Monthly Archives: February 2013

Can men and women be just friends?

Can men and women be just friends?

Watson and Holmes

I was watching the latest episode of Elementary, the newest Sherlock Homes incarnation, and the “ship” didn’t just graze me, but hit me square on. The boat t-boned me, listed to the side and grounded like a Italian cruise liner in the Med, or the Gulf (anyone else afraid to take a cruise lately?). Let me refresh your  memory or explain for those who haven’t watched this episode. Oh and BTW, it took place on Valentine’s Day so read into that however your little shipper heart desires. Watson has been lying to Sherlock and pretending she is still under the employ of Sherlock’s father as his sober-companion. Well, Sherlock found out. Was she foolish enough to think the master investigator wasn’t going to? Dumbass. But what she doesn’t get is that the truth is: he doesn’t want her to go. So he’s challenged her with staying on as his partner, his companion, as his protégé of sorts. It was a scene full of subtle, raw emotion excellently played by both Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller. Fantastic and it got my heart a twitter. Who knows if it was intentional, it probably is, because as we all know there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman on a television show. And not like I’m really going out on a limb here, but there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman in real life either. Unless one is gay or ugly. Can I get an Amen?

Shipper Royalty: Scully and Mulder

Shipper Royalty: Scully and Mulder

This is a theme that has fascinated me forever. Friendship between men and women. And more specifically love that grows from a deep friendship and understanding between men and women. I’ve loved it in numerous television shows over the last twenty years and it’s what I explore in my own writing. It’s the foundation of the ‘ship’ for me, more so than the unresolved sexual tension. Carter and O’Neill–Stargate, Mac and Harm–Jag, Picard and Dr. Crusher, Star Trek: TNG, and let us not forget the king of them all, Scully and Mulder–The X-files. Even more recent: Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight. They however  didn’t fall prey to the trope. But there’s been a trend of late––the ‘Hey, let’s fight the Moonlighting curse and actually get them together’: Brennan and Boothe–Bones, Olivia and Peter–Fringe, Annie and Auggie–Covert Affairs (I don’t agree with that one. I ship for Eyal, so I’m really pissed that she left him in Amsterdam to go home and kiss Auggie because she’s a big fat chicken and needs a security blanket, but I digress.) There are tons more that I’m forgetting and you get the idea. One of the things that drove many episodes and story arcs of those great shows revolved around the sexual tension between the Male and Female leads. It is an epidemic.

Why?

Because it’s interesting and titillating and we can’t help but feel the same way or wish that it was happening to us. Fiction needs to reflect life for it to be relevant  I would venture to say that most people have at some point or another been friends with a member of the opposite sex and had some kind of tingle in the heart and/or nether regions for them. It’s nature, an unwritten law of the universe, there is no way around it. Because it comes down to psychology (emotions) and science (pheromones). Friendships are based on common ground, a sense of camaraderie  and above all trust. Good love relationships are also based on those same principles with the complication of sex thrown in. When we have trust, we feel close to that person and when we feel close to that person we share things that are intimate and private, whether it’s secrets, feelings, truths or sex.

Now, I am no pyschologist, just an observer and explorer of the human condition. But I extrapolate a lot from my own life experience  I have had no less than 5 best friends who are male through the course of my adult life, not including the two men that I married. I have had sex with none of them, but I loved 3 of them, one of which was gay so that statement above of one being ugly or gay doesn’t always apply. (That’s a whole other psychology). One of them, no, not the gay one, I completely misread the signals and had my heart broken. Though I still would bet even odds that he was full of shit and just freaked out that the situation actually presented itself and just couldn’t handle it. He made me unable to read any kind of signal from a man. Radar is broken.

O'Neill and Carter

O’Neill and Carter

So why then does this intrigue me? I’ve tried to look at the answers over the course of my life and the mistakes that I’ve made. And boy I’ve made a few. But, through analyzing my past friendships, I think it comes down to one thing. I think women just want men to talk with them as equals and understand them. We feel empowered when a man understands us––like we’ve been privy to the key to a really secret club. We should hope that this comes from our spouse or significant other. But sometimes it doesn’t. Me, I’ve been very lucky. This time around the marriage arena, I’ve struck gold and he understands me perfectly clear. However, doesn’t mean that I still don’t relish in the understanding I get from my significant male friends.

The Dear Husband jokes that I have a stable of men. And maybe I do, some infinitely more important than others. Would any of them lead to an affair? Hah, in a perfect world with no consequences… where jealousy and territorial boundaries didn’t exist… then it wouldn’t be an affair, more a simple understanding that fundamentally human beings don’t mate for life. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe this.

Humans do not mate for life.

The idea of soul mates is fantastic and romantic. And yes we can meet our perfect other half. However, what is never discussed is that as we grow and change through our life, we often take a different shape and need a different perfect other half. Why? Because we don’t mate for life. Why else do you think that Ménage à trois books and the alternative lifestyle of swinging is coming to the forefront? It’s not just about sex with someone else. It’s about loving more than one person, sometimes at the same time.

Their heads make a heart. Seriously? Stop mocking us.

We are not swans, gibbons, wolves, bald eagles, turtle doves or albatrosses. What is it with birds and the pledge of undying love, huh? Do they understand something that we don’t? Not really. They are animals that aren’t driven by emotional connections. We try to be dedicated to our one and only. But, in my whole life, I have only ever met one couple who were in complete and everlasting love until one of them died after nearly forty years together. And I’ll give you a hint––they never had children. It was just them. (Again, a whole other psychology to explain that one). More than fifteen years after her death, he was still deeply in love with her. Like George Burns and Gracie Allen. It was sweet. And completely unnatural.

George and Gracie

George and Gracie

Now that doesn’t make me a cynic, just a realist. I am a dyed in the wool romantic. I love the idea of deep, soul crushing love. It’s why I write romances. But I do believe that we can find that love multiple times in our life, if we’re lucky and connect with the right people. Different people come into our life at times for different reasons. If we think of life as a predestined path, we meet people along that path who are there for certain reasons, many of which are unknown to us at the time. They are there to help us, guide us, teach us, and share parts of ourselves that others don’t have the wherewithal, means or connection to do so.

How does this relate to the concept that men and women cannot be platonic friends? Well, if there is truth to the fact that we don’t mate for life, we seek out or discover connections to others to fill something in ourselves. Sometimes is starts as a friendship and then it morphs into something deeper. Sometimes it starts as an attraction and then morphs into a friendship.  Depends on the pheromones and the boundaries or emotional state/needs of those involved. The pure fact that we can’t have a television show where the male and female lead aren’t flirting gratuitously, the sexual tension crackling on the screen is testament to that. We are excited by emotional connection. We love the build up and the evolution of a relationship, that ebb and flow of tension and release, the dreaded ‘C’ word–– Conflict. Relationships in books and television/movies without conflict, that fundamental something that keeps them apart, lack sizzle and the taboo of the ‘want’ and the ‘need’. We strive for the ease of connection in our own lives because living in a state of continuous conflict is tiring and stressful. But we crave it in our entertainment because it’s exciting and we flirt with it in our daily lives to make ourselves feel alive.

Mary and Marshall, BFFs for life

Mary and Marshall, BFFs for life

Do I want Sherlock and Watson to get naked and bump uglies? The jury is still out on that for me. He’s a tough character to fall in love with. Yeah, I fell head of heals in love with House because of his complexities and vulnerabilities that he denied,  no doubt. He had infinite depth. Sherlock, the template for House, even in this modern incarnation, is fundamentally the same. Is he capable of loving someone who doesn’t fill some sort of purpose for him? Is Watson his other half? She certainly balances him and like all good functional/dysfunctional relationships, they feed off of each other’s needs. I’d love it if they explored it. But I’d also be thrilled if they took the trope and spun it on its head like they did in In Plain Sight with Mary and Marshall. Have the balls to do it differently. But then again, my little shipper heart wanted Marshall to pledge his undying love for her too and for her to accept it. He ultimately did, but not in the romantic way. It was quite beautiful.  It’s still early for Sherlock and Watson. Elementary is sowing the seeds, that fabulous awkward confession was perfect fertilizer. The rest remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, I will continue to explore this concept with my own characters. The Overwatch series is steeped in the idea of a man and a woman as best friends who fall in love. Their issues keeping them apart stem from the concept of ‘duty over self’. In my upcoming sci-fi romance series, I will examine the concept again between a man and a woman who’ve fought a war together for years when suddenly they realize the other person is and has been their significant other the entire time, that their strength comes from within themselves, but is compounded by the support and love from the other. And in the continuation of the Overwatch series, I’m going to flip the concept inside out and take a look at what happens when you can’t be with the one you love most. How do you reconcile that your other half has found their other half and it isn’t you?

So may ideas, so many men, so little time…
Story of my life.
Namaste,
~Indigo

**All images are not mine and belong to others.

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Strike Back: A Bromance of Epic Hotness

Sullivan Stapleton and Phillip Winchester 

What is it about hot, hot, super hot men running around in cargo pants, tact vests and thigh holsters that just gets my knees a-knocking? Or squirming with an uncontrollable aching need for… Ahem…. Did I mention that they were hot? Good lord, I’ve found my Mecca. Cinemax’s Strike Back has all of this girl’s favorite things: Special Ops super heroes, badass women in charge, terrorist ass-kicking, justifiable guns and violence and a shiny new bromance. Oh yeah, and it has some steamy, hair-straightening, toe-curling sex, IN EVERY EPISODE, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.

The heroes:

British SAS soldier, Sergeant Michael Stonebridge works for a highly secret, off books division of British Secret Intelligence called Section 20. The group is an anti-terrorism task force charged with high risk, priority missions around the globe. Stonebridge is the consummate soldier, the one who follows orders, always does what is right and never wavers from the mission. His clean cut good looks fit the golden boy, Officer and a Gentleman trope. He’s poised and polished under fire and takes the more respectful route when it comes to discussions with management. He’s not totally perfect. He cheated on his wife with a superior officer. And then she was blown up. Eeeps.

Stonebridge is sent to find and recruit…

Damien Scott, disgraced US Delta Force Operator, dishonorably discharged during a tour in Iraq. Of course he was set up to cover up a WMD plot, because he would never traffic the two kilos of heroin planted in his footlocker. He does have some integrity. There are lines that every good man at heart won’t cross. Yet, he IS the quintessential badboy. Where Stonebridge is sublime perfection, Scott is the grizzled, disillusioned badass who fights hard and plays even harder. He leaves a string of bullets, bodies and women in his wake and gives authority the finger every chance he can get. He doesn’t deny his personal demons but he struggles with atonement couched in revenge to find those who set him up.

Together they are a deadly force of precision fighting.

So what makes these two my newest favorite bromance? Aside from the fact I can’t decide which one I’d chose if we could stay in bed for a week. Would I really even have to chose? Who says I can’t have both, right? Sigh.

In the beginning, they hate each other. Scott is rude and arrogant and bucks authority like it’s in his DNA. Stonebridge is the play-by-the-rules, respect-your-elders kind of guy and Scott’s jagged edges grate on his last nerve. They fight and argue and call each other ‘asshole’ and ‘prick’. It’s the beginning to a beautiful symbiotic bickering foundation of all fine bromances. They question each other’s motives, second guess one another and generally dislike each other until they begin to save each other’s lives. It becomes a bro-hood forged in blood––theirs and those they kill in the name of freedom.

Over the course of the first Cinemax season, Strike Back:Project Dawn, they develop a deep and trusting friendship. Shared events of tragedy often does that to people, especially hardened soldiers. Now that they have a season under their belt, in season 2 Strike Back: Vengeance, they’ve switched roles in a way. It is Scott who’s the stable one and Stonebridge who is living life on the cutting edge of sanity and redemption. They still bicker, but now they squabble like brothers, nitpicking and teasing while they watch each other’s backs. I look forward to seeing how they play up this dynamic in season 3. Both men having purged their ghosts. Maybe Stonebridge will finally get a chance to get his groove on with a woman who actually gets to live. (He’s a bit of a black widow, poor bastard).

Which brings me to the sex. Oh my, get me a cigarette.  They don’t call Cinemax ‘Skinamax’ for no reason. This is soft core porn at its damn finest. I think in the twenty hour-long episodes that I’ve watched (and studied like I’m doing a dissertation) I’ve seen Scott’s bare ass more than I’ve seen my own husband’s. Not that I’m complaining because damn, it’s fine. He’s got just the right amount of dirty, scruffy sex appeal where he can slip any minute into that guy who looks really hot, but you know he’s got smelly balls so you wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole, let alone his own. But he’s got that cute, cute military boy haircut that sticks up like he just raked his hand through it when he rolled out of bed. And let me tell you, he usually doesn’t even use a bed. The boy’s got some stamina., Walls, tables, barns, interrogation room chairs, balconies. Hot damn the man will fuck anywhere, anytime, with pretty much any woman who’s breathing and has a hole. When I say he’s had sex in every episode, I’m not lying. He’s had sex in EVERY EPISODE but the last four of season 2, and I think that is pretty telling because it means he’s come to a decision about himself and his role within Section 20. He feels like he belongs again and he’s done racing against the world with his hair on fire. Not bad for a guy with a death wish.

One thing that I have to say that totally cracks me up is that Stonebridge, the Brit, is played by an American, Philip Winchester (his name even sounds like he should be British) and Scott, the American, is played by an Aussie, Sullivan Stapleton. Their accents are reversed . Every once in a while Sully’s will slip when he gets hyper emotional, but Philip’s, never. It sounds dead on with the rest of the brits on the show. I love it. It’s so ironic. Great testament to the quality of acting going on in this well-written, intelligent action fest.

Yes, it’s violent, bloody, unapologetically testosterone bent. And I love it. I want more. One day, I will have to do a post on the women of Strike Back because they are badass, brass-ovary women to the core. They are a perfect fit with the boys. They are not just decoration they are true soldiers. Each one is every bit as ruthless as her counterpart. It’s refreshing and believable. Strike Back got it right.

Cannot wait until Season 3.

If I’m every kidnapped by a raving group of terrorists, call in these guys. If I die, at least I’ll die with a fantasy in my head.
~Namaste

Photos courtesy of Cinemax, Sky 1 and TV Guide.

Overwatch Update

For like the two of you who have been waiting with bated breath about the status of Overwatch, you’re gonna have to wait a little while longer. Book 1: Proving Ground is essentially done. Yay, but Book 2: Exfil Point, ooofah… It’s in a major rewrite.

Nooooo!

Yup.

Exfil Point, after the mandatory fermenting period, SUCKS FESTERING MONEKY ASS. It needs a complete overhaul. I guess that’s what happens when you try to splice two attempts to start a book into one mash-up and fingers crossed, hope it works out. The only, and I mean ONLY, people who are good at mash-ups are the song stylists at Glee. They are the masters of it. Me? Not so much. While it seemed like it was a good plan and that things flowed while in the midst of a summer induced haze of long days of just writing and drinking and more writing, it didn’t fit together as much as I had thought. So it’s back to the drawing board for me.

I axed almost 10k words from the end. Shaved it off like a Russian woman’s armpits. The emotional content was limp, trite and I had already addressed the issues in it with a whole chapter insert about 6k words before. So chop went the blade. Then I reread it again from the beginning. And started hacking away at the stuff that sounded good but again wound up being forced and trite. Chop, chop. Pretty soon this thing started to look like an anorexic supermodel with a bad hair day. Good thing though? It had a great bone structure. The elements were there. Girl’s living in Boy’s house, pretending they don’t want to just sleep with each other and abstaining for the greater good of the world. They have a deep understanding and friendship that gets tested when they open Pandora’s box. (That Bitch Pandora should just keep her damn legs closed and save everyone from the trouble of her minefield of a box! and if you’re not getting the box reference, please go check it out at urbandictionary.com) Things gets dicey in relation to their relations and decisions are made that effect the incidents in Book 3: Cold War. The romance stuff I had all down. I knew where I wanted to go, knew how I wanted it to end, shocked myself a little bit with how far I went with it, but it’s good. Now that it’s bald and a skeleton.

What it needs is some meat. The meat of the Mission that is – they are Spec Ops soldiers and spies after all. Enter the action plot. Oh the goddamn mission… Bane of my existence. And I kick myself all the time for wanting to write love stories about awesome action figure super spies and soldiers because seriously, who gives a shit about them if we never see them at work? Otherwise they should be dog groomers and let call it a day. So I struggle…

I’m not sure if it’s because I live a ‘do unto others’ kind of existence. I try to live fair and equitable and don’t treat people cruelly  but I have a really hard time coming up with motives for bad guys to do bad things with. If I have a beef with someone who wronged me, I cut you off my Christmas card list and de-friend you on Facebook while you’re not looking. I don’t plot world domination and human traffic your sister and her best-friend’s cousin to get back at you. Therefore, I struggle with believable plots that would bring my sexy heroes and heroines out into the big bad world. Because again, who wants to read about kick ass spies if we neve see them at work?

How have a I fixed this problem? Ugh. I’m reading news articles and blogs from around the troubled hotspots of the world. Very depressing, man’s inhumanity to man. We are a disgusting species. The Earth has every right to rebel and get us fuckers off the planet. I’ve found some pretty disturbing things with regards to the undercurrent of terrorism and the battle to establish a foothold in Africa.

But you know what else this whole devastation of the horrid mash-up has done to me? I’ve become a plotster. Gasp! Swoon and sigh. I never used to have to plan. WTF? I used to pull rainbows and sunshine out of my ass and it was fabulous. Yeah, well that was fanfiction. And fanfiction while a great proving ground for confidence that maybe your ability to write doesn’t suck that bad after all, it’s not all that intolerant of dangling plot threads and meandering experiments with slice of life prose. It’s shit we wish we saw on our favorite television shows, but just didn’t make the cannon cut. In publishable fiction, it’s unacceptable to not have a plan. To not have a mid-point that doesn’t sag, and a dark moment that doesn’t actually give you the feeling that all will never be right again. Who am I using these terms? It’s like the moment you realize you have to actually send 95% of your paycheck to pay bills and that you’ve become a grown up. For the most part I’ve done this instinctually. But now, with these freaking missions… instinct isn’t going to cut it anymore.

This stretches my timeline out exponentially. I’ve got other series in the works that are begging to be written, one of which is a sequel series to Overwatch, another is a Sci-Fi Romance series. Not that I want to say goodbye to David and Jillie, but I want to publish this bitch and move on. Patience is not always my strong suit.

Alas, I will endeavor to try.

~Indigo