Sunday, September 15, 2013

Riding the BDSM Train Doesn't Mean You Can Shirk Your Research

I read an excerpt yesterday from a book by a popular author. I've read other books by this author in the series this excerpted book belongs to, and BDSM figures prominently. But when I got to the line in the excerpt where the Dom makes reference to choosing a sub as being HIS choice, I stopped reading.

For the record, I don't engage in the lifestyle. I'm neither Dom nor sub. However, I have characters who are: Micah and Trace. Conesquently, I have done an enormous amount of research on BDSM, D/s relationships, scene parties, etc. The only thing I haven't been able to do yet as part of my research is actually to go to a scene party. With that said, even I know that it's not the Dom who chooses his or her sub. It's the sub who chooses his or her Dom. In the D/s relationships, the submissive possesses all the control.

Furthermore, simply because a man is a Dom in the scene does not mean he dominates in every other aspect of life and business, as well. In fact, a lot of the time, they don't. Doms might be successful, but not intently cruel and overbearing. From what I've been able to deduce, the D/s world is a bit of an opposite world, where the most controlling people in "regular" day-to-day affairs are more likely to become submissives, while the quieter, less domineering people in day-to-day affairs don the Dom hat (or the leather pants, as it were). That's not always the case, but my point is that Doms aren't necessarily dominating people, and submissives aren't necessarily timid and weak. And yet, in book after book after book where BDSM is the main shtick, that's pretty much what we see. And I think it's because the authors are too interested in getting on the BDSM train than to actually dig for the facts about the lifestyle, so they grab on to the cliches about the lifestyle and write an ignorant portrayal of it, glorifying it, as it were.

D/s relationships are about trust. The submissive puts their trust in their Dom, and their Dom does not abuse that trust. If the submissive uses their safe word (and any Dom who doesn't give their sub a safe word in a book is a Dom who doesn't know what he's doing), the Dom must stop immediately. It's not about a Dom controlling a sub, it's about a sub allowing a Dom to control him. There's a difference.

BDSM is almost therapeutic for some people. It allows people to explore another side of themselves—maybe one that's repressed—or to experience emotional and physical freedom in a safe environment. There are rules that must be followed, and from what I've discovered, it's almost as if there's an unspoken code of conduct participants must abide by if they want to be accepted in the scene.

Furthermore, a submissive must talk to his Dom, tell him what scares him, what he won't accept, and what he likes. Not just sexually, but in general. A Dom and a sub need to know one another very well, and a Dom won't push a new sub too far until he gets to know him better. In this way, a Dom can understand what makes the sub tick, and can use his fears to push the envelope ever-so-slightly in the scene for a more fulfilling experience for the sub. And yet, in book after book, we see Doms and subs engaging in instant, hardcore scenes before they even know each other. This just isn't plausible.

With that said, I've been told that if I want to read really good BDSM that's based on reality, I need to read Cherise Sinclair. So...that's what I'm doing. I just started reading Club Shadowlands, book one in her Masters of the Shadowlands Series. And the bonus is that right now, it's free on Amazon. I also hear that the Beauty Series by Anne Rice (written under a different name) is a more accurate representation of BDSM.

With regard to other authors' portrayals of BDSM, I know this is fiction and certain liberties are taken to "Hollywoodize" books to be more entertaining. I get that. And the books are entertaining in some cases (in others, they are too contrived to be entertaining—at least for me), even if they depict the BDSM lifestyle inaccurately. But at the same time, I can see true Doms and subs sitting back and getting a good laugh at some of these books. The entertainer in me says, "Give the readers what they seem to want," but the purist in me says, "Make sure your portrayal is accurate." I think the best course lies somewhere in the middle, and a good author should be able to do both.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's Not Always About Writing—Oh Wait, Yes It Is

They say to write what you know. Well, I know pain. Both physical and mental pain. Maybe that's why my characters always come packaged with a lot of baggage and mental anguish to work through. My whole life seems be filled with these battles, where I've suffered some kind of tragedy or wrong-doing and had to pull myself out of the shit to be happy again. Here's the story of just one of those battles that I hope to carry over into my stories with yet another victory:

I'm embarking on a new journey in my life. Yoga. This will be such a change for me, because I used to be the heavy-duty bodybuilder type. For years, I was in the gym six days a week, lifting weights. I loved the feel, the burn, and the effort of pumping iron, and I loved pushing myself to see how far I could go and how many plates I could stack on a bar and bench press. I had a personal trainer, and I devoured her challenging, hardcore workout plans with a vengeance.

Then I injured my back. I herniated two discs in my lower back, the worst was between L5 and S1. I suffered what I can only describe as mind-numbing, shock-inducing pain off-and-on for over three months. I couldn't walk. I couldn't drive. I could hardly sleep. My chiropractor gave me decompression treatments, and all I can say about that is OMFG! While the treatment was happening, I was "okay," but after the treatment was over? Can you say shock? I barely held myself together in a shivering, teeth-chattered fetal ball and had to be very-oh-so-very-slowly lifted off the table. I've never endured worse pain.

My weight lifting days were over. I knew it then. A horrible depression followed this revelation. I had been studying to be a personal trainer, and now that dream was gone.

Since traditional therapy wasn't working, I had a rhizotomy to sever the affected nerves, and received excessive doses of steroids to numb the pain. For months, I suffered horrible digestive distress. At first, I was so nauseous I didn't want to eat. This went on for about a month. Then I couldn't eat enough. I was hungry all the time. This went on for about another month. I gained weight, both from the lack of exercise and excessive food. The rhizotomy provided some relief, but I still couldn't exercise, and my lower back still spasmed on a regular basis to the point that I was bedridden half the time and could barely walk the other half.

I was finally put into physical therapy and started doing yoga-like poses as my therapy exercises. But you know what? They worked. My therapy center was the best in central Indiana. All the professional athletes here use them, and I even ran into Gary Brackett, who played for the Colts at the time, during one of my appointments. So I knew I was in good hands. And with each appointment, I got better and better. Still, I can't take a fifteen-minute walk without my back aching and hurting badly enough to keep me "down" for three weeks afterward.

A few months ago, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was just never going to get back to my old physique and that taking my beloved walks was a thing of the past. Lifting weights? Forget it.

I never considered yoga to be a viable option for weight loss or exercise. Sure, a few yoga moves have helped my lower back, but really? How much weight could I actually lose doing yoga? Even so, I've been thinking about taking a yoga class for about a year, but I've kept putting it off. Then a few days ago, I saw a very inspiring video:

I figured if this guy could have such an amazing transformation, then so could I. So, I've ordered my first yoga videos to get me started on my new journey...and hopefully in ten months I'll be as big a success story as this guy. And better yet, that I'll be able to walk around my neighborhood again.

How does this relate to writing? Because, as I said at the beginning, they say to write what you know. And what I know is pain. I know the physical pain of my injury and recovery, and I know the mental pain of depression that resulted from it. My whole life has been this way, and as a child I endured things children shouldn't have to endure, but it's made my writing richer and more emotional. I overcame all those things from my past, and this latest battle is just another issue to overcome. But it's also another issue I can pull from when I'm trying to develop complex, engaging characters.

And, who knows, you might see a yoga instructor, a personal trainer, or a physical therapist (or a combination of all of the above) show up one day soon in one of my books. So, all this is research, wouldn't you say? :)

Happy Reading and Writing!