Friday, March 30, 2012

BDSM Popular Fiction?

Recently there's been a buzz about a book with an obvious BDSM theme to it. According to the reports, the book has been optioned for a movie. Originally I was intrigued, thrilled even, that an erotic romance had generated so much interest. That it had become a best-selling novel. Yes, I'm talking about Fifty Shades of Gray.

Then I read the book.

Now, I freely admit I have never indulged in a Dominant/submissive relationship, and, until recently, had never had a flogger or whip applied to my back, but I have tried to educate myself in the elements of the lifestyle. And, be aware this is my opinion, and my opinion only which I'm allowed to have and voice (at least in the USA). After reading this book, I am disappointed that it, and not better representations of the BDSM and erotic romance genre, has gained so much attention.

In my mind, entering into a BDSM or D/s relationship requires respect of the other person and an intent to approach the aspects of that relationship objectively. For me, that wasn't present in this book. Oh, respect was given lip service, but I didn't buy it. At least not when you consider the heroine's thoughts about the lifestyle included all the "d" words -- deviant, degrading, and debasing -- and how much she disliked it and only did it because she liked sex with the hero. She completely ignored the repeated assertions by Christian that his interest lay in seeing if she could grow to enjoy submitting to him and that she research the lifestyle before making her decision.

Anastasia's cursory research was never expanded upon. She never looked further at the lifestyle once she entered into the relationship and she definitely never looked at the difference between discipline and punishment. When she finally got what she asked for (i.e. a sample of the worst punishment she could expect from Christian), Anastasia flipped out and called him a disgusting and depraved (yeah, more of those "d" words) monster and stormed out. Heaven forbid she acknowledge she asked for the sample, or ask any questions about punishment and discipline.

To compound matters, Anastasia's mindset seemed to be that she needed to do this -- enter into the D/s relationship -- in order to "fix" Christian. To heal him so he wouldn't be drawn to such deviant and dehumanizing behaviors. With that thought process, it was no wonder the kid took herself off and refused to play anymore. She acknowledged the sex was hot and that she enjoyed the pain and how it heightened her arousal, but she'd be damned before she'd admit the lifestyle appeals to her "inner Goddess."

Now, the girl was a sweet, wide-eyed, little twenty-four year old virgin when she met Christian and he was her first lover, but the man encouraged her to do research; to explore the world he was interested in introducing her to. Naivete is one thing, stupidity and ignorance another, and, in my opinion (yes, I'm using this phrase a lot...but I want to make sure it's clear that this is how I think), Anastasia was stupid and ignorant.

I prefer books that respect the lifestyle by showing the participants as rational adults who investigate what they're getting into and don't pretend to respect their partner when in actuality they don't respect their choices and lifestyle. Who are so narrow-minded that anything that even hints at not being "normal" is to be shunned or ridiculed or in need of fixing.

Like I said earlier, I wish books that depicted the lifestyle more truthfully would receive the attention and respect due them. If Fifty Shades of Gray is an example of what makes popular fiction popular -- I don't want it. I'll stick with the good books!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Darn accidental babies!

I know readers probably get annoyed when authors blame some outside source (my muse! my characters!) for the whack things that happen in their books. To an extent, I understand that frustration. It certainly sounds like the author is passing off responsibility, but I'm here to tell you. It really happens. Stories can really take shape beyond your intention or your control.

For instance, right now, three of my works in progress are coming up with accidental babies. Believe me, I'm not happy about this! I know babies don't have a place in BDSM fiction for a lot of readers. One of the books is a mainstream, vanilla romance, but even in a mainstream happily-ever-after, babies can seem too retro a plot device in this day and time.

So where are all these dang babies coming from all of a sudden?

Accidental babies aren't unheard of in my backlist. Lucy and Matthew had one hell of an "accident" in Mercy (one that enraged nearly as many readers as it titillated). Wednesday and Daniel have an accidental pregnancy in Owning Wednesday, and Dave and Sophie have one in Deep in the Woods.

In those stories, the babies were part of the couple's stories. They had to be there, and the fact that they're accidental adds more drama. (Newsflash: I love drama. No one is surprised.) For balance, I also try to create stories with couples who aren't thinking about babies for the time being, and even stories with characters like Constance in Odalisque and Molly in Club Mephisto, who are quite sure they don't want children.

Still, I'm back to babies again. Of course, all the stories and circumstances are different, and the genres are different, but there they all are. Part of me is afraid of getting slapped with some baby-agenda label. Every Annabel Joseph book ends with a baby! Blech! But part of me wants to be true to the story that's unfolding in my head between my characters. I would have preferred not to have three babies in succession, sure, but maybe they just belong there. Or maybe some of them will end up getting edited out. (ohh, poor babies!)

I don't know. I suppose I'm torn between trying to be "commercial" and please my audience, and trying to just write what's in my heart. In the end, I guess it's a balancing act.

How do you feel about babies as part of a couple's happily ever after? Yes? No? Depends on the book?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Submissive does not equal doormat

The submissive in my just-released book, Safeword: Matte, is an attorney, and is a world class martial arts fighter. She just happens to be sexually submissive.

In Annabel's latest, Cirque du Minuit, Kelsey is certainly not a doormat, either. My favorite line from the book?

Do you have some kind of syndrome that makes you act this way, or are you just a rude, socially inept asshole?

Does that sound like a doormat to you? She submits because she chooses to, because it turns her on. Not because she is incapable of making her own decisions.

I recently read Selena Kitt's The Surrender of Persephone, and once again was shown a strong submissive who is absolutely not a doormat.

There are submissives written as doormats. I think O is one, in The Story of O, for instance.

But, I don't want to turn this into "right" versus "wrong". For me, personally, equating the two is wrong. But for me to say it's wrong to be a doormat if you happen to be submissive? That's not right, either. I'm not saying there are no submissives who are doormats, I'm just saying it's wrong to assume it of all submissives.

There are some very popular books about women who aren't so strong, or who don't make good decisions and need a man to make their decisions for them. Obviously, there are people who are turned on by that dynamic.

I can see the appeal of the Rescue Dom who swoops in and saves the day. I can also see the appeal of the penniless submissive who is turned into a pleasure slave by the super rich Dom. Some of these stories skirt the edges of non-con, or at least coerced consent. It's nice fantasy fodder - no arguments there. Still, my preference is a strong woman, where there is no doubt she's submitting because it's her choice to do so.

What is your preference? The woman who is rescued by the big strong Dom? Or the strong woman who chooses to submit?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New book release: Cirque du Minuit

It's always such a great feeling to have a new book come out, and when you really fall in love with your characters like I fell for Theo and Kelsey in Cirque du Minuit, it's even better!

Kelsey and Theo work on a show together. Theo is a trapezist, as well as a dominant, and Kelsey is a former gymnast new to circus life. When Theo's trapeze partner dies in a tragic accident, Kelsey impulsively reaches out to him. What follows in an exercise in "opposites attract" as they make their way through some very dark times together on their way to happily ever after. And have lots of anal sex. Yeah, this book has lots of buttsecks. True.

The idea for Cirque du Minuit was planted in my brain after I saw an aerial silks act a couple summers ago at a theme park with my family. A man and a woman performed it together...and they were both gorgeous specimens of physical loveliness. The man had a very "dom" type stage persona. About halfway through the act he did this very stylized movement of wrapping the silks around his female partner's wrists while she knelt at his feet. Okay, this was a family show. It probably wasn't meant to be erotic, but to me, it looked highly erotic. I thought of bondage, I thought of submission. The seed for Cirque du Minuit was planted.

There's something about the combination of physical strength and intelligent creativity. I tried to capture that in this book, and in the complex characters of Theo and Kelsey. I hope you'll give my new book a try, and I hope you'll find it sparks some creativity and arousal in your life.

You can learn more about Cirque du Minuit, read a blurb, and find buy links here at my Annabel Joseph blog.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Writing a sub's distress

I’m in the middle of writing a scene in which a sub-type is genuinely distressed. It’s a thorny and step-picking process, getting a consensual nonconsent relationship down on paper The relationship dynamics themselves are tricky, fraught with apparent risk and ambiguity. If readers don’t buy into the full subtext they can see the dom as an abuser, the sub as pathetic and sick.

So if an author isn’t into shock or horror it pays to make the consent as explicit as possible, and to make sure that consent is stated not just once but repeatedly. (Despite several Amazon reviews, if shock or horror were my thing I’d be writing in another genre.) It works to have characters weigh the issues, discuss the pitfalls, grapple with the tough questions. Oh, and when something hurts, the sub has to be turned on, big time.

But then come the problems. Consensual nonconsent thrives on ambiguity. The reason it’s hot is because there’s some actual power being imposed. Consent isn’t always fully present. In the short term the sub may not like what’s being done to them. They’re not consulted; their preferences aren’t part of the equation. What matters is what the dom wants. And if that involves suffering for their sub, then so be it. What merits exploration is that strange space between willingness and distress; that odd tightrope between sadism and self-restraint.

One could keep hammering on the consensual theme at each and every pang. (“She twisted and writhed in her bonds, hating the pain, but joyful at offering her suffering to Master.”) Done well, it could probably work. But only with the risk of disappointment for that kinky coterie of Dom, Author and Reader Who Gets Off On Suffering. With all meaning explicit, all layers exposed, what is there to discover? Where is the lip-biting, guilty arousal at the sight of another’s pain? Where’s the growth, for characters whose questions have long since been answered?

Sometimes suffering needs to be just that. Sometimes the sub needs to writhe and not feel joy. Instead there will be doubt, indignant anger, resentment. Fear. Especially fear. For the reader as well as the sub. There’s no experiencing the sub’s journey without it. If the reader hasn’t bought into the basic dynamic, the book will become a nightmare. And I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about that, except to warn the reader in every way you can:


Friday, March 2, 2012

New Book Release - Safeword: Matte


What would it look like if two mature adults with excellent communication skills and no major baggage came together? We have to give them something to make it interesting, of course, and I think I've managed that part as well. Both are expert fighters in a variety of martial arts forms, both have successful careers already established, and one is a sadist and the other a masochist. The S&M isn't quite on the level of Tyler and Viv from  Safeword Rainbow, there is no math in this one... but still, a sadist and masochist who are both in top fighting form.

Best of all? Rough sex -- because she can fight him for real without worrying too much about hurting him.

The first review is in, and Shari at DelightedReader gave it an A, saying it is an incredibly honest, refreshing and delightfully painful book.

Delightfully painful... I like it.

I've put the blurb and an excerpt below the cut. Tyler and Viv make a brief appearance in Safeword: Matte, and you'll see them in the excerpt. If you haven't read Safeword: Rainbow you won't be lost. All of the books in this series are stand alone books.