may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she
(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she
--e. e. cummings
Two things happened very recently, triggering something in my gut.
First, I came across the above painting by my favorite modern artist of all time, Jack Vettriano. The title of the piece is called Back Where You Belong.
Anyone who knows me at all can tell you the spirit of the painting could practically be a poster for my passion: romance of eras past. Although this painting depicts a modern setting, it seems to have a days-gone-by mood. The heart of the picture is timeless, though— man and woman. Passion.
It reminded me of my true love: gritty, sexy stories of men in fedoras and overcoats. Old Spice Aftershave, Lucky Strike cigarettes, fancy cufflinks, hair pomade, mobsters. Clandestine whispers on Bakelite telephones from the shadows of cheesy restaurant phone booths. Stories of a time when sex was all the more sexy because it wasn’t plastered on every billboard—no naked Joes and dames in every ad in every magazine. Lovemaking—hot, sweet-and-naughty, a secret between lovers.
Everybody tells me those times weren’t as innocent as they seemed. I know, I know, and that’s why I love it all the more! Sex and danger, hotter than Hades but wrapped up in a deceptive package—gals with soft skin, pretty lace slips, seamed stocking, satin peignoirs, powder puffs and Chanel No. 5. The tough guys in dress shirts and suspenders who lusted to get their hands on the garters they knew teased just beneath those kick pleats. But they all looked Sunday-go-to-meetin’ good with Ipana smiles and fancy threads.
My attraction for these eras, though, is the HEART of Vettriano’s painting. The one factor that turns my knees to spaghetti, gives me delicious shivers: the man and the woman. The sizzling chemistry—the sensual chemistry—between a strong man and a girly girl. Call me old fashioned, dial ‘F’ for the Feminist Patrol, lock me up in the too-old-timey-to-live slammer. I admit. I’m a goner for the dynamics of testosterone meets sugar and spice.
The second thing to happen—the second thing to trigger that uncomfortable there’s-something-I-should-be-doing feeling in my gut— was reading the above snippet of a poem by poet E.E. Cummings, May I Feel Said He. There it was again. Man. Woman. Sex. Touching. Feeling. Pleasure.
What’s the big deal? You’re talking about romance. Been around since time began.
Yeah, yeah. I know. The big deal, and it’s just a personal revelation for me, is that—well, damn it—I’ve missed writing my guys and gals.
At this moment, I write male/male romance. I do not write it because it’s a trend, nor because of money. Although I stand strong for equality, particularly in same sex marriage, I don’t even write male/male stories to address the cause. My writing is not a platform. It is a PASSION.
When I stumbled upon the true, natural beauty of men’s love for each other in a WIP of mine, I fell in love with it. It is sensual, it is sexy. But it has one benefit that I find most important: a better knowledge of men in general. Over time, through writing these male/male relationships, I began to see how really beautiful men are.
I’m not what’s popularly classified as a ‘gay man in a woman’s body’. No, I’m 100% woman in a woman’s body. And, yes, a 100%, pure, Grade-A woman CAN find passion in writing male/male stories. Like I said, I do.
To be honest about something, though, as I began to abandon my writing of the relationships I knew by heart—the woman and her man—I began to find myself in a grey zone with my own sexuality. I started to lose focus of the basic need of the feminine side of me—the love, interaction and, yes, the sex—with men. I sort of lost touch with who the hell I even was.
THAT is how closely my writing weaves into every fiber of my actual life.
To lose your footing is scary. Especially when it affects something so personal, so extraordinarily intimate.
Most female writers of male/male romance do not have this problem, I’m sure. Many vow to never write anything but gay fiction or male/male romance. My motto is to ‘never say never’. And I’m glad I did not say ‘never’ because I hadn’t expected the big hole gouged out in my heart from missing my beloved male/female characters. My friends know them: Salvatore and Kate, Enrico and Miss Anita, Sam and Lizzie, Patrick and Mary.
I love and miss them. And when I stared at Vettriano’s painting, I knew I had to return to them.
And I decided I’m going to let them share my time, my pen, with my male/male heroes: Candy and Carlos, Honor and Raimundo, Michael and Anthony, Valentino and Lucky. I think there’s time for them all. There certainly IS room in my heart for all of them, for keeping the genres separate, but still addressing both loves.
The Last Great Romantics II by Jack Vettriano
In fact, to celebrate my decision, I’m going to share a chapterfrom one of my gazillions of WIPs, a glimpse at two of my favorite characters. People tell me all the time, “Don’t post stuff from your WIPs on your blog!” But you know what? I have a thousand characters in my head and a thousand stories for each character. So I’m going to share two of them with you today. There are only a billion more where they came from.
Here are Ben and Suzy (quite unedited, mind you), just grabbing them from my Mount Everest of WIPS. And not sharing because it's good, just to show you my kind of couple.
"Night Geometry" by Jack Vettriano
* * *
Every gaze in the joint focused on him and I was sure he knew it. He always did have that sort of Svengali power.
With a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he swayed to and fro, slow and sensual—hips and shoulders moving to the rhythm of the bass in Good Rockin’ Tonight. A six-foot-four, sultry, jazzed-up tiger.
His trollop of a partner circled him with fancy dance moves like a ditzy little planet revolving around a big, lazy sun.
I took a fast drag on my cigarette, thumped ashes in the ashtray and nudged Darlene. “Get a load of him, will you? How big is New York City? How many nightclubs in this town? And Ben Cohn comes to this one.”
“Maybe he’s following you.” After dipping and twirling it in her drink, Darlene popped the cherry in her mouth. She sucked and chewed on it for a bit, then pulled out the stem to stare at it.
“He was here first.” Turning to study him once more, I shook my head. “He’ll think I followed him.”
Darlene’s boyfriend, Bobby, rolled his eyes and muttered, “He’s a conceited creepsmobile.”
The music stopped, and the band started into another song.
Ben put a hand at his partner’s back, steering her off the dance floor. They headed in our direction.
My heart rushed, all panicky. Torn between bolting for the powder room and staying at the table to face him, I froze.
They passed down the aisle, closer and closer to our table.
If luck favored me, I’d be able to ditch the joint before he spotted me.
Then the strangest thing happened. Or, considering the history between Ben and me, I suppose it was only normal.
Something sort of took over my brain, shooting adrenaline through me. One of those moments when the mind decides to do something without giving the body a chance to put on the brakes.
Just as Ben reached our table, I stuck out my leg.
I’d have paid best-seat admission to see the stunned look on the arrogant son-of-a-bitch’s face when he tripped and grabbed air, trying to keep his balance, then crashed to floor on all fours. The drink flew from his hand into the air, but he held onto the cigarette.
His five-and-dime partner’s face went a hundred shades of red and she sped away in a jiggly frenzy, clearly mortified.
Chuckles wafted from amused onlookers.
“Goddamn you!” Ben rose, dusting off his trousers. Whirling around to face me, sparks flashed in his eyes. “Why, you—” The words deep-sixed on his lips the second his gaze met mine. A husky whisper, bewildered, “Suzy Q.”
Pretending it didn’t send my heart into a nose-dive to look into those familiar green eyes, I took a slow draw on the cigarette and let my gaze travel up and down his lean frame.
I slowly blew smoke into a cloud around him. “What are the odds of running into you in the middle of nowhere?”
The Lucky Strikc mist swirling in his face didn't even get a blink from him.
He didn’t ask to sit, just pulled out a chair and sank into it, crossing his long legs at the ankles. Tapping a finger on his chin, he murmured, “I never thought I’d see you again. What the hell are you doing back here in New York, baby?”
“Business.” Shrugging. “May go to work for a paper here.” I tried hard not to smile. God, I hated the bastard, but loved and wanted him something fierce at the same time. “I see you still have your good manners. I didn’t say you could sit, Don Juanstein.”
He rubbed the tip of his wingtip on my ankle.
I crossed my leg to get away from the flirty shoe.
With a slight smile turning up one corner of his mouth, he perused me from head to toe, but didn’t comment.
Darlene just eyed us during the silence, twisting the cherry stem between her red-tipped nails.
Bobby watched Darlene.
Suddenly the sun came out on Ben’s almost-handsome face. He said, “You got custody of my manners in the divorce.”
Ah. My insults never did have any effect on him.
“Oh, yes, that’s right. I sold them with your car that I also got in the divorce.”
“Speaking of....” He cocked a brow and leaned closer. “I have a brand new 1947 Series Sixty-Two Cadillac convertible, right off the showroom floor, outside.”
With a voice soft as mink, he whispered, “Wanna go have sex in it?”
Damn. He didn’t even have to pitch me a hard-sell line to bring a smile to my lips. A glance into the deep-set eyes and I swept out to sea on his seductive tide, my legs—crooked seamed stockings and all—washed out from under me. Right back where it all began.
The schmuck had me and he knew it. So it surely didn’t surprise him when I met his gaze head-on, ground my cigarette in the ashtray and breathed the word. “Sure.”