Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Height Sexy?

I admit to finding height sexy in a man. At my tallest (I seem to be shrinking a bit with old age) I was six-foot and a half-inch. Of course, I represented myself as six-one, and I found myself attracted to men who were taller than I was. My first serious boyfriend was six-four, and so is my partner. I like that feeling of being with someone bigger than I am.

That has carried over to my characters. Kimo Kanapa’aka, the police detective hero of my Mahu Investigations series, is six-one, and his partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi, is six-four. I think Kimo feels that being with Mike gives him a bit of personal protection, and relief from always being the one to protect others.

The same is true in the Have Body, Will Guard series. Aidan Greene is six-one, and his partner, ex-SEAL Liam McCullough, is six-four. Seeing a pattern here?

I began to question whether it’s just height that I find sexy after seeing The Hobbit. There were some seriously sexy dwarves in that movie. Kili hits the top spot on my hotness scale, followed in close order by Fili, Thorin Oakenshield, and Bombur (because he has a great smile, even though he wears a goofy hat.)

But those guys are dwarves – not tall at all. How could I find that sexy? Well, the filmmakers were pretty shrewd, aided by Tolkien’s original book. In The Lord of the Rings, Gimli the dwarf shares screen time with men, elves and all kinds of other creatures, so it’s pretty clear that he’s short. But in The Hobbit, most of the time the dwarves are alone with Bilbo and Gandalf, so it’s easy to forget that, with the exception of the wizard, they’re height-challenged.

I digress to say that I’ve had a soft spot for Kili and Fili since I read Dove by Robin Lee Graham as an impressionable teenager. In this round-the-world adventure, Graham adopts two kittens, which he names after these two dwarves. I don’t remember if he had a reason—but I glommed onto those two in particular.

I think the filmmakers were sharp in giving us some man candy on the screen. We never get to see Kili or Fili shirtless, or even skinny-dipping in some mountain glade (are you listening, Peter Jackson? There’s another movie we’re looking forward to. I’m picturing Kili and Fili romping under one of those New Zealand waterfalls, sporting some Maori-style tattoos and nothing else.) But even fully clothed, these four guys bring a real hotness factor to the movie.

Checking the Internet Movie Database, I discovered that Aidan Turner, the Irish actor who plays Kili, is actually six feet tall. British actor Richard Armitrage, who plays Thorin, is six-two. So maybe I’m not far off in my desires. And as long as they never get filmed directly next to some tall elf, I’ll continue to think they’re hella sexy dwarves!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada

One of the very clever bits from the Broadway show Avenue Q is a song called “My Girlfriend who Lives in Canada.” The Urban Dictionary defines this term as “a lie invented by hundreds if not thousands of geeky high school boys who can't get any dates and don't want to appear pathetic.”

In Avenue Q, the closeted character Rod pretends to have a girlfriend in Canada to cover up his homosexuality. When I heard about the fact that Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o had an imaginary girlfriend, I immediately thought of this song.

Maybe things have changed in college since I was a student—but way back then, it was pretty easy for football players to score live, human girlfriends. Yeah, a few had hometown honeys, but mostly they could just swagger into any classroom, dorm or campus hangout and girls would flock around.

So what caused this guy to settle for some phone calls, emails and text messages? Did whoever perpetrated the hoax do such a great job that Te’o was willing to forego F2F contact? Or maybe this girlfriend who lived (and died) in California was the same kind of cover Rod in Avenue Q was looking for?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reading and Listening

One of the pieces of advice I often give my writing students is to read what they’ve written out loud. It helps them catch errors such as missing words or improper punctuation—things you just don’t see when you read off the screen or a piece of paper. If you can’t read a sentence out loud clearly, I tell them, then there’s probably something wrong with the punctuation.

I experienced this myself, in a slightly different sense, as I listened to the individual chapters of In Dog We Trust as they were being recorded for an audio book version.

I put a lot of work into that book, the first in my golden retriever series. It was my first attempt at writing an amateur sleuth, after years of using police procedures to structure the Mahu Investigations. I rewrote the beginning a half-dozen times as I struggled to figure out where the story really started, and how to work in the character’s back story.

Steve Levitan is forty-two, returning to his hometown in scenic, semi-rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his tail figuratively between his legs. His wife suffered two miscarriages, which led to their divorce and his brief incarceration for computer hacking. Released on parole, he’s lost his marriage, his home, his career, and the freedom to do whatever he wants.

The architect of Steve’s restoration is a golden retriever owned by his next-door neighbor, Caroline Kelly. The story requires Steve to meet and dislike Rochester, and then for Caroline to be murdered. The book’s opening was bumpy, jumping through nearly a year in the space of a chapter or two. It took a lot of rewriting to make the timetable work well.

Then there was the problem of Steve’s character. I based him too closely on myself, and frankly, he came off like a fuddy-duddy. He drank tea and spent too much time comparing his situation to characters in books. It took the advice of a savvy editor, the estimable Joe Pittman, to make Steve a character readers could have some fun with.

So I thought that by the time I self-published the book in e-book and paperback format, it was in great shape. Early reviews, and strong sales, justified that opinion, and I went on to write three more books in the series—The Kingdom of Dog (2011), Dog Helps Those (2012), and Friar Lake, which should be polished and published in 2013.

During the fall, I listened to the individual MP3 files uploaded by the book’s narrator. I’ve never been much of a fan of audio books. I know many people who enjoy them, but I don’t work out (I know I should) and my commute is too short to get into anything longer than a short story, though I love the Selected Shorts put out by Symphony Space.

I needed something else to do while I was listening, so I played computer mahjongg as Kelly read his way through the chapters. It took me a few chapters to get into the book, but now I understand why people like this format, and I also gained a new appreciation for my own work. It was almost like I was listening to a book I hadn't written!

Buy the audio book at Amazon