Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toys

Most people know what the basic BDSM tools are - paddles, crops, canes, floggers, plugs.

But when it comes to something like a tawse, sound, jennings gag, loopy johnny... how much extra description is necessary? Should an author just say what it is, and assume if the person doesn't know what it is they'll look it up? Or should there be descriptions given? My philosophy most of the time is to avoid bogging the story down with too many descriptions: if the reader knows what it is then describing it would insult them, and if they don't then it's not hard to look it up -- and as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. There are exceptions to that, but I'd rather have the characters talk about the toy before the scene starts if I decide it needs explanation.

Some description is necessary even for the well known implements, though. The difference between a super thin Lexan paddle and a very thick wooden paddle is huge: one gives ultra sting and the other reaches into muscle and packs a wallop. A multi tailed deer skin flogger gives no pain, only sensation, where a rawhide flogger with only a few tails can cause quite a bit of damage. Even plugs can give a huge range of sensations depending not only on size, but on material: latex, silicon, glass, steel. Luckily, size and material descriptions don't take too many words.

One of my favorites isn't actually a toy, it's one of my husband's work belts. He has others, and I like them okay, but that one work belt can jump start things for me out of the blue. I've been known to ravish him for a goodbye kiss in the mornings on the days he wears it. With that in mind, it makes sense that I like reading stories where belts are used, and that I sometimes use my favorite belt's description instead of the one the author gives.

On the other hand, I've discovered that often the things that terrify me in real life are super hot when written into books. The things that are a hard limit for me often fascinate and capture me the most in books.

Do you have a favorite toy? Something that jump starts your fantasies? Do you enjoy a book more if it incorporates your fantasy implement? Are there toys you don't really want to use in real life, but that you love to read about when it's fiction?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Piercing

When my fiance suggested nipple piercing, I should have said, "Whoa, not so fast, bucko!" What I also should have done (and I highly recommend this) was strike a deal that HE get a nipple pierced first, and then and only then would I get a nipple pierced. At that point, if he wasn't still in tears on the floor and cryin' for his mama, then he would get his remaining nipple pierced, and...you get my drift.

As a side note, I have to sheepishly confess that I have what some would say is a rather over-the-top hang-up about undressing in front of people. Even as a very young girl, I wouldn't let salesladies at department stores watch me try on clothes in the dressing room. Only my mother could be in there with me, and things haven't gotten much better since then, because now I don't even allow my mother in with me.

Given my neurotic modesty, I was quite obsessed about what options I would have in regard to the piercing procedure, and we were at least able to find a woman to do it. Before the actual piercing, she massaged my left nipple between her fingers for about 5 minutes to get the skin warm and pliable. So I'm lying on the table, looking her in the eye while she's chatting on and on to me about various subjects, and all the while she's essentially playing with my nipple. I'm pretty damned far out of my comfort zone at this point.

She placed the needle against the side of my nipple and told me she was ready to begin. She said piercing doesn't hurt some people much at all, and the best thing for me to do was just relax. What followed was a pain so horrific and white-hot that I screamed. Every fiber of my being told me to give her a good upper-cut with my left fist to make her torture cease. After what felt like five minutes of having a nail driven through my nipple, I was in so much pain I could hardly catch my breath. My fiance, who got to just sit off to the side and watch the procedure said, "Wow. It really hurt that much?"

We, or to be perfectly clear, * I * decided not to have the other nipple pierced.

I went from loving to have my nipples touched and played with, to protecting my victimized one from contact with any person, place or thing. The jewelry-type bar was always catching on things and pulling, because I would forget about the damned thing, or accidentally yank it while, say, removing my sports bra. And just when I thought the hole was healing up nicely, I had to remove the post before an MRI. Well, wouldn't you know it, once the post was removed from my nipple, I couldn't get the damned thing back in.

No matter! We were off to the piercing parlor again. How difficult could it be, I reasoned, for her to simply insert the post back into the existing hole? Certainly far less traumatic than the last time! But the woman who did my original piercing had switched shifts with her husband at the last minute. I listened to him take a call from a woman who wanted two clitoral and eight labial piercings. Yes! You heard me! All for herself! And you would have thought by Piercing Guy's phone demeanor that he was taking her order for coffee. So I figured: What's the big deal about my little nipple? I agreed to let him reinsert the post.

"You?" you ask, incredulously. "You? You who cannot show any private body part to a stranger are now allowing not only a stranger, but a MAN-stranger to do this?"

Well, yes. And what I didn't realize until the needle started going in was that he wasn't reinserting; he was piercing a brand-new hole. And there was no nipple preparation, no pre-pierce conversation, no warm-up, no nothing. I kid you not: as I screamed, I grabbed hold of his forearm so hard that he bolted away from me in retreat and sought safety against the far wall. I had actually left marks on the guy's arm.

I was yelled at, scolded, lectured and made to apologize. I was so ashamed of myself that I let him continue with the piercing. Incredible, I know! Just think what others have gotten me to do by making me feel guilty. It's true!

Imagine my fiance's and my surprise when Piercing Guy personally escorted us out of his establishment. As the door swung shut and locked behind us, he said, "No charge!" Now that's what I call good customer service.

Two weeks later, after catching my nipple on one thing or another for about the hundredth time*, I took the post out permanently and fast-pitched it across the room.


*After re-reading this post, I was thinking that most of you are asking questions like, "Just how does this girl's nipple get in the way of everything? I mean, can't she do one damned thing without her nipple banging into something?"

Well, no, I really can't. See, the women in my family were blessed with very large breasts. I honestly can't even sit down to dinner without dragging a nipple or two through the food on my plate.

If you have any other questions about my nipple(s), please let me know. I'll do my best to answer.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The sensory side of writing

I was grateful to be asked to do a phone-in radio show yesterday --it was VERY fun. Not just because I got to share about my work, but because I got to listen to someone else's impressions of my work. I'm always surprised (and mostly pleasantly surprised) at the things people take away from my work. I'm always surprised by what people love and what people hate and what resonates deeply with people. It's not always the same things that resonate with me! That's why I love when readers write to me or chat with me online about my work.

ANYWAY, on the radio show the host was saying how "real" certain sections of my upcoming book Odalisque felt to her, in a sensory sense. In the book, the protagonist, Kai Chandler, visits "Maison Odalisque" in order to pick out a pleasure slave for himself. When I wrote the scenes at the Maison, I definitely had a feeling about what it looked like, how it would feel to an outsider, and even how it would feel to the odalisques--or sex slaves--living there. I was glad to hear that my ideas were communicated on the page.

I suppose as writers--and especially erotic writers--we have a real responsibility to make it easy for our readers to "feel" the best parts of the story. Not just to read the plot, but to really feel the atmosphere, drink in the sensations, to smell the smells, to see the sights. For me though, it's never really an exercise in laboriously entering in those details. No. I just really don't start writing until I feel everything in that particular environment and scene. Then it's just easier to get it down on the page.

In Odalisque, the whole sensory issue became even more acute because my heroine, Constance, is deaf. When I was in her point of view, I had to be careful not to have her hear things she wouldn't have been able to hear. I also had to remember that the world is different to a deaf person. Constance, for instance, was much more focused on lips and faces than your average heroine might have been. Going back to edit, I had to be sure I was putting myself in her shoes to view the world from her vantage point.

Which, of course, is super fun and a great part of what writing is all about.

Right now I'm buckling down on my next story. It's partially written, but only in an outline sense, because I still haven't decided who my characters will be. I know broadly who they'll be, but I need to think about the specifics, like hair color, eye color, height and build. How they talk, how they walk, personal tics or habits they might have. What their laughs sound like, and how they look when they cry. I have to KNOW all this before I write their story. If I don't know, I feel like I'm writing blind, and that's never good.

Do you have a favorite author who is particularly good at setting a mood or scene for you? An author who really seems to bring characters to life? Share with us.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Protagonists, endearing and otherwise

It’s a truism that characters take on a life of their own. When this happens, it’s hard as a writer to watch your characters being attacked or misunderstood. It feels personal, as if you’re having to defend your friends from calumny. It’s also just one of those things we have to get used to. We put our work out there, and what people make of it is out of our hands. So our characters have to take their lumps.

Some of the reactions just make me laugh. Like the readers who don’t like Anders’ left-wing politics or his taste for fiddle music. Both of these characteristics come straight from me with no reworking whatsoever (except for the wish-fulfillment of actually being able to play the fiddle, something I swear I’ll do in another life). I bestowed them on Anders with a full ironic twinkle in my eye, wondering what readers would make of them. So the reactions are there for me to enjoy.

On the other hand, when you build a character one way and readers see them quite differently it’s more of a challenge. Many readers enjoy Maia at the beginning of As She’s Told, but say that by the end think she’s so utterly compliant and objectified that she’s become a zombie. That does bother me, because that was the furthest thing from my intention. Maia’s not thinking in language a whole lot while she’s at the farm, but the person that is Maia is still in there. She’s still considering and processing experiences and feelings; her own inner voice continues amused and ironic as well as submissive. She’s just allowed herself to go all the way down into her animal self, to be that “amphibian in her native swamp,” confident that Anders will pull her back up the evolutionary ladder when he decides it's time. I think those readers mistook the behaviour for the person.

Then there was the discussion on Fetlife that referred to Anders as a “weak dom” because he entertained some doubts, and because he discussed what he was doing with a fellow dom in order to keep some check on himself, since Maia would not. And this made me blink in astonishment. Anders, weak? The brain…does not…compute…

And so of course I wonder what readers will make of my new characters (assuming I ever actually write the third book). My sub will be tougher, my dom in no way larger than life. They’ll be as human and complex as I can make them. Stereotypes beckon always; I back away from one such pit and find I’m falling into another. After I wrote As She’s Told I found some list of stereotyped ways to write about a character’s conflict. And there it was: guilt because you couldn’t save someone from something. Anders’ own backstory. Ack! I wrote that to keep him from being the stereotyped domly dom with no weaknesses. See where it got me?

What do you love about your favourite characters? What makes you think about them, worry about them, want to know what happens to them? What makes them real to you?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Service Tops

I can't remember when I first heard the term Service Top, but when I first heard it I was sure it was an oxymoron.

Once I understood the concept, I started seeing service Tops all over the place in BDSM romance. And why not? A Dom who takes care of his submissive? Feeds her, cherishes her, clothes her. She's his, and he takes care of what belongs to him. I've seen it described in similar ways to the way a man would take care of a Ferrari -- make sure it gets the best gas, the best oil, the best tires, oil changes when needed, other tune ups on schedule. But he also won't hesitate to drive it fast, to corner hard, to make use of it in extreme ways. Well, that doesn't sound so romantic, after all. Maybe I should stick with human analogies.

Fiction is in large part there for the fantasy, and what better fantasy than the man who knows your every need, and finds a way to fill those needs? Had a bad day? Here's a glass of wine and your favorite food.  You need an escape? Sure, let's go downstairs and flog you into subspace, then I'll hold you until you fall asleep.

I think I need an example here, so I'll use Beyond Eden: Danny is the ultimate Service Top. Given the choice, he wouldn't take things as far with Paul as he does, but he knows he's giving Paul what he needs, so he does it. He cooks for both Paul and Eve, he watches out for both of them. He takes care of both of them, but there is no doubt he's the Dom in the relationship, either.

In my own life, my husband does a great deal of the cooking. And yes, if I call him on the way home to let him know I've had a rough day, the odds are there will be comfort food cooking when I walk in the door. But the idea of calling him a service top just seems wrong. I can't go there, even though there is no doubt that he takes care of me as much as I take care of him.

I think I can appreciate all kinds of BDSM relationships - written properly the Master/slave relationship can be just as intriguing as the Dom/cherished sub relationship. And having the Dom cook and care for his submissive in no way means he can't still humiliate and hurt and objectify her when the fancy strikes him to do so. You know, assuming they've agreed he can do that.

Do you have a preference over a Dom who has his slave take care of him versus a Dom who goes out of his way to take care of his submissive?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is there really room for love in power exchange?

This is a romance blog of course. The title says it all. Kinky Ever After, like Cinderella and her Prince.

But are we all just fooling ourselves? Can there really be love in a pure power exchange relationship?

For the record, I'm not talking about bedroom play or weekend play or casual kink. I'm talking about 24/7 power exchange, where the dynamic is always "on." Sure, most of us don't play that hard, but among those who do, can there ever be "real" love? Or is it something else?

The thing is, when we are being purely dominant or purely submissive, part of ourselves is being restrained. Perhaps, for the dominant, it's his permissive or vulnerable side. For the submissive, perhaps it's her initiative and independence that's willfully subdued.

And if that's the case...if people are putting aspects of themselves away to inhabit a role...can they truly connect as lovers? Or must people interact (at least occasionally) as equals to recognize and develop true love? Do we need to step outside the strictures of power exchange to really know and love another person at their very core?

I know, I'm asking a lot of questions. But I'm curious. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rope ambivalence

Last night was Nuit Blanche here in Toronto. It’s an all-night arts festival that happens all over the city and includes a lot of performance art. During Nuit Blanche there are also unofficial or “renegade" exhibits. This year, Morpheous held a rope bondage rigging-and-suspension fest, the "largest public bondage art event in the world." Fetlife was offering a direct video feed, so I watched for a while.

A few months ago Annabel interviewed Jeffrey W. Olin of Interwoven Images here about his beautiful Shibari work and photography. Those photos are gorgeous. But I have to admit, the rigging last night didn’t do much for me. There was one moment when a rigger leaned over his sub’s shoulders from behind, rope in his hands, whispering and stroking, and you could see the sensual intimacy, the relationship there. But the rest of the time what was going on seemed about as sensual as macramé to me – macramé on bodies instead of flower pots.

Given my objectification fetish, macramé on female flower pots really ought to work for me. Women rigged and hung up like ceramics; what could be more objectifying? If it was in a story, and the women were genuinely helpless (and turned on), I might have felt something. But here it was clear that all a sub would have to say would be “get me down” and it would be over. Without the power dynamic, or at least some kind of emotional connection, I don’t see the point. Of course there might have been some power dynamics going on beneath the surface, but apart from that one moment there was no hint of that. The event was totally about the decorative art of rigging. It seems that without a story, or even the hint of a back story on which to base my fantasies, watching rope rigging leaves me cold.

Leather harness on the other hand…. Okay, if they’d been using leather I would have watched MUCH longer. Leather is smoother; it buckles and gets tucked away. No big knots or messy rope ends. Fuzz and tail-ends mess up the sub’s pretty lines. And when leather is dark against pale skin, it looks not only gorgeously perverted but uncompromising. Like it really means it. To me, there’s a powerful statement there. Pale brown rope to me is….beige.

There’s also the fiddly factor. Yes, harness would have to be bought or made in advance (not that hard, actually). But it goes on quickly and smoothly, with a minimum of confusion. Nothing, but nothing ruins a submissive mood more effectively than standing there watching a dom fumble over the bondage.

Graydancer, a well-known rigger, once interviewed me about one of my books on his Graydancer’s Ropecast. We argued a bit over rope vs. leather, but really, it comes down to the fact that we like what we like. A recent blog of his about suspension touches on some of the coldness I perceived in those scenes last night. His comments, and the discussion that follows suggest that suspension can be used by showy tops instead of doing the work to create something that goes deeper. And I have to agree.