A Boy, a Girl, and a Bottle of Vodka

bar 2

Common wisdom says, if you’re looking for true love, don’t look in a bar.

You won’t find your future spouse in a watering hole. They’re for hook-ups, not good catches. People go to bars for looking for instant gratification, not happily ever after.

However.

My husband and I met at a bar. (Well, it was more of a pop-up soju tent in a vacant lot, but that’s another story for another time.)

And we’re not alone. The more couples I talk to, the more I realize how common our story is. Whether it was a college pub night or after-work cocktails, many of the couples I know first exchanged witty banter (or drunken compliments) in the womb-like atmosphere of a bar.

If you haven’t met your spouse yet, here’s why you should give up online dating and park yourself at your local pub:

Well, Aren’t You Looking Fine?

It’s a fact: Everyone looks better in a bar. No, it’s not about beer goggles. It’s about lighting. Low lighting creates an intimate atmosphere, but it also blurs those minor imperfections. In the dim, flickering cave-like atmosphere of a pub, Average Joe can start to look a lot more like Prince Charming. And if you give him a chance, he might sound like him, too.

Come a Little Closer

Bars are loud. If you want to have a conversation with someone, you have two options. A) Yell at the top of your lungs or B) move in close. Closer. So close your lips are almost touching his ear. And you probably have to lean up against him or put your hand of his shoulder. Now isn’t that cozy?

Let the Good Times Roll

Sure, some people head to a bar to drown their sorrows, but not most. After all, if oblivion is your aim, a liquor store will give you more bang for your buck. Most people go to a bar to socialize. They’re there to talk. Laugh. Have fun. They’re feeling positive and open to possibilities, ready to take a chance on something – or someone – new.

In a Word, Alcohol

Granted, the inhibition-lowering effects of excess consumption of alcohol have led to many a regretted one-night-stand. But having just a drink or two can make you relax and open up. Talk to a stranger. Laugh at his bad jokes. Tell a few of your own. Share things you usually don’t. Skip the small talk and get familiar, fast.

Who knows? You might discover your soulmate, like me. Or like Sherry and Alexi, the protagonists of my romantic suspense, Dance with Me. Their story starts with verbal sparring over a bottle of icy vodka and leads to so much more.

Yes, common wisdom says you won’t find love at a bar. But sometimes common wisdom is just plain stupid.

 

 

Feeling the Magic

big magic

It’s been radio silence for a while here at Hazel Hughes Romance. Crickets. But I’m back, thanks to this book – Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Er, what does that have to do with erotic romance? Nothing. And everything.

See, when I first started writing, I was all about squeaky clean chick lit. Think Emily Giffin or Jennifer Wiener. That was who I thought I was and definitely who society wanted me – a teacher, wife and mother – to be.

But my characters thought otherwise. They kept trying to get it on. And not just lights out, whispers and moans and euphemisms. They wanted to do it with the lights on with people who weren’t necessarily their husbands. They wanted to talk dirty and act naughty, sometimes in public.

So I went with it. The mainstream success of E.L. James not long after I had finished my own story of sexual-domination-leading-to-love gave me some confidence. Enough, in fact that I decided to self-publish Please and start a blog where I would promote my erotic romance and explore some of the issues around sex and love that interested me.

Then I freaked out.

To be fair, at the time I was in a country where many of the experiences my characters were having – infidelity, homosexual encounters – were not only frowned upon by polite society but punishable, possibly by death. Each time I published a blog post or posted a story, I wondered, was my blog being monitored? Would I be arrested? Deported?

But it wasn’t just that. I was an educated woman. An English teacher. None of my friends read the kinds of things I was writing. Talking about my work made me feel like justifying my love of Doritos to a bunch of Paleo-diet health freaks. So I stopped.

I stopped blogging. I stopped promoting Please. But what was worse, I stopped writing.

I tried to go back to chick lit. Messed around with political suspense. Even started a memoire. But nothing stuck. I just wasn’t that into it.

When a friend recommended Big Magic, I didn’t jump on it immediately. Sure, I had read Eat, Pray, Love, like everyone else. And I liked the way Gilbert wrote, conversational and down to earth, like a wise friend or big sister. But Creativity Beyond Fear? That sounded a little too self-helpy for me.

Well, sisters, sometimes even the best of us need a little help.

My takeaway from Big Magic?

  • Creativity is not reserved for the chosen few. We all have it, and we should all use it. Writers, painters, scrap-bookers, trapeze-swingers, get your creativity on! Why? Because it makes you happy.
  • Creative works don’t need to have any redeeming qualities. They don’t need to promote a cause or be educational. “Because I like it” is reason enough.
  • There will be haters. Naysayers. People who just don’t get why you do what you do. Are you going to let those party-poopers kill your joy? Hells, no!

Is there some creative path you’ve wanted to explore but haven’t? Why not take just one little step down that path today? It could lead to something magical.

The “I” Word

Infidelity is a dirty word for a lot of romance readers. And not the good kind of dirty. The bad kind. Researching potential reviewers for my erotic romance novel, Please, a surprising number of reviewers flatly stated, “No cheating”, in the same way you might say, “No necrophilia” or “No bestiality”. Graphic descriptions of sexual acts with vegetables and other inanimate objects, A-okay, fucking someone you’re not committed to, nuh-uh. What’s that about?

I, on the other hand, am fascinated by infidelity. Sexual attraction is as natural as being human. And we all know that no matter what the fairy-tale says, it doesn’t stop when we find our One and Only. Human beings are, in essence, animals, programmed with the same biological urge to procreate that every single life form on the planet is. Our primal self tells us “More sex! With more people”. But over the millennia, we have found that while more sex with more people makes babies aplenty, it doesn’t always ensure the survival of those babies. And so we’ve developed this idea of fidelity, these rules that we play by to make sure that even if everyone’s not happy, most of us are. So we follow the rules. Except for when we don’t.

What I want to know is, what makes us break the rules?

Infidelity is a topic that I explore from a lot of different angles in Please. First, there’s the question of Elizabeth’s fidelity to her husband. Her marriage may not be perfect, and she is definitely tempted by the attention of the charming and seductive Sebastian, but what does it take to make her cross that line?

And then there’s Sebastian. He has an entirely different idea of fidelity. Even after he declares his love for Elizabeth, he continues to feed his sexual appetite from the buffet. He doesn’t ask her to be sexually faithful to him, either. In fact, he’s turned on when she isn’t. Yet, he believes he loves only her. Do we believe him?

And then there’s Elizabeth’s husband, Steve, who shtups his co-worker in a moment of weakness after months of sexual rejection from his wife. Was his affair justified? Is cheating ever somebody else’s fault?

Some other questions:

Is any relationship immune to infidelity?

Is it possible to be sexually promiscuous yet emotionally faithful?

Can a relationship that starts with cheating end Happily Ever After?

More questions than answers, I’m afraid, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!