to college, have a career, get married, have children.  Is this the modern woman’s destiny? What if you don’t tick one of those boxes? I’m moderating a panel called HEROINES OF DESTINY on Saturday, 10AM at Virginia Festival of the Book, so I’ve been questioning the concept of destiny lately, especially for women who swim against the strong current of societal expectations.

The ancient Greeks thought of destiny as inescapable–your fate would find you no matter what.  Struggle as hard as you could against your destiny, the outcome would still be the same.  Cassandra is the ultimate heroine of destiny — Her inescapable fate was signed the moment she rejected Apollo’s advances, and that was that.  He cursed her with the gift of prophesy; no matter how often or how much she warned people of their fate, she was never believed. Yet she kept trying to over and over to change the outcome, only to watch events play out the way she foretold–even her own death.

Moving forward a thousand years or so, our panelists (including Pintip Dunn, NYTimes bestselling YA author) will discuss how their book’s heroines are fighting a certain destiny — whether it’s to marry and have children, to accept the loss of a lover, or to remain locked up in prison for a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.

I love the idea of a heroine who changes the course of her life because she’s fallen in love.  I see these works as feminist because the women go against the grain of their lives according to society’s expectations yet it all works out in the end.  Here are some of my fav fantasy examples:

THE LITTLE MERMAID: having fins while your loved one has legs is a pretty big romantic obstacle to overcome.  The Little Mermaid was very bold and plucky when it came to pursuing the object of her love–right down to changing her fundamental physical being–even though she had to pay a very large price.  Let all those considering plastic surgery and other gendered forms of modern torture beware.

STARTDUST: Yvaine is a star, who’s destiny is to twinkle in the sky and watch the doings of men from afar.  Yet she decides to abandon her place, and come down to the world of men to explore their hearts, as well as experience their joys and suffering.  I have some serious issues with parts of this novel/movie, but I appreciate the idea of a great and powerful star forging a new destiny for herself–with the man she loves.

Yvaine is a star who rocketed to earth and met her one true love.

Another way to think of HEROINES OF DESTINY is to think of powerful women who shape the lives and change the future of those around them.

THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD: Sybel is content with her own solitude and magical menagerie far from the world of men until fate brings her a baby and a flame haired hero.  Then she is drawn into the snarled paths of men’s destiny.  I love how McKillip shows Sybel, using her various powers to shape and thrust aside the male forces around her rather than become their pawn.  Sybel takes her time and sounds her own heart in her decisions about how to forge the future.  Though the world of men shakes and angers her, ultimately, she finds a way to shed their petty resentments, fear, and bitterness. She finds her way to true love by the end, yes, but more importantly she discovers the path back to the calm stillness of her heart that makes her serene and content.

Sooooo good!

And finally — by far and away my favorite:

MALEFICENT: A fairy creature (Maleficent) and a boy become friends–the first way in which Maleficent goes in a different direction from the other creatures in fairy land.  At one point Maleficent (now grown) is betrayed and loses her wings–a kind of symbolic fairy tale rape.  What happens after that is partly shaped by Maleficent’s determination to avenge herself, and partly shaped by her wounded heart.  The movie offers an unexpected twist at one point — wherein Maleficent, now the wise protector and leader of her land in times of crisi, can shed her identity as victim once and for all.  I LOVED THIS FILM SO HARD.  It really made me want to cheer.  Though it is not in a typical m/f  love story or romance, it provides that same kind of deep joy and overcoming of obstacles that make us romance peeps so very happy.

In my novel WICKED APPRENTICE, Zephyr averts disaster for the people and the land all around her once she becomes a powerful sorceress.  Meanwhile, her desires and magic work upon the hero until he goes from being a tortured, reclusive wizard into a magnificent hero who is the only one that can end a decades long war. She is most definitely a Heroine of Destiny — and if you haven’t read the book yet you should– it’s only .99!

Are you the heroine of your own destiny? What great heroines do you love –and how do they shape the the lives of those around them?

And follow us at Lady Smut–we’re fated to be together.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Anything and Everything We Want: Rebecca Brooks Examines Surprising Desires in Make Me Beg

21 Mar

No need to beg for it. Click right here and buy it!

By Rebecca Brooks

When it comes to desire, books and movies can make it look easy. You see the one, and you know.

Unless you have no idea.

Or you know what you want, sometimes, but then other times it’s not so clear. Or part of you wants something and the other part says, “No way.” Who wins the battle of head versus heart? Should you listen to the voice that’s shouting, “You can’t have that!” Or is it better to lock Lady Responsible in the basement for the night? And why do we say no to ourselves so much, anyway?

In Make Me Beg, bartender Mackenzie swears up and down that she’s never going to fall for the ripped and rugged chef she’s worked with for three years. Connor may be gorgeous, funny, and smart as a whip, but he’s the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, and Mack’s got her reasons for staying away. She sticks to her guns—until the two are given the opportunity to design their dream bar/restaurant, and late nights working together make it hard to remember why she’s so determined to say no.

Early on, an explosive argument leads to some of the hottest sex of their lives. In the morning, they both decide their transgression can be chalked up to stress, hormones, and too many hours at work. It’s never going to happen again.

But then Connor proceeds to blindfold Mack, bind her wrists, and feed her a picnic. Yeah, I know, that’s not where you thought that sentence was going. But the scene really does start off—I won’t say innocent, because everything between these two is crackling with sexual tension. But the point is to get Mack to taste his proposed menu for their new bar/restaurant without letting other distractions get in the way.

But it turns out that no matter what they tell themselves, desire doesn’t fit into neat little boxes, easily compartmentalized and pushed to the side. It’s not long before Connor moves from feeding Mack to putting…other things in her mouth. Mack, blindfolded and bound, hears him undo his belt buckle. Then the sound of him unzipping his pants. She licks her lips, and that makes Connor lose it. He commands her to get on her knees. Mack hears the edge in his voice and thinks:

Oh, fuck, that was hot. Was she allowed to find that hot?

Could she be independent, wear shut-the-fuck-up boots behind the bar, and still be slayed by such a command?

It’s a question I’ve asked before, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Mack is strong, independent, capable, and not at all passive. She certainly doesn’t hesitate to give Connor a piece of her mind the rest of the time, which is why he has to hogtie her for a picnic in the first place. So is it “okay” for her to be turned on by Connor’s command?

In other words, can she be strong, independent, capable, and sexual? Is she allowed to be excited by something that could be thought of as passive or degrading, i.e. being commanded to get on her knees? Could that be empowering instead? And is it okay if she likes it, no matter what the answer is?

I wish I could say exactly where these questions come from, so I’d have a better idea of how to move past the limitations they stick us with. But it’s hard to discount a lifetime of social pressure women face to be good but not too good (a prude), and to please men but not too much (a slut). We’re supposed to make ourselves sexually available, but we have to be careful not to act like we like it too much. Really, are women allowed to enjoy anything guilt-free? (According to television, the answer is salads, non-fat yogurt, and doing laundry. Thanks, but I’ll pass.)

Mack has to work twice as hard to make it in a male-dominated field like bartending. She practically raises herself after her mother dies, finds her own way in the world, and has now worked her way up to become a co-owner of her own bar/restaurant. Mack survives by being smart and always staying one step ahead. She’s pretty much kicking patriarchy’s ass in her killer black boots.

So no wonder it throws her off to get on her knees for this man. She’s not just worried about the usual BS that she’ll be judged or denigrated by society, her friends, and most importantly, herself, if she winds up another notch on Connor’s belt. She’s wondering whether she’ll still be the same powerful woman she aspires to be if she submits to him and likes it.

Anne Calhoun’s Liberating Lacey is a great book, but Lacey’s genuinely upset after she and Hunter role play a forced-sex scene that she specifically asks for. It’s totally okay to want to try something and then decide it’s not for you! But what would happen if Lacey actually loved living out a taboo fantasy? And why does good girl librarian Sophie in Victoria Dahl’s Taking the Heat feel her naughty side has to be secret? Sure, it’s fun and sexy to have such a prim little lady be full of surprises. But the whole reason that storyline works is because everyone expects her to be proper and prudish in the first place. Can you think of a high-heat romance novel where the fun and surprise is that the strong, sexy hero turns out to also have a naughty side? Of course not, because it’s already assumed!

Mack is ready, though, to take charge of her sexuality and own what she wants. She has a very inspiring man to work with, and she goes on to make it very, very clear how much she wants him. Being bound and told what to do paradoxically winds up unshackling her. It gives her permission to let go and do what she wants—not what she thinks she’s supposed to do or has convinced herself she’s not allowed to have. By pausing and having that gut-check, she allows that sex and sexuality can be complicated and gives herself permission to break a few rules and discover what she enjoys. Especially since those rules aren’t necessarily ones she deep down agrees with in the first place.

And she’s not a different person because of it. What we do in the bedroom (or in this case, by a lake) doesn’t have to translate into the rest of our lives; it doesn’t even have to mean anything outside of the particular pleasures of the moment. Mack can consent to one command, now, but that doesn’t mean Connor gets to tell her what to do the rest of the time. Or even at the picnic—the whole time, he’s still very clearly reading her body language, checking in with her, and making sure that sex is something they’re doing together. Mack may be on her knees, but she’s by no means powerless.

Mack isn’t less of a badass because she’s turned on by Connor’s command. She can absolutely wear her shut-the-fuck-up boots behind the bar—and when she’s kneeling in the grass. She’s not a different person for doing it, and she’s not giving anything up. She’s complex, and multifaceted, and human. And isn’t that a good thing?

I like that Mack asks herself whether she’s allowed to want what she does. I’m also glad she decides the answer is yes. She’s all the better for listening to her desires and allowing herself to go for it, even—or especially—when those desires surprise her. I think it’s a good lesson for the rest of us, too.

More about Make Me Beg:

“Intensely sexy and packs and emotional punch!” – #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Blakely

He’ll bring her to her knees.

Bartender Mackenzie Ellinsworth has always gone it alone. So when she has a chance to open her own bar and restaurant, she’s got a plan for how it should go. Not in that plan: a ripped and rugged playboy stepping in to take over. Mack doesn’t do players, and she doesn’t do one-night stands. If Connor wants to work with Mack, he’s going to have to keep his strong, sexy hands to himself.

Connor Branding is determined to prove he’s not the directionless playboy Mack thinks. But opening a place together causes more problems than it solves. The two of them can’t agree on anything—except how scorching hot their chemistry is. Connor may be ready to indulge every desire Mack’s been denying herself…but turning business into pleasure is likely to get him burned.

 

Rebecca Brooks lives in New York City in an apartment filled with books. She received a PhD in English but decided it was more fun to write books than write about them. She has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma, but she always likes coming home to a cold beer and her hot husband in the Bronx. Sign up for Rebecca’s newsletter at www.rebeccabrooksromance.com/newsletter to get a free novelette and a monthly email about Rebecca’s adventures.

 

Alternative Endings to the Bachelor

16 Mar

Huzzah! Rachel Lindsay–The first POC bachelorette.

by Madeline Iva

I saw the very first season of the Bachlorette while packing for a Big Move to the South.  I made it through a few seasons after that because I was fascinated by watching grown women aggressively fight for the attention of one man–while pretending not to. So deliciously perverse! Alexa Day posted about the announcement of the latest bachelorette on Tuesday, and the rest below is just one long riff about The Bachelor and other thoughts her post inspired.

I loved how the most interesting women (to me) on The Bachelor in the end ultimately had to be–I mean HAD TO BE–there for the money. (Student loans, I’m guessing.) Top ways to tell:

  1. They were very popular with the other women in the house. This, I think, is a key sign. But at the same time, they didn’t seem to have a secret boyfriend at home, or were there for some kind of acting career –and thus could dodge the “you’re not here for the right reasons” attack.   (BTW has anyone ever gone up and attacked a contestant saying “You’re just here to pay off your student loans—aren’t you, bitch?”)
  2. Often they would acknowledge being on the fence about their feelings for the guy. Why? Because they weren’t that into Mr. Available.  This only helps them not seem like a threat to the other women, of course.
  3. The fact that they weren’t so into the bachelor often seemed to make the bachelor far more into them.  Like he wanted to chase them hard.  After all, for most men, chasing is their comfort zone.  (Some of us are challenged when it comes to being adored.) Logically, enlightened men *know* it’s okay for a girl to chase a guy.  But they’re not actually comfortable with it.  It’s not their usual pattern–and sometimes breaking patterns feels odd.
  4. Because these women were just “passing time” to earn their paycheck, they could neatly avoid conflict in the house with the rest of the women–and work on soothing things out.  This is where their attention was.  It’s like they reguard the other women in the house as their fellow co-workers and wanted to be team players more than they were actually vying for the heart of one man.
  5. There’s almost an instant, quick and quiet break up following the conclusion of the show when one of these women was chosen.  The fact that a break up would immediately follow seemed like wonderful karma to me.  That’s what you get, you bachelor guy, for going for the girl that’s “not that into you” and ignoring the ones who were good people and desperate for your man-love.

At any rate — I’m glad that the show chose a POC bachelorette.

But I gotta wonder: how is this show going to continue to appeal to any but the most conservative audience? Because with polyamory becoming an accepted thing amongst all the hipsters and millenials, doesn’t the idea of picking ‘the one’ seem just a wee bit old fashioned?

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a monogamous type of person (I’m one myself). I’m just saying that when the Batchelor says “OMG, I’m in love with BOTH of these women” is this still the shockingly upsetting drama that it used to be?  Aren’t twenty and thirty somethings across the land saying “And? This is a problem why?”

Or–a more radical theory still–was the repetition of season after season of The Bachelor/Bachelorette actually paving the way for widespread polyamory across our heartland over these last ***seventeen*** years by making TV America overly familiar with the idea that one person can easily fall in love with two (or more) people at the same time?  I mean, think back to when polyamory started becoming a thing–right? Amiright?

I’m just waiting for the season when the Bachelor/Bachelorette decides to propose to *both* women or accept a proposal from *both* guys.  Now that would be a ratings booster.

Maybe if this this new bachelorette says yes to a black man AND a white man we can all have our cake and eat it too.

MEANWHILE — Idris Elba for Bond.  Seriously.  Accept no other substitutes.  Unless it’s Tom Hiddleston.  Then we’ll have to talk.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

“Naked is normal”: Playboy restores the nude pictorial

7 Mar
Nudity might be normal, but what about shame?

Nudity might be normal, but what about shame?

By Alexa Day

I remember writing about Playboy’s decision to remove the nude pictorial from their print issues. At that time, the pictorials had already been removed from the online issues. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at the time, in large part because I read Playboy for the articles. I’m just not that interested in the nude female form. If I want to see female nudity, I’ll take my own shirt off.

I thought I’d heard that nudity had returned to Playboy, and on Saturday, my colleague Elizabeth Shore confirmed my suspicions. This was just a couple of weeks after I named Playboy one of the three things that was getting me through a bit of a creative slump. So now I’m presented with another opportunity to examine my feelings about the presence of the nude pictorial in Playboy, and I think I’m finally able to pick a lane.

I don’t care. I don’t care whether the nudity is present or not.

On the one hand, the restoration of nudity isn’t affecting the reasons I show up to the metaphorical Playboy party. (I mention the metaphor to emphasize that I am absolutely available for a real Playboy party.) I took a quick look at the website before I began to write this post and found an article about a hormone that improves sex (and isn’t testosterone or oxytocin), an advice column explaining what exactly a fuckboy is, and a short story about a young woman taking charge of her sexual awakening. The last time I visited, when I found a story in praise of sex with unattractive partners, I noticed how many women are contributors to Playboy. In fact, all the stories I just mentioned were written by women.

Here’s where it gets complicated for me.

If, indeed, the reason for bringing nudity back to Playboy is to increase readership, are we to believe that nudity is the only reason people will pick it up? That’s a little depressing. Playboy is bringing it right now. It should have a solid, dedicated audience of sex-positive people looking for the sort of content it supplies in abundance. I wonder if it might not benefit from more time to draw that audience. My suspicion is that a lot of potential readers are being scared away by their perception of Playboy’s reputation. Those folks are going to stay away now because they’re going to see this decision as a commitment to boobs before content.

Having said that, if the editorial staff stands to benefit from this decision, I will find a way to support it. After all, if nudity gets more eyes on the pages, at least some of those readers will stay for the stories. Nudity might sell that magazine, but strong content sells subscriptions. We’ve all seen what strong content is doing for Teen Vogue right now. I imagine Teen Vogue has picked up a lot of readers who don’t mind flipping past the story on six quick dorm-room breakfasts to get to the political coverage.

Don’t flip past that breakfast article, by the way. It’s sound advice. I actually eat two of the six featured breakfasts regularly, and I haven’t lived in a dorm in almost 30 years.

But what about the nudity itself?

I’ve always thought that a woman’s decision to pose nude for a magazine is just that — her decision. I can’t police that for her. I wouldn’t police it for her if I could. I’m never going to do it because nudity is a hard limit for me, but if it gives another woman pleasure to be photographed in the buff, I say go for it. Sure, people might point and leer, but I myself want to preserve the freedom to point and leer at unclothed men. Besides, I’m not sure we should let our presumptions about What Other People Think govern other women’s decisions. That position isn’t moving any of us forward.

The return of the nude pictorial is announced in the March/April issue with a cover announcing that “Naked is normal.” But if that raises the spectre of that one creep everyone seems to know, the one whining that “naked is normal” when he’s trying to convince you to cross a boundary, take heart in this month’s short story. In “Supercops,” an 18-year-old girl makes the decision to lose her virginity to an older man, so that she’ll know what sex is like before heading to college. The encounter is not described in any detail — indeed, the protagonist reflects on it with some regret — but her thoughts on the matter are significant.

“[A]fter graduation,” Meredith muses, “a woman not only had the right, she had the responsibility to use her body the way she saw fit—or what was feminism for?”

If feminism isn’t a woman’s decision to do what she damn well pleases, whether that’s choosing the princess life, attacking the glass ceiling, or posing nude for Playboy, then what is feminism’s purpose, in the final analysis?

Playboy’s official position is similar (careful, that link comes with music). In a world trying to decide “what freedom is, and what it looks like, for all of us,” the magazine wants to examine “how freedom, feminism and nudity intersect.” The new issue includes an essay on the topic from Scarlett Byrne, whose nude pictorial is also featured this month. Scarlett Byrne’s fiance is the magazine’s chief creative officer, but if you think she got here on her cup size, you might be part of the problem, she says.

“[W]hen women associate themselves with anything involving ownership of their sexuality, they’re often perceived as having abandoned their intellect,” Byrne writes. There’s a great deal of truth to that. It’s an accusation leveled against many a romance writer, especially those of us writing erotic romance, and we are in turn quick to point prudish fingers at others. Byrne goes on to say that she was hesitant to appear topless on this month’s Playboy, heralding the magazine’s return to nudity, but that she changed her mind when she considered a longstanding double standard.

“Was it just me who thought it was absurd that if Playboy published a topless woman on the cover and Men’s Health put a man on the cover in a similar pose, Playboy would be the one to be put behind blinders?” Byrne asks. “When I considered that fact, it became clear in that moment that it didn’t have anything to do with Playboy. It was about the double standards still being applied to gender roles.”

I wish Playboy a long and happy future. And if nudity is what it takes to secure that, then I guess I support the nude pictorial as well.

Still, I’m curious to see what lies ahead.

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