#navbar-iframe { display: none !important;} The Naked Page: December 2005

The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary


True Lies

Why are we drawn to fiction? (Okay, I know, I know, this is one of those topics that is going to make everyone yawn and click away to their next favorite blog...but read on anyway.)

I was talking to a friend recently about nonfiction and how it often seems to me to be too gimmicky and profit-driven to be believable. It's all about finding some topic or angle on a topic that hasn't been exploited lately, and exploiting it. It's all about promoting a platform that may or may not be useful to anyone, but will sound convincing enough to seem useful at least at first.

And that made me think about how for me, fiction is a way of exploring truths about life without being bound by facts.

Why do you read fiction? What does it do for you?

I believe the books I write provide a mental escape from harsh reality. That's their main purpose. They're stress relief in paperback format. They are meant to entertain. On another level, they reinforce ideals we believe in, and if I were a sociologist I would say they reinforce certain societal norms.

And if this topic is just too boring for words, then let's discuss lies from another angle. The husband was watching a Chris Rock stand-up routine last night while I was in the next room working, and I overheard this rant he does about how everything about women is a lie. Makeup allows us to "lie" about how our faces look, hair weaves (and dyes, and perms, etc) allow us to lie about how our hair looks. And then there are push-up bras, high heels, etc.

I think of all those things as adornments rather than lies. But he does have a point. It's all an illusion. So should I feel guilty next time I put on some eyeliner?


The Panty Wars Rage On

After extensive research, I have come to a conclusion about the state of panties in America. We are at a design low point. We will look back in twenty years and roll our eyes at the panty trends of today.

For those of you who claim boy cut panties are the shit, you really need to rethink your position. Maybe I have a defective ass or something, but I don't enjoy the fit of the boy cuts I have tried, nor do I like the weird sensation of having that extra unnecessary fabric under my pants. It also seems to add a bit of extra bulk where none should be.

But I will not limit my dissing to the boy cuts. No, I have found panties far worse--the ultra low rise hip hugger. What the hell are these panty makers thinking? Not only do they look bad, but they're uncomfortable too.

And dare I even mention the tanga? No, I won't go there, because really no one should wear them. Say NO to the tanga!

After all my research, I still maintain that the lowly thong is the best panty for wearing under pants. The low-rise thong is a great option too, and surprisingly comfortable, for pants that have a low-cut waist.

And for those occasions when no pants are required, I say the most flattering cut for most body types is the classic bikini.

And now after all my hard work for the underwear needs of women everywhere, I hope you all can appreciate the contribution I've made to society. Think of me every time you see an ass free of panty lines.


Santa Baby

I'm really sick of hearing that Santa Baby song. And I didn't ask for diamonds or yachts or anything that extravagent anyway, but Santa was overly generous nonetheless.

My favorite gift was a one-year subscription to www.audible.com, along with a sexy little red Creative Zen MP3 player to listen to audiobooks. I was really tempted by the pink one, but after much angst, red won out in the end.

I also got an Escada Magnetism cologne gift set, a pretty white cardigan sweater, a new purse, and a secure digital storage card for backing up files. Oh, and some cute new pjs, Madonna's latest CD, a new necklace, and a photography book I've been pining after for years. I know I'm forgetting some things...

What did Santa bring you this year? Which gift was your favorite?


Books We Love to Love

I will admit, I always cringe when people ask me what my favorite books are, or worse yet, who my favorite authors are.

I have trouble with the idea of "favorite authors" because I feel like it puts too much pressure on me or the author or someone to love all the books that author has written, and I really believe that that some of the best creative people can also be some of the most inconsistent. It's hard to be creatively brilliant all the time, and it's impossible to have every book strike a chord with a majority of readers.

And with favorite books, that changes based on my stage of life and whatever message I might be open to hearing at that particular time. Plus I can never remember all the great books I've read, so I'm probably always leaving some important ones out.

Some of my favorite books are memoirs. I realized recently that while I explore the world of fiction, I really have a huge fascination with reality. I adore photography--photos of real people and things--I can sit all day watching people, and I love reading people's real stories in memoir form. So that's why it's not all fiction on my list:

Here's my probable top ten in no particular order. This list is subject to change at any moment based on whatever mood I'm in:
1. Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
2. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
3. What's Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges
4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
5. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
6. Naked by David Sedaris
7. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8. How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan
9. A Widow for One Year by John Irving
10. The Tales of the Otori trilogy (okay, okay, this is 3 books): Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow, and Brilliance of the Moon, by Lian Hearn (and mark my words, these books will be made into movies someday, and they will knock everyone's socks off)

I'm always a sucker for fiction that deals with issues of faith, unusual life choices, or just plain weirdness. I know, I know, not exactly the expected list of a girl who could talk about panties and sex all day, but I guess since I deal with light, fun topics in my own work, I like to read something different in other people's work. I love authors (and books) that can make me laugh and cry, preferably both.

Now it's your turn. List your top ten favorite books, or authors, or both.


What We Want to Know

How do you decide what to reveal, versus what not to reveal? (And no, for once I'm not talking about thong underwear versus old-school panties, or boxers versus briefs, or anything else underwear related.)

Bethany says she's been wondering about: "what we want to know about characters as opposed to what we want to know about real people. You only tell interesting things about characters, but people find every banal detail about celebrities interesting. And in our relationships, do you delve to find every little detail or do you leave something to mystery?"

I'm thinking there is probably something special about the celebrity factor. They have this image of perfection or pseudo-perfection, and we want to know that they are still like us in some ways, so that we don't feel so inferior. Right? We want to know that they secretely snarf down Cheetos and Mountain Dew, that they have cellulite, that their long, luxurious hair is really just $2000 extensions (and trust me, it always is!).

But anyway...what were we talking about? Underwe-oh, right, what we want to know about fictional characters. Or something like that.

In real-life relationships, don't we gravitate toward wanting to know everything about the people we love? I believe that's part of the thirst for intimacy, and it helps reassure us that we can be loved by someone even when they know the worst about us.

But fictional characters are not people with whom we long for intimacy. We need them to be interesting, conflicted, and probably representative of some greater truth about life, and so as writers, our job is to reveal the details about them that serve the story, right?

I know, I know, this topic isn't nearly as easy as talking about panties. But Bethany is kind of cerebral, and stuff, so what do you expect?


The 5-Year Overnight Success

It's true--I am an astounding overnight success. After five years of writing, and more rejection letters than I care to mention, I found myself with the opportunity to start at the bottom and work my way up to the dazzling mediocrity I have acheived today.

It has been brought to my attention that some people might actually enjoy hearing me ramble incessantly about this kind of thing. Melissa asked, specifically:

"I was kind of curious to hear some stories from you... like how did you react when you got the call and how did you celebrate? :-) And how different are your published novels that the rest of us read from the first version of the manuscript?"

Ah, The Call. That moment every writer dreams of, when their years of rejection and fruitless labor will finally be rewarded by hearing an editor say they want to buy your first book. My "The Call" story is pretty unconventional and anti-climactic (it wasn't even a phone call), actually, so I don't tell it often.

But here it is. I already had signed with my first agent a year earlier, and I'd gotten two extensive revision letters from an editor on two complete books I'd submitted to Harlequin. I revised the books but wasn't happy with the results and was sure I was going to get rejected ultimately. I figured that after 5 years of trying and failing, I didn't have a future with Harlequin and had moved on to working on an idea for a book that would suit some other publisher better.

I was living in Germany and had been emailing back and forth with my agent about my story idea, and then I get a reply from her one morning, seemingly about the story idea, since the message header was something like "Re: re: re: Story Idea."

I opened the message, fearful that this would be where my agent finally decided to be honest with me and tell me my idea sucked the big one. Instead, what I read was something along the lines of "I'm thrilled to tell you that Harlequin would like to buy your book, Catching Lucy! You've just made your first sale! More details to follow."

I was stunned. I didn't scream, didn't even react. I just sat there, closed the message, and looked at the other messages in my inbox. I even opened a few and read them. I let the news sink in. I even replied to a couple of messages (I did at least mention that I'd just sold my first book when replying). Then I opened the agent message again and re-read it a few times to make sure I wasn't mistaken.

Then I got up, went downstairs, and calmly told my grandmother (who was visiting at the time), that I'd just sold my first book. She squealed and got all excited. I remained kind of numb.

I didn't really celebrate my first sale right away. I don't know why. Life was just too busy, I guess, since I had a two-year-old I was about to throw a big party for, had my grandmother visiting from the US, and so on. I took her and my son to visit a castle that day, in some remote part of Germany.

I remember that day well, walking around the castle thinking, "I just sold my first book. Wow, I just sold my first book. I wonder why they didn't buy Pleasure for Pleasure too. Maybe they hated it. Maybe they didn't want to ruin my first sale news with a rejection at the same time. Maybe they're going to reject it tomorrow. Maybe I'll never make a second sale." And so on.

I also remember doing the dishes later that night and thinking, wow, I just sold my first book, and I still have to do the dishes today. This kind of sucks.

Of course, Pleasure for Pleasure did eventually sell a month or so later. My editor just hadn't read it yet. All my obsessing was for nothing.

Oh, but a few weeks after I learned that my book sold, some friends of mine threw a surprise "book signing" party for me, complete with a cake that looked like a book and silly mock-book-signing decorations. It was one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me, and I burst into tears when I walked into the restaurant and realized what was going on. That's when the sale started to feel real to me.

Since Melissa also asked about how different the final versions of my books are from the ones I turn in, I have to say, it depends! I've had a few books (like those first two) that were pretty extensively revised. But for me, that usually means adding depth, maybe adding a scene here and there. I'm a very short writer (not that you could tell from this post)--I usually leave things out rather than needing to cut things. So my revisions are usually about adding layers to the scenes and characters, strengthening motivation, adding a scene to show something that I'd only told in the first version. So they are still recognizably the same book in the end; they're just more fleshed out. That's how it is for me, anyway.

Oh, and the final versions have a lot fewer typos! Thank God for editors and copy editors.


The Big Question

Boxers or briefs? Which do you prefer for your guy and why?

And to really explore the topic in depth, let's consider the range of choices in between those two extremes. Let's see...we have...the total commando look, the thong (does any guy dare, for everyday wear?), the bikini brief, the fitted boxer... Am I forgetting anything?

I personally prefer boxers. There are a multitude of reasons. They can be serious or silly, and a guy who is willing to wear, say, smiley faces on his underwear has to be pretty secure in his manhood. Boxers leave a bit to the imagination. They are flattering, and they allow for personal expression in the form of patterns and such. Plus they're more fun to buy than a prepackaged roll of three white undies.

When you're outfitting your male characters, think about what kind of drawers they wear and why. What does that say about them? Is there some deep significance to whether a guy is willing to let the boys hang loose, versus needing the security and comfort of a snug fit?


Men and Panties We Love

Here at The Naked Page, we are all about getting back to basics. We treasure the simple things--a blank page, a great pair of panties, a sexy guy. These are the subjects that inspire passion in the people on this blog, far as I can tell (well not the blank pages, but I had to throw that in as a nod to the whole writing thing we claim to occasionally do around here). Mention men or panties, and everyone has an opinion. Or at least 4 of us do.

So, consider this a creative writing exercise. What makes a guy sexy? Who embodies sex appeal? Or alternately, what makes a pair of panties perfect?

Okay, okay, we've probably already beaten the panty subject into the ground and then kicked it a few times for good measure, but after the whole boycut panties discussion, I'm truly, truly obsessed with find The Perfect Panties. It's a quest of sorts, and I am open to suggestions.

But the guy question, that's something to consider for your writing as well. There are the typical attributes, the ones nearly every romance novel hero possesses. But what characteristics will make a hero nuanced? What makes him someone unforgettable?

A reader wrote to me recently and begged me to write a really funny hero, and I thought, hey, why didn't I think of that myself? Well, actually I was right in the middle of writing a book with a sort-of funny male protagonist, and I am realizing more and more that the reason I don't set out to write "funny" characters is because it's hard as a muthafucka to do. But that's part of my answer to the questions above: a guy who can make me laugh oozes sex appeal. There's probably other stuff too.


The Jaded Shaft

This whole discussion on the last thread about "the jaded shaft" is getting out of hand! Now I've got this detailed image of it in my head, complete with jewels and everything. And there's even an Indiana Jones-inspired plot with many people racing to get their hands on the coveted jaded shaft.

For those of you too lazy to go back and read The Six-Inch Sirloin's comments, you just need to know that my mom thought "the jaded shaft" was a pretty bad way to descibe a guy's cock (it's not every day you get to use the words "mom" and "cock" in the same sentence...and how many people would even dare?). It was, basically, some baaaaaaad purple prose she read in an old romance novel.

But now it's spun into a whole story idea. Which makes me think about how I come up with my jaded sha--er, I mean, my story ideas. I do often start with a title I like the sound of and work from there. I do that more and more these days, since I'm much better at thinking up titles than I am at thinking up plots.

So how do you develop story ideas? Do you start with a character, a plot, an image, a title, or what? Do your ideas usually appear fully formed, or like me, do you not quite know what the hell the book is about until you're halfway through it?

Or, alternately, if that discussion is too boring, who should star in The Jaded Shaft movie? We're talking A-list actors here, people! Not porn stars.


The Six-Inch Sirloin

Bethany will pay for saying I eat like a pig. Let's talk sirloin, shall we?

(Okay, but first I have to give credit where credit is due. Bethany has been my best friend since we were high school girls with bad hair and vaguely trashy fashion sense and is probably one of the few reasons I even survived high school. Plus she wrote epic 3000-page vampire novels at the age of 16 and inspired me to think, "Hey, maybe I don't need to wait until I'm 50 to become a writer. Maybe I could do it, like, now!" She will soon be appearing on major bestseller lists, I'm sure, based on her more recent, less-epic literary efforts.)

But let's get back to this sirloin thing, now that we all know who Bethany is. Funny as it would be to have an in depth Freudian discussion about why she might slip up and order a "six-inch sirloin" instead of a "six-OUNCE" one, while her well-endowed waiter is hovering penis-at-table-level next to her, the phrase six-inch sirloin actually makes me want to have a discussion of all the silly euphemisms writers use to describe body parts in fiction.

Throbbing staff of manhood, anyone? Rigid spear of pleasure? Tunnel of womanhood? Or maybe "her velvety flower?" Bleh. I actually get nauseous typing that flower one.

What's the worst sexual euphemism you've read or heard? Which ones are like nails on a chalkboard for you? Which ones do you actually, secretly, like (if you dare to admit it)?

I really prefer to call a cock a cock and a pussy a pussy (oh boy I'm going to get some good blog spam for that line) and all those sexual acts by what they are really called in everyday life, but that doesn't work for everyone. Some people are, surprise, surprise, offended by such talk! Imagine that. Heh.

Shakespeare, I believe, once called sex "making the beast with two backs." Wow, if that doesn't make it sound un-sexy, I don't know what does.

I try to keep it simple, because unless the scene is intentionally funny, I don't want anyone giggling through my sex scenes. I think I'm going to HAVE to throw in that rather brilliant six-inch-sirloin line in my next book though.